Burnt Out Pastors

One of the big reasons we hold our Apollos discipleship class at our church is so we can train everyone as to how they can work with the Spirit and figure out what kind of anointing they have to operate in. This way we can all operate as a body of believers rather than take on the ideology that many American churches cling to:

  • Someone’s in the hospital: call the pastor.
  • Someone needs to be saved: call the pastor.
  • Someone needs to be prayed over: call the pastor.
  • Someone needs counseling: call the pastor.
  • Someone needs etc: call the pastor.

You get my point.

Now as a pastor, I actually enjoy doing these kinds of things, but we are ALL called to do such things. We are a royal priesthood and all gifted uniquely. Part of the role of a pastor is to help and train the church to discover that gifting and prep them for ministry. We all must work together to make this thing work.

This was put on my mind this morning when I came across a conversation Jethro had with Moses in Exodus 18:13-27.

It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God socommands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.”

So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge. Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into his own land.

Moses had to put others in positions of power so that he wasn’t the only one doing everything. He had to stop himself from burning himself out. Numerous churches today have the same issue. There’s no need to put absolutely everything on the pastor when we are all the ones called to ministry. This is the Biblical approach.

By the way, I’m not writing this because anyone’s put me in this situation. I’m just writing it because it’s on my mind.

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Favorite Worship Artists and Albums

Sonicflood

In my personal opinion, this is the best album Gotee records ever put out (and considering the album went gold, many must agree with me). And when I mention Sonicflood, let’s be clear that I’m referring to the original Sonicflood that released a debut self-titled album and a live album entitled Sonicpraise. I am not talking about the band that kickstarted INO records by taking on the same name with nearly all different members.

A friend of mine had bought Sonicflood’s first album for me as a moving-away present back in about 1999. I had heard their hit I Want to Know You, but didn’t know much about them otherwise. And so I threw it in my portable CD player and was almost immediately addicted to it. I don’t know why. This was well before I played any instruments so I could only understand the beauty of their music to the extent that my ears enjoyed it, but I still loved it.

This was the first worship music I had ever heard that was incredibly intimate and rocked out at the same time. It was also the first music I heard in which the songs weren’t trying to be three minutes a piece. The songs were as drawn out as the band wanted them to be and it was perfect that way.

I even happened to see them live at the very first concert I ever went to. They opened for the Newsboys and even though they only had about 15-20 minutes to play they must have only gotten through two songs altogether. I didn’t understand the repetition at the time because it was before I had a charismatic bone in my body.

And then, in 2001 when their live album Sonicpraise came out, I threw it in my CD player and rarely took it out. There was something magical about this album just like the first one. I listened to it for hours and scratched it up pretty good. I especially couldn’t stop listening to their Spontaneous Worship track which was a whopping 9+ minutes—way beyond what any Christian record label would have put out at that time.

Why was I so attracted to this? What was it about this album?

I now believe that my attraction was to an anointing God had put on this album. It had been blessed and turned into a true worship project. It was highly musical, incredibly genuine, and ground-breaking for its time. The spoken words that started the album must have literally done something in the spiritual realm:

We love you Jesus. Manifest your presence through this album and through the lives of these men who go out commissioned by Your word to be worshippers of the true and holy God. And making disciples in Jesus name.

You could see even more of their desperation for God in the hidden track, which is about three and a half minutes of discussion of the album.

Again, the original Sonicflood isn’t around anymore, but their lead singer Jeff Deyo has been writing and releasing some great albums you should look into.

Jesus Culture

As of right now, my favorite worship band would have to be that of Jesus Culture. The first time I had heard of them was when a friend of mine had used a video of them singing How He Loves in a presentation she had given in a worship arts class. I remember being captivated by it, but I didn’t look into the band until David Crowder Band made John Mark McMillan’s song an even bigger hit than Jesus Culture did. Soon the whole Christian realm was aware of How He Loves and many were pointed to the live recording that Jesus Culture had done.
That’s what happened to me. I posted a review here on my blog about David Crowder’s version of How He Loves and someone left a comment telling me to check out the Jesus Culture version. After watching the video I was immediately overwhelmed. I had to get some of this band’s music. Why? I think it was because I hadn’t heard any music that had been so anointed since the original Sonicflood albums.
Jesus Culture is probably gaining popularity more than any other worship band right now (even Relevant Magazine recently wrote an article on them), and they’re doing so by playing long extended songs full of passion and spontaneous praise. They don’t want to succumb to industry standards, they just want to worship. And with it, I believe a generation of worshipers is being unleashed. On top of that, many are turning to Bethel Church in Redding, CA where Jesus Culture is based. Because of this, many are learning of the gifts, miracles and phenomena of the Spirit that take place there and are running to learn more about how God can do such things in their own life.
I think my favorite album of Jesus Culture’s would have to be Come Away, but I can’t help but push you to buy everything they’ve released. It’s all spectacular and anointed.

