Thursday, December 07, 2006

We Preach Christ and Sometimes Invite Bono?

"A Communion service driven by the music of singer Bono and his U2 bandmates is catching on at Episcopal churches across the country" claims a recent article on this little movement. (follow link for entire article: Our church band has employed U2 music in our worship services for several years now, but leave it to the Episcopals of New York to make it stick! I personally think the U2-charist’ movement, as it's being called, may turn out to be a very cool way to help people connect the reality God and His love to their mundane lives all over again.


As we say, "nothing changes unless something changes." Something in the Church has to change, especially the Church in America that has become so issue focused we’ve lost sight of Jesus we say we preach. We need something to cause us to again breathe the fresh air of celebration, focused on God rather than the stifled and stuffy air of everything normal. Maybe a change like this will help some who’ve grown "deaf and numb" in their particular worship circles to pay attention once again? One may think it strange to consider adapting U2 music for use in a worship setting, or even heretical for some reading this. I think change is good if more people consider the activity if their Creator in their lives, or hear the Good News with new ears, as a result. In fact, I think it’s a freakin’ stroke of genius, if not a direct act of the Spirit of God! The risk, of course, is in that Bono and the Edge have become Swami, and Side-kick for many of us music freaks. So, we can easily think we’re worshipping God when we’re simply getting into the emotional river with a very charismatic leader. Caution! We are challenged by Jesus in the Scripture to be Jesus freaks foremost. Remember, that "thou shalt have no other gods before me" thing?  


However, we should also remember that God is still after individuals and calling them to a personal relationship with Himself, and that worship is the blessing of reaching up to the One who reached to His wayward creation first. He did this in humble condescension, by jumping into a flesh-suit and suffering the distance from His Father that we will never experience. He ran to us first. His affection demonstrated by the birth, life and death of Jesus, the Son, causes a response in people with a pulse. We celebrate this condescension at Christmas time, if we don’t miss it by the helter-skelter shopping pace in which most engage beginning the last Friday of November!


This is really nothing new. Much of our conservative hymnody was the result of someone putting words about God that people could understand, with the music of popular - bar room tunes - known to those who needed Jesus. Martin Luther’s famous "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" (German, Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott for you purists!) is one example. Written for the masses in a popular tune, it was first tolerated with much trepidation from the Church’s deeply rooted religionists, but has since been called "The Battle Hymn of the Reformation!" Can’t you just see people swinging their mugs of German Barley-pop to a paraphrase of Psalm 46? I'm gonna be there! 


Maybe God is rewarding the sincerity of those worshipping Him, combined with some very suitable words that direct hearts to YAHWEH again? Maybe the "change is gonna do me good" thing really does work? Whatever the outcome may be, let's not be so myopic as to think that God may not use something outside of a largely dead church to reform Her again! After all, He IS God. And He’s done it before. For those of you who simply can’t be convinced that the lines of worship should be drawn by content, rather than by musical style, and that worship music can emerge from somewhere outside of a stoic church, I'm just going to repeat what a well-know pastor once said to a large audience after they heard that he had prepared a cigar dinner for his leadership staff after they had reached a particular goal: “lighten up!”  In love of course . . .  P/Rod

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Careless Speech -- Different Gospel!

The evangelical church has worked very hard on our political agenda. Instead of preaching Jesus, we tell everyone that they can only find Him, have Him and receive His love if they adopt our brand of cultural re-coding. Sometimes our "message" comes across politically, like a fundamentalist right-wing "religioneer." The end result will be Constantine-like: just "herd the poor heathen Geeks into Lake Washington and pronounce them baptized, then we can create an army to go beat the crap out of the rest of the heathens." Only this time, the "heathen geeks" are wiser. When we make a show of arms that looks political, they now know how to beat us in that battle field. Maybe some of us are secretly thinking we can get some good exposure for Christ from a secular media. Are you kidding? They will slaughter you! That's their playground.


We deserve some criticism if we push a moral, social, or cultural agenda and not preach Christ and Him crucified. We claim to be the Church, but beat on those who need Jesus! Instead of presenting Jesus foremost, we seem bent to present what we claim to be His calling to the pure life, before the people to whom we preach even have the means to obey Him! When people with influence, again like many we read about in current blog traffic, forget that it's not just what we say, but how we say it, and in what order -- we lose the battle. I'm sad. 


Historian Lord Acton (1834-1902) issued epic warnings that political power is the most serious threat to liberty: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Now ironically, it seems that in our context we're beginning to see that those in power without accountability, will render threat to our religious liberty because of a false gospel preached to the masses. 


If the world hates me, I want them to hate me because I smell like Jesus, talk like Jesus, live like Jesus, and love like Jesus. Not because I'm yelling out in self-righteousness that they need to get their crap together then God will/might love them, and only then if they adopt my version of women, Church leadership, and male authority. I can respect a man for his opinions, but I don’t have to appreciate how he expresses them. Careless speech renders truth unheard. God’s people beware! I’m convicted. 

