by Pastor Andrew
The vast majority of us have, at some point in our lives, visited a used car dealership or lot. I imagine that each of our individual experiences at said lots would be viewed very differently by each other and that some could be described as good while others would be less than desirable. In most cases, when a customer arrives at a used car dealership, a salesperson uniquely approaches the potential customer masking their latent overwhelming desire to make a sale. The questions are fairly standard and consist of what brings you in today or what exactly are you looking for in your next car? Sometimes they even go as far as fishing for what you do not like about your current vehicle with the intent of pointing you in the direction of the right car. Needless to say, the used car salesman is eager to sell you a vehicle at price that is most often above what the right car is worth. They are usually well versed in all the high points and selling features of their cars and are adept at making something negative sound good. One of my favorite lines is: This car only has “blank” miles, and they are highway miles. While arguments can and have been made as to the impact of highway and city miles on a vehicle, a mile is 5,280 ft whether you are on a highway or a country road. Technology and advancements in machining may have improved engine life, wear and tear on the transmission, suspension and body components still have the potential to make the right car a lemon. The used car salesman will spend all the time you require telling you how good a car is but rarely will even spend a nano-second on what is bad or will cost you in the long run.
I do not believe that any part of salvation or Christian living is bad in the same sense that we view a used car in; however, I do believe that the Gospel, salvation, and Christian living has been sold to, and is still being sold to in some cases, to America much like a used car salesperson sells a lemon or jalopy to the unsuspecting consumer. Many who have answered the call to pastorate have memorized and used as a platform all the high points and benefits of salvation and Christian living, leaving them shouting from a platform of prosperity, blessings galore, and a trouble-free life when you fill a seat, turn on a tv program, and fill the offering basket. This, sounds too good to be true experience, may build a following or audience for a while, until the followers can’t understand why they aren’t rolling in dough after they have given all their money to a televangelist or multi-million-dollar minister. The follower may be left wondering why they are battling and dying from cancer or an illness after they were promised blessings, favor, and healing. Similarly to when our lemon the used car salesperson sold us breaks down for the tenth time, the duped Christian feels lied to, double crossed, and used.
Recovery from used car salesman theology is possible, but in many cases, the damage runs deep and is slow to be healed. Some may say, “well,” “that’s their problem” or, “it’s sad, but it happens.” How then does one sell Gospel, especially after lengthy periods of prosperity preaching, scandals, and division have wreaked havoc among the church in America. The first step is to stop trying to sell it. Take the proverbial 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s cliché cheesy used car salesman sport-coat/suit jacket off and be authentic. Start with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, please help me God.
What is the truth? The truth is that yes, blessings, favor, and healing are all components of the Bible and Christianity; however, there is so much more than that. While I am sure that if you dig, read, dig some more, twist some words, and squint you can paint an extravagant picture of a “perfect” Christian life filled with blessings, health, and God’s favor. If you open your eyes, stop twisting the words, and read in context you will find that adversity, challenges, and hardships are abound in a Christian life. Many of the same adversities, challenges, and hardships that you find in an unsaved life you will still experience in a Christian life. The difference in the two lives can be found in faith, hope, and love. A life with Christ introduces hope with reward, while a life without Christ offers no hope and no reward. A life of faith provides a tool to combat the inevitable adversities, hardships, and challenges while a life with no faith leaves one hopeless. Being redeemed and justified expands and encourages the love and subsequent relational growth between the believer and God while the individual who rejects Christ is not only rejected in return, but will inevitably be used by the world instead of loved. (Matthew 10:33; 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:2; James 4:4; Colossians 2:8).
This past Sunday’s sermon covered Joseph and part of his time in jail after being wrongfully accused and convicted of an infraction against Potiphar’s wife. It was pointed out that after the life that he had lived up to this point, Joseph probably had more cause to gripe, or wallow in self-pity more than most people. Instead of falling to pieces or squawking like a goose, Joseph chose to minister to those in the prison just has he had chosen to minister in Potiphar’s house after being sold into slavery. I found it interesting the word usage in chapters 39 and 40 traces back to the concept of ministering. Today, many Christians do not see acts of service, menial labor, or undesirable tasks as ministering; however, Jesus associated with undesirables, washed feet, and in accordance with His indication that the son of man came to serve and not be served, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) which in this guy’s opinion, is the greatest example of service ever. I want to highlight a few things before closing this blog. Even in Genesis, Jesus’ influence was evident, Jesus never taught or promised and easy life as a Christian (in fact, one could argue, He taught the contrary), and it is generally agreed upon that Jesus’ teachings, principles, and life are what Christians are supposed to exemplify.
