Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chapter 3: The Work We Have, Can, and Should Do

       I have been saying that I was going to write this for some time now so here we go. In the first chapter I talked about the things we have done that has made God look bad. I now want to go on to the works that some people have done to make God look good. Now, I know there are many people that have done great things in the name of God but I just want to focus on four people. I am going to talk about two that are no longer with us and two that are in our time now doing great things.
       First, I want to talk about William Tyndale again. I have touched on some of the things he has done but want I want to go into further detail. William Tyndale was the one of the captains of the army of reformers, and was one of their spiritual leaders. Tyndale holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language. Tyndale was a true scholar and a genius. He was so fluent in eight languages that one would think that any one of them was his native tongue. He is frequently referred to as the “Architect of the English Language”, (even more so than William Shakespeare) as so many of the phrases Tyndale coined are still in our language today. He was a single minded man, in a good way, especially when it came to translating the Bible into English and getting the Bible into the hands of every man. He wanted them to have and understand the Bible so much so that he was willing to die for this. He also held to the ideas of men like Martin Luther, that the church was holding people back from knowing God wholly. He was determined to make sure that people knew that salvation only came by grace through faith and no other way. One of his greatest quotes is I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!” This was a reply to a man telling him that it is better to have the laws of the pope instead of the law of God. This man was focused on spreading the gospel to everyone no matter what. He was so driven that while he was being killed he said, "Lord, open the king of England's eyes." Many believe that this statement was about allowing the Bible to be translated into English and this finally came to pass three years after Tyndale's death. This man is a shining example of what it means to fight for what is right even in the face of everyone who says it is wrong. He was a respectful man but he had his convictions on what it meant to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. He did everything with integrity and is a great example of someone who makes God look good. 
       The next person is someone most of us know about, Mother Teresa. Now, I know that many people know that she gave her life to helping the poor and needy but how much do we really know? Her real name was Gonxha Agnes and she was baptized at the age of five and a half. At the age of eighteen she joined The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto, in Ireland. That is when she received the name most people know, Sister Mary Teresa. A couple of things that is not as well known as her help with the poor is that she was also a teacher and ultimately became a principal of St. Mary's School for girls in Calcutta. During her time as a teacher there she made her Final Profession of Vows and shortly after got the name that we all knew her as, Mother Teresa. She gave her life to helping the poorest of the poor and helped develop many ministries world wide doing the same. Even in her last days she spent her time helping people and leading the ministries that God had put her over. She is another great example of what it looks like to give ones life away for the calling of Christ. Making God look good does not always mean being killed, most of the time it is living a life completely surrendered over to his will all the way until the end.
       Okay now lets look at some people still with us that are making God look good. These men are Bill Wilson and Matthew Barnett. The great thing about these guys is that they are on two different sides of the USA and yet doing basically the same thing. Bill Wilson lives in New York, New York and does intercity ministry. He goes out into the toughest parts of NY and brings people the gospel. He buses kids in every week to be taught the word of God but not only that he also takes box trucks, that have been remade into fold out stages, to many local neighborhoods so that they can also hear the word of God. Metro World Child, the ministry started by Bill Wilson, does many events throughout the year to help the lost in NY. He is driven to see the next generation rise up and become followers of Christ no matter what their environment is and has extended his ministry world wide. Now, Matthew Barnett has an outreach ministry called The Dream Center. Like Bill Wilson, Matthew Barnett goes out to the intercity; but in L.A. He also buses kids in to hear the word and has the box trucks too. The Dream Center is more than just that, it is an old hospital that has been made into a place for people to go to get help. The Dream Center helps all kinds of people form pastors who have messed up, to helping girls out of the sex slave industry, to helping former inmates, and the list goes on. I am not comparing these two ministries, or men, but rather showing you what a life dedicated to Christ can do. I have great respect for both of these men and encourage you to look them up. These are two men doing there best to make God look good.
       So what can we do? Look at what has been done and think about what needs are around you. I have heard it said "the need is the call". God has put you in place that you can help people and can guide them to Christ, for if it is not about him then you are just doing nice things. We need to take up the baton that all of our forefathers have left us and go back to making God look good. We need to be people that represent his name well and that do things that show our love for God and people. I know we can do this and that it is time for us to stop being people who just watch others people do these good things. We are called to be the body of Christ and to take our roles seriously. I am not saying that all are meant to do outreach but I am saying that we are all meant to do something. Whatever it is that we are meant to do let us do it with a passion for Christ and His work. We must be driven people again and stop being lazy about doing the will of our Father. 
