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Archive for November, 2014

Hope is on the riseIII

It’s no secret that America’s Judeo-Christian society is crumbling. 34% of people under 30 now claim “no religion,” a three-fold increase from just a few decades ago. It’s apparent we are moving quickly from a post-Christian society to an actively anti-Christian society. As Sean McDowell has said, we, who grew up when Christianity was recognized as a force for good in the social order, have lived to see Christians become the bad guys of society.

As a mom of young adults and a grandmother, I have found myself wringing my hands and fearful for my children’s futures.  Yes, I know that God is fully faithful and sovereign… and just. God would do no wrong in bringing judgment on a nation that has experienced so many of his blessings and yet increasingly and grossly reject the giver of those blessings. Still, we pray for a revival in the American church which has by and large lost its distinction and testimony in deference to an innocuous message that above all, seeks to not give offense.

Well, hope is on the rise!

Drew Dyke, in his book, Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God So Stop Trying, offers a silver lining in the face of the societal and cultural opposition that the American church is experiencing in our day:

I think that we will see a smaller, more committed core of Christians emerging. We are seeing the death of nominalism, name-only-Christianity, in North America. Being a Christian is just no longer what you do to be a good American. There’s no social pressure to go to church… And so I think we are going to see a smaller, purer core.

In the book of Judges we learn of Israel’s cycle of sin – a cycle of sin leading to oppression (or bondage), leading to repentance, leading to deliverance, leading to devotion and peace, eventually falling back into sin, etc. In America we often hear the gospel watered down and/or offered with strange fire. We pray for revival and this may very well be God’s plan in winnowing and refining the American Church.

As a mom of college-age and young adult children and a grandma to two small boys, I have spent so much time wringing my hands over what their futures will be like… this message was the first time I looked positively at what is happening to Christianity in America. It helped me see what we know from other countries – opposition is refining. God is at work always, isn’t He? Halleluiah!

I now look to my children’s generation with anticipation. God is certainly winnowing his church and I look for a purity to arise among those who will side with the one true living God despite cultural sanctions and pressures to side with the spirit of the age. To that end, I pray for myself and my family. I claim future grace for the days to come. If we are beaten (physically, financially or with societal hate or discrimination), if we are charged to not speak in the name of Jesus, I pray that we might rejoice like the apostles for being counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name and that we will not cease teaching and preaching Jesus (Acts 5:40-42).

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tiger

Drew Dyke offers a challenge to uncertain Christians who find it difficult to defend the image of God as presented by the prophets of the Old Testament. Tony Reinke’s article, “Stop Apologizing for God,” reviews Drew Dyke’s new book, Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God So Stop Trying. The warning is clear, the “living God of the universe is un-tamable. He’s good, but he isn’t safe.”

This teaching flies in the face of the soft-serve offered in too many congregations across America today. Gone is the “majestic, holy, awesome Tiger of Scripture… [after all] who wants a God who roars, who threatens, who judges? Why not rather fashion a friendly god… we can pet, leash, and export for popular appeal?

“Yawn.”

In attempts to make God palatable to the masses, the churches across our country have embraced a heavy reliance on charismatic preachers that offer pop-psych messages, upbeat music that focuses on man rather than God (except man’s depravity, of course), humor and the unexpected (as one church puts it “church that doesn’t feel like a church”). While probably found in their statements of faith, talk of sin, substitution, atonement, and surrender is avoided or at least spoken of in euphemisms (after all, it goes against all the wisdom of what is popular to cause folks to feel badly about themselves).

When we treat God with such easy approachability and familiarity, when the god we present carefully conforms to the world’s standards, when we worship a god who resembles a domesticated kitten rather than the Lion of Judah (as seen in Isaiah 6), our spiritual walk becomes routine and lackadaisical (despite the fun, fun, fun service we might regularly attend for one hour each week). We actually undercut the spiritual life and derail the mission of Christ. Reinke offers five ways this is done (I assume these are primarily gleaned from Dyke’s book).

