Please connect to us at http://www.cellsoflife.org. New post will be at that website.
Here is a link to tomorrow morning’s post http://www.cellsoflife.org/being-black-in-the-church/.
This will not be active until 6AM 6/13/2014
The subject of our series has been surgery. It is the progressive process of healing. Practically speaking surgery is the process of systematic incision purposed to extract something that is causing pain, or that has the potential to cause a fatal and tragic end. Surgery removes that which hinders the experience of promise.
I heard a story (what we call testimony in the church) from a good friend and person I love dearly about the move that they made from their recovery bed to their recovery chair. They had come through the surgical procedure. They had been wheeled into a room that was prepared for them to begin their recovery process. They knew that the process was to take some time but they were not completely prepared for the beginning of this process.
The room was not a room where they had privacy to recover. The room was not prepared for an individual. To their surprise they found themselves in a room shared by “victims” of surgery. “Victims” of purposed incision.
They spoke about how it took some time for the numbing agents to subside. The incisions of the surgery were painful and there presented a need to be medicated to aid the pain from the surgical procedure; and as they came to their right mind they found themselves lying in a bed designed for their recovery.
An interesting thing to consider is that when we go through a spiritual surgical procedure where God is removing or has removed something from us that was a part of us for so long that it may leave us on our back for a period of time. Laying on our back for long periods of time will also cause a new pain. The pain that is experienced from lying on this bed of recovery is an indication that it is time to “change positions”.
When someone lies in a certain position for a long period of time the body will become stiff. This stiffness occurs because there is a lack of movement. This stiffness happens because the muscles in the body become accustomed to the position that they are in, but we must remember that the bed is only a phase within the process of recovery.
As I reflect on the person I wrote of above I remember they told me that their body began to “reject” the bed. Their body was telling them that the bed in which the were lying was not helping the recovery and was now causing pain…so they moved from the bed to the chair.
As the “professionals” came in to assess them, that is the doctors and nurses, and suggest that they move back to the bed, their response was simple…”I will move from this chair, but I am not getting back in that bed.”
Sometimes in a believers recovery process they will get to a point that they realize that the bed in which they are lying is now a new source of pain that is not aiding in the recovery but is, in fact, hindering that very process. We must move from the bed to the chair of recovery so that we are not lying down hoping for healing but that we are sitting up expecting healing. Moving from the bed of recovery to the chair of recovery is evidence that we are active and willing participants in the process of recovery.
Recovery is the process of surgery that prepares us to become a glorifying agent and manifested testimony of the work of the Almighty in whom we have placed our trust. We cannot lie in a bed hoping for recovery without moving in faith expecting the hand of the Lord to be evident in the testimony that we hope to become. We must declare, as my loved one did, “I will move where ever you tell me, but I am not getting back into that bed!”
The favor of God is something that I often hear about from professing believers. I am especially interested in hearing how believers explain the experiential aspects of the favor of God in their life. It is often correctly associated with the grace of God, being described by some as “awesome”, as a “special anointing”, or selfishly as “unfair”. The latter is not to suggest with sarcasm that favor is “fair” but rather to draw out that this phraseology is often associated with favor from the perspective of some personal blessing or season of blessing that one is currently experiencing.
Now I do not intend to delve into a deep theological discussion about favor. Rather I intend to present a perspective to some that may in hearing the above descriptions of favor become, or have become, discouraged thinking that God does not favor them because they are not experiencing some thing which they are using to compare or measure God — who is not a respecter of person — and His love for them.
I will however make the statement that the above descriptions of favor do not capture a correct understanding. The favor of God is not manifested in physical “blessings” (an interesting sidebar to consider is that many things people say God blessed them with are the things they refuse to give back to God for His use — they are often things that take them away from God…). The favor of God is rooted in our position in Christ not just what “we get” out of being in that position.
While we can see the favor of God when we eat everyday, when we have a closet full of clothes, a job, a job that pays us significantly more than we need, a place to sleep, a car, etc., we must ask is this a good biblical understanding of the idea of favor?
I contend that the most favored of God are those that suffer tragedies. It is in the tragedy that the favored is being prepared for service. It is in the promised tribulation that the favored of God is recognized not in the abundance of physical blessing. Consider the Christ who through suffering was glorified by the Father. Was Mary favored (Luke 1:28-30)? Was Stephen favored of God (Acts 7:59)? Was Paul favored (Acts 9:15-17)?
