The Beautiful Sounds of Worship: A Reformation Day Article

Sitting in service today, I heard the beautiful sounds of worship.  They were sounds I’ve heard many times, but they fell on me with a profound beauty this morning.  Alone and in combination, they told of the beauty of our gracious Lord and the depth of love He has for His people.

Are you imagining this?

or this?

or this?

No, it was this:

and this…

Yes, it was the constant drone of the oxygen machine behind me, and the fussy baby on the pew next to me that God used to open my eyes to the beauty of worship this morning.  You might be thinking, wait.. worship is what we do. That means singing, playing music, raising our hands, dancing, or whatever participation is involved in worship you your tradition.  Worship is something we DO. That’s why we go to church, right?

On Reformation Sunday, I’d like to give you our traditional view of the purpose of the church, the church service, and ultimately, worship.

1. Church, according to scripture, is the assembly of believers to be fed the word and sacrements by the pastor.

I know the current view in the seeker-sensitive evangelical movement is that the church is not for “the churched” but for the “unchurched”, but I would challenge you to find any scriptural support for that.  Don’t get me wrong, evangelism, the spreading of the gospel, is the responsibility of every believer. However, the responsibility of the pastor in corporate worship is laid out plainly in scripture. Feed the sheep, disciple the body of believers, administer the sacrements of bread, wine, and baptism.

2. The church service is where Christians go to receive.  

Again, I understand that the seeker-sensitive model of church popular in the United States over the last decade is that church is where we go to give and serve.  And these are crucial! However, this isn’t the role of corporate worship.  There is no scriptural support, nothing in the bible, which teaches this.  It is a logical outcome of the seeker-sensitive model, which requires an army of volunteers to “do church for the unchurched”.  If you were to tell these seeker-sensitive leaders that you come to church to be fed, you would likely (and I’ve heard this with my own ears) be labeled as uncaring or lazy, as a taker.

Yes, I’m a taker. Go head and fill out the sticky label and put it on my jacket. I come to corporate worship to be a taker. I take; I take, as a helpless sinner, the grace of our Lord.  I take; I take part in the banquet set before me as I am fed the word. I take; I take the body and the blood.  I take, and I leave.  But the story doesn’t end there;

Because I realize that I am freely taking what Christ gives me, I am free to GIVE!

So, I leave the assembled body of believers and I give:

I give as I have received, as I spread the gospel of repentance of sins and faith in Christ to those I meet.

I give as freely as I have been given forgiveness, to those in my life who are difficult to forgive.

I give of my time and money, into the community and into the support of the gospel.

And I give because I have been given, and by receiving I am strengthened each week to go back out into the world and give in my vocation and in my community.

I’m a taker, like the survivor who has been pulled out of the raging sea, dying of thirst, and handed a cup of life-giving water. I helplessly take, and I pass it along to other survivors.

So, in the heart of true worship, I passively received today as I sat with a sickly elderly lady, and a fussy child and his parents.  We sat together as the body of Christ, being fed from the word, and being fed through His body and blood.  And these were the beautiful sounds of worship on this Reformation Day.  How appropriate, as we celebrate Martin Luther’s rebellion against any righteousness by works.  Today I took, and it was good. Tomorrow we will go out into the community together; the old lady, the young parents, and I to give as freely as we received.

May you be a taker on this Lord’s Day.  Take, Eat. Take, Drink, Take…. and go and tell everyone.  Don’t tell them about worship where they can come and work, tell them about a banquet table set for them. Tell them there is rest for the weary.  Tell them to come and feast. Go….and tell them.

Marc

Just in Time for Halloween: Children of the Corn at Your Church!

Something horrifying is happening in local churches.  Pastors are taking the pulpit and doing their best “Isaac” impressions from the movie “Children of the Corn”.

Am I exaggerating?  Let’s take a look.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsWH1Ngtfx0

What made Isaac so creepy? (Apart from the whole spooky demeanor and, well, killing people?)

For one, what he was saying was just close enough to being a “preacher” to fool his followers and make it creepy for the moviegoer.

