Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The God of the Mundane: Part 3 - Just When You Thought You Were Spiritual

16Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions,d puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22(referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?23These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. - Colossians 2:16 - 23

We just might have it all backwards. We are trained to declare as spiritual those who stay away from temporal enjoyments or at least don't enjoy them too much, for these enjoyments are worldly and therefore unspiritual. They are mundane. And those who enjoy them are worldly and practicing worldliness. We have a sneaky suspicion they are most likely repeatedly dreaming of food (Acts 10:9-16) and supplying the best vino ever made for parties that go on for days (John 2:1-11).

That is weird.

According to Paul, it seems the very opposite of what we deem as spiritual is often the case. In fact spirituality has the distinct aroma of fermented grapes and pork ribs being cooked over an open flame while crustaceans are sauteed in a fiery pan. And this spirituality is done on a lovely Sunday afternoon filled with laughter. All ordered up by our gracious Father who loves us as if we were his his only Son.

Paul makes it clear we have died to the elemental principles of this world. What do those worldly elemental principles look like? "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" Yep, there is more than one kind of worldliness. You can actually be worldly by denying the very world God created and treating it as if it and it's fruits are evil. These kinds of teachings have all the "appearance of wisdom... but they are of no value in stopping indulgence of the flesh."

You just thought you were worldly/spiritual when actually you might be spiritual/worldly.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The God of the Mundane: Part 2 - Grace for the Mundane

In my last post I was hypothetically questioning the existence of "the God of the Mundane." In other words, must every thing we do be big and eventful and monumental for it to be honorable to God? Is there a spirituality that pervades every part of the Christian's life? Regardless of your zip code, skin color or calling? The answer to the question is of some importance. And there are many who will have trouble buying into such an idea.

There are probably many and various reasons we have trouble believing there is a God of the mundane. Some of those reasons can be traced to our own personal history coupled with the baggage of subpar teaching in the churches we grew up in. Many of us ether inadvertently or explicitly were led to believe that there are spiritual things we do like going to church camp and very unspiritual things like going to the beach with your family. Playing Goofy Golf with your brothers, eating at Captain Anderson's and throwing the football with your Dad on the beach cannot be spiritual. Can it? Surely the Holy Spirit could not be forming the hearts and minds of people who chose the beach over a missions trip or church camp. Can He?

Regardless of where this belief comes from, there is in it a latent...or not so latent belief that we must fight against. And even if our reasons for believing there is no God of the mundane are multilayered, there is a singular remedy.

This all may come from the terrible lie that if we just do more spiritual stuff, God will love us more. Oh, we would never say that. But functionally, this is how we operate. God likes you more if you do something radical. Is it good to do something radical? Sure, maybe. But God cannot love you more than he loves his own Son. And if you are a believer in the gospel of grace, then you are loved with the love He bestows on his Son. We cannot buy his love through sacrifice and radical risk-taking. Doing so may betray our love for him and his glory. Or it may betray our lack of belief in the sufficiency of what Christ has done.

But if we can rest in the sufficiency of what Christ has done on our behalf perhaps we could also rest in the knowledge we can live a vital spirituality in the midst of the mundane. Me must fight against the belief there is no God of the mundane...which is really unbelief. And we must fight against it tooth and nail. Or beach and sun.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The God of the Mundane

Perhaps I am missing something. It is possible.

It appears that the current evangelical climate is one in which faithfulness and spirituality are measured by the eventful and the big - the bombastic. If the waves are not huge and the shifts are not seismic then we assume a kind of carnality. We have redefined radical to the point where the only radical people in the church are those who have sold everything and gone...well, anywhere. I love those people. And that is radical. But for everyone who does not sell everything, you know, those who shop at Target, go to the beach for vacation and grab some sushi (or Cracker Barrel) weekly - is there a spirituality for them that can be called "radical?"

Am I alone in worrying there is no God for the mundane? You know for those who, in the name of Jesus, are simply faithful spouses, honest in business, love their children well and enjoy the world they live in while waiting for the next - is there a God for them?

I think we have gone awry somewhere along the way. It is no longer not enough for a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church, he must now agonize over whether to sell everything to go overseas as a missionary. And you need to know, I am guilty of making people feel guilty about this. I have actually said, "It should be hard to stay where you are." Someone should have asked me, "Chapter and verse please?" But lets face it, this sounds really good and spiritual. In fact, in many ways it is really hard to stay. It is hard because no one celebrates the day-in and day-out faithfulness that goes unseen by the wider world. It is hard because life is not easy anywhere, there is no idyllic paradise in America where sin is not pervasive and the the devil is not crouching outside of custom-made doors. And it is probably hard for a few because of the guilt heaped up on them who stay and are made to think they are carnal/unfaithful for doing so.

Right now, someone is questioning whether I care about missions at all. You see, that is the problem. I do care about the spread of the gospel. But we have elevated what is seen and what is radical to the point where all other activity (or seeming lack of activity) leads people to think one may not care. That may be damnable. We must assume there are untold numbers of men and women spreading the gospel of grace quietly throughout their community and making it possible financially for others to go without making a big deal about it and telling everyone on facebook they are doing it.

Part of the problem may be we have made Paul our only hero and not the nameless recipients of his letters. Who would want to be like one of the unknowns when you can be like Paul? What pastor would want to be simply one of Timothy's appointed elders, never known and never mentioned? What man would want to be simply a day-laborer, who has believed the gospel and against the trends of the day treats his wife and children with dignity and affection, dealing honestly with his neighbors? What woman would want to be a nameless mother who at the risk of ridicule and inconvenience, huddles with other brothers and sisters in The Way and listens to a nameless teacher about Jesus? It is all so mundane.

It is almost like a new legalism is emerging. "Quit your job. Do something crazy. Pick up and move. If you do not then you are suspiciously lacking in the necessary requirements of what we deem 'spiritual.'

The rock-star preacher thing isn't helping either. Life seems so mundane after watching them, reading about them and then listening to them. Changing diapers and paying bills on time and being generous and holding the hand of your spouse and caring about your aging parents and having deep friendships and being committed to the church and crying with those who hurt - well, its just not radical enough. So absolutely mundane. And I fear that for most "ordinary Christians", they do not worship a God who can be glorified in the mundane.

Monday, March 01, 2010

I Have An Idea For A TV Show

I have an idea for a TV show.

It would be about young women; beautiful women. And they will each vie for the affections of one guy. They will lie, cheat, steal and cry to get what they want. Him. The show will regularly feature them in revealing clothing. The guy will also be a liar just to up the drama factor. And there will lots of kissing. Lots of it. He will have to kiss every girl, you know, to try them on for size. In other words he will be test-driving them. But I would have to be careful to make the guy seem at once desirable and also reprehensible. Or he could be mainly one or the other as long as female viewers can see the potential for the opposite.

The show will be a hit mainly because we are taking so many women's secret desires and giving them a cathartic release. The irony, of course is that if they were treated this way in real life - you know, with no self-respect - they would be furious. Pretty funny, huh? Yep, I will be laughing all the way to bank.

You wanna know the kicker? This show will even illicit the regular patronage of those who espouse traditional values! You want to know why? Because it's only for a little fun with the girls. And fun is what matters the most. There is no small niche for this kinda thing. It's gonna be huge. Women will pull for particular girls - imagine this, we will try to put at least one "good girl" on their each season - the ideas are flowing now - and the 'good girls out there will pull for her. What if she gives in, you ask? All the better, ratings will soar as the women judge her between laughs and looks of incredulity.

I wonder if there would be a market for one with one girl and lots of guys...I'm gonna be filthy rich.