Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Recently, a popular, seeker-driven, mega-church pastor blogged that since Christians are spirit filled, we should do things better than Apple, better than Disney and better than Google. I fear that the seeker-driven model has led many to believe this same thing. It causes us to evaluate ourselves and our churches in a very pragmatic way. Success becomes defined by how many seats we fill, how much money we receive and in everything we do being more than the culture around us. By this standard, our music should be more entertaining, our books should be better written and our church service is judged on aesthetics and cultural relevancy. I don’t believe that comparisons to Apple, Disney and Google are valid. Our standard, our measuring stick is the Word of God. We can perform better than the culture and still be unbiblical. We are never guaranteed success by the world’s standard. However, we are promised that suffering and persecution are going to come to those who follow after Jesus. I am encouraged by the pastor of the small church, and the missionary who sees few converts, but both continue to be faithful to their call. Are they failures because their results are viewed as less than those of the world? I think not. We do need to be prepared to contend for the faith. We need to give our best effort for the cause of Christ, but we are not defined by the results. God is responsible for the results of our faithfulness. God’s strength is evident in our weaknesses. Many times we are not called to be the best, but the least. My fear is that the American church is moving toward pragmatism and away from biblical fidelity.

The answer to the question above is both yes and no. No one church can make a difference apart from the power of Christ. Yet, any church can make a difference when empowered by Christ. I look to start blogging more regularly again. My small church is going to be busy in the next year plus trying to make disciples of all nations. I hope to document not what we do, so much as what I see God doing through us. The journey will include trips to Thailand and the Northeast US. Also not forgetting good old Jasper Indiana, as we kick off Impact Jasper this summer.

I know this – God intends to reach all nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has chosen His people to proclaim this message. So, we may go forth in confidence knowing that no matter how difficult, some will be saved from every people group. He is powerful and mighty to save. I implore everyone, that where there are ears to hear, we would proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The work is not easy. The journey may be hard, but eternity is at stake for many. Stay tuned and may God by glorified in all that we do.

Why should I even go to church? This seems to be a popular question nowadays. There are so many critiques of the church that lead to this question, some warranted  and some not. The church is full of hypocrites is a complaint that is not new. I would not disagree with this comment, but I don’t see this leading to avoidance of church. If we avoided every place that was full of hypocrites, we would need to quit our jobs, avoid shopping and restaurants, and pretty much anything that involves people. We would end up living in a cave, isolated from the world while trying to deny our own hypocritical behavior. The church is flawed, but so are you and I. In the end, Christ died for believers and for His bride, the church. He saves a people, the church, who are flawed. The church does itself damage when portraying itself as anything other than flawed. We are a gathering of sinners, who have been bought by the blood of Christ. We are not known by our perfection, but by the love we have for one another (John 13:35). A flawed sinful people who love and forgive one another are contrary to the world.

The church is outdated, boring and unneeded. I can be a Christian without church. The church is just a man made institution. This is just a few excuses from a list that would be a mile long. All essentially ignore Hebrews 10:25 which tells us not to forsake gathering together. I think one of the problems is how many Christians view the church. The church has become a building we come to once a week. By many Christians, the church is no longer viewed as a local body of those saved by Christ, who disciple, love, care and sacrifice for one another. Church has become little more than a religious club to many. We join clubs based on the benefits and enjoyment that they bring us. I think many unfortunately view the church in the same way. What we see as a result are people who want to be a part of the club for the benefits, without having to assume any leadership or responsibilities. When the benefits are not as expected, they leave church behind. Or when some other club (church) offers better “benefits”, they jump ship to that church. If this is your view of the church, then it is very possible for you to see church and irrelevant and unnecessary. However, when we view the church from a proper perspective, it is vital and necessary in our Christian lives.

As you have probably figured, I am extremely concerned by the lack of importance of the church portrayed by many in the church. How can we hate or even view indifferently that which Christ died for – His bride? Being invested into a local church will never be easy, and many times will be messy. However, Christ has placed us together to care for one another. Jesus gave us the mission to go and make disciples of all nations. That can not be done alone, it can only be accomplished together with the church local and universal. They is only a limited amount of discipleship that we can get on our own or through online materials. There is an investment that takes place in each others daily lives, that can not be replicated by audio or video resources. My hope and prayer is to see a new generation of believers who see the church for what it is. When we begin to love the church the way Jesus loves the church, everything changes. We are no longer looking for our benefits, but are looking at how we may benefit others. The sacrifice of our time and resources is done joyfully. We have a desire to be around other believers on days other than Sunday. All the excuses go away, and we can’t believe that we ever lived apart from other believers. The church becomes a family bonded by the blood of Christ. I know because the excuses were once mine too.

