Category Archives: Life

Colony Collapse & One Night Stands

About 2 1/2 years ago, a book idea was birthed by Mike Signorelli and myself called “Real On Nine”. It’s been a work in progress for some time. We’re hoping to let it see the light of day soon. The following is from a chapter called “Colony Collapse & One Night Stands”. Hope you enjoy.

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Honey bee colony collapse is a phenomenon that is believed to be caused by bee keepers that take too much of the honey for commercial uses. The bees are then given high fructose corn syrup in place of their own honey. Pushing these bees, taking the best of their product, and replacing with a lesser substitute is causing “colony collapse”. This is essentially what I see happening in our church world today. This one night stand mentality is the epitome of our throwaway society. We have to remember that souls coming into the kingdom aren’t another tally on Sunday, or even a confirmation that we’re right. How often do we forget about the workers in taking their product?

In this extravagant attempt to extract mass quantities of honey from bees, we have removed their sense of belonging, ownership, and appreciation. It’s not just new converts that are being abandoned–it’s the men and women who help run the show. We have to be very careful in our taking. What may eventually happen is that members are no longer stakeholders, but rather a means to serve self.

Humanity has proven that it has this way of misappropriating resources. We’ve proven that we crave excess at any cost. The idea that we can make money from “honey” is far more tantalizing than the thought of preserving the workers that make it possible. I’m afraid far too many churches have sought to exploit the creations of talented individuals without any regard for the longevity of the creator’s career. When the product is valued more than the producer—you can expect abandonment, bitterness, and resentment.

Many have turned in search of other colonies when they realize that their conversion was just another tally for attendance, or that their youth was just another public relations ploy. People want to know that they are in service of something real. They want to know that they will be developed, pruned, and molded in tender compassion. Colony collapse happens when the myth of genuine concern unravels. When people have been used at maximum potential, discarded, and forgotten, they come to the conclusion that the colony is in fact, not their own.

Historically, industrialization plays a major role in our collective mentality. This idea that “numbers” matter isn’t the stance that Christ would take. The most captivating moments in His ministry occurred when He crossed the line of socially appropriate and found someone alone. He wasn’t concerned with a pastor’s opinion about his productivity, youth retreat’s effectiveness, or minimum church attendance requirements. He was staring into the windows of a creation that longs for nothing more than only one inhabitant. He understood that their seemingly trivial affairs were paramount to unlocking potential. To disentangle an individual from their worries was to unleash a believer.

Isn’t this a model for ministry; that Christ would care most for the individual, that He would know each hair on our head? That He would care for each bird that annoyingly scavenges and chirps outside our ledge of luxury? That He would clothe each lily? But somehow, we’ve forgotten to take care of our brother who is infinitely valuable to the kingdom of heaven. Are his needs not our needs? Be careful not to misidentify what is waste and what is not. Don’t discard the china with the scraps. We are losing multitudes at the cost of a phone call. We are misdirecting passions at the cost of a letter. We cannot afford to return the riches of glory (people, not things) back to the wicked, because the Church couldn’t find time to care. Don’t take the busy bees for granted. Don’t take their product without reciprocating appreciation.

As soon as you accept Christ, you receive a mission. Religion has never, and will never accomplish the task. Start a dialogue with non-Christians in your life. Listen to them. Allow them the freedom to explain themselves without fear of judgment. After you’ve emptied your hand, you may empty your mouth. Christians have done a far better job of talking than listening. When you meet the physical and emotional needs of those around you, they are far more likely to believe in your Christ. The monologue must become a dialogue if we are ever going to successfully engage this generation. The Holy Spirit’s job is to change us. We will be far more effective when our friends are friends (rather than a potential number in the congregation). And we will never make a lasting impression on people if all we express of our faith is a works-based, morality driven theology that stresses a list of rules over a relationship based in love for our Creator.

Matt. 3:8 – “Prove by the way that you live that you have repented.”

Earlier we said that evangelism is most effective when it’s beginning and ending is found in our love for others. This is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago. The Church has tapped into a truth that is impossible to the outside world. When we truly have a faith in Christ, we know that we can only love others to the degree that we love Christ. Our love we find through a faith in Christ comes from the basis of knowing His love for us (even though we sometimes forget it). What we forget is that we can only extend love to others around us to the extent that we love God.

I wonder if this truth hasn’t been forgotten in the 21st century, even in the church world. We search everywhere, some endlessly, to fill the void left by people who were absent from our lives. From the neglectful parent, the abusive relationship, and the abuse and neglect that came not from being absent, but from being present without speaking into our lives. Those scars have bore an indelible mark on who we are as humanity; a humanity that cries out for love, who looks countless places to fill the voids left by lack of relationship, or relationship that was not as it should have been.

