Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

God In The Fissures

I’m going to kick this blog off with a question:  If the Israelites in the Old Testament would have decided that warring and violence wasn’t the answer to their problems, and that they were going to approach their enemies with love and passive resistance, how do you think God would have responded?

This past weekend, I went to a church to see a 20-year-old prophet named Manasseh Jordan.  This guy has been gaining some huge momentum in his ministry and apparently he draws some pretty big crowds.  It was kinda cool that he was coming to a small church in the tiny town of Glen Carbon, IL.  Now, I’ve probably already made half of you readers tense up as blogging about modern day prophets is one topic guaranteed to get people defensive and offended.  Don’t worry, this is not what this blog really is about.

If you’ve never seen one of these prophets or don’t know what they’re all about, I’ll give a quick synopsis.  Basically, they spend a lot of the service calling out people whom they’ve never met, and they’ll tell people things that God wants them to hear.  Usually the prophecies are all positive and encouraging.    For instance, if I lost my job and I was really torn up about it, and a prophet tells me, “God says to not worry.  A new job is coming soon and it will be better than your old one.”  This would be a good prophecy.  Now, no matter what you believe about modern day prophets, if you were there, you couldn’t deny the fact that this guy was scary accurate.  He was telling people things down to the tiniest detail that would have been virtually impossible for him to know otherwise.

But things got ugly for a brief moment.  The prophet transitioned to a time to take the offering, but it wasn’t the typical method where ushers pass around offering plates while some bad singer performs a song off a soundtrack.  The prophet had a different method that apparently, at least for one indignant man, didn’t sit well in the stomach.

Without going into too much detail, the prophet was saying things like, “God wants you to sew into this ministry by giving a seed of $1,000.”  If people in the congregation raised their hand and agreed to the amount, he would typically prophecy over them.  There were even a few people that he pre-emptively went over to and said, “God wants you to give $1,000 because…” and then would tell them something good.

On this particular night, the prophet said that there were 5 people in the audience that God wants them to give double; a $2,000 offering because God wanted to doubly bless them.  Four people raised their hand and the prophet prayed over each of them.  When the fifth person raised his hand, the prophet went over to him and that’s when things got ugly.

The man stood up, and tried to give the prophet a few (I think they were) twenty-dollar bills.  The prophet said, “Put that away, I want to pray for you”.

The man shoved the bills into the inside of the prophet’s suit and said, “This is my birthday money.  Take it.  I’m tired of you making my father’s house a den of thieves.”  And then we walked out.

Quiet gasps could be heard all over the sanctuary after the shock of what had just happened.  Sure, people disagree in churches all the time, but I’ve never seen someone express their disdain in such a publically confrontational and aggressive way like this before.

After the service, conversations all over the church were buzzing with what had happened.  I got to listen to several of these conversations.  Not that these words were actually spoken, but it seemed like a lot of people believed the man who had the outburst was deceived or not of God.  A few had looks on their faces like they thought this man was sent by the Devil himself to ruin the prophet’s ministry.  Even the prophet mentioned something about the enemy hindering the work of God and how it “attracts attack.”

The man who had the outburst didn’t stick around for an interview but judging by the look on his face, I’m guessing that he thought Manasseh Jordan was a false prophet and the audience was deceived.  He clearly didn’t think this prophet was of God.

This blog isn’t really about methods of taking offering, although this was a good example.  This blog is about the fact that in this example, we have two sides who are convinced that their belief is of God, while the other belief is sin.

And we see these fissures all over Christianity.

Now, I don’t want to just single out Christianity, because there’s differing opinion, facts, interpretations in just about everything.  Antimony is everywhere.  Even in science, where some have turned it into a religion of stability and pure objective truths are failing to see its fissures.

And differing beliefs aren’t really a bad thing.  But sometimes, when we defend our beliefs in the name of God, differences get defined as things like heresy, deception and sin.  And yes, I fully believe that heresy, deception and sin do exist.  But when two sides of a much smaller subject are calling each other heretics, and they both have scripture to back up their beliefs, is one side god-fully right and the other side sinfully wrong?

