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

Standard

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.

Words that Hang, Haunt, or Heal

Standard

Colorful microphoneWords matter. As we enter an election cycle, we’ll hear a plethora of words. Christians must make sense of those words and also ensure our own replies bear the marks of Jesus.

Politics is a nasty business in general, but like all professions, people can be good or bad at it. We should celebrate those who show a measure of political skill and astuteness. We must also be careful that our own political speech respects not only words in the present, but also those in the past and future.

Case in point…

Christians in 2008 lambasted a senator who made little effort to complete his first term (his first national office of any kind) before running for president. They deemed this “opportunist” “irresponsible” and too callow for the highest office in the land, with scant national leadership experience and next to none internationally. The vitriol leveled at this senator reached a fever pitch, with people wringing their hands over his rush to the Oval Office.

Today, we have three GOP presidential candidates, each with enthusiastic evangelical Christian support, who are first-term senators that have yet to complete their terms, yet no one in evangelical ranks is calling them “irresponsible” or “opportunists” or is criticizing their inexperience or their rush to be president.

I call shenanigans.

Really, the double standard here is not worthy of the Body of Christ. Problem is, it’s the kind of selective forgetfulness that makes Christians look foolish in the eyes of lost people. We use words to express ourselves, but then they hang us later.

It’s not just in politics where this happens, either.

In charismatic Christian circles, we have self-named, nationally known “prophets” who supposedly speak for all charismatics, making eschatological claims or calling this person “the antichrist” or prophesying some oddly worded thing that supposedly comes from the mouth of God yet never comes to pass. Later, the world stage changes, and the old antichrist is forgotten, replaced by the latest bad boy in the news.

Or, we have regional or local area seers who go around speaking to individuals and prophesying over them, always something wonderful and amazing, yet that wonderful, amazing word never happens, haunting some poor recipient who now wonders how God could fail. That is, until the next wandering prophet minstrel show blows through town and those burned replace the failed word with a new one sure to forecast something even more amazing just for them.

Shenanigans again.

Or in noncharismatic circles, we get church leaders who announce some new program that promises to revitalize the congregation, and it’s sold, sold, sold until the people in the seats relent mentally to this greatest initiative ever—until it fails a year or two later and the leadership moves on to the next new whizbang thing, leaving everyone else to wonder what the heck happened.

In all these cases, the word pronouncers and announcers hope we have the memory of a fruit fly. And sadly, we tend to.

Christians can’t live this way, though.

We can’t be people who forget what was said. We can’t be people who say things we don’t practice or don’t stick with.

And while we can’t NOT hold others responsible when they attempt to backtrack or whitewash, neither can we withhold forgiveness for careless speech when it’s sought with a contrite heart.

The Kingdom of God does not rest on halfhearted words, retractable “truths,” and broken promises. It doesn’t apply truth selectively. And while it does hope for the best, it acknowledges we are dust and failure lingers as our human condition.

I confess that I’m not a perfect person, not even close. Sometimes, my memory isn’t tack-sharp, but this is not to say I don’t try to be consistent. I’ve been writing Cerulean Sanctum a long time, and even my perspective has changed. Some old posts don’t perfectly reflect everything I believe now, or nuances crept in over time, yielding a tangential view that trumps an older, once-primary perspective.

But growing in Christ means acknowledging shifts and failures in words and views. It means saying, “I was wrong” or “My view on that has changed, and here’s why.” It means not forgetting what we say, because words have power, and the wounding words of yesterday, though forgotten by us, may still linger in another person’s life, wreaking damage day after day.

Maturity isn’t about never changing a perspective or never making a mistake. It’s about owning up to our tainted speech, our human frailty, and helping others own up to theirs too.

Perhaps when we do, true healing will come, and with it a fruitful life.

No More Fear: Peace, Love, and Confidence as a Witness for Jesus

Standard

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
—Psalms 118:6 ESV

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
—John 14:27 ESV

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
—1 John 4:18 ESV

If you were to ask me what word described American Christians at this moment in time, I would not hesitate. That word is fear.

Fear of terrorists

Fear of homosexuals

Fear of whichever political party is not ours

Fear of someone who might take our means of defense away

Fear that America has been usurped by people who hate America

Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear.

Social media is increasingly a fear fest, where the whole world can see American “Christians” publicly display their myriad fears of this or that.

Desperation undergirds that fear. Powerlessness too. People are flailing, looking for anything they can grab onto, as if they’re drowning. Which they are—in fear.

I was born near the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. My father told me he was sure his soon-to-be first child would never see the light of day, obliterated in a nuclear exchange between the world powers of that time.

We can talk about whether this age is more rightful in its fear than that one, but that’s missing the point. We always seem to be missing the point, which is this:

For the Christian, there must be no fear.

Jesus commanded that we not be afraid. Is that not enough?

For the person who does not know Jesus, there is good reason to fear. But there is no good reason for the Christian to be afraid. If Christians fear, it is because we love our lives too much. It is because we fear punishment. It is because we are not perfected in love.

If that’s you, go to the Lord and let Him deal with that fear in you.

Every generation of Christians believes it is the terminal generation, the final one before Christ returns. Whether this generation is or isn’t changes nothing. The Lord says, “Don’t be afraid.”

Everyone is watching the news for more terrorism, more war, more natural disasters—more of everything that should cause fear.

The Christian instead responds with peace amid the turmoil, love amid the hate, confidence amid the questions.

The Christian is the one lost people go to for comfort because the Christian knows the One in whom she trusts is faithful.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
—Romans 8:35-39 ESV

Lost people watch us. They search for something, anything different about Christians that shows us to have something no one else possesses.

Standing on the rockThey look to find someone who loves his enemies.

They seek to find someone who models fearlessness.

They long to find someone who is a rock of peacefulness, unmoved by shifting tides.

People everywhere are dying for the Church to be unflinching in the face of fear.

Christian, if you refuse to give into fear because you rest on the finished work of Jesus and on His faithfulness, then the result will show in your words and actions. You will be an ambassador for Christ and for His Kingdom, which not only cannot be destroyed, but also cannot even be blemished in any way because it is impervious to anything that comes against it.

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
—John 12:25 ESV

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
—Romans 14:8 ESV

Even if you die, nothing can be taken away from you, because Jesus has already given you everything, and your life is hidden in Him. What is His cannot be taken away from Him—ever.

Be an instrument of peace.

Be a vessel of love.

Be the person who does not fear.

Be the person who comforts others when they do.

The world is watching.