Worship

We’re back! A new Untangled Podcast is up! What is worship? Is worship an event we attend? Is it something we do on Sundays to get our “God fix” so we can make it through another week? Is worship how we usher in God’s presence? In this podcast Loren and David discuss the beauty and lies surrounding worship.

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The Last Church Strategy

Among the many and varied forms of the Christian religion, three are fairly common, though most brands include some aspects of the following generalizations.

One group is skillful at turning descriptive narratives from the scriptures into prescriptions for effective ways to build the church. They’ve come up with “apostolic” wisdom to create templates for every area of ministry from nursery to overseas missions. Deeper truth, discipleship and world evangelism are priorities in this system.

Another brand places the focus on the prophetic and supernatural manifestations. They realize that the world can’t be changed without the power of the Holy Spirit moving through each believer. They teach methods on how to operate in the Spirit. The gatherings feature miracle meetings where great things are prophesied and declarations are made. Men and women with “special giftings” are held in awe.

Finally, there are those who believe that correct doctrine is the only thing that counts. Their foundation is based on what they believe to be an accurate interpretation of the Bible. They stand on the “Word” and shall not be moved. Attending church and listening to sermons by the main man up front is the bread and butter of their Christian life.

The fact that neither these nor countless other brands of Christian religion have changed the world does not serve as new information unless one has been living on Mars. What is amazing is that some never seem to learn what the scriptures make crystal clear: that nothing built on man’s wisdom or giftedness will ever amount to a hill of beans in the kingdom of God.

“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

While celebrated preachers pace back and forth confidently proclaiming “special revelation” to crowds awed and mesmerized by their eloquent delivery, Paul wrote that he came to the church at Corinth in weakness and fear, without eloquence or superior wisdom, resolving to know nothing while he was with them except Christ and him crucified. Although his preaching was not with wise and persuasive words, it came with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

According to the context of this passage, the power Paul spoke of was not a display of special miracles to convince the Corinthians of God’s affirmation of his message, but rather the power of the Spirit working a miracle of grace in the hearts of the hearers. And for what reason did he refrain from eloquence using wise and persuasive words? “..Not with words of human wisdom less the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1Cor. 1:17b,22,24,2:2-5)

The Christian religion is built on man’s wisdom and is devoid of the saving and transforming power of the cross of Christ. Millions of hours are spent by would-be world changers introducing formulas for “successful” living and fruitful ministry– preaching, teaching, and strategizing yet never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

Millions more abandoned the religious systems built on man-made plans and rules when they came to realize the futility of human wisdom applied to spiritual reality. Yet many, even among these, have created their own little systems, or they are still trying to figure out what church should look like. Perhaps we have forgotten or overlooked the fact that the true church is perfect, spotless, and indescribably beautiful in God’s eyes, for she has been made holy in Christ.

So maybe we should ask ourselves this question; why do we need to know what the church should look like from an earthly point of view? It seems that our focus should be on Jesus as we yield to the work of the Spirit within to shape us into God’s design for her. Christ’s church is not a predetermined static community. From an earthly standpoint, she can only look like the people from which she is built and can function only as those people are able to function. God intended the church to look and act like Jesus. And the only way that can happen is if you and I look and act like Jesus. So there’s no use searching for or trying to create something that we can only find together at the cross.

The Church looks like Christ crucified, dying for those who killed him. She is found in her perfect expression wherever people have ceased to worship man’s wisdom and have followed Christ to the cross. There we are reduced to love and find resurrection life. We will discover the church in all her beauty and power when we live in sacrificial love. We’ll see that that she functions perfectly in a variety of ways determined by culture, circumstance, need, etc., but her fundamental nature and transforming power will never change.

Christ’s church can never fit into any man devised construct. She can never be managed, will always function contrary to the world’s ways, rules and methods, and will never be understood by worldly-wise purveyors of religion. Her influence touches every facet of society. Unlike the Constantinian imposter called church today, she accomplishes her mission as invisible leaven more often than through public demonstration.

So why don’t we stop analyzing, philosophizing, speculating, and searching for a phantom and begin building up one another in love as we are exhorted to do in the 59 “one anothers” listed in the New Testament? How about being the church to our next-door neighbor by mowing his lawn or baby sitting his dog when he’s on vacation? There are always lonely prisoners and senior citizens that would love to be visited and the poor that need to be fed. If we get out of our head and into our heart, our hands can be used to rescue the dying, and our lives become a celebration of the indescribably wonderful goodness of God. Meanwhile the Head of the church will mold and shape us into what only He can build.

David Fredrickson

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Is Jesus Enough?

