What if the greatest threat to American Christianity isn’t legislated morality but our own apathy?

I’m not breaking any new ground here, but recent events have gotten me thinking about the state of Christianity in America today. And I’m convinced that the biggest threat to Christianity in America isn’t abortion or gay marriage or any other hot button issue you’d like to argue on Facebook about, but instead our own tepidness towards actually doing the business of following Christ¹. You know, like Jesus Christ, that one guy whose name actually is the basis for the word “Christian”?

We live in a world filled with distractions, sports and entertainment being chief among them. Our children have games on Sunday mornings so we skip services to attend. Our sermons are boring (have you ever listened to one of mine? Guilty) so we’d rather just stay at home and veg out than make the effort to come all the way to church. It’s too much of a strain to come to a mid-week Bible study so we stay home to have “family time.” Pick a reason or excuse and we’ll use it to not read our Bible, pray, or gather together with other believers.

But don’t you dare say anything we disagree with on social media because we will come after you with guns ablaze. We’ll spend hours refreshing our feeds to participate in online debates with people we don’t even know but we won’t spend time engaging in the messy lives of people we actually do know.

I find the story of Daniel and the Lions Den, as told in Daniel 6, fascinating as it relates to legislation and piety. Daniel lived in a nation that made it illegal to pray to anyone or anything other than the king² and what was his first reponse? Run to his social media platforms and proclaim that the Medes and Persians needed to get back to God? Lambaste anyone that disagreed with him? Nope. Daniel 6:10 tells us what he did. “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.”

What would happen if we just decided to spend some time in prayer before we got on our social media? Or skipped it altogether to spend time in the Bible instead? What if we devoted ourselves to God’s Word, to spending time in authentic community with other people, and to being engaged in prayer, as the early church did? I think God would be pleased and I think that we’d see our world around us start to change, very likely beginning with our own hearts.³

What if the greatest threat to Christianity lies within our own hearts and our uncommitted, half-hearted following of Christ?

¹I’m not saying that these aren’t important issues worthy of our time or energy, but instead that we seem to have given the issues priority over the Savior.

²All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction. – Daniel 6:7-9

³I say all these things fully recognizing that I’m as big of an offender for these things as anyone. Probably worse.

Undesired Consequences (or paying the price for other people’s actions)

As my wife and I neared the end of a week filled with tantrums and misbehavior from our foster son, we’d both pretty much had enough. As we were right in the middle of another meltdown she looked at me and said “Why? Why is this happening?” I immediately responded without thinking and said “Because we’re paying the price for other people’s actions.” And as soon as I said it, I stopped.

I stopped because I immediately realized that suffering the consequences of other people’s actions is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death¹ and that he who knew no sin became sin for us². So all of my sinful actions (and trust me, there are plenty) ended up in Jesus dying on the cross and paying the penalty that I deserved, which was death.

But it doesn’t just stop there either! Not only do I not reap the consequences of my sin, but I also receive the free gift of eternal life. Jesus paid my debt and then turned around and gifted me something I never could have earned for myself. So while I’ll still suffer temporal consequences of sin and death (after all, we still live in a fallen world), I can rest secure knowing that my eternal life is paid for. What a glorious picture of God’s redemptive work in our lives!

It’s true, we’ve signed up to parent someone else’s child and to deal with all kinds of baggage we didn’t bring on ourselves. But before I get too self-righteous, I need to remember that I bring plenty of baggage to the party and ultimately someone else paid the final price for my sin, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

 

¹For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  -Romans 6:23 (ESV)

²For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  -2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

Why? (Or things that a 4 year-old is teaching me about my relationship to God)

whyMy wife and I recently welcomed a 4 year old foster child into our home. It’s been an adjustment for all of us, but the biggest thing we’ve had to get used to is the questions.  The constant questions.  Of why?

Why?

Why?

Why?

Everything is why? Why this, why that, why is it raining, why isn’t it raining, why?

So the other day, in the middle of a why chain, my wife looks at me and says, “Do you think we sound this way to God?”

And you know what? I think she’s right. Far too often I find myself asking God why.  And I think it is a legitimate question, but I think that sometimes I sound like a four year-old to God. Why? Why didn’t I get that job? Why did my friend get cancer? Why do I have to do this? Why can’t I do that? And then my questioning of God becomes something more than just questioning, it becomes idolatry.

Idolatry?

