Religion Reboot

The “blue screen of death.”

That’s what I sat there staring at.  I had started working for Promise Keepers a couple of months earlier, and due to a very tight ministry budget, I had agreed to use my own personal laptop for ministry work until they could afford to purchase another.  Lots of files, and programs, and documents were stored on it.  And now all I had was an overpriced paper weight.  I had lost everything.

That’s what happens when you try to push a computer beyond its capabilities.  This costly example taught me that I can’t just keep putting more and more on a computer, in hopes that it forces the computer to do things it just wasn’t designed to do.  The only result that can be expected is a crash.

Our spiritual lives are often much like this.  In our efforts to walk closer to Jesus, many times we feel like we’re coming up short.  We see our inadequacies and failures, and we determine that we must simply try harder.  So we add more to our spiritual hard drive.  We start teaching another Bible study.  We increase our giving.  We read more Christian books.  We memorize more verses.  And while all of these things are good, they don’t fix the problem.  That’s because the problem isn’t about activity.  The problem is much deeper.  The problem is in the heart.  Eventually, the result is always the spiritual “blue screen of death.”

Maybe as you read this, you’re already there.  You’ve done it all: served on the committees; attended all the services and meetings; gone on the mission trips; etc.  And you’ve reached the point of complete spiritual burn out.  You’ve been forced to step away from the grind of Christianity.  You’re on the sidelines waiting for enough energy to jump back in again.  But now you’re worried that this time the energy won’t return.

When a computer crashes, sometimes all you can do is reboot it.  That may mean you’ve lost everything on the hard drive, and that you have to start all over again.  And while that’s not a pleasant experience, it’s the only way to get the computer to work again.

It’s the same thing with a spiritual crash.  You have to start over again.  Forget all the extras that we’ve attached to religion; all of the things that 2,000 years of church tradition have convinced us we must be doing in order to be faithful.  It isn’t always a pleasant experience, but in the end, it’s the only way to get our hearts working again.

The religion of Jesus’ day wasn’t any different than it is today.  They had accumulated countless traditions and rituals and ideas that they believed helped them more faithfully walk with God.  They fasted every Monday and Thursday.  They performed a ritual washing ceremony before eating anything.  They developed specific rules and regulations designed to protect them from violating the Sabbath.  There wasn’t anything substantively wrong with these traditions.  The problem was, these traditions began to become what their faith was all about.  Does this sound familiar?

In Matthew 9, some of the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked why His disciples didn’t fast like they or the Pharisees did.  First, I love Jesus’ initial answer: He basically says that His disciples will fast when it’s the right time to fast, not out of religious ritual or because of pressure from others.  But then Jesus says this:

No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.  Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.  Matthew 9:16-17 ESV

What did Jesus mean with this analogy?  The key is in understanding that He was responding to questions regarding His disciples following man’s religious traditions.  Jesus is saying that the observance that He teaches, can’t fit into the religious traditions of others.  That following Him required a new understanding of faith.  Trying to mix being His disciple with the religious traditions of man only results in a ripped garment or a burst wineskin.  In today’s culture, we might very well say that trying to combine following Jesus with man’s system of religion can only result in the spiritual “blue screen of death.”

In the Hebrew culture that Jesus taught in, the way that a rabbi interpreted Scripture and how to obey it was called his “yoke.”  It’s a metaphor to describe the burden or the weight of a rabbi’s teaching.  Some added many rules and regulations; others many less.  When choosing to follow a rabbi, the disciple would carefully seek to understand that rabbi’s yoke, because they would be expected to live according to it from that point forward.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

We know these verses well.  You could probably quote them by memory.  But deep down in your heart, you probably wonder if they’re true.  For most of us, being Jesus disciple isn’t all that easy.  The burden we bear isn’t very light.  We rarely feel rested because of it.

And that means that we’ve added things to what Jesus expects His disciples to do.

