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So I am not posting much these days because I am taking an intensive course in Hebrew. Believe me it is kicking the sheol out of me. If you’ve taken Hebrew I hope that last sentence gives you a little chuckle. Anyway, when I get more time I want to write a review of Jesus for President.
To those of you who have left comments I want to deal with them in more depth than I can right now. I hope to do so before the weekend is over. I am thankful for your thoughts. That really is the best part about blogging, hearing what others have to say. It blesses me and challenges me and I am so grateful. Shalom.
This post was inspired by two sources, a song by Todd Agnew and a sermon I heard recently. The lyrics to the song are at the bottom of the post. The sermon was calling us to put aside our preconceived ideas about Jesus so that we could see the Truth and Hope that only He can reveal to us. Just like Peter and the other apostles we need put down our swords, that is our wrongheaded notions of who we expect Jesus to be, and take up our crosses, the symbol of our willingness to die to our expectations of the Christ in order to get to know the Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the LIfe.
As the news just came out that California’s supreme court has issued a ruling allowing same-sex marriages, one can only imagine the backlash that will come from groups like Focus on the Family and other conservative Christian groups who fight more for their rights than they seem to do to champion the ultimate cause of love, to be like Jesus.
We often peg Jesus to be some kind of radical social conservative who went around shoving people’s noses in the stink of their own sin while fighting relentlessly for his own rights and the rights of those who thought like him, in order, of course, to keep society as godly as possible prevent civilization as the world knew it from crumbling all around him. At least that is the picture of Jesus I see when I look at individuals and groups who appear to put more energy into reforming society, protecting their rights, and all to forcefully asserting their beliefs, than they put into restoring the church, fighting for the rights of the oppressed, and humbly admitting that they don’t have it all together either.
Others paste together an image of Jesus that had little concern for personal holiness, personal accountability, or truth because he was too focused on fixing social ills like poverty, class systems, racism, and human rights. Folks from the religious left are often just as guilty, albeit not usually in such a noticeable fashion, of portraying a misconstrued Christ; One concerned primarily, or only, with the problems of this present age and having little or no regard for the spiritual life and the age to come.
Now I know that when people look at me they probably form an image in their minds of what Jesus must look like based on my behavior as one who claims to be a follower of this GodMan. They might see a Jesus who is rude, self-serving, arrogant, etc. etc. etc.
I however would like to make the appeal to all of those who follow Christ, to look a little deeper into this Messiah from Nazareth, be more open to the changing power of His Holy Spirit, and be more honest with ourselves and with the world that more often than not, we look very little like the Leader we claim to follow.
Let us take another look at Jesus, then a deeper look at ourselves and find out which Jesus it is that we really want to follow.
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike your Christ. – Gandhi
My Jesus by Todd Agnew
Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world
Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?
Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand
Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?
Who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus were here would you walk right by on the other side
Or fall down and worship at His holy feet
Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered scarred
Or did you miss that part
Sometimes I doubt we’d recognize Him
Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?
Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on his feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
I think He’d prefer Beale ST. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear if I cry out loud
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
Not a poster child for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I’m tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus but I’m not sure what that means to be like
Cause You said to live like You, love like You but then You died for me
Can I be like You Jesus?
I want to be like You Jesus.
I want to be like my Jesus.
So I havent been able to write in a while since we didnt have internet at home and we are getting ready to move overseas. In fact we board the plane in a week. I have been too busy to ponder a lot of the types of things I generally write about, but I have two stories about how God has used me as a prophetic voice, in spite of me.
The first one happened not too long ago. I was laying in bed one night reading the Raggamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning when I felt like God was saying to me that I needed to pray for a preacher at one of the more well known congregations in our fellowship. I started praying and asked why I was praying for this guy. I felt God saying that this preacher was going to face resistance/persecution within in the congregation because he wants to focus on discipleship and outreach, whereas his predicesor faced most of his persecution from people outside of the congregation.
