WEEK IN REVIEW–WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED

Review of critical facts is often the most important aspect of learning, and learning is what separates competent people from the incompetent.  With that in mind, here are two important facts we’ve learned this week.

1.  We learned that we should never take nude pictures of ourselves on our smartphone.

These pictures will inevitably end up published by thieves and criminals.  We all agree, I think, that these thieves and criminals should be punished to the furthest extent of the law.  I actually would go one step further.  People who view these images on the internet are, in comparison, the same as people who knowingly buy stolen parts for their car at a chop shop.  So, some level of prosecution should go out to these people.  If the feds will go after teenagers who download illegal music, why not go after people who go search out illegally obtained pictures.  These photos are stolen goods, and should be treated accordingly.

However, once the damage is done, once people have seen your southern zones, you can’t put that genie back in the bottle.

Jennifer Lawrence has a right to privacy.
Jennifer Lawrence has a right to privacy.

If you must take naked pictures of yourself (which I strongly recommend against) use an old fashioned Polaroid and hide them in your sock drawer.  Greenbean promises that you’ll never find nude pictures of him on the internet.  Never.

 

2.  We learned that Joel and Victoria Osteen are not theologians.

This really is not news.  However, Victoria highlighted that fact a bit when a video surfaced of her saying this:

When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God…we’re doing it for ourself. Because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. Do good ’cause God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God, really. You’re doing it for yourself because that’s what makes God happy.

Okay, give me a moment to take off the cool Panama Jack hat I’m wearing right now and replace it with the theologian hat.  Good, now I can think straight.  Let’s analyze what is wrong with her statement.  First, she implies that somehow our behavior makes God happy.  The reverse of this would be that our behavior can make God sad.  This kind of talk about the Lord borders on tribal religion where the key task is to determine if the Almighty Reese’s Pieces God is happy today or if we need to appease his unhappiness with libations of milk and offerings of peanut butter.   Is God happy today or sad today?  Let’s find out?  Who brought the holy coconut?

Proper Christian theology teaches us that the Lord exists in perfect trinitarian community:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures teach us that the Lord becomes angry at some actions and delights in others, however it is never implied that he is sitting around in Heaven waiting for us to make him happy, as if his happiness depended upon us.

If God is waiting for us to make him happy, then his existence is likely the saddest in all of creation.

The second mistake she makes is that she puts human beings at the center of the worship expression.  That is beyond wrong.  However, it would be difficult to argue that most American Christians practice anything other than a worship experience that ‘makes me happy.’  So, though wrong, Osteen has plenty of company in her idolatrous doctrine of human-centric worship.

Now, here is the twist to what we learned this week.  Osteen, for all her failings, is actually tip-toeing up to something important.  Our lives are happier, better, more enriched when when we follow the Lord and live according to his ways.  I have argued for years that even if there were no such thing as the supernatural, no eternal life, and no spiritual joy, I would still preach that the Jesus way of life is the best way of life because it is.

That doesn’t minimize the supernatural or argue against the power of God or eternity, but it speaks to the power of the ethics and pathos in the life of a Christ-follower.  It would have been better if Osteen had said it that way, because that might have been what she kind of intended.  However, she didn’t, because, neither she nor her husband have taken the time to learn from people smarter than them about actual theology.  They’ve been too busy making an empire and playing a role–the role of superstar celebrity.

 

 

image from cinemablend.com

WHAT WENT WRONG

Yesterday I finished my short four week series on some of the Judges from the book in the Hebrew Bible by the same name–Judges.  I loved preaching this series–Samson, Gideon, Ehud and Deborah are among the most entertaining stories in the Bible and it doesn’t take much work to preach them.  But what I didn’t have time to do was to analyze the overall picture of Judges.  Nestled between the story of Joshua and the emergence of the monarchy, Judges has a unique place in Israelite history.

The book of Judges tells the story of a people who are divisive, hostile, forgetful, idolatrous, violent, sexually promiscuous, and stupid.  Their behavior has more in common with the Germanic tribes of Europe before the fall of Rome than anything found in the Mosaic code.  The way the Israelites behaved, sometimes you want to root for the Canaanites (or the Amorites, Amalekites or Philistines).

What fascinates me is:  Why, or better yet, how did it come to this?  Surely this was not  God’s plan for Israel–hundreds of years of anarchy?

I’ve come up with two answers–and you are not going to like either one.

The first reason, the most obvious reason, is the people of Israel never truly believed or followed the Lord to begin with.  They were like the crowds who followed Jesus for bread and miracles but when he started teaching about belief and faith and “drink my blood and eat my flesh” (John 6) they scattered away.  People will always follow a good show, but when the show is over and it is time for obedience; well, there is always something else better on television.   A lesson is in there somewhere for megachurches and their pastors.  I’ll let you find it for yourself,  though.

The second reason, and the one that intrigues me the most, is that Joshua was a failure. I know that he is a hero to so many people because he overcome his fear (I so hope I never have to hear another sermon about how Joshua overcame his fear–I think I’ve heard it about 500,000 times).  Joshua did promise to serve the Lord and he promised that his house would do the same (Joshua 24:15) but he failed to lead Israel like he led his family.  He did not do what was done for him.

Here is what I mean–when Moses was about to die, he appointed Joshua as the next leader and made sure everyone knew it.  There was the passing of the proverbial torch from one generation to the next.  Joshua fails to do that.  He sort of rides off into the sunset and leaves every tribe, clan, family and individual to figure things out for themselves.  Because of this failure we get the constant refrain in the book of Judges–“In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

The most important thing a leader should do is to make certain someone else can lead when you’re gone and make certain the people you lead know who these next generational leaders are.  Without that kind of long-term approach all you do or accomplish is destined to be overrun by Philistines and die right behind you.