YOU CAN’T HANDLE DEEPER!!

You don’t want deeper:
YOU CAN’T HANDLE DEEPER!

cropped-deep-water-1Can you hear Jack Nicholson in, “A Few Good Men,” screaming at Tom Cruise in the courtroom as you read that? No? Read it again, I’ll wait.

I bet you did that time.

“The church is a mile wide and half an inch deep.”

Does that sound familiar to you?

How many times have I heard someone say that the church in America needs to go deeper? Seriously, this is not new, I have heard this since 1977; the year I surrendered my life to Jesus.

Delirious the band had a song out a while back that began, “I want to go deeper, but I don’t know how to swim.”
What a great lyric, right?

What did Jesus tell us?

I hear people describe deep as theological and somewhat complicated, and yet it was my Jesus that said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt 29-30 NKJV

My yoke is easy and My burden is light? What is it that I am being told here? Jesus went out of his way, all the way from the throne room of God almighty as a matter of fact, to make things simple and uncomplicated.

My YOKE = my interpretation of Scripture

My BURDEN = my expectation of living it out.

It would be very much like Jesus saying today, “Hey, come learn from me where we will keep it simple stupid.” KISS.

Did Jesus say, “We need to go deeper?”

There are stories upon stories, interactions upon interactions, recorded even as primary sources in the Bible. These people were there, yet I cannot find one instance of Jesus “Going Deeper.” I cannot find one time that Jesus waxed theologically eloquent to be perceived as deep, intellectual, educated or even holier than thou. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus came 2,000 years ago and stood against the “Spiritually Elite” of the day, and we dive into the shallow end of the spiritual pool trying to make it “look deep” so we can become the very elite Jesus lined out? Trust me, I have met people that believe they are spiritually elite. Before you say “Not me,” take a good look at your attitude. What about your actions? I’m not ranting, I am challenging you just like I challenge me. We are so easy on ourselves and so hard on others aren’t we?

Jesus kept it simple and avoided “Deep;” Love God, love people as yourselves he said. It isn’t complicated but it can be hard.

Wrestle with it

So I’m wrestling with what it is that people are saying when they say we need to go deeper. I think it has to do with becoming more “Biblically literate.” I would be a big advocate of that. (But Sunday mornings are not for your Pastor to put you through Bible College because you don’t want to quit your job, sell everything and go yourself.) As people dive into their bibles, however, instead of taking Jesus’ yoke, people make up a new yoke all on their own because it fits the narrative they want to follow. They make their own Jesus and accessorize him like a Barbi Doll: God wants me happy, God wants me wealthy, God says my sin is ok. God is a Calvinist, God is an Armenianist. We have to be Jews to be Christians. It goes on and on.

Really, Prosperity?

It is very sad when people tell me “affluence is a sign, the proof, of the favor of God.” What a lie. Surely all good gifts come down from the father of lights. Truly I believe that. What of the Christians around the world that die every day at the hands of heathens andindex_barometer001pagans though? They die in poor, third world countries, martyred, are they hated of God? Prosperity is wonderful, but as an indicator of God’s favor it is a poor theological barometer. Some of the wealthiest people in the world are not Christians, are they more loved by God than me? Does not the enemy appear as an Angel of light? Doesn’t he exist to distract us and lead us astray? Wouldn’t he be most successful if he were to do that with sparkly, shiny baubles and prosperity?

Name Names

Honestly, I do not believe that most of the people crying out for a “Deeper Church” really know what they are asking for. Let’s wade in just a bit. Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28 to go into all the world and make disciples. Now let’s go deeper. Name the disciples that you have made since you personally have come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

Name the people that you have poured into and drawn close to Christ with and then baptized or attended their baptism. See what I mean, if you cannot name names, then I am telling you that you can’t handle going deeper. Surely Jesus is still doing what he was doing when he commanded his actual disciples to make disciples. Right? Why would he take up residence in you just to stop doing the very thing he came to earth to do? No, no he wouldn’t.

Jesus commanded us to give a cup of cold water to those that need it. When was the last time you did that? Feed the hungry rather than explain to your children that they just givingneed to get jobs? Sound familiar? Give your cloak to someone who needs it? Sell everything you have and give to the poor then hit the road and tell people about Jesus? No?