I called and set up an appointment with this minister. As I was on my way to meet with him I was praying again, asking God what I should tell him. I heard God saying that I should tell him the verse Isaiah 7:9 which says “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”
When I got in his office and we started talking I told him about what happened as I was praying and told him the verse. His eyes got big and he said “I read three chapters in scripture, and I read Isaiah 7. The only verse that stuck out to me was verse 9. I have been journaling and meditating on that verse all day.” Then he went on to talk about his uphill battle because of his desire to push discipleship and outreach.
This moment just confirmed for him that he needed to continue to push on and stand firm in his faith in Jesus and the need to disciple and reach out in to the community. Praise God!
The second story happened a few years ago. Some friends and I were moving to Athens, Greece for the summer to work with some different ministries and churches. We were invited to Texas to worship with the congregation that was sponsering us.
I was asked to preach and I really wanted to preach on evangelism/missions. A week or so before we left for Texas I could feel God telling me that I needed to preach on overcomming shame. Of course in my stubborness I fought with God because that wasnt what I wanted to preach about.
Well after a few days of wrestling with God I finally said, “Ok God Im gonna open my bible and whatever I turn to thats what Im going to preach about.” Well of course I turned to a passage about overcomming your shame and moving on with your life.
When we got to Texas I was riding with one of the church leaders and he asked what I was going to talk about. When I told him, he just looked shocked and said that is exactly what our group needs to hear about right now, especially some particular ladies. The next day I was riding with our group leader and I told him about the sermon topic and he pulled over on the side of the road and said thats what he thought about talking about, but felt like God wanted me to do it.
On Saturday night we had a bonfire with some folks from the church and I felt prompted by God to tell them to be ready for things at church the next day like they had never seen.
Well, finally Sunday morning rolled around. I preached the sermon and I didnt feel like it was one of my better ones honestly, but as soon as I got back to my seat I could see God moving. One woman led another woman, in tears, to the front to talk and pray with me. Then I turned around and saw a group of people around another woman who was bawling. I sat back down and another woman came and fell at my feet, sobbing. I got her up and prayed with her and encouraged her as well. I turned and saw some church leaders taking others towards the back to pray with them. By the end of the “invitation” time it seemed like half the church came forward for some time of prayers or encouragement, and that sort of thing doesnt usually happen in our fellowship.
Both of these incredible stories are just a few in a line of many in my life that show how God uses even people like me. People who are rebellious, disobedient, belligerent, rude, arrogant and on and on. God is faithful! Give Him praise!
Recently my wife and I have had an onslought of unexpected financial obligations ranging from our air conditioner breaking down, to unexpected eBay fees, to rasing money for our move overseas, to continued mortgage payments becuase our last offer fell through. My best friend has reminded me several times lately that we serve the God who has a thousand cattle on a thousand hills, or to put into modern day terms, a million dollars in a million banks. So why then do we worry? Also, why do we constantly hear people justify their greed by claiming that there must be rich people to fund God’s Kingdom?
I wonder what most Americans would do with Jesus’ teaching that it is easier for a the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven, if they looked at it from a more global perspective. If you live in America then the odds are that you are one of those rich people. In fact if you have five dollars to your name then you are probably doing better financially than most of the world. Think about that for a second, five dollars. That means if you can buy a latte a Starbucks then you have more expendable wealth than most people have for their net worth.
If that is the case, then that brings me back to my initial question. Why do we worry about money? Is it a lack of faith? Is it because of our greed? Is it because our lives are too complicated and we need to learn to live more simply? I think, for me at least, it is a bit of all three of these. I often doubt God; not that he doesn’t have a thousand cattle on a thousand hills, just if one of those hills or even one of those cattle is in my back yard. I know there are plenty of things that I desire, or at least Satan has led me to believe that I desire, that I have no need of whatsoever, but I often worry about finances because there all of these treasures that I “must have.”
As far as living more simply, it is an idea my wife and I have been discussing a lot lately, both with each other and with good friends of ours. I’m not entirely sure what it will look like, but I truly believe it is what God is calling us to, and it is my understanding that God is probably calling many Christians to. My wife and I both agree that we need to learn to give up a lot of things, live sacrificially, and learn to appreciate the many blessings, both material and otherwise, that we already have. I hope to have the chance to read “TheIrresistible Revolution,” by Shane Claiborne because I hear it provides a lot of insight into this sort of lifestyle. If anyone out there has read it, please let me know what you think.
