Category Archives: compassion

Where is humanity headed?

As a pastor I often tell the church about my life before Jesus Christ.  My goal is to show listeners my mindset, what was going on in my heart, and the consequences of what life was like without Jesus.  It seems to me that if those who listen to my stories knew how chaotic and crazy things were in my life they might appreciate what many of them have grown up accustomed to.  My life before Jesus was headed no where; literally.  In fact, when I was single, I really didn’t care about my life; worse yet, not much about anyone else’s either.

Since the turn of this century, and especially in the last 8 years, I’ve witnessed human life become less valued because most have rejected the Truth that there is a God who holds humanity accountable.  We must consider the role of secular society in this rejection, as well as American Christianity.  I have long thought that these two entities have parallelled each other.  In fact, to me, one side’s thought influences the other.  This means that these two influence each other throughout history.  As a result, it seems that secular society influences The Church in America.  In the past, The Church used to influence secular society.  In fact, some might argue The Church still does, but negatively.

Right now secular society values animal life more than human life.  I obviously take the position that human life starts at conception.  Yet, most seem to believe that a dog, as wonderful and cute as it is, is more valuable than the baby inside a pregnant mother.  When the people are outraged because of the abuse of an animal, but not so much about the abuse of a baby labeled as a fetus, humanity is headed for disaster.  Further, when we hear about someone using a “less crunchy” procedure in order to harvest organs from the baby I am horrified; even more horrifying is to watch someone say those words over a meal!  It is so disgusting that I am not even going to link the video to cite it.

Before Jesus Christ came into my life I was not really for abortion, unless I needed it.  After all, I cared, but I only cared about myself.  Yet, Jesus taught me that everyone matters because everyone is valuable to Him, and should be to His Church.  Since The Church seems to no longer influence secular society this is what we can expect from most of humanity a low view of humanity in general.  We can expect humanity to care less and less about human life.  Is it possible that we are headed toward a Mad Max world?  I hope not.

Someone might say that the baby (fetus) is not a life at all.  In other words, I should stay away from that argument.  After all science settled it right?  Yet, those of us who follow Jesus Christ, and believe that He is The God who will hold everyone accountable must not be led by science, but by this God who loves all of His creation.  Most of us would be appalled if people were digging up dead bodies to sell limbs and other parts.  We would call this terrible and disgusting.  We would do so because they were people and should be treated with dignity.  These unborn babies are human as well and also possess human dignity.

One reason Christians do not seem to influence society is because we seem to tolerate it since most Christians believe that the world will get worse and worse before the ultimate end comes.  Yet, I’m one who believes that if that is true, it is because most Christians have forgotten the power of God.  What is worse, maybe most Christians have forgotten the high value God places on His creation and humanity.  More and more there seems to be silence on this issue from Christians.  In fact, we talk simply about forgiveness without talking about accountability.  The fact is the forgiveness we receive from Jesus transforms us into people who value all humanity.

Maybe secular society and The American Church have forgotten how worthless human life was before Christ’s Advent.  It is not much effort for someone to look at historical records to see that before Christ, slavery was rampant, murder was rampant, and torture.  These were the norms of society and if you weren’t born into the right families life would be terrible for you; and very short. It seems that because of Christ this began to change.  In fact, Christians led the fight to end slavery because all human life is valuable.  Most of us agree that The Church did well to influence secular society.

When humanity discounts Christ we are in trouble.  When The Church is not boisterous about the value of unborn babies, and all life, the world gets worse.  Yet, if The Church is boisterous, but her people do not live out the message, then humanity is headed for disaster.  Jesus always taught that people were to be thought of as more important than self.  The idea was that everyone is valuable.  In fact, He taught there would be accountability, not just for horrible acts, but also for what is horrible inside minds and hearts.  When Christians were concerned about this, society was influenced by Christ.

