Monday, October 15, 2007

Dare to Drive the Speed Limit

Drive the speed limit on the interstate of your choice in middle Tennessee and see what happens. You probably already know some of the possibilities; you could be honked at, tailgated, cursed, glared at, and gestured to and nearly everyone will pass you at varying speeds. It seems that even driving in the far right lane no longer offers safe haven. You should be prepared to speed up or get out of the way to accommodate anyone who has a problem with your obedience to the speed limit.

Today’s world reacts in the same way to those who follow Jesus Christ and live their lives according to the teaching of Scripture. Those driven by materialism, money, success, pleasure, and power all roar by, shaking their fists in ridicule at the way we live. They ignore the truth of God, refusing to admit that the speed limits are for all of us. How should we react?

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.”
Philippians 2:12-16

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fast Food

Fast food restaurants. The original concept was a quick, inexpensive meal in a casual setting. The first ones were hamburger joints, but in time new players entered the game featuring chicken, fish, tacos, pizza and even roast beef sandwiches. Each had their own specialty, sometimes with a few variations, and this is what defined them. Name a restaurant and something in particular would come to mind.

It wasn’t long before competition forced many fast food restaurants to rethink what they were doing. Medical and dietary research also revealed some less than flattering facts about some very popular products. In response, companies began making changes in order to appeal to a larger number of people. Expanded menus were common. The place you used to go for burgers and fries now had chicken, fish, and a selection of salads. Somewhat healthier alternatives were offered to attract customers and keep them coming back. Buildings were renovated inside and out to be more attractive and comfortable. The latest computer technology was installed to get out orders more accurately and quickly. Payment by credit card and access to wireless internet soon were common. Companies designed everything for the convenience of the customer. The message was clear: Come here and get just what you want. Get it when you want it and how you want it. They also began advertising in different ways. Rather than compare themselves to the competition, they created the illusion of need by showing the “benefits” of their products. Their objective was to make you feel like you were missing something or that your life was not complete unless you were buying what they had to sell. Was it a good strategy? Apparently so. These businesses continue to thrive although it seems there’s one on every corner.

Although it was a good strategy for convincing people to come eat at a restaurant, unfortunately this marketing concept is now being used by many churches and ministries. The idea is to create a particular environment to have a broader appeal. The message: It’s all about you. You can dress like you want. We’ll play music that you like. You’ll be impressed by our use of technology. You’ll hear a message that will be relevant to you. You won’t be pressured. You’ll feel comfortable. Everything about this church is designed with you in mind. You’ll see that we are good people, happy people, maybe even cool people, and you’ll like us so much that you’ll come back again and again. Eventually you’ll understand that you too can become exactly like us and that you’ll be much happier if you do.

This man-centered approach quickly turns the gospel into a product tailored to improve your life. The invitation is to take Jesus on your own terms and let him meet whatever needs you may feel like you have. It’s comfortable, it’s cozy, there is no pressure, and it’s all about making sure you’re satisfied in the end.

As Paul wrote in Galatians 1, this is another gospel that is really not another. He referred to those who added the keeping of the law to the gospel, but I see more subtraction than addition in today’s gospel. Repentance is now simply changing your mind about the way things are and deciding that you will act differently so that your life will be improved. Faith has become a mystical word that means you believe God wants you to be happy and living your best life now. The Scriptures are selectively understood as words to inspire us to excellence in all we do.

The result is the same as with fast food. It’s not healthy. Our appetites are dulled for truth and for holiness. And it’s not really inexpensive, it’s just cheap. It makes us fat and lethargic. We have nice buildings, the latest technology, slick presentations, great music, great organization, skilled communicators, and interesting topics, but do we have the power on God on our lives? I fear that marketing techniques have replaced the work of the Holy Spirit. We must return to the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority Let no one disregard you.
Titus 2:11-15

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Why Blog?

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.
Acts 17:16

Why am I blogging? Aren’t there enough blogs out there covering every conceivable topic? That may be so but, like the apostle Paul, my spirit has been provoked within me. I’ve not observed the same types of idols that he saw as he walked the streets of Athens, but things I’ve seen, read, and heard lately have stirred within me concern, sadness, and at times even anger. Sometimes it’s almost laughable and it would be funny if it weren’t so pitiful. I’m talking about the current state of the Church. Do our souls pant for God as the deer pants for the water brooks? (Psalm 42:1) Do we rejoice in the way of God’s testimonies as much as in all riches? (Psalm 119:14) Do we live as aliens and strangers in this world? (Hebrews 11:13, 1 Peter 2:11) Do we persuade men because we know the fear of the Lord? (2 Corinthians 5:11) Are we looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus? (Titus 2:13) Are we the salt of the earth and the light of the world that Jesus spoke of? (Matthew 5:13-16)

When the world looks at us, what do they see? Best I can tell they see all sorts of things; good, bad, and ugly. Just click the remote and you can watch a parade of televangelists and gospel singers who look and sound like bad caricatures on a Saturday Night Live sketch. At the other end of the spectrum you can click your mouse and read the blogs and web pages of those who attempt to be contemporary, cool, and cutting-edge, who want you to know that Jesus can make your life just as complete and fulfilled as you would like it to be.

Have we become like the Laodicean church, thinking our lives are wonderful when in reality we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked? (Revelation 3:14-20).

This blog is a call to repentance. A call to read, dwell on, feed on, and obey the Scriptures so that we may be equipped for every good work. A call to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that we may be holy as He is holy. A call to go and make disciples of all nations. It’s a call to me, to you, and to all who name the name of Christ.