10 Things to Abandon this year

by Brian Price

 

Abandon: Materialism

At some point we all think about what we have. We also tend to think about what we don’t have; the list of “don’t haves” is most likely as long, if not longer, than what we have. This isn’t exactly a bad thing unless our thinking drives us to the point of materialism.

Dictionary.com defines materialism as a "preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values." This definition highlights the struggle we all face with the relationship between physical and spiritual things. We often feel as though we have to choose one or the other. Thankfully, to avoid materialism, we don’t have to.

Abandoning materialism happens when we acknowledge God as the source of all that we have and workto manage what we've been given well. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (NIV) There is nothing wrong with what we have or don’t have. The question is, what are we doing or not doing with what God has blessed us with?

Prayer:


Our Father, the giver of all good and perfect gifts, we ask you to give us wisdom to manage well the things that You have entrusted to us. May we, both give and receive, with a thankful heart. May others experience Your love and grace in their lives because of what you are doing in and through us.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Abandon: Competition

Competition can be healthy and unhealthy. We see it between people, in sports, and business. Unhealthy competition is when the little league parent goes off on the umpire for making a bad call or belittles a child who didn’t make the play to win the game. Healthy competition is when a person or team plays in such a way that motivates the other person or team to give their all to “leave it all on the court.”

The book of Genesis offers an example of unhealthy competition between two brothers named Cain and Abel. Cain saw that God received his brother's offering while rejecting his. Genesis 4:3-5 says, “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast." (NIV) Cain’s competitive anger destroyed his relationship with his brother which ultimately lead to him killing Abel.

How do we abandon unhealthy competition? We embrace healthy competition which comes when we see the true purpose of it. Our goal should be to encourage and push ourselves and others to be better instead of trying to win at all costs. As we can see with Cain and Abel, unhealthy competition often takes us places that we don’t want to go. We should encourage others to know, love, and be like Jesus every chance we get.

Prayer:


Our Father, help us to compete with honor. May the fruits of Your Spirit be evident in our lives as we seek to honor You in all that we do. May competition be something positive that builds up everyone involved.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Abandon: Jealousy

Jealousy takes root in our hearts for at least a couple of reasons. First, it is an extension of our desire to compete with others in an unhealthy way. (If I can’t have it, then they can’t either) Second, jealousy happens when we base our personal value on whether or not we win or lose.

We saw in day 2 that Cain killed Abel because, in Cain’s mind, Abel's sacrifice was better than his. Cain based his personal value on whether or not he could please God "more" than his brother. Unfortunately, Cain focused on being better than his brother instead of giving his personal best to God in faith.

How can we abandon jealousy? First, and most importantly, we base our value on God's love for us instead of whether or not we have the best clothes, vehicle, etc. Second, we can seek the interests of others first above our own. Paul says in Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (NIV) This Christ-like attitude within us kills jealousy at its root.

Prayer:


Our Father, show us our unique value. Help us to genuinely desire to pursue the needs of others. Help us to stay away from the destructive powers of jealousy. May we honor You and others by serving others in Your name.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Abandon: Drama

A former colleague of mine had a poster on her classroom door that read, "Save the drama for your llama." This poster was absolutely necessary because we worked in a middle school! But the truth is drama is not only for middle schoolers; it can be a part of anyone's life at any age.

Drama tears us and others apart. Paul says in Galatians 5:15-16, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (NIV) Just before this in verse 14 Paul reminds them of Jesus’ teaching from the Old Testament that everything is summed up in loving God and loving others. In other words, our responsibility is to love God and others instead of causing drama by talking about each other and engaging in other sins of the flesh.

How do we abandon drama? The first thing is to walk in the Spirit. We are lead by God in the way He has uniquely made us to love Him and others. When we do this, God takes away our desire or "need" to create drama by filling it with meaningful, life-giving tasks.