A dear friend whose life reflects many years of devotion to Christ sent me an excellent article he wrote expressing his deep concern for the tendency of so many Christians today to run after frivolous diversions and ridiculous “revelations” toted by alleged prophets.
I could not be more in agreement with him in his words of caution to those who would be so distracted.

The article was aimed primarily at those who are drawn to prophetic sensationalism and tend to follow after signs and wonders. But it provoked me to consider the unfortunate fact that “Jesus plus”…is a plague that has infected much of the body of Christ at large. Man centered religion can never satisfy spiritual hunger, so the hirelings become desperate in their efforts to quiet the restless and quickly scattering clientele. Just about anything goes now days in their attempt to attract a following or to keep the “sheep” pens full.

But would-be shepherds and false prophets are generally not a distraction for those who have abandoned the religious system. Our problems often lie within. Whenever I’ve felt empty inside, it’s because I’ve tried to satisfy my hunger with something or someone other than Jesus. Perhaps some deep disappointment has caused me to become disillusioned. When that happens it’s easy to try to create an illusion of happiness by substituting something secondary in importance for what’s lacking in my relationship with Father. At the end of the day he always brings me to realize that there’s something about his love I don’t yet understand. And in his arms the illusions evaporate and my hunger is resolved with a love feast. My friend included the following quote in his article.

“There is a small amount of amazement in my heart as to why believers can’t be
satisfied with the Lord in His person – in union with our hearts – living and loving
Him there, and (loving) others by His grace. Jesus – revealed and in our hearts
by the Spirit – is the last Word of God to humanity.

David Fredrickson

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Motive Check

As I reflect back through the years since I first entered into “full time ministry” I am forced to admit that my motives were often not pure. I gave up a good job and stepped out in faith to serve God with no guaranteed income. I took food to the poor, visited the prisoners, took the homeless in, comforted the sick, preached the gospel in developing nations, counseled and preached my heart out every Sunday and often woke up with a nervous stomach on Monday morning with the previous day on my mind.

Much of my activity was motivated from a sincere desire to obey God by being faithful to the call he had given me. But very little of it was generated by love for others. I was often moved by a sense of duty or the desire to be approved. I had high expectations for myself and performing well held off the fear of failure. I had small interest in people who
offered little that would further my ministry goals. As a pioneering visionary, I looked beyond the local community to the city, the nation and the world, so it was important to be strategic in everything I did. Even being a good pastor was a stepping stone to a “higher calling.” God had given me a burden for unity, so I began reaching out to local pastors and initiated a regular gathering that eventually grew into a unity movement in the city. Some of us began to really like one another. But the important thing was to “reach the city for God.”

There’s nothing wrong with a sincere desire to obey God or to be awakened to a burden he’s given. But if love is not the underlying and overriding motive that carries the desire and burden, we’re building on sand. Yet if we’re serious about knowing him, he will be faithful to lead us gently down a path where everything that once defined and validated our “ministry” and sense of worth is stripped away. We’ll lose our false identity and enter no man’s land where we’ve lost control of our destiny, haven’t a clue as to what the future holds and are not sure what else beside Jesus we’re sure of. We realize that somewhere in the past we must have asked him to reduce us to love, even if we didn’t use those exact words.

I wonder what impact on the world the church would have today if everyone feeling called to “ministry” believed and practiced the one commandment Jesus left us with before he was crucified. What if all visions, strategies and attempts to build something were put aside until one learned to love well? I think we’d find that building up one another in love is the strategy and the only way to build. I saw God do some amazing things in those too rare times when I let him fill me with his love and put my own plans aside. Whatever is done in love will remain forever. All else is wasted effort.

We don’t need to die to self; that already took place at the cross. We don’t need to get closer to God, we’re already one spirit with Christ and seated next to God in heaven. It won’t work to try harder, Jesus finished working for us. We only need to trust him that he loves us with an unsurpassed love exactly the way we are and let that love overflow to everyone around us.

David Fredrickson

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Real Church

Stephen Crosby posted a blog awhile ago which included the following:
Dr. Alexander set up a scientific experiment in the 1970s which involved a lone rat in a rat cage with two water bottles. One was laced with cocaine and the other just water. In this well-known experiment, it was allegedly proven that nine out of ten rats in the rat cage will go back, again and again, to the cocaine bottle until they killed themselves. The conclusion taken from this experiment was that the rats were hopelessly chemically addicted to the point of suicide.

However, in a later alternative experiment he called Rat Park, many rats were together in a habitat of relationships, food, tunnels and exercise. The previously addicted rats stopped taking the deadly drug without coaxing, withdrawal, or removal of the drug from their environment. The chemical hook was not strong enough to stand against the bonds of relationship that were introduced in Rat Park.

