Monthly Archives: March 2011

Give Up Everything?

In the process we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all. In this way we choose to send off other people to carry out the global purpose of Christianity while the rest of us sit back because we’re “just not called to that.”  —  David Platt, Radical

In the midst of writing a much larger post about Christianity and wealth, I ran across this quote. I’ve written about our idea of “calling” before, but I think Platt provides an excellent reminder for us. Many of the functions, attitudes, and sacrifices that God calls us to as Christians, we tend to give to a select few.

The heart of the Christian life is sacrifice. Romans 12:1 speaks of being a “living sacrifice”.

What comes to mind when you hear those words?

The challenge for me lies in not taking those words too lightly. It’s easy for me to write some things that I do off as a “sacrifice”, but I wonder if we really want to know what God means when he says “living sacrifice”.

In Luke 18, Jesus challenges a rich young man to sell everything. Luke 9, we find Jesus calling those who follow him to deny themselves and take up their cross. These are not easy words. They aren’t words we should take lightly.

Our tendency is to take Jesus’ commandments and make them into philosophical mumbo-jumbo.

Jesus just wants me to have a giving heart.
We shouldn’t love things.
I should care about people.

While statements like these are true, they are sufficiently vague as to encompass almost any way of living.

The reality is if we have a loving heart it will burst forth in action. If we don’t care about things, we will find ourselves compelled to live with and love less and less of our things as we become more satisfied in Him. If we truly care about people, our lives will begin to revolve around His work on this earth, rather than building our own kingdom.

Christianity is going all-in.

What does being a “living sacrifice” mean to you?

How do you tangibly “take up your cross”?

 

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Filed under christian, Examples of Sacrifice, quotes, Scripture, selflessness, Serving Others

Get into the Game

My son loves sports. Only four, he thrives on hitting a baseball, dribbling a basketball, or kicking a soccer ball. Consequently, we signed him up for soccer this spring and he loves everything about it…except…the game.

The coach divides the kids into groups and my son will run through the drills, always looking back at my wife and I, with the biggest smile on his face. The team lines up on one line and races toward the other end and he sprints his heart out. He’s won 6 0f 7 races! He’ll get together with a friend and kick the ball back and forth just for fun.

But then comes the game…

Within five seconds, my little guy gets this distraught look on his face and hightails it over to us. I’m not quite sure what scares him, but for some reason, he has the hardest time getting used to playing the actual game. He’ll do the drills, he’ll do the racing, he’ll practice his heart out, but he struggles with getting into the game.

I wonder if we do that too.

Most of us excel at wanting to practice. We want rules, we want guidelines. 20 minute quiet times? We can do that. Pray for a few minutes? Sure, why not? Attend church fairly regularly? No problem, I like the people. Give some money away? Tougher, but o.k.

We have mastered these drills, but when it comes to getting into the game, we’re often unsure, scared, or both.

Maybe we’ll fail.

Maybe people won’t like us.

Maybe I don’t know enough.

Maybe certain things are for “higher up” Christians.

Maybe, maybe, maybe…

We create these barriers in our hearts and minds and find ourselves playing the majority of the game on the sideline. We’ll cheer for the success of missionaries, pastors, or “stronger” Christians, but never do much more than practice or watch.

Some may ask, “What exactly is this game you refer to?”

Valid question. I think it involves many things: sharing our faith, serving others, encouraging others in the faith, etc.

I’m not intending to denigrate discipline and “practices”, but I’m reminded of Psalm 67 .

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

We are saved by grace, through faith. Our relationship with God is essential. Prayer and scripture should permeate our lives. However, as they do, they motivate us to action. “May God be gracious to us…so that your ways may be know on earth.” Israel was meant to be a light to the nations. In the same vein, we are God’s ambassadors.

Paul, in Ephesians 2, right after he gives the Gospel, says we were created for good works which God has prepared for us to do. We practice, we run drills, we discipline ourselves, so that we are prepared to play the game.

As you study Scripture this week, as you pray, and as you attend your local church, ask yourself:

Have I been faithfully sharing my faith this month?
Have I looked for opportunities to serve in Christ’s name?
Have I built up another brother or sister in their faith?

Let us not practice for practice sake. We “practice” so that our lives may make much of Him.

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Filed under christian, making a difference, Making God Known, Prayer

What Would Charlie Brown Do?

