WHAT IS THE WORTH OF THE AMERICAN CHRISTIAN?

What is the worth of the American Christian? The answer to this question has far reaching implications. You must recognize how you answer this question has impact upon your recovery and rehabilitation. If you follow conventional wisdom and consider your worth based upon earthly standards, and even if you are on top and have high value in our culture, your ride at the top will be short-lived leading to a dead end.

In fact, there are many things that are influenced by how this question is answered. For example, it will determine how effective we are going to be in reaching others for Christ. If our answer is based upon human standards, it can result in a kind of social caste system in the Christian community. Unfortunately, it can stunt the spiritual development of the church by causing some to tire of the Church and drive many away from it.

A person’s worth in the American culture is based upon one of five factors: financial prowess, attractiveness, athletic ability, academic performance, and the capacity to entertain. This toxic thinking has infiltrated both public and private schools and results in some youths disregarding a system that has turned its back on them. These are standards of a materialistic culture. Unfortunately, some in the American Church have borrowed the same set of standards for determining a person’s worth and these standards determine one’s value to many in the Church. Many ministers and churches across America primarily focus on prospective church members that are: financially powerful, attractive, athletic, smart or entertaining.

In light of the financial crisis that surfaced at the beginning of the 21st century, we’ve learned once again that riches are transient and undependable. Some went from being well-to-do to losing everything. Did they really go from being worthy to worthless? Since we all age as we approach the end of life, beauty is fleeting and attractiveness fades with time. There is the saying: “This is a young person’s world.” Athletes get slower, ultimately retire and like physical attractiveness, athletic skills disappear over time. The Bible admits that the wealthy and those with intellectual prowess are rarer as followers of Christ. Finally, Jesus and his followers were more about helping others rather than entertaining people. There is no evidence that the apostle Paul opened up his presentation of the gospel by telling jokes. A Christian’s worth isn’t determined by his possessions, his attractiveness, athletic ability, academic prowess, and the capacity to entertain.

Your value has been set higher by the Lord Himself. Your worth isn’t determined by something so nonsensical as finances, beauty, how hard you can throw, your intelligence, or if you can make people laugh. Your worth is stated in 1 Peter, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19.) It should become obvious to you that this is the value that God has assigned to every man, woman, and child. Everyone has the same value to God no matter where he lives. There wasn’t one price for Americans and another for people from other lands. No matter what country or continent that you live on, the Father sent His precious Son to die for your sins.

It shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus uses a standard of judgment that causes us to include everyone. If anything, Jesus targeted the down and outers, not wealthy, pretty, athletic, smart or entertaining people. At the judgment of the sheep and goat nations, the King says,

…’Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; ‘I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?(Matthew 25:34-37.)

Here Jesus is saying if you helped someone who was either weak or vulnerable, it is as if you helped Him. With these words, Jesus is declaring everyone to be significant. With these words, everyone has worth. Even the most feeble and seemingly less necessary person has worth.

Don’t let them do it to you. Don’t buy into a false and worldly standard of your worth. As long as you’re a part of the in-crowd, it will make you feel good. It will make you feel as though you are significant, but just don’t lose your money. Don’t grow old, and lose a step. Don’t become senile or forget the punch line.

When you fail with your addiction or act out, following the world’s standard, you can convince yourself that you no longer have any value. Or, you can convince yourself that you have no real significance and worth in the world. If the Church uses this standard it confuses people and locks out the vulnerable and feeble. Here’s the false message: only the people that pretty much have their lives together or that don’t have problems fit into the Church. If you’re facing bankruptcy, are unattractive, are uncoordinated, average or below, or not very funny you won’t fit into our church. If you struggle with an addiction or if you are in bondage, you won’t be comfortable here.

The true message is: the Lord loves you right where you are. You don’t have to measure up to the world’s standards to find a refuge. Sure He wants you to overcome whatever bondage you’re facing, but He already loves you very much. He paid the highest price ever paid – you don’t have to earn His acceptance.

Check out our web site: http://www.servantoflight.com

(Permission is granted to use the material as long as the URL and source information are given. Copyright, Keith Churilla, 2010.)

WHAT IS THE WORTH OF THE AMERICAN CHRISTIAN?
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OVERCOMING MELTDOWN IN RECOVERY

 “My angle?” You ask.

