Furlough Wanderings

No matter how much I study and analyze my wife, it won’t produce further intimacy between us.  I believe little has done to seekers more harm in knowing God and following Jesus “as a little child” than theology and our obsessive, religious study of God and His word.  This may be called heretical as many evangelical churches’ existence revolves around the study of God’s word.  But the condition of the church today is a real concern and must be prayerfully analyzed.  Could theology and study of God and His word kill the very thing we were created to have with our Father – closeness and union in relationship (see Jn 17)?  Jesus didn’t call us to study, but to love.  He didn’t call us to know about Him, but to know Him.

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After observing the church in various cultures and walking with Jesus for thirty years, I question the emphasis on study that many evangelicals consider “biblical”.  So many Jesus followers today are sincerely seeking to grow with God, so they seek more input and “deeper” teaching from books, churches, teachers, etc.  They study, read, sit under great teaching, study, read and hear more good teaching… and are told that even more is necessary!

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“Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study will wear you out.”

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Study, memorizing of Scripture, and gaining knowledge can make you feel good about yourself and your “faith”, as can all things that satisfy our flesh, but it always ends in short-term self-satisfaction and long-term tired emptiness and discontentment (like all God-less pursuits).  Can bible study and teaching be a God-less pursuit?

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“But while knowledge makes us feel important (arrogant), it is love that strengthens the church (and edifies another).”  Parentheses mine

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Primary motives for many to attend church include: to learn about the Kingdom, to gain knowledge about how to live, to purse “truth”, to grow spiritually, and to “experience” the Holy Spirit.   So we have churches full of people who know the bible better than anyone in history and/or people with goose bumps and chills (religious experiences), where the absence of the Holy Spirit is demonstrated by their inability to love each other.

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Bible-quoting church people have all the answers.  There is no personal conversation with them, no exploration of mystery and normal human uncertainty.  Today’s “christians” are “fix-it” people who lack empathy, compassion and time for a brother.  I’m writing to me…

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We live in a time when brothers hate brothers (of course, they don’t call it that) and lead successful ministries.  How can this be?  Because “ministry” today is about knowledge, measurable success, size and “saves” and not about intimacy and love.  We have mega-“churches” where love is sacrificed for “success” (numbers).    They have thousands of people who hear wonderful teaching but have little interaction or relationship with each other.  How many people can you truly love?  We do not need to learn to “know what we believe and why we believe it”, we need to learn to love and be loved.  I know a missionary to Africa who said that the godliest people he knew were a few simple village women who knew a few bible truths, believed them and knew God’s love and it poured out to others.

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If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;* but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

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Why are today’s church-goers defensive and easily offended?  Why does our faith have such trouble handling storms and difficulty?  Why do so many church-goers reject God and His ways after hearing so much good teaching?  Because we need to study more?  We are the Pharisees of bible times.  Jesus got on them because they so studied the scriptures (which were written to lead men to Him) and had no relationship with Him.  We live on ever-shifting, unstable sand; we “hear” and learn so much information and don’t “do” what Jesus told us to do.  And what is “doing” but realizing His love for us and loving?  Jesus said quite clearly what He considered “the work of God”.  We do “good deeds” but do we love the people that God places in our lives?

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I have seen theology (study of God and bible) produce arrogance rather than humility, leaders rather than servants, and division rather than unity.  I’m sorry, but we don’t need more shepherds, teachers, evangelists, and signs and wonders.  We need love among the brethren.  By this they will know you are my disciples…

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Couples live separate lives in the same home.  We are critical of people who disagree with us.  “Christian-ese”, and cliché so fill conversation among church-goers (usually using outdated “bible” words like sin, repent, righteousness and holy) that any kind of interpersonal vulnerability or transparency is impossible.

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Today, let alone throughout history, the vast majority of the world’s population doesn’t read and doesn’t own a bible!  Is the Kingdom reading, studying, learning about, and imitating Jesus (WWJD) or is it walking with Him?  Is there a difference?  Is more study and teaching what we need?  How is that working?  Could it be that we have so missed it?  Should, perhaps, our emphasis be on love and not on knowledge?

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“We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.   The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”

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And not only our brothers and sisters, but also our enemies!

