Shake the Salt

“You are the salt of the earth.” Jesus told His followers that we have a role in our world to season and preserve. Notice that Jesus said “You are.” Influencing our world should be as natural for the believer as breathing or sleeping. So, how do you influence the world? We all have countless opportunities, but in this blog, I am going to address one area about which I am passionate.

Technology has opened a whole new world to all of us through social media, blogging, and even writing and publishing books. This thought led me to write a series of books called “The Published Pastor.” To date, I have two books in the series (Book 1 – “Expanding Your Ministry Through Writing and Publishing” and Book 2 – “How to Write and Publish Books”), and I will soon be releasing a third book on the topic of marketing Many of you who read my blogs could become a published author, and that would be one way you could be salt in our earth.

While the title of the Published Pastor series suggests these books only apply to pastors, the information is applicable to anyone who would like to write and publish. If you are a pastor, small group leader, Sunday School teacher, or Bible study leader, the books will have easy application to some of the things you do on a regular basis. You will see that I speak directly to pastors about how to turn a sermon series into a book, but the principles are easily applicable to every circumstance. Dr. Gerald Harris recently reviewed this series in the Christian Index. He said, “The book is extremely well written, extraordinarily helpful, and as practical as a Bible is to a Gospel preacher.” You can click this link to read the entire review.

In this series, I wrote to encourage Christians to use the resources availed to them through technology today to make a difference in the world. I also wanted to remove the mystery of becoming a published author and show that if you have ever considered writing a book, you can certainly do it. I originally published these as digital books and then combined books 1 & 2 into one paperback book. If $2.99 will stretch your budget right now, feel free to contact me, and I’ll send you a copy for free.

Whether you want to write books, record CD’s, paint pictures, blog, or create another product with a Christian message, I encourage you to find your avenue to make a difference in the world. Don’t keep saying that you will make a difference one day through your gifts or talents. Do it today. If you are interested in writing, I am happy to help you any way I can. Our challenge is to shake the salt, and God’s Kingdom will shine through us.

Amazing Churches

Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God, Pokrovskaia Tserkov, 1764. Church of Transfiguration, Preobrajenskaia Tserkov, 1714. Tower clock, 1874. Kizhi Island. Onega lake, Karelia. Russia.

I just read an article entitled “Ten of the World’s Most Stunning Religious Buildings.” The article presented a list of ten architectural masterpieces that really are amazing edifices. For example, one of the structures (see the picture) was made entirely with wood, but the builders did not use a single nail. Here’s what troubles me about this article. Most of them were not used for Christian purposes, and only one of the buildings that was used for Christian services is still used for anything other than a museum. The one building that is still in use is a Greek monastery called Metéora, which means “middle of the sky.” This monastery was built on top of a sandstone pillar about 1200 feet off the ground. When originally built in the 1500’s, no stairs were included. Monks had to be pulled up into the structure by rope, and the old ropes were not replaced until God showed the monks they needed to be replaced. How did that happen? You guessed it. A rope would break. I would hate to be the monk on the lift that convinced the250px-Holy_Monastery_of_Rousanou guy in charge that they needed a new rope.

I have at least two problems with this whole concept. First, nine out of ten of these buildings are not being used for the purpose of making Christ known to the world. Even the ones originally built for this purpose (though most of them were constructed to honor a particular monarch) are now simply museums. The one remaining structure still in use is for the purpose of getting away from the world instead of being used to reach the world. The second problem I have with them is that a church is actually a living organism (not a building) that exists for the purpose of carrying out Christ’s mission in the world: making disciples. This involves evangelism and spiritual mentoring as new believers become more like Christ. Disciple making requires us to be busy and in the world (but not of it). I would enjoy visiting these buildings because I am fascinated with architecture – especially of old buildings. While these ten buildings are stunning indeed, they are also heart breaking. Maybe we should be stunned that something so beautiful is so ineffective. The real question is are we the church God wants us to be? Regardless of the place of our church membership, if we are Christians, then we are called to embrace the world (people), love the world (of course I’m speaking of loving the people of the world regardless of their background, beliefs, or life-styles), and lead the world to faith in Christ. If people looked at you or at the building you go to for church services, would they see something or someone who is passionately in love with Jesus Christ and working tirelessly for His cause or would they see a dusty museum? Just a thought.

Got A Second?

