Uncommitted!

In the gospels, Jesus walks along the seashore and sees some fishermen mending their nets. Jesus comes to them and announces clearly, “Follow Me!”. They immediately drop what they are doing and follow Him (I have to wonder where they thought they were going). But when you read in context, you find that for Peter, this was his third encounter with Jesus. He was familiar with what Jesus taught, and what Jesus’ purpose was, that is, to preach the coming kingdom. Jesus’ command to follow wasn’t from random stranger, but from a trusted friend. Maybe there is something to that in our modern context. We don’t call people to follow a random stranger they just met, but someone with whom they’ve become acquainted, even befriended. This is discipleship. Discipleship is commitment.

Jesus clearly calls for an answer to his command, “Follow Me.” When He does this, He isn’t suggesting that He is one choice among many for a route to everlasting life. He isn’t suggesting a part-time partnership. He is primary to the plan. It is His blood that atones completely for our sins, and no one else’s. It is He who is the “way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:8) “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12, ESV) There is no one else who has the truth. (See John 6:68-69)

You may have trouble believing in a historical Jesus. Yet it has been clear, more than clear, even crystal clear, from historical evidence, personal testimony, and even scientific evidence, that the message of Christianity is absolutely reliable. It has not been proven beyond all possible doubt, but beyond all reasonable doubt. There is still room for faith. But many people: 1) don’t look at the evidence, 2) they base their opinion not on the facts, but on the evidence of their eyes, seeing Christians who fail in their discipleship, 3) they have a prior bias against Christianity anyway, and don’t either care or understand that their eternity is at stake. Therefore, when it comes to Christianity, most people vote “uncommitted”. This is a tragedy.

The Wave of Christianity has moved from through Western culture, continues on through Europe, the Americas, and now is moving through Asia to come full circle. Yet Europe is what is called by sociologists, “post-Christian”. That is to say, they have experienced the tide of the Church, gotten used to it, and now no longer deem it relevant. The Church in Europe is fast becoming a relic of history. The Church in America is still relevant, but its influence is diminishing. Why? Because the influence of the Christ is diminishing in the life of the Christian.

The question is about your commitment. The only way to stem the tide of dismissal and irrelevance is the commitment of everyday Christians. Will you be one to stand in the gap?

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What Do I Need to Know to Become a Christian?

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For many Christians, we have been Christian so long that we have forgotten what it was that brought to salvation in the first place. It’s hard to explain to someone interested in Christ how it is to become a Christian, so we ought to take some time looking at what it means to become a Christian.

Most Religions in the world call upon a new convert to perform a number of tasks to be saved. For example, the Muslims believe in five “pillars” or tasks essential to becoming a saved Muslim. This includes praying five time a day (facing Mecca), giving alms, and making at least one trip (or pilgrimage) to Mecca. Mormons on the other hand have to spend two years doing evangelistic work, which is why they stop by your door from time to time. Catholics have to work through nine sacraments of grace, including Christening, First Communion, Marriage in the Church or Holy Orders, Frequent Confession, and even Last Rites. But all of these beg for grace. All of these in their own way beg the Almighty, or as they see Him, for grace to be saved. They are all efforts done by men to earn grace, but sadly, all of these fall far short to be worthy of salvation.

“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9) This is what makes Christianity different from every other Religion. Every other religion relies on the effort of men to secure their own salvation from judgment, but in Christ, God has done all the work. All we have to do is accept it. But before we say it’s easy, accepting the salvation that God offers through Christ.

Far from being work, but effort enough to make it memorable, salvation through Christ forces us to recall the events outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago, When God came down and offered His own Son in exchange for our lives. Walking through salvation takes us through the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Salvation in Christ isn’t all bottles up in a single text, though there are several texts that include more than one element. This calls for reading throughout the New Testament to get the full picture.

Believe

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
(Act 16:31)

Repent

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
(2Co 7:10)

Confess

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
(Rom 10:9)

Be Baptized

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
(1Pe 3:21)

Work Out Your Salvation

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
(Php 2:12)

Giving

Lavish Expressions of Love

In light of the recent stories about churches removing people from membership for lack of attendance and lack of tithing, I am reminded of this passage in 2 Corinthians 8 about “God loves a cheerful giver”. A person should not give reluctantly or under compulsion, which is exactly what a church puts in place if they say you have to tithe to them to continue to be a member. There is some thing to be said for being an active attender of a church. A person ought not to neglect the fellowship. But church cannot demand a tithe, or make it a condition of membership. Rather, giving should be an expression of love and dependence on the Father who gives His own love lavishly in the atoning blood of his Son, i addition to the grace and blessings we receive every day.

God bless you on this Friday!

Pray Big!

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“Do you pray enough?” Most Christians answer, “No, of course not.” None of us pray “enough”, and even though the New Year dawns, our prayer life is not likely to improve without serious and committed effort. Sometimes it is making time for prayer. For others, it is praying that is the problem, because we don’t feel like prayer really accomplishes anything. I can tell you this, because I have felt the presence of God in prayer, and that prayer takes time.

When I pray, I need to be praying at least five minutes before I am able to tune out the world and truly focus on God. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” That’s actually good advice for a prayer warrior. Prayer takes time to be able to transition from worry on what you are doing next to truly putting yourself before the presence of God.

