Tag Archives: church

Do We Really Believe in the Resurrection?

Do you get the resurrection?

I know, as Christians we talk about the resurrection, but do you get it?

Praying with some friends today, I asked God to make the resurrection more real to me. I believe in it, but I think I’m just so used to the idea that I don’t truly get it.

Think about what we believe! Christ (God the Son), took on flesh, lived a sinless life, died to atone for our sins, and RESURRECTED!

That’s nuts!

The resurrection was a central part of the early church’s testimony (Acts 4:33) and the Gentiles mocked them for it (Acts 17:32). Naturally speaking, what we believe is absurd. No dead man gets up to live again.

That’s why I wonder if we get the resurrection. Do we truly sense and feel the miracle of what happened that day? Does it register as more than a good thought or a cool story?

The early church endured persecution because they got the significance of the resurrection. Nero was said to have lit them on fire to serve as lights in the evening. Why would people continue to confess faith in Christ if they knew death was imminent? Because they believed with everything they had that the resurrection of Christ was real.

In a sense, at the resurrection lies the crossroads of faith and unbelief. Without the resurrection, Jesus becomes no more than a guy with pithy sayings and a death wish. If Jesus stayed in that tomb, let’s stop with the craziness.

However, if the resurrection is true, that should absolutely light up our world. Words can’t even express the significance. Christ’s deity is proven, God has drawn near, and life becomes more about Him and less about us.

Do we get the resurrection?

I’m convinced that if we understood the significance, our lives would never look the same. After all, if we believe that a man died and came back to life to free us from sin and death, then should we not give everything we have to bring honor to His name? The resurrection radically alters lives.

  • Prayer becomes more than a domestic intercom (credit to Piper). We eagerly seek His will and direction.
  • The study of Scripture takes on new life as we eagerly want to know more about our resurrected Savior and God.
  • Money becomes utterly meaningless for comforts and pleasures.
  • People are no longer means to an end or faceless numbers. We see them as God sees them and we long for them to know Him.
  • Worship becomes a joy rather than a chore.
  • Duty, frustration, and routine are replaced with sacrifice, joy, and the cool tension of not knowing where God will lead you next.

Life, in view of the resurrection, takes on whole new meaning. The resurrection changes everything.

So, do you get the resurrection?

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Filed under christian, Making God Known, Realizations, Scripture

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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Filed under christian, Uncategorized

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

Frisbees Speak Louder Than Words

In many ways, language inhibits our ability to truly communicate. We so quickly use words to express our feelings that our words have been sucked dry of meaning. Listen to what James says about this:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

James 2:15-17

Imagine reaching a point in your life where you lacked the food to feed your children. Suppose you went to a friend and shared your plight and they essentially said sorry and wished you good luck. You would rightfully be discouraged and hurt. Although they communicated with words that they care, their actions spoke otherwise.

We too easily use words to wrap up a conversation or an encounter with someone because words make the break more clean. It is infinitely more convenient to say, “I’ll pray for you” to someone who is suffering than to invest the time and energy necessary to understand their suffering and discover a way to love them in action.

All of this crystallized in my heart when I spent a week in Brazil this past October. I knew not a lick of Portuguese, but one of our primary goals involved loving the children in a poorer part of the city.

I remember the first few minutes as we began to meet the children, I felt terribly out of place. I graduated with a B.A. in Communication Studies. I am trained to talk! Yet, I could not use words to introduce myself or begin to get to know the kids.

Samela, one of my favorite kids from the trip.

Thankfully, love knows no bounds. Language does not hold love captive and over the next week, I got to know some of the most wonderful children in the world through a variety of ways:

  • Playing Frisbee – Seriously, greatest invention ever. The kids had more fun with that than anything else.
  • Having the kids make fun of me while I tried to repeat Portuguese words.
  • Getting schooled in soccer.
  • Building them a safer place to play.
  • Trying to sing songs in Portuguese.
  • Teaching them how to juggle.
  • Simply spending time with them.

Honestly, I felt like I knew the kids my whole life by the time I left. Although language made conversation possible, real friendships were formed. I may never have been able to have a long conversation, but I still tear up when I look at their pictures because they mean so much to me.

All this to say, let’s stop going the easy route. Yes, we can tell people how we feel, but let’s not stop there. Show them.

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Filed under christian, General Update, Realizations, Scripture, selflessness, Serving Others

Savior, Lord, or Both?

Reading a book this morning and ran across this quote:

Jesus’ invitation flies in the face of modern evangelism. More often than not, sermons imply that Jesus is a personal Savior to help people get out of trouble and danger. He is pictured as standing anxious and ready to assist all who will simply sign a permission slip for Him to be a Savior. But there is silence about His being a Master to be followed, a Lord to be obeyed.

Any thoughts? Do you think we present the Gospel accurately?

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Filed under Books, christian, quotes

Ignorance, Indifference, or Unbelief: Why Don’t We Pray?

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

1 John 5:14-15

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

John 14:13-14

Ignorance, indifference, or unbelief. I can only think of three options.

The disconnect between these verses and our lives expands like a great canyon. The mark of our churches includes many good, even great things, but rarely desperate, concerted prayer. We have the power of heaven at our disposal, yet, if your life looks anything like mine, we live as if we have plenty of power on our own.

Three reasons why we may not pray:

  1. Ignorance: I’m not calling anyone stupid. Ignorance is simply not knowing any better. Sure, people know verses about prayer exist. They even know they should pray. However, many Christians have not grown up in churches where there are men and women with a heart for prayer. Prayer is generally assigned to a Sunday or a morning devotional and so people treat it that way. We need leaders who will mentor the next generation. We need churches where families gather to pray not because they were told to, but because they have a passion for prayer. Church leaders, we must begin to live out biblical preaching on prayer!
  2. Indifference: Indifference is an epidemic that plagues the church today. Unfortunately, our convictions are such that we act as if our beliefs are no more significant than choosing which shirt to wear. Jesus directly tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” Yet, when it comes to the many people in our sphere of influence who do not know the Good News, we hardly feel the need to pray for them. I have begun to pray that I would feel Paul’s urgency when he wrote:  “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…we implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
  3. Unbelief: I have the hardest time with this one. I want to say we all believe God answers prayer, but do we? I feel like we sometimes try to cover for God by not praying. We just aren’t sure if He will answer the way we want. I don’t know. One of my best friends in the world was going through a difficult time recently and there were days I would neglect to pray for him. Sure, we’ll never be perfect, but I think there is also a time when we have to be real with ourselves and ask: Is what I believe just up in my head or has it sunk into my heart?

Ignorance, indifference, and unbelief. Which one do you struggle with?

 

 

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