Obey, Saul. Don’t pretend you do.

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We have no clue what you are saying…

To obey is better than sacrifice
I don’t need your money
I want your life
And I hear you say that I’m coming back soon
But you act like I’ll never return

To obey is better than sacrifice
I want more than Sunday and Wednesday nights
Cause if you can’t come to Me every day
Then don’t bother coming at all.

Keith Green

“Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day…”

Jesus in Matthew 7:21

It struck me recently reading the above verses in Matthew that I have never fully understood what they meant. I used to use it simply as a verse for telling people that there were those that claimed to be Christians who would not make the final cut. The other night after reading it, something struck me deeply. I tossed and turned for quite awhile in bed struggling with the thought and its implications for not only myself but for the whole of western Christianity as well.

The definition I use for religion is a simple one. It is the worship of God in His absence. When God is absent, we humans get into big trouble, fast. And usually it is directly related to some misconception that we have involving God. It is so easy to confuse His silence for His condoning of us and our actions, doctrines, beliefs and habits. In fact, many can go years without hearing from God, writing it off as a “wilderness” time and feeling that because He is not directly rebuking them or interfering, that He is fine with who they are or what it is that they are doing.

The rules all change when God is away from the office. Men feel they have a free hand to interpret the scriptures however they like. After all, God is not saying anything so it must be okay, right? Denominations rule the unwashed masses with the iron hand of flesh because God has never said he cared one way or another. And worst of all, we live and act as if God is just pleased as punch with whatever we give Him. He doesn’t expect much; after all, we are only human.

This is especially true in the area of ministry. We act as if a license to preach is a license to do whatever strikes us as being “godly”. We create good programs, centered on quasi-godly ideas. We cleverly market who we are and the “god” we have created in our minds as being the right one, for everyone, across the board. We build big churches and control people who we think God has given into our care. All because God is absent and not really saying anything one way or another about what we are doing. Look across the panorama of the American church system today and you will see a large percentage of those involved in that system doing what they feel is “right” in His name.

Because God is absent, we substitute in His place an image of God that we have created. We use scriptures to build this image, raping them to provide the most one-sided version possible, the version most conducive to what we ourselves have said about God in the past. For the grace crowd, that means ignoring or flat-out lying about large sections of scripture that plainly go against the ideas that they claim to be God’s plan. For the repentance crowd, it means forgetting His grace and love as you batter and beat everyone around you for not being “up to par” with your ideals. Either way, we scream from our ditch that those across the road in the other ditch are wrong.

This holds true whether you are Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Word of Faith or Episcopalian, COGIC, Methodist, African Methodist, whatever. One note sounds clear through all of the posturing and portraits that we paint: God is absent and we are all just guessing.

Read a hundred books; see a thousand preachers. Attend a million churches; sit in a dozen conferences, the song will remain the same. There are a lot of people intrigued by the idea of God but with no practical knowledge of the “god” that they are making all of these assumptions about.

It is interesting to note that Saul listened to the people when he made the decision to keep the best back as a sacrifice to God. They apparently were still going to offer them all to God as a sacrifice. Perhaps they felt it was better to offer it all in a big ceremony than just to simply destroy it where they found it as God had commanded. They were going to do what God said to do; they were just going to alter the way that it was done. After all, the ends justify the means. The sacrifices would be made as God had said, just in an improved way. Here we find the first parallel to the times that we live in.

More and more I hear from the Spirit that this is the age of Saul. First off, it says that on the way back, Saul built a monument for himself along the way. What are many of our ministries and churches if not exactly that? They are monuments to the preachers who built them or the congregations who inhabit them. They offer every convenience for people so that they will return. They put exactly the right light on the minister so that people look up to him, admire him even worship him. If God does not show up, does it matter at all? After all, isn’t God in the still, small voice as well? Isn’t the satisfaction you get from being around friends and family close to his heart? Aren’t the things that we are doing related to God and therefore isn’t He pleased with us?

Saul followed the desires of the common people in making his decision to alter the way he kept God’s command. The way they suggested seemed to be a good way to kill two birds with one stone, as it were. You could keep the command of God while keeping the people happy. Sounds good, right? Well, to everyone except for God, it seems. Because God responded, “to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

When God says something, it is not open to interpretation. You cannot take it, perform only the core of what was required and call it good. To obey means to do what he says, how he says. There is no deviation allowed from what God commands, period. But Saul opted to appease the people while trying to obey God. There is another group guilty of this in the bible that not many are aware of, the Laodicean church from the book of Revelation.

When we think of the Laodiceans, we think of the luke-warm church. And that is obviously the case. But ever wonder how they got that way to begin with? You see, we can use archaeology to tell us all about the history of Laodicea but that tells us nothing of the church itself. What does speak volumes is the name itself. Laodicean is a compound word. Laos is found in Strong’s 2992: a people, people group, tribe, nation, all those who are of the same stock and language. This is where we get the word laity, the common people. The last part of the word is Dike, found in Strong’s 1349: custom, usage, self-evidently right or just. Taking those two together would be “what the common people consider to be right or just or the customs and opinions of the common people”. Sounds seeker-sensitive to me.

The Laodicean church probably began like all of the others. Somewhere along the way, however, something happened. They began to do things in line more with what the people felt than what God had said expressly. And as they did so, they created an atmosphere that was luke-warm, comfortable for the people attending. They became so comfortable in who they were that they succumbed to spiritual pride; they actually believed that they had no need of anything at all. They looked around at each other and noticed they were all the same and God was silent. They couldn’t be wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked! They had attained everything that they needed to, there was no need to repent, they had arrived.

