“Gentrification of Christianity”~Featuring Sho Baraka

 

“Theologian Stanley Hauerwas says that ‘the heart of the gospel is that you don’t know Jesus without the witness of the Church.’ As church membership declines, will this witness be dampened? Writer and hip-hop artist, Sho Baraka, explores the history of the Christian faith, why its growth has slowed in western societies, and how the Church can reclaim our role as witnesses of Christ”.

Perspective: “We Can Admire And Worship Jesus Without Doing What He Did”

Introduction

Personally, I take great delight in gleaning new knowledge, insights and lessons from God’s Word and through various Biblically-sound teachers. I am thankful that God has created human beings with a rich intellectual capacity to think, reason,  problem-solve and rationalize on the varying complexities of life. Specificially, Christian Scholarship has presented us with an unprecedented level of access to innumerable academic Christian-based resources. While I do believe that God has worked powerfully through Christian Scholarship over the decades, I cannot help but recognize a subtle but very real danger that it sometimes poses to the Church today, namely incentivizing passivity. 

Do We Know How To Live Like Jesus?

It is no secret that much of those within the Church within the prosperous West has become spiritually-apathetic and lukewarm with our faith. One only needs to compare and contrast the state of the Church today to that of the Early Church in the Books of Acts to easily see the major differences between the two. Why is this? I cannot recall a point in time historically when Christians have been so well-educated and well-resourced, yet if we are honest with ourselves, it feels like we are missing the mark when it comes to our approach with Christianity. Despite our best intentions with all our scholarly teachings, our professional conferences, our debating with world renown thinkers, our academic book-writing, and our other academic pursuits, we have forgotten about what it means to truly live like Jesus. Shane Clairborne in his book, “The Irresistible Revolution”(Clairborne, 2006) puts it like this:

We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what He did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.

Even though this book was released back in 2006, Clairborne’s observation is still very pertinent to the way in which much of those within the Church still behave today. Paradoxically, I believe that our intellectualization and our scholarly approach towards Christianity has the potential to legitimize our passivity towards living authentically living like Jesus. 

Living Like Jesus through Knowing the Poor

Like it is possible to know about Jesus without truly knowing Jesus, it is also possible to know about the poor without actually knowing the poor. One of the central reasons for why Christians do not care for the poor like we have been called to is simply because we have not spent enough time with them to really know them. Instead, we foolishly rely on generalizations and stereotypes to inform our opinions of what the poor are like, when the truth is that they are more similar than different to us contrary to popular opinion. You can only fully see this when you decide to invest time interacting directly with the poor. No amounts of literature can serve as a replacement with actually spending time face-to-face with the poor.

After all, how can you love someone if you have not spent time with them to even know them in the first place? It would be like an absentee father returning after his children have grown up claiming to love them, despite the fact that he neglected to spend any time with them to know them, let alone genuinely love them.

The parable of the sheep and the goats describes what will happen on Judgement Day with believers and unbelievers. Within this parable, Jesus likens our service to the “…least of these brothers and sisters…” (Matthew 25:40) as our service towards Him!

Beware of “Intellectualizing” Christianity

It does not matter how much you know about God or even about the poor for that matter, if you fail to act on this knowledge. Frighteningly, it is possible to live your entire life as a “Christian” who is a perpetual student of the Bible with vast intellectual head knowledge while completely failing to live as Jesus commands. There are plenty of people like this today as there were back in Jesus’ Day(Pharisees, Sadducees, other experts in the law). It is not wrong to desire to grow in the knowledge of God and of the Christian Faith, in fact the Bible contains exhortations(see 2 Peter 1:5-6) to do this very thing. What truly matters is what will you do with this acquired knowledge? Will you let it remain stagnate in your mind while it amasses proverbial cobwebs? Or, will you let it re-shape the affections of your heart as you imperfectly but intentionally live like Jesus commands us?

