Friday, May 26, 2017

Pulling a Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of our nation, created his own version of the Bible. Jefferson did not care for the miraculous aspects of Scripture, the resurrection of Jesus or His followers who wrote the New Testament. He called them “ignorant, unlettered men” who created “superstitions, fanaticisms, and fabrications.” So, with a razor and glue in hand, Jefferson cut and pasted a version of the Bible he called, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. 

It seems the spirit of Jefferson lives on in our nation. Scripture cutters have always been among us and continue their work to this day. Some have given themselves to cutting and deconstructing Scripture to such a degree it has become a drug of choice. They have become pushers of this drug and the kingdom of darkness has used that addiction to create spiritual drug cartels that produce addicts ready to mainline strange and unhealthy doctrines. 

While this cutting is taking place, it is easy to miss an important distinction. While there are people who are pulling a Thomas Jefferson with misguided cuts of Scripture, others are rightly dividing the Word by carefully unpacking the historical background required to correctly interpret and understand what was written. For example, trying to understand a difficult section of Scripture without knowing the context and audience to whom it was written will leave you with a partial, and in some cases, a dangerous misunderstanding. We need this valuable insight if we are to rightly represent the heart of God. 

A reformation is taking place within the Church. The process of reformation has produced a renewed desire to correctly interpret Scripture and to take a second look at our tightly held assumptions. This Spirit-birthed stirring has come to prepare us to consider new and undiscovered aspects of our faith.

Jude, a half-brother of Jesus, wrote to the believers in his day about this subject, “I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” The faith Jude described was the original deposit of faith that we will spend the rest of our lives trying to unpack and understand. Some call this faith a progressive revelation. It is not progressive in content but in the way we progressively unpack the immensity of its original deposit. On our best day, we only see bits and pieces of the truth of God. Contending for an understanding of the original deposit is not meant to be a contentious interaction with other believers. It is supposed to be an honest and honorable search for a clear understanding of a truth that remains the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Surround your life with trusted people who are gifted in the area of biblical interpretation. Give these interpreters the time needed to work out their own understanding of what they offer before you blast them away with a premature dismissal. These inquisitive relationships are part of a healthy spirituality. Put down your fear, your biblical cutting tools and the all-too-easy-to-attach label of “heretic”. Let the Spirit walk you through this uncomfortable season of reformation with wisdom and discernment. On the other side of these challenging experiences, you will discover a stronger, healthier and more informed version of the Church.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Outside the Door of Reformaiton

Martin Luther had to nail his 95 Theses to the outside of the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. He did this because those inside were not yet willing to receive the transformation that a reformation of their thinking would produce. Reformers are currently nailing the demands for a new reformation to the door of our current expression of the Church. These reformers are not the enemy. They are prophets announcing the way forward. Leave the sanctuary of the status quo and bravely go to the front door of your spiritual experience. Read what the reformers have posted. What they are asking us to consider will reveal our future and eventually, it will become the record of our history.

The Coming Birds of Pray

Last night, as I lay in bed just before falling asleep, an image came. I was being carried underneath the belly of a huge bird in flight. In my peripheral vision, I could see its massive wings working up and down. We were flying over something large but from our altitude, its largeness had faded in significance into the scenery passing below. The interesting thing was the lack of fear I was feeling. To be up this high and with nothing underneath would normally create fear but it was a flight of pure joy and wonder. I knew I was going to be safe and secure held in the bird’s powerful talons. I finally fell asleep with that image in my mind.

This morning, as soon as I awakened, I heard the Lord say, “I am sending the birds of pray”. The Lord showed me the words He was speaking like they were a ticker-tape presentation so I could see the actual words spelled out. I know birds of prey refer to raptors like eagles, hawks, and falcons that hunt and kill their prey. They are known for their unusually powerful eyesight and hunting prowess. 

The Lord explained that He purposefully changed the usage of the word prey to pray for a reason. Some of you have faced obstacles you need to get past. You can no longer wait at the base of these obstacles looking up at their summit of impossibility. God is about to intervene in order to transport you and your circumstance to the other side. You have prayed and the answers to your prayers are coming. When they arrive, they will be birds of pray – answered prayers - that are being sent to lift you up and over your greatest obstacle and put you down on the other side in a place of answered prayer.

