I Want My Christianity Back (Just A Thought #29)

At the end of this Thought I have a link to another post where I am listing some ministries/churches that seem to be exemplifying relational Christianity. What is relational Christianity? It is another way of saying Christians meeting together in community and fellowship. Meeting each others needs spiritually and physically. To share Christ passionately! This message is simply a call for more of Christ’s followers to do what they are doing—to be missional: adopting the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message.

I’ve been talking to a lot of believers around the world lately, who seem really frustrated by the state of Christianity and the church today. I have received phone calls and emails from people sharing their frustration at what is not happening. The one thing people are saying over and over, is they want life! Realism! A vibrant Faith that makes a difference!

I am hearing this from Pastors, church leaders and church members. Pastors are expressing frustration at the amount of suffering and hurting people within their churches. People are expressing concerns with the number of programs and the lack of sermons addressing their real needs, while it seems politics and giving are the two topics getting the most attention. All around us people are dying....literally. People are physically dying in the streets and spiritually dying in the church.

What's going on? How did we get this way? Where did this train derail?

Jesus came so that we can have life. (John 10:10) He came to restore relationship between us and God the Father. To make a way for us to access Him directly. (Matthew 27:51) In the book of Acts we see the body of Christ meeting in one accord. (Acts 1:14)

For me the section of Acts right after Pentecost speaks volumes. In Acts 2:41-47 we see the believers meeting together in homes, meeting each others needs, even to the point of sacrificing their own belongings for those who have a greater need. There was community, fellowship and the Lord added to the church DAILY those coming to faith in Christ. Their lifestyle was a testimony. Their love and actions were a statement of Life in Christ.

Vastly different then what we generally see today.

We need to get back to basics, stripping away the Christianese (or at least explain it) and the "way we always do things" mentality. We need to quit intellectualizing the faith and speak to the common man and woman right where they are at: hurting! Jesus walked among the hurting; the needy and He spoke life. We have to shake off the spiritual lethargy we have gotten into and wake up!

Let’s get real and admit the mess that we, the body of Christ, have gotten into. Repent of our spiritual lethargy! Get into the Word and out into the streets, meeting people where they are at. Encourage those who are strong and lift up those who are hurting. Share a meal and our lives with one another. Walk with each other in the ups and the downs. Love one another….the way Jesus would really want us to.

As I promised, I am linking to a post where I have listed a few ministries that have inspired and challenged me and others like myself. I encourage you to check them out.


A Lesson From Gideon

I have been reading the book of Judges lately. It's an interesting book with lots of different judges coming in and out over a period of time in Israel's history.

I have always loved the story of Gideon found in Judges 6:11-8:28. I like how God called him to rescue the Israelites. (Judges 6:14)

Gideon, hard man to convince, kept asking for a sign. He wasn't convinced by one sign, asked for another and another. He also showed fear at least twice. Once when tearing down an altar and once when preparing to send the 300 against the Midianites and Amalekites. Now granted, I would swallow hard as well if I saw my troops reduced from 22,000 to 300! I might have a "huh what?" moment myself.

However God delivered used those 300, and a mass of confusion among the Midianites and Amalekites, to set the Israelites free.

It's and awesome story and I encourage you to read it. Go ahead I'll wait.....

.........still waiting.........(non-scientific studies show most won't go and read this Scripture right now).....

.....OK good.......you're back......now here is what stood out to me this time:

Judges 8:25-26 talks about how Gideon took about 40 pounds of gold as a reward from the Israelites. Then it says in v.27 "Then Gideon used the gold to make an idol and placed it in his hometown, Ophrah. All Israel chased after it there as though it were a prostitute. It became a trap for Gideon and his family."

Asking for the gold was not a sin. However what he did next was and it became a stumbling block for Gideon, his family and Israel!

I read this and realized how easy it is for anyone to fall if they are not on guard. Gideon was not on guard and let a good thing turn into a stumbling block. When we, as believers, have a moment of spiritual victory, or a high point where are faith is on fire, that is when we need to be on particular guard.

The enemy knows that when things are going well we tend to coast. Take it easy when life is going good. This is true as well for ministers and front-line workers who have a season of blessed ministry activity.

