Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Everybody wanna go to heaven.....

I was running an errand a few weeks ago and when I turned the radio up it was playing Kenny Chesney's new song. I'm not sure of the title, but the main line in the chorus is "Everybody wanna go to heaven, but nobody wanna go right now." The chorus then continues with lines about getting a drink, a girl (or guy), and having a good time. I couldn't listen any more. I'm sure the tune makes you want to tap your foot and sing along, but it's complete blasphemy! It's not blasphemy because of getting a drink. From my study of Scripture I see nothing that condemns having a drink. I do however see verses that condemn drinking to the point of intoxication. It's also not blasphemous because of getting a girl. God proclaimed even before the fall that "it's not good for man to be alone." There are definitely commands to follow in how we go about seeking and finding a spouse, but that's another post for another time. The reason that this song is a direct slap in the face of God is that it encourages it's listeners to think that there are things here on earth that are better than seeing the face of our Creator and Savior in heaven.

This view is very wrong in several ways. One way is kinda like the buffet at your local Chinese restaurant. It says that we can pick and choose what we like about Jesus and Christianity. We can take the salvation and not the lordship, the good gifts and not the struggles, the justification but not the sanctification. This way of seeing Jesus and His gospel is "no gospel at all." We cannot take one part of the gospel and leave another part alone because it asks us to do things we dislike or things that we think will make us unhappy. By doing this we are not taking any of the gospel. The other way that this view is wrong is that it assumes that Earth is our home and the place where we find our full and ultimate happiness. That it's where we are fulfilled and where we find our purpose. This is simply not the case. We are created beings. We have been made in the image of a trinitarian God, with a specific purpose. This purpose is to bring glory to our creator. So, the only way for us to be truly fulfilled is to live out our created purpose. This will not happen in the pursuits of this world. It can only be found in a gospel relationship with our creator, in where He transforms our heart of sin into a heart that seeks His face. In abiding in this relationship we bring Him glory and us ultimate joy, peace, fulfillment, purpose, etc.

"Let us not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds." For His glory and our good.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Reaching the heavily "churched"

I have now been called to a place of ministry that is very familiar to me, and yet a completely new experience. In my years of college ministry I spent most of my time carefully walking through and explaining the gospel to people that had only been to church sporadically if at all. Now I'm faced with reaching a generation that has grown-up "in" church. Meaning they have more or less been inside the four walls of a church 2-3 times per week for most of their life. But they have never truly been in the Church. This generation was either sent to church by parents that didn't care to attend, but thought it was a good thing for their kids to be there. Or, they were brought to church by parents who forced their kids participation with only the reasoning of "because it's what you're supposed to do." This has created people that know lots of information about the Bible and it's main theme, Jesus, but do not have a faithful and redeeming relationship with Him through the gospel. My repeated question to myself has been "how do you reach a people with the gospel, that already 'know' it and have somewhat of a disdain for the church." After time in prayer and reading, here are some answers that I have come up with.

1) This population needs to see sin as a heart issue. 
They have had "rules" placed upon them that were to only effect their outward behavior. They quickly found that they couldn't keep these rules, and that has left them with loads of guilt. Now they have resorted to abandoning the church rather than continuing in an endeavor that they see as futile. We need to see that Jesus always brought the laws back to the root issue of the heart, and that even if we were able to diligently keep those outward laws we would still be sinning in our heart. We need to understand that we will never be good enough to earn forgiveness.  

2) This population needs to see that Jesus gives true LIFE now, not just fire insurance for the after-life. 
All that most of this population has heard in church is "keep these laws and when you die you get to go to heaven." They do not know or see that Jesus has come not just to punch our ticket to heaven, which is an awesome thing, but that He came to give life now. John 17:3 says, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." This tells us that our eternal life begins the moment we come to a full and true understanding of Jesus, and that this life is learning and knowing Jesus personally. Our relationship with Christ provides purpose in life, lasting joy, true peace, and so much more.

3) This population needs to see the body of Christ (manifested as the local church) as a true community of people who love their God and the people around them.
Quite often the church, whether purposefully with one big decision or unintentionally through a series of small decisions, removes themselves from their culture. The body of Christ then begins to look more like a gated country club than the open gathering of God's people for the purpose of worship and teaching. This communicates that, "you must be one of us before you can come in." This is very different from the way Jesus conducted himself during his time of ministry. Jesus crossed societal, racial, cultural, and gender lines, and he definitely crossed the line between the "righteous" pharisees and the unrighteous people He came to save.  He was not concerned with what the "churched" pharisees thought of His actions.  His concern was with the lost soul that did not know Him.  That is why He was despised by the church at the time.  He did the unthinkable and spent time with the sinners - so should we - on their terms and not ours.  We should go to them and not expect them to come to us (at church).

