Missional in the Midwest

Midwest culture has adopted the “this is how we have always done it” mentality and it is proving to drive people from their faith at an alarming rate

One of the most challenging things that I have ever encountered was truly living a gospel led, missional existence and attempting to infuse that into a Midwest culture. A culture that is at the very least resistant, and at the very most combative.

I do not place blame anyone for this, but it is continually being propagated by traditional and repetitive nature of religion that does not really line up with God’s word. I have searched the history of this and found a couple of things to be true.

1. This great Midwestern land of ours was settled by some wonderful God fearing people. They settled on the East coast and slowly moved through our great land. When they landed in and around the Midwestern states they found themselves still bound by the ways of the king and what they knew was the liturgical church. Due to a combination of seasonal weather, including those harsh Wisconsin and Minnesota winters they had no choice but to build buildings and settle right where they were. A roof over their head would provide the needed shelter to continue the Lord’s work no matter the weather outside. They got comfortable and they started life.

2. While the colonization of America occurred in the early 17th century, people had already been exposed to a very stringent, Christ-less Christianity. It was about rules and regulations and stepping out of line and the punishment from God for doing so. Then came the California Gold Rush in 1848. This was a time when about half of the prospective prospectors would come from across the sea and the other half would travel West from their nice cozy shelters in the great Midwest. Those that were saddling up to head West and find all the riches waiting for them found themselves accompanied by men and women who were anointed with the Holy Spirit and led by that Spirit to take the word of God with these “forty-niners” West to a new land. The gospel was moving across the country as fast as the wagon trains would carry it.

The reason I show these two comparisons is that if you look closely you will see that the early movements of God that were occurring in the name of the Holy Spirit were spurred on by such leaders as Aimee Semple McPherson, Charles Parham, and William Seymour, all who were on the West Coast. These men and women were, in my opinion, products of an earlier leading generation that threw caution to the wind and decided to GO. This remains to be the call of the men and women of faith today, but unfortunately, the vast number of Midwestern churches are not teaching the greatest charge ever given, GO and make disciple of all the nations.

Midwest culture has adopted the “this is how we have always done it” mentality and it is proving to drive people from their faith at an alarming rate. According to a recent Barna study, nearly three out of every five young Christians (59 percent) disconnect from church life, either permanently or for a long period of time after the age of 15. I am not saying this is just in the Midwest but I have lived here all of my life and I can say that it appears that these numbers are pretty spot on. The number one reason for the mass exodus that Barna gives is the fact that churches seem overprotective and that they tend to demonize everything outside of the church. Hence, “this is the way we have always done it”. The traditional model of church will always preach fire and damnation for things that they do not understand (i.e the Bible), mostly because people have never been told that they could understand it and that it is for them personally. It is better to keep them under the gun so that they keep returning every week and stuffing those envelopes.

Now don’t get me wrong this is not just a liturgical community thing. Evangelical’s have built their fair share of palaces and settled down here as well. The relevance of the Bible and the call to make disciples and go into all of the nations to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ seems to end at their doorways just as much as it does at the other places in town. The issue that I see most I think is that those that are pastoring those types of “hospital” churches are doing everything in their power to turn those hospitals into hospices by simply ignoring what God has called us to. They preach love and grace and redemption and some even are Spirit filled and Spirit led families of God. However, their backgrounds and their heritages are steeped in the tradition of the culture that they grew up in. It becomes a matter of “this is what I grew up in and this is how I will do my church today because of it”. There are quite a few of us these days that grew up in some other form of faith and what we witnessed was what could be considered the “old-liturgy”. That “old-liturgy” has shown to tie us to that same way of thinking even after encountering Christ fully. The result is evangelicals sitting in the same building every week praying for a change to happen and that God would show Himself mightily to their congregation. The only problem is, A. He already has shown Himself and 2. people are still being told that place that they go to every week is God’s house and His dwelling place, all the while murmuring “can we please wrap this up in under an hour?”.

