Tag Archives: culture

Dear Christian, how long will you go limping between two different opinions? – I Kings 18:21

In 1 Kings 18:17-41, Elijah levels the charge against the people of Israel and their king. He calls out the king and the people for worshiping the false fertility god Baal, demanding they choose between Baal and the LORD. The people must choose! Either submit to the will of the LORD and believe in Him, or follow your own passions and find your help in the worthless Baal.

He stood before the people of Israel to display the Lord’s might, proposing a competition between the LORD and Baal. Which god would answer? The fertility god Baal or the LORD, God of all. Baal was a god that promised fertility and sexual satisfaction. Cultic prostitution and sexual deviance were normative parts of worship within the cult of Baal. As such, the LORD, God of the Hebrews, stands in total opposition to the worship of Baal. The Law of God condemned the very acts of religious fealty in Baal’s religious cultic worship. Two bulls were prepared and Baal could go first. Let your god light the fire.

The 450 men of Baal prepared their altar and pleaded with their god to answer their cries. They danced, begged, preformed rituals, and even cut themselves to bring from their god the desired outcome of fire from heaven. Yet, nothing came. The spectacle went on for hours as Elijah taunted them, fanning their furious attempts to call forth fire from the heavens. The prophets used knives cutting deep into their own flesh and the flesh of others in desperate pleas to secure the answer. Still… silence. All day they worked to call their God to appease their desires. Still… nothing… their god could not bring fire.

The prophets of Baal trusted in that which could not bring fire. They mutilated themselves and begged their god to answer and yet they received nothing. As you read this account in the Bible, you get the feeling that no one has ever challenged these prophets on this scale before. No one says anything save Elijah, who simply taunts them. The entire nation is gathered to watch and sits enraptured, waiting for Baal to answer. The prophets obviously expected their god to answer. Hours of desperation and embarrassment, yet the prophets persist.

This devotion to the false gods of sexual indulgence is not uncommon in our own culture. Promiscuity is the norm and deviant sexual behavior is lauded and even heralded as entertaining (e.g. the 50 shades series). Men and women will spend hours indulging in pornography hoping it will bring fire that will satisfy. They will cut themselves, ruin their relationships, and beg and plead for their false gods to bring fire. The more they beg and plead for their false god to answer, the deeper their despair grows and the more ruinous their scars become. The result of such false worship is a “limping” life. “How long will you go on limping…” (1 Kings 18:21). Elijah recognized the result of such wicked hypocrisy: a limping, unsuccessful life.

Like the prophets of Baal, sinful sexual indulgence works until it is challenged. The moment you confront this false god with an actual need for satisfaction, the god can’t answer. In private, as a prophet of the false god, you can pretend. But, once you need actual satisfaction, the horrific reality sets in and you begin to ruin yourself and everyone around you calling on the false god to answer your need for fire. Pornography and sexual deviance are destructive. These practices destroy intimacy, silence truth, emasculate men, and objectify women. Those who indulge in such activities cause irreparable harm to their own psyche and bring permanent damage to their own ability to relate to others. Further, pornography is fiction! It is an illusion that does not actually satisfy. Finally, these practices pervert the glorious picture of sexual intimacy that God created and thereby damage the person’s ability to engage in the worship of the One True God! Like the worship of Baal, our own modern sexual idolatry has left American Christianity limping and weak.

Now, someone will argue that it is not fair to call someone who indulges in private one of the prophets of Baal. However, remember the beginning of the story. Elijah says, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” [1] Elijah is calling the people of Israel to account. He is not attacking the worship leaders of Baal in his challenge. He is attacking the adherents to the religious activity. Indeed, he is challenging the nation of Israel asking them how long they will persist in worshiping Baal and Yahweh. So this display of mutilation and self-destruction in an attempt to get the false god’s attention is meant for those who would vacillate between two opinions. It is an example for those who would worship Christ and harbor within themselves a worship of false gods. It is for those who have split allegiance. It is intended for us.

Consider for a moment the fruit of seeking satisfaction in the false god of pornography.

