Sunday, July 26, 2009

The End Draws Near

Where, O Lord, is Thy life? Where is the manifestation of Thy sacred power revealed in human form? Search the company of those who bear Your name and find Yourself. Does Your Spirit make Himself known in their midst, or is His voice and presence quenched by human wisdom and effort? Where are the helpless human sinners that have been profoundly transformed by Your gospel? Where is the distinct and peculiar lives that must elicit the attention of the hopeless throngs? Do these modern followers reflect Your glory, or have they created a convenient and comfortable lifestyle that makes following You a bargain rather than a glorious sacrifice? How, O Lord, can the world see Your light when Your own followers wander under the baskets of cultural acquiescence?

Stop, brothers and sisters, and look with circumspect eyes. See what the visible church has become. The many different streams of defined Christianity are a convoluted mess of all sorts of inconsistencies that are at odds with the revelation of Jesus Christ. Each “camp” has their generals and each group has their creeds. Some camps embrace the lifestyles of the world around them while others castigate that same world of lost sinners. One camp loves and defends America and believes that somehow Christ was the pen used in Jefferson’s hand as he wrote the founding documents. One camp follows and is named by one man’s name or another and defends him as if he was the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul himself.

One camp lives in the externals while the opposing camp cares nothing for behavior. One camp endorses sexual deviancies while the other crucifies those in bondage. One camp idolizes certain doctrines while another camp has no certain doctrines. What should be the shining light of the body of Christ sometimes seems no more than a convoluted interchange of disconnected thoughts about truth coming from people who closely resemble others who do not believe. And like a growing tidal wave, Christianity is being significantly marginalized around the world. The story of redemption is quickly becoming historical.

If you are a believer who has had some moderate Biblical training and/or has been a believer for more than twenty-five years, you may find some of the things about which I will mention to be repulsive and profoundly alarming. We must pray that our outrage will not just translate into treasure hunting for more outrage, but will be a divine rod of correction that motivates us all to deepen the stakes and lengthen the cords of our own walk with Jesus Christ. Describing all sorts of darknesses may indeed lull us into a different type of darkness; one that may not be doctrinal but may indeed be spiritual nonetheless. The closeness of our walk with Christ may be built upon truth, but it is dead without a passion to seek the very face of Jesus Himself. A website can be a resource for Biblical truth, but it is just a dead archive.

Jesus, Who is truth, is not just a well organized set of Scriptural facts, no, He must be a living, breathing manifestation of those facts, empowered by the Spirit of God and remarkable within a culture of darkness. We who see the continuing doctrinal calamity within the visible church must never put down our own mirror, for in that mirror, apart from the reassuring comparison of the error of others, we must see our own disturbing likeness that reflects Adam disproportionately more than it does our Elder Brother. Please keep that in mind as you continue reading this post.

Anything that welcomes the label emergent or any form of that word should be avoided by all believers who wish to pursue truth and please the Father. This is not a safe round table discussion where perspectives enhance the whole; this emergent movement is a deceptive campaign that is systematically and radically changing the redemptive face of Christianity itself. I am not a researcher, I am just a writer and editorialist. But there are internet sites that give credible evidence to the words I say even if I would take issue with some of the harshness and unnecessary verbiage some have used. The emergent “conversation” is championed by men like Brian MacLaren, Rob Bell, Doug Paggit, Peter Rollins, Phyllis Tickle, and a host of others. You may Google their names and find scores of sites that outline the most grievous errors one could imagine.

On this post, however, I want to briefly touch upon one such individual who many emergents and liberal Christians find inspiring and worth reading as a Christian resource. Her name is Anne Lamott and she calls herself a Christian and has written books on her brand of faith. Let us look briefly at some of her beliefs and practices and see if they would qualify as Biblical truth or Christian behavior. This lady professes a brand of Christianity while at the same time uses extensive profanity and allowed her 4-year old little boy to us it as well. Even the “F” word, which is one of her favorites, was used by her toddler. And on one particular Christian blog the story of her 4-year old using that word found humor among some of the group that writes and comments on that blog.