Prayer:


Our Father, help us to see the meaningful purpose that you have given us. May we not be drawn in by dramatic situations that cover up what is truly going on in our hearts. Let us see who we truly are and find joy in the purpose that You have given us.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Abandon: Gossip

Too often what’s going on in the lives of others is more interesting to us than what’s going on in our own. It’s like driving by a car wreck; you know the point where you slow down, not necessarily for safety, but slow enough to see the wreck? Am I the only one who does that? Unfortunately, not only do we pay too much attention to the wrong things in others, we tend to talk about them as well.

The truth is, the words we use and spread have power. We can tear people down just as quick, if not quicker, than we can build them up. James 3:9 warns about gossip saying, “Ironically this same tongue can be both an instrument of blessing to our Lord and Father and a weapon that hurls curses upon others who are created in God’s own image.”

How do we abandon gossip? Paul, in Ephesians 4:29 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (NIV) When we do this, the quality of our relationships and the joy we experience in life will certainly increase.

Prayer:


Our Father, let our words be positive and encouraging. Give us confidence in You so that we do not feel the need to put others down. May we understand that we can use our words to serve others and build them up that can have an eternal impact on their lives.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Abandon: Negative Thinking

The way we think has a tremendous amount of influence on our lives. Our thoughts can motivate us, make us mad, or even deceive us. We’ve all been there - someone else is talking to us and we’re wondering if they're thinking we’re cute or if we’re good enough to be their friend. All the while, perhaps they’re thinking the same thing or they’re thinking about what's for dinner!

Not only does negative thinking affect our relationships, it can also affect our performance academically and in the workplace. When we criticize ourselves with negative thinking, our bodies lose much needed energy. This wasted energy keeps us from performing at our highest potential, which unfortunately, tends to keep the negative thinking going.

How do we abandon negative thinking? Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (NIV) We need to fill our minds with whatever is true and right that God puts before us each day. Is it easy? No. Is it something we have to work at each day? Yes!

Prayer:


Our Father, help us to think about things that are good, beautiful, and excellent. May we learn to recognize when negative thoughts come our way to filter them out quickly so they don’t zap our energy. May the way You love us motivate us, give us energy, and guide us to live meaningful lives for Your glory.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Abandon: Anger

Not all anger is bad. Good anger, also known as righteous indignation, is a godly response to injustice. (i.e., being angry about sex trafficking, unfair wages/work conditions) The anger discussed here is the enticing, enraging, and out-of-control anger.

This type of anger does not lead to the results we’re looking for. James 1:20 says, “...human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (NIV) Anger that is not of God tears the the world down instead of leading us to a positive result of building it up. In other words, the final goal of anger should always be justice and not revenge.

How do we abandon this worldly anger? Each day we make a choice that God’s way is always better. A young and wise man recently said at his mother’s celebration after losing her to cancer, “[speaking to his Mom] The one thing I can’t be at God is angry because you wouldn’t want me to get in the way of God by being angry." This young man is courageously trusting in and being obedient to God's ways to live in this broken world.

Prayer:


Our Father, please help us to be wise each day to avoid the trap of worldly anger. Help us to remember that we may not always understand each situation that comes our way; getting angry in a way that does not honor You does not help. May we pursue Your peace and allow it to guard our hearts.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Abandon: Violence

Violence is a by-product of other sins in our hearts. (i.e., anger, jealousy, control, pride) It shows up when a person who feels weak and without purpose is deceived into thinking that it will solve the problem. All of the sudden, the person feels strong, in control, and has something to do.

Like drama, violence can happen with anybody at any age; we’re all capable of it. It’s sometimes a tough thing to admit or think about. However, the truth is we must be on guard because we all can become prey to the trap that is violence.

How do we abandon violence? We must guard our hearts. There are too many people who have arrived at this ugly destination and wondered how they ever got there. Here’s what Scripture says in Psalm 34:14, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (NIV)

Prayer:


Our Father, may peace be on our minds and in our hearts. May we see it as a valid response even when it doesn’t make sense. May others see Your ways in us as we live to bring Your complete shalom to the world in Your name.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Abandon: Fear of Man

The fear of man (meaning: fear of people in authority or anyone other than God) can be paralyzing. We may fear that a boss is going to fire us if we don’t live up perfectly to his/her expectations. We may fear that a parent or guardian is going to punish us or not love us anymore if we don’t live up to their expectations. Last, we may fear that our friends aren’t going to like or accept us if we don’t do what they say. There are so many situations that try to bring fear into our hearts and minds.

