Sunday, September 18, 2011

A few weeks ago, something on the interpipes got me a'thinkin'.

After being presented with flowers by a fan, Madonna was overheard on a "hot mic" complaining about how she loathed hydrangeas, a type of flower I never even knew existed.

(If you're that interested in the whole thing, you can see the dis here.)

After the UTTER SHOCK wore off (.015 seconds later) I went along my merry way and completely forgot about the whole thing.

But as I sit here, sharing some more random thoughts, I'm reminded of other incidents where people sitting in front of live mics or rolling cameras say or do really stupid stuff and then are blasted for it on all the news channels and gossip magazines.

Airplane pilots, actors and actresses, even Presidents past and present. No one, it seems, is immune.

Especially me. But more on that in a bit.

All of this reminds me of something Jesus Christ said.

"The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 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.”
(Matthew 12:35-37 ESV)

For the sake of context, allow me to explain that Christ's audience in this portion of scripture were very religious people, those described by Jesus as "white-washed tombs."

In other words, these guys were about appearances only. Their hearts, on the other hand, were just as broken and filthy as those they condemned.

Yet His warning to them is valid to everyone else as well: our words display our character. And while we may think that the words we say are private and unnoticed by others, that idea couldn't be further from the truth.

In fact, we are warned that all of our words, careless or otherwise, are known by God.

So imagine for a second that you are wearing a mic at all times. Imagine for a moment that a camera is following your every move, catching your every step.

This might seem a bit much, right? I mean, I certainly am not that important that people would want to see and hear everything I do or say, right? Why should my words be so critical?

They are important, and here's why: our words reveal our character.

As believers, our character should be focused and centered on Christ. And if our words and actions aren't reflecting Christ in a worthy manner, than something needs to be adjusted.

And I've been guilty of this. Lots.

Recently my wife scolded me, and with good reason, for behaving and talking in such a way that did NOT reflect Christ well.

I'll be the first to admit that I like to joke around and get some laughs when I'm in a group of people. This time, however, I crossed a line. And while the laughs were there, the reward was missing. This was an obvious sign to me that I had said things that weren't nice.

My mic was hot and I was caught.

Want to know the really "Art's a doofus" part? I'd thought of this post a few days before I goofed up.

You see? It's REALLY easy to forget that our words matter.

So as I pick myself up and repent, and as I dust myself off, I have a responsibility to be even more mindful of the words that come from my mouth.

Jesus prefaces his warning in Matthew by saying "the tree is known by its fruit."

I hope that my gaff helps remind all of you to be mindful of the fruit that's on display.

Be careful of the words you speak, because that mic is hot.

God bless!

Monday, July 25, 2011

MY take on Carl Medearis' take

e·van·ge·lism / Noun
The spreading of the Christian gospel by preaching or personal witness.

After recently reading an article on CNN's Belief Blog, I felt compelled to respond as quickly as I could.

Quick responses can easily work for you and against you. On one hand, your ideas are fresh in your mind and it's easier to get them all out instead of losing some over the few hours you might've waited in responding.

On the other hand, quick responses are usually shot from the hip, a result of acting out too quickly without giving enough thought to the topic(s) at hand.

I hope my response isn't too crazy, but please feel free to let me know if I totally miss the point or do something silly like truly offend you.

Before going on any further, I encourage you to read the article your self:
My Take: Why evangelicals should stop evangelizing

In his blog Carl Medearis seems to be examining the negative perceptions of evangelism and wonders aloud about what the right approach should be.

Since you took my earlier advice and you've read the article for yourself, I'll focus on a few specific pieces of Mr. Medearis' post.

Medearis begins his article with an exercise that he hopes will show the reader how polarizing the term "evangelist" or "missionary" can be.

This isn't new. In fact evangelists, pastors, and prophets have historically been people that society hasn't viewed very favorably. In fact, the closer the person's message was to the voice of God, the more unpopular they were. Christ uses the parable of the tenants in Matthew 21 as a vivid description of the abuse the prophets of the Old Testament endured as messengers of God.

But to the believer, the office of evangelist or prophet is one of honor.

Yes, there is a wide difference between the two connotations, but that difference has existed for generations.

As Medearis continues, he writes "This us-versus-them thinking is odd, given that Jesus was constantly breaking down walls between Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, men and women, sinners and saints. That’s why we have the parable of the Good Samaritan."

