Daily Office

“When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.”—Matthew 8:28-24

Isn’t it amazing that all Jesus says in these verses is ‘Go!’?

Demons talk.

The whole town talked.

Those tending the pigs talked.

But Jesus was quiet, except for the, ‘Go!’

Then the town folk told Jesus the same.

Strange, isn’t it?

But that’s not the only thing that stands out in this story. I noticed that these two demon-possessed men were on ‘the other side’ (of the lake), in the ‘region’ of the Gadarenes, and they were among the ‘tombs.’ I get the impression that these people were tucked away as far as possible from humanity. There were some pigs nearby, and maybe a few folks, but there wasn’t much. These men, living among the tombs, were as good as dead. That’s why they were living in the tombs—among the dead. No one considered these two living men alive.

No one could see these men as men any longer. They were dead, some sort of zombies right out of Resident Evil. And that is what we do with dead people: we banish them to the place of the dead. A place suitable only for the dead and pigs.

I suspect we do so because we do not want to look at them, or have to deal with them, or participate in their lives. They are dead and Lord knows that we mere humans, mere Christians, have no power to raise the dead. At least that’s what proper theology teaches us, right? That’s why when people die, we quit praying: there’s nothing else we can do.

Jesus was desperate to get to these men and the devil was desperate to prevent him doing so. The storm on the sea was a measure of prevention by the enemy: Jesus must not get to those men, he must not because he will see them as they are, as men. He will see them as men who have a spark of humanity in them still, men who can be saved, men who can be resurrected and brought back to life. “No one could pass that way.” But no one was trying to either.

Stanley Hauerwas’ latest book is called Hannah’s Child. It is a compelling read even if some of the stories he tells make the reader a bit uneasy. I was surprised to learn that Prof. Hauerwas spent twenty years of his life married to and living with a woman who had a mental illness. It is a remarkable story for this simple reason: Hauerwas never put his wife away. He stayed with her until she left him. He did not banish her to the tombs even though it was quite clear that Anne had serious issues that could have caused harm to Hauerwas or their son. This story, told in Hauerwas’ pitch perfect tone, makes this statement he utters near the end all the more remarkable: “In other words, to privilege Jesus’ cross and resurrection is to make a claim about reality that invites and requires Christians to see the world differently than others” (263).

A lot of Hauerwas’ theological conclusions frighten me and in no way persuade me, but I’ll say this for him: the cross and resurrection did cause him to see things differently. He saw his wife as one he loved because of Jesus. He saw his Anne as one whom he could in no way abandon or banish to the tombs. That aspect of his story alone is reason enough for me to spend time with his books.

I wonder if the two men in the ‘region’ of the Gadarenes ever got lonely? I wonder if their own company ever bored them and caused them anxiety? What does it mean to be ‘possessed by a devil’ anyhow to such an extent that people fear you and banish you to the place of the dead? I wonder why people were so afraid? Do you think it is easier to put away such people and pretend the world is not inhabited by such people? Do you think we are safer when they are put away?

The world sickens me most of the time. I was at the Emergency Room tonight with my son and wife. We were waiting on the Dr’s to set Samuel’s broken arm when I noticed an old lady laying on a bed in a different room. She was all alone. No family. No brother. No mother. No husband. No children. No pastor. No preacher. No friends. No sisters. No nothing. I forgot myself for a moment, old pastor habits are hard to break, and went into her room and spoke with her for a couple of minutes. She had a speech impediment, was very old, and I suspect she had some, at least, mild mental retardation. I left her room when I heard my son’s agony as they set the bones.

A little later, I peeked out of my son’s room to see if she was still there. I was on my way towards her when a nurse headed me off and gently told me that the law prohibited me from going into her room and speaking with her if I was not family. Seriously. The law prohibited me from speaking to a 90 year old woman who had no one else to speak with, no one else to comfort her. The law finds it better for her to be utterly alone than it does for someone to love her.

I sort of felt like Jesus for a moment when the people pleaded with him to leave, and if that is too self-serving, then let’s just say I understood in a very limited way how the two demon-possessed men must have felt when the town folk pleaded with Jesus to leave—Jesus, the only one who had looked at these two men and saw men, the only one who had dared to go where no one else would go. This Jesus was pleaded with: “Go!” “Leave!”

As disciples of Jesus we see the world differently than others. Maybe not better, maybe not perfectly, but differently. We see people differently. We are not ones who banish the living to tombs and regions. Instead, we are the ones who go to the tombs, or hospital emergency room rooms, or home, and we love the ones that the rest of the world has banished. We refuse to put these people away because they, too, are sons and daughters of the Father. We go to the places Jesus went. We love the people Jesus loved. We take the power of life with us into the tombs and invade the territory of the enemy. We bring light to dark places.

