Monthly Archives: April 2012
“If man lived apart with Me and only went out to serve at My direct command,
My Spirit could operate more and accomplish truly might things” (God Calling, June 18).
God says wait.
We say, “Gotta do something.”
Actually, we don’t.
God says wait.
We say, “Somethings better than nothing.”
Except when it’s not.
God says wait.
We say, “God helps those who help themselves.”
Wrong-o! God helps those who can’t help themselves. That’s the whole point.
He leaves the rest of us to our own paltry efforts.
God ways wait.
We immediately start doing.
This waiting of Yours is active, not passive. More about not pressing than about doing nothing. There’s a time and a place for doing nothing, but that is another thing, apart from uttering a holy “no”. This is not just sitting on the couch, waiting for a divine presence to sweep us to our feet in a maelstrom of Christian action. That’s not waiting, that’s just lazy.
This waiting, Your waiting involves confidently following whatever ideas and thoughts and leads You give me. Confident not that I can make or force anything to work out, but that You will, in Your way and time.
Active waiting means letting You lead, waiting on Your direction, not inventing my own. It is trying out my thoughts and ideas, with less concern over their success than about determining which ones come from You.
Active waiting is me taking care of business (TCB baby!), while allowing, trusting, expecting You to take care of results. I do my part. I let You do Yours.
We must say no to opportunities and chances and possibilities beyond number. We must say no, because only if we say no and no and no again will we ever be able to shout YES!
We must wait. Ooh, but it’s hard. Waiting. Patiently. Actively. Expectently.
We must listen. Ooh, that’s harder. Listening. For God’s still small voice in the midst of the winds of busy-ness. We must be still and quiet in order to hear.
We must let God do His part. Let Him call us, direct us, command. Then and only then comes our yes. And our doing becomes a holy doing, not the worthless striving of vain, inglorious man. But the holy work of a righteous God.
There we find our purpose, our meaning, our true calling. There, living into the holy yes, we taste greatness, perhaps for the very first time.
At what point did the Church decide efficiency was the goal? As we rolled through the industrial revolution? With the invention of the printing press, the assembly line, the micro-chip? At the advent of the mega-church?
Efficiency may have its place. But its place is not the Church. Efficiency looks to get the most out of the least. The Church’s mission is just the opposite – giving the most to the least. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these….” Jesus calls us to serve. He commissions us to go. He commands us to love as he loves. He never asks us to be efficient. Because he wasn’t.
Jesus simply was not efficient. He was effective. Big difference. Come on, he spent three years on the spiritual development of twelve guys. Three years. And one of them didn’t quite work out. Pastors get fired for doing better than that.
Efficiency isn’t biblical. Look at Adam. He names the animals, all the animals, one at a time. Look at Abraham. He waits ninety-two years for an heir to the Covenant. Look at Jonah, the reluctant prophet, who starts off in the wrong direction.
The only example of biblical efficiency I can think of is Caiaphas. “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (Jn 11:50). That fact that he was right is ironic only in hindsight. He wasn’t being ironic. He was being efficient.
God is not efficient. God is extravagant. God is generous. God is abundant. Just look at the flowers. Try to count the stars. Measure the love in a father’s heart.
Our son was born when our older daughter was only two-and-a-half. In the week before his birth, I was plagued by the fear that I wouldn’t love him as much as I loved her. Actually, I loved her so much I was scared I wouldn’t have any left for him. I loved her with my whole heart. There was no part of my love she didn’t already have. So there couldn’t be any love left over for the new kid.
Then Jacob was born, and my fears melted in an instant. I saw him and I fell in love all over again. My heart grew. My meager supply of love wasn’t halved. My ability to love was doubled. And they each received one hundred percent.
Now we have three kids, and I love each of them the most. “You can’t love all of us the most, daddy,” says our oldest, who has discovered fractions. Ah, but I can. I do. I’m their daddy. I love each of them with all my love. It’s the closest I have come to knowing how God loves us. God loves each of us the most.
Praise be to the God who is gloriously inefficient!
