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Christianity is full of celebrities today. Their mansions, private jets, flashy cars, personal attendants and exorbitant incomes easily match those of Hollywood film stars. They are the idols of countless followers who watch them on TV and send them their hard earned money. Yesterday, a friend was telling me about his friend who went to see a well known “prophet” about the use of some property. The big man’s attendants told the visitor he would have to be “cleaned up” before he could see the prophet. The apostle Paul wouldn’t have had a chance for an audience with the guy, especially after Paul had gone several days without a change of underwear.
Oswald Chambers pointed out that “as soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and luxurious prospects will open up before you, and these are yours by right; but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God choose for you.”
Few there are who opt to turn down the “road to success” for the sake of choosing the best over the good. In fact, money and the number of followers are the measurements used to determine whether or not one who serves God is successful in today’s corrupted standards. The result is that even the “good” degenerates to obsessive self interest that can only produce spiritual debauchery of those who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
But the digression doesn’t stop there. They develop false teaching that supports their interests and leads their followers into deeper deception. The Message puts it this way: “Apparently some people have been producing fantasy stories and fanciful family trees that digress into silliness instead of pulling the people back into the center, deepening faith and obedience. The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love – love uncontaminated by self interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God.”
But do we really believe Paul’s exhortation to Timothy that godliness with contentment is great gain? Our choices reveal the answer. Taking the narrow way is never easy, and if you’re a leader, you will most likely have more detractors than followers. But your “momentary light afflictions” are reaping an eternal weight of glory.
When I quit my job as a landscape construction estimator many years ago to serve full time with an organization focused on the unreached, I had few expectations. I had been reluctant to get involved with what I knew would be a challenging, time consuming venture with no promise of financial compensation. My evaluation turned out to be accurate, yet the rewards turned out far greater than I could have imagined, and I witnessed the power of God as I never had before.
Sent to “plant a church” years later, I started out with low expectations as well. But after a bit of “success” and some prophecies from respected prophets, my expectations for great things increased. I refused to use gimmicks or church growth seminar techniques, and made sure that no decisions were made for the sake of financial gain, but my determination to remain uncompromising made me all the more confident that revival was just around the corner. We prayed and fasted regularly as a congregation and reached out in our neighborhood door to door and with outreaches in the park. We gathered the pastors of the city together to pray on a weekly basis and began working together to see “one church in Sacramento.”
Revival never came. Oh, we saw sparks here and there that at the time convinced us that it was just about to break loose. And yes, God did some things among us that the churches of the city had never before experienced. But eventually it all disintegrated and returned to “church as usual.” My expectations were dashed and disillusionment set in.
Yet it was after I gave up striving for “spiritual success” that Father began to reveal a more excellent way. He revealed that I had nurtured illusions that needed to be “dissed.”
He began to teach me along with many others who set out on the same journey, that Christ is the one who builds his church, and he never does it the way we think it should be done. This ensures that when he does great and mighty things, no man gets the glory.
Even after we learn these truths and become faithful to them, we may never know success as measured by human standards. One may be faithful, obedient and live sacrificially for the sake of the gospel and still encounter financial hardship and emotional and physical suffering on a regular basis. This is all made so clear in both example and teaching in the scriptures, but Western Christianity has no theology of suffering nor do we view our lives in the context of eternity.
Without hope, that confident expectation of the glory that awaits us, we will become disillusioned regarding God and our walk with him rather than with those illusions that need to go so that we can be free from self. Christ alone is the hope that cannot disappoint, our expectation and exceeding great reward. He alone is our glory and the lifter of our head!
A new podcast is up! We are usually taught by this world to keep up an image of strength even when we are weak. This is how many are trained to minister to others. But interestingly, Paul spoke of glorying in his weaknesses. These things are often skimmed over as we read the Bible as if they’re merely nice little poetic sayings or Paul being modest. Yet, the truth is Father truly is glorified in our weaknesses because He loves us right in the middle of them. It is often in our weaknesses that others are touched because there is less of us and more of Him. When we don’t live in denial of our struggles we are less prone to become Pharisees and are better able to genuinely connect with others. http://untangled.podomatic.com/entry/2014-09-09T11_55_42-07_00
Last week I had a few days when it seemed that everything I attempted to do failed. What should have been a twenty minute job replacing a wax seal on a toilet turned into a three day marathon that climaxed with an expensive plumber’s bill. Meanwhile my computer was being ravaged by spy ware until it was useless. That problem also ended with an expensive fix. I will spare you the recitation of other details associated with those three days.
I’ve learned that it’s no use to ask God “why?!” during those little episodes. In the past he’s already made it clear that I’ve asked for it. I’ve told him often that I wanted to be like Jesus. It turned out that he doesn’t accomplish that by softly laying tenders hands upon me and gently massaging his image into my being. I discovered a long time ago that more Bible reading or singing worship songs to him don’t do it either.
