Thursday, June 27, 2013

Living in America - today! Part 1

There is a song from the old Rocky movies that I love.  I do not agree with the singer famous for singing the song, but this song leads into this series extremely well.  It is the James Brown song "Living In America".   For many, just the title triggers the words and music rolling through our brain.  At the end of the song, there is a dramatic closing that highlights the theme of the writers intent.  Sing it with me - "living in America...I feel good!"  I can just picture all you doing your best James Brown "I feel good!"  Scary picture indeed!

Today it is next to impossible from a patriotic standpoint to say that we "feel good" about America.  With multiple issues being magnified recently, no one can now doubt that America has changed greatly.  Fear, sadness, and frustration are the most common emotions expressed once this new reality is grasped.  And this new reality begs the question, "how are we Christians suppose to live in America today?"

I have more than hinted in this past on this blog that I think the best picture of how we Christians should live in the current American culture can be seen in the life of Daniel.  The story of Daniel has been taught in many Bible Study classes and groups for years.  The lions den and his unwillingness to bow to anyone but God are clearly etched in our minds.  Daniels story is a great one.  And yet there is more to the story than what we might think.

We begin by looking at:

His Commitment
Daniel was committed with all he had to God.  His commitment was much different than what we may understand it to be today.  When one reads of how God had brought him into favor with chief of the eunuchs in chapter 1, we see that Daniel was respectful and always seeking to help those around him learn.  His commitment was not for dogma, but for the sharing of the awesomeness of God.  Instead of demanding, Daniel was willing to be tested so that proof of God and His glory would be revealed.  How was this possible?  Chapter 1 reveals in verse 8 that he had PURPOSED in his HEART to NOT defile himself.  The commitment of Daniel was more than a mental decision.  The decision that Daniel had made was more than convenience and self rights.  Daniel looked within his life and had made the decision that God was his God.  He was determined to be used in whatever way God would choose.  The commitment of Daniel began with his own surrendering of his life to God in his heart.

Applying Daniels Commitment
Many in our nation today have experienced commitment from the background of mere convenience.  Just as America has slowly changed over the years, the idea of what a commitment looks like has also changed.  It is extremely difficult for us to realize what it means to get to the core of our commitment.  Priorities are numerous.  But what priority is at the top of our list.  This is where we must begin.  For Daniel, it was God.  For us, only each one can answer.  Can we say that God is number 1 on our priority list?  And if we say that, what does it look like?  We like to add the word "but" when discussing our priorities.  We will say something is number 1- BUT then will give importance to several other things at the same time.

Getting to the core of God being our priority in every aspect of life cannot be over stated.  Understanding the depth of making that decision is vital.  For once we determine as Daniel did, we will never have to make that decision again.  It is a decision that helps in making other decisions down the road.  As it was for Daniel, it will be settled once and for all in our lives.  Only in making this decision is God then allowed to do His best work in our lives.

The results in Chapter 1 for Daniel spread beyond himself to those who were also willing to follow his lead.  The first test of food resulted in Daniel and his men being found 10 times better than others who had eaten more completely.  Daniel and his men sacrificed so that God and God alone could get all the glory in what would occur.  Daniels commitment led him to put God to the test.

This is no small example of commitment.  The life lesson from Daniel Chapter 1 reveals struggle and risk.  Faithfulness and trust were immediately required.  And do not overlook that Daniels commitment is highlighted by sacrifice.  Commitment is not as easy as we Americans have been conditioned to think.  Biblical commitment is tough!

Can we make Daniels type of commitment today?  God says yes.  The question for each one of us is will we?

Our commitment cannot be made to a way of life.  Nothing Biblically nor nationally can guarantee a way of life.  Our commitment can only have as the object the person of God!  His glory and His glory alone must be the basis and focus of our commitment.

It was for Daniel, will it be for us?

Part 2 will deal with Daniels self marketing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DOMA Gone - What does it mean?

Today the Supreme Court of America in a 5-4 decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.  And the Supreme Court decided the defense of Prop 8 had NO standing in California.  As the homosexual community celebrates, Christians must wake up and realize that America has indeed changed.

Religious Liberty is officially under attack!

Here are some questions that highlight this new day and the dangers therein:

1.  If churches deny marriage ceremonies to homosexual couples - what will the Government do?

2.  If a Pastor refuses to marry a homosexual couple - what will the Government do?

3.  If a church continues to preach and teach the Bible and what it says about homosexuality - what will the Government do?

