Posts Tagged ‘New Monastic’

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him ’til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains

-Simon and Garfunkel, the Boxer

Many times over the years I have walked into a church building and felt uncomfortable. There was no single source that I could point at for what I was feeling, just that feeling of discomfort and the overwhelming desire to be out of there as soon as I could.

I had a tough time putting my finger on the problem- everything seemed to be normal. The people were nice enough; there were no obvious signs of something being amiss that I could see right away; only the discomfort and the acknowledgment that for some reason, I just didn’t quite belong.

I have had this feeling in other places as well, sometimes in a home where the income level or manner of the persons living there is way beyond what I am used to. Or, maybe it was in a store or restaurant with successful businessmen in suits sitting just across the way from me in my steel-toed boots. Anyway that you look at it, it boils down to the fact that I was different somehow than my surroundings and had become painfully aware of that fact.

There must be a class somewhere that I missed. I remember missing a day in school and looking at the assignments that were handed out upon my return and thinking to myself, “I get this that was taught the day before yesterday and I understand that assignment from today. The middle one, I have no clue what that is about.” Like being the one “who should have been there” when you hear an inside joke, I have always felt a little uncomfortable around those people who made the class that I obviously missed.

I imagine that somewhere in the discipleship process, there was a workshop given detailing how to act in church. The teacher (who happens to look an awful lot like Martha Stewart) would stand very erect in front of the class, her posture speaking in great volume, teaching in proper English how to dress, how to smile just right so that you give no clue to those around you as to your real thoughts or intentions, how to emote all of the right things to all of the right people. Perhaps included in that workshop is a lecture on the art of small talk as well; I also seemed to have missed that one.

More than the way the people around me are acting though, it is the feeling of being somehow different that gets me every time. Like when I first entered ministry, I actually tried to dress up when I preached. I saved all of my money so I could buy a few cheap suits at JC Penney’s. I had a black one and a blue one. I also bought a shiny pair of shoes because all the other preachers that I saw wore shiny shoes. And I felt transformed. I had been a Skinhead, a punk rocker, and an all-around screw-up. My hairstyles ranged from the bald uniform cut of a skin to the 9-inch purple Mohawk. And now, here I was, a citizen. I wore the same clothes that they all did; I was obviously the same, right?

I couldn’t have been more wrong and I should have known that better than anyone.

You see, when I was in the world, we had a term we used quite frequently to describe someone who dressed the part but was something different than the façade they were displaying; a poser.

There were very few things worse than being named poser, honestly. Anyone who was seen to be a poser knew then that everything they were projecting about themselves was a lie. You were acting or dressing differently than the person that you really were. It was the lowest of the low. Back then who you really were inside was more important than what you appeared to be to others. Anyone could cut their hair funny or shave it off. Anyone could don the apparel and act out a role. To the real skins, punks and Goths, the outside display was just a manifestation of an inner working. And if you didn’t feel what you were doing then you just needed to go away.

So there I was with my black suit and blue suit (and shiny shoes) and I tried to do street ministry with all the “street cred” that my apparel afforded me. And I found that the ones that I identified with the most – identified with me the least. Without meaning to, I was preaching a message before saying a single word. And that message was “all that I was before I became a Christian was an act- I was just a tourist”. Needless to say, not many listened to what I had to say.

I went home dejected utterly. God finally illuminated something to my spirit that I will never forget- He did not call me out of everything that he did just so that I could be like every other Christian. I got rid of all of those things that were not really me almost immediately. I made a call that has influenced everything in my life ever since- I will be myself, be that good or bad, ugly or beautiful, right or wrong. I will never pretend to be something that I am really not in order to please you or to be seen as “safe” by the Churchian community.

So I have become an iconoclast of sorts. I am not safe to bring in to preach because I will do what God tells me regardless of how people feel about it or if I will get invited back or not. I am not safe to be friends with because I will put God first before you. I am not safe to have in your clique because I will not adhere to your rules just because everyone else does. I will reveal things about myself that are not acceptable if I feel that God wants me to because I value his approval way more than yours.

And so on and so on. But thanks be to God, I may be ugly but at least I am real.

