Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Losing my Religion

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NightWieselWhile thinking about the Auschwitz memorial last week I read the moving story of one of the inmates, Elie Wiesel, who wrote about his experiences in his book “Night.”

Because of the terrible persecution and massacre, Elie found himself losing his cherished faith in God. At Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, he was unable to bless the Lord, finding only words of execration in his tragic inner conflict.

“Blessed be God’s name? Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fibre in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because He kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the furnaces? …But now, I no longer pleaded for anything. I was no longer able to lament. On the contrary, I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy.”

This isn’t the intellectual atheism that comes from science and psychology – inevitably relying on its own fiduciary framework, but the bitter cry of the believer trying to salvage a faith that is being shipwrecked on the rocks of incalculable suffering.

Perhaps Christ himself battled with the same agony when he cried out:

“My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”

This strident cry, owned by millions over the years, still questions the goodness of God in a world where there is both personal and universal suffering. Some noble fellows, like Elie, prefer to choose atheism – or agnosticism, in a brave effort to exonerate God from the responsibility of being a despot!

Every generation is confronted with the basic question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil – a question which the thinker Leibnitz framed in the term “Theodicy”. Is it possible to answer both of the following questions in the affirmative?

Is God good?
Is God all powerful?

For Wiesel, an affirmation of God’s power was in contradiction to an affirmation of his goodness. Why didn’t the all powerful God step in and change things if he really is good?

I remember hearing a young Rwandan lady testifying. She hid behind a large chair while Hutu rebels invaded her home and began to massacre her Tutsi family. She watched them raise the blade of a machete over her beloved father and brother. She said how hard she had prayed at that moment, asking God for help and divine intervention. In spite of her prayer, the deadly blade still drew blood and killed.

“It was at that moment that I lost my faith,” she continued.

Is it possible to still affirm God’s goodness in the face such apparent contradictions?

The Biblical Patriarch Job faced the same contradictions in his own life. Why had he, a just man, been so painfully afflicted and suffered such unbearable loss? In his struggle for understanding – and it always is a struggle, he refuses to compromise on God’s goodness.

“Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised. In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:21-22

Never sin by compromising God’s essential character of love! Always begin your answer to the theodicy question with a relationship, with intimacy, with total affirmation of God’s goodness. Begin with the person before the power. This is the tragedy of Wiesel – having begun with affirmation God’s omnipotence he finds his faith overcome by the inability to equally affirm his goodness in the midst of such horror.

Convinced of God’s immutable love, we can now dare to consider the question of his power. Let God himself answer the question. The apostle Paul was faced with dreadful suffering from a satanic messenger. In spite of his earnest prayers and upright life he found no relief. In despair he cried to God and heard the Lord answer him.

“But he said to me. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…”  2 Corinthians 12:9

We need to reframe our idea of power. True omnipotence has vulnerability at its heart. The apostle John, weeping at the tragedy of world history, received a paradigm shift on power when he had a vision of the Sovereign throne of heaven.

“Then one of the elders said to me, Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals. Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” Revelation 5:5-6

Lions and thrones – the things of power, and yet at the heart of all that is a little, suffering lamb –“Slain from the foundation of the world.”lamb

We cannot simply affirm a pagan, totalitarian power to God. His power often seems totally defeated by evil, only to rise again in the perfect sevenfold strength of resurrection.

Paul, still painfully pierced by his thorn, also understood such a radical concept of God’s power which passes through a cross.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Many have asked the very legitimate questions of why it is necessary to “rejoice in weakness.” No easy answers here. Suffering is always shrouded in a certain mystery. However, here are some thoughts?

My first advice is to always resist suffering in all its forms. Paul prayed three times! Don’t seek it out. There are basically three approaches.

Resist – A huge amount of suffering is a direct result of Satan’s attack on the human race. God has sown good seed but evil seeds are also sown in the middle of the night.

“An enemy did this!” Matthew 13:28

Before having the knee jerk reaction of blaming God, it might be worthwhile considering that there may well be an evil adversary at the origin of such suffering.

Linked to this, is the notion of suffering as a consequence of our own wrong decisions, sins and errors. The Apostle Peter speaks about this.

