Stuff Christians Idolize

I love to read the blog Stuff Christians Like, I even bought the book appropriately titled: Stuff Christians Like. I find Jon Acuff’s humor regarding church folk and culture to be not only spot on in many cases, but downright hilarious at other times, and although probably unintended it’s often very convicting. However…does that mean I blanketly agree with all things Jon Acuff does or says? If Jon Acuff were to suddenly start giving mad props to the Pope for his cool white hat would I give him a fist bump and say “Yeah, I love pointy white hats” or if he said “The Shack was a great book, all Christians should definitely read it.” would I say:”Yeah, who cares if a book that’s supposed to be about God is theologically even remotely accurate…Jon Acuff says it’s a great book, that’s all I need.”

I wouldn’t do those things, Jon Acuff is just a man, and as a man he makes mistakes, I cannot blanket-ly agree with everything he says or does. The same is true for any other person whether I theologically agree with them on many, many points or not. (Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur, John Piper…etc…) Theologically I agree with these men on many points, but I can’t give the fist bump of approval to everything they say or do. Whenever we get stars in our eyes looking at men we are taking our eyes off of Jesus, the ONLY one who is worthy of our affections. No single person is worthy enough of our affections that we should take our eyes off of Jesus, not even for a second.

You are hopefully saying:”that makes sense” at this point…but what if instead of another person you get stars in your eyes over, the person is you instead? Does the picture look the same? Jesus said this in the book of Luke: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Hate…that’s a pretty strong word….everything in America for the past twenty or so years has been focused on tolerance instead of hate, but Jesus here says hate…hate your own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters…and even your own life. Jesus here is not saying that we should really hate your family or yourself…not really…to the point of harm or depression or anything, what he is saying is that we cannot place a higher priority on others or ourselves than Jesus. John Calvin once said: “The human heart is an idol factory” and that’s one truth you can see played out day after day, all around you. We are quick to make an idol of someone or something, even if it is a good thing the second we have placed a higher priority on that person or thing than Jesus we have sinned.

And I wouldn’t want to make Jon Acuff into an idol…that just wouldn’t be cool…or funny….and Jon Acuff is a funny guy…

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I’ll take: “Movies that start with the word JAWS for $1,000”

I have a lot of completely useless knowledge, the chances that I’ll ever get to go on JEOPARDY! and be able to use it are pretty slim, mostly because I have never tried. Although it would be awesome to be on JEOPARDY! and say things like “let’s make it a true Daily-Double” and “You think you’re pretty smart don’t you Trebek” I have never tried taking the online test therefore I have no hope of being on the show. In order to be on the show there is something I must do first…take the online test. And then I believe there are a series of other hoops to jump through, none of which sound all that appealing to me, I will have to be content to yell the correct answers at the TV during the show.

In a similar fashion I have been looking for a job…”job-hunting” in a word. You see, I would love to be in vocational ministry. I have been in part-time or volunteer ministry so long that full-time vocational ministry seems like the next logical step. I have literally sent my resume all over the country…I sent my resume to a church in South Dakota…SOUTH DAKOTA…I had forgotten that South Dakota was even in the United States, but I sent my resume to a church there that was looking for a pastor. I have prayed and asked God to put me where He wants me…and I have waited…

…and waited…

…and waited…

…even though I have gotten my fair share of rejection letters (which in Christianese would be more appropriately titled “not at this time, but we’re praying for you” letters.) I know that God will put me where He wants me to be, but maybe I am already there.

I have repeatedly throughout this process made the mistake of thinking I have to be somewhere else to serve God to my fullest capabilities when nothing could be further from the truth.  I have spent too much time looking to the future and I don’t see the here-and-now, and worse I don’t take the time to be thankful for not only what I have already, but what has already been done for me. I don’t have to be at what I would call a better place in my life to faithfully serve God, I need to serve Him here and now by living out my current vocation all for His glory.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col. 3:16-18

I want to be a pastor or youth pastor somewhere, full time, and I am taking steps in sending out my resume to make that happen. Even though God is sovereign, it’s not likely to just fall in my lap. While God is sovereign, He also uses means…it’s an eternal paradox that I’ll never be able to answer. Think of it this way, if a farmer were to say “God alone is the one who blesses us with the harvest, therefore I will not plant any crops this year.” That would be foolish, while it is God who blesses with the harvest, the harvest isn’t going to just fall in your lap, unless the neighbors farm blows up, which is possible, but not likely.