However this is the time to WATCH! Stand on guard and make sure the enemy does not sneak up unawares! When life is good we should dig into the Word and stay close to the Father, just as we would when life is not so good! When we stay sheltered in the Arms of the Most High we are in the safest place imaginable.


Relational Christianity Spotlight

What is relational Christianity - Another way of saying Christians meeting together in community and fellowship. Meeting each others needs spiritually and physically. To share Christ passionately!

If you read this blog then you have likely noticed the numerous posts on the Life that is found in Christ. I have spoken often about the need to get back to community style Christianity. To live Christ daily and to show it not only in word but deed as well.

In an effort to highlight some of the ministries and organizations that are displaying this style of Christianity I will be posting some occasional spotlights.

These links do not count as an endorsement on all that you may find on their websites but the heart of these ministries does reflect Jesus.

Lifestream I have linked to their page where they share their passion which to me is absolutely awesome.

Little Flowers Community
This little community is a YWAM partnership ministry and I know one of the leaders. He has a passion for relational Christianity.

Crossbridge This church in Florida is very intentionally relational. They even meet at a coffee shop....you gotta love that! Another friend is pastor there.

Present Testimony Ministry
Frank Viola's website where you can find a house church in your area: House Church Resource

The Simple Way Their mission: To Love God. To Love People. To Follow Jesus.

The Meeting House A church focused on relationship and not religion!

So there you have it. A very small list of ministries I have come across recently. If you know more please let me know.


Psalms of Lament

I am a part of the ministerial here in my town. Today, one of the local Pastors led a devotion based on Psalm 13:

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalms 13:1-6)

We were challenged to then write our own laments in groups of 3 and to be real and honest with the Lord. Not in doubt but in faith letting our hearts cry out to God. So in my group the ideas were put forth and the lament, or prayer, came out of a brief discussion of how many in the body are struggling, ourselves included. So this became our prayer today:

O Lord why do we struggle? Why do we kick against the goads? We hide our hurts and pains, our disunity, anger, the truth. We need the light of your love to shine into the dark places, and yet You O Lord are faithful. Your ways our higher than ours. We will trust in you O Lord to help us shed our masks.

I want to encourage you to write some praises and some laments. Speak them out if you are uncomfortable writing. Let your heart break forth in praise when you are happy and lament when you are sad.


Disciplined By God

Deuteronomy 8:5 "Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you."

Discipline is never a fun topic. It oftentimes hurts to be corrected. Yet God corrects us for a reason.

A few weeks back I felt the Lord speak correction into my life. He began to convict me for not always "listening" to the hearts of the people he brings me into contact with. In my job I see a lot of homeless and low income families. It is very easy to listen to the same stories over and over and begin to let your mind drift or to tune out the heart of what is being spoken. As I was sitting in the drop-in centre awhile back I felt the Lord "strongly" urge me to pay attention to what 2 different people were saying. As I focused in I saw a "new" side to these individuals as they shared some of their heart. It was an eye-opening experience.

The hard part was what came next. As I realized what I had been missing in my "assumptions" of the conversations the Lord chastised me for not "seeing" what He saw in them. I felt the Lord breaking away some calluses that had begun to appear. Social service work is hard and it is a battle to not become cynical to the situations. I am not proud of the fact that I was becoming dulled to the stories.

I had to repent and ask the Lord to soften my heart in these areas again.

Hebrews 12:6 "For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."

Discipline can hurt, it can be quite painful. Yet the Lord has a purpose in it. We may not see it at the time. We may not see it for a long time. However God loves us and He wants what is best for us. Just as parents correct their child God corrects us when we need it.

Hebrews 12:10 "For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness."

God wants us to share in His holiness, to reflect Him. He will bring correction in our life as needed. The struggle for us is not to fight it. When we try to "save" ourselves from discipline we only end up miserable. It is far better to let the Lord deal with us as needed.

I am still feeling a bit "sore" from my recent correction and I pray the Lord continues to break away the calluses so I can "see" what He sees for the hurting.

I want to be receptive to His discipline for I know His purpose is right and His ways are higher than my own!


