The problem with drawing lines in the sand is that with a breath of air they disappear.
I remember driving around Kansas City with some friends while in college when I was first encountered this question that had plagued me for the entirety of my Christian life, “what is the difference between Christian and secular music?” You see on my radio I was listening to “secular” music and my friend was becoming continually and visibly agitated with it. When he asked me to change it, the question was raised by another friend. Although it seemed an initially obvious answer, I did not immediately know that answer. Actually, the more I thought about it the more I realized I am not sure. Was it that a Christian song had to mention Jesus or God? If that is true then what do we do with the books of Esther and Song of Songs (which do not mention either)?
Unfortunately, this is a dilemma that is not unique to the sphere of music. We live in a world where the divide between Secular and Sacred is constantly and adamantly being drawn by both Christians and non-Christians alike. We are frequently labeling things “Christian” that I suppose we fear otherwise might be confused for something else.
- Christian schools
- Christian groups
- Christian movies
- Christian books
- Christian bands, etc.
If our music, our schools, our groups, our books, our actions do not point those around us to Jesus, and serve to redeem a broken world, then are they not indeed unchristian? Instead of creating clear bright line, like we would like, Christ blurred the lines between secular and sacred, seemingly implying that the division the ritualistic religion of the day had crested a false division. If All things are God’s, all things are in fact sacred? IS this going to o far? Why? Furthermore, He was criticized for almost everything he did because he acted as if things such as the purity and impurity, pious and impious, Jew and Gentile, powerful and weak, rich and poor did not exist as the world saw them. When Paul came on the scene he preached this as he proclaimed in Romans there is no division, but “all are one in Christ Jesus.”
Is it easier to know who is in or out? Is it that we wanted to be able to sit at the table with drunkards tax collectors and sinners, as long as we knew who was who? Honestly , I’m not really sure, so I put the question to you, is there a Sacred/ Secular divide?
Most people don’t know but the amount of information that many pastors compile for one sermon is MASSIVE. We have researched, read, prayed for weeks on end and find ourselves to edit and cut that information to around 30 minutes (in our context). That being said I still wanted to share some thoughts that I wanted to share but were left on the editing room floor. I hope this additional information is fruitful you as it was with me.
How do you handle a victory? We said first of all,
I. With every great work, give glory to God (Neh. 6:15-16).
With every victory we have ultimately, all the credit goes to God. It is great to pray that in our lives, we pray for a God-thing. God loves to get all the glory! Nehemiah in Neh. 6:15 does give the glory to God as a token phrase (like you hear at an award show). God had birthed a burden in his heart, broke his heart with the burden, helped him persevere as he waited for God’s timing, answered prayer with the King, encouraged him when he arrived among opposition, gave him confidence and courage to rally God’s people, encouraged him in the midst of ridicule, the halfway hurdle, gave him boldness to confront sin and helped him focus among distractions.
So it is not unusual for the soul who has been dependent on God in everything to grant Him the glory when God accomplishes a great work. The more you abide with the Lord, invite him to every aspect of your life, the more you will see His fingerprints over everything. If God does a dozen things with every good work, we may see only two things. However, the more we have been with the Lord in the small things, the more we see Him working in the bigger things. Secondly we said:
II. Guard great victories, because they can be followed by great failure (Neh. 6:17-7:3)
How do you guard your victories? We said first of all, it requires us to:
1. Faithfulness (Neh. 7:2)
Hanani was Nehemiah’s literal brother (Neh. 1:2). Remember him? He was the one who told Nehemiah about the problem in the first place. Hananiah was a governor “of the castle charge.” This “was a fortress in the temple area, guarding the north wall of the city, which was especially vulnerable to attack.”
Nehemiah says the reasons he picked Hananiah was because he was faithful and God-fearing. Faithfulness is “doing what you said you would do.” Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., often said, “The greatest ability is dependability.” Can you be depended on? Paul says, “It is required of stewards that they be trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:2). Pastor Steve Cole in Arizona provides four ways to develop faithfulness:
- Recognize and define the responsibilities that God has given you to do. If you are a husband and/or a father, you have to provide basic needs of your family. If you are part of a church body, you are responsible to serve God in some capacity. It is hard to be faithful if you are foggy about what you should be doing.
- Start with and don’t neglect the small things. Pay your bills on time. Keep your appointments. Jesus said, if you are faithful in the little things, you will be entrusted with more (Luke 16:10).
