Worship: Singing Your Lies.

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This is not a simple thing, getting simple.

Much of what we do is rooted in our identity as 21st century beings and it is very difficult to shed those thought processes. I have come to feel that the trappings of the zeitgeist can only really be seen when they are held up in contrast to an earlier age. Juxtaposing 21st century Churchianity to a much earlier time has revealed some fundamental issues that I would never have been able to see clearly before I set out on this adventure.

I have discovered that before we can even begin to gather our twelves baskets full of remnants, we have to deal with ourselves and the repercussions of our adhesion to the spirit of the age. This has proven to be so deep and far reaching that we have barely even been able to start this emulation. To deconstruct must come first; who are we and how did we get here?

Stripping away everything from the stage is the first step in this. All of our actions, props and lights that add depth to the stage and by extension, the “performances”, have to be removed so that we can clearly see what we really have before us. It is a raw thing, to be sure. We are so used to hiding in various aspects of our Sunday performance, not wanting to have to deal with the reality that is all around us. We seem to sing, dance, use our multimedia, preach and pray in an almost sterile environment, the preacher being removed from the people and fully insulated in the bubble of “the show”.

When you take away all of this, you are left with what remains; the people and their issues and you.

I discovered something just here at this point. When I removed the whirl of the service progression and deconstructed it down to its most basic elements, everyone was left without something to hide behind. For some, it was music. In the McChurch, you play five songs or more and you have a predictable response. Some dance, some sing, some lift their hands, some don’t budge and just stare straight ahead. When you strip that time away and pose to the people the simple issue of what worship is, they quickly get uncomfortable and even distressed. I think that we have substituted real worship for this thing that we do, this sing-along that allows you to act spiritual without doing anything spiritual.

Let me explain.

Matthew 15:7-9 reads: “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Fair enough, Jesus. So, some folks sing and profess something with their mouth while their heart is elsewhere, I get it. So, let’s stress that the people really must mean every line from the songs that WE chose for them to sing, regardless of where they are or what is happening to them. That may close the issue for good (and has) if it weren’t for the next line, the last bit here that throws everything off: “worship in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men”.

Have we done that? The Boomers, who have set the stage here for us in regards to McChurch, love worship. In fact, they demand a satisfying worship experience and to not have one is heresy of the first order. Gen-X could not be more different in this. What we long for is realness, period. I don’t want to go through the motions and follow a pattern that you created for me just so that I can fit in. What I long for is a depth of experience that I have not found in the McChurch pattern. A segment of this generation is also totally burned out on the whole performance aspect of “worship ministry” in general. We have been to so many shows over the course of our lives and coming into the church, we see one more show. And we don’t want our spiritual church service to simply stoop down to the level of filling a missing area of our lives.

That idea is very Boomer; no concerts now that you are a Churchian- we will fill that void with a Jesus concert-lite. No cool festivals- Jesuspalooza is the answer. Can’t watch that cool movie- substitute Christian cinema. The Boomers did this with everything from stupid Christian shirts that played on worldly themes (Lord’s Gym, Jesus: that’s my final answer!) to bumper stickers to mega churches that more resemble malls than places of worship (get a brew at Higher Grounds while you shop at our bookstore). I was, and am, just as guilty as everyone else of subscribing to the Boomers need for customization, substitution and convenience. God help us.

Real worship does not happen in a sing-along. In fact, real worship has nothing to do with singing at all. When the church in the first century heard the word “worship”, their thoughts went straight to the outward elements of sacrifice and the multi-layered facets of Judaism. To worship was equated with sacrifice. To us, we gloss this over with the term “sacrifice of praise” and then demand that everyone assume that we we are doing is right and God ordained.

So what is true worship, in spirit and in truth?

Rom 12:1-2  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Jas 1:27  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

When Paul calls presenting your bodies a living sacrifice, your reasonable service, the word rendered service there is the Greek word “latreia”- worship. When James talks about “pure religion and undefiled”, that word rendered religion there is the Greek word “thrēskeia”- worshipping.

Now, let’s get our heads around this. So, Jesus said that people were praising God with their mouths while their hearts were far from him and that they taught for doctrine the commandments of men. Paul and James go on to clarify by saying that dying to self and presenting your life to God in consecration is your reasonable act of worship and that pure worship and undefiled before God is to care for widows and orphans. How has that devolved into a sing along set to the snappy tunes of contemporary music while your life is not presented as a reasonable sacrifice and the only person that you really care about is yourself? I mean, people will actually get angry if you don’t have sing-along time because you are taking away their time to worship… an incredibly selfish statement that is only perceived in its true inglorious state when juxtaposed against the word of God stripped of all the double talk and false references.

Where does singing come in? The Bible does reference it, telling us to make a joyful noise and to sing and lift our hands. So you obviously can’t throw the baby our with the bathwater, right?

A few years ago we had what has come to be called “Fire Church”. It was a little event at one of our member’s farm with just a small group of us present and a visiting minister from out of town. Basically, we all sat around a fire and began to talk about God and spirituality and the differences between Gen-X/Y and the Boomers. For some reason, the conversation took place primarily between myself and the other preacher (curiouser and curiouser). What we experienced was the most spiritual church service that any of us had been a part of in years and in some cases, ever. At the end of the night, the Spirit of God hung thickly around that fire and the other preacher declared that we should sing. He began singing a song that was perfectly in line with the night’s impromptu teaching: They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love. It was a deeply spiritual moment as all sung together these words that seemed like they were written just after our conversation, you could hardly breathe due to the presence of God that was there. And the song, sung in unity, actually added to the night’s revelation. We all walked away from that night knowing that something had occurred in the spirit that was transformational and powerful.