Secondly, he was given direct revelation (and marching orders) from a god. His orders were not the orders we are given in scripture.

Thirdly, He was above being questioned in this role. (After all, who would argue with “He who walks behind the rows?”)

And yet this very horror story is playing out in some of the largest, highest-profile churches in our country.

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How?  A charismatic leader stands before a group of people and charges his followers with the mission he was given, through direct revelation.  These followers now believe that what they have been saddled with is their responsibility.. not only to the leader, but to god himself.  The problem?  The problem is that even with the lingo and trappings of a church, if this mission they are being charged with is not the BIBLICAL mission, it’s a false message.  And what would you make of a “christian” leader who replaces the biblical mission with  their own “direct revelation”from god?

How do you know if you’re on mission?

Well, the bible is pretty clear about what your PASTOR should be doing as well as what YOU are called to do.

Your Pastor’s marching orders?

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

(2 Timothy 3:14–4:4) – ESV

If your “Pastor” is doing something else, he’s off mission! And who is to blame for the off-mission pastor? Well, he is certainly to blame for being off-mission and not preaching the gospel of repentance and faith for the forgiveness of sins.. but who is to blame for him being a pastor?  His congregation!  Isn’t that a bit harsh?  Nope.. look at that verse again:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

People get the Pastor they want.  Those who will not endure sound teaching will accumulate to themselves teachers to suit their own passions (“relevant” “life purpose” to “impact the world”) and will turn away from the simple foolishness of the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, into myth/pop-psychology and off-mision vision casting nonsense.  Take a cold, hard look at your heart for a minute; Do you feel great hearing your pastor’s “pep talk” sermons and then have little interest in reading the actual Bible?  Be careful, you might just enjoy having your ears tickled.

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These “Pastors” aren’t only failing their calling to “feed the sheep”, but failing their mission as christians..

[18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

So, how do you know if your “Pastor” is an Isaac?

1. He “preaches” without an open Bible.  I’m not talking about him throwing a single verse or two on the screen and then talking about himself, politics, or pop-psychology for 30 minutes; I’m talking about opening the bible, teaching the entire text in context and then explaining what it means.

2. He has “direct revelation” from God about what WE are supposed to do.  Whether God still speaks to people is not the point. The point is that if your Pastor has a vision for Christ’s church that involves something other than preaching the gospel of repentance and faith?  I can assure you, with the full backing of God’s inspired word, that his “vision” isn’t from God.

3. He talks more about himself than about Jesus.  Listen closely as he preaches. Sure it’s entertaining, but at the end of the sermon, do you know more about your pastor and his ministry than you do about Jesus?

Who is the hero in these stories, him or Jesus?  Is he like Isaac in Children of the Corn, wrapping his own goals and mission in church-garb and christianese-lingo?

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4. He’s above question.  “Question me not, Malachi!”  Is your church built around the pastor’s vision? Is anyone who questions it seen as questioning God?  First of all, it’s Christ’s church and He’s laid out the mission pretty clearly: Preach the gospel. Feed the sheep the full counsel of God’s word.  Administer the sacrements.  If your pastor’s vision is something different? Well, you’d better obey him in his church, because it’s clearly not Christ’s church.  You can wrap it up in whatever lingo, music, and style you want… “it ain’t a church”.

5.  He tells you God has given him a vision for you to “Do church a new way!” Ugh. Let me guess, it involves building a gigantic, multi-site campus and doing “relationship evangelism” and “serving your community” with “cell groups”.  How original. I’m guessing you’ll get to that whole “gospel thing” later.. after you fulfill your Pastor’s mission, huh? (Actually you might give Jesus a guest appearance as you have an altar call following your pop-psychology “self-help” sermon and ask them to “make a decision to become a Christ follower”.. of course, no mention of sin, wrath, or atonement, so I’m not sure WHY they would need Jesus, other than his being some kind of power source to plug into to get all the happy family, good kids, successful business stuff you promised them in your “sermon”. Sorry. Ranting here.)

