Reformation 21…Picket Lines, Sidewalk Prayers and Lies

If you are anything like most of us, you probably hate it when someone lies to you. The most bold yet prolific lies are the ones publicly displayed. We hear enough coming from the White House – even more in the last year – as well as celebrities and large corporations.

We feel a sense of betrayal, sometimes. Other times, we simply consider the source and move on.  But, there are lies being told that are being perpetrated as truth and evidence of someone’s platform.

Not only are these lies being perpetrated as the truth, but they are an attempt to prove what someone is saying is true. It is the kind of information that would get someone charge with perjury in a court of law. If it was a matter of evidence for a case, it could be coupled with obstruction of justice.

Followers of the purveyors of false information receive this garbage as if the Lord Himself was speaking to them. For that matter, they are convinced these teachers are the voices of God no matter how ridiculous, preposterous, heinous or unscriptural their specious spewings are.

Example…there is a billboard on Rt. 38 in Cherry Hill, NJ from a “pro-life” organization. The first line is about how there is a heartbeat in the first 18 days of life. Well, if anyone was to do their research, the truth is that it is not a heartbeat, but the beat of a neural pulse. Does the creator of the billboard know this? If not, they are ignorant. If so, they lie.

No, I am not advocating abortion. This is about lying to push an agenda.

People also protest homosexuality and LGBTQ rights. Within that, some have gone as far as to say some fairly preposterous things. Like, gay marriage makes a mockery of marriage; or, allowing gays their rights will lead to rights for pedophiles and bestiality practice rights.

Nothing to be further from the truth. It is wrong to deny basic rights to anyone for any reason. But, to go as far as to make up reasons that are not even remotely related to the issue is also very wrong.

Why some have to stoop to the level of lying to prove their agenda is beyond me. They also lie about prosperity, miracles/healings in order to prove that God exists and that these “men of God” are anointed to promote their specious messages.

If the Gospel cannot be shared just as it is, then we have no message. If we have to stoop to lying, sensationalizing, exaggerating a message that has little to do with the real Gospel and Jesus, we prove that we are not so much witnesses as we are carnival barkers or sales people.

Back to Jesus. That is where we need to go. Jesus. His Gospel. Live with His love at the core.

Simple.

 

 

 

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Twenty-first Century Reformation: “Clobber Scriptures” and Other Sayings

The top of the list of issues for Evangelicals to bemoan, scream about, protest, preach against and generally fuss about is homosexuality and same-sex marriage. To hear their spin on it, the LGBT community is trying to take over society, infiltrating our schools and even our churches, in order to propagate their agenda.

Ah, yes…the “gay agenda”. Not entirely sure this is a real thing, folks. As I understand it, that very phrase was made up by some preacher, somewhere. If there is any agenda, it is to get what all citizens have…fair job opportunities, a voice and dignity as citizens. They are not seeking to take over the country or force everyone to be gay. Homosexuality is not a promotion for bestiality, pedophilia or the demise, dissolution or mockery of (heterosexual) marriage. Basically, the LGBT folks just want to live their lives, in peace, as citizens.

I am finding out that some things are not really as they have been made out to be.  There are “clobber scriptures” and clever axioms that are used to prove how “big” a sin homosexuality is. Through this, I have come to find that a few of the verses and phrases people use have nothing to do with homosexuality and are sometimes not even logical.

fistA few highlighted, here.

Sodom and Gomorrah

It has been said that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality. This is based on the one account where the men threatened to rape the two (apparently) male visitors. Well, not really.

First, God had already decided to destroy the cities long before that incident.

Second, in Ezekiel, it is pointed out that God destroyed these two cities because of greed and selfishness.

That incident, as crass and nasty as it was, is no indicator of rampant homosexuality in the two cities. There are men, who are heterosexual, who would debase their instincts to animal level and use sex as a dominance maneuver, even if it is just a matter of “smack-talk”. This is what dogs do…they sometimes “hump” another dog in order to assert their dominance. Such actions in humans is disgusting and debased, but not necessarily indicative of homosexuality.

“Sexual Immorality”

There are some verses using these very words, which many lump homosexuality into.  Each one I looked into, the language used mostly refers to adultery, not homosexuality. To lump homosexuality in with sexual immorality, as per scriptural definition, is to add in something extra to scripture.

