New And Improved Christianity

We live in a culture that craves the "new-and-improved." As soon as a product is widely accepted, its creators produce a new-and-improved version of it. Products or ideas are often marketed with the claim that "this ain't your granddaddy's" version.

Unfortunately, cultural Christianity has adopted this same strategy. Some, in the name of relevance, have cherry-picked the Bible to create a new-and-improved religion that the first followers of Jesus would never recognize. Because our postmodern majority wants a god that fits comfortably into its lifestyle, we are now saturated with a wildly popular, new-and- improved, "this ain't your granddaddy's" version of Christianity. This new brand offers the fragrance of spirituality without the substance. Whereas the Jesus of scripture required obedience and surrender, this modern pseudo-Jesus just wants to hang out with us and provide goodies. This new brand of Christian-lite boasts a god we may pacify rather than obey. The modern American god desires to partner with us to fulfill our dreams, rather than work out His plans in us.  Where historic Christianity emphasized holiness and repentance, this new-and-improved version stresses self-esteem and personal fulfillment. This is a god who negotiates with us about our sin, rather than judging it and requiring us to stop it.

The addition of a few hand-selected, non-offensive Bible verses gives this imitation a semblance of authenticity. However, this new version is nothing but cheap plastic. It has no foundation. Every belief system must have a foundation upon which it is built, or it is merely conjecture. The foundation for true Christianity has always been the Bible--the whole Bible, not sanitized excerpts from it. And when we study the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), we realize that there is no way to make God's truth new and improved. It is already timeless and perfect. And His way is the only way to God. He did not invent a new way to pacify the self-obsessed. 

It was this uncompromising gospel that got Jesus and his followers murdered. There is very little in today's new-and-improved, have-it-your-way version of so-called Christianity that would have gotten anyone martyred.



Whose Voice?

They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” (v.35)

Jairus was in hopeless situation. He’d already broken every religious code when he reached out to Jesus in the first place. Now it seemed he’d waited too long. His daughter was dead. Common sense told him to listen to those who brought him the facts. But faith listens to a different Voice. If Jairus had listened to the messengers, he may have had a very different outcome. Instead, he listened to Jesus. And because he listened to Jesus, a hopeless situation was given new life.

People and situations shout facts at us: “You’ve messed up too badly.” “This can never be changed.” “You will never amount to anything.” “There’s no use troubling God with this, it’s hopeless.” We often listen to those voices and turn away from God, believing that He is among the accusers. When we’re faced with an impossible situation, we have a choice to make. We can look at the facts as we understand them and make our own decisions about the outcome. Or we can look to Jesus and trust Him with the outcome. When we listen to Him, our hopeless situations are given new life.

Whose voice do you listen to when your situation seems hopeless? 


Cleaining Up

...Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.  Ephesians 4:32

When the Holy Spirit comes to clean house, He brings His own supplies. Our personal efforts to clean ourselves up were a pitiful failure. Our fixer-upper hearts dont look much better, even after all our best efforts at self-improvement. What we thought was improvement turned out to be pride, legalism, and selfishness.

Fortunately, God doesnt just strip us of everything bad. He replaces the bad with good. When he peels off the old character flaws, he adds His own character. When he sands off the bitterness, He uses forgiveness as a tool. The harsh words, anger, and slander are filed away and made smooth with tenderheartedness and sensitivity to God and others. When the junk has been carted away, He then fills our hearts with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22). And He shows us how to use these new tools. When we want to lash out at someone, He quietly reminds us of how much we have been forgiven by Him. When we try to pout, He offers peace and joy instead. Only the Holy Spirit can redecorate our hearts the way He likes them so that He enjoys being there.

We are all fixer-uppers. How is your life-remodeling project coming along? 


Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander… Ephesians 4:31

Imagine that you bought a fixer-upper house. It had a lot of potential, but needed a lot of work first. The paint was peeling, floors were warped, and it smelled funny. It had been owned by a hoarder who was not particular about what he hoarded. So the house was stuffed floor to ceiling with old boxes, newspapers, rotting garbage, and rusty cans. Would you move right in and hang your curtains? Or would you do a lot of cleaning first?