Bethel Music

Since I’m on the topic of Jesus Culture, I might as well mention Bethel Music. This is the church I just mentioned above in my overview of Jesus Culture. Bethel is home to Jesus Culture and therefore their albums have all kinds of artists on it—from those in the Jesus Culture band, to others who lead worship at Bethel. The original songs coming out of this church are quickly making their way into mainstream churches and even into mainstream worship leader’s new albums. Bethel does so many amazing things and in my opinion is one of the leading churches that God is putting over America right now. I stay on top of not only the music they release, but what their church is doing through a subscription to iBethel.tv.

All Sons & Daughters

I only discovered All Sons & Daughters a few months ago, but I was immediately taken by their music. That’s honestly a bit strange for me because their particular genre is one that I’ve heard a lot of over the past few years and am not usually smitten with. But strangely enough I found myself wrapped up in their music and quickly buying everything they had to offer. There was something very genuine about their music and I got to see it firsthand when they played a concert at my alma mater just weeks after discovering them.

It was incredible. I’ve never seen a band with no drummer sound so full. It was truly a time of intimate, stripped-down worship and I was very moved by it—even after discovering that they were more or less a church worship band! I’ve noticed recently that a lot of church worship bands are trying to get their music out there when they probably shouldn’t be. But All Sons & Daughters is one of those church worship bands that the Christian music realm desperately needs and desires.

You have no need to buy all of their EPs because they just released an album entitled Season One, which has almost all of their music to date, plus two new songs.

Jeremy Riddle

Jeremy Riddle is closely connected to Bethel Music and has even released a few songs on Bethel’s albums. He is an amazing worship leader with a great atmospheric rock sound and lyrics of desperation. His album Furious is an amazing album that can really help you enter into the presence of God. His song One Thirst and Hunger is among one of my favorites of his and I use it in our church’s worship services quite regularly. Outside of that his song Always is among one of the most peaceful and beautiful worship songs I’ve ever heard. I love to set an atmosphere and just blast this song in all of it’s ambient-prayer-closet-beauty.

Cory Asbury

There are few studio worship albums I probably listen to more than Cory Asbury’s Let Me See Your Eyes. If this dude writes a song, you better believe it’s going to be catchy, born out of desire, and full of Scripture. On top of that, I’ve never known any worship artist to succeed at so many different kinds of genres. I get excited anytime I catch live him on IHOP.

Cory Asbury would also have to be king of the fast songs in the Christian music worship scene. There are so many good slow worship songs out there, but so few fast ones. Cory is able to operate on both sides of the table—whether it be the joy and uplifting sounds of the upbeat side of things, or the desperate and worshipful cries of the deep, intimate side of things.

This man is truly anointed by God to be a worship leader and you should definitely grab his album. And while I’ve been patiently awaiting a new album from him, I’ve also grown addicted to an album he worked on with Matt Gilman entitled Holy. Both are well worth a purchase.

Pas Neos

There’s another IHOP artist outside of Cory Asbury that I am in love with named Pas Neos. These guys are still pretty new to the scene but they have done something that few worship bands have ever done so well: electronica.

I am a huge electronica fan. It’s actually more or less my favorite genre. And now that it’s taking over the radio I’m that guy who gets to yell at everyone and say, “I’ve been listening to that kind of music for like a decade! I was obsessed with it when no one else would listen to it!” And no, I’m not a hipster.

This band is straight up indie-electronica and they do an amazing job at it. Their lyrics are also so Scriptural that the words they use in their songs can catch you off guard at first. They really push you to think of what they’re saying. It’s one of the most intriguing worship albums to come out in a long time and I am so incredibly happy that it has come out of IHOP.

IHOP

“Man Jamin,” you say. “I’ve never heard someone reference pancakes so much when talking about worship music.”

“Yeah, I actually get that a lot,” I reply.

