Brighter Lights, Clearer Flaws

Where we walk will affect more than feelings. It will affect who we are.

 

I remember years ago I had finished a woodworking project. I had worked diligently on it, trying to make it appear perfect. When I applied the stain and the stuff to protect it, I thought I was finished and it would look great. I was wrong. When I placed it in my apartment at the time it a few days later, it was terrible. There were bubbles and what looked like particles of sawdust in the finish. There were problems with the wood itself that made my project look hideous. It was ruined, I thought. I wondered why I had not seen these flaws before.

My workshop was just a poorly lit area. There wasn’t a lot of light in the place. It had a one lightbulb in it. I thought I had plenty of light. But when I brought it into the well-lit living room, all the flaws I had not seen in the dark workshop were revealed. And when I started to inspect the project more closely with a flashlight, the flaws seemed to multiply.

I then realized then what has become a theological mantra for me. It has become a go-to counsel for Christians struggling with their sin. This truth is why we seem to sin more the closer we get to Christ.

What does a poorly lit workshop have to do with a maturing Christian’s struggles with sin?

Christians, Sin, and Light

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10 NASB

Too often we think that a we progress in our walk with Christ that we will reach a point of sinless perfection in this lifetime. Wesley called this perfection in love. He believed that a Christian could possibly reach sinless perfection in the present age. I don’t happen to share that position. But I do believe we can sin less even if we do not become sinless in this lifetime.

But what does this have to do with maturing Christian’s struggling with their sin?

As we mature in Christ, we do not necessarily sin more. We are more sensitive and aware of that sin. This is where we find our struggle with sin.

As we grow closer to Christ, we draw nearer to the God who is Light Himself. As a result, our flaws are more evident to us, but probably not as prevalent. They seem be multiplying , but in reality they are only seen better because the lighting is so much better.

If we really believe the verses I quoted above, as we become more sensitive and aware of our sin, we can be and will be cleansed of it as we walk in the light. We can never really know where we stumble if we always walk in the darkness. We need to shine a light to see where we need to change. The issue isn’t that we are sinning more in spite of our closer walk with Christ. The issue is that we are more aware of our sin when we see things more clearly.

Darkness or Light?

The relative darkness of my workshop hid the many errors in it. I couldn’t see them clearly and so I thought I had done a really good job with the sanding, constructing, and finishing it. I felt pretty good about my work of art. But the bright lights of my living room revealed many flaws, I became discourage and frustrated. I almost felt like just leaving the very flawed project in the dark where it looked better than in the light where it was much more useful. Ultimately I wanted to use the thing, so I added lights to my workshop and reworked it. I sanded, refinished the thing, improved my technique a bit in woodworking, and had a better project in the end. I didn’t want my handiwork being useless in the dark.

A Necessary Choice

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If we persist to walk in darkness, we will never become more like Christ. We may think we look better than others. And that thought probably makes us feel better about ourselves.

However, if we walk in the Light, our flaws are much more evident and the truth of our sin and incompleteness is evident. This fact probably makes us feel much less good about ourselves. But the Light reveals our flaws so that they can be corrected. We are God’s handiwork. He is working on us everyday. Part of that work is to reveal our weaknesses – reveal our sins. In that revelation, though, we can repent and go through the rework process known as progressive sanctification so that we become more like Him.

Decisions, decisions

The decision you and I need to make is this: where am I going to walk? Will it be where I feel better about myself – the dark – or will it be where I actually become better than before – in the Light. This is a tough choice but one we must make. We have not wiggle room. We are either going to walk in Light or in darkness.

Where we walk will affect more than feelings. It will affect who we are.

 

 

The Big Question

All the riches of heaven are mine. I am a co-heir with Christ. My future is secure. I need not worry about anything or anyone. God is asking me, “What do you want, Patrick?” God is asking you the same question. 

 

What would you do if God appeared to you and said “Ask me for anything at all. No lists, no restrictions. Ask for anything at all and I will give it to you.” Wow, talk about a tempting question! I wonder what my answer would be. What would be yours?

