Note: This is an excerpt from my book UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning.
This site, and my ministry work, is dedicated to the understanding that believers are here, not to mark time and “do our best” till some random time we’re rescued, but instead to advance the Kingdom of God till the pre-eminence of Jesus is manifest in all creation.
When we embracing our God-given purpose of achieving Kingdom victory, it should compel us to look more strategically at how best to tackle the problems facing our world.
When we do this, we can see that for each of the enemy’s cultural strongholds, there is both a supply side and a demand side. There are people who produce pornography and people who purchase it, people who sell illegal drugs and people who use them, people who govern poorly and people who vote them into office, and so on.
Our human nature is to look for shortcuts – the perceived path of least resistance – and also to seek recognition for our endeavors. This nature generally leads us to attack the supply side of a stronghold; it just seems to be the logical way to bring it down, and we can certainly make a big splash by doing so. As a result, with all the best intentions, we picket abortion clinics, organize electoral campaigns, wage war against drug cartels, seek to outlaw pornography, and the like.
Now, we each need to do as the Lord leads, and there’s nothing wrong with any of these activities. If the Lord calls you personally to focus on the supply side of a stronghold, then you should do it with all your strength. However, if we as a Body embrace these tactics as our sole strategy for pulling down strongholds, and do so for any reason other than the leading of the Spirit, victory is impossible. How can I say this? It’s a simple lesson in Economics 101: For any given demand, limiting the supply simply drives up the price. For example, attack the supply chain for illegal drugs without addressing the demand – that is, keep the number of addicts the same, but make the drugs harder to come by – and you’ve only hiked the street value. As a result, you’re driving addicts to do even more extreme things to get them! Hardly sounds like the desired outcome to me.
Want to tear down the stronghold of illegal drugs? Just like every other cultural stronghold, removing the demand is the winning strategy. When former drug addicts would rather “get drunk on the Holy Spirit” than high on dope, the illicit drug trade will disappear! Instead, we’ve spent oceans of money and manpower fighting the supply … and how’s it working for us?
When men hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for the desires of the flesh, the pornography industry will collapse. Attack the supply – whether it be through shutting down pornographers or simply putting “porn blockers” on computers – and allow the demand to linger – and men will still commit adultery in their hearts. No victory there!
When our elected leaders are storing up treasures in Heaven instead of pursuing earthly riches, corruption will vanish. When the hearts of the electorate are turned towards righteousness, and they vote accordingly, the righteous will once again rule. Connect gang members to real, loving, edifying relationships and street violence will stop. When the truth of God’s love is known by all, then all religions and sects based on legalism, division or hate will fail.
Attack the supply side of any of these and you may get some temporary relief, but it’s no better than putting a Band-Aid on an infection. It may look fine on the surface for a time, but the real problem is still there, only getting worse.
When you get to the heart of these issues, you realize the ultimate supply of all our cultural ills is the deception of the enemy. Even those people who are agents of the “supply side” are, in their hearts, simply demanding gratification from something other than God, and they have believed the lie that they can find what they’re looking for through sin.
We must remember that our battle is for people and not against them! Any perceived shortcut is really a dead-end street. God’s Kingdom will come when we personally connect with the hearts and minds of individual people, one at a time, and turn them towards Christ. Victory will not be accomplished through blunt force, but instead through loving kindness. Put two and two together –“The meek shall inherit the earth”and “He who (conquers, carries off the victory) will inherit all things” —and it becomes clear that we will conquer through meekness. There is no other way.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Jesus prayed for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven. There is a divine design in Heaven for how God wants us to do things here. Jesus and His early disciples modeled this Way, and it is clearly recorded for us in the New Testament.
Of course, there are other designs we can choose to follow. The enemy offers counterfeit ways that can seem right to us. Tradition – that is, trusting our predecessors above the step-by-step leading of the Spirit – is a powerful rut we can fall into that will inevitably lead us away from The Way. Same with intellect, insecurity, ambition, competition, and all the other patterns of this world.
To know The Way, Paul said, we must intentionally stop conforming to these patterns, but instead let God renew our mind – because His way is way different than anything we can come up with on our own. Doing things on earth The Way they are designed in Heaven doesn’t make sense to the human mind.
Fine people, who truly love God more than themselves, can still be trapped in doing things on earth as they are on earth. I’m certain the Apostle Paul, when he was Saul the persecutor, really loved God, and thought he was serving Him by killing Christians. He was stuck in the earthly way – the way of tradition, intellect, insecurity, ambition and competition – and was oblivious to the true Way of Heaven. Paul had to literally be blinded by The Light before he could see the light, and afterwards it took him living many years in the wilderness for God to be able to fully renew his mind.
There are a number of take-aways we can glean from Paul’s transformation, and one is this: Fine, faithful people, who truly love God more than themselves, who are trapped in doing things on earth as they are on earth, can feel deeply offended by, even compelled to hunt down and kill, those people who are seeking to do things on earth as they are in Heaven. These people, as Jesus said, believe “the old wine tastes better,” and that the “new wine” of The Way is a threat the structures they’re so fond of.
Correspondingly, we must realize that if we do seek to follow The Way, there are quite a few good people out there – even respected “church” leaders – who will feel offended and threatened by us, and who may even work to take us down hard. Finding and following The Way requires that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, willing to lose our lives. There is no other Way.
There really, ultimately is just one choice set before us. It is the same choice that was before Adam and Eve in the garden, Jesus in the wilderness, Paul on the road to Damascus, and every human who’s walked the earth. This is our line in the sand: Are we going to live “as it is in Heaven,” or as it is on earth? Following The Way requires a conscious decision and commitment, and it’s all or nothing. If you’re not intentionally all-in on The Way, then you’re not in The Way at all. There’s no two ways about it.
So, what is The Way of Heaven?
First, it is complete submission to the headship of Christ, step-by-step obedience to the leading of the Spirit, regardless of the apparent earthly consequences. On The Way, we do not lean on our own understanding, and we don’t worry about any earthly thing.
On The Way, we realize there is nothing we can do for God – in fact, all the things we endeavor to do for God only drive people further away from Him. Instead, we must allow Him to do things through us, and these two things are polar opposites. His presence is the only place we wish to be, His words are the only words we wish to speak, and obedience to Him is the only thing we wish to do. On The Way, it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.
From another perspective, The Way is synonymous with Body life – that is, true Church as God intends it. There is a divine, Heavenly design for the Body of Christ, for Church. We must be passionate about functioning this Way, and never settle for or indulge anything less. This Way is clearly spelled out in Acts 2:42-47:
They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
Pretty far off from what we call “church” today, don’t you think?