But if you’ve been in the worship scene for awhile, you probably know that when I reference IHOP, I’m not talking about the International House of Pancakes, but rather the International House of Prayer. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was made aware that there was a place out there that hosted 24/7 worship and that you could watch it online. I was immediately intrigued and spent many hours streaming IHOP into my room. In fact, I have it streaming right now.

The IHOP musicians can literally play one song for an entire hour on the IHOP worship stream because they know how to dwell in a time of worship. Half the time they’ll make up the song on the spot by singing Scripture. It’s no surprise that such amazing music would come out of this House of Prayer. Both Cory Asbury and Pas Neos mentioned above have come out of Forerunner, the label associated with IHOP.

One of my favorite live albums that has come out of IHOP is Onething ’09. This is another great album to look into if you’re looking for more upbeat fast songs for your worship sessions.

Shane and Shane

Shane and Shane visited my campus one semester and a friend of mine couldn’t stop talking about how amazing their worship session was after they had left.

He was right. Shane and Shane had just released their album Pages which was full of some of the most intimate lyrics I had heard in a long time. They opened the show with one of my favorite songs of theirs, Vision of You. This was one of the most intense “inviting-the-presence” songs I had ever heard before. Their beautiful voices soared over the music and drew the entire audience into worship.

I only walked out of the room for a few minutes and that was so I could buy their album. I now own several of their albums and press you to listen to all of their works.

Matt Redman

Not only is Matt Redman a great worship artist, but he’s also a great author. Actually, I did a lot more reading of his books before I really got into his music. I mean, I knew his big hits like everyone else (like Better is One Day, Heart of Worship, and Dancing Generation), but I hadn’t really listened to a lot of his music up until recently.

Fortunately, because I had read some of his books before I got into his music, I was able to truly see the passion he had for leading and writing worship music. I was especially moved by his album 10,000 Reasons. It had great songs all the way through it and was full of true worship and praise. If you haven’t listened to this album yet, I suggest you buy it along with one of his books like The Unquenchable Worshipper or Mirror Ball.

David Crowder Band

 

David Crowder Band has always been one of my favorite bands, especially for their work on A Collision (Or 3+4=7) and their latest and final album Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]). Crowder has some of the most interesting and creative worship lyrics. Even more so, he has some of the most intriguing music. You can’t play half these songs at your church, mostly because they’re too amazing. Even some of their most simple worship songs that are played in churches all the time throw worship bands off. Sure the chords may be G D Em C, but you hold out the C an extra measure on this pre-chorus, two measures on the second one, and one and a half measures on the third.

But that’s David Crowder for you and you have to love it.

If you’re looking for a simple prayer closet album, check out his debut, All I Can Say, which many have overlooked in the success of his most recent albums.

And just a heads up: even though David Crowder Band is now officially broken up, most of the band members of DCB have started a new group called The Digital Age. They’ve released a few glimpses of what they sound like and it is AMAZING. Here’s a video of them doing their own take on All Sons & Daughters‘ song All the Poor and Powerless.

Chris Tomlin

Like I even have to mention Chris Tomlin. This guy has written (or at least made famous) many of the worship songs every contemporary church plays. This includes songs like: How Great is Our God, Our God, Forever, The Wonderful Cross, Famous One, We Fall Down, Indescribable, Holy is the Lord, Enough, Made to Worship, Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), Jesus Messiah, God of This City, and I Will Rise.

Again, he didn’t write every one of these songs, but he at least made the majority of them famous. He’s perhaps the most well known worship leader because he writes some of the greatest, catchiest, thoughtful, wide-spread worship songs we’ve ever heard.

And if you like all of the Tomlin songs I just mentioned, just buy How Great is Our God: The Essential Collection, because I literally just gave you the track listing.

Worth Dying For

There are many other worship groups I could mention, but I want to end by mentioning a newer group called Worth Dying For. I discovered them when they released their album Love Riot and was captivated not only by the music, but by the genuinity of their worship. It was some of the best rocked out worship music I had heard in a long time. They also just put out an amazing live album Live Riot.
Also, feel free to download some of my own worship music for free here.

Battling Temptation

It’s Lent right now and with that in mind, I want to take a quick look over the passage in Luke 4 where Jesus fasts in the wilderness for 40 days. I then have a few pointers on both temptation and protection that we can take away from this story.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. (Luke 4:1-15 ESV)

Aspects of Temptation

Temptation can come at high points. Jesus was tempted by satan “when the days were ended” (v2). Some of the hardest temptations to fight can come after a perfect day or at a high point of completing something. You may find this to be true in your own life if you pay attention to days such as these.