Permission for Un-Cautious Speech?

Leadership is a precarious position. We should pray hard for men and women who have been given a huge field of influence. Whatever they say "can and will be used against them" in the world-wide court of law. There are many current examples, just check out the current blogosphere. Power tends to grant permission for un-cautious speech. And power unchecked in the Church often fosters a gospel that holds the unbelieving world accountable to act like Christ, without knowing the presence of Christ. That is a false gospel. 


I know some of these church leaders. I respect them for their calling and their influence. I love these leaders in Christ. And as a pastor I understand their tension, their temptations, their pressure and the expectations their responsibilities place upon them. Pray! Many of them are excellent communicators. Some of them are skilled culturalists and most of them have a natural gift of leadership. But I believe we should always take issue with anyone who tries to sell a gospel that appears dangerously close to a political and moral agenda. 

This is not to criticize one pastor or another, there is enough disunity, but rather to clarify the Gospel and the climate many leaders are unwittingly (hopefully) building for themselves. While the Gospel of Jesus Christ does have clear ramifications for life change under His management -- the true Gospel IS “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15). It is NOT the “change-‘em-on-the-outside-and-the-inside-will-soon-follow” version that some pastors seem bent on peddling to their masses. Preaching a moral or socio-cultural agenda rather than Christ is a dangerous step toward writing our own gospel. Certainly there are strong and clear, moral imperatives in the Gospels and in Paul's writings. Even Old Testament prophets foretold that God would one day give us new hearts and write His Name upon them. There can be no life change without a heart change. Preach anything else and we introduce yet another cause for the unbelieving world to hate the Church for the wrong reason.  


I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Gal 1:6-9)


The Church must repent for making our mission a social, political, and even moral one. Without "Christ in [them] the hope of Glory," the people He gave His life to forgive and reconcile have no hope to successfully follow any of our moral code, our social gospel, or our 3-step cultural clean-up plan. This is not the Gospel Jesus preached nor called people to receive. 


Jesus did not give His life to affect a social and political agenda. Even His early disciples had false expectations in this area. Many of us still want Him to come and set up His kingdom on our planet. And we're going to help Him out by condemning the sinners He came to save! We're going to help him by "baptizing" those heathens in our version of morality, and pronounce them justified if they adopt our version of the Bible’s family plan. But Jesus' kingdom is not of this world! It is as if we keep telling Him He's got it wrong. "Oh, Lord, are You sure? Look at all the earthly press we could get for You! You could maximize Your potential and minimize conflict if You would just set up government here!" Maybe we're more honest if we just admit that we want a following for ourselves. When this is our purpose, we do not know the God-Man. We have no idea of His power and authority. He doesn't need our opinion to run His universe. He doesn't need us to assist Him in building a sin-free society. Every time we've tried, we got it way wrong. Jesus hasn't called us to preach anything other than His message. We've preached our own for far too long.  


To be sure, Jesus calls us to help alleviate some of the pain and suffering in our world when and where we can, but again, He did not give His life for a more clean and fresh world. He did not give His life for a moral agenda. He did not give His life to clean up Geek City by pushing the gospel of "change the outside first and the inside will follow." He gave His life to save sinners who repent! When the Church re-engineers the gospel, she not only fails at her mission, but also becomes quickly irrelevant and impotent. We have nothing to say if we are not preaching Christ! And when we preach lifestyle first, many will never hear the real Jesus.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Moral Bigotry?

Often the people who have the hardest time repenting are those who’ve already repented! Christians sometimes act like because they’ve confessed Christ, they have no more repenting to do. That kind of “it’s all good, we’re gonna win” mentality is nothing but hypocrisy and it’s killing our witness of the real Jesus. For example: those who call themselves Christians and yet follow and push a moral code instead, should repent for claiming to be followers of Christ but following another code of ethics or system of morality! Jesus certainly preached morality, but the purpose behind His preaching was so that His hearers would meet His Father first! Jesus was concerned about the poor, but His agenda was to save men and women from eternal fire, not just earthly discomfort. Jesus was concerned about right living to be sure, but preached an alignment with the Father in a relationship that would empower obedience. Jesus’ plan for cultural change was to invest in people so that they came to know Him. Not first to force a form of righteousness upon them hoping that it would somehow result in an inner faith conviction about His Lordship. 


Others, maybe most professed Christians myself included, need to repent of moral bigotry – discriminating against people who have no conviction about our biblical morality, but are yet held to it by the Church. In the last fifty years much of our evangelical zeal is sickeningly similar to that of Emperor Constantine, who force-baptized the heathen hoards by driving them into water and then calling them Christians! Are we not comparably guilty when we, the Church of Jesus Christ, attempt to force people into our morality when they don’t even have the Spirit’s power or illumination to disobey their sinful nature yet? I say YES!


