Posted tagged ‘holy’

Christian Discouragement

November 4, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   November 2, 2014

                                   

Philip Yancey’s new book Vanishing Grace begins with the bad news about the good news. The cultural view of Christians is not good. He uses a recent survey of 18,000 people from all over the world to share what is hard to hear. The question was asked “Is religion a force for good?” In total, 52% of those surveyed judged that religion does more harm than good.

Wow!

How did we get to a point where more people would be glad for religious beliefs to take a break…a long break?

It took a while…but we managed to get there!

Yancey recalls an article that Tim Stafford wrote for Christianity Today magazine a few years ago where Stafford, using biblical times parallels, said that Christians in America often think they are like the Jewish people taken in captivity to Babylon, living in a culture that trumpets values that are against their faith. Stafford makes the point that Christians in our country  are more like Samaritans living right beside the Jews and not getting along. In other words, sometimes Christians are polarized from non-Christians because we can’t get along. We are prone to use spiritual language to describe it, like “spiritual”, “holy”, “holy people of God”, “morally upright”, and other terms that show that we are godly, but we also seem to enjoy being in one corner and our culture in the other corner…and never the two shall meet unless we’re ready to jab and punch.

The separation, whether we like to admit it or not, often makes us look snooty and Pharisaic.

Many will disagree with me, and I’m okay with that, but could it be that instead of Christians isolating themselves in a desperate attempt to obediently follow Christ that disciples should instead take a few steps towards our culture. That does not mean that we become accepting of beliefs and lifestyles that we don’t agree with. It simply means that we are open to listening and slow to our race to judgment. I refer back to Yancey again. He makes this statement that I’ve underlined with a yellow highlighter on my iPad:

“It takes no grace to relate to someone who looks, thinks, and acts like me.”

     Of course, I entitled this post “Christian Discouragement.” That’s because I see a lot of discouraged Christians and a lot of depressed churches. Joy seems to have fled to the mountains for the weekend. I’m optimistic that it will return and find new lodging in our sanctuaries, communities of faith, and pilgrim journeys.

The good news can be seen again as good news for all…that God loves each and every one of us no matter whether we have requested it, denied it, avoided it, or…yes, it can happen…accepted it with tears of thanksgiving.

It’s funny! The older I get the more I seem to write about grace. I think there’s a key there, perhaps a revelation, that it marks the road between discouraged and encouraged.

God Trivia and Trivializing

June 11, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    June 11, 2013

 

Our family used to play “Trivial Pursuit”- the non-Biblical version. We tried to play “Biblical Pursuit” and came away feeling that we really didn’t know Jesus because we couldn’t answer the question “Where was Benaiah, the valiant fighter and son of Jehoiada, from?” Many of you immediately responded “Kabzeel.” It was an any question, I know, but we couldn’t come up with it.

Trivial Pursuit wasn’t much better. I thought I was the cat’s meow when it came to the “Sports and Leisure” category, and would end up getting something about “cricket.”

Trivial Pursuit, the pursuit of trivia, was popular for a number of years. My brother, an expert on meaningless trivia, was actually a panelist on a call-in radio show back in Lexington, Kentucky, for a couple of years.

There have been a number of books written that deal with Bible trivia. Just google “amazing Bible facts” and see what comes up.

The thing about trivia is that is fails to create intimacy. It’s interesting, and may even cause us to open our mouths in sheer unbelief, but trivia doesn’t bring us to know God even as we’re knowing about God.

Almost twenty years ago Don McCullough wrote a book entitled The Trivialization of God. One of the points that he makes is that there has been a tendency within the church to de-emphasize the God of the Bible- all powerful, all-knowing, holy and majestic- and create a God that is more comfortable for our lives. The holiness of God is hard to focus on because it has such tremendous implications for the life of the believer and the church.

McCullough’s point is that the church has steadfastly lost its influence because it has trivialized the holy things of God. He writes, “We prefer the illusion of a safer deity, and so we have pared God down to more manageable proportions. Our era has no exclusive claim to the trivialization of God. This has always been the temptation and the failure for the people of God. (The Trivialization Of God, page 14)

Trivia is safer than deep relationship. Holiness, however, is God’s gift to the church. The realization that God has called us to be a community of love that seeks to reflect his holy love…is life lived at a deeper level.

I may not know where Benaiah was from, but I do know a little bit about what God has called us to.

Getting Too Cozy With God

June 4, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      June 4, 2013

Working on the staff of Young Life when I was in seminary, and then also being the Youth Minister at a couple of churches, I was trained to “earn the right to be heard’ by the students I worked with. Youth ministry was, and still is, very relational. A young guy struggling with questions about faith needs to know that there is someone he can meet at Starbucks for a chai latte and conversational counseling.

I confess! In those days there was a need to look cool and be cool. It was a part of earning the right to converse about God. Now in my final year of the fifties “cool” is a term I only use to indicate the last of heat in the house. We have more blankets folded and ready on our couch than Bed, bath, and Beyond has in the entire store. “Overheated” for our household now refers to laying on top of the electric blanket.

It seems that the emphasis with most evangelicals, myself included, is on having a personal relationship with our heavenly father who has his son be crucified on the cross out of love for us.

There is nothing incorrect about that. It’s scripturally right on. John 3:16 makes that intimately clear. The struggle is that we so often make the mystery of the holy absent from our faith. We like to snuggle up with God, like a comforter blanket. God-cozy is more to our liking than divine mystery.

One of my friends recently said that the only place we see veils anymore is on Arab women to hide their faces, and on surgeons to protect them from our germs. Veils hide, and we are people who are used to the Freedom of Information Act. We are accustomed to full disclosure.

Scripture includes a number of verses that tell us about the mystery being revealed…and the mystery that is. Paul talked about “the mystery made known to me by revelation” (Ephesians 3:3) and “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.” (Colossians 1:26)

But he also talked about the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4, Colossians 4:3)!

The contrast of the gospel is that we can now approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), but the will not ever in this lifetime understand the ways of God. Revelation is partnered with mystery. The veil was torn away from the Holy of Holies, and yet are eyes do not fully see the moving of God.

And we shouldn’t! Mystery is what keeps drama in the story. If life was void of mystery our little ones would no longer ask the question “why?” Why questions lead them along the path of discovery.

Why do we have two ears and one nose?

I don’t know. Perhaps it has something to do with Mr. Potato Head. He would look weird with two noses and only one ear.

Why are some people scared of spiders?

Because they are…including me.

Why do women put make-up on, but men just put on deodorant?

Because men are in a hurry in the morning, and women…never mind, don’t tell Mommy I said anything about that!

Why does bacon taste so good?

Ahhhh….

The longer I walk with God the more comfortable I am with the Mystery. I also have a sense of peace knowing that I am always able to cry out to him, and he will embrace me. Perhaps that’s “cozy’, but I see it as evidence of the God who comes near.