Friday, October 30, 2015

The Chicken Who Crossed the Road

Did you know that Chick-fil-a has a secret recipe for a pork sandwich? It's true. Hidden in a vault at their corporate headquarters, the company has a contingency plan, should the world ever face a chicken shortage of cataclysmic proportions. Chick-fil-a's leadership recognizes that their real business is serving their customers good food in a warm, friendly environment. Chicken is what they're known for, but it's not essential to what they really hope to achieve in the marketplace. So if one day you find yourself ordering up a Deluxe Pork-fil-a sandwich with waffle fries you'll know why.

These days, it seems everything is negotiable at Chick-fil-a. Remember in 2012 when Dan Cathy, the president and COO of the company, said he was "guilty as charged" when it comes to supporting the traditional family? He said, 

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage." I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

He later said, on behalf of Chick-fil-a corporate,

We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit. ... We intend to stay the course. .... We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.

Almost overnight, Chick-fil-a became a scourge to the politically correct left and those who support so-called gay marriage. Corporate partnerships with the Jim Henson Co. and Harper Collins Publishers dried up. The mayors of Boston and San Francisco publicly announced Chick-fil-a was not welcome in their cities. And Chicago made moves to block a second store from gracing the Windy City. But despite all this pressure, God seemed to be blessing Dan Cathy for standing by his biblical convictions. Chick-fil-a sales increased 12%, or 4.5 billion—that's billion with a b—in 2012.

But what a difference a few years makes! Today, Chick-fil-a is an official corporate sponsor of Level Ground, an LGBT film festival whose mission is to "create safe space for dialogue about faith, gender, and sexuality through the arts." Seems a bit outside the "We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition. ... We intend to stay the course" mandate set by Dan Cathy. 

They say you are what you eat. I guess Dan Cathy eats a lot of his company's product. "I think the time of truths and principles are captured and codified in God's Word, and I'm just personally committed to that," Cathy said in a 2014 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The bottom line is we have a responsibility here to keep the whole of the organization in mind and it has to take precedence over the personal expression and opinion on social issues." Just two years after the controversy erupted and most of America stood by the company, making it even more profitable, Cathy changed his public statements. No longer is the Bible the final word. Now it's market share. 

If only there were a jackass to stop this chicken in his tracks.

No, I'm not making reference to Donald Trump, and my intention is not to be inflammatory. Dan Cathy is behaving like the biblical Balaam, and I pray that God brings him someone like the donkey in Balaam's story to get his attention and remind him of the truth.

Balaam, for all his faults, heard from God and knew exactly the right course of action to take when Balak, the king of Midian, came to him seeking a curse upon Israel. But Balaam would not go all in for the Lord. He continually entertained compromise. He took small steps toward disobedience, and eventually he found himself an enemy of God. You see, Balaam could not reconcile his calling from God with his desire to increase his personal bottom line. He sought compromise between the definitive word God had spoken and his love of money.

But in the middle of Balaam's ever-so-subtle rebellion, God opened the mouth of his donkey to confront Balaam in his sin. If a talking donkey couldn't get his attention and put him back on the right path, nothing would. In the end, Balaam chose his own destruction. He didn't directly disobey God—he never cursed Israel at the behest of Balak—but he did figure out a way to get some of Balak's money. He told the king how he could get Israel to bring down a curse upon themselves—by tempting them with sexual sin and idolatry (Numbers 31:16).

The Bible warns us about people who follow Balaam's lead: "They have followed the way of Balaam,  the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing ... For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved" (2 Peter 2:15, 17 ESV). The Holy Spirit, through the apostle Peter, is not mincing words. I believe Dan Cathy is a good man, but I believe he's making a grave mistake by compromising his beliefs to appease those who advocate a lifestyle that stands brazenly against the gospel. A few folks may feel better about themselves and about their favorite chicken sandwich, but Dan Cathy is headed down a dangerous path. My prayer is that you and me—and millions of believers across the country—might become the jackass he needs to hear from right now. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Why We Ought to Believe Every Word

Like children who have never missed a meal, who go to bed safe and warm each night, and who are surrounded by the loving reassurances of their parents, when things get tough, we can still have trouble believing that God really will provide for our needs. But here's the amazing thing—the Bible never says God will merely provide for our needs. It says, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9 MEV).

But let's take a step back. Before we approach those things that we can't even imagine, let's consider some of the things God's Word tells us plainly. When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He announced, in part, "He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19 NASB). But do we really believe that? Sure, on some level, most of us would say yes. But then why do so many Christians feel captive, oppressed, or that the Lord is angry with them?

And what about what Jesus told His disciples, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12 ESV). Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, turned water into wine, and walked on water, among other things. But how many of us believe that we will do greater things than these?

I ask this not in a spirit of accusation or condemnation but instead recognize that if I'm pointing a finger, there are three pointing back at me. And I wonder if those who have been chastised for not believing the Bible—for not really believing what it says about homosexual practice, adultery, abortion, etc.—would pay attention to the prophetic voice of the church if we truly believed every word. I wonder if they would feel loved if we believed every word—really believed every word—that God has spoken. We would be people of shalom—people who know their Dad has everything taken care of, living as our Creator intended, free to love and not to worry.

Have we missed something? In our efforts to be relevant, accessible, and consumer-friendly, have we lost sight of what Abraham knew—what Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and every lover of God down through history has known? There can be no greater goal than to know God intimately, to experience more of Him with each passing day. In the early church, there was no shortage of persecution, no limit to the cost many believers paid for their faith, but men and women were drawn to Christ because they saw His Spirit alive and active in the church. These early Christians did the things Christ did—they healed the sick (Acts 3:1-10; 5:12-16), raised the dead (Acts 9:40; 20:7-12), and spoke words of prophecy (Acts 11:27-30; 19:6), among other miracles, signs, and wonders. And lest you think these experiences were limited to the apostles and their close friends, try to make sense of 1 Corinthians 12–14, which describes the gifts of average Gentile Christians.

The Bible is clear: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). God has not changed. It is we who have moved, who have stepped out of sync with His Spirit.

But maybe this is our moment—our opportunity—to put aside everything else and seek His face. In setting aside our traditions, our denominations, our secondary doctrines, I don't mean we should toss those things in the trash. Rather, what if we just put them down for a divine moment in order to look to Him unhindered, that we might believe every word He has already spoken in the Bible and every word He wants to speak to our hearts? What if we became people who truly humbled ourselves and sought his face (2 Chronicles 7:14)?

What if the Christian life is not merely about sinning less but about loving God more? What if in our attempts to seek His kingdom—some through holiness, some through social justice, and others through evangelism—we've missed the forest for the trees? What if all those trees—good and right and proper as they are—will never bring the shalom we need?

What if seeking more of God is the way to seek His kingdom?