Consumerism and the Death of the American Church

Greed envy-m

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We spend a lot of money on silly things in the church today.

Check out the Prices for:

A decent concert smoke machine:  $1,799

A below average lighting system: $699

Good quality soundboard: $1,699

Quality Office Desk: $266

And yet,

There are 2.2 billion children in the world; 1 billion of them live in poverty.

In just one day, over 26,000 children under five die one every three seconds. In a year, that equals over 10 million children.

One of every 12 children dies before celebrating his/her fifth birthday.

Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Currently, 75 million children cannot attend school; nearly 50% of them are in Africa.

For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:

  • 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
  • 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
  • 270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)

GENERAL

In 2005, 1.4 billion people lived on less than US $1.25 per day.

More than 850 million people suffer from chronic hunger or malnutrition.

Over 1 billion people around the world lack clean water; 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.

Over 3 billion people live on less than US $2 per day.

The poorest 40% of the world’s population accounts for 5% of global income. The richest 20% accounts for three quarters of world income.

The three richest people in the world control more wealth than all 600 million people living in the world’s poorest countries.

Income per person in the poorest countries in Africa has fallen by a quarter in the last 20 years.

Women produce half of the world’s food, work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, earn only 10 percent of the world’s income, and own less than 1 percent of the world’s property.

More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening.

Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.

(http://www.hopeinternational.org/site/PageServer?pagename=hms_poverty_statistics)

Now let’s compare these statistics.  We’re in one of the wealthiest countries in the world at this point.  We honestly believe in America that building up resources and impressive worship services will “win the world” for the Lord.  But look at the above statistics!  Does it bother you that almost HALF of the children of the world live in poverty?  Does it bother you that 1.4 billion people lived on less than $1.25 per day in 2005?  And yet we, the church in America, seem to be more involved with trying to keep our nominal attendees from complaining by building them a massive consumer experience!  And oddly enough, they just complain more.  It’s almost as if they treat church like Starbucks.  “Make it right for me, and I’ll come back.  But if you tell me something I don’t want to hear, or I don’t like the preacher’s personality, or I don’t like the style of worship, I’m leaving.”  I love what our dear brother Francis Chan wrote about this in his blog when visiting church leaders in China.  Check this out:

“Speaking to underground church leaders in China was equally enlightening.  Most surprising to me was their response when I told them about “church” in America.  I did not expect the response I got when I explained how common it is for people to switch churches if they find another with better child-care, better music, or a more gifted speaker.  They laughed really hard.  It was weird.  It was like they thought I was joking.  It opened my eyes to the uniqueness of our situation.  Remember that India and China combined represent almost 40% of the world’s population.  The U.S. represents about 4%.  Too often I have looked at other cultures as being strange.  I forget that we are the minority.” (http://www.francischan.org/#/updates)

We may be the minority, but still, Americans are never satisfied.  We live in living spaces more than four times the average size of others in the world.  We are saturated with constant options for food, clothing, and coffee at every turn.  We need to be constantly entertained.  We need the nicest TV’s with the best cable.  We need the nicest cars with the best perks and gas mileage.  We want the most expensive toys.  Yet depression runs rampant in our society.  Misery is common.  People are told their whole lives that they need to make as much money as possible to have success.  So they get jobs they hate, and end up living in a routine monotony.  Now our economy is even in a downturn, and we don’t know what to do.

Yet in the world, there are so many who are suffering from poverty and have no resources.  And somehow we think we can buy happiness.

The church somehow thinks they can buy members and converts in America.  If we feed into the consumerism of our age, we think, maybe people will follow Jesus.

But my generation is cynical towards this.  And though we may not all be aware that He’s the Son of God, we’re aware that Jesus was homeless.  So we look at the opulence of the current church and see a total disconnect.  We’re all asking the question, “Why don’t followers of Jesus seem to live like Him?”

I think we ought to radicalize the church.  Imagine if those of us following Jesus just decided to give possessions and resources away to the third world, and not just giving a little off the top, but being generous.  What if Christians decided to drive cheap, old used cars?  What if Christians decided to get the absolute cheapest, most minimal housing they needed?  What if Christians decided to give their surplus clothes away and only keep the ones they really need?  What if Christians really decided to invest in one community and bike or walk more?  What if Christians decided to set a standard of living, say $35,000 a year for a single family, and just budgeted to give the rest away to missions organizations and hurting people in the third world?  What would those outside the church think of us then?

