Tuesday, January 29, 2013

When you are demonized....

Perception is everything these days.  Facts seem to be meaningless.  Perception has become the new fact.  How do you handle a situation when someone controls the perception of your ideas and beliefs?  How can you live in a manner that will overcome the specific action by others to demonize you because of your beliefs?

One of the best places to find such an example for us is in the Biblical book of Daniel.  We all know about Daniel and the lions den.  We know about the fiery furnace.  But what in Daniel have we missed?  He is a guy who lived as a difference maker in ungodly Governments.  He lived and he rose to high levels of influence in these Government systems without compromising his faith in God and the practice thereof.  Daniel had rulers call upon him to solve major issues.  And this was done knowing who Daniel was and where Daniel stood.  There are some timely lessons for us from the life of this man.

Purpose to be a Difference Maker 

Daniel was not out to make points and show his righteousness off for all to see.  He determined at a young age to impact people regardless.  We love scoring points.  We love to put something out to the masses that "hits the mark"!  But do we realize that our points make little impact?  And if no impact is made - why are we making the point.  Andy Stanley in an interview recently about his invite to preach the pre inaugural message in DC, made the following statement:

"Make a difference. Don't be satisfied with making a point." It's easy to make a point. If you have a computer, a blog, a Twitter account, you can make a point. But you're not going to make a difference with your points. We have been called to be difference makers."

This statement highlights exactly what I am speaking about in Daniels life.  It would have been easy for Daniel to make points about all of the evil doings in the ungodly Governments he lived under.  Equally, Daniel could have decided that he would go public and bash all leaders who did not agree with him and his beliefs.  Daniel had truth on his side.  But Daniel took a different path.  He determined to be a difference maker.

Purpose to Edify even in Confrontation
To easy for many of us is the trap to forget that our words matter.  The Bible says that we are to be slow to wrath and always edifying.  We know this is not an easy thing to do.  Yet when we edify and speak with with words of respect and value, we gain favor.  We tear down walls and open doors for greater influence.  All because of how we speak.  To encourage is to to earn the opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with those we may disagree withA harsh point made loses the opportunity for further discussion and speaks to a desire for no influence at all.  The apostle Paul said:

Col 4:6
6    Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

This type of speech is not easy when we are under attack.  Our emotions rise quickly.  Our warrior instinct swells to a point of battle readiness.  And yet it is at this moment, we risk the most.  When we are demonized we stand at a major crossroads.  We must remember this:

It means nothing for me to win a debate.  It means everything to earn the right to develop a relationship and become a difference maker in someones life.

For we are called to be Difference Makers!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The tough road of a conservative is...

If you are a person who believes in conservative values; financial, moral, Biblical, etc., then you probably know how difficult it is to voice the beliefs you cherish without a push back these days.  The road for a conservative today is looked upon like a dirt road surrounded by interstates - out of date and only used by those out of date themselves. This road is tough and it is not going to get smooth quickly.

The liberal bias in all branches of the media around the globe aid in the conservative struggle.  Love, compassion, intellect, and practicality seem to be captured only by liberals in our daily lives.  A simple mention of cutting spending, lowering taxes, abortion being murder, marriage between a man and women, no living together etc., will probably result in strange stares from people you work and attend school with.  The conservative values are easy to live out in this environment but are becoming increasingly difficult to share.  And we have only just begun!

How do you share the values you hold dear?  How do you promote these values to people who's lives are wreaking the consequences of their absence?  How do you share the values of your life with people intolerant of those very values?

It is no secret that our national media has long supported values and principles that are defined as liberal.  Yet today, our media is now joined by a growing young adult population, rapidly growing ethnic population, and locked in under 60 age population that share in their disdain for conservative values.  America has changed much!  We conservatives know we have poorly reached out to these other groups.  And when a reach did occur, we simply told history and our views.  We missed the opportunity to tell the conservative narrative with ties into peoples lives.  A truth and consequence if you will without the judgement present.  And this is the trap!

