Operation Agape’

Love.heart

What do you think of when you hear that word?  You may think how much you love your parents, your spouse or your kids.  Maybe you think of all the mush that is associated with Valentine’s Day.  If you are a tennis fan you may find that love means nothing.

We have all sorts of metaphor’s to describe love.  You know, the “Love is…”, or “Love means…” fluff.  Like, “Love is a warm hug, a litter of sleeping puppies or Sunday afternoon in your favorite chair. Many of us may have also heard these old quotes:

  • Love means never having to say you’re sorry. From Love Story
  • Love is a Many Splendored Thing.  Song by Francis Webster
  • Love is a friendship set to music. – Joseph Campbell
  • Love is real, real is love. –  John Lennon

Ad nauseum.  Or, add nausea.  No offense to the folks who came up with these, but their ideas have become rather greeting card-ish.  Hear stuff like this too much, one’s cookies could be on the way up.

There are a three main directives in scripture, concerning love: Love God, love your neighbor and, the New Commandment, love one another. First, let’s review from Mark 12 (among other references), which has been dubbed, “The Greatest Commandments”:

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Loving God can start when we embrace and believe His absolute, complete, unconditional love for us. When we truly believe His unconditional love, we begin to return with love and desire to do His will.  What we have as convictions are based on a desire to do as our loving Creator wants and has designed us to be.  This is opposed to the legalistic approach, which is more about mandates and behavior modification.  This was never God’s idea or design. What this breeds is a Pharisee-like legal system.  Love breaks law.

Loving our neighbor is something that has been redefined in many circles.  It has been watered down, altered and sometimes overlooked.  Of course, the Greek word for love, agape’, means unconditional love.  Love with no conditions.  None.  This is the love we are supposed to have for others. Only God can truly exercise such perfect and great love.  However, it is up to us to decide to love and His love can work through us.

Then, there is that little addendum…“as yourself”.  Some say this speaks about loving yourself, first.  Others have interpreted this to be, “as you, yourself, are loved.”  Not entirely sure, but the latter sounds closer to home.  It’s like, “God loves me, let me show you how much He loves you, too.”

Then, we have the New Commandment, love one another…John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  In spite of some crossover, this is not quite the same as loving our neighbor.  One another refers to those with whom we have common ground, basically.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ.  One great representation of Him is how we are among one another.  Unfortunately, as being those who allegedly wear the armor of God, we spend a lot of time polishing our armor and fighting each other.  Love is more than covered dish dinners and hugs on Sunday mornings.

More about love in following posts.  Maybe we can get this figured out…as we walk together.

 

 

 

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Church Psychoses

When I hear or read what comes out of the mouths of Christians, I have to wonder if something shifted in their minds.  I mean, when you hold these things up against scripture, it is like some Christians have their own brand of nutty behavior.

crazyface

  • One “church” believes that God does not love the whole world, as it says in John 3:16, but that He sent His Son for only those who would follow Him and adhere to certain Biblical standards.
  • One famous “preacher” said that we should keep sinners, or, those people, out of our churches, keep our kids away from them, that they are part of the enemy’s plan to ruin, or devour us.
  • I saw a video of a guy who said that he wished Bruce/Caitlin Jenner would die and go to hell.
  • A pastor I knew believed that pastors can be a covering.  That is, if you obey the pastor instead of what the Lord is telling you, by obeying the pastor, you would be covered.

We can all read and hear the rantings of men like, Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham. Men who have had a place of respect and notoriety, men who know just about any verse in the Bible you can pull up.  Yet, we can hear the most un-scriptural things come out of them.  It is a bit disappointing, really.

Perhaps we have a new strain of OCD…Obsessive Christian Demands.  They want to hold all the rules and make everyone follow them.

Maybe we are spiritually bi-polar.  One minute, praising the Name of Jesus, proclaiming His love.  A few moments later, attacking like a voracious hawk on a rat, against someone who doesn’t live like we think they should.  Some of our leadership have inspired this behavior.

The old question goes; Who is crazier?  The leader, or the follower?  Gotta wonder.

What to do, then?  We might hear something we are not sure of.  There is nothing wrong with asking questions and seeking a satisfactory, true or correct answer.  The answers we seek should bear up to the scrutiny of the full counsel of scripture, God’s unconditional love and His grace.  We need to watch how Jesus did things while He was here…how He treated people, how He spoke to people, what he taught, what He said and even how He said it.

We need to do whatever it takes to get a hold of what is right and true.  Even if it takes days, months or more time to get to it.  Then, don’t be afraid to embrace what you have found – unless someone can prove you are in error.  That means, real proof, not just fancy words and circular reasoning.

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” Gal. 1:8

Yeah, curse is a big word, here.  But, the point is, such messages should not be allowed to succeed.

