The Candid Cross - Part 1 - An Easter 2013 Life Letter
March 2013



"Having spent time around "sinners" and also around purported saints, I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group: I think He preferred their company. Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had no pretense, Jesus could deal with them. In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged Him, and sought to catch Him in a moral trap. In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus.” - Philip Yancey

Hi Friends:

The adjectives that often describe much of our adult "world" and our social interaction in that "world" are words like "guarded", "safe", "reserved", "muted", "politely distant", "nice", "cordial", "measured" . . . well, you get the idea. For sure, some of us are just not that quick with words . . . or tend to be more introverted . . . yet God does not limit His "greatest" commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) nor His "greatest" commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to those with "Type A" personalities or those with hyper-social skills.

Truthfully, the motivation for most people behind the bent to be more "soft-spoken" than "outspoken" . . . the drive to "hold one's cards close to their chest" . . . is rooted more deeply in fearful political self-preservation than personality type or communication capacity. Hence, the inspiration behind Allen Funt's 1940's television show "Candid Camera" where the sole purpose was to "catch, record and replay" everyday people caught "off-guard" in slightly absurd, if not totally bizarre circumstances. This concept would prove so popular that Candid Camera (and numerous production clones) would go on to create new segments for 56 years . . . broadcasting nearly six decades of laughter at the expense of the most unsuspecting "man or woman on the street" . . .

 

Safe-Distance Churches

Oddly enough, the "culture of calculated distance" tends to be the case with even more regularity in the church than otherwise . . . in fact, you can bank on the truth that most churches are so predictable, patterned and program-centric, that it requires a rather routine amount of skill to navigate the measured "connectedness" typical in religious environments where you are physically close to hundreds, even thousands of lives.

At the same time, "nice" religious leaders who thrive on routine and regimen are typically ill-prepared to understand and empower those who push "careful convention" to the side . . . seeing zealous and demonstrated passion coupled with unbridled confessions of lofty goals and aspirations in church members as threats to leadership's control of the "apple cart" . . . threats that in their mind could only come from parishioners with self-serving agendas.

Often these same "nice" church leaders, as church health and growth expert Paul Alexander notes, are poorly prepared to "manage" destructive tendencies that linger in people right under their nose. In his article "Why Nice People Kill Churches" (see link), Alexander points out:

  1. Nice people have a tendency to hire/promote people that they like rather than people who are positioned to advance the mission of the church.
  2. Nice people avoid conflict.
  3. Nice people keep people on their teams well after the work has surpassed their capacity - in some cases the work surpassed their capacity from the outset (this exposes the weaknesses of and hurts the very person they’re trying to protect)

In summary, Alexander masterfully captures the long-understood principle that politically safe "surface-only" peace-keeper leaders don’t confront brutal facts and don't mine the best ideas out of their teams (because ideas are typically viewed as a threat to procedures and as such are viewed as the source and cause of conflict) . . . and as a result, “hallway conversations” take place and a lack of unity begins to undermine the mission . . . the very "mission" which "nice" church leaders so openly endorse and espouse.

Men on A Mission?

Even in "small groups", we find ways to maintain distance behind non-controversial opinions and responses . . . even going so far as to allow twenty percent of our "holy huddles" to offer eighty percent of the spoken "commentary". Why would transparency be prized in "community" when it is feared in our own marriages? Left behind in the haze of hesitation are the most soul-wrenching questions and soul-numbing obsessions. In defense of reputation and general acceptance, we find multiple ways to bury what Philip Yancey candidly acknowledges . . . "Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn't act the way we want God to, and why I don't act the way God wants me to".

When you stop to consider that 75% of the modern missionary and cross-cultural evangelism movement has been propagated by women, perhaps John Eldredge rightly offers that a church culture of containment and "distance-control" is most harmful to men,

"Every man was once a boy and every little boy has dreams, big dreams . . . but what happens to those dreams when we grow up? Walk into most churches, have a look around, and ask yourself: What is a Christian man? Without listening to what is said, look at what you find there. Most Christian men are . . . bored."

Even in churches where regular attenders affirm the importance of a pastor that "keeps it real" in the pulpit, Eldredge, Yancey and numerous others would likely add that the candor of many passionate men in the Bible would be viewed as a cancer in the "community of the careful". When you reflect on Caleb's 85 year-old pronouncement,

"I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then." (Joshua 14:11)

or Job's transparency of the soul before God,

"If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target?” (Job 7:20)

or Peter's audacious promise

“Even if all the others reject you, I never will!” (Mark 14:29)

when you reflect on these "all-in" men of God, you encounter faith-filled personalities that were unafraid of lives close at hand . . . and lives at a distance . . . knowing exactly where they stood . . . and you can't help but wonder . . . am I living out my faith . . . or just around the faith?

