Spiritual Apathy

Apathy refers to a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. It’s OK to be apathetic about some things in life but in other areas it’s dangerous.

There’s no problem if a wife is apathetic about sports or a husband is apathetic about shopping for shoes. It is a problem, however if she is apathetic about taking her blood pressure medicine or he about wearing his safety helmet on the construction site.

Apathy in life isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in the Christian life apathy is never a good thing. It was apparently epidemic in the church in Laodicea and they were severely chastised by God (Revelation 3:14f).

Unfortunately, many Christians suffer from the sickness of spiritual apathy.

It is one of the most ignored problems in the church today. We’ve reached a spiritual low where we’re just happy if people show up on Sunday morning for an hour. They don’t have to DO anything, just be there and we’re good with that.

The problem is that you can have a full church of apathetic people. Church attendance alone is not an indication of a vibrant, connected, ministering church.

The malaise of spiritual apathy is far more dangerous than we recognize. At its core it’s a heart condition. Life is lived by the dictates of the heart (Proverbs 4:23). If you find yourself uninterested, unenthusiastic, or unconcerned about spiritual things it’s because your heart has fallen into an apathetic state.

Rarely, if ever, does spiritual apathy manifests itself in open rebellion. Instead it’s a secret thing, sometimes not even evident to those around us (although often evident to others before we even admit its presence in our lives). Spiritual apathy doesn’t care; it’s an I-can-take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward spiritual things: Bible reading and study, prayer, worship, church, witnessing, our world view, our mental and emotional filters, relationships, service etc.

The thing about spiritual apathy is that it rarely strikes like a bolt of lightning. Instead it sneaks up on you; it’s a process that you don’t see coming. Few Christians become apathetic overnight – but they do over years. We all know people who at one time were faithful but who over time stopped attending church, reading their bibles, praying, witnessing – in short, stopped living the Christian life in any meaningful way.

Spiritually apathetic Christians rarely admit it, either because they are spiritually blind to their own condition or because of the hardness of their hearts. But make no mistake about it, spiritual apathy will damage your Christian life as much as any outward sin.

That’s why it is imperative to maintain a connection in Christ (John 15). Because the alternative is to slowly dry up and become useless to the Kingdom of God.

The key is to guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23), or to keep it with all diligence (NKJB). Because once the heart falls, the rest of life will be close behind.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

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Trusting God

I started a new series in our church yesterday called Unreasonable Faith. Sometimes in the Christian life, God askes us to do things that from our perspective might seem unreasonable, even impossible.

Let me stress that they are not unreasonable when you look at them with spiritual eyes. But most of the time we aren’t looking at life through the eyes of faith and it’s then that things begin to appear as unreasonable.

I began the series with a sermon called Unreasonable Trust.  Even in the darkest times of life God wants our complete trust in His goodness and in the fact that what He does is always right (Proverbs 3:5-6) even if we don’t understand it.

He wants (from a human perspective) an unreasonable trust. He wants our complete, total trust in every situation.

There is so much to say in a sermon like that, that you can’t say everything. But my wife reminded me that I left out something very important. I never answered the question What can I do that will help me trust God more?

So, let me give you a couple of ideas how you can build that kind of trust in God.

Remember the Past

It’s all over the Old Testament. Whenever Israel was down, discouraged, despairing, or even forgetting God, they were reminded of the past. Specifically of the things that God had done for them in their ancient history.

He brought plagues on Egypt; He parted the Red Sea; He gave them water from the rock; He led them through the wilderness; He provided manna for them; He gave them meat to eat (all mentioned in Psalm 78 and other places).

The point was that as they remembered these events, they would be reminded of the faithfulness of God – that He was worth trusting. Asaph, the writer of Psalm 78, said that the value of remembering was that they might set their hope in God, and not forget His works (Psalm 78:7).

The point is that God is worth trusting because of what He has done for you in the past.

What has God done in your life, sometime in the past, that you need to remember today?

