Thursday, September 29, 2016

Minimalist Christian?

Minimalist Christian?

There seems to be a new phenomenon where people are becoming obsessed with being a minimalist. We see this new thing of tiny homes where people see how small a space they can live in with as few amenities as possible. There are smart cars that honestly don’t look that smart. There are minimalist wallets and other things in life that many have gravitated to to be more minimalistic.

Many of these things are great and I always encourage people to be more “minimalistic’ in their lives and my wife and I have worked hard on minimizing the things that we have to maintain because it seems to simplify life. However when it comes to Christianity is there such a thing as a “Minimalist Christian”?

 I recently studied through 1 John and a few verses made me consider this. In 1 John 2:2-6 John states “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

What John is saying here is that real, authentic believers are marked by their obedience to the commands of Jesus. If God has truly saved them then their desire is to please God by being obedient to the teachings and commands of Christ. This begs the question, what are the commands of Jesus? Many consider the commands of Jesus being something along the lines of the Ten Commandments. Have no other God’s before Him, have no idols, honor the Sabbath, do not lie or steal or murder or covet or disrespect your parents and so on and I would not disagree with that but think about this. There was a time when Jesus was asked what the greatest Commandment was. His response was to love The Lord your God with all your heart and soul and your mind. He then said the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Now consider how great a command these are. Paul Washer states that at no point in any believer’s life has he ever loved God with all of his heart and soul and mind and I tend to agree with him. I would also add that it is nearly impossible to love your neighbor as yourself. However these are the commands of Jesus and He adds that all of the Law is summed up in these two commands.

In modern day Christianity it seems there is a grave misunderstanding of the commands of Jesus that is spoken of in 1 John. Many in the churched culture seem to have a minimalistic attitude when it comes to somehow qualifying as a follower of Jesus. There are many that only consider the least amount of what they can do in order to somehow qualify or justify in their hearts and minds as being a “Christian”. Maybe they have walked the isle and prayed a prayer and got dunked and have not considered their growth in their faith since. Or they claim to be a church member because they attend once in awhile yet are not connected to and serving in the community of believers in that church. Or they give just enough that they don’t feel guilty but rarely give sacrificially. Maybe they will slap a fish sticker or cross or “I worship at …” on the back of their car and somehow feel ok with rarely or never openly sharing their faith. They will post a need for prayer or complain to others about sufferings but are afraid to publicly approach the Lord in prayer even in the smallest group. They complain that they are not being fed in their church or criticize the ministry yet never volunteer to help facilitate Gospel centered change.

Honestly are these the types of commands that Jesus says are ok for followers of Jesus? It seems to me that when Jesus tells us that we are to pick up our cross and follow Him it means much more than we give it credit. John seems harsh in verse 4 when he says the one that claims to know Him but does not keep His commands is a liar but it is a harsh truth that we would do well to hear. Are we lying to ourselves when we do the minimum when Jesus actually calls us to so much more?

What I see is that Jesus tells us not to strive or be happy with the minimum bet He tells us to strive for so much more. To love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves seems to be the impossible but that is the standard that Jesus calls us to strive for.

When we are struggling financially the minimum would be don’t go out and steal and that would be good. However if we take Jesus’ standards we ought to look around for those that are worse off and see how we can serve. If our brother asks us to go a mile with him the minimum is to go that mile without grumbling. Jesus however commands us to go further than just what was asked. When our enemy attacks us the minimum would be not to return with an attack. Jesus says that we are to turn and offer the other cheek.

I pray that we consider these words of John. I pray that we abide in Jesus and our heart’s desire is to keep His commands. There is no such thing as a “Minimalist Christian” according to scripture. May the Spirit help us to see the areas that we are minimal and strive for the maximum. If we KNOW Him we Will KEEP His commandments. Are we walking in the same way in which He walked?

Monday, July 11, 2016

We are at war!

I am a pastor. I am also a 19 year veteran police officer. The events of the past few weeks have weighed on me heavily not only as a cop but also as a pastor. I mourn the loss of my brothers in blue and I hurt for their families who will sit at a dinner table with an empty chair tonight.

Today I attended a memorial service in our city for the fallen officers from Dallas. It was very respectful and an honor however as I listened to the names being called and the prayers offered I could not help but feel uneasy. I was uneasy to the point I was uncomfortable and almost sick. I looked around at all the people and could not help but think this would be the extent of their efforts to cope and deal with the things that have transpired. I thought, is this it? 