When the Holy Spirit moves into a life, He has to clean house. Our hearts are initially cluttered with junk: bad attitudes, sin habits, lust, hatred, and selfishness. Our hearts are far from holy, but holiness is God’s goal for each of us (1 Pet. 1:16). He sees great potential in us, but the junk is in the way. He asks us to roll up our sleeves and help Him get rid of the junk, like bitterness, rage, anger, and harsh words. 

But some of it we are a little fond of. We tend to be hoarders, too. We hoard petty grievances, old wounds, and painful memories. We can cling to it if we want, but He won’t hang around much in that kind of filth. If we want His presence and the beauty He will bring to our lives, we have to allow Him to clean us up. He’s very patient, but won’t start without our permission. We can stay in our filth without Him or enjoy His presence while He cleans house.

Dress Up

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Ephesians 5:1 

Nothing is cuter than a tiny child trying to imitate Mommy or Daddy. A little boy clomps after Dad in his giant cowboy boots with a plastic hammer in his hand. A little girl with lipstick smeared on her face and a Disney purse slung over one arm “helps” Mom shop. Even baby animals copy the hunting patterns of the parents. So why do the young try to imitate the elder?

It begins with relationship. When we spend most of our time with someone we love, we want to be like them. We will become like our heroes, so it is vitally important that we choose those heroes wisely. When we are adopted by God into His family, He wants us to grow to look like Him. He wants to be our Hero and desires that His children to take on a family resemblance. We do this by imitating His character, His holiness, and His perspective. Romans 8:29 tells us that it was God’s plan from the beginning to mold us into the image of His own Son. He wants us to model Jesus and match our responses to His. We can let His Holy Spirit produce the character of God in our lives (Gal. 5:22) so that we begin to look like our Father.
Who are your heroes? Are they worthy of imitation? What if your goal was to imitate your heavenly Father?

Who's Teaching?

everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. Luke 6:40 

We all had those teachers we loved. They may have been tough, but we learned from them. Something about the way they presented the material lit a spark of interest. We discovered a talent or passion within ourselves that we did not know was there until that teacher brought it out. As we developed that skill, we may have subconsciously patterned after that teacher.

We have other teachers as well. Our five senses receive information continuously and our brains process this information in ways that may surprise us. Advertisers know this and pay huge amounts to subtly interject their brand names into movies, TV

shows, music, and print medium. Fads, pop culture, and the heroes we choose all contribute to the way we see the world and ourselves. It is important that we recognize who and what is teaching us because Jesus warned that we will be like our teachers. When we notice character flaws, sin strongholds, and harmful thinking patterns, it could be that we have some teachers we did not know about. A wise person learns to identify and eliminate those “teachers.”
 Who are your teachers? 
Who or what are you allowing to speak into your life? 

You can evaluate the quality of a teacher by asking yourself: “Does this draw me closer to who God wants me to be or push me away?”


Fill 'er Up

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. (v. 7)

Imagine that you were one of those servants. You had just heard a stranger say to fill all those big water jugs to the brim. Hauling water in ancient Israel was an exhausting job. Filling huge jars from a hand-dug well took a lot of work. It would have been tempting to send one guy for half a jar and see what Jesus intended to do with it. They had never met Jesus. They had no idea what he could do. But they obeyed anyway. The Bible makes a point of telling us that the servants "filled them to the brim." And it’s a good thing, because Jesus never honors half-hearted compliance. He's all or nothing.
Faith is all or nothing too. Faith has no idea how this is going to turn out, but obeys anyway. Faith keeps its gaze trained upon the character of God, and then fills it to the brim. However, too often we withhold from God because we’re not sure about His methods. We know His commands, but obey halfway to see how it will turn out. We withhold our tithes and offerings for fear God won't provide. We withhold time and effort for fear it won't be rewarded. We withhold parts of our lives for fear we won't be in control, and our hearts for fear we’re not worthy. Jesus won’t do anything with half a jar of compromise. He is all or nothing.