“But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” 1 Peter 2:20

“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” 1 Peter 4:15-16

Don’t blame God for the consequences of your own bad choices. Resist the enemy and he will flee from you. Turn away from your sins so that times of refreshing may come upon you.Hiding Place

Grow – St Irenaeus saw suffering as a necessary part of “soul making.” The simple, sin stained clay of Adam is destined to sit with Christ on a throne alongside God. When suffering comes it can purge us of human dross and transform us to Christ’s image.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5

Purpose – Corrie Ten Boon, The famous Dutch author of “The Hiding Place” – which recounts her ordeal in the Ravensbrück concentration camp, saw suffering in life as two sides of a tapestry. Sometimes we only see the ragged, incomprehensible, disordered strands from our side. However, on the other side there is a beautiful tapestry woven in heaven. This is her famous poem which brough her comfort in the horrors of the camp.

“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)
My life is but a weaving
Between the Lord and me;
I may not choose the colours–
He knows what they should be.
For He can view the pattern
Upon the upper side
While I can see it only
On this, the under side.
Sometimes He weaves in sorrow,
Which seems so strange to me;
But I will trust His judgment
And work on faithfully.
‘Tis He who fills the shuttle,
And He knows what is best;
So I shall weave in earnest,
And leave to Him the rest.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needed
In the Weaver’s skilful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

TenBoomTapersteryThere is a sense of some divine plan, some redemptive suffering, some purpose behind it all.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Suffering will always cause various emotions to rise up in our hearts. Let’s call them the tree “R’s”

Rebellion – This is the most natural emotion. It is important to give it space to come out, but do not let it take root.

Resignation – When you realise that you can’t actually change some things a certain stoic fatalism can set in. This is better than rebellion but must never be our final destination.

Resurrection Hope – This is the place of glorious victory – the place where the dry bones live again (Ezekiel 37:1-10), where a devastated Marie Magdalene hears her name (John 20:16) and where the world finds hope.

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:19-20

God was not entirely lost to Elie Wiesel. During the hanging of a child, which the camp was forced to watch, he heard someone, outraged by the cruel spectacle, ask:

“Where is God? Where is he?”

Not heavy enough for the weight of his body to break his neck, the boy died slowly. Wiesel filed past him, seeing his tongue still pink and his eyes clear.

“Behind me, I heard the same man asking: Where is God now?
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
Here He is – He is hanging here on this gallows.”

We end with a paradox. Is God hanging dead in the Nietzschean sense – overcome, vanquished by horror? Or is he hanging with us in our deepest sufferings, identifying fully with our pain as the little slain lamb and leading us to the hope of resurrection?

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If only you knew…

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Jesus was on a journey to Jerusalem. It was his goal and target. jesus-walking

We too have our own personal journeys, goals and targets. Like Jesus, we may end up being rejected and misunderstood by the very people we are reaching out to. Or we may ourselves encounter within our own hearts the same resistance and rebellion to the Lord’s purpose over our lives.

On arriving at his goal, he made two powerful proclamations over the city, which may enable us to better interpret our own realities.

We find the first one in Luke 19: 41-44

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Jesus wasn’t some distant theoretician on ministry. He was directly, painfully involved in the cosmic drama in which he was playing a lead role. It was painful for him to see the unbelief and rejection of his target people. He shed tears.

So many solutions are offered in our modern world to give people peace. Only a deep; intimate relation with Jesus Christ can bring us true peace. “If only they knew!” we cry and pray. “If only we knew” as well! Our “peace” in Christ is often veiled by unbelief, tragedy or superficial religion.

The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3:13-18 spoke about a “veil” which covered the revelation of Christ from the chosen people. We too may sometimes find that our true peace is “hidden” under the same kind of veil. The solution is to turn our eyes afresh to Christ.

“We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Jesus’ words at Jerusalem represent the tragedy of a missed opportunity!

KairosThe “kairos” moment had come. The long awaited advent of the Messiah had dawned, and yet the opportunity was scorned and missed! It is so important that every veil of unbelief be torn away from our hearts so that we do not suffer this same tragic fate as missing the “kairos” moments that God sends our way. Pray too, that our target peoples and nations will also come free from the demonic veils and recognize God’s opportunity for grace and transformation.

The parallel passage in Matthew 23:37-39, gives another aspect to this.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ “

Jesus is longing to gather peoples to himself. Intimacy with the Lord will inevitably lead us to share this same longing to gather the peoples. It may be that after all these thousands of years of Jesus’ longing the time is coming for such longing to be fulfilled. No doubt it is a time to be praying for a “gathering” of Israel to their Messiah, but it is also a time to be praying for a gathering of many nations to the Lord.

Christ uses the beautiful image of a mother hen gathering her chicks. This was an important image in Jewish tradition and reflects the caring, feminine nature within the total personality of God only too often associated with the harder masculine qualities. Gill states the following in his commentary on this passage.

