Archive for October, 2009

When New People Meet the Unfriendly Church People???

church6When you first visit a different church it can be intimidating. It’s easy to assume that everyone around you has been there forever and they recognize you for the “newbie” that you are. Sometimes others may seem stand-off-ish and even unfriendly when actually they may be feeling a bit uncomfortable themselves. They may be what I call “unconnected people”. These are people who attend Sunday service but have not become part of the community of the church. Unfortunately they may represent the majority of the Sunday attendees. Many believe that all there is to Christianity is Sunday church attendance. Nothing could be further from the biblical truth. Christianity is community. We have a need to belong and be connected to one another. It is crucial that we bring an attitude of contribution rather than an expectation of entertainment.

When someone isn’t connected to the church family it is difficult for them to make others feel comfortable or welcome. Being distant will sooner or later foster resentment and criticism. After that it’s just a short trip out the door only to become the new person at another church and the cycle continues. The revolving door church has reached almost epidemic proportion in our culture and robs the church body of the vital spiritual life that God intended. Some of the most well intentioned people miss out on a deeper level of spiritual life because they have an independent spirit. Discontentment should be an opportunity for spiritual growth rather than relocation. Have you ever been discontent with your family? Do you make an all out effort to try an resolve issues and grow in understanding or just leave in hopes of finding another family?

          People fail to connect for a variety of reasons. First and foremost they feel that others haven’t made enough effort to bring them into the family. This is unfortunately true more often than we care to know. They feel somewhat outside the “click” and not totally welcome. Other times the reason is an elective one. “I just want to go to church (do my duty) and not get involved.”  Another reason is that some do not feel they have anything to offer. Because they haven’t been a Christian very long or they feel they don’t know enough, there is a false assumption that they have no value. If a person is truly saved and transformed by Jesus their testimony alone has great value and worth to others.

          Whether we are the new people or we have the opportunity to greet new people we need to understand some basic questions people have when they walk through the door. Do I fit here? Does anyone want to know me? Am I needed? What might be required of me if I join in? What advantage is there for me to belong? These are vital first impressions that need to be resolved before anyone feels comfortable enough to be connected. Connection is paramount to spiritual life. We are made to be in community and support each other through interaction. This is the lifeline of the church. The reason so many of our churches seem lifeless is due to the fact that so many “attendees” are not connected. Oswald Chambers wrote in his book “My Utmost for His Highest” (Oct. 27) the following: “Jesus did not say, ‘Go and save souls’ (the salvation of souls is the supernatural work of God), but He said ‘Go…make disciples of all the nations…'”.  (Matt.28:19) Discipleship begins with connection!

Somebody’s Baby…

        arrow  “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior”, says Psalm 127:4 “So are the children of one’s youth.”  The analogy of comparing a child to an arrow takes a little thinking. Being instruments of direction, designed for a specific purpose they also have the image of hitting the mark or defeating opposition.  For an arrow to be true to it’s purpose depends greatly upon the warrior’s hand in which it is placed. First it is carefully made by it’s creator and then placed in the hand of the warrior who takes aim, decides in what direction it shall fly and what goal it shall try to accomplish.

          Children are a gift from the Creator and we have been given the responsibility to supply the needed direction for each child in order that they might hit the intended mark and impact the world with the best they have to offer. Parenting requires more than a casual dedication. For the warrior, training and commitment are essentials for life itself. The life supplied to all of us by the One who created it is  extremely fragile and dependent upon the multiplication of Christian souls. From the moment of birth we begin to impart values that influence the way a child thinks and grows. HitbabyIn 1889 Alois and Klara gave birth to this baby boy. Two previous children had died at birth and another younger brother died at the age of six. Only a sister outlived this sibling. The father, Alois died when the boy was only thirteen and his mother Klara passed away when he was just nineteen. Sometimes the window of opportunity for shaping a child’s future is severely limited by time. Who can measure the impact of life’s scars?

          As the child grew, he was a poor student with little ambition. He had an interest in art but was denied entrance  to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. He refused regular employment and lived as a homeless person dependant upon the charity of soup kitchens. It would seem that he had been given little in the way of values or even the understanding of a higher calling and as the years passed by the empty void inside grew just waiting and watching for someone or something to fill it. At this stage we might still wonder if a well placed word from an evangelical soul might have made the difference. There must have been opportunities but perhaps his heart had already hardened beyond acceptance.