Last_Days_Clock“I just don’t have enough time in a day.” How many times have you repeated that mantra? Sadly that phrase seems to be the theme song for many of our lives. Well…you’re in luck. You got an extra second today, but the day is almost over. We had a rare event today in that we were given an extra second. Experts refer to this as being a “leap second.” The National Institute of Standards and Technology define a leap second as “a second added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in order to keep it synchronized with astronomical time,” What in the world will you do with a second? Probably nothing. It does make me think, however, about what it would be like if we were suddenly given an extra hour or an extra day. What if I could hold up a rod (like Moses) and gain an extra few hours? Here’s a thought. Why did we need an extra hour today when there’s a good chance we wasted several of the ones we had? I think it would be a good idea for us to make note of something we would do tomorrow if we had an extra hour and go ahead and do it with one of the hours we already have.  If we work harder at managing our time, we might feel as if we’ve been given an extra hour a day, and with that extra time, we could change the world.

Church Attendance in America

church_attendanceI’ve got bad news and bad news. According to a recent study done by Pew Research, 7 in 10 Americans identify with the Christian tradition. I know as a Christian, the idea of someone “identifying with the Christian tradition” does not lead me to think they necessarily are Christians. However, at least 70% of Americans have some connection to the Christian faith. The Associated Press article about the Pew survey stated that “the ranks of Christians have declined as the segment of people with no religion has grown.” In response to the lack of interest in religious affiliation by a growing number of Americans, researchers have created a category of people called “Nones.” The survey points out that in the last seven years, those who call themselves agnostic or having not particular faith grew frpom 16% to 23%. Christians dropped from 78% to under 71% of the population.

Here’s the other bad news. : “While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time.” In other words, we are finding that more and more younger adults are not only disinterested in church. They are not interested in Christianity at all. Another study showed that only 2 out of 10 Millennials (people who are 30 years old or younger) think church attendance is important. Thirty-five percent of them take an anti-church stance.

The good news is that God is still at work in the United States, and you and I can join Him in changing the world. If Christians will wake up and get to work, maybe the next Pew study will show these numbers in a different light.

Why do you think there is a decline in church attendance in America?

The Resurrection

tombWhat difference does the resurrection of Jesus Christ make in your life? What difference does it make in a family and in a country? Christ’s resurrection certainly gives us perspective and hope. It reminds us that we too can have victory over death and the grave through Jesus, and our only hope for eternity is found in faith and trust in Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Our hope finds new joy and anticipation as we too consider the empty tomb. Our Savior is not dead, but rather He is alive. This reality should change the way we live and respond to people and circumstances. It reminds us that we live for eternity and not just for time. It calls us to order our lives according to the teaching of God’s Word and show the world how the resurrection changes our character, our relationships, and how we treat those whom we do not even know. The resurrection creates a bond between believers throughout the world and helps us to better understand the broad concept of family. The Christian family is a global unit, and therefore when one Christian is hurting in Iraq, Christians across the world feel his sorrow. This means we cannot ignore the persecution of Christians regardless of where they live. We share a common faith with Christians everywhere, and therefore it is our responsibility to pray for our brothers and sisters and to do everything in our power to help relieve their struggles. This means writing to our political leaders to express our views and concerns, supporting relief organizations that are reaching out to the persecuted, and praying for Christians who are living daily under the threat of persecution.

I recently listened to David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Great Britain as he shared an Easter message. I encourage you to listen to it. He underscored the role of a Christian nation in reaching out to the down trodden, the persecuted, and the abused. It was refreshing to hear him refer to Great Britain as a Christian nation, and it made me long to see our own nation embrace our Christian heritage. We can expect increased persecution of Christians in the next years, and it is paramount that we pray for our brothers and sisters and support them in any way possible. As we mentally gather at the empty tomb to see that Jesus has indeed risen, we will look around and discover that we share this wonder and awe as well as responsibility with Christians everywhere. Regardless of denominational title or geographical location, we are family together because the tomb is empty. May the death and resurrection of Jesus continue to impact our choices and actions as we live in light of the resurrection of Jesus.

A Life of Prayer

prayer2Prayer is a life and not just an event. I have learned in my Christian walk how naturally it is for me to fall into a pattern of compartmentalization. By that I mean that I create small compartments through which I live my life. I can have the pastor compartment, the husband compartment, the father compartment, etc. While these categories are quite harmless and acceptable, I can also create the Christian compartment and the secular compartment. I can even create compartments of activities such as one for Bible reading and one for prayer. Here’s the problem. My spiritual life cannot just be a compartment. For that matter, spiritual disciplines cannot just fall into a neat category. Prayer cannot just be an activity I perform, and when I am done, I fold it up and put it away until it’s time to pull it out again. I do not have a spiritual life; I am a spiritual life. Everything about my journey with God defines my being.

