Monday, November 9, 2009

Now What Do We Pick Up?

You know, sometimes I have to wonder if maybe the reason so few teens and college age students stick to church (or regularly "going to church") is because most teens are looking for something more.
They see mainly hypocrisy and lies within the body- and frankly most aren't willing to live a lie, and I gotta respect them for that. They see a group of people who say one thing, and do another.
I'm a teen, and that's what I see. It's just that I have parents who dared to be different and show me that there IS something more.

I believe that there are a number of teens/college age people who are slightly confused because they realize that people were once upon a time willing to die for their faith, and they hear of people in other countries dying for what they believe, but they know that what they see as christianity is nothing worth dying for.

It's ironic that we christians talk about persecution and standing up for what we believe in, or the things we may face in the future because of our belief... but I don't see that ever happening to us in America-- or at least not unless the church drastically changes.
The church is so corrupted by the world that the church pretty much is the world. If we live just like the world- why would we be persecuted by it? But if you start standing up for what you believe in -and living what you preach- you will find yourself hated by the world.
Jesus wasn't lying when He said the world would hate us! (John 15:18-25)

This generation isn't looking for a dead religion. Many have tried the church, or what they think is the church, and they found the people lacking the very life that they preach about.
So they try everything else. They are unhappy, unsettled, and pretty stinkin' bored with life since they really aren't expected to do anything but cause trouble-- an expectation they unfortunately often live up to. (Or would that be considered living down to...?)
Young people are catered to, constantly, and even in churches.
They are expected to do nothing but make immature and stupid decisions. They try everything from sex, to drugs, to find peace, love and fulfillment. Is it any wonder that as the church becomes more and more lukewarm, corrupted, dead and apathetic, that teen pregnancy, cutting, and drugs/alcohol addictions are increasing? If they don't find what they're looking for at church they will look for it somewhere else.

I read recently about a guy (Shane Claiborne) who said in sharing his testimony, "But then you start to think there must be more to Christianity, more than just laying down your life and sins at the foot of the cross. I came to realize that preachers were telling me to lay my life down at the foot of the cross and weren't giving me anything to pick up. A lot of us were hearing 'don't smoke, don't drink, don't sleep around' and naturally started asking, 'okay, well, that was pretty much my life, so what do I do now?'"

And later on in his book (The Irresistible Revolution- awesome book, btw) Shane states, "God forgive us for all those we have lost because we made the gospel boring. I am convinced that if we lose kids to the culture of drugs and materialism, of violence and war, it's because we don't dare them, not because we don't entertain them. It's because we make the gospel too easy, not because we make it too difficult. Kids want to do something heroic with their lives, which is why they play video games and join the army. But what are they to do with a church that teaches them to tiptoe through life so they can arrive safely at death?"

What about the rest of our lives? What about Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday? A couple hours one or two days a week isn't gonna cut it. Not for me anyway. I am an all or nothing kind of person, either I give it my all, or I'm giving nothing at all!

And what's sad is that most of the churches that have been able to retain a few kids for whatever reasons are only raising up another generation of themselves.
People who get spiritually high every Sunday and Wednesday, barely make it through the week, and come back again for another dose the next Sunday. (And if there's a bonus revival, it'll last... hey, maybe even two or three weeks!) It's harsh, but it's reality. I don't want that, and is this really what christianity is about?

Where is the love, the life, the purpose and fulfillment they are searching for? Is it in modern American christianity? No, it's not.
What do they do then? They find temporary love, purpose and fulfillment, in other things. (As we see through their lives...)

Jesus and the believers in the bible preached "the Kingdom". They preached that God's kingdom is NOW, "on earth as it is in heaven", that you don't have to wait until heaven to live, to be resurrected to a new life in Him. According to the bible, believers have died already and been resurrected into new life!
(Romans 6:1-4)
We don't have to wait to live, we can live NOW. We are to live and love now. People get so stuck on their future in heaven, they totally forget their life now on earth. We have to show others that living for Jesus is more than laying down, it's picking up too.
 Satan has fooled believers into thinking that if they have the best entertainment in their church that the teens will stay. But it's a trick. It get's the believers focused on their programs and entertainment stuff, and causes them to neglect the necessary things; Believing, preaching, and living the truth- but especially the living. This is a common saying, but it really get's to the heart of things, "Preach the truth, and when necessary use words."
They will know us by our fruit. They will know that we serve and follow a living God when WE live.

