Bringing Lasting Change to Broken Lives

The Fick Family in Bolivia

Bringing Lasting Change to Broken Lives

The End of Christianity in America…

September 1st, 2015 · 1 Comment · News Updates

The End of Christianity in America…

Wait, what?

Did you read that right?

“The End of Christianity in America…”

Yup, I guess you did.

Perhaps I’d better start out by clarifying what I don’t mean. For example, I don’t mean that the Church is hopeless, lifeless or DOA. Nor do I intend to sound an alarm calling everybody to immediately stock their bomb shelters in preparation for the Great Tribulation, or to await the rapture on the nearest hilltop.

What I do mean is that I believe we’ve reached the end of Christianity in America… (Note the ellipsis in the subject line) as we know it.

Since moving to Bolivia in 2003, I have noticed a surplus of changes taking place politically, culturally, morally and spiritually in America.

For example, scenes, subject-matter and phrases that would have garnered a PG-13 or R rating on the Big Screen back in my day are now commonplace on television.

The ethno-religious diversity in America has seemed to skyrocket over the last decade, with non-Christian places of worship popping up all over the place, to tend to the ever-increasing foreign populations.

Tolerance has become an essential tenet of our culture, to the point where people do not tolerate the intolerant, and thus become just as intolerant as those other intolerants (anybody note the irony?).

I could go on about the changes to America’s landscape (not all of which are bad) ad nauseam, but I’ll save you the upset stomach and get right to the point: the Church’s role in America must change.

First of all, I think it’s important to recognize that it may no longer be accurate to identify America as a “Christian nation”. This conclusion leads us, then, to rightly identify America as an enormous mission field, just like the Roman Empire was in the first century A.D.!

That being the case, Jesus’ call to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves seems pressing.

In the call to innocence, I see two things: first of all, personal holiness (being “excellent at what is good and innocent of evil” per Romans 16), and also authenticity, transparency and integrity.

We need to get serious about Jesus transforming our own lives, before bemoaning the deterioration of secular society. 1 Peter 4 says that God’s judgment begins with His own house, and in Matthew 7 Jesus told us to deal with the plank in our own eye first. It’s imperative for America’s Church to get back to seeking God, turning her back on all sin (as God defines it), and getting filled with His love for our broken world.

That’s where the Church’s call to shrewdness comes into play. For centuries, the church has enjoyed a sort of social pedestal or soapbox, if you will. Now, however, public opinion of the church has seemed to turn predominantly negative. Therefore I believe it’s time for the Church to get off of her proverbial soapbox so that she can start getting out the soap.

In other words, it’s time to quit harping on how perverse and godless America has become, and to start modeling the abundant life Jesus talked about and offer THAT to society’s broken. Because, in the end ALL of society is broken by sin; some segments of it just don’t realize it at the moment.

This brings us to the second aspect of Jesus’ call to be shrewd: opportunistic evangelism. Rather than cramming religion or morality down people’s throats, I believe the time has come for America’s Church to pick her spots to evangelize.

Speak to society’s brokenness and suffering, by showing people how Jesus (and only Jesus) can bring lasting change to their broken lives. The Gospel is useless if it’s not practical… but oh how practical it is once we start actually putting it into practice!!!

So, come on, Church! This isn’t a time for permanently retreating into all-Christian cloisters.

Nor is it a time to merely assimilate ourselves into society with an, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude.

Let us not fall prey to tunnel vision, by forgetting that Christ’s Body extends far beyond America’s borders. Jesus is doing great things in and through His Body worldwide. Just because America has been a world power both economically and politically, doesn’t guarantee that they are one spiritually as well.

Is the Church in America humble enough to learn from the rest of the Body, where persecution, oppression and scorn have been the norm for centuries?

