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Archive for October, 2008

Welcome to confession. Wait! I’m not Catholic…I’m Pentecostal…at least I go to a Pentecostal church. Oh, I hate denominational divisions, but that’s for another post.
I heard this song recently, “I kissed a girl (and I liked it)”. It kind of jumped out at me, especially considering my background. I read on another blog that the singer, Katy Perry (Hudson), grew up in an evangelical Christian home and both of her parents are pastors. I would expect their heads to be spinning about now, but apparently they’re supportive – of their daughter, at least, which is good.
Okay, so here’s the confession part of my post: I have kissed quite a few girls, and I liked it. I know I’m not supposed to like it, and I’m not saying I like it now (well, it has been about 12 years since I kissed anybody, so I don’t quite remember) – but I did like it at the time. Otherwise I wouldn’t have spent 13-odd years as a lesbian.
Here’s a radical concept: if sin wasn’t alluring, then we wouldn’t be tempted by it. Every one of us has areas of vulnerability. We all have been sinned against in ways that have warped us towards brokenness. Even a small crack in our armour is an opportunity for the devil. Personally, I’m not tempted by gambling of any sort, but apparently lots of people find it irresistible. The idea of robbing a bank or killing somebody holds no allure for me.
I remember hearing a well-intentioned woman at one church I attended talk about how she just couldn’t even think of sinning, because she knew how much it would hurt Jesus. I wish I had her inner strength, but I don’t. I don’t want to hurt Jesus, but I know how much my flesh wants certain things. Sometimes I give in.
Not that I’ve kissed a girl recently, but the thought has entered my mind on occasion. It’s not that I want to have those thoughts. Yet denying them seems kind of ridiculous. Would it be better if I thought about kissing some man, to whom I’m obviously not married? I think in the eyes of many Christians, it would be. But in God’s eyes, there’s no difference.
I don’t like the idea of a song that promotes sin any more than the next Christian does. But what I like even less is the idea that some Christians think certain sins are worse than others. That idea has a name: self-righteousness. Jesus said, before you can remove the speck from your brother’s eye, remove the two-by-four from your own. If any of us is without sin, then by all means, cast the first stone. Otherwise, keep your stones to yourself. Why not reach out in love instead, like Jesus would?

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I’ve been thinking about this subject today – dreams. Don’t we all have dreams, ideas, hopes of how we could be useful to God in some way? Gifts God has given us that we want to use to serve Him, to advance His Kingdom, to help us grow so we can serve Him better? Ways that we could function in the Body that really make use of who we are? I’m sure we all have these dreams and desires, at some point in our lives. Why is it so difficult to hang on to them? 

“It’s the enemy!”, I hear some of you chiming in. Sure, Satan tries to thwart anything that might advance the Kingdom of God. But I think there’s another “culprit”, so to speak: The Church. (“gasp!”) Okay, I’m painting with pretty broad strokes, obviously. But the churches I’ve attended over the years have all had something in common: the “vision”, the plans, the dreams, etc., are set by the “leadership”, the “professionals”. The rest of us are cast in the role of helping the vision come to fruition. “Get on board with our vision!”, we are exhorted. It’s appealing in a way – just join us and we’ll find you a position – no experience required! Not a position that is necessarily suited to your uniqueness, but one that will make you feel like you “belong” – you’re part of “the team”!

Why does this approach sound like a corporate “pep-rally”?  Jesus’ favourite metaphor for the church is “family”. In a family, while there are older, more experienced members, ideally all family members’ contributions are considered valuable. Actually, the older members help to cultivate the dreams and goals of the younger members. In a dysfunctional family, the children are used to meet the parents’ needs, dreams and goals. This may not be a perfect analogy, but it’s worth considering.

Why can’t average church-goers have dreams that the church supports and helps to cultivate? Why is “vision-casting” considered the exclusive domain of the “leadership”? I visited the website of a church in Toronto called Freedomize, and they have a unique concept in this regard. They encourage their members to approach the leadership with creative ideas, ways to glorify Christ. By the sounds of it, they will support (financially and otherwise) almost anything that is conceived with sincere motives. I think this is a step in the right direction. The power and resources in the Body of Christ shouldn’t be centralized in the hands of a few people.

