Spiritual Diabetes

sugarbowlThere are a few diseases on the rise and Type 2 Diabetes is at the top of the list.  Many are able to manage with medication and a better diet, while others avoid it with a more radical diet change and exercise.  Others do nothing about their diet and rely on the medications.

Some people blame it on genes…Mom had it, Grandpa had it, etc.  They don’t see that Mom and Grandpa had high carbohydrate diets and washed them down with sugary drinks and passed this wonderful habit down the line.

Many people, including those with Type 2, know it is mostly (not exclusively) a result of lifestyle choices.  Usually, a lifetime of bad eating habits.

The “bad” food is easy to come by, less expensive and tastes very good.  People don’t want to give up on what is easy and tasty.  I can’t blame them…I like the tasty stuff, too!

But, this is not about harping on people with diabetes.  Let’s look at the “bad diet” we accept and devour, spiritually.

Soaking in Doctrine

Doctrines can be interesting.  What makes them interesting is how many of them have nothing to do with real scripture. Sure, they have something to do with some portion of scripture, but not (what we call) the “full counsel” of scripture.  Many things are out of context, while other doctrines are totally made up.

Here are a few:

  • God being disappointed in or angry at someone
  • Any sin being worse than others
  • Pastoral “covering”
  • Women being subservient
  • Prosperity doctrine
  • The curse of Adam

We sit back and soak it all in.  We enjoy allowing someone else tell us what to believe. We allow someone to tell us what God’s will is for us.  We sit and feed on sweet sounding doctrines without another thought.  It’s easy.  It costs very little.  Sweetened with convincing words, false doctrines can be very palatable.

Sweetened with Convincing Wordssugarcube

1 Timothy 4:3-4,  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,  and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

Words can sound good.  Politicians use convincing words with fear, and lies taken from something of truth.  Sadly, many pastors and other church leaders do things in a similar fashion.  They use rhetoric, clever words and entertaining metaphors and even say things which, if you really listen, might not even make any real sense, but come with enough ten dollar words and fluff to make them sound like something real.

To a listener who is satisfied to simply sit back and soak it all in, without any thought, they can even say bizarre, meaningless quotes and their mindless sheep never question it. Here are two quotes from a pastor of a small church in southern New Jersey…

–  “My God does not plead the 5th. He is a reliable witness and His testimony is true.”
– “Definition of God’s favor: Not letting you go your OWN way.”

I mean, they just make no real sense.  But, these quotes are proudly posted on the church’s Facebook page.

When you read them, you take a second look and then a part of your brain kinda starts to twitch.

When said from the pulpit, with clear diction and dramatic vocal inflection and pacing with a Bible firmly gripped in hand, even the most preposterous crap can sound good to many listeners.

It is a steady diet of superficial drivel and ridiculous rhetoric, designed to maintain and retain followers in the same way high-carbohydrate, sugar-laden foods keep drawing their addicted consumers.

Change Your Diet!

Just as with diabetes and other diet/lifestyle related maladies, the first step is to remove the junk and replace it with better stuff.  Healthier food, exercise and reducing stress will contribute to better health. Spiritually speaking, we can do the same.

  • Study scriptures for yourself, seeking the Lord all the way.
  • Read others’ teachings on both sides of a questionable doctrine.
  • Avoid the purveyors of false doctrines

How to know…

  • If a doctrine is supported by only one or two obscure scriptures, question it.
  • If a doctrine has no real scriptural support, we are talking falsehood.
  • If leadership insists that you simply obey them and not worry about what you have discovered in scripture on your own, not so good.
  • If there is a teaching that contradicts what you see elsewhere in scripture, red flag…such as, condemnation when Jesus did not condemn.

These are a few and you may see these and more.  If you do, then you have a choice; either stand for what is scriptural and live and act accordingly or, stay right where you are and remain status quo.

Please note…it is not worth it to try and convince (argue with) leadership of their errors. This can only bring about anger and hurt feelings.  Take it from someone who values principle and doesn’t shy away from an argument.

Not worth it.