And so, I suppose if we are followers of Jesus, we will make the trip across demon enraged seas, we will pass the place no one can pass, we will find a way to get to the people who are held in bondage by the power of the enemy, and we will resurrect them and bring them back to life. Why? Because I suspect that the thing dead people want the most is life, a human touch, a spark of their humanity. I believe that Jesus holds this power and is waiting to unleash it through his disciples. He is already going into those places, blazing a trail ahead of us. All that remains is whether or not we will go with him.

He challenges us to see the world differently.

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This entry was posted on Monday, October 4th, 2010 at 1:32 am and is filed under Church and Society, Devotional. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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78 Comments(+Add)

1   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 4th, 2010 at 6:33 am

The man took care of his wife because of love, and Jesus delivered the demon possessed men out of love. But it is interesting to note that the town begged jesus to leave, because the loss of the pigs adversely affected their economy.

Can we see the correlation in today’s political climate when believers squawk, even when the poor may benefit, because the policies adversely affect their pocketbooks? (95 doughnuts instead of 100)

Love takes care of your wife even if it means inconvenience and sacrifice.

Jesus’ love takes care of your enemy’s wife.

2   Mike    
October 4th, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Rick, I think you miss the point. I don’t think the town squawked because of economics, they squawked because Jesus challenged them to stop ignoring the people that they had “thrown away” and realize that God offers redemption to all.

Believers squawk in today’s political climate when the state offers my benevolence (in my stead and without my consent) to everyone without distinguishing between the worthy and the unworthy.

But really not sure how the latter has anything at all to do with jerry’s post.

3   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 4th, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Anyone who offers benevolence without my consent is wrong? And I guess I am the one to decide who is “worthy” and who is not?

It was the pig farmers who spread dissent becuase they lost their pigs. The western church is a repulsive example of benevolence, and anything that adversely affects their pocketbooks energizes them to political action and caustic verbiage.

I saw all of that in Jerry’s post and the verses to which he referred.

4   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
October 4th, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Unless I missed something in what I wrote, I said nothing about money.

I know a church that spends a lot of time and money in Africa digging wells, building buildings, educating people. I know a church that after I lost my job with one denomination took up a collection for my family and we are not even Anglican. I disagree the ‘western church’ is so appalling as you would have us to be.

Sometimes your negative attitude towards the ‘western church’ is rather sad.

But like I said, my post isn’t about money. And unless you read another Gospel (like Mark or Luke), I don’t think you can surmise that Matthew assumed the pig farmers were economically motivated to spread dissent. That is clearly not Matthew’s point.

5   Mike    
October 4th, 2010 at 11:44 pm

I think in the case of Jerry’s post. The hospital was enforcing a rule that was probably meant to keep people safe…or maybe it was in place so that the workers wouldn’t have to deal with people who were concerned about their fellow man… unless of course they were family.

Rick, not everything is about politics or the depravity of the “western church” (whatever that means). Sometimes its just about how we should live like Christ.

6   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 8:31 am

When some are confounded and distressed by my assessment of the western church’s current practice of Christianity, it only serves to reinforce and illustrate the reality of the profound deception that continues to freely strangle our spiritual lives.

Having said that, I hold no malice toward anyone or anything but my own sins and shortcomings.

7   Mike    
October 5th, 2010 at 8:52 am

So pointing out when someone is wrong shows that I have a strangled spiritual life… ummm, isn’t that what you are doing, Rick.

Hmmm. me thinks though dost protest too much…

8   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
October 5th, 2010 at 8:57 am

When some are confounded and distressed by my assessment of the western church’s current practice of Christianity, it only serves to reinforce and illustrate the reality of the profound deception that continues to freely strangle our spiritual lives.

Either that, or you *gasp* could be wrong every once in a a while…

I’m not saying that you intentionally are trying to come across like this, Rick, but I sometimes get the idea reading your comments that absolutely no one can live up to the standard you are putting up.

9   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 9:12 am

“… but I sometimes get the idea reading your comments that absolutely no one can live up to the standard you are putting up.”

No one can. My point is that we have so seriously moved the goal that we are content with a substantially diluted Christian model, and without entertaining that possibility we will not uncover the glory that could be ours.

I am wrong many, many times. My strangle comment was not directed at anyone personally.

10   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
October 5th, 2010 at 9:34 am

I guess I just find there’s a very thin line between exhorting/encouraging and browbeating. I think it’s very hard to tell the difference in a detached, text-only format such as this.

I guess, the other thing I’d say is I wonder if it’s possible for our faith to become too goal-oriented. I wonder sometimes if worrying about “uncovering the glory” or getting the next level actually blocks us from simply enjoying Christ. Certainly it’s possible to become complacent, but I sometimes think that Christ’s first word to many Western Christians would be “relax and stop beating yourselves up”.

