Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How to Measure Christian Success

I was pondering this question when posting on another blog, contemplating a church's purpose in light of making changes. As I wrote I realized that our individual purposes are tied very closely to our church community's purpose. Whether we use our skills, spiritual gifts, and abilities in a particular church community, or in the general community doesn't matter. It is only when they come in contact with our culture, our mission, and our times that we implement the purpose God has for us as individuals and as a church.

(For the sake of argument I define purpose as the reason for our existence. And I am defining mission as our unique way of fulfilling our purpose.)

Paul made these points when he was preaching in Athens to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.
  1. God made everything.
  2. God doesn't need anything.
  3. God made every nation of people (from one man).
  4. God intended that the whole earth be inhabited.
  5. God predetermined where each person would live, their lifespan, and when they will come into existence.
  6. And because of this, God expects everyone to desire to know him personally.
  7. Therefore, our primary purpose is to know him (who is close) and to make him known.

It seems to me that our purpose isn't contained in a need God has. In other words, God facilitates different missions for each of us, that contribute to God's overall plans. But none of us is needed by him for his plans to be fulfilled. He invites us to closeness with him by working along side of us in our unique gifting, location, and culture. We are successful as long as we are being who he planned for us to be, and doing what he planned for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).

This is why each Christian's mission is different (in approach and ability), yet our purpose is the same (in message and for whom). It makes sense, then, that success is determined by how well we use our unique gifts, abilities, and time in fulfilling our purpose and mission for God's glory. It is God who is looking for a return on his investment.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Atlanta Trip Addition

Oh, I almost forgot the wonderful place where we had lunch. It is called J. Christopher's. The Turners took us to a great family restaurant before we went to the Martin Luther King Jr. historic site, that specializes in breakfast foods and lunch. What makes it really great is the play area for kids, the artistic decor, and the large table we sat at. It was truly a wonderful experience.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Thoughts on Atlanta, Georgia

My family and I just got back from a wonderful vacation in Atlanta, Georgia. We visited the Martin Luther King Jr. historic site, went to the High Museum of Art (including the Louvre-Atlanta exhibit) which had a civil rights exhibition going on, and spent time at a National Black Arts Festival (celebrating their 20th anniversary) that was outside next door to the High Museum. We visited friends and enjoyed great food and entertainment, along with our dear friends. My kids also loved Atlanta.

Going on a trip like this was refreshing. But it taught me something. We really need to do this more often. It really helps with perspective. And I just need it. I get charged when I go to museums of art, or visit awe-inspiring natural environments, or get challenged by history up close. I sense the presence of God at these places and I naturally worship.

Upon getting back, we were thankful for the trip and getting back safely. We prayed as a family in thankfulness to God, and we prayed for our friends. Meeting with the church is its own glory. But doing this also has a glory to it.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What is Faith in Christ?

Biblical faith is not:
  • wishful thinking
  • hope
  • a blind leap
  • trying to be good
  • doing good things
  • believing despite the evidence otherwise
  • courage to take a risk
However, biblical faith is:
  • a reasonable trust and confidence
This trust and confidence is manifest in actions. If I believe my car can get me to work safely, I will get in it, turn it on, and drive to work expecting to get there. In fact, I would rarely think about it, because I have good reasons to believe it will get me there safely.

But, when the car has not been performing well, and I have good reason to believe it would be dangerous to drive, I will develop a reasonable doubt. And the reasonable doubt may cause me not to trust my car to get me to work safely. So, if I refuse to drive it, that will be a wise decision. However, if I drive it anyway, it will be a foolish decision. No amount of hoping will change the car's condition.

Faith in Christ

When we say we have faith in Christ, what do we really mean? Are we hoping he can save us? Are we expecting him to fix our lives? Are we believing the biblical information about him? Are we doing good works as an act of faith? What are we doing when we have faith in Christ?

I will submit to you that it is possible to do good works, believe the information, and have some expectations of him without really having faith in him. Faith means we trust the information is true, and thus we have full confidence and trust in Christ to do what he says, the way he says.

We are confident in who he is and what he is capable of. We obey him, because we know who he is, and what he wants. We've vetted other people's opinions about him, because we know that pleasing him is what really matters. We do good works because we know what pleases him, and we want to do so—not to simply appear righteous. We also try to persuade men, because we know why Jesus came and what the goal really is. Our love is tempered by serious self-examination and comparison to the Word of God, not by worldly expectations. We have settled the matter of the Bible's role in our lives.

Our love must be sincere, because God sees our hearts. Our service must be pure, because he who searches all things knows why we do what we do. Our love for God must be genuine, because there is no gain for hollow people-pleasing. Are we to be perfect? No, because the sacrifice of Christ makes us perfect. But we care enough to seek excellence because he is trustworthy, he is worthy, and we confidently trust him.