*FYI, faith-related post follows*
What Would Gehazi Do?
For those who don’t know, the OT book 2 Kings tells the story of Israel’s almost-greatest prophet, Gehazi. Discipled under “I got a double-portion” Elisha, who was mentored by “I call fire down from heaven” Elijah, the G-man was third in line for an incredibly powerful supernatural ministry that in all probability would have shook the Hebrew people to the core with a witness of God’s reality.
Problem was he used his position, the prophet’s reputation, and God’s goodness to leverage bling and threads off a wealthy foreigner named Naaman, a grateful new believer who had just experienced a miraculous healing and a new lease on life. (2 Kings 5)
Rebuked, dismissed from Elisha’s service – and sporting a new skin condition to go with his new clothes – he spent the rest of his days as a Worship Consultant in Jerusalem, wowing Hebrew kings with stories of the ‘good old days’, no doubt impressing everyone with his spiritual pedigree and acumen.
Articles in the latest World Magazine on megachurch pastor Steven Furtick’s mega-house and the So. Cal reality show “Preachers of L.A.” (with Armani, Bentley, Rolex, and padded expense accounts all featuring prominently) has me shaking my head. Again.
Because it’s not like this is a new concern, or it hasn’t been articulated, dissected, and debated a gazillion times before. It’s just that the articles reminded me of the story in Barbara Tuchman’s ‘The March of Folly’ where the Borgia Popes commissioned crucifixes with Jesus wearing a money belt for a loincloth to illustrate Divine approval of wealth and opulence. (Or the Swaggart/Baker scandals which broke the same time as my entrance in full-time ministry. So thanks for that, bros.)
Look, I don’t begrudge anyone earning/spending their salary however they wish. Their money – their business. They’ll account to God, not me. But from the article, I’m guessing Steve’s life-verse is John 14:2 as opposed to say… Luke 12:15 or Matt.19:21. Given the massive needs in our world, (homelessness, poverty, illiteracy, sex-trafficking…) Jesus’ disdain for position or possessions, Biblical warnings against materialism, and the sorry state of evangelical Christianity in the West, you’d think the Lord would be texting Steve ‘peacock in the pulpit’ Furtick more on the lines of Haggai 1:4
And when one of the L.A. Revs says he loves the whole ‘rock star thing’ with women throwing themselves at him, pressing phone numbers in his hand, I get this greasy, hireling, so-not-like-Jesus vibe that makes me shudder. The bumper sticker “Jesus called – He wants his religion back.” springs to mind.
Bottom line is I’m all for being blessed in modern America. Thank God for it. I enjoy unprecedented levels of safety and creature comforts unheard of throughout history, and in many parts of the world right now. I take them for granted even.
It’s just that I have stock in the public portrayal of my faith. From where I sit, these men don’t model the person and principles revealed in Scripture because if you really get down to it, a Franciscan vow of poverty comes closer to the NT teachings than a Platinum Visa. Once again, America is treated to more steaming piles of conspicuous consumption in the name of Christ. Sketchy financial dealings, shady/sycophantic accountability practices, rationalizing self-gratification corrodes the credibility not just of their ministry but of the Gospel and Jesus. What these men are is screaming so loud no one can hear what they’re saying. It ain’t rocket science why some people want nothing to do with church.
I’m more reacting here than offering a 12-Step solution. I mean hey, it’s Christmas – time to give and receive – and quite frankly, I’m looking forward to receiving some stuff. End of the day tho, none of it’s more cherished than my family, valuable than my friends, or eternal like a soul. It’s about priorities. The issues of my inner-most being. All I can do is give what and where I can, then pray God to keep my heart.
After all, Jesus said where my treasure is, there will my heart be also.
Acclamations like ‘haunting’, ‘profound’, ‘powerful’, ‘poignant’ are pinned so casually on every donkey these days, it’s tough to describe your feelings when you actually encounter it. Having finished the novel last night, my sense at the moment is one of deep gratitude; that the novel was written, that I got to read it, that I’ve never experienced anything like the trauma of the Balkans in the 90s, that my life is so comfortable and blessed… I could go on. You get it.
This little book lands in the category of ‘one everybody should have to read’, not for it’s stark portrayal of modern war, but that it depicts the resilience of the human spirit despite them. It’s a testament to the stubborn notion that beauty and truth, love and art, abide despite cruelty. It’s one of those books I wish I was able to write.
You can read a plot synopsis and other reviews at the Amazon link below, but I for one genuinely recommend you purchase (beg, borrow, steal it even) and read it. It’s a worthy of being one of your first books for 2014.
It’s becoming less and less popular these days to identify with Christian faith. Truth be told, I’m less and less interested myself in being an ‘evangelical’ or ‘pentecostal’ or whatever label, but I can’t and won’t deny that 28 years ago Jesus Christ forgave me and changed me. At the end of the day, anything good in my life is from him – my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my friends, my work, my writing… all of it is ultimately from his hands. I’m grateful for the grace, mercy and help he has shown and continues to show me. Life can be random, scary, tragic, but I bear witness you can trust Jesus through it all.
Between sales and promos, hundreds of copies (yes, 300+. Really) of Soldier Dreams have gone out in the the world. If you’ve read it, would you be so kind as to fire off a quick review at Amazon? No guilt, no obligation, but Indie authors rely on those numbers, so any help would be greatly appreciated.
(of course, I could just create a couple dozen false accounts and shill my work, then pimp my services to other writers. Make $$ that way instead…)
On the cusp of the customary All Saints Day
The Christ-i-an kinsfolk made mocking display.
These children of light both to tease and deride;
Don darkness, doll down as the sinister side.
In pre-post-er-ous pageants and dress diabolic,
They hand to the damned just one final frolick.
You see with the light of the dawn on the morrow,
The sunrise will swallow such darkness and sorrow.