The Return of True Christianity

One of the better articles from the past year or so regarding Christianity and the culture of American society was by Matt Lewis ( http://theweek.com/articles/448500/christians-silver-lining-losing-culture-war.) With the redefining of traditional marriage to equality based on preferences instead of biology, values held by Christians over the past 2,000 years are being systematically ignored and punished. As Mr. Lewis suggests in his article, this is not all bad news. It might be that the nominal, cultural Christianity that only pays lip service to the commands of our Lord will be stamped out. As falsely professing Christians and denominations pander to the culture, true Christianity will be revealed and empowered even as it is persecuted. I remember as a kid a missionary on furlough saying that their was nothing wrong with the American church that a good persecution wouldn’t cure.

Now, I believe that Christians, as Paul writes in Romans, are to live as peaceably with all men as is possible. I also know that it is not always possible. I know that our Lord said we would suffer if we followed Him. Peter writes that we should not be surprised when fiery trials come upon us. I do not wish to live in a time when Christians are ridiculed, fined and imprisoned for holding to Scripture. I do not wish for my children to live in such a time. I hope and pray, though, that now that such a time is coming upon us that we stand firm, holding onto our Lord without apology or shrinking back. I pray we engage those around us boldly, in love, seeking to penetrate the hardness of their hearts with kindness, compassion and the truth of God’s Word.

Now is the time for followers of Christ to examine themselves and see if they are really His or not. John tells us that we will know who was a real believer or not by seeing if they stay or leave. Do we love Christ or American Christianity? Do we follow Jesus when it is easy or because He alone has the words of life? Do we follow the changing laws of men or the unchanging Law of God? Do we cave in to keep jobs, homes, and retirement funds or do we stand firm and trust in the Lord to preserve us and provide for our needs?

Erick Erickson over at the website RedState.com coined the phrase, “You will be made to care.” No longer can the church sit on the sidelines, wringing hands and moaning the sad state of the Union while failing to engage it. Now we need to be salt and light, shining God’s truth and exposing deeds of evil. We need to be preserving what is good and pure and enhancing the communities where we live. We need to be busy practicing good works so that unbelievers see us and give glory to God for us being His representatives and presenting His presence to them. More than ever we need to stand up and choose this day whom we will serve – God or current society. You cannot serve two masters. We need to be in serious prayer for the courage and strength to stand in the face of opposition as well as for perseverance to endure hardship without shrinking.

We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

CHORUS:
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

Artist — Steve Green

 

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Understanding the Culture

Here at Ta Ethne we read a lot. From the Huffington Post and Slate to Red State and the Washinton Examiner. We peruse both CNN and Fox, World Magazine, Christianity Today, Renewal and Patheos. Scientific American and Smithsonian? Check. Christian Pirate Radio and White Horse Inn? Check. All of these are on our list as well as many others. Why? So that we understand our culture. We will read the same article from different perspectives, liberal to conservative, Christian to atheist. Not only are we able to glean insights that way, we begin to understand how we can take the truths of Scripture and share them with others in a relevant way.

I speak at a lot of churches. Many of them have good pastors, who explain Scripture’s meaning to their congregants faithfully. Unfortunately, I don’t see many who can tell their people how to apply those truths to everyday life, and even fewer who can explain to their flock how to tell those truths to unbelievers in a way that is relevant and engaging.

If you want to know how to reach people for Christ, one needs to know where they are so you can meet them there and move them forward, Paul was a master at this and so was Jesus. Here is an exercise that may shock you. Pick a story, any story about a church or ministry or prayer. Read it on at least 3 different sites, one liberal, one conservative, and anything in between. Then, scroll down and read all the comments. Look at the hatred, the sarcasm, the ungodly and immoral values being touted in a superior way by those who do not know Christ. Go to YouTube and watch an inspirational video and read the comments posted there as well. It is better than talk radio in that you begin to see the worldviews expressed with no restraint by those for whom civility has disappeared.

Then go in prayer before the Lord. Pick up your Bible and read. Pray again, asking God to show you how to share His love, His truth, with those who hate Him and are under condemnation. It will change your life. You will begin to become salt and light to a world that is dark and diseased. You will be following in the footsteps of the New Testament apostles as you enter a world that needs Jesus desperately, but doesn’t even know that they do.

Thoughts on Repentance

As work continues on The 180º Project, research into the topic of repentance continues to yield many treasures. There has been a lot of things written on this topic over the centuries and we hope to coalesce this into a work that will benefit many leaders. One such treasure that we have found comes from Scott Hafemann, from his theological primer. If you find any such gems that you feel might help us in our research on biblical repentance, send them our way at taethne@outlook.com. Enjoy his:

Jesus’ gospel of forgiveness is not unrelated to the Bible’s demand for holiness. Obedience is not a “second step” added to our faith, so that “accepting Jesus as Savior” must be supplemented by “accepting Jesus as Lord.” We are not saved by grace and then sanctified (made holy) by our own works. Being a Christian is not a matter of adding our will to God’s, our efforts to His. Rather…”putting away sin,” which is faith in action, is the means to persevering, which we do by depending on Jesus from beginning to end. In other words, repenting from the disobedience of disbelief, and the life of persevering faith that this brings about, which entails obeying God, are all one expression of “looking to Jesus.” One cannot exist without the other… There is only one thing, not two, that we must do to be saved: trust God with the needs of our lives. This one thing in God’s provision (now supremely manifested in Christ) will show itself, from beginning to end, in our many acts of repentance and obedience.

 

Scott Hafemann

The God of Promise and the Life of Faith. Crossway Books, 2001, p. 191-192.

