Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Looking for blessings in all the wrong places

After reading Tim Keller's book "Counterfeit gods" I've been think a lot more about idolatry...
Now, when you say "Idol" or "false god" many people think of ancient, primative people worshiping baals and asherahs, or offering sacrifices to statues made out of wood or stone.
But the truth is idols are everywhere in 2011...
probably more so than thousands of years ago
You see, the bible tells us quite plainly that we are made for worship.
It's how God created us to be.
It's who God created us to be.
To make much of him... to glorify him.
So, if we're all worshipers, then the big question becomes...
Who/What do you worship?
Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart is also."
That means whatever you spend you time, treasure and talents on... THAT'S your idol.
And it's not a bad thing... it's usually a good thing.
Idolatry is taking a good thing and making it a "god" thing.
So, whether it's love, money, work, spouse, children, status, self...whatever.
That's your idol.
We all have them.
We all struggle with them... whether we admit it or not.
Jacob in the bible, is the perfect example of having idols... not only that, but exchanging one idol for another...
Even before Jacob was born he fought with his brother Esau for prime position. Even in the womb he understood the importance of being born first. His idol was status and family positioning.
Then after being born (second) he lived his childhood in his bother's shadow. We're told that Isaac loved Esau more.
What a horrible thing to live in!
And so NOW Jacob's idol became his dad and what his dad thought of him. Everything he did was focused on trying to get his dad to love him more.
Next, Jacob's idol shifted to the birthright (and we all know what he went through for that!)
Then his idol moved onto having a hot wife. If only he could get Rachel... THEN his life would be complete!
Then it was having the right kind of sons.
But the most interesting area of Jacob's life is found in Genesis 32, when Jacob wrestles with God and refuses to let him go until he blesses him. This is so deeply rooted in previous idols, where Jacob feels the need to be accepted and loved and blessed by his dad. God does bless him, but not before popping his hip out!
That blessing - the blessing through the Spirit that is ours through Christ - is what Jacob received, and it is the only remedy against idolatry.
Only THAT blessing makes idols unnecessary. As with Jacob, we usually only discover this after a life of "looking for blessings in all the wrong places."
It often takes an experience of crippling weakness for us to finally discover it. That is why so many of the most God-blessed people limp as they dance for joy.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why can't we all just get along?

This February saw Rob Bell's publisher release a short video promo for his new book Love Wins. It was intended to stir conversation about the book and played up controversial questions Bell wrestled with in its pages.

Almost imediately, prominent Christian leaders took to the web, condemning the book and Bell himself.

After John Piper famously tweeted, "Farewell Rob Bell" with a link to the video on February 26th, it set a firestorm in Christian circles.
Needless to say, an influential Christian leader publicly condemning another - implying he was no longer part of the faith - drew obvious and significant battle lines.

Most of the criticism from the public came on the side of Piper in deeming Bell's teaching as heretical and calling his views universalist. And maybe they are. But what really struck me was that all this criticism was lobbed before anyone actually read the book.

This is no more a criticism of Piper, as it is a condoning of Bell... but shouldn't all Christians try to handle disagreements differently than how this public fiasco unfolded.
When non-believers see Christians attacking each other the way they have been around this book, it gives ammunition to the arguement that the actions of Christians actually keep people away from Christ rather than drawing them to Him.

Why would non-believers want to be like us when all they see is our hate and judgement?
Jesus once said that his disciples would be known by their love for one another [John 13:35]
As I've already said, this isn't a defense of Rob Bell either...
I've read the book and been to see him talk about it and a Q&A about it too, and personally, I don't agree with every idea in it. But it did challenge me. It caused me to look at beliefs I've long had in a new light. It made me reexamine scripture about things I honestly hadn't explored deeply enough.

In the end, the book helped strengthen my faith. It reaffirmed things I already believed, and by examining some new perspectives I hadn't considered yet, it brought me to a more robust understanding and belief in Christ - even if I didn't always end with complete agreement with the book.

And I think that was Bell's point.

He seems to like to ruffle feathers, popping religious balloons and looking at things from new perspectives. That was the whole point of the publisher's short video released before the book's release date... to ask questions, to provoke, to start conversations and stir things up. Which it certainly did!
I guess my point is, we don't have to completely agree with everything someone says to learn from them. God has given us all discernment.
God can use a wide variety of people and ideas to draw us closer to him.
And in the future, let's not try to let a hate-filled controversy erupt because of a marketing video.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Keeping it real

We can find four qualities within Jesus' communication that accomplishes His ability to make Himself accessible to everyone....

1# NARRATIVE_ Everyone loves stories and Jesus' teachings are full of kind Samaritans and forgiving fathers.

