Letter from Hell

8 04 2014

A young man returned home from his friends’ funeral and found this letter in his mailbox:

 

Dear Friend,

I’m writing this letter for one reason (Friend). You see, I just found out that you knew of this place all along (friend).   You even knew who could keep me from coming here (Friend). But you never told me and you never introduced Him to me (Friend). Now I’m in this place where the pain is beyond description and will never end. And the smell…well, there is no way to describe it. And the worst part is: I didn’t have to come here. We were together every day. I shared my heart with you. I considered you my only true friend.

Now (friend) you will have to pardon the anger that I feel when I ask you this question: WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME? What did I do that caused you to hate me so? Yes, I said HATE ME! Because you must have hated me or you would have told me about this place. YOU KNEW ALL ALONG!  You knew when I told you all the bad things I was doing, but you didn’t tell me. WHY?  You knew when I started using those drugs, but you still didn’t tell me. WHY?

Now I’m here and there is no way out. I would like to say; “I hope to see you here soon (friend)”. But I can’t , this place is so bad that I don’t even want my worst enemy to come here. So (friend) I say goodbye for now and I hope you are a better friend to the next person than you were to me. Oh, and one more thing (friend):

                IT’S WORSE THAN YOU KNOW!

 

Signed

Your Friend





Churchified!

11 11 2013

I once sat in on a discussion with fellow campus ministers about what disappoints us in ministry work. One minister expressed his greatest disappointment was when some church kids, (people who grew up in the Church like me) came into his ministry but would never buy into the mission. As I sat and listened to all his reasons, I had to admit it was disappointing, but for me it wasn’t my greatest disappointment. He talked about how some Church kids would come in and be so self-focused that he could just never get them involved. They would just show up once a week but never be there when they were needed. They couldn’t be counted on to do anything. He expressed his frustration in trying to get them serious about their faith only to see them float around. We discussed ways to try to help those students without ever coming to any real conclusions. I knew exactly what he was talking about as I also had the same problem to a degree, but our ministry was having great success in reaching lost people and growing with new conversions. My frustration came from another source.

We had discussions about elders that didn’t really understand the mission, about lack of support from the rest of the body, about the difficulty of keeping the campus ministry from becoming an “island to itself”. We talked about the generation gap between the college-age and the older groups in the church. We shared stories and frustrations. Then one minister hit the nail on the head when he expressed a frustration that literally drove him mad. I had to admit it was one of my greatest frustrations as well. It was the one that kept me up at night. It was the one that drove me crazy. Every campus minister in the discussion shared the same level of disappointment with this problem. We even invented a word for it: Churchified. Yes, we knew it wasn’t a word you could find in the dictionary; but we also knew that almost every minister would identify with it.

It is a common frustration that a minister reaching lost people will experience, and it is one that is painful. Here is an example of it: A number of years ago one of our newly converted girls reached out to one of her friends and we eventually baptized her. She quickly grasped the mission and became very active in the ministry, reaching out to her friends and even students she didn’t know. She was leading many to Christ. She was on fire for the Lord and His mission of reaching the lost. It was exciting. She also was setting a good example for others by helping in the church by working in the nursery and being a great servant. But then something strange started to happen. She started showing up less and serving more. Slowly but surely she became so focused on serving internally that she stopped sharing externally. She was no longer reaching anyone with the Gospel. She had become “Churchified”. No matter how we tried, we could not get through to her. This was painful to watch as we loved her dearly. But no matter what we did she took it as a threat to her “service”. She started using words like “I want, I feel, I need… I, I, I”.

Now, I know some will read this and say, “Well, she is still serving. She is still a part of the body just with a different focus.” Some will say that as long as we stay attached to the body we are still on task. They will even go on to quote the story Jesus tells about the Vine and the Branched as proof text. Really? That story is about being attached to Jesus so we can produce fruit. She has stopped producing fruit. Read that story again and look at what happens to a branch that doesn’t produce fruit.