  1. You will go on limping in life. You will not run so long as you are tethered to the false fertility god.
  2. You will seek satisfaction that will never bring true fire. While you may convince yourself that you have been satisfied in secret, you will forever stand beside a rotting corpse hoping for fire to fall.
  3. You will do damage to yourself. Just like the prophets cut themselves, so you will scar yourself and leave wounds on your soul that may never fully heal.
  4. You will be angry at the Saints when you are not satisfied and they are. You will feel mocked and scorned when your god does not answer.
  5. You will be ashamed. No need to elaborate on this one.
  6. You will die. If you are a believer, this particular half way worship of Jesus will kill your zeal for Christ. You cannot worship God and sex.

Now let’s consider Elijah’s response to Baal.

Baal’s prophets stand embarrassed after hours of labor. Exhausted and wasted, they watch as Elijah takes the crowd’s attention.

First Elijah rebuilds the altar of the Lord. He does not create a new altar, nor divine some fancy new method for defeating Baal. He rests on the strength of the worship that the Lord has commanded. He rebuilds and places his sacrifice on what God has already set in place. Oh Christian, if you are to claim victory over sin and feel the fire of God fall from the heavens to ignite your soul, you must rely on the altar He has already placed before you. You must rely on Christ’s word. Lay your hopes and sacrifices upon the altar of the Word of God… no other counsel will lead you to overcoming.

Second, Elijah finds his identity in the Lord’s calling of Israel. He rebuilt the altar with 12 stones signifying the 12 tribes of Israel. If we are to defeat sin, we must remember that we belong to Him and are called to Him by Him (c.f. John 6:35-40 and John 10:27). It is paramount that you remember that you do not belong to sin any longer. You are claimed as His own, one of His tribe. You are Christ’s now. If you have trusted in Jesus for salvation, you are no longer slave to sin (c.f. Romans 6 and Ephesians 2:1-10).

Third, Elijah covered the sacrifice with water. We must expect greater things from the One True God. Our requests of Him are so superfluous that we should be ashamed. It is as if we have asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when offered any meal we desire prepared by the greatest chef in existence. Perhaps the reason you have not overcome your sin is because you simply have not asked. Or perhaps you do not trust that God can satisfy your needs. Do you really think that your sexual desires are beyond His ability to fulfill? Do you think it’s not within the Lord’s realm of provision? Ask the Lord to provide for you in this way. I have seen many marriages rekindled by such a request. Elijah set his sacrifice up with impossible odds stacked against God Almighty! Yet still… fire fell! He will answer you as well.

Fourth, Elijah prays a simple prayer, asking that the Lord would answer him. His request is that God would answer him so that others would see and that others would be drawn to repent. This is our purpose for life, that the Lord’s name would be made great in us. However, so long as we vacillate between two opinions, we will not rest in the provision of God.

Finally, Elijah kills the false prophets. Pornography must die. It’s that simple, Christian. You must make war on sin and kill the pornographic influences in your life. If you want a life that revels in the power and provision of God, you must be devoted to Christ. Otherwise, you will spend all your time being called to a singular devotion rather than living in it.

 

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Colossians 2:9-10; Brief thoughts

9 For in him the fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Christians are to place their confidence and trust in Christ alone because Christ is God. Christ is the one in whom “all the fullness of deity dwells bodily” (v.9). Consider that for a moment. The fullness of God is manifest in bodily form in Jesus Christ. Thus, Paul calls you to place all your confidence in Christ because Jesus is God! By definition, Jesus holds the power for existence within Himself (c.f. John 1:1-4). He is the Lord over all things and King above every king. He is the creator of everything and the sustainer of all life. He is the life-giver and the source of all knowledge. What else is deserving of your fealty? Only the One True God can compel such a devotion. Jesus is the One True God. “In Him the fullness of deity dwells.” Fullness, meaning all or completeness. Every portion of God’s infinite nature and power, the entire source of knowledge and wisdom, dwells within Jesus. It is, therefore reasonable to surrender to Him. Indeed it is the sole logical source of action. Being God, He is the only one worthy of our allegiance.

