Monthly Archives: August 2010

Wake Up Sleeping Beauty (part 9)

The Bride of Christ has something stuck in her throat. Her face is slowly turning blue as she silently chokes to death on what appears to be a big ole wad of rebellion. That tantalizing taste of the dragon’s fruit has lodged like a chicken bone and turned into a deadly partnership with the devil. With a mouth full of mutiny, her message is muted.

The gospel of the kingdom has the power to change the American landscape if it is accurately and actively proclaimed. The Church was commissioned to preach the whole counsel of the Lord—all of it—not just what feels good, calms the special interest groups, or has been approved by denominational demigods. Jesus was very clear in his last words to his followers. Many of us know this as the Great Commission, but sadly it has become our Great Omission. Listen carefully to what the Lord says in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” The problem here is Jesus commanded us to teach all, not just the sections we like, understand, or believe. All means all and that’s all it means. All includes everything whether or not I agree with it or even want to do it. To do less is outright rebellion. It is anarchy against our King.

The prophet Jonah found himself choking on rebellion when he refused to preach the message God had given to him for the people of Nineveh. He caught a cruise ship going in the opposite direction (note: we may have booked passage on the same vessel) and promptly nodded off in the darkness below deck. Like Sleeping Beauty, he fell sound asleep and became deaf to the cries of those who were perishing all around him. The truth is, if you really listen to the hopelessness in the cries of those who are doomed in their current condition, it will probably turn your present little house of theology upside down and should spur you to share what Christ has done for you. This is biblical theology and will build a far better home than rebellion.

Jonah’s theology, an aberrant one about him and all those who were like him, was a very selfish one, so he slept peacefully—deaf to their cries. He was content with his version of who God should be rather than with the reality of who God was. And it bothered him little (actually it did not bother him at all) that thousands of men, women, and children were headed for destruction with their final destination being hell. Jonah simply did not care.

Rebellion will do that. It will harden our hearts and silence our voices, but in our refusal to proclaim the Bridegroom’s glorious message we slowly strangle not on the rebellion, but on the words of life we refuse to speak.

Wake Up Sleeping Beauty (part 8)

Sleeping Beauty has fallen and she can’t get up. She has filled her head with the facts of countless sermons, teachings, books, and seminars but the truth of Jesus has not engaged her heart. She possesses great knowledge but little wisdom. She has grown obese with intellect but anorexic in practice. She is content with conversations about her great wealth of information but unwilling to step out of her safe little fortress and implement the applications. And tragically, the world continues its ceaseless march toward hell.
If sermons could save the world we would be living in utopia based solely on their voluminous numbers, for they are legion. Hmm…there may be more to that last word than meets the eye, but that’s another rabbit to chase on another day. Words are important. Preaching is crucial. Teaching is paramount. Books and seminars are essential. But—knowledge without wisdom is death by intellectual suffocation. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1) and Sleeping Beauty’s head has become so large, her heart seems to have dried up. No heart—no love. No love—no Jesus. No Jesus—and everything else is a waste of time.

All I’m trying to say is we think we know a great deal about what God wants but just knowing isn’t getting it done. I seem to remember a warning from a sermon somewhere in the foggy past—don’t just be a hearer of the word, be a doer. Jesus (supposedly the supreme inspiration and central theme of all our sermonic orations) said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Hello…is anyone out there? The Bride of Christ has been overcome with the toxic fumes of information overload.

Once upon a time, the apostle Paul preached a sermon that lasted all day and into the night. This was his last opportunity to pour the words of the Lord into a fledgling group of believers in Troas. A young man named Eutychus, whose name means lucky, had about all the information he could stand and nodded off during the sermon. Unfortunately, his bed was a narrow window ledge on the third floor. His heavy head tottered back and forth until his body followed it to the ground below. The fall killed him, but luckily for “Lucky” the preacher also practiced what he preached and Eutychus got a second chance.

Sleeping Beauty totters precariously on the same narrow precipice in a glutted slumber and unfortunately the apostle Paul is nowhere to be found. Unless she wakes up, this nightmarish fairy tale may require a character change and the actress playing the role of Sleeping Beauty may have to be replaced with Humpty Dumpty.

Hmm…I know I’ve heard it somewhere—was it a sermon perhaps? “And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

Wake Up Sleeping Beauty (part 7)

The Church in America is, for all practical purposes, powerless. I have no stones of accusation or judgment to throw at her; instead I simply state a troubling fact. I am a part of her and this sad truth is obvious to anyone who reads their Bible.  She no longer resembles the militant Bride found in the book of Acts, who trampled and routed the kingdom of darkness like a conquering army. Like Sleeping Beauty, she has swallowed a lie and fallen asleep. Sadly the slumber of the Church has lasted far longer than the one hundred year nap of the fairy tale character.

At her birth, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead filled the infant church’s lungs with a resurrection fire that had the capability of bringing the dead back to life, both literally and figuratively. The enemy could not withstand her power so he purchased it. That’s right; he bought it for almost nothing with some cheap trinkets and worthless baubles called prestige, fame, riches, and influence. For almost 1,800 years the Church has sought the power of the world rather than releasing the power of the Holy Spirit who resides within her. Her pristine gown has become soiled with the stains of worldliness, and unbelief has shackled her like a prisoner in the stocks.