If Christ is no longer taken serious, then we will continue to see people multiply who have no conscience.  This will take us back to society where life is not valuable.  I would warn people, that if Jesus doesn’t return, and we continue down this road, then their lives won’t matter to anyone, and possibly not themselves.  Further, the lives of their loved ones won’t matter either.  In fact, humanity will be headed where I was without Jesus, no where, without value, and no value for anyone else.

If you are a Christian, then you need to speak up about abortion and the value of human life.  If you are a Christian you cannot accept this.  If you do, then this is one reason that humanity is headed for disaster.  Plus, I would remind you that Jesus will judge your heart in the end too.  We can no longer accept this.  We can no longer, here it comes, participate in it with a clear conscience.

 

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Filed under Abortion, Christianity, compassion

The Church and her fight against same-sex marriage

I haven’t been a good citizen or a good pastor lately because I am on break from watching the news.  I impose these breaks from time to time because it seems like there is a lot of bad news for the world, America, and me.  Add to this that politically, I find myself in a dying breed category.  Politically I’m conservative.  You may be someone who is on the other side of the aisle right now and just felt a strong disdain for me.  Or, you might just feel sorry for me since I’m such a poor misguided soul who just doesn’t get it.  Nevertheless, if you are still reading at this point, I am aware that politicians, federal justices, and Americans are dealing with same-sex marriage again.  Therefore, I felt that it is in order to remind Christians and secularists about what the Bible actually says about this hotly debated issue.

First, I want Christians to step back and examine what their motive is that dwells in their hearts when they post statuses on Twitter and Facebook about same-sex marriage.  I feel that honesty, with what is going on in our hearts, is needed in this arena.  I fear that some Christians really are attacking a group of people who commit a particular type of sin, according to the Bible.   What continues to be forgotten is that sexual immorality is a branch off of Original Sin that everyone, theologically, is born with.  In fact, the self is always in contrast to God.  If sexual immorality is a branch off of the tree of Original Sin, then a branch off of sexual immorality is homosexuality, and, a list that includes sins like adultery, sexual fantasy with people other than your spouse, all sex outside of the context of marriage, pornography, incest, and etc.  These, and others that I may not have listed, are stems off of the branch attached to the tree.

The problem is that we Christians focus all of our efforts to grab the saw to remove the stem of homosexuality from the branch of sexual immorality.  All the while, however, we simply try to manage the other types of sin with less vigor.  In fact, we do not even really get upset when those sins are committed because we understand them; and most of us have committed them.  Therefore, we become compassionate toward those people who struggle with those sins.  And, could I say, that some “Christians” even practice some of those sins regularly.  Here is the rub, pastors will correctly say that we have to work with these poor lost souls.  But, incorrectly it seems, not with homosexuals.  Instead of acknowledging them as those who are in bondage to sexual immorality like most other people are too, Christians begin to call judgment down on them.

This is much like OT Israel who continued to long for The Day of The Lord, but prophets warned them that when that day came it would not be what they expected.  In fact, it would be a day of justice for their injustice toward others.  Yes, injustice was practiced in Holy Israel, where God was “their King.”  They practiced racial hatred even though their Law called for them to care for those who were foreigners among them.  They ignored the poor often, and the list goes on.  The lesson that we Christians, The New Israel, should learn is that sometimes when we start calling down curses, like some disciples wanted to do, and ultimate judgment we might not get what we expect.  We might just get what we deserve.  After all, we never had the zeal to hold people in our churches accountable for those other sexual sins that they continued to practice.  We settled for “loving” them and fighting against one particular type of sin that we personally did not like.