Go and Do the Doing

You aren’t even serious about going deeper are you? (I have met some that are) But let’s just be serious here, you can’t handle deeper if you won’t even do the simple and obvious. To people that cry out against the church I say, it is time to get over your self, get off your pew, or chair, and show us you are serious. You want the church to go deeper? Jesus made going deeper doing the doing. Go do it. He didn’t make it about knowledge, but love, and love is a verb. Plant a church with the people you have led to the Lord.

Jesus said, we do. That is the Jesus definition of Deep

You want to go deeper? I really do think it is a good idea. Let’s try this, take time each day to read Jesus words in the Bible; you pick the version. Then, when you see that Jesus saysimg_8534to do something, make it a part of your prayer life and your serving life and your giving life to DO IT. Watch what happens when that begins to take place in the lives of the church.

 

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Stop struggling, stop striving today!

Joseph's Pictures 219Psalm 29:10-11 (NIV)

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

 

Today I want to share a moment of serendipity with you, a moment that occurred as I was reading my Bible. I opened up to a passage and as I prepared my heart I saw a passage above that I had marked previously. As I gazed upon my marks and read the words, God poked my heart and said, “Good morning Joe.” So I pass this on that God may also poke your heart and let you know that he is here. Now matter what it is that you are about to face, big or small, he is here. No matter how loud the noise, how dark the night, how evil the valley, he is here. He knows your name. He loves you. He prepared a place for you near him. Like the swallow that builds her nest near the altar, God has a place for you as well. It is in his blessing.

“The Lord sits…”

Notice that with everything that is going on in your world and mine. With all the false media, the lies, the hate, the wars, the hurt, the rejection, and all the meaningless activity of the mass of humanity, God sits. He isn’t running around threatening, shaking his fist. God is not scared or worried. No, God sits. He is relaxed and watching his children. For some he is sad, for some he rejoices but for all he sits and is working for our good. The scripture says he sits enthroned OVER the flood. He is not worried about the turbulent waters that are crashing down and destroying the earth that time he “started over” with Noah. God is not spazzed or even remotely worried about that flood will do anything other than what he will allow. No, in all our worry, and as we try so hard to get God all wound up in our drama, he sits above the threats. Close your eyes and look at how peaceful he sits on the throne. God is at peace always.

“The lord is …”

I cannot make you believe that God is. I know he is. I cannot prove it to you any more than you can prove he isn’t. I entered this world as a self-absorbed narcissist and until I realized that I am the one that is responsible for my sin, I had no hope. When I saw the God sent his son to die for my sins so that I do not own them, so that I do not suffer the consequence of them nor will they keep me from the throne room any longer, when I surrendered to that truth, my life began to change. You see, In my life, “The Lord IS …” Not only is it true that God is, he is enthroned as the King of the universe. I do not have to be able to answer all the “Why’s” and all the “How’s” or anything else, to know that I am created. The cake doesn’t have to thoroughly know the baker to know there is a baker and the cake is not it. God is too grand, to beautiful, too wonder-full for me to comprehend. Any one that says otherwise is a liar and the truth is not in them. I cannot fathom the depths of God other than to try to understand what he has revealed and reveals to human kind. The lord is King over all that he has made, he is alone is judge, not me.

“The Lord gives …”

Of all the “deities” in this world that have been made up, the God of the Bible is hands down the most generously giving and the most loving. The Lord gives. God wants to give. It is his love language. He gives life, he gives a place with him in heaven, he gives forgiveness when we slander and crucify him. He gives when we need help, he gives when we need knowledge, he gives when we need love, he gives when we need a family, he gives, and gives, and gives. We on the other hand take, and take, and take, and take. It’s our humanity. It’s our sin. You cannot out give God, but you do not want to understand how stingy he can be. When God asks for us to give back to him, he is serious. To ignore obedience to the Word is to prove that we esteem God as nothing more than a spiritual vending machine. It only proves the depth of our self-centered depravity; shame on us. Sometimes what God gives is the strength to face giants, kill lions, strike down serpents, overcome disasters and face adversity with grace and hope. That’s more than any other clay figurine on a shelf is going to give you. My God says he will give you the gift of his presence; You will not be alone. The Lord gives.

