Come Join the Party?

The setting is aboard the most luxurious oceanliner every built. The most stunning technological design, with no luxurious appointment missed; The height of luxury aboard the cutting edge of technology.  This was the coolest thing on the planet. Those privileged enough to be aboard found themselves lacking for nothing. Wonderful meals, opulent ballrooms, and beautiful music.  Yet around midnight on April 14, 1912 there was an unbelievable announcement:  The Titanic had struck an iceberg and Captain Smith ordered the lifeboats prepared for the coming peril.

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Firsthand accounts tell us that there were those who refused to believe this warning and they continued to act as though nothing had changed. At first glance, the ballrooms appeared as before. There was still food in the galley. There was still music in the air.  How absurd, how insane would it have been at that moment to turn your back on the lifeboats, to put on your best face, and return to the ballroom, to begin an evening of dancing, and to join the party? How negligent would the crew had been had they failed in their duty to warn passengers of the coming peril and instead enjoy the trappings of their (now extremely) temporary quarters?

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Do we do this? Do we, the church, do this when instead of warning people of the coming judgement of Christ we strike up the band, spread the banquet and begin the party?

We have been ordered to spread the news of the impending judgement, the release of God’s wrath and to run through the halls of the ship pleading with all who would be saved to run to the lifeboats.  This, as all analogies, will fall short. As a monergist, I believe that it is God who saves through Faith alone in Christ alone. However, we are charged with telling those we share these temporary quarters with (the world) that there is a coming judgement, and that salvation comes only through Christ.


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Let’s not kid ourselves; there are great works in which the church is involved (and should be); feeding the widow and orphan, and any current iteration of ministries of mercy and justice (human trafficking, KONY, the civil rights movement, etc.)  but to replace the warning call of coming judgement and the good news of salvation through Christ with any number of self-help, community, feel-good, social justice, THING is in clear opposition to our primary mission. I don’t care how many thousands of people your pastor speaks to on a given Sunday. It matters not a bit how many books he has published, how many campuses you have, or how many cell groups you spin up. If the call of warning and the means of salvation are not clearly and repeatedly articulated from the megaphone of the pulpit, you have failed. Miserably. Negligently.

And people will meet their doom, as those on the Titanic would have, in “community”, in “fellowship”, being trendy and relevant and enjoying themselves.  Surrounded by luxury and impressive architecture and technology, they confused their temporary surroundings with their ultimate destination.

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The warning was sounded long ago when man sinned.  But then, the clarion call came when the good news of Christ’s incarnation, sinless life, atoning death, and justifying resurrection was announced. Our single greatest need had been met; not a tastier meal, a better orchestra, or a softer bed. What value do these have to those who are soon to perish? Rather, the good news that there was a way to live!

How in the world do we confuse the trappings and technology of this soon-sinking ship with “relevance”?  Relevance is what will save us from the impending doom of God’s wrath.  But we too often lose sight of this, our single greatest need, and become enamored with our current trappings. Don’t ever, ever lose sight of the fact that the iceberg has been struck and this ship is sinking. Everyone on it is going to end up in the water one way or another. It will either be in the safety of a lifeboat, or bobbing helplessly to their peril.

The old wooden lifeboats weren’t luxurious, they were completely “old school”. There weren’t entertaining, they weren’t much fun, and they weren’t very popular.  Yet, those who understood the reality of the situation fled to them and would have traded all their earthly fortune to be there.

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The gospel of Jesus Christ will never be luxurious, or posh, or comfortable. It will, by our human standards always seem foolish and irrelevant. But it is the only hope for those who are perishing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ we’ve waited too long to call our shipmates to action. If you aren’t spreading the warning and salvation to those who are perishing, you are negligent.  To those who would walk back into the party and pretend the ship isn’t sinking, you’re delusional.. and to call others to join you? God have mercy.

For those of you who may have stumbled upon this blog, or who have for too long been confusing your festival onboard the ship with the safety of the lifeboat, who have chosen to hear the call back into the party rather than fleeing to the lifeboat. Who are serenaded as you sink with the empty promises of self-help, pop-psychology, and seeking some never-to-be named “great plan” for your life, I ask you to consider the peril we all face. The warning has been sounded. The ship is sinking.  Turn, and run to the only safety, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Marc

God’s Plan for Your Life: The Second Apple

As we recuperate from a week of Turkey and Stuffing (or was it being stuffed like a turkey?) I spent some time on our long, multi-state drive home thinking about being thankful. I came across this video that really hit home, and maybe not in the obvious way you would think:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsZr4bEhKbQ

Books? For Christmas? No, books are good, but I’m looking for something “more”  for Christmas. That seems to be the message from the boy:

“That’s not toys, that’s books!”

