One of my continual disappointments as I meet so many professing “believers,” is their complete oblivion to New Covenant life, living, and reality. Christians by the score persistently seek various external rituals, experiences, and stimuli to take their faith to some supposed “higher level” or deeper spirituality. Apparently, the Indwelling Holy Spirit, being united with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, sharing His glory (John 17:21-23) and being seated with Him in the heavenlies, and giving our lives for our neighbors and the world, etc. are not enough for Western Christians. No wonder popular culture western evangelicalism is insipid, spiritually impotent, and irrelevant.
I think my good friend, Michael Rose, hit a homer on this one. Guest blogging it here!
A famous comedian from the southern USA jokes that by simply adding the phrase “Bless her heart” to the end of a statement makes it somehow okay, no matter how harsh. For example: “That baby sure is ugly! Bless his little heart” or “Betsy sure looks fat in that dress. Bless her heart!”
We laugh, but Christian folks can say some pretty harsh things and attempt to justify it by claiming they are “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Too often, we Christians can cross the line and speak into something that is quite frankly, none of our business.
If prevalent teachings about revival are to be believed, our God is more like a reluctant genie in Arabian Nights than a gracious heavenly Father.
Disillusion and disappointment are normal for anyone who has the courage to be a follower of Christ. Spend time in the machinery of any local church expression, and you will face disillusionment sooner or later. Disillusionment can be mild or debilitating. It is often accompanied with despair and loss of hope. When we are in the middle of it, it can be so difficult to see any of God’s goodness. How can it be redemptively processed? It helps to understand what Father is up to when we feel our rug being tugged.
I know so many who can speak quite elegantly and esoterically on the topic of revival, renewal, reformation, unity, oneness, city-wide unity, etc. However, these same individuals don’t exactly line up to be the first to abandon their beliefs and practices that hinder the very thing they wax eloquently about. There’s a bit of a con game going on. We are fooling ourselves in these things unless we get down to some bedrock issues that carry a lot of emotion with them.
These are great concepts when it is the OTHER church, the OTHER home group, the OTHER denomination, the OTHER network, who comes under discipline or whose “theology” is “off,” or who has to embrace “reform” and come out of “religion.” Religion is like spiritual halitosis. It is always the other guy’s problem.
- If we read the scriptures like a teacher, we will see principles.
- If we read the scriptures like a judge, we will see judgment.
- If we read the scriptures like a philosopher, we will see mystery.
- If we read the scriptures like a policeman, we will see guilt and innocence.
- If we read the scriptures like a criminal, we will see punishment.
- If we read the scriptures like a lawyer, we will see law and justice.
- If we read the scriptures like a father/mother, we will see family.
- If we read the scriptures like a lover, we will see love.
It’s not that the different themes are not present in scripture. They are there to be seen. The question is, what is primary and most representative of what we know to be true in Jesus Christ? Whatever themes and speculations we may entertain, they all must be subordinate to what we know is sure, true, and final: the truth is in Him. He is the final Word of God to humanity (Eph. 4:21, Heb. 1, etc.). He is the measure of all scripture. If there must be adaptation in our understanding of a portion of scripture, it must adapt to Him.
The Apostle John makes a most profound statement in John 1:18, with far-reaching implications:
No one has perceived God, at any time, the only begotten of the Father, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared (revealed) him.
Wow! The man who wrote this verse was a Jew, who understood Torah, the Prophets, the Psalms, and his own heritage. Out of his mouth he says, NO ONE, (ever), has perceived God. That means Abraham, David, Moses, Joseph, Daniel, Jacob, all the patriarchs, regardless of their supernatural experiences, did not have an accurate perception of God!
By David French, National Review
June 3, 2013 5:38 PM
This morning I was forwarded two thought-provoking articles that may have more of a connection than you’d think. The first was Charles C. W. Cooke’s outstanding take-down of Oprah’s Harvard commencement address. The second was USA Today’s report on a spike in lawyer suicides in my home state of Kentucky, a report that contained this poignant reflection:
“They learn that justice is not always done. Innocent people are abused and some go to prison. People guilty of terrible wrongs go free,” Cunningham wrote. “They worry that all the lost hours and missed holidays with family and friends . . . do not matter. . . . They become like a weak-kneed boxer in the 15th round. They keep flailing away. But they lose purpose. They lose hope.”
So much pain in life lies in the gap between dream and reality, between expectations and actual life – especially when generations of Americans have now been raised in a pop culture that celebrates the dream, of romantic love, fulfilling careers, and financial security. If we just read the right book, gain an insight from the right television host, or master our own negativity, we unique snowflakes will break through to the life that we’re entitled to. We often begin with the Oprah idealism and end with the reality of a fallen world.
