The Cure For “Post Christianity”

Below new research by the Barna group on the continued decline of Christianity in America. I was shocked and sobered to find that of the 100 cities listed every major area in New York ( save Binghampton) is in the top 21. My current city, Rochester New York, being at 21.

While I’m not that surprised as every church in my region seems to be in decline, it has strengthened my resolve to hold the line on the gospel.

Many respond to stats like this, and wonder what the church has to do to become relevant again. They lament at old church models, and point to new cooler ones as the answer to the question of our lost relevance. I want to assure you, that asking that question is in fact why we are where we are.

Jesus, the firstborn from the dead, who spoke creation into existence and formed Adam with his bare hands, who holds the church in His hands and upholds all things by the word of His power, will never lose relevance.

The church is in decline for a number of reasons, but the foremost being clear.  We as a church have worried too much about saying what people want to hear to keep them in the building, that we have forgotten to declare the needed relevance, though sometimes hard to swallow, truth of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The Gospel is offensive to the world. The Gospel is like putting iodine on an open wound. It hurts and stings like crazy, but it kills the infection and seals the wound for rapid healing.

For me as a pastor of a church is western New York, this only strengthens my resolve. We need to preach Christ! We need to live Christ! We need to declare Him in his present love and in His future return. My life must represent His message of tender love and meekness He showed to beggars and prostitutes, while flashing His tremendous zeal for righteousness that He expressed in the temple to the money changers. My life must represent the understanding and patience He showed to Nicodemus, and the willingness to lose everything for the sake of love and the message of the coming kingdom.

Give me 50 pastors in Western New York to run with, that are known in Heaven for the time spent on their knees. Who tenderly, with genuine love, are unashamed to declare the truth of the Gospel without compromise. Who would rather build a legacy in the next age through prayer and fasting then books and accolades in this life. Give me those men and I promise we will see a habitation of the Holy Spirit in this region that is so tangible that the hearts of many will return back to the Lord at neck breaking speed.

As for me and my house at New Hope Fellowship, this is what we are contending for.

God give us grace to contend for a historic revival of the lost in this region. And if it’s your will to tarry, then give us the grace to contend until we die. That our lives would be wasted for your glory, because we’ve have touched your glory, and it’s all we desire.

Changing Our Stance On Homosexuality

This morning I watched the news feeds light up because of a few casual comments by the current Pope on not judging people who are gay. Besides the fact that I really truly am starting to like this Pontiff, I thought the reaction by people everywhere was very telling.

It’s been going on for months now. Last month we saw DOMA overturned and Exodus

Pope Francis saying: “Who am I to Judge Gay people?”

International president and founder Alan Chambers change his stance on homosexuality. Desmond Tutu coming out say God is not homophobic. The pressure is so intense on every side for the church both protestant and catholic to “change it’s stance” on homosexuality. Never before has there been such a drive by secular culture to infiltrate faith/ religion and change it’s meaning so the world can feel less judged.

The Pope’s comments from yesterday are sentiments that I echo. It is not for me or anyone to judge another person for who they are. We are all sinners. All are in need of grace. All are in need of transformation into the likeness of Christ, not the likeness of who we want to be. At the same time no man can change the “churches stance” on homosexuality, because no one can change God and His word.

I fear that we have done such a poor job at representing Christ to the world as believers that we have led them to believe that God is a moral idea that changes with time. That Christianity is simply a moral code to live up to and should evolve with culture and time. Which Christianity is not morality; it’s a man who is God.

God is a person. Doctrine is not a man crafted truth, but a God birthed truth to show us who we were meant to be in his infinite and beautiful imagination. It’s a road map to His heart where we can experience the love, joy and peace we were created for where sin has robbed us.  You can’t change His stance, no more than you can reorder the atoms in your hand.

That said, I have many gay friends. Guys I grew up with. Guys that used to serve with me in ministry. Girls who I consider friends who are now lesbians. I love them. When I see some of those guys I give them great big hugs. I listen to them. I don’t treat them any different then the other acquaintances I have. I do not change my beliefs on their lifestyle. However their lifestyle is between them and God.