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Jesus’ Kingdom is about three things (my theology):  1) That we know and grow in His profound, undeserved, grace-full love for us, 2) that we know and grow in His profound, undeserved, grace-full love for us, and 3) that we know and grow in His profound, undeserved, grace-full love for us.  As a church we live in unbelief of this primary Kingdom fact, for ourselves and for the isolated people in the African outback, Sahara desert, mountains of Nepal…

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KNOWING His love for us results in a love for God and our fellow man that is not possible without a certainty of His love and care for us.  Though we can study and preach and teachwe CANNOT love without knowing His love firstAnd if we don’t love the brother who is offending us, we don’t love God.  The Kingdom is about love.  Period.  Nothing is more foundational in the Kingdom.  Being a missionary is about love.  Nothing more.  We abandon love and make it about success, souls saved and churches planted.  Worship is about love.  We abandon love and make it about instruments, goose bumps, melodies and form.  Evangelism is about love.  We abandon love and make it about preaching and persuading and answers.

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I know some people who recently went to Honduras to build a playground in a broken neighborhood.  No strings.  That is beautiful.  I can no longer listen to people preach about our need to spend hours studying the bible and hearing more teaching.  We devour books, spend hours in the Bible and go to churches which have become isolated clubs of seekers with their own culture and language, separated relationally from the rest of the community.  There are so many broken, hurting people who need our love while we are studying and hearing another teaching.  I believe it breaks our Father’s heart to hear His children talk about loving people in order to save or convert them.  We are to love regardless of any response, with NO ulterior motive.

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Knowledge is part of the foundation of any relationship but it is not the key to growing intimacy.  Interaction (sharing and listening) is key.  The bible was written as a letter (a communication) from our passionately loving Father.  There has never been any communication more beautiful and we benefit greatly from knowing our Father’s heart for us as expressed and demonstrated in the bible.  Reading and rereading a letter from a loved one certainly helps reaffirm closeness in relationship.  By analyzing and “reading between the lines”, we can, however, completely miss the message.  For what purpose did God communicate to us through the bible?

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Why do we study so?  Perhaps because we do not believe His love for us or see His grace as sufficient.  Do we need further convincing because we really don’t believe?

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We must remember that to believe is a daily choice.  As is to receive our Father’s love and to love.  God has made His reality clear all around us, if we will see it.  I’ve heard that Augustine’s faith became real while meditating on the wonder of a tree.  We don’t need to study as much as we need to converse with Him who holds us so dear.  We don’t need to evangelize, we need to love.  We need to abandon self-interest, success, achievement, and self-esteem for the benefit of the person in front of us.  We really need to remember the concept of giving while desiring NOTHING in return, even from God (love).

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“I am for separation of church and hate” was a bumper sticker I recently saw on one of those cars that had a dozen bumper stickers plastered on its back side.  Sadly, it is a valid observation and one that, I believe, Jesus would affirm.  The “church” spoken about on the sticker is not lacking in knowledge.  I believe this separation will only happen when we lay down our theology, our “understanding” and our need to “be somebody”, and turn our focus to knowing our Father’s love for us and placing first the welfare of our human brothers and sisters (love) while forsaking whatever prevents us from doing so.

6 comments

  1. Well said Tim. That is something I see even in my own life. When I feel like I haven’t done anything in a while, I need to go study/read. NO instead, it should be “go and pray and meditate on God’s glory, go love on Him.” THAT is what brings about joy and intimacy. I needed to hear that this morning. Glad I checked my email before going to “study” : )

  2. Brilliant! Very well put. Thank you for sharing from the heart. It’s good to know someone else feels these things. 🙂 Refreshing.

  3. Like our friend says, “Satan doesn’t care which ditch you’re in, just so you’re in a ditch.” We can totally neglect the study of God’s word or we can study God’s word to the neglect of our relationship with Him and others. Either ditch is good with Satan. Thank you for not being afraid to speak what might be an uncomfortable truth for some…like me.

  4. I agree, Tim! Are you turning emergent? My pastor recently said we need to change our approach which has been “come and see” to “go and be”. That sounded like a good description of an “emergent” approach to missions. I think a demonstration of Christ’s love will be more effective at making disciples than any of the evangelism gimmicks we read and apply.

    Dave

  5. Dr. Kubacki,

    WOW!!! Well said!!! I know some people who are wrapped up in the legalistic ways of the Bible (from all their teachings and books) that they have forgotten about the LOVE of the Bible; so much so that if I were to send them this post they would dismiss it.

    It is my prayer that more people will come to understand what the true meaning and purpose is of the Bible and God sending His Son.

    Thank you for taking a big step and writing this. Good luck this week and in Africa!!!

    Paul

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