Posted tagged ‘Christian Life’

Glorify God and Pass the Salt

March 27, 2014

Christians say, “Glorify God,” as easily as, “Pass the salt.” Actually, pass the salt may have more meaning.

salt

We exist to glorify God. The Church exists to glorify God. Even, nature exists to glorify God. But, glorifying God isn’t a mystical experience that happens in isolation.

One behavior best exemplifies what it means to glorify God.

One purpose:

Everything the Church does has one purpose – winning people to Jesus and helping them grow so they can win people to Jesus. We are here to win people.

Paul teaches us that the Church is the body of Christ. Luke tells us that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. So, if we are the body of Christ, we are here to seek and save the lost.

Lets give teeth to religious language and say that everything the Church is here to do one basic thing - win people to Jesus and help them grow so they can win people to Jesus. Nothing less. Nothing more. Nothing else.

Everything:

What the Church does:

  1. Teaching
  2. Fellowship
  3. Worship
  4. Support
  5. Encouragement
  6. Friendship
  7. Social engagement
  8. Meeting needs
  9. You name it ….

Everything we do traces back to one objective, win people to Jesus.

The “edification of the saints,” is so they can win people.

Teaching the Bible loses it’s ultimate purpose if it doesn’t equip us to win people. Furthermore, fellowship isn’t just for our comfort and enjoyment. It’s to enable us to win people.

Winning people gives purpose and meaning to everything believers do. Without the objective of winning people, we’re just going through the motions and God is not glorified, regardless of what you do.

Method:

The method is as clear as the mission. Love people.

Now that I think about it, glorifying God is a bit like passing the salt.

Stop Making it Difficult

March 17, 2014

The first church fight addressed issues we grapple with today.

Who can be part of us?

What do you have to do to belong?

don't make it difficult

The issue, back then, was do you have to keep the law to be/become a Christian?

The fight is recorded in Acts 15. After the fight, James summarizes the key principle in verse 19 (NIV):

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

In other words, make it easy. The rule applies to those who have and those who are turning.

Make it easy:

  1. Invite people to turn TO God. It’s easy to point out what’s bad. Turn away from drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll, for example. But, the gospel is good news, not bad.
  2. Forget about fixing people. Let God fix.
  3. Err on the side of grace. When in doubt choose compassion over confrontation.
  4. Avoid arguments on peripheral issues. Trusting Jesus is THE issue. Nothing else matters until that issue is resolved.

Four rules:

The four rules James gave gentile believers in Acts 15:20 (NIV) illustrate the “make it easy” rule.

Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

  1. No “idol” food.
  2. No sexual immorality.
  3. No strangled animals.
  4. Drain the blood.

Why these rules? Acts 15:21 (NIV):

For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.

James says the principle of “don’t make it difficult,” applies both ways. Jewish believers in Jerusalem are working to make it easy for Gentiles to turn to God. Gentile believers should be concerned for the Jews in their communities. Make it easy for them to turn to God, too. Avoid offensive behaviors for the sake of the Gospel. 

Praying for Boldness

March 2, 2014

Confidence

We have forgotten that we are believers today because of a long line of men and women who boldly spoke up when silence would have been easy, even desirable.

They were told to shut-up, but they would not and could not.

Acts 4:20, “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

In situations where we would pray for safety and protection, they prayed for boldness.

Acts 4:29, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

After severe beatings, Dr. Luke, the careful historian, writes that they rejoiced rather than whining. When it would have been smart to shut up, they kept talking.

Acts 5:42, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

Their message was simple: Jesus

Their mission was simple: Talk about Jesus.

Those of us who are gripped more by fear than faith cannot imagine a boldness like theirs. But, we can step toward it.

Step one: Pray for boldness. (When was the last time you did that?)

Step two: Go beyond praying for opportunity to praying, “Help me seize opportunities to speak up.”

Step three: Go beyond praying to seize opportunities to praying, “Help me make opportunities to speak for Jesus.”

The story of Jesus escaped the first century because of bold people who spoke up when they were told to shut-up. Without their boldness, we would not have heard the story of what they heard with their ears,  saw with their eyes, and touched with their hands.

No Demands – No Obligations

February 18, 2014

dancing

Christianity is not about demands and obligations. It’s about love and love can’t be demanded.

Life, on the other hand, is filled with never ending demands. Do…do…do, go…go…go, work…work…work. But, grace can’t obligate.

The only demand of grace is receiving it by faith. The more I talk about grace the more I enjoy grace and the more I want to talk about it. I’m addicted.

Grace means gift. Gifts exclude compensation.

Any attempt to pay for grace blocks it. 

