Posted tagged ‘Christ-follower’

Generic Christianity

November 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           November 17, 2017

                                         

Starbucks is decorating their stores with Christmas…err, Holiday gifts and ornaments. Although they have a dark roast coffee called “Christmas Blend”, as far as I can tell it is the only reference to the name we place on December 25. They use words and terms like “joy”, “peace”, and “give good” to point to the festive holiday time without saying Christmas.

Starbucks keeps it generic in order to be more appealing…and raise the profit margin. I don’t fault them for this. Although I enjoy my coffee I don’t see it as a spiritual experience to sit on a stool in a Starbucks for an hour…as I’m doing now!

Christianity and the Christian church, on the other hand, should stand for something solid and transformative. The Christian faith is decorated with words like “redemption”, “transformation”, “grace”, and “forgiveness”. They are pillars built on the sacrifice of Christ.

It seems that churches are in danger of becoming generic in their presentation, their terminology, and their beliefs. I’m not talking about churchy terms like benediction, narthex, Eucharist, and sacraments. No, I’m going in a different direction…kinda’! Instead of mirroring Christ, the church too often mirrors culture. Instead of counter-cultural we mostly go with the flow. Instead of transforming we have been mostly transformed…by the NFL, The Bachelor, and CNN and Fox News.

There are encouraging signs, however! The relief efforts of various churches and faith organizations in recent months to help those affected by flooding and hurricanes has been awesome. It reconnects with the early Christians in Rome who would minister to those dying of smallpox. The epidemic that killed as much as a third of the population in AD 165 spared no family. Even the emperor, Marcus Aurelius, succumbed to it. Families would push their sick out of the house and into the street to die alone. Followers of Jesus, however, remembered their Savior touching lepers and healing the sick, and so they willingly became infected with the disease in order to show love and compassion to those who were dying. John Ortberg, in his book Who Is This Man? (page 38) refers to sociologist Rodney Stark who argues that one of the primary reasons for the spread of the Christian faith was because of the way Jesus followers responded to sick people. Comforting the afflicted gets us back to our roots.

Generic Christianity sets up a buffet table of doctrinal sample and avoid…like the prime rib of beef and the peas and carrots. This looks good for me and that has no place on my plate. Generic faith gets customized for my taste. Prayer may have a prominent place but grace gets avoided; worship is appetizing but confession is about as appealing as week-old fruit salad.

Authentic Christianity is life-changing and, perhaps, that’s why it gets avoided. It requires our surrender, our yielding.

Being Salty People

April 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      April 3, 2016

                                        

“You are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13)

I find it interesting that Jesus used the present tense in teaching a large crowd of people gathered on a hillside about what it means to be a person of God’s kingdom. In the church we are more prone to talk about “becoming a disciple.” Our language indicates that it is like a destination that we haven’t reached, like driving to Alaska. In the church’s approach it’s as if Jesus said “You will some day be the salt of the earth.”

But, intentionally…without a stutter or mixing up words…Jesus said this is who you are right now. The crowd, most assuredly, would have been almost all Jewish, if not all Jewish. They knew what it meant to be Covenant-followers. They knew the Mosaic Law and the emphasis on being the holy people of God. Being the salt of the earth, however, was a new spin for them. Salt added taste, and their religion had lost its flavor. Salt preserved the essence of what had been packed in it, but the passion for and love for God had been stifled.

When Jesus tells the crowd that they are salt he’s taking them with him on a new journey. As soon as he finishes speaking to the people the scriptures tell us that he encountered a man with leprosy…one of the unclean people to avoid…and Jesus touched him. He tells him “Be clean!” And the scripture continues with these words: “Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’” (Matthew 8:3b-4)

Jesus didn’t discredit the Covenant of Moses. He simply dusted off the rigidness, the tastelessness, that had caused it to be mis-used.

“You are…”

Jesus was bringing the Covenant-followers to a new journey of being Christ-followers. It’s kind of like coming to Colorado and seeing the mountains, but then having someone invite you to come up with him into the mountains. Either scenario has the mountains as a part of it, but being in the mountains gives you a new perspective, a new level of intimacy and understanding.

As Christ-followers we are to be salty. Not “assaulting!” There are some Christ-followers, who although passionate, have a way of peppering their proclamation in ways that drive the herds away…like dumping the whole bottle of hot sauce on your taco! People run screaming to the water fountain!

Being salt is more about flavor, bringing flavor to a bland existence. It is a question that any church needs to be asking itself: How do we, as the salt of the earth, add flavor to this community and to the lives of people who live here?”

In my cupboard is a container of Morton Salt. Last week we feasted one night on steaks that were grilled. The salt came out and got sprinkled on the sirloin to add that little extra taste to it. To often the church is the salt in the container spending time with the rest of the salt in order to…what, make it saltier?

Being the salt of Christ means we’re touching the lives of those who need the flavor of hope and the taste of being valued.

“You are salt!”