Would we ask for riches, stuff, glory, honor, or position? Would we ask for all those things? What would anyone ask given that situation?

We have a record of at least one man who was asked this question. We also have record of his answer, which may surprise you. Lets take a look at 1 Kings 3 and discover the real definition of being rich. Join me, won’t you?

In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” 1 Kings 3:5 NASB

Solomon was asked the question of the century – maybe of all time!  From verse 6 until verse 8 Solomon recounts how God had blessed him. Solomon speaks about how God has  blessed him. He recounted how God placed his father (David)on the drone and then how God placed David’s son (Solomon) on the throne. Solomon remembers how good God had already been to him. Finally, in verse 7 Solomon says “yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.” Solomon demonstrates maturity in this statement: he is self-aware and knows that he doesn’t know enough. Now look at how he answers in verse 9

So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? 1 Kings 3:9 NASB

What an amazing answer to such an open-ended question. Solomon didn’t ask for riches, power, or position. He asked for an understanding heart. Some understand this as Solomon asking for wisdom so he will be able to judge His people well. Truly this was a selfless act on Solomon’s part. What is incredible about this passage is when one reads this in Hebrew.

In Hebrew, Solomon asks for a Lev Shomeah –  a hearing heart.

He could have asked for anything and he asks to have a heart that hears. And it wan’t for his own fame or fortune he asked for this. Solomon asked for this kind of heart so that he could govern God’s people correctly. How refreshing this is, especially in today’s me first society.

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Often I wonder if I have a hearing heart. I wonder if I care enough to want a hearing heart. Ouch.

Life is much easier if we choose not to listen with our heart. If we just listen with the ears we have, its easy to dismiss the problems of others. It gets easier to dismiss the hurts other have is we hear only with our ears.

Hearing with my heart is difficult. It makes life much more complicated. I must struggle more if I hear with my heart.

I must actually care.

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All the riches of heaven are mine. I am a co-heir with Christ. My future is secure. I need not worry about anything or anyone. God is asking me, “What do you want, Patrick?” God is asking you the same question.

How you and I answer reveals much more than our desires of life. It reveals our motivations, our commitment, our Christlikeness.

When we answer this question, we need to think carefully about the answer we give. If we answer like Solomon, there are serious consequences. We place our heart eat risk of deep hurt because we will listen with it. If we decide to answer a different way, it too has serious consequences for our continued sanctification.

We cannot refuse to answer the question – What do YOU want?

 

As for me, despite the consequences, I want to choose…I must choose to have a hearing heart. So God with a trembling soul and a weak heart, I humbly ask that you give me, Your servant, a hearing heart so I can minister to Your chosen rightly, for who can do that unless empowered by You.

 

וְנָתַתָּ֨ לְעַבְדְּךָ֜ לֵ֤ב שֹׁמֵ֨עַ֙ לִשְׁפֹּ֣ט אֶֽת־עַמְּךָ֔ לְהָבִ֖ין בֵּֽין־טֹ֣וב לְרָ֑ע כִּ֣י מִ֤י יוּכַל֙ לִשְׁפֹּ֔ט אֶת־עַמְּךָ֥ הַכָּבֵ֖ד הַזֶּֽה׃

I’m already dead

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Only when I am free from the fear of dying can I really live and glorify God.

 

In August 1982 I began training to become a Marine. Having been raised in a family where being a Marine is a way of life, I thought becoming one would be easy. My dad had been a Drill Instructor in the Marine Corps, fought in Korea and Vietnam. His brother fought in Korea as a Marine. My older three brother had either served or were serving in the Marine Corps at the time of my enlistment. We are a Marine family. Becoming a Marine was anything but easy. Even though I thought I was prepared, I quickly realized that I was not. I graduated from recruit training and became a Marine. I learned quite a bit in boot camp. One thing I learned has direct application to my life as a Christian. Allow me to explain.