But for now, we’re deceived into thinking we can bow with our neighbors at the idol of consumption and greed, and tell them “brother, we understand you and your way of life, come and bow at the altar of Jesus with us.”  And then we end up with an entire culture of “Christians” who look like the Rich Young Ruler.  They may have even “obeyed every commandment since their youth”, but they lack one thing, that they wouldn’t give away everything they had for their Savior.  Okay, maybe “hypothetically” they say they would.  But even if someone forced them they probably wouldn’t give up their wealth.

It’s no wonder that every day, 10 churches close their doors for good in America.  I’m not saying this is the only reason.  There are many more things that destroy churches, like legalism, condemnation, rampant misbehavior, sexual promiscuity amongst leaders, minimization of believing 100% of scripture and following it, and more.  But could it be that our idolatry of materialism in the church of the 21st Century will play a huge part in its downfall?

Pastors Aren’t CEO’s, but Should be Shepherds

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In some churches, the Pastor/Teacher of a corporate church can seem to act as a dictator.  It’s as if we’re saying that the Pastor/Teacher is the CEO of a company, and their final interpretation of all actions is what God’s Will is.  For one thing, I think that’s too big of a responsibility to put on any one person, and God’s Will should be revealed collectively to people in ministry leadership, as they’re all using their gifts collectively to gain a more well-balanced view.

For another thing, Jesus said to His apostles, “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.  Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is Christ.  But the greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:8-12).

I think what Jesus said blows the lid off of some corporate church models, which are actually replicating American Business paradigms.  It also blows the lid off of the structure of the Catholic Papacy, which sees the pope as being able to divinely interpret the scriptures for all the people.  In Jesus’ day, it blew the lid off of the way of the scribes and Pharisees, who “loved the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues.” (Matt. 23:6) No single individual ego can handle a task like that.  We’re all on level ground at the foot of the Cross.  It’s the only place where the least are the greatest and the greatest are the least.  We all struggle with pride and need to be kept in check by others unlike ourselves.  Those of us called to be leaders in the church are called to a higher level of accountability and responsibility.

That’s why the idea of the “Priesthood of all believers”, a New Testament idea, is the perfect model.  In this, everyone who is capable, obedient, and faithful to God contributes to the mission of the church.  In this Biblical model, even the lead pastor of a Church is equal to others, and sometimes he should put his foot down if things are getting whacked out.  He also knows that he is merely a human being trying to discern God’s Will with every other qualified leader who has the capability to do the same.  As long as everyone is teachable and accountable to the Word of God this can work.

I think we want to believe in this concept and follow it in our American Church culture, but we just stink at it.  There’s one reason why, EVERYONE wants to be in charge!  Me included!  It’s human nature to think that our ideas are the best.  The more that we surrender to an omnipotent, perfect destiny that can only be carved out by God the Redeemer Himself, the more we actually have peace and realize that we understand only a little chunk of His big picture, one that is limited by our strengths and weaknesses.

 

SLOW DOWN!

Frenzy

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In my naïve mind, I didn’t realize that there were a lot of responsibilities involved with being a music director at a church.  There are rehearsal materials to put together, and all kinds of preparatory things to do for each Sunday service.  What ends up happening is; a person gets so wrapped up in all these logistics, that they live Monday through Saturday in anticipation and preparation for Sunday mornings.  I got caught up into this thinking while in this position, and basically became so disconnected from the culture around me that I no longer even knew how to strike up a friendly conversation with a cashier at a grocery store!  Maybe there are other people in the church out there like this, who are so immersed in the bubble of Church culture, that they forget that Jesus Christ came for those in need of repentance, and not the righteous.