My message is simple. It is that: a person’s spiritual recovery or rehabilitation can be accelerated by learning to obey Christ. Recovery and rehabilitation are either delayed or accelerated by whether we take active steps to obey the Lord. Helping the helpless and vulnerable is an important step in your spiritual development and recovery. I am not talking about teaching Sunday school, church work, or playing softball ; I am talking about how ministering to social outcasts in some tangible and meaningful way changes you. It enhances your ability to become strong spiritually and healthy emotionally. Helping the helpless and lifting up the vulnerable and weak releases God’s healing power to all. It is even easy to tell people about the Lord when you help them first. You may ask, “Where in the world can you get the evidence to support what you are saying?” My answer, “The Bible.”

Listen to what it states in Daniel 4:27. King Nebuchadnezzar is about to slip into the abyss and lose his mind. Daniel prescribes a simple formula for preserving his emotional health: “Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.” (Daniel 4:27.) Notice Nebuchadnezzar’s only hope for maintaining control was by taking steps that would please God. He had to turn away from sins and seek to show mercy to others. Nebuchadnezzar ignored Daniel’s advice and his life spiraled down out of control. You may have turned away from your sins many times, but did you ever consider that it would make you stronger if you helped somebody. I’m talking about helping someone who could benefit you in some way or pay you back.

Consider the contrast in the approach that we follow in our day: we assume that a person can discuss his way to spiritual health through counseling alone. It is assumed that a person can be transformed by listening to a counselor sort and talk through his or her problems. We assume that a person can attend a recovery group, confess his problems and if this is done often enough, over time he or she will become healthy. We ignore the need to substitute new behavior for old behavior and that a major step in our healing is to be found in obeying the Lord. Unfortunately, many suppose that they can experience God’s healing in their lives without even considering Christ’s basic commands to help and tell others (the order is significant).

But what promise or blessing from God was ever gained by just talking things out? God’s blessings and promises have been tied with obedience. Salvation is obtained through obedience to God’s command, “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ….” (1 John 3:23.) You can’t work your way to heaven but you must obey by trusting in Christ as your Savior. The promise of the Holy Spirit’s power is also tied with obedience: “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32.) And yet, we believe that we can talk another person into spiritual health without encouraging them to launch out and help someone who is less fortunate than themselves. That’s my message. Try it! You’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself, and it will change how you see the world.

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CONFESSION OF A RADICAL CHRISTIAN

At some point along the way did I really become a radical Christian? A few years ago I was being introduced on a radio broadcast and the program’s moderator said, “Today, we have Keith Churilla with us … he is a radical Christian.” While I wasn’t offended by the comment I thought it was surreal. I remember thinking that the introduction was odd because all we do in our church ministry is what Jesus did. We try to present the gospel at every opportunity and do things that benefit poor people – we seek to help the vulnerable and helpless.

Too me a radical Christian is a person who will lay down his life for the Lord. I think of people like Olympic champion Eric Liddell, the “Flying Scotsman.” Liddell refused to compete on Sunday during the 1924 Olympics because his conscience would not allow him to compete on “the Christian Sabbath.” Many in our day would consider such action to be overboard, but we must admire Liddell for putting the things of God first.  Liddell did compete in a contest for which he had not trained (400 meters) and yet he won a gold medal. Liddell’s courage was founded in God’s Word, “Those who honour me I will honour.” (1 Samuel 2:30.) Most are unaware that Liddell went on to serve as a missionary in China. He returned to China facing sickness, hardship and ultimately became a prisoner during World War II. While he died of an inoperable brain tumor, he was a prisoner because of his service for Christ. To me Eric Liddell was a radical Christian. 

I rushed into the local music store to purchase a couple of microphone cables just before we set up our equipment for Sunday. I grabbed the cables and was standing at the check out counter when the clerk said, “Your name is Keith isn’t it.” Since I knew I didn’t know him, I was taken off guard by his question. In response to my puzzled look he said, “I heard you speak at our church.” He commended me for my testimony and our effort to help the helpless through our work. He asked how my ministry was going, and I told him that it’s going great. He asked a question I kind of learned to expect when he said, “You’re kind of out there on the edge aren’t you?” (He meant it as a complement.) He was referring to the ministries that we do to help the poor and how we work with people who have addictions. I smiled and thought a moment and asked, “Aren’t we all?” My response surprised him. He reflected on my answer and then said, “I guess we are all out there.”

Have I become radical or is what we’re doing being marginalized – labeled extreme so it can be ignored. I realized some no doubt will consider what we do to be fringe because from their perspective we’re way out there and we’re not mainstream to them. The underlying message is, what you are doing isn’t really mainstream Christianity. Some are down playing the importance of doing these things because it is fringe. It’s not done on purpose but is an unconscious reaction to ministry that differs from our experience. But what we’re doing is basic Christianity – helping the poor and preaching the gospel.

