Category: Faith

Witness Well

Capturing Opportunities to Provide Messages of Hope

In an ongoing series by the Barna Group to try and capture the state of the church in America, half of the pastors cited “declining or inconsistent outreach and evangelism” as a major issue facing the church.  

Sadly, this finding is not surprising. And, churches could be capturing opportunities in a time of uncertainly, discomfort – even panic. An incoming tide of receptivity to hear a message of hope is arriving at the doorsteps of professing Christians.

But, a lack of interest and preparedness is prompting many of us to remain quiet.

Our Lord and Savior who loves us beyond comprehension is already forgiving us. His grace and mercy already paid the price for our sins. And right now, with a clean slate and a heart full of love and thanksgiving, believers can be a bastion of hope and a proclaimer of Truth.

The Corona-virus pandemic is seizing the attention of the world as it should. People are looking to government leaders and science for solutions to help guide us back to a sense of normalcy.

A civilized society rests on their trust in its political institution. If people remain calm and not panic, it will be alright.

What about those who have been set apart by God to trust in his promises?

Justified by faith alone — fully redeemed through God’s grace alone — faith exemplifies itself through its confession and actions. It’s not that acts are motivated to be redeemed, but a spirit-generated response by being redeemed. Faith prompts a desire to spread the Word.

So, what’s the problem?

I believe the Barna report on the state of the church (“What’s on the mind of America’s Pastors”) is uncovering distinct patterns and clues for its problems and solutions.

For instance, a rise in the lack of interest to proclaim the gospel could be tied with a significant increase in the “low spiritual maturity among church goers” that pastors cite as a growing concern (27% in 2017 vs. 8% in 1992). U.S. pastors in the report also rank “watered down gospel teachings” (72%) as the largest issue facing the church during the America’s dramatic shift towards toward secularization.

These findings coincide with previous Barna reports which concluded that “evangelism has fallen out of favor even with young adults who are practicing Christians.” Coupled with “watered down gospel teachings” it’s not surprising that the next generation have a “distrust” of religious institutions.

When Christian churches appear more interested in aligning itself with political idealism and legislating morality, not willing to confront false teaching, and struggle with sanctified living among its leaders, then it’s going to be a struggle to reach those who distrust organized religion. A water-down gospel and spiritual immaturity sows the seeds of hypocrisy and a lack of interest to grow in God’s Word and proclaim it to others.

Like the Jewish people during the time of Christ, I wonder if professing Christians are far more interested in having a savior that promotes a return to a “moral” kingdom and prosperity rather than a Savior for our sins.

Like Jesus standing over Jerusalem, I wonder if he stands on a precipice today and weeps. How he may long to gather those he loves like a hen gather her checks under her wings through the power of his pure and unfettered Word.

When biblical truth is muddied by a watered-down understanding of God’s wrath and grace, people miss receiving the assurance and confidence of full redemption.

And this plays itself out by a lack of trust in God’s Word and a believer’s responsibility for spreading it.

Fear drives panic when there is a loss of trust in the institution of government for which God has established.

Fear drives panic when there is a loss of trust in his Word and the institution of the Church for which God has established.

A church loses its saltiness.

We can go to the Lord in prayer,

“O Sovereign Lord, Almighty Creator and Sustainer of all things, the One who establishes the universe – “who determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name” (Ps. 147:4) – we humbly place our trust in your hands. We praise you, our Savior and friend. It is during serious times it can be the time to take your Word seriously. Grasp the collar of my soul and raise me up to boldly declare your name to my community. Forgive me for any timidity that could cause me to remain satisfied in being a light without a desire to give reasons for the hope I have in you. By the power of your Word, grant me to be salty when it seems the world around me is increasingly tasteless. With eyes fixated on you, Lord, grant me peace, confidence, and everlasting hope. In your name, Amen.”

A Life in Christ Never Panics

“Never panic!”

I used to work for the athletic marketing and promotions office at Fresno State University. One of my duties was to help coordinate the promotions and in-game marketing for football and basketball. During a game with thousands of people watching, things can go wrong. When bad things happen, one of the cardinal rules for event managers is to never panic. A calm mind makes better decisions. Most of the time, slight adjustments that nobody ever sees can avert major catastrophes that everybody sees.

I have applied this rule countless times throughout twenty years of outreach ministry.

And perhaps it could be applied for us today.

Never panic… especially for those who trust in Christ’s promises.

____

A recent trip to a grocery store is a good way to gauge public anxiety.

Selfish hoarding and overflowing grocery carts exhibit a lack of trust in our government system, our leaders, and each other.

