Andyouinvitedmein’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Jesus

I finished reading Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined and felt that I had been conversing with him. Each chapter is an experience from Merritt and(or) his friends. Each chapter gives you a time to touch the hem of His garment. It takes situations that could have happened to any of us, and allows us an opportunity to see Jesus in the middle. He’s the bridge over troubled waters. We say it, but less frequently do we allow ourselves to “go there.” In our fast-paced, McDonalds culture we want it all now.

Merritt marches to the beat of a different drummer….thank God! He’s faced his worst fears and now is an open book in his walk with Jesus. This might appear to be a bunch of Christianese on toast, but get yourself a cup of coffee and start on the first page. You won’t be disappointed.

I got saved/born again/embraced Christ when I was eight years old. Back in those days it was just about getting saved then being in the church. Nothing was extreme, except a few confessions here and there during a revival, and everything was a well-oiled 1960’s Christian machine. But the 60’s gave way to the 70’s, and life became different. We went from Mayberry to three tragic assassinations to Watergate to “what the hell happened?” And the white picket fence of our early years gave way to addictions, divorce, sickness, rebellion, and a strange wind of prosperity teaching in the church.

When your child leaves your home never to return…when your husband doesn’t love you anymore…when your mother doesn’t know you anymore…when your position at work is cut…where is Jesus? If you sit under the prosperity message, and all good things equals true faith then you’re dead. Or maybe you’re just believing the Christian version of Andrew Carnegie’s Social Darwinism. What happens when we find that we aren’t the fittest according to this message, then can we belong to Him when our walls are crumbling around us? Have we not had enough faith?

My walls began crumbling about four years ago. A very serious situation that trumped all the other situations drove into my house and planned to take up residency. Now it’s gone, but sometimes after a fire everything smells like smoke…and I’m still getting that smell out of my house. But, for me the good news was that I grabbed hold of Jesus and would not let go, and my life has changed for the better. I’ve changed…yes!…but you can’t help but change once you walk through the fire. And I think that is what I got from Merritt’s book.

Merritt’s book is a simple truth for anyone, but more specifically anyone who has felt that Jesus is distant. Give yourself a great Easter gift! Buy Jesus Is More Than You Imagined.

Follow Jonathan Merritt on Twitter @jonathanmerritt and look for the hashtag #jesusisbetter.

I just finished the article by Albert Mohler…and here’s the link:  http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-church-and-the-clobber-scriptures-the-bible-on-homosexuality-50792/

Before you read the Mohler article, I’d like to express my thought after I finished reading: Where do we get the term “cheap grace”? It’s used all the time by my conservative brothers and sisters. It seems if we love without expectation then we become guilty of making Jesus’ sacrifice cheap. On one hand we say/tell potential converts there’s nothing we can do to earn grace, so what makes it cheap? What must you do to give/get a “perfect grace”?

A certain SBC church I attended actively preached against the gay community (the focus of Mohler’s article). From the early 1980’s the pastor of this church preached that AIDS was a plague sent by God. The Rev. Dr. Pastor damned the homosexual community in his sermons. Yet this church had no time for my landlord.

Mr. Landlord was also an active church, and he was dying of AIDS. He did all the church asked: joined an ex-gay group, left all his old friends, joined Sunday school, etc. Long before this death the church fellows weren’t there to pick up the loneliness pieces (after all the church sternly suggestion to be free he must give up his friends “from that life”). When he was in the hospital (after I called and explained the situation to the pastor pool) the duly appointed pastor came to visit ONE TIME. That’s pretty cheap, don’t you think? Could cheap grace be something we give because we don’t want to sacrifice to give the good stuff? Maybe we call true grace the cheap stuff so no one will notice how cheap we are on the unconditional love.

What do you think Jesus wanted His church to do for Mr. Landlord? See Matthew 25 beginning at verse 31. The pastor is to be the chief of servants. He is to be on the frontlines (in terms of fighting the battle) and not at the back of the line giving orders (and in the case of this church, a pastor with body guards and a $1M budget for security).

I left that experience of my landlord’s death wondering what’s wrong with us conservatives that we can’t see the person for their issues? If we don’t see the person, then they won’t see the true Jesus. We give “ye ole sinner” a bunch of rules, and then expect them to fall in love with Jesus. They can’t see him because we’re so cheap on the giving of grace. Grace must be experienced. The term “clobber” might be from WWII, but when someone speaks of clobber scriptures, please listen. They are telling you they feel they’ve been hit over the head by the Bible. Did Jesus ever clobber anyone other than the religious leaders? No. Is addressing any sin wrong? No, but before we pick the splinter we need to remove the log.

Grace is what Jesus was all about, and it’s difficult. I’ve found that grace comes in the heat of battle, not locked up in an ivory tower. Most pastors today are in an ivory tower and don’t know what it means to be on the frontlines of battle—visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, giving to the poor, visiting the prison. All of these tasks are assigned to an underling.

