He says in frustration, "I never SAID that!" She answers in deeper frustration, "You don't HAVE to."
The Body of Christ has been preached for centuries, but something I do not recall hearing about the body and its parts, which we are, is what happens when they are severed from the body.
The Body of Christ only grows when it is held together. When it is disconnected parts, those parts die and cannot continue forward. Stay close and connected to the gospel and to the Body of Christ.
Over and over again I watch people disconnect themselves from the Body of Christ and attempt to go it alone. With the fervor of Hebrews 10, I say, "DO NOT give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. " I have told people more times than I care to count: if you attempt to grow and move on your own, you will fail. If we play out the realities of a Body, not only will you fail, your will likely die.
A local pastor friend of mine exhorted his congregation to “Turn off FOX News; its making you paranoid.” While it may be great counsel, it is important to recognize FOX News is only one of numerous voices making us paranoid as it relates to Christians living in our current culture and society.
In the Church today looking forward, far too many of us have come to believe and accept our ticket to ride a certain hand basket on its way to a certain destination. Yes! The times are changing at the pace of the Internet, and our culture and society are increasingly opposed to the values and lifestyle of the follower of Jesus, but I see great hope for what will develop, by necessity, because of these realities. There are many reasons to exchange your ticket for a more hopeful future.
1. This is nothing new God’s people have always had to live among a dominant culture that does not affirm their values, lifestyle, or their claim to One Truth. This is nothing new. It may feel new to us who have been believers through a more comfortable time, but we cannot disregard the reality John reminds us of; “this world and its desires are passing away” (1 John 2:17). We will not and cannot turn the world around, and we cannot pretend that this opposition is anything new. We stand on a the shoulders of history in this reality.
2. The Value of the Local Church Do not entirely believe the statistics that portray a declining church in America. Understand that correct statistics misinterpreted are false statistics. The Church is still and will continue to be quite large. The question will be whether its impact will be strong in the coming generations. Its impact will be stymied if all of its talent, time, energy, and resources continue to be used outside its walls instead of through it. The next generation needs a reason and a reminder to fall in love with the local church. We cannot continue to separate from “religious institutions” and wonder why they are not lasting.
3. Higher Call To Discomfort As circumstances grow less comfortable for the believer, it becomes more impossible for the Christian to simply float in and out and up and down on the waves of the culture. The tide is changing so rapidly, the future generation will be stronger believers because they will have to be. The Christian will be increasingly marginalized in our culture, but that means the true believers will be exactly that; TRUE valiant believers. The days of lukewarm comfortable Jesus following are swiftly drawing to a close. That is good news!
4. Vision Is Unheard; not Unspoken Young Christians want to be part of the visioning to bring about new life and new energy to the Church. The future is coming at us faster than ever before, and keeping up will require the Christian to be as fast. There are young Christians prepared to do this with a commitment to truth. They are listening to the same things in the media, which says our future is doomed. When we believe this perception, we devalue the voice of young Christians who are prepared to stand valiantly in this culture.
5. Discipleship Is Key When you look at the Chinese Church, you will not actually see anything. The Chinese Church is growing by droves in a country where Christianity is criminal. By necessity this underground Church is incredibly committed and unwavering. As American Christians are increasingly marginalized, one-on-one discipleship is going to be more and more vital in the spread of Christianity here.
6. The God-card Ultimately, we must always trust in a sovereign God over and above whatever happens in our culture. I would close with the hope we all ought to have forever. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
The opposite of love is not hate; it is fear, and love drives out fear. We are not given the spirit of fear. As we look to the future, we have no reason to fear if we have truly had an experience of the loving God who will remains sovereign, regardless of the paranoia you hear on television.
Over and over again we hear our culture, our country, and our world compared to a particular hand-basket on a journey. We are caught in this crazy battle to see how we ought to be engaged with the culture or whether we even should be engaged with our culture in any capacity. We watch FOXNews to solidify our paranoia and anger. We lash out against a culture who left us years ago. We are concerned that this culture is sinking, and sinking fast.
What strikes about realizing we are sinking is that too many people are content to shoot holes in a sinking ship...that we are in.
