“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.” Acts 17:16
Have you ever seen something that provoked you to do something crazy? To do something different? To say something that pushes you? To be someone that isn’t about himself, but about something & someone else? Have you ever had your spirit provoked?
The Apostle Paul went walking thru the city of Athens. He saw things that provoked him. The buildings, the people, the mood, the places, the statues, the culture…shook him at his core. As he saw the very things that the people worshipped, he just couldn’t help but be moved. He saw a city full of things that pulled the city away from the truth and towards a lie. The city Paul saw was filled with statues of artistic beauty, Greek gods and magnificent temples. Paul was provoked by what he saw. Paul was provoked by what that represented. Paul’s spirit was devastated by what was there. Paul was so moved internally that he had to move externally.
In me there is something kicking. There is a pushing & pulling in my heart to develop, build and reproduce gospel centers throughout the Detroit area. As I dropped off some food to a family in Detroit this week, it hit me again. My heart skipped. What Paul saw pushed him to stand in front of a religious and philosophical crowd and proclaim Jesus. He used quotes from songs written to Zeus to illustrate his point. The first quotation (in him we live …) is from a hymn to Zeus by Epimenides of Crete (c. 600 b.c.) a modern day rock song that everyone in Athens knew. The same words are found later by Paul again from the same song in Titus 1:12. The second quotation is from the poem Phainomena by the Stoic poet Aratus (c. 315–240 b.c.). Go read that stuff, it’s not PG and it’s definitely not “approved” at any seminary or Bible college.
So this brings me to this morning where I am standing with my son, in my neighbors front yard as he smokes dope.
Paul saw, felt and was moved because of it to go and make a difference. So rather than hide inside an office (or just preach against the wickedness of hollywood, movies, drugs, tv, praise & worship bands, etc), I stood with my friend while he smoked a joint. We talked about the Tigers. We talked about how crazy Romney is and how bad the neighborhood is getting (just a little while ago he was shot 3 times in the leg after some dealers followed him home from the bar). We talked about the grass needing to be cut and church coming on Sunday. We talked of going to a Tigers game together maybe next week with the smell of marijuana wafting around us.
Crazy? Wicked? Liberal? nah, just loving people.
I wish that more Christian leaders that read this blog and you pastor friends, would stop being critical of what others are doing and instead put down your pitchfork for just a second so that you can go love people. Sincerely, I beg you to read the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman. Jesus wasn’t there picketing her. Jesus wasn’t blogging about how she had gone liberal. Jesus hadn’t preached a sermon declaring how he was more right because of his stand on issues. Jesus walked across the street and loved. Jesus never threw rocks!
That’s what provoked means.
On top of all this…there is a reason why I haven’t posted a blog in several days. The reason is because of the hail storm of negative comments, emails or messages I get. Seriously people, if you don’t like me or my position…that’s Okay. I am not and never will go to your Facebook page and leave negative comments. I will not post tweets that are just character assassinations just to prove a point. I will not write articles about how liberal I am or how conservative you are and how that is detrimental or that I am right and your wrong. I will not and have not. I am not provoked by you or any of the “love” mail from my so-called Christian brothers who “just want you Jon to know that I am disappointed with you” & “you have crossed the line” & “what happened?” & “Come back to what you know is right!!!” So yes, I give many ulcers, but I sleep great at night and get to wake up each day to help people here in Detroit.
Go love somebody.
I seriously don’t have the time to keep up with others. I seriously don’t have the time to doubt others sincerity or criticize others tweets, blogs, posts or comments. This week alone I have spent 2 days helping a prostitute not kill herself by overdosing. Yesterday my wife and I counseled 3 different horror stories that have all been unfolding in the last 24 hours. Since last Friday I have literally spent minutes of every hour around the clock answering text/phone messages from a friend who is going thru the loss of a child. On top of that I wrestled (thanks to John Cena) with my boys each night this week, took my wife on a date for lunch, and tonight after I click post on this blog…I will turn my phone off and go chill in the backyard with my boys, wife and fire pit.
Go smell the pot…seriously.
Tomorrow it starts all over again. I get to go hang out with people that are getting victory (others struggling) with drugs. I get to preach a sermon that I have been waiting so long to preach…I am literally busting at the seams to preach tomorrow night! I get to go hang out with my adopted brother/son and spend time just loving people while we love Jesus. So…Yes, Jesus is dope. No, I don’t care if that offends you. Get over it. Yes, I did have a rap concert on Easter. Boom!! Boom!! Get over it. Yes-I do live in the ghetto, Yes-my neighbors do sell drugs, Yes-my kids see shootings and my wife has seen a dealer with a gun to my head. I am provoked not to anger you or to answer you. Rather, I am provoked to go help my city that could care less about Jesus, dope or that preachers stupid comment on my Facebook page. Yes, I did post that “I give pharisees ulcers”…the truth is that I never go out of my way to irritate people. But obviously standing in the front yard talking about Jesus with a pot smoker drives some of you crazy, but that’s what we are all supposed to be doing. We are all supposed to be talking about Jesus and not just to the clean, but also “to the least of these.”
I smell like pot.
I think most of Christianity is way too clean. We smell like clean temples and polished pews, when we should smell like the people we should be helping. I am not saying go smoke a joint, but if you haven’t helped a homeless person lately by letting them sleep in your house…then don’t criticize. If you haven’t helped a drunk stop drinking and let him get sober in your living room…then close your trap. If you haven’t been there when a crack addict is on the floor of the bathroom shaking, then just shut up. Go get your clothes dirty, not by sinning, but by helping people that are struggling. Don’t be judgmental, don’t look down, rather help point to Jesus and love em where they are. I really do think that most in Christendom would walk right out of my church not because the music is loud, or the people are dancing (some would just for that)…but because of who the people are. Christians are some of the most racist people I know. Christians are some of the meanest people I know. It’s terrible how minorities get treated by so-called churches. I could go on…
Let me wrap this joint up…
Paul saw something that provoked him to do and be something that those people needed…Christ-like. That’s exactly what this world needs and what I want The City Church to be. A City on a Hill that helps people where they are, loves ’em despite where they’ve been and will help them to love Jesus cuz heavens where they are now going. If you don’t get it, that’s ok. I am not going to post anything or preach anything about you or against you, I pray that some of you one day will get it. What’s funny is that for others…I just gave you sermon material or at least a couple weeks of Sunday night rants. Either way, I love you. Really, I love you…even you crazy ones. I am not against you. I am not picking a fight, but I will not sit silent and let so many of my close friends, who just like me, have been viciously attacked cuz their ministry doesn’t fit the mold. I will also not sit silent to the critics that publicly lash out and discourage younger Christians that don’t understand why some are just so mean.
I love Jesus, I love people….because of that, provoked.
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. -Paul in Romans 2:1