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Surviving Finals Week

May 2, 2012 Leave a comment

In light of finals week (and my desire to do a wee bit of procrastinating) I thought I would blog this thought out that I have been wrestling with a bit as of late.

Historically, I cave under pressure. What I mean is that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I do that. While it sounds good, I’m not sure it’s completely Biblical. I found myself listening to a song by Casey Darnell called “When The Waters Rise.” The song is about how when the waters rise, God is always there to protect us. That’s some truth right there. But then I though about how, especially in finals season, I don’t always see….or maybe feel is a better word…that song doesn’t feel true.

God wants to protect and provide for us. The biggest barrier to Him doing that is US. The biggest barrier to Him doing that is ME. When finals approach and papers are to be written, 97% of the time I end up putting God in the lobby while I go back to the office to cram for the tests and blast through the papers. In the course of those efforts I get sick. I get tired. I get exhausted, really. And every time that makes me more susceptible for the tricks and games of the devil. Sin tends to manifest itself most in those times.

The only way in which I can successfully get through a finals week is to be preparing my heart everyday and asking the Lord to teach me to walk by the power of His Spirit. To teach me to lay down my weapons and allow Him to fight for me. To teach me how to rely on Him and let Him be God.

I don’t have too many regrets from my last four years of college. But if I had one major regret, it is that I never allowed the Lord to teach me how to let him provide in those stressful times. I wish there were an easy solution to such a problem (there may be and I’m completely oblivious). The only solution I know of is to insure that finals week is a week like all the rest where each and everyday is focused on and revolves around Jesus. Sure there will be studying for tax exams and writing papers about Post-Soviet Thailand-Australian relations, but those are just opportunities for God to wow us with his provision. If we deprive Him of that opportunity, we’re hurting ourselves more than anything.

When the going gets tough, the tough get Jesus.

Take heed underclassmen…

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Worship Is….

January 5, 2012 2 comments

“Worship is…
our response,
both personal and corporate
to God –
for who He is!
And what He has done!
Expressed in and by the things we say
And the way we live.”
– Louie Giglio, The Air I Breathe

I wrote this on the car ride from Bloomington to Atlanta for Passion 2012. However, it has not been until this evening that I have had the time (and free WiFi) to post it. The things that I typed on Monday, on the way down to what may be THE best worship conference in the world have only been reaffirmed as I sit here Thursday night to post it. So here goes……

This past semester, I have been asking the Lord to give me a crash course in what real worship really is. I figured if I want to make worship my life, I should probably try to get a thorough understanding of exactly what the Bible says about worship. I mean up until this point, the only real education I have received on worship is what I learn about it through music practices. While that has been really educational, I knew/know that worship is so much more than just playing music and singing some words about God.

So I asked a few of my “worship role models” about some good books that teach about worship (other than the Bible of course). I got a pretty long reading list, which has made up the bulk of my reading time. I have to say, the Lord has been blowing me away.

The quote above is Louie Giglio’s definition of worship. At first I was not a huge fan of it. I thought it was somewhat too broad. However, as I have read more books about worship, I realize how great that definition truly is.

Let me explain.

I think that most Christians would agree that our primary purpose as people/Christians should be the same as God’s purpose. Where some will agree and disagree is what exactly God’s purpose is. Without going into too much depth, I am a firm believer that the primary purpose of God is to bring glory to Himself. I have held this opinion for a while, but as I have been reading Isaiah for the past couple of months I have been convinced more and more of this claim. God repeatedly talks about how He has saved His people not for their sake but for the sake of His name. One isolated example would be Isaiah 48:9-11. I will trust you to look that up if you want. Or you can just trust me on it. Regardless, it is just one of the many times God makes such a statement.

But what does that have to do with worship?

Well at the base, everything we are to do should ultimately serve the purpose of glorifying God. But in our sinfulness we do not have a full knowledge or understanding of who God is. In essence, it is as though someone has knocked on the door to our house and asked us to go door-to-door campaigning for a political candidate who we know nothing about.

This is where worship comes in.

All of the books I have read thus far have said that, in addition to glorifying God, worship is intended to help us get a more full or complete image of the Lord. But what does that mean?

It helps me to think of it this way:

Imagine a big painter’s canvas. But this canvas has these black marks all over it; maybe even some dirt and grime. By every onlooker’s standard it is nothing but trash. This is our canvas before we have asked Jesus to be the Savior of our lives. Then the very second we ask Jesus for forgiveness and to be our Lord, He comes in with a huge paint roller and paints it completely white; white as snow. It looks like brand new.

So now we have this blank canvas. What do we do with it?

We then begin to bring the Lord this canvas in our times of worship. In our times of worship, like Louie said, we are acknowledging God for who He is and what He has done. Look at the lyrics of most worship songs. They usually contain at least one of two things. They are either filled with words that speak to who God is by declaring attributes of His character, or they contain words that talk about what He has done like how He saved us. So as we sing these words, we are affirming with our mouths (and hearts) that these things we are saying to/about Him are true. As we enter into times of worship through serving we are still declaring who God is. We are declaring who He is to others by saying that He is gracious and giving as we extend grace and give of our time, energy, and sometimes money to the people we serve (we cannot limit our times of worship to simply singing a few songs every week).

Regardless of what form of worship we are engaging in at any given moment, as we worship, God raises His brush and paints on our blank canvas. The first thing we should like to see painted on our canvas is the Cross. If it were not for the Cross, God would not even be able to approach our canvas, much less make it new or touch it with a single bristle of His brush because of our sin. But the Cross enabled us to come into communion with the Lord. Therefore, it is the very first thing we should expect the Lord to paint on our canvas. From there, I think our canvases will begin to vary by each individual person. I mean each canvas will, of course, contain a lot of the same elements. But each person tends to have accentuated views of the Lord based on the experiences of their lives. For some, we will see a scene of God being a loving father; maybe because that person’s father failed in the past. For others we may see Him as more of a sacrificial lamb that took a punishment on their behalf because of the intensity of the sin with which they were battling. The new believer may just have a cross on their canvas. Maybe another more mature believer has Jesus hanging on the cross amidst images of their own sin to acknowledge that Jesus has saved them but these sin struggles are still a very real daily challenge. Each canvas is as unique as the fingerprint on the believer to whom the canvas belongs.

But as we continue to engage the Lord in worship more and more, I believe our canvases will begin to look the same. Every time we give our time to acts of worship, be it music, serving others, communion, prayer, fasting, etc. (there are many forms of worship; “Expressed IN and BY the things we say and the way we live”), God will add more to our canvases. Maybe in one worship experience he adds a little bit of detail, kind of like how Bob Ross will add a couple of “happy trees” to his mountainous winter landscape. Maybe other times he adds a major focal piece, like a stream through the center of Ross’s landscape. Inevitably our canvases will have to conform to one image: the true image of the Living God. However, I do not think we will ever really get such a canvas until we are in Heaven gazing upon His face, when all question and room for interpretation are eliminated. God is a god of unity. He longs for ONE body with ONE head. Read Ephesians 4:1-16 to learn more about unity in Christ.

