These Words are Your Life

I have observed as a general rule that mankind tends to put off big decisions, big tasks and deep thinking about the big issues in life until such a time as they cannot be avoided any longer.

The thinking may sound like this, “Sure I know I need to think about religion eventually, but that’s a long ways off…lot’s of life to live before I need to deal with that sort of thing.”

This same attitude has always been prevalent among men.  Perhaps that’s why Moses had these words to say to the Israelites after giving them commands from the Lord:

And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 32:45-47)

You would think that it would be enough for the people of Israel to simply hear a word from God.  After all, they had seen great and awesome works – miracles that no one had ever seen before.  But Moses wouldn’t have had to say, “it is no empty word for you, but your very life” if there wasn’t a natural tendency to disregard and not take seriously God’s words and God’s commands.

In the New Testament, we see the same thing with Felix and several of the other rulers that Paul testified before during his trial.  He confronted them with such stark and powerful truth that they were forced to put him off.  They didn’t want to deal with life and death decisions – they simply wanted more wine and cheese!

We find the same thing today, and that’s why (I believe) we read Jesus saying things like “I am the way the truth and the life” – He wants us to understand in no uncertain terms that His words are not “empty” or simply prophetic, or merely good for instruction.  To follow the teaching of Jesus is to make life and death decisions.

The Apostle John later affirmed this in his first epistle:

Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:10-12)

Perhaps you would agree with me that these are “big” topics.  You ought not to open the Bible simply to read bedtime stories.  And what is more, most homes in America own a Bible of some kind, yet it sits there neglected.  The words of life, ignored. Night after night we watch our favorite television show, and delay the bigger things in life.  We know the truth is out there…but that can wait until tomorrow…can’t it?

To ask the question is to answer it.

Furthermore, if you are a Christian and you are not regularly reading the word of God you are depriving yourself.  You are cutting off the oxygen of the Christian life, and you are doomed to go through life with little wisdom and no joy.  I want to encourage you to pick up the Word – be intentional and have a plan.  Get some accountability and read the Word with someone.  Do not neglect the excellent in place of the average.  Do not neglect life in place of death.

I’ll leave you with the words of Jesus:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:4-7)

Superman – the Ministry

 

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In the coming weeks there will be a new Superman movie released by Warner Bros, and I will be the first to admit up front that because I am a lover of fantasy and sci-fi I was excited to catch the movie when it comes out (although being a father of three kiddos I’ll likely see it in the home theatre and not the iMax).

However, I had actually quite forgotten about the upcoming movie release until this afternoon when I received an interesting (if not disturbing) email from StudyLight.org. I subscribe to StudyLight’s email feed so that I can receive Charles Spurgeon’s ‘Morning and Evening’ devotions sent to my email everyday. But this email was nothing even closely related to Spurgeon, devotionals, or Scripture for that matter. Instead it was an email promoting the upcoming Superman movie.

“What is this?” I wondered. The email subject line was entitled: MAN OF STEEL – Free Pastor Screenings and Resources. Okay, you probably know that by this time I was already in a state of confusion. Were these guys promoting resources to help the church correct any misnomers about Scripture that the movie contains? Has there been some public uproar about the movie and its religious overtones that I have missed?

As I dug deeper, it became obvious that the promotion was not only for the movie itself, but for pastoral resources designed to engage congregants using the themes and plot of the Superman movie. In other words, using the movie as the central text and make parallel inferences from scripture to show how Jesus was a “superman.”

To that point, there are even sermon outlines! “Superman’s mythical origins are rooted in the timeless reality of a spiritual superhero who also lived a modest life until extraordinary times required a supernatural response.”

As if Christ was waiting in the wings until things got so bad that as a grown up man he had to do something about it! Thank you Lord for thinking up a Plan B!

But it doesn’t stop there, there are also free resources! From the website: “Welcome to the Pastor Resource Site for the upcoming film, “Man of Steel”. Here you’ll find everything you need to educate and uplift your congregation: Including Free Videos, Sermon Outlines and Images.”

Pastors are being encouraged to use the movie not simply as an analogy, but as the text and background against which entire sermon series will be based – and of course ‘Ministry Resources’ Inc. is ready to provide pastors with trailers, pictures, and all kinds of cool add ons to attract maximum attendance!

Who is Ministry Resources? I’m glad you asked. Once you dig deeper, you’ll find that they are actually a privately held business that caters to the Catholic Church. But it is their slogan that really best explains who they are and their driving motivation: The Stuff You Use – To Fill the Pews!

These days it seems that many churches will do whatever it takes to “get butts in the seats”- and that often means looking more and more like the world. In fact, evangelical leaders are attending and speaking at so-called Christian-leadership conferences with men like best selling author Malcolm Gladwell who see this same thing…and celebrate it. Listen to what Gladwell said in a recent pannel discussion about intelligent design and the evangelical church:

This is part of an ongoing transformation. We will not continue to have this kind of divide between Evangelicals and the rest of society. I just went to an interesting evangelical conference, and throughout, rock bands were playing. The rock-’n’-roll culture within the evangelical world is indistinguishable in terms of the sound of the music from the rock culture that came out of a very different, irreligious secular tradition, except that the words are about Jesus–love and all that. They’re not resisting outside culture, they’re embracing it and kind of making it their own. I think intelligent design and Christian rock are similar. It’s about taking up form from the outside and trying to Christianize it. Does the debate over evolution matter? Isn’t it really a nondebate?

The church is becoming more and more like the world – and the world sees it and celebrates it! If there ever was a time for a generation of leaders in the church who will fight for Sola Scriptura, now is that time.

Of course this is nothing new. Listen to what Paul said to Timothy in a letter written near the end of his life:

…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4, ESV)

2000 years ago Paul knew there would soon be people who didn’t want to sit under the authority of preaching, or study and submit to scripture. When you sit under the authority of true expository preaching where the Word of God is proclaimed the result will be exposed sin – that’s what these people-pleasing pastors and para-church ministries are afraid of, and its what human beings flee from naturally (John 3:19-21).

Any pastor who thinks using Man of Steel Ministry Resources is a good Sunday morning strategy must have no concept of how high the stakes are, or very little confidence in the power of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. As they entertain their congregants with material pumped out from Hollywood’s sewers, lives are kept in bondage, and people’s souls are neglected. In short, the gospel of Jesus Christ is kept hidden despite the fact that life and death are in the balance. Changed lives, changed hearts, and love for God and others (in short: personal and societal transformation and salvation) only comes through the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

StudyLight.org seems to be neglecting the advice of the man whose devotions they send me every morning:

I would rather speak five words out of this book than 50,000 words of the philosophers. If we want revivals, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God. If we want conversions, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons. – C.H. Spurgeon