Seeking Approval From Ghosts

About a couple of years ago, I read the book, I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers, by Tim Madigan. Mr. Madigan is a journalist who spent time interviewing the famed Mr. Rogers and found a friend in him. I highly recommend this book, if you want to read something that makes you reach for a tissue.

Within the book, through the friendship with Mr. Rogers, Tim was discovered a need for a certain level of approval. Mr. Rogers, being the kind of person he was, saw this and began to end his responses with, “IPOY”…which stands for, I’m proud of you.

Personally Speaking

My father was, by all accounts, a pretty decent guy.  He was pleasant, well liked and seemingly content most of the time.  There were issues, however, that kept him from being part of the household on a consistent basis.  So, from a young age, I remember my father either working long hours, or making a stop at a “local watering hole” before he came home. I don’t think he meant to be distant, but it did end up that way.

By the time I was nearly eleven, he had a massive stroke that left him in nursing care for the remainder of his life.  The man I barely knew had permanent short-term memory loss, so he needed 24 hour care.  He was not the same man, really.  In the long run, I never really got to know him.

Years later, as an adult, I unwittingly began seeking approval from others.  Men in authority, such as pastors or other leaders who would have been some level of paternal figure. It was not really a desperate thing, but it seemed to be a subconscious necessity.  It took me many years into my adulthood before I realized that I was seeking someone’s approval.

However, we are always approved.

Unconditionally, undeniably, unashamedly, unconditionally…with no regret, no reservations and without doubt…God approves of us.  No, not everything we do.

Everything we are.

His beloved children.  This is why Jesus went to anyone, from any walk of life, with any ailment, no matter their station in life, how they lived, smelled or looked…He would treat them with love and respect, placing a loving arm around them, covering what others would bring as exposed shame.

He never said He approved of what someone was doing, but He clearly showed He approved of the person.

He approves of you.

He approves of me.

Showing approval.

We still need approval, here on Earth.  We need to express and show approval.  You know, like when a little kids brings you his brilliant artwork.  Sure, it may look like mud-colored chaos on a piece of warped and water logged paper.  But, as a loving parent, you let them know how great their work is and hang it on the refrigerator for all to see.

One thing I have been trying to be diligent about…letting my two sons and son-in-law know that I am proud of them.  Yes, I let my girls know that, too.  But, I believe the impact of a Dad communicating this to his sons is important.  I don’t want them seeking approval from people who may wind up taking advantage of their efforts.

Once in a while, I will post something on my Facebook page about one or all of my boys, if not all of the kids.  I will explain how they are becoming fine adults, parents and citizens.  I have often closed these with “IPOY”.  When I talk with them, personally, I try to remember to let them know that I am always proud of them.

Story.

This is rather condensed, but I hope my point comes across.

An old friend was explaining to me about some stuff his son would write.  He told me his son has great insights.  However, from a theological standpoint, my friend had disagreements and let his son know what he felt was inaccurate.  Upon explaining this to me, he said that, perhaps, his son was seeking his Dad’s approval.  So, I just said that he should give his son his approval.

Not long later, he was reviewing another of his son’s articles.  He had some normal critique, but some of his critique was about to become rather, well, critical.  Under the advice of his wife, he left out those portions and his son’s response was very positive.  My friend actually sees a turnaround in his relationship with his son.

Dad’s approval for his sons means much. Mom’s approval for her girls means much. Parents approval for our children means much.  Grandparents approval for our grandchildren means much.  We may not agree with everything, we may have to correct or show the correct way.  But, we should always approve of them.

 

Approval comes from love.

Love says my desires are less important than others’ well being.  Love says my knowledge is less important than someone else’s effort.  Love says that my being right is less important than supporting someone going through a tough spot.  Love says that my agenda should be set aside for the betterment of someone else.

The ghost is gone.

There is no end to searching for approval from someone who is not there or who will never show proper approval.  For whatever reason, I finally came to realize that I was searching and how vain that search was.  God always approves of me and He is a proud father of all of us.