Every single time we engage in worship, our hope and prayer should be that when we walk away we would be able to look at our canvas and see that the Lord has made some change in it, whether it be a big or small change. I believe that if we enter into a time of worship trusting and believing that He will make such changes, then He will. As the Lord works more and more on our canvas, we will be able to look at it and, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, see which areas are more accentuated than others; which areas could use a little more detail. Upon such realizations, we can then enter into worship asking the Lord to help give us more detail, or a better view or understanding, of this area. We may even see the Lord change the surface of the painting altogether. He desires that we have BIG views of Him because He is a BIG God. We may walk into a worship encounter with a regular sized canvas and, after experiencing the Lord, walk out with a image of the Lord that looks like a mural on a city wall. We will begin to see these changes appear if only we ask the Lord for them. As time wears on, we will learn to love and appreciate these changes more and more. We will take joy in something as simple as the Lord proportionally adding a tiny bird to a tree miles away in a Bob Ross painting or blowing our image up to fit on the side of the Empire State Building.

Our image, or understanding, or view, or “canvas” of the Lord that we hold is one of the most crucial elements of our beings. This canvas, as we reflect on it, should do many things. It should excite us. It should bring us to repentance. It should evoke us to action. Maybe it evokes more worship. Maybe we are compelled to go share the Gospel. Maybe we are compelled to go serve the poor. Regardless of exactly what our reflection on our image of the Lord causes to do, the result of each response should ultimately be the glorification of the Name of the God of the Universe.

The one other phrase that has been dominant, and that I did not completely understand for the longest time, was that worship begins and ends with Jesus. To relate this to our running canvas analogy, every painter marks a finished painting with his/her signature. It is frequently a very important mark to identify a genuine from a fake. However, unlike every other painter, immediately after God paints over our dirty, scratched up canvases, he signs His name. In His eyes, we are finished the very minute we ask for a new canvas. But what name does he sign?

JESUS

Meat and Potatoes

November 8, 2011 5 comments

I have been mulling over this blog for a while.  Writing it. Scrapping it.  Rewriting it.  It’s been a process.

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ to go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”  – Hebrews 5:12-6:2 (NIV)

Ouch.  Ouchouchouchouchouchouchetc

That has convicted me so much the past month or so.  So let me first say, before I say anything else, that I am so guilty of what I am about to say, and that I speak from a place of conviction and sympathy.

Over the past few months, I have found myself wondering what would happen to Christians in America (and maybe even around the world) if every single Christian resource, other than the Bible, just disappeared.  I mean one day we wake up and every book by Francis Chan, John Piper, and C.S. Lewis were gone.  Every worship album disappeared.  Every prominent pastor vanished.  Maybe our recollection of all people and resources was gone as well.  What would happen to today’s Christians?

Ultimately, the church will survive, and maybe even thrive more than ever.  But how long would that process take? And at what cost?

I create that hypothetical situation to say this:

In my life, and the life of other Christians I know and love, our faith is prominently built upon books, songs, teachings, and sermons based on the Bible and not the Bible itself.  We, especially college students and anyone else who frequently utilizes the wide world of technology, have used such access to great materials to build our faith upon the shoulders of spiritual giants like Francis Chan, David Platt, and Mark Driscoll, and not on the Bible upon which those men are feeding and growing.  If those men did not exist, the spiritual legs upon which my generation is walking would  be swept out from underneath us, as we allow our faith to be influenced more by the men God has been building up across the country and not on the God that has been building them up.  We live with a false sense of maturity, as we allow the spiritual maturity of others to define our own.  Then we get out into the real world and wonder why day after day we get smacked in the face with our own spiritual inadequacy and immaturity.

On numerous occasions I have read a book or heard a sermon and find myself asking, “Man! How did these guys get such revelations!? Do I need to go to their seminary to be able to take such deep lessons away from the Bible?” Well the message from Hebrews speaks to that!

These men (and women) are teachers.  They are mature in their faith.  Yet I still frequently feel immature in my faith… What is the difference between what they are doing in their time with the Lord and what I am doing?  Well according to Hebrews, the difference seems to be what they are spiritually feasting on.

“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Would I say that I am an infant? No.  But I know some people are.  I mean if you just became a Christian last week, no one is expecting you to be on the evangelism circuit next week (though it is not out of the realm of possibility for the Lord do something of that sort in our lives).  However, it’s not typical.  If you identify yourself as an infant in your faith, you should be feeding on “the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

However, what about those of us who feel stuck somewhere in between infancy and full maturity?  Those of us who have been Christians for a while.  The author of Hebrews identifies us as those who by this time ought to be teachers. What characterizes our adolescence and what can we be doing to allow God to lead us to maturity?

While I can’t speak to each and every person’s situation, I believe that one of the biggest obstacles to our spiritual maturity is our avoidance, and maybe even fear, of the Bible.  Let me explain….

“Radical” by David Platt.  “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan.  “The Air I Breathe” by Louie Giglio.  “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. “Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  The list goes on and on.

These are great books.  I may even say they are amazing books; awe-inspiring even.  These books have the ability to radically change the life of a Christian.  But I contend that they are not solid food.  They are not milk.  But they are more like pureed food.  They are pre-digested food.  They are like the chewed up worms that a mother bird feeds to her babies.  They are good stuff.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love pureed pizza and chewed up worms as much as the next guy.  But these books are NOT solid food.  I will even say it again.  They are NOT solid food. These books are solid food, THE BIBLE, processed and shaped, for people to better digest, by mature believers “who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Did you catch it?  I just typed it (well I actually Copied and Pasted it from earlier, but I typed it then).  I just revealed the secret to having a faith like JD Greear and Matt Redman.  Mature Christian faith is marked by the constant use of solid food; the Bible.

While it is possible that some of the content of those books may have come from nothing more than prayer and worship, I can, with absolute certainty, say that the lives and faith of those authors was tremendously marked by long periods of study and mediation in the Bible; the book breathed from the mouth of our living God, himself.

If you want to find out if you are spiritually mature, try to identify a constant use of the Bible in your life.

Many people I have talked to over the years, myself included, don’t spend enough time in the Bible.  We like to read a book based on the Bible, or better yet, a devotional book.  But we don’t get into the Bible itself.  We depend upon someone else’s understanding and explanation of the Bible and rob the Lord of the chance to speak to us directly through our own struggle to understand the teachings of the Bible. We substitute these devotionals and Bible-inspired books for the real deal.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying reading the Bible is easy.  No. Flippin. Way. is it easy.  The Bible is tough to read.  It can be confusing.  It can be vague.  It can be more than we can chew at times.  I have been reading nothing but the Old Testament since last spring.  Trust me.  I have been as confused as it gets.  I am sure that our favorite Christian authors do not read through the Bible once and all of a sudden have an entire catalog of life changing topics about which they could write about at the drop of a dime.  No.  Such revelation comes from being hunched over a Bible, sweating from concentration, for hours, begging the Lord to give us some kind of revelation and to allow our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our hearts to change.

