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Posts from November 2010

The Paradox - Dying to Live

Sometimes a phrase just doesn't resonate.  "Die to live" - I have heard it.  I have spoken it.  I have even preached it.  I believe it. . .with all my heart.  Yet, there are times, when in the midst of life, it seems that God needs to remind me that this is a key to truly living.  I slide back into selfishness and wanting things my way.  Hey, I've even preached in the past few weeks that it is a sin to make plans for ourselves and then ask God to bless them, rather than seek His face and desires and align our lives accordingly.  However, I still slide back into this mode.

A paradox is a strange thing.  Really.  Just check out the definition:

Paradox

 [par-uh-doks]
–noun
A statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.

 

Something that seems contradictory or absurd.  Well, that's the Christian life at times, isn't it?

Just check out what the Bible says about this. . .

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)

It's been a busy week and frustrating at times and I've been led to pray deeper, seek Him and reminded that life is so much more than what I see right here, right now.  I forget so often.  While listening to some music this morning in prep for today's services, I came across an oldie.  I was taken back to when I first heard this song as a young youth pastor trying to help teenagers "get it" and again I realize that I still struggle at "getting it" constantly.  Just needed a reminder today.  There's more to life than what is seen.  There's a bigger story at work.  It may seem absurd all that is happening today, but that's the paradox.  God is still in control.


"Convert, Leave, or Be Killed"

"Convert, leave or be killed."  This was the ultimatum given to a Christian pastor/evangelist in the eastern state of Orissa, India.  Yesterday, I shared about how easy, Western Christianity is weakening us.  John Piper, in his new book Spectacular Sins:  And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ, makes this statement:

But the times are changing.  For seventy million baby boomers, for example, life has changed.  It seems very short now.  What used to be a fond nostalgia for the sixties has turned into an ache that the beloved decade is now so far away that its main meaning is: we are dying.  Different ages get the message in different ways. 

And not only life, but the world too is shrinking.  People who don’t like Christians are all around us. Only a strange providence keeps our churches from being bombed.  It is only a matter of time until the reality of the rest of the world comes home.  And all the while we are called by Christ to go to them, love them, sacrifice for them, bring the Gospel to them.  The Great Commission is not child’s play.  It is costly.  Very costly.

The coddled western world will sooner or later give way to great affliction.  And when it does, whose vision of God will hold?  Where are Christians being prepared for great global sorrows?  Where is the Christian mind and soul being prepared for the horrors to come? 

Christians in the West are weakened by wimpy worldviews.  And wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians.  God is weightless in our lives.  He is not terrifyingly magnificent.  His sovereignty is secondary (at best) to his sensitivity.

As I watch this clip recounting what had happened in Orissa, I am burdened for the brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer for their faith throughout the world, but also for the depth of our faith here in the United States as we experience "comfortable Christianity."

(The video is too large to view completely here, so click "Options" and make it full-screen.


Easy Christianity Is Killing Us

I have friends, no more than friends. . . they are brothers and sisters in Christ, who meet together regularly as a church knowing that their lives are at risk if certain groups in authority were to discover where they were meeting.  These believers are not in our nation, but in a nation where God has "officially" been banned unless controlled by government sanctioned "churches."  

These believers work hard every day in their job.  Yet, they understand that what they do does not define who they are.  They are not wealthy.  They are farmers mostly, but in a nation where what they grow does not belong to them.  Therefore, they are not paid "a decent days wages."  

I met with them a little over a year ago in a cave.  We gathered together, sat on little wooden chairs and then they began to sing.  They were singing hymns and worshiping God.  They were speaking their native language.  Though I couldn't understand the language, I could understand their hearts.  Tears were flowing down their cheeks as they praised the Lord.  This wasn't even on a Sunday.  They had gathered together during the week because they heard I was coming.  People traveled great distances to be at this church meeting.  I shared a brief testimony, but must tell you, felt very unqualified to speak on faith to this group.

They were speaking to me.

They risked everything for the privilege of gathering as a church, to read the Word, to sing worship songs together.  

I thought about how we view church here in the States.  The emphasis is on creating programs and events that will entice people to come "check out the church."  Even Christians aren't often at a point of seeing that the coming together for worship and study is a priority.  Oh how easy we have it.

As I continue through the book of James, it is so revealing that often what we call Christianity is a facade.  It's too easy.  It's sometimes about the building, the pastor, the event. . .and not about the Savior.  Seriously, how many of you have had friends tell you about their church and all God is doing, but the closer you listen, all they're saying is how cool their new building is or how incredible their new staff member is?  We brag on stuff really well, don't we?

I was meeting with our pastoral staff today and we discussed how easily Christians drift toward lax theology and feel-good religion. It becomes evident in what we say and do and as James says "how we live our lives."

Next spring we have scheduled a gathering on Friday, April 1beginning at 6pm.  We plan to end at midnight.  Yeah, that's extreme.  Most of the time, we begin squirming in our seats after about 30 minutes.  So, why go six hours?  I have been inspired by The Church at Brook Hills "Secret Church" meetings which are scheduled this way.  There is something about seriously seeking God through quality teaching, sound theology and practical application through missional expressions.  This meeting will remind us of what our brothers and sisters experience throughout the world.  The evening will not be about high tech videos, music or graphic images.  It will be simple - prayer, teaching, prayer, exposition, prayer, solid theological instruction and . . . prayer.

I'm a little anxious about the schedule.  This seriously moves us from any semblance of "entertaining the masses" for the sake of religion.  It could be that I'm the only one here.  That is a reality.  Some folks just can't stay the full six hours.  I understand that as well.  Still, I hearken back to the group I sat with in a cave on the other side of the world.  Oh, how they would love to have the opportunity to fellowship freely and experience solid teaching from the Word of God.

Maybe we just have it too easy?  I think we do.

If nothing else, our Underground Church meeting will remind us what God is doing globally, and I suspect He will change us in the process.


Everlasting God. . . Sometimes We Just Need a Better Perspective

As I sit here in my study just 50 minutes before our 8am worship service today, I am overwhelmed by the greatness of our Lord.  Really.  It may sound "religious" or "sappy" but it's true.  I just listened to a rendition of the worship song "Everlasting God" and am once again reminded that of all the things that concern me, take up my time, fill my calendar and often become "important," the only thing that matters, truly is God.

I exist for one reason - to bring glory to the Father.

It's a simple song with pretty basic lyrics.  I've sung it before.  Our worship choir and band have led us in this song on numerous occasions.  I even have the Chris Tomlin CD with that features the song.  So why today did it strike me?  I think like many, I just needed a reminder that . . .

Our God, You reign forever

Our Hope, our strong Deliverer

You are the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God

You do not faint!  You won't grow weary.

You're the defender of the weak.

You comfort those in need.

You life us (me) up on wings of eagles.

Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  What truth.  What a great reminder.  Here's praying you know this God who loves you dearly.  I pray that you experience Him today!  Know Him.

BTW - this version is by the Florida Worship Choir, led by Terry Williams of the Florida Baptist Convention.  What an image of multiple generations worshiping together focused on an audience of One.  (I love the guitar solo, too.  Yes, you can worship through a guitar solo.)