Moses is dead-- Let's keep it that way!

Moses is dead-- let's keep it that way!

Before you gather stones, hear me out. I love our dear brother Moses. He has taught us a lot about the Lord. Without him, we would have never discovered Christ. He was one of the greatest prophets that have ever lived, and if there were ever a man that spoke on behalf of God, it was him.

But, with the coming of Christ, I think it is time we move on from some of the things Moses taught, as with the coming of Christ, some of the things he prescribed have simply become outdated. Take for example, animal sacrifices and temple rituals. These things are considered outdated, not because of any human philosophy, but because of the work of Christ on the cross. Because of what Jesus accomplished in His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, there are some things Moses prescribed that have faded away, and are no longer part of our faith.

Such is a very over simplistic summary statement, but as Christians we all get this... right?

If so, why is it that we continue to look to Moses and the leadership model he employed as being an example for us as a viable ministry model since the coming of Jesus Christ? If Jesus Christ brought an end to so much of what existed under the old covenant, why is it that we continue to use the "Moses on the mountain top" model of ministry for the church today?

Moses model of ministry was a pyramid, top-down, hierarchical approach to ministry. Moses heard from God. Most people did not. Therefore, if anybody wanted to know what God thought, they let Moses climb up a mountain, disappear for a number of days, then come back and tell everybody what God had to say. But, as the problems in Israel grew, and there were simply too many people for Moses to handle one-on-one. So he established some people in-between him and the people, and he would delegate the decision making and God-talking to others thing. The bigger Israel grew, the more mid-level managers were added, and the further Moses was removed from interacting with the people one-on-one. The only time Moses was consulted was for issues that were too big for anybody else in the pyramid to figure out on their own.

Such isn't by any stretch of the imagination, a bad system of government. In fact, it is quite good, and there is a lot of wisdom to it. However, there is a big problem with this form of government: Moses died, his government eventually collapsed, and it was never rebuilt.

And if you pay attention very carefully, upon the coming of Jesus Christ, Moses's ministry stayed dead. Jesus Christ did not resurrect the ministry of Moses. He let it lay in the dust. He brought with him not only new wine, but new wineskins, for the new work Jesus Christ was doing was incompatible with the work Moses did. As the book of Hebrews reminds us, Moses was great, but Jesus Christ is greater. So since we have Jesus Christ, while paying great respect to our brother Moses, let's allow Moses to stay dead. For Jesus Christ replaced Moses, and brought us new things in the process.

There is a lot of ministry being done these days that models a Moses style ministry. Superstar preacher figures climb up to the mountain, speak to us on behalf of God, then go back into hiding once they are done. If they are good enough at the entire hearing-from-Godand-speaking thing, and attract a large enough crowd, they do like Moses did, and delegate a number of leaders to stand between them and the people, and allow others to speak on their behalf.

Such preachers will seldom, if ever, talk to you after the church service is over. They vanish far too quickly for anybody to say anything. If they go to lunch with anybody after the service, they'll go to lunch with people closer to the top of the pyramid. Hanging out with the pastor in his home would be out of the question. If you get sick, somebody else will visit you. If you need somebody to counsel with, somebody else will do that. If you are lucky, when you die, the guy on top just might preach your funeral. But, chances are, he's probably too busy for that too. But no problem, the pastor's got a guy for that too.

In contrast, Jesus Christ established a new way of ministry. He preached to the masses, yet was always available to them. He gathered together a close group of people, taught them everything He knew, shared His meals and life with them, opened up and made Himself vulnerable (enough so that one of them had him killed because they didn't like what they saw!), and then taught those guys to do the same with other people.

While they were doing this, Jesus promised to be in the midst of each and every single one of them as they established their own outposts. This is something Moses could never do. Moses had to stack things the way he did, because he was unable to be everywhere all at once. He was finite. But Jesus Christ, on the other hand, can be in the midst of every group, all at once. He is infinite. He can be something Moses, nor us, can never be.

So, instead of creating our own little mini-Israelite nations, with us playing a Moses like leadership role, let us gather in community together with others centered around Jesus Christ. Moses is dead. His body is missing. Let's keep it that way! Let us not try to be Moses, and let us not try to take the place of Jesus Christ.