Prayer

King and Lord Jesus,

Forgive us for failing to love others like you so clearly have commanded; please help us as a Church Body to live like You called us to live. Rather than staying within the comfort of our Christian Ivory Towers of Academia, I pray that Your Holy Spirit empowers and emboldens us to reach out towards those living within those hard-to-reach areas among our communities. I pray that You lead us towards action as You enable us to overcome the spirit of lukewarmness and apathy plaguing much of the Church in the West. Let your Kingdom be on earth as it is in heaven where the first are last and the last are first! In Jesus’ Powerful Name, I pray, Amen!

 

What The Enemy Does Not Want You to Know

Key Biblical Text

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,  being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete”(2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

Introduction: Too Busy to Focus on the Spiritual

Have you ever stopped to consider that what we see in the physical realm is only a portion of what is actually happening all around us? I think that it is a safe assumption that most of today barely have enough time for ourselves, let alone to ponder on the spiritual realities within this world.

Life in modern society is moving at such a frighteningly-fast pace that we barely have sufficient time to get our day-to-day tasks accomplished. Statements such as: “I just don’t have enough time”, “I’m too busy for this”, or “There aren’t just enough hours in the day to finish what I need to accomplish” are ubiquitous to the average person today. While it is not necessarily a sin to be busy, what I fear is happening today is that we are being greatly distracted from the things that truly matter in the context of eternity.

Westernized Christianity Waters Down The Spiritual

It is my assertion that the teaching among most Christian Churches within the West does not provide enough focus on the spiritual warfare surrounding Christians. Yet, the Bible repeatedly underscores the importance of recognizing the spiritual realm as something very real and also something which Christians must prepare themselves against.

In the West, we have this prevailing humanist and materialist mindset which overshadows much of the way in which we think and operate as a society. Secular psychology is an incredibly influential and authoritative force even to the degree that it has begun to infiltrate the Church. Almost everything, including the things of spiritual origin, can be merely theorized into these humanist “boxes of understanding”. Christian Colleges and Universities have begun to incorporate psychology-counseling into the teaching curriculum for those studying to become pastors and teachers.

We Are in All-Out Spiritual War

Christian, do you know that you have an enemy who will stop at nothing to annihilate your faith? If you do not recognize how high the stakes are, then surely what reason would you have to equip yourself for this spiritual warfare? There is an old quote that teaches that the greatest thing the enemy ever pulled off is to convince us that he doesn’t exist. The schemes of the enemy work best when those being deceived are ignorant to what is actually happening. Therefore, I think that it is also fitting to say that one of the greatest things the enemy has pulled off is to convince the Church to downplay the importance of spiritual warfare. Perhaps one of the leading causes for why much of the Church in the West has fallen asleep stems from its ignorance of spiritual warfare. We are called to make war with sin so that we can grow in holiness and righteousness, but how can this happen if we are not even aware of the type of battle which we are involved in?

Spiritual Strongholds

GotQuestion.org provides a Biblical View on Spiritual Strongholds below:

The enemy is firmly entrenched; these strongholds have been guarded for thousands of years, presenting a great wall of resistance to the Truth. None of this deters the Christian warrior, however. Using the weapons of God’s choosing, he attacks the strongholds, and by the miraculous power of Christ, the walls are breached, and the bastions of sin and error are battered down. The victorious Christian enters the ruins and leads captive, as it were, every false theory and every human philosophy that had once proudly asserted its independence from God…Sharing the gospel is not the only time we see resistance. We can also face demonic strongholds in our own lives, in our families, and even in our churches. Anyone who has fought an addiction, struggled with pride, or had to “flee youthful lusts” knows that sin, a lack of faith, and a worldly outlook on life are indeed “strongholds.”

I believe that understanding and being able to identify spiritual strongholds in our lives as Christians is one of the first steps to conquering them. Interestingly, a significant degree of our spiritual maturity and growth as Christians is dependent on how effectively we make war with these spiritual strongholds. Each day we wake up, we are faced with a decision to equip ourselves with the armour of God or not. We must understand that even though God has finished the work through His Son on the Cross, we are responsible to continually walk in obedience and to access the spiritual means of grace freely given to us. The spiritual toolkit in the form of God’s armour and the reservoir of His grace is definitely there for the Christian, but it still needs to be accessed by faith in order to be effective.