We face a difficulty in the church, that wont go away or change. The Homosexual movement is only going to grow. The pressure is only going to increase. We as Christians can not give into the pressure to change God’s stance on Homosexuality. Because it’s His stance, not our own.

That said, In our resolve to stand firm with God and His word, we could use to love and accept the gay community as fellow humans. We don’t need to be constantly known for what we are against, but what we are for. We are for love. The love of Christ that saved our hearts, is available to homosexuals as well. They are brothers and sisters we want to see walk in the fullness of who they were created to be by God.

If there is someone who has genuine love for Jesus, who are we to question their salvation because they are presently gay? Lets encourage their faith. Encourage their reach for Christ. Encourage them in their journey with the Lord in the same way we would encourage those who love God but get drunk regularly and don’t want to admit they are alcoholics. To condemn anyone would be to curse them and assume that our words, not Christ’s, are the one’s that save them. To judge them is to declare that their story is over when it’s not.

It is entirely possible to love homosexuals with genuine affection and hold the line on homosexual acts being a sin without shaming and condemning people. My point is that we as a church need the grace of God to learn how. Not because the church will become irrelevant or because we’ll lose the culture. Those fears are silly. Jesus will always be relevant because he’s the creator God eternal, and to think we ever had a Godly culture in America in the first place is delusional. We need the grace to do this well because it’s the Gospel. It’s who Jesus was. It’s how He treats us.

If we want to see humanity walk in restoration, and have true transformation from sin (like homosexuality) we must remember that it’s God’s kindness and mercy that draws us to repentance. It’s true that sometimes kindness isn’t nice, but it’s always kind.

Romans 2: “… Don’t you know that it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance.” 

Father show us your love that we may learn to love well.

The Peril of American Manhood

Below is an excerpt from the book I’m reading this week- Darrin Patrick’s Church Planter. (from my read a book a week plan) One of the things I have serious passion about is restoring what it means to be a man. I don’t mean restoring it to be defined by outdoor recreation, sports, cars, the woman on your arm, or your ability to mask your emotions. Manhood should be defined by one’s ability to live out the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) By how well one serves, loves, gives, responds in humility, meekness, and peace. While being able to bless and not retaliate on our enemies. 

The current status of men in our culture is in desperate need of revival. Manhood is in need of the power of God to turn the hearts of our nations’ men to be the Fathers, Husbands, and contributor’s to the glory of God that they were called to be. We need men who have a revelation of Jesus. We need men who have passion like the disciples, leadership like David, the work ethic of Noah, and the faithfulness of Daniel. I can only pray that God gives me the grace for biblical manhood to be alive and restore in my own life.

The excerpt below should break your heart.

Ladies pray for the men in our nation, we need you. Men let us embraces the freedom and power granted us at the cross and rise up with a cry for our creator that provokes a generation of men still trying to be boys. 

“We live in a world full of males who have prolonged their adolescence. They are neither boys nor men. They live, suspended as it were, between childhood and adulthood, between growing up and being grown-ups. Let’s call this kind of male Ban, a hybrid of both boy and man. Ban is juvenile because there has been an entire niche created for him to live in the lusts of youth. The accompanying culture not only tolerates this behavior but encourages it and endorses it. (Consider magazines like Maxim or movies like Wedding Crashers.) This kind of male is everywhere, including the church and even, frighteningly, vocational ministry. Ban may be a frightening reality in the church, but he is the best thing that ever happened to the video game industry. Almost half (about 48 percent) of American males between the ages of eighteen to thirty-four play video games every day—for almost three hours. The average video game buyer is thirty-seven years old. In 2005, 95 percent of computer game buyers and 84 percent of console game buyers were over the age of eighteen. Halo 3 grossed over three hundred million dollars in the U.S. in its first week, and more than one million people played Halo 3 on Xbox Live in the first twenty hours. Astonishingly, 75 percent of American heads-of-households play computer and video games.

