Posts Tagged ‘Gospel

17
Oct
10

Refuse to Do Nothing

This Saturday, hundreds of people from First Church will be heading out into the River Valley to touch lives with the love of Jesus.  We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus by making sure that our faith is a loving, practical, active faith (James 2:18).  We’re calling this Servolution Saturday, but our desire is to adopt a Servolution Lifestyle.

If you are a follower of Christ, how are you demonstrating your faith?  What is the difference you’re making?  Whose life has been impacted for good because you cared and you stepped up to get involved?  It is easier to look the other way and not be bothered.  It is easier to think, “Someone else will do it.”  Let’s quit taking the easy way.

Josh Wilson, singer/songwriter, has written a song that says, “I refuse to do nothing.”  He produced the video below after experiencing Nashville’s 1000-year flood and being convicted about his involvement to help the victims.  I hope as you view this, you will be inspired to ask how you can be the hands and feet of Jesus.

How are you inspired to serve?  Where do you make a footprint for the Kingdom?

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14
Oct
10

Making Theology Practical and Applicable

Pastor and author Josh Harris has written a book entitle, Dug Down Deep, which he describes as…

…a simple introduction to basic Christian belief. One person described it as systematic theology disguised as something readable. I wrote it so that people who might not normally read theology would be able to digest it and understand how life-giving and important it is for living the Christian life.

I haven’t read the book, but the premise is intriguing.  He is even offering to give away copies to people who will use it to mentor, disciple, or share the gospel with an unbelieving friend.  Check out his website here.

The video clip gives a great synopsis.

What do you think about the importance of theology in living our daily journey as Christ followers?  How could you use a resource like this to impact someone’s life?

09
Oct
10

Next Gen Motivation Connects with Biblical Truth

Daniel Pink, noted business leader and speaker, points out that there are three basic motives for behavior.  Specifically, he speaks of motivating behavior in the business world.  Studies and observation of human behavior tell us that we are motivated by…
1.    Biological Motives – food, sleep, sex.
2.    Reward Motives – greater productivity brings greater reward.
3.    Purpose Motives – understanding that what one does has a greater purpose and contributes to a greater cause (involving ownership).

We know biblically, as well as scientifically, that biological motives are very powerful in controlling behavior.  However, when it comes to problem solving, they are not very effective beyond simply taking care of one’s biological needs.  Unmanaged, they can even become enslaving and lead to less productivity in life.

Reward, as research indicates, is effective for relatively low-level cognitive problem-solving situations.  And, actually, when creativity and innovation are needed for more complex problem solving, productivity actually decreases when reward is increased.  This is certainly counter-intuitive, but proven to be true.

However, when an individual gains an understanding of purpose behind their problem solving and are encouraged to take ownership of the overall purpose, their creativity and productivity increases.   This is even more pronounced when they are given “authority” or freedom in their activity rather than being delegated tasks.

So What?

So how does this apply to life and the church beyond the business world?  I think there is a very significant application in regard to the cultural relevance of the gospel.

Thirty-plus years ago, American culture was primarily a reward motivated culture.  If you do these tasks, you’ll receive this reward.  Do more tasks and you’ll receive more reward.

The “Next Gen” culture is not motivated merely by simple reward.  The bigger picture motivates them.  They want to know there is a cause bigger than them and want to become a part of something that will make a difference in their world.

Place that dynamic over our spiritual journey and it looks like this.

Past generations have been concerned primarily with the gospel redemption that gets a person saved so as to gain the reward of heaven.  After that, they wanted to enlist as many as they could to join them.  Great goal, but I would argue–incomplete.

This alone is not a motivator to the Next Gen’ers.  They want to know that they are changing the “here and now” of people AS WELL AS their eternity.

For the church to reach the Next Generation we must be focused on engaging and reforming the culture as a natural outcome of the redemption process of the gospel.  We can call it a means to an end, the ultimate step in the discipleship process, or just the other piece of the puzzle.  However, we label it, we know that the Bible speaks prolifically about the people of God caring about the poor, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the broken and the forgotten.  For us to embrace the gospel of redemption, and not embrace the responsibility to bring healing and physical restoration to these, is to fail to fully embrace the gospel.  I speak not of a “social gospel” that tosses aside the message of salvation in favor of only addressing a physical or emotional need.  I do reject the notion that we only focus on bringing people face-to-face with the opportunity for salvation with no concern for their physical needs.