Like the Old Testament hero Samson, the Church possesses an anointing that is unrivaled—beyond belief. The power of God resides in her and is accessible to her. But, like Samson, she is more concerned with her wants than with what God wants. She has forsaken her anointing or worse merchandised it like a prostitute to obtain a comfort level that looks amazingly like a coma. Samson played games with both the anointing and his people until he was lulled to sleep on the lap of Delilah, the devil’s handmaiden. That nap costs him more than the price of a haircut; it cost him the presence of God. Tragically, his response is no different than ours: “I will do the things I have always done”—but with one major difference—the Lord had departed from him.

In the 13th century, the famous theologian Thomas Aquinas visited Rome for an audience with Pope Innocent IV. The pope took Aquinas on a tour of the Vatican treasury and showed him the church’s priceless treasures of jewels, art, gold and silver. As Aquinas looked on the massive wealth, the Bishop of Rome rather smugly said, “So, you see, Thomas, we cannot say as did St. Peter, ‘silver and gold have I none.’” And with a deep sadness in his voice, Aquinas replied to the pontiff, “No, but neither can you say, ‘rise up and walk.’”

Our Sleeping Beauty rests on a golden bed entangled in the invisible chains of worldliness. She has obtained everything she ever dreamed of, but in the process lost that which is most precious. And the saddest part of this story…we are not even aware that He’s gone.

Wake Up Sleeping Beauty (part 6)

Communication—the lifeblood of any relationship—is critical, but a host of adversaries stand ready and waiting to dry up its vital flow at every turn. A drowsy Sleeping Beauty (the Church—i.e. you and me) has become silent—her conversations with her Prince almost non-existent. Her lips are moving but nothing meaningful is coming out. Her voice is silent and the King’s land is in turmoil. Where is the battle cry of the Warrior Princess in response to the withering attack of the dragon’s legionnaires?

During the examination of the Bride and in the subsequent diagnosis, an interesting side effect of the poison’s toxicity has become apparent. It causes frenetic spasms and convulsions in the body. She is running in every direction, shaking all over the place, but getting nothing done. The busyness of her body has silenced the authority of her voice.

Like Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane on that fateful night when Jesus was arrested, the Church has fallen asleep, overwhelmed by the fatigue of busyness. At the most critical juncture of human history, the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples did not pray because they could not fight off exhaustion. We stand once again at destiny’s crossroads and the voice of the Bride—the prayers of the saints—has fallen silent, a casualty of an insidious and well executed plan.

If the enemy cannot lure you or me into sin, he will lull us into doing more for the sake of the kingdom. He has done a masterful job in convincing us that our Bridegroom’s love is based on what we do rather than who we are. What a lie! But you must admit it has been a very successful lie, bringing death and destruction wherever it has been ingested.

Prayer is the one thing the enemy fears because it is the life flow of divine communication between the Head and the Body. Prayer begins in heaven and the life of heaven then flows out as the Church takes her stand on God’s promises. It is a potent dialogue whose reconnection he simply cannot afford. Therefore he is fully committed to keeping the Bride both deaf and mute while she frantically scurries to and fro, industriously overwhelmed in spiritual insecurity and uncertainty.

O to hear once more the exquisite sound of the Beauty’s voice crying out in fervent, prevailing prayer would be divine. And yet it will not happen if you and I are too busy to pray.

Wake Up Sleeping Beauty (part 5)

The venom of the dragon’s fruit is slowly shutting down Sleeping Beauty’s nervous system. Her senses are impaired or non-existent. There seems to be a reception problem—a disconnect—between her Head (Jesus) and the rest of her body (you and me). The peaceful sleep she has enjoyed for so long has become a smothering coma, systematically shutting down the critical systems needed to maintain the life of her body. There is a sense of urgency now, as we watch the Doctor work in His attempt to resuscitate His Bride.

We have lost our sense of passion for Jesus—our love for the Lover of our souls. This fiery love is much like the oil lamps of the first century. It must be filled in a consistent manner and trimmed with a careful touch or it will go out. It is our responsibility to mind the flame of that love. Without the flame, we are empty, devoid of the very source of life. All that’s left is you and me—little clay pots without anything to do. Without that passion-filled romance with Jesus, we, as the Church, have no purpose for existing.

The tragedy of this scene is that we have, through laziness, allowed our oil to run out, or through unconcern allowed the oil to dry up, or through stupidity thought we could fill that void in our spirit with another brand of oil. The result is passionless churches filled with passionless people, participating in passionless programs, listening to passionless preachers, proclaiming a pointless gospel. Can you not feel the Prince of glory shaking His slumbering Bride or hear Him urgently crying out, “You have lost your first love.”

If not, then perhaps we are doomed to share the fate of the five foolish virgins of Matthew 25. While awaiting the joyful return of their bridegroom, they too became drowsy and nodded off. The shout went up, the betrothed arrived, the wedding ensued, the feast was joined, and the foolish virgins were left wandering around in the dark looking for love in all the wrong places.

