Posts Tagged 'God'

The Church’s Missing Work Ethic, saved by faith proven by works

I am sick of reading stories about how we can get rich.  I am sick of hearing accounts of how much God is blessing us, without any mention of the shallow nature of the American Church as an institution.  I am not looking to blame anyone, but I think we have to get beyond our narcissistic, Facebook/Twitter theology and get back to the basics of the Bible.

             It seems that Christians in the early Church lived by a different standard than we live by today.  They were not so caught up in the trite statements and what can only be termed Christian voodoo.  There were no formulas for success.  There were not three things God wants us to learn as we sit and perform our Christian duty of Church attendance.

             There was more to this Church that a meeting.  There was more to this Church than what was in it for me.  It is a good thing there was more to the first Church than our modern model. 

             Think of how poorly the first Church would have done if they had been serving the God of the Universe for what was in it for them.  Hebrews 11 and the lives of the Apostles were both a testimony to what was in it for “me.”

             Here is what the writer of Hebrews lists as some of what God promises for His people:  “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, torments;”   Hardly the stuff the American Church promises to King’s Kids. 

             Now, do not get me wrong, I think God does take care of His people.  The problem is not with God, it is with our expectations.  We are living through the longest peace time prosperity in world history.  Even with all our economic woes and the wars that are going on the peace and prosperity are amazing.

             We have allowed that to make us lazy and assume that our peace and prosperity are rewards from God for living in a godly nation.  Yet, we murder over a million children every year.

             I think one of the reasons we find ourselves in this place is that we have become too preoccupied with the faith part of our walk and not the works part of our walk.

             I know, I know, Luther says it is faith and faith alone that saves us.  I am not talking about that.  Sure it is through faith that we are saved.  We have to remember, however, that being saved is only the beginning.  We, unfortunately, have made it the end as well as the beginning.

             The Gospel was never meant as a get to heaven and then sit back approach to God.  God has never been an eat, drink, and be merry kind of God.  He created the world and yearns to have the world return to Him.

             Salvation is a great start to a relationship with God.  If we stop there we run the risk of being spiritually retarded, stunted in our spiritual growth.  There is no maturity in merely being beings that are destined for heaven.

             Jesus never rested on His coming kingdom; He went about healing all who were sick, setting the captives free, feeding the hungry, ministering to the poor.  He spent his entire earthly ministry doing the one thing we Protestants consider unnecessary, His ministry was a ministry of works.

             I think that is what is missing from the modern American Church, the works portion of our faith.  Before you write me off as a heretic, let’s look at what James has to say about this very thing.  If we read James literally, then we have to question what we have been taught that Luther believed.  (Sorry, for you purist out there, this is the NASB version.)

 14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?  15If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,   16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  18But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”  19You believe that God is one You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.  20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?  21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;  23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God.  24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.  25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

             It seems to me that we might be missing something.  If salvation is the end of everything, then how did James get into our canonized Bible?  Whose mistake was that?  So, what is the solution?  I believe it is simple; we read the Bible for ourselves and listening to the advice of others, determine what God is saying to us.  Our relationship with God is with a living being and there should be communication, at least in our hearts.

             We can no longer count of the government to do our good works for us.  The moral foundation of our country is gone.  We can no longer count on someone else to do our good works for us.  And, most importantly, we can no longer assume that faith and faith alone will bring us to maturity in Christ.  James is clear “so also faith without works is dead.

             I do not know about you, but I believe in serving that which is living, not that which is dead.  So, I am pledging to have works with my faith so that it lives.

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Finally, An Ex-President Who Can Keep Silent!

 

            There is something to be said about maintaining a certain dignity for the office of the President of the United States.  After all, this is the people’s office and we need men who have respect for the tradition that comes with attaining the trust of the largest number of people.

 

            It has been a while since we have had an Ex-President who did not feel it was his job to offer his opinion on the holder of the office.  Bill Clinton, a man without a mission, could not keep quiet about the man before him or the man after him.  How sad to be at the highest office in the land and still be so small that you cannot show dignity.

 

            Jimmy Carter, without argument the worst President we have ever had, could not help but offer his advice for the occupants of the office.  Perhaps we should learn from the peanut farmer turned nuclear scientist that once you have so miserably failed at a task you should not think your opinions matters.

 

            Now, George W. Bush has taken a pass at the chance to speak about the situation Obama finds himself in.  In fact, Bush’s words were, “he deserves my silence.”  Jimmy and Bill could learn from this.  When you did nothing to deal with Iran, Jimmy, and you proved yourself incapable of dealing with terrorists, Bill, you really would serve yourself and your country well to practice the art of silence.