11   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
October 5th, 2010 at 9:53 am

I actually think for all the problems in the *Western* church, there are a lot of beautiful things going on as well. There have been problems with the church all across the world in every generation and every corner, because it is full of people who are becoming like Christ but are not yet.
So, just like Rick, Jerry, Mike, Phil and me, every church does some things well and some things wrong. Sometimes they take up an offering for a guy they don’t even really know and sometimes, they treat their pastor really badly.
The church really doesn’t look all that different than the original 12 in that way. Some days they did amazing things, and some days they blew it.

12   John Hughes    
October 5th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Yeah. We try to model our church after the 1st century Corinthian church and although it’s often hard to sink that low we’re sure try’n.

13   John Hughes    
October 5th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Rick, I think you miss the point. I don’t think the town squawked because of economics, they squawked because Jesus challenged them to stop ignoring the people that they had “thrown away” and realize that God offers redemption to all.

I pretty much think it’s the general consensus through the church age that the pig owners were upset because they lost their source of revenue. And I don’t they necessarily “threw” these people away. These guys were on the violent end of possession and beat the crap out of anybody that come by. Not exactly the situation where you could invite them over for dinner.

Again, to me the lesson is that people are more valuable than posessions, a lesson which these townspeople seemed to have missed.

14   John Hughes    
October 5th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Jerry, if we look at this account of demon possession as metaphor then you certainly have a point, but if we look this story as history then I can’t fault the townspeople for keeping these guys sequestered, just like even today we have to keep our violent psychotics sequestered because, well, they do real violence to themselves and others.

But either as methaphor or history you do make some valid, thought provoking points.

15   John Hughes    
October 5th, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I like my things. For example I really, really like my HD 46″ flatscreen TV and Blue Ray. So, yeah, in the larger scheme of things I think Rick makes some valid points.

Paul experienced both wealth and poverty and learned to be content with both. Being poor is not a virtue and being rich probably brings even more spiritual problems. But again the Scriptures speak of balance:

Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God. Prov 30:8-9

I guess it boils down to where our heart is. We cannot serve money and God and the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. We also need to understand that it is the Lord who gives us the ability to make wealth but that we need to be attentive to the Spirit’s moving.

I personally believe the tithe should be the start of our stewardship and then be attentive to where the Spirit leads above and beyond.

Cue law vs. grace debate in 3, 2, 1 . . .

16   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I find it difficult to defend the western pig farmer church when we spend more money on our dogs, pools, movies, etc., etc., and etc. while even brothers and sisters in Christ both starve and are in want around the world. But as my godly mother-in-law has said on many occasions, “We don’t live over there”.

A world view of the kingdom of God exposes us for who we really are. (I have to go get a waffle cone, I will return.) :cool:

17   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
October 5th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

#12. I think that comment reveals more about where you are at then anything. I wasn’t saying that we are trying to sink to anything. I was pointing out that we are probably not all that different than they are. We have our positive moments and our negative ones. Right now, I pretty much think you are a jerk, but that doesn’t make it true.

18   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
October 5th, 2010 at 5:57 pm

John,

I don’t think I looked at this story as a metaphor at any point in my thoughts. I don’t think these men were ’sequestered’ necessarily, but I do find their choice of living space quite interesting. If it is history, and I’m inclined to that direction, then living among the tombs, in the region, across the sea (presumably in Gentile territory) serves to demonstrate their complete and utter isolation from hope, promise of resurrection, and life.

I still find it utterly amazing that all Jesus had to do was say, ‘Go.’

19   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
October 5th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

RE: #17 That should say, **I pretty much could think you are a jerk** not that you are a jerk.

Again, my point is I get tired of hearing the **Western Church** get hammered all the time as if problems in the church are new to the **Western Church**.
It isn’t all that different than the church has been for 2,000 years, including people waxing polemic about the sad state of the church but not being able to live up their own lofty ideals.

20   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 6:01 pm

The Corinthian church to the Apostle Paul:

“you are so negative!”.

21   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
October 5th, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Difference is that you, Rick, are not an apostle. :-)

22   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 6:03 pm

And:

“The children of Israel had many problems so what’s so new about today?”.

23   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 6:05 pm

#21 – And your proof of that is what? And only apostles can speak the truth?

You are correct, I am just a goofball with the truth. :cool:

24   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
October 5th, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Rick,
Can you tell me three things that you think are good about the church?

25   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

The gospel, grace, and the Person of Jesus Christ.

26   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 6:08 pm

So a church which believes in the true gospel is immune from correction?

27   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
October 5th, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I think it is very easy to criticize; very difficult to be of help…which is why my old target–the ODM–is no longer my target.