       Finally let me say that this is not meant to make you feel bad or belittle anyone but instead to spring you into action. I wanted to share these stories to show you that ordinary people, who follow the will of God, can do extraordinary things. Let me end with one more story. This story is about a high school girl, when asked one day why she was so happy she answered, "because I have a personal relationship with God through Christ". That is all she said but those words caused the person who asked her to start searching through the Bible. After about six months of going through the gospels this young man came to have a personal relationship with Christ. That young man is now Dr. William Lane Craig. If you do not know who he is that is okay let me tell you. Dr. Craig is one of the top apologetic in the world, he contends for the faith against other religions and atheist. He has written or edited over twenty-three books and has a website to help people in their faith called Reasonablefaith.org.  That story is not about young Dr. Craig but instead about a young girl who was bold enough to share her faith. We never really know the kind of impact we can have when we are simply making God look good. Let me challenge you again by asking, are you making God look good? Are we bold enough to share our faith at any time? What are we doing everyday to grow the body of Christ? What is God asking you to do?

The next chapter will be authored by one of my close friends Keith Rowell. He is a minister in a church in VA and a graduate of Emmanuel College. His heart burns for the things of the Lord and I know that he will help challenge us to stop making God look bad.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chapter 2.5 A Christian's Christian

       Okay in the first part of this chapter, if you have not read the first part please do, we covered the name we carry and how important it is that we carry that name properly. We have seen that the name "Christian" has many things tied to it that is expected for us to carry out. What I want to do now is look at just the name "Christian" and how it relates to the church today.
       I did some research on the origin of the term "Christian" and found that it came about 40 or so years after the death of Christ. The first time we see this term used is in Acts 11:26. In this verse we see that in Antioch the followers of Christ first get this name. Acts 11:26 says and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Now, we have heard that this term was meant to have somewhat of a derogatory meaning to make fun of the followers of Christ. I see no where in this context that it meant that but do know in the years to follow that to many people who claimed that name were mocked or even put to death. So, no matter what the original meaning meant it ultimately was a term to mock the followers of Christ.
       What bothers me the most is that a term that was meant to mock the lives of the followers of Christ is now a term mocked by the lives of the ones who claim to follow him. If you do not get that then let me put it this way. The people who claim to be followers of Christ make the name "Christian", a term to mock the early church, a joke with our lifestyle. Most people know that Christian means: Christ-like or little Christ, but in most places we do a very very poor job of being anything that even resembles Christ-likeness. 
       So what does a Christian's Christian look like? Now a days it is someone who goes to church, helps out at events, maybe teaches Sunday school, maybe an usher, maybe a deacon, maybe a worship team member, or even just someone who just looks the part. Is this really all being a "Christian" is all about? Does the majority of us even care what is expected out of us in the Bible? I have realized that most of the people who claim to be "Christians" do not even have a relationship with Christ. Some people may think that I am being a little harsh here but 73-80% of people in America claim to be "Christian". If that is true then why is there only about 20% of Americans who attend church? Now, I do know that you do not have to go to church to be a "Christian", something I am about to go into in a second, but lets just say that 20% of people can not go due to some reason or does something else like a home Bible study instead that leaves us at 40% that is a far cry short of 73-80%. Most people know that not everyone who goes to church is not always a Christian so that would bring the number even lower.
       First, I want to say that going to church does not make you a "Christian" but it is encouraged in Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Simply put if you can go you should, it is good for you. So, what does a true Christian's Christian look like? Well lets look at what we as Christians should be holding up as the standard, THE BIBLE. We are told in James1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress,and to keep oneself unstained by the world. I would be willing to say that most of us have failed by just that one verse alone but lets go on. In 1st John 4:7-8 it says Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In 1st John 4:20-21 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. I read these words and I am shaken to my soul because I know that there are many people who call themselves a "Christian" and if you asked them, "name someone who you can not stand", it would not take them longer than a second to give you a response. Is that love? We must not allow this kind of mindset to continue in the body. We must always be the ones trying to bring peace, we are called to be peace makers, that is one of the names of God we carry with us. Lets now look at Romans 1:25-32 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. I am not going to touch on the homosexual part right now, I plan to devote a few chapters to that matter. I just want you to read that and see if you fit in it anywhere. If you can say yes then again we have some work to do. See, when I read that it breaks my heart because not only are there things that I notice that I can work on but also because there are many things that I see that we allow to go on in our churches with out even batting an eyelash at. These are just three verses that I have brought up. I could go on and on with this but think that you are getting the idea. If you wonder, "well what else?" then I encourage you to go and read the Bible and let it show you.
