“Cover Your Nudity!” Street Preachers and Bad Theology

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Have you ever seen one of those crazy people standing on a street corner yelling about hell wearing a sandwich board?

Well I saw one a few days ago.

Or rather I heard him and his looming voice, carrying all throughout the downtown streets of San Antonio.

My mom and I had driven down to visit the Alamo and the riverwalk. As we exited out to the front of the Alamo I kept hearing a loud noise and couldn’t tell where it was coming from. I figured there was some kind of special event happening or music of some kind.

But as we kept walking I saw a man standing by some trees in the courtyard in front of the Alamo.

He was wearing a vest that read “Cover your nudity!” and shouting fire and brimstone religious rhetoric at the top of his lungs: “You all deserve hell!… God is against… God hates… Repent!…”

I’ve always heard about these kinds of people but I had never actually seen one in public that I can recall.

I kept looking over at him.

Trying to figure out what I thought about it.

And what I should do.

I was getting more and more upset as he kept yelling some really unbiblical things about how God hates people and certain kinds of people more. God may hate sin but he doesn’t hate people.

And everyone was staring. People were turned off. The poor workers stationed at the entrance had probably been listening to him all morning.

So after a few minutes of hearing this guy I couldn’t restrain myself.

I couldn’t stay put.

I told my mom to wait on me and then walked over to where he had stationed himself.

As I approached he said hello and asked me if I had any questions. Apparently he thought I was a potential convert.

I asked him who he was affiliated with and what his personal faith was. He said he was a born-again believer and affiliated with Jesus. I was surprised actually. I thought he might be with some kind of offshoot cult. And maybe he is. I didn’t get any further into his theological persuasion. I didn’t care. The way he had been acting the past several minutes of what I saw just wasn’t right. Now, I don’t want to question someone’s heart or salvation because that’s something only God knows. But I do wonder what kind of bad theology he’s chewing on to make him confident enough to go out there and yell out a bunch of bigotry.

So I told him I was disappointed in his methodology and didn’t agree whatsoever with what he was doing. He didn’t like that too much and went on to say some pretty rude things. I figured some kind of verbal attack was coming and ended the conversation by saying he needed to actually get to know people and talk to them about God in a personal way rather than ranting and raving on a sidewalk.

And I left it at that.

I don’t think anything I said made a dent as he kept on yelling.

But I couldn’t have walked by without saying anything.

What he was doing really got under my skin. And it takes a lot to make me mad.

I was very upset by his approach to “evangelism” and his judgmental, hateful tone which do not line up with what it looks like to follow Christ at all.

Not to mention all the surrounding people who could potentially be turned off from Christ because of this guy’s so-called conviction. He was turning people off to God and it flat out pissed me off. I have no respect for that. Sorry I just don’t. That’s one thing that gets me angry. That and a cold krispy kreme doughnut. Just why?

I’ve grown up in the church my whole life since my dad’s a pastor.

We’ve witnessed our fair share of legalistic fanatics and mean church people.

And at this point, I’m not even surprised by it anymore.

But when I see someone publicly acting a fool, turning people off to God and church I get really mad.

That is not what we are supposed to do.

Hell-fire and brimstone preaching just doesn’t work on a street corner. 

If you wanna talk about hell then that’s fine but you should know how to do it appropriately. A little common sense is all it takes.

Because ultimately, truth without love is vain. 

Actually it’s a stumbling block.

Causing innocent bystanders to be exposed to a false declaration of truth and really bad theology. 

And I’m not okay with that.

I’m not okay with arrogant religious fanatics turning away people from exploring the faith more.

I have a soft spot in my heart for those who have doubts about God or questions about the faith. I love to talk to people about God, their questions, my questions, what we still don’t understand and what life is all about in light of faith.

So when I witness someone, with zero regard for those who struggle to believe and follow God, who tries to condemn others as if he’s got it all together I am extremely disgusted.

Nobody has it all together. 

Jesus himself said in Luke 18:19, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Nobody is good.

We’re all messed up by sin.

We all need Jesus.

Romans 3:10-11 says, “As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;

there is no one who understands;

there is no one who seeks God.”

So none of us has the authority to act as if we are good enough and condemn others to hell.

Only God knows a person’s heart.