It may be troubling to look at how Ban spends his money, but it is appalling to see how he relates to women. One needs only to follow Ban to “da club” to see what he thinks of and wants from the opposite sex. Again the stats tell the story. There are 9.7 million Americans living with an unmarried different sex partner and 1.2 million Americans living with a same-sex partner. Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography, 28,258 Internet users view pornography, and 372 Internet users type adult search terms into search engines. Every thirty-nine minutes a new pornographic video is created in the United States. In the United States, 1.3 women are raped every minute. That results in seventy-eight rapes each hour, 1,872 rapes each day, 56,160 rapes each month, and 683,280 rapes each year. One out of every three American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. The United States has the world’s highest rape rate of the countries that publish such statistics. It’s four times higher than Germany, thirteen times higher than England, and twenty times higher than Japan.

Unfortunately, many young women today have given up trying to find Mr. Right. They are coming to the stark reality that they are probably going to have to settle for Mr. So-So. Ban is good at selling himself as a man, but the reality is that he is just a “man wannabe.” Ban typically doesn’t like absolute truth, but he proves its existence through his continual devolution into junior-high behavior and its accompanying consequences. It is a transcultural reality that assuming the responsibilities of husband and father makes a boy into a man, but Ban doesn’t like responsibility, so he extends his adolescence as long as humanly possible. And by delaying having a family, which is the rite of many cultures’ progress into manhood, Ban is able to set his focus squarely and supremely on himself. As Ban puts off adulthood, he also puts off marriage. Why bother with a wife and a mortgage when you can live in your parents’ basement, play video games all day, participate in adult sports leagues at night, and barhop every weekend? Hymowitz notes that in 1970, 69 percent of twenty-five-year-old and 85 percent of thirty-year-old white men were married; in 2000 only 33 percent and 58 percent were, respectively. And the data suggests this trend is not slowing. I think this is one of the reasons young men love watching mixed martial arts. They project themselves onto these “superheroes,” men who are everything they are not: incredibly disciplined, courageous risk-takers who have the genuine respect of their peers. It’s as if watching real men in danger taps into the brain chemistry responsible for what we call masculinity. Curiously, the testosterone and adrenaline that encourage men to seek danger and risk are rarely tapped into for honorable purposes like lifelong marriage and parenting. Instead Ban settles for virtual reality and virtual relationships.

Some men cease fondling themselves, the game controller, or the TV remote and actually participate in adult sports leagues, including the child playground game kickball. Perhaps one major catalyst for young men’s love for recreational sports is that it replicates the kind of challenge and competitiveness sorely lacking from their own personal, professional, and spiritual lives. One author called team sports a “civilized substitute for war,” which would explain why so many men only seem to come alive emotionally on the inside and feel connected socially on the outside to their fellow “weekend warriors.” It has become mainstream to be an adult boy. The masculine journey from boyhood to manhood lies largely in the transition from engaging physically by inflicting pain to engaging emotionally by absorbing emotional pain and persevering through it. Boys must learn how to use their physical strength more passively than actively as they progress to manhood and become what David Gilmore calls “real men.” Real men “give more than they take . . . are generous, even to the point of sacrifice.” Being a man is about being tough and tender. I have three beautiful daughters who have not only stolen my heart but seem to walk around with it and toss it back and forth between them like a plaything, all the while taunting me with the fact that I’ll never be able to get it back from them! But I also have a son, Drew, and because of my keen awareness of and pastoral interaction with the cultural influence of Bans, I know that my work is cut out for me when it comes to raising a godly man. As with all of us dads with similar aspirations, my only hope is the Holy Spirit. So I recently wrote a little prayer that reflects the kind of men we need. Drew and I pray this prayer together almost every night. It is a prayer for him and for me: God, make me a man with thick skin and a soft heart. Make me a man who is tough and tender. Make me tough so I can handle life. Make me tender so I can love people. God, make me a man. All of this is to say that we have a couple of generations of males who were not raised by men, and the result is a prolonged male adolescence. In a culture where the influence of godly men is desperately needed, this void results in a legitimate cultural crisis.”