Further, I am shocked at how few Christians really know what the Bible says about this issue and how we are supposed to live in a world where this issue isn’t going to go away.  Some Christians will post that God is fine with this type of behavior, or lifestyle, but upset with those are not because they are “judging.”  Christians continue to misunderstand what judging is.  I make judgments daily, for example, I make the judgment that if I place my hand on a hot stove I will get burned.  Therefore, I do not do it.  In fact, I tell children, don’t do it.  The problem is that some children have put their hand on a stove that was not hot before.  In fact, they enjoy doing that.  Nevertheless, I tell them not to do anyway.  But they think I am judging them because that stove has not burned them before.  Besides, what they do with their hand is their business and I should not care as long as it isn’t hurting me.  Yet, most would say that if I don’t warn them, then I am not caring for them.

I used possibly a silly example, but the point is that I don’t believe that my motive, if I’m judging others by saying that homosexuality is a sin, is meant to intrude on someone’s right to touch a stove.  My motive should be that I know that one day that stove will be on and it will burn the child’s hand so I don’t want the child to eventually get hurt.  In fact, I deeply care about the child, otherwise I would not say anything to the child about the stove.  I would simply sit back and watch the show.  When it was over I would say, lol, I told you and walk away.  Now obviously, I think that according to the Bible homosexuality is indeed sin.  Those who practice it, along with the other types of sin I mentioned earlier, may not be getting hurt now, but they will.  And one day Jesus will return and those who clung to their Original Sin will be sent to a place of judgment.  These will be those who rejected Jesus and His teachings.  They wanted the right to live their lives and touch that stove without people like me bothering them.  And, God will grant that to those who did not want to respond to God and ignored His warning.  So in fact, these will get what they always wanted; eternal life without God.

For those who are secular I want you to know that we Christians are supposed to be showing you respect and love.  If you experience those who do not, please know that they are not currently speaking the language of Christ.  You are right that you should be able to live the way you choose.  We Christians call that Free Will.  From my point of view that is biblical, that is a gift from God to you.  If you don’t believe that the Bible is the ultimate source of truth, then none of this matters.  But, if you do believe that the Bible is God’s communication to His Church, then you need to know that homosexuality is sin.  Plus, as Americans, even if there are people misusing Scripture, or being hypocritical while quoting Scripture, it is their right to take part in the American process politically.

I do ask for forgiveness though when you experience wrong-motive Christians attacking you if you are someone who supports same-sex marriage, or someone who is homosexual.   I want you to know that you would like Jesus, and sometimes His people get a little edgy, but eventually we will grow to become more like Him.  The Christian Church simply cannot support same-sex marriage, but she should not attack those who do.  Christians are supposed to be ambassadors who persuade on behalf of her King.  Jesus is not into coercion.

If same-sex marriage is legalized, then Christians, you and I, are still called to love God and love others.  We will continue to operate as we have since they lowered the age for consensual sex, legalized alcohol, and in some places marijuana, divorce, and etc.  We live in a fallen world.  Do you really think that legislation will fix it?  Or do you suppose that being motivated by love and compassion to disciple others will eventually impact your surrounding community?  I can’t help but think of the Kingdom that was spawned by One Man over 2,ooo years ago who did not condemn, but came to save.

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Filed under Christianity, compassion, Doomsday, Holiness, Homosexuality, Love, Marriage, Same-sex marriage

4 Gravitational Pulls All Churches Experience

I took these notes from Andy Stanley at the Newspring Leadership Conference in September. 

Text: Acts 15:1-21

One of his comments about the Scripture was that a controversy arose about the need for surgery to be saved. 

He also said that every church has a “they.”

1) Churches always gravitate toward insiders and away from outsiders.  Jesus liked people who were nothing like Him.  The people liked Jesus who were nothing like Him.  Resist this pull in the way you preach, build, and etc.  We must keep our churches externally focused. Red flag prayer requests. Sin, sorrow, and death are what makes our message more important!  Lost people are what matters!

My take: Prayer requests must be centered on people finding Christ.

2) Churches gravitate toward law instead of grace.  People think categorically instead of relational.  Love must always overcome rules.  Acceptance paves the way to influence.  Use grace to sort things out.  We will have to accept people who sin; not the sin.  Homosexuality, abortion, fornication. 