Juxtapose this with the McChurch service: begin with three songs, uptempo. The Worship leader must talk and cheerlead the people into getting excited. Then, after accomplishing this, we get serious. So begins the “worship set” of two to three slower songs meant to make the people contemplative. After this, we take your money, give announcements and get to the sermon.

I am sorry, I can’t do it. I am past the point of no return, that area that exists in the pilot’s vocabulary that denotes the area where you can no longer turn around, there simply isn’t enough gas, so you either make your destination or you crash. I am there.

The issue is that we have faked it for so long that we don’t know what it means to be real. When we ask ourselves what worship would look like if you took away all of the societal pressures and contraptions, all of the norms and patterns that we have learned from McChurch, you are left with a big, stinking hole that you don’t know how to fill. I mean, if you listened to country, pop, rock, punk, contemporary, is that what we should make our worship services into? If it is accepted by the status quo as “normal”, does that make it right?

What is “normal” to God?

We have found it best to allow the Worship Leader to be led by God in regards to what to sing and when. That it should be Spirit-led and in harmony with the revelation, teaching, preaching, Word from God. That it should be simple and valued for the words that are said and not the style that it is in. It doesn’t have a “place” in the order of service as singing is only one small aspect of what true worship is. We should be presenting our bodies as living sacrifices first, dying to self and allowing God to free us from our demands of individuality, consecrating ourselves to God and His service. We should be engaging in Social Gospel activities, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for widows and orphans, first. Then, properly laying upon the altar, we should sing songs in unity and sing to Him and for Him alone

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All things beautiful…

American Pentecost

All of this began in the spring of 1991 in New Mexico. At the time I had been doing street ministry full time for just a few months and honestly didn’t know a thing about how things worked.

I had been praying for direction because what I was doing wasn’t really working. I was walking the streets in the town where I was living for up to eight hours a day, praying for encounters and witnessing to everyone that I met. But something was not right. I couldn’t tell you what it was, I just felt like I was meant to be somewhere other than where I was. I had walked around all day in the projects and barrio and had not won anyone to the Lord that day and I came home to the trailer that I lived in tired, thirsty and dejected.

Late that night I was watching…

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Catharsis

 

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I packed what was most precious to me and left the rest behind. A few small tokens, some letters from my kids from the last Father’s Day, a day I saw two of them only briefly. I took my Boston Red Sox coffee mug, my Irish blessing plaque, my ceramic sign that read in Gaelic “a hundred thousand welcomes”. That and clothes, this small lot is all that I took with me that day as I closed the door and walked away from 19 years of accumulation, familiarity and safety.

-My life. Oh me, ‘tis all.

I had been the victim of a cruel blindside tackle months before, the obvious damage immediate but the visceral afterbirth unaccounted for. I lost the only person that I had ever loved, one soul in the tens of thousands I had met, just one in the hundreds or thousands that I knew personally. I was unaware of the danger, struggling mightily with her daily soft betrayals and so I never saw the killing joke for what it was; her betrayals that drove me to drink wouldn’t kill me, it was her leaving that probably would.

Immediately afterwards and for the time being, it was her indifference to my love, those feelings that raged within me like the anarchic results of a child beating at a mud puddle with a stick; not caring who gets soaked in the process. I was bewildered by the depths and force of her anger at my being. None of it made sense, the 180 degree shift from forever to hatred.

I left the empty house not because I wanted to but because I had to. I could not take a roommate to offset the costs because then I couldn’t have my kids. I couldn’t maintain it alone with the costs of child support. She had taken our only vehicle and then convinced me to sign it over so that she could junk it and get a newer one when in fact, she just used it as collateral and left me without transportation. So I could find no work in our town and could not go to another town to work. It was a jam like I’d never been in before, literally no way out. So I left her everything and walked away from my life and the last place I knew with her and my kids.

I was drinking from a broken heart. One that was exacerbated by having been betrayed and cheated on by everyone that I had been with. Her betrayal stung the worst though, she had been the only person that I had trusted in a life full of trauma. The irony was that she used the drinking as a reason for keeping herself and my kids away when it was her betrayals and distance that caused it in the first place.

And irony just smiled…

The events had triggered a massive CPTSD episode, something I had only recently been professionally diagnosed with, the results of witnessing way too much over the course of my life. She refused to speak with me, preferring to stay away and watch the fallout. The results were massive and terrible. Having no coping mechanisms, I alternated between trying to explain my love and lashing out with cutting remarks that eviscerated her.

I drank, I fought, I could not find God to help because I frankly hated him for betraying me so. I was in a maelstrom that I could not comprehend and I could find no help. Suicide was a daily option, there was no reason to go on without her and my kids and our intertwined lives. For the majority of our 19 years, we were inseparable. The kids had been mostly homeschooled and were constant companions. Now the house sat empty, the windows unblinking as they mocked me with the cavernous hole left inside.

Dramatic? It does not give any justice to the depths of the hell that I felt.

Holiday after holiday passed, each insulting me with reminders of my life. I saw my family; those that I was closest to in the world, walking through the days like ghosts, busily going about the routines and traditions that I had gotten so used to. At times I could almost touch them, I could see my kids on the floor and smell my little girl’s hair. All the while there remained the staccato drumbeat of accusation against God.