I believe this is a poor understanding of the story of the Good Samaritan. If anything, throughout the Gospel Christ teaches us that these "walls" never existed. In fact, we're all in the same boat, we're part of the same community: sinners in need of a savior.

As Medearis proceeds, he writes "Even the Apostle Paul insisted that it’s faith in Jesus that matters, not converting to a new religion or a new socio-religious identity."

The fact is, faith in Jesus EQUALS conversion. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5 about the effects of this conversion saying "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

Our faith in Christ, if  genuine, does indeed begin to convert us from one thing to another. From darkness to light. From death to life. From estrangement to restored relationship.

Medearis posits that perhaps its our view of Christ that leads to evangelism being so negative.

"Jesus the uniter of humanity, not Jesus the divider. How might that change the way we look at others?"

I counter that position with the one held by Christ: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)

Christ indeed wants to draw, or unite, all men unto himself. But there are a lot of folks out there who have no personal desire to be united with Christ. In fact, one person's desire to be united to Christ will undoubtedly cause friction and hostility in another person. Christ teaches us that this is to be expected.

Yet, we ought to live our lives as Christians in love. That's why it's so important for us to properly perform our duties as ministers of reconciliation, as Paul puts it.

Medearis writes that he is no longer is obsessed with converting people to Christianity and has instead found "that talking about Jesus is much easier and far more compelling."

Unbelievers and those of other faiths can talk about Jesus until they're blue in the face. We can all agree that Jesus of Nazareth existed. But it has to go deeper than that.

James tells us that even the demons believe, and, he adds, they shudder! It seems demons have more sense of God's reality than some folks do.

Please know that Christ is more than an example for us humans to live up to or pattern our lives after.

John Stott writes in Basic Christianity "Not only would much in the Gospels remain mysterious if Christ's death were purely an example, but our human need would remain unsatisfied. We need more than an example; we need a Savior."

The fact that Christ is God, and that He came to this place to die for our sins, is a reality that every human being will have to grapple with. That truth must be dealt with. By faith, we accept that truth and begin to live under the power of the Holy Spirit as we're transformed from one thing to a glorious other.

Finally, Medearis writes "Jesus met people where they were. Instead of trying to figure out who’s “in” and who’s “out,” why don’t we simply invite people to follow Jesus — and let Jesus run his kingdom?"

The truth is, without Christ, we're all out. And our need for Christ is only apparent when we can admit our sinful nature.

Medearis concludes his article by stating the obvious: "Inviting people to love, trust, and follow Jesus is something the world can live with."

I completely agree. But I believe evangelism is something we need to be vocal and visible about.

If we begin to wrap evangelism up with political correctness, we do a great disservice to the Message and to those who desperately need to hear it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let everything that has breath ...

Ahhh ... New neighbors.

In today's economy, my wife and I have seen families come and go in our neighborhood. Some seem to be staying for good while others have only stayed for a few days before packing up and moving again.

The other night, as I went to sit in my backyard for some time in His word and prayer, I was greeted with some festive sounds coming from one if the houses behind ours.

And when I say festive, I mean fiddle and guitar.

This was Mexican folk music being sung by a few gentlemen who no doubt had been having a great time celebrating with their friends and family.

When this type of music is being played at parties such as this one, something from my past begins to smile inside. And even though I don't understand the words that are being sung, something inside of me wants to sing along.

I sat for several minutes and enjoyed the music, as simple as it was. I smiled as I heard children running around in the dark, playing their silly games, following the silly instructions of the older primos.

I was reminded of the family get-togethers we would go to when I was growing up.

The loud laughing.

The silly stories.

Those were times I will always remember.

And as I sat there enjoying the sounds and the music, I imagined that Heaven would have a similar atmosphere of celebration.

The family.

The friends.

The music.

The worship.

Christ told the woman at the well that the time was coming, and indeed was present, when "the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth ..."

Looking at that portion of scripture, what stands out to me is that Christ doesn't mention anything about being in tune or the presence of stringed instruments or fancy ensembles.

This worship flows from the heart.

The gentlemen playing their music that night played from the heart.

And despite the simplicity of their music, their genuineness was undeniable.

Oh, that my worship of the Father would stay as simple and true.