Now this article may take a bit of work to follow, but stick with me.  This problem is HUGE in the church right now.  We’re given a gift, we look at it, seem to shrug our shoulders, and move onto the next gift… like the kid at Christmas.. “what else did I get?”

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of Rick Warrens’ “Purpose Driven Life”.  In the past 10 years there has been a near-obsession in the church with understanding “God’s Purpose for Your Life” which is then coupled a misreading of Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”)  What we end up with is a completely self-centered, “me” focused search for the holy grail of God’s plan for my life.. and it must be EPIC since he wants to prosper me and give me hope, right?

Wrong.

I’ve written previously about to whom Jeremiah 29:11 was written and what it actually means in context (here: Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say, Part 2).

This week I’ll work through why we get this wrong, the impact from getting it wrong, and end with refocusing on Christ, and a proclamation of Christ’s atoning for this “purpose driven” idolatry.

How we get this wrong:

Like the kid in the video, we’ve been given a gift. THE gift. The ONLY gift that addresses our greatest need; Christ’s righteousness applied to us to save us from God’s just wrath.  We’ve been declared righteous.  Get this, because it will help you guard against the “Second Apple”)

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Adam and Eve were handed creation; God made it, declared it GOOD and gave it to them.  It was far more than everything they could ever need and, in an act of incredible grace, it was made to be beautiful and enjoyable.  They were, literally, given the world.. and?  They wanted more. Absurd, right?  They wanted that other fruit.. the “second apple” which paled in comparison to everything else they had been given.  But hey, if i’ve already got “this stuff”, I’m missing out if I don’t have “that stuff”!

They looked past what had been declared good, to want that which was not given to them. They didn’t need it. It was, in fact, forbidden.

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Several New Testament books record what is perhaps Jesus’ most famous sermon. His first big crowd, His first major speaking event.. most of us know this Sermon on the Mount for the “beatitudes”.  I could write weeks of articles on this sermon alone, but i’ll point out something you may not be aware of in today’s blog:

Contrary to what many people take from the beatitudes, due to translation into english, they aren’t commands.  They’re not imperative, they’re indicatives!  Jesus, standing in the midst of oppressed people hoping to hear how this leader would lead them out of bondage opens His mouth and declares:  Blessed are you, poor in spirit. Blessed are you, mourners. Blessed are you, persecuted.

It makes no sense. It’s absurdly counterintuitive.  They aren’t blessed, they are POOR, and PERSECUTED!  But that’s where they, and we, miss it.  We can’t judge our standing before God based upon our worldly state.

Adam and Eve were handed, through no work of their own, the good garden.  And we, the church, have received the good news that we are made righteous, through no work of our own.  Our greatest need has been met, and placed in  our empty hands….

And yet, today, we’re obsessed by the fruit of the world and the “second apple” of epic purpose, adventure, world-changing goals, and power/prestige/money.  Be honest, when you hear people talk about looking for God’s purpose, doesn’t it sound an awful lot like what their dream would be if they had a genie in a bottle?  Good spouse, great career, influence, “prosperity”?  How many people have you heard claim that God’s great purpose for their lives is to be, well, average? Or poor? Or slaves?

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Well, in a single blog, I’m going to give you what you’re looking for.  What Rick Warren never delivers, and what your purpose-driven-pastor vaguely aludes to.. your purpose. Why you are here.

Ready?

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)

Salvation? Got it, thanks. What else you got for me, God? What do I get to DO? What am I supposed to do with my life? What’s God’s plan for my LIFE?”

Live in the land, take a wife, build a house, plant a garden… LIVE!  If you’re a carpenter, work at it as your vocation to God, giving thanks for your vocation and present the gospel to those around you.

Wait, that can’t be it! It’s not EPIC!

What on earth would make you think it’s supposed to be?  And more epic than living as an ambassador for the king of the universe?  Don’t get it twisted, this place is temporary. It’s going away. The kingdom is at hand, and if you confuse your mission with the priorities of this world, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

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The Apostles were martyred. The early church was persecuted and fed to lions. Onesimus was sent, by Paul, BACK into slavery.  Only in a prosperous, first world country like the United States could you sell people the drivel that God wants for you an epic, prosperous journey in this life.