-Hadn’t I eschewed treating ministry like a business?

-Hadn’t I at times attempted to pray things in because I was convinced that the world should know that there was a God that answered prayers?

-Hadn’t I preached exactly what I thought that he had wanted me to?

-Hadn’t I rejected the corporate world system, seeing the dangers it presented as it slouched its way to Gomorrah?

-Didn’t she see it and know it too?

-How had he left us when we needed him the most?

-How was he watching me now with sardonic enjoyment as I was unraveled before the world and heaven?

But there were no answers for me. Heaven was apparently slyly yawning as I broke. I accrued mistake after mistake, struggling through days and weeks and months of accumulating trauma. I had never hurt so badly in my life, I’d never felt loss this sharply. It was as if my chest had been torn open like a window for all the world to see.

I cried. Sometimes for days on end. Then I cried harder knowing that she would only equate that with masculine weakness rather than as the result of a broken heart of love.

And still, everyday, the pain alternates between the slow dull ache of loss and the sharp panicked pain of need.

I have found God again or rather, he’s found me. Heaven offers no ready answers other than trust and sovereignty. I had been right in my actions that I thought were serving the Kingdom, I know that now. I see the world system and it’s materialism in a stark new light. I see the results of the temptation of the eye and the fall of Eve more clearly now. I hear a voice behind me saying ‘brokenness’ and ‘revival’. I am sober and praying and preaching once again.

I am different.

And yet this is Christmas and the ghosts are back.

Perhaps they’ve never left and never will.

 

The God of Serious Men?

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‘If I had my way, I’d fire you. You aren’t the God of serious men, you’re the God of little girls that wish upon a star’.

Thus began my prayer time today.

No reflective pause at the start, no praising Him for this or that thing, no coming before him in the mighty and incomparable name of Jesus. Just this single honest thought that was as true of a thing in my heart as I could think of.

Before you get your religious panties all scrunched up, I’ve always been this way with God, from the first day that religion brightened my doorstep. If I were to venture a guess I would say that it was due to my slight problem with authority; that’s always
been a bit of an Achilles’ heel in my life. I don’t give a rip what title you carry, I am only concerned with the authenticity of your leadership. I will not submit to nor will I follow a title, I follow leaders and if none worthy present themselves, I follow no one. I will however sit outside of your Golden Calf God Crystal Cathedral Family Fun Worship Center, Inc and pelt you with rocks and garbage.

I know, I know, you don’t even have to say it. You really want me to be more humble and take on the nature of a servant so that I will willingly fall in line and align myself with the vision items and teachings of your husband/brother/wife/cousin/pastor/tv preacher with cute hair and tight jeans, whoever, that couldn’t find God if he sat on their forehead and rode them like a hobby horse in the kid’s area at a midget rodeo.

Hence the crux of my dilemma.

See, ministry is easy. Small towns, big towns, small churches, big malls- all the same. All that you have to do is present the right image and feed the people a line. If other people think you are something, most will.

Make ’em laugh
Make ’em cry
Make ’em dance in the aisles
Make ’em pay
Make ’em stay
Make ’em feel okay
Not now John
We’ve got to get on with the film show
Hollywood waits at the end of the rainbow
Who cares what it’s about
As long as the kids go?
Not now John we’ve
Got to get on with the show
~Pink Floyd

See? Pink gets it. The original Pink, not the chick singing now. It’s all about the manipulation of the teeming masses, that’s it and that’s all. I’ve met big time preachers, gads of them. I’ve watched them show up to venues, sorry, churches, and have the staff put up their 30 foot banners on the outside – their huge faces letting everyone know the show was in town. Ive seen their riders before they get there, guaranteeing the amount of their pay and demanding rental cars, new cell phones pre-programmed with important local numbers, what kinds of foods they will and won’t eat at restaurants (they will NOT go to private homes to eat), and what they would like to see in their fruit and gift baskets in their room.

And man, they can put on a show! The crowds come, the place is full, the warm-up band is killing it, the offerings are fine as can be. They preach a message designed to do whatever the pastor has on his agenda and everyone is happy.

Except maybe God, who knows with him?

Of course there’s also myself but I’m never happy anyway. Walk away, he’s a downer, nothing to see here…

When I met Jesus it was during a suicide attempt, my second by the time I was 19. When I met him for myself, wet, bleeding and naked on a bathroom floor – I was sure I had finally found the answer. I’ve not had a normal life, not at all. I had seen and done more by the time I was 15 than 90% of adults have by the enId of their life. It’s been a merry little trauma train ever since, one situation after another. And in all of this, two things stand out as being absolute:

1. I am looking for the God of Elijah.

2. I am not content with your Ba’al.

And Ba’al he is, even if you just call him “Lord”.

Ba’al he remains, even if you sing songs at him on Sunday mornings, songs that touch the heart of Jehovah about as much as “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison would.

See, kids, you can’t play a player and I can smell your fake about six miles away. I know you trust in your Churchian haircuts and cardigans like they are armor but they aren’t. They are billboards, declaring to the world that you are ravening wolves in a Ned Flanders mask.

And this is what I ran into upon my introduction to “the church” (yessss, amen… cue goosebumps…). Not a place where love abides and the glory of God fills the place, nope. I ran into tombs and mausoleums erected to an idea of a dead God who no longer really acted anymore (unless you have a rider and 30 foot big-face banner), a God that was on vacation but left us all a nice note. Granted, the tomb was decorated like a Victoria’s Secret store, and socially engineered to make people feel comfortable yet still conveying the idea that we are hip, down with emerging trends and technology.