So don’t be afraid of ghosts and goblins this Halloween. Don’t be afraid of things that go bump in the night…

[28] And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

(Matthew 10:28 ESV)

To paraphrase a fried of mine who has gone to be with the Lord:

Ghosts and goblins aren’t real. They can’t hurt you.  False teachers tickling your ears?  That’s real. They can kill the soul.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Marc

Note: Chris Rosebrough from “Fighting for the Faith” has done some TREMENDOUS work in this area.  If you aren’t already listening to his podcast and reading him, you’re missing out on a phenomenal resource.  Resources on todays subject can be found here:

http://www.letterofmarque.us/2012/07/is-vision-casting-biblical.html

Forgivable?

I had another article prepared for today, but something has been on my heart this morning after hearing that a long-time acquaintance has “fallen” in a very public way.

I won’t go into the details, because they really aren’t relevant, but I want to think through what this means as Christians publicly fall.

Why is it that we’re so quick to pounce on the failures of other believers?  Now, I get the difference between repentance and un-repentance.  If a believer is un-repentant, there is a great deal in scripture on how to deal with those issues, but that’s not where I’m focused today.  My thought is more with how we handle (and mishandle) the brother or sister who has fallen and repented.

Some train-of-thought ramblings here as I work through Concerns, Cause, and Cure:

Concerns:

1. We in the church seem to be much more ready to pounce on the failures of our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ than the world is ready to attack  the unregenerate sinner.  If a repentant member of your church had a public failure, would they be handled the same as a hollywood star who checked into rehab? Would they get the “second chance” from the church or would they become a pariah?

2. Do believers feel safe in confessing sin in the church, or do they know that doing so would cost them social clout, status, and respect?

3. What are members taught about sin and their relation to it?  How are they to view themselves in light of sin?

Causes (of the above):

1. I find my human nature, and the unchecked character of it when played out in the church, is that I’m ready to pounce on the sin of others. Why?

First of all, it’s salacious.  It makes a good story.  Many of us are “churched” enough to not openly gossip, but prayer requests can surely serve the same purpose.  “Did you hear?” has wounded many brothers and sisters over the years.  Satan is the accuser of the brethren.  He’ll take all the “Did you hear” help he can get.

Secondly, if we’re honest, it makes us feel better about ourselves.  We “compare ourselves to ourselves” and rather than doing the uncomfortable work of facing the sin in our own lives, we take comfort in the fact that at least we’re not “them”.

2. If the view in your church is “We don’t do that”, then anyone who falls and does “that” (whatever that may be in your tradition) is, well, not like you anymore.  Good Christian people don’t do “that”, so now the brother or sister isn’t one of the holy “us”.   This fear creates a culture of hiding your sin and locking it away to never see the light of day.  The risk is just too great in confessing it.  And while fighting this fight alone, what happens to the sin?  It deepens.  Guilt, shame, fear are present as the accuser of the brethren goes to work.

3.  If the concept of sin in your tradition is that it just something you “don’t do” and to do so is a failure, you’re not only inaccurately teaching your people, you’re setting them up to either deceive themselves into believing they’ve “got it”, or creating despair in those who realize that they don’t.

Let’s get this straight:  You sin every hour of every day.  If you come from some traditions, that may shock you.  But what did Jesus say?

[34] But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. [35] And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. [36] “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” [37] And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. [38] This is the great and first commandment. [39] And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [40] On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:34-40 ESV)

I don’t do that. You don’t do that. You know you don’t do that. God knows you don’t do that. Sure, make up some behavioral/moral rules, check the box, and then compare yourself to “those people” who do “that”.  The list changes with every culture: We don’t dance, we don’t drink, we don’t go to the movies, we don’t “mixed swim”, we don’t cut our hair, we don’t wear makeup, jewelry, drive cars, use electricity.  Good. Good for you.  How are you measuring up the Jesus’ words above?

I’ll tell you how; We sin.. every… single… hour, in word and deed against God and our neighbor.

BUT.. the Cure:

[5] This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. [6] If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. [8] If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
(1 John 1:5-10 ESV)

You have sinned, and you have been forgiven.  How then can we pick up stones to throw at our brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing that our only righteousness comes from the same savior who saved them?

There’s a word for that…. hypocrite!

