Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christian Mythology: 30. Worship – Myth: There’s a war going on

Let’s bring back ancient worship. But before we do, we’ll have to make a few changes in our church buildings. You see, there’s simply not enough room. Even the largest mega-churches haven’t the space for ancient worship. We’ll either need a new floor plan or a new church building to do this. There is one other low-cost alternative. But we’ll get to that later.

As we’re still in the Christmas season, this picture of ancient worship should be quite familiar to us. The magi entered into the home of Joseph. There they saw young Jesus with Mary His mother. The kingmakers “fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrhh.”

Before we proceed any further, picture this scene firmly in your mind. You know what worship is. You do this every week in church. It might look a little different from church to church, Christian to Christian, but basically we all know that Biblical worship looks like any one of at least ten things. I just read about them in a book. Worship can be things like singing praise choruses or hymns to God, reading the Bible, praying, tithing, taking communion, or laying on hands. All across America we do these things weekly and call them worship.

Now pick your favorite one, the one that means most to you, the one that touches you deeply, the one experience you enjoy the most. Go back to the story above and in place of the word “worshipped” insert your favorite. Let’s try a few.

When the wise men saw Jesus, they sang Him a song.

When the wise men saw Jesus, they took communion.

When the wise men saw Jesus, they had a Bible study.

None of these make sense do they? Maybe it’s the wrong story. Could it be a bad example? Let’s fast-forward and try again with a different story. This time Jesus is in the wilderness, tempted by Satan. The devil took Jesus to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and all their glory. He said, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Let’s try the substitution test again.

Jesus, I’ll give you the world if you will just pay me a tithe.

Jesus, I’ll give you the world if you will just lay your hands on me.

Jesus, I’ll give you the world if you will just pray this little prayer to me.

Still doesn’t work. Of course the problem must be the new kind of worship that Jesus told us about when He spoke to the Samaritan woman. Let’s go there and get this thing right.

Jesus said, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

This time, instead of taking the substitution test, we’ll try something different. You already know the outcome of the former. Look at the phrase “for the Father seeketh such”. God seeks people to worship Him. He seeks those who will worship in a specific way. Why is He seeking? Has He found you worshipping Him in spirit and in truth? What spirit and what truth?

True worshippers are filled with the Holy Spirit. This is not a function of place or time. Worship is not limited to Sunday at 11 am. Worship begins from a pure, sinless heart. That was one of Jesus’ points to the woman at the well. I am here to wash you from your sins.

True worshippers know the truth about worship. They know there is only one way to do it. They know that ancient worship is the same today as it has been throughout the ages. Worship is Spirit-filled, humble kneeling or prostration before our holy God. Remember the Indiana Jones movie where he seeks the Holy Grail? He must pass some tests before entering the grail’s hiding place. Each test is a clue. The first clue is “Only the penitent man shall see God.” At the last moment, Indie realizes that the penitent man is humble before God and must kneel. He bows just as the booby-trap blade whizzes over his head, missing by centimeters.

Ancient worship is simple. Jesus gave us nothing new. He simply reiterated what has been of old. Those who worship God will come to Him as King and Lord. Is there any other way to come before our Creator than in complete humility on our knees or face? No. And sadly, there is no room in most of our churches to do this. The good news is, you may come and worship God any time you like. You may boldly enter His presence through the blood of Jesus. That is the beauty of holiness.

From ancient worship springs all of life for it brings us into one relationship to our Father.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christian Mythology: 29. World View – Myth: Christians need to have a Christ-centered world view

Google the title of my book “Christian Mythology” and you get these top ten hits:

1. Wikipedia
2. Christian Mythology & History “The Christian myth is still very much alive in the world. The chapters on this website will detail the basics of the Christian religion and explore its ...”
3. The Pagan Origins of Christian Mythology “The Judeo-Christian religions were founded in a region of the world where savior religions existed for thousands of years.”
4. POCM Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth
5. Christian Mythology “A myth is a story with 'deep explanatory or symbolic significance', and Christian myth is therefore a story that explains or symbolises Christian beliefs.”
6. Christian Mythology: Adam and Eve
7. Christian Mythology – God, Jesus, John, Jewish, World, and Religion “As it evolved, Christian mythology was able indirectly to incorporate various aspects of Middle Eastern and Greek mythology…”
8. Apostle Ministry “Apostle Edward provides God's case against the organized Christian Church and its orthodox doctrines, which teach against God's Holy Word.
9. God is for Suckers “Blog Archive”
10. The Christian Mythology Unveiled in a Series of Lectures

The transaction took 0.18 seconds and returned approximately 362,000 results. I stopped looking after page 20 realizing that every entry except #8 above was negative. In other words, most writers using the term “Christian Mythology” take the position that our beliefs/religion are a hoax. While I am not familiar with the Apostle Edward’s ministry, I read the introduction to his work and know that he was on the same path as me.

We Christians are our own worst enemy. We created our own myths. We created them and perpetuated them. While millions claim to believe them, many of them are false. They are myths. The world laughs at them. The church fights back against flesh and blood. But a few daring souls in the Body willingly question the validity of these beliefs. We openly challenge them. We boldly call them false lies when exposed as such.

Some in the organized church do not want to believe these myths exist. If they do exist, certainly they exist in somebody else’s denomination but not mine. God has a lot to say to these fools.

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of . And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you….” II Peter 2:1-3a

Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:15, Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24, and Mark 13:22 that false prophets and false Christs shall arise and deceive many.

Jesus spoke seven parables in Matthew 13 describing the kingdom of heaven which we know as the church age today. It is filled with tares (sinners and unbelievers), leaven (sin), wicked, and demonic people (fowls in the mustard tree). Just as the church organization of religion is responsible for creating its myths, so the Church Body is responsible for adhering to the Truth, Jesus Christ.

Quite frankly I have no interest in changing or initiating a worldview for Jesus. My purpose is not to eradicate the myths of organized religion or dispel the false teachings of the churches. The sole purpose that God is after is to wake up His saints to be who He created and saved them to be. The paramount purpose is for us to worship God our creator and savior.

That is where the greatest mythological worldview exists – worship. More on that in the final chapter tomorrow.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christian Mythology: 28. The Last Days – Myth: We’re getting better

Just about every day this year a dear friend posts a message on Facebook. It is the same message reminding us that 482 Christians will die as martyrs that day. Today’s message brings the total to “175930 believers who died this year because they claimed Jesus Christ the Lord of heaven and earth as their Savior!” Most if not all of these men, women, and children, do not live in the United States.

One reason we do not suffer religious persecution in our land is because of our Constitutional freedom of religion. We do not live in a theocracy where people of faiths other than that of the state fear for their lives. Nevertheless, there are Christians in our land who do claim they are persecuted. Some of the culprits over the years include:

Removal of the Ten Commandments from public buildings
Removal of prayer from public schools
Removal of nativity scenes from government sites
Removal of the name “Christ” from Christmas and replacement with an “X”
Removal of the word “Christmas” from public school concerts and replacement with the word “Winter”

I wonder if these are the things that get our brethren in trouble in persecuted lands like China, Iraq, Iran, India, and Vietnam? I wonder if the 482 will die because they insisted on building a nativity scene in front of the town hall of Papua New Guinea? I wonder how many Christian schoolchildren in Myanmar will die today because they drew a cross in crayon on their book cover?

Somehow I think our view of persecution in this country is a bit skewed. We do not realize that the 482 will die simply because they are Christians who are unwilling to renounce, forsake, or disassociate themselves from Jesus Christ. Many of them have no church membership, no affinity to a particular denomination, or any outward symbol or garb to which they affix themselves. They simply don’t exist. No, these folks have a passionate, real, unwavering relationship with Jesus Christ. He is their savior and Lord. They do not fear death because they have already passed from death to life in Him. They know they will live forever with Him in glory as resurrected saints. What happens to them in this life is of no thought or consequence to them as long as what is happening includes their faithful witness and discipleship of God’s gospel.

They are willing to die for the Way and the Truth and the Life which only Jesus gives. There is nothing manmade about it.

The Christian mythology which we fight so hard for in this country does not bring persecution because we fight for the maintenance of our idols. When we turn and fight for the truth, then perhaps we will experience the joy of suffering with our 482 brothers and sisters.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christian Mythology: 27. Speaking – Myth: Man no longer receives divine inspiration

Why do so many Christians believe in a silent God? The standard answer to "How does God 'speak' to us today?" is typically fourfold: from the Bible of course, through other believers, through circumstances, and through prayer.

Let's look just at that last one. How does God speak to us through prayer? By a show of hands please, how many believe God actually speaks to us in prayer? Okay. How many believe this is just a figure of speech? God is really silent on His end of prayer. If there are any replies, they must line up with Scripture, AND, they certainly won't be unique and personal. After all, we don't want to get mystical. Our God is not some New Age god who speaks audibly and interacts personally with us.

Really? What Word of God are you familiar with?

At Antioch, God said this out loud, "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."

When Paul spent three years in the desert learning from Jesus, he says, "that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Paul received out loud first person instruction from our risen Lord.

God says, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."

Jesus says, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."

Here is where we get mystical. Earlier this year I went to a Christian Writer's conference. The speaker shared about her son's demise into horrible sin. He finally ended up in jail and she refused this time to bail him out. "I don't want you back until you are that person God made you long ago." She kept a picture of him on her mirror. It was a picture of that former man before the scars of sin took their toll on his face and body. She prayed that vision to God.

She said to us that this is a perfectly acceptable way to pray and ask. Visioning. Oh yeah, it's not New Age. They got it from us!

It's the same thing with God speaking out loud, in person, and interactive with us. He says He will. You just read it in black and white. Do you believe it? Well, maybe you heard about it happening with other kinds of Christians. But it simply wouldn't be acceptable in your church. Certainly not normal. Why not? Do you talk to your children or parents every day? Why can't God do the same?

We claim a personal relationship to Jesus Christ yet how impersonal we are to keep Him at such length that we refuse to hear Him or spend time in His presence.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christian Mythology: 26. Confession – Myth: It’s good for the soul

Well I spilled some of my soul yesterday. That may bother some folks. I was not specific about what sins and what things destroyed my mind. But not much imagination is required to figure it out. Sometimes brutal honesty is the best way to get across a point. I know that some of my readers can identify with my past. They need to know that God is good. He is merciful. His lovingkindness has no bounds. But He does have limits. Thankfully, whether we get to heaven at a ripe old age, or we get there too soon because God reached His limit, we still cannot be taken from His hand. He will not forsake us. We cannot lose our salvation.