I actually saw a church sign once in Minnesota that struck me as perfectly apropos: it had a black background and big bulbous green letters declared, “Sick?? We’re just like you!”

How comforting. If they point to the answer.

See, I’m weird. I came into this thing expecting God to be who the Word said he was and for the church to be anything other than what it is.

So I am constantly placing myself in the wonderful position of being alone, mostly broke, eschewing big invites to big places and needing to see God show up. I can’t sit back, content with the status quo and pretend. I would rather die than place hope in a false God that can’t provide, heal, save, deliver. I can’t quote your sermon zingers that are written from your bondage in Egypt or Babylon. I can’t sing your lies about God’s greatness when we are all taken away captive by a world system that we are enslaved to. Sorry. Pass.

I have to leave your camp because it stinks like a refugee camp in Africa in the heat of mid-summer. I can’t be content with the promise of Heaven and golden streets that I will walk down when I die; my uncle Bob who was “saved” on his deathbed by repeating the Sinner’s Prayer and asking Jesus into his heart- meeting me wearing white robes with tiny bird wings and telling me about the wonders of heaven that he has enjoyed. It’s a lie and the place you call heaven is a myth generated by men that didn’t know God but wanted to give out false hope.

No, count me out of your easy believing, shallow sermons from some fool that talks about a God they don’t know. I choose to be alone, looking for a God that can supply when no one knows my needs. I choose to wait for the right bus rather than to jump onto the one that everyone takes to the mall, church, give it a name.

I had a vision once at the beginning of my ministry because I am awesome. In the vision there was this huge pointy mountain and corkscrewing its way around the mountain was a road. As I looked, crowds started coming up that road, four abreast. They all were in lock-step with one another and dressed identically. As they rounded the first bend and disappeared behind the back side of the mountain, I waited and watched for them to come back into view. When they finally did, about a third were left. By the end of the second bend, none came out from behind the mountain. I was wondering about this in the vision when I heard someone tell me to look up; that’s when I saw a few men and women scrambling up the side, fighting to reach the top. Up there were some folks I recognized: Wesley, Bohler, Calvin, Knox, Augustine, Spurgeon, Allen, Branham, Coe.

Let the reader understand the vision.

Call me whatever you like. Level your charges against me, accusing me of non-conformity with an immovable object, all day. I’m glad.

At the end of the day, for all of your talk and posturing you probably couldn’t pray in a pair of shoelaces if you needed them and your leaning on the breasts of the world system and feeding your flesh its milk, lovingly stroking it and calling it “God” are a joke. It’s easy to conform to the world system and give God the credit for your car, house, credit cards, wardrobe. But you are slaves to it and God doesn’t want your false worship, he wants our obedience.

We are nothing more than the most moral representatives of a satanic world system and that is it.

And that is all.

Open your mouth up wide…
*makes airplane noises*
That’s good, now chew…

God has purposefully given me some awesome ideas the last few years. I mean, groundbreaking, paradigm shifting, non-conformist plans of awesome snowflake uniqueness that no one cared about.

Hey, churchy people! I have a request for two orphanages in Kenya for babies whose parents were just slaughtered by rebels. Give to this so we can help them!

*cue crickets*

Hmmm… strange…

Okay, how about a totally unique outreach to France, a country where 95% of the people have never seen a Bible? I’m talking a Gen-X outreach using very little resources but using off-the-grid, organic, self sufficient permaculture and sustainability to plant using an idea that they can readily identify with? Did I mention that none of the mission agencies send people to France because it’s too dark?

*cue more crickets, some sticking out their tongues at me*

Hmmm… curiouser and curiouser…

Okay. Here’s the marching orders- there’s a place in Cleveland called Slavic Village. Ground zero for the housing market crash. Good people are being overrun by drug dealers and gangs while corporate capitalist vulture pigs are buying up properties on the cheap and practicing gentrification while pushing out families and the poor. I’ve been given a four bedroom house there and a building to launch a ministry training center, if you could just partner with… us… as… we…

*Cue more crickets, some mooning me while whistling Chris Tomlin worship songs…

Hmmm… Okay, I’m starting to get annoyed.

Okay, you guys must care about this. We have a request on the table from a group working with the government of Honduras. They need us to raise 25 k to build a home for 25 little girls between the ages of 9-13 who are being used as prostitutes every night. Rich businessmen are paying low prices to sexually abuse these babies and I can’t sleep at night because I know that as I sit here, that piece of trash is ravaging that little body and ruining that baby girl. But we can change all that if you just give.

*Cue crickets interspersed with the sound of tonight’s episode of The Voice…

Hmmm.

What if I promise you that no matter the amount that you give with your tax deductible gift, God will return it to you a hundred fold? New houses, new cars, you can finally rest knowing there is money in the bank. Divorce your husband for not making enough money, it’s fine, Ba’al understands your pain!

*Cue cash register sounds as the milk and money flows.

Those are all real life scenarios and real life responses, crickets not actually being crickets.

And I sit here looking for God, The God of wonders, sovereign and supernatural. I have paid a heavy price for my search, believe me. I’ve also seen some incredible things; provision, AIDS healed, other healings beyond counting, satanists unable to open their mouths, ministry across the globe, providence at the last minute, countless lives changed and decisions made, watching God show up when I was on the road, numerous things, too numerous for this post.

