What Does That Even Mean??

Do you ever wonder why pastors and professing Christians have a great need to say really obscure things to sound spiritual??  Even though we can sometimes figure out what people are saying when they use these words and phrases, when you take a step back and look at what people are really saying, it is really quite bizarre.  Why the need to always try to be relevant, “nuanced”, or say such abstract things.

Incarnational, Missional, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Discipline, Social Justice, Speaking Prophetically, Beauty, Sacramental, Sacred, Speaking Life, Spiritual Rhythms, Journey, and Presence are just a very few of the trendy phrases of the day.  They are merely crafty formulations by people to describe some idea or topic.  But get this, even though many try to define these things as being Biblical, the concepts are actually often far from it.

I often hear about how absurd things like these are from other believers.  Instead of trying to have some “deep” meaning, why not just be clear and teach what the Bible actually says??  No need for some clever term or catch phrase; just explain the Word from the text.  I guess that doesn’t sell books, provide invitations to speak at conferences, grow churches, or get the most followers.  But I digress.

As believers we should expect so much more from those who are leading us in the Lord.

Let’s be clear.  Just because someone may be a good wordsmith, can speak in a way that may connect with people, and can even sound Biblical, doesn’t mean they are to be admired.  They may even say some Biblical things at times, but in the end, it truly makes them that much more dangerous.

The constant drivel of nonsense is nauseating.  What does Incarnational even mean??  How about Missional??  Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Discipline, Social Justice??  Speaking Prophetically??  What about Beauty, Sacramental, Sacred??  Speaking Life over people and culture??  Or how about Spiritual Rhythms, Journey, or Presence??

I don’t want to have to hear someone lecture in order to find out some hidden meaning or how they are defining some new term.  If the average believer can’t conclude these things, even from a cursory reading of the Bible, why do people think they need to invent or re-invent some phrase to capture what they are trying to say??

We have gotten so far away from pointing people to reading and studying the Bible that most today would rather hear what man has to say rather than God.  What we really need is to be teaching people Biblical discernment so that they might recognize true Biblical preaching and teaching versus the false teaching and false teachers that are truly all around us; even those who are in our local churches.

Biblical discernment starts with us.  We must be reading and studying the Bible enough to know the difference between truth and error and truth and opinion.  It isn’t enough that we just take some guy from the pulpit, someone speaking at a conference, an author who wrote a book, a blog, or some post on social media as the Truth, but spend the time to see who they really are and what they actually believe.  The reality is that it might truly surprise us what we will find out.

We must stop with the cute lines and hold those as pastors, leaders, authors, and even other professing believers to the same standard.  It all boils down to clearly declaring the Truth.

That means that sermons need to really be going through a book of the Bible systematically (without the constant jumping around to other passages), without an agenda or the modern day “sermon series”, and start explaining the Biblical text, as well as the real context, so people can understand what is written. (Nehemiah 8:8)  Enough with the acronyms, fill in the blanks, the 3 “R’s” of some topic, or the however many keys, ways, signs, marks, strategies, or steps to whatever.  Enough with filling sermons, books, and making pictures with spiritual sounding quotes from people.  None of that means anything.  Let me say that again.  None of that means anything.  Yes, it may be popular today, but please, please, can we all just return to actually preaching and teaching the Word.

This also means stopping the blogs, social media posts, and books on obscure trendy issues.  I really don’t want to read a book called, “Jesus Swagger” or “Swipe Right”.  These things again may be appealing to the masses, but this is absolutely ridiculous and needs to stop.

The sad reality is that these things will continue.  The sadder part is that most of the pastors you see partnering with one another at conferences and interacting on with each other on social media, promote these things and go around gushing over one another.  The same seems to be happening even among professing believers.  And these aren’t just isolated instances.  Chances are, a striking number of the pastors, leaders, authors, and even those in your own churches, are guilty of doing these things.  Don’t believe me, check out their social media feeds, the books they promote, and the things they are talking about and pursuing.