Are we so blind that we cannot see what is really going on? She became self-serving. “Serving” became her religion. It became about what made her feel good. She misplaced her love for the lost. Paul speaks to her when he says: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Gal. 3:1-3

Are we willing as proclaimed Christians to evaluate our motives in such a way that will continually reflect our beginnings and our Lord’s mission? Have we gravitated to rote ways of exercising our Christian habits that have caused us to lose the intended mission of Christ’s Church?

Have we become ‘Churchified’?





Lost?

15 10 2013

It is popular today for someone to say; “When you refer to someone as lost it is an insult”. But I look at it a little differently:

You see, Jesus mission on earth was a search-and-rescue mission with an unusual twist – in this case, the lost were in an enviable position. For Jesus, the term lost was not derogatory. Being lost implied there was some place you were supposed to be and someone who cared you were not there….in effect, God said, “You’re supposed to be in a relationship with me, but you’re separated from me. That means you are lost. And because you are lost, I will pay the ultimate price to rescue you.

God loved us so much that He sent His one and only son to rescue us! (John 3:16-17)

However, If God’s only goal was just to rescue us, He could have zapped us straight to heaven once we became Christians so we could bypass the inevitable struggles of earth. But He didn’t. He left us here. Obviously, something we do from the time we “get found” to the time we join Him in eternity is important.

I believe…We “get found” so we can join Him in finding others.





Wake Up!

12 09 2013

Jesus address a sleeping church in Revelations 3:1 “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary reads: “This church was not really what it was reputed to be. They had a name to live, but they were dead; there was a form of godliness, but not the power, a name to live, but not a principle of life. If there was not a total privation of life, yet there was a great deadness in their souls and in their services, a great deadness in the spirits of their ministers, and a great deadness in their ministrations, in their praying, in their preaching, in their converse, and a great deadness in the people in hearing, in prayer, and in conversation; what little life was yet left among them was, in a manner, expiring, ready to die.”

When I read that I see a problem that is common in our brotherhood today. The church in Sardis was asleep! Sure everything looked ok, but they were asleep = stuck.

The problem was this: They had believed and obeyed, but had stopped there. This presented a problem for them and it presents a problem for us today. Here is the problem: You can’t stand still in your Spiritual life! You’re either moving forward or you’re moving backward. There is no neutral!

Most modern scholars agree on this point: The church in Sardis was full of people who had Heard, Believed and obeyed the Gospel (and yes that means they had been baptized) but that is where they stopped. They did not advance on and spread the gospel. In other words, they were selfish! They had found the greatest treasure of all time, and they were keeping it to themselves.

Look at what Jesus says to them in verse 2-3, “ Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”

And now look at verse 4-6, “Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

In most churches you will find both types of people:

Some have heard, believed and obeyed but are not Spreading the Good News to others.
Some have heard, believed and obeyed and are Spreading the Good News to others.

Which are you? Are you keeping the good news to yourself?

Let me make one thing perfectly clear, God is not pleased with people who “Keep the Good News to themselves”. He wants all men saved!

God calls us to Repent!





Ten Characteristics of the early church we should emulate

5 08 2013

Taken from Acts 2:42-47

The first century church was:

1. A learning church (vs: 42) “They devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching…”

The Greek word here for “Teaching” is not passive, it is active. The Apostles were actively teaching and the baptized believers were devoted to this teaching. SO, what was this teaching? Well in Matthew 28:20 Jesus had told his Apostles to:

“Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you”

Sounds like a daunting task…”Teach them Everything”

But, Jesus had not left them to rely on their memory. In John 14:26 He had told them that the holy spirit would “Teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.”
So, again; What were the apostles teaching that they were so devoted too?

“Everything the Lord had commanded.”

2. A Fellowshipping Church. (vs: 42)

What does “Fellowship” mean? The Greek word for fellowship could also be: Partnership, Participation, Oneness. To have fellowship with each other is so much more than just being around each other twice a week. It means caring for each other, loving each other, having something in common with each other. It means to carry each other’s burdens (which is a sermon all to itself). When you do these things, when you truly have “Fellowship” with each other, positive things happen as a result.

