I am a weak Christian. I am weak in all areas of my spiritual life. I have difficulty with the simple things in my spiritual walk. I try to pray. One of two things happens, I either start to doze off or my mind wanders away and I have to think hard to remember where I left off. That’s assuming that I decide to resume praying. I am so weak when I am on my knees, the one place I should find my strength.

I am pathetic at fasting. I have difficulty maintaining my fast past twelve hours. And when I do I usually eat when asked because I don’t want to appear to be more holy than the other person. So I end my fast before I have had a chance to test my body, to test my ability to resist the needs of the body so I can focus on the needs of my spiritual state.

The reason why I mention these two practices of a spiritual walk with Christ is because when I read the historical accounts of Christians who have made a difference in the past these are two things these people tend to incorporate into their lives. It seems that their success, in terms of the church and heavenly things, is rooted in regular fasting and prayer. I want to practice them more and be more diligent in focusing on prayer and fasting. How can I truly be effective if I am not sincerely seeking the face of God?

I don’t want to be weak anymore.

Preaching-a-la-carte, dangerous

I was recently reading an article about some controversy in a megachurch.  Apparently, someone alleged that the church had an openly gay person in a leadership role, and it was a disgrace to the church.  The church has since removed the person from the leadership role because of that person’s decision to live in a sinful lifestyle.  Now, I am not saying that if that same person announced that they were living with a woman who is not their wife that it would be different.  In both situations they are openly flaunting a lifestyle that is contrary to what the bible teaches.  When Paul lists those who will not inherit the Kingdom, fornicators, adulterers and homosexuals are in the same list.  What I am conflicted about is a quote from the pastor of that church when he says that he will not publicly make a stand on the subject of homosexuality.  He went on to say that he will never preach on sexuality, along with some other topics, because people could feel ostracized, and that is where hate and bigotry and insensitivity begins, and he will not preach a sermon that will cause someone to feel that way.

What?  I don’t get it.  Is this now preaching the bible a-la-carte?  We shouldn’t preach on a topic because someone’s feelings might get hurt?  Are pastors only supposed to preach on topics that get people in the door and keep them in the seats?  We want people to feel good about who they are and not regret going to church?  Is church progressing towards self-help seminars and only preaching that God loves everyone, no matter what?  What has happened to the truth of the gospel?  What does 1 John say, if one claims to be in the light but remains in the darkness or in their sin, he is a liar and the Spirit of Jesus is not in them?  So, do we now skip whole sections of the bible because sinners might become offended?

Peter was very straightforward in his preaching on the day of Pentecost.  He told all assembled in Jerusalem that they were the people responsible for putting Jesus on the cross, to have Him crucified.  Peter did hold back, John did hold back, John the Baptist did not hold back, Paul did not hold back, James did not hold back, and Jesus did not hold back.  Why is it suddenly ok to hold back now?  You don’t people to feel ostracized?  Well, we were all ostracized from God.  We were all sentenced to eternal damnation by Him because we separated from Him by our sin.  And that is the point of the gospel, to get people to realize that are sinners who sin and need to have that relationship with their Father repaired by His Son Jesus.  Instead of saying that people may feel ostracized, why don’t say what it really is: conviction of sin.  If they feel ostracized then it’s probably because it is wrong in light of the holiness of the Almighty.  We should be worried if we are offending any group of men but if we are offending the most powerful Being in all of heaven and earth, the One who holds the fate of our eternal soul in His hands.

I would be more concerned about offending God than offending people.  If I was a pastor and I preached a sermon that make people decide not come to my church anymore, then so be it.  I would not refrain from preaching on any topic simply because I would not want to offend any one group of people.  Eventually, if a pastor is effective in his preaching, he would offend all people at one time or another, including himself.  We must preach the truth no matter what or who it offends because the truth is always offensive to someone.  Is it considered loving if I neglect to be truthful or is it more loving to tell someone the truth about the state of their soul before the Omnipotent God?

Christianity a-la-carte

I wonder, are we who are identified as Christians, any better than those who do not?  What I mean is, do we treat each other differently in situations of conflict than non-Christians do?  Are we leaving our sacrifice at the altar and then seeking out the person we are in conflict with and seeking to resolve the issue?  Are we bearing grudges against our brothers and sisters in Christ because we believe the alleged offense is too big to overlook and we deserve an apology?  Is our pride only put aside for strangers?  I have seen too many conflicts in churches where pride and a sense of “rightness” is too big a fight to give up.

