My wife and I watched an incredible film last night entitled, Father of Lights. (Website HERE) We had an awesome discussion afterwards, and even though it was almost 12:30, I had a hard time falling asleep. A couple weeks ago, I started reading back through the book of Acts, and what we watched last night completely goes along with what I’ve been reading.
All of this has forced one, burning question to the forefront of my mind: Where is God?
I almost surrendered to the desire to write this post in the throes of insomnia, but I decided against it. My initial thoughts about American Christianity, in reaction to the film, would have spilled onto the pages of this blog as judgmental and quite the opposite of Christ’s love. I hope and pray that after waiting until the early morning hours to gather my thoughts, it won’t come across in that way.
The book of Acts documents the very first Christian martyr in history, Stephen. He stood up to the religious leaders of that time and accused them of murdering the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Needless to say, they didn’t take that very well and had him stoned for it. Even while being pummeled with rocks that were slowly ending his life, Stephen cried out “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” That reminds me of another story about a certain Nazarene being nailed to a tree.
Saul, before his conversion to Christ and becoming the Apostle Paul, zealously persecuted the early followers of Jesus and violently attempted to destroy the newly forming Christian church. People were dying for their faith and for making the choice to step off the wide, pleasurable highway and onto the narrow path leading to eternal life.
There are stories that echo throughout history of men and women losing their lives because they were not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even now, in other parts of the world, it’s happening.
I guess my question has changed somewhat. I need to add something more to it. The further I study the Bible and seek God’s face, my question becomes this: Where is God in our American version of Christianity?
Does that seem somewhat harsh? Maybe. Does it make people uncomfortable to question what everyone accepts as true Christianity? Most definitely. Before you label me as someone who hates church, let me say this. I, without a doubt, believe that God can do anything anywhere He chooses. For me to say that God is not in today’s churches would be like trying to place Him inside a box and actually, laughably, attempting to limit His power. God is bigger than a building. He is bigger than religion. His awesome reach isn’t limited by, well, anything.
My concern is this: when I look at the early church in Acts, read the stories of sacrifice and death in the name of Jesus, and then look around at today’s version, I see two radically different pictures. Some would say that we have freedom of religion in our country that allows us to worship God whenever, and wherever we so desire. That may be true, but there’s still something missing.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:22 “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Satan is the ruler of this planet we call Earth. Sin and darkness encompass the entire world. We, as Christians, should be so different, so set apart from everything, that the world looks at us and has one of two reactions. They either see something they have been missing in their life, and they won’t stop until they find out what it is, or they want to punch us in the face.
Some would argue that we need to do things that cater to the unsaved, the lost and worldly, so that we can get them into our church. Then, they at least get the chance to learn about God and might even get saved. Where in the Bible did Jesus ever say “Let’s look like the world so we can get them to come to us”? He didn’t. He said GO. Go into all the world. Be in the world, but not of it. You see where I’m going with this.
When is the last time you saw someone lay hands on a blind man, and his sight was restored? Recall a time when you raised someone from the dead. Have you instantly healed a sick person? A cripple? These events were running rampant throughout the early church in Acts. Why aren’t we seeing the very same things today? In American Christianity? Sure, this stuff happens in other countries, but why not here? Jesus said we could perform the same miracles He did, and then some. (John 14)
Have you ever stopped to truly digest that? Why aren’t we living like we have that power?
If we strip away all the noise, the smoke machines, the big crowds, the bright lights, the technology, the videos, the hype, are we left with Jesus, or emptiness? We must have our own faith to stand upon when the storms come, and they will come. We can’t cling to the coattails of those whom we believe possess all the knowledge and power of God. If we truly believe that Jesus is the only way to God, we too have that very same power.
Truth isn’t a belief, religion, degree, or creed. Truth is a person, a being, and that is Jesus. He is the way. He is the truth. He is the life.
I believe that in order to come face to face with the God of this universe, we need to step out of everything we feel is comfortable or accepted as the norm. We need to love those who have no one. We need to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Don’t look at someone as being different because their skin color isn’t the same as ours. Don’t judge the teenage girl with a baby. Don’t ignore the homeless or the ones who have nothing to eat.
God isn’t some mean person holding a magnifying glass over an ant hill. He is open and available for us to cultivate a magnificent relationship with, and He desires that with each and every one of us. My prayer is that we have the courage and faith to follow Jesus no matter what the cost and regardless of what we have to sacrifice in order to accomplish that goal. Let’s stop being a spectator to what is happening all over the world, and let’s jump headlong into the battle.
Where is God? I will let you decide that for yourself. If God is present, we will see His amazing power. If He’s not, then we are no different from the rest of the world.
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Have a blessed day,