During one part of boot camp, we were simulating war time conditions. I had just completed what was called the infiltration course. I crawled over, under, and through various obstacles while explosions occurred near to me. There was the sound of gunfire and chaos all around. After my platoon had finished, one of our Drill Instructors decided we needed to have some extra instruction.

This Drill Instructor was a Recon Marine. Think a really mean and tough Marine. Anyway, he spoke to us about how to be successful in war. First, he said, a Marine is successful only if the mission is successful. An individual Marine’s part in the mission is inconsequential – the mission is what matters. Second, he said that for a Marine to be successful, he must lose his fear in battle. Third, he told us how to lose our fear in battle. He said “When you are going into combat, accept the fact that you are already dead. When you accept that you are already dead, your fear of death disappears and you can function with freedom, not worried about what is going to happen to you. Your only concern will be the success of the mission.”

Live as if I am already dead. Interesting.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 NASB

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This is the way we should be living as Christians. Accept the fact that we are already dead – already crucified with Christ – and live with genuine freedom. This is not easy to do. I know I have struggled – and continue to struggle – with this idea.

I worry about how I might do something that will prematurely end my life. But that is supremely wrong. This life I live, as Paul states in Galatians 2, is not my life but it is Christ’s life. He paid for me, He owns me. I am already dead, my body just hasn’t found out yet. If I ever get this truth through my head and my heart, I may fulfill my mission on earth.

But what is my mission? My mission in life is as simple as this: I am to glorify God in all I do, say, the way I live and, yes, in the way I die.

Far too often I live my life not as freely as I should but somehow unfree. Before I was married I hesitated to long for the appearing of Christ because I wanted to experience marriage. I wanted to love someone else and be loved by someone else. I really wanted that. Sadly, I wanted that more than I wanted to see Christ return in glory.

Since I’ve been married, I’ve wanted to see all my children receive Christ as Savior. I’ve want to see them grow up, get married, have children. I’ve want them to serve Christ but I want them to do it safely. I seem so bound to this life sometimes that I hate myself.

But in reflecting on the lessons learned in the Marine Corps Boot Camp back in 1982, I am reminded that I need to accept that I am already dead. Only when I am free from the fear of dying can I really live and glorify God.

Am I really willing to do accept that? Do I really desire to live only to glorify God, or do I desire something else in my life? How about you?

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I am not advocating that we Christians need to live recklessly. I’m not saying that we need to do crazy things in service to Christ. I’m not saying that we need to hasten our death in order to glorify God. I’m not saying that we should not have savings accounts, a 401k, or take prudent steps for work and life. But what I ma saying is the those things must be secondary things – not the primary things – that define life and success for us.

So what happens when we accept that we are already dead? What would I look like if I truly lived out Galatians 2:20?

We begin to live righteously

We need to live where our supreme ambition is to glorify God, not to glorify ourselves. Our primary investment of our time, talent, and treasure should be in the accomplishment of our mission – to bring glory to God – rather than to invest in Bitcoin or increase the size of our nest egg.

We live life out loud

We should never shrink from standing for what is right, regardless of the cost. We should never stoop tot he level of the unsaved just to get ahead. We should never try to get away with something because we think everybody does it. To live in freedom – to live righteously – is to live a life restrained from pleasing ourselves and retrained to please God. Man, I’ve got a ways to go. How about you?

We pursue God with abandon – righteous abandon

We run after God in every aspect of life. We no longer live by the checkbox but by the grace He has given us. We integrate our lives – we no longer have a spiritual life, but simply a life that is spiritual. We refuse to compromise on the essentials and give grace on the non-essentials of our faith. We love freely and freely accept love.

We become true disciples of Jesus Christ

When we accept that we are already dead, we become true disciples of Christ. We are able to listen to His voice better because we listen to other voices less. We act on what He commands because we fear the repercussions less. We are willing to both live and die for Him – for his glory – because we are already dead.

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As this year progresses, I want to remind myself of the lesson of Galatians 2:20 and from my Drill Instructor. I’m crucified already. I don’t live. Christ lives in me. He bought me, He owns me. I want to live with righteous abandon in servicing Him, never worrying about what I might miss. I want to live freely in the battle before me. After all, I’m already dead.