 

            George W. Bush kept us safe for seven years.  You might consider him a terrible President, I do not, but he did keep us safe. 

 

            And now, instead of blasting those after him he is taking the decent man’s route and refusing to talk publicly about what a terrible job the current occupant is doing.

 

            Oh, and for my friends out there who do not think we should criticize, please consider this my call for you to pray for the current occupant of the Oval Office, the Lord knows we need God to intervene and protect him and help him to act in our best interests which seem to be against his normal positions.  This will in turn will protect us.

I Am Not A Theologian, And You Might Now Be Glad

 

            I was reading the Bible a couple of days ago.  No, that was not the last time, I have read it since.  Anyway, I was reading the Bible a couple of days ago, and that is a dangerous thing for a non-trained theologian who is a lawyer to do.

 

            The trouble with reading the Bible with an open mind is that I find myself asking questions.  The bigger trouble is that the answers do not always settle peacefully in my heart.

 

            So, I am looking at the conversation between God and Abram.  You might remember that Abram eventually becomes Abraham.  At the time of the conversation I was reading Abram does not have any children.  That started me to thinking, when God made the promise to Abram he said that anyone who blesses him will be blessed. 

 

            As Christians we have claimed that this extends to the children of Abraham and that means Israel.  Here is where the problems begin for me and now that you are reading this, the problems begin for you.

 

            The promise to Abram was passed to his children and his children include Israel and Ishmael.  So, now you can see my dilemma, we give great honor to Israel, and I think rightly so.

 

            The only question I have is why does the same promise not pass down to the other of Abraham’s children, through Ishmael?

 

            I would be very interested in hearing your answers.

 

            I am really not interested in hearing you explain to me that I am evil for thinking these thoughts.  I probably already knew that.

 

Genesis 12:1-3  Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you, and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse and in you all the families of earth will be blessed.”

Maybe Its Time To Reevaluate Our Faith

 

            We cannot continue like we are going.  Modern Christianity has lost its connection to historic, first century Christianity.  We have lost our way.  Maybe you are a skeptic and want more proof than my bold declaration that we have lost our way.

 

            I think that the proof is in the pudding as they say where I live.  And the pudding is to look at how we are changing our world.  From the time of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry through the end of the first century the Church of Jesus Christ, and of course the master himself, turned their world upside down.  They did it without modern communication.  They did it without written apologetics.

 

            There were no televisions to promote the word.  There was no radio ministry.  Shoot, even their newsletters had to be written on reed parchments.  It was not an easy time to communicate.  And forget about traveling.  To get from one place to another they either walked or rode a donkey or horse.  Nothing was easy for these guys and ladies, and yet, they turned the world upside down.

 

            What did they have that we did not have?  Nothing.  What do we have that they did not have?  Everything.  And therein lays the answer.

 

            Jesus was homeless.  He was also relatively unemployed; in fact, Peter found the money to pay the taxes Jesus owed in the mouth of a fish.  Clearly, Jesus did not have a strong mailing list to go to for help.

 

            Where were the intercessors when Jesus needed them?  Here He is, facing the lord of Hell on a daily basis, and His ministry is not fully developed by our standards.  Yet He managed to accomplish the most important goal of anyone in history.  An accomplishment that stands as the turning point of history—even now.

 

            The second most critical person in the history of Christianity is the Apostle Paul.  A quick look at his life, found in I Corinthians 4:11 “To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless;”

 

            So now we are two for two.  The master and his top man are both homeless.  How many of our leaders are homeless?  How many of our leaders are hungry and thirsty?  How many of our leaders are poorly clothed and roughly treated?

 

            You got it—none!

 

            I am not saying that we all have to be homeless, hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, and roughly treated to be true Christians.  What I am saying is that there is something missing because the Church, largely on the Christian right, does not have any place for those who are homeless, just as Jesus was homeless. 

 

            It is time we returned to a simpler day.  A day when we placed less value on the things we owned or the size of the reserves in our ministry. 

 

            The problem is that we are not asking the right questions.  We are concerned with what looks right for the staid and set believers around us.  We are concerned with not offending people.  All the time we teach that Jesus was offensive to most everyone he met.  Some He offended into the kingdom.  Some He offended so much that they had Him killed.

 

            Instead of wondering how to keep up with the Jones it is time we learned how to keep up with the Jesuses of our world.

 

            The question we have to ask ourselves is:  How do I respond to those around me the way Jesus did?  How do I learn to appreciate everything in its proper place the way Paul did?

