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.

Wednesday Book Reviews

BetroviaBetrovia by Dave King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating read. The characters, the plot, the setting — it was quite the enjoyable book. The richness of the world Dave King has created is quite impressive. The depth and individuality of the characters not only bring them to life but they draw you into their lives. A good, clean read full of action and adventure- well worth your time

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The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your DoorThe Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good book that helps you come to realize how important it is to get to really know the people next door. If we truly are to love our neighbors as ourselves, we must engage with them. A superficial knowledge is not enough to accomplish the ministry Jesus sent us to do.If we really cared about people we would want for them what we have for ourselves – a relationship with Jesus. I like the approach that we do not get to know them to try an put a spiritual notch on our gun but to seek to know their needs, wants and desires so we can help them where they are and model a lifestyle that they would desire to have. A very good read

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Advent Musings

As I reflect upon the season of advent, I am constantly challenged by how deep in meaning this season is. Not only is it a time of looking back at the 1st coming of Christ in Bethlehem, but a looking forward to His return as King of Kings. As I reflect on the preparation of His first coming, I have to ask – am I truly ready for His second? I know so many people who aren’t, that it saddens me. Then, I get to thinking that I know even more who will celebrate Christmas without knowing what they are really celebrating. It is like going to a birthday party for the son of a neighbor of a friend of yours. You kinda know them a little, but you know you are out of place at the party.
That is what Christmas is for people who are not God’s children. They are at His Son’s birthday party, but they are outsiders, missing out on the real excitement and meaning.Only those of us in the family of God can truly celebrate Christmas. I guess that is why I don’t get too upset with the over commercialization of Christmas. People aren’t believers so why shouldn’t they behave as they do? They don’t ruin my Christmas – I am focused on God and His great gift.
As I wrote yesterday, we can take a lesson from Hanukkah and make sure our light is shining outward, as a witness this Advent season. Perhaps if we do, if we tell people of Christ’s first and second comings, they will be able to truly join the party.

Preconceived Notions

Recently, as I was leading a small group study through the book of James, I was convicted by a passage we were studying. We were studying the verses on not showing favoritism based on wealth, which led us to talk about the preconceived notions about people we all hold. As we continued to talk, I was recalling the three new people that were supposed to be hired at a place where I work part-time. All we received in our department was a brief summary – names, approximate ages, background, of the new workers. How I was mortified to realize that my co-workers and I had already decided which ones would work out and which ones would not make it through the probationary period. The only one who made it – the one who we had decided wouldn’t last.

It was a humbling experience to realize that I had prejudged people I didn’t even know, which colored the way I acted towards them. Seeing this tendency in my own life, I was reminded again how deceptive the heart is. Thanks be to God who sees the inside, the heart, of all people and loves us anyway. In order to be a Christ-like witness in the world, I must learn to see people as He does, and to see myself as I truly am – a sinful creature completely dependent on the grace, strength and mercy of God. May God continue to transform me into someone who represents Him in the way I act towards people.

Hymn Devotions Day 23 – From Greenland’s Icy Mountans

 

DAY 23 – FROM GREENLAND’S ICY MOUNTAINS

From out of the days of great missionary endeavors comes this hymn, which captures the spirit that moved so many to proclaim the gospel across the globe. It is our duty to bring the gospel to those who have never heard its story. It is our privilege to show all people the correct God to worship as well as the correct way to worship Him.

Paul told the Greeks in Acts 17, “You worship what you do not know, in ignorance “(my paraphrase) and then proceeded to enlighten them with the truth. In the same manner, those in places without a gospel witness worship in vain: idols made by hand, false gods, political systems, etc..

One of the charges against Christianity is that we destroyed people’s religion and culture with our missionaries. Yes, we did. We sought to destroy false worship and replace it with the knowledge of the True God. Social customs, as long as they do not violate Scripture, are to be left alone. Religious and moral deficiencies are to be exposed to the gospel light so that its transforming power can set the spiritual captives free. May we never shirk from seeking to transform every culture, including ours, and having them conform to God’s laws.

May we never be ashamed of the gospel’s power. May we never apologize for loving people so much that we are diligent in showing them how God requires them to worship.

Lord, move on me to be unashamed that You have set up a narrow way, an exclusive way to salvation – through Jesus Christ. Help me to never apologize for holding fast to the truth that through Him alone salvation is found. Help me to proclaim salvation to those who have never heard as well as those who have never responded.