Then there are those of us who have had a radical transformation by the Holy Spirit presence. I mean a full on encounter with the Lord of biblical proportion. Life changing, life altering, come to Jesus moment. That moment where you realize that while you may have been saved 4 years earlier in a neighborhood church at a place far from your current location, it was not until a group of men prayed over you to receive the baptism of the Spirit that your life truly was altered. When this happens you will never look at God’s word the same again. It now has meaning and purpose and you feel that God is moving you to greater purposes. This becomes a Acts 2 moment. You will experience an undesirable call to serve those around you and experience the supernatural presence of God, that no one ever told you about in Sunday school in the Catholic school you attended. The fact that God is asking you to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples is now a charge that can’t be denied in your life. There is no pull in the world that can take you from the Missio Dei “mission of God”. You are called to live a gospel existence that is not spoken of for the most part in the Midwest because it goes against the grain of what people have always known.

Being missional is the Christ infused gospel of Jesus Christ and realizing that the church does not have a mission but rather God’s mission has a church. It is realizing that the way of doing things like we have always done them is antiquated and in need of an overhaul. Missional is a change of paradigm to understand that when we are fully submitted to the Lordship of Christ we have no choice but to look different than our predecessors. The old has gone and the new has come.

I have lived this missional call in my life for ten years now in good ole Wisconsin and I can say that it has never got any easier. The winters get every bit as cold as the people can be when it comes to change. The idea of change is still foreign to people. The amount of those that are good right where they are stays the same. Although in the middle of it all God’s voice is beginning to take hold of those that are turned from the liturgy of the church and they are turning to the life of Christ. They are seeing a God that does not judge them or tear them down but only desires a relationship with them. They see a Church (capital C for the body of Christ) that will care about them no matter where they have been, their social afflictions, their strengths or their weaknesses, their background or their short comings. These folks are encountering the gospel and Jesus in the lives of the men and women of God that have embraced new wine offered and deiced not to put in back into old wineskins. When they decide to make a decision for Christ it will be because someone took the time to invest in them and listen to them and share their journey. Does that sound like anyone we know? Even though my wife and I are not fans of the Midwest natural climate and we would love to be somewhere else, God has made us followers of Him and we will continue to answer that call and be Missional in the Midwest.

Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense – Carey Nieuwhof

Wonder why more and more people have stopped attending church? Maybe the era of church attendance is ending. Here’s why and what to do about it.

Source: Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense – Carey Nieuwhof

Faith, not wasted on the Youth

There are no chubby bunny contests and special “youth group rooms” on a college campus

So recently I posted on Youth Ministry. Let’s take a deeper look at some statistics that should cause you to pause, but probably not be surprised.
 
LifeWay Research Study
LifeWay Research and Ministry Development (2007)
 
Study Findings: 70% will leave the faith in college. Only 35% eventually return. 7 in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 – both evangelical and mainline – who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23. 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church. “The most frequent reason for leaving church is, in fact, a self-imposed change, ‘I simply wanted a break from church’ (27%).” “The path toward college and the workforce are also strong reasons for young people to leave church: ‘I moved to college and stopped attending church’ (25%) and ‘work responsibilities prevented me from attending’ (23%).”
 
There was another study, by Youth Ministry Architects, that says that the appropriate investment for youth in the local congregation is $1000 per student, per year.
 
SO….
 
Some easy numbers for ya.
– Student begins youth group as a 6th grader
– That is 7 years at $1000 per student per year = $7000 over the life in the church.
– Baseline for youth ministry is 10% of worship congregation (not including rolls that have people that are members but do not attend regularly)
– The average church attendance (Barna Group) is about 89 adults so we are going to round that up to 100 for argument’s sake.
 
SO…
 
On an average, we have invested $70K in these 10 students over the last 7 years, only to have them walk away from their faith at a 70% clip.
 
If this were a business, because mostly it is, we would expect a 5:1 (500%) ROI (return on investment). In reality, we are left with a $49,000 loss leaving us with -170% of our initial investment. (check the math please, it is not my strong suit)
 
Why do I say all of this? Well, it is because I believe that young people hold the key to the future of the body of Christ. I believe that they have every advantage and tool already given to them through the power of the Holy Spirit, but they are hindered by the promise of “bring a friend to youth group” and “you can help in the nursery this Sunday”.
 