As this passage indicates, they had tangible fruit from following The Way. That’s because the Kingdom comes when people follow The Way of Heaven, and there’s no other way it can. When we, as a Body, can finally find the courage to do it same Way they did, the same results will be inevitable.
After Jesus modeled The Way and sent out his disciples to experience it, they came back excited that even the demons submitted to them in His name. Jesus said that when we follow The Way, we can do greater works than He did. This was demonstrated daily by the early Church through signs, wonders, healings, deliverance, miraculous provision and other manifestations of Heaven on earth. Indeed, Jesus said these very things are how we can identify those who follow The Way, and this statement is just as true today as it was when He spoke it.
The other day, I enjoyed a lively discussion with a “church” board president who rigorously defended the traditional practices of churchianity. His primary argument was the statement, “But it’s taken us 2000 years getting to this point!” Although he didn’t outright say it, the implicit premise of his argument was, “… and this is a good thing, because all our predecessors must have known what they were doing.”
Here’s my response to that line of reasoning: After 2,000 years of tradition, are we closer to The Way of Heaven or further away from it? Are we still growing “in favor with all the people,” or are we increasingly mocked and marginalized in the world? Are we better at functioning “in one accord” with all our Christian brothers and sisters around the world, or are we increasingly denominational and divided? Are we better at sharing “all things in common” and giving away our things “as anyone has need,” or are we more possessive of our money and things? Do we see more true, overt, dramatic miracles daily – real healings, real deliverance, real signs and wonders – or are these occurrences few, far between and far away? (Or worse, has our “denomination” adopted the false teaching that these things just don’t happen anymore?)
The fact is, we are way, way off The Way in what we call “church” today. I’m almost to the point of Elijah, when he believed he was the last one on earth who understood what God was all about. Now, I know that’s not true – there is indeed a growing remnant, and it is only by God’s grace that He’s revealed His designs to us – but it sure feels that way sometimes. Sadly, today The Way can be a lonely path, but it’s not supposed to be!
There is a line in the sand. On one side is The Way that leads to life, and few so far have found it. On the other side is a bright, wide, well-worn way that ends in death. Which side are you on?
“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
I’ve learned the hard way never to do business with anyone who displays a “Christian” fish symbol on their business cards. I hate to say it, but every time I’ve broken this rule, I’ve regretted it. Now, I’m sure there are plenty of good, honest, honorable folks in the workaday world who have a fish on their cards, and please forgive me if you’re one of them. It’s just that sadly, all the ones I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with have, without exception, ended up being liars and cheats.
That’s no joke, and it’s painful. If the “living testimony” I’ve always got from our misguided brethren is even partly reflective of others’ experiences, it’s no wonder Christ is so mocked and marginalized in our society today.
I’ve often wondered why this is the case, and I think I’ve got it figured out. Jesus said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Julius Caesar used this strategy – “divide and conquer” – to subjugate territories. Division is a surefire recipe for defeat.
We generally take that to mean group division, and no doubt it applies there. But I believe there’s a different kind of division that is equally destructive to us, and that is internal division. When we divide our lives, we lose.
Nuclear physicists say there are two ways to get energy from atoms – by spitting them (fission) and by combining them (fusion). Of these – while we haven’t yet figured out how to harness it – they say fusion is superior as it produces significantly more energy without the harmful radioactive byproduct.
I believe the same is true in our lives. Fission today is the commonly practiced way of getting through life, as we seek to generate energy by splitting up our time and attention. We have our job. Our family. Our hobbies. Our “church.” And so on, with each of these being distinct and separate from the others.
Folks who perform multiple tasks are often said to wear many hats. When we fall into a “fission” lifestyle, we keep a closet full. We can put on our “church” hat on Sunday morning – and be “holy” and “righteous” like the rest of ‘em – and then hide it in the closet the rest of the week when we put on our other hats.
When we follow a career path under the fission model of life, we are deceived into seeking first the paycheck. Work is a chore, something we merely endure so we can bring home the bacon. We need motivational speakers, books and posters to keep any kind of fire in our eyes, and our bosses are always looking for new ways to “incentivize” our efforts. We look forward to retirement as a release from indentured servitude. Our deepest passions, our God-given gifts, are buried deep. Whatever “happiness” we find is when we put on our “hobby” hat and burn some of the discretionary dollars we generate under our “work” hat.
Often, the ethical standards we attach to our other hats are very different from those attached to our “church” hat. I know many folks who actively participate in “church” – even many in leadership (and dare I say it, many who are in fact behind the pulpit) – who cuss and drink at the deer lease, look for every angle – ethical or not – to maximize their take in a business deal, and often neglect their family obligations. In fission-based thinking, this is all well and good. But the fact is that spiritually, they’ve been divided and conquered.
In this way of living, we can treat Paul’s injunction to “be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” as two mutually-exclusive paradigms to be alternately employed depending on which hat we’re wearing. With our “church” hat on, we act “innocent as doves,” and are quick to point accusatory fingers at those who don’t abide by every legalistic, religious rule. Yet when we’re at “work,” we’re “shrewd as snakes” … and anything goes.
From what I’ve seen, those who approach life this way are more tempted to sneak their “work” hat into “church” than the other way around. So they think it’s ok to use the church membership directory as a sales prospect list (while they’d never dream of approaching their company directory as an evangelism prospect list!). Thus the fish on the cards (to appeal to their “church”-based business prospects), and the way too many “Christians” seem to think its ok to take advantage of their customers.
Living victoriously requires that we repudiate the enemy’s attempts to divide and conquer our lives, reject the fission-based society in which we live, and embrace the superior energy potential of a fusion-based life. No, mankind hasn’t learned to harness the power of fusion; it’s possible only in Christ. I believe it is a key to the Kingdom, and when we learn to use it, victory is inevitable.
When I am clothed in Christ, there is just one hat I wear: The one He uniquely made for me. Church is not somewhere I go, it’s who I am, every minute of every day – I am a doer of the word, and not a hearer only. I pursue my Godly passions and seek to unleash my full giftedness, as the Lord directs me to find that exact spot in the Body which He designed me to occupy. My family is my church is my hobby is my job is my passion. I believe this is, in a very big way, what Christ meant when He told us to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness. When I do this, my paycheck is His responsibility, not mine!
I believe the way we live within our own body is invariably reflected in The Body. Our internal fission has led to external fission. We have sought too long to grow “Christianity” through division, as opposed to multiplication. And, like nuclear fission, the byproducts of this are toxic to those we are called to reach.