2# SIMPLICITY_ Jesus always offered truths in small bite-sized pieces. Even with this simplicity, the pharisees never understood and even His disciples (who lived with Jesus for 3 years listening, watching and learning) missed the point.

3# FAMILIARITY_ Jesus ALWAYS communicated through familiar examples. Many parables and stories were based on fishing, house-building and farming.

4# CONCRETENESS_ Even when dealing with spiritual theological ideas, Jesus always kept grounded. He used physical, visual images . . . pigs trampling pearls, moths and rust, and eye plucking. Physical examples to back up His statements . . . a coin, a small child, a man with a withered hand.

Jesus kept it real.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Opposites attract

To make a connection we have to draw near to someone.
This was Jesus' way.

"The word became flesh and dwelt among us"

This word "dwelt" literally means "to pitch a tent".

Jesus didn't live in a nice mansion in the 'beverly hills' of Isreal and then commute into the rough areas and then back to his penthouse on an evening. He set up camp right in the middle of the people He was trying to reach.

He spent time with them, ate with them, lived through the highs and lows.
This "drawing near" not only effected His actions, but His words also.

Parables are used by Jesus on nearly every page of the gospels and they formed the foundation of Jesus' communication.
Parable is taken from the words "Para" (near) and "Ballo" (to bring) = "Near-bringers".
Jesus never tried to discuss theology with the everyday people of Galilee. He used these "Paraballos", these "near-bringers" to bring His principles and lofty ideas down into the dust of the market streets and desert roads.

In this day and age we have made the assumption that "clever people use big words".

Jesus' approach was the exact opposite.

He sought to bring His communication closer and more accessible to everyone.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On their turf

Matthew 8_15-13 tells of the remarkable faith of a Roman officer, but an emphasis is all given to Jesus' character... His desire to meet people in their own space. At the drop of a hat He was willing to stop what He was doing, change direction and go to a complete strangers house.

Meeting with and spending time with the Romans was almost as bad as associating with the sick, prostitutes and tax collectors, but this was Jesus' way.


Jesus wasn't like Robin Hood, steling from the rich to give to the poor.
Jesus gave to everyone.
He preached in the synagogue.
Touched and healed the sick.
Dined with the religious elite.
Sat and drank with adulterers and prostitutes.

No matter what the audience, Jesus delivered the message in their terms and on their turf.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Seeking a connection

Communication doesn't begin with words, it begins with a connection.

Coming together, sharing of life and self, seeking to know and be known.

Community/Compassion/Communion/Communication are all rooted to "Com" [Latin] = "together". The word "Communication" comes from the Latin word "Communicare" = "to share together"/"to make common".

Many technological and scientific understandings have dumbed down the idea of "communication" as the transfer of information. The physical connection has become lost somewhere along the way.
Jesus was all about sharing together and making the connection

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..."

From His first breaths in that dark, damp, smelly barn - to His final breaths on that dirty, blood-stained cross, His life (and death) were about reaching people.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Silence isn't golden

This issue of attentiveness isn't just a problem when dealing with other people. God can also feel the brunt of our self-centeredness.

I know personally, I have caught myself singing worship songs on a Sunday night, but my brain has been thinking about what to eat for supper, or whether to have tea or coffee after the meeting, or what I've got to do at work in the morning!

Singing these very serious words like "I surrender all to you" but obviously not meaning it.
Other times I have tried to have a quiet prayer time in bed and actually fell asleep mid-sentence! Could you imagine what it would feel like if someone fell asleep whilst you were talking to them?!

Just being silent isn't enough, we can appear to be quiet on the outside but inside we are making heaps of noise.

Jesus wasn't just silent, He was actively attentive.

Here are some ways we can be more like Jesus . . .

1# ASK QUESTIONS_ Out of all the questions asked of Jesus, He only answered 2 ! The rest He answered with another question of His own. This is a useful way to dig below the surface of what is being talked about.

2# REMOVE DISTRACTIONS_ Turn off TVs, phones, computers, music. Multi-tasking always takes away from the main focus. By 'sacrificing' these distractions, we are showing how important listening is.

3# BODY LANGUAGE_ Just as kneeling in prayer isn't necessary, it helps to focus us and give us a humble heart. So too body language says a lot about our listening. Eye-contact prevents further distraction and suggests openness and honesty.

4# TAKE NOTE OF THE "MARGINS"_ Jesus was all about spending time with the "invisibles", the poor, the alienated and the sick.

5# LEARN TO SEE_ Not visually, but to understand more about a situation or person. If we learn the family, culture or life-story of an individual, we can better understand and help.

Over time these disciplines will become habits and these habits will become character. It is difficult to live like Jesus, to live in the present. To not look back (reminiscing) and to not look forward (anticipating). It is only in the here and now that we can attend to others.