Monday, February 25, 2013

Inocolution Compromise

A report by the Center for Disease Control last week reported that the flu vaccine for 2013 was only 9% effective for senior adults.  This means that 91% of all senior adults who received the flu vaccine were susceptible to this year's flu strain.  When the FDA approves the flu vaccine each year, manufacturers are given three strains of the flu virus to include in that years' vaccine.  So if the flu strain which hits most of America is not one of those three, people who received the vaccine will still be able to catch that flu virus.  When information is shared like the ineffectiveness of this year's vaccine, the CDC usually responds by telling us that having a flu shot is still a good idea.   This year's vaccine actually ended up hurting those who were trying to be helped, the senior adults.

This kind of thinking has been seeping into the American Church for the past several decades.  We have begun to compromise with culture to remain "relevant" and "engaged with our culture".  So the Church begins to reflect the same cultural norms and values rather than reflecting the values of Christ and the Bible.  The Church becomes little more than a social club or a support group or a political activist.  It trying to remain close to our culture, we have slowly become infected with the sin so prevalent in our country.  Rather than being a place of health, we become just as sick as those around us.  We hope for an injection of faith that will keep us from trouble, rather than trying to live a holy life which pleases God.

The areas where this happens are numerous, so I will just list a few.  The church has moved in step with culture when it comes to divorce.  Rather than looking at divorce through God's perspective, we legitimize frequent and "painless" divorce by saying, "God wouldn't want me to stay in an unhappy relationship" or "I married the wrong man/woman" or "I can serve God better if this spouse were not bringing me down".  Rather than looking at anger from God's perspective, we justify our anger by saying, "The Bible says to not SIN in our anger, so being angry is okay" or "The Bible tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger" or equating our anger with Jesus clearing the Temple.  Rather than abstaining from alcohol, we justify our drinking by saying, "Jesus turned water to wine, so I can drink wine" or "The Bible says to not get drunk on wine, so as long as I don't get drunk, it's okay to drink" or "what I do in private is no one's concern and I'm not hurting anyone".  Rather than honoring God's view of homosexual activity as sin, we justify a compromise by saying, "That stuff about homosexuality is the Law in the Old Testament and we don't live by the Law any more" or "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality so it must be fine" or "God is a God of love and He created us this way".    Rather than looking for reach our community with the love and compassion of Christ, we justify spending more and more money on bigger buildings and newer technology.  Rather than pointing out the truths of Scripture, we seek to entertain those who attend church with upbeat music, cute videos and "talks" rather than sermons.  By these compromises, we actually end up hurting the very ones we are trying to help.

We simply try to inoculate us with a modicum of Biblical truth rather than being genuinely honest with Scripture.  We know that holding firm to Biblical values in our lives will make us disliked by many in our culture and make us appear insensitive.  We will be called "bigots", "Haters" or be equated to Westboro Baptist Church.  We are afraid to offend anyone, so we put just enough Bible in our thoughts to bring peace or spend vast amounts of energy proof-texting the Bible to make a case for something that has been called sin by God.  No one wants to be hated by those around us.  We all want to effectively minister to those in need and those who are hurting. Unfortunately, those in our culture who are looking for authentic faith are not finding it in churches which value these compromises or who become so legalistic that there is no grace or authentic living out of our faith.

Hillcrest family, let me encourage you to allow the Word of God to permeate every aspect of your life.  If we spend time in God's Word every day and enjoy spending time with God, He will give us the guidance, direction, conviction and peace we are needing.  Jesus' calls to us was not to live a perfect life, but was to follow Him.  For James & John, that meant leaving their family and their Dad's fishing business.  They weren't leaving anything sinful, they simply had a higher calling in following Jesus.  As we follow Jesus, He leads us on wonderful long cuts and He utilizes holy subtraction in our lives to bring about the abundant life.  Growing in our fellowship with Jesus will take care of these issues.  We will not have to seek ways to twist the Bible to meet our lifestyle, but will change our lifestyle to meet the truth of Scripture.  We will live in that I Jon 1:9 joy of confessing our sin and experiencing God's cleansing and forgiveness.  When we decide to live life the Jesus way, most people won't understand and may even think we are weird.  However, there is incredible freedom in following Jesus.  We don't have to worry about looking over our shoulder, having skeletons in the closet or the pain which comes from the aforementioned compromises.

