Years ago, when he first started his standup routine, Steve Martin had this utterly bizarre and ridiculous schtick he performed called “Nose on Microphone Routine” and he would start by saying, “There is absolutely no way I’m going to do it. You can’t make me do it. I won’t. I don’t care how hard you beg, I will NOT do it.” He would pause briefly and then say something like, “Okay, you win, I’ll do it.” And he would stick his nose on the microphone and just stand there. So, here I am, a la Steve Martin saying, “I won’t do it! Absolutely not! There is no way I’m going to post one of those schmaltzy little New Year’s postings about ‘God’s Word for the Coming Year.’ Wild horses couldn’t drag me to do it!”
Okay, you win. Here’s what I see for the coming year…
But here’s what I’ve been thinking…
One of the present-day scourges of the church – particularly that part that uses the moniker “charismatic” – is the driving need to want something new and thrilling, some revelation hot from the throne of God that continually propels us from mountain top to mountain top; and, of course, always one step ahead of the other guy (whose manna is so yesterday, breeding worms and stinkething!) And we stare down our spiritual noses and smirk. (Oh, no, not outwardly. We wouldn’t be that crass. But inwardly, we are calmly assured that we are the people…).
In the 60s and 70s it was the charismatic renewal. Had that Jesus People thing going on. Ex-freaks and dope-smokers were surrendering their hearts to God. David Wilkerson was doing his thing in the slums of New York and young people were getting delivered instantly from drugs (while others took a while). Some of that translated into a phenomenon known as House Church and some of it (most of it) settled down to form an entirely new quasi-denomination. In the late 70s and 80s it grew into the shepherding movement that sprang out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Soon thereafter we saw the development of the Megachurch and these entities began to pop up across the globe. And somewhere along that road we began calling him Yeshua because somehow the name Jesus just didn’t cut the mustard any more. In the background with all of that we experienced the development of professional Christian musicians and created our own Dove Awards and began to pat our musical genius on the back. Yes! We’re as good as unsaved musicians and we’ll show you!
In the Book of Acts, Paul addresses (may I use a southernism) that bunch that prided themselves on the hearing and retelling of something new.
Acts 17:21 (NLT)
It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.
So, as bad as we’ve made it, we didn’t create it. But we have certainly been perfecting the mess. We have developed an intricately built professional Christianity that promotes those, not who are the most godly or the most spiritually qualified, but those who possess the greatest natural talents. Whether it be oration, musicality, leadership – you name it. We’re like the Israelites who chose Saul because he stood out head and shoulders above the crowd. Like the Jewish nation of old, we were told what we were getting into; but we ignored it. (Oh, yeah! We’re much smarter than the Jews. Not.)
We sit in our padded pews and listen to some diatribe on social justice. We may not discuss it openly in church but we let it be known that we are social, economic, and political conservatives. (Dare I say Republicans?) ((By the way, this is not a promotional plug for the Democrat party.)) We hear message after message after message that is the Dale Carnegie of charismania – You Too Can be Saved and be Rich and Famous. We promote our favorite big-named ministries that have bloated themselves off the backs of God’s people for their own gain. We attend mega-worship-conferences by celebrated and well-applauded Christian Worship Groups and we groove to the beat as they entertain us with their beautiful songs about walking in white sand as the gentle dove floats overhead.
And then we cry persecution when the world points out our hypocrisy. They laugh at us. They know we are no different from them. We have pretty much the same divorce rate. We have drug problems with our kids. We have unwed pregnant daughters. We foolishly display our dirty laundry on social media. We’re no better than they at performing our daily jobs. We do just enough to keep the paycheck coming in. Oh! And we have tattoos!
And then on Sunday morning we raise our hands (because the professional worship team just told us to) and we sing our little hearts out.
And we cry out for the blessing of God.
And we face North (it’s always north, didn’t you know?) and we shout to the unseen demonic entities to be gone in Jesus’ name.
We pass the offering plate. Someone prays over it for God’s blessing. We announce how much is being given to mission work. (We’ve added an orphanage in Guatemala.)
And we sit back down with a smile and allow the anointed pastor to spoon-feed us from his vast reservoir of superior spiritual truth. Some of us actually took a Bible with us to church and we follow along glibly reading as Pastor tells us what those words mean.
And we go home, satisfied.
Have we lost our minds? Do we even think about it? Does any of this bother us?
Have we forgotten the Lord’s words to a young Jew who came inquiring what was the greatest commandment, and Jesus (sorry, Yeshua) pointed the boy right back to where it all began with What does the law of Moses say?
The words stung the man’s ears. They should sting ours today:
Matthew 22:36-40 (HCSB)
36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the greatest and most important command.
39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
Love the Lord your God with all your heart? This is the greatest commandment? And everything else in the law and the prophets depend on (hinge on) this? What a novel idea!
Maybe this will help:
Revelation 4:11 (KJV)
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
For His pleasure we were created.
When my kids were little, one reminder was constantly pointed out to them: Life is not about you.
Guess what, fellow believers? Life is not about you. It’s not about me.
It’s about HIM.
Oh, you say, you’re an arrogant piece of work, pointing out everybody else’s faults, Mr. Perfect.
Like Paul, I cry out that I am the chief of sinners. I’m not claiming to have arrived. I’ve made more mistakes and probably committed more sins than most. I know that I am a sinner in need of this Wonderful Savior. The farmer must be the first one to partake of his crop. (And the medicine – Open wide! It’s good for you!)
Let me iterate (and perhaps re-iterate) that I do not hate pastors. I do not hate Christian musicians. I do not despise teaching. I do not despise prophesying. I do not despise church leadership. I do not despise believers who call their savior by his Hebrew Name (some of my best friends do this). I’m simply pointing out the fads and trends that so easily pull us away from the heart of the gospel.
Having said that, I urge the church, the body of Christ, to get back to the word. Dig in! Read it for yourself! What does it say about the structure of the church? What does it say about pastors? What does it say…? What does it say…? What does it say…? (eh-hmm…as The Good Book says in Two Corinthians…)
We have been handed the greatest gift of all times – the gift of eternal life through Jesus the Messiah. What are doing with it? What should we be doing with it?
I suggest, dear saints (and maybe a sinner or two is reading this) that we get back to basics: Love the Lord your God with all your heart…
(Do you know how weird it feels to swallow medicine and then stick your nose on a microphone?)