Monday, October 31, 2011

"Jumping the Shark!"

A Message for Reformation Sunday

by Keith Kiper

Who will be saved?

22 Jesus traveled through cities and villages teaching and making his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone said to him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”

Jesus said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow gate. Many, I tell you, will try to enter and won’t be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and shuts the door, then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you are from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 He will respond, ‘I don’t know you or where you are from. Go away from me, all you evildoers!’ [a] 28 There will be weeping and grinding of teeth

when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in God’s kingdom, but you yourselves will be thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west, north and south, and sit down to eat in God’s kingdom. 30 Look! Those who are last will be first and those who are first will be last.”Luke 13:22-30 (CEB)

What comes to your mind when you think of Martin Luther and the Diet of Worms? Was this an early form of a fad diet in 15th century Germany? After all, just a few years ago you could find advertisements in magazines for tapeworms.

Just swallow a few of these, the ad would say, and you can lose weight without really trying. Our brand is even hygienic for your good health, it would say! But, a Diet of Worms? Our form of the English language can be a fascinating thing. We can only imagine how strange it seems to others when they attempt to learn and speak our brand of English.

Martin Luther, as many of you well know was the father of the Protestant Reformation. Martin was born in eastern Germany in 1483. This was only some forty years after Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press. Martin Luther protested some of the practices in the Catholic Church of that time. A diet was a judicial hearing or court. Worms was the German city where the trial was to be held. And now, as the late Paul Harvey would often say, you know the rest of

the story.

History demonstrates that at various times and different locations, the Christian church has veered off and even jumped the track. God calls out men and women, grounded in His Holy Word, the Bible, to steer the Christian Church back into the right direction. He has done this from Old Testament times until the present age in which we now live. The bigger question is whether the church of today will listen.

Recently, a well known television pastor and evangelist was asked what he thought about the Mormon faith. This was in response to recent criticism of a particular political candidate.

The tele-evangelist’s ( Click this link to hear what he said) answer seemed logical, and probably sounded OK to much of today’s Biblically illiterate culture. He said he probably would not agree with everything he Church of Latter Day Saints would teach. He went on to say that they were probably not the purest form of Christianity…that recognizing Jesus as the Son of God was the most important thing. The thing this well known evangelist neglected to consider is that while the Mormon Church claims they believe in the sinless, virgin birth of Jesus Christ, they do not believe this happened by any miraculous means. This is important because for Jesus to be born without sin, the Holy Spirit's role in His conception is of utmost importance.

All genuine Christianity is built on the foundation of what seemed to be a small detail to him. God sent His perfect, sinless Son, born of a virgin to be a sacrifice for mankind’s sin. Christ became sin for us on the cross at Calvary that we might have eternal life. The virgin birth is of utmost

importance because sin is passed through the blood of each generation. Because Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, Christ was born without sin.

Back in the 1970’s there was a popular television called Happy Days. As with most television shows, ratings decline the longer a program remains on the air. In an effort to gain a ratings boost, the Happy Days gang went on a beach vacation. In one particular scene Fonzi is seen wearing his famous leather jacket while on water skis. Still on the skis he then jumps over a shark to the cheers of everyone on the beach. Because of this particular scene, movie and television critics invented a new name for programs that leave common sense behind and go of

f into a strange direction. It’s called “Jumping the Shark!” My friends, there are many churches today that have jumped the shark!

The bigger question today is…how do we as a The Church get back on track? God's Revivalist and Bible Advocate magazine recently published their Call to the Conservative Christian Holiness Movement in the October 2011 edition. They make some excellent points and the article is worth reading. I mention this because I was inspired by their call and this affected some of my following points. I would like to focus on several things today that I personally believe would get our church and nation headed back into the right direction based on God’s Word.

I. A Return to Christian Community: When I say church, I’m talking about the church as a whole. I’m not criticizing our church, Boonville Wesleyan Church. We are just a part of a much larger picture, Christ’s church, the entire Christian Community. Union with Christ establishes our membership in His Church, the community of the faithful. I’m afraid that because many times we as Christians have put so much emphasis on a personal relationship, that we forget we are all called to work together to be the light of the world. As an individual we belong to Boonville Wesleyan Church. Our church is part of the Indiana South District of The Wesleyan Church. Our district is part of The Wesleyan Church USA. And of course, all churches that believe that Jesus is Savior and Lord are part of the Kingdom of God. The first step the church of today must take in getting back on track is accountability. There will be no denominations in heaven. We must remain true to the Word of God and in fellowship with the entire Christian Community of believers that are striving to do the same.

II. A Return to Christian Social Witness: What do I mean when I speak of a social Christian witness? John Wesley once said, ”Any religion that can be concealed is not Christianity.” What do you think Wesley meant when he made that statement? As you study his life it becomes quite clear. The England of Wesley’s day had become very corrupt. Alcoholism was very rampant in the streets. Children could be hanged for stealing rabbit from a gentlemen’s estate. Not much different than today is it? Florida is the leading state to treat children as adults with over 300 under the age of eighteen in the adult prison system. Florida is followed closely by Texas. I’m sorry folks, regardless of the crime, a twelve year old boy is not an adult and does not deserve life in prison! I would not want to be in the judge’s shoes who sentenced a child for personal political gain when the King of Kings judges him. Jesus tells us about the fate of those who mistreat children. And just as the early Wesleyans constantly decried the evils of slavery…we should cry out to God for our leaders who justify the nearly 4000 thousand children who are murdered each day in their mother’s womb. God tells us clearly that the children’s innocent blood cries out from the ground to Him.

