The Real St. Patrick

St. Patrick’s Day is so much more than a reason to drink. It’s a day to remember a man who gave up comfort for calling and sought to fulfill the mission of Jesus to people who hated him.

The man we know as “St. Patrick” grew up in a wealthy Welsh home in the 4th century. He had a nominal faith in Christ but never truly devoted himself to follow Him. Things would change dramatically the day his village was raided and Patrick was hauled away to slavery in Ireland. He would spend 6 years as a slave for a Druid high priest and suffer emotional and physical pain we often only see depicted in movies.

It was during his captivity Patrick came to Christ in full devotion. He wrote, “There the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that . . . I might . . . turn with all my heart to the Lord my God . . . And [the Lord] watched over me . . . and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.” (link). His life was now in the hands of the Master to do far more than simply get out of captivity.

In a dream one night, God told him to go down to the shore and board a ship waiting for him to deliver him from captivity. He did so and sailed 200 miles to safety. Back at home, all was not well in his heart. He was restless and knew there was a bigger purpose to his experience than simply to return to normal life. He had another dream in which a man he came to know in Ireland handed him a letter reading, “Holy boy, we beg you to come and walk among us once more.”

Astonishingly, Patrick went back to the very land of his captivity and preached the Gospel to the Druids and pagans. He won many converts in spite of the fact that he was arrested and kidnapped several times. He wrote, “Daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises. But I fear nothing.” (link). His work went forward in spite of severe opposition and the Church took root in one of the most hedonistic areas of the world.

Today if Patrick were walking around on the day we commemorate his life, I wonder how shocked he would be to see what it has become. It isn’t about green beer and parades of men with clovers on their hats. It is about a man who had a calling form God to love his enemies and preach Jesus even when it cost him dearly.

That’s the power of a call from God. It can use one man to change a nation, but it’s never easy. The Church is not a place for comfortable Christians to simply wait until they get to heaven. We have a responsibility in our community. No matter what it may cost us, may God help us to passionately pursue the mission of Jesus in our generation.

God is with us. We are confident.

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We Must Be Atheists Again

I think the Christian Church needs to get back to atheism. Yes, BACK to atheism. Because it’s in our heritage and we’ve lost something along the way.

Early on, Christianity grew up in a heavily cultic atmosphere where the very fabric of society was woven together in pagan ritual and emperor worship. Christianity was at first a sub-sect of the Jewish religion, tolerated as a minuscule minority unworthy of imperial attention. But things soon changed as the Gospel began to make inroads into the Gentile world and the Roman empire watched it’s own citizens adopt this new “intolerant” faith which led to them to disavow the many cultic practices common in the culture.

When former pagans stopped worshipping the pantheon of Roman gods in favor of isolated devotion to Christ, do you know what they called them?

Atheists.

In 155 AD, Roman Authorities brought an 80 year-old Church father named Polycarp (who many believe was a disciple of John the Apostle) to the Roman Coliseum to renounce Christ or be executed. Right after his steadfast confession of Christ the uproarious crowd shouted at him, “Away with the Atheist.”

Another Church father name Justin held that title as a badge of honor before Caesar, saying, “Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity.” (Apology i.5-6).

The Fathers of the Christianity that transformed the Roman Empire were profoundly committed to rejecting all gods outside the One True God and His Son Jesus Christ.

I say we get back to that.

Every culture worships something. Ours worships almost anything. The “gods” of success, sports, fame, celebrity, money and sex are prevalent and pervasive. Think about it, we call celebrities “stars” as if they actually were part of the awesome constellation we see above us at night. We look to politics every four years as the answer to our problems. No sooner does the current president prove himself human and mistake-prone than we look to the next rising statesman to save us through a differnt form of “Hope and Change”. We trust money more than we trust the One who enables us to make it (Deuteronomy 8:18). We put our faith in knowledge at the University, our bodies at the gym, our success at the office, and our families around the kitchen table. Not that these are bad, but they all fail miserably as gods.

I say, we must be Atheists again! Let us resolutely reject putting our hope, trust and worship in anything other than the Christ who died for us. Let us live so differently… so that what Peter said can come true in our generation: 1 Peter 2:12 “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

 

 

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3 Things I’m Praying Don’t Happen This Christmas

christmas@waterschurchWe have FOUR Christmas services this year. Two at our normal times on Sunday – 9:30am and 11:15am. Then two more on Christmas Eve at 4:00pm and 5:45pm. I’m seriously looking forward to them. But here’s what i’m praying doesn’t happen at any of them.

I’m praying that we don’t simply “observe” Christmas this year. For far too many, this holiday is simply a solemn occasion. We even talk about the federal holidays as days in which we Nationally observe some important event. While I’m thankful for Lincoln, Washington, Columbus and MLK, Jesus is more than important, He is essential, and His birth is GOOD NEWS for the whole world. We can and should experience HIS PRESENCE when we come together. I’m praying for people to walk out the doors of our church this week and say, “I experienced the presence of God.” If they say nothing about Waters from that point on but can look back and say they met Jesus, that’s THE BEST thing that could happen.

Second, I’m praying that our committed Church members don’t simply “do church” this weekend. I know and believe many people will be there for the first time. So I’m praying for committed members help us keep distractions to a minimum. The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing the message of Christ.” (Romans 10:17). When we open the Word and preach it – sacred and holy things happen in the hearts of people. Lives are changed and faith is birthed. Please make sure you participate with me in making that environment as distraction free as possible. If you have babies in the service with you, please sit in the back. If they make noise, please take them outside and watch from the Nursery or Cafe. If you don’t have babies, please sit as close to the front as possible to make room for everyone.

Finally I’m praying that no one leaves the same. Jesus is not the baby in the manger any more. He’s on the Throne of the Universe, rightfully placed there by God the Father (see Philippians 2:9-11). To come to church and simply think for a few moments about Jesus or only light a candle and then leave the same is anathema to who He is and what He can do in your life. I’m praying that the Holy Spirit will open hearts and minds and transformation will take place in every life.

So come, let us BEHOLD Him, Christ the Lord.
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