Others like myself are convinced that the course that we are following pleases the Lord. It may not be the only path, but we are following the Lord as we believe we must. Having said this I realize that some of the concepts that we’re following do not conform to conventional wisdom of American Christians and churchianity. I am convinced that the things that we’re doing are essential to building healthy Christians and therapeutic to those who are struggling with spiritual bondage. If helping the vulnerable and helpless while declaring the gospel is radical, call me radical. I’ll consider it a complement.

Check out our web site: http://www.servantoflight.com

(Permission is granted to use the material as long as the URL and source information are given. Copyright, Keith Churilla, 2010.)

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WORLD CLASS…INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH CHRISTIANITY

 
There is a desperate need for a what I call a world class kind of Christianity in the American Church and our nation. We struggle with our sins and addictions that hold us in bondage because we have settled for a lesser kind of Christianity. Just like one of the products we see advertized on television, we hope that there is a kind of “industrial strength” Christianity that will get us out of our rut. We hope that there is a more potent kind of Christianity that will set us free from the things in this world that enslave us. But there isn’t one kind of Christianity for those who can make it on their own and another for those who are struggling.
 
You ask what is a world class Christian? I have an illustration that I think will help you grasp what I am talking about. I have a video tape of a conference on church planting that was held in Kazakstan a few years ago. Christians from adjacent countries and Kazakstan’s provinces gathered to commit themselves to the goal of planting 5,000 churches along the silk road. The Silk Road is the ancient silk route that passes over land from China to Jerusalem. Several attendees gave video taped testimonies about the progress of their work and their commitment to it. To me, one of the most memorable images on the video was of a fifteen year old oriental girl. She gave a testimony with a radiant smile and with great exuberance spoke of how she was willing to lay down her life for the Lord. A real possibility is that she along with others in the conference could face harsh persecution and have faced persecution since. A world class Christian is willing to die for the Lord, but in America, we face a different challenge. Our challenge is living for the Lord without allowing the world’s sins and amusements to hold us in their grip.The real task has been to equip world class Christians – to train people who are willing to live or die for the Lord.
 
Over the years the American church has come to focus on training church workers and helpers alone. I don’t want to appear to mock this effort for we do need workers. My purpose is to warn that we have settled for a lesser goal and now our lethergy holds us back. We trained a generation of Christian’s whose greatest skill was cutting out images from construction paper with round tipped scissors. In the midst of such training we were wasting time debating about cultural issues about how long a person should wear his hair, movie attendance, which Bible version to use, etc. Or, even lesser theological issues like, “do we dip,” “sprinkle,” or “pour” for baptism? I just poured some cold water on some folk so let me say: get a grip – face the truth – people are saved by faith. Some will be in heaven no matter whether they were “dipped,” “sprinkled,” “poured,” or received Christ on their death bed. Like the Roman emperor Nero we are fiddling while our world is burning to the ground.

Consider a contrast between the Kazak girl who said that she was willing to die for the Lord and a story about some American teens. A few years back a friend of mine was serving as a youth pastor. The church he worked in received some shirts from a Southern California amusement park (the one with the mouse). The shirts had various cartoon characters silk screened on to the face of each shirt and were given for the purpose of being gifts for children in Mexico. You can’t just take such things into Mexico as gifts for children there. Since his youth group was going to Mexico, the plan was for the youth group to wear the shirts into Mexico and once there, give them as gifts to the poor children that they would meet. The youth group headed to Mexico all dressed in the expensive and colorful shirts, but once there some of the teens refused to part with the shirts. Here is the real lesson from all that is here: you can’t really live for the Lord if you don’t know how to give for the Lord. Our American church culture must ingrain the principle of giving into its young converts and youth.

A generation that is self-absorbed has not learned what normal Christianity really is. The Bible’s Christianity is industrial strength. The answer to the question of how we overcome sin and addictions begins with dying to self – giving ourselves utterly and completely to the Lord every day. Real Christianity involves giving ourselves back to God by ministering to the needs of those who are helpless. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24.) If you don’t like what has been said here, I suggest that you print this article, take out your round tipped scissors and cut it up.

Check out our web site: http://www.servantoflight.com

(Permission is granted to use the material as long as the URL and source information are given. Copyright, Keith Churilla, 2010.)