The problem is that I want things to go smoothly. I don’t want my goals to be frustrated. I want to do the practical stuff quickly and efficiently so that life will be sweet and I’ll have more time to serve God. His answer to me is that his and my short term goals are different. He’s only concerned with answering my prayers requesting to be conformed into the image of Christ. He doesn’t need my service, he wants me. So I knew that already, right? Unfortunately most of us who call ourselves followers of Christ may know what that means in our head, but have little understanding of how it works out in terms of practical application. Being basically selfish, I’ve been a slow learner, but God searches the heart and will perfect what he’s begun.
What do we know experientially about kingdom economics? (See blog for Aug. 29th) What do most of us know about the fruit of love? There are more than enough Christians who sing love songs to Jesus, talk about loving him in meetings, and tell him how much they love him in prayer gatherings. They revel in times of intimacy where his presence
seems almost tangible. In such instances they feel like they love him in return.
But what feels like love is not real unless it engages the needs around us. Emotional highs never reach beyond ourselves and only lead to self deception and fruitlessness. If one’s at a costume party dressed like a farmer its O.K. for him to call himself one even if he’s never seen a chicken. Its only make believe, so no one’s expecting an egg. But miss-
directed self love masquerading as intimacy with God ensures that those deceived by it remain sterile while encouraging infertility in others.
Genuine love always leads to the cross. As I was stumbling through those three days of petty troubles, I thought about how I was enjoying a picnic compared to those who were being beaten and burned to death in areas where I’ve preached. If one could talk with martyrs before they were burned at the stake, most of them would say they were simply living the normal Christian life while looking for a city with foundations. Today most Christians are looking for a foundation that will ensure a life of security and comfort on this planet while the lost are dying around us and the poor are going without basic needs.
Jesus is our only sure foundation. We are eternally secure in his love and are blessed with the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Peace and joy comes when we take our eyes off of ourselves and our circumstances and pour ourselves out for others. It’s walking in resurrection life that only comes through the cross. Nothing less can be called authentic Christianity.
My computers been in the shop, so I was unable to put up a blog for awhile. Here’s a thought until I can get around to it:
Love isn’t love unless it’s engaged. Love can’t be engaged without producing. If you’re at a costume party dressed like a farmer it’s O.K. to call yourself one even if you’ve never seen a chicken. It’s only make believe, so no one’s expecting an egg. But miss-directed self love masquerading as intimacy with God ensures that those deceived by it remain sterile while encouraging infertility in others.
Just wanted to give everybody a heads-up, because of changes in Bob Humphrey’s schedule and workload he hasn’t been able to podcast anymore. But don’t fret! David Fredrickson teamed up with Loren Rosser to continue the Family Room Media podcast. Loren had his own podcast he started after moving to Texas called “Untangled” so David has joined him on that one. But we haven’t been able to sort out the technology yet to get the podcast onto the Family subscription for those of you who subscribe to it. We don’t have an estimate on the length of time of when that will happen. So, in the meantime we’ll post the link to Untangled here and you can either play it out or download and even subscribe to it through the link. ENJOY!
This week’s podcast:
In and out. Night and Day. Love and Judgement. Did you know that love and judgement for us humans are polar opposites? We weren’t created to judge, that place is reserved for God alone. But thanks to partaking of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil we thrust ourselves into a position for which we weren’t created. We were created to abide in the love of our Father not to be experts on good and evil. The root of that knowledge is actually the desire to live independent of God. We cannot abide in love and judge others at the same time. We either eat of the Tree of Life or The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is what Loren Rosser and David Fredrickson discuss in this podcast.
Most of my closest friends are in the middle of some degree of what Westerners would consider a financial crisis. Outgo is exceeding income. Life savings are either non-existent or on their way to extinction and every attempt at creating a sufficient income stream comes up empty. I have an intimate understanding of their dilemma as my wife and I are in the same boat. Yet none of us are underfed, homeless or on foot. Somehow God provides us with more than we need for the present and often supplies many of our wants.
Shortly after I resigned my position as senior pastor of an institutional “church” I was stymied in every attempt to find employment. With a hint of exasperation, I asked Father what he wanted me to do. His answer: “Do whatever I tell you to do and I will provide.” Years later it occurred to me that what he said could be taken as a paraphrase of Matthew
6:33: ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.’ I had almost forgotten that this had been the foundation of our lifestyle for 12 years before accepting a pastor’s salary.
For the 10 years since, we have never known a regular income that matched the outgo, yet the bills are always paid on time, we enjoy a nice home, and even take an occasional vacation. Unexpected sums of money from unexpected sources have come seemingly out of the blue. We have never put out a newsletter or broadcast our needs in any other way. Even so, I would feel more comfortable if I could count on a regular income that matched the outgo. That only proves that I have a lot to learn about child-like trust and still would like a measure of control. I could cop out and say that I only want my wife to feel secure, but she’s doing as well as I am with our unpredictable future.
