Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #10

March 16, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

How do you wrap up a series?  You can kill off the main character and be done (Freddy, Jason).  The problem with that is, you can always figure out a way to bring him back.  “No, he didn’t really die.”  Lame.  You can wrap up the story, bring closure (Star Wars).  Then you still want to know what happens next and people write 7000 books about what happens next to the characters.  Most common?  Act like you’re closing down, and then see if does well and then bring it back anyway (Everything).

How does a math major do it?  Duh, don’t you have to stop at 10?

Set up:  Someone is struggling to figure out life’s purpose and meaning.  They are not sure what to do, where to go.

Response: When all else fails, reads the instructions.

I am going to start with the disclaimer here.  Read the Bible.  Reading the Bible is great.  God will speak to you.  You will be challenged, spurred toward growth, drawn closer to God, convicted of sin, inspired, many many things.  Don’t have a reading plan?  Use the Fellowship Journal.  Ok, are we settled? greatly supports daily, frequent Bible reading.

Moving on.  Read the instructions?  Really?  If the Bible is an instruction book, it is the worst instruction book, ever.  The table of contents is completely unhelpful.  It gives you names you don’t recognize and is not at all helpful in directing me toward the issues that I am having with life.  Regardless, if I start reading from the beginning, looking for instructions I am going to be confused and disappointed.  “Uhh, I want to know how to discipline my kids and what I read was a story about two naked people and a snake.”

Even the parts of the Bible that are instruction-heavy, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and don’t apply to us directly (Acts 15).  The Bible is not an instruction book.  (It also is not a love letter) While it may serve the purpose of providing us with instruction and guidance and does reflect God’s love for us, to say that the Bible is an instruction book or love letter is to greatly minimize and diminish the power and beauty and depth of the Bible.

It has incredible stories meant to inspire us and some to scare us, with great models, terrible models and mostly mixed ones.  The Bible has beautiful poetry that will inspire you into a deeper love for God.  There are prophetic works of judgment and hope that can move us to a deeper faith in troubled times. 

The Bible is deep and rich and when you read it you will be drawn closer to God and will walk closer with him.  As you read and pray, you will notice the Holy Spirit convicting you where you are failing and encouraging you where are doing well.

However, if you approach the Bible as if it were simply an instruction book, you will miss out on the depth of relationship with God that you will get from study and interaction with him.  You also will be highly frustrated, because the Bible, like life, is just not as simple as reading the instructions on assembling a computer desk (Though I will confess the instructions for desk assembly are quite confusing). 

On the other hand if you approach the Bible as God’s Word meant to inspire us, challenge us and deepen us, and draw us closer to him, you will never, never be disappointed.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #0

March 8, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Ah, the prequel.  You can tell me that it is terrible and it will not matter (Hannibal Rising).  I will want to see it.  A good series makes you interested in the characters and you just want to know how things got started (X-Men Origins: Wolverine).  It can be over 15 years later (Star Wars) and I will be ready.  Many of them were disappointing but I would be first in line tomorrow, if they made one about Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson). 

Love the prequel.  Often it answers the question, why? 

Set-up:  Someone you know is going through a hard time, facing a challenge.  Perhaps you are trying to instruct your child or a protege in what it means to follow after God.  Perhaps you are one of the 3 people in the world that looks forward to church signs for reasons other than irony.  Who knows?

Response: Some overly-simplified Christian slogan that can fit on a bumper sticker.

Some (and by some I mean the 7 of you still reading) may be wondering why have I been blogging this series.  People who know me think they know the answer and that it’s simple.  This brings three of my favorite things together:  helping people grow in faith, ranting, and random pop-culture references.  Add in eating cheesy, salty snacks and this could have it all.

However, there is something deeper that compels me to do this.  Way too often, we as believers take overly simplified approaches to God and faith.  We want answers.  We want steps.  We want to easily put our mind around the what, why and how of our struggles.   We wish that everything were as simple as this:

“Hmm, this guy at my work is really annoying me.  Should I kill him?”

“Well in Exodus 20:13 it says you shall not murder.”

“Oh, really?  Thanks.”

Life is not always that simple.  In fact, it rarely is that simple.  God is bigger than our formulas and bumper sticker theology and life is very complicated.  In order to follow after God and be the men and women he has called us to be requires faith.  That faith needs to run deep and we need to be willing to put in the mental, emotional and spiritual work it takes.

