You’re in the Army

There are two aspects to the church. One is local like the church in your city, the one you are a member of. The other is universal. It’s the church in heaven made up of Christians who have died and gone to be with the Lord. It’s also the church of the ones who are yet to be born, but will one day be born and come to believe in the Savior.

The church that exists today all over the world is called the militant church. It’s made up of fighting men and women. It means we’re at war with the flesh, the world and the devil.

There’s a war going on inside of us because of remaining sin. Our mind, body and emotions don’t always submit to Christ. We fall into wickedness.  photo39

We’re at war with the world, it’s ways and the way people think, feel and act outside of Christ. The world is upside down. We, as Christians, are running toward salvation while the world is running toward destruction.

And the devil is there to destroy God and his people. He discourages our faith and hope in the gospel. He causes us to sin. He loves to create unbelief in the goodness of God. And he is particularly skilled at having us look inward for our holiness, and when we don’t find it there, he causes us to despair. Anytime he’s able to get our eyes off Christ, he’s thrilled.

How do we respond?

First, don’t expect an easy time in this life. Expect a hard life since you’re a soldier. Be disciplined. Know your bible. Pray. Be thankful.

Second, fight and endure with hope and confidence in the promises of God. He won’t let you down.

Third, remember you’re assured of victory because Christ won it for you.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

What’s in Your Church Lately?

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the church is? Is it a place to get your needs met? A place to hang out with like-minded friends? A place to get a shot in the arm for the week ahead?

Nowadays more and more churches are like that.

I hate to say it but we’re not allowed to re-purpose the church to our liking or to meet the needs of the culture. God didn’t give us pastors to be inspirational speakers, or comedians, or storytellers. And he certainly didn’t give us pastors to be our life coaches either.  For that you have movies, TV shows, and TED Talks.

So what’s the purpose of the church anyway if they’re not clubs for the cool, support networks for tech families, or places for therapy?

According to the bible, God has given the church three mandates:

  1. The worship of God
  2. The maturing of believers
  3. Bringing sinners to faith  img_8865

If our churches aren’t doing this, then we need to ask if it’s a true church.

What tools is the church to use for the worship of God, maturing the saints, and bringing sinners to faith?

The gospel.

The teaching and preaching must be the gospel. It’s the only tool God promises to use that is powerful and accomplishes its purpose.

The gospel is not inside of us by nature. That’s why we need to hear it from the outside. The church is where this is done in song, in prayer, and in preaching.

It’s not only the pastor’s responsibility, it’s all of ours. We need to be specialists in the gospel so we’re able to share it, counsel it, and tell it to others.

As private Christians we have many assignments in life, but the church has only one: the preaching of the gospel.

And we need to be reminded of the gospel every week, no matter how old we are in the Lord.

The gospel is not only for sinners but for Christians as well.

Talk to me.

Are You Listening?

A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ.

Are you?

Take a look at Matthew 4. Jesus called Peter and Andrew and then James and John. All four were fishermen. What did he tell them?

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” v.19

Jesus didn’t say, “Come to church, read your bible, witness, and above all be nice.”

He just said, “Follow me.” Simple. IMG_1193

And they did. They dropped everything.

Have you?

Granted they were going to be apostles and their new calling would be something beyond their wildest imagination.

In those days to be called by a rabbi was considered a great privilege. And Jesus’s reputation was that of a rabbi.

The two sets of brothers no doubt had heard the kingdom was near and they wanted in on the action.

But the real reason they so readily dropped their work to follow Jesus was because God drew them to Jesus. He enabled them to hear the call and respond.

Can you say the same? Or are you so caught up with the business and busyness of the church, or your work, or your family that Jesus’s calling you gets fainter every year?

Maybe it’s time for a re-calibration of your life where Jesus is always in front of you.

Ask him for that.

I will also.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Funeral Is Better Than a Party

I attended a funeral yesterday for a church friend who died last week.

I was struck by this thought: Funerals are better than parties.

Why would I say that?

They remind me that I, too must die.  funeral

We all have expiration dates, but we don’t like thinking about those.

But it’s good for us. It forces the subject even for a little while.

The mortality rate has always been at 100%.

It doesn’t change from generation to generation.

We cannot mastermind our own exits.

That’s because there’s a time to be born and a time to die, and God holds the calendar on both.

So today is the only time we can be sure of. The past is gone, and the future is not certain.

Now is the time to renounce every hope of saving yourself and turn to the One who saved you. He did it 2,000 years ago on a cross outside Jerusalem. His name is Jesus and he paid the penalty for your sins and mine so we could be forgiven of our sins and given life.

That’s why you need a funeral.

We need that reality slap in the face.

According to Ecclesiastes, life under the sun doesn’t end well.

But life over the sun ends in triumph. It’s called eternal life and it’s a free gift if you believe in the work of Christ for you.

Won’t you take that step today?

