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Faith and Culture

Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Dallas Willard

Starting a new blog after about 5 years away in the wilderness of quiet solitude. I had written for a number of years on wide range of subjects. I woke one morning and all my content was just gone. My service provider could not recover the words I had poured out onto the page and I was crushed. I have wept over those words. So I pray that this current attempt to encourage the faithful will be helpful.

My interests are focused on the eternal kind life available to us right now. We have been given every spiritual blessing under heaven, lacking nothing found in Ephesians 1:3. We can overcome bitterness, anger, rage, envy, hatred, etc. and walk in God’s character and nature. This eternal life is for now, not some future destiny realized in heaven. We were built to over come this life and conquer now in this world. Just as Jesus said to the accused woman, “go and sin more”, we can sin no more. Jesus would not have said it , if it was not possible. He wasn’t making a suggestion but declaring a reality. I believe we can grow in the grace knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ by constant and consistent exposure to God. As we spend our days and life thinking on these things, whatever is pure, holy, essentially God and his nature, we are forever changed. We can fully express the fruits of the spirit now. We can live in peace produced by this exposure to God for the first time understanding the peace beyond al understanding. So many of my blogs will focus on the eternal kind of life now.

I think quite extensively about the workings of the culture and how it is reconstructing God’s word and our faith filled life into a caricature of what God intended and how the modern church is active the demise of the disciple of Christ. The modern church is filling our lives with anxiety and busyness that is best described as dead works, leaving many to wonder quietly why isn’t this working? Peace and healing are not a reality, while exhaustion and confusion reign over most lives. I have had faithful men say to me, “I’m lost and I cannot even tell you why.” This should not be a reality, but it is for most. I will try to expose some of the subtle ways the church has changed, looking at the mixture(lukewarm) between law and grace and how is confusing the believer, technology, lack of training(no training is training), and more.

So please leave comments and questions. I need to learn as well.

Converted to a Form

What if everything we have been doing for generations, if not centuries has been futile and worthless. The church is struggling to find itself and is choosing ever more extreme events, exhausting the body and causing them to ask questions about the reality of this relationship with Christ. In some sense there has been a big ‘bait an switch’. The professional pastor class is offering peace, victory, and wholeness if only you would conform to the practices and forms of our particular way of doing Christianity. The truth is the typical Christian life is one of confusion about this whole God thing, self doubt, weakness and little influence. I had a recent conversation about this confusion with a close friend and he said, ” I’m lost and I cannot even tell you why?” He was not lost in terms of his salvation, but he was trying to describe the overwhelming disconnect with finding Christ within modern Christianity as formed in our culture.

I grew up in a performance based, law driven system. To be a part of the church every area of your life; dress, speech, food, etc. was measured against the system and the group. I was trained to think my growth and maturity was upto me. I was in control over the outcomes in my life, in contrast God clearly says he is the “author and finisher’, ‘ that he plans for me to prosper’, and ‘that he knit me in the womb.’ The end result of all these systems traditions, practices, that we end up making ourselves idols, gods to be worshipped, because we are ultimately in charge of our destinies and future separated from God. The sad thing is the entire time we are not accessing God at all. We have been converted to a set of practices, styles of worship, type of preaching, certain doctrines, tongues or no tongues, cessationist, etc., never really experiencing the reality of Christ. We end up saying, ” I tried that Christian thing and it does not work.”

What has happened? Jesus is going to return and ask us, What are you doing? He will be confused for sure. HIs word even says this in Matthew 7. The individuals in this scripture are saying “we did this and that in your name, cannot you see we were really busy for you.” And Jesus says, “depart from me I never knew you.” Pretty harsh words for sure. The problem is that the deception of Christianity in its modern form is seductive and powerful. Christianity promises so much. Promising to grow you and make your lives better. In many ways, the Christian organizations are offering wonderful things and programs, for couples, kids, and more, but are largely separated from the person of Jesus Christ. This separation causes these programs to be no different than the common 12 step programs we see throughout our culture. The alcoholic is always an alcoholic and must attend these meeting the rest of their lives. There is no eternal change or life transformation. They must commit to a system, an external force to get through the day, week, or month. Christianity’s cultural positioning and practices(12 step program)has replaced Christ as the standard for spiritual development to establish the character and nature of Christ in our spirits and bodies. Churches are forced to have recurring leadership conferences, or revivals, to revive and reorient the wayward Christian who is not experiencing Christ because they don’t know how. The professional pastor who is paid to do this ‘stuff’ says “this will help or do it this way, just like me.”

Denominations are formed over subtle distinctions and differences over the law, how I dress, what I eat, etc. Seventh day Adventists, will not drink coffee. Mennonites wear costumes of modesty to supposedly show what has occurred in their hearts. The charismatics put on huge displays of emotionalism to offer evidence how they are quite in the know when it comes to God and the way he wants things done. To be a part of these groups you must conform to each individual distinction or be asked to leave. Conformity to the practices and “our way” of doing things is highest importance. Christ is never really a consideration truthfully. He is used an excuse or more commonly his wards are used as a slogan to justify the distinction. All of these groups are saying, “we live to higher standard.” The problem is the standard was created by man, not God. This is just one of a thousand problems I can see in the church today. Can you see why people are confused and not finding the real thing, Jesus?

