I’m Tired… Tired of Christianity

broken church

Like you, I read several online papers, I keep track of social media.  I even subscribe to 3 email alerts each day for news items with the words, “church,” “pastor,” and “faith.”  I understand the brokenness of the world.  And I understand the limitations of the church.  But it seems like something else has happened.  We have built a system of faith that is making me tired.

So, on this December 20th morning, at 4 a.m. I confess: I’m getting a little tired of the Christianity we have constructed.

  1. I’m tired of a Christianity that believes in the kingdoms of this world to solve the world’s issues.
  2. I’m tired of a Christianity that relegates Jesus to the corner of our existence, instead of being Lord of all.
  3. I’m tired of a Christianity that offers tricks, tips and strategies for improving our lot, rather than leading others to the Jesus who comes to bring life.
  4. I’m tired of a Christianity that snipes at itself instead of learning to submit to one another for the sake of reconciliation.
  5. I’m tired of a Christianity that allows anger to motivate a call to justice, instead of love.
  6. I’m tired of a Christianity that is not distinct from the world in its words and ways.
  7. I’m tired of a Christianity that is not engaged enough with the world and doesn’t hear its questions.
  8. I’m tired of a Christianity that explains away the hard things Jesus said, instead of wrestling with them with open hearts.
  9. I’m tired of a Christianity that doesn’t look for the miraculous, but trusts in the mechanical.
  10. I’m tired of a Christianity that Jesus isn’t invited into and depended upon to lead.

I confess, I’m a co-conspirator.  I’ve helped build this Christianity.  I’ve chased human dreams sanctified by holy words.  It makes me sad and tired.  We’ve traded away our birthright for a pot of stew.

I’m not tired of Jesus.  I don’t think we make a big enough deal over him.

I’m not tired of the community Jesus started, the church. I love her and have big hopes for her.

I’m not tired of serving. I want to serve those Jesus loves and died to give life to.

Maybe Christmas is a good time to admit we’re tired and from there we can seek a quiet, humble, and prayerful way back to His path.  I think there we will find rest.

What are you tired of?  Is there a way back?

As always, thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing.  

God Changes Our Pain

Are you struggling?  Are you being tested?  Are you looking for a way to understand and process all the pain that happens in your life and in our world?  I’ve been there and still go there from time to time.  Transformed Pain is about how God has led me through personal pain.  I invite you to check it out.  It’s available in paperback and on Kindle.

Some quotes from the book.

“God created all things with the full knowledge that we would choose a path of resistance and independence.  Because of love, He responded to the need with the plan that He had put in place for our rescue.  This is the God who meets us in our suffering with a unique and transformative plan.” p. 57

“In Christ, my suffering has been transformed.  It is the death of Christ and my response of faith that changes the very nature of the struggles I face.  When I suffer, I don’t suffer as a victim of the created order, I suffer as a participant in the work of redemption.” p. 76

“Pride keeps us in slavery to our circumstances. We are controlled by what’s happening to us because it’s happening to us.  Humility frees us from that control. This freedom gives us the ability to see the good of what we’re going through with God.  Humility frees us to surrender our will to the will of our Father.” p. 103

“I have gained a new perspective on God, His grace, His ways and His purposes.  I have new faith in His power to transform what is evil into what is good.  I have new confidence that His goodness can reshape what is ugly into something that is beautiful.  I have a new hope that He is writing a story with my life that is worth reading.” p. 121

I’ve received comments by a few who have been encouraged by the book.

From Amazon…
“This is a good book that challenged me to look at suffering in new ways. Some of the author’s comments on suffering caused me to stop and say, “why on earth had I not looked at it in that way before?” He writes from personal experience, and uses scripture throughout the book. It is easy to read, straightforward and practical for the everyday person.”

“I love the fact that this book is written very practically. By that I mean that it is not written from pie in the sky theory and with platitudes but from real life and real experience all with a strong base in true faith. It also helps that you want to hear the rest of the story and that keeps you turning the pages. Engaging, full of truth, and applicable to more of life than I have room to mention. I just purchased extra copies for some good friends of mine.”

“When I read Jim’s book, I found it to be a personal, humble, practical, and helpful perspective on suffering. This is not a sermon series put into book form. Jim’s observations are not just gleaned from Bible study. Rather they flow from his own experience with suffering as he has wrestled with God in prayer and in reflection on the Scriptures. This book will be an encouragement to all who read it.”

“In Acts chapter 9, after Sauls conversion the Lord said ” I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” There are hundreds of books written on this topic and none better than this one. It is written for us “ordinary” Christians who need a working knowledge of this subject. Everyone suffers but God works through this channel to get our attention and cause us to look up. This book gives us insight on how God makes it good as only He can do. As servants of the Lord we need to be ready to help those who are suffering. This book inspired me to do just that.”

And from a local pastor by email…
“Sooner or later we all have to come to terms with personal suffering. Transformed Pain will enable you to see your own pain in a whole new light. The fruit of a wise and seasoned pastor’s journey with chronic illness, Jim’s book unlocks the secret to finding joy despite the unanswered questions.”  

