Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kingdom Culture

According to, the definition of "culture" as it relates to human experience is: "the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another."

Growing up as an American, I am constantly faced with how much of my thinking regarding God's kingdom is sourced in the "ways of living built up by a the group of human beings"! Some don't see this as a bad thing, but the more I am faced with the truths of scripture, the more I find a holy discontent with what I've considered true for most of my life. I don't find what has been transmitted to me to reconcile very well with what I see revealed in scripture! Yet, it seems like much of has been called "Christianity" is just an attempt to meld principals in the scriptures, and principals of culture into a "Frankenstein" of sorts. The proof that it's messed up is that it doesn't work in every culture! A quick trip or two out of the USA will quickly prove that to be true.

So what is the solution?

The gospel contained in scripture is trans-cultural. That means it is relevant in any culture on earth, despite the specifics of that culture. The scriptures describe a Body of Christ that is made up of every tribe and tongue and nation. Since our earthly cultures are distinct, and often at odds with one another, what else is there? How then should we live?

The essence of living as part of the Body of Christ on this planet means living in a new Culture of the Kingdom. This could be said to be the sum total ways of living designed and orchestrated by the Trinity and imparted to us by the God's own indwelling Spirit as we follow Him. Unlike earthly culture, this is not transmitted by people and passed from generation to generation - something I think we've witnessed enough of in the religious psuedo-gospels of our day, but rather something imparted in our hearts as we encounter Jesus Christ in all his wonder.

For me, the scriptures then become a description of what this Culture of the Kingdom looks like. For too long, we've treated the scriptures, and even Jesus himself as a set of principals used to guide us to a "christian" sub-culture - one that ultimately has Man at the center and not something altogether different and new.

From what can be seen in John 17, the Culture of the Kingdom is supernatural - and when it is functioning will demonstrate to the world that Jesus was sent from the Father.

The world is not interested in a sub-culture. That's nothing new, and is just the work of human beings. However, the super-natural culture described in the scriptures is something altogether different, born of God and possible only through His Spirit transforming our lives. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he taught us to pray saying things like "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"?

By God's grace, I believe we're seeing this Culture of the Kingdom begin to take root here in our country and across the world. Perhaps soon we'll witness the fulfillment of Jesus' requests to the Father in John 17.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Watch your language?!

I grew up outside of Baltimore, MD and I admit, Marylanders have some pretty funny accents at times (think "Hon", John Trivolta in "Hairspray"). Nevertheless, when I moved to central Pennsyltucky where I now reside, I noticed some pretty funny patterns of speech. One of which sticks out to me is the occurrence of improper word substitution. For example, during one conversation, someone was speaking of getting used to something and said things would probably be fine once you get accumulated. Accumulated? Oh! You mean acclimated!

I just use that as an example of using the wrong words to describe the wrong things - something I think is happening alarmingly too much in the lives of followers of Jesus Christ.

On pretty much a daily basis, I hear someone talking about "going to church", or "it's at church", or "that's at such and such church", "where do you go to church" etc. I also occasionally hear the church building called "God's house", or "the house of the Lord" - two sayings that are in direct conflict with the teaching of scripture.

Now, I realize that our culture has adopted the word "church" for describing these buildings and events, but should believers do so? Doesn't it re-enforce the wrong thinking that The Church is an event or a building? Calling the event church is like calling dinner with your spouse "marriage". "Honey, what's for marriage tonight?", or "What time should I be home for marriage?", "You're late for marriage!". You get the point I hope. Marriage is a relationship - and so is Church.

Some might say this is mincing words, but I say, let's try to speak using a scriptural vocabulary. I am completely guilty of this myself. Our family has been trying to change this for years now, and it's painful. We've got our kids using the right vocabulary (and more importantly, understanding the idea), and they've turned into little vocabulary Nazis! I see hope though of a new generation of Jesus followers with a fresh new understanding of being The Church, instead of going to church.

So what have you're experiences been like with this? How are you describing and speaking of your church meetings, locations, etc? Please post your ideas in the comments.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Is your theology idolatry?

I've got this friend whom I see occasionally who always seems to bring every conversation around to a specific theological/doctrinal issue. Heck, he skips the small talk even and just jumps right in to the issue on his mind. It's just that it's the same issue all the time! It's funny to me that people who seem to love this particular doctrine frequently seem to do the same thing. Some of you will rightly guess what doctrine I am speaking of simply by your common experience (feel free to post your guesses in the comments)!

I guess some would just call this obsessive, and I would agree that it is. But what's the difference between obsessions and idolatry? Isn't idolatry just when we obsess over or fill our mind with things other than the God of the universe? Isn't it when we've allowed an idea to fill our minds to the point that no other thoughts can dislodge our attention on these things?

If that is the case, then can't our theology become idolatry? I think the answer might be yes! Now, don't get my wrong, I am not advocating (as some do) abstinence from theological thought or doctrinal study. However, when our theology become something we adore, we're in the wrongful territory of idolatry.

In my own life, I am coming to the conclusion that true life is found only in an uninterrupted obsession with Jesus. That might sound crazy, but if we're obsessed with him to the point of focusing all our thoughts and attentions on him, then we're in the right where God designed us to be. That's what being the Alpha and Omega is all about in my opinion.

So, by God's grace, perhaps we'll all lay down our idols and start obsessing over Jesus rather than our pet doctrines and theologies. Maybe if we do that, we'll actually see the life of Jesus manifested in our lives, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

What are your thoughts?