Easter was this past weekend. The time when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ. It is also the time when many avoid reflecting on what preceded it. Christ’s brutal death on a cross. That is the part of Easter many don’t want to spend much thought or time on. No wonder. It is dark. It is sad in many ways. It affects our emotions in ways that is hard to grasp or imagine. It is harsh, painful and possibly inconceivable than mankind could be so brutal to someone who merely came to share the good news of God that created such animosity and offense to so many people.
For many in this world and Christians alike, we want to pass-over that day quickly (pun intended) and think about the joy of Easter. The resurrection, the celebration, the reason we can look to a heavenly future. But, without the Friday before, the day Christ died, there would be no Easter.
Christianity in the current age is in crisis. We spend a great deal of time focusing on the ‘Easters’ of life and not what it costs to have them. Many have joined the Easter parade of the sunshine and lollipop version of Christianity and it is slowly tearing down the foundations of the church and Christians within. We have evolved to want only the good and to avoid anything that feels or looks negative. Negative things are not all bad. They grow us. They challenge us. They make us aware and real. They show us the need for a savior.
Without the dark, we cant see the brilliance of the light. Without the light, we cant see the depth of the darkness.
The mega message in today's American culture and society is that everyone "deserves a trophy”. And sadly, that mindset has made its way into the church. The new message is focused only on the Easters of life - grace, love, equal treatment, acknowledgement and acceptance for all. The evolving church only wants to pull out "the greatest hits" of Christianity to make a better world. Sin is a negative word. Mistakes sounds better. Hell, well hell, we don’t even want to go there in discussion because really, who is actually going there anyway? The god of the modern christian is a morphed up version of the real deal but with the mindset of 'what kind of loving god would never send a person to that awful icky place the religious zealots call hell'? That is so negative and judgy!
The church is getting pressure from a multitude of influences that are pulling, pressing, challenging, questioning and criticizing it to be relevant. It can be hard for the modern-today Christian to keep their foundation strong. Like a giant tidal wave, the torrent of viewpoints from social justice to equality for all humanity is creating doubt, compromise and discarding the beliefs even in the most devout of Christ followers.
The modern Christian’s view of their god is that Jesus is their peep, their bro, their bud. He is warm and fuzzy and also somewhat of a tough guy, who when we don’t like a situation we are in, we just name that difficulty and demand he come to the rescue. It is like Jesus become the new modern day super hero that is only wanted when it serves our interests or wants!
The modern relevant and evolving christian doesn’t want all that negative sin stuff. That kind of talk doesn’t promote a healthy self esteem or sense of worth. Besides, who are we to judge another human being? How can we take a position that someone else’s choices, desires, marriages, or behavior is any of our business much less tell them what they can or cannot do? It's a theology that everyone has the right to create their own version of the feel good spirituality…even altering Christianity.
That's what many believe today’s church needs to be. To be relevant, in touch and evolving with social and cultural meaning. But it is not the Christian or the church of the Bible. It is actually an age old mistruth first spoken in the garden of Eden - Surely God did not say we would perish if we do our own thing! Surely being a Christian isn’t about giving up who you are or what your potential is? Surely, being a Christian isn’t about excluding or judging others? (1 Corinthians 5:10-14)
I read an article from a well known free thinking female social evangelist, who has been labeled the most polarizing woman of evangelicalism, (along with her fellow popular female bloggers willing to push theological boundaries). This persons foundational platform is that she wants to challenge the way Christ followers have believed. She said “I just know I’m not the only one who sits in the pew sometimes and asks, ‘Am I the only one who’s doubting all of this?”(1) All of “this” she refers to is the very foundations of sound biblical Christianity. She has a huge following of other like minded thinkers who are being invited into churches regularly to speak about topics that lull the Christ follower into a slow Christian compromising death, like a frog in a pot full of warm water. This warm love sounding truth that feels so right, ends up lulling the believer to a slow spiritual death.
This modern day religion infiltrating Christianity sounds ideal but it has been seducing and eroding Christianity and Christ followers from the inside out for years. It is subtle. It sounds reasonable to the reasonable mind. It sounds loving and kind and caring to the heart that is searching for meaning, significance and purpose. It sounds like Christ (almost). The bible is quoted. God is mentioned. It has in all appearances the look, smell and feel of an advanced form of enlightened spirituality that feels godly and full of grace and love. It is most deceptive because is sits on a fine line between truth and a lie. It has many appearances of godliness but lacks its power and truth.
