Which god?    God or god?

“Thou shalt have no other god before me.”  (Exodus 20:3 KJV)

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December 28, 2012

Think of it. A church that would actually give people what they want.

The gospel is about meeting people’s need, not pandering to their wants. God is not our errand boy.



The lines above are from The Judas Gospel, by Bill Myers. It’s a novel about what might happen if Judas Iscariot was allowed to come back to earth and mass market Jesus today. Interesting book - very thought provoking.
But - I wanted to use these lines and some others from the book for a suggestion on a new years resolution.

The first thing though -
is to set the groundwork for the resolution.
As I’ve written many times before -
we don’t get to set the rules -
no matter how much we’d like to maybe have things the other way around -
God created us -
we didn’t create Him.

Also consider -
even though we know we need one thing -
we often want something entirely different -
even if it’s in direct conflict with what we need.


Therefore -
the opening lines here from The Judas Gospel set the tone.

We want God - and the church -
to tell us what we’d like to hear -
and to give us what we want.

God, on the other hand -
wants to tell us what we need to hear -
and to give us what we need.

Think about it -
honestly think about it -
given a choice between what we want and what we need -
which one is truly better for us -
and I mean in the long run - the really long run -
since we are talking about eternity here.


With that in mind -
plus the fact that different people are at different places in their relationship with God -
this is going to be a multiple choice resolution -
pick the one that best fit’s where you’re at in your life.


We’ll start with this sequence from The Judas Gospel -

What if her dreams aren’t some hidden, psychobabble thing? What if they really do come from God?”

The kid said nothing.

“It’s certainly common enough in the Bible.”

The officer fidgeted, looked back outside.

Delacroix noted the response. “I take it you’re not a big fan of the Bible.”

After a brief pause, he respectfully answered, “No, sir.”

“Which part?”

“Part?”

“There are sixty-six books. Which ones don’t you like?”

The officer frowned.

“What, you’ve never read them? You’re not a fan of the Bible and you’ve never read it?”

“I guess… I just don’t see a need for it, that’s all.”

“Really?”

“I mean with all of the beauty around us, with all of nature’s marvels… I guess that’s my Bible.”

“I see,” Delacroix said, trying to keep the amusement out of his voice.

“And the poets and artists, they’re sort of my priests.”

“Poets and artists.”

“Yes, sir.”

“They teach you that stuff at college?”

“I was an art history major.”

Delacroix chuckled. “And now you’re a cop.”

The kid glanced away.

“My daughter loves art. But I guess you know that, too.”

“Yes, sir.”

Unable to leave the topic alone, Delacroix returned to it. “So you’ve got a college education and you’ve never read the Bible?”

The kid saw no need to repeat himself.

“Amazing,” Delacroix said, shaking his head, “simply amazing.”

If you’re in the same place as the cop in this sequence - I don’t put this in to make you feel bad or anything like that. It’s just to let you know that you aren’t alone. There’s a lot of people who’ve never read the Bible. Many of them think they won’t like what’s in it. Truth be told - there’s a lot of Christians who’ve never open the Bible and actually read it - read it like a book - read the whole thing.

Suggested resolution for you if you’re in this group - try reading it! You might be surprised. It’s full of lying, cheating, stealing, sex and murder. And these are the good guys.
I say this not to get you to do all of these things -
but to point out that the people who have done these very things are among the greatest of God’s people from the Bible.
Given that - what could any of us have to be afraid of?
If God loved people like that - why wouldn’t He love us?
If God could use people like that - what’s in us that would prevent Him from using us too?


Shortly after the previous sequence, we read -

“Seriously, we’ve got some warm pizza inside. And more than one of those silly old books you’re not a fan of, which you’re welcome to borrow just in case you ever want to know what you don’t believe.”

At this point - the cop chose not to go inside. By the end of the book - he did go in and start to learn.

If you’re like the cop at this point - having previously declined to learn about God - it’s not too late. As long as you’re alive - God still wants you to change your mind and turn to Him.

If you’re in a position like Delacroix, where you’re talking to someone like the cop - the resolution is to continue to be like him. He was friendly the whole time - continued to invite the cop into the church - and eventually (although not due to Delacroix himself) the cop does go to church. It’s not about who gets someone to follow God - it’s about the person following God. After all - the only “One” who is responsible for that, is God Himself.


The next scenario comes in the middle of a discussion about how to mass market Jesus -

In this age of mass marketing there is no better way to be heard than creating your own brand. Whatever words you pick will be how the people connect to you… and God. Whether it’s through social networking on the Internet, the billboards we’ve suggested, the free Bibles, or the banners we’ll be hanging at your events—whatever words we choose, when people see them, they’ll think of you.”

Mr. Miller agreed. “Like it or not, it’s the only way to compete in today’s market.”