This fear hinders us from living the way God intended us to live. Unfortunately, these circumstances are not the fault of our own; there are times when the people around us put us in a position of fear. For example, a boss, parent, or friend may have treated you in such a way that caused fear. Regardless of the source, we are meant to be in relationships built on love, trust, and mutual respect, not fear.

How do we abandon this fear of man? We must understand who we are and who God is. We are prized possessions made by a loving God. This loving God is our protector and provider. Psalm 91:1-2 says, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (NIV) Even though people and circumstances may attempt to make us feel fear, it is our responsibility to focus on the God who goes before us and behind us to guide and protect.

Prayer:


Our Father, may our only desire be to please You. Help us to guard against people and circumstances that seek to cause fear in hearts and minds. May we find rest and peace in knowing that You are watching over us and even in death, You are with us.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Abandon: Laziness

You may or may not remember the “get rich quick” commercials promising little work, lots of pay, and early retirement. The underlying messages were that the best life was to have more money than you could ever need, quit working, and be lazy gallivanting around in a beautiful mansion with everything you ever wanted. (i.e., cars, food, trips) This, however, is not how God designed us to function.

As humans, we’re made for work; work gives us meaning. In fact, work begins with God in the first book of the Bible: Genesis. In the creation story (see Genesis 1), God works for six days and rests on the seventh. This is the example we as people, made in the image of God, are suppose to follow. If we don’t, the Bible has some tough words for us. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “...The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (NIV)

How do we abandon laziness? We find what it is that we love doing that serves other people. Instead of focusing on what it is that will make us the most money for an "early retirement," we focus on what it is that God has called us to do to give back to the community. If you don’t know what it is that you love to do, then seek out someone who can pray with you and help you find it.

Prayer:


Our Father, please show us the gifts that you have given us to serve. Help us to understand that You have uniquely purposed us to be a blessing to others. It’s not about money. It’s not about fame. It’s about loving You and loving others through service. May we find joy and pleasure in meaningful work.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Net Neutrality: A Brief Christian Reflection

by Kenon O'Dell

So, by now most of you have heard about the decision the FCC made last Thursday with the vote to repeal the regulations protecting “Net Neutrality”. This article was written, not to convince you that the internet is over as we know it, but instead, to inform and to introduce a new perspective in the matter.

“Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) can’t give priority to any website, app or service.”[i] Net neutrality was presented in 2015, under President Obama to introduce the internet as a public utility instead of a product that was controlled under large corporations like AT&T or Verizon. In other words, without the protection of net neutrality, ISP’s can intentionally block, slow down, or charge a fee for any online content that they see fit (no more cats playing instruments on YouTube for free). Some of the thinking behind this decision was that it will create more competition between ISP’s. While that might make some sense, in the same year the FCC has removed limits on how much ISP’s can charge customers and has cut back the low-income broadband program that was designed to eventually expand nationwide.[ii]

So…How will this affect me?

To put perspective on the issue, it’s estimated that Americans spend between five to 10 hours a day on the internet. As a Christian, there’s part of me that thinks, “Hey, at the end of the day it’s just the internet. Maybe, I’ll now use that time more wisely”. While that’s not a terrible perspective on the issue, the problem arises when we realize how much we use the internet to connect with people currently. Even most churches have marketing campaigns and outreaches they use to connect with their communities.

On a more personal note, being the Church, I believe the loss of net neutrality could potentially change the way we interact with each other.

Anyone who has spent any time at all reading comments of your favorite hot topic page knows how toxic people can be when they hide behind an anonymous screen. This attitude bleeds into real relationships and affects all of us. Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.” (ESV) The Church has a unique opportunity to truly connect with people that might be looking for something to fill that Facebook shaped hole. The loss of net neutrality may be an opportunity to minister in new and better ways.

When connecting with people, it is important to be reminded of the potential that we have with one another. Proverbs 27:17 says,” As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”. To encourage, to be present in a friend’s time of need, to fight for one another, to worship together: this is the essence of living the Christ centered life.