But God said differently. You see, the person of God is not open for personal interpretation. Neither is service to God, for that matter. With him, the ends do not justify the means- only the will of God matters. In fact, God starts the letter to the Laodiceans by calling himself the “Amen, the faithful and true witness”. He is the “so be it”, faithful and true to perform what He says. He sees, as a witness, what God requires and no deviation from that is acceptable.

How the sound of the bleating of the sheep can be heard today in our country! How many of us perform what God requires, only in a slightly skewed way, based upon our own culture and ideals or worse, based upon what the crowds want around us? How many blow off what God said to do, justifying it with a million scriptures or the slight of hand of a master illusionist, showing all of what you have accomplished on the right while hiding where you have failed in your left? How many of us are doing a million things in His name and never asking His will in the first place regarding any of it?

How it is done is as important as what is being done. Who reading this letter will stand before the judgment seat of Christ one day with all that we have done in His name fresh on our lips, the smiles falling away as he calls us practitioners of lawlessness, who never considered asking what he wanted while we were busy performing everything we wanted him to ask of us?

Many shall say on that day.

Many. Not a few, not the exception, many will say to him on that day, “Lord, Lord”. And not be known. Because what matters to God is adherence to His will, not only doing His work. But we are all so busy with the “work of the Lord” that we feel we can ignore the Lord of that work.

Churches open 3 times a week, preachers preaching sermon after sermon to empty people in a godless environment. How can we sit in a place built to house the church as they meet God and where God is to meet His church, and never for a second wail at the fact that He is not even present there at our meetings? We can eye the girl ahead of us or think nasty thoughts of the person behind us that we don’t like. We can think about lunch or the ball game the entire time we are there. Because God is absent and none of it really matters, only that those around you see you acting pious and holy. And week after week, year after year, we never ask the simple question that should have been the very first one that we asked, “Where is God?”

America is in danger today because the church, which lives in her, is asleep at the wheel. We have made ministry a career and the absence of God an excuse for pushing our own agenda. In an age when God is absent, we have made spiritual excuses for this instead of stopping and looking long and hard at who we are and whom we serve. What is his will? Is what you are doing for him his will for you today?

Friend, you better hope that it is. Because God does not like those who do things in his name apart from his will. We are in danger as a country because we don’t pray; we just assume that we know. We are in danger because we sit back and jealously defend what we have said to be true for the last however many years; almost uncaring that God may be saying something different.

To obey is better than sacrifice. To be obedient is more important than what you do to serve Him. It did not matter that they were going to offer the best as a sacrifice; all that mattered was that they were lawless in their actions; rebellious to what God said to do. If rebellion is at the heart of your service to God, is it any wonder that He is absent from our services? Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft to God. And service to Him that is begun or worked out in rebellion is no service at all. It is a placebo, carefully designed to lull you into a state of complacency and eventually, apathy to His will.

To know His will in all things, beyond a guess, beyond reasoning and then to accomplish that revealed will is all that matters. Revival will come when we all make this step, to know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings. To make sure that the cup and His will are the same thing and then to drink it gladly, regardless of its contents.

Then and only then will we be able to find Him. When we stop programs that are needless and human-centered and find out His mind on the subject. When we pray rather than prance, petition rather than posture. When we would rather have nothing and know His will then have everything and be ignorant of it. When we can throw it all away just to find Him or rather, be found of Him. When we are transformed by the renewing of our minds and we know what is that perfect and acceptable will of God in all things, then we will have revival.

What we have today is a Spirit of Saul running rampant in the church. This is one who calls himself a prophet, performing the duties of the office because he once prophesied. Someone who does a part of what God asks and balks that God should be displeased with Him. We have a church system that is busy doing the work of God apart from the will of the God they are supposedly working for in the first place. This is an entire generation that will be crying out “Lord, Lord, did we not…” on that day. Because they assumed they knew the will of God when God was silent. We say we are doing what is right but I hear the Spirit asking, “What is that bleating of the sheep that I hear?”

Because the ultimate proof of God’s being behind a work is God being felt in the work. And for the biggest of us, that presence is awfully small to be Jehovah.

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Success in ministry! (or the Ministry of the Shivering Sheep, Inc.)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19

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  • (It’s this or lamb chops, Fluffy…)

What is ministry success? Simple question, isn’t it? And no doubt the answers would roll off of our tongues readily and without much thinking involved.

But I have really had to put some thought into this lately and I am not sure where it is taking me. See, here’s the deal; we have the “Churchian Correct” answers, then there are the real answers that you may think but wouldn’t actually say out loud and then somewhere out there is the truth. I am after number three on that list; what is the truth?

For most Pastors and Itinerants (Evangelists, teachers, etc.) the Churchian Correct answer would be “To glorify God”, “To see people saved”, “To impact the world for the Kingdom”. All of those are nice answers and admirable “CC” answers as well. No one can give you the Pharisee stare over those answers, for sure. And yet, how do we really quantify success?

This is important, not only so that we can begin to view everything that we do through God’s viewpoint but also for our own sanity as the Churchians, the flesh and the enemy all jockey for position in order to be the one who takes us out of the game.

The questions that everyone has (and few ask out loud) in regards to a church or ministry are like these:

“How many people do you have coming?”

“How much money is coming in?”

“How well are you known?”

“Who do you know and who knows you?”

“What projects do you have underway?”

Here is the very bottom line for much of the American church. To glorify God, see people saved and be able to impact the world are wonderful ideals but all of those must fall at the feet of what we truly worship: American success and American exceptionalism. Numbers and money are the failsafe way of telling whether or not God is with you. The other things are nice, even noble, but what is really important are numbers and money.

Imagine if they ran Missionary Societies that way. The Society sends a couple to the Bukuvu, deep in the jungle. After awhile they start to get concerned about a lack of “fruit” and so they place a call from Headquarters:

“Hi Brother Todd, we were just calling down there to check up on you and the work, how are things going among the cannibals of the Buvuku? All of the people here are praying for you, you know.”