Next, you’ve got to understand what prayer really means. It’s not just a post-it note to God with a list of things you need. It is a multi-faceted conversation with the Creator, the Savior, and the Provider. When come face to face with the Almighty, you realize that you have His ear, and can really ask for anything. No job is too small for God. Even in situations where you see no good end, you can talk to God, and know He can do something good. God is bigger than our imagination. You’ve seen His world. Imagine what He can do with your problems. Very soon you realize that your problems are in fact very small.

I look at our church, and I see possibilities. You might see a small church with little potential, because we are a “small church”, but I see a powerhouse of the Almighty. God can do amazing things in a place where He is honored and worshipped; where He is allowed free reign, with no one holding back their talents, willingness to serve, or their imagination. Small churches are only small to people who can’t see them as God does.

Call me optimistic if you want, but when you understand God’s statement to the apostle Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness”, I think you’ll count your blessings that our little church appears weak on the outside, but on the inside is filled with the Spirit of God.

Pray big, pray big dreams, pray for big crowds, pray for big ministries, because God can do it. Pray big because the life of our church depends on it. Dream big, because God can give His dreams to you, to work out in this place for His glory. Don’t tell God what He can’t do here, because He’s liable to prove you wrong. Are you ready to pray?

Looking for Love In All the Wrong Places

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Christ arose! He arose! Hallelujah Christ Arose! Let us shout it from the mountain tops and proclaim it to the nations. Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the Son of God. He is the Messiah! And He’s Alive! So that the world may know Jesus is Lord!

But there is wrongness to the world. We see it in the various symptoms: abuse of illicit and prescription drugs, the sexualization of children whose definition gets younger every day, deficit spending at all levels, from personal to federal, an irrational selfishness in adults, single and married, parents and children, and even a redefinition of traditions and social foundations (marriage, lifestyle, gender).

In all of this there is a lostness, an ever-further seeking of happiness and contentment, which refuses to be satisfied; lust for power, lust for sex, lust for possessions. It is a lust whose goal is elusive, for man was not built to be satisfied with the things of this world. No amount of depravity or perversity will ever be enough. For in man’s heart is an immortal soul. “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” (Eccl. 3:11) Therefore only the means of God can fill it, and give man the endless joy he craves.

“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, she had tried marriage. She was trying living together. She still wasn’t satisfied. Not until she met Jesus, for in Jesus she found joy. In Him, she found fulfillment.

As a nation, our problems are grave. The question is becoming “How do we manage its loss?”, rather than “How do we save it?” As His Church, we bear some responsibility, for the church has been silent. But we don’t have to be silent any more. This news, this greatest news of all time, is not ours to keep to ourselves. There are millions of people, just like the Samaritan woman, who hunger for fulfillment and finding nothing. They are trying everything but the one things, the one person who can truly satisfy them. His name is Jesus. He is alive today, because He is Risen! Because He is alive, He can be known. Because He is resurrected, He can also hear you, fill you, and abide with you.

A Little More

Jesus Knows Why

Are you ever content with what you know about Jesus? Do you ever say, “I know enough”? Don’t. A mind closed to a deeper relationship to Jesus is a mind closed off to Jesus. Never be content, because knowing Jesus is one thing He tells us to pursue, to be greedy for, to never be satisfied with. For there is always more of Jesus to know and learn.

The Super Hero of the Bible

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It’s time to save the world again! With all the superhero movies in theaters, it makes me think that Hollywood is looking for a Savior.

It shouldn’t surprise us that somewhere in us, we are always looking for a Savior, someone who will go to bat for us, defend us, and deliver us. It sounds like the people of Israel in 1 Samuel, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (1Sa 8:19-20) Throngs will attend the massive cineplexes to find a savior on Friday night, and never think to look at their local church on Sunday morning.

Then I began to wonder about the superheroes of the Bible, you know, men of great strength like Samson, or great speed like Elijah. It reminds me of those who faced great challenges, like Noah, who was charged with building the first boat, for the first flood, to save all animals, and all mankind from the end of the world. Sounds like a super hero job to me.

But all of these heroes were ordinary men and women like you and me. What happened to them to change them to heroes? The answer lies in Hebrews 11:1, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets”. Every single one of these ordinary people were dramatically changed by the voice of God. But there is one hero who outmatches them all.

Still looking for a Savior?

Everyone has a favorite hero, and I think there’s a lot to be said for the comparison of our modern superheroes and the pantheon of gods and goddesses of the ancient world. For every Superman today, there was a Zeus in the days of the Bible. For every Thor, there was a Baal. People then worshipped these superheroes as gods, with real control over their destinies. Sadly, just like modern superheroes, these ancient heroes had a problem. They could not be everywhere at once. They were godlike in their powers, but they could never be God, because they couldn’t be here and there at the same time.

In Superman II, the world is in need of Superman, because the arch-villains of Krypton have made their way to earth. But Superman was occupied with Lois Lane in the fortress of solitude, and didn’t know the earth was in trouble. He couldn’t save the world until after many lives were lost.

In 1 Kings 17, Elijah challenges the priests of Baal. They work and worship in vain to get Baal to light the offering on the altar. Elijah mocks them suggesting that Baal is away on vacation, or perhaps indisposed, unaware of their plight. But Elijah’s God, the God of Israel is always near. “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7) In no time, God lit the altar of Israel, and proved once again that He is God, and there is no other.

Listen to what he says in Isaiah: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isa 45:22)There are many heroes, and many superheroes that may call for attention, devotion, even worship, but only one God. The people of the ancient world had a tough time figuring this out. What about you?

Who your superhero?