Are your dreams a bruised reed, a smoldering wick, at the moment? Don’t give up. They will not die, at least not the ones that God is birthing. Somehow we have to press forward and keep trusting Jesus. He will not snuff out the smoldering dreams of His children.

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One of the first Christian music CDs I got after being born again in 1995 was the “WOW” 1996 double-CD set. One of the songs on that CD, if I remember correctly, was “The Anchor Holds”, by Ray Boltz. Since then I’ve realized that he has written a number of “classic” songs, including “Thank You”. I’ve heard this song sung at my church a number of times. I hope that Ray’s songs will continue to be regarded as the worship anthems that they are.

Have you heard? Who hasn’t in Christiandom? Ray Boltz, Christian music icon, recently “came out”, acknowledging that he is gay, and has been basically for his whole life. He was born again during the 1970’s “Jesus Movement”, and was married, had children, etc. Recently he announced that after 30 years of struggling, he has decided that he can’t keep pretending – he is gay. Nothing has really changed in terms of his sexual attractions.

I read the story at Christianity Today, along with a slew of reader comments. It seemed like the page would never end! Some of the comments were sympathetic, if not actually supportive of Ray’s decision. Many were quite hateful, bigoted and grace-less. It stabbed me right in the heart to read some of the vitriolic words coming from Christians in response to Ray’s story. The sense I get is that many folks are so focused on defending scripture that they forget about the human heart behind the story. God doesn’t need to be defended. We need to constantly ask ourselves where Jesus would be in the situation. In the Gospels, Jesus consistently condemned the religious hypocrites, bigots – the religious “inner circle” who somehow felt justified in condemning the sinful behaviour of others. Jesus came to save sinners. It’s not the healthy who need a doctor. 

I’m not suggesting that God has changed His mind regarding His original will for us. He never intended us to lie, cheat, lust, envy, create idols…but we all are broken and susceptible to various weaknesses. I will not pass judgment on Ray Boltz – not because I think he has come to the “right” conclusion, but because I think God is way more merciful that any of us could ever be. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. I won’t presume to stand in God’s stead. Who am I to judge another man’s servant? 

I know the scriptures tell us not to have fellowship with anyone who calls himself a Christian and yet lives in sin. I just wonder, is Jesus still loving Ray? I know He is. There’s a certain “smugness” in some of the comments on the CT blog that really disturbs me. What it indicates to me is that many Christians are out of touch with their own frailty, their own humanity, their own sinfulness. Mercy triumphs over judgement every time.

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In Charismatic circles, the idea of “revival” figures prominently. Think about the whole Lakeland situation recently. What exactly are people expecting when they anticipate revival? It seems to me that just about every year since I was born again, (1995) there have been various streams of Christianity proclaiming the “year of revival” or something similar.
I love words, so I had to look up the definition and origin of the word “revival”. At first glance, it seems to me to mean “to be born again” or “reborn” (why does that sound familiar?) I think Christians often mean something more than the initial conversion experience when they talk about revival, though. They mean, somehow, a re-rebirth. Or a rebirth and a re-rebirth. We all want “revival”, right? We want an instant transformation above and beyond where we presently are. We want a shortcut to glory, to “victory”.

Personally, I don’t want that sort of “revival”, because I know I’m already alive. I want sanctification – or at least I know I need it! That’s the painful aspect of Christianity. Yeah, I want to die, not to be re-born again. I was reborn in 1995. I’m grateful beyond words for the fact that Jesus intercepted me and put me on the narrow path. But since then, whether I’ve realized/embraced it or not, what I need and want is sanctification. I need to be conformed to the image of Christ. This is discipleship. Being born-again, or revived, is the first step in a lifetime journey. The rest of the voyage is difficult. Jesus did not promise us a life of ease. Being His disciple is hard.

The concept of “revival” is popular in our day and age, because people don’t want the hard work of discipleship. They (we) want the instant-miracle-deliverance-altar-call, the “drive-thru breakthrough”. Who in their right mind wants to struggle through problems? Who in their right mind would willingly be crucified, knowing that He was innocent, knowing the agony He’d endure?

So, it’s easy to understand why Christians want to flock to “revival” meetings. But I wonder about the wisdom of doing so. Jesus calls us to the “road less travelled”, so to speak. He promises us hardship and difficulty, but He has ultimately overcome the world. Can He heal and deliver in an instant? Yes! Is this His habitual mode of operation?

What do you think?

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