Patrick, Darrin (2010-08-12). Church Planter (Kindle Locations 193-213). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

The Fight For Hope: Reflecting On Loss One Year Later

An excerpt from chapter one of my book on the year anniversary of this story. God is good, therefore we never stop.
Tired but content I sat down at the dinner table with my ministry assistant, as “Ms Vicky” cooked us up some authentic New Orleans food. Ms. Vicky, as she liked to be called, was a wonderful southern belle. She and her husband were hosting us as I preached at a two day youth conference at her church Butte Louisiana just outside of New Orleans. Having traveled on quite a few ministry trips, I had yet to come in contact with someone as generous and accommodating as Ms. Vicky. We spent that night sharing stories about parenthood. Her kids were all grown up and moved out. I told her about my 2 kids; Natalie Sage who was the cutest 1 and a half-year-old you’d ever meet and my precious second who was still in the womb at that time. I told her about our hopes and dreams for that little one. How my wife Carrie and I had a vision of him or her being a confident, wise, yet gentle person. As we talked she unveiled the fruit of her culinary genius. She brought out a number of dishes, Shrimp Pasta Alfredo, southern cooked chili, and a “king cake” of Mardis Gras infamy. My assistant Dan and I slowly but effectively cleaned our plates, savoring every bite.
     With satisfied sighs and endless praise for our chef and host we headed up to our rooms. Generally I rarely sleep well on the road. However the combination Ms. Vicky’s home cooking, and an entire day of being in front of people preaching put me into an instant state of exhaustion. I texted Carrie the menu from dinner, that I loved her Natalie and that precious little one in her tummy. I told her that I couldn’t wait to see them tomorrow. I put my phone under my pillow just in case she needed to get a hold of me while I slept. My head hit the pillow and I was gone into the deepest sleep I’d have for the rest of that week.
     Maybe it’s different for you but when I’m in a deep sleep, sounds, smells, and feelings happening in the conscience world show up in my unconscious dream world. For instance I remember one very frustrating time years ago when I worked as a Concierge at a Phoenix hotel. I hadn’t slept in 2 days and had fallen into a deep sleep. I dreamn’t that I was a spy chasing an evil 7 fingered man in black gloves all around this old empty warehouse. I was about to catch him when he pulled the security alarm and vanished. The beeping of the security alarm was so loud a had to cover my ears as I chased after him. 10 to 15 minutes went by as I chased him around the known dream world trying to find a way to shut off the alarm he had pulled. Finally I woke up to find that I was late for work. The villain in my dream hadn’t pulled an alarm, but my alarm clock had been going off. Instead of it waking me from the unconscious world, my brain added its elements to the unconscious world. I rushed to work that day, and tried to get a laugh out of my boss concerning my tardiness. This same type of thing happened to me that night, only I didn’t chuckle at the result.
                I was dreaming that I was leading a group of sick people out of a ravine filled with bio toxins that was making them sick. As I led them out we kept encountering Earth quakes that sent many back into the canyon. Over and over I would run to the bottom, get the tumblers, and bring them back up to rejoin the group. At some point during this unconscious Sisyphean challenge I woke up to find my phone vibrating under my pillow.
                Looking at the clock without my glasses on I could barely see it was about 2am and I had a number of texts and missed calls from my wife. I read the texts first. “call me, I’m bleeding and think something bad might be happening with the baby, calling the doctor” next one “It won’t stop, called your mom she is taking me to the ER, your Dad is watching Natalie, I wish you were here or at least answered your phone!” last one “Please answer! I need you, this is so bad”. My body jumped out of bed as my stomach sank. “No!” I yelled, “Please don’t let this be what I think it is.”
Dialing so fast I dropped the phone two or three times before I could finish. My wife answered in tears. The bleeding from her uterus had increased. The doctor had just informed her that we, at that moment, were losing that precious little one in her tummy. Sobbing was all I could hear from my wife on the phone. She gave the phone over to my mom who was there with her and sobs were all she could hear as I hit the floor. I felt like someone had reached into my chest and ripped out my insides. The pain of losing this child, the pain of not being there to support the woman I vowed to always be there for during times like this, the pain of knowing I’d never get to see the face of the little one we just lost. My mom finished telling me that they would hold Carrie in the hospital until all the biological matter had passed out of her; our precious little one. They told me they’d call me back after the doctor fished talking to them. All I could do was put my head into my pillow sobbing, yelling and pleading with God for mercy not to take this one from us.
Once I had gathered myself a bit, the next call I made was to the airlines. I had to get back to Kansas City. I had to hold my wife and support her. I had to do something besides cry.
After 4 hours of negotiating, there was no way to change my flight. So I got up and got ready for the day. I still had to preach that morning at the local church. Ironically the subject I had already prepared was I Peter 1:3 on Hope. Rising to the occasion was out the window for me as I tearfully preached probably one of the most scattered sermons of my life. I felt like I was dreaming, and was waiting for Dan to shake me awake and tell me I was late for service. Since I seemed very awake, all I could focus on was getting back to my wife. After a long journey through layovers and delays that moment finally came. Instantly we fell into each other’s arms and wept together.
We talked about the dreams we had for that little one. Carrie shared how she felt God take our baby back to be with Him, and how she could feel His presence even in the middle of the pain of it all. We stayed up most of the night praying, talking and crying until we passed out from exhaustion.
Later the next day I was visiting with a friend who was checking in on how we were doing. I told him this was one of the most painful-sorrowful things I had ever experienced, but that both Carrie and I had this surprising peace or impossible joy on the inside despite the pain. There was a fight on the inside to resist the temptation of depression, or despair. Surprisingly, there was this solace in knowing who we were in the eyes of God and knowing where we are going ultimately that gave us the courage to fight for hope.
“Why so downcast O my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me? Put your Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him. Ps 42:5 (ESV)
            Hope. Often a sentiment to help us feel better during times of uncertainty is quite more than sentiment. The reality of Jesus, what He accomplished on the cross, in the resurrection, and in light of His soon coming, hope is a power greater than sentiment. Hope starts in the truth of knowing who we are in the eyes of our creator.
This knowledge is like a pilot light in our heart. Even when all fuel to keep going is gone, the understanding of who we are and where we are going is a flame that never dies. Once that flame is lit, no storm in life can blow it out and the slightest glimmer of hope is ignited into a roaring fire. Yet knowing who we are and where we are going because of Him who ordained it in creation and sealed it at the cross is not a subjective journey. We must reach outside of our short-sighted vision of ourselves to touch the vision of the one who created us. We are not the subjects of creation, but the objects of our creator and subjected to Him. This is good news because He is good.
                 Knowing is one thing, fighting through discouragement is another. We need an intentional act of our will to grasp the future we know God has ordained for us. Like the psalmist says when in turmoil, when we are downcast, we look to our soul and command it to action: “Hope in God!”
Today, exactly one year later, I remember our loss. But it’s not the pain and reliving the loss that I remember. It’s that in the pain of mourning and injustice the hand of God never left. My hope was not shaken because of pain, it was given courage to persevere because of the truth that pain has an appointed and eternal end.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.