That is just an aspect of her lifestyle, but let us briefly look at what she believes. It seems that Ms. Lamott was once controlled by alcohol and wandered into a small church and found sobriety. It is primarily that event which makes her a Christian. Let us overlook her pro-choice politics and seeming hatred for all things “conservative”. Below is a part of an interview with Lamott in which she is asked about her Christian faith.

“I've always belonged to the same church, St. Andrew, and it's always been a church that believed in the Jesus of Martin Luther King. It's a social gospel church and totally inclusive — It's a big Jesus-y "Shalom" (welcome) — that's how I ended up there, drunk and hung over for a year before I got sober. So I've never been instructed — I've never taken extensive Bible study. I read a little Bible every day, but I don't believe it to be the literal word of God ... I don't even particularly have a relationship with God or God the Father. If I think of God, I think of God, the Mother-Father God and Creator, you know? The Big You. And I really have a relationship with Jesus. I'm one of those very rare Protestant girls who has a real affiliation with Mary. I wear a Mary around my neck. I think of Mary more like Bette Midler, a rich, juicy Jewish woman of 18, instead of the anorexic, meek, Lutheran blue-eyed Mary of the Sunday school posters.”

Any believer who has had even a mediocre teaching in Christian truths can see without hesitation that this poor lady is probably not a born again believer, and if she is by God’s grace, she should not be held up as a source of Christian devotion and wisdom. And yet believers, even evangelical pastors, quote her as an edifying source of spiritual encouragement. And pastors embrace as appropriate humor stories concerning her toddler using serious profanity. Why? It is obvious that the conscience of some has been seared and some have become careless and captured by the worst elements of the hedonistic culture. And some of these are not just “pew dwellers”, no, these are ordained pastors who teach the flock and are an example to them as well.

And some use profanity just as vulgar as does Ms. Lamott. But that is not the most grievous part of this growing scandal; the deepest and most disturbing element of the modern preachers is that they unashamedly hold up someone like Ms. Lamott and others as legitimate fountains of spiritual truth. Men like Marcus Borg who denies the resurrection are quoted and read. Men like Peter Rollins who preaches a works salvation are watched and enjoyed. And men like Rob Bell who speaks in a mix of philosophy, technology, imagery, and overarching generalities are fed to even the young people.

Let us not get puffed up about ourselves, no, let us fall down on our faces and weep between the porch and the altar since the church has lost her way and like Samson she does not even know her power is completely gone. The vain philosophies that are now penetrating the very fabric of evangelicalism are not just compromising some peripheral doctrines; they have rapidly eroded the very core of what redemption actually means and they have refashioned the very mission of Christ and His Sprit.

Thirty years ago while I was attending Bible college our professors would warn against liberalism, that at the time seemed marginal, coming into the church. At that time we thought liberalism was mainly for the mainline denominations and not for the gospel preaching fellowships. Even the Southern Baptist expelled many liberal teachers that had nested in their seminaries. At that time if someone had suggested that it would become fashionable for evangelical preachers to use vulgarity, much less in the pulpit, we would have denounced such a suggestion as alarmist. But here we are today with ordained pastors saying all sorts of curse words and telling off color jokes. And this is all in the name of “making it real”.

And who would ever have suspected that a woman such as Anne Lamott would be held up as a Christian writer and her words quoted as spiritual food? All this and worse has taken place in the space of 30 to 40 years. And with lightning pace it continues today and second generation pastors who cut their spiritual teeth on teachings from men like Bell, MacLaren, and Pagitt are now filling the pulpits of churches across America. Do not just stand firm in your faith, you must pursue Christ with all your hearts. The end is upon us, and the events in the world are not the only sign of the end time Biblical prophecies; the spiritual state of the church is also a blinding neon sign that reflects what the New Testament has informed us as to what the last days would look like.

The end draws near with an accelerated pace.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Christ's Name - Reject Hatred

Hatred just may be the most vicious manifestation of pride. Jesus equated hatred with murder and commanded His followers to not just avoid hatred, but to indeed exhibit love instead. Hatred is at odds with God’s gospel of redemption and should find no place within the church. If there is one thing that the world should never see in the company of believers it is hatred.