The major problem that we have here is that “favor” has been categorized, in our Western cultured approach to the Scriptures, primarily as visionally prosperous and “favor” as attributed to sufferings as a secondary possibility. The Scriptures declare the favored of God are hated by the world not rewarded through it (John 16:33).
It is a shame that so many professing believers have turned their back on God because God has not poured out “favor” the way they think He should. They essentially live in judgement of the God of their souls — to them He is Unjust and so they will not serve Him until He serves their portion of “favor” to them. This is the detriment of improperly defining and presenting what the favor of God is.
It is the tragedy that produces the manifestation of favor. If Moses does not suffer the the tragedy of the desert the favor of God on Israel is not manifested. If Joseph does not suffer the tragedy of rejection by his brothers which lead to his temporary imprisonment, even being forgotten by one whom he helped out of the very same prison, then the famine of Egypt would claim the lives of two nations, both the future Israel (Jews) and Egypt (Gentiles).
It is tragedy that manifests the favor of God. If David does not suffer the tragedy of being pursued by Saul, keeping in his mind the necessity to honor the Lord, then there is no covenant made between him and God that would promise the eternal kingship of the Christ. If the Christ does not endure the tragedy of being beaten and murdered by His creation then there is no Calvary, no relational reconciliation, no eternal life, no hope.
These and many others provide a piece of a historical narrative that is The Tragedy of Favor.
Scriptural Considerations: John 16:25-33; Acts 5:41, 9:15-17, 14:21-23, 20:22-24; Rom. 5:3, 8:17-18; 2 Cor. 1:1-8, 6:4-10; Phil 1:29, 3:10; 2 Thess 1:3-7, 1 Tim 4:10; 2 Tim 3:12; Heb. 5:8, 11:24-26; James 5:10-11; 1 Pet. 5:8-10
The chants rang from state to state “Yes We Can! Yes We Can!” It was to be one of the most celebrated days and historic moments in a country plagued with the -isms; Racism, Classism, Elitism, Exclusivism, and so many more. But now there was to be a new day for America. A new kind of United States. We would now become a country that finally had a POTUS that could and would speak for the people…or so many thought (me not included).
Yes, it truly was a historic day back in 2008 on the 4th day of November. The Pride of a people that had suffered Prejudice for so long finally had a face that looks like ours, a walk that looks like ours, a struggle that at least sounded vaguely familiar.
Now we would experience the Pride of believing that slogan of victory. Not a victory that would last for an evening but that would ring as far as the classrooms of the inner cities, where African American children could see that anything is possible; after all everyone needs to see something to believe that it is possible…right?
Well, at least a real life representation of what I can become is better than pipe dreams being sold to me at some MLM meeting where only the people who are at the top make the money…oh wait a minute
Anyway, this was to be the working class’ President. One where the middle class would finally become the middle class because, as so many said, “he’s got our back.”
It is true that President Barak Obama and his presidency is an inspiration to many — but especially those of us in the African American community.
That is, unless you are an African American Christian that believes in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures. If you are one of them then you may find yourself in the midst of no small dilemma — considering what has taken place since that historic day (well if your like me there is no dilemma at all but that may just be me).
The dilemma is the Pride you have in the first African American President and the Prejudice we are to have regarding the Word of God. This is a new Pride and Prejudice. There is certainly Pride in the history of the events of November 2008 however, we find so many actions and decisions of the President juxtaposed to the commands of God. That is, a professing Christian President…(Colossians 3:17)
Interestingly there are several congregations of believers whose earthly Pride have essentially allowed them to jettison the words of our Holy and sacred writ to which we Prejudiciously commit our fidelity. And this they do shamefully tearing down the Glory to remain in allegiance with the Pride of their current existence.
But isn’t it our Prejudice that produces the banner under which we are to walk. Yes, indeed it is that Prejudice that is foundational to the very salvation through Jesus Christ that speak and model our lives in word and deed. Not a prejudice towards any people or sect but a Prejudice of allegiance to the supremacy and absolutism of God Most High and His Word respectively.
Unfortunately, the years of suffering under the hands of the -isms has indeed given many in the African American community of Christ followers an attitude that has produced the idea that “we have waited so long for this, I don’t care I am going to enjoy this” or ” ‘they’ did it to us so long, we deserve this…” while neglecting to even acknowledge that “they” will also stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ (Romans 12:19).
Pride and Prejudice…A measure of faith that asks are we first believers (a nation of heirs to life) or African-American (an allied ethnic sect within a fallen nation )?
I indeed pray for MY President and his family, but even more for the church that follows after him often expensing the truth of Him by whom they’ve been redeemed for the sake of yet another -ism — even Ethnocentrism.