We can, and we must do better than this.  We are far past the time of tolerating this nonsense in the Church.  Why would we waste our time with those that continually feel the need to be focused on such ambiguous and random things by dragging Jesus’ name through the mud.

For the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of truly making disciples, we must return to the simplicity of clearly proclaiming the Bible.

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Where Is The Discernment??

“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and steadfast — if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made minister.”—— Colossians 1:21-23

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What if you were inside your home sound asleep and didn’t realize the house was on fire and quickly burning to the ground.  What if you had a terminal disease, in which you only had a short period of time to live, that doctors, family, and friends knew about, but you were unaware.  Or what if the things you believed about faith and church were not actually true.  Would you want to know??

We all know the answer.  Of course we would want to know.  But when it comes to discernment about Christianity and churches these days, people would rather not hear the “bad news”.

The truth is that what many are following and believing about “Christianity” is no where near the truth of what we see in the Bible.  I don’t go a day without seeing, hearing, reading, or meeting with those that are claiming to be following the Truth, but don’t realize that what is disguised as true faith, is only leading them to destruction.

Let’s be clear.  It’s time for all believers to wake up.  The cost is too great; eternity is at stake.  And I for one, can’t sit back and watch as those around me walk around like everything is just fine when many believe and are a part of something that is leading to their eternal demise.

I know some may be thinking, “Here we go again, another post about how ‘all’ churches are bad”.  Or that, “Randy is just ‘upset’ and has is out for anyone who doesn’t believe ‘just like him’”.

The truth is that there are very few people these days that I find who are humble and teachable enough to talk about the real issues happening within so-called churches.  And even more rare are those who are really committed to reading and studying the Bible to be able to sift through truth and error or even truth and opinion.

I do admit that I find myself pretty upset at times.  But even more, really sad about the direction in which I see so many going.  When I, and those believers I talk with, struggle with being able to point to any churches that are actually preaching and teaching the Bible, as well seeking to live out the true characteristics of the Church we see in Scripture, it is really troubling.  This is the reason that I cannot sit idly by watching people embracing things that are so unbiblical.  It is crushing.  I care far too deeply to not speak up and warn anyone and everyone I am able.  Even if I need to speak repeatedly about the same things.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a remnant of earnest believers seeking to follow the truth of Scripture.  And I know there is a remnant of churches that are seeking the same.  But let’s not kid ourselves.  Much of what we see today is not really what the Church looks like from what we see in the Bible.  Enough with the excuses that there are “no perfect churches”.  And if we are really honest with ourselves, let’s not simply “settle” when we know that the pastors, leaders, and people in churches aren’t willing to make bold stands for the Truth; especially when it is not popular.

When you read through the Bible, it is clear that God cares deeply about the Truth.  In the New Testament, it is one person after another pleading and appealing for people to remain steadfast.  If it mattered that much in Scripture, shouldn’t all who claim a faith in Jesus have the same zeal for the Truth??

It is easy to sit back and not question whether what we are being taught or what we believe about faith and church is right.  It is easier to keep the status quo than be known as confrontational.  The old cliche is that it is called the “comfort zone” for a reason.  We have been told that inviting our friends to church, “serving” in the church, being activists for “social justice”, and doing community service projects are stepping outside of our bubble and being a part of “something bigger than ourselves”.  But in reality, these things look more like the world than truly “going and making disciples”.

I have been warned throughout my time in ministry that I need to be careful in criticizing churches and what people believed.  And I have taken that advice to heart and still often think about that counsel.  It is important to not rashly go after things without careful prayer and study.  I’ve also learned that when there is clear danger, we must speak up.  People may not like hearing the truth, or even like us because of us trying to share the truth in love.  But what most miss is that it is quite unloving to not tell someone the truth; even if it is difficult for all involved.

We must contend for the faith.

Paul reminds us in the first chapter of Colossians of our prior life of being engaged in “evil deeds”, all that Jesus has done for us, and the critical importance of finding ourselves “firmly established and steadfast” in the faith.  This isn’t just a suggestion, but a command that we must examine ourselves with daily; that we are personally growing in applying God’s Word to our lives and surrounding ourselves with others doing the same.  We must not “move away from the hope of the gospel” in order to compromise, accommodate, or even be afraid that we might hurt people’s feelings because of speaking the Truth.