I believe that not only will they be given vision from the Lord, but I submit that they already are but they are being told that their “level” of “church experience” would not lend them to sharing that in BIG church, so they shove it down and believe that what they are receiving is not real. They are relegated to youth group worship team and maybe once a month getting to be in front of BIG church. They are banished to an entirely different part of the building for crying out loud. Nothing makes you feel less than saying, “alright all the kids can now leave”. It’s like saying everything that comes next does not apply to you and the adults would like to talk now. 
Paul said this to Timothy…
“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” (1Tim 5:1-2 ESV) 

This call from Timothy is really a call for us to be a family and I believe that means on Sunday and Wednesday and every other day for that matter. We should certainly honor the older generation, but the younger generation matters.

I guess I just believe that if we invested in the young people the way that God has invested in all of us, we might see a different trend in those young people leaving the church as they continue to do. Honestly, I believe they leave the church because they have no idea what it really means to be a part of it in the first place. There are no chubby bunny contests and special “youth group rooms” on a college campus, and if there are they probably involve alcohol or some form of humiliation for standing for your faith. One of the top reasons given for kids leaving the faith is this. They never personally owned their faith. What would that say to the way that we treat them in our local congregations?

It may be time for a change or are we okay with dooming our young people to repeat the errors of those that are walking in faith. Sure, according to the statistic above 35% will return to their faith, but are we willing to take that chance? I for one am not. Will you follow the Lord or will you throw good money after bad? Think about that before you dismiss your young people this Sunday to leave the large group setting.

See WHO at the pole?

Why is it that our churches are filled on Wednesday night or Sunday evening or whenever the youth gathering is, but when a call to corporal prayer and a sign of unity comes along, there is little to no presence at all?

Taken from the SYATP website.

For the last 25 years, See You at the Pole has been about one simple act—prayer. SYATP is still about students uniting themselves in prayer before God interceding for their generation.

There are two opportunities to unite in prayer with your friends:
DAY: SEE YOU AT THE POLE day is on Wednesday, September 28, at 7:00 a.m. local time. All around the globe, in every time zone, students will be gathering at their flagpoles, praying for their school, friends, families, churches, and communities. SEE YOU AT THE POLE is a day committed to global unity in Christ and prayer for your generation.
WEEK: The GLOBAL WEEK OF STUDENT PRAYER (Sunday, September 25 through Saturday, October 1) encourages students to find new and unique ways, places, and times to pray throughout the week. Whether you attend PUBLIC SCHOOL, PRIVATE SCHOOL, or HOME SCHOOL, gather your friends wherever and whenever and pray! The GLOBAL WEEK OF STUDENT PRAYER is dedicated to prayer and launching your on-campus Bible clubs, prayer strategies, and student ministries.

So we are in some desperate times folks. Some dire straits for sure.

I reposted a picture earlier on Facebook of a young boy standing at the flag pole at his school for See You At The Pole (notice the featured image). The dad said his son sat in prayer there despite no one else coming. This was not the only picture of a lone student standing by himself at the flag pole.

I then heard a story from one of our local high schools that they had only 4 kids come out and they were ridiculed for doing so. I am not sure about the other high school.

The question I have is this. Why is it that our churches are filled on Wednesday night or Sunday evening or whenever the youth gathering is, but when a call to corporal prayer and a sign of unity comes along, there is little to no presence at all? What are we teaching our young people in these weekday gatherings that would keep them from getting around one another and praying for their school? Are we soft on the gospel? Have we led them well?

I like numbers so here ya go.

According to city-data there are 130 congregations of some sort of religion in Oshkosh. Most religions value prayer. Yet 4 kids at the high school of 1200.

– If only 50 people attended a Sunday gathering at all of the 130 congregations that would still only be 6500 people sitting in church on Sunday. In a population of 66K, that means less than 10% of the population is in church. Yet that is the emphasis for most congregations. What happens if we value the city and everyone in it?

– There are on average 2.4 people per household in Oshkosh. That tells me that there is plenty of adults available to disciple the younger generation. Now get this, they will be discipled of something (i.e Pokemon, drugs, drinking). Will they be disciples of Jesus?