Am I contending that every Christian should be writing 100+ page books about the mechanics of the trinity? No.  I am not even contending that every Christian should be writing at all.  The author of Hebrews does identify that we “ought to be teachers.”  However, the Bible says that some are called to be teachers, not all. Why this disconnect? The author is asserting that we are to have the knowledge and understanding of teachers.  As a result, I am asserting that every Christian is called to spend time in their Bible.  Just them and the Lord.  Is it daunting? Yes.  But through “constant use,” we can “train ourselves to distinguish good from evil.” Maybe that means just a couple of verses a day.  Maybe that’s all you can handle, and that is OKAY.  But “through constant use,” I can guarantee that the Lord will give you the ability to take on more each time we get into the Word.

When reading the Bible, we have the opportunity to come before the Lord completely helpless, asking for His mercy and love and for the Holy Spirit to teach us, and then see Him respond. I cannot neglect to say that the only way we are able to understand the Bible at all is through the power of the Holy Spirit, but for the sake of brevity I will leave it at that.  Now are we going to walk away from every quiet time in the Bible with life changing revelations? Not necessarily.  But every time we read, we can expect God to show up in some way.  Maybe we walk away utterly confused by a passage.  We have the opportunity to then ask the Spirit to give us clarity.  It may not come immediately, but the Lord will grant that clarity.  Then not only do you have a better understanding of the Bible, and the God about which it speaks, but you will have seen the Lord, Himself, give you an understanding.  How cool is that!? It’s like a two-for-one deal.  We get to understand the Lord and see Him move all at once!!

I am not advocating that we go out, collect all of the Bibles, and then burn down every Christian bookstore in existence for diverting our attention away from the Bible and the God who gave it to us.  No.  However, I am saying that we, as Christians, need to be examining our quiet times and our times with the Lord; our Christian diet.  Are we grabbing a quick Bible milkshake on our way out the door?  Or are we having deep conversations over dinners with the Lord, where He provides the meat and potatoes through His word? We can always have the milkshakes for dessert….

Stuck Between a Legalist and a Hard Place

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to the first ever (and probably one of the few ever) Double Blog Post Tuesdays!

First, let me say that I am eating a box of Zours, and they are not nearly as “zour” as I remember them being.  I have noticed the same of Sour Patch Kids.  It’s unfortunate to see companies compromising on their principles for the sake of greater market share.  What’s next? Is Nickelback going to stop making chart smashingly authentic rock monstrosities that speak directly to my heart!?

And we wonder why America’s economy is in the tubes…..

I think that just about every blog post I have ever written has made some sort of statement or been an update on where I am in my life.  Today I have nothing but questions.

It’s strangely beautiful outside today.  I can’t believe that on November 8th we are having arguably the most beautiful day of the entire year.  Virtually no humidity, a cloud speckled sky, sunny, upper 60s/lower 70s.  It’s gorgeous!! However, I have learned today that gorgeous weather brings out the “weirdos.”  On my bike ride to class today, I came around the bend past Ballantine Hall and saw a huge crowd of people outside Woodburn Hall.  From a distance I could see a few people in the middle of the crowd and what looked to be a banner saying something.  As I got a few feet closer I could make out the words on the banner.

“All SINNERS Will be Destroyed Psalms 37:38”

I could then see IU’s infamous Brother Jed, along with a woman and another man, surrounded by students.  As I got closer I could hear laughter (undoubtedly at Brother Jed’s expense), yelling, and sense an overall aroma of hatred and disdain.

I was en route to class, so I unfortunately could not afford to stop and be “educated.”  As I continued on, I passed another IU legend: The “Help Stop Violence” guy.  This guy comes out multiple times a year to hand out pamphlets that speak about the animal cruelty inflicted upon chickens and other animals bred for mass consumption.  Fortunately for me, both hands on the handlebars meant that I could not stop and take one of his pamphlets, which showed gruesome pictures of bloody chickens.  I am not sure if such pictures would have caused me to regurgitate the Bagel Bites I had eaten just minutes beforehand, or if they would make me crave a Spicy Chicken Sandwich.  Regardless, I didn’t really want to carry the pamphlet around.

Class went on, and the whole time I found myself curious as to what was going on at the Brother Jed rally. I hoped that he would still be outside so I could hear what he had chosen as his topics of the day and if he had found an effective way to cover them.  Based on the laughter I heard in passing, my assumption was no.

Class got out and I hopped on my bike to hurry down to Woodburn.  There he was; just as I had left him. It was in between classes, so the circle was as large as it had ever been.  I couldn’t really follow the current speaking point he had selected.  It was something about manifest destiny and the inhabitation of America by explorers…not really sure what that had to do with the Lord.  I can only imagine. The next point he picked out was about how he had been tempted to seduction by a girl at a university in Florida.  To be honest, I had no idea why he was telling us any of these stories, other than to go off on side tangents about how pre-marital kissing was a sin and how girls were temptresses and men were perverts.

Then a man wearing a bike helmet (with no bike that I could identify) began to take over the spectacle.  The man identified himself as a Jew.  The helmeted man proceeded to hold an open, heated, debate with Brother Jed over the legitimacy of the sacrifice of Jesus and the redemptive nature of God.  As this progressed, I realized that, at the core, Brother Jed was not too far off from the truth in regards to Biblical Christianity.  He had a fairly thorough knowledge of Scripture and theology.  To be honest, in that moment I even felt a bit sorry for him (not that I want to criminalize the helmeted man).

I didn’t stay a whole lot longer.  Soon I was back on my bike and riding home, but I felt torn.  Is Brother Jed truly benefitting the Kingdom of God?  Since his appearance on campus is a yearly event, I have had this conversation in years past with friends.  Of course, the conclusion of discussion always comes down to “He’s a legalist who has missed the heart of the Gospel; focusing too much on the wrath of God and not enough on the salvation offered through Jesus. Maybe if he changed his approach he may be a bit more successful in his efforts.”

I think I still believe that….But I can’t help but ask questions.

For example, could/has the Lord ever worked through the words of Brother Jed?  Sure his yelling, wrath-filled message does not appear to best the most effective method of sharing the gospel to the students of Indiana University.  However, can we safely say that his method is not completely ineffective? There have been seasons in my life where I really needed a swift kick in the pants when I was up to my eyebrows in sin, shame, and desertion of the reality of the Gospel.  While, on the whole, people would approach and leave Brother Jed’s circle with looks of disgust, could there have been one person who walked away today convicted and inquiring of the Lord as to the condition of their soul and its place in eternity?

