Thursday, July 05, 2007

Captive Christians

Well, OK it's been awhile since I have written. My excuse? A week of Vacation Bible School with 275 kids and 103 staff. (That's me as Capt. Zusto. He has a Zeal for the Lord and a Gusto for life.) A week of helping out with the children's program at Redwood Christian Park's family camp. Lamentations. The book that is. Just couldn't get myself to write anything. Enough excuses? Good. Thanks!

So, this week I am beginning a couple of weeks in Ezekiel. (I know, Dan-o, WHAT just TWO weeks!) But the idea is to get through the entire overview of the Bible before my children have grandchildren. ;0)

As I have been studying the book, thus far, I am again drawn to how God's people are enlivened through periods of captivity. In Egypt a nation was formed, and now in Assyria/Babylon/Persia the nation is reformed. And at the risk of getting to dispensational, maybe the Jews are presently finding themselves in another protracted period of captivity which will end in the rebirth of the nation and usher in the New Jerusalem. But, that discussion is better left for another time, dare I say era. Back to my original thought.

It is during those times of captivity that the nation was humbled enough to at least begin to hear the voice of God through the prophets. They surely didn't listen to well prior to being slogged off to captivity, but once there some did begin to listen. And certainly once the walls of the Jerusalem where demolished and the Temple was ransacked and destroyed the people did in fact start to understand that the presence of God did in fact leave the Building. The people began to understand that if they were to deny the sovereignty of God over all the aspects of their individual and national lives, then the outcome would be God pulling His presence from their midst, and that which they thought was indestructible (the walls) and inviolable (the Temple) would fall with a soul deafening crash.

I am careful here not to equate Israel of 2,500 years ago with the church today, but I do wonder if what was true for them could become true for us? We hold fast to the Lord's words that the "gates of hell will not prevail" over the church, and sometimes I think we subtly believe that there is nothing that can bring the church down, to destroy her. But, I wonder sometimes if the Lord's words at that juncture had more to do with the "final outcome" (since we are the Body of Christ,) and less to do with the church's immediate or even prolonged success. Do we run the risk of having the Spirit of the Lord so depart that the very Temple of God is vulnerable to being ransacked, if not destroyed? I have surely seen this in an individual's life, but how about say, the church in the western world? The prospectives are frightening.

Are the prophets speaking? Are the enemies approaching the gates? (and I am not necessarily talking about terrorists) Are we comfortable in our captivity? Do we even see that we are captive?

Maybe the better question is, "Are we, as the Body of Christ, listening to our Head...and will be obey?"

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Randy,
I guess my mind is "muddy" this AM... I am not following your thoughts too well. I'm not sure what you are considering as "captivity" re: the church in the western world today.

My personal thoughts are that the "modern" church is in captivity to the thinking and "ways" of the world more than anything else. More and more I see the worldly thinking creeping into the innersanctum of the evangelical church in America. Our young people mimic MTV in their dress, their language, their behavior, their moral values. I see less and less scriptural teachings regarding Christian behavior, modesty, integrity, honesty, rightous living in general.....being modeled before our young people.

You ask if we are listening to our "commander" and obeying.....my answer is yes...some....majority? no.

In my Old Testament studies there is one theme that runs throughout the trials and tribulations of the "chosen", Israel....the "REMNANT"...there was always a remnant who chose to follow their God...despite all the falling away of the others.....the majority. God will ALWAYS have His remnant. Will the outward "church" in the western world fold? Maybe.....it has folded in many other parts of the world...BUT...God will always have His remnant. He has promised that the gates of hell will NOT PREVAIL against His church...HIS body.......His bride. The faithful WILL prevail....HE will prevail.

My prayer is that OUR local church be part of that remnant...a Bible TEACHING and Bible OBEYING and LIVING body of believers. Ruthie

Pastor Randy said...

Ruthie,

Sorry if my thoughts were "muddy" they most likely were, since I was typing too late at night. ;o)

But I think you got my drift. I do agree that the church in the west is captive, more than we know, to our culture, and actually it is even more dangerous than the outward signs of dress and language and even morality, though all of those are outwards signs of a much deeper captivity.

The "good news" is, and this is what I am praying for, is that the church will be moved to return, to re-ignite that remnant status, if you please. I believe that is starting to happen. Even today I came across information that leads to thinking a change is in the wind.

There is a "new" group of pastor/scholars seeking to draw the church back to it's evangelical roots. Here's their website www.thegospelcoalition.org. I have not taken the time to check out all there "stuff" but I do know the teaching of many of those getting involved, so I am trusting.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Anonymous said...

I agree that the “church” by and large has adopted too many worldly ways and I wonder if it really does help gain members anyway by lowering our standards? Although I will say I don’t think that shaking our fingers at people in a judgmental way is the way to convince them that perhaps a little more holiness might be a good thing.

I am reminded of one young girl that I sponsored in AA, and truly my ears are always my best witnessing tools. Most pastors would have a heart attack if they could hear some of my replies or more likely non-replies as I witness (listen). They would think I missed a thousand opportunities to set someone straight and help them see the light.

But I have found that witnessing takes more patience than it does convincing arguments. So I listened to her pour her heart out. She was fed up with going on dates and having every guy she dated pressuring her to have sex. She was fed up with being treated like a sexual object and realizing that guys her age actually expected her to “put out” once they paid for movie and or a dinner. She felt that sex was something precious and she should not be devalued like that. Now, keep in mind that this young girl had never been churched with the exception of one week out of her entire life – attending a vacation bible school as a child. One week. That’s all. But hey? Any moron knows when they are being treated disrespectfully, when they are essentially nothing more than a piece of meat to the guys pursuing not them, but merely the sexual gratification they think they have a right to expect.

I listened to her go on and on. Very young. Very pretty. Finally, she said she just almost wished she could go back into the Victorian era where women wore long dresses down to the ground and couldn’t date without a chaperone being present. All it took was some affirmative head nodding and honestly agreeing that women in our society have not necessarily been liberated so much as they have been “used.”

It isn’t hard to lead someone where their heart is already yearning to go. Before it was over, that young girl started attending one of the strictest denominations around. I took her to a number of churches and she chose the one with the strictest dress code, and a very strong emphasis on holiness. They did not, mind you, have a holier than thou attitude at that church, but instead the sermons compassionately and lovingly encouraged holiness for the same reasons that this young girl yearned for it.

Because holiness is not something that God pushes on us to make life boring or to punish us. Holiness protects us from pain and hurt and results in healthy self-esteem and mutual respect between the sexes. There was a time when referring to someone as a “hottie” would have been an insult. Today, it is considered a compliment? Go figure.

Somehow, the church needs to find a way to communicate the advantages of holiness, and point out the reasons God wants things that way is BECAUSE HE LOVES US and obeying God by walking in holiness is not punishment but really a way of accepting God’s love. But it needs to be communicated compassionately and kindly and usually communicated to someone who trusts us enough to open their heart and tell us how much it hurts when lack of holiness tears a hole in their hearts.

Anonymous said...

oops, forgot to sign it.

gentledove

Anonymous said...

Randy...I didn't say your thoughts were muddy...I said my MIND was muddy Ha!
Glad to hear there is a "fresh wind a blowin'" ! Ruthie

Chesney said...

This is just a side note but I wanted to let you know that when Caleb was asked who his favorite superhero was, while other kids were saying Batman and Superman, Caleb said his was Captain Zusto.

Tapestry Family Center said...

Wow dad great sermon on Sunday, no I am not sucking up :)