Weekend Review: Mere Churchianity

Books, Church, Review

Michael Spencer ran the influential blog The Internet Monk until his death in 2010, and Mere Churchianity: Finding your way back to a Jesus-shaped spirituality (WaterBrook Press, 2010) is the summation of his life’s work as an apostle to the church leavers.  His focus in this book is on helping those burnt out by what he called churchianity (the “do more, be better, look good for God’s sake” (p. 5) attitude found in many churches) find a way to follow the Jesus that they aren’t willing to give up on. Spencer wrote that the “purpose in writing this book is to talk to you as someone who is willing to follow Jesus, not as someone who has decided to give up on Jesus” (p. 198).  It isn’t a book for people who have decided to make up their own pick-and-choose spirituality, and Spencer isn’t necessarily anti-church.  In fact, as long as a church is making disciples of Jesus who are equipped for ministry in their individual lives then he is all for it. On to the analysis:

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Help me, O God, and I will be satisfied (Psalm 17)

David faces enemies who are after his life and asks for God’s help from a place where he is confident in his motives and actions before God.  People who do what is right will have enemies, and they will face persecution.  These are the facts of following Jesus. So it isn’t only the result of our personal sin that we encounter suffering.  But God has promised us that those who follow Him, who act in obedience towards Him, will be vindicated either now or at the resurrection.  This psalm could very well be the prayer of Christian brothers and sisters around the world who right now face persecution, imprisonment and death because of the relationship with Jesus.  May we pray along with them that God would “rise up” and bring down those who oppress and bring freedom for the captives.  Let’s also pray that the Holy Spirit would bring the truth of Jesus into those situations in a way that would not be able to be discounted or argued away.

Church, Prayer, Suffering

Family Ties

Church, Jesus, Sacrifice

This was my haunting dream the night of February 1st, 2011.

Matthew 19:29

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”

Taysia looked at me with contempt, my only sister, as if I were a stranger; an intruder in the home. My brothers did too. They all did. Javlin and Jaycee flanked my sister like bodyguards and declared me a danger to the family unit. My news of finding eternal life in Jesus was seen as a virus to the status quo of family decorum, of tolerance, of unspoken values, of keeping peace and order.

I walked gingerly before the triumvirate of judges and argued for my innocence with long-suffering eyes that told of a beloved loyalty to the family name. Unmoved; they remained stern in their judgment. My sentence was shame and banishment. Death would have been more merciful, I thought to myself, as death would be kind enough to put agony to rest.

All three armed themselves with silence and stares as sharp as razor blades. And it cut me. Painfully. Over and over. But there was no time for tears.

My bags were packed but not with much organization. I was in a hurry; like someone running towards the nearest garbage can to puke. Of course, I was not sick, though my stomach couldn’t tell the difference. I wanted to keel over. This stirring love for family swirled so violently inside me that it made me dizzy and nauseated. Love wanted out. To overwhelm and be received. But I knew better and restrained myself. I have never been the agitated type, and I don’t consider myself a stranger to certain pains: I have history with excruciating boils, irrepressible itchiness, blunt forces to the head. But that’s all surface stuff. This?! This pain was deep. It coursed through my veins and systems. Perhaps because this pain was blood. As family is.

My sister and brothers stood there as cold sentinels; my parents not so much. Distraught but firm, my father held my crying mother as I walked towards the door. They no longer wanted part of me. Javlin enforced my exit with his muscular arms crossed and the tattoos of his girls’ names showing; a grave reminder that I’d never see my precious nieces again.

A tear broke loose.

But, I turned my face and bit my lip. I did not want anyone to see my final plea for reconciliation. I was stubborn. I could not renounce Christ.

The final steps towards the door was a walk down memory lane as the family paintings still hung on the wall. There I was posing with my buzzed ‘do, a rare photo smile, and the matching Filipino jerseys that misspelled all our names. In happier times that detail would have induced a chuckle, but the weight of rejection anchored my frown. Taysia’s hair glowed and could run the length of her back unfurled. My brothers were young and waiting for their handsomeness to fill their growing frames. As usual dad looked a decade younger than his age while my mother posed with the muscle memories of her younger years as a Filipino beauty pageant queen. I always took pride in how good-looking they were and grateful to be called their own. And for a brief second I was frozen in time. I was family again within the recesses of self-delusion.

My born identity as a Renegado was demanded to be left at the door. Behind me I knew the collective treasures of priceless memories were being burned into the smoldering fires of ash and forgetfulness. It oddly felt ritualistic, but also criminal as I stowed away those treasures in my heart.

I love my family.

I took the first heavy step out the door where one’s man sunset becomes another man’s dawn. My bags were light as usual, thankfully, because I felt so weak. This freedom was a lonely one. As I took the solitary walk to my car, the Spirit visited me and sang a song of assurance that gave me a peace of the most awkward order.

By your Word I am led to die
Hearts laid to a sword divide
Lambs unto the slaughter
I don’t know who’s my father

Those who do the will of God
They are my brothers
They are my sisters
They are my mothers
 
Oh where does loyalty lie?
Gone are family ties
Be stronger than these bonds of blood
Adopt me into the Father’s love

I woke up afraid to open my eyes in case the bizarro world was real. When I came to my senses I still battled with the horrifying sadness I felt in having lost my family to the worthwhile conflict of treasuring my King Jesus. This was my dream but a reality to many Christians worldwide caught in the scandal between loyalty and the cross.

70 Years

Church, Grief, Holy Spirit, Psychology

Grief is a normal part of healthy human existence.  Without the ability to grieve we wouldn’t have the ability to love, to feel connected at a deep level to someone, something, or even an idea.  We can and should grieve the loss of a dream, the loss of our home, or the loss of a person that we love to death or relational mayhem.  It is a God designed part of our humanness.