Tuesday, August 18, 2015

To share the Good News

When Christians speak of evangelism, I often hear this word defined as the confrontational, argumentative evangelism that became popular in the Bible belt after the Civil War during the American Revivals and resurgence of the Holiness movement. Along with tent meetings, we adopted a type of evangelism which thrives on apologetics and “reasoning” people into believing in Christ. It offers little room for questions, doubt, or argument. And Christians here in America don’t question it. It has been so entrenched in our culture for so long, we assume it must be the “right way” to evangelize.

As a Christian and as someone who believes that sharing the Good News is more than a single confrontation, or a single conversation, this style of evangelism makes me inwardly cringe every time I hear about it.

Sharing the Good News is not only about getting people to heaven.
Or saving them from hell.

That may seem over the top for some of you, but it truly is not only about that.  
The Good News is about loving people. It is about sharing the love of God with people He created. It is about getting relationally involved in the lives of those Jesus came to save, serving them, and seeking God’s love ourselves amidst such service.

Pastor Dominic Carlow preached a sermon about the “messiness” of getting involved in other people’s lives a few months ago at Silverton Church of the Nazarene. He used a very effective illustration during the service, one that will stick with me for a long time. He had a giant tub in front of the sanctuary and went around gathering dirty laundry from everyone that he asked to bring dirty laundry for that morning from the congregation. He then took all that dirty laundry and began washing it. He added everyone’s dirty laundry, and went about agitating and cleaning the laundry.

All those items of clothing are metaphor’s for us as human beings. We come together with all our sin, all our “dirt,” and we have to jump in the tub together to get clean. The tub is Jesus, the agitator is the Holy Spirit, and God is the one who created it all. Together, we love one another and help each other stay in the tub.

The Good News is only good when it contains the stories of Salvation, justification, regeneration, and sanctification. Dallas Willard puts it very bluntly in saying there is absolutely nothing about the Gospel that suggests we can take Jesus’ blood to get what we want (salvation), and have nothing more to do with Him. Relationship has to come into the equation, or we will just be part of creating a bunch of spiritually immature Christians whose faith never moves past the point of salvation alone.

We can redefine what it means to evangelize… Christians can begin living what it means to serve others; give to the poor not because they deserve it, but because they are God’s created people. We can serve because we love the Lord first, not because we believe these good works can save us. We must learn to love others as He loves us.

What can I do to change this? I can pray. I can love God and love others. I can live out what it means to serve others in the church and outside the church. They are little things that add up to big things; it means noticing the woman behind you at the grocery story struggling to get her groceries onto the belt and helping her. It means offering fresh, cold water to the homeless man asking for money on the street corner. It also means putting ourselves in situations that we may be a little uncomfortable in, all in an effort to serve those Christ came to save. If we do it together, the fullness of what it means to live out the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth will come to reality in our lives and in the lives of those we love.

Your kingdom come, your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Choose life.

My heart is so sad for all the hurt and pain in the world today. As the news continues to post story after story of hurt, pain, infliction on those who many deem unworthy, and death for those deemed useless, my heart bleeds. My pain flows.

It continues to hurt when I see Christians posting things about standing with the side of the oppressor. Giving into the pressure of the world and our culture to choose between life and death, and choosing to give out justice when it is not our place. How often did God say justice would be His and His alone? In Romans, chapter 12 Paul pleads for Christians to heap love onto our enemies, to give them love instead of hate. Many Christians say they agree to this, yet we continue to live as though we can choose the side of the oppressor.

We are called to kneel with the scapegoat. To live a life that bends, kneels, and lowers ourselves to the position of nothing until we lift up others around us by the grace of God alone. Jesus did this in life, and most importantly in death, until He rose from the dead and brought about a new Kingdom that we can now be a part of. We do not have to live as though the powers at work in the world are what we live by. We live by the Spirit of God. In the Spirit. In the fruit of the Spirit; love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Christians, we are called to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to the Lord. This is our true and proper worship. Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (Romans 12: 1-2) This transformation does not look like the world, and cannot be from the world, for if it is, it cannot be from the Lord.

