We are the Church, God’s Teaching Hospital

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

In real Christianity in which there is no demarcation between “professionals” and “amateurs” the church is more important than ever. Notice that every noun that Peter uses to describe the church is plural: race, priesthood, and nation. The cry is not “I am the church.” but “We are the church.” 

The refrain is not “No more priests” but “We are all priests.” In the church as Jesus established it, there is more individual responsibility than we see in the church buildings today and and more corporate action. 

When the church gathers then how should it look? The gathered church is often described as a hospital and that is apt. When we gather most of us need some healing, refreshment and renewal. I like to think of the gathered church as a teaching hospital. Those institutions have healing and the teaching of the healing arts as their purposes. When we gather as the church some of us are sometimes patients. Sometimes we function as caregivers to other priests in need. Always we should be teaching care giving, because the ones who really need it aren’t present on Sunday.

Followers don’t go to church to meet Jesus. They already know Him. Why do we believe its the best place for the lost to meet him? We have to move from having as our goal getting the lost to church where we hope they will find Jesus. As the churches reputation curdles, it becomes more and more important that we can each be Jesus to the lost outside the walls of the church. It’s getting harder and harder to get them into church. There have been several articles recently about the young fleeing the church. I read an eye opening article yesterday that asserted that this is because Church is boring. If done right, it isn’t boring to a follower of Christ, but it certainly could be to someone who is just a fan or who doesn’t know what He is. 

Sunday mornings are primarily gatherings of believers who already look at the gathering as a source of healing, restoration, and training in ministry. The attraction to our joy and the introduction to Jesus, the source of it, has to take place on the street. Even a non-believer who isn’t bored at church, but is fascinated by the love he sees there, may stay a fascinated fan without ever becoming a follower. 

A church who sees its weekly gathering as primarily a Billy Graham Crusade (which is certainly not in itself a bad thing) will miss its mission as a Teaching Hospital. If on Sunday we are focused on bringing in the lost sheep (when there may not even be any lost present) we won’t have time to heal, comfort, renew and instruct the priests who have gathered.

I love how Peter, whose faith Jesus called the rock upon which the church would be built, describes the purpose of the church  “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” When the church gathers, it should be to pump up, brighten up, refuel and focus each light, so that during the week that follows they can proclaim.

Who is the Church?

Be blessed.


Call a Professional or Do It Yourself?

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:9

At times I have really messed things up. I have gotten way into a project and realized I should have called a professional. At other times, I called a professional and realized I could have done the job, better, cheaper and quicker. What to do?

Centuries after Jesus joined His Father in heaven, after Christians went from a persecuted sect to the “in” church, we divided our people into professionals and amateurs. It wasn’t in the manual and was, I think, a huge mistake. We called some clergy and some “non.” We came up with “full time ministry” and “paid staff” and “ordination.”  Most of us became part-time, uncalled, unpaid, bench warmers. We sent some off for special schooling. We dressed them differently. We let the pros sit up front where they could be seen and admired. We trusted them with the manual and the mission. Church became a building where the professionals lived and worked, and the rest of us visited once a week. None of this is in the book. 

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. There are “positions” within the body of Christ, but those are based on giftings, not compensation, time served or commitment. I’ve read Ephesians 4:11: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” Every follower has a gift and  a calling to full time use of it. Dividing us into professionals and amateurs has caused problems for both groups and for the church in general. 

The professionals get separated from the masses. They are expected to carry the spiritual heavy lifting. They get to think they are in charge. (I thought Jesus was the shepherd, but what do I know.) The began to believe that since their existence wasn’t in the book, that some things in the book might be wrong or at least dangerous in the hands of amateurs and should be kept to professionals and that it was okay to add stuff that wasn’t in the book, because, they are, after all, professional. After a while, they valued the traditions, they created,  and their own reason as much as what was in the manual. It seemed like a good thing, but soon the pros realized that they really didn’t have it all together and couldn’t really do it all and really were in over their heads. They had made a mess of it and couldn’t admit it and risk losing their professional status. 

The amateurs seemed to benefit. They got to live their lives. Faith became a part-time business. Show up once a week and drop something in the collection and you were good. No need to know God or even know much about Him. No need to worry too much about the rules. A professional could forgive any slip ups and the professionals had made the rules way too complicated for amateurs to understand anyway. But deep inside, the amateurs knew they were missing out on the really good things, like joy and service and, well, God.