Many of us have spent our Christian lives building up steam against those who don’t follow Jesus’ moral imperatives, forgetting that unless one is part of the Kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ, there is no kingdom power available to enact life-change. Only Jesus is the power behind Jesus’ call to life-change! Do we not notice that though the world hates our churches they are still interested in discussing our God? Hmm… I wonder if we’re missing it? Maybe this is because we’ve become practicing Religioneers, in effect, telling Jesus how His Church is supposed to be. We’re preaching a different gospel than Jesus or Paul when we tell the world they must pass our tests of morality and culture before meeting our God. Now that is sin! 


The Apostle Paul faced a similar situation in first century Corinth (nothing new under the sun, eh?). His response was very simple for them, and for us, if we have ears to hear: “…we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:23-24)


Again, I repent.

Different Gospel?


The Church seems full of what I call “religioneers.” Religioneers attempt to re-engineer Church to fit their agenda and promote their idea of how to operate in the mainstream. These attempts to make the church powerful and palatable are quite simply pitiful. Jesus was ticked off at those who were religious but void of the true message of God, not the people stranded outside of life with God who didn’t know any better than to follow the current leadership. 


In our religious culture it seems now implied that a Christian is quite literally anyone that’s nice once in awhile, lives in America, or at least the Western Hemisphere, goes to some church when there isn’t a child’s soccer game to attend, hasn’t murdered anyone or stolen anything big - or at least hasn’t gotten caught yet. That’s bad enough, but here’s what really sucks: when we, the Church, imply that to be a Christian one must be aligned with a political ideology! Shame on us! This is an example of the work of Religioneers: to make up man-centered systems of appearing to be aligned with God’s kingdom. If you’re in this category, you should repent! Jesus said, “my kingdom is NOT of this world.” So why the heck are we trying to re-engineer this world instead of preaching the one to come? 


We attempt to create systems and organizations that exalt ourselves instead of movements about Christ, that exalt Christ. We’ve attempted to force those ‘sinners’ to repent from ungodliness without even knowing the God to whom they are to repent! Maybe we are the ones who must first repent! I think so. I love the story told by Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz about the true Christian attitude that lead some college students to set up a confession booth on Reid College campus. Then when the party animals came by to see what was really going on, their little booth became a reverse confessional! The Church began confessing to the world for our religioneering of the gospel which has produced some horrid aberrations of the teachings of Jesus Christ in years past. I Repent!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More on Repentance

Why is repentance so hard for us humans? Pride. Admitting we are wrong presupposes that there is a Someone who is over us and above us, and is therefore able to define right and wrong; a Someone to whom we must give account. The fact that people will not or cannot repent may be due to a person’s refusal to give account to anyone.

Repentance is first a change of mind towards God and a turning away from incorrect thinking about God that lead us to sin. Wayne Grudem defines repentance as “a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.” Paul Tautges wrote, “Repentance is not a human work but the gracious work of the Holy Spirit preparing sinners’ approach to a Holy God on His terms, rather than their own.” And therein we find the problem: our attempts to approach God on our terms rather than His. We hate it when the One Someone tells us the terms of relationship and says we have to humble ourselves and submit to those terms. That’s pride. We all struggle with it, and we need to repent.

According to the Bible, “all have sinned and fall short of His glory.” (Romans 3:32) God tells us our relationship with Him was broken by rebellion. To fix the relationship requires a sacrifice – a perfect One. He provided the solution we must accept to receive forgiveness and eternal life – one that only He could provide in Jesus Christ His Son. Thus, true Christianity - biblical Christianity - begins by receiving God’s initiative rescue plan, and making a heart decision to follow Jesus on HIS terms. It is not some patched together attempt that sort of lumps all religions together thus making their own! Religion like this sells a god we can reach on our own terms - patching some spiritual ideas together presenting it all before God as righteousness, and expecting Him to accept us on our terms.

And before we get all self-righteous, Christian, all too often this describes us and the churches we attend! Far too much of this religion has made its way into our churches and out the front doors into the culture of America, taking forms that damage the true cause of Christ Jesus, which is to glorify God by saving sinners. Some examples of these forms of religion are our political agendas, our moral agendas, and yes, even some of our social programs. Here’s the deal: attempting to proliferate our version of cultural engineering without “Christ in [them] the hope of glory” is just empty religion and it hurts the cause of the true gospel! From this we should repent. (To be continued …)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reformation: Tearing to Heal

Of greatest importance is what God desires to do in our hearts today and how we respond to His urgings and convictions by the Spirit and through the Word. Eugene Peterson said, “the Bible is interested not so much in whether we believe in God (it is assumed most people do) but in our response to Him.”