Once a believer has surrendered to Christ and has found him or herself captive to Jesus, they are filled with the presence of Jesus through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwells all true believers, empowering them to live a lifestyle of obedience to the faith (Eph. 1:19). Consider for a moment the implications that the Spirit of the Living God has filled you. You have been graced with the presence of God, indwelling your own spirit. If God has indwelt you, is there anything that could possibly overcome you? Can anything thwart His working in your soul with such an invasion? Though you may press against Him and balk against His patient yet divine guidance, the presence of the Living God who created all things and sustains all things has determined that you are His. Wow!

Take note, you have been “filled IN [Christ].” Not by Christ, not through Christ, but IN Christ. It is in Christ that you are filled with Jesus! Paul is emphasizing that Jesus is not merely the object by which you are filled, He is the agent that fills you! There is no other means by which to be filled with the presence of God. He is the means of filling. There is no amount of work that you can do to be filled! There is no spiritual exercise by which the glory of God can be manifested in your life. The only way to restore the presence of God in your life is Jesus! The only way to find the peace of God that was prevalent in the garden of Eden is in Christ. The only way to restore that relationship that was razed by sin is to surrender your life to Christ and “in Him” you will be filled by His Spirit.

What greater power to be filled by than the one “is the head of all rule and authority” (v.10)”? He is the master of all things. No power is greater and no voice holds more weight. He is the head! In our modern cultural crisis, it is easy to fear that things are spiraling out of control. With the present cacophony of wickedness that we currently refer to as a government, fear can be overwhelming. Remember, Christ is the head over all rule and authority. There is no need to fear that He has lost control or is unaware. Indeed, there is no authority that can supersede or overrun His own glorious might! Rest in that comfort. Further, You have been filled with Him! Even your own failings and rejection of His guidance cannot overcome Him. He has come and He has conquered. You are His and cannot spurn His love enough to overrule Him. He is the head!

Further, what an amazing confidence this truth provides in a world filled with corruption. The perfect Law-giver has determined that He is going to redeem you, who have rebelled against His perfect law! He has the authority to save and the authority to claim whomever and whatever He so chooses. No corruption, be it external or internal can stave off His rule and authority. He overcomes ALL! Oh Christian, rest in this confidence: there is no authority above Christ! He is the master of all. Even when the world seems to be falling apart, He is still King. Even when we are kicking against His perfect love, He is still King! He is still King!

 

Colossians 2:8; Brief Thoughts

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

When a citizen of one country travels to another, they are immersed in their host country’s culture and legal system. The laws may be the same universal laws as in every nation (e.g. do not murder, etc..), but the ideals and philosophies that surround the people may differ widely from nation to nation. As Christians, we live in a world that is not our home. We are resident aliens on this earth, operating by a moral system and ideology that is altogether separate from this world. Yet, before our allegiance shifted to the Kingdom of Jesus, we were at home in this world. The self-righteousness that is so evident on this earth was rooted deep within our core being. Indeed, every person born to man is slave to sin. Slave to that selfish motivation that claims the divine right of determining good and evil. Slave. Christians, however, are no longer slaves. We have been set free in Jesus Christ (C.f. Romans 6, Galatians 4, and John 8).

As our allegiance now resides with Jesus, we must be vigilant to ensure that we are not deceived or taken in by falsehood. Paul mentions three areas of life in which Christians must maintain an awareness: worldly wisdom, religion, and mysticism.

In modern society, education is sometimes elevated to an unhealthy prestige. A man who holds a doctoral degree in any subject is often called upon as an intelligent and knowledgeable source on various subjects, even if they do not pertain to his scholarly studies. Further, in many modern educational institutions, it is common to blindly accept the testimony and presupposition of professors simply because they maintain the rank of professor. In our modern climate, it is more necessary for Christians to learn discernment in the area of education than ever before. The adversary will strive to convince Christians that they are somehow not intellectually rigorous or honest. Yet, Christians are those who pursue Christ with a fierceness that is unparalleled. We seek the wisdom of God, not merely the observable realities so apparent to everyone, but that supernatural wisdom that contains all the mysteries of existence. A true believer does not avoid knowledge but pursues true knowledge with the aid of the inexhaustible fount of all wisdom. Oh Christian, do not allow the adversary to take you captive by empty deceit.

