Is America Christian?

(Back in January, Atmosphere Church did a sermon series called, “Why Church”. I wrote this as a post for a series of blogs that went along with the sermons. As Maine faces a controversial vote regarding marriage tomorrow, I thought it would be good to reiterate this and maybe get us in the right thought processes in preparation for it.)

Is America a Christian nation? We may be less Christian than you actually think we are. Let’s pray that the Church in America will be what she needs to be, and not be blown every which way by different winds of change- may we stand firm in the Word.

Deism

One of the biggest assumptions in this nation is that America was built on Christian beliefs and morals. Contrary to popular belief, this assumption is not entirely true. Yes, you will see when looking at the Reformation and years following, the settlers were primarily Christian Pilgrims and such all looking for freedom from a Catholic and Anglican dominated Europe, however, this was not necessarily the faith of our founding fathers. Many of them were Deists. A Deist is one who believes that (logically) there must be a God somewhere out there, but that He is so transcendent (far removed) that we can never know Him. This idea came out of the enlightenment in the 1700’s. These Deists have always ravaged the Church and what she stands for.

Revolution (1776-1814)

Between the American war for Independence, the War of 1812, and the French Revolution, Deist thought permeated the masses. Questions of “Where is God” came and caused many to wonder if He cared about all the wars that were being fought. The French Revolution (1789) especially ruined the testimony of the Church because the Patriotic French were fighting against a monarchy that the Catholic Church had always supported. Enter the Deists and Atheists who were out to destroy organized religion (especially if it was for any political figure) and you get France at the turn of the 19th century. Fortunately, God worked through great preachers like D.L. MoodyCharles Finney, and others to prevent this happening in America to the same extent. During this time, Missionaries began to leave from America to the World. Some brought the message of Christ as they should, but others, following the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, brought more American Culture than the Gospel (and this continues today).

Manifest Destiny (Mid 1800’s to present)

This is the doctrine that set America on the course to becoming a land of control freaks. The basic idea behind Manifest Destiny is that, because God gave us this land, He has allowed us to constantly expand and eventually create a vast empire. America, as a result of the Church being influenced by things such as Deism and this new (and false) doctrine, was headed towards total thirst for control. This fueled numerous wars, including our own Civil War. The Union could not bare the fact that they were losing control of half the nation, and thus fought strongly for the regain of the South causing people to ask, “whose side is God on?”

The 20th Century and Post Modern Thought

Manifest Destiny, in a way, has continued right through to the present. Here, we do not blame Democrats, Republicans, the Church, the Atheist, or even God as some would like to do. The blame can be focused solely on our lack of willingness to look at what mistakes of the past we are repeating today. Two World Wars, a near nuclear holocaust, conflicts in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and mass amounts of wrong doings by people in the name of God are all results of us as the American people, and especially the American Church failing to remember who God is, what Christ has done, and why we are here.

As the past hundred years have seen its share of war, bloodshed, disease, and famine, the Church has again been left with the inevitable question of “where is God?” Unfortunately, the hurt that has been done to Americans and thus the World by a misguided Church in America, has caused people to believe there to be no truth. These ideas of Post-Modernism and Relativistic thought have come across America and the World in force. “Everything is true, and nothing is false” according to those who believe in relativism, and the Church stands about to fall at the hands of the enemy, but there is hope. This hope lies in Christ, and His ability to bring change to the Church in America, and the world.

Are we as the Church, the Body of Christ, living as we should in the time and place that God has placed us in?

Are we trying to make a culture of moralistic Deism? Or are we spreading the hope, truth, and love of the Gospel message to the World?

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To be a Guardian

A few weeks ago the proverbial angel and devil appeared on my shoulders, and since it’s quite awkward to constantly argue with yourself, I decided to seek counsel from a good friend on the issue.  Her advice was invaluable, and her charge was that of man’s role as protector (specifically to women). I was so confounded that this perspective had eluded me, I was so focused on what I did or did not want in the given situation that I completely missed the eyes I was trying so hard to look into. This friend emboldened me to approach the stage with a new script. So that’s what I offer you now. Have any one of you really thought on our role as Protector? (I am speaking specifically to men) I’m not talking fleeting consideration, but rather pure and blazing cognition, a true acknowledgment of this role given to us by God. Now  I know what most of us are thinking  here. “Of course I have, I would risk my life for my loved ones!” Now I am guilty of that thought myself, but the reason I lay guilt on this idea is for two reasons.