Basically, this period in my life was one of the least creative periods I’ve ever been through.  I only wrote about six songs or so at the most during my entire time as a music intern, which was a period of two years.  Most years I write close to twenty songs, some years I’ve even written closer to thirty or so.  It was so ironic, because I thought the job would lead me to be more creative than I had ever been, but not so.  I became a music machine that did whatever worked for the church at the time, which was my fault.  Some would say that this was a good way to be a servant, to give up on selfish creative pursuits and learn to lead God’s people into worship.  But I haven’t yet been convinced that it’s wrong to desire spontaneous creativity.  I just know that whenever I’m going through a time of serious spiritual growth, I’m usually writing music about it.  So I have to think that this was a time of spiritual staleness, because I was constantly frustrated.  I think I was so caught up in doing religious things- leading worship, Bible studies, college group, church on Sunday, church office work, etc., etc…, that I forgot about the importance of a vital, living breathing relationship with the Lord Himself in every moment of my life.  I forgot how to slow down and just be in God‘s presence.

When put together, I had no time for creativity or everyday encounters with people outside of the church.  I barely had time to spend with my lovely wife, except for scheduled times once or twice a week!  So as I write this, I realize that I dug my own hole.  I didn’t know how to say no to people, and I thought that the more I did, the more righteous I was.

The prophet Isaiah wrote about his distaste for religious pretension without mercy for the spiritually hungry in the first chapter of his book.  Granted, his situation was extreme, because Israel’s hypocrisy at that time was extreme.  They were murderous, and selling out to pagan religion.  But Israel was also involved in greed and oppression of the poor, sometimes by merely ignoring their pleas for help.  And to make it worse they were continuing to participate in religious stuff without ever really falling face down in shame before God for their obvious inconsistency.  And on top of all of that, much like I was as an intern, the people of Israel were in a frenzy.  They were so busy, that they didn’t even have or make time to be still before God.  How could they have heard His voice when they couldn’t even slow down?  How could I have heard God’s voice when I was fueled by self-righteousness, religiosity, caffeine and aspirin?

I think the Church can lead people to be this way if we’re not careful.  I think we as individuals convince ourselves to act this way because we think we’re being champions of Jesus.  It’s easy for people to slip into the trap of hypocrisy, all the while keeping a guise of pious pretension to guard their vile hearts.  People can easily drop a tithe check in a plate, worship the Lord with their hands raised in the air on Sundays, and go on having nothing but bitter hatred and condemnation for those outside the “evangelical mold”.

On the flip side, people can also do a lot of religious “things”, and surrender their lives to helping the poor.  But without love, it’s worth nothing, as the apostle Paul said.  It’s tremendously popular in this generation to help the poor and outcast as Christians, and it’s also popular to have jacked up theology and ignore the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.  If we do good works but don’t proclaim the gospel, we’re missing the point as well.

Some brands of this busy religiosity resemble the Pharisee life-style, not the life of Jesus, who called out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees tithed a tenth of all they had but had hearts full of greed, malice and wickedness.   The Pharisees criticized Jesus for hanging out with “sinners” on the margins, probably not only because of their rigid, legalistic religious laws that they added to the scripture.  They also hated Jesus because they were jealous (ultimately because He was God and they didn’t know it).  Messed up and broken people were drawn to Jesus, and He healed them.  I imagine that messed up and broken people tried to stay away from the Pharisees as much as they could.  Therefore, the hatred of the Pharisees just festered and boiled like an infected wound.  And what did the Pharisees do to remedy the wound?  Added to their “religious works”.  Like so many young people today, they even made a show of any charity they performed, which Jesus spoke against in His sermon on the mount (Matt. 6:1-4).  There are so many ways to be over-religious, but having peace in God’s presence, and out of joyous faith laboring for the Kingdom.  That’s where the good stuff is.  That’s where the suffering that’s worth something is.  That’s where eternity in the Kingdom is revealed.

 

Yes… I Can be a Big-Mouth!

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Once, I was part of a little group of great Jesus lovers on the campus of Kent State University.  They were what you could call a “para-church”, because they weren’t actually a church, but they studied the Bible together, played Christian songs and sang them together, and listened to people talk (preach) to them.  They were doing a thing where they were getting together every day for forty days to pray together in the morning, they were doing it during the season of lent to symbolize a sacrifice in honor of the one Jesus made, a really great thing to do no doubt.  Also keep in mind that they weren’t Catholic, but just a group of Jesus followers from all different backgrounds.