So what was Jesus’ yoke?  If it’s what we are supposed to use as the guide for following Him; for interpreting Scripture; for walking with Him; what is it?

In Jesus day, a rabbi’s yoke was what that rabbi called the “greatest commandment.”  It didn’t mean that rest of the Scriptures failed to be important.  It just meant that all other commandments must be filtered through that “greatest commandment.”

A Pharisee came to Jesus seeking to learn what He taught as His greatest commandment.  Jesus answered:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.   On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.  Matthew 22:37-38 ESV

Jesus initial answer was common in His day.  Many rabbi’s taught that loving God will all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength – the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) – is the greatest commandment.  But as He often did, Jesus changed things up just enough that His disciples would have seen something very profound in His answer.  Jesus adds a second commandment to it, declaring that it held equal importance: love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Love God.  Love others.  That’s the heart of Scripture.

It doesn’t say study longer.  It doesn’t say memorize more verses.  It doesn’t say go on another mission trip.  It doesn’t say give more in the offering.  It doesn’t say fast.  It doesn’t say join the choir.

Love God.  Love others.

Don’t get me wrong.  When we love God, we’ll want to spend time learning what He teaches more.  It will lead to more time reading and memorizing the Word.  If we love others, we will end of doing more to help them; giving more; sharing the Gospel more.

But these things come out of our love; not out of duty or religious ritual.

Sadly, many can’t fully grasp how profound and liberating Jesus’ yoke is.  It seems too simple.  So they add more and more to their lives in an effort to find that fulfillment and peace that can only come when we surrender ourselves over to love.  Most of us have to crash before we can start over again.

Still, if you can allow yourself to step back, evaluate why you do what you do, you will find a freedom and peace that you truly long for.

Go ahead.  Reboot your “spiritual hard drive.”  Take off the programs and files, and just start again.

Just love God, and love others.

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5 Things I Miss From “Old School” Church

Our society is obsessed with “new”.  We are always looking for the latest gadget or item that we assume must be better because it’s the newest version.  When the original iPad came out in 2009, you couldn’t find one in the stores for months.  As soon as a shipment arrived in the store, there were people waiting to snatch them up.  They would sell out in minutes.

I purchased one within about a month after they came out.  And I loved it.  But around 9 months later, Apple did what Apple always does – they came out with iPad 2.  And millions of people cast aside their outdated, piece of junk iPads, and upgraded to the much more advanced iPad 2.

At first I was disappointed.  I had spent more money than I really should have on something that society was telling me I should get rid of in order to have something better.  But I didn’t.  It’s three years – and three versions of iPads later – and I’m still using my “Model T version” iPad.  And it still works great.  I still love it.  It doesn’t have a camera.  I can’t “Facetime” chat with others who have iPhone 4 or a newer iPad.  But everything I wanted my iPad to do when I purchased it, it still does.

We fall into this trap in church as well.  When I was in Israel four years ago, I stood with about 80 other Christians at Gordon’s Tomb – a site that many believe to be the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.  As we took communion, we could look to one side and see the place where Jesus may have died, and to the other side we could see where He arose.  My wife and I were moved deeply, and felt compelled to lead those with us in singing:

We are standing on holy ground

And I know that there are angels all around

Let us praise Jesus now

We are standing in His presence

On holy ground

We asked the pastor for permission to lead the song, and he agreed.  As we began to sing, we were surprised that very few – maybe a half a dozen or so – had ever heard the song before.  This was one of the most popular worship songs of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and now these Believers who had been singing all of the latest songs for two weeks, had no idea what we were singing.

This kind of thing happens all the time in church.  We get obsessed with the new to such an extent that we lose the power of the old.  As I’ve thought about this lately, I’ve come up with my own personal list of things that I miss about “old school” church.

