More often than not I find my Christian brothers and sisters uncritically embracing the ways and means practiced by the high-profile men and women who lead large corporations, congregations, nations, and causes, people who show us how to make money, win wars, manage people, sell products, manipulate emotions, and who then write books or give lectures telling us how we can do what they are doing. But these ways and means more often than not violate the ways of Jesus. North American Christians are conspicuous for going along with whatever the culture decides is charismatic, successful, influential – whatever gets things done, whatever can gather a crowd of followers – hardly noticing that these ways and means are at odds with the clearly marked way that Jesus walked and called us to follow. Doesn’t anybody notice that the ways and means taken up, often enthusiastically, are blasphemously at odds with the way Jesus leads his followers? Why doesn’t anyone notice?
“Lent” means spring. But it’s more like winter—the last blast of cold before the warm green is here to stay. It reminds us of the flint-faced Christ moving to Jerusalem. O how we need the discipline of Lent!! Break a bad habit before Good Friday! Life is too short to coast. Brake!
This is a great blog post about how we can receive missionaries when they return from the field – When Missionaries Come Off the Field
Here is the opening paragraph to give you a taste of the overall article:
They were so vulnerable and wounded, barely able to look me in the eye. They’d gone into missions directly after college, bright with hope and the thrill of obedience. With sincere love and determination, they’d adopted an unreached people group. Thousands of dollars had been sacrificed for their language study and living expenses. And here they were, three years later, looking so lost and alone, feeling all the weight of their supposed failure.
When many missionaries come off the field, churches and families don’t know what to say and the missionaries themselves don’t know how to move forward.
Too many Christians still think of cultural life as just a setting in which the message of salvation can be communicated, not the site within which the consequences of redemption begin to be worked out, in which ramifications of the order of human life are faithfully enacted.
We need to go out to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord.
One of the unintended and unhappy consequences of St. John’s Armageddon vision is that it has inflamed the imaginations of the biblically illiterate ion consuming endtime fantasies, distracting them from the day valor of dogged obedience, sacrificial love, and a alert endurance. This is exactly what St. John did not intend, as even a cursory reading of his Revelation makes evident. When people are ignorant of the imagery of prophets and gospels, and untutored in the metaphorical language of war in the story of salvation, they are easy pray for entertaining predictions of an end-time holocaust at Mount Meggido in Israel, conjured up from newspaper clippings on international politics. Jesus told us quite clearly that the people who make these breathless and sensationalist predictions are themselves the false Christs and false prophets that they are pretending to warn us against (Matthew 24:23-26).
Religious people have a habit of developing a similar relationship to their doctrine and beliefs Over time, many become a connoisseurs of their religion. People who learn to appreciate and make subtle distinctions develop a refined sense of what kind of behavior and belief are okay and not okay. They develop an interest in detecting the subtlest of theological distinctions and nuance. They prefer to congregate and associate with other people who like the same kind of doctrines and dogmas.
Nothing is wrong with developing a mastery of religion. The problem is that mastery of our religion has almost nothing to do with Jesus and what he came to do in the world.