If the disagreement is such that you cannot agree to disagree, maybe it is time to move on. Better to not engage.  My family and I left a church we were with for a long time.  The last few years we were there showed things that we could not align ourselves with.  By the last few weeks, we knew for sure, it was definitely time to go.

If we see any doctrine that does not line up with love, grace and what we read about Jesus, then it is time to reconsider what we are going to embrace.

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting Fleeced

This is what many hear, every Sunday morning…
“Now is time for us to take up the tithes and offerings…”

Then, there is that all familiar passage from Malachi…
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…”

Some churches pass a plate or a basket.  One church I went to put the plates up front so everyone could bring their “tithes and offerings”.  Of course, absentees have the option to mail in your tithe or send it electronically.

First, let’s briefly examine this stuff of tithes and offerings.

The Tithe

As many may know, a tithe is ten percent.  It started with someone taking a tenth of his crop or livestock and offering it to the Lord.  It was never commanded, though.  Giving is voluntary.  There are instructions as to what was to be done and acting with integrity with the tithe/offering, but there was no command to do so.  There are some articles we can find online about this.  This one is brief and to the point:  www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA144

One other article I read explained that the verse in Malachi was something spoken to the priests and it was about a literal storehouse for produce and such.  Somewhere along the line, the storehouse became the local church and the grain and produce became financial earnings.

Scripture doesn’t support this extrapolation.  In both testaments, giving is voluntary, according to one’s own heart.  Giving is talked about, recommended and to be done “without compulsion”.  More on this, shortly.  On to the other half of this…

Offerings

Just that word gets to me a little.  Just consider the word and what it means. Offerings.  It should be a gift or a contribution.  But, we have made it similar to an appeasement.  You know, like tossing a virgin into a volcano to appease a fire god.  It has become a financial way to “please” God.

There are no commands to make financial offerings.

The Hookfleecedsheep

Some convey the idea that if we do not bring our “tithes and offerings”, God would not only be disappointed in us, but our finances would be cursed.

Really?

Funny thing…there are people out there who have tons of money, yet don’t tithe.  Oh, yes…even believers.  If being a millionaire is a financial curse, please curse me!

The hook is fear.  We don’t want to displease the Lord.  We sure don’t want to tick Him off. Many “leaders” want us to believe that God would be totally cheesed, curse our finances and never bless us if we don’t tithe.

Personal Story

In a previous church, my wife and I endured a few “ambush” meetings with our pastor. He would want to meet with us and dump some sort of reprimand on us, then bring up one or two other “infractions” in that same meeting.  One time, the pastor brought up my tithing.  You might get a kick out of this.

He handed me a piece of paper and stated, “I can see why your you guys aren’t being blessed.” (We have had our share of financial stresses, but tithing or not, had nothing to do with it).  This piece of paper was a record of our weekly giving.  He noted two weeks where we did not give.  I showed him that one week, we forgot our check and pointed out that it was double the next week and further explained that on another week, we gave cash.  Then, he asked why I would put in cash and not have credit for my taxes.

I have told this story before and some readers might make the same facial expression others did when I told them this.  Yeah, that’s the one…now, close your mouth.

Reality

The average budget in US churches is taken up mostly by salaries and building expenses…to the tune of 70%.  So, if a church has a one-million dollar income, $700,000 goes to pay people and keep the building.  That leaves the remaining 30 percent to take care of added expenses, help people and support other ministries.

Many pastors get salaries of 50,000, 80,000 or more, depending on the size of the church. Buildings can cost a half-million or more, while “mega-churches” spend millions upon millions, paying their pastors 6 figure salaries.

This is what the tithes pay for.  We are expected to tithe to a church and give above that for the important stuff, like feeding the poor, putting a roof over someone’s head or otherwise helping someone.

It is all about giving.

A short list.

Deuteronomy 16:17
1 Chronicles 29:9
Proverbs 3:27
Proverbs 21:26
Proverbs 28:27
Luke 3:11
Luke 6:30
Acts 20:35
2 Corinthians 9:6-7

I know there are more.