This flight will be an exhilarating display of God’s power and His loving care for you. When this happens, relax and enjoy the flight. God will not drop you prematurely. He will gently set you down in a place that seemed impossible to imagine before the birds of pray arrived.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If it's Not in the Bible...

Have you ever heard someone say, “If it’s not in the Bible, I won’t believe it!” While I understand the desire for truth expressed in that statement, we need to understand a much larger reality about Jesus who is the Word and the partial presentation of His life given to us in what we call Scripture. The Gospel of John offers some understanding on this subject, “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).  Those unrecorded works of Jesus were no less “biblical” than what we read about Him in the Gospels and no less important than the works He is doing in your life and in the lives of millions of other people around the world. Bold sounding theological disclaimers like the one exampled in opening line in this paragraph carry the sound of integrity but lack understanding. Be careful with your words. 

Click Bait Culture

Last week, I had some time to kill so I began to scroll through Facebook. I came to something called a sponsored post. “Sponsored” means someone paid to have the posting show up on your Facebook feed more than normal because they want to sell you something. I normally move past those things but this one was about a piece of history I found interesting. I thought, “Maybe this one will be different”. It wasn’t. It was a series of 32 pages that carried only fragments of the promised article. If you wanted to read the entire article you had to hit the “Next” button 31 more times. 

On each page were loads of garish advertisements that were secondary baits used to either keep you clicking through the original article or jump off into another advertising universe for something you don’t need. Once I saw I had been taken, I bailed and returned to my Facebook surfing scrolling my way through my friend’s latest recipes or pet antics.

Here is a definition of “click bait” I pulled off an on-line dictionary: “An eye-catching link on a website which encourages people to read on. It is often paid for by the advertiser or generates income based on the number of clicks.”

A study done in the psychology of social media discovered that click bait relies on two things – curiosity and deprivation. The curiosity part is obvious. The deprivation part takes a bit processing to understand. The feeling of deprivation comes when you don’t click the bait. The image or comment plants a question in your mind. In order to find the answer you either have to labor through the research on your own or simply click the convenient bait being offered to quickly have your need to know satisfied and no longer feel deprived.

Here are some examples of click bait one-liners used to lure your response:

         “Wow - they forget the camera was still rolling!”
         “Number 2 is my favorite”
         “OMG – I can’t believe she did this!”
         “Wait until you see what they did!”
         “This is your last chance!”
         “I didn’t know a human body could do this!”

There is another form of click bait that is actually more dangerous. It is the click bait that gains its power from a lack of honor and integrity. This is the click bait of gossip. A friend says a few magic words and your sense of deprivation to know more kicks in and you take the bait and allow yourself to hear things about another person or ministry that soils your image of them with the convenience of unproven accusations or falsehoods. You could apply this to other things besides gossip.

God has called you to be a person who walks in a high level of integrity and honor. This calling can only be accomplished if you train yourself to scroll by the offerings of dishonor that want access to your eyes and your ears. This training begins when you go to your place of deprivation -and ask yourself a hard question, “What lie am I believing that would cause me to want to hear such things in the first place?” That lie will show you where your next advancement in honor and integrity will take place. These lies that conceal their presence under spiritual click bait will show you where you are finding satisfaction in something other than Jesus. Put those lies to death with truth and the next time the bait is offered you will scroll right by its false promise living in the freedom that only a life of honor and integrity can provide.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Living Without Regret

The most impactful and authentic things that take place in your life do not come from self-promotion or unbridled personal ambition. They are dropped into your life by the grace of God. These deposits are many times given in critical moments of spiritual growth as integrity checks to see how you handle their reality and steward their presence. Visibility in the marketplace of religion and a high profile ministry persona are never the evidence of character. They can simply be the result of effective marketing. Let God market your life. It will be far less complicated and will carry with it the sweet taste of a life lived without the bitterness of regret.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Reformation of Simplicity

As we begin to proof and format my new book, The Sound of Reformation, it is becoming clear to me the next reformation of the Church will not take place inside the Church as a structure or institution. It will take place between people in moments of human interaction in the marketplace, in homes, in city council chambers, in corporate board rooms, in big box store break rooms and everyplace  a follower of Jesus walks. The hallmark of the coming reformation will be simplicity. God is about to downsize the Church to remove the accumulated clutter of our faith in preparation for a return to the supernatural simplicity of our mission.