The Church today – Christlike or Phariseelike?

I have been doing a great deal of thinking recently about the church in America and its reality.  Not what we say it is, not what we want it to be, but what it really is.  If we Unknown-2were to strip away the mask, and the cute phrases, and the nice sounding mission statements and looked at the reality of what is left what would we find.

Now, mind you I am not naive enough to say this is everyone everywhere and yes I am making some generalizations.  I am very well aware that there are MANY great Christians and “churches” that live it well.

However, I am coming to the conclusion that the “church” and “Christianity” in North America looks far more like a movement of Pharisees than it does a movement of “littlepharisee Christ’s” spreading across our cities.  To be a “holy” people is not to be a “holier than thou” people but to be a people who look like Jesus, act like Jesus, love like Jesus, serve like Jesus, go where Jesus went, and be Christ-like to the world around us not just to those within our faith family and for those who are like us.

The Pharisees were all about keeping the rules and staying away from certain groups of people.

Jesus was known as a friend of sinners and came eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors.

Pharisees made laws to protect the laws.

Jesus was known for “breaking the laws” for the sake of loving the world around him.  Jesus loved and accepted people in spite of their behavior.

Why is it when we talk about “Holiness” do we automatically go to “not sinning” instead of being like Jesus.  If we are going to be like Jesus don’t we automatically have to look at who we are friends with.  Our church culture has used words like “sanctification” and “Holiness” to separate us from the world around us and therefore make us more like Pharisees than like Jesus.  “Sanctification” and “Holiness” should be calls to enter relationships with the very people who need to see the Love of Jesus not the judgement, condemnation and laws of the Pharisees.

I would love your feedback to this question…

When you look at the church (generally speaking – from your perspective and connections) how would your rate the church on the scale of 1-10… 

(1) Looks like Jesus………………………………………………..Look like Pharisee (10)

(Non Judging, Friend of Sinners) …………………. (Separateness, judgment)

(Relational) ……………………………………………………………………… (Legal)

pharisee Unknown-2

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Choose Your Own Adventure

“What is your story” is a question I have been asked and am asking a lot lately. I have come to realize more and more that we are simply in the midst of a story that is being written. A great story that has many chapters before our character came on the scene. It is a story written by the Author of life and is filled with drama, excitement, adventure, redemption, reconciliation, pain, suffering, relationships, emotion and all those other elements that make for a perfect story.

But more than anything I am realizing the importance of our story and its significance. I am a character in the plot of a broader story which will interact with and have impact on other characters as my personal plot unfolds and intersects with others.

Have you ever thought about the “random” encounters you have in life as a chance for your story to intersect with another character and at that point become a part of their story potentially even changing the outcome of their life story?

Do you remember those books where you get to choose your adventure? They were popular in the 80’s and gave kids an opportunity to make choices that determined different outcomes for the story.

As my wife and I sit in this coffee shop talking about these stories and their relevance to our lives we are struck by how our choices impact the outcomes of someone else’s story. For example, as I was hiking in Yosemite last weekend we met a team of hikers on the trail. As we began to interact with them their story began to change and have options for different outcomes in their life. Our interaction automatically introduced new characters into their story. We talked about human trafficking, child sponsorship, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and opportunities to change the story of a child forever.

We are now friends on facebook and their story has the possibility for new directions, as does mine.

The major question ringing in my ears as we talk about this is, what if we had chosen to just walk on by and not interact with our fellow hikers? Their options for different routes in their story only came through our choice to engage in meaningful conversation and open the door for relationship and opportunities.

Each of us has an incredible story.

What is your story and what are you doing with it? Your story could be the connecting point between someone else’s story and God’s story of redemption. Your story has been impacted by other characters who have intersected your path and were willing to share their life and story with you, giving you the opportunity to make choices that change the outcome of your story.

So now it is your turn to “choose your adventure.” What will you decide?

No risk requires no faith

I have been pondering the thought… “no risk requires no faith

I’m confronted with my own reality in this at times and wonder if maybe I have redefined “risk” to make myself feel better when in reality I have not really taken much of a risk.

Here are some questions I’m pondering….

Is our faith in direct proportion to our level of risk?

Is faith a trust issue attached to our jumping in with both feet when the outcome is left in the hands of God?

If my decision is based on my “doing the math” and knowing I have the ability before I take action is the act an act of risk which requires faith?

Definitions attached to the word risk include “a chance of loss, injury, hazard, or danger”. The very nature of risk taking is intentionally putting one’s self in the possibility of a harmful or negative outcome.

If risk and faith are attached then what does the text in Hebrews 11:6 mean when it says, “without faith it is impossible to please God”?

How are you living a life of faith that pleases God?

Are there areas in your life where you need to take a risk?

Is it possible to have faith in one area but need to grow in another area?

Just pondering…

Think about it. Would love to know your thoughts.

