photo by abdulaziz almansour

i sat in a bible study, confused look on my face.  it wasn’t because we were a little more than a year into a two year study of revelation.

what confused me this time was Daniel.  not the book, the person.  my friend leaned over and said, “yeah, this happens.  all of a sudden you realize that the snapshots of stories you learned in sunday school were never quite linked together.”

the Daniel who wrote prophesy was the same Daniel who was thrown into the lion’s den for praying.  this may not be earth-shattering for some, but it struck me hard.  not only  because i had not put such a seemingly-obvious 2 and 2 together to realize this before.  i was confused mostly because i wondered how many other linkages had i missed over the years.

another one struck me recently, and this, not of sunday school legend, but from the pulpit week after week across churches all over.  here is a quick snapshot of a large number of sermons that, if you have been in the church for very long, you have heard most, if not all.

  • Jesus giving apostle authority to cast out demons and heal every kind of disease and sickness
  • Jesus instructing apostles not to go the way of the Gentiles
  • Jesus’ heart and instruction for the apostles to go to the lost sheep of Israel
  • Freely we have received, freely we should give
  • A worker is worthy of his wages
  • Whoever does not receive you, leave and shake the dust off your sandals
  • we are sheep in the midst of wolves
  • be shrewd as serpents and meek as doves
  • when handed over, do not worry about what to say for it will be given to you by the Spirit
  • it is not you who speaks, but the Spirit who speaks in you
  • brother will betray brother
  • we will be hated because of His name
  • the one who endures to the end will be saved
  • a servant is not greater than his master
  • nothing is hidden that will not be made known
  • what He says in the dark, speak in the light
  • do not fear those who kill the body; fear the one who can destroy both soul and body
  • you are more valuable than two sparrows
  • the hairs on your head are numbered
  • confess Him before men and He will confess you before the Father
  • Jesus did not come to bring peace, but a sword
  • he who loves family more than Jesus is not worthy of Jesus
  • take your cross and follow Him
  • he who has found his life will lose it and he who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it
  • he who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward

twenty-five sermon topics, multiplied by the number of different ways each topic can be explored.  that pretty much covers a vast majority of sermons we hear ever week.  here’s the kicker.  every single one of these topics is in the exact same passage of scripture.

when reading through the list, and realizing that this is all in one breath of Jesus, it blows me away.  what a foundation for the life of a believer!  what a solid, firm, true bedrock from which to understand faith and life and ministry and enemies of the Word of God.  in 42 verses, Jesus outlined twenty-five of the most powerful messages the church preaches.  yet the church has parted them out for the sake of palatability.  there comes a day when an infant shifts from passively receiving the spoon-fed meal and looks beyond the spoon to reach for the greater supply of food.

in an effort to piece-out the scripture into chewable bites, we have lost the whole.  and as a result, we have settled for a soundbite Jesus who relies on affirmations over well-developed content.  WE ARE MISSING THE BOAT!  Jesus was not about a soundbite; He was about teaching.  He built foundations and encouraged faith.  He warned of persecution, preparing His people for the reality before them.  He is more than a fortune-cookie saying.  He is so much greater.

out of fear that telling new believers that life may very well have them persecuted, hated by their family, and threatened with death, we have lost the power of the gospel.  we have dumbed down Christianity–opting for quantity of believers rather than quality of truth.  seeking another notch on the doorway, we lose the power to truly spread the gospel.

but the truth is, people don’t want the dumbed-down version.  in our quest to believe something more palatable for ourselves we are offering a glass of skim milk to a generation longing for full-fat ice cream.  believe it or not, the world doesn’t want to commit to a milk-toast, bland existence.  they want more.  and we, as the church, have robbed them of that opportunity.

in the United States, many feared that the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 would kill recruiting for the military.  after all, what person would rationally choose to join the military when the reality of war loomed.  the truth is, recruiting sky-rocketed.  people flocked to join the armed forces, drawn not by flashing advertising, but by the deep desire to sacrifice their life for something greater than themselves.  knowing war was reality, knowing they would be deployed, and forsaking the cries to do otherwise, people signed up.  and determination for something greater quieted any call to the contrary.

like it or not, we are in a spiritual war.  and yes, you signed up for it.  but so many have opted to get slack, to lose their passion, and to simply receive the benefits without looking for more.  it’s time that we stop passively receiving spoon-fed spirituality.

this is not a call to demand more of your pastor or bible study leader.  this is a call for you to demand more of yourself.  stop settling.  and you will see the vast storehouse of fulfillment Christ offers.  reach beyond the spoon and search out the source of the message.  grab the dish for yourself and dig in.

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