Thursday, September 21, 2006

From Hell with Love...

I've had many well-intentioned people tell me (directly or indirectly) that once you become a Christian, your life becomes wonderful. All the old problems go away as we come into the Kingdom, right? We no longer live under the spiritual and material poverty of the past, because God comes in and fixes all that.

Well, it's true that God's principals lead to blessings in this world as well as the next, but it's not without struggles. Sometimes the Father takes us from our life of destitution and lifts us into a position that we couldn't have attained. Other times, He lets us struggle with the opposition. For example, one person may come to know the Lord and immediately be cured of their alcohol addiction. Another comes to know the Lord, yet struggles with alcohol for life.

Does God love one more than the other? Or does He allow us to struggle? This I know:
  • God will not give us more than we can handle
  • Every time I expect that life is somehow supposed to be easy, I'm setting myself up for disappointment... this world resists my efforts and the entire order of the cosmos is against all followers of Christ!
  • Christ has overcome the world!
  • He gives me strength to carry on!
  • We are to count ourselves worthy to suffer with Him!!!
I don't know about you, but I don't always want to count myself worthy... especially when I'm in the midst of the suffering! It's usually only before or after that suffering that I feel privileged. But that's not the attitude I'm called to have... my "attitude should be like Christ Jesus". Christ denied Himself many comforts and underwent suffering undeservedly for our sakes. Similarly, we bear greatest witness not in our prosperity, but in how we choose to deny ourselves in the midst of prosperity. We bear great witness to our Hope as we persevere in His Ways during our suffering.

We can expect to suffer... and we can rejoice in this: that we sometimes know we're on the right path just because of the opposition we feel along the way. It is a long distance run which we run... run with perseverance! Do not stop when you reach an obstacle: go through it or around it! Either way, continue the race that's marked out for you because you are surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses! And count yourself privileged to fight this battle for the Lord God and King, Who loves you and finds you worthy of the engagement. People are watching for your response: little children, office acquaintances, and other suffering believers.

The prosperity gospel, that promises prosperity once you become a Christian is a lie straight from Hell. Many well-intentioned people preach this false gospel, but it's not the message that Jesus or the early Church taught. From Hell with love... that's what a prosperity gospel is. Don't buy into it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Symptoms of the Disease

There's a disease that has been eating away at the Body of Christ like an aggressive cancer. It's subtle and seems to spring up from out of nowhere. Any part of the Body is susceptible to this disease, and although it's relatively easy to notice it in other parts of the Body, it's really hard to diagnose when you're close to it. It's called "RELIGION".

It doesn't matter what Christian tradition you come from... it's always there. Sure, we can point the finger at others and say: "Those poor ______ believers are so caught up in _______ that they're missing out on God's fullness for them." But the reality is that we're all missing out. Even non-traditional denominations can catch the disease. No one is immune.

Fortunately, there are some symptoms that can help you diagnose yourself:
  1. Control. Do you find yourself trying to control others?
  2. Conformity. Do you find youself trying to get others to conform to your way, style or opinions?
  3. Complexity / Confusion. Christ had a really simple message, which He refused to clutter with theological complexity. K.I.S.S. = Keep  It Simple, Silly!
  4. Construction. Are you playing the part of Martha, wanting others to get involved in your ministry tasks in order to build something... Jesus told Martha that Mary did the better thing in just spending time with Him.
  5. Criticism / Condemnation. Jesus reserved His harsh words for the religious authority of His day, but He showed loving grace to even the m0st sinful... no matter how many times they'd been married or if they were in a sinful lifestyle.
  6. Comfortable. The Way Jesus told us about was far from comfortable... it was (and remains) an exciting ride!
  7. Completion. Religion always offers a false promise of completion: "Do ________ to be righteous"; "If you only do these 10 things, you've punched the ticket you need to in order to reach heaven"; "You will stop sinning if you just ______"; etc. Jesus on the other hand says: "Let go of the things of this world and just spend time with Me." It's always been a process and not a destination. The early Church understood this, which is why they were referred to as "Followers of the Way".
  8. Corporatism. Are you operating more like a corporation than a family?
    (HINT: A corporation has program directors who direct activities and behavior, but a family has parents who discern and disciple the hearts of their children.)
These are the symptoms. Jesus is still the Great Physician. May the Lord heal His Body, including each of us, It's members.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Fight Christian Fatigue - Just Sit There!

Are you striving for something beyond what God has said to do? Jesus told us to "abide in Him" as He abides in the Father. Paul wrote that we are changed from "glory to glory". The early Christians were first known as followers of the Way, implying a process rather than a destination. Jesus also told us to come to Him like the children. Maybe all Our Father wants is for us to be like a child in His Presence (like Mary)... no need to strive or "do" anything (like Martha) except as He directs (Luke 17:10).

Meanwhile, the original sin, committed also by Lucifer, was to become like God. I'm learning to become satisfied with the fact that God is God and I'm not... and that's a real good thing. I strive to do what's right in order to please the Father, knowing that I'm always in the process of "becoming" rather than reaching a "completion" point.

If I know that I'm in a long distance race, I can set a pace and keep going... however, if I believe that I've got to sprint, I tire myself out too early. I believe one of the ways we get exhausted in our Christian walk is by trying to sprint our way to the completion point, which is eternally beyond our grasp. As a pastor once put it to me: "Don't just do something... sit there!" The Good News is that Our Father wants a relationship with us! His Kingdom grows naturally (both in us and around us) as we just spend time with Him.

That's what pleases God most. No more striving is necessary.