Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Most Dangerous Gateway Drug For Christians

For years, opponents of legalization of marijuana have argued that, while it isn't as dangerous as heroine or methamphetamines, it is dangerous because it is a gateway drug. In other words, most people don't start their drug use with shooting up heroine. They start with marijuana and try more and more potent drugs.  Studies have shown that both alcohol and tobacco usage almost always precede marijuana usage. All in all, the theory is sound. Addicts seem not to be born addicts as much as they are raised and nurtured into addiction progressively.

Read something Paul wrote to his young disciple, "Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are among them," (1 Tim.1:18-20a)

Surely these two men didn't start off shipwrecked.  Apparently they were part of the church, doing ministry, growing as disciples. Somewhere along the way, though, they slipped, then stumbled, and finally fell. Was there a gateway drug for them, a seemingly harmless temptation that led to greater and more deadly habits and consequences?

We have an innate, I believe God-designed, desire for acceptance. Before sin, mankind lived in the bliss of acceptance. The moment Adam and Eve sinned, they experienced the loss of that perfect relationship with God and with one another. Strangely enough, God had not rejected them. They had rejected Him.

No man is an island. We are perpetually changing based on what we think others want from us. Even the hermit living in a cave thinks about and reacts to what he thinks others think of him.  It is inevitable. The question is not whether we desire acceptance. The question is simply which drug we will take to comfort our need for acceptance.

If we take the God drug - trusting that we are made acceptable to God by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ - we will live our lives toward Him. Our desire will be to fit into God's way of living. Whoever we desire acceptance from we will change for.

That's why I think that the most dangerous gateway drug for Christians is the desire to fit in. It always starts small, and seemingly harmless.  And, it almost always grows large and dangerous.

Where do you fit in best?  Whose approval do you want, whose acceptance?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Cure For Dissatisfaction: What Do You Bring?

The front door of my house faced the front doors of our church. Growing up I wasn't wild about that. It made it easy for Mom to make sure we were at church. I really didn't like that on Sunday night, because the Wonderful World Of Disney came on TV at the same time as Training Union. But, not all Sunday nights were that bad. During the summer on most Sunday nights, we had a fellowship after church. The menu was simple. It was either watermelon or homemade ice cream. On those Sunday nights, I was a happy kid. It was great to live across the street from the church, because I could eat watermelon and play with friends. I was a child. I thought as a child. Church, like the rest of my life, was about what made me happy. I didn't bring anything. I went to get. Life was about what others did for me. It wasn't a conscious thought. I was a child. I thought like a child. 

Sadly, it's also the way adults think who are still not mature. The adults in Corinth thought this way. They came to church to do their thing, to fill their own hearts. They all had spiritual gifts, but they were using what God had given to fill their own hearts. Paul instructed them, "Brothers, don't be childish in your thinking, but be infants in evil and adult in your thinking." (1Cor.14:20)  As a result, there was little satisfaction in their lives, and there was much confusion, chaos, immaturity, and immorality.

There is a much better way. Grow up. Mature. Focus on what you bring rather than what you get. Mature Chrsitians don't come to the table at home at church or in this world to see what they can get. They come to see what they can bring. They come to use whatever God has given them to build others up.  The solution to all the dissatisfaction and confusion in Corinth is the same today.  "How is it then, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm a teaching, a revelation, another language or an interpretation. All things must be done for edification." (1Cor.14:20)

Want to know the fulfillment of Christ's purpose in you? Stop focusing on what you get. Focus on what you bring to build up others, especially in your family and church.  Cure dissatisfaction with your life, with your church, with your job, with your spouse by putting away childish, self-focused, gimme-gimme-gimme orientation. It's about what you bring and it's reflected in everything you do.

At church it's about everything you do. Your maturity is reflected in your giving - do you tithe? In worship - do you sing, clap, raise your hands?  In your fellowship - are you there for others? In your service - are you just coming or serving? In your attendance - are you there because others need you? In your witness - do you share the Gospel?  It's even reflected in the covered dish fellowships. Do you bring something, or just eat what others have brought? 

The wonderful thing is this. If you come to life with a servant's heart, asking the question, "What can I bring to this?" you will rarely be hungry, thirsty, or dissatisfied.

What do you bring?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Only Way To Experience Love

It is a beautiful passage in the Bible, "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Eph.3:17-19)

It is a prayer for God's people, a prayer that God will increase their capacity to experience and comprehend that which cannot be comprehended apart from God's divine revelation - the limitlessness of God's love.  Paul, praying that God will expand the hearts of God's people by His own character so that they might not just know about Him intellectually, but so that they might know Him experientially.

So, if you have ever felt like you did not have enough to face the day, this prayer is for you. If you ever felt that you were not enough to face the challenge, then this prayer is for you.  Especially if you ever came to realize that you did not have the love to love as God loves, this prayer is for you.

It is a prayer for experience, for something real in our hearts, not just in our minds. God wants us to know His love by experiencing His love.  Listen closely.  God's love is not so much what God feels as what God does.  It is action rather than condition.  If it were not, you would not know love or life.  Since it is action, you can know both. 

The answer to this prayer, then, is not simply a change in your condition, but a change in your action. To experience the limitlessness of God's love, you must act. You must love limitlessly.  Identify the borders of your love. Who do you not wish to love? How do you not wish to love? Where do you not wish to love?  The only legitimate, life-giving borders to love are those established by God.  So, if your borders are not His, it is time for you to cross the borders and begin to experience the width, length, height and depth of God's love. Remain behind your borders, and the prayer will not be answered in you. Remain behind your limitations, and you will not be filled with all the fullness of God.  Trust in the power of God to enlarge your heart, and you will find that life is huge, its opportunities limitless.  Trust in the power of God to enlarge your heart by stepping across your love borders, and you will begin to experience a depth of God that you have only dreamed of.