Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Seduction From Words (Rough thoughts from a Passionate Soul)

Seduction is the act of enticing someone astray from right actions or belief.
There has been a shift taking place over the past several years in Christian circles. There has been a reduction of intentional verbiage about the message of Jesus and in exchange there has been a strong encouragement and increase in thoughts given to deeds of righteousness like serving the poor and mending the less fortunates fences. We are told by many that we must earn the right to be heard* before we give out the Gospel. Many today simply believe that they never get to the place where they have earned the ability to tell the story of Jesus or how Jesus has swept them off of their feet. They keep serving and praying but often not speaking.
In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus was very clear that his followers should be out casting lots of seed (the Word of God) indiscriminately. Jesus also teaches us that He will give us the best and most effective words at the exact time we need them when we choose to share the news about Jesus with not-yet-believers (Matt. 10:16-20; Mark 13:9-11; Luke 21:12-15). Paul teaches us that people cannot believe in Jesus without hearing about Him and to hear about Him there needs to be a proclaimer (Romans 10:14). Paul even prays that He will be given the words and boldness needed in his sharing of the good news (Ephesians 6:18-20). I've often wondered how many conversations Paul may have had where people called him crazy for wanting to share about a man who is also God and was mistreated, falsely accused, crucified, died, buried and rose again from the grave three days later.
Jesus taught us to love one another and the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). John records Jesus teaching us that the world will know that we are His disciples if we love and care for one another (John 13:35). The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) certainly teaches that when we see a need we should step up and meet it instead of turning our heads away from challenging situations.
The seductive piece of my thoughts comes in watching how many in the church have for the most part, laid aside the speaking of the truth of Jesus for living the truth in the name of social justice and other good deed ideas. I really like social justice thinking and doing but somehow the church has largely been seduced to believing that our words are no longer effective. I do believe that we have much to learn about living out our faith instead of just being bloated with words about eternal life, abundant life, heaven and Jesus (hell is not mentioned much in today's Church). We really do need to have our deeds match our beliefs and our words, but does this need to be done in the absence or diminishing of words? Could it be that somehow we have been seduced into being quiet because it is more PC (politically correct)? The Scriptures are clear, without a proclaimer of this good news, people will not get saved.
There does need to be a synthesizing of words and deeds - a living out the words that we speak and the Word that we believe (1 John 3:18). Without the truth in our hearts, we cannot be set free. Without the planting of seeds (The Word of God according to Mark 4:14), we cannot have a harvest of souls.
So get out there and cast some seeds and love on people a whole bunch. Put action to what you believe and love large.
*You can find this thinking in "The Externally Focused Church" by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson page 13

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Long Walk in the Same Direction

Long walks take time, effort and sacrifice. When you throw in another person or more, the challenge gets more difficult. Long walks with others often invoke strong conversation and we have some good examples in the Scriptures. In the beginning, Adam took walks with God in the cool of the evening in the garden of Eden and you can bet Adam learned a lot. Abraham began a long walk with his close friends and family and they didn't know where they were headed but they learned to trust God. Moses had a long walk of 40 years in the wilderness with his family and God used it to shape Moses and the people of Israel. Jesus walked with His twelve disciples for three and a half years and we know of many of those talks and how profound they were in impacting the world. Long walks with others is a good way to look at how God develops people to become more like He is.
Taking a long walk in the same direction (towards Jesus) with good friends is a good way to describe discipleship. For too long discipleship has been reduced to books, studies and filling in the blanks. Knowledge and completing classes has been used to measure ones maturity but it is incomplete. Knowledge is necessary but applying what you know is learning and learning to be like Jesus can only be done in relationship. I can say this because we are made in God's image and God choses to exist in a community of three; The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What I learn from this is that living in community with a few for a long time is possibly the best way to encourage each other, and so much the more, as we see the day of the Lord drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25). Paul is strong about living our faith in community and influencing others towards Jesus. He strongly encourages taking life long walks (or at least a significant amount of time) with others. Learning from one another's mistakes and success' seems important to him. As we read about Paul, we rarely see him moving about in isolation. He is most often with a team of people who are laboring together to get the message of Jesus out to folks whether he is teaching in synagogues or sewing tents together to sale. Here is how he encouraged Timothy who was serving the churches in Ephesus. "Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." 2 Timothy 2:22 (emphasis mine) I know that taking long walks with others in inconvenient, they robs us of our personal time and space and intrude upon the privacy of our lives that is often highly valued by the western culture. But without long walks, strong conversations and mutual encouragement in the things of Jesus, I'm afraid we will not actually be helping people become like Jesus. And that is a key thing that He asked us to do - to make disciples by taking long walks in the same direction. Are you taking a long walk in the same direction with anyone?