Seek peace. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Memorial Day Reflection

This Memorial Day one question is haunting me… giving me pause, and making it difficult for me to laud and applaud the soldiers who have given their lives to this thing called war. Is it worth it? Is it worth the cost of giving your life for this country? Whether or not you have died in war, soldiers come back from war emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted and broken.

Is it worth it?

I have encountered a handful of soldiers in my life who have returned from war with broken, bleeding, and wounded hearts. They suffer from severe cases of PTSD and have difficulty getting the care they need. One stated to me, “My PTSD counseling consists of sitting in a room with a TV recorded counselor.”

Did you hear what I just said? The country that demands these people give their entire lives over to, gives them nothing in return. They do not offer the care and support these people need to return to their regular lives outside the military. Instead, they are left with the empty praise and pats on the back from people who have no idea what they went through.

Again I must ask, is it worth it?

I cannot help but believe that something worth giving our lives for will bring us peace. It will bring us joy. It will bring us patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.  It will break us, but sustain us as well. It not only tears down, but builds up in the same breath.
How many soldiers come back from war and wonder if it was worth giving everything they are to hurt another person? The other side believes in their cause just as much as we do. At what point do we recognize the emptiness that war brings, and how it separates a human being from other human beings? It isolates and cuts them off from their families, friends, and loved ones.

This is what I grieve today. I grieve for those who think and feel as though no one understands or comprehends the significance of the sacrifice they made. I grieve for their families, because they are victims just as much as these people who have gone to war.

Lord Jesus, today I pray for all who have served in war. I pray that you would fill them with your peace. With your love; with your goodness. I pray that you will come in and heal the broken places in their hearts and minds, and give them strength to believe that there is more than war in the world. Help them know there is love, peace, patience, goodness, and kindness to give the world. I pray these spiritual gifts fill them and give them completeness and wholeness in the midst of their suffering. Most of all, I pray they know you. That they know you are present in their suffering, and that you will comfort them no matter what they have done. Holy Spirit you are welcome here… Jesus you have paid the price so that we do not have to… Father you have created space for us in your heart so that we may be complete. Thank you. Show us all the way. Amen. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Getting to know the heart of God

It has been a while since my last blog post… life has changed a bit since then. I wanted to share with you everything that has happened in our lives over the last two years, but I could not find the words. I sat down to type them just as I am doing now, and nothing would happen. I would stare blankly at the screen, my heart and mind incapable of typing the words needed.
I am not going to rehash it all… friends of mine know the story. I began reading A.W. Tozer’s “In Pursuit of God” last night. It has been sitting on my Kindle for a long time now. The title and author kept pulling me in, but I kept ignoring that voice. I kept telling myself I would find time later to read it, but I did not. Until yesterday.
All I have completed thus far is the first chapter, but there are a lot of Christians today with all of the answers, without knowing any of the questions. This hits home with me since my graduation from NNU last weekend. As a Christian Ministry student, I had many professors and fellow students asking me what I was going to do; asking me if I am in a church, leading a ministry, or working in ministry in some way. I have not been in active ministry over the last year. The closer I got to graduation, the less interested people had in me actually being a part of ministry. I am not sure why this is the case, but it is the truth for me.
It seems as though everyone expects me to have all the answers, when in truth the more I learned during my college experience, the more questions I had. I became acutely aware of how little I personally know God, rather than knowing all the “right things” about Him. Tozer states it this way, “How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of “accepting” Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him.”
When did I start to think I knew all the answers? When did I begin believing that once I “accepted Jesus” the search ended, the mystery left, and the journey was done? How many Christian’s spiritual lives wither and die at this “acceptance,” because their seeds have been planted, yet no one continues to water?
How many Christians think (myself included) that because we have the Bible, there is no more to learn from God?
When did I lose my desire to know and be known by God?

Over the last year I begged God to step in and fix all the problems, help me move on to a new life, and get my family back to where we began. But we cannot turn back. We can only move forward. I need to stop asking God to move in my life, and begin asking Him to let me know Him more. Instead of seeking more from Him, I need to begin seeking His heart, His mind, and His love to fulfill the places that have been hollowed out in my heart.