Separation of Church and State

i spent the age of twenty to forty in vocational ministry. Most of this time as a Pastor in mega churches. i encountered many types of Christians every day. Most of these would consider themselves to be people who believe the Bible, taking it at face value. They would also say that they live out what they believe on a daily basis. A large part of my role as Pastor was to encourage people to live out their faith in a real manner wherever they may be, whatever they may be doing.

At forty years old i found myself beginning a business career. Looking back over this time, there have been amazing situations that have occurred. Outside of the “church” bubble I’ve made some great relationships and God has used me in these people’s lives in fascinating ways. I have had the opportunity to counsel, encourage, and even pray with business associates to enter a relationship with God through His Son’s sacrifice. These work place “ministry” encounters occur quite often.

So… why, in decades of being a pastor and dealing with literally thousands of “Christians” who are living on the outside of a “Christian” aquarium, have i rarely heard about the types of accounts in the work place and daily life as i have personally experienced in a few short years? Is it because these situations find me; or i’m seeking them out; or i’m more sensitive to seeing them? i don’t think so.

There appear to be two major issues at work: complacency and compartmentalization. Perhaps there are many Christians who are sensitive to opportunity to minister the love of God to others on the job or in the grocery store. Yet, they feel inadequate to take action, or just don’t care enough to act or speak boldly in love. Others, it would seem, segregate their Christian world view at home and church from who they are in the work place, or out and about.

i was recently watching an old Billy Graham crusade. He addressed this same issue several decades ago. Mr. Graham inferred that many of us call ourselves “Christian,” go to church, talk the talk, but when it comes down to it we really don’t live like we believe the Scripture, that God is real. He used the illustration that we should imagine the risen Christ, Jesus the Son of God, as being literally at our side in all that we do.

What Billy Graham was really getting at was the essence of coram Deo, a Latin term meaning “being before the face of God,” living as if God’s very presence were literally before us: He is sitting beside us at work; enjoying our meals with us; cheering on our favorite team next to us in the stadium.

i think this is a similar concept that Paul refers to in 1 Thessalonians 5.17 when he refers to “pray without ceasing.” Paul’s point is that we continually direct our thoughts to God. Similarly, coram Deo looks to direct our speech and action as if God were literally beside us. If this were the case, how would our actions and reactions change in our day to day existence? How would our life perspective be transformed? How would our preconception of others be altered?

How would your relationships change if you lived coram Deo? What would be different at work, with your neighbors, family, friends?

~End insulation~

Fly Away… just another bad hair day.

According to 89 year old retired engineer, self proclaimed evangelist and Family Radio Worldwide host, Harold Camping, tomorrow, Saturday, May 21, 2011 an earth-wide earthquake will signal the end of the world and all those who call Jesus “Savior” will be snatched up into heaven.

As i write this, i’ve just been in communication with a friend living in Japan. It’s already May 21st there and he’s a bit bewildered why, as a committed Christian, he’s not currently hangin’ in heaven. Another friend is sarcastically working through a 24 Hour Bucket List.

Camping’s so called “Judgment Day” is his second attempt at picking the plucking date. Back in the early 1990’s Camping calculated the date of the Rapture as September 6, 1994. i’m not sure what happened there. However, the spiritual leader is sure he’s got the date right “this time,” having worked out the calculations.

If you are a Bible believing Christian, this should bother you on several levels. Let’s look at a couple. First, Jesus was clear that though there would be signs of this taking away and the Parousia (Jesus’ Second Coming), “no one would know the time or day.” (Mt 24.36; Mk 13.33) No need to elaborate. Read the New Testament Scriptures again Mr. Camping. Another bothersome issue is the media in general taking this and parading extremist Christian leaders as though all Christians hold this dogmatic position and are not critical Biblical thinkers.

The issue that stands out the most is that Harold Camping has quite a large number of followers. And in that, many have dedicated “the rest of their earthly lives” (assuming that’s until tomorrow) to spreading the word about Judgment Day. On a base level, this is highly admirable that these people would literally spend their own time and money to spread the news that “The End” is nigh.

What if they’re right? I’m not indicating that Camping is correct. However, what if you had some kind of inside track that the world as we know it was going to end on a certain day? What would you do? If it were really true that God was going to remove Christians from their earthly existence into His eternal presence, wouldn’t you tell everyone you knew about it. i suspect a few of us would selfishly guard this information. i would definitely be telling anyone I came across about this, and about God’s abundant love and desire to spend eternity with Him.

This is a point that Jesus made: Christians are to be salt and light to the world (Mt 5.12-14), continuously sharing God’s love and purposeful desire to everyone. Christians should always be in “rapture mode.” However, the vast majority of those who call themselves “Christian” (self included) fail miserably at this. Typically we’re more consumed by doing our hair and makeup than we are that people we know and love, more importantly, people God knows and loves are going to inverse heaven (insert Rob Bell joke here).

We’ll see what happens tomorrow, if we hail Camping as a prophet or hurl stones at him, or wait to see how the Mayan’s take pans out next year. Meanwhile, take May 21st as it comes: Rain or shine; earth shake or tremor free; departed or present. Go forth and live with purpose each day what you believe. One thing for sure, it will be a good hair day for me (Every day’s a good hair day when you’re bald).

~End flight~