For conservative values to spread our approach of sharing must change.  Our current population is obtaining information quickly these days and from sources not norm to many aging conservatives.  When we jump into conversations with our values we must be sure of the illustrations being used and the statistics being quoted.  We must also understand the limits of usefulness to our stories and statistics.  People are not impressed.  There is a need for connection.  People long for a connection to be made before they will embrace or give thought to anything we share.  And connecting we have not done.  Conservative values are polar opposite what the vast number of people today have grown up with.  And as is so often the case, our methods of sharing are outdated and filled with little to draw people to contemplate and study.

Here are some simple things that will assist in sharing these values:

1.  Do not judge or be judgmental. 
2.  Listen much before speaking - you may learn more than you thought possible.
3.  Don't tell your story, connect with other peoples stories.
4.  Live what you share - people will see the difference and want to know more.
5.  Admit failures in the conservative journey.  Not all has worked perfectly.
6.  Know that many view you and your beliefs as hostile to their freedom of beliefs. 
7.  Kindness will get you further than preaching and arguing any day of the week.

These are just a few things that will help as you seek to share your values with others. 

In our next post we will discuss how to overcome being demonized. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Root of the Obvious American Problem

It is not wise for one to offer something as a sure fire answer to everything.  A know it all type person has little influence in the lives of others.  Much of the discussion these days relating to the vast changes occurring before our eyes in America fits this know it all baseline.  If not that, it most assuredly comes across as holier than thou to those listening and reading.  Yet ignored due to the preceding is the answer to the problem that we see and know is growing.  What is at the root of it?

I will offer two areas that I think will assist us in seeing the roots that are allowing all of this change to occur. 

First, we lost the battle on the homosexual issues by not understanding the homosexual agenda.  The agenda put forth was one of being recognized as a minority.  Since the late 1970's this idea has been allowed to fully develop without any challenge from those who differ.  More so, the silence from true minorities has been a booster shot to the homosexual movement.  By embracing the minorities, and the minorities embracing the homosexual agenda, the agenda has actually captured an apparent victory. 

To qualify as a minority, one must reproduce the same.  Homosexuals do not reproduce.  Homosexuals are NOT a minority.  They never have been and never will be, unless we change the definition of "minority"!  Had we simply begun the discussion, and continued it with this principle of fact, the influence of the agenda would have been severely held back.  We chose to argue and condemn and were thus easy targets to be labeled as hateful.  The influence of a behavior group would have been easily slowed had we kept the discussion here.  We should have been assisting the minority groups in their struggle while protecting them from this usurping.  We failed.

And yes, minority groups allowed this behavior agenda to steal the day and they have lost much as a result.

But something occurred inside many churches that equally allowed for the changing thoughts on sin and other things in America.  American churches became soapbox churches.  We have those who rally around the Bible and shout about people NOT living moral lives while we ignore the sin within.  We loved the shouting and failed to reach people with Jesus Christ.  We also have those that were/are determined to reach people and began to offer a more pragmatic form of teaching that led to little discipleship and an embracing of little moral truth.  These soapbox type churches are now a majority in America.  One may find it difficult to hear any clear teaching on the simple things of life, including human life, for fear of offending.  And when one finds truth, often it is wrapped in self righteous indignation and not in the power and love of the Holy Spirit.

The soapbox approach has developed due to one simple practice among us preachers. 

Most American Pastors have abandoned Expository Preaching and most Bible Study groups are more focused on felt needs!  We we fail to teach the Bible from cover to cover, verse by verse, and so we produce little in discipleship.  And what little is done, is extremely weak. I have found it amazing to teach through Genesis and discover the depth of truth about understanding creation and life that is so easy to see and equally applicable today.  I don't have to go off on a soapbox.  The Bible speaks for itself with grace and in love to all who will receive. And Genesis actually covers homosexuality!