Victory in the Kingdom is won from the inside-out, and from the bottom-up. When our hearts change, our bodies will follow, and then The Body. I believe when sons and daughters of the King embrace a one-hat, fusion lifestyle, we will find unprecedented levels of God’s power released in our lives. This will grow to transform and unify The Body. And this will change the world.
I look forward to the day when the world refuses to do business with anyone who does NOT have a Christian fish symbol on their business cards. It’s possible! When we all commit to wearing only the one hat God made for us, the power of His Spirit will flow through every aspect of our undivided lives – our job, our family, our hobbies, and our Church – and the desperate, hungry, hurting people of the world will beat a path to our door.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
There is power in the name of Jesus. And politicians of all persuasions have sought to wield that power for more than 1700 years, since Constantine marched on Rome under the sign of the cross. (In fact, Constantine was the first person to use the cross as a “Christian” symbol, and he did so as a campaign logo of sorts, much like the Obama “O” of his day.)
It seems genuine believers in the political arena, on both sides of the aisle, believe they have a monopoly on the “real” way Jesus would vote, and are often quick to point accusatory fingers at their brethren on the other side of the issues (often accompanied by the most inflammatory, hateful language).
This may shock my “conservative” friends, but yes: there are genuine Christ-followers who adhere to a “liberal” worldview. And this may shock my “liberal” friends, but yes: there are genuine Christ-followers who adhere to a “conservative” worldview. And you know what? I believe both are equally sincere in their love for the Lord – and equally manipulated by the dark princes of American politics.
To all believers, we must wake up and realize that the enemy – yes, our real enemy, not those people who support different candidates than you do – is the only one who wins when we are divided, regardless of who prevails at the polls. Christ calls us to unity, and our unity will only be found in Him. We will never find unity if we seek it through partisan victory or political domination.
It’s a sad state of affairs when conservative Republicans believe that corporate tax breaks and harsh treatment of honest yet undocumented immigrants is the “Christian” way, and that anyone who thinks differently is morally bankrupt. It’s just as sad when liberal Democrats believe that Christ is honored by bloated government bureaucracy or poverty-breeding entitlement programs, and that anyone against such things is greedy and hateful.
Does Jesus really advocate unquestioningly supporting the modern, political nation of Israel, and turning a blind eye to their brutal treatment of Palestinians? Are modern Israelis (in contrast to ancient Israelites, who actually had predominantly Hebrew blood and adhered to the Old Covenant) really God’s chosen people? ‘Splain that one to me.
Many years ago, I made a living as a political consultant, until I felt the Lord call me out of that arena. I’ve kept an active interest in politics, and stay in touch with my friends who are still in that game. I’ve also been the C.O.O. of a television and radio news network, an officer in a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist, and worked in publishing much of my career. Here’s something I know: I’m no “conspiracy theorist,” but fact is, for every big issue out there, there is big money at stake. Fortunes to be made and lost. Moneymen behind the scenes of the political game pull the strings that make every candidate and activist dance. They manipulate the media and the message, at every level, in every detail. That’s just the way it is.
Joseph Goebbels, the evil genius pioneer of modern propaganda, masterfully manipulated the German population to support Hitler’s Third Reich. The tools at his disposal were primitive by modern media standards. Today’s propagandists have exponentially more power at their fingertips – and they use it, with Goebbels’ passion, to advance their own purposes. We are fools if we don’t accept the fact that our political arena – and the people in it (that is, us) — is just as manipulated as it was in Hitler’s Germany.
Does Jesus really care about the American tax code? Does He care who is in the White House? Does He care whether the person picking produce on a distant farm has a Green Card or not? Does He care if I can own a gun? Does He care which way I vote, or if I vote at all?
Maybe He does, maybe He doesn’t. Folks who knew me back in my activist days may be surprised to hear me say this, but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is this: The first thing Jesus cares about is the hearts of people. His Kingdom is not of this world; instead, it is within each of us. Genuine followers of Jesus Christ are but strangers here; His eternal Kingdom is our home.
Am I saying that we should sit on the sidelines of politics? No, I’m not. We are to be the salt and light of the world, seek first the advancement of His Kingdom, and glorify Him in everything our hand finds to do. And in a democratic nation, that includes politics.
What I AM saying is this: We must refuse to follow those who divide us. We must question our own reasons for supporting the issues and candidates we support, and cut the puppet strings that are tied to every single issue we debate. We must operate in courageous meekness, pursuing unity, in the role of peacemaker. We must not be afraid to buck the trends, reach across the aisle, change our minds and speak the truth. We must find a new voice, a new way, to glorify God in our civic activities. We must let Christ, and Christ alone, pull the strings that guide our actions and votes! When we do, I believe we will find that Jesus is neither Republican nor Democrat, neither liberal nor conservative – and that there is good and evil beneath each of these headings.
The Kingdom of God is advanced from the bottom-up, and from the inside-out. Love conquers all. Love your political “enemies.” Get to know them, and minister to their deepest needs. Stop the angry rhetoric, finger pointing and closed-minded rejection of everything that is counter to your favorite party, candidate or ideology. Win hearts for Christ, and let Him take it from there. The Holy Spirit is a better voters’ guide than anything any advocacy group can publish.
When the people turn towards God, and are yielded to His Spirit, the issues we’re fighting over will disappear — selfishness, suffering, brokenness, illness, betrayal, crime, rage, greed, corruption, destitution, and every other social sickness will fade away — and His Kingdom will rise.
And I believe that’s a cause we can all get behind.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends.
God has taken me far and wide in His service. I’ve been blessed to spend time in remote villages in Brazil and Honduras, the streets of Paris and London, big cities and rural villages in Tanzania and Nigeria, and communities all across America, including a recent mission trip with a group of young people to an Indian reservation in Oklahoma. I’ve dined in the Ritz in Paris and a thatch-roofed hut in a village that had never before been visited by an outsider. I’ve sat behind Billy Graham’s private desk and behind natives in dugout canoes; preached in opulent American sanctuaries and an overcrowded Third World prison; jetted in First Class and been sandwiched in rundown, foreign taxicabs. And along the way, I’ve been privileged to get to know presidents, governors, celebrities and billionaires … and indigents, addicts, lepers and hardened criminals.
Even as I write this, recounting these adventures feels like watching Forrest Gump share his life story. I never set out to travel or to experience all that I have; it’s only by God’s grace and good pleasure that I’ve witnessed so much of this world and met so many interesting people. Along the way, I’ve done my best to extract every bit of knowledge and wisdom from these experiences, and now I feel burdened to share as much as I can of what I’ve learned with others.