This is not just a Next Gen issue.  It is a biblical truth issue.  Can we possibly look at the life of Jesus and all that the Scripture teaches about caring for the needy and think that addressing social injustice is not an integral part of the gospel?  The only answer in my mind is reflected in the words of Jesus.

“ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

Luke 4:18-19

What are your thoughts about the connection between the gospel and social injustice?  How have you involved yourself in connecting the two?


02
Aug
10

I Quit!

Those words speak of frustration, anger, defeat and a decision that one can’t continue with the status quo.  It can be an immature response like the child who doesn’t get his way and takes his marbles and goes home, or, it can be a mature response that indicates one has determined their effectiveness in a situation has come to an end and it’s time to move on.  Author Ann Rice recently made this decision concerning Christianity.  You can read an article about it here.

The author of such well-known novels as “Interview with the Vampire,” Rice reported a conversion to Christianity from atheism some twelve years ago, returning to her roots of Catholicism.  What has precipitated her departure from Christianity?  She cites her disgust and horror at the “quarrelsome, hostile,” and “disputatious” attitudes of Christians.  She wrote, “In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian.  Amen.”

What is my reaction?  I am saddened and affirmed all at the same time.

I am saddened that in the realm of “Christianity” Ann was so overwhelmed by all that she saw as negative that it drove her away from the church.  This is essentially what she is doing…walking away from the church (especially the Catholic church).  Some would say that’s a good thing.  However, regardless of the sect, the truth remains that God ordained and established only two institutions:  the family and the church.  As flawed as it has become over the centuries, it is still the church through which Christ has determined to establish His kingdom here on earth (Matthew 16:16-18).  The universal church is thriving.  Not every local church is succeeding.  It is the extreme, culturalized, Americanized, misconstruing of the gospel by local churches that sends the messages that drive people like Ann Rice away.  This saddens me.

It is true that when the church stands for truth, purity and holiness, there will be those who choose to leave.  The world system will not tolerate the teachings of Christ and His Word which contradict self-centered, destructive, immoral choices.  Jesus said, “When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).  So we (Christianity) should not get too upset when the world expresses hatred toward us.  The problem is…in our stand for holiness we have a problem with attitude.  Somehow many have come to believe that Christians hate them because we stand in opposition to their choices, policies, lifestyles, behavior, or agendas.  We must return to the idea of tolerance that says, “I do not agree with or condone your beliefs and practices, but I can still love you as we discuss our differences.”  It is interesting that Jesus showed wrathful confrontation only to the religious pharisees and exploiters of His day.  However, to those who were living an “unreligious” life of sin, He confronted in love, desiring to offer forgiveness and call them to turn from their sin.  It was a confrontation nonetheless, but in love.  We must follow that example.

Secondly, Ann Rice’s statement is in some way an affirmation of a feeling I have had for some time.  I seldom refer to myself as a “Christian” anymore.  As she has pointed out, the history of Christianity and the current cultural impact of misguided and (should I say it) unregenerate among the church have given the term a bad taste.  I prefer to call myself (when there is a need to do so) a Christ Follower.  This is what Ann is getting at.  She and I will disagree about the acceptance of certain behaviors within the realm of the Kingdom.  But I understand her disillusionment.

Honestly, I think if Ann Rice were to get connected in the right place of worship and service in the Kingdom, she would perhaps reconsider her exodus from Christianity.  It is possible to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ and confront the immoral and relativistic values of our society in a way that pleases God and influences culture.  We can be salt and light without hating (or appearing to) those we are called to love.  There will always be those who respond to a Christ Follower with hatred and hostility, but may it never be the Christian who initiates the hostility.

What do you think?  Is the church to blame for driving people from Christ rather than drawing them to Him?

04
Apr
10

Empty Cross + Empty Tomb ≠ An Empty Life

Our pastor made a statement in the Easter sermon this morning that has stuck with me, so I thought I would write a few thoughts about it here as this Easter Sunday comes to a close.  He said, “There’s an empty cross, an empty tomb, what about your life?  Is it empty?”

