Hmm, I Wonder What My Father’s House Shall Be Called?

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PrayerThe fashion today finds some churches talking smack about how long the worship portion of their Sunday meeting persists.

“We open with 20 minutes of nonstop praise to the Lord!”

“Well, we spend 40 minutes lifting up His name!”

Meanwhile, churches continue to build or renovate so that the altar area is more like the stage at a KISS concert. It used to be that a church could drop $50,000 easily on sound equipment. How 2005! Now they spend that much on stage lighting.

Can I ask a simple question?

What did Jesus say His Father’s house shall be called? A house of a 45-minute worship set with lasers?

When was the last time you heard anyone brag, “We open our meeting with a half hour of prayer”?

Something is monstrously wrong in American Christianity when a church of believers can sing some bad rock songs interminably  and then brag about it, yet you can’t get the assembled Body of Christ at that same church to spend five minutes in shared prayer.

I wonder if we’ve reached a stage where we can say that our Father’s house has become one of misplaced priorities.

He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
–Matthew 21:13

You see, there is more than one holy thing such robbers can steal.

To Whom Shall We Go?

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Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life….”
—John 6:68 ESV

One of the oddities I’ve encountered in talking with Christians who have been walking with Jesus for decades is that many of them are asking the question Simon Peter asked of Jesus. There’s a sense that many are looking around, wondering if this Christian “thing” is it.

I find this odd because this renewed asking of Peter’s question is starkly opposite the intent of the original. Context should help:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
—John 6:48-69 ESV

boots, walking awayThe context here is that Jesus laid out such a Christ-centric statement that the challenge of it blew his followers’ theology to pieces, and they could not accept it, which led to only the core group of followers remaining with Him.

What strikes me is that mature Christians today are asking, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” not because what they are facing is too challenging because it is too Christ-centric, but the opposite: Christian faith in the 2010’s has become too facile and not nearly Christ-centric enough.

This reversal in what is stimulating the question amazes me.

What you have are mature believers frustrated to death with dog and pony show churchianity that talks about everything BUT Jesus, and they are going to Jesus and asking, “To whom shall we go?”

Of course, there is nowhere to go but to Jesus, but the problem for those older believers isn’t with Jesus; it’s with the dead religious show that is foisted on them in churches across our country.

Where do you go to get away from that and to the real thing?

A recent study showed that the apparent decline in church attendance isn’t what it appears to be. Yes, on any given Sunday, fewer Christians are in church. But the real reason is that more and more Christians don’t feel obligated to attend church every week. They may skip a dozen Sundays or more in a year, where once that kind of “mostly there” attendance was unthinkable. In short, the number on the church rolls hasn’t changed, just how many of them attend on any given Sunday.

I wonder how many of those folks are struggling because they feel that need to be in church, but they can’t take week after week the inautheticness of the packaged religious experience that passes for church in America 2014. So, they skip now and then.

Perhaps it should be: “Lord, to where should we go?”

If anyone can answer that question, please let the rest of the country know.

Fools

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DuncecapThe fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.
—Psalms 14:1 ESV

The English Standard Version translation shows 202 verses in the Bible that contain some variation of the root word fool. Reading those verses makes it evident that the world is filled with fools and folly.

Indeed, we are all fools in wisdom and knowledge when compared against God.

But some don’t get this. And they don’t comprehend it because they have no humility. If anything, they exult in their foolishness:

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
—Proverbs 28:26 ESV

Claiming to be wise, they became fools…
—Romans 1:22 ESV

I’m tired of foolish talk. Sadly, we live in an age when the people babbling on like fools are most likely viewed as wise by most of the world. I see a lot of scientists who get face time in the media prattling on with foolish and desperate theories about this and that, and it’s clear after a while that the one thing you can say most assuredly about their views is that they desperately want God to vanish. Fact is, God doesn’t care what they think because such people are fools, no matter how many letters and titles they stack before and after their names.

The really sad part about that is almost all of Western science is based on the ideas of scientists who were Christians, or at least who ascribed to a Christian worldview. In fact, because the Christian faith is one of the only ones that contends that God is both knowable and understandable and the creator of an ordered world that reflects His knowability and understandability, science is even made possible. What would be the point of examining a capricious world built on the whims of an unknowable God or on the ruthlessness of a random world? No, that science exists at all is because God Is, God Was, and God Will Ever Be.

But then, the fool can’t begin to comprehend that truth. Somehow, the fool thinks that faith and science can’t co-exist or that science alone can answer all the questions of life. Which forces us to ask, in the end, who then is the truly close-minded?

I listen to a lot of discussions between atheists and theists, and the one thing that never fails to strike me is that for all their learning, the atheists never seem to know all that much. Their arguments are remarkably simpleminded, and when people of faith bring up the slightest aspect of what it means to live by faith, the atheist seems baffled by such reasoning.

But then, atheists are just people who are unable to admit they are sinners and that their thoughts are futile and packed with one sinful idea after another, and isn’t it easier to justify all that mental futility and wickedness by erasing God? For intellectual cowards, yes, that may be true, but not for sober people who look at life with any seriousness.

I’m not surprised that people try to erase God as a means to justify their immoral lifestyles, though. A recent scientific study shows that many people are unable to morally reason from the perspective of someone whose beliefs differ from theirs. In most cases it is people who hold more “liberal” attitudes about life who cannot grasp the thinking of more conservative people, though the reverse is demonstrably not the case.  While this is not intended as a political statement, it nonetheless shows that an incapacity to grasp some moral truths does exist in people, especially those who proclaim their “enlightenment.” In that same way, the Bible says that issues of faith are foolishness to many. Things of the Spirit are incomprehensible to them:

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
—1 Corinthians 2:12-14 ESV

We live in an age when spiritual discernment is at an all-time low. Our leaders talk all sorts of lofty ideas, but they cannot bring themselves to talk about God or anything related to Him because they don’t know Him. In the end, their wisdom is actually foolishness, and that foolishness is blasted out for everyone to see and hear and receive as “wisdom” when it is anything but.

Sadly, some who self-identify as faithful are just as foolish. Many people who parade themselves as Christians are peddling fear instead of faith. That’s foolishness, too, and yet those hucksters are able to gather around them a sycophantic horde and sell millions of books that do nothing but stir the pot of fear.

In the midst of all these fools, what does God ask of us? It’s pretty simple actually:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
—Micah 6:8 ESV

Fools can do none of those things. Only the wise can acknowledge that, without Jesus Christ, we are all fools.