If Christian’s understand and agree with the last statement made, why is it that when we face adversity, we go to pieces, or feel that we need to focus on something other than God’s work? Joseph ministered while in slavery and found favor. He ministered while incarcerated and found favor. Jesus facing perhaps the greatest adversity of all, continued to minister to humanity by giving His life, even for those who would reject Him, living lives of slavery to sin that He paid the price for us to leave. The truth is the same for the believer and the non-believer alike. Life is hard. Life in the world is difficult, but hopeless. There is no eternity worth investing in in the world. Life as a Christian is hard; however, life as a Christian comes with an advocate, a guide, and merciful father who longs to have a restored relationship with us should we endure through our adversities in reliance upon Him opposed to rejection for hopelessness. We should not only be straight forward with our explanation of Christian life, but we should also serve as an example by serving through adversity, keeping our eyes on God and our subsequent eternity. What are your thoughts…
by Pastor Andrew
2018 is here and in full swing. Yesterday’s sermon was called Making Camp: Where will you set up your tent? We started the account of Joseph in Genesis but stuck to the overall theme of contentment. The message contrasted Joseph’s contentment in his circumstances with his family’s and overseer’s discontent. We closed with the idea that you can make camp in discontent or contentment, ending the sermon with the question where will you camp this year?
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, says this: “11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13, ESV). This passage is often reduced from its greater context, and we frequently reduce it further, leaving it to declare simply: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” It is a powerful declaration for Christians to make. It is motivating and easy to rally behind, or even to shout as one of our battle cries. It is so inspiring that it has the potential to drive a believer, who is not cautious and is being fueled by emotions, to exercise a behavior or action that aims to satisfy one’s flesh instead of bolstering one’s spirit.
In this chapter, Paul is referring to the difficulties that accumulate while living and/or serving the Lord. In Paul’s case, he was talking about being supported in his missions to further the Gospel. Many translations of the Bible have a heading over this section of Philippians that states God’s Provision. Comparing this title with the text that follows it helps us to begin to identify the applicability of Paul’s words to our lives. I think that it is here that it should be noted that one’s search for contentment must be driven by a righteous cause, or righteous discontent in order to truly have the full weight of God’s support behind them as indicated in our power verse, Philippians 4:13. Yesterday’s sermon included a brief description of Rueben’s attempt to dissuade his brothers from killing Joseph (Genesis 37:22). On the surface, this reads as a genuine act where Reuben did not want to see his brother killed. We could even draw the conclusion from this verse that Reuben was discontent with the idea of killing Joseph. Discontent perhaps, but his greater discontent was rooted in the fact that he wanted Jacobs favor and position within the family. He believed his contentment could be found in that position; therefore, his discontent with the murder plan was not with the act of murder, but with his own situation. This discontent drove him to seek contentment within his flesh rather than in something righteous which in the long run would have only led to further discontent.
We seek provision from God in many of our life situations and we should believe that through Christ we can accomplish wondrous things; however, if what we are trying to accomplish is not for the glory of the Lord then we should not be surprised when Christ does not help us accomplish things. It may sound harsh or extreme, but if you step outside of the fleshly, human, box that we are often stuck in, it begins to make sense. We declare and stand behind statements like, “God never changes” or “God’s rules are black and white, He doesn’t deal in gray,” but then we try (both consciously and unconsciously) to bend the scriptures to our own personal desires. If we can do ALL things through Christ, then why do some of our endeavors fail, why do we lose jobs, and why do relationships with those we care about fail? Another, more simplistic, example is this: In this world, we need money to function and survive. If we do not have the money to pay for our basic needs, but a bank does; can we then rob the bank under the justification that having that money would make us content and therefore, with the strength that Christ gives us we can take it by force? Of course, the answer is no.
The application of this verse is fulfilled when we are in any circumstance that is good or bad and we say with our words and actions, that we are fine with where God has us. If we are financially well off, healthy, have a good job we praise Him. Conversely, if we are poor, sick, or lose a job we must say it is well with my soul and praise Him still. This is the point that Paul was getting at. Regardless of where he was in life, on a high point or even at the lowest of low points, he was fine because that is where God brought him while living his life for the Lord. He expands on this idea by indicating that regardless of his situation, he could handle it because he had the strength that could only come from Christ through the Spirit. Contentment comes from knowing and accepting that wherever you are at in life, that God is in control, has not forgot about you, and has a much better plan to get you through and out of the lows. The ability to do all things through him who gives us strength comes after we are content with wherever God has us and we choose to seek righteousness opposed to our flesh. It is perhaps better understood if we look at it not as I can do all these things (indicative of accomplishment), but rather, I can endure the difficulties that I will face because I have God (indicative of being provided for).