By the way, these virgins are called “foolish” for a reason. The Holy Spirit chose this particular word to communicate a simple truth. That Greek word is “moron.” Yes, its meaning and pronunciation is the same in English as well. It is moronic—beyond stupid—to think that you or I can exist for very long in this passionless state—the beloved of God unwilling to love our Beloved.

Wake Up Sleeping Beauty (part 4)

The twin brother of pride is a sense of false security. This bogus belief that everything is all right covers the Bride of Christ like a gown. It masquerades itself as fearless and powerful, but the threads that actually hold this gown together are vulnerable, weak, and rotten. This is not an if the gown will unravel, but when,  leaving the Bride even more exposed to the clever plan of her deadly enemy.

The poison’s effects have produced a startling numbness to the hazards lurking in the shadows. Satan has convinced the church (that’s you and me by the way) that she is incredible, invincible, and indispensable. He has taken these attributes bestowed by her Bridegroom and mingled it with the insanity of independence and she has swallowed the lie hook, line, and sinker. The deceiver, by design, left out the key “in” word—in Christ. Everything she is results from her identity “in Christ” not her importance to Christ. By the way, this latter belief is insanity.

Allow me to take a snapshot from the life of King Saul. He was the anointed one of Israel—her king. God had chosen him, set him on the throne, and surrounded him with everything he would need to be successful. God’s one requirement for Saul was obedience. This was Saul’s key to success. Yet his actions proved he thought he was far more important than he really was. He was not incredible, invincible, or even indispensable apart from God.

This Kodak moment, found in 1 Samuel 26, finds Saul in hot pursuit of the man he perceived to be his mortal enemy—David (who just happened to be his most loyal warrior, but the witch’s apple will make you do crazy things—right?). Saul is stretched out, fast asleep, dreaming of good wine and lamb kabobs, encircled by his most trusted warriors. The army of Israel—his protective covering (his gown)—is also napping all around him. This sense of false security, along with the absence of God’s protective hand, had lulled everyone into a deep sleep.

But…his perceived enemy is not asleep and has carefully taken a position where he can see everything. At the opportune moment, David, in a bold move, walks down the hill, into the camp, and takes the symbols of Saul’s power and life—his spear and water jug. He tucks them under his arm and audaciously returns to his strategic position on the hill and no one even knows it.

False security is toxic. It makes us believe we are much more than we really are. The enemy has strolled into the center of our camp and brazenly stolen our most precious symbols—our spear (authority) and our water jug (life in the Spirit) and left us with a covering of dust, fallen from where he used our bridal gown for a door mat.

Wake Up Sleeping Beauty (part 3)

The number one problem with blindness is that you can’t see. That’s not profound, just true. This blindness is far worse than you think and far more destructive than you can imagine. Allow me to explain.

This story is not a fairy tale. It is not something we can stand back, point at, and say, “Yeah, that’s the problem!” This is not a make-believe fable in which the prince comes, kisses the beauty, and everyone lives happily ever after, no matter what. If you think so, you have ingested far more of Satan’s fruit than you think. This is a horror story, not a fable, and will only get worse unless we awaken to the truth.

The Church cannot see as long as you and I refuse to see. This blindness is self-induced. Sleeping Beauty is not a metaphor for some mystical church—someone else out there, somewhere else, in a mess. She is you and she is me. We, not them, are the Church. It’s not the Church that needs the healing antidote—it’s you and me.

If you and I will admit our own blindness, then maybe the Church as a whole will awaken. But alas, you may not perceive this problem as ours. If so read on because the Doctor is still diagnosing the extent of the damage caused by the poison.

This self-induced blindness may be the root cause of the rest of the symptoms. Blindness does not allow one to look outward at the things around us. Instead, our stare has turned inward at self. If one looks at himself long enough, it is possible and very probable that he will fall in love with what he sees. Narcissism begins to surge through the circulatory system and pride is released into the nervous system.

This pride—our selfishness running wild—is centered in our edifices, our religious traditions, our treasured and tested methods, our polished, well-groomed orators and our powerless half-hearted attempts to save the world. It is centered in us, not in Jesus, and that is what’s killing us.

The church at Corinth epitomizes what the modern church (remember that’s you and me) has become. Like them, we are convinced we have it all and really don’t need anything else. How tragic that belief is, for it leads to a false sense of self-sufficiency and an arrogant elitism.

The Corinthian church had all the gifts, all the gifted people, and all the polished preachers. They claimed to be miraculous and Spirit-filled, but were miserable and sin-infested. “Me,” “myself,” and “I” had replaced Jesus the Christ. Pride in what they could do had rocked them to sleep like a baby girl with a warm bottle of milk. But “could do” and “doing” are miles apart, sadly.

Like Corinth, our blindness has now morphed into this same deadly strain of pride and, look out baby, the rest is not a pretty story. Well, so much for the fairy tale and goodbye to the “happily ever after” ending unless the script changes. That is—if we, the church, don’t change!