There are only two options that matter in life. The one you choose will determine everything. Listen to discover the answer. Click here for more.
Why should I keep living when life hurts so much? A question many people ask, yet too few find the answer. Listen to discover the answer. Click here for more.
The church in the West is undergoing rapid change. We are shifting from an Enlightenment worldview to a Post-modern philosophy. The positive side of change is a stripping away of cultural encumbrance that has kept us from fulfilling the Gospel. The downside of our current transformation, is that we are all-too-often exchanging one cultural norm for another. One form of church is torn down, only to be replaced by a newer more culturally acceptable form. One set of political mores, is replaced by another.
One example of transformation comes under the rubric of Social Justice (ie. poverty, homelessness, AIDS, etc…). In serving the needs of the world, one of the key purposes of the Church–Evangelization of the lost–has been replace with the purpose to befriending the lost. The call to demonstrate the mature love of Christ has been supplanted by a childlike fascination with wordly-compassion.
Tokunboh Adeyemo writes a salient response from an African perspective in this article entitled, “Contemporary Issues in Africa and the Future of Evangelicals”
To the world, the Church has the responsibility of witnessing for Christ and discipling the nations (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19). This does not preclude works of charily which are an intrinsic part of the good news. However, caution needs to be exercised in this area. The Church is not an organisation for social and political asylum, nor are we to use divine resources to bribe people into God’s kingdom. Since the Church is in the world but not of the world, she should not be indifferent to the social, political, and economic struggles of mankind; neither should she sacrifice her ambassadorial function at the altar of social involvement. Our Lord Jesus Christ liberates the total man: the material and the non-material. Thus he says: ‘If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, you shall be free indeed’ (John 8:36). The Biblical sequence begins with an internal spiritual regeneration and reconciliation of man to God, manifesting itself in an external physical transformation and reconciliation of man to man in society. The task of the Church therefore is to confront (not maintain dialogue with) the world with the claims of Christ as deposited in the Bible. This mission, central to the heart of God, his Son, and the apostles, must be the mission of evangelicals to the world. The New Testament Church was a missionary Church; and so must be ours. We must go forth (i) with a thorough-going Biblicism which does justice to the claims of the Scriptures, and (ii) with a Biblicism that is both contemporary and relevant.
* World Evangelical Fellowship. Theological Commission., vol. 2, Evangelical Review of Theology : Volume 2, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Evangelical Review of Theology (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Periodicals, 2000, 1978), 12.
Does the love of Christ include tangible expressions of kindness? Yes! But, our mission is more than alleviating the temporal pains of this world. We, the followers of Jesus, have a greater call to give the world a hope beyond the ‘now’. We are ambassadors of God’s Kingdom to this passing world and we must live accordingly.
Lest we forget…
Thirst is not quenched by micro-loans for building wells, but by the eternal wellspring of the Spirit.
Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again. 14 But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14))”
The hunger for meaning is not satisfied by wheat–bread, but through Jesus–bread.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe…
50 This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 Then the Jews who were hostile to Jesus began to argue with one another, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him (John 6:35-36; 50-56).
The longing for love is not fulfilled in giving trinkets and bobbles, but in the person of God who IS love.
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. 8 The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. 10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
11 Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:7-14).
I know how some folks will respond, “this kind of faith is not practical.” But therein lies the problem.–Faith in the West is impotent. The power of Christ, through His Spirit, to transform the world has been entrusted to preachers, politicians and pop-stars. The church must not give Her grand place in the Kingdom to become the Sugar-Daddy to the world. Do we really believe it? Are we able to live it!
This is not the typical content for my blog, but I put this short video together and thought I would share it anyway.
Vontaze Burfict of the Cincinnati Bengals proves time and again he is one of the dirtiest players in the NFL for cheap shots, targeting and seeking to injure and cripple other players.
Video shows his dirty hits on Ryan Katz (OSU), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Antonio Brown (Steelers), Cam Newton (Panthers), Greg Olsen (Panthers), Maxx Williams (Ravens), etc…
Jesus, the undocumented worker, returned home to Mexico from living in America. His family said to him, “Jesus, why have you returned home from America?”
“it is difficult to understand” he said, “so let me tell you a story.
The kingdom of America may be compared to a Government who wished to settle accounts with a Mortgage Lender. When the Government had begun to settle accounts, one Mortgage Lender ,which owed 700 Billion dollars, was brought to account. But since the Mortgage Lender did not have the means to pay his bad debts, the Government simply printed up more money and gave it to the Mortgage Lender so he would not be ruined.
Later, that same Mortgage Lender, now bailed out from his 700 Billion in bad debts, went out and found a homeowner who owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Mortgage Lender seized the homeowner and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ So the homeowner fell to the ground and began to plead with the Mortgage Lender, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But the Mortgage Lender wanted his money and he took the homeowner’s property and forced him into bankruptcy.