My take: Those who live this way must not be influenced away from the church. The Holy Spirit can still work with them and that is His job. 

3) Churches gravitate toward complexity instead of simplicity.  Clarity.  Partner don’t pioneer; fund and volunteer for other organizations that are already doing it.  Don’t lose your uniqueness in your community.

My take: We are all unique and have a purpose in God’s plan.  Sometimes we need to simply cut the fluff away and focus on the one thing we do.  Discipleship should be a clear process too. 

4) Churches gravitate toward preserving and not advancing.  The Jews were trying to preserve the Law of Moses.  The same Law that God gave him.  Do not move into a protection mode instead of moving into the community.  We cannot protect assets before fulfilling the mission.  Think like a church plant. How did we think when we did not have money? 

My take: Protect mode really brings everything to a stop.  The assets that we protect are Gods; we must watch burying our one talent.  

4 Commitments

1-Be more concerned about who we are reaching instead of who we are keeping.

2-Let’s error on the side of grace.

3-Remain focused on our unique calling.

4-Remain open-handed.  We started with nothing we may end with nothing; and that is okay.   

This is great advice.  I think this advice is great for a small church pastor.  There is a lot to chew on and ponder on here.  Everything in these notes I took are applicable even my small church situation.  I recently shared this with my board.  My goal was to help us focus on what is important.

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Filed under Church Attendance, Church Health, compassion, Faith, God, Homosexuality, Leadership, Missional Resources, Newspring Leadership Conference, Small Church, Vision

Thoughts on faith

Luke gave a great insight to what faith is supposed to look like in his gospel.  Luke was great at creating contrast between people and groups.  He contrasted human emotions many times which help to reveal character someone either in a positive or negative light to those who read his account.  With this in mind, I want to share a thought, or two, about the faith that Christians should have. 

Here is a definition of faith, Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Many times Christians use this verse as a biblical promise to be healed from a disease or something tragic.  But what if I use the word faith to describe someone who is devout?  You know, someone who gets it.  If I can use this word in that manner, then I am free to look at the context of a passage that uses the same word.  I’m gonna do it just for kicks.

In Luke 7:1-10, though we should look at the passages before and after, there is a snapshot of the word faith being used by Jesus about a centurion.  In this passage, Jesus heals the centurion’s servant.  Luke contrasted some people in this passage.  By the way, this passage comes after Luke’s Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus dealt with judging others in that passage. 

 Here are some contrasts in these 10 verses to look at from Luke himself.  The Centurion cares about his servant.  The Jews care about the Centurion, who has authority and who loved the Jewish nation and built their synagogue.  The Centurion had been good; at least a good tither.  Israel was a nation of priests devoted to God and had The 10 Commandments and Law.  The Gentiles, as depicted with the centurion who was considered to be unclean as a Gentile.  The rich and the poor.  The rich elders who cared about their nation and building and the man who had money, because they judged that he “deserved” for his servant to be healed.  The servant, who only had 2 people worried about him, Jesus and the centurion.  People with pride and those who are humble.  I might be missing some other things to look at but you get the picture.  And, all of this was taking place before a fickle crowd.

The Jews were supposed to care about the widows and the orphans, the poor, and the alien.  It was written throughout the Law to them.  In the way of this type of love, they were to be distinct from the world.  They did not do well with this.  Yet, the centurion cared about his servant.  Most of the time we Christians just want to talk about the centurion’s faith because healing took place on account of his faith.  The problem with this is that we have it backwards, we look for the miracle because we want to see someone who is important to us to be healed.  All the while Jesus is looking at us to see if we have the faith of the centurion. 

Simply, the faith of the centurion was the picture of someone who got it.  The elders did not get it according to Luke.  There care was for the money man.  Maybe they thought, “Hope Jesus can do this so that the centurion will continue to be good to us; otherwise he may give up on our God.”  Of course we know that if he gave up on God, that would mean that the money would stop.  Therefore, they did not get it.  The very Law they taught was not within their hearts.  Too many Christians today focus on the same things that the elders did.  Respectable people who can help the church.  Heaven forgive us!