Jesus spent a lot of time with guys like me. He understood and experienced rejection by the very people we would expect to love and accept us. He visited the homes of sinners. He ate with outcasts. He touched people who had highly contagious diseases. He healed people that the rest of us would have given up on long ago. He called men to Himself that the religious world called ignorant and unlearned. When He was born, the second-most unclean men of all visited Him in the manger. Imagine filthy shepherds trying to get into a modern maternity ward.

Folks like us don't get much better as life goes on. Paul described himself and the other apostles as the "offscouring" and "filth" of the world. Chuck Swindoll elaborated on these terms using the familiar picture of the kitchen sink after the dishes were washed. We are all the crud and scraps caught in the trap.

When we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. When we repent, purged with hyssop, and made whiter than snow, our lowly estate does not change. We need to stay humble and keep Swindoll's picture in mind and heart. This we do despite the fact that in Jesus we are clean and sin-free. That is nothing to boast about in ourselves. Our boasting, yea, our confession, is in the cross. Amen.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christian Mythology: 25. The Mind – Myth: Man has separate inherent abilities from what God gives the Christian

Jesus says, “Without me you can do nothing.” I believe this black and white statement at face value because I am a living example.

I have three college degrees. The bachelor’s degree is a joke. It was bestowed on a man whose mind was blown with the wicked wares of the world. After four years and a diploma it was time to find a job. A recruiter from IBM asked me, “Are you good?” He knew it was a thinly veiled sarcastic question as he glanced at my sparse resume and below average GPA. I left the interview ashamed but aware of God’s wakeup call. Part of the answer was to go to graduate school. Further shame piled on when certain college department heads looked at me and my record. “You want to go to graduate school? You’ve got to be kidding, right?” Indeed, there was very little left of my brain and God was chipping away at what little was left of my pride.

I went to graduate school. But first I enrolled in God’s school of transformation by mind renewal. I studied hard. I took notes. I paid attention. I went to class clean and sober. I did the things necessary to be a great student, things I had never done before in my life. But more than these, I spent significantly more time with Jesus. At one pastor’s advice, I started reading a Proverb a day according to the calendar (31 Proverbs – 31-ish days in a month). I did this because I knew my mind was shot and I needed knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. I wanted the kind that could not be taken away nor prevented by the current state of my gray matter. Thirty years later I still read a Proverb a day.

I also prayed without ceasing. Before tests, quizzes, homework, or class, I said, “God, help me to remember and to apply and to derive the right answers.” God was very faithful. I earned my Master’s degree. A few years later I earned a Bible degree.

Every day I am in the process of learning and doing the impossible through Jesus. He transformed me by the renewing of my mind. I can take no credit for this whatsoever. In my former state I should have ended up on a steam vent out on the streets. But God is merciful. I put no trust in my own abilities or thoughts. Yes the temptations are still there and I still sin. The impact is always sudden and painful. I wish I could paint a picture for you of Nothing. “Without me you can do nothing.” Nothing is a void. It is utter darkness. There is no sound, no sight, no thought. Nothing is as good as dead. It is a deep, dreamless sleep.

It’s a frightening place to be when God makes you aware of it. That’s good motive to get out. God says the way out is to awake unto righteousness and sin not. That righteousness is Jesus. He alone wakes us up. Have you been roused from your sleep of sin? Have you enrolled in God’s school of transformation? What does your “nothing” feel like?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christian Mythology: 24. Tolerance – Myth: There is an age of accountability

I gave my children a lesson in planned obsolescence the other day. They each have an iTouch and enjoy playing games on them. My youngest son is autistic. I think other autistic people invented these electronic games. The repetitive music (tones really, hardly music) and actions naturally appeal to the autistic mind. He locks into playing for hours and hours if we let him. Once the whole family is home from school or work and gathered around the dinner table, the games stop for the day. No more tinny tones and sounds of electronic whizzing bullets and explosions. It’s family time. I like to take advantage of this moment at the table for a lesson.

Although he is autistic, my son can still get bored with the games he has. Another trait of some autistic kids is their uncanny brilliance. My son defeats most games quickly and easily. Therefore he thinks he needs a new challenge. The rest of us are just thankful for a few minutes of quiet relief. But soon his boredom turns to whining. “I need a new game. Can somebody give me seven dollars so I can buy a new game?” Sometimes he actually asks for my credit card to buy a new game online.

Instead of giving in, I asked him if he knew what planned obsolescence is. He’s eleven years old. He has no idea of course. I explained that these games were meant to be defeated. That way you will want to buy another. And another. And another.

I showed him in the Bible how such temptation works. I explained why this marketing formula is so powerful. I hoped he understood. He stopped asking for a new game at least.

But do we understand this principle that Satan uses to market his temptations to us? Do we understand that temptation has no age limit? Though a child may not understand the process described in Proverbs 27:20 and 30:15, an adult is equally susceptible. Though our temptations may be different at these ages, the process is still the same. The outcome is also the same. Death. God describes the inevitable in James 1:13-15. Temptation does not discriminate between young and old.

Praise God therefore that Jesus was tempted in all things common to mankind. Yet He was without sin. He is our way of escape. We do that by coming boldly to His throne of grace. Are you tempted? Run to the throne. Did you succumb and sin? Run to the throne. Will you repent? Run to the throne. There alone is the grace we need in Jesus for freedom, forgiveness, and mercy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christian Mythology 23. Health – Myth: God wants Christians to enjoy good health

I was twenty-six when I had my first heart attack. This was one of God’s many wakeup calls to me.

Jesus healed an infirm man at the pool of Bethesda. Later that Sabbath day, Jesus met the man again in the temple. Jesus said to him, “Behold, thou are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.”

Jesus spoke a similar warning in Luke 11:26, “Then goeth he (an evil spirit), and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

That heart attack was my worse state with seven more wicked spirits. I did not heed that call and therefore had a second heart attack a year later.

Christians who do not heed Jesus’ warning to “sin no more” are fools. My sister died around the same time I had the second attack. She was a Christian who would not stop sinning. That was another wakeup call to me. No one was safe. God took her home because He would not allow any more dishonor to His Name. Sometimes he gets to that point. His lovingkindness and mercy never end. But He does have limits.

Dr. Adrian Rogers of Love Worth Finding said something like this about praying for the sick:

“Why should I pray for God to heal this person? They’ll just go back to serving Satan in sin.”

He also said this about our prayers in general regarding the health of saints, “We spend more time praying to keep saints out of heaven than we do to keep sinners out of hell.”

What a thing to say about a saint! Shocking. But true. We need to think about these things. Before we concern ourselves with good heath, great wealth, and overwhelming blessings from God, we need to turn to His point of view. Is there any sin in my life? Am I right with the Lord?

I bear more physical scars in my body because of sin. These are not the marks of the Lord Jesus that Paul spoke of. Oh that I had more of those instead. Mine are scars of shame. Praise God He has spared me, awakened me, and chosen me still as a vessel of honor.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christian Mythology: 22. Sin – Myth: Christians are free from the power and penalty of sin

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) Thus begins the story of the incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He came to earth as one of us but He lacked one thing. The absence of a sin nature (and by extension, the commission of any sin) set Him apart from the rest of us. Imagine what a unique person Jesus was while growing up. No rebellion. No selfish crying, "Mine! Mine! Mine!" Instead, He Who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

That is why Jesus came. That is why God sent Him. This is our atonement, our redemption. The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and embellished the meaning of Isaiah's prophecy. "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

The war over Christmas really wearies me. Keep Christ in Christmas. No more X-mas. Jesus is the reason for the season.

No. Jesus is the reason we are free from sin. While there is great cause to rejoice in this reality, it just seems like the focus is all wrong this time of year. Consider Hebrews 10:12, "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God." Jesus' death happened once. His atonement happened once. His blood redemption happened once. Likewise His birth happened once. None of these things happen annually. There is no more sacrifice for sin. There is no second savior on the way.

We would do well to brood on the blood remembering in the way God commands in I Corinthians 11. We would do well to increase the frequency of our obedience here and greatly decrease our debates about the meaning of Christmas. The birth of Jesus was a one-time historical event which ushered in the very turning upside down of our world. We cannot deny the significance of the event. But its very meaning, God's purpose, was all about sin. We see very little of that today in our celebrations. We tend to emphasize the giving.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.... Our Father gave Jesus in this way "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin," The incarnation of Jesus Christ is about nothing more than His certain death. This should bring us to tears. Instead the world flips the switch and exchanges the light of a pagan tree for the Light of the world.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christian Mythology: 21. God – Myth: God loves everybody and has a wonderful plan for their lives

A half truth is no truth at all. This myth is all about balance. God loves. God also hates. We love God because He first loved us. Sinners hate God. But what about Christians? What is their attitude towards God when they sin? The answer I came up with may shock you as much as it did me.

“No God! Surely not I!” I cried. I knew I had unconfessed sin in my life. The surface consequences are well known. Unconfessed sin is unforgiven sin and we are unclean and unrighteous. That may be tough enough to swallow. Many Christians will enter denial right there with the “I’m under grace” argument. When Paul asks the rhetorical question, “What? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” he specifically addresses grace and grace alone. Of course God’s grace is immediately present. But grace has nothing to do with unforgiven, unrighteous, and unclean. Rather, God’s grace and goodness leads us to repentance where Jesus forgives and cleanses us.

Sin left unrepented of leads to reprobation. This is a seared conscience. Think of searing as in cooking. Searing is meant to be a quick method of sealing in those wonderful juices of a steak before continuing to cook it the rest of the way. But if you don’t take the steak off the searing heat, eventually the steak will burn. Eventually that burning will leave behind nothing but ash. That ash is good for nothing but the garbage can.

Sin starts that way too. Left alone for too long and fostered and fed, the flames of sin will burn our consciences beyond repair. They become reprobate. This has nothing to do with salvation. It has everything to do with the glory of God and our usefulness in His kingdom.

Sin need go no further than the first instance for something far more horrifying to occur. Something most of us would not like to admit. Before I tell you what it is, think about this. God says that if we sin in one part of the law, we are guilty of all. Now put all that guilt of yours upon Jesus and multiply it by the billions of people in the world. That is the magnitude of sins Jesus saved us from. That is how much His blood covered and washed away.

When we sin after salvation, we trample on that blood. We are wicked. And here’s the killer that really got to me. We despise the Lord. Despise is a powerful word. It means to hate in the deepest way.

“No not me Lord. That’s for sinners, the lost, the unbelievers. Not me!” we cry. Yes, sin knows no bounds. It affects us all the same.

