So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore – Part 3
The above picture is either funny to you or just silly.
Do chickens need running shoes? Maybe if he see’s a Filipino who’s needing the main ingredient in Adobo.
We are going to catch a chicken that doesn’t want to be caught so put on your running shoes and let’s start Chapter 3 of the novel, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore.
I’m almost convinced that John is really a Filipino guy. =) I’m just going to refer to him as Uncle (or Tito) John. Let’s look at the evidence. Tito John just randomly shows up. No appointments. No structure in his day. No concept of time. His demeanor is very relaxed and casual. He is filled with wisdom. You can reveal any secret (or rumor) to him. Yep, I believe in a court of law this would be proof that his nationality is indeed Filipino. Ok, let’s move on…..
Fast forward 5 months (in Chapter 3), Jake is still busy putting out fires and running around like a chicken with his head cut off, when he spots Tito John looking through a window during Sunday service.
There he was. There was no mistaking those eyes, and my heart almost stopped as I recognized him…He stood there with a frown on his face, and I remember thinking how awkward and out of place he looked in our building. I don’t know why he hit me that way. It wasn’t his dress. He was wearing a polo shirt and a pair of Dockers, more than appropriate for our informal California services. We had others with similar beard and longer hair looking like a holdover from the hippie days. He just somehow looked out of place.
(See, I told you he was Filipino.) LoL.
In this encounter, Tito John helps Jake reexamine the motives of his heart and why everything he thought he knew to do, simply created in him an emptiness. This would be a re-defining moment in Jake’s search for the truth.
There is an awkward and funny moment where Jake bumps into a young family that arrives late. ( I bet they were Filipino too.) LoL. A few Sunday’s ago, Jake gave a “major announcement” in being punctual to avoid distracting others as they worshiped. Major awkwardness, right…unless you’re Filipino, then it’s expected. =)
When my wife and I planned our wedding (or any event for that matter), we add a buffer time of an hour or several hours. Also isn’t it funny when we go to parties and say our good-byes (which includes bringing home some food) that it takes a very long time. My father-in-law does something smart to counteract the waiting process. He tells mom that it’s time to leave and instead of making his way to the car, he will continue to watch TV for about 30 or so minutes, then wait for mom to say, “Ok, I’m leaving now! Genius, right! =)
Here are the quotes I liked from Jake and Tito John’s pep talk. Feel free to read below or read the chapter online – http://www.jakecolsen.com/chapter3.html. You definitely don’t want to miss all those gold nuggets.
“Don’t you realize that the most powerful thing about this gospel is that it liberates us from the concept that God dwells in any building. For a people steeped in the rites of temple worship this was either great or terrible news. His followers thought it was great. No longer did they have to think of God as cloaked in the recesses of the temple, available only to special people at select times.”
“Do you remember what Stephen said right before they picked up stones to kill him” ‘The Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands.’ That’s when they turned on him. It reminded them of Jesus’ challenge to destroy the temple and he would rebuild it in three days. People can get very touchy about their buildings, especially if they think God dwells in them.”
“What’s easier for you to do, pursue relationship with the Father or your own sense of personal success? That’s the real test. It seems to me you wouldn’t be so desperate if it had really taught you how to know Father’s love. Instead, you’re so busy seeking everyone’s approval, including his, and you don’t realize you already have his approval.”
“Because you are struggling for the wrong thing. You think that you can earn Father’s approval, and that trap is one of the most diabolical. We’re approved not by anything we can do, but by what he did for us on the cross. Honestly, Jake, there’s not one thing you can do to make him love you any more today; and there’s not one thing you can do to make him love you any less either. He just loves you.
“It is your security in that love that will change you, not your struggle to try and earn it.”
“You know that morning you got the attendance pin? If that pastor would have really loved you, do you know what he would have said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we want to introduce a young man who has just completed a three-year span of never missing a Sunday school class. We want to pray for him because that means his family’s priorities are so askew that for the last three years they never took a vacation together. It means he probably came here when he was sick and should have been home resting. It means that winning a gold-plated trinket like this one and your approval is more important to him than being your brother. And not one day of his attendance will draw him any closer to God.”
“That might have been a little rude.” I countered.
(See I told you Tito John is Filipino. Case closed!)
“Isn’t it interesting how a group of people who get together regularly will eventually develop an esprit de corps, even down to how people dress, talk, what reactions they allow and what songs they like to sing. Isn’t it pretty clear here what being a good Christian is, and isn’t a big part of that not to make any waves or ask questions that make people uncomfortable?”
“One of the most significant lessons Jesus taught his disciples was to stop looking for God’s life in the regimen of rituals and responsibilities. He came not to refurbish their religion, but to offer them a relationship. Were all those healings on the Sabbath, or the recording of them just a coincidence that he found more sick people then? Of course not! He wanted his disciples to know that the rules and tradition of men always get in the way of the power and life of his Father.
“And it can be pretty captivating, too, because we all do what we do thinking it pleases God. No prison is as strong as religious obligation. It takes us captive even while we’re patting ourselves on the back.
“That’s why you can never relax, Jake. Even on your day off, I bet you have a hard time just doing nothing. You feel guilty that you’re wasting time that could be used for God somehow.”
…So intellectually you are still thinking of Father’s love, but intuitively you are being distanced from him. That’s the worst thing that religion does. Who is going to draw near to God if he’s always trying to catch people at their worst moments, or always punishing them for their failures? We’re too weak for a God like that. We will never be able to do enough to earn his love, and one slip-up and God’s right there looking down from above, ready to heap some calamity on us for failing to live up to his expectations. We use guilt to conform people’s behavior, never realizing the same guilt will keep them far from God.”
“Exactly. Relationship with him is his gift, freely given. The point of the cross was that he could do for us what we could never do ourselves. The key is not found in how much you love him, but how much he loves you. It begins in him. Learn that and your relationship will begin to grow.”
“That really isn’t the issue, is it Jake? I’m talking about your relationship to the Living God, not fixing this institution. Sure it would make for a drastic change. Instead of putting on a show, we would gather to celebrate his work in the lives of his people. Instead of figuring out how we can get people to act more ‘Christian,’ we would help people get to know Jesus better and let him change them from the inside. It would revolutionize the life of the church and the lives of its people. But it doesn’t begin there,” he motioned toward the sanctuary doors, “but here,” as he tapped himself on the chest.
Isn’t it wonderful how a novel like this has characters that we can relate to who experience similar struggles and victories. Maybe that is why we like stories of other people’s lives because it awakens something in us that we may have hidden or just couldn’t put into words. They’re an inspiration.
Folks, please please (to infinity) don’t think this novel is trying to discredit organized religion. It’s addressing the freedom in Christ we have that alludes so many believers. We teach about it but who is actually living it out. And when God shows you how to “break-free” from someone’s religious dogma, be sure of it that you will be cornered by them. As a matter of fact, if you cannot be controlled and/or align with their standards, you become a threat and liability who can “infect” others. We’ll see this happen to Jake in the following chapters. You’ll know when this happens because the Holy Spirit will tell you to put on your running shoes and run-run-far-away and don’t look back.
Why do we live like rats when God has made us to fly like eagles.
I call this “rat race” religion and believe you me, you don’t want to sign up for this one.
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