Build Monuments

When Israel crossed the Jordan river into the Promise Land, God told them to build a monument using twelve stones from the river. One stone for each tribe.

The purpose of the monument was so they would never forget what happened at that time and in that place (Joshua 4:1-7). And when their children in future years asked them the meaning of the stones, they could tell them what God had done. They were to be stones of remembrance.

Again, the point was that they could trust the God of the past to be their God today.

I’m not suggesting that you build a stone memorial when God answers your prayer or is faithful to you in some other way. There may be other ways you can build a monument. If you’re into journaling, write it down. Take pictures if that’s appropriate. Have your children color pictures and hang them in the upstairs hallway.

Do something to remind you that God is worth trusting.

Know Him Better

There is a direct relationship between how well you know someone and how much you trust them.

Do you remember the game you use to play where you fell backward and hoped that another player would catch you? Sometimes it’s called Trust Fall.

If you didn’t know the person who was supposed to catch you, it was harder to trust them.

The same thing is true of God. You’re only going to trust God to the extent that you know Him.

When the Bible tells us to trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5) it’s implying that you know God with all your heart.

The better you know Him the more you’ll trust Him.

So, spend time in your Bible, praying, meditating on the Word, listening to the Word, worshiping and praising Him. You’ll be amazed at what it will do for your trust.

Complete trust in God won’t come naturally. You’ll have to be intentional about developing it.

It is possible.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

We Can Be So Unlike Christ

It was the followers of Christ in the city of Antioch who were first labeled Christians (Acts 11:26). It wasn’t a name that they took for themselves – it was given to them, and we’re not even sure if it was in respect or in derision. I suspect the latter.

However it happened, people who follow Jesus have been called by that name since those early days of our faith. Today we wear it with justifiable pride. We belong to Christ. We follow Christ. We live for Christ. At least that is the goal.

Whatever Christians do – we are to reflect Christ.

That’s what’s so distressing in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. By a 7-2 decision, the court found that Christian businessman and bakery owner, Jack Phillips could not be forced to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. It was an act that went against his religious convictions.

While I’m happy for Mr. Phillips and personally agree with the court’s decision, the reaction of some Christians has been less than Christ-like. And for that I am ashamed.

According to news reports A Tennessee hardware store owner is celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a bakery that refused to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding by placing a “No Gays Allowed” sign in front of his store. 

The article goes on to quote owner Jeff Amyx, as saying “Christianity is under attack,” “This is a great win, don’t get me wrong, but this is not the end, this is just the beginning. Right now, we’re seeing a ray of sunshine. This is ‘happy days’ for Christians all over America, but dark days will come.”

You can read the entire article here.

Jeff Amyx doesn’t have to wait – dark days are already here and it’s not just because of sin. It’s because Christians are not bringing the light into the darkness (Matthew 5:14-16).

In what universe does a sign, rejecting the very people who need the light of the gospel the most (Mark 2:17), reflect Christ?

I can’t imagine Jesus posting the same sign in the window of his carpenter shop in Nazareth.

Where did Christians ever get the idea that it’s better to alienate people than to love them?

We certainly didn’t get if from Jesus (Mark 2:13-16, Luke 7:36-39). In fact, Jesus gave us a compelling example of how we are to relate to sinful people. While not endorsing their sin, neither did he avoid (or insult) them.

His purpose was not to keep them out of his store. His purpose was to get them into his heavenly home.

It seems to me that you can’t do both at the same time.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Justice is a Hard Word

Justice. It’s a word that conjures up images of a gaunt faced, steely eyed, black-robed, no nonsense judge handing down the sentence. The criminal got what he deserved. No love lost here. Now we can move on with our lives. Justice was served.

We love it – especially if you are a diehard conservative. After all we are a nation of laws! We love Justice. We want judges who will hand it out according to the letter of the law.

There’s little to no place for mercy in our system.

Until we are the one standing before the Judge.

