Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Boxes and Tape

You are the boxes, I am the Tape; apart from Me, you can hold nothing.

I've been dealing with boxes today. At work I was carrying around a box that had some steel pipe in it that I was working on. I was under the impression that the bottom was taped together, however it was not. The four flaps were only interlocked so as to provided a false sense of security, I thought the box would carry almost anything and stay together, however the bottom dropped out from it. I was let down by the box as I found out it was not taped. I cast it to the ground in anger as my parts spread all across the shop floor.

Sometimes we as people are like boxes. We have boxes in our lives that give us a false sense of stability or security and these boxes help us to carry on, but only lead us to be dissappointed when these boxes eventually burst open from the bottom spilling the contents of our lives out. We feel let down, violated, and even more insecure then when we started off. So we cast our box or boxes to the ground in anger, go find another box that is bigger/newer/more dependable, gather up the contents of our lives, put them into the new box and go on only to find that this box shares the same weakness as every other box. It isn't Taped at the bottom. Whether the box is ourselves, someone else, a job, or something else is irrelevant.

When I put the box back together by interlocking the 4 flaps I went and found some Tape and made the box stay together. I returned the parts to the box and it held just fine.

Boxes are important, and adding a little extra strength to them by interlocking the flaps is a wise course of action as long as you are not trusting on the interlocking of the flaps to save you. The Tape is what holds your box together and keeps the contents inside and will give you a true sense of security. We are even more like boxes when you think of how dirty boxes can get. They get covered in oil, dirt, water and all the other stuff in this world that would cause the Tape to stick very poorly. Fortunately when we seek after the Tape, and realize our need for the Tape, the Tape gives us a new box, it's clean made of plastic so that when it does get dirty the dirt won't stick or ruin the box.

I may be trying to run this analogy of our relationship to Christ a bit too far, but the truth is still there. Without full dependance on Christ we will be continually let down.

Now here I am, wishing I had some packing tape for the boxes that I need to put stuff in so my parents don't have to worry about my stuff.

Thanks for being my Tape Jesus. Without You I'd fall apart at the seams. You hold me together, have given me new life, a new name and taken me as Your own. I'll praise Your name forever. I love You!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Syncretism part 2

I've been wrestling with this idea of syncretism for some time now, and how far does this go and to what extent are our lives defineded by this style of living.

Perharps one of my greatest quandries is this. How do we remain culturally relevant without becoming apostate in how we carry out our beliefs. In ministry one wants to be culturally relevant to reach out to the unreached. The problem this presents is that in order to separate people from their paganistic beliefs we often dismiss anything they may use in their cult practices as evil soley because it is used in the worship of other "god's". For example: In the native american tradition they use many drums and chants and other things that are of great tribal importance to them. Unfortunately they use this stuff to pray and call upon other spirits. Now earlier in missionary outreach, the "great white savior's" insisted that these things and practices get completely abandoned because they were used in spirit worship and idolotry. Our thinking has greatly changed in the past 10 yrs. as God has shown us that Misuse does not negate Proper Use. This is key, because earlier we would have said that native american Chistians who still used these things and chanted were syncretistic and were sinning. We see now that this is why native americans were so put off by early attempts to reach out to them. Now they have been taught that these drums, and other culturally important items/practices were simply misused, and that to use them properly in worship to Yaweh is okay.

So this opens up a huge can of worms. We see that God has begun to move amongst the native americans and other people groups suggesting that these idea's about cultural relevance are correct and working well, none the less not negating the fact that we should be noticeably set apart. A nation of priests as it were.

We know in the old testament that the Israelites were not to eat meat sacrificed to idol's, but yet we also know that there are no such things as other god's. All they are is stone, wood, metal, etc.. Our God is bigger than these things, which is why Paul says it is okay to eat of such things, unless a brother who is weaker in spirit and who may stumble because of your freedom witnesses you eating of these things. Still when in Ephesus, Paul never slept with temple prostitutes, sacrificed to idols or took part in these things so that he could remain culturally relevant in order to share the gospel (despite his when in Rome speech). He did quite the opposite. He said that all of these things were meaningless and worthless. He preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and ministered in the power of the spirit.

So then, what shall we say? Pine trees, giving of gifts, egg hunts, bunny rabbits, throwing of flowers and garter, dressing up in costumes as weird stuff, and other culturally relevant things. Do we do these so we can be relevant? Are they simply being misused and we need to learn how to use them properly and show the world how to? Or do we need to do what Paul did and cut these things out of our lives and do the opposite.

One of the reasons I love kid's church and teaching with Paul B. is that when these holiday celebrations come upon us we buckle down and teach the kids the history behind these holidays and why they were originally so important. We do not give out bunny rabbit candies at Easter or decorate eggs (both of which are symbols of fertility), or scary stuff around halloween, or santa stuff around Christmas, but emphasize in a world were these things have been forgotton (just like Israel) the importance of such celebrations and why we still celebrate them. Otherwise we risk apostacy and where we celebrate these things with our mouths but our hearts are far from Him. They are on gifts, candy, fun, games, and most importantly ourselves. The Israelites suffered terribly from this and the consequences were tremendous.

So there is a definite tension between cultural relevance and syncretism. Where the fine line is I do not know. I think we as Christians have crossed that line in many places, but haven't in others. Some good questions to ask about a practice or celebration would be, will this give glory to God? Am I opening up opportunities to witness and influence the lives of unbelievers? Why am I doing this? Is it because of tradition, or is there something more?

Lord reveal your heart to me regarding these things. Help me walk out this line between syncretism and cultural relevance. Let everything I do give glory and honor to you and let your kingdom come and be advanced in my life. I trust that as long as you are leading me, I will not fall in to apostacy or syncretism. So lead me and guide me. Teach me your ways.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Syncretism by definition is the reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief ex. Religion.

