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Sunday
May142017

The Death of The Individual

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.  –Matthew 25:23

One national talk show host likes to use the term “groupthink” because he says it is symbolic of where our culture is at today.  Groupthink started in grade school where all the kids had teams to work together on the projects they were assigned. The team would do the work together and they would be graded together, all getting the same grade. I noticed that my kids were some of the few kids who would do the work and kick start the team ahead. The problem I noticed is that some kids didn’t do any work, while other kids did all the work. This started a process where thinking was done in a group, and never on your own. Process was always done with others, and that is how you perfected the process of “groupthink.”  Whatever the idea was that the group came up with was always much better than what you could do on your own.  Perhaps the educational process that started this team/groupthink wasn’t devising a system to destroy the individual, but that is exactly what it has done.  There is no thinking outside of the group box, and life doesn’t exist any more as an individual – after all, strength is in numbers. Anyone who thinks outside of the group setting isn’t accepted.  Men from the past century such as James J. Hill, Henry Ford, and Andrew Carnegie, who forged America into the industrial revolution, would not be accepted in today’s technological world. Why? Because they were men whose ideas drove their lives, and their progress wasn’t dependant on the consensus of the groupthink.

This kind of thinking has also permeated many churches, elevating the group and ostracizing the individual. We want clarity that comes from a standard evaluation from a group of pastors, scholars, authors and the like. And the consensus of a group always bears more credibility than an individual.  Do you think I am wrong?

How about the Pharisees and Jesus. Did they not come against him because he was not a learned man, a man from Nazareth?

“Where did this man get such wisdom and miraculous powers?” they asked. 55“Is this not the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? 56 Aren’t all His sisters with us as well? Where then did this man get all these things?”…Matthew 13:55

There was no learned consensus accompanying Jesus, He said what He did and you either had to believe Him, or dismiss Him as a false prophet. Jesus didn’t come with a cohort of learned support He came as an individual that reflected the word of God, and that was His consensus.

John 1:14 John “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Ross Clark writing for The Spectator, a magazine in the UK, said this:

Of all changes in British life over the past generation, nothing has been quite so as stark as the strange death of individualism.” 

Until the mid-1990s everyone seemed to want to leave smoky, rotten old London. Yet there has been a snap-back, with people choosing to live piled on top of each other in overpriced broom cupboards, while rural property struggles to sell. (London’s population was under 7 million in 1995, and has now passed 8.5 million.) There has to be some other explanation for the rise in herd behavior. Some interpret it as a reaction to more solitary working environments. Where once we worked close together in factories, goes the argument, now more of us work from home, and so we get to the end of the day gagging for human company.”

We have seen changes like this here in America as well. Young people not interested in home ownership per se, but wanting to live in carefree turn-key condos with the freedom to come and go in their free time. This herd culture has helped microbreweries spring up all over our city drawing large crowds of young people.  My biggest concern is that this herd mentality will ostracize the person who thinks differently, acts differently, and has a different worldview from the herd. I believe this is where bullying has it roots, in picking on people who are different than the herd.

In the church if you have a different point of view than the herd, you are seen as someone who is off base or delusional in some manner. For example, I was speaking with several pastors recently about the treatment of women in the church or in Christian organizations. They were somewhat stunned to think that women are often treated with less respect in a corporate Christian setting than men.  Most women I have talked with, if they are honest, feel put down, marginalized, or not taken as seriously as a man. I felt like I had just nailed some questions to the Wittenberg Door.

My point is as an individual it is great to cooperate with others, that is what is called being a part of His body, but we should never lose our individual right to think and use our gifts accordingly without the scrutiny of the HERD CULTURE.

When we stand before God, our rewards will be based upon our personal sacrifices as an individual, and the words, “well done my good and faithful servant will not be said to a group, but to the individual.” My concern for today’s posting is for you to realize that the herd is not always right, nor is it good to groupthink with people who are convinced that they have the right answers simply because they have a consensus.

Beware of those with consensus, their theology may be agreeable, but that doesn’t make it right!

Keeping it truthful and honest...K 

Monday
May082017

The Church

I have often been asked the question what is the Church?  There are many different aspects of the church so it might be hard for some people to define it. I like to define it by what it does. For example:

  1. The Church is a moral voice in society. The Church may not have much of an influence in culture in our present day, but its voice should be loud and consistent on morality.
  2. The Church is to speak for the marginalized and disadvantaged, because these are the folks that get overlooked and ignored.
  3. The Church is the bearer of the good news of the gospel. It is the one place on earth where we are convicted about sin, and are convinced that the mercy of God’s grace in Jesus Christ is the answer to all sinfulness.
  4. The Church teaches about the hope for the future on earth with God in control, and His government will last forever.
  5. The Church is a place of acceptance for all people and in that acceptance comes the message of truth. The Church accepts all people, but does not deny them the reality of God’s truth, the Bible.
  6. The Church is a place of forgiveness and restores people to the dignity of being made in God’s image.
  7. The Church is a place of reconciliation where people of differences can find peace and accept one another in love.

