Monday, February 27, 2006

Church and Culture

I got an email from somebody I don’t know, who has never walked into our spiritual community, telling me that the way we use music in our community is wrong. Specifically the use of ‘secular’ music is wrong. So this got me thinking: No, not about ignorant people…that will be a different post (UGHH there goes that inside voice…)

Today celebrities serve as cultural prophets and religious philosophers. More often than not, a famous actor or actresses will have a great influence with their religious beliefs on the average person. Recently, Kanye West, after winning 3 Grammys and being on the cover of Rolling Stone as Jesus, said that if there were a "revised gospel" he should be in it . . . In his later 20’s, West is one of the most popular and polarizing artists in music today. And while he's sold more than 4 million albums to date, he is as known for his outspokenness as he is for his hit-making ability. Not only is he compelling, but also so ridiculously brash, and yet so irresistibly entertaining.

Celebrities like West find that since the media scrutinizes their lives and practices, their words are magnified to the general population. Leonard Sweet says, “The best way to defuse the principalities and powers of postmodern culture is not to escape from it, but to learn its language, master its media, and engage it on a higher level.” The church has failed to master the media. In his book Carpe Manana, Leonard Sweet’s message is that the church’s presentation, which consists of the medium, style and language, must be culturally driven in order to be relevant. The message does not change, but the medium and style must.

Marshall McLuhan is considered by many to be one of the chief theorists of mass communications in our time. A practical ramification of reading of McLuhan is that one first must notice and accept the fact that the world is rapidly changing with the advent of technology; and that means that the church must be aware of that change. Not only must the church be aware of it, it must be involved in it. As the world changes, the church must be willing to change as well. This change can happen in many different forms, but according to McLuhan, the form is not what is important. The church must remember that what is important is the message that we are trying to get across to the rest of the ‘global village,’ namely the gospel. We must not focus on the means or process, but rather on the substance of what we have to offer.

Almost certainly in today’s society one can observe that there it is a genuine openness to spirituality, and that this is all magnified with the utilization of media. But here lies the confusion. Famous celebrities who claim they are ‘Christian’ talk about God or Jesus while promoting a lifestyle that is directly opposed to Scripture and the very teachings of the God they say they serve. Celebrities want to thank God and Jesus from award podiums, but often the same artist has won the award for a song or movie that may demean women, promote violence or glorify sexual promiscuity. It is not uncommon to hear Christian terminology used by celebrities without grounding it in Scripture or in the person of Christ. With spiritual hunger and awareness on the rise, books about spirituality like Deepak Chopra’s Conversations With God are being promoted by television hosts such as Opra Winfrey, yet there is no Biblical foundation to any of this spiritualism. There are new definitions being allocated to established theological and spiritual terms by these new cultural prophets and teachers. Thus what one finds is that there are confusing messages being sent to the spiritually hungry emerging generations who are learning these theological terms and ideas, but have ended up defining Jesus very differently than the Bible does.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Your Thoughts on Anger

I am changing thoughts on this thread but will respond all this week to the many questions regarding fasting in last weeks post! Have fun! Pick one!

I wonder if anger and confrontation motivates me…
How many of you get angry? Come on. I am like you and I have anger….

I was yakking on my cell phone while driving this week… Came to a four way stop sign and made my stop, proceeded through at my turn only to have a blue car blow her stop sign and then having the audacity to give me a one fingered ‘hello’ salute like it was my fault. Oh I was choked.

How many of you on a regular basis get angry?
How many of you on a regular basis get angry and you scare yourself?
How many of you on a regular basis get angry and say things and stop yourself later and say “I just didn’t say that did I?”
Or how many of you have gotten so angry that you have broken things and you sat there with the broken thing in hand and said “I just didn’t break that did I?”

You can find somebody totally depressed, exhausted and stressed and if you give them something to be angry about there will be an explosion of unprecedented proportions. Anger produces a rocket fuel of energy, it produces unreal adrenaline and stimulus. We scare ourselves with the power that goes through us when we are angry. There is a nuclear force that resides in you and I and it is called anger. When we find ourselves angry we can leap a tall building with a single bound, right?

Jesus had a confrontation with the religious rulers, the Pharisees…in Mark 3. Here we have a Jesus and a GOD who gets angry yet, in Christianity, causeless, excessive, or protracted anger is considered sinful. (Matthew 5:22; Col. 3:8), and unbridled wrath is one of the 7 Deadly Sins. The Bible warns "do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Eph. 4:26), that is, do not let feelings of anger last so long as to become sinful. There is, however, what is commonly referred to as "righteous anger," or divine anger that is found throughout the scriptures. We find a GOD who gets angry at certain things. So in our efforts to communicate to people that our GOD is one of love we conveniently leave out the aspects of the fact that our GOD is also one or wrath, anger and judgment. But if you have a God of love will you have a GOD who gets angry and why?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting

Well, someone suggested that I bring up the issues of spiritual disciplines. So today, I was a buffet...and got to some seriously thinking...about food and weight and fasting. But does food or fasting have anything to do with my spirituality? I think so....