Rewards:

God protects free grace by rewarding service. Rewards remove any hint that obedience is payment for grace.

God pays for service – rewards – so no one can brag they are paying for grace.

Illustration:

Think of God as a graceful dancer. Our maker dances His way to us. The melodies of grace permeate His presence.

He risks looking foolish by dancing alone. All we do is take it in. As the music sinks into our hearts, He invites us to join.

He leads. We follow.  We respond. It all starts and ends right here in the dance of grace.

Grace cannot demand love.  Grace enables love.

How to be a Friend of “Sinners”

February 10, 2014

friends

It’s a great compliment to have self-righteous Christians complain that you’re too friendly with non-Christians. The religious elite made a similar complaint about Jesus – the friend of sinners (Lk. 7:34).

But there’s another side to this issue.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Our friends predict our future.

How can you be a friend to “sinners”?

The inner circle:

Cultivate and develop an inner circle of three deeply committed believers. One of them should be a visionary like Peter. One should be a doer like James. And the other, should be a lover like John.

Questions to ask before becoming a “friend of sinners”:

  1. Do you know who you are?
  2. Where do you look for approval? Or, who are you trying to please?
  3. Are you deeply connected to committed believers?
  4. Can you explain the gospel quickly, simply, and clearly. (The best way to do that is tell your own story of trusting Jesus.”
  5. Do you deeply love “sinners”? If God loved the world, so can you.

Three attitudes:

Every believer who aspires to be a friend of sinners knows they are:

  1. “One of” not “one above.” Christianity isn’t morality. Christianity is Jesus. Everyone is in the “falling short” bucket. The fact that you may sin less doesn’t make you sinless.
  2. Not trying to change or reform “sinners”. Your job is sharing Jesus. Changes are his business. Getting people to sin less, might make life better, but it doesn’t help in the long-term.
  3. Dedicated to serve others, not be served. Jesus came as one who serves and you aren’t above Him. The path to influence is the path of service. Solve a problem. Meet a need.

Embrace these attitudes or you’re doing more damage than good.

Be a friend of sinners. But, fasten your spiritual seat-belt. You’re in for a challenging ride.

The Tongue Rule Challenge

February 3, 2014

horse's tongue

Of all the people in the world, Christians should use words more skillfully than anyone.

Ephesians 4:29 (GNB)

Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.

Sadly, we have a reputation for speaking against things rather than for. Frankly, we are often known for negativity.

Positive speech, in some Christians circles, seems like a sin. We go so far as to suggest that railing against something indicates strength and holiness. In reality, tearing down is unbiblical, misguided, and weak.

Yes, there are exceptions. Jesus hammered the religious elite. If you’re inclined to fight, attack denominational leaders who choose law over grace. Call them pretty coffins full of dried up bones.

But, the tongue rule may be a better option.

The tongue rule:

“Only open your mouth to make something better.”

Other than that, be quiet.

Even if you’re pointing out a problem, only point it out so you can explore how to make it better.

Sounds simple enough. But, James, the brother of Jesus said,

But no one has ever been able to tame the tongue. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison. James 3:8 (GNB)

Developing a graceful tongue:

If you enjoy challenges, adopt the tongue rule challenge.

  1. It’s a journey.
  2. Receive and enjoy God’s favor.
  3. Treat others the way God treats you.
  4. Find some friends who are on the “tongue taming” journey with you.
  5. Start again after you screw up. Grace is beginning again, again.
  6. Talk less. But, realize silence isn’t the goal, building up is.
  7. Only speak to make things better.

Are you Worse than a Fool

January 26, 2014

clown

The Proverbs mercilessly expose and attack fools.

Top 10 marks of a fools:

  1. Hate knowledge.
  2. Repeat their mistakes like dogs eat their own vomit. Fools don’t learn from experience.
  3. Come to ruin.
  4. Slander.
  5. Blab on and on.
  6. Run headlong into trouble.
  7. Reject advice.
  8. Love sharing their opinion.
  9. Instigate arguments.
  10. Make light of hurting others.

Two things worse than being a fool:

If being a fool isn’t bad enough, two qualities put us in a category more reviled than fool.

Know it all’s:

Proverbs 26:12 (ESV) Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Prov. 26:12 reminds me of a quote from Edward DeBono. “Those who think they know, don’t.”

Every negative quality about a fool seems to stem from being wise in your own eyes.

Of all the know it all’s I know, educated, closed-minded believers are the worst. I confess. I am one. I often carry the burden of knowledge.

The first quality of wise people is they seek wisdom. Knowledge, certainty, and lack of curiosity destroy us. But, wise people know they don’t know.