 1.       Sunday Evening Service – I’ve recently taken a position as part-time worship leader at a very conservative Southern Baptist church.  At first, I was a little put off by the fact that they still had a traditional Sunday evening worship service.  Don’t they realize that this hasn’t been the “cool” thing to do for over a decade?  People are busy.  They don’t have the time to repeat the same thing on Sunday night that they did on Sunday morning.  But I was wrong.

What I have come to remember was that Sunday evening was when the family gets together.  We get to service early and share with each other.  We laugh.  We pray.  We worship together and hear from the Lord.  And no one wants it to end.  We stay after in the auditorium and the lobby talking for sometimes thirty to forty-five minutes.  We go to dinner together afterward and keep it going as long as we can.  Those that skip Sunday evening, miss out on good quality “family time.”

2.       Choir – In an era of praise bands and worship teams, I miss the traditional choir.  I miss giving as many people as possible the opportunity to be a part of the music in the service.  I miss the prayer time we have during rehearsal.  I miss the big choir numbers with the difficult hours of preparation.  I miss the Christmas and Resurrection Sunday cantatas.  Some of my fondest church memories took place in choir rehearsals.  There’s something special about a large group of Brothers and Sisters in Christ coming together regularly to prepare to lead in worship.

3.       Sunday School – Many churches still have Sunday School, they’ve just changed the name to be more contemporary.  They call it home group, fellowship group, cell group, life group, etc.  And a lot of the time, these churches try to pull these groups out of the church building into homes in an attempt to foster more of a relational dynamic.  This isn’t bad.

But I miss the traditional Bible study, entry into church life aspect of Sunday School.  My pastor recently reminded me that for a century, the Sunday School was the primary evangelistic tool of the church.  This was where children and teenagers and adults who were not familiar with the Scriptures came together to learn them.  I miss that.

4.       Hymns – I love the new contemporary worship choruses.  I find myself singing songs like “10,000 Reasons” and “Our God” often as I’m going about my day.  But I also miss singing songs like “There is Power in the Blood” and “There is a Fountain.”  There are such deep theological truths buried in these old hymns that we often can’t fit into the more modern worship styles.  But when I’m struggling and hurting and wondering where God is, I don’t think of songs like “I love you, Lord.  And I lift my voice.”  I remember lines like “Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God, my Father.  There is no shadow of turning with Thee.”  I’m afraid that in our attempt at staying relevant and modern, we’ve lost some of this.

5.       Dressing Up – I get why pastors and churches have gone to more casual attire in church.  I know that this is done in an effort to help visitors who may not have the “fancy church clothes” to feel comfortable when coming to church.  I don’t believe that those who wear a suit or a dress are more accepted by God on Sunday than those who are wearing jeans and flip-flops.  But I remember Sunday being a day of distinctions.  When I was a kid, my family got up early and had cinnamon rolls.  We got dressed in our “Sunday Best” and went to church.  We had a big family dinner afterwards.  Sunday was a different day than the rest of the week.  And what we wore to church was a part of that.  I wonder if our casual attire has contributed to us losing that distinction.

 

That’s my list so far.  I’m sure there are many other things you and I can add to it.  What is the biggest thing you miss from “Old School” church?

5 Ways My Faith Changed After Returning From Israel: God Believes in Me

My Faith Changed After Returning from Israrel

I absolutely hate the word “potential”.

Here is the definition: “Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.”

It’s that “may be developed” part that bothers me.  It means that there is the possibility of accomplishing something of significance, but that has yet to occur.

Has anyone ever said this about you: “He/She has a lot of potential.”?

It sort of feels like a back-handed compliment, doesn’t it?  It’s a nice way of saying, “He could do so much, but he’s not doing it yet.”

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that Jesus has looked down on me for most of my Christian life and said, “He has a lot of potential.” 

Jesus chose to minister on this earth as a rabbi.  A rabbi always personally chose his disciples, based upon the belief that those disciples could be just like him.  So when Jesus chose His disciples, it meant that He expected them to become just like Him.  He believed in them.

