Actively bringing about much needed change in our communities and hope to the broken and disheartened.
I know that this book came out years ago, but I am just now reading it. I only read the first 50 pages so far (hence “prt 1”), but the things I am reading resonating very deeply. If you are like me and have waited way too long to read this book I can’t encourage you enough to pick up a copy. Chances are you know someone who has already bought it and read it – so just borrow it.
One of the things that Bell brings up in the first chapter is that there are periods in Israel’s history where God can not stand their worship. I’ve read these passages before – they are haunting. A few years ago I began writing down a list of all of these passages when I would come across them – its a lot longer of a list than I expected to end up with. I’ll track down that list and share it in my next post.
Here is the scenario; God’s chosen people are participating in the festivals and other forms of worship which have been established by Moses and other leaders and God’s response is: Isaiah 1:11 – 23 (NIV)
“11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the LORD.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.”
Why is God so upset? What has Israel done that would cause God to stop listening?
“Your hands are full of blood!
16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
21 See how the faithful city
has become a prostitute!
She once was full of justice;
righteousness used to dwell in her—
but now murderers!
22 Your silver has become dross,
your choice wine is diluted with water.
23 Your rulers are rebels,
partners with thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow’s case does not come before them.”
Bell puts it this way; “When God is on a mission, what is God to do with a religion that legitimizes indifference and worship what inspires indulgence?
What is God to do when the time, money, and energy of his people are spent on ceremonies and institutions that neglect the needy?” – Jesus Wants to Save Christians pg 46
It would do us well to stop and think about the way our churches operate and the way that our resources are used so that we can be clear representations to the world of a God who is deeply concerned about the poor and the oppressed. Otherwise we end up in a place where the noise we make is only for ourselves – the world isn’t listening and neither is God.
As a side note to those of you who might dismiss some of what I am saying because its associated with Rob Bell, I was a part of a small group of people in San Francisco a few weeks ago who heard these same warnings from Francis Chan. Bell and Chan might disagree on some things, but they both teach and believe that the church’s current indifference for the poor and oppressed and unsatisfied desire for well equipped performance venues are contributing to its demise.
A friend of mine posted this on FB the other day, its a quote from Chris Voss.
“When you blame others you give up your power to change. Take responsibility for your future!”
Our goal since Ryan and I started this blog has never been to whine about the church – in fact it might be our only rule. We are both motivated by a deep, sincere love for the church. Our goal isn’t even to talk about the way that church should be or what a christian life should look like. Our desire is to simply invite you on our journey of discovering for ourselves how to best live according to the example of Jesus.
More to come.