“The Lord blesses …”

As we consider “The Lord gives,” what ever the Lord gives is a blessing to you and I. We may always know why he allows the pain and struggle, and it certainly was not his initial plan for humanity, but he come-follow-mecan work it out for our good. The blessing of God is gold in the hands of the righteous. The joy of knowing that the favor of the King of the universe rests upon you brings peace. It doesn’t mean there are no problems in your life. It isn’t a reflection of the absence of struggle and hurt, no, it is the knowledge that he is your father, and he is doing what is best for you at every turn of the sun. It I knowing that though you are outside in the playground called earth, he is intimately aware of what you are doing and going through. Not only is he watching you, but he is “standing” right here while you are preoccupied with all that is going on. His blessing is his gift to you. It is for eternity, but you need to take it. You need to receive it and open it. Know this peace that in the face of death, carries you through all the darkness you may face and all the joy you may encounter.

Today, as you go through this day, remember,

“The Lord sits …”

“The Lord is …”

“The Lord gives …”

“The Lord blesses …”

and YOU are the object of all this love today.

 

 

 

ARE YOU EVEN CHRISTIAN?

ARE YOU EVEN CHRISTIAN?

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking a thought. It has been a thought of mine for quite a while and so I’m going to put it right here for you to wrestle with. You don’t have to agree with me, I’m ok with that. Civility says we can disagree and still be friends; it used to say that any way.

Noah was a man that that God came to and asked to build a boat, a very big boat. A boat that saved the world as we know it, if you believe the story; and I do. As you think about what God did in the life of Noah, whom he considered a righteous man at the time, it was a bit irrational to those around him. It had never rained upon the earth. There was no large body of water nearby that we are aware of. The very concept of a “boat” was new, weird, odd, unheralded, or crazy. 120 years worth of crazy depending upon how you understand the story. So God asked Noah to do something that from the outside was very, very “not rational.” Made no sense. It was a bad financial decision. The list could go on and on.

IRRATIONAL

What about a guy named Abram? Seriously. This guy, a pagan by any understanding of the story, was living his life and claims that God came to him and told him to up and move. The invitation was to come and follow me [God] and I will show you a land that I am going to give to you and your family, which is going to become a great nation and will bless all the nations of the earth. Wow. Not rational. Not rational you ask? No, not rational. At the time this guy is 75 years of age, his wife is 65 and they have no children what so ever. Abram’s wife had been barren, infertile, unblessed with children for 65 years. Where is this nation going to come from, and where did you say we were going?

NOT RATIONAL

These are the stories over and over again that show up in the Bible. The Bible that the Christian church claims as their manifesto, their sacred book, their direct word from God himself, this book is full of these stories to the point where it is the norm. It is super normal in the Bible that God asks people to do things they cannot do, things that make no sense, things that cost everything, things that will have the community around them making fun of them.

upside-downThe Kingdom of God Is not of this world. The Kingdom of God does not do things the way this world does them. In this world we think things through, make a plan, save up store up and then claw our way up to the top. This world is a “Me first and you get the leftovers” sort of society. Smart, godly, Christian, people will do the smart, financially fiscal thing that makes the most sense in today’s world. That’s what we teach. This is probably why we don’t see an awful lot of people going into missions. I’m not saying we don’t see some people making missions their life.

 

“If all you ever hear is your god telling you to do rational, reasonable things, you probably need an introduction to God and to the Bible.”

IRRATIONAL PRIORITIES

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that we are to make the Kingdom of God the main priority in our lives. Jesus says that if we seek that Kingdom first, all the things that pagans run after; clothes and food and homes and such will be provided by the king himself. The church, the real church, has been called to run after God and his mission. The Christians, the real Christians, have been called to bring the Kingdom of God to bear upon this world. God’s plan for my life is that I make known the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that I love the people that God loves without getting all entrenched in this world. My investments should reflect Kingdom values. My relationships should reflect Kingdom values. My entertainment choices: Movies, music, shows, should all reflect Kingdom values. If my goal is focused on saving, protecting, and or gaining for me and mine, then I’m fooling myself about even being a Christian. God only wants my heart, which gives him everything.

