Sunday, April 19, 2009

Conviction, Sin, and a Tree full of tasty fruit

For the last few years I have had the interesting opportunity for hosting a guys accountability night. This is done to address the issue of guys falling prey to pornography. With this well in mind it always takes me by surprise that this is really a problem. I'm not sure why it takes me by so much surprise though as for the longest time I was in the same boat. How did this become such a huge issue?
In the letters to the Corinthians, Paul had to deal with a church that just came from the problem of sexual perversion. The city of Corinth was a mix of Las Vegas and Vatican City (if Catholics were about sex and not the Pope). So all the people in the church of Corinth were tempted by that world around them and what they all used to be doing. Religion to many of them just a few months before was sleeping with the temple prostitute. Now religion has some rules for them, and it is very hard to understand that these rules are meant to give them freedom. They kept doing things really to us that don't make sense. Paul hears about all of their highly in appropriate actions and writes them back a list of things that clearly this is what you can not do. He listed that you can not sleep with any of your relatives. That you aren't to join yourselves with prostitutes. That you can not sleep with animals. You can not sleep with people of the same sex. That if you can not quell your sexual urges that you need to get married to satisfy them. Then at the very end of the list he uses a greek word pornea. Pornea roughly translates to anything else you can think of. It is the junk drawer term for sexual deviancy. This is also where we get our word pornography from. Essentially pornography is whatever other sexual sin you can think of.
It seems so foolish that Paul had to write this church and tell them to cut it out. It seems so self evident what you should and should not do. Yet here is the thing that we as humans do. We look at what we know we can do and we think what can I do to get that. We have a bar set and we find what ever we can to get that bar to be lowered so that we can cross it. We impulsively feel the need to squirm under the thumb of rules as we feel they are so heavy, yet fail to realize that it is the thumb of sin that is actually pressed against us. This is how we were 2000 years ago thats how we are now. But we have now spent 2000 years lowering the bar. So much more is acceptable, and almost nothing is taboo. How long though before we have completely gotten rid of the bar and are allowed to go with every perversion that our heart desires. That there will be no difference between our practices and those of the animals. This is where we are at almost complete sexual depravity and we seem to be slowly becoming okay with it. Why are we okay with this?
There is a point where we are supposed to realize what we are doing and stop. That we turn away from our wickedness and do what we are supposed to do. Humanist believe that we just decide this in the face of injustice to turn around. Somehow a good deal of Christianity is expressing the same. Everything has become a one sided act that is all our doing and none of God's. We have tried to add righteousness to our control along with the sin that is already there. We could easily stop lowering the bar and live the life of freedom, if we would put God back in to the equation. You see God in our lives has the power to convict us, short of God the next best thing is guilt. Conviction is what it will take for us to live in purity, and conviction is from God. Despite having free and open access to listen to God we have denied ourselves his voice and move freely with our own desires. We have no care for what he has to say, mainly because we think he is just going to tell us no. We think God is out to ruin our fun. In our week and frail humanity we can not envision God telling us something that can be more enjoyable than the hedonistic world that we have made for ourselves. If we would be open to the conviction that God lovingly wants to bestow we would understand that he is not saying "no", but that he is saying "not now" or "not that". There is no bar in God's plan, there is only unity and peace, a new life. We need to listen for it though.
Way back at the beginning of time we were given one rule. Do not eat of this one tree, if we do that we die. This tree contained the knowledge of good and evil. All we had to do was stay away from the fruit of that tree. But we moved closer and closer and let the bar go lower. Until Eve stood under the tree with the fruit in her hand and Adam stood right next to her the same. The bar was now so low that they could just walk right over, and they did. These two walked with God and when they stopped for a second to listen to another voice, they lowered the bar and went with their own depravity. To them the fruit was pleasing, so is our fruit today. There is plenty that is great for sex, but there is a reason that we are told to wait to eat that fruit. If we eat we will die, but if we listen we will live. Let God convict you, and sin no more.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Uncertain Church

