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Depraved Indifference: Are you a Wilberforce?

In a couple weeks, I will be preaching at my church. The topic will be Serving One Another. However, my sermon will take a winding path to show what it looks like to serve others. By this, I mean in order to serve others, a disciple of Christ must know the length to which Christ calls us to serve.

We live in a postmodern age. Christianity is under attack from the secular world, as it always has been. In the past, Christianity came under attack in the form of physical wars on battlefields, but today’s attacks come in the form of ideological and philosophical battles, some of which the Church is ill-equipped to respond to. In the 1900s, the Church withdrew from society when the social gospel was gaining popularity, and the it was pushed further out of the public sphere when President Johnson’s War on Poverty began. As such, we’ve lost sight of the extents that Christ has called us to. To that end, we’ve gained an attitude of depraved indifference to those around us, those who need Christ the most–the poor, brokenhearted, orphans, etc. Like the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2, the Church has forgotten its first love and refrained from the works it once did.

In serving others, Christ calls us to the point of extreme self-sacrifice. To the point of shedding our blood even. When you look at the horrors in the world today, what is your overall response? Do you look away? Do you go “Oh my gosh, that’s horrible.” (Hotel Rwanda) and then go back to what you’re doing? Or are you moved to do something about it? Are you moved to do something about injustice in your own backyard? Do you have a neighbor who suffers? What have you done to reach out to those people to bring them closer to love and redemptive power of Christ?

When I think of everyday men in history who gave their lives to remove injustices in culture, I think of William Wilberforce. He fought for over a quarter of his life (20+ years) to abolish the British Slave Trade, and then more years of his life to abolish slavery…and he succeeded. Not alone mind you, but he was alone for the most part in Parliament in his calls for the fight against slavery. He saw it as such an anti-Christian thing to do to look at someone in slavery and not to do anything about it.

Wilberforce writes:

“”God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners (morals)”

Wilberforce was not just a political pragmatist, but a God driven man who had watched the morals of Christendom wane away, most are afraid to rock the cultural boat. If we as Christians do not speak out and act against the injustices in culture–from abortion to orphans and the homeless.

Please realize that I am not on a social justice kick here-but the church has failed to respond with the love of Christ on social issues.

Christ has given us an example to live up to–and it requires us to sacrifice our time, our comfort, and in certain instances our lives for His Gospel. “I must decrease so that he may increase.” 

Now, this posting simply a preview to what I wish to say exactly. I will post my actual sermon in a couple weeks as well as hopefully a sound (hopefully a video) recording of me giving it. That will come up on May 26th, so stay tuned to hear and read what exactly being a Servant and Soldier of Christ must look like…

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Family

So, for the past two weeks–from January 18th to February 3rd (at the time I am writing this, I am still currently on vacation, and am, in fact, writing this before I sleep and in the home of my cousin and her family). Since starting this vacation, nothing has happened as I thought it would in my head leading up to it. I thought it would be all fun. Son of a gun, God had a different plan…as He normally does when it comes to me and my life. I have gotten to know and reconnect with my cousin mainly through Facebook and we have grown close than we had been when we were younger, granted having 400+ miles of distance does prevent that happening between family members. But from the moment I stepped off the bus in Minneapolis, the servant’s heart that God placed within me has been on the go go go. Like stepping off the bus that takes USMC Recruits to Parris Island–the moment you leave it, you never switch off. I had no idea that I was going to end up ministering to my cousin and her husband in many different ways. God slammed me into a stormy situation that had yet to happen and was already starting to brew. Now, granted, my cousin and her husband could have handled everything on their own and made through it alright–when both of their kids get sick at the exact same time and have to still get everything else that has to be done accomplished while taking care of two younglings, it’s doable just extremely tough. In my mind, I committed a series of cultural faux pas’ as it were being a guest in their home. I served them immensely throughout these past several days. Now, before y’all go and just say I’m bragging on myself, I want to say that is not what I’m doing here, I had no idea this was going to happen. But through this, God has taught me tons to myself, and He slammed me into a serving opportunity that I had not had in several months that pushed me so hard. And I wanted to share the lessons

And while this was supposed to be a vacation, it ultimately wasn’t–but I still wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have gotten to know my cousin and her family on a level I probably thought wasn’t going to be possible.