Temptation can question your calling and identity. The devil tried to trick Jesus into sinning by questioning who He was. Jesus has seen His calling and position as Son of God and Messiah many times throughout His life so far, but satan tires to question him as to if that’s really true. “IF you’re the son of God” then you can turn stone into bread. When satan beats you in a temptation, he’ll often question your identity all the much more. “You’re a Christian? Really?” “God doesn’t love you.” “God is mad at you now.” “You must not have the Holy Spirit.” He wants you to think of yourself as less than you actually are: justified in Jesus and a son or daughter of God.

Temptation can be quite logical. Jesus was hungry and apparently the time for fasting was over. It’s time to eat. The devil’s temptation to turn stone into bread has a logical argument to it. Later Jesus is offered authority and glory of all the kingdoms of the world. The logic could be that Jesus could make a big difference with such power and authority. And while it doesn’t seem logical to jump off of a temple, being caught by angels would make a spectacle of Him to everyone around. Imagine Jesus floating to the ground. “Hello my people. I am the Messiah. Come now and follow me!”

Temptation can come with satanic deals. We tend to joke about it, but there are people who sign their lives over to satan and make deals with him. They worship him and become his servants because satan promises them authority and power on earth and in Hell. And through witchcraft and other demonic means they begin to make a spectacle of satan on earth. But they don’t realize that satan is a liar and a deceiver. he is always looking to backhand you. he has no honor and will turn on you.

Temptation focuses on the moment, not the effects after. If you’ve ever struggled with temptation (or if you’ve ever been human) then you’ve realized that temptation sounds really good when it’s on your mind. You wouldn’t be tempted if it wasn’t pleasurable to you in some way. The devil never told Jesus what bad things would happen if he bought into the temptation as that would only push Him away from it. his temptations really just focused on that moment. But you can believe that satan had evil intentions behind his temptations that would come into place immediately after or at some point in the future.

Temptation can be truthful. Is satan always lying? Yeah, pretty much. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t say truthful things to try to trip you up. After all, he does masquerade as angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Did you realize in Luke 4 that satan actually used Scripture in attempts to tempt Jesus? That’s right, satan knows the Bible too, and he’s great at twisting passages to get what he wants. That’s why one artist in particular draws satan as a holy man in his portrayal of this passage.

Temptation can be in all kids of areas. For Jesus, the first temptation was to break His commitment and spiritual discipline before it was time. The second was to take on false power and authority. The third was to simply be awesome. We fight these same temptations today and hundreds more.

Temptation is empowered visually. In this particular passage, satan backed up all of his temptation with visual examples to make it all the more irresistible. “Command this stone to become bread” (v3). “he showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time” (v4). “he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple” (v9).

Temptation is persistent. I wouldn’t be surprised if the arguments Jesus had with satan were more than one statement from satan as temptation can be quite persistent. For example I can see the first argument being a bit longer than it was.

satan: Turn this rock into bread.
Jesus: Man shall not live by bread alone.
satan: Yes, but man does eat bread. You can eat something else later.
Jesus: I will eat when God allows me to.
satan: But your fast is over. You should be allowed to now.

Temptation will always return. “When the devil ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (v12). The devil is always looking for a weak point. He may disappear for a time, but he will return with a strategy to try to break through your castle walls by searching for a weak point.

Aspects of Protection

Fasting. This spiritual discipline may make you feel physically weak, but it’s there to grow and empower you. In fact, despite how weak Jesus may have felt after 40 days of fasting, it appeared he was ready to defeat satan when he came along and His fasting may have empowered Him all the much more to do so.

Memorize Scripture. For every statement satan made, Jesus had a Biblical rebuttal to give. “Man shall not live by bread alone” (v4). “You shall worship the Lord Your God, and him only shall you serve” (v8). “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (v12). Quoting Scripture is especially helpful when satan uses Scripture to tempt you. Some people will hear satan quote to them a Bible verse and have a moment of false revelation rather than open their Bible to find out what other passages have to say.

Be dependent on God’s voice. When Jesus quoted “Man does not live by bread alone” He was probably implying the rest of that verse as well. Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “Man does not live by bread alone but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Jesus’ instructions to eat were coming from satan’s voice in that moment, not from God’s voice. And therefore, it was easy to recognize this as temptation.