When I’m questioning God about everything, mostly I think it’s because I think I know better than God, and when that’s the case, I’m telling Him that I should be god and not Him, and that’s idolatry. So questions of why are fine, but they should be firmly grounded in a view of God’s sovereignty and trust in His goodness.  The road may not always be easy and I likely won’t always understand, but this I do know, I can trust God with my life.  He’ll never fail me, even when I don’t understand.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

– Isaiah 55:8-9

A Theology of Interruptions (Or What God is Teaching Me Lately)

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth”

I’ve recently finished reading through the Gospels and as I read God has really impressed upon me how Jesus did His ministry. Jesus was constantly walking around and going from place to place and all four of the Gospels are filled with lines like the above, where Jesus was on his way to something, or going to see someone, or eating dinner somewhere, and then someone came up to him, or he saw someone there, or someone was brought to him. And it never resulted in Jesus saying “Hey man, I’m eating here” or “I’m sorry ma’am, I’m on my way to Judea”, but instead resulted in Jesus taking time to heal the wounded, soothe the grieving, and love the unlovely.

And as I read these scenes over and over and over I realized how many times I get so caught up in my plans, my destinations, my goals and I don’t even notice the people and opportunities around me. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have plans or goals, as Jesus was quite intentional with what He did. But I do think that we (or I) get so caught up in what we’re focused on that we might miss something that God has for us to do right in front of us. Or we might choose not to engage a ministry opportunity because it just isn’t convenient, it doesn’t fit our expectation, or it’s a little (sometimes a lot) messy.

What would our churches look like if we spent our days actively looking for God’s work for us? What would our Christian lives look like? Jesus interrupted His existence to come to earth for us¹, are we willing to interrupt our lives for service to Him?

1. Philippians 2:5-7 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

I’m going to Cambodia…

Friends and Family,

It’s hard to believe that it’s mid-March already. I feel like the year has just begun and now we’re almost to Easter. Of course spending most of our waking hours chasing two energetic one-year olds around the house does make the day go by a lot faster. Marcus and Micah are keep us quite busy and have entered their “explorer” phase…aka anything that can be climbed on, pulled open, put in their mouth, or thrown down usually is. But they are sweet little boys that have fun personalities and always bring much joy to our lives.

Although I’m definitely overdue for an update, I’m actually writing because I have an exciting oppcambodia maportunity coming up, and I’d love to involve you. In the middle of May, I’ll be embarking on a week-long medical missions trip in Cambodia with a doctor from my church and several others from another state. We will fly to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and after staying for a day there, will then head out into the Cambodian countryside to conduct medical clinics with local missionaries and medical workers. No, I am not a doctor, but as I’ve done on previous trips I will be helping with check-in, taking vital signs, helping distribute medicines, etc…as well as spending time sitting and talking about Jesus with anyone that is interested.

This is such an exciting time for me. Although I’ve been on many mission trips and have even done medical ones, heading to Asia will be a completely new experience. So why do I feel it important to do these medical trips? Well, I really believe that by doing something tangible, such as setting up clinics, we will be able to connect with people in a way that simply talking with them cannot. Medicine offers an incredible way to reach a people who are often shy or even suspicious of Protestant Christians. Plus, we’re offering a service that everyone needs and providing access to healthcare in areas where it is not readily available. The clinics also help the missionaries on the ground develop and maintain relationships with the locals in each area, which is vitally important to the spread of the Gospel.

There are several ways I could use your help—most involve prayer, but I could also use financial support. Specifically, you could:

  1. Pray for the people in Cambodia. Pray that they will begin to see and feel God’s love for them. Pray that their hearts will be soft, and our compassionate mission will lead them to the true God.
  2. Pray that the team on the ground in Cambodia continues to thrive in their work. Pray that God ministers mightily through them.
  3. Pray that I would be prepared mentally and spiritually for the journey and the work and for Kristen as she cares for Marcus and Micah while I’m gone.
  4. And this is the big one, pray for finances and support me financially. I need your support to get to Cambodia. If you are interested in supporting me, please mail a check to:

Mission to the World Donations

P.O. Box 2589

Suwanee, GA  30024-0982

My support account number is 12466, so please write this number and my name on the memo line of the check.

OR you can donate online by going to https://donations.mtw.org/donors/login.php

That will bring up a login screen.  You will be asked to create an account.

On the next screen that comes up you can choose the support account number (alphabetical by last name (Fielder) and my account number is 12466)

That will drop down more choices and you can enter the dollar amount. After you enter the amount, click next.  From there, you will provide your contact info, address, etc.

While money is important, I covet your prayer support as I prepare to go! Please let me know that I can count on you in the months ahead. Stick this letter in your Bible, and remember me each time you read!

Thank you for your prayers and support,

Sam

 

 

Sam’s Choice: My Top Songs for 2014

SamsYeah, so it’s been awhile.  And I can’t really fault you if you’ve stopped coming here since I haven’t posted in ages, but something about having twin 1 year-olds really takes up a lot of time and energy.  But that still didn’t stop me from finding some new music to enjoy in 2014 and as I do pretty much every year, I’ve put together the songs that were new to me this year and which I’ll remember 2014 by.