If what we speak, or hear, does not center on God’s love, His grace, His plan for restoration or – I will say it – common sense or logic, we should examine it against scripture.  On that note, I have done enough of pointing out a few of our faux pas.  The next few posts, I will attempt to explain things I have been learning about love and grace…as we walk together.

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Line In The Sand

Drawing lines in our lives can be a good thing.  We draw the line when it comes to personal preferences, personal convictions or promises.  It’s like, when people who like a thrill ride, but “draw the line” on bungee jumping, or skydiving.  Sometimes, however, we often draw lines as a matter of legalism.  The Pharisees were particularly fond of doing this.

One big thing about the Pharisees was that they had over 2000 rules on how to obey the Ten Commandments.  Basically, they created and drew lines that the Father never did.  At certain opportunity, Jesus challenged their doctrines and judgmental dictates.  The Church has too many people, however, who have embraced the ministry of the Pharisee.  We have drawn lines that were never designed by God.  It is time we challenge the religious dictates.sandline

God’s design has parameters – aka, He has drawn lines.  When we step across them, there are most often consequences.  However, those are His lines. We obey His lines according to His convictions, as we follow Him.  But, what we do is make our own lines – moral lines, legalistic lines, selfish lines, lines that oppress and lines that offend.  Then, if making up our own lines isn’t enough, we draw them for others.

The Pharisees were all about the Law.  Today, the Church has been little different.  We have come to the point where we want to impose our convictions up
on our neighbor.  This was never what Jesus taught, or even suggested.  When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment…Mark 12,

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c]There is no commandment greater than these.”

We impose our convictions on others because we have stepped away from the main theme of love and the grace it comes with.  Instead, we are too busy being Christians, intent on piety, legalism and a false sense of righteousness.  We have made a religion out of what is supposed to be a relationship.  In so doing, we draw our own lines.

There are groups of Christians – movements, if you will – who have added rules that have little or nothing to do with scripture.  For example, there are those who have rules about…

The Bedroom

Anyone who studies the Bible knows that sex was designed for the contexts of marriage. Fine.  But, some folks put restrictions within the confines of married peoples’ sex – what positions are acceptable, frequency limited to procreation, lights off, the wife always being “available”.    These are things left between the two people for whom God created sex for, not some rules created by people. The Bible says that the “marriage bed is undefiled”.  Made up lines do not belong there.

Lengthen Your Hem, Dear

Some of us have drawn lines on how to dress.  Sure, modesty is ideal.  But, some have taken it to unnecessary points.  Besides, it puts pressure and blame on women for what amounts to lack of self control on the part of men.  Some congregations will even monitor visitors…one woman visits and her neckline is a little too low, one or more of the ladies will “lovingly” have a chat with her and maybe offer her a scarf to wear.  Here is a way we draw a line someone else is not convicted about.

Wine and Strong Drink

Alcoholic beverages are hotly debated.  Some Christians absolutely forbid drinking alcohol.  As I read my Bible, I see warnings about excessive drinking, but nothing about drinking, itself.  Otherwise, Jesus would not have turned the water into wine.  I am not a drinker, but I do realize that is not a line to draw for anyone else.

Music

I remember, back in the late 70’s or early 80’s, there was a guy who did “Expose’ on Rock and Roll”.  Much of it was sensationalized bits and pieces of evidence in order to prove that rock music is a sin.  In recent years, we have come to accept “contemporary Christian Music”.  However, there are those who don’t accept that genre’, considering it “worldly”.  These same people think that only the old hymns are acceptable.  What is funny, when the old hymns were coming out as new, they were considered as “worldly” – for that matter, the beloved organ was considered a sinful instrument.  There is nothing in scripture that suggests styles, or the correctness thereof.  Once again, more lines drawn.

“But, scripture is clear…”

Actually,  I find that more than half of the people who say that really don’t know their scriptures as well as they think.  Oh, sure, they can pick out a chosen few in order to prove their point.  But, most of the time, what they cite is often out of context.  Or, they overlook the audience to whom God was speaking.

Whenever we see a “line drawn” in scripture, it was usually not for the common populace, but for the Israelites…or a specific person, family or community.  Of course, in the New Testament, Christians and specific churches were being addressed.  But, for some reason, there are those who want to legislate the rest of society to bend to “rules” that are meant for us.  It seems we want to draw lines for everyone, and anyone who does not acknowledge these lines is considered impure, sinful, anti-Christ, unacceptable and should be badgered, belittled, berated, judged and/or shunned.

It is past time we stopped drawing the lines God never did.  We need to seek Him and learn what it is to live in His love and grace and let Him shine through us.  If any line is to be drawn, it should be this: If Jesus and His love are not at the center of it, it is not scriptural and should not be entertained.

 

 

 

 

 

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Who Makes This Stuff Up?

phariseeHow many times has a government, corporation or organization exaggerated or altered statistics in order to make something appear as they say it is?  More often than some would admit, there are “preachers” who come up with strange stuff in order to prove a point that has little or nothing to do with actual scripture.  I have some examples.

