Monday, September 15, 2008

Domesticated Jesus

“DJ.” I might as well call him this, because effectively I’ve reduced the creator and master of the universe down into a concept so small I’ve nicknamed him. Domesticated Jesus. It’s a horrible name really, and my use of it hardly reflects his worth. But to say it, to write it here is so shocking that perhaps that’s the point after all. What we’re doing, unconsciously to a large part, is to bring down what is huge, wild and untamable and repackage him so that we can function.
To come to grips with reality will mean I’ve got to change, open my eyes and come to terms not only with his greatness, but also my smallness and that’s the grind. Sin has done this to me, landed me in this spot and so I’m vowing forever to fight this ironic switch, the one that’s been with mankind since a snake convinced my ancestors that they could be like God. That switch, of course, is the essence of sin: anything that makes a big God small and makes my small self big.
And in the process, I’ve domesticated the Almighty.
Tamed him. Advised him.
Put him in a box. Fenced him into a safe pasture.
Expected him to function like a divine vending machine.
I like that because I get to be in control or at least sit on a deluded cushion of mental comfort where I’ve convinced myself that I’m in the driver’s seat. The truth is, every time I come face to face with just a fraction of the reality of who Jesus is, I realize just how horribly weak my version of him has become.
And that sickens me. Shocks me.
And it should.
I told my wife the title of this blog and she didn't hesitate. “I don’t like it. It makes Jesus sound effeminate.”
I don’t like it either, and that’s the point.
To even associate the name above all other names with a word like domesticated is offensive to the delicate Christian ear.
If this offends you, good. It should. I hope that my use of this distasteful title will shock me (and you) into a healthy pondering of just what we’re doing in this life we’ve identified (perhaps too generously) as Christian.
So how have I come to associate a word like domestic with Jesus?
I’ll state the obvious. Domestic. Tame. The unruly is gone. Away with unpredictable behavior. Wildness is only used in the past tense here.
The first animals that were domesticated were done so for milk. Mmmm. Keep those cows contained. Train them to stay in line. Hold still…and give me just what I want. Everyday. Twice a day in most cases.
If an animal is domesticated, it is here to serve me. My needs are central. Of course this may not always appear to be the case at first glance. I once heard someone ask what an alien would think after landing on earth for the first time in the center of an American city park. Dog owners leading around their little precious fur-bearing gems and picking up after their every little indiscretion. The alien might ask, “Who has domesticated whom?”
I’m going to ask you a favor. Indulge me while I seek to explore the ways that I have domesticated Christ. Yes, yes, I can hear your protests and believe me, they are my own. Jesus Christ cannot be domesticated!
I understand that. And my point is simple. While Christ cannot be tamed, I have effectively done just that, but only in my head. I domesticate him in the way I think about him, letting him into my life, but only so far until my control is threatened, and in effect, I send him back to his room.
When you domesticate an animal, you place limits on its location. You fence it in so that it can serve you. Have I not done this in my attitudes about Christ? Have I not invited the most holy, powerful, creative entity in the universe into my life and then relegated him into a slot so that he can participate in my life when it is most convenient to me or when I am hungry?
Some of you are offended all ready. It is not my purpose to spit on the image of Christ. My purpose is honorable; it is to exalt him, to find him as the grand treasure that his is and to challenge myself (and you along the way) to see him every day, to a greater extent, in reality.
To do that, I must peel away, layer by layer, the belittling mental images that have clouded my vision like a mature cataract blocking away the brightness of the sun’s rays. I promise to step on my toes first and if I tramp on the feet of God’s family it is with the hope that we may discover and savor the wonder of all that Jesus is.
This is the essence of my working definition. I am domesticating Christ any time my behavior reflects my belief in a saving Christ who is too small to handle my day-to-day problems of worry or anxiety. I am domesticating him anytime I wallow in guilt because, in essence, the power of the cross has been diminished in my thoughts. It has become insufficient to soothe my conscience.
Domesticating Jesus is so much more than just not recognizing his infinite power and falling on our faces in awe. He obviously doesn’t reveal himself in his glory, at least not in his full glory or I promise, I’d never get out of a facedown posture (of course, I wouldn’t survive a millisecond of his revealed glory, so even that statement is ludicrous). But these essays are about how I domesticate him everyday in so many ways, in the little things like doubt, anxiety or fear about the future.
I seek freshness. Honesty. Transparency.
Maybe if I use this approach, we can link hands so to speak, and make a baby step or two along a path towards a true Christianity. A Christian faith one notch purer to the one we started with.

Monday, September 8, 2008

How will I be remembered?

Mary DeMuth is a wonderful Christian writer and speaker. She recently told this story to our writer's group and I wanted to share it with you here. I've changed the names (other than Mary's) to preserve the family's privacy.

A few hours ago, I heard of a friend's passing. He was a little over my age.
From the time he was diagnosed with cancer until the time of his death was a
few days shy of two months. When I heard the news of his death, I painted a
picture, my way of getting my grief on the page, of picturing the glory he¹s
experiencing now. My friend adored Jesus and wanted to be a full-time
missionary alongside his wife and two children. They sold their larger house
and got out of debt so they could go at any moment¹s notice. When he heard
we were headed to France, he was pumped for us. And he prayed. And when he
heard the news about the stage four cancer in nearly every organ in his
body, he prayed God would get all the glory. He felt his cancer was his
mission field.

He asked me to write a story about his life for our church¹s magazine. In
doing so, I was changed. And even as I type this now, I¹m profoundly
challenged by his life. Suddenly my petty insecurities seem terribly small.
And my worries about life's stress. And my fretting about the writing

I asked him how he wanted to be remembered. His response: "I'd like to be
remembered by each individual in the way that gives God the most glory,"
Bob said. "So, if someone remembers me as a great family man and that
inspires him to be more of a family man, then so be it. Or, if it's being
remembered as someone passionate about missions, then so be it."

That's my question for myself. Am I willing to be remembered in the way that
God gets the absolute most glory? Am I willing to be broken and spilled out
for the sake of His Name? Have I placed my career over His renown?

Bob's passing shocked me back to reality, made me long again for that
simple and pure faith, the kind of holy acts that are often unseen and
unheralded. Ecclesiastes 7:2 reminded me today: "It is better to go to a
house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting. Because that is the end
of every man, and the living takes it to heart."

I am taking it to heart, praising God for a man who lived well, who longed
to see God's kingdom expand. And I pray that I'll be the kind of
Christ-follower who will take up the baton, abandon myself afresh to His
call, and lay those things I try to take back to myself on the altar once
again. I'm clay-footed, needy, and foolish, but I'm constantly astounded
that God would stoop to earth, find me, and choose to use me anyway. What a
privilege. What a responsibility. What an amazing God.

Thanks for letting me process this as I type,
Mary DeMuth

Mary, thanks for sharing this with my readers. Any of you who want to know more about Mary or her books, please visit

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Politics unusual

This week we've seen some politics as usual and also some of the unusual. Senator McCaine's surprise pick for his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin was little known outside Alaska, but is making a huge splash across the US.

I'll let you make up your own mind, but I have been prompted to pray for Sarah Palin. I believe she is a Christian: please see this video of her speaking at the Assembly of God Church that she grew up in:

Gov. Palin will face an onslaught of pressure from the media. Her family has all ready felt some of the negative effects from being at the center of attention.

Let's keep her in our prayers: wisdom, faithfulness, and the ability to stand up under scrutiny.

I love the phrase from the book of Esther: "for such a time as this..." Perhaps we are seeing an application of that phrase in Palin's life. Where is God taking her?