IRRATIONAL SAVIOR

Jesus made 120-180 gallons of wine out of water at a wedding once. Just because he said so.
Jesus spit on the ground and made mud to put on the blind man’s eyes. That’s how he healed him.
Jesus told a man to sell everything he had, give to the poor and then to come and follow Jesus.
Jesus told one of his followers to walk out across the lake on top of the water.
Jesus forgave a man’s sins and in doing so, healed the man.
Jesus didn’t condemn a naked woman caught in the bed of a married man, even though his “Law” said to stone her to death.
Jesus ate in the homes of sinners and drank their wine. People called him a drunkard.
Jesus cast out demons on a regular basis.
Jesus went to “church” weekly, as was his custom.
Jesus died for sins he never committed, for people that rejected him and didn’t care about him.
God raised Jesus from the dead.

 

IF YOU BELIEVE, WHY DON’T YOU STILL DO IT?

Do you believe these things really happened or are they just stories to you?

Think about it for a moment. Do you really, honestly, with all your heart, believe that Jesus did and said these things to you and I and the world of today?

Why doesn’t it compel you to do irrational things that make no sense to spiritually anemic, or spiritually dead people? Does Jesus live inside you? Why isn’t he doing through you what he did in your Bible?

“When you realize that God never seems to ask YOU to take a ridiculous RISK, you’ll realize that you aren’t following God at all.”

All Jesus asked us to do was change the world one person at a time. “Go into all the world” he said, “and make disciples.” Before he said that, he let us know that he was sending his Holy Spirit, the Counselor, to teach us all things AND to remind us of everything Jesus said to us.

We are not alone; he is with us IF we are surrendered to him. Love he said, love the people into the Kingdom of Heaven. “”Each one reach one,” it’s not political, it’s not economical, and I can promise you it is certainly not RATIONAL. Get out of your comfort zone, you cubicle, your hometown and the plan that you have FOR your life. RISK it all for the Kingdom of Heaven and watch what God does IN your life.

 

 

 

ARE YOU AN EFFECTIVE CHRISTIAN?

salt2I’m reading through Matthew. Whenever the voice of the enemy or the activity of the enemy starts escalating, I run to my commanding officers standing orders. Whenever Lucifer starts influencing the world I operate in, I turn to Jesus. What did HE say? What does HE expect? What is has asking of me? That’s what I need to know.

THIS MEANS WAR!

I believe as a result of reading Ezekiel 28 and Genesis 1-2, that I exist and have my life behind enemy lines; that every day I get up I need to be quiet, and spend time on the “Horn” with the home base. I need to stay in touch with God. He sees me down here and he has work for me to do. Now, I get that I need to be bold, and no one ever accused me of being too gentle. (God forgive me that is not always a positive, sometimes it is a sin.) But as I go about my calling, I recognize that the enemy is coming after me, just like he is coming after you. How’s your day going by the way?

WHAT GOD SAYS

So a lot is transpiring and not all good, but I would agree necessary. So I’m sitting in my office and I think the answer is to be with God. So, I turn to Matthew 5 and I begin to read.

POOR ISN’T ALWAYS MONEY

Blessed are the poor in spirit – for theirs in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The economic poor, the spiritually poor, the relationally poor. The depressed, the anguished, the abused, raped, jobless, cast aside, the mean, the ugly, the loud, the hiding. The poor. The drained, the empty, the “don’t have anymore” kind of people. Blessed are those, Jesus is saying, who have come to the end of themselves. Enough of the lies, the belief you are more than you are, or that you have more than you have. You are wrecked. There is nothing. God here I am. A leper. A cripple. An Oil-less virgin, waiting, crying, now fallen asleep waiting for the bridegroom. The less than, the least of these, those mourning.

MOURNING CAN BE GOOD

Blessed are those who mourn – for they will be comforted. They are crying out, they want to be heard, they have no voice. They are beaten down and oppressed. They are those who are imprisoned; rightfully and wrongfully. Imprisoned in a skin color, imprisoned in a sexual orientation, imprisoned in racism, imprisoned in hate, imprisoned in the need to be a victim, to be important and stand on a stage, imprisoned in a besetting sin that will not go away, or be healed, or be satisfied; so they cry. They mourn inside, they are weak, they are scared and meek.