They decided, however, to meet in the student center of the campus and put themselves on display.  That would have been alright, but they broke out a guitar once or twice, and sang out loud to Jesus with their eyes closed as people walked by.  I was coming to these meetings for awhile, but I started to question what they were doing.  I began to disagree with the idea of meeting in public to pray and come off as holy rollers to everyone around.  After all, Jesus said that we shouldn’t pray on the street corners or in the marketplaces to be noticed by people, but to go in our closet and pray to our Father in heaven in secret.  A lot of people say that Jesus was talking about a heart issue there, not just praying in public.  I agree, actually, and I still pray before eating at a restaurant, usually when there are other Christ followers there at the table with me.  I’ll always ask a person who doesn’t believe in Jesus if it’s alright with them to pray, or sometimes won’t pray at all.

But I felt that this group was taking it too far.  For one thing, they were making a spectacle, and for another thing, they were making no effort to communicate with the many college students walking by.  I thought, “why don’t they try to make friends with some of the people walking by, and have a spiritual conversation with them?”  All that stuff began to stir up in my head.  I was thinking that the group should follow what Jesus said and go and pray together in a private room, then spend the rest of their time handing out free donuts to college students and striking up some conversation.

So one day, I showed up at their meeting, like a half hour late, to add insult to injury.  I brought a video camera with me.  I came up to the group and barked at them, yelling something like this:

Hey guys, I decided not to show up to make a spectacle of myself by praying in public today.  Besides, Jesus said we shouldn’t put ourselves on display!  Instead, I’m going to take this video camera around and ask people what their experiences with Jesus and their experiences with Christians have been, and try to reach some people instead of alienating them!  If anyone wants to join me, they’re more than welcome!  (I said something like that- it might have been even more offensive)

One of the guys there responded back, angrily, “So, you’re saying that since you disagree with what the group’s doing, you don’t support them?  That’s a bunch of crap, man!”  And he stormed off.  Everyone else just stared at me.  I walked away, arrogantly, with my camera in hand, ready to interview people.  A girl who worked with the group as an intern chased after me.  She totally laid me out.  She said that the guy who had freaked out and stormed off was not a Christian, but actually came from a reformed Jewish background and was just checking the group out and making some good friends.  I felt totally horrible.  She also said that some of the people there were new in the Christian community, and probably couldn’t handle what I was saying, because they were new at even learning basic bible stuff.  I felt even worse.  I apologized a lot (even though at the moment of conflict, I thought that I was totally right).  I came back to the group and hung out after they were done praying, and apologized to everyone.  Everyone just said that I should have just talked to the leaders first before making a scene, and in hindsight I realize that they were right.

The next day, I came back with my camera, and a few of the people from the group came with me.  We interviewed some people, including this guy that had been smoking a lot of pot and eating a lot of acid.  He told us that he had had a dream that Jesus showed up in, and totally freaked him out and made him want to change his destructive habits, which also included sniffing gasoline occasionally.  I told him that I had totally been there (well- not sniffing gasoline, but other illegal drugs).  We shared some wild stories, and I told him about my faith in Jesus, and how it had changed everything in my life for the better, as well as my outlook on death and everything.  He was really cool to me, and another leader from the group videotaped the whole thing while we were talking.

I’m telling this whole story to make a point, and more to my shame than to my accolade.  I wish I would have just been nice to everyone about the whole praying in public thing.  They were a really nice group of people who were my friends.  But instead of loving them like the Bible says I should have done, I just opened my fat mouth and freaked out at them, which wasn’t right.  I should have made sure that people stumbled over Jesus’ words and not mine.  That time, I got in the way of the good things Jesus was saying.  If I would have loved on them, I would have made a lot more of an impact.  Instead, I hurt some people.

But by the way, that reformed Jewish guy who wasn’t into Jesus that stormed off ended up coming back to the group, and I think he eventually became a follower of Jesus.  They probably just had to explain to him to “ignore the dude with the big mouth and huge ego that showed up the other day”.

That’s one example of what it means to be a rebel without a cause…  And Jesus was not a rebel without a cause, His mission was more than a cause, to bring salvation to anyone who He would elect to believe in and follow Him!