Yet I still haven’t found the God of Elijah. I’m still looking for him, waiting as an object of ridicule as I choose to find Him rather than compromise and give him credit for the things I’ve gained. My heart has been broken a thousand times, I’ve lost people that I loved, I’ve been left and vilified when I couldn’t take the emotional trauma anymore. I’ve been slandered, rejected, ostracized, marginalized. I’ve fallen into drink, betrayed and destroyed by people that I loved and disappointed in a system that I hated.

Yet I’m still here.

The God I’m waiting for keeps his Word, him alone on the throne, the hearts of men and women in his hands, the fate of nations determined by his whim. This God can provide for me according to Matthew 6, not a resume, contacts or job market. This God can open prison doors, can cause you to walk on water or even part them before you. This God can be trusted with your very life, no matter the circumstances. This God is worthy of all of my love and all of my service because I know him.

If you prefer your Ba’al Golden Calf God, the one that promises much but delivers only the world system as a substitute, you go ahead and keep him. That God is a pathetic joke that the world openly mocks because he is nothing but the Venus DeMilo, all teats with no arms. Yet you placate your weak conscience by going to church with the family on Sunday listening to snake oil sales pitches from someone that knows God isn’t showing up. Then you continue in your mess because God stopped keeping score.

You’ve lost your first love, you’ve rejected the Holy Ghost, you have cast off the truth you knew because it all proved too hard.

Well, baby, it looks like the thing you longed to change ended up changing you. Now you’re a shell without hope, mortgaging your birthright for a temporary meal, worse than Esau because you know what you were called to and who you sold out in your adultery with the world and it’s system.

I’m calling on my Generation to wake up, cast off the mess they’ve sold you and leave the camp. I’m calling on you to leave the world system and all it’s pretty baubles and determine to find God, no matter the cost. I’m calling on you to get fed up with the status quo and reject the world, be crucified to it rather than compromise and court it’s favor.

I’m calling you to outright rebellion and revolution lest our entire generation is lost.

Wake up. Get up. Head into the unknown looking for a God that has assured us that he is bigger than anyone has yet seen. Now is our moment to walk in the Kingdom and change this world.

Can you do that?

If not, sleep on, take your rest. There is a city that you will never see the inside of called the New Jerusalem and a global reformation about to get underway, a foundation shifting revival coming that you will see but never be a part of.

Selah.

 

 

Feed others not yourself, Tubby McChurchian.

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No, this is not a warning to those engaged in the character assassination of others while deeply embedded in the sin of gluttony that comes from too much fried chicken. I wouldn’t lower myself to that. Who am I kidding, I totally would. But I’m not. Right now.

This is about our excess and selfishness and greed in the American church and some ideas to help you combat that.

See, In the churches where I have served, we have had food pantries. We have given out the food to people from the community who needed help but tried to limit it to church members who were struggling. This is due, in part, to professional pantry vultures that actually schedule their lives around when various charities are giving away stuff. We always want to help when help is needed but we also want to be sure to adhere to the biblical idea of “if you don’t attend here, we can’t help you”.

editors note: yes, that was all sarcasm.

Now, one week we decided that we must meet the needs of the poor, wherever they are but we didn’t think Jesus would wait around in a big building and have the poor come to Him. So, we decided to take the food to them, the voiceless, lonely lurkers out there who may very well be convinced that no one cares anymore. Now, we had a pretty sizable population of illegal immigrants there, they mostly worked in the cheese factories, it being Wisconsin. They also happen to be both the poorest section of the community and also the most unreached. So, we had a little hand-out printed up in Spanish, then loaded up an SUV and headed out.

Along the way, we stopped at a new tattoo parlor in town and I introduced myself to the owner. Turns out he was an ex-punk, ex-Skinhead like me and around the same age. I explained that I was a Pastor and had come to see him and to tell him to either repent or perish. I joke, I kid.

Actually, I explained that I was a Pastor and then showed him my sleeves (for you squares out there, sleeves are full arms done in tattoos, I didn’t show him my shirt sleeves, that would be strange.) he was of course really taken back by this and told me that he had never met a Pastor with tattoos. He noticed some of the tats that I have right away, like the Exploited screaming skull and the Doc Martins.

Soon, we had a great conversation going on in which he told me how he used to be a Catholic and really didn’t have a problem with the church, just church people. I told him that I agreed with him and felt the same way. In fact, I told him about how Jesus dealt with the religious leaders of His day and how he had told them that whores and tax collectors would go into the Kingdom before them. Anyway, I offered to come and hang out with him and he seemed to really want me to, which was cool. He may not know it yet, but God is finding him.

Then we were off to find some poor folks. We would go to places where we knew that someone was struggling. We knocked on the door, introduced ourselves (if they spoke English) or handed them the Spanish hand-out if we had to. We explained that we couldn’t eat ourselves without them having enough and that Jesus cares about them even if Christians don’t.

At one place, there was a young Mexican girl who answered the door. The front room was very, very cold (this is Wisconsin in January). She let us know that she couldn’t find work and had three small kids. She didn’t heat the front room and just heated the bedroom with an electric heater. She was out of diapers and food and very far from home. Can you imagine what that must be like? I then asked her if she needed potatoes and she was very excited, then I noticed two small potatoes wrapped in Saran-Wrap on top of the fridge, they were only eating small bits at a time.

I ran to the store and bought some diapers and we gave her food and asked if she needed blankets. This was repeated over and over that afternoon. I told the person with me that if that were us, to have someone come and offer the things that we needed so badly, when it seemed that no one cared- that would be a miracle in my book.