3. A “Remembering Jesus” Church. (vs: 42 “breaking bread”)

When the first century church got together they broke bread…they devoted themselves to it. Some would say; Lynn, how do you know this is referring to the Lords Supper? Well, I don’t know (for sure) if this is talking about the “tradition” we now call “the Lords Supper”. But I do know this: When the first century Christians “broke bread” they thought of Jesus. How could they not? And I ask you, isn’t that what “The Lords Supper” is?

4. A Praying Church. (vs:42)

This means they talked to God. When they needed to make a decision, They talked to God. When they needed guidance, they talked to God. They were devoted to talking to God. It seems that communication with God was important to them. God was in charge (and BTW He still is)

5. A Fearful Church. (vs: 43)

I must confess, I like the NIV best. It seems to have the least amount of errors in translation to our current day language. But I don’t like it’s translation here; It says: “Everyone was filled with Awe”. What does “Awe” mean to us today? Well, I asked some people and here are the answers I got:
Wonder, Amazement, Stultified (yes someone actually said stultified), shocked, startled…do you see the confusion? None of the answers are even close to the Greek word; “Phobos”. (Which means Fear or Terror.) It is the ultimate respect of God. We most often refer to it as “Reverential Fear”.
At any rate, this “Awe” means they were a Fearful Church. When they began to lose some of that fear God stepped in and reminded them (Look at Acts 5:1-11)

6. A Church where things happened. (vs:43)

“Signs and wonders” were done there. Now, look at this quote (I forget where I heard it)

“If we expect great things from God and attempt great things for God, Great things will happen for God”.

Read that a couple of times. How does this apply to us? If you expect your church to be a church of 10,000 then you need to attempt to be a church of 10,000.
When faith dies, achievement dies. Great things happen for God when we believe that God and us working together can make it happen.

7. A Sharing Church. (vs:44&45)

Why were they a sharing church? An obvious answer is the Apostles teaching. But also consider this; pretend Jesus came here today and you believed in him and turned your life over to Him. Then your parents kicked you out of the house, your friends slammed the door on you, your boss fired you, the government denies you any assistance because of your new belief…where do you go? Who do you turn to? That’s what really happened to these people. So, because of the Apostles teaching and because of the great need of the people…they became a sharing Church!
And verse forty six shows they became;

8. A Worshiping Church. (vs:46)

Imagine playing a sport and nobody shows up. Now, imagine the God of all the universe comes into your church to receive your worship and no one shows up…or you’re late.
When you read the book of Psalms you get this point very strongly:

God Inhabits our Praise! He is Praise Worthy!

Now, we all know that is true…right? RIGHT?
Then please explain something to me; How can people be so casual about worship? How can someone come to worship and sing with little or no emotion?

God Inhabits our Praise!

We need to be a worshiping Church! They were!

9. A Happy Church (vs:46)

Kind of goes back to the last one. I grew up in a church that told you that you were not supposed to smile in church. I never understood it and still don’t understand it. We have been saved! Our sins removed! And our God pours blessings upon blessings on us. Shouldn’t that make us happy? Are you Happy? Is your church happy? As Phil Robinson says, are you Happy, Happy, Happy?

Now remember I said there were Ten Characteristics.

Well, if you look at the nine listed you can probably figure out #10.
1. A Learning Church.
2. A Fellowshipping Church.
3. A Remembering Jesus Church.
4. A Praying Church.
5. A Fearful Church.
6. A Church where things happened.
7. A Sharing Church.
8. A Worshipping Church.
9. A Happy Church
.

If any church is all of those nine…they will be:

10. A Church of people whom others could not help liking.

That’s the kind of church they were. And the result? (the end of vs:47)

“The Lord added to their number daily…”

If your church has these ten characteristics, the Lord will add to your number daily.
Now, the church is who? (The people)

Are you this kind of church? Search your heart for that answer.





Pervert the Gospel?

27 06 2013

At the end of the first sermon preached in the Christian era, Peter tells the crowd; “God has made Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ”. The crowd cries out from a torn heart; “ What shall we do?”

