Burning Bridges Instead of Reaching Out

There are many church signs with cute sayings. There are many with profound sayings, some with ones that are witty and some that show great creativity. Then there are those that are offensive or just downright rude, like the one I saw while taking my daughter to school this week.

What was on the sign? “If Christmas offends you than go to Thailand for 30 days. They don’t like it there either. Grow up or shut up.” I don’t really know why poor Thailand was singled out, as far as I know they have never gone out of their way to ruin anyone’s Christmas in south Georgia, but what bothers me is the attitude portrayed in the sign from a church  with the word “grace” in their name.

The unsaved are not the enemy. They are our mission. To unnecessarily offend them makes it ten times as hard to witness to them of God’s love. Christmas is God showing love to man by coming down and becoming one of us. It was for dirty, sinful, lost mankind that He came, not for the smug religious crowd. As a minister, this sign offends me. It also offends the unchurched in our community.

Wouldn’t it be better to hold a community party to celebrate Jesus’ birth? Maybe they could be proactive and do a food drive or help gather presents for the poor that would show God’s love in action instead of belittling those who have not yet experienced the grace of God. Come on church, live up to your name — show grace, the giving of a gift to someone undeserving of it this holiday season instead of being snarky and strident.  Telling a large segment of your community to “Grow up or shut up” simply shows them how childish and immature you are. Why would they come to your church for answers when their life falls apart?

Lost people act lost because they are spiritually blind and without hope. They are spiritually dead and incapable of acting any other way than what they do. So-called Christians acting the way this church did just shows stupidity. I know that is harsh but it is true. The sign may play well to the frozen chosen inside her walls but it embarrasses those of us going out and meeting people in the marketplace and introducing them to a Jesus who offers grace, mercy and new life. I truly wish that this church would grow up and until that happens, please – shut up so the rest of us can give a message of hope to our town. It desperately needs it.

Caving in to Culture

We all know about the erosion of Christian culture that has taken place in our country over the recent decades. Secularism has pushed many traditions to the side as more and more people get “offended” at anything that references Jesus. Unfortunately, the church has many times given up traditions in favor of cultural expressions that really have no place inside the walls where saints are to be equipped in the work of the ministry.

I cannot believe how many churches in my area bring Santa Claus into the service. This special holiday, where we focus on the great gift God gave us in sending His Son down to live on earth as a human, is muddled together with a mythic, magical person. How can the story of Mary and Joseph compete with flying reindeer? My wife and I visited many churches where pictures with Santa were offered and Santa was the star of birthday parties supposedly for baby Jesus. Young children cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy, especially when fantasy is continually reinforced by trusted figures.

We cry about “keeping Christ in Christmas” and then give them Santa? We try and teach the commandment not to lie and then tell our children Santa is real? What kind of mixed message is that? It is especially infuriating to me when the church is to be the repository of truth. The story of Jesus is so precious, so life-changing it must never be diluted by anything.

If you want Santa pictures go to the mall, schools, city Christmas events. Leave him out of church. I don’t care if adults whine and cry about it being harmless fun, that everyone does it or cannot understand the big deal. Church is to be where truth is proclaimed, Jesus is magnified and God worshiped We are in a battle for the souls of men and women, boys and girls and cannot afford to waste time trying to be cute and relevant.

Parents, I appeal to you, raise your children correctly. Let them know Santa is not real, he is just a story but that all good gifts come down from the Father of Lights. That you give presents to show your love and to reflect the love God has shown you, Pastors, take a stand. Keep Christ in your church and leave Santa to those who do not know Christ, who worship materialism, secularism and self. Ground your people, especially the youngest and most impressionable, in truth and love by grounding them in Christ.

Our God is a jealous God, He will not share His glory with another. Especially not Santa, especially not with His Bride, the church. .

Re-educating the Church

Back in the early ’80’s when I attended high school,  one of our required classes was “AVC”, otherwise known as Americanism vs. Communism. Far more than just a class on governments, the course outlined the philosophical differences between the two ideologies.  One of the stark differences I remember was that in countries like North Korea, Soviet Russia and others, political and religious dissidents and advocates were routinely sent to re-education (through labor) camps. These were a highly effective way of ensuring group think and keeping the powers that be in control.

Fast forward 30 years to present day America.  More and more of our citizens are being sentenced to re-education classes, facing fines and/or jail time for not “evolving” on social issues such as abortion, gay rights, marriage equality and other issues. We have seen heavy handed government enforced re-education philosophies at work in Houston, Idaho and Minnesota recently. Private organizations, churches, even football teams are being pressured to adhere to the new social norm. Anyone who resists must be a Neanderthal in need of re-education to get with the program.

Christians have two choices in froont of them: acquiesce and lose all resemblance to Christ we profess to be like or push back, stand for our beliefs and take any and all punishment meted out by the state as Christ and the Apostles did. America is no longer a safe haven for Christiandom. Declare your allegiance because now it is Americanism vs. Christianity. Teach your children now how to stand in the faith so they can rise up in your place and carry the legacy of the cross forward. Stand and be counted. Now is the time to choose who you will serve.