The Fate of Jesus

Do you believe in fate? That is, do you believe the everyday events of your life are more or less predestined by God, and that everything good or bad that happens in your life are specific things God has orchestrated before you were ever born?

Or, do you believe in free will? That is, while you accept God has a general plan for your life, the everyday happenings of your life, good or bad, are more or less the product of your choices, mixed in with some stuff that randomly happens along the way.

Which of these perspectives do you think Jesus believed about His life?

It is obvious from even a casual reading of the gospels which Jesus believed. He believed in fate every step of the way. Everything that happened to Him, from His birth to the cross, was thought by Him to be the will of God for His life. Jesus is never found in the Gospels thinking that anything that happens to Him was accidental or random. "Coincidence" was not part of His vocabulary.  Even when His parents "accidentally" left Him behind in the temple in Jerusalem as they made the long trip home from their pilgrimage, a young Jesus saw this as part of God's plan for His life.  What Joseph and Mary probably looked back somewhat humorously as bad parenting, Jesus saw this mishap as Divine providence and even prophetic.

Which of these perspectives do you believe about your life?

This is where things often get dicey. For it is one thing to talk about God's plan for Jesus and predestination. "That's Jesus after all, ya know, the Son of God. Of course His life was planned!"  But when it comes to our lives, we often see God as being a bit less involved in our lives than He was in Jesus's life. It's as if His life was entirely planned, like somebody wrote His story in a book, and His life was merely words that came to life. While our life, on the other hand, has a lot more blank pages in it, to be filled in by us at a later date and time. 

Of course, we have a hard time accepting that our lives are so orchestrated by God. We accept truths for the Son of God's life that we are not willing to accept for ourselves, although we too are sons and daughters of God. For our life is full of moral shortcomings, tragedies, accidents, and seemingly boring mundane things. These are things that that were never a factor in the life of Jesus.  But, when factoring in these things to our story and God's involvement in that story, we create all sorts of theological dilemmas with our lives that we seldom do when we talk about the life of Jesus. 

If we are bound by fate and our lives are predestined, then it is often questioned:  Are we just mere puppets whose strings God pulls?  Is God the author of my sin?  Does He destine some people to heaven and others to hell? If so, how is that fair to people in hell?  Did God plan all these natural disasters that kill millions every year?  Did God cause a drunken driver to hit a car that had a newborn on board?  What about child abuse?  What about cancer?  What about rape?

These are heavy questions indeed. And depending on what camp you fall into theologically, you may feel you have some definite answers to all these questions. As a result, I would encourage some of you to avoid trying to comfort the sick and those who are recently widowed, as you would make better interrogators than comforters and counselors.  But regardless of how you would try to answer these difficult questions, as many men with giant brains have attempted to do, I think we would be better off not asking as many questions and attempting to put together riddled answers in response.  Job learned this lesson for us. Let us not often repeat what he went through.

Instead of having so many questions and answers to all these mysteries, I think we would do better to embrace the perspective that Jesus Christ had with His own life, and choose to believe that God has a predestined plan for every moment in our life.  Jesus was very radical in this. So much so that He would sometimes quote Bible verses from the Old Testament that have nothing directly to do with Him in their original historical context, and applies them to His life as if they did (a practice which has baffled many scholars). Such wasn't the practice of somebody who was playing loose with the Scriptures, or offering a new way of interpreting them, but such was the practice of somebody who saw God meeting Him wherever He was at.  He saw God writing His story, and He saw the story that God wrote in the Old Testament as part of that story. The story of God was His story, and He refused to divide that story in two. 

This needs to be our perspective.  We are quick to see God's hand in our lives when something big and wonderful happens. But when it comes to boring things, or things that are a bit more messy and violent, we tend to shy away from drawing any direct conclusions, and we get our scissors out and cut as much of God out as we comfortably can from our story. It is a safety net that perhaps keeps us from saying something blasphemous about God.  But in doing so, we in effect marginalize God from part of our lives and His involvement in this world.  And frankly, I'm not sure which is worse, the blasphemy or cutting God out. 