When I was not bi-vocational and pastored in a traditional church we went on prayer walks with our youth group before the school year started and we walked the entire north side, stopping to pray at the schools along the way. We would have upwards of 20 kids sometimes in a church that was about 40 on Sunday morning. Ya see most of those kids did not even attend our church on Sunday and their parents did not attend anywhere. We loved them and showed them Jesus for the sake of showing them Jesus.  I was involved with SYATP and attended with the kids, I never saw another pastor and the most amount of parents was 5.

See you at the pole does not define the state of Christianity among our young people for sure. However, there might be some signs to the spiritual leaders of our city to engage them deeper than chubby bunny contests and rug burns on a Wednesday night. Get them out of the church and let them engage their city. Serve and serve and serve those that do not look like them or act like them. Empower them with the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and watch them do wonderful miraculous things themselves through that same Spirit.

Proverbs 22:6English Standard Version (ESV)
6 Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

My fear is that they will only ever know those that they see leading them on Wednesday and Sunday morning. If the numbers are any indication that is not enough.

While we were sleeping

In the very place where the truth is preached, and while the hearts of people are open to receive it, by false but plausible teachers he takes care to inoculate false sentiments.

Well, it is fall again in the Midwest and that means a lot of things to a lot of people. Often it stirs us to the hankering for something, anything in a pumpkin spice variety. Maybe for you, it is the start of the football season and the crunch of the plastic on the gridiron (yeah most of the pads are made of plastic, Google it). Maybe it is the ever changing burst of color that starts “way up nort’, dontcha know dere”. The thing that is probably most prevalent right outside your door though is the fact that churches are gearing up for another season and shaking off the summer hibernation.

Ya see in our never changing culture of the Midwest and across most of the United States in general over the past 4-5 months the local congregations have gone into hibernation. Now not hibernation like you think about although it has many of the same signs. Let’s look at some of the signs that most resemble the other famous hibernator of the Midwest, the black bear, shall we?

  1. We both hibernate for about 6 months, the black bear in the winter and the average “church-goer” in the summer.
  2. The black bear’s diet consist of mainly plants and vegetation, the average “church-goer” shy away from meat as well, although they have been known to dabble.
  3. Black bears keep to the shelter of the wooded areas of the Midwest, the “church-goer” likes the shelter of the steeple and the warmth of the pew.
  4. Black bears don’t stay in one place very long, as with “church-goer”, when they no longer like the pastor or what is being taught they find themselves searching for something else to satisfy.

Stunning right? The fact is, churches must figure in the lull that is summer time into their financial planning these days, because in the Midwest, let’s face it, the Dells or Six Flags is just gonna be more important come summer time. Don’t get me wrong the Dells nor Six Flags are evil things and YES because of old man winter this is the only time that we have for those things. I get it. I am merely stating for the record that if you asked your pastor about attendance ergo tithing in the Summer months he/she would tell you “traditionally these are our slow months”, probably in those very words. So because the church is, in fact, a business, for most, they have to forecast for the drop in tithes throughout the summer.

We see in the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13 that Jesus was telling the story of what happens when we hibernate in our faith.

but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. Matthew 13:25

So while the issue with hibernating within the local church is real, it only exists because of the body, or The Church, has not being given the necessary charge to go forth (yes even in the summer time) and preach the gospel message. Moreover, they are rarely given authority to live gospel-driven lives and bring people to know the Lord in a more vibrant and real way during the hibernation months.That kind of authority lends itself for sleeping “church-goers” to no longer value the pew and the eclectic worship experience, but rather to value the person and image of Christ. That is just flat out bad for business.

Just like the black bear, the “church-goer” will awaken from their slumber and be starving. However, because we have spent the hibernation allowing the weeds to creep into the fertile soil we now take the chance of them consuming the bad with the good. In traditional fashion, we try to undo the damage by throwing every program, small group, youth group, harvest festival, bible study, kick off night, women’s study, men’s study, and all points in between, in an attempt to sow the good from the bad ground. In the parable of the weeds, Jesus tells how the servants were instructed to let them both grow together and then later they will be divided. In fact, He tells them that He will be the one to give instruction to the reapers as to what stays and what goes.