Interesting note…adultery is dealt with in scripture nearly 10 times as much as homosexuality.

“Gay Marriage Makes a Mockery of Marriage”

No. It does not.

What does make a mockery of marriage? Well, adultery and other sexual improprieties within the Church mirror the rest of society. Also, some hotels have reported that the most orders for pornography occur during Christian conferences.

Let’s also consider the patriarchal, “male-centric” pattern in much of the Church, placing men as lords and masters, first and final decision makers and wives are to be subservient (not what submissive means, by the way).

Same sex marriage does not make a mockery of marriage. Many Christians, who tout their moral and family values, have done just fine making a mockery of marriage.

Other Thoughts

I could go on with other “clobber scriptures” and cite some preacher quotes. I would rather get back to the core of Whose we are and who we are supposed to be.

First, I want to be clear and as respectful as possible…I do not believe that homosexuality is God’s design for a personal/sexual relationship. However, I do not believe we should demand they change, abandon their relationships or legislate them not to marry. The main reason Christians demand these things is to make themselves more comfortable.

Side note: Gays in the military does not have any negative bearing on the military. I served with many gay men aboard a ship. They were hard working, decent guys who served their country, very well. They did not try to flirt or convert anyone toward “their way”. They were sailors, as much as anyone else.

Love at the Core

Love is – should be – the core of our speech, our reactions, our motivations, our demeanor and how we approach people. Protesting one or two groups of people for what we disagree with about them or what we do, communicates more about hate and legalism than it does the Gospel.

“Oh, but it says we should speak the truth in love.”

When we steamroll a person with how sinful we say they are, this is not speaking the truth in love. When we tell someone how wrong they are and how right we are (this is actually what is heard), we are not speaking in love, at all.

 

Let’s just get back to Who Jesus is…how He talked to people of all walks of life. He would never talk to people the way so many Christians do. Many among us have completely overlooked Jesus and have embraced legalism. They have gone so far as to basically make up  – apart from any scripture – the rules and doctrines they shout about.

Love your neighbor. No if’s, and’s or but’s. No speeches, corrections or warnings.

Maybe, instead of pounding the drum of how people need to “get right” with Jesus, we should go forward and simply present the Gospel in the manner He presented Himself and His Gospel.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Shared Post, Written By a Long Time Friend.

I have known the man who wrote this post for most of my life. Love has been a study, a quest and a desire of his for a long time. He also walks in love as well as any human I have ever known.  With that, I invite you to read his heart, here.

“We say atoms are bound together by weak attractors, but let’s admit the truth. We all know the universe is held together by LOVE.” Michio Von Kerr, Mystic and Physicist, CY 9942 I saw this quote in an old episode a Sci-fi series inspired by Gene Roddenberry. Dylan Hunt, captain of the Star ship Andromeda, […]

via What Holds the Universe Together? — THE HORIZONTAL CHURCH

Twenty-First Century Reformation: How We Talk to Our Neighbor

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

And, oh, how we hate that sin.

We hate sin because we believe God hates it. We act as if we are keepers of the old Law as God’s special deputies, here to explain and enforce His Law.  People focus on a very small handful of issues or sins, for the most part, declaring damnation on anyone who takes part.

People tend to spout selections of the Law as fits what they feel is the most important issue or the worst sin. There are protests, speeches, sermons, statements and general words-to-be-said to people who are involved, have done or support some sin (or what some may consider sin). There are select verses, long-winded explanations, alleged studies showing how wrong they are, warnings and threats of eternal damnation for those who are guilty of these oft mentioned issues.

People are told how much God loves them.

Okay. That is good. As we know, God’s love is unconditional.

However, with that, they are told how sinful they are and how they must repent and and accept Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.  Funny thing is, this is not how Jesus ever approached, anyone.

biblebashers

He told His disciples, “Follow Me”.

He told the Woman at the Well, “I am He.”

He had the disciples feed the multitudes without question.

He went about doing good and acted in kindness toward all. He healed, fed and taught.  He simply presented Himself and the Gospel.

But, we demand repentance of people.

Repentance is a result of knowing His love and grace. It is a change of mind in response to His revelation. Not from the demand of anyone.