 Are you filling your jars to the brim or are you withholding? Whatever you withhold will miss God’s miracles.

Do We Understand the Love of Jesus?

“The love of Jesus.” 
This beautiful phrase has been hijacked of late by a world who doesn’t know Him at all. 

For those who are not students of scripture, 
the idea of Jesus has become synonymous with a 
flower-weaving hippie 
who believes in free love and universal salvation. 

This caricature is so opposite the real Jesus that it is blasphemous. Unfortunately, some of the most famous names teaching today help propagate a twisted understanding of a Jesus who never existed. This fantasy “Jesus” is wildly popular, because He is moldable, weak, and accepting of anything we want to do. He’s become a Jesus Action Figure, who can be posed in whatever position we like best. 

However, a careful reading of the four Gospels reveals another story. They give us glimpses of a God-man that no one understood, and His determined march toward the cross. The Jesus of scripture was the long-awaited Lion of Judah, who threw aside His royal robes to stomp Satan’s head and set prisoners free. The real Jesus was brutally honest with saint and sinner alike. He was painfully direct with those who needed it, yet went after the downtrodden and offered hope. He forgave anyone who asked, but then commanded them to stop sinning or something worse would happen. He shot down the self-righteous with well-placed zingers, and was not above name-calling when the situation demanded it. He rebuked His closest friends when they tried to get in the way of God’s plan for Him, and then made a point of forgiving them anyway.

When potential followers offered reasonable excuses, He let them walk away before He would compromise the truth. Status, wealth or threat could not alter His message: “I’ve come to give you real life, so repent and follow me.” When His popularity was at its peak, rather than capitalize on it, He turned to the crowd with a, “Really? You think you want to follow me? You’ll have to love me more than anything, deny yourself, and take up your cross every day.” He watched them slink away, already knowing that they only wanted His blessings, not Himself. Kind of like today. 

Sadly the phrase “the love of Jesus” has become confused with passivity and silence, neither of which ever characterized the Son of God who will one day judge the world. The only time He remained silent was when He chose to go to the cross. His message had been delivered; there was nothing left to say. His actions would be the final punctuation on His life’s message.        

God’s desire for every human being is to model the love of Jesus, but not a world-tainted redefinition of it. Before we can effectively extend real love, we have to check our own distorted perceptions and make certain we are worshiping the real Jesus. Anything else is idolatry, and any version of “love” that stems from it is false.


The Best For Last


"Most serve the good wine first, and then when guests have drunk their fill, they bring out the cheaper quality wine. But you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:10)

We’ve all heard the excuses. Maybe you’ve used some yourself. “I would follow Jesus, but I don’t want to give up ___.” “Yeah, I know what the Bible says, but I think ….” “I want to enjoy my life right now. I’ll get serious about God when I’m old.”
Those excuses are usually spouted by someone who believes himself quite clever and original for thinking of them. The truth is, those excuses were created in Hell’s excuse-factory and pumped into the atmosphere by the devil himself. He loves to propagate the idea that surrender to Jesus is the death knell for happiness. He has harnessed culture, entertainment, and media to help spread the lie that God’s plan is inferior to his. If we want REAL living, we will only find it his way.


History tells a different story. When Jesus turned ordinary water into wine, it wasn’t just moonshine. He made wine of the highest quality, superior to anything the host had provided. He was demonstrating that when we leave a problem in His hands, He takes the solution to a higher level. He can take our ordinary and turn it into a miracle. He takes pain, heartache, and struggle and turns it into beauty, purpose, and a life that is superior to anything we can produce. Jesus is looking for ordinary people through whom He can produce the extraordinary. 
When we trust Him in spite of suffering, obey Him in the face of temptation, and walk with Him even in the darkness, He takes us to a higher level. He transforms ordinary people into miracle-working kingdom builders. Our transformations demonstrate to the world that Jesus has “saved the best till now.”


Are you making excuses or are you allowing Jesus to transform your “ordinary”?