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A Message from Bob (or, What You Believe … Matters)

Maybe the person I am most indebted to in my midlife is the guy who thought to attach a television to an exercise machine.  This guy has single-handedly inspired in me a tolerance for regular exercise.  It isn’t even that I like television (I don’t); its just that this diversion built into a machine is enough to hold me there if I make the effort to go.

That’s where I was a few days ago when I saw it.  I was on a machine watching television but without the sound on.  Just reading closed captioning.  The story being typed onto the screen word by word was some news piece about Pope Francis.  And somewhere in the story, this phrase crossed the screen:   “a message from Bob.”

From the context, I could tell they meant to type, “a message from God.”

Somehow, that struck me as significant.  It made me stop to wonder how many people in the world are getting their messages from Bob (or Oprah or some other popular guy) while God goes unnoticed.

That sends me back to a night years ago when a group of us went together to see the movie, “The Passion.”  Afterward, we adjourned to my living room to discuss what we’d seen.  In the midst of the dialogue, someone asked some kind of technical question about the way God works and someone else responded.  Then a guy who happens to have been in professional ministry for some time made a comment that surprised me.  He said, “Frankly, I don’t have much use for theology.  I just want to know who God is and what his heart is.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that pretty much the point of theology?

“I don’t have much use for theology.”  I bet that guy would have cared about my theology if we had been worshiping cows in my living room.  I bet he would have cared if we were all there to discuss the message of Bob rather than the message of God.  It must be fun to sound like a renegade in a group of people talking about religion, but it can also be theologically dangerous.  What you believe matters.

With limitless accessibility to the messages being preached by all kinds of rock-star preachers online and on tv, it is remarkably easy to get drunk on tweetable lines.  We listen for cool people to say cool things and we buy in, hook, line and sinker, without any sense of discernment.  We’ve not grounded ourselves theologically, so we see no contradiction in the prosperity preacher who peddles “your best life now,” and a Wesleyan call to holiness.  A little bit of the message of Joel mixed with a bit of the message of John, sprinkled with the message of Joyce and before we know it, we’re cooking up the theological equivalent of cool whip. A lot of light-weight fluff that tastes sweet, but with little if any of the compelling, consistent gospel that leads directly into the heart of God.

Collect enough tweetable lines and it’s not the whole gospel any more.  It’s just a message from Bob.

As I work my machines and listen to the fodder of early morning news shows and sort through the various discussions that surface among well-meaning people within the church, I am more and more convinced that biblical literacy and theological grounding is now our critical need.  We’re allowing pop icons to do for us what thoughtful, Spirit-inspired study should be doing. The Kingdom won’t be ushered in on tweetable lines or emotional appeals.  It will come when the good news of Jesus Christ is unapologetically learned and preached in all its power.

To hell with the message of Bob.  The world is starving for something more.

Carolyn Moore

I follow Jesus.

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Holiness is at least this: a design of life that exposes us most fully to the heart of a good, loving and creative God.