Don't be fooled into thinking that a quick inoculation of God's Word will keep us from the pain of bad choices.  Divorce leaves children in pain and actually affects the life expectancy of those who are divorced.  Anger brings about heart disease and drives people away from us.  A recent study just showed that one glass of wine per day greatly increases the risk of cancer.  Those engaging in homosexual activity have a life expectancy which is 10-20% shorter than the average person.  Churches which grow through utilizing advertisement and technology without strong evangelism and discipleship will have trouble maintaining growth and must reinvent with the next strategy to involve people every three years.  We can't just play the game.  We need to genuinely live out a full faith in Christ.

May you be encouraged to be honest with yourself and God about what we have been allowing into our lives.  This is a humbling daily walk which will break our heart as we see how often we have missed the mark. Yet there is amazing peace which comes from seeking to repent and honor God.  We have been called to be holy because God is holy, but we have also been given this incredible grace which covers all of our sins.  Live today as one who seeks to honor God in all things, not just get a quick shot of God to we can justify our sin.  Come clean, be honest and experience God's cleansing.  Because anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.  The old has passed away, all things have become new!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Too Many Voices

I attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  One of my first friends  was from Bakersfield, California, Ed Hamlett.  Ed had transferred to Southern from Golden Gate Seminary in Mill Valley for one year because he wanted to see the East Coast.  So one Spring break, we decided to take a road trip to see the Northeast and parts of Canada.  We ended up visiting thirteen states and two Canadian provinces, traveling over 1,500 miles in six days.  We ended up staying with friends of friends who would let us crash at their homes or apartments.  Our home in New York City was with a friends' sister in her Manhattan apartment.  It was actually a studio in a busy part of town.  I remember having so much trouble falling asleep because there was so much noise on the street at night.  I also got quite claustrophobic in our short time there because there were so many people, so much activity and so much noise.  Just thinking about the kinetic pace of New York gives me a head ache.  There were way too many voices for me.  During the day, when we were walking somewhere, we would have to yell to hear each other.  There was the competing noise of the cars, trucks, taxis, people, subway and venders.  Neither of us were prepared for that type of experience since we were both from much smaller cities with a slower pace.  We had a fun time seeing the sights and being totally confused tourists, but I didn't enjoy the pain inflicted on my ears.  There were just too many voices coming into my ears.

It appears to be that way within the church today in America.  We are hearing way too many voices.  There are voices which want to legitimize sin.  There are voices which want to coerce us into following Jesus to get rich.  There are voices which only want to yell about sin, death and hell.  There are voices that only want to talk grace, grace, grace without any accountability.   There are voices which will tell you whatever you want to hear.  So Americans run from church to church trying to decide which voice they like the most.  That equates, often, to which "show" they like the most.  Which music is more along their choosing.  Which messenger dresses or speaks in the most pleasing way.  Which technology best suits them.  Which theology makes them the most comfortable.  The list goes on and on.

All of these noises simply drown out the only voice we need to hear:  The voice of Jesus.  I have found that Jesus will not fight us to get our attention.  Jesus won't shout down the competition, nor will He knock over competing voices.  Jesus' voice is much like the voice Samuel heard - Still and quiet.  In Psalm 46:10 God reminds us to "Be still and know that I am God."  There are so many voices begging for attention, but God speaks to those who are listening.  We must proactively come to Him to listen and be in His presence.  Stop bringing a list or feeling like you must talk the entire time.  Quietly, study God's Word and listen for His voice in those pages.  He spoke to Abraham and told Abraham to leave home and travel to a distant land that God would show Him.  He spoke to Moses and told Moses to go back to Egypt to set His people free, even though Moses had run away from Egypt forty years earlier.  He spoke to David, convicting David of his sin but also bringing about restoration.  He spoke to Elijah, not in the fire or the wind, but in a gentle whisper.  He spoke to the prophets, giving them the words to say to those who were disobedient.  He spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus.  He spoke to John on the island of Patmos, giving him the vision of Revelation.  That very same God will speak to us...IF we are willing to listen.  We cannot multitask and expect to hear God's voice.  We cannot cram God into a busy schedule and expect Him to speak when it is convenient for us.  We cannot rush God and He will not be rushed.  He will not compete the with other voices in our lives - the computer, the cell phone, the video games, the family, the job, the Ipod, the Ipad, the movies or any other distraction.  