Building up is what we should be about the business of doing. Even Paul said that if he tears down it was so that he could build up.

I don’t think the high profile church that you criticize is at all representative of the church that honors Jesus.

28   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
October 5th, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I think it’s the whole relational aspect that’s missing, honestly. If someone who I have no relationship with says to me, “your lifestyle is too materialistic” or “you’re too worldly”, I will probably ignore it. I would think they know nothing about me. However if a good friend tells me those things, I’ll probably listen. That’s why the Apostle Paul could speak bluntly with the Corinthian church. Also, that’s why he treads more lightly when writing to someone like the Christians in Rome.

It’s like when people take it upon themselves to yell at other people’s kids. Most of the time they should just mind their own business.

29   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I speak in the abstract principle and never have addressed anyone or their church personally. However, some comments have addressed me personally. Speaking the truth does not require a personal relationship with anyone as long as the issue is redemptive at heart and not a self righteous club.

30   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
October 5th, 2010 at 6:21 pm

OK. I still think your sweeps are too broad, too vague, and too generalized. I think the church would be better off with those who criticize working positively from within instead of taking the Churchill approach and being a mere flying buttress–while offering nothing positive to effect change.

If you have ideas for a better church, then fix it. Don’t just complain about it. I have no use for abstract principles. Nor do I happen to believe the church is as corrupt and sarxy as you would have us believe.

31   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

I do not believe my observations can be identified as “complaining”. I have no need to reveal the areas in which I am personally involved, including helping to send a missions effort to Haiti just this past week. But you are welcome to judge me if that is your desire.

32   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
October 5th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

My God Rick I’m not judging you. Seriously. You hurl insult after insult at the ‘western church’ and then you want to back off when you are called on it by saying ‘I did such and such last week’?

You are not making this about anything other than your stupid comments about the terrible ‘western church.’ Make up your mind. I don’t care one way or another about your involvement. I’m only talking about your ‘western church’ comments that everyone here can see and read for themselves.

33   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 6:34 pm

” Don’t just complain about it”

Your words, not mine. I did not address you personally. Adress my observations about the western church instead of saying they are stupid. If you can.

34   Mike    
October 5th, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Okay. Your comments about the western church are wrong Rick. They are so completely off the mark they would be laughable if you weren’t serious.

You condemn the church for being critical when actually they are attempting to hold to Biblical truths. You complain that they should hold more tightly to the gospel, grace and the person of Jesus Christ, but yet give no examples of their falling away. I mean specific examples that you have encountered personally, not broad generalizations and anecdotal evidence.

I was in an area hit by Katrina, and the “western church” and their kindness were what allowed us to rebuild and survive. They didn’t preach or demand allegiance, they just came and repaired and rebuilt and held people as they cried.

It is a time that I remember fondly and it still gives brings a tear to my eye because of its absolute beauty and pure outpouring of God’s love.

So I if you are going to use your broad brush to paint those people who came to help us in our time of need, as the terrible self-centered “western church”, then you have no idea what you are talking about and really ought to just be quiet.

35   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
October 5th, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Rick, I have addressed them over and over again. You are the one who needs to justify your complaints, not me.

You are the one who never has anything positive or constructive to say. Your comment was stupid because it was spoken either in complete ignorance or in utter denial of the truth.

All you ever do is tell us how bad the church is. I noted that I think your complaints are unreasonable….see #30. So, seriously, stop complaining and do something positive. Stop being so darned pessimistic about everything.

Stop being so contrary about everything.

36   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
October 5th, 2010 at 7:31 pm

#25, Those are wonderful things that are common to the church universal. Do you have 3 things about this entity that you want to correct called the Western Church?
#26, To whom are these corrections offered?

Rick, You come across as someone who really enjoys slamming the Western Church. My point is that I wonder how you would feel if you found yourself in a non-Western Church. What complaints would you find then?
You just seem angry with the church often offering critique without much positive to say about her.

37   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 5th, 2010 at 8:21 pm

I do nothing positive and have no idea what I am speaking about. Again, you are critiquing me personally, which is your blog right. You have no idea who I am.

Signed,

The Angry Slammer :)

38   John Hughes    
October 6th, 2010 at 7:46 am

Joe, you’re personal opinion of me has colored your interpretation of my comments which is only human I suppose. My joke about the Corinthian church was basically in SUPPORT of your and Jerry’s general comments on the Western Church. Although I generally find myself siding with Rick’s approach to things more than not, I tend to agree that his comments on the Western Church are too extreme. My comment about the Corinthian Chruch was irony meant to show that the Church has always had its problems and that the Western Church of today with all its faults really has nothing on the Church in Cornith. Per Mike’s comment there is a lot of good in the Western Church.

