Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Dance of Heaven and Earth

Down through the years, and more especially in the past century, essential components of Christianity have been marginalized, diluted, “tamed”, domesticated and even eliminated for the purposes of mainstreaming the message. While I certainly believe that the truths of Christ are for the everyday person (Jesus emphasized the importance that the gospel was getting out to the “poor”, or what we would call “Joe 6-Pack”), I also believe our efforts to get it there have fallen far short of that noble goal. In fact, the mainstreaming effort has BECOME the goal. “Git ‘em saved!” The bridges that cross the obstacles have now become the destination. We’ve gathered the masses onto the bridges when there is a road that stretches out in front of us for as far as the eye can see!

In the book “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell, he says, “Here’s what happens: Somebody comes along that has a fresh perspective on the Christian faith. People are inspired. A movement starts. Faith that was stale and dying is now alive. But when the pioneer of the movement dies, the followers stop exploring. They mistakenly assume that their leader’s words were the last ones on the subject, and they freeze their leader’s words. They forget that as the innovator was doing his or her part to move things along, that person was merely taking part in the discussion that will go on forever. And so in their commitment to what so-and-so said and did, they end up freezing the faith”. I would add to this that corrective movements start in reaction to these fresh perspectives and often label the fresh insights, “heresy”.

The result has been a fear to explore. A fear of what the Apostle Paul called, “A spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him”. (Ephesians 3:17) There are “riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” and a “surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” that is the same power that raised Christ from the dead AND seated Him at the right hand of the Father. All fear to explore these spiritual diamond mines must yield to the divinely created need of our time.

Historically, we are in a “moment”. A moment like when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple and they were met by 2 determined explorers; Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38) Simeon was said to be “waiting for the consolation of Israel”. The word consolation means the urging, the calling or simply, “Why the heck did God put us here? There’s got to be something more!” He snatched the baby from Mary’s arms and said, “This is the revelation!” Anna then came up “at that very moment” and, in so many words, said, “This is more than a baby! This is what we’ve been waiting for!”

The air around me these days is crackling with the Spirit’s static electricity. In the middle of the summer I started preaching a series of messages I called “The Transcendental Church”. I’m still preaching that series. Sunday I’m changing the title just to help our media department keep track. “The Dance of Heaven and Earth” is where I’m headed. I’m not entirely sure of what I’m even trying to say in this blog. I just know, I refuse to miss this “moment”. This moment is the moment for which I was born.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"Keep Looking Up!"

Keep Looking Up!

Here’s my dilemma. I’m taking some much needed time off. My wife is in Texas attending to family business and I’m relaxing, reading and winterizing our yard. This morning I made a terrible mistake; I tuned in to Christian TV. Now, I need to blog some steam out of my system….bear with me.

In a short 23 minutes of “Christian” TV I listened to the following:
1. A painful song loaded with sappy sentiment about, “lately I’ve got leaving on my mind…”, sprinkled with the vocalist’s admonition to his audience, “I’m tired of this ‘ole crazy mixed up world! How many of you join me when I sing, ‘lately I’ve got leaving on my mind?’”
(this singer sported a hair sprayed mullet, a colorful ‘80s sport coat and 2 tone shoes…my dad always said, “never trust a man wearing 2 tone shoes”)
2. A “commentator” behind a “news desk” telling me that he has “good news”. What would that “good news” be? His sources tell him that a nuke has been smuggled across the Mexican border into the U.S. And…
3. If you don’t know Jesus, why don’t you give your heart to Him today. As we close today, “Keep looking up!” Hmmm, looking up should be pretty easy given the low point of this pit.

The network broadcasting this misery cut away to their promo at the end of the show and told me, “…we’re presenting the finest in family and Christian entertainment”. Lovely.

On behalf of pastors and Christians everywhere, please forgive us! On behalf of Christianity down through the centuries, I’m sorry we’ve become this bizarre caricature. In this corner of the world, please hear this one voice in the wilderness, “TURN CHRISTIAN TV OFF!” I know…I should have heeded my own advice.

OK, OK…that’s it, that’s all for today….I’m on vacation…I’m going outside to pick apples in my yard. I’ll be singing, “How Great is Our God!” and praying, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN!”

