How Can I Be Faithful?

aaronLife, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

Perhaps one of the greatest goals in my life is to hear the words “well done, good and faithful servant” as I meet God in eternity.  This goal is my great motivation but also my great downfall.  While I do not doubt that God has saved me from my sin, it is amazingly hard for me to ever feel confident that I am living a faithful life.  Too often I feel like a second-rate Christian who is wasting my life and my talents.

As I talk with other believers I often find that I am not alone.  I have friends who truly love God yet are often in tears because they feel that they are not the devoted follower of Jesus as they hope to be.  So how do we know if we are being faithful?  How can we have a greater assurance that our lives are not a waste?  Here are some tips, although admittedly, I often struggle to follow my own advice.

1. Rest in the gospel–Any time we as Christians have serious struggles or doubts it is because we are not grabbing hold of the gospel as tightly as we should.  Spend time mediating on the fact that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  What an amazing truth.  This has to be our grounding for all that we do. In fact, all other points that follow this first point are an off shoot of not resting in or being grounded in the gospel.

2. Search our hearts for sin–At times we struggle or doubt because there is real sin present which is hindering us from being faithful.  If you find sin in your life, repent and move forward.  While sin is a serious offense not to be taken lightly, God’s forgiveness trumps our sin. When we do not allow ourselves to embrace God’s forgiveness we are stuck and can not be all that God has called us to be.

3.  Have an open hand–There is some truth to the old cliche that we entered this life with nothing and we leave with nothing.  Whatever God has blessed you with in this life, offer it back to him.  Has he blessed you financially?  Then be a generous giver.  Has he blessed you with great people skills?  Then use that to point people to the cross.  Has he given you musical talent?  Then use it to the glory of God.  The tighter we hold on to gifts and possessions, the less faithful we will be.  Rather than tightly hold on I urge you to radically use what God has given you.

4.  Stop comparing yourself to others–If you are like me you have favorite Christian preachers or authors or leaders.  It is so easy to try to measure yourself up to them.  You see your friend who is gifted in evangelism and because evangelism comes harder for you, you begin to doubt.  Or you see a friend who is gifted in hospitality and you are weak in that area, you get down in the dumps.  Thankfully God created each of us with different gifts, different abilities, and different passions.  Let people with different gifts be a blessing to you and not a discouragement (read Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12).

5.  Find out what your gifts and passions are–I think  the biggest reason Christians become discouraged is because they are uncertain of what their gifts are; or if they do know where they are gifted, they do not know how their gifting fits into their passions.  I do tend to believe that many of the passions we have are God-given passions.  Once we see how our gifts and our passions line up, we use them unto the Lord.  The most joy-filled Christians I know are those who are serving God with their gifts in areas where they are passionate.

6.  Be focused on love rather than duty–Make serving the Lord your greatest joy and not a means of acceptance by him.  One of the most amazing truths for a Christian is that there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less.  God has a radical and passionate love for his children that never wavers.  Let God’s love for you be the motivation for you to serve him.  In other words serve God because you are accepted–not to be accepted.  Do not have the mindset that you “have to” do this or that; rather, have it be “I get to” do whatever he has put before you to do.

I do hope and pray these tips help you be all that God has called you be. Ultimately let us glory in the truth that despite our lack of faithfulness, God continues remains faithful to us.  Praise be to God for his faithfulness!

Burden of Proof

aaronGospel, Questions, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

At our last Bible study an atheist showed up to check things out.  He seems to be a very nice guy, and we had some dialog back and forth with regards to worldviews. One of the disagreements we had was who bore the most burden of proof.  Was it a Christian who believes there is a God or is it the Atheist who holds that there is no god?  My new atheist friend was insistent that it was I who had to prove to him that there is a God.

Are there claims that the Christian should be able to prove consistency in our worldview?–yes.  Are there questions that at times are difficult for Christians to answer?–yes, but I would argue that the atheist has much more to prove than the Christian does.

As we think about worldviews each view is trying to make sense of this life.  How did we get here?  Why are we here?  How can we explain evil?  And on and on.  However, to begin to have a rational discussion we all must have a starting point.  As a Christian we start with God who is revealed in Scripture.  From there we make our arguments on why this is true.  The starting point is the biggest challenge to an atheist.  In fact having a lack of a true starting point, I would even argue, defeats atheism.  Sure they can explain their beliefs on evolution or a big bang or whatever else you were taught in school, but one thing they will never be able to answer is “why something, rather than nothing”.  The atheist lives in a purely cause and effect world.  There was a big bang, which caused this.  There is an evolutionary process that causes that.