I Have Problems

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Hey all,

Because I’ve at times written blogs that provoke and offend certain friends of mine I’ve known and worked with for the Lord, I want to write a blog about my faults to remind them that I certainly have problems as well!

1.  I’m by nature a rebel.  My Dad grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and thwarted “the man”- played in a rock and roll band for a living, and had a distaste for institutions like many in his generation.  I inherited this issue and at times I’m extreme in my analysis of religious institutions in particular.  This doesn’t excuse my sin.  It’s the reason why I realize how important it is for me to stay involved in the church and not rebel against it.  But it’s also the reason why I come off critical at times.  Lord Jesus help me to grow!

2.  I’m disorganized at times.  I rely on people who are organized to keep me on track.  I guess one good result of this is that I tend to be creative and able to take risks on a whim- like going into ghettoes or bars and hanging with people.  But it also leads me to be scattered at times.  I’m grateful to have a wife that keeps me on task.  I’m also grateful to have worked with so many great people in ministry that are taskmasters.  I wouldn’t be able to thrive without you!

3.  I’m blindly idealistic.  I see the way things should/ought to be.  This leads me to struggle with reality and logic.  I’m able to cast a vision for the ideal but have a tough time taking the steps to get there.  Again- this is where I work tremendously well with practical people.  They just have to believe in my gifting and vision and then they’re able to help me accomplish my goals.

4. I’m stubborn, but teachable!  As much as I’ll blast an opinion out there fiercely, if someone points out to me a sound, biblical argument that points me to greater conscience and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, then I will change my ways.

So if any of you are offended by what I write, I hope we’ll become friends!  🙂  Please leave a comment and let’s talk, or even better let’s grab coffee and talk face to face!

Are You a Real Fan?

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Some of you might think it’s a corny thing to be a follower of Christ who knows their Bible well.  You might say that the Bible is archaic and irrelevant to our day, and there are plenty of “cool” books written by followers of Christ that point to what the Bible says in a language that fits with our culture.  You might say that reading a Bible too much will make a person a Bible nut-job who spends all their time whacking people over the head with scripture verses, and condemning people to hell.  You might say that reading the Bible too much will turn you into a typical “Evangelical”, that never swears, never enjoys a beer, wears nothing but pleated pants, all the while talking in silly clichés like “We need to hate the sin and love the sinner!”  And I can see why you would think this, because you look at the culture the system of Christianity has created in our country, and you don’t like it.  Yet you still see something good in the character of Jesus, you believe in Him, and you want to be different than some walking stereotype.

Think of it this way, if I said I were a fan of the Beatles, and you were a total die-hard fan, you’d ask me to name my favorite song by them, right?  What if I replied to you, “Oh, I don’t know man, I like them all!”  You would prod me, wouldn’t you?  You would say, “C’mon, you’ve got to have a favorite one!”  Well what if I replied, “Well, they’re my favorite band, but I haven’t really listened to them for a long time, maybe like three years.”  You’d ask me, “What about their hits like ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’?  You have to at least know those!  If you were a real fan of them, you’d know their obscure music too!”  You’d basically think I was a fraud and a phony.

I think people who don’t know Jesus feel this way about followers of Jesus that don’t read the Bible.  And if these people discovered followers of Jesus who didn’t read the scriptures, which are almost completely accurate documents of Jesus’ life, they’d probably wonder why we even say we’re “Christians”.

These documents that make up the Bible were written by people who walked with Jesus through his whole ministry (Peter, John and Matthew), people who had close encounters with Him (Paul), people who grew up with Him as His brothers (James and Jude), and people who were tight with people that encountered Him in a huge way (Mark and Luke).  These people would think we’re duplicitous for not knowing our roots, or why we believe what we believe.  That kind of faith is obviously just a response to an insincere cultural phenomenon.  “Christians” like that come to faith in Jesus because they went to a cool  church that had fog machines and good coffee, and got the idea that Jesus was a hip bohemian that hung out with other hip bohemians and smoked cigarettes and criticized the establishment of his day.