He alone saves.

Not us.

After all, John 3:17 points out Jesus’ whole reason for coming to the earth and it was to save the world not condemn it.

If anything, as Christ-followers we should be people who can’t help ourselves but to show others the love of God that we’ve already been freely given.

Not turning people away.

Not spewing bad theology.

Not displaying an inaccurate picture of Christ.

Not eliminating people’s desire to visit church.

And ultimately I know that God is bigger and He isn’t inhibited by a fanatic street preacher.

God can reach people despite the “Cover your nudity” man acting a fool.

But it still isn’t right and shouldn’t be taking place in the public or anywhere for that matter. It gives Christianity a bad name. Because that’s actually not Christianity at all. It’s a messed up religiosity is what it is.

I guess this is something that the Lord is gonna have to help me with. I know that I need to be more gracious to this street preacher. I really do. But it’s hard. Sometimes it’s harder to give grace to the one who I feel is causing others to see God in a bad light because I don’t want anyone to misunderstand who God is. But I have to realize that I’m not perfect either. And there will probably be things that I do that cause others to stumble, even though I would never want that. I have to remember how much grace I need so that I can also give grace to this man. So I’m asking God to help me.

Ultimately, we need to talk about God openly and humbly with those we know and those who ask.

Not with hatred.

Not with arrogance.

Not with condescension.

But with love.

Compassion.

Understanding.

And a willingness to accept the reality that we don’t know everything and we’re not perfect.

We all need Jesus just the same as any one else does.

So let’s just treat others with compassion and kindness…and just maybe that will share Christ far more than yelling on a street corner ever could.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.”

-1 Corinthians 13:2-

Getting to Know Jesus: Revelation 3

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In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, revealed to John on the island of Patmos, Jesus spends chapter 2-3 verbalizing what John is to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Scattered across the Anatolia Peninsula (or present day Western Turkey) these seven churches include Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, originating in part because of the influence of Paul’s missionary journeys within the region. As Jesus speaks to these churches specifically in this book, these churches ultimately typify the large swath of churches that have existed since the time of the early church and still remain today. Christ’s appraisal, instruction and affirmation of these churches extends to all churches for all time and should be considered seriously when evaluating the livelihood of a congregation or body of faith.

Similarly, these exhortations should be considered individually as well. As we get to know Jesus in Revelation chapter 3, it is clear that Jesus remains aware of our spiritual condition. Just as he spoke to these churches in Asia Minor, who possessed strengths and weaknesses regarding their faith, so Jesus also speaks into our lives regarding where we are at in our relationship with Him. Through His Holy Spirit, we are made aware of the true contents of our hearts. Sometimes this can be a rather ugly picture, just as the church in Laodicea was reprimanded for being “lukewarm” or indifferent in their faith. But this can also inspire change in us if we obediently respond to the call to pursue Jesus.

Reading this passage in Revelation chapter 3, I can see various areas in my own life where my faith is either frail or flourishing. Because of this, I’m finding it is extremely important to be open to reprimand and consultation for the sake of spiritual growth. As we desire to grow more like Christ, we must recognize our own tendencies to fail spiritually while asking God to help us, but also recognize the areas where we are flourishing spiritually while giving thanks to God for His grace to do so and His grace to sustain us.

When we consider that Jesus does indeed notice our faith it should compel us to pursue Christlikeness passionately and purposefully.

Revelation 3 reveals Jesus as the One who sees all but still cares enough to admonish His followers out of love. He alone possesses knowledge regarding the deepest parts of our hearts. And He longs to cleanse us. But we must be attentive to Him. His words of matter. Only His words. His opinion regarding where we are at in our faith matters. His opinion regarding our spiritual lives matter. Everything He has to say to us matters. Letting Him expose us to our own sinful tendencies so that we may confront them is imperative in growing more Christlike.

Without this refining we are susceptible to grow complacent, or even lukewarm like the church in Laodicea. And that is just not a good place to be. Let us elevate our view of Jesus Christ so that we may receive His words with honor and anticipation of His glorious beauty revealed. Jesus has a word He wants to speak to our hearts today. May we have ears to hear and hearts receptive.