MEEK MEANS FREEDOM

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. They recognize their situation, they finally come to the end of themselves and they wait. They are waiting on God. They want to rise up on wings of eagles but they are willing to wait. They don’t chase their education and then wave it around like a flag. They don’t come in and pretend to be humble telling you all the while how humble they really are. They know their calling, more importantly their role, and they long to play it. They move forward seeking those that they can move forward. They don’t want things; they just care. As a result of caring, the world is at their feet. They aren’t easily offended and they aren’t easily robbed. They just love. Jesus showed us this character. In their obedience, they hunger for more of God.

HUNGRY MEANS VICTORY

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – for they shall be filled. Not gluttonous, not covetous, but hungry. They are not satisfied with the status quo, they believe things can be better. Not through hate and violence, but through hunger and meekness. They want a better marriage, so they serve more, give more and leave more: like Jesus did. They are hungry for a chance to serve the less fortunate, hungry for an opportunity to give to the needy. Their hunger is a godly hunger, not the perverted hunger of the prince of the power of the air. As a result, they just long to be filled: filled with the Spirit, filled with the presence, filled with the opportunity, and filled with love for the lost and the despised. They will be filled.

The list goes on and it goes through the merciful who will receive mercy, pure in heart who will see GOD himself in all that is around him, the peacemakers who shall be called sons of God (no gender intended from me), and then it lands on the persecuted.

WAIT, THIS ISN’T FUN

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness – for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They have already received the Kingdom. They are already citizens of the glorious home we long for.

IT GET’S REAL

You know all the other “blessed are’s” feel good, feel spiritual, feel like God is up there just caring for us all, watching over us. Feel like he is keeping us from all harm; and then there is this. Blessed are you when you are persecuted. When you read that word, don’t think of the professor that mocks you in class, the fellow students that make fun of you for being a “goody-goody.” No, this is persecution for doing what God called you to do. This is being harassed by the enemy to the point that things break, sickness is thrown at you, people show up to lie and deride you, even take credit for what you did. It is THE ENEMY!

We know the enemy is coming. Shoot, we started this with the understanding that he is here and we are in his territory at war. Of course he is going to get mean and nasty, and ugly; he is the father of lies. But you are blessed when he takes notice of you. Jesus says you are blessed when you are so involved in the kingdom they the enemy persecutes you and falsely says all kinds of evil against you because of Jesus, for your reward in heaven is great AND they (enemy) also persecuted those prophets who went before you. You are in good company.

BEGIN AGAIN ……

So, back to the top. When the enemy starts lying to me I run to Jesus, get on the horn with the home base. Today, I heard God, through a recent message I preached, remind me that it is “principalities and powers pushing people’s buttons to get at you.” See the goings on as the father of lies pushing people around to distract you from the calling, the mission, the vision! Then press on!

WHERE’S THE SALT?

The next statement is, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

ARE YOU BEING EFFECTIVE?

And in the margin of my Bible I had written a while ago, “Are you an effective Christian?” After all the “Blessed are’s”, and all the, “You shall receive’s” the question I am left with is, “Are you being an effective Christian?” And as I read that I have to say, not if I am whining and complaining. I cannot be effective if I am focused on people and things and comfort. I cannot receive the blessing and help if my goal is not the Kingdom of Heaven here and now!! If for just a moment the enemy makes me believe that it is people and ME, I am most vulnerable to attack and depression.

Are you an effective Christian? What’s your salt quotient and what are you doing about it?

IS IT DARK WHERE YOU ARE?

“Why are you crying? Who is it that you are looking for?”

unworthy tearSome times when we are sad, depressed and can’t seem to gather our courage, we just stop moving. We don’t look for God.

Mary had no reason in her mind to look for Jesus. She saw the stone rolled away. She saw the empty tomb. She saw the morning come. And she saw the gardener; that guy standing over there behind her, or beside her. She maybe saw him out of the corner of her eye. When he came to comfort her she was willing to interact, she was willing to allow him to touch her pain. She let him in, just a little bit. “Why are you crying, who is it that you are looking for?”

People 

I get to interact with people everyday. Some people are having a great day. Some people are facing very scary circumstances. Shoot, sometimes I‘m facing giants in my own life. I’m going to shoot straight with you, this “life of the pastor thing” sometimes, is way too much fun and then sometimes it is not all sunshine and lollipops. No sirrreeee, sometimes it is down right scary!!

Do you know what to do?
Do you know what to say?
and do you know where to go?
God are you listening?
God they are mean.
God they are stingy.
and God they are scaring me to death.