And one day He was walking by the Sea of Galilee, and a crowd gathered along the shore asking Him to teach them (Matthew 4).  There were some fishermen there finishing up their work after spending all night catching absolutely nothing.  And Jesus asks one of them to let Him stand in their boat so that He can get a little distance from the crowd as He teaches.

It’s important to remember that this isn’t the first time these fishermen had met Jesus.  They had seen Him do powerful miracles, and had heard Him teach with authority.  They knew that Jesus was not only an amazing rabbi, but that there was something very unique about Him.  They had already begun to suspect that He was the promised Messiah.  So, of course they let Him use their boat.

And afterward, Jesus makes a peculiar request.  He tells them to take the boats back out into the sea, and cast out their nets again.  The oldest, Peter, speaks up and says what all of the others were thinking: “Rabbi, we’ve been fishing all night and we’ve caught nothing.  But if you say so…”

You know the rest of the story.  They catch hundreds of fish.   And as they finish unloading them from the boats, Jesus looks into Peter’s eyes and says, “Follow me.  I’ll make you a fisher of men.”

That phrase, “follow me”, is the phrase that a rabbi would use when he called a disciple.  He’s telling Peter, “You’ve got a ton of potential.  I think you can be like Me.”

I would have dropped my fishing nets too.

So Peter walks right behind Jesus every step of the way.  He sees how Jesus teaches.  He watches how Jesus heals.  He understands the way Jesus interprets the Scriptures.

And Peter strives to meet his potential; he tries to be just like Jesus.

That’s what he was thinking that stormy night a few months later on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14).  After a long day of teaching and miracles, Jesus had gone into the hills to pray, and told His disciples to row across the sea to the other side.  And as the winds blew and the waves crashed against the boat, something terrifying appeared through the fog.  At first, Peter and the others thought they were seeing a ghost, but after a few moments, they realized that Jesus was walking to them on the water.

What was going through Peter’s head right then?

There’s his rabbi, walking on water.  And Peter’s a passionate disciple, which means that if his rabbi is doing something, he’s supposed to be doing it too.  So Peter does the only thing he could do: he gets out of the boat.

I know I’m supposed to now criticize Peter’s faith.  He doubted and this resulted in his sinking and needing Jesus to rescue him.  But I can’t.  Peter got out of the boat.   I would have been like the other eleven who sat back and watched.

Jesus never scolds Peter for thinking he can walk on the water.  He only questions why Peter doubted his own ability to do it.  This isn’t a popular idea (Just ask Rob Bell).  We’re supposed to think of ourselves as lowly worms that can never be like Jesus.  But that’s not correct – either Biblically or historically.

The only way Peter could have interpreted what his personal reaction was to be after having seen Jesus walk on the water was for him to try to do it himself.  And Jesus had already made it clear that His disciples were to emulate Him (Matthew 10).

That’s what makes Peter’s denial of Jesus so much more stunning.  Peter had been a model disciple.  He had been commended for his understanding and boldly proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah.  Jesus had even promised that the Church itself would be built on the foundation of the life of Peter (Matthew 16).  But at the very moment that Jesus needed Peter to stand with him, he denied him.

To deny your rabbi was the ultimate shame in the religious system of Jesus day.  There is no way a rabbi-denied would accept that disciple back.  The shame of the moment when the rooster crowed was multiplied exponentially because not only was Jesus Peter’s rabbi, but He was the Messiah.  Peter’s future was over.

So even after Jesus appears to Peter and the others in the upper room, Peter still doesn’t seem to think he’s going to be a part of the future as Jesus’ disciple.  The disciples are told to go back to the Galilee and to wait for Jesus to appear.  But Peter does more than wait.  He gets in the boat and starts fishing again.  He returns to his old life.  It was good while it lasted, but it’s over now; at least for him (John 21).

And so he goes all night without a single fish caught; all the toil and labor and work, but not one.  (I imagine Peter sitting in the boat, exhausted, shaking his head and thinking, “Really?  Kick me while I’m down, why don’t you?”)