I discovered this truth in an exhausting word study. There was just no way around it. Find the word “despise” and it will be tied to believers. How great is His love and grace. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid! Imagine the grief of God over this, inferior only to His superior grace. Is it any wonder that the warnings of Hebrews 10 are not all instant judgment instead as we trample underfoot the blood of Jesus when we sin? Sometimes, we end up reprobate. Sometimes we end up dead.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christian Mythology: 20. Dominion – Myth: Mankind no longer has dominion over the earth

When all those animals were on the ark, why wasn’t there a huge carnivorous brawl? Did God put all those predators to sleep? Was the food chain somehow put on hold for all those months? Did Noah and his family live in constant fear of being eaten? Were they worried that some of the animals wouldn’t make it out alive and they’d get in big trouble for letting some species become extinct? Did God set them up for some impossible expedition?

No. Noah accomplished all he did with the animals because he had dominion. He simply obeyed God’s command from Genesis 1:26 to exercise dominion over the animal kingdom.

So what happened between the flood and now? If we tried the ark thing we would definitely be eaten alive. Wouldn’t we?

I watched an amazing video recently. A woman found a young lion injured and dying. She nursed it back to health. When the beast became too large to keep around the house, she gave it to a zoo. Years later, she came to visit. She walked right up to the bars to say hello. Frightened onlookers watched as the full-grown male lion leapt to the bars, thrust his paws through, fully embraced the woman, pulling her firmly against the bars in a vice grip, and began to gently muzzle her, kiss her, and lick her. He remembered her. She remembered him. It was nothing more than a happy reunion.

A friend told me about an amazing journey he took to the Caribbean a few years ago. He and his wife wanted to take an off-the-beaten-path scuba diving adventure. A local islander told them where to go and who to ask for. They found a certain old man at his grass hut. He agreed to take the couple out. But they had to agree to never go where he would take them alone nor tell anyone where they had been. They agreed to the strange request.

When they arrived at the beautiful blue open ocean spot, my friend put on his mask. He peered over the side of the shallow boat just far enough so the mask glass was below water. He saw nothing. He was suspicious because of the open ocean location. It was deep water. He expected a coral lagoon. He was worried that this guy had some sinister motive for taking him and his wife all the way out to this remote location.

Then the old man motioned for them to watch. He spoke not a word. He slowly dipped his hand into the glassy blue water. Instantly, as if materializing from nothing, thousands of tropical fish appeared. The water became a snorkeler’s paradise, a dream come true. The old man got into the water first while the couple sat in the boat dumbfounded. He motioned for them to get in and follow.

“Would you like to feed the giant rays?” he asked. They just nodded, still mesmerized by the rainbow of small tropical fish around them. Suddenly the sun seemed to disappear above them as the giant rays glided in over them. The little fish made way as in royal deference. The threesome came up for air.

The the old man asked, “Would you like to feed the sharks too?” Although the trust was gaining, the couple were a little freaked out by this. They swam a little closer to the boat and waited. The rays glided away and the sharks lazily swam into view. They came right to the old man. He reached out and gently patted each one on the head. They completely encircled him. There was no escape if they decided to chomp on him instead of the chum he offered them.

On the ride back to the island, the old man told his story. He told the same story to those few fortunate vacationers who find him. He told it to the Discovery Channel. Now the world knows about this old man of the sea who has dominion over all the creatures of the deep.

Like Steve Irwin and the other folks we love to watch on TV, the people in these stories have learned how to reawaken the gift of dominion given to us by God. There is no reason except fear which keeps any of us from doing the same. If you watch “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” series currently running, you’ll see that the former VP contender and her native Alaskan family also use this wonderful gift. It’s a real treat to watch.

I enjoy it even more when I’m outdoors. If you prefer to wait, there will come a day when God will change things around a bit in the animal kingdom. During the Millenial Reign, Isaiah prophesied that the food chain will be turned upside down, perhaps horizontal. Lions will eat straw like the ox. The cow and the bear shall feed together. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb. Now here’s the best part for us. “…(A) little child shall lead them.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christian Mythology: 19. Israel – Myth: The Church has replaced Israel and is the new recipient of God’s promises

Last Friday afternoon a friend loaned a book to me. I read Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol over the weekend. What a pleasure to have nothing better to do than curl up with a good book by the fire for an entire weekend. The action in the book takes place over the span of a mere ten hours. I think I read at about the same pace. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Right away I can hear the Christians crying out, “Heretic!” That all started with Brown’s first book in the series, The DaVinci Code. Remember folks, this stuff is fiction. What is non-fiction the author clearly points out in the foreword. Even then, to some readers the lines are blurred. Hence the caution, or should I say, encouragement, to read with an open mind.

In some cases you don’t need to read to see the truth. Much of the book’s action takes place inside the U. S. Capitol building in Washington, D. C.. I took my family there during the Christmas holidays last year. The new visitor’s center opened recently so we took a fantastic tour of this iconic building. The inside of the dome is just as Brown describes it. There at the top is the apotheosis of George Washington. Surrounding him on the catwalk perimeter are thirteen statues of various mythological gods and goddesses. I highlighted this to my children and asked them to reconcile a statement that we hear far too often today.

If this country was founded on Christian principles by Christian fathers, then why did they make such prolific use of what appears to be non-Christian (aka pagan) symbology? The capitol building is not alone in this enigma. The adjoining Library of Congress also contains a great deal of secular and pagan symbolism in statue, written, and architectural form. How strange it must seem to have all this surrounding one of the last surviving Guttenberg Bibles (prominently displayed in the left-central wing before the grand staircase).

If you look at all this with an open mind you have to ask yourself just how Christian this all is. This is itself a trick question because we all have a very subjective definition of “Christian”. Usually, without thinking or little basis in research or fact, to us as individuals, “Christian” means “just like me.”

Expand this thinking a little bit and you can see how some Christians extrapolated it to mean that all Christians are just like us in the U. S. A.. This dangerous approach partly created a myth believed by many that America replaced Israel as God’s holy land, our Christians for God’s chosen people. The blatant absence of Jewish symbology in our capitol’s architecture is no objective proof of this viewpoint. Instead, it may point to a very fleshy pride we take in ourselves and our country. (I am in no way discounting the tremendous blessings and freedoms we enjoy in our land. They were bought with the price of brave men and women who gave their lives for our future. I am not so sure that the blood of Jesus Christ has anything to do with it.)

Dan Brown brings this all to light towards the end of the book where he quote heavily from Biblical texts. Unfortunately, his theology is a bit skewed at the end. Nevertheless, without being a spoiler for those who have not read the work, I will emphasize again his point to read with an open mind. For instance, with a bit of change in perspective, the reader easily understands the transformations that Brown wants us to believe - that is, that man can become god (apotheosis). Brown does a great job of using ancient language to his advantage until the very end when he expects us to allow the English word “atonement” to stand on its own. He is not the first (I have heard many preachers use this example) of breaking the word into parts “at-one-ment” to describe our relationship to God in ourselves becoming like Him as gods.

That’s where he missed the entire point of atonement. A better study on His part could have perhaps revealed the at-one-ment that God desires for us all. Jesus prayed for it in John 17. Read it carefully, particularly when you see the word “one”. What do you see?

In Genesis, we lost our “at-one-ment” with God when we became like Him. We became as gods knowing good and evil. We were already created in His image. That’s not the god-like trait in question here. Along with that knowledge we also took upon our race the sin nature. That nature split us apart from God, severing our “one” relationship. The blood atonement of Jesus Christ redeemed us back into that “one” relationship with our Father.

The ultimate purpose of this work is to restore Israel back into the sheepfold of Jehovah. Fellow partakers of this Gospel reside in America and throughout the world. God bestows His blessing on a people, not a place.

Christian Mythology: 18. The Law – Myth: Christians don’t have to keep the Old Testament Law

Romans 6, 7, and 8 can be very confusing. To achieve some level of emotional and spiritual comfort, Christians latch on to certain verses and make them foundational, personal theology. Here’s an example:

Romans 7:25 – “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”

Compare that verse with Romans 6:14-15 – “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”

Which verse are you most familiar with? Most likely the latter with an emphasis on, “I’m not under the law. I’m under grace.” Which verse are you most comfortable with? Anything to do with grace is most likely.

Which verse is most confusing? Most likely the first one. Why? I suggest because this word is meat not milk. It is hard. All three chapters are hard. But I also suggest that a fundamental understanding of them is required for any Christian to be truly free in Jesus.

The law is good and holy and necessary in the life of the Christian. Romans 7:7 – “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

Paul speaks to Christians here. He speaks to himself. He speaks in the context of the church age, the New Testament, and to Gentiles. He says that the Jewish law is necessary in their lives. It is not necessary to be under it. It is necessary to respond to it.

If you approach a STOP sign, you do not stop your car because you are under the law. The law is good and for your good. It protects you. It prevents problems. In the event you disobey however, the law on the sign accuses you when the police report cites failure to STOP as the cause of the accident. If you didn’t know before, you certainly know now. STOP means you, now, here, or else.

Sadly, people treat God’s laws as bad things. We accuse God of keeping good things from us. We look at His list of do’s and don’ts and demand freedom. We fail to see the freedom that already exists in the law.

I have very few rules in my house for my children. The law I cite most frequently is, “Don’t lie” or “Tell the truth.” Every so often one of my children will accuse me of being too restrictive. “You don’t let me do anything!” On the contrary. I leave them to do as they please most of the time. What they please to do usually falls within the bounds of my rules and God’s laws. Therefore, nothing needs to be said. No correction is necessary. Until the transgression occurs or the law is given with which they are not familiar, there is no knowledge of the law.

Many men through the ages took delight in the law. Paul, David, and Jesus delight in the law of God and allow its good purpose in their lives.

Paul said, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.”

David said, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

Jesus said (prophetically in Psalm 40:8), “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, they law is within my heart.”

Knowledge of the law is a good thing. For without it we would do as our sin nature directs us to do. All the while our hearts would deceive us and tell us that what we do is acceptable to God. Therefore the law keeps us on a straight and narrow path. God’s grace provides the way through Jesus, the power through His Holy Spirit, and the knowledge through His Word.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christian Mythology: 17. Holidays – Myth: Of course we should celebrate all Christian holidays

The chapter titles in this book should cause you to think before you read on. I carefully selected the words to accomplish two things. First, the words seem completely normal and accepted language. Yet the provoking word “myth” precedes every chapter heading. Why? To achieve the second purpose of breaking apart, if just a little bit, the stronghold of belief.

If Christmas is anything, to many the word “believe” sums it up. Of course the battle rages between the Santa and sacred camps to believe in him or Him. That’s not what this myth is about. But first I backtrack a bit to the title again.

Focus on the words celebrate, Christian, and holidays. Last two first. There are no Christian holidays. You will not find them in the Bible. Beyond the historical fact of one-time occurrence, what we call holidays like Christmas and Easter, they are nothing more. God never sanctioned them as annual memorials, milestones of remembrance, or repeatable acts. Their historical and spiritual importance stand on the fact of God’s great work and grace. The only New Testament event which God endorses as memorial, milestone, and repeatable is the Lord’s Supper. Why didn’t we make that into a holiday?