The Centurion, who ironically I assume learned the Law from the Jews, cared for the poor much.  He lived out what he heard.  He cared about the same thing that Jesus did, the poor.  If only, elders in churches today would focus on the same things that Christ is focused on.  I believe people would see a dramatic move of God instead a manufactured move of social justice.  The centurion was humble, he was not bragging about his authority, because was under authority.  He simply recognized Christ as the Authority in contrast with the elders.  All the while the crowd is watching. 

So if you were in the crowd watching Christ, and you heard Him say that He has “not found such great faith even in Israel,” how would you respond?  Would you say to yourself that Jesus’ point was that we should try real hard to believe so that by faith people could be healed?  Or, do you think that He meant that the Jews, who were supposed to know God, were not living their faith out in regard to love for others?  I think Jesus would say this to the Church today.

In my view, Jesus pointed out plainly that the centurion was living by the Law.  His heart was different from the Jews.  This meant that the centurion would enter Heaven before the elders and the Jews.  Shocking!  Because we Christians teach about believing God for our healing from this passage instead of teaching about the humility and love that God desires from us. 

Does your relationship with Christ resemble the elders or the centurion?  What does your heart care about?  The nation and the church building, or those who are “the least of these?”  Christians, it is time to stop placing hope in politics, money, and people.  It is time to quit associating with Jesus because He has power.  Instead, it is time to allow Him to live through us because He loves us.  And if He lives through us, this means that we will care more about those in need than building facilities.  So what is faith to you?

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Filed under Christianity, compassion, Faith, Holiness, Living it, Miracles, Missional Resources

I want a mad church

An amazing thought I have been wrestling with lately is “Should the Church get mad?”  What I mean is should the church develop an anger that will motivate her to spread the Word?  Someone might think, “Isn’t that what the Church already does?” Yes, and no. 

The Word of God is being preached in many churches.  Sometimes though, the Word comes with a slant toward a particular view, or goal.  Periodically, I will use the topical method of preaching, which tends to naturally have a view point with it.  More often, I use an expository method.  In my opinion, this gives me, and others, a better opportunity to allow God to speak. 

The problem is that generally only believers are going to church, which is good, but they are not bringing anyone from outside the church with them.  As a result, the preached Word is staying within the Church.

Back to where I really want to go with this.  Somehow, the Church has allowed herself to appear, or become, unlike Jesus Christ.  When I thought of church as an unconverted person, the first thought that came to my mind was I don’t belong.  I felt that attenders looked at me and my family with disdain.  This is another story.  I did not see Jesus in the midst of  that attitude.  Sinners were attracted to Jesus because He is lovingly attracted to them. 

As a believer, I now see churches struggle with each other over 10% of the “desirable” type of people who we think are worthy to come to church.  You know, those people we think would make good members and contributors.  Amazingly, the others are left out.  I venture to say that they do not even come up on the radar screen as those who need to be targeted. Well, maybe in shop talk once in a while.

As a believer, when I think of church my first thought is flip flops, gotees, coffee, and a lot of theory.  The battle the Church has been fighting in America is not against the kingdom of darkness, it is against itself.  Freedom used to mean freedom from self desire to sin against God.  Now freedom is about worship style.  The bottom-line is that one group of believers wants to bind another.  Freedom?  This is the ever present struggle within the Church to please Jesus the right way.  Or please selves?  Sigh.  Does this stuff make you feel as tired as I do?

The whole time, the above struggle is taking place, the Church is not moved with the real love of Jesus Christ to mobilize in an effort to save her community’s children from sin.  Jesus did not spend time struggling over generational warfare with His disciples.  He spent His time talking about love for God and others.  He said that if we did this, people (sinners) would know that we are His. 

