The Uselessness Of Hands

Am I alone in this, I wonder.When I go to church, when I start to praise the Lord, as I stand for the songs, I sometimes notice that my hands feel heavy. They just sit there. What do I do with my fingers, I ask myself. I’m too tall to comfortably rest my hands on the seats in front of me. My arms are just long enough to touch them. I end up with an odd fingertip-barely-touching stance. Then I put them in my pockets. On occasion I will cross my arms.

(I wonder at those times if the worship leaders notice and wonder why I’m glaring at them.)

Then I see it. Well, dream it would be more correct. I think of worshiping, really worshiping – which in my mind always seems to include raising both hands to the sky in a fierce upward movement – and then light comes and washes over me.

But the me I see this happening to is in front of the me that is watching the other me.

I’m really just dreaming about what I could be doing.

The dream is exhausting though. So I stop the dream and go back to watching the other people in the room (some of them actually living my dream).

My arms are heavy and not long enough.

What should I do with them, I wonder.

Stealth Ministry

This weekend is the Luis Palau City Fest in downtown Nashville. Among other reasons, I wanted to take my kids to see the Veggie Tales guys live on stage. When we got there we found that we were surrounded by (reportedly) 60k people.We watched Stephen Baldwin hock his appearance on TBN’s Praise The Lord (regular readers will know how much that excited me) and a video game from the Left Behind books where he said we, “pray people into the kingdom” or some such thing.Never mind him – the dirt bike trick-riders were up. Right on the waterfront they set up a huge jump so that three riders from Team Faith could demonstrate tricks for us. And then did. I was greatly impressed when the final rider did a back flip. After that we were finally on to the main event (for us): Bob and Larry.

After we sat on the rug-covered blacktop for 30 minutes the two vegetables (and some penguins) came out in their costumes, pretended to be interactive while two ill-fitting songs played, and then were ushered off stage.

I was feeling ripped off – even though it was free! 🙂

Then a comedian ventriloquist came on stage and seemingly made the day for us all. This guy was great fun and his simple message about saying “Yes to Jesus and No to the devil” was easy to enjoy. At the end of the performance, after telling us where we could buy his puppets and DVDs, he asked everyone to pray with him. By this point, every little kid in the audience loved him and gladly bowed their heads.

It’s right here that the whole thing went downhill for me.

He asked the kids to recite the prayer of salvation.

These are little kids, aged 2 and up. There was no warning on what was happening. These kids had no idea – and couldn’t possibly understand – what this stealth minister was saying and doing for them.

After the “prayer” was over the comedian asked anyone who prayed with him to raise their hands so that his helpers in white hats could give them a gift and talk with them. Of course, the kids had no idea what they had prayed for so everyone raised their hands even the church going kids.

My two daughters, aged 7 and 4, both raised their hands. Even though my 7 year old has had some pretty insightful conversations with me about God, I don’t consider her old enough to understand what they were asking for. When my youngest daughter wanted to get the coloring book raised her hand again I told her no and we left.

As I was leaving, I saw what the helpers had in their hands – “Children’s Response Forms”. Pre-printed, premeditated stealth ministry.

If you ask any church-goer what would happen to a child should they die they will undoubtedly tell you that they would go to Heaven because they were under the age of accountability (generally understood to be around age 13 but it depends on the intelligence and understanding of the child.) So, if these little kids were to die they would go to heaven because they lack the intelligence to understand their sin and their need for a savior… apparently that is no hindrance to us “saving” them.

They may not understand, but thank God we got them to repeat words that a comedian said.

If they were the puppet in the mans hands it would have been no different. In fact, in my opinion, these children are as saved as his puppets.

I believe that events like this weaken our witness to the world. If we are willing to defy reason (and our own doctrines) just to get numbers on a “Saved List” then we are not trustworthy.

How can we present Truth and then at the same time be perverters of the Truth?

We Have All The Answers

I recently finished reading a compelling book by Rob Bell titled Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith. Afterwards, I lent it to a friend who yesterday told me that she thought it was “dangerous.” I had to know what she meant so I asked.She said it was dangerous because the questions that Bell brought up may cause Christians to question their faith which could result in them turning away.

Bell had a phrase for this kind of thinking: Brickianity. The idea that each tenant of the Christians faith was like a brick in a wall and if we pulled out one brick the whole wall would fall.

I love – absolutely love! – his Brickianity illustration. And I love his conclusion: If that one brick could bring the whole thing down then how strong was the wall anyway? I would add: what is the point of defending a faith that is so indefensible?