There are very specific reasons why certain events became holidays. I won’t go into them here. I’ll leave that to scholars like Frank Viola and his book “Pagan Christianity”. Let’s go back to the title word “celebrate”. This is one of those contemporary buzzwords in church. Stick it with words like “awesome, like, and ya know.” It’s just as grating. We do things like celebrate the death of a saint (their homegoing); we celebrate the Lord’s death and future coming at communion; we celebrate the birth of our Savior; we celebrate all things Biblical if we can find sufficient reason and funds.

A certain organization proposes to build a theme park which will celebrate the great flood. They want to build a life-size ark, parade the animals in two-by-two every day, and have actors mix with the crowd, giving visitors an interactive experience beyond compare.

I’ll say. If the experience remains at all true to the Bible, no one will walk out of the park alive. When the flood came, every living thing outside the ark perished. Yet we are expected to celebrate this judgment of God? Meanwhile, the sacred camp sees the happy bluebirds singing, the beautiful rainbow, the animals leaving the ark three-by-three. PTL! Another great opportunity to share the gospel with the world. Millions will be saved.

We feel the same way about Christmas and Easter. Put on a big show to attract the C&E crowd. This may be our only chance to witness to them. Why do we think this way? Why? Why can’t we witness to them the other 364 days of the year? What are we doing that is so important that we are willing to let dead souls lie until the next big celebration event? Why do we think God needs any help creating a spectacular event to attract sinners to Jesus? To me, nothing is greater than seeing a person come to Jesus alone, broken, repentant, and in the end, alive.

Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” I say, “Give me Jesus and put all else to death.” Jesus doesn’t want celebrations and shows. He wants sinners, broken people, shattered lives, evil men and women without hope.

There is only one celebration I look forward to. One day, Jesus will host His wedding feast. I’ll be there. I don’t expect any actors there. Jesus said they will be cast out. He can tell them by their outfits. They will have no wedding garments on. I don’t expect any fireworks or lights there. Jesus will be there in all His glory to light the great hall. I don’t expect any rehearsed script. Jesus will complete that which was written from eternity – the marriage supper of the Lamb and finally, the creation of the new heaven and new earth. I hope somebody doesn’t try to build one of those in Orlando.

Christian Mythology: 14. Satan – Myth: Sin is Satan’s fault in the Christian’s life

I recently discovered a trait of Satan which I am sure he did not want me to know about. For years I knew that Satan is a single being. His power is limited. Unlike God, he is not all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. Therefore, I concluded, particularly on the third count, that Satan could not be responsible for so much that we attribute to him. If he is off bothering one Christian somewhere, he cannot be in two places at once. Hence, he can’t be bothering me while at the same time bothering you. Therefore, whatever is going on, the cause cannot likely be Satanic in origin. The cause must be of the flesh.

While I still hold strongly to that belief, this discovery about Satan has set it back a bit. As I studied God’s Word about Satan, something about my belief just didn’t hold up. For instance, God wrote Ephesians 6:11 to a wide audience, not to an individual or in the singular case. “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” This is true of many verses about Satan and his interaction with Christians. Since our theology about his limited powers still stands, I had to ask myself why God wrote these verses to a broad audience instead of singular.

The only thing I can conclude is that Satan has one power which enables him to bother Christians seemingly all at the same time. He has the power of speed. This gets into the spirit realm. This is a realm which we know little about today. Philip experienced it at least once when he was caught up in the Spirit and found himself out in the desert alongside the Ethiopian eunuch. Some folks compare this translation to “beaming up” from Star Trek. Just as God can use spiritual means to nearly instantaneously transport our physical bodies across great distances us, so can Satan use this method. I suspect the angels and demons can also do this.

Therefore the warning to us to be sober and vigilant takes on all the more gravity. For our adversary, the devil, is nearby and in an instant can be closer than we desire. We must keep our spiritual armor on all the time.

The “good” news for some Christians is that if they remain asleep in sin, they need not worry about any visits from Satan. They do his work for him without need of further assistance.

But when a Christian wakes up or senses the pricking of the Holy Spirit to repent, I believe both Satan and the flesh will rear up to resist. This is a power we need to learn to recognize. This is the battle in the spiritual realm that we fight. It is not a battle of the flesh. We have no power over the dead man of the flesh. Our victory is only in Jesus and His death. To live sin-free and awake unto righteousness here on earth we must continually do battle in the heavenly places with Jesus’ blood-washed linens beneath our armor.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christian Mythology: 16. Missionaries – Myth: Only Certain Christians are Called

Every year at the missionary conference at church I hear the same message. "Everyone is a missionary." True. True. True. So why are most people still in the pew year after year? There are two possible reasons. On the positive side, some folks fulfill God's "missionary" purpose in their lives right where they are. They know God's will, they know and use their spiritual gifts, and they actively apply those gifts in prayerful pursuit of witnessing and making disciples. On the negative side, life is just the opposite. These folks have no idea of God's kingdom purpose. They don't know God's specific will for their lives. They have no idea what their spiritual gifts are. So naturally they are not engaged in the prayerful pursuit of witnessing and making disciples.

Why not?

Well, some are not Christians. Therefore they cannot know.

Others are Christians asleep in sin. Their ears are dull. Their eyes are dim. Their hearts are hard.

God saved me in October of 1980. I was awake for a few months. The aftermath of the witnesses wore off and soon I was back to my old ways. I had no discipler. Nobody taught me the Word of God. Sometime around 1985 the Word of God woke me up again. The goodness of God led me to repentance and the blood of Jesus was still sufficient to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Then, Jesus became my teacher. Alone. In the desert of life He taught me then just as He teaches me now through the power and illumination of the Holy Spirit. I spent the years between 1980 and 1985 asleep, dull, dim, and hard. It still happens as I work out my salvation with fear and trembling. For the last ten years, I spend more and more time with Jesus, awake unto righteousness, and full of the joy of His salvation.

This is the missionary message we are called to take to the world. It is found in I Corinthians 15:1-5. This is the Gospel. Tell people about the death of Jesus as the price for sin.

This is the missionary message we are called to take to Christians asleep in sin. It is found in I Corinthians 15:34. This is also the Gospel. The death of Jesus is still sufficient a price for your sin. Wake up and sin not.

Only the Christian awake receives the teachings of the Word. Only those who sin not present themselves as holy and acceptable living sacrifices to God. Upon leaving the altar, they alone know God's will. They alone are filled with the Holy Spirit. They alone have His power to use His gifts.

It took me nearly twenty-five years to learn that, actively engage in my responsibility to work it out, and resolutely utilize His gifts to accomplish His missionary purpose through me. Do I wish I knew this stuff long ago? Yes. God is merciful and taught me now to use me now for His glory now. He will do the same for you.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christian Mythology: 15. Spiritual Gifts – Myth: Certain spiritual gifts are no longer given to Christians

A few months ago our new senior pastor arrived. During the search and candidate period, another pastor requested prayer for these activities. We petitioned God to raise up the right man for the job.

I suggested to the pastor that we open up the petition to include other gifted members of the body. The pastoral gift is just one of many which complete the Bride. We also need the prophets, the mercies, the healers, teachers, and all the rest.

Why do we need so many special people? Gods says we need them “…for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” so that ultimately “maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

This process works best with a fully-equipped body. Missing parts (gifted members) makes the process slow and difficult. Sometimes it is roadblocked because of the overemphasis placed upon the role of the pastor. Sometimes this is compounded because of the lack of emphasis on the need for the other gifted members.

Find out what your gift is and stir it up. Use it continuously for the glory of God in this present kingdom.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christian Mythology: 13. Music – Myth: Good worship music is a matter of personal preference

God saved me in October 1980. All things Christian were completely new to me. Although I grew up in a Presbyterian church, this new life in Jesus introduced me to a lot of different things. I grew up in the north. I attended college in the deep south. That’s where God saved me. That’s where I learned a lot about the cultural style of southern Christianity versus what I was used to up north. I also learned a lot about other styles of Christianity by listening to Christian radio WLFJ.

The early 80’s brought on a new style of music called contemporary Christian. This moniker set apart this brand of music from the traditional hymns. Down south at that time there were two kinds of music at church: hymns and southern gospel. From my experience, hymns were sung in the conservative Baptist churches; southern gospel was set apart for the black churches and the Pentecostals. Soon after the war started about this new contemporary Christian music, the name changed to scale down the conflict. We called these new tunes “choruses”. Today, opponents call them “7-11” songs: seven words sung eleven times. Choruses were sung by the independent churches and increasingly at the conservative churches too, but only during the evening service.

The worship war camps established firm turf and they have remained entrenched ever since. Many church divisions and broken lives lay in the wasteland between. Many Christians have fallen asleep because of this war. It is a war created by Satan and Christians are fighting it for him. Why do I attribute this war to Satan? Because it is wrought with confusion. Satan is the author of confusion. Chaos reigns in the churches where this war is fought. This need not be so.

The primary issue of confusion centers around two points. First, the belief that music is a form of worship is a myth. Second, the belief that any music we make, whether hymns or choruses, is worthy of our use to praise God.

Music is the combination of words and notes played by voice and/or instruments. The words we use to praise God are supremely important. Years ago a senior pastor taught a Sunday School class about the history of our favorite Christian hymns. He pointed out that quite often the doctrine of some of those hymns was either questionable or flat out unbiblical. He warned us to be careful therefore that we never adopt our theology from the hymns. Only the Word of God can be trusted for truth.

I took his advice to heart and paid close attention to those hymns. I stopped singing the ones that were false. No matter how precious, traditional, or beautiful they sounded, they stopped passing my lips. If the words were false, I would not sing them to my Father.

After a short time, hymns left my church for a while. We went 100% chorus. I applied the same warning to these songs and soon stopped singing them too. I was left with nothing to sing. This struck me as a shame because I knew that God loved music and praise. As the church split over the hymn versus chorus war, I discovered the obvious.

God wrote 150 wonderful songs of praise, contemplation, and thanksgiving. He calls them the Psalms. Sometime around 2006 I discovered that some churches actually use the Psalms as their music. The words were put to music and became the Psalter. My delight lasted for a little while until I found out that even this wonderful work has a hidden war. There are different Psalters depending on which camp you are in. I can only imagine the grief of God as He sees how we bastardize His holy Word like this. Currently I am searching for the most ancient versions of the Psalms. I have queried many Jewish sources for their music and words. No success yet.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that the Psalms are the sure path to musical praise of our God. We can be sure that the words are true and pleasing to Him. All that is left is to settle the score with folks who prefer one Psalter translation to another. This is similar to the Bible wars with the King James camp versus everybody else. In an earlier post I pointed out the foolishness of this. Most of us have no idea what we are really fighting about and how these battles arose. I urge you to read a book by Frank Viola called Pagan Christianity. Like my former senior pastor, Mr. Viola points out the errors made in our Bible translations and then warns us to carefully heed the scholarly work of the Greek and Hebrew translators. He uncovered the great difference between the language and context of the original texts and the language and cultural context applied to the Word 1600 years later by King James.