Follow my train of thought here as I have studied Scripture, seeking out what God was trying to teach me on this the past week, or reminding me of things already known, but had to be brought to the surface again…

  1. Taking Care of Family
    1. 1 Timothy 5:8
      1. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
  2. Servant Leadership
    1. John 13:1-17
      1. Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

  3. Christian Living
    1. Romans 12:1-13
      1. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

These 3 passages of Scripture arose many different times in the time I’ve spent with my family. And it’s been amazing to look back and reflect. I can’t even go into all of what I’ve learned because, as you can see from the Scripture, they ALL came into play. At the end of it all, what was supposed to be a time of fun, refreshment, and a break from life turned into a time of being busy and ministering to my family who, while it was a totally huge need, still needed help and God showed those opportunities to me where I could step in and serve them.

And through all of this, I got to know my cousin, her husband, and their children in an intimate way that truly brought us closer together. Closer, I say, than simply being cousins–I can certainly say that after all of this, I have gained another set of siblings, and by extension, a nephew and niece by adoption if I might be so bold as to say so. And I pray to God that I get to keep continue to getting to know them.

For me, family is not something that is defined and limited by labels in that community of people, especially when it comes to biblical mandate. Christ broke down barriers. There is no slave or free, Gentile or Jew–there is only Christ and His church. Christ never subscribed to labels except that which He knew he had the divine authority to apply to Himself. For me, if I am with others from the body of Christ, I only see a brother and Sister in Christ, and they are deserving of the love of Christ that fills me when they need someone to serve them.

And my cousin has been such a gracious host–dealing with my normal antics that surely drives others crazy while dealing with the craziness in her own life. She has great patience, thoughts, and understandings about a great many things, as does her husband. And it is my extreme pleasure to have them in my life and to continue to getting to know them and hopefully continue to do life with them.

And so, as I lay here at 12:22AM typing this, I pray that if they both read this, they know and understand that this vacation of mine, while it may not have turned out the way I thought it would and should–God took it and used it both to remind me what it means to follow Him, be a leader and servant for His Church, what it means to be a part of a family, and what constant Christian Living looks like. It has been a huge blessing to me and I am glad and happy all of this has taken place. And I gained a new brother and sister out of the deal 🙂

 

Good night!

~Tom

Back from Hiatus

To my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ of the world,

Sorry all for the prolonged hiatus. It’s been a very busy year for myself. I have been confirmed by my church as a deacon and then later as the Chairman. So this next year will be a trying one and a busy one as I learn what God has for me in these roles. But recently, I came across John 13:1-17 and Ephesians 4:1-16. Both of these passages encompass two aspects in following Christ—being a servant leader in your community (John 13) but then expands out to encompass the body of Christ as a whole. First, let explain to you what the word “community” means to me. The word, when spoken, drives up the image of the surrounding neighborhood that you live in. And this is true, but for the follower of Christ, that word blows up into being MORE than your immediate neighborhood. It’s your work, it’s the friends you hang out with, it’s your church—if you are surrounded by people in different aspects of your life, then that is your mission field that Christ has assigned to you to reach out and serve them. Establishing relationships and meeting people where they are at is the best way to remove the bad image that the body of Christ has received in recent years—reach out to those who are Catholic who had their faith shaken by the scandal earlier this year, give a coat to a man living on the streets, volunteer to shake a bell for the Salvation Army—make your presence known on the streets as to who you are—a redeemed and broken follower of Christ.

Regarding the Ephesians passage, this is meant for your edification. Worshipping with a body of believers is meant to refresh and encourage you, and to see what God has to teach you that morning. Everyone has a hymn and a saying as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians. No one is just there, God has a purpose for you in His church and it ultimately glorifies him.

 

Prayers and blessings to you all, I hope to be writing more in the future as I step into the new roles that God has for me in the next year.