- Keep your relational priorities straight. This means your time with Jesus, your time with family, your accountability relationships and your relationship to others in the body of Christ.
- Learn to use your time more effectively. This is huge. I need to write down my priorities down. Are you spending excessive amounts of time on the internet, video games and television? We all have the same number of hours entrusted with us and a good sign of faithfulness is how we use it.
2. Fear of God (Neh. 7:2)
The fear of God is the dread of displeasing Him. It is not to be afraid of God, but your desire to please Him takes precedence over everything else. We have talked about it a lot in the previous weeks, so I am not going to belabor the point. It comes out of knowledge of God. The more you know Him, the more you want to please Him. Solomon says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 1:7). Wisdom is the ability to make the most God-honoring decision in any situation. Anyone need that? I certainly do! The way it starts is to ask God to give you such a dread in hurting Him with the choices of your life. This is the fear of God. But it is interesting that he connects faithfulness and fear of God together. I believe the more you fear God, the more faithful you will be, because you will have wisdom to make the best choices in every situation.
3. Watchfulness (Neh. 7:3)
So character is built by faithfulness, fear of God and lastly, watchfulness. Knowing these guys feared God and were faithful, they were asked assigned the job of watchfulness (and to delegate it to others). What he is saying here is that they need to be vigilant. Lazy guards are no guards at all. The Hebrew is tricky here. But I think he means to be on watch, even in the hottest part of the day, right in the afternoon, around lunch time, when we can tend to be lax, we need to be on guard. Remember some people had worked on the wall near their homes (Neh. 3:10, 23, 28-30). Now Nehemiah wants them to realize that they need to protect what was accomplished.
I think the lesson here is that unless we protect what was accomplished for the Lord, the Enemy will come and take over. This is why Paul said, “After you done everything, stand” (Eph. 6:11). This is why so many schools which were once started on godly principles are now as secular as secular can be. Look at all the churches now once so solid in preaching the Gospel, now fill their pulpits with people preaching “another gospel.” Beloved, we are simply one generation away from destruction, and so need to be watchful. Living hope can easily be dead hope!
There is a fine line between watchfulness and compromise. The reason why compromise happens is because we are not watchful. It all comes down to a character issue. If Tobiah’s wife and family had been watchful in not having any relationship with Tobiah, the compromise that now resulted into the next generation, would have been avoided. Here are some things we need to guard:
- Our heart (Prov. 4:23) Guard carefully what you allow in your life that will ultimately impact your heart and soul. Watch out for sharing intimate moments with people who are not your spouse.
- False doctrine. Paul tells the church in Corinth that Satan comes like an angel of light, disguising himself as “servants of righteousness,” preaching a false gospel (2 Cor. 11:14-15). I have seen churches and people destroyed because this was not taken seriously.
- Our private time. Guard your times when you are alone, tired, overwhelmed or bored.
- Recreation and Media. Check with pluggedinonline.com or christiananswers.net before renting or watching a movie. Use an internet filter for your computers.
The point here is that we need to guard our victory times because it can be followed by great failure. But keeping our priorities straight (keep worship and the Word central), avoiding any small hints of compromise, and keep working on our character (like faithfulness, a growing fear of God and being ever so watchful) will help us. All of us know what it is to put our guards down when things are going well. Let us decide now and pray, “Lord help us protect what you have accomplished.”
I have to admit that when it comes to the conflicts over seas I am tired. Tired of being the “police of the world”, tired of “spreading peace” and tired of fighting for the wrong kingdom . Yet over the last week I’ve wondered “What should we [as Christ followers] do in this world”?
Right now it seems like it is open season on our Christian brothers around the world.
- Seventy-eight Christians were slaughtered Sunday by twin suicide bombers at a historic church in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.
- Less than 24 hours earlier a group of militants (some allegedly from the U.S,) murdered at least 68 workers and shoppers at a mall in Kenya, allegedly shouting for Muslims to get out of the way so they could specifically kill Christians.
- Coptic Christians in Egypt also have been targeted recently by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Christians in large numbers have left their ancient enclaves in Iraq and the West Bank after churches there were attacked or Christians were threatened.
- In late May, International Christian Concern, an evangelical ministry to the persecuted church, released to Christianity Today an anonymous open letter from a “trusted Syrian source” that explains why many Syrian Christians support Assad’s regime.