Philippians 2:12-13

12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Slogans and quippy phrases may point us in the right direction, but they can only be the beginning point of a faith journey where we learn to follow Jesus deeply with continued reliance on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us.  Always ask questions, always read, always pray.  Listen to God.  Let him challenge, deepen and strengthen you.

You will be amazed at what God will show you, and much of it will not fit on a bumper sticker.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #9

March 3, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

You know sometimes there is a huge gap between the production of sequels.  It seems that for a while they are popping out with wreckless abandon every 12-18 months and then they stop.  Why is that?  One reason is that the last one was so terrible that you want people to get the bad taste out of their mouth (Rocky V).  Sometimes it’s because the actor gets too big for his britches (arrogant for those of you who live outside the southern U.S.) and thinks he has become “too big” for the role then the actor needs to cash a check for some reason and after waiting on the “perfect script” they make one and lay a giant rotten egg (Indiana Jones).

Sometimes the author just gets really busy and distracted.

Set up: You or someone you know is going through some tough times.  It seems to be overwhelming.

Response: Well, you know, the Bible says that God won’t give you more than you can handle.

Sometimes people will go even further than that.  People begin to take pride in the trials that they are going through.  “God must think a lot of me, otherwise he wouldn’t put all of this on me.  He thinks I can handle a lot.”

“Now wait a minute, Cloften.  I have bared with this series for most of my adult life, or a month I can’t remember which.  I haven’t always agreed with you, but this is too far.  I know that is in the Bible.”

Ok, here is your verse:

I Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

What does this passage say?  First of all, it is talking about temptation.  If you are tempted to sin, you will not be tempted in such a way that you will only be left with the option of sin.    If it speaks to anything, it speaks against a false view of “lesser of two evils” that says that we are put into situations where all we can do is sin.  There is no temptation to sin that is so great that you must choose sin.

Secondly, where does the way out come from?  The way out comes from God.  If the only ways you can overcome sin came from you, the verse wouldn’t make sense. I am tempted to sin beyond what I can handle all the time, noted by the fact of my persistent sin problem.  However, God always provides a way out.  Again, God always provides a way out.  Some face temptation in their lives and read this verse and believe that they can have confidence in themselves alone to overcome.  If that is true of you, then 1, you misunderstand your own personal history with overcoming sin and B, you haven’t read the rest of the verse.  We can have confidence in God, not us.

Even if you want to extend this passage beyond the temptation to sin (which is what Paul is talking about) and include the overwheming circumstances of life, it is only in God that we can find the way out.  Never have I met someone who took on a heavy burden and walked through it, that came out on the other side and said, “Wow I didn’t know that I could do that.”  They will tell a story about how God met them in their pain and how God brought others into their lives.

Overcoming the temptations and trials in your life is not about your perceived capacity to stand up against “what you can handle.”  It is about God filling, strengthening and leading humble broken people well beyond what they could handle on their own without God.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #8

February 24, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Do you ever wonder if the producer of a series is just phoning it in?  We aren’t even trying anymore.  We just want something out there to see if people will be a part.  For example, at what point did the Police Academy people stop caring?  Would it surprise anyone that there were 7 Police Academy movies and then a TV series?  At what point did you lose track?  (Side note: Do you think Sharon Stone considers P.A. 4 to be her “big break”?)  At what point were the producers just saying, “Get that big football player, the tall lady from Laverne and Shirley, the crazy dude who likes guns, the little guy from SNL, and that dude that makes the funny noises and let’s go?” (For heavens sake, even Bobcat Goldthwait quit after the 4th)

We at never stop caring. (cue the music)

Set-up: Someone needs some kind of assistance from you personally or from the church.  They don’t seem to be “doing enough” to make their situation better.  They are looking for advice or help.

Response: God helps those who help themselves.

Attention Everyone.  Yes, all four of you who are reading this.  That is not in the Bible.  Repeat, that is not in the Bible.  Even if you disagree with everything else that is said here, at least stop saying, “You know the Bible says, God helps those who help themselves.”  You may still believe it to be true, but it is not, is not, is not in the Bible.

Anywho, some may think that this is a direct contradiction to the early SCNTSS #2, Let Go and Let God. Cloften, either we need to let go and let God do it or we have to realize that we’ve got to help ourselves and then God will help us.  It’s either/or.  However, if there is a theme to SCNTSS, it is we need to stop having an overly-simplistic approach to our faith and recognize that walking with God is more complex than any bumper sticker or series of bumper stickers that may be out there.