So why is this so damaging?

1. Because it’s, at best, a wrong FOCUS on us and our awesome purpose (the second apple) instead of Christ’s atoning work on the Cross for our sins (the good gift).  I hear this constantly in evangelical, purpose-driven churches.. like “getting saved” is a box you check and then begin to seek out this great “purpose” for your life. This error is so glaringly obvious, only our narcissism could blind us to it. God gave you a mission (see the Great Commission above), and instead you’ve set off on another mission, a mission to find your great purpose.  So you’ve been given your marching orders by your King and have jettisoned them in favor of finding your epic purpose in life. Huh,  That can’t end well.

2. Because it creates unbiblical and unrealistic expectations.  Not only are we so naturally narcissistic as to expect this epic adventure, but when we are met with the reality that we might be, well, average and live a life of devoted vocation… we become disillusioned with God.

For those who misapply Jeremiah 29:11 as their “life verse”, here’s a thought for you;  The people that Jeremiah was writing to in that verse? They were in bondage.  How did they get there? God PUT them there. He raised up the Babylonians to punish them for their idolatry.  For those who didn’t think captivity was their “best life now” and didn’t go into captivity? God drove them out and killed them. Huh. Not so “best life now-ish” is it?  So, they stay in captivity for 70 years. Many of the original readers of this letter lived and died in captivity. And God’s instructions for how to live their lives?

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.

(Jeremiah 29:5-9 ESV)

3. I see the wreckage left behind the purpose-driven movement every day; narcissistic, self-focused “Christ followers” who never speak of Christ, but of their latest self-help (or church) program or the “new thing” God is doing in their life. The latest fad-theology being sold at the christian bookstore (Prayer of Jabez ring a bell?) Some fuzzy, warm feeling they have of a not-yet-seen epic plan God has in store for them. I wonder what the captives in Babylon would have thought about this?  I’ve heard “pastors” talk about “shaking off” people who aren’t helping you move toward your purpose.  If there’s a less Christlike sentiment, I can’t think of one.

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So to wrap it up, stop chasing the second apple. God isn’t doing a “new thing”, nowhere in the Bible does God say that your youth group, or college and career group is a “chosen generation” to do great things for God.  You are never, never, ever given the direction to “change your world” or “impact the world” in scripture. Never. The harsh, and beautiful truth is that you are an empty-handed beggar who was given the greatest gift of all, through no work of your own.  Your call is to spread the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, to live a life of quiet obedience, and to ply your vocation to support your family and help the poor.  That may be in a position of great influence, or in quiet obscurity. It may be in Babylonian captivity, or the prison cells of persecution; Lions den, or Palace.  Epic, or pedestrian.

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The gospel frees us form the sin of purpose-driven idolatry. From glancing past the greatest of all gifts to those “treasures” of a perishing world. Christs’ atoning work on the cross frees you to serve Him faithfully with little or much.  Epic or lame, the purpose remains the same.. The glory of His name.

Marc

Teaching my Dog to use His iPhone!

OK, it’s getting a big frustrating.  About a month ago, I bought our family dog, Boomer the Pug, an iPhone.  I’m trying to get him to use it and he’s just not getting it.  I’ve tried everything, treats, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, begging, pleading, ANYTHING.. but he’s just not getting it.   Maybe I’m a bad teacher. Maybe he’s just not very bright.  Maybe it’s the lack of opposable thumbs. Whatever it is, it’s frustrating for both of us… and I spent a lot of good money on that phone!

Absurd?  Of course it is, dogs don’t use iPhones. Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE DOGS! To expect a dog to use an iPhone would make me a lunatic, right?

Yet, we do this daily with those around us.  How?

[16] But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. [17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [18] But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. [24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
[25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. [26] Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

(Galatians 5:16-26 ESV)

There are a couple of things I want you to notice here:

1. Paul is speaking in Galatians 5 to a specific group of people, “us”.  Who is “us”?  He defines “us” as those who Christ has set free.

[5:1] For freedom Christ has set us free; 
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)

2. Paul then contrasts “us” (those who Christ has set free) with those who Christ has not set free.

[5:1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)

3. Paul says then sets these behaviors in contrast to each other.  (Flesh and Spirt)

[17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
(Galatians 5:17 ESV)

4. And finally, lists the works of the flesh and the fruits of the spirit:

[19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

(Galatians 5:19-23 ESV)

So, those good things?  The fruits of the spirit? They’re fruits.. OF THE SPIRIT.  They come FROM the Holy Spirit to those who are set free in Christ.  The bad stuff?  Those are works of the flesh.  Do you see it?