Which is worse, I'll let others ponder.  But at the end of the day, the example of Christ and the perspective by which He embraced life, as seeing by faith God actively being involved in every detail of our lives, and going so far as to number the very hair on our heads, is a perspective we need to embrace. We need to see God's plan for our lives involving the good things as well as the bad.  Even the things so terrible they are of seemingly no redeeming value.

In doing so we humbly yield ourselves over to God, so that like Christ we can say, "Not my will, but thy will be done."  And in doing so, whether or not we see ourselves as having our own will or not, we simply will not care, as we have given ourselves over to the One who has written our story into His.  Even if we have a will that is free and even if things happen rather randomly, we should live our lives as the One who ultimately yielded His will up to the One He saw as writing His story.


The "Christian Potheads" Are Coming!

Colorado has recently made it legal to sell marijuana over the counter for recreational use. This is something of a social experiment in America. In recent years polls have shown an increasing majority of  Americans are for the legalization of marijuana. Scientific research has shown that while there are potential long term serious medical and psychological issues associated with marijuana usage,  it is recognized that there are no known reports of somebody "overdosing" and dying from the drug. Thus it is seen as a mostly harmless drug.  Within the next decade or two, most if not all states will lift the prohibition on marijuana, and it will probably become as common as cigarets and alcohol.

With that said, the increasing social acceptability of the use of marijuana will continue to increase throughout society, and as a result a greater number of Christians will start not only using the drug, but will do so openly.  There isn't a doubt in my mind that a number of Christians stood in line at various retail outlets in the past couple of weeks in Colorado, and scored a small bag of the infamous weed.  Sadly, there is little doubt in my mind that some praise and worship leaders and some pastors secretly blended in with the crowds and purchased some pot for themselves. And if push came to shove, many would probably admit to having secretly done so.  

It is only a matter of time before you'll not only have a large number of Christians admitting to the practice, but it won't be long before you find growing pockets of Christians openly defending the practice under the banner of Christian liberty, doing it in the name of grace, and viciously attacking people for "legalism" and believing in "works based salvation."  Many will probably be Southern Baptist.  In fact, I know some Christians who I've talked to over the years who have admitted to me that they see nothing wrong with smoking pot, and "if it were legal," then they would have no moral problem lighting up a joint.  But because it is currently illegal in most states to use marijuana, then they will refrain.

Herein I believes lies the problem.  The problem with me isn't so much that recreational marijuana use is now legal in some parts of the country, and that similar legislation will likely be passed in most if not all of the states in the next decade or two.  The problem with me isn't so much that Christians will likely use marijuana in greater numbers than I'd care for, in spite of clear Scriptural teaching against doing things that get one intoxicated (although such is definitely a pastoral concern.)

The main problem that this issue represents for me is the fact that so many Christians still have no earthly idea of what it means to live one's life based on the active leading of the Holy Spirit.  If it weren't for explicit laws (biblically based or otherwise outlined in the laws of the land) that said "Thou shall not..." then many Christians would find themselves engaging in a lot of otherwise condemned behaviors. Instead of attempting to grow in their love of the Lord and discoving all the opportunities they have to become more and more like Him, many try to live in the sad place of getting away with as much as they can comfortably justify in the name of grace.  

You see, when you live a life based on the new heart and mind that comes with knowing the Lord, and living your life based on the leading of the Holy Spirit in your every day actions, you don't need laws that say "Thou shall not."   For example, if you are living your life by the leading of the Holy Spirit, He will teach you to love God and love your neighbor.  Thus, you don't need a law that tells you to not steal, murder, or sleep with your neighbors wife, because by depending on Him in your every day actions, and allowing Him to show you what to do in every situation, you'll discover that the Lord never leads you do things such as stealing, murdering, or sleeping with your neighbors wife.  

However, because so many Christians simply do not rely on the Lord in their everyday actions, and don't actively walk with Him in a relationship, they must rely on laws carved out in stone that remind them of how to behave.  This would be like if my wife hung a sign over the toilet that reminds me to put the seat lid down every time I use the bathroom.  But because I love my wife and know what makes her happy, I make it a point to put the seat lid down after every trip. I don't need codified laws written in stone hanging around the house reminding me of how to keep her happy.  