Now that I have accepted I’m already dead, I can finally live.

 

 

 

Running Below E

driving-on-empty-e1523064122524A friend of mine recently shared with me the story of her driving her car until her gas gauge was below E  – meaning it was below empty. She sent me a picture of her gas gauge (it is to the left). She said that when she finally filled her tank, it took 16 gallons of gas, which was the most gas she ever put into her tank.

We laughed about it and the what ifs about running out of gas. I remarked at one point that I always refill my gas when I get slightly below the 1/4 tank level. My friend replied something like But how do you know how far you can go if you don’t ever take it below empty?

I’ve never really thought that trying to run out of gas in my car was a good thing. I also have always thought that when the tank in getting close to empty – especially when the warning light comes on – it is a good idea to fill up. And then the inspiration for this article hit me.

How often do we run on empty or below empty spiritually? We may deny this happens but I think it happens…more than we want to admit. Do we even know when we need to refill our tanks, spiritually speaking? Or do we even know why we run on empty? I think I understand why we get to empty and why we tend to be there more than we should.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 NASB

Far too often we conform ourselves to the world. We pick up plenty of bad habits – in dress, attitudes, language – from the world around us. Perhaps the worst habit we pick up is the attitude of self-sufficiency.

Do not be conformed to this world…

Misinterpreting this command is really hard to do, yet we do it all the time. We conform to the world’s standards and expectations. We conform to the world’s views on social issues and, sadly, theological issues. We conform in the use of our time, talent, and treasure. We place more trust in Bitcoin that we do in Christ. What a sad state we find ourselves.

Our tendency to conform to this world is at the root of the problem of running on empty. We  wrongly believe that a five minute devotion is just as good as a good hour or so in deep study of God’s word. We convince ourselves that we can multitask our sanctification by listening to someone read the Bible instead of reading it ourselves. We deceive ourselves into believing that our little popcorn prayers – those inane little thought prayers we pop up to God as we think of them – is sufficient communication with out Father in heaven. We do all these things and are surprised that we lack any real power or sensed presence of God in our life. Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my. This should not be.

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…

This is an interesting part of this verse. The word transformed can be either in the middle voice or the passive voice. The middle voice is kind of an intensive active voice – I’m doing the action for my own interest or benefit. The passive voice is understood as I am the recipient of the action – someone is doing the action to me. Which voice is in view here depends on the interpreter in many cases. I like them both. Kind of.

If the middle voice is in view, then I am involved in the process of transformation. I’m reminded of the verse work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” That is found in Philippians 2:12. Chapter 2 of Philippians is exhorting us to be like Christ in all we do. If the middle voice is in view, I am to transform myself in my own interest with the result being that I become more like Christ.

If the passive voice is in view here, than I am receiving the transformation – probably through the agency of the Holy Spirit’s role in my progressive sanctification – and am not actively doing it. God is in the driver’s seat here, which suits my Sovereignty of God orientation.

But rather than quibble about which voice is in view, I’d rather focus on the rest of the verse

by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

My – and your – mind must be renewed. And this must be an ongoing action. Now this isn’t just for the sake of me getting better. Oh no, read the verse. It is so that I may prove – PROVE – what the will of God is. Imagine that.

How do I renew my mind? 

First, renewing the mind includes a steady diet of God’s Word. We are bombarded with the words of the world. We don’t spend near enough time battling the influence tis has on us. We need to bathe our mind in the ever-soothing salve of God’s word so that our battered soul may take refuge in Him.

Second, we must communicate with our Father. This means not only do we speak to Him, but we listen for His voice in our life. This takes time and is definitely what the world has in mind for us in the gotta-get-it-now culture. Our culture definitely creates an unworkable framework furor spiritual growth.

If we don’t listen to what our Father has to say to us – through His word, HIs Spirit in us, and HIs people around us – then we really are not communicating with Him.

