Archive for April, 2013

Man jump

Today I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and why the Pharisees who were there couldn’t see what God was doing, though many of Jesus’ disciples knew exactly what was going on.  What made the Pharisees so blind to God’s moving?

I suspect there were multiple reasons.  Fear was certainly one; they were probably worried about what the Romans would do to them if they acknowledged Jesus as the long-awaited King.

Hypocrisy is second option; perhaps some of them were more interested in appearing to long for God to move than for Him to actually do so and thus disrupt their comfortable little religion.

But I think another contributor to their blindness was what I sometimes call a crippling nostalgia. The Pharisees, perhaps more than any other group in Israel in those days, were prone to looking backwards rather than forwards.  They tended to look at how God had moved in the past and assume that when He moved again it would be in precisely the same way.

But this Jesus was something new.  He knew the Scriptures, sure, but he seemed terribly irreverent about them, at least from the Pharisees’ perspective.  He wouldn’t obey the rules about the Sabbath they had set up to make sure people were safely pious.  He hung out with people whose very existence threatened to pollute their rigid understanding of holiness.  This Jesus was, in short, a radical…and the Pharisees didn’t like radicals.  They wanted a return to the good old days when God had moved in ways that were both comfortable and familiar.

In short, the Pharisees were so fixated on how God had moved in the past that they couldn’t see what He was doing now.  That’s what I mean by a crippling nostalgia; a fixation on the past that keeps us from moving confidently into the future.

Too many of our churches today struggle to see God moving for the same reason.  I cannot tell you how many churches I have visited over the years that are fixated on what God has done in their past, yet seem to be blind to what God is doing now.  It’s terribly depressing.

I’m not saying there is no value in remembering the past, especially when it is a past in which God’s faithfulness is so evident.  On the contrary, I believe there is great value in erecting monuments that look to the past in order to find confidence for the future.  But when a place is filled with reminders of the past that stop at “remember when?” and do not challenge us to boldly trust ourselves to that same God in an as-yet unknown future, that place is not so much a monument as it is a mausoleum. Far, far too many of our churches today are more like mausoleums than monuments…and it is often a crippling nostalgia that makes them such.

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I got an email request today from a business group out in California.  They’re interested in having a Christian speaker come and talk about…well, I’m not sure what, exactly, but I assume they want something like a motivational speech about Christian faith and principles in the marketplace.  Normally I would just politely decline because I’m not really a motivational speaker.  But as I was thinking about it, I realized that there really is something I would like to say to this group:  your work can be a kind of worship.

It all goes back to Genesis 1:28 where God said to the first humans, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”  That last term, translated as “subdue”, is interesting.  In the original Hebrew, the term is kabash and it has a wide variety of uses, from winning a wrestling match to defeating an opponent in war.  All of the uses have one thing in common:  working hard to accomplish something difficult…and worthwhile.  The point is that one of God’s first commandmants to human beings was to work hard to accomplish something worthwhile.  This was an integral part of the purpose for which we have been created and an essential element of acting as the Image of God (Ge. 1:26).  In other words, hard work is a way to glorify God.

Ironically, a lot of people think that the Bible teaches that hard work was a result of the Fall.  Wrong.  One of the consequences of the Fall was futile work – we plow and plant but get a meager crop choked by thorns and thistles (Gen 3:17) – but hard work was part of the plan even when all was right with the world.

And that makes sense, doesn’t it?  Hard work is rewarding, so long as futility doesn’t leave our effort a barren desert of hopelessness.  But hard work itself can be immensely satisfying.

And beyond that, hard work can be a spiritually invigorating experience, because it was originally intended to bring God great glory.  In other words, hard work is worship.

So worship hard today.  God is counting on you. (He doesn’t need your work…but He is counting on it!)