Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lead Us Not into Consumption

The American Church is drowning in prosperity.  Of the four types of soil Jesus talked about, we are clearly most like the third, where the "weeds" of "the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful" (Matt 13:22).  Most thoughtful men realize this, some have warned eloquently about it, but no one seems to have found an herbicide that works. 

Examine your own life: compare the huge pile of blessings you enjoy (which would be considered fabulous luxuries by people in most places of the world and most times in history), and the trickle of meaningful ministry that you produce.  Of the 168 hours that come your way every week, how many of them get spent simply on keeping yourself and your family rested and fed and healthy and clean and clothed and looking decent (and paying for all of the above)?  How many get spent on the Word of God and prayer and evangelism and discipleship?

Why is it that Christianity is declining in our country while we have more money and more training and more tools available to us than ever before?  Why is it that of 1,999,564,000 professing Christians in the world, only 10,200 are foreign missionaries to unevangelized peoples?  Of the 15.2 trillion dollars in annual income of professing Christians, why do only $250 million make it to supporting foreign missions in unevangelized places?  (Year 2000 statistics, includes all denominations and sects of Christianity.) 

How could this happen in a religion founded by a Someone who had no place to lay His head (Matt 8:20), and propagated throughout the Roman empire by a man who wrote 1 Corinthians while hungry, poorly clothed, and homeless (4:11)? 

I am grateful that the American church has some men who model for us commitment to Scripture, devotion to prayer, skill in evangelism, fidelity in marriage, wisdom in child-rearing, and many other aspects of following Jesus.  But where are the Christian men today who can lead us out of chokehold of the American dream?  Even the ones who preach against it most, seem to lead lifestyles that are virtually indistinguishable from the rest of us. 

Today we honor and admire David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson, David Livingston, John Wesley, George Whitefield, John Paton, and Hudson Taylor for the incredible physical and financial and familial sacrifices they made to see the gospel spread in their generations.  But no one today actually imitates them, or even seems to know how to imitate them, in our culture.  Nor do I.

May the Lord rescue us, for the sake of His own reputation.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

When Bookishness is Bad

A few day ago I realized that my insatiable appetite for reading may be a bad thing. So I’m in the early days of a month's fast from discretionary reading (other than the Bible and one book I’m almost finished with) to see if my relationship with Jesus improves any.

May be tough, I have a couple of juicy books waiting for me. (Stop laughing.)

But I found a few reasons why I love reading so much.  Books are like ideal friends, so much more appealing to me than people.  I like books in the same way that some people like dogs or cats.  Books are quiet when you are busy, and talk when you need their comfort or advice.  They are available to help 24x7.  Books stay the same, and you can come back as many times as needed to the passages that you want to remember. Worst case, if a book is unhelpful or just plain wrong, you just close it and move on. It cannot hurt you in the way a person can.  Books are normally more organized and less messy than people. You can extract the information you want quickly from a book. Books give, people take.

A book also offer the promise of a better life. Its dust jacket tells me that it will give me the key I’ve been missing to better interpersonal skills, or a better walk with the Lord, or better evangelism skills. 

But somehow books still leave me thirsty.  They never make my life as exciting or satisfying as the dust jacket makes it sound.
And books can be more misleading. The author can present his best side, and fool you into believing his words in a way that would evaporate if you could observe him in real life for five minutes. The theologian might be a jerk to his wife, and the evangelism expert might be neglecting his kids.

So, pray that I persist during this 30 days, and emerge from it different, and more balanced.