Christianity is more than our tenants and beliefs and answers and arguing. It’s more than wolves on TV masquerading as shepherds destroying our flock one by one, donation by donation, false teaching by false teaching. It’s more than 20 million dollar Crystal Cathedrals built by and for the ego of man. It’s more than word of faith, name it-claim it hocus-pocus preachers knocking people down with a wave of their arm. It’s more than the insecure pastor at your church that coerced you into coming forward for an altar call. It’s more than know-it-all 19 year old internet-credentialed pastors on the sidewalk preaching doom and gloom. Christianity is more than all of this.

But this is all the world knows of Christianity.

I wonder at what point did our faith turn from helping others and bringing a loving Good News message of inclusion to a know-it-all, numbers driven, mega-church, seeker sensitive, exclusionary, religious-political party?

When did the Queen of Sciences – Theology- abdicate her throne and turn her back on scientific truth?

How did Christianity let the Conservative Right make us their lap dogs?

When did truth become less important to Christians than being right?

I don’t know when it happened but it definitely did. Christianity is a bad word… and it’s our fault.

We set up this us-versus-them mentality. Maybe at one point in history some could argue that we needed this mentality to preserve the truth but I disagree. If early Christians survived the Caesars we can survive evolution, abortion, gay rights, liberals, Muslims and non-believers.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin”? Since when? Sin is an obstacle to God. It’s something that Jesus forgave all of us while we were still in our sins. Where did Jesus or Paul command us to “hate” anything? Isn’t the sin of the Homosexual something that is between God and herself? Why should we get involved further than a loving sharing of our faith and an openness of our beliefs?

Jesus commanded his disciples (and us) to take the good news from town to town and where it’s accepted give it, where it’s not accepted shrug our shoulders, kick the dust off our sandals and move on.

Seems to me like it’s up to individuals to accept the message or not. It is not up to me!

Jesus told us that when we are free of sin we can cast the first stone knowing very much that we would never be free of sin. If I know that I am a sinner how can I look down upon any other sinner?

In a corporate setting we are not allowed to proselytize. (That means I can’t have an altar call in one of my team meetings. Bummer.) Today’s church is so interested in getting prayer into schools and supporting our rights to speak about Jesus anywhere that we miss the point. It’s not what we can’t do that is the issue. It’s what the other people will respond to that is key.

Who wants to be preached to at work? Who wants to be forced to pray at school?

Look at these things from the perspective of the unbelievers (a.k.a. the ones we are trying to share the Good News with): Christians would be outraged over a proposed law that would require our children to kneel towards Mecca – even though they didn’t have to pray; they could just meditate or take a quiet moment – at school. We would bristle at the idea that another religion is forcing themselves on us and our children. No wonder the world is so offended by Christianity! When did we become the new Caesars? After school prayer, 10 commandments at the courthouse and God in the pledge of allegiance? (Why are we supporting a pledge to a nation?!) What next? Jesus’ face on the silver dollar?

Christians have confused Christianity with Americanity. It’s a false religion that destroys our ability to reach the lost, makes us look like truth ignoring buffoons, and gives the Enemy – the real one, not the sinners on this planet – so much ammunition that I am convinced he could go on vacation for 100 years and it wouldn’t get any better for us.

It’s “dangerous” to think that we know it all. It’s “dangerous” to believe that what we see around us is all there is. It’s “dangerous” to think that Christianity is how God intended it. It’s “dangerous” to not ask questions and challenge and grow…and change.

When we see something that needs to change we need to be up to the task. When we know that something we believe is incorrect then we need to adjust our thinking. We need to recognize that we don’t have a full understanding of God, creation or his word. We need to humble ourselves and search for the truth even if the truth is painful for us to hear.

That’s what is “dangerous” about Rob Bells book. If Christianity is worthy it has nothing to fear.

Truth is only ever dangerous to those who hold on to what is false.

Is It Ever Wrong To Do The Right Thing?

In our life we make choices, judgments, every moment of the day we are awake. We decide what to wear, what to eat, where to go, and of course whether to do something or not. Should I sit at the computer and type this or should I go to bed because it is late? Should I get a drink? What kind of drink? It’s these kinds of choices that enable us to be in control of our lives. We decided what to do and when. It’s our greatest freedom.

So how do we make decisions? We do so by weighing the results of the options available. Do I want a drink? “Yes” means that I am refreshed. “No” means that I remain thirsty. So I get a drink. What kind of drink should I get? Orange juice may upset my stomach but has Vitamin C and tastes good. Water would be refreshing but is boring. Coke would keep me awake longer and tastes great but has a lot of calories. We weigh the choices and choose what best fits our needs.

But what about decision making on a higher level? What about making decisions about right and wrong as opposed to mere preference? What if our preference is to do the wrong thing?

Humans are flawed creatures – more likely to choose the wrong than the right. We will inerrantly choose the path of least resistance instead of what would be the right thing to do. But God calls us to a higher standard.