I now know He approves of me.  The ghost his gone.

We are His children and that is all there is to it.

If Jesus were to leave you a note, He might sign it…

IPOY

 

 

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Turning the Tables and Kicking Butts

Not a terribly sanctified title, I suppose.  If this is a problem…well…get over it.

In the ancient Jewish culture, the seriousness of sacrifices was like a life or death matter. This was what people did to seek forgiveness or gain or keep God’s approval.  The thing was, there was not a Temple on every corner.  People had to travel to Jerusalem in order to exercise sacrificial rites, often traveling long distances.  Well, this is relative…we have cars, trains and planes, now…they traveled by foot or beast.  Long, dusty travel.

Since they had to travel, carrying animals for sacrifice was inconvenient, if not out of the question. So, it was acceptable to buy animals when they got into town. Some may wonder why Jesus would barge in there and start turning over tables and whipping to drive out sellers.  Here is a recount, from John 2…

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

Let me repeat…this was an acceptable practice.  So, why would Jesus make such a production?

Price gouging.

Profiting from people’s desperation.

They were charging many times more than the animals would sell for otherwise.  If there were sellers elsewhere in town, prices were competitive.  But, at the temple, last minute, the prices were outrageous.

I have heard this taught with the focus on these guys selling stuff at the Temple, as Jesus exclaimed how it was to be a “house of prayer”, as He was “cleansing” the Temple of these profiteers who were selling on God’s property…that is, stuff should not be sold at all on Temple grounds.  This has also been the reason many churches won’t even have rummage sales to raise funds.

I don’t think this is the whole idea, though.  I believe He was protecting the people from being used by men wanting to make some fast money off of peoples’ desperation.  If we watch what Jesus was doing throughout His time, here, He often stood between the Pharisees (and other Jewish leaders) and the people.  In this case, the people were being taken advantage of in the name of what they would give to the Lord.

It’s not unlike when a lumberyard sells 25 dollar plywood for one hundred dollars, or more, or when fuel prices triple, just before or after a hurricane.

As I see it, we still have this problem.  Maybe you see it, too. People are being ripped of and taken advantage of in their quest to gain approval they don’t need, in the first place.  It comes with words…the convincing, manipulative words of men who, in many cases, profit greatly from the desperation of people.

Again…this is as I see it.  I am sharing my observations.

Tithing

Now, if you tithe, I ask, don’t fire back at me for this.  I am not asking you to agree with me…I am merely sharing what I have learned, in brief.

The popular Malachi passage was not addressed to the masses, but to the priests.  This was speaking about produce, not money and it went into a storehouse for distribution, not the synagogue for support of it or the Temple. Also, the idea of the local church mystically becoming a storehouse is unfounded.

Prosperity Teachings

Another way are the prosperity teachings.  This is a boldly indecent doctrine, raking in mass amounts of money with the lie of a promise that the giver will be “blessed”.  Some congregations have an attendee base made up of many financially struggling people who gladly give with the idea that God will raise them from their humble circumstances. However, the only ones making a fortune are the ones teaching these counterfeit messages.  The message appeals to greed, desperation and peoples’ desire to please God (by tithing/giving).  A few even give their last bit of money for nothing, because they want to find favor with God.

Where the money goes

In the US, seventy percent of the average church budget goes for buildings and salaries. Not feeding people in need, not clothing for the poor, not missions, not housing…that stuff all squeezes out somewhere among the remaining 30 percent.

Meanwhile, pastors are made into professionals and paid executive salaries in many cases, and buildings are made to be inviting and comfortable if not luxurious.  Somehow, this does not add up to what we can read about being witnesses, serving or being a pastor/elder…or even the “Great Commission”.

Manipulating the desperate ones.

It’s not always about money.

