Thursday, October 28, 2010



I hope you enjoyed walking through the Acts of Jesus. In my thinking there is no better book to get you caught up in the Jesus movement. AND, by the Jesus movement I am describing those who are doing their best to follow Jesus-to walk, talk, think, love and bleed like Jesus.

Most of the feedback to my writing and speaking about "Jesus plus nothing" is quite positive. The ones I love the most are when a light bulb suddenly switches on in a person's mind and heart. It's an "Aha!" moment regarding Jesus and His Kingdom. On the contrary, there is a steady stream of negative feedback that flows back to me-some directly and some in a roundabout way. Apparently, as I seek to be more like Jesus the more my thinking, speaking and writing goes from "preaching to meddling." I honestly don't think that I am pushing the emotional buttons that trigger the negative responses; I think Jesus Himself is pushing the buttons by His very life, by what He says and does. I know I am ruffled by what Jesus does sometimes, because He is operating outside the box I keep building for Him.

Let me offer an example that is very fresh for me. For nearly 43 years I have tried to contrast the difference between practicing religion and embracing a personal relationship with God through Jesus. It's the difference between religion and relationship. Religion is man's best attempt to please God and avoid going to hell. Religion is a man-made system of do's and don'ts to appease God. This system drives us to do, do, do and to do it better. In fact, you can never do enough! So we are haunted with a never-ending guilt-ridden, sense of doing more and doing it better-praying, reading, witnessing, giving, loving, and going to church more. Jesus has a better idea. It's not doing more, but accepting what is already done on your behalf! That's the Good News; Jesus is the Good News!

Not only have I taught this contrast/comparison between religion and relationship, I've heard it taught throughout the years by nearly every leader within Christianity. So, it's not anything new. So what is it that ruffles the feathers? Kenton Beshore, long-time friend and Sr. Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, CA, is leading a series right now entitled: "Why Jesus Hates Religion." He shared with me about the push back he is receiving on the topic. "Like they've never heard it before! We've talked about it for years!"

Why is it OK to speak of having a relationship rather than being religious, UNTIL you go from preaching to meddling into practical application of what this means? Maybe our spectators who sit in our churches week after week somehow missed it? Maybe our churches are filled with people who didn't inhale when the personal-relationship-with-Jesus pipe was passed out? It's one thing to talk about it and quite another to live it.

Or, maybe it all goes back to what Jesus warned, when He said: "The world will hate you, because it hated Me." But hold on! Who is the world Jesus is referring to in John 15? He says, "They will throw you out of their synagogues." The world is the religious world!

I just found an article by Eddy Hall entitled, "If Sinners Were His Friends, Who Were His Enemies?" Eddy says: "Who would his friends be? He'd probably play golf with Methodist bishops and Presbyterian moderators and Nazarene general superintendents and at least once a year with the pope. (Well, considering the pope's age, he might have to settle for backgammon that day.)"

"And who would have the most to lose by Jesus' appearing on the scene? Well, that's not too hard to figure out either, is it? Pornographers and gangbangers. Drug pushers and addicts. Pimps and prostitutes. Anyone who makes a living from the sin industry. Because Jesus hates sin and he has the clout to do something about it. If Jesus shows up, these folks are in trouble. Yes, Jesus would make enemies, and they would deserve every bit of whatever he decided to dish out."

"There's just one thing wrong with this picture: it has nothing to do with the Jesus we see in the Gospels. The Jesus we see in the Gospels spent so much time hanging out with hookers and crooks and boozers that his enemies tagged him "a friend of sinners," but it didn't faze him. He just kept right on hanging out with the same kind of folk. He didn't leave these friends in their sin-made messes, of course. He forgave their sins and invited them into his community of people who were being made new."

Eddy goes on to say: "Though the implications (of who are Jesus' friends and who are His enemies) make me squirm, I'm forced to conclude that if Jesus lived in my culture, he would be just as quick to take on modern day Pharisees as he was to blast those of his day. Watching law-abiding Christians isolating themselves in their holy huddles while keeping a safe distance from the people he was proud to call his friends, Jesus wouldn't sit quietly. He wouldn't be nice. He would speak out. He would point fingers. He would call people names. Even if it got him killed."

Now, do you still want to be like Jesus? Really? Or, do you want to keep Jesus in your comfortable box, bigger than most boxes, but still in a box just the same?