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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“Dream Big Dreams” – Sponsors really do matter

Darrell and Petro

Have you ever wondered what difference child sponsorships makes in a kids life.  We hear and I have taught that when you sponsor a child you provide food, shelter,

Petro’s soccer ball has notes from sponsor

education, medical needs, and reduce their vulnerability to human exploitation.  That is all true and I will blog more about that later, but there is so much more.  Having just returned from Tanzania where I was privileged to meet Petro my sponsored child I am now even more convinced that sponsorship matters.  Having seen first hand and now having met Moses, I am all the more passionate about how we as sponsors can come alongside a child and his family and make difference that can change a world.

Let me introduce you to some folks…

Petro loves to play soccer

Here is Petro.  He loves “Football” (soccer).  He is 8 and he took his first ride outside his village in a bus 10 hours to meet me.  His Mom and Aunts are so excited about me being a part of their life.  Petro has a great future.

Showing Eniot pictures of her sponsors family

She loved blowing bubbles

Here is Eniot.  She is 11 and loves life and God.  She memorize bible verses and “tries to imitate them.”  Her favorite passage is Psalm 125.  She told me that she loves that Psalm because God is like a mountain and if you believe in him you do not need to fear.  She has led her family to Christ.  My brother is now her sponsor and will be a part of her story and future.

Moses and Becky talking outside of school

But the person I want to tell you about is Moses.  Moses was a sponsored child.  He now holds multiple degrees and has taught at Cornell and has spent time with Henri Nowen.  He is now back in Tanzania working with World Vision amongst his people group and is changing his country.  We were privileged to sit with Moses and have dinner and ask tough questions about Sponsorship.  Here are a couple things we learned that have solidified in me the value and importance of relational sponsorship and your letters.

Dream Big Dreams – you can be whatever you want to be

Moses telling us about the value of this water source for this Maasai village

Moses still caries with him as an adult the letters from his sponsor.  They are letters that not only helped him as a child growing up, but helped him get through multiple degrees as an adult.  He told us that his sponsor wrote him and told him he could be whatever he wanted to be.  As a child growing up in a Maasai tribe all he could see was becoming a herdsman and taking care of goats and cows.  But that letter planted something in him that took root later in life.  As he was going through his degrees and at different times in his life he would pull out those letters and they were a source of encouragement and hope for him.  He now holds multiple degrees and has taught at Cornell.  He now is a Godly professional back in Tanzania working to make a practical difference in his country.

Sponsorship saved my brothers life

Moses and team

Moses also told us that when he was sponsored it saved his brothers life.  I am not sure the full details of his brothers physical needs but when Moses was sponsored it engaged the family and World Vision and the community development that provided for his medical needs and he is alive today because of it.

What is the value of a relational sponsor?

John with his sponsored child’s family at their home

building relationship with Petro

I don’t think we can put a price tag on the value of a sponsor who builds a relationship with a child.  Let me encourage you as a sponsor to do more than simply send in $35.00 a month.  Write letters to your child.  Encourage him or her to dream big dreams. Be a positive influence in that child’s life and be a part of giving them hope and a future.

A great kid with a great laugh

If you are not sponsoring a child and would like to be a part of changing a child’s life forever click here.

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.

Coincidence or divine encounter???

On a flight a couple weeks ago I had probably one of the most significant divine encounters on this Kilimanjaro journey.  It was an encounter filled with unbelievable “coincidences” some would say.  I don’t believe it was a coincidence that the man who sat next to me had climbed Kili.  I don’t believe it was a coincidence that he was a medical dr who had answers to many of my questions about mountain climbing. I don’t believe it was a coincidence that he was investigating faith in christ and reading a book given to him by a friend about this.  I don’t believe it was a coincidence that I know his friend and that he is a Nazarene medical dr.  And that he attends a church nearby where i live.  I don’t believe it is a coincidence that he needed me and I needed him on that flight.  I believe it was a divine encounter.  God brought two lives together for each of our growth.

Out of this encounter children will be sponsored and their lives forever changed.

Out of this encounter I was educated on Kili, climbing, altitude sickness

Out of this encounter he received answers to many of his questions on faith

Out of this encounter he made some connections about human trafficking, and the difference he can make

Out of this encounter passion was stirred to make a difference here in USA as well

As our families have dinner together next week it is my prayer that what God started on a plane will move beyond us to our wives, children and ultimately to the world around us that others lives will be impacted and God will receive honor and praise.

I know this, he is excited about sponsoring some children and impacting his world and deepening his pursuit of God because of an encounter on a plane.

When was the last time you had a divine encounter?

Divine encounters are becoming a regular occurrence in my life.  I think it is because I expect them now and am always watching for them.

Thank you Jesus for showing up on airplanes and for another divine encounter.

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?

Adventures in missing the point

Sad realities of Pharisaicalism in the church today as represented by the following Adventures in Missing the Point….