Christians are making commitments to forms and systems of spiritual behavior, styles and traditions, using Jesus as cover to provide credibility to our efforts, expecting real relationship with Christ. I declare quite often we are doing faith backwards, wondering out loud, “what are we doing?” Church is saying do it our way and you find God. Not true. Christ is the standard and the only way to real change.

We should constantly and consistently pursue God forming his character in our inner parts, submitting our bodies and God’s nature will flow from our lives. Spiritual formation and transformation comes from exposure to God, to Jesus, the teacher, not from exposure to systems or traditions formed by men over time. The church says add these behaviors and you will find God. God is saying find me and your thinking(promise of sound mind), words, attitudes, intentions, emotions, and behaviors will be different, changed forever. The bible has powerful words like; seek ye first the kingdom or seek and find or hunger and thirst after me, abide,and more, and from this follows a changed life. Many times doing almost nothing but sitting quietly with the Jesus as a instructs you in who he is, eternal change occurs. Christ is the standard and the only way to real change.

Instantly Fixed

Discipleship and Maturity in an Instant

There is a deep and troubling problem in the way modern Christians approach Discipleship or spiritual formation. The body of Christ, the church, has been tricked or trained to believe the idea that the entirety of our lives, everything that makes us who we are will be transformed during in a dramatic moment usually at a spiritual retreat, church camp, or event. Of course God declares that we are a “new Creation, a masterpiece.” But we still have a body that must submit spiritually and that takes process.

Many(most)think a kaboom is just around the corner or maybe God will declare a spiritual abracadabra over our lives to magically complete the good work he started. Maybe driving our car to work, God will visit and completely transform them with a big bang experience into a finished product, with a truly sound mind, not double minded and unstable in all thier ways, fully connected to God and at peace with the destiny for his Life. Finally living with the power to raise the dead, heal the sick, go doubting nothing, and maybe for the first time understanding the peace beyond all understanding. Going forward, bitterness, rage, anger, envy, self pity, jealousy, unloving attributes are fully gone and have no influence over his life. All of this achieved with no effort, just granted over him with no process of maturity required. The Heart will be reconstructed instantly by some sort of spiritual big bang and then suddenly they will be modified in every aspect of your life into being like Christ with no need for process or spiritual formation or effort.

This explains the heavy emphasis on constant retreats, events, concerts, victory conferences, spiritual dog and pony shows, etc. People are expecting some sort of massive evolutionary jump forward in their spirit to finally stop feeling the way they do, unworthy, weak and full of shame. Pastors and other leaders keep feeding this desire for more events, because the people really demand them in the hopes they can finally change and mature into a real man or women of God fully able to experience true peace and victory now in this life. Of course they generally leave encouraged for a while and then that old familiar feeling returns and they need another fix, another event to get them down the road. God never intended his beloved to be this way, dependent upon constant spiritual affirmation apart from a pursuit of God. God affirms us and sustains all things, declaring over us “this is my beloved in whom I’m well pleased”. We are being trained to see Christian maturity and discipleship as spiritual zip lines, flying above the trees effortlessly in safety enjoying an amazing panorama of beauty without challenge or trial. It may be fun and exhilarating, but the ride does come to an end quickly having to return to the start position again to re-experience the ride over and over again. Literally the definition of insanity. It is sick and destructive and many lives are wasted chasing the big bang experience, Kaboom, or the zip line. The end result for this training is a confused and bewildered body of Christ that never reaches peace and can be heard saying, “this God thing isn’t working.”

Spiritual formation takes effort and hard work at times. It is not earning but effort. The goal is to be whole, nothing lacking, nothing missing. We focus on getting “fixed” but wholeness and peace found in deep personal relationship with God that develops from daily pursuit of His character and nature quietly, almost still or stopped in his presence. The church trains us to get busy for the Lord, but slowing to a crawl resting in the work he finished long ago is where maturity is grown.

The full effort is exposing ourselves to God’s character and nature through the word, fasting, prayer, solitude, silence, etc. The spiritual disciplines, the activities Jesus considered so important to stay connected to his own father and to be able to fulfill His will. Spiritual Disciplines are the “putting and and putting off the word talks about in Ephesians 4:22-24. The spiritual Disciples are the seeking and finding in our daily lives and have largely been ignored. Seek ye first the kingdom of God(Matt 6:33) to obtain the knowledge of the Father is eternal life(John 17:3). Discipleship is becoming a lifelong student from the true teacher Jesus Christ to take on his character that he would be formed in our members(Gal 4:19) and putting into practice the character and nature of God as it flows through our lives. Spiritual disciplines are not behavior modification but truly transforming every part of our lives: our spirits, mind, emotions, intention, motives, etc. into the character and nature of Christ. And from this internal , inner spiritual growth and change from exposure to God our behaviors, thoughts and emotions change.