And if that is not enough:

4.  If the Government says churches cannot discriminate against homosexuality - what will the churches do?

5.  If the Government says a Pastor must marry heterosexuals and homosexuals - will Pastors still participate in the marriage ceremonies?

6.  If the Government says the Bible cannot be taught where it deals with homosexuality - what will churches, Pastors, and people of faith do?

These questions are no longer hypothetical.  These questions today became real for Christians in America.

And by the way, it is not the fault of the Supreme Court of our President.  It is we Christians who have sat idle in our clubs excusing ourselves from witnessing for way too many years!  And when we did teach, we did so in such a weak manner that few learned much of anything!

We will now see what all of this means.  When will we wake up?

It is time we realize that our only path now in America is the path that Daniel lived within 2 evil forms of Government.  In both, he rose to power and even more importantly, he was respected.  Our conduct, words, actions, and ministry will now be under a microscope.

All is not lost!  God is still on the throne and we have NO excuses in realizing that Christianity must be busy about reaching people.  We must leave our club mentality at the altar and get out in the communities serving and sharing.  We must care and love!

We must be Christians!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sharing Your Faith - Simple and Profound

Today's America reveals that Christians seldom share their faith in Jesus Christ outside of church circles.  In fact, the truth is that often in the functions and activities of the church, little is shared by anyone except key figures.  We hear of preaching to the nations but we hear little of sharing to the individuals we meet and interact with on a daily basis. 

We have retreated as Christians into our safe cocoons.  In ministry and life we only want the "Christian" brand and scene.  We have Christian schools, sports teams, hangouts, etc..  I asked a question in our Bible Study group yesterday that gets to the heart of this - how many non believers do you know and interact with in your life?  I remember growing up and attending public school that I was around many.  In public school I had teachers who were Christians.  They shared and cared and taught.  Yes there were a few that were not believers.  Yet there was a respect present.  During pewee football, we would load the guys up after practice and go to our church Revival meetings.  Most of the team was happy to go. 

Today, we discover the shelter approach being implemented by parents.  We talk about protecting.  We emphasis fear from evil influences.  We have withdrawn from the public and thus, rarely except within family do we find anyone that we have close relationships with that provide opportunity for sharing the Gospel.  We talk about events at church that we hope will attract people.  But we do not share Jesus with those we do not want to be involved in our lives.  One could rightly say that we have adopted a "cult like" attitude towards our faith and lives.  But not totally!  For in our version, we are NOT as faithful to our beliefs and to God as the cults are to theirs.  We miss worship and Bible Study for any reason.  We put things before God that cult members would never put before their beliefs.

We have forgotten the role that God placed us in here on earth - we are missionaries.  We have a calling to reach people!  Yes, we have a calling to preach to the nations also.  But our simple beginning starts with GO and share Jesus with all people!  We can send money for special projects and do offerings to support missionaries serving around the world but we are to also BE missionaries.  We are to care that people who die without Jesus go to Hell. it should disturb us that our lack of sharing has led to such an increase in people who have not seen a Bible nor have heard that Jesus died for them.  Why is there no remorse and sadness?

We are quick to tell people how to live and yet we are selective in whom we desire to attend church with.  It is easier for us to promote our soapboxes and feel good projects than it is to reach a world that needs Jesus.  Lives all around are falling apart.  People are experiencing things that many of us have never had to deal with.  Children are growing up in homes where the normal roles of parents are corrupted and the lack of love and interest from parents to their children screams from every direction.  And we as Christians just sit in our cocoons safe and feeling good.  We point out the evil.  We are good at that.  We attack politicians as if they really could or would do anything that could fix our issues.  But we keep Jesus to ourselves.  As Christians we only seek to practice the parts of the Bible that we like.  We are as selective with our faith as we are with sharing Jesus.  We create man made systems of theology that excuse our sharing and we seek churches that only emphasis the certain things we like to attend. 

Sharing our faith is simple!  The only requirement needed is obedience to God.  He promises that if we will be faithful, He will save!  The Gospel is profound!  The fact that someone loves us - period!  The fact that someone died for us!  The fact that we can avoid Hell!  The fact that God has given us a guide book that fits our lives no matter where we come from and answers our most difficult questions!  The fact that anyone can receive Jesus!  Profound may be to small of a word!  The Gospel goes beyond our understanding.  The Gospel is freeing!  The Gospel is life giving!  The Gospel is AWESOME!

So can we answer why do we not share it and live it?