The invitation to go to Heaven or the threat of Hell after a long message appealing to peoples’ emotions, is a manipulative tactic to convince people to make an altar call. These altar calls often breed emotional responses and are the least effective way to lead people to the Lord, anyway.  But, those who do this are happy as they watch the droves come down the aisles and proclaim the numbers of those  who “came forward”.

There is also the threat of God’s disapproval over stuff deemed wrong as another manipulative tactic to keep members in line.  I have heard people…pastors from the pulpit, too…say how God can be disappointed in someone.  Wow…where did they get that idea?  What part of the Bible did God ever say, “I am so disappointed in you.”?

It comes down to Law.

If it isn’t bad enough for people to lean on the Law, they make Law out of things that really have no scriptural support, whatsoever.  What makes matters worse, the people who deliver that garbage are famous, sought after teachers, who are educated and have studied the Bible quite thoroughly.  However, one would think that they never studied the ministry and words of Jesus, Himself.

Have we forgotten about Jesus?

It just seems that simple.  Many of us claim, “The Bible plainly says…”, or, “It is clear in scripture…”, yet totally miss the simple and obvious accounts of Jesus’ ministry.  Of all the claims and declarations we can make, we seem to overlook Who we claim to serve.

Let’s get back to Jesus. Who He is. What He said and how He treated people while He was among men.  With that, we will see the old doctrines we have been following and pushing are not all they are cracked up to be.

For that matter, many of these old dogmas are just plain cracked.

Back to the Beginning.

It has always been about Jesus.  From the beginning, through the middle, now and on to Eternity.  Follow Him.  When we do that, we will begin to see how to live, serve and love His people and Him, as He has first loved us.

 

 

 

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I Dare You — Be Persuaded

I am re-sharing a shared post.  Men…read this.  We owe women this.

Originally posted on Jloraye: I was seven years old, sitting in my metal student desk, wearing my appropriate length skirt, staring up at the hole-y paddle on the wall, when I was first told girls couldn’t be pastors. I went home and cried and told my mom I wanted to be a boy. How dare…

via I Dare You — Be Persuaded

The Purity Ring

The modern day symbol of a young girls pledge to remain sexually pure until marriage. The Purity Ring.  In some cases, a girl who makes that decision to “remain pure” will talk to her parents about getting a ring to signify this commitment.  Another tradition is the girl’s father presenting her a ring and she would return it to her father on her wedding day.

Is it me, or is that last one just a little odd?  Perhaps, a tad disturbing.  If someone is going to embrace this tradition, it would seem that giving the ring to her new husband would be a better gesture.  After all, is she not giving herself to her husband?

You probably know this stuff anyway.  I just want to share my reasons for disagreeing with it.

I am all for teaching our kids that sex is best for the confines of a married relationship. This is really part of how we were created.  I do believe God wants a life commitment before physical intimacy…that is, there should be a heart and mind intimacy with a life commitment.

A few thoughts.

First…the word, purity, has been focused on the idea of sex, as if abstaining from sex outside of marriage would keep a person “pure”.  Well, honestly, nothing outside of the blood of Christ makes us pure and we are no more or less pure because of sex, or not.

Second…the purity focus is placed squarely on the girl.  This makes it up to the girl to remain pure. She is the one who gets the ring as a pledge of her sexual purity.  Uh…really?  Why aren’t boys asked to pledge their purity?  Personally, I think most girls have less trouble waiting…but, guys need to learn self-control and how to respect girls/women.

Third…wearing a ring has been touted as “good testimony”.  A girl can explain what the ring is for, if asked.  Then, she can supposedly have a lead-in to “witness to” the asker.  In other words, the ring is also supposed to be a good witnessing tool.  If stating a personal conviction is supposed to be good witness, I think we missed something.

Big sin, little sin.

We have placed certain standards as greater than others.  People are so hung up on sex that they don’t see the shortcomings in their own lives or in their midst (greed, gluttony or their own sexual issues).  For teens and adult singles, the big evil is sex and the even bigger evil is abortion.  Then, they want to place a legalistic hold on singles and go even further with wanting to make legislation to make certain things illegal for anyone, whether they live by godly convictions, or not.