“And if I may,” the girl behind the projector said, “we want to do more than compete. We want to dominate. You and God should be on people’s minds more frequently than Starbucks, Wal-Mart, even McDonald’s.”

Timothy nodded. “And study after study, billions of research dollars insist that branding is the next step.”

Rachel listened intently. She understood what they were saying. With so many other messages competing for attention, how could the average person even hope to hear God?”

If you want to know the author’s thoughts about the mass marketing approach - I encourage you to read the book. It’s a most interesting answer.

The thing I wanted to talk about here is the last sentence - With so many other messages competing for attention, how could the average person even hope to hear God?

I think a whole lot of people are here. It’s certainly a problem for me. With so many of life’s demands - how can we hope to hear God?

That question was posed to the author at the end of the book -

In the book you comment, “With so many other messages competing for attention,how could the average person even hope to hear God?” (p. 109). How do you tackle this problem in your own life?

I have to be very intentional. I try to spend an hour or so in worship and Scripture each morning before the day begins. For twenty-three hours a day the world screams into my ears that black is white, that wrong is right, that I should be angry, discontent, that God doesn’t care, that He’s forgotten the details, that I must buy this or that to find peace and joy. If I’m not proactive in spending time seeing truth every day, then my internal compass starts going askew and I forget where north lies.

For those in this category - my resolution suggestion would be to consciously try to do what Bill Myers says -
be intentional about it -
pick some time during the day to spend time with God -
and remember that what the world says isn’t always the way we should be -
something along the lines of remembering the difference between what we are told we should want versus what we really need.


You can probably see - there’s a progression here -
moving from little or no faith - even rejection -
to the point where we start to care about God -
and even to where we care - but have to compete with all the rest of “life” in order to find time for God.


There’s a final step to this progression -
one that many of us will not reach -
where Delacroix is.
He’s a minister in a small church -
not into mass marketing at all.
To give an idea where he’s at -

RACHEL GATHERED the papers from the floor of her father’s cubbyhole office. This was where they found him. No surprise. He often came here in the middle of the night to read, study, and, more important, to pray over his flock. Sometimes early Sunday mornings she’d catch him kneeling in the sanctuary before a specific chair, laying hands on it, praying for the same person who sat there week in and week out. Today she’d come here to search for his Bible. It wasn’t at the hospital, and she couldn’t imagine him being without it. Setting the papers on his desk, she rose, stiff and sore from the morning’s encounter in the parking garage. At Sean’s request she’d let the EMS team check her out. Other than a few scrapes and bruises, they gave her a clean bill of health.

She bent back down to pick up his fallen chair and found the Bible crushed underneath it, face down. She scooped it up, ever so tenderly, and began straightening the pages, smoothing the cover… until emotions rose up so strong that she had to lean against the desk just to stand.

If that’s where you are - keep it up.


For those of us who haven’t reached the stage where Delacroix is -
who still need to work on our relationship with God -
I think it’s important to remember Jeremiah 29:11 - where God says -

Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

When we reach the point where we really know and believe this -
and can follow through on it -
then we get to where Delacroix is -
we are well on the way to where God wants us to be -

And we are well on the way to realizing that what we want
and what we need -
are the same thing.


So -

Much to my surprise -
because I didn’t plan on ending this way -

I have two resolutions for us all to make.

First Resolution - pick your spot on from the portion / character in the book that most applies to you. Then try to move on from where you are to the next level in your relationship with God. Maybe that’s just starting to explore - maybe it’s moving closer - maybe it’s not rejecting Him any more - maybe it’s finding time every day to spend with Him.

Consider -

Lk 15:3 Then Jesus told them this parable:

Lk 15:4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

Lk 15:5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders

Lk 15:6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

Lk 15:7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

OR -

Mt 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Mt 11:29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Mt 11:30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

No matter where we are - moving closer to Jesus is a good thing.


Second Resolution - reach for the point where what we want and what we need are the same -
the point where we want what God says we need. It’s not easy - and it does require effort - and it requires learning.

Consider this -

The Boy Jesus at the Temple

Lk 2:41 Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.

Lk 2:42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.

Lk 2:43 After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.

Lk 2:44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.

Lk 2:45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.

Lk 2:46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

Lk 2:47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Lk 2:48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

Lk 2:49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Lk 2:50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Lk 2:51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Lk 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Even Jesus had to learn -
and it took time -
and effort -
and His parents didn’t understand -

But He did it.

And so should we.


So -

When I started writing this, I fully intended to suggest choosing one of the resolutions from the first portion of this article.

Now - as I’m closing - I pray that we all choose two resolutions -

One from the first part -

And the second one -

Both of which will move us closer to the realization that this is where we should be trying to reach -

Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.


New Years resolution - 2013