One day Charlie Brown was in his back yard having target practice with his bow and arrow. He would pull the bow string back and let the arrow fly into a fence. Then he would go to where the arrow had landed and draw a target around it. Several arrows and targets later, Lucy said, “You don’t do target practice that way. You draw the target, then shoot the arrow.” Charlie’s response: “I know that, but if you do it my way, you never miss!”  —  John Maxwell, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Sadly, the experience of many Christians parallels Charlie Brown having target practice. Our fear of legalism or anything approaching the idea has sent Christians headlong into the very unclear waters of ambiguity. As a subculture, Christians have created language that defines parts of the Christian walk without saying much at all. We speak of praying, love, sacrifice, etc., but rarely do the words, practices, or ideas get defined in such a fashion that one can say, “Yes, that defines my life” or “No, that’s not me.” Instead, the words take on their own meanings in each individual Christian’s mind and so everyone hits the mark because they all feel they succeeded in hitting whatever definition they have conjured up. The problem with that is if a word carries so many definitions to so many different people then it really has no definition at all.

Let me take a step back. This whole notion has been rummaging around in my head for awhile, but began to take shape after reading a blog post by my friend Kevin Martineau. His post entitled 7 Dangers of Not Having Goals does exactly what it sounds like. He lists the 7 dangers as:

  1. We can become passive.
  2. It is impossible to do any real evaluation.
  3. We can fall into the trap of doing something just for the sake of doing something and it is difficult to state why we are doing this or why we are not.
  4. We lose motivation because we are not challenged.
  5. It becomes easy to settle for a maintenance mode instead of development mode.
  6. It is easy not to plan ahead.
  7. The emphasis becomes upon activity rather than output.

If those 7 dangers do not sum up many struggles in the Christian experience, I do not know what does. I see myself in almost every one of them. As a whole, Christian culture has become afraid of setting goals and standards for fear of seeming legalistic or not “free”. As a result, many of these dangers define us.

This is to our downfall.

While I agree that numbers and progress should never become our idols, why should we lack discipline in the one area we claim is most important? We set a budget because we want to monitor how we use our money. We set goals in diet and exercise. I’ve even heard of people who set “serving” goals: they try to serve a certain amount of people in some way throughout the week.

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. – Apostle Paul

I realize everyone’s life will look different to some degree, but it is essential that we take the Apostle Paul’s advice. If we say we should live a life of love, we need to flesh that out. What does that look like? What does Scripture say about it? How do I put that into practice? Then, when we meet each other we can definitively say whether we have been loving well or not. The idea is not to create standards to beat ourselves up over, but to spur us on in our race.

Think of the average Christian’s prayer life. I have read the average Christian prays (including at meals) 3 to 7 minutes a day. Reading through the New Testament, we cannot come away thinking that’s a good thing. But here’s the rub: How does that change?

The model we have now would implore people to pray and we’d cover a new topic the next week. People would leave church, pray a time or two throughout the week, feel better, and gradually slip back into their old lifestyle of 3 to 7 minutes. Maybe I’m being cynical, but that is the common experience many Christians face. It may be difficult, but it’s a difficult reality.

Honestly, I’m only a writer on a very small blog. However, I deeply want to honor God with my life. I have no visions of being perfect in this life, but I know it honors God to begin intentionally, sacrificially giving up more and more of my life to him. Setting goals is an invaluable asset to that end.

Look at Kevin’s 7 dangers flipped around a little. What if they read:

7 Realities of the Christian Life

  1. Christians are active.  (Hebrews 12:1-3)
  2. Christians do real evaluation.  (Acts 6, Luke 8:9-14 )
  3. Christians do not fall into the trap of doing something just for the sake of doing something. They have a purpose and know why they do what they do.   (2 Corinthians 5:14)
  4. Christ challenges us to be His ambassadors and His death and resurrection motivates us.  (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
  5. We are constantly asking God to examine our hearts and refine us.  (Psalm 26:2)
  6. We plan ahead because we know our mission.   (Matthew 28:18-19)
  7. The emphasis is on giving God glory and not the activity.   (Philippians 1:9-11)

We set goals because we want our lives to honor Him, not to achieve our own personal glory. I’ll leave you with this. Do not be afraid to set goals. Goals are healthy. We must stop impersonating Charlie Brown.

If you struggle with evangelism, ask God to help you, and set a goal of sharing your faith with someone this month. If you struggle with prayer, start out praying 5 minutes a day and work your way up.