Fasting is a voluntary withdrawing from food and/or drink, or other fleshly appetite, for a specified period of time. The three most basic types of fasting mentioned in the Bible are:

Normal Fast
The first mention of a fast in scripture is Exodus 34:28 where Moses received the 10 Commandments. Jesus also, began His earthly ministry with prayer and fasting.Though fasting is never commanded, Jesus assumed that the disciples would want to in order to see great things happen! But it’s not something a Christian has to do, but can choose to do…there are not many guidelines given in scripture about fasting, either!A Normal fast is no food, only liquids like water, juice, etc…it can last for 1 day (Judges 20:26—1 day fast) and personally, that’s a good place to start!

The Partial Fast
In the partial fast you omit certain foods for a while, but not others. Daniel and 3 other Hebrews did a partial fast, and at the end were stronger and healthier than those eating what they wanted. Elijah did this on 2 occasions as well.

The Absolute Fast
Moses went on this kind for 40 days, nothing enters your mouth at all…can be done only for a very short time…consult a Doctor.!

The Purpose of fasting:
Fasting is a way to seek God by denying the physical in order to focus on the spiritual……for this reason prayer and fasting must always go together (or it does you no good spiritually!) Of course, there are physical benefits: medical doctor’s are discovering more and more benefits to fasting…because the body is designed to heal itself on a cellular level…as we eat and take in various toxins, processed foods, medicines, etc., we hold a certain amount of poisons in our cells…but when we fast many of those things are flushed out of our system!

But if you want a spiritual benefit, make sure and take the time you would have in eating and transfer it to prayer time!

II Chronicles 20: 3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.

Ezra 8: 23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.

1 Corinthians 7 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. Another point made by this verse is that when we fast it ought to be from ALL physical desires, not just food! Let go of the physical, focus on the spiritual!

So, do you fast? Why or why not? Thoughts?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Responding to Prayer

I want to take some time to respond to all the responses in the last post…so here it goes…Obviously many people believe in prayer. But we are challenged by prayer at the same time. Prayer is communication, but somehow we struggle with prayer more than just talking to somebody we know in a real intimate way.

When believers gather together for a meal someone is always asked to pray. Those can be anxious moments because people think about what they are going to say. Not everyone wants to pray. Prayer creates some challenges. Jesus' disciples expressed the same challenge when they said to him, "Teach us to pray." I'm sure they sounded awkward. So Jesus gave the prayer that today we call the Lord's Prayer. He did not give it as a formula. I don't believe that Jesus ever pictured that we would repeat it again and again and again. But he was saying, "Here is an example of how you pray." How Jesus taught us to pray was a lot different than our own attempts. Jesus said that prayer is extremely personal.Most people, when they think of prayer, equate it to a formal situation, like a gathering, a church or a religious organized situation. Jesus said, "And when you pray, don't be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by other people." That's the only time some folks pray. “But when you pray, go into your room . . ." In other words where you hang out, where you live, not in a religious place. ". . . close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what has done in secret, will reward you." Prayer is informal. It's where you live. It's where you hang out. It's interesting that Jesus said when you pray go to that place where you feel comfortable and pray to your Father.

A lot of times we think of prayer as a repetitious ritual. But all of us have meaningful repetitious rituals in our life. Prayer is like a repetitious ritual that you love, where you really love somebody and you make the space and you make the time. If you struggle with words it doesn't matter as much as making the space and time to be alone and aware of the presence of this friendship with God.Jesus said prayer is simple. "And when you pray, don't keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Sometimes people think you have to pray a long time to convince God about your needs. Your Father knows what you need before you even ask him. It doesn't take a lot of words.

Some people have a religion that is so heavenly, it's no earthly good. Jesus said let it be done right here on earth, where you live, exactly as you planned it in heaven. We have a tendency to separate spiritual and material. A lot of times we look at physical things as being real and spiritual things as less real, so it is easier for us to focus on what is seen. But, everything that you can see or touch is temporary. Everything.

I am also reminded of my dependence as I pray, and for the great needs I have in my life to become the whole person that God created me to become. There are three needs that are true of every one of us. They deal with our past, present and future. The first great need I have is forgiveness. Forgiveness deals with my past, and the need to truly forgive myself. A lot of us have so much subconscious unforgiven junk we're dealing with. And as long as we have that going on in our lives, we can never be free from our past to focus on the future. Prayer is tied to forgiveness. Do I want to have God's attention? Do I want to have God's blessing in my life? Then forgive me my junk if I also forgive the junk that those folks have done against me. So my forgiveness, my experience of God's love and forgiveness in my life is tied to my willingness to love and forgive other people. Until you forgive that person, you will never be emotionally free to focus on your future. Forgiveness. To go forward, we have to deal with our past.
"Give us this day our daily bread." Daily bread has to do with what I need today physically and spiritually to attain the success that will honor God and that God created me for. When I pray, it reminds me of Jesus' commitment to provide me with every daily resource I need…physical, spiritual or material. Whatever I need, I can ask for.

What about the future? Temptation. Free me or protect me from the things that can derail me from God's purpose in my life. I know many people who started off great and they hit that place of temptation. They compromised and were derailed in their marriage. They were derailed in their career. They were derailed in the respect that they lost from their children. To fully attain the future that God has created me for, I need protection from temptation.

So, I have put my thoughts out there what are you thinking?