As far as that goes, I believe we need to live more simply for three reasons. First of all, it should leave fewer obstacles between us and the relationship with God that we desire. Second, it helps our faith when we truly have to look to God for our provision and trust that he is both Jehovah-Jireh and El-Shaddai. Finally, when we live simply it provides more oppurtunity to help others, both with our time and our finances. To paraprhase C.S. Lewis, if you are living at the same standards as people with a similar income then you are not truly living out the call of Christ.
Quickly, the health and wealth gospel preached by Creflow Dollar, Peter Popoff, and plenty of others makes me want to vomit in my mouth. I get particularly pissed off that they try to rationalize their own greed by skewing the sacred texts of the Bible. I mean there is certainly nothing wrong with a person making a great deal of money. My dad has a good friend who told him that one of his goals in life was to make a lot of money so he could give it away. Indeed that is what he has done. He has made many good investments and business deals and in turn been very generous with his wealth while living a simple lifestyle.
I don’t think it is inherently wrong to have nice things either. It is however heresy, as far as I am concerned, to say that God owes us something for our “righteousness,” or that we can manipulate the Creator of the universe, the very one who gave us breath, by saying a certain prayer, giving a certain amount of money, or commiting some other “godly” act. It is interesting to me that this kind of blasphemous nonsense is being preaced primarily in America and other western countries and not in the poorest places on earth. As one preacher said, “this gospel sells in Amercia, but it doesn’t sell in the streets of Calcutta, and if it doesn’t sell the world over, then it isnt the true Gospel.”
So what are you doing with God’s money? More importantly what are you doing with the Gospel of the Risen Christ in your life?
As someone who grew up in a tradition that put such a heavy emphasis on the service of the word I am a strong believer in it being a significant part of corporate worship. To me the component parts of the service of the word would be the reading and teaching of the word, the hearing of the word, and the response to the word. The service of the word is theologically significant because it explains every other part of the worship, it is the story of God and man, and it edifies, convicts and encourages us among other things. Theologically speaking, the service of the word is essentially God speaking to us, His people. I also believe that the service of the word was the biggest part of the early church. From a liturgical standpoint the service of the word is important because it is the “reason” for the rest of the service. It is also important from this point of view to recognize that the word provides context for which we worship and live our lives.
In the tradition that I have been most involved with during my life we always hear a five step plan of salvation that starts with hearing. Well in order for the word to be heard it must logically be spoken. That is what I believe Jesus was saying to the disciples in the great commission when he told them to teach people all that he had commanded. He also told Peter, “Feed my lambs,” which I believe is referencing teaching of the word. That is why it is so vital that in corporate worship settings we are taught the word. We must be read and taught the word first because we have to know that story of Jesus before anything else can happen.
Directly tied with the reading and teaching of the word is hearing the word. We must open up our ears, hearts and minds in order to hear what God is saying to us through His word. If we refuse to hear God’s word then we in reality miss out on the blessings that come from it. For instance if a Christian closes himself off to the word of God and forgets God’s promises then when the hard time comes he has nothing to fall back on because he doesn’t know about God’s great faithfulness.
After someone hears the word they must decide what to do with it. James said we must no be hearers of the word only but that we must do what it says. It is our responsibility to react to the word when we hear it. We can choose to ignore what we have learned or we can choose to put it into practice. After all, James also said that our faith if not accompanied by our deeds is dead. We learn to a large extent what deeds we ought to be doing through the word. We must also study the word ourselves when we hear teaching from it in order to make sure the teaching was correct. The Bereans are counted as more noble because they didn’t just take Paul at his word but studied for themselves to see if what he was saying was true.
The service of the word is so vital because it helps us understand why we worship, who we worship, how we worship, and the results and blessings that come back to us when we worship. Without the word we would be clueless about the God that we adore. What would communion or singing or praying mean without the word? I would argue that they would mean virtually nothing if not paired with the word that explains each one.