As I’m still thinking through this, I’m sure there may be more to come. Until then,

Do you feel goals are an important part of the Christian life?

What goals are you currently setting for yourself?

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Why World Water Day Should Matter to You?

Today is World Water Day. Currently, there are almost 1 BILLION people without access to clean drinking water. To put that in perspective, that is 1 out of every 8 people on the planet.

Some quick facts about water (credit is due charity:water for these facts):

  • Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
  • 90% of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions are to children under five years old.
  • In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water. Women and children bear the brunt of this labor.

Here’s the deal. We have many problems in America. For the most part, access to clean drinking water is not one of them. I completely agree we should work on problems here, but that need not necessitate us leaving millions without hope. For the price of a night out to eat, a movie, or a couple of Starbucks, you can drastically change someone’s life.

Christians, let us put our money where our mouths are. “For God so loved the world” means more than our tiny part of it. We build up vast nest eggs to live lives of luxury by the time we are 60, but can we spare a few dollars for some who may not see 60 without our help?

Let me be clear: this IS a gospel issue. Why on earth would people care to hear about a loving God if His people will not care for their most immediate needs? Let us not be so cruel as to send missionaries to the farthest corners to share the Good News, but willfully neglect millions (many children) as they suffer the cruel fate of being born into an impoverished area.

Love knows no borders. Love knows no race. Love knows no culture.

If you would like to give, these organizations do fantastic work (there are others, just do your homework before you donate):

charity:water
Samaritan’s Purse
Wine to Water

Even if it’s just a few dollars, would you please consider giving the gift of water to someone today?

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Filed under Challenges, christian, hunger, making a difference, poverty, Serving Others, Uncategorized

Making a Difference is Easier than You Think…

“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and healing to the bones.”

Proverbs 16:24

If you want to make a difference in someone’s life today, it does not get anymore complicated than that. Maybe you feel like you don’t have the money or resources to make a large impact in the world.

Be encouraged. You have the ability and opportunity right now to lift someone’s spirit.

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.”

Proverbs 10:11

Please do not underestimate the impact your words can have in the lives of the people around you. That old nursery rhyme about “words will never hurt me” sounds nice, but words can wound in ways that sticks and stones never could.

However, our words can be used as a fountain of life and there many dry, weary souls in need of nourishment.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

Today, will you intentionally encourage and uplift those around you?

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Filed under Challenges, Chances to Serve, christian, making a difference, Scripture

Why Finding a Church is not about You…

So you’re looking for a church…

Sounds easy enough, but what exactly do you look for?

Churches come in all shapes and sizes and if you want to find one to fit your style, all it takes is a little shopping. But should looking for a church engage the same decision-making process as ordering a burger? Consider the enormous amount of choices we have when finding a church.

Exegetical preaching v. Topical preaching
Contemporary worship v. Traditional worship
Sunday School v. Small Groups
Big Church v. Small Church
Lots of people who look the same as me v. A more diverse crowd

And that doesn’t even begin to look at different denominational differences…

We have this concept of the church that we want and then we go out and find it. I want to challenge that paradigm. Look at who matters in that last sentence.

We have this concept of the church that we want and then we go out and find it.

It’s all about…….US.

I understand there are certain doctrines we should not waver on and we should run from heresy, but when it comes to personal preference, how strongly should our desires weigh into the equation?

If you’re single and there aren’t many singles at a church, does that mean you flee?
If you’re one race and the church is majority another, do you look elsewhere?
If you want your kids to be in a vibrant children’s ministry and the church is just starting, do you write them off?
If a church seems big, do you ditch it for a smaller one?
If a church is not active in missions, do you help begin a missions vision or ship off to an already established missions program?

I’m not saying I have all the answers, but when the primary consideration becomes about our comfort and preference we miss the boat.

Choosing a church in the area where you live is one of the most significant decisions you make. I am not arguing that we can not ask questions. I am advocating that we ask the question: God, where do you want me?

The answer may not come easy. The answer may need to come through much prayer and searching of Scripture. But, we must ask the question.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 10:31-33

I’m convinced that many Christians have missed opportunities where God called them to serve, sacrifice, and lead in order to find a church that “fit” them better.

Ask yourself the question:

God, where do you want me?

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Filed under christian, Scripture, selflessness, Uncategorized