Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yen and Yank

     Last week we looked at how the church can affect and influence our greater culture when our culture in many ways no longer views the church as relevant or having any power to speak to today's people or issues. The theory postulated was that the church still has the same power it always has had: the power of the love of God shown mightily on the cross and demonstrated through the church by the way we love God and each other. This was the first of three A's. The A of adoration. Adore Jesus and when one truly loves someone, it shows. The western world has seen our buildings, heard our preachers, snickered at our squabbles, tasted our programs and turned away. It is high time the lost world sees, hears, tastes, and is touched by the way we love and adore our Savior. This is the power of God whose love turns spiritual rebels into passionate lovers of the King and His Kingdom.
     We now turn our attention to the other two A's. Let's also call them the Yen and Yank. Starting with the yank, this will be the Yank A (sorry 'bout that).  I Thessalonians 5:22 implores us to avoid every kind of evil. There are some things we need to avoid to have the moral standing from which to share Christ. If He creates in us a new heart and if we are indeed new creatures in Christ, it stands to reason that there are unholy, sinful actions and attitudes which must be avoided. We have, in too many cases, stopped talking about sin, maybe as a pendulum swing because there were periods in church history where it seems that's all we talked about. Too many churches and denominations were known for what they were against rather than what they were for. But the truth remains that we are called to a life of holiness and that necessitates a putting off or leaving off of the things connected to the old self, the un-regenerated life. The world is too much with us wrote William Wordsworth and this is true for many in our churches. We have sought the pleasures of the world at the expense of the disciplines needed for righteous living. Developing a group of rules-keeping-modern-day-Pharisees is not the goal. If we move with and toward the first A, adoration, the second A, avoiding, takes its proper place. It is not a strength we lead with but a result of not wanting any thing in our lives that is not consistent with the character of Christ. No casuistry is enlisted. The word of God as applied by the Spirit of Christ to the spirit of believers with an historic perspective of the church will help the saints avoid the dulling effects of sin on their blood-washed lives. The New Testament uses words and phrases like put off, flee, avoid, throw off, and put to death those things that lessen, cheapen, and hinder our growth in maturity and service in the world. ...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.   Hebrews 12: 1 There are things to be avoided. Yank them out of your life.
        Now the third "A." This is the yen, that for which the believer is to yearn. This is the positive to the "yank's" negative. This is what the church Advocates. So what are believers to be advocating? What is the church known for? Matthew 6:33 reminds us to seek the righteousness of the King and His Kingdom first. What will this look like?  Firstly, it will  look like Christ. The churches and individuals believer's character, perspective and passion will look like Jesus'. Secondly, the church's tone and hue will take on the sounds and life-colors of Christ.The believer will advocate by word and deed everything Jesus was all about. He was all over redemption. He craved justice and executed it. He couldn't help but meets needs everywhere he went. He was always generous. He was forgiving, merciful.  He was pro-life, pro-health, pro-earth, pro-people and mostly pro-His Father in heaven.  If someone were to watch you over a period of weeks and hear your conversations, what would they say were your passions? What do you advocate?
      One of the ways the church can still be the church and have the proper kinds of power is to know and show the three A's of Adoration, Advocacy, and Avoidance.  I remember a scene from when the boys were little and were watching a Winnie the Pooh and Tigger show. Things got bad for the duo and they needed help to get out of a well or hole or something. Pooh lamented that if only he could jump up and get out. Tigger said bouncing is what Tiggers do best and he bounced he and Pooh right out. The church isn't finished or powerless or dead. We just need to remember  what we do best: Adore Jesus; Avoid sin; Advocate for all that is of grace and righteousness and justice. We will bounce back just fine.
        Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.    Eph. 1:3

Still trying to make "A's",

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Winning by Losing

     There is  much lament arising from the anguished soul and psyche of Americans these days, maybe especially those of faith. It seems the lid has blown off any restraint, if there ever was one, on immorality, disrespect, and disregard for the upward call to greater civility, greater achievement, and greater exploration of what humanity can and should achieve in and with faith in a sovereign, loving God. With more and more people claiming no church, synagogue or religious preference it is easy to point fingers, cry Jeremiahan tears, scream out for any proposed solution to fix our problems and return us to the good old days. Yet, were we honest with ourselves some of the simple ideas given to fix us won't really work. We can plaster our post offices and court houses with the ten commandments but if 90% of us don't know what they are and we don't live by them at home, at work, or in our society, they won't do a lot of good. Even if we returned "prayer" to the school who would you get to lead it? Today's school teachers have never been in school where it was done, would they lead it? In our pluralistic society where all faiths are welcomed how would you implement it? Muslim prayer on Monday? Trinitarian on Tuesday? Wicca on Wednesday? The problems are so profound and run so deep it is easy on many days to throw up one's hands and vow to give up and quit caring.
      But you can't, at least not for long. You're not made that way. So you look again. How about this...throw up your hands, throw down your knees (figuratively, if not literally for my aged friends), and pray. As you pray remember this: Jesus said, "In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  John 16:33
       If this world declares there is no God, therefore we are not made in his image and are further therefore not accountable to him the people of faith in Christ simply remind the world around them that there is, we are, and always will be. Well, how do we do that you ivory-towered preacher in a gated golf community? I propose the same way if I were a mission church pastor on the wrong side of the freeway (been there, too).  We share Christ, show Christ and offer the world an alternative to relativism, license, non-faith, immorality, selfishness, greed, and arrogance. We will show this alternative life-of-faith-in-God by the 3 A's.
        Adoration-- many, in fact, most American still say they believe in God or a "higher" power. Yet, how many truly know Him, love Him.  The church has, and always has had, in wealth or poverty, peace or war, times of spiritual drought or blessing, the call and joy of adoring the living Christ. People say they believe in God, but do they love Him? This was Jesus' question to Peter after the denying debacle at his trial. "Do you love me?" It was also Tevya's question to Golde in Fiddler on the Roof,  after 25 years of routine, struggle, 3 girls and thousands of milkings (dairyman), "do you love me?"  I believe Jesus is still asking we modern day Simon Peter's and Golde's, "do you love me?" Is Jesus so real and so alive to us that he can ask after the routines of living, loving, winning and losing,  "do you love me?" Jesus said if you love me, you will keep my commandments. He also said that the world will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another. We can in the midst of trouble adore Jesus, personally and deeply. We adore him by trusting him with our fears, doubts, and daily needs. We adore him by obeying him. Believers carry his words on our lips,  his mercy in our hearts, and should carry out his commands in our lives. This affects speech, attitudes, spending, giving, and serving.  A heart overflowing with adoration can't help for the most part but do what he wants us to do. And a life that adores Christ with all the heart, soul, mind and strength, will be busy loving those he loves. We adore him in worship on Sunday and we adore him by the way we serve on Monday and every other day.
        It may look like we are losing our place, our prestige, our power as churches in the world. This is probably good. For the church, our place is with the lost and hurting of the world. The only prestige we seek is the glory of our Savior and the only power we are to exert is the power of his redemptive love. It looked like Jesus was losing on good Friday. He was just warming up.
       There is a way to win by losing. It starts with adoration. Do you love him?

(ok, ok, I didn't forget, just thought it was getting long. The next two A's next week......)