Alber Barnes said it this way…

Satan thus sows false doctrine in darkness. In the very place where the truth is preached, and while the hearts of people are open to receive it, by false but plausible teachers he takes care to inoculate false sentiments. Often it is one of his arts, in a revival of religion, to spread secretly dangerous notions of piety. Multitudes are persuaded that they are Christians who are deceived. They are awakened, convicted, and alarmed. They take this for conversion. Or they find their burden gone; they fancy that they hear a voice; or a text of Scripture is “brought” to them, saying that their sins are forgiven; or they see Christ hanging on the cross in a vision; or they dream that their sins are pardoned, and they suppose they are Christians. But they are deceived. None of these things are any conclusive evidence of piety. All these may exist, and still there be no true love to God or Christ, and no real hatred of sin and change of heart. An enemy may do it to deceive them, and to bring dishonor on religion.

Let’s not be drawn into deception to believing that our words spoke of salvation or the fact that we stand so firmly on a message of “greasy grace” and prosperity, that we are covered in our iniquities. Over those months of hibernation, the enemy has planted weeds among the good earth and will cover them with soft words and the allure of safety. He will put the grand design of the harvest festival and the youth group trips to the pumpkin patch into your mind as a remedy for the hunger you feel after months of hibernation. Don’t be deceived, Jesus is the only giver of life and sustainer of the promise. Only through complete dependence and submission can we truly feed all year long of the bread of life and therefore never have to awake to hunger pangs that are satisfied with the very hint of nourishment, even if that nourishment is sour and riddled with lies.

The charge becomes that the body of Christ would continue throughout the year and encourage and build one another up. Get the word of God in you and then let it pour out in relationship and community. The fact that the very model of discipleship, Jesus Christ, walked, lived, ate, drank and slept in the very same places that the people he was discipling walked, lived, ate, drank and slept should tell you something about yourself. We are created in the image of Christ, not in the image of a man in front of the church on Sunday.

Gathering on Sunday is biblical for sure and I am sure that most of your pastors are wonderful God fearing men, but the reality is that while you were hibernating this summer some of them were wringing their hands to see if you would return for another season. They made all the preparations and put all of the volunteers in place. They made sure the latest curriculum is in and is ready to be distributed the first night of small groups, (held at the church away from the public).

In closing, Jon Ellicott describes the Matthew scripture as thus…

His enemy came and sowed tares.—The act described was then—and still is—a common form of Eastern malice or revenge. It easily escaped detection. It inflicted both loss and trouble. The “enemy” had the satisfaction of brooding for weeks or months over the prospect of the injury he had inflicted, and the vexation it would cause when discovered. The tares, known to botanists as the Lolium temulentum, or darnel, grew up at first with stalk and blade like the wheat; and it was not till fructification began that the difference was easily detected. It adds to the point of the parable to remember that the seeds of the tares were not merely useless as food, but were positively noxious.

Let’s do away with the noxious and draw near to the person of Jesus Christ and ask yourself “what happened while I was sleeping?”

Living in a Fantasy Football Island

…the Holy Grail usually is just bragging rights until the next season.

Ah yes it is that time of year again. The time where everyone from the amateur arm chair quarterback to the CEO of a fortune 500 company will get their chance to manage a football team. Week 1 of the NFL season is upon us and that means fantasy footballers unite.

As I sit back and ponder the fate of my favorite football team in real life, the (as for now) Oakland Raiders, I have to sit back and think of the years that I spent chasing the Holy Grail of NFL fantasy football’s number one ranking on Yahoo or ESPN’s fantasy football league. BTW, the Holy Grail usually is just bragging rights until the next season, but if you are real fortunate you might get a trophy, we will talk about that later though.

