Friday, August 22, 2008

Hellfire & Brimstone

I think I'm bothered by something. And I don't know if I should be bothered or if it's the way things are and I need to just move on.

The other day I was discussing with someone some ideas about preaching out of Joel and Jonah. He asked me to look over some verses and get back to him with my thoughts. Two questions were raised and, really each deserves a post of it's own, but I'll try to condense it. He wondered how he would preach out of the prophets based on all the judgment going on in the prophecy; it's hard for congregations to listen to judgment sermons and not get lost is what I imagine he meant by that. He also asked why people would want to hear a sermon based on Jonah or Joel - other than people who want to just because it's in the Bible.

That's why.

And this is what bothers me.

I believe that as Christians grow in their maturity, in their faith, in their relationship with the Lord and with fellow believers, they should want to read the Bible because it's the Bible. Do we always? No. I was a Bible major for 4 years and there were days I had to read something and I simply wouldn't. Cause I just didn't want to. Some parts of the Bible are as entertaining as getting your teeth cleaned, listening to smooth jazz, driving through Kansas. I know this.

But we should want to. Not because of some legalistic reasoning or because we have to get "right" with God, to improve "our walk." It's the Word of God. It's awesome. I can't even begin to describe how utterly cool I think the Bible is, both from a spiritual and literary perspective.

I think the biggest reason people DON'T want to read their Bibles or study the Word is because they don't know how to. They haven't been given the opportunity to realize how cool it is.

When was the last time you heard a sermon preached on one of the minor prophets? Joel, Amos, Hosea, Malachi, Habbakuk, etc? I know people who don't even know that those are books in the Bible! Because they haven't been introduced. And I can think of very few people who are going to try and do it on their own. Because we are removed from their time and their language and their culture. However, that barrier doesn't make it any less applicable for us today. God's word is living and breathing, and it cuts across time and distance and language to reach us today.

If we choose not to preach and teach parts of Scripture that are difficult or hard to understand, we are going to miss out on telling people about the awesome God we serve.

So often people color God as distant and mean and destructive and cold. This is based on the little they know of the God of the OT. He's not a Gandalf-type God with a flowing beard and a robe who listens to angels play their harps. Nor is He is mean and judgmental God who waits to throw lightening bolts on people when they sin.

The God of the OT and of today is love and joy and restoration and comfort and longing and desire and mercy. He will do anything it takes for people to understand who He and what He longs to be for them. Locusts didn't work, exile didn't work. He even sent Himself in the form of a man to die on a cross for the people He loved. Does that sound like an vindictive or mean god? I don't think it does. His judgment is part and parcel of His great mercy (which is a post for another day). We can't skip over these difficult parts of scripture just because they aren't as "applicable" as Paul.

I think we don't give the people in our congregations enough credit when we think that they can't handle learning new things or things that are hard. Whether they are new Christians or "grew up in the church", people have brains. They are able to hear a word from the Lord, especially if it's HIS word.

This isn't a slam against pastors or teachers or preachers or churches or even my friend. This is just my heart saying that it's vital that we present the whole truth, every aspect of God's character to our churches. I long for people to read the Bible and get drawn into the love story. Because that's what it is.

1 comment:

DeliveredJude said...

I would love to be more educated by and challenged from the pulpit in churches. My spirit concurs, friend, though my flesh may disagree at times. Love ya and miss you.