If we are ever going to effect the change we say we want in the Church of the 21st century, we have to realize that we will never know how to love horizontally (other people) before we know how to love vertically (our Heavenly Father). We have to first love God before we can love others. This is the reason for so many shallow relationships in the world, but are we also making it the norm inside the Church? As time has progressed, we have become more impersonal, rather than doing life together, sharing in community, and looking out for our fellow man. We have not been a community like the prophet Nehemiah spoke about. We are not standing on the wall, ready to lift up our brothers and sisters when they fall. We’ve allowed gaps, entertained a divisive spirit, and looked out for ourselves, rather than helping one another and lifting each other up in love.

We are the body of Christ; we should act like it. The book of Acts illustrated a culture of community that wasn’t forced. Relationship was formed as a result of a desire for fellowship. We are most effective when we come together. In the spirit of fellowship and community is where we will thrive in truly fulfilling everything Christ has commanded us to be. It’s when we change our outlook on humanity that people around us will notice a love inside of us that extends beyond the differences that separate us. It is only then that true reconciliation with our fellow man can take place, and we can who God called us to be.

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Frustration

Some days, all I can do is scream.

I’ve got to scream, because punching something like an inadament object does no good, and only hurts you, and punching people isn’t something I’ve ever made a habit out of doing. Being a peacemaker has been a lifelong thing for me, not a trend to latch onto when “Irresistible Revolution” scame out a few years ago.

So instead of lashing out, I contemplate. I weigh things, navigate a variety of emotions, and in the end…detach.

That’s where I’ve been lately. I’ve detached. A certain situation has been going on in my family for close to a year now, and it’s been a up and down roller coaster ride of emotions. Some good, most bad. It involves family members who are close to me, and family members who’s closeness has only ever been related to physical proximity in a room.

Tonight, I found out that the family member I’m close to is going to get news next week that’s going to forever change the course of her life. For a second time. In LESS THAN A YEAR. She’s young, and she’s going to be sent through a tornado of emotions and pain because of the idiocy of others. And I can’t do a damn. thing. about it.

For months, I’ve sat back, had to watch it all unfold, and stay silent. When I have spoken up, and offered words of encouragement and heartfelt words of concern over the situation, I was railed against. I’m not saying that because I feel like a martyr. I don’t. But the behavior was indicative. Indicative of the endgame; indicative of the mindset of the others involved. And indicative of exactly where this was going to go.

I’ll be honest. I’ve prayed. Alot. I’ve leaned on Scripture for comfort. I’ve done all the things a Christian is supposed to do. But right now, I just want to beat the hell out of the people involved that are going to inflict this pain next week. They’ve been planning it for weeks. She’ll never see it coming. They’ve been resolved that this is what is going to happen. She asks when she can go home.

Honestly, I don’t need to hear that “God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.” And knowing that “all things work together for good for those who love God” isn’t helping me. People are doing things, knowing it’s going to hurt someone, and they’re thinking of their own comfort and desires (while masking it in doing “what’s best for her”) as primary. The amount of rage that wells up is unfathomable. It brings out emotions so deep that at times it physically takes my breath away.

There’s an instinctive trigger inside us all, that when confronted with something traumatic, we go into self-preservation mode. So that is, for the time being, me. I’m in self-preservation mode. My only option is to detach emotions. Detach from those who are causing this, knowing that no advice, no words, no reasoning will ever do any good with them. They are right. Always. And when they’re wrong, they’re still right. Impossible you say? You’d think so, but they’re not. ever. wrong. Ever.

EVER.

Detachment is my self-preservation. If I detach, I remove emotion from them, their actions, their selfishness, stupidity, lies, and deception. I focus my energy on the victim in this situation, because the perpetrators aren’t worth it. We all have worth. We are all precious to God. But the perpetrators, right now, aren’t worth it. I don’t know if they’ll ever be in my mind. Right now, I don’t care. So I don’t do anything stupid myself. I don’t react, I don’t lash out, and I certainly don’t say anything. But they’ve shown their cards, I know who they are. Today I’m ashamed to say I’m related to them.

The Day The Music Died

The other day, I flipped on (somewhat reluctantly) the MTV Video Music Awards. For the brief few minutes that I watched it, and for the even more brief time that I saw the “highlights” from the event, I attained some closure on something I’d suspected for years.

“Good” modern popular music is dead.

This might seem like a petty topic to talk about, but for me, it isn’t. As someone who’s both a music lover and a musician for over 20 years, I find music, to this day, fascinating. The fascination comes in multiple, somewhat equal parts. Part of me is still enthralled at how a song can elicit such amazing emotion out of you and reach into your being at a level few other things can. Part of me is amazed at some of what is being put out, both for the good and the bad, by legitimate artists, and those who *call* themselves artists. And part of me finds solace in what I couldn’t understand 10 years ago; that is, how someone could find themselves at the end of discovering new bands, new artists, new songwriters, and instead relegate themselves to the “old days”, and focus instead on the music they grew up on, and on the super-obscure.

