Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dear Pastors, Stop!

In my search for a church home in Springfield, MO I went with a friend to her church. (Just between us, it felt more like a concert.) The end of the service came when the pastor invites (or is supposed to invite) the congregation to make the choice to follow Jesus. To my surprise and astonishment he said, "I'm not going to embarrass you by asking you to raise your hand or walk up front..."

Wait. What?? What just happened?

From that day, over a year ago, until now I have become more aware of these so called "alter calls". It deeply saddens me that pastors have associated choosing to follow Jesus with embarrassment. To me, that goes against everything Jesus is and the heart of the New Testament church.

Pastors, if we don't encourage people to be bold in making the choice to follow Jesus inside of the church how in the world can we expect them to live their faith boldly outside of the church? In the world. In a place that will chew you up and spit you out at the hint of you having faith in God.

If all of heaven rejoices when even one person commits their life to following Jesus then the church should do the same. The "alter call" time should be full of rejoicing and hope! The church is a place that has been set apart, consecrated to God. A place where believers come and worship together in unity. A place that welcomes anyone and everyone. A place where it should be safe to choose to follow Jesus without feeling embarrassed.

Can you imagine the Apostle Paul asking people to close their eyes and slyly raise their hands if they believe in Jesus and want to live for him? Ha! Yeah right. Yet, several times, when Paul shared the gospel- *no gimmicks, no coffee shop, no lasers, no smoke machine- thousands of people chose to follow Jesus. Yes, thousands.

As a church we should create an atmosphere of conviction rather than comfort. When God wants to change things in our lives (conviction) it is always for our good. It is always out of his deep, relentless love for us. Church should be a place of change. Change isn't comfortable. If we stay comfortable we won't change.

Pastors, fellow Christ followers, will you join with me in asking God to use us to create an atmosphere of conviction- at church, at home, at work? After all, it is God's sweet conviction and loving kindness that leads us to repentance. That turns our hearts to him. Will you join me in encouraging new believers to be bold in their decision to follow Jesus?

*side note: I'm not saying coffee shops, lasers, and smoke machines are bad. I'm saying we should be careful to not let them distract us from the tender touch of the Holy Spirit drawing our hearts to the Father or distract us from showing God the reverence he so deserves. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

My detox story. As told by me.

It's two months into my unexpected detox. I have not watched television, listened to the radio, or been to the movies. The power goes off randomly anywhere from 5 mins up to 22 hours. I have to warm up the water for my bucket shower. Sunny days means laundry day. Rainy days means water to wash, cook, and clean with.

It wasn't until about three days ago I realized I have been unknowingly detoxing from the pressures of American media and way of life. I have not been bombarded by advertisements that use sex to sell their product, commercials pushing consumerism and materialism, pressure to dress or act a certain way to impress, no one has taken my beliefs out of context and turned them into hate, and I haven't been exposed to inappropriate humor or behavior. I haven't used a washing machine, heater or a/c, toaster, microwave, or oven.

All of these things and then some have been so accepted in our society that it seems "normal" or "just the way things are these days".

I must say that I feel so free and light. Don't get me wrong, I love America and appreciate the opportunities that it offers. And the food! But, sometimes, as Christians, we have to examine the parts of the world that we have come to accept and participate in that don't honor God as far as media is concerned. Also, to examine if we are caught up in the flow of having to attain. There's even pressure to have gadgets to simplify our complicated lives. I can't help but think that the more gadgets we get the more complicated things become ha.

Being away from the media has shown me so much of the things in my life that offend God. I've also learned a much slower more simple way of life. I am learning the value of genuine community. It seems that there is a greater sense of community because of the simple way of living.

Now that I am aware of things in my life that offend God or try to distract me from him I can't just ignore it. I am looking forward to another month of detox and letting God continue to cleanse me and show me ways to have a simple life in the land of excess. Yes, I will thoroughly enjoy an actual shower and going to restaurants and grocery stores and sleeping without a mosquito net and the other great amenities of life in the States! I just don't want to get back to a place of needing them or the mindset that says I deserve them or being consumed by them, ya know? Good things lose their good-ness when they take our focus off of God even if it is only slightly.

A.W. Tozer says, "The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the "and" lies our great woe. If we omit the "and" we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing."

This "detox" has shown me the many "ands" I have been seeking along with trying to seek God. God and money. God and success. God and relationships. God and purpose. God and identity. The "ands" hinder me from finding God in the way that I want to and need to. In Him alone is everything I long for.