I believe that this rampant posing has impacted the church in one area more than any other- with our men. The Word tells us that we must have our hearts circumcised and I could not agree more. That must not have been enough for the church though because we seem to have skipped right past circumcision of the heart and went right for a total neutering. The churches read books like “Wild at Heart” and then they say to themselves, “I AM wild at heart, by George! I want adventure and to be dangerous again- maybe we should make a focus group and share how we all feel inside about it.” And so the neutering is revealed even as the heart shows the slightest stirring of recapturing what was lost.

My friend once had a cat that was a real tomcat all the way. He did what he wanted, prowled the neighborhood, and picked some fights with other cats (and occasional dogs as well). He was so ornery that we had to contain him under a laundry basket sometimes because he would attack anything that came in reach. The vet told my friend that the cat needed to be neutered in order to settle him down a bit. So he took him up and got the job done on him. From that moment on, he was a different cat. All he did was sit on the windowsill and look out the window at a world that he no longer saw the adventure in.

So it is with our men in the church. Somehow after a very short time of being saved, we no longer have any fight left in us. We become little hippy Gandhi Christians, de-neutered, de-clawed, de-odored and disinfected, safe for inclusion in the white suburban neighborhood church of our choice. Like the lion at the zoo who yawns instead of roars, we have become sad shells of what God intended us to be. And this is applauded by the church, even considered to be virtuous- especially for preachers.

No wonder our young people are not lining up to take on the challenges of ministry any more. They all want to be rock stars, leading praise and worship when they start out but graduating to real Christian rock stars later on. Forget laying your future at the foot of the cross and heading out to a foreign mission field, that is not really needed anymore. Why suffer to spread the Gospel or lay your life on the line for the cause of Christ when you can be idolized by adoring fans who will listen intently as you talk about God for two minutes at the end of your hour long set?

We want to be cool, not Christ-like and it is showing in our utter failure to reach the current generation.

It is not really their fault though if we are to be honest. They are this way because when we look around for heroes of the faith we can find none among our contemporaries. When I want to get edified myself I have to find sermons preached 30 years ago from men who are dead because there are very few that I would listen to today. The mold for today’s minister is safe, funny, inoffensive and relevant to a hip 30-something society.

But that kind of man does not speak to the heart of who I am. I have a roar in me; a roar that I know is meant for the hoards of Churchians who have my savior as a hobby in their life. It is a roar that is meant for a world that mocks God and rushes headlong into an eternal hell. A roar that is sent with all of the ferocity of someone that was left beaten, robbed and raped on the side of the road of life all of those years ago, and is aimed directly at an enemy that figured that no one would take the time to rebuild what was so obviously ruined.

And though I have oftentimes tried to bury it in the past, that roar always rises to the surface because it is not my roar alone but it is the raw sound of the frustrated heart of an entire generation.

We must be ourselves, no matter what it looks like. We must learn to hate the Churchian mask with every fiber of our being. We must discover the fighter that the enemy has tried to emasculate before it is too late and the battle that we were meant for is over and the looting begins.

Find your war cry, church. Then scream it with all of your heart no matter who approves or disapproves. Cast off Saul’s armor and find your stones and run to the battle. Who cares what everyone else is doing or what is considered appropriate Christian behavior at the moment? That is nothing but a spiritual flavor of the month club and is utterly useless in real application.

We are a generation that could not see who we really were in any of the Christians that were around us and so we figured that it was us who were wrong. So we bought the clothes, the bumper stickers, donned the hairdo that we saw everyone else wear and became Christian posers. When that failed to satisfy or when the utter hypocrisy ate at us too much, we just quit.

But who you are inside is tailor made for the hell you live in today. You are God’s answer for the enemy’s advances. But the fake can never make the cut. Only the genuine heart roar has a place on the battlefield of today.

So get saved, get real or get out.

Rediscovering Sabbath

Posted: March 24, 2011 by JC Smith in Practices
Tags: , , , ,

American Christianity is weird. Now that I mention it, I have been in it quite a long time now and it seems to just be getting even more weird…

I knew that I was in for a bumpy ride within my first year as a Christian. I mean, the first month and a half of my conversion, no one spoke to me at the church that I went to.