It’s about giving to the Lord.  Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you have done to Me.”

Before I get strung up…

 …I am not saying do not tithe, if that is in your heart to do so.  But, consider this…there is a lot of legalism and subsequent guilt associated with tithing. The message has become, if you don’t tithe, God will curse you.  If you do tithe, God will bless you.
Then, if we add in the Prosperity messages – give to get  – we then have a con going.
A con?
Yes, a con.  They tell people something based on either fear or greed…the followers shell out their money and the “preachers” are the ones actually “prospering”.
We see huge salaries in some cases.  Some so large, they can live in such places as a multi-million dollar dwelling, like in Trump Towers.  So, who is really being “blessed”?
Back to the basics.
I do believe we need to re-structure giving.  We should consider personal generosity.  Monies collected should go toward something that benefits people, not a building or overstuffed salaries.  Maybe we should re-examine the idea of (financial) stewardship.

 Stewardship (Merriam Webster)

  1. 1:  the office, duties, and obligations of a steward

  2. 2:  the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially :  the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care <stewardship of natural resources>

While we are reminded by these preachers that all things belong to God, what we see is many of them using monies for things which are not important to Him.  So, if we are to be true stewards, recognizing that we are dealing with things that belong to Him, we should
  • Seek Him
  • Seek to use monies to what He says matter, like in Matt 25:40.
  • Not seek our own gain (reward) in what we give…at all or in any way, shape or form

If it is in your heart to tithe, then do it.  But, don’t do it out of fear or, as in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Let each one give [thoughtfully and with purpose] just as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver [and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift]” (Amplified)

It’s about the heart.

When we give out of fear or compulsion, our heart is not in the gift.  Law displaces the heart.  Compulsion has no heart.  When we give, we need to give as we have decided in our heart.  We cannot be forced, nor can we force ourselves, to give cheerfully.

To whom do we give?

If you feel the Lord wants you to give to your church, do it.  But, I challenge anyone else to step out of that box.  Give to where people are genuinely affected – food pantries, homeless shelters, an individual or family in need, “orphans and widows”, women’s shelters – to name a few.  Not only money, but time, supplies, a working hand or whatever it is you are able to give.

Just some stuff to think about, as we walk together.

 

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If I Knew Then…

Hardly anyone could disagree that hindsight is 20/20.  We may still learn our lessons, even without going back and change our errors, as much as we might wish we could.

eyechartI made some pretty decent mistakes, in my day.  I suppose this is the price for being human.  Sure, there has been regret with each and others had lasting consequences. But, one thing that I did was really a catalyst for a couple of the other less-than-wise things I did.

Like many people, I have had my share of dreams and goals.  The top of the list was ministry.  A church we had once been a part of for a long time, seemed like it was going to be the place to “realize my dream”.

Year, after year.  Part of this ministry.  Ran that ministry.  My wife sang and played keyboard/piano and we were deacon and deaconess.  It always seemed like I was getting a step closer here, another step closer there.  Unfortunately, it was the proverbial carrot before the horse – I could see it, right in front of me.  I just couldn’t touch it.

The pastor of that church, unfortunately, held to some doctrines and attitudes that were not scriptural. He figured he knew God’s will for people.  It was his way, or no way. But, I figured this was where God had me.

Looking back, I see the biggest mistake I had made from the start.  I was focused on my goal.  My dream.

Me.

My agenda.

Had I been the husband I should have been, I should have resigned from being a deacon.  I should have gotten my family away from that church earlier.  But, instead, I was focused on what I felt “called” to.

It didn’t help that I was full of the doctrine that says it is all about the man and that God calls him while his wife dutifully follows and supports him.

That doctrine is inaccurate.  It has no real scriptural foundation.  It was stuff like this and other things which motivated us to leave that church.

Even after being part of another church and a few years had passed,  I still had a shade of my own agenda going on.  In time, however, some things came up that gave me a clue.

One day, my wife was very upset with me about some things and pointed out how much I would think of myself.  After some discussion, I began to see how my agenda had been an issue for quite some time.  After that, I took a closer look at what it is to love my wife.  I know I have a long, long way to go, but I am beginning to get it a little more as I go along.