“Well, it’s the Bukuvu, sir, and things are going really well spiritually, we added a few headhunters and have been adapting our methods in order to really impact this region”.

“Great! How are your numbers?”

“Well, numbers aren’t high. We get some in and then don’t see them again. Then we had quite a few that came in and were involved but then they tried to eat my face off. You know, they are cannibals and biting and devouring each other is how they are used to living. That’s why we are adapting our methods. But we have some here that are wonderful stories of how God has impacted their lives…”

“Numbers aren’t high, huh? Well, how are the offerings? I mean, you haven’t been able to send much back to the home office here. We are getting a little tired of sending money down there and not seeing a real return.”

“Well, like I said, we have some that have been really impacted and we have quite a bit of hope for what God is starting to do around here. Plus there is this enemy tribe that attacks almost constantly, especially me and the family. Then we put the call out for the church to come and defend us and most of them fall asleep. So, it has been tough, you are fighting the “Eat your face off” culture on one hand and the enemies on the other.”

“Well, you need to get the cannibal attendance up and speak to them about the importance of giving as well. Remember, sheep are only good for two things: for meat and to be sheared.”

“Uhhhh…yeah… Well, something about that just doesn’t sound right to me. I was under the impression that ministry is its own reward and that we are doing this to ‘seek and save those that are lost’. And as far as the sheep go, they are coming along but I will certainly not use them just to shear or for… meat.”

“Well, that is idealism. In public we will say that these things are what are important but in reality we all know that a ministry must produce. See, it’s like a cow, if the milk production runs low, you need to kill it. Or else it’s just a waste of resources. So, we need you to produce real results or we will have to conclude that you are bad and that God doesn’t want you here.”

“Because I don’t have high numbers and we aren’t producing money?”

“Yes, those are the very best ways of determining if God is with you- numbers and money.”

Now, that seems farcical but it’s not. Why are so many church plants done in suburbs? Of course, the suburbs need saved too, we would all agree on that. What’s amazing to me is how many of us get “called” there when there are so many places that desperately need us and are ignored. What about Evangelists that you know who focus only on jails? When I have done prison ministry, there is almost a 100% rate of success. But the offerings aren’t all that high, unless you count cigarettes.

Can success be reckoned by numbers? As David Platt said in his recent book, “Radical”, Jesus was the world’s youngest Mini-Church Pastor. In fact, He seemed to go out of His way to discourage people from following Him. By John Chapter 7, he was left with a handful of people after He preached what Platt referred to as His infamous “Eat Me” sermon.

So, Jesus wasn’t exactly into numbers as a gauge of His success. For that matter, neither was Jeremiah, Paul, Ezekiel or Daniel.

All Church planters sow in tears that they may reap in joy. And most of the time, that season of reaping can seem so terribly far off that they no longer live with it before their face. When the markers for success are money and numbers, is it any wonder all of our kids want to be in Christian rock bands and not missionaries, either to the world or right here in the U.S.?

Adoniram Judson was the first missionary to India. I am including His story here to begin to give you a peek into what God deems as success:

His conversion not only saved his soul, it smashed his dreams of fame and honor for himself. His one pressing purpose became to “plan his life to please his Lord.” In 1809, the same year he joined the Congregational church, he became burdened to become a missionary. He found some friends from Williams College with the same burden and often met with them at a haystack on the college grounds to earnestly pray for the salvation of the heathen and petition God to open doors of ministry as missionaries to them. That spot has been marked as the birthplace of missions in America.

Three years later, February 19, 1812, young Adoniram Judson, and his bride of seven days, Ann Haseltine Judson, set sail for India, supported by the first American Board for Foreign Missions. But on that voyage, Judson, while doing translation work, saw the teaching of immersion as the mode of baptism in the Bible. Conscientiously and courageously, he cut off his support under the Congregational board until a Baptist board could be founded to support him!

The Judsons were rejected entrance into India to preach the Gospel to the Hindus by the East India Company and after many trying times, frustrations, fears, and failures, they finally found an open door in Rangoon, Burma.

There was not one known Christian in that land of millions. And there were no friends in that robber-infested, idolatry-infected, iniquity-filled land. A baby was born to alleviate the loneliness of the young couple, but it was to be only for a temporary time. Eight months later, Roger William Judson was buried under a great mango tree. The melancholy “tum-tum” of the death drum for the thousands claimed by cholera, and the firing cannons and beating on houses with clubs to ward off demons, tormented the sensitive, spiritual souls of that missionary couple, too.

And there were no converts. It was to be six, long, soul-crushing, heart-breaking years before the date of the first decision for Christ. Then, on June 27, 1819, Judson baptized the first Burman believer, Moung Nau. Judson jotted in his journal: “Oh, may it prove to be the beginning of a series of baptisms in the Burman empire which shall continue in uninterrupted success to the end of the age.” Converts were added slowly — a second, then three, then six, and on to eighteen.

But opposition came, also. Finally Judson was imprisoned as a British spy — an imprisonment of twenty-one months. Judson was condemned to die, but in answer to prayers to God and the incessant pleadings of his wife to officials (one of the most emotional-packed, soul-stirring stories in evangelism), Judson’s life was spared and finally British intervention freed him from imprisonment.
So, follow me here. Judson goes to India as a loose cannon. Then, amidst horrible poverty, they have a baby who dies. Six years into the work, there is not a single convert. When his church grows to 18, he is thrown in prison. This is not sounding like he was called at all. No doubt He was told to quit- unless he was having awesome offerings there in India. God was obviously not with Him, if He was, the baby wouldn’t have died, He would have seen numbers go up and the offerings would be there.