And don't forget, the Bible even tells us the itching ears and the leaving behind of sound doctrine will occur as we approach the return of Jesus Christ.  We should not be so surprised that we are seeing it. 

We should also be quick to repent of the fact that we actually aided in the progression of such.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Great American Christian Question

The history of America is without honest question.  This nation was founded on Biblical principles.  From those principles God blessed and America grew beyond anyone's dreams.  The power of such growth resulted in an incredible world protector for liberty and religious freedom.  That was then!

What about now!

Christians in America need to answer this question quickly.  We must also pray and be determined to get the right answer.  For the right answer is our path from now forward.  We will find the right answer by looking at our past failures.  Yes, our past failures highlight the answer needed today.

We begin by admitting that we as American Christians have failed to understand that our primary purpose was and is to lead people to Jesus Christ.  Without Jesus, people are simply sinful people with NO hope for changing.  We have fought hard the culture war.  We have lost.  We lost because we were not focused on leading people to the one true God who could and will save them through Jesus Christ.  Our biggest failure as American Christians is found in that we did not reach the multitudes of people that God allowed to come to America.  We had it all set up to reach world!  We failed.  Without a changed heart, people will not adopt an ideology that is Christian based.  Our worldview will not make sense to them at all!  We tried via many methods while avoiding the one and only method that works - leading people to Jesus!  We begin to find our answer when we admit to this failure!

The absence of the power of the Holy Spirit evidenced in our lives is also a big failure!  American Christians learned to play at church.  We learned that real well.  We developed many of our systems and programs in our churches by copying the world.  The greatest one being Sunday School.  We copied the American education system.  We set up directors, had roll books, and some churches even use to ring the bell!  We established programs, and I do mean many programs.  We built our church schedules around the work culture of the 50's and 60's and we grew children's ministries/missions ministries for children right out of boy/girl scouts.  The club mentality anchored our approach.  For adults the same was true.  In all of this, the programs became the focus in place of the power of the Holy Spirit living in and working through our lives.  We taught for education sake.  We learned many facts but we failed to experience the power God via the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We were so focused on knowing about that we never realized we were not living in.  Again, we failed.

This led to neglect of some key Biblical disciplines.  In particular, fasting!  There are those few types of churches that practice this and have for years.  But many American Christians in our older age groups never were taught or led to develop fasting in their lives.  Without fasting there can be no power of the Holy Spirit.  Our lives were simply being lived through a mental ideology.  An ideology that requires the power of the Holy Spirit.

So caught up in our programs and structure we embraced a salesman approach to sharing the gospel.  We tweaked our services in some cases and in others demanded that we NOT change a thing.  Time was always our focus and comfort and familiarity followed in our priorities.  We began trying to attract people instead of sharing Jesus by living in Him.  It worked for a while - maybe, maybe not.  But soon we could not do enough to up what had already been done.  People caught on to our sales pitch and began tuning us out.  Again we failed.

People without Jesus began to see that those who professed to have him were not that much different.  In fact, often times Christians were worse.  We were mean, lacked compassion, ugly, holier than thou, and were more focused on we wanted and bragging about what we claimed to have, that people failed to see in us a compassion for them.  We were anything but passionate for people.  Love was not found for anyone, just for those we liked.  And the slide continued.  Only now, other religions and ideologies were being embraced.  And we could go on and on...!

So what is the answer?

1.  Know our purpose is to live obedient to the command of our Lord to lead people to Jesus!

2.  Know that we must fucus on living in the power of the Holy Spirit daily!  Without this power lives will not be changed.

3.  Know that following Biblical disciplines must become a priority.  Seek to learn these and apply them daily.  The power of the Holy Spirit depends upon it.

4.  Know that we love and thus show this love of people daily!  People come in all shapes and backgrounds.  We are to love them!  Period!

We begin with these four!  Until these four are evident, nothing else will matter!  It is only through these four that Revival will come!  And our greatest need right now is not political nor ideological. 

Our greatest need is REVIVAL!