The Bible makes it pretty clear that the best help that God offers comes when we cannot help ourselves:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesians 2:4-5

It doesn’t get much more helpless than “powerless” and “dead.”  God loved us not because of the initiative that we took toward him.  God loved us in spite of the fact that we were powerless and helpless.  Then the charge that God gives us is to love people as we have been loved.  We don’t love, serve and help people after they have done everything that they can do.  We love and serve all people, regardless.  The groups of people, widows and orphans and aliens, that seem to be most on God’s heart were the helpless in the society.  Over and over again, God calls on us to love and help them, because they are helpless.

If I were going to wait for the discussion, someone would say, but what about. . .? Then they would construct a scenario about someone begging for money and wanting a free handout.  They then take that money and buy drugs and then they come back saying that want more for milk for their baby.  He could work, but he doesn’t.  What about that?

Help that person.  Love that person.  Serve that person.  Do not withhold your support until they meet your arbitrary standard of them “helping themselves.”  Does that mean you give in to every request? No, but you are obligated to love, serve and help them.  It’s the same way we typically parent.  We don’t meet every request they have on their terms, but we work to meet every need they have.  Sometimes we need to encourage them to work, take initiative, etc.  But still that is you helping, before they are helping themselves.

We do not want to hold people to a higher standard than God holds us.  There are many relevant passages that speak against that including, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  (Don’t you love how some verses can only be quoted KJV).  However, by the time we get to #12, you won’t be allowed to misuse that phrase either,even though it is in the Bible.  Well, especially because it is in the Bible.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #7

February 21, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

So you have a franchise that is doing OK, you’ve cranked out a few in the series, it’s losing it’s luster a little, so you decide to retool.  It’s been done before to varying degrees of success.  You can change the actor playing the main character–James Bond, multiple times to varying degrees of success.  You can just wait a long time, change very little and hope that bringing the characters back is enough–Superman Returns, not very successful.  You can do it on the 2nd movie where you essentially remake the first one with minimal changes and leave everyone going “What?”–The Hulk.

But the way it has been done the best in recent years is with the Batman franchise.  They made it a little darker, more serious, more action drama, less comic book campy.  It was risky, but it worked well.  They pushed it further with Dark Knight and it worked.  Where does it go from here?  We’ll see.

Here in this series, let’s keep pushing until someone cries uncle.

Set-up:  You are in a political discussion/debate/argument and you are looking to close the deal on your inevitable victory.  Someone challenges you.

Response:  Jesus was/is a ________ (Insert your political position here)

Boom!  Game over!  You are the winner.  You played the Jesus card and, of course, Jesus agrees with you (why wouldn’t he?) and you win.  All of the complexities of political arguments and issues have been annihilated by claiming that Jesus would and does agree with you.

You will notice that I have not accused one political party or philosophy over another.  That is because Christians of all political stripes do this.  The question of why people do this is pretty evident.  It bolsters their argument.  The question of how they do it is actually a little troubling.  We go to the Bible with our pre-determined political ideas and preconceived notions and find something that we like and declare victory. 

We find a verse that says “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’” (2 Thess3:10) Or conversely, we find, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:30)  Then through whichever one of those verses we like, we construct “Biblically centered” political policy.  I’m sorry, but that is intellectually dishonest and lazy.

We reduce Jesus, who was the Son of God, into a caricature of our favorite political statesman.  I’m sorry, but the totality of Jesus’s political statements may simply be “pay your taxes.”  I know that you might feel like there are more and I may back down a little if you show them to me.  However, Jesus lived in an oppressive dictatorship and didn’t speak out against the government of his day.  His followers, with their conception of what the Messiah was, expected him to be a leader to overthrow the government and he still chose not to speak out.

He was such a political revolutionary that the Roman governor had no idea who he was.  Jesus spoke to the religious establishment of his day and to individual people.  He was a threat to the religious leaders of his day and individuals that would listen to his message.  The same is true today.  If we are followers of Christ, his words challenge us and need to shape our character.  If we are not, we need to listen to what he says and find life with God through him.

As far as how this shapes our politics, let’s go this way.  Let’s read the Bible, let’s pray.  Let’s be consistently asking God what he values and what he cares about.  Let’s ask him how and when and to what extent we should get involved.  Let God shape us, instead of taking what we want and believe and then cramming God’s Word and Jesus himself into a premade box of 21st century political philosophies and political parties.