Recently I saw a nature program on TV that dealt with animals that formed relationships with other animals of a different species. One example involved an old goat that became a guide and constant companion to a horse that lost its eyesight. With no human prompting and receiving no reward he guided the blind horse to grazing and resting places for years until the horse died.
In another instance, a lonely gibbon monkey tagged along with a troop of monkeys of a different species. Although he adopted the tribe, they never fully adopted him, yet he would do whatever it took to attract their presence. Even without any significant interaction with them, he stuck with them rather than be alone.

Unfortunately, some of us fail to grasp the importance of community to the degree that these animals have. Today most Christians think church is a group of folks sitting in pews staring past the back of a stranger’s head at a man they don’t know who is delivering a sermon to people he may never interact with. Afterward they leave the building, also called a church, and may travel considerable distances to their homes where some have never met their neighbors. They will not see the strangers at “church” for another week.

What the New Testament designates as church has absolutely no relationship to the scenario described above. The local expression of church involved a community of believers who were joined to one another in love and lived out that love during the week as they instructed, taught, served, encouraged, built up, sang songs to and confessed their sins to one another. They were instructed to know those who labored among them and beside them, for how could anyone be an example to those around him/her if their lives were not open books?

They understood that when they came together, Christ was in their midst in way that they could not experience individually. But whether physically together or apart, being joined by one Spirit, they were moved by sacrificial love such as Jesus demonstrated at the cross. It meant putting aside one’s own agenda, needs and expectations to serve others in what ever way was needed.

Paul exhorted the Colossian believers to be “united in love, SO THAT they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” But he makes an even more amazing statement when he told them; “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you (corporately) have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” It’s by this authority that strongholds are broken and through this unity that Jesus is revealed to a lost world. It is this love that moves us to reach out to the poor and dying, welcoming them into community where they will find unconditional love, help and healing.

This is what real church will always look like, for the Kingdom of God is not compromised by the weakness of man and his tendency to reduce heavenly reality to something earthly he can control. As seldom as we see community as described above, it is not an empty ideal, for nothing less can be called normal for the Church of Jesus Christ.

David Fredrickson

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Worm or Wonderful

A new episode of our podcast “Untangled” is up. “You’re just a worthless sinner!” is the way the gospel is often shared. Is that true? How does God view us? How much value does He place on us? And just how finished was Jesus work on the cross when He said, “It is finished!” David and Loren discuss in this podcast God’s perspective of us and the only real labor that remains for us to do: to believe Him.

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Jesudamilare’s Song

I have a friend in Nigeria with whom I’ve been communicating via email for a couple years now. Most of the folks who’ve emailed me from Africa and India are looking for funds, but this young man has sought advice and counsel only. Having left the religious system not long before he first contacted me, he has been on a journey familiar to most of us who have taken the road less traveled. Though he is now beginning to see some fruit from his labors, the he’s taken is no less difficult. I think many of those reading this will be able to identify with the prose he wrote.

And days when the heart’s thoughts
Are scribbles that shame even a toddler…
The jumbles are criss-crosses of pain
And despair and a settling futility
For the outstretched hands thought
To have grasped the “elusive” reality.
Is this a game of hide-and-seek?
The fiery dart painted with “Yes”
Flies like a heat-seeking missile, strikes
Hard, draws blood, spurts poison
But a resounding “No”, the voice of a
Trumpet from within, blasts and yet whispers…
My heart is held in this place of agony
Is it weak to be weak? To say, I don’t know
And not have all the answers?
Is a smile pasted on the best solution
To a throbbing, bleeding heart?
Must people see one who has it all together
Every time they look at me?
Am I scared to be perplexed?
Averse to the silence of questioning in the heart?
Where is the place of faith?
Is this the phase of revival as of the
Bed-strapped patient who’s just coming
Out of a coma? In & out of the dark…off & on?

Oh for ten thousand tongues
To sing of His grace
Oh for ten thousand songs
To lift up His praise!

I don’t have answers, pat & trite
He’s weaning me from them
Not all questions need have answers
That do only the hearer good but drives
Deeper the nails on the speaker’s coffin-lid
The word is “On the third day…Oh
On the third day, He would raise us up!
That we may live in His sight…
The taste, the foretaste lingers
The only thing that perplexes is the suddenness
Of an high going to a low
How does one manage the transitions
From exultations to the drawn faces of
“Father, why hideth Thy face from us?”