The church turned out to be less than Jesus planned. Ninety percent of the people lost their “commissions.” God’s desire to break through the curtain and know each one was disrupted by a system of representative Christianity. Energy and talent and love went unused. Pride and control and heresy crept in. The marvelous light was seriously dimmed.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You are chosen and royal and holy and very peculiar.  You are responsible for your faith, your walk, and your life. You need to follow Jesus directly. You have been gifted. You will be called to account as to how you used it or if you ever even discovered it. The professionals need to be rescued from their cells and the amateurs commissioned to their calling. 

It won’t happen for everyone. It just matters that it happens for you.

You’re not a professional. None of us are. But He is and that’s enough. Together, with Him back in charge we can be His Body as He intended.

Be blessed.


Never Good Enough

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

The truth—and it is painful to admit—is that no matter how good we are, we will never be good enough to satisfy God’s holiness. And that doesn’t change even after becoming a Christian.
Packiam, Glenn (2010-01-01). Secondhand Jesus (p. 128). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

If a parent told his children that they would never be good enough, he would be scorned and probably end up in court, but he would be truthful. I have know so many who, although they could accept they were not perfect, they believed that they were “good enough.” God doesn’t grade on the curve. He requires perfection, 100 %. We can’t make that grade.

Coming to grips with not being “good enough” should bring us to our knees. Thank God, He has provided an answer to this problem.

The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We … put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God … puts himself where we deserve to be. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 160.

Somehow the concept of Jesus’ substitution for us, slips through our fingers and we are left holding only the concept of forgiveness. We come to believe that salvation is a “Second Chance.” That having not been “good  enough to start with that having been forgiven we will now be good enough. Paul answered that question in his letter to the Galatians. 

Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up! (Gal. 3:2–4 MSG)

Grace is a double barrel blessing: forgiveness and the ability to obey. We still fall. We still need forgiveness. We still need grace. We have to be careful not to let our pride convince us that although we were “bad” before, now we are “good.” We can begin to believe that we have earned something by our new “good works.”

If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with “rights”—I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if I am a sinner saved by sheer grace—then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.
Keller, The Reason for God (New York: Dutton/Penguin Group, 2008),

Grace doesn’t make our obedience irrelevant; it makes our obedience possible.
Packiam, Glenn (2010-01-01). Secondhand Jesus (pp. 152-154). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

Our God is holy, loving and just.To us these, attributes seem inconsistent.  If we focus on His holiness, we are crushed, If we focus on His love, we are useless, if we focus on his justice, we are lost. We need to focus on His Son, and live.

Be blessed.


What Are You Holding On To?

You may protest, but the question we may never have bothered to ask ourselves is if our desire to serve Christ and our drive to succeed in life are mutually agreeable goals.

Packiam, Glenn (2010-01-01). Secondhand Jesus (p. 88). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

Some of us grew up in a very legalistic Christianity. It seemed that anything fun was not appropriate for the Christian. If it made you smile, it must be sinful. We were told that those happy in this life were forfeiting eternal bliss. It’s no surprise that many of us ran from Christianity as soon as we could.

The modern church has tried to call us back. There is a new message, “Christianity can be fun.” I believe in that message, but like most of man’s endeavors it has gone too far. In not getting the word of God directly, we have fallen victim to rumors about what the Christian life is. We have “learned” that Jesus can get us what we really want: wealth, popularity, good health, success. The prosperity gospel has become very popular. In some forms, it’s ridiculous: Send me $1000 and God will make you rich. But other forms are less obvious. Football players believe being a Christian can help you win the Super Bowl. Business men conclude that church going can assure the success of your business. Soccer moms believe that a fish symbol on your car will help get you everything a suburban wife could want.

Like most really good lies, there is a kernel of truth. God is not opposed to success. God does want the best for us. He does love us. But our ideas of success or what’s best don’t always match up with God’s. Some Christians will be rich and healthy and successful. Others will struggle every day just to survive. Our circumstances don’t define our spirituality, our hearts do.We are to seek after God and Him alone. Whatever else comes, comes. We can’t have both Christ and earthly success as goals. When we follow Christ, He may give us some earthly blessings: health, wealth, etc.; but if He does it’s for a purpose, not as a reward or as evidence of our commitment to Him.

Jesus warned, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Luke 16:13). When we decide to serve God, our service must be exclusive.  It’s not purely a money issue. Jesus also said that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

We are told to “Let Go and Let God.” That’s true as far as it goes. We need to “Let Go” of the world and what it offers, we need to hang on desperately to Jesus. We need to follow passionately and “Let God” sort out everything else. We can’t hold on to Jesus if our hands are still grasping for health, wealth, fame or success.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8).