The end of the story is telling:

The work progressed and gospel power began to open blind eyes, break idolatry-shackled hearts and transform the newly-begotten converts into triumphant Christians. On April 12, 1850, at the age of 62, Judson died. Except for a few months (when he returned to America after thirty-four years from his first sailing), Judson had spent thirty-eight years in Burma. Although he had waited six years for his first convert, sometime after his death a government survey recorded 210,000 Christians, one out of every fifty-eight Burmans.
Now, one of you out there just thought to yourself, “Yeah, but that was in Heathen India, this is the U.S. of A and so it’s not the same”. So, there is an American Hell then for the lost sinner? Those in India who don’t know Jesus are more lost than an American who doesn’t?

So, what is the measure of ministry success? I have come to the conclusion that it simply cannot be either numbers or money. That fits the American mindset but not the Biblical one nor historical precedence.

I have often seen ministry as if God has this huge map up in the throne room spread out before Him. And in every place where there is a dedicated servant, He can put a push-pin there. It is covered; He has someone there to work with and to carry on Kingdom business. And what is that business? I think that Jesus’ opening salvo at Nazareth is a pretty good indicator:

Are you preaching the Gospel to the poor, helping those who cannot repay you?

Are you healing the brokenhearted? Is your ministry personal, hands-on and compassionate?

Are you preaching deliverance to the captives? Are people getting free of the world, the flesh and devil under your ministry?

Are those who cannot see, seeing for the first time?

Are those who are bruised being set free? Are the oppressed, those who are held in bondage and tyranny, coming into a new Kingdom?

Are you proclaiming Jubilee? Are debts forgiven, slaves being set free and are people coming out of the world and into God’s way of Sabbath Economics and freedom from Babylon?

All of these things are worth putting money into. Because we have an intangible product. We don’t produce cars or accounting papers or stocks or bonds. We are in a spiritual business and so you can’t determine the value of what we do by using physical things, like money or big numbers.

But even using those standards, we still have to embrace what I call “Endgame thinking” in our ministry efforts. At the end of your life, after all of the die have been cast and all of the changes have been made in you that God wanted to make, what are you left with?

I think that if at the end of my days, there are more Christians in our churches who have been saved, trained and sent out than there was when I began, then I am a success in the Kingdom, because I would have multiplied my talents. Those who would have known the terror of an eternal Hell are now walking along the Highway of Salvation to the Celestial City.

And what price can you place on one soul?

If there is a church there where truth is being preached, we are a success. This is true in world missions: to get a church in place and place someone there who loves Jesus. That there is any fruit at all is a vast improvement over what would have been there if there was no church at all.

And we simply must begin to adapt these same standards to what we do here in the States.

Let those churches with an excess of money redistribute that to places where money is tight. This was what they did in the book of Acts and I see no reason to change it today (curiouser and curiouser) We should begin to applaud church planters and support them just as we do foreign missionaries. We need to start to have a big picture approach to what we do.

The moment you being to judge Gospel effectiveness by the flesh, you will never succeed because you will forget God and compromise everything to accommodate the world system and its way of thinking.

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Vintage Reconciliation: The Supererogative Christian Life

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God; all the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

When I survey the Wondrous Cross
Isaac Watts 1707

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SUPEREROG’ATORY, a. Performed to an extent not enjoined or not required by duty; as supererogatory services.

A Japanese Christian widow was surprised one night by a robber in her home. Upon startling him, she took notice of how hungry he looked, he was obviously starving. So, she calmed him and prepared him a meal. After the man had finished, she handed him the keys to her home. By this act of normal Christianity, he became a believer.

Normal Christianity is not what we would consider to be normal today at all. How a truly normal Christian conducts their self will always be considered to be supererogation by abnormal Christians and the world. We must ask ourselves what can rightfully be considered to be supererogatory as it applies to the Christian life? As we look at who we are and how we conduct ourselves in this world, what is “normal” Christian behavior and what is above and beyond the call of duty?

A recent report concluded that the average Christian gives 2.3% of his or her income to the church. Based on those numbers, giving 10% would be supererogative to today’s average Christian.

Most of us spend our week working a job, taking kids to sports, shopping for groceries and watching television. For these people, going to church twice in a week might be supererogative.

We attend high school, college and amass huge amounts of debt in order that we can pursue the career of our choice. Once there, we try to succeed as much as we can in order to provide for our children and retire comfortably.

For these average Christians today, throwing all of that aside to become a Missionary would certainly be considered to be supererogative.

What about witnessing your faith? Selling your extra to give to the poor? Selling all you have to do the same?

Praying for an hour a day? A half hour? Praying at all?

Cleaning the church? Cleaning the church alone and telling no one that it was you?

Would these things seem supererogative to you?

What did Jim Elliot, the famous Missionary to Ecuador consider to be supererogation? He claimed that “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose”. He later proved that as he was martyred by the Auca Indians on the banks of a river in the jungle.

And what of Elisabeth Elliot, Jim’s wife? What did she consider to be supererogative? After her husbands death, Mrs. Elliot remained among the Indians that murdered her husband in order to win them to Christ.

For Christians, in our service to man, there can only be supererogation. Supererogation is the normal Christian life, everything that falls short of that is flesh, natural and human. We must continually go above and beyond the call of duty in our living example of Christ’s great love and sacrifice.

Watchman Nee relates a story of an event that he witnessed in his native China.

“A brother in South China had a rice field in the middle of a hill.In time of drought he used a waterwheel, worked by a treadmill, to lift water from the irrigation stream into his field. His neighbor had two fields below his, and one night he made a breach in the dividing bank and drained off all his water.

When the brother repaired the breach and pumped in more water his neighbor did the same thing again, and this happened three or four times.