Men, listen up. Ephesians 5:25

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Note the emphasis on gave Himself up.  That is the part that reveals what love is about. Giving up oneself.  We could say, putting oneself aside.  Maybe, setting aside ones own agenda.

This is how Christ loved the Church.  He set Himself aside to live as one of us.  He came to serve and not be served.

He descended.  He demoted Himself.  He set His own agenda aside…for us.

We want to ascend. We want promotion.  We exalt our agendas.  We climb the ladder, get the title, win the argument, lead the masses and generally need to be right and in charge.

Love sets me aside.

This DOES NOT mean that we should not have dreams and goals.  We need to move forward, get promoted and achieve. What this means is that we don’t place what we want ahead or above of what our wives and families need.  We “consider others more highly than ourselves”…in this case, our wives.

Desires should not be so demanded that we drag our wives into something they are not comfortable with, not ready for, or honestly feel we are not ready for.

An old friend had a desire to become a pastor.  The pastors in his church shared his desire and worked with him to become a pastor.  His wife, however, knew he was not ready to become a pastor…he had a pornography problem.  Yet, he became a pastor.  After a few years, his pornography problem became a bigger issue and he was taken out of the pastorate.

Why didn’t it matter how his wife felt or what she knew?

It should have mattered.

Too many wives and families have been, essentially,  “sacrificed” for the Kingdom.  Many men have charged forward in their own desires and interests and their families have suffered for it.

When God calls us or lays something on our hearts, we don’t have to bulldoze anyone we feel is in our way.  Our wives are not ordained to be on a leash for us to drag along in our quest.  The “two becoming one” does not mean the man is called and she automatically goes along.   After all, God was ministering to Sarah as much as He was Abraham.

Husbands, love your wives.

If what we do leaves her behind, forces us to pacify or placate her, ignores or overrides her desires, takes us away from taking care of her needs;  if we make our desires a legal demand which puts her in last consideration…then, we need to totally rethink what it is we are doing.

Love.  Your.  Wives.

I made a mess of some things by not loving my wife as I should.  Now, I know, I need to give myself up for her.  I wish it was a switch I could turn on, but for me it is a slow process.   But, I am getting it, little by little.  I often wish I knew then what I know now.  This is not possible, so I must believe that God’s grace is sufficient.  Of course, if anyone reading this has any tips or suggestions, they would be greatly appreciated by me and perhaps other readers.

Men – husbands – let’s love our wives and put ourselves aside.  It is a greater regret  and misdeed to neglect your wife than to miss out on some “ministry opportunity”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Us vs. Them?

battleBattle lines have been drawn.

Christians on this side.  Those “sinners” on the other.

We fight against someone because they are gay, or Muslim, or support abortion.  We take what we believe to be right – our convictions – and demand that others toe those lines.  We insist that the commands given to us are for all to follow.  Then, when they object or disagree, they become the opposition.  They are now, as the Pharisees shouted, “Unclean!”

Is this what we have become?  Pharisees?  Not all of us, for sure.  But, a whole lot of us. Too many of us.  Loudly.  The 2016 Presidential race has made many of these modern-day Pharisees a bit more obvious.

Even within the Church, we are divided.  I follow this doctrine, they follow that one.  I surely can’t agree with what they are taught, so I certainly can’t associate with them.  This denomination has better doctrines than that one.  This church has “more dynamic” speakers, that church has better educated speakers.  The one down the street allows gay people, while the one downtown would never have “those kind” there.

We like the battle.  We seem to thrive on the battles we have created.  The truth is, instead of thriving, we are weakening the Church and repelling those outside the Church.

Oh, yes.  It is we who have created the lines.  No, not the scriptures.  Not the lack of prayer in schools.  Not the Gay Rights activists.  Not the Pro-Choice folks.  It has been the Church.

Jesus never drew battle lines.  For that matter, He crossed over the lines the Pharisees and their merry men had firmly created and upheld.