That’s pretty much exactly where I’m at right now.

There was a time when popular music meant something. Be it through the songs of dissent as a creative reaction to the politics and war of the 60’s and 70’s, or the anti-establishment (for better or worse) of the 90’s, music in popular culture has always been a voice for those who didn’t know how to speak, and a method by which we could relate to one another, if by no other means than the lyrics of an artist or the angst of a record we waited for months to get.

So you have to understand, when I turned on the VMA’s the other night, I was not only disappointed, but utterly through, by and large, with what culture has deemed as good popular music. I turned on the show to find Usher (this generation’s next Luther Vandross??) singing his latest auto-tuned, poorly choreographed single “OMG”. Not only was it poorly performed, but it was completely void of any real substance, other than an interwebs shortcut. Next to the stage was Katy Perry to present an award. Yes, Katy Perry…you know, the female version of Howard Stern who so vehemently tries to deny her religious upbringing that she uses every platform she has to “shock” her listeners/readers/viewers, and throws down a hit single to the same effect about how she “Kissed a Girl”. Understand me, please; I could care less about her preferences or which way she sways. But I’ve always, ALWAYS thought of music as an avenue to convey something more. So when you use that platform to talk about something in order to shock, I give you little credence. It’s the same reason I enjoy Marilyn Manson musically, but think he’s a hack lyrically. Give me something substantive to chew on, don’t give me your shock-jock garbage that’s meant to say little other than to invoke debate on whether or not you’re a lesbian or a satanist. To open the show (and the only “highlight” I really cared to see) was the return of the mighty Eminem, who opened the show declaring through his new single that he’s “Not afraid/to take a stand”. Wow Marshall, that’s pretty bold….as a 38 yr. old man. How’d you manage the intestinal fortitude to do so under such extreme life circumstances? Oh wait, I saw Nine Mile, I remember…you had to do it via a “rap off”.

When this is the standard, I don’t hold much hope. And if it seems like I’m only knocking the rap/dance/pop template, know that I don’t hold the rock side with much regard either. Why? Nickelback and Creed. A few years ago, alternative music had My Chemical Romance, and Green Day has been a radio staple for years. Sorry fellas, but the only dude I’ll listen to who wears eyeliner is Alice Cooper or The Cure (both of which made amazing music in their respective genres before you hacks came along).

One of the most brilliant things I’ve seen in recent weeks, was a cover of Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl”, performed by William Fitzsimmons, an amazing folk artist. Whether intended or not, he took a song that was meant to shock people because a female sang it, and turned it into a love song sung by a guy, or at the very least a song that sounded more sincere. And that’s why I still hold hope for music at all, even if not in the popular realm. Gone are the days of the Stones, Zepplin, The Who, James Taylor, P-Funk, etc. Yes, I realize many of those are still around, but no one today is coming out with music the way those bands/artists did. Today is nothing more than over-produced, auto-tuned, remixed and re-tooled garbage made not out of a spirit of excellence, but more as a money-making machine, spitting out whatever the masses want (who are infiltrated by what Hollywood and pop culture feed them), and caring little for substance or musical longevity. For those of us who still want something more, we have to dig a little deeper, look a little harder, and eventually, we do find music that resonates with us.

There will always be exceptions, of course. There are bands who, love them or hate them, are still taking a stand on issues, and still releasing “pop” records that touch the listener on a deeper level. U2, Coldplay, Beastie Boys, Matisyahu, and Dave Matthews are all great examples that, even if you’re not down with them stylistically, or even as personalities, they still make music that in some form or another, causes the listener to think. Even Lady Gaga, for all her pop and quirky sensibilities, uses her popularity and platform to broaden knowledge on issues close to her heart.

So I find myself at this place where “popular” music, by and large, does little to appeal to me in any way. The storytellers are few and far between, and the lyrics of substance have mostly become a thing of the past. It’s the same mentality that bore the straight-edge movement begun by Ian MacKaye and the DC scene in the 80’s, and the same mentality that bore the songs of protest of the 60’s and 70’s. And even though it became the voice of a generation and a musical and fashion trend all by itself, it’s the same spirit at the beginning of what became the “grunge” scene in the 90’s, with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. It’s music that doesn’t need an audience, it just needs to be made. That dichotomy is part of its appeal, though. When music is made solely for the sake of the one making it, something clicks. It’s why bands with the smallest followings have some of the best music you’ve never heard. They care more about expressing something real, be it faith, a political stance, an ideal, than they do about record sales.

I listened recently to an old interview with Henry Rollins, just after he took home his first (and only) Grammy. The interviewer asked him how getting a Grammy changed his life. He responded, “Are you kidding? It’s sitting in my closet upstairs.” He went on to explain that while awards always meant little to him compared to creating something, he also held them with a grain of salt when one looks at the other recipients who’ve also received one over the years. When, as he put it, “Jethro Tull gets a Grammy as a ‘metal’ artist, you learn to care less because of who they’re giving these things out to.”

