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Wednesday
Apr232014

The Standards Revisited

I love when the church shines with the standards of what the gospel requires. A friend of mine who is an elder in a church in Las Vegas shared with me how their church in the midst of the gambling, prostitution, and drug trade had an overwhelming response on Easter with decisions for Christ and baptisms. To me, that is the gold standard of the gospel. You are in the thick of darkness, yet your light is not dimmed,it shines even more brightly.  

I admit, I do write quite often about how the church has put a dimmer on it's light, and puts a mood on its message that they think will be more appealing to the crowd. In most cases, the mood alternative does not make the message of the gospel more appealing, nor does it make disciples.  

The standards of the gospel in recent years has taken on a cryptic nature of trying to be more relevant than honest. We try to mask our intentions with savory stories, and self help methods of ministry that we think may create a hunger for what our real intent is in introducing Christ. In the past C.S.Lewis was very successful in writing a cryptic story of a Lion and a Wardrobe that illustrated the story of Christ. There may even be many other successful stories like The Chronicles of Narnia that get the message of Christ across to an audience in a cryptic fashion, but most fail at it miserably. Here is why I believe we need to re-evaluate the standards of the gospel.

Romans 5:20

20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

Sin and the darkness it creates, does not know boundaries, sin has a limitless appetite for human destruction, and the only way to defeat it's aggressive behavior is to met it head on with the truth of the gospel.  When we water down the enemy of sin by not exposing it, or telling the truth about the effects of sin, we are not operating within the standards of the gospel. These are desperate times, and society is forming the patterns for what the world will eventually evolve into which will be a dark and evil place. Let me illustrate

1. Good will no longer have a definition, it will all be gray, and evil will have a strong presence of acceptance

2. People can not be trusted to govern themselves, they need governance, oversight on everything, and people will give up their freedoms for the safety of authority 

3. People will not accept facts as proof anymore, they have been trained to be emotionally motivated through entertainment. To illustrate this, entertainers have more credibility than politicians, and are more believable. 

4. Theology will create a god that will accept cultural norms of immorality. Theology will no longer be a place of honor and reverence, it will become as divided as the political landscape. The scandals of priests and the molestation of children are just the beginning of slippery slope of public mistrust.

5. Jesus will be reinvented, and compromised from the Jesus of the Bible. He will be more of a social activist with Marxist tendencies.  Revisionists will continue to wax worse as they spin stories of the Bible in ways that are not true. 

6. Sin is a concept that will totally be eradicated from our vocabulary, because sin is negative, and society does not do negative anymore. Without sin, there is no need for a Savior. Goodbye evangelism.

Now we have seen all of these things in the making for many years now, but my point in drawing your attention to them, is they will increase in power and influence. When the days get darker and more sinister in nature, Christians who resist such movements in society must step up their game in order to keep from being inundated by evil. My fear is that older believers are wearing out, and younger believers aren't being trained to replace them with the skills of discernment. With no discernment or spiritual understanding, evil walks all over it's victims, almost as easily as Russia did when they annexed Crimea. 

The standards must be upheld and strengthened in our churches. If society was a patient coming to a hospital for diagnosis you wouldn't sit down and do test after test, you would call for the surgeon and operate. It's that serious of a condition. We do not have the luxury of time to experiment for best practices, we just have to tell the truth. 

When we went from teaching the doctrines of the Bible to telling stories, we began to erode the standards of the gospel. It was a nice approach to gathering an audience, but it made the truth less known.

Sorry to pop your bubble, but desperate times demand desperate measures, so lets get back to the standards. 

Keeping it honest and truthful...K

 

Tuesday
Apr222014

What Is Missing In Our Character?

The last couple of days I have been writing about character, and how foundational it is in developing Christ within us, to live out His character through us. As the world begins to unravel, we are seeing some of this unraveling going on in Christian circles as well.  We have people in what is called, "the discernment community" not only questioning doctrines, but they are doing so in an attitude that seems more like the Washington Post, or the New York Times.  There is a need to question people who write or speak falsehoods in the name of Christ, but we don't need to destroy the person Jesus died for in the process. As I posted yesterday, the goal of Christian discipleship is to develop Christ in us, it is replacing our sinful, and selfish character with His.  This is the goal, but I don't see it as a major emphasis today in our teaching.

Here is the best scripture in the Bible on develop His character in us from 2 Peter 1:

 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.  10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.  11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Your faith in Jesus needs to grow, and this is how you grow, by adding these elements of character that represent Christ into your life. Peter's early faith had not developed along this path, and when he was challenged, it was disastrous. Why?  Because Peter was still operating his faith based upon his own character flaws. This Peter syndrome is what I see too often today, operating faith upon the foundation of Character not based upon Him. Lets take a look at how His character is developed in us.