I will leave you with God’s point of view on this. Do not add to His Word or He will reprove us and find us liars. (Proverbs 30:6) Do not take away from His Word or He will take away our names from the Book of Life. (Revelation 22:19)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christian Mythology: 12. Denominations – Myth: It doesn’t matter what church you go to

How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t have to go to church to worship God. God is everywhere. And besides, wherever two or three are gathered together in His name, there He is in the midst.” Taken independently, these three statements are true. In context, they are false. Even pastors use the last phrase incorrectly, applying it indiscriminately to any situation where Christians gather for whatever purpose (usually prayer).

This verse comes from Matthew 18. Its primary context is discipline (often called church discipline). Its greater context in the chapter is Jesus’ teaching about humility in the kingdom. The meaning we attach to this verse is usually man-centered and proud. We think that all we have to do is get a few Christians together and Jesus will show up. We think the same way about Sunday church. God is nowhere around and not to be found until 11am when all the Christians show up. Then “Poof!” there He is in the midst of us. Choose any church, any denomination, and God is at our service. Some pastors still call the church “the house of God”. This is also an error.

For New Testament believers, the “house of God” is within. God says our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Ghost. Jesus’ preincarnate name is Emmanuel – God with(in) us.

We don’t go to church or synagogue anymore to meet with God. He is no longer behind the veil. We are the Church Body of Jesus Christ. As one with God through Him, we go together and we are one everywhere we go. God is not tagging along waiting for a congregational gathering. He has made Himself one with us again through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Does it matter what church we go to? Not a bit. It matters that we are the Church and that at all costs we maintain our one relationship to God. This brings glory to our Father any day of the week, any time of day whether you are alone or gathered with the Body in fellowship.

This brings us to one other point of issue. Some people say, “If you tell us to stop going to church then you disobey Scripture which tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” Let’s take a look at that verse and see if this is a fair and true statement. This verse is part of a very long sentence beginning in verse 19 of Hebrews 10. I alluded to it a moment ago. “Having therefore , brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus….” God goes on to list three things to do in response “let us draw near…let us hold fast…and let us consider….” Since the word “therefore” precedes all this, we must understand what the therefore is there for. That provides the context of the passage. The context is not a commandment for regular church attendance.

The context is all about redemption and atonement for sin by Jesus. His blood sacrifice bought our way forever into adopted membership of His Body, His Church, as His Bride. Following the verse in question, God warns us of the consequences of trodding under foot the Son of God and counting His blood an unholy thing. We don’t do this by not showing up on Sunday. We do this by breaking our one relationship with God when we sin.

Going to church won’t stop you from sinning. The power of Jesus’ atoning blood alone enables us to go and sin no more. We die to sin as we die daily with Him. He died once, but we must continually reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin. The problem is, as Oswald Chambers says, we refuse to go to our own funerals. So many of us were genuinely saved but quickly fell asleep in sin once again and have remained so for so long that we no longer know the difference between our former lives as sinners and our pathetic church-going lives as so-called Christians. Stop going to church and trodding on Jesus.

If you must, get together with two or three brothers and sisters in Christ who love you enough to lead you to repentance in tears and humility. Restore the joy of your salvation. Jesus indeed will be there in the midst.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christian Mythology: 11. The Daily Christian Life – Myth: Christians can do whatever they want to

Long ago when I was still super-charged about going to church, my schedule looked something like this:

Sunday morning, Sunday night, Tuesday night Bible study, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Friday night AWANA

Man I was busy. I was also fast asleep. Going to church did not save me from sin. Neither did it keep me from sinning. Going to churchy activities and events did not put me to sin-sleep. I don't blame the organizational church for that. Sin is my own fault. I have an old-man sin nature.

I still go to church. It's more like showing up for me though. All the organizational activities and events remain much the same. It's me that has changed. As long as I am awake, I am the Church Body of Christ. I am the Bride of Jesus. As such, there are a bunch of things that I do continuously. That schedule looks something like this (continuously):

pray, be one with God, witness, make disciples, use my spiritual gifts, keep the commandments, love God with all my soul, strength, and mind

This is a picture of the Bride/Church faithfully watching and waiting for the return of Jesus our Bridegroom. We have no business being about any other business. I remember a quote from long ago, "Love God and do as you please." Think about that. We know that if we follow Jesus, we will please God. Are we being the Church right now, forsaking all, taking up our cross, and following Him?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christian Mythology: 10. Prayer – Myth: God hears everyone’s prayers all the time

Most of us learn to pray by example. As children, "Now I lay me..." is probably familiar. As adults, "Let's pray about it," is the usual preface. Neither phrase is Biblical. We pray for a lot of things we have no business praying for. Much of it is personal responsibility. Why pray for something that God has already empowered us, gifted us, and willed us to do? Why ask for help? This is just a demonstration of unbelief.

God says, "Repent." He even gives us the gift though His goodness to do so. Why then ask God to help us repent? This only shows our unwillingness and maybe withholding of something God has asked us to give up.

Dr. Adrian Rogers of Love Worth Finding asked, "Why should I pray for some Christian's health when all they'll do is run back out and serve the devil?" He goes on to say, "We spend more time praying to keep Christians out of heaven than we do sinners out of hell." Sometimes our priorities get all screwed up. There is a time to pray for health. There is a time to intercede on someones behalf for repentance. There is a time to pray without ceasing.

The key to all aspects of pray goes back to our one relationship to God. Keep that right and everything else works right too. Let sin in and immediately either our prayers go silent or they fall on God's deaf ears. Don't pray for God to give you victory over sin. He already did. Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. It is finished. There is our victory at Calvary once and for all. Prayer without ceasing works seamlessly with our one relationship to God.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christian Mythology: 9. Idolatry – Myth: 9. The idols of the Bible aren’t around anymore

If we don't see the golden calves, the Ashdarods, and the other idols of the Old Testament around anymore, then what's left? Sometimes when God speaks in parables the plain truth glares as well. Look at Psalm 115:8 and Psalm 135:18 - "They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them." Compare this with Genesis 3:22 - "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us...." What is the connection?

When the sin nature came upon us through Adam, we became gods. With the knowledge of good and evil came the will do live, think, and believe as we see fit. We no longer desire or need God for what we believe we can do for ourselves. In effect, we became idols to ourselves. We are like the things we create in expression of our idolatry. The effects are devastating.

Examine Isaiah 6:9-10. This short passage is reiterated three times in the New Testament in Matthew 13:13-15, Mark 4:11-12, and Acts 28:26-27. Jesus spoke in parables but sometimes the truth glared right in our eyes. We can't see because our eyes became blind to anyone or anything but our SELVES. Sometimes the truth rang right in our ears. We can't hear because our ears became deaf to anyone or anything but our SELVES.

We are the idols. We have been around since day six of the beginning.

We don't need to be cured of the idols of our hands. They are deaf, dumb, and blind. We are living souls, created in the image of God. He desires to put our god-self-idols to death through the death of Jesus Christ. That is the only way we can become one with God again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christian Mythology: 8. Hell – Myth: Hell won’t be so bad

Preachers give way too much credit to hell. I hear things like this all the time:

“When you ___ for God, all the power of hell will come against you to stop you.”

“Satan will use all the power in hell to ____.”

True, Satan himself is extremely powerful. But hell? No. Hell is just a place. It is a terrible place created for Satan and his demon angels.

Satan does not use hell as a weapon. Sometimes preachers use hell as a weapon. In addition to the examples above, they use hell to scare people into heaven. That doesn’t work. That’s not the gospel.

Satan does not reside in hell. Right now he spends time between earth and heaven. He is no longer the beautiful Lucifer angel of light. He no longer reflects the glory of God. But he still has access to the throneroom of God. He is still under the supreme control and authority of God.

Satan knows what hell is. He knows why it is there. But he won’t go until he is cast there in chains for a millennium. God tells us in Isaiah 14 that Satan was cast down to earth. He is here now spreading lies. Sadly, he is allowed to use the church, preachers, and false teachers to spread lies about himself and hell. He is the father of lies. He is a murderer.

All humans are conceived in sin. As soon as the sperm and egg unite, a sin nature is part of that very first cell. From that moment, all humans are condemned to hell. Apart from the saving grace of God through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ, hell is guaranteed. We are completely oblivious to this until God quickens us to life. We spend our entire lives unaware that hell awaits us at death. In our own power, effort, or wisdom, there is no escaping this reality. It is the certain future of everyone apart from God.

Most folks have a pretty good idea of what hell is. Fire, brimstone, smoke, pain, and punishment are the main ingredients. They mistakenly believe that is all future. No need to worry about it now. It’s probably a myth anyway. What folks don’t know is the true reality of hell. It begins with the planting of the sin nature at conception.

The sin nature separates us from God. We have no knowledge of Him as Abba Father. We have not His indwelling Holy Spirit. We have not the blood of His Son applied to save us from our sin nature. We remain unaware of this separation until one of two events happens. Either we die and wind up right in hell or God quickens us to life through the cross of Jesus Christ.

We suffer the consequences of this separation every day of our earthly lives. God uses this power to draw us to Himself. He does not desire that anyone perish. But He will not tolerate sin in His holy presence. He won’t take us to heaven when we die just because He loves us.

Hell has no power to bring somebody to salvation. Nor does hell have any power to prevent the will of God. It is powerless to thwart the works of Christians. The power of hell is its created purpose to eternally punish sinners. They will forever know that they are separated from God. They will know it did not need to be that way. Jesus died to save us from our sin. Amen.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christian Mythology: 7. Heaven – Myth: Heaven is a wonderful place

Whether at funerals, church gatherings, or personal conversations, Christians express such a longing for heaven. Rather than focus on some of the negatives of the present heaven such as:

Satan still goes there sometimes;
There is still knowledge of pain, sorrow, hell, and travail on earth there, and;
It will be destroyed one day:

I want to show you something so wonderful that very few Christians experience yet is available to every brother and sister in Christ.

Paul described an event in 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 where he spent some time in heaven. I won’t take this out of context and tell you that the circumstances which led to this will happen to all of us. I pray that they would! Rather, I want to take you to the throne of God in heaven by the way Jesus provided to each of us.