The old and new testaments are the foundation of our faith.  If we say we’re into Jesus and we don’t study the words that spoke of Him, embodied Him, and came from His mouth, then we’re filled with nothing but misconceptions about Jesus’ identity.

The system of Christianity that is in place in America understands the importance of knowing the scriptures really well.  That’s why some factions of corporate Christian America have nearly deified the role of the “Pastor-Teacher”.  They can be perceived as merely the CEOs of mega-churches, because they have all the knowledge, and people who long for the quick consumer fix of Christianity flock to them to get a jolt of encouragement.  Why blame the Middle Class for this attitude?  If we call ourselves followers of Christ, we should want know and understand what the Bible says.  Then that text will infuse into our being, and come oozing out of our pores in every encounter we have with people, whether in a bar, an alley in the ghetto, a university class, or sipping coffee and talking philosophy with local coffee house rats.

We’re blowing it in our generation by flushing everything “the system” stands for down the toilet!  The reason why the baby-boomer evangelical Church is surviving in America is because the teaching is from the scriptures, and we need to know our scriptures too!  We ought to know our scriptures inside out, enough to point to all of the passages that tear down materialism, greed and religious hypocrisy, as well as the passages that should convict our generation, to pursue lives of purity and righteousness, ultimately leading to God’s Holiness.

So let me propose a “new” idea that should not be new at all to our movement of believers.  Let’s study theology.  Let’s be developed in Biblical doctrines, and continually changed by what God’s Word says.

…as a result, we will no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we can grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ… (Ephesians 4:14-15)

Jesus Hung Out With Your Worst Enemies

Fist Fight at the Cantina

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Our generation needs to understand that Jesus hung out with many different types of people, in order to bring them the full salvation that He offered.  He hung out with:

A despised tax collector (Matthew 9:9), An insane hermit (Mark 5:1-15), The Roman Governor (Mark 15:1-15), A young boy (Mark 9:17-27), A prominent religious leader (John 3:1-21), A homemaker (Luke 10:38-42), A lawyer (Matthew 22:35), A criminal (Luke 23:40-43), A synagogue official (Mark 5:22), Fishermen (Matthew 4:18-20), A king (Luke 23:7-11), A poor widow (Luke 7:11-17; 21: 1-4), A Roman Centurion (Luke 7:1-10), A group of children (Mark 10:13-16), A prophet (Matthew 3), An adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), The Jewish Council (Luke 22:66-71), A sick woman (Mark 5: 25-34), A rich man (Mark 10:17-23), A blind beggar (Mark 10:46), Jewish Political Leaders (Mark 12:13), A group of women (Luke 8:2-3), The high Priest (Matthew 26:62-68), An outcast with leprosy (Luke 17:11-19), A royal official (John 4: 46-53), A young girl (Mark 5:41-42), A traitor (John 13:1-3; 27), A helpless and paralyzed man (Mark 2:1-12), An angry mob of soldiers and police (John 18:3-9), A woman from a foreign land (Mark 7:25-30), a doubting follower (John 20:24-29), An enemy who hated Him (Acts 9:1-9), and a Samaritan Woman (John 4:1-26)

Now, some of us may not know terms like “Samaritan”, which was a half-breed pagan/Jew or “Centurion”, which was a Roman Government official.  But most in this list make sense to us today.  I guarantee that all of us have a few in that list that we don’t know how to love or deal with the way Jesus would.  I think we should look at the scripture reference for all the people in that list that we don’t like, or know how to deal with right, and study how Jesus dealt with that person.  Followers of Jesus are called to imitate Him fully, and not just in the ways that come more naturally than others.

A lot of people in my generation seem to say “Jesus hung out with lepers, prostitutes, crack-heads, emos and indie-rockers man!  He hated the bourgeois of his time!”  A lot of people in the evangelical world seem to infer by their lifestyle that Jesus only hung out with corrupt tax collectors, government officials, and the Religious people of His time.  Obviously, the list above proves that both of these camps are right in one sense, and in another way, missing the big picture.  The thing that’s wrong about both is that they pretend that Jesus only hung out with the people they’re comfortable with.  But He hung out with every type in society.  He showed the outcasts compassion and mercy.  He showed the arrogant some pretty stunning truth that had to knock them off of their self-built pedestals.  He showed each person God’s way, and according to their faith, He granted them salvation through Him.  Some received Him, and some didn’t, and He knew who would and who wouldn’t.  Either way, He told people what they needed to hear.