It’s Time To DO

About 7 years ago I lived in an urban part of Kansas City near Downtown. I moved with the dream of planting a church for the homeless and urban core dwellers. I spent half of my time each day talking with and helping homeless people find food, jobs, and rehabilitation. I spent the other half of each day studying theology and philosophy at a hyper liberal coffee shop where communism was “beautiful” and George W Bush was “Hitler reincarnate”. My time there was like a supplement for college in a sense. I would read and outline say Rene Descartes or Hegel, then spend a few hours debating their philosophies with the coffee shop aggregation. Business men, college professors, college students, vagrants, retired men with nothing to do, it was quite a collection of people, and quite the range of opinions. 

Most often brought up was the subject of “social justice”. They would rant and rant about how nobody cared for the poor. Daily someone would bring up the poor as an accusation toward conservatives, the church or the wealthy. If someone pulled in front of the coffee shop in a nice car, especially an SUV, they were sure to be heckled. They would talk about the ethics of wealth and how it was unethical for someone to have an outstanding amount of money. Guys in suits would occasionally walk by and get cursed at. Ironically also, would be when homeless guys came around for money. They would get made fun of and told to find a job. I would sit stunned day after day. These guys would daily sit at the coffee shop and complain about the wealthy and the plight of the poor while shunning the very people I loved and spent most of my time serving. I would watch it happen day after day in awe. It was sad.

Looking back on this time what pains me is not how they acted toward the poor in reality versus what they intended on doing. What pains me is I see myself doing the same. I may have served the homeless back then. But there were plenty of other areas where I thought people should do something and I never did. The truth is most of us are hypocrites in that regard.