And yet hatred continues unabated in the church of Jesus Christ. It is disguised in many ways since no one would desire to be accused of hatred, but make no mistake, it is hatred nonetheless. We have seen and continue to see unabashed hatred from professing believers for President Obama. This is not about whether he is or is not a believer, or even about his views that obviously are at odds with Scripture. This is not about him at all; this is about who we are and Who we serve.

As you peruse the blogs you will find the most malicious rhetoric about President Obama including many personal invectives that demean and slander his character. These are not supposed to be right wing blogs, these are supposed to be Christian blogs that claim to embrace the redemptive gospel of Jesus Christ. In many blogs he is shown no respect, and even among those who claim to believe the Bible’s command about giving honor to those in leadership. And many of these writers are among those who highly tout the sovereignty of God including saying they believe God puts the men in office by His will. What a paradox.

It is unseemly and even unchristian to speak such things about anyone, let alone the President. And what do those who know not Christ and admire President Obama think? Are we placing stumbling blocks in their path because they read such cruel and ruthless words about Obama? The name calling; the demeaning hyperbole; the dismissiveness; and the blatant disregard for the language of redemption are counterproductive to everything we say we believe. It is not enough to stand against abortion; we must stand for redemption and God’s gospel love as well. We may dress it up and call it moral outrage or righteous indignation, but it is hatred nonetheless.

While being careful not to compromise our pro-life credentials, we have openly and profoundly compromised the life and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come into this world to condemn the world, He came to seek and save that which was lost. Why, then, has some of the church taken on the robes of politics and project harsh words of hatred and harshness? Why are we not beacons of redemption and lights of hope, not postures of condemnation? The world sees us disrespect the nation’s leaders when their policies do not align with ours and what must the world think of that? Are we not called to love our enemies and bless those that curse us? Where is the “do unto others” principle in all our demeaning vitriol?

Have we camouflaged our hatred inside our battle to combat “liberalism” and unBiblical morality? And in so doing, are we becoming a manifestation of the Ten Commandments rather than the Risen Christ Who bids them “come”?

We seem to do the same with the gay communities. Many are fearful of being accused of compromise so they castigate gay people with words that diminish their humanity and are absent of love and full of hatred. Have we forgotten the depths from which we ourselves were rescued? Have we no compassion on those that are blind and attempting to fill the void with whatever they can get their hands on next? Jesus said “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto Me”. He did not say that if we diminish people and verbally stomp upon their very beings that they will see Jesus and come running.

Hatred is very often the commodity with which the church deals when approaching the world. The chorus of “amens” fill the church when the pastor preaches against sin, and most noticeable, the sins that do not directly apply to the listeners. And when he “opens up a can” against the gay community the amens come all the faster and all the louder since it is the piƱata that when struck, showers the people with the candy of self righteousness. But where are the tears, and where is the sacrificial love and pathos for those who struggle with such things? Again, the loathing and scorn eclipses even the faintest hint of intercession and compassion.

Is it not time we forget about our reputations and our peer groups and utterly exhibit the love of God through Jesus Christ without compromising either our view of sin or our view of Him and His gospel message? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s redemptive message for the entire world, regardless of the sinner and his sin. For too long the church has moved toward a self righteousness that vents itself against sinners and their sin, and yet our Lord was a friend to sinners.

Ours is a call to love and not hate. It besmirches the Name of Christ and His cross to speak words of hatred, regardless of the dirty politics of it all. There is no one deserving of anything good from God, and those of us who have need to share that goodness that can only come from the hand of Christ. Tear down the moral pedestals and let us humble ourselves, wrapped in the redemptive love of Jesus Christ in both word and deed.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Even So Come Lord Jesus

A child cries from hunger.
Even so come Lord Jesus.
A gay man is dying.
Even so come Lord Jesus.
A family is dividing.
Even so come Lord Jesus.
A teenage girl sells herself.
Even so come Lord Jesus.
A homeless man begs.
Even so come Lord Jesus.
A drug addict gets another fix.
Even so come Lord Jesus.
A young man wants to kill himself.
Even so come Lord Jesus.
Another unborn baby dies.
Even so come Lord Jesus.
Sin is exalted.
Even so come Lord Jesus.

“But I have already come”, Jesus says, “Now you go, they are waiting for you to come”.