Where the adversary cannot succeed in the theft of the mind, he will attempt to confine you to ritual and practice. Much of the modern church in the west has fallen prey to the second category. We have forsaken the worship of God in favor of practices and rituals that appease our own sensibilities. We choose churches that meet our criterion of comfort and self-soothing. We rely on our practices to prove our own holiness rather than on a personal relationship with Christ. We insist we are right because we have always been this way and that is the way it is done. Christian, question these things. Just because you were taught them does not make them right. Likewise, just because you were taught them does not make them wrong either. Question the traditions you have been handed to ensure that you are obeying Christ.

The final category of awareness that Christians must cultivate is one of mysticism. It may seem foreign to our enlightened sensibilities, but mysticism still reigns in our culture. The mysticism of our modern culture is much more insidious than the open paganism so prevalent in the first century. The mysticism that many indulge in today is one of karmic understanding. That is, the idea that if we will take the right steps we can manipulate our circumstances, do enough good and our bad will be compensated for. Much like the mystics of old, this karmic understanding of God leads mankind into a type of bondage to their own sinful disposition. When a person believes they can manipulate their circumstances by behaving a certain way, they will inevitably run afoul of reality. Eventually, as the prophets of Baal discovered in 1 Kings 18, no amount of piety, self-mutilation, or license will bring about the desired result. This is simply because embracing mysticism as a rule for life is embracing a lie. Examine yourself. Question whether or not you really believe. Strive to ensure that you are embracing the truth of who Jesus is as your Lord and Master. Be diligent in self-examination, so that you can be certain that you are not falling prey to modern mysticism of the karmic understanding of faith.

Christians are captive to Christ. Rather than being held captive by these three categories of falsehood, a true believer has surrender completely to Christ. “See to it that no one takes you captive by…” Paul admonishes us to remain alert for falsehood and then provides an assumed opposition to the falsehood. Rather than simply avoiding being held captive by the false narratives of other philosophies, Paul assumes that we will be held captive to Christ. Indeed, to be captive to Christ is the very essence of Christianity. Nowhere else in Scripture is this more illuminated than in Romans 6, in which Paul discusses the former nature of slavery to sin as contrasted with the changed nature of slavery to righteousness. Believers are freed through their enslavement to Christ. Unlike the master of the Law of sin and death, Christ is the Master who leads His people into freedom and not bondage. He carries no whip and needs not force to coerce those whom He loves. Rather than punish, He raises up His own and imputes His righteousness upon them. Then, as a loving father would, He walks alongside His people teaching them how to live. This is the Lord to whom Christians are captive… willingly captive.

 

Colossians 2:8-9; Brief Thoughts

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the fullness of deity dwells bodily,…

When a citizen of one country travels to another, they are immersed in their host country’s culture and legal system. The laws may be the same universal laws as in every nation (e.g. do not murder, etc..), but the ideals and philosophies that surround the people may differ widely from nation to nation. As Christians, we live in a world that is not our home. We are resident aliens on this earth, operating by a moral system and ideology that is altogether separate from this world. Yet, before our allegiance shifted to the Kingdom of Jesus, we were at home in this world. The self-righteousness that is so evident on this earth was rooted deep within our core being. Indeed, every person born to man is a slave to sin. Slave to that selfish motivation that claims the divine right of determining good and evil. Slave. Christians, however, are no longer slaves. We have been set free in Jesus Christ (C.f. Romans 6, Galatians 4, and John 8).

As our allegiance now resides with Jesus, we must be vigilant to ensure that we are not deceived or taken in by falsehood. Paul mentions three areas of life in which Christians must maintain an awareness: worldly wisdom, religion, and mysticism.

