Is the Good News still good?

Current events lately have caused me to take a step back and look at the current state of Christianity in our society. Sadly what I see concerns me. We are bombarded with messages that read along the lines of “gay people are gonna burn in hell” or “terrorism is God reacting to our sin” or we even see instances of church leadership abusing small children. It seems to me that the Good News that Christ died to promote is no longer good in our society. America desperately needs more messages of redemption, grace, and mercy and less fear, anger, and dogma. We as Christians need to reclaim the title of the hands and feet of Jesus and keep it from becoming a cliche any longer. Christians are many times the major path that some people have to Christ and sadly we often turn people away from Christ rather than to Him because we don’t make the Good News seem good anymore. So today I challenge you. Will you be Good News to someone who needs it?

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Are Christians influencing our culture or vice versa?

I would say the answer to this question is yes, but more of the latter than the former. Many churches have adopted views that are highly influenced by the culture in which we live and that are influenced very little by scripture. We can see this in areas such as how churches handle finances, the lack of a relational base that churches should be founded on, and a tendency for churches to become abrasive on issues they are deeply passionate about. Yes I firmly believe Jesus was stern at times when the occasion called for it, but some churches take it to the extreme and do it for the wrong reasons (ex. Westboro Baptist protesting funerals and holding anti-homosexual hate rallies). Jesus never had hate in his heart towards people, yet we as Christians are quick to go to a place in our hearts where we degrade others to a sub-human status.This ought not be so and we need to reevaluate our motives and actions. In doing such an evaluation I believe we would see that we are far from the church that Christ died for. Christ had standards for His own life and he also calls us to those same standards.

We live in a culture that is complacent and it is killing our faith. We have seemed to confuse the meanings of tolerance and acceptance. I believe Christ was tolerant of peoples behavior and let them use and abuse their own free will, but He was by no means accepting of peoples actions and attitudes. In that same way we as Christians need to use extreme caution that we do not become accepting of behavior that Jesus openly opposed.

When all is said and done we cannot simply just demand people live up to our flawed views of Christ’s teachings. People will pay much closer attention to our actions than anything else. Until we become relational in the same way the church was in Acts 2 we will continue to hurt the Kingdom of God. Randy Harris, ACU professor and well known theologian, said at a recent college ministry retreat “Everything you do has an impact on your ministry. Everything you do either adds to or takes away from the Kingdom of God.” Ask yourself… are you taking away from or adding to the church for which Christ died?

Self Sufficient Christianity

If you take a look at people who profess to be followers of Christ when they are not in a religious setting such as a church service I would be willing to bet you would find a group of people whose spirituality and religious practices are kept to themselves, for the most part. We as a society have lost the ability and willingness to share what we view about the God who created us and what He wants from the people who follow him. This “sensitive subject” along with others has taken a spot on the top shelf only to be neglected, which has led to our society being pushed further and further away from God. How can we as followers of Christ share the blessings that are found in Christ if we are unable to discuss the things that set Christians apart from the world? We need to open up communication based in love that does not have fear of how people will react. Scripture tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. If you speak in a way that is rooted in God’s love then you have no need to be concerned how others will take it. But Christianity is not only between you and God. It never has been and it never will be. Christianity is just as much about your relationship with God as it is about your relationships with the people you come in contact with each day. In order to please God we must have Godly relationships with those around us even when they do not treat us in a Godly way. Spreading the Gospel does not start at your local church, it starts with you personally. Live life interacting with those around you in such a way that they would not only see that you are set apart from this world but that they would also want to imitate your influence on them.

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:8-12

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14

Life, Faith and Peace

Wow, it’s been awhile since my last post. Needless to say a lot of life has happened in the last 3 months. School really overwhelmed me the last couple weeks of the semester and I don’t really know how I managed to pull grades that were as good as I had. But that was the least of it. A week or so before finals I got a text that nobody ever wants to get. On April 25th my grandfather passed away.So in the midst of studying and writing papers and everything else a typical college kid does I also prepared to fly out to California three days after my last final was finished to let go of a relationship that did not have much of a chance to blossom due to the fact that we were separated by 1,500 miles. I never thought so many things could hit me at once, and then 6 days later my grandmother passed away. But God’s timing is always perfect and He has reasons for everything. Loss is never easy, as it shouldn’t be, but God can turn disaster into something beautiful. Getting to love on my extended family on the days surrounding my grandparents memorial service was great.