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Perfect Peace

June 28th, 2015 · No Comments · Living Your Dream

I don’t know when, but Duke University did a study on “peace of mind.” I came across this information while preparing my latest sermon, and wanted to pass it along. As it turns out, factors found to contribute greatly to emotional and mental stability are:

1. The absence of suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge was a major factor in unhappiness.

2. Not living in the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression.

3. Not wasting time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change. Cooperate with life, instead of trying to run away from it.

4. Force yourself to stay involved with the living world. Resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress.

5. Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.

6. Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues—love, humor, compassion and loyalty

7. Do not expect too much of yourself. When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.

8. Find something bigger than yourself to believe in. Self-centered egotistical people score lowest in any test for measuring happiness.

Source unknown

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Rise Up, Church!

June 16th, 2015 · No Comments · Leadership

“You are the light of the world… the salt of the earth… a city on a hill…” When Jesus wanted to describe his disciples’ relationship with their surroundings, He used metaphors like these. Do you notice a common theme?

Each idea implies that we are to cause an impact… to make a difference. In a dark room one little match can make a big difference, to say nothing of the impact of a whole city of light! In the same vein, just a pinch of salt can have a BIG effect on how our food tastes, and lots of salt means LOTS of thirst. Get the idea?

What I’m getting at is that, as Christians, we are called to influence our surroundings… to exercise leadership over them just like God commanded Adam in Genesis 1. Maybe you don’t feel like much of a leader (I know I didn’t), but if you are a Christian (which literally means, “Little Christ”), I’m convinced that this is a huge part of your calling.

If you think about it, basic biblical principles like the Great Commission, the Great Commandment and even the Golden Rule are pretty counter-cultural in our day and age (even if they are paid lip-service in some circles). This means that to obey them is to swim upstream… against the flow of the culture we live in, and following the currents of the Culture of the Kingdom. To swim upstream is to influence, and influence is the essence of leadership.

Let me say it again: as a Christian, you are called to lead.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I am NOT advocating the idea that every Christian needs to go into government or politics… or business management… or teaching… or church work… or healthcare … or any specific field in order to lead, but rather that they lead (influence for the Kingdom of God) in whatever sphere God has placed them.

This was a huge paradigm shift for me, as I never saw leadership as one of my natural gifts. However, the more I understood God’s calling on my life (a subject I’ve meditated on for the past 25 years or so), the more clarity I’ve gotten on this issue of leadership. You don’t need to feel like a leader any more than that thing parked in your garage needs to feel like an automobile in order to function like one.

The key here is to understand that you already are exercising influence on your surroundings whether you know it or not, so you might as well get intentional about it and START LEADING.

Start leading your children and your spouse… start leading your co-workers and even your boss… start leading your friends, neighbors and relatives… start leading yourself. Wherever you are, start leading for the Kingdom of God!
Can you hear Jesus calling you? Can you see his claims that you are salt and light more clearly now? That’s right, Christ-follower, you were born (again) to lead!!!

So, as Bill Hybels would say, “what life are you waiting for?” And as Jesus said: “…the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”

Every Christian is a missionary… we’re ALL called to affect the spheres God has placed us in with the light of His Kingdom. Rise up, Church!

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An Unexpected Leader

June 6th, 2015 · No Comments · Leadership

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When you think of the Bible’s great leaders, you probably think of kings, prophets, apostles and the like… but how about a prostitute? A closer look at Joshua 2 reveals that Rahab, a prostitute whose house was inside Jericho’s immensely thick walls, was a pretty astute leader.

Still skeptical? Let’s dive in: there are 3 important lessons that Rahab can teach us as leaders in God’s Kingdom!

First of all, verses 1-5 tell us how Rahab favored God’s people, turning her back on her own… even lying to her king to save the Israelite spies. Leadership always comes down to decision-making, and the greatest leaders get the toughest decisions right, consistently. Great leaders always emerge in moments of crisis, and Rahab was no exception. From her brief encounter with the Israelite spies and then with the king’s guard, we learn the importance of priorities. It is imperative for leaders to keep “the main thing”, the main thing. Rahab gave greater value to a new, spiritual family that she wanted to be a part of, than to her birth family and people. She prioritized eternity over temporal expediency, and as leaders we must learn to do the same.

