This might be one of the most important questions a church can consider:
1. The Mean Jesus. Whether from social media rants, or a difficult church upbringing, if you think Jesus was mean then you have overlooked his compassion for children, healing for lepers, forgiveness for sinners, mercy for the masses, and so much more.
Have you ever given a Christmas gift to a child and they told you that it was the greatest gift in the whole world? And did you ever discover that the gift lasted about a week before it ended up in the trash bin or the back of the closet? Clearly, all gifts have a lifespan; some longer than others.
Made any New Year’s resolutions lately? A lot of people certainly have. Have you ever wondered why? People often chuckle about their failures to keep their resolutions, but it doesn’t stop them from making them anyway. In fact, I read recently that 80% of people break their resolutions by February. So if you are stilling hanging in there, congratulations!
As we begin a new year of living out our faith in this world, it might be helpful to take a fresh look at what the Bible says about the world, and consider our response to it:
1. “For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).
The Bible is truth—infallible, inerrant, and authoritative as the very word of God. Yet, many Christians are biblically weak and don’t grasp these essential and glorious teachings that have changed the world. A good example of this can be found in the phrases below which are NOT found in the Bible but many think they are. You do not want to believe things that are not true at all. So lets see how many of these statements you have used along the way:
Lately I have been reading a lot of surveys done among churches in New England and across the country, to try and figure out what people are thinking about certain spiritual topics and trends. The surveys study different age groups, church types and beliefs of “Practicing Christians”, “Non-Practicing Christians”, “Evangelicals”, and “Mainline Protestants”.
The Apostle John succinctly describes the essence of Christmas when he wrote this simple and profound sentence: “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
We’ve been talking a lot lately about those people that we appreciate having in our lives. It reminds me of the words by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:3: “...in humility value others above yourselves”. Indeed, we are equally valued in God’s eyes, but if we treat others as “above ourselves” it accomplishes two important things. First, it keeps us humble. Second, it helps others to feel their appreciated value in God’s Kingdom. If we all do that for one another then we are all equally encouraged and blessed. What do I appreciate about the flock at New Life? Let me count a few of the ways…..
Last week I concluded my sermon with an illustration about the constant flow of evil upon the world and the church’s job to mop it up and contain it using our spiritual armor. We must never lose our zeal in pushing back the darkness with prayer and works of love and righteousness that the world so desperately needs. Then I came home to the news that another massacre had occurred, this time in a church building, and at least 26 were killed and another 20 injured in a small town in Texas. My heart sank as I heard the details.
The term “Post-Christian” is a trendy reference to the state of spiritual affairs in places like America and Europe. It means that entire countries have drifted into a philosophical and spiritual place that is not influenced by Christian thinking and beliefs. They have transitioned to a realm where man is god, and truth is what you make it. Whereas Christianity used to play a key role as a conscience for a country’s government and citizens, it is now an lifestyle option akin to being a vegetarian.
Remember the old song from the iconic film, The Sound of Music, called “My Favorite Things”? The crux of the song is that when life gets tough (the dog bites, the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad), I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad. Yes it’s a bit corny for adults today, but there is a key principle that we should take from that song to help us manage the challenges of life: how you think determines how you feel. And if you think about the things that give you blessing, joy, and peace you will see it affect your personality, mood, and even your life choices.
The last few months have seen historic occasions of great suffering and loss in America. Now a mass shooting in Las Vegas has left Americans in pain and with more questions. People ask, “Where is God in all this? Is there no restraint to evil?”
Was Jesus happy? I know that sounds like a strange question, but I ask it because it relates to how Jesus is often perceived by others. For most people, the image that comes to mind when they think of Jesus is the violent scene of the crucifixion. In many churches today that that is the first thing you encounter when you walk through the doors; Jesus with His head bowed, hands and feet impaled, blood streaming down His body, and a face that suggests pain, fatigue, and imminent death. Obviously, happiness is the last thing that you would associate with such a scene.
I think that one of the challenges of being a Christian for many years is that we lose some of the awe and wonder of what the Bible reveals to us about the power of God. We often take miracles for granted and no longer marvel at all the incredible events recorded in scriptural history that we read.
One of the books I read in Seminary was a simple and powerful one—Dale Carnegie’s book on “How to win friends and influence people.” It’s not a classic seminary text but it gives great insight in terms of how to communicate and make friendships. Allow me to pass along some helpful advice:
Last week the phrase, #RuinAGoodTimein4Words, started trending on Twitter. Thousands of people chimed in with four words that they felt would obviously turn a party into a funeral. Perhaps the most notable (and accurate) phrase was this: “I am a Minister”. Yep, the quickest way for me to kill the vibe at a party is to share that I’m a Pastor of a church. Within minutes the air seeps out of the balloons, the punch turns sour, Lawrence Welk tunes fill the air, and people start whispering, “who let THAT guy in here”? Believe it or not, people tend to get intimidated by us minister types.
Just as there are two sides to every coin, there are two sides to the discussion of anxiety when it applies to the Christian life. On the one hand, the Bible exhorts us to “not be anxious about anything” (Phil 4:6); but on the other hand, the Bible also exhorts us to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). What can we learn from this?
The Bible tells us that we must pray for our leaders and be mindful that all governing authorities were established by God Himself (Rom. 13:1-2). Therefore I am often reminded to pray for you and your administration, because I believe God’s intention is to accomplish His purposes through it. I’m sure my friends at New Life will do likewise.
I have been a Pastor for over 30 years and I have seen many transitions occur in the Body of Christ during that time. Some of them for the good, and some not. However, I think the transition that concerns me the most is the slip, sliding away from the authority of Scripture, and the central place that this Word of God must hold in the life of the church. When the Scripture plays a declining role in the church’s worship, it will inevitably decline in the life of those who attend.
Have you ever found yourself complaining that life today is too crazy to raise kids? Cell phones! Video games! Kids don’t play outside anymore! And all that social media! Young people need to get a life and stay away from all that Facebook stuff and start talking face to face with people! Yes, I understand where you are coming from.
I was watching a video the other day that I felt had a lot of spiritual lessons—-all from a lobster. The brief video was taken by the owner of a seafood restaurant, who apparently has a large tank filled with fresh lobsters.
The term, “healthy church”, was starting to be used when I came into pastoral ministry 30 years ago. Books were being written by respected Christian authors, and lists were being made to describe the key things that churches must do to be “healthy”. I’ve always had my own thoughts in mind for a healthy church as well, so allow me to share some with you.