We drastically misunderstand what it means to be "in the world but not of it", when we think we can actually escape the world, much less when we seek to attack and shoot holes in it. At some point, it may be helpful to place ourselves specifically into that metaphor I have laid out.
If I were in a sinking boat, regardless of how disgusting that boat may be, I am not going to be content to sit within it firing holes to expedite the process. I may even try to do what I can to redeem, repair, and restore as many of the cracks that I can.
Many times Christians are no different than non-Christians. We try to love an ideal and adhere to principles. We, in so doing, forget that it is possible to actually KNOW God. We are actually able to intimately know God. In fact, that is what truly makes us Christians. Even many non-Christians would admit God exists but never even imagine or believe God is knowable as people are. To non-Christians, God is a principle and ideal that exists and that we can believe, but they have never allowed the possibility of knowing God intimately enter their brain. Am I any different than a non-Christian?
"O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man who TRUSTS in Him." Psalm 34:8
This is very common with those who are abused. In an attempt to protect the abuser, but more detrimentally, in an attempt to hide their obvious need for help, battered women will put on a lot of make-up in order to cover the scars and bruises.
Eventually these battered women start to look fake with all of this make-up. As these women hide things more and more, nobody realizes anything is wrong. Nobody cares about her. Why doesn't anyone care about this woman who is abused and battered? Because nobody realizes she is abused. Nobody can see a need for love, for care, for protection. She becomes fragile but artificial. Nobody takes the time to care for her. She covers her pain, but more importantly, she covers her need.
The church and God's people have become battered women who cover up their hurt, pain and reality with spiritual cosmetics. We all have wounds and pain, but we cover them up and keep anyone and everyone from seeing the reality of ourselves. In so doing, we have come to appear frighteningly fake and artificial. We become people who nobody wants to approach, because we aren't real. We are artificial, have-it-all-together, battered men and women whom deflect people who could be there to come alongside and help us heal the wounds we are inflicted with.
We have neutered the Gospel when we mask ourselves with spiritual cosmetics. We become a sect of people who deny our pain and wounds, and in so doing become people nobody wants to relate to. Humans know pain and relate to those who can come alongside each other in pain to heal. But we cover up our pain and our wounds, we appear naive. Humans do not desire to relate to anyone who is naive to pain.
The Gospel is one of a God who hurts when we hurt, and weeps over our wounds. We verbally believe a Gospel, which claims a belief in a God who created a people who would operate as a body. When a part of the body is wounded, it (the body) begins to heal. That is the body we were created to be...the body the Gospel rings of, but we neuter the Gospel when we cover our wounds. We don't' expose our wounds for the body to heal. We cover it up with make-up and keep anyone from seeing that the pain is real. When we hide ourselves and our wounds, we hide a Gospel we SAY we believe in. We hide a God we SAY we believe in. We also hide the Gospel and God not only from ourselves, but also from the needy around us.
The best part about artists and non-believers in general is their honesty. Artists are specifically honest as you listen to their music...at least most of them are. You listen and hear the honest struggle within each artist. Those are the sorts of artists I love to listen to; the raw and exposed lyrics of honest writers. This is a quality lost in most Christian music, which is a main reason I don't like it or listen to much of it. These secular artists leave their reputations to the wind and write with ceaseless honesty about what goes on inside themselves.
Christians often lack this kind of honesty. In most cases, our reputation is king. So because of this, every piece of humanity or struggle that leaks out the holes in the mask are shocking and scandalous mostly because we never saw it coming.
As Derek Webb said in an interview, "We are all wrapped up in trying to look like Jesus instead of people who need Jesus."
We are so fearful that people will see us as we really are. I want to live a life where I am not afraid of letting people see me as I really am. Because truth of the matter is I'm NOT like Jesus...I don't look like Jesus...but I DO need him.
Without Jesus, I am absolutely lost and in the dark. Alone, I am a man prone to being lost. I have huge potential for being lost, but honestly I would rather people consistently see my potential lostness...my potential for being alone and broken...I would rather people see all of this instead of a pretty and shiny self-righteousness which I have a whole wardrobe full of to draw upon. I would rather people see my brokenness and potential for straying because if all I ever show them is my righteous and confident garb they're going to be shocked when they find out I really am a ragamuffin, beat up, broken and bedraggled.