Let me explain it this way and use the example of the offering.  In regards to the man who had the outburst towards the prophet, his way of expressing his objection was wrong, but I can’t help siding with him in what he believes.  I just don’t feel that encouraging people to give money by telling them they’ll be blessed is appropriate and biblical.  It makes people give for the wrong reasons.  We, as Christians should take Christ’s example and sacrificially give because it is our duty as children of God and as ambassadors to his kingdom.  I feel like I have slightly more resolve than the average person and even I was tempted to reach for my checkbook; but not because I wanted to give, but because I wanted to receive a blessing.  I’m not saying that this is for everyone, but for me, I would have been doing wrong if I would have given to that prophet’s ministry.  Again, one man’s conviction is not universally shared and I’m sure there were many people who legitimately felt God calling them to donate to the prophet’s ministry.  But for me, it wouldn’t have been offering, it would have been gambling.

I WANT TO MAKE IT VERY CLEAR that I am, in no way, condemning anyone who gave an offering to that prophet’s ministry.  You may not see it the same way I do or God legitimately told you to give an offering.  Besides, God gives us all different convictions sometimes.  Some people are okay with drinking beer while others are convicted when eating meat.  God gives the freedom for both but sometimes he prevents these things for individuals in their own personal romance with God.

But should a prophet, who stays in Ritz-Carlton hotels and wears super expensive clothes; should he be peddling offering money in exchange for prophetic blessings?  My opinion is…no way, Jose!  I believe it’s wrong, wrong, wrongiddy wrong!

So is this prophet a heretic?  Is he a false prophet?   My opinion is…no way, Jose!  Opinions that he is a heretic are wrong, wrong, wrongiddy wrong!

So is this prophet a true man of God?  Does God speak through his “offering prophecies?” Will the people who received an “offering prophecy” get what they were promised?  My opinion is…yes, yes, yeppity, yes!

Wait, didn’t I just say the peddling was wrong and yet God still works through it?  Yes, I did.  And here’s where it gets tricky.

First, we have to realize, that no one, be he a pastor, prophet, or the pope himself does his ministry to the perfect will of God.  Even a prophet who hears from God as much as this guy does is not infallible.  He may be a fantastic prophet, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a fantastic teacher, apostle, pastor or evangelist.  This idea concerning the five-fold ministry in Ephesians 4 is to the credit of my beautiful wife, Sarah.  She said, “We live in a society where we want to be everything.  We can’t be everything!  We just can’t be a pastor AND a prophet AND an evangelist AND an apostle AND a teacher.”   Just because one is a fantastic prophet doesn’t mean he’s fantastic at everything else.

Second, we have to understand that being wrong simply does not negate us from God’s work.  God is not afraid of wrong.  He does not shy away from wrong. God doesn’t just stop using us whenever we get it wrong.  If he did, God wouldn’t use anyone!  The Bible is full of people who did really dumb things, and yet, God still worked some good in them.

The following is merely my theory; a fledgling thought that has been brewing up trouble in my head.  It is un-polished, un-researched and lacks enough solid backing to be labeled “my firm opinion”.  But it’s mine and it’s currently how I feel and it helps me reconcile some things.  Not only does God still use us while allowing use to my bad choices, he will sometimes work through the bad choices to ultimately bring good!  When the Israelites wanted a king, God advised against it.   The Israelites went through some pretty hard times because of the decision, but God allowed it and eventually worked it out for his glory.  That’s why when I asked the hypothetical question about the Israelites deciding not go to war with their enemies, I believe God would have honored that decision.  In fact, I believe that all the violence in the Old Testament wasn’t God’s perfect plan and intent.  But God still worked through his people’s bad decision.

This belief does not negate God’s sovereignty.  I believe it enhances it and shows just how good God is.  He allows the free will of our decisions, but he’s not going to completely deny us his goodness whenever we get it wrong.  He’s too good to let our finite and wisdom-less choices affect his ultimate plan of glory.   Now, in the case of the prophet, I think God would bless his ministry more should he be more humble with his finances and offering methods.  But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t going to work through it, because God is working through it.  God is still blessing his ministry and blessing those who give to it and teaching them some practical and radical faith.

