Shame & Gospel

I am a pastor and I struggle with sharing my faith!  There, I said it.  I have struggled with sharing my faith for a good part of my Christian faith, and I imagine that many of you can identify with me given the studies done around this topic.  The good and bad news is that you are not alone.  To be honest, too much of my Christian life has been waiting for that Pentecost moment.  Perhaps you remember in Acts 2 where they heard this sound from heaven and tongues as fire rested on them.  The people started to boldly declare the truth of God’s greatness.  I think I too often wait for a magical moment like this to share my faith. However, this moment has yet to happen for me.  Through the years there have certainly been times where I felt God’s presence and Him working through me.  It was a turning point when I chose to stop waiting on the magic moment and trust that the Gospel is the moment.  I have come to realize that sharing my faith is less about a magic moment and more about a surrendered moment.  It is doing what I know to be right, especially in times it does not feel right.

The power of the Gospel demonstrates that God’s Word is truly enough.  In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul addresses a very gifted but carnal church.  After he has explained to them the potent message of the cross, he begins to remind them of the difference between his time with them, versus others.  Paul explains in those first two verses how he came to them not in superiority of speech or even wisdom, but actually the opposite: simplicity. Paul shares that he “determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”  For those unfamiliar, Paul was a brilliant man. Some suggest that his educational prowess would be similar to one accumulating four to five PH.D’s today.  Paul was so brilliant that the brightest of minds today are still trying to unravel the mysteries God gave him.  Paul teaches us something profound through his letter to the Corinthians.  Jesus’ words are both simple and deep enough that we could spend all our lives on earth unraveling them.  That is the beauty of the Gospel.  The Gospel is not a one time event, but a never depleting reminder of God’s power to save.  Paul teaches that it is not our eloquence nor persuasiveness that transforms the lives of men and women.  It is the simple and powerful Gospel.

Now back to my struggle.  I am learning to rest in the reality that I may never feel completely comfortable with sharing my faith.  Yet, there is solace in knowing that my acts of obedience bring my Father delight.  Maybe one day I will experience unimaginable joy and passion in persuading those far from the Lord.  However, even if that day never comes, I am committing to keep showing up, to keep opening my mouth, and to keep strengthening my apologetic. Regardless of the internal conflict, I trust that the Lord will reward my faithfulness how He deems appropriate.  I also know that the only shame that I will feel will be when I give into my fear to keep silent.  Even then, I know my shame is not from the Lord, but the spiritual darkness that wants to convince me that I am anything less than God’s beloved.  What will I do in those moments?  I will remind myself again of the Gospel, which is good for me, and the person I dread sharing with.

138 Challenge

Where did all the time go? The year 2016 felt like a blur. There was so much that happened in 2016, yet days felt like hours, while hours felt like seconds. It is hard to believe we are now in 2017. The clock will not turn back. We must embrace each moment because they are fleeting. If you are wired like me, then perhaps you use the turn of a new year to evaluate and plan for new opportunities to come in the months ahead.

Did you know that there are 8,760 hours in this calendar year? If you slept 8 hours a day, you would sleep 2,920 hours, which would leave 5,840 waking hours. If you worked 8 hours per day, 6 days a week, with no vacation, that would come to 2,496 hours, still leaving 3,344 waking hours. If you spent 4 hours a day, 6 days per week in traffic, that would come to 1,248 hours still leaving 2,096 waking hours remaining. If you spent 5 hours per day, 7 days per week with family or friends, it would come to 1,820 hours still leaving 276 hours remaining. By now, you either feel excited or overwhelmed by these possibilities. Hopefully, you heard these statistics and came to the realization that you have more free time available than you thought! Perhaps you realized how much time you have available that could be reallocated toward accomplishing something greater.

What if you invested just half of those 276 hours (138 hours) into something eternal? What if you committed that time to the Lord? What if you used time in traffic for communing instead of complaining? What if those 138 hours were given to prayer and meditation on Scripture? Just like spending time around a campfire will make you smell like smoke. If you spend more time with Jesus, you will become more like Him. We position ourselves around Jesus through prayer, meditating on Scripture and gathering with God’s family (local church).

What do you have to lose by trying something different? I am not promising you a better job, which will lead to more money, leading to a newer car or a newer home. These financial status changes may come for some of you, but certainly not all of you. However, I know your relationship status will change: from lonely to loved, from forgotten to forgiven. The Gospel changes us from the inside out. It changes us well before our circumstances. Will you take the challenge to commit 138 hours (or more) to knowing the Lord better this year? I promise you, accepting this challenge will change everything!

Undetected Spiritual Cancer

There is a cancer that is ravishing our society. Now, I use the word cancer hesitantly because I have not physically experienced the ravishing effect of cancer, but I have had loved ones suffer from cancer’s cruel hand. It is a dreadful disease that eats away at the physical body. However, there is a spiritual cancer that is subtle, but much more devastating. It goes undetected, and has been known to destroy families, organizations, and take the lives of those contaminated by it. This “cancer,” called materialism, is so dangerous because our human nature allows it to grow. To make matters worse, our culture feeds materialism 24 hours, 7 days a week.

So what is the cure? How do we treat this dreadful disease? Paul provides some encouraging words in Philippians 4:17. Hear and hearken to these words. “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.”

This verse follows perhaps the most quoted and misapplied verse in all of Scripture, Philippians 4:13. This is the one we read on sports paraphernalia, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, laptops, pens… I could go on and on! “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Before I completely offend you, let me be transparent and say that I too have misapplied this verse in the past for those very uses mentioned above. However, Paul was pushing the Philippians (and us!) toward something greater than a first place ribbon, dream job, new home, the survival of a devastating breakup, and the host of other reasons we attempt to apply this verse. Paul was pushing us toward heaven. He was reminding us of WHO we have, and WHO has us. He was encouraging the faithful family of God to keep sacrificing for what is eternal and not what is temporal. He was training their eyes to look past earth and focus on Heaven.

God graciously allows us to enjoy nice things- even material things! He loves us more than our feeble minds can fathom. However, the problem arises when I start to believe I deserve nice things. Believing I deserve anything in this life is the gravitational pull of the cancer of materialism. It makes us want what we don’t need and despise what we have. Hearken to the encouragement and warning of Paul in Philippians 4:17.

We have two accounts. One is temporal while the other is eternal. Aim to fill the right account with deposits. The cure to the cancer of materialism is CONTENTMENT and radical GENEROSITY. Contentment is always a heart issue. Contentment is attained by looking for God’s grace in every season, then responding to that grace with gratitude. Generosity is leveraging your time, talents and treasure for the Kingdom.

 Consider this, giving is less about getting something from you and more about getting Heaven in you.