Quick story: A pastor I knew told of one of his weekly stops at a local doughnut shop, which was owned and run by an Indian family.  One of the women there asked him about what he believed and he explained about his belief in Jesus. When he returned the question, she replied how she believed in many gods. He came back at her with, “That is a shame!”

No. He was being shameful, really.

The Romans were pagans. We don’t read Jesus telling the Centurion, or other Romans He encountered, anything about their paganism.

How we speak to our neighbor is important. Being pleasant and nice is good, but the words we use can be like either throwing rocks or sending invitations.

Jesus said to love our neighbor. There was no other caveat, clause, opposing thought, or even a, “But…”.

Jesus never reacted to sin or how people lived. If He addressed anyone on their sin, it was the religious hypocrites, not the “sinners”. He made it a point to spend time with sinners, so much so that the religious accused Him of being one of them (Matthew 11:19). Christians, on the other hand, stay at arms length from those they deem as sinners, often spending a great amount of time among ‘their own kind’.

The big trouble with hating the sin and loving the sinner is that hating the sin gets magnified. We can be so focused on “hating the sin” that what others mostly see is the hate. How people live is often part of who they are. To express hate over what someone does communicates hate toward the person.

In the account of the woman at the well, Jesus spoke lovingly and respectfully to the woman, even though He had every opportunity and perfect right to address everything that was wrong with her. He answered each of her questions and made no issue of her not being married to the man she was living with.  When she wanted to go back and get people to come hear Him, He did not demand that she change in order to “represent Him better”.

We would rather tell people what is wrong with them, how sinful they are and how far away they are from Jesus, rather than just presenting them with Jesus in the first place.

Hate is a poor communicator.

Back to the first sentence of this post. Let’s edit that.

Love the sinner.

 

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Twenty-First Century Reformation

lutherFive hundred years ago, Martin Luther began to walk away from the rigid, judgmental system the Church had become.  God had revealed grace to Luther and as he embraced grace, he was transformed. He also began to see the un-Christlike behavior of Church leaders and challenged them.  Other people began to see what Luther was seeing and began to step away from that old system, as well. The Reformation had begun.

To reform is to remold or reshape. The Reformation, therefore, was a reshaping for the Church. In the old Reformation, it resulted in a new denomination, but continued to challenge the old orthodoxies. The leaders of the church of that day were propagating rules and punishment. It was as far from the Gospel as death is from life.

As many of us know, Mr. Luther posted his thesis, spelling out the error of the Church of that day. It didn’t win him any popularity contest, but it sure woke up some folks.

Another Reformation is Beginning

Many old, errant orthodoxies that are based on weak or loose interpretations of scripture or speculative reason, are being questioned, challenged and refuted.

Today, there is no single Reformation leader.  God is inspiring and speaking to many, many people, most of whom are not pastors or leaders. They are refusing to adhere to the old, false teachings or bow to the fear. They are becoming aware of the legalistic, judgmental teachings and how traditions have become requirements. They are waking up, once again, to grace and the love of Jesus.

Today’s political climate in the US has been instrumental in revealing the true nature of the portion of the Church (considered Evangelicals, the Christian Right or the Religious Right) and many church leaders. As much as I hate the “us vs. them” mentality, especially within the Church, there is a chasm being broadened between those who propagate false, judgmental doctrines and those who do their best to represent the true Gospel of Jesus.

This chasm is more serious than mere doctrinal disagreement. It is a matter of true, Biblical based teachings and following Christ as compared to teachings that are judgmental, sexist, racist and basically, anti-Christ.

Overall, we have become a people who are overly concerned with bashing the sins of those who do not follow Jesus, while we have some grievous sins being committed right under our noses. This once happened in the Early Church.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

My grandmother once taped a quote on my bedroom door that read, Clean up the world tomorrow. For now, just clean up your room.

The point, in this case is, we tend to judge those outside of the Church while we have serious issues right at home.

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

This was a problem in Corinth. I am not sure about the rest of the world, but similar are problems in the Church in the United States (As Solomon so well put it, there is nothing new under the sun). Like the Church in Corinth, people boast and brag while the real sin is behind their own front door.

This is about the Church, not about people outside the Church (unsaved). Paul directly addresses the church at Corinth. Believers. Christians. Followers of Jesus. He mentions a few sins as examples in verse 10. These weren’t unsaved people Paul was addressing, but those who proclaimed Christ, behaving in destructive ways, all the while bragging and boasting.