The dire need for the mission field that I find myself in is to see Jesus and His gospel in a new light. To see the gospel as it truly is, the "power of God unto salvation," not a list of Do's and Don't's. We need to see that Christ put on human flesh, was born, lived the perfect life that we should have lived, and died the death that we deserved, not to then return to heaven just to pound us on the heads when we break a law. He did those things out of love for us, and to make a way for us to reconcile our relationship with out heavenly Father. This reconciliation to the Father is what gives us our purpose, joy, peace, and fulfillment in life, along with countless other blessing that our sin had taken from us. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Religious Affections?!?

Emotions are powerful and dangerous things! This is especially true when the emotions pertain to our love for and devotion to God. Throughout my years as a Christian I have try to stay away from the emotional side of my relationship with God. Emotions can't be trusted. I have seen them fail me far to many times. I could be watching a video about foreign missions and hear of the suffering occurring in that country, or I hear a poignant song at an opportune time and these things set my heart aflame, only to be quenched back to ambers the next morning when "life" starts back. The emotions never last. But I am currently learning that they are very necessary.

God is dealing with me on some major issues and fanning the flame of my heart in some very real ways. Not in the ways of the stirring song or touching video, but in a way where my emotions are linked directly to my relationship with my God. This very different experience for me. I can relate to and deal with the fair-weather emotions that rise and fall with my circumstances and situations, because I know that they don't last. But, with this new work of God, I am finding my TRUE joy, happiness, hope, sadness, and grief in Christ alone. This, I'm having a hard time getting used to and wrapping my head around. Before the flippant emotions called for no "real" change for the sake of the gospel. The moving video would cause me to desire for a day or so to go to the unreached people or to give abundantly to the work of missions, but the feeling would burn out. This was very frustrating to me, because these things are the desire of God and therefore must be my desire as well. I just couldn't muster up or sustain the feeling. The fact though is that emotions should play a very real part of our relationship with God. I believe that every jot and tittle of the Bible is true and meant for a purpose in our lives. Therefore, when Jesus declared that, "true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth," he was showing us that our emotions should be included in our faith in Him. But, it also shows us that our emotions are not to be running on their on. They must be coupled and founded on truth, the Bible. This has been the difference in these current emotions felt for God and His word. They have not come by some video or song, but by seeing Jesus in my time with Him. I have not been studying the word to gain knowledge about HIm, which we should do, but that's another post, but studying to see HIm, to know Him. These times of seeing Jesus has transformed into a continual communing with the Him. When my mind is not engaged in some task with work or daily life, it is finding it's way back to Him. I thank God for this work he is doing in my heart, and at the time it scares me. I was comfortable with the way my relationship with God was going, not very happy, but comfortable. I am now finding great joy in a life of uncomfortableness.

So, even though emotions are dangerous, they are important. I just have to remember to filter them with God's word. And better yet, I must seek the emotions that are found in a life focused on Him, His word and His purposes, not trying to live off the fast burning flames that is ignited by a video or song.

Note: This is not the way I originally thought this post would come out. I had plan to write more about the issue of the disconnection of our emotions (spirit) and doctrine (truth) and why they must go together. But, as I have been muling this post around for the last few weeks, I could not really bring together what God is currently doing in my life. I guess He brought it together for me. :) May God use this for His glory and our good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wasted Life?

I have been reading "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper. If any of you have ever read anything from Piper you know that the act of reading becomes less like a leisure activity and more like getting hit in the face with a 2x4, enjoying it, and asking for another. God is truly using Pastor Piper and his words to ignite souls for HIm and His kingdom. As I read Piper's words in this book, I can not help but feel that I have wasted a large portion of my life. I have spent countless hours in front of the TV in the name of rest. I have chosen to use my money to purchase the biggest and the best, when the "regular" version would have been more than I needed. I have convinced myself that it is better to keep my money for my family rather than give it away for the furtherance of God's kingdom. I have also taken very few risks for the gospel's sake. I think there were times during college and a few sprinkled around through adult life where I truly made life decisions with nothing but God's glory in mind. I have become great at convincing myself that praying about a decision once or twice means that I have made it with God in mind. I think a great majority of the Church, especially in America, has become this way. We pay lip-service to God in the form of prayer and the occasional seeking of guidance to make someone else knows that we "sought" God. Only to make the decision that makes us feel good, or that we feel is "best" for our family. Rarely do we face life's opportunities, struggles, or decisions with the same mindset as Paul, "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I [and those around me] may gain Christ." (Phil 3:8 extra phrase added based on Paul's other writings)

When we come to faith in Christ it is not a call to come, get your fire insurance and life how you choose with a little God and church sprinkled in. It is a call to come a DIE. To come and die to ourselves, to our dreams, and to the world around us. This is not to say that our thoughts and dreams our tossed out the window, but that we hold them from now on with an open hand. We then choose to pursue them only after answering these question: "Is this dream/decision/job opportunity/purchase/etc going to help me make much of Christ? Will this _______ show people around me that Christ is my Treasure above all else?"
This kind of thinking goes against everything we have been taught. We have learned from society, the media, even our parents, that we must go after everything we want and it doesn't "really" matter who get hurts in the process. We need the biggest and the best of everything.