Embracing the Fire

The beginning of Ezekiel 33 tells us that God made Ezekiel a watchman for Israel. Jeremiah was a prophet who tried to warn Israel about the upcoming consequences of the nation’s failure to live up to their part of the covenant with God. Daniel and his friends were placed in positions of power in a nation hostile to their faith—and yet they wielded their influence for God’s glory, even when it might have caused strife with people. Paul was not afraid to get into a war of words with people who disagreed with him and the message he brought. In all, Scripture is filled with people who used the gifts they were given for God’s glory, and sometimes that meant reasoning, arguing, debating, etc.

3 times this year, I have been called out 3 different times that I’m essentially compromising my witness because of the things I post on social media. And yet, my opinion is that these people don’t know the gift sets that God has blessed me with to use for Him and His kingdom. But first, allow me to do two things to make things clear—I am not writing this to bring attention to me and make people go “oh poor Tom.” That is not my intention, either with this post or any other post on any other platform. The second is to make clear the reason why I post the things that I post.

Now, what are my gifts. Allow to first say what are now my gifts….Primarily, I am not:

An evangelist.

A preacher

A healer

An apostle

A prophet

What I am is a particularly good writer, critical thinker, and good at discipling. These are the skill sets that God has given me.

God calls us to be engaged in the culture but not to become part of it. Practicing the idea of extreme ascetism is not biblical. When I was in college, people were afraid to engage in topics of politics or social topics because they didn’t want to argue or they saw no point in debating—whether on social media or in person. But here’s the thing—most of these people who hold to the idea of “Do evangelism, Not (insert action)” don’t realize that when they evangelize, they are being offensive and will definitely cause argument and strife. The gospel, by its very nature, is offensive and argumentative because it makes a claim of exclusivity. So, by simply evangelizing, they will be stepping into a world of argument. And if one hasn’t sharpened that skill to make persuasive arguments and know how to talk and counter ideas, then that person’s witness has been compromised, for they will have failed to show and represent what God’s kingdom stands for effectively and clearly. Jesus says that he came with a sword that would divide friends and family—the sword being the Gospel and God’s Word.

The reason I engage in the topics I talk about and post the things I post is not to start an argument, but start a discussion in the hopes that it will open up an opportunity to share Christ. But I am not primarily an evangelist, but a discipler. To me, someone who has disciples is one who is knowledgeable, reasonable, teaching, and understanding. I have done this in mentorships, my job, and in my church. Another reason I engage in politics is that the topics upon which that realm includes, is because those topics were made political when they never should have been. But since those who have taken a decisive stance against God have made these topics political by dragging them into that realm, it has become necessary to educate myself on them and then share what I read and observed with others. Political learning has become necessary in order to steer the realm of politics effectively and to engage with those people who are very hostile to God. God calls us to be Salt, Light, Watchmen, Ambassadors, Soldiers, etc. And the one thing all of these have in common is to know God’s Word well and to represent Him well. If you’re afraid to engage in the culture and to educate yourselves on topics, then you’re part of the problem that faces the American body of Christ. The body of Christ in America has become what John in Revelation has called lukewarm and God will spit us out if we do not become on fire for him—in ALL manners.

 

I embrace the fire—I’m not afraid to walk towards it. But if you don’t want to argue or reason with people, which is a dying skill, then you are the ones who are unprepared.

If you read writings by Matt Walsh, Ben Shapiro, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, and others on these very topics I have addressed myself but have no problem with them doing it—then your calling me out rings hollow.

Now, if you’re going to practice reasoning, arguing, and persuading there are two skills from the Bible you will need to practice:

“Be slow to speak, quick to listen”

When talking to someone who holds another belief or viewpoint than yours, listen to them first and wait for them to make their point. Then present yours in a clear, calm, concise way.

 

Meditate on God’s Word

Know what God’s Word says on a particular topic but most importantly, know how to communicate it to the secular world that doesn’t mention the Bible, since the secular world doesn’t consider the Bible an authoritative source.

Faith Crisis

My friends and fellow readers,

Sorry that I have had an extensive absence from writing.

Since December, my life has been in constant upheaval. From car troubles, to getting seriously sick, to having a job transfer, to issues with my personal life, I have not had a moment to myself to really think about everything, and quite honestly, I have really been questioning my faith.