The Bible says in Romans that: “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” We must ask ourselves upon reading a verse like this: “Hearing the words of Christ read by whom?” It is not likely that
you will hear Christ audibly speak to you, but you will hear a pastor or parent or friend read to you from the Bible. That is the means that God uses…and in His sovereignty blesses with the saving faith.

I will probably never be on JEOPARDY! but maybe God will bless me with the harvest of being in vocational ministry, and in the meantime I will continue to thank Him for all He has given me and done for me and minister faithfully to my own little church called the Downey family, and to my current church family at TLCC.

The Burdens of this Place

“Jesus wept” John 11:35

It’s the shortest verse in the Bible. “Jesus wept” and yet its implications are huge. When I was a young man going to Christian schools where Bible memorization was a requirement, my friends and I would often joke that since we had memorized  John 11:35, we had done all the Bible memorization that was required of us for that week.  (Shout out to me WCA and CCS buds…good times) More often than not we were wrong, and while none of the verses we had to memorize were as long as Esther 8:9, oddly enough none of them were ever as short as John 11:35.  And while Bible memorization was a good thing for us, very often we entirely missed the meaning of so many of the verses we had to memorize. It hasn’t been until recently that the Holy Spirit has shown me the depths of this verse. Which is why, by the way, you can read the same verse in the Bible repeatedly and come away with a new appreciation of it each time.

Jesus wept, and why did he weep? If we look at the context of the story in John 11, we see that it is the account of Lazarus, who had become sick and died. But if you read the story you notice some very interesting things. When Jesus first learns of Lazarus being sick he has a very interesting reaction. He declares that the sickness that Lazarus was suffering from would not end in his death and was in fact for the glory of God, and then he stays where he is for two more days.  At the end of two days he gathers his disciples, tells them that Lazarus had died and sets out for Bethany, a town that was less than a half a days journey from Jerusalem. And when he arrives he is greeted Martha and eventually by Mary as well, and he sees the townsfolk weeping over the loss of Lazarus.  And it is here as Jesus is being led to the grave of Lazarus that we find our verse. Jesus wept.

Jesus wept. Not as some have suggested over anger toward those paid “mourners” who had gathered themselves around Mary and Martha. Jesus wept, not because of the physical loss of Lazarus, Jesus knew of the miracle about to take place.  No, Jesus wept, because he was not only fully God but because he was fully human as well. Jesus wept, because of his anger toward sin and its affect on the world. Jesus wept, because of the curse than man was living under, the curse of sin.

A Bible verse you often hear misquoted at a funeral is: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” it is said to bring comfort to those that mourn.  But the truth is those that stand at a funeral are standing in the midst of deaths sting. And it hurts to be there. It hurts because those of us left behind are left to wonder about the loved one lying there. Wonder about all the “What if’s…” Wonder if they could have done something more before it was too late. Wonder “if only” they hadn’t said “this” or done “that” when they last saw them.  Wish they could have at least hugged them one last time. Wonder about the eternal fate of the loved one. That is deaths sting, and it hurts for far too long.  It hurts to lose one that is close to you, and the pain can creep in at the strangest times, even years after they are gone. And we can in those times weep, because Jesus wept.

I heard a young pastor say once, “It’s okay to not be okay, just don’t stay there.” And we can’t stay there. We have a hope in Christ that the rest of the world struggles without. Hope in a glorious future, and a hope in time with no more tears, no more pain, no more sickness or death. No more of living under the curse of sin.  But for now we can take comfort that Jesus understands our pain and there will be day when it will be no more.

But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings

That there will be a place with no more suffering

There will be a day with no more tears

No more pain, and no more fears

There will be a day when the burdens of this place

Will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face,

But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always

There will be a day, Jeremy Camp, from the album: Speaking Louder than Before

Looking Back

NOTE: I am a movie buff…okay, I said it…not that you couldn’t already have guessed that by my post on the movie Airplane! But it’s true I do enjoy watching a good movie, or even a bad movie or sometimes any movie with Bruce Campbell. Often in my blog posts I will be drawing from events that take place in the course of a movie, as is the case today.