And then there is the occasional, “Man this has got to be a great gig, I’m feeling called to the ministry” or “So what, you work an hour a week on Sunday, two if you have multiple services? I need me some of this.” “What do you do all day?” Pastors are not immune to depression, self loathing, and struggling with life. Hahahahahahahaha, Sometimes it’s even crazy here at the church and if you came in you would see that the crazies are running the show. Heeeelllllppppp!

Really though, what do you do when life is just on hold?
What do you do when the darkness seems a little too dark for you to step out into the light?

 MARY M and Mary MOJ

Mary was having that kind of day. This is Mary Magdalene, not Mary the Mother of Jesus. Can you imagine Mary the Mother of Jesus’ weekend? Her very first Easter and what a downer it was. Seriously now, I cannot comprehend the tragedy of losing a child, even an adult child. And then for it to be the Son of God you lost to murder. Here you are, 33 years after you tried to convince people that this pregnancy was an act of God, just when things were looking like the community was believing that he was the Son of God, or at least that he was someone special to God, this happens.

What an Easter this is turning into. 

Those stinking Romans! Big mean nasty warriors and fighters that think they can do what ever they like! THEY HAD NO CAUSE. What about those religious leaders? Hauling her son into the Romans; couldn’t even do their own dirty work, and it WAS DIRTY WORK!!!! Yeah, who did they think they were? What an Easter this was turning into.

Oh it WAS a special week. People may not have recognized that it was the first Easter, but it was still special. It was a couple days after the Passover. BIG holiday for the Jewish people: BIG. Now it was the week of the Feast of Unleavened bread. It was time to remember how faithful God had been to Moses and the gang. God didn’t appear to be faithful to the followers of Jesus. People were celebrating, not this small group of Jesus followers. Small may be an inappropriate term, they were a group bigger than 80% of the churches in America if my understanding is right about 80% of the churches in America.

 Mary M again

Back to Mary Magdalene, It was dark. It was dark for everyone that weekend. At this moment in time Mary is standing, in the morning, at the tomb, with a gardener. At Mary’s darkest hour at the time, she didn’t see Jesus standing there.

God is standing next to Mary. The apple of her eye, the reason for her concern, the answer to her pain, is standing right next to her. Sometimes we are so hurt, the pain is so much, we are so dejected, that we miss that God is right there. Could we but lift our eyes and ask a question, we would hear Jesus call our name. The pain may not go away, the hurting may not stop, but we would realize in that moment that we are not alone.

 GOD

You are not alone.
God said he would never leave you,
nor would he forsake you.
In your darkest moment he is right there with you.
You will grieve, you will ache, you will be in pain,
but God wants to walk with you.
He wants to meet you at the point of your deepest grief,
at the place of your biggest fear,
at the depth of your loneliest moment
and the height of greatest trial.

God is standing right there. Lift your chin and look a round. He may look like someone you don’t know. He may be a song whispering in your ear. He maybe a Word that you read in the Scripture. He could be anywhere but he is there with you. You don’t see him because you don’t expect him. Let him surprise you, lift your chin.

Look around, He is RISEN indeed.

The sun is coming up, it is Easter in your life, He is risen, look for the Lord.

RANT: Millennials

The RANT Starts Here!!

Ok, I have had enough. This blog is more of a rant. So, if you are having a great day, I would invite you not to read on any further. The exits are here, here, here, and here (you have to imagine me pointing to your keyboard).

Let’s Begin.

Let’s talk “Millennials.” Not sure that’s a true word, but what the heck: this is my blog. What is a millennial? It appears from reading and googling, and googling and reading, that the millennials are people born between 1980 and the 2000s. It’s ok if we generalize a little bit here. I read articles that keep getting posted by well-meaning people, well-meaning Christian people, well-meaning Christian, right wing American, I’m guessing Republican, white people, who seem to think that they speak for everyone when they post their articles. Before you go all conservative crazy on me, I fit in to that category mostly. Mostly, but not completely.

As I write this blog, a millennial whom I haven’t seen since I did his wedding 2 years ago wrote me a note thanking me for setting him on the right path, giving him room to question things, pouring into him, and then showing him gently the truth of Jesus and the Bible. He and his wife are extremely involved in Church and discipleship, and they went to Africa this past summer because they ache for lost people around the world. I’m not blowing my horn here; I am celebrating the fact that this is NOT unusual in the circles I minister in.