The Price of Being a Christ-Follower

March 28, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           March 28, 2016

 

In Pakistan seventy people were killed and three hundred injured by a suicide bombing that was aimed at a gathering of Christians in a public park to celebrate Easter. A Taliban faction claimed responsibility for the bomb, it’s fifth bombing since December.

The casualties and injured were mostly men and children: 29 children and 34 men.

Pakistan has several Islamic militant factions that are seeking to create unrest and overthrow the existing governmental leaders.

It is another example of Christ-followers in various places around the world experiencing the price of their faith. In 2013 eighty people were killed in a Pakistani church that was attacked by a suicide bomber. On Good Friday an Indian Catholic priest in Yemen was crucified by ISIS militants.

Although the simplicity of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is evident, following Christ often has serious consequences. In Pakistan Islamic militants are trying to establish a government that has a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

In essence, they desire that the government be guided, even ruled, by their religious beliefs. In Pakistan being a Christian is not a glamorous experience.

What does it mean to be a Christ-follower, regardless of where you are in the world? Are there common core elements that can bind believers in our nation with the believers in Pakistan?

Coming through Holy Week brings a couple of things to my mind.

Suffering and sacrifice. The cross tells of the sacrifice of Jesus to atone for the sins of his followers. It is punctuated with suffering. We can empathize with the grieving Pakistani people because our faith journey may travel through hardships and trials.

We are familiar with the scriptural “Roman Road”, but there was also a road leading into Rome in the first century that was lined with Christ-followers nailed to crosses. Nero used to light his Roman gardens at night by making human torches out of Christians.

In essence, suffering and sacrifice are elements that have past history and present happenings for those who follow Jesus. We identify and come alongside the suffering, the poor and neglected, oppressed and powerless.

The second identifying element that we have with Christ-followers around the world is “hope!” Just as the cross tells us of suffering and sacrifice, the empty tomb tells us of the hope that we have in our resurrected Lord.

It’s Monday and he is still alive!

It is easy in our culture to get caught up in the Final Four, spring break vacations, the presidential campaign, fashion trends, and the beginning of Major League baseball, but take a pause once in a while to ponder the situations that Christ-followers around the world are dealing with. Some of those are tragic and others are incredibly hope-filled.

And Jesus is Lord of all!

 

 

Coffee With Jesus…Fourth Cup

July 16, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        July 15, 2014

 

                             

 

I look at Jesus for a second before returning my focus to the refilled cup in front of me. “It feels funny to be drinking coffee in front of the Son of Man while you remain caffeine free.”

“I don’t mind. I’m not a big coffee drinker. Probably goes back to the brief time I spent drinking Egyptian coffee. That brew could put hair on the Holy Ghost!”

“Does the Holy Spirit have hair?”

“It was simply an expression of exaggeration, Bill. I have been known to think big.”

“I guess so.”

“Think of the feeding of the 5,000. Why twelve baskets of leftovers…ever ask yourself that question?”

“Because of the twelves tribes of Israel?”

“Some think that, but I simply wanted to over-do it because the people, to begin with, couldn’t imagine God supplying their needs…let alone having stuff leftover.”

“So…back to this joy thing we were talking about…you asked me why I desired a joyous soul?”

“Yes, I believe I did say something like that.”

“I guess I struggling to find an answer. Is it because that’s what we were always taught in Sunday School…you know the song, “The joy of the Lord is my strength…”

“Yes, I’m familiar with it. Although when your congregation sings it my teeth chatter.”

“Why so?”

“They are a little rhythm impaired on the clapping.

“Jesus, we’re Baptists. Anything resembling dancing or music with a beat, we’re a little off…like a toddler trying to walk.”

“Let me ask you this. Do you think having a joyous soul is like eating fruits and vegetables- something that you’re told to to because it’s healthy?”

“No…I don’t think so.”

“So…going back to the question…why do you desire a joyous soul?”

“I was just asking you to help me figure that out. You’re the know-it-all at this table.”

“You’re the one who can begin to discover the answer.”

“I think…I think it was part of God’s design in our creation. I think he wants me to live out of a soul that is joyous. Even though I often wonder why he allows certain things to occur and other things to not be I don’t believe he desires for us to live out of a bitter or sorrowful soul.”

“Is it something you have to convince yourself of each day? In other words, it isn’t natural for you to know that your soul is joyous?”

“That’s a tough question, but “yes”, I think I have to convince myself each day. Perhaps it’s because the cynicism of the world has invaded my soul and weakened it to my desire for the things of God.”

“Fallenness leaves bruises, cuts, and wounds.”

“That’s for sure.”

“There’s another song that comes to mind…and your congregation actually sings it well. Some of the words include “Then sings my soul…how great thou art!”

“Yes, that’s a great hymn that seems to draw in the whole of me.”

“Perhaps, like music, desiring a joyous soul is comparable to finding that new song that your “whole” self can sing.”

“Does this mean learning to play the guitar?”

“No…no! I’m using music only as an analogy. It’s about what causes your soul to sing.”

“A topic for another cup?”

“Yes. You sip, I’ll observe.”

TO BE CONTINUED