I learned a lot from that whole experience. I learned that to truly live is to be always present where you are both physically and mentally. People need you whether they are able to express it or not. You may not know what battles they are facing until you take the chance to dig below the surface. It is crucial that we as followers of Christ make ourselves available to those around us to be unified with each other even if that means we are faced with inconvenient situations that require us to put ourselves aside and put off those things we want to do in order to help someone we come in contact with. I challenge you to come out of your own bubble you live in and encounter as many people as you can today. I strongly believe you will find the return you get from that experience is far more than the investment you made.

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Luke 6:35

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8

Change

Change is a powerful thing. Change can cause a dull caterpillar to morph into a vibrantly colored butterfly. But change can destroy lives too. Too many people have made it a point in their daily lives to avoid change as much as possible. But if you examine God’s Word you will find that change is both natural and good in some cases. The Bible speaks in several places about one growing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Growth in and of itself is change. By avoiding change as a whole we are hindering ourselves from growth on many different levels and thus halting the process by which we become unified with one another.

Change within our relationships is something we generally dread. But Jesus taught and the Bible speaks of change as a positive thing in many cases. Look at these passages:

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”n~ Luke 2:52

Christ Himself was always seeking ways to advance his emotional and spiritual aspects of His life. We can learn very much just from this one passage alone.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.~ 2 Peter 1:5-15

Here we see a progression of traits that God instructs us to be dilligent in obtaining in our every day lives. Not only do we have instruction to obtain these things, we have a warning of what will become of us when we don’t strive to incorporate these things into our lives. Our faith becomes ineffective when we are complacent and unopen to change.

I pray that you will meditate on these passages and in all things give God the praise for the life He has given you. Be blessed!

Perception

Life is only as good or bad as we perceive it. We are not defined by the circumstances by which we live but by how we choose to see ourselves through all the joy and chaos we go through on a daily basis. We are capable to do much more than we think we can, if only we view things in the bigger scope of reality which has been formed by Christ in us.

I wrote that not long ago on Facebook and I believe it whole heartedly. Want to change how you feel but cant change the circumstances that make you feel the way you feel? Change your perception. What I mean by that is train your mind to accept what’s going on and find peace through God. When I think of changing perception in us I am reminded of Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. The part of this passage that states “lean not on your own understanding” is very important to how we perceive our lives and also how we percieve others around us. In my opinion my generation has failed at this. We are created as beings who are supposed to be in relationship with one another yet we form an opinion and judge others because we think they fit a certain criteria. The problem with this is we don’t know the circumstances by which that person is living. We don’t know their story. So in my opinion we can not think much about something or someone we do not know. That’s like someone walking off the streets onto a car dealership and trying to sell someone a car without reading up on the cars specifications. It just doesn’t work. PLEASE, if you’re going to form an opinion about someone get to know them enough to have an accurate opinion. As your relationship grows with that person so should your perception of them, but not until then.

"We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito." ~C.S. Lewis

I had a truly life changing experience this past week. I was visiting some friends at the Southern Hills church of Christ last Sunday morning when I experienced something that worked on my heart in a way nothing else had ever done before. There I witnessed a lady who was at minimum partially deaf ( she could have been completly deaf but I don’t have a way of knowing for sure) signing the words to a hymn we were singing together and I will never forget the feeling that came over me at that moment. I abruptly came to the realization that God indeed can and does reach out to anyone no matter their circumstances. Sure that lady sitting a few rows in front of me could not physically hear the words, but she could see them, and in seeing them was able to respond to them with the most wonderful praise to our almighty God that I have ever been a part of. I have always believed that God’s love and power transcends any weakness, either mental or physical, that we could ever have. But to see that love and power brought about with my own eyes honestly almost brought me to tears. God is a great God and I love learning from the experiences He gives to me.

Let the righteous rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him!
~Psalms 64:10