And then he hears some wise-guy from the shore asking, “Did you catch anything?”  Peter probably thought, “When is this going to stop?”

“No!”

And then the next words he hears wash over his soul like a cool spring rain: “Try the other side of your boat?”

He’d heard these words before; back at the beginning.  It couldn’t be Jesus, could it?

Then the fish start jumping in the net, faster than they can react.  And Peter jumps out of the boat and swims as fast as he can to the shore.  This is Jesus!

And one of the most important scenes in the Gospels takes place, but most of us glaze over it because we don’t understand what Jesus is doing; we don’t understand that He’s a rabbi.

Jesus said over and over and over again that He’s the shepherd, and those who follow Him are His sheep.  So the question he asks Peter three times has major significance:

Jesus: “Peter, do you love me?”

Peter: “Yes, Lord.  You know that I love you.”

Jesus: “Feed my sheep.”

We understand the reason that Jesus asks this of Peter three times; it’s a way of restoring Peter after he denied Jesus three times.  But why does Jesus tell Peter to feed His sheep?

Jesus is telling Peter that he has another chance to be like his rabbi!  He’s saying, “Follow me, Peter.  Be my disciple.  I’m the Shepherd, and I’m asking you to be like me.”  He’s telling Peter that he can still do it.  He believes in Peter!

I’ve spent most of my Christian life stuck between seeing Jesus in the upper room, and fishing on the Sea of Galilee.  He’s called me to be His disciple, but I’ve failed over and over and over again.  But after returning from Israel, I’ve learned that no matter how many times I’ve failed my Rabbi, He’s still standing on the shore, waiting to give me another chance.  He’s called me to be His disciple.  He thinks I can be like Him.

No more potential.  No more, “maybe he can do some great things.”  Jesus is calling me, just like He did Peter, to be like Him.  I can no longer settle for being less than that.  I’ve got an important work to do.

He believes in me.

Where is the Light? A Response to the Critics

All I was doing was putting my own, personal thoughts down in writing.  I never expected anybody to read them, let alone care what I said.

On Friday morning, after hearing of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the range of emotion I was feeling needed an outlet.  I’m a writer.  If I was a composer the feelings would have come out in song.  If I were an artist, I would have painted or sculpted.  But I’m a writer.  So naturally, I wrote.

I contacted Third Option Men, a Christian men’s website that I regularly contribute to, and they desired to publish what I wrote.  I put my thoughts down, posted them to Third Option Men, and went about my day.

To read my article: “The Dark NIGHT Rises: Where is the Light?” CLICK HERE

And then things got a little wild.  My article garnered more attention than I expected, both positive and negative.  In my experience of writing online, I’ve noticed a pretty common pattern: when someone agrees with what I write, they share it through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  When they disagree with it, they comment.  This posting almost immediately starting seeing both of these responses on a greater level than ever expected.

But nothing prepared me for the phone call I received about two hours after the post went live.  A journalist for ChristianPost.com, Alex Murashko, called requesting to interview me regarding what I wrote.  He specifically wanted to know what I meant when I said that “The shooting in Denver yesterday is the fault of the Church.”

To read the interview: “Colorado Shooting: 13 Years  After Columbine, is the Church to Blame?” CLICK HERE

Again, I wasn’t trying to make a statement.  This was as much about me getting my thoughts out of my head as anything.  And frankly, I wasn’t prepared for the negative reaction that so many have had to that statement.

But I stand behind every word I wrote. 

Still I understand that for many, there needs to be a greater development of this claim.  To state that the Church could possibly have any culpability in a tragedy such as this shooting is not something that is easy to accept.  But just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Let’s clear up something right away: I never claimed that the shooter, James Holmes, is NOT responsible.  As a single incident, James Holmes is solely responsible for this heinous act.  He should be punished for what he’s done.  He will have to answer both to an earthly, and a Heavenly, court for his crime.