       Now, lets look at some things that Jesus said about being followers of him should look like. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus tells us, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.This verse most of us know but most of us fail to follow through with. We sound just like Peter when we tell Christ that we will follow him anywhere but ultimately we deny him with our lifestyles. Christ also set one big standard for us in Luke 14:26-27, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." If He is love how can He tell me to hate? I do not believe Jesus is telling us to really hate people I more over believe that He is telling us that if we do not love Him first and foremost then we are not really loving Him at all. See, most of us can deal with not loving ourselves more than Christ but it is hard for us to deal with the fact that we may love our families more than Him. As a parent this is a hard thing for me to deal with but if you go back to the story of Abraham you get an idea of what is being said here. God wants you to love Him first and most but that does not mean that you must hate everything else it just means do not allow anything to become an idol before Him, something I think that we do with our families way too much.
       Okay, I think it is a good time to recap. I do not know if everyone who is reading this is a Christian so before I move on let me say this, if you do not know the saving grace of Christ Jesus I invite you to. Everything I have said may seem overwhelming but I promise you it is not. See the holy spirit will help you grow into the type of person that I have been talking about. If you are a Christian let us recap on all that has been brought up. First, we know that the name we carry comes with some things that we are meant to be. Things like provider, shepherd, peace maker, and righteous. Then there are things we should do like taking care of one another and loving all people. Finally there are things that we should not do like the list in Romans, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and Revelations 21:8. Most of all though we must run our race with our eyes on the prize, the prize being the Glory of God, just like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9. As I was saying to someone who may not be saved earlier we can not do all these things by our own strength. We must be willing to let the holy spirit to work in us and through us. That does not take all the responsibility off of you and put it on God but it does show us that we need Him everyday to HELP us become the type of person that carries His name well.
       Some people may be wondering why I kept on saying "Christian". Well I did so because over all I do not believe that most people are really Christians. I think this term is thrown around just like the word love is. We have made the cost of both of those words mean so little. I believe to make God look good in this world again we must make the term Christian mean something again. I want to leave you with a story and a prayer. 
       I was talking to one of my friends the other night. This young man is a part of YWAM (youth with a mission) and he told me that when preparing for one of the mission trips he was going on they told him to not use the term "Christian" when talking to some people. Now you may be thinking that telling someone on a mission trip not to use the term Christian is crazy but there is a reason. See, he was told that in some parts of the world when you say that you are a Christian that people will instantly zone you out. He told me, "In some Middle Eastern countries, a Christian is known to a Muslim as someone who killed their family member or loved one, or a crazy right winged republican who voted to send troops over to occupy their country.. So when they send us over there we have to use the term "follower of Jesus."" WOW! If this does not hurt your heart then I do not know what will. He ended our conversation with this, "The more difficult obstacle to overcome when presenting the Gospel to unbelievers is not the presence of other religions, belief systems, or world views, but the misrepresentation and misconception of the term "Christian." The church can, at times, be its own worst enemy. This is why I love presenting the Gospel to people who have never heard it. They do not have any pre-conceived notions or a culturally-tinted view when the name of Jesus is spoken and taught. Like the story I shared with you last week of the man who had never heard, and his response to the first time he had ever heard was "That is a beautiful story." The average American hears or sees the Gospel presented 365 times a year and the average South American over 500 times a year (whether through a billboard, car bumper sticker, church sign, television, radio, etc.) But because of its misrepresentation, the story has lost it's meaning and significance." Thanks Tom Broyles I could not have said it better myself.
       I want to end this one with a prayer. God please forgive us for what we have made of Your name. Let us wake up and remember the sacrifice You made so that we could carry that name for all eternity. Please help us become the church that You died for. Help us make Your name great in this world again. We are chosen slaves to Your will in our lives and let us not love anything more than You. Allow us to move in Your will and power again. We desire to show Your love, mercy, and kindness to a dying world. Help us live the lives You created us for. Most of all help us fall in love with You again. AMEN.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chapter 2: What Is In A Name?