A study by the Barna group polled non-christians on their perception of christianity.  The study explored twenty specific images related to Christianity, including ten favorable and ten unfavorable perceptions. Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative.

The top 2? that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%). WOW! That should crush your heart as a believer. I won’t lose a minute of sleep over the world being offended by the gospel, but if my hypocrisy, OUR hypocrisy is the stumbling block?  Ouch.

I see this playing out in quotes like the following. I’m using this as an example, but I’ve seen many wordings around the same philosophy:

That someone who professes Christ could every nod their head in agreement with such a statement is jaw-droppingly absurd.

[6] For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
(Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

Huh. We were enemies with God, and He reconciled us to Himself through His own death.  Glad he didn’t “respect” His stature as God enough to “walk away” from someone who was His enemy.  To be forgiven by a righteous God and feel that way toward others?  Wow.

How on earth did the church, who stand as benefactors of GRACE come to be most known for being judgmental and hypocritical?

[23] “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. [24] When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. [25] And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. [26] So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ [27] And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. [28] But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ [29] So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ [30] He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. [31] When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. [32] Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. [33] And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ [34] And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. [35] So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

(Matthew 18:23-35 ESV)

So, this is my message to you, someone who sins every hour of every day.. just like me:

If we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

But.. the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The choices stand in stark contrast. My human nature doesn’t want to walk alongside the one who has fallen and tell them they have been forgiven.  It’s more enjoyable to let them hang their head in shame, avoid them like the plague, and ask other self-righteous hypocrites to join me in a chorus of “can you believe what they did?”  Complete hypocrisy.

One of the beauties of the reformed tradition is the preaching of Law and Gospel and the joint confession of sins in every service. Here is an example of that type of prayer. I ask that you think through it and ask yourself how ready you should be to secretly celebrate the falling of a brother or sister in Christ:

Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your holy name. Amen

and Amen.

Marc

“My Mommy Said!”

Having 3 kids of my own, and working and coaching kids for more than 20 years, there’s one scene that seems to play itself out with great frequency:

“My Mommy Said!”

It usually involves a kid trying to get their way.  As most of you have probably experienced, in many cases, it’s also a lie.

“One piece of cake, girls.”

“My Mommy said I could have as much as I wanted!”

Or, it’s also used to impress people or state something they wish were true:

“Oh look, what a beautiful horse!”

“My Mommy said she is going to buy me 10 horses!”

While the goal may be to get their way, to impress people, or to talk about things they wish were true (in spite of reality), In the end, it’s a lie.  Logically, it’s an appeal to authority. However, the word of the kid is only as valid as what “Mommy” has actually said.  When kids do this, it might be a bit bratty, and it’s technically a lie, but we’re pretty patient with our kids as we teach them.

For adults, it’s a bit more serious:

“The boss said you need to….”  Hmm. That’s a bit more serious. Why? Because the stakes are raised as the authority being appealed to is greater.  Mommy said you could have a second piece of cake? Sorry, you only get one piece. Mommy will understand.  The boss said I need to work this weekend? Well, I’ll work this weekend or risk being fired, I guess.

The risk increases, so I’m likely going to verify or accept it as true rather than get fired.  The downside is if the boss catches you using his authority and making things up, you’re liable to the extent of his power.  People don’t misquote the boss often because it’s so easy to verify what he actually said.  How about an even more serious example..

The King’s messenger:  Messengers have been used for centuries to relay the pronouncements (or commands) of a sovereign to his subjects.  What sane messenger would ever consider changing the message, inserting his own, or outright lying about what the King had said?  The penalty would surely be death.  The message is serious because the authority of the one who sent it is serious, and the power of the one who is being misquoted is great.

Yet, there is one greater than any King.  He has made a pronouncement and commanded his messengers to take that news to all His subjects.  Who would dare change or corrupt that message? Who would ignore the clear qualifications of a messenger and appoint themselves to deliver a message of their own?  What impudence! What infidelity!