I remember the silly existential angst I felt in the first several years of my legal career when — despite a great job and even better family – I simply couldn’t shake the sense that I was a disappointment, that my work wasn’t important enough, and that my high-achieving friends were racing ahead of me. I drifted from legal job to legal job in a desperate quest for the perfect situation – the fulfilling, prosperous work that gave me exactly the right amount of time for family all while changing the world.
Law schools tell aspiring lawyers that they are warriors for justice, that they can enjoy — nay, have a right to! — the proper work/life balance, and preps us for considerable material success. And — for a time — I foolishly fell for it. The real-world result of this pablum is a population of professionals who are the least-happy prosperous people in America (lawyers at least do the material-success part pretty well). Yet this gap between expectations and reality is hardly unique to the legal profession.
The Christian world has become pretty darn good at selling a religious version of the “if you dream it you can do it” message of not settling for less than awesome. In this new world, if you’re not starting nonprofits, building wells in Africa, and engineering social justice in a blighted community then you’re not “radical.” (To borrow the name of a popular book in Evangelical circles.)
Ecclesiastes is an under-read book — the author, likely Solomon, had all his heart desired yet declared it “meaningless . . . a chasing after the wind.”
We don’t tell kids that the wind can’t be caught. We tell them that they are the masters of the wind. And then one day they wake up, they barely know their kids, work is stressful, the bills have piled up, and they realize — with shocking suddenness — that they’ve likely already peaked. They won’t do better in life, and in their quest to fulfill their dreams they’ve often ignored the voice that calls them back to modesty, to focus on doing one’s duty — to God, to family, to country. The quest is not to “have it all” but instead to have what God provides to do the work He calls us to do.
There was a reason why the Apostle Paul declared, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” That completed work on the Cross is what gives us meaning, and it is the act that ultimatey wipes out – decisively and eternally – our record of dismal failures, our sickness, our sadness, and our defeated expectations. It is also an act that renders insignificant even our great successes — it is the ultimate source of both hope and perspective, that we can never fall too far for the Cross to reach, and we can never succeed enough to impress the One who was present at Creation.
The issue of homosexuality is a hot topic these days and stirs a wide spectrum of passion. There is no shortage of indignant outrage on the topic from within organized, conservative, evangelical, Christian, religion. I wrote this blog over two years ago, but thought in the light of current events, a revised reissue would be timely.
The essence of homosexuality is the desire for love, relationship, and sexual intimacy with someone sexually identical to one’s self, without the hard work of learning to love someone very different than one’s self, in very profound ways, 🙂 and without the pain, discomfort, and inconvenience of the logical fruit of heterosexual intimacy: children.
Jesus made it clear that before we attempt to extract a splinter from someone else’s eye, we need to extract the log in our own. Western Evangelicalism has a very large log: homospirituality.
The response I have received on the original post on real spiritual warfare has been overwhelmingly positive! Thank-you to all who have communicated/posted. However, there were a few voices of criticism who are not too happy with me. Oh, well. Anything worth anything is going to be criticized. Maybe I need to be criticized. On the other hand, maybe the nerve that needed to be hit was hit, and the toe that needed to be stepped on, was. An arrow that hits the intended target is likely to get a reaction. No big deal. Goes with the territory.
I am including here two examples of what real spiritual warfare based on incarnational and transformational authority looks like to me. These testimonies are examples of spiritual warfare that actually MAKES A DIFFERENCE in time and space, rather than esoteric spiritual exercises, that are constitutionally unable to be evaluated for legitimacy and effectiveness. When God really speaks to, in, and through (declaraction/proclamation) through His kingdom-aligned people, in real authority in their metron (sphere of assignment and relationship) in a real prophetic dimension, things on earth REALLY change!
God’s kingdom is one of freedom. Nothing is forced. Even the good things are not forced upon us. If we try to “force” (persuade) God’s good things on others, we misrepresent our Father and we have failed in love, even with good intentions, message, motive, and methods–good “kingdom stuff.”
Forced love is rape. We try to force truth/love (God is love, God is truth) on people who do not even want to be inseminated, and call it “evangelizing.” People do not need to hear our “stuff,” even our good stuff. People need to smell an aroma of the Bread of Life, take a bite out of us, and because the taste is of the Bread of Life, experience DIVINELY CREATED APPETITE. Then they will be ready to hear about, more accurately, eat of, the One we say we represent. Telling people about the Bread of Life, and becoming the One Loaf with others for the world to feed on, to taste and see of THE Bread of Life, are two unrelated universes.
Telling people is like reading a restaurant menu to someone, but never buying them a meal. They heard about food accurately, but they have eaten nothing, so they still go away hungry. They’ve “heard the gospel” and now they are “accountable for their soul” and we’ve “done our bit for Jesus.” One is shortcut Christian religion, the other is the costly reality of the Way, Truth, and the Life that the world is hungry to see. Gospel proclamation is not about “sowing the seed of the Word” into the world, the gospel is proclaimed by sowing US into the world as seed (Mt. 13:38).