I’ve been urged by God through a series of events going back several months now, to look more closely at the concept of repentance. The Bible’s story is of a God so passionate about creating that He made the heavens and the earth. He is so passionate about community, having experienced its perfection in the Fellowship of Three from the unbeginning-forever-eternity-past, that He created people in His image. And He is so passionate about holiness that He sent Jesus Christ to bring to Himself a people of faith that have been made holy in order to be included in that eternal fellowship.

To begin and finalize this relationship, God spoke in the language of Jesus (Heb 1:2a) and initiated the supreme sacrifice. Therefore, every story, sign, wonder, miracle, battle, sacrifice, symbol and prophecy in the Scripture culminates in the person and work of Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our Savior, who is the exact representation of God Himself – God in the Flesh, come to rescue sinners by providing forgiveness of sin.

To receive this gift of salvation and enter that eternal fellowship, we must repent: change our mind about God – go from unbelief to belief about His Son and receive Him as Savior and Lord. That initial repentance is of supreme importance and gains the repentant entrance into God’s Forever-Family.

As Peter preached to the crowds at Pentecost, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,...” (Acts 3:19-21)

And it doesn’t stop there. We are urged to a life of repentance throughout Scripture. As the red arrow of redemption runs through every book of the Bible, so the concept of repentance is sewn into all of God’s urgings to His people in both covenants. In fact, putting the biblical material together we find that a life of repentance and confession defines authentic faith in God through Jesus Christ His Son.

Before I go any further, as one of our pastors said recently, “The atonement of Christ and the forgiveness that act provided gave entrance into the Kingdom of God for all who believe and take Jesus as Master and Savior. If you never confessed one more sin as long as you lived, you’d still go to heaven.” That’s really how complete the work of Christ is for His followers! BUT . . . (there are some really big but’s in the Bible and this is one of the biggies!) the issue at risk without a life of repentance and confession is the awesome fellowship with Jesus that results in maturity, service, obedience, and reward making our lives purposeful, and our eventual and literal wedding in heaven so exciting to anticipate!

Repentance is a change of mind towards God and a turning away from disobedience.

Repentance is not a popular term, and has been subtly morphed, as one author put it, to penance. However, the Bible presents Jesus as Propitiator of sin (the turning away of God’s wrath by a perfect offering; Romans 3:24-25; I John 4:10) and the once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12:10:10) needed to provide once-for-all access to God the Father. No amount of human sacrifice could ever make up for one drop of the Savior’s blood shed to procure this final necessity.

Instead, we shy away from this concept of true repentance relegating it to the category of past irrelevant rituals that have no bearing on us in the 21st century. We include it in the same grouping as “turn or burn sermons” and “Hell-fire-and-brimstone” preachers whom we’re supposed to believe were intending to literally scare the Hell out of sinners. (Have you ever really had the Hell scared out of you?)

So why, the hell, is repentance so hard? Exactly! The world, the flesh, and the Devil (Hell) make it hard to repent – but also prove the necessity of living a life of repentance. Repentance is serious and important business to God. We’ll talk it through the next few blog entries. I’ll discuss what I’m learning about the incredible act of mercy along my journey, demonstrated again and again as God urges his people towards repentance.

Soundness of Heart

As I wrote to my oldest son this week, on training assignment with the U.S. Air Force, I began thinking about the importance of the heart and encouraging him to guard that important "organ." Of course, I was not referring to the blood-pumping organ that feeds the body with blood so necessary, but the center of the person – the core of being for the human-being. I’ve already confessed to being a certified, though imperfect, Jesus freak, so though you may disagree with my Source for this discussion, at least I want to remain consistent with the Authority I attempt to follow. 


My son is facing some adversity, which one might imagine is easily found in an organization like any branch of the military. Not that it’s a bad organization, but because of its purpose and its complexity – and because it includes other human beings who are familiar with neither the dangers of an untamed heart, nor the power of a sound one. It takes wisdom to navigate life even when you do have a few right answers! And wisdom works in the human heart. So, I encouraged my son to "do your work heartily as to the Lord." (Col. 3:17) I explained that outwardly he must demonstrate respect to his superiors and obey them. But in doing so, it is really God to whom he defers and whom he obeys. This is a matter of the heart, not luck, nor mere self-discipline. The Bible teaches that life is lived for good or for ill, from the condition of the heart. So, I said, "This is my encouragement for you in this season Son, 'Guard your heart . . .'"


I have nothing to say about this on my own, but the Bible speaks of the heart literally hundreds of times. So I’m just going to skip a stone over the vastness of its instruction in order to true my own compass again and invite you to eavesdrop. Though we live in the body, we live from the heart. For example, Proverbs 3:5 says not to trust our own heart, but to trust the Lord with all our heart: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." That's a fine bucket of fish now that I've been raised in an age where I'm deluged with tripe like "follow your heart" which has the sound of spirituality but has no power to make me avoid foolishness. Instead, the Bible teaches that my heart by itself, leads me to selfishness and self-centeredness. No, it's not because I'm a necessarily bad person (though left to my own desires I am) but because I'm spiritually dead without Jesus! By the way, Jesus didn't come to make us good! He came to give us life by believing on His Name! 


