Archive for September, 2006

Sep 20 2006

The Church They’ve Always Wanted

Published by under Theology Reloaded

We are doing a series at our church right now entitled, “The Church They’ve Always Wanted.” It’s a study of the book of Titus. There is one phenomenal observation I just realized this morning that has previously escaped me.

There are many people today who talk about doing relevant ministry with cool music, arts, etc. Some talk about the fact that the roots of the Church are artistic and that we must return to those roots. A question: who says that our “historial roots” actually produced disciples back in the day? And our all our videos, music, productions, and arts producing disciples today? Let me say: the book of Titus, as far as we have studied it in church, makes no mention of any of this artistic activity. Most everything Paul instructs Titus to do has to do with life-on-life activity. Just as Jesus spent time with people in the context of real life, so Paul instructs Titus to do the same – so that the gospel would be presented properly (and thus, be attractive to outsiders). It is not the beauty of art that in-and-of-itself produces disciples. The art is only useful to the degree that it produces understanding of Christ! Art for art’s sake is pointless. I’m sure plenty will disagree with me.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with arts, my friends. But when we start believing that without arts, our churches would be sunk, we have abandoned the power of God to change lives and begun relying on ourselves, becoming technocrats that manage church growth and create excitement through eye candy rather than the beauty of Christ. The gospel is simple and it stands on its own. Through the power of God in raising Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to change hearts, we will see growth in the Church. Do our actions prove that we trust God more than ourselves? What if we walked away from the “arts machine” that many churches have become? Would we be considered unfaithful? Probably, but certainly not unfaithful to Christ! Only unfaithful to a system of beliefs that places an unhealthy value on arts.

It’s funny to me that Paul is often cited for this relevant type of ministry. In Athens, he noted their affinity to statues of gods. They even had a statue to an “unnamed god.” It is true…Paul did not condemn their art. But neither did he pick up some clay and create more art. He plainly declared to them the truth about Christ – previously unknown to these people. Paul decoded their art and made it concrete.

My question: what if we stopped doing art in church today? Would you be worried about our effectiveness? If we worry, then our trust is in our art, not in God’s power. Paul knew the gospel has a self-evident power. He didn’t come with wise and persuasive words. He came preaching Christ crucified. When was the last time we put so much energy into the simple preaching of Jesus crucified and resurrected? Maybe the discomfort in some of our lives comes from the fact that all our energy is caught up in art that has little to do with the proclamation of good news, caught up in things that produce very little fruit. Yeah, this blog is too black and white but I don’t feel like being nuanced right now. I just want to know: is it possible that all our Christian activity is more of a hindrance to what God wants to do than a help? Where is our reliance? The art or the Author? It’s only the Author that can make the art powerful. Do we believe that? Or do we create simply because someone told us to? The Spirit will testify in our souls to the liveliness or lifelessness of our work. How do you feel? The Church they’ve always wanted has little to do with art. It has everything to do with our lives. The bible tells me so.

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Sep 06 2006

My Doubt (An Afterword)

Published by under Theology Reloaded

A couple of my extremely good friends expressed heartfelt concern about what I wrote in my last blog (and, of course, some expressed some not-so-nice thoughts). Because of that, I want to write a small item to clarify specifically what I meant.

 

It’s not that I don’t believe God exists or that Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead to pay for our sins. It’s not that I don’t believe on Him for that. If that’s what salvation is (and how it is popularly defined today), then I am saved. But if the proof of salvation is the fruit of the Spirit and a life that is abandoned to Jesus (in actuality, not just saying it), then there are probably lots of us that should be questioning whether or not we are in the faith (which isn’t unbiblical, see 2 Cor. 13:5).

 

Of course, I know some people will start to talk about God’s grace forgiving us for not being perfect. I don’t doubt that. But, why are we so quick to jump on His grace for forgiveness (1 John 1:8-9) rather than His grace and our obedience that it takes for sanctification (Romans 6:1-2)? If we constantly focus on grace as a means of forgiveness, what does that say about how we value sanctification? Grace for forgiveness is precious. However, I would much rather not need to be forgiven for sin after sin. I would rather be actively pursuing sanctification. How many of us can honestly say we are doing that? Or, to be more accurate, how many of our lives prove that we’re seeking sanctification? How does one even actively do that? Undoubtedly, people will say, “Oh, well, I think it happens this way…” That’s just what you think though. How does it actually play out in real life!?!?! If we can answer that question, we are on our way to a new life – I’m convinced of it. The time of thinking we’re on the right road needs to stop. Our lives are a mess. The time of being deceived needs to end.

