Monday, July 21, 2008


I'll never forget the first time that I walked into a "Christian" bookstore and low and behold there it was, right before my eyes "Christian" candy. "Christian" breath mints to be exact, complete with the cheesy Christian cliche name "Testamints". My initial response was "you have to be kidding me, Testamints!" After a double take just to be sure, my worst fear was confirmed, I was not having some bizarre acid flashback/hallucination, someone was actually producing and marketing "Christian" breath mints.

Of course my vivid imagination immediately conjured up the marketing piece for this product. The scene is the pearly gates and there is Peter with a long line of people waiting their turn to stand before God and upon entering Peter cordially makes the offer "Testamint?"

I wish that were the end but of course Testamints were followed by other ingenious offerings such as Scripture cookies, the "Christian" version of fortune cookies, and a whole array of treats offered by the "sweet Jesus confection company". Don't get me started, oh yah I guess I already am...

So what is the purpose of this post? I guess to pose a simple question; what is it that makes something "Christian"? Is it the fact that we slap some label on it? I don't think that works with people let alone candy, music, movies and the many other things we lump into this category. Furthermore, why do "we" need such things? Why is it that Christians need their own candy, coffee shops and what next, maybe commodes?

I know that we are to be in the world but not of the world but aren't these things in effect taking us out of the world? We now go into a "Christian" bookstore to buy our books, music, movies and treats. At some churches you can also buy such things, along with a latte and a pastry but don't worry they take visa.

Anyhow, I think Scripture clearly teaches us to not be "of the world" but doesn't it also teach us to be "in the world". In fact Jesus prayed this very thing in John 17 where He asked the Father not to remove his followers from the world but to protect them in the midst of it. His prayer was that we would be protected from the evil one and that the Father would "sanctify us by truth" and He goes on to say "your Word is Truth".

To sanctify is to set apart. We are to be set apart by truth, not by labels and our own "Christian" subculture that we create. By doing such things we have in effect set ourselves apart and limited our effectiveness in reaching this world. But we are proud that we are set apart, untainted by this world.

Does it mean anything that Jesus stepped out of the perfect place in heaven with the Father to enter our world, full of sin, selfishness and hate? I believe He did this to not only pay the price for our sins but to also leave us with an example. He stepped into our so that we would follow His example and step into the world around us. In fact, He tells us so much...

"As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world"
Jesus (John 17)

May we be people who follow the commands of Jesus as well as His example. There are people all around us who are waiting for someone to step into their world and offer them...not a testamint or some other trinket...but love and hope! Jesus prayed for the Father to protect us, we should be OK at Starbucks, Barnes and Noble or the local pub for that matter, if it that is where God leads us to go and make His presence known.

Therefore let us be people who are willing to obey the call to be in the world but not of it. May God give us grace and wisdom to know how to EFFECTIVELY do this very thing, for His name and His cause.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

rest for the weary

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

My guess is that if you were to survey a group of Christians to see if this passage accurately represented the way they feel as a result of their faith in Christ and involvement in their local church, the results would be less than favorable. In fact if I were a gambler I would lay fat wad of cash that this is the case.

Why is it that so often the things that Jesus speaks of, promises, and personally exemplifies and represents, end up foreign to our modern day Christian experience? Could it be that Jesus' life and teachings are so radical and counter cultural that often his own followers and the very institution that claims to represent him, find it hard to believe and teach such radical claims? Has Christianity become more about us and our agenda rather than about Him and His mission? As a result who is it that benefits and who is it that suffers?

When we water down, change or alter the message of Jesus in any way, everyone loses. The Church has done a great job of telling people what their responsibilities are and what it means to be "radical" for Christ. We are reminded that the "faithful" are those who are at Church every time the doors are open and who serve in 12 different ministries.

As a result we have become a very religious people and religion makes you tired and sometimes bitter and mean as well. Jesus confronted religion and the one's who taught such things and put such heavy loads on people in the process. Look at what he said about them...

"They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'"

So what am I saying, what should we do? How about we begin by following Jesus and His Word? Let's be sure that our focus is His focus. If this is the case, then we should experience joy, freedom, fullness of life and rest for our souls.

If you are spiritually tired I would suggest you ask yourself a few questions.
-Why are you doing the things you are doing? Out of passion or obligation?
-Who are you trying to please? Jesus or someone else?
-Are you doing too much? If so, prayerfully consider what should go.
-Jesus is gentle and humble in heart, is that represented by those in leadership of the fellowship you attend? If not, find somewhere else to go.
-Lastly, are you motivated by love?

We love Him because He first loved us. His love is unconditional. For those of us who know Him, we should know that we are accepted and loved, not because of what we do or don't do but because we belong to Him.

May His love motivate us to do what we do and may His love allow us to accept ourselves just as He accepts us. Find rest in Him, for His yoke is easy and His burden in light.

Oh and sorry for the month between posts...I needed rest.

Grace and peace.