 

Prayer is one of those things that can so easily be compartmentalized, but God says it should be synonymous with the life we live. Consider the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” These three words make up a very strong and informative imperative. We are commanded by the God of the universe to pray without stopping. This means that prayer is not just a thing we do. It is the life we live. We are to communicate with God 24/7. Okay, it may be a little hard to communicate with God in our sleep, but I suppose it is possible . The point is that we should wake up with a prayer on our lips. Our conversation with God should continue throughout our entire day, and then we close our eyes with the final words of our prayer for the day on our hearts. This means that we talk with God about everything in our lives. Here is the awesome thing: God is interested. He wants you to talk with Him about every little detail of your life. Imagine how incredible it would be if we really did pray without ceasing. Here’s the thing. When you are praying without ceasing, you cannot worry. I think it is impossible to pray and worry at the same time. When you pray without ceasing, you cannot hold a grudge, have a lustful thought, or say ugly words. You can’t cheat on your income taxes, watch a movie that doesn’t honor the Lord, or slander your neighbor if you are constantly talking to the Lord. Do you realize how amazing it would be if you started your day with “Our Father” and ended it with “Amen?”

 

Give it a try. Continuous prayer changes things, and the biggest thing it will change is you. Go ahead. Start praying and don’t stop. God is anticipating your conversation.

Truett Cathy

truettA great man closed his eyes this morning in the presence of his earthly family and opened them again in the presence of his heavenly family. When Truett Cathy passed away this morning, the world was greatly impacted because Mr. Cathy was a man who not only showed the world how to live, but he also showed us how to die.  I suppose many people in the Atlanta area could tell a Truett Cathy story, but mine involves a young teenager named David who needed a place to live. He lived in my home for a while, but because I have six children (and at the time my brother, his wife and five children lived with us), we really did not have room for him. I called Mr. Cathy’s assistant, and she told me to bring my young friend to their corporate office. We were ushered into Mr. Cathy’s office, and he treated us as if we were the most important appointment on his agenda. Never mind that he was late leaving to catch a plane for Europe where he had an important meeting, Mr. Cathy talked to David about choices in life. He offered my young friend a place to live and a very bright future, but he told David that he would have responsibilities and had to follow the rules. David agreed, and Mr. Cathy had his assistant take us up to the top floor of the office building. The top floor looked like a huge department store filled with name brand clothes and shoes of every size (for young people). David was allowed to choose clothes and shoes, and we were both overwhelmed by this man’s generosity. The next day, David went to live at one of Mr. Cathy’s homes for children.

Truett Cathy is an example of a man who lived from the inside out. Many years earlier, he had surrendered his life to Jesus Christ allowing Jesus to sit as King of his heart, and this decision impacted every decision he made for the rest of his life. This decision also determined his eternal destiny. While we sometimes wonder why Christians do not live out their faith, that was not the case with Truett Cathy, and the world is a better place because Mr. Cathy let his light shine for Jesus Christ. He is a model for the rest of us. Romans 1:17 says “The just will live by faith.” In other words, our lives should be different because we are people of faith. The world is desperate to see authentic Christianity, and Jesus has commissioned us to be like salt and light in the world. May the life and testimony of Truett Cathy not be forgotten as we press on to the day when we too will cross over to the other side.

Offer for a Free Gift

giftDo you like to be updated on things? I am away on my annual study break, and I’ve had different family members call me to see how it’s going. I suppose most people are curious about the prospects of going away for a week to return home with a preaching plan for my sermons for the next year. It’s true that I will have a preaching plan when I return, but my plan is not in concrete. I do feel that God has led me through this process of studying and prayer, but I am open to God moving in ways throughout my year to change my direction, if He so chooses. Anyway, it has been interesting to have the various phone calls with the anticipated question, “So, how’s it going?”

I have put together a plan for sharing updates with you that are different than just a regular blog. It is an offer to be a part of an e-mail update system whereby I can let you know what’s going on through my writing  or pastoral ministry. There may be times I send an e-mail out to ask for advice on the opening words of a new book, ideas for chapter themes, or advice on a crazy idea. It could be a request for special prayer about a particular avenue of ministry on which I may be about to embark. I suppose it will sort of be like a personal newsletter, but it will many times be an update I feel comfortable sharing with friends who have asked for personal correspondence, but I don’t feel comfortable making it open to the general public who may be reading my blog. I will also offer free gifts along the way as a special way of saying thanks for being interested in what I’m doing and for being a partner in my ministry.