So he consulted his brethren. “I have tried to be patient and not to retaliate, ” he said, “but is it right?” After they had prayed about it, one of them observed, “If we only try to do the right thing, surely we are very poor Christians. We have to do something more than what is right.”

The brother was much impressed. The next morning, he pumped water for the two fields below, and in the afternoon, pumped water for his own field.

After that, the water stayed in his field. His neighbor was so amazed at his action that he began to inquire the reason, until in due course he too found Christ.”

As Believers, we must never simply ask, “what is right?” Instead we must ask “What is Christ-like?” For in His earthly life, Christ never did what was required only, he did as His Father wished. His question never seemed to be, “what is right in this situation?” but rather, “what is like my Father?”

In the story of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan did not just stop to check on the man who was robbed and beaten, did he? No, he stopped and bound his wounds with oil and wine. Surely, that was doing right, wasn’t it?

But he did not stop there. He then, placed the poor man upon his own beast and he took him to an Inn. Certainly, he had now done right and could walk away satisfied.

But instead of being satisfied with what he had done, after doing all of this, he then handed the Innkeeper two days wages for the care of the man he had rescued. Any one of us would very possibly never go to such lengths in our service to a stranger. And yet, this Samaritan was not quite done.

He proceeded to instruct the Innkeeper that whatever costs he incurred, above and beyond (supererogare) what I have given you already, I will repay when I return. This is the standard of our service to the world. And this is the example that Christ himself gave us in showing the great love of God towards mankind.

The world themselves operate in a basic understanding of simple right and wrong. When disaster strikes, they will begin to deploy aid, raise money and give generously to the cause. They will defend those who are wronged and champion the downtrodden. But simply spending yourself in a just cause and doing right is not a Christian trait.

Over-spending yourself until the world can see the Imago Dei, the image of Christ in your lavish sacrifice of all you are and all you have, that is a Christian trait.

Seeing this then, that all of our dealings with each other and the world must be supererogative, what then can be considered to be supererogative in regards to our service to God? What is enough service, enough sacrifice, enough suffering, enough self-denial? Can you go beyond the call of duty in regards to your service to God?

There can be no such thing, friend.

As it relates to our service to God, there can be no supererogation.

No price, no sacrifice, no struggle can ever be considered above and beyond the call of duty until your sacrifice surpasses that of Christ’s towards you.

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.”

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Vintage Reconciliation: The Cult of Normalcy

In this preliminary series of writings, I am hoping to give you an overview of the many changes that need to be addressed before any serious attempt at Vintage Reconciliation can be made in a church. Sadly, if we view the ancient faiths and revival history as being the standard with which we gauge a healthy church, the 21st century version of the Church is in sad shape indeed. And so, it becomes necessary for us to deconstruct the elements, view them in the light of Biblical and historical context and change them as needed. As I have discovered, once you do this, the underlying issues that surface as being the root causes of our inability to assimilate into ancient paths seem to be ones of a Humanistic and Modernistic nature. In short, we are lost from the outset due to a worldview that exists in sharp contrast to what should be “the normal Christian life” -JC.

I would like to tell you the price is cheap. Everyone is out for a bargain these days, but God has no bargains. I would lie to you if I were to tell you it comes cheap. You see me walk out on that stage, and you see the glamor of it. That’s all you see. Everybody these days wants something for nothing. You don’t get something for nothing. There’s a price and it depends on what you want most. Just face facts. This generation doesn’t want to face facts. But when you’re dealing with the spiritual, it’s the most important thing in the world. And you’ve got to face the truth”. ~Kathryn Kuhlman

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

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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.

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The Onan Generation

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I think that many times we find ourselves as believers almost hopelessly out of touch with what is happening in the world around us. We have a definite tendency to tag mundane things with sinister labels and then almost completely ignore real dangers that are sitting directly in our backyard. I suppose it has always been this way to one degree or another.

In the 11th century, Cardinal Peter Damian denounced a new invention as “un-Christian”. He called it an “excessive delicacy” and “an immoral implement, fit only for courtesans and Persians”. The invention was the common table fork. When the fork arrived in Europe in the luggage of a Byzantine princess, the church was quick to proclaim that “God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks – his fingers.” After all, they noted, the Devil himself carries a pitchfork. It then took that church over 70 years to lift the ban and begin to allow parishioners to eat with one without being in danger of hell.

I would dismiss this kind of thinking as only attributable to the dark ages if I did not see evidence of the same thinking around me every single day. From Cabbage Patch Kids to the Teletubbies, we seem bent on declaring silly things to be evil while totally ignoring the real evil that we cuddle up with every single night. We rail against cartoons that some say are opening our children up to demonic forces while all the while we “open them up” to our own apathy and complacency when we do not evangelize, we do not give, we do not love our brother and we do nothing at all while our nation sinks further and further into a spiritual darkness rivaling that of Europe. How much more Pharisaical can we possibly be, when we strain at these gnats and yet swallow such camels?

The enemy counts on us being this way, I guarantee it. And the very fact that he does not even mess with most of our churches clearly shows his absolute indifference to our efforts to glorify God. Because all of your building programs, social programs, sermonettes and worship atmospheres do not do the one thing that we are designed to do.

Amazingly, some of the church has ended up celebrating their besieged state rather than be horrified at it. Teachings abound out there about “bridal intimacy” and how Christians were “created to worship”. This all sounds very cute, albeit kind of feminine. But we were not created to worship as our prime purpose for existence; I hate to be the one that breaks the news to you as you run around your living room with a banner trailing behind you, but I am willing to be the bad guy, I guess.

In fact, let me take this a step further and tell you that when all that you do is chase after intimacy with God and yet fail to produce offspring off of your unions, you have treated the God of the universe as a common whore. Maybe next time you engage in “deep worship” and then refuse to witness to your neighbor maybe you should leave a tip on your nightstand and show God what you really think about Him.