Even though cracks may exist in our society and there is a warring divide in politics, a foundation still exists and there are good leaders to help us pull through this public health crisis.

It’s going to be okay if people don’t panic.

But I think we are all arriving at the same conclusion that life is going to be different now. In the same way lives were adjusted after 9/11, our daily lives will be transformed but probably on a grander scale. In place of intensifying security measures, changing travel habits, and concerns about domestic terrorism, we may have intensified efforts in viral screening, immunization, and changing our public habits.

And this is not including the effect this pandemic will have on our economy.

It is during the darkest times that lights shine the brightest.

A life in Christ never panics.

The object of a Christian faith rests in what Christ has already done and what he promises to do.

The storms of life – even viral hurricanes – cannot wash away a house that is built on the rock of Christ.

A redeemed life in Christ that is fully received by faith rests securely in Christ’s promise that heaven is secure. Their name is in the book of Life.

A redeemed life in Christ that is fully received by faith accepts the reality that God has placed them on this earth for a purpose. This day in history has been ordained for a believer in Christ to fulfill God’s purpose – to declare his glory – to make his Name known.

Therefore, a proper Christian response can mean exercising a dual citizenship in Christ.

A believer in Christ exercises their citizenship in this world that God created, dearly loves, and desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth. All people who trust in him have been set apart before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4), to not be of this world, but be salt and light in this world to proclaim of his message of Good News.

With one foot in the world, those who trust in God’s promises, can courageously exhibit grace amid panic. They can visit grocery stories to get what they need but be willing to give away what they possess to help a person in need. They can boldly take advantage of every opportunity the Lord provides to give reasons for the hope, peace, and confidence they have in Christ.

A life in Christ never panics but embraces difficulties in life as a blessing from God. He often uses challenges to deepen our trust in him. Secure in Christ, confident that God’s hand is in all things, challenges dissipate into opportunities to share Truth to a more receptive audience.

With one foot in the world and one foot resting in God’s promises, believers can be casual observers by viewing life in the third person. They insert their own name in lieu of God’s promises by saying to themselves:

[Insert name] is fully assured because Jesus tells me that he has overcome the world.

[Insert name] is fully at peace because Jesus tells me he is the resurrection and the life.

[Insert name] has sure hope because Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so.

We can pray,

“O Lord, thank you for your mercy and grace. Fill me up with your presence and the fruits of your Spirit today. That I may live for you and not for myself. When doubt, fear, and concern rises up within me, may you flush them out with your good promises. Since I live, you live in me. Since I live, you direct me to live for you. May I seize upon every opportunity to exhibit peace and hope in my words and actions, but more importantly, verbally provide reasons why my hope is in you. During this time of turmoil and looming change, may I cling to you as the changeless One who has already secured my place in heaven. Thank you, Lord. Amen.”

A Christian response to the possibility of alien life

A Christian response to the possibility of alien life

The U.S. government recently admitted that they have commissioning studies about the existence of UFO’s and alien life. The U.S. military have studied first-hand reports from Navy pilots and seen the videos. They admit that the flying objects are a mystery.

The cable TV channels continually produce shows about the possibility of alien life. There are popular conferences about Area 51, the existence of Bigfoot, and conspiracies involving major historical events

People are fascinated with the unexplainable.

I confess that I enjoy gazing up into the stars at night and wonder at God’s creation. When I use my phone to track satellites and space stations as they pass by in the night sky, I wonder at the advancement of technology. And since our God is a big, mysterious God that goes well beyond our comprehension, I wonder about all that he has created that remains undiscovered.

How would the possibility of alien life affect a Christian worldview? How does the possibility of UFO’s square with a person’s faith in Christ?

With the advent of technology that allows us to gaze at the wonderment of the ever-expanding universe and the billions of stars throughout our galaxy…. is it okay for Christians to ponder the possibility of alien life on another planet?

This question was posed recently in an interesting blog post entitled “Are we Ready for Life on Mars?” by James Emery White.  https://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-james-emery-white/are-we-ready-for-life-on-mars.html

Many people dismiss the possibility of UFO’s and alien life as a hoax. They are convinced that most of what is deemed unexplainable always will have some type of explanation. And they could be right.

Miracles are also unexplainable.

Bible skeptics question the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. They dismiss the miraculous accounts of Christ along with the rest of the Old Testament miracles as legends.

Think about it. If you happened to go missing for three days after an afternoon at the beach, then suddenly emerge from the seashore with a wild story. You tell people that you were swallowed by a large fish then coughed up on shore. How would people respond? You could be an internet sensation. Your face could appear on the front page of several tabloids trying to make a buck. But most of us would be skeptical of your story.