In my missionary travels, one thing I’ve seen over and over again is the tragic disconnect of American elitism. Don’t get me wrong – I’m proud to be an American, and I am thankful for our nation’s relative freedom, security, prosperity and Godly heritage. But sadly, it seems we American Christians – and the people we seek to reach – are deceived into thinking our material prosperity is somehow akin to godliness. It’s like everyone thinks we have it all figured out, and that our ways are the best ways, in every way. As a result, folks around the world tend to be drawn to us like moths to a flame. They generally come with their hands out, and we’re generally way too eager to fill them with stuff – and then consider our missionary work done.
Our money. Our technology. Our buildings. The way we do “church.” All these are craved by the “have nots,” who tend to think, like a cow straining for the “greener” grass on the other side of the fence, that material things and empty religion hold any real value.
Let me tell you, it’s true. The first thing you notice when you visit an impoverished area of the world – including here within our own borders – is all the things they lack that we take for granted. But if you spend enough time there, you begin to see the opposite – the things they take for granted that we lack. And when you step back and look at it all in perspective, you find that, in every important way, we’ve got our whole value system upside down. Because the society the world calls “rich” is one of the most impoverished in the world in the things that matter most – and the “poor” of this world are some of the wealthiest in every important way.
I just got back from a 3-week trip to Southern Nigeria. It is very similar to the other Third World countries I’ve visited. Every Christian I spoke with there has experienced and witnessed countless, authentic miracles. Try finding a mainstream American Christian who has seen one. The people in their “poor” culture put God first, value family, honor their elders, crave knowledge, walk with dignity and respect, and work tenaciously for a better tomorrow. (I visited a large, public, state university, and you know what? In every possible way, it was more of a Christian school than any “Christian” school I’ve ever seen in America!)
Sadly, these are mainly far-out, abstract “ideals” for Americans – and no longer the bedrock values upon which our culture is built.
And even sadder, they seem to think that if only we could be more like America, then everything will all be better.
Yet saddest of all is that we tend to think the same way, too! So our missionary goal is to export “Americanism” – the worship of stuff; the pursuit of physical comfort and stimulation above all else; the hollow sensational, showmanship of our churchianity.
Sometimes I feel like screaming, “STOP! We’ve got it all wrong!” We’re the ones who need missionaries from there! We need to go there with our ears open and lips closed. THEY have what WE need, and not the other way around!
In my most recent mission trips, some simple truths have begun to crystallize in my mind. Everywhere I go, and everyone I meet, all share the same needs – and the same solution to their ills:
No matter who they are, their potential is inborn. It’s not something you or I can give them; it is a gift of God alone. Every single human being has the opportunity to be adopted as a full offspring and heir of the Creator and King of the Universe. They have royal blood and birthright! The very best thing we can do is simply recognize that in them. How do you recognize royalty? With honor and respect! These – nothing more, and nothing less – are the keys to unlocking their full potential. They cost us nothing, and yet we tend to find them the hardest to give.
Our Provider is their Provider, too. There’s not one thing you can give them that God can’t give them better and more abundantly. The same promise applies to them as to you: If they seek first His Kingdom and righteousness, He will give them everything they need, every single day. Of course, if God puts on your heart to give something – money or other – do it joyfully, only give credit where it’s due, and don’t go beyond His leading. Just remember, they don’t need another thing, they need the King! Introduce them, and He’ll take it from there!
They sure as heck don’t need to be indoctrinated into our traditions. Their unique way of doing “church” – whether it be through dancing to drums, or seemingly chaotic celebrations, or praying in sweat lodges – so long as it’s Christ-centered and Spirit led – may very well be superior to what you and I have come to call “church.” Once again, open your ears and close your mouth. You may very well learn something. If our forefathers had done this, our world would be a brighter place today.
Peace, joy and love are fruits of the Spirit, not byproducts of any material things. And they’re contagious! Just walk the path the Lord lays before you, step by step, and these things will be manifest in and around you.
Their best path forward is the one led by the Spirit. It’s not according to the “American Way,” because, as a nation, we’ve lost our way. Introduce them to the Father through the Son, and help them hear the voice of the Spirit, and you’ll be equipping them for an incredible destiny.
The best thing of all is, you don’t need to be rich, or eloquent, or brave to forever change the world. You don’t even need to be far from home. Don’t let your abundance — or your lack! – get in the way. Wherever you’re from, and whatever you have, “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14). And when all is said and done, that’s all that really matters.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
The other day I wrote about the possibility of using our established “church” infrastructure to actually advance God’s Kingdom the way He intends. This would require a 180 degree turnaround, and could only come about as a result of a wholesale paradigm shift among congregational members and leaders.
This is not a pie-in-the-sky fantasy. I do believe the hearts of most “church”-goers are in the right place. It’s just that 1700 years of tradition have led us, gradually, in a direction that is far from what Christ instituted. Yet the Glory of God is that no matter how far we stray, His path is always just one step away. If we open our eyes and ears to His Spirit, and let Him lead us the right way, things will change, dramatically, overnight.
Today I want to invite you to daydream with me about what this might look like.
In the business world, there’s a well-understood concept known as fiduciary responsibility. A person who holds fiduciary responsibility – like a trustee, or a member of a board of directors – is legally obligated to seek the very best interests of the stakeholders. In a for-profit entity, this means maximizing financial return on investment for the owners.
Most congregations have trustees, or a church council, or elders, or a pastor, who hold this stewardship. Most of these folks, I’m sure, sincerely exercise their fiduciary responsibility to the best of their abilities. But from my observation, it seems that most of them do so with the wrong stakeholders in mind. What I mean is that the vast majority of “church” facilities and resources I’ve ever seen are tailored 100% to serving the interests of the congregation and “seekers” in the community, and not God.
With very few exceptions, most “church” buildings sit virtually empty most of the week – especially the auditorium, which is generally the biggest and most opulent part. And even when they are occupied, they exist mainly to serve the comfort of the membership and “seekers” (who are generally believers looking for an upgrade from another congregation).
Now consider a paradigm shift. Say the decision makers for a congregation all of a sudden realize that their sole stakeholder is Jesus Christ, and not the members and other believers in the community who are looking for a more comfortable “church home.” This should be the case, shouldn’t it?