Before you get too mad at me, let me give you some Bible to show you what I am talking about.

6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.

7 And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.

9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

Genesis 38: 6-10

Consider with me the fact that Luke said in the beginning of the book of Acts “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach”. Please note that he said all that Jesus BEGAN to do and teach. Jesus began a work when he was here on earth, a work that was intended to save the world. The Law stated in the Old Testament that if a brother should die without bearing children, the obligation to have those children falls on his brother. And Jesus died that day without seeing a single person added to the Church that His precious blood had bought.

Er, in the story above, was wicked in the sight of the Lord and the Lord slew him. Jesus as we know, had no sin but became sin for us. And as it says in Isaiah, it pleased the Lord to see him suffer on Calvary’s hill. And so it fell to his brethren to raise up seed for him. And that is you and me, church. Here lies our eternal purpose, here rests before you the cause that you are to set before your eyes- to raise up seed for your brother.

But this is the generation of Onan, who wanted to be intimate, but didn’t want the baby. Oh, he wanted to party with her, for sure. He wanted to have all the benefits of intimacy with none of the obligations that come with it. And you, like him, want to feel his presence, get enraptured in worship, intimately tell him that you love him, but you don’t want to witness, don’t want to go into all the world to preach the Gospel, don’t want to be inconvenienced in any way. Generations ago, men left hearth and home and suffered to see the good news taken where it was darkest. Missions were the primary focus of the church and we covered the world with brave souls that no longer lived for themselves but for him who died for them.

Juxtapose that with today. The kids growing up in church want to be Christian rock stars, not missionaries. Your churches focus on new building funds, not the lost. Your Evangelists are itinerant preachers, bringing teachings to church after church, not out saving the lost in the world. You are Onan, to every degree that it is possible to be. You are only interested in yourselves; and your churches and ministries stink to high heaven of the whole mess. Selfishness is the hallmark of the American church system and you do not have time to worry about anything other than your small part of the body.

Someone asked recently “Whatever happened to the power of God?” Silly question, if you ask me, especially when the church has treated the power of God with as much disdain as you have his presence. The preachers aim it at themselves and market it, package it and sell it to Charisma and TBN. They take it from church to church so that you can be worshiped by adoring fans that will send you lots of money. And as you do this, the world burns with violence and crime and rape and murder. As you position yourselves to becoming the next big thing, hell fills with the souls that you should be winning. But the simple fact of the matter is that you can’t because you are too busy running a Jesus business to get involved.

Ask a Pastor why he doesn’t preach a straight word in this country. Ask why he cuts out the really offensive bits. He will tell you that he would no longer have anyone to preach to, they would all leave. Good, I say! Open the doors of the balcony wide and let the Jezebels be tossed down like they deserve. Let them all leave with their petty offense, their desire for a politician in the pulpit, their hero worship and base idolatry. Let them all leave and we have more seats for the sinners, who we should be focused on anyway.

God help us in the country. God forbid that the last ministry that America sees before falling in judgment is banners and portals and gold dust and worship gatherings. There is a purpose in our intimacy; it is what gives us the power to take the anointing out where it is needed most- to the lost.

And now is the time for God’s church to rediscover this. Let’s find his presence, then take the residue of power that comes upon us and go and win a world that is dying without him.

And we will all discover that He is the same God that He has always been. But we must stop focusing on the intimacy and cry out with our whole hearts, “Give me children lest I die!”

 

The World Needs Your Ugly.

We’re gonna find out where you folks really stand.
Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
There’s one in the spotlight, he don’t look right to me,
Get him up against the wall!
That one looks Jewish!
And that one’s a coon!
Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
There’s one smoking a joint,
And another with spots!
If I had my way,
I’d have all of you shot!
~Pink Floyd, In the Flesh (II)

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Sorry if you find yourself offended at the perfectly apt Pink Floyd lyric above, if so feel free to take away my Brownie Button.

As this writing was gestating in me, that song kept going through my head because I think our churches can be a lot like that and that really bothers me. We spend so much time pointing the finger and rejecting anyone who does not conform to our standards that we can never showcase who God really is, just our own hypocrisy.

You see, recently I was noticing some Christians going about their business. It wasn’t at one of the churches that I serve, it was just somewhere around town. And as I watched them I thought about how they really seemed to have everything together, as a Christian should, I guess. They looked like Christians are supposed to look and smiled and waved and came across as very Christian. Their talk was very nice and very shallow, saying exactly what a Christian is supposed to say and not revealing any “icky-ness” whatsoever.

And it really got under my skin, if I’m being honest. Now, I know that there are people out there that are just naturally bubbly, happy, peaceful, give it a name. And I know that as a Christian, it is the conventional wisdom that you should have all of these qualities literally dripping off of you.

If you are one of those who just naturally (or supernaturally) have the perfect Christian hair, clothes, attitude, speech, past and disposition, that’s really super duper! But if you are assuming the dress, mannerisms and demeanor of someone who is naturally that way, when you really aren’t, then we have a problem.

When we subscribe to this “fake it ‘til you make it” lifestyle that is so prevalent today, we hurt ourselves, we hurt others and ultimately we hurt the church.

We hurt ourselves because even if no one else can see the truth, you know in your heart that you are a fraud. You are in good company however because being a fraud is absolutely expected of you in the American church. From the time that you first become a Christian, you are shown how to act, how to talk, how to dress and how to conduct yourself. And all of these things are taught to you in the most passive-aggressive way possible.

We quickly learn to never show anyone who or what we are inside. Because revealing the truth that does not align with the current groupthink equals rejection and judgment.

