Spiritual Complacency Reversed

jesusstatue

A few years back I wrote what has become my most viewed blog post.  It is about spiritual complacency.  It pops up more often than others with the web searches people use.  This tells me that there are many who are concerned about their own spiritual complacency. And someone finally asked me, “How do we combat it?”

How do we move from spiritual complacency to a renewed spiritual fervency? Spiritual passion is more than emotion.  It is a fire that keeps drawing us back to the presence of God.  It’s the state of wanting to hear our Savior’s voice, not just so we can do something for him but because if we hear his voice he is near. Spiritual passion is like having a hunger and a sense of fulness all at once, but without that bloated feeling [smile]. But how do we get there from here?

It would be easy to say, we can’t.  We can conjure up feelings, but not true spiritual passion.  It can’t be manufactured, at least not in a way that will last.  It is a work of the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit always points us to Jesus.  So, what can we do when we find ourselves far from the oneness we were promised and hope for again? A most simple thought comes to my mind and has been haunting me the past month – “Make more of Jesus.”

Don’t make more of morality, make more of Jesus.  Any faith built on morality leads us to two ends.  One is shame.  When we fail, like Adam, we are tempted to run and hide from God. The second end comes when we begin to think we’re succeeding.  That end is self-righteousness.  Faith in Jesus isn’t based on a correct understanding of morals. It is based on a God who pours out his forgiveness freely on those who need it.  This forgiving Jesus is the one who came in person, to break into our own personal hells and invite us to new life in him.  Read John 8: and John . He is a generous forgiver.

Don’t make more of improving your life, make more of Jesus. Have you noticed that a lot of preaching today is filled with principles that we are challenged to live out under our own power to make us better Christians?  Jesus is not a principle. I don’t need more principles.  I need more of Jesus.  I find every effort at self-improvement is only covering over the old.  What I need is transformation.  Jesus is the transformer.  For sure, the words of Scripture can show me areas where God wants to work.  But that doesn’t change me. My growing love for Him and my growing understanding of His love for me does change me.

Don’t make more of heaven when you die, make more of Jesus now.  Faith secures our future, but it doesn’t diminish the present.  The present is so important that Jesus promised to be with us now!  His abundant life is now.  His eternal life is now.  We are forgiven.  We are reconciled.  We are made into a new creation – now!

Don’t make more of amassing Bible knowledge, make more of Jesus in the pages of Scripture.  The Bible’s big job is to point us to Jesus, who is God joining with His creation in the deepest and darkest places, death, and destroying the hold it has had on humanity since the beginning.  The word of God (Bible) points us to The Word (John 1:1), who then shows us in his life, death and resurrection, exactly who God is.

When I feel most at a distance from God, I find out that I have replaced Jesus as the center of my faith.  Complacency creeps in when I have stopped being amazed at him, or when I have forgotten that he is alive and present and active in my world. Make more of Jesus.  Stay with him and stare at him until you can say on your knees, with Thomas, “My Lord and My God.” Make more of Jesus by letting go of everything faith has become.
I’d love to hear your comments about whether this has spurred you Onward and Upward toward Jesus.

They (Those people of great faith) are all around you.

congregation

This morning, I’m reflecting on a memorial service I had the joy of participating in yesterday.  It was for a dear sister in Christ who was just 56 years old.  She fought a valiant battle with cancer.  And the Lord saw fit to bring her home.  What I was encouraged by was all the stories of her life and her commitment to Christ.  At church, she was quiet.  She was often in the background.  Yet she served faithfully in her area of giftedness.  She didn’t get, nor would she have liked fanfare.  In fact, she saw herself as someone underserving of any credit.

What made me think this morning was a comment that was said yesterday by someone who didn’t now our friend well.  This person said, “I sat behind her all these years in church and I didn’t know any of this.”  I thought, “how sad.”  But it just reminds me that as we go to church this morning, we should all be aware that there are heroes of the faith all around us!  There are people who have sacrificed, shared, served and suffered in and through their faith.  These are brothers and sisters who are battle-tested and on some Sundays, just battle-worn.  They have been “fighting the good fight.”  They aren’t perfect and they know it.  They don’t feel like they have the faith-thing nailed, but they do trust in the power and love of their Savior.  What amazes me is they may even be the most uncomfortable ones at church.  Nevertheless these are the ones we need to know!  They will only make us stronger.

Hebrews 11 is known as the “Hall of Faith.”  It is a listing of our great heroes of faith.  People like Abel, Abraham, Rahab, Gideon, and David are recorded as inspirations. These are men and women who responded faithfully, but not perfectly, to the invitation of God to follow. God is not done with Hebrews 11.  He is still writing that story today.