The new world religion has roots everywhere and is becoming the norm in many churches. Dave Hunt is one of many who talks about this subtle erosion in his book the Seduction of Christianity. He quotes well known human-development pioneer Dr. Jean Houston from a 1983 interview where she said “I predict that in our lifetime, we will see the rise of essentially a new world religion..I believe a new spiritual system will emerge”. Her prediction is correct. And she herself has been a founding influence to this movement that has influenced psychology, business and the church. Houston said in 2016 -
"I have concluded that together we can discover the wisdom, the fortitude and the willingness to develop strategies and actions to preserve and enhance our world rather than destroy it…. Now is that time, and I want to help you become one of those who has the capacity, courage, stamina and stick-to-itiveness to be a bringer of new ways of being in your life and into this world…...her work assisting others in accessing and then living from their “authentic self” ... in keeping with her ability to speak the language of both science and spirituality, Jean’s describes our true essence in this way: “There are patterns for our higher being that I call the ‘quantum blueprint’ or ‘optimal template,’ but they could also be called ‘patterns for your higher being.’ These optimal templates are coded in your higher destiny, coded for unfolding in your body and your mind, and if contemplated and practiced, would allow for all manner of growth and opportunity."
Mindfulness. This new world religion is here and is very active. It has a holistic presence that preaches "personal responsibility -- to ourselves, to others, to our world, and to God...This is the kind of Christianity that works. Truly following this path with love, strength, and compassion, will bring us to a more peaceful, balanced, holistic life and world, with greater joy, fulfillment, and peace of mind for both ourselves and those around us.”(2)
It all sounds amazing and actually has some wonderful truths...but not all the truths. It presents itself as having a faith in God but it is a faith in self and self's ability to do good to others to self and to the world. Using scripture to support a belief does not make it a biblical truth. In the journey of this discovery of who we are and why we are here, we are slowly being wined and dined away from believing the biblical truths of what it means to be a true Christ follower. This new world religion feeds off biblical truths with a self serving spin that is attractive and misleading. I know, I got sucked in. It is the same things said in the 1960’s. "After witnessing the devastating consequences of world war II and having troops still fighting in the Vietnam war, western (especially North American) societies began promoting "peace and love" to help generate positive energy and to promote the preservation of dissipating environmental factors”.
What makes this so attractive to young and old alike is its ability to follow the fine line between truth and mistruth. It allows the follower to feel they are still connected to God while creating their own reality of what they believe. Picking out the best of Christianity and mixing in other niceties from other forms of religions and spirituality (Buddhism, Hinduism and New Age philosophies - if you doubt that, do a little research) and calling it the relevant Christianity.
There is a fine line between grace and consequence. Between love and holiness. Between truth and lies. Between heaven and hell. Between biblical and unbiblical. Between God of the Bible, and the gods of the world.
Grace is getting acceptance and forgiveness after acknowledging something that we have done that we know has hurt Gods heart or another person. Mercy is not getting a consequence for that thing we have done. In our world we have an order of conduct or laws that if broken results in consequences. To the recipient of a consequence, it might seem unfair. To the administer, it is fair and right. Even if it hurts to have to administer it. I think parents can get this concept well. In everything we do there is a consequence. An effect that affects. Some are positive and some not so much. The new world religious view is that the God of the Bible is harsh. Unfair. So, where consequences are promised for certain actions, they are ignored or criticized. If it is not liked - it is not wanted, accepted or believed. This way of thinking only wants the "love God". Everything is about love. If love is involved it is good and right and true. If love is not involved, if it is negative. To deny an assumed deserved right of another for a want or a desire, is judgy and bad. The fine line is where God resides. He is merciful, loving and gracious. But He is also just and holy. There has to be death before resurrection.
Holiness without love is legalism. Love without holiness is anarchy. The infiltrating spirituality wants love without holiness and grace without remorse. It wants all the benefits of Christianity without the sacrifice. A candy coated warm fuzzy trophy wielding we are the world Christianity that isn’t christian at all.
The only way to have our eyes opened and to see clearly is to get back to the basics.