THE DOWN SIDE:

They don’t attend a little white church with a 1000 foot steeple, and brass plaques with people’s names on them all over everything in the church from, pews, paintings, to communion tables and everything else that can make a person look good because they gave to God. Please let’s announce our giving to everyone (Jesus clearly said not to do that) so every one can know how holy grandma and grandpa were.

Millennials in Leadership

I see millennials in leadership changing concepts of leadership and wanting to SERVE the world in areas of evangelism, justice, oppression, racism; it kind of looks like Isaiah 58. Yeah, maybe they should stop that. Maybe they should be more concerned about wearing a tie to church, making grandma proud instead of Jesus, and fitting into some kind of American Political Artificial Christian box. They should be more concerned about going to a church that sings songs about God written in the 1700s instead singing songs TO God (let’s just ignore the scripture “sing to the Lord a new song:” Psalm 96, 98, 149, Isaiah 42) because God probably isn’t interested in his children that are alive today writing new music that represents their hearts and love for him.  What are these millennials thinking? And then they do it with instruments that probably more resemble what is mentioned biblically (Revelation, Psalms) than an organ. I guess none of that really matters, but to some it IS the issue.

Who cares if the Millennials’ church is in the mall, the storefront, the school, or some back room somewhere? If it is supposed to be in a building, then what are we saying to the underground church, the persecuted church, the struggling church and the church that is trying to take Jesus to the people rather than demand that people come to the building? HECK, the building ISN’T the church anyway. But then, I’m not sure the generation and the people writing these articles get that either.

Now, to be sarcastic…

Yeah, these millenials are a pretty slovenly group as they pretend to embrace a watered down Jesus, with all that “rock and roll” music and those personal songs that are amazing: God doesn’t want that crap! Don’t even get me started on their tattoos and their piercings. OH, and the color of their hair.

I’m not saying they don’t have problems, but before you start throwing rocks at them, look at the divorce rate of their parents. You know, those people that are producing and leading the organizations that print and post these articles. But then, Jesus didn’t really mean those things he said about divorce, loving your enemy, using worldly wealth to make friends, and denying yourself. No, those people claiming to be the example to follow are fighting with their neighbors over the length of their grass, the boat that was parked in the driveway too long, and the dog who pooped on the grass.

Really important things that change the world and all.

I pastored that church. There were a couple grandmas that didn’t like that I had a mustache when I came, but then they didn’t like that I shaved it off. They didn’t want musical instruments in the church, but their children played Metallica at home on guitars and amplifiers. They kept me at or below the poverty level for approximately ten years, though the church was very, very well off. Yeah, that was a great church. There were wonderful people there, don’t get me wrong; but, through that organization God taught me a lot about how to NOT reach people, so I moved on.  I think I could go on, but it would just keep getting a little rougher.

Suffice to say, this generation is getting an undeserved bad rap. Lighten up and look at your generation; you taught them. A little old lady from a church I pastored years ago said it best, “as go the sheep, so go the lambs” (thank you, Ina).

The rant is now officially over.

Thank you for making it this far. Please wait to get up until we reach the gate. Remember, your emotions may have shifted during this blog, so open your arguments carefully. Grab your heart and hold on to it. Please do not cross your own convictions, but lighten up on the Millennials.

I promise not judge you by the few “pew-sitters” if you stop judging the whole of the Millennials by a few as well. I promise there are inspirational Millennials out there; you might even sit next to them in church, or they may be your grandkids or your kids. Their worship is not going to look like yours because they aren’t you; the world has changed since you got saved. You use an organ, they have newer instruments. It’s ok.

church baptism

Choose to believe the best about them. Support, encourage and celebrate their relationships to Jesus. Pour into them. Talk with them. Don’t be offended when they challenge the status quo. The church of Jesus, the BRIDE of CHRIST, is in really good hands as I see this generation embracing Christianity. It’s their need to search it out and not blindly accept whatever you say: that is causing the problems, as I see it anyway. With permission I close with a quote from a millennial: addressing an article that dressed his generation down, he says, “That [anti-millennial] mindset is the quickest way to kill a seeker’s curiosity of who Jesus is.” He takes great issue with the article at point number three:

“No. 3: Jesus is one of many ways to heaven.”