 

In truth, my friends, there are a lot of things we believe that are not biblical. I am writing some things right now that will explain more. But that may be a few days in the works – it is fairly substantial. I’m spending time with God trying to figure out what is going on in my life and countless scores of others who are utterly disillusioned with the church today – disllusioned that the Body we’re a part of is feeding us knowledge but not information about how to actually grow in relationship with Christ. How do we actually grow in Him? Oh, friends, the wind is blowing and the ship is moving somewhere.

 

For the record, I wanted to say that making accurate observations about people in the church (e.g. lack of fruit, devotion to self over Christ) and lamenting that in myself does not mean I am being deceived by Satan. It means I am seeing things clearly. I’m either right or wrong in my observations. If I’m right, we need to figure out what’s wrong for everyone. If we’re so big about saying that the Christian faith is about community, then it’s time we acted like it. If I’m wrong, show me where. It’s time that we stop theoretically observing things from Scripture and put them in to practice. I don’t know how to do that, but feel the Spirit is partially the answer. Not making excuses is another.

 

If all this alienates me from some people, so be it. Unity in the Body shouldn’t be kept when parts of that Body are being unfaithful to Jesus, causing other parts of the Body to suffer. Paul had no problems laying down the law. If I have to be one to call us out, I’m comfortable with that. To agree with me in principle and not be compelled to do something in practice is near the pinnacle of hypocrisy and unfaithfulness to Christ. Unfortunately, this is the modus operandi of many in the church today. Assent to doctrine without conformity of lifestyle; pursuit of knowledge over a pursuit of a true, organic relationship with the living God. Such behavior ruins Jesus’ name on this earth. It is a mistake to pursue knowledge as a means to know about God (which is what many in the church do today). True wisdom makes itself known to the extent that it brings us into God – with a living, breathing, day-to-day, minute-to-minute, organic, beautiful realtionship with Him through the Son.

 

I’ve got much more to say, but that will come later. For those of you who are really walking this road with me, you are dear to me. I pray right now that the Lord gives us the day to seek His face and worship Him together. Call out to Him from Your soul! He is waiting for us to talk to Him even now! As always, I’m looking for people to walk this journey with. Your friendship and encouragement is welcomed. Like the Word, faith is living and active, not dead and private. May He break through all the junk! I know He will do it!

 

corruption (n) : 3. perversion of integrity.

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Sep 04 2006

Frightened of Death (aka Doubting Thomas)

Published by under Life,Music

Yesterday was not a good day. I was driving up to church. All of a sudden, I was gripped by fear. I say gripped BY fear because it seemed like fear was actually holding me – like it was personal. “What happens if I die right now?” I thought. Where would I go? Heaven or hell? A troubling question, huh? Someone like me being scared by it. I grabbed the steering wheel with both hands, ready for any potential tragedy that might drive my way and threaten my existence. I was absolutey terrified. It’s not as though I never think of dying. I do every single day. But yesterday was a much deeper introspection – perhaps there can be no deeper?

I immediately knew there was only one reason to be scared. I am really not as confident in Jesus as I might seem. Consider. If there was 25% chance you were going to get paid this week, you might be scared. Why? Because it’ not a guarantee. You don’t know whether it’s going to happen. That’s how I feel about salvation right now. Part of me wonders about Christ. Most of me wonders whether I’m actually saved. What fruit exists in my life? If the fruit of the Spirit is the scorecard of life, I am the loser.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t like most people. After looking up the definition of “hate,” I can say that I hate lots of people. Not my friends, but most everyone else. But caring about my friends means nothing to the Lord. Sinners love other sinners they’re close to. There’s nothing special about that. I bear almost no mark of Christ in my life.

I ride a fence which seems almost illogical. A deep desire to love God more and love other people more, but a deep feeling of wondering if it’s all true. Am I really going to a place called heaven when I die because of my faith in what Jesus has done? Have I really placed my faith in Him? And I wonder if anyone else thinks about dying. Have you ever really thought about it? Does it scare you? Am I the only one? I’ll leave this with the lyrics to a song that are just exactly where I am. It is Nickel Creek’s “Doubting Thomas”…

what will be left when i’ve drawn my last breath?
besides the folks i’ve met and the folks who know me
will i discover a soul-saving love?
or just the dirt above and below me?

i’m a doubting thomas
i took a promise
but i do not feel safe
oh me of little faith

sometimes i pray for a slap in the face
then i beg to be spared ’cause i’m a coward
if there’s a Master of Death i’ll bet He’s holding His breath
as i show the blind and tell the deaf about His power
i’m a doubting thomas
i can’t keep my promises
’cause i don’t know what’s safe
oh me of little faith

can i be used to help others find truth?
when i’m scared i’ll find proof that it’s a lie
can i be led down a trail dropping bread crumbs
that prove i’m not ready to die?

please give me time to decipher the signs
please forgive me for time that i’ve wasted

i’m a doubting thomas,
i’ll take your promise,
though i know nothin’s safe,
oh me of little faith

Oh andrew of little faith.

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