In modern society, education is sometimes elevated to an unhealthy prestige. A man who holds a doctoral degree in any subject is often called upon as an intelligent and knowledgeable source on various subjects, even if they do not pertain to his scholarly studies. Further, in many modern educational institutions, it is common to blindly accept the testimony and presupposition of professors simply because they maintain the rank of professor. In our modern climate, it is more necessary for Christians to learn discernment in the area of education than ever before. The adversary will strive to convince Christians that they are somehow not intellectually rigorous or honest. Yet, Christians are those who pursue Christ with a fierceness that is unparalleled. We seek the wisdom of God, not merely the observable realities so apparent to everyone, but that supernatural wisdom that contains all the mysteries of existence. A true believer does not avoid knowledge but pursues true knowledge with the aid of the inexhaustible fount of all wisdom. Oh Christian, do not allow the adversary to take you captive by empty deceit.

Where the adversary cannot succeed in the theft of the mind, he will attempt to confine you to ritual and practice. Much of the modern church in the west has fallen prey to the second category. We have forsaken the worship of God in favor of practices and rituals that appease our own sensibilities. We choose churches that meet our criterion of comfort and self-soothing. We rely on our practices to prove our own holiness rather than on a personal relationship with Christ. We insist we are right because we have always been this way and that is the way it is done. Christian, question these things. Just because you were taught them does not make them right. Likewise, just because you were taught them does not make them wrong either. Question the traditions you have been handed to ensure that you are obeying Christ.

The final category of awareness that Christians must cultivate is one of mysticism. It may seem foreign to our enlightened sensibilities, but mysticism still reigns in our culture. The mysticism of our modern culture is much more insidious than the open paganism so prevalent in the first century. The mysticism that many indulge in today is one of karmic understanding. It is the idea that if we will take the right steps we can manipulate our circumstances. Christians, it is not for you to manipulate your circumstances. I is for you to trust the Lord and follow where He leads. Mystic trust in karma and attempts to manipulate have no place in Christian discipleship.

Christians are to place their confidence and trust in Christ alone because Christ is God. Christ is the one in whom “all the fullness of deity dwells bodily” (v.9). Consider that for a moment. Paul calls you to place all your confidence in Christ because Jesus is God! By definition, Jesus holds the power for existence within Himself. He is the Lord of all things and King above all Kings. He is the creator of everything and the sustainer of all life. He is the life-giver and the source of all knowledge. What else is deserving of your fealty? Only Jesus can compel such a devotion. Indeed, all of deity dwells in Him. All. Every portion of God’s infinite nature and power. The entire source of knowledge and wisdom. It is, therefore reasonable to surrender to Him and, through the lens of Jesus, to investigate all philosophies, traditions, and spirits.

Colossians 2:6-7; Brief Thoughts

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

“Walk,” meaning to conform one’s life in a certain direction or to follow a particular pattern. It is such as simple exhortation… walk. Throughout Scripture, God’s people are instructed to “walk.” Abraham is told to walk to a land God would show him. Moses and the Hebrews are forced to walk around in the desert. Joshua is told to walk around a city. The Kings are told to walk in the statutes that God has given them. The prophets call the people to return to walking in the way God has given them. Jesus calls his disciple to walk after him. And the Apostles call Christians to “walk in [Christ]” (v.6). The term “walk” is used 96 times in the New Testament and is commonly used to refer to a general pattern of life.

Paul exhorts Christians to live a lifestyle that is consistent with Christianity. Exhortations are instructions that are based on previously established facts or commonly held beliefs. Paul’s exhortations to “walk” are based on the reality of the indwelling Spirit of Christ in the heart of all who believe. Because Christians have trusted Christ and are subsequently changed by that faith, Paul says, “walk in Him.” In other words: live a lifestyle consistent with that claim of faith.

The life of a believer is one that is “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith…” and is marked by an abundant and prolific “thanksgiving” (v.7). First, the believer’s faith is “rooted” in Christ. Consider for a moment what it means to be “rooted.” This means that the source of nourishment and strength are drawn from a foundational relationship with Jesus Christ. For Christians the source of life in Christ. As it is with roots, so it is with Christians. The deeper the roots go into the foundation, the stronger the life of the plant. Further, any progress in growth as a Christian also results from Christ. Alongside being “rooted,” Christians are also “built up in [Christ].” Christians derive their strength and encouragement from Christ and knowing Him. He is the source of encouragement and strength.