Third, we need not only to serve others but receive service from others. We can refill ourselves by giving when we can and receiving when we need to receive. This promotes our community – the Church – to rely on each other.

Are you running on empty?

Have you run your tank to below the E on your spiritual life gauge? If you’re like me, you have done this more than once. You may be there right now. And you know what? Its OK to be there. You can do this every once in awhile. The important thing is not to stay below the E in your life.

May you prosper in the Lord in the coming weeks as you fill, use, refill, use, and refill again your spiritual tank all to the glory of God.

 

When Worlds Collide

381359main_planetImpact-full_full

What happens when two worlds collide? Usually sparks fly, stuff breaks, things shatter. It can be spectacular and ugly at the same time. It can inspire awe and seem revolting at the same time. This is especially true when we experience it in our lives.

God promises to change us to be more like Him as we walk this path of life. This is referred to in theological circles as progressive sanctification. We progressively change to be more like Christ as He works on us. This sanctification can be difficult and painful at times. Maybe it is painful all the time. I know this last round of sanctifying work of God in my life has been incredibly painful and challenging. My world’s are colliding and parts of me are breaking off, burning away. In many ways, the person I am is shattering with the promise being that the one who emerges from this will be more Christ-like.

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I have always been a very private person. I don’t readily share my deepest thoughts, fears, or regrets. I also don’t compliment others even when a compliment is appropriate. I am wrong and have to change. But I don’t want to change. Change hurts and I don’t like pain.

On the rare occasion that I do compliment someone, I try to make it as measured as I can. I rarely – if ever – say what I really think about someone for fear of being misunderstood or giving the wrong impression. I rarely talk about specific things when encouraging or complimenting others. I try to stay general in my observations, restrained in my words. I just don’t do encouragement or complimenting well. I’m private with those kinds of thoughts about others. But my world that wants to be extraordinarily private collided with another world recently – the one that wants to be extraordinarily encouraging to others. I really don’t know what to do about it either. Its really confusing.

I have purposed in my heart to be more encouraging to others and to compliment others when a compliment is appropriate. But as I have tried to put this into practice, I’ve struggled with it. When I try to encourage others – be they friends at work, my wife and family at home, or my Pastors at church – I encounter fears. Big fears.

I fear I will be misunderstood. I fear that I may say too many nice things. I fear I’ll stumble over my words and give the wrong impression. I think that maybe I should just keep my mouth shut – I’m just not good at this encouragement thing. I seem to mess it up every time I try. I try to always be accurate with what I say to encourage others. I try not to flatter them because empty flattery is insulting to the one its aimed at. But I do want to encourage others and compliment others when I believe a compliment is deserved. What is going on inside my soul!

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I am an insecure person. As far as I can remember I have been this way. My insecurity isn’t about just one thing either. It is about all of me – my appearance, my emotions, how I speak, and how I act…everything that makes me who I am. My sarcastic speech is my lame attempt to cover up my insecurities as a husband, father, brother, and friend. A really lame attempt at that.

I have wondered in the past if my my marriage would end one day. I worried about how I would mess up my family life. I’m thankful I have a wife and family as tolerant of me as they are. I certainly have received the better end of things with my wife and children. I’m still insecure about this though. I’m fearful that I’ll do something stupid that will wreck this great family God has given me.

Why do I do this? Why do I have these thoughts? I really don’t know. But I do know that their net effect is to inhibit me from doing the right thing. I know I should encourage other Christians. But I often don’t.

A recent conversation I had brought out many fears. It upsets me. And intrigues me. I’m really not sure what to do with what is bouncing around in my head right now. But I know God has brought this on me for my good. Maybe the collision of privacy loving Patrick is colliding with caring about others Patrick. Maybe God is sanding off some really rough edges and sparks are flying. I don’t know.

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My world’s are colliding – and it is disturbing, challenging, encouraging, and frightening. My faith and life, with all its responsibilities to my wife and family – and to my family in Christ, is colliding with my fears of vulnerability, transparency, and intimacy with other Christ followers. It is uncomfortable but necessary. I hate it but I love it. I’m conflicted and confused but never clearer in my goal.