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

How To Witness Badly

Today on the subway a young woman gets on juggling two bags and a purse and sits across the aisle from me. She turns and asks, “What church do you go to?”

I tell her.

“How nice to see people reading the bible on the subway. I do that, too.”

“How nice,” I say. I don’t want to talk. She’s interrupting my quiet time. I hate it when other passengers talk, so I want this to end.

“Where are you from?” she asks.

“Argentina,” I say, keeping my answers to one word, hoping she’d get the hint.

Her face goes blank. A few seconds later, she says, “That’s not in this country, is it?”

Holy cow.

“It’s in Latin America,” I say.

“Where do you work?”

“In San Francisco.” Okay, that’s a three-word answer.

“What do you do there?”

Hmm…do I really want to get into this?

I notice others around us have put down their books to listen to the exchange. The woman next to her has overflowed into the young woman’s seat. She’s a regular commuter. Every morning she gets on with a phone stuck to her ear talking at full throttle with her mother about her woes at work. I’ve written her notes reminding her of the no-phone rule. I’ve glared at her. Nothing’s worked. One time I gave her a gospel tract, thinking that would quiet her. She sneered at me, shoved it down into her purse, and kept talking.

“So what do you do in San Francisco?” the young woman asked again.

“I work for an organization,” I tell her. How lame is that.

“What do you do there?”

Now I’m ticked. This woman has no boundaries.

“I work for a missionary agency and we tell people that Jesus is the promised Messiah,” I say loudly.

Her seatmate smiles.

A man behind her sits bolt upright.

“Do you have conventions?”

“No.”

“How do you find people to talk to?”

“On the streets.”

“Oh,” she says. “How does that work?”

“It’s tough.”

“What makes it so tough?”

“Most people, including Jews, resist the truth that Jesus is the Savior of the world and without him they don’t have a relationship with God.” I say in one breath. “Here’s my card.”

We screech into the station. She slips my card into her purse, grabs her bags, and gets up.

“Okay thanks,” she says and gets off.

The talker and the man behind also get off.

I slump in my seat. Shame on you! You could have engaged her. You could have asked her who she thought Jesus was and have everyone listen in.

Then I smile.

I remember.

When God wants to use you to speak the gospel, He’s gonna get the job done even if it’s done badly.

 

How To Be A Recovering Pharisee

Are you fussy, small-thinking, so engrossed in following the rules that your heart is brittle?

Of course not! Nobody wants to admit to that.

The truth is you and I are like that. It’s called Pharisaism and it’s a real problem. In some people it’s obvious, in others not so much, but all of us are affected by it.

6 Symptoms Of A Pharisee

1. Pharisaism is subtle. You don’t notice it so you don’t do anything to kill it.

2. It’s self-righteousness. Thinking better than other people.

3. It’s contempt for others who don’t live up to your standards. Looking down on others who aren’t as good as you.

4. It’s wrong priorities. Majoring on the minor details while missing the big picture of God’s grace and love in the gospel.

5. It’s not having a tender conscience. Being religious is more important than loving God.

6. It’s loving to tell others how to live. Then jumping all over them when they fail.

If you see yourself in these descriptions, you’re not alone! And you’ll want to know what to do about it.

3 Things That Won’t Help A Bit

1. You can’t learn your way out of it.

2. A good scolding won’t do it.

3. Being threatened until you quake won’t help either.

These three are aspects of the law and the law does not change the heart.

The solution lies elsewhere – in the gospel.

4 Ways To Fight Pharisaism With The Gospel

1. The Gospel tells us how bad we were. How much did Jesus suffer on the cross? His sufferings were infinite. Why did He suffer so much? Because He died in our place. What does this mean? It means our sin is infinite. ‘Sins’ can be counted—I lied once, stole twice, committed adultery three times. But ‘sin’, that native rejection of God, defies all calculation. The Gospel means we are thoroughly bad—not decent people in need of a hand, but sinners in need of a Savior!

2. The gospel tells us how needy we are still are. Where did Jesus go after dying on the cross and rising from the dead? He went to heaven. What’s he doing there? Hebrews 7:25 says he’s gone there to—

Make intercession for us.

He’s there praying for us. Why do you pray for someone? You pray for him because he needs something. This is why Jesus never stops praying for us, because we’re always in need. Now, it’s hard to square being in constant need with being proud of yourself or looking down on others, whose needs are no more than your own. The gospel means we are deeply and always dependent on God’s grace, and believing that will keep you from being a Pharisee.

3. The gospel reminds you that Jesus laid down His life as a ransom for many. That means you’ve got to love and respect your brothers and sisters in Christ, and let Jesus be the Lord of their consciences! Counsel them? Of course, but nitpick and micromanage them? No, not if the gospel has gotten into your heart.

4. The gospel saves you from being a Pharisee by telling you:

God loves you as you are, and thus you don’t have to pretend to be better than you are, and you don’t have to hunger for the praise of men.

That’s freedom!