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.

 

 

 

That Andy Stanley!!

LET’S MAKE A MESS

Ok, Let’s see what I can do here. I have made some messes in my life so I think I am img_8534qualified to screw this up with my opinion as well.

I was recently asked about my opinion of an on going discussion of Andy Stanley’s comments concerning the Bible, more specifically a blog response (as kind as it was) to Andy’s sermon.

“Preparation H” is not for Oral use

I think I would start with something as rare as straight up common sense. Common Sense, you remember what that was right? Maybe? Vaguely? (Your grandma can tell you what it is go ask her or another adult over 50.) If not then you are the reason they had to put “Not meant for oral use on the “Preparation H” tube; a medicine meant for your rectum (another word you may have to look up.) “Caution contents are HOT” on the HOT coffee that you just ordered because you wanted a HOT breakfast drink.

There was NO Bible

So how does this play into the Andy Stanley discussion? Common sense tells us that the Bible was canonized in one form by Marcion in circa 140ad, then the Apostolic cannon began to be common in the third century. There appears to be at least, at least 110-170 years from Jesus until anyone created a “Bible” to carry and quote from. Now, Paul’s letters were floating around, and some of the others as well. (What we call “Books” of the New Testament) But lets be honest, very, very few people had access to these writings. So the “Bible” was not the reason for salvation. It was not the cornerstone for Salvation; oral tradition was. The main point of the oral tradition was the fact they shared that God resurrected Jesus from the dead. It is a historically written fact that he was seen by the disciples, and then by more than five hundred other people. (1 Cor 15:6)

This is common sense based upon chronology and fact. People came to a salvation knowledge of Jesus as their Lord and Savior before there was ever a Bible. Period. Thousands upon thousands of people; not just a few.

Peter preached experience

Peter stands up in Acts 2 and thousands get saved after he preaches and quotes a scripture from Jewish tradition. He doesn’t expound on the Scripture, he uses it to reference what is happening in Jerusalem. Then he preaches what they experienced for 3 plus years, and people repented and got baptized.

Jesus frees the Gadarene demonic in Luke 8:26-39. When Jesus goes to leave, this man wants to be his disciple and come with him. Jesus denies the man and tells him to go home and TELL people what Jesus did for him. He didn’t “Sunday school” the man, he didn’t give him a Bible, he didn’t teach him “Seven spiritual Laws” or tell him how to do a proper exegesis of scripture. He sent him with the mission to share his story: oral tradition. People got saved, I am sure, because of this man’s testimony that God healed him through Jesus.

Common sense people.

Now that there are not people with their own first century experience with Jesus telling us their stories, I believe that God saw to it that the Bible was canonized. Canonized by men? Absolutely. Men who are broken themselves? Yes! But God is God and God can see to it that this Word is exactly what he expects, even if Balaam’s Ass had written it! (get off your high horse, that’s an Asian animal, look that up as well)

So?

So if you are asking me, I have no problem with what Pastor Stanley said in this sermon. Accepting Jesus’ words as a child does not include all of the “things” we do to split the theological hairs of the Bible. My faith is in Jesus Christ and God’s resurrection of his Son after he sacrificed himself for me. In the bread, my sins are paid for. In the blood I have been given a NEW COVENANT and welcomed back into the family. I am a child of God with or with out a written document. I do not “believe” just because the Bible says so. I believe this because it is the truth. I was “told it” before I ever “read it” for myself. I am glad God had someone record it so I can keep studying it. But if there were no Bible, I would still believe, just like the thousands upon thousands that believed before the Bible was written AND/OR canonized.

The Bible is not the problem

While I do think that we are moving quickly into a post Christian culture, I don’t see the problem affirming that I have a document (the Bible) that helps remind me of the teachings of the Christ. This is no different than any religion or government, or company bylaws that exist today. Unlike Andy Stanley, I do not believe that today’s young people are writing off the Bible (though there will always be some that need to prove every dot and every tittle), no, the detriment that is coming out of the Christian church, causing this generation to “write off” (sorry about that pun) the Bible, is the Christians lack of adherence to it themselves.

Christian people are killing the church

The Church teaches Jesus but then turns around and ignores that parts they don’t want to live and die for. The church rationalizes Jesus teachings to fit their comfort, convenience and cash. The very Christians that are crying out against Andy Stanley, are they the same ones that won’t go into missions, won’t tithe and give generously, won’t love their enemies and won’t die for the cause of Christ, instead they kill for their Bible culture. Are these the same people that read Malachi and then divorce their spouses for all the non-biblical reasons they can come up with? As if “I’m not happy” or “I deserve better than this” is why Jesus died?

When the church repents, the world will take Jesus seriously.