In the church I attended up through my teen years we hired a new pastor.  The church had been governed by a congregational system where members would vote on decisions that were related to the operation of the church and expenses to maintain the facility.  The church had a board of deacons and trustees but any major, and sometimes minor, decision was voted on by the church body.  The new pastor wanted to change to an elder system with a board of elders which the pastor would preside over.  It essentially was what one would consider a power move and some in the congregation were very resistant to what was going on.  Anyway, when it came to the second vote (the first was against elder rule) people who retired and moved away, were called to vote, even though they were not active members, some were gone for more than five years.  It was a disgrace to the name of Christ.  Both sides were wrong in how they approached the whole issue because their pride was too much to swallow, and power over the state of the church was at stake.  It was a battle of wills, and the will of God was not one of them.

I also had a conversation with another person who said he would not forgive a brother in Christ because he did something unforgivable to him.  What is was I don’t remember but he believed this offense was too great to let go.  In his mind the offense was greater and more important than the offense his sin had caused his Savior.  Another person said that homosexuality is fine with God.  As long as the two people loved each other God didn’t care if they were man and woman, man and man or woman and woman.  Love is love.  But to this same person it was wrong to indulge in pornography or steal or lie or cheat.

I don’t remember reading anywhere in the bible that the principles, taught by the Holy Spirit in the bible, was a buffet.  One could flip through the pages of scripture and decide which tenets to observe and obey and which ones did not fit their situation.  What God expects is obedience.  How one lives is not Christianity-a-la-carte, it is accepting all the bible teaches or none.  It is the same idea when you are a law breaker.  If you break one commandment one is guilty of breaking the whole law, as James teaches.  As a Christian, we must all that the bible teaches about relationships and conflict or we reject them all.  We must show that we Christians by the way we love, and that does not include loving oneself above all others.

We want to pick and choose what is relevant to us and what can be ignored.  When Jesus suffered on the cross, He did not suffer His Father’s wrath for some sins or only certain sins, He suffered for ALL of humanity’s sin.  We must not be like that wicked servant who, after being forgiven of his debt the king, went and threw his fellow servant in debtor’s jail for a much lesser debt, and that is what we are doing when are selective in our obedience.

Come as you truly are

In the church I attend they call out to any non-Christians/unbelievers/seekers who may be attending by telling that God wants to come as you are. Don’t think that you’re not ready, that you’re not clean enough, that you’re not good enough or that you have to make improvements in your life before you will be ready to come to Jesus. They tell all of us (because even Christians need to come as we are at times) to not worry about your current state of yourself or the sins we may still be carrying. Jesus wants you come as you are.

On the surface it is true but there is more to it. I do not think it is enough to come as you are. That could be interpreted as I could come as I am and leave the same way. I could go to the cross, make no commitment to change any behavior contradictory to the commands of the bible, believe I am forgiven, and continue on with living a sinful life. This is a byproduct of forgetting about why we need Jesus, the Bearer of our iniquity, the Sufferer of our rightful wrath from His own Father, the Redeemer of our souls as He rose from the grave the Conqueror of Death and the Giver of life. We need to understand why we need Jesus in the first place.

We have changed the focus of the gospel. We refrain from calling non-Christians sinners because it leaves a nasty taste in their mouths. We don’t want to offend because then our numbers regarding those who have turned to Christ would not be as high. We mention sins the sinner’s prayer but we do not say much beyond that. We need to acknowledge that we see ourselves as the Father sees us: dirty, corrupt, rebellious and stubborn and worthy of Hell and His judgment. When we see who we are in comparison to who the Father is in His holiness our hearts should break and we should be repentant and be begging for forgiveness.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died for our sins because it was necessary for us to be washed in His shed blood so we could appear before His Father clean and white as snow. Before that can happen we must be able to see that we are sinners, desperate for salvation and redemption before His Father. When we can see ourselves in the that light, the light that the Father shines on our souls, then we will truly be going to Him as we are.