But this is the terrain
Of attaining unto sonship
Son though He was, yet learned He obedience
By the things that He suffered and…
AND being made perfect…
And so we cling to the Anchor
That holds within the veil—
The Resurrected Life of Jesus
That holds true in spite of changing seasons
That whether living or dying, dry or on fire,
High or low,
WE LIVE SOLELY BY HIS LIFE!

How True!

David Fredrickson

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Tainted Love

Have you ever been to a home and garden Show? They’re basically massive sales and marketing events. Businesses set up booths and run all kinds of contests and specials with the hopes that you’ll become a client. You’re constantly approached by nice people asking you questions like, “How would you like a free vacation to Hawaii?” or “How would you like a patio roof installed for free?” My first thought when I’m approached is, “What are you trying to get from me?” These folks aren’t offering these deals out of the goodness of their hearts, they have an agenda. They want me to join their vacation club for $3,000 a year or for me to purchase a $5000 patio roof. As much as I enjoy going to the occasional home and garden show, it’s funny, not one time did I ever think to myself, “Wow! These people really love me!”

The sad thing is this is exactly what much of Christian activity done in the name of love looks like to the world. Christians will give away free turkeys for Thanksgiving, hand out free hot dogs and bottled water at parks, shovel snow off driveways and walkways in neighborhoods, and hand out candy and presents for Halloween and Christmas. These are all kind things to do. The problem is most of the time when these things are done it’s for the purpose of getting people to visit and hopefully join one’s congregation. Just like the merchants at the home and garden show, there is an agenda attached. The kind deed does not stand alone; the doer is after something from the recipient. When the free turkeys, hot dogs, and water bottles are handed out and when those driveways are shoveled you better believe a flyer is handed out with the name of the group responsible along with an address and meeting times. What appeared to be love suddenly just turned out to be nothing more than marketing. It was nothing but a PR campaign done using Jesus’ name. This is why many groups refuse to be a part of anything for which they will not receive the bulk of the credit. Help another congregation with something they’re doing and receive no recognition? HA!

See, real love, God’s love, comes without an agenda. The moment a flyer or an attempt to get somebody to do something in return is attached to the act of kindness it ceases to be love. Now it’s either marketing, or worse, manipulation. Sadly, many Christians are so stuck on following their own agendas and doing their own thing that they have substituted the Holy Spirit with manipulation. They have their thing they want to build, their name they want to get out there, or their organization they want to increase so they’re already out of tune with God’s heart. And being that God isn’t in what they’re doing they have to lean on the flesh, their own strength, to achieve their desired results. So they turn to marketing and call it love. But they’re just another booth at the home and garden show and those who encounter them are left with a bad taste in their mouth.

Ever wonder why so much of the church in America is powerless? She stopped asking, “Father, what are you doing?” a long time ago. (I don’t think most ever were asking that.) Today, even when congregations do dare to ask Father what He is doing most have drawn up clear boundaries within which He must work. If He moves beyond those boundaries or moves contrary to our plans and agendas we immediately dismiss Him and return to our agendas. Few dare to actually do what He is doing in this hour. So, what do you do when you’re not doing what God is doing? First, you make it look like you are. And second, you lean entirely on your own strength to get anything done. You hand out turkeys and hot dogs with flyers.

A true act of kindness is done without blowing a trumpet. Christians sound a trumpet every time they proclaim “Look what my group did for you!” “MY CHURCH gave you that water bottle!” “MY CHURCH shoveled your driveway!” They have their reward right there. The folks saying, “Oh, that’s nice.” is their reward. Sadly, competition is one of the main motives for kindness we see displayed by congregations today. They want you to join their group, not that other one.

Real love comes without a thought or the need to draw attention to one’s self. Paul even wrote in 1Corinthians 13 that love does not boast. It doesn’t say, “Look what I did!” “Quick! Call the TV station and tell them about the nice thing we’re going to be doing this Saturday at 9 AM on Elm Street!” What a nightmare! Paul went on to say love is not self-seeking. It doesn’t ponder, “How can we promote ourselves?” “How can we get people to do what we want them to do?” It doesn’t use kindness to get something in return. See, genuine love is a reflection of God. But since most Christians think God is a big bragging showman who does stuff to get us to do what He wants, they act this way.

The truth is God is humble. How do I know? Jesus is the exact representation of God and look how He CHOSE to live while He walked among us. He wasn’t “God in disguise.” He was being who He is. He chose to be with the least in society because that’s where He likes to be. He also never gave to get anything from anybody. How many times did Jesus follow up with the people He healed? “Hey Peter, did you get that centurion’s contact information? We’ll probably want to follow up and invite Him to walk around with us once a week after he realizes I healed his daughter.” Jesus just gave of Himself and sought nothing in return. He didn’t even want people to go around blabbing about the miracles He performed. This is the face of love. This is the love that changes the world.