Are you camping in content or discontent? If you are camped in discontent and are struggling to endure, perhaps it is time to change campsites and move to be content. What are your thoughts?
by Pastor Andrew
Change seems to be a six-letter bad word in the church today for some, but for others seems to be a breath of fresh air. Which is it? Is change in the church something to be avoided, or is it something to be welcomed with open arms? Although my time in service to the Lord has not been exceptionally extensive yet, I have experienced quite a bit of diversity during my tenure in ministry thus far. I have been blessed to sit under the teaching of several wise and experienced men of God. In addition to this, the Lord has seen fit to send what I consider to be strong, godly, people into my life to help guide me on my spiritual walk. I have also had the opportunity to be exposed to individuals who, although their intentions were good, did not exemplify the best ministerial role and became lessons consisting of things not to do in ministry, or life for that matter. The diversity I have been exposed to has offered me a glance at differing opinions of the subject of change. As our church is going through several changes during this particular season, I thought the first blog I would post would be best suited to discuss the idea of change.
Overall, I believe there is an aversion to change in the church. I believe that in this forum it goes without saying that change that is contrary to good order and biblical truth is not the change I am discussing, rather, the changes that break individual routines and habits. I am often asked about this and engage in conversations with individuals about change. After many such conversations and meditation on the subject, I have come to an understanding that aversion to change can be equated with a complacent sense of spirituality and an unwillingness to be taken out of one’s own comfort zone. The problem with this unwillingness to be uncomfortable is that it is contradictory to the Christian mission. In simplistic terms, our job as Christians is to reach people for Christ. Simpler than that, we are to identify with and follow the teachings of Christ. Looking at comfort from the perspective of comparing it to the life and teachings of Christ, we as Christians attempt to find our comfort in the wrong places. Being cozy and secure in our church buildings and weekly routines that revolve around our personal needs and desires was never spelled out in the Gospel.
While we seek to build our comfort in regularity and routine that satisfies the flesh, the enemy is hard at work, changing his tactics regularly for the purposes of counteracting the work that we are supposed to be doing in the world. Granted, we are not going to thwart every attempt the enemy makes on those we are supposed to be ministering to, nor is everyone going to end up in heaven; however, that does not give us the go ahead to stop trying. Ceasing the attempt to remain relevant, without compromising the gospel message or biblical truth, is not going to work in this day and age that is consumed by modern technology and extraordinary distractions. Continuing to operate three decades behind modern times is like entering a modern war with civil war aged weapons and tactics. The Bible is full of stories of change beginning in Genesis and continuing the theme all the way through Revelation. God changed entire societies and landscapes in order to ensure that His people were set apart and set up for success. When His people went the way of the world God sent messengers to emphasize a need for change. When the legalistic, corrupt reign of the Sanhedrin surpassed the righteous order that God established, He sent change in the form of Christ, to create a way for further change so that those who were willing to change could be restored to the Lord. With so much emphasis on change in the book that we call the basis of our faith, we sure do have a funny way of showing the world that we believe change is good.
It is time that we exit our comfort zone and get to changing so we can be effective at reaching a world that most certainly needs reaching (believers and non-believers alike). Jesus implied that there would be discomfort in following Him. Matthew 8:20 depicts Jesus telling someone who wanted to follow Him that He had no where to rest His head. While I am certain that many people can and will look at this verse differently, it appears to me as if Jesus is telling the individual that following Him will leave the man without the comforts that resided in the man’s heart. Paul’s missionary journeys, and ministry, was wrought with discomfort. In fact, 2 Corinthians 11:16-30 offers Paul’s own boasting of his suffering including being beaten and stoned for his work for Christ. I have a copy of this passage posted next to the door of my office so that I can be reminded as I leave the comfort of said office, that I have it pretty easy compared to the ministry of Paul. It is also easy to dismiss the idea of suffering in ministry because many Christians equate the word ministry with the title of Pastor. While this may be technically correct in the societal view of today, a believer should not neglect to remember that we are all called to ministry through the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
I will wrap this up by mentioning with emphasis Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” I do not think that it is too far a stretch to say that the world wants the church to remain stagnant and unchanged. Stagnant and unchanged does not resonate with today’s society. Stagnant and unchanged does not reach people for Christ who appeared in the Bible to be ever moving from place to place, ministering to the sinners of the world. Continuing to operate in a manner that was effective 10-30 years ago will not help us fulfill the Great Commission and I believe is conforming to the world, or the enemy’s plan. Allowing God to transform our minds and our hearts, using our creative nature that He created within each one of us, and using our gifts and abilities for the furtherance of an unchanging message is a change that I think is needed. A transformation that does not compromise the Gospel message, contradict biblical truth, draws people to Christ, and pushes us to become the hands and feet of Christ is a change that I believe God would be happy to see. It is past time to leave our comfort zones, give up what has made us complacent, be living examples of the teachings of Christ, and as uncomfortable as it makes us, share the Gospel message with those who we are supposed to be serving.