It’s not sexy, but it is beautiful

pexels-photo-29751I have been following the Bible Project’s Read Scripture plan this year and have enjoyed it. I probably would enjoy a little more of an Old Testament / New Testament mix, but overall it’s been good to journey from cover to cover (with a repeat trip through the Psalms along the way).

I started in Jeremiah a couple of days ago and cannot for the life of me think of why I haven’t come back to this historical/prophetic record on a regular basis.

Jeremiah is given a pretty gritty ministry by the Lord. He does what the Lord says, and each time gets abused for it, more or less.

We shouldn’t be surprised considering the nature of prophetic ministry laid out for him. More than predicting the future (prophecy), prophetic ministry is about holding people to account in the present, that is, holding up the standard of God as a measuring line for all else.

What’s that look like for Jeremiah?

It’s not about health and wealth.

Jeremiah 1.10 See, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant

  1. Uproot and tear down
  2. Destroy and demolish
  3. Build and plant

This prophetic calling is not a recipe for winning friends. Numbers 1 and 2 have to happen before 3. Which means upsetting, offending, and angering a lot of folks.

It means, for instance, telling people they have abandoned the fountain of living water and instead dug cracked cisterns for themselves that are incapable of holding water, let alone the bitter waters of flaccid saviors and fleeting satisfactions (the Nile and Euphrates).

             We dig leaky wells, too. Our Nile and Euphrates tend to be consumable,    wearable, edible, or achievable, but oh do we dig…

The prophet calls this futile effort what it is and lays out a vision of the God-shaped alternative.

Reading the first chapters of Jeremiah calls to mind the ministry of Jesus. Like him or not, Jesus was bold. Jesus didn’t play favorites or pull punches.

In true prophetic fashion, Jesus uprooted and tore down established religious practices, destroyed and demolished entrenched religious beliefs.

He did so in view of building up something new. If all you do is demolish, you aren’t prophetic. You’re just a jerk.

Jesus demolished the religious soil of his day and planted the seed of a new people. But, for the seed to grow, it first had to die.

Writing about persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire, the ancient theologian Tertullian penned an indelible depiction of this death to life phenomenon: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

How did a movement catalyzed by a criminalized Jewish mystic and carried on by a ragtag band of misfits from the margins ever make it out of the first century? Not by political force or entrepreneurial prowess.

No. It was by faithful devotion to the way of Jesus, the way he modeled.

It is not sexy. But it is beautiful. 

sprout

If you are in Christ, you have prophetic blood flowing through your veins. You, too, are seed.

What could it look like for you to give your life’s blood for something that will outlast your carbon footprint?

 

 

 

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The censorship of Christian community

lion-predator-big-cat-cat-162093There is so much I want to say.

So many comments I’d like to make.

More questions I’d like to ask than anything else…

But the Christian community is extremely sensitive. We–I include me in the we–are so sensitive! [don’t use an exclamation point unless you mean it!] What are we so scared of?

It’s like anything we disagree with or anyone who disagrees with us is immediately blacklisted and deemed a heretic or apostate or, dare I say, liberal!!!????!

Scott Sauls, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Nashville, tweeted on February 12

“I am too conservative for liberals, and too liberal for conservatives.” – Everyone who follows the whole Jesus

2,400 people retweeted. I can only assume it’s because more persons don’t know who Scott is.

Point being, yes. This is an amen deep in my soul. One  of the hardest aspects of doing ministry of any kind in the South is being pigeon-holed by others, feeling like there’s a mold one has to fit into, and then fearing the backlash of not fitting in.

I get diplomacy, I do. But what if the prophets of the Old Testament had been diplomatic? Would they have been prophets? No. They wouldn’t have been thrown into cisterns or killed. They probably would’ve been…wait for it…promoted.

Prophets speak.

         They are a voice.

                      They ask.

                                They tell.

                                           They prod.

Subsequently…

They are isolated. Lonely. Blacklisted, ignored, imprisoned, fired, demonized, etc.

I guess what I’m saying is, can we Christians–bought with the blood of Christ and freed from the strictures of this political world–be truly free? Can we refuse the titles and categorizations that the world requires in order to make enemies?

Why the titles, the categories, the sides? Because we have to know who’s wrong, right?

Following the whole of Jesus really leaves us as misfits. We can’t be contorted to fit into any one corner or box. Too liberal. Too conservative. Can’t be nailed down. Enemies on every side. Sounds like Jesus.

Here’s the thing. If nobody is upset with you. If nobody is frustrated by what you say. If nobody is really bothered by you. You’ve picked a box.  And turns out it’s a perfect fit.

 

It’s Like the First Time Every Time

I tweeted the other day (sounds like a confession, doesn’t it?).

I tweeted this – “The more I read the Bible, the more I feel like I’m reading it for the first time.”

This is a blessing that comes with working one’s way through the Bible in large portions. I’ve come to like reading full chapters in the Old Testament and then smaller portions in the New Testament. Find what you will do and do it!
In doing so, though, I’m reading what I’ve read before, but it’s like reading it for the first time. And it’s making me look at my life and my ministry and go, “Okay, these things aren’t lining up.” And I’ll just assume I’m the one who has it wrong.
So for instance, just this morning I read Isaiah 2. Like most writing in the prophets, the chapter is about God’s judgment on his people and his calling them to return to him. So he says of them…
     Their land is filled with silver and gold,
     and there is no end to their treasures;
     their land is filled with horses,
     and there is no end to their chariots.
     Their land is filled with idols;
     they bow down to the work of their hands,
     to what their own fingers have made.
— We don’t make little images or figures and bow down. But let’s be real; we have idols. They just don’t look as dumb to us or everyone else. We call them careers, houses, multiple houses, cars, multiple cars, wardrobes, hobbies, sports, gaming, social media, blog traffic, twitter followers, church attendance, etc…
All of which become little idols when they usurp the rightful place of God on the throne of our hearts.
But because we don’t make little wooden, golden, or silver images, we ignore the rest. Which says…
     Enter into the rock
     and hide in the dust
     from before the terror of the LORD,
     and from the splendor of his majesty.
     The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,
     and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,
     and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
     (Isaiah 2:7ish-12ish)
So before I piddle away at life in careless fashion or prepare a sermon from the vantage point of “What will make someone want to come back?” I’d better take into account what God says about God. Where are their idols in my life? Where is there pride or a lofty spirit? Where am I being haughty?
Nobody can read for you. Nobody can stand before God and give an account for your life either. So pick up the scriptures and read.