Once we begin to hear His voice, we will know what He sounds like.  Then, we will be able to hear Him above the competing voices in our lives.  His voice will be distinct and easily heard.  My Mom found a unique way of calling us home each evening for dinner.  We lived in a neighborhood with lots of kids, plenty of woods and things to do.  When dinner was ready, Mom would call out and we had five minutes to get home.  If we were late, we did all the dishes and missed out on seconds/dessert.  So from 5:00 in the afternoon on, we would always be listening for her call.  That call was a bosun's pipe which she would blow when dinner was ready.  If we were playing football, playing at the creek or in the woods, our ears would be tuned into that whistle.  When it sounded, we rushed home.

Once we know God's distinctive voice, we will have our ears tuned in.  We will drop everything else and listen to Him.  The Holy Spirit will lead us to overcome the many voices calling out to us.  In those moments, we will have unhurried time to listen to our wonderful Lord and Savior.  Are you listening for His voice?  Do you know what His voice sounds like?  Would you dedicate yourself to move away from the push of the voices around you to learn how God's voice sound?  Then it won't matter where we are because our hearts will be tuned into His wonderful voice.  May this Sip refresh you and guide you to develop a deep, satisfying fellowship with God.

Monday, February 4, 2013

An Unhappy Centennial

On February 3, 1913 the 16th Amendment of the Constitution was ratified.  It says, "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."  There had been two other times in American history when we had individual income taxes, but now the constitution allowed Congress to levy taxes against Americans.  The reason given for this amendment was the United States could tax her richest citizens which would help alleviate dependence of tariffs and taxes on goods.  This one amendment opened the flood gates for the federal government to grow at the outrageous rate which has given us such a behemoth bureaucracy that we have today.  Until this amendment was passed, the size of the federal government was limited by the revenue from tariffs and taxed goods.  Now, the rate of taxation continues to increase and increase as our bloated federal government spends trillions of dollars they do not have.  Can you imagine what life would be like if we didn't have to worry about filing our taxes or April 15th?  Can you imagine all you could do with the income you would have if there was no federal income tax or FICA?  Wow!  Unfortunately, one hundred years ago, Congress took a step which has led to the brutal financial situation our country is in today.  One small step with a flawed purpose has led to the invasive and overwhelming federal government we have today.

That is how compromises often work in our lives.  We rationalize that making this small little compromise in our faith won't be too bad, so we take that step.  But, rarely, does sin stop at one small step.  Before we know it, we have made one compromise after another until we find ourselves in a situation which seems unbearable with no way out.  We now find ourselves in a hopeless situation and wonder how we got here.  Well, it started with that first step.

A child decides to stay out past curfew.  So he has to sneak home and hope he isn't caught.  He is able to get into the house and in bed without getting caught.  The next day, his parents ask what time he came in.  He decides to lie to cover his tracks and say he was in on time.  Then his parents tell him that they heard him come in late.  So he quickly decides to lie and tell them that he had a flat tire while taking a friend home.  Now he has to make sure his friend will help cover the story.  So the parents call the friends later in the day to ask about the flat.  Now the friend is sucked into the lie and has to lie to cover for his friend.  Then the parents ask about the tire which went flat.  The child now has to pick a tire which went flat.  So the parents ask if he has gotten the tire fixed yet.  If he says "No", they will want to see the flat in the trunk to see what caused the flat.  If he says, "Yes", they may ask to see the receipt from the tire company and find out when he got the tire fixed.  Before long, the lies will catch up with the liar.  Now, this child has broken the trust of his parents and will lose privileges for his lies.  All he had to do was own up to his first bad choice:  Coming in late.  But each compromise leads to another compromise.  Colossians 3:9 tells us, "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self."

If we are really going to be discerning in 2013, we need to move away from compromises.  We need to move towards being honest with God and others.  Seek to live to His standard and when we don't meet up, own up to it.  Don't give a foothold to Satan by that first compromise.  The end result is never worth it if we compromise.  It is so much easier to just confess and face the consequences of that bad choice.  Don't get sucked in to the situation of our country.  Let the centennial of the personal income tax serve as a reminder for us to live faithfully without compromising the standards Christ has for us.