Jesus said that whatever we do “for the least of these” we are doing for Him. And the Bible also says that “true religion” is helping widows and orphans and those in need. We are called to show people we are Christians by our lovingkindness, not our fancy stage shows, fiery oratory and pre-packaged programs, right? Being Church is about true, ongoing, around-the-clock, intimate fellowship, as we work alongside each other to serve the Lord, right?
So I ask … What if we accepted our fiduciary responsibility as the mandate to maximize every resource to do what Jesus did — that is, heal the sick, comfort the afflicted and care for those less fortunate? He discipled His followers as He served the needs of others; they worked alongside Him, step-by-step. What if our leaders truly sought to follow His lead? (Now really, why is this such a “radical” idea?)
If we did this, would our “church” buildings sit empty most of the week? Would we truly dedicate so many square feet to what is effectively an exclusive entertainment venue? Would we spend another penny on stage lights, sound systems, stained glass, organs or padded seating?
Just imagine if “Church services” once again became actual services that the Church performs around the clock – “true religion” style — instead of a newspeak euphemism for the ritualistic, weekly concert/oratory/fundraising events that today count as “church services.”
Is another weekly stage show or another “Sunday school” class really the most vital need in the community? Is that really the best use of our time, talent and treasure? Can we truly not think of a more productive thing to do with those square feet of space? Could those kilowatts of electricity not be directed to a more meaningful purpose? Is there nobody and no no cause anywhere around that needs a roof over their head, or a meal in their belly, or a shoulder to cry on? The way we currently practice “church,” we’re saying, “yes, entertaining our members in air conditioned comfort is our top priority.”
Jesus said that by our traditions we render the word of God meaningless. This is exactly what He meant! Our fiduciary responsibility to our only true stakeholder, Jesus Christ, demands that we re-evaluate this, starting from Square One. We must heed Paul’s injunction to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, and stop conforming to the patterns of this world. Then God will renew our minds, and we will be able to know His true will. Today, we are far, far from it.
With the jillions of dollars worth of facilities, huge budgets, and countless eons of man-hours invested each year, if all these were focused to truly serve Christ – the way He modeled and desires – instead of ourselves, would we have so much hunger, homelessness, brokenness and sickness in our communities? Would we even need a public welfare system, or retirement homes, or day care? Would our society be such a fragmented, painful, harsh place? I don’t think so!
Would we need to fight so hard to be “relevant” and respected in the world today (which, as we’re currently practicing “Christianity,” is a losing battle)? I don’t think so!
When we switch our view of who the real stakeholder is, and we dedicate our fiduciary responsibility to serving Him alone, our world will change for the better – immediately and dramatically. We will truly become the salt and light of the world!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Continued from Part One.
Ok, so I guess I bit off quite a bit yesterday with Part One. Several people have sent me messages saying, “I’m looking forward to Part Two…” and I replied, “So am I!”
I didn’t know exactly what to write, and I expected it would take a while to collect my thoughts. But today when I sat down at my keyboard, this came out. It’s very hard to summarize something as grand as the Gospel of the Kingdom in a short blog post, but I think this does a respectable job. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to read my book UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is the overarching message of Scripture, spanning from beginning to end, and encompassing all points in between. It is the back-story of creation – encapsulating God’s original intent and grand plan – and the truth that He most desires for us to grasp. It is the great, unifying reality of the Bible, tying up every “loose end” and perceived “contradiction.” And it is the only foundational message with the innate power to finally unify the Body of Christ and lead Her to global pre-eminence.
To understand this message, we must first understand the original Greek word which we translate as Kingdom. The word is BASILEIA, and it means “royal power, kingship, dominion and rule.” It is not a physical place so much as an order, a way, an empire. The word does not refer simply to “heaven,” but to all beings and things – eternal and temporal – that are under the royal power of the King
God created creation for one purpose, and that is to raise eternal offspring to inherit His eternal Kingdom. All of time and space sit in front of His throne as an incubator of sorts. He engineered this world as the perfect environment for cultivating a crop of sons and daughters with the character necessary to rule with Him in eternity. This place is so fertile, in fact, that the Bible says Christ Himself grew in obedience, wisdom and stature through His experiences here. If He who was perfect can benefit from this life, how much more can we? Everything in our world, and all our life experiences, boil down to this one underlying purpose: God is working to groom His sons and daughters for their eternal destiny.
Our Father cast satan and his rebellious followers to this environment to advance this purpose. Our created, defeated, and defanged enemy did not sneak into the garden, or pull one over on God. He would not be much of a God if satan could do that! Similarly, the war for this world is not against God and the devil. God’s crushing defeat of the rebellious angels was immediate and absolute, and never in question. No, the war is against us and the devil. So why are we stuck here with a fierce, powerful, and hateful enemy? Not so he can beat us up and punish us, but the other way around. Like a mother lion dragging a crippled, wounded rabbit to her cubs for their training, our loving Father has cast the enemy here so we can learn and grow by fighting against and defeating him, and this is to his ultimate punishment and humiliation. In Christ, our power over the enemy is absolute, and we have nothing to fear. Indeed, the devil’s greatest fear is God’s sons and daughters realizing their true identity and power.
The adolescent Jesus told His earthly parents that He must be about His Father’s business. He knew why He was here, and it was His all-consuming passion. His Father is ours, too, and we should similarly be about His business. His business is our divine training program, designed to prepare us for our eternal inheritance. This is not haphazard or mysterious, but clearly spelled out for us starting with the very first words God spoke to Adam: “Go and establish dominion…”
Establishing God’s dominion – expanding His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, conquering the enemy and bringing every person and thing on the planet into His loving empire – is our purpose and destiny here on Earth, and it is directly tied to our eternal inheritance. In Revelation 2-3, Jesus says seven times in a row that “he who conquers…” will receive every piece of our eternal inheritance. Later, in the next to the last chapter of the Bible, it says point-blank that “he who conquers will inherit all things.” We are here to be prepared for our inheritance, and our inheritance is tied to the act of conquering the world for Christ – establishing His dominion, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
God’s grand plan and purpose for creation and mankind is made more clear by the fact the Bible says repeatedly it is the completion of this task that will trigger the end of the world as we know it. Jesus said in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares that when the sons and daughters of the Kingdom reach maturity, the Father will gather them in harvest, and that will be the end. Seven separate times, the Bible says Jesus is currently seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting till His enemies are brought under His feet. (Contrary to modern pop-theology/mythology, Jesus will not grow tired of waiting, get up, and come finish the job for us!) The Apostle Paul wrote that God will continue to give spiritual gifts to men until the Body of Christ reaches the full stature of Christ on earth, and only then will Christ return. The full coming of God’s Kingdom, through our hands, on earth as it is in Heaven, is inevitable, in one generation or the next. “Nobody knows the day or the hour,” because God has put it in our hands – for our training – and we have free will.