Again, your bias against me does not allow you to see humor in any of my comments. At least I’m a paragon of wit in my own mind.

39   John Hughes    
October 6th, 2010 at 8:07 am

#28 – Phil. I tend to agree. But when I hear these things in a sermon (or on a blog :-) ) I always try to do some intro-spection anytime any thing like that is lobbed my way.

40   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 6th, 2010 at 9:15 am

” there is a lot of good in the Western Church.”

There is good in almost every church. Mormons, Moonies, Jehovah’s Witness, Buddhists, Hindus, do some good as well. My comments are not meant to exclude many, many good things done in Christ’s name by the western church.

But with millions starving, millions of orphans, millions of AIDs sufferers, millions under totalitarian regimes, and on and on it goes, how can we justify the obsessive and hedonist lifestyles we lead?

How can a follower of Jesus suggest that millions spent on mortgage interest for their church building is justifiable when millions continue to starve? We spend more on dogs and vacations then we do on humanitarian efforts. What in God’s dear name do we actually sacrifice for Jesus? Anything?
Do you know how much I have spent on my children’s college education as opposed to spent on the needs of others during that time? And what is my God – education? Where your treasure is there is your heart. I know, radical. I stand as indicted as anyone so if you still desire to eviscerate me personally feel free. Against the clear teachings of the New Testament, and the life example of Jesus Himself, our way of life is at odds with it all. But since we have been brought up encased in this culture it is literally impossible to get an objective perspective. And our subliminal protectionism mechanism of our own self esteem hinders us from examining everything without bias.

41   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
October 6th, 2010 at 9:45 am

But with millions starving, millions of orphans, millions of AIDs sufferers, millions under totalitarian regimes, and on and on it goes, how can we justify the obsessive and hedonist lifestyles we lead?

Well, people accused Jesus of being a hedonist, too, you know…

I guess the thing is we have to be careful about taking a personal conviction and projecting it onto others. If I feel convicted about having certain luxuries in my life, and that I should rid myself of them, I’d better do it. What I don’t feel comfortable doing is setting that as the standard for everyone. I think it’s OK for pastors to prophetically challenge a congregation to give sacrificially and look beyond themselves. What I’m not comfortable with is blanket statements about the western church.

I know in my church there are plenty of people who are simply struggling to make ends meet. They don’t have a lot in the way of luxuries, and they live on very tight budgets. Now maybe their lifestyle is extravagant compared to people in other countries, but to me those inequalities are for the most part caused by huge systematic inequalities that are very hard to address on an individual level. I honestly think that even if every Christian in America sent his or salary over to Africa or China to be used in missions work that these things wouldn’t be changed. It might have some short-term benefit, but I expect in the long run things would return to the status quo. I’m not saying nothing can be done, but I think what needs to be done is complicated and will take a long time.

42   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
October 6th, 2010 at 9:56 am

Another thing I’ll add is I am totally against pleas that are based on guilt or shame. I think it’s wrong to even try to justify those things as a personal motivation. In Christ, there is no condemnation. I do not feel any guilt or shame for what I buy or don’t buy. I may sometimes feel convicted to do something. But conviction is a freeing thing, as opposed to guilt and shame, which imprison people. That is why Jesus could celebrate freely. That’s why He could accept Martha’s extravagant offering of the perfume.

There are some things in American church culture I do find rather sickening and disheartening. When I see pastor with fleets of Rolls Royces, I cringe. But I cringe not primarily because of the extravagance of it, but simply because these men are entrapped by a lifestyle. I suppose in some instance we all trap ourselves in certain things.

43   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 6th, 2010 at 9:57 am

I do not consider them personal convictions. As I said,

“Against the clear teachings of the New Testament, and the life example of Jesus Himself, our way of life is at odds with it all.”

44   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 6th, 2010 at 10:05 am

“When I see pastor with fleets of Rolls Royces, I cringe.”

Why? Is your view of excess comparative? We cannot compare ourselves with ourselves. What do the Scriptures actually teach? Almost all western believers give out of their abundance and hardly ever suffer damage to their lifestyle.

Debt, entertainment, recreation, comfort, relaxation, all are adjectives of our lifestyles.

” I honestly think that even if every Christian in America sent his or salary over to Africa or China to be used in missions work that these things wouldn’t be changed.”

It isn’t just money; it would also require our very lives. BTW – Maybe we could give a try for a couple of years.

45   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
October 6th, 2010 at 10:16 am

Why? Is your view of excess comparative? We cannot compare ourselves with ourselves. What do the Scriptures actually teach? Almost all western believers give out of their abundance and hardly ever suffer damage to their lifestyle.