Tragically, so many ignorant Christians fail to live their spiritual lives in victory and instead choose to live defeated lives. As they listen to the lies of the enemy, they begin to believe them. These lies gain a foothold in the minds of the believer leading to a crippled and ineffective life as a Christian. Rather than reclaiming the authority they have in Christ in order to overcome the dominion of sin, they allow themselves to remain spiritually-complacent and unfruitful.

The Solution: Live by The Spirit through Repentance, & Equipping Yourself with God’s Armour 

God will not provide us with the spiritual victory as long as we are not surrendered to Him. We need to die to self so that Christ through His Holy Spirit will reign and actively work through us as one of His instruments. In the West, I fear that we often intellectualize Christianity and that we restrain it to some kind of futile head knowledge while the heart remains unchanged. If our faith does not manifest in commensurate righteous actions and deeds, then we may be wise to question whether we have a saving faith or not. James 2:14-17 teaches:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 

The core teaching is not that it is works that saves us, but rather the point is ultimately: What is the point if our faith is not accompanied with works? Our hearts, not merely our minds, needs to be transformed. It is then and only then that the Holy Spirit will reside within us and empower us to conquer the spiritual strongholds in our journey. As we abide in Christ(through study and application of Scripture), the Holy Spirit works mightly in our life while demolishing those strongholds in the process!

In addition, equipping ourselves with the armour of God as detailed in Ephesians 6:10-18 is essential. Without which, we will inevitably compromise our Christian living and our faith will eventually be sifted like wheat as Jesus Himself reveals the enemy’s intentions to Peter(Luke 22:31). I find this analogy about the Christian from GotQuestion.org helpful as it relies on Ephesians 6:14-17 for its framework:

Our weapons are not physical, for our warfare is spiritual in nature. Rather than guns and tanks, our weapons are those of the “full armour of God” and consist of “the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”(Ephesians 6:14-17)

 

Prayer

Father,

I pray that you awaken your Church to the spiritual battleground around us. Please strengthen us as we ready ourselves for battle in this spiritual fight. Thank-you for providing us with the spiritual weapons of warfare to be victorious over the dominion of sin. Help us to walk in step with Your Holy Spirit to experience the fullness of the plan to that which You have called us in Christ. In Jesus’ Name, I pray Amen.

 

Reference:

https://www.gotquestions.org/spiritual-strongholds.html

Insight: What is Dividing the Church More Than Anything

Unity among those who belong to the body of believers(the Church) is radically important. When the Church is divided among itself, how can it possibly stand in the face of opposition? Jesus said it best when He tells us that “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand”(Mark 3:25). In order to be fruitful for Kingdom-furthering purposes and effective for defending ourselves against spiritual warfare, we need to come together as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, precisely the opposite is happening today within the Church. There is such a high degree of envy, jealousy, bitterness, backbiting, slander, and gossip among those claiming to be apart of the same Church Body. The world already has enough of this! The last thing that it needs is a Church comprised up of professing believers who cannot even co-operate among themselves. Therefore, the Church will not be able to render sustainable change within the world until those within it begin to work together instead of against one another.

Paul warns us in his letter to the Galatians of the following, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other”(Galatians 5:15). Being destroyed by one another is exactly what the enemy wants to happen within the Church. He couldn’t be happier when he sees church members in disagreement with trivialities over non-essential doctines and when pastors are under constant scrutiny over every move they make. Church divisiveness is a breeding ground for all kinds of evil and it is where demonic activity can thrive. Being distracted from the things that truly matter is what the enemy wants. When he succeeds, the work that God commissions His Bride(the Church) to take part in is greatly encumbered.

