YouTube Prophets

It doesn’t take much channel surfing, or browsing clips on YouTube to find some pretty outrageous and outlandish people speaking in the name of God.

I when remember a group of friends and I huddled around a computer to watch some online sermons of a guy who through his yelling and screaming condemned the country, the president, other Christians, other non Christians, the gopher under his porch, and kids who use training wheels past age three.

Or maybe you can think back as people have come on TV after natural disasters or tragedy and proclaimed it God’s judgment for some reason.

These people claim to speak for God. The word that we find throughout history is the word prophet, which is initially a word that means “spokesperson”. The people you have likely seen or heard from on YouTube are not God’s spokespeople. But is anyone?

The Old Testament contains 17 prophetic books. Now there are about 48 people mentioned as prophets who spoke over various size groups however there are 17 unique voices inspired by God speaking to a people who have lost there way separated into unique books. Here’s how God identified prophets:

1) God’s people would fall away from him.

2) God would identify someone to speak truth to his people.

3) God would give that person a unique message.

Now the result would vary. Sometimes, God’s people would listen to his prophets, sometimes, they wouldn’t.

But a prophet’s success wasn’t dependent on if people listened. It was their business if they listened. A prophet’s success was dependent on their faithfulness to the message God has given them.

Prophets were also called to speak against God’s people more than they were called against people who didn’t follow God. Prophets were sent to speak against foreign rulers and kinds, Moses to Pharaoh, and Jonah to the Assyrians to name a few, but more often God called prophets to speak truth into the people who were already supposed to be following him.

And the message God called his prophets to speak was almost never safe. The could lose everything. They could be killed.

God doesn’t need to call people to speak safe messages.  

As Christians, all to often we are concerned with speaking a prophetic word to the world, when instead we should be listening to the prophetic word God has for us. God’s people are not exempt from him judgment, Paul actually talks about how we are held to a higher standard.

I believe God still give’s people messages of truth that he wants us to speak over communities, businesses, churches, small groups, families, or friends. They aren’t safe messages, but they are important. The question is: Are we listening to God and are we speaking his message?

So might we remember

1) No one else will be saying it, God called you.

2) Your success is not determined by people listening, it is determined by speaking truth.

3) God always speaks consistent with his character 

3) God more often speaks truth against people who call themselves his followers as opposed to those who don’t.

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Marx was right

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Karl Marx, the father of communism, isn’t known for his favorable perspective on religion. He once famously said, “Religion is the opiate of the people.” What Marx meant is that we use religion to pretend the world is something that it is not and that we are something that we are not.    

Marx was right.

And I don’t think Jesus would have disagreed with him. A relationship with God should bring more truth to our life, not necessarily more confidence. Religion, in the sense Marx was describing it, makes people arrogant because we begin to believe we are better than others. A relationship in the way Jesus intended it helps us into humility, because we realize how fallen we are and how much we need God.

A real relationship with God first gives us an honest picture of who we are, then gives us an honest picture of who God is.

Jesus once discussed this idea with the followers around him

He told a story of two men who entered the temple to make right with God. This would have been common practice for most everyone hearing Jesus that day. You would be required to go offer prayer and sacrifice to cover over the wrong that you had committed against God.

Jesus tells the crowd, in Luke 18, a story of a Pharisee and a Tax Collector. Pharisees were professionals at keeping the Torah, the religious rules of the day. They were also professionals at pointing out when others did not keep it. They were the Michael Jordan’s of keeping the religious rules. Tax collectors worked for the Empire, they made their riches making other’s poor. They were despised by the people.

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

People probably heard that and thought, “yup, he’s right, be is better than all of us.” But then Jesus turned the story to the tax collector. The crowd probably wondered what business he had being in the temple.

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Jesus then told the crowd that one of the men went away making things right with God. Guess which one.

Both men in the story made others poor. The tax collector did so in an obvious way, by exploiting others financially. The Pharisee did so as well however, by exploiting others spiritually.