Another question I have is this: Why don’t I have the same passion and conviction that Brother Jed has?  Sure I would like to say that Brother Jed just has a few screws loose and the hateful responses he received from college students has no effect on him.  But is it out of the realm of possibility that Brother Jed is in his right mind and the power of the Gospel has drastically changed his heart and life?  What if Brother Jed’s story is not much unlike that of Jonah?  There are definitely some similarities in their message (though I never heard him say that in 40 days God would throw down on IU…).  Regardless of the fine details and discrepancies that exist between Brother Jed’s understanding of the Gospel and mine, the man believes what he is saying.  He not only believes it, he is going out into hostile territory and shouting it at the top of his lungs for hours on end.  When have I gone out on a street corner and shouted about the love of God at the top of my lungs?

Many people, myself included, have said that Brother Jed’s approach was not how Jesus would have spoken to students.  However, I am not completely certain of the absolute validity of such a statement.  Over the summer I listened to a sermon from Elevation Church’s “What Should I Do With My Life” series.  Pastor Furtick had brought in his mentor, an evangelist, to speak. In the sermon the man talked about how controversial Jesus’s instructions to “take up your cross daily” truly were. For the sake of brevity, I would advise you to get the Podcast off of iTunes.  The short version is that, to the Jews in that time and culture, a statement like that was like Jesus making a reference to 9/11 to Americans.  It was shocking.  It was disagreeable.  It brought up hurtful memories.  Numerous times, Jesus made statements and claims with which people disagreed.

The Bible tells of numerous times where people abandoned Him.  Look at John 6:53-71 for example.  After feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and some fish and walking on water, we see Jesus make a statement that freaks people out so much that they leave him.  “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”  Later the Bible says “On hearing it, many disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?’…From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (The dude just performed some crazy miracles!!  This must have been pretty serious!)  Later Jesus says that if we truly follow him, we will be despised, hated, and persecuted.

By that example, are the statements that Brother Jed is making so outlandish and un-Christlike?  Is Brother Jed’s approach definitely not how Jesus would be doing it if He were here?  I am not so sure…..

Do I say that to say that Brother Jed is the shining example of what the Christian life should look like? That he has all of his ducks in a row?  No.  For one, I do not believe that you will “burn in hell” for “pre-marital kissing.”  There still appear to be a lot of differences in the views of Brother Jed and myself.

However, why has the Gospel not altered and shaped my life enough that I have the confidence and ability to do what Brother Jed is doing?  Why don’t I have the passion and courage to do anything for the Kingdom of God like Brother Jed does?  What does that say about the value I place on the Gospel and the light in which I see my savior? Do I really believe what the Bible teaches?  If I do, why do I not love my fellow Hoosiers enough to spend my time and energy allowing the Lord to use me to speak to them?  Maybe a better way of putting it is this: Why do I hate other people so much that I keep the Gospel, the promise of fulfillment, joy, and everlasting life with God, from them?

Blinded by an Illusion of Riches

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

The other day I tweeted a little “theological nugget” that went something like this:

“More often than not, we allow our current state of privilege to prevent our future position of standing in the blessings of God.”

Let me first say that I am not usually one to quote my own tweets.  I think either quoting a tweet or telling someone something you tweeted sounds a little…..self-promotional?  I think the trick to really “getting” social media is to remember: What happens on Twitter/Facebook stays on Twitter/Facebook.

That rule applies a little more to Facebook than Twitter.  In talks with friends over the phenomenon of older generations joining Facebook, we have discovered one of the habits that our “Facebook elders” tend to get into.  They love talking about Facebook.  They love to talk about who’s wall they posted on or who’s pictures they were looking at.  Us young’ns, the folks that brought you Facebook, don’t talk about it.  You are on Facebook, but you rarely talk about it.  It’s just kind of…there.

I digress….

I said all of that to say this; I think one of the draw backs of Twitter in particular is the fact that we frequently are able to squeeze a huge idea into 140 characters.  While there is definitely something profound about that, we (I) frequently forget that the people reading those tweets may not have the same realization that I have. They may not have the same perspective or experiences and those tweets can lose the profound meaning that us tweet-ers assume everyone sees.

I fear that could have happened with my tweet yesterday.  I sent that tweet and then God spent the rest of the day schooling me on it.  It has ruled my thoughts almost completely over the past 24 hours.

If you read my last blog post (not that I expect you to have done so), God has currently been challenging me to increase my view of Him; to see Him as the Almighty God of the universe who has the power to do what He pleases when He pleases.  And He has been reminding me that not only does He have that power, but He PROMISES to wield it in my favor!  That sounds pretty great right?  God, the creator of the universe, saying He wants to use His awesome power to ensure that we live the most incredibly fulfilling lives we possibly can.  He says He will give us the desire of our hearts.  All we have to do is let Him….and that’s where we get caught up.  We won’t let Him.

In my last post I shed a bit of light on why I have a hard time letting God provide for me.  I think after writing that, in my mind I thought, “Welp, it’s good to have figured that out!  Time to move on to living my life believing in His promises!”  Looks like I was wrong.  Ever since then, God has been showing me all of the pitfalls and fears that I have, or have had, that could potentially creep up in these coming years of relying on Him to trip me up and destroy the faith that He has been growing in me.

A fantastic dude recently recommended a handful of books for me to read as I prepare for my life after college (once again, see the last blog post).  The first of those books that he recommended is Wonder Ball by Matt Redman.  In my last post I talked about how after asking the Lord to affirm and encourage the calling I believe He has placed on my life He began to do so in huge and unexpected ways.  Well this book is furthering that.  I am only three chapters in and I feel like every chapter was written directly to me.  Weird how God does that stuff, right?

Well in the third chapter, Redman writes about exactly what I have been going through; how God wants to use us in huge ways and all that requires from us is to allow Him to do so (in a nutshell).  He gives an example of George Whitefield.  Whitefied was a preacher in the 18th century.  The man grew up very poor.  His father passed away when he was young.  He had been very sick for part of his childhood, which affected him for the rest of his life.  He was a “troubled” teen who dropped out of school at the age of 15 to work at a pub.  However, by the time he entered his twenties God changed him radically and he became a preacher.  By the end of his life, Whitefield had preached over 18,000 sermons.  18,000!! Holy cow!

I am in my early twenties (22 to be exact).  Am I traveling across the country to preach the gospel 18,000 times?  No.  I’m sitting on my back patio right now (I have developed a deep love for sitting on my back patio with music playing and my Bible open).  This brought back a bit of a struggle I had back in January.  Some friends and I went to Passion.  There were so many amazing speakers there.  I got to hear a lot of great people talk.  Something that really challenged me, and discouraged me to a degree, was that the testimony of a few of these speakers was not all what I expected.  A few of the speakers gave some brief insight into their personal testimony and I remember being struck by the fact that many of these men had become Christians in their late teens and early twenties.  And quite a few of them were pretty young, maybe mid to late twenties, and here they are standing in front of hundreds and thousands proclaiming the Gospel.  Then I come back and interact with some friends who are “newer” believers.  By that I mean they came to Christ in the past year or two.  But they were having huge impacts for Christ here at IU.

The men I saw at Passion, mixed with the experiences I had recently had with other young believers, brought me to the point of asking myself, “Why haven’t I had this kind of impact? Why does my faith tend to feel so stale sometimes?”

