It’s the Relationship with Jesus

I read an article by Henry Blackaby yesterday that challenged and reminded me again that the essence of the life of a Christian, of a disciple, is our relationship with Jesus and His Lordship in our lives.  He wrote the article in response to my denomination (Southern Baptists) and our call to a "Great Commission Resurgence".  His point was, as I understood it, if you don't have the relationship with Jesus right, then evangelism and witnessing become just more religious activity that attempts to be accomplished apart from the power of God.

Jesus said "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (Jn 17:3, NKJV).  Eternal life is not just heaven, but it is knowing, fully knowing, God and Jesus.  From this relationship, everything flows.  In his article, Blackaby writes "

"'Out of the relationship with Me, you will have an enormous witness
unto Me.' If you're not doing it now just out of relationship to the
Lord, don't look for a program that would help you do what you ought to
be doing spontaneously."

As I read the book of Acts, I am reminded that the New Testament church did not have buildings and materials and programs and ministries and overhead projectors and Power Point and tracts.  Silly church, all they had was the Word of God, and prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Didn't they know that they never would be able to reach the world around them unless they had fancy promotional materials and lots of activities and loads of musicians and other things like that to draw people? 

I had a missions professor in seminary that said that if you weren't on mission while you were training to be an international missionary, you probably wouldn't be on mission once you got to the foreign mission field.  If we aren't on fire for the Lord, no program is ever going to make that happen.

It is a humbling reminder to me that I must be ever diligent in making my relationship with Jesus my first priority, for from that, everything else flows.

The link for the article is here


The Pretenders

A few years ago there was a TV show on the was called "The Pretender".  It centered around a character by the name of Jared, who was kidnapped as a child and his kidnappers used and developed his skills so that he could become whoever or whatever he wanted in any situation.  One week he was a race car driver, another a doctor, another a member of the Coast Guard.

What I wonder, and fear, is that in most churches on Sunday mornings, we have congregations filled with pretenders, or,  as Brendan Manning refers to them in the title one of his books,  "Posers, Fakers, and Wannabes".

I believe that our churches are filled with posers, fakers, wannabes and pretenders every Sunday.  Our churches are not safe to be real and share our hurts, our fears, our sin, our pain,  our sorrow, our trials and our temptations without being condemned, ostracized, and cast out, so we hide behind a smile and our supposed goodness because we fear what people might do to us or say about us to our face or behind our backs.

It reminds me of the song by Casting Crowns, "Stained Glass Masquerade"

Is there anyone that fails

Is there anyone that falls

Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small

Cause when I take a look around

Everybody seems so strong

I know they'll soon discover

That I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay

If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too

So with a painted grin, I play the part again

So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people

Under shiny plastic steeples

With walls around our weakness

And smiles to hide our pain

But if the invitation's open

To every heart that has been broken

Maybe then we close the curtain

On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who's been there

Are there any hands to raise

Am I the only one who's traded

In the altar for a stage

The performance is convincing

And we know every line by heart

Only when no one is watching

Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free

If I dared to let you see

The truth behind the person

That you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open

Or would you walk away

Would the love of Jesus

Be enough to make you stay

Are we happy plastic people

Under shiny plastic steeples

With walls around our weakness

And smiles to hide our pain

But if the invitation's open

To every heart that has been broken

Maybe then we close the curtain

On our stained glass masquerade

I come to wonder whether our order of worship, our events, our ministries, our routines are there in part because it is much easier and more comfortable to go through the routine than to be genuine with one another.  More than anything else, I long to see the church be able to be so real with one another that we rally around one another when we struggle rather run away from each other.

Paul wrote that we are to "Carry one another's burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal  6:2, HCSV).  We aren't too good at burden bearing…stone casting..yes, tongue lashing…yes, soul smashing…yes, but not burden bearing.  Maybe we'll get this down some day.  We can only hope.

