Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Can we cross the bend in the road?

It would be very neat and tidy if everyone we spoke with came from the same context, background, and cultural setting as ourselves. But such is not the case and therein lies our challenge if we would be proclaimers of the Gospel. When Jesus called his disciples to reach Samaria [Acts 1:8], for instance, he exposed them to a challenging mission because the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans [John 4:9]. Can you imagine what this would have done to Peter or James and John? To obey the Lord, they must count as their neighbors those they were taught all their lives to hate! The Apostle Paul loved his own people, yet God sent him primarily to the Gentiles. This meant that Paul was going to have to cross the bend in the road from a total Jewish context and background. He needed to communicate to pagans in a way of thinking they could understand so that the Gentiles would "get" the Gospel message.
Tim Keller stated that "an absence of biblical literacy affects the way people hear our sermons." He gives the following example: "I spoke for a group of young people in the midwestern US in which I observed from the book of Acts that 'Stephen was stoned to death.' Murmers and smiles emerged; heads turned and eyes met. I wondered at the low rumbles of commotion. Then it dawned on me: when I said 'Stephen was 'stoned to death,' the young people heard the word stoned through their cultural contexts- the euphoric sensation a person on drugs experiences.  They heard "Stephen overdosed on drugs and died."  Our culture knows less and less of the Bible, so we are going to have to cross the bend in the road so that they understand what we are talking about.
Even more,  people must be around us for a while to get to know the reality behind what we say. With increased credibility of testimony we can cross the bend in the road.  Are you ready to cross the bend in the road?  Think it through!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Do you know if you are drifting?

Dave Harvey in his book Rescuing Ambition says "Drifters don't always know they're drifting."  Have you ever floated on the waves at the beach unaware that the tide is taking you out to sea. You don't see what is happening because you have been lulled into the rocking motion of the waves, just relaxing and letting go. Suddenly someone on shore calls out "Hey, you are drifting out too far." Sometimes people say to me that you don't have to go to church to be a Christian.  The problem with that statement is this: when you come to Christ, being with the church is a desire placed by the Spirit of God into your spiritual DNA. You just want to be with the people of God. That is one of the great "life-signs" of true converstion. No,  going to church does not save you, but it is one indication that you have the real thing.
When truly converted it is then that we learn that God has designed the church family in part to keep us from drifting. Hebrews 10:24-25 speaks of the necessity of gathering together so we can be encouraged, exhorted, and warned. Apathetic attitudes, cooled off passions, and casual approaches to the body of Christ all set us drifting toward the fringe and that can become a dangerous habit in our lives.
Now I am the first to admit that the church is not perfect and it will fail at times. But here's the thing. It belongs to Christ and is the only game in town for keeping us from the drift. It is there you learn the word of God. It is there you rub elbows with others on the same journey.
 Take a look at the shore. Are you drifting?  No drifting ends well. Stay connected and involved in the body of Christ.  Kill the drift.  Think it through!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Should I be concerned about my conscience?

Sometimes we believers easily dismiss the issue of our conscience because we know that it can be hardened [seared-I Tim. 4:2] and reshaped into something not reliable. The conscience can be ignored through shipwrecking the faith [I Tim. 1:19-20]. Yet Paul the apostle exhibited a great concern for his own conscience. He instructed Timothy to hold a good conscience as he stood firm in the faith. Paul taught that church leadership must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience [ I Tim. 3:9]. Yet for Paul it become more personal. He substantiated his own ministry by his conscience: "I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience" [II Tim. 1:3]. In Acts 23:1 Paul courageously took his stand before the Sanhedrin and while looking them straight in the eye, he declared: "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." In the next chapter [Acts 24:16] Paul while standing before Governor Felix confidently proclaimed: "So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. To the Romans Paul voiced his amazing affirmation of love for his people Israel as genuine because he spoke it with a clear conscience: "I speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying--my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit."
H. L. Mencken defined conscience as "the inner voice which warns us that somebody may be looking." Mencken missed something here. A godly man with a good conscience will do the will of God in spite of who is or is not watching and in spite of what people may or may not say.
It was David that prayed in Psalm 139 for God to search his heart and try it that there would be found no wicked way in him. He went on to pray that God would lead him in the way everlasting. The conviction of the Holy Spirit coupled with a tender conscience is a powerful force for godly living in an age of "hardened" consciences.
Have you prayed lately for a searching of the heart so that your conscience is clear? Is there something in your family life, or church relationships or vocational habits that is violating your conscience? Are you ready to "come clean"? Think it through!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Is Jesus someone with "Man-Skin?"

