Why so sad?

We’ve heard a lot about the terrorist organization known as ISIS over the past year or so. This savage group of radical Muslims has made it their mission to persecute and savagely murder anyone who doesn’t agree with their ideals and follow their laws. This includes Christians.

I’m not going to get into what I personally think about ISIS and the persecution of Christians. That isn’t this post.

What I want to talk about, is what I see when I am confronted with this violent barbarianism on my television, in my reading, or on the Internet.

In particular, I want to focus on the picture I have branded in my memory, the mass beheadings of Ethiopian Christians in Libya, which occurred several months ago.

See Video: ISIS executes 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya

The thing that has perplexed me the most is not the grotesqueness of what I know is about to happen to these men, or the disgust I have that the world is just standing by and allowing this to happen, or the many other things that are floating through my mind, even now, as I look at this picture again.

The thing that gets me is this…..

Where are the tears?

When I see this image, and all of the images that I have seen before and after this shot, I see no fear. I see none of these victims sobbing or begging for mercy or even praying.

They actually look stoic!

And I wonder….

WHY?

What do they understand that I don’t understand? What do they have that we, American Christians, don’t have?

Why are WE so scared?

As Americans, we are terrified of the thought of dying! Even we Christians, when the chips are down, fear death immensely.

So maybe the question
we should be asking is NOT what do they have that we don’t but instead, what do WE have that they DO NOT?

A lot of things come to mind…

  • Peppermint latte’s
  • Theme parks
  • Prom
  • Mutual funds
  • Playoff games
  • iWatches
  • Ikea
  • Vacation rentals in the Outer Banks
  • Running water
  • Electricity
  • 911…..

The list could go on forever!

  • Maybe those guys who are getting their heads sliced off actually get it, where we just claim that we do!
    (We talk a good game)
  • Maybe they realize this life is just a rehearsal for what is yet to come!
  • Maybe they realize they are only seconds away from meeting Jesus, and spending eternity with Him, and to them, this prospect is an invitation they have only dreamed about! Something that they yearn for!
  • Maybe they’ve accepted this world is jacked up and death is just as much a part of life, as breathing is, and it is not something to be feared!
  •  Maybe they truly believe their greatest mission in this life is to disciple others, and they realize that if you want others to truly believe what you teach, they must see that you truly believe it as well!
  • Maybe to them, church is not a place that has a cafe where they can purchase coffee and snacks, or an online gift shop where they can purchase t-shirts and water bottles sporting their favorite church’s logo!
  • Maybe to them, church is the body of Christ spreading the love of Christ at the expense of themselves!

Then I realized….

I still don’t get it!

  • Even though I talk like I get it
  • Even though I honestly feel I understand it
  • Even though I know I should get it or I seem to get it
  • Even though I love God
  • I’m not there!

I think if we were honest with each other, most of us would confess that we’re not there.

I want to see my daughters grow up!

I want to make sure my wife will be taken care of!

I still have things on my “bucket list” I want to check-off!

I am NOT at the place where if I knew that today was THE day, I would be OK with it.

I still think I should have more control, not only of this life, but what happens after this life.

Even though I know my reward after my death is an eternity spent in the company of my loving Jesus, which is AMAZING, I am still holding on tightly to this world.

1 John 2:15-17 tells us very clearly:
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

We can say all day long we believe this, but our actions speak louder than words. We often try to justify death to others. We say things like “everything happens for a reason”, and “it was just his time to go”. We say these things to try to ease the pain that comes from losing a loved one. But we also say these things to try to make sense of something we can’t control.

And here’s the thing,
we cannot control when we will meet death.

We try to pray it away.

We try to speak it away.

We try to heal it away.

But inevitably…. it comes.

Why do we pray it doesn’t come? Why do we BEG God to prolong the inevitable for us? It’s because we’re not ready to go. We’re stuck in this world.

In Daniel 3:17-18, three guys are about to be executed by the king, for not bowing down to a statue he created. In essence, they are being persecuted for not worshiping something other than the one true God (that’s a whole other blog post).

This is their response:
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

Did you see what happened there???? Did you miss it????

They fully believe God can deliver them, but then they say the word “IF“!!!

IF He doesn’t!!

WHAT!?

IF HE DOESN’T?

Why would He NOT?

  • Doesn’t He love them?
  • Doesn’t He want to protect them?
  • Doesn’t He want to save them?
  • Doesn’t He want them to live forever?

What if I told you that God is not the Genie from Aladdin?

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What if I told you the God of the universe may not be up in Heaven just pacing back and forth wondering when you will need Him to perform a miracle to prove He is God?

What if these three guys realized God is a good God, even when they are facing death?

What if these three guys weren’t holding on so tightly to this world, they were just as ready to go meet God NOW, as they would be LATER?

That’s what I see when I look at the faces of the ISIS victims in the photo above.