Many Middle eastern Christians feel that the government was bad [under the former regime], but they were at least safe. After researching what has happened in historic churches in places like Aleppo and Homs I know that we must do something but the question in my mind is what? Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan of the Syrian Catholic church in Damascus said in May that Christians are so frustrated with Western policy, which he believes is fomenting Islamic radicalism and anti-Christian hatred, that they may give up on the West altogether.
“I believe there will be a time coming when Christians of the Middle East will no longer look to the West for support and perhaps to better strengthen their roots with the Eastern culture and civilization … [to] Russia, to India, to China,” he said.
So in light of this [and many other things] I wonder, [as Western Christians] what do we do?
I’m really looking forward to your comments and ideas.
“It frustrates me how church people discern truth using their politics instead of their Bibles, and it frustrates me that they don’t know the are doing it.”
- Reverend Dr. Derrick Lynch, Blue Valley Baptist Church
As an American and also as an evangelical Christian, I can hardly bear to watch this nightmare unfolding. It’s bad for Christianity, heck it’s bad for America. Here is my take on the sorry spectacle of Christian politics — and how to fix it.
- “… but they did it to President Bush”. Again, I don’t know about you but my kids would get into trouble for making an asinine excuse like this.
- “[Political Party] is just the lesser of two evils”. Just remember that you are still advocating for evil.
- “[Political Party] is closer to my values”. Yes, and they are trying to setup there own [Political] kingdoms that compete with God’s.
- Rush Limbaugh hates Jesus.
- Sean Hannity hates Jesus.
- Rachel Maddow hates Jesus.
- Mark Levin hates Jesus.
- Kieth Olbermann hates Jesus.
- Piers Morgan hates Jesus.
- Anderson Cooper hates Jesus
- Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and whomever else I missed all hates Jesus.
- Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and [fill in your political party if it was not mentioned] parties are ALL antithetical to the Kingdom of God.
I know you agreed with some of the list and others you disagreed but I want to ask you this, What kingdom are they fighting for? When you listen to them talk/ advocate for their position who are they talking about? A Political party, an ideology, or Christ? Better yet if someone were to listen to you talk/ advocate who would they say you are talking about? Unfortunately, we have sold out to these fiefdoms while the Kingdom of God (you know the one that Christ died in establishing) loses ground. Do not allow your voice to be co-opted by your allegiance to an earthly kingdom or party. We have prostituted ourselves out so much that the outside world does not know the difference between Christ many political parties and that is a shame.
Recently, I was given a recent CNN article “Why Millennials Are Leaving The Church” by Rachel Held Evans. When reading the post it becomes evident that (in my opinion) she is not talking about the “holy catholic church,” but a narrow subculture of conservative American evangelicals but the conversation is afoot none the less. Unfortunately, her post does not [seem to] address why young adults in America are leaving the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, broad evangelical, nor mainline churches. I must admit that her post has struck a chord with a larger swath of readers (see the thousands of comments below her post). She is addressing a perennial topic of conversation among church leaders and church goers: what will happen to the next generation.
Like Rachel, I’m in my early 30′s, right on the border of the millennials, and many of the questions and doubts I hear from the millennial generation resonate with me too, but the analysis offered from Trevin Wax below differs somewhat from Rachel’s.
I guess the questions is simple, If you are below 30 why are you leaving (staying) in the church? I look forward to your comments below.
Rachel thinks millennials are leaving the church due to the perception that evangelicals are
“… too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
She’s right to decry a vision of Christianity that reduces repentance to a list of do’s and don’ts. I too have noticed that many millennials desire to be involved in mercy ministry and support justice causes. And I couldn’t agree more when she says “we want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.”
The Church’s Response.
How has the church responded? Rachel sees church leaders trying to update their music or preaching style, and thereby running up against the “highly sensitive BS meters” we millennials have. We’re not fooled by consumerism or performances when churches cater to what they think we want.
“What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.”
I agree with that sentence for the most part, although I would tweak the last line to say “What millennials really want from the church is substance.” Not a change in substance, necessarily, just substance will do.
Too often, our churches have offered a sanitized, spiritualized version of self-help therapy, and Jesus has been missing. And that’s the problem. Like every generation, she says, “deep down we long for Jesus.”
Here’s where Rachel and I part ways – on what communities following Jesus look like in our culture.