Heart Check

So, I’m really not a big “smash sinners” guy. You know what they say about people who live in glass houses, how they probably shouldn’t vacuum naked and all. So this post isn’t about that. God gave us the cross because he knew we were basically going to suck and suck big-time. We all suck and fall short.

I wanted to write today about something that I’ve been circling in my study time regarding the inclinations of your heart.

Check out this bible verse in Romans:

“Moreover, because of the condition of your heart, hard and dry and unwilling to admit a change of mind; you are actually continually storing up the wrath that will be poured out on you in the day of wrath and the revelation of a righteous God.

Who will pour it out onto each person according to their deeds (the actions they take that prove the inclination of their hearts): to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are only interested in themselves and do not obey the truth that they’ve known, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation”.

Romans 2:5-8

Now that’s not behavioral therapy or a scare tactic. Here’s what it is saying; Look, don’t think that just because you’re doing all this mess and refusing to do right and the hammer hasn’t fallen yet that the hammer isn’t going to fall. God isn’t just looking at the mess you are doing, he’s looking at your heart that’s producing these messes.

If you care about him and want him to be pleased, you’ll do everything that you can to clean up what you’ve messed up and not continue in your mess. However, if the inclination of your heart is all about you and you don’t care what God thinks is right or wrong, look out because you can only do that so long before that stuff starts coming back on you.

Lots of folks like to pretend that they love God. What we actually do a lot of the time is we throw rocks and break windows then hide our hands behind our back like we didn’t do anything. Then we want to go to God and apologize in secret before there are consequences or before we have to actually remedy our behavior and make amends. We think it’s all about that instance of throwing the rock. You hurt people, lie, accuse, gossip, sleep around, drink, mess up and fall down again and then you want to go to church and act like a Christian because you asked God to forgive you secretly.

But God looks at not only the good or bad that we do, he looks at the inclination of your heart. You threw the rocks because you wanted to. You did what you did because you wanted to do it. And all the forgiveness of actions in the world does nothing for a self seeking and hard heart that wants its own way.

I’m not looking to throw shade here, I’m not. Man, I mess up all the time. Once I got my head clear though I discovered that my heart wanted something different, every single time. I don’t want to be jacked up, I don’t want to hurt people, I don’t want to be a ghost of myself. I let the enemy lie to me and throw rocks at me while he hid his hand behind his back and pointed at God. And when I accepted the lie that joker told there, it was an all out free for all of destruction in my life.

But once I turned my heart back to God, my heart changed. I didn’t want that stuff anymore and I didn’t want to hide anymore and I didn’t want the enemy that had humiliated me and embarrassed me to get any more glory. So, I check that heart. I want my life to line up with it. I want to fix what he’s destroyed and let Christ get some glory.

So quit running to God trying to get him to apply the White Out to your actions but ignoring your selfish heart that wants things that God doesn’t want. You’re a fake and you know it. You’ll never run away from it either, God isn’t going to let that slip. Take your heart to him, check your inclinations, fix your mess.


The Lazarus Generation


So, you want to be effective with Gen-X? If you were to gauge exactly who this demographic is and how to win them by the current efforts of the church, more than likely you would start some sort of hipster ministry. For instance, you could take out all titles and replace them with something more hip: Pastor would be out and in its place would be “Pathfinder” or even just “Dude”.

Or you could place religious symbols from as many faiths as you could around your “community space” and then use bean bags and couches to fill empty areas. Oh, and don’t forget your incense and your U2charist… the kids like those; they make them feel like spiritual…

Now, that is exactly the way that many people are going about ministry to Gen-X and Gen-Y. Granted most of the visible ministry to our generation is being done by ex-youth group leaders who are now all grown up and keeping church cool. I have to tell you though, had you tried to win me with any of that I may have tested your faith a bit.

You see, I come from a different group of Gen-X called the Lazarus Generation. We are called that because we are a dead generation that Christ is raising from the grave. Big deal, you say, I was dead as well…we all were. Yeah, that may be technically true but in comparison to the “Lazarus kind of dead” most people were really just“mostly dead” if I can quote Miracle Max from The Princess Bride.

The Lazarus Generation was “all dead” which generally is regarded as a hopeless case scenario where the only remaining option is going through their pockets for spare change.

You have to wonder why the enemy went after Lazarus in the word, don’t you? I mean, he wasn’t an apostle or prophet or pastor. He had not shown himself to be of any consequence whatsoever when the enemy killed him off. In fact, killing him only had one visible consequence: causing grief to Mary, Martha and Jesus. In the end, I believe that this was his intention from the start. He knew that he couldn’t hurt the Lord but he could certainly hurt those that he loved.

Today’s Lazarus Generation were also those that the enemy had specifically targeted to destroy because of who loved them. Most of those considered to be a part of the Lazarus Generation came from the homes of believers before they fell away. Somewhere between the empty religion, the hypocrisy and the system of politics in the church world, Lazarus had had enough and decided that the faith they grew up with was a fairy tale, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and a winning baseball team in Pittsburgh.

And when they left, they left hard. Lazarus tried Satanism, eastern religion, Nordic mythology, atheism and pretty much anything else so long as it was not the religion that they grew up with. They never really doubted that God existed; they just doubted what everyone was saying about him. And they sinned in every way imaginable, hurt everyone around them and burnt bridges like it was going out of style. And somewhere, someone cried for them.

My mother used to tell me that the “hounds of heaven”were going to get me. I had no idea what that was but it was a bit freaky. Of course, she meant that the “hounds” were goodness and mercy and that they would follow me all the days of my life. And she was right of course because one day during a suicide attempt those hounds finally caught up to me. And I am so glad that they did.

