Tag Archives: holiness

Called To Be Strangers We Are

star wars yodaWho wants to be Yoda?  Small in stature and green to boot.  He’s bald and got hobgoblin ears.  Powerful in the force is he, but English syntax is not his strong suit.  Let’s face it, Yoda is strange and nobody wants to be strange.

We really want to fit it.  As much as we might desire to be different from others and express ourselves, we generally express ourselves in the same manner.   I’ve spent most of my adult life working with teenagers.  Now I have two of my own and I can tell you –  standing out is not high on their priority list.  From the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, even what time they show up at an event is about not standing out.  And what is true of teenagers is true of adults.  Adults, though less concerned about their music, are more concerned with opinions and being thought us as “open-minded” and “intelligent”.  I’ve seen grown men and women deny their faith in order to fit in.  Truth be told, I’ve seen churches, even entire denominations give up their Biblical identity just to be part of the crowd.

I’ve read and heard people talk about America being “post-Christian” for about 10 years, but I didn’t really believe it until this past election.  I believe them now.  After watching several denominations take unbiblical stances on marriage and sexuality, remain silent on issues of right and wrong, give way to political correctness, and concede the authority of Scripture and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, it is no surprise the culture has moved in the direction of paganism in the name of tolerance.  And, unfortunately, many adult Christians have gone right along with the culture in order to fit in.

The time has come for the church to remember who we are and what we are called to be.  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

God has always made His people distinct so that they would be different from the culture around them.  The Bible has a word for being set apart for God.  The word is “holy.”  Fitting in with the world has never been an option.  In fact, a sure sign that you are missing it, is that you go right along with the world.  Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Jesus said his disciples were in the world, but not of it.  I am afraid we have forgotten who we are.  And by forgetting our set apart nature, Christians have failed to be salt and light in this world.  We have failed to declare the truth about who God is and live by His Holy Spirit.  That is why the culture around us is deteriorating exponentially. 

After Peter writes this resume for  Christians, in the next breath he says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world…”  He just called us Yoda.  People should be looking at Christians like we are from another planet.  They should see in us a holiness that is not from these parts.  Any concept of doing what the world does in order to fit in is at odds with being a Christian.  It’s time for each of us to examine ourselves.    Are we trying to fit in with the culture around us?  Are we, in order to fit in, sacrificing our identity and denying our Lord?  James, 4:4 asks, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God?”  Have we forgotten who God has called us to be?

I believe we are living in a time where the difference between following Christ and and fitting in with the norms of the culture will be stark.  Issues and life choices are going to be light and darkness.  Fitting in for Christians is not an option any longer.  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” 

Even in Star Wars, Yoda is strange.  Have you ever noticed another Yoda?  There are plenty of Ewoks, Wookies, humans, droids, but Yodas?  Aliens and strangers called to be we are.

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Filed under Beliefs, Church, Discipleship, Holiness, Life

Broken Compass

My friend asked upon reading my Facebook intro (Something to do the day after)to my last blog, “What do Christians do now that the president is still the president?!”  I assume she was asking, “What has changed that has so many people bummed out.”  On the surface, nothing.  But the election revealed, in black and white clarity, America’s moral compass is broken.  

Proverbs 13:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”  What would our founding fathers say about legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and same-sex marriage in some states?  What would they say about mandating people pay for abortions?  What would they say about religion, holiness, and morality as it effects the nation?

Let me introduce you to John Witherspoon.  Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister, President of Princeton College, a New Jersey delegate to the Continential Congress, and signer of the Declaration of Independence.  The following is an excerpt from a sermon called The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men.  Preached in Princeton in 1776, Witherspoon offers some great wisdom for us in connceting our faith and our national character.  There is some real practical advice and truth offered here to anyone who would “turn from our wicked ways and seek God’s face.”  Here’s John…

“Suffer me to recommend to you an attention to the public interest of religion, or in other words, zeal for the glory of God and the good of others. I have already endeavored to exhort sinners to repentance; what I have here in view is to point out to you the concern which every good man ought to take in the national character and manners, and the means which he ought to use for promoting public virtue, and bearing down impiety and vice. This is a matter of the utmost moment, and which ought to be well understood, both in its nature and principles. Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue. On the other hand, when the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigour, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed. This will be found equally certain, whether we consider the great principles of God’s moral government, or the operation and influence of natural causes.

