Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2009

We live in a day and age within the “church” that when we go to church we want to “get something out of the service.”  What are we hoping to get?  Are we just consumers of the gospel?  I hope not.  Yet, often I believe that’s what we’re looking for…a “feeling.”  Why is that?  Is that what it means to be a Christian and go to church?  Is it just to “feel” something?  Now, please don’t get me wrong.  I’m firmly convinced we can feel and sense the presence of the Lord in a tangible and real way when we worship, but is that the goal?  Just to feel something? 

I recently read a blog by Dan Burrell that really got me thinking about this.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Is it that we go to church to experience the service…the emotion of it above the teaching of the gospel and the accuracy and fact of Scripture? In other words, are people more interested in feelings than facts?  Is it that we want to ‘experience’ a spiritual feeling even if that feeling comes at the expense of neglecting orthodox and doctrinal instruction?  We want a God that makes us feel better about us more than we want a God Who helps us to see us for who we really are and what we genuinely need. Thus, our churches spend great energy and resources on creating an experience in ‘worship’ rather than the presentation of the ‘Word.’  Doctrine is downplayed as divisive, boring and even transitional.  What matters is the pragmatic effect of shared experiences, emotional movement and a sloppy form of self-affirmation that emphasizes style and sincerity and a nebulous form of spirituality. 

In this world, Oprah is as much a spiritual leader as Billy Graham; Joel Osteen and Robert Schuller outshine more studious prophets as John MacArthur or Warren Wiersbe. There is a danger in a cold orthodoxy that never touches the heart.  We can’t be so afraid of emotion and compassion and expression that it makes our faith impotent or simply a matter of intellectual assent.  The practical effect of the gospel is a changed life, rearranged priorities and a passion for the things of God demonstrated in daily living.  But one has to wonder if the typical Western church today spends as much time in exegeting (teaching verse by verse) the Word as it does in creating an ‘atmosphere.’  Does the average preacher plan the feel of the service with as great precision as he studies the content and context of the Gospel he preaches?  Have we sacrificed our sound doctrine for a social activism which leaves us with a false sense of accomplishment that lasts only as long as the adrenaline rush of self-congratulatory emotion that follows a pseudo-spiritual exercise?”

Strong words indeed from Mr. Burrell.  But, I believe he’s right and as a Pastor…the goal of any service must be to lift up Jesus in the totality of what we do.  We work hard to do so at Mt. Pleasant.  Are we perfect at it…no way.  But, here’s what I know.   I know that Pastor Brad and I work very hard to magnify the name of Jesus in song and in the Word.  We work diligently to present the gospel in a way that is understandable, uplifting, at times convicting and even “hard,” and encouraging.  The Holy Spirit does the work.  Ultimately the goal is NOT just an “experience,” but an “encounter” with the Living God of the universe.  When one experiences God in this way one will experience Him on all levels…emotionally, intellectually and beyond.

Burrell goes on to point out:

“I want us to consider how our culture gets caught up in experiences and emotions -from the way we exalt athletics, to the ads we will have pummel us as Christmas approaches, to what passes as worship these days in a typical evangelical church.  Even we as believers tend to get swept up in catastrophe or tragedy and almost become paralyzed in an irrational frenzy of grief or morbid curiosity such as when a celebrity dies like Princess Diana, Michael Jackson or Anna Nicole Smith. Why is that Kanye West and Taylor Swift are followed more enthusiastically than the nine men and women who interpret our very constitution? It’s time we ask ourselves if we are chasing fool’s gold.  In our personal lives, our homes, our businesses and yes…. in our churches.  Today’s evangelical believer is more offended by someone who speaks with authoritative passion and a sense of absolute truth than they are about the carnal and sensual messages of today’s entertainment industry.  As a result, our churches are filled with ‘show’, our sermons are filled with ‘fluff’ and our hearts are filled with ‘darkness.’ Believers must be careful to search for truth.  Preachers must be careful to preach the Word.  And all of us must take care to keep from chasing ‘fool’s gold.'”