You may be headed to church today.  Would you remember that God is adding to the story of faith in the lives of those unknown saints around you?  Be courageous today, meet them. Find opportunities to hear their stories. You don’t want to discover at their memorial service you missed a chance to know what real, imperfect, yet powerful faith is all about.

You, the church and these quiet heroes will only be encouraged by it.

Happy Birthday Grandpa!

Today would have been Albert Renke’s 100th birthday. We’ve missed him for nearly 20 years. He was my Grandpa. He taught me golf (I’m not sure I really learned it, but he tried). As a grandpa, he was the best. Memories flood my mind of us all piling into the back of his little Ford Ranchero and heading off to get ice cream cones, Christmas Eve day golf excursions, and especially the joy he got the day of his hole-in-one.

There are people who know better than me that he wasn’t perfect. But in his imperfection he trusted in the grace of Jesus Christ. He loved the Word of God. And he served the Lord faithfully through his church.

His life still teaches me about faith and commitment. He laid a foundation for us to stand on. Happy Birthday Grandpa. I thank God for your life.

Below is an article I wrote for our church newsletter, it included words about my Grandpa’s hands.

“It’s All There, in His Hands”
by Pastor James Renke

I remember them with fondness and awe. They were hard and firm. Fingers permanently bent from years of abuse. No longer able to flatten on the table. They caused him pain, but they always served him. From years of holding tools, first on the farm and then in the machine shop, there was always a bruised nail, or a cut that was in the process of healing. These were hands that provided for his family in times when times were tough. These were also the hands that gracefully turned the thin and worn pages of his Bible as he read at the kitchen table, or that strongly upheld the hymnal during the Sunday service. These were the hands that taught me how to hold a golf club and paid for McDonalds when the day of golf was over and we were adding up the scores.

My Grandpa’s hands told a story. And so do ours. Jesus’ hands told a story too. Barbara Brown Taylor wrote, “Look at my hands and my feet,” Jesus said, and when they did they saw everything he had ever been to them. They saw the hands that had broken bread and blessed broiled fish, holding it out to them over and over again. They saw the hand that had pressed pads of mud against a blind man’s eyes and taken a dead girl by the hand so that she rose and walked. They saw the hands that danced through the air when he taught, the same hands that reached out to touch a leper without pausing or holding back.

…they had holes in them, sore angry-looking bruises that hurt them to look at, only it was important for the disciples to look, because they had never done it before. Earlier, when they had figured out what was coming to those beloved hands, the had fled…”

When that world looks around for the risen Christ, when they want to know what that means, it is us they look at. Not our pretty faces and not our sincere eyes but our hands and feet – what we have done with them and where we have gone with them.

What stories do our hands tell? Are they sharing in the work of Christ? We all know that our hands are not perfect. They may have done things that God did not intend for them. They have scars and wounds from life’s mistakes. But they can also have the touch of blessing, the touch of God’s tender and sacrificial love.

This month, during our Sunday worship services we are going to take a look at the hands of Christ and prayerfully consider how we can be part of that work. How can our hands continue the work he started? Will our hands be permanent testimonies of grace and faithfulness, or will they monuments to a life motivated by individual desires?

Jesus’ hands will be our example. His hands will be our guide. The work of His hands in and through our hands, will be our passion.

It’s May 22nd

What now? It’s May 22nd. In the spiritual battle for truth, a false teacher has been used by Satan to discredit the teaching of Jesus about His second coming. Rapture jokes are everywhere. People, even Christians, are being lighthearted about one of the most important realities – Jesus is coming again! And when He comes, it will be deliverance for those who trust Him. And it will be judgment for those who have sought their own path to salvation.

As I’ve watched “Facebook” posts and read blogs and news articles, common phrases which intrigue me are “I survived judgment day,” or, “I survived the rapture.” The clear picture of Scripture is, if you survive on earth after Christ gathers his followers – that’s not good news.

But what should believers do in light of this false prophecy?

1) Be discerning. Do you know why this prophecy was untrue? Make sure you do some homework about why Camping is a false prophet. There will always be people who will distort the Word of God in order to further their agendas, or their egos. You must be able to spot them.

2) Hold firm to your faith. Jesus is coming again. That is His promise! These other things are the “false interpretations” of man. The truth is, “for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape (2 Thess. 5:2-3).”

3) Lastly, while we wait, be faithful! “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 5:8-9).”

There is no code in Scripture that tells us when things will happen! There is hope and direction given for those who are waiting the Sovereign Lord’s return. So, be about the mission of Christ. And be ready for His return – – it could be today, or tomorrow.