  • I see the faces of men who aren’t afraid of death.
  • I see the faces of men who aren’t wrapped too tightly in this life or this world.
  • I see the faces of men who believe what they have preached.
  • I see the faces of men who have absolutely no doubt about what they believe.

In Romans 8:35-37, The apostle Paul tries to explain to us that Christ loves us, even as we experience life, and death:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

I’m going to be honest….

I want to be real with you….

I want to get to the point in my life, that I have the faith these men have.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not there yet, although I know I should be.

I’m praying I get there.

I’m praying to become the person who would profess Christ’s love for this world with my dying last breath, instead of wasting it by begging God for more time.

I’m praying what I have learned and what I preach to others will soon become what I demonstrate. I pray to be released from the fear of death.

What would this world look like if it were full of Christians who weren’t fearful?

Do you think that God really expects us to not fear death?

 

 

 

This Ain’t No Hobby!

 

The last few weeks, I’ve been thinkingReligion about how to
write this post so it doesn’t seem as though I’m pointing fingers. I really don’t intend to do that (except maybe at myself). But it has come up in some way or another at least four or five times over the past few weeks through my daily Bible reading, my daughter’s morning devotional reading, other blogs, or church service.

I think the church, as a whole (meaning me and you and our spiritual leaders, etc.), has become far too much of a cheering section for Christ.

Hear me out.

I think Christians have become socially motivated to attend church. It has become the holy_huddle_t_shirts-r4ea8d36cb9a1436bb28fa94817e5c90e_804gs_324place where we can see the people that we like. We get some great entertainment. We can have a snack. We can also hear a sermon that may be motivational or encouraging (which are both great things) but not too convicting. We don’t want to convict people too much because then we sound legalistic and people will stop showing up. And the church really really wants people to show up! A LOT of people. That’s how we can tell whether we are doing Gods work or not. Because He doesn’t make his expectations clear enough for us in the Bible. So we sing some songs, listen to a good sermon, hob-nob with our besties, and then go back to where we came from both literally and figuratively.

We leave the church building, of course. But I think that many of us also leave the Christian life that we portray for a few hours on Sunday. We go back to doing what we always did, talking how we always talked, treating our spouses and children like we always treated them, spending our money like everyone else, coveting the things of this world, sleeping with who we want to sleep with, lying like we always did, gossiping like we get paid for it, and so many other things.

We extol “LIFE CHANGE” at church like it really flows from our buildings like a virus.

We post about it on social media!

We market it!

We preach about it!

We talk about it!

We proclaim it from the mountain tops!

But honestly, I would have to say from my experience and observation, a lot of what we call “life change” is really just “Sunday routine change”. 

I hate to go all Old Testament, but raising your hand as an emotional response to a powerful message is NOT life change. It is a step in the right direction, but if you are doing the same thing next week that you did last week (before raising your hand), then your life has not been changed.

Life change is intentional.

Life change comes from the heart.

Life change comes from worship.

Life change comes from obedience.

Life change comes from submission.

Life change comes from a want to be one with Christ.

Life change comes from dying to the old self.

Life change doesn’t come from raising a hand or from repeating a simple prayer after the preacher.

I think we as Christians, other than the t-shirts we may wear, or the bumper stickers we may put on our cars, really don’t look or act any different from the rest of the world on Monday through Saturday. I think this is why a lot of people either don’t take us seriously when we talk about God, or they just see us as hypocrites. Why would they get out of bed early on Sunday when they can sleep-in and still live the same lifestyle. That’s what they see when they look at us.

If we’re running up our credit cards on needless material things, if we’re talking disrespectfully about our spouses, if we’re giving another driver the finger; if we’re going to the club and being provocative, if we’re not honoring our supervisors and our religious leaders, if we’re only using the scriptures when they are convenient for us, then we’re not motivating anyone else to seek a relationship with our God.

There has to be something different. 

transformed-poster

We can’t just be a cheering section or a social club.

God doesn’t need that. He is the Creator! We are the created!

We can’t just invite others to church so we can fill up the seats and call our jobs done.

It’s not about numbers on Sunday. It’s about how you live for the rest of the week. 

God isn’t in the numbers game.

John 6 is the perfect example of what I am trying to say. You can read it by clicking here.

In this chapter, Jesus has fed the multitudes of people that came to see him teach. He performed a miracle in their presence. He fed thousands of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. After everyone went to bed, Jesus dipped out. He walked across the sea to another town. When everyone woke up the next morning, they were hungry and they realized that Jesus was gone, so they got into some boats and went to find him. When they find Jesus they start to ask Him about when He arrived there. In verse 26, Jesus makes an incredible statement. Jesus was never one to sugar-coat things. Knowing their hearts, Jesus tells them, you only came so I would feed you again!

Not because of the teaching.

Not because of the miracle.

Not because of the life change.

Not because you want to go all-in for Christ.

He then goes on to tell them what they should be looking for. Jesus says,

“Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.”

Eternal life… Much more important than food and material things. Much more important than tomorrow life!

Let that sink in…

Being a Christ follower is not a hobby!