…if you’ve read it, what did you think?  What has God taught /is God teaching you in your painful times?

*NOTE:  A few of you have received copies where all the edits hadn’t been done (another one of my challenges).  I apologize.  If you’re one of those and want a “fixed” copy, please email me and we’ll get you one.  rev.jimrenke@gmail.com

Who’s Right on Justice?

Being from diverse backgrounds, we all look at the world so differently, it makes it hard to define problems, let alone find solutions.

There is a big difference in the way different groups talk about justice, or some might use the word righteousness.  When those of a conservative bent talk about justice, they usually think about it as “law and order.”  It’s usually in the context of an individual who breaks a law and now justice must be done.  This means they will get theirs.  And if that doesn’t work in the here and now, Christians know in the end Jesus will be ultimate Judge.  But the whole discussion turns on the idea of personal responsibility, personal accountability, and even personal punishment.  A good life depends on individuals making good choices.

Those considered more left-leaning, talk about justice in terms of broken systems.  They use the term for the collective.  Society is either just, or unjust.  Injustice is when the system doesn’t work for a group of people which then oppresses them.  It creates a harder life, with fewer good choices.  The idea of justice happens when the system is fixed and people are granted life-giving opportunities.  And as those opportunities are given, more and more will make good choices and life will get better.

The church as the opportunity to move the discussion forward, if we will.  God’s word speaks of 3 influences that create injustice in our world.  The first, the apostle Paul calls the flesh.  This is each person’s proclivity to sin.  It refers to the brokenness of each individual.  The second is “the world.”  This, the apostle John seems to refer to as the broken systems of the world.  The third influence are the evil forces of Satan and his emissaries.

So, what is the source of injustice in this world?  Broken individuals, broken systems and evil spiritual influences that keep people trapped.  What’s the answer?  And how can the church help create another way?

  1. Listen to what the other is saying.  Create room in the discussion for the truth about broken people and broken systems.  Admitting one doesn’t negate the other.  In fact, it strengthens the other.  A broken world creates broken people and broken people keep creating broken systems.
  2. Remember, as the church, we know the answer is reconciliation.  We may get distracted by political frameworks from time to time, but we have both a ministry and message of reconciliation.  Christ came and died to restore us to a relationship with the Creator.  In Him, we have one message.  A new Kingdom has come in Jesus.  As we yield to Him in faith, we are given what we need to pursue His righteousness.
  3. Offer reconciliation to your world.  Take the initiative to step into broken lives and broken systems and proclaim a Savior and Kingdom of love, forgiveness and grace.  Take steps to let others know that their concerns are valid. And Christ came because of this brokenness and offers a path back to justice, righteousness and wholeness.
  4. Don’t negate the influence of evil, we know as Satan.  He is the accuser and divider.  He prods and pushes the church into seeing people on the other side, as the enemy.  They are not.  He is.  The other, no matter their views, perspective, or background, are loved by God.
  5. Ultimately, trust in the justice of God.  This justice doesn’t just punish the wrongdoer, but frees and restores the world He created and binds the enemy of God.  Christ’s life, death and resurrection shows us the power of that reality.  And His words; “Come to me, follow me, believe in me”; invite us to that new future.

So yes, both approaches to justice are based on truth.  But there is one lie that all political perspectives promote:  Humans can affect the change necessary to redeem and restore the world, both in the individual and in systems.  Not so.  Church, this is what makes our task essential!

As always, thanks for reading, commenting and sharing.

Transformed Pain

Hey friends and readers,

Here are several quotes from a book I’ve written called, “Transformed Pain – How God Makes It Good.”  This is a book I’ve been working on for quite a while.  It flows from my experience and study of pain and suffering.

Here’s the deal.  If after reading this, you’d like to read more, I have a deal for you. I will send the first 20 people a free pdf copy of my book, if you will agree to write a review on Amazon.com when the book becomes available.

“The problem of pain is real and while pain hurts everyone, we experience it differently.  CS Lewis pointed out in his book The Problem of Pain, pain is only truly felt by the one on whom it is inflicted.  I can care, I can be compassionate, I can even work to alleviate pain.   I cannot feel the pain of another.  Our pain is our pain.” p. 18

“I am convinced that freedom and joy in suffering come not only when we thank God for the good results of our suffering, but also when we thank Him for our suffering itself.  I believe I can do that most fully, if I accept this suffering as an aspect of my life that has been chosen by Him and is good itself.” p.41

“So, what did God do with our suffering?  He noticed it and entered it so the work of redemption could continue until the hope of the final restoration is experienced at Christ’s return.  He continues to invite us to join Him in the work of redemption through our suffering.” p.67

“The Word of God also confirms that He is the great Redeemer.  As I’ve mentioned before, He takes the evil of the world, the greatest being the cross of Christ, and transforms it into an instrument of life.  By His grace, He transforms night into morning, sorrow into joy and despair into hope. Redemption is His mission and humanity is the object of that mission.  By faith, my life is part of that work.” p.95

If you’re interested in a free pdf copy, and are willing to write a review when it is up on Amazon, email me. Be one of the first 20 and it is yours.