Don’t entertain temptation. N.T. Wright states in his book Luke for Everyone that “Arguing with temptation is often a way of playing with the idea until it becomes too attractive to resist.” Jesus doesn’t play with any of the ideas satan offers. He is very quick to offer rebuttals rather than give satan’s questions and thoughts any airtime in His mind. Jesus’ answers are solid and to the point. There is no hesitation whatsoever.

Recognize the Holy Spirit when temptation comes. This may sound odd, but Matthew 4:1 points out that “Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” And we see that that leading comes from the Holy Spirit in Luke 4:1. God may actually create time for temptation and allow you to be tempted by the devil. But this is to grow you and empower you. Stay faithful to God, because, as 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Identify satan! Here’s a rather obvious point: if it’s coming from satan, don’t do it. If you were able to see this creepy demonic character standing in front of you, it would be obvious to you that you should not do anything he says. But it seems that we will do more fighting in our minds with temptation. Learn to discern. Who’s speaking? God? Your flesh? Or is it satan?

Understand your authority in and under God. Could Jesus have turned stones into bread? Yes, He doesn’t debate that. Could Jesus have survived the jump off the temple? Yes, He doesn’t debate that either. See, that authority was there in Jesus, but he subjected His authority to God’s will. I believe Christians can be empowered with authority—whether it’s earthly authority or supernatural Heavenly authority. But with that in mind, I believe that God trusts us to respect that authority and use it correctly in many instances. For example, I’ve heard too many stories of people who get a word from God about someone and they announce it to everyone from a stage rather than go to that person in private. Or in some cases they try to interpret a vision for someone when they should have just told them the vision and let them interpret it. The authority and empowerment is there, but it’s used incorrectly in some cases such as these.

Put on the armor of God. Put on the armor that is mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-2o. Keep in mind, this armor is God’s and it is to help you in the battle. But if you don’t put it on and stay on your guard, you might be easily attacked. “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Study yourself. What are your weaknesses? When are your weakest moments? Where does sin have a stronghold on you? Use your answers to prepare and defend yourself. Unplug the computer. Don’t go to that store. Don’t be around those people. Go on a walk or find another way to flee from that moment. Fast every time you fail and add a day each time. Remember, temptation is persistent. You would do well to have a battle plan, especially if satan is waiting for an opportune time to attack.

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Defining Religion

So perhaps you’ve seen that Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus video rolling around YouTube and Facebook. If not, at least nearly 19 million others have. Check it out really quick:

Those are some powerful words right there. In my opinion what the dude has to say is valid and quite real. Unfortunately, however, I’m not sure “religion” was the right word to use.

Over the past few years, religion has become an incredibly vague word. It’s definition by the current generation seems to be: everything about Christianity that I don’t like or have had a bad experience with. With such a definition, it seems that the entire world has a different idea as to why religion is bad.

  • One person had a bad encounter with theology and doctrine so they accuse it of being “religious” rather than freeing, as it is intended to grow you with God and show you more of who He is.
  • Another person had a bad encounter with spiritual disciplines. Someone got so involved in fasting or prayer, or reading their Bible that they ignored the rest of the world. They accuse them of being “religious” rather than authentic.
  • Someone else attended a church with so much tradition that they stopped paying attention to the point of it all and started to accuse everyone associated with that church as “religious.”

It’s weird, because everyone agrees to accuse religion of being evil while no one ever opens up their mouth to explain what exactly religion is. Now that being said, check out this Catholic priest’s rebuttal to the video you just watched:

What’d you think of what he had to say? Is he right? Wrong?

My personal opinion: both of these guys are saying the exact same thing. Actually, I was waiting for someone to make his exact same comeback, because when “religion” is targeted, typically what people have in mind are the things I mentioned above: theology, spiritual disciplines, and tradition. And who better to make a comeback on all of these things than a Catholic priest as the Catholics do a better job at practicing all of these things today than most of our Protestant churches do.

But if you really pay attention to these videos, I think what you’ll actually find is that they are both mad at hypocrites—not religion. This is because they both have a different understanding as to what religion is.

See, Jesus understood the difference between simply being religious and actually pursuing God. Check out Matthew 6:16-18.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The hypocrites in Jesus words are the religious ones. They have the right action with the wrong heart. They’re fasting looks as though it’s for God, but in actuality it’s for them. They are looking to gain attention from the people around them so that they’ll be seen as spiritual. You can’t look at these people and not see how physically hungry they are. That’s religious fasting. True fasting—according to Jesus—would be to put some makeup on, take a shower, and walk around with a smile on your face.