Both men were sinners but only one realized it.

One focused on how much he did for God, one, on how much God did for him.  

The Pharisee, a man devoted to the Law and a man who spent his life trying to learn about and understand God, didn’t actually understand who he really was.

The tax collector, a man the crowd likely perceived to be as far from God as possible, knew where he stood, but also knew God’s grace.

Might I always remember where I stand, not to feel better about myself, but to feel God’s grace.

 

 

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Marx was right

Karl Marx, the father of communism, isn’t known for his favorable perspective on religion. He once famously said, “Religion is the opiate of the people.” What Marx meant is that we use religion to pretend the world is something that it is not and that we are something that we are not.    

Marx was right.

And I don’t think Jesus would have disagreed with him. A relationship with God should bring more truth to our life, not necessarily more confidence. Religion, in the sense Marx was describing it, makes people arrogant because we begin to believe we are better than others. A relationship in the way Jesus intended it helps us into humility, because we realize how fallen we are and how much we need God.

A real relationship with God first gives us an honest picture of who we are, then gives us an honest picture of who God is.

Jesus once discussed this idea with the followers around him

He told a story of two men who entered the temple to make right with God. This would have been common practice for most everyone hearing Jesus that day. You would be required to go offer prayer and sacrifice to cover over the wrong that you had committed against God.

Jesus tells the crowd, in Luke 18, a story of a Pharisee and a Tax Collector. Pharisees were professionals at keeping the Torah, the religious rules of the day. They were also professionals at pointing out when others did not keep it. They were the Michael Jordan’s of keeping the religious rules. Tax collectors worked for the Empire, they made their riches making other’s poor. They were despised by the people.

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

People probably heard that and thought, “yup, he’s right, be is better than all of us.” But then Jesus turned the story to the tax collector. The crowd probably wondered what business he had being in the temple.

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Jesus then told the crowd that one of the men went away making things right with God. Guess which one.

Both men in the story made others poor. The tax collector did so in an obvious way, by exploiting others financially. The Pharisee did so as well however, by exploiting others spiritually.

Both men were sinners but only one realized it.

One focused on how much he did for God, one, on how much God did for him.  

The Pharisee, a man devoted to the Law and a man who spent his life trying to learn about and understand God, didn’t actually understand who he really was.

The tax collector, a man the crowd likely perceived to be as far from God as possible, knew where he stood, but also knew God’s grace.

Might I always remember where I stand, not to feel better about myself, but to feel God’s grace.

 

 

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Nextel Church

When I was starting high school I had a Nextel phone. I could page or “chirp” my friends like a walkie-talkie. If you were anybody, you had a Nextel. Texting packages didn’t exist, Facebook wasn’t around, I didn’t have any apps.

The major selling point was that I could use a phone (one that I could already call people with) as a walkie-talkie. And you could only chirp someone with a Nextel. If you wanted the feature, you needed a Nextel.

Times have changed however. We now have phones we can customize. Apps we can develop from our home computer. Web-pages created by a stay at home mom or a middle schooler. The world has become a place, more than ever, where we can create. You can run your company from your blackberry. 

The world is customizable.

But sometimes, in the church, we can find ourselves still psyched we can use a walkie-talkie. And we want everyone else to get one too!

but being someone who is younger but working in the church I have to ask the question, what is the next generation seeking form the church?

The answer?

People are seeking a place where they can theologically form their community while being formed by it. They don’t want a church to talk at them, they want a church to talk with them.

And the beauty is, the more ownership someone has to create, the more they stay invested in it because it’s their’s

Not only that but the community become richer and deeper with the involvement of others.
My friend who is a pastor once said to me over dinner after his message, “I feel like I am always teaching the same thing.” I replied, “well that’s good, if you start teaching something new, we have a problem.”

This is not about creating new theology, deviating from tradition, or abandoning who God has proven himself to be throughout history.

This is about allowing the church to be the catalyst by which we communicate God to the world.

People want to create. They were created to create.