Don’t call yourself a Christ follower because of what you hope to get out of the deal. Love that is one-directional is not love at all! It’s abuse.

Call yourself a Christ follower when you are ready to spend all of your energy seeking eternal life.

Then you will be different. Others around you will want to experience what they’ve seen you experience. You will never be the same when you decide to follow Christ 24/7, 365.

God is about QUALITY, not QUANTITY!

He doesn’t need a cheering section. He does not need a fan club. He is not impressed with your t-shirt or your bumper sticker, or the amount of church invites that you can dole out.

He wants your heart….. Completely.

He is worth it!

In the book Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman says:

In Revelation 3, Jesus says to the Christians in Laodicea, ‘You are neither hot or cold but because you are lukewarm – I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.’ Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Everything in moderation’; He says you can’t be my follower if you don’t give up everything. His invitation is an all or nothing invitation.

Jesus has defined the relationship He wants with you. He is not interested in enthusiastic admirers who practice everything in moderation and don’t get carried away. He wants completely committed followers. 

Christians cannot change the world until we change our lives. We have to change our hearts.

We have to stop trying to blend-in with the world.

We need to stand out with our boldness and with our ridiculous love.

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What is it that you need to do or stop doing in order to follow Jesus more completely?

 

 

This is a test!

Thanks for coming back to my blog. I know that the last few posts have seemed very sermon-ish. I promise that they won’t always be like this, but I’ve really been feeling strongly that many Christians have become superficial in their faith and especially in their worship. And because of that we are missing out big-time!

superficial
adjective su·per·fi·cial \ˌsü-pər-ˈfi-shəl\

  1. 1a (1) :  of, relating to, or located near a surface (2) :  lying on, not penetrating below, or affecting only the surface

  2. 2a :  concerned only with the obvious or apparent :  shallow b :  seen on the surface :  external c :  presenting only an appearance without substance or significance

I apologize if that sounds harsh, but I think a lot of us do things that we know looks Christian-y to others, but then make a conscious choice not to worship in ways that others can’t see (i.e. below the surface).

We as Americans LOVE our money! We L-O-V-E it. And we find very creative and indulgent ways to waste our money. We love stuff! We gotta have stuff! We can’t get enough stuff!

 

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But when it comes to following God’s command to tithe, we simply decide that someone else will fund the Kingdom.

I just read an article at HealthResearchFunding.org which had some interesting statistics. I want to share just a few. You can read the rest on your own if you’d like.

  • Total Christian income in the United States is $5.2 trillion annually, nearly half of the world’s total Christian income.
  • For Christian families making less than $20k per year, 8% of them gave at least 10% in tithing.
  • For families making a minimum of $75k or more, the figure drops to just 1%.
  • The average donation by adults who attend U.S. Protestant churches is about $17 a week.
  • If Christians followed the Old Testament standard of giving across the board, then $139 billion would become available every year for additional ministry work.
  • 37% of people who attend church every week and identify themselves as Evangelical don’t give any money to their church.

These are some enlightening statistics. I don’t know how accurate that they are, but they are similar to all of the other statistics that I’ve seen. You can read the article here.

The command to tithe was given in the Old Testament in many different scriptures. Some say that the command to tithe was ended with the new covenant. But in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 Jesus himself is recorded as instructing the religious leaders that they are to tithe, among other things.

One of the most commonly preached scriptures about tithing is Malachi 3:8-10:

“Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day.

“You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’

“The tithe and the offering—that’s how! And now you’re under a curse—the whole lot of you—because you’re robbing me. Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams. For my part, I will defend you against marauders, protect your wheat fields and vegetable gardens against plunderers.” The Message of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

This one is pretty clear. The coolest part about this scripture is that God asks us to test Him in this area. Maybe we don’t give that statement the respect and excitement that it is worth.

We…. Are…. To…. TEST…. GOD!

The God of the universe! The God who created Adam and Eve! The God who spoke to Moses and Noah and Daniel! The God who offers us forgiveness that we can’t even imagine! The God who wants us to spend eternity with Him! The God who sent us Jesus, the Messiah!

TEST HIM! FOLLOW HIS COMMAND! SEE IF HE DOESN’T POUR BLESSINGS OUT ON YOU!

I love blessings. I think we all enjoy blessings. Blessings are awesome.

This tithing leading to blessings is kind of like working out leading to weight loss. We all love losing weight and getting into shape, but it’s the working out part that hurts. It’s painful. Sometimes we don’t trust it. We think to ourselves “this workout plan is making me sore, I hope it’s actually working.” This goes on until we actually start seeing the results of our efforts. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other.

So, if every single Christian in America would tithe, not only would we flood the church with $139 BILLION a year, but we would be blessed as a people and as individuals! That’s a win-win! I can’t imagine the amount of good that our churches could do with that money!!!

So why do so many of us trust that God can heal cancer and illness, God can help someone become employed, God can help a desperate couple become pregnant…. BUT we don’t trust Him with our money?