Flashback to the time of Moses. He was an old man now and already knew that he would not go into the promise land with God's people because of his disobedience when he struck the rock. He soon dies and God raises up Joshua as Moses' successor. He shows the people that He is with Joshua just as He was with Moses. We see in Judges 1:27-36 that Israel did not complete the conquering of the land of Canaan. They instead put some of the people to forced labor or allowed them to live in the land. After Joshua died we see in Judges 2 that they did evil in the sight of the Lord by worshipping Baals. As Israel ages and goes through ups and downs we see the mixing of cult practices. Cult practices meaning any religious practices a belief system has (not to be confused with occult). When God made the covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai He forbade them from doing certain things. In return He would be their God and they would be His people. He would lead, provide, and protect them and doing anything else needed. All He required was obedience. As we see, Israel began to disobey and break their part of God's covenant with them. They first didn't destroy all the people in Canaan and all their idol's/god's. This eventually led to the cohabitation (unequally yoked???) of God's people and pagan's. They lived, worked, and played amongst each other. Israel eventually begins to ignore God and worship foreign god's or baal's. Over time we see the development of a syncrotistic society. They worship God with their mouths, and even the required offerings, but their hearts were far from Him. They would oppress the poor and the foriegners, they committed open adultery amongst themselves, and even had homosexual relationships throughout their history. What does God do? He pulls His favor from them. He quits guiding them, no longer provides for them, and allows their enemies, the very ones they were supposed to have destroyed when they first entered the land, to oppress them and then others would eventually conquer them. They broke the covenant that God had made with them and they suffered the curses that came as a result of this violation.

Fast forward to the present. Syncretism, how does it apply to us? We can look at many things in our lives that we celebrate or are just common practices that have roots in pagan practices. Bear with me while I list a few examples. If you take for example Christmas. It falls around the same time as the winter solstice which in the N. Hemisphere occurs on Dec. 21. Many early peoples would celebrate the death of the falling son and the birth of the rising son. For a pretty good history on the winter solstice go here: http://www.religioustolerance.org/winter_solstice.htm. You'll find that many of the things Christians do in celebration of Christmas are well rooted in other pagan traditions that were blended together by emperor Aurelian around 270-275 A.D. The giving of gifts, decorating pine trees, holly, and a whole slew of others that are found on the link above. Paul B. Made a good point that I was disenchanted to agree with, but now have had a change of heart. Check it out. It's titled "Purity in Wedding Practices" and can be found at:http://www.paulbeaulieu.blogspot.com/. We celebrate many other holidays and do many other practices that have roots in pagan traditions, and if anybody takes the time to search this out I think they will come to a similar conclusion.

So, what to do. I'm not suggesting that we abolish celebrations or weddings, birthdays, gift giving and the like, but that we do them in the proper context and we weed out the things that are rooted in the world. Is that extreme? Yes. Do we serve an extreme God? Yes. Is He faithful and just to forgive? Yes, but as Paul said that doesn't mean that we should continue sinning so that His grace may abound. I know that right away people will begin to think that my view is legalistic. I encourage you not to make a judgment call on what I write, but check out the links above, search out the history on some of the things we as Christians do, and find out what the Bible has to say about such things. I'm all for offering alternatives to worldly practices, as long as they do not conflict with scripture and are not rooted in worldly practices that traditionally have connection with the worship or glorification of things or people other than Jesus. Celebrating the birth of Christ, His death and resurrection, and other things are fine. The thing that I believe that is important is that we abstain from mixing in things that are of the world and have paganistic roots. The giving of gifts is a wonderful thing, but not when it is generally done around certain times of year and because that is the "thing" to do. There should be no time of year for this gesture, but should be done out of love for each other and as an expression of the love that Jesus has shown us. Whether material or immaterial is irrelevant.

The devil's advocate in me argues that all these things are an issue of the heart and even though they have paganistic roots, they are innocent in nature. None the less God forbade the Israelites from practicing or even wearing things that the pagans used in their cult practices. Por ejemplo: The mixing of two types of cloth in the old testament. This does not apply to us today, but in that time pagan cultures would mix two types of cloth together to symbolize the mating of the god's and the mating of the god's was supposed to bring agricultural abundance and blessing. This is why it was forbidden. There are no existing cultures that do this today as far as we know so it's not something that would apply to God's people (us). However there are things that we could apply that same logic to.

I find it interesting that ancient cultures had meaning behind most of the things they did. Even their names were important. In today's "civilized" western culture we have lost meaning in most of the things we do. Names are simply a tag that someone wears until they die, rather than an extention of who they are. Many if not most of the things we do during celebrations are simply traditions that we carry on. Why? Why not, I did it as a kid, it was kinda fun, don't want my kids to miss out. Maybe it's time to stop and think about why we do certain things and the meaning behind them. To take some time and search out the history behind our practices to find out if they are truly innocent and if we should indeed just go with the flow and never rock the boat.

Lord, give me wisdom, and understanding regarding the issue of syncretism and how and where it is rooted in my life. You are a jealous God who wants all of me, not just part of me. I don't want to withhold any part of my life from You. Search my heart and reveal the areas in my life that I've merely taken as harmless tradition and help me to change them. If I am reading into things to much and the enemy is trying to pull me away from you by binding me in legalism, then rebuke these things and set me straight. However, if this is indeed You telling me it's time to return completely to You and to reject anything that has roots in the cult practices of other religions or worldly traditions, than continue to reveal more truth to me. Lord I love You and only You. I seek Your will on these things, let Your kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven, and let Your will be done.