When Quoting Jesus Harshes Your Mellow

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If the Internet were somehow the complete representation of the words of Jesus, the Bible would pretty much come down to this:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that [Jesus] answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
—Mark 12:29-31

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
—Matthew 7: 1-5

Jesus, sword in mouthIn summary: Love God and love your neighbor—and don’t badly judge your neighbor, either.

If the Internet is any indicator, that’s the sole breadth of what Jesus supposedly said.

And thinking that is pretty stupid, when you ponder it. But then many of the greatest quoters of the Bible have actually never read it from cover to cover, so what should we expect?

When some bad stuff went down in ancient Palestine, a group of people came to Jesus for an explanation:

There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
—Luke 13:1-5

Yeah, He went there.

“Way to harsh the mellow, Jesus! Those people came to you for some comfort, not criticism. What a buzzkill!”

But you see, the thing about the Christian faith is that it’s not a departure from reality. It’s not the puppy dogs and rainbow-farting unicorns you see on the Web. It’s blood, guts, and in your face. It’s as real as it gets. And Jesus isn’t going to selectively filter what He says to people so they can feel good about themselves and bad about the bad people, which, coincidentally, is what Jesus is saying everyone standing before Him is, bad.

Good people don’t have to repent. Only the wicked, rotten, evil ones.

When Jesus tells the crowd, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” He’s not mincing words. He’s saying this:

That terrible thing that happened to those people? If you don’t turn from your own wickedness and turn to God, something like it is going to happen to you too.

Except the Bible also says that the bad thing that is going to happen to people who don’t repent is going to go on and on and on.

Jesus also said this:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
—John 14:6

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
—John 17:3

Jesus said a lot of things people should listen to.

Don’t be a total hypocrite in your judging. Love God and love your neighbor.

And don’t be a complete dumbass by selectively quoting Jesus without knowing the rest of what He said. Because whatever your agenda is in doing so, you need to get over it. Why? Because unless you turn from your evil personal agenda and turn to God and His agenda, you also will end very, very badly.

The Godly Trait You Must Discern to Survive the Days Ahead

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There are two kingdoms, one of darkness, the other of Light. Can you discern which is which?

Strength / Weakness

Gain / Sacrifice

War / Peace

Clamor / Quiet

Taking / Giving

First / Last

Kingship / Servanthood

Self / Selflessness

The thread that runs through all the words on the right side?

Humility.

Remember that word. I believe with all my heart that it is the most important word for Christians to understand at this point in history.

Humility.

For followers of Jesus to properly discern truth in the coming days, I believe we must be looking for humility.

Upside-down churchThe Kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom. For that reason, most people cannot understand it, even people who claim to be part of it. Everything about the Kingdom of God makes little sense from a worldly perspective.

What good is weakness? What benefit comes from being last? How can one attain the heights as a servant? Why dwell in quiet? Humble? Really?

To lost people, it’s all foolishness.

Humility runs through that foolishness.

If Christians want to discern the times, the people, the events, and the truth, we must be looking to see humility.

Where there is no humility, there is no Presence of God. Where there IS humility, we will likely find God there.

I believe this is “first line” discernment for our times. Almost everything that is not of God will fail the humility test.

I look around and I see supposed Christians who are displaying no evidence of humility in their lives. Many of these folks have a national stage. For the sake of their souls, they should well consider leaving that stage. They show no humility at all.

I see many “Christian” events that are filled with loud, clanging gongs, with noise, self-promotion, and smug self-satisfaction. They are dominated by people who pat themselves on the backs for how much better they are than others. Read their books, and they always refer to each other. There is no humility in any of it.

You look on all sides, and the Church in America is filled with more, better, louder, bigger, and every level of eyecatching production and excellence, but there is not a shred of humility in any of it.

Where is God? He is in the things that go overlooked, the small, the quiet whisper, the person of no account. Those who lack humility cannot find Him because they are constantly looking in the wrong places, to the wrong people, and to the wrong ideas.

Christian, in all things, look for the humble. That is where God will most likely be.

But the humble is humble for a reason, and few people will take the time and effort needed to look through all the noise, pride, power, and fame to find what is truly humble and embrace it.

Please, look for humility. And consider walking away from anything that lacks it, no matter how worthwhile it might seem otherwise.

The soul you save may be your own.