But as far as this crime reflects the society we live in, the Church IS responsible for this tragedy.  Let me explain.

James Holmes was acting out – in reality  – the fictional world of the movie playing at the time: The Dark Knight Rises.  He was moving the story from fiction to fact.  He became a real-world manifestation of the villains present in the story.

This isn’t much different than what happened thirteen years earlier at Columbine High School.  Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold mimicked scenes from The Basketball Diaries and The Matrix.  They took fantasy, and made it reality.

These shootings were life imitating art.

But as I said in the original article, the problem isn’t Hollywood, or video games; it isn’t the fact that the world is acting as should be expected.  The problem is the Church being less than it is called to be.

In His seminal message to His disciples, Jesus charges us with the following:

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the light of the word.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:13-16 ESV

Salt and Light.

That’s our calling as followers of Jesus.  There’s nothing new to this statement.  We all know that we are called to this.  But knowing something and doing something are very different.

And this isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a command.  We must understand that along with the call to be salt and light, comes a warning to those who are not.  Salt that fails to be useful is worthless and cast out.  Light can be hidden, and if it is, it fails to give light to those who need it.

After charging His disciples with this important mission, Jesus then continues to give examples of what the life of salt and light looks like.

Don’t hate; it’s the same thing as murder. (Matthew 5:21-26)

Don’t lust; it’s the same thing as adultery. (Matthew 5:27-30)

Don’t use oaths to manipulate situations.  Just stand by your word. (Matthew 5:33-37)

Don’t retaliate; instead, give more than what’s being demanded of you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48)

Give to those in need, not because you have to or because it makes you look good, but because you love those in need and it glorifies your Father in Heaven.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  You get the point.

Jesus closes this sermon with a series of disturbing warnings:

Don’t look at the tree, but at the fruit.  If the tree isn’t bearing fruit, it’s diseased and should be thrown into the fire.  (Matthew 7:15-20)

Don’t think that everyone who says the right things, or even claims to have done amazing things in my Name, really knows me.  Many who make that claim won’t enter the Kingdom. (Matthew 7:21-23)

Build your “house” on the right foundation, if you don’t, it will be washed away with the storm. (Matthew 7:24-27)

So if Jesus gave us these benchmarks and warnings, is it wrong if we use them to measure the health of the Church today?

What is the fruit of the Church in America?  We’ve got a lot of amazing programs and buildings and ministries.  Dozens of books and videos are released daily that teach us how to become better people.  But what real, lasting, tangible impact are we having on American society?

At the turn of the 21st Century, Dr. Michael L. Brown produced a document entitled, The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution.  In it he shared these startling statistics:

The United States boasts the highest percentage of professing evangelicals in the industrialized world, with more than 36% of Americans – meaning more than 90 million people – classified as born-again. Yet America has:

  • The highest percentage of single-parent families in the industrialized world
  • The highest abortion rate in the industrialized world
  • The highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the industrialized world (the rates of syphilis and gonorrhea transmission are almost 500% higher than the highest rates in the other industrialized nations)
  • The highest teenage birth rate in the industrialized world (by far!)
  • The highest rate of teenage drug use in the industrialized world

Honestly, can you tell me that this is the fruit of a Church that is living out its calling to be salt and light?

Brown goes on to say:

Our society is deteriorating all around us and even non-believers sense that something is wrong. Why? It is because we, the people of God, the army of the Lord Jesus, the messengers of liberation, the ambassadors of reconciliation, have been sidetracked by the love of this world and distracted by the cares of this age. As a result, we have not changed this generation. This generation has changed us!

Rather than seasoning the world like salt and brightening the world like light, we now smell and taste like the world, and its darkness is snuffing out our lamps. Rather than setting captives free by the power of Jesus’ blood, many of us are being ensnared and enslaved, making a mockery of that sacred blood. Rather than making disciples of sinners and teaching them the ways of God, many of us are being discipled by them, learning their ways, imitating their lifestyles, and conforming to their values.