Let’s Climb!

19,340 feet… It gets cold on the summit of mount Kilimanjaro.  I know that.  I have the facts.  Rongai route approximately 50 miles up and down.  Elevation gain approximately 13,000 feet.  Altitude sickness can kill you. 6 days… 4 up 2 down.  5 climate zones… Gonna get hot,  gonna get wet, gonna get cold…  The mountain is in Tanzania Africa.  Malaria, Yellow fever etc.  I have read all about it and know most of the facts.

I have read the packing lists, and there are a lot of them and many different ones. (part of the problem)  It is amazing how much head knowledge we can have about something and still be overwhelmed by the unknown.

This dawned on me when I was attempting to purchase all my equipment.  Obviously I am on a TIGHT budget and am trying to figure out what I have in my closet already that “will work”.  If I had all sorts of money I could read the list and just get all the “recommended” brands and items.  Of course every recommended item is the top of the line and WAY outside my budget.

Enter the overwhelmed feeling with the unknown.  What I am discovering is that there is a big difference in head knowledge and experience.  I can read the facts about Altitude sickness but the reality is I have never experienced high altitude hiking.  I can read about the temperatures on the mountain at midnight at 14 thousand feet but I have never experienced 0 to -15 with my current sleeping bag or my clothing.

Will this outer shell, these two fleece jackets one light and one heavier and this thermal base layer work or do I need a $300.00 parka.  I have even talked to people at REI and am still overwhelmed by the unknown.  I have the factual knowledge about the mountain but I lack the practical experience to have the confidence that my gear is right.

However, if I had an experienced guide in my life who was simply providing me with the perfect gear I would not question his or its ability to do the job required to reach the summit and my overwhelmed feeling would shift to something else… probably my physical ability.. which I am responsible for not a guide or outfitter.

This has made me think about other areas of my life…   I can have all the knowledge about the Bible and God and Jesus.  I can sit in church week after week after week and gain more facts and knowledge about the word of God and God’s call for me to go and make disciples.  But I am overwhelmed as soon as I walk out the door due to lack of experience in the application of that knowledge and the use of the equipping I have received and am compelled to go get more knowledge.

However, we have the perfect experienced guide who has provided and equipped us with the perfect gear and everything we need for the mission we have been challenged with.  

I don’t need more knowledge about the mountain.  I need to put my clothes on and climb.  I need to test my boots.  I need to try on the gear and then I need to trust it and go stand on the roof of Africa.

I must say, even writing this down doesn’t remove the elements of fear and uncertainty.  Those will only disappear in the act of climbing.  However, Im compelled by the mission to climb.  The mission is more compelling in my life than the fear of the unknown.  

What unknowns out there are overwhelming you and keeping you from stepping out?  

What keeps you from climbing your Kilimanjaro?  

Chances are they will only disappear in the act of climbing?    

Im having to figure out my gear… Spiritually we have the perfect outfitter who has equipped us with everything we need to fulfill the mission to which he has called us.

Put on what you know, take your equipment that God has provided for you (it is guaranteed to be top of the line perfect for your mission) and Go make disciples.

Let’s Climb!

What is your Kilimanjaro?

SUCCESS – When does it occur

In John Bowlings book, “Making the Climb”, he states, “more than 60% of those who attempt this climb have to turn back. Only a few stand at the summit and look down on the clouds that shelter the vast plains. Soon I will see if I have what it takes to reach the top of the mountain. Either way, it will be all right. I DO NOT HESITATE FOR FEAR OF FAILURE! To make the attempt is to succeed already.

In a conversation with a medical dr on a plane (see blog coincidence or divine encounter) I was talking about how bad I wanted to summit on Kili. He looked at me and said, “no you don’t”. I was a little taken back and said, “that is why I’m climbing, of course I do.” Then he said some profound words, “then you will miss it”. “miss what I enquired”. “the journey” he said. “if you are so focused on submitting you will not have eyes to see what is all around you.” He began to tell me about all the major mountains he has climbed and when he changed his views on submitting. He helped me see that this climb was never about submitting anyway but about the journey and the joy of the journey and the personal growth and life change along the way.

It was just before he boarded the flight and this conversation began that I had read Bowlings words and now realized that I succeeded the day I took my first step. Success isn’t the final step but the first step. Many people miss a successful journey because they never take the first step. The first step isn’t the first step toward success but first step of success. Success is a journey of one success step after another and if in each of those steps we learn, grow, impact the world around us, enjoy the vistas and take another step we have been successful even if we don’t reach the summit.  I also wonder how many people have unsuccessfully stood on top of Kili having missed so much along the way.