But like the biblical Lazarus, most didn’t want to see me raised from the dead either. But Lord, by this time, he stinks can pretty much summarize the first few years of my new life. Shoot, some still say that about me to be honest. They knew that Lazarus was coming back with baggage and as cool as seeing him raised would be, they weren’t entirely sure that they actually wanted him back. I can recall vividly this one established Christian who after hearing that the notorious sinner (me) had gotten saved decided to take it to the Lord in prayer. As he did, power dropped him to his knees as the Lord revealed to him that I was really a Satanist and was pretending to be saved for some nefarious reason. Remember the whole “Lord, he stinks” thing above?

I think in part this has to do with the fact that getting yourself raised from the dead changes your perspective a bit. The Japanese used to talk about the state of euphoria that came with coming back from the brink of death. If someone intervened when they were about to commit seppuku, they described the feeling as being transcendent. Colors were brighter, the air was crisper all around them, and every movement had a delicate beauty that had previously gone unnoticed to them. Life had not really been lived up until that point and there could never be any going back.

How much more would this be the case after having been “all dead”? What would your perspective be like after landing on the other side and experiencing the total hopelessness of death? And then, suddenly in the dark, when all hope that you should ever be saved was taken away, a light suddenly breaks all around you and you hear your name being called down the corridors of eternity! And before you fully know what is happening, you are being violently ripped from the pits of hell, with demons grabbing at your feet and snapping their jaws at you as you take your place in the last place you ever expected to see again: the land of the living. How would that change your perspective?

What kind of conversation do you have with someone who has been raised from the dead? How would you convince them to go back into the very thing that killed them in the first place? How do you tell someone that is full of this ‘gratitude from the grave’ to sit down and just relax a bit? Guess what, you don’t, hero. From the moment that they come back from the grave, they will be a step off from everyone else. Believe me, this kind of thing can make normal people nervous around you to say the least.

I have personally experienced this over and over again through the years. A couple years ago, there was an apparent “error” in my ministry that was so grievous that it was compared by a well-known preacher to homosexuals praying before going out to talk to people about a God who loved gays. Sound extreme? The error was that we teach mixed martial arts (MMA) to men instead of teaching them to hold hands with each other and share their feelings and sing ‘kumbaya’.

This kind of thing is nothing new for me, I am sorry to say. At one time I had some 00 plugs in my ears and some other body piercings. So, of course there were those who took issue with me because I looked too much like “the world” for their tastes. Some still hate the fact that I have full tattoo sleeves on my arms. Some hate the fact that I preach while wearing steel toed boots. Some others think I should not have a shaved head (been told that, true story) and there are still some more who think that preachers should not have long facial hair.

But what these well-intending folks do not realize is that when I was saved the last thing that was on my mind was getting a new wardrobe so that I could fit in with the cutesy church people. All that I had, like Lazarus, were the grave clothes that I had on when I died. Add to this the new perspective that you gain from being raised from the dead and what you have is someone who doesn’t really care one way or the other what you think about them.

It doesn’t matter what some people think of our ministry techniques, what matters is what God thinks. It does not matter that we do not do things the way that you do them because we do them exactly the way that God has led us to. It doesn’t matter that we don’t preach in a way that you like because if you hate it, it probably is not for you.

No, in the end the only thing that you can do with the Lazarus Generation is the very thing that Jesus commanded them to do with the newly-raised Lazarus:“Loose him and let him go!” Just get us free, get out of our way and let us loose for some payback. Don’t try to control us, don’t try to understand and don’t try to change our thinking until it looks more like your own. Our mission is to monkey stomp the enemy and we will do it at any cost.

We that are the Lazarus Generation have something inside that is pushing us. It keeps us up at night with an insistent whisper that says that now is the time. If we don’t play nice, forgive us, we seem to have left our ability to play nice in the grave. If we don’t sound like everyone else, forgive us, we have a different perspective that is driving us. If what we say or do bothers you, by all means forgive us, dying and coming back seems to cause you to cut to the chase.

We may not agree about everything but believe me, we need you in the church and you need us as well. We need fathers and mothers who can keep us grounded and spare us from mistakes. You need someone unafraid to take this message where no one else cares to go. Together we have the potential to literally shake Hell and see millions come into the kingdom. At this moment in time God has chosen to raise something from the dead that was considered totally lost. And in so doing he has created a juggernaut of zeal that is ready to run to the battle. And we need you church. If you cannot understand, don’t try, just loose us and let us go

The (ab)normal Christian Life

Have you ever stopped the world for a second and taken a long, hard look at what we have become? I have, and what I have seen has shocked me to my core. You see, to conform inside of the Cult of Normal truly is the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, you just go along and get along. Members in good standing shouldn’t question anything that is happening; you just accept that if it appears to be “normal”, it must be right.

In order to break free from the Cult and see things as they really are, you must begin to question with boldness. And the only reason that anyone would have for truly starting to question what they see and feel and do is if they take a chance and contrast and compare what “normal” looks like.

This is true with much of life. A person who is third generation welfare considers this state of affairs to be truly normal. You live on food stamps and are never ashamed because that is what “everyone” does. To get disability when you turn 18 is normal, to equate having babies with a larger check is normal. And to get these people off of the entitlement system is proving to be almost impossible, because why should you go to work and lose the free money, free healthcare and all of the benefits that are gained from your dependence on the system?

In order to free their mind from their perception of normal, you would have to immerse them in a completely different normal and let them learn to begin to see things with a fresh perspective. Sadly, for most who are trapped in a faulty worldview, the only world that they see is the one that has helped define what normal is for them and they can never truly break free from it.

For us as Christians, the journey must start with canceling our subscription to today’s normal Christianity and stopping that world completely in order to take a fresh, clean inventory of all that it is and has become.