Hours I would pour over match ups and history of the players abilities and their track records. You would look deep to find that one guy that everyone would leave on the board because he was too old, or too young, or he was a kicker. Then you decide is round 5 too early for a kicker or will a defense really make the difference this year? Do I draft a QB or a running back first? You pick up the local fantasy rag that gives you every tid bit of information you would possibly need to get you the leg up on the competition. Then enter the information age. Everything has now changed. Now it is at your finger tips. Every stat, every scenario, every player profile. From where they eat to how much they get paid, to if they can perform on artificial turf when the temperature is above 60 and the opposing team stayed at a Marriott Hotel last night. You can now have the app that vibrates consistently in your pocket on Sunday morning beckoning to the Pastor to cut things short today, after all it is about to be kick off time. We are connected more than ever to our fantasy football competitions.

Just to put this in perspective, let’s look at some stats. This is always fun to do even if not completely accurate. These stats are courtesy of Sports Management Degree Hub.

fantasy

So back when I started playing fantasy football we still used pad and paper to record statistics. That would be around the 91-94 years. The change is considerable.

fantasy2

This goes to show ya that fantasy sports are not just for the unemployed blue collar workers, but it reaches across the spectrum and you can clearly see that even the educated, white, full-time employed, male is capable of chasing his dreams of being a fantasy GIANT!

fantasy3

Again, fantasy football knows no bounds. If you factor in that consumers spend an average of $465 per year on fantasy football and do the math, you would see that as a nation we spend $18.6 BILLION per year. That is 6X’s as much as the NFL itself and 4.5 x’s the value of the league’s top valued team  (the Dallas Cowboys).

So, do you get the picture when it comes to this fantasy stuff?

So what does this have to do with the price of chicken wings on draft night at the local Buffalo Wild Wings? Well, I believe this has Kingdom ramifications.

According to a 2015 Gallup poll, America still proclaims to be Christian nation. In this poll, 83% of Americans replied to the question, “What, if anything, is your religion?” by saying Christian. Although according to Barna, that same group of folks are doing a poor job of making disciples of the gospel.

In fact there is a nice little twist in Barna’s study that caught me off guard. The twist is this. Many Christians in church believe that they themselves are discipling someone at the current time, (52%). However when Pastors were asked if they feel that people in their congregations were actively discipling anyone, less than 1% said that was a true statement. Actually the answer to that question is different than both of those.

The fact is that everyone is discipling someone of something. The question comes in as to what are we discipling? Are we making disciples of fantasy football? YOU BETHCA! Are we making disciples of the love of money? YUP! Are we making disciples of internet football information and daily mobile phone updates? ABSOLUTELY!

Conversely, are we making disciples of the one true God? …EH Are we making disciples of the truth of the message of God through getting the wisdom of His word within us? not really Are we discipling others so that they can encourage and make disciples themselves of other? signs say nope While 17% of the Canada and US populations combined are engaged in Fantasy Football there are currently only 20% of Christian adults that are involved in some sort of discipleship activity, with the majority of that taking place within the walls of the existing building (i.e small groups or Sunday service). I guess that I feel when Jesus said this, he actually meant it.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
Mark 16:15

Did I dazzle you all with my Google skills and my data collection prowess, I am in quality after all? That was not my intention. Furthermore for all of those friends out there engaged in fantasy football, let me say this, NO OFFENSE INTENDED. I feel these days that I need to preface every statement with that for the thin skinned folks that take every word I say as arrows in the chest. Maybe this scripture is for you?

But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:14

Fantasy or not to fantasy, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of disobedience to God himself, or take arms against the will of men to disciple anyone of anything, rather than choose Jesus and stifle the critics. In the end the decision is yours. Just listen the next time you slip out of service to make that last second trade because the injury report just updated, God may be calling you into something deeper than the promise of annual ritual of fantasy football. If I were a betting man, I would say that he is.

Oh and to mention that trophy thing again.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, Matthew 6:19

 

 

Is Ball Life?

To say “ball is life” is to present it as an idol.

So this crossed my mind today and I thought about throwing it out there so here ya go.
 
