Sorry Kyle, but you’re wrong.
Ouch, right? I mean, it’s bad enough when a teacher corrects you in school, or when your boss tells you that the job you did wasn’t done correctly; but when God tells you that you are wrong you know you must be really blowing it.
There are a lot of problems with having that reaction to God’s correction though, and the key dilemma come from skipping over one little word at the end, that little “love” word at the end of the letter.
Of course, we are wrong – or at least I am wrong (a lot). The Bible makes it very clear that has a perspective that is totally different than my perspective. He sits above a world that he created and sees angles that I don’t have the capacity to see. Since he sees from that perspective he does things that are completely unpredictable to me. He has some really, really, weird (holy) ways. In fact, his holiness is my big problem. (Isaiah 55:8) He is different in so many ways that it is very hard for me to understand, much less agree with what he is thinking and feeling.
So that “bad” news is that I don’t understand. The good news is that he made a decision that my mental assent isn’t the key to having a relationship with him. Instead, the measure of my agreement with God is found in my willingness to accept that he loves me.
So when I realize I’m wrong (daily), my reaction to his correction can be, “but I know he loves me.”
Check out what God says a little later in chapter 57 in Isaiah,
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Yes, God is “up there” and he is right, and I am wrong but; if I admit my weakness, embrace humility and believe that he loves me – then he is with me. God has my best interests in mind. He sees that I am wrong but doesn’t measure me based on how wrong I am but instead he looks at my heart. Am I willing to learn from him? Am I willing to let him teach me? Am I willing to allow his tender heart to instruct and guide me?
So, being wrong (daily) isn’t paralyzing anymore. Being wrong revives my heart because it puts me in a position for him to come to me and tell more of his thoughts and instruct me in more of his ways.
I feel bad for Mitt Romney. As bad as you can feel for a multi-millionaire who is a possible Presidential candidate. I think there is still a good chance that he wins the Republican nomination – but man, he’s got a problem – and that is the fact that he is part of a very weird religion.
Let’s just start with the basics:
Polygamy: There is a vocal and belligerent sect of Mormons that still practice polygamy and entice and abuse young girls forcing them to become ‘sister brides’ of the leaders in these movements. Warren Jeffs, is the most infamous of these villains in recent history – but there are still conservative estimates indicate that there are many other Mormon offshoots which still practice this version of “fundamentalist” Mormonism. Estimates by the Utah attorney general indicate there are as many as 40,000 people involved in these groups all of which support the idea of polygamy as a matter of religious doctrine.
The LDS has officially outlawed the practice (following aggressive federal laws enacted in the late 1800’s) but the fact remains – Joseph Smith – the founder of Mormonism and it’s chief ‘prophet’ was a committed polygamist who himself took ‘brides’ as young as 14 years old.
A quote from Smith on the subject:
The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it, and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. We have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction.
It is true that currently, no leaders within the LDS support polygamy, however, the LDS organization is one that is founded on claims to supernatural revelation from God as its inception. The idea that Smith ‘misheard’ God or that somehow he ‘misinterpreted’ the voice of God undermines the foundation of the religion. If Joseph Smith was a prophet – and his revelations were from God – than the fundamentalist sects of Mormonism which still practice polygamy are the purest and most honest form of the faith. That puts the current LDS, and its adherents (including Romney) in a very dubious position; they are forced to back pedal on certain ‘divine revelations’ which Smith received while simultaneously defending the divine founding of the religion by God.
According to the New York Times, more than 86% of Americans are unclear on whether Mormonism still supports polygamy as a lifestyle. All told – I think Romney has bigger issues than his ‘millionaire’ status hurting him as people go to the polls.
Of course, polygamy is just the tip of a very big iceberg of questionable ideas, practices, and ‘revelations’ on which the Mormon religion is founded. Other unique innovations include the baptism of the dead into the LDS faith (whether they were Mormons or not), the belief that the Native Americans are the descendants of ancient Jews who sailed to America and the idea that blacks are the spawn of “Cain” and are cursed by God.
Even a cursory examination of the history of Mormonism exposes profound flaws which would cause most rational people to take pause. The leaders (prophets) of Mormonism have shown themselves to be doctrinal ‘flip-floppers’ denying the authority of their own founders and their own sacred texts when certain views became socially unpalatable. Many, upon learning these facts, in good conscience, will refuse to vote for Mitt Romney. It is hard to take someone seriously who is willing to support a religion with such significant problems.