So those of us who still care about music will continue to search. We search for the William Fitzsimmons’, the Henry Rollins’, the Fugazi’s and Quicksand’s of the world, knowing that more often than not we’re going to run into Creed and Usher. And while it may seem silly, music is still the one thing (and sometimes the only thing) that brings us together in large groups for a common purpose.

9/11 nine years later

This day, perhaps more than any other for the last nine years, causes a great deal of reflection and emotions for me, as it does for thousands of others across the nation and world. I know I’m not the only one, as I scroll through blogs and status updates reading people’s reactions to this date on a Tuesday not so long ago.

I find myself watching the specials that come around every year, highlighting everything from the engineering and mechanics behind the fall of the towers, the impact of the Pentagon, and the massive kinetic energy generated by a plane being driven into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; to the countless stories told, and sometimes retold, of final conversations with loved ones, and some retelling of the conversations they never had. I’ve lost count at this point of how many times I’ve welled up with tears, hearing the stories, and thinking with appreciation of what I would feel or say if it were me in that interview chair, talking about my wife, children, parents, or brother. Those stories fascinate me. The fortitude that most have when expressing what the day means to them never ceases to amaze me.

I didn’t know anyone who died that day personally. I do know people who have lost, though. A brother who was on the second plane that hit the South Tower. The family member who knew literally dozens of people from the firm Cantor Fitzgerald, who died in an instant when the first plane hit the North Tower, directly striking their floors. This same family member actually received a voicemail from the CFO of Cantor Fitzgerald. See, my family member was supposed to be in New York that week. Even more harrowing, he was supposed to be visiting Cantor Fitzgerald, that week, that day, that hour, performing one of his regular audits of CF. A few weeks before his planned trip, his boss here told him the trip would be delayed until October that year….a trip that would never come. Minutes before the first plane hit, though, came the voicemail. “Hey _____, sorry you couldn’t be out here this week. When you come out next month, let’s grab lunch, would love to see you.” As he watched the towers burned, he retrieved that voicemail, knowing the voice on the recording, the friend he knew along with so many others there, was now silent forever.

What I’ve had the most trouble with in the years since 9/11 has been the politicizing of the event, and the conspiracy theories. In either case, it seems to, in so many ways, cheapen the events of that day. For years, politicians have used the events of nine years ago for political gain, filling their speeches with talk of “defending freedom” and “repaying our attackers”. Conspiracy theorists argue every facet of that day’s events, from a government coverup, to supposed missles on the bottom of planes, to controlled demolitions of the WTC buildings that came down that day. All of it, again, cheapening the hurt, the loss, and the grief experienced by so many people of all nationalities, creeds, and religions.

There is something patriotic about remembering an event that left an indelible mark on a nation. There is something necessary about it as well. To not remember is to minimize the loss of so many of our fellow countrymen, both those who served by running into what everyone else ran away from, as well as those who innocently went about their day, heading off to work to provide for their families, not knowing it was a trip they would not return from. So we should always remember, and we should honor those who are no longer with us.

I’ll close this out with this entry from a year ago. I think it’s important for those of us who walk under the banner of “Christian” to remember.
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Romans 12:17-21

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Quote of the day, courtesy of Walter Wink:

“In the final analysis, then, love of enemies is trusting God for the miracle of divine forgiveness. If God can forgive, redeem, and transform me, I must also believe that God can work such wonders with anyone. Love of enemies is seeing one’s oppressors through the prism of the Reign of God – not only as they now are, but also as they can become: transformed by the power of God.”

Wise words to remember today, on both counts.

Take time to say a prayer today; for the families of those who’ve experienced loss, certainly. But also for those who act out in violence, who we cannot see and do not know, but who are in need of God’s grace just as much as you and I on a daily basis.

May the pain of today be transformed in hope for tomorrow; may we share the Source of that hope, with those we love, as well as those who would mean us harm.

Christianity & Humanism

Found this in my draft folder today. Not sure where it’s even from. I can assure you I didn’t write it, although I don’t know who did. It was untitled, uncredited, pasted into a draft. Thought I would share it anyway. It’s a long, but good read. Enjoy.

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The philosophy of the day became humanism and you can define humanism this way: Humanism is a philosophical statement that declares the end of all being is the happiness of man. The reason for existence is man’s happiness. Now according to humanism salvation is simply a matter of getting all the happiness you can out of life. This group of my people the fundamentalists that say:

“We believe in the inspiration of the Bible”

“We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ”

“We believe in hell, we believe in Heaven”

“We believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ”

And remember the atmosphere is that of humanism. Humanism says the chief end of being is the happiness of man. And so it wasn’t long until we had this, the fundamentalists knew each other because they said ‘We believe these things.’ They were men for the most part that had met God. But you see it wasn’t long until having said ‘these are the things that establish us as fundamentalists’, the second generation said,

“This is how we become a fundamentalist;”

“Believe in the inspiration of the Bible.”

