Sunday, December 26, 2010

What not to say when you visit a church

I strive very hard not to pay attention to extreme points of view in any situation. For instance, I know I am not a perfect preacher. There are many aspects of study and delivery that I haven't mastered. Given that I work 50 hours per week normally outside of church, I definitely believe that I could use more preparation time. So, I don't usually listen to extreme praise or extreme criticism.

But, something very funny, almost shocking, was said to me at church this morning. We had a man visit our church who was obviously not enjoying his time with us. Throughout the service he refused to sing any of the songs and when we would read Scripture, he stared at the ceiling. After the service, just before he left, I went to introduce myself to him and talk to him a little. I went up to him, stuck out my hand, and said, "Hi. My name is Doug. Glad to have you here with us this morning."

His response? And I quote: "Hmmmm. You need to organize your thoughts a little better. And you are too repetitious. You repeat yourself over and over. You know, someone famous once said that everything you need to say should fit on a 3 x 5 card. If you can't limit yourself to that, then you don't really know your subject. You go on way too long. If you can hear yourself talk, you are going on too long."

And with that, he walked out.

Thankfully, nothing I did this morning was about me or my public speaking skill. It was about the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and the glory of God. But, please. The next time you visit a church, say something nice to the pastor for me. He may have just worked a 60-hour work week and had to do the bulletin on his own printer at 10 o'clock the night before. Try building someone up, rather than tearing them down.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Now, I don't know Chris Reichert personally. I haven't even seen the video footage of him throwing money at the man with Parkinson's at the political rally against the Health Care bill. I have read some of what went on and, frankly, as a conservative, I am disgusted. But, I don't know Mr. Reichert, or anyone else who was at the rally, so I have to take his apology at face value.

But, one thing I am sure about what Mr. Reichert originally said and did is that he meant it. It was not as if he was forced to say something he didn't want to say or wasn't really feeling. He can use the excuse of getting caught up in the emotions of a political rally all he wants, but it doesn't change the fact that what he said came, not from the surroundings of the rally, but from his own heart. It's much like someone who gets drunk and says or does things they regret trying to blame the alcohol. It is not that the alcohol made you do something, it is that the alcohol took away some of your inhibitions that keep you from saying or doing what you really feel inside.

Which brings us back to a proper biblical understanding of human nature. We are not basically good. We are not even tabula rasa, or blank slates that are formed completely by our environment. The Bible says that the heart of man is "desperately wicked" and that "every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Now, this is a pretty strong indictment against mankind. But, look at our history, even the events of this past week, and it should be obvious that the Bible is correct.

As fallen human beings, our greatest need is not a new Health Care plan (or a government that completely adheres to the Constitution). The greatest need of every human being, including Mr. Reichert and you and me, is a Savior. We need to be changed from the inside out. We need the sins we commit to be forgiven. And we can't do that ourselves. This is why God sent His Son to die on the cross. He did it for sinful people like Chris Reichert. He did it for sinful people like Doug Mixer. He did it for you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health Care and Christianity

Well, now that we have all had a chance to catch our breath after the signing of the Health Care bill, it's time to take a few steps back to really think about how a Christian, not just an American, should think about Health Care. Let me preface everything I am about to say by being clear that I have NOT read the 1990 pages of the bill, so my comments will not be on the substance of the particular bill that just got signed into law.

Now, as a political and fiscal conservative, I could rant on and on about how I don't like big government, how I don't believe health insurance (which is really what I think the debate is all about) is a right guaranteed by the Constitution, how a multi-billion dollar expense when we already are fiscally irresponsible is a bad idea, and many other things. But, I want to approach this issue not as just an conservative American, but as a Christian.

So, here goes:

1) God is concerned about people and we should be, too.

This is not just an American issue, but a human issue. As Christians, we ought to be concerned about the well-being of all human beings and should be willing to sacrifice our "rights" and money to help others. You know, the whole "do unto others" thing? The Reformers rightly understood that the negative commandment to "not murder" presupposed a positive command to care for others well-being.

2) Christians, above all others, should be giving people.

The Bible says that to whom much has been given, much will be required. Now, without taking this verse completely out of context, the general principle is that we as Christians have been given more than anything this world could ever offer. Is it really too much to ask that we are willing to give of our possessions to others to help meet their physical needs?

3) Part of the responsibility of the church is to help those in need.

Of course, the Bible is clear that our primary responsibility is the spread of the Gospel and that, even as far as meeting physical needs is concerned, our responsibility is primarily towards "brothers" or other believers. But we can't get around the biblical mandate to look out for the needs of others and to put "feet" to our words. James 1:27 says "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." Perhaps, if the church wasn't so busy building coffee houses and softball fields on our properties, we would have more resources to do what we don't think the government has a right to do.

4) The answer to everything is never government, but always God.

We must understand that we shouldn't get so caught up in politics that we forget our primary responsibility as Christians. Although we are citizens of our particular country (in my case, the United States of America), ultimately we are citizens of heaven. And our primary interests and responsibilities are not related to our earthly home, but our heavenly home. We should be more concerned with the glory of God and the spread of the Gospel than proper functioning of the civil government. Of course, that does not mean that we pull out of government and put our heads in the sand. It means that we seek to make government better to the glory of God while recognizing that we are ultimately dependent on Him, not that government.

This issue is not a simple cut and dry issue. It is very complex and very complicated. As we respond to the events that are currently taking place, we must remember to do so with patience, love and a view to honoring God.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Trusting the One who alone is trustworthy

Wow! I haven't blogged in a few years. And no one missed me. I guess I'm not as important as I thought!

Anyway, I just finished reading another blog, by David Peters, about preaching to yourself and it reminded me of what I had been talking about in my sermon on Sunday. The topic (yes, I actually preached a topical sermon) was The Church: Who we are and What we do. I wasn't completely a good Baptist, because I only made 2 points and they weren't even alliterated. But the gist of the sermon was that the Church has been founded on and by Jesus Christ and it was founded and continues to develop according to God's divine timetable.

This is, honestly, a troubling reality for us self-centered humans that make up this divine institution known as The Church. We like to at least think that we are in control and that the whole thing is about us. But, in studying Matthew 16:16-18 and Acts 2, we find that it really isn't about us at all. It's all about God and His glory as displayed through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It's all about the Gospel.

And because Christ created the Church and builds the Church as he sees fit, He is the one in control. But, here is where the good news comes in: because Christ is also sovereign and good, He can be trusted to build the church in the best possible way. See, if building any church were up to the pastor or the congregation, we would surely mess it up. But, since building the church is ultimately up to Christ, then we can be guaranteed that the final outcome will be exactly what He wants.

Let's put this into perspective. The church which I pastor, Grace Baptist Church, has been in existence for a little over 10 years. In that brief time, we have seen some great things happen. We have seen the Gospel change people's lives. We have seen marriages healed. We have seen those who had been under discipline from other churches reconciled with those believers and growing in their faith. We have been able to send out missionaries.

But we have also seen some "not-so-great" things. In our 10+ years, we have made some stupid decisions. We have not always pursued families as we should have. We have not always functioned the way the Body of Christ is supposed to function. And we have suffered for it. We have struggled at times and grown discouraged (especially me). But, in preaching this sermon Sunday to myself, one thing I was able to come out with is a confidence. Not a confidence in myself or in my abilities. But a confidence in God and His goodness. God is in absolute control over the development of any church, just as He is in absolute control over everything that happens in our world. Our job, as His children, is to trust Him as we serve Him.