Might we continue to move to a place where the church no longer sits static, but stands as a living representation of the people has gathered together, and unique expression of how He has gifted them to communicate Him to the world. 

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Singing to my son

Karl Barth is often considered the greatest Protestant theologian of the 20th Century. His influence reached well past the world of academia into the pastorate and everyday life. Barth is absolutely one of my favorite theologians. If there was a fantasy draft for theologians, he would definitely go as a top ten pick. He’s sort of like the Adrian Peterson of theologians.

I am a nerd.

When my wife and I had our son Patirck, we began signing to him before bedtime. Because of my great love for Barth and his work, I sing Patrick a summary of all Barth’s theology before he falls asleep. I am dead serious.

Barth wrote extensively, but is greatest and most expansive work is probably his Church Dogmatics. His Dogmatics contains over six million words and over eight thousand pages of theological work. And it wasn’t even completed!

When asked in an interview how he would summarize all of the theology he had worked on, all the millions of words he had penned on the nature of God, when asked what it was all about, Barth replied by quoting the well known Christian hymn:

“Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”

So simple.

There is plenty to say about God, plenty to discover in our journey with him, but one of the great beauties I see in an infinite God who surpasses my understanding is his accessibility to everyone, of every age, everywhere.

At the end of the day, might we remember, “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”

And that is what we sing to Patrick.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.  John 3:16

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Selling Jesus

I know I am the only person this has ever happened to.

You are going about your daily business, shopping, getting coffee, walking the dog or what not, when you suddenly bump into a stranger who immediately becomes your best friend.

They greet you with a smile and a warm hello.

They take it a step further, asking you about your business that day.

The questions progress with this perfect stranger in a random location until you realize… you have been targeted.

You are right in the middle of a Jesus infomercial. It’s like QVC Jesus, the reality version.

I remember this happening at Starbucks. I was curious as to why this stranger had meandered out of his path towards a caffeinated beverage to speak with my wife and I.

The jig was up quick since I have experience with this. I entertained his questions leading us to a potentially spiritual conversation. I wanted to say, “Hey man, we’re already in the club,” but I didn’t have the heart. I let him finish his prepared pitch then told him I was a youth pastor at another church. I think he was actually disappointed I was already a Christian. 

When you leave those conversations it feels like a middle school breakup. Neither of you were really sure what the relationship was in the first place but in the end it’s awkward.

We like to say, “Oh but their intentions are all good.” But are they really? Sometimes I feel like we are just trying to add another rung to our conversion belt.

Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying (although the origin isn’t verified), “preach the Gospel always, when necessary, use words.”

We just need to use fewer words in our preaching sometimes.

My friend once told me the story of his dad’s opportunity to “preach the gospel” as Blockbuster Video.

There was a man in front of him waiting to ret a video. The man realized he had forgotten his wallet and went to put the video back. My friend’s dad jumped in and offered to pay for the video. When the man asked why, his dad offered that it was because he loved Jesus and he believed Jesus said to love others is to love him.

Jesus told his disciples, in Mark 16, to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

He didn’t say, “Sell me as best you can.”

Jesus’ doesn’t need to be sold. We don’t need to offer a sales pitch.

When we focus on who he is, how he has changed us, and how he cares for the world, we live out what he called us to do even when the words escape us.

Might we not sell Jesus to anyone, but offer him to everyone.

 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15

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Christians can be jerks

Someone took the liberty of subscribing me to an email chain written by maybe the angriest man on the face of the earth. I read his email and imagine he likes punching small puppies in his spare time.
He’s a Christian. I know I am the only person ever to encounter an angry Christian.
Truth is, I’m somewhat if a jerk sometimes too. So how come people who are all about love can sometimes seem so angry?

The other day at work one of my co-workers was  waiting for her husband to finish a meeting so they could eat together. He was 12 minutes late. I spent that 12 minutes telling her a list of ways I would respond to his tardiness.