Let’s begin this with some very simple questions: what was “normal” to the first church? I said the first church here and not Jesus because it becomes too easy for most people to disbelieve things when it comes to Jesus himself. You want to chock it up to His divine nature, supernatural power and sinless life. So for most people, being like Jesus is nigh impossible and so what He would consider to be normal is too far out for you to start to comprehend, much less empathize with.

So let’s talk about what “normal” looked like in the first church.

1. They continued steadfast in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and prayers. Acts 2:42
2. All that believed were together and had all things common. Acts 2:44
3. They sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. Acts 2:45
4. They continued daily in one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house and ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. Acts 2:46
5. The world expected miracles when they were around the Church. Acts 5: 12-16
6. They were imprisoned for their faith. Acts 5: 17-19, Acts 8:3, Acts 12:4, Acts 16:23
7. They were martyred for their faith. Acts 7:59, Acts 9:1, Acts 12:1-2

Now, let’s contrast and compare the original church with today’s version in America.

1. They follow many different teachers, all teaching something different. You have fellowship with close friends but little with the Church as a whole. Corporate prayer is nearly lost.
2. All that believe are separated by thousands of denominational groups and are expected to fend for themselves. Pentecostal handshakes and care for our own has nearly vanished in practice among today’s churches.
3. We give approximately 2.3% of our paychecks to the church, most of that going to uber ministries and not a local body. No one would dream of selling all that they had and giving it to the church.
4. We generally don’t visit the Church building daily. You attend service on Sundays, it must start at a certain time and finish at a reasonable time and if you are a fanatic, you attend a mid-week service as well. We don’t go around breaking bread from house to house as our private life and church life rarely intersect. We don’t really know what singleness of heart even means.
5. At best, the world expects bigotry, close-mindedness and intolerance when they are around the church. At worst, the world expects scandal and hypocrisy when they are around the church. Very few are convicted of their need for a savior or expect miracles.
6. Not in America, with few exceptions.
7. Again, not in America, with few exceptions.

As you can see, when we begin to contrast and compare what is considered to be normal, there is a wide gulf between experiences. Most will shrug this off as idealistic and simplistic, feeling that due to the age that the first church was occurring and the very nature of society at that time, a comparison would not really be fair to us today.

But we are not talking about society; we are talking about what is considered to be normal. The only way that you should expect output to change is if method and industry were to change. If method and industry remain the same, output would also remain the same. Because method and industry are internal mechanics and outward circumstances can only affect those if they are allowed to.

For instance, a winery that uses the same fields, the same methods of care and harvest and the same storage methods would be expected to produce a consistent product, that product would be considered to be normal for that winery. If on the other hand, the winery changes its fields, methods and storage facilities in order to keep up with the times or the demands of its consumer base, then the product must necessarily change as well. And what would be considered to be normal for that winery would therefore change and its output would be considered to now be inconsistent.

Somewhere deep inside of us, we know this inherently. Having been raised in a plastic world full of substitutes and alternatives, meant to streamline the process and mass-produce product in the name of convenience, we hunger for the real thing.

If you have ever tasted the difference between an organic tomato and one that is raised year-round in a gas filled chamber, there is no comparison. A pineapple picked directly off of the tree is miles removed from one that has been cold-packed and shipped 3,000 miles. The taste of an organic free-range chicken is totally different than the sad product generated from the tragedy of modern processing plants. And on and on it goes; real butter from a churn does not taste anything like “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!”

And real Christianity tastes nothing like the genetically altered mass-produced and sterilized version that is foisted on us today.

There is a movement going on in the world today, particularly here in America. We are fed up with the substitutes and something deep inside of us desires the real thing now. We are tired of apartment buildings and cities full of traffic and pollution, we are fed-up with working for a corporation that pays us wages that are equally divided up between the government and other corporations, leaving us with little to nothing of our own.

We buy our food from corporations, spend our leisure time watching a corporate product or using one. We are constantly being bombarded with corporate slogans and offerings. And in the end, as we lay in a corporate bed with corporate covers, watching a corporate commercial, we know that something has gone terribly wrong and we are just not satisfied anymore.

Many of us dream of wide-open spaces and dirt between our toes, raising our own food and placing our own fences for our livestock. We secretly desire to escape to a place where we can raise our families without government or corporate intervention. We want to taste real meat and real vegetables and never again ingest sugar-filled substitutes that we suspect are killing all of us in inches.

But to do that seems too hard for many of us and so we content ourselves with buying something that claims to be organic at Wal-Mart or recycling our plastic bags or wearing a hemp necklace or wool socks. We know that something is wrong in our churches as well, it just feels- wrong somehow. You suspect that what is considered to be church in the 21st century is just another cheap knock-off, a substitute that has been genetically altered so that it can be mass produced for a greedy public.

Real salvation is too hard, try Salvation-Lite! It looks like the real thing but it is easily affordable even for the person willing to pay almost nothing! You can now be a Christian, fill your religion needs and not have to do anything for it at all, don’t change a thing!

You can choose the Church of your choice based on the Pastor’s style, the worship experience, its Children’s Church facilities. I tell you, a world of choices await you out here in the Cult of Normal, individually prepared and packaged for your convenience. If you tire of the product, why just switch, it’s all here for you!

Does it taste like the real thing? Sure it does, all you have to do is change the definitions of the words a little, based on today’s standards and voila, you are experiencing the same product as the first church. Salvation means either belonging to a church or praying a prayer. If you have done one of those things (based on your personal preference, of course) then you are as saved as Peter. Repentance means feeling sorry after you have been caught. Have you ever felt sorry after you have been caught doing something? Then you have repented, just like Paul.

