Air Conditioning and Rebellion

Air-conditioned houses can cause us to not be as acquiescent to the will of God – to some degree. We, as sinners, have a tendency to buck up against weather and comfort moves us away from being molded by “normal” events. That is to say, rather than learn perseverance and patience from the heat of summer or the cold of winter we can run from our cool car to our cool house and curse the sun, the humidity, and the “unbearable” heat.

Maybe if we got rid of such comforts, we would learn how to be content in all circumstances and not be so quick to rest on the laurels of ease.

Engagement and Love

A wordplay if you will. When I proposed to my wife, I told her for the first time that I loved her and then got down on one knee and asked her to be my wife. Of the definitions on Webster.com I liked the fourth one which says: to come together and interlock (as of machinery parts) : be or become in gear.

Although it is the definition as applied to machinery, i think it works well with how we should view engaging in marriage and engaging our culture. So we move from the warm and fuzzies to the cold hard machine. But in life you need to have both. You need to have cold, hard objectivity and soft, pliant subjectivity.

Enough of trying to string out the analogy. I am reading F. Schaeffer’s book, The God Who is There, and I am loving it – especially the fourth part of speaking into the culture.

The first piece that must be present in engaging the culture is love for fellowmen. Without it, evangelism becomes legalistic strivings to win souls and convert the reprobate. We must come into a deep reality that the man and woman we are talking with is one with us insofar that we have the same father, Adam, and are in need of the Savior.

I fear that pragmatism has bled into our church and been the defining factor of a successful congregation or pastor. That is, on the list of the 50 most influential pastors, each had a huge number of attendees. Don’t get me wrong, there are about five on the list that I admire and pray that I can make an impact on the church as they have.

However, I cannot lose sight of the fact that I may never be known to anyone except the few hundred people I love on by sharing the Gospel and few others that I spend pouring my life into so that they might also do the same. The most influential man was Jesus. He spent his three-year ministry influencing twelve men – twelve! Granted, he is God and the Holy Spirit moved in unprecedented ways to initiate the spreading of the Good News. However, we are also endued with the Holy Spirit and should seek to model the life of Christ. Pouring our life into men’s lives so as to deeply affect them.

Has our church been too focused on sharing the Gospel in droves rather than driving the truth home to the heart and hope of humans’ lives. Yes, I can go to a coffee shop right now and begin talking to five folks about Jesus and how they need to give their lives to Christ. All of which accept Christ as their Lord. But I had better get their telephone numbers and call them up the next day to begin reading through the Scriptures. I better not merely chalk up one on the belt and pat myself on the back.

This is the force of pragmatism. It seems like we are making an impact, yet we are simply getting verbal ascent. I can’t tell you how many men I have heard give their lives to Jesus only to call them and they don’t want to talk or meet or anything. I wish I had loved them before sharing the Gospel with them. Too many times I have only looked at my evangelism as a challenge and good thing to do as a Christian.

May we as a people begin loving people, first. And then talking to them about their need. May we not volley the mortars of truth against their walls of contempt and deluge in order to say we have fought the battle and won the debate and lose a soul.

Hear O Peoples, The Messiah Is One

A few people have begun to advocate the notion that Israel believed that they were the seed and Messiah that was prophesied. As I have read more it has become clearer that there was one person that the Hebrew Scriptures attest and point toward.

As Athanasius says in On The Atonement: Did not the nations always regard Israel with implacable hostility? Then it is worth enquiring who it is, on whom the nations are to set their hopes. Obviously there must be someone, for the prophet could not have told a lie [in reference to Matt 12:21 as Matthew interprets Is. 11 and 42]. (St. Vladamir’s Seminary Press, 1996, p. 68).

What's In a Name…Not Much

One of the things that makes me smile is when someone comes up to me and asks me if I knew that some famous person was a Christian. My favorite has been: “Matt, did you know that Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony all became Christians.” For those of you that don’t remember this rap group, they sang a song called “Crossroads”, which is a nominally religious-like song about death and the afterlife (taboot with a weird music video).

Anyway, I am finding out more and more that we should be slower to call people Christians. I am not saying we pass judgment on people…give me the benefit of the doubt. What I am saying is that we wait to see if someone bears the fruit that the Bible tells us will result from a right relationship with God – love for Jesus, for Christians, for the Bible, etc. We should not be so quick to affirm someone when they say they are a Christian. How do they define “Christian”? I am going to deal with this in a series of posts (probably next week as there are a few topics I want to talk about tomorrow).

My reflection comes from my Bible reading yesterday. Jeremiah (the weeping prophet) recounts Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and tells them that they will be exiled into Babylon. The last chapter (52) recounts the fall of Israel’s beloved city, Jerusalem. It closes up the story in the book highlighted in ch. 37:2 – But neither [Zedekiah] nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet. And 52:2-3 gives the result of them not heeding the voice of the Lord – And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 3 For because of the anger of the Lord things came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.

In Hebrew names were intended to signify a someone’s characteristic. The name “Zedekiah” means “the Lord is my righteousness”. It is extremely ironic that the king of Israel whose name meant this, is the very person who lead Israel into sinful pleasures with a proclamation of “the Lord is my righteousness”. We find here that a name does not mean that much. Much like today. Many people call themselves Christian or say they believe in God, but their lives have no evidences of saving faith – they don’t love God with their affections, they don’t enjoy reading the Bible, they find no benefit to their souls of going to church…There are a lot of churches in the United States and a lot of people have turned a deaf ear to God’s messengers, like Zedekiah and the people of Israel had done. Judgment will come on those who have been given so much but forsake the mercy of God in forsaking Gospel-preaching churches on so many street corners. For those who find more pleasure in chocolate than the sweet honey of the Word of God – For those who enjoy being seen as acceptable in men’s eyes rather than God’s – For those who enjoy buying a new suit or dress or car or house more than being satisfied in God’s all-sufficiency…Repent and seek Jesus. Take no confidence in calling yourself Christian.