Does this mean we can blindly believe whatever makes us feel good?  Absolutely not!  It is imperative that we keep praying, keep searching scriptures and keep trying to understand God so one day we can get it right.  But God is an unfathomable mystery.  And 2,000 years of trying to crack that mystery with our finite and limited minds, we still have only scratched the surface and we still get it wrong sometimes.  God understands this!  The important part is that we’re honestly seeking him and exhibiting his love as best as we can.

There are a slew of ministers out there that I completely disagree with on issues and that generally irritate me to the core.  But if their heart is fixed towards reaching people for God, then they are my family, my fellow soldier in the foxhole, my co-heir in Christ.  I can disagree with their methods, but I can’t demonize their souls.  They are sharing in the same mission of Christ.

It has long been my conviction and my dream that denominations and differing beliefs should come together and celebrate each other.  How much better would the good news of Jesus be spread if we were all united?  The fissures will always exist, but we should know that God is in them and he is ultimately in control.

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The Overwhelming Challenge Of Love

This blog might be a bit hard to swallow.

There’s a really good chance that the picture above has offended you in some way.  Please believe me when I say that it’s not my intention to offend nor condemn you if you do find it offensive.  It’s hard for me to swallow.  After reading some of Osama Bin Laden’s exploits, including all of those who died in 9/11, the thought of Jesus washing Osama’s feet makes me tense up a bit.

But didn’t Jesus die for Osama Bin Laden?

Of course we know that Jesus died for Osama because Jesus died for everyone.  We’ve been told that since 1st grade Sunday school.  But there’s is a difference between abstractly knowing something to be true, and experiencing something to be true.  Sure, we can believe that Jesus died for everyone because it’s a blanket statement that doesn’t require a lot of thought.  But when we show the concept of God’s love in a more practical and visual way, like in the picture above, it may put us on edge.

The truth is, God loves Osama Bin Laden with unsurpassable, unfathomable, unequivocal and irrepressible love.

And he loves you with that same love.

But why is it so hard to see that God is crazy about Osama Bin Laden, the serial rapist in prison, and the crack-head neighbors that keep you up all night with their really loud music?

If you would turn with me in your Bibles to…

Just kidding…well, sort of.

We (probably) all know the story of Adam and Eve.  They were the first man and woman God created.  They lived in a beautiful utopian garden.  They were completely naked except for some tree leaves on their googly parts.  (Okay so that last part wasn’t exactly true but this is website is rated PG 🙂 )  And the only rule they had was not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  But they did anyway.  And God got really mad and punished them with things like foot fungus and strange body hair and April 15th.  (And that last part was also false….I think).

And as many times as I heard this story growing up, it didn’t make full sense to me until I realized that God doesn’t make up stupid rules for no reason.  There was a reason God did not want Adam and Eve to have knowledge of good and evil.  And I’m convinced that this reason is really the crux of Christianity. Here it is.

God designed us for the purpose to live in love.  That’s it.  And the whole concept of good and evil is way to big for our finite brains.  We weren’t designed to be able to grasp the concept.  Only God can make perfect sense out of good and evil.  And when Adam and Eve were given this knowledge, they screwed it up.

It’s like men trying to understand the female mind.  We know it exists, but we’ll never fully understand it.

And this is where we are at today.  Instead of living in love, and understanding that every human being has unsurpassed worth, we judge everyone.  We take this ridiculously huge concept of good and evil, contort and disfigure it, and use that as the lens in which we view our world.

And that’s why we have trouble picturing Jesus washing Osama’s feet.

This is why the Bible says over and over not to judge and just love people.  And that is crazy hard because there are so many really, really moronic people out there.

See?  That was my really pathetic and limited interpretation of good and evil.