Another defining Characteristic of those who “walk in Him” is that they are “established in the faith.” Christians have a strong faith. It is strong because it is not dependent on the work of the person, it is dependent on Christ and what He has already accomplished. Paul uses the term “faith” here to describe the collected system of beliefs and doctrines common to Christians. These doctrinal truths that Paul asserts the Colossians are established in are basic to all Christianity. The collected truths that Jesus Christ die for sins, has risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is returning one day to reclaim all creation for Himself, is made strong in the heart of a believer precisely because Christ’s Spirit has indwelt those who believe in Him (see further 1 John 2:27). Those who “walk in Him” are marked by a faith that is strong and growing.

Notice that this exhortation to “walk in Him” is followed by descriptors that are past tense. The characteristics of “rooted,” “built up,” and “established” are all traits that already exist in the life of one who is called to “walk.” The faith of a believer is the foundation and strength that one depends on in order to walk in the way of Jesus. It is because of the firm relationship and growing knowledge of Him that believers are able to “walk.”

Believers are marked by gratitude. Gratitude stems from an accurate understanding of God’s work with the heart. True believers recognize the worth they bring to the table of salvation. They know all too well what wretched beings they were before Christ. They are aware of the depth of their sin and disgrace and as a result. They are aware of the death that once claimed their souls. Christians know that they have been redeemed by mercy and not personal or corporate merit. It is not the merit of the Christian or the community that redeems the believer. It is the life and sacrifice and of merit of Jesus Christ. That is the motive for thanksgiving. Thanksgiving marks the heart of a believer. Imagine what this world would look like if every person who claimed the name of Christ were identified as incredibly grateful people who look and live like Jesus. Would it not be a sight to behold!?

 

Colossians 1:1-2; Brief Thoughts

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father

It is a tremendous relationship that Christians share. The unity expressed through faith is encapsulated by Paul in one simple word: “brother.” Paul’s address displays a familial relationship with those who share the faith. Indeed, so great is the tie that binds Christians that it is deeper blood connection. When Jesus is called upon by His own brothers and mother in Mark 3:31-35, He responds, “Who are my mother and my brothers?… Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:34, 35). Jesus’ response elevates the position of faith above biological attachment. Further, His repudiation of His family’s request establishes a priority of fidelity within the faithful. Those who follow Christ share a spiritual connection that supersedes any other relationship.

Consider the power of this deep truth. Believers share a common connection that can and does supersede even their own family. Perhaps there is no greater example of this than in countries that persecute Christians. When a believer in Christ is forced to flee their home because of their faith, they choose the family of faith over their biological and environmental family. IN this way, the persecuted serve as the greatest examples of testimony for the “brothers” in the faith. They’ve rejected this life in favor of the next. They’ve surrendered this world in favor for Heaven. They’ve given their own familial titles up in their adoption into Christ’s. They have exchanged the life and attachments of this world, for the true life of Christ and attachment to Him.

How powerful to ponder that Paul calls Timothy and the Colossians, “brothers!” As members of the family of faith, Paul and Timothy can write to their family at Colossae and know that they are brothers. The use of the term “brother” is also profound. He does not refer to them as family or as his children (as is done elsewhere in Scripture. E.G. Gal. 4:19, 1 Thess 2:2, 7, and 5:5). He refers to them as brothers. It may seem semantics, but Paul is intentionally using the connection of brothers. Brothers share a unique bond. There is an equality among siblings that does not exist in the parental relationship or in the more general familial sense. Brothers labor together and utilize their gifts alongside each other. There is no actual hierarchy in brotherhood, only earned respect by diligent work. Paul considers Timothy and the Colossians to be brothers. What a phenomenal encouragement! Timothy and the Colossian believers are placed on equal footing with their missionary patriarch! How empowering to hear a man of Paul’s stature grant such a title as “brother” to other believers.

Such is the nature of the Christian faith. There is no hierarchy. Not really. Churches sometimes impose one out of a minor necessity of leadership, but there is truly no hierarchy. Christ is the head of the church. Not the bishop, not the pastor, not the elders, not the presbyters, not the pope. Christ! Christ is the head of the church. Everyone else is brother.