It is my hope and prayer that the church realizes that they can show compassion rather than using this time to pick political fights with people that might be hurting. Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”. I, myself, have fallen prey to being obsessive about the wrong things; politics, movies, the way I like to cook ramen. Some of these things can easily consume our lives and twist our perception of who God wants us to be. I want to encourage all who read this to investigate net neutrality further while focusing on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy.

What will you do?

[i]Fowler, Geoffrey. “The FCC’s net neutrality rules are gone. Now this is what could happen to the Web.” Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/12/13/net-neutrality-keeps-the-web-from-running-like-an-airport-security-line-and-it-might-go-away/?utm_term=.b77bb2aef62c

[ii] Kang, Cecilia. “F.C.C. Repeals Net Neutrality Rules.” The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/technology/net-neutrality-repeal-vote.html

"Now I Was a Cupbearer"

by Dustin Payne

2017 is nearly over, and as we find ourselves engaging in one last holiday treat, we near a time where people actively search and seek to make themselves new. Many people you know will be getting gym memberships, buying SlimFast, dedicating their lives to budgeting and paying off debt, setting goals for personal improvement in their work place and in their families. Yes, a new year often means we get a chance to be a new us. We are blessed with an annual reset and an opportunity to rebrand and reinvent ourselves. In Scripture we have one of my favorite stories regarding change and transformation: Nehemiah. 

Nehemiah was a eunuch who served the king of Persia during 440 BC. The story of Nehemiah begins with a sort of confession in which Nehemiah states that his people have acted in corruption towards God, because, y’know, that’s what people do. He then prays and asks God to hear the prayer of those who take God seriously, and being the righteous sort of dude that Nehemiah was, God heard his prayer. During this time, Nehemiah served King Artaxerxes (think of the king of Persia from the movie “300”).

The text reads, “Now I was a cupbearer.”

A cupbearer was actually a highly held position. The cupbearer was entrusted with making sure that the king’s drinks had not been poisoned and would often be required to drink of the wine before the king. The position was rather influential in kingdom as the king would only appoint cupbearers whom he trusted. Nehemiah was well trusted by the king.

As the story goes, the king notices that Nehemiah isn’t happy, to which Artaxerxese inquires, “Why is it you are sad, seeing as you are not sick?” To which Nehemiah shares this longing deep in his heart to go and rebuild the walls of the city of his father’s: Jerusalem. Nehemiah so desperately desires to go and do something big. He wants to reestablish the holy city of his father’s whom he believed God destroyed because of the corruption of the nation.

The king is moved by this dream that Nehemiah has for his homeland and releases him as cupbearer and appoints him as the governor of Judah, which is over the city of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah eventually goes on to rebuild those walls and put Jerusalem back on the map. He is forever established in both Jewish and Christian traditions as an inspirational leader whom God chose to reestablish his nation, a nation of people who love and worship God.

Nehemiah was a cupbearer. How many of us can look back at the people we once were, and look at ourselves today as the person that God has made us? Even more so, what does God have for your future? What big and awesome dream has God placed deep inside of you? What moves you so? What breathes life into your soul? What pangs you to the point that others ask, “Why are you sad?”

I believe that the transformational power of Jesus gives each and every one of us the ability to have a “I was a cupbearer” sort of moment. God is calling you to some great love. He has placed deep inside of you his awesome will. The poet Ezekiel writes God’s decree to us, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

As we approach this new year, who are you going to be? Why not be the person that God believes you to be? Why not choose with me to rejoice in this new heart and new spirit we’ve been given?

For the past several years, I had let my personal angst against the corporate movement of the church discourage me from being the person who God had called me to be. I had chosen to hide as a cupbearer in society, to be a church attendee and not a member of the body of Christ. I chose to lay to rest my God dreams and integrate into a secular space.

I was wrong.