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

If One Mountain Moves...

Mark 11:22-26 has always been one of those Words that won’t leave me alone. I mean leave me alone in the sense that were times, I have wanted it to leave me alone! “Jesus answered saying to them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you.”

I’m quite sure that many honest people have looked at these words of Jesus and secretly thought, “What the heck was He thinking when He wrote that blank check!?” Like I said in the above paragraph, I’ve winced at these Words, in part because when people try these outrageous promises and nothing happens, they run to me, as a pastor and demand satisfaction. Somehow, I’m often chosen as the customer service representative for God when these things require some kind of unlimited warranty.

In my earliest days of faith in Christ, I was given a Bible with the Words of Jesus printed in red. I didn’t know how that worked or even why some of the Words were in red, so, in my simplicity, I decided that those were the most important Words. The absolute first Bible passage that jumped out at me was Mark 11:22-26. In those days, I was a customer and not a customer service agent; just a teenage kid. This passage transfixed me! I read it every morning and every night. I left my Bible open to that passage in my bedroom. I was amazed, intrigued, curious and not the least bit eager to try this promise on “for size”.

I’ve walked a million spiritual miles since then and today, that verse isn’t just printed in red, its red-hot! Today, I know that if the Kingdom of God, God’s transcendent supremacy, is large and in charge inside me, if I sneeze right, entrenched arrogant externalities that mock me are blasted aside. Today, I know that the insuperable prowess of Christ the King is looking for opportunities, through my obedient faith to vaporize inferior material realities. A mountain climber will say that they climb the mountain, “…because its there.” Believers need to learn to move mountains for the same reason.

“But I tried that and failed.” Then try again. If you fail again, don’t cry, don’t whine, don’t marginalize the promise and don’t call customer service! Suck it up, wipe your nose, check your motives, be an overcomer and out of the faith that says, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God”, give your mountain directions to the nearest ocean to sink into.

If you speak to 99 mountains or if you have to speak to one mountain 99 times, and on the 100th attempt the earth shakes, boulders roll and the mountain moves, wouldn’t it be worth it all?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Political Ads and Mr. Poopy Pants

Political ads are a delightful study in human nature. Both from the design and delivery of the ad itself, to the presumed assumptions the campaigners hope to achieve. For the sake of illustration, let me offer a fake ad for a fake candidate from a fake political party. Ready? Prepare yourself. This could get complicated.

“I’m Snow White and I approve this ad. Are you sick of Mr. Poopy Pants? Me too. Vote for me November 7th and I promise to be Jesus, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi and Bullwinkle.” Miss White clearly wants you to believe 2 distinct things: She is good incarnate and he is the Anti-Christ (with irritable bowel syndrome). Tough choice. Better think long and hard about who you will support. The issues are painstakingly spelled out here so that there can be no mistake about what you are voting for: Snowy or Poopy.

Somewhere, in the past decade or so, in some ad design meeting room, somebody convinced the political powers that be that the American public should not be bothered with clarity of thought or distinctly articulated vision. The decision was made to simplify the information process down to the lowest common denominator: the other side has poopy pants. That’s it, that’s all, don’t look any deeper than that. Poopy pants.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was the Dick Van Dyke Show. Dick’s character, Rob once decided to run for a political office and ended up running against a complete genius, played by Wally Cox. Long and short of it was that at a public debate the genius smoked Rob and Rob ended up sitting in front of him asking questions and saying, “Wow. I didn’t know that!” over and over. Ironically, Rob won the election even though he tried really hard to lose so that the best man would win.

Wouldn’t it be fun if my fake campaign ad went like this: “Hi. I’m Mr. Poopy Pants. I have I.B.S. It’s embarrassing but, I manage. Miss Snow White is a good person and she might even do a better job than me. Oh, and she smells good too. Anyway, I’d appreciate the chance to work for you if you’d let me. I’ll do my best, but I’m sure I’ll make a few mistakes along the way. Maybe Miss White could be on my staff and help me if I’m elected. I have some pretty cool ideas at a web site you can visit. Thank you for your time.” Ah, doesn’t that just make you want to say, “POOPY FOR PRESIDENT”?