To me this is the definition of the Church.

Going to church or being the Church are two entirely different things. If going to church means that we are to learn how become the Church as indicated above, then going to church is a good thing.  Going to church because our tradition has us doing so but we don’t know why, then it’s time to come back to understanding what the Church really is all about.

There are two really good definitions of the word church:

1. The Church is having faith in Jesus Christ and you are a part of His body.

2. The church is a local assembly of believers whose meeting is religious in nature but may or may not adhere to anything Biblical.  

You may have your own ideas about what the Church is, but I hope you will give mine some thought.

Keeping it honest and truthful….K 

Tuesday
May022017

Will He Find Faith On Earth 

Luke 18:8 “ I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

When I think about what Jesus said in this passage about faith it made me sit back and ponder this. The context of the verse was about the persistence of a widow.  She was relentless in believing she would get justice from a judge who was impartial to her need.

I love the word relentless - this woman just never gave up! Jesus used this story to illustrate that faith is about the persistence of not giving up.

In a world where more and more of our faith culture is under water it doesn’t surprise me to hear Jesus talk about the disappearance of faith. It seems that our society (including many Christians) is becoming secular. In the American culture we still have a high percentage of people who believe in God and go to church, yet at the end of the day do they have a relentless faith in God? I think Jesus was very concerned about finding people who were relentless in their faith in God, much like this woman whose persistence would not be deterred. 

Walt Disney had a saying that reflects an illustration of faith when faced with decisions.  He said  “jump off the cliff and grow wings on the way down”. Now most of us wouldn’t even get close to the edge let alone jump into the unknown. Living by faith is somewhat like that. We really don’t know how our faith in God will procure what we are asking Him for, yet our faith isn’t in the results of our asking - it is in the person to whom we are asking. Having persistence in faith will develop the kind of person who will not give up believing in God and persist in the pursuit of Him.

God does not give up on answering prayers, He simply wants to see how persistent we are in believing in Him. When Jesus asked if He would find faith on earth when He returned, it means just that! Will faith survive the cultural wars we are facing today?  Christians are told they cannot ignore culture and we have to work within the norms of culture in order to gain the attention of the masses. Yet, it is not culture that wins the war, faith does. When faith is not compromised, and it takes on the nature of the woman in our parable, then you know Jesus will find faith on earth when He returns.

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

Wednesday
Apr262017

Live To Be Trained

It is easy to think that once you have an education, or you have mastered a craft, that you no longer have to train.  That is just not the case. My electrician told me the other day that he has to go to school every year to be certified, which is not uncommon for most professions today. Most licensing agencies have a requirement for licensure so that their profession maintains a standard of excellence that is not based on knowledge from yesterday, but based upon today’s latest discoveries.

This is true for your spiritual life, too. You cannot rely on your past experiences or knowledge to maintain a vibrant impactful life for Christ. People today need to be able to establish foundations for life from the scriptures, and training is a key to this process. 

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, useful for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.…

Truth never changes it remains constant, but the way it gets communicated will change due to the cultural norms of the day. For example, our culture rarely uses hymns today to illustrate God’s faithfulness, but videos and contemporary music have an ever-growing impact upon our world. I have talked to many people who are not finding a great deal of value in just sitting and reading the Bible, and I have to question them and ask why? Too often they say they are too busy to read, and then they say, “well I don’t get much out of it, so why read it?”  They will add that they get what they need from the sermon on Sunday. A sermon, like a blog, can be helpful, but it’s not a substitute for reading God’s Word. If you allow others to do your spiritual thinking for you, you are only getting secondhand information, and that information has a high probability to never be remembered. On the other hand, some people study the Bible only to get information they need to lead a Bible study or preach a sermon. Again, this is a secondary way to read the Bible. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16, we are to read the Bible for personal instruction, personal conviction, personal correction, and for training to be more like Christ in righteous and truth. Paul goes on to say that the reason for this is so we are made complete and fully equipped to do good works in representing God.  What Paul is saying is that we are to read the Bible for training, to be certified in continuing education. When reading the Bible for training, you have to ask yourself several questions:

1.     What did I learn about God?

2.     What did I learn about myself?

3.     What did I learn about how to live? 

People will tell you all the time to read God’s Word, but reading it and allowing it to train you are two different things. I have found that God’s Word has not trained many Christians. They may know what the Word says, but they have not let that Word train them. Knowing something and being transformed by it are two separate things. If we are to have our minds and hearts transformed by Christ that means there is an exchange between what I was to what I am becoming because of Him. If His Word is not training you every day, you may be spiritually stagnant by maintaining yesterday’s revelation. There is nothing wrong with knowing what God did for you back then, but if that is all you have and He hasn’t been training you since, you have a problem. 