When Jesus walked the earth there were a group of people known as the Pharisees.  They were those who were offended by Jesus and his heretical “law breaking” practices.  They were those known more by their laws than by their love.  The same type of people fill the Christian Church today and I seem to attract them like a magnet.

The Pharisees often missed the point.

I am considering writing a book entitled Adventures in Missing the Point.  Some of the chapters would be like these…

Chapter 1 – Communion doesn’t work if you don’t pray for the elements properly

When I was pastoring a church in New Mexico I had a young man approach me after the service and hand the elements of communion back to me and say, “I am sorry I can’t take these they weren’t prayed for properly.”  With my mouth hanging open and my hand out I took the elements and thought to myself how sad.  He totally missed the point.  Communion is more than a chip and a sip and it is not about whether the right words were spoken in a prayer. It is a reminder of how much we are loved when we don’t deserve it.

Chapter 2 – Baptism doesn’t work if you don’t dunk em all the way

After finishing a service I was met at the door by a man who was obviously upset and  more than a little mad that I showed a video of baptisms which included some who were baptized by pouring instead of dunking.  He, with fire in his eyes that could have accomplished his request said, “That baptism video should be burned.  It needs to be destroyed. It should be burned.”  When I picked my jaw up off of the ground he informed me that, “It should be burned because it is teaching things contrary to what Jesus taught about baptism and how it should be done.”  First I am trying to figure out what exactly Jesus taught about baptism and its methodology.  But even beyond that is the irony that this man said this standing in a church building, having followed an order of service that cannot be found anywhere in scripture.

He missed the point of the 25 lives that were giving public testimony to the fact that Jesus had transformed their lives.

Chapter 3 – Message can’t be heard if you quote someone who said the “D” word

A letter was recently written to our denominational leaders reprimanding me for swearing in church.  He stated in his letter that Rev MacLearn said “Hell” multiple time and “Dam” at least 5 times and an even more explicit word.  I was telling the story of how we started a church out of a drug rehab group and I quoted the lady who didn’t want a “dam higher power” and the more explicit word was when I changed a quote to, “and elfin Darrell he’s a pastor”.

The Irony is the man quoted me in the letter.

He missed the point and then he went and did likewise.  The message was missed because all he could hear was the words that offended.

Chapter 4 – story can’t be heard if a picture of Jesus was used to tell it

One of my recent favorites is the response to my recent blog A Picture of the Church.  This responder was at least nice but I am afraid he missed the point of the story.  He states,

Guys, I know you mean well. But do not displease our Lord by displaying a material depiction of Him. He is Holy, and said in Exodus 20 that we are not permited to make resemblences of anything in Heaven or on Earth. Jesus came at a time when there were no Cameras. Lets keep it that way. Thanks.

Quote:” Is there divine warrant for pictorial representations of the Messiah? No, there is not. There are no commands to make pictures of our Lord. In fact such pictures clearly violate the second commandment for a true picture of Jesus should evoke worship in the believer. If a pictorial representation brings thoughts of love, devotion, and praise toward the Son of God, then obviously it is an aid or medium to worship even if people are not bowing down toward the picture. ” Brian Schwertley.

The point of the story was not to try and paint of picture of what Jesus looked like but to show what the world sees when the church functions as the body of Christ.  It wasn’t to say that I believe this is what Jesus looked like and to paint a representation of Christ.  We all know there were no cameras and nobody knows what Jesus looked like and we can be sure that the common picture is a far cry from reality.

I also find his quote interesting for in it he states,

In fact such pictures clearly violate the second commandment for a true picture of Jesus should evoke worship in the believer.

I find it Ironic how many tears have been shed when people look at this picture and it “evokes worship in the believer”.

I don’t identify these adventures in missing the point to be mean in any way to the individuals who missed the point but to simply point out again how easy it is for us to get hung up on the law, add to it and adjust them all at that same time failing ourselves to go and live what Christ called us to be and do.

I wonder how many of these folks are eating with sinners and tax collectors? How many are loving God with all their heart and loving their neighbors as their self (neighbor includes the homosexual down the street – loved or judged)? and how many of them have followed Christ command to go and make disciples?  all of these are clear in scripture.  I don’t find Jesus teaching on baptism methodology.

Now before we are too quick to judge those who have missed the point let’s stop and honestly ask ourselves what we are hung up on and are we possibly unintentionally missing a point?

Regular bible study = Church

How do you define church?  Orange county defines it as  more than 3 people regularly gathering to read the bible.  Unfortunately now we have another case of an illegal gathering.  The issues seem to be zoning issues.  So I am wondering…. If I have a group of people over every week to watch  sports on my big screen did my house just become a sports bar?

” An Orange County couple has been ordered to stop holding a Bible study in their home on the grounds that the meeting violates a city ordinance as a “church” and not as a private gathering.”