So when is the Church going to get mad over the fact that we have been wasting our time on too many philosphies that cause us to struggle against each other and be mad that Satan is destroying people with sin?  If we get mad about that I believe that we will really focus our attention on setting the captives free

This madness must be rooted in love for others.  Madness can, and will, motivate us to do what Christ called us to.  This madness will create an overwhelming desire to be Jesus and deliver the good news that people can have a better life through Jesus Christ.  What is more, salvation can be gained through Christ.  The Church has to become mad for those who are lost again.  We cannot settle for being mad at each other.  We are called to be mad for those who are perishing. 

I want a mad church.  I want a Mad Church.  I want Christians who will stand up and say that they have had enough of Satan snatching our community’s children and adults and leading them to hell!  I am tired of Christian groups Church bashing.  I am tired of Christians competing with each other.  I am tired of the freedom march that seeks to deliver churches from a particular style of worhsip.  I long for the freedom march that sets people in bondage to sin free.  It sets them free from eternal damnation!

You should want a mad church too.

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Filed under Christianity, Church bashing??, Church Health, compassion, Living it, Missional Resources, Small Church, Vision

Sunday Ups and Downs

We had a good attendance at Smith Chapel yesterday.  I got to teach about the importance of being connected to church.  Our text was 1 Corinthians 12 and I read from verse 4 to the end of the chapter.  While reading we noted that this chapter is about more than simply trying to figure out what our spiritual gifts are.  The bottom-line is that God connects us to The Church, the church, Him, and connects us (the church) with a lost world so that Jesus can connect to those who do not know Him.  That is it in a nut shell. 

During our service we able to baptize a man, which connected him to The Church, and hopefully to the our church too.  It was a good moment in our worship.  Some of his family was there with tears in their eyes.  This helped us as a Body to focus on Christ and the importance of knowing Him which led to singing praises from our hearts. 

Later, a young man shared with me that he is a universalist.  I hate to admit it, but it is refreshing to meet someone who is honest in the Bible-Belt about their view of God.  Most really do not know what they believe and why they believe.  He challenged me to dig for intelligent answers.  It has been a long time since I’ve focused on Apologetics.  It might be time for a refresher.  Nevertheless, for those who think that there really is not much of a mission out there that requires Christians to share Christ, here is your reminder. 

Finally, I capped off the day going to see someone who might be hours from slipping into eternity.  This person has not received Christ as Savior and Lord.  These are always tense moments for me as a pastor.  There are nurses and family around who do not want you to bother someone who is passing away.  I understand.  However, we must realize that receiving Christ is also how someone can pass away peacefully.  I asked the question, “Would you like to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior?”  There was no answer.  We must remember that God gives us all a choice.  I wish I had better news, but I don’t. 

Sunday started out with a sense of victory, but it ended with the reminder that there are still many who do not know who Jesus Christ is.  Further, there are many who choose not to know Jesus Christ.  Yet, God is merciful and longsuffering.  He continues to astound me by trying to save right up to the last breathe.  To Him be all glory and honor forever.

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Filed under Church news, compassion, Forgiveness, Missional Resources, Small Church, Worship

We feel better when someone cares

Exodus 4:29-31 (NIV)
29 Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, 30 and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, 31 and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.

Interesting. The Hebrews were not free yet. As a matter of fact, they still had more hardship on the way. Yet, in the previous chapters of Exodus, out of bitterness and desperation the Hebrews prayed to God. So I think that it is interesting that although they are still struggling with their lives, the fact that they knew that God knew about their suffering actually was the first moment of relief for them. They felt better. And they were going to need to because their bitterness was about to increase. So how many times would we deal with a hardship in our lives if we could simply take comfort from the fact that God knows all about it and that He is working for our good too? Many times we just need to know that someone cares about what we are facing. And that Someone is God.

So what made them worship?  The signs or the fact that God cared for them?

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Filed under compassion, Discouragement, Faith, Worship