But then I came across the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water–we all know the story right? Jesus is walking on a very stormy lake towards his disciples who are struggling to get the boat they are in to the shore, they see Jesus and think that he is a ghost. Jesus assures them that it is him and Peter asks to come out on the water.

You know the rest.

Several times these past 6 months, I’ve floundered like Peter and have failed to really rely on God. I’ve wondered what will happen. Like Peter, I took my eyes off of Jesus and focused upon the fierce waves of life around me and I started to sink in the water. And the one difference between me and Peter is that I failed, multiple times, to call out to Jesus and God to save me.

But you know what, even though I never called out to Him to help me, He still was faithful to me and He showed up in numerous ways to make sure I did not fail and had everything  I needed to keep going in life. Like he did with Peter, before I started to drown, He caught me by the hand, pulled me out of the water and back into the boat, and got into it with me.

See, when Jesus promised to never leave or forsake us, He meant it, even when we fail on our part, He catches us because He promised he would do so. That is such a powerful reminder and such a great reassurance that He will.

God is our salvation, our strong fortress, and our refuge. Christ promised that he would never leave us or forsake us and that he would make sure that we would have everything we would need to live, because God knows that we need them to live and to carry out the purpose that he has for our lives

So remember, when it looks like that your life is at its lowest, just look at what God has given you to keep going and don’t ever take your eyes off of Him and become fearful of the storming waves surrounding you, Christ is right there with you.

I hope to provide many more insights from God that He has shown to me with you soon!

Roaring Lions

God is a roaring lion.

That is a very simple fact. Do you feel like you’re surrounded by the enemy and that you don’t know which way to turn when you’re challenged on your faith? Do you feel like that if you open your mouth others are going to shout us down? Well, we have forgotten that God has the louder voice. He has the power to quell those voices, but we have to be brave enough to stand up in a situation and engage the person or persons who wish to fight against God’s truth.

I realize I haven’t written in a while, my job has been crazy busy and I have had some awesome opportunities arise in my life. But now, going forward, I would like to start a series on how we should be roaring lions—being salt and light—in our culture. This series is going to cover the book of Daniel—a man, along with his friends, thrown into a culture hostile to God and His Word. Daniel was a man who had multiple opportunities to stand for God, and took them even when it was unpopular and even when he was facing death.

I am hoping that through this series, we can learn walk as Daniel did—being an ambassador for Christ, an ambassador in chains, A ROARING LION. Remember Lion King? Simba who was young couldn’t roar like his father? But then later in the movie, when he came back to face Scar, he was a spitting image of his father Mufasa, and his roar was just as terrifying—we are to be the very same. We are to be Christ-like but it is His voice that people are to be hearing. We are to lambs with the faces of lions.

 

Join me on this trek, will you?

Growing

So, I celebrated my 29th birthday this past weekend. OLD I know–but while there are some parts of me that make me feel older than I am, it hasn’t slowed me down. In fact, I keep looking for the next thing that I could glorify God with in each moment. And this weekend, I had a discussion with a friend, who I hadn’t seen in close to 5 years, that REALLY refocused me on how my home church could grow. And a lot of things were discussed. I’ll do my best to summarize my friend’s points. So here goes. On face value, I believe we agreed that, generally speaking, the Church, meaning the body of Christ, has grown apathetic in the way it’s been fulfilling the biblical mandate given to us by Christ. The mandate is otherwise known as the Great Commission. For reference, here is the Great Commission taken from Matthew 28:19-20, in the ESV…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

So, I’m going to get to the finer points that my friend has made to me about growing the Church by breaking down the Great Commission into two parts.