His values drive our values, not the other way around.  Or do you somehow think that tops on God’s priority list is whether or not the freedom of speech granted in the Bill of Rights extends to corporations and their ability to influence political campaigns with money?

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #6

February 17, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

So you’ve got a franchise and it has a running joke.  At what point does the running joke lose its luster?  When is it just annoying?  Is it only for the writer and producer?  Do the die hard fans really care?  Do the casual fans even notice?  Would Star Wars be the same if no one said “I have a bad feeling about this”?  How many people would notice?  What about Indiana Jones’s hat?  If there were no jokes about that, would there be something missing?  What about unbelievable death defying escapes to start off Bond movies?  Wouldn’t you be disappointed without them? Or are you just thinking, get on with it already?

Set-up:  Someone has committed a sin that for one reason or another is personally offensive or bothersome to you.  You are struggling with how you should respond and forgive.

Response:  Love the sinner, hate the sin.

I did a sermon last fall out of I John that dedicated a lot of time to ranting about the excuses that we make to justify anger, animosity and sometimes hatred of people that have hurt or offended us.  If you are interested in watching that, you may click here

Let’s break this down into two parts.  First, if someone has hurt us, we should love them.  God has called us to love everyone, not just the people that love us back, but our enemies as well.  We need to make sure that as Christians that we love sinners because otherwise we would love nobody (and consequently, no one would love us.)

What about hating sin?  Is it OK to hate other people’s sin?  I suppose it is hard to argue that a hatred for sin is bad.  The problem comes when we put those two phrases together and apply them to a particular person in a particular situation, it feels mean spirited and, well, hateful.  I theoretically love you, I just hate what you do.  I am not sure what person can separate their emotions in such a way.  God can, I know I can’t, and I’m pretty sure you can’t either.

Here has always been my bigger picture question.  If I love you, why does your sin make me angry and feel hate?  If I love you and you are in sin, my heart should break for you.  You are hurting yourself, damaging your relationship with God and relationships with others.  I hurt for you.  I want you to have victory over an issue that is crippling you. 

“Duh, cloften.  That’s why I hate the sin.”  No, listen.  Sin is not an inanimate object that can be hated.  It is an action caused by a person based on deliberate disobedience on the part of the person.  Sin is a product of who they are in that moment.  It is what they are doing, not what is being done to them.  We can no more love the sinner, hate the sin, then we could love the restaurant, hate the food. 

How about this?  Love the sinner, grieve the sin.  I love you and because of that my heart breaks when I see you sin.  I want better for you.  Or how about this?  It’s even simpler:  love the sinner. 

I’ve got a bad feeling about anything else.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #5

What are the reasons that you would make a fifth installment to your franchise?  There seem to be only a handful of reasons:

1) You are such a pop culture phenomenon that you could keep making movies until the end of time and your people will come see them–Star Wars (7), Harry Potter (6 and counting), and Star Trek (11).

2) You have an amazing character and can consistently rework the franchise–Batman (7 live action and multiple animated), Superman (5 live action), James Bond (20+)

3) You have no pride and will crank out cheap movies like crazy–Horror Movies (Jason, Freddy, Saw), Stupid teen movies (Not Another, Scary Movie, etc.), Mediocre kid movies (Beethoven, Barbie, etc.)

Anyone thinking I have pride and won’t crank out cheap product is sadly mistaken.

Set-up: Someone goes through some sort of financial difficulty that results in some sort of sin, like greed or theft.

Response: It’s like the Bible says, “money is the root of all evil.”

Let us all be clear.  First of all, that is not what the Bible says.  Repeat, that is not what the Bible says, unless you put in some well-placed ellipses.  What the verse says is:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

My question is do we intentionally misquote this verse?  Why would we do that?  Well, if money is the root and not the love of money then I get off the hook.  It’s not my fault; it’s “money’s” fault.  This makes money some entity that has some power and control, like the googly-eyed money from the Geico commercials. 

I always feel like...Somebody's watching me.

I always feel like...Somebody's watching me.

It is not money that causes evil, but our love of money.

