“Why seek ye the living among the dead?”

Picture by John Martindale. Used by permission.

{The following is an updated & slightly edited article that was first published as a blog post on OrganicChurchNOLA.wordpress.com on August 5, 2009.}

Several years ago, when part of a home church community, we decided to dedicate one week to pray for direction. Each member of our group agreed to set aside a portion of time during that week to individually seek a specific word from God, and then share it with the others. As I prayed, I asked God to give me a word directly from the scriptures so that I could be assured it was from him. Immediately, the passage from Luke 24:5 popped into my mind: “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” The thought was so sudden and emphatic it shocked me. The fact that I was surprised to have such a quick and obvious answer to prayer should have been conviction enough, but when I considered the implications, I was extremely humbled.

Not wanting to miss, or misapply, what God was specifically saying to me, I went to the original context of the statement. That particular passage in Luke describes women who were looking for Jesus; but they were not looking for a living Jesus. They were looking for the Jesus they saw die on a cross. They were looking for the Jesus they buried. They wanted to honor him by properly preparing his body according to Jewish tradition. They wanted to honor the memory of his life. They were looking to honor a great leader and prophet who was; they were not looking for one who is.

I began to see that we do the same today. We look for the “historical” Jesus: the Jesus who was, not the Jesus who is. We study the things he taught, make pilgrimages to the places he dwelt, and marvel at the stories of his life on earth; we look for the Jesus who was. Now, I believe these things just mentioned are good and profitable, but only in the context of his present life. Paul clearly states in Romans 10: 9 that if we if we confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus, and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. It is the LIVING Lord we should be seeking. We need to live what we believe in every aspect of lives. We need to live the living Jesus.

We somehow feel, like the women at the tomb, that we need to honor the memory of Jesus. We want to be his living legacy by carrying on his work. Noble as it sounds, I don’t believe it is what God desires. God doesn’t want us to be Christ’s living legacy, but the living Christ’s body. We, the church, should be acting like a body controlled by a divine living head. Instead, we act like an organization, complete with business plans we call mission statements, CEOs we call senior pastors and marketing strategies we call outreach programs.

Neil Cole writes, “In many of the churches in the West, ministry is done for Jesus, but not by Jesus-and therein lies a big difference.” (pg.54) Can you imagine what would happen if we stopped doing things for him and began allowing him to do things through us? Can you imagine if we lived life in total awareness of and surrender to the living Christ? Can you imagine?

Works Cited

Cole, Neil. ORGANIC CHURCH: GROWING FAITH WHERE LIFE HAPPENS. San Francisco : Josey-Bass, 2005.

WHAT IF?

PICTURE BY JOHN MARTINDALE – Used by Permission

(Originally published on December 17, 2012 at everystreetnola.wordpress.com)

What if Job had written a book before he went through his satanic attack? Do you think he would he have sounded like a “health and wealth” or “name it and claim it” preacher?

What if John the Baptist chose to keep all of his followers instead of pointing them to Jesus? Do you think he would have had the first “mega-church” in history?

What if Peter had not been confronted by the servant girl, and therefore never denied Christ? Do you think he would have continued in his pride without ever experiencing the grace of God?

What if persecution had not forced Christians out of Jerusalem? Would the Gospel have spread beyond the original Jerusalem fellowship?

What if Phillip stayed at the revival in Samaria where he was used to initiate such a great and powerful move of God? What if he considered the Ethiopian eunuch to be an insignificant waste of time?

What if Peter and John had silver and gold to give the crippled beggar at the temple gate? Do you think the beggar would have been healed?

What if you or I were to write a book before a full life experience, gain a large and loyal following, never face confrontation or persecution, become proud of what we do for God and comfortable where we are serving Him, never having a financial burden or want for any material thing? Do you think we would look like the Church of the Bible?

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Rethinking What We Once Knew

Alley in MichiganThanks for joining me!

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. – Søren Kierkegaard

Here are a few questions I want to explore:

  • Do we really believe what we say we believe, or are we trying to fit a certain image?
  • Do we search for truth, or begin with an opinion and then try to find information to confirm it?
  • Are we more comforted by, or fearful of the following verse: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke8:17 NIV)?
  • Do other Christians sometimes embarrass us?
  • Do we embarrass other Christians?
  • What things would we like to go back and undo?
  • What things would we like to go back and regain?

You are welcome to explore with me.

The Biggest Heretic I Know

Picture by John Martindale – used by permission

Heresy is one of those words that carry with it a multitude of negative images and feelings. Synonyms for heresy can range from extreme words like “blasphemy” to milder ones like “error.” However, when communicating with, or about, someone with whom I disagreed on a religious matter, “heresy” was always my word of choice. You see, my way of thinking was simple: If you disagree with me about an important spiritual matter, since know I’m right, I must label you and your opinion with the strongest words possible. You are either one of us (correct-thinking, in-God’s-kingdom, one-of-the-chosen) people or you are an enemy of the truth.

That is the way I lived for many years. I thought through all religious matters, researched almost all possible opinions, and came to a conclusion which seemed pretty obvious to me. My convictions were certain, and the subjects with which I dealt were far too important to be questioned or (God-forbid) denied. If you disagreed with me, you were a heretic.

Then, as I began to grow some form of humility, I began to do something that didn’t come naturally. It is called “listening.” In doing so, another phenomenon occurred called “hearing.” What a surprise to find out that other people’s opinions had value. So … I began to change, in some ways. While my opinions changed from time to time, so did my certainties. I was still sure of everything I believed, and if anyone disagreed with my new belief, I would consider that person a heretic.

It soon became obvious to me that many of my old beliefs were “heresies” and that the biggest heretic I knew was the five-year-ago ME. In fact, I began to see that EVERY five years, I could look back to a heretical ME. But things were still OK, because in my mind I was merely growing in my understanding of the truth and that my present theology was obviously the correct one.

Then came the ultimate blow to my pride. It showed up in form of other people who not only disagreed with me, but whose lifestyles were an affront to my moral worldview and whose philosophies were dramatically opposed to my well thought out and growing theology. While I wanted to dismiss them as heretics, these unwelcomed challenges to my faith placed me at odds with a Biblical principle that could not be denied. Matthew 7:16 records Jesus stating, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” That was the killer. The people of whom I write produced more good fruit, did more loving things, and displayed more “Christian” kindness than I ever had. I had to realize that something was dramatically wrong with my “right-or-wrong” “us-and-them” “in-or-out” theology.

So here I am. I am still very confident in many things that matter to me, like God’s love, Biblical inspiration, and the reality of the resurrected Jesus. Yet, I know there are many things that need to be questioned, and I’m OK with unresolved answers. I am looking forward to asking many of those questions, and it’s my hope that many of you will join me in the search for the answers. Just be ready to live without them.