The power of God? Why that is either a feeling of peace, a shiver you feel or being transported to the Third Heaven, as you like. Miracles? Well, life is a miracle after all, isn’t it? We are all surrounded by a thousand little miracles every single day here in the cult of Normal. Fellowship is simply having some friends and unity is when you are all getting along. Evangelism is suggesting that someone come to a church service with you and holiness is best seen through the lens of grace because no one is perfect, right?

And though all of this is considered to be normal and though the spin masters have tried to sell us on the idea that what we have is what they had back then, we all know in our hearts that it is a lie. That Christianity has been imitated and duplicated and sold to us in such a way that all of us can look like we have something that we know we really don’t.

I used to say in church that if we were to have a Jesus altar call, no one would answer it. For him, it was “Come and take up your cross and follow me”, “Sell all your goods and distribute to the poor”, etc. And I would juxtapose this with today’s Christianity-Lite pitch that tells you that if you raise your hand in the air with no one else looking and repeat a prayer under your breath that the whole room is praying, you too can be saved.

Now I understand that it is deeper than just the methods employed, it is a matter of value.

Pleather was created for the clothing and upholstery fields, a cheap mass-produced leather substitute that allowed you to have the feel and look of real leather, at a fraction of the cost. And today’s Christianity is nothing more than spiritual pleather, which looks good from a distance but could never really be confused with the real thing. The reason that it couldn’t comes down to value.

Nate Saint, who was martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador in the 1950’s said “People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives… and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted”. The question for Nate came down to value. How could something spent in service to Christ ever be considered to be a waste when the value of obtaining Christ was so much greater than the value of what was being spent for it?

When I contrasted Jesus’ altar calls with modern ones, I thought that the difference lay in the process but I was wrong. The difference lay completely in the perception of the value of the item gained.

The merchant who discovered the pearl of great price went immediately and sold all that he had to obtain it. The reason that he did that was because the value of the pearl that he had discovered was worth far more than what he had to give in trade for it. All that he had and all that he had acquired up to that point in his life was worth less than the value of the pearl that he had found.

No doubt, had he discovered a cultured pearl as he was shopping, he would have been willing to give far less in trade for it. The value of that which was obtained determines the cost that is to be assigned to it.

And we have mass produced Christianity and cheapened it to the point that the only thing that it is worth in trade is the potential embarrassment of repeating a silly prayer in public and an hour of your time on Sunday at the church of your choice. Our salvation that is offered is pain-free, cost-free and hassle-free not because of what someone would be willing to pay for a genuine item of great value but because we assign very little value to it ourselves.

We bought a whole string of cultured pearls at little to no cost and what fool isn’t interested in getting something for nothing? If you can live blessed, happy, forgiven and carry diplomatic immunity in regards to sins that you commit and on top of all of this, have eternal life too and pay exactly nothing for it, I mean, who wouldn’t want that? It looks like pearls, feels sort of like them too, all at a fraction of the cost. Why would you need the genuine article, which is so costly when you can have the exact same thing for next to nothing?

Spiritual pleather- as good as the real thing and at a price you can afford!

We all like something for nothing, friends, but here is the problem, your pearl is a fraud. And you know that it is, why else would you attempt to hawk something of infinite value as a blue-light special? Why would you cheapen it and give it away at bargain basement prices to whoever comes down the street if it weren’t for the fact that you ascribe no value to it yourself? You got yours for nothing and ascribe exactly that value to it yourself. Because what they sold us was a lie, a cleverly marketed spiritual pleather that they spun out of whole cloth.

And you know it and I know it.

This is why the normal of today is so different than the normal of the first church; we aren’t talking about the same item. The pearl that they could gain was so precious that giving up all of your goods to give to the poor was nothing in comparison to what they got. To have all things common and make sure that everyone in the church had enough, that is a bargain! To die a martyr’s death and receive a Crown of Life or be imprisoned for your faith were of such small cost when compared to the Excellency of Christ and knowing Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings that they gladly paid it in exchange.

In the Moravian church, they were willing to accept insult and injury and risk their lives for the sake of Christ and spread the Gospel all over the world.

In the Reformation, they were willing to be burned at the stake by people claiming to know God because it was worth it.

All throughout history, people have discovered the pearl for themselves and the awful prices that they paid in exchange for receiving it paled in comparison to what they got. But here, today, no one wants your pleather Jesus and no one is willing to pay a dear price for it, not because He is any less worthy but because you see no value in him yourself. And though you may get offended at my saying this, check the value you place on Him, dear heart, you will see that I am right.

How can we ever have a return to normal if we don’t even understand the value of Him?

You get what you pay for, don’t you?

What does God say that salvation should mean and how much are you willing to give in trade for that?

What miracles are they that Christ says that we are to expect and what are you willing to give to see them?

What does the Word say that deliverance, freedom from sin, holiness, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, evangelism, fellowship, unity, healing, peace, love and joy and true community all look like both in the Scripture and in the past lives of those who have attained them and told us of their wondrous power and what exactly are you willing to pay to see them for yourself?

The state that we live in of continual disappointment and spiritual excuses for why we don’t see more is a direct result of our unwillingness to pay for it. In fact, climbing up onto your cross willingly is the first step that is required of you. And the refining process continues until He receives you to Himself. We must give up our sins, our self-importance, our pride, our goods and our ties to the world, our virtues, our strengths and our identity to Him in fair trade for the privilege of seeing who He is.

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” Philippians 3: 7-11

Some will no doubt claim that there is no price to pay but these are they, which paid nothing for what they got and are desperate to claim it as the genuine article. Jesus paid it all, they say and to this I say, “all to Him I owe”. There is a price to escape the Cult of Normal and there is still a precious value in the Blood of the Lamb.