That's who I really am, Daddy's little boy who likes to get into everything (especially dirt), who is a little ragged but still looks to his Daddy with phenomenal awe. That's who I really am, and I'd rather people just know that.
"I don't believe in Christianity because there are too many hypocrites." This is an objection to Christianity which I am tired of hearing. Essentially, this statement says that hypocrisy takes away the validity of Christianity. It says, "I will not become a Christian because of the hypocrites. I cannot believe Christianity because of the hypocrisy."
There are two reasons this statement and belief frustrate me;
1) Its true 2) It does not make any sense
First of all, to say Christians are hypocrites is absolutely true. In fact, most people are hypocrites. As long as you present an ideal lifestyle and belief system as the one you are to live to an imperfect humanity, we will always be hypocrites. Ideal lifestyles take work, and you generally have to work through our imperfect realities to make them happen. This means that mistakes will happen. This means that not everyone is prepared to be perfect, but we still more forward.
Second, I get frustrated with hearing the objection to Christianity on the grounds of Christians being hypocrites because it does not make sense. It literally does not make logical sense. In fact, this objection commits a logical fallacy (that of trivial objection); it focuses on the wrong thing. This statement focuses on insignificant things while ignoring the main point. The statement does not make sense, because to hear someone say, "I do not believe Christianity because there are too many hypocrites," needs only one response.
The main point is whether or not a person believes in Jesus. So you could say,
"Could it be possible that Jesus was from Nazareth? Could it be possible that God is a God of phenomenal love? Could it be possible that the cross was real and accomplished what it says it does? Could all of these things be possible EVEN IF Christians are hypocrites?"
Hypocritical Christians do not make Christianity false. Hypocritical and generally sinful Christians do not disprove the cross and what happened there. Sinful Christians do disprove Christianity; in fact, I would go on a limb to say it proves Christianity's gospel even more. This proves that imperfect people are still able to be Christians. That's pretty good news to me.
Spoke with a friend last night who informed me some common friends of ours are splitting up. This was a couple I had really admired. I admired them for their faith and their lifestyle of faith which looked so different and more engaging than most Christians I can recall knowing. My friend and I continued talking about how surprised Christians are to discover things like divorce happen to even them. We are almost blindsided more by the fact it is even POSSIBLE for Christian couples to get to a point where divorce happens.
I began to think further on WHY that is.
I think it has something to do with the fact that Christians forget that they hold themselves to a higher...er...a DIFFERENT moral standard, but that far from makes them morally superior.
There is a common perception among Christians, false though it may be, that becoming a Christian brings them innate morality that exceeds that of non-Christians.
It is for this reason a common frustration non-Christians have with Christians is that "they think they are better than everyone else." We absolutely do!
Now matter how many 'Not Perfect; Just Forgiven' bumper stickers you put on your car, we cannot overlook the fact we have come to be convinced we are innately more moral than those without Christ.
Granted, we are a new creation, but we are not a perfect creation. We are still a new creation living in the same humanity that is prone to temptation, sin, and failure. All the more reason to stand firm in our faith, yes! But all the more reason to remember the commonality of fallen humanity we still share with Christian and non-Christian alike.
All the more reason God's mercy and grace should become more of our presentation.
"These are not easy questions. Who am I? Why am I here? They're not easy questions because the human being isn't wired to function as an individual. We're wired tribally. We are wired to act as part of a group." - Stephen Pressfield [The War of Art]
"What we don't know is how to be alone. We don't know how to be free individuals."
So the question becomes: To what tribe will I connect?
2 opposing tribes are of The Artist and The Fundamentalist
"[The Artist] believes in progress and evolution. His faith is that humankind is advancing."
"[The Fundamentalist] cannot find his way into the future, so he retreats to the past."
"The difference is that while the one looks forward, hoping to create a better world, the other looks backward, seeking to return to a purer world from which he and all have fallen."
In 2010, which tribe do you wish to attribute your identity to?