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We Lost the War

For decades it seems the American church has been fighting a war on culture. Well, we’ve lost. I don’t say this lightly, but it also seems pretty clear that we marched into battle under faulty premises. I mean when are we ever  mandated to convert the culture in which we find ourselves to some semblance of Christian conduct?

Is it even reasonable to expect Christian conduct, or morals, from culture? From the world? I submit it is not. Moreover, we’re not even on the same page when it comes to values.

So we’ve fought a war, which we’ve arguably lost, and awoken in a world we don’t recognize… Because we didn’t fight biblically. Pop quiz:

Where was the Apostle Paul most effective–on Mars Hill, where he tried to be culturally relevant, or with the Phillippian jailer? How about Jesus? Was He after the masses, or the individual? You see, those of us who believe serve a God Who isn’t all about efficiency. He wants the one lost sheep who’s strayed, scans the horizon for signs of the prodigal son, tells the woman with the issue of blood that her faith has healed her… Or the woman caught in adultery to go, and sin so more.

Was the command to go into all the world and save the culture, or rather was it to make disciples? You see, it’s easy to lionize Hollywood, or lambsaste the gay agenda.

But it’s hard to confront the sin in our own hearts, check our motives, and then go forth with the message of God’s love.

For individuals.

It’s easy to write off entire segments of the populace. It’s far harder to love those souls for whom Christ died.

Changed lives don’t happen culturally, or societally, but rather face-to-face, one-on-one.

But we’re afraid, hiding in our holy huddles. It’s no wonder we’ve lost the war.

But it’s not too late.

Wake up, church: the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God.

Let God Sort It Out

Dr. Karl Meninger wrote years ago, asking Whatever Became of Sin?

Good question, doc. Because that line keeps getting pushed further and further out. Things, only a generation ago, which were considered sin are now not only not, well, sin, but are approved of, applauded.

The collective consciousness (and conscience) it would seem have been given over. This shouldn’t surprise us. It’s there in the scriptures: Romans chapter one: “And God gave them over…”

I’m not here calling out any one particular sin, but a general trend in what is arguably a post-christian society. We (at least we here in America) can’t even agree if this country was ever a “Christian nation,” whether–or not–it was founded on biblical principles.

No, everbody–left, right, centrist, liberal, conservative, progressive–is too busy planting flags, claiming territory. Everybody is saying that God is on their respective side in this cultural divide. (I write here of those who particularly claim to be in the church).

But what does God say?

Matthew 13:24-30 ESV

“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Yes, I know the scriptures tell us that we shall know them by their fruits. I’m just sick of arguing. So I’m going to propose a new tack:

Instead of going out on tare patrol, I’ll instead leave the question of who’s in, or who’s out to God. Apparently, He has plan. I have sneaking suspicion that we’ll all be shocked on that day as to who are actually wheat, and who are tares. And the simple fact is that all that each of us can do is reflect Jesus to the best of our abilities.

We never win by arguing. Because people are no longer persuaded by logic. No; they’re looking for love, looking to be heard and understood. They’re looking for a shared connection via a shared story. Let us not forget that the Bible is first a story: God’s story. It’s a story of how He, Creator of all that is seen, and unseen, wants a relationship with each one of us.

It is love which will persuade hearts–not carefully crafted persuasive arguments. Or vitriolic vilifications. First, folks want to know how much we care–before they can even begin to care about what we know. We’re not even on the same page regarding what is, and what is not, sinful. There isn’t a common morality to come to any consensus upon.

There’s just this:

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

I’m not here talking about being soft on sin; rather, it’s about being soft on the hearts of folks who don’t even know they’re sinners in the first place.

As Jesus was…

Live a life of love, and let God sort it out, my friends. He knows who’s wheat, and who’s a tare.

The Futile Gospel of Behavior Modification

We have a problem here in the modern American Evangelical church. The problem isn’t the Bible, or Jesus; it’s us. We, by-and-large, preach a gospel of behavior modification. We tell people, “Come to Jesus,” but don’t accept them until they look like us.

The problem is that instead of making disciples, we’re trying to make clones. We forget that we were once sinners in need of a savior; consequently, we say we’re down with grace,  but either explicitly, or implicitly, tell folks to come to Jesus.

But only after they’ve cleaned themselves up.

The irony here is that who among us can even do that: clean ourselves up? As if. Else why would we need a savior?
We take God’s free gift of life, and make the price of entry too high. Much like the Pharisees of old. We take the Gospel, and turn it into rules of the road. Rules that we ourselves, if we’re honest, can’t often attain to. I mean Jesus said that He didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Meaning that it’s our duty to proclaim this message–not worry if it’s been received. Or try to change the mores of a fallen world. We say: “Come as you are.” But do we really mean it.