He touched the lepers.

He befriended a Samaritan woman (half-breed dog) and a tax collector (traitor).

He defended a whore.

He stood up to the Pharisees.

I suppose we know better than He.  Many among our ranks have been communicating, clearly, more of what they are against.  So much so, that it isn’t is clear what they are for. We have taken the idea of Ephesians 6:10-18 (the armor of God) as an opportunity to polish the metaphorical armor or fight one another…and our neighbors.

I know I have some redundancies in my posts.  But, I am trying to communicate how seriously we need to get back to the idea of love.  Loving our neighbor.  Loving one another.  God’s love, that He has for us and put in us.

At what point does love draw a battle line?

Where does love say someone is “less than”?

Does love verbally bash anyone?

Does love select who gets served or prayed for and who does not?

What part of love speaks against people, for any reason?

Wait a minute there, you.  What about ‘speaking truth in love’?

Speaking the truth in love.  Love.  Love means, in essence, personal agenda is set aside. When we insist on being right, forcing our point or our agenda, we are not acting in love. Therefore, when we judge, malign, accuse and insist our way is a must, we do not speak in love, at all.

What God revealed about love to Paul…

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Does not envy (not mere jealousy)
  • Does not boast
  • Is not arrogant
  • Is not rude
  • Does not insist on its own way
  • Not irritable (thin skinned, touchy)
  • Not resentful (holding a “record of wrongs”)

This only covers verses 4 and 5 of 1st Cor. 13, but these are the aspects of love that we need to examine, embrace and put into practice.  As it stands, many of us walk in something that does not look like love, at all.  What we are left with is a bunch of us being impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, insisting on our way (Christian nation, anyone?), irritable and/or holding offenses over people.

If we act/live in love, battle lines would no longer exist.

This is not that feel good, mushy kind of crap. This is practical, to the core.

It is not about agreeing with everyone.  It is about respect and being undaunted by the beliefs, lifestyles, speech and actions of others.

It’s about imitating Jesus.

He would build a house for a gay couple.  He would comfort a woman who considers an abortion.  He would invite the unmarried couple, who live together, over for a meal. He would hang out with Muslims to watch football.

It is also about maturity.

Notice, near the end of 1 Corinthians 13, after all that talk about love… “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”  It would seem that putting others before oneself is a mature thing to do.

Children are all about, “I want!”, “Me!”, “Mine!”  As they grow and learn, they begin to see there is a whole world, out there.  If they are raised well, they begin to see the needs of others, they are taught to share and be considerate.

 

 

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Honestly Dishonest

Honesty gets a backseat in the Church.  Actually, I think many are afraid to be honest. I believe that too many of us use deceit or omission in order to protect ourselves.  Grace and restoration are being overshadowed by judgment and manipulation.

We need a safe place to be honest.  A place where you can confess your feelings, your shortcomings, your sins, your struggles, your mistakes – a place where you can be you, warts and all.  We should be able to have an intimate friend – a true confidant – but within our congregations, grace and confidentiality should be the norm. While we should avoid “airing dirty laundry”, there are times we need an ear, a shoulder, someone to pray for and with us.

There are issues people face.

Psychological issues.

Mourning/Grieving

Pornography.

Marriage issues.

Sexual problems.

Mom’s who are weary of motherhood.

People’s issues (or sins) from their past.

Doubt or questions about our doubts.

We have to be “good little Christians”.  To admit doubts, failure or weakness, we may find ourselves being; ignored, belittled, judged, or manipulated. We may even find ourselves under scrutiny or having to endure (unwanted) “private counselling”.  We could even find ourselves the subject of gossip and presumption.

Accusations, such as;

Obviously you don’t spend enough time reading your Bible.

You need more faith.

You need to serve more.

You are obviously on the fence with your morals.

You must have some un-confessed sin.

There must be sin in your family (i.e., generational curse)

You must be spending too much time with..sinners, secular things,  worldly entertainment, etc.

Have we stepped away from the basics?