Now most of us know how Peter answered; “Repent and be baptized…” And then in Acts 2:41 it reads; “Those who accepted his message were baptized.

My question is, Why? Why didn’t they just, “Pray Jesus into their heart”? Since they believed, why did they need to do anything? (After all, we hear teaching that says all you must do is believe.)

The answer is obvious – yet I’m going to answer with two points:
1. Because that’s what Peter said to do!
2. Because Satan had not had time to pervert the gospel!

So, why do so many not understand it today?

Because Satan has now had time to pervert the gospel!

Jesus said in John 14:23-24
“…Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

This isn’t an opinion of Jesus, it’s a statement of fact!

IF you love Jesus, you obey Jesus!

This is pretty basic teaching. So, why is there so much confusion?

Could it be that Satan has perverted the Gospel?





What if radical is a good thing?

9 05 2013

What would happen if:

  • We started to believe God’s promises?
  • We started to act on God’s promises?
  • We started doing the will of God?

Would there be any changes if we actually started doing the commission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20?

  • What would change in our churches?
  • What would change in our communities?
  • What would change in our culture?

I am fully aware that many who will read this will already be thinking, “Here we go again, another urging to be “radical”. I know that’s the response because I read the emails and comments.  I get chastised often for being a part of the new “Radical movement”. One email even accused me of “worshiping Francis Chan and David Platt”.  (I’ve got news for those who make that accusation, I was being “Radical” by teaching and exemplifying discipleship before either of them became popular.)  There are battle lines forming.  Chan and Platt are being accused of a new legalism.  I’ve read that they are causing “normal Christians”  to question their faith, to ask if they are “true Christians” if they’re not as “radical” in their faith as Chan or Platt seem to be teaching. That maybe Chan and Platt are bringing back a movement that leads to elitism and focuses too much on the Spirit and not enough on education.  They go on to support their claims by giving us history lessons.

The funny thing is…the blowback is coming from the crowd that has abandoned the “first love”.  There was a time in our movement when we understood that the will of God was that “all men be saved”.  That Jesus came to “seek and save that which was lost”.  That Matthew 28:18-20 was “The Great Co-Mission.  There was a time when we understood that the Church was to be a place where we built each other up to go back into the battlefield and win souls for Christ, that we were at war with Satan and his horde to advance the Gospel, that this life was not our own, we were bought with a price.  That the Church was to be a life-saving station not a country club.  Sadly we have gotten so far from that understanding that when men like Chan and Platt share a basic Bible principle it is looked on as “Radical”.

I have read “Crazy Love” and “Radical” (as well as all their other books) and what I find amazing is that what they are teaching and preaching is basic Bible.  It’s Bible 101.  There is nothing “Radical” about what they are saying. It’s exactly what Jesus taught us in the Gospels.

So why are they being attacked?

Could it be because their teaching is an attack on the status-quo?  I seem to remember the first time this same teaching came under attack.  They were called Pharisees then.  What do we call them now?

What if we stopped challenging what Chan and Platt are saying and started examining it?  (I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be found challenging the Holy Spirit.) What would change if we actually started doing some of the things they are teaching that seem so “Radical”?  I think Jesus was thought of as “Radical”.  Don’t you?

So, I’ll finish where I started:

What would happen if:

  • We started to believe God’s promises?
  • We started to act on God’s promises?
  • We started doing the will of God?

Would there be any changes if we actually started doing the commission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20?

  • What would change in our churches?
  • What would change in our communities?
  • What would change in our culture?

I’m blessed with beginning to see what would happen.  I am getting to see it here at the church I attend, Park Plaza Church of Christ in Tulsa, OK.  I see it when I visit the Crossings Church in St Louis, Mo. where Robert and Kerry Cox are growing the Lords Church.  I see it at every CMU workshop where more and more Campus Ministers are catching the wave.  I saw it at the Tulsa Workshop this year.  I am seeing it all over the country.  Yes it may seem “Radical” to you but what if radical turns out to be a good thing?








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 689 other followers