Come as you are… but not if you have some sin we don’t approve of. Jesus might accept you. But we don’t. We’re the gatekeepers of orthodoxy, of faith and practice. And you can’t come to our party if ______. You change your behavior first, and then we’ll talk.

It’s as if we don’t believe in the Holy Spirit anymore. And his ministry to “convict the world of sin, righteousnes, and judgment.”

If the Parable of the Sower is in any way a reliable guide, ours is to proclaim the message. Not make the hearts receptive. That’s between others and God. Further on in that chapter in Matthew 13:30, it says:

“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

The point being that the tares (weeds) and the wheat were to grow together, and that God would do the reaping. He knows who’s His, and who isn’t. Our business is to proclaim, make disciples (but not clones), and trust Him with the outcome. A tall order, I know: to trust.

Who among us can even change our own heart? Why do we think we can change another’s?

The Gospel of Behavior Modification needs to die. Because it’s not a message of imposition: of enforcing change from the outside. It’s about lifechange,  about transformation from the inside out.

What do you think? What do you have to say?

Not Your Grandpappy’s Flannelgraph ‘Noah’

I saw the new Noah film with my wife yesterday. It ain’t your grandpappy’s flannelgraph Noah. Sure, there’s an ark; there’s just no “arky, arky” here. This is no cutesy kid-friendly Sunday school lesson (complete with crafts).

Before I continue, please go grab your Bible, and read the story of Noah as it appears there.

Done already? That was fast.

The savvy among you will know where I’m going with this: the account of Noah as it appears in canon can be read in 5-10 minutes. While the specifics are indeed there, it’s as notable for what it leaves our as for what it includes. What did people eat on the ark? We don’t know. Did they get tired of one another?  Bored? What provisions did Noah and his family bring for the animals? What did they do with all the dung? (I’m not the latest movie answers these questions, per se).

The point is: Scripture doesn’t tell us. So the filmmakers turned to extrabiblical sources to fill in those gaps. The film’s director, and co-writer, Darren Aronofsky, calls the movie a midrash. Midrash is a time-honored rabbinical tradition of filling in the gaps in a text. It’s a very Jewish thing. And it’s both surprising, and sad, that my fellow Christians don’t understand this. That we–collectively–don’t grok the Jewish roots of our faith. It’s like we’re ashamed of the imaginations God gave us…

So the movie is midrash, and incorporates material from such sources as the Book of Enoch. A deuterocanonical book, it is nevertheless quoted in the New Testament (the Book of Jude ring any bells?)–demonstrating that the very men God used to compose canon were familiar enough with this work to quote from it. Put another way, they considered at least portions of it to be authoritative enough to include in their epistles.

Again, because of our lack of familiarity with Judaism, and other works, there’s a hue and cry about what the filmmakers have done to Noah. While the fact is they’ve done nothing to him. He just the same as he’s ever been. If don’t care for this particular cinematic interpretation, which includes much wrestling with:

Sin

Justice,  and

Mercy

I’d recommend they go dust off that leather-bound tome on their bookshelves, exercise their rights as Bereans, and discover for themselves that nothing has changed in those pages.

There’s nothing to get upset over, folks. It’s a tempest in a teapot:

Scripture has not, and cannot be, changed.

If you don’t like it, don’t see it. As for myself, I thought it was a worthy effort. Still, it ain’t your grandpappy’s flannelgraph Noah. If you can deal with that, good; if not, read the book (don’t wait for the movie).

Thanks for reading!

Have something to say? The contents 5 are open below.

Win a Prize Pack from the Son of God

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Roma Downey and Mark Burnett (producer of The Voice, The Apprentice, Shark Tank, and others), the couple who brought us the Bible Miniseries last year, now have a feature film about the life of Jesus called Son of God. The film opens this Friday, February 28th, 2014.

As a person of faith I’m certainly interested in cinematic depictions of Our Lord, and indeed how He is in fact depicted. To be perfectly honest, I did not see all of The Bible when it was on; what I did see left me scratching my head. For instance, in Scripture Jesus didn’t enter the tomb of Lazarus. But in The Bible, He does-kissing the dead man on the forehead. For my money, commanding a corpse to rise is dramatic enough all in itself (without any need for embellishment).

I’m certain there were other changes as well. And I understand that neither T.V., nor movies, are the same kind of medium as the written word. That changes may sometimes have to be made for time, for flow, etc. But they should at least make sense.

Anyway. I’m likely going to see Son of God because it appears to be the kind of movie that I can take my family to (unlike The Passion of the Christ, which would be too violent for my little girl). Which is my roundabout way of saying that we who are believers should at least try to support fellow believers who are trying to make wholesome art.

That’s my $.02.

Are you going to see Son of God?

Comment below for a chance to win a prize pack consisting of:

An official tie-in novelization
A soundtrack CD
A 1000 piece puzzle.

Thanks for reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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