I do know that the journey I call life is filled with challenges. I have challenges to my character and convictions. I have challenges to my way of thinking and doing. I have challenges to what I choose to believe and disbelieve. Challenges abound. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this latest set of fears and challenges, but I do know that God is in the business of sanctifying me. He is making me more like Him. To accomplish this old things must pass away. I have to be willing to change. But change, my friend, is scary.

So what will I do with my worlds colliding?

Maybe I’ll just ignore them. Maybe I’ll just make some sarcastic remark and move on without really dealing with them. Or maybe I’ll listen to them and believe them.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally face up to my fears and confront them, understand them, and have my faith in Christ conquer them. Being transparent and vulnerable is scary stuff.

I’m scared of what is going on in my heart and soul right now. But I think its time to have my faith collide with my fears. Sparks will fly. Pieces of me will be broken and destroyed.  I won’t be the same man  I was before my worlds collided. What will happen after all this is anyone’s guess but it is under God’s sovereign hand. What should I do? What will I do?

 

This is gonna hurt, but let my world’s collide and God’s sanctification of this fearful little servant continue.

 

 

 

 

We Need More Salt

The Church should be salt and light to the world – to both conservative and liberal political individuals. We should be salt and light to all around us, regardless of faith tradition, national origin, or language spoken. We should be a people sold out to the One who saved us – fully reliant on He who is sovereign over all. Rather than that, we seem all-too-cozy with he sovereign state of the United States of America rather than the Sovereign God of the Universe. Wow.

The Church – at least a decent-sized portion of it – overlook infidelity, crudeness, and vile speech as things to be excused rather than confronted. The reason? The person speaking them is supposedly “one of us”. We tolerate ranting and raving in 124 characters, demeaning comments inexcusable comments made about others, because the one who is typing them is supposedly “one of us”.  We have given up the moral high ground we once held. And out reward? Political influence, access, and power. We have traded the Gospel for a few pieces of government silver.

There was once a time where the Church held the moral high ground in America. There was a time when the Church stood for what is right, not for that is wrong. There was a time when the Church was salt and light to our government and our nation. Sadly, those days seems far behind us. We have sold out the Gospel for the filthy lucre of political power and inalienable rights. How sad. How very sad.

We engage on social media and in our pulpits on the virtue of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. We especially seem attracted to the Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear arms. We argue that we need weapons – any weapon – to protect us from government tyranny. We lament how those in the Stalin’s Soviet State and the Jews of Hitler’s Germany would have fared better if they had only kept their weapons. I’ve seen more comments about our right to bear arms this week than of Christ’s great sacrifice and resurrection. I read more this week about the Second Amendment than the Greatest Commandment. I just don’t know what to say to this group of professing believers.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-16 NASB

The Church should be salt and light to the world – to both conservative and liberal political individuals. We should be salt and light to all around us, regardless of faith tradition, national origin, or language spoken. We should be a people sold out to the One who saved us – fully reliant on He who is sovereign over all. We seem all-too-cozy with the sovereign state of the United States of America rather than the Sovereign God of the Universe. Wow.

Is our saltiness gone? Is our light gone? Scary questions indeed.

Our salt and light aren’t gone yet but I dare say we have some taste and the light is dimmer. I admit my part in this. I once thought that the best way to improve this country and, by extension, the world entire was through political means. I took the bait that if we just elect the right kind of person, things would improve. But that philosophy has failed…miserably. All we have to show for our marriage to the Republican Party is a seat at Caesar’s table. We seem indistinguishable from the rest seated there, looking for their portion of the government’s largess. Oh my.

Is the American form of Christianity a biblical form of Christianity? I really don’t know. But I do wonder. With our emphasis on outward trappings of power and success, one has reason to wonder. We should, as a peculiar people dedicated to the One True God, reflect on what we treasure, what we believe, and where we are. If we don’t do that, I fear that the Church will become just another social club. We will look good – but we will deny the power behind the Church. Our trust – our faith – will be in man, rather than in God.