This is a very logical thing yet very real. Think about these things:

God is in heaven right now. Jesus is seated at His Father’s right hand.
When Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn in two.
By Jesus’ blood we have bold access to the holy of holies (God’s presence).
When we pray, we are literally in the presence of God.
Therefore, when we are in the presence of God, we are in heaven.

Well how does that work? Clearly we are planted firmly here on earth in our mortal bodies. Yes we are. But our spirits are in heaven right now and always.

When God saved us, He quickened our spirits and took them to heaven (“that where I am there you may be also”). He left behind His indwelling Holy Spirit within each of us. This is the Spirit to spirit connection which makes prayer possible and direct to our Father.

So you see, we can go to heaven anytime we want to. We don’t have to wait for our mortal bodies to die. We only have to die to self, maintain that vital spiritual relationship to God, and thus enable prayer without ceasing. We can spend as much time in heaven as we desire.

Now you can understand why Paul said some of the things he did in the passage above:

“…whether in the body…or out of the body, I cannot tell”

“caught up into paradise”

“of such a one I will glory (Jesus)”

Christian Mythology: 4. Judgment – Myth: Christians don’t have to face judgment

Oops. Sorry I went out of order. I accidentally deleted this entry a few days ago.

Judgment happens all the time in God’s kingdom. Most of it is criticism. The problem is we don’t know how to properly wield discernment. Nobody likes to get criticized. We try to soften the blow by delivering “constructive” criticism. I don’t know about you, but this kind hurts too. I also know that when the Holy Spirit judges me, this hurts more than anything. We need to get used to the pain when it comes from God.

Like dying to self daily (or as often as necessary), we also persevere under the judgment of God. These things are for our good and His glory. They are utterly good and necessary for the Christian. Yet they can be either impossible or simple to do.

If the Spirit is prompting you about some sin in your life then the following things are true:

The sin is present and therefore so are its consequences.
The old man of the flesh is alive.
The Holy Spirit is quenched and grieved.
The judgment of God or the mercy of God is imminent. We don’t get to pick.

Regardless, the action required on our part remains the same. We need mercy. We deserve judgment. To obtain mercy and avoid judgment quickly we must repent.
This is impossible as long as we don’t feel like it. That’s usually what happens to me. I just don’t feel like it. The consequences of judgment aren’t too bad (yet) so I can put up with it for a while. I’m perfectly satisfied to wrestle with flesh and blood (my own) instead of waging warfare in the heavenlies. Satan is quite happy for me to stay this way. It keeps me out of his way.

Some Christians say God does not judge His children at all. I don’t want a Father like that. I want a Daddy Who loves me and does what is necessary on His part to bring me back into loving fellowship with Him – even if it hurts.

It is simple to get back to that state when the flesh and blood wrestling stops and we humble ourselves before God in repentance and forsaking of sin. Immediately we do, the judgment stops, the prompting of the Holy Spirit stops, the pain stops, and the joy begins anew.

This is the message we need to give one another when God provides discernment about a brother or sister who is in sin. He does not give discernment so we may criticize, give opinions, or provide solutions. He does it so we may intercede by bringing the blood of Jesus upon the situation. Let the pressure of God’s Spirit increase so that sin may decrease (to zero!).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

6. Good Works – Myth: Christians need to get right to work after salvation

My wife and teenage son went to a local restaurant for lunch yesterday. Their waiter was a teenager, probably the same age as my son. Each step of the meal seemed to have a built-in delay. First they waited to be seated in an empty restaurant. Then they waited to get menus. They already knew what they wanted and were ready to order. Instead, the waiter walked away. Ten minutes later he came back with waters. When the meals finally arrived a half hour later the fries were soggy cold, the burgers congealing globs of fat. Dessert was late too, tiny dollops of ice cream no longer frozen but sloppy puddles with fudge swirls and a cherry sunk in the middle. By this time my wife and son would be late for an afternoon appointment. My wife asked the waiter to bring the check with the dessert so things could hurry along. He failed to bring it until another fifteen minutes expired. Rather than pay him directly, my wife took the check to the front cashier. The station was unmanned until who but the waiter appears to ring her up. He meekly apologized for the delay.

I remember my first job as a teen working at fast-food restaurant. I had no idea what to do. The manager was so busy trying to maintain order in the chaos of the grand opening that he had no time to train me or any of the other teens running the store. He didn’t last long as the manager. I didn’t last long as a burger flipper.

I suspect the poor kid at the restaurant experienced the same thing.

The same thing happens when we put newborn Christians to work in God’s kingdom. As they interact with the world and the church, mistakes, delays, and other bad experiences transpire. Experience is not a good teacher. Disciple-makers are God’s commanded teachers.

A newborn is helpless in the kingdom except for one thing. They have an overflowing exhuberance of joy in their salvation. Let them use that to the utmost in witnessing to the power and person of Jesus. They are perfectly suited for that job. But teaching Sunday School? Discipling other believers? Going to the mission field? No. They are not ready. No matter how many degrees they have, what church they grew up in, who their friends are. Newborns need one thing – to satisfy their natural desire to grow on the milk of God’s Word. They need to spend time with Jesus.

A fine-dining experience is extremely satisfying and refreshing. There is no reason a few simple techniques cannot be taught even to teenagers working counter service. But time, teaching, and some travail are necessary in order to produce workers fit for God’s kingdom service. Jesus is our headmaster. He commands us to make disciples. At the same time, we should be under the discipleship of someone else for the duration of our lives.

The worst that can happen is the wreckage of lives we leave behind. My wife and son certainly won’t return to that restaurant soon. Sometimes we get only one chance to sow seed. Let’s make sure the field is ready, the plow is straight, and the seed is pure.

5. Righteousness – Myth: Christians are still sinners after salvation

About twenty years ago a newborn Christian couple, friends of mine, asked me to teach them how to study the Bible. Since the Bible they owned “only” had the Old and New Testaments, I showed them mine. It also had a concordance, dictionary, and some maps.

“Here’s what you really need to study the Bible,” I said. I took them to familiar passages and then homed in on keywords to look up in Greek or Hebrew. Somewhere around “alpha/aleph” my friends fell asleep. No more Bible lessons from me.

Michael Spencer described a similar event in his book, Mere Churchianity. God save a young woman in Spencer’s church. He struggled with how to disciple her. He could set her up with some ministry groups, send her to a women’s Bible study, introduce her to the prayer partners, or all the above and more that we commonly do in church. Instead, he gave her a Bible and told her to go away by herself and read it. He encouraged her to spend time with Jesus and get to know Him.

A while ago I asked friends on Facebook what would happen to their Christian lives if they had no Bible. Most stated that life would become very bad. I wonder why. I have friends in the Chinese mission field. They consistently report that the Chinese have very few Bibles. They may have but a page. Yet they are the most vibrant Christians. No one can deny that these saints know Jesus and spend a lot of time with Him. Like the apostles in Acts who were just ignorant and unlearned fishermen, the rulers could not deny that they had been with Jesus.

Jesus spent a lot of time with sinners. After He saved some of them, He still spent time with them. But something else amazing happened after their salvation. Jesus called them friends. He called them saints. Never again did He call them sinners.

We need to spend a lot less time going to church and a lot more time being with Jesus. He is all our righteousness every moment of every day. Abide in Him.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christian Mythology: 3. Jesus – Myth: He saved us from hell to take us to heaven

Why does God save us?

Kaoru Ishikawa was a Japanese master of the quality sciences. He has a particular measurement tool named after him - the Ishikawa Diagram. This simple seven-legged diagram helps us to determine the root cause of a problem or process. It answers the question "Why?" Sometimes folks augment this diagram with another simple tool called the "Five Whys". To figure out why something happened (at the root), one asks the question "Why?" to each response. Usually after five rounds, the root cause surfaces.

For instance, parents use this question often when a child misbehaves. "Why did you do that?" A childlike answer usually follows. As Christians, we all should know that the root cause of all bad behavior is our sin nature. This could logically lead us to a conclusion about how to fix the bad behavior of our children. Get them saved and God will fix them up.

Is that why God saves us? To make us better people? You take a look around and answer that question for yourself. Granted, Jesus indeed saves some folks from their wicked ways. Deliverance from drugs, alcohol, anger, and such is quite common. But these are all effects of salvation. They are not the why.

Many people preach about heaven and hell. Scare children enough with talk about hell and every hand will go up at the salvation invitation. Is that why God saves us? To keep us from hell? While it is true that we escape that certain condemnation, it is nonetheless an effect of salvation.

On the other hand, folks hung up on the "God is love" thing are delighted to go forward at the invitation. Of course they want to go to heaven. Who doesn't? But is our heavenly destiny why God saved us? No. It is an effect.

All these things are wonderful effects of salvation. They are all certain. But they are not the answer to why God saved us. Take a careful look at them again. Notice who the effect is on for each one. Us. What about God? While God is glorified in these effects, the focus is nonetheless on us. What's in it for God?

That is what leads us to the answer of why He saves. That is what leads us to the power of preaching. That is what points us to the single thing which should dominate our minds, speech, and actions. That is the cross of Jesus Christ.

God saves us because Jesus died and shed all His blood. That is what saves us from our sin nature. That is what delivers us from our sins. Nothing but the blood from Calvary.

All other preaching is vain, man-centered, and dangerously leading hearers to no salvation at all. We must learn not to confuse a cleaned-up man with a blood-washed man. The former washes himself in filthy rags while the latter wears the spotless white linens of righteousness in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christian Mythology: 2. Salvation – Myth: Salvation comes in many ways and many times

Think about this accusation against Christianity. It comes from the Muslim world. Don't discount it now that you know the source. Christians have the Bible. Muslims have the Koran. All around the world the Bible may be found translated into hundreds, perhaps thousands of different languages. In the middle East, the Koran may be found in only one language, its original language, Arabic. True, you may find the Koran in other languages. But this accusation comes from those faithful, let's say radical, followers of Islam. (Don't get stuck on that word "radical" either. This isn't the media's radical. Think more along the lines of David Platt's book by the same name.)

The faithful, radical Muslim's number one issue with Christianity is the fact that we have made the holy Word of God impure by adopting all these translations. Along the way, we have lost its meaning. They consider this defilement. Even among their own, those who do not use the original text are considered lesser.

I suppose it would be difficult to find anyone who could speak and understand the original languages of the Bible (ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic). I have a Greek friend at work and even he has a hard time with the ancient Greek language. I have asked him for help on translating a few times without success.

While I don't necessarily agree with the accusation, there is a point to it. Americans, it seems, find it easy to superimpose their own words and interpretations upon the Word of God. We substitute experience for reality. We tell a story instead of relying upon the power of God. Nowhere is this more evident than in salvation.