What is fellowship all about, anyway?  What about the commandment, “Love one another”? Why is it we feel we need to police and legislate and force one another into some sort of behavior pattern?

Notice something, here…Luke 22…31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”33 Peter[b] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus[c] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Here is what I notice – what Jesus did not say.  He had the authority to tell Peter, “Don’t you dare deny Me.  No matter how bad you want to, don’t you dare, or I will be so ashamed of you.”  But, He never said such a thing.  He let Peter be the human he was.  But, he also knew how He was working on Peter and how much Peter would be changed.

We lower the boom.

It is us.  Not the Lord.  We do it.  We use terms that communicate how God is ashamed, how He is disappointed or how someone has disappointed Him.  We say how God is not pleased, how someone who loves Him “should not do such things”.  We even rub in certain blame, such as, “You did this to yourself.”.

Personal Story.

I once had my own business.  I made some pretty good mistakes in trying to build that business and, after a couple of years, I shut it down.  This left me with some sizable debt. At one point, I went to our senior pastor.  I had a list of all the debts and showed it to him. I simply wanted some pointers, suggestions, guidance…someone who would walk with me as I trudged through the mire of monthly payments and seemingly never ending balances.

I passed him the list as I explained how things were difficult.  He took a light glance at the list, handed it back to me and said, “You have made some bad decisions”.

Oh, now tell me something I didn’t know.  Thank you, Pastor Obvious.

I wasn’t looking for a handout and I wasn’t looking to be blamed.  I could blame myself, plenty.  I was looking for someone to walk with me, maybe come up with ideas or suggestions, to pray for and with me.

I put that list away and eventually got rid of it.  I talked with him on and off about how we were getting along, but didn’t ask for his help, again.

Grace.

God is love gives grace.  For some reason, we don’t care to extend that same grace. We would rather judge.  Grace does not deny whatever is wrong, but it makes no issue or big deal out of it.  Grace does not bring law down.  Grace remains undaunted by the shortcomings, failures, issues or the sins of another.  Grace is about restoration, rather than condemnation.

 

 

 

 

 

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Home Sweet Home?

There is little that is more sad than the stories of homes where there was neglect or abuse.  If there is anywhere we should always feel safe and loved, it’s home, among family.  It is also sad when we hear of Church abuse or neglect.  We should feel safe among those who love Him.homesweethome

According to what love is, our fellow believers should be a circle of people with whom we can share, people we care about and who care about us.   If we are able, we should readily help when help is needed. We should be able to be confidential and transparent without being judged or someone using information against us.  The Lord is our main confidant, of course.  But, we are in a family of believers with whom we should be able to walk together through life.  Yet, in too many circles, judgment lurks, ready to pounce on anyone who confesses a sin, weakness or failure.

Jesus said, “Love one another…”.  He placed emphasis with, “I give you a new commandment.”

Note: People often cross this with loving our neighbors.  Actually, if we look at the language, the idea of one another is derived from the Greek word allelon which means “one another, each other; mutually, reciprocally.”  That would be, those with whom we have mutuality, our brothers and sisters in Christ.  In that respect, I would think that the last word, reciprocally, would be according to its second definition, (of an agreement or obligation) bearing on or binding each of two parties equally.  So, while loving our neighbor is one of the most important commandments, Jesus also made sure that we would look to love one another.  I think this idea comes up again in Galatians 6:10, about doing good, “especially to those of the family of believers”.

Loving our neighbor is huge.  The world needs Jesus’ love.  But, we should not be so busy that we neglect our own house.  The world sees how we treat one another and this will speak volumes.  As we read further about the “New Commandment”, we see He says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

Jonathan loved David.  He would give his life for David and nearly did.  Jonathan knew that God appointed David to be king and Jonathan would stop at nothing to protect David and promote him.  For some reason, we don’t even want to be bothered with our brother’s life issues.

Too many of us are too wrapped up in our own issues.  We become indifferent, self-absorbed or simply keep others at arms length.  We don’t want close relationships with others as we probably don’t want them to find out our shortcomings. But, among one another should be our safe place…right?