I would define actual religion as “a pursuit of God with the wrong heart.” From the outside it looks right, but from the inside it’s not. In fact, it’s not even a pursuit. It’s a false pursuit. And because of my definition nearly anything can become religious.

  • You study so much doctrine and theology for the sake of education and debate that you miss God amidst it all.
  • You fast to get others attention, not God’s.
  • You raise your hands in worship because it makes you look spiritual.
  • You pray because you’re good at putting words together and others can see and hear you.
  • You speak in tongues so others will be in awe of your gift.
  • You practice tradition because you’re going through the motions and not because you’re remembering or learning anything.

But don’t you dare think for a second that these are religious activities in and of themselves. Consider them more as neutral activities. If you pursue God through theology, fasting, worship, prayer, tongues, or tradition, they become avenues of growth and authentic Christianity. But if you do not pursue God through theology, fasting, worship, prayer, tongues, or tradition, they have a pretty good potential of becoming religious.

Jesus offers freedom. Religion offers bondage. This is true, but we need to learn do discern what is religious and what is not. Because there are plenty of religion-hating Christians out there today who wouldn’t realize they could easily accuse Jesus of being religious. Check out Luke 2:41-51.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold,your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

Now of course Jesus is not being religious here, but He did do some things in this passage that people today would accuse anyone who wasn’t Jesus of being religious for:

  • His family was observing the traditional, religious holiday of Passover and following the customs they were supposed to follow as good Jews. On top of that, Mary didn’t necessarily have to attend this feast but she did anyway. Some would accuse her of being a religious overachiever.
  • This passage mentions Jesus is 12 years old. At this age, Jewish boys would gain the title “son of the law” and undergo a course of instruction, learn to fast, and attend public worship.
  • Jesus probably had amazing theological insight. The fact that the teachers were amazed by His questions means He had some pretty amazing answers for these well-educated men.
  • Jesus got so involved in being at church and carrying on intelligent conversation about God that He just set his family aside for three days while they panicked looking for Him. And when they finally found Him, Jesus replied as though He hadn’t even considered how they felt.

Some would call these things religious, but because it’s Jesus they would never do that.

I actually think this conversation is important. If we don’t learn to clarify what religion is, we will create an environment in which tradition, theology and spiritual disciplines fade all the much more (as though they haven’t done so already in Christianity today).

On another note, I’ve been tagging my posts under the topics of Christianity and Religion because I knew that plenty of authentic Christians would search for what I had to say under the topic of religion. Again, we define and consider this word differently.

Join the conversation and leave a comment. Do you agree with one of the videos above more than the other? Do you think they’re saying the same thing? Do you think they’re totally opposed to each other? I’m interested in your opinion.

Apollos: Prophecy

Both Moses and Paul wanted to see all of God’s people engage in prophecy, but many Christians today aren’t even sure what exactly it is. Even more so, most have no idea how they would go about practicing this spiritual gift. Learn more about prophecy with Jamin and the Apollos class at 1208 Greenwood: A Free Methodist Church in Jackson, MI.

Download the MP3 and the PDF (high quality or low quality) for this week’s discussion. You can also join the Apollos podcast via iTunes.

NOTE: If you visit the podcast on iTunes and the latest MP3 is not on there yet, do the following:

  1. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes
  2. Go to the podcast section in your library
  3. Right click on the Apollos podcast
  4. Click on “update podcast” on the pop-up menu
  5. The latest MP3 should begin to download

If for some reason this doesn’t work, the latest MP3 will show up on iTunes fairly soon when it has refreshed the RSS feed. if you want it immediately, just download it here.

Apollos: Introduction & History

We had our first Apollos class last night. If you wanted to make it but could not, I’m podcasting it so you can keep up with us. You’ll want to grab two things: the MP3 of our discussion, as well as a PDF copy of my Introduction handout. So grab either a copy of the high quality PDF  or the reduced quality PDF (they actually look almost the same but there is a 25 megabyte difference).

I will try to get the podcast onto iTunes so you can subscribe to it for free there. But at the moment it is in the process of being moved there. For now you can keep up with the MP3 podcast here. But check back here for the PDFs that go with each week.