There is a great danger in adding to or taking away from God's Word. Hellfire is one of those dangers. When we tell sinners to "ask Jesus into your heart", or "pray the sinner's prayer", we take the very lives of these hell-certain people into our own hands. Salvation comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. These phrases are not the Word of God. They are not real. They are a death sentence. We fall asleep when we do not rightly divide the Word of God. We ensure the permanent sleep of the sinner when we do not use God's Word aright.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christian Mythology: Church – Myth: Church is for everybody, saved and unsaved

I realize this book will provoke some readers. It will also provoke thought in others. Thinking is required here because the things you read about are subtle. Sin is usually just that way. If it were blatant, surely Christians would jump right on it and do something about it. But you will see over these next thirty days that much of what you thought was normal at church is not God's desire, intention, or design. You can decide for yourselves whether you believe sin is involved. However, I will say this: where you find subtlety and confusion, there you will also find temptation. Sin is never far behind.

Most American churches practice an open door policy. Sinners are welcome. How do you feel about that? If you, a righteous Christian, go to church to worship God, how is that experience affected by the presence of evil? Pay very close attention to the words now.

You know what the world often says about going to church. "I won't go there. I wouldn't want to be a Christian. After all, they're just a bunch of hypocrites."

Have you ever been to church where everybody is all dressed up? The women in their Sunday finest of skirt, blouse, and hat? The men in suit, shirt, and tie? Even the children look their best. This is not uncommon. Until a street person walks in. Dirty, unwashed, soiled clothing, reeking of the world. How do you react? Are they welcome in your church? Jesus welcomed them to Himself.

God told us that His kingdom is a mix of wheat and tares, sheep and goats, saved and unsaved. That is surely a picture of the world today. But it is not a picture of the Church Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a difference between the church organization that we all know and the Church Body of our Lord Jesus Christ known by but a few.

Church organizations put on big shows and hope the world will show up to hear a message. The Body of Jesus goes into the world with just the Gospel and begs God's Spirit will quicken the dead to new life in Jesus.

Church organizations welcome everybody to worship. The Church Body worships God in spirit and truth, dressed in the beauty of holiness. Sin and sinners are not welcome. Neither a Christian in sin nor a sinner dead in sin can worship God. There is no holiness in sin. Sin departs a Christian through God's gift of repentance which draws on the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Christian Mythology - Introduction

For the next thirty-one days, I will post some extras about each chapter of my newly completed manuscript "Christian Mythology". This book began about 8-10 years ago when God woke me up. That's a phrase you don't hear much in church or Christian circles. It is a Biblical term. It applies to Christians who God wakes up from sin sleep. No big sin really. Nothing drastic or worthy of the tabloids. My life was quite like any other, normal in fact. I was just like most every other Christian. So why would I suspect that anything was wrong?

Well, apparently, a lot of Christians do think something is wrong. They just don't know what it is or why it is happening. But the result of their feelings and attitudes is a max exodus from churches across America. Christians are on the move either out of church altogether or church-hopping with greater frequency. This is all according to a Pew poll published about a year ago.

I believe the root cause of all this is sin. I knew it was true in my life. I knew it was true in the lives of two other men who were faithful brothers in the Lord. We went through the wakeup process together. Sin was at the root of it all.

God woke me up the day I read Ephesians 5:25-27. I have read this passage many times in my 25 years as a Christian. But this time for some reason the power of God was behind it and He said, "Wake up." I realized I am the Bride. I realized Jesus is coming soon. I realized I was not pure, spotless, and blameless. I realized I did not want Him to find me that way. I realized I was no better than the day Jesus saved me.

Suddenly God poured out His Word upon me in great teaching, conviction, and cleansing. I wrote it all down. I shared it with my friends. I prayed through it. I watched God produce tremendous fruit from it in our lives together. At the same time however, I became even more discouraged with church. I still felt like one of those who wanted to leave altogether or find another one.

I looked around for a while. Finally my wife convinced me that I would not find what I was looking for. There is no perfect church. This is true. Then I realized something else. I really wasn't looking for a perfect church. What I want is a perfect Church Body. I wanted Jesus and the people He has awakened. Together, we function to worship Him, witness in His Name, and make disciples who follow Him.

That's all the good stuff I wrote about in the sequel "The Remnant". All the hard stuff is in this first book "Christian Mythology". It's all about the stuff in church that we teach and believe that is false, unbiblical, and puts us to sleep. If you find that hard to believe, then read the New Testament again. The harshest words of Jesus started against the religious institutions. His words of warning at the end of the Bible were against the church - Repent!

For the next thirty days I want to encourage you to come here daily. You will find out the meaning of "stop going to church and start being the Church Body." I pray along the way that if you are in sin sleep, God will wake you up to a glorious purpose He has for you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Published and Writing

I self-published my first book ten years ago. Earlier this fall my first story appeared in a book anthology published by Guideposts. Last weekend I submitted my first manuscript to two agents and one editor - publication pending!

My wife and I like to sneak out for dinner dates about once a week. Tonight we enjoyed an early-bird dinner in a packed restaurant. I quipped about such a large crowd eating a heavy meal the night before Thanksgiving. Who am I to talk though since I had a crock of French Onion soup and a wonderful rare sesame-crusted tuna steak. My wife chided me to put away my Droid which I constantly check as I anticipate the cherished email from the agents/editors to send the full manuscript.

Instead we talked about writing. I shared with her the common ailments of writers. We write differently than we speak and think. As I edited my final manuscript, I removed hundreds of passive voice sentences. At work we compose thousands of Powerpoint slides for customer presentations. Even engineers write and later edit out those pesky passives. Even worse, our style guide requires us to remove all noun modifiers. Microsoft spell and grammar check sure becomes handy over thousands of pages.

Novice writers also write with a tendency towards the imperative case. The word "must" shows up a lot along with too many exclamation points. My wife's coupon blogger friend re-wrote an entire article because of this. The frugal homemaker and her husband saved a bundle by paying for their house in cash. The way she wrote the article caused quite the negative stir among her faithful readers. She sounded arrogant. Why? Because she didn't tell the story. Instead she wrote the process and the facts. It sounded cold-hearted and proud to the readers who know this kind, compassionate Christian woman. They felt guilty for not doing what their coupon guru did. So they let her know it. She quickly learned to show her story instead of tell it.

She told her readers about how she and her husband lived frugally in a trailer for six months. Meanwhile, they haggled with every contractor and DIY salesperson for the best price. Her husband, a lawyer, drove a beat-up old car even though he could afford a Mercedes. By all appearances, they lived at poverty level for eight years on a six-figure income in order to ultimately pull off what they did. It was not magic. It was hard work. When she told the story by showing these details, her readers understood the real "how-to". They felt much better. They forgave her.

I removed so much of the imperative from my manuscript. I did not want to though. Its message is urgent. But if I think about it, the message I wrote is thousands of years old. Its urgency is no lesser or greater today than when God said, "You must be saved." (Wow - a passive voice and imperative all in one little sentence.) Nevertheless, the style that sell books is the style that shows a good story. Funny then that the Bible is still the best-selling book of all time. It is full of passive voice, imperatives, run-on sentences, tons of semi-colons, and other items that would not pass the Chicago Manual of Style. I'm sure God knew what He was doing though. I hope the inspiration He gave me for "Christian Mythology" will also powerfully guide readers to the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Follow Me

Jesus walked into my cube today. He said, “Follow me.” I thought about the other times He spoke those words. In those days He still walked the earth in physical form. Peter and John dropped their fishing nets and immediately went with Jesus. They did not know where He was going. They did not ask questions. They left their father behind to continue the family business. As far as I could tell from reading God’s Word, these men forsook everything and followed Jesus. Later on Peter demanded from Jesus reparations due him for leaving everything behind. He wanted to know, ‘what’s in it for me?’ Jesus replied, “For the kingdom of God’s sake, you’ll get more in this life, and eternal life in the next world.”

Matthew left his job as tax collector. No questions asked. No knowledge of the future. Like Peter and John, he may not have ever seen or heard of Jesus before now. I have the luxury of God’s Word to tell me all that happened next. What about me though? I sit here pondering my answer. I know where Jesus went after He called His disciples. I know what He did, said, thought, felt, and ultimately endured. I know a little bit about what He does today but that is a rather sketchy. If I follow Him, I will do it blindly, just like those first men. There is one major difference however.

Jesus picked these guys up and remained for the most part in familiar territory. He met them at the Sea of Galilee. The first places they visited together were the familiar Galileean synagogues and then the surrounding mountains. The men probably felt comfortable in these places. Maybe they didn’t know where Jesus was going or what He was doing, but they certainly knew where they were. I don’t know what questions went through their minds when Jesus said, “Follow me.” But I do know they didn’t have to worry about hopping on a plane, getting in a car, taking a train, checking email and phone messages, or any other modern string like we have. They just dropped their nets and left their father. We don’t even know if they said goodbye. We can surmise that by following Jesus, they knew that in the short term at least, they weren’t going very far.

I’m not too worried about where He would lead me. I’ve been all around the world, eaten lots of strange food, slept in some pretty nasty places. I’m sure there’s worse but that doesn’t really phase me. Like those men, I have a job and family. Jesus said, “If you don’t hate your family and your own life, then take up your cross and follow me, cannot be my disciple.” I think it all comes down to one simple question. The question is simple because the situation is simple. If I really leave everything behind, all I have left is Jesus Himself and some level of faith and trust that He will do everything He says. It would be like climbing a sturdy tree, crawling out on a main branch, hanging onto a limb, grasping a twig, then finding all that’s left are filaments of carbon nanotubes. They are invisible to the naked eye. Science tells me they are stronger than steel. But I’m about to plummet and cannot see or sense in any other tangible way something to grab. Like Peter in the middle of the sea, I start to see the waves even though Jesus is standing right in from of me. Common sense says that if I grab for Him, we both go under. Jesus chided Peter for his doubt and little faith.

Right now Jesus knows what I am thinking. He hasn’t said another word since, “Follow me.” No coercion. I wonder if He ever called anyone else like that and they didn’t follow. God’s Word does not say. But it does talk about the many who left Jesus because they were offended by Him. They would not forsake their religion and tradition which told them how to get to God. Jesus said He was the only way.

Can I get to God and still continue on my current path? Is He in my office? Is He where I work? Does He have any interests here such that if I arose and followed, He would remain in this familiar place? What would He have me to do? What would He do while I followed? Would I be like the disciples and ask a lot of dumb questions? Would I be so thick-headed to rarely get the point of what Jesus was saying and doing such that He had to explain most everything twice to me, once in a parable and then again in plain language? Then He would teach the same thing all over again the next day and for the next three and a half years. Even after His resurrection some of them still doubted. It seems like they really didn’t get Jesus until He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Ghost. Suddenly these men were bold. God did all things through them. They took credit for nothing, still forsaking all, still hating their own lives, still taking their crosses and following Jesus. But how did they recognize Him and follow Him now that they could not walk in His footsteps? How did they know where to go and what to say?