My immediate mental/worship response to this question was to rejoice in the reality that my life is NOT empty.  It has been, it could be, it deserves to be, but it is NOT!  In this brief post (mostly because I’m tired) I will share a few things that are significant to me about this thought.

  1. My life was empty at one time.  Although I came to faith in Christ at an early age (9 years), I was very aware of the emptiness in my life at that time.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have described it that way as a 9-year-old.  But that is exactly where I was.  I was empty of the life that I knew I could have in trusting Christ.  I knew I was devoid of life that would be eternally with God.  That was the emptiest empty I could have imagined at that time.  So…I placed my trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8).
  2. My life has felt pretty empty at times since then.  One might ask, if you trusted in Jesus to fill the emptiness, why would you experience an emptiness since then?  The reason…my own failure to trust.  Though I have never ceased to trust in Jesus as my Savior, there have been times when I failed to fully trust Him for a struggle, a need, a fear or a desire.  When I have chosen to do things my way with myself at the center, I have disengaged from that dependent/trusting relationship that He has intended.  In turn, I have forfeited the presence and power of Jesus in my life, resulting in a feeling of emptiness (James 4:8-10).
  3. I am most aware of the fullness of the life Jesus has given me when I am in community with others.  My life is far from empty.  There is no despair when I am aware that I am in Christ and He is in me.  That relationship is energized and experienced as I live out life with those God has placed in my life…my wife, my family, my Lifegroup, my faith community…even the non-believers with whom I have the opportunity to rub elbows (Proverbs 27:9).

My life is anything but empty.  I rejoice this Easter that an empty cross and an empty tomb do not make for an empty life.  Instead, it is the fullest life that I could ever imagine (John 10:10).

How has God filled your life?  What relationships help you to see the fullness of life that God has given you?

02
Apr
10

Jesus Paid It All…That’s Enough

Today is Good Friday…reminding us of the sacrifice Chrsit made for the sins of all mankind.  This was an absolutely necessary thing for Jesus to do.  His entire life on earth was focused on fulfilling this requirement so that our sins could be forgiven and washed away (“…without shedding of blood there is no remission [of sins].”  Hebrews 9:22).  One might ask, “Since this day commemorates death and suffering, why do we call it ‘good’?”  Fair question, and there is a good answer.

It is “good” because it demonstrates the goodness of God’s grace and love (Romans 5:8).  It is “good” because we benefit from His sacrifice in receiving eternal life through faith in Him (Psalm 34:8; Romans 10:13).  It is also “good” because we find that Jesus did all that was necessary to provide our salvation (Hebrews 10:10).  Nothing else is needed.  His sacrifice is ENOUGH!

This Good Friday, I’m rejoicing and worshiping the Lamb that was slain for the world…for me.  Jesus paid it all and that’s enough.  Even when I get caught up in trying to impress God or others, I must step back and remind myself, Jesus has paid it all.  I just want to follow Him and love like He did as He enables me to do so.  It really is a good Friday…every day.

Enjoy a time of worship as you watch Kristian Stanfill in this video:

Have you experienced the sufficient salvation purchased by the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus?  If so, rejoice!  If not, watch this.  Happy Good Friday!!

17
Mar
10

Christ in All Things

Being of Celtic descent, I am intrigued by things Irish and Scottish.  I recently watched a video that gives a brief history of St. Patrick’s work in reaching the people of Ireland and the resulting spritual impact upon Europe and the United States.  His heart for Christ and desire to win others to Him challenge us to have the same desire.  His famous “Breastplate Prayer” speaks of His unwavering dedication to Christ.  Though I do not hold him up as one to be idolized by any means, the words of his prayer inspire us to have a heart of such dedication…a heart that longs for Christ to be all and in all (Colossians 3:11).  This section of his prayer gives the gist of his heart…and could be an appropriate prayer for every believer to pray.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, instead of just focusing on wearing green, kissing one another because everyone is miraculously Irish, or endulging in alcohol, let’s determine that we’ll make Christ known through our living, while we depend completely upon Him for everything we need.  It could put a new spin on our St. Patty’s Day celebrations!  (St. Patrick’s entire prayer can be found here).

What are some practical ways you can think of to make Christ known through your life?  How has someone else touched you with their life of dedication to Christ?




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