Well said Mr. Burrell and a message that this preacher will take to heart as I seek the Lord weekly on how we are to preach and teach the gospel of our precious Lord!  All of us need to look deep within and sincerely ask ourselves: Am I a student of the Word of God with an appetite to hear the Word and to fellowship with other believers so as to be equipped to do the work of the gospel, or am I at church just to be entertained?  God help us to sincerely have a desire for Him that translates into our desire for His Word and then practicing in the world what we’ve learned from Holy Writ.

Read Full Post »

You know I’ve been thinking as I see all the Christmas ads beginning on TV and even hearing Christmas music in some stores and on some radio stations…just what will this Christmas season be like?  You may ask, “What do you mean…are you talking economically…better or worse than last year’s disasterous season or something different?”  The answer is something quite different.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish any “bad” on our national retailers, but I have a question that keeps nagging me in my own mind over the last few days…”Just how much is enough?” 

You know, 100 years ago, if you got a piece of candy and an apple for Christmas along with a pair of socks, you were “rich!”  But what about today?  Are you kidding?  Would any good, loving, and gracious parent even think of “giving” such pathetic gifts to their children?  As you ponder that thought (Can you detect my sarcasm? I hope you can!), I want to throw out the thought, “What would Jesus give at Christmas?”  If He had such a holiday, (I’m not trying to be silly here…just kind of going with the “What Would Jesus Do” mantra from a few years ago), what gifts would He give?  I bet this is starting to put some things in perspective, if you really think about that.

Would Jesus be spending tons on money on presents and toys that will be discarded in a matter of months, nay weeks or days?  Would he run up credit cards that will keep those who do so in financial bondage for many months to follow?  Would He seek to find His self-worth or identity in the gifts He bought or received?  Would he try to impress with his “outlay” of cash during this most “wonderful time” of year?  I think not.  Do you know what I believe Jesus would do with any money He had, (which He basically had none…but go with me here), assuming He did have a little, I believe He’d spend it on the needy, the downtrodden, the homeless, the orphan or the widow with nothing.  Can you see that playing out?  I can!  What did He instruct us to do?  To “love our neighbors as ourselves.”  Right?

Now I know what you may be thinking at this point.  “Kevin, are you crazy?  Are you advocating not giving Christmas presents?”  Well, not at this point…even though the merit in that is worth considering…but, at this point I’m simply asking…how much is enough?  Parents, how much is enough for your children?  Do you have a budget for Christmas presents or an amount that you will spend per child?  Will you stick to it?  How much is enough?  Is it $150 or $250 per child?  $500?  How about $750?  What is the amount?  The more kids you have the less the amount right?  My family has four children…so I can promise you the amount is around $150-$200 range per child (and that’s probably too much).  Now you must know that I have two older children (15 and soon to be 12), and to young ones…both are 4.  So, there will be a difference in the amounts for each because of the age.  But overall…we’ve decided to keep the total to $600.  I’m not trying to be “legalistic” here.  Just being forthright and telling you that we are trying to be frugal and prudent. 

Do you know what we’ve decided to do as a family?  We’ve decided to buy the children what they NEED, versus just what they WANT.  For some reason, we believe that we “owe” it to our kids to give them anything they want and to go into debt to do it, because the world pushes this kind of thinking on us.  It’s not to say that our little guys won’t get a toy or two…but, come on…you know that those toys will be “old hat” in just a few days.  So, why waste the money?  You know what we’ve decided to do?  We’ve decided to put money in shoeboxes…the Operation Christmas Child project of Samaritan’s Purse in Boone, NC that helps children around the world that would otherwise have nothing for Christmas.  We’ve chosen to make one shoebox per each of our children.  In fact, the children know that some of “their” Christmas money is going toward others…instead of them.  They WILL have LESS because they are choosing to give!  It is more blessed to give than receive and they see this.   Katy, my 15 year old, went with me to Ethiopia this past summer and a few weeks later, she and Kandace (my soon to be 12 year old) went to Mexico.  They saw poverty like they’ve never seen before.

