Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why are believers so afraid of the world?

(Reposted from February 22, 2007)
"Because we don’t believe Jesus has overcome the world" is my short answer.

John 16 :33 says: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I spoke awhile ago in the Village of Splatsville (names and places have been changed to protect the innocent) and I asked the question: “How long has it been since the village drunk in Splatsville has been saved?” Blank, pale faces stared back at me with no response.

After the service a young man came by and said “We have been concerned about ourselves, we don’t even know the name of the town drunk”. They had become so isolated from their community at large they didn’t know who the town drunk was. Not that knowing the name of the town drunk is the measure of a church's influence in a community, but what influence do we have, if any?

Christians wake up! Quit worrying about global warming, we aren’t going to survive until that becomes a serious problem because our Western culture will be long gone before that point.

I know and discuss things with people with a myriad of views. I know this sounds trite, and you’ve heard it before - “They like our Jesus, but they don’t like us, His followers. I am including myself as one of His followers.

As I wrote “His Followers” I realized I may have put my finger on the problem unintentionally. We are followers, not Disciples. To me a follower of someone does not paint a passionate picture. I envision people quietly trudging across a desert in a long silent line.

Now Disciples make me nervous. Disciples are doers. They are serious about their beliefs. They put themselves on the line, stand for truth and have courage. I don’t have to agree with them, but I respect them because they live out their passion.

Over the last two weeks I heard Christians decry Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears. We are quick to point out that Ms. Smith was in Playboy and her only accomplishment was that she married some 86 year old rich man. We lollygagged while Anna Nicole Smith may have very well slid into Hell for eternity but did any of us give a damn?

A pastor friend called me and told me he shared with his church his burden for Britney Spears (the one who shaved her head). As I see it she is crying out for help. She needs Christ, she needs a dad, she needs a mom, she needs the unconditional love of Christ. Are any of us besides this pastor praying for Britney Spears?

We here in rural Minnesota will most likely not rub shoulders with the likes of Britney Spears, but we can pray. We need to pray for her but also pray that our hearts would be tendered towards the “unlovely people” all around us.

We as believers are sitting in huddles, in little groups called churches, tentatively looking out our stain glassed windows, hoping the town drunk does not show up and disrupt our church service as it is printed in the church bulletin.

God helps us to be courageous, gives us strength to go “into” the world, but being “not of it.” We must go into the world and be the sweet fragrance of Christ’s love, hope and forgiveness. Jesus said, “Go”, we say “Come”. And the truth is, they never come because they do not know what they will find inside our church. They don’t know us, and we don’t know them. We are scared of "Them" and "They" are scared of us.

Jesus said he overcame the world! Do we believe it? Jesus prayed for us in John 17: 13-19: "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified." If that’s what Jesus said and prayed, what are we afraid of? Notice we are to stay here and do what? Minister to people, be a servant to others.

In Acts 1, at the ascension of Christ, Christ ascends and His disciples stand around looking into the sky. "They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1: 10-11. "Why are we standing around and looking into the sky?" May I suggest, because it’s the easy way out. Keep my hands clean and keep my Holy Huddle secure while the world around me goes to Hell.

Mount up Christians, let’s march into Hell for a Heavenly cause. It’s later than we think. Go to the hurting people in our communities and minister to them.

We need to ask ourselves -
  • What have we done with the gifts God has given us?
  • How will we as Christians answer for our loss of impact on our society?
  • How do we continue to justify our spiritual deadness?

“Quit bugging me Jerry! Pass me a coke, I just want to watch American Idol.” Ya baby. Slumber on Church, slumber on.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Not being good enough...

As Protestants, we sometimes squirm when we talk about works. We remind ourselves that we are saved by grace by the blood of Jesus alone. Then, what about our works? Does this make this Christian faith passive? No. As I understand it, our works give evidence of our true faith. It is a normal outgrowth of our faith.

Jesus' demands are clear in Luke 6:46-49 (NIV): "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."

John 13:17 says, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

I know the truth but do I truly live it? 1 John 3:16-20 (NIV) "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."

I quote in part a comment from The Life Application Bible (p1952, comment of 1 John 3:19-20)
Many are afraid they don't love others as they should. They feel guilty because they think they are not ready or they are unable to show proper love. Their conscience bothers them. John had these people in mind when he wrote this letter. How do we escape the gnawing accusations of our conscience? Not by ignoring them or rationalizing our behavior, but by right actions, says John. If we still feel guilty, we should remind ourselves that God knows our hearts as well as our actions. If we are in Christ, he will not condemn us (Romans 8:1; Hebrews 9:14,15) So, if you are living for the Lord but feel you are not 'good enough,' remind yourself that God is greater than your conscience. He knows you belong to him, so you can know it too."