Perhaps one of the reasons why we don’t see persecution as strongly within the West is because the enemy does not view the Church here as much of a threat. We are too busy arguing and debating among one another about whose doctrinal views are right that we completely miss the whole point of Christianity! What an absolute tragedy! There are lost souls who are seeking for people to point them to the Truth of the Gospel but we are too busy fault-finding and gossiping about other Christians to even notice. Until the time that we swallow our pride and humble ourselves before God and among one another, true life-impacting change will not happen. How can it possibly?! The enemy and his demons are far too strong in comparison to a divided Church body. As Christians we all have our unique roles to play within the Church Body. God purposed it this way for the intention of drawing us together as perfectly demonstrated within the eternal fellowship in the Trinity. He created us as relational beings who are in need of being united within the Church. A Church Body that is united while upholding and guarding the Truth of Christ is unstoppable and it is capable of accomplishing the unimaginable!

Father God,

Please strengthen Your Church through unifying it and re-shaping it into all that You have purposed it to become as Your Son’s Bride. I pray that you humble all of us by helping us to plainly see the sin in our own hearts as opposed to pointing out the sin in other people’s lives. Lead us into repentance from all the gossip and slander we have taken part in through cleansing our prideful hearts. Most importantly, help us to show the world what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus, as we undertake Your Kingdom-Furthering work on earth with the strength from Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

5 Reasons Discontentment Will Destroy

Introduction

God has been exceedingly good and gracious to all of His creation even within this sin-bent world. He even goes as far as extending His common grace to unbelievers too, providing steadfast patience desiring for all to come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9). Why then are Christians, in the wealthier parts of the world especially, left feeling discontent? Hasn’t God already provided all we need and then some through His Son, Jesus?

Continue reading

Conquering Doubts and Unbelief

Introduction

This most recent season of my life as a Christian has been one marked with periods of doubt, uncertainty, wavering and confusion. There have even been some worldly desires and pursuits that have subtly begun to encumber my walk as a Christian. Relevantly, one of the teachings contained in the parable of the sower tell us that “…the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful”(Matthew 13:22). Furthermore, James candidly tells believers, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”(James 4:4). It is abundantly clear that we cannot be friends with both God and the world. Believers who try to live for the world will drive themselves insane and they will be extremely miserable people. As someone who is apart of the royal priesthood of believers who has been saved and set apart for God’s holy work, I am reminded of the essential need for holding uncompromisingly to the Gospel Message originally preached.

A Christian is Never Stagnate in Their Faith

As I have learned academically and practically, it is impossible to remain stagnate within our journeys of faith. We are either growing in godliness or we are growing further from God; there is simply no middle-ground. Such double-mindedness is spoken about in the James 1:6-8 where God instructs,

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways”

On a personal note, this passage is quite an accurate reflection for the way in which my life as a Christian has looked in recent days. Tragically, we do not truly recognize the degree to which we depend on God until we begin to feel the spiritual-disconnect from His arms as His Spirit convicts us. Doubt in and of itself is not evil, it is when these doubts go unchecked and fester into unbelief that there is a serious problem. “Being unstable in all of one’s ways” is no small statement to make, therefore it is wise for us all to heed the wide-sweeping implications of what James is saying. After all, every decision we make will affect the trajectory for the eternity of the believer.

Doubt’s Spiritual Death-Grip

If you remember from Genesis 3, it was the devil who craftily decided to utilize doubts as his spiritual weapon of choice to assault Eve, then Adam in the Garden of Eden. Surely, what worked then to help cause the fall of creation still works just as well today. One of the most potent spiritual assaults against Christians is when they are tempted to doubt the very core of what they believe. In Ephesians 6, Paul instructs believers to put on the full armour of God reminding us that our battle is “not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). We are then instructed, “in all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”(Eph 6:16–17). The other elements of the armour of God are identified in Ephesians 6:10-18, but I believe that the secret to success to combating doubts is found here in verses 16 and 17.

Weapon of Defence 1: Shield of Faith

Faith and doubt are directly opposed to one another. Paul of all people knew this very well. This is precisely why he instructs for believers to “take up the shield of faith” in order that we may defend ourselves against “the flaming darts of the evil one”. As long as believers live in this fallen, sin-bent world where the devil is the prince of the air, these flaming darts will continually try to attack us. It is not a matter of when, but more a matter of how we will respond when they do. You may be wondering how this looks in a practical sense. Because “…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ(Romans 10:17), we take up the shield of faith by renewing our minds through the Word of God. In a like manner, we are told in Ephesians 6:17 that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.