Again, I don’t claim to know how anyone is giving. I’ve certainly met plenty of people who have given out of the need. When people don’t do this, they are really depriving themselves from what God has for them.

Really, Rick, unless you’re calls are based on real, hard facts, dealing with real people, they will ring hollow. Scripture teaches that those whom Christ sets free are free indeed. Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, and the Father disciplines those He loves. Trying to apply Scripture with being based squarely in the love of the Father is simply a form of Pharisaic rulemaking.

46   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 6th, 2010 at 10:17 am

Fair enough. We remain on different pages.

47   Neil    
October 6th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

When some are confounded and distressed by my assessment of the western church’s current practice of Christianity, it only serves to reinforce and illustrate the reality of the profound deception that continues to freely strangle our spiritual lives. – Rick

kinda hard to argue with that logic.

48   Neil    
October 6th, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Do you know how much I have spent on my children’s college education as opposed to spent on the needs of others during that time? And what is my God – education?

i think this is a false dichotomy. are we not responsible for the children we bring into this world? is helping fund their higher education really bowing to it as a god? i see nothing more biblical in the parent that would refuse their child a college education so they could meet baser needs of others.

49   Neil    
October 6th, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Debt, entertainment, recreation, comfort, relaxation, all are adjectives of our lifestyles.

when these become our obsession i agree. on the other hand, i refuse to feel guilty or think less of myself and others based on the fact that i was born into a time and nation that allows me a greater level of entertainment, recreation, comfort, relaxation.

‘course, i’ve been told i was demonically deceived before – so…

50   Neil    
October 6th, 2010 at 8:04 pm

back to the op. it really is amazing that jesus only needed utter one word. on the cross, in greek, “it is finished” is only one word as well.

on a more hermetical level it should be noted that the storm being satanic, that the men being banished to the tombs, and the anger being economic are all speculative.

51   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 6th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

” i refuse to feel guilty or think less of myself and others based on the fact that i was born into a time and nation that allows me a greater level of entertainment, recreation, comfort, relaxation.”

Think less of myself?? I guess the man who was blessed and built bigger barns could have uttered the same sentiments.

I refuse to feel guilty about telling the truth. :cool:

52   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 6th, 2010 at 8:22 pm

“that allows me a greater level of entertainment, recreation, comfort, relaxation.”

To whom much is given, much is required.

53   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
October 6th, 2010 at 9:55 pm

on a more hermetical level it should be noted that the storm being satanic, that the men being banished to the tombs, and the anger being economic are all speculative.

Actually, on a hermeneutical level the storm being satanic is not speculative, nor is the banishment to the tombs.

Fact is: they were living in the tombs. How is that speculation?

As to the storm, well, it is a bit of Mark’s gospel creeping in that causes me to make that point, but I think it is a fairly safe exegetical point.

As to the economics, I agree. speculation.

I don’t agree with anything Rick has written. until he forsakes everything that brings him comfort, sanity, health, or happiness, his criticism of the ‘western church’ or ‘american’ anything is just utter hypocrisy.

I, like Rick, refuse to feel guilty for telling the truth.

And no smiley face.

54   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
October 6th, 2010 at 10:39 pm

#38 John Hughes. I apologize to you. I was trying to say that my initial reaction to your comment could have led me down that path, not that I actually think you are a jerk. The truth is that I am fairly neutral to you as a person. Not enough interaction I now. I’m sure you’re the funniest guy you know. :)
Seriously, that last line was a shot at online humor.

55   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
October 6th, 2010 at 10:41 pm

How can a follower of Jesus suggest that millions spent on mortgage interest for their church building is justifiable when millions continue to starve?

Well, for the record my church’s building cost us a dollar. One US dollar and we have spent a lot of time, energy and money to bring clean water and food to thousands. So no million dollar mortgage here. Of course, we’re apostate so that helps us to be able to help the poor because we don’t care about the gospel. **Just trying to get those out of the way**

56   John Hughes    
October 6th, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Thanks Joe!

57   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 7th, 2010 at 5:32 am

#55 – There are things about the way Mars Hill operates that I feel are much more New Testament than most churches.

#53 – If we all were hypocrites until we completely mirrored what we preached then we all are abject hypocrites. Rick Frueh is not what makes the truth the truth.

58   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
October 7th, 2010 at 8:36 am

Rick,
I’m not objecting that “the truth is the truth”. I don’t think anyone here would. What I’m objecting to is the idea that the Bible, specifically the New Testament, puts forth some sort of “clear teaching” about what our lifestyle should be as far a possessions and wealth. It is clear that we should not make idols of those things and that we shouldn’t chase after them like pagans, but it nowhere says that someone who owns certain things cannot be a Christian.