“Believe in the deity of Christ.”

“Believe in His death, burial, and resurrection.”

And thereby become a fundamentalist. And so it wasn’t long until it got to our generation where the whole plan of salvation was to give intellectual assent to a few statements of doctrine. And a person was considered a Christian because he could say ‘Uh huh’ at 4 or 5 places that he was asked to and if he knew where to say ‘Uh huh’ someone would pat him on the back, shake his hand, smile broadly and say: “Brother, you’re saved.”

And so it had gotten down to the place where salvation was nothing more than an assent to a scheme or a formula. And the end of this salvation was the happiness of man because humanism has penetrated. And so if you were to analyze the fundamentalism in contrast to liberalism of a hundred years ago, as it developed, it’d be like this:

The liberal says the end of religion is to make man happy while he’s alive.

And the fundamentalist says the end of religion is to make man happy when he dies.

Until we find something like this; “Accept Jesus so you can go to Heaven, you don’t want to go to that old, filthy, nasty, burning hell when there’s a beautiful Heaven up there. Now come to Jesus so that you can go to Heaven.” And the appeal could be as much to selfishness as a couple of men sitting in a coffee shop deciding they are going to rob a bank to get something for nothing. It becomes so subtle … it goes everywhere. What is it? In essence it is this: that this philosophical postulate that the end of all being is the happiness of man has been sort of, covered over with evangelical terms and Biblical doctrine until God reigns in Heaven for the happiness of man, Jesus Christ was incarnate for the happiness of man, all the Angels exist in the… Everything is for the happiness of man! And I submit to you that this is un-Christian!

Christianity says… “The end of all being is the glory of God.”

Humanism says, “The end of all being is the happiness of man.”

This is the betrayal of the ages!! And it’s the betrayal in which we live and I don’t see how God can revive it! Until we come back to Christianity. Isn’t man happy? And God intends to make you happy. But as a by-product and not a prime product. Now I ask you, what is the philosophy of mission? What is the philosophy of evangelism? What is the philosophy of a Christian? If you’ll ask me why I went to Africa, I’ll tell you I went primarily, to improve on the justice of God. I didn’t think it was right for anybody to go to hell without a chance to be saved. And so I went to give poor sinners a chance to go to Heaven. Now, I hadn’t put it in so many words. But if you’ll analyze what I just told you, do you know what it is? It’s humanism. But I was simply using the provisions of Jesus Christ as a means to improve upon human conditions of suffering and misery. And when I got to Africa, I discovered that they weren’t poor, ignorant, little heathen running around in the woods, waiting for someone to tell them how to go to Heaven. That they were monsters of iniquity. They were living in utter and total defiance, of far more knowledge of God than I ever dreamed they had. They deserved hell because they utterly refused to walk in the light of their conscience and the light of the law written upon their heart and the testimony of nature and the truth they knew. And when I found that out, I assure you, I was so angry with God that one occasion in prayer, I told him that it was a mighty, little thing He’d done, sending me out there to reach these people that were waiting to be told how to go to Heaven and when I got there I found out they knew about Heaven and didn’t wanna go there. And they loved their sin and wanted to stay in it. I went out there motivated by humanism. I’d seen pictures of lepers. I’d seen pictures of ulcers. I’d see pictures of native funerals. And I didn’t want my fellow human beings to suffer in hell eternally, after such a miserable existence on earth. But it was there in Africa that God began to tear through the overlay of this humanism. And it was that day in my bedroom, with the door locked, that I wrestled with God. I was coming to grips with the fact that the people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to Heaven, and were saying “someone come and teach us” actually didn’t wanna take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the bible and no interest in Christ. And they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to the place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery and I’d been sold a bill of goods. And I wanted to come home. And there alone in my bedroom as I faced God honestly with what my heart felt, it seemed to me I heard Him say, “Yes, will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The heathen are lost and they’re going to go to hell not because they haven’t heard the gospel. They’re going to go to hell because they are sinners who loved… their ..sin.. and because they deserved hell. But, I didn’t send you out there for them, I didn’t send you out there for their sakes.”

And I heard as clearly as I’ve ever heard though it wasn’t with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this:

“I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen. I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved hell but I love them and I endured the agonies of hell for them. I didn’t send you out there for them. I sent you out there for Me. Do I not deserve the reward of My suffering? Don’t I deserve those for whom I died?”

And it reversed it all. It changed it all and righted it all. And I wasn’t any longer working for my cup and ten shekels and a shirt but I was serving the living God.

