It may seem strange, but all of this hoopla surrounding Chick-fil-a, and the reaction of many within the church makes me think about the topic of “glory.” As I see Christians “take up arms,” lifting their voices in anger and protest; it makes me think that perhaps we have become  confused as to our call to glorify God. It seems that the so called American Christian Patriot has the mistaken idea that somehow glorifying God means standing up for your rights and showing the government that, “We are the glorious church and we’re not going to take your abuse anymore!” I believe many of us have forgotten that the ultimate symbol of glory is the cross.

This morning I am reminded of the time that Jesus told Peter and the rest of the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem where he would be handed over to the Gentiles and be put to death. Peter said, “No Lord. This will never happen to you!” Jesus’ response was, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter, at that point, still didn’t understand that Jesus had come to glorify the Father and be glorified himself through his suffering on the cross. It would seem that the American Christian Patriot, like Peter in that instance, cannot grasp the fact that it was in the act of submission and suffering that our Lord demonstrated the glory of God.

I recall the story in the book of Acts when some of the Apostles were taken into custody, beaten and told not to preach Jesus anymore. The church’s response was to gather together and pray. When the men were released from jail, they didn’t march around protesting unfair treatment, hire a few lawyers, and demand that they be given the right to preach what they wanted to. No, they thanked God for the privilege to suffer on account of the name of Jesus, asking God to move and give them boldness to preach no matter what. They understood that it was through their suffering that God’s grace was poured out and his name glorified. Peter, who was one of the Apostles in the story, went on to write, “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Poor misguided Peter, I guess he was simply confused.

Perhaps the American Christian Patriot has forgotten that in the book of Hebrews some of the champions of faith are described as those who “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” What fools they were. Didn’t they know that they should have stood up for their rights?

American Christian, please consider the possibility that perhaps we have confused patriotism with Christianity. Could it be that we have mistakenly equated the glory of God with the “American Dream”? Have we forgotten that we are called to be slaves (yes SLAVES) of Jesus Christ, and that our only “right” is to glorify our Master? I understand that we Americans have been told all of our lives that we must stand up for ourselves and fight for our rights, but Christian, please hear me; does that mindset honestly exemplify the nature of Christ? I believe with all of my heart that the American Christian needs to be wary of this blending of faith and political power. Brothers & sisters, we are not called to be patriots, instead we Christians have been called OUT OF every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue in order that we might glorify the name of him who transferred us out the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved son.

Burning Down the House

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It should therefore come as no surprise that the staunch traditionalism and impotency of the evangelical institutional church is now encountering such forceful resistance. Religion is big business, and the people who attend the “churches” have been reduced to being the means by which said business is perpetuated. However, for those who advocate “burning down the house,” perhaps the question of motivation should be addressed.

The story is told of a couple’s divorce and the resulting alienation of the children from the one parent by the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent was pleading his/her case as to interaction with the children, and stated, “Why do you keep me from the children? They need me and I need them. You say you love them and want what’s best for them, but I think the reality is that you really hate me far more than you love them.”

Sadly, in many cases, those who vehemently oppose the “traditional church” are more consumed by their hatred for the institution than their love for the body of Christ. Often, they have been hurt, abused, and overlooked resulting in bitterness taking root inside them. Yes, they see the legitimate deficiencies of the institutional church, but they have become more motivated by their pain produced hatred than authentic love. The scripture warns us of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sometimes it is easier to hide our pain behind supposed revelation and prophetic insight than it is to allow the Spirit of God to bring healing and remove the splinter of hatred that has become lodged within us.

It has been said that every rebel is a closet aristocrat. So often, when encountering institutional revolutionaries, you come away with the feeling that if someone had just acknowledged them, and given them a position of authority, they would have remained “in the fold.” Many decry the institutional church, leave and start a home-church, storefront- church, etc…; and fail to see that all they have done is recreated what they profess to hate so much. The only difference is now, in the new “community,” they are in charge. We must ask ourselves, “Am I motivated by love for the Body, or selfish ambition?”

My dear brothers and sisters, becoming “un-institutionalized” is more than just finding a new meeting place and burning down the old house. An institution is defined as the following:

1. an organization, establishment, foundation, society, or the like, devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program, especially one of a public, educational, or charitable character.

2. the building devoted to such work.

3. a public or private place for the care or confinement of inmates, especially mental patients or other disabled or handicapped persons.

4. a well-established and structured pattern of behavior or of relationships that is accepted as a fundamental part of aculture, as marriage: the institution of the family.

5. any established law, custom, etc.

So often our pain and bitterness blinds us to the reality that all we really desire is another institution, one that functions the way I want it to.

In our present context, there is only one “institution” that truly matters- the Body of Christ. This institution is organic, alive, and on the move. It is made up of people from every kindred, tribe, and tongue. Because the Church is alive and made up of many members, it gets messy sometimes. There are personality differences, doctrinal disputes, and a diversity of giftedness. Some are called to function in the traditional looking buildings. Others are led to fellowship in small home groups or strip plazas. However, this institution is comprised of people that unanimously promote one cause- God’s glory.