Furthermore, it is not the root of all evil.  It is a root of all kinds of evil.  We tend to exaggerate things that we don’t like or understand.  The more ridiculous we can make something sound, the more that we can discount it.  If we say money is the root of all evil, we know that’s not true, so then we can discount the truth that is there.  Money, or even the love of money, is not why I am impatient with my kids or I am lazy.  Even when the love of money is a root, it is not always the root.  The financial arguments we have with our spouse are rooted both in the love of money and selfishness.

However, if we look at what that verse says, we rightly should be convicted.  Our love of money, the fact that we give our pursuit of money top priority in our lives over significantly more important areas, causes a lot of problems.  It divides husbands and wives.  It leads to neglect of children and family.  It leads to dishonesty, coveting, stealing.  It pushes God out of the leadership of our lives.  I typed “it” to describe the love of money.  However, the love of money comes from within. Change “it” to “I” and then we have something (you will also have to change some verb tenses.  Shut up, grammar nerd).

Dude! Why bring this up?  Well, first I wanted to show you that pastors can talk about money and not bring up tithing (whoops.  FAIL).  Second, it breaks my heart to see the love of money tear families apart and pull people away from God.  Enjoy what God has given you, use it to glorify him and strengthen your family, but don’t let your love and pursuit consume you.

Money is just an inanimate thing, meant to be controlled by you and surrendered to God’s authority.  Don’t let the googly-eyed money wad control you.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #4

February 12, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Seriously, don’t go to a #4 in your franchise.  It’s just not worth the risk.  Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull???  I have to pretend like that never happened.  The Next Karate Kid???  Batman and Robin with George Clooney, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Vivica Fox, Elle MacPherson and Coolio?  Pretty sure Coolio is the only who still has that on the old resume.  Superman IV: The Quest for Peace?? Does anyone else remember that?  Superman takes all the nukes and blows them up in the sun and Lex Luthor uses that and a lock of Superman’s hair to create a supervillain.  Then the plot, no lie, gets WORSE from there.  (Did Gene Hackman owe someone money?)

My hope is in Rocky IV which I saw in Jr. High with my friends and we cheered out loud, very loudly, and often.  My apologies to anyone else who was in the theater.

Set-up:  A kid is running around the worship center/sanctuary at your church having fun.

Response:  “Don’t run in God’s house.”  “There is no running in church.”  Or my personal favorite:  “Jesus doesn’t run in your house.  Don’t run in his.”

By the time this post is over, it will have my favorite three things to blog about in the same post: parenting, stupid things Christians say, and obscure pop culture references.  Jackpot (for me anyway).

Listen, I want you to parent your kid and keep him/her under control.  If they are headed to the sound booth with their fruit punch, please stop them.  If they are about to do a somersault off the couch onto concrete, by all means stop them.  Provide the discipline that you find appropriate.

However, can we please stop communicating to our kids that church is a place where you can’t have fun and enjoy yourself?  Chairs or pews lined up in rows are designed for running around and through and under.  We are genetically wired to do that.  You did it.  Your kids do it and their kids will as well.  It is time to end the tradition of overly anxious parents and stuffy, crotchety old men stifling kids for some dubious principle of “Church is where we act dignified.”  I don’t recall Jesus saying “Let the children come to me if they come in a quiet, orderly fashion that doesn’t disturb me, with no chocolate on their face and not wearing their favorite Spiderman t-shirt.”  However, I don’t read the Message, it may say that there.

How about instead we instill in our kids that Church is a place where they can be themselves, have fun, be expressive, and learn and experience the God that loves them?  He loves them not in spite of them being wild and crazy kids, but because they are wild and crazy kids.  He wants church to be a place that they remember as being fun, where they were loved and they got the answers to life’s most important questions.  Church doesn’t need to be a place of seemingly pointless rules.  Believe me, there is enough of that already.

Besides, my guess is that if Jesus were to come to your house, he would, in fact, run around your house with your kids.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #3

February 10, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

So after an overwhelming successful first episode and a moderately successful second, what do you to keep the franchise going in episode 3?  Most franchises will just wrap up the story.  Done well–Lord of the Rings, Return of the Jedi.  Done not so well–Back to the Future, Revenge of the Sith (My brother and I disagree on both of these).  You can also just overwhelm your 3rd episode with every conceivable villain and destroy the franchise– Batman Forever (The verdict is still out on Spiderman 3. It did the same thing.)  You can give up and let monkeys write the script–Superman III (Part of me wants to put Godfather III here but I kinda liked it).  Finally, you can introduce Mr. T to the world and dominate–Rocky III.

