The One Thing The American Church Must Not Be Fueled By

Twelve years ago, I quit one of the great joys of my life. I had enough. I was disgusted and embarrassed and I felt hoodwinked, used, and deceived. So I quit.

Baseball, this great game that had captured my imagination and heart since I was in junior high, had become bloated, monstrous, and impure. Steroids had turned the game into a chemistry experiment and the players barely resembled their true selves. Worst of all, every sense of pure fascination and enjoyment I experienced as a fan became a fool’s errand because surely none of these players had achieved transcendence and great heights without taking a short cut, without cheating themselves and the game. So, I was done.

In the last few years, I have started to feel the same way about the American church. It seems to be taking short cuts and injecting itself with a substance that makes it swell and produce unusual results. This substance is fueling the church and has increased its power and significance. But this substance is anything but Godly, only serves to achieve results while corrupting the body with a toxin that looks just like the rest of the world and dismisses the purity of the Christ that it proclaims.

This artificial and harmful substance is anger. Somehow, anger has become accepted as a means for the church and its members to handle life in the 21st century. And it keeps holding on to it because it keeps getting results even though it reveals a heart that is corrupted, unchanged by Christ, and linked to false power, deceit, hate, lying, greed, and oppression. I don’t want any part of this acceptance and complicity with anger.

human fist

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus was so against the use of anger that he described three different levels of punishment due the angry person. He says they are worthy of judgement, arrest, and even hell, simply on the basis of their anger. A wise man once said, “Anything that could be done with anger can be done better without it.” We may think that anger is the only way to get results and that we have to join the ways of the world to be significant in the world but all anger is doing to the church is poisoning any real value it might have; any real word it might bring that is loving, hopeful, merciful, faithful, gentle, kind, and peaceful.

Jesus continues his emphasis against anger in the passage referenced above by saying that our worship will lose its meaning and purity if we still harbor anger. He knew how anger corrupts and he makes quite an effort to get his followers to eradicate anger from their lips and from their lives.

I don’t want to quit the church or my affiliations to it but I will not participate in a steroid version that barely resembles Christ’s intent for it or turns it into a bloated, ugly, malformed entity. May we all assess our methods of fueling the body of Christ, the church, and end our love affair with anger. Christ will have nothing to do with it and we shouldn’t either.

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Worth Your Weight In Salt

Because I am becoming increasingly concerned with the inability of

Salt

Salt (Photo credit: krissen)

American Christians to live out their faith in a practical and realistic way that does not require fanaticism about issues and politics, I thought it would be good to move through some teachings of Jesus  and discuss how these teachings actually live out in daily life.

I am no expert but I hope to bring a thoughtful and reasoned approach. Plus, I am a disciple of Jesus and he has taught me a few things over the years. The main focus will be Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Matt. 5: 13

What a warning this verse is. Imagine not being “good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” This is why our actions as Christians should be thoughtful and directed by the Holy Spirit. A Christian that acts out of emotion but fails to discern God’s will or listen to that “still small voice” is at risk of turning their salt into nothing more than white specs on the ground.

As a Christian, you are Christ’s representative on earth. You are called to be little Christ. We should filter all of our actions through Christ’s actions and ministry. We should be so knowledgeable of Christ’s teaching and ministry that we intuitively understand how much our actions mirror who Christ was and is in us.

There are endless words written on “how Jesus would” drive, vote, eat, or work. I don’t know if we can answer all of these questions but we can, with just a short walk through the gospels, notice that Jesus emphasized love, abiding in him, healing, forgiveness, prayer, and sacrifice. To remain salty, these are the things we should be characterized by. Other things may put us in position to lose our saltiness.

 

How To Inherit the Earth and See God

 

Because I am becoming increasingly concerned with the inability of American Christians to live out their faith in a practical and realistic way that does not require fanaticism about issues and politics, I thought it would be good to move through some teachings of Jesus  and discuss how these teachings actually live out in daily life.