       I know that I said that I was going to call Chapter 2 "The Work We Have, Can, and Should Do," but the other night God spoke to me about the title of the blog/book overall. As anyone who is reading this knows, the name is Making God Look Bad and I have made many points on the names that God has been called by unbelievers. I thought on this point for a while and God brought to my mind the names He already has. Now I know in western culture, unlike the majority of the rest of the world, that a name has little to no value or meaning, but at one time to take pride in your name meant a lot. Most people, unless they have done their own research, do not know what their name means at all, but at one time your name carried some kind of weight.

       Let us first think on the time we live in now. We carry a last name that most of us can use to trace back our heritage, but is it important to us and do we do that name justice compared to our forefathers? In other cultures, to disgrace your family (the last name you carry) is one of the highest offenses that someone can do. Some cultures to disgrace your last name may even bring you death, but compared to the western world it is of little consequence. We have lost the value of a name. Most people think that doing something bad only brings shame to them and thinks little to nothing of the resounding effects it has on their family as a whole. Let me ask you if you met someone with the last name Hitler, wouldn't that bring you pause at first?
       Okay, so our name means something but big deal right? No. See as followers of Christ we carry more than just our name – we carry the name of our God also. We must realize how great a name is first to understand that we carry the greatest name with us when we call ourselves "Christians." I thought on this for a while and wanted to give a little parable to make it easier to understand.
       Long ago there was a man with two sons. When his sons turned eighteen he gave both of them a little golden box which was locked. The first son took great care of this box. He would bring the box out every once and a while to polish it. He kept it wrapped up in a cloth and put away for safe keeping. The first son's house got broken into one day while he was away, and before worrying about anything else, he made sure that the box was not gone. The first son took great pride in the gift he had been given. Now the second son was not so diligent. He was a wild person, enjoying any kind of pleasures he could find. He spent his money on anything that would bring him happiness with no worries about tomorrow. The second son, due to his lifestyle, found himself in need of money and sold the box. As years past the father fell ill and knew his days where coming to an end. So he called his sons to come. When the sons came, the father gave both of them a key. Bewildered the sons asked the father, "What is this key for?" The father answered them, "It is to the box I gave you when you turned eighteen." "See,” the father said, "Inside that box is my will and with it all the wealth I have gained through my life." The first son left overjoyed while the second son left broken with a heavy heart.
      If you did not understand let me explain.  We have been given a great gift to carry our Savior’s name with us, and with this gift come many promises. If we take care of this gift, God is more than happy to give these promises to us, but when we misuse his name some of these promises will be withheld from us. Jesus told us in Matt. 18:19 that if two or more are gathered together in HIS NAME he will be there, and again in John 14:13, if we ask anything in HIS NAME it will be given. So why do we not feel him and why do we not see our prayers answered at times? There are many different reasons I believe (not making sure it is His will first is one for sure) but I believe one reason is because we do not carry HIS NAME properly.
       So let’s go into some of the names of God that we find in the Bible and look at how we are making them look bad. 1) Jehovah-Jireh (Gen 22:44): As most believers have heard, this means “God the provider.” Now what does that have to do with us? Well I know that we cannot provide like God, but we are told that we meant to be providers to others. In James 2:15-17 we are told that if we see someone in need and do not provide for them that our faith is dead. Also in Matt 25:40-45 we are told if we do to the least of these that we have done it to the Lord. So we carry the name of a provider with us. 2) Jehovah-Shalom (Jdg 6:24): “God is Peace.” Okay this one is a little simpler. We all have heard the sermon on the mound but let us look at one part closer. Matt 5:9 tells us that the peace makers will be called SONS OF GOD. I don't know that I could make that point any clearer. What an honor to be called a son of God, but again, do we do that name justice? 3) Jehovah-Ro'i (Ps23:1): “The Lord is my shepherd.” In Ephesians 4:11, what most people call the five-fold ministry, there is a part where we are called to be pastors. I know that most believers think that this is a title or office held by just the clergy, but in reality if you are helping anyone grow in the faith, which all believers are called to do (Matt 28:16-20), we are being shepherds. This is an important role that I believe most followers of Christ overlook and act like it is not a role that they must be a part of, but if you read the Bible, it is a role that is assumed we all will do. 4) Jehovah-Tsidkenu (Jer 23:6): “The Lord is our righteousness.” We all know that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Romans 3:10) but we are also told that His righteousness was given to us through the one who knows no sin and becomes sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). We have become His righteousness and we must not shame that name that has been wonderfully given to us.