The Bible teaches that the heart is the source of the things that come out of us. This is why the wiseman of Proverbs tells us to store up wisdom in the heart: "Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live . . ." (Prov. 4:4). This is also why we're exhorted to soundness of heart, because the heart is the source of all that flows from my motives, lips and actions. "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." (Prov 4:23). So it really isn't what we drink, eat or wear; where we go, where we've been, or where we're going, that makes us good or bad. What matters is the condition of our heart. What comes out of us is the overflow of the heart. To test this theory, just measure what comes into your mind or out of your mouth the next time someone runs a red light and crosses your right-of way! If only my windshield could talk . . .


In light of the human condition, God's word exhorts us to soundness of heart. "A sound heart is life to the body . . ." says Proverbs14:30. Men and women grow in wisdom and understanding by cultivating a sound heart before the Lord. "Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, but what is in the heart of fools is made known." (Prov 14:33)


Jesus condenses the Old Testament wisdom when He says, "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man." (Matt 15:18-20) Later, Paul the Apostle taught that a heart restored to God by Christ Jesus would begin to live from sincerity of heart in submission to God, even in the face of harsh treatment (Ephesians 6:6-8).


Here's how I finished my letter:


So, my loving encouragement to you is to guard your heart these days my son. There are many enemies arrayed against a young man with your potential. And thank God that though we sin, we walk in the grace that is in Christ Jesus and He is our Advocate: "...if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins..." (1 John 2:1-2). (To propitiate means to make right with by payment, to appease and conciliate by payment of a debt.) Remember: Jesus became our sacrifice, and He IS our righteousness. If this were not the case I'd have given up long ago. And the way to soundness of heart is to spend loads of time with Jesus:  


"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-39)


Stay the course. Work hard. Live one day at a time. And enjoy the rewards of integrity, the satisfaction of the adventure, and the blessing of being in the center of God's will. 





Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Size and Speed (Idolatry Pt 2)

I’ve been thinking about our American definition of success all over again. Most modern connotations of success are idolatrous. We set ourselves before it, we primp for it, we pray for it and to it, we spiritualize why we don’t – or worse – why others don’t have it or don’t deserve it, not recognizing that we have set up a standard based upon no authority at all, and deemed “it” worthy of a following. Deceived.

We Westerners, in particular, seem most enamored with the quest for success. I’m all for success if it means working hard, living purposeful, achieving certain goals, leaning to love, and having a desire do better. But I’ve been taught and I've observed that our post-modern distinction of success is really mostly described by words like: bigger, better, faster, brighter, more expensive, and top-of-the-line – all of which has to do with me having more than you! Shallow.

I gotta come out of the closet here: I’m a certified Jesus Freak! Not that I always live that unswervingly, but that’s my goal. And to be consistent with my stated allegiance I have to attempt to align my walk with my belief. Where I often fail is the whole area of “success” and the many atrocities against authenticity in my personhood that arise in my attempts to live up (or down?) to that elusive standard. Whose standard am I to follow? John Kenneth Galbraith said that “in economics, the majority is always wrong.” (I hate that truth!) Reality.

If I say I belong to Jesus, then to be true to Him and to myself, I have to follow His example. Instead of looking to Jesus as my Role Model, this seductive western mind-set of who's got the biggest SUV, is sickeningly, too much a part of me. OK, so you don’t have an SUV, and if you do, you’re going to try and convince me that you have one because it’s the safest thing for your family, or ironically, the best way to pull your new boat (which, by the way, is bigger than that guy down the street). Lest you think I must be wearing camel skin jeans and eating locusts and wild honey – I don’t have an SUV, I have a truck – but it’s my wife’s and we have a big family and we use it to haul junk to the dump… blah, blah, blah. It's just an SUV with the back end lowered just a bit! I’ve been bitten too with this idol. How do I know I have a problem? Because it makes me feel good when I’m driving it, and it looks good in our neighborhood, and it makes me feel like I’m successful because it has more torque than the dude’s truck down the block – because it tells me that I sort of got-it-going-on enough to own something cool to drive. Ashamed.

Crowds can be like Lemmings, they just following because the crowd in front of them appears to be going faster, farther, and more purposeful than the crowd they are leaving behind. I think it’s time we took another look at success and recognized that it is much more than “bigger, better, faster, brighter, more expensive, and top-of-the-line.” Tragic.

