The Fire is Burning – A New Direction of Faith

A child of the 60’s and 70’s and a self-proclaimed “lyrics” guy, I was partial to schmaltzy love songs, smooth vocal harmonies, R&B, and soft rock. (Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Manhattans, etc) I never really appreciated the rock we now call “Classic Rock” or the up and coming “Metal”.  If I couldn’t understand the lyrics, it was not music.  When I became a Dad, I began to listen to that “hellion” music my kids were listening to and, well, I began to like it. About the same time, my friend Mark introduced me to the sound board and I began to hear things I never heard before. All of my children have in one way or another helped to evolve my taste in music.  So all of your old fuddy-duddies who are haters of the new stuff (it’s too loud, I can’t understand the lyrics, Rap is not music, blah-blah-blah)  … you are only hurting yourself and missing some blessings. (this has little to do with my subject, but if you can’t handle Switchfoot, you are missing some great lyrics not to mention some really passionate musicians)

Several years ago, Josiah and I were driving back from Bowling Green KY.  Those long road trips were always special to me.  We did not talk a great deal, but we would listen to music and sometime discuss how it affected us.  He had just downloaded Switchfoot’s “Hello Hurricane” album and this song jumped out of the speakers and smacked me up-side the head. As a sound guy I was first grabbed by the driving bass line, but then the second or third time through, the lyrics grabbed me.  I had to find out mare about this John M. Perkins guy. Here is a good overview of John M Perkins if you are interested.  I am reading in Let Justice Roll Down and I highly recommend it) Anyways … This sort of began this Drought Condition series.  I had always felt like something out by my faith seemed counterfeit.  As I read the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7 and the parable of the sheep and the goats (Why Are We “Acting the Goat”?), conviction began to fall hard.  The resurrected life that was modeled by the one who had rescued me was not the one I was living.  Although I should not have used this as a justification for living in the Saturday (Sunday’s not coming … it is here ya’ll), I noticed that I was not seeing it modeled by anyone around me … pulpit or pew.

So for two years I have avoided it no matter how many times I have been prodded.

I read the amazing accounts of a young man who I watched grow up with my children touching the lives of the homeless in St. Louis Drew O’Brien.  I remember just 8 or 9 years ago when we sat in the ER praying for this young man to survive a catastrophic fall, I am reading about him developing close relationships with the homeless and oppressed in St. Louis and moving on to the (Bethel Dream Center) in Alaska to take God’s love to another people group that are on the outskirts of society.  I was touched, but not enough get off the goat list.

I began to see people who were shedding the facade of “righteous” living (goats in sheep’s clothing), stopped waiting for the prodigals to come home, and jumped down in the mud to help them escape life with the pigs.  People like:

  •  Jamie – The Very Worst Missionary, who after trying it the “right” way came to a realization that what sets us apart is not our religious affiliation or our empty words, but it is our love.  Her stories or social reaching out first into her community, then into the lives of victims of the sex slave trade, and efforts to awaken the christian community to the necessity of being responsible for society as a whole.
  • Cathleen Falsani – A journalist and long time conservative religion writer for the Chicago Sun-times wrote about the skepticism that as she encountered a church that had abandoned the most urgent physical and spiritual needs of a world that desperately needs our help. She found that she had a love for mothers and that all mothers, despite their social setting want to love their children.  She used this common bond to begin touching lives.
  • Bono -yea that Bono –  I am not going to say much here, if you are interested, check out his speech at Georgetown University

These people and their views would not be welcomed in the churches I have attended.   They do not align their views with a political party.  Patriotism does rival their devotion to God.  They do not have love litmus tests like abortion, homosexuality,  addictions, and other “serious sins.”  Concern for the decay of our christian society and our christian nation are not filling the news feeds of their Facebook pages.  Life for them does not revolve around church events and productions.  Their hearts are not broken by the moral decay of our nation, they are broken for broken individuals whose lives are wrought with the decay that is brought about by living in a society that does not place the same value on them that Jesus did. The realization that we are not a church that is characterized as peacemakers brings them to their knees.

If all there is to life as a Christian is going to church, ranting about the injustice of our government towards the church, demanding 2nd Amendment Rights, worrying about the inability of our government to keep itself from reflecting the greed and immorality of our society, honoring our heroes who we send off to “defend” our freedoms, putting on dramatic and musical productions, and pray about our own sicknesses and misfortunes, then maybe this is not for me.  Fortunately, this is not the pattern that Jesus and the early church set for us, so I am not quite ready to bail just yet.

This all may sound rather self-righteous, harsh, and maybe even bitter.  That is not at all my intent.  I love my church friends and appreciate all that they have poured into me.  If it were not for the love poured into my family over the years and miraculous moves of God that I have seen, I would have abandoned my faith years ago. I just have come to a realization that maybe Jesus has a better plan for me.  My Pastor Jim Johnson in Georgia used to say over and over, “Love Jesus, Love People … it is that simple.”  I always loved that.  It might be that simple but simple does not mean easy. Loving is much harder and requires a lot more effort than we are putting forth.  Pastor Terry Sikes here in Lexington painted a beautiful picture of the church being a center of ministry that reached out into the community  being Jesus in a hurting world.  That is exactly what I felt that God was wanting to bring about a resurrection of His creation. I am longing for more than words and tire of being a goat.

So over the past year I have begun to run across the writings of others with the same longing.  N.T Wright, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Shane Claiborne, Tony Compolo … and the early church. I don’t know how to go forward, but I can’t go back.  I think I will start with Paul’s words to the Romans who were dealing with integrating a diverse society, full of sin, that was threatened by the appeal of the love that exhibited to “the least of these”.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

So I have a goat brain that is in desperate need of renewal.  Not sure how a guy that is afraid of talking to his neighbors is going to move on to touching the lives of people in need, but I am confident that He will bring about the changes He has planned.

Any of my Christian friends that are still my friends, come back and see how it goes.  Any of my more liberal friends, I will be offending you as well here shortly, so don’t get to excited.