It costs everything you are, everything that you have and everything that you will ever have and I can’t think of a better deal. There is something about this Jesus, that when you see Him as He is, when you look into His eyes and see the tenderness and care, nothing is too great of a price to stay there.

So, attention please, all you preachers and pastors, prophets and pimps, you teachers and intellectuals and liberals and conservatives. Listen up you mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and relatives, spouses, lovers and acquaintances, you bosses and co-workers, you sons and you daughters. Everyone, please, if I could get your attention; would you please stop the bus, I’d like to get off.

I don’t like where you’ve taken me and don’t like where you are going. I am sick of the smell in here and I feel like I need to stretch. I see something else out there, out past the finger-smeared window in front of me. I see a vast horizon and an adventure that is waiting to happen. I see freedom of movement, away from my seat and the restricted way that I am forced to endure these cramped conditions like I was just meat being taken to market.
I see freedom out there for my head and my feet, for my heart and my lungs and I simply cannot take this guided tour of the make-believe movie of someone else’s freedom anymore.

I have got to go now and see what is out there for myself. Somewhere, out there, outside of these confines that you have laid out for me, I see a twinkle in the dirt, the light has caught on something and though I don’t see it clearly yet, my heart is stuck in my throat at the thought of what it could be buried out there, undiscovered.

I have a pearl to attain and I know that it will cost me all that I know and maybe it will cost me my relationships with all of you on this bus. It will cost me everything and I don’t really know what life will look like out there but I have heard of it, as a whisper in my spirit, God has told me that it is worth the cost.

So stop the bus, I don’t want your normal anymore, I have a pearl to gain.

Beautifully Broken.

I have been doing ministry for a time, always out on the ragged edge of things. And even after all of these years I find myself wondering why God would save and call an old skinhead and gutterpunk.

As I sit here and write this, I am restless. I actually loathe the thought of another speaking date. Don’t get me wrong – good things always happen. I will preach hard and to the point. I will not dodge issues and I will speak in the vernacular of my day.

I will dress without a facade and force people to see God beyond the exterior. I will play the role of a novelty and try my best to allow something positive to happen. People will be saved and delivered from demonic strongholds and to me, none of it will be enough.

Because even on those rare occasions when the sermon that God gives me is revolutionary in scope and substance, even when people flood the altar and repent, I still retire to whatever room I have and lament the entire event. Because no matter how well I may “perform”, no matter how strong the message seems to be, I know it is partly due to intellect, partly due to street smarts, part marketing and a part God’s Spirit. How can that ever be enough?

The weight of the ministry is at times oppressive. I feel the weight of my speaking to these crowds that are nameless and faceless to me. I know that God wants to intervene in their lives and that so much may be riding on God’s being able to use what I say and do as a catalyst for change. And I fear that I will fail in my task because of there being too much of me in the equation.

Something has transpired in me over these past years that doesn’t allow me to take the ministry in a cavalier way. I know that somewhere out there, just beyond my grasp is the light switch. In every event, every innocent meeting, the “forever change” potentially waits for the people that I come into contact with. That the possibility exists that somehow God could use this ugly vessel to produce a radical shift in someone’s accustomed paradigm that could affect the rest of his or her life.

And I know that it’s not me. And it is nothing that I know, nor any skill I possess. My cleverness cannot produce this forever change. And I cannot afford to write it off as some sovereign work of God that is simply beyond me, a divine comic lottery, if you will. There is a method to God’s seeming madness at all times, even (or especially) when His will makes no clear sense to us.

I am terrified of speaking well and manipulating people’s emotions in some way that I had predetermined that they should go. I am distressed at the thought that I am a factor in this ministry at all. I wish above all things that people would just say that God shows up at my meetings. I do not wish to be known for my intellect, my cutting style, my dress or my caustic sense of humor. I wish they would just see Jesus. But I am not equal to that task. And I wish more than anything that that fact were not so. I fall so short of the mark in so many areas; I am the perfect example of the wrong person for the job.

I choose to live on the edge and so the position of the tenuous and slippery hold is almost commonplace. If I were like many of the preachers that I know, I would simply shut up, play the game and prosper. I see so many of them do just that. It regularly pains me to see my family go without when with just a small amount of what I would call compromise they would be just fine. But I seem to live my life along the lines of Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for what this life of faith has done for me. There have been times when my life was threatened when the years of faith paid off. I have had people sit on the front row during sermons of mine and show me the gun they had hidden between their legs. I do not know much but I know that the same person who did that was on their face the next night at the altar, completely overwhelmed by God’s love.

A part of my preparation for that moment happened during the times we prayed in dinner or rent. We live on the edge of disaster all of the time. People come and go in our lives. Promises are made and broken regularly. We sit on the verge of having nothing and losing what little we do have. But in all of that, one thing never changes; we know by practical experience that God is faithful.

And this is why I continue despite everything that happens. I am not the right choice for the job; I know there is someone out there who can do what I do better than me. But God’s love compels me. When I want to quit and start a business, when people desert us and forget us, when disaster looms ahead and there is no hope in sight, I still cannot quit. Because I remember when, despite all of my faults, God showed mercy. I remember when the answer came when all hope was lost. And I remember the joy at rediscovering the faithfulness of God when all else had failed. And so, I continue to be God’s fool.

I preach in some very large churches but never do I try and clean up to be able to speak at those “big churches”; I would rather hug the AIDS patient or befriend the runaway teen that is forgotten. I would rather live with nothing and know the joy of God’s provision in the midst of impossible odds than compromise and never experience him that way. It is just God and us alone most of the time. Funny how easily people turn away from you when you have nothing and they have nothing to gain from you. We have learned from vast experience that you can count on no one except God. I will fail you or offend you at some point. I will do wrong and you will walk away. But when that happens, I look around and find the Father smiling at me.