Jesus came with a message that tips over our pallid definition of success – even if it is amorphous. His definitions of success are far away from the adjectives we use to describe "size and speed" as signals of success. Observing Jesus’ life and teaching would indicate that success has more to do with being than doing. Someone said, "There’s a reason we’re called human beings instead of human doing." His definition seems to have more to do with loss in the natural and accumulation in the eternal; more to do with attitude than altitude. And according to the real Jesus, success has almost nothing to do with our material accumulation and public esteem. Why do you think Prosperity Theology only works in America, or when it’s supported by rich American preachers? False. (More next week . . .)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I Love Idols!!!

I love idols! WHAT? "Rod likes idols?" No, not my spirit-man, but my fleshy-man loves idols! That part of me that's truly dead but likes to make me still think "he’s" in charge and is still attached to the things from which I was rescued -- lust, greed, pride, self, and all the other underside complements to these idols -- things that take the place of my God. My flesh loves idols, but I hate them! 


What the hell is an idol? EXACTLY! Hell thrives on the proliferation of idols – images, altars, pillars, and sacred poles, erected to false gods. An idol is an image, whether physical, imaginary or "distractionary" (Ha! – I love making up new words!) that masquerade as deity by the attention and commitment we give to it (we call that "worship"). Idols were always a distraction to God’s people throughout history and eventually led to the division and deportation of the Hebrew nation by the discipline of God.


You have idols; I have idols -- images that promise comfort, passion, pleasure, ecstasy, intimacy, and exhilaration. Why are idols so bad anyway? Because, while they may seem like a well-deserved distraction allowing you and me to cool-off, calm down, finally sleep, or forget pain and stress for a few minutes, these idols and images lead us quickly from simple distraction to addiction and finally complete destruction! Like the Pied Piper on steroids, these idols come to us with promises they can’t keep. They taste like candy. They feel like pleasure. They promise ecstasy, but in reality they are taking control like a freaking camel spider on its prey! Idols, like methamphetamines, give you a great "first high" so you spend all your time looking for the next fix. But the next fix is less exhilarating than the first, and because of the first experience you do ANYTHING to get your hands on the next one, and the next, and the next.... None of them meets with the same feeling as the first. The destruction is underway. Soon you’re dead. And that really sucks! 


Idols are "the suckiest sucks that ever sucked!" (Thanks Homer!) The purpose of idols is to suck the energy from the spiritual life and the breath from the human soul. So while asking myself how to deal with some of my sucky idols -- recently found lurking closer than I wanted to admit -- I found that to rid myself of soul-sucking idols, I had to get down-right mean! To destroy idols, you and I have to do what God repeatedly told His people to do. He told them to destroy, break, cut-down, and thoroughly break into pieces idols and images of false gods that distracted them from worshiping the ONLY Being that deserves worship – the One True God. 


One such example is found in 2 Kings 11:18, "And all the people of the land went to the temple of Baal, and tore it down. They thoroughly broke in pieces its altars and images, and killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars." The rest of this little picture goes like this: "So all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet, for they had slain Athaliah..." (their idol-loving, hell-promoting-queen) 2 Kings 11:20. The whole idolatry thing is a really important issue to God!


I have to ask myself, and you have to ask yourself, what must be destroyed? What do you need to "chop down" from your computer, or "break" from your DVD player? What do you need to "tear-down and thoroughly break into pieces" from your habits with your time? What foods or drinks can you not even walk by in the store? Change stores! Here’s a good one: what people do you need to eliminate from your life? The Bible indicates that bad company (not the band) destroys good people (Prov. 1:10-19). What are you going to do in those hours you previously spent meeting those idols and images online? Put something good in their place. Don’t go there any more! Don’t go to your computer when you’re bored. Don’t go spend time with him or her or it anymore! Move! Leave and destroy the evidence! Throw it away! Cut the cord! Rip it out the wall! Pull down those images! Set up an automatic-deposit for you paycheck so you don’t have any cash in your hand when you leave work! Don’t even drive by the casino! When the sun goes down, go to bed! Do WHATEVER IT TAKES to destroy the things that are destroying you! 


The Bible says this: "Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts." (2 Tim 2:22, NLT)


Is this hard? NO!! It’s IMPOSSIBLE! So pray this prayer every fifteen minutes if you have to:


"God I’m sick to death of this [your idol(s) or image(s)]. Give me the courage to (rip it out, tear it down, pull it over, drive another way, don’t take cash, go to bed when the sun goes down . . . etc.)  This is impossible for me, Jesus, but not for You who lives in me right now! Stand against this [your idol(s) or image(s)] and strengthen me NOW with your power."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006



So what’s the deal? Well first, according to Scripture, our redemption is not yet complete. While on the planet, “the law of sin” is still at work “in my members” -- the outer-self (Rom. 7:23).

“A battle rages, but we must realize that the warfare is between the real people we have become in Christ and the mortal remnants of the old people we were in Adam.” (Kenneth Boa)

Until the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23), we are being transformed but not yet completely. Alright, most of us get that. The battle is still underway. But some of us have given up submitting to the transformation process, capitulating instead to the flesh covered over with some religious veneer because it’s sooooo freakin’ hard and we always fail anyway! And so we give up. And the world suffers, and we suffer, and the Savior is hidden behind our lukewarmness. Again, me too. I’m one of you and it sucks. I’m tired of it.

