Friday, April 29, 2011

Secular Christianity

Jesus said, “When I come back, will there be faith on the earth?” He wasn’t concerned about there being people who believed certain truths, but about there being people living in a trust-based relationship with the Father. Would there be disciples—committed followers—around or just a bunch of religious spectators?

The kind of Christianity being promoted today is more faithless than faith full. Belief has been separated from trust. Believing the tenets is considered sufficient evidence someone belongs to the Lord. I wonder how many will be shocked when Jesus returns and they are excluded from the reunion, expounding their head knowledge devoid of any heart knowledge.
Israel as a nation has a Jewish society. Within that society there are some that practice their religion but more who only hold certain beliefs. The secular Jews outnumber the religious ones.

Christianity is becoming like that. Since America is considered a Christian nation (by most), the majority will state common beliefs but a much smaller percentage demonstrate any Christian practices, the primary one being faith.
Can there be such a thing as a faithless Christian? Well, if you listen to those without faith discuss Christianity, the Bible or God in general, you discover a strange disconnect to understanding. The few facts they may get right have no bearing on their lives. They lack the grasp of what those facts mean and how they should live in light of what they say they believe.

It is secular Christianity—beliefs without faith.
Secular Christianity doesn’t honor God. It’s not why Jesus came and more specifically died. It is not included in Scripture as a means by which God is glorified. It does not please God.

Lord, may I, today, demonstrate my beliefs by living faithfully before You so that if You come today the answer to Your question will be “Yes!”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

That's How I Remember It

I played golf yesterday after about a three year hiatus. For some reason known only to the male ego, I expected to whack the ball with authority and skill. I know how to play. I know how to grip it and how to rip it. But apparently my clubs forgot. Had it not been a scramble where you play the best ball of the foursome it would have been humiliating.

Memory can betray us. I remembered myself being much better and for some reason thought I could still perform at that level. To be honest I actually remember myself being much better than I ever was.
As a follower of Jesus, I like to imagine myself right up there in the front row, listening, agreeing, making eye contact. In reality, I’m somewhere in the back of the room, hidden behind the lady with the big hair. I’m in the room but don’t really feel a part of what’s going on. I can hear Jesus talking but can’t always make out what He’s saying. With all the distractions back here it’s hard to pay attention.

Every now and then I want to ask a question and raise my hand, but the lady with the big hair blocks me from being seen. Some of the others back here with me snicker that I would want to enter the discussion going on up front. I put my hand back down and sigh.
I hear laughter but missed the joke. Do I laugh anyway? I don’t want anyone to think I didn’t get it. So I’ll just smile and nod my head.

Now they’re singing. Do I join them? Nobody in the back of the room is singing. But I want to sing and I would sing, maybe not out loud, but I would sing if I knew the song. When did they quit singing the songs I’m familiar with?
If memory serves me, I used to be better at this than I am now. No, I never sat on the front row but I remember being closer than I am now. And I don’t remember this lady with the big hair always being in front of me. Those were good days. I could grip and rip with the best of them. Or at least that’s how I remember it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Certainty of Sunday Coming

Today's Easter and I can’t stop thinking about this morning. The ultimate illustration of God working all things together for good is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. But looking at the gospel from any perspective except Sunday gives the wrong message. Defeat, failure, misery, pain and loss overshadow the thought of any of this being good. And then came Sunday. It all became good. Don't ask me to be sad about something so great!

The joy Jesus had for enduring the cross was not the affliction but the promise of Sunday. He knew what was coming and waited till the power of resurrection called Him.

Lots of us are in the misery, the agony, the dying or the tomb, but remember Sunday came and it will come for us!

Nothing we face can stop Sunday. Wait for it. If I can guarantee you anything…Sunday’s coming.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sing With Me

I hear birds singing outside my window. I have no idea what they’re singing about, just that something inside them must be compelling them to sing. I can’t imagine a bird with no song. That must be an emptiness beyond expression.

I would think that a bird with no song surely must have a reason he won’t sing: either an accident or illness has taken his ability away. It would be hard to think a bird capable of singing would choose to keep silent.