I sure hope that I continue to connect with people and God as I live my life, that God grows me, and that I can share my experiences with you, but I want to encourage you to do the same. Last week at the Forum during our gathering, I asked the church to take these little cards and write their God dreams on them. To write on a card that big scary thing to which God was calling them and to look at it daily in order to remind them that they’ve been called to something great. God has and is preparing them for that dream, that moment when God moves them from cupbearer to history maker.

The invitation is open to you too. Let’s dive into these huge dreams that God has given us. 2018 is an excellent time to start.

Wide Gate Christianity

by Jim Parker

Have you ever traveled down a twelve-lane highway, with six lanes in both directions? Have you done this during moderate to heavy traffic? Even though there is a great amount of traffic heading on the road, it is quite easy to make great progress toward your destination. But invariably, when I need get off that highway and on to another one, the traffic is stacked up and my progress comes to a crawl. I then go through various alternatives to circumvent my difficult path.   Sometimes I even act on my brilliant solution to my delay. I usually see a lane that is moving faster, determine to widen my path and take the alternative route. I often take the alternate even though it leads me away from my destination. Most times my brilliance is rewarded with … even further traffic related delays. I usually end up wishing I had remained on the seemingly more difficult path. I just love explaining to my wife how I turned a 15-minute delay into a 45-minute delay.   But I often yield to the temptation of the easier path.

This reminds me of how I am sometimes tempted to live the Christian life. I look for the easy way around difficulties. I negotiate with myself and try to justify thoughts, attitudes or actions that seem acceptable culturally but do not follow the path of Jesus ways. Sometimes I even lie to myself believing that if someone I know says it’s ok, then I am justified before God for my choices. It seems there is this part of me that is determined to widen Jesus path into a twelve-lane highway and If I face any backups along my path, I instinctually look intently for a self-pleasing alternate route. I am confident I am not alone in this.

Sometimes we begin our journey with Christ ever so grateful for the wonderful sacrifice He has made to purchase our forgiveness from the penalty of our sin. We buy in to the great promise of God that His salvation is a free gift because Jesus has fully paid the cost on the cross. It seems amazing to us that we have such a wonderful undeserved insurance policy against the coming judgment of God. And better yet we don’t have to make payments to have the insurance take full effect because it is free.

So now that we have professed our faith we seemingly discover there is nothing more to do but continue down the path that seems right to us. Sadly, we miss out on the joy of following Christ simply because we don’t understand that following Christ is the place we will find joy. We settle for an affinity with Christ. We wear trinkets. We attend the big show. When pressed in our safe space we may even admit we have believed the promises of God about Christ. And yet, we miss the fullness of the life Christ offers simply because we choose to follow the broad path of the wide gate. We deceptively comfort ourselves though our relationship with Christ looks much like functional atheism. We miss the promised abundant life of John 10:10 simply because we do not follow Him.

But Jesus called his disciples to something different. He commanded us to follow him on a difficult path. Over and over he simply invited people to follow him and be his disciple (e.g. a disciplined learner after his teachings and ways). But being Jesus’ disciple was a difficult path. In Matthew 7:13-14 he said,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” 

Jesus calls us to follow God’s narrow way, to follow His narrow way. The narrow way is to trust Christ as the only way to the father, the only way to eternal life. In Luke 9:23 Jesus describes just how great a trust is required to follow Him on His narrow path,

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 

Jesus calls us to put him first. He calls each one to deny himself by taking our agenda, our wants, our desires, our ways, our character, our past failures and even our past successes and put them to death on the cross. He tells us to pick up that cross every day and follow Him. If I want to follow Him, Jesus is telling me to take all my baggage and put it where it belongs … on the cross. Then I am free of entanglements which would hinder me from following him … for today. To follow I must choose to do this daily. It is a narrow path to daily yield my plans and ways to the path of Jesus, to yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit moment by moment and follow. However, the abundant, joyful Christian life is out of reach if we are unwilling to follow him. This brings us to a paradox. Salvation was unimaginably expensive but was purchased by Jesus and offered to each as a free gift. Having received the free gift of salvation by faith in Christ, I now must choose to follow Christ if I am to walk in the abundant life Jesus promises. Paradoxically, this choice will cost me everything, but the benefits in this life and the next are worth the sacrifice (Mark 10-29-30). But it is the narrow path.

