Sunday, June 20, 2010

'Domesticated Jesus' by Harry L. Kraus Jr.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A look back, a look ahead...

For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, I'm reposting my first blog from June, 2008. I think it's fitting, to see how my ideas have been developed from that first blog. I spoke of domesticating Christ, of making him small, and this week, my newest book about that very topic is hitting the shelves. Here's a look back at where I started. Let's continue to remember that we are serving a very big God!

From June, 2008

The time has come to write the first blog for my newly designed website, so I thought I'd lay down the ground rules so there are no misunderstandings about my intentions. Maybe if you see a little bit about who I am, you'll understand where I'm coming from in this ongoing narrative and I won't have to say, "I warned you."

I'm a Christian. Might not be popular, but that's who I am. Called. Forgiven. Didn't deserve it. I'm telling you up front, 'cause if you're offended by "God-talk" you shouldn't read any farther.

That said, this blog isn't the place to go for all the answers.

It is the place to go for honest transparency. Sure, I'm a Christian. A writer. A surgeon. A missionary. But along with all of my titles comes a tendency for others to stick me on a pedestal or in a theological box and if there's one thing I don’t want is for us to let the pedestal-thing get in our way. I know me. I don't belong on a pedestal. If you want to go right on thinking that missionaries are super-spiritual, don't struggle, and can preach, pray, prophesy or fast at the drop of a hat, don't read this. If I have a recurrent theme, it's that I'm little and my God is big.

Everything I am, I am by grace.

Someone let me borrow a Louie Giglio DVD a few weeks ago. (If there is something foreign missionaries crave besides American junk food, it is exceptional Biblical teaching from home.) He said something, almost in passing, that has really made me think. It was "bottom-line" thinking that surgeon-types like me just love. Sin, he explained is essentially making the small (that is me), big, and the big (that is, God) small. I think that theme is going to resonate through my writing for a long time.

Making Jesus small in my way of thinking is the essence of domesticating Jesus. That’s an obnoxious term for a pervasive attitude that I have to fight. I see it creeping into my life in so many little ways. Domesticating Jesus is something Christians do without thinking. He created the universe, actually spoke it into being, yet sometimes we act as if he isn’t powerful enough to solve our day-to-day worries. In our anxieties, our fears and in our wallowing in guilt, we have made our Jesus and his gospel very small.

The ways in which I’ve stumbled into domesticating the Lord of the Universe will almost certainly find its way into this blog.

Maybe I should issue another warning, here, up front. I’m a surgeon. Medical themes permeate most of what I write. And most of what I see and do on a day-to-day basis in a mission hospital in Kenya is among the items banned from dinner conversation at the Kraus house. So if the mention of blood or bodily secretions makes you green, perhaps you should start skimming anytime I begin a sentence with, “You wouldn’t believe what I saw in clinic today….”

This blog is a window for my readers into my writer’s life, my surgeon-life, and inseparable from the rest, my life as a Christian. Don’t read this if you want to learn how to write fiction. I might drop a pearl or two, but there’s bound to be a better way to learn how to make up a good story.

Do read this if you want the inside scoop on missionary life sans the pedestal. Do read on if you want to know why I think medicine is an effective spearhead for the Gospel. Do read this blog if you want an honest look at life from the viewpoint of someone who thinks that having Jesus figured out is a bigger job than my little brain can handle.

Read this if you want a perspective from someone who wants to know Christ. I’ve been a Christian for nearly forty years and the longer I’ve lived this life, the more I understand that he is beyond comprehension. Foremost of my passions is my desire to understand him. His character, his heart, and his intentions for me.

So that’s it. This blog is all about God-talk, an honest inside scoop on Christian struggles, blood, surgery, keeping Jesus big and me small, the insidious and pervasive practice of domesticating
Jesus and a picture into my writer’s life.

If you can stomach all that, welcome home.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What is happening to the youth in the American church?

There is concerning new news about our "churched" youth. According to a recent survey by Lifeway Christian Resources, " in 10 Protestants ages 18-30, both evangelical and mainline, who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23. And 34% of those had not returned, even by age 30." (USA Today, Tuesday, April 27, 2010)

From a phone survey released in April, Lifeway Christian Resources President, Thom Ranier notes that of those Millennials who call themselves Christian, 67% rarely or never pray, 65% rarely or never attend worship services, and 67% don't read the Bible.

Sadly, this news isn't really shocking to us anymore. Our youth are in search of something real and I'm afraid my generation has failed to model authentic Christianity.

Our youth don't want polished Christianity. They want honesty. Christians who are big enough to admit they are small, that they really don't "get God." (After all, isn't he a bit beyond "gettable?"

When Paul spoke to the Roman church he urged them to let their love be--what? Polished? Showy?

Of course not. He said, "Let love be genuine."

Have we modeled a faith where Jesus is domesticated, seen as a nice comfortable (?weak) savior who provides a ticket out of hell, but has little to offer in terms of changing us here and now?

When Jesus talked of others looking in on the church, what did he say? "They will know you are Christians because of the love you have for one another."

Perhaps this is where we have failed. Has an absence of genuine love been a factor in the exodus of our youth from the church today?

Have we modeled for them a faith in a weakened Savior, a cute baby in a manger who exists to serve me instead of the opposite?

Barna's research reveals Christians don't really look any different than those who don't claim affiliation with our faith. We lie, gamble, have broken marriages, and view internet porn just like every one else.

Can we blame our youth for fleeing such hypocrisy?

Do we not realize that the gospel is powerful enough to transform us, to lead us along a path of steady gain towards regular victory over sin, a life of peace, a life where love overflows from us towards other undeserving people around us?

I'm afraid that too often I've been part of the problem, not the solution. There are too many examples in my life of how I (and the rest of the Church) have made Jesus small. (No, I understand he is without limits, but in my actions, I behave as if his power is limited, don't I?)

I've explored these themes in an open and honest way in my book, Domesticated Jesus, which was released this week by P&R Publishers. I write as an insider of the Christian faith, but not as one who has arrived. It is a book for Christians, those who struggle as I do to keep a realistic image of Christ in focus. He is, after all, the creator of the universe!

It is a book that I hope you will give this book to unbelivers as a fresh look and admission at how far we've strayed from where we should be. We act as if we serve a small savior. I hope you will give it to our youth. they need to see transparency from my generation.

I only write what I need to read.

And I've already gone back to passages of this book over and over to remind myself of God's greatness and my smallness.

I think this will be a theme for me for a long time.