There is all of this desperation, all of this need, right outside our doors. And how will we face God? I have the answer for it and it is quite simple; we will face Him exactly like the Rich man from Luke chapter 16, who fared sumptuously and those outside his gates got the scraps.

We give God the extra and keep the bulk for ourselves, so self-satisfied that if we give anything at all, that is more than most people do. But you are not called to be slightly better givers than most people, you are called to live a life of consecration and giving all that you have to meet the needs of those that Christ called “blessed”.

Isn’t that amazing? When you or I call someone or something blessed, we do so with the full (mis)understanding of Jewish covenant that Jesus railed against. The notion that to be rich is to be blessed while to be poor is the markings of God’s displeasure or even His curse is from the Old Covenant. When Jesus detailed who the blessed truly were, He named off the poor, the hated, the sorrowful, the persecuted. And it is to these same people that the sheep were applauded for serving and the goats were rejected for overlooking. Which one are you?

Someone once said that “if a child dies from hunger while a Christian sits full, that person is guilty of murder” and I can see where they are coming from. We have separated ourselves from the hurting and the poor by so many degrees of separation that it no longer affects us as it should. We do this, like the rich man with his walls and gates, to protect us from the inconvenience of giving. And like him, the dogs have more mercy than we do so many times. And in a world where we spend more on dog food than missions, the irony of this is overwhelming.

What would it look like if we practiced real community? What if our first job in the church was remembering the poor and way down at the bottom of that list were new buildings and padded pews? What if we set ourselves to the practice of seeking and saving the lost, regardless of where they fall on the income scale? What if we stopped planting so many churches in Suburbia and began reclaiming the abandoned and dilapidated areas of our communities. And from there, we walk and meet needs and provide services to those who cannot repay us?

I will tell you, we would begin to look like the church.

What if we stopped all the singles programs, recovery groups and movie nights geared towards keeping a lethargic church interested and began instead to use the wisdom and skills found in our membership to train people how to balance checkbooks, fix an engine, clean a home, apply for school? What if we made it our business to save the lost and completely eradicate poverty all around us?

What is stopping us from being the church right now? What stops us from having less so that others can have more? Why do we recoil at the idea of emptying our barns of all that we have stored up and instead, emptying them onto those who have nothing so that they have enough? Friend, we must go into all the world, that is a command. But don’t go empty-handed, take your wooden trophies that the world has bestowed on you for being such a productive member of it with you as you go. Real Christianity is not about having more and more for yourself, it is about giving more and more to others in the name of your Lord who gave all for you.

After all, charity is nothing more than giving back what you yourself have stolen.

Christian JERKS

“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus

Luke 14:33-35

“Well I’m gonna go then. And I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff, and I don’t need you. I don’t need anything except this. And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.

And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.”

Navin R. Johnson

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Selective hearing is amazing, is it not? At some point in the journey of the Christian Church, we lost our ability to take God seriously. I am willing to take a guess that this may have started when the Bible stopped being the Word of God and it became the suggestions of God, and even those have been, in our mind, muddled up in bad translations and social ideals that no longer apply.

But if one part of the book is wrong, how can any part of the book be trusted?

And that is exactly our issue, isn’t it? If you do not believe in the infallibility of the book in the original languages, if whole sections are not for today, then you can be free to pick and choose which parts you like. We have gotten very, very good at this actually.

Throw two rocks hard enough and you will likely hit two Churchians with radically different ideas of God. And in our relativistic post-modern society, that is exactly what you should expect. Since no one has a lock on the truth and all religion is simply a man trying to have some personal religion that suits him, the idea of absolutes makes people freak out. We don’t like the idea that God has:

a.) The power to do as He wishes.

or

b.)The authority to do as He wishes.

We are the stars of this show and He loves us, right? I mean, for God so loved the world that He gave so this whole thing is all about us and His desire to love, bless and snuggle with us if we so choose. We leave churches if we aren’t getting fed, loved, hugged, promoted, adored, called, whatever. We choose churches based on what they can do for us. We engage in endless self-promotion in order to further our ministry and our gifting and our agenda. We build huge monstrosities called “Churches” (imagine if we called Army barracks Armies?) so that the world can gaze in wonder in the rightness and power of us and our calling.

We choose doctrines and pet teachers who tell us exactly what we want to hear. Hyper-Grace Antinomian doctrines are flourishing even though that little bit of heresy was called out a long time ago. We are even starting to see Pelagianism and Universalism make a comeback. All of this is surging in popularity because man wants the Gospel presented to him in a way that lines up with his or her worldview, period.

God is irrelevant; my perception of God is what is important. Besides, if the Bible is only partially true, who cares, right? A good God’s judgment seat is only for rewards, not to ever punish.

And so we heap up to ourselves teachers who tell us that God’s desire is for you to have your best life now. We hang on the every word of Antinomian pimps who tell us that grace is a cover for sin and that nothing that you do matters because God doesn’t care about law, commands or morals. We chase teachers who will give us the 7 secrets of complete selfish happiness, all without the slightest concern that they are teaching half-truths designed to hobble the true church of God and usher in a satanic age such as the world has never seen.

Sin is self-life, period. I want what I want when I want it and no one can tell my heart otherwise. This is the root of all sin, self. And (curiouser and curiouser) it also happens to be the common theme of the Laodicean church.