How big is love?  What does it mean to love?  How do we love one another?  There are great examples in scripture, of course.  Jesus showed the best example of a life of love. We can also see the famous list in 1st Corinthians 13 of the attributes of love…patient, kind, does not envy (this is not mere jealousy, but not wanting someone else to have what we want), does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, not self-seeking, not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.

In my view, love seems to be about setting aside ourselves…our agendas.  We are told that there is no greater love than to give up one’s life for his friends.  Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave up Himself.

Self.  Set aside.

Love is not about self-denial or self-deprecation, but about doing for another beyond yourself: your needs, your wants, your desires, your opinions…your agenda.  There are Christians who talk an awful lot about the agendas of others, but I think many of us have some pretty major agendas (I think I might tackle this agenda issue in a future post).

For now, I encourage each of us to examine where we might set our agendas above what is good for one another and, conversely, where we can set one another above our own agendas. We need to begin to love one another as Jesus loves us, as He demonstrated with the disciples.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35, NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How To Prove God Is

It was nineteen-seventy-something and a bunch of us youth were all together, ready to go to a 2nd Chapter of Acts concert.

For those of you under a hundred years old, we were not going to see a page from the Bible up on stage.  This was the name of a band/singing group.

More than half of our youth group was going, along with a few invited friends.  One invited friend was an interesting character.  He was smart, sure of himself and…look out…he was an atheist.

There are few titles in the minds of many Christians that come equivalent to naming Satan, himself.  Atheists have been pegged as being agents of the Devil and accused of being out to do away with Christianity.  They (along with folks from LGBT community and Planned Parenthood) are often accused of having certain agendas, conspiring against Christianity or the United States (which some seem to think is supposed to be a “Christian Nation”).

Oh, please.  The only specific agendas I have known are by some Christians who want to turn the U.S. into some sort of moral Christian utopia.

As for our Atheist guest –  Art – he was pretty sharp.  As a few of us talked with him, he explained his reasoning for being an atheist.  We, on the other hand, did our best to prove to him God existed.  Art was able to counter all of our claims and posed questions we could not answer.

We were naive.  Maybe edging toward stupid.  Arguing gets no one, anywhere, fast.

Our “calling” is not to argue God’s case.  We were never called to prove Him to anyone. God is perfectly capable of revealing Himself.  For some reason, as we do with other areas of life, we feel it is our duty to be His deputies and prove or defend Him.

No one needs to be held down and convinced of anything. We don’t need to stress and strive to pull people to “our team”.  Our “mission” is not to make converts or convince people to “pray the Salvation Prayer”.  Our mission is to share the Gospel, by living it. It is not about being silent about Jesus, but Him and His love shining through us.

Love.  Friendship.  Respect.  Love people, give them friendship and respect where they are, what they believe and how they feel.

What?  Respect an Atheist?  Should I also respect them gays?  What about pro-choicers? I suppose you think I should respect druggies and loose women!  They’re all heathens!

And to that, I extend; shut up!

Jesus loves everyone, even people who don’t believe in Him.  If He were walking the Earth, “those people” would be among his circle of friends.  Why do we think we are better than He?

Back to that concert night.  I really could not understand why someone would invite a self-proclaimed Atheist to a Christian music concert.  I mean, bring him to a barbecue, or something.  Actually, the fact that he came at all is pretty amazing.

Well, God is bigger than that.

There was an altar call.  I could just picture Art, sitting there, with his arms folded across his chest, silently mocking, as “suckers” would “blindly” accept a non-existent deity.

I had the wrong picture.

Art was one of the first people to run up for the altar call.

I did not have to convince Art.  No one had to convince him of anything.  Nobody had to prove anything.

God revealed Himself.  Without anyone’s help.  It is one of those amazing things He does. When He reveals Himself, it is a matter of the heart.  We can only reach the surface, with words or deeds. These are good and necessary and can begin a heart-preparing process.  However, God does His own special heart surgery.

Our job is to love.  Out of love, we do things beyond ourselves.  Yes, share about Him.  But, we don’t have to “prove” Him to anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

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