You men of the pulpit surround yourselves by “yes men” while trying  to get a sermon to meet the people’s needs…a people you haven’t truly connected with in decades. Having a huge salary and body guards at all times means nothing is risked…the old adage is: nothing risked—nothing gained. Oh, Rev. Dr. Pastor at the huge SBC church has had his share of trials; but what if you took away the ivory tower, and then put him to work for an unjust boss, with a second job at Mapco just to put food on the table. Add in three kids with homework after the jobs plus housework. What if the weekly check didn’t cover all the expenses, and there wasn’t extra money to fix the car to get to work? Once you’re there Rev. Dr. Pastor, then you’d be a man who walked in the shoes of his congregation. Maybe in these tough times your budget is running thin. But cutting a program pales in comparison to the mother who doesn’t have enough money to get to the doctor when their child is sick.

Somehow as conservatives we think we have to do it all for God or the person won’t be properly Christianized. If God can change a heart, then he can finish the work without our help. Yes, he does need our help: to be Jesus in shoe leather and be the bearer of a love so extraordinary that it can’t be explained by everyday terms.   

Jay Bakker (son of Jim and Tammy, and the focus of the article) has knowledge of what it means to live on the “other side”. He knows about being an outcast. Hear his heart. Hear the hearts of those we’ve cast out of the church or from our friendship or no longer support because “they fell”.

Is preaching that homosexuality is a sin Biblical? If you say “yes”, then do you give equal time to preaching about the sins of liars—gossips—gluttons? Those three would hit every prayer group and church social. Have you told the gossips and liars they aren’t welcome, or must attend a group to change, or they’re going to hell? And if you’re covering hot sin topics of the church, what a series of sermons on coveting—it would hit us all, I think.

For too long and in the name of Jesus we’ve overlooked the painful issues because we don’t want to go outside our Christian boundaries. We’re like the pastor in the office who doesn’t want to be outside because he’d be on the frontline and hit with the enemy fire (sometimes the enemy is a dear Christian brother). Jesus was all about being outside the box. He was outside the box with unconditional love, and the religious leaders were there to tell him why he was wrong.  

Please, please, please embrace grace, and get lost in it! Forget cheap grace. If it is truly grace then it is painful—grace is undeserved favor, and it isn’t cheap. Grace is what separates us from the rest of religion…let’s practice it.

Yesterday, I read an article about Anne Rice. It said she’s leaving Christianity. Actually I don’t read her books and her position on anything doesn’t matter, but this caught my attention. I figured she was more of a gal who considered herself a Christian because she was born to parents who were not a part of another religion. What surprised me was her statement: 

“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me,” Rice wrote. “But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”

Rice isn’t the only one who stated this. I’ve read that Ghandi was seeking Jesus, and actually loved Jesus, but when he went to a church he was turned away.

Wow…what a testimony to a picture of ourselves as conservative Christians. As a group we can look in the mirror and ugly stares back. Christ is difficult to emulate: He lent a hand and support to a woman caught in adultery; he told a story of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and in each of these stories the theme was going against cultural and traditional religious rules to give of ourselves–just as he had practiced before them with the adulterous woman.

Few Christians show this side–most days I don’t, I’m sure. Our churches try to demonstrate Christ through the rules, and if you break one of those rules (written or assumed) then you’re considered to be “out of fellowship”. Where I live those rules mean to be Republican, don’t drink, cuss or smoke, and so-on. Some denominations say no instrumental music, others say no hair cutting, then others suggest you have no faith if you get sick, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. These rules actually drive people away from Jesus, because they make ‘him’ look like a  man with a check list waiting to condemn people to hell.

I read that Sandra Bullock didn’t want to play a Christian lady in The Blind Side, and said no three times. In the end she was totally pulled to Leigh Anne Tuohy because Leigh Anne gave sacrifically. She was born in a home of privilege that practiced segregation. For Leigh Anne and Sean to embrace the plight of Michael Oher was sacrificial on all levels. Now we have a beautiful success story, but I’m sure seven years ago the road was very difficult.

Beginning today make the word “Christian” mean more than a fried chicken eating, self-righteous pew warmer. Rules and finger-pointing is much easier than show grace and self-sacrifice. Jesus said if he was lifted up then he would draw all men to him. Instead of picketing Planned Parenthood, bring the workers some coffee then ask the next person coming for an abortion if they want to live with you for the next few months as you will take care of all their needs. Instead of trying to find the President’s birth certificate, spend that hour praying for him. Find a single parent or widow and help them around the house.  Be willing to have your motives questioned by your fellow church members–be willing to be kicked out of your comfortable church because you spoke up or acted like Jesus. The road isn’t always easy being a Christ follower, but the rewards will be eternal.

I was driving down Church Street the other day and glanced over at an old church here in town; a famous town landmark. It is also famous for a sign they put in the window a few years back. This sign said everything about the heart of the church. Here it is: if you expect us to give you food go somewhere else. Obviously this old church with its spectaculor downtown tax-exempt property didn’t like the idea of smelly people who needed food messing up their campus. And one day Jesus will say something like: depart from me because you never knew me.

Feeding someone might be food. Or it might be a welcoming embrace of a friend or family member who needs to come home. It’s the holiday season. Remove the barriers to God by opening your heart to …. and you fill in the blank.