I have yet to read of anyone, conservative or liberal, asking the judge to give them what they deserved. Most, perhaps all, are hoping for the lightest possible sentence. Hoping for mercy.

To be honest, we only want justice for those we have predetermined are unworthy.

But that includes all of us.

According to the highest court in the universe, we are all unworthy – we are all guilty. There is not one innocent person, not even one (Romans 3:10). All are guilty and have come woefully short of keeping the law of God (Romans 3:23). While I’ve paraphrased those two passages, I don’t think that I’ve violated the meaning. In fact, I think this is exactly what they mean.

Somehow when we’re faced with our own guilt before God the righteous judge, our demand for justice changes into something else. We’re not so conservative now. Truthfully, we hope for a giant helping of liberal mercy.

If we were to get justice we know where we would spend eternity. I’m not talking about heaven.

But God is not only Just, He is also the Justifier (Romans 3:26). In His Justice He deals with our sin. As the Justifier He forgives our sin. And it’s all because of Jesus.

God made it possible for our sin to be assumed by another (1 Peter 3:18) and for anyone who will put their faith in Jesus to stand before him in complete innocence (2 Corinthians 5:21).

His is a hard Justice. But it’s a justice tempered by mercy.

Justice without mercy is cruel. Justice tempered by mercy gives hope.

Thankfully God knows what we struggle to understand. That Justice and Mercy can walk hand in hand.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Where Is The Glory?

One of the most tragic stories in the Bible is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel. Israel had been captive in Babylon for approximately five years when God revealed to Ezekiel through a vision, the extreme sinfulness of the small group of people who had been left in Jerusalem.

They had turned the temple of God into a center of pagan worship. There had been a complete rejection of God. Instead of learning from their sin, which resulted in the captivity, they said God does not see us, God has forsaken us (Ezekiel 8:12).

The irony is that God was still there, it was the people who had forsaken Him.

But He wasn’t there for long.

Because of their callus sinfulness, the Glory of God that had resided in the Holiest place in the temple departed from Israel (Ezekiel 8-11).

God removed His presence from His people.

He will not share His space with sin.

The good news is that one day God will change Israel and will give them a new heart and He will put a new spirit in them (Ezekiel 11:19). And once again Israel will be His people and He will live among them. And the Glory will Return.

It’s worth asking – Where is the Glory of God today?

In the Old Testament the Israelites knew where to find the Glory. At least until the time of Ezekiel. But where can people today find the Glory of God? Where does His Glory shine so intensely that they can’t miss it – even if they’re not looking for it?

It’s true that God has displayed His Glory in nature. The Bible says that the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). But that is not the only place where God has revealed His Glory.

And for us – it may not be the most significant place.

Today the Glory of God does not reside in any one place like a temple. It resides in a hundred million places around the world – today the Glory of God resides in the life of every Child of God; in every person who claims the name of Jesus; in every Christian.

People should be able to see His Glory in every one of us. Every. One.

When people look at us they should see all of His magnificence; all of His purity; all of His holiness; all of His splendor; all of His perfection; and all of His love.

They should see all of His Glory.

The Glory of God should be on display for the world to see – in us.

So the Question is: Where is the Glory?

Where is His Glory? Where are people going to see Who God Is?

Let me paraphrase a key text. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, eating, drinking, or whatever, do it so people can see His Glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

If people are going to see the Glory of God they must see it in us.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Learn to Let Go

One of the problems that we as Christians experience in life is not being able to let go of situations that cause anxiety, stress, pain and even anger. It often seems that we are incapable of simply letting them go.

We pray about them and we ask God to remove them (that’s good), but for some unknown, divine reason He doesn’t. And since we cannot know the mind of God, we wrongly assume that He doesn’t care. You’ll have to take this one on faith – He cares, even when we think He doesn’t.

I wonder if we put too much on God. Not too much in the sense that He can’t handle it, but too much in the sense that we can and should handle it.

Not everything requires God’s intervention.