Here’s the deal fellow Westerners. We have to stop looking for quicker uploads and download speeds and better, newer Bible software -- and sign up again for the daily task of allowing God to gradually conform our outer selves to the image of Christ, which was created in our inner selves at the moment of our salvation. Here’s what I’m learning again -- back to the bull’s-eye:

The essence of the faith-life is learning to exchange our way with His way by personal experience, not just by knowledge and church attendance. It is learning to exchange the collection of truths, for living true – to our new nature purchased for us by Christ Jesus. Until we set ourselves on this gradual incline, by the mediating power of the Holy Spirit, we will not know what it means to be spiritual, and the world will continue to scoff at our version of Christianity.



So where are all the Spiritual people? Can we ever attain to what we see in the Scripture and hear about others experiencing? It's like the Air Force's slogan to “Cross over into the Blue” -- that kind of wonderful mystery where the life of Christ really begins to form in those who profess to follow Him. And they, because of this transformation, begin to change their world again!

If those reading this have received Jesus Christ and His invitation to forgiveness and eternal life by faith, you have submitted yourselves to the authority of the Word of God. If you haven’t submitted to that authority, please, at least don’t call yourself a Christ-follower. For the rest of us, we must acknowledge that the battle raging in us between what we want to be and what we are being saved from is keeping us from the journey out of what Alan Jones called “the sucking two-percent self” (his definition of being self-absorbed) and into the Christ-life.

People are waiting for the real Christians to show up, but we have become addicted to our world; sucked into the vortex of popular thought and now avoid the long-distance-in-the-same-direction-kind of spiritual journey that even the humanist, Friedrich Nietzsche recognized was at the heart of a “life worth living.” Spirituality is when one steps into the mystery of transformation, from what he or she was before Christ entered, to what he or she is becoming because Christ entered. If you believe the bull, then spirituality is religious activity like sitting in a yoga-like position for an hour, listening to Bono, joining a book club, buying worship music, voting for the most Christian-sounding Republican candidate or giving to the United Way in response to pressure from our superiors! That's bull!

Christian, we can never hope to affect our world for Christ if Christ is invited to our party but never allowed to drive, to re-arrange the furniture, to take the trash to the dump, and refurnish our rooms with necessities instead of relics from a bygone era! In America, Christians have settled for early 70’s garage sale junk, kind of leftover-fumes-spirituality from the last revival, or the last "spiritual" experience instead of experiencing the daily life of “Christ in You, the Hope of Glory”! Me too, I’m one of you, and it sucks. I’m tired of it.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Cor 5:17-18 NKJV

Wednesday, July 12, 2006



There are more brands of spirituality afoot on our planet than Nike has basketball shoes. The word “spiritual” is now used for anything that feels good and/or gives one an ecstatic experience. From drugs to diving, by defining spirituality, humanity has again said, like the descendants of Noah who built the tower of Babel, “we can reach the heavens” and like Lucifer, “I will be like God.”  This is the result of rebellion in our flesh that denies God but wants to live under all His benefits. If we cannot admit our place in this picture, we do not yet understand the pervasiveness of sin.
Eugene Peterson once wrote, “For those who follow Christ, 'spiritual' is the adjective formed off the activity of the Holy Spirit… Spirituality is never a subject we can attend to as a thing in itself. It is always an operation of God in which our human lives are pulled into and made participants in the life of God whether as lovers or rebels.” Now that’s GOOD NEWS!
A “Christ-one” is someone who has decided to follow Jesus and exchanging the sin-filled life for the sinless life of the Perfect Man Jesus. Upon entering that relationship, one commits themselves to a path of development that is intended to align our practice with our new position. The sacrifice of Christ, received by faith, has made us Spirit-people, which makes us spirit-ual, now capable of saying “no” to the things to which we were formerly enslaved. To be in the process of becoming like Christ by the mediation of the Holy Spirit is true spirituality -- that's the bullseye. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lessons from growing up – if I ever do …

I was a little boy before I grew up. I know that sounds absurd, but let me do this intro thing. Little boys are not perfect, just ignorant, full of energy with a bit of innocence added. Little boys can teach grown-ups a lot of stuff if grown-ups have the wisdom to look back before it’s too late. Looking back is a discipline that has to be guarded so that it doesn’t become a preoccupation, but it can come in handy at times. One time I heard a sportscaster on the radio say “Hindsight is the only pure science.” One sees what was really there and what really happened –- like instant replay on Fox Sports. What really happened -- unless it really didn’t happen? If a person believes something happened but it really didn’t, then I think they have drugs for that.