There have been times when we have had to go to the local churches and ask about the possibility of using their church for two hours on Sunday afternoons. When I approached one local pastor with the question, he put the religious 20 questions to me like he was Torquemada. Before I could use his building for a two-hour slot on Sundays he had to know who I was, what credentials I carried, my education, my thoughts on everything from predestination to the Apostles Creed. I started off answering his questions politely but I very quickly grew tired of them. Finally, I had to stop the inquisition and speak frankly.

I said, “Pastor, you want to know who I am? Let me tell you. I am a failure. I have been a liar, a cheat, a conman, a criminal, a squatting gutterpunk for years and a violent racist. I am the epitome of wasted potential. I was locked up in juvenile hall for a large part of my teenage years. I have a verified I.Q. of 153… And yet the last full year of regular school that I attended was the seventh grade. I taught myself everything that I knew. I grew up as true white trash; my family lived in trailers my entire life. We were on welfare or low paying jobs most of the time and I shopped for school clothes at the Salvation Army. I was a runaway and a vagrant. I could have been a great doctor or a lawyer, perhaps. If the plan would have worked out differently maybe I would have had a rich family that helped me.

But I lived on the streets from the time I was twelve. I saw a friend shot dead beside me and a girlfriend shot in the face in a drive-by shooting when I was a teenager. I had a seventeen-year-old friend die of AIDS as I watched. There have been at least 4 serious attempts on my life and I carry the scars to prove it. I have woken up in the middle of the night with a gang member’s pistol shoved in my mouth. So, I am by all normal estimates in this society and in this modern church- a failure and a dreg.

But when I was 19, Jesus intervened in my life during a suicide attempt. I crawled bloody out of a cold bathtub and sobbed naked on the floor asking him for help. And he changed my life. I may not be able to show you something that will make you feel that I am qualified; I may not have the backing of a major denomination that is well respected and safe. I have none of the qualities that people like you look for in a tame spiritual leader. I did not grow up like Ned Flanders, safe and secure in my wonderful home. It took me over twenty years to start to pursue my Masters because I spent no time in Bible School when i was first saved – I was too busy being a street preacher, reaching out to those that no one else cares for because there is no money in them. All that I have to qualify me is Christ in me. And that may not be much to someone like you but for someone like me, it is everything.”

The simple and elusive fact to many is that God loves the outcast. He loves the second-rate and the counted out. He seems to embrace those of us with nothing to show for years that we wasted on the world. When you look in the eyes of someone not worth your time, someone dying or poor, the obvious welfare mother at the store or the bum on the library steps, you are seeing Jesus stare back at you. When you stand next to the alcoholic who smells of urine and booze or the criminal Christian, who has failed even after salvation, you stand shoulder to shoulder with the Messiah’s heart. I am not the best man for the job and yet God chooses to use me. And that makes some people very angry. I leave them, who are way more qualified than I, without excuse. I live my life in joyful abandon because when the lights dim and the music is over, when the crowd is gone and the only sound is my own breathing, all that I have is God.

I can say with some pride that I am a fool and deserve to lose it all for foolishly trusting in God. But that trust that God will provide is my joy and that abandon is my identity. And He gave that to me, me the outcast, me the failure and liar and cheat. He looked on me in my worst possible moments, during the times I am most ashamed of and still he loved me. And if he loved me then, at that place and that time, how could he think less of me now?

What a mighty and amazing God we serve! I feel his presence so strong even as I write this. Yes, you too are a failure and a hypocrite. Yes, you could be better than what you are. But God called you as you were and you need to remember that when everyone around you reminds you of all that you are not.

He didn’t call you because you were the best or the brightest. He didn’t call you because of your morals or your strengths. God called you because of your failings and your shortcomings. He chose you because you are a fool and He loves to make purses out of sow’s ears. So many of us are deceived into thinking that it is what we don’t do or what we overcome that gives us our testimony. But your weakness is your testimony, not your strengths.

I may never be a success in the church’s eyes. Those who hate me may get to laugh as I fail. But I am thrilled at the ride. I am addicted to my hero, Jehovah Jireh. I know that life is no fun without danger and a man or woman needs no savior when there is no threat. And I have a hero who excels in the role. He lives for it, in fact. Because even though the one he rescues is dirty and discarded, used and abandoned, he is by nature the Savior.

And in the end we have but one job, you and I. And although we may wish that the job were to save the world or cause revival fires to spread over the entire planet, it is far more simple than that.

We are called to be beautifully broken in his wonderful hands.

Amerikan Babylon

Button your lip. Don’t let the shield slip.

Take a fresh grip on your bullet proof mask.

And if they try to break down your disguise with their questions –

You can hide, hide, hide,

Behind paranoid eyes.

You put on our brave face and slip over the road for a jar.

Fixing your grin as you casually lean on the bar,

Laughing too loud at the rest of the world

With the boys in the crowd –

You hide, hide, hide,

Behind petrified eyes.

You believed in their stories of fame, fortune and glory.

Now you’re lost in a haze of alcohol soft middle age

The pie in the sky turned out to be miles too high –

And you hide, hide, hide,

Behind brown and mild eyes.

Pink Floyd

Behind Paranoid Eyes

Before we begin, can I get your attention, students? I can already hear the flatulent disagreements coming from the Churchian crowd, so let me help you:

1. I am not nice, Christians are nice and nice is love and God is love so God is nice and since I am not nice to Churchians, I am bad.

2. God is a Conservative and Republican American and we are to hold up those values no matter what. So if a candidate aligns with us on a single issue such as abortion, then everything else must also be Christian.