1. Boredom with God will cost us our worship.

Any one of these churches (mentioned above) is prone to give as much time to their “worship experience” as to the proclamation of the Word of God. By all appearances, these churches have elevated worship over all other portions of the service. But the “cruel irony of choosing God’s love over his holiness is that we end up losing both. If we are not talking about the great and majestic God who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), then his love [offered to his creatures] loses meaning.”

2. Boredom with God will cost us our purity.

Without God’s transcendent holiness, personal holiness gets fuzzy fast. And if I’m not too concerned that God is serious about sin, I’m certainly not going to hold myself or anyone else, for that matter, to any rigid standards. “God’s holy transcendence not only protects us from laziness in our ethics, it also empowers us for personal change. I think a lot of people out there have tried a lot of different things to change themselves. They have consumed every self-help book that has come along to find the secret. They have prayed a formulaic prayer. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t work. What I would like to say to those people is: What if what [is] missing from your life are the deep things of God? What if only a ravishing vision of God’s holiness and love will ultimately make the difference in your life?”

3. Boredom with God will cost us our mission.

Seeing God as dangerous is essential to how we live. As children of our Father in heaven, we, too, are called to be dangerous. I’m not talking about being violent or destructive. But like God, we should be dangerous to evil and injustice, a holy threat to anything that preys on the innocent, crushes the powerless, and enslaves people to sin” (Dyke, 60). Following a god who is simply a kind-hearted, do-gooder will not empower us to overcome self-preservation; we will lack the courage to take the gospel to the uttermost ends of the earth, making disciples of all nations.

4. Boredom with God will cost us our place in global work.

Dyke points to an encouraging trend: In the global Church we are seeing a fluorescence of faith that we haven’t seen since the book of Acts – China… Africa… South America… [the Middle East] – God is on the move. The 1990′s marked the greatest gathering of people into the Church in the history of the Church. When it comes to proclaiming God as he has revealed himself in Scripture, the American church may be getting left in the dust.

5. Boredom with God will cost us our relevance.

“I think in every heart there remains a deep-seated desire to stand in the presence of a holy and transcendent God,” Dyck says. “People are thirsty for transcendence. They need to hear about a holy God. And even if they deny that they are sinful, I think deep down they know that they are — they know they need the grace and mercy of a holy God.”

“Ooh!…I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe?” Susan asks about the Christ-like figure, Aslan.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

                            ~ C.S.Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, ch. 8.

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Mom October 2003

Today, my mom has been gone for 10 years.

As I remember her, I try not to dwell on that long heart-wrenching day we knew would be her last.  I want to focus on her person and on her presence in my life. At the time she left us, I was a stay-at-home mom of upper elementary to high school children, now most of my children have flown the nest, establishing lives and families of their own.  Now I am the grandma. I am sorry for so many missed opportunities, but so grateful for mom’s continuing influences in my life.

She rose from a difficult childhood, raised by a loved aunt because of a mostly-absentee mother, separated from her only brother, and never knowing her father. She married a farm boy and made a home for her family that she, herself, never experienced as a girl. She was a complex, sometimes strong woman who lived a (not always quiet) life of self-giving service to her family and was cheerleader for her daughters in their dreams and pursuits.

The hole she has left is felt in each of our hearts, but the bounty she sowed is reaped in the lives of her children and grandchildren.

Rock Me to Sleep

Backward, turn backward, O time in thy flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight.
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore.
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair.
Over my slumbers, your loving watch keep,
Rock me to sleep, Mother, rock me to sleep.

Over my heart in days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever was shown.
No other care abides and endures,
Faithful, unselfish, and careful like yours.
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calm o’er my heavy lids creep,
Rock me to sleep, Mother, rock me to sleep.

Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last hushed to your lullaby song.
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace
With your light lashes just sweeping my face.
Never, hereafter, to wake or to week,
Rock me to sleep, Mother, rock me to sleep.

~Elizabeth Akers Allen

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