Hold on to what matters and nothing else and

Be blessed.


Feed Me

Have you heard fellow Christians complain that they are not “getting fed” or that the teachings at their church are too shallow or basic, that they want more “depth?” 
What do they really mean? What can a pastor, preacher, teacher or even a blogger, do to address these concerns.
Sometimes what they really mean is “I have heard that before.” In response, let me say that the gospel is really simple to state, but apparently difficult to absorb, and a continuing struggle to apply. If you want each new sermon or teaching to reveal biblical facts you didn’t know before, you don’t understand scripture. The whole of scripture could be named the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It’s all about Jesus from Genesis to Revelation. Every time we look at scripture we should come away fixed on Jesus. If that seems like the same old stuff, sorry about that. We don’t need more facts, we need more application of the facts we already have. The solution to every great murder mystery doesn’t come with the revelation of new facts, but with an understanding of the facts we had all along.  If you hunger to learn more from the less preached sections of scripture, try reading yourself. Ever Christian should spend some time alone in the word, so that God can speak directly to him. 
Sometimes the “deeper” complaint really translates to “I can’t apply this to my life.”  Scripture is transforming and every encounter with it should have life changing power. But sometimes we are too self-focused. It’s all about us. We come to a teaching looking for an answer to a specific concern. We need to approach scripture and teachings about scripture looking for the face of God. He is the answer, even when we are asking the wrong question.  Jesus is the answer; no matter what the question. Most of the time our “issue” is just a distraction from what we should be focused on. . . God.
So what should we be looking for when we approach scripture either directly or from a teaching.:
  • Getting blood soaked. No matter how often we hear it or in how many different ways, we need to continually bathe in the blood of Jesus. The depth of what His death means to us personally needs constant refreshing. It’s a fountain that never dries. 
  • Reminder of sin and grace. Every encounter with scripture should be a reminder about God’s grace both His forgiveness and His empowerment to be better; but grace has no meaning unless we appreciate just how sinful we are. A newly washed car is only really beautiful when  you realize how dirty it was before the washing began. 
  • Putting works in their place. This idea is slippery. I keep forgetting that nothing I can do will earn me God’s grace, but there should be nothing I’m not willing to do in response to it. A daily reminder isn’t often enough for me. How about you?
  • Jesus wants all of me. I can easily fall into the trap of congratulating myself for the tiny parts of me I have given over to Him. There is always another part that needs to be surrendered. 
  • Remembering that the truth of Jesus is played out in community. I need constant reminders that the inquiry isn’t really “What’s the solution to my need?” It is rather “What am I called to do?” If we are lonely, seek out someone who needs a friend. If we are ill, visit the sick. If we feel lost, explain the gospel to someone. The response to every problem is to look out not in.
Going deeper is not about more knowledge, it’s about more commitment. A follower is deeper than a fan. If you find you are not “being fed” maybe it’s because you’re not hungry enough. 

Hunger after Jesus and you will be fed and you will

Be blessed.


Got God. Still Got Trouble.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV)

Somehow we get the idea that as Christians we should live a life free of trouble. So when we have trouble, we doubt our position with Christ. Our “Christian Friends” may counsel us to “have faith.” They may ask like the disciples, “Who has sinned?”

Christ promised us peace, not a trouble free life. Recently I was told I had a urology problem. It could be stones, or a tumor, but it must be something. I was troubled, but peaceful. I think as a Christian that’s where I should have been. Turned out there was really nothing significant wrong. But that’s not because I’m a Christian or because of my work with Kairos or because I do a daily blog. It’s because God is good. He doesn’t owe me good health. God is not a coke machine, dumping out goodies in exchange for something we do. A couple of years ago, I had a knee condition removed by prayer, when some great Christian friends ended up needing surgery. I struggled with that. Now the problem has returned. I’ll probably need the surgery. My “faith” wasn’t stronger then, nor were my friends weaker. God is God. He will do what He will do. Our role is to trust that He has overcome the world and rest peacefully in His will.

We have to be careful not to gauge our walk, by our situation. Our witness is not a problem free life. Our witness is peace in the storm, not the lack of storms.

Be careful about sharing your story too simply with others. We tend to say our life was hell before Jesus; now it’s great. That’s just partly true. We need to share No Jesus. No Peace. Know Jesus. Know Peace. That’s a much more honest explanation of the gospel. It doesn’t promise that saying a prayer will make a difference or that Christians live a trouble free life. It focuses on what Christianity really is: knowing Jesus.