FYI – the ‘title’ of my post is a reference to Bill Clinton’s ‘motto’ in the 1994 presidential campaign, “The economy, stupid.” I wouldn’t call Romney stupid – but I will say that avoiding addressing the religion question and not factoring it into the dialogue about his political hopes is naive. I think much of the media and many pundits are also out of touch with just how central it is as a deciding factor for voters.
As the recent outcry about Obama’s support for this HHS law indicates – the depths of religious conviction in America are a chronic blind spot for most politicians, including our President. If Romney and his advisors think his Mormonism can ‘fly under the radar’ of voters or that it can somehow be hidden under claims that the LDS is just another “Christian denomination”, well – I think they have a very rude awakening coming in the general election. The LDS’s historical racism alone can be used by the Obama campaign machine to motivate the black community to re-elect Obama.
Final note: Mormonism is not a creedal Christian faith – it is a heretical sect which utilizes the language and some concepts of Christianity but denies many foundational truths of the historic faith and adds multiple ‘extra scriptures’ beyond the 66 canonical books of the Bible.
Mormons are perfectly nice people – but by every doctrinal measure available it is a deceptive irreconcilable with biblical Christian faith.
In any case – if Romney gets the nomination from the Republican party – I cannot vote for him in good conscience. Perhaps another post on that in coming weeks to explain my thoughts on the subject.
The last few posts were spent examining the actual intensity of the schedule of an intercessory missionary. The conclusion being that even a very committed intercessory missionary has ample time for leisure and rest. Almost 40% of their time being spent either sleeping (rest) or other engaged in personal activities which could not be constituted as ‘work.’
There is another key question though: Is prayer actually a form of work? And if so, what is the nature of that work?
Anyone who has spent more than ten minutes a day trying to pray will tell you that time in prayer can feel like work – but what does the Bible say? Does God classify prayer as a form of work? Finally, if prayer is work, do we actually need to take a rest from prayer at times? The first question will be addressed in this post; other posts will begin to dig deeper into the very heart and nature of prayer, leisure, and work – using Josef Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture as a sort of guide on this journey.
Colossians 4:12 concretely addresses whether prayer can be rightly called work, it says: “Epaphras…a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”
Some Bible translations translate the Greek word ‘labor’ here more literally as ‘wrestle’. Paul seems to be recalling and hinting back at his exhortation in the first chapter of Colossians where he says, “[Jesus] we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” (Col 1:28,29)
The word ‘striving’ or ‘wrestling’ used in these verses is the same; and there is also a common theme of presenting the Colossian church as a gift to Jesus.
The word labor here implies actual pain because of an exertion of strength. Now, obviously, in Epaphras’ situation he was not principally wrestling against a human opponant or exerting physical effort – but there is a clear assertion is that it cost him real strength in order to pray for the Colossians.
This stands as a clear New Testament example of prayer being likened to work or labor. This passage is specifically highlights intercession as a valid form of labor for believers. Certainly, other passages from the New Testament could be examined to illustrate that there is an actual labor and effort associated with prayer (Rom 8:23 comes to mind); but these verses in Colossians illustrate the basic premise of of ‘prayer as labor’ concisely enough to get started.
Next: The question of what God calls true rest and what God calls true work.
Leisure, Work and the House of Prayer
We’ve concluded that many intercessory missionaries (working six days a week) have 290 work days a year – but we still have to break down how much work is actually being done in those 290 days.
Once we subtract sleep; the number of available working hours a year numbers about 4640. All of our daily toil and humdrum happens in these precious hours. A successful life in God is won or lost based on the choices we make in this time.
The basic intercessory missionary commits to a 50 hour work week – which includes prayer time as well as ministry and any partnership development. Let us assume that a missionary is very committed to their partnership development, and add an extra 3 hours a week of service in this area. This is the bulk of the regular work – and when we subtract this we are left with almost 2080 hours a year. That is about six hours a day.
Now some of that six hours will certainly be spent working, doing necessary household chores, mowing the lawn, washing the dog, etc. Those with a family will spend a portion of it serving their spouse, serving your children, etc.
Even if we assume that the average person is doing 3-4 hours daily on household tasks or serving their household in some way (a far higher average than most Americans), this still leaves 2-3 hours daily that is essentially unscheduled ‘leisure’ time.
Americans spend that three hours each day watching television.
The bottom line: An intercessory missionary who works six days a week, doing 53-55 hours of ministry a week spends almost 57% of their time either sleeping or in leisure or unscheduled personal time.
