Wednesday, November 26, 2008

God Speaks How He Chooses

I am reading "Bruchko" - an autobiography by an American, Bruce Olson. As a young man Olson went as a missionary to Colombia. Circumstances separated him from the other missionaries he had originally come to join, and he found himself alone, deep in the jungle, living among the Motilones - a murderous tribe of stone-age people. Traditional missionary methods proved of absolutely no avail, and for years he had to content himself with simply being a contributing member of the community. He engaged in the same necessary work as everyone else, but he also tried to introduce better agricultural techniques and healthier ways of doing things, without in any way destroying their unique culture. Life was very harsh, and it is difficult to imagine how he could have lasted the pace, had God not intervened supernaturally to heal him and to help him.

The years passed. Occasionally "Bruchko" (i.e. Bruce - as pronounced by the Indians) had opportunities, in the course of conversation, to explain some of the things he believed - but nobody acted on what he said about Christ. Then one day Bobarishora, his closest friend among the tribesmen, following yet another conversation on the deepest things of life, told him that he had "tied his hammock strings into Jesus". It was clear as they talked further that the tribesman had genuinely turned to the Lord. Bruchko was very excited. "I wanted him to call a meeting and tell the rest about Jesus...He could do it more effectively than I... I wanted him to do it the way things would have been done in North America... I wanted to squeeze him into the mold."

But Bobarishora (Bruce nicknamed him Bobby) would have none of it! He couldn't set up something which the rest of the community would recognize as artificial. He did admit in conversation that he had become a Christian, but he wouldn't hold any meetings or do anything publicly.

Time passed. "Bobby" married and became one of the respected younger leaders among the tribesmen. Then one day an older chief invited him to take part in the traditional "Festival of Arrows", which meant singing a Saga-Song to everyone. Bruchko writes: 'Bobby's song was about the way the Motilones had been deceived and had lost God's trail. Then he began to sing about Jesus... Everyone became quiet in order to listen. The song continued for ten hours (!!!)...That night a spiritual revolution swept over the people. No one rejected the news about Jesus. Everyone wanted Him. There was tremendous jubilation. God had spoken.

He had spoken through the Motilone culture'. After that there was great progress - such progress that Bruce Olsen has several times been asked to address the United Nations on how it was that helpful methods of hygiene and farming, and Christianity, were introduced into a primitive culture, without effacing that culture, or turning it into a pale reflection of the United States!"

What can I add?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Doctrine has Become Head of the Church

This says what I have been thinking better than I can. This is from Jim Cymbala’s book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire.

“In too many churches today, people don’t see manifestations of God’s power in answer to fervent praying. Instead, they hear arguments about theological issues that few people care about. On Christian radio and television, we are often merely talking to ourselves.

What we are dealing with today is an Old Testament ‘vow religion’ comprised of endless repetitions and commands to do all the right things. Modern preachers, like Moses, come down from the mount calling for commitment. Everyone says yes but then promptly breaks the vow within two days. There is little dependence on God’s power to make an ongoing difference. There is little calling upon God to revolutionize us in a supernatural way.

Jesus is saying today, as He said to the church at Sardis, ‘You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God…But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief…He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (Rev. 3:1-3,6)

Isn’t it remarkable that only two of the seven churches of Revelation (Pergamum and Thyatira) were scolded for false doctrine? Far more common was lack of spiritual vitality, of fervency, of closeness to the Lord. These are what the glorified Christ wanted to talk about most.

I am not advocating melodrama or theatrics that work up emotion. But I am in favor, as were the apostles, of asking God to stretch out His hand and manifest himself.

(He goes on) If we do not yearn and pray and expect God to stretch out his hand and do the supernatural, it will not happen. That is the simple truth of the matter. We must give him room to operate. If we go on, week after week, filling the time with religious lectures and nothing more, God has little opportunity in which to move.

So as long as we are busy polishing our oratory, the stage is entirely ours. Listen to the reproof of the great prophet of prayer E.M. Bounds more than a hundred years ago:

'Among things that hinder spiritual results, fine preaching must have place among the first. Fine preaching is that kind of preaching where the force of the preacher is expended to make the sermon great in thought, tasteful as a work of art, perfect as a scholarly production, complete in rhetorical finish, and fine in its pleasing and popular force.

In true preaching, the sermon proceeds out of the man. It is part of him, flowing out of his life. Fine preaching separates between the man and the sermon. Such sermons will make an impression, but it is not the impression that the Holy Ghost makes. Influence it may have, but the influence is not distinctly spiritual, if spiritual at all. These sermons do not reach the conscience, are not even aimed at it.'"

I have come to believe that the sermon has wrongly taken preeminence in the modern church. Why do we think that we must hear a lecture 3 times a week in order to grow? Not only that, but we only get one man's opinion on Biblical interpretation.

I can no longer go to a Sunday morning church service without being troubled by the impression that is given that we are doing something spiritual merely by attending. Where is the one-anothering in that?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bake Sale, A Parable


By Wes Seeliger

"Bake sale" said the sign over the door. Joe's mouth watered.

He could imagine all the treats inside. He opened the door and walked in. Joe couldn't believe his eyes.

As far as he could see in the building there were rows of tables with signs over each table to describe its specialty. Cakes, Cookies, Muffins, pies, tarts.

Except ... there were no cakes, cookies, muffins, pies or tarts.

You see, this was a "recipe" bake sale.

Someone grabbed Joe's arm. "Coconut macaroons. Get the original!"

"Not so. Our recipe is older than theirs," another table shouted.

"Devil 's food cake. Accept no substitutes," a shifty hustler whispered in his ear.

"Angel food cake! Just like grandmother made."

"Who's grandmother?"

A lady began to shove him toward a table of fruit tarts while another yanked on his arm to try a roll.

Yelling arose from every table as red-faced salesmen hawked their recipes.

Confusion ruled and brawls broke out between tables.

Joe had taken all he could. He tore himself away and ran outside as fast as he could.

As he breathed in the fresh air and walked away, he said, "That was no place for a hungry man."

Adapted by Gayle Erwin

To me, this is exactly what I think Christianity is like today. Everybody has the "recipe" for a true relationship with God, but nobody has the real thing.

How did you take this parable?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Genuine Truth is Grounded in God's Reality

I've been thinking a lot lately about "feeling" close to God. Aida had a great discussion about it here:

I thought that I had left my old religious baggage behind until this week, and I've realized that it is still hiding in the corners. I picked up one of McVey's books that I had in my car and read this:

"Having been born into a world system in which every religion known to man stresses his responsibility to stay in favor with his god through specifically defined behavior, it requires a radical paradigm shift for most Christians to move into a mind-set that embraces the idea that our behavior has absolutely nothing to do with gaining or STAYING IN God's favor. To suggest that there is nothing the believer can do that would put him out of favor with God sounds almost blasphemous to the religious mind. Most of us who grew up in church KNOW BETTER than that, do we? Therein lies the problem. Often as much must be UNLEARNED as is learned about walking in grace as a believer. Theologian Krister Stendahl astutely observed that 'it is not so much what we don't know, but what we think we know that obstructs our vision.'

One significant barrier that prevents many people in the modern church from enjoying a life in grace is what they THINK they know. They are firmly entrenched in a paradigm of spiritual reality that to them is self-evident, however imaginary it may actually be. Without divine intervention, the religionist will never experience grace to its fullest extent. Recipients of grace must have a heart and mind that are open toward God, and nothing so decidedly shuts down one's capacity to receive as empty religion."

Excerpt from Grace Land by Steve McVey