I love the postmodern news show 'The Hour'. It is my Oprah, and George Stomplopogous is my boyfriend (if you watch the show its not as weird as it sounds). Almost on every episode they tend to have an author on with a new book. These are either books for dynamic life stories or analysis on culture. On tonight's episode they had the author of 'The Age of the Unthinkable' on. Now I haven't read the book so I do not know all of the in's and out's about what is in the book, but in the interview they were able to communicate the thesis of the book. We are entering into an age where we can no longer think in simple answers. That the big picture needs to be the focus, and we need be ready to live in a world where disruption works.
The author of the book figured out these things by gaining understanding from modern revolutionaries. Revolutionaries such as the inventor of the Wii, Google, and even Hezbolah. Completely non box thinkers. I couldn't help but thinking how does the church learn from these people, and adapt to this new culture?
The church every few generations reinvents itself. This comes from a response to new technology, or revolutions in how we think about theology (i.e. Luther). We are easily at a time when both will come into play. There are plenty of new thoughts on theology coming out, mainly focusing on ecclesiology, and christology. While I may not agree with all ideas that are coming out, there is a reason why we are reexamining ourselves and rewriting ourselves. Not in the sense that our theology is fundamentally different, but the communication of it is. 'The Shack' is a recent example of this. Theologically there are fundamental flaws overall, but the point to communicate the love of God in a suffering world is done in a way that is turning countless people back to a personal intimate faith in Jesus. Infinitely more complex answers are needed in this new generation, yet they will need to be communicated in a way that will be universal. This generation of preachers and teachers will have to be story tellers over preachers. Not only will we need to pierce the congregations hearts with the truth, but their souls with a story. We need move forward by reverting from the argumentative speech and back to the parable style done by Jesus and the Rabbi's of the day.
Technology and culture are the other big changers of the church. We changed the church based on the pew, than the loud system, than to power point projection. What is the next step? Satellite churches are taking advantage of podcast, and video technologies. Are smart phones part of the churches next evolution. Is the future of the church decentralization? Are we to move from one massive group to a collection of smaller interconnected worshipers? In a big picture culture a church will have to be both global and local at the same time. We will be ending aids in Africa while stopping the prostitution on the street corner. This will also have to be age of action for the church over talk and platitudes. In the modern era the solution was simple, send money at the problem, let the big organization handle it. Instead now it will be to smaller groups of people to burden themselves passionately with private causes that will change the world. Imagine a thousand bodies of believers all taking on a different cause to change the world, and fully pouring themselves in doing it.
We will also have to learn to be a culture of distraction. The author illustrated this by people who talk on one cell phone while texting on another. The church has a tendency to react negatively to distractions. We are irritated by a crying baby in church, and we are left stupid by counter cultural movements (gay marriage). New thoughts on how we communicate gospel truth will be a necessary. Instead of protesting gay marriage, maybe we should be finding a way to show those in that lifestyle grace. What does this look like I am hard pressed to say, it is a very fine line to show them love, yet at the same time stand firm on our belief about their lifestyle. But it is clear that motions that are construe as hate are not the way. The church being interrupted would be highly organic, and would have to shed its modern age corporate structure in exchange for actually being a body that can move and adapt to the world. There will be a new level of spiritual depth that will be scene in this body of Christ, that will make many uncomfortable. Many will place it on the level with the likes of Benny Hinn and other eccentric pentecostals, and cry heresy. Yet that is fear and the enemy talking. People will be woken up and shake from this world as miracles will move from the fingers of those accepting the innocence to believe that their God is big enough to flood this world with miracles. They will talk with the confidence of the Christ himself and tell the storms to stop. We will walk up to heroin addict poisoned by their sin, and like Jesus turing the water into the best wine, change their blood to the purest in their veins. We will pull trash from dumpsters and by the Spirits blessing will feed a feast of kings to all those who are hungry. No miracle is to small in this age where we allow God to distract us to the world broken and crying around us. In this new age we will follow Christ not with just the burden of carrying the cross, but we will daily get up on it with him and suffer with the entirety of the Trinity in knowing how far gone the world really is. We will die, and the world will know love. We will die, and we will know life.
With a hammer and a nail God commanded Noah, and a revolution of the chosen began. With a hammer and a nail the ark then temple were built and a revolution of the Holy began. With a hammer and a nail Jesus flesh was pierced and a revolution of freedom began. With a hammer and a nail Peter hung upside down and a revolution of martyrs began. With a hammer and a nail Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses and revolution of truth began. With a fist that pounded like a hammer and a voice that pierced like nails George Whitfield, John Wesley, Orange Scott, and countless others began a revolution of hearts seeking holiness with God. With a nation hammers and nails today the body of Christ begins a revolution where we move forward and do not stop; a revolution of Love made real.
An uncertain world brings forth an uncertain church. We do not yet have all the answers. Yet we have guides and insights. Innovation and originality will move us, yet tradition and heritage will ground us. When David went to slay Goliath he wore no armor, it was to heavy. To slay this age the church will be exposed with out its armor. But with God it is written that we will prevail against this and every other age. The author named his book aptly as the Church can, and will make this age unthinkable. Where the church used to say of its beliefs this is the hill where we will die, the body will say of these beliefs we move forward. Be not uncertain your faith, move strong as the uncertain church. It will be the world that can not see where we are going as we head straight for Christ.