As far as I am concerned, the purity ring is a reminder of keeping law.  It has nothing to do with actual purity nor does it guarantee or prove someone’s salvation.  It is not a good “witnessing tool”, as bragging about one’s sexual purity simply shows that one is a rule follower more than a witness.

What we do should be out of love.

Ultimately, we must realize, acknowledge and embrace God’s love for us.  With the knowledge of His love for us, we begin to love Him in return.  Out of that love, we become eager to live and do as He desires us to, whether it is to serve the needy or change (repent) something in our lives.

As far as repentance goes, this is inspired by the Lord.  We should never demand someone repent.  Repentance is a change of the mind…that is a work from within and such work is by the Spirit.  He knows the timing and the way to reach an individual.  Basically, Law becomes behavior modification…when the Lord calls for repentance, it is a change from the heart, borne out of love and responded with love.

We need to teach our kids why sex outside of marriage is not ideal, yet not demand sexual purity or state that sex outside of marriage is a ticket straight to hell.  Then, should the kids have any questions, concerns or have begun having sex…or found themselves with a pregnancy…they should have a safe, non-judgmental place to go.  They don’t need to be shamed or condemned…there is no room for that in the Kingdom.

To sum it up.

The idea of the purity ring is a nice tradition.  It just seems that it comes with a package of legalism and self-righteous bragging.  It is also not right that this burden be placed on the girls.  The male-centric society that has been built has blamed women for being raped, for getting pregnant and for looking appealing.  Sure, girls should be taught the importance of basic modesty and to temper flirtation…but, by and large, boys need to learn self-control and respect.

 

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Wasted Palm Branches

palmsIn many traditional Christian churches, Palm Sunday is celebrated with the waving of palm leaves and some even re-enact the laying of palms on the ground.  It reminds people of the day Jesus rode in on a donkey (fulfilling a prophecy, of course) and the masses waved palm branches and placed them, along with their coats (ever wonder why they don’t call it “Coat Sunday”?  I guess it just doesn’t have a good ring to it.), on the ground before Jesus, as the shouted, “Hosanna!”  Well, perhaps that scene was not what we have made it out to be.

Let’s see if you see what I see.  Your input is welcome.

Many teach that these people were worshiping Jesus, even though they were the same ones that wanted Barrabas when given the choice.  I even once heard that they “forgot” Who it was they worshiped with the laying of palms and decided they wanted the political prisoner released.

I don’t believe they were worshiping the Messiah, though.

Well, at least not the Messiah they thought they were worshiping.

There was a preconceived idea about the Messiah.  The Pharisees had their version. Many of the people had theirs, much of which was taught by the leadership.  Honestly, it was more of a political version than the one Jesus said He is.  The general idea was that the Messiah would come as a leader or a ruler and use His power to dispel the unwanted government(s).

The Pharisees were seemingly disappointed when they got to see Jesus and hear His words.  They had no problem with the miracles, really.  Even His popularity was not a problem at first, had He fit their ideal Messiah.  As time went on, His popularity did become an issue, as people were more drawn to Jesus and His teachings than what the Pharisees were doling out.

The people thought they had that Messiah that would put the Roman government out. They probably even wanted the oppressive Pharisees out, too.  They were ready for someone to rescue them from the system.  For that, they could shout, “Hosanna!”  The all powerful Jesus was their man.

Then, they changed their minds.  Jesus was captured and arrested.  Now, the Jewish leaders could swoop in and start manipulating the crowd.

It was the chief priests and elders who got the crowd riled up against Jesus.  Rather than reasoning or thinking for themselves, they allowed the false rationale and spread it around.  They started to believe Barabbas would save them from the Roman Empire.