I was baptized on July 26, 1998.  That baptism was incredibly close to the point where I accepted Christ as my savior.  So I basically count that as my “spiritual birthday.”  That means that I have been a Christian for 13 years.  Some of the men who I saw on those stages at Passion, and at Cru’s IndyCC conference the days before that, had been believers for less than 10 years.  Proportionally, when compared to them I should be Billy Graham.  God had been in my life for over twice as long in some instances.  But why wasn’t I?  What in my life had kept me from achieving this greatness that was obviously possible with God?

As that question was brought up again after reading the story of George Whitefield, God gave me that statement, which I promptly tweeted.

“More often than not, we allow our current state of privilege to prevent our future position of standing in the blessings of God.”

I am under the assumption that the people who typically read this blog are from America.  But in the event that you are not, the fact that you have electricity and a computer on which you can even view this blog means that what I am about to say applies to you.  We are a privileged people.  At this point I could insert all sorts of stats and facts about how much better off financially we as Americans are than the majority of the world.  But you and I both just know that this is true.  Our GDP is huge and even the poorest of the poor in the U.S. tend to have access to clean water and food.  It’s kind of hard to argue that we have it “rough.”

Now let’s consider my initial statement.

How many movies have there been telling stories of someone “who came from nothing to achieve everything”? I can think of a handful off of the top of my head.  The most famous being The Pursuit of Happiness (I’ll let you brainstorm the rest of the list).  We also hear stories of artists and athletes who did the same thing.  Hendrix, The Beatles, Mr. Brainwash (look him up!)…The list goes on and on. You will notice that I am a little more knowledgeable on musicians than athletes. Go figure.

What is the difference between those people and us?  (Us being those who aren’t “famous” or achieving crazy things that we never thought possible)

Nothing.

Literally, I mean nothing.  They had nothing.  They were at the end of the line.  Most had few friends, sketchy family at best, hardly any money to their name, sometimes no home.  What did they have left to lose?  Their art/craft/skill was their last hope at achieving any form of success.  And when that is all you have, you pour everything you get thereafter into developing and perfecting it.  They had “nothing to lose.”

However, we (at least I) live under the impression that we have something to lose.  Notice my wording there.  We live under the impression that we have something to lose.  In reality, we are just as poor as those people, if not more in some instances.

We have things.  We have possessions.  We are “privileged” by the majority of the world’s standards.  Take me for example.  I am writing this blog from my back patio of a nice 4 bedroom apartment with flat panel TV’s, couches, A/C, plumbing, and full of my clothes, books, DVDs, music gear, and other belongings.  I’m writing on my Macbook Pro with my iPhone next to me.  I have music playing in the background from my iPod, and if at any point I get hungry while writing this, I could get up and go to the fridge and get some food.  You are probably reading this from your computer which could sit in a room of your house or apartment, maybe an office.  Maybe you’re sitting in Starbucks reading this on your Smart Phone (if you don’t have a smart phone it doesn’t mean you’re not privileged; you just have a “stupid phone”)(Jokes).

I don’t want to lose these things.  I have grown attached to them.  I have grown attached to living in a state of privilege.  I am afraid that if I were to really give God control of my life, that He would take, or allow someone, to take all of these privileges away from me.  Look at Job!  That guy gave God control and God allowed Satan to take EVERYTHING.  I’m not sure I could deal with that the way Job did.  I would love to say with certainty that I could deal with it like Job, but when it comes down to it, could I?

Then God reminded me of this: I have nothing.  Everything I wrote two paragraphs ago was a false mindset.  I don’t own any of these things.  Every single thing that I have is a gift from God that still belongs to Him; He’s just letting me use it.  I have absolutely nothing.  I am as poor as the poorest man on the face of the earth in the eyes of God.

But that’s not completely true either….I do have one thing.  I have a guaranteed salvation from my poverty and death paid for by the blood of the Son of God.  I have a new life given to me by the sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross.  As a result of ACCEPTING that sacrifice, I have the gift of eternal life and am now the son of the God of Creation.  I am the son, and rightful heir, to the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  I am the recipient of the boatload of promises that God made throughout the Bible. I have Christ and nothing else.

When you realize that all you have is Christ, like some musicians have nothing but their guitar, what else can you do but perfect that possession, or in this case that relationship?  When you fully realize and accept that to be true, like I firmly believe George Whitfield did, then God has some clay to begin molding and using to build a ministry that brings Him complete and total glory. And don’t forget, God still restored Job what He had lost…not that getting your possessions back should be your goal when rendering your life to the Lord.  It’s just a perk.

My thought after God unpacked that: “Whoa, God! What a blessing that you are showing me this!!” And He said, “Speaking of blessings….”

Once we let go of our grip on our “privilege” the temptation to latch onto something else will not be satisfied.  As we let go of our grip on our earthly possessions and the fear of losing them, God WILL bless us!  You can bank on it! (once again, read the last post) But I can most definitely foresee that I will want to then cling to those blessings…

Don’t miss that.  Once we stop clinging to our privileges, we can not begin to cling to our blessings.  God is going to bless us, but we can’t just take one blessing and say, “That was great God!  I’m just going to be happy with this for a while!  I’ll come back for more when life is sucking again!” No, no, no, no, no! God wants His blessings to be endless so that He can use them to bring Himself endless glory!

I know in my past I have done this.  I have received a huge blessing of some sort from the Lord.  Then I spend the following months reminiscing on this blessing.  For a while it brings me joy and directs my heart to worship and adore the Lord.  But after a while, that blessing gets stale.  Then I am launched into a tail spin as I have spent the past months adoring God’s blessings and not God Himself!

While God’s blessings may be milestones in our lives, they are not milestones in His.  Is that meant to cheapen the blessings of God?  Not at all!  But I envision that every time God blesses us and sees us marveling in the crazy work we just saw Him enact in our lives He is looking down with a smirk saying, “Oh you liked that!? Just wait and see what I have in store!!” And then He chuckles a bit and goes back to His work bench to grab the next huge blessing, with all of its immaculate planning, to prepare to throw down into our lives.

But we CANNOT get stuck on that particular blessing.  God loves to use His blessings to bless us more.  Then what should our response be to the blessings of God?  Look at the Israelites.  On numerous occasions God placed huge blessings in their lives, whether it be a victory in battle or a blatant miracle or what have you (Joshua 4 for example), the Israelites built a monument to commemorate what God did.  In Joshua 4 they build a monument in the Jordan River to commemorate Him miraculously allowing them to cross it.  They built the monument and praised God and then went on to conquer the land He had for them.

Do you see that? In those few chapters of Joshua (chapters 3-5) God shows us what the appropriate response to His blessing should be.  We acknowledge that He has blessed us.  We commit that blessing to memory.  We praise Him for the blessing.  Then we move on to accomplish what He has for us.  In the Israelites case, it was to claim the land.  Notice that.  They did not stay and worship the monument.  They didn’t just set up camp around the monument and wait there because they thought that the blessing was God indicating that His plan for them was done.