I have long be a proponent of changing the way we speak when it comes to spiritual matters because I believe that our words can condemn us or justify us.
Matthew 12:36-27 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
I am a coach and an athlete (well kind of) still and I look deeply at the players and teammates that I am impacting with my words and actions. I think carefully when I refer to that building where everyone goes on Sunday as “church”, because it’s not ya know. I have been a pastor of a church for the last 5 years and we have never used the term, “let’s go to church”, mostly because I see the Church as the body of believers that are working to bring life to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I digress though. 
What I do hear quite often from young athletes is “ball is life”, when referring to the game of basketball. Every time that I hear that I think to myself, “Is it?”, is it really LIFE? I know, I know, it is just a phrase that people use. It is just a saying that the kids are #hashtagging all over the place and it is just some words after all. Well our words have consequences. Our pursuit of the #ballislife mentality has kingdom consequences for those young people claiming Jesus as their Savior.
To say “ball is life” is to present it as an idol. Samuel gives caution to this which is still so relevant today.
 1 Samuel 12:21 21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.
Matthew Henry describes that verse like this, “for if you turn aside from God, whatever you turn aside to, you will find it is a vain thing, that can never answer your expectations, but will certainly deceive you if you trust to it; it is a broken reed, a broken cistern.Idols could not profit those that sought to them in their wants, nor deliver those that sought to them in their straits, for they were vain, and not what they pretended to be.
I think we can learn a big lesson here.
In the book of John it says this…
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The word life in this context means “the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate”. Are we therefore animated by the bound synthetic leather nature of a spherical object used for the accomplishment of recreation with the occasional promise of fleeting glory that is a trophy or a scholarship? None of that promise can match up to the promise of an eternal existence with the one true God. Yet we continue “ball is life”.

James describes the tongue as the smallest of rudders that can control a gigantic ship, no matter the storms that ship faces. Our words matter.  What we say matters. The face that we present matters. Think about that the next time you say you LOVE pizza or your LOVE the “insert major athletic team in here” that you are expressing LOVE for an object in the same way you say you love your mother or father, wife or husband, or most importantly how you LOVE Jesus Christ. It can become cheapened real quick if you think about it that way. Our words matter.

To round out this little chat let me leave you with this. We can easily be turned away from the things of God because we allow the things of the world to creep in. If you read this and you use the #balllislife for anything may the Lord prick your heart a little every time so that you may feel the vastness of that statement on an eternal scale. If you read this and you have never heard of or seen #ballislife or have no idea why I keep putting the pound sign in front of those words without spaces in between, let me just say this. Our words matter and our lives should hinge only on the things of the Lord, your job, your wife, your family all pale in the grand scheme of things when Jesus is LIFE.

The Remnant highway

there will be a highway for the remnant of HIS people

I have heard some things recently that drew me to think. I have heard it said that wherever I attend a gathering on Sunday morning as “my church” I have heard it said that I can do what ever I like because it is “my life”, I have even heard it said that people like to put ownership on Jesus as “my Savior”, as if yours is different than mine.
 
Well the scripture says,
The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, Psalm 24:1
and Paul told Timothy specifically that Jesus was the Savior for all people, saved and unsaved,
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10
So I ask you when Paul instructed the people in Ephesus in this way…
4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Why do we see that as an ownership thing?

 
I submit that it is because God has and is creating a remnant among the men and women of faith just as He did among the Israelite’s. Isaiah speaks of a time that the Lord will set His hand a second time to recover a remnant and that there will be a highway for the remnant of HIS people. That means that he will pull that remnant from those that call themselves saved.
Now before you start sending hate mail and throwing accusations out that I have a corner on the market for who gets in and who doesn’t, let this just be a call to all of us to get to a rallying point of Jesus Christ. If our focus shifts from self to the larger unit then maybe, just maybe, we will see a shift in our world. What ever will be will be though, because God is sovereign and His glory and reign will endure forever. It is what happens in the snapshot of time, that is our lives here on earth, that we can make a difference for the gospel.
Make no mistake that God’s word is true and a remnant will be pulled from the people of God, so while we are here and laboring for sake of the gospel let’s make that highway clear and remove all stumbling blocks and make clear a path for the Lord. Love one another, rally around the cross and be a good steward of the things that God has placed in your charge.

Why I’m a Racist…

I am a white american male. I’m married to a beautiful blond-haired green-eyed woman and have two amazing blond-haired blue-eyed boys.  I was a blond-haired blue-eyed child who grew up i…

Source: Why I’m a Racist…