And so you soldier on, struggling with feelings of worthlessness and being convinced that there is something really wrong with you. And that something is so bad, if anyone else were to see it, they would have to come to the conclusion that you aren’t really a Christian at all.

This is a form of idolatry. Instead of allowing God to be glorified for what He has actually accomplished in you, you effectively tell God that what He has done is not enough because you do not measure up to other people’s standards.

It hurts others because what has been done to you, you are now doing to them. The same issues that have plagued you, you are causing inside of them. When we place a burden upon someone’s shoulders that we ourselves have not been capable of carrying, we take a place of honor among the Pharisees. Someone remind me again, how did Jesus react to their religious hypocrisy?

They were whitewashed tombs, appearing good on the outside but inside full of dead man’s bones and everything unclean. In fact, this religious fascism was so damaging to the work of God that he called them “Sons of Hell”.

And Jesus was never found around them, choosing to hang out with those who knew that they were sick. Who are we today? Are we those who like to show people that we have it all together and can instruct them on righteous living, or are we those who know that we still need help and offer grace to those who are as ungodly as we are, on our own?

Honestly, where you are now and where you were before is a mighty long way from one another. There have been genuine miracles that have occurred in you as God has worked on you over the years. And those miracles should shine for everyone to see. But your weakness should be seen as well because that is your testimony. That He has done something in you, not what you have managed on your own. And that gives hope to those who are still struggling.

Finally, it hurts the church both because the world is watching and also because our effectiveness is based on our confidence in God’s work.

As the church has been exposed over the last 25 years, the world has taken less and less interest in what we have to say. The fall of prominent ministers has assured them that we are all just frauds. We say what we are and our actions show the truth of it. And this is what the world can’t stand- our hypocrisy.

Catch that, please. The world doesn’t care if we are flawed and God is perfect. The fact that we need a savior does not bother them a lick. Rather, it is our pretending perfection that infuriates them. When I talk to the gay florist or the tattoo artist, the righteousness or holiness of God does not offend them. But if I display my own, they would be rightfully offended. Because no matter how much I may want to be, I am not God. I am a human who needed God’s help in order to be something better than my nature allowed me to be. This they can relate to.

Perhaps if we fostered an attitude that gave as much grace in public as we need in private, more people would pay attention to what we say. All that we can offer them is Him, alone. Truth be told, we are all jacked up on multiple levels and God has done some great things, even if other people don’t appreciate them. So how about we spend our time pointing to Him and less excluding everyone that shows a weakness.

One time I was invited to preach at a big event in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The group set up in a park and had me as the main speaker. Afterwards, as the crowd was dispersing, a young guy came up to me. He said to me, “Pastor, you said that God would accept me exactly as I am right now if I would take the step of calling on Him.” I nodded and told him that I felt exactly that way. He looked at me and said, “But I am gay”. I then spent quite a bit of time explaining my own failings and ongoing issues and that my weakness had never been a restraint to God’s grace, only my unwillingness to come to Him.

He cried for a long time and I put my arms around him and told him that there was enough love in God’s heart to cover any sin, except the sin of rejecting His Son.

Afterwards, the group that held the event came over to me and asked what all that was about. I explained what the young guy had said and what I had said back to him. They were mortified and said to me, “You did tell him that he would have to stop being gay if he was to come to church, right?” True story.

My response now is the same as it was then; if a fault is enough to keep you from attending church, we are all in trouble. Some of you are fat, gluttons really, and that is a sin. Some of you look at porn, lusting constantly and that is a sin. Most of you lie on a daily basis and that is a sin. In fact, whatever does not come from faith is sin. So, we are all equally doomed and damned.

Maybe God should just expose us all for what we are when we are alone, or in our heads. At least then we would freely give grace to others because we would finally need some ourselves from them.

So, here is my point; ‘fess up and be real. Let’s pursue holiness in the fear of God while receiving grace for ourselves and giving it to others on our way. Let’s not forget where we were, or still are and give God the glory that we aren’t there any longer.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain”. –1 Corinthians 15:10

Motivation: Revolution

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There is a new world waiting for us.

If you are a follower of this ministry then you know that this statement is at the very core of everything that I do. We sit at a crux point in history, the moment when the old is going and the new is coming. And what “the new” looks like is wholly dependent on the choices that we make in this moment.

The word “revolution” has been greatly overused in recent years. And what began as a prophetic trumpet call has become synonymous with youth groups and tragically hip Emergents. And in the end, we have not seen revolution or revival. But what is most needed right now is exactly that; a revolution of shocking size, scope and breadth. We stand in need of a genuine coup d’church, overthrowing an entire system and building a brave new movement in the shell of the old.

As I have been pioneering these last years, I have seen that the issues that you grapple with locally are just a microcosm, a pantomime of issues in the larger context. And in attempting to solve these issues locally, it is my heartfelt belief that we will find generational solutions as well.

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a generational gulf fixed in place that is only getting wider. Not only does my generation have completely different ideals, goals, priorities and passions than the status quo does, but we seem to be nearly incapable of even understanding each other.

The differences between generations may stem from the fact that most Boomers are solid modernists and only some Boomers began to be exposed to post-modernism as late teens and early adults while Gen-X was the first generation to be reared in it from birth. As Gen-X’s worldview was completely incubated in post-modernism, anything outside of that metanarrative is rejected as stuffy, conservative and narrow-minded.

This in turn has led to an almost complete rejection of everything Boomer and a feeling that all that they do is somehow, impure. There is a near consensus (right or wrong) among our generation that the Boomers somehow sold-out, compromised and became even worse than those that they rebelled against as they created a society that was more and more plastic and mass-produced.

In the same way, the Boomers have entrenched mindsets when it comes to Gen-X. And unfortunately, them being in the driver’s seat means that these mindsets are oftentimes communicated as being “the right way” to do things. And for many in my generation, this causes us to chafe even more under Boomer leadership ideas.