Interesting thing about Barabbas…bar means, son of and abba means father.  Son of the father.  His name was fully, Jesus Barabbas.  Or, Jesus, son of the Father.  He had an identification that bore a resemblance of a savior.

In Matthew 27, verse 17, we see a distinction when Pilate asked the people who they wanted…“Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”  Basically, do you want this Jesus, or Jesus you have been calling Christ/Messiah/Savior?  This same crowd was just yelling “Hosanna!” about Christ, now suddenly wanted the one they thought would save them from what they thought they needed saving from.

Shall I get current eventful here, for a moment?  I hope you don’t mind.

This past election revealed much about a good portion of the Church.  Whether these people would admit it or not, Jesus is not enough for them.  Not only do they have Pharisee-esque rules, but want to impose them on others   They want legislation to force others to conform to rules they think should be adhered to.  Then, they voted for  – and told others to vote for – someone they thought would bring that legislation they so desire.

However, Jesus changes people from the inside, out.  He gives grace.  He shows love.  He is love.  When He came here, He came to serve.  He did not come to kick out Rome and establish a Theocracy.  This is what the Jewish leaders and many of the people wanted. Soon, they realized that Jesus was not about to be what they wanted.

They wanted Barabbas.

Barabbas was an insurrectionist who wound up in prison for murder during an uprising. He wanted Rome out.  The Pharisees wanted Rome out, because they wanted to rule with a self-righteous iron fist.  They did not like Jesus teaching and acting in a manner unlike the Messiah they had decided should be.

It seems that Barabbas was one who wanted to “make Israel great, again”.

In reality, Barabbas was not able to give them what they wanted, anyway. Rome continued to rule for years, afterward.

To me, the whole palm waving celebration is useless.  It was not intended to praise the real Jesus, but to praise their idea of Jesus.  His “triumphal entry” was not all that it has been cooked up to be.  While the King really was riding in right in front of them, they did not really see Him as the Messiah or the King of kings.  In Matthew 21, we see that they thought of Jesus as just a prophet from a nearby town…

10 When Jesus came to Jerusalem, everyone in the city was excited and asked, “Who can this be?”
11 The crowd answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

They respected Him as a great prophet.  It seems they did not recognize Him as the promised Messiah.  They were laying down palm leaves and their coats for a revered prophet.  Yes, they did acknowledge Him as the Son of David.  But, did they see Who it really was, riding right there in front of them?

Peter knew Who He was.

The Samaritan woman knew Who He was.

Zaccheus knew Who He was.

Mary Magdalene knew Who He was.

The crowd, however, saw a great prophet.  They thought this prophet might be the guy to deliver them from Rome.  They wanted the Messiah that would heal and do miracles. They also wanted the Messiah that would rule and reign and they thought that would or, at least, should happen on Earth in that present time.

Nowadays, people still have a limited view of the Savior.  Not just personally, as what Jesus does for us as individuals.  But, also our perception of His dealings with the rest of the planet.  We want Him to lay down the law and remove the lawbreakers.  We expect Him to establish a Christian Theocracy, here on Earth.

Especially in the United States…the so-called, “Christian Nation”.

Well, no.  I already have an article with my thoughts on that.

Jesus did not come to alter the system or take it over with the Ten Commandments as the standard.  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), is one main reason He came.

Yet, here, many among our ranks want to establish a Christian Nation, filled with Mosaic level rules and law.  Is the Jesus we read about enough?  Is the Jesus we claim to know enough?

Or, do we want or own version of Barabbas?  Do we have our own idea of Who the Messiah is?  Maybe we have some inflated idea of who we are in Him and still want to plaster His name on what we do in order to justify our plans and ideas.

It is time to get back with the Savior Jesus.

We don’t need another great prophet.  We need “Jesus, called the Christ”.

We don’t need another Barabbas.  We need the one and only Savior.

 

 

 

 

 

Do Not Support PBA

My wife watches our youngest granddaughter 4 days a week.  The little one is 10 months old and enjoys watching Mother Goose Club.