Yes I said “higher.” As in better or best. It’s not just that God wants us to do the right thing, but it’s also that God wants us to live the right way by doing the right things every time! In fact, God asks us for 100% adherence to this rule. If we want to follow God we must do the right thing.

So who makes the right thing? How do we know what the right thing is? Of course, this is where it gets tricky. The world undermines us by telling us that there are two standards for doing the right thing: theoretical and practical. “Its all well and good that we should give a tithe to the church… but in reality we can’t really afford to give 10% of our income away.” Theoretically, the world will say, we should do what God tells us to do. But practically, we must find some middle ground based on what we understand to be the situation. God isn’t concerned with whether we choose Water or Coke to drink. But there is no middle ground with God when it comes to right and wrong things – higher level decisions.

Take arguments, for instance. Not every situation has two wrong participants, equally wrong, and equally at fault. At the same time two people can be wrong for different things in the same situation. Even so the wrongs of the one can never be used to justify the wrongs of the other. In God’s eyes they are both wrong for their personal choices and there is no justification. There is no middle ground or sharing the blame. Everyone is individual to God and individually responsible for their self.

Some people may say that this is a closed minded, black and white way of seeing the world. Of course, the speaker would almost certainly not be a follower of Christ as we know him from the Bible! Even so, is it really wrong to see choices in black and white? I’m not talking about preference choices like what kind of beverage to drink. I’m talking about right and wrong. I would ask that person this simple question: If you knew something was absolutely the right thing to do would you do it regardless of what others said. Chances are good that I wouldn’t get a clear “yes” or “no” answer on that. That should be a sign for you: If someone knows what is right and refuses to do it or equivocates or negotiates it then you are dealing with someone that is completely lost (of their own volition.)

You are wasting your time with them.

How can we know that something is the right thing to do and not do it? How can we know that something is the wrong thing to do and do it anyway? We need only look to our sin nature for those answers.

But what of the person who says, “Who made you king who gets to decide what is right or wrong?” That’s a good question! God gave us over 4000 years of written history of decisions of real people who made real bad and real good choices. God told us their stories and at the same time told us the right and wrong way they acted. Jesus came and lived on this planet to … Oh wait! This is all theoretical isn’t it? You want something practical?

Who, then, decided to let me choose what is right and wrong? The Holy Spirit did. Isn’t that a can of worms? Everyone knows that those crack pots on TV think they are being led by the Holy Spirit. So how can we know the truth? My favorite verse spells it out for us: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (John 8:31, 32).

We can only know the Truth when we actively and purposefully follow Christ. If we slip into our own religion (like many of those on TV), create our own religion, or follow no religion then we step away from the ability to know the Truth. And we ignore the Holy Spirit and his warnings and urgings.

We make decisions every day. How we choose to act is the most important thing we will ever do. It shows us who we are, where we are and where we are going. God says that doing the right thing for him is a spiritual act of worship! When we are presented with a choice and we choose the right path for the glory of God we are worshiping him. Our choice not to act when we know we should is an act of spiritual refusal of God.

Our choices reveal who we are as well; what kind of person we are. “To thine own self be true!” Shakespeare’s Hamlet said. Shakespeare isn’t saying that we must all do what we want to. I believe he is referring to doing what we know is right and not doing what we know is wrong. The alternative is deceiving ourselves, which ultimately leads to our destruction. When we make decisions based upon what others want us to do and not on what we know to be right or wrong we lose the very essence of ourselves.

This is a key to this whole issue: whose person are we? The world wants us to be our own person – which really means be the world’s person – believing that all situations have gray areas, that there is no right or wrong, just opinion and that compromise is the highest virtue. We aren’t really our own person in that situation, we are slaves to the world’s nothingness. Jesus came to save us from that nothingness and to give definition to the outlines of creation. There are rules and rights and wrongs. There are blacks and whites. Compromise is not a virtue. When we make choices Christ wants us to we become his person! And there is glorious freedom in that!

Like you may have, I’ve made these kinds of right or wrong decisions and suffered the worldly backlash. I really thought that I would be respected, even if not agreed with, for being true to myself and the Truth. But the world is a lie. It tells us to do what we think is right and then hates those who do. But we can never make our decisions based upon how the world will respond to them. We have to be true to ourselves and our God. When we know something is wrong we must not do it. When we know something is right then we must act on it.

Is there ever a time when it’s wrong to do the right thing? Do the external consequences ever outweigh the internal? Not according to God. There is no middle ground. God gave us all the Truths, the rights and wrongs, and the only part that we need to play in this drama is choosing which of those two choices to do.

How we choose to respond tells the world, ourselves and God everything there is to know about us.