I pray that the Church and I will begin to take great risks for God and His kingdom. May we not waste our lives in the pursuit of things that will not last, only to find out that the God that we set aside would have brought us the greatest joy and happiness we could have ever imagined.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Walk in the Woods

I took my two boys for a walk in the woods a few days ago and was completely blind-sided by God. As we walked, dodging limbs and briers, stepping over fallen trees, and crunching through the Fall leaves I was ravaged on my insides by the actions of my four year old.

As we walked around admiring God's creation I was struck by how enthralled my oldest son was by the colors and beauty of the leaves. He dashed around from tree to tree completely engulfed by looking at and describing each leaf's own intricacies. He would call out from this tree, "look daddy, this one is bright yellow with spots of red." Then from another, "wow, this one is dark red, but it also has brown polka dots." These words describe the actions that continued for the next 30 - 45 mins. I could barley get him out of the woods. By God's grace it began to drizzle or I think we would still be there. During this time of watching my son's amazement, I was able to talk with him about how God had made the leaves and that he loves it when we enjoy them. As I talked to my son about God, God talked to me about my heart, and how I was currently being rebuked, unintentionally, by the actions of a four year old. The thought that kept running through my mind was the fact that it has been years since I have looked at any of God's doings with this kind of amazement and found this much joy in God.

God has called me into a relationship with him, not just for my salvation, but also for the fulfillment of my life. "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) This verse does not speak of material wealth and prosperity, but of the joy that is only found in a God who loves me completely. And more importantly His redemption for me is ultimately for His glory. But, because of the greatness of our God our full and complete joy is found in our glorification of Him, because that is our created purpose. Our ultimate happiness is found in the giving up of ourselves and the taking on of the cloak of righteousness that is placed on us by Christ alone.

After pondering on these things throughout the rest of that day I realized that I had allowed my growth in Christ to become a burden. Just another list of "to-do's" that I needed to check off. But this thought and feeling toward my sanctification flies in the face of God and his desire for our relationship. A few days after our walk in the woods, my four year old come upon another leaf is his grandmother's yard. Again with the same excitement he poured over the look and feel of the leaf and then turned and said, "Daddy, I need to keep this leaf to remind me that God made the leaves, and that I need to enjoy them." I pray that I would rekindle and hold to the excitement and joy in God that my son as showed in his amazement of these leaves. I must begin everyday with God's word, it must become my leaf that I need to keep that reminds me that I was made for God's glory and that my glorification of Him is where I find my eternal joy and purpose.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

So here we go.....

I have recently been re-listening to Pastor John Piper's talks on great men of the faith entitled, "Men Whom the World is Not Worth." While listening to him layout and describe these men's lives I began to notice a particular discipline that was consistent in all of them. They wrote! Some wrote for themselves, some for others in the form of published books, but all wrote for and about their growth and maturity in Christ. During Pastor Piper's talks he spends a large amount of time discussing this discipline in each of the men's lives, and also expounds on the discipline of writing himself. He goes so far as to say that true learning only happens when pencil hits paper, or in this case fingers hit the keyboard. So here I am, wireless keyboard in hand, writing. I am writing for writing sake, for my sake, and for my growth in the glory of my Christ.

As you will soon learn, if you so choose to read through these ramblings, that they will mostly be just that. Ramblings. I am a man of many things, and one of those is A.D.D. Because of this my trains of thought get derailed quite often. I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot sustain a single thought for more than a few seconds without it being completely blindsided by some other arbitrary thought that comes screaming into my conscious. Usually something completely off current subject like, "I wonder how that mark got that high on the wall." One of the hopes I have for this discipline of writing is that it will help me finishing and more accurately process the thoughts and passions that God would lay on my heart.

So, all of this being said, this is where the name comes from. This truly will be "Thoughts of a Disjointed Mind." I hope and pray that God uses these times of writing for His glory and my growth. I also pray that God would pour out His grace on these words that they may push, pull, or shove you closer to Him, the God of all creation and the giver of all joy.