Poisoned Tree

“Come and dig me up, reach down to the root. Rip the deadness out and plant something new.” – Ghost Ship

In Malachi, God tears apart His people and their manner of sacrifice. Malachi 1:6-9 says:

A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts.

This is God speaking. Verse 1 says it’s “the oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.” God speaking to the Israelites.

I haven’t done a lot of searching through the Old Testament, but from what I’ve read, there’s a lot of God talking to His chosen people. And a lot of the time He’s kinda angry. From what I’ve read at least.

Here is nothing different. God is talking about how the people are making poor sacrifices, “polluted food upon my altar,” He says. “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil. Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?” God says.

So the Israelites were giving sacrifices of animals that were not the best. The way the sacrificial system worked in Old Testament times, they were supposed to give the best of what they had. The best. Not the weak of their flock that they were easily able to get rid of, but the best. Because God deserved the best if He was to withhold His wrath from them.

In Numbers 3, two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (wonderful names), were going to give a sacrifice to God as priests, Aaron’s line. But verse 4 says, “But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children.” They offered “unauthorized” fire before God and died. The original Hebrew word the ESV translators got “unauthorized” from is “zuwr.” The same word and story is used in Leviticus 10:1,

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.

Which he had not commanded them. The word “zwur” means “to be strange.” To be unordinary. To be odd.

We have a tendency in our Christian life to give our sacrifices to Christ very wimpy. We offer the last of what we have. We give the blind lamb, the limping goat. We read our Bibles late at night when we’re exhausted and spend five minutes. We go to church and do nothing of consequence in Christian fellowship. We pray a few sentences and shut the light off and think of God no more.

1 Peter 2:5 says that we are being “built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We are a holy priesthood. We are supposed to offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Spiritual as in relating to the things of the Holy Spirit. Our works for Christ derived from a desire to serve Christ. And they are to be “acceptable to God.”

Are we really giving everything to Christ that we should? Examine the way you spend your time. Are you giving the best time of your day to Christ? Or are you spending it for yourself?

This is something that really convicts me. For the longest time, I would always do my quiet time and prayer time right before I went to bed. That meant that a mere 20 minutes later, I would forget exactly what I read. 40 minutes later, if I was still awake, the reference of the passage I read was gone. Nothing.

Another thing to think about: is our fruit, our fruit of the Spirit, like those sacrifices? Is it the best of what we have that we’re giving to God? Is our love selfish? Is our patience accomplished just so we get what we want? Are we showing joy, but as merely a show?

That’s sin. Not letting Christ pick the best fruit we have to offer is selfishness.

The song “Poison Tree” by Ghost Ship, a former Mars Hill Church (Mark Driscoll’s church) worship band, has been repeating in my mind the past few days. It tells of a tree:

This tree bears strange fruit/there’s blood on the leaves/it’s dead at the root/The cracked gray branches are decaying within/just like the black poison that hangs from its limbs.

That’s the picture of us as a tree when we sin. We produce fruit, yes. But it’s “strange.” We’re dead at the root.

It’s a heart condition.

I tried to tie good fruit/to a tree that had poison all the way through/it rotted and fell off/it was dead to the core/it even killed the ground/I was worse than before.

We can try to act like we are good people and are following Christ, but if our heart is not following Christ, if we’re not committed to giving our best to Christ, that fruit will fall off so easily and negatively affect the people around us (“It even killed the ground”).

That’s where the happy part of the song comes:

I am alive/I will abide in the life-giving blood of Christ/I’m grafted in/You’ve killed my sin/now I will live/I’ll live in Him.

That’s the picture of us when God roots out the poison in ourselves, the tree. That’s where the line in the beginning of this post comes in. God can rip the deadness out.

It’s about consciously making those spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. It’s about sacrificing the best of what we have for Him.

That way, our tree becomes fruitful.

Not a poison tree.

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What’s in a Name

“It is true that we care more about effectively proclaiming the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ than we do about having the word “Christ” in our name. The only name that matters is Jesus and what matters most is connecting people to the name that gives life.” – Campus Crusade for Christ website 

A lot of attention has been swirling around what is now called “Cru” since the Christian organization changed their name from Campus Crusade for Christ in late July. The quote above is the point of the controversy; the blatantly Christ-proclaiming group (the statement under their name reads “A caring community passionate about connecting people to Jesus Christ”) took the name of Christ out of their name and changed it to “Cru.”

Glenn Beck especially made a big deal out of it on his radio show. Check out the video here: http://www.glennbeck.com/2011/07/21/campus-crusade-for-christ-drops-chris-from-the-title/.

Former prime-time bloviator and conservative Glenn Beck

Despite the fact that his webmaster left the “t” out of “Christ” in the URL, Beck is completely out of line and flat out wrong in his statement. He completely ignores the reasoning from Cru and hones in on one falsehood he claims is truth: they’re no longer proclaiming Christ.

It’s a flat out shame that he and others are taking this at surface level and think that, for instance, Cru is no longer Christian, as some Facebook commenters said on the post Beck made on his Facebook page. What’s disappointing is that they ignored the reasoning from Cru.

I am friends with several Cru employees and students. I was skeptical when I heard it and texted a Cru staff member I knew very well. He pointed me towards the Q&A on ccci.org (you can find it here) and all my questions were answered.

This is in response to question 2: “Why is Christ no longer in the name?”

Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) is unswervingly committed to proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ. We are committed to the centrality of the cross, the truth of the Word, the power of the Holy Spirit and the global scope of the Great Commission. We care more about effectively proclaiming the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ than we do about having the word “Christ” in our name.

Although the words Campus and Crusade served as hindrances, there was never any intentional decision to remove the word “Christ.” Yet as we considered hundreds of name possibilities, our experience confirmed that Cru would provide greater opportunity to connect men and women with the heart of Jesus, and to help them consider the good news of the gospel.

For those who may be concerned we have lost moorings, please rest assured that we are the same organization with over 6 billion exposures to the gospel through the JESUS film, and who on any given day counts up to a million exposures to the gospel via the internet and face-to-face contacts around the world.

As an organization, we exist for the sole purpose of helping individuals experience the transforming grace and forgiveness of the gospel through Jesus Christ.

Beck, like others, is ignoring the facts in his rant. And it frustrates me that I feel like I have to write this to clarify a position already clarified. People are getting frustrated with Christ being out. If we are getting mad at that, we should put the name “Christ” into every church’s name in America. How unreasonable is that? Paul didn’t call himself “Paul of Christ.” Peter didn’t call himself “Peter of Christ.”

By no means am I downplaying the name of Christ. I, like Cru, put His name before all other names where it should be.

James 1:22 and 2:8 say,

But be doers of the word, not, hearers only deceiving yourselves…if you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

That latter verse is in a passage about not showing partiality. I believe that was one of the main points of changing the name; Cru was no longer just a college ministry and the name needed to reflect that. And it is assured that Cru are doers of the Word.

The quote I put at the beginning of this post is the best explanation I’ve seen. Sometimes we get too caught up in the semantics of things like names that we forget what the real question should have been, and that was answered without being asked: are you still committed to serving Christ and making His name famous?

The answer: yes. Our names will not be remembered in heaven. It won’t matter. We will only be known by whether or not we are Christians. It’s clear that Cru is Christian by reputation. Would you rather be known as a Christian by name or by action? DO people know us as a Christian by name or by action? Is our name written in the Book of Life, because if not, “he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15)?

Those are the questions we should all be asking ourselves.