Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Has the Church gotten the Message wrong?

Yesterday I was at a leadership conference. One of the main speakers talked about what he considered a failure of the Church today. He pointed out that in Jesus day that crowds would flock to hear Him teach. That what Jesus was teaching was creating a stir and had the interest of a watching world. Yet, the message we seem to be proclaiming in the church today is not causing a stir, and people are not flocking to our buildings to hear our message. The world is not watching or listening. And very little life change is happening. Even for those who are attending our churches, very little life change seems to be happening. He went on to ask, "Why?" Why don't people flock to hear our message? Why isn't life change happening? The answer - he felt that the church is actually getting the message wrong! He felt the problem with our message to be that we had boiled the gospel message down to "you need to get right with God, pray this prayer and you will have a seat in heaven." Is this really all the message is about? Is it all about making sure people can say they believe a basic few doctrines, pray the right prayer, and then they get the promise of heaven? Is that what Jesus taught? Or is that just part of the message?His view of the message of the gospel went something like this. The Old Testament (OT) has three main stories - The Exodus, The Exile, and The Priestly/Sacrificial stories. He pointed out that we seem to only focus on the Priestly/Sacrificial story. He focused on the Exodus and Exile stories and referred to them as ones of "journey" and "marginalization and restoration." He talked about how these were stories of God delivering people, "saving" them, and bringing them back to new life in the OT. He felt that this part of the message was something that we were overlooking in the Church. He then went to the New Testament and referred to an account of Jesus' life where Jesus talks about his purpose. In Luke 4 it reads, "The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'" He asked us, which of the three main OT stories does what Jesus read here refer to? They seem to reference the Exile and Exodus stories, but not to the neglect of the Priestly/Sacrificial story. The gospel of Luke then goes on to record Jesus performing miracles - healing lepers, raising the dead, setting people free. And, surprisingly, he never once stops after helping someone and asks them if they believe in him and would they like to pray a prayer to make sure they have a seat reserved for them in heaven. The conclusion of this matter and the point of the speaker, I think, was for us to consider just how complete our message is. Are we offering a life changing message - reconciliation, restoration, deliverance, etc. Or are we just offering the Priestly/Sacrificial story part of it - salvation - without truly being concerned for the whole person and the wholeness that God intends for peoples lives. Too often, we have people pray a prayer, tell them that they have a seat in heaven, and their lives never change. We have not taken the time to offer them the Exodus and Exile story. We have not told them about how God cares about every detail of their lives, and how He wants to bring wholeness in their lives where there is brokeness. We have not told them how God can deliver them from their brokenness and their marginalization.

Anyway...If you're out there broken and marginalized, I hope you will discover that God cares about you. And he wants you to experience renewal and wholeness. He wants you to be made new and experience Him. You are already on a journey. He wants to journey with you.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ow! - Car Accident and Heaven

I'm sorry that I am either so lazy or so undisciplined to blog more often (in case there are any readers out there, somewhere!). in a car accident this past Saturday. Got rear ended, and slammed into the car in front of me. Fun, huh? My son seems fine, Courtney is having a little neck soreness, and my neck and back hurt. I don't want to be injured, so I'm hoping that the pain will just go away so I don't have to deal with it. I like to say...heaven. I've been thinking about heaven quite a bit lately. My thinking has been stimulated by a book on Heaven and a web link on the topic. I recommend both to stimulate your thinking.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

George Castanza, hospital, and what's is worng with our world?

When it comes to blogging, I often feel like George Castanza when he called Jerry and got his answering machine. He said something to the effect of, "Hi Jerry. It's George. I've got nothing to say." Click. Most of the time when I think about blogging, my mind goes blank. It makes me feel like my life is incredibly uninteresting. And to many, my life would be plain. I ate lunch with one of my best friends yesterday, and another friend from high school. It seems to me that their lives are much more interesting than my own. I am quite entertained by them. But, I am very satisfied/content with my life. I am who God has created me to be and He is shaping me into who He wants me to be. I'm grateful for the life I have.

Anyway...having said all that...I started reflecting on what I could write about. What is happening in my life? Is there anything interesting or "blog worthy?" What really comes to mind is two things. For one, someone I know just went into the hospital on Monday with all these strange symptoms. At first it seemed quite serious, and the hospital folk didn't seem to know what was wrong with her at first. It really made me worry. What if? What if she is really sick? What if she does not recover? How will that impact her family? Why would that happen? Please God, don't let anything bad happen. And it didn't. She seems to be fine and recovering now and will be home soon. But what about all those "what if's?" It seems we don't take life seriously enough. We don't take it seriously enough to appreciate it and to enjoy it. We don't take time to thank God for what we have and to truly love those around us. We (I) take so much for granted.

Also, the second thing I thought of. Something really bad happened to someone I know just a few days ago. I can't share the details, but suffice it to say that there are bad people in the world who do all kinds of horrific things. It kills me that our society/world just seems to shrug their shoulder at the problem of evil. It as if we have just resigned to the fact that it is out there and there is nothing we can do about. And really, what can we do? Hopefully, we can keep ourselves from being idiots and harming other people, and maybe, we can invest our lives in others and share with them the love of God and they will turn from their wicked ways and lead a fruitful life. Why do people do such awful things? What possesses them to harm others? It amazes me how selfish we all can be. I'm as guilty as the next guy in that category.

Well, as you can tell, I'm frustrated. I think about the news of late and the school killings, and other murders, and abductions, and geez, what is wrong with people? We (our society) needs some life change. We need some repentance. We need to get right with God. Let's all pray for our world and that God would be gracious and offer us all a second (or third or more) chance.