Monday Meditations 010: Is God Homeless?

god's house living stonesI wonder how frequently Christians ask themselves what God wants in a church?  What sort of home does God want and why?

Is church about what activities are offered for me and my family?

Is it about how “good” the music is (which usually means “is it the music style I prefer”)?

Is it about how “good” the preaching is and how well “fed” I feel after the service?

While I do believe that God’s house is meant to be both for Him and for us, it is God Himself who determines how His house should be built.

Do Christians today really understand what God desires in a home?

Like any homeonwner, God builds His house in His own way.  If the home is His, He arranges the furniture the way he wishes, for He is the master of His own home.

In this connection, I want you to imagine countless living stones scattered all over the earth.  I want you to see innumerable living stones living their own individual Christian lives.  I want you to see scores of living stones who love God, but who are isolated and independent of other living stones.  They may attend religious services, but there’s little to no “building together” among the members.

That is precisely the situation we find ourselves in today.  And what is the net effect?

God is still homeless.

The burning intent of your God is that all of His living stones be built together with other livinig stones to form His house.  Not for themsleves, but for their Lord.  To be the house of God, by God, for God.

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.  (Psalm 127:1)

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  (Ephesians 4:16)

Jesus Christ did not die and rise again just to forgive you of your sins.  He died in order that His Father could obtain a home.  The Lord saved you and me for a high and holy purpose.

Recall again the Lord’s words when on earth: “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of man has no place to lay his head.”  Here is the God of creation saying, “I am here, but I am homeless.  Make me a home.”

~ Frank Viola in From Eternity to Here

Question for Discussion:

~ What are the features that God desires in His home?

Follow the Life!

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Photo Credit

 

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Had a Dream for the Church As Well

martin luther king jr

Credit: Flickr user dukeyearlook (CC)

Everyone knows that Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for this country, a dream for his fellow citizens, and a dream for his children and their generation and those that follow.  Dr. King’s dream has been immortalized in his most famous speech: I Have a Dream.

Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for the church as well?

On November 4, 1956, Dr. King delivered a creative message, in which he envisioned a letter penned by the Apostle Paul himself to the church in America.  I posted this message a couple of years ago, and I continue to reflect on this message each year when Dr. King’s birthday is celebrated.

I believe Dr. King hits some very key points that coincide with God’s own dream for His church, which is His family and the bride for His very Son.

You can read the transcript of the message here.  You can listen to the message at the youtube link below.

Here are some quotes from the message:

It seems to me that your moral progress lags behind your scientific progress. Your poet Thoreau used to talk about “improved means to an unimproved end.” How often this is true. You have allowed the material means by which you live to outdistance the spiritual ends for which you live. You have allowed your mentality to outrun your morality. You have allowed your civilization to outdistance your culture. Through your scientific genius you have made of the world a neighborhood, but through your moral and spiritual genius you have failed to make of it a brotherhood. So America, I would urge you to keep your moral advances abreast with your scientific advances.

But American Christians, I must say to you as I said to the Roman Christians years ago, “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Or, as I said to the Phillipian Christians, “Ye are a colony of heaven.” This means that although you live in the colony of time, your ultimate allegiance is to the empire of eternity. You have a dual citizenry. You live both in time and eternity; both in heaven and earth. Therefore, your ultimate allegiance is not to the government, not to the state, not to nation, not to any man-made institution. The Christian owes his ultimate allegiance to God, and if any earthly institution conflicts with God’s will it is your Christian duty to take a stand against it.

Let me rush on to say something about the church. Americans, I must remind you, as I have said to so many others, that the church is the Body of Christ. So when the church is true to its nature it knows neither division nor disunity. But I am disturbed about what you are doing to the Body of Christ. They tell me that in America you have within Protestantism more than two hundred and fifty six denominations. The tragedy is not so much that you have such a multiplicity of denominations, but that most of them are warring against each other with a claim to absolute truth. This narrow sectarianism is destroying the unity of the Body of Christ. You must come to see that God is neither a Baptist nor a Methodist; He is neither a Presbyterian nor a Episcopalian. God is bigger than all of our denominations. If you are to be true witnesses for Christ, you must come to see that America.

There is another thing that disturbs me to no end about the American church. You have a white church and you have a Negro church. You have allowed segregation to creep into the doors of the church. How can such a division exist in the true Body of Christ? You must face the tragic fact that when you stand at 11:00 on Sunday morning to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” and “Dear Lord and Father of all Mankind,” you stand in the most segregated hour of Christian America. They tell me that there is more integration in the entertaining world and other secular agencies than there is in the Christian church. How appalling that is.

May I say just a word to those of you who are struggling against this evil. Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.

So the greatest of all virtues is love. It is here that we find the true meaning of the Christian faith. This is at bottom the meaning of the cross. The great event on Calvary signifies more than a meaningless drama that took place on the stage of history. It is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power drunk generation that love is most durable power in the world, and that it is at bottom the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. Only through achieving this love can you expect to matriculate into the university of eternal life.

Follow the Life!

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Introducing a New Blogger!

Have you ever wondered what was happening before creation?

creation

Credit: Flickr user k_putt (CC)

I’d like to introduce you to a sister in Christ, Joelle, who began a new blogging adventure this week and begins to peel back the layers of this question in her first post.  Her blog will be focused on the infinite ways that Christ reveals and expresses himself through creation.  Joelle is an ecologist, and now also a writer, so this is right up her alley.

I hope you’ll swing over there, check it out, and sign up to get her new posts!

