Experimental Religion

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My favorite part of chemistry class was lab. In lab we were able to do experiments that demonstrated the scientific truth of what we had studied in our books. We could test, observe, and measure chemical reactions and formulas. How boring would chemistry have been if the extent of our learning was only listening to the professor lecture and reading a text-book? Experiments were, in some sense, what the books and lectures were for – to show truth in action and experience, and to prove the reality and power of chemistry.

The old-school Puritans used to talk about “Experimental Religion,” because they knew that their faith was not just described in a book or merely cerebral, nor did they think that the limits of their spirituality were to be found under the “lecture” of a “spiritual-professor,” their pastor!  They knew that their lives were the “lab” of the Holy Spirit to show the truth of the gospel in action and experience. Rather than simply be biblicists – always learning yet never applying the Bible – the Puritans wanted to experience God in their daily lives and prove His power.  Rather than simply going to church – always attending but never applying – they wanted to see God prove his grace in their lives and show to everyone they interacted with by experiment, or as we might say today, experience, the love of God in Christ.

This week, if you go to church or when you read your Bible, don’t just attend the service or merely read the Word, but rather take it to the lab of your life and experience it!  Let the power of God’s presence express and prove His truth in your life and to everyone  you interact with this week.  Go old-school Puritan and experiment and experience God in your life!

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Haunted House of Your Soul

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One of the most painful things in life must be that strange amalgam of regret and lasting consequences of mistakes of the past. The psychological damage of self-inflicted wounds are some of the worst. Many simply cannot seem to overcome them because not only do guilt and shame continue to plague the soul but also the emotional fabric of life seems irreparably torn, never to be whole again, never to function the way it once did. It’s like our past sins continue to haunt us until the day we die.

Is there relief from this haunting? Can we escape from the damage caused by our own choices, especially ones we made in the foolishness of youth? Yes, there is healing, but it is not easy. It takes a measure of humility and repentance, along with the process of turning over our pain and guilt to the Lord Himself in the spiritual realm. It takes turning over each an every ghost of our past to Jesus… and if they should attempt to return to haunt us again we need to send them back to Jesus.

One of the most wonderful things must be to experience release from past failures. This must be what David wrote about in Ps. 25. He states, “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good.” David had his fair share of soul shattering sin. How could he put it together again? How? God was gracious to David, and although David experienced much of the consequences for his actions, ultimately God was both merciful and gracious to him.

How much more wonderful is God’s healing to us who have the finished work of forgiveness and unbroken spiritual connection to God through the cross of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit? Some of the most wonderful people in the world are those who’s sin are forgiven, who’s faults are not held against them, and who’s souls have been remade in Jesus.

Are you haunted by past sins? Do you remember your failures daily and suffer? Go to God and ask Him to clean out your soul, take from you the ghosts of your past and fill you with His Spirit.

Are you a Christian or a Disciple?

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Ed Gross’ new book “Are You a Christian or a Disciple? Rediscovering & Renewing New Testament Discipleship” addresses a question that is of the highest importance.   Much of western Christianity, and consequently global Christianity, has been so influenced by unbiblical ideas and practices that discipleship has become almost a lost word and Christianity-without-discipleship has taken its place.  In His book, Gross reminds us of the central importance of discipleship: what it was, how we lost it, and how to recover it.  He rightly states, “The New Testament knows nothing of a Christianity disconnected from biblical discipleship…” and yet, “most of us… were not taught biblical discipleship by our instructors.”  In this gem of a book Gross unpacks for us what Jesus’ call to follow him as disciples means and how, if we are to truly follow Jesus, we must walk down the same path he walked.

In the first section of the book, Gross explains the forgotten historical and biblical call of discipleship.  In careful analysis of both history and the biblical text we are shown afresh what it really meant in the first century to be a “Disciple of Jesus” and what it means today. He carefully covers the true nature and hallmarks of what a disciple was and how we have essentially lost this today, so much so that a ground swell of voices from the late John Stott to Kyle Idleman are calling us back to the foundation of following Jesus as disciples.

In the second section of the book, Gross explains the growing challenges today to accept a calling to follow Jesus as a disciple. With a prophetic voice, Gross defines the present crisis today in global Christianity and provides an essential outline toward a solution, boldly stating, “The problem today is that “following Jesus” is not understood as a formal call to a defined disciple-master relationship.  Instead, in most of our contexts, it denotes some vague notion of spiritual attachment between us and Jesus.”  Rather than shy away from the challenges of biblical discipleship as defined by Jesus, Gross acknowledges the challenges head on in a way that gets at the heart of the issues: following the real Jesus not our imagination, Jesus’ way of evangelism to “make disciples,” embracing Jesus’ “hard” words to follow him, obey, and turn in repentance, not being merely shallow converts.

In the final section of the book, Gross delves into the transformative aspects of being true disciples of Jesus.  Gross challenges us to follow Jesus with “total submission.”   He shows that following Jesus affects the whole of our lives, demands that we actually know his words, emulate his way of life, and makes disciples the way he made disciples.  We are shown that Jesus’ call to be disciples who make disciples actually frees us from modern notions of evangelism and church growth and allows the Holy Spirit to work through us without pressure and with far greater power.  Finally, Gross catalogues the Disciple Making Movement’s success globally (DMM) and challenges us to apply it to our context.

“Are You a Christian or a Disciple? Rediscovering & Renewing New Testament Discipleship” addresses not only the pressing question of our day, but the timeless question of our hearts – Can you be a Christian and not a Disciple?  This book is a must read for anyone who desires to live out authentic Christianity.

 

Tolerance and Patience Cut the Deepest

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You never know what will happen with your interactions with people.  What you might consider a throw away comment, or maybe a conversation that didn’t go as well as you would like can actually be a catalyst for eternal change.

When I was younger and living life foolishly, a godly man challenged me to consider my ways and change.  I scoffed at him.  Rather than argue with me he simply said, “It is the kindness, tolerance, and patience of God that will lead you to repentance.” (Rom. 2:4) He promptly walked away and I have never spoken to him since.   His words were like a cosmically sharp blade that cut to my heart.  My soul was wounded and I was spiritually bleeding out in a profound experience of Hebrews 4:12 -“The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

I wonder if he thought I was a hopeless case?  I wonder if he thought his words were wasted?  I wonder if he knows that his words, which were God’s Words, have changed my life?

Always remember that what you say matters.  Remember that you don’t need to argue anyone into the Kingdom or to immediately affect change in their life!  All you need to do is speak words of kindness, tolerance, and patience.  God will take care of the rest.