As a boy I loved climbing trees. It made me feel big and adventurous, and even big boys like to accomplish something. Little kids like to invent fantasies about being someone they think is a hero or something. Someone they are not and likely will never become. That’s a problem for adults too. It’s called living outside of one’s self and it’s dangerous to the soul -- more on that later.

I loved the water, especially the river. We used to go to the park and swim out to the Big Rock in the Spokane River. We would jump off and get caught in the current and spun around like being in a wash machine for about ten seconds before we came up for air. I heard that several kids died in the river each year for doing stupid stuff like that, but we did it anyway. Jumping off the Big Rock taught me that danger and adventure most often go together, and that the risk was usually worth the trip.

I liked BBQs, Pepsi Cola, and watermelon, especially on the Fourth of July when my dad’s side of the family would gather in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for a parade and a feast together in celebration of our Independence. My uncle would grill the biggest hamburgers I ever saw –- they aren’t as big now that I’m grown up -- the kind that when you stacked all the lettuce, tomatoes, unions, pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard on it, it was too big for average mouth. Then my dad, my uncles and my brothers would sit around and eat watermelon and spit the seeds in the lawn until we felt like puffer fish swimming in a sea of red water –- but I don’t think puffer fish like watermelon. Then we had to go to the bathroom a lot. I always wondered why my uncle never had watermelon growing in his yard. I learned a lot about memories then, how easily they come and how far away they get as you get older.

I loved baseball, but I wasn’t very good at the game. I could catch the ball okay, and bat pretty well, but my dad and mom were very busy and we never got to play much on the city leagues. That was okay -- my life is none the worse for missing out. We did play pop fly exchange a lot in our backyard. I won sometimes. I lost sometimes. I learned that winning was great, but that just being able to play was really most important. Some kids would have loved to play but didn’t have anyone to play with. I learned that it was really great to be in the group. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s not so good.

I loved my dad’s ’64 Malibu Coupe before I knew the horsepower to weight ratio. I know that ratio now and I wish I had a few of those cars. My dad wishes he never had to sell it. I’ve had a lot of problems involving cars. Cars are status symbols in the United States. That’s pretty shallow.

I loved my dog too, as young boys often do. He was just an average dog. His name was Benny. He was nothing special as dogs go, light brown with a white scarf and white feet, about 30 pounds. He looked rough when he was protecting my brother and me. He sure was loyal. I think he would have given his life for us. Dogs are a great invention of God. They seem to be made to take care of kids and protect people. Some dogs tip over garbage cans and chase cats, but back then I just thought those dogs were the ones without families. Everyone should have a family. Family dogs just seem to know what to do if things get messy. Family dogs always listen when you talk to them too. They probably just hear us say, “Blah, Blah, Blah” but it makes a kid think someone always listens and doesn’t talk back. That’s just cool. Kids need to be listened to.

I had a great family, not wealthy by any means, but I always had a house and a bed and a real bathroom. And I never missed a meal. If I did, I don’t remember missing one. My dad worked real hard and my mom could make our food go farther than a helium balloon that lost its owner. I had two brothers and a sister. We always went to church and were taught the importance of knowing God and reading the Bible and obeying. My parents loved me, but as I said, I was ignorant. I didn’t know how much they loved me until I had my own children. Having children is when lessons on love begin to seem very important. Having my own kids made me wish I had paid more attention when I was growing up. There was much more for me to learn about love and that’s what this blog is really about.

Back to my dog.

Benny was just a mutt of the lower-middle-class-American-kind –- like a garage sale, when everybody brings their unwanted crap to sell and nothing matches. But that dog loved me and I loved him. I don’t know why I loved him exactly. It wasn’t because he was good looking or overly intelligent, nor the toughest dog on the block. The toughest dog on the block usually got in the most fights. That sounds like adults too. Anyway, he protected us by barking when he thought we were threatened, and he chased after the bad guys. I don’t think Benny chased cars or cats or tipped over garbage cans. He was loyal and slept on the foot of my bed. In hindsight I think I loved that dog because he loved me first. I still remember the day he never came back. My dad said he found him in the road. He’d run off for a little adventure. I guess it was kind of like jumping off the Big Rock and never coming up again. He got in a fight with a boulevard full of cars on Sprague Avenue and he lost. I learned that in life you lose lots of things that you love.

The world is not a very nice place for kids. Even in a part of the world that is pretty nice. Come to think about it, it’s not a very nice place for adults either. Even in a lower-middle class American family, with a house, a fast, red sedan and a good dog. That’s why we need to know about love; the real kind of love, the love that doesn’t care if your dog is the biggest, the fastest, or the meanest. You just love that dog because he’s yours or you’re his –- however that really works. The real kind of love doesn’t care if you have a fast, red car or came from a great family that took you to church and made sure you had food to eat and clothes to wear. Real love isn’t about that. Real love is much more important. It’s what really matters.