If you follow what I'm saying, then apply this logic to pot usage.  Many in the church are probably somewhat upset the loosening of laws governing marijuana.  It was easy, pastorally, just to tell people, "As Christians we are supposed to submit to the laws of the land, and since marijuana is illegal, it is a sin to do so."  But now because we lack any explicit legal support, we'll find it more difficult to convince people to avoid certain behaviors, because at the end of the day, we know a lot Christians are almost entirely dependent upon such laws, because they lare lacking in their relationship with the Lord, and don't know what it is like to depending on the leading of His Spirit. It is much easier to give a people a list of behaviors to refrain from and hang over their head than to teach people how to actually grow in a real relationship with the Lord.  And perhaps this is the case, because at the end of the day so many of us are guilty of law based living, instead of a vibrant dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.


Whatever happened to modesty?

Whatever happened to modesty?

For centuries modesty has been treated primarily as a woman's issue. That is, women were to dress in such a way that wasn't very flashy, or didn't show too much skin. Modesty has often been measured by ruler sticks and defined by feet and inches. Dresses were to be worn down to your ankle. Hair was to be extremely long. Wearing makeup and jewelry were rare. Seeing any skin below the neckline was out of the question.

But the sexual revolution of the 60's changed that. Women burned their bras in public. Plunging necklines and mini skirts became acceptable. Flaunting what the good Lord gave you became something of the norm. Skin was in. Magazines, music videos, and pop culture began to push and reflect these changes. 

And progressively, such cultural norms began making their way into the church.  Sermons have been preached. Debates raged.  Battle lines were drawn.  Feelings of teen-aged girls were dashed to pieces as they were excluded from church activities because they were dressed rather "whore-ish."  Worship leaders began to sport tattoo's. Pastor's started talking about their "hot and sexy" wives from the pulpit.  And after a lot of back and forth, some people just became tired of it all, tossed their hands in the air, and have stopped saying anything altogether.

However, I think the issue of modesty is something the church cannot afford to give up on.  For in giving up on modesty, the church loses terrible ground in the social and ethical arena.  For modesty is a virtue that shows that we as Christians are a people who have a different value system and ethos, because we live as people who are participants in the death and resurrection of Christ, and are a people who look forward to His coming.

What is modesty, and why is it such a big deal?

In its essence, modesty is the art of living life in such a way as to not draw attention to yourself.  Modesty is the manifestation of humility, and is expressed through simplicity.  Modesty serves as a check to materialism, consumerism, self-indulgence, and "vain glory."  

Modesty is such a big deal because as Christians we realize that our chief end is to draw attention to Christ and glorify him.  We are to embrace a simplistic lifestyle because we realize that everything in this world is passing away, and that living our lives in light of eternity, we strive to put our money towards things that really matter.  Therefore, while we may enjoy some luxuries and creature comforts as the result of working hard, we realize the best use of our money is not to frivolously spend on getting the latest and greatest "stuff." (i.e. buying the new iPhone every time it comes out)  While looking to dress nicely and respectfully, we aren't consumed with having a huge wardrobe with the latest designer labels and brand names.  Rather, we prefer to focus on the "inner man" and the beauty of our hearts.

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I don't see modesty as primarily having to do with women and the length of their skirts.  Modesty is a Christian virtue that is egalitarian.  It is a virtue for men and women, young and old.  And it isn't centered around clothes.  Modesty is a spirit that one walks in.  It is an issue of the heart.  Of course, how one dresses serves as a reflection of how modest one is.  But then again, so are the toys you buy, the cars you drive, the places you vacation, and the size of the house you live in.  

I think the more affluent we become as a society and as a church, the more the spirit of modesty is threatened, and the more it is quickly forgotten by the church.  For with affluence comes the opportunity to buy more and more stuff.  With affluence comes the ability to buy nicer things, bigger things, sexier things, flashier things.  That's not to say poor people lack the opportunity to be immodest.  They certainly can be.  But with wealth comes the opportunity to buy more "bling."  And since wealth brings with it a sense of privilege and entitlement, it becomes easy to justify indulging in an over-the-top materialistic lifestyle.  After all, you've earned it!