I can’t remember when I’ve ever heard a sermon on the verses that precede the one quoted above. ‘So do not worry saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?”
or “What shall we wear?” for the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.’ Running after luxuries (anything above basic needs) is not even considered. I wonder how that truth fits into prosperity doctrine. Is there any difference between religious Christianity’s attitude toward provision and finances and that of the worlds? I’m afraid it would all have to be defined as pagan economics.
I’ve shared meals from a common finger bowl in unlighted mud huts with generous folks in Kenya who were more content than many overfed Americans I know. I never met anyone more at peace with their situation than a beautiful young Indian woman who lived in Mumbai in a huge slum where the “dwellings” were nothing but gunny sacks draped across sticks. They had no furnishings, just a dirt floor with nothing on it. She was one of the few in the slum that had a job. She earned a few rupees making roti (unleavened bread) and was able to sustain herself with the income so that she could live beside the sewer in her five by 10 foot dirt space where she gathered a several children daily to share Jesus with them. She had everything Jesus promised; food, clothing and opportunity to serve. She asked us for nothing. Welcome to Kingdom Economics 101.
A friend told me a cute story about his 4 year old granddaughter a couple days ago. Ella was sitting on the kitchen floor ignoring her toys, so her mother asked her what she was doing. “I’m thinking about the bad things I like to do,” she said. “Ella Jane, that’s not a good thing to do!” her mother said. “I know, but I still like to think about it.”
It’s human nature to judge people by what they do. We’ve been either punished or rewarded for what we do or don’t do before we could walk or talk. Religious teaching has reinforced the concept and encouraged us to believe that our ultimate worth is based on our behavior. But when Jesus addressed the Pharisees at one point he quoted Isaiah 29:13: “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ ”
The ‘rules of men’ are focused only on behavior. God focuses only on the heart. Jesus went on to say that it was what comes out of the heart that defiles a man, ‘for out of the heart come evil thoughts…’ Of course evil thoughts lead to evil behavior, but what if a person was so disciplined and had such a strong will power that they were able to keep from following their evil thoughts with actions? Would they be less guilty than the one who acted according to their thoughts?
I will never forget what God told me one day many years ago when I first began to “pastor.” “You’re a Pharisee,” he said. “You keep yourself from ‘sinning’ by your will power and raise the bar high for those who are weaker willed than you are. Keeping from sinning has no merit unless it is I who am keeping you.” God is love, and love is the only pure motivation for good behavior. Otherwise, we may as well do whatever we please.
And, in fact, we should, for if we walk in love, it will please us to please him, even in our thoughts. We no longer have and evil heart, but a new one with the law of love written upon it. If we guard our new heart with love, our thoughts and outward behavior will follow.
I often encounter people who feel like they’ve entered a season with no direction in their lives, like they’re wandering around in the dark. These are folks who love God and want to do his will. Yet it seems as though he’s looking the other way and turning a deaf ear to their requests for guidance. There are a few areas I’m dealing with right now where I can definitely relate.
In a religious setting, we’d be told that we had sin in our lives or we weren’t spending enough time in prayer. Or maybe we were failing to submit to leadership who would be more than willing to tell us what to do.
There’s an interesting scripture in Isaiah 50:10-11 that addresses those who fear and obey the Lord, yet walk in the dark with no light. It simply instructs them to trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God. It goes on to say that those who try to manufacture their own fire and walk in their own light will lie down in torment.
If creating a sense of obligation or shame doesn’t do the trick, religion is always good at creating light shows, making it look likes something’s happening when it’s not. Just get involved, get with the program and you’ll be fine. It’s like offering strange fire on the altar. Yet religious obligation, shame and false hope equal torment.
But according to Isaiah, leaning on Father and believing that he loves us keeps us in the center of his will. So if we’re in the dark, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that sin is blocking our path. And we don’t need to know anything other than that he just wants us to trust him and receive his love. The darkness will pass, and you’ll be exactly where he wants you to be; in his arms.
Yet trusting in and relying on God leaves no room for passivity. Blind Bartemaeus was sitting by the road begging, but his ears were open to what was going on around him. When he heard Jesus was approaching he was ready for action even though being met with resistance from those near him. When Jesus called to him he cast his only means of shelter and income aside and ran to the one who he fully trusted to be the Messiah. He received his sight because his actions proved his trust in God to be everything he needed.
Sometimes we stay in the dark longer than Father intended, because we’ve let deferred hope dull our hearing or are unwilling to give up our security blanket/s. But the only security we can count on is his unchanging and unsurpassed love that overcomes every obstacle and meets every need. Hope that is based on any thing or anyone but God himself will always be disappointed and will keep us in the dark, but hope that’s anchored in his faithfulness produces a trusting heart that banks on who he is rather than what we think he said. Then we can run with reckless abandon to the one who is the light.