“So the “Shekinah” with the Jews is called, צפרא קדישא, “the holy bird” (m); and that phrase, לחסות תחת כנפי השכינח, “to betake one’s self, or to come to trust under the wings of the Shekinah”, is often used (n) for to become a true follower of the Lord.”

This is seen in Ruth 2:12:

“May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

Here are some other encouraging verses on being covered.

“He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
  for in you my soul takes refuge.
  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
  until the disaster has passed.” Psalm 57:1

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” Malachi 4:2

What an incredible offer of being gathered to a place of love, healing and security. It is also such a natural reaction (ever seen little chicks hurrying to be gathered under the safety of their mother’s wings?) to be gathered. mother hen

Sadly this offer is often refused.

If the first refusal was a veil of unbelief and legalistic religion, this second refusal is based on an unnatural demonic stubbornness – a spirit of rebellion.

“You were not willing.”

How often has the Lord had to say this tragic phrase over our own lives as we struggle to go our own ways and do our own thing instead of coming to him?

Our own way will always lead to a place of empty desolation. Submitting to the loving wings, turning around and being gathered to God’s way will lead to a life of celebration.

May we be able to respond to Jesus’  love by crying out

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. “

Let us pray that the stubborn rebellion of peoples and nations will be broken and that they too, in their own cultures, accents and gestures, may also submit to be gathered and welcome the coming of Jesus through the gospel.

To end it may be worthwhile to consider the following story from a farmer in America.

He tells a story about the day that the hen house burned down on his grandpa’s place just down the road. Ike arrived just in time to help put out the last of the fire. As he and his grandfather sorted through the wreckage, they came upon one hen lying dead near what had been the door of the hen house. Her top feathers were singed brown by the fire’s heat, her neck limp.  Ike bent down to pick up the dead hen.  But as he did so, he felt movement.  The hen’s four chicks came scurrying out from beneath her burnt body. The chicks survived because they were insulated by the shelter of the hen’s wings, protected and saved even as she died to protect and save them.

“How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…” 

Once again, Jesus Christ calls you and me.

He calls us to the shelter of his protecting wings.
He calls you and me to the safety of his arms stretched out for us on the cross.
He calls us to trust him, no matter what our fears, hurts, or troubles; to trust that his outstretched arms are strong enough, his wings broad enough to keep us safe.

And in the shadow of those wings we are saved.

Let us allow the power of the cross to tear away the veils of unbelief, to bend our wayward rebellious wills, and lead us to the place of security and love.

Feeling the pinch?

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Faith for FinanceThumeries_Nord_Le_Chateau_Blanc_dos

“Buying this building makes no sense – there is much renovation work to do and we have no financial resources to even begin to meet the £200,000 asking price.

These wise words from our mission directors echoed in my mind as I prayed. I was willing to listen to their advice…but the Lord’s prophetic word to go for the building was still before us.  Struggling in prayer to find the faith to go forward I lost my health and spent some time in bed shut up with the Lord.  One morning I was listening to a cassette by the Icthus churches’ founder Roger Forster.  In the middle of the cassette he broke off and began to talk about the First World War and how this had unleashed such a devastating destruction on the Welsh revival and the evangelisation of Europe.  As he spoke I felt the Holy Spirit gripping my spirit and I seemed to overhear the words “Redeem the Dreams”. He continued with a verse from the prophet Haggai chapter 2 verses 9:

“…In this place I will bring peace.”

“OK Lord, if this chateau is for us I am going down into the prayer meeting where I want someone to give me that same verse.”

I went downstairs where folk were praying.

“Does anyone have something from God?” I asked.

There was an embarrassed silence, and a few scuffling feet, before someone spoke up.

“As I was praying around the chateau on my way back down here, the Lord clearly said:

“In this place I will bring peace (shalom).”

Martin-Luther-KingIn that moment the step was made.  God was asking us to set up a “redemptive prayer house” at the gateway to Europe; a place where the dreams of so many young men who died in the war might be taken up afresh by a new generation of young men and women.  It all seemed a bit way out, and a bit mysterious, but the Lord’s grip was there. It was a long drawn out battle raising the finance, and God stretched us right to the limit with the loan coming on the day we needed to sign and the other half of the money coming in with 36 francs (about 5 pounds) to spare!”