Blabber mouths:

Proverbs 29:20 (ESV) Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Prov. 29:20 directly connects to, “those who are wise in their own eyes.” Who is hasty with their words? People who are deluded about their own wisdom.

Three suggestions:

  1. Say, “What if I’m wrong?” (Even if you think you’re right)
  2. Invite, explore, and implement wise counsel.
  3. Stop talking so much, unless you’re talking to ask questions.

Wisdom is behavioral not intellectual. We behave our way into foolishness or wisdom.

The Long Holy Nose

January 22, 2014

nose

Christians, under the guise of holiness, judge and condemn “sinners.” When we do, we condemn ourselves.

What makes you better than others?

  • You don’t murder. But, you hate.
  • You don’t rob banks. But, you steal another’s reputation with gossip.
  • You aren’t a drunk. But, you disobey your parents.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I’m trying to help you see that Christians aren’t above others.

Stop looking down your long holy nose at people God loves.

The long holy nose makes us ugly. I’m convinced that the ugliest people in the world are self-righteous, good-living, religious people. The truth is, “We” need God’s love as much as “they” do.

Holy living is not an excuse from compassion, respect, or kindness.

Holiness:

Lets call fellow believers to holiness. The issue isn’t should we live holy lives. The issue is how we grow in grace by faith.

Inviting Christians to holiness requires transparent connection. Apart from connection, calling fellow believers to holiness is self-righteous and arrogant. When you call someone to holiness, get in it with them.

Faith:

Lets call people who aren’t believers, to trust in Jesus. The issue isn’t moral reform. It’s Jesus.

Inviting people to trust in Jesus requires connection. Connection empowers the call. Disconnection makes us look like arrogant fools.

Let’s call fellow believers to trust God in new ways. We need to trust Jesus today like we did when we trusted Jesus for the first time.

The people “out there” didn’t make Jesus dirty when he rubbed elbows with them. They won’t make you dirty when you connect with them, either.

Love:

Love is not rude or arrogant. Love is kind, patient, hopeful. Love endures. You have permission to live a holy life and treat people who don’t know Jesus with Love.

No Outsiders Allowed

January 11, 2014

keep out

Casually read the life of Jesus and you’ll see Him persistently extending grace to outsiders. He’s an outsider-focused individual, living an outsider-focused life. Even the training of the 12 occurs within an outsider focused context.

On the other hand, a casual review of church programs reveals a decidedly insider slant. Churches typically expend their time, energy, and resources on themselves. Frequently these activities don’t enhance believer integration into the community. Rather, they are segregated or limited to a small, comfortable number of outsiders. In brief, these activities are barriers not channels to extending grace to others.

Note on Integration.

I was taught that good Christians lived separated lives. Separation meant isolation. However, Jesus never lived in isolation, nor should we. Graceful living drives us toward integration. In this case, separation is demonstrated by distinctions like love and compassion not isolation.

What if?

What would happen if churches did fewer insider facing programs and decided to integrate into community programs that already exist? Could Christian fellowship occur in an outsider context? Could spiritual growth take place while participating in a YMCA program?

On the other hand.

Jesus spent time alone with His disciples. Churches should have alone time, where shared values dominate conversations and the freedom of sameness is fully embraced and enjoyed.

Now what?

Since it’s comfortable and natural to build programs for ourselves, I suggest grace-oriented Churches resist the drift inward by intentionally limiting exclusive insider-only activities.

*****

What’s hindering believers from living outsider focused lives?

How can graceful believers live outsider focused lives?

New Years Resolutions

December 29, 2013

2014

Most of my friends don’t make resolutions. One recently said, “The only resolution I’ve been able to keep is the one not to make resolutions.”

We know they don’t work and we don’t want to get depressed when we fail. What’s the use?

A history of failure is the reason you don’t try again. Why bother? Nothings going to change.

Grace is all about starting over, again.
Those who can’t start over never get there.

Peter wasn’t planning to start again. He planned to go back to the fishing business. The, “change the world idea,” that Jesus planted in him didn’t pan out.

Those who don’t start again, quit.

Jesus came to Peter, after his denial, in John 21:15 to offer a fresh start.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Starting again:

#1. Don’t start with something to do. Start with your heart. Starting again is first about the heart then about the hands.

“Do you love me?” is an invitation to start again.

#2.  Focus on the future. Jesus didn’t bring up Peter’s past denial. He turned him to the future.

A person:

Peter wasn’t looking to start again. He’d failed. It was time to quit.

Jesus kick started Peter.

You may be too discouraged to start again. But, someone who believes in you can give you courage to try.

Surround yourself with people who believe in grace – starting again. Better yet, be a person who helps others get up again.

If you do start again in 2014, begin with the heart.


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