Distractions

Read 1 Kings 20:35-43

It took me a couple times reading this passage, plus reading some commentaries to really understand how it applies to life today. But I finally got it. Read the passage closely. The prophet here is setting a trap, like Nathan did with David regarding Uriah, hoping to ensnare him with his own words.

The set up is simple: the prophet tells Ahab a story about being put in charge of a prisoner. If he failed to watch the prisoner fully, and the prisoner escaped, the prophet would have to replace the man or pay a fee that would be so high, he would never be able to pay it.

With the trap set, Ahab falls right into it, telling the disguised prophet that he must take the prisoners place. The prophet reveals himself, and Ahab runs off depressed and angry.  To truly grasp why this is such an important section of scripture, go back and read the portion before this passage and you will see that Ahab had the chance to follow God’s instructions, but did not.  Ahab become distracted by the men who came to beg for mercy.  The prophet used his ruse to show that he was distracted while guarding his prisoner, and did not accomplish his assigned task.

This is where we, as Christians, come in. We have remain constant in the task which Jesus has given us. We can not become distracted by those who wish to pulled us away from Jesus. Ahab took his eyes away from God’s mission for him. He allowed for societal pressures to pull his focus off of God. And we do the same. It does not matter if it is personal relationships with others, entertainment, family issues or personal issues, we must not allow our world to influence our relationship with Jesus. We must remain diligent in keeping on task for God.

But what is the task God has given you? While we are all called to go out and make disciples of all the world, we are each given different gifts to accomplish this. I hear people around me say things like “God really did not give me any gifts, I am just ordinary.”  When you say this, you are saying that God did not create you with a purpose, that He made you simply to exist and nothing more. Is this what you really want to be saying to people?  Instead, you should be asking God to help you find your gift. Then, begin to train yourself to use that gift whenever the occasion arises.

Remaining faithful to God’s instructions is the number priority we should have in life. But what happens if we fall away? If we fail to follow through on the instructions He has given us? We can once again take a look at how Ahab responded.

1 Kings 20:43

So the king of Israel went to his house sullen and displeased, and came to Samaria.

Instead of repenting from disobeying God’s instructions, Ahab became mad. He essentially went into his palace and pouted. Does this sound familiar? Do you take this approach too? How many times have you played the If I can’t have it my way, I will just go home card with God. This attitude is not a healthy one for spiritual growth. And don’t take my word for it, go right to the source:

1 Kings 21:25

But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord.

I don’t know about you, but to me, that is not exactly what I would want to be known for. It seems that today’s society would use that passage as a badge of honor. Everywhere we turn, we are being asked to chip away at our morals and beliefs more and more. We are asked to step away from God’s Will for us, and instead become more like the world.

Ahab did just that. He let one little misstep away from God build into another, then another, then another. And eventually he had fallen so far away from God that he could not even see Him. Notice what I said there. Ahab could not see God, it was not the other way around. God is always right there when we look for Him, but we have to be willing to look and listen. Ahab lost this willingness. Have you?

What are you doing with your resources?

(Please note, this post is not meant to single out any one church or organization my area. If you are a local pastor or leader, it is not a direct attack on you, but on the American church as a collective group)

What I want to talk about today is a question we as Christians will be faced with then we stand before God. It is a question what we should all be keeping in mind as we go about our lives.

“What have you done with the tools I have given you to advance My Kingdom?”

For a lot of people this is a scary question. Because when we look at how we use our time and resources, I think we can all agree that we are not using them to the best of God’s Kingdom. Most of us prefer to sit back and complain about what it happening around us instead of stepping up and trying to make a change.

I live in an area of the country that is just ravaged by drugs, heroin in particular (last stat I saw had my area as the #3 per capita in heroin us in the entire country). This drug brings with it prostitution (sex slavery) as well as rampant alcoholism.  Yet most churches in my area simply sit back and watch this epidemic spread more and more without want to take any action. Yes, it is on every prayer list (and do not mistake me, prayer SHOULD be the first step in any decision we make) but normally that is as far as it goes.