This reminds me of what is being made more plain among the Church, today. Many among us are telling the world how (sometimes specific) people are going to hell unless they “receive Jesus” and repent of their evil sin. Meanwhile, some of these same men are involved in adultery, pornography, pedophilia, financial impropriety or other destructive behavior, often while their followers and/or friends ignore, hide or even approve of what they do.

Subsequent posts – just a few – I would like to address the extremes we see, which are on either side of an issue. One side says judgment, while the other side justifies advocating of sins. Both sides misuse and misinterpret scriptures or even use/add illogical reason in order to prove their point. I might even tackle some pat phrases which may not be entirely accurate according to scripture.

With that, I will challenge a few old doctrines. I have done this before, but some may do with a slight repeat.

Let’s see where this takes us and the reactions therewith. I shall wear a helmet, just in case.

 

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The Alleged War on Christmas

waronchristmasHere we are, more than halfway through October and there are tremors about what some are calling a war on Christmas.  This is all because, supposedly, retail employees are not allowed to bid customers a Merry Christmas.

Not allowed to say Merry Christmas?

Says, who?

Well, there was that time that employees of a major retail chain were asked to say, “Happy Holidays”, rather than “Merry Christmas”. It was in order to not exalt one holiday over the others that are celebrated during that time of year. That sure started some lovely waves of response by those who feel Christmas is the only holiday worth mention.

I think this is what may have been the catalyst on this alleged war on Christmas.

I understand that now, retailers may encourage employees to greet with the more generic, “Happy Holidays”, but do not outright discourage saying “Merry Christmas”.  However, since the former greeting is still active, there are those Christians who act like they are being dragged down to the dungeon, placed on a rack and tortured for Christ’s cause.

Give me a break.

Now we want to legislate holiday greetings.  Really?

Personally, I don’t care.  I mean, Christmas is a holiday.  It should be wished to be a happy one.  Right?  However, to not admit there are other holidays that folks celebrate is rather short sighted.

A brief tale of arrogance.

A former pastor used to love telling of his “boldness” with people.  One of his particular bragging moments, he explained how a cashier said, “Happy holidays!” upon completion of his order.  He explained how he boldly and confidently looked straight at the cashier and replied with a smile, “Merry Christmas!”, as if he had one-upped the store employee with his clever and victorious holiday greeting.

Pompous ass.

Yeah, I said it.

Christmas is a made up holiday.

I will also say this – we put way too much stock in Christmas.  While I am not anti-Christmas or some sort of Scrooge or Grinch, I simply do not see Christmas as being “all o’ dat”.  It is a made up holiday that was meant for the sole purpose of keeping pagans among the Church. Really.  Read the history of Christmas and how pagans celebrated Saturnalia (a legal free-for-all).  In short, they made the day after Saturnalia’s end, December 25th, as Jesus’ birthday in order to get these pagans back in line.  It was a church marketing program.  Over that last hundred and something years, it has been highly commercialized, making big profits for retailers.

One guy wrote a letter to that one big retailer I mentioned, saying how they should say, “Merry Christmas”, as they and other retailers owe their year end profits to Christmas. Yeah, they kinda do.  But, that is not a good enough reason to force that greeting on everyone.

In the long run, we now have a fun, festive time full of a variety of traditions.  It is primarily a Christian holiday, of course.  Not Jewish, not Muslim, not Buddhist and certainly not Atheist. To bid everyone a ‘Merry Christmas’ is presumptuous and pushy.

It is perfectly disrespectful to force someone else to observe a traditional greeting for a holiday they might not celebrate, much less one they do not identify with.

There is no war on Christmas

There is no “war”. Those who declare this are simply wanting a big fight.  They want to claim some sort of persecution against Christians.  They claim how everyone gets their rights, but Christians are having their rights removed.  What they really want is their “Christian nation” so they can run things and legislate what they think is morality.

In the United States, Christians are not being persecuted.  If these guys simply read the definition of what persecution is, they might realize they are not being persecuted.

They are bullies who claim to be the victims.

I am continually amazed how people want to shove Christianity on people, but not present Jesus and His Gospel to them.  Forcing people to say or hear something like Merry Christmas is not only obnoxious, but it’s useless.  It is not about the Kingdom.