So my wife was listening to the radio the other day, to a “Christian” radio station (though how any non-sentient entity – schools, t-shirts, nations – can live as a disciple of Jesus is beyond me) which shall remain nameless, though to be fair, it is most often positive and encouraging. She heard about a fabulous ministry that was seeing thousands of men come to Christ at biker rallies across the nation. But that’s not the best part of the story. The best part is how they count all those conversions.
Turns out this ministry hands out tickets for a raffle where the main prize is a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. And how do you get one of these golden tickets? Easy. Just give your life to Jesus. That’s right. At a motorcycle rally. Surrounded by folks who believe in Harleys the way Texans believe in boots. Some of them Christians. Most of them not. Commit your life to Christ and get a free raffle ticket. Seriously. I can imagine their advertising slogans.
“Giving your heart to Jesus gives you a chance to win!”
“Jesus wins your heart and you could win a new bike!”
“Let Jesus rides into your life and you could ride off on a brand, new Harley!”
I wonder… Can you enter more than once? Are you allowed to give your life to Christ multiple times at the same rally? Or do you need the chance to backslide from your new found faith before you re-up? Let me ask you a question. If I don’t believe in God, and I’m okay with lying, in a general sort of way, why would I bother being truthful with some religious stranger? But sure enough, counting raffle tickets is how they track conversions, how they define success. We gave out 100 raffle tickets, so that is 100 people who are now going to Heaven.
ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? This is what’s wrong with the Church! These people, these kinds of Christians, this manner of thinking. When you apply a modern answer to a pre-modern question this is the kind of nightmare you end up with. And you know, it’s not even this ministry, really, that is the problem. It’s the horrible theology and pathetic teaching that led them down this path of logical conclusion. Hey, if giving the correct answer to a question that’s not even in the Bible is all that matters, then why not bribe people to say yes?
These are the people who have made “salvation” into a plural. Salvation is not plural, you morons! It cannot be plural, by its very definition. There are no “salvations”. You cannot get “salvations”. The question, “How many salvations did you get by bribing bikers at a motorcycle rally?” is non-sensical. But how can you expect the vast expanse of Evangelicalism to understand this? These are the same people who brought you “testa-mints” (www.testamints.com). The same people who created Stryper, Christian bumper stickers and Veggie Tales. The ones who buy art from Christian bookstores (on the nature of a store being Christian, see paragraph one above). These are the folks who choose to live in the Christian ghetto.
I’m surprised none of them have created a Chocolate Jesus* for Easter. I mean, come on, the marketing opportunities alone are endless. Picture little Susie’s chocolate smeared face with the caption, “I love Jesus, and he tastes good, too!” Or maybe there’s Bobby, outside on the front lawn, smiling ear to ear with a Veggie Tales video in one hand and a headless Jesus in the other. Bobby says, “I gave my heart to Jesus. Then I ate him.”
Oh, I know. You could do a milk chocolate Jesus for our Latino friends, a dark chocolate Jesus for the African-American community and a white chocolate Jesus the Southern Baptist Convention.
Picture the milk chocolate Jesus, hands outstretched, instead of candy eyes he has three cherry candy wounds. A crown of thorns made from red licorice is included. Maybe do a jelly filled version that comes with a miniature spear? A hard candy cross on which you can actually hang your Chocolate Jesus? No, no, a deluxe set, complete with two extra crosses, two thieves, the Roman Centurion and a Peeps marshmallow tomb — only $89.99, quantities limited, free shipping if you order in the next hour!
Oh, my friends, Faith is about following the Master, not answering a question. It is marked by a life of devotion to Christ in the world, not separated from it. Giving oneself to Christ is a good thing. And yes, every journey has a beginning point, though sometimes we only recognize the starting line in hindsight. But this relationship, like every healthy relationship, simply cannot be founded on false motives, on emotional slight-of-hand, on bribery. Remember, the wise man builds his house upon rock. And this theology, this get-’em-through-the-gates by any means necessary approach to God, is simply built on sand. Faith like this will not stand for long. It cannot. It has nothing to stand on.