Why did you repent? I’d like to see some people repent on biblical terms again. You see the difference? The difference is here’s somebody trembling because he’s gonna be hurt in hell. And he has no sense of the enormity of his guilt and no sense of the enormity of his crimes and no sense of his insult against Deity. He’s only trembling because his skin is about to be singed. And this is the difference between 20th century preaching and the preaching of John Wesley. Wesley was a preacher of righteousness that exalted the holiness of God. And when he would stand there with the two to three-hour sermons that he was accustomed to deliver in the open air and he would exalt the holiness of God and the law of God and the righteousness of God and the justice of God and the wisdom of His requirements and the justice of His wrath and His anger and then he would turn to sinners and tell them of the enormity of their crimes and their open rebellion and their treason and their anarchy. The power of God would so descend upon the company that on one occasion it is reliably reported that when the people dispersed, there were 1,800 people lying on the ground utterly unconscious because they’d had a revelation of the holiness of God and in the light of that, they’d seen the enormity of their sin. And God had so penetrated their minds and hearts that they had fallen to the ground. It wasn’t trying to convince good man that he was in trouble with a bad God. But that it was to convince bad men

that they deserved the wrath and anger of a good God.

I have talked with people that have no assurance of sins forgiven. They wanna feel saved before they’re willing to commit themselves to Christ. But I believe that the only ones whom God actually witnesses by His Spirit are born of Him, are the people whether they say it or not, that come to Jesus Christ and say something like this: “Lord Jesus, I’m gonna obey You and love You and serve You and do what You want me to do as long as I live even if I go to hell at the end of the road simply because You are worthy to be loved, obeyed and served. And I’m not trying to make a deal with You.” But oh I know so many people that are trying to know the fullness of God, so that they can use God. A young preacher came to me down in Huntington, West Virginia. And he said “I’ve got a great church. We’ve got a wonderful Sunday school program..got a radio ministry..growing. But I feel a personal need and a personal lack, I need to be baptized of the Holy Ghost, I need to be filled with the Spirit, and someone told me God done something for you. And I wanted you to help me.”

I looked at the fellow and you know what he looked like? Me. Just looked like me. I just saw in him everything that was in me, you thought … You thought I was going to say “me before”. No, listen to your heart. If you’ve ever seen yourself you’ll know that you’re never gonna be anything else than you were. For in me in my flesh, there is no good thing. But like me. He’s like a fellow driving up in a big Cadillac you know, to someone standing at a filling station saying “Fill her up, Bud, with the highest octane you got.” Well, that’s the way it looked, he wanted power for his program. And God is not going to be a means to anyone’s end. I said, “I’m awfully sorry, I don’t think I can help you.” He said “Why?” “I don’t think you’re ready. Well suppose, you consider yourself coming up with a Cadillac, you’ve talked about your program, you’ve talked about your radio, you’ve talked about your Sunday school and church. Very good. You’ve done wonderfully well without the power of the Holy Spirit.” That’s what the Chinese Christian said you know when he got back to China. “What impressed you most about America?” He said, “The great things Americans can accomplish without God.” And he’d accomplished a great deal, admittedly, without God. And now he’s wanting something, power, to accomplish his end even further. I said “No. No. You’re sitting behind the wheel and you’re saying to God, ‘Give me power so I can go.’ It won’t work, you gotta slide over.” But I knew that rascal, ’cause I knew me. I said, “No it’ll never do. You gotta get in the back seat.” And I could see him leaning over and grabbing the wheel. “No,” I said. “It’ll never do in the back seat.” I said “Before God’ll do anything for you, you know what you gotta do?” And he said, “What?” I said, “You gotta get out of the car, take the keys around, open up the trunk lid, hand the keys to the Lord Jesus, get inside the trunk, slam the lid down, whisper through the keyhole, ‘Lord, look, fill her up with anything You want and You drive, it’s up to You from now on.’” That’s why so many people, you know, do not enter into the fullness of Christ because they want to become a Levite with ten shekels and a shirt. They’ve been serving Micah but they think if they had the power of the Holy Ghost they could serve the tribe of Dan. It will never work, never work. There’s only one reason for God meeting you, and that’s to bring you to the place where, in repentance, you’ve been pardoned for His glory, and in victory, you’ve been brought to the place of death that He might reign and in His fullness Jesus Christ is able to live and walk in you. And your attitude is the attitude of the Lord Himself, who said, “I could do nothing of Myself.”

