Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Is He Getting Ready To Spit?

Dear Friends,

One of the frequently misused scriptures that we well-meaning Christians quote is Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Many of us have lifted this verse out of context as we use it to encourage non-believers to open the door to Jesus and invite Him into their lives. But while we may apply this scripture to non-believers, the truth is that Jesus was not talking to them. If you don’t believe me, go get your Bible or click on the link and read Revelation 3:14-22 for yourself. Go ahead. I’ll wait right here for you...

In these scriptures, Jesus is rebuking the “lukewarm church.” We’d love to translate that word “church” to mean the institutional church so that we can pretend it doesn’t apply to us, but the word used is “ekklesia” meaning the assembly of Christian believers. The congregation. The body of Christ. Us good, church-goin’ Christians. Jesus is talking to you and me.

Another scripture that should bring great comfort to our souls or strike terror in our hearts is 2 Corinthians 5:9-10. I wish the Lord would just judge me on my church attendance. In the eight years I’ve been your pastor, I’ve only missed church twice. I wish that the Lord would just judge me on my Bible knowledge. Just those two should definitely be worth some heavenly brownie points. But in Rev 3:15, Jesus somewhat ominously says to us, “I know your works..” In last week’s AMEN Corner, I wrote: “A Christian lifestyle of good works toward others flows out of our relationship with Jesus, so if there is no evidence of Christ-like behavior in our lives, are we then just Christians in name only?” Another cringe-worthy scripture is “faith is dead without good works” James 2:26 NLT and now we find Jesus speaking to Christians whose faith has become deadened.

Jesus is saying that your faded faith has closed a door between you and Me and He’s talking to Christians who were once on fire for the Lord. Believers whose passion for God once burned hotly in their spirit. The scriptures came alive for them and they were excited when God’s Word spoke to a specific circumstance or a situation they were struggling with. They were not just spectators at a Sunday service, they were participants in their church’s ministry. They enthusiastically supported their brothers and sisters in the body of Christ with their time and energy and finances. They were eager to help others less fortunate than they were. 

And then the fire cooled. The passion faded. Their Bible was no longer on the table by their chair, but lived in the back seat of the car where it could be easily found on a Sunday morning in the rush to church. And to apathetic Christians who have become comfortable in their complacency, the words of Jesus are graphic and direct. “..because you are lukewarm..I’m going to vomit you out of My mouth.” Rev 3:16

But wait a minute! I thought Jesus loves me? Yes He does. And it is because of His love for us that He wants us to passionately embrace our faith. That’s why He says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent and I’m going to stand right here and knock on your door until you do.” Rev 3:19-20

Where are you on the “Zealous Scale”? Are you filled with a burning passion for your Lord with a constant desire to be in His presence? Are you enthusiastically supporting your Christian sisters and brothers (the church)? Are good works flowing out of your faith? Are you other-centered? Matthew 25:31-46 Do you do all you can to help the poor and needy? Luke 3:11 Or do you roll over and go back to sleep when you hear the knock of Jesus trying to wake you out of your spiritual slumber? Thank God that Jesus patiently waits for us. There were times in my life many decades ago when I deserved to be spit out of His mouth, and through His grace, He patiently waited for me. But there’s a limit to God’s patience, even for us believers. Matthew 7:21 

God allows us to keep the door to our own heart closed with the deadbolt snapped in place if that’s our choice. But if there is any part of what you just read about being a complacent Christian that resonates in your spirit, then it’s not too late for you. To you Jesus says, “Therefore be zealous and repent” and then He’s going to knock on that door every so often to remind you that He’s still there and waiting for you to reach out and turn the knob. The mystery of God is why He has not already spit us out. The mystery of us is the most puzzling of all. How are we able to remain so complacent in the face of God’s overwhelming love and His goodness to us? But when we do overcome our lethargy and run back to Jesus, He tells us, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Rev 3:21 Can anyone say AMEN to that?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Be a Cool Christian

Dear Friends,

Do you remember when it was cool for Christians to wear wristbands that said WWJD? The initials stood for the words, “What Would Jesus Do?” and that was a movement in the late 1990's to encourage Christians to not just believe in Jesus but to act like Jesus. In 1896, a Congregationalist preacher, Charles Sheldon, wrote a book called IN HIS STEPS – What Would Jesus Do?  That book was a call for Christians to show their faith as an outward action toward others and that timeless book sparked the WWJD? movement in our own generation. 

That crusade in the ‘90's was the rage among youth groups and encouraged Christians of all ages to follow Jesus and do what He would do. But that passion to follow Jesus has faded in many churches today as more and more Christians have allowed their life to be shaped not by the Word of God but by the world we live in. Some of us complain that Christians are losing, or have lost, their influence in our society and yet we are the ones who have marginalized our faith by turning our back on God. We no longer do what Jesus would do but what a celebrity or politician or a best friend would do or what our horoscope says that day. 

There are two very different and distinct families of Christians today. Those who try to base their thoughts, words and actions on the Word of God. And then there are those who live their life and make decisions as if they were God. One family of Christians is being shaped by the Word, the other by the world. Jesus established the church to impact and influence culture and many have allowed the secular culture to impact and influence the church. W. Paul Jones is a professor, theologian and a monk. He said that “Christians who permit themselves to be shaped by secular culture are guilty, not only of betraying God, but of losing their own true selves.”  A Christian is defined as one who follows Jesus. But if we are a “Christian” who is following secular culture and not Jesus, are we then still a Christian? Or have we lost our true self?

When we give ourselves over completely and fully to the Holy Spirit, we are motivated by the love of God and that love is manifested toward others. When we come into the presence of God our life is irrevocably changed and our Christian faith will be clearly visible in our life and our lifestyle. A Christian lifestyle of good works toward others flows out of our relationship with Jesus, so if there is no evidence of Christ-like behavior in our lives, are we then just Christians in name only? 

James, the brother of Jesus, said it as plain as you can get: “faith is dead without good works.” James 2:26 NLT Pastor and Protestant theologian Timothy Keller clarifies that for us: “We are saved through Christ alone by faith alone. The evidence of our salvation is our good works and changed life.” Our good works and changed life is evidenced by the visible manifestation of the “Fruit of the Spirit” Gal 5:22-23 in our lives. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus describes good works as the fruit that comes from the good treasure that we have stored up in our heart by God’s grace. If someone were to inspect the “fruit” produced by your faith, would they see the evidence of your salvation? 

So how do you do what Jesus would do? The first step is to read your Bible, particularly the Gospels. If you don’t, you’ll have no idea what Jesus would do if He were in your situation or faced with your decision. Then submit choices and decisions to Him. Ask yourself, “What would Jesus decide to do if He were me in this circumstance? What would Jesus say? How would Jesus respond? How would Jesus act if He were in this situation?”

Search “WWJD Bracelets” on and you’ll see dozens of choices. But some of us today may be too old, too cranky or too vain to wear a plastic bracelet that says WWJD? and I admit to being two out of the three. But even if we don’t wear a bracelet, maybe it’s time for us to be one of the cool Christians again that actually follows Jesus. Because if us Christians are following in the foot-steps of secular culture then we’re walking in the wrong direction. We need to reverse that trend and start a WWJD fad that’s new all over again. Wear a bracelet or even a rubber band around your wrist to remind you. Or write WWJD? on a post-it and put it on the bathroom mirror or on the inside of your front door so that you’ll see it when you leave the house. Or maybe upload a WWJD? background on your smartphone. Then watch how this “new” fad to do “what Jesus would do” will change your life. AMEN?