So by all means, reach out to those in the biker communities. Or rather, help the Christians already in those communities reach out. Those Christ followers who bear their clubs’ colors have a Faith many of us can only dream of. Absolutely tell people about Jesus, share the gospel message, and more importantly, live it out. Be the good news people long to hear. Pour out your life as a blessing to others. Lead people into God’s Kingdom. Offer them the Salvation of Christ. Walk with them as they discover resurrection life.
Followers of Jesus are called to be salt and light in the world. You cannot be salt and light in the world when you hide out in your church’s bowling alley so you won’t have to bowl with people who drink beer. You cannot be salt and light when you are too busy being slick and marketable. The world needs us to be salt and light. Both are simple, intrinsic, valuable, necessary and their own things. Salt adds flavor. Light adds vision. And if the Church had more flavor and more vision then maybe the world would listen to what we have to say. Being salt and light is more difficult than selling raffle tickets. Salt and light yield fewer short term results than bribery. But their long-term effectiveness is amazing. Like Robert Earl’s road, they both go on forever.
Oh, and one more thing, don’t forget the Chocolate Jesus.
* Chocolate Jesus is a registered trademark of Eat Him Or Else Ministries. It is used here by permission and is not intended to be copyrighted, reproduced or retransmitted in any way, shape or form without the express written consent of the National Football League. Any unauthorized use of the term Chocolate Jesus is punishable by fine (30 pieces of silver) and/or imprisonment (30 days in Purgatory, the spiritual realm not the ski resort). Chocolate Jesus is a consumable confectionary not intended for use as a toy. For ages 3+. Does not walk on water.
A couple weeks ago, I heard my Bishop ask, “What does the resurrection mean for you, personally, in your daily life?” Which was an interesting enough question that I brought it to my men’s Bible study. When I threw that out there at 6:45 this morning, the initial response was silence. Not the stunned disbelief kind of silence, but the wow I’m thinking kind of silence. We sat there for a while. We batted around the idea that we weren’t even sure what the question meant, much less what it might look like.
Then one of our leaders offered this: Resurrection shines light on our daily lives, allowing us to see reality in a different way.
Yeah, I know. Wow. And this guy wouldn’t ever describe himself as a spiritual leader.
His statement about re-framing reality led me back to an idea I’ve been chewing on, the idea that we are defined by the stories we hear. Or more exactly, that we are defined by the stories we believe. And all too often, the story we believe, the one we accept as true, is someone else’s story about who we are.
I too easily believe others’ stories, stories which tell me and sell me and convince me I’m not enough. I let advertising tell me the story of who I am. Overweight. Undertall. Too old to be young. Too young to be wise. Not rich enough. Not hip enough. Not enough. In desperate and total need.
I believe the stories corporations tell me about who I am. That their coffee will make my day better. Their car will make me more attractive. Their anything–everything–something will at last, finally, and not a moment too soon, make me happy.
I allow other peoples’ stories of me tell me who I am. Too smart. Not smart enough. Generous. Wasteful. Innovative. Malcontent. Why, oh why, do I allow other people, people who do not know me as well as I know myself, tell me who I am? Why do any of us? Why do you?
Why don’t I allow the Story tell me who I am? Created. In the Image of God. Broken. Redeemed. Beloved. Why not allow the Easter story to define me? Why not claim the Resurrection not just as a story, or even the story, but as my story?
If I do, when I do, I find that I see reality in a different way. Light shines in the darkness. Hate doesn’t win. New beginnings are possible. Forgiveness matters. It’s not about me. God acts in the world. Choice is possible. Hope is real. Death is not the end. And because death is not the end, anything is possible.
Instead of divorce, my wife and I can live out forgiveness. Resurrection is my story.
Instead of anger, I can respond to my children with mercy. Resurrection is my story.
Instead of fear, I can allow hope to lead my decisions. Resurrection is my story.
Instead of work, I can choose friendship. Instead of busy, peace. Instead of despair, hope.
Resurrection is my story.
Resurrection is your story, as well.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!