We can conclude that those who have chosen to serve as intercessory missionaries should perhaps give pause if we are tempted to boast of our personal sacrifice. God has profound affection for those who labor in the house of prayer, but few can claim to have attained the heroic virtue of those saints we esteem in history or the Scriptures.
As we grow in maturity, wisdom and grace let us give heed to the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians:
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ … I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Leisure, Work, and the House of Prayer
This is essentially a ‘re-skin’ of a post I did several years ago; it is especially relevant in light of our reprioritizing of our prayer time on the night watch and at IHOP-KC.
Being on the night watch (insert loud cheer), means a specific ‘shift’ based commitment to the house of prayer. We volunteer to show up 12-6AM each night to pray, serve and occasionally dance. Let it be known, I’m not doing much of the dancing.
We do this six nights a week. There are many benefits of this choice of lifestyle – and this choice enables us to critically examine some of the more dubious assumptions about how we utilize our time.
At IHOP-KC we have 290-day work year. That’s six days a week minus those days we have reserved for vacation, sick days, etc. That’s about 42 weeks of work and about 10 weeks of rest each year. Basically that means 20% of our time is spent ‘not working ‘ at the house of prayer.
Of course these numbers are a bit deceiving given the fact that no one (except maybe heads of state) is actually working for 24 hours a day every day. And of course, at as intercessory missionaries the nature of our work often involves tasks which can rejuvenate our minds and our spirits. We also haven’t factored in time spent sleeping, breaks throughout the day or leisure time when we are not at work. We’ll look at those numbers in more detail in my next post.
Even in an initial examination we can draw some basic conclusions – 20% of our time resting is already more than the basic biblical ‘concept’ of a single day a week (1 7 = 14%).
Two more quick points which will eventually need considered:
First, we have not even discussed the nature of work nor have we concluded anything regarding a biblical perspective about work . The same is true related to leisure.
Secondly, we live in a unique time in history. The nature of work and leisure in 2011 is a radical change from the first 6000 years of history. Our experience of work and leisure in western democracies is also different from the social and cultural experience of most of the earth. What is normal in the United States is certainly not normal in mainland China. To give consideration to these facts will only serve to clarify the nature and value of our distinct labor as intercessory missionaries.
Leisure, Work and the House of Prayer
In September, I’ll have served at IHOP-KC for nine years. I had my 35th birthday this year, and as I continue to work at the house of prayer I am regularly confronted with the many paradoxes that arise as we embrace a monastic lifestyle in America. This is a strange time in human history to choose such an intentionally austere life. Of course, the Benedictines or Dominicans couldn’t have imagined wireless internet connections, smartphones or soft-rock melodies as they sat down to write their rules of life. Austerity is relative, after all – which brings us to one of our specific struggles.
American culture has created virtually unlimited options – and we are often paralyzed by that tragically post-modern dilemma – option fatigue. You know what I mean – it hits you standing in the toothpaste aisle, you ask, “Do I want the premium whitening mint toothpaste with fluoride, extra gentle (for canker sore sufferers), or do I want the complete care fluoride extra whitening toothpaste with baking soda & peroxide, fresh mint flavor? And wasn’t there an article in the paper last week about how fluoride in water could cause an increased risk of osteosarcoma?” Too much, too fast, and every day we are forced to decide.
It’s enough to make you wonder if a $.50 box of baking soda on the bathroom sink wouldn’t significantly increase your quality of life.
I digress; to the point: if St. Benedict, Dominic, or Francis were to have the opportunity to visit to our little Mid-Western cloister, would they walk away encouraged or dismayed? The answer to that question, simply, is found in the practical expression of our values – in a nutshell, how do we value our time, our money, and our emotional resources? Our values, of course, are truly revealed in our behavior when no on is watching but God.
There has been a clear trumpet sounded for those called to be intercessory missonaries here in Kansas City. It is not unique nor a new idea, but it is radical in its embrace of Gospel principles and biblical doctrine.
What does the Bible really say about work? What does it really say about the specific work of maintaining a sanctuary dedicated to the continual exaltation of God? And how do we who serve order our lives so that God’s house can become a house of prayer to all nations?
Let’s begin to answer these questions with candor and hope.
No big claims to be ‘back’, no promises of great and awesome plans, just a basic desire to say a few things in the future and make christina styles happy. 😉
Hopeful future posts: abe lincoln is not a xian role model, fearing muslims is a bad xian witness, and conspiracy theories create cynics…
Also writing poetry again, a few of those may show up in 2011. Do me a favor and maybe say a little ephesians 1 prayer for me if you get the chance.