Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Little Short on Cash?

Well head on down to the United Pentecostal Church in Harvey, IL (just outside of Chicago) and get 25 bucks just for showing up. The church "plans to provide the cash to the first 75 people who visit the church for the first time at each of two services, one at 10 a.m. and another at 1 p.m. The only requirements are that the newcomers be 16 or older and that they stay for the entire 90-minute service," writes the Chicago Tribune. What's next, finders fees for each new convert?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Lottery Tickets and Cadillacs

Sounds like the title of a country song doesn't it? Sad to say, it's not. On the way home from church not too long ago we stopped to pick up a loaf of bread. I waited in the car while Rebecca ran into the bakery. As I was waiting I noticed that the lady in the car next to me had a stack of scratch-and-win lottery tickets that she was working her way through. I looked a little closer and realized that she was wearing a fur coat and the car she was driving a passenger in was a Cadillac STS. I couldn't help but think, here's this woman who would appear to have it all but she still wanted more. The fur coat, Cadillac, and I'm guessing big house in the rich part of town weren't satisfying her soul so she was looking for something else to try to fill the void.

Maybe she wanted more or maybe she was just hoping to win the jackpot to pay for everything. I don't know. But I do know that no matter how big the cash prize, it will never make her happy. Just ask the rich young ruler...

"As he was starting out on a trip, a man came running up to Jesus, knelt down, and asked, "Good Teacher, what should I do t get eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus asked. "Only God is truly good. But as for your question, you know the commandments: `Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. Do not cheat. Honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," the man replied, "I've obeyed all these commandments since I was a child."

Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him. "You lack only one thing," he told him. "Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this, the man's face fell, and he went sadly away because he had many possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

I catch myself wanting "more" all the time, although not as often as in the past. The problem is (if I dare quote a U2 song) too much is never enough. It seems to me there is a direct correlation between having/wanting lots of things and the size of the hole inside. How many older folks say, "we didn't have much when I was a kid but we were happy." Sure, it has become a cliche, but it definitely rings true. All of our stuff can never satisfy our longing to love and be loved, to be known by others, and ultimately, to be in relationship with God.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Book Review: The Secret Message of Jesus

When I first read the title of Brian McLaren’s latest book, The Secret Message of Jesus, a small shudder went down my spine. Is it possible that the man who brought us such memorable and challenging books as A Generous Orthodoxy and A New Kind of Christian had sold out to the ‘how-to-lead-a-victorious-Christian-life-if-you-just-follow-these-10-easy-steps” palaver that has proliferated over the last 10 to 15 years in Christian publishing? As I dug into The Secret Message of Jesus I was pleased to find out that all is well in the world of McLaren.

In Matthew 10:7 Jesus says “the kingdom of Heaven is near.” Most of us have grown up with the understanding that near refers to a future time when Jesus returns and the kingdom of God reigns over the earth. McLaren’s supposition however, is that the “secret message” Jesus preached was the kingdom of God here, now, among you. It is not just a future glory to look forward to but is to be lived out by everyone who chooses to enter into it. In McLaren’s words, “the King is in the kingdom, and the kingdom is among us here and now – for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. The King is present in the mess and chaos of everyday life on earth…bringing healing, sight, perception, liberation, wholeness, wholesomeness, movement, health, fullness, nourishment, sanity, and balance. The incursion of the kingdom has begun.”

If this perception rings true, how then does my perspective of the world change if I am seeking the establishment of God’s kingdom on a daily basis? How do I view my neighbours, my co-workers, my friends? How might this change our traditional methods of evangelism? How does my view of the environment change? What about poverty, oppression, and injustice both at home and abroad?

The Secret Message of Jesus offers a unique perspective on what it means to be participants in the kingdom of God and is an excellent launching pad for discussion of these and other issues as we try to reengage the church with the culture at large. In many ways this is a far more personal book as it challenges us not just to change our theology, but to change our world as well.

Also posted to and published in RYUN Magazine (September issue).