Jesus said He filled me with His Holy Spirit too. So why am I so different from the post-resurrection disciples? Why do I feel like I’m still Peter sinking fast?

What compelled these men to follow Jesus in the first place? Why did they stick with Him? At one point they all forsook Him. But after that Holy Ghost filling it seems like they never turned back. But some others did. Ananias, Sophira, Demas, are infamous examples. Have I blown it so badly that I’m like one of them? Or what about the countless thousands who God saved and filled with the Holy Ghost in those early days. I never read about them again. Were they as bold as Peter and John? Did they go on to be like Paul in other parts of the world? Did God choose not to record their acts in His Word but only in His books of judgment? Or were they like me – unsure, questioning, always studying, hoping I’m doing it right, groping forward, falling backward, wondering if God is really there, if I’m really filled with the Spirit, if Jesus will really do more than could be recorded in books which the world could not contain?

Are these the questions of a faithless man? Unconvinced? Fearful? Pragmatic? All the above and very confused at times. And all the while Jesus stands there waiting for my answer. I start to wonder if His patience will run low and He will walk away, never to ask again, never to hear a yes or no from me, not available to answer some clarifying questions. As a father, my patience is short and I force my children to reckon with me. They always get the choice to answer or clarify. They always receive a list of consequences depending upon their ultimate choice. That doesn’t seem like Jesus at all. Sometimes His choices are black and white. Many times I sense gray, left to myself to decide with no compelling evidence to sway me either way. Just like the question before me now. While the answer may be simple, there is no compelling reason to decide either way. I’m stuck grasping, gasping, failing, again.

Why did He make this question so hard? It feels like the Groundhog Day of final exams. I keep getting the question over and over until I answer it. Who knows what will happen next depending upon my answer. Am I afraid of the answer itself? Is it wise to take this long to answer? Maybe if I ignore Him He will just go away. What if I try to change the subject to stall for time? What would we talk about? What could possibly interest Him? He makes me so uncomfortable just standing there. Can’t He come back tomorrow, leave a message, put it in an email instead? Get with the 21st century? Shouldn’t He check with my wife and kids first? My mom would certainly have an opinion about it.

Maybe all He expects is an answer of affirmation but not actual commitment at this time. Sure, I’m willing to go. But since you don’t seem to be in any hurry I guess we don’t have to leave right now. I can follow later. There, that feels much better. I took the pledge, signed the card, showed up for attendance. Now I can get back to whatever I was doing before this whole dissertation came to my mind, obviously something of much greater than importance than following Jesus. Couldn’t He tell that I was busy? Doesn’t He know that it’s rude to interrupt? Why can’t people respect my time and space? Hey, wait a minute! Where are you going?

“Many who say to me, Lord, Lord….”

“Do ya know me Bert? Ha ha! Whaddaya know about that Bert? My mouth’s bleedin’. My mouth’s bleedin’! Merry Christmas!”

“Unless I see the nailprints in his hands, and his side, I won’t believe.”

Take up your cross and follow me. A dead man has no claim to anything. Being dead makes it easy to forsake all. Nothing matters to a dead person. The instant you revive who do you see? That is the one you will follow. When Jesus died, He left it all behind – family, friends, familiarity. That’s what He brings to us in the new life – nothing but Himself. He is not standing here with an offer of door #1, #2, or #3. He is the door. He is on the other side of the door. There has to be more to the exclusivity of Jesus. After all He is King of kings, Lord of lords, creator God of the universe. Everything is His to give liberally as He wants to . Why oh why do I seem to want all the goodies and not the giver? Just Him and for ever after just let Him dish out what He wants to in order to accomplish His purposes with me. Go ahead, surprise me Jesus. If it has to be just you I follow, then let there be a few surprises along the way okay?

Apparently that was not the answer He was looking for. He’s still standing there. At least tell me a parable or something. Explain it to me this call to follow you. Right now? Are there any rest breaks? Vacation? What is your preferred mode of transportation? I want to get around like Philip. He was caught up in the Spirit and somehow just transported around from place to place, materializing like some Star Trek officer.

It’s a day later and He’s still standing there and I’m still sitting here. This is worse than the Cold War. At least bring me a crisis so I can take some definite action. The call to “follow me” just doesn’t get the creative juices flowing, doesn’t pump my adrenaline. There is no urgency in His voice. No hinting gleam in His eye that some consequence awaits. No wink wink, nod nod. It’s not even a dangling participle, something I can grammatically correct. It’s a short sentence, clear, concise, coherent. I understand it perfectly. Hard as I try to add to, take away, or modify it, the simple meaning is clear. Follow me. Yea, and then what? Is this a contest of wills? Trying to see who’s fencepost is wider? While I totter from side to side, Jesus is perfectly still as if there is no precarious perch at all. He is quite well balanced on a wide plain, farther than the eye can see. Is there no tipping point with Him? Where’s the center of gravity, the fulcrum, the end of the lever? Maybe if He moves the perspective changes and with it everything else. What if I move Him? Rush Him just a bit to make Him flinch? Would that change His tune? I try it and it’s like I pass right through Him. He does not move. Is He real? A ghost? Or is He really fast, moving out of my way and then right back, imperceptible to my eyes? None of these seem fair. He has the Star Trek beam thing and I don’t.

There’s just no reckoning with Him on this plane. I’m wondering if He even knows what I am writing or thinking. Probably does. Problem is, I don’t know what He is thinking. This field is not fair. How do I change the game? Is that even possible? Let me ask Him whether He would consider changing it.

Is He thinking about it? No word. Still no word. I need a potty break. Time out. Be right back. I check all my room sensors – pressure? No movement; camera? Stood there the whole time; sound bug? Not a peep. At least He blinked. I am beginning to think that this is entirely up to me. Nothing happens until I decide one way or the other. Perfect Newtonian physics law #1, 2, and 3 all in one. He won’t move until I move first. He won’t move. I’m quickly deteriorating. Is the entropy taking me to the chaos of my own life or the order of His? Do I trust Einstein or Hawking for that one? No, no, no. This is not a science test. And I never took a class in the spiritual things. Although I remember a girl once in high school who was into metaphysics. That still sounds weird. A contradiction. But that’s almost what is going on here. Nothing seems to adhere to the rules with Jesus around. Everything is a contradiction to what I know and believe.

Therefore, I would love for Him to just strip all that preconceived stuff from my brain. Help me to unlearn all the wrong things. Purge the bad thoughts. In with the good air, out with the bad. C’mon breathe stupid breathe! You forgot to breathe! I seem to recall something about being transformed by the renewing of one’s mind. Is that what this is all about? Do I do that first and then answer? He won’t say. Another stupidly injected prerequisite on my part. Sorry. This is getting old.

Follow me. Paul said that. Follow me as I follow Jesus Christ. Nervy guy. How did he figure it out? Hey, is there anybody out there? Anyone at all who has done this? What was it like? What did you say in reply? What happened next? What did Jesus do? How about you? Was your experience the same? No? That doesn’t sound like what happened to you either?

I wonder if I can call this a tie. How about a truce, a cease-fire, a draw? What do we have to do here Jesus to make this a win-win? Anything to sweeten the pot? Do I need to cut costs somewhere? Add a few features? What about you? Here I am back at Peter’s question. Suppose I follow you. What’s in it for me? It really drives me nuts to get back to the same point after a thousand words. Wasted breath. Tired fingers. Taxed grey matter. I haven’t the energy to even burn off the frustration. No desire to even sleep on it. And it just won’t go away if ignored. Any normal person would have given up long ago. How can he stand there like a statue just waiting for me? So calm. Serene. His face is hard to describe because it changes appearance constantly yet remains constantly the same.

Folks talk like that when they look at the Mona Lisa. But this is even more. I’m looking into the face of the eternal Son of God. Not at. Into. Kinda through. It’s a face of love. Then it’s a face of fire. Then the face of a lamb. An innocent lamb. The a face as blue as the sky, yet full of storm clouds one moment, wispy clouds of spring the next. Each face is indescribably pleasant. No fear there. No expression of anger, judgment, or wrath. Even that face of fire is just the warm glow of a wintry hearth or a campfire surrounded by friends. That’s the one that gets to me. He beckons me to sit by Him and join the silent mates. They look at one another. They look at Him. Each one knows. They know. I can see it in their eyes. Their expressions all read the same. We’re all one here.

Wait, what’s this vision? A campfire on the other side? Is that what you saw? No? A beachhouse with those same people gathered? A crowded city street where they’re gathered around silently watching a sidewalk chalk artist? But you all see the same people, just in different places at different times? I don’t get it. But they are all happy. Wouldn’t have it any other way. None of them are bored, scared, confused, or regretful. None of them look the other way. They all look at one another and yet at the same time they all look at Jesus. One. The simplicity is beautiful. It draws me. Entices me.

Is that the look Jesus gave to Peter, Andrew, John, and the rest when He said, “Follow me?” Did they look into His eyes when He called? Or did they just hear His voice, not yet taking their eyes off their nets, change tables, or tents? Was His voice just as tender as those eyes? He only asked me once. He only asked them once. Do they remember His voice still? Do I? Wait a minute and let me bring it back. He said I should know His voice because I am His sheep. It should ring distinctive, unique, and clear above any other voice or noise I hear. Did it come through like that? Definitely. I would not have spent two-thousand words on it otherwise. If you are reading this I hope you just skimmed to this point to read the end. I hope you answered Jesus way back in the beginning. I hope you did not have to live through all my pain added to your own. I certainly would not want to endure your story of getting to “yes” with Jesus. I just want to know that you got there.

I just joined the campfire. Now I’m looking at the ones in the circle and we’re all looking at Jesus. Not even paying attention to you anymore. Suddenly it’s just me and Jesus. I no longer see outside. The door is closed. It’s a Matrix kind of thing. I went through the door with Jesus. The door is no longer there. I don’t even have to turn around to check. I’m following Jesus. I can see His form surrounding me and sense His presence within me. My body does not even look the same. There is this translucent aura around me. I’m not following Jesus behind Him watching every step, pausing every so often to see where He is and where He is headed. I’m not walking by His side and certainly not in front. And I’m definitely not walking on that sandy beach with just the one set of footprints that are really His. It’s still me. It’s still Him. We are one. My size-11’s are His. His sandals are mine. We fit into one another perfectly, yet I only see Him. That we may be One and I may behold His glory. Follow me.