Churches and what people believe about Christianity are truly on fire, have terminal diseases, and much of what is being modeled is not true.  It may all sound good and be wrapped up to sound “Christian”.  But we also know from 1 Corinthians 11:12-15 where it says, “But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”

We must take what we are seeing today extremely serious and separate ourselves from the clear compromises.  I challenge each of us to consider how to define the Church from what we see in the Bible and not by what is being peddled as “christianity” and “church” today.  I bet we would all find that we need some serious adjustments in order to truly be living as the Church.

In the next post, “What Is The Church??”

When Being Authentic Isn’t Good

With so much talk these days about people looking for more authenticity, it isn’t a wonder why over the years this has been a big topic of conversation in churches.  In order to become more “real”, it requires a person to become more vulnerable about their struggles and failures.  It exposes people for who they really are and opens them up to embarrassment, ridicule, and possible gossip.  Many have sought to create a safe place in church in which broken people can find hope and encouragement.

Sounds great doesn’t it??  Doesn’t everyone desire a place of honesty and trust??

In order for anyone to truly put their faith in Jesus, they must recognize who they are before the Lord and that their sin has separated them from Him.  A person must humble themselves and acknowledge how they have chosen to believe and do things by going against God’s commands and going their own way.  Without submitting to God by being authentic, one can never find hope, grace, and forgiveness.

But what is becoming more common today is that in the midst of rejoicing over people feeling comfortable enough to admit their sin, the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme.  Instead of having “godly sorrow” (1 Corinthians 7:10) over sin, many are now praising their sinfulness rather than being utterly ashamed.  While no one would rightfully say it is acceptable to continue in sin, there is a great fear that preaching repentance, obedience, holiness, and God’s Way leads only to legalism.

Many have turned authenticity into celebrating their sinfulness rather than true repentance.  This should not be.

Just because someone may share about their life in an open and honest way, doesn’t mean that they have then put their faith in Jesus.  A person might feel great relief, but it may not equate leaving a life of sin for obedience to the Lord.  That is why authenticity devoid of repentance is nothing more than airing out dirty laundry.

There are many in the Christian world that love talking about “brokenness”.  Others, in the Hyper Grace movement and even a large number of mainstream churches and ministries, often love talking about how life is “messy” and “chaotic”.  Although these terms might describe the realities of our lives at times, these aren’t things we should happily embrace, but should move beyond them.  If our focus is merely about how “broken”, “messy”, and “chaotic” our lives may be, we have greatly missed the true understanding of faith in Jesus.  Sure, it might play well to the masses, but it doesn’t offer real hope if we never move past living in such a mangled state.

It is quite admirable that churches want to create an environment and culture in which people can be honest about their struggles and failures.  We all sin. (Ecclesiastes 7:20).  But we can’t allow church to become nothing more than chasing after one sin issue to the next or even just a gathering where we seek to find out whose life is in the most disarray.

As the Church, it is good that we are able to share our struggles and sins with other believers.  It allows us to encourage and minister to one another.  It can also allow for a loving rebuke for those that might be living in unrepentant sin.  Therefore, churches must be places where we can have true fellowship by really getting to know each other and walk along side one another as we follow the Lord.  But the end of authenticity must never be glorifying our sinfulness.

Authenticity also has to be so much more than just being vulnerable about our lives.  It must also include being teachable.  Authenticity exposes us to not believing and acting like we should.  We must be willing, then, to adjust our beliefs and actions as we grow in our understanding of the Bible and how to live out God’s commands.  Seeking Truth has to be at the heart of those wanting to follow the Lord if we are to really be authentic.

Much of what is being proclaimed about being authentic fails today; as it comforts people with God’s forgiveness, without exhorting people to amend their ways.  If we encourage people to be real and honest about their lives, we must also explain there is a cost.  Authenticity is good, but only good, if accompanied by repentance and growing in faith and obedience to the Lord.