"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
How do we get back back to the basics? Simply, re-learn what it means to follow Jesus.
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
Pretty simple, yet the hardest of all. We want what we want and when and how we want it. That is why the deception is so powerful. It tantalizes our desire for comfort and balance, for equality and social justice, but instead it slowly robs us of who we are as Christ followers and creates in us a sense that everything is acceptable as long as it seems good and loving.
Billy Graham said this regarding taking up our cross:
"In Jesus’ day, a cross wasn’t just a symbol of pain and suffering; it was mainly a symbol of death. What Jesus was telling them is that they needed to put to death their own plans and desires, and then turn their lives over to Him and do His will every day. You see, Jesus doesn’t simply call us to believe that He existed, or even to believe that He can save us. He calls on us to commit our whole lives to Him—to trust Him alone for our salvation, and then to follow Him as His disciples. He said, “And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27).
There is a cost to follow Jesus. It isn’t all warm and fuzzy. It isn’t about thinking happy thoughts all the time. He is not our buddy, pal or peep. HE IS GOD. And following the creator of the universe is not for the faint hearted. But it is all or nothing when it comes to following Jesus. We either follow Him or we don’t. My friends, there is no in-between Christianity. There is no greatest hits we get to pick from that feels the best to us. We either believe God is who He says He is, that the Bible is His divinely inspired word (all of it) or we don’t. The Christian life is not about being perfect or doing a desired set of idealistic behaviors...it is about being perfected in Him daily, as we let go of ourselves and take in more of Him.
To many, that is not very appealing. That’s ok. But it is Christianity. Its really pretty simple. We just need to choose daily which line we are following.
"The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
Other references: http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/
I was reading in Genesis and this verse stood out to me like a billboard -
"...Noah did according to all that God commanded him, so he did." Genesis 6:22
Why did this verse stand out? It wasn't so much about Noah's obedience but more about the fact the God gave him instructions and THEN he did them all.
Noah found favor in Gods sight. God chose him to build this huge boat, with specifications to the minute detail. Not just the length, height and width, but how many floors, where the door and windows were to be located, what type of wood to use and how to assemble it and cover it in so it wouldn't leak or sink. More details came with what and how to furnish the inside. Things like how much food to gather, what animals and how many and for what purpose. The most critical of all the details however was who was to go into the boat, when they were to go in and when they were to come out.
Details. And Noah did ALL that God told him.
It started with a conversation between God and Noah. God told him that all flesh was coming to an end on the earth. Then God gave the first instruction - Go make an ark of gopher wood and cover it with pitch.
Now... how many of us could build a boat from that? We might immediately respond with "sure God, but...how big do you want it? Where do I find the wood? How do I cut and transport the trees, collect the pitch...and oh by the way... why a boat? I'm in the middle of the desert and there is no real water source around here? How will I move the boat once it is finished?
Or, we might respond with "got it God!" Thanks for the vision, for sharing this huge thing with me and thanks for all the resources, knowledge and skills you have given me to carry it out. I wont disappoint you! Followed by making the plans, getting the workforce assembled, marketing it to let everyone know that God wanted a boat built and qualified and called individuals were needed to help design and assemble it.
Noah didn't do anything until God gave him the first set of instructions.
We don't know how long Noah waited to hear God say each set of detailed next step instructions or explanations but it appears there was a delay. God started first with the blueprints for the boat. 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. (In modern terms that is about 515 ft long, by 86 ft wide by 51 ft high.- depending on which unit and definition of measurement you use to equal a cubit) That is pretty specific. He told him he wanted three floors, a window on top and a door on the side and to cover it with skins and paint it with pitch.
It was to house every non mankind creature that takes breath through nostrils in pairs - Male and Female, and specific types, gender and quantity of animals to be used for a specific task later on. Consequently the instructions continued to include all the varying types of foods they were to provide for them on the boat, and the accommodations.
If you have been to the zoo, you can get a small picture of what the inside of the boat must have needed to look like to house every flying, crawling and walking creature - plus a big family.
That's A LOT of details!
Then God told him the why "Behold, I myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth"..Genesis 6:17
Noah might have thought, um God, it will take a whole lot of rain to cover and float a 50+ ft. high boat.
But God had all the details. Not only rain from the sky, but water was going to come up from the earth. "The fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened"..Genesis 7:11. After 40 days and nights of torrential downpour and ground flooding, the boat lifted.
