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Post-Christian: Leaving Faith Behind


Malachi 1 & 2

Malachi is a minor prophet. Minor doesn’t mean insignificant. It means short. Minor prophet. Major message.

For more than 2000 years the Christian faith has influenced art, culture, government, economics and science. For a thousand years the church was the storehouse of knowledge, the stimulus for original thought and on the cutting edge of art and academics. We still experience the effect today. Hospitals bear the names of saints and denominations: St. John’s and St. Francis, Baptist and Presbyterian. These centers for science and healing find their foundation in the church. Many of our Ivey League Universities began as seminaries. The culture and traditions you live in, regardless of your belief or practice of faith, would be vastly different if not for the effects of Christianity. I believe the world is better for it.

But that’s not a popular thought today. We live in a world that is increasingly post-Christian. Faith is viewed as the enemy of science. Some circles consider faith a childish crutch for the ignorant and uneducated rather than the foundation of every other intellectual discipline. The sins of Christian culture and history, of which there are many, are amplified while the good that has been done is ignored or attributed to some other source.

Interestingly enough, this is nothing new. Malachi addresses the Old Testament, Jewish version of this very thing.

Listen to Malachi 1:2, “I have always loved you,” says the Lord. But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?”

The level of insolence of the children of Israel is remarkable. But it’s a level of insolence we experience everyday. It happens so often we’ve almost gotten used to it. Our nation is blessed. We’ve experienced the favor of God like no other nation in the history of the world. Yet when the gospel is preached, when truth is presented, when God is discussed our national response, “Really? How have you loved us?”

Our problem is simple. We want to blame our failures on God and our successes on our own rugged self-determination. We may choose to ‘worship God’, but like the children of Israel in Malachi 1 we do it on our own terms rather than on God’s terms. We offer up lame or stolen sacrifices. We shape our worship to reinforce what we think rather than what God wants. You see God’s response in Malachi 1:10, ““How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered!” In other words, God would rather see churches shut down than see people falsely worship him. And we’re seeing that happen today. The influence of the church is waning. People of the Christian faith are being marginalized.

Chapter 2 reveals why. It’s not simply because of the wickedness of non-Believers. They’re non-Believers. Wicked or not we should expect them to doubt the faith, deny it’s significance and work to minimize the influence of the church. Malachi identifies the problem. He says it’s the people in the church.

Malachi 2:2, “Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies…” He’s talking to the priests. He’s talking to the children of Israel.

Remarkably, in chapter one he says that there are non-Jewish people who worship him more purely than his chosen people. I see that today. There are people, disconnected from the church, who worship God more admirably than many who are in church every time the doors are open.

Malachi 2:2 offers the challenge and the solution. Listen to God. Honor his name.

That’s about coming to God on HIS terms. It’s about offering to God what he wants rather than what’s convenient for you. It’s about giving more than you think you can afford and trusting God to provide. It’s about surrender and submission. It’s about knowing his word and his will so well that you can actually live by them. It’s about recognizing the amazing number of ways God has expressed his love for you.

Regardless of our culture we can listen to God and honor him. What will you do today?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the many ways you have expressed your love for me. I am remarkably blessed. May I never forget it. Today I hope to recognize and remember even more ways you have demonstrated your love for me. I want to worship you in the way you choose. I want to hear your voice and honor you.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Christian First World Problems


First World Problems2 Timothy

SCRIPTURE

2 Timothy 2:10, “So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.” (NLT)

OBSERVATION

You may be familiar with this, perhaps not. Third World countries experience poverty on a level that’s difficult for us to imagine. We live in a First World country. By Third World standards even our poor are quite wealthy. Our friends at WaterIsLife.com produced a video about first world problems, take a look.

The idea isn’t to make people like me and you feel guilty over the things we have, but to help us recognize how remarkably blessed we are. We are so blessed that our complaints and problems sound petty compared to the life threatening challenges of clean water, sustainable food sources and severe medical needs faced by Third World populations.

The Bible tells us that too whom much is given, much is required. If you’re reading this blog, you have been given much. How will you give out of the abundance of what God has given you? That’s not really a money question. It can be, but you have so much more to offer than just money.

Christianity has it’s own set of First World problems. 2 Timothy 2 talks about some of them. Paul repeatedly tells Timothy not to get involved in foolish arguments. He tells Timothy to remind people to stop fighting over words. It’s easy to see Believers today side-tracked by the Christian equivalent of First World problems.

Insert your choice of words here:

  • The music at church is too…(loud, quiet, traditional, contemporary, inauthentic, unprofessional).
  • The preacher at my church preaches…(too long, too short, too deep, too shallow, without enough meat, without enough application, without enough stories, with too many stories).
  • I could never share the gospel with them they…(would be offended, might think I’m weird, would never believe that really matters to me, would hold me to a higher standard).
  • I’m switching churches because my kids…(don’t connect here, like the program over there, need more personal attention, need a larger group with more activities).
  • I’m thinking about going somewhere else because my church changed…(locations, Sunday School, Small Groups, Sunday night services, visitation, the free coffee they serve on Sunday morning).