       We as believers must fall in love with our Father again, and remember that because the death of His son we now are carrying His name anywhere we go. We must do our utmost to make sure that the name we carry means something to us. We can no longer act as if our actions have no effect on the name we carry, and cling to it for our very eternal salvation. We must strive to make the name we carry famous and to make sure we take away any reason for someone to mock it. We indeed may have our work cut out for us, but we can and will make it great again in all the nations. Let me end like I have before by asking questions. Do you carry these names with pride (not the sinful type)? Which son are you? How can you do better to make sure you do not bring shame to the family name that you now carry?  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chapter 1.5: ...Let Me Explain

       So I wanted to take time out before I move on to the next chapter and explain some things. After I posted the first chapter, if you have not read it you should or this might not make sense, I had a few people tell me that I need to go into more detail on some things. I want to say first that I am new at this and plan to put out a chapter a week. Next I want to say that this blog/book is meant to do two things: 1) I want this to call attention to some things that we as believers do that makes the name of God look bad and 2) give some direction to the body as how the Bible tells us we should represent our Lord. With all of that I hope that this stirs some things up in you the reader and also in the body of believers to stand up and be the ambassadors of Christ we are called to be.
 Okay let me go in to some details I have been asked about so that people can see more clearly what I am saying and trying to bring across. So in my first chapter I brought up a few things that I have heard atheist say about God. Now I do not agree with nor do I like the things that have been said but my main reason for this blog/book is not to attack the atheist points at all. I am not on any level to debate the men who have said these things so I will not call them by name or give references to books they have written, I do not want to help their book sales at all. The things I brought up that I have heard said by these men are just to give you guys an idea of the kinds of things said about our God by the people of the world and again if what you read they have said upset you then good it should as a believer. The things I brought up that are being said should make us realize that we need to step up and be the true representatives of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Finally, as believers, we need to be well read in the word so that we can contend for the faith with the word and our lives.
       Next I was asked to give more details on some of the things that I said put a black mark on our history as the Church. One thing I mentioned was excommunication. I brought up Galileo and his discovery that the earth was not the center of the universe. If you know your history then you would know that the church back in those days did not like this idea, even though his discovery could be reproduced like any good scientific discovery can. At that time the church stood firm that the earth was the center of the universe and used scripture to support that idea. As we all know this is not true and a misuse of scripture, but non the less he was labeled a heretic. 
       Another point I made about people being excommunicated was a man being persecuted for trying to translate the Bible into English. This is not as well known a fact as Galileo but it is our history, no matter how bad it is. The guy I am talking about is William Tyndale. William Tyndale lived from 1490-1536, if you are keeping up with dates Tyndale was before Galileo, and he was one of the first people to translate the Bible into English. After asking the church if it was okay to do so they denied his request. He spent some time on the run from the Roman Catholic Church until he was invited to go to England. So, the Roman Catholic Church was not the only church involved in the excommunication of Tyndale. In reality the Church of England had him hanged and burned at the stake (overkill if you ask me), but he was not hanged just for the translation issue. Tyndale was also one of the first people that believed that the Bible was the final authority of a believer's life and not the Pope. He also held to the position, like Martin Luther, about grace and salvation given to all through Jesus not some thing that the church had a right to control.
       I know that is a lot to swallow but I think it is good for us as believers to know our history. The other things that I mentioned should be common knowledge, i.e. The Crusades and The Civil Rights Movement, but if not please go do some studying. The main point of me looking back on our history is so we do not find ourselves doing the same things but in different venues.
       I do not want this to just be a history lesson so let me touch on some things I plan to write about in coming chapters. We know that we have made mistakes and would love to say, "if I would have been there I would not have done that", but then we sound just like the Jews in the days of Jesus saying that we would not have killed the prophets (Matt 23:30). Let us not say that we would or would not have done something in a time we did not live, let us instead say and do things in this time that we live. We must do our best to be the Church that Christ died for. We must remember our call to holiness and to love one another, if we forget this we are already lost. We need to not just stand up for social justice but for the whole Gospel, even the idea of righteous judgement that we like to shy away from. It is time for us to unite admits our differences and show this world what it is to be a follower of Christ in action and in word. 
       I plan to start going into some subjects of what we can do to fix the state the church is in and the things we should stand for or against. I plan to bring to light scriptures that have been spoken to the body through out the ages that we continue to over look or just push away out of dislike. We must be lovers, doers, and preachers of the word of God. The world needs to see examples of Christ-like love in a world that is trying its hardest to skew the idea of love in general. Finally let me ask this, what have you done today, yesterday, or even recently to show the love of Christ to other believers or the lost? How can we do better? Are we living to make our Lord famous?