While this sounds good and right to some, the natural question is what was the first cause?  What caused the big bang?  If they feel they can explain that, then what caused the thing that caused the big bang and so on.  Atheists can never have a true starting point.  They can never have a first cause with their godless worldview.  It is because of that that they have more of a burden of proof than a Christian.

The Bible is clear that God is a God who is not bound to time.  In fact, there was no time before God created it.  The Bible is clear that this was God that caused the universe to be.  It was God who spoke this reality into existence.  As we look out into the heavens and to this creation, they declare to us that there is a God.  Our existence alone is more than enough evidence to know that there is a God.  Just as painting is evidence that there is a painter, and every building is evidence that there is a builder.  Creation is evidence that there is a Creator.

What greater proof do we need that there is a God than that we exist?

The real question we need to answer is not if there is a God but which God.  If you have not searched the Scriptures I would urge you to do that.  The Bible is clear that it is through the cross of Jesus that we know God.  As Easter fast approaches would you turn to God and make Jesus your greatest treasure!

A Christian’s Responsibility

aaronGospel, Life, Questions, Uncategorized4 Comments

Every ministry is unique with unique challenges and unique circumstances.  Possibly the most unique factor of Red Village Church’s ministry is our setting.  Red Village’s ministry setting is in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, which is known for its variety of different belief systems.  In the downtown Madison area you can find those who hold to an extreme liberal understanding of life as well as those who hold to an extreme conservative understanding.  You can find people who practice almost every form of every religion imaginable.

This past weekend I was downtown and talked to a couple of gentlemen who both held to a Christian worldview yet had much different understandings on how that worldview was to be lived out.  The one man I talked with spoke much of the need for social justice and the care for people.  In downtown Madison there are a large number of homeless.  He questioned why the Christian church is not doing something to help these people out.  He questioned why Christians claim to follow the teachings of Christ yet show no love toward helping others.

The other gentleman I talked with was with a group of street preachers.  Evidently once a week a small group of men go downtown with the Bible and signs in hand and open-area preach on the streets.  He was telling me as Christians we need to preach the gospel, and the problem with the Christian church is the lack of true preaching.

So who is right and who is wrong?  Should the church spend more time doing social justice or is the church guilty of not preaching the gospel?  The answer is…they both are right on one hand, yet on the other hand they both are wrong.  To be a Christian is to do both and not separate the two, which unfortunately most end up doing.

During Jesus’ famous sermon on the Mount of Olives found in Matthew 25 he speaks of a final judgment to come where he will separate the goats (unbelievers) from the sheep (believers).  One of the true distinguishing factors between the goats and the sheep is social justice.  The true sheep care for those who are hungry or thirsty.  The true sheep are the ones who even care for the social outcasts who are in prison.  In much the same fashion James tells us that pure religion is to take care of orphans and widows (James 1:27).  One cannot read Scripture without seeing the call to care for people and meeting felt needs.

Likewise you cannot read Scripture without seeing the call to preach the gospel.  Mark’s gospel records that Jesus’ public ministry began with the phrase “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).   Jesus no doubt was not only meeting the needs of people but he also was a preacher.  A good portion of the gospels is composed of the preaching of Jesus.  It was the apostle Paul who wrote “how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news” (Rom 10:15).  A popular quote for Christians is to “preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” While this quote may sound good it is completely false.  To preach the gospel you must use words.  We need not forget that “faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ”.

So how can you be a true follower of Jesus?  Love people by meeting their physical needs, and love people by telling them the good news of forgiveness of sin through the cross of Jesus.  You cannot truly be a witness if you are not doing both.  We need churches who do both and not just one or the other.  Lord help us!

Sickbed Thoughts

aaronLife, Uncategorized1 Comment

The past week I have been wiped out with a sinus infection.  I have not been able to do too much besides lay around and sleep.  One of the things I have had time to do is to reflect.  As I have reflected on my sickness two things have come to mind.  One, this is not the way it was meant to be, and two this is not the way it will always be.

When God created the universe he created it good.  When God created the world there were no such things as sinus infections or sick days.  In fact, there was no pain, no tears, no death.  Man had perfect fellowship with God and with all of creation.

However, as we know things are far from perfect now.  Even though God created the world good, man was not satisfied and broke the commandment of God by eating the forbidden fruit, and therefore, sin entered into the world.  As sin entered, a world that was in perfect harmony was thrown into chaos.  Where there once was peace, now is turmoil.  Where there was unity, now there is disarray.  Where there was perfect health, there now is sickness.