Quit moaning and wringing your hands wondering what you can do. Live your life according to Biblical principles, engage the culture, vote for moral values – not for party or union dogma and pray for those in power over you that the Holy Spirit would transform their lives. Please, stop lying to yourself that you can just “live your witness” and that will be enough. You must speak, must verbally proclaim the life changing gospel while backing it up with your lifestyle. It isn’t one or the other but both in harmony that provides an effective witness.

When I was young I heard over and over, “When we get together we can talk about anything but religion or politics.” We have reaped what we have sown; masses that cannot think critically about the long term implications of policies and a muddled, confused and impotent church that is irrelevant to mainstream America. Now is the time to declare your true intentions – are you ready to stand up for Jesus no matter the personal cost or are you going to shrink away and continue to compromise? Stand up for Jesus. Stand with your brothers and sisters facing persecution. Get involved and be a force for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Unexpected Lessons and Blessings

Its funny how “unintended” decisions can teach valuable lessons and become sources of blessings. This morning, my wife and I had the unexpected luxury of having date time, thanks to the generosity of our adult children. We decided to go to a larger city some 30 miles away for church and lunch and spend some quality time together. We had heard that the 1st Baptist Church in this town had great preaching and good music so we decided to attend there. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived at 10:55 only to see on their sign that the service had started at 10:20. Not knowing the city (and not having enough time to drive anywhere else) we walked across the street to the 1st Methodist Church to worship with them.

What an unexpected blessing. From the genuine greetings by the members there to the well exegeted and biblical sermon, the whole service was enjoyable. The blessing and the lesson, though, can from something different altogether. The recitation of the Apostle’s Creed, the Gloria Patri and the Lord’s Prayer brought a deep sense of comfort and companionship with the rest of the congregation who were affirming what I was affirming. So often, I believe we subconsciously start to feel that only people in our congregation, our denomination, are saved; forgetting that we don’t know everything and God has His people scattered everywhere.

The sermon was from Mark 8:22-28, the healing of the blind man by Jesus. The title was “Seeing people as people” and the lesson for me was pointed. Here I was, an outsider to this church, welcomed by them and worshiping with them because they saw me as a fellow believer. How did I view them, before walking into their service? How did I view their denomination before worshiping with them? Did I see them as brothers and sisters or misguided individuals? Did I see them as 2nd class Christians because they didn’t believe just as I did or as fellow believers from a different tradition who affirmed the same basic truths about the Triune God?

If you get the chance, visit the church across the street. Take in what they do, how they worship. Ask them, why do you do things this way, why do you not do things a certain way. Ask yourself – why does our church do things a certain way and not another. You just might find new believers to fellowship with. You might find an unexpected blessing in worshiping in a slightly different way. You might find an unexpected lesson in a familiar Scripture. Funny how God directs our steps to be where He wants us to be, even when we think we are the ones choosing the path.

Rules of Engagement: Faith in The Classroom Endorsement

It is my pleasure to endorse a book designed to help Christian educators who work within the public school system. Rules of Engagement will help strengthen your resolve to become a more visible and vocal witness for Christ in your role as an educator. We all know that teachers have a great opportunity to mentor and mold young minds. For many children, a Christian teacher may be the only witness for Jesus they encounter. What a golden opportunity to use your platform to ensure they encounter Him through your words and actions. My nephew, Hugh Herndon, has written this book from his heart as both a teacher and a follower of Jesus Christ. Grab a copy for yourself, teachers from your church, or friends who teach.



Sabbath Modes and Refrigerators

Recently our old refrigerator bit the dust, forcing us to shop for a new one. The most interesting thing about the new model we purchased was a function called “Sabbath mode.” Sabbath mode apparently turns off the interior lights, temperature control and advanced features. The compressor runs only on a timed defrost as well when in this mode. This unique feature got me thinking — do we have a Sabbath mode?

I understand that we are no longer under the Law of Moses. In fact, as Gentiles we never were. The Sabbath, though, was a gift of God to mankind. The Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around. It was a day to cease from ordinary labor and use the time to ponder, reflect and communicate with our Creator. It allows us to become refreshed in both spirit and body, giving us much needed rest and strength to handle an increasingly busy life.

If my refrigerator can have a Sabbath mode — why can’t I? Why can’t I take a day and cease from all the ordinary busyness of my life to focus on my relationship with my Savior? I know, I know, we have church on Sundays, our “day of rest.” Except it isn’t for far too many of us, especially those of us in full time ministry or who are leaders in our church. Sunday for us is the busiest day of the week. We need a real Sabbath. Maybe even a Sabbatical, which I would encourage all churches to give to their pastors.

Some years ago I read a wonderful pamphlet called, “The Tyranny of the Urgent by IVP.” You can read it online at https://bible.org/seriespage/appendix-tyranny-urgent. I would encourage you to take the time to read this and to begin to institute a Sabbath mode into your own life. Not out of duty, guilt or to try and keep the Mosaic Law. I would love to see you enter a Sabbath mode just because you desire to spend time with your Lord Jesus Christ. Let Him refresh you, let Him restore you in both body and soul.