What follows from this? That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy to God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country. Do not suppose, my brethren, that I mean to recommend a furious and angry zeal for the circumstantials of religion, or the contentions of one sect with another about their peculiar distinctions. I do not wish you to oppose any body’s religion, but every body’s wickedness. Perhaps there are few surer marks of the reality of religion, than when a man feels himself more joined in spirit to a true holy person of a different denomination, than to an irregular liver of his own. It is therefore your duty in this important and critical season to exert yourselves, every one in his proper sphere, to stem the tide of prevailing vice, to promote the knowledge of God, the reverence of his name and worship, and obedience to his laws.

Perhaps you will ask, what it is that you are called to do for this purpose farther than your own personal duty? I answer this itself when taken in its proper extent is not a little. The nature and obligation of visible religion is, I am afraid, little understood and less attended to.

Many from a real or pretended fear of the imputation of hypocrisy, banish from their conversation and carriage every appearance of respect and submission to the living God. What a weakness and meanness of spirit does it discover, for a man to be ashamed in the presence of his fellow sinners, to profess that reverence to almighty God which he inwardly feels: The truth is, he makes himself truly liable to the accusation which he means to avoid. It is as genuine and perhaps a more culpable hypocrisy to appear to have less religion than you really have, than to appear to have more. This false shame is a more extensive evil than is commonly apprehended. We contribute constantly, though insensibly, to form each others character and manners; and therefore, the usefulness of a strictly holy and conscientious deportment is not confined to the possessor, but spreads its happy influence to all that are within its reach. I need scarcely add, that in proportion as men are distinguished by understanding, literature, age, rank, office, wealth, or any other circumstance, their example will be useful on the one hand, or pernicious on the other.

But I cannot content myself with barely recommending a silent example. There is a dignity in virtue which is entitled to authority, and ought to claim it. In many cases it is the duty of a good man, by open reproof and opposition, to wage war with profaneness. There is a scripture precept delivered in very singular terms, to which I beg your attention; “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart, but shalt in any wise rebuke him, and not suffer sin upon him.” How prone are many to represent reproof as flowing from ill nature and surliness of temper? The spirit of God, on the contrary, considers it as the effect of inward hatred, or want of genuine love, to forbear reproof, when it is necessary or may be useful. I am sensible there may in some cases be a restraint from prudence, agreeably to that caution of our Saviour, “Cast not your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rent you.” Of this every man must judge as well as he can for himself; but certainly, either by open reproof, or expressive silence, or speedy departure from such society, we ought to guard against being partakers of other men’s sins.”

You can find the whole sermon here.  I’d love to hear your reaction to Witherspoon, so please share your thoughts.  I’ll share some of mine in my next post.

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Filed under Beliefs, Freedom, History, Holiness, Preaching, Revival

If My People

I try to tell myself that today is no different than any day in the last four years. No wonder I feel terrible. I turned off the tv last night about 10:30 and went to bed. I went to bed, but I didn’t get much sleep.

This morning and throughout the day I have received emails and texts from friends asking some hard questions. “I don’t understand how God would allow this leadership in government. Is this His will?” “How do I get past the anger and anxiety?” “What are Christians suppose to do now?” Reminds me of the Psalmist lament in 11:3, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous to do?” I wish I had an answer for the Psalmist.

One friend told me she could not remember an election so prayed over. I had made that same observation. I can’t recall more materials coming across my desk, more calls for prayer and fasting, and even prayer meetings for an election than this one. “Why didn’t God answer those prayers?” I don’t know that one either.

But I can say this with full confidence: Purity is on the other side of the refiner’s fire. God wants a holy people. And let’s be honest, the church is far from it. Oh, we’ll be decent and kind as long as it doesn’t inconvience us, but even in churches we don’t use the word “holy” anymore. We pretend the word is too offensive to others, but the reality is, it’s too offensive to us.

Our nation is in need of a Great Awakening. The foundations are being destroyed before our eyes and we are helpless to do anything about it. Or are we? I believe the cure begins with each one of us. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Did you notice who God requires to humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways? Is it the entire country? Is it the government? No, it is His people. We must be the ones to pursue holiness in our lives. And when we do, God will heal our land.

The world will continue to act like the world. But judgement comes when God’s people act like the world. Or didn’t we read the Old Testament? How serious are you willing to get with the Lord about your sin and His holiness? Are you willing to turn from you wicked ways? Will you humble yourself before the the Lord? There is no more time for games with God. He is not one to be triffle with.

What we do now as Christians is to humble ourselves before God, confess our sin and turn from it, and seek to honor Him in all our ways. Then God will hear us and heal our land.

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Tune in tomorrow to hear from Jonathan Witherspoon, a minister and signer of the Declaration of Independence, on his thoughts concerning this.

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Filed under Church, Discipleship, Government, Holiness, Prayer, Revival

Your Bride Is Ugly

I keep bumping into this sentiment lately: “I like God, but I can’t stand the church.”  Or, “I’ll take Jesus, but I can do without Christians.”  It seems like even folks who claim the faith are taking their shots at the church.  Criticisms range from the church being too involved in politics to being irrelevant, from Christians being judgmental to not knowing what they believe.  Some people have decided that they are no longer going to call themselves “Christians” because it carries too much baggage.  “Christ-follower” is much more vogue and it gives one the option of following Jesus without being part of the church.

I wonder how that makes Jesus feel.  I think those comments are a kin to going to a bridegroom and telling him, “Dude I like you, but your bride is ugly.”  Honestly, how long do you think you are going to be friends?  Can you continue to have a relationship with the bridegroom and disparage the bride?  Do you think you are still going to get an invitation to the wedding reception?

I do not think that the church is above criticism.  In fact, when the bride is unfaithful to the bridegroom she needs to be corrected.  The Scripture is clear that judgment begins with the house of God. (1 Peter 4:17.)  But who is entitled to do the judging?  And to what standard is she being measured?  If the standard is other than the Word of God, then it is, at best, a distraction and, at worse, an idol.

Is there another institution that has done more to lift humanity out of the slim of history than the church?  Has government done more to restore the dignity of humanity to the elderly, the poor, the unborn?  Does Madison Avenue preach a message that gives people hope and peace?  Has technology been able to restore broken relationships, especially a relationship with God?  Can forgiveness be purchased on Wall Street?  Perhaps a little tolerance could be extended for poor coffee and hokey movies.

So why the hostility towards Christians and the church?  R.C. Sproul writes in The Holiness of God, “People have an appreciation for moral excellence, as long as it is removed a safe distance from them.  The Jews honored the prophets, from a distance.  The world honors Christ, from a distance.” (pg. 71)  Two thousand years later it is easy to admire Jesus, but get close to Him and you might find out why the prophets were killed and He was crucified.  The closer He gets the more our unholiness is revealed.  Sproul continues, “They feel crowded by holiness, even if it is made present only by an imperfect, partially sanctified human vessel.” (pg.82). Imperfect, partially sanctified human vessel is a pretty good description of the church.

Yet, the Church is the bride of Christ.  She is not perfect (not yet anyway), but He is the one who has called her.  Jesus purchased her with His own blood.  He washed her in His Word.  Jesus is preparing a place for her at this moment for eternity.  And Jesus is anxious to return and get her so that she can be with Him.  Jesus loves the church.  The church is His creation.  He will make her holy and pure in His time. 

The church has issues, no doubt.  However, Christians should be a bit more careful before throwing her to the curb the way the world does.  For there is coming a day (sorry, I don’t mean to fixate on end times) when those who “love Jesus but can’t stand the church” are going to be very glad they are counted among her.

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Filed under Beliefs, Church, Marriage