The Great Sifter

Then you come to Easter . . . and the closer you get to the cross of Christ . . . or perhaps better stated, the closer you get to the Christ that would hang on a cross for you and I . . . the more you realize that the King of heaven did not tip toe into a fallen dying world through some safe politically-correct self-help conference focused on you being the best version of . . . you . . . attaining all of your dreams and your goals and your more. When you examine the suffering Savior, you find the spiritual bar raised to it's highest point . . . and your mind can't help but remember the very words of Christ . . .

"Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." - John 12:25-26

Don't feel too alone today if you find yourself more positioned to think about God in terms of what you want from Him for "your life" . . . versus understanding that apart from Him you have no life . . . for the disciples who had spent three years with Jesus were obviously still stuck on self and self-preservation when they shockingly asked as is recorded in Mark 10 . . .

“'Teacher',” they said, 'we want You to do for us whatever we ask'. 'What do you want me to do for you?' He asked. They replied, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory'."  (Mark 10)

Imagine Jesus finding the very ones He invested in extensively for years wanting a share of His glory with no thought for anything but their own ego, their own aspirations and certainly with no intention of putting any "skin in the game" . . . how they failed to understand the cost of glory . . . how they failed to understand that He had not come to rally the "reserved and respected religious" nor the "fair-weather fans" of divine favor . . . but to ransom their life back from eternal spiritual death and the devil . . . and the price tag for that ransom payment would be His very life poured out as a sacrifice their sin.

The passion of Christ indeed becomes the great sifter . . . separating those who are bent on building their own enterprise at the expense of investing in others . . . you know, those who lose it all because they thought it was enough to pretentiously "live around the faith" . . . from those who understand that life in a man's soul can only come through the costly "anything but safe" investment of One who is greater, stronger, purer . . . hope and help can only be found through the death and resurrection of a sinless Savior . . . and to accept His mercy and receive His life necessitates and equates one gratefully following His lead . . . choosing to "live out their faith", heeding their new Master's words . . .

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” - Mark 10:42-45

The cameras are rolling today . . . oh not the Hollywood type of course . . . these are heaven's cameras and they are positioned in such a way so that everyday people like you and I would not be put to shame or embarrassed . . . but so that when that one day, that one hour . . . when that one moment occurs . . . where we are 'caught" by heaven's mercy and recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life . . . a replay can be shown forever to a cloud of cheering witnesses . . . a replay testifying to the unspeakable joy on our face when heaven's grace transforms us from our mission to His . . . at the foot of . . .
. . . the Candid Cross.

(Coming in Part II of "The Candid Cross" . . . the story of how one man alive in his faith in Christ is transforming an entire community)

David "JB" Miller

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:1-2


Resource

Why Nice People Kill Churches
By Paul Alexander on his Ministry Blog


Artists Corner

"Be Lifted High" by Elevation Worship,

 

Lay down my rights
Lay down my life
I will abandon
All of my pride

Focus my eyes
Away from myself
You become greater
I become less

You be lifted high
You be lifted higher
I belong to you
I am nothing without you

Jesus be all
Consume every part
My greatest desire
I give You my heart

Focus my eyes
Away from myself
You become greater
I become less

In every victory
In every trial
My soul will sing
Be lifted high

With every heartbeat
All of my life
You will forever be lifted high


"I Have Decided" by Elevation Worship

 

I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back

Though none go with me
I still will follow
Though none go with me
I still will follow
Though none go with me
I still will follow
No turning back, no turning back

Hebrews 12 says . . .
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Jesus, we give You our praise, You're our greatest prize, our greatest treasure and we will forsake everything to the joy of knowing You. We worship You alone in this place.

Everything
All I am and all I have to bring
I will give to You my everything
All I am and all I have to bring
I will give to You my everything
All I am and all I have to bring
I will give to You my everything
All I am and all I have to bring
I will give to You my

Everything (and I will follow, my heart surrenders)
All I am and all I have to bring (my Jesus I am Yours)
I will give to You my everything (and I will follow, my life in Your hands)
All I am and all I have to bring (my Jesus I am Yours)
I will give to You my everything

Everything
All I am and all I have to bring
I will give to You my everything
All I am and all I have to bring
I will give to You my everything

 

 


Follow us..
.

Share us...