I’ve also done something new and put them all in a Spotify playlist that’s at the bottom so you can easily push play and let them roll.  They aren’t really in any order, since that would take more time and effort than I have right now.  And finally, here’s all my past top songs posts if you’re interested – 20132012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. Anyway, onto the songs.

1. Southern Skies by Matrimony – A breezy upbeat song that has a shouty chorus.  If you’ve read any of my past lists you can definitely see why this one made the list.

2. Stronger Than That by Bahamas – Love me some Bahamas. His new album is really good and this is my favorite track off of it. Showcases all of his best qualities, namely that insanely catchy guitar hook and smooth vocals.

3. Scarecrow by Counting Crows – The first single off the new Crows album and about what you’d expect from them now. Tight sound, fun lyrics and all around goodness.  For whatever reason there has been an abnormal number of days that I’ve woken up with this song in my head the past year.

4. Southern Sun by Brother Bear – The second entry with Southern in the title.  It’s like I live in the South or something. But this song is also one of those songs that as soon as I heard it I knew it’d end up here. Catchy and fun.

5. Buttons by The Weeks – This is one of those songs that just gets the blood pumping and the feet tapping a little bit. It cemented its place here one afternoon when it came on as I was in a bad mood and I rolled down the windows and turned up the volume and just let it wash over me.  And afterwards I felt better.  So there’s that.

6. Then Came The Morning by The Lone Bellow – New album out in 2 weeks and with their sophmore release the Lone Bellow aim to capture some of the magic that they have in their live shows that doesn’t really translate on their recordings. I love this song for all of its twangy sensibilities and the fact that it really sounds like Brooklyn country to me.

7. Only One by John Butler Trio – Vintage JBT. Fast paced dancy song that keeps you moving. there’s something aobut his voice that is so distinctive but in a familiar and wonderful way.  All of it makes for a great song.

8. Hey Rose by Streets of Laredo – A new artist to me and a really great song that has all the requisites to make it here on this list.  And I love the ending flurry as well.

9. Low Key by Tweedy – My favorite song off of the solo project by Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of Wilco. Vintage sound here, catchy and whimsical while sounding so solid.

10. We’re All In This Together by Sam Roberts Band – Another great offering by Sam Roberts and co. Vocal harmonics and great pacing with an anthemic chorus all make for a fun song.

11. Ash & Ember by Augustana – One of the few good songs on their new album.  I love Augustana but the new album that came out this year was not phenomenal, especially given the high level of their previous work.  But this song is still vintage Augustana and warranted an inclusion here.

12. Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating In The Future by Mike Doughty – This song grew on me progressively throughout the year and the beat and way he sings ultimtaly won me over.

13. Congregation by Foo Fighters – I absolutely love Sonic Highways multipart documentary that Dave Grohl and the boys put together for HBO this fall.  It’s been a cool look at some famous music cities and various artists that are identified with those places.  This is the song from Nashville recorded with Zac Brown in his recodring studio, which is an old church.  Vintage Foo’s here.

14. California (Cast Iron Soul) by Jamestown Revival – What a phenomenal song. I had a rough February and this song was on repeat over and over and it always made me feel a little better when I heard it.  Probably my favorite song of 2014.

So there you go. All the songs I’ll remember 2014 by. Enjoy.

Love and Sweatpants.

The B-BLT Pizza – The Summer of Pizza

SummerofPizzaWell, I guess it was bound to happen.  After 2 pretty good returns on the pizzas, I had my first setback in the Summer of Pizza.  In retrospect I don’t really think that it was totally my fault (of course it wasn’t right?) but it still resulted in a really small pizza. So here’s what happened…to save time (as a parent of twins saving time on meals is a MUST) I used premade dough from the grocery store and I’ve started halving the dough to make the crust better and thinner.  I put the unused portion in the freezer and I think that ended up taking some of the moisture out of the dough and also messed with the yeast, all of which meant that the crust ended up about half the size that I wanted it to be and was too thin as well.

So while it wasn’t a total disaster, it still could have been better.  But I digress.  The pizza of choice was a B-BLT, which is a Blue Cheese – Bacon Lettuce Tomato pizza.  Premade tomato base with zliced cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar goes on top of a flavored olive oil on the crust and then the precooked and crumbled bacon and blue cheese goes on top to melt in.  Finally it all gets topped with grilled heart of romaine lettuce and there you have a B-BLT pizza.

The pizza itself, aside form the jacked up crust, was pretty good but I think since it was so small and I had a ton of extra toppings, it ended up being a little too much and the blue cheese was a little overwhelming.  It’s one I’d like to try again at some point but for now the summer of pizza rolls on.

Photo May 31, 7 48 38 PM