“What?!” Come on.  Really?  I can easily see how the author of this article would lump me into his broken view on younger Christians.  I know this to be not true. I know Jesus is God’s only son who came to die to MY SINS because God loves me that much.  To love me that much means he cares for me and knows what is best for me – like a father but also set out clear expectations to follow like a good King. This is not fair that these assumptions and judgments are made and put on this article to FUEL the disconnect between the “traditional church” and “millennial Christians”. Sad.”

Thanks for flying with me tonight. God bless you as you all chase after knowing God.

Why I won’t post the 10 Commandments at Church

CHICKENS I SAY!

You ever seen a yard full of chickens? You know, all those white and orange and red birds, walking around pecking the ground, hunting for a kernel of corn, or feed?

chickens

It is interesting to me to see Christian people acting like chickens in a yard, as they start quoting one or two scriptures that they demand people live by. I’m not against scripture, but usually it is their favorite hammer to beat people with. You know that one scripture that defends against a particular pet peeve of theirs. I used to do this a lot in my spiritual youth: “Hunt-N Peckers” I call them. They hunt and peck around the Bible finding that one verse, or a passage they can bend and take out of context, to force someone to conform to their understanding. It really gets sad when “Christians” reach back into the Law and bring it forward to “Hammer time.” Cue the music, close your eyes and see MC Hammer dancing sideways, back and forth across the screen of your mind.

The LAW

10 commandments I refuse to post the Ten Commandments in the church we planted. I won’t do it. (well, we will for a children’s lesson or a sermon series, but that’s it) I also don’t get real upset when it can’t be posted in any local court house, except that some of the judicial ideas this country were founded on are found in them; or so I’m told.

I just can’t get past the idea that these represent the Law from which Christ died to set me free.

 Wiped them out he did

Colossians 2:13-16 (NKJV)
                         13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with
Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us,
which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed
principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 16 So let no one judge you
in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,

Jesus himself said in

Matthew 5:18 (NIV)
                            18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by
any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

nail-punctured-hand-of-christIn saying this he let us know that the Law was in effect UNTIL he paid the price. Once he paid the price, it was over. Done! Finito!! No mas!! Nailed to the Cross. I am not subject to it. That is exactly what he said when he said on the cross, “It is finished!” He wasn’t talking about the beatings, or the nailing, or the living, he was talking about paying the price. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away the sins of man, nor can the annual sacrifice of those animals, they only serve to remind us that we are sinners.

Think of it as a debt that you owe God; you can’t pay the principle because you are a broken human being. You aren’t perfect. You can only pay the interest each year with your sheep and goats, and bulls and doves. You need the principle paid in order to stop the interest from accruing. Jesus lived a perfect life. No sin! He can pay the price if he is gracious enough. And he is. Who but for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, scorned it’s shame and is seated at the right hand of God the father (Hebrews 12:2) What possible joy could he have been talking about while looking towards Calvary? YOU! He was looking through the cross to you. He wanted to save you. He saw you there. He wanted to make the debt that you owed God stop!! HE LOVES YOU!

So after he goes through all that to do away with the regulations of the written code, the Law, the Law of Moses, the Law of sin and death, why would I post them on the walls of the very place you should come to find freedom?

The LAW just holds you down and reminds you that you were a sinner separated from God. The Law served to condemn us, to teach us we are sinners. Not any more.

Galatians 3:23-25 (NKJV)
                          23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be
revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith
has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

And what about those people that still reach back into the Law for one Law to control others with? The Bible says when you reach back to use the Law to control the free, you prove that you don’t know God.

Galatians 5:4 (NIV)
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Because once you reach for one Law, you have to keep all 613. Oooops, you thought there were only 10? No, there are 613. And if you reach for one you get all of them; they are inseparable. One unit.

Galatians 3:10-11 (NIV)
                    10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not
continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before
God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”

You have been set free, why would you hang the shackles up for everyone to worship? Why would you threaten to put them back on people whom Christ died to save?

I do believe that freedom is not my excuse for low living, no doubt. But then, You and I aren’t the judge or jury, we share an invitation and the Word: Jesus set you free from the Law, so I will not hang them in the church.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” This is what Jesus said was the greatest commandment, “and the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I’ll hang that everywhere!!