Has your relationship Christ stalled since you first believed? Could it be that you followed the path through the wide gate rather than the path of Christ? If so, let me encourage you to seek a greater more intimate knowledge of Jesus and his ways. Find a friend who will walk with you as you learn to saturate your life with the word of God, and prayer and love for God and others. As you seek and follow Him you will find Him, you will find the abundant life.   “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

Feeling out the Faith

by Dustin Payne

For the better part of a year, my church, The Forum, has been trying to address this issue of consumerism that so plagues the church in America. We’ve been asking as a church, “How do we move from consumer to producer?” or better put, “How do we live missionally and not just as a bystander of the faith.” For example, In the United States, you can have Jesus on Sundays delivered to you theatre style as you sit in a stadium seat surrounded by a large group of people who you don’t even know or broadcasted live to you from across the nation directly to the comfort of your own home as you lounge in your pajamas with your iPad logged into Facebook, all for the purpose of how you feel. At the core of consumerism is feeling. Because feelings are important, right?

Feeling plays a big part in faith. And not just in faith. Feeling plays a big part in life.

A majority of us pick friends, presidents, and products all based on how their message makes us feel. We enjoy sermons and music that make us feel good, and we naturally avoid feelings that lead us to feel any different. If you don’t believe this to be true, allow me to ask one examining question:

“Did you initially choose to date your spouse because it was a good economic decision or because he or she made you feel good?

Americans initially choose the person they promise to spend the rest of their life with based on how they feel when they’re around them. What then should we say of our houses, cars, preachers, politicians, products, or churches? Psychologist Peter Murray noted in a Psychology Today article from 2013 that “the richer the emotional content of a brand’s mental representation, the more likely the consumer will be a loyal user.”

Allow me to say plainly what I believe Murray asserts here: People like things that make them feel good.

It’s a good thing you and I never saw Jesus preach because we may have never followed him. Jesus always taught really difficult truths often veiled in mystery, but sometimes presented plainly before his audience. In Matthew 27, Jesus curses the religious leaders of the temple seven times, calling them out for looking good on the outside, but being corrupt at their inner-most parts.

Jesus isn’t particularly concerned with feeding you a message that will always make you feel good.

The gospel is confrontational.

Often times we treat the gospel as a sort of bedtime story. We tell our children that there are realities that affect the physical and seen world, but we often struggle with showing our faith to our kids by living a life that is consistent with the Christian message. And why do we struggle with this? Two reasons:

  1. The gospel will make you feel bad before it makes you feel good (and if it doesn’t you’re not being honest with yourself, God, or others)
  2. People don’t like confrontation

The gospel confronts: depravity, sickness, depression, pessimism, injustice and wrongdoing. In a daily way, the gospel confronts sinners with their sin.

The Christian life is one that is constantly self-examined, and I know many people who wish this weren’t true. They live a sort of functional atheism, professing belief in God with their mouths, but their bodies and attitudes proclaim a different worldview. As God says through his prophet Isaiah, “They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

But this isn’t how it’s suppose to be. There is hope. We weren’t made to consume church; we were made to be church.

“Church,” this old archaic word that I love so much, it means “fellowship, assembly, or gathering.” We weren’t made to consume fellowship. Rather, we were made to fellowship. I believe this is what Cyprian of Carthage means when he says, “He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the church for his mother.”

So, back to my original problem, how do we create a church culture where we let Christ produce in us his goodness, while not being drawn into a heresy of a passive gospel that consumes only what makes us feel good? How do we let the gospel challenge us and move us to be and act differently, to confront and restore?

Three thoughts:

  1. To echo a past president’s saying, “Don’t ask what the church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church.”
  2. Create a space where you know God outside of Sunday, and go to that space daily.
  3. Read more Jesus. Reading the Bible is great, but we as Christians (literally Christ like people) should read and know Christ’s difficult teachings. He will challenge you. I guarantee it.

Please join me in crafting a church culture of confrontation that leads to restoration. A church that feels all sorts of feelings, not just the good ones.