I can’t speak of myself. I don’t make plans for myself. My only reason for being is the glory of God in Jesus Christ. If I were to say to you: “Come, to be saved so you can go to Heaven; Come to the cross so that you can have joy and victory. Come for the fullness of the Spirit so that you can be satisfied.” I’d be falling into the trap of humanism. I’m going to say to you, dear friend, if you are out here without Christ, you come to Jesus Christ and serve Him as long as you live whether you go to hell at the end of the way because He’s worthy. I say to you, Christian friend, you come to the cross and join Him in union and death and enter into all the meaning of death to self, in order that He can have glory. I say to you, dear Christian, if you do not know the fullness of the Holy Ghost, come and present your body a living sacrifice and let Him fill you so that He can have the purpose for His coming fulfilled in you and get glory through your life. It’s not what you’re going to get out of God. It’s what He is going to get out of you. Let’s be done once and for all with utilitarian Christianity that makes God a means, instead of the glorious end that He is. Let’s resign. Let’s tell Micah we’re through. We’re no longer gonna be as priests serving for ten shekels and a shirt. Let’s tell the tribe of Dan we’re through. And let’s come and cast ourselves at the feet of the nail-pierced Son of God and tell Him that we’re gonna obey Him, and love Him and serve Him as long as we live because He is worthy. Two young Moravians heard of an island in the West Indies, where an atheist British owner had 2,000 to 3,000 slaves. And the owner had said, “No preacher, no clergyman will ever stay on this island. If he’s shipwrecked, we’ll keep him in a separate house until he has to leave but he’s never gonna talk to any of us about God. I’m through with all that nonsense.” Three thousand slaves from the jungles of Africa brought to an island in the Atlantic and there to live and die without hearing of Christ. Two young Moravians heard about it. They sold themselves to the British planter then used the money they received from the sale, for he paid no more than he would for any slave, to pay their passage out to his island for he wouldn’t even transport them.

And as the ship left the …river at Hamburg …left its pier at the river at Hamburg and was going out to the North Sea, carried with the tide. The Moravians had come from Herrnhut to see these two lads off, in their early twenties, never to return again. For this wasn’t a four-year term, they’d sold themselves into lifetime of slavery. Simply that as slaves they could be as Christians for these others were.

The families were there weeping for they knew they’d never see them again. And they wondered why they’re going and questioned the wisdom of it. And as the gap widened and the houses had been cast off and were being curled up there on the pier. And the young boys saw the widening gap, one lad, with his arm linked through the arm of his fellow, raised his hand and shouted across the gap the last words that were heard from them. They were these: “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering” And this became the call of Moravian missions. And this is the only reason for being, that the Lamb that was slain may receive the reward of His suffering.

Say Anything

A quick look back over my blog shows me one definite thing: I don’t blog much.

It wasn’t until recently though, that I figured out why. It’s not that I don’t feel like taking the time to, and it’s definitely not because of limited access to the internets. It’s something a bit deeper than that. I don’t often blog because, when I say something, I want to “say” something. It’s got to have a point; it’s got to be something real and tangible that the reader can chew on, digest, and spit back up to chew on some more, if necessary.

I think our society has set us up for the opposite. So much of our culture is instant, shallow, and vapid. Pundits and politicians are a great example. They say much, but mean little, and most of what they speak is wrapped up more in sounding good than in having any real substance. Reality tv is another great example. If you’ve never heard someone speak without saying anything, watch any one of the 400 reality shows on today. In either case, media exposes us to people who run their mouth, speaking much but saying little. And it’s frustrating, because it bleeds into society, and into the people around us.

Look at any social networking site, and you’ll likely see the same. Formulaic witty statements, wittled down to 140 characters or less, pervade Twitter and Facebook. When you can update a page inumerable times a day, it causes a disconnect in the deeper things of life. It also serves to drain us of any real substance in our lives, when our days can be summed up in a quick status update. There’s a narcissistic quality to it, that assumes someone….anyone, wants to hear or is interested in every event going on in our lives. I know I’m saying this as one who’s just as guilty. Just like anything else technology driven, social networking venues have their positive and negative elements. While good can come of them, like reconnecting with old friends, keeping in touch with current ones, and keeping people “in the know” on different events and happenings, there’s also the negative, like the disgruntled spouse who runs across that ex from high school, and our uncanny ability to proclaim shallow missives from behind our keyboards. And just like a pundit, politician, or reality star, we say very little, or at the very most point out the obvious.

“If you don’t master your rage, rage will be your master.”

“Doers need to think more. Thinkers need to do more.”

Really? That’s what we’re telling each other in 2010?

It’s frustrating, but it’s prevalent. We’ve reached the point that most of the interaction we have with each other is on this level. If you don’t think that’s the case, pay attention closely, the next time you turn on the tv or have a conversation with someone. What’s REALLY being said?

I don’t want to fall into that same trap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not swearing off social networking. I try to use my sites as a source of conversation and challenge. I want to talk about the things that people are thinking, but are too afraid to say. I don’t want to be divisive, but want to challenge the reader to dig deeper, think harder, and converse on the things they maybe normally wouldn’t. It’s how we create community, and how we maintain interaction with one another. In 2010, it’s our most popular method of interaction, for sure. So why do we use it to convey such shallow things? I understand that some use these avenues for “fun”, that they keep things light, always joking or humorous, and don’t get into discussions over the internets. I get that, and think that’s cool. If that’s your thing, great, I’m down. But there’s a difference between saying something challenging and thought-provoking, and saying something empty and shallow that’s meant to sound thought-provoking. The veil is thin, and we see the difference.