 

FROM GREENLANDS ICY MOUNTAINS – Reginald Heber

From Greenland’s icy mountains,
From India’s coral strand,
Where Africa’s sunny fountains
Roll down their golden sand,
From many an ancient river,
From many a palmy plain,
They call us to deliver their land from error’s chain.

What though the spicy breezes
Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;
Though every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile:
In vain with lavish kindness
The gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.

Can we, whose souls are lighted
With wisdom from on high,
Can we to men benighted
The lamp of life deny?
Salvation! O salvation!
The joyful sound proclaim,
Till each remotest nation has learned Messiah’s Name.

Waft, waft, ye winds, His story,
And you, ye waters, roll,
Till like a sea of glory
It spreads from pole to pole;
Till o’er our ransomed nature the Lamb for sinners slain,

Redeemer, King, Creator,  in bliss returns to reign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hymn Devotions Day 22 – Rescue the Perishing

DAY 22 – RESCUE THE PERISHING

               This hymn shows me what attitude I need to have toward those who do not yet know Jesus. They are spiritually dead as well as physically dying, headed toward a Christ-less eternity. My heart should break for them and my recognition of their state should spur me to action.

I must tell them of a Savior. I must introduce them to my Lord. It is my duty. I am to see the world through Jesus’ eyes and do the work He commissioned me to do.

It is amazing to me that many times it is those who seem the furthest away from God are the ones who accept His offer of salvation the quickest. Even though they are insulting Him, denying Him, His Spirit continues to work on their heart, melting their stone cold indifference.

His grace penetrates, quickens, brings about a restoration of life to a dead soul. How beautiful it is remade, reborn.  What a wonderful privilege we have, to be part of His divine plan to bring a lost one into the fold of salvation. Our job is to sow the seed of the Word. The Spirit implants it and causes it to grow, eventually bringing about new life.

Go, cast your seed where the Spirit directs, and who knows, the soul you help rescue may be the one that is dearest to you.

 

Lord, help move us to understand the urgency of sharing Your gospel. Help us to understand the priority of throwing a lifeline, Your Word, to those who are drowning in sin. Help me to be moved with pity and compassion, so that I take my part in Your grand plan of redeeming souls to Yourself.

 

RESCUE THE PERISHING – Fanny J. Crosby

 

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying

Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave

Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen

Tell them of Jesus, the Mighty to save

 

Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting

Waiting the penitent child to receive

Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently

He will forgive if they only believe

 

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter

Feelings lie buried that grace can restore

Touched by a loving heart, weakened by kindness

Chords that are broken will vibrate once more

 

Rescue the perishing, duty demands it

Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide

Back to the narrow way, patiently win them

Tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died

 

REFRAIN

 

Rescue the perishing

Care for the dying

Jesus is merciful

Jesus will save

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hymn Devotions Day 16 – Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending

DAY 16 – LO, HE COMES WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING

               There are many great hymns about the second coming of Christ. The words of this one, by Charles Wesley and Martin Madan, keep coming back to my mind.

The story it tells, contrasting the joyful anticipation of those who believe with the agonizing wailing of those who reject Christ, is very compelling. We forget, sometimes, that while we eagerly await the return of our Lord, that His coming seals the doom of those who are not Christians. He comes with us, His saints, to rule the world with a rod of iron. We long to see our King of Glory enthroned, remaking this earth into a paradise.

I believe that we have forgotten that for many of those we know, our friends, family members, neighbors, Jesus is not their King, nor their Savior. They will not inherit His Kingdom, only His wrath. In one sense, I do want Him to come quickly. I am ready, My immediate family is ready. In another sense, there are those I love who are not. I want a little more time, another opportunity to share with them, before He returns.

            Lord, I am eager for Your return. I long to see You. I desire to see the glories of heaven. I also have people that I love who are not ready for Your return. They do not know You. Please, Lord, let me have another opportunity to witness to them of You.

  

LO, HE COME WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING – Charles Wesley

 

Lo, He comes with clouds descending

Once for favored sinners slain

Thousand, thousand saints attending

Swell the triumph of His train

Alleluia, alleluia, God appears on Earth to reign

 

Every eye shall now behold Him

Robed in dreadful majesty

Those who set at naught and sold Him

Pierced and nailed Him to the tree

Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, shall the true Messiah see

 

Now the Savior long expected

See in solemn pomp appear

All His saints by man rejected

Now shall meet Him in the air

Alleluia, alleluia, See the day of God appear

 

Yes, Amen! Let all adore Thee

High on Thine eternal throne

Savior take the power and glory

Claim the kingdom for Thine own

O come quickly, O come quickly, Everlasting God come down