1. Virtue: moral integrity, the standards of living above sinful desires to satisfy ego to immoral desires.

2. Knowledge: the Word of God has to be placed first, and the knowledge of Christ incorporated into our lives

3. Self Control: to manage yourself without anger, malice, retaliation and desire to control others

4. Steadfastness: the ability to stay the course and not be unstable in behavior or belief not quick in judgment

5. Godliness: is a behavior that does the right things, and for the right motives.

6. Brotherly affection: relationships that are genuine and caring, and have substance of a loving family

7. Love: this is the Christ like love that is sacrificial and loves God at the expense of self, to do Gods will.

Now, what happens if any one of these characteristics is missing?  Which one can be neglected?  Of course the answer to that question is, none of them, they are all essential to each other, because they build upon each other. The greatest mistake we make in leadership development is follow the gifting, and not the character. 

Notice: not one thing is mentioned about a talent or a gifting, it's all character. Yet, we will always look to the gifting as a way to qualify someone for leadership. Did you get that? We follow leaders because of their gifting, and it is the biggest mistake we make. Gifting can be a factor, but it is not the foundation of a leaders ability to lead. Peter was gifted, but had no Christ like character early in his life, and the results were terrible.

When gifting is the foundation for leadership you will be subject to that gifting as your standard of direction. Gifted and talented leadership can not take you where it has not gone itself, so you will be subject to the whims of personal standards, and perspectives, and you will become a disciple of their image and not Christ. We have disciples today being made in the image of charismatic personalities, and becoming students of theological views, based upon talented opinions, but not being trained in developing the character of Christ. Sorry folks, this is not Christianity, it is cult worship.  Leaders earn the right to lead, but they don't do it by talent, they do it by sacrifice, and by developing the character of Christ.  Leaders who model the character of Christ and live it out everyday, in public and behind closed doors, are the leaders worthy of leading.

Think hard on this one, because as these last days continue to evolve, you will find character in short supply.

Keeping it honest and truthful...K

 

 

Monday
Apr212014

The Goal of Christian Growth

13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
5Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

The Apostle Paul was quite direct as he addressed the church at Ephesus.  He wanted these new believers to understand that the goal of the Christian life is to develop the Character of Christ in you. 

Go into all the world being the character of Christ teaching them to become disciples. 

I had an epiphany the other day as I sat in the gym where I work out. I always ask the same old question when I try to figure something out, and that is, "what is missing?"   This is how I developed a career in media by simply asking that question.  So my epiphany was around that same question, "what is missing in those who influence and lead the Church?"  And it came to me, what leaders are missing is the Character of Christ. As I watch and listen to Christian leaders today, I find most of them more concerned about their point of view, and their role in leading, than I do about them displaying the character of Christ.  The character of Christ in us should be the number goal of transforming this world, not coming up with more innovative ways to do evangelism, or be more creative in worship. When you change the heart, you begin the revival of one. One revival can begot another and another, as the character of Christ becomes the focal point again in the church.  When Christ is only displayed in sermons, and not lived out in real life, there is a huge disconnect as to how Christ gets displayed. The goal of Christian discipleship is not knowledge, gifts, or mission, it's developing His character in us as the foundation of our relationship with Him.  It is no different than hiring a person to do retail sales and not train them in the product they are selling.  The foundation for developing His character in us are the words of Paul found in Galatians 2;20

Galatians 2:20

20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Listen, I am not trying to be difficult in these blog postings, but when I see an issue as critical and foundational as this, I have to speak up. If we are no longer our own, than why are so many of us presenting ourselves and not Christ?  If Christ is the center of our lives, then why do so many of us struggle so dearly with almost everything in life? It is because our focus has shifted from Him to us?  When you go over these verses, you can't help but reflect on our purpose as believers. I am not important, He is important, I only carry the message. 

Have you made as your lifes purpose to develop His character in you? 

Colossians 3:10

 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator

Keeping it honest and truthful....K

Friday
Apr182014

The People of The Cross

Good Friday as it is called is really the day everything changed.  Now I know, Easter morning is the day that gets all the attention, but it was the cross, not the resurrection that paid the price for our forgiveness.  Good Friday is all about people, it is the one religious commemoration like no other on earth, that places people at the heart of its purpose. No other religious act can compare with what happened that day at the place they called the Skull. It was the place where John 3:16 was acted out, and all of heaven, and hell were affected forever. 