It comes down to this simple fact: most churches today have an inside out model instead of an outside in model. They want to cater to everyone inside their church walls, and not worry about those outside the walls.  Yes this stings to hear if you are a church leader, but seriously examine how much sincere and true outreach do you do?  What is the ratio of resources your devote to discipleship in the church versus outreach beyond your walls.

And I am not talking about missionaries outside of your area. I am speaking about right in your community.  Once again, do not misunderstand me, I am in no way saying local churches should not support overseas missions. But we should not be doing so at the expense of outreach right outside our front door.  “What did you do with the resources I gave you?” This should be the question on your mind as you go about making decisions on where to put your time and money. It is not about YOU or your church getting praise and glory. It is about bringing people to Christ through any means you have at your disposal.

The battle of traditional versus contemporary, praise and worship versus hymns, chairs versus pews  and all the other mundane arguments that occur in the modern church today take away from the most important function of the church: to bring people into God’s family.  And this goes to any organization who profess to have a mission of bringing people closer to God. As soon as you start putting limitations on how you are going to deliver God’s Word, you instantly lose your stated goal.

Jesus did not say “go out and preach only the King James bible using only hymns and piano”.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV)

Notice there is no mention at all of the teaching method. It simply says go and teach. People learn and people come to Christ in different ways, and we need to stop focusing on the “how” they are coming to know The Lord and instead begin focusing on the “if” they are coming to know God. Just because you might not like a certain type of music, or a certain style of preaching, does not mean the person who is sitting next to you who is not saved will not be able to connect with it.

We live in a society so worried about offending people that we have let this attitude invade our churches. No longer are different styles of worship allowed. We have put a dividing line in place, saying this is how we worship in this building and if you don’t like it, there is the door.  We have shut our minds off to any possibility that someone may be drawn to Christ in a different way than we are teaching, so we keep on doing the same things over and over and over, and then complain that it is not working.

I have heard people say “well, people will be drawn through the doors of a church when God calls them”. Well if that is the case, why even do any form of outreach at all? Why bother witnessing to anyone?  This statement always makes me laugh. Our job as Christians is to lead a life that helps people see Christ through us, and then make every effort to lead those around us to Christ. This does not mean only those we are comfortable with. This does not mean only those who walk through our church doors.

We are to get outside of our church walls, into our communities, and let me people know about the love of Christ. We are NOT to simply sit on our churches and wait for them to come to us.

The biggest and most valuable resource we all have the equal supply of is our time.  It costs no money to lead a Jesus led life. It cost no money to tell someone about God’s plan for salvation. It costs no money for any of us to go out into the world and tell others about Jesus.

What is does cost us is time. Time away from Netflix, Facebook and Instagram. It makes us focus on what is important, and causes us to make to difficult decisions in how we best allocate the resource of time. If you were to stand before God right now, and have to answer “Did you do your best with the resources I provided you”, how would you answer?

Uninteded Priorities

This is going to kind of piggyback off the post from Sunday.  I have been thinking the past couple days about the message you send with the priorities you have in your life. Most the time, it is in an unintentional message. It is simple decisions you make every day that when looked out from the worldly point of view, show that you value things of the world over things of God.

So what exactly is it I am talking about here? Let me give you an example. Most churches across this country have the same schedule. Sunday morning services (a combination of Sunday school/worship service). Then you will have a Sunday evening service and a mid-week services (normally Wednesday night).  The most attended service is normally always the Sunday morning worship, which makes me ask one question: where is everyone during Sunday school, Sunday evening service and Wednesday evening service?

Now, the answers are going to be something like this:

  1. I can’t get up early enough to make it to Sunday school.
  2. My household is so hectic, I can’t get everyone ready in time to make it to Sunday school.
  3. Sundays are the only time off we all have as a family, so we need to take the time in the evening to do family things.
  4. I am just so tired by the time Sunday evenings roll around, I can’t get motivated to go back to church.
  5. I or my kids have (insert any workout or sports practice) on Wednesday evenings, and just don’t think it is fair to them to not have them participate.