What does it mean to be a Christian? There are certainly several opinions of what it means to be a Christian today. We are most definitely in a Postmodern society and often it appears that the approach to the Scriptures for some has “evolved” into what is more palatable within the constraints of societal popularities.
There is a view that the Postmodern Christian must be able to operate themselves in the context of what is acceptable while keeping their “values”. A great example of this is the way the media made a mockery of Tim Tebow, essentially to prove that a Christian must “stay in the closet”, but adversely proclaim the heroism of Jason Collins. Since we are a civil and supremely intellectual society I am sure there was no intended double standard — and everything on the internet is true.
The Cultural Christian is an interesting species. They reduce the gospel to a message of values and principles. For the Cultural Christian “judge not lest ye be judged” is the sum of the biblical message which, in the context of modernity, is applied to the disregard for the biblical standard of holy living.
The Cultural Christian strips the truth of the Gospel message in order to be acceptable to those that reject it. The Cultural Christian embraces the environment often at the expense of the responsibility of being the “salt of the earth”.
It is definitely a strange time that we are living in if you are “Bible Thumper” — essentially that means that you believe in the Holy Writ and the message of Jesus Christ and that you desire, as God does, that none should perish so you tell other people of salvation through Christ Jesus. We live in a time where we are to accept everything and stand for nothing. We live in a country where there is free speech with the following disclaimer – as long as you don’t say anything about morality as described in the Scriptures.
Cultural Christianity is practiced by people in every facet of American society. From the pulpits through the pews… From the outhouse to the White House. Cultural Christianity holds a doctrine that focuses on following the teachings of Jesus and not Jesus. It sounds the same but it is vastly different.
In its subtlety following the teaching Jesus is not the same as believing on, trusting in and relying on the finished work of Jesus at Calvary’s Cross ( a fairy tale story for the enlightened ) since does not require a commitment beyond a statement that Jesus had a good message and He is the Lord. Following the teaching of Jesus does not change the heart of a person, as we can see by the actions of several high ranking officials that claim to be Christian not excluding the commander in chief.
But I digress… The point is not to solicit opinions but merely to expose this Gnostic sect that call themselves Christians. Well I am not a Christian if this is the “new normal”! I declare that I am a Follower of Jesus Christ!
For the cultural christian church is something you fit into your life, for the follower it, like the Synagogue, is at the center of your life. More clarification is needed here but we will save that for another time.
Here’s to being a good old fashion sold out believer in the life and timeless work of Jesus Christ for the salvation of those that will submit to His Lordship believing against the practical-ness of life on a Hope that can’t be explained or learned but that must be revealed! (Matt. 16)
A couple of weeks ago I had an opportunity to read an article at Christianity.com by a former Professor of mine, Eric C. Redmond, titled “When You Sense Your Church is Dying“. He also wrote on his blog under the same title where he referenced the article and gave some other comments and indicated that he had recently had an audience of three new believers within the 25 to 35 age bracket. I do not know if that age bracket was the intended target audience for the article.
As is my experience with the Prof his article was thoughtful and thought provoking. Ironically, a few days before I read the article I tweeted the following message “I would rather watch a church die from the outside than be apart of its death process“. After reading the article my position remains unchanged. That is not because I didn’t think the article had validity. I know it does and I would encourage many to read and take heed to what is being communicated.
Redmond’s article encourages us to stay in a dying church situation providing us six considerations: 1) review the basics if the gospel 2) look for signs of self-interest 3) be slow depart 4) seek ways to give sacrificially 5) Avoid grumbling at all costs 6) pray for a Spirit-wrought revival. These 6 things are all important (read the article). The third is one of the most important in my opinion because I believe that in our culture today we move now and think and consider others later (Eph 5:21). This way of responding counters much of the gospel message.
While there are several things I thought the article brought out I can’t say that I completely agree with everything that is said, at least without considering other contexts that people may be enduring. The article seems to assume something about the person that is considering or in the process of leaving a dying ministry. It assumes that the person is not being led by the Spirit. Again, this may very well be an intended assumption and I readily admit that some are not but I don’t assume that most are not.