It’s easy to get riled up for a cause. Easy to have an opinion about how life should be. It’s something else entirely to act. So often we define ourselves by our intentions, not wanting to look at our actions. As Americans living in relatively easy circumstances in comparison to the rest of the world it’s easy to have opinions about government, social justice, racial tention, human rights, etc. It’s another thing to put our hand to the plow and do something about them. Think the poor are being treated unjustly and that the rich should distribute their wealth? What have you done with what you have?  Mad about the foster care system, and how horrible orphans are treated? Well you have a spare bedroom right? Think our nations economy is collapsing and you are worried about your job security? You have real government through prayer and you still have knees to pray on right?

As much as it depends on me I’m done talking. I’m done having ideas. I’m done with chintzy giving. I’m done with lazy serving. I’m done with defining myself based on my intentions. It’s time to do. There is only one way to be successful in our doing: Christ.

It’s time to finally and completely surrender our hearts to the one we say we love. It’s time to get on our knees, get in His word, and get His heart for the people around us. The only way you or I are going to actually care about the poor is if we begin to be transformed into the likeness of the one who created those who are plighted with poverty. It’s sounds like an oxy moron: We need to do, therefore pray. But not doing so would be like a fifteen year old watching a war on TV and saying “i want to fight” then running out to a battlefield with no training, weapons or armor. It’s been said that “you can’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” I would challenge that saying and say the Bible says, “You Have to be heavenly minded to be ANY earthly good.” (Col.3) We pray so that our doing is sustained. We pray so that our hearts are energized with the thoughts and affections of our creator for us. We pray because humans are the objects of his affections and genius. If we think for a second we care about them more than He does we are delusional. It’s time we believed that when we pray God responds. It’s time we had faith to pray so that we can act.

My continued service to the poor has only ever been sustained and energized because of prayer. When I’m helping someone come off of alcohol and sit with them through the shakes for the 4th time, and a week later they fall off the wagon again it’s hard not to want to give up. It’s hard when you are loving homeless people who beat each other up, commit crimes and get sent to prison, or killed despite your best efforts. If we want to help them we must start on our knees. Only there will we gain the heart to love them properly, and the courage not to quit.

It’s time to act, pray therefore.

Standing is A Verb

Standing. The verb. In our present time, standing is no longer a verb. In fact it’s not a posture generally observed or aspired to any longer. Because of social networking, tired
 politics, empty churches, and growing relativism, standing for anything apart from the ethos of the general society is

 not only looked down on, but is chastised. We live in a time where truth and justice have become fluid concepts, floating from one subjective idea to another. Where practical and historically proven truths are not only being redefined, but in many places forgotten. Much of the culture in our time tries to pull at those who would stand for anything outside of the collectively agreed on ideas and morality. Many have lost the courage to stand when no one else will.

Standing takes more than courage and good intentions, it takes a foundation that is unshakable. We were created by God to stand. To love Him, then reflect and sow that love to others. We are called by God to serve and love the poor in action and in secret not in sentiment and intention. We are called to forgive and love our enemies. To turn the other cheek when someone strikes us, and admit that we can’t do any of this apart from His ability in us. We were called to walk that narrow and hard road to eternal life while everyone else rides together down broad streets leading to destruction. We were called to stand.

Jesus said it this way:
Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who builds his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 

Standing is a verb. When the waves and winds of opinion and persecution come and beat on us and our faith will we stand? When the hatred and rage fuming in the hearts of those who have rejected Christ is being directed at us who love Jesus, will we stand? When the ideas of our time tell us that Jesus is one of many ways to enjoy eternity will we stand? Only if we are found as lovers of the absolution jesus and the Word that He embodies.

Before we stand, before those waves and winds come and beat at us, are we surrendered to the grace of God and through that surrender loving and obeying His commands? Is it real in our hearts? Do we take our faith seriously. If we surrender to the ability of God and His word they, not our own ability, will guarantee that we stand are are not moved.

“To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling.” Jude 24

He is able, willing and faithful to give us all we need to stand in this age. All that remains is our action. Our daily decision to pick ourselves up from the apathy and lethargy of sin and its ways. We just have to stand. He’ll hold us up.

