Tag Archive: Christians


I can tell it’s time for a vacation.  The articles of the  last few weeks have been hard to write.  Usually, when the mind is not putting things together, it’s time to take a break.  I tell people all the time when I sense they are running on empty, “Even Jesus took a break, and you ain’t Jesus.”  My time away is still ,as of today, 16 days away.  I see light at the end of the tunnel.  In the mean time readers, you may have to put up with my ramblings that may seem to run all over the place.  It’s how my tired mind works.  Or doesn’t.  

I like to listen to Johnny Cash’s music.  His songs are so full of life.  People who have had struggles and I mean serious struggles seem to relate to his songs.  My personal favorite is “A Boy Named Sue.”  I remember the first time I heard that one.  I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.  Johnny came out with that one in 1969.  I was 10 years old.  I thought it was so funny that someone would name his boy, Sue.  

Just the other day my iPod shuffled the classic hit into play mode.  Again, a smile crossed my face as I ventured back to 1969.  Only this time, not only did I enjoy Johnny’s live rendition, I focused on the words of his dad.  He named him Sue because he knew he was not going to be along, and he wanted his boy to grow up tough.  A bit over the top, but the message comes through.  He loved his son enough to give him a girl’s name.  Let’s just say it was a different world in 1969.  

We could argue all day long that if that dad really loved his boy he would hot have wandered away.  I use the word “wander” on purpose.  Jesus describes us as wandering sheep in Luke 15.  Do you know why sheep wander? It’s easy.  They are natural wanderers!  Sometimes I think we forget the basics of Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus had no real issues with our nature.  Our fallen nature should not surprise anyone.  In that amazing chapter written by Dr. Luke, Jesus is addressing the group who thought they had their act together.  He describes us as lost sheep, lost coins, and rebellious kids.  In all of this, Jesus does not issue one single negative comment.  Instead, he talks about his love and grace.  His love to find us and welcome us home.  HIs grace to restore us in relationship with Him.  

I have way too many discussions with fellow “Christians” who want to talk about the reasons we are losing the next generation.  We want to blame technology.  We want to blame the education system.  We want to blame the youth group leaders.  We want to blame just about anything we can get our hands on.  That is, as long as you don’t blame me.  You can blame me, though.  I will admit I’m a natural wanderer.  I get lost at times and, yes, I too can shake my fist at my God and take off on my own path.  Any one of those three will impact my church, my family, and my community.  That is, if I don’t have a sound understanding of the nature of man and the nature of God and how they engage one another.

It is at this point we need to stop our debating and useless blame shifting.  The struggle to give the gospel to the next generation has been an issue since man sinned.  After Adam and Eve came Cain, and he killed his brother.   Noah had an issue with Ham.  David, yes, the great King David, a man after God’s own heart, had serious next generation problems.  In case you don’t know, his one son sexually abused his sister. David’s son Absalom killed the abuser-brother.  Eventually, Absalom rebelled against dad, but, was killed fighting against him.  Don’t forget Solomon, the one son left.  He had serious women issues.  What did David do in all this?  From what we see, not much at all.  

There are plenty of other next generation problems in Scripture as well as the entire history of the church.  It is a common problem.  We waste too much time trying to fix blame.  Fixing blame takes the heat off of those trying to find a solution.  

In the end of the day, each one of us needs to take personal responsibility as we address the next generations.  Instead of judgment, we need to express grace.  Instead of fixing blame on everyone and everything else, we extend mercy by taking responsibility for our failures and sin.  Instead of building walls expecting the next generation to leap tall buildings in a single bound, we express our love by walking with them as the Prodigal Father did in Luke 15 with our arms wide open looking to embrace our natural wanderers.

We as adult individuals either live our lives thinking we are the potter, or we live our lives understanding we are the clay, being honest with our human nature and responding with great love, grace, and mercy.  It’s truly the Jesus way.  

I can hear Johnny Cash now…”I hear the train a coming…”. I hear the vacation train coming around the bend.  

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I can’t watch or read the news anymore.  The talking heads have taken over, and they think they are experts on everything and everybody.  We don’t know what to believe anymore.  It is all overdone.  Even the Weather Channel is cooking stories.  The overreaction by our media has left us full of anxiety.  We seem to have forgotten the Chicken Little fable.  By the way, Chicken Littles real name is…Henny Penny.  Henny Penny freaks out and makes everyone believe “The Sky is Falling.”  In the overdone distraction, they miss the real danger.  Somehow and someway I think it’s happening in the Christian world.  

I keep coming across articles that talk about the evangelical/church crisis.  Christianity Today released a piece on this very topic.  Even the New York Times published an article.  Google it and watch the 18 pages of listings appear.  There are books being written about it.  

What seems to be the issue?  Without question, we are in a Post-Christian era where the Christian voice has gone hoarse.  Maybe it has not actually gone hoarse, but, without question, it is falling on deaf ears.  The day the church held sway is probably over.  As one pastor I talk with on a regular basis said, “The horse is out of the barn, and he ain’t coming back.”  