Because of the sin all of us will die; all of us will know pain and disappointment.  In the world there is much hunger, injustice, murder, hatred, and every type of social injustice imaginable.  Because of sin we seen the devastation of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, floods, and typhoons.

Thankfully that is not the way it will always will be.  Thankfully God is a God who redeems and restores that which is broken.  Shortly after sin entered into the world, God promised to send one who would make all things right again (Gen 3:15).  2000 years ago, God’s only Son entered into this world as a baby to fix what we have broken.   Jesus not only lived a perfect life but also died a perfect death, paying the punishment for sin.  You see, God is not pleased with man, his sin, and what he has done with God’s good creation.  God’s judgement is on man, and man is left separated from God.  However, when Jesus Christ died on the cross he took upon himself the judgement of God for all those who by faith turn to God and believe in him.

It was through Jesus’ death and resurrection that we can be restored back to God.  It is also through Jesus’ death and resurrection that will ultimately restore all of creation.  After Jesus returned to the Father he promised to come again bringing with him a New Heaven and a New Earth for his people.  In this New Heaven and New Earth we will receive new bodies, bodies that will not be broken down, bodies that will never die, bodies that will never know the pain of  a sinus infection.

This is our great hope that we have.  Too often our minds are so narrowly focused on the here and now.  All of our energy, effort, and comfort lies in this broken-down, sin-filled world instead of marveling in the fact that through God’s grace our eternal home will far surpass this present life.

The next time you are in pain or suffering through sickness I encourage you to take time to give glory to God for not abandoning us in our miserable state, and if you are in Christ  (it is my great prayer that you are) cling even tighter to hope of eternity.

Appreciation to Study

aaronLife, Questions, Uncategorized1 Comment

One of the things I am trying to get a better appreciate of is art.  To be honest so much of art I do not understand and because I do not understand it, I do not appreciate the skill of the artist or the genius of the piece.  However, I have found that when I take time to study the piece and understand what the artist is communicating, I really appreciate what I am looking at. For instance, recently I was taking time to study Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”.

At first glance you might look at the painting and see that the artist had skill and some creativity but until you truly examine the painting you miss out on how great this painting is.  The closer you look at the picture you will soon discover that the artist used thousands upon thousands of dots to create this painting.  It took Seurat two years to complete this masterpiece.  The painting is massive measuring 6 ft 10 in x 10 ft 1in.  As I learned more about the artist and more and more about the painting, my appreciation for this painting has grown immensely.

I think that too often as Christians we do not value or appreciate the Scriptures because we to do not take the time to study and understand what the Bible is communicating.  The Bible has gone from being a book that is to be diligently studied to find out what the original context was and what the author was communicating to the original readers, to a book of independent verses without any true story being told.

It is most unfortunate that the Bible has become almost a mystical book and superstitious book rather than God’s Word to us.  As Christians we hunt and peck throughout the Bible trying to find a verse that we can claim as our own without first trying to understand what the verse means in its context, then applying it to our lives.

Here are a few practical suggestions to help you be a better Bible reader:

1.  Read the Old Testament.  Too often as Christians we either do not read the Old Testament or when we do read it we look for only moral stories rather than seeing how the Old Testament is pointing us to Jesus.  As we better understand the Old Testament we have a greater appreciation for the New Testament.  Remember the Bible Jesus had and the Bible the early church had was the Old Testament.  Do not over look the tremendous value of the Old Testament.

2.  Read the different books of the Bibles as books.  If someone was to write you a letter would you start in the middle of the letter?  No.  You would start in the beginning and work your way through it.  Just as letters have a beginning, a middle, and an end, so do the books of the Bible.  Instead of opening up your Bible to a random page and reading what is on the page, pick a book and read through it.

3.  Take the time to get to know the context of each book.  Is the book written to a particular church, person, or group of people?  Why would the author write this letter or book to them?  What are some key themes throughout the book?  There are so many great resources out there that can help answer these questions for you.  I would encourage you to purchase the ESV Study Bible. I think this is the best study Bible on the market and does a great job giving the context of each book.

4. Slow down as you read.  Do not just try to speed read through the Bible.  Remember the Bible is God’s Word and is holy and precious.  As you read Scripture you are reading the very words of God!!

5.  Pray.  The Bible teaches that God gives us wisdom if we ask for it.  Ask God to give you wisdom as you read.

As much as we can learn and appreciate from studying art, how much more can we learn and appreciate God’s Word if we study it.  In God’s love he took over 1000 years to write his Bible, using 3 different languages, over 40 different authors, who ranged from kings to shepherds.  He did this so that we might know his Son and the glory of his salvation.  Praise be to God for his mighty Word.