John 10:14 (ESV)
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
I think it was called the Illinois Christian Teen Convention, or maybe it was something like the Illinois Christian Youth Convention, either way, I was there in the 90's with my friends from the First Church of Christ Georgetown, getting all on fire for Jesus! They had Degarmo and Key and DC Talk in concert, so you know it was about near impossible to leave without wanting to save the world.
It was a collection of 2000 teens, listening to awesome speakers and good Christian music. We had invited non christian friends for the trip, hoping they would obey the gospel, and we were hoping to become stronger Christians ourselves in the process. I remember the bus had around 50.
I was on the front row for the final night, pretty much right in the middle. Slightly older college kids were leading worship and exhorting us to carry the gospel into all the world. The world was going to hell and only we could save them!
The problem was (and still is) I am very particular about words. It is why I have become a preacher. I spend a lot a time with words and I take them seriously, even at age 16, though at times, I lacked some much needed common sense.
Then it happened, about 20 minutes before the end. The speaker challenged us to "Stand up and RE-DEDICATE our lives to Jesus!"
2000 teens stood, from all over Illinois to rededicate their lives to Jesus - all but one - me. I remained seated. I really "stood out" even though my posture was rigidly posterior. I was all alone.
I had dedicated my life to Jesus the previous year at church camp and I took it very seriously. I led Bible studies at the High School and I went over and taught Bible at the Jr. High. I helped organize our youth group, preached at church and even shared the gospel in jail at a very young age. I did not need to REDEDICATE, I was STILL DEDICATED. I felt it would have been wrong for me to stand up, to rededicate my life when I had not ceased believing what I stood for the previous year. I felt like it would have been wrong to rededicate my life to Jesus. I wanted Jesus to know nothing had changed!
Looking back on this, I was obviously missing the larger point, but I wanted Jesus to know I was still with Him, just as much as last year, so I stayed seated. The only one in 2000 screaming teens. It was truly embarrassing.
The speaker and all the song leaders just looked at me. "Stand up for Jesus! Rededicate your life! Repent, before it is too late!" Yes, the speaker was speaking to us all, but his eyes were firmly on me. He must have been thinking, "That poor kid, he needs Jesus soooooo bad. He must really be messed up and on his way to hell!"
Again, we were all led to sing another song standing, I remained seated. They preached some more as all the my fellows teens stood, yet still I, remained seated. They sang a final and last song, with everyone present on their feet, EXCEPT ME.
My resolve was commendable, my execution, not so much.
Today, I still sit alone much of the time, but I don't relish being alone. I try to fit in, but most of the time I can't walk in lock step with others. I'm introverted and don't like being apart of the crowd. Even though we Christians are apart of the church, it is a journey we must walk alone at times, because even the followers of Christ can loose their way.
The good shepherd will find you, if you know his voice. Hold tight till he comes.
This is a thought exercise. If you are not sure who is right about this football fiasco, try switching the parts around to see how it looks from the other side. Hopefully, this will help you figure out what is going on with the NFL and the national anthem. Since this has turned into a Right vs Left issue, let's take the Left and use one of their beloved institutions and see what protesting it would look like.
Imagine you are very progressive and you are proudly running a sodomite organization, like NAMBLA for instance, whose goal is the sexual exploitation of young boys. Now imagine, one of its employees started promoting Christian values. Don't you agree the sodomite organization has a right to fire that person since he is going against the mission of the group? I am a Christian and even I believe they have the right to fire a person like that!
Realize, the football players rights have not been violated in any way shape or form. They are being allowed to protest! Federally, the government can't do anything to them for protesting peacefully, and they are. But, free speech doesn't extend to the workplace. If I start saying things that my church doesn't believe in, they have every right to fire me. When you become an employee, your job is to make your company money or your organization flourish. If your speech is bad for business, you can be fired, and should be.
The NFL owners are allowing them to break the rules, which were set before, that all must stand respectfully at attention for the national anthem. Obviously it is because the owners are scared to be called racist, they are being allowed to kneel. If anything, the players are getting more rights, as they know they won't be fired for breaking the rules. I can't do that in my organization.
So, the football players are getting to do more than the average person. They are hurting their business and they still get to keep their jobs. That is actually not fair, not fair at all. They are being treated special because of the color of their skin. This is the opposite of oppression, it is actually elitism. Black NFL players have more rights than white people, and make a heck of lot more money than I do.
The Left is upset at the national reaction to their protest. Their message that this country is racist from top to bottom is failing. Even if the players are kneeling on behalf of others, they chose the wrong forum to do so. The national anthem is a military anthem and it looks like disrespect to veterans, not standing up for blacks suffering from police brutality. These black men are doing much better than most and should be thankful, not indignant.
They have every right to kneel, but they can't make anyone watch, and it can't be guaranteed they wont lose their jobs. Once the league starts losing major money, the rules will once again be enforced.