This is the challenge.  This is something I’ve been trying to do everywhere I go.  It’s hard but it has changed my life. Everywhere I go, I’ll look at a person and imagine the intense love God has for that person.  Sometimes it’s easy.  Sometimes, like whenever I go to Wal-Mart, it’s really hard.

But the more I do this, the concept that God truly loves all becomes more a reality.  It makes me view the world in less pessimistic ways.  The more I realize that God loves everyone means that I can apply it more and more to my own life.  And the more I realize that God loves me, the better I can deal with my own personal crap and baggage.  Life simply becomes better when I live in love and not judge people.

And yet the challenge continues…

I am personally having trouble picturing God’s love for this guy.  God loves him, but my view of good and evil is preventing me to see that love realistically. I’m still a work in progress.  My head in convinced that Jesus would wash Paul Smith’s feet and that Jesus weeps over his decisions and all the damage he has done.  I’ll let you know whenever my heart catches up with my head.

Four Finger Inspirations II: Mumford And Sons “Sigh No More”

One of my relentless missions in life is to find Jesus in modern culture.  I’m not talking about Christian pop culture like Christian music, books, media, etc.  These things are all well and good but will, unfortunately, never impact many people who simply don’t like this particular culture’s style.

I, too, have become increasingly dissatisfied with much of the modern Christian music and media out there.  Again, not that there’s anything wrong with it, it just rarely ever invokes any of my emotional triggers.  I wish it did.  I sometimes wish I could turn on and enjoy the local Christian music station because it would be a lot easier than dealing with the genetic makeup that is me, a picky tortured artist.

So whenever I find something that inspires me in incredible ways, of course I’m going to slap it up on this website.  I encourage you to click the link above, if you’ve not already done so.  And hey, if it’s not your cup of tea or doesn’t give you any tinglies, sorry about that.  Maybe next time.

A big thanks to my buddy Jordan for turning me on to this band.  Jordan is my music pimp.  He is crazier about music than I am and every time he finds a band he knows I’ll like, he tells me about them.  A lot my favorite music is because of him so I believe that everyone in life needs a music pimp.  You just can’t have Jordan.  Go find your own.

What you just heard is a song called “Sigh No More” by the band Mumford And Sons.  I’ve listened to this song about 15 times already today because they pretty much sum up the manifesto of my life in two lines.

“Love it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free. Be more like the man you were made to be. There is a design, an alignment, a cry of my heart to see, the beauty of love as it was made to be.”

There is a design, an alignment, a cry of my heart to see, the beauty of love as it was made to be.  Holy crap.  Not many people write like this anymore.

As a Christian, I’m convinced that this intended love, this perfect and beautiful thing is Jesus Christ’s love.  There is simply no other religion or philosophy that has ever shared the same radical and intense ethos of love as Jesus.  He set the standard.  And I believe that this sometimes even scandalous love can be the hardest thing for us humans to ascribe to one another. It is truly a weighty mission to fully understand and give this love, especially to people whom we think do not deserve it.

I love this song because, although is has many religious overtones, it connects with a broad group of people.  I’ve read many comments online from non-religious people and atheists defending the message of this song.  One person wrote, “I’m personally not a fan of preaching but if religion can produce music this beautiful among all the other things it has done in the past…”

Even non-Christians still understand the deep need for this perfect love.

What’s ironic is Mumford And Sons is not a Christian band, and I have no evidence that they claim to be Christians, although most of their songs are riddled with Christian themes.  And a few F-bombs here and there as well.  They once stated in an interview, “We’re not a Christian rock band as such, the album deals with dilemmas every man deals with in life as do we. Faith is just one thing we’ve gone with. It’s one subject that can’t be ignored and we’ve tried to deal with it.”

Faith can’t be ignored.

So although these guys will never make the cover of Christianity today, they are ministering.  It goes to show that all good things can be used for God’s purposes.

Apocalypse Later: Why Christians Need To Relax

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” – Rahm Emanuel

There’s oil all over the Gulf.  Obama is our president.  Haiti had a devastating earthquake.  Tyra Banks has her own TV show.  These are clearly signs of the times…er…to put it in a less Christian-ese way, these are clearly evidences that the world is soon to live out the movie “The Day After Tomorrow”.