          He later joined the military  and served during the first world war with distinction and was decorated for bravery. After serving for a brief period in a prisoner of war camp the young man turned to politics in 1919. Eventually he became a member of the Nazi party and was charged with treason for which he served a brief prison sentence. The 1929 economic collapse in the United States contributed to a global recession. The Nazi party gained in popularity as a result of the hard times and the rest is history as we know it. Somebody’s baby grew up and the empty void inside got filled. Filled with power, hatred and evil ambition. Somebody’s baby became one of the world’s most notorious monsters. Alois, an Austrian customs worker and his wife Klara didn’t live to see how their arrow impacted the world.

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 Scripture quoted from the NASB version.

Who’s More Afraid…?

       Mojave_cross_before_after   In an eight year old case fronted by the ACLU a local judge decided that the “Mojave Cross” must be covered until a final decision can be reached by the Supreme Court as to whether the cross can remain or be removed.  The cross was erected during the 1930’s to honor fallen soldiers and now the complainant who lives 900 miles away claims that he may be offended by the cross should he travel in that part of the country and happen upon the cross located on Federal property. The old false representation of the “separation of church and state” lives on.

            Make no doubt about it, the cross is meant to offend your self nature. Obviously, it’s not the cross but what it represents that offends some people. The founding documents of our nation were not only written for freedom of religous expression but to promote the ideals of Christianity. We were in fact a Christian nation yet now Christianity is under attack in America by those who think they have it all figured out.  They have decided that Christianity is politically incorrect. What are they so afraid of? Why does the sight of the cross make them so uncomfortable? Perhaps the mere idea of the cross and what it stands for strikes at the very root of their human nature making them uncomfortable with the idea that there is something or someone bigger than their own understanding. Something that says your self nature must die.

          As Christians, we should have a holy fear of God, not because He’s a tyrant but rather because we should fear any breach in our relationship with Him. To be in the presence of God is far more precious than anything we could experience through self-realization. Only through the Holy Spirit can we experience this relationship and life changing transformation that is available to everyone because of the “Cross of Christ” and what it represents, that is, God’s free gift to mankind. The cross serves to remind us that we are born in a fallen state and our own nature is tainted by sin. The cross is meant to offend! It offends our sense of self-sufficiency whether you are a believer or not. Everyone has the freedom to decide whether to yield to the power of the cross or to decide to fight against it. Read closely, THE CROSS WINS! ——- “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” Rom.14:11

As the Deer…

Misc Sept 005         One of my favorite contemporary worship songs based upon Psalm 42 goes as follows:

 “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth for thee, You alone are my hearts desire, and I long to worship thee”

         The song goes on offering more, but for a great vision and expectation for Christian living we need only to absorb the first stanza. Everyone of us need to ask this fundamental question of ourselves, “Do we long for God?” Do we long for Him in a way that is as natural as the deer desiring a cool drink of water from the flowing stream? I would venture a guess that some would say “not really” while others would say “not often enough”.

         If either answer sums up your status quo fear not, God is near and He can be found. Matthew 6 instructs us to seek first the Kingdom and God will take care of the rest (paraphrase). Our first giant step toward spiritual life is to place God first above all things. I say giant step because this requires a surrender of our own will and make no mistake this is the hardest thing we will ever try to do. We are not asked to change our will or to overcome it, merely to let it go in deference to God’s will. This echoes God’s instruction throughout scripture that we are to love Him with all our strength, soul and mind. This is an act of might but our might is directed toward the setting aside of our self.

         When we truly surrender our will to God we will begin to sense His presence. His presence is unlike anything else we can ever experience. Our desire for His presence comes naturally to us through the Holy Spirit and causes us to long for Him. He alone becomes our hearts desire. If you have had this experience you know what I am saying. You also know that soon after there may be something quite different. You realize that you have had this experience but now you no longer sense the presence of God. Why? Why can’t we seem to maintain that sense of peace? Paul describes in Romans 7 the battle that goes on between the flesh and the spirit. Having the peace of God in our lives requires constant effort. We must not only surrender once but again and again. Surrender of our will must become a daily exercise for the true believer to experience the spiritual life. It is only by means of this process that we will ever discover the plans God has for us. Without surrender of our self will one is doomed to live this life and miss the exciting things God wants for us. He will not force His will upon us. As it so plainly states in Matthew 6, we are to seek Him, not the other way around.