Those who have not been set free in Christ will not, in fact CANNOT manifest the fruits of the spirit!

[8:1] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [3] For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, [4] in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [5] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

(Romans 8:1-8 ESV)

Those who are in the flesh will not, in fact CANNOT submit to God’s law. They CANNOT please God.  Get that. It’s crucial. Those things we’re demanding of our kids? Of those around us at work?  If they are not in Christ and set free by the spirt, they are still slaves to the flesh.  We’re demanding something of them which they CANNOT do, and getting frustrated with both them and ourselves when they don’t!

It’s as absurd as trying to teach a Pug to use an iPhone!

What are the implications?  Well, this is a major problem in the modern church.  We start our kids early by teaching them how to be “good”, we tell them to be “nice”.  What is nice?  We tell them to be patient, kind, gentle.. and to exercise self-control. To put others ahead of themselves, to share, to be considerate.  Sound familiar? Fruits of the Spirit!

New guy at church. He hangs around a few services because he likes the sense of community, digs the music, and well, there are some really cute girls.  He gets the message loud and clear: Be happy, be faithful, love each other.  Sound familiar? Fruits of the Spirit!

The problem?

Neither of them have been confronted with the weight of their sin, and been called to repentance and faith in Christ for forgiveness. The Apostle Paul tells us, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that they cannot manifest the very fruit we are demanding of them!

A stunning example of this happened recently when the creator of the most popular christian children’s material in history (Veggie Tales) said the following:

“I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . . .

And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart.” – Paul Vischer, Creator of Veggie Tales

So, as much as people give me good-natured grief for somehow bringing EVERYTHING back to the gospel, here goes.. I’m bringing iPhone  Training for Dogs back to the gospel….

I’m not concerned about teaching my kids to “be good”, I’m concerned that they’re in Christ.  Because without being freed by Christ, they are unable to do the “good” at all.   Will they sometimes act like little heathens even after they are in Christ? Of course they will, and so will I in this fallen world. But we are freed, in Christ, to please God.

So as you go into your world today, don’t get frustrated that those in the flesh produce the fruits of the flesh.  Be aware that demanding that they manifest the very fruits of the Spirit is something they are entirely incapable of doing.  They’re still slaves. Their problem is that they aren’t in Christ.. and that’s something you can (and are commanded) to engage. Gospel much?

Marc

The Worst Birthday Party Ever

After looking forward all week to the festivities, I walked into Chuck E. Cheese’s and looked for the guest of honor.  He sat, tucked away in a corner, nearly hidden from view by the beautiful decorations, signs, and balloons which had been carefully arranged around the table.

As guest were arriving, there were hugs and laughter and everyone was genuinely glad to see one another. The mood was festive as the children were handed cups of tokens to use in the arcade. But the guest of honor sat quietly, lost amid all the activity.

And then… the music!

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls! Please return to the party area to celebrate our special guest!”

The children rushed back to the tables, the adults quickly found their seats as the party started with blaring music from the Chuck E. Cheese band.  The crowd would sing along and shout out the guest of honors name at all the appropriate times in the song. The entertainment was well received and ended just as the pizza arrived!  Parents and children alike dove into the pizza and seemed to really be enjoying themselves, except for the guest of honor who still sat quietly, overshadowed by the noise and decorations.

Then, things got, well, weird.  First, party planner extraordinaire (Mom), quieted the crowd and began to speak:

“Thank you all for coming!  Wow, what a party, huh?  I think it turned out pretty well! (the guest cheered in approval) I spent weeks planning this, so enjoy yourselves!”  The crowd cheered and thanked her for her hard work. It was indeed a beautiful party.  And the guest of honor sat quietly on the sideline.

Next up?  The Manager from Chuck E. Cheese!  He thanked everyone for coming and marveled at the beautiful party. The most impressive he had ever seen in his store!  And then he did something truly odd:

“Chuck E. Cheese is built around making every child the guest of honor at their party!  And to that end, we’re expanding the size our store to nearly double it’s current size!” (And the crowd cheers)  “It’s going to be EPIC!  We’re adding more games, and more than 10 jumbo screens to enhance the party experience.  We’re also adding more than 50 new employees to facilitate this growth! How ’bout that?!?!?” (And the crowd showed it’s enthusiastic approval.)  And the guest of honor sat quietly on the sideline.