My family and I have a different perspective on Christmas now.  I believe the Lord Jesus calls us to consider those that have nothing or at least much less than we do.  Jesus called them, “the least of these.”  In fact, I personally know some folks that take all the money they would otherwise spend on Christmas gifts for each other and give it all to missions (reaching people with the Gospel). 

What a thought!  Giving the money to help spread the gospel throughout the world?  Sounds nuts doesn’t it?  Not really!  Not if you think about it and truly contemplate what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Would you honestly and carefully consider what you are going to spend on Christmas this year and ask the Lord God “how much is enough?”  If you and I do this…I believe we will get a different answer than what we’ve gotten in the past, as we make the futile attempt to try to “keep up with the Joneses” and impress our kids or our kids friends, or even our own extended family at the Christmas dinner table at Grandma’s.  May we this year see that the one we celebrate at Christmas…the Christ…born in a manger in the most meager conditions imaginable would desire for us to give…not to ourselves…not just to our own families…our own pleasures…our own comforts…but, to reaching those that He ultimately came to die for with His glorious gospel.

The singer/song writer Matthew West says it best in the song he sings with Amy Grant, “Give This Christmas Away:”

What if I told you
You have the power
To give someone hope
Beyond their wildest dreams
What if I told you
It’s right there in your hands
In your hands

It’s hard to imagine
How something so small
Can make all the difference
Take down the tallest wall
What if December
Looked different this year
What if we all just

Give this Christmas away
If there’s love in your heart
Don’t let it stay there
Give this Christmas away
And your life will be changed
By the gifts you receive
When you give this Christmas away

It’s feeding the hungry
Serving the poor
It’s telling the orphan
You’re not forgotten anymore
It’s doing what love does
Even when no one’s watching you

Give this Christmas away
If there’s love in your heart
Don’t let it stay there
Give this Christmas away
And your life will be changed
By the gifts you receive
When you give this Christmas away
For God so loved the world
That He gave His only Son
So we could be
His hands, His feet, His love
His love

What if I told you
You have the power
To give someone hope
Far beyond their wildest dreams
What if December
Looked different this year
Yah what if we all just

Give this Christmas away
If there’s love in your heart
Don’t let it stay there
Give this Christmas away
And your life will be changed
By the gift you receive
When you give this Christmas away

Give this Christmas away
You have the power
Just give it away
Give it away
Give it away
This Christmas
Give it away
Give Christmas away
Give it away

 

Read Full Post »

I have had this question asked of me lately by parents and teens.  It’s an interesting question, but a question nonetheless that I believe has an easy answer.  Should a teenager talk to their parents about anything and everything?  The answer is absolutely and unequivocally YES!  Why wouldn’t they?  I’ll tell you why…because the world says they shouldn’t.  The world has taught us, even in the church, that there are some things that your teenager just can’t talk to you about.  The world says that teens need to have someone else they can go talk to about “touchy” or “difficult” matters.  Oh really?  Where does it say that in the Bible? 

Solomon in the book of Proverbs taught his son over and over again to come to him and to “listen to my instruction.”  If you will read the book of Proverbs, you will see that many of the chapters start out the same way, “Listen my Son to a father’s instruction” or “My son, pay attention to my wisdom.”  The book of Hebrews in chapter 12 gives us similar advice about fathers and sons.  The Apostle Paul admonished the children in Ephesians 6 to “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  Paul encouraged the fathers to bring up their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Does this mean that the fathers are to train and instruct in everything except those “touchy” or “difficult” areas?  I think not.  That’s not what the Scriptures tell us. 

Why is it that we listen to the world and believe that we must relinquish our children to some other “outside” person to instruct and guide them.  Now don’t get me wrong…I’m all for our children, mine included, have adult mentors and those that they can talk to and be instructed by as well as me and my wife.  However, and please hear this loud and clear, it is Kevin Brown that will stand before the Lord and give account on how I have raised my children…been a steward of my children…not a coach or a teacher or a preacher or a youth pastor.  Are you getting what I’m saying?  It is God’s design for the parents to raise their children. 