Summary of Revelation 3

Jesus speaks to John, who is exiled on the island of Patmos and receives a vision from the Lord about the last days; Jesus instructs John to write a letter to the angel of the church in Sardis; Jesus tells them that He knows their activity and reputation, yet he exposes them as being dead, not alive in the faith; Jesus tells them they must repent; Jesus acknowledges that there are a few at the church in Sardis who have not soiled their garments with dead faith; Jesus instructs John to write a letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia; Jesus tells them He has given them an open door that remains open and no one can shut; Jesus notices their faith and endurance despite their weakness; Jesus reminds them that He is coming soon; Jesus instructs John to write a letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea; Jesus rebukes them for being lukewarm; Jesus says He will spit them out of His mouth if they remain this way; Jesus offers them gold refined by fire, white garments to cleanse themselves, and eye salve so they may see; Jesus tells them He disciplines those whom He loves; Jesus says that He waits at the door knocking and will come to whoever opens the door to Him; Jesus will allow the one who conquers to sit on His throne with Him just as His Father allowed Him to sit with Him on His throne; Jesus extols them to listen.

 

Jesus in Revelation 3

Jesus instructs the church in Sardis (v. 1-6)

Jesus speaks with authority (v. 1)

Jesus knows their works (v. 1)

Jesus is aware of their reputation among the community (v. 1)

Jesus sees beneath reputation (v. 1)

Jesus sees them for what they truly are (v. 1)

Jesus is aware of their spiritual condition (v. 1)

Jesus points out the discrepancy between what others perceive of them and who they truly are (v. 1)

Jesus always perceives our hearts (v. 1)

Jesus exhorts them to wake up (v. 2)

Jesus exhorts them to strengthen what remains (v. 2)

Jesus warns them that what remains is about to die unless it is dealt with (v. 2)

Jesus does not find their works complete in the sight of God (v. 2)

Jesus admonishes for the sake of their renewal (v. 2)

Jesus rebukes because He cares (v. 2)

Jesus reminds them to remember what they have heard and been taught (v. 3)

Jesus urges them to repent (v. 3)

Jesus wants to forgive them (v. 3)

Jesus will come against the unresponsive (v. 3)

Jesus will come like a thief at an unknown hour (v. 3)

Jesus recognizes those in Sardis who have remained faithful (v. 4)

Jesus will walk with the faithful ones in white (v. 4)

Jesus calls these few ones worthy (v. 4)

Jesus bestows honor (v. 4)

Jesus will cloth the one who conquers in white garments (v. 5)

Jesus cleanses (v. 5)

Jesus will never blot out the names of the one who conquer in the book of life (v. 5)

Jesus’ love is unconditional (v. 5)

Jesus will confess their names before the Father and His angels (v. 5)

Jesus urges them to listen to these words (v. 6)

Jesus acknowledges the Holy Spirit as the one who is inspiring these words to the churches (v. 6)

Jesus works in tandem with the Holy Spirit (v. 6)

Jesus display the interrelation of the trinity (v. 6)

Jesus instructs the church in Philadelphia (v. 7-13)

Jesus is the holy One (v. 7)

Jesus holds the key of David (v. 7)

Jesus controls the access into the kingdom (v. 7)

Jesus authority cannot be overridden by anybody (v. 7)

Jesus is powerful (v. 7)

Jesus knows their works (v. 8)

Jesus gives them an open door (v. 8)

Jesus knows that they have little power (v. 8)

Jesus is aware of their weaknesses (v. 8)

Jesus notices they have kept His word (v. 8)

Jesus notices they have not denied His name (v. 8)

Jesus recognizes them for their faithfulness (v. 8)

Jesus sees all (v. 8)

Jesus perceives all (v. 8)

Jesus will condemn those who lie about who they are (v. 9)

Jesus does not tolerate deceitfulness (v. 9)

Jesus will display His love toward His own (v. 9)

Jesus affirms those He loves (v. 89

Jesus notices they have endured patiently (v. 10)

Jesus will spare them from the hour of trail coming to the world (v. 10)

Jesus will try those who dwell on the earth (v. 10)

Jesus will bring justice (v. 10)

Jesus is coming soon (v. 11)

Jesus’ return is a literal expectation (v. 11)

Jesus urges them to hold fast to what they have that no one may seize their crown (v. 11)