1. with this thought we have just firmly inserted ourselves into the cliche that is any action movie, chick flick, or romance novel

2. most of us will never have to display guardianship in this way ever (sorry guys)

Now the issue isn’t the fact that we would die for those we care about, that in itself is a very noble thing. (It’s exactly what Christ did on our behalf! ) The issue  though, lies in the fact that often times we let the idea die there. We seem to forget what else is entailed in the job description. Written below are some synonyms for the word ‘protector’

advocate, angel, champion, defender, friend, guide, supporter, sympathizer

These aren’t all the synonyms of course but they’re important ones I think.  How often do we categorize these qualities with the idea of protectorship? Do you sympathize with your girlfriend or your mom when they seemingly cry for no reason? or do we leave the room, roll our eyes and write it off as just their emotions or maybe even P.M.S (though we all know,or should know,  that that is never a smart thing to say) The main point I am trying reach is that we cannot afford to fail in this arena. This means speak respectfully to our Mothers when they’ve asked for the fortieth time for you to take out the trash, understand the impact breaking up with a boyfriend has on your little sister and listen to her while she talks through her tears(even if the guy deserves to sit under your wheelwell) and set and respect the physical boundaries with your girlfriend!

1 Corintians 13.4 is the one of the greatest depictions of TRUE love. To Protect is the tangible outworking of Love.  I would encourage everyone to rethink the way we champion the women in our lives. That our outworking guardianship is evident to the world and to them. So through that Christ’s love would be more fully known and completley shown.

I again encourage every man reading this to literally become that Paladin (another synonym for protector) and soldier for Christ, the hearts of every woman you know. The heart is such a fragile thing and we must protect it at all costs!

Books of 2009 (May)

I am now officially a whole month behind on reading. This, however, can be a good thing because it makes it easier to keep track of what I’m reading and when.
So, for the month of May, I read the following:
(And by the way, they were all amazing!)

 

Don’t Stop Believing by Michael E. Wittmer

Wittmer deals with the fundamental conservatives and the (over) reactions to them from the post-modern innovators out there. In this, he tells us that love is desperately important in our Christian walks, but love means nothing if there are no set beliefs behind it. This is a must read for anyone facing fundamentalist/conservative hypocrisy, potential heresy from liberal/post-modern/emergent (note: I said potential… because no one knows what they are saying anyway), or if you are in either one of those camps. And for those of us that are in between trying to counter the hypocritical movements (or non-movements as the emergent guys like to call them) we need Wittmer’s book on our shelves and, dare I say, underlined and high-lighted! 
How to Stay Christian in College by J.Budziszewski
Don’t, please, don’t judge this book by its title! When I picked this one up to begin reading, the title was awkward to me. But it is so worth reading in whatever context of life you find yourself in! This ex-atheist starts at the very beginning (the very best place to start) and authoritatively tells college students (and anyone else listening in) the story of creation, the fall, redemption, and so forth. His clarity leaves no need for questions, and it is eloquently written. Budziszewski lays down the (Biblical) law of how to keep the faith and face the enemy anywhere. As mentioned, I would never limit the application of this to college, and everyone serious about Jesus should read at least the chapter on politics in this.
Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin
This is a subject dear to my heart. Our Churches have no idea about what true worship is. Kauflin does a great job humbly telling us how it is. With input from Mahaney, Baloche and others, this is theologically sound and thoroughly convicting for anyone who thinks that they have it figured out. The key focus– worship is deeper then music. I truly believe that if everyone understood this concept, the worship wars debate would be non-existent and books like the one that I am reading now would be taken off the shelf and labeled unnecessary (which would be great because I am really not enjoying Can We Rock the Gospel by John Blanchard and Dan Lucarini!).
So, of all the books I have read thus far this year– these are the ones (along with another one that I am reading right now called Why We’re not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck) that you should spend your money and time on. You will not regret these four! 

Soli Deo gloria

They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.

Galatians 1:23-24
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the Church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything  I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Colossians 3:17

Walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person.
Colossians 4:5-6 

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 
1 Timothy 4:16
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene… so flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:15-17, 22
What’s the point?
Soli Deo gloria- Latin for “glory to God alone”.
That is the point of these verses and our lives. As I said earlier, Jesus must be the center.
For us, this means that we sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel. We live lives that are not our own, but belong to Jesus and allow His Will to rule our own.
In doing this, people will see lives that are changed, and wonder why we are this way. 
The answer we give?
I am a servant of Christ Jesus, who knew no sin but for our sake became sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. He was the very form of God, but did not consider even that as something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing in the form of man, a servant, humble to the point of death, even death on a cross. He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our sins, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. And of first importance is that He was raised from the dead, so that my faith is not in vain, and now lives to make intercession for us, His people, at the right hand of the Father. In light of what Jesus did, and is doing now, may it never be that I continue sinning just to be forgiven by His grace all the more. I am made free from all but have made myself as a servant to all, that I might win more of them, I do all for the sake of the Gospel that I may share with them in its blessings. Therefore, woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel in word and deed!