Paul knew that full well when he wrote this:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14

Are you clinging to privileges that are keeping God from using you to your full potential? Maybe you’re afraid of what He might do… I know I was and still am at times.  Maybe you are stuck worshipping one of His blessings and forgetting the God that brought the blessing in the first place.  Maybe God just provided something huge in your life.  Maybe you had an insane summer with the Lord where he showed up to change your life and now that school has started you are still looking at what He did and not at what He is doing and wants to do…  Do you even know where God wants to take you?  Are you the Israelites with a definite “promise land” or are you wandering in the desert looking for a purpose?

Or maybe I have assumed way too much.  Maybe when I said that all I have is the salvation brought to me through Christ I assumed that I spoke on your behalf as well.  Maybe you don’t have that salvation, leaving you with nothing but a bunch of superficial possessions, a few minuscule hopes, and a basket full of broken dreams.  If this is you, and you have somehow fallen upon my blog and are intrigued by this God that I write about, one who promises to act in our lives in amazing ways, who promises the gift of eternal life, please don’t just read this and walk away.  Leave a comment.  Write on my Facebook wall, send me a message, tweet at me, E-mail me, get ahold of me in any way that you can.  This is not an opportunity to be missed.  I would love to talk to you.

Sorry for the typos.

Thanks for reading.

My Response to “Why Evangelicals Should Stop Evangelizing” by Carl Medearis

July 24, 2011 Leave a comment

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/24/my-take-why-evangelicals-should-stop-evangelizing-2/?hpt=hp_c2

 

Above is the link to the article to which I will respond.  While this response is only intended to explain my stance to a few people with whom I have been conversing recently, I recognize that other friends and acquaintances may see this as it is on my social networking accounts.  I do encourage you to read the article, as I will be pulling out paragraphs with which I take offense.  I do recognize that pulling paragraphs and sentences from a work is a dangerous method, as context is very important.  But I hope that anyone that reads this response has read the article a few times (I think I have read it five times) so that they fully understand the context from which the excerpts I have selected come and the points that the author is striving to make.  My purpose in this response is to pose questions.  The author is not available to defend himself, and I do not want to assume anything about his background or intent.  I will simply acknowledge the questions his article raises and the reasons why I believe these questions to be important in our labeling this as a piece of writing that we should openly recommend to believers and non-believers alike.

 

I first acknowledge my initial bias from simply reading the title alone: “Evangelicals Should Stop Evangelizing.”  Having spent my college career serving Indiana University with Campus Crusade for Christ, I have been taught a lot about the importance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the purpose and resulting importance of evangelism.  For the sake of brevity, I will simply say that from what I have been taught about Christianity, and evangelism’s role therein, to advocate that “Evangelicals” stop evangelizing is to rob Christians of one of the most foundational aspects/purposes of Christian life.  (One of the primary scriptures Cru has built itself upon is the Great Commission found in Matt. 28:19-20)

 

Admitting this bias, I had my “guns drawn” as I read this article, though I found myself surprised after learning of the speaker’s background through the first few paragraphs.  And I found myself agreeing with him for a bit.  However, it did not take long for my fears to come to fruition.

 

“When I tell my Christian friends in America that some of the fiercest militias were (and are) Christian, most are shocked. It doesn’t fit the us-versus-them mentality that evangelism fosters, in which we are always the innocent victims and they are always the aggressors.”  

 

This statement shows a sign that the author’s past history as a missionary should be called into question.  Before I go further, I will first say that I am not advocating that we judge his intentions for entering the mission field, nor that we judge his salvation.  I do, however, believe that looking at many of these statements will help us to understand the context from which the author is coming as he proposes his initiatives.  With that said, the statement above leads me to call into question the training he had received in regards to “evangelism.”  I, for one, have never been taught that evangelism fosters Christians to feel as “innocent victims” and the non-believers, Muslims in his example, to be an aggressor.  In my understanding of evangelism, Christians are no “innocent victims” at all.  If I were to correct this statement, I would say “in which we are the aggressors and they are aggressors,” meaning that Christians should acknowledge that they have made the same mistakes (a.k.a. “Sin” for those not partial to Christian lingo) and the point of evangelism is to help our fellow aggressors come to terms with our short comings and seek forgiveness through Jesus.  “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”  However, through the author’s wording I am left with these questions: Was this the viewpoint he carried as he went to Lebanon to minister to Muslims?  Did he view himself as an “innocent victim” and them as an aggressor?  If so, is that really Biblical?  Also, what kind of training did he receive before going to Lebanon to become a missionary?  While I do not know the answer, from this sentence alone, I am skeptical….

 

“Jews in Jesus’ day thought of the Samaritans as the violent heretics, much the same way that Christians think of Muslims today. The idea that a Samaritan could be good was scandalous to first century Jews.”

 

My issue with this statement is this: He speaks in absolutes.  This statement paints all Christians to view Muslims as horrible monsters who kill children and dehumanize women for the sake of a cruel God who denies the divinity of Jesus.  This is not true at all.  While I acknowledge that I am sure some Christians across America have this view, not all do.  I, for example, do not.  I have Muslim friends and as a result understand that they are not violent people.  However, I believe that to characterize them as such is just as bad as characterizing all Christians as people who believe such characterizations of the Muslim community.  This leads me the next question that I have.  Is the author saying this because that is the view he previously held?  Perhaps a view he held when initially going into the mission field?  What does that say about his view of Christianity?  Christians are called to love people, and a missionary going to do the Lord’s work viewing Muslims as “violent heretics” would have a hard time loving the people he has been called to serve.

 

Let’s pause here.  So far here is all that has happened.  The author has, in his title, challenged the validity of evangelism as a purpose of “Evangelicals” (a.k.a. Christians).  However, all he has done thus far is potentially paint “Evangelicals” as people who view the non-believer as a hostile aggressor, and the Muslims in particular, as not just that, but also as “violent” heretics.  If my questions are answered as I fear they could be, the author was a man who went into the mission field with this very view.  And if that is the case, I believe it could be argued that the resulting validity of his evangelism experience could be called into question.  Because someone holding either one of those statements to be true (even more so if they hold BOTH to be true) obviously does not have a thorough grasp on the message of the Gospel which they allegedly proclaim.  The Gospel states that we are ALL sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God.  There is no room for judgment on our part in the Gospel.  The Gospel is to go out to ALL nations and ALL people, regardless of their race, gender, or RELIGION.  One of the few Muslims I think we could argue potentially being a violent heretic would have been Osama bin Laden, and the Gospel absolutely is open to him.  All the author has done so far, in my reading of the piece, is not address the reason for evangelism to be abolished, but instead paint Evangelical Christians as people who view themselves to be perfect and innocent judging others to be inferior as a result of their unrepentance and unbelief, with Muslims being the worst offenders; a stereotype which is hateful and hurtful to me as a Christian.  If my fears are true and this is a resulting view that others get from reading this article, is this article really something that we should be advocating and recommending others to read?