Jesus will make the one who conquers a pillar in the temple of God (v. 12)

Jesus will write on the one who conquers the name of His God (v. 12)

Jesus will write on the one who conquers the name of the city of His God (v. 12)

Jesus bestows one’s identity (v. 12)

Jesus calls the city of His God the new Jerusalem (v. 12)

Jesus describes the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven (v. 12)

Jesus will write on the one who conquers His own new Name (v. 12)

Jesus urges them to listen to these words (v. 13)

Jesus instructs the church in Laodicea (v. 14-22)

Jesus is the Amen (v. 14)

Jesus is the faithful witness (v. 14)

Jesus is the true witness (v. 14)

Jesus is the beginning of God’s creation (v. 14)

Jesus knows their works (v. 15)

Jesus observes they are neither cold nor hot (v. 15)

Jesus wishes they would at least be either cold or hot, not lukewarm (v. 15-16)

Jesus will spit them out of his mouth (v. 16)

Jesus despises halfhearted faith (v. 16)

Jesus wants all or nothing (v. 16)

Jesus knows they think they have enough without Him (v. 17)

Jesus exposes their frailty and false sense of security (v. 17)

Jesus counsels so that they might find life (v. 18)

Jesus offers gold and white garments (v. 18)

Jesus offers salve to anoint their eyes so they will see (v. 18)

Jesus wants them to be made whole (v. 18)

Jesus reproves and disciplines those whom He loves (v. 19)

Jesus possesses parental concern (v. 19)

Jesus cares about our spiritual condition (v. 19)

Jesus exhorts them to be zealous and repent (v. 19)

Jesus desires for them to be saved through Him (v. 19)

Jesus stands at the door and knocks (v. 20)

Jesus will come to anyone who opens the door to Him (v. 20)

Jesus is available (v. 20)

Jesus is accessible (v. 20)

Jesus will grant the one who conquers to sit with Him on His throne (v. 21)

Jesus has conquered and sat down with His Father at His throne (v. 21)

Jesus bestows royal privileges (v. 21)

Jesus bestows honor (v. 21)

Jesus urges them to listen to these words (v. 22)

Jesus is persistent (v. 22)

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” –Revelation 3:20 –

Questions for Today:

  • How often do I evaluate my heart?
  • Am I confronting spiritual weaknesses in my life that need to be dealt with?
  • How do I respond to Jesus when He reveals things in my heart that need to be dealt with?
  • Why is it significant that Jesus disciplines those He loves?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“Anchor” by Hillsong Worship

Mark Cuban, Church Music and the Body of Christ

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Recently, I was intrigued by Mark Cuban’s comments regarding stereotyping and prejudice. To sum it up, he described how everybody has certain biases, prejudices and stereotypes about people. Surfacing in the wake of Donald Sterling’s incident, it stirred up a lot of buzz and media attention, especially on ESPN which revolved around Cuban’s comments almost non-stop for an entire week. It’s a pressing issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. Living in a fallen world plagued by sin, prejudice has always marked the human condition in some form or fashion. Light skin prejudiced against dark skin. Men prejudiced against women. Rich prejudiced against poor. Lifestyle prejudices. Religious prejudices. Food-eating prejudices. Unfortunately, humanity tends to drift towards fear of others. Fear of what we don’t understand. Fear of what we fail to empathize with.

The problem is that most people don’t think they are prejudice. Most people don’t articulate a major prejudice. Most don’t get into trouble like Donald Sterling with public comments. But honestly, we all have certain prejudices that – when acted upon – cause others to feel inferior. It happens when a vegetarian looks down on his friend ordering a burger. It happens when we glance at somebody dressed in unusual clothes. It happens when we label certain parts of town. It happens when we stir up debate with those we know have different political and/or social views than us. It happens when we let our personal views become the standard by which everyone should live by.

I encountered one of these moments about a month ago – in a place I least expected to observe prejudice. I happened to be visiting a divinity school with the possibility of attending there. One of the professors was giving a lecture on the history and evolution of contemporary worship music. I was intrigued. As the lecture went on I became more and more aware that this was not really a lecture for the purpose of educational knowledge, but for argumentative defense of a very clear bias: that contemporary worship music is a distortion of formal worship.