We typically do everything backwards.

Trained in impatience

Lamentations 3:26 It is good that one waits quietly For the salvation of the Lord.

Culture is training us in impatience because we can get almost anything instantly.  Effect:  Inability to wait on the Lord

Scripture is full of references to patience and waiting on the lord. Waiting can be incredibly difficult leaving us challenged in our thoughts as the fulfillment of our desires is delayed or deterred. We have been trained to get what we want, when we want it, and how we want it typically almost immediately. This accurately describes the culture and the generations engulfed by the ease of fulfilling desires. So how does technology and the culture effect our abillity to trust God and wait on his timing? How has this effected the operation the modern church?

Technology’s main goal is to remove wait. Removing wait creates false expectations concerning timeframes for getting my desires satisfied. Life does not work that way. Our culture is making promises it cannot keep. Life is a day to day perseverance to endure the challenges to our character, finances, security, relationships, and our faith. Many times the difficult seasons of our lives and challenges can last months, years even decades and God says wait. But when the expectation is a quick resolve to any challenge, or any need delivered almost instantly in the modern culture, most are thrown into complete disarray.

The end result of being trained in impatience is that your trust in God’s plan and destiny begins to weaken. We question God’s love and timing because he moves too slow or not at all from our perspective. Impatient people lack maturity and evidence of a God filled life, because as Dallas Willard famously quoted, “they are so habitually stuck in this world they forget there is another.” Being stuck in the world perceived only by our senses; sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch forces our perspective on the short lives before us forgetting the eternal nature to our existence. His reference to a habit is saying that we are operating in a behavior without thought or choice in every situation. We have lost control or have no self control as evidenced by the fruit of the spirit promised in Galatians. The habit of Impatience says, ” I must get it now because this is all there is.”

Impatience in the Church has shown up in an never ending rotation of church populations, with families and individuals coming and going, changing churches, faiths, religions, or philosophies. Pastors are placed in a terrible position of trying to satisfy and care for a congregation of believers that want it now or “I’m out of here.” These believers leave offended because they feel as though their needs were overlooked or ignored. Now they are offended, bitter, walking in self pity traveling to the next place to restart the cycle all over again. So, church becomes this endless parade of hyper positive events and self affirming programs to meet the needs of ever increasing selfishness and impatience by the modern believer. Their demands must be met. The end result for the church is that it serves it self and makes itself into an idol that replaces God. God becomes the slogan for marketing and attracting new converts to our system or processes. The church becomes the thing worshipped.

The real end result is that Technology has done its job and trained many of us into impatient people who now say, “this God thing does not work.”

Loving them to Death

Loving them to Death

Most of my adult life the admonition to love unconditionally has overtaken my God given inclination and wisdom at times to speak the truth in Love( Ephesians 4).  Love has been twisted and has shaped ministry into a caricature of God’s intended purpose for our leaders and the body of Christ.   Love has grown cold.  Cold meaning the inability to truly love and be in relationship that requires gentleness, kindness, encouragement but also discernment,  truth and accountability.  A statement I make often is, “that we are loving them to death.”  Loving them so much they are dying.  Why?  We love so much they never are encouraged to grow or challenged about open sin.  Churches are more interested in ‘going along to get along’, which is the most dangerous and disastrous philosophy to overtake modern church, families, friendships, business, etc. 

Why is our love cold when we extending so much love, because it costs us nothing?  It takes no risks.  There literally is no skin in the game.  It requires nothing of me of wisdom or understanding.  I can just love and know nothing of God, never being ready in season or out to speak the truth in love.  Primarily because most have been told to just love them, love them to death.  We kill them in so many ways; spiritually, physically, emotionally, and more.  Our over indulgence in fake ‘love giving’ has produced a selfishness in those trained in its addiction. 

Here is how it goes. A couple buys into the idea of living together before marriage.  No commitments are made, sex is available, easy to get out, and so forth.  The church is now saying just love them and because we love, we feel good about ourselves.  If we love them they will see God or find God. Modern believers are addicted to the feeling of being high minded and loving.  We might think, “see I don’t judge, I just love.”  This addiction and self indulgence travels down the road through the destruction of this young couple.  They eventually fail in their efforts to build a Godly relationship and of course we will love them through it.  And when they are struggling with God and why He let the struggles happen, we will love them through it.  Eventually the couple says to themselves, “this God things does not work”, leaving to try a new philosophy in order to better navigate this difficult and confusing life.  All the while feeding our addiction and selfishness to be a faux spiritual person who can love so intently that the circumstances matter not.  This is not love.  It is sick.

Why is our love cold, because true love battles gently and humbly with thinking that does not line up with God or His word?  We are filled with Godly compassion enough to expose them to God’s word and His best for them.  We are so full of “fear of man” and what he or she will think of us, we would rather protect ourselves than ask a simple question.