You know I’ve found that sometimes it’s easy to become our child’s “buddy” instead of their parent.  What do I mean.  Simply this.  It’s easy to choose to want to go along with all of their wishes and desires and to be so “buddy-buddy,” that we stop being a parent.  Talking to our teen or child and spending time with them doesn’t mean we relinquish responsibility for parenting them.  Many parents seem so afraid of offending their children or turning them off that they stop parenting and just become a buddy.  I think you get what I’m saying. 

As parents, we must allow our children the freedom to talk to us without becoming judge and jury on tough issues.  We’ve got to LISTEN to them.  It’s a delicate balance.  It’s one that I struggle with daily…because I tend to just want to TELL my kids what to do instead of really listening to them.   Can I get a witness?  Does anyone else struggle with this?  You know “rules without a relationship leads to rebellion.”  It requires constant prayer and vigiliant seeking of the Lord.  As I listen to my children…I’ve learned often that they don’t want advice…they just want someone to listen.  That’s why many teens particularly don’t talk to their parents.  Because they don’t think they will listen.  That’s why they talk to someone else…a friend…a coach, a teacher, etc.  Again, there is nothing wrong with this.  I encourage mentoring…the Bible teaches it in Titus 2…but, a child should feel comfortable talking to their parents about anything.

I know there are situations where young people do not have a Godly parent or parents.  And this makes the situation more difficult.  They will have to turn to Godly counsel and advice from a Godly person in their life.  In fact, we should seek out young people who are in this situation and seek to mentor and encourage them and most importantly seek to befriend their parent(s) and lead them to Christ so that a Christian Home can be established.  There is much more that could be said here…but, for the sake of time I will leave this for another post at a later time.  I think you get the point for now.  I’m mainly talking in this post to parents that are in a Christian home with children that are teens. 

Here’s what I hope that we can see.  We live in a day and age where we expect so many others to do our job as parents for us.  We have teachers who teach our kids, coaches who teach them how to play ball.  In many churches, we have Sunday School teachers and Children’s Pastors and Student Pastors and Youth Pastors that our kids talk to and we seem ok with allowing everyone else this responsibility.  Well that may be the easy way out, but it’s not what we’ve been admonished to do in Scripture.  We are taught in Deuteronomy 6:5-7: 

5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  

You see, as a Pastor, I can’t stand in the middle of a young person and their parents.  I want to come along and help parents to train and admonish their children…but, it’s not my job…it’s the parents’ job.  Anytime a young person comes to talk to me I always ask them…”Have you talked to your parents first.”  It’s important that I don’t come in between the child and the parent.  I’m here to encourage and help…absolutely…but, I never want to be a stumbling block by standing in the place of the parent and their God-given responsibility.  Why am I saying this as a Pastor?

Well, guess who Moses instructed to do this job of impressing the commands of God on the children?  Fathers!  Some pastors try to say “parents.”  But, that is not how the Hebrew is constructed here.  It’s written in the masculine gender.  Daddy, you have got to lead your home spiritually and Daddy, you can and should have a relationship with your children that is so intimate that they should be able to come and talk to you about ANYTHING!  I mean anything!  You are their Daddy!  Why shouldn’t they come to the one who is their provider, protector and spiritual leader? 

Now, what I’m saying seems strange and odd to some of you as you read this blog post.  That’s ok.  The Bible is always and I mean ALWAYS “counter-cultural.”  Don’t listen to the lies of the world.  Don’t be taken captive by false and deceptive philosophies.  The Bible says in Colossians 2:8:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Hey parents…spend time with your children.  Talk to them.  I mean really talk to them.  Turn off the TV and just take the Word of God and read it together and then talk.  You will be amazed at how they will open up and share.  I’ve also found that the 10-15 minutes right before bedtime is when my children seem the most open and free-flowing with their emotions and feelings.  So, take the time to get away from Facebook and the emails and the sports programming and sit on the side of the bed of your 5-year old or 16-year old or whatever age…and just talk.  After all, isn’t that what the Heavenly Father wants from His children?  Is there anyone else that we would go to?  I think not.

Read Full Post »