The King?  The Lord:

For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver;
the LORD is our king; he will save us.
(Isaiah 33:22 ESV)

The pronouncement? The Gospel:

[5:1] Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [3] Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, [4] and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, [5] and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
[6] For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
[12] Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—[13] for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. [14] Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
[15] But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. [16] And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. [17] For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
[18] Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. [19] For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. [20] Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, [21] so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Romans 5 ESV)

Instructions to the Messengers?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

Priority of the Message? First

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
(1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV)

What about Messengers bringing other messages?

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

(Galatians 1:6-10 ESV)

So when your pastor speaks on behalf of God, “God says!” or “God wants you to know..” he’d better do so with an open bible, quoting chapter and verse.  To do anything less, to say “God wants” without scriptural support, to put words in God’s mouth is the very definition of taking the Lord’s name in vain.  (And you always thought it was about cussing?)  What impudent, unfaithful messenger would hijack the King’s message and replace it with his own!  And you? Why would you allow someone to give you commands “from the King” without verifying what He has recorded in His word?

And your Pastor, why would the change the message?

1. They aren’t messengers of the King.  If you don’t believe there are very gifted speakers/entertainers/stand up comedians who can borrow the language of the christian faith, hijack the message,  and draw a large crowd you’re naive.  In the end, you’ve been entertained, he’s been well paid, and the gospel has been abandoned.  Your church is huge? Your pastor writes books and teaches seminars? The band rocks? If you are hearing something other than the gospel, it’s not a church and your messenger is accursed according to God the Holy Spirit as recorded by the Apostle Paul.  That’s pretty serious.

2. He’s like the kid who says “My Mommy Said!” when she said no such thing. Maybe it’s an appeal to what the crowds want to hear. I can guarantee that if you’re getting 1 or 2 verses, not read in their context, it’s so he can hijack the narrative and make it say whatever he wants. I can assure you that Paul never wrote about how to pray audaciously.  Jesus never stood at the door of your heart knocking to come in, and God has not commanded you to speak things into existence. Don’t believe me? Take the verse your pastor just preached, write it down, and go back and read the CHAPTER.  Does it have anything to do with what you were told God said? Be honest, there’s a great deal at stake here!

(See the difference? The quote on the left? God didn’t say that. Ever. It’s not in scripture. In fact, what God has actually revealed about how to pray stands in polar opposite. Audacious? Intimidating? Give us our bread, forgive us our sins, lead us not into temptation. Not so audacious is it? But we buy into it because it appeals to our pride. The hardest thing in the world for us as humans is to simply repent and receive.)

An example of this that I’ll never forget is my young nephew, walking into the dining room and announcing “My Mom said I could go!”  What he didn’t know is that his mother was around the corner in the kitchen.  His mother responded, “I said WHAT?!?” My nephew burst into tears. He knew he had lied, he knew his mother had heard him, and he knew he would be held accountable.

Someday these messengers will stand before the King, accountable to one whose authority they have misused. It’s bad enough that they have not taught the full council of God’s word and have intermixed pop-psychology, moralism, and politics.. but to actually attribute words, and commands “God wants you to…” to God which are not in His word?  They should tremble at the thought.

So, the next time you hear “God said”, make sure it’s legit.  Here’s a good start: If you hear the phrases “I believe” at the beginning of your pastor’s sentence, pay attention. “I believe God wants…” be very, very vigilant here. Open your bible, see if scripture says this IN CONTEXT.  Read the CHAPTER!  And if it’s “God wants you to _____ so he can begin to _____.” Run.  Your “messenger” has hijacked the mission.

Would love to hear your feedback!

Marc

“It’s Not Supposed to Be Like This!”

Walking in downtown Austin this morning I saw an elderly homeless woman storm from a bus and slam her bag of belongings onto the bus stop bench.  She was hysterical, angry, and violent.  There had been some sort of disturbance on the bus and in a tearful rage, she dumped her meager belongings onto the sidewalk, slinging her bag around as she screamed obscenities.

I don’t know how this lady, created in God’s image, ended up in her current situation, But it was heart-wrenching to watch.  It was a combination of humiliation, rage, and despair.  I tried to say something to comfort her, but she was violently lashing out at everyone around her at that point.