The resurrection supersedes the Bible. Paul’s letter to Timothy in 2Timothy 3:16 is a reference to what we today call the Old Testament. The New Testament wasn’t written people. I do believe it was prophetic though, speaking of the Bible to come.

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I believe this. I am glad for the record. The Bible is God’s Word to us, it is consistent and allows us to “recalculate” our lives.

God raised Jesus from the dead, THAT truth is why I am a follower of Christ,  I heard it through the Bible.

I don’t Care What the Bible Says?

Danger! Sarcastic Pastor on prescription medicines, on a rant, with a keyboard.
Enter at your own risk!

Come, Follow Me

Danger_Enter_At_Your_Own_Risk

God almighty is seated on his throne in Heaven and he has a plan. He invites you to join that plan. Get it? YOU join God’s plan.
As Christians we yield to Jesus’ words, “Come, follow me.” He does not yield to us.

COME

“Come” means you are leaving somewhere. It may be geographical, spiritual, emotional, financial … But something is going to change. I know you probably don’t like change. That very fact is why I see people post over and over that, “people are leaving the church.” I’m not seeing people leaving the church. I’m seeing people leaving institutions run by people that have no apparent desire to move forward and grow spiritually. I’m seeing people leaving institutions that want to tell the exact same story, the exact same way, with the exact same reaction, singing the exact same songs. Like God himself froze time in the 1700’s.

FOLLOW

“Follow” means you aren’t in charge. With the democratization of the church in America it is amazing what people call structure and organization. “If I don’t have a say on what color the hinge bolts are on the toilet seats in the ladies bathroom, well then I’m gonna find a new church.” Or, “If I can’t use my gifts my way and be in charge then I’m clearly not wanted.” Following is a hard thing. Everyone isn’t gifted or called to do the thing they may want to do. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a part. To follow you have to submit, and let’s be honest, we don’t like that do we? Somehow we think that the church is supposed to have or be, a House of Representatives and that isn’t even biblical. It’s sad to see people going from church to church, leaving wreckage in their wake, and yet taking little to no responsibility for what THEY are doing. I’ve always told church planters, “if they come in mad, they will leave mad.” It’s been true 100% of the time so far.

ME

“Me.” One of these days we will capture the idea, the philosophy of ministry, understanding the truth that the Gospel IS ALL ABOUT JESUS. Not you, not me, not what I want, but it is about God’s plan and HE expects us to be faithful to his words. Your life, your money, your “plans,” your children, your relationships, your expectations, everything about you is supposed to be surrendered to Christ when you become a Christian. EVERYTHING. But as Christians I still see the, “God’s about to bless my every waking moment” theology being “meme’d” to death. What part of Jesus’ disciples life and death shows you that being a disciple of Christ is getting the big house, the big car, the new jet, the profitable job, the free education or anything else we can think of? (God could do that, but it comes with great responsibility to invest back into the Kingdom
of God.) That wasn’t the example of the disciples though was it? Boiled in oil, crucified upside down, beheaded, exiled, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, losing homes, lands, spouses, children and whole families being imprisoned.
And we have brought it to the idea that it is all about me. God has a plan for my life because my life is the center of the universe?
Seriously? And you don’t have time to witness to your co-worker, your family? When was the last time to prayed for a stranger, invited someone to church, shared the gospel? When did you last fast or pray for more than a moment? When did you sell everything you have give to the poor and then take a new turn in life. When was the last time you asked God who you could give TO rather than gi’me, gi’me?

Jesus was crystal clear

Jesus was crystal clear. Come, Follow ME.
Look around you today. All these Facebook posts about the toilet apocalypse, the end of “my” politics, the love of most growing cold, it’s all in the Word. But then, we’d have to read the word wouldn’t we? After that Jesus expects us to obey that word doesn’t he.
Crazy how many people say God is dead-serious about homosexuality (and he is) but those same people make all kinds of excuses and reasonings AGAINST Jesus’ specific words to LOVE YOUR ENEMY. Crystal clear. Needs no interpretation.

I don’t care what the Bible says?

Maybe, just maybe, your life and your church hopping, your messed up children, your loss of marriage, your upside down finances are actually a result of you following your made up God. Maybe, just maybe, when Jesus says “Come, follow me” he really expects that and when you meet him face to face, that is exactly what he is going to talk to you about.

One of the saddest moments I have experienced from a Christian was years ago when he demanded that I preach that alcohol consumption was a sin. In the course of our conversation I said I couldn’t preach that because the Bible doesn’t say that. His exact words, that he blurted out in the frustration that I wouldn’t do what he asked were, “I don’t care what the Bible says, …”
(Deep breath, let it out slowly) there in lies the problem.
What about you today?

You waded all the way through this. What is God asking of you today?