Second, Rahab was able to strike a delicate balance between strategic planning and flat-out improvisation. Verses 6-14 of Joshua chapter 2 show Rahab one minute taking calculated risks according to careful planning, while the next minute she made things up on the fly. Here we see the importance of formulating a game plan before delving off into a given project, and at the same time the utter necessity of tweaking said plan on the run. Through this balance of planning and improvisation, Rahab managed to save her own life as well of those of her family during the impending Israelite invasion. Generally speaking, leaders fall into one of two categories: they are either careful planners, or deft improvisers. Rahab, however, was both!

Lastly, in verses 15-23, Rahab shows us the vital role that listening plays in influencing others. I don’t know how many of you are skilled at mountain climbing, but the idea of rappelling down the outside of a 2-story building gives me the willies! However, at the behest of Rahab, that is exactly what the two spies did—no questions asked! On top of that they carefully followed Rahab’s detailed instructions of how to escape Jericho and return to the desert alive.

How did Rahab elicit such obedience? Verses 17-21 reveal Rahab’s secret. To sum it up for you, after Rahab gives her instructions, the two spies interject with the stipulation that all of Rahab’s family must be inside her house at the time of the Israelite invasion, and Rahab’s response is instructive: “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” A quote from Patrick Lencioni will help us see why Rahab’s response is so huge: “If people don’t weigh in, they can’t buy in.” In other words, Rahab went along with the spies demand, rather than insisting on imposing her own will, thus eliciting heartfelt obedience from the spies. She allowed them to weigh in on the plan, and then got them to buy in on it!

I bet you didn’t anticipate learning so much on leadership from a prostitute, did you?

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3 Things You’re Probably Taking For Granted

May 19th, 2015 · 1 Comment · Living Your Dream

This past week we were without running water for 4 days straight, due to a landslide some 50 miles from Sucre. While we were still able to flush toilets thanks to a large water reservoir on our roof, our little predicament got me thinking about how much we take for granted.

So today, I want to challenge you to not gloss over the important things in your life, like maybe one of the following:

1. Freedom and Prosperity.
Living in the second poorest country (and a socialist-leaning one at that) in the western hemisphere for nearly 12 years has given me a unique appreciation
for America’s inalienable rights and distinct ‘creature comforts’.

Free speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury… many countries around the world are still
trying to catch up to America’s Bill of Rights.

On a slightly less transcendent level, America’s access to food, entertainment, goods and services, and the blazing speed at which today’s technology makes
them readily available, really is a marvel to behold. Are you “proud (and thankful) to be an American”?

2. Family and Friends.
In today’s über-connected society (see above), it’s easy to underestimate the value of genuine relationships. While technology has allowed us to interact
with people a great distance away, much of that interaction has taken a decidedly superficial turn.

For example, how many of your “Facebook friends” would you consider calling on in a moment of crisis? When was the last time you told a loved-one how much
they mean to you? And, no, ‘sharing’ or ‘liking’ something on Facebook is no substitute for genuine, heartfelt communication.

3. Tomorrow.
I’m not sure if Modern Medicine has officially classified procrastination as a disease, but I for one am looking for a cure! Benjamin Franklin was credited
with saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” We would all do well to live by those words.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get sucked in by the ‘tyranny of the urgent’, all the while letting life’s truly important things slip off into this
nebulous idea of ‘tomorrow.’

I often tell our congregation here in Sucre, “tomorrow never gets here; all we ever have is today.”

If you knew beforehand that today was your last day on earth, how would you spend it? What changes can you make in your outlook and lifestyle so that you
won’t put so much stock in ‘tomorrow’?

For me, it’s easy to take the following things for granted:

Sucre’s Spring-like climate all year round!

The abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in Sucre’s markets

The delicious and dirt-cheap steaks!

So what are you tempted to take for granted? What can you do to integrate gratitude into your life?

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