Thoughts on a Prayerless House of Prayer, “Premarital Sex” as an Oxymoron, and More

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I’ve been accused of being a thinker, but I just bluff well. Fact is, my Myers-Briggs is strongly ENFP, which makes me a feeler instead. Still, I’m always in my head, though the heart rules.

Some things I’ve been pondering…

Prayerless House of Prayer

I don’t have any figures to back me up, but my own experiences over the years tell me most evangelical churches spend about five minutes praying corporately during any 60-90-minute Sunday meeting. Mainline Protestant churches may up that to 10 minutes out of about an hour. Either way, it’s slim pickings prayer-wise.

When Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple, He referred to the temple as a house of prayer. While it’s an error to conflate the OT temple with a NT church, the idea that corporate prayer matters still exists. Consider how many references to prayer the Bible contains.

Consider this also: On your own, you can listen to a recording of a teaching/sermon, sing songs to God, and find out about goings-on in your church, but you can’t pray corporately without a corpus, the Body of Christ.

So what the heck is our problem on Sundays with praying as a group of believers and actually spending some time doing so? Isn’t that one of the purposes and tasks of the Church? Do we simply not believe our own mantra concerning the power of prayer?

Makes you wonder if one reason people eschew church meetings is because the church isn’t doing what it should be doing anyway, so what’s the point?

Is Premarital Sex an Oxymoron?

Facebook’s trends sidebar recently included “news” of celebrity couples who “saved themselves” for marriage by refraining from the wango tango before the wedding. How bizarre that this qualifies as something we need to know.

We think of fornication as sex before marriage. Adultery is sex after marriage but with someone who is not one’s spouse. Both trend high on the “really bad sins” list in the minds of most Christians.

A challenge: What does the Bible say constitutes a marriage?

Almost all Christian wedding ceremonies quote this verse from Genesis:

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
—Genesis 2:21-24 ESV

Here’s the baffling reality: For as highly as God and Man hold marriage, there’s no proscribed marriage ceremony in the Bible. No set words to say. No vows to make. Nothing. We have other examples of things to say or do as shown in the Bible for hallowed events, but weddings, nope.

When you look, almost nothing is said except that a man who defiles a virgin must pay a bride price for her and make her his wife, but if her father objects, the man still must pay dad the money (see Exodus 22:16-17).

So does the wedding ceremony really mean anything?

If we get down to the purest essence from that Genesis passage, we find these elements:

  • Leaving parents
  • Holding fast (cleaving) to a spouse
  • A sexual union that formally makes the couple one flesh

So, is marriage simply the following?

  • Have sex exclusively with one person, leave your parents, and set up your own household.

Because it seems to me that’s the definition of marriage from a biblical perspective. Which makes the whole issue of premarital sex an oxymoron. The sexual act itself creates what God recognizes as the formal union. There’s no ceremony there, just the intention to start a separate household.

We understand why adultery is wrong. But what if the real sin in fornication isn’t the sex itself but having sex without any intention both to stay true to the other person and to establish a separate household with them?

Really changes the perspective, doesn’t it?

Super Bowl as Church Meeting

Heard more arguments for making Presidents Day the Monday after the Super Bowl. I don’t see any drawbacks in doing so.

Except that the Super Bowl has become an alternate Thanksgiving Day, only with friends instead of family members. It’s the religious holiday for people who feel no compulsion otherwise to do anything religious.

Used to be that Sunday evening church services didn’t bow to the Super Bowl, but now they do. Many churches cancel whatever Sunday evening meetings they ordinarily hold in deference to the Big Game. One could argue that all the elements of a church service (communion meal, worship, separation from other events, identification with a restricted group, and fellowship) exist within a Super Bowl party.

Makes me wonder if instead of decrying our perpetual slide into worldliness and placing too much emphasis on things that will pass away (such as Super Bowls), we Christian instead try to understand what we have done to our church meetings that so many people would rather be at a Super Bowl party substitute.

False Football Prophets

Dear Lord, I hope it’s not true that some self-proclaimed prophet said revival would only come to America if the Panthers won. Looks like my hopes are dashed.

Are there any genuine prophetic voices left out there?

Of Kingdoms and Politics

Christians I know continue to line up behind their chosen presidential candidates, and it’s a hot mess honestly, much more than usual. It says something about the beliefs of the supporters and how they read the Bible.

  • Those who feel the need to upset the establishment, to turn against the Pharisees and usher in a new kind of Kingdom, so to speak, support Trump or Sanders.
  • Those who desire a kinder, gentler, humble Kingdom are falling in for Carson.
  • Those who want a Kingdom that transcends boundaries and makes peace between factions look to Rubio.
  • Those who instead want the King to come, winnowing fork in His hand, to separate the wheat from the chaff support Cruz.
  • Those who nostalgically recall the way the Kingdom used to be are in for Christie, Bush, Kasich, or Clinton.
  • And I’ve got nothing for Fiorina.  😉

Thoughts?

Want to rebut or endorse any of my musings from above? Please comment below. Your comments make Cerulean Sanctum a great place to be, and I appreciate them very much.

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.