I also think about the impact the lack of modesty has had on the church as a whole, especially in the "mega-Church" phenomenon.  Increasingly in Evangelical circles, "the worship experience" is becoming an over-the-top musical and visual arts performance.  We saturate congregations with light, music, video, fog, and whatever we can in order to fully elevate and stimulate the senses.  While there is nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves, I cannot help but feel that the church is striving to be more "sensual" than "simplistic."  Having a low-key modest worship service has become out of the question.  We must go for bigger, better, and flashier.  And since the pews are full of people and since the offering plate is pretty full, we feel it's not such a big deal to spend $10,000 for one service. Yet it never dawns on us that the early church primarily met in living rooms.

In having such grand worship services, I feel the church is affirming that living an over-the-top lifestyle is ok, and is even to be preferred to that of a modest one.  We affirm that beauty is found, not in simplicity, but in extravagance.  But, as the late philosopher and theologian G. K. Chesteron reminds us:  Modesty is always beautiful.  Such is a powerful statement, and one I think the church would do well to burn in our souls.  Let us live our lives in search of elegant simplicity, and find beauty and value in the things that are truly beautiful and the things that are truly valuable.  For if we cannot do such, then we have failed to look at the world in light of our belief that Jesus Christ died and rose again, and are in grave danger of living how the rest of this world lives.


Challenging the "Coming Out" Narrative

Robin Roberts, an ABC news anchor on "Good Morning America" has recently "come out" as a gay woman. She is one of many homosexuals to do so in the public arena over the years. Such stories tend to pop up in the headlines from time to time. It has happened long enough and frequently enough now that a lot of people have started to shrug off such news headlines, as it simply isn't such a "big deal" anymore in America that people (especially those in the entertainment industry) are openly gay. Coming out of the closet is a generally accepted narrative in our culture, and the story isn't overly "newsworthy" as it once was.

Indeed, just the opposite, as the recent Duck Dynasty scandal shows, people openly and publicly speaking against homosexuality make more news and ruffle more feathers than those who do not. Indeed, taking such an open position can even cost somebody their job, as our cultural pendulum has swung so far left and progressive, that holding such a position is now considered, by in large, socially unacceptable. 

What is considered acceptable is for us to embrace, uncritically, the countless coming out stories that usually follow the predictable narrative of a gay person who felt pressure to conform to acceptable social norms, and did things like get married and have children, and otherwise "live a lie" as a repressed homosexual who wasn't free to be themselves. Then finally when they can take it no more they "come out" as a gay individual. 

That's often how the story goes. And it's a story whose truthfulness cannot be questioned. And if you dare raise an eyebrow and so much as question any part of this story, you will be considered a hater and biggot who does nothing more but engage in bullying and probably played games like "smear the queer" as an adolescent. 

What cannot be socially tolerated, however, are conversion stories that reverse this narrative. Stories where known homosexuals who came out of the closet find Jesus and become straight as a result. Such stories should be newsworthy, especially since it is culturally accepted (a claim without any scientific proof, as the American Psychiatric Association points out) that people are genetically born gay. If truly "born that way," then a homosexual becoming straight is as miraculous as a white man going to sleep and waking up as a Chinese woman. Everytime this happens, then this should become headline news, as it is more newsworthy than the story of somebody "coming out" of the closet.

And the truth of the matter is that there are thousands of such stories in our nation. But such stories are "repressed" in the media, because it is not considered socially acceptable and it is a narrative our society will not allow to be told. And why? Because if at the end of the day people are "born gay," then somebody claiming to be "born again" another way is proof of a miracle and proof that Jeus Christ is alive and really Lord. And if it turns out that science one day shows that homosexuality is more the result of choice than genetic pre-disposition, a conversion narrative will show that people are gay simply because they are sinners who love their sin, and their choices are something they might have to give an account for one day. And if either of these lines of reasoning are true, these are narratives our culture will truly do well to repress, because at the end of the day, men love the darkness instead of the light. And such men simply do not want Jesus wrecking their lives.