Many local assemblies operate in some form of denominationalism and/or traditionalism. I attend such a church. When a church is dying I would suggest that we look at why are they dying. Why does it seem that so many churches that are preaching the gospel (the sound doctrine of the gospel) are finding themselves dying? I would contend that many churches that are dying find themselves dying because they are stuck in “doing church our way” and are unwilling to make real significant changes to lovingly engage this dying culture (1 Cor. 5:9-11). Oddly, this attitude of separatism is centered in today’s culture. (note: separatism should not be understood in the same light as sanctification — that is be separated for holiness unto the Lord for His purpose)
Unfortunately, we ask people to just accept the church as is and we often ridicule believers that want more out of their church experience. I am the first person that will encourage a person to stay since their Spirit-given gifts can aid in turning around a dying situation. However, if the board and congregation continue resist using a person then they may need to go where they can exercise their gifts.
The “this is the way we do it here” heart is not a godly heart at all. Most churches do not even consider that several things that we call tradition are less than 100 years old; certainly less than 200 years old. What was church like before then? This also means that someone was a church innovator and took the way “we do church” and showed them “a better way”.
Were these now traditions based on a response to the culture in which they lived? It is more than likely. Have we considered that at one time having an organ in the church was considered demonic? Today you will be hard pressed to find a worship service without music because the dying churches died.
Should we allow traditionalist to thwart emerging leaders under the guise of “you have to put in your dues”? The funny thing is the “dues” are rarely, if ever, defined. They are often an ever moving target that is finalized by the death of the predecessor. Many churches lack leaders because we resemble the world in our qualifications.
I agree that we should very carefully consider the body of Christ when making a decision like leaving a church. I also believe that we must carefully evaluate the willingness the leadership and congregational culture if we are considering staying in a dying situation. An unwillingness to move forward kept Israel living between the Red Sea and the Jordan River. That is, they were exiled from bondage but unwilling to go into the Promised Land therefore they were living between the rivers (that would preach).
In tradition we find the richness of church history and doctrinal formations and positions. But when tradition becomes the only way we do church because “this is the way we do it here” then we could find ourselves dying a traditional death. When this is the case I would rather watch a church die from the outside than be a part of its death process.
There are times in our lives when we feel stuck. We are stuck at a job. We are stuck in a relationship. We are stuck in a ministry. We are stuck at this “place” in our life.
We may think of this feeling or mindset in a picture of water. A river is a picture of flowing water. A picture of things moving in the same direction at varying paces, but steadily moving. A lake gives us a picture of tranquility. A lake is often a picture of peace and relaxation. It may provide us a picture of what it will be like once we have accomplished, overcome, or defeated something. An then there is the picture of water that fits what we are feeling when we are “stuck”. That is a picture of still or stagnate water. This water is uninviting. A picture of stagnate water will bring to mind its stench. And this is where we find ourselves sometimes. In life, not really stuck, but stagnate.
Often when we feel this way we become diligent in searching for “something else” or praying to God if we are believers. We desire a change or to reach the ear of God. “God, I need a change.” It is when we are here that we realize that we want more.
It is not more stuff that will satisfy us (although we may think so). Even though a spouse that gave more of themselves would be good, it is not enough to satisfy this desire for more. Receiving a promotion and pay raise would be good, yet it is not the more that we desire. No, our desire for more can’t be found in things seen. The more we desire is more of the Lord. More of the Father. More of the Christ Jesus. More of His Spirit (whether we believe it or not, this is true). This thirst for more cannot be quenched by mortality, it can only be quenched by Diving presence.
I have learned about desiring More. I know that we ask for more. I know that I have asked to feel the Lord closer to me. I have prayed for greater understanding. Greater gifts. Greater compassions. Greater experiences. I desire More. I have longed for More. I have and still do desire more. Heck, I NEED More.
In all of my desiring, seeking, begging, crying, and all of the other things we do in prayer and meditation, I have learned a valuable lesson about more and the God that I serve. This one lesson could potentially be one of those “Game-changers” for some; it was for me at least. This secret is so simple yet it has taken me years and a lot of “blood, sweat, and tears” to penetrate the hardened areas of my heart.
This is the secret I learned (I’m sure most of you already knew this): More is not something that we pray for and then wait or look for God to give it to us; more is what God prepares us for.
More is at the center of hope. More is the acquisition manifested through faith, believing, and potential. When we pray for more we must open ourselves up to how God will prepare us for more. More may require more suffering. Suffering is only the training ground necessary for us to be prepared for the next ordained step God has for us. More may require less. Less time for you to do you so that you can become more. Did you get that? More may not be something you receive, but rather, something you become. Are we willing to become more?
More is not found in bigger or different churches. More is not realized in better jobs, new spouses, new cars, new houses, new clothes, or even new attitudes. More is life and Life is more.
So now the only question we have to ask is are we really praying for more, or are we praying for “something else” for right now? “Something else” is sourced subjectively; More is objectively sourced.