I was listening recently to a radio program in which the person of Christ was under discussion. The dialogue concluded that Christ was a person with "man-skin." I was greatly disturbed by that description of Christ because it diminishes the reality of Christ's true personality as taught in Scripture. Though I hope the people in dialogue did not mean to cloud the issue of who Christ really is, the expression of Christ as being a person with "man-skin" does not describe Christ at all in his humanness. Christ is not a man in disguise...a being with "man skin" on him. He truly became man [with no sin] without ceasing to become God. He was not masquerading as a man, as if you put on human flesh like a suit. He truly became man [Phil. 2:5-9]. The significance of Christ's coming as truly man has incredible redemptive implications. To represent me as my Savior, he must be fully man. To stand in the gap as man's sinful substitute before God, He must also be able to represent a Holy God [which he does because He is fully God as well]. The God-Man is the only way to describe Jesus. I think the terminology that depicts Jesus as a person with "man-skin" [though it may sound cute, clever, and catchy] does a great disservice to the person of Christ and all that the Scripture teaches about Him. We must be very careful how we describe the Son of God, our Savior. Think it through!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Should I be worried about an idol in my life?

We need not wrestle with whether we have or have had an idol. Tim Keller in his book Counterfeit Gods defines an idol as "anything that becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity." He goes on to say that a fake god is "anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living." Keller sums up the power of an idol like this: "We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our lives."
Are you feeling a bit uncomfortable about now? Yes, we have had idols. We fight idolatry continually. Our minds are drawn to what we make, feel, and see. G. K. Beale in his book We Become what we Worship observes that "All humans have been created to be reflecting beings, and they will reflect whatever they are ultimately committed to, whether the true God or some other object in the created order."
Why should I be worried about an idol in my life? For starters the Bible says that our God is intolerant of disloyalty [jealous]. Isa. 42:8 says ""I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images."
God views anything in my life that commands the major sum of my energies as a rival to Himself. Idols are distractions. But they are more than just distractions. They consume our money, energies, and our plans. God wants us to always make a distinction between himself as the Creator, and the finite creation that He has made. To run after the gifts and ignore the giver is to walk the path of idolatry. There is another name for what we are talking about. Idolatry sounds serious, but worship... that sounds like crossing the line. And that is the point of Ex. 20:3-5"You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image...You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God..."
What is it that rocks your boat, that makes you worry or become frustrated or angry? That is an idol because it is pulling you away from God and placing itself in God's stead in your life? Take the other side: What is it that makes you feel accepted, loved, even valued and temporarily, at least, happy? If it is not God, then you have an idol. Idols cannot stay. God will do surgery on us, sometimes without anesthetic. It is better that we throw out the "bums" and return to the only one worthy of God-status in our lives. Do it now. Think it through.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Can good theology save your life?

Strictly speaking good theology is what the Bible says about God and his will and his character. It was Jesus who said that the truth will set us free. Today our world follows what has been called the false trinity of tolerance, diversity, and pluralism. It is only the truth of God that sets men free. It is good biblical theology that speaks of God as holy and we human creatures as sinful. Good theology says that God has a plan to redeem men from their state of sin and that plan centers on the person of Christ and his redemptive death on the cross. Bad theology leads us to believe we are ok and that the cross is overrated.
After we come to Christ, Jude tells us in his letter in v. 20 that we are to build ourselves up in our most holy faith. Our faith is "holy" because it comes from a holy God. We do not have the right to change the Christian faith just because we find it uncomfortable or unpopular. To redress and modify God's truth will lead us into all kinds of harmful and dangerous practices. In fact it can be eternally devastating. God's truth protects us because it leads us to His perfect will for His creatures. Good theology says God is good and faithful. What is happening to me is not some slip in the cosmic fabric of the universe but the caring hands of my God molding my life for the greatest blessing of all. God has a purpose and God loves sinners in spite of their sin. That truth leads me to drop my defenses and embrace by faith God's invitation to be rescued. So many things do not last here, yet good theology says "God's mercies endure forever." That is what the Bible teaches and that's good theology. And it does save our lives! We need not live in despair, in doubt, in hopeless anguish, and in fear that nothing in this world is real. Believe the truth. Count on it. Good theology will save your life. Think it through.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Can we make it?

After going through a hard time, have you ever had anyone say to you words like "How are you making it?" or "Are you going to make it?" Those questions are meant to be supportive and emphathetic. But the reality is that we really can't make it on our own. Roy Lessin in one of his essays observed the following: "God knew we could never buy our way to Him---the COST was too great. We could never earn our way to Him-- the TASK was too great. We could never will our way to Him--the COMMITMENT was to great. God knew we could never come to Him...SO HE CAME TO US!" Life has been crippled permanently by our sin. We must deal daily with the fall-out of our wayward journey. The pains and wrinkles that creep up on us are constant reminders that we are not making it. The sorrows & set-backs slam us into the reality of helplessness. We curse, twist our hands, slam our fists into the invisible wall of hopeless inevitability The world is falling apart around us to varying degrees everyday and in spite of what the therapists tell us about reaching deep within our being to find solutions, we know that we are not going to make it ultimately. Someone else outside our framework must reach in and pluck us out of our dilemma. Enter...the Christmas story. God coming in Christ to people who could not make it...that's us! Christ came for the express purpose of bringing glory to God by doing His will in the matter of our rescue from sin! We were not making it, and He lifted us up by his own might and power through his death on the cross. Can we make it? Accept the fact you cannot. Only when one comes to Christ can anyone make it! "When we were yet without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly" [Romans 5:6]. Think it through!