The cultural tsunami that many warned about has occurred.  Basic morality has changed.  But, it has been changing long before now.  I remember a college roommate of mine saying, “Whatever is accepted in secular society will be accepted in the church in approximately 10 years.”  I did not necessarily agree with him 40 years ago, but, now that I have some miles under my feet, I think he was on to something.  We like to think we (Christians) change the culture.  The opposite is probably more true; culture tends to change us.  Our culture of relativism leaves us to our own gyrations.  They don’t care.  We resort to screaming to try and be heard, and yet they just turn up the volume in their own world.  We have not figured out how to impact that world even though God gave us a manual.  Instead, here in 2019 we still expect the world to come to us.  “Build it and they will come” died a long time ago.

Here we sit, shut out from spheres of influence, and, along with that ,few actually seek us out anymore.  Church attendance is in decline.  A recent statistic I heard was that 10 churches a week are closing their doors.  Denominations are sliding downward.  The sex abuse that laid hidden in all of Christianity has nailed the doors shut for many.  Fewer pay any attention and fewer still are coming in the front door.  

We are having our issues with the back door being wide open as well.  We have known for a long time we can’t keep our own kids in the pews.  It is making some wonder about the truth of gospel transformation.  They say these trite prayers to ease a parent’s conscience and they bolt when challenged by alternate philosophies and lifestyles.  We know that 85% of our own kids are leaving the faith.  The biggest difference today?  They are not coming back.  

Nobody is listening.  Fewer are coming, and we can’t seal the back door exodus.  Sound the alarm!  We are in a crisis!  

Or are we?

We tend to apply business principles to the church and can’t quite understand that it’s not a business.  Many treat it like a business and think they are selling Jesus.  Jesus can’t be sold.  He is not a commodity or a service to be rendered.  

If we do apply business principles, yes, there is probably a crisis.  What happens when we are more worried about the little kingdom of God (“my” church) instead of the true, universal, kingdom of God?  We apply business principles.  We develop more gimmicks.  We work hard to keep the masses happy.  We think the sheep are more important than the shepherd.  If all else fails, get a better salesperson.  

Most articles and books I read on this issue are looking to place blame.  Once blame is assessed we can then develop a formula to “fix it.”  Western culture likes to fix things.  Blame the pastor…fire him.  Blame the style of worship…change it.  Blame the people…make them feel guilty and shameful.  Blame the leadership…complain louder.  Blame the church as a whole…start a new one.  If all else fails…leave the church.  Isn’t that what people do in the business world?  Blame the boss…fire him.  Blame your system…get a new one.  Blame the customers…get critical.  Blame the department heads…put the heat on.  Blame the business…let it go bankrupt and start a new one.  Blame the changing culture…retire early.  Just fix it.  

Trust me…there is a lot of blaming and a lot of fixing going on.

There is a Biblical answer if anyone is interested.  The blame? We have elevated ourselves at every turn.  The answer?  Return to Him, as Jesus said, “with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength.”  Failure to do so?  That’s the crisis, and it’s personal. 

I limped into church today.  I shed a few tears as well.  As I stood up to lead in prayer, all I could see were people I’ve walked with the past 12 years and I know their limp.  Sometimes our limp becomes us.  Like Jacob in the Old Testament.  God touched his hip, and he limped the rest of his life.  God does that.  He causes us to limp so we can slow down and know him.  We tend to want to take the lead instead of follow.  

I was reading an article the other day that talked about hurting Christians.  The author must limp as well.  He points to four elements that often leave us far from the spiritual high that others seem to relish.  The four characteristics that suck the life out of us are: isolation, loneliness, shame and worthlessness.  Often all four are a result of sin that finds us.  Other times we have no problem finding it on our own. 

It’s hard to think that in our current world we might struggle with isolation or loneliness.  To me they’re kissing cousins of the evil world.  We don’t need demon possession in our world.  Isolation and loneliness are evil’s best friends   

Church can often promote isolation and loneliness.  One time when you limp into church and someone asks, “How are you today?,” tell them.  For some reason we have this idea that Christians are not supposed to have issues much less sin issues.  When the body of Christ gathers, it should be a safe haven for those who limp.  Unfortunately, the local bar is the only safe haven.  In church you can call yourself a sinner; just don’t say what kind.  

When someone unloads his or her burdens, the kissing cousin of loneliness tag teams with isolation.  I’ve often pointed out that Jesus indeed answers our needs.  What we have failed to learn is that the Holy Spirit resides in believers.  It is through believers that he moves and his Holy Spirit flows.  We are the conduit for the power of God.  If we don’t answer the need of the limping, hurting brother or sister somebody or something else will.  

I honestly believe the main reason churches are struggling to keep people in the pews is their inability to care well for the limping, weary traveler on the path of life.  We have decided to choose, as a friend of mine who struggles to get out of bed every Sunday morning calls it, “a faith defined by unicorns and rainbows.”  As a friend asked this week, “Doesn’t Jesus want me to be happy?”  “Yes,” I answered, “but only by walking in the ways of the Lord as defined by the Holy Scriptures.”  Let’s just say he left quickly.  