3. There is nothing wrong with the World System. We are called to be moral citizens of that system and shine like lights as we act exactly like the world in every way except for the bars and strip clubs, those are obviously bad and god wants us to have all the good and sacrifice just the bad.

4. You, JC, are bad. You fell and drank and fought and sinned and have no moral platform to speak from because your failings are public knowledge while ours remain secret. So as long as people don’t know about our backsliding, bitterness, unforgiveness, porn habit, lying, apathy, complacency and hate filled gossip, we can judge you but you can’t say anything to us. (Cue Nellie Olson from Little House sticking out her tongue).

Ok. Said it for you. You are free to move on now.

This morning as I sat down to peruse social media before I began my day I literally sat in shocked, impotent silence. I browsed through the feeds as all of the Amerikan Christians began their days all over the country.

There were the obligatory cat videos, the Trump is God’s choice memes, the inspirational scriptures splattered across pretty pictures as if a gum drop fairy exploded, leaving it’s day-glo primary colors as grim evidence of the carnage. You could take your pick of millionaire preachers peddling encouraging garbage to a sugar addicted audience. I scrolled through Christian posts that touted kicking out all illegal immigrants, building walls, church defense seminars, love for guns and shooting your enemy, anti healthcare, anti poor and pro corporate memes and many that equated being Amerikan with being Christian.

Another day in Laodicea.

Happy people going to work, cleaning their houses, raising their children and thanking God for another day of peace and prosperity here in the Land of Promise.

And as I looked, I couldn’t help but juxtapose.

Last week I posted a picture and story of one of the orphans in Kenya that was crying because the other kids ate his banana. There was no other food to give him for the day. 172 Christians saw it, scrolled past and went and grabbed a processed snack from the pantry to buttress their already fat stomachs. Not one person commented, not one person gave. Hell, it didn’t even get a sad face emoji. I guess they are mad at me so forget hungry babies, they’ll show me, alright.

I have up to 25 girls between 8-13 waiting for a home to be finished in Honduras. A place where they will be safe from traffickers or in many cases, safe from their own family that prostitutes them every single night. As I lay me down to sleep…

Last night within one hour of the town where I currently am, I discovered up to six girls engaged in prostitution. One looked like a consenting adult but it’s hard to tell when they are strung out on drugs. The others were young which means that they are victims of human trafficking, stolen from their family and fed drugs and tortured in order to keep them docile for the oil field guys that care more about their own release than they do that they are paying to rape someone’s daughter.

Thank God it’s not my daughter. Thank God it’s not my family. Thank God that I am free to put on my Hillsongs CD and surround myself with Christian decorations in my warm and comfortable home.

I know, It is just so hard to care about some place that you have never personally seen when you live in the middle of the Amerikan Babylon and are dazzled by the neon lights and hazy glow of the television god.

Awhile ago in a small town where I had lived, I noticed an engraving on the facade of an old building near the downtown. Up near the very top it reads ‘Salvation Army 1905’. At one time the Army was here, playing their music out on the streets and preaching the Gospel message to all who came within shouting distance. That building is now an Eagles club where locals drown their sorrows in booze and place their hope in pull tabs. As for the Salvation Army, it is now a thrift store downtown.

Has sin decreased to the point that we no longer need that sort of Gospel or have we simply backslid as a church to the point that we no longer care?

When did the golden calf god that you made in your own image somehow take priority over the scriptures? When did the command to go into all the world change to “go into the world to make money right here at home”?

I have been in travail for the church planted in the country where my old flesh was born. So many do not know the truth here, so many. And whose fault is that if not ours? What excuse will we offer for our apathy and complacency to God? We stand on the brink of judgment and still we will not budge. All it would take is for China to dump their reserves of the US dollar in exchange for the Euro and we would be plunged into a depression to rival 1929, if not an all out economic collapse and yet here we are, eating and drinking without a care in the world beyond our own homes.

Rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing. I have a job, praise ye the Lord, I don’t need to know how to pray. My family is safe in our Churchian cocoon, surrounded by niceness, the World System has been good to me!

What exactly will it take to awaken the church from its slumber and for us to once again be stirred by the things that once stirred us long ago and far away from where we are now?

A few years ago I had the option of buying a schoolhouse that sat directly between two Indian reservations. For 5,000 dollars we could train natives to preach, we could train young people for missions for no charge. We could set up a church where no others existed and feed the hungry, clothe the naked and preach the good news to a forgotten, sin-sick and desperate people. For over two years we told of the need and not one person ever stood up to help, not one.

In Houston we reached out to street kids, ministered at AIDS hospices, delivered food to the poverty pantry and stood for the truth in the midst of a seeker sensitive stronghold. And regardless of all that we did, when we came under a brutal attack from the enemy, we looked around and no one stood with us.

Everywhere that I go and in every nation that has believers who write to me, the need is overwhelming, the potential is there and yet no one seems to care. And I don’t get it, my friends, I just don’t get it.

What is this madness that causes us to ignore the obvious, present need and yet buy some television preacher multiple homes on both coasts or a Rolls Royce?

What are the blinders that have fallen over our eyes that cause us to sleep while our house burns all around us? Why do we never mobilize and give God no rest until the nation we have been assigned to is one that He blesses once again?

Why did Hudson Taylor opt to give up everything to take the Gospel to mainland China and yet in our age, we never mounted a meaningful effort to save Russia when the opportunity presented itself? What did he have that we don’t?

What drove the Salvation Army in the early years that we don’t have now? What would cause them to take over city after city and we can’t even witness to our own neighbor?

Perhaps the real question should be, what caused that wonderful evangelistic army to become a ministry of thrift stores that had no problem flying its banners above a halftime show where some secular tart sang songs- not of the old ship of Zion and how God can still save you from an eternal hell but instead it was songs of worldly passions and lusts?