The Kingdom of God is not a theocracy or man-made “church” system. God is love, and therefore the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Love. The Bible says, “the Kingdom of God is within you,” and that it is “peace, joy and righteousness in the Holy Spirit.” The Kingdom of God is advanced through personal relationships and discipleship, by bringing people, one-by-one, into a right relationship with their Father through Jesus Christ.
As much as He desires this to happen, God will not directly intervene in this, as it would undermine His entire purpose of training His sons and daughters. Instead, He has constrained Himself to working through people to accomplish His goals. This has been the hallmark of creation from the very beginning: all things were made through the man Jesus Christ, just as salvation came through Him. God didn’t just snap His proverbial fingers; instead He instructed and empowered His firstborn Son to do the work. The same power is available to us, Jesus’s eternal brothers and sisters, when we follow our Father’s step-by-step instructions.
There is nothing we can do in our own strength or understanding to advance God’s Kingdom. Instead, God has sent His Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts, words and actions. His full power, provision and protection are fully available to us only when we, like Christ, do only those things that our Father instructs us. (The sword of the Spirit, Paul said, is the Rhema – personal, intimate, spoken – Word of God to us, which guides our path, step-by-step.) When I function this way – that is, when it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me – nothing can stand in my way. The Christ in me can defeat every demon, heal every sickness, pull down every stronghold of the enemy, and demolish anything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. When we all grow in maturity to function this way – which is inevitable, someday – we will walk in global unity, peace, power, health and wholeness, and then the end will come.
Our battle is not against flesh and blood, and yet it is a very real war. The enemy, too, is constrained to working through people, and he does so with fierce brutality. Many have been and will be martyred for the cause. Enduring through the trials and battles of this life requires that we view things from the perspective of eternity. Every person has a choice. Will we live to satisfy our mind and body in this world – seeking our best life now – or will we instead advance God’s Kingdom at all costs, realizing that our best life is yet to come? We cannot do both.
Jesus said that by our traditions we render the Word of God meaningless. The Kingdom of God is ancient and eternal, yet always fresh and new. The Gospel of the Kingdom, Jesus said, is like new wine which can’t be held in an old wineskin, or unshrunk cloth that should never be stitched into an old garment. While it is the oldest truth we can ever grasp, it will never fit comfortably into our traditional “theology” or established “church” organizations. Its very essence is disquieting, as it continually calls us beyond the status quo.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Seems like “The Kingdom” is becoming a new buzzword in churchianity. That’s great, in some ways, but sorta makes me uneasy in others.
Yes, the Gospel of the Kingdom is the heart of the message that God desires to communicate to mankind. It is the core of the Bible, from Page One all the way through. So it’s great that Christians today are, maybe, finally starting to see this and get it.
But the fact is, peoples’ wrong understanding of God’s Kingdom has led to all kind of bad stuff over the centuries. Heck, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day crucified Him because they misunderstood the Kingdom. They though it was political, and when Jesus didn’t bring a political uprising against the Romans, they executed Him as a heretic.
A wrong understanding of the Kingdom of God inspired Paul, when he was Saul, to kill Christians. It launched the crusades, fueled the fires of the Inquisition, and has led modern churchianity to build billions of dollars of steeple-topped monuments to men’s marketing abilities.
Just slapping the word “Kingdom” on a message, organization or endeavor doesn’t make it so.
The pre-eminence of the Kingdom message in Scripture is undeniable, even though many seem to ignore it. I kicks me in the gut when I realize that this was “news” to me, even after spending decades under a steeple. When it finally hits them, this realization takes lots of Christians by surprise. They, rightfully, feel shortchanged. I know pastors, missionaries and other seminary graduates who have said the same thing!
Here are the facts:
- The words “born again” are used ONE TIME in the Gospels, when Jesus — in private, after dark, on a rooftop, talking to one man – told Nicodemus that you must be ”born again” just to SEE the Kingdom. (Sadly, getting folks “born again” is the sole driver of the vast majority of Christian endeavors, and yet without the Kingdom, that’s a pointless pursuit.)
- The word Kingdom is used 120 times in the Gospels, 154 in the entire New Testament. When you look for it, you’ll see it is the basis for virtually ALL of Jesus’ teachings and parables, and those of Paul, too.
- The first paragraph of Acts says Jesus spent His last 40 days on earth teaching His apostles about the Kingdom. The last paragraph of Acts says Paul spent 2 years in Rome teaching all his visitors about the Kingdom.
- Jesus said the Kingdom is what we’re to seek first, every single day. And when we do, He promises that God will provide all our needs!
- Why did Jesus come to earth? What was the purpose He claimed for His living as a man among men? Salvation, you say? NO! He said, crystal clear, that His purpose was to proclaim the Kingdom of God. (See Luke 4:43)
- When He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower (which is the basis of most outreach ministries) Jesus said the truth of God’s Kingdom is the seed we’re supposed to plant in the hearts of men, not the message of “salvation” alone. Sorry, Billy, but we sure have missed this one!
- Jesus said the end won’t come till the Gospel of the Kingdom (no, not the Gospel of salvation alone) is preached to every tribe and nation.
I could keep going on and on, but I think these should establish the point for any thinking Christian who is hungry for the truth: The central message of Scripture — the message Jesus came to share — is the message of the Kingdom of God.
It seems we’re good about teaching folks about Jesus — but we’ve missed the boat entirely when it comes to teaching them what Jesus taught! A disciple, by definition, teaches the teachings of his teacher. This may be a hard word for some, but it’s the truth: If someone is teaching some gospel other than the Gospel of the Kingdom, that person is not a disciple of Jesus Christ, because they’re not teaching what He taught.
Like I said, a lot of folks are throwing the word “Kingdom” around these days, slapping it onto all kinds of hokum. For the record, the Gospel of the Kingdom:
- Is NOT some ecumenical, kumbaya message that all the man-made “churches” should lay aside their doctrinal differences for the sake of superficial, organizational “unity.”
- Is NOT some code for a Christian Mafia-type “familia,” calling Christian businessmen to link together for the sake of making tons of money, for whatever good intentions.
- Does NOT support the building of huge “churches.” In fact, it has nothing to do with the “religion” of Chritianity — not one bit!
- Does NOT call for or apply to a Christian political party, or any form of top-down, forced theocracy or law-based “righteousness.”