 

Now, let’s get back to the author’s claims.

 

“What if evangelicals today, instead of focusing on ‘evangelizing’ and ‘converting’ people, were to begin to think of Jesus not as starting a new religion, but as the central figure of a movement that transcends religious distinctions and identities?”

 

John 14:6:  “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

 

The author’s wording in this statement is vague at best.  While I acknowledge that his intent could potentially be innocent enough to be proclaiming that we should just focus on Jesus and forget a lot of the baggage and clutter that comes as a result of labeling it as “religion,” his track record thus far in the article along with the things he says later leads me to be skeptical.  Could this statement not also, if made more concrete and narrow, mean that the author believes that we should think of Jesus as the end goal of all religions?  Is the author advocating that a Buddhist can also believe in Jesus at the same time?  What about an atheist, Jew or Muslim?  If this is, in fact, what he is advocating, he could either be labeled an “idiot” for thinking that the teachings of Jesus will mesh perfectly Islam and Judaism, or we could label him as a “Universalist,” one who believes that all religions teach the same things and lead to the same God.  I do agree that this point is not enough to label him as anything.  All we have are questions and possible outcomes (some maybe more likely than others as a result of context) that will result from their pending answers.  If you want a good look at Jesus without the clutter of religion, read “Jesus Without Religion” by Rick James.

 

“Jesus the uniter of humanity, not Jesus the divider. How might that change the way we look at others?”

 

Luke 12:49-53: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

 

The NIV titles this chunk of scripture as “Not Peace but Division.”  While I acknowledge the author’s potential intent in this statement to once again break down the stereotypes that he believes Christians to have towards non-Christians (in this situation, for the potential positive intent to be true, a negative stereotype towards Christians is required), such a blatant misconstruing of the wrath of God and the purpose of Christ is dangerous to say the least.  This same misconstruing was one of the influences behind Rob Bell’s controversial “Love Wins” and Francis Chan’s rebuttal “Erasing Hell.”  I recommend reading “Erasing Hell.”

 

“When I used to think of myself as a missionary, I was obsessed with converting Muslims (or anybody for that matter) to what I thought of as “Christianity.” I had a set of doctrinal litmus tests that the potential convert had to pass before I would consider them “in” or one of “us.”

 

James 4:12:  “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?”

 

This statement again brings into question the training the author went through before entering the mission field.  Such tests are obviously not Biblical, and it once again calls into question the personal views he carried with him into the mission field.  Does this confirm that he had a strong bias towards non-believers when evangelizing?  Did he, himself, hold the view that he was superior to a non-believer, or worse yet, a new Christian?  Is this the view of evangelism that he believes to be universal across all Christians that has resulted from a drastic skewing of the truth in his own life and experiences?

 

“Funny thing is, Jesus never said, ‘Go into the world and convert people to Christianity.’ What he said was, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.’”

 

Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

Now the author resorts to playing with syntax.  Not only that, but he takes scripture out of context.  What happened to the second half of “Go and make disciples of all nations?  Firstly, if you become a disciple of Jesus and follow ALL of his commands, does that not make you a Christian?  Secondly, this is the last command that Jesus gave to his disciples.  Right after that, he ascended to heaven.  If we go on to read Acts, which gives account of the lives of the disciples after Jesus returns to Heaven, what do they do?  They begin telling others of what Jesus had done, or “converting” people as the author judgmentally puts it.  To question the intent of this verse is to question the resulting efforts of the disciples throughout Acts.  If that was the LAST THING Jesus said to the disciples, do you think they would have gone out and done the wrong thing?  To be honest, I do not see this argument to be worth questioning.  I think it is weak and useless to his cause.  His purpose may have been to simply change the language we use when thinking about sharing the Gospel.  However, it struggles to do such a thing.

 

“Encouraging anyone and everyone to become an apprentice of Jesus, without manipulation, is a more open, dynamic and relational way of helping people who want to become more like Jesus — regardless of their religious identity.”

 

The author including the phrase “without manipulation” once again brings into question his background and views when during his time as a missionary.  Is that how he viewed, and apparently views, evangelism?  Nothing but “manipulation?”

 

And again he brings in the idea of following Jesus regardless of religious identity which hints at the point I previously made.  Is the author hinting at universalism?  Does he believe that wanting to “become more like Jesus” even though you are a Buddhist was the point of the life of Jesus and reflective of what He taught?  This statement seems to be a little more concrete than the previous in regards to Jesus “transcending” religions.  However, I fear that it is more concrete in a negative way. I have met atheists who have said they agree with Jesus’ teachings.  However, believing in His teachings was not His point.  His purpose was to offer salvation to the world.  To believe in His teachings and not His purpose is absolutely useless.  Anyone who advocates validity in such an attempt clearly does not have a complete understanding of the life and role of Christ in the plans of God.  Does the author not do such a thing?

 

“But now that I’m no longer obsessed with converting people to Christianity, I’ve found that talking about Jesus is much easier and far more compelling.”

 

Ephesians 5:15-16:  “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

 

I take issue with this point because the Bible clearly advocates in more than just the verses I have cited above, that we are to be urgent or “obsessed” with bring the Gospel to non-believers.  The author speaks as though there is no urgency in the need for non-believers to know and believe in Christ.  If you know and believe in Christ you should also understand the consequences of NOT knowing and believing in Christ.  Should such an understanding not lead Christians to be anxiously proclaiming the Gospel to everyone?  Anyone and everyone can and has talked about Jesus (I know this is a generalization).  As Paul writes in Ephesians, we must make the most of every opportunity.  If the author has talked about Jesus with someone, I hope he also takes that opportunity to share the Gospel with them. If not, what does that say about his understanding of what Paul writes in Ephesians?  What does that say about his understanding of Hell and the wrath of God?  If we do not obsess with bringing our friends and family to a realization of Jesus what does that say about our love for them?  The potential misunderstanding that could underlie this statement that the author has made could be catastrophic.  In the rough words of Paul Washer, “People don’t need your lives; they need the Gospel.”  If you want an ACCURATE view of what a life in missions should look like, check out Paul Washer’s podcast on iTunes called “A Biblical Vision and Strategy for Missions.”

 

Inviting people to love, trust, and follow Jesus is something the world can live with. And since evangelicals like to say that it’s not about religion, but rather a personal relationship with Jesus, perhaps we should practice what we preach.”

 

Luke 9:57-62:  “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’

Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’

He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’

But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’

Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’

Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”

 

This is the last point I will address.  When did Christ say that following Him was something that should be made easy to live with?  On the contrary, telling people about a Jesus that they can easily live with is to not tell them about Jesus at all.  Jesus says in the passage above that following him will not be easy.  Earlier I cited John 14 and Luke 12.  Jesus said some of the most controversial stuff of all time.  The world CANNOT live with truly loving, trusting, and following Jesus.  Jesus said so Himself.  Does the author’s point once again show a misunderstanding of the teachings of Jesus?  Is it not true that for the “world” to “live with” Jesus, His teachings would have to be watered down at best?  As a result, does this mean that the author is advocating a watering down of the Gospel and life of Christ?