Genuine love comes without a hook. This is actually unfamiliar to many Christians because most live in a world built on expectations. “I’ll do this for you so you’ll do that for me.” I’ll call you up during the week to see how you’re doing so you’ll come to my Bible Study next Thursday. I’ll be your friend as long as you keep going to my church. I’ll volunteer to help with the children so you will make me a Sunday School Teacher next year. I will be a committed hard worker and agree with everything so you will make me a leader. Then we dare to turn around and say, “We’re family!” “We love one another!” That ain’t love folks! That is nothing like Jesus.

There are no hidden motives or angles behind real love. Real love doesn’t look for anything from another or use others for one’s own advantage. When we see Jesus for who He truly is and have a revelation of the affection Father has for us we begin to see agendas attached to love as the poisons they truly are.

Loren Rosser

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ISIS, Christians, & America: A Clash of Kingdoms

A new and hard hitting episode of Untangled is up. What should be the Christian response to persecution such as that we’ve seen dealt out by ISIS? Should Christians take up the sword and fight back? Is America a Christian nation? Should Christians strive to gain political power in nations to steer them in a “Christian” direction? These hot topics are discussed by David and Loren in this timely podcast. You’ll want to listen to this one all the way to the end, if you can handle it. We knock over a lot of sacred cows in this one, but not to stir up controversy. In order for the church to grow up, we must embrace the Kingdom of God, not this world. 

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Kingdom of the World vs Kingdom of God

Dwekh Nawsha, a Christian militia whose name is an Assyrian-language phrase conveying self-sacrifice, is standing up to ISIS as the terror group tries to stamp out Christianity in Iraq and Syria. The group is accepting foreign recruits, as are other groups in the area, AFP reported.

When I read the above with the article that accompanied it, I thought of Peter. He was one of Christ’s most passionate followers. When Jesus told his disciples that he was headed for Jerusalem where he would be handed over to sinful men and crucified, Peter was filled with “righteous” indignation. He took Jesus aside and exclaimed; “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” The answer Jesus gave Peter is familiar to most Christians. “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

The truth is that Peter and most of the other disciples were still in a kingdom-of-the-world mindset, a kingdom that is ruled by Satan and is opposite in every way to the kingdom of God. Although Jesus demonstrated the nature of his kingdom in many things he said and did, they would not really understand until it was fully demonstrated when he humbly submitted himself to his killers, was crucified and rose again. Consequently, Peter did not learn his lesson after Jesus’ stunning rebuke. When the soldiers came to take Jesus away, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus told him to put away his sword, “for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.…”

Through Calvary, Peter and the other disciples would learn the true nature of the kingdom of which they were now citizens. They would begin to understand why Jesus would never directly address ethical issues, did not condemn the Caesar for his gross immorality, or push for political reform. When he instructed them not to resist an evil person or return evil for evil, to turn the other cheek and to give your cloak to a person who sues you for your shirt, it all added up to the cross. His is an upside down kingdom that never uses power to rule over or force submission, but rather comes under to bring change to hearts rather than to external reforms.

As Gregory Boyd points out in his excellent book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, Phil. 2:6-8 shows that ‘Christ renounced the claim to govern history, choosing instead to win the world through sacrificial, loving submission.’ However we choose to respond to insults, threats to our freedom or even persecution, ‘if it doesn’t look like Christ dying for the people that crucified him, it isn’t the kingdom of God.’

It’s rather ironic that the name of the Christian militia conveys self sacrifice. Is putting ones self in danger in order to kill the enemy the kind of sacrifice Christ taught and demonstrated at the cross? My purpose is not to condemn these militants, but to point out a worldly mindset that a majority of Christians have bought into since Constantine and the Crusades. Yet violence against our enemies is as foreign to the Kingdom of God as was Hitler’s campaign. How can the church possibly demonstrate the power of God when she’s been seduced by the kingdom of the world? The real enemy is Satan, who has deceived the church into fighting people Christ died for instead of exposing his tactics by the power of the cross. For as Boyd also stated; ‘The best way to get people to lay down the cross is to hand them the sword.’

Our purpose for taking up the cross to follow Christ is not to help create a better world, turn our nation to God, and certainly not to defeat the human enemies of Christianity. We live and move in sacrificial love so that the world will know that the Father sent the Son. We live to let the power of love flow through us to set the captives free from the prison of self so that hearts are changed and lives are transformed.

David Fredrickson

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