Thursday, March 12, 2009

A rhetorical faith?

Rhetoric. What is it? According to Webster, it is the art of persuasive or effective speaking or writing. Down here in the South, we'd call this "Talkin' the talk." Simply put rhetoric is just words, spoken or written.

This word is on my mind and heart today as I sit here on the campus of ULM pondering our Bible-belt, Americanized version of Christianity. What does rhetoric have to do with some people's version of Christianity?" I'm so glad you asked..

You see, rhetoric is the epitome of the faith most of us have come to have, but not the Faith Jesus intended for us to live out. This rhetorical faith is more social than spiritual. It's more learned than lived. It's more in the head than in the heart. It's one we talk about on Sunday, but forget about on Monday. Can I hear an amen?

Don't believe me? Check out any church around (including ours) and you'll find people who know all the right information and can explain Jesus and salvation like no one else, yet their life seems completely void of the Jesus of whom they speak. They have the answers and "know their stuff," but the clever explanations and head-knowledge aren't enough to bring the real life and joy Jesus promised. Maybe you know someone like this...maybe you are someone like this.

There's this huge disconnect from the belief in Christ that's it our mind and the one that's shown to others by the way we live our life. Consider this story about the great french tight-rope walker, Charles Bondin.

Blondin's greatest fame came in June of 1859 when he attempted to
become the first person to cross a tightrope stretched over a quarter
of a mile across the mighty Niagara Falls.

He walked across 160
feet above falls several times, each time with a different daring feat
- once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once he
even carried a stove and cooked an omelet!

Large crowds gathered and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of
the river bank. The crowd “Oooohed!” and “Aaaaahed!” as Blondin
carefully walked across one dangerous step after another --even blindfolded
and pushing a wheelbarrow.

Once, upon reaching the other side, the
crowd's applause was louder than the roar of the falls! Blondin
suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: "Do you believe I can
carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?"The crowd enthusiastically
outed, "Yes, yes, yes. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the
world. You can do anything!"

"Okay," said Blondin, "Can I have a volunteer to get in the wheelbarrow....."

The Blondin story goes that no one did!

Our "hoorah" for Christ is just noise if we're not willing to get in the wheelbarrow. All of our preaching, teaching, and singing is mere rhetoric if we're don't make choices that follow it. Faith is not agreeing with it in your mind. It's believing in it in your heart. Consider this verse,

"...if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved..." (Romans 10:9)

Confessing isn't enough. Just talking about it doesn't do the job. You must believe it in your heart.

What does this "believing in your hedepressed and worried.jpgart" look like? In the last 24 hours, I have dealt with financial crises, 2 separate situations of divorce, those with health issues, and a young college student dealing with the loss of his dad and the pressures of continuing education. What do you think was the base ingredient for the remedy in each of those situations? It all boils down our trust in God. Letting God have complete control of our lives, rather than just acknowledging him with our words.

Jesus came to bring us life. To experience the life that Jesus wants us to live we must let go of the burden, challenge, or problem and grab on to hope, faith, and love. When we do this, regardless of the outcome, genuine faith allow us to experience victory in any situation.

That's not a rhetorical faith...that a real faith. Believe it. Live it.

On the Journey Together,

Justin Winstead

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why, why, why...I must know before I do.

Give me the news- good or bad, I can take it. But don't leave me hanging. I hate the "not-knowing" phases in life. They drive me crazy. Additionally, I was the kid who always asked, "why?" Are you like this? Do you know someone who is? Keep reading...

Yet another article has made the headlines--and has made this young preacher think. Here's a link to the article's source. (click here). Here's the story:

"BANGOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A father's decision to tell his 17-year-old son to get off the floor and lay down on a couch may have saved the boy from injury when a suspected drunken driver crashed into their Michigan home. Roy Rabadue told The Saginaw News and WJRT-TV he was watching television Monday night in their home in Bay County's Bangor Township, about 90 miles northwest of Detroit, when he decided to make cookies.

He told Joseph to move, and his son complied. Shortly afterward, a pickup
smashed into the home. The crash tossed their 52-inch television across
the living room, landing where Joseph had been on the floor.

The couch overturned along with a chair where Rabadue's 12-year-old son, Jacob, was sitting. Both escaped injury.

WNEM-TV reported the driver was arrested."

Wow! Am I the only one who chuckled to himself after reading this? I'm sure there's some parent out there who's about to use this for ammo!

Well, hold on before any of you starting pointing the fingers at others for not doing as their told...

We're starting a sermon series this Sunday called, "Why?" This is a relevant topic, since so many of us want to know "why" things are the way they are. In this age of information, to simply act without knowing all the facts is outright absurd-or so we think.

We have a hard time doing without knowing. Another way of putting that is we struggle with trust. You see trust (or faith) requires action before all the facts are there. It does NOT mean there are no facts, or no evidence-it just means you act before you have all of the facts or evidence.

I am intrigued at the way Jesus recruited people. In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus tells Peter, Andrew, James, and John, "Come, follow me." The Bible says they immediately left what they were doing and followed Him.

What!?! No Q&A time? No explanation of where, why, and how? Surely, Jesus didn't expect faith demonstrated by obedience (tounge in cheek). Of course, He did-and Jesus still does expect faith demonstrated by obedience.

To be a Christ-follower is to trust in the Christ we are following. We may not always know the answers, and may tempted to ask "why" or "how," but we must accept that He knows best. This isn't a case of not using reasoning-it's about trust. It's actually very reasonable to obey someone in whom you've entrusted your life...

What God says, we do---lest we end up on the floor instead of on the couch (remember the article).

Before I finish, I know there must be some skeptic, or atheist, or know-it-all, who has a huge problem with this devotion. You're thinking, "That's just plain ignorance to accept something and act on it, just because God or the Bible says so." As an intelligent, logical person, you'd never do what God says, just because He says it. You, in your infinite wisdom, always act only on what you know-the true facts of the matter-or so you think.

If you apply that mode of reasoning to other areas of your life you'd most likely not be driving as you surely don't know everything about your automobile. You'd never go to a doctor for health reasons, because you simply don't know everything there is to know about the human body. In fact, you wouldn't even choose to keep living, because you, without a doubt, don't know everything about life.

So, to think that you must know everything about it, before you'll believe it, or better yet act on it, is hogwash.

As an old pastor of mine used to say, "...don't let what you don't know rob you of what you do know."

My challenge- when God commands, obey. This devotion may only be for one person out there. If that's you, act on what God is telling you. Stop asking why. Stop wondering how. To quote an old Nike slogan, "Just do it."

On the Journey Together,

Justin Winstead