How To Cure The Paralysis Of Fear

There are times when I’m afraid to talk to the Lord. The times I have struggled most with God, and sin over the 29 years of my journey can be traced back to a paralysing fear of talking to God. In those moments my fear is not what God would say to me, but that he wouldn’t respond at all. Occasionally I would be in times of great need, but I would be slow to go to God out of fear that he wouldn’t help me. Fear is a powerful evil that can shake us to the core.Fear does more in most of us then just keep us from praying. Fear often becomes the driving force behind most decisions. Fear of failure, fear of missing out on something, fear of a person’s opinion, fear of meeting a person’s expectation’s and so on. Fear keeps us from action. Keeps us from running to a God who loves us. It has often kept men from loving women. Its kept Parents from enjoying their children, dreamers from living their dreams, visionaries from casting vision, and humanity from returning the love of their creator. But fear is not a force within it self. Fear is the product of a greater problem: an absence of love.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.  We love Him because He first loved us.” – IJn 4:18-19
We are created beings who were designed to live and be fueled by the love of our creator. Sin separated us from being able to receive that love, as sin itself is a rejecting of that love. Sin carved a chasm in our hearts that had to be filled to function at all. The absence of love has caused us to create our own faux version. Our greatest desire became to exalt, fulfill, and please ourselves and the love of self became the highest level of fulfillment. This results in us being the makers and controllers of our own destiny, our lives became about our own glory.

However we were created for the glory of another. The love of self and living to glorify ourselves and other humans means the whole of our life’s energy is wasted trying to swim up a stream that will inevitably overtake us. The very nature of our life and existence is at the leisure of our creator and we were fashioned perfectly to be trophies for His glory. When we seek to glorify ourselves over God we go against the very nature of our existence.

Fear is the fruit of trying to glorify ourselves. It is the paralyzing force that desires to maintain control of a destiny we were never meant to control. The fear that keeps people from pursuing the talents and gifts that have been to us given by God to glorify God, is the same fear that kept me from running to God when I ought to of in the past. However when we receive the love of God, offered in clearest form at the cross and cease the rejecting of it through sin, we cure ourselves of the paralysis of fear.

The love of God is a force that pushes us to the edge of the unknown and reaches out it’s hand and says “Jump! You can trust me.” It gives us courage as it plots out an eternal destiny for us. It gives us an absolute hope that we will never be alone, and ultimately never feel the struggles of this life one day. It gives us a reason to live and a reason to love other people.To the measure that we struggle with fear is the measure that we have not been perfected in love.

First Commandment: “Love the Lord God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Jesus the Logos- When a 140 characters aren’t enough

I’ll do a lot of these. consider them long Tweets.

Jesus is the Logos, meaning he IS “ology”. The study of Theology must start with Christology, was He is the God we are studying. When we study the Word (the Bible) we are studying a man. The Word is living and active because He is living and active. Scripture is supreme because He is supreme. Scripture is absolute because He is absolute.

Our interpretive lens when looking at scripture is the in dwelling Holy Spirit testifying of Jesus- The Word. We can asks questions about the Word, theorize, and make assumptions, and even make idealogical constructs. But at the end of the day all such thoughts fall into the category of speculation. Only by revelation given us by the Holy Spirit testifying of the Logos can we really know what we know. Therefore our epistemological center  comes from another realm, another age, another place.

Faith is the evidence of things unseen and unknown. Revelation is the evidence that faith can see.

Honoring Parents

“When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him,”They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants,”Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim… When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine… “

This is personally one of my favorite “miracle” stories of Jesus from the gospels. According to the time line this is also the first miracle Jesus performs. Which is significant, given the context.

Before the Jesus created the Heavens and the Earth, He and the Father had a plan. A plan that resulted in Jesus dwelling humbly on the Earth as a human, but fully God. A plan that was so divinely timed, that it was prophesied to the day in Daniel 9. A plan that all of creation is still working toward seeing the completion of when Jesus finally returns and we dwell together with Him forever.

Jesus, some of His disciples and his family were invited to a wedding that was ill planned. Half way through the wedding celebration, they had completely run out of wine. Mary, His mother, came to him and asks Him to help out. She knows that He is God, and she knows that He has the power to save the couple the embarrassment of running out of wine, by making more.