God help us.

Why have we stopped caring?

Is there no balm in Gilead any more? Is there no righteousness left that can stop our assimilation into this Amerikan Babylon? I do not know what exit off the highway led us to this ghetto called Laodicea but I watch as opportunity after opportunity slips away both here and abroad and I have to admit, it gets hard to hope that we will ever see our way clear of this place.

But hope I must and hope you must. Because we were born into the Kingdom for a time such as this. This darkness is the time that we were born for, right now.

If the church is asleep, we are here to awaken the Elect inside of it.

If the nation is slipping down a slope towards wrath, we are here to stop it.

In order to see that happen you are going to have to put down the Kool-Aid they have been giving you, the one laced with tares, and think clearly for yourself.

These days of the forgotten first love and Laodicean worship are the days we were chosen for, before the foundation of the earth.

The darkness is not happening to us- we are called to happen to that darkness.

But we must do something and do it now. Now is the time to shake yourself from your slumber and take back the ground that the enemy is squatting on. You must act now, church. You must act now for the sex trafficked, for Natives on the reservation, for the squatters that are forgotten and for the AIDS victim and the dispossessed in your own back yard, for the single mom and the Meth addict. You must act now or forever hold your peace.

And you will hold your peace with no peace in your heart because you loved your own comfort and security more than you loved God. You have given up nothing for the pearl you display and that is exactly the value that you place on it. You sit in your comfortable home while young girls are sold online in or near your town. You overfeed your doughy flesh while a baby cries for a single banana. You hide behind jaded eyes while a fake Christian holds up the evangelical buzzwords in our highest office, never even considering what medicine you are swallowing or what your hypocrisy has done to our testimony towards the last few generations.

We fiddle while Rome burns.

You must go, it is a command! And if you can not go yourself, by God, send someone else in your stead!

Do not be a part of the Amerikan Babylon but rather be the one who tears it apart, brick by corrupted brick.

-JC Smith

Going to the Gentiles

I go to the Gentiles…

What does that mean? Simply this, I no longer feel compelled to try and teach, train or change the established church. Someone told me a long time ago that it is easier to give birth than to raise the dead and they were right, of course.

It is easier to see someone awakened and then to give them the Word fresh than it is to convince people that think they know something to change. Now process this; most of the folks that cannot accept truth hold onto their traditional world views, it has nothing to do with whether a teaching is scriptural or not.

Example: I have been raised in an environment where A has been taught. You are teaching X. X doesn’t gel with A and I don’t want to be wrong in what I’ve always believed. Therefore even though X is scripturally correct, I choose to keep believing A, even though it’s not scriptural, not anointed and God does not show up to confirm it. At the same time, even though what you are saying is scripturally correct, is anointed and God does show up to confirm it, I choose to reject it because it’s not what I want to hear. Good luck with that.

This is the exact stance the Pharisees took with Christ and then with the 1st Church. Selah.

The Establishment Church’s methods, doctrine, outreach and worship have all failed. There have been no revivals, only experiments in modern communication and human curiosity. If you can get your “revival” to make press, people will assume it’s real. Good job, Adonijah. People may say, but I went to Toronto, Smithton, Brownsville, Lakeland and God did such-and-such. Perhaps. God has changed me before in a bar, is that him condoning the entire bar scene?

At any rate.

No matter how much I have tried to work with Establishment churches and their attendant Churchians over the last 26 years, it almost always ends the same. You love your religion, (the worship of God in his absence) you prefer your politics, worldview, culture and your comfortable life. Worse still, Establishment Churchians refuse to learn anything outside of their box or to admit they might be wrong.

I go to the Gentiles.

Undoubtedly I will get accused of ‘not walking in love’. What is meant by that is not that I don’t love and pray and cry over the AIDS victim, the outcast, the homosexual, the tweaker, the raped, beaten, abused, rejected or the poor. What is meant is that I don’t deal with Churchians like Mr. Rogers.

You say, but I love the Lord, you should walk in love and be nice! Friend, Jesus said that if you love him, you do what he says. If you love, you do. Do what? Sell all you have and give it to the poor. Go into all the world and preach the Gospel, Leave all and follow him, take up your cross…

So do you even love God?
Jesus said to Peter, Peter, do you have an agape love for me?
Peter answered, Lord, I have a phileo love for you.
Jesus said feed my sheep (do something)
Jesus asked again, Peter do you have an agape love for me?
Peter said, Lord you know by practical demonstration that I love you like family, like a brother.
Jesus said take care of my lambs (do something).
Jesus asked him a third time, Peter, do you even have a phileo love for me? I know you’ve denied twice having agape love for me, I know you’ve said you have brotherly love for me but do you even have that?

The difference between sheep and goat is not what they believe in their heart, it’s not their sing-along worship experience, the difference between sheep and goat is their actions.

I don’t “love” Churchians? Fair enough. I’m good with that.

As for me, I will find those that need God, are hungry for his Word and want to change. I will leave the camp and their mess behind and find God on his terms.

Food for thought: if a revival of religion presupposes declension (if you know you need revival it’s because you know you have backslidden into a bad condition) and you are not experiencing revival yet you staunchly choose to defend what you do, think, preach and practice, what does that tell you?

For those hungry for his Word, desperate for revival, tired of business as usual, fed up with the fake, obsessed with the Lamb being given the reward of his suffering, willing to lose all and go into all the world, desirous of true worship (caring for widows and orphans and not compromising with the World System) keep plugged in right here and with the blog.

I’m not sure if exactly where he is leading, I just know the cloud is moving and I am compelled to follow it.

As always, much real love. I’m here if you need anything by email, messenger or phone/text.

Semper Reformanda!

Worship: Singing Your Lies.


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