As I walked back to my office, I couldn’t help but think…

We’re surrounded by the brokenness every day; at school, at work. We see the jealousy, strife, lust, greed, hate, fear, sickness, sadness. Something deep inside of us wants to explode,

“It’s not supposed to be like this!”

And at one time, it wasn’t:

We know that God created man in His image, and that man was in personal communion with God. And then.. the fall.   We know that, most of us. We get that.  And someday? Heaven. We get that too, but that’s personal, and later. You know, “in the sweet by and by.”

What about now? What about the brokenness we see around us every day?

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold I make all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment.” – Rev 21

Making all things new. Get that. He didn’t say, “I’m making all new things.” What is now will be, and be made new. It’s story of complete redemption. Created, fallen, and in a state of being made new.  The homeless lady I saw this afternoon with the broken mind, the hospital beds at St. Jude’s full of children with broken bodies, and those with broken hearts… the entire world.  This world isn’t temporary, it’s eternal. The only thing temporary is the brokenness; The tears, the death, the mourning, the crying, and the pain.

The greek here is crystal clear on this point; καινὰ ποιῶ πάντα.  The adjective here is καινός and not νέος.  What does that mean? It means that what exists now is being redeemed, and being renewed. It’s not going away and replaced with “new stuff”.  All of creation is in a state of redemption. Someday Jesus will return to establish His kingdom, and all will be as it should be, as it was before. But until then? Until then, it’s broken.  The brokenness will remain until then. Jesus came into the world He created as perfect and saw the brokenness…

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” – Matthew 9:35-36 ESV

There are times that the original Greek differs from our English like HD to black and white TV.  This is one of those passages. As Jesus, the creator of the universe, walks as a man through His own creation, he sees the people. He sees and heals their disease and affliction. He saw the crowds and “had compassion for them”.  What an understatement.  This wasn’t pity. This wasn’t a mere wishing they were better, this was an aching, gut-wrench.  The only times this word is used in scripture are from Jesus to crowds, or examples of His love, like the Good Samaritan or the Father of the Prodigal Son. It’s never used by anyone but the authors of the synoptic gospels. Pure speculation on my part, but I think that’s because you need a view of the fullness of Christ to get even a glimpse of this ache caused by seeing how broken the world is, this “ἐσπλαγχνίσθη” compassion.

Jesus sees the brokenness of His creation, knowing it’s going to be made new someday, and it grieved Him to see the people in their current state.

Jesus response?

He begins the assault on this brokenness in a most unusual way: In the very next verses, he calls the Twelve Apostles. He trains them during the years of His earthly ministry, preparing them for the work ahead.  And, in Matthew 28, He prepares them to continue the work after He departs.  Imagine that; the creator of the universe lays out the means by which all things would be made new. What could such important work consist of? How complex? How powerful would we expect it to be for the greatest of all rescue missions? Great plans, great battles, great means!

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28: 18-20

Unbelievable.  In what one would expect to be the most powerful “pep talk” of all time, Jesus lays it out:

1. All authority has been given to Me (Jesus).

2. So, preach the gospel and administer the sacraments.

3. I’m with you always.

The means by which the creator of the universe would reach the end of making all things new?  The “foolishness” of the gospel, and the sacrements.  It makes no sense as I see the brokenness of this world, but the King who became a servant, who chose the cross of Calvary to the thrones of Earth when offered by Satan and fawning crowds, has chosen the simple means of the gospel and sacraments to reach the ends of making all things new.

So? So, until the day that He makes all things new, I’m charged with spreading this good news, that someday this brokenness will end for those who are in Christ. And that is good news indeed.  It is my privilege to proclaim the message which Isaiah wrote, which Jesus spoke, and which Luke recorded:

Jesus has defeated Satan, sin, and the grave.  He has come to set the captives free. One day, death will die, tears will be wiped from every eye, and there will be no sickness.  All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  How great a savior!

So with that, we will wake up tomorrow, again, in a broken world. But we live with the promise that all things will be made new and the call to tell the prisoners that they’ve been set free. And that is the hope of the resurrection. That, is the only bastion of hope in this broken world.

Marc