 

Once again, I am not offering answers to the questions I have posed.  I have either stated or hinted at assumptions I believe could be safer than not to make.  I have written this response to say this: We must be incredibly cautious of the things we recommend reading.  I am not saying that I am perfect in any way.  I know that I have made my fair share of blunders.  However, to be honest, after reading this article I was offended and angry.  However, when I then saw that someone whom I respect and consider a friend and know to be a Christian recommended this article on a social networking site, I was shocked.  I admit that my acknowledgment of this person online in a public forum was not the best initial tactic.  My first response should have been to address this person one-on-one instead of calling them out in front of all of our mutual Internet friends.  And for that, I apologize.  But then other friends whom I love and respect began to defend the article and question why I took offense; I saw it appropriate (and efficient) to write this so that all parties could see my position.  I would love to field questions and I apologize in advance for any spelling or grammatical errors.  I did not plan on this response to be this long, and I do not care to go back and proofread it because I am simply burnt out.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Self Made Safe

April 5, 2011 Leave a comment

We put such a premium on security.  We are willing to change our entire lives for the sake of it.  For example, we will take jobs in far away cities for job security which yields financial security.  We buy nice houses in safe neighborhoods for physical security.  We spend money and energy on all sorts of material and immaterial objects to provide us emotional security.  Our nation spends billions on our armed forces for the sake of national security.

I think when you get to the bottom of it, security is the sole purpose of the average person; maybe even all people.  But what role does God play in security?

I have been reading a book called Radical by David Platt (it is EXCELLENT!).  This book has been challenging me in so many ways.  To sum that book up into a single purpose, David basically tries to take a hard look at all of the controversial things that Jesus said.  By that I mean the things that when we read them we are frequently tempted to say “Oh Jesus is talking about someone else with this one.  He most certainly doesn’t mean me.”  It is the scripture that calls us to do something that makes us so uncomfortable that we just rationalize away any response we may be called to and move on to the next verse about how much God loves us.  I say this in complete and total conviction.  I am so guilty of breezing through the tough verses in the Bible.  To be honest, I never realized that I did it until David brought some scripture into question.

There is one story from Luke that has really stuck with me and challenged me.  It can be found in Luke 9:57-62.  I encourage you to read it, but I will quickly sum it up for you.  Three guys come to Jesus.  The first says he wants to follow Jesus wherever he goes.  Jesus basically says “That is fine, but realize that if you follow me there is a pretty good chance you will not have a place to stay; not even a bed!”  The next fella comes up and Jesus challenges him to follow Him.  However, the guy said he would but he had to go bury his father.  Jesus’s response: “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Ouch.  He’s saying that you may be called to leave your father’s funeral and your mourning family; the Gospel is more important.  The last guy walks up and says he wants to follow Jesus but he has to say goodbye to his family first.  Jesus basically says if you can’t follow Him without looking back, then you aren’t fit to follow Him in the first place.

That may be some of the hardest stuff I have ever heard anyone say.  When I would read those in the past I would think a lot of different things.  I would sometimes tell myself that I obviously don’t have the Biblical knowledge to understand the verse, assuming Jesus wouldn’t really tell a man to not bury his father.  I may say that that story is meant for missionaries or pastors, as Jesus wouldn’t really tell me that following Him may cost me my house and bed.  But in reality, this is pretty cut and dry.  Jesus did say these things and there really isn’t anything tricky about it.

I think I approach that story with hostility because Jesus is basically saying, “Following me will cost you your security…..and then some.”

I just finished reading Platt’s chapter on how we spend our money and serving the poor.  That was a flat out brutal and challenging chapter to read.  There were literally sentences that it hurt to read.  But it forced me to look at how I have spent my money and what kind of material things I have in my life.  David takes the stance that material things, in their essence, are not evil, but what is evil is the way in which we treat those things and the context in which we acquire them.  As I evaluated my belongings, I realized that I have literally spent everything I have to construct a sense of security.  I have spent thousands of dollars over the years on clothes to help me feel secure in social situations.  I have a nice computer to help me feel secure about my ability to get work done and even to enjoy myself when I’m bored.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we all need to buy cheap lousy computers and have one outfit (though God could be calling you to that).  What I am saying is that there is a major problem with the purpose of those objects in my life.

What role does God play in my sense of security?

I realized today that I live with completely man made security.  To be flat honest, I don’t think I realy have a bit of real “security” that comes from God.  Sure I have spiritual security, but sometimes I don’t even care about it.  My immediate and tangible security almost always takes precedence.  When God says in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes I will help you; yes I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness,” do I really believe it?  So far, as I look at my life, I can confidently say no.

And I don’t just use material things to take away God’s opportunity to be my security.  I use really good things like my family and friends to provide my security.  My family is, undoubtedly, a gift from God.  They are absolutely wonderful!  However, I have frequently let them play the role in my “security system” that God intended Himself to play.  When I am unsure of who I am, I frequently go to them.  When I have questions about life and whatever, I go to them.

But then I realized this: I am the exact person Jesus was referring to in Luke 9.  Following Jesus may cost me my house and bed: my physical security.  I may have to say goodbye to my family: my relational security.  And even when my sense of security is completely shaken by something like the loss of my father, I am still called to abandon any efforts of closure.

Basically He’s calling us to abandon any sense of worldly security because He knows that when we abandon our sense of worldly security we then gain our Heavenly security; a security is greater and more beneficial than anything I could possibly imagine.  To be honest, I don’t even know how to describe what security that comes from God feels like, looks like, etc. because I am still clinging to my earthly sense of security.  But I am confident in this: it will be so good!

I have been asking God to bring me deeper.  I have been asking that He would reveal new things to me and this is what He is teaching me.  Forget security.  Since I have gotten back from Spring Break, life has been “worse” than I have remembered it being.  I came back and immediately got really sick.  While sick, I had a test in every one of my classes over the span of 7 days.  In the middle of that I had a slew of responsibilities with Cru, Alternative Break, and The Cutouts.  Then in the middle of THAT I lost my wallet.  Then my computer broke! (I am currently writing this from a friend’s computer)  But looking back on all of it, I can already begin to see how God was allowing all of this to happen so that I would learn about my hold on my security.  If I hadn’t been sick and I hadn’t lost my wallet and my computer hadn’t broken I would have gone into overdrive and tried to accomplish everything on my own.  I could have successfully removed Him from every bit of work and planning that I have had to do over the past few weeks.  But the way things have gone down, I have had to rely on Him every step of the way, and He has delivered. It would require an entire new blog post to tell you all the ways He has delivered.  So just trust me when I tell you that He has.

God,

Help me abandon my attempts at making my own security.  Fix my brokenness.  Be my sustainance.  Widen my steps of faith and change my heart to focus on You.

Amen

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