Saturday, November 13, 2010

On My Mind

Remember this? From Tim Keller's "The Prodigal God"...

"Jesus' teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren't appealing to younger brothers (as in the younger brother from the parable of the Prodigal Son), they must be more full of elder brothers (again, from the same parable) than we'd like to think."

I read a lot. Some things I remember and some things I forget within hours or days. This paragraph is something that has stayed on my mind for well over a year now. The original post was in August 2009 and I followed it up in October 2009 with insight from a John Piper sermon and his quoting John 5:43, "I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him." The implication being that people will be attracted to a preacher who makes much of himself because we all have an inherent desire to do the same. It's natural to follow someone who is doing the same thing we want to do. This is part of the answer but there must be more as God keeps bringing the question back to me.

I saw a Lady Gaga TV special this week on her rise to fame and success. It noted that one of her biggest fan bases has been the homosexual community. Care to guess why? Because she wears outrageous clothes? Because they love her music? I am sure both of those play a part. But the primary reason is because she accepts them for who they are. (I understand that as a Christian I would say that homosexuality is a behavior and not rooted in identity.) Jesus did this as well. Now, he never left people where He found them. An encounter with the living God made a difference. Jesus led people to His father. Lady Gaga leads them no closer to God. But there is this unconditional acceptance offered by both that I found to be an interesting parallel.

Do most churches do that? Are we unconditionally accepting of anyone that walks through our doors? Or are we instinctively judging their appearance, clothes, smell, language, manners, etc.? I'm listening to a Chandler sermon tonight. In it he says this, "The prettier a church becomes, the more I tend not to trust it. Like if I walk into a community of faith where I am teaching on a weekend where I am not here (meaning, his church) and everybody is pretty and nobody is struggling and there are no issues and there are no problems and nobody is immature, then I think we have (spiritual) drift. Because the church has always been a rag tag, battered group of humanity that God has glorified because He uses such people. More and more churches have become about themselves...a self-betterment place. Do these things to feel better about yourself instead of...this is the mission of God, let's join Him in what He is doing."

A guy in my care group recently returned to his church after a several month hiatus surrounding the birth of his first child. As he sat in their Sunday morning Bible class with his wife, he made a very interesting observation. No one was sharing anything personal. He was made very aware of it because we lay it all out on the table in care group. Why are people reluctant to share with their church community on a Sunday morning? I think the top reason is because they want everyone else to think that their life is good and that they have no problems. You don't glorify God by pretending everything is OK. You glorify yourself. And you certainly don't influence others for Christ with that attitude. No one ever said to me, "Chris, I see that your life is so great and you have no issues. That makes me want Jesus." No. Someone sees perceived perfection in someone's life and they simply want that person's life. People are drawn to Jesus because they see your failures and your brokenness and they can truly RELATE to you. Then they see God's working in your life through changed desires, restored relationships and a mending heart and they desperately want Jesus Christ to do the same for them.

But most churches rarely get that real. They play in the kiddie pool of Christianity where everyone is on their best behavior and no one wants to be the first to admit that they are literally at the end of their rope. They would rather hang on to a fantasy that justifies themselves in the eyes of others then fall on their face and cry out for God's grace and the love of their community. I think this is why so many churches attract conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. A church community that finds its image in itself will draw like-minded people. The most broken, marginalized members of our society have reached a point of no longer finding salvation with themselves so there is no place for them in these churches. They are simply looking for a Savior, something outside of themselves, something bigger than themselves, something to fill the emptiness that they can't deny any longer. Jesus always recognized that desire in people and he pursued them. Many of our churches don't even allow that desire to be expressed...let alone pursue those who need to hear of God's love and grace the most.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gospel Tweets

God's law reveals how quick we are to run from him; God's gospel reveals how quick he is to run after us.

God's law is for those who think they're good; God's gospel is for those who know they're bad.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Prayer Answered by Crosses
By John Newton

I asked the Lord that I might grow 

In faith and love and every grace, 

Might more of his salvation know, 

And seek more earnestly his face.

‘Twas he who taught me thus to pray; 

And he, I trust, has answered prayer; 

But it has been in such a way 

As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that, in some favoured hour, 

At once he’d answer my request, 

And by his love’s constraining power 

Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel 

The hidden evils of my heart, 

And let the angry powers of hell 

Assault my soul in every part.

Yea, more, with his own hand he seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe, 

Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, 

Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this? I trembling cried; 

Wilt thou pursue this worm to death? 

This is the way, the Lord replied
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I now employ 

From self and pride to set thee free,
And break thy schemes of earthly joy, 

That thou may’st seek thy all in me.