I suppose we could attempt to universalize Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler, but I don’t see that being correct. What of Christians with children? Is it right for them to sell everything and give to the poor while neglecting their family?

So, I honestly want to know – what is the “clear teaching” of the New Testament when it comes to wealth? In many ways, I think it would much easier if there were a hard and fast rule. That way, we wouldn’t be dependent on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and we could just go on autopilot.

59   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 7th, 2010 at 9:31 am

“but it nowhere says that someone who owns certain things cannot be a Christian.”

I never said that. (strawman)

* Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.

* And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

* But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

* If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

* So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

And many, many more. What cost are we supposed to count? A 38″ TV instead of a 40″ one? There is no hard and fast rule that gives a monetary limit, but the overwhelming principle of the New Testament, including the example of Jesus Himself, indicates a life of sacrifice and moderation that is remarkable against a hedonistic culture.

Who is my neighbor? What mile radius should define my neighbor and his needs? Again, we are so afraid of a world view that we have lost our world view. If a man was starving at your front door could you step over him and spend $40.00 to eat, or go to the movies or a sporting event? Would you feel comfortable spending $100 a month on an inground pool?

The cultural construct in the west, and elsewhere now, is completely at odds with the New Testament outline for a follower of Jesus. But we all have been born into it, and we all know good and sincere people who serve Christ but are blind to the lifestyle inconsistencies in which we are all engaged.

We all give out of our abundance while others suffer tremendously. Me included. Comfort and consumption is at odds with everything we say we believe.

60   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
October 7th, 2010 at 9:47 am

But we all have been born into it, and we all know good and sincere people who serve Christ but are blind to the lifestyle inconsistencies in which we are all engaged

.

So what are you doing to change that in your life or have you already taken care of this in your life? Earlier in the thread you implied that you are similar to the Apostle Paul because you are claiming truth, and it was stated that you are not Paul. One thing that Paul did was live by what he preached. Are you? And by the way this is a serious question. I read your comments to offer a lot of criticism but little hope and no solutions. Essentially they read to me, “There is all this wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it, or I don’t want to fix it.”

61   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
October 7th, 2010 at 9:58 am

Rick,
For all of those verses, I could pick out ones that indicate that God pours out blessing on those who serve Him. The issue of wealth and poverty is one of the points in Scripture where there are paradoxes. Even the verses where Jesus indicates that we have to forsake everything to follow Him could be countered with verses saying His burden is easy and His yoke is light. The problem is when we try to resolve these paradoxes. There are Christians who are on both side of the issue. You have the ascetics who genuinely give up everything to live in the desert on one side, and you have followers of the prosperity gospel on the other.

I guess I’m simply not as quick to condemn the church or American Christians as a whole. Are we selfish or do we miss the mark sometimes or even a lot – I’m sure we do. But I’ve also met a whole lot of people who have been generous with time and resources. To focus only on the bad, even in my own life, is not healthy. I want to look the eyes of grace and love. I don’t believe the Father looks at the Church with disgust. I believe He sees a bride whom He love despite Her flaws.

62   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 7th, 2010 at 10:01 am

#60 – I claim nothing and am nothing. You may use what you think you know about me to deflect the issue; that is your right.

#61 – A gracious answer with some merit.

63   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
October 7th, 2010 at 10:35 am

A gracious answer with some merit?!?!?!?! (Delivered on a scroll made of pure gold no doubt.)

Rick, when did you become the standard by which all righteousness is measured? I missed that memo.

64   Neil    
October 7th, 2010 at 10:57 am

Fact is: they were living in the tombs. How is that speculation?

the fact that they were living among the tombs is not speculative – that they were banished there by other is. unless i missed that in the text. i suppose it’s not too much of a stretch to say no one would live among the tombs if they were not banished there. to that i would agree.

65   Neil    
October 7th, 2010 at 11:01 am

As to the storm, well, it is a bit of Mark’s gospel creeping in that causes me to make that point, but I think it is a fairly safe exegetical point.

jerry what do you see in mark 4 or matthew 8 that leads you to this conclusion?

66   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
October 7th, 2010 at 11:07 am

I’ll get back to you on that Neil–since it is a bit detailed.

Whatever speculation there may be about the place where the men lived (as to how they got there) one thing is true: they were living in a place of the dead (tombs), where evidently only pigs were fit to live.

I always pictured this as the asylum for these two men. Where else would they live since they are clearly not suited for living among the general population?

Speculation does not equate to incorrect interpretation.

67   Neil    
October 7th, 2010 at 11:25 am

i don’t see rick positioning himself as a standard for anyone. as well, i think he is way too pessimistic and crusty against the church in the west (as if there were such a thing anyway).

68   Neil    
October 7th, 2010 at 11:34 am

jerry,

i agree. maybe i was too blunt. i only brought up the issue of speculation as a point of discussion – not a rebuttal.