Sometimes we just need to let it go. Not always – but sometimes. The wisdom comes in knowing when it’s right to let something go.

I think the Apostle Paul indirectly touches on this issue in Romans chapter 12. That’s the passage that famously says things like, Repay no one evil for evil. And Do not avenge yourselves. And Heap coals of fire on his head.

The reason behind these statements is because revenge belongs to God (vs 19). When we step into territory that belongs to God, we’ve stepped over the boundary.

So what are we to do while we’re waiting for God to do whatever He’s going to do?

There are several things. Naturally we should pray. We should spend more time with God so He can change us. We should try to learn what we can about God, sin, ourselves, forgiveness etc. because God is always teaching us.

But we should also learn to let go. Just. Let. It. Go.

Responding to some things in life is God’s prerogative, not ours (vs 19).

Let go of what’s not yours.

Let go of what you can’t change.

Let go of whatever is toxic in your life.

At the same time let go of your anger (Col 3:8). Let go of your bitterness (Eph 4:31, Heb 12:15). Let go of your desire to get even (Rom 12:18). Let go of anything that does not promote godliness in your life (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

You’ve probably heard the expression Let go and let God. It’s an expression that is easy to misuse. But it applies here. In fact it’s exactly what Paul is advocating for in Romans 12. Let go of what is not your right. Let go of what you can’t change. Let go and let God be God.

It’s not easy to do. You will have to learn how to do it. And that means learning to control your mind and thoughts. The mind is a hard thing to control. It wants to control us.

But the key to letting go is controlling it. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:6 that we are to bring every though into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

In the context of that passage he was referring to ungodly philosophies that exalt themselves above God. But the principle is still there – that every though is to be made captive to Christ. That includes our thoughts.

When we learn to control our minds and thoughts we will find that it’s possible to let go and trust our problems to God (Prov 3:5-5).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Is God Hiding?

I’m intrigued by the hiddenness of God. The Bible presents God as both beyond us, hidden from our eyes (Job 11:6-7, Isaiah 55:8-9, Romans 11:33-36) and at the same time there for us (Jeremiah 9:23-24, Matthew 11:28). He is both incomprehensible and knowable.

The idea of the hiddenness of God has caused some people to reject Christianity and to even take the position that there is no God. Their reasoning can take several different directions but ultimately it comes down to this: if God does exist then He should reveal Himself in a way that removes all doubt.

Even as Christians we struggle with the hiddenness of God. When we face the acute pressures of life we want God to make Himself known to us in unmistakable and obvious ways. And we want to decide what form that takes.

The reality is that God has revealed Himself. He’s revealed Himself in creation (Romans 1:20), in the Bible (pick a page!), in history (this was one of the arguments used in early church history – see Acts 7:2-54), and most of all in Jesus (John 14:9, Philippians 2:6, Colossians 1:15).

That brings questions to mind, such as What more does God have to do? How many more times does God have to show Himself before we’re satisfied?

Our desire for God to be obvious is not unlike the wife who continually asks her husband if he loves her. At first he tells her. Then he tries to show her. But no matter what he says or does, she continues to doubt – and ask. That’s going to get old after awhile.

I wonder if it gets old for God when we continue to expect Him to reveal Himself when He’s already given us all of the evidence that we need.

The problem is not the lack of evidence. The problem is our lack of trust in God – we don’t think that He’s done enough, or a lack of satisfaction with the way He’s chosen to reveal Himself.

But if we believe that God is who He says He is – an omnipotent, all-wise God of love, then He has revealed Himself in exactly the right way and enough for anyone to believe and be satisfied.

As finite beings, we should not expect to know the Infinite One in great detail, nor should we expect (demand?) that He act in ways that meet our requirements. As Paul reminds us, He’s the potter and we’re the clay (Romans 9:21) and we have no right to question what God does or how He does it.

There is no unrighteousness with God (Romans 9:14). To state it another way, all that God does is right and righteous. Even when we wish He would do more.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve