Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Just Thinking..... About Taking A Stand

Just Thinking...I suppose it should be clear at this point that the days of burying our heads and "standing" for a version of Christianity that will keep everyone happy are gone. JESUS HIMSELF SAID that following him means that you will risk losing your reputation, your career, your good name and even much more. If you're a Christian, are you ready for that? That time is coming. Some might say it's already here.

 Too often the only thing people, even in the church, can remember Jesus saying is, "judge not lest you be judged." We have been happy to sit by and let others who have a complete lack of understanding of that verse, use it beat us into a corner where, in all reality, we have to ask permission to follow Christ. Is that the Christianity that has been passed down to us from Jesus and His disciples? I don't think so! 

The Christianity of scripture is such that we are to live our lives to the best of our abilities to love God, love people and speak the truth about both. Our desire is NEVER to offend, but it will happen. The Gospel is offensive! Jesus is THE ONLY way to Heaven. What His Words says is true and cannot be changed. Sin will not go unpunished, but there is a way out through Jesus alone! There is no way that message will not offend. The church must come to grips with that or we can no longer call ourselves the church. Social club? Maybe. Church? NO!

 At times you may be surprised that the ones who are standing against you are the very ones who claim to be your brothers and sisters. You will be lied about, misrepresented and painted as judgmental, hateful, intolerant and those are the nice words. When it comes down to it, we must make a choice between trying to be the all around good guy or girl who everyone likes, but who makes no real difference in the world or be someone who is willing to lovingly and firmly speak the truth without consideration of the consequence. Jesus NEVER called us to work hard to get people to like us. He called us to love everyone enough to tell the truth. He called us to be a faithful voice for Him as it is revealed in scripture. He has called us to be willing to risk it all for HIM and Him alone. Paul said, "If we live, it's to honor the Lord. And if we die, it's to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." That's the Christianity of the Bible.

Casual Christianity is over. It's been over for awhile but we have, at times, had our heads so buried in our own little world's we haven't noticed. Or maybe we haven't cared. It has been so long since the church in America has truly been persecuted to the point of loss, that we feel like something is wrong if everyone doesn't love us. This feels heavy on my heart to say that but I truly believe it is reality. It could be, however, that a little shot of persecution is what the church actually needs to cause us to stand up for something, or should I say someone, instead of constantly being pushed backwards by those who will hate God no matter what we do. Somewhere between the faithful remnant of God and those who hate God is a world that desperately needs to know the truth of the Gospel! Will we give it to them? Or will we just continue to post happy quotes, and say happy things that don't offend but most certainly will not help anyone to find salvation through the Gospel of Jesus? 
Anyway, I was just thinking...

Monday, May 21, 2018

Just Thinking....About The Next Generation

Just Thinking.... I have seen a fair share of Facebook posts lately from "more mature" older generation pastors and believers who seem to have nothing better to do than put down the younger generation of pastors, worship leaders and leaders in general. Their song lyrics aren't good enough. They don't preach the right way. They don't preach the "Real Gospel." They don’t dress right. They don’t look right! Blah, Blah, Blah. Generally speaking, I try to scroll right on by and ignore it. However, it is really beginning to get on my last to speak.
Are all of these criticisms true in some cases? Of course they are. They are true just like the criticisms of the hyper holiness, suit wearing, judgmental, preachers who don’t actually love people, but simply want to beat them with the Bible are true in some cases. They are true just like the preacher who is preaching repentance on Sunday and sleeping with his secretary on Monday are true in some cases. HOWEVER, most older generation pastors and leaders are loving, caring, go to the ends of the earth for their people kind of folks. Is it fair to paint the entire older generation with a broad brush of hate and immorality because there are some? Absolutely not! I am exceedingly thankful for the pastors I had growing up. Some have gone on to be with The Lord. Some are still pressing forward preaching the Gospel. All of them have had an amazing influence on my life. Were they perfect? NO! Did they always say and do the right thing. NO! However, they loved God and taught me to do the same. They SHOWED me the way to go.
When I started preaching I was HORRIBLE! (Some may think I still am :) ) I still have a cassette tape (Remember those?) of my first sermon. I don’t know how anyone could have sat through that. I wouldn’t want to sit through it. My pastor could have torn it apart and destroyed my passion to do anything for the Kingdom. He did not. I am thankful. Instead, I was encouraged and taught. Every once in a while my pastor would say, hey you kind of missed that one. Or he would encourage me to see something I didn’t realize before. In short, he helped me instead of tearing me down. I have had several imperfect and yet amazing pastors in my life. They have helped me to learn, to progress and to continue growing.
What’s my point? It is DANGEROUS and I believe on the border line of sinful to create straw men caricatures of uncaring, unprincipled, ignorant young leaders who don’t love God like we did “in the good ole days” when our doctrines and actions were absolute perfection. (Strangely, I’ve been in the church for forty years and I don’t remember the good ole days in that way.) Those ignorant caricatures are then used to paint a broad brush picture of an entire generation of leaders and believers. It Is WRONG and it needs to STOP!
Instead of using our voice to tear down and criticize, how about using our voices to help mentor and teach? I realize it’s easier to sit “in the balcony” and criticize from the sidelines like the two old guys from the Muppets. Nonetheless, it is not helpful or productive for the Kingdom. Come to think of it, I think the Bible actually says something about the older generation teaching the younger. (Hmm, maybe we should check on that.) Anyway, how about encouraging their passion and teaching them how to better express it? If it’s not right teach them. If it’s just not your “cup of tea” leave them alone and let them run for the Kingdom. Pray, encourage, mentor, these are the things that matter. Not criticism and belittling.
The world we live in now is not the same world we lived in forty years ago. We MUST stop trying to push the next generation into ministering the same way we did forty years ago. The message doesn’t change, the methods do! We have to stop trying to create “mini-me” preachers who would have torn it up in the sixties, seventies and eighties. We aren’t living in the sixties, seventies and eighties anymore.
What the next generation needs from the older generation (and like it or not I am part of it now) is guidance. Not criticism! Not picking apart each word looking for reason to let them know they aren’t quite as good. (By the way, why the need to criticize so much? Could it be that the critic is really only trying to make themselves look better by tearing others down?)
Personally, I know several young leaders who love God, love worship, LOVE the Word of God and want nothing more than to be vessels used to preach the gospel. They don’t seem to fit into that whole straw man camp of ignorant heretics and apostates. Those I know personally are just a small sampling of young leaders all over the country and even the world who want to make Jesus famous. They are not perfect, but they are being used by God.
It’s time to help, not tear down. Show the way like somebody showed YOU the way! Sometimes it’s inconvenient. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it feels overwhelming. Sometimes it is all of those things, but ALL the time it is worth it.
If you consider yourself to be part of the “old guard” of the church, the younger generation NEEDS your help, your knowledge, and your experience. Don’t deprive them of that. Go out of your way to give it away.
Finally, Thank you to Deloy Pooler, Larry Odam, Paul Walker, Harold Westcott, Ron Moore, Larry Comer, Dave Scanlon, Tony Arnett and all of the other pastors and teachers that didn't give up on me. Thank you for encouraging me when I was right and calling me out when I was wrong. I owe you all a debt of gratitude. I am who I am because of your influence. I only pray that God would help me to lead others in the same way. Imperfectly but sincerely.