Joelle’s Blog: Even The Rocks Will Cry Out

Here’s an excerpt from Joelle’s About This Blog page:

As we look around at the endless tapestry of creation, we see that the more we look, the more we find that all of it speaks of our Creator, Jesus Christ. The same is true when we read our story with Him that began ages ago in the garden…He appears as the constant thread throughout human history and has also surrounded us with what He has made.

This blog is meant to be an exploration of that: A venture to start viewing the world differently.

Every tree, gust of wind, deep river, and animal call is beautiful in its own right, but it also speaks of a deeper, infinite world in Jesus Christ. It tells us of His character. It tells us how He relates. It tells us what His perfect love looks like. It even tells us who we are in Him.

Follow the Life!

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Christian Communities with No Hierarchy or Exclusive Clergy Do Exist and are Possible

church clergy

Credit: Flickr user louisa_catlover

Have you ever heard of a church that meets with no pastor, clergy, or leadership hierarchy and thought…

  • is it a cult?
  • is it a moral free-for-all?
  • is this person lying to me because there is really no such thing?
  • is this completely unorganized and chaotic?
  • is it a bunch of people that hate church and the Bible and just want to do their own thing?
  • there is no way such a thing could possibly work!

I’ve been part of a group that does meet in this way for the last 5 1/2 years.  While it can certainly be difficult at times (aren’t all relationships and communities difficult at times) it is absolutely possible.  However, few Christian communities actually achieve this reality.

Don’t Hear What I’m Not Saying

caution danger warning disclaimer

Credit: Flickr user thomashawk

I’m not saying that leadership in the church doesn’t exist.  Leadership is like the Force or the Matrix; it’s everywhere all the time.  We cannot escape it.

The keyword I’m using is “exclusive” leadership.  My premise is that the church does not need to rely on only a few exclusive members to direct, lead, or control what happens.  Rather than designating a few to handle the affairs of the church, resulting in a mostly passive group, leadership is really possessed only by Christ who leads the church through the indwelling Holy Spirit residing in each person.  Whoever is pointing the group to Christ is leading in that moment.  And by always yielding the leadership of the community to the Holy Spirit and whomever He chooses to work through, all of the saints remain on equal footing.  There is no distinct class of Christian to aspire to.  We are all simply in Christ and submitted to Him.

So leadership exists, but it is not meant to be exclusive.

A Challenging Experience to Explain

Sometimes I get the opportunity to talk to folks about being a church without an exclusive clergy.  Some folks have left “church” (by which they typically mean the institutional form) and are looking at other ways of being the church as witnessed in the New Testament.  Some are just curious what a “house church” actually is and does.  Many are wondering if they need the church at all.

complicated challenging math problem

Credit: Flickr user ajc1

Most of the time I have great difficulty convincing people that meeting and living together this way is possible.  I’ve been in conversations with people wanting to know “where I worship at” (Christian code for which “church” building I go to) and when I explain meeting together in a home and living together without exclusive leaders they literally tuck tail and run.  It’s a great conversation killer!

In other situations I’ve met with folks who are very interested in organic/simple/house church, but when I describe meeting together without designated leaders they shy away and end up falling back into the church shopping merry-go-round looking for something they deem better than whatever they left behind.  Not only that, they write-off organic church without even giving it a try.

God’s Church Isn’t About Your Needs, But You are an Essential Part of God’s Church

Why does God want or need a church, anyway?  What is it all about?

This question really needs to be looked at from God’s perspective first.  Does God want a church, and if so, why?  Unfortunately, for many Christians the need for church has generally become more focused on what they want to get out of it.  I want to be spiritually fed and nourished… I want classic music… I want modern music… I want this or that version of the Bible… I want men to be in charge… I want women to be in charge… I want such and such for my kids… I want a church that focuses on [fill in the blank].  And many churches feed this mindset by offering flatscreen TVs as door prizes, catering to celebrity guests, and generally creating a country club type of atmosphere.

I do believe that God desires a church, He desires you to be part of it, and He does want to meet your needs.  However, the reality is that your needs are not met through typical church “things” like those listed above; your needs are met in Jesus Christ alone.  When we look at things through the divine lens, all we see is Jesus.  He is the answer and the key to everything.

Getting The Right Answer Requires Asking the Right Question 

“We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.” – Bono

Unfortunately, the common form of church around the world (buildings, special clergy, pews, sermons, programs) is often just accepted as a matter of fact, and thereby is often left unchallenged.  This is changing today as more and more people are walking away from the institutional form of church and challenging assumptions that have been passed down through many generations.

This raises many questions.  A common question for those disenfranchised with the church but who still maintain a desire to follow Jesus is, “do I need church at all?”

I believe the answer is “yes”, a Christian does need a church to be part of, and as I said above, I believe God longs for you to be part of it (or more correctly, her).  Of course there may be times that this is not possible due to various circumstances or seasons of life, but it generally makes sense that those who share in the life of Christ would assemble together and support each other as much as possible.

Answering such questions requires us to get to the root of the issue.  These questions will help us get there:

  • Why did God create in the first place?
  • Why does God want a “people” in the earth?
  • Where did the “church” come from?
  • What is a church really supposed to do?
  • What does a healthy church look like?
  • Why do I need to be part of a church?

I plan to work through these questions in the next few weeks here on the blog.  I hope that in the end you will see that it can be healthy for God’s people to live and function together without the need for exclusive leaders or hierarchies.

 

Follow the Life!

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