Sunday, September 20, 2020

“Jesus 2020” yards signs are wrong on many levels.

1. Jesus Christ / Jesus of Nazareth / the Lord Jesus Christ is NOT a citizen of the United States and is ineligible to be elected president.

2. As someone who reveres Jesus, I find these political lawn signs that say this demeaning of Jesus. I presume they put these in their yards because they love Jesus, but it is misguided. The Good Book says Jesus IS king of kings, an appointment of absolute authority and power that does not expire and cannot be voted in or out. Maybe we are going to elect a new “prince,” but Jesus does not need and does not ask for our vote. Jesus taught over and over about the kingdom of God, but all American Christians seem to muster is talk about their churches, their pastors or one or two particular ethical issues. Petty and small, a sign like these drags Jesus down to this smallness.

3. The strife of the 2020 election has sharply divided our country—again. Many significant issues are at stake that affect real people’s lives and livelihood. I don’t know how it will play out nor, honestly, do I really know how it should play out—I am not a king, kingly or even knowing about many of the complexities involved (though like everyone else I have my clear, peasant’s perspective). To someone who doesn’t know me, my ultimate trust in King Jesus may make me seem impractical, unwise or unconcerned (I hope those who know me know that not to be true, and that I am committed to acting justly and not just waiting for pie in the sky justice). But, I trust Jesus still, until the end.

4. In the last book of the Bible, there is a dramatic graphic portrayal of extreme turmoil and tumult coming on this dirt clod hung in space that we live on, BUT Jesus is sitting on a throne and the sea around his throne is calm as a mirror, as flat as a piece of glass. Another time, during his human life, Jesus was with his followers in a boat that was being swamped by the waves—and he calmed the sea. When I keep conscious, daily contact with King Jesus I know HIS calm, like an eye of the storm. And, I know he will ultimately calm this stormy sea tossing our collective boat.

I trust King Jesus, still, to the end. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Is meeting in a church building essential?

Is meeting in a church building essential? No. But, my “why” comes from following Jesus, not a political or economic view point. “Church” is not a building, organization or denomination. For the first 400 years it was almost always groups of 10 or less. It only needs 2 or 3.

Church-as-we-know-it in America is a building-based, “come to the building” mentality. But, this is not the original understanding: no church building existed for the first 400 years of Christianity, for one simple reason: it would have been destroyed or confiscated in the many persecutions that happened. The “gatherings” (what ekklesia, “church,” means in the Greek of the time) were mostly in houses, sometimes in prison and often on the street, walking along the road.

Cupcake Christianity in America requires cushy seats, an expensive HVAC, paid professional speaker/comedian and band/singers and infotainment for the children/teens for what is essentially a religious performance wrongly called “worship,” to make the listeners feel better, be better, be “fed,” under the ruse that this is sharing the good news about Jesus. Ha! Almost everyone there has already heard the message, and they are “preaching to the choir.” It is not new news for almost anyone who hears it, just a numbing drone drowning out the heartbreak and cries of the world outside that really does need the good news of Jesus.

“Worship,” again in the Greek of the day (and made explicit in the New Testament) is not a feel-good-make-God-feel-good-by-singing-nice-things-over-and-over-about-God thing. “Worship” is being “poured” (leitourgein), as in poured out, offered up, expended. It is not something you do in a couple hours, nor could you. It is an expending of your life in service to the Lord Jesus. “Present your WHOLE self as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which IS your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). The next verse could apply to how we wrongly view “God in a building box worship” in America and the West: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). We do not have to be pressed into the church-in-a-box, church-in-a-building mode, but can have a transformed view with an mind changed by the Good Book.

“Worship” looks like Jesus dying on a cross, a life expended and given up in obedience to a loving Father’s will in a world full of horrendous evils. There is no room, really, for such suffering in Cupcake Christianity, nor for such sacrifice, dedication or fanaticism. Nope. CC is all about dumbing down the medicine, serving with a lot of sugar so it is palatable (and about counting nickels and noses). An inoculation effect has taken over so that most CCs in our country cannot even see the text of the Bible that talks about what real worship is. They only see through their building-fogged CC lenses.

I’m guessing I lost most of you much earlier in this post, so it won’t hurt to finish honestly with this: fanaticism is the only acceptable standard for Jesus-followers. Can Jesus’ execution on the cross as a central symbol of the kingdom message mean anything less? A building kinda hampers radical followers of the Cruciform and Crucified One. No buildings needed (many types of businesses are learning this also during this pandemic). COVID19 does not affect church-as-God-wants-it at all, except perhaps to make it more clear why biblical small gatherings around caring meals and simple Bible study are much more built for the world ahead, and the only way to survive persecution, since a single match or power outage or flu shuts down CC. Not to mention: a LOT of money flows away from building mortgages and maintenance and toward mission and compassion.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

If someone says, “Jesus makes me happy all the time,” they have probably only been a follower of Jesus for a short time. Don’t get me wrong. I have found deep joy in following Jesus. Sometimes that joy looks like laughing, smiling happiness. But sometimes, though I feel joy, it is mixed together with the strain of circumstances or the anguish of being attacked by another. 

In the Good Book, an older follower of Jesus says to a young protege, “Everyone who wants to live seriously spiritual life in Jesus Christ will be opposed and attacked” (2 Timothy 3:12). Everyone. The “normal” Christian life is joy among sorrow, peace amidst persecution. If you want to follow Jesus, it will be a long, hard road. Full of inner peace, yes, peace that defies explanation. BUT, with side swipes, back stabbing, and full head-on collisions from the darndest people at the most inopportune times. 

The encouraging news is “the Lord [will rescue] me from all of them!” (2 Timothy 3:11). Like salmon against the current, following Jesus can feel like a grind. But “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 3:10).

Sunday, March 8, 2020

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God” (Psalm 69:1-3).
Knowing God means learning to let go of your inner control freak. None of us likes "losing control." But, if we are ever to get over our self-importance and self-centeredness, we have to get over our heads and learn that truly, deeply, really, God is in charge. Every ridable horse must be "broken." Everyone who wants to walk with God in a deep way must be broken. The path to fulfillment in the Kingdom of God involves breaking, surrender and yielded-ness.
Charles Spurgeon puts it, “It is not a curious thing that, whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him in pieces first?” This is the example of Jesus and his followers, and the witness of the spiritual greats who have walked the face of the earth. To yield to God’s purposes, we must have our wills broken and tamed. 
Spurgeon continues: “Have none of you ever noticed, in your own lives, that whenever God is going to give you an enlargement, and bring you out to a larger sphere of service, or a higher platform of spiritual life, you always get thrown down? That is His usual way of working; He makes you hungry before He feeds you; He strips you before He robes you; He makes nothing of you before He makes something of you. This was the way with David. He is to be King in Jerusalem; but he must go to the throne by the way of the cave. Now, are any of you here going to heaven, or going to a more heavenly state of sanctification, or going to a greater sphere of usefulness: Do not wonder if you go by the way of the cave.”
Breaking is part of the deal, and its fruit is more intimate relationship with God, more faithful obedience and clearer understanding of the deep truths of God’s Word. It doesn’t hurt any less when we realize this, but at least we can then receive what God is doing because it frees us from bondage, and makes us more like Jesus.
In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian wades into the River of Death, his last obstacle to cross on his way to Celestial City. As he goes in he cries out to Hopeful, “Help! I sink in troubled waters! All his billows go over me!” Hopeful calmly replies, “I feel the bottom, and it is good.”