But you say, “the summit is the goal and the reason for the climb.” and now I would say, “no Petro and the approximately 70 other children I have helped to sponsor was the reason for the climb and all that God wanted to teach me along the way.” If it ended today and I never boarded the plane for Africa, I would certainly be sad, heart broken and disappointed, but it would have been worth taking that first step. And if I get part way up the mountain and realize that I can’t go on, it will be disappointing but NOT a failure. I have already successfully conquered mount Kilimanjaro. Not by my picture on the summit because fear of failure did not stop me from taking that first step.

I wonder how many mountains win because we are afraid to simply take the first step.

What is your Kilimanjaro?

Border Wars

But what about all the kids in our own country?

These words ring in my ears and break my heart. Do we have needs in America? Yes. Should we care about the poor, the hurting, the trafficked and homeless and hungry in America? Again a resounding yes.

However, often times the scenario looks something like this.

Me… “Here is an opportunity to change a kids life. http://www.teamworldvision.org/kilimanjaro”

American…”but what about all the kids in America. I am tired of us sending all our money overseas to help their kids when we don’t take care of our own.”

Me… So how much have you been giving and doing for “our kids”?

American… “well, ummm, nobody is really doing much here to work with and give to.”

Me… Oh so the answer is nothing. So what are you going to do about that? What ministry are you going to start for our precious children? What have you proactively looked for to make a difference?

It doesn’t surprise me how quickly this conversation is ended or topic is changed or said American angrily leaves.

I wouldn’t have a problem with the issue if people could honestly say they were involved or if equal opportunity was given that they would act upon it. The problem I have is to say “what about ours” like we somehow care and then continue to do nothing.

However, this is a deeper spiritual Issue for me.

God is not an American! I know that is a shock to some.

God’s heart is for the poor and broken, enslaved and marginalized. God’s heart is for hurting people. These folks are in every country. It is sad how geography makes us identify with a broken person differently.

If we took 100 different kids from 100 different countries, none of them personally known by you. How would you decide which one to help? What criteria would you use? Do you help the American? Which one is the American… The white one? Nobody knows. They all have the same need and they all can be helped the same way. And you have the means… How do you choose?

For us to think a hurting American is somehow more special and more deserving of my help is spiritually sickening to me.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I AM NOT SAYING WE SHOULD NOT HELP AMERICAN CHILDREN! But an American child is no more valuable to God than a Thai, African, chinese … child.  And simply because they live in America doesn’t mean you know them and have a personal relationship or connection to that child any more than the child you don’t know anywhere else in the world.

Does geography matter to God when it comes to helping his hurting children? If not why does it matter so much to us.

I think God simply wants his children to HELP His hurting children!

So if you are doing nothing for the children in America… Please stop using them as an excuse to do nothing for children in Tanzania. And if you are “spending yourself on behalf of the poor” (Isaiah 58) in America, then I thank God for you! Keep up the great work!

It is interesting to note that many of the people who are actively involved here are also actively involved overseas… I think it is because they see the world the way God does… Without borders!

How do you see the world?

If you would like to change a child’s life forever you can do that for $35.00 per month. Click on the link below and sponsor a child.  A team of 10 of us are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in a couple months with a desire to change 500 children’s lives. I have a personal goal of sponsoring 100 children.  I am half way there.  Please put my name (Darrell MacLearn) in the “Athlete name” when you sponsor a child and then treat that child like you adopted him/her.  It will change their life as well as your own.

http://www.teamworldvision.org/Kilimanjaro

Subtle shift – huge implications

Have you ever heard or said, “isn’t it good to be in Gos’s house”?

I am on a campaign to change this destructive phrase in the church world to, “isn’t it good to BE God’s house.”

This is a subtle shift with huge implications.  Change one word and we communicate a message that can radically impact our culture and the world around us.

The phrase, “isn’t it good to be IN God’s house” is an unbiblical phrase that has been passed on from generation to generation when Christians gather in church buildings and enjoy each others company and the “presence of the Lord”.   Nothing wrong with church buildings perse, but to call it God’s house subtly communicates unbiblical ideas and sets us up for a one day per week church where we go to meet with God.

What are the implications of changing from “in” to “be”

IN creates…

… Fights over paint and carpet and coffee in the building?..If  God’s house is to be reverenced and kept holy then let’s talk potlucks instead of carpet because BE means me!

IN creates…

… A one day a week connection with God where I go to meet him. Because that is where he is. Thus compartmentalizing my spiritual life.

BE creates a mindset of life and lifestyle incarnate every day in the world around me.

BE causes me to realize that my life is every day and all the time a representative of him.

IN creates an evangelism model that says come and get him or go to hell

BE creates a kingdom mindset that says in the real world around me where i live, work and play, may others see the love of christ in me and experience his love through me.

What would the world and culture around us look like if the church simply said, “isn’t it good to BE God’s house” and then went and lived in that reality?

Jesus is attractive… What if we lived AMONG the world around us and simply let others see Jesus instead of judgemental representatives.

Isn’t it good to BE God’s house?