Over. And over. And over, again.

What the heck, she’s adorable and it is all about her, anyway.

What does this have to do with this “PBA” mentioned in the title?

I will tell you with the story of the Three Little Kittens.  Hearing the several renditions of this old nursery rhyme made both me and my wife consider something about the story.

You know these kittens…the ones who lost their mittens.  The story has to do with PBA. What is this “PBA”?  I will get to that.  Now, let’s remind ourselves of the old story.

Basics of Three Little Kittens

It goes like this…they lost their mittens, mother calls them ‘naughty kittens’ and they are notthreekittens allowed any pie.  I am not sure what kind of pie…looked like some kind of fruit, to me. My cats don’t care for fruit. As for mittens – cats have no thumbs. Maybe they were really baby tube socks.

I digress.

Then, the little kittens find their mittens and their very pleased mother gives them pie. Problem here, is, they wore the mittens while eating the pie.  They, thus, soiled said mittens, which rendered them as ‘naughty kittens’, once again.

Can’t threaten them with no pie…too late for that.

This has a big problem, though…Mom served them the pie. Did she not notice the mittens?  Well, whatever.

The little creeps decided they would wash their mittens.  This pleased Mother Dear, once again.  With that, she noted she smelled a rat nearby.  Okay, now kids.  Don’t wear your mittens while mauling that rat.  It will only start all over again.

By this point, you are wondering what this PBA is all about.  Enough with these ignorant kittens.

PBA is Performance Based Approval.  

Often, people are approved or disapproved based on their performance.  Performance Based Approval is a serious issue within the Church.  How we act, what we say, what we do or don’t do, what we wear, how we talk, etc., etc.  There is more about pleasing others than there is in knowing that the Father is pleased with us.

The Father always approves of us.  While I am pretty sure He is not so thrilled when we act contrary to His design or desire for us, He approves of us.

Parents…don’t you approve of your kids?  Sure, they can be loud, disobedient, wall-coloring, sass-mouthed, fight-picking, booger-eating vermin.  But, really…you totally approve of them.  Not the booger part, just them.  How much more does the Father approve of all of us?

In the Church, people are graded.  How much they serve, what they do, how loudly they praise or how often they raise hands during worship.  How we conduct ourselves determines whether we can head up a ministry or even serve in one, or in some churches, where we get to sit.  Sure, there are things that we need to be wise about concerning certain issues.  But, too many are put into some sort of confines of man-made rules.

Look who Jesus chose as His twelve.  Judas was overly concerned about money, Peter was headstrong and had issues with Gentiles, James and John wanted to one-up each other and there was certainly a good share of argumentative questioning and doubt to go around.  Jesus also ministered to countless people who had nothing to do with Him after they were healed, taught or fed.

He approved of every single one.

Really?  Yes, He did.

Maybe we just need to get over ourselves or get off of our high horses.

God’s approval is not based on our performance.  Why do we demand certain performance in order to approve of anyone?

What this breeds, most often, is behavior modification.  People will act and talk in certain ways around their fellow Christians, whom they want to be approved by.  They can’t be themselves, they can’t have a bad day, they can’t have a hole in their jeans which are frowned upon for wearing in the first place.  They have to sing with a certain amount of apparent excitement, talk like life is one big victory, be sure to give tithes and offerings, have near perfect children, perfect hair and never be late to service.

All to win approval.

No.  This is too much pressure for people.

Love and grace have no performance demands for approval.  Say “No!”, to Performance Based Approval.

In this case, I do not support PBA.

 

Another Great Post Worth Reading

No matter what group of people I’m connecting with, EVERYONE has a ridiculous (or scandalous) story that comes to mind when this is brought up. A story where we or someone we love was hurt or done wrongly inside of church. When the story is told, it’s just as fresh and raw as when it […]

via When Christians don’t act like Jesus — just a jesus follower