I am no expert but I hope to bring a thoughtful and reasoned approach. Plus, I am a disciple of Jesus and he has taught me a few things over the years. The main focus will be Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus only had two kinds of people who followed him – those who needed him and those who didn’t. The first group is obviously the people who were mired in sickness, sin, or devastation. The second group are those who were so against what Jesus was about that they followed him in order to prove him wrong or catch him in a religious mistake. These were the Pharisees.

The Pharisees and their wealthier counterparts, the Sadducees, were the groups of people in Jesus’ time who thought they had cornered the market on blessing. Their religious piety, their wealth, their gender, their reputation, and their health, in their minds, were all signs that they were deserving of blessing. If you did not fall into this category of people than you were blocked from God’s blessing.

You will notice that Jesus doesn’t list any of the common characteristics we would list as deserving of blessing. He doesn’t mention good looks, education, marriage standing, or occupation. Instead, his list seems like a mistake. The spiritually poor? The meek? The mourners? The kind souls who practice mercy? What exactly makes these people deserving of blessing?

That is the point. The common distinctions that humans make regarding who is really well off are thrown out the window with Jesus’ beatitudes. In Jesus, blessing is available to all who will receive it. Yes, even those mired in mistakes, misfortune, and misery.

If you are like me, you need Jesus and his blessing in your life. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to bring it to us. Yes, even us.

Rejoice and be glad.

 

The Day I Prayed For A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez sharing his thoughts on a calle...

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Jesus tell us to love our enemies and pray for those who curse us (Matthew 5:44). I have prayed for terrorists in the past and even voiced a prayer that those who hate Christians will be exposed to the light of Jesus Christ. But one of the hardest people for me to pray for was not a terrorist or a natural enemy to the United States but a multi-millionaire third baseman for the New York Yankees baseball team.

I have never liked Alex Rodriguez, even when he played for my beloved Texas Rangers. I tried, but there just wasn’t anything about him that was appealing other than the fact that he could hit home runs in situations that made no difference to the outcome of a game. He seems incredibly self absorbed and someone who thinks all eyes are on him all the time and that people are just as obsessed with him as he is with himself. Towards the end of his tenure with the Rangers, he talked about how difficult it was for him to lead a “bunch of kids” in reference to the rest of the Texas team. He was a joke in my eyes and I wasn’t sad to see him go and thought him making it to the Yankees was rather appropriate given his inability to create a legacy of his own and that he was wimping out in order to ride the coattails of a famous organization and better winners such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.

But then his play went south within a year of joining the Yankees. ARod became the butt of New York City jokes and late night talk show hosts. He was being booed nightly, not by fans in road contest, but by his own fans. They called him a “bum” and “sorry” and much worse. His family was falling apart and endless rumors were flying around about him. That was when I became convicted. I understand that sports hate is not the same as real hate and that sports enemies are not the same as real enemies but for forever I had been secure in my rationale for hating ARod and wishing him poor performance and failure. But in the midst of his lowest point as a Yankee I actually felt sorry for the guy and while I was mowing my grass, I lifted up a prayer for him and prayed that he would be better received by New York fans and that God would give him the ability to do his best in his next game. There I did it, I prayed for ARod. I felt better about myself, even like a burden had been lifted. I felt free in a sense. I guess anger and contempt really enslaves your soul and that forgiveness and genuine love breaks those barriers so we can experience love and peace.

I know this sounds silly but this incident was a sign of spiritual maturity for me. If faith is going to impact one part of my life, why can’t it impact all of it? How I thought about Alex Rodriguez and the hatred and anger I had towards him was really affecting my spiritual life and I needed to have a change of heart. Who knows, maybe I will pray for Kobe Bryant someday? Maybe.

Have you grown comfortable with your hatred of a public figure? A politician? A member of the media or Hollywood? Is it time for you to pray for your enemies?