The waters continued to fill the earth covering the highest peaks in excess of 26 feet above the tallest mountain until nothing was seen but water. Mount Everest is over 29,000 feet high!
The waters stayed on the earth for 151 days... About 5 months before they slowly began to recede...After a year, the waters dried up, but still, Noah did not step out of the boat until God told him to.
This would probably be the most difficult waiting moment for anyone. For over a year, sitting in a stinky boat, knowing you are sitting on top of a mountain, the ground is dry, you can see all around (Noah took the top off to confirm, yeah, the ground was drying up) but until you got your go ahead, you had to sit and wait...and wait...and wait some more.
I don't know about you, but I am a planner. God speaks a thought and I think cool! I can do this and make it happen! And when it fails, falls flat or seems like it is missing something, I come knocking, asking what I did wrong. One humbling thing I have learned..over and over... is GO may not mean now or in ways I think GO means.
God is the God of details. He will not give us a big task and tell us to GO do it, without HIM giving us the finite detailed blueprint for how to carry it out. The hardest lesson of all is to wait for Him to give the details - no matter how long we have to wait and even if the details come in small bits at a time. We need to wait.
So what might that look like for us to wait? Enter the Big vision - build a boat, write a book, feed the hungry, be a mouthpiece, start a church, lead a group, start a business.. Nice! Now what? Wait... don't plan, don't create, don't dwell. Just sit with God and wait and listen. God will give us the step by step of the what, how and when.
Noah listened. Waited. Then acted. Doing everything that God had asked him to, when he asked him to and how he asked him to.
2018 is a new year and a time that I have decided to wait for each step of instruction. At first I was scared..what if I don't hear God? What if I miss a detail and fail? Am I being irresponsible by not doing something?
God will make sure I wont miss - I need only listen and wait. So far, so good.
I don't know about you, but I have jumped when I needed to be still and was still when I needed to jump far too many times than I am comfortable admitting. I have tried to figure out meanings of things and how to carry out a vision only to find myself back on my knees. Many times my efforts have appeared to be a great success and sometimes a complete failure. Regardless of the results, when God was not in the details, it fell flat and fell short or complete satisfaction and fulfillment.
We live in a culture where wait is a bad four letter word. But, we are missing amazing blessings, joys and growth when we don't wait...Not to mention the loss others will experience when we don't do what God calls us to do in the WAY he needs us to do it and the moment it needs to be done. There are amazing things awaiting us and all those we encounter beyond our impatience.
Will you join me in 2018 to walk the journey to trust God in the details?
This morning I heard a message at church about pride in a way that I had never heard before. I have heard many messages, given a few myself even, but nothing like this. It left me in a good space - Humbled and grateful.
I had been praying intentionally for the past several weeks (after years of passively wondering) for God to show me how to live out His purpose in me. To fully and actively arise. Arise was the word God gave me for 2017 - to leave behind the old ways of thinking and doing and live in a newness he was revealing to me. I found however that in the midst of this years ‘arising’, there has been a powerful struggle.
For years I was considered successful in the worlds eyes. But a hidden mess inside. After a long season of allowing God to clean up that mess inside, I found I didn’t know how to be ‘successful’ without bringing out the very mindsets I left behind. Ones full of trying to prove myself to a world that was always changing the rules. There had to be a middle ground, but I couldn’t find it. Until today.
It is hard to say but I honestly didn’t know how to live confidently without appearing or feeling proud. I feared pride so much that I fled to the other end… shrinking back. But that felt like being a caged eagle - pacing and agitated - desperate to get out and be free to soar.
To arise and live as God had purposed me to be, in a world with so much self promotion, I couldn't sort out how to do that. How to be in the world but not operate as it does. As a Christ follower, I have not been able to figure out how to promote a business, handle self esteem setbacks and feelings of comparison with others without resurrecting the very mindsets I had left behind.
I had only learned in life, two ways of operating - bigger, better, stronger (to survive and be seen) or shrink back (in defeat). I knew there had to be another way because neither of the ways brought peace on any level - professional, personal and spiritual. But I could not see the way - so I have been somewhat frozen. Afraid to step out and afraid to sit still. Trapped.