Whether today is a day of trouble or not, God is still good.


Knowing God

Jeremiah 24:7

English Standard Version (ESV)

7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

Jesus sent His son, who gave his life, that we might be able to know God, to have relationship with Him. Why do we settle for less?

We seem willing to know “about” God. We shun first hand knowledge. Even with His word, we prefer to hear interpretations of what it means, shying away from reading it for ourselves and letting it speak to us directly. We don’t seek His face. We would rather hear from folks who say they have seen His face and get their interpretation of who He is.

Man has long had this problem. The children of Israel wanted Moses to go up and get the word from the Lord. They wanted a King. We want an intermediary. We want to forget that the temple curtain was torn and we have direct access. We are comfortable with other men as priests. We are happy sitting in pews and being told about God. As long as we seek intermediaries and go betweens, there are men willing to fill the role. But them we get a filtered God, not the real deal, often not even anything close to the Creator of the universe.

Perhaps we can’t handle looking directly in the face of God. He is awesome, but why deny ourselves the relationship we were created for. Because we have avoided direct knowledge of Him, we live with a lesser God. We rely on the “favorite” bible verses that make Him less awesome, less holy. We have a God who is an answer man when we have questions and a rescuer when we have fouled up things beyond our ability to repair. Like everything else in life, we want what we want, and not what we need.

We know, deep inside, that really knowing God will change us, and that we really need to change.

There is available to us a pearl of great price. We need to be willing to sell all that we have to get it. To get all of God we need to be willing to give up all else. We can know God, but with a relationship that potent, all else pales. Are we willing to give up all that we have to get all that we need? We know, deep inside, that we are settling for less than what Our Lord died for.

A farmer once was walking along the road when the King approached. He was carrying a bag of the wheat he had grown. The King stopped and asked him for some of his wheat. The farmer opened his bag and pulled out a single grain and shyly handed it to the king. The king opened a bag he was carrying, full of gold coins. He pulled out a single coin and gave it to the farmer. What if the farmer had given up his whole bag?

Our bags seem so valuable, but they are really not compared to what has been already purchased for us, Him.



Fifty Shades of Grey

When you think of porn, what images come to mind? Okay, I could have phrased that better. I don’t mean pornographic images. I mean who do you imagine watching or reading porn and where do they get it? Don’t you think of dirty old men or curious teenage boys? Don’t you envision the dark recesses of the internet or slimy book stores on back streets?

Not any more. Now porn is sold at Barnes and Noble and to women, even little old ladies. Fifty Shades of Grey is a trilogy containing not just sex but S and M. The “Fifty Shades” books have sold 15 million copies in three months, evenly split between e-readers and paperback as the novels jumped the barrier from the cyber-equivalent of plain brown wrapper to prominent display at your local bookstore. To put this in context, the publisher, Vintage, says it took three years to sell that many copies of the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series. The Tattoo series was one of the most popular series of novels ever, until now.

You might think that if little old ladies are reading it, it can’t be that racy. And lots of the ladies say they “skim over the sex” and just read the story. That reminds me of saying we bought Playboy for the articles. Consider this, the company that bought the movie rights (yea, a movie is next) is concerned that they will not be able preserve the story line and take out enough of the sex to get an R rating instead of the NC-17 rating which the material deserves. 

Another slant is that though the male character “Christian” (yea, Christian isn’t that great) starts off a damaged, domineering male,  his girl makes him a better man by the end of the third book. In fact, by the end the girl enjoys the kinky sex as much as he does. She is just in control. (No I’m not that familiar with the story. Just google it and you will find out more than you want to know.) 

Well, if women are reading this stuff can it be that bad. Isn’t it just a harmless diversion? Who gets hurt?  Let me just tell you a couple of things. One woman admitted she was so addicted to the books that she was avoiding her basic family duties. The sale of other similar material is now greatly on the rise. Porn is addicting. 

Several women said, they don’t mind reading about the rough sex detailed in the book, they would never do it. So guys, if you are thinking about spicing up your sex life by gifting your woman with a copy of the books, think again. Porn is fantasy and tends to replace the real marital relationship, not enhance it. No real person can live up to the “standards” of fiction.  Porn makes “normal” loving relationships seem boring.

So girls. Up to now we haven’t been willing to talk about the problem of porn. As long as it was “limited” to the internet, we could minimize the problem. Well, it’s at your favorite book store, Amazon.com, and in your best friend’s purse. What do you think about it now?

Pick up a good book for your summer reading. Even better, pick up The Good Book.

Be blessed.