I know that I for one am not looking for entertainment, I'm looking for people who really live like Jesus did, like He said to live. And in my search I am realizing more and more just how uncommon these people are.
What most teens/young adults need is not somebody who is going to constantly preach at them (They already KNOW by now for the most part what they are/aren't supposed to do!!!) but somebody who will walk alongside them as they live.
Jesus walked with His disciples, not just taught them. They learned to care for the poor when they saw Him caring for the poor. They learned to love, forgive and do good -even to those who hated them- as they saw Him suffer and die for loving those who hated Him. They learned to live holy lives as they saw Him living a holy life. This is the type of leadership they need, the type of christianity people are searching for! When situations would arise that Jesus saw a lack of understanding or wisdom, THEN He taught them. But much of His preaching was not with words. I mean, think about it. The amount of preaching he did that we read about in the gospels could have been done in how much time? He raised them up by example, taught them with His life, as well as with words.

He also lived with them, so they had accountability. People, of all ages and at all stages of life, HAVE TO HAVE accountability!
And if people know you love and care about them they will be much more likely to come to you with their struggles and temptations.

As somebody who is going to be living the rest of my life with this generation, it would be a relief to see a change of direction! If my generation is this bad, how much worse will my kids' generation be? What will I be up against in raising MY kids?
So PLEASE, we have to change something! Anyone can see where this generation is headed, it doesn't take any statistical genius to figure it out! "If we always do what we've always done, we'll always get what we've always gotten!"
Perhaps we should rethink our ways? 
It isn't so much "getting them saved", most who have left the church have asked Jesus in their hearts at some point or another. (Now whether they weren't saved in the first place or they somehow aren't anymore I'll let the theologians decide, but the point is they clearly aren't now.) Obviously it's not there we find the problem. It's the life after salvation. Why aren't they sticking to it? I think much of the reason is because they are simply left to the world once they are saved. Nobody walks with them, they don't have true accountability, and like Shane Claiborne said, they've laid their life down at the foot of the cross- and don't know what to pick up. What's next? For those who really did mean it when they gave their lives to Jesus, what's left but services and a list of things they can't do? Is anyone really willing to lay down their life for a dead religion? We have to decide on a new plan of action, a new style of living, because my life, the life of my generation and generations to come depend on it. I challenge YOU no matter how old you are, to take action rather than stand by and watch this generation go down the drain. I'm not giving up, and I'm going to do what I can do, however little that may be. I want to go to the poor and the widows and orphans like Jesus and His disciples did! I want to learn to be like Christ in everything I do. I've laid down my life, and I'm still discovering what I am to pick up, when, and how!

2 Corinthians 5:17-18
"What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!

All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him."

Romans 12:1-2
"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice- the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

~Victoria Christine~

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A True Big Mac?

First off, let me start by saying this: I've been around christians all my life. I was dedicated in church when I was a baby, I became a christian around age 7-8, and was baptized soon afterward. I always went to church -every Sunday- with my family. I know the drill.

I'm still young, but I've seen enough. Enough to know and be able to honestly say that the majority of the people you find in the churches (that I've found, correct me if I'm wrong) of America who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior pretty much (be honest with yourself) do this: Go to church on Sunday (And Sunday night/Wednesday night, if they're really “good”), live however they want all week long, and then -digging in their closet- they find their Sunday suit, and they find their bible (layered-in-dust and in exactly the same spot they put it every week after church, for “safe” keeping of course.) on the shelf, and dragging themselves to church they put on a smile, sit in a pew for an hour or two, go home, and then go through the whole dreaded thing over again next week. And... again. And... again. And... again. It's the "christian" way, and they know and (in many cases) have been taught no other. See, the fiery evangelist who visited their church that time when they said the words and signed the card never told (or better yet, never showed) them what life after salvation was supposed to be like. They live as they see others living. And they believe that since they said the right words they will “get into” heaven. Is that true salvation? Just fill out the card and you’re good to go? Or is there more to it?