Maybe this was compounded by the rage of social media of so many amateur experts offering their sure fire way to solve the problems that plague modern day society. As I read through many I found myself more perplexed, frustrated and heartbroken because none offered any real hope. So in my hypocrisy I took to my computer and this is the result. 

We are at war! Make no mistake about it. The events that have occurred in the past several weeks, even a few years, should be a true wakeup call that there is a horrendous war raging and we are in the middle of it. This war is not one that is cops against the black lives matter movement. This war is not one that is Democrat against Republican. It is not a war for justice in our corrupt government. It is not a war of Americans against radical Islam or ISIS. It is much bigger. This war has just manifested itself in these facets. This war has reared it’s head as racial tension, religious tension and political tension. This war is spiritual. 

My fear is that we have been oblivious to it. The enemy has done well to trick us into fighting it wrong. We take to social media and rant. We march or block roadways. We wave signs with intent to “bring awareness”, whatever that means. We have vigils or rallies or simply just sit on the porch and complain all the while our anger and frustration builds. None of this does much good if any at all. It is because we fight this war wrong. And it is because we do not understand the war we are in.

Ephesians 6:12 says “ For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

This war is spiritual and the enemy wants to keep us off the spiritual battlefield and distracted on the battlefield of flesh and blood where we have no hope of victory. Instead the Apostle Paul says to take up the armor of God which are elements of our spiritual defense so that we may withstand in the evil day. Our problem is we exchanged the armor of truth for lies, righteousness for pride, faith for anger, salvation for destruction, the Word of God for our own agenda and the greatest one of all the Gospel is nowhere.

It is time we pull our heads out of the sand of the physical battleground and get our hearts into the spiritual realm. We need to pray, and I don’t mean simply for protection and safety. We need to pray for boldness to confront our enemies with truth. We need to hold fast to our faith knowing that whatever comes our way we have the glory of God to look forward to. We honestly need to open our Bibles and see the God of the Bible and obey His commands and stand on His promises and not some short tweet or Facebook share and be blessed tidbit of misused scripture. 

Lastly we need to be about the Gospel. We call ourselves a “Christian” nation then we need to prove it by being about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is how we fight and win the war we are in. Share the Gospel and live the Gospel. We must stop looking to destroy those that hate us and seek to rescue them from the wrath of God with the Gospel. After all Jesus came to seek and save the lost, Jew and Gentile.

So my encouragement and challenge is to get off the couch or porch, turn off the social media, stop ranting and go to those around you and give them Jesus. Just give them the Gospel, that which the gates of hell will not overcome. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Giving Thanks to The Father

I opened the church at around 6am as I do every Sunday morning. I spend my time unlocking doors and turning the AC on and other things to have the building ready for when everyone arrives. I am usually alone in this until around 8am. However this morning just after 7am I heard the front door open and my son Garrett walks in. This is odd for him because he rarely gets out of bed that early. He walks up and gives me a hug and tells me "Happy Father's Day dad." I then ask why he is up so early and he informs me that he is headed to Dallas to lead worship at another church.......on father's Day. I tell him to be careful and have a good time and I watch him walk out the door and drive off.

As He drove away my heart swelled and I just realized I had received a wonderful Father's Day gift not only from my son but from my Heavenly Father. Most dads would be upset that their child was choosing to spend the day apart from them on this day. After all it is Father's Day right? Not me. I was over joyed. 

This was a wonderful choice my son has made and I owe it all to my Heavenly Father. See my son had chosen to serve our Heavenly Father on this day over me and I am so thankful. My son sees the importance of serving The Lord over man and he knows that I love him dearly however he also knows that it is only a fraction of the Love God has for Him. For a dad that is what I want my kids to know. I do want them to know that I love them but I want them to know that The Lord loves them immeasurably more. 

I also want my children to know the value in serving their Heavenly Father as well. As dads we should desire this for our children. It shows our care for our kids when we desire for them to serve in worshiping The Lord. This is the greatest thing we could desire for our children that they know, love and serve The Lord. And this is a gift from our Heavenly Father. He has made Himself known to my children. He has shown them their sinful nature but also shown them His redemption and glory through Jesus. Thank you Father for this great gift on this day.

As my son drove away I could not help but think of the words in 1 John 4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." My heart is overjoyed today. 

Happy Father's Day.