Believing in Jesus doesn’t make one a Christian

I had an interesting conversation with an individual the other day. This person had grown up outside of church but was introduced to Christianity as a young adult. He joined a Reformed Presbyterian congregation but left to enter the Disciples of Christ as a minister. Continuing on in his spiritual journey, as he called it, he soon left that denomination behind and entered into process theology. Process theology, in a nutshell, believes that as we grow in learning about God, God grows in learning about us. In other words, God becomes as we think about him – we create him, in our image. The man I was talking to said he no longer believed the Bible was inspired by God, that it was just man’s beliefs about God, full of contradictions and mistakes. He went on to describe how his journey had led him to the Dali Lama and Buddhist truths. At this point the conversation took an interesting twist. He stated, “I am still a Christian.” I asked how he could claim that.

“Well, I love Jesus. I believe he was a good man, a wise teacher, a great example of God’s compassion and love.”

I replied, “So does a Muslim. Jews also will grant you that. I even have agnostic and atheist friends who believe Jesus existed and was a moral man. Deluded, maybe, but real and a good humanitarian. That is a far cry from being a Christian. A Christian believes Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Chosen One of God who brought salvation. Christians believe Jesus was Divine, God’s Son, our Savior. You, sir, are not  Christian. You are a Deist well on your way to becoming a Buddhist, but you are not a Christian.”

This man I was talking to did not like to be told that. He was not being honest with himself. He started tossing out words of wisdom from Buddhism and Hindi philosophy to show how those beliefs were superior to my “limited understanding.” I used Paul’s writings to Corinth to show that all those same things were found in the Bible he had rejected.

In the end, I left him with a thought. I told him, “There is a world of difference between going on a journey and admitting you are wandering around lost in the woods.” His “spiritual journey” had left him wandering with no anchor. He had a mish-mash of so many beliefs that he was confused and yet, at his core, he was afraid to admit he had completely left Christianity behind. He wanted the safe comfort of a womb, recreating and redefining Christianity to suit his new beliefs without realizing and admitting what he truly was – a theologically bankrupt soul. Those who make God in their own image, as this man has done, find that they have no God at all.

WORLD | In defense of Richard Dawkins | Marvin Olasky | March 16, 2013

Another cowardly attempt to paint Christianity as evil and never address Islam. If we beheaded those who disparaged Christ would they stop their pathetic efforts to ridicule something they cannot possibly understand?
Why is it okay to slander Judaism and Christianity but not Islam? Dawkins is not only a fool (that’s what the Bible says about those who do not worship God) but an opportunistic coward. If he truly does not believe in a God, then it doesn’t matter what religion’s god is being talked about, Dawkins must show the same lack of belief in any of them to be consistent with his claim of being an atheist.
Of course, a true Muslim would be offended by his slander of the God of the Hebrews anyway – that is, if they read their Qur’an. So how about it Muslim world — any takers on defending God’s name?

WORLD | In defense of Richard Dawkins | Marvin Olasky | March 16, 2013.

Great Quotes From Ages Past #7

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite preachers – Jonathan Edwards

 

“Spiritual emotions result in Christian practice because their object is the loveliness of spiritual things, not our self-interest. People have a defective Christianity because they are seeking their own interests in it, not God’s. So they accept Christianity only to the extent that they think it serves their interests. By contrast, a person who accepts it for its own excellent and lovely nature, accepts everything which has that nature.”

What it Means to be a Pastor

                Being a pastor in Montana means many different things to me. Since arriving in 1995, I have served churches in Red Lodge, Columbus and Havre. Being a pastor in Montana means unloading trucks outside at work at 4:30 in the morning in  -40°F weather so that the church can still afford to have a pastor.  It means reaching out to people who have never heard basic Bible stories such as Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath or the real Christmas story.

Pastoring in Montana means enduring weeks of loneliness, isolated by geography and finances from family, friends and even other pastors. It means driving hours to conferences for the fellowship with friends and the opportunity to sharpen ones skills. It means penetrating reclusive lives and investing time into communities. It means sharing your home with people from all walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds. It means being vulnerable and authentic and living a transformed life in front of a watching world.

Pastoring in Montana means that you start laying the foundation for future works to take place.  Very quickly you learn that there is no prestige, no glory, no “bigger” church to aspire to. What there is, is plenty of is hard work, years of discipleship, mentoring, teaching and engaging. There is the joy of seeing a second generation come to know and serve the Lord. There is the joy of seeing families and marriages being put back together. There is the satisfaction of establishing stability and credibility in a community that is constantly watching to see if your Christianity is real. There is the awesome exhilaration that comes from seeing new believers mature and go out in service for the kingdom, taking the gospel to yet another place that needs to hear it.

Being a pastor in Montana is a tale of two extremes. It is a tale of hardships and frustration and of rapture and joy. It will cause you to grow closer to God than you thought possible because there is no one else around for you to turn to. It will drive you to your knees over and over seeking strength, guidance and wisdom. It will also lead you to give God all the credit because only He could possibly penetrate the darkness and hardened hearts of those who do not know Him.

Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Seminary, sums up what I think being a pastor in Montana is all about when he says in his book, The Painful Side of Leadership, “Most leaders easily forget their primary reason for being placed in their leadership role. The primary reason isn’t for you to do things for God. It’s so God can use your leadership setting as a laboratory for shaping the image of Jesus in you.[1]

I pray that the image that is being shaped in me, as I pastor in Montana, is that of Jesus Christ.


[1] Iorg, Jeff. The Painful Side of Leadership. P12. B&H Publishing Group 2009