HELPING IN TODAY’S CULTURAL CLIMATE

Helping people in need is imminently biblical. This is not even open for any rational discussion. Nevertheless, at the risk of being completely misunderstood, I want to address a matter of priority that seems to need clarification. I enter this post with caution, trepidation, and uneasiness, yet enter I will.

Though I am usually well behind most folks when trends dawn on me, eventually awareness makes its way into my head. Of late, a shift towards what was once styled the “Social Gospel” strikes me as an emphasis making a comeback. In the company of this return, I also sense a growing ascetic spirit floating around.

I get it that our culture in America is significantly materialistic and I also realize the need to do regular self-analyses to discover if I have become possessed by my possessions. As a Christian, these are not small matters. The Bible has much to say in this area. However, I think I see a baby headed out the window with its bath water in this one.

Maybe I am simply justifying that I have stuff. I have not sold my stuff to feed and house the unfortunate, though I have spent considerable time and money helping people in need. Not only that, I do not believe such a virtual total divesting of my stuff is supposed to be the defining mark of my Christianity. I do not believe Jesus came primarily to feed people and make them well. He could have done both of these things to every person in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, but He did not. What He did do was preach and teach as many people as He could about matters tied to eternity.

Yes, we should share our blessings. A lack of compassion cannot walk in fellowship with the Good News about Jesus. Yet, the Great Commission is about salvation. Granted, compassion can and will open doors, but only the Gospel can open the doors of Hades to free its captives (Rev. 1:18). Well fed and housed lost people eventually die without Jesus (cf. Jn. 6:49).

I don’t intend to be guilted into a quick fix “Christianity” that either substitutes being kind for speaking a good word for Jesus or liquidating my possessions for proclaiming truth. I reiterate; Jesus saves! Churches are groups of people primarily in the business of growing in Christ-likeness so they may help the lost become saved.

I appreciate congregations, such as the one I attend, which have very well thought out assistance initiatives. But, pardon what may seem to some as mere self-justification, let Christians in their compassionate sharing be known without apology for talking to people about the Christ.

 

The “Boredom” of Christianity

“I’m Bored”

In in the technology challenged era of my youth, I never though about being bored. I had more to do than I had time to do! Nevertheless, these are words every parent has heard from their children, especially during the long, hot months of summer. Although our children might think it is written in the official book of parenting that it is a parental obligation to keep their children entertained at all times, it is not. A fact in which we parents can take comfort. Nevertheless, we find ourselves challenged to respond to our children’s declaration of, “I’m bored”.

We know what boredom looks like on our child’s face, but what would boredom look like in a Christian’s life? Have you considered the possibility that we can grow bored as Christians? We know how to prevent our children from being bored; we give them something to do. How does God prevent His children from growing bored? He too, gives us something to do. Consider the words Paul pens to the Christians at Ephesus,

8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. 

                                                                                        – Eph 2:8-10

While verse 8 reminds us that we cannot earn salvation, it is a gift of God, verse ten carries the meaning that we are made through a transformation in Christ for good works, which God has already planned for us, and desires that we continue to do them. Paul through out the book of Ephesians lists those works in which Christians should be involved. This list includes:

Becoming a dwelling place for God – 2:2

Making known the “manifold wisdom” of God through the church – 3:10

“… endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – 4:3

“… equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” – 4:12

“… speaking the truth in love” – 4:15

“… no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk,” – 4:17

“… put on the new man which was created according to God,” – 4:21

“… kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” – 4:32

“… be imitators of God as dear children.”  -5:1

“Walk as children of light” – 5:8

“… have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them – 5:11

“… understand what the will of the Lord is.”- 5:17

“… submitting to one another in the fear of God.” – 5:21

“… be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” – 6:10

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”– 6:11

While parents might not actively plan every moment of their child’s life, God has plans for every moment of our Christian life. His plans are challenging and they are exciting. If we have grown bored, or have never gotten excited about being a Christian, it’s time for an honest self-evaluation of our lives. Let us be on guard for boredom in our Christian lives.

The Savior a Mechanic Could Love

A Certain Mechanic

            My Dad was an automobile mechanic—and a very good one at that. Religion, however, was not his thing. When I wrote him to explain why I was going to become a preacher, he told my cousin that he buried the letter under a rock.

            Why was my Dad like that? You don’t just wake up one day hating religion. Eventually I discovered some answers. First, he was raised in a hyper-strict religious environment; ignorance led to a very harsh, terrifying view of God. As a child my father saw God as an unloving tyrant, eager to send him to hell!

            In addition to this uninviting picture of God, my father grew to feel that Christians were a bunch of hypocrites—especially preachers! After learning this, I felt lucky he didn’t bury me under a rock.

            Obviously all people who claim to be Christians are not fakes. Nevertheless, we all know such “Christians” do exist. A hardened man close to the bottom of the social ladder tends, however, to have a finely tuned “hypocrite detector.” This is one reason I believe Jesus garnered so much attention from common people. They were tired of their hypocritical religious leaders.

            Very surprisingly, the story of my Dad and religion took a very unexpected turn. As time went by, I sent my Dad some books about the Bible. My Dad loved to read. He actually read them and made some positive comments about seeing God in a different light, but then he died. At his funeral, Mr. Shea, the only preacher my father ever respected, called me aside. I was shocked to learn that sometime before he died my Dad asked Mr. Shea to immerse him for the remission of his sins!

            My Dad never “went public.” Nobody but God and Mr. Shea knew about his most improbable religious moment. I wish Daddy had seen more of the real deal. Jesus was the kind of man even a certain poor, uneducated mechanic could love.