The Church’s E.D. Problem

It seems that each year in my denomination (Southern Baptist) we lament the fact that we remain stagnant in the number of people we baptize during the course of the year.  That number has remained flat lined for the better part of a a decade or more.  We develop new methods of telling the old, old story.

The simple conclusion I’ve come to is that we are suffering from E.D….Evangelism Dysfunction.  We don’t do enough of it, we don’t plan for it, we don’t believe that the message of "Jesus Saves" is important enough for the world to hear.

We come up with all kinds of convenient reasons and excuses for not going as the Great Commission tells us to.  It’s too hot, too cold, too late, too early, too far, too close…the list goes on.

At the heart of it though, I don’t believe the church really has an E.D. problem.  Not telling others about the One who saved our souls is merely a symptom of bigger problems.  Our hearts have grown cold.  They need revival, pure and simple.  When our hearts are warm, we won’t be content to let people spend eternity apart from Jesus.  We’ll say something, ANYTHING, so they have a chance to hear.  More important, they will SEE the life of Jesus flowing out so richly, they will be drawn to Jesus in us.  There is no better witness than the joy of Jesus in us.

Oh, if it were only so easy to take a pill to solve our E.D. problem.  However, the solution is spelled out by God all throughout Scripture.  Pray, repent, sell out to Jesus, get rid of all that distracts and entangles us in this world, don’t compromise, open your mouth, let your light shine before men, strive to know nothing but Christ crucified, die to self.

Are we willing to pay the price to see the world saved?  If we were, most of our churches wouldn’t be stagnant or shrinking in size, and our baptisms, which are supposed to reflect lost souls saved, would be skyrocketing through the roof. 

Intimacy With God

I struggle with my intimacy with the Almighty.  I know Scripture tells me that "…the nearness of God is my good" Ps. 73:28, NASB), but I find at the end of the day, the end of the week, that I have not spent nearly as much time with God as I desire to.  Life competes for my attention…family, ministry, work…it’s all good, but it still leaves me feeling fragmented and missing time with my Lord.

As I pondered the issue of intimacy and what it means, the Lord gave me some insights that I am seeking to use to draw me closer to Him.

  • Intimacy doesn’t happen in bits but in chunks – much in the same way that we can’t hope to get close to our spouse or our children or our friends if we only spend a couple minutes with them here and there, we won’t ever hope to grow close to God if all we give Him is a quick read of a daily devotional book and a couple quick prayers for those in need.  Growing close and intimate with God requires that we be willing to break out the Word of God and read it for extended periods of time and set apart time for significant prayer that God would work deeply in our lives to bring about a closeness and would wash away all that keeps us from drawing close to Him.
  • Intimacy happens in the present – Intimacy is not a bankable commodity.  Yes, we can draw on our experience of what God has done in the past to give us strength for whatever is happening now, but His past acts on our behalf were not meant to replace being intimate with Him now.  He wants to work in our lives now and to speak with us now and relate to us now, and not have us live on "good old days" Christianity.  In Psalm 103:7, it’s written that "He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel" (Ps. 103:7, NKJV).  We can joyfully and longingly look back on His acts from the past, but we’ll never know His ways if we aren’t with Him in the present.  We need to ask if we want to be content with merely experiencing God’s activity, or do we want to experience God Himself?
  • Intimacy must be intentional – We plan a weekend away with our spouse.  We take our child out for lunch or to a special event they want to see.  We meet a close friend for coffee.  These events don’t happen without some prior planning.  We look at our calendars, we make phone calls, we make reservations or purchase tickets, all so we can spend special time with that person.  Sadly, we don’t and won’t do the same thing with God.  Too often, we wear our "round-toit" buttons with God and tell Him we’ll spend some time with Him when we get "round to-it".  We have no reason to really question why we aren’t as close to God as we’d like to be when we don’t schedule time with Him.  Does it make sense to schedule a morning, a day, a weekend to retreat and be with our Lord?  If we’ll do it to be with our family and friends, we should also be doing to be with Him as well.