So when his fellow homeowners saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their Government all that had happened.
Then summoning the Mortgage Lender, the Government said to him, ‘You wicked Mortgage Lender, I gave you 700 Billion to pay all your bad debt, should you not also have had mercy on the homeowners, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’
And the Mortgage Lender contributed many thousands of dollars into the coffers of the Government and contributed to the campaign funds of the many politicians and the Government was happy.
The homeowners were grieved, but still they elected the same leaders again and again…”
If you watch the news, you would think Christmas is one of the most controversial or despised holidays, but in truth the majority of Americans love to celebrate this tradition. According to Pew Research, 9 in 10 Americans celebrate Christmas; nones, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians in significant numbers all take time each year to commemorate this national holiday.
Christmas is not just a personal celebration; it is a time for family and community to come together. It is a public festival where individual homes and entire neighborhoods post elaborate displays, almost 75% of Americans are open to Christmas decorations on Government property and over 80% find gift-giving brings them joy.
But more important than embracing social conventions and public traditions, is what Americans believe about the historical nature of Christmas. The graphic below indicated that the majority of Americans accept the historical accuracy of key aspects in the biblical account; Jesus laid in a manger, wise men guided by a star, angels announcing the birth and Jesus born of a virgin. In fact, only a tiny percent of people reject all of these key elements.
But celebrating these holy days is not enough… knowing and accepting these historical facts is not enough. Christmas must be for us truth in action. A real life illustration may help us connect these Christmas dots.
In these past few years, studies have suggested that some Christians, like heavy metal Christian rock star Tim Lambesis, have walked away from their faith. For some, the facade of faith is just a means to commercial success or social acceptance. There are certainly a complexity of reasons why some these people rejected their Faith, but one Christian turned atheist explained his reason for walking away stemmed from a disconnect between beliefs and action. Years after turning away from God, and then turning back to God, Mike McHargue observed,
When you lose God through rational analysis, you contemplate life from a materialistic philosophy. This perspective shows you that man’s ideas about God are flawed. I believe again, but I also believe no church sect has figured out the Great Mystery. I have doctrinal beliefs, but I know some of them may be wrong. I just don’t know which ones.
In the midst of emotional conflict, McHargue abandoned the hope of God made certain in the Bible, rejected the materialism of Atheism, and eventually embraced a new faith; a ‘Faith of Confusion.’ McHargue’s new faith begins within himself and is rooted in the unshakable confidence of his own uncertainty. He concludes in his article,
Atheism doesn’t pretend to have answers to every question. Losing God changed me. I no longer feel like I have to have answers to all the questions we face in life. I’m happy to look for an answer without finding one, and I’m comfortable with uncertainty. My faith is an act of simple trust now.
What I know is less important than what I do. Knowing Jesus is not an abstract set of information or a construct of dogma. Being a Christian comes down to the simple of act of dropping my nets when I hear the words, “Come, follow me.”
In short, McHargue argues that the truth which undergirds his beliefs doesn’t matter as long as he takes action on what he believes today.
So what does all this have to do with Christmas?
McHargue’s faith journey is a microcosm of how Americans celebrate Christmas. Like McHargue, many Christians have made one of two mistakes.
- We have either concluded that the truth of Christmas means so much that all tradition must be rejected or…
- that the truth of Christmas is irrelevant as long as we enjoy the traditions.
Both approaches lead to error and ignore a third approach where Christianity is equally both truth and action; Faith is both doctrine and praxis. We cannot have a lasting Faith that diminishes the value of truth for the sake of action, or action for the sake of truth (James 2:17). In relating this to Christmas, it is a season where both truth and tradition matter. Insofar as “tradition” reflects the necessary action that corresponds to the truth of Jesus Christ, we can make two important statements.
First, the truth of Christmas matters. The Bible does not give a smorgasbord of events where we pick and chose the ones we like and reject the ones we find uncomfortable. From the miracle of Jesus’ first incarnation and the promise of His second; and all that lies between, accepting the historical truth of Scripture is the necessary foundation of our Faith.
Second, the tradition of Christmas matters. By tradition, I do not necessarily mean the specific practice of decorating trees or giving gifts (although these are fine ways to commemorate the day). By tradition, I refer the larger practice of the Church setting aside a season to celebrate the first incarnation of Christ and finding ways to demonstrate that truth by reaching to the world.
Christmas is, and must be, truth in action.
For God, Christmas is the truth of His love demonstrated in the condescension of his Son Jesus to take on human flesh so He might bring reconciliation to mankind (John 3:16; Phil. 2:6). For the Christian, Christmas must be the truth of Jesus as our savior manifest in our love to the people we meet each day; a tangible love that points people to the truth that gives us hope.
Christmas without truth ceases to be Christmas. Christmas without action ceases to be Christmas. Christmas is truth in action.