To read The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution, CLICK HERE

Here are a couple of examples of this taking place.  A few weeks ago social media was buzzing due to the premiere of the movie, Magic Mike.  This movie is about a male stripper and his lifestyle.  This is a movie that glorifies lust and sex.  And many Christian women not only attended this movie, but bragged about it on Facebook and Twitter as they attended with other ladies from their individual churches!

Another is the overwhelming popularity among Christian women of the book 50 Shades of Grey.  This book is commonly referred to as “mommy porn”.  It is disgusting filth that NO Christian should ever put before their eyes.  Yet there are “Christian women” who read this and celebrate it on social media sites!

Now, I hesitate even mentioning these two as examples, in fear that some will infer that I believe this problem is one that is isolated to women.  That is not the case.  If men were leading in the Church – being the men that God called them to be – we wouldn’t be seeing this spiritual degradation among Christian women.  The reality is, if this corruption has reached this level, it is because men have ceased to be men, and we are truly in serious trouble.

And one look at pastors in America today shows us how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Roger Charman of Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Ministries reports that approximately 20 percent of the calls received on their Pastoral Care Line are for help with issues such as pornography and compulsive sexual behavior. (To see the stat, CLICK HERE)

And the examples could go on and on.  Our nation is becoming darker and darker, and we in the Church are doing very little to change that.  Earlier in The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution, Dr. Brown describes Satan’s scheme for the Church in America:

Satan’s strategy is to institutionalize the Church, to turn the Body of Christ into a powerless religious system. If that tactic fails, he tries to desensitize us and lull us to sleep until we lose our convictions and our sense of outrage is gone. And he is always seeking to seduce us into sin until we become just like the world, enslaved by its passions and lusts. And when he thinks he has succeeded, when he no longer feels threatened by the people of God, then he gets aggressive and brazenly puts forth his agenda. He’s doing it today. We need a revolution!

I believe that Satan no longer fears the Church in America, but rather laughs at it.

Some have made the comment that the Church is doing fine, and that to suggest that the Church is at all responsible for the deterioration of American society, which has manifested itself in horrific acts such as Columbine and the “Batman Shooting” is not only incorrect, but heretical.  Some have suggested that such criticism of the Church is tantamount to being the mouthpiece of Satan – the Accuser of the Brethren.  To that charge I respond with these two passages:

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.  If they have called the master of the house “Beelzebul”, how much more will they malign those of his household.  Matthew 10:24-25 ESV

Making the accusation that someone who is pointing out sin within the Church, and calling it to repentance, revival, and awakening, is doing the work of Satan is not a reasonable justification for that person to cease what they are saying;  especially when we see that Jesus, Himself, has called His Church to repentance and revival.  Consider Jesus’ own words to the Church of Laodicea:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  Revelation 3: 15-22 ESV

This passage by Jesus has been referred to so often over the past 50 years, that it has lost much of its power.  Stop and think about it.  It is a description of a church that thinks it has it all together, while Jesus isn’t even invited in!  This is the Church in America, TODAY!

And we wonder why we see evil prevailing in society.  We wonder why young men can so easily plan to murder people in cold blood.  We wonder why homosexuality is celebrated, while Biblical marriage and those that support it are labeled “bigots”.  We wonder why life isn’t valued on any level, while ten times more children have been murdered in this nation since 1972, than were Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust!

I blame myself.  I have been passive and silent too long.  I have allowed this culture of darkness to grow and take over.  I have not lived as Jesus instructed in Matthew 5 through 7.  So if the world around me has become darker, IT IS MY FAULT.

And I’m not alone.  We are all responsible.  I’m not blaming Jesus and His power.  I’m blaming those of us – which constitutes the vast majority of Christians in the United States – who have sat back and pretended that things are not so bad, or that things are getting worse because “that’s just where society is heading and there’s nothing we can do about it”.   I’m blaming His Church for not being what we are called to be.  I can do this, because I’ve seen the fruit.