The miraculous accounts in the Bible are unexplainable, but that’s not the point. God’s Word was not inspired and preserved so that we can believe that God parted the Red Sea during the time of Moses. The miracles declare that God is God and we are not.

The Bible answers the most fundamental questions that we need to be most concerned about – our relationship with him, our eternal life, our believe in Christ’s completed work on our behalf.

Faith is a miracle that can only be delivered by God’s hand through the power of his Word. This includes accepting certain questions where answers remain silent.

There are mysteries on earth that science has not been able to answer yet — including the possibility of life on other planets

Borrowing from James Emery White’s article, here are three theological truths that can help believers capture the essence of our faith in response to the unknowns in the universe.

  • God is bigger than we think.

When it comes to life on other planets and future scientific discoveries, remembering the size of God will always keep us humble and slow to jump to conclusions. Science is a process and a constant testing and proving of theories. Those who believe in Christ can celebrate every scientific discovery and marvel with awe at what God has designed.

  • All life is from God.

God is the Creator of the heavens and earth. Our human minds are not able to fully grasp what he has created on earth let alone what he has created in the heavens.  We can’t begin to capture the mind of God and what he has designed in the universe. There could be many dimensions and realities throughout the universe that God has created that has yet to be revealed. And perhaps it might be a bit arrogant for us to think that life on earth is the extent of his creativity. We don’t know. But God does. And we can accept that.

If it were important for us to know about the possibility of alien life during our brief stay on earth, then God will reveal it. In the meantime, we can hold on to what we do know that has already been revealed to us. And that’s a miracle in of itself. The incarnate God came to this earth. He lived, died, and rose again.

  • All of creation matters to God.

With all scientific discoveries, it is like peeling away billions of layers of an onion one piece at a time. A Christian can enjoy and not be threatened in its discoveries.

As Scriptures state, we can marvel at the earth and declare, “Look at what God has created!”

We can marvel at the heavens around us and declare, “Look at what God has created!”

And as the scientific community may be preparing to discover some type of life on other planets, we can anticipate the same discovery.

If scientists discover some type of life on another planet, we can rejoice by saying, “Wow. Look at what God created! God loves the earth and the universe!”

I confess that I’m skeptical about UFOs, the existence of Bigfoot, and alien life on other planets. I don’t buy into conspiracy theories. But I’m willing to be surprised by God if they are ever discovered.

While gazing up into the stars at night and an alien spaceship lands in my backyard, I look forward to finding out if they know Jesus Christ or not. What a discovery that will be!

www.praiseandproclaim.com

Are you a phygital church?

A new term has infiltrated into the mainstream of marketing and consumerism. Businesses are attempting to be “phygital” by blending a physical presence with a strong digital platform. The idea is to create a bridge between the digital brand and the physical experience so that they may have both at the same time.  (See “Phygital: Six ways for businesses to adapt or die.”  Source: https://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/458/190287.html

In this technological world that is changing with breathtaking speed, it’s hard for anybody to keep up let alone adapt whenever a new digital concept is introduced into our society. How can churches respond and remain relevant while attempting to communicate the gospel message in their community?

Churches can start by observing how businesses are adapting in today’s market.

Pain can be an entry point to start spiritual conversations

Redeemed souls who believe in Jesus Christ are not immune to pain.

Doctors can prescribe medication and counselors can provide emotional healing.

But pain doesn’t go away easily.

Chronic discomfort or emotional turmoil can cause any person to desperately seek answers and solutions.

Believing in Christ means trusting that God knows our pain. Our greater good is his greatest desire. Faith accepts unanswered questions and patiently endures in Christ’s enduring love until that time when all pain dissipates forever at Jesus’ feet.

Trusting in God’s promises helps manage pain.

Here are three ways that all believers can use pain as an entry point to begin talking about Christ and his promises:

Making new year resolutions that are lasting

I listened to a podcast recently about why people complain so much.

In the big picture, many of our complaints can appear inconsequential. It’s an outward cry of an inward focus on thoughts and attitudes.

Let’s confess that our human nature is drawn to look at what the world has to offer to solve what we believe is essential in our lives. 

The greatest Christmas story never told

We are familiar with the Christmas story in Luke 2, but there is another Christmas story in the Bible that can be just as powerful.

Words God gives us when confronting fear

When confronted with fear, feeling overwhelmed, tempted to give up or give in, we are given these words from God:

Don’t fear

Stand firm

You will see

These are not buzzwords but promises.

Words glistening with meaning and power.

Not just suggestions, but assurances given in the face of adversity.

These words are perfectly reliable because they come from a perfect God who sees the big picture.