These generational paradigms can be most clearly seen in the Petri dish of the American church system. For the last say, 30 years or so, it has been Boomer sentiments and outlooks that have driven the church. And in many ways, it has completely taken over. It is so far reaching that you would be hard-pressed to find a single area; church growth, church success, organization, preaching and worship styles, children’s ministry, even evangelism- that has not been completely colored with the Boomer’s brush.

The contrasting stances of the Boomers and Gen-X are both fundamental and mutually exclusive. Sadly, there does not even seem to be a clear way to compromise for unity’s sake. You are forced to choose sides in this as worldviews are simply not that easy to shake off and adjust. When we step back and look at just a few surface areas, this becomes crystal clear:

In the church, Boomers tend to be highly organized and structured where Gen-X tends to be communal. To Gen-X, the business of the church is the business of the whole church and being together is of the utmost importance. Community is more important than systems and it is everyone’s business to pitch in and do what needs to be done. The phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child” fits exactly here but as, “It takes a village to be a church.”

Boomers tend to focus on programs while Gen-X relies on relationships. To the Boomers, a program is most often the solution. They truly feel that they can find a solution in a program that can then be mass produced, packaged and distributed en masse. Gen-X on the other hand feels that solutions are found in relationships with one another. This difference can be most clearly seen in the area of evangelism. Gen-X has, up to this point, rejected almost every area of programmed evangelism that was in wide use previously. A definite evangelistic solution for today has yet to be rediscovered and implemented.

Boomers like mechanical excellence and Gen-X demands realness instead. In fact, the spit-and-polish approach to worship, preaching, etc is almost contemptible to Gen-X. We would take flawed music that was genuine and imperfect preachers over the dog and pony show, used car salesman approach of some Boomers any day.

Boomers love being contemporary while Gen-X tends to embrace future-primitivism. We dig technology but also history, i.e.; Augustine on I-Pads trumps the mega-Church. We have some kind of internal alarm that goes off when a thing does not pre-date Boomer culture. And so, in many Gen-X churches you will find Reformed Doctrine, Monasticism, Ancient symbols of faith, etc. What you won’t find is much of the “innovations” of the last 50 years.

Boomers are rationalist while Gen-X is holistic. Pragmatism is the rule of life for Boomers, and the most important question that they ask before embarking on a project is, “Does it work?” Their churches are built as businesses with bottom lines and a “whatever works, use” mentality. Gen-X tends to focus on the whole man, intellect, reason, emotions, doctrine and even personal opinion. And while temporal things are important to Gen-X churches, eternal things possess much more significance in their decision making process. When faced with this mindset, Boomers often say that Gen-X cannot be a genuine success, and to these protests Gen-X simply replies, “Define success”.

Finally, Boomers tend to be competitive and Gen-X is highly cooperative. Gen-X will not be content with simply drawing people from less successful churches in their region; they desire unity and cooperation between all of the local churches. To many Boomers, feeding the poor or fighting an injustice can be nice things to do, if they have a profitable conclusion. To Gen-X, those things are the heart and soul of who we are and why we do any of this.

The final results of all of this is that never before, except perhaps during the Reformation, have two generations been more diametrically opposed than the Boomers and Gen-X. And the bi-product of this polarization is that an entire generation remains lost, looking for answers everywhere except the church, due to a inherent repulsion to the dominant mindset of that group.

Those who look to minister in a Gen-X fashion today face a very steep climb. When you no longer poach sheep from churches across town, you must find a way to evangelize in the midst of a culture that is post-Christian at best. When money and numbers are not your focus, you must get creative and cooperative communally in order to reach a lost people group.

And in this idea of voluntary redistribution and communality, we have what may be the only solution that will actually work for getting the work done in Gen X and Y.

Make no mistake about it; my generation is as foreign to the church as a savage tribe would be that is living in the midst of the jungle. And if we do not begin to find some genuine answers, I fear that we will simply become as religious as Europe within 20 years. Exactly 2-4% church attendance is how religious they are, if you were wondering. And that could be our future here as well, unless we do something to turn the tide and speak Jesus in the vernacular of this generation.

The evangelization and reintroduction of Gen-X and Y to church is the single greatest challenge of our day in the church. And the issue is not just a Gen-X problem, it is a whole-church problem, both Boomers and Gen-X together.

What we cannot afford is to continue the way that we have been. Boomers must accept that Gen-X will absolutely change your changes. The torch will not be carried on by the next generation and the Boomers must face up to that. At the same time, Gen-X must understand that the Boomers did what they needed to do in order to reach their generation. And wisdom is justified by her children, for the Boomers and in the future for us as well.

Gen-X is faced with an open mission field, 96% of which do not attend church. And we have had to attempt to reach them, up to this point, without any resources whatsoever. And our failure is your future. Please hear me on this; OUR FAILURE TO REACH THIS GENERATION IS YOUR FUTURE AS A CHURCH.

Within 20 years, many experts predict that many of the mainline denominations will close down due to a lack of attendance. And this generation is the attendance that can keep that future from happening. But we need the support, financially and spiritually, to do that. The methods that worked for the Boomers simply will not work today.

We must now focus on orthodox doctrine, intercession and a fire for God, coupled with social justice and servant evangelism. We must stress biblical masculinity in the home and at church, service to the church and to the greater community and love for the outcast.

What may need to be done, no, what I believe must be done now is a complete reboot. To attempt even one more service where we attempt to tweak Saul’s methods may have terrible implications.

We must all step back, dismantle the entire system and do what is in our heart to do. This is how God will visit a generation with revival – when we stop coloring the pre-drawn Boomer coloring book with Gen-X colors and instead, create our own book.