What happened to “repent and be batized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”? Where is the repentance from dead works? Let me remind you, repentance is more than saying, “I’m sorry”. It involves a change of heart, and a change of direction. To be forgiven of your sins you have to repent!

Are you upset about what I am saying? If yes, then GOOD! It's something to be upset about! The fact that SO MANY PEOPLE believe if they simply say the magical words, or even just go to the right place once a week, and don't do anything "majorly wrong" (like kill somebody), that they will go to heaven when they die, is something to be MAJORLY upset and concerned about! Why? Because that is a large percentage of the people found in modern-day christian churches, and it is the biggest and most dangerous lie I have ever encountered.

Now, you may be thinking, "oh she's just one of those pharisee-type people who believes you are saved by your works". Let me make something clear:

I do NOT believe you are saved by what you do. I do NOT believe that one must "earn" their way into heaven, that is impossible.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) 
"For BY GRACE you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast".

We are saved by grace, and through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, that being said, let me flip the coin over to the seldom talked of, yet often dreaded side of the christian faith. Check out these verses:

Romans 6:15-16
"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin LEADING TO DEATH, or of obedience LEADING TO RIGHTEOUSNESS?"

Is that not clear enough? Try this on for size!

James 2:19-20 (NLT)
"Do you still think it's enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! Fool! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless?"

Still not convinced?

James 2:26 (NLT)
"Just as the body is dead without a spirit, so also faith is dead without good deeds."

Being a follower of Christ is more, so much more, than simply spending a few hours in a church building once or twice a week! As it has been said, "going to church no more makes you a christian than going to Mcdonald's makes you a big mac". Now, it may make you look like a christian to some (or a big mac!!!) to go there, but in truth you are not.

James 1:22 (NLT)
"But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves."

How do we identify the true believers? How do we know who is TRULY saved, those who have truly given their lives to God?

Well, what does the bible say?

Matthew 7:20 (NLT)
"Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced."

Luke 3:9 (NLT)
"Even now the ax of God's judgment is poised, ready to sever your roots. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire."

Luke 6:43 (NLT)
"A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit."

And then in John.....

1 John 2:4-5 (NLT)
"If someone claims, "I know God," but doesn't obey God's commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in truth. But those who obey God's word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in Him.”

Are YOU truly saved? Are you a christian... or a "churchian”?

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

James 1:21 (NLT)
"So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls."

--We all ought to continually ask ourselves these questions, "What is the"filth" in MY life? Who am I really living for, Christ or myself?"

We are always loved by God, and He offers us His grace, but may I remind you that to be forgiven, we must first repent!

I am not saying in all of this that when you become a christian, you will be instantly perfect. However, you will be growing in your faith and being made perfect through Christ. (Check out Hebrews 6:1-3)

I know that I have focused mainly on the fruit of our salvation, yet I have found it necessary to do so. People are more than willing to preach, teach, or talk about God's grace, love and forgiveness, but when it comes to repentance from dead works... Few are willing to do the dirty work.
Jesus desires an intimate relationship with YOU! HE LOVES YOU!!! He gave His life for you, because He loves you and wants to spend ETERNITY with YOU!

I know I have been incredibly blunt with you, and have perhaps offended some... but I believe this is the truth, and anyone who is open to God's word and truth can do nothing but agree. Someone's got to speak the truth. I love you and care about you enough to tell you what most are not willing to say.

Hebrews 10:23 (NLT)
"Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near."

Thanks for hearing me out, and reading what I have to say! It's just that when God reveals things to you, whether it be through the bible, other people, or prayer... sometimes you simply must tell the world about what you've discovered! I guess I'm just one of them crazy Jesus freaks!