As always, thanks for reading!

Are You Being Changed By God?

Aligning Our Hearts with God's Grace

In Titus 2:11-12, the Word says, “For the grace of God… it teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions… and to live… godly lives in this present age…” Grace is not only the gift of salvation but it is the gift of transformation.

In the book, Longing for God, by Foster and Beebe, there is a list created by Ignatius who contrasted the “nature(our base selves)” and “grace.” Here is that list. Read it and reflectively consider the work grace wants to do in you.

1. Nature is crafty and seductive, while grace walks in simplicity.
2. Nature is self-centered, while grace does everything purely for God.
3. Nature is unwilling to be under a yoke of obedience, while grace moves beyond self-centeredness to minister for God.
4. Nature works for its own benefit, while grace does not consider how to prosper for its own ends.
5. Nature willingly accepts honor and respect, while grace attributes all honor and glory to God.
6. Nature is afraid of shame and contempt, while grace is happy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.
7. Nature is lazy, while grace joyfully looks for something to do.
8. Nature seeks the unique and different, while grace delights in simple, humble and even shabby things.
9. Nature keeps an eye on fashion, rejoices in material gain and is depressed at loss, while grace attends to eternal things and does not cling to passing ones.
10. Nature is greedy and likes to take, while grace is kind, sharing and content with little.
11. Nature focuses on the body, the vanities of life and the worries of self-preoccupation, while grace turns its back on anything that stands in the way of God.
12. Nature gladly accepts any comfort that gratifies the senses, while grace seeks comfort in God alone.
13. Nature is motivated by selfish gain, while grace seeks no reward other than God.
14. Nature revels in friends and relatives, while grace loves everyone and focuses on the wise and virtuous rather than the powerful and rich.
15. Nature is quick to complain of want and trouble, while grace bears poverty resolutely.
16. Nature turns all things to itself and pushes itself into the spotlight, while grace refers all things to God.
17. Nature longs to know secrets and to have the inside story, while grace pursues what is useful for the soul.
18. Nature is quick to complain, while grace endures all things resolutely.
19. Nature wishes to be seen in public, while grace seeks to avoid vain displays.
20. Natures longs to be steeped in sensual experience, while grace exercises restraint of the senses.
21. Nature wants to be noticed by others, while grace wants to be noticed by God.
22. Nature is ruled by sin, while grace represents virtue.
23. Nature attempts to judge between good and evil, while grace teaches us the eternal law of God.
24. Nature is ruled by sin, while grace is ruled by grace.
25. Nature does not act on what it knows to be good, while grace flees sin and evil.
26. Nature relies on natural gifts, while grace relies on the gift of God’s mercy.
27. Nature succumbs to vice, while grace radiates virtue.
28. Nature flees the truth, while grace submits to truth.
29. Nature runs on its own energy, while grace relies on energy from God.
30. Nature ignores its failures and refuses to learn from the, while grace humbly embraces shortcomings and learns from them.

On this Ash Wednesday, when we sit in repentance before God longing for His work of grace, I see I need more of grace in my life. And I pray for God’s grace to move me and change me today.

How does this move you?

Being and Doing

Some of us don’t have to look very far to see a need for spiritual growth. I preach about the process on a weekly basis. And I think I even confuse myself between two types of sermons.

The first emphasizes “being.” I have to be in love with Jesus. I have to let the Holy Spirit change me from the inside out. This kind of sermon really connects with those who say, “we need more Marys.” We need people who think and feel deeply about God and His nature.

The second kind of sermon emphasizes “doing.” This is the sermon that says, “here are 4 things you can do” to help you grow. It really fits those “get it done” people who see the futility of “sitting around contemplating our navels.”

I know that both of these are extreme expressions of either side. But even in Christian publishing there are the “Purpose Driven Life” people who come up with plans for change and the “Crazy Love” people who just want us all to fall in love again.

I think the Scripture clearly communicates the importance of both. Being born again is a “being” kind of thing. There is a relationship that is necessary and foundational to anything we do for the Kingdom of God and glory of God. But you can’t really “be” without “doing.” “Doing is an expression of being.” Jesus said, “if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.” But not only that, “doing can develop being.”

Even Jesus demonstrated this in His warning to the Ephesian believers in Revelation 2. He said, “they had left their first love”. That’s a “being” thing. And he said, to get it back they needed to 1) remember the height from which they had fallen. 2) repent, and 3) do the things they did at first. That is a list of 3 “doings.”

Now, we must be careful never to think that our doing earns us God’s favor. His righteousness is a gift to us. But “being saved” means we can grow by “doing” His will. So, if you are a Christian who wants to grow spiritually, accept who God has made you to be and do something!

What new thing have you started to do? If you think about what God wants you to be, is there an action that can begin to reform your thinking and deepen your sense of being one of his?