And they came, one after another; guests to speak about how the guest of honor made them feel, the cooks to talk about the pizza, the baker to talk about the cake, and a dozen talented musicians and singers taking turns performing songs about the guest of honor with tremendous skill and passion. And through it all, great festivity and great fun.  And the guest of honor sat quietly on the sideline.

Finally, the mother wrapped up the party:  “Thank you for coming! I hope you enjoyed yourself. Let’s have a hand for all those who made this special day possible!” (applause)  “Isn’t it wonderful to celebrate someone we love so dearly?”  (applause).

And with that, the guests smiled, hugged, and left.  And the guest of honor sat quietly on the sideline.

For all the trappings, and mentions of his name, he was overshadowed by the activities, the festivities, and the entertainment.  All good things, but shameful when used to overshadow the guest of honor.  For all the fun, it was… The Worst Birthday Party Ever

And yet, this scene plays out Sunday after Sunday in some of the largest, most “successful” churches in the country.  People gather for the purpose of honoring the one deserving of all honor, and we spend so much time with entertainment, with speaking about the interworking and program of the organization, focusing on our gift bags, and enjoying the party itself that, well, apart from a few mentions during the singing  (which is often about how He makes us feel) and a verse or two of His word, we forget to actually focus on the guest of honor.

Talented musicians, tremendous programs, entertaining and humorous speakers, and beautiful campuses; All good things. But if we can spend 10 minutes on intro, 30 minutes on blazing guitar riffs and angelic special singing, time for humorous stories and jokes, and time to sell merchandise.. how then do we skip entire sections of His word due to time constraints? I’ve actually heard speakers say “Time doesn’t allow me to read the entire chapter, so I’ll unpack the following verses:” How do we stand to read God’s word only to be met with 10 minutes of story telling, not to explain the context of the scripture being read, but setting the narrative into which we will drop a verse or two out of context?  When we leave do we know more about the “party” and the “planning” than about “the guest of honor”?

Lord, forgive us for abandoning our first love.  Forgive us for making time for every manner of program and entertainment and only giving you a round of applause and a nod of the head as we spend less time working through your word than we do on talking about explaining the logistics of our next event.  Do I think the people at the birthday party love the guest of honor? Of course I do. Do I think they meant harm? No, I don’t. But at some point they lost focus. They forgot why they were there.  Let’s return to our first love.

I know that I’m sometimes perceived as “negative”, a “hater”,  or “nitpicky”.  I understand that, I really do.  I’m not saying the activities of the party are bad.  What I’m saying is that I truly love the guest of honor.  I came to spend time with him and to make it about him… and to see him pushed into the corner as we speak about the party?  It breaks my heart.  As a wise man once said;

So if you are somewhere where there is a focus on reading and learning the Word of God, you are truly blessed. I attend a service every week where I hear the reading of large portions of scripture, often entire chapters in context; feeling both the weight of the Law, and the grace of the Gospel.As an example, in a recent service we bowed our head to confess sin, to read together Christ’s words declaring us forgiven, confessed our faith together, read large portions of 3 chapters of scripture, had the gospel of repentance for the forgiveness of sins clearly presented, and met together at the Lord’s Table where we received His body and blood. And, yes, we worshiped together in song.  Certainly not any tremendous vocal performances, no melt-your-face-off guitar solos, no performances of any sort actually. But we worshipped. Together.

In an hour.

Does your church have time for multiple solo performances and none to spend actually reading the text of God’s word?  Do you spend more time on announcements than on scripture? Are you getting a verse or two which serve as nothing more than an amplifier to a story about the speaker, or merely a nod in His direction as you sing songs that could just as easily be about your boyfriend as they are about the Savior? If so, you’re too much party and not enough guest… and it may be time to leave the party.

I’m sure you love the party, who wouldn’t? It’s FUN! You love the other guests! The music is FUN! The people are FUN! The entertainment is FUN!  But do you love that fun more than the guest? Nobody at the birthday party would have ever said they loved the party more than the guest of honor.. but their actions spoke volumes. Nobody wants to leave a good party, especially if it’s aimed at our enjoyment.  If you leave the party, you may end up with a few less balloons and decorations, and you may hear grandma doing an off-key rendition of  “happy birthday” instead of the Chuck E. Cheese band, but our “guest of honor” deserves all honor.

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