If someone says, “Happy Holidays”, the simple response should be, “Thank you. Happy Holidays to you, too.”, with a smile.

Romans 12:18 states, If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Amplified)

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Since when is living at peace with anyone about attacking them because they are not on our “side”? This is not to say we should seek some sort of tranquil Utopian thing, but not to be troublemakers.

These characters who want to force their beliefs, convictions or traditions on others are troublemakers, not peacemakers.

Keep Christ in Christmas?

This old chestnut is worn out.  Personally, I am sick of seeing it on bumper stickers, front lawns or plastered on Facebook.  The best response I have seen for this is, “How about we keep Christ in Christian?”

It is the Christians who declared this alleged war.  This is not Christ-like in any stretch of the imagination.  Jesus didn’t go around forcing Himself on anyone or demanding that the Jews overthrow the Roman government.  He did not expect Romans to celebrate Passover or observe Hebrew Law.

 

 

 

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Are We Supposed to “Defend the Faith”?

In the culture of Christendom, we have buzzwords, catchphrases, axioms, old chestnuts, sayings among the rhetoric many hold so dear.  Many have come from streams of Biblical thought, others are extrapolated from out-of-context Biblical thought, while others are basically made up.

Personally, I like to challenge these extrapolations and made up stuff.

Now, as to defending the faith – here are my thoughts, as clearly and briefly as I can communicate.  This is a topic that has been on my mind for several years, now.  But, the topic has come up several times, recently, so I thought I would approach it.

Let’s take this from the back end.

The Faith

To be clear, Christianity (nor any religion) is not “a” faith.  This places faith as an institution.  In short, faith means belief.  We do not follow or ascribe to “a” faith or “the” faith. Faith is, in plain terms, is agreeing with God. I shall explain.

Abram/Abraham believed.  Right?  Yes, but not right away.  He is considered a great man of faith, but he was just as much an idiot as the rest of us.  God, in His great love and grace, took time to show Abram more of Himself and prove Himself.

However, in order to make faith a real thing, action must take place.  When Abram believed God, he acted upon what God was telling him.

Faith needs works to be complete.  Abram’s faith was nothing unless he did what he believed God told him.  This is what I believe to be, “Faith, without works, is dead.”

Therefore, faith is not like a system, an organization or a stream of thought.  We cannot belong to it, be part of it or join it. We have faith, we walk in faith and this is not possible except by the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Defending this Faith

Faith, truly defined, does not need nor can it be defended.  However, we can move on to the idea of “defending the Gospel”.

Gospel.  Good News.  Jesus is the embodiment of the Good News. The Promised Messiah. He brought love and grace and lived these every moment during His ministry, here.

The Gospel does not need defending.  And, if it does, certainly we are not near one iota of being qualified to defend it.

There are a couple of things I see.

One, is that there are those who feel they have to defend Jesus, Himself.  Really?  King of kings, Lord of lords, Almighty God, Prince of Peace, etc.  Mere human feels Jesus needs defending?  Jesus said, as He was about to be arrested, that He could command legions of angels, if He wanted to.

I think He has all the defense He needs.

The other thing I see is folks want to defend Christianity.  They feel that Christians are being persecuted, somehow.  When we realize what makes them feel “persecuted”, the reality is, they have no idea what it means to be persecuted.

In the US, particularly, it is felt by some that religious freedom is being taken away, simply because people don’t want the convictions of a few to legislate everyone’s lives.  I think I might approach this idea of “persecution” in another post.  Overall, they take disagreement as persecution.

In either case, people act like some battle line has been drawn.  I fail to find where we are supposed to fight to defend Jesus or Christianity in the militant manner some are inclined toward.  Nothing…nothing says anything about Christians taking reign in any government in order to live as Christians or to enforce some sort of Christian nation.

I fail to see where all this “defense” – which is really offense – amounts to represents Jesus or His Gospel.

Personally, I have no need to “defend the faith”.  I don’t see where we are instructed to do so.

Be witnesses, yes.

Love our neighbors, for sure.

Know Him…absolutely.

Defend your family and home.  Defend the defenseless.  Defend the poor and vulnerable.

We are not part of “a” faith or “the” faith.  And, God is bigger than any supposed defense we think we can muster up.

Thoughts?