Looks like a Minnesotan winter

With every world incident, there always seems to be some oily politician shelling (no pun intended) out an extra helping of fear to the populace.  And while some of these are legitimate cause for concern, we may as well all become nihilists because in 2012, the BP oil well will infect the entire ocean while draining the entire world of its oil suppy, the polar ice caps will melt and drown everyone on the east coast.  But those who drown will be the lucky ones, as everyone else will either be consumed by African killer bees, turned into zombies by a mixture of Antrax and SARS, or be turned into zombies by the radiation of a North Korean nuke.

MMMMMMMM BRAAAAINS!

I bet you’re feeling better about your day now, huh?

Luckily, Christians have a messiah who has an easy yoke   and a light burden.  And he tells us to chill out and not worry about the future.  And he tells us this multiple times in the Bible.  So then why is this guy so popular?

Dr. Jack Van Impe

Now, I don’t mean to single out Jack Van Impe. Although I disagree with a lot of his stuff, I kinda like him.  He’s out of the box.  But there’s this whole culture that’s almost obsessed with predicting the end times.  And although some do it with pure motives, preaching that God will eventually save the day and it’ll be awesome,  I feel their messages are counter productive, doing nothing more than installing fear in people.  And every time there’s an earthquake, a conflict between nations, or anytime an Isreali gets heartburn, these doomsday prophets use these as Biblical proof that the world is about to end.

But what does the Bible really say about these warning signs for the end of days?

*THE FOLLOWING IS AN ATTEMPT TO KEEPING A COMPLEX BIBLE TALK AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE.  SORRY IF I FAIL*

In Luke 21, Jesus is saying some pretty serious stuff about what will happen.  Without quoting the entire chapter, Jesus mentions a number of crappy things that will happen like wars, earthquakes, famine, pestilence, Christians being put to death – and a partridge in a pear tree.  Many believers think that this passage of scripture is talking about the end of days.  Meaning, before God steps in and decides to make it all better, the world is really, and I mean really going to suck.

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is, I don’t believe that Luke 21 is talking about the end times at all.  In this chapter, Jesus tells his disciples that the temple is Jerusalem will one day be destroyed.  When they ask when that will happen, that’s when Jesus gives his speech about all the terrible and horrible things that will occur. And the temple was destroyed about 40 years later.  Many people believe that he answered the disciples’ question in verses 8 and 9, but then started describing the end times in the rest of the chapter.

Why would Jesus do that?  Why would he answer the disciples’ question and then immediately start talking about a completely different subject with no segway?  That would be like me telling someone, “Tomorrow I’m going to go to the grocery store, then the bank, then people will cry at the funeral home and my grandchildren will receive my inheritance.”  It just doesn’t make sense.

Not this kind of segway.

I believe that Jesus was doing nothing more than describing all the things that would happen when the temple got destroyed and not talking about the end times.  A lot of those things (wars, famine, slaughtering of Christians) happened during that point in history.

Now for the bad news.

First off, I could be wrong.  I mean we’re not %100 sure what Jesus actually meant.  A lot of really smart scholars are divided on the issue.  Secondly, even if Jesus wasn’t describing the end of days in Luke 21, whose to say that life won’t all of a sudden take a turn for the worse?  Think about all the tragic events around the world that have happened in the past 100 years.  Heck, think of all the things going on right now!  We were lucky to be born in a sliver of time and in a country where safety and convenience is pretty easy to obtain.  But life has a funny way of changing quickly and radically.

Great, now I’m the one peddling fear.

But more good news!  Jesus commands us to chill out.  We’re not supposed to know when Jesus is going to come back (Acts 1).  Only God knows (Mark 13).  We’re not supposed to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6) or our life and all of its nuances (Luke 12).  And in stead of having anxiety, we should rejoice (Philippians 4) because God is ultimately in control.

And so what if we turn into zombies?  This life is such a small vapor in comparison to eternal hope we have in our salvation.

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