This blog today is about encouraging you to read the Bible as a training manual. To get better at anything you have to stay at it; be consistent and persistent in learning God’s ways. I have been a Christian for 47 years and I am just beginning. My electrician asked me the other day where do I get the material I write about, and I told him, my training in God’s Word. The greatest athletes in the world, the best of the best, still train everyday. Why? They want to be even better. 

How about you? Do you have a desire to know God better, to know yourself better, and to know how to better live out your life? 

Then read the Bible as a training manual and see how much more you will retain and practice. 

Keeping it honest and truthful…K

Sunday
Apr232017

Unbelieving and Perverse Generation

Luke 9:41

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”

When Jesus called his generation an unbelieving and perverse generation, He wasn’t being very politically correct. In fact He was being direct and honest. His followers/disciples were not too aware of what His mission was, and how it was going to be fulfilled. They were so enamored over His power to control the demons of his day that they never focused on His mission of the cross. That mission was totally off their charts. In fact it never was in their understanding until much later following His resurrection when they started to get the idea of why He came. I don’t think it is much different today. Are we a believing generation who follows Him?  If you were going to assess what you know about the Church what would you say?  Have we perverted what it means to follow Him?  Is His Kingdom the most important motivation in our lives?  Do we think about miracles and how they can be possible in everyday life?  Do we think about how to discern our times and find hope in knowing that God has it all under control?  I wonder what criteria Jesus would use to call our generation perverse?  He saw His own disciples having a one-track mind, and it wasn’t a mind whose best interest was focused upon Him.

The 21st Century Christian perversion:

Leaders lead in terms of strength instead of weakness.  Yet it seems to me that God says when you are weak, then you are strong.  But nowhere do we have seminars on weakness. No one wants to be known by their weakness, yet it is in this weakness that God is best seen.  So most of the time our leadership is dependant upon some kind of success in order to be popular and successful. We have to have a model of a mega-church in order to gain any attention worthy to minister to the masses. This could be a perversion of what it means to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him.

The attitude of repentance is often relegated to people who for the first time have come to Christ. Yet I have found that most seasoned Christians are some of the most needy people when it comes to repentance.  People who have been around the church culture have forgotten that repentance isn’t just for the first timer at an altar. If you have had relationships in the church, the chances of you needing to ask for forgiveness is great, and what is even greater is the need for repentance.  The most hardened, least self-aware people on the planet, are long-term Christians who have been around the block spiritually. They act like old people who have been married a long time - they know they are married, but they don’t act like a couple.  I have found that repentance has significant relevance for people who have been saved for 25 years or more, because they have become indifferent and unconscious of their behavior that may not be pleasing to God. I am not exaggerating when I say this, but some of the rudest, uncaring people I have ever met in my life, have been Christians. They have been mean and completely unaware that their behavior is not Christ-like, and they don’t care who they hurt as long as they get their own way.  Surprising isn’t it when Christians act like this that they forget who they represent.

Perverse generations are also those people who follow Christ because they fell in love with something about Him that makes Him and His ways attractive to them. Perhaps it’s the fire insurance against hell that is provided with belief that makes them want to be a Christian. However, many of the types of people I alluded to in this blog are people who are probably believers, but they are not believers who have been disciplined in His Word, nor do they understand their purpose of how to live in Christ. There are Christian leaders who specialize in specific areas of ministry and are quite prolific in these areas, but they do not have much understanding on how to live out other areas of the gospel.  There are people who have discernment ministries who can tell you the next Biblical event that will take place, yet will not love their neighbor. We have worship leaders who can lead a congregation in worshipping the Lord, but fail to live out a moral lifestyle.

We have pastors who can peach and lead a congregation with methods like a CEO, yet do not know the Lord.  My point is simple: you can have a position in the church, you can be known by many as a Christian leader, you can have a long-standing reputation as a Christian, and yet never be disciplined as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

It was the behavior of those who followed Jesus in His day that provoked Him to call them unbelieving and perverse generation. It is our behavior today that would invoke Him to say the say thing. It doesn’t matter what you know, or what you have experienced as a follower of Christ, if you don’t understand that being a Christian isn’t about you, your accomplishments, your aspirations, or your pedigree. It is about your sacrifice for Him and if that is not happening then you are an unbelieving and perverse generation.

Sorry to be so blunt, but it is time that we call Christianity what it has become: “Ichabod, the Lord has departed.”  He has departed because we have not come to the altar of belief where we leave ourselves and pick up the new self in Christ.

This is a hard word to digest and many may not receive it, but the greatest stumbling block to revival in the Church is our unwillingness to become self aware and practice the art of repentance.

Spend some time thinking about what was said here and ask God to help you digest for yourself.

Keeping it honest and truthful...K

 

 

 

 

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