You can sign up for this email update by going to my website at www.timriordan.me. Look to the right side of the home page and scroll down to the bottom of the far right column. You will see something that says, “Receive E-mail Updates from Dr. Tim Riordan.” Just type your e-mail address in the box and click the “sign up” button. Here’s the free gift part: I will respond to all those who sign up with a reply e-mail (give me a week or so to give everyone time to sign up) with a preview of the introduction and first chapter of my new book, Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days. My book will not be out until the end of October, but you can get a head start. As a matter of fact, I would welcome your thoughts and comments to the intro and first chapter, once you’ve read it. You can post your comments on my blog below this posting. Let me say in advance, “Welcome aboard.” I look forward to the journey we are about to take together.

Israel – Alone

Israeli soldier stands beneath a flagI sat watching the news last night feeling as if Bible prophecy was being lived out before my eyes. Actually, I predicted nearly three years ago that the world would become more and more anti-Semitic, but I suppose I am still shocked by how much of the world seems to be opposing Israel (see my blog on November 10, 2011 – “Iran”). The Bible predicts in Ezekiel 38 that when Russia and the five-nation coalition attacks Israel, Israel will not have an ally really stand with them. They will stand alone. If you read through Ezekiel 38-39, you will not find any other nation standing with Israel. The significance of the world opinion right now, which is anti-Israeli, goes right along with the prophecy. I am amazed that anyone would criticize Israel for protecting themselves when attacked, and I am amazed that anyone would be so harsh toward Israel when civilians are hurt in Gaza because Hamas is using civilians, including children, as human shields. As I am sure you know, Israel has agreed to a cease-fire, but Hamas has refused. My point is not to make a political statement, but rather it is to point out that once again, God is right. Israel is gradually losing the global support, even the support of American leadership. When this attack does happen sometime in the future, that is the attack of Russia and the other five nations, there will be no allies to stand with Israel. Just watch as the world continues to back away from Israel, and know that this is but one more sign of the coming end of the age.

What do we do? Well, first of all, pray for Israel and pray for our nation’s leadership. Anyone who sides with Israel’s enemies are on the wrong side. Remember that Israel is the apple of God’s eye. Our nation’s leaders need to beware. Secondly, prepare for growing spiritual warfare. As the return of Christ draws closer, spiritual conflict will intensify. This is actually the topic for my new book that I hope to have out sometime in the near future: Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days. Thirdly, look for the opportunities that will be abundant during the days of difficulty. There will be many opportunities to share your faith and serve others in Jesus’ name. Fourthly, study the Word of God as never before. Great deception will spread in the days ahead, and we must know the truth of God. Finally pray. I know I said that first, but Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:18-20 to pray all the time in all ways for the conflict is too challenging for us to engage the enemy of our souls alone.

One final thing I didn’t mention. Get ready by making sure of your relationship with Christ. Are you truly saved? If you died today, are you certain that you would spend eternity in heaven? If not, why not right now tell Jesus that you surrender your life to Him? Confess your sin to Christ, and tell him that you give your life to follow Him. Jesus is coming again. The prophecies in the Bible will come to pass. Are you ready?

Time Change

I hate losing things, and I especially hate losing an hour. Daylight savings time is about to hit us again, and we are all about to have to go through the struggle of giving up an hour. True, we’ll get it back on November 2, but in the meantime, Sunday, March 9, could be a bummer. How many people will get their hour back by sleeping in and skipping church? How many people will physically attend church but mentally check out during the sermon because they are too tired to really engage? How many people across America will glibly go through the motions of worship but actually not really be present because they would rather be taking a nap? Okay, so maybe I’m approaching this thing like a preacher. I can’t help it. I’ve got something really important to share on Sunday, and the potential for disconnect is even greater than normal because we all lose an hour the night before.

 

When I think about it, this hour of worship on Sunday, March 9, is not the only important hour of our lives. The truth is, we lose hours all the time. We may be present at an event, but we’re really not present. We disconnect as a habit and miss the golden opportunities God gives us for life-change and ministry. We may cheat on a night’s sleep, and when we really need to be alert and engaged, our brains have checked out. Maybe this transition to Daylight Savings Time needs to be a not so subtle reminder that we have to choose to engage with our mission and purpose every day of our lives. If we do not make this conscious choice, we may be present but not really there. We might be present at a spiritual encounter with God but not really there when it comes to realizing this is a Kingdom moment. We might be present at a divine appointment but miss it because our spirits were not engaged in the moment, and we therefore miss the opportunity to impact a life for eternity.

 

These thoughts underscore that every day is important. Losing an hour this Sunday makes me even more aware of how important every Sunday is, and for that matter, it underscores the importance of every day. Our motto should be: “Wherever you are, be there.” Maybe we should spend some time reflecting on Psalm 90:12 as we prepare for time change Sunday: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”