It’s Friday, and I’ve decided to take the day off. After our school’s Bible and Mission conference (two weeks ago) and a discipleship training (this week), plus the hundred and one other responsibilities that teachers have on their shoulders (What? You think all we do is teach? Shame on you!), I determined that I need a little rest.
And what better way to rest than to fill my mind with all things theological (and a few things that are not). Come “relax” with me, if you will.
“He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim 3:6).
Conversion stories can be edifying. And to some extent, Christians have a duty to bear witness to their faith.
However, the Christian media has a bad habit of touting celebrity converts. When a celebrity converts to Christianity, they often become instant spokesmen (or women) for their newfound faith. They are interviewed in both Christian and secular venues. They appear at Christian events as keynote speakers. That sort of thing. But there are three or four obvious problems with this:
If they are new to the faith, they lack the theological knowhow to be a spokesman for the faith. Minimally, they need at least a few years to bone up on basic Christianity theology and ethics. Bible study.
In addition, they may simply lack the intellectual aptitude to be a public spokesman for Christianity.
But there’s a deeper problem. Today’s novice may be tomorrow’s apostate. New converts are too unstable to parade around. They need some shakedown time. Time to get rooted in the faith. Time to develop a tested faith. The passage of time is a winnowing process. It deepens the faith of some converts while weeding out rootless converts. Seed time is not a good time to distinguish the tares from the wheat. Wait to watch them grow. Do they flower or wither? Are they fruitful or fruitless?
The very act of showcasing a newbie convert is destabilizing. This positions them for the fall. They aren’t ready for the spotlight. Too much attention can be destructive.
This is my third time to release a list of pet peeves in as many years, oddly enough with the same amount of time between each release. For a previous release, see here. Again, “a pet peeve is a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying, to a greater degree as others may find it.”
For this list, I would like to limit my pet peeves to “Christian” things (note the use of quotation marks) or the things I see around church and things done by church-goers. I intend to graft one peeve from a past list and provide more detail here.
Here they are:
The ad nauseam repetition of the word, “Lord” in one’s prayers. As in, “Thank you, Lord, for this morning’s service, Lord, and for the good weather, Lord, and Lord, we would like to confess our sins, Lord, because you are holy, Lord, and we are sinful, Lord, and you demand holiness from us, Lord, and Lord, please take care of Mrs. So-and-So, Lord, as she is having her check-up today, Lord, and also her family, Lord…” (I suggest you say the prayer out loud to hear how silly it sounds.) Sometimes, the words “Jesus,” “Father,” or “Father God,” are substituted for Lord. It doesn’t make the prayers any less painful to listen to. Two reasons why I really find it hard to even like something like this: First, it is annoying. On a sub-note, it is also an indication that the guy (or girl) leading the prayer has absolutely no idea what the prayer is about and is mentally providing filler material to pad out the prayer. Second, it is distracting. Try pretending a conversation with someone, and that someone repeats your name every two or three phrases. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Some of you might argue that since the prayer is directed to God anyway, it shouldn’t matter what we think. True, but so what? Maybe that would be a consideration should the prayer be a private one, but what if it is done in the corporate setting and prayer is done corporately as a body? We shouldn’t be sidetracked by a lot of sputtered nonsense from the one assigned to pray, capish?
Related to No. 1, sort of. Christians I know have this really annoying habit of shouting “Amen” to every bit of utterance by the speaker. I have no problem with believers giving a hearty Amen! when the speaker quotes a passage from Scripture. This means that they are giving accord to the promises of God in the Bible. But what about those times when listeners just shout amen to every darn fool thing the speaker says? Imagine a scenario like this:
Pastor (or speaker): I have an impression from the Lord that he wants us to build a bigger church!
P: The Lord wants to heal your sickness, sister!
In cases like the ones above, obviously these are not promises from God being bandied about. They are merely examples of wishful thinking on the part of the speaker.
Apropos the last point, don’t you find it odd when speakers actually beg for an amen? (“Wala bang Amen! diyan?“)
“Jesus is the answer!” Right, so what is the question? Of course, since the Bible talks about Jesus and since Jesus is central to the proper understanding of Scripture, in some sense, Jesus is the answer. But it bothers me that people would treat Jesus’ name like some money-producing pendant to be used for good luck. I find it especially annoying when, confronted with another soul’s problems, Christians assume that “accepting Jesus into your heart” is the way to go.
Christian songs that have little theological foundation.
“Power in Prayer.” Don’t let me even get started on this one.
***************************************** On the other hand, I dig this:
In a previous post, I rather creatively expressed disappointment with a sermon that I heard. It was very frustrating to sit through the entire message when the speaker said nothing of great significance about the passage he used, and instead merely used the passage as a springboard to talk emotionally about himself. Needless to say, I was not in a very good mood after the message. Not at all.
Friends, I do not claim to be the best preacher in the world. I leave the title to the likes of Spurgeon, Edwards, Lloyd-Jones, and the rest. I do however value the word of God and I absolutely abhor people who would take his word in vain. It is ironic, in my opinion, that we take the command against taking YHWH’s name in vain too seriously, but neglect the fact that many are guilty of emptying God’s word of any meaning in our sermons. For a lot of preachers, the word of God or Scripture is merely an add-on to the message, something to add legitimacy to their mindless and silly ramblings.
I spent the majority of the afternoon updating my notes on New Testament Survey, while at the same time listening to a variety of sermon/discussion MP3s. It didn’t strike me until the middle of my updating that it was already the seventh of February! It was only recently (like yesterday?) when we were worried about the annual smog Philippine new year celebrations bring, as well as the potentially disturbing number of lost digits and/or limbs resulting from our nationally ingrained, pyrotechnically-centered revelry to welcome a new set of three hundred sixty-five days.
So where did the days go? And how come it’s already the closing of the first week of February? Where did the time go? Heck, I even heard one guy on the radio counting down to Christmas 2014!
Forgive me. It is not every day that I muse on time and its passing. It is only now. See, something happened while I was updating my notes. I was adding information on John 1:1 when my mind was suddenly reminded of a bit of news which I heard recently. A church-mate of mine passed away due to cancer. Specifically, primary lung adenocarcinoma, which spread to her brain and liver. This wasn’t an old person–a person who’s led a long life–but rather a young woman who’s a few months younger than I am. It was the re-realization of her death which made me think of the time. A great comfort for her family is that she’s now beyond suffering.
News like this of course makes us wonder all about our life here on earth, and other matters such as, have we lived a full, meaningful life?News of death also makes us think of eternity and where we will be spending it. It is really an eye-opener to realize that not only lying, but death is a great equalizer–everybody lies, so everybody dies–but it’s also a great pride-squasher. We don’t live forever and we start dying the minute we’re conceived.
Back to the calendar: So it is the 7th of February. How much breath do you still have in your lungs? If you’re young you might think that you still have decades and decades left, but don’t be too sure of yourselves. Your life can end as easy as it takes to blow out a birthday candle.
Now do you see why bad sermons irritate me? Preacher, you are given the most wonderful of privileges–to preach the Word! You don’t know how many more days you have to expound the beauty and majesty of Christ, so why waste everybody’s time on useless and silly trivia?