Counterfeit Gospels is a look at the true Gospel in a world of false alternatives. Wax portrays the Gospel as a three-legged stool that collapses with any one element missing. He lists the three legs as the Gospel story, the Gospel announcement and the Gospel community. While I fully agree that the Gospel story and announcement are essential parts, I still came away not fully convinced of the points made about the Gospel community. I fully agree that Gospel community is a vital part of the Christian life, but I am not sure it is part of the Gospel itself. I still found this book very helpful even with the few points that I may disagree with.

What I found to be especially helpful was the focus on counterfeit gospels that are present today. Wax not only points out the counterfeits in this book, but he also shows why these counterfeits are attractive to us. So many of these counterfeits are present in our churches today. This book effectively counters the counterfeits. I also found it helpful to realize that the Gospel announcement of the life, death and resurrection of Christ is vital to be told in the context of the Gospel story. In a country where we can no longer assume a general knowledge of Christ, we must tell the story of creation, the fall and our sinful state before God. The Gospel announcement is not good news without the Gospel story. This is a book that I definitely would recommend.

“I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this
review.”

Torn is a book that talks about trusting God when life is hard. The book is split into two sections – trusting in God when torn & how to put the pieces back together. If we are honest, it is many times hard to trust in God when it feels as if He is not with us. The book reminds us that God is with us even in those times when it seems as if everything is falling apart. While our circumstances change, God’s character doesn’t. We can take comfort in being able to come to a God who is always there and never changing. When trying to put the pieces back together, Wilhite reminds of the importance of sharing our struggles with others.

For me most of the book was a helpful reminder of things I know, but seem to forget. However, the last chapter on learning to forgive was very helpful to me. It was one of those moments where God really used this chapter to show me an area that I needed to work on. I had just read in Matthew where it talks of leaving your sacrifice at the alter and leaving  to make amends with someone who has something against you. I picked up this book and the very next words were on what I had just read in Scripture. God used this to make me realize that I needed to forgive and not hold on to bitterness. I have had to left go of bitterness towards a biological father who left me behind and an ex-wife who I felt wronged me. I had held on to these things without ever realizing it. This chapter was a great help and guide for me. I would recommend this book.

I received this book free for review from Multnomah Books.

When I received this book from Bethany House to review, I was interested to see what it contained. Not being the type of book that I would normally read, I thought I would give it a try. I was very disappointed by what I found in the book. While mentioning God many times, the book was very man-centered. God seemed to been thrown in as an afterthought after all the practical advice had been given out. God is usually mentioned in vague generalities, with the name of Jesus hardly even being mentioned at all. This book seemed to be a Christianized version of Dr. Phil or Oprah. Basically, I found it to be a self help book with a Christian label thrown on it. No problem is as easy as following 6 simple steps. And any solution that lacks a Gospel centrality will be found lacking. The reality of life, death and resurrection of Jesus and how it pertains to our lives today must be central to any solution. If not we are simply treating the symptoms and not the problem. I hate to give bad reviews to books that mean well.  However, I found this book to be nothing more that current day evangelical, purpose driven, therapeutic moralism. And for that reason, I can’t recommend this book.

As I decided to read Desiring God Revised Edition by John Piper, I was not sure what to expect. This is considered by many a must read book of the modern era. I was greatly blessed by what I read. This book discusses how we are to be as happy as we possibly can in God. It goes into great detail to explain what exactly is what Piper terms a Christian hedonist. Piper then looks at how this applies to many different areas of our lives including worship, marriage, money, missions and many others.

Reading this book was monumental for someone as myself who has struggled to find joy in God at times. The phrase ‘that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him’ really struck home with me. The chapter on suffering was very encouraging and informative. As someone who always put sacrifice and suffering on the opposite end of the spectrum as joy, this chapter completely changed my heart and mind on this topic.  This chapter showed me how sacrifice is not the removing of joy from my life to please God, but how suffering and joy go hand in hand. For anyone who believes like I did that seeking joy was somehow worldly or wrong, every chapter in this book will challenge that view in one way or another. I am grateful that God placed this book in my hands at the perfect time in my life. I would recommend this book to all.

 

This book was provided free for review from Multnomah Books.