I have a request, and I am asking you to please listen. If you are not a follower of Christ, and by that I mean if you do not know, and submit, to His reign in your life, please do not read this. Scroll by and later in the week I’ll post something for you. I beg you, please. Even if you think my stuff is interesting or funny or sometimes fun to mock, I am just asking you to pretend this one didn’t exist because I Love you and this isn’t for you.
For the rest who stayed, I have a message that I would like to say is Spirit-inspired, but I just don’t know. It is not what I started out writing, but I am too vested to stop. Typically I attribute that to Him, but there is too much “me” in this message, and it’s complicated and nuanced. My heart is screaming and I can’t not share, but I think it may be tough to really get what I’m going to say. I need you to watch something, but I need you to watch it in a very specific and purposeful way. I need you to watch it carefully, attentively. Don’t check emails, don’t let your mind wander, don’t rush it. Listen purposefully to his choice of wording, his pattern of speech. Hear his audience, what sounds to be a typical TED crowd of around a thousand. See how he moves and his expressions. It’s a15-minute talk, and I understand that means I’m asking a nearly one hour commitment from you between watching, pondering, and reading. But I am pleading with you to take it whenever you can, however you can.
Casey was 12 in 1999, so he’s 29 this year. He grew up in Oak Cliff, just down the highway a bit from my home church. Oak Cliff is a shadow of what it was in its heyday. There is renovation going on there, but for a couple decades it has been a bit rough. Situated on the south side of Dallas it is a place almost hidden away from the city, a place where people live unprotected from, and largely unaffected by, the crime and issues that surround them. But hear his story. He grew up a kid in what is Dallas’ version of the “hood” going to a Baptist church, a “black church”, and likely a not-so-great school. He tells the story of a college experience with a home invasion in which he was sure he’d die. You can imagine the life, and if you didn’t grow up somewhat poor it may seem horrifying to you. But this is a kid who grew up and went to Harvard. He made something of his life and is accomplishing quite a bit to improve the lives of people struggling in near- to abject-poverty. His story takes thinking. As he says, this single night of prayer defined his life.
Think on his story about Y2K. Consider the impact that had on the people in his audience; hear the laughter that lets you know they connected to his subject matter on both counts. This is a room full of people laughing not at the absurdity of waiting for rapture on some New Year’s Eve, but at the idea of faith. Hear how casually he rolls over jokes about it, about Jesus having to visit every time zone. I monitor this young man’s Twitter and he references faith often, prayer, Jesus even. I’m telling it wrong; I’m not sure you can be following me. This young man has never seen Jesus, never known His touch. There is a thing Lynne and I believe about your early 30’s and about the call of Jesus, and perhaps he thirsts and may be called. I pray so, but the point I make is this is not a bad guy, not a man who mocks faith as a matter of course. The Baptist upbringing and Harvard aside I have been this young man and yet not this young man. I am at times quite concerned I am him still. But to explain I need more exploration into what you watched, what you saw.
This man was giving a sermon. His rhythm, his tonal quality, the expressing of emotion and urgency, the almost tortured weight of his words clear in his face. He was desperate not to give the wrong speech, not to miss the drum beat of the message he wanted to convey to this room. I have read his words about his upbringing, how the grandmother who raised him coached him in the art of preaching and speaking. See his attire; so clearly chosen to evoke the image of a preacher and yet black. That black had purpose, only a portion of which he likely understood.
His listeners, TED attendees, paid a large sum of money — in excess of $8,000 a ticket — to attend this event. It is quite exclusive, and while perhaps not totaling quite the trillions he mentioned in the Harvard alumni event it is a people certainly worth billions. They are acolytes of science, philosophy, art, music, medicine, anthropology. They are people of the mind, and a special breed. They are Renaissance thinkers, people not unlike the Greeks of the apostle Paul’s day. They are largely, but not exclusively, atheist. Richard Dawkins has stood before them, as have priests and pastors. Each TED event seeks a central theme, and then stocks the stage with lectures and performances hitting that theme all with the goal of expansion of the mind that might be used to improve the world around us. The theme this year was simple: dream. What more perfect theme in which to call this man to stage in front of these people?
In historical fashion — as with another speech about a dream — he created a sermon tailored for this audience. Not some random Sunday crowd, but this crowd. He crafted a grenade and then drove it straight to the heart of the group to a devastatingly effective end. There is no doubt these people were his willing and devoted congregants this day. They consumed his words feverishly and jealously. Every strum echoed through their hearts and minds. And here is the thing: his message is not completely wrong.
Late in Matthew 16 Jesus is telling His disciples about His path to the Cross, His mission. Peter, of course — this man I have so much to say about — tells Jesus, essentially, not to think that way. Catch Jesus’ response: “get behind me, Satan”. It’s a fascinating response. Peter, who spoke the revelation upon which Christ built His church, doesn’t just get rebuked, but renamed. And here is the thing: his message was not completely wrong.
In both cases these men had truth in their messages. Peter was adhering to the Philippians 4:8 view that you shouldn’t think about such things, which is noble. But his intention was to keep his friend tight by his side, unconcerned for the ramifications to his fate or the eternal fate of the whole world. It was an evil message, and the harsh rebuke is because it appealed to Jesus. You think He didn’t feel some pang in His heart that this man Loved Him? Of course He did.