In the corporate world, it seemed that bigger, better and stronger (or what I have shortened to be known as BBS) is the path to success. Self promoting exudes confidence and success. Stepping on others (intentionally or indirectly) and strategically plotting how to shine at all costs is celebrated as an assertive, goal and success oriented person. I hated that world. I hated that mindset. So, I tried what I thought was the only alternative. Quietly plodding along doing my best... while feeling I was rotting away in the land of the unseen and seemingly insignificant. I thought humility was waiting to be noticed, to be called up.. to be raised up. But that too was not the way and left me frustrated. Back and forth I floundered between bigger better and stronger and shrinking back. BBS had greater success than shrinking but both left me feeling dissatisfied and without peace inside. Not to mention not always positively received.
I was once celebrated as independent, confident, a quick start, a go getter, tenacious and determined. That encouraged the BBS to keep plodding along. But that small voice inside of me said something wasn’t right. As God removed the prideful self in me, I found that the life of being a BBS bull in a china shop was not for me. The alternative option I thought was all that was left. But that too was empty and depressing. I felt defeated and more like a wilted flower watching life and my passions pass me by. I have been frozen in fear of becoming proud and fearing disappearing into complacent nothingness. There had to be another way. But I couldn’t find it. I have been stuck here for three years.
My prayer turned desperate and intentional...
The awesome surprise came this morning. Now, I know that I am not the only one who prays for something and when the answer comes, discover there is so much more in the answer than we expect - and not always comfortable. I had trusted God would answer me. I just had not really asked Him the way I have these past few weeks. To be exact, my prayer was "God, I am tired of being stuck. Please show me how to walk in confidence in the purpose you have prepared and called me to without becoming a prideful twit or staying a scared little girl”.
"There’s no place I can go that Your love won’t find me.
No place I can hide, that You don’t see". - Bethel Music
I didn’t expect the answer to be so simple. It was humility.
I thought my shrinking back was humility. But what he revealed to me was in my shrinking back there was layers of hidden pride. That was exposed this morning during service. A dangerously masked pride fueled not by confidence and a healthy self-esteem, but a storehouse racked with hurt, negative feelings, self and other centered critical-ness. Ouch.
Humility. The middle ground between bigger, better and stronger and shrinking back. Pride doesn’t stand a chance with a humble heart.
All around us the world says step out, speak up, be seen. Christ followers hear distorted messages of be quiet, show 'humility' (that is false) and wait to be seen. Both are full of pride and neither show true humility.
C.S. Lewis said that "Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less”. Touting our accomplishments or sitting stewing impatient silence - both keep our focus on ourselves.
The pathway out is taking our eyes off ourselves and fixing them on God. Loving and accepting ourselves as God does - gives us the greatest sense of self-esteem. Being grateful for our strengths “and" weaknesses, balances us, keeping pride, comparisons and critical spirited-ness at bay. It is in this moment we truly Arise in the fullness of who we are and become fully dependent on God. Don't know how, when or where to share about your business or gifting - ask. What does God say?
When we take our eyes off ourselves, we can see the path we are to walk on clearly. The fog of pride is removed. Clarity revealed. Success unlike we have ever experienced is put into motion.
"Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will raise you up” - James 4:10
I didn’t expect the answer to be pride. I expected another answer. Something like a business plan. I was desperate for an answer and God showed up. The answer wasn't to 'get out there' or 'sit back'. It was to get my eyes off myself.
There is nothing wrong in advertising, promoting or soliciting a business. There is nothing wrong with offering your gifts and talents to benefit others. What is wrong is what is hidden behind it all.
Where are you at today? Do you compare yourself with others or other businesses? Do you hold yourself back waiting for someone to notice you, feeling resentment when others get noticed and you don’t? Do you manipulate, force or make a way for you to be seen, chosen and raised up to a special place? Do you find ways to let others know just how special you are while feigning false humility? The higher we try to climb to be noticed, esteemed and valued, the greater the distance we fall. Ask God today where hidden pride might be in you?
"Pride comes before a fall, and a haughty spirit before destruction" - Proverbs 16:18
Today's closing scripture at church seemed fitting to this blog as well. It truly captures how we can be successful in this world while not operating in the philosophies that it practices.
"the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.” - Micah 6:8
Don't forget to pick up a copy of my book, "Confessions of a Feel Good Addict"
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