69   Neil    
October 7th, 2010 at 11:40 am

rick,

you are correct that much of what is expressed as christianity in the west is riddled with greed (prosperity theology) and materialism (the general pursuit of stuff).

i take issue though with any implication that things are somehow worse here and now. just like i argue against odm’s who think current churches in america are worse because they do not do things like they were done 50 years – i argue against the thought that western churches are inferior to churches elsewhere.

being a student of both church history and non-western churches i feel qualified to say the church in the west (speaking of true bible believing christians) is no better nor worse than those of other times or other places.

70   Neil    
October 7th, 2010 at 11:48 am
” i refuse to feel guilty or think less of myself and others based on the fact that i was born into a time and nation that allows me a greater level of entertainment, recreation, comfort, relaxation.”

Think less of myself?? I guess the man who was blessed and built bigger barns could have uttered the same sentiments.

i believe you are misapplying the parable. did jesus condemn the man for having more stuff… or did he use him as an illustration of wrong motives and wrong reliance and wrong hope and faith?

in your condemnation of 38″ tv’s and the like i fail to see what your real standard is? if i am wrong buying a $2,000 hot-tub because someone in india is starving… an i wrong to buy a car before my current one is absolutely no longer road-worthy? show i never take vacations? should i not buy a cd because the $12 would feed a child in kenya?

i refuse to feel guilty because i was born into, and enjoy, a culture that has a high standard of living.

you are right that many many many are caught up in the whirlwind of stuff and the acquisition of more.

but you cart blanch conemnation of the whole western church is unwarranted.

if you wish to discuss the proper use of stuff – fine, let’s do that. but it’s kinda hard to do so when we start from a position of enjoying the culture is evil and disagreeing with you means we are demonically deceived.

71   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
October 7th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Neil,
I think you and I are pretty much on the same page here. What I don’t like is when people just broadly decry whole “lifestyles” or blanket condemn whole swaths of people. I also don’t like it when people speak go too far down the road of making poverty holy. I often think people who do that simply do that because don’t know real poverty. Real poverty is what Christ came to deliver people from.

I do realize that poverty takes other forms than simply the economic kind, but I think it’s hard ti minimize the economic aspect of human existence. I’m more and more convinced that God instilled in human being the need to work, to make a living, and to obtain provision. When these things are not in play, it is a type of disorder, opposed to the Shalom God intended. So just like seeking after material things for simply the sake of having more causes disorder and unrest, so does living a life which is utterly deprived and disconnected from a working economy.

72   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
October 7th, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I think Shane Claiborne is a great example. His personal conviction, as well as the convictions of those who’ve joined him in my backyard of Philadelphia, have led him to live out, in a very tangible way, the words of Christ. However, even though he uses strong language and encourages others to join him, I’ve never heard him condemn or judge the motives of those who do not hold to the same convictions with such passion and fervor.

His strong admonition is for Christians to live out what we say we believe.

73   Jerry    http://www.jerryhillyer.com
October 7th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Neil,

No offense was taken by me. I’m glad to discuss. :-)

jerry

74   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
October 7th, 2010 at 5:51 pm

#62. I’m not trying to deflect anything, I’m trying to learn if this is real for you or if it is just some sort of way to express your displeasure/hurt/anger/whatever word fits with the church.

75   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 7th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

#74 – How would you know either way since you have never met me? Let us learn if it is real for God and then let us proceed with our lives. I have always used the collective noun “western church” in order to avoid judging anyone individually, except myself.

76   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
October 7th, 2010 at 8:17 pm

#75
Ok, it just seems like a hobby horse for you. As you mentioned, we’ve never met and in all reality I suppose it doesn’t matter all that much.

The Western Church is God’s bride and body and has done a lot of bad things in the name of religion. It has all done some beautiful things.

77   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 8th, 2010 at 7:06 am

In 2007 a young man was enrolled at the Bible College that both my sons were attending. He needed a place to stay for two months before the dorms were opened. Against my ex-wife’s wishes I opened my home to him and he arrived as an unsaved skirt chaser.

He had some notoriety as a great white basketball leaper and dunker. Both my sons were on the basketball team. Here is a you tube of David Thacker before he was saved.

In the second week at my home my oldest son led him to the Lord. David Thacker is finishing his Bible education and he goes all over to high schools giving his testimony and using his leaping ability to draw attention.

But guess what? He was led to Christ in my outdoor hot tub, which I consider and unnecessary luxury. So you see, I still believe God does use everything, and I shared that to let you know I am far from perfect.

78   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
October 8th, 2010 at 7:07 am

For some reason the link was erased. Here is david Thacker on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3R5SDFarnHU