Saturday, June 28, 2014
Friday, June 27, 2014
Where We (Should) Stand
One of the strong tenants of evangelicalism is one’s personal relationship with Jesus. You are saved when you invite Jesus into your heart. We are told not to pursue “religion,” but rather a “relationship.” And that relationship is a personal one with Jesus. Me and Jesus, we got a good thing going …Amen!
And in all I was hearing in church and in Christian music and in Christian books was that God wanted to take care of all of my needs. He wanted me to be happy and entertained. I never need suffer through a bad day. As a matter of fact, I never need suffer. God loved me, and he knew all of my needs. He knew all of my felt needs, and he stood at the ready to meet all those needs. All I had to do was to … believe, pray, give, have faith, confess. Actually, there was a lot I had to do, but the bottom line was I was very important to God, so important that he took up residence in my heart, sticking very close in case I had the slightest want or need.
Have you heard the difference between dog and cat theology? A dog who lives in a house says of the man in charge, “He feeds me, he gives me shelter, he pets me. He must be God.” A cat in the same house says, “He feeds me, he gives me shelter, he pets me. I must be God.” After 40 years of this personal relationship, of everything being focused on my needs, I had become God. And I am tired of being who I was never made to be.
There is a God, and I’m very comfortable saying that I am not He.
Evangelicalism has tried to entertain me. It has tried to make me happy. It has tried to sooth me when I am in despair. In everything it has made it clear that I am the center of God’s universe, the very reason that the sun rises and sets each day. And after 40 years, I now see that has been a lie. I do want a relationship with God, but not one where I set the terms. I don’t want to get my own way just because I feel like it. I want to know God as he knows himself to be, not as I wish him to be.
Evangelicalism tried to tell me I was God. I’m not. I’m Jeff. I’m a mess on my best days. I make a much better dog than cat.
Evangelicalism church faith
Thursday, June 26, 2014
To be honest, we begin our relationship with God because of what’s in it for us personally....The prayers of new believers are usually focused on their personal needs:...But, as we grow in our faith, as our hearts expand through the presence of God’s Spirit within us, we find ourselves praying more expansive prayers. We see this very expansion in Psalm 67. It begins with a prayer for God to bless “us” and to smile upon “us.”...But then the prayerful vision of the psalmist expands. He asks that God’s ways and power might be known “throughout the earth” and “among people everywhere” (67:2). He yearns for all nations to praise God.That is so right and it leads me to a question - What in the modern way church is done, especially in Evangelical circles aids us in achieving such expansive maturity? When we build church to allow anonymity and develop programs to meet the needs of each individual, where do they expand to?
I hear the answer coming now, "Why they expand to serve a role in those programs - they become leaders!" Oh really? We recruit them to those leadership roles based again on personal interest. Nor are they allowed or encouraged to expand in ways that do not conform with the program. And there expansion is limited. God forbid they compete with the staff for leadership.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
The Cliche as Lesson
"Can I get an amen?"To the dangerous:
"The Lord told me to tell you…"to the bothersome:
"As for me and my house…" [see Joshua 24:15]There are two points that need to be made here. Firstly, can scripture ever be cliche'?
The second requires a bit more comment. While some of these phrases are just wrong, are "cliche's" generally wrong? Repetition is, even int his highly literate age, a big part of changing our lives. Repeating something over and over and over again does not change its essential truth, it juts ingrains it in us. And when such a lesson is so ingrained we change.
Why, it could be come downright liturgical.
cliche lesson liturgy repetition
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Over the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time asking myself What would my life look like if I gave myself totally to God? This is probably the scariest question I have ever asked, because the short answer is – very different from what it looks like now.Fair enough, but it strikes me as rather timid. It seems to me that if I really totally gave myself to God that would be a given, not a result.
First I know that prayer and deepening my relationship to God should take priority over everything else....
Second I know that relationships – to God and to others should take priority over work....Again, fair enough, but I think God has plans for us that are far more holistic than that. Somehow I think that if we were really in Christ's grasp those divisions between work and home and relationships would somehow vanish.
Third I need to take time for myself, to make space for the exercises that replenish my spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing....That I think is repetitive. Somehow I think what she is talking about here would result from the first two.
Fourth I need to take time for God’s creation....I mean yeah, ok, but so?!
Fifth, the use of my resources would be totally in God’s control. I would give generously, joyously and enthusiastically whenever God prompted me....There is the meat and does that not negate the prior four? Seems to me that is the first four she is dictating to God how He is to equip her to do the fifth. Somehow I think God tells us to just get busy with the fifth and let Him handle the rest. The first four are selfish, the last is gospel.
Christ could have stayed in Gethsemane all night seeking the resources to face His ordeal. He just got busy and God provided. That's the point I think. We do, God provides. We give out of our need not our riches.
The world would be such a different place if people actually did that.
Monday, June 23, 2014
The Truth of the Matter
Luke 14:25-33I cannot help but reflect on how that speaks to how we do evangelism. As Mark points out, Jesus is here doing evangelism - He is calling people to Himself. And yet He does so in the most apparently off-putting way. "I want you to follow me - but I am telling you it is going to be a pain-in-the-neck." The Marine Corps seeks recruits in the same way. Not everyone is cut out to be a marine.
An old bit of wisdom tells us, “Buyer beware.” It’s a good idea whatever we’re in the market for to be careful not to buy a “bill of goods” and to make sure that whoever’s trying to convince us of anything is engaging in “truth in advertising.”
Our Gospel lesson from Luke for today finds Jesus engaging in “truth in advertising.” He wants people to know exactly what is involved in following Him. God’s grace, His forgiveness and favor, is a free gift; but to grasp hold of it costs us everything, our whole lives. Jesus is intent on our knowing that. Jesus wants us to understand that there is a cost to being His disciple. He tells people, "Would-be believers, beware of what it means to follow Me."
And to modern narcissists who talk about needing to take care of themselves or look after themselves, Jesus says, “You will only be truly happy, you will only find yourself, when you lose yourself in Me.”
...Jesus tells two parables, each meant to urge those considering following Him to count the cost involved. In one, Jesus says that farmers, who in first century Judea where He lived, often built towers to give themselves early warning about marauding thieves or wild animals, would be crazy not to figure out whether they could afford the structures before starting to build them. Similarly, Jesus says, a king who didn’t know about the strength of an opposing army would be foolish to start a war with that army. Again, Jesus wants us to know that following Him isn’t easy.
I wonder if we are to conclude that not everyone is cut out to be a Christian? I am not prepared to answer that definitively. I do know that in a world where God has given us freedom, He is prepared to let some go. But how that will all work out in the end I really have not figured out.
What I do know is that what currently passes for evangelism is not inviting people to the table that Jesus discusses in this passage. We invite people to a feast and Jesus is talking about boot camp. Is it any wonder then that people end up disillusioned with the church?
But what really bothers me is the why we do this. I think we do it so WE do not have to go to boot camp either. We pretend to be Christians like young boys with plastic guns pretending to be soldiers. We misrepresent Christ to people because we are unwilling to face Him ourselves.
Mark concludes his sermon by talking about Christ's promise to provide us the resources to do what He asks of us. Resources we have not tapped. If we did, this would not be such a hard sell.
cost discipleship truth