What does this have to do with this post?  Nothing.  Let’s move on.

Set-up:  You or another Christian have been exposed in some way as hypocritical and not living up to the ideals of Christian living.  (Or you could simply be looking for a cutesy, quippy (it’s back!) bumper sticker or cross stitch pattern)

Response:  Christians aren’t perfect.  They are just forgiven.

It’s hard for me to really imagine that someone would actually say this out loud.  I know that I have seen the bumper sticker, but surely no one has actually said this.  What is the context?  What argument were you trying to win? What point are you trying to make?

Let’s break this down.  First of all, there is really nothing theologically wrong with either part of the statement.  Christians are not perfect–agreed.  Christians are forgiven–agreed.  So it is a true statement, but the question is why do you say it?  If you are saying this to yourself or a Christian friend, in order to protect yourself or your friend from the trappings of perfectionist legalism, then OK.

However, it would seem that it is used more as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card to innoculate Christians from criticism when we fail morally.  “Well, we never claimed to be perfect.”  That is all well and good unless we are conistently condemning the world around us for not living up to our standards, and then if we fail, we start waving the “forgiven card” around as if that makes our failings OK. 

What we should say should if we are the ones who have been busted is something along the lines of “I’m sorry.  I’m embarassed.  Will you forgive me?”  If it is some public figure, “I’m disappointed.  I hate it when we don’t live up to the standards God has for us.”  We are not perfect, but our forgiveness is not license or a pass.  If you want to say something quippy say, “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.”  At least there is some implied humility in that statement.

(Deep breath)  Listen, I don’t want anyone to feel they have to be perfect, or worse, pretend to be perfect.  However, God is calling us up to be better, to be more like His Son.  The forgiveness he offers always gives us one more chance, but we should not, can not take that lightly.  We certainly can not view it as a license or permission for sin.  Instead, let the grace and love that he shows us motivate us to have a heart of gratitude and to be people that hear him say, “Well, done, good and faithful servant.” Matt 25:14-30

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #2

Can the sequel ever match the enthusiasm of the original?  Godfather II was really good as was Empire Strikes Back, and The Two Towers.  However, for every Dark Knight, there is a Teen Wolf II, so we’ll see.

Setup:  Someone is having a hard time overcoming an obstacle of some kind.  They are wanting to have victory over sin, make a change in their life, but they can’t.

Response:  “Well, you just need to let go and let God.”

First of all, I am not a huge fan of quippy.  None of my sermon points ever all start with the letter C, and they certainly do not spell a word.  (In order to blog you need to Believe, Love, Obfuscate and Google.)  That by itself is enough to make me want to punt “Let go and let God.”  I prefer “Go heavy or go home.” 

Secondly, what does that mean anyway?  That is the problem with the overly quippy expressions, to make it short and cute, you sacrifice depth and meaning.  I can only assume that what is being encouraged is some level of passivity and release.  I need to stop working, and let God do the work. 

Let’s break this down.  God is the one that changes people’s hearts and gives the strength to overcome obstacles.  God brings healing in your marriage, restores relationships with your kids, breaks you free from addictions, etc.  Galatians 5 makes it clear that we need the power of the Holy Spirit to live the lives that God has called us to.  There is a battle going on inside of us and we are often on the wrong side.  So, we need to “let God” change us and lead us.

There is even a smidge (love that word) of truth to “let go.”  Luke 9:23 says we need to deny ourselves.  However, what is said next is “take up your cross and follow me.”  “Let go” is completely passive, but there is nothing passive about taking up your cross and following God.  Being totally dependent on God still means that we need to pray and read his word so he can speak into our lives. 

There are specific commands that God gives us, choices that we have to make.  I can just walk away from temptation.  I can stop yelling at my kids, putting down my wife, gossiping at work, looking at inappropriate websites.  I have my part.  When “letting go” encourages helplessness, we have gone too far in believing that everything depends on God.  This can be convenient blame-shifting.  (Before you get to0 mad, know that “God helps those who help themselves” will be coming at some point.)

Make no mistake, you desperately need God in your life.  If you do not let God change your heart and learn to depend on him, you will struggle.  However, if you think that you can just sit there and your life will change, you will struggle just the same.

We have to trust in a God that gives us the strength, courage, and motivation to make the changes in our lives we so desperately need to make, but we have to make the right choices to pursue God and do what is right if we want to have real victory.  (See, that’s not quippy at all.)

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