Limping into church often lets others know we are suffering.  Since we learned nobody wants to be around suffering anymore (Apostle Paul said it’s the way into the kingdom of God) each limp sends impulses of shame to the heart.  Surely, if no one else is limping, something is wrong with us.  I asked that this morning, “What’s wrong with me?”  Maybe I’m not walking with the Lord.  Maybe I’m depressed.  Maybe I’m not praying enough.  Maybe I’m too serious.  Maybe I’m this.  Maybe I’m that.  Maybe.  Maybe.  Since no one wants to connect with the limp or tears, you know what that shame will do next week?  Keep us in bed.  

Eventually, as we wallow in our pain, worthlessness will take us to places we thought we would never go.  All four isolation, loneliness, shame and worthlessness – pounce on the wounded, leaving them paralyzed and numb.

A friend recently told me his mother died and he was absent from church for six weeks and not a soul called on him or showed up at the funeral.  He was on the path.  

Another soul talked about suffering the rejection by her friends due to a wayward husband.   There seems to be an unspoken fear of the single woman.  Instead of embracing the crippled woman, she is forced to limp in and out.

Jesus told his disciples a story.  He said there was a king who was having a banquet.  He invited the expected guests; the ones who usually attend a king’s banquet.  Only they had plenty of excuses.  So the king told his disciples to go out into the highway and byways and invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind” to his banquet.  I found out today in Luke 14 that there is nothing wrong with my limp.  There is nothing wrong with your limp either.  Line up the wheelchairs and the crutches next Sunday.  The crippled are coming to the banquet! Worship well!  We got the invite.

Jesus was emphatic as he constantly described the modus operandi of the Kingdom of God.  He had to!  The world or kingdom we are entrapped in abides by a different set of rules.  Jesus made that clear as he talked to brothers James and John a few days before he entered Jerusalem.  He describes it as the “rulers of the Gentiles.”  

In the kingdom of this world, the first are first.  Man should look out for his own good (narcissistic at a certain level).  It isn’t the servers who rate it’s the one being served that holds the upper hand.  Jesus said His kingdom is quite different.  He said, “Whoever must be great must be a servant; whoever would be priest must be a slave; you are to serve not be served; and follow my example give your life as a ransom for many.”  Earlier he said, “Whoever wants to find his life must lose it.”  Living as a member of God’s kingdom is vastly different than what we think it is.  I fear we have adapted the kingdom of God to the kingdom of the Gentiles and the offspring is not pretty.  

The life based on love of God and then love of our neighbor was so unique the community at large in a city called Antioch gave us the moniker “Christian.”  There is no indicator it was used to mock them as it is used often today.  Is seems that the early Christians overwhelmed their neighbors with the love of God both in word and deed.  

There is a document found in Rome that described the effect the plague had on the city.  It gives mention to a group of crazy people who ran to the plague instead of away.  Guess who they were?  The Christians.

I read of a recently discovered document that described a horrid situation in the city of Ephesus.  Unwanted and/or babies with a defect were thrown into a dump outside the city.  Again, a group of people would rescue the babies and adopt them raising them as their own children.  Who were these people?  The Christians.  

Now these are dramatic representations of the love described by Jesus in Matthew 25.  These manifestations of love are epic in proportion.  More than likely the Christians in Antioch were loving each other and their neighbors daily.  Often the daily love is harder than the dramatic love in tough times.  

Daily love and grace are long and hard and full of ups and downs. They’re dirty too.  

Last week I wrote about this puppy we adopted over Memorial Day weekend.  Vader (yes, we named him after Darth Vader) has awakened me, to of all things, God’s love and what it really looks like.

Take last night.  I have been trying to let the 8-week-old bundle of energy learn to play by himself.  I have given him plenty of distractions.  However, as a dog, he wants and needs my attention and love.  At first I sat and read a book while he played.  Then I moved a little closer to him hoping to settle him down.  Eventually, I sat down on the floor.  What did he do?  He left all his chew toys and came up and sat on my lap with a strong desire to lick me and bite my ear.  As I sat and talked to him and rubbed his ears and belly, he settled down.  Bonding and love happened.  Why?  That’s what a puppy does.  That’s what a puppy needs.  

I know there are some out there that believe one should beat their dog into submission.  I have trained two dogs now and know that love is a much deeper and better bond.  I have learned over the years people need love too.  Only no bellies rubbed.    

When Jesus said, “A new command I give you, love one another as I have loved you,” it was not an option.  It’s the modus operandi!  He tells us to go and love our neighbor the same.  What kind of love is that?  The kind that sits on the floor.

King David described the love of God as being “a father to the fatherless and a defender of the widows.”  Jesus has a special place for the downtrodden and suffering.  It’s who He is.  It’s who He desires us to be.  There are no “if’s, buts and maybes” in His call to live a different life that reveals the nature of Jesus.  It’s not a sit afar off and hopefully they will figure it out.  

Hey Church!  Tired of the decay in our society?  Repent for our failure to get down on the floor with somebody and bind his or her wounds, share in his or her pains and suffer along with him or her.  Remember, not because God forces us too.  It’s because of who we have become.  In Antioch they used the word, “Christian.”