I am sure there are some others that I am forgetting here, but those will be the main ones. These are very common and not outlandish reasons to not attend the services outside of the main Sunday evening worship service. Most would look at this list and say there is nothing really wrong. But I am here to tell you that this list is one of the major reason the church, families, and even the country is in the shape we are in today.

Let me rephrase the question of why are people only attending Sunday morning worship. Instead of asking why do people not come, put it this way: what do you have going on in your life that is more important than worshipping God? See, when you put it this way, it suddenly becomes a much more uncomfortable discussion. Because now you have to look at the unintended consequences of your actions. Not just for yourself, but also for those around you and your children. Everytime you say “I am not going to church because of….” you are telling people “I am placing this activity over celebrating God.” You are making all around you know where your priorities lie.

Now, if you think I am being a little over dramatic here, simply using this to shock people, let me make it clear I am not. I could not be more serious. You are placing it out to everyone who sees your actions that it is ok to put God second in your life as long as YOU are comfortable. As long as YOU need that extra hour of sleep, or need to be a little tougher on your children, or have to tell your teens they will not be able to do the activity they want too, YOUR life will be less hectic and more comfortable.

But by doing this, you are also letting your kids, your teens, and those around you not in Christ that it is ok to put worldly things over Godly things. It is ok to place activities that are temporary over that which is preparing you and them for the eternal. People around me hear me speak everyday about the importance of putting God first in everything you do.

There are many other forms of unintended priorities in our daily life. From the movies we watch to the companies we support, every choice and action we take shows the world around us what we prioritize. So urge you all to stop for a moment, and think about the small choices you are making and thinking about the unintended priorities they are showing your family, your friends and all you come into contact with on a daily basis.

Take The Media Blinders Off

While the taking of any life is appalling, what I discovered to be just as disturbing is the media and online coverage of the shooting.  Is it at all possible for there to be a more biased and slanted topic for the mainstream press to cover than homosexuals? If you are against anything that is gay, you are instantly a radical homophobe who hates. Here is a news flash: this act of terror was carried out by a Muslim extremist, not a Christian. Christians seek to bring those around us into a loving relationship with Christ. We do not threaten and berate those who do not share our same views. Christianity is not a religion which calls for the beheading of anyone who does not agree with what they say. Christianity is not a religion which calls for a woman to be stoned because she was raped and then convicted of having an affair outside of her marriage. Christianity is not a religion which calls for someone to be thrown off a roof simply for admitting they have same sex feelings.

You know which religion does call for all those things? Islam. The same religion which our coward of a President refused to acknowledge was the one behind the attacks. The same religion which the government at every turn bends over backwards to accommodate while at the same time making sure they do everything to strip away every right a Christian has to practice our peaceful religion.

We live in a society in which the government has slowly eroded away every single right we have to freely exercise our Christian faith while doing everything it can to make sure every other faith is catered too. And the media plays right along with the government. If you think I am overreacting, go back and look at how the Orlando story was covered. Anywhere on Yahoo or NBC, ABC or CBS do you see Muslim or Islam? Nope, but you do see much talk about the Christian right and gun control (of which I am partially in favor of, much to the dislike of some of my close friends).

You hear much talk about there being a religion of peace. And there absolutely is: Christianity. It is a peace that comes from within, that helps settle you when you are restless and helps calm you when acts like what happened over the weekend occur. I pray for the families of those victims of this act of Islamic terror. I pray that they come to find peace in Jesus, and I pray that those innocents killed in the shootings had a relationship with our Savior.

But I also pray for those who are living any sinful lifestyle.  I pray that you recognize your need for repentance. Pointing out someone’s sin and showing them how they can move to rid their lives of it is not hate or bigotry, it is the strongest act of love anyone can do for another. Caring for someone’s eternal soul is more important than not offending people while here on earth.

Matthew 5: 11-12

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Jesus knew we would be persecuted and ridiculed while we preach His Word. He knew that society had no desire to hear what we would have to say. Not one thing He did while He was here on earth was for the approval of society. But everything He did was for the love of mankind.