Early Wesleyans and like-minded Christians of other faiths worked to reform the prison system, end slavery, and feed the poor. A Social Gospel is putting into action what we believe and know in our heart is right based on what the Bible clearly shows us. . That is what it means to be salt and light. This is putting the golden rule into action. True revival brought about the needed social change in England. The answer to America’s problems is true spiritual revival, not more laws and political rhetoric.

Many would look for a political or presidential candidate to solve the problems.

Someone once said,” Why do we choose from just two people to run for president and fifty for Miss America?” Good question!

Both major political parties have had periods of time when they experienced complete control with the presidency and both houses of congress. If being democrat or being republican were the only answer, then our problems should have been solved by now. If you seek God in honest prayer, He will guide you in selecting a candidate, nationally or locally.

In spite of billions of dollars pouring in every year, our public school system has become a disaster. Abraham Lincoln said that the classroom of one generation will become the government of the next one. The great reformer Martin Luther recognized the problem nearly 500 years ago when he said, “I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.”

Dr. Leon Henson said, Whenever the Christian lives an authentic life, the world around is permeated with God’s presence… The pure in heart not only see God, but become letters through which society sees Him.”

III. A Return to Consistent Discipleship: Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples by baptizing them and instructing them in all His commands. The early church responded to Jesus’ call to evangelize by taking the Gospel to every corner of their known world. They also realized that the most effective evangelism was the one on one training of new converts as disciples. With the advent of satellite TV and the internet we might assume that most of the known world has been reached with the Gospel of Christ. The statistics from a recent survey might surprise you. I quote from Dr. Ronnie Floyd of The Church You can check out this new link on our interactive blog for current events affecting the Christian Church.

“We must understand the numbers when it comes to those around the world who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. I served on a task force that assessed our efforts to take the gospel to the world and the statistics we uncovered are heartbreaking. Only 11 out of every 100 people in this world are willing to claim Jesus as personal Lord and Savior. We also discovered that just over 50% of the world’s population (approximately 3.5 billion people) has no realistic opportunity to hear the gospel at present. The statistics are bad and will continue to get worse unless Spirit-filled Christians begin to act with urgency.
We must organize and execute an effective strategy for taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. We have one gospel but thousands of people groups and billions of individuals. Our urgent need is for strategic ways of reaching each one. Perhaps the best solution is to plant new churches. Churches that are ready to address languages, cultures, and needs. Here is a sobering thought: We simply cannot reach billions of people with our current means. Every existing church should be planting multiple new churches.”

If I were to ask each of you that are here today why you attend Boonville Wesleyan…most of you would tell me it was because a friend or family member invited you. If there is any hope for the church to reach the lost, we must train and disciple new workers to go out into our world. I personally believe we here at Boonville with God’s help and direction are making that effort. I never really cared for the word laity, because I believe in a certain sense we are all ministers. God has called each and every one of us to fill a particular niche in His Kingdom.

IV. A Return to Hope: If one were to look only at some of the things we talked about today the picture would seem quite gloomy. Its not over yet, is it? All the Christian life in centered in the blessed hope we have in Jesus Christ. Never before in this world have we needed a renewed sense of hope like the hope we can have in Him! As Christians soldiers we must not retreat but fight to the end.

We must stick together and remain true to God’s Word. A recent writer for God’s Revivalist magazine summed it up well. Listen to what he said:

“ The same power which brought the Roman Empire to bow before the cross,renewed the Church in the days of the Protestant Reformation, and reshaped the culture in the Wesleyan Revival is also ours today….as we encounter the moral depravity of our times. Let us be joyfully faithful, then, creatively relevant, and utterly confident that Jesus’ victory is our own. With gladness we do the work which he has given us, even as we await the consummation when all the earth shall echo,”Alleluia, The Lord God Omnipotent reigns!

Friday, October 21, 2011

All Saint's Day...An Armchair Theologians Perspective

All Saints Day, the day on which Catholics celebrate all the saints, known and unknown, is a surprisingly old feast. It arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom. When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local dioceses instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.

Most Protestants churches other than some of the "mainline" churches focus more of their attention on days such as Mother's Day, Father's Day. Now there's even a Grandparent's Day and a Children's Day.. I'm not criticizing this practice, but would would personally like to see more of the day's on the Christian Calendar observed and explained to congregations also.

Retailers tell us that the pagan holiday of Halloween is second only to Christmas in total consumer spending! It is not uncommon to see as many houses decorated in ghosts and goblins as with Christmas lights a couple of months later. Most conservative churches replace Halloween Parties with Hallelujah Parties asking that participants dress like Bible characters and such.

This a a good alternative so the children of church members don't feel like they are totally left-out as in the good 'ol days when everything was illegal, immoral, and it seemed a sin just to smile. Maybe there is another possibility to consider? Maybe we as the Church could focus more on church holidays like All Saint's Day in rememberence of those who died that Christianity, especially Protestant Christianity might live. Included in this is our many translations of the Bible into everyday language so that everyone can read it.

And while we are at it, maybe we can throw Maundy Thursday, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday in there also! That's my opinion anyway...keith 1 Cor 13

Keith Kiper is the Media Pastor at Boonville Wesleyan Church. He resides in Tennyson Indiana with his wife Vicky, daugher Kristy, with 2 cats and a very spoiled Mailtipoo. He is a licensed minister pursuing pre-ordination studies in The Wesleyan Church and will be ordained in June 2012. Keith is also the Webmaster and manages several facebook pages , has written aritcles for God's Revivalist,blogs, and manages the official Indiana South District facebook page.