Weapon of Defence 2: Helmet of Salvation

In addition, as our minds are being renewed in Christ through reading God’s Word, we are then capable of more easily keeping on the helmet of salvation. Have you ever noticed that the majority of the doubts are aimed at dismantling the assurance of salvation we already have? The enemy is very manipulative and he knows that by getting us to doubt our foundation as Christians, he then can temporarily gain the upper hand. When the believer doubts the core of who they are in Christ, the door is swung open for the enemy to make his move. Therefore, it is imperative that as believers we hold fast to our identity in Christ by exposing ourselves daily to the saving Gospel Message. We are in a spiritual battleground and the only way by which we can gain victory is by equipping ourselves with the armour of God.

Purpose Behind Doubts

One of the reasons why I believe that God allows us to undergo seasons of doubts is to test the authenticity of our faith. The purpose behind any doubts should be ultimately be to draw us closer to God. Rather than allowing these doubts to fester and form a foothold for vulnerability to temptation, God has intended for us to doubt our doubts. As we lean and trust in God more deeply, the sanctifying work of His Spirit will produce a fuller dependency on Him.

God’s Means of Grace Through His Unfailing Love

What continues to baffle me is how far the depths of God’s mercy extend and how amazingly faithful He continues to be towards all of us despite our failings. As Christians, I do not think that we will ever fully comprehend the magnitude of God’s love until we see Him face-to-face in the New Earth. We are so forgetful and we often fail to access the various means of grace which God has extended to us as believers(myself included). Christian community is vital towards holding one another accountable and spurring one another on this faith walk. It is also particularly beneficial to overcoming doubts when we accompany ourselves with like-minded believers. As we fellowship with other believers, we are learning how to grow in godliness and also how to be children of light while remaining unstained by the world.

Prayer

It is my prayer and hope that we all adapt the mindset of the father in the book of Mark who, “…cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”(Mark 9:24) as he witnessed the miraculous healing of his son.

God, we too have been redeemed and made whole, but the temptation is to default to our fleshly nature and ignorantly believe otherwise. Help us to doubt our doubts and to cling closely to You who never will forsake us! In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

Insight: “8 Things You Need to Know About Money”

Within today’s blog entry, I hope to provide an unapologetic and truthful explanation on the commonly misconstrued topic of money through giving insightful clarity on how “the machine(the system)” works.

Nowadays, perhaps more than ever, people need to be exposed to the truth, especially on something as intrinsically important as their understanding of money and how it functions in society today. A significant portion of the Holy Scriptures are comprised of an abundance of teachings, lessons, and parables surprisingly all centred around the topic of money. Therefore, it is indispensable for Christians to have a proper understanding of money, without which we cannot faithfully serve God. This is because an improper understanding on money(at root level) will invariably result in poor stewardship(see Parable of Talents in Luke 19:11-27).  Continue reading

Insight: Church. What’s The Point?

Sadly, Christianity within the Progressive West often overlooks what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. Taking up our crosses daily by dying daily to our fleshly desires is an incredibly unpopular message, yet it is practically the whole point of the Gospel Message! We need to crucify the sins of the flesh in order that Christ may reign supreme in every fiber of our being and every sphere of our lives! However, in Western Society we typically find ourselves doing one of the two extremes: placing excessive focus on building up one another as a Church Body, or decisively disconnecting ourselves from the Church Body because of its alleged hypocrisy. Every true Christian must diligently seek to uphold this delicate balance of being equipped and being missional with the power of the Holy Spirit, otherwise they will become lukewarm and/or self-righteous hypocrites themselves. Exclusive focus to either one of these ways of Christian living is extremely dangerous and it must be avoided at all costs! By seeking to maintain this balance through the indwelling Holy Spirit, our impact as Christians is able to be optimized and, most importantly, our Awesome God is also being glorified!

God Bless!