Living in Canaan

As a Pastor, I often wonder, how do Christians impact culture and society with the Gospel and faith. More than knowing the Word and understanding the truth, but relating the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of God to the rest of the world.

As the Children of Israel left Egypt, they were heading toward the Promised Land, ancient Palestine, aka, Canaan. The land was filled with pagan people who worshiped false gods like Baal, the moon-god, and Asherah, his female counterpart, Moloch, and others. Their worship involved deviant sexual conduct, sacrifices of children, and many other atrocious practices.

Christians as people of the Book (the Bible), carefully trying to discern the times, it seems appropriate to consider that the church is living in a modern form of ancient Canaan.

The society we are a part of carries out the practices of the ancient pagan religions. It is a very self-centered (narcissistic) rather than god directed society, but the values and practices are not a whole lot different. Sexual deviation is obvious. Just watch anything media based and it’s almost impossible to escape some form of sexual expression. Sex is not about pleasing a god, but satisfying the self. Abortion is the modern child sacrifice, and the altar is women’s rights. Lying, tolerance, becoming rich, being a celebrity, being important, and more are the norms.

The church in a sense is living in Canaan.

Remember that Israel was told going into Canaan to eradicate the pagans living there. Run them off, destroy them and rid the land of pagan worship. Don’t let it be a temptation to you. Our dilemma is not that we are in the promised land, that is in the future when God brings the saved into heaven with him after the return of Christ; we have the God-given responsibility to live among the pagans. Their values and influence are powerful and many Christians have compromised their faith, mixing Christianity with the unholy and ungodly practices of the rest of the world.

How do we live in the world and not be a part of it. We can’t separate from them and live on an island and not be an influence to them. We can’t change the laws and force them to believe or at least act like Christians. We can however, present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them, living by faith, guided by the Bible and the Holy Spirit, showing Christ’s love, fellow-shipping with other believers, and letting God protect our souls while we risk our lives to lead them to Christ.

Too many believers have forsaken the task, holing up in their church buildings and homes, protecting themselves from the influence of the world and making a small almost immeasurable impact for Christ.

The Bible is clear, we are on a mission, a spiritual mission, a war for the souls of people. They are not the enemy, as one preacher (whose name I’ve now forgotten) I heard a long time ago say, “they are captives of the enemy.” The enemy is the devil, Satan himself and he has captured the hearts and souls of the majority of people in the world. For the Christian, it is as if we have moved into Canaan without pushing out the pagans.

The way, is to hold to the truth and be aware of how people accept truth and gain understanding. That is the hard part. The truth is easy. God the Creator loves all people and wants so see them saved (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 2 Peter 3:9), and sent Jesus (John 3:16-17) to save the world through faith in him. And as Peter said, “there is salvation in no other name given among men (Acts 4:12), we have the answer.

Learning how to relate the answer means we need to learn how the modern, spiritual Canaan may relate to and accept the answer. That’s the hard answer.

As we are told, preach the truth in season (when it is popular and acceptable) and out of season (when people don’t want to hear it and even try to stop the preaching of the Gospel).

Do I have the actual answer to every circumstance? No! But God’s Spirit and the teaching and leadership of others who know the truth and have listened to the Spirit can lead into being able to living in Canaan and be obedient to the mission God has called us to in Christ.

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Salvation for Everyone

There is less than a 10% chance that a person will ever accept Jesus Christ and be saved after they become an adult.  As people get older their outlook becomes more entrenched in the worldly, away from God, without Christ.  It is very important to reach people before they become a teenager, to reach them with the Biblical worldview so that they have the seed planted which can grow into belief and acceptance and salvation.  Churches and ministries have realized this and concentrated on young people and they should.  But what of those who have become adults that have not accepted Christ?  What of the younger generations of adults?  What about my generation, the Baby Boomers?  What about yours?  Have we admitted defeat when there is victory to be won?  Have we concentrated on the obvious to the exclusion of the difficult?  The Gospel message and the salvation of Jesus Christ is for everyone, not just the most likely ones.

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Reasons New Churches are Popping Up

“The reason churches are springing up all over is that there an extraordinary need for people to hear the gospel.”

Michael Curtice, director of ministry and missions and teacher at Central Christian College http://www.cccb.edu/ reminded the Lake Ozark Christian Evangelizers Fellowship last night of the reason that we plant churches and the focus of the Christian and the church.  People still need to find Christ.

