Monday, June 30, 2008

Where Are We Now?

All over America it’s happening. People are shopping for just the right spirituality. Some people are shopping because of poor experiences in church. Some people are shopping because they want to “feel” a certain way. Others are shopping because they are looking for relational faith, though they might not say it this way. The options are endless. There are the charismatics and conservatives. There are traditional and ultra contemporary. There are small, large, and in between. Every shape, size, and flavor to fit your needs and your wishes is available. We live in the age of “MeChurch” because it is all about me right?

Where are we?

As each successive generation takes its place on the stage of life we increase the number of options for spirituality. The devil has clearly infiltrated through the means of feeling and preferences into our churches. People get bored and want something new. Arguments and fights ensue over music selections and version of the Bible. Gone, it seems, are the days when the church would split over carpet color and piano positioning. Now we are breaking up and having come-a-parts over music style, dress code, scripture version, and convictional preaching. How far we have come! We don’t want to offend anyone when in reality we care not about who we offend as long as it isn’t our friends.

Spirituality is on the rise. Christianity is on the ropes in this battle for the next generation’s souls. What is the problem? The problem, as will be discovered, is that for far too long we have been consumed with salvific and baptismal numbers rather than the development of the person into a mature follower of Christ in relational faith. We would far rather gain the accolades of our peers through numeric awards than do the hard work of helping a new believer become relational in his faith. Lt. Col. Frank Slade [Scent of a Woman] puts it best when he says that he has always known the right path but it was too hard and he choose the wrong path every time. We must choose the right path which is relational faith in Jesus Christ. I qualify the concept of faith with relational because I believe what we have been selling people is not relational faith but actually religious faith. Amid all the distractions of the world offerings we must be clear about the terms of God’s forgiveness and salvation. It is a free gift in that we could not earn our way into Heaven. Yet, it is a gift of freedom that demands responsible and dutiful living.

Throughout scripture God reminds His people that broken hearts, humble attitudes, servitude, and submission are pre-requisites to the fullness of God in one’s life. Listen to Paul

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters,* I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.*2 Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2

Listen to Jesus...

1 "I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
9 "I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father's commandments and remain in his love.11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.13 There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command.15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.16 You didn't choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.17 This is my command: Love each other.

John 15:1-17

Did you hear the activeness of a relationship? Relational faith is the desire of God. A gospel that does not delineate transformational and relational living is not the true gospel. The Galatians were being accused of following a different gospel then what Paul had presented to them. He called them (us) to the original gospel. We are being summoned to a pure and honest delivery coupled with an understood and taught response.

How do we deliver a pure gospel?

What is the response we should call for from a person? How can we help others respond?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole

Nahum had the responsibility of delivering the bad news to Israel that they had strayed off the path. A closer examination establishes for us two truths: God wants a relationship and the dangers of the spin cycle. Nineveh, in dramatic fashion, came to believe in God and judgment was averted. There was a moment of belief; a moment of faith. While Jonah was moping around under a tree he did not plant or grow, Nineveh was slowly reverting back to their former ways. Jonah shared the minimum. The Ninevites apparently didn’t know about submission and lordship. They did not, possibly, understand the need to be active in relationship to God. Nineveh returned to her former self and is regarded as ones “who oppose Him [God]”. (Nahum 1:2) They are further described as “scheming against the Lord”. (1.9) Nahum further admonished Nineveh for their trust in wealth. How could they have fallen so far? There was a time when they believed. The king sat in sackcloth and ashes confessing and repenting. Where did it all go wrong? How did they get off of the straight and narrow of relational faith into the spin cycle of rebellion and religious faith?

We who have believed, who have confessed and repented, who have placed faith are often no different. We, too, had a moment with God but were without development. We knew not the dangers of denial, passivity, and religious faith. The devil has sent us on a seemingly endless detour. We are spinning out of control and need to get back on the straight and narrow path of relational faith.

Take the red pill for it will simply show you the truth of life on a straight line; life without the dizzying effects of the spin cycle.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Honey...We Have a Problem

The phone rang and I my wife immediately launched into a story of a wall of water and a broken machine. I asked her to slow down and explain the whole situation. Apparently, she opened our front-loading washing machine and the drain cycle had not done its job. A wall of water had cascaded into our laundry room creating a flood effect of Noahic proportions. We had a problem. The machine was not working properly and something had to be done. The machine looked fine. The knobs, buttons, and timer all worked properly. There was something internally wrong with the machine. I got my tools and began investigating the problem. After a lot of tinkering [praying] it began working again.

When we pray to receive the forgiveness of God and the Holy Spirit we begin a lifelong journey with Jesus. We are told that we now have our very own relationship with Jesus. We are told to get baptized and attend church regularly. In other words, we are told that religion is the key.

Honey…we have a problem.

As Morpheus offered Neo the choice of the blue or red pill, so you are offered a choice of religious or relational faith. One will let you remain where you are. The other will take you on the journey of truth and expose you to a world far beyond our comprehension and well worth your time.

The blue will let you remain where you are in the religious faith of our fathers. You can remain in the blissful ignorance of religion and experience neither the fullness of joy or sorrow. You can continue on as is without knowledge of the truth. Religious faith is a dangerously subtle approach of the devil to get us into a spin cycle. I believe that many have had a true experience with Christ, but never taught what to do. We were told to come to church. We were told to have this relationship. We were not taught and shown what to do. We were given marching orders of read and pray every day and be at church every service to prove yourself. Somewhere in the midst of all the rhetoric, we feel empty. Everyone faces challenges, crises, or circumstances that challenge our faith. We splash each other with spiritual platitudes:

“It will all work out.”

“God had a purpose.”

“It will be OK.”

“God would never put on us more than we can handle.”

The reality is that it does not always “work out” the way we want. The consequences of our choices are not always “OK” and if we could handle everything then what is the point of faith? We need God. We need a real, live, conversational, powerful God with whom we can relate.

Take the red pill.