Let us be done with dead religion, and empty traditional institutionalism. Let us also be done with hatred, bitterness, and selfish ambition. Instead of burning down the house, let us understand that we all are, “as living stones,  being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Slow Fade

“Now Solomon brought the daughter of Pharaoh up from the City of David to the house he had built for her, for he said, “My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places to which the ark of the Lord has come are holy.” (II Chronicles 8:11)

Of all the characters in the bible, I find Solomon to be one of the most tragic. Here was a man described as being the richest and wisest king who ever lived. He had it all, did it all, and knew it all. He is the one who built the awesome temple of the Lord that David had first conceived of. He was the man! Good-looking, rich, wise, and a servant of the Lord to boot; Solomon began his rule in glorious splendor. However, we can see in the passage above that the seeds for his downfall were planted early on.

Reading II Chronicles 8 we find that Solomon was keeping the Law, and had instituted his father David’s Levitical revisions regarding worship, but was seemingly able to compartmentalize his life. Apparently Solomon knew that marrying Pharaoh’s daughter was not right. He obviously recognized the fact that his new bride did not serve the God of Israel, or else why would he refuse her living in a holy place? Yet we find that he married her any way, and built a palace to keep her comfortable and near to him. As we read the Bible, we learn that Solomon took many wives and they eventually drew his heart away from the Lord. I believe his slow fade started right there, with his Egyptian bride. And you know what? We do the same thing.

So often we pride ourselves in the fact that we are real Christians. Not only do we endeavor to adhere to true Biblical orthodoxy, but we know how to worship and praise the Lord with feeling as well. We are the real deal! Nevertheless, off to the side, where it really doesn’t interfere with our relationship with Jesus, we have built a place for our little pet sin. Oh, it’s not causing problems right now; we still worship the Lord, but it’s there all the same. Like Solomon, we may have planted the seeds for our own downfall.

Perhaps that’s why the writer of the book of Hebrews encourages us to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” We compartmentalize our lives, thinking that, “Okay, over here is my relationship with God and over there is the rest of my life. I know maybe this thing is not really the thing to do, but it’s not causing any real problems. Everything’s cool.” I wonder if perhaps Solomon thought the same thing. We go to church, we preach truth, we dance, we shout, we prophesy, and speak in tongues; but is there a compartment in our heart where we allow our pet sin to live?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts, see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Examine Yourselves (part 2)

Can we know that we have eternal life? If so, how do we know? We have begun a series in order to explore what the Bible has to say about these very questions. (I encourage you to check out part one of Examine Yourselves if   you’ve not done so.)

There use to be a television show called Myth Busters; it may still be airing, I don’t know. Anyhow, this show  took common cultural myths and proved them to be either true or false. I’d like to utilize this format and look at a few common myths there seem to be in regards to salvation. (Sometimes, a good way to find out what something is is to first understand what it is not.)

It should be understood that salvation is not merely about making me the best me I can be. In the western church many have reduced salvation to a self help fix all designed to make me feel better about myself.  Our need for salvation has more or less been reduced to believing that I need to come to Jesus because I’m damaged, and if  I come to Christ; I can reach my full potential, I can achieve my divine destiny.  PLEASE DON’T CLICK AWAY JUST YET!!

I heard a “Christian” song the other day and the gist of it was, “Jesus, help me to believe I am beautiful enough for you to have died for.” No beloved, its not all about me! Jesus died on the cross because I have sinned against a holy God, because in my sin; I am alienated from Him. Jesus offered Himself not because I haven’t reached my full potential as a human being, and not because I’ve let myself and others down. No, Isaiah tells me that I  have sinned against a holy God, the best I can be is as filthy rags ( literally, like the rags from a woman’s menstrual cycle) when compared to His holiness, and the suffering Messiah came to bear our sin and be crushed by the judgment of a holy God. Salvation isn’t about getting me back into right relationship with myself; it is about getting me back into restored communion with the Father through faith in Jesus Christ.

Remember Genesis 3? Remember the “serpent’s” comments: “Did God really say you’d die if you ate the fruit from that tree? You wont die! No, you’ll know what He knows; you’ll be just like Him.” And what happened? The same thing that’s happening today: We want to know what God knows. We want to see what He sees. The god in me needs to be realized. We say what Adam and Eve said, “Lord, we want to be like You, we wouldn’t mind being You; we just don’t want You.” Many have reduced the gospel to just a means by which we can realize our own divinity. The cross and the blood are an offense, and no longer culturally relevant.

Please don’t misunderstand me. When you come to Christ, you will most definitely begin to understand who you are, why you were created, and what God has purposed for you. The way you look at yourself will forever be changed.  I’m just trying to say that salvation is not a self-help program. We have been led to believe that everything is about us, when in reality; its all about Jesus- even our salvation (Colossians 1: 13-23).

To be continued….