Let me give you an example; a person’s life turns out to not be what they expect. They are facing some failures and some loss that they do not want to face. A friend suggests that they go with them to ‘Happy Family Fun Church’, who knows; maybe they will hear something that will help them out. Once there, the person sees Happy Family Fun Churchians all acting happy and fun together. They sing happy songs, greet you in a happy way and happily take your money.

Then the motivational speaker takes the stage and explains that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life. It wasn’t His will that they are not happy, they chose to be unhappy by not saying the magic words. If they would just say the magic words along with the speaker, why, all will be well. God won’t care if they sin anymore, he will load them with benefits like cars and planes and all of this can be theirs for the happy fun price of ZERO, if they will just simply join us in saying the magic words.

Well, once they do this (who wouldn’t take a deal like that?) they are immediately welcomed into the church and given basic teaching on how to talk like a Christian and look like one (happy and fun). And that person is effectively damned for all of eternity because of the lies being propagated in the name of Laodicean religion. Jesus only saves the lost, you see. If they are comforted and coddled and told that they are just fine, what are the chances that they will ever accept the fact that they are lost and ungodly?

The root of that religion is self and origin will always point to destination, always.

Go ahead and try and ruin a ministry and start your own, hide and watch exactly where you end up. God will not be mocked, friend. Start a church based off a split, fostering a spirit of division, discord and malice. Plan for that church to split and split and split. Steal an idea and start a business, divorce your spouse for a better one, smear and use gossip to ruin someone, choose your poison. Your origin in unrighteousness will always point to your destination.

This holds true for those who come and “accept” Christ in an AMWAY altar call or even those who run to an altar call to avoid Hell, it is all the same. If self is the heart of your origin, selfish destruction will be the destination that you arrive at.

Someone may say that this is not fair, that it was the Preachers who were the ones spreading this false doctrine, why should the people be blamed for it? And I agree to a point but we know the end result of those people, they will be held to a stricter judgment and give an account of what they have done. And those who were wrapped up in the spirit of the age and selfishly seeking the benefits of a Just and Holy God will gain the word of God from The Revelation of St. John; ”He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be”.

The heart of all sin is self. “Selah” right there for a moment and contemplate. When you were offended at a brother and began to maliciously gossip and slander them with self-righteous zeal, what was the root of your offense? Was it not the wounding of your self-life in some way?

When you were alone and looked at pornography on the internet, what was the root of that? Was it not self and its needs and desires and the wishing for what you do not have, coveting something that is not yours?

When you lie to spare the feelings of someone else are you not really lying to save yourself from embarrassment or in order to maintain position with that person?

When you read the words of Christ about taking up your cross and following Him or forsaking all that you have, what is it that rises up in consternation and screams; “That’s not for today!” or “Jesus wasn’t being literal, just be willing to do it!” It is self, friend and it is your mortal enemy and has become in the Laodicean church the enemies’ Fifth Column. It is the hidden underground resistance that undermines your trip to the Celestial City every single step of the way. Because self and Christ don’t mix, they are mutually exclusive, diametrically opposed to one another.

The very heart of the call of God to salvation is a rejection of the self life. In Prevenient Grace, you must accept that self does not know Him, in Convicting Grace; you must accept that you are not pleasing to Him. Then, on the border of salvation and damnation, you must come to the conclusion that you are ungodly and that, not your faith, charm, will, decision, power, money, but that alone is the basis of your salvation. “I am ungodly; take me to Him who justifies the ungodly”. That admission of guilt and your undeserving nature is the death pangs of self-life in you.

But the wrestling match against the sinful selfish nature will continue until complete sanctification is established with Him in glory. And at every moment that it rears its head, we must yell, “Away with Him!” If self is tied up in possessions, give them away, literally. If self is tied up in ministry, quit until you get it fixed. If self is causing you to sin, cut that part of your life off completely. If your self life is so strong that you are compelled to look at porn, throw the computer out, dear heart. If self is at the heart of your business or your job, quit, take a reduction in pay and embrace simplicity in order to find salvation from self.

When the Israelites were given instruction for the Passover, they were told to not enjoy the meal, eat it quickly and in much haste. They were told to bind up their garments to run and eat it with their walking staff in their hand. As Watchman Nee wrote, “The world is to us while we live, a journey, when we die, a tomb”. This world is not your home, you are passing through. And none of these things can give you satisfaction. Live as if you are passing through here, a righteous sojourner.

And your mission while you are on this earth is to daily crucify your flesh, that self-life that ties you to Hell. Deal with it as extremely as you need to, it is your worst enemy. Do things that do your proud heart good. Serve as if you are no one. Be the least as often as you can. Kill that scoundrel by any means necessary.

The Christian life does not end with Justifying Grace but in the process of the Holy Spirit making that justification true in you through Sanctification. This is a forgotten truth in this era of presumptuous faith. So many reject openly the truth that we have to walk worthy of our calling, examine ourselves, prove our own selves and pursue holiness in the fear of the Lord. If we would hate the self-life and embrace His sanctification, using resolutions as our Fathers did, we would find ourselves in a much different state of Grace than we are currently in here in America.

I truly believe that many of us in the Church have only left the world in tears, taking as much of it as we could along with us as we go, just like Navin R. Johnson left his home in The Jerk. This is so contrary to the Gospel message that we have been and will continue to be doomed to failure and ridicule by the world so long as we continue to do this.

The world is, after all, looking for someone to tell them the truth based on a life that looks like the truth as well. But where are the self-sacrificing missionaries today? Where are those who take little but give much? Where are those who would rather be wronged than harm a brother? Where are those who display the true Grace of God to the world in the rejection of the world and the self?