John 3:16

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Since the cross was an enactment of God's love for people, let's take a look at the people who were there that day.

Roman soldiers: the authority of government, by which all nations were symbolized by these soldiers. The death of Jesus wasn't for just Jews, it was for the nations.

The crowd of mockers:  people who have no respect or knowledge of God,  were counted as important to God, and were not excluded from the provision of grace of the cross.

Family and friends: these folks closest to Jesus, people who were sympathetic to Him and followed Him, this symbolized the good in humanity. 

The religious crowd: These leaders of conspiracy and arrogant pride for their accomplishment of taking care of Jesus. This symbolized the arrogance of self assurance and the pride of life.

The criminals:  Two thieves both deserving to die, symbolizing the wrong doing that goes on in the heart of mankind. 

From authority to the criminal all were a part of the most important day in human history. They all were present as symbols that all of humanity needs the cross, and its provision of grace. These people groups are a microcosm of the humanity Jesus died for, caring that none should perish, but all come to the saving knowledge of the cross. 

The cross is a place where everything changes. For God, the penalty for sin was satisfied, and for humans, the price was paid, and everlasting life with God was provided. Nothing could be more important in the scheme of human experience than this one time event.  There is no religion on earth that can even come close to what the cross represents and the only losers in what happened that day was the Devil and his demons.  Death, demons, and the Devil, were all defeated, and evil had to bend a knee to Him who hung on the cross. 

For me, the cross is everything, it is a reminder of what Jesus did by paying the penalty of sin, but it is also a daily reminder, that I have a obligation to pick up my own cross and make Him my purpose and objective in this life. 

The cross is our symbol of what the resurrection proved, God is in control.  

Have a blessed Resurrection Day.

Keeping it honest and truthful...K

 

Thursday
Apr172014

Jews Are Unique People

Jews are an interesting study, because they are favored, and they are cursed. The term anti-Semitism  is a term that singles out the Jew, like no other race on earth. We have the term racism that embodies a general hatred for some cultures, but the Jews get a term that is all their own. Why? Anti-Semitism says you specifically hate Jews, and here are a few Biblical reasons for it. 

Jeremiah 29:18-20

18I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them,  19because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the LORD, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the LORD.’  20Hear the word of the LORD, all you exiles whom I sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon:

This verse is specifically telling us that because the Jews ignored God, He punished them by disbursing them into all nations and by doing so, this people group became a curse to those nations. Jews are hated just for being Jews, and they were hatred for their success. The Jews are blessed with persistance, and ingenuity, therefore they are resented for their success.

In Revelation 12, we learn that our enemy Satan, was so angry with the Jews, because they gave us the Messiah. 

 13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.

The verses in this chaper of Revelation tell us that the Jews were persecuted by Satan because of they were the covenant people who God used to bring salvation to the whole world, and defeated his efforts to rob, steal, and destroy. So its no wonder the Jews have so many enemies, and were targeted for annihilation during the Holocaust.  There may be political reasons given by nations who want the Jews wiped from the face of the earth, but these two verses give us a spiritual glimpse into why the Jews are such a hated people group.

At the same time, God called the Jews His treasured possession.

Deuteronomy 14:2

 2For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

God also said he would never remove them from the land again, once they returned. 


Amos 9:15

15 I will plant them on their land,
and they shall never again be uprooted
out of the land that I have given them,”
says the LORD your God.

And from Zechariah 12, God said He would defend the Jews against all enemies, virtually defeating all enemies.

On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.  4On that day, declares the LORD,I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But for the sake of the house of Judah I will keep my eyes open, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.  5Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the LORD of hosts, their God.’

 
The Jews represent God's faithfulness throughout the ages and we learn some valuable lessons from them.

1. God's truth has consequences for not obeying it, even if you are the chosen people.

2. God's promises are eternal, never will He renege on what He promises.

3. God is faithful to Israel, and when you come against the Jews, you come against God

4. God's plan for the human race comes through the Jews, and He honors them for it.

5. God is returning to Israel to rule the world, and he is preparing the land for that day.

The Jews have been the most significant people group on earth, because of their unique position as the instrument for His plan of salvation for all people. As we approach this holy weekend of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, remember, Jesus was a Jew, and He is the fulfillment of God's promise to Israel as Messiah, and Savior of the world.

The Jews remain the most reliable witness to the world that God is faithful, and they are still the best barometer for understanding His return.

Keeping it honest and truthful...K

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