Letters to the Church: Do you want to write one?
He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised and we did not care. (Isaiah 53:3, NLT)
Lent has begun, and this year I am going to be pondering this verse. This week, my thoughts went here:
The measure of my life in worldly standards will never measure up to the magnificence of my life for the Kingdom.
Why am I so confident? That’s how it happened for Jesus. We know now that He is at the right hand of God and will be returning again. But during His last breath on earth He was hanging on a cross with His flesh shredded to pieces, His friends gone, and His enemies jeering.
By faith we ask for the magnificence, but we can’t expect to see it here if Jesus didn’t see it here either.
I have attended amazing churches in my life, but when I pull back to look at the church in panoramic fashion, I am puzzled by many things. For example, I see concern about living a “balanced” life, but Jesus didn’t live one. I hear more talk about social issues than gospel issues, but everything Jesus did was gospel focused. Christian podcasts feature authors and speakers, but Jesus changed the world with normal, unknown folk. I watch parents determined to keep their children safe from all manner of discomfort, yet Jesus modeled discipleship that walked into the uncomfortable. Lately, I keep hearing an ad from a major Christian publishing company marketing special dishes so we can practice hospitality, as if pretty dishes are needed to be hospitable.
Jesus changed history and nothing about his life looks like what I am seeing.
For example, Jesus prayed…a lot!
One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. (Luke 6:12)
And the early church prayed…a lot!
They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus. (Acts 1:27)
Personally, I don’t observe prayers of much length at all in my circles. The standard prayer is less than one minute to start an event, and then the same to close. Both feel perfunctory. I can’t remember the last time I saw people on their knees.
Jesus changed history and nothing about his prayer life looks like what I am seeing.
Francis Chan sees discrepancies too. He wrote, Letters to the Church to remind us of how powerful, how glorious the Church once was…and calls us to once again be the Church God intended us to be.” I devoured it with pencil in hand.
Here are some things I underlined:
Just the other day, a one-hour teaching session spontaneously turned into thirteen hours of prayer! We were enjoying His presence together so much that no one wanted to leave! (p. 22)
So in the Church, rather than marveling at the incredible mystery that we are a part of God’s body, we critique the leadership, the music, the programs, and anything we can think of. (p. 38-39)
We pursue what we want; then we make sure there are no biblical commands we are violating. In essence, we want to know what God will tolerate rather than what He desires. (p. 53-54)
True compassion takes into account far more than what a person feels today; it take into account what he or she will feel on judgment day. (p. 137)
We underestimate them [children], and we’re afraid of what will happen if we let them loose, so we keep them entertained, educated, and insulated. (p. 163)
We’ve built our modern churches on the assumption that God works through a few talented, impressive, and wealthy people. And we give all the other people comfortable seats from which they can be blessed by what God does through these leaders and influencers. (p. 164)
We may not want to read these words, but we may need to hear these words. I want both my life and the church-at-large to be found worthy of my precious Jesus who lived a difficult life for you and me so we can have eternity.
Picture Explanation: I printed off some food and drink pictures recently and made them! Yum!
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