This is true Christianity, the death of self, the Glory of God and the defeat of the world, the flesh and the devil.

And we will never leave Laodicea until we start right here, eating our meal quickly and with bitter herbs, staff in our hands ready to journey into the desert for the sake of the call.

Frailty, thy name is hypocrite.

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Hi there. My name is JC, you may remember me from long ago or you may just have gotten to know me recently. Perhaps you don’t know me at all and stumbled across me on social media or this blog. It really doesn’t matter, I guess. I’ve been a preacher for years, ever since I was 19 (I’m a youthful 45 now).

During a bulk of that time, I labored for God with an undiagnosed condition that would occasionally rear its head and attempt to destroy my life. See, I’ve been through some mess, just like you. I am not your typical preacher, I came up the rough side of the mountain. If you know me in person you probably know some of the stories of what I’ve seen and done. If you know me really well, you know some of the really bad stories. Then there are the folks that think they know me and probably should but I never trusted them enough to tell them my full story.

At any rate, my point is that I’m a lot like you. Not the public you but the jacked up one. I have fallen apart, fell down, did things I am ashamed of. I’ve messed up enough (some from CPTSD, some from people’s actions that broke me, some because I wanted to do it) that I am only really qualified to look at your mess, nod and say “me too” and point you to God.

Here’s the thing though; I admit it all. I know the things that are my fault and I know the things that I couldn’t help. My journey this year when my wife that I adored and that was my best friend left me is public knowledge. I handled everything wrong, man, everything. Due to my mental condition before it was diagnosed, I could not process the pain. I became a huge flaming ball of addiction, fighting, lashing out verbally and godlessness. This is no understatement, believe me. There were two suicide attempts and a few close calls with death.

I am not Ned Flanders but neither am I weak. I’ve seen more and experienced more trauma than anyone else I know; eventually I just snapped. My heart was torn from me and I no longer cared about people, the church, God or my own life. At one point I went 17 days without eating, just drinking 24/7; I had lost the will to live.

Now I’m not sharing this for sympathy, I’m not trying out for Miss Congeniality, I just want you to know that I’m not perfect. I’m okay with that. Sure, I would have been better off not showing the world my flaws, Christians deserted me by the thousands. However, what I have gained as a result far outweighs the losses.

I can look at the lost and broken and fallen and sinful and just whisper, “It’s alright, me too…”.

Now here is where we run into a problem. No one looked at me in that mess and said “me too”, though they were. Instead they blocked me, posted things about me to everyone that knew me, gossiped and engaged in character assassinatiom because I proved to be human. They left me there to die on the side of the road as they passed by on the other side, tsk tsking my condition and calling it God’s judgement.

Frailty, thy name is hypocrite.

Tell me, have you ever been overwhelmed by life or loss and acted in ways that were outside of your character?

Have you ever sinned and had someone stand beside you, defending you as you lay there helpless?

Have you touched yourself to porn or to a fantasy and never told anyone?

Have you ever not been the person that you pretend to be? And as a result of not being able to deal with your own guilt, blamed someone else and destroyed them rather than deal with what you truly are when God let’s you slip into your flesh?

Have you ever neglected your spouse and pretended everything was groovy in public?

Have you ever faked your relationship with God and continued to preach anyway although the fire in you went out long ago?

Have you ever railed against sinners and gays and yet ignored your own weight problem or lust problem or selfish ambition?

Then friend, you may be a hypocrite.

See, hypocrites like to paint their outsides when their insides are filthy. They like to shun people that stood by them in their mess, because what they are doing is “wrong”. Hypocrites like to sit at counters in their chicken restaurants, their gluttony causing their chair to creak dangerously as they type mean things against people under obvious attacks, a Churchian troll without the benefit of a track record that proves that God every had any use for you at all.

Hypocrites distance themselves and point fingers to justify their total lack of Christian love or mercy. Hypocrites blame everyone else and recuse themselves from anything that reminds them of the truth, claiming to be seeking God while perusing their own selfish course.

And it makes the God they claim to serve sick. Let me show you.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.

31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’

34 And in anger his master delivered him to the tormentors until he should pay all his debt.

35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:23-35 esv

Here is the heart of God. You take his grace so greedily, lavishing it on yourself. You sit night after night watching tv while people perish outside of your door without even having the common courtesy to pray for them. Your hunger for his word disappeared long ago, your desperation for his presence and power died alongside it. Yet every Sunday you pretend. Hypocrite.

You sinned and everyone knew it and yet now you feel justified to separate yourself from someone else whose actions only proved they were a lot like you. Hypocrite.

You go to God begging for mercy for your besetting sins, hoping they will never be found out and then refuse grace to the one whose sin became public. Hypocrite.

You want God in your life so long as you don’t have to forgive, don’t have to forget, don’t have to restore. You gladly whistle on your way, doing as you please and justifying yourself by pointing out what someone else did. Pharisee and hypocrite.

Your weakness is your testimony and the only love you are required to give is the one that you yourself have taken from God. That should be simple; I am not good, my actions known and unknown have proven that. Therefore Jesus in me loves you. We fall down but we get up. And when we get up, we do so in love and forgiveness and humility.

Because the debt you owe God makes the sins that others have committed look like Romper Room, Jack. And be very careful lest the righteous judge turns from you and demands your repayment of that debt on your own.

God is not mocked and those that act right while doing wrong are sure to find that out.