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Where to Draw the Line

Recently I read the book, The Future of Faith by author and Harvard theologian Harvey Cox (http://browseinside.harpercollins.com/index.aspx?isbn13=9780061755521).  I am curious for the sake of the kingdom of God what the future of faith is.  I mean, as a Christian, as I grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am reaching out to the lost souls of this world and I should be as Jesus said, shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.  You know, understanding and working within the mindset of the people I share Jesus with while be holy and undefiled like Jesus.

Mr. Cox makes some very interesting observations and as well as some disturbing interpretations of the future.

Click on this link to read a PBS interview of Mr. Cox about the  book;http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/september-25-2009/harvey-cox-extended-interview/4342/.

I have to admit, what he believes about the Bible and truth was somewhat unexpected.  For instance, he claims more than once that the creation account in Genesis is a creation myth as well as many other accounts in the Bible.

He believes that we are moving away from dogmatism into a time of faith, in an era he is calling the age of the Spirit.  There is a shift away from dogmatism and creeds.  Denominationalism is fairly dead.

It appears that the idea is a move away from the full understanding and teaching of scripture and a complete reliance on faith and the Spirit, regardless of truth and Biblical teaching.

One thing this denies is the connection of the Spirit and the Word.  They work hand-in-hand.  I will have faith.  I will be practical.  I will be Biblical.  But I will not give up the clear teaching that the Holy Spirit has given us, the Bible.

The answer, if this is the trend for the next couple of decades is what has been termed “Biblical-Theology.”  Let the Bible be the doctrine and creed, not this man-made crap such as Calvinism, Catholicism, Arminianism, etc.

Let the Bible be the Bible and the rule and guide of our faith, just like the concepts the Restoration Movement has touted for a couple  of centuries

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Significance and Evangelism

The past 50 years has seen a major paradigm change in American.  Used to be, we were satisfied with settling down to life as it existed.  It may be college, or a factory or service job.  Most of us got married and had kids, bought a house, and lived life enjoying the stability.

The paradigm change has been that people search to find meaning in their life instead of letting meaning rest in them.  They want to make a difference.  I encountered this with a young man who was going to graduate from high school last year and he was worried that his life would be nothing more than “I think therefore I am.”  My body functions, my mind has thoughts, and I live with my desires and the environment I am in, but does it make a difference.  A sad thought if that’s all life is.

Recently, Relevant Magazine presented an article about how the search for significance can also have a negative side (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/20665-trapped-by-the-search-for-significance).  It is worth reading.

People want their lives to be more than just existing.  As the Relevant article begins, “I have an insatiable need to feel extraordinary….”  That’s where we’re at in our culture.  I want to make a mark and be remembered for something significant and feel that I have done something significant.

We are significant to God and our lives no matter how extraordinary we feel, are just that, extraordinary.  I get a sense of satisfaction when I impact someone’s life positively.  I work with teens who have attachment disorders (For a definition and description click on this link; http://www.helpguide.org/mental/parenting_bonding_reactive_attachment_disorder.htm).  My main role with them involves as many as three elements; leading spiritual time and dealing with spiritual issues, being an encourager, and at times counselling from a Biblical perspective.  I see change in some the students and I understand that I have impacted some of them.  That makes me smile, because I know I have been able to help them, but I do not do it because I am searching for any sort of significance.  I get my significance through God and Christ.

I want to make a difference because God intends to redeem the world. The impact I want to make in this world is what God is doing. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent,” (New Living Translation).  God wants to save everyone.  His desire is to redeem each individual.  My satisfaction isn’t that I have done something that impacts someone, but that I have been saved by God, gifted by his Spirit, and he does incredible things in and through me and sometimes without me.

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Exploring Religio-Spiritual Themes

Okay, so technically I am not a theologian.  I mean I do not have a theology degree from a seminary or university, but if we are working through, studying and figuring out theology, aren’t we then in realistic ways, theologians.

I got this definition from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theology

the·ol·o·gy

[thee-ol-uh-jee]

noun,plural-gies.

1. the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity.
2. a particular form, system, branch, or course of this study.

Even by definition #1, I qualify as a theologian, though I don’t get paid for it.

At the moment, I am exploring a handful of things that are related to theology:

  • Biblio-theology and all that means
  • Where the church and religion is headed
  • The need for and way of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ
  • Even how history still plays a part in the future of church and religion

I have a lot of questions.  Maybe they’re not your questions, and maybe you have the answers to the questions I am exploring.  Pass them on if you have them.

It’s a Biblio-Religio-Spiritual-Theology Safari.

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