- Does NOT call for violence, military conquest, or American global hegemony.
- It has NOTHING to do with the modern, man-made, geo-political nation of Israel.
- Does NOT call for blind allegiance to or compulsory financial support of any self-proclaimed “apostle.”
- And, it does NOT mix in any way whatsoever with the modern, man-made fable of the “end times” that says “the antichrist” will rise to global prominence, and that Christians will have to be rescued in some upcoming “rapture.” (That is about as anti-Kingdom as a teaching can get!)
When we pursue any one of these things for its own sake and call it “Kingdom,” we’re heading down the path of the Sanhedrin, the Inquisitors, the Crusadors, and everyone else who’s jimmied their own agenda and understanding into God’s perfect Word.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is at its core unsettling to the status quo. Yes, it DOES call for Christian unity, for direct action, for functioning as a Body, for advancing righteousness in every sphere (including business and politics), and for the global pre-eminence of the Body of Christ — before He returns. But it’s a whole lot deeper, a whole lot simpler, and a whole lot more revolutionary (personally and corporately) than we’re practicing today.
So, what IS the Gospel of the Kingdom? Stay tuned for Part Two! …
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Note: Several years ago I took a one-week personal sabbatical and retreated to a cabin in the remote South Texas countryside. I had no idea what God planned for me during that time, and was ready to do anything He asked of me — even nothing. I was hoping for some time to catch up on sleep, yet God had other plans.
Almost the very moment I walked in the door of the cabin, the words started coming. I pulled out my laptop and started writing. (Actually, it felt more like taking dictation!) By the end of the first day, I had typed nearly 50,000 words! At the end of the week, I had completed a manuscript, which I entitled Living God. (Funny, I felt more refreshed at the end of the week than if I’d slept the whole time.)
I showed the manuscript around to a handful of close friends, one of whom is a successful writer, and while everyone encouraged me to publish it, I never felt a release from God to do so. He just kept saying, “Somday, but not now.” As I went forward, it became clear I was supposed to first publish UPRISING. And so, Living God has remained on my hard driving, collecting proverbial dust.
Just recently, the Lord prompted me to pull it back up and start working on it again. I’ve learned much since that week in South Texas, which I must incorporate. Also, I didn’t put in any proper attribution or references as I wrote it. Taken as a whole, the revision/editing process has loomed as a daunting task. Then the idea dawned on me to pull it out, one chapter at a time, and serialize it here on this blog, chewing the elephant one bite at a time.
I pray it blesses you.
It’s all about the fruit
We are all made in the image of God. From the poet to the diesel mechanic, from the primitive jungle dweller to the president, from the truck driver to the symphony conductor, and everyone else – male and female, rich and poor, intellectual and ignorant – we are all bearers of His likeness. We hold this image in jars of clay, each one fragile, cracked and incomplete.
His majesty is greater than any one of us can contain; we can each only bear a miniscule fraction. Like a drop of water, which is indeed completely H2O and has all the properties thereof, the image of God we carry is fully God. But it is not God in full. God is like the ocean, we carry but a drop. Only Jesus Christ was, could be, and is all in all. He came and lived among us to make God manifest; to prove that a being who is fully human could fully carry the image of God.
Driving through the countryside in America’s Old South, one can’t help but notice the sprawling vine known as kudzu. It is a non-native plant that is taking over, covering literally everything in its path. Left unchecked, it will cover forests, trees, farms … anything. What is incredible to think is that, while kudzu is not from America, everything that constitutes that aggressive and ubiquitous plant really has been there all along, in the soil, water and sunlight of the South. Nothing is there that wasn’t already there. Not one cell, fiber or nutrient was imported into the state. Nothing, that is, but the DNA contained in one single seed. That seed, planted into rich the Southern soil, slowly but surely is re-organizing its environment into a living thing that is taking over the state.
Just like it took only one seed of kudzu to take over the South, it takes only one kernel to produce a full crop of corn. Plant it, and it will grow into hundreds. Plant those, and they will become tens of thousands. Plant them; millions. Plant them … and from one seed you can feed the world.
Jesus came as the seed of God. I believe that, just like one seed becomes many, we who believe are implanted with a piece of Him. We are the many who came from the One. Our hearts are soil carrying a seed of Christ. Yet the seed in each of us is but a small part of the whole of God. Yes, it is fully God, like the drop of water is fully water. But the seed in each of us is not the fullness of God; the fullness of God can only become manifest on earth through the Body of Christ. The first coming was a body of one. The second coming will be when He returns as the Head of a Body of many. He come again after the growth and knitting together of each individual believer into a unified whole. (See Ephesians 4:11-16)
The DNA in your fingertip is the same as the DNA in your eyelash. Exactly the same. Leave a fleck of skin off your finger or one eyelash at a crime scene, and they will know it came from you, because the DNA is fully you. But it is not the fullness of you. I marvel that even though the information in each cell of our body is identical, the fact is each cell is unique. Cut off the tip of your finger and a fingertip grows back; each cell just slightly different from the other so that the end of your finger completes itself. Lose an eyelash and an eyelash grows back, just slightly different in form and purpose than the eyelash next to it. How does each cell know where it belongs if the DNA is the same? Only by the design of God.
Just like this, the seed of God that is in us, the DNA of Christ, is implanted not so that each of us can grow into little autonomous Christs, but so each of us can grow into our own unique part of His Body, each with a purpose, each with a place, each a little bit different from the next, so that, when we all reach maturity and join in unity, the Body of Christ will be complete. And when the Body of Christ is complete, that will usher in His second coming. He came originally as God in full, in the form of one man. He will come again, as God in full, as the head of a body comprised of many men and women. And then His fullness will cover the earth.
Understanding it this way, our purpose in this life becomes clear: Our job as believers is first and foremost to cultivate the Christ in us, so that ultimately He’s the only thing people see when they look at us. Then second we are to help plant and cultivate that seed in others, so that He lives fully through them, too. And third, we are to knit each cell of His body together through Koinoneia, which is the deep, intimate, loving, Christ-centered fellowship of believers. That is our job, and it is in concept really quite simple. Of course, it is also the most difficult thing we can do; it is the grand fight and struggle of this age.
When a seed grows in good soil and with proper care, at maturity it becomes a plant that produces fruit. Fruit is nothing more than a seed or seeds surrounded by the nourishment it needs to begin its own new life. From this perspective, our job is to be fruitful: to grow ourselves into healthy maturity, so that through our existence, our species – in our case, Christ – expands and grows exponentially with each successive generation, in the same way that one acorn can over time become a forest of oaks.