I’m sure that many in world Horizons have similar stories of praying in finance for their ministries and lives. I include the above as it illustrated two fundamental principles:

1)      Provision is “for the Vision” – Your provision will be determined by the size and strength of your vision. Don’t be afraid to let the Lord nurture and grow a vision within you over a number of years. Don’t resist being discipled into a vision by serving and learning from older mentors. The financial provision will only be the visible tip of the iceberg of the many hidden years which have patiently woven the substance of vision within.

2)      Corporate prayer action – weighing up words, taking advice together and fighting a battle in prolonged faith filled prayer.

Let me add another few principles that have helped me personally in my financial journey of faith over the years.

3)      Learn obedience, generosity and honesty – Walking radically in these three areas will inevitably release financial provision over your life.

4)      Ask for a supernatural visitation of faith! –  When I could no longer go on in faith for paying impossible bills, the Holy Spirit graciously met me. A significant breakthrough came as I experienced the new wine of the Spirit which has been known as The Toronto Blessing. Hours of intercessory holy laughter seemed to heal my dead, unbelieving “spiritual womb” and put in a new vitality to enable an “Isaac”– he laughs, to be born.bird4

5)      Know your personal value – You are worth more than dumb bird! In Luke 12:24, God commits himself to feed the birds – “And how much more valuable you are than birds!”

6)      Learn the “Redemption Refrain” of Romains 8:32 – “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” If your loving auntie had already given you her most precious, priceless diamond, would it be an issue for her to give you a meal? God has already given us His “most precious” in Christ – will he not also give “all things”, with him, by grace!

7)      Learn to be content – “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6:6-10

 And finally, be willing to be very practical. If you have personal possessions don’t be afraid to sell them to raise money for ministry. It is always hypocritical to ask others to make a financial sacrifice you are not willing to make yourself. “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  2 Samuel 24:24

Communicate your vision in the best way possible. Create a network of relationships. Be open to creativity. The apostle Paul, adopting the Levite ShoeStretch_0principle of the Old Testament, was at the same time using one hand to receive gifts but also the other hand to work…with a heart of faith in the middle! Some seasons and ministries require a total devotion to the “gift” principle, while others are being led to concentrate their efforts on entrepreneurial activities, which, apart from providing for basic needs, are designed to bring blessing and transformation to nations.

“Our incomes are like our shoes; if too small, they gall and pinch us; but if too large, they cause us to stumble and to trip.”  John Locke

I wish you good shoes for your long financial journey!

 

Sonship, grace and destiny…

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 Mission and service do not begin with a verb! They begin with a relationship.

All too often we quote the word “Go!”, forgetting that,

When they saw him, they worshipped him;”

 The Father in the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:28 also uses the verb “go.” However he precedes the verb with a relationship.

“Son, go and work today in the vineyard.”

It is no use going and getting on with it if we haven’t had a clear revelation of our preciousness as sons and daughters of a loving Father. This principle was manifested in Jesus’ own life. He went into the waters of baptism and,

“as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 This “Spirit baptism” brings a revelation of sonship. In the same way, we also need to be renewed in the revelation of God’s Fatherhood in order to fully accomplish the works which he has prepared in advance for us to do. Perhaps the first sign of being truly filled with the Holy Spirit is to do with “hearing” rather than speaking.

Do you hear the Father affirming you as a loved son or daughter?

Without this revelation our service can be full of fear and duty. The famous verses from Romans prove an effective remedy to such slavish toil.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry “Abba, Father.”

 The apostle Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed or fearful but to boldly suffer for the gospel,

by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”

Grace and destiny, two pillars of strength for our Christian walk.

What is my destiny? A verb, a relation or a vocation? Try these two biblical destinies.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.

 “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ…to the praise of his glorious grace.”

 We are called to be “grace in action” truly “charismatic”. And we need such active grace if we are to become like Jesus.

Paul’s missionary endeavours hung on his capacity to understand and receive grace. For him, grace was much more than a sort of “mess up, clean up” agent. It was his motivation and strength.

“…and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

 Have you learned the secret of the “yet not I, but the grace?”

Where were you before you were born ?

God says to the prophet Jeremiah:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

Before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

 Are you secure in God’s passionate prognosis ? His fantastic foreknowing.

I have forever existed in God’s intention which is now manifest in space and time. Faith in Christ and obedience to the Holy Spirit brings a fruitful collaboration with the divine intention.

Don’t get too focused on the problem of sin. We are not called to be under the yoke of condemnation, begging a few morsels of hope through our contrition but we,

“who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness”, are called to reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”

 Remember that,

“where sin increased, grace increased all the more…”

 My prayer is that through these few lines God will renew you in the fundamentals of adoption grace and destiny. Receive a fresh baptism in the Spirit and hear that you are His precious son or daughter.