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While this has been a difficult article to write, I think it is necessary. I truly believe the Church in America  – or at least a significant portion of it – has lost its way. We have lost the distinctiveness of being a Christian first, and an American later.

I don’t believe that every politically active Christian is a problem. I don’t think that every Christian who asserts the rights of a citizen of the United States is an apostate. But I do believe we have misplaced our priorities. Somehow we have associated the demands of the Gospel with the election to power of a particular party. And this is wrong.

I may be hammered for this article. I may get hate email and perhaps some comments on it that are less-than-flattering. But I just had to write this. I’m fed up with the politicization of the Gospel. I’m sick of hearing about how one political party is the godly party. I’m sick of how Jesus is cheapened by being a political tool of men for an election rather than the Savior of man for eternity.

The Church in America must repent. We must return to our first love – Jesus Christ. We must serve Him only. We need not lean on the laws of man rather than the Sovereignty of God for our ultimate protection.

The Church needs more salt.

Never Again

“I’ll never again be so short sighted to limit God’s use of me to one area.” 

 

I used to wonder if I would ever be a Pastor again. I don’t wonder anymore.

I believe with all my heart and soul that I will never be a Pastor again. I believe this not out of bitterness from events in my life but after understanding that God’s call on my life just doesn’t mesh with he popular idea of Pastor.

I’ve been a Pastor. I was a church-planting pastor. A bi-vocational church planting pastor. The little church we planted grew from four families to over 100 regular attenders each week. The growth wasn’t because I am so great in the pulpit. It was simply God blessing the preaching of His word. That little church was split and destroyed by my best friend at the time. I wonder sometimes where that little church would be if he would not have split and destroyed us…

Following the death of that little church I was bitter, angry, and confused. I wasn’t just angry and bitter toward my onetime best friend. I was angry at God. Not only did I feel like I had failed God, but felt that in some way God had failed me. After realizing how disgusting the thought that God had failed me was, I repented and tried to heal

I wondered if I could ever be used by God ever again. It was a very difficult time for my family. I trusted no one, valued no one, and contemplated suicide more than once during that period. It has been a difficult process but a needful one. During the process I have had many ups and downs. I harbored desires to be a Pastor again – to preach regularly.

We lost out church six years ago this July. I’ve mostly healed from that experience though I still struggle sometimes. I had hoped to stay preaching and have had some opportunities to preach here and there. I did my best to remain authentic and transparent in the pulpit. That got me some interesting emails and comments, but I tried to remain true to the person God has called me to be. But now, simply filling a pulpit that doesn’t seem to be in my future either. I haven’t preached in about two years (July 2016) and doubt that will happen again. So what happened?

God moved.

I followed.

Far too often we think that serving God after Seminary includes some sort of Pastoral ministry, professor, or other similar type of position. But I have come to the conclusion that type of thinking is exactly wrong. I’m convinced that as I follow God, more and wildly different opportunities will be presented to me. I doubt many of these opportunities will look like the traditional things I expected when graduating seminary. You know, things like graduate, become an associate pastor, youth pastor, or other type of pastor. These positions eventually lead to a Senior (Lead, Teaching, etc.) Pastor, then continued ascent up the church ladder by getting bigger and bigger churches to Pastor. I’ve come to reject this model. God can (and does) work in that way. But I think far too often we expect hime to work that way for everyone. And that is where we can really handicap ourselves.

So what am I going to do? I don’t know. All I know is that I am willing to do anything in service to Him. Whether that means being a traditional pastor (I don’t think so!), a pulpit filler, or continuing to write books, teach seminars,  or do something else, I am willing.

How about you? Are you willing to do anything for God’s glory or just some things?

I’ll never again limit my vision for what God has for me. Whatever that means for me and my family – wherever that takes us, we’ll go. I have no idea how this is going to play out, but I am convinced that it will play out to the glory of God. And I am pleased with that.

I’ll never again be so short sighted to limit God’s use of me to one area.

Never again.

Never again.