Each one of us has been implanted with a seed of Christ. That seed is indeed fully the image of God, but it is not God in full; it’s just a piece of Him with a specific purpose and destiny. We are all called in general to be fruitful; more than called, we are required – the tree that does not produce fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire! But the fruit of each of us will not all be identical. Those of us who are fingertips will multiply similarly, for example. All good fruit will carry God’s likeness, but only a piece of His likeness. In this regards, the Kingdom of God is sort of like a fruit salad – we all produce fruit, and all fruit comes together as one. Or better yet, the Body of Christ is like a living garden containing all kinds of fruit bearing plants. (Sound familiar? That’s how Eden was described.)
Finding our calling specifically means knowing who we are. For me to know who I am is for me to know my specific purpose, what kind of fruit I am to produce, my purpose and my destiny. Your unique identity in Christ IS your calling.
Metaphorically, the Kingdom of God is like a kudzu plant. Starting with the DNA of Christ that was planted in the grave and grew into new life, drawing off of the nutrients that God placed in the earth and in our hearts, and re-organizing everything for His purposes, He will eventually take over all that is seen and known.
Analyzed in detail, He is in actually one vine with many branches, each one unique.
Looked at even closer, each branch produces and multiplies slightly different fruit, so that piece by piece we may comprise the fullness of Christ.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends.
In Part One, we saw a fellow shoot down a traditional “churchy” evangelist-type who knocked at his door. Now here’s the same guy, the next day, in a different setting.
Hey Joe, do you have a moment?
You know, we’ve been working alongside each other for several years now, and I’ve gotta ask you something. I’ve got something in my head and I just can’t shake it. I know this sounds funny coming from me, but I don’t even know quite how to express it.
Lately it’s like I’ve hit a wall, Joe, and I just can’t seem to get over it. I don’t even know why I’m asking you, and it doesn’t really make sense to me. But it’s just that … well … you seem have something that I really want, and I just can’t find IT anywhere else – and I’ve tried everything!
You know, folks say, “life sucks, then you die,” and I’ve always thought that was just a joke. But damn it, Joe, that’s what’s happening to me, and I don’t want that! I don’t want life to suck, and then I die. When I look at you, your life doesn’t seem to suck at all, and I gotta tell you, that’s sorta frustrating as hell to me.
You see, that’s what doesn’t make sense. I mean, you know that over these years, I’ve played the system, virtually lived here at work, and made a lot more money than you. (No offense there, right? … ok…) And my wife works, too – and I know yours stays at home with your kids. So here we make, what, two or three times what your family makes? We’re able to buy everything we’ve ever wanted, and then some … the best of everything. But you know what? It’s all just so empty! There always seems to be something more, just out of reach, that if we get it, then we’ll have IT. So we work harder and get it, and then there’s something else, and we never really find what we’re really looking for. I’m beginning to think the whole “American Dream” thing is more of a nightmare!
Ok, so when I realized that wasn’t working, I thought, maybe there’s more to IT than that. But I just can’t find what it may be! I’ve slept around, drunk my share – and even tried cocaine. And it’s all just like the other stuff – like I’m almost there, just one more woman, one more drink, one more snort and I’ll finally find IT … and then, well, then there’s always just one more, and one more, and IT always stays just out of reach!
So then I thought maybe that “religion” was the answer. We even went to church for a few years – yeah, me, in church, can you believe it? And Joe, I wasn’t playing around, I really gave it a shot. I raised my hand, went to the front, said “the prayer.” We joined the committees, went to the classes, sang the songs, sent our kids to youth group, and even put money in the plate. Heck, I even started listening to “Christian” music and my wife put a fish on her car! I even quit partying and chasing skirt, for the most part – I really tried to walk the walk and talk the talk. You now, I really liked the services – great music, a heck of a show! – and that pastor really seemed like a heck of guy who really had IT. He can sure get you motivated!
Joe, I wanted it to work. I really did. I grew up going to church, you know, and a lot of my good childhood memories are from there. But you know what? In the end, it was just like everything else! What I really wanted, what my family really needed, was still just one step away! Sing a little louder, memorize a bit more Bible trivia, serve on another committee, sit a little closer to the front … and of course, give a little more money! … and so we did. And did. And did. And we never found what we were looking for!
I really didn’t want to give up, I figured this MUST be the right ladder to climb. But then I stepped back and looked at all the other folks, the ones who seemed to really have IT together, and you know what? While they acted like they had IT, they really didn’t! What’s sad is I recognized those same folks from before — we went to the same titty bars, shopped at the same liquor stores, and even bought coke from the same dealer – yet then on Sunday they’d deny they ever knew me. It was all such an act!
What’s sad is, not even the pastor really had IT! I really do think he meant well, but he was the biggest actor of all! I know I shouldn’t have, but I overheard him one time talking to his wife at the hardware store. I was on the next aisle and they didn’t know anyone was around. And you know what? They actually wanted to get a divorce, but were afraid of how it would look to the “congregation.” You shoulda heard the stuff that came out of their mouths! I was shocked! This was the guy who was trying to tell me how to get IT, and he didn’t even have IT!
And I still didn’t give up. Instead, I went to one of the elders — they’re bound to have IT, right? And you know what? That was even worse! He started talking church politics, about keeping up appearances, and even said that he was afraid that if we had a scandal it would hurt “giving,” and we couldn’t do that, especially in the middle of a building project!
I gotta tell you, Joe. After that I ran like hell, and I’ve never looked back. That was three years ago, and brother, I’ve pretty much quit. My marriage is on the rocks, my kids don’t respect me, and well, I figured I should just quit looking for IT. Life sucks, then you die, right? Might as well make the most of it. Maybe if I stop acting like I believe IT exists, then I can get through my days ok. But that’s not working!
And then I started watching you. I know it sounds crazy – I mean, you don’t make much money, you don’t drive a fancy car, you don’t party. You don’t have anything that the world says will give you IT. But of everyone I know, Joe .. . of anyone I’ve ever seen or met .. if there’s really an IT in this world, you have IT! Joe, you gotta tell me, is IT for real?
I mean, all I’m looking for is just … well, I just want some peace! And hope! Maybe even true love, if it’s not just some myth. Darn it, I want to be content, Joe! That’s all. Is that possible? Please, brother, you gotta tell me. Tell me if IT’s real, and if IT is, tell me where I can find IT! I’ll do anything ….
What’s next? Go to Part Three
–You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!