You are not a failure, He is well pleased with you !

I’ll finish by encouraging you to meditate on Paul’s personal missionary testimony to the Galatians which is soaked in the security of destiny, inspired by grace and caressed with the revelation of sonship.

“But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles…I went immediately…”

 

 

 

 

A Better Life…?

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 Why did you become a Christian? What do you say to others to convince them to give their hearts to Christ?

Image from the Book of Kells, a 1200 year old ...

Take a look at most Christian websites and you will find a myriad of promises as to how you can have a better life as a Christian. A better marriage, a better health, a better bank balance etc – the list is endless, and produces a never ending supply of “better” techniques and experiences to attain the better life.

Many think that the greatest ideological threat to the Church in the 21st Century Western World is not atheism, communism, Islam or even false doctrines promoted by those who want to discard the biblical faith. Rather it is the worldview of consumerism. In this worldview the self is lord.

This worldview sees life in terms of shopping: life should present me with the greatest number of goods and services for the least amount of expense possible. This worldview has invaded the Christian mind. It afflicts conservative/evangelicals and liberals alike.

Jesus Christ challenges this worldview. He says real life is about denying one’s self. Being a Christian means we stop living like we own ourselves and we give up ourselves to Jesus Christ.

But this Biblical Christianity is threatened by Consumer Christianity.

Bible teacher Dan Jenkins says that:

Nederlands: MCDonalds Winterswijk

Consumer [Christianity] is a mentality which is self-centred. One who is a consumer is concerned with the benefits to himself or herself of whatever they buy or believe. Therefore, for the consumer to become interested in the product or service or belief system, it must appeal to their personal interests, concerns, and opinions. … Consumerism is a mentality of control. Consumers only invest in something we can continue to control. We want to see results and monuments to our investment! …The consumer always dictates the qualities and terms of the product or service they will purchase or support! The demand is for benefits which affirm personal preferences and opinion. In other words, it is hinged in feelings, not Truth! This form of Christianity is [idolatrous] and unbiblical. (From Dan Jenkins, Gospel Consumers or Doers,)

Let’s look at another analogy: In our society McDonald’s has become the epitome of the consumer experience. The successful fast food chain has learned that to appeal to consumers you have to offer lots of menu choices designed to please many different tastes and appetites. It can’t cost too much. You don’t want to entangle the customer with any intimacy or relationships – they don’t have to form a relationship with a server, just step up to the counter, order and walk away.

Now, in order to retain parishioners, the Church is becoming “McDonald-ized”. We try to offer what McDonalds does:

• Lot’s of menu choices designed to please our appetites and personal tastes. Give the people what they want.

• Hold down the price of commitment in time and money.

• The tendency to avoid intimacy. That’s why many people love the mega-church environment where they can be anonymous consumers. You never have to get to know anyone!

That’s the kind of Christianity that most people want today: McChristianity. We are a nation of McChristians! The Western Church is dying of its addiction to spiritual fast food.

God is longing to wean us off of such junk food. Persecution and suffering may well break into our world view taking us back to the original ethos of the early church. A longing for a better life may be tempered by the desire for…“a better resurrection.”

Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.”         Hebrews 11:33

It may be that we are in need of a paradigm shift in the Western world to take us back to the true sacrificial meaning of what being a Christian is all about. Of course our lives are “better” in Christ as we embrace all the benefits of forgiveness and redemption, but the echoes of a deeper glory are being heard as the churches of the “global south” join us in our march towards world evangelization. Some of our Chinese, Indonesian, Sudanese and Ethiopian brothers and sisters bring with them a “joyous ruggedness” – an experience and acceptance of the cross, its cost and its hardships, which may redeem us from the sad selfishness of consumer Christianity.

As I personally have been contemplating the cost of a “better resurrection” paradigm, and listening to the tragic yet glorious testimony of persecuted brethren around the world I’ve found comfort in the words of Lady Julian of Norwich. She describes seeing God holding a tiny thing in his hand, like a small brown nut, which seemed so fragile and insignificant that she wondered why it did not crumble before her eyes. She understood that the thing was the entire created universe, which is as nothing compared to its Creator, and she was told,

 

“God made it, God loves it, God keeps it.”

A matter that greatly troubled her was the fate of those who through no fault of their own had never heard the Gospel. She never received a direct answer to her questions about them, except to be told that whatever God does is done in Love, and therefore,

 

 

“that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”