I was not bothered by the fact that he had a different opinion than me. Coming from a liberal arts school, I’m used to that. I was not even bothered that he didn’t really care for contemporary worship music or “mega-churches.” What bothered me was that this professor attempted to ridicule others who go to big churches and/or worship in a contemporary style, saying that they can’t see God as clearly.

This is a reflection of a major problem existing in religious circles. Prejudice towards a certain way of experiencing “religion” is eating away at the very lifeline of the body of Christ. Causing division. Causing resentment. Killing diversity. Killing community. All that’s left are people fighting. People fighting over budgets. Fighting over carpet colors. Fighting over methods. Fighting over church music. Surely, there are more important issues than this.

But after that lecture, my thoughts started to change. I started to be reminded of all the times I have been prejudiced towards other people. The Lord really convicted me of a lot of viewpoints I had. I kept thinking of all the times that I secretly judge other people who don’t go to the kind of church that I go to, or have different stances on social issues, or have certain lifestyle habits. I realized that I can be just as prejudice as that professor was. I am just as guilty. That experience has really softened my heart to come to the realization that difference and opposition is inevitable. And it’s okay. All that matters is that I show all people Christ’s love. And when it comes to disagreeing with Christians about the way we experience God, I have to step back and acknowledge that my way of experiencing God is not everybody’s way. Jesus relates to all people differently. And each church is unique and can be uniquely celebrated and worshipful. That doesn’t mean that we should compromise what we believe when it comes to biblical doctrine and theology. But it does mean that we should accept others for how they do church and pray that we all can learn collectively about Jesus from how He works uniquely in each of our lives.

The only antidote to prejudice within the church is a deeper understanding of how and who God created us to be. Then, division because of differences might be converted into multiplication because of differences. In Romans 12:4-6, Paul writes, “Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given us, we have different gifts.” Psalm 139 also talks about individuality and diversity in the way that God created each one of us. We were created to embrace diversity for the sake of strengthening one another with the various gifts we have to offer. We were created to work together.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” A masterpiece illustrates multiplicity at its best. It illustrates the beauty of many layers, colors, and hues all working together as a brilliant piece of art. So together as the body of Christ, we are His masterpiece. Not one person. Not one church. But as all of the people and all of the churches unite together in Christ, we are His masterpiece. Once a church understands that diversity is a good thing, they will grow exponentially as more people feel welcome and they develop more ministries to reach out to a variety of different people.

As we work together to accomplish His will on the earth, we are able to achieve far more than we ever could on our own. But in order to be productive contributors towards that cause, we must prepare ourselves to be individuals who are accepting, compassionate, and empathetic towards different kinds of people. We must relish the opportunity to learn from others. This only happens when we surrender to Christ and let Him transform our minds as it says in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.”

Then, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that “we have the mind of Christ.” (emphasis mine). It is ours. And His mind enables us to think the way He thinks and see the way He sees. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” Without the mind of Christ, we are susceptible to our natural, human way of seeing and thinking. We are without hope to see others beyond the surface. But since we – who have chosen to surrender to His lordship – have the mind of Christ, we too can see the heart just as the Lord sees it. We are able to see others for who they are on the inside, instead of what they appear to be on the outside. Our mind is not at the mercy of prejudice. And we are profitable to the body of Christ.

But if we are not persistent in training our minds to be transformed and renewed to be like Christ, we will struggle to win the war of prejudice. Really, we will struggle to win any kind of assault on our mind. It’s not humanly possible for us to do so. We need God’s help. And with his help, we find strength in our time of need. As we let Jesus help us in this battlefield of the mind, we are more apt to overcome any inclinations towards prejudice. And we are more gracious whenever we encounter those who have yet to let go of the prejudices they still possess. We can take the chance to analyze our own hearts and lives to see if there is any wayward way within us so that we can change and be a light to others. Then we will come to experience God’s beauty and His Spirit as He shows Himself to be the author and creator of a world full of rich diversity.

 “The earth  and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord; for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers.” -Psalm 24:1-2-

Questions for Today:

  • What unique gifts do I have to offer my church and my community?
  • What prejudice is keeping me back from contributing to the body of Christ?
  • How can I let God renew and transform my mind?
  • What next step is God challenging me to take in my walk with Him?