musings on worship and christian living


Is it Revelation or just Ranting?
February 7, 2009, 3:45 am
Filed under: Random Musings

I was talking with a friend tonight and (as is very common with me) the topic turned to the church and Christians and I left the conversation very fired up.  Thoughts that have been brewing (or percolating if you prefer your blog non-alcoholic) in my mind for several months collided with my mouth and my frustration began to begin take shape in audible format.  The conversation didn’t go too deep or too long and I was left with a head full of revelation or rant and so here I come to drop it off.  

Many of you may be aware that I have spent 20 hours or so a week over the past few months working at a Christian bookstore.  It has provided me a different look at the Christian world then I ever really paid attention to before.  What I have seen is the industry of the cross.  An industry where Thomas Kinkade paints and the name of Jesus and the implement of his death is plastered on everything from key chains and bumper stickers to flashlights and children’s foam tic-tac-toe games.  

As I have become more familiar with the “Jesus Junk” we sell I can’t help but see a strong contrast between the church I know and the church I read about in scripture and early history books.  We in America (and maybe elsewhere) have created our own little Jesus “bubble” where we are, for the most part, segregated from the main population of non-believers.  We have our own TV stations, our own movies, our own bookstores, our own version of “holy” Apples to Apples and “holy” tic-tac-toe games.  We have created a world where we are normal and this world is safe, secure and has all the amenities for a comfortable and assured existence.  

This seems to me in start contrast to the world of the early disciples who ventured boldly into the heart of the unsaved, who embraced discomfort and danger out of a sheer desire to see souls saved.  They would gladly trade freedom and even life for the Gospel of Christ to be advanced.

I wonder what their take on our Christian sub-culture would be.  Would they think foam cross tic-tac-toe was cute or a mockery of the symbol of such great pain and suffering on our behalf?  Would they be glad to know that thousands of people meet together every week or be heartbroken that despite every advantage and freedom we possess the church in America is steadily declining in numbers? 

The fact is church has been infused with the same “ME” centric worldview as the rest of society and we have created a community that makes us feel safe and normal.  It is not wonder that churches seem to be more concerned with continuing their programming and meeting their budgets than being a light to the world.  

Do you ever wonder what would happen if we Christians couldn’t not open our mouths without speaking the Gospel?  What if we were so overcome with the truth of the cross that we dove headlong into every dark corner of our community, braving whatever discomfort and dangers may exist because that was the only way we could think of to respond?  

Now before some of you get your undies in a bunch and feel the need to defend Christian bookstores everywhere let me say I don’t think all things in the Christian community are bad.  I believe most ideas came about in an attempt to be more Christ like.  I just feel that the side effect of much of what we created for God has infringed upon our ability and desire to fulfill the great commission.  

I also say these things knowing I am absolutely part of the problem.  I have failed in presenting the gospel, at feeding the poor, at serving the needy.  But tonight my heart is genuinely broken that the gift of the cross has been reduced to a cheap marketing ploy to sell merchandise.  It’s as if the cross that Christ chose to carry was used to build walls to keep us safe from the wolves and we have ceased to venture out for lost sheep.

Something about all this just doesn’t feel right.

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It’s Not Just Good, It’s Good Enough!
February 2, 2009, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Random Musings

I used to love the cartoon sitcom “The Simpsons”.  Yes at times it can be crude and sacrilegious, but once you look past its minor flaws it was (and some say still is) a hilarious show.  

If you aren’t familiar with the show, one of the characters is Krusty the Clown.  Anything but your ideal children’s entertainer, Krusty has many flaws like drinking, smoking, poor money management, and fits of depression during his (children’s) TV show.  (I personally think I would act much the same if I was a clown for a profession.)  Despite his issues Krusty has a fairly successful empire including his TV show, a fast food restaurant (Krusty Burger) and toy lines, all bearing his seal of approval.

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It is honestly one of my favorite things from the show.  I actually have that seal of approval on my snowboard, and it fairly well describes how I make it down the mountain.  But that statement, “It’s not just good, it’s good enough!” just so personifies the issue that plagues us a people.  We are committed to doing things “just enough” and no more.

Take driving for example.  How many times has someone passing you in the left lane on the freeway felt the need to come in to your lane 6 inches from your front bumper and not bothered to use their turn signal until they were halfway over?   Or how many times could you not use a parking space because someone is so crooked in their space they take up two?    (Bad driving drives me nuts.  I have no issue admitting I have serious road rage.)  

Travel to your local grocery store and walk the isles finding things out of place.  Refried beans in the cereal isle?  2 liter of Pepsi in the health food isle?  Bologna with the eggs?  How does that happen?  It happens because when people decide the don’t want something they just set it on the nearest shelf instead of walking the 50 feet to put it back where it belongs.  As if the extra steps would be bad for them.

We, the people of the world, are committed to the mediocre. We aren’t interested in how good we can get but how we can get by.  And while that bothers me, what really grinds my gears is the infusion of that “good enough” mentality into what we do in church.

I would love to use examples here but my intent is not to tear down specific churches I have been to but just to speak to an overall issue within the corporate church.  I can’t tell you how many churches I have been to that had terrible sound systems, awful graphics, grumpy people (complaining I’m too loud), unkempt landscaping, inadequate greeting, no follow up (I usually fill out the visitor form at church I visit to see if I hear from them.  Usually don’t.) and marginal worship bands.

I understand in some situations that people ARE giving their best but more often than not I find that we just aren’t pursuing excellence.  We aren’t waking up every day asking ourselves, “How can I be better?  How can I give better?”  

When you read through the Old Testament and don’t skip over all the parts about sacrifice you will read over and over again that God wanted the BEST the Israelites had.  Not “just good enough”.  The BEST.  Going to sacrifice?  I want the BEST sheep you have.  Have a orchard?  I want the BEST produce.  Going to build me a temple?  I want the BEST workers and artisans.  I want the best of EVERYTHING you have.  

But we don’t give our best.  We give just enough to make ourselves feel “right” with God.  In fact, speaking about worship, I have heard from several sources that to be excellent is to perform and draw attention away from God.  “Good enough” is what God really wants.  (My response is always to ask where in the Bible they find “1/2 of a donkey” as an acceptable sacrifice.  If you don’t get that, just think of another more “classic” name for a donkey.)

I just find myself wondering today, what if?  What if the redeemed said “good enough is not good enough.  I want to be the best.”  What if everything we did as Christians was the best we could muster and the most creative we could conceive?  Would the church again be the epicenter for art and music in the world?  Would amazing, world impacting scientific discovery come from the minds of those who love the Lord and not those trying to disprove him?

What would your life look like if in everything you did you gave your best to God?