 

            Maybe instead of fighting to get to the top of the heap we should be fighting to get to the bottom of the heap.

 

            Maybe instead of believing God for a new car and a better house we should be believing God to show us how to live with less.  Maybe we should be praying for the prosperity Paul had—you remember, the prosperity of hunger and thirst and homelessness.

 

            Where are the television preachers showing us how to move down the ladder in God’s will, rather than spending years convincing us that God wants us at the top of the heap in the nicest clothes and best cars and mansions in this world?

 

            Maybe I am dreaming.  I am not there.  But at some point we have to come to grips with the truth of the Gospel and not just the parts that make us feel good.

Where Is Reality When You Need It?

I know, it is more fun to live in the dream world most of us create around ourselves.  It is easier than looking at the cold hard facts surrounding our lives.  The economy is struggling; the only real argument is over how bad the struggle is.  We are living in the world, the reason we have so much trouble as Christians is we have forgotten the command to live in the world, while not being of the world.

 

            We should not be feeling the gloom of those around us.  We should, however, be a solid place for people to land.  The solidity of our position should not be that we are as rich as the world around us.  The solidity of our position should be that we are not measuring our lives on what we own or how our investments are doing.  The standard by which we measure our lives has to be the commitment to the eternal principles of the Gospel message—you remember those:  love your neighbor has yourself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

 

            The church is losing its influence in America for one reason—it is not behaving as the church.  Any organism that does not follow the laws that define its existence will not survive long.  We are still debating the depths of our opposition to abortion, we have accepted divorce as an alternative to unhappy marriages, we are wavering on homosexuality, we have accepted gluttony as if it were a normal state of being…I could go on, but you get the point.

 

            We do not need a new wave of seeker friendly ideas.  We do not need a new fad religion.  Fads are good for diets and fashion, but fad is not legitimate for religion.

 

            I am not talking about returning to a fundamentalism that demands we read only one version of the Bible.  I am not talking about the fundamentalism that suppresses women and African-Americans.  I am talking about the real fundamentals of our faith—again, a return to the teachings of Jesus that revolutionized the world in the first century AD. 

 

            This was not a weak faith.  It was a faith that was able to challenge one of the greatest military regimes in the history of the world.  And this faith won.  It was ultimately consumed by its own prosperity, but it won the initial battle.

 

            We need to see the return of that faith—not more prosperity and God wants us to be millionaires.  God does not care about our money—He cares about our living the life He called us to live.

 

            That is a reality we can live with, everyday!

Hello Congress, I Am Here For My Bailout!

            I have to confess at first I was against the bailout, but I have changed my mind.  So, like John Kerry I was against the bailout before I was for the bailout and that should make my views better received.  I think we should stop fighting Congress on the bailout and get together and put our names in the hat.

 

            The only thing separating most of us from the Wall Street crowd is the amount of bad debt.  So now we are going to be punished for not borrowing enough money to create real debt!  If only I had known.

 

            The problem is where does it stop.  This bailout program is a system for rewarding bad management.  Men and women who have run some of the largest companies in the world, taken out huge salaries and perks, are now being rewarded with our tax dollars.

 

            This problem is bigger than an economic issue.  It is a sign of the times.  Not a sign of tough financial times, but a sign of how devoid of morals we really are as a culture.  The problem is that capitalism like democracy only survives and thrives when it the people who are making the most money have a moral core that understands the end goal is not about money.

 

            Unfortunately, for us we now live in a culture that values money above everything.  Nothing is more important than the bottom line.  What we are now experiencing is the loss of faith in our national psyche.

 

            We have gone from being a nation filled with Christians who held great sway in the moral debates of our culture to a nation where Christian thinking is outdated and no longer a driving force in our national debates.

 

            The past couple of generations have seen us go from a nation that pays tribute to God—as a Christian God, to a nation that does not acknowledge God except as a source of profanity.

 

            Our lives no longer tell the tale of faith—even those proclaiming to be Christians.

 

            This is not a problem that we can blame on the removal of the Ten Commandments from our public schools and public buildings.  The removal of the Commandments was merely a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.  Thus, the problem is not solved by simply placing the Ten Commandments back on the walls of our public institutions.

 

            The problem is much deeper.  We are a people who have lost their way.  Our word is no longer our bond.  Our faith no longer motivates our activities.  We separate God from our daily lives until there is a crisis and then we wonder why God is not faithful.

 

            The writer of Hebrews made it plain, if it seems God is not faithful the problem is not God, the problem is us.  Unfortunately for us, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, yes, and forever.