In the western church, there is an epidemic of poor leadership. Men take the position of pastor assured and self-confident that they are the head of their congregation. Now, don’t misunderstand. Many of these men are godly men who love and obey the Lord. But they believe themselves to carry some weight of authority because of their title. In truth, their title grants them responsibility… not authority. Simply because a man dons the name of Pastor does not grant him a position higher than the rest of the congregation. No. He must submit to the Scripture, the same way everyone else in the body does. The Scripture is the authority in the church and it is what directs the people.

To be fair, governance is a necessary component of church life, and there is much to be said about it. There are responsibilities that must be assigned within the church and there are structures by which the local bodies of Christ organize themselves. (There are different models of structure within the New Testament church, and that is a large topic that I will endeavor to answer only if people comment on this post asking me to do so.) The critical truth to grasp is the power of recognizing a lack of hierarchy within the people of God.

When the leaders of the church will recognize that they are leading from a position of equality with those they lead, they will empower and strengthen their brothers in the faith. When they insist that they have a position of authority beyond the Scripture, they will domineer their congregations and cause harm. When leaders recognize that Scripture places them on the same level as everyone else in the congregation, vision will rise from the community and churches will begin to see changed lives. It is no small matter to be called brother. Indeed, it is a deep and profound truth that could potentially save the western church. We are brothers laboring together.

Great Art: You Must Linger to See it

When the soul needs respite and the heart needs the vexing challenge of soul-stirring intellectual engagement, art offers a haven. On the nights when one cannot recognize the eyes of the individual in the mirror and the world seems as though it is failing to maintain its own rotation, art gives us a perspective that can rescue. When the everyday monotony of life begins to drain our souls of joy, art refreshes and revitalizes our hearts. Art: three simple letters used to label the concept of expression in total. The word seems wholly inadequate. It should be longer and have an “x” somewhere in it. Perhaps it is simple and short because art is easy to overlook and pass by?

Art is a powerful medium to express that which is inexpressible by any other means. Great art transcends cultures and time. It has no limitations and only grows in its appreciation as it is engaged. Great art refracts through layers of expression that expose a deeper truth, often revealing things that cannot be understood without equally deep investigation.

As of late, I have been inspired by the work of Makoto Fujimura. He uses a particular style of Japanese art to produce works that are masterful. Fujimura’s work is literally done in layers. Several translucent layers, one on top of another. The result is stunning, but only if the viewer allows them to linger. You see, the eye has to adjust to seeing the layers. In our modern world, this is extremely difficult to do. Yet, to appreciate the beauty of Fujimura’s work, the eye must hold fast to the piece. We must train our eyes to linger and rest on the expression. As the eye grows accustomed to the peculiar focus required to see the layers, the piece will spring to life. The greater attention given to grasping the work, the more beautiful it becomes.

So it is with all great art. The soul must be allowed breathe deeply the scent of expression. We must permit our souls the time to linger… to gaze upon the beauty and understand. Our souls, like our eyes, must adjust to the refraction of the light. As the light illuminates the layers of the canvas, our eyes slowly gain the necessary perception and begin to see the glory of the painting. We begin to see the work of the artist.

The Greatest Artist has displayed His work in layers that have become common to our eyes. We fly past His work constantly, seldom stopping to admire the layers of His glory. But if we would linger a bit, we would find our eyes adjust to an ever increasing beauty in the Father of Life. If will settle our souls to seek and savor Jesus Christ, we will find the much-needed respite from this present monotony. Work hard to engage your soul with the respite of great art… work harder to engage the work of The Great Artist.

Now a brief word of warning: Jesus is The Artist, who created everything. He is also the Light that exposes the work. When you stand in His presence to see His work, you will inevitably find some layers of yourself exposed. And that can be uncomfortable. But, to see the beauty of The King and to know His work is worth it.

Linger over the great truths of Scripture. Engage the incredible artworks produced by God’s people. Gaze at the beauty of what and who God has created. Listen to the music that He provides upon the winds. Seek beauty in Christ’s display of His glory. Work hard to engage your soul with the respite of great art… work harder to engage the work of The Great Artist.