The Church of Acts was one that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17).  The Church of America is one that has allowed the world to turn IT upside down.  This has to change.  Now.

And if you’re sitting here reading this saying, “Not me!” than maybe you should go back, ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal His Truth to you, and read this again.

The “Batman Shooting” is our fault.

Please return over the next several days, as I will begin to unpack SOLUTIONS to this spiritual crisis.

Colorado Shooting: 13 Years After Columbine, Is the Church to Blame?

Colorado Shooting: 13 Years After Columbine, Is the Church to Blame?.

This is an interview I did with ChristianPost.com regarding my comment on the ThirdOptionMen.org article, “The Dark NIGHT Rises: Where is the Light?

The journalist, Alex Murashko, made some additional comments on his personal blog on Sunday.

http://blogs.christianpost.com/alex-wire/sunday-sermon-where-is-the-light-in-the-dark-night-10951/

#$^%!

I admit it.  I curse God all the time.  It’s a problem I’ve had all my life. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not something I’m proud of.  But let’s be honest: you have the same problem I do.

Now, before you start defending yourself, saying things like, “I NEVER take God’s Name in vain!” take a minute to read on.  You may change your mind. The famous “thou shalt not…” that we are talking about is found in Exodus 20:7: You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Yeah, I know.  This means using God’s Name as a curse word, right?  Not really.  Of course doing that is wrong, but that’s not what this verse is talking about.  It’s much bigger than that.

The Hebrew word for “take” in this verse is “nasa” and it means “to lift up; bear; carry; support; sustain; endure.”  It’s a picture of someone picking up something and carrying it with them wherever they are going.

So how do you carry a name? 

TO CONTINUE READING, CLICK HERE!

5 Ways My Faith Changed After Returning from Israel: Discipleship

My Faith Changed After Returning from Israrel

So it’s Saturday night, and I’m getting ready to leave tomorrow on a weeklong business trip.  I’m going to be driving from Colorado Springs, all the way to Phoenix.  That’s a fourteen hour drive.

But rather than getting a head start on the trip by leaving early tomorrow morning, I’m going to be attending the weekly worship service at the church where I’m a member.  I’m even going to be substitute teaching for a Life Group after the worship service (Life Group is 21st Century non-old fashioned lingo for what everybody used to call “Sunday School).

I guess that means I’ve got my “spiritual stuff” together.  I’m a committed disciple.

What a load of…

Oh excuse me if that was inappropriate, but come on.  Really?

Is that what we’ve cheapened discipleship down to: showing up for church when it may not be convenient?

But you say, “No, David.  Discipleship is much more than that.  It’s about reading your Bible every day and praying and tithing and all that stuff.”

Give me a moment to choke back the puke.

Discipleship is much more than most anyone in American Christianity has ever committed to.

After returning from Israel, I spent a lot of time trying to look at Jesus and His disciples and the way they lived.  I tried to wrap my 21st Century brain around this ancient Jewish concept.  I’m still trying to.

But here are some things you should understand about Biblical discipleship.

In Jesus day, discipleship meant walking with the rabbi so closely that you were covered in his dust.  If he ate, you ate.  If he slept, you slept.  If he interpreted Scripture a certain way, you interpreted it the same way.  If he looked at another people group with contempt, you looked at them with contempt.  If he loved them, you loved them.  If he went to the bathroom, you went to the bathroom.

Being a disciple meant daily living your life exactly the way your rabbi would live it.

And my rabbi taught with authority.  He knew the Scriptures better than any other rabbi who had ever lived.  He healed.  He did miracles.  He prayed constantly.  He endured temptation and won.

He went to the cross for crimes He hadn’t committed.

He rose from the dead.

Now, because He rose from the dead, I’m confident that He will raise me from the dead.  But the rest of the stuff, I’m not so good at.

I guess I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.