First, Jesus says to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” This is and should be the driving force of the Church and its full complete focus in the world today. It should be its top most priority in the operation of the Church. This is what the Church is apathetic about in its entirety. Now, I’m not saying each individual church is apathetic–I just don’t want to get into all the shades of grey in this post, so I’m just speaking in broad and general terms. In talking with my friend, the American Church in particular thinks that by sending missionaries out, that it has fulfilled its biblical mandate in the first part of the Great Commission, meaning the part where Jesus says Go. I didn’t get into the nitty gritty details with my friend about this, but by the statements he made, I believe he would agree with my assessment going forward here. When Jesus said go, he did not just mean send others. EACH AND EVERY FOLLOWER OF CHRIST IS REQUIRED UNDER THIS MANDATE TO FULFILL IT. This means that the follower of Christ who gets up in the morning, goes to his or her 9am to 5pm job Monday to Friday, comes home to their family, makes dinner, and lives pretty much a vanilla life, is required to obey the first command within the Great Commission, given to us by Jesus, to speak of God’s gospel, truth, and Word just as much as the person who went to Africa, Europe, Asia, or any other continent, and bring more people into the fold of God’s family.

However, the Church also has a misguided approach, I believe, in reaching out to people and making Christ known to them in trying to grow God’s Church–my friend stated that there are three ways that the Church has approached this–1) Growth by conversion, 2) People think of the Church as the building–thereby letting anyone not part of God’s family make the decision to come to church on their own and reaching them once they’re in the doors, and 3) the organizational structure of the Church–raising up committees and letting people on those committees fulfill the first command of the Great Commission.

Let me just say that all three of these ways are wrong–and it creates the atmosphere of apathy towards everything that God says we should be focusing all our attention on–Mind, body, and soul.

As I said before, each follower should not just be passing the buck because of the 3 aforementioned approaches. Look at your own church and see if they fit one, two, or all of the approaches. And then look at your own life and see if you’re following Christ’s mandate of “Go,” if you’re not, then you might want to reevaluate how you should be fulfilling it. Take a look at John 15:1-11 if you need further evidence beyond what I’m saying here. If we wish to remain in Christ, we should be keeping ALL of His commandments and we should not be apathetic to them. In fact, if you or your church has become apathetic and withdrawn itself from the community, it has entered into a state of sin before God, and I firmly believe this. It is in the apathy of the Church that Satan rejoices, for if we are not fulfilling the Great Commission, then we are not allowing God to work through us to win souls for Christ from Satan’s deathly grip.

In fact, the biggest reason the Church has become apathetic in its attitude to the world and to Christ’s command is because they’ve become solely focused on two things: 1) the second command of Christ in the Great Commission, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” and 2) the Church has become focused on the spiritual health and growth of those already become believers and not reaching out to those not part of God’s family. 

It’s okay to make sure that there is growth in one’s walk with Christ–teaching them what Christ has taught us. But in order for any church to grow, that means the Church must be going out and inviting those who are living sinfully to come and worship with us. We cannot expect them to come to that decision on their own unless they are presented with the opportunity to either accept or decline the invitation. And the only way to do that is by using my favorite method of evangelization–relational witnessing. Confrontational witnessing had its place in history, and it still does today–but the environment has to be right for it. However, in my opinion, relational witnessing has a better success rate of bringing those to Christ. It means going out and creating a friendship with these people by first meeting their physical, emotional, or mental needs then meeting their spiritual needs. Christ did this repeatedly–he often met the worldly needs of people before speaking to their spiritual needs. He would feed people and then used the feeding He had done as a spiritual lesson and brought it back to who He was and who had sent Him.

The Church, once again generally speaking, has become more concerned with those already in the pews and come consistently every Sunday rather than those who truly need the Church’s help and are in need of the love of Christ–as Christ said: “It is not the healthy that are in need of a doctor but the sick…” (Paraphrasing here). The Church has fallen into the reverse of this–we are treating the healthy but not the sick.

My friend and I both came to and agreed upon the same conclusion–the Church has become inwardly focused when it should be outwardly focused.

Let us, the body of Christ, become healthy vines again bearing good fruit and representing Christ who is the root in all our lives…

Closing in prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for giving us another day to live for your glory. It is only because of your will that the sun continues to bring each new morning to your creation–and with it new mercies. We ask that if any who have decided to read what I have written tonight are struggling in their own lives, you lay your hand of comfort, peace, and wisdom upon them. Help them to feel your presence next to them, and to draw their strength from that to continue into each day. We also ask that you walk through each day with us, helping and guiding us to make decisions that will ultimately glorify you, your Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

In your Son’s and your Name we pray, Amen.

~Tom