Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Principles of the Man After God's Own Heart

King David was a lot of things:

  • Shepherd
  • Harpist
  • Fugitive
  • Song writer
  • Dancer
  • Murder
  • Giant slayer
  • Father
  • Philanthropist
  • Playboy
  • Warrior
  • Ruler
  • Adulterer 
  • Liar 
  • And... a "man after God's own heart"

'Perfect' is not in the list.  At all.  Ever.

So what made David great?  What made him who he was and dubbed him 'after God's own heart'?

If you read about David in 1 Samuel you see 10 principles emerge by which we should all strive to live:

  1. Be faithful in the little things (not everything involves a giant)
  2. Lose your own dead weight (don't go through life carrying and compiling baggage)
  3. Be in awe of, be amazed by, and be consumed with the glory of God
  4. Be committed regardless of naysayers ('haters gonna hate' - ignore the criticism - listen to the voice of God so intently that you don't even hear the critics)
  5. Be happy right where you are, exactly where you are currently serving (bloom where you are planted)
  6. Always point to God, in everything you do, and be aware, in tune, and ready to share God's faithfulness as seen in your own life through the years
  7. Be comfortable and content with your gifts, your traits, your callings, your personality.  God gave them to you.  Just as he gave other ones to others that may or may not resemble yours.  They can't do what God will do through you just as you can't do what God will do through them.
  8. Be confident in everyday trials.  Life is an endurance race.  'Press on towards the goal' and be faithful in 'life'
  9. Be bold, be decisive, stand fast, stand firm, Shout out and live out your faith
  10. Be determined to experience daily victory over the giant standing in front of you - be it large or small, personal or communal (remember... wars are won by winning lots of small battles - achieve victory daily).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Have We made Christianity too easy part III

This is the third installment of this series (Part I and Part II)

So what’s the answer?  There are 3 extremes, all dangerous.

1:  Hellfire and brimstone, unattainable expectations, saved by works, Judged by the great Cosmic Sheriff.
2:  “All you have to do is!”, no commitment, ONLY Grace, no consequences, Cosmic Teddy Bear
3:  Anything goes, all is God, God is all, if it feels good do it, New Age, Cosmic Oprah

Here are 2 verses to consider.  The first one is very important and (therefore...) 'doesn't preach well':

Revelation 3:15-22
15-17 “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.
18 “Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see.
19 “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!
20-21 “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!
22 “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.”

 The second is found in John and what it is ALL about:

John 13:31-35
31-32 When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around!
33 “Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’

34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

Love others how Christ loved us - love like the one who freely gave up his life when we didn't even know him, love like the one who saw me a sinner, knew I would always live a sinner, knew I would die still sinning and still not having it figured out, and he loved me enough to buy me anyway.
Love those who are hard to love.  The tough, the mean, the hateful, the annoying, the bitter, the cynical. 
Loving those people in that way is how we will be recognized.  Period.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Have We made Christianity too easy part II

As a follow up to part I, I wanted to share some more thoughts on this and provide a little more explanation.

What prompted this post originally was the wave of statistics about the high percentage of teens who leave the church after graduating high school (some to return years later and some to never return at all).  This started me on the thought process of us being so worried about running people off that our methods of not running people off were, in fact, running people off.  Got it?

So, here are a few more thoughts.

We typically say things now along the lines of "ALL you have to do is____"
We ask for nothing, we will never ask you to participate!  We promise not to enlist your help!  We guarantee a no toes stepped on message!  We want you to always be comfortable here!
Comfortable.  Hmmmm.

So, what did Jesus usually tell people when they wanted to follow him around?
How about
"Sure man, no problem, sell everything you own, walk away from your job, your friends, your mom, your dad, your wife, your kids, don't even say goodbye, don't you dare look back, oh, and go ahead and strap that electric chair to your back and let's get going"
Does that sound like "ALL you have to do is_____!"

What about any of the following:

How does what Jesus said compare to what we say?

(part III to come...)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

have we made Christianity 'too easy'?

Bear with me on this...  I understand this is a very strange title coming from me.

To clear a couple things up let me make a few things clear from the start:
This is NOT a once-saved-always-saved debate, this is not a detraction from any of my thoughts/lessons on grace, this is NOT injecting works into the grace of....grace, this is NOT making works a part of salvation, this is not personifying God as the great Cosmic Sheriff.

That said, I go back to the question at hand:  Have we made Christianity too easy?

If you have a hobby, or play a sport, or you are married, or if you have kids (you can come up with an example to suit) then you will understand where I'm drawing from -- If you play a sport, or run, or workout, why?  Because it's hard.  Because it challenges you.  Because it makes you a better person.  If you are to be good at that sport, you have to sacrifice.  Sacrifice time, money, sweat, blood, pain.
A real example can be seen here locally.

School A's boys soccer team has signup in September, starts running and working out in October, practices all winter in the cold (yes... all of that is against TSSAA but that's not the point of this story... lol), to have tryouts in February.  Yes, you train and work 4 months before you even get to try out.  Then, they run until they puke, setting out trashcans (literally) to throw up in.  Then practices take place 2-3 hours a day, 5 days a week, sometimes 6, sometimes even 7.  There are no excuses for missing practice.  You miss for vacation, welcome to the bench, schools out?  That's nice, practice remains and you better be there if you want to ever play again.

School B's boys soccer team has signups in February to start practice in February.  They run minimally and don't workout for fear of running off the few players that they have.  They practice when it is convenient, cancel for weather, cancel for school holidays, and absences from practice are merely part of the culture.

Regardless of how you may feel about either extreme, guess which team does better?  School A?  Always wins district, competes for regionals, competes for state titles, and is nationally ranked.  School B?  They may win 1 game a year, 2 if they're lucky.

Which school do you think develops more athletes?  Which school do you think breeds a culture of personal responsibility and drives kids to practice on their own outside of formal practices and encourage others to be better?  Which school do you think has athletes that continue to be top notch athletes even after they graduate high school (discipleship, anyone?)?  School A, School A, school A.

I'm sure I don't have to finish drawing the comparison for you, but... doesn't it make sense?  We've watered everything down to the point of skim milk.  We've preached "ALL you have to do is..." so much that instead of creating an understanding of God's Grace we've made "ALL you have to is..." nothing.
We pussyfoot around Everything so as to not run anyone off.  Our numbers are so tenuous that we live in fear (see 2 Timothy 1:7...) of upsetting, stepping on anyone's toes, holding anyone accountable, running anyone off that we are nothing more than a watered down motivational speaker.

We don't speak of better, or harder, or sacrifice, or commitment... we steer clear of anything that sounds of that at all.  Jesus said, "hey, you want to follow me?  Sure, 'all' you have to do is give up everything, your home, your family, your friends, your money, your house, your land, your name, and strap this electric chair to your back and let's go... Now."
But us?  We say "all you have to do is.... nothing"

And we(I) wonder why our numbers are dwindling, why the world looks on and laughs, why our kids leave in droves when they graduate high school, and why apathy is king.

So I ask again, to you, to us, to Me... have I/you/we made Christianity too easy?