To be honest, none of these ideas are inherently wicked. We have a responsibility to carefully consider the group of people God intends for us to grow with, be accountable to and partner with in ministry. We should be diligent to make certain our practice of faith in the church we attend closely aligns with the principles of Scripture. That said, too often these are the comfortable problems debated by people privileged enough to have the time, energy and resources to argue about why my preferences are better than yours. These first world Christian problems lead to broken relationships, declining church influence and the splintered strength of the body of Christ.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:10, “So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.”

APPLICATION

What are you willing to endure in order to share the gospel? What first world christian problems do you vainly cling to? Have you willingly abandoned significant relationships with family, friends or your church family because you cherish your preferences more?

It’s amazing how on the mission field, in countries closed to the gospel, these first world Christian problems simply don’t seem that significant after all.

What are you willing to endure in order to share the gospel?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

I am tremendously blessed. Show me what and how to give to others out of the abundance of what you have given me. When I’m tempted to fight to get my way give me the discernment to know the difference between Biblical principle and my personal preferences. I want to fight for Biblical principle. I want to fight to keep strong and healthy relationships with my family, friends and church family. Help me to willingly lay aside my preferences in order to keep my relationships strong. Give me the strength and courage to willingly endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

A Different Kind of Death

Galatians 2:20

I know. Macabre topic, but stick with me. Did you ever play the game, ‘Would you rather?

Seems like that game always follows the same trajectory. It starts silly, gets gross, then turns dark. Would you rather kiss this girl or that one? Would you rather eat a live stink bug or drink motor oil? When you die, would you rather burn or drown?

The last question is dark, but interesting. If history shows us anything it’s that there’s more ways to die than one could possibly imagine. History is also clear that death comes for us all. Welcome to Tuesday’s happy post. Aren’t you glad you tuned in!?

The whole game is absurd, really, but isn’t that the point? Who wants to choose the lesser of two horrible ways to die? Who wants to choose death at all?

That’s the irony of the Christian life. Christianity is the story of a death that leads to life. Jesus willingly lays down his life as payment for the penalty of your sin and mine. As this new life in Christ comes alive in us our old, self destructive habits are removed and replaced. It’s a different kind of death. Not the lesser of two bad choices, but a death that leads to life that leads to victory over that which is killing us in the first place, killing us from the inside out.

Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” What temptation weighs you down? What sin holds you back? What tragedy keeps you from moving forward? Today, choose a different kind of death and find life.

 

A Comfortable Scandal – Teaching

The world loves a good scandal. Crazy people at WalMart are beating each other up over $2 waffle irons. Evangelistic Atheist, Christopher Hitchens, and wildcard Korean leader, Kim Jong Il passed away, both finally experiencing with definitive certainty the eternal answer to questions they so cleverly denied. Perhaps Kim Jong Sun will lead with greater wisdom. Either way –

Scandalous new travels fast!

There’s a comfortable scandal that takes place everyday in the hearts of Believers. There’s a subtle line of obedience we simply aren’t willing to cross. We hear what Jesus has to say. We agree in spirit and nod our heads in affirmation until we realize He’s talking about us. That’s where the scandal lies. We follow Jesus until He asks us to do something seemingly difficult, counter-cultural, or just plain inconvenient. This isn’t new. John 6:66 tells us it happened during Jesus time as well. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with him no more.” They came to the line they simply weren’t willing to cross. Scandalous…

There are 4 reasons why we walk away. And 4 ways to take the leap of faith Jesus asks us to make when He challenges us to do the difficult, impractical or inconvenient. Most everyone has drawn a line that says, “Jesus, I’m willing to follow you this far, but no farther.” I wonder, as you consider these 4 things how you might redraw your line.

4 Scandalous Distractions that Set the Limits of Our Faith

  1. Temptation – read more >
  2. Trials – read more >
  3. Teaching
  4. Transitions

Today – let’s focus on Teaching.

TEACHING – Most people don’t say it out loud, but it’s true. Some of the things the Bible teaches come across as difficult, strange or down-right impossible to do. Jesus tells the crowd to ‘eat his flesh and drink his blood’. We’re commanded to ‘love our enemies’. We’re told to forgive and help those who spitefully use us. We may like the sound of what we hear, but the practicality of actually living these words sometimes gets complicated. We draw the line and walk away, just like the disciples of John 6:66OBEDIENCE is really the only real way to handle the more difficult teachings of Scripture. We may not always like it or understand it, but God knows best. His ways are pure and right. As everyone left Jesus he turned to those closest to Him, His 12 Disciples, and said, “Are you going to leave me too?” Peter gives a remarkable response. He says, “Where would we go? You have the words of life. We have come to know and believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” In those moment when our faith is tested because of difficult teaching we need to obey; not out of obligation, logic or reason; not because some preacher said you had too; not because obedience will make God love us more – it doesn’t – but because Jesus has the words of life.

There’s more to this story – especially when considering the arguments of brilliant men like Christopher Hitchens or the agressive dismissiveness of someone like Kim Jong Il. My mom used to say, “Whether or not you believe in the spiritual reality behind the principles taught in Scripture your life and relationships will be measurably better if you live by what it says.” I’ve found this to be true. I may not always like what I read. There may be parts I find difficult to understand or accomplish. But one way or the other, in the simple, yet profound words of Scripture, I find life.