PAUSE: Can you imagine being Mary? Being the mother of “God made Flesh”?? It’s nuts! I’m not going to start praying to Mary or carve statutes of her in my backyard, but you have to admire a women who is the human mother of… God in human form. That woman had some stories believe me! UN-PAUSE.

The record detailing the conversation of Jesus and Mary is mostly non existent. We only know that Jesus reminds her that it isn’t yet His time. Then the next thing we see happening is Jesus doing it anyway.

We live in a time and culture where because of broken fathers and mothers through the 60’s and 70’s, parents spend more time apologizing for having to lead their families, and kids spend more time demanding their rights. As a youth minister I witness this all the time. The parent trying to figure out what their kid wants, while the kid issues their own personal “Magna Carta” onto their parental units.

Here we see Mary as the parent of “God made flesh” Jesus. Not even the divine cosmic plan of the Universe can derail Jesus’ obligation to respect and honor His mother. He turns the water into wine, in doing so announces to His disciples and those that noticed, that He was indeed the Christ… before His time.

Parents, kids, teens, even adult sons and daughters, can learn a lot from this example.

Parents: Do not be passive. Your the parent, act like it no matter who your kid is.

Kids: Honor your parents, at every age. If God can interrupt His cosmic plan to obey His earthly parents every excuse you have is now officially trumped.

So get off the internet and go take out the trash.

:)

Why I’m Grateful For President Barack Obama

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made  for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions. That we may live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” -ITim. 2:1-2

Did you catch that? Not only are we supposed to pray for all people and the leaders over us, but we are to be thankful for them. What is even more shocking is when you consider the audience Paul is writing this letter to.Especially in relation to political leaders.

Nero, one of the most wicked and rulers of all time, is on the throne in Rome. This is the man who burned down the city of Rome and played his lire singing like a mad man as he watched it burn. This is a man who killed his own mother, and tried to annihilate Christians and Jews. This is a time of persecution for the church where friends and family members are being slaughtered for the gospel. Paul’s timely encouragement is not one of outrage or calling for action. Instead he tells them how to hold their hearts, in the midst of proclaiming the only thing that can save them; the Gospel of a coming Kingdom.

When I look at the political climate in the U.S. I see a bleak future. I see the bad decisions of the last 4 administrations. I see the bad decisions of the last 10 sessions of Congress and Senate. I see a government embracing moral relativity, and human idealism paving the way for the greedy side of capitalism to wreck our nation. I see both sides of the aisle with the Tea Party-ers and Libertarian’s in the middle all pointing the finger at each other wanting change that can only happen at the hands of a Christ- Jesus Christ. All the while the Church finds itself some where in the middle of the ruckus watering down the gospel trying to sway political and moral change instead of presenting the transforming power of the Cross.

This is where the instructions from Paul become necessary. Having laws changed to uphold the morality of Christianity means nothing if the people do not embrace Jesus and His work on the cross. Being bitter at unsaved leaders who do not act according to scripture only causes our hearts to grow in bitterness toward them. Bitterness being the primary thing that drives our own hearts away from Christ and His grace. (Heb 12)

The wisdom of I Timothy 2:1-2 is that in the midst of an ungodly, and wicked world we can keep our heart pure by thanking God for our leaders, and sincerely praying for them with the same fervor we would pray for a family member who has rejected Christ. By praying for leaders, like President Obama we begin to see him through the lens of Jesus: a weak and broken vessel like you or me who is in need the transforming and saving grace of Jesus.

Prayer doesn’t mean we accept his policies, or approve of his moral character, it just means that we position our hearts to fulfill the 2nd commandment in every area. (Love your neighbor as your self) It means we speak well of him. It means that in the same way we would’t want to slander our co-workers or family members, we don’t want to slander our President. It means we bless him, and pray the living God captures his heart. As it’s the living God that raised him up to be our leader.

This is why I’m thankful for President Barack Obama, and I pray that he uses the office given him for righteousness. Because after all it’s not me or you he answers to but Jesus seated on the eternal judgment seat. Believe me, he needs all the prayer and blessing he can get.