  1. Eat without him
  2. Storm into his meeting flipping over tables
  3. Order two plate of food. When he arrives throw it on the ground and say “I bet it will take more than 12 minutes to clean that up!”
  4. Take their only car home and leave him at work. Turn your phone off and when he comes home say, “sorry to keep you waiting.”
  5. When he arrives, punch him in the face

Yes. I am kind of a jerk

As I left our conversation I was reminded the great theologian Father Cavenaugh, the priest from the movie Rudy, said, “Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I’m not Him.”

I am grateful for that fact. As much as sometimes I wish I had answers for things or control of things. I also know that I can be selfish, arrogant, self-serving, and angry.

I’m grateful there is a God, and I am grateful I am not Him. 

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Scholarly Selfies

I don’t take many selfies (self shot photos). They are the latest craze however.

Everyone is the star of their own photo shoot.

Every now and again they are fine but On case you are wondering, I am not that interested in your 86th self shot photo of the day.

The lighting is bad and you should be using this time to do the laundry of he background of your selfie. Not taking another one.

I wonder what historians will use as historical sources in 2000 years. Will professors at the future universities of the world reference scholarly “selfies” and tweets that are detrimental to their research?

2000 years ago you had to be a ruler, a person of statues, a great war hero, or an infamous rebel to be penned in the annals of history.

Now we all right our own history, in 140 characters or less. We document our life whether we are a soccer mom, a college freshman, or a Billionaire.

Even though some stories get more press, more readers, and more interest, everyone gets an equal opportunity to tell their story. 

So what story are we telling?

Are we even telling a story?

I spend lots of time each week with the most tech savvy generation that has ever walked the planet, High school students.

And what I see is that they stories they are telling are the stories they think the world wants to hear, not the stories the world needs to hear.

And that is where most of us find ourselves.

The world wants to hear stories of success, so we pursue them and try to tell that story. The world wants to hear stories of vanity, so we try to look the part. The world wants to hear stories of “comfort”, so we pursue that ever elusive goal that is always slipping through out fingers even after the next promotion, or bonus, or milestone.

There has never been a time in the history of the world when so many have had an opportunity to communicate so much so fast. And those opportunities are only growing.

But is the story you are telling, the story you were created to tell.

Because there are stories the world wants to hear, but then there are stories the world needs to hear.

The world needs stories of irrational hope when international conflicts seem endless; Stories of unconditional love when the divorce rate in America hovers around half; stories of courageous generosity when millions starve, and freeze and die from easily preventable causes.

History is often a record of people who told stories the world needed to hear, in a time people wanted something else.  

What story are you telling?

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

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Transfer

Hey everyone! I am transferring all my content to my new blog How to Survive Christians. Howtosurvivechristians.wordpress.com

You can access my old posts via the “God and Other Stuff” link on the new page!

I hope you will come check it out and join the conversation.

Thanks! and sorry for the hassle!

Pat

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WWJD if he were a Zombie?

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I recently saw the movie World War Z. The movie follows Brad Pitt as he fights a one man war against the pending annihilation of the human race to a Zombie virus, infecting human beings in under 12 seconds.

The first question I have is: does he really need to wear his hipster scarf throughout the film? Is that the most necessary tool to fighting Zombies? He loses guns, knives, and all sorts of other resources, but don’t fear, his scarf resides snugly around his neck just incase he has Mumford and Sons tickets later that day.

Secondly, I wondered if this is how some people view Christians. We convert at random and sometimes by force, taking over all corners of the world. We don’t
spare the rich or the poor but at all costs infect all people with no purpose other than conversion and take over.

That’s what we do sometimes. But it isn’t necessarily what Jesus did, (looks like those WWJD bracelets were on to something after all). Jesus met a need while creating a relationship. He interacted with those who came near to him and pursued those who couldn’t or wouldn’t.

But he didn’t force himself upon people. He offered himself too people.

The first is about power, the second love.

The first appears strong but is weak, the second appears weak but is strong.

Might all we do be warped in love

Has someone ever tried to convert you by power and not love?

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

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