They have a right to fight for what they believe in, but no one has a right to make others listen. Obviously, I can't make you read this editorial. I hope you have, but I can't make you read this and I certainly can't make agree with it.
That is what they are trying to do, make you believe them. I don't.
When I worked for a Christian boarding school, I was asked by the director: "How many baptisms are you going to have this summer?" I said, "I don't know." He looked at me puzzled. I had given the wrong answer.
What I found out is they try to end the year with a bunch of baptisms so they can put in into their newsletter and send it to the churches to make it look like they are producing. Kind of like a business trying to impress its stockholders.
To me, the kids already baptized were not really Christians. They were very carnal, with no discernable difference between them and the non-Christian kids. They had gotten wet, but the Holy Spirit was not a part of their lives. Despite living at a Christian boarding school most of their life.
I did baptized one. He asked me, I did not ask him. We talked it over for a long time. I told him being a Christian would be a rough life. As a true preacher of the gospel I tried to talk him out of it, but I failed, he wanted to do it anyway!
I pray that Christ is still real to him today. Despite the mixed messages from the Christian community trying to help him and the temptations on the reservation it is hard to know what is right sometimes.
God bless that young man, but we had a 1 and only 1, for the newsletter.
Luke 24:47 (ESV)
and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
I spent a couple years working with the Apaches while in Arizona. It was a disappointing experience. It was not the fault of the Apaches but rather the "Christians." I had never seen so much selfishness as the churches that descended down upon that reservation like vultures. Essentially what I witnessed was an industry of tourism built upon the backs of the poor that allowed a bunch of people to feel good about themselves at the expense of the people we were trying to reach.
I witnessed indoctrination, baptisms out of coercion, emotional manipulation, kids taken from their parents for extended stays, racism, and even abuse.
Success is not measured by going home and telling your church you baptized twenty second graders during your mission vacation. Those same kids will get baptized again the next week when another church comes or "ask Jesus into their heart" when yet another church comes. It's all the same to them.
Kids will do pretty much anything for candy, and candy is cheap. The gospel cost too much apparently, to transport from the Midwest to Arizona. The mission trip you took that "Changed Your Life" most likely did nothing to change the people you were supposed to be helping.
They need longterm missionaries willing to model Christ. People who will teach them the truth, respect them as people, and who realize they are guest upon the reservation.
We can't be WASP descending upon a people stinging them with white man's religion. Instead we all need to follow the man from Palestine who died 2000 years ago to unify the nations, and to make us all the Kingdom of God. Until the Midwest can let go it preconceived notion of "This is how you do church" it's never going to be able to meet the people of the Southwest were they are, spiritually or geographically.
I remember attending a Pow Wow in Ohio a few years back. Native people were doing dances around a circle while a bunch of white people like me watched. There were lots of dances, but one of the dances was a memorial for the veterans who fought for America during its various wars.
I got tired and sat down and so did a few other people. It was long. The announcer told us all to stand back up to honor the people who died for this country. I stood back up in pain, but made it through.
My point is, these people literally had their nation taken from them by force but now consider themselves Americans and honor the flag. They expect white people to honor their service just as much as any other American. They don't give you the option to sit down or take a knee.
What I found interesting about the Pow Wow, was its purpose. It is an attempt for many different native tribes to preserve their culture. Yet, in preserving their culture, they now incorporated their new American culture into mix, and now many join the military on behalf us all. WOW!
They were trying to preserve their culture, but as fellow Americans, not as people who view themselves as something other.
I found this powerful, so I stood.
If ISIS can attract young people to leave the conveniences of Western civilization to travel to the middle east to live in horrible conditions in the desert - just to blow themselves up - then why can't we grow our churches?
What is ISIS doing that is causing young white kids to leave everything that comes with Western Civilization behind? So far I see three things.
They have a cause, a mission.
They are not trying to make it easy or promising life will be "better". In fact they may loose it.
They fight for what they believe in.
What do we do? We go to a service for couple hours a week.
Churches that fight over little things will never recruit Christian soldiers to fight for what really matters.
Do we make Christianity too easy? The seeker sensitive movement model has obviously failed. Our churches churn through members and the ones who stay don't really stand for anything that would put them at odds with the culture. The church overall is NOT MAKING an impact and we are loosing ground.
Early on in church history, visitors were expelled from the church for communion, as the church was exclusive. During this same era, it tooks years to actually become a Christian and you could be dismissed if you were not faithful in your classes.
The next time a young person is in one of our megachurches and buys a latte, he may start wondering "Is this all there is to Christianity? I want to believe in something that requires my life, not my allowance money."
And this is the exact young person who saves saves his money and buys a ticket to the middle east. Church, we are making this too easy.
Matthew 8:20 (ESV)
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Known as an expert in all he surveys, he freely shares his opinions on politics, science & theology using diatribes based upon careless research from tertiary sources that presupposed what he thought in the first place.