So I challenge the cynics to put a picture of Donald Trump, George Bush and Britney Spears on their wall.  To pray for them and think about people like them.  These people deserve the love of the Savior.

I equally challenge the corporate business types to put a picture of a homeless person, a starving AIDS victim, and a prostitute on their wall, and pray for them and think about people like them.  These people deserve the love of the Savior.

I challenge hard-core feminists to put a picture of their favorite chauvinist on their wall and pray for them.

I challenge hard-core chauvinists to put a picture of their favorite feminist on their wall and pray for them.

I challenge Anti-War Liberals to put a picture of Richard Nixon and an American War General on their wall and pray for them.

I challenge Pro-War Republicans to put a picture of an anti-war protester, and an Iraqi soldier on their wall and pray for them.

I challenge myself and all of us, that we ought to put up pictures in the walls of our mind.  People like Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, members of the Ku Klux Klan, Saddam Hussein, and Osama Bin Laden.  These are terrible, wretched people like us.  And we should mentally pray for even the most evil people of our age and ages past.  Even they deserve, and desperately need the love of the Savior.  We all do.

I’m not saying I’m good at practicing grace.  But I know that God’s grace is way more immense than mine.  And I need to be stretched outside of myself as often as possible.

Being rejected for truth and mercy that could only come from Jesus is a good thing.  If we’re rejected by any people group at all because we don’t like them or want to take a dig at them, that’s wrong.  It’s like Doug, a good friend and missionary from Egypt told me.  It’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard:  “Make sure that people are stumbling over Jesus because of you, and not just stumbling over you.” It’s crucial that followers of Jesus continue to be more in line with His Will and Way.

 

 

Four Pointers for Biblical Rebels

LoudMouth gum for talkers

Image by StreetFly JZ via Flickr

If you’re in a situation where you feel like you’re getting flack for standing up for what God is saying-

#1:  Be sure that God is saying it!  If we’re not willing to be taught by others, why should we have the right to open our big mouths?  If someone corrects us, and the truth they point to scriptural truth, then God has said it to us through them, and we should accept the criticism and change.

#2:  If a proclaimed follower of Jesus corrects us and they have a messed up view of the scriptures, then we should gently correct them back.  If they don’t accept the correction they should be taken through the steps of Matthew 18:15-20, and if they still don’t repent they should be strategically ignored with the hope of restoration.  It’s good to read up on what good Bible scholars are saying about certain things.  We can’t just believe what we want the Bible to say.  We need to surrender to what it really says.  The original authors never intended their writing to have multiple meanings (Vanhoozer- “Is There a Meaning in this Text?”)

#3:  Remember that Jesus said that persecution awaits those who stand for Him.  This is the same in America as everywhere else.  It doesn’t mean that we should fulfill the bumper sticker that says:  “Jesus loves you, but everyone else thinks you’re an (expletive)”, but it does mean that we should stand up for what God says, even when we’ll get flack for it.

#4:  Do it with love!  The greatest difference maker is a quiet, calm, good example in the midst of speaking the truth.  “If we speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, we have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1).  People that speak the truth have peace about their message.

God knows I need help in all of these areas.  I still have a long way to go.

Let’s do everything in the power of the truth and mercy of God (Col. 3:17).

 

2010 in review

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Image via Wikipedia

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 4 times

In 2010, there were 18 new posts, not bad for the first year!

The busiest day of the year was November 2nd with 138 views. The most popular post that day was About.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, mail.live.com, touch.facebook.com, twitter.com, and signup.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for benwhite29.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

About October 2010
2 comments

2

How Many Hypocrites Does it Take to Fill A Church??? October 2010
12 comments

3

Stifling Katy Perry’s Creative Freedom November 2010
14 comments

4

True Wealth and the Crumbling of the American Dream December 2010
2 comments

5

The System Vs. The Rebellion: Living as a Radical Evangelical November 2010
3 comments