Wrestling With The Word

I have been wrestling with the Word lately. As I shared the following with my family, my daughter told me not to wrestle too hard, or I may come away with a bad hip! (Gen. 32:25) Ah, the insight of youth. So, what was it that elicited that comment? In brief:

I remember growing up hearing people refer to themselves as hawks or doves when it comes to the issues of war, the death penalty, etc... I was always a bit of a hawk. Over the years I have been quite vocal in my support of the death penalty and for a "just" war.

Recently, as I have been examining the Scriptures more and more I am beginning to rethink this position. Now let me state I've never been a "warmonger" but I have not been opposed to justice being served in this life.

However this week I was confronted with numerous Scriptures that just came alive to me in a new way. First it was the Scriptures in Matthew that say, "Blessed are the meek", "Blessed are the merciful" and "Blessed are the peacemakers." (Matthew 5:5, 7, 9)

Then I read the part in Matthew 5:21-22 that talks about murder. While chewing on these passages of Scriptures I then was reminded of the women caught in the act of adultery. (John 8:3-11). This was a death penalty sentence at the time. Yet Jesus showing mercy did not condemn her. In fact He said if the accusers were without sin they should cast the first stone. They all left and Jesus told her to go and sin no more.

While my mind was being blow away by all this I realized....even a terrorist is not beyond God's redemption. Those who attack our countries and murder our friends and families are not beyond the reach of a loving Father. As much as I want to see justice done in this life I am coming to believe Jesus wants us to extend mercy more. To reflect Him.

So there you have it. I am slowly, slowly moving away from my stance as a hawk. I am starting to feel the death penalty is wrong. I am starting to reconsider the policies of war. I really am thinking.....what would Jesus do?


Jesus Was Not A Politician

With an election happening in the US I thought it was a good time to dig this out of the archives:

Jesus Was Not A Politician

I remember a few years back attending a church in Tennessee. This was and election year (1996) and I opened the bulletin for that day's service and discovered a leaflet inside with the views of various candidates on issues that should matter to Christians. Upon further reading I noticed all of the candidates listed were Republicans. There was not a sheet for Democratic candidates and where they stood on the issues.

Over the years I have heard many well-meaning believers say something along the lines of, "If you are a Christian you should vote (Insert Political Party Here)".

In examining my Bible, though, I have not yet found the chapter which says Jesus was a republican, a democrat, a conservative or a liberal. I did not find Jesus actually affiliated with any political party, be it a "Christian" party or any other. In fact I find something totally different.

I find a Scripture where Jesus is asked about paying taxes to Caesar who, let's face it, was not a fair or just ruler. He was in charge of a nation that was occupying Israel and demanding allegiance to Caesar and Rome. Opposition was met with death. Crucifixions were the norm. Yet, when asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar Jesus said in Matt. 21 that they should give to Caesar what was due him, and to God what was God's. He was not saying to fight against authority, but to do what was required.

For me, a real eye opening Scripture is found in Romans 13:1-7. It is not a comfortable section of Scripture, nor one that "goes down" easily. I've struggled with it myself, but my struggles do not negate God's Word. My opinions need to conform with His, not vice versa.

So what does this Scripture say? It says things like God establishes all authorities and that we should submit to these governing authorities. If we rebel against these authorities we rebel against God. Rulers hold no terror for those who do right. These are not “comforting” Scriptures.

I believe we can stand for truth and righteousness. However, I think in standing for truth we should do so in a spirit of love. I believe we honor God more by standing for truth in love than in fear, anger or animosity. Yes, our ruling authorities may be corrupt. However, we are not their judge. Only God is. We can speak out against tyranny while still operating in love. Name calling, divisiveness, these things are not of God. If we speak in love and are attacked by men, so be it. God is in control. Better to operate under His care than to try to do things on our own. We should not fear what man can do to us.

There is a point where it is OK to disobey authorities, when we are called to do something that goes against God’s law. If you look at Acts 4:18-20 you see Peter and John called before the ruling authorities and told to not talk about Jesus anymore. They asked the leaders to judge who it was better to obey God or them. They left and still spoke about Jesus. They didn't gather a protest group, picket the Sanhedrin and write attacking letters to the Jerusalem Times.

There is also a point where Jesus was called before the rulers and He was silent.

We have options in how we respond to corrupt governments. Let's respond in a way that glorifies God.