Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hope For Christianity in America

There are many who think that the best days of Christianity in America are in the past. I am not one of those thinkers. I fully understand that our country is deeply divided and difficult financial times appear to loom. To top it off, many, including our president, have declared, “We are no longer a Christian nation.” So why do I think the best days of Christianity are ahead?

Rather than giving a ten-page explanation, I’ll simplify things and site two reasons. First: The opportunity to share and show the gospel to people who do not know it has never been greater in this country. In many ways America has become a pure missionary context. Second: A growing group of Christians are learning what it means to be Christian in a society not predominated by “Christian” thought.

I believe great things are in store for churches and Christians that understand their call and the times. Many will ignore both and become culturally irrelevant and ineffective for the kingdom. Many will seek to maintain a cultural and social Christianity that has all but died. Keep in mind, if we fight the wrong battle, the best case is we win the wrong war. I don’t believe that Christians will win the cultural-social war we are engaged in.

Others will follow the way of Jesus. Have no doubt that Jesus came to change everything, including the political, social, and cultural order of things. But He didn’t do it by demanding the world around Him change. He accomplished it by living differently and inviting others to follow Him in the way He lived. He certainly could have demanded that Rome change its ways. He is God in the flesh. But He chose a different way-- a way I believe He is calling you and I to follow. Paul explains it this way in Philippians 2:5-11, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Not only is the world looking for humility and a servant attitude from Christians, it is actually our original calling from God. There are some that will see this as American Christians retreating from the cultural war, but it is actually the higher calling. I look forward to the day when people can look at Christians and marvel at how we care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans in our country. I look forward to seeing many who call Jesus as Lord become a blessing to the nation rather than be a burden to the system.

I believe this will happen in communities all over our country as we continue to preach the Good News about the Kingdom of God and live it out. Look around. Who needs to hear and experience the Good News? "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" Mark 1:15

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Caricatures, God, Politics, and Responsibility

I received one of those political e-mails the other day. I am sure you know the type.  It told a story about a certain candidate and some of the evil things he has done in the last few years. As it continued, I was reminded of our nation's founding principles. Then came the question, “How could anyone call themselves a Christian and vote for this person?”
            I don’t necessarily mind the mixture of politics and religion. Worldviews inevitably influence our decisions. Being a Christian informs the decisions that I make including voting.The major problem I have is that the information sent to me was blatantly false.  I am not talking about opinions. I think we could do a better job in how we discuss differing opinions. In this case, I am talking about verifiable historical facts. The individual did not say and do what the e-mail said they did. I am not upset because someone is saying something against a candidate that I like. I am not voting for this person.  I am upset because in the name of Jesus we are willing to distort the truth.  Please note the irony of questioning someone’s relationship with God based on falsehood.
            I wish I could tell could tell you that I only see these types of messages from one side of the isle.  Christians and non-Christian from the right, left, and everywhere in between send out these messages.  It’s like a competition to see who can create a better straw man or caricature of the other side.  It is easy to see the ridiculousness of the image we present. Of course only a fool would vote for this distorted image.         
            As a young Christian little challenged my faith more than how we handle politics. We often appear no better and sometimes worse than the world around us. We have allowed a culture of lies, ridicule, division, and elitism to cloud our judgment.  Over the years this has caused me to question not only my political but my theological beliefs. How do I know what some Christians are saying about God is true when I can’t trust what they say about things that are easily verifiable? Is it truth we believe in and seek after or are we trying to protect our way of thinking and believe in what brings us the most comfort? Thankfully God and truth are not dependent upon our beliefs and practices.  But I often wonder what kind of disservice are we doing for those who are seeking after God?  Why would they believe our message?  Maybe it is not God they have a problem with after all, it is His people. 
Christians do not need to be un-opinionated. Jesus wasn't  He had strong opinions, but he didn't lie about those with whom he disagreed.  In fact, He was the embodiment of truth.  When people rejected Him they rejected truth. How do people discover truth if we do not speak it?
Philippians 4:8  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Grace of God

I evidently did not know much about Andy Stanley until I read his book, "The Grace of God."  I fully expected the book to be loaded with overused cliches and simple formulas.  But, like the title of one of Stanley's chapter titles, I was "Surprised by Grace." This is a great book by someone who understands and lives out grace.

Stanley does a masterful job as he highlights God's grace towards us as he weaves through biblical history.  He does not avoid difficult passages or complex ideas.  In fact, he reminds us that Jesus was paradoxically "full of grace and truth." His book not only informs but challenges the reader. He does not hold back as he reminds us that it is easier to receive grace than it is to give it to others.

Overall this is a great read for anyone seeking to know more about grace and the God who gives it. As with other books I have reviewed this will be added to our church library.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255