My heart wants to sing. I can feel the song there. I can sense it moving from my heart up to my vocal chords. It wants out. What am I going to do? Choke it back or let it out?

The captives asked, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” Simple, just don’t hold it back. The song of the Lord is the joy within us. It’s untouched by circumstances. It is the confidence God is good and doing good in my life. It is the impetus for praise. Joy is the source of worship. If I never release it, I become captive to my surroundings.

I may not like what’s going on around me but I can still find joy. And when I do, I must sing. If I’m waiting for happiness or perfection or resolution I will maintain an emptiness beyond expression. But if I go deeper and find the joy of God within me, I’m suddenly full and overflowing, standing there with something to sing about.

So, shut up bird, it's my turn. I choose to sing today. And I might even get me some happy feet and begin to dance because God is good and is doing good in my life.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Caught Between Belief and Unbelief

Ever find yourself caught between “Lord I believe” and “help my unbelief?” Unbelief is a strange realm. It’s not doubt, exactly, it’s a timidity to jump off the tree limb into the awaiting arms of our dad. Remember that? We believed he would catch us while at the same time were afraid to risk letting go.

When I believe God, I exercise absolute faith to trust He is in control and working all things together for good. When I unbelieve I refuse to trust and my faith then becomes relative. I go from “yes, He can,” to “maybe He can,” to “I’m not sure,” to “probably He won’t.” By not trusting I have gradually disintegrated my respect for God’s reputation.

Unbelieving is a choice that causes us to discount God’s faithfulness and ability. By unbelief, I am refusing to acknowledge who He is, all He has done in the past and all He is capable of doing now. I am lowering my estimation of His value in my life in general and to my situation specifically. Unbelief adds caution where abandon is expected. It creates needless friction from the resistance between my spirit wishing to obey and my flesh preferring to oppose.

Never is it a matter of having enough faith. Faith is not a measurable commodity. We have sufficient faith at all times. Only when we refuse to allow that faith to become a dominant force do we find something to measure. Unbelief weighs more than belief. When we choose unbelief, we add to our lives burdens we not supposed to carry. This added heaviness is because we aren’t trusting God.

By yielding to God the right to operate in my life, without my interference, I am helping to diminish the shadow cast on my heart by my circumstances. By believing, I am granting Him my confidence. If I deny Him that right, I have taken responsibility for things that are not my responsibility. I have cast burdens upon my soul that are supposed to be cast upon Him.

If God said He would complete the work He began in you and things are not in the state of completion, He’s not done.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Had a Favorite Chicken

I had a favorite chicken, his name was Mr. Ben.
He followed me where’er I went, he was my special friend.

One day I came home early, right at supper time.
Mama fixed fried chicken with taters on the side.

I said I looked all over and couldn’t find my friend,
He must have gotten loose I guess and ran off once again.

My Mama stopped her eating and made me take a break,
And told me that she now believes she’s made a big mistake.

Seems she had reached into the pen, not checking who she got,
But now believes she knows the name of who’s there in the pot.

‘Cause Mama grabbed my Mr. Ben and wrung his scrawny neck,
Then plucked him slap dab naked and cut him all to heck.

She covered him with buttermilk and floured his behind
Then scalded him in boiling grease, before she realized.

Yes, the critter on the table along with other stuff,
Was my favorite chicken and eating him was rough.

I’d take a bite then swallow twice to try and keep him down.
Remembering that this was the one who chased me all around.

I thought about the fun we had and all the things we did,
And how we’ll never romp again like two fun-loving kids.

I’m not sure I will ever now eat chicken anymore,
‘Cause every piece reminds me of my friend who ain’t no more.

Until it finally dawned on me, I loved him while alive,
But now I think, I love him best with taters on the side.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Grady, Goober and the Overwhelming Baptismal Service

Miss Nora’s children’s ministry was quite successful in helping the boys and girls understand how to become Christians. Twenty of the youngsters prayed to invite Jesus into their hearts. Pastor Jerguson was ecstatic. That’s the most decisions ever in one day of ministry at the church. Yet the concern of how to baptize so many in one service quickly overtook his excitement. Grady and Goober heard him expressing his concern to Miss Nora.