Jesus Killed My Church–My Meditation on Guidance, Destiny, and The Big Lebowski

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Jesus Killed My Church by Randy BohlenderSteve Bremner at The Fire on Your Head podcast pointed out that Randy Bohlender‘s book Jesus Killed My Church was free for Kindle on Amazon, so I bit. Hey, provocative title–and I’d met Randy years before when our paths crossed at Vineyard Community Church in the Springdale area of Cincinnati.

The gist of Randy’s book: God leads. Put yourself in a place to hear His Spirit and then go with the flow.

Autobiographical and an apologetic for why you need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, Jesus Killed My Church documents Randy’s and his wife’s first encounter with the Holy Spirit, learning to listen and trust the hearing, and following God along unexpected pathways. They end up at a home for wayward teens in the hinterlands of North Dakota, an old-fashioned Tennessee church, the Brownsville Revival, Burning Man, The Call, and the defunct College Football Hall of Fame in Mason, Ohio, all the while keeping their spiritual eyes and ears attuned to what God had next. In between stops, the Bohlenders get input from folks I’ve broken bread with, Steve Sjogren and Rusty Geverdt namely, and they reject some voices that attempt to steer them away from their God-directed courses. I mean, who hasn’t received a phone call out of the blue from some “prophetic” caller pronouncing words that clash with someone else’s prophetic leading? Been there, done that.

All the words, dreams, infillings, and circumstances that seem too good to be circumstance land the Bohlenders at Kansas City’s International House of Prayer and their eventual founding of a Christian adoption organization.

Oh, and the church they planted back in Cincinnati withered and died, hence the title.

Now, I’m going to tie this story with The Big Lebowski. Because it’s obvious, right?

Probably the most beloved film in the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-filled arsenal is The Big Lebowski. Aging stoner and White Russian-quaffer Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski finds two thugs in his home who, in the aftermath of a shakedown for cash, promptly take a leak on his rug, a favorite household item that “really ties the room together.” Seems the thugs confused this Lebowski for another Jeffrey Lebowski, a wealthy one, who has a pornstar wife gone missing, presumably kidnapped.

While trying unsuccessfully to get recompense for his ruined rug, The Dude encounters a panoply of weirdos consisting of anarchists, pretentious artists, criminals, and denizens of a bowling alley, that sport serving as a metaphor for life. The slacker Dude stumbles from one bizarre scene to another, hoping against hope that something positive might go his way regarding his rug. In between, he sires a child, buries a friend, and tries to make sense of this nonsense as he’s swept from one odd happening to the next. Helping him to cope is a cowboy who drops in now and then to comment on the proceedings, because, hey, every mythic story needs its oracle.

I know it may seem strange, but I see Bohlender’s story and The Dude’s as linked.

Recently, I had lunch with a friend, and as we discussed the vicissitudes of life as 50-something white guys in America, he stated that the world we live in now may be God’s best possible outcome. I wondered then if it was best for the whole of the world at the expense of being the best for any one of us in it, and I still wonder that.

God may very well sovereignly make the best that can be made of this sin-sick world, but what does that mean in the lives of you and me? To fill the gaps and to make that “best world” happen, does it come at the expense (as God may require) of individuals who may or may not live their “best life now”–as Joel Osteen calls it?

We have this tendency to think that God is always working His best in our lives, but are we the focus? Or is the world the focus?

When we attempt to look at another’s life and draw conclusions from it, what can we really know? And does being a Spirit-filled Christian mean that we can make any greater sense of the direction of our lives compared with someone who isn’t Spirit-filled?

As a Christian, I believe God leads. But what happens when He leads and the outcome is not only unexpected but downright bad–or at least bad on the surface? And what if it’s not just bad on the surface but terrible no matter which layer you examine?

Bohlender paints a picture of guidance by the Spirit that seems wonderful and freeing in close-up, but when you stand back and look at the big picture, it seems no better than the random vicissitudes of life.

Is that how God works? Is this His “mysterious ways” we always hear about?

And how is this any different than the story of The Dude, who somehow ends up okay in the end, if not exactly in the outcome he expects? What separates the drifting pothead seeking nothing more than to get through another day from the ardent Christian seeking guidance to change the world?

Now true, one is fictional and the other not, but when we survey the lives of people, Christian or heathen, fact and fiction converge.

I believe my friend is right about this world being the best possible world God can make given mankind’s fallenness. What that means for what you and I experience of it individually–well, that’s much harder to grok. Some seem destined for greatness, while others get ground up in the gears, and it’s not always clear which camp they belong to.

All I know is a Christian knows that somehow it’s all in preparation for when this life is done, and sometimes the when, how, and why won’t make any sense this side of heaven.