I love the Back to the Future movies…all three of them…even the second one I really like.  One of the major plot points in the second and third movies…(though strangely not mentioned AT ALL in the first one, probably my one real complaint about the sequels) is that the main character Marty McFly hates to be called a chicken…(or yellow…but that was only in the old west.)  Marty hates it so much he’ll do any foolish thing he’s dared to do just to prove he is not a coward. Towards the end of the third movie, after Marty has learned that he can’t live his life worrying about what other people think of him, he is challenged to a race in his new truck but his friend, er…acquaintance I guess, Needles (Also strangely not at all mentioned in the first movie, but that’s a moot point now) Instead of racing him at the next green light Marty rev’s the engine and slams the truck into reverse. While “Needles” and his truck full of goons goes racing ahead, Marty goes backwards, avoiding the race all together.

Looking back over his shoulder Marty watches as Needles barely misses getting hit by a Rolls Royce, then he realizes he would have hit the Rolls if he had raced Needles. Then there’s the ending where Doc builds a time machine out of a train and Marty and Jennifer meet Doc’s creepy kids, but that’s not important right now. The point is…(you were beginning to wonder if there was a point weren’t you?)

The point is just like Marty was able to look back behind him and see what would have happened if he had raced Needles. As Christians we can all look back and see how God has worked in certain situations in our lives.

God works in ways we will never understand fully, the Bible tells us that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Is. 55:9) so to say God ought to do this… because that’s what we would do in that situation would be foolish and naive.  When you look back on certain situations you have been through in the past where you prayed for something in particular to happen and it didn’t happen the way you thought it would or should, maybe now you can look back on it and see how God was working to bring about a better, more holy, purpose than you could imagine at the time.

Life is hard…it probably doesn’t take you very long to think of a painful experience in your life…and maybe you still don’t understand how God was using THAT situation for good, for His purposes;  I mean lets face it, there is all kinds of pain in the world…death, disease, divorce…(lots of really unpleasant things seem to start with the letter “d”) but all those bad things are just symptoms of a much larger problem…

SIN

…and God cannot tolerate sin. The primary aspect of God mentioned in the Bible is His holiness not His love as some would have you believe) and so to get a better understanding of His love we have to look at it through the filter of His holiness.

I occasionally watch a show called Ghost Hunters**…which has an oddly repetitive format…(”Look I saw a shadow”…run, run, run…”Oh, it’s not there anymore” repeat ad infinitum) One of the tools they use to find “ghosts” is called a full spectrum camera. It shoots in all the spectrums of light that is invisible to the naked eye.  (It’s a really cool camera that I’d like to play with for a few hours…) We cannot always see what will bring the most glory to God in the long run with our naked eye…but God can, he can see it all, and not only does He see us in our current state he sees our future and he knows and does what is best…always.

Some people will mistakenly think that if something bad is happening in their life it’s because of something they’ve done and God is somehow punishing them. “Well, I fudged the numbers on my taxes so that’s why my wife is leaving me.”  I would say “your wife is leaving you because you never talk to her and treat her like a stranger in her own house.”

God never punitively punishes His children…

The Bible tells us “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

That’s not to say our sinful actions won’t have natural consequences…you lying about your tax numbers isn’t what caused your wife to leave you but it may cause Uncle Sam to audit you.

Sin always eventually destroys everything it touches and God in his grace won’t allow the souls of His children to be destroyed by sin. And while God doesn’t usually work in ways we can understand I can assure you that they are for good if you are a child of God. One day we’ll be able to look back and see exactly how God was keeping us safe from sin.

** Yeah, I know a show about Ghosts doesn’t seem like a good and righteous show to be watching…but a what show is really? Except really old reruns of the Walton’s maybe…and secondly I do believe that there is supernatural activity in the world. The Bible says that
 “Satan walks the earth like a lion looking for those whom he may devour.” While I do not believe the people on the show are chasing ghosts of people who have lived, I believe they are chasing demons, disguised as people who have lived which makes the show even creepier if you think about it. Plus they run around in some really cool old buildings and that’s my favorite part..