Casey had lived a life that showed him blind allegiance is powerfully destructive. He’s 29; not much younger than Peter. There is less idealism at that age, more understanding. But it is still tinged by the lack of scope, exposure. He has seen first-hand the effect of blind faith. The price this country, and this world, has paid for its various objects of worship. There is truth in that; you must test everything, every belief, against God’s standard, including belief in God Himself. But, as young men of age 29 do, he would throw the baby out with the bath water. He would have you preach a gospel of pure doubt; a questioning of everything and everyone you presuppose to know. To him his call is a more dire version of “think outside the box.” But what he called for, what he summoned in that speech and in that crowd, was not questioning, but accusation. That no savior may come, that no faith, no belief, may be validated. In this speech he speaks Satan’s words to demon hearts. He becomes antichrist and false teacher. Prophet of death.
Please catch the subtlety of my meaning: this is not an evil guy and I do not believe he rejects God. But he views Him as a watchmaker and would charge that we cannot rely on God alone because religious men have so often failed us. But the enemy lies in the detail there: God is not religion. It is not inherently more honorable to revere Go yet set Him aside and go build our lives. It is death-worship.
Casey is me and he is you, and that is part of my message to you: the antichrists that will come, the false teachers, will not all be outside the church. Some could be you or me. Because they may not manifest in every message. Any one of us can be guilty of teaching from a soulish, hell-bound place. Peter was not Satan, but in that statement he was ruled by Satan. Casey is not ruled by evil, but in this message he spoke loudly for Satan. The pastor who had him in his knees at midnight in 1999 was not evil, but he missed the Word and in so doing led His sheep astray, drove Casey from the fold. He spoke, and prayed, for Satan. There is a doubt we must carry, but that doubt must be reflective, it must apply to what we would say or write or ponder. Because it is in those active states that we may so easily speak Satan’s word with God’s tongue. Casey’s words seem vibrant, but in truth are dead. I am telling you that you and I are always open to such death-speak, and we must — absolutely must — be always in prayer for correction.
The second part of my message to you is of this crowd. The ravenous way they lap at Casey’s words shows you two things: one is that, as the Greeks, they have dedicated themselves solely to consumption of knowledge. They seek not to exalt Casey, but to draw from him every precious word, every unique insight he might have and then cast him away in favor of the next unique view. They burn through their speakers as ruthlessly as an addict tears through a bottle of whiskey. It is a hunger that cannot be sated, an itch that cannot be scratched, a nymphomaniac lust that cannot be satisfied. Their consumption is their compulsion; it is their demon and he has compete control of their reigns. The second thing this feast shows you is that, as the Greeks, what they seek is God, but they can never find Him because He was the first thing they moved on from, having devoured. They did not wait, did not seek, to discover that Christ is the meal that never ends, the drink that never ends. They tasted impatiently and found themselves wanting so they moved on.
They cry out as babies for the milk of God, but they have denied themselves the admittance of that desire, and thus it explodes outward as a search for any formula that may sustain them, grow them. But all other formula but the milk of God is tainted, laced with addictive emptiness that causes deformation, malignant growth. These people are dead and they seek to stay dead. They have brought a man before them to preach a dead message and thereby make him dead. They are lost sheep. This is their way, because they are lost. They are searching, and they cannot see the devastation of what they do in their now-unconscious panic to find food. See them. Hear them; their deep laughter and mockery at any suggestion of honor or mercy or faith. Now compare them to the sheep sitting in that church in 1999. Are they not the same? Was not their thirst seeking for something that Jesus is not, rather than what He is? The second part of my message to you is just that: this crowd is not so different from any congregation on earth.
That leads to my third part: the role of we, the believers, in the face of this gospel of doubt. It is a cliche to tell you that the church exists to root out these starving, dead people and nourish them. But we don’t listen to that. I don’t listen to that. And in that rejection we become that dead crowd, seeking any food but that which He tells us will fill us. I will not go discipling, but Father I will go to church. I won’t go to church, but Lord I will pray. God, I don’t know how to pray but I will share motivational inspirations on my Facebook page. Too autobiographical?
Paul reminds us that we must watch our speech, that from our tongues proceeds both blessings and curses. He reminds us that the devil sits behind us all, waiting for us to separate ourselves from God that he might devour us. He tells us to focus on the light rather than the dark. And Jesus tells us, through His communion, the same things. “Do this in remembrance of Me” He says. Communion is the physical act of acknowledging only His body fills, only His blood sates. And there in first Corinthians He warns us that we must eat and drink earnestly. To consume Him impatiently, half-heartedly is to reject Him.
This is why I asked non believers to skip this post, because they can’t understand. They read condemnation where none exists. There is only exhortation here. Because Casey is wrong that faith requires sacrifice. Rather, he isn’t precisely right. What is given freely is not sacrifice, it is offering. And what is given in return would make it worth torture. This video is of a dead man giving a dead speech to dead people. This video is our fight. We do not have the comfort of running away from it, offering alternate gifts to it. The Lord’s Word, the very living Christ, can revive them, can sate them, can ease them. The job of enabling that falls to you and I, the saints and children of God. Stop thinking you can’t change it. Stop saying it’s too much, or it’s not your ministry or your calling. These people are dead and getting deader. Our spirits scream in the agony and sorrow of their loss. We must show them the light. If we fail we alter our plan and try again. But we must try.
In the name of the Word, and my brother, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.