Ah, as the old song says..."Isn't the love of Jesus something wonderful."

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Call to Suffer in the Time of Ease

In my study, as I am preparing my sermon for Sunday, I came across a great verse in Isaiah.  It is a prophecy about the suffering of our Savior Jesus Christ.  "Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand."  Isaiah 53:10  

The "him" who was crushed was Jesus Christ.  Then His life was made a guilt offering (payment for our sin and guilt).   And then it says, "He will see his offspring (spiritual children) and prolong his days ( be raised from the dead for eternity).  Then it says, "and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand." 

What is the will of the Lord?  In 2 Peter 3:8-9 it says, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

I quote in part... "He (being the Lord) is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentence.  (change your mind, return to God).  Jesus called sinners to repent in Matthew 9:12-13:  On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

So, what's the point?  If Christ suffered for us so we could repent (turn around, do an about face towards God) what does the Lord call us to do?  One part is that we are called to suffer.  The truth is the Great Commission will be accomplished but it will come with suffering.  Matthew 24:9 and 14 say: "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me."   "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

The purpose or the will of God will be accomplished but it will come about with suffering...really?  I must be honest, we seldom, if ever, hear this in our churches.  Are you ready to suffer for Christ?  If not, we should ask ourselves why.  I knew my answer, "because I don't want to."   I do not want to suffer.  Deep down inside I'm a wimp.  What is your answer?

The Marines advertise "we just need a few good men" meaning only those who need to apply must willing to sacrifice and die for the cause.  God does not ask for a few but He asks all of us to be willing to die for Him.  A heady and sobering call in these days of ease and of "having too much of everything."   God Help us. Amen

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Gene Seehusen - Three Short Months

My cousin, Gene Seehusen passed away this week.

When I think of Gene, I smile; his beautiful smile made everyone smile! Older than me, more the age of my oldest sister and brother, I didn’t grow up knowing him well. But I knew enough. Talking to him over the years, I found out that he and his wife Carol had a deep and profound faith.

Gene and Carol belonged to the same church as Judi’s Mom and Dad in Golden Valley. One Sunday while visiting Mabel and Marinus, Judi, the kids and I attended church with them. Gene and Carol had been greeters at a different door than we came in. They sat down behind us and were wearing their name tags. Our son Andy grabbed a hold of my arm and said, “You aren’t going to believe this but there are Seehusens sitting behind us.” We ended up having a friendly, unexpected visit.

Gene died just three months after my brother Jim died. Gene and Carol had attended Jim’s funeral. We found out shortly after that that Gene had pancreatic cancer. Cancer seems to haunt this part of the Seehusen clan especially hard.

I got to thinking, would we live any differently if we knew we had only three months to live? What about three weeks? Three hours? Three minutes? Three seconds?

If we would live differently, why aren’t we living that way now? We are not guaranteed three more seconds, much less three months.

In James 4:13-15 (NIV) it says: “Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Let’s remember Gene by living in the moment; being ready to go and be with Christ at a moment’s notice. Let’s live out the Lord’s will in our life whether we have three minutes or three months. Today is the day of salvation.

Blessed be the memory of Gene Seehusen.

Monday, January 02, 2012

“Constantly Praying What?”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12:  With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reading this on a cold New Years’ Day brought a sobering reminder to this old German.  Do I constantly appreciate the gift of Jesus’ completed work?  Or, do I walk around arrogantly supposing that I deserve it?  God help me!  I only deserve His wrath.

How blessed we are this New Year.  Another year of mercy (kindness from God) and Paul encourages us to pray constantly that we may be counted worthy of God’s calling for us.

When we truly love God, we are (or should be) disappointed in our performance.  We want to be good yet we are unable to do so.  God’s purpose for all believers is to make them the kind of believers He wants to have.  As our faith increases, God increases the power available to us to do good.  If we want God’s power in our life, we must believe in God’s ability and power to do good rather than in our own power.

It is all a gift of God…undeserved.  Do we pray every day to be counted “worthy of His calling”?  We are not worthy; it is the gift of Jesus Christ, His Father and the Holy Spirit.  We need to fall on our knees.  Only through and by Christ are we counted worthy.  Amen