It’s the same reason I’m personally very careful about who I surround myself with, the types of friends and acquaintences I choose, as well as those I interact with online. While it may sound snobby and elitist, it’s really much more about a mindset. I want to be around, and interact with people who are going to challenge me to be better in every area of life. People who aren’t going to accept the status quo and go through life unfulfilled. Those are the relationships I value the most, because those are the relationships that force me to grow and to stretch beyond who I am today.

So before you speak, take a minute. Think about what you’re saying, and think about what you’re hearing from others. You’ll be surprised at how much is not being said while spoken.

Until next time….

Understanding the mind of God

I’ve tried to think of a million different ways to convey this thought, but have erased it at least 3 times now.

I’ll leave it at this…..sometimes, I just don’t understand God’s plans. I don’t understand why tonight, someone who is young, who has a lifetime in front of her, and who has given her life in service to her Creator, is literally hours from going to meet Him because of cancer that is ravaging her body.

I don’t understand why, in the last 4 months, I’ve heard of no less than 5 people, both personally and publicly, who have either been diagnosed with, are currently battling, or have passed away from some terminal disease; all of whom have committed their lives to furthering His kingdom.

I know the theology. I know that “all things work together for good.” I know all the verses we comfortably quote when we are standing outside a situation and don’t feel it’s sting.

I’m just confessing to you that right now, I don’t get it. I love God, I know I can never fully understand His ways, and I accept that. In this moment, I just wish I had a little better grasp on it.

What if Jesus meant all that stuff

Great letter from Shane Claiborne in Esquire magazine. You can read it here.

bloodlust part 2

I realize that people don’t always read the comments when they come here. Sometimes they do, though. Either way, this comment on my last post deserved pointing out, because it pretty succinctly sums up the heart of exactly what I was trying to say in my previous entry.

Mike B. says,

I went and saw the movie Law Abiding Citizen this week. It turned out to be a total gore fest. My wife and I left 30 minutes in when the main character used a steak bone like a machete to the side of someone’s neck.

I understand it’s fake. However, I believe these two entities feed off each other. Take movies like Saw, and Hostel, there is nothing entertaining about either one. Yet people flood the movies to see them all in the name of “entertainment.”

The pursuit of Holiness makes no distinction between fake death and real death. Followers of Christ as a whole, need to stop finding the “line” not to cross.

Put away things that do not edify. And if it doesn’t bother you, it needs to.

Indeed.

bloodlust

There seems to be an increase these days of video depicting death. I realize this could be taken to the Nth degree (videogames, movies, television), but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean real, violent, verifiable death.

A short search on the internet can bring up any number of videos showing the topic. Years ago, “Faces of Death” was all the rage, and led the way as a catalyst for satisfying this desire.

As humans, we’ve always had a taste for this. I think it can be a positive force to see some of the reality of death via the news networks and commentary on the events of the day. Too much of American society has shielded and watered down the reality of death, detaching us from the rest of the world and what happens everyday in every corner of society, especially in wartime. But turn on any cable station, or do a simple google search, and you will be sure to find it.

What I find disturbing now, and what seems more prevalent in recent years, is viewing death as entertainment. News networks (especially those who do not operate in the 24 hour news cycle) showing this as part of recent events is one thing. Posting and sharing video of death via social networking sites, youtube (if you get away with it), or other video sharing sites is completely another thing, though. Doing so serves little purpose, and acts only as a form of entertainment for many, as is indicated by any number of comments you see posted on any given video page of one of these horrific (and often violent) acts.

It’s disgusting, and it’s a harrowing perspective of the society we live in. To share and spread videos of someone’s last (and sometimes brutal) moments does little good in edifying another. It serves no purpose, and only shows the weakness and frailty we all possess. Above all, it is too clearly an indication that, as a society, we really have no concept of the finality of death, and do not realize that when those acts take place, it is often not by the choice of the one who passes, making that lack of control all the more difficult to witness the act itself. Most importantly, it drives home the reality (for some, anyway) that we all have a day of reckoning. We all must make a choice in life….to serve Christ, and spend eternity with Him, or to deny Him, and spend an eternity seperated in damnation.

And so it makes me wonder, in those moments I’ve been unfortunate enough to fall across these scenes…..where was that person with Christ? What did he hold fast to? Did he know his eternal destination, or did he meet eternity unsure of his place in the Kingdom?

We take death far less seriously than we should. When we view death as entertainment, I fear where we are as a society, and know that only the grace of a loving God can fill the void that causes us to turn to such horror and view it as “entertainment.”