 

            Clearly the problem is the people of God, not the God of the universe.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

            For years I have dealt with a variety of people who seem to enjoy fighting internally as much as they enjoy fighting the real enemy.  Let me begin by reminding each of us that our real enemy is not man or men, gay or straight, liberal or conservative.  Our real enemy is a spiritual force that seeks to destroy the souls of men.  As long as we waste all of our time fighting symptoms we will never cure the disease.

 

            Rather than delve into the weeds on this broad topic I want to narrow it down somewhat.  I work with a lot of people who want to spend a lot of their time fighting other Christians who do not believe the same on noncore issues.  In other words, many of us want to fight over the ten percent over which we disagree rather than celebrate the ninety percent on which we agree.

 

            I am losing my patience with these arguments for a number of reasons, but the main reason is this type of argument does not further the goal of the church.  We are here to be salt and light, to transform unregenerated man and culture into regenerated man and culture.  We are here to change the world, to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth rather than take the kingdom of earth to heaven.

 

            I do not think there are arguments in heaven over what version of the Bible we read.  I do not think there are arguments in heaven over what clothes we wear.  I do not think heaven cares about the length of our hair—for either men or women.  Do not get me wrong, I love to discuss these issues when they do not matter, but I believe when we lead with these issues we discredit the kingdom of heaven.

 

            One of the biggest time destroyers in the evangelical community for decades has been the role of the Catholic Church.  Let me start off by saying that I am not a member of the Catholic Church because I do not agree with some of their doctrine.  I do not, however, want to argue over the doctrinal differences between us here.

 

            I think there are more important matters that Evangelicals must consider in our war to discredit or destroy the Catholic Church; matters that should give us pause the next time we declare war on the Catholic Church.

 

            We need to remember, no matter how we feel about the Catholic Church they were the chosen vehicle for the church for nearly fifteen hundred years.  Before the Reformation began there was only the Catholic Church; and to a much lesser extent the Orthodox Church, making inroads into the cultures of the world of any significance.

 

            Regardless of what I think about the Catholic Church, God chose to use it as His tool on the face of the earth.  To believe otherwise is to question the sovereignty of God.  So, first of all we should show some respect for the history God has given us as a people.

 

            Next, the Catholic Church is an organization that reaches around the world.  You can go to any major and most other cities in the world and find a Catholic Church that is reaching into the community for some reason.

 

            Regardless of whether we agree with their doctrine, the Catholic Church still preaches the name of Jesus on a number of levels.  They continue to speak about Jesus to much of the world—places where the Evangelical Church has yet to turn its attention.

 

            There is great value in this.  I understand that there are many who believe we can only accept the discussions of Jesus that are completely inundated with proper theology.  I personally believe there is value in the moral codes and structures that cover the world which were created by the Catholic Church—moral codes which are, at their core, Christian morals.  These moral codes influenced our founding fathers, even the ones who were not Christians.

 

            Another value we need to consider is the stand the Catholic Church is making around the world as a Christian organization that is avoiding creating a complete vacuum for Islam and other anti-Christian belief systems around the world to fill.  We should not be deceived; the vacuum that would be left by the loss of a Christian moral code is not neutral.  Whether it is a moral code that does not believe in moral absolutes or an Islamic or Hindu moral code, it is a moral code that has spiritual significance and will change the face of the planet.

 

You might not realize it but there are more religions than Islam that are killing Christians right now.

 

            According to Voice of the Martyrs there are more Christians being killed because of their faith right now than at any time in the history of the world!

 

            Whether we believe it or not, we are in a battle for the spiritual soul of this planet.  Christianity has long been the dominate religion, but that is rapidly changing even in America.           

 

            The final argument I am presenting is without a doubt the strongest argument.  The Catholic Church is undoubtedly the strongest voice in the world on the issue of abortion and same-sex marriage.  While some Evangelicals have stumbled over these issues, the Catholic Church remains staunchly committed to a pro-life position without apology.  They are so firm that they have issued statements regarding the value of life during this election cycle in America where abortion is almost a nonexistent issue.

 

            At the same time, the Catholic Church is standing strong against the idea that God approves of the marriage of two men or two women.

 

            Mark my words, if we lose the voice of the Catholic Church on either of these issues we will see a free fall of the moral structure of the entire western world.  It is not an overstatement to declare that but for the stand of the Catholic Church pro-life and pro-traditional family values would not exist.

 

            Instead of being divisive maybe it is time for us to come alongside our brethren and thank them for keeping the Bible alive, standing for morality in a dark land, and proving to be worthy of the calling God gave them nearly two thousand years ago.


Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis
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