Burning Issues – what’s that smell?

Pastor Pete linked to a Relevant magazine discussion about 7 Burning issues, one of them being homosexuality. My comment, which is the basis for this post is here.

1) Lack of Biblical literacy among professed Christians

This is something I’ve been convicted of. How can I say I’m a Christian but not know what God has to say? What are His promises? What does He say about wisdom? Marriage? Family? Finances? If I don’t know what He says, how in the world can I line my thoughts and actions up with Him? How can I pursue a relationship with Jesus if I don’t read what he said?

Too often, we don’t have Bible study. We have book studies with a Christian theme. We spend more time arguing about what the author said than comparing it to Scripture to see if it is true. This isn’t to say all books are bad, but when they become the focus of your spiritual life, then there can be a problem. There are good books out there written by Godly men and women which can illuminate specific points, inspire us to grow deeper in our faith, answer questions and dilemmas, make us laugh, spur us to action in our local community and globally, reveal areas where we fall short… but they are not a substitute for studying the Bible.

Because I don’t have a solid grasp on what God says, when I’m faced with a crisis (real or manufactured in my head), I panic. I don’t have the strength yet to fully rest in His promises and trust that He will take care of me.

The danger with this is that it can turn into oneupsmanship “I know more than you and therefore I’m more spiritual [said in that funny way that I can’t quite figure out how to type phonetically] and God likes me better.” Nuh-huh. If that’s your attitude, check out what the word has to say on Pride because you are suffering from it. Understanding God’s word, spending time with Him is key to spiritual transformation… becoming more like Christ. Showing forgiveness when someone doesn’t deserve it (and being able to explain to people WHY you did it… because we were first forgiven).

2) Mixing of Christianity with non-Christian religions (Rob Bell recently gave a sermon on yoga-based meditative breathing and its use for the Christian. That bothered me alot.)

Something new readers to my writing may not know is that I spent several years practicing yoga. I did it without any real meditation and completely ignored teachers who said to ’empty my mind.’ I was too busy trying to remember to breathe while feeling my arms wobble during an extended downward facing dog pose. I knew the roots of yoga, but I enjoyed it as an exercise – not a means for spiritual communication.

Way of the Master talk radio program (available on iTunes) had a snippet of a Rob Bell sermon where he talked about how gurus said we could connect to Christ by emptying our thoughts and performing meditative, yogic breathing. The more they played, the more I was disturbed by what I heard. It was like I was sitting in at a new age seminar – not a Christian church. Because it sounds ‘reasonable’ and

I used to have Mars Hill Bible Church on my podcast list but removed them after Mr. Bell went on for 20 minutes of a 40 minute sermon about being on a panel with Desmund Tutu and the Dalai Lama. I don’t think scripture was ever cited in that message.

3) Unwillingness to call sin ’sin’ for risk of offending/hurting people. This is within and outside of the church.

Pastor Mark has been teaching on this off and on. He talked about using nice words to cover up sin. “They had an affair.” No. They committed adultery. Now, your tone of voice shouldn’t be judgmental but what they did is a sin. To mask it behind pretty innocuous words doesn’t do them any favors. It is when we are made aware of our deep sin and separation from God that we can meet Christ and be reconciled to the Father.

As believers, we are supposed to sharpen iron with iron. How often do we tolerate anger, little white lies, anxiety (yes it is – because we aren’t trusting God), idolatry, and any number of other annoyances that are symptomatic of our sinful heart and areas where God needs to continue to purify and sanctify us so that we may grow closer to Him? How can you repent of something that is so widely tolerated that it isn’t even viewed as a sin?

I haven’t read the book yet but I’ve heard a snippet about it: Jerry Bridges has a book called Respectable Sins on this very topic.

4) Being culturally relevant. How to be in the world but not OF the world. In a lecture I listened to yesterday, the speaker said that the Church is the intersection of Culture and the Gospel. How do you accomplish that without being a giant dork?

I just finished listening to a two hour seminar from Mars Hill Church on this topic from last year. The speaker said that the church is the intersection of Culture and the Gospel. Paul speaks about becoming all things to all people, but he doesn’t lose himself before engaging the culture. He spent 3 years studying before venturing out on missionary work and preaching. That is – he spent 3 years in God’s word… not immersed in the latest reality TV shows.

He wasn’t a cultural couch potato. I also don’t think he would have performed a re-written version of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” renamed “Serving Back” complete with bad dancing and even worse lyrics. I hope hope hope it was an attempt to be funny and goofy, not serious. If so, they are a little behind the times as “Sexy Back” was popular 2 years ago. Things like that just make non-Christians think that we are stupid, backwards hicks… and that why would they want to hear the Gospel if THAT is their example? (I know – because I thought this way, even growing up in a Christian school and attending church. There was no depth to anything I heard. Nothing that made me say ‘wow… I really am messed up and need Christ.’)

I have a real problem with the Christian ghetto. People who ignore the world outside of their church and private school are fooling themselves into thinking they are living good Christian lives. Only God knows if they have accepted Christ or not, but their fruit doesn’t reflect much of a relationship with Him. When the only people you interact with are people from your church, you are missing the point of the Great Commission. You don’t have to tromp off the Africa to be a missionary. My mission field is my neighborhood and my office. And I’m probably not doing a very good job of talking to others about Christ.

Anyway, I don’t think golf balls are effective witnessing tools. They are lazy evangelism, because you know someone purchased them thinking that they are reaching the lost. It is about relationship. While I don’t want to limit God or how He can reach people, a verse on a golf ball isn’t likely to send someone (unless they were already questioning) to find out more about Christ.

How much TV do you watch? What websites can you visit? Should you want that movie? If you do, try to find ways to engage them with a Christian world view (i.e. The Matrix – ‘the one’/savior, baptism, etc.. the example is from the Mars Hill sermon). How do you talk to your kids about the Lion King and ‘the Circle of Life?’ Is that complimentary with Christianity?

(This one is a little disjointed. I have too much to say and the more I say the more judgmental I get because these people bother me… more personally than as a believer… so, there is some work God needs to do in me, too)

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I don’t have easy answers. I am still working on many of these issues. I give thanks to God for teaching me, showing me where I am weak so that He can make me strong and be glorified. He has been doing so with my anger management problem. As Pastor James MacDonald said “Just get over it!”

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What are the burning questions/issues facing Christianity that you see? Are they personal issues? Are they specific to your church or something you think is going on with the church as a whole body, globally (as best as can be identified, anyway)?

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2 comments

  1. Pete Wilson · June 19, 2008

    Great point! Thanks for making me think this morning. I love the challenge.

  2. August · June 19, 2008

    A chapter a day out loud.
    I’m in Chronicles now. There’s a lot of tough stuff in the OT that many touchy-feely people will have serious problems with, but it’s important to realize who God is and what He has done, instead of letting our fuzzy perceptions rule us.

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