So, I knew from the jump that I was probably not going to fit in. And sure enough, I haven’t.

Sometimes its like the church folks in America and I don’t even speak the same language. Kind of like talking to a deaf person who watches your mouth open and close like a fish trying to suck in some water when none is there.

Yeah, kind of like that.

One of the strange things about the modern church is their fascination with the error of Antinomianism.

For those of you who don’t know, Antinomianism is a cute little heresy from way back that basically says that because Christ freed us from the law and works, nothing is required of us at all. It basically is a false teaching that tells people that they are exempt from any moral law since they are under grace.

I may deal with that error in a full article at some point. Today though, I just wanted to point it out to ward off any Antinomians (like garlic for vampires) as I talk about the Sabbath. And if we aren’t speaking the same language, or you are Antinomian- that’s fine. You take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll get to Dublin before ye.

This article is for those who do feel the same way and who could really use the blessing of it in their lives.

You see, this year, we decided to go ahead and break from Pennycostul tradition and celebrate Holy Week. We are doing the whole she-bang; Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday (Didache, communion), Good Friday, Holy Saturday (fasting and prayer) and a sunrise Easter service.

Anyway, included in our Holy Week plans is a fast from Friday night to Saturday night. That of course, is the traditional Sabbath. Now, I know that a lot of religious folks have misused things like the Sabbath, taking all the fun out of them, like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. But I am not talking about that.

I am talking about 24 hours of your week where you un-plug and focus on the things with real meaning in your life, things like relaxation, family, nature, your health and most importantly, God. See, Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That means, God put the Sabbath in place so that for one day out of the week, we could get re-centered and find some balance against the other six days.

That is something seriously lacking in our world. I mean, it is go-go-go, all of the time. Then one day you wake up and you don’t know your wife because you haven’t spent any real time with her. You are roommates with benefits and that’s about it. You don’t really know your kids either. Usually because you haven’t had any real time for yourself or for you and your spouse and so you want them in bed as soon as possible. And so it goes. We hustle from one thing to the next and miss everything in between.

That’s one of the reasons I don’t care much for cities. The stimulus is just ridiculous; the flashing lights, signs, buildings, people, cars, noise, smoke. It can be overwhelming and if you are like me, I value controlled stimulus, not chaos.

So we all need a break. But most of the time we find that in TV or movies or busy music. All things that overstimulate your brain and are really not what God had in mind at all when he came up with rest.

For us, we started to un-plug by getting rid of the television as the centerpiece of the living room. We just got it out of there completely and replaced it with a bookshelf. We didn’t know if anyone would still use the space after we did it, particularly the young ones. But after we did it, I came downstairs and the two youngest were sharing an easy chair reading a book. And the room has been in constant use ever since, actually, it is used more now than before. We all talk at night, read books, whatever. And there is a sense of peace that was not there before.

Taking this whole idea one step further, we are adopting the idea of Sabbath once a week. For 24 hours, sundown to sundown, things go off. No cellphones, TV, movies, computers, video games, everything goes off. We won’t buy or sell anything during that 24 hours. And the whole idea is to reconnect to people, nature, ourselves and God.

Upon doing an internet search for the Sabbath, I found some great resources. Here is a list that I found that we are going to print and place on the fridge to help us remember what the day is about:

The 10 Principles of Sabbath
1. Avoid technology.
2. Connect with loved ones.
3. Nurture your health.
4. Get outside.
5. Avoid commerce.
6. Light candles.
7. Drink wine.
8. Eat bread.
9. Find silence.
10. Give back.

What a great list! And what a great idea from God!

So, find those “whole” things in your life and focus on them for 24 hours out of every week. Get out in a garden and get some dirt in your toes. Go for a walk in the park and get some grass between your toes. Get some wine and a loaf of fresh bread and Brie and go sit under a tree or by a river with your spouse. Let the kids ask anything they want for an hour of undivided attention.

If your life is so busy that you and the family simply cannot spare the time, then now would be a great time to sit down with everyone and discuss whether or not you are truly living. I mean, is all that stuff really worth it?

So, take God’s suggestion and get free. Blessings on you and good Sabbath!