“We think we can help you there, Pastor J,” Grady said.

“Well, Grady, I thought we decided not to let you boys back into the baptistry after what happened last time with Miss Francine.”

“No, this time we won’t even get in the water,” Grady said.

“Okay, what’s your idea?”

“Toss, dunk, toss,” Grady answered.


“You get in the water,” Grady said. “Goober gets on one side and tosses a kid to you. You catch him and dunk him in one motion. Then when you bring him up, you toss him up to me on the other side. I’ll hand him to Miss Nora to dry him off. It’s a no-brainer.”

“I have to admit, you two might have a workable idea there,” Pastor Jerguson said.

At the baptismal part of the service, all the parents were present. It was a full house. Goober lined up all the children and told them to keep moving toward him. Pastor Jerguson was standing in the water explaining that they would be doing things a little differently today. Grady positioned himself to catch the wet and slippery kiddos. Miss Nora piled up a stack of clean towels to wrap each child in when Grady handed one to her. This was one well-organized plan.

Everything was going just fine. The precision of tossing, dunking, tossing and drying was incredibly smooth, until Little Missy Willows latched onto Goober’s neck and wrapped her legs around his waist. When he tried to toss her to Pastor J, he found himself going, too.

Grady yelled, “Look out Pastor J!” Pastor Jerguson turned around just in time to see the full-sized body lunging toward him with Little Missy strapped on his stomach. He grabbed them both at the same time and all three went under. The splash created a huge tsunamis that flooded the entire choir loft.

As soon as Little Missy hit the water she let go of Goober and was thrashing around in the tank. Grady jumped in and she latched onto his neck. He waddled out and up the steps toward Miss Nora who pealed her off him and wrapped her in the last towel.

The other two came up sputtering. Goober quickly waded to the side and disappeared up the steps. Pastor Jerguson looked for Grady. He, too, was gone. He smiled toward the congregation and called on Willie Bob to lead the closing prayer, while he went after Goober. But Goober and Grady were out in the truck and leaving the parking lot by the time he got out of his totally water-filled waders and began following the wet trail.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

When Someone Dies

Just had my nephew die. It was unexpected. He was 52. That’s not an appropriate age for dying. Come to think of it I’m not sure there is an appropriate age. We all know we’re going to die but never expect that to happen until old age, going quietly in our sleep.

When death comes prematurely, at least from our standpoint, we look at the amount of time they had left and all they’ve now lost out on. Jim’s daughter is to be married in two months. He had just gotten measured for his tux earlier that same morning. He was a couple of years away from retirement. Cut short with great dreams and wonderful plans.

My brother (his father-in-law) said he hoped God was right on this one because it makes no sense to him. I agree with the last part—it makes no sense, but I’m not sure I’m ready to doubt whether God is ever right or wrong.

The Bible says “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. (Ps 139)  Two thoughts: it could be that David was thinking specifically about his life and how God planned the whole thing, making him king and all. Or it could be that he had been given an understanding into the big picture of life and death.

If we take the second, he’s talking about us and how long we’ll live. When those days run out, we run out of time. Our plans are immaterial to those allotted days. Just because we have a larger human agenda left undone, it doesn’t mean God has cut anything short. Our lifetime has been fulfilled.

That may or may not be encouraging. It may just be me trying to make sense out of a tragic loss. But I don’t want to believe God capriciously snuffs out our life, takes away a loved one or makes life and death decisions on a whim. I want to believe He operates from a much greater perspective, one through which He accounts for the amount of time we spend long before we have a day of it to live.

Death is a mystery on this side of it. We grapple for any clue that might tell us why. The best I can understand is, why isn’t one of the questions that gets answered when someone dies. We might have a medical explanation, but we don’t know the reason what happened happened in the first place. So we’re left with a hole in our heart and vacuum in our understanding.

So, at this point, we’ll sense both and until healing comes, and in the meantime that’s where we’ll leave it, believing in a God who had made plans for us, plans for our welfare to give us a future and a hope. Just as He did for Jim, all the way up to and including the day he went home.