Or something like that…

How important is He?

As believers in Christ, are we looking towards Jesus as our treasure?

We have the Calling with Atmosphere Church coming up tomorrow, which needs prayer and guidance. The main focus of this conference will be Jesus and how making Him the center of our lives is the only way that we can be truly effective in our ministries.
I would challenge you to remember how central Christ, the Cross and His Resurrection are to your life. Paul told us that this was of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). This goes far beyond youth ministry (the context of the Calling).
In Preaching
In our preaching, our churches, and our teaching in general, we must make Christ the focus. While at the Gospel Coalition in Chicago, K. Edward Copeland said,
Once Jesus invaded this planet, the fourth quarter started… We have always been in the last days… and since we are in the last days, we have no time for recreational preaching.

If you preach, lead singing, teach, lead a small group, is this the type of teaching you bring forward? Is your preaching recreational or for Jesus’ glory? It may seem silly to ask considering most pastors affirm that Jesus is the point of the Bible. But you can claim that without preaching it. Is that the case? Paul again affirms the need for this focus on Christ in Colossians:
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Whatever you do… so that goes beyond preaching right?
In our lives…
The Bible constantly affirms the need to make our doctrine match our lives.
This is never easy…
Consider 1 Timothy 4:16~
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by doing so you will sake both yourself and your hearers.
How does one keep a close watch on ones self and teaching? 
I would argue that if we have Jesus as our constant focus then guarding what we teach will be easier, because we are concerned with the glory of Christ.
And if we are centering our lives on Jesus then won’t it be easy to live by His Will and Word?
There are, however, times where we neglect Christ and His authority on our lives- which is the root of all sin. Because we cannot do this ourselves, we need the Spirit.
Only by the Spirit…
We are told in 1 Corinthians 12:3-
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Hoy Spirit.
So we must pray, study the Word, and center all our lives around Christ. This means that we need to remember the words of Paul to the Colossians and do all in the name of Christ. Whether it be preaching, teaching, leading, following, going to the movies, serving people, eating out, or whatever else you may be doing, do all for the glory of Christ! (1 Corinthians 10:31) 

Love for Theology

In studying the book of Galatians for our up coming sermon series on it this summer, I have been reading some books and commentaries on the Epistle and the Church itself.

I love this stuff! It is so interesting to find things out about the Church, Paul, Salvation, you name it.
But then it dawned on me– Am I loving this for the right reason?
There must be good reasons behind loving Theological study. More often then not, my reasons are not good at all. In my correction of people it is my pride that drives my love, and in general study, it is my desire for an accurate handling of the text that drives my love. What about Jesus? Shouldn’t He be the one behind my love for study?
In order to understand fully what God has revealed in His Word, I must look to Christ first and be humbled by His grace to the point that I never think of myself as being above the text.
This is hard.
It is my prayer that Christ, and not my mind, be the center.

Care Instead

I have said that we need not worry about things of this life that just drag us down. So should we just live life without cares?

This is something that I have been accused of. Many think that because I don’t worry about most things, it means that I don’t care about anything.
I tell you, this is not the case.
I care about a great deal of things (who I will marry, where I will get money for school, car, insurance, bills, etc…) but that’s as far as it goes. I only care about these things.

Here’s the difference.
Caring simply means that you pray about it and let God lead. Worrying goes much farther.
When you worry, you are saying a number of different things.
  1. This is more important than God to me.
  2. If I don’t… (have this, get this, figure this out, pay this off, find this whatever) then I won’t be happy
  3. I will only be joyful as long as this goes according to plan, and
  4. Mine is the only happiness that matters.
So why do we worry? It’s our default mode. We think that we can figure everything out perfectly, so we begin to worry about it when its not in our timing. To be honest, this is quite silly.
Anyway, to get back to the point… we still need to care about what happens. God places cares in our lives in order to change us and move us to prayer. However, with neglecting worry, don’t go so far the other way to say that you won’t care about how you get food, money, clothing, a job, or things of that sort. It is your job (that God gave you) to find these things. Granted, God will at times test you in this (read the biography of George Mueller for more insight in this matter) but we are not to be stupid in our faith saying, “I’ll just get rid of everything I own so that God can really show His worth!” 
No, God set us here to be fruitful and multiply… I think (in addition to the sexual meaning of the phrase) that means that we are to provide for ourselves in whatever context that God has planned for us…
Don’t worry, be happy… but don’t be stupid about it.