First example is a southern New Jersey pastor’s statement – from the pulpit – that was simply un-scriptural, judgmental and legalistic.  Dig this…”Homosexuality is the worst sin.  It breaks all of the commandments!”

Really?  I know what the Bible has to say about this, but that ain’t it.

Next one is of a children’s pastor in Hampton, Virginia, over 30 years ago, who wanted to prove the “evils” of certain entertainment to a group of young people.  He cited the Smurfs.  He said that because they were blue with “black lips” (yes, an outline, I know), that this represented a dead body. Then he went on about those who worship the dead.  No..really…I was there and heard it, myself.

Wow.  How have we lived without such great insights?

Finally, a quote from Franklin Graham:  “What happens is we think we can fight by smiling and being real nice and loving. … We have to understand who the enemy is and what he wants — he wants to devour our homes. He wants to devour this nation. … We have to be so careful who we let our kids hang out with. … We have to be so careful who we let into the churches. You have immoral people that get into the churches and it begins to affect the others in the church and it is dangerous.” (Italics added for emphasis)

Apparently, when Jesus said, “Love your neighbor…”, He also meant to keep your distance from him.  Uh…no.

The goal is not to try to change these purveyors of inaccurate doctrines, but perhaps extend some encouragement to walk and act in his love.  We have stepped off the path, so to speak.  For that matter, we have become our own architects and paving crew for our own super-highway of selfish and judgmental speech, actions and doctrine and we have had the audacity to put Jesus’ name on it.

We need to stop embracing the Pharisee-esque messages and attitudes of many of our “leaders”.  We most importantly need to get back to actually following Jesus, examining  Who He is, reading His example as He walked among us. We need to stop asking, “What would Jesus do?” and start seeking, “Who would Jesus be?”

In following posts, I would like to communicate how we have built a wall apart from the Cornerstone, having forgotten love and grace.  Within various categories, I plan to discuss more about where we need to be, with brief examples of where some of us are.  I try to use pronouns like “we” and “us” as often as possible, as we can all be culpable of un-Christlike actions and attitudes.

Essentially, we will be walking through this, together.

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Christian Left…or Right?

From Google Images

From Google Images

Christians to the left.

Christians to the right.

Each thinks the other is wrong.  The Christian Left (also an organization with a Facebook page) tends to side with liberal Democrats, preferring ideas such as feeding the poor (welfare), peace (war should not be an option), no capital punishment, free healthcare for all, etc.  Our friends on the Right feel that Republicans are on their side, embracing capitalism, military action against our enemies, getting people off of welfare and that people should pay for their healthcare.  Honestly, each side has some valid points.  But, each side also has some serious issues which we need to be aware of.


Who is right?  Who is wrong?  

Both.

I get Christian Left on my Facebook news feed.  Much of what they share is spot on.  However, some of what they share is way off base.  I appreciate some of the articles that expose the deceit of some of our politicians as well as their outrageous statements.  Yet, once in a while, they share articles that attempt to show scriptural basis for things that are plainly wrong.

I cannot stand for any article that attempts to justify sin by using (out of context) scripture or specious argument/defense.  In one article they shared, the author used a list of scriptures to prove that life does not begin at conception.  Not one scripture they used proved this point, but because the author wrote in such great language, it appeared logical.  However, they completely ignored what God said in Jer. 1:5, “Before you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you.”  As far as I can see, life begins in the mind of God.  It is wrong to judge and shame a woman who has chosen abortion, but trying to justify abortion by saying the Bible shows that life does not begin until after birth is wrong, as well.

On The Other Side

I also hear and read what our conservative friends have to say.  Should we insist that the rules we embraced for ourselves should be the standard and law for all?  Then, should we belittle, bash, judge and cast off those who are living lives that we see as “unholy” or “unclean”?

Many on the conservative side want to do away with welfare and don’t care about the cost of healthcare.  I ask…is this really an attitude Jesus would author?  He fed the masses…well, He gave the food to the disciples to feed them.  Did or would He ever condone turning someone away because they could not afford to see a doctor?  Too many conservatives not only want to do away with support systems for the poor, but in some cities they do not want organizations feeding the homeless.  Is this what Jesus would do?

Yes, Both Sides

I could list the ills of Left and Right.  With a little time, I could show book, chapter and verse as to what is wrong with each and why.  We need to remember that God had things written down in what we know as the Bible.  We also need to pray and study things out for ourselves and see what scripture really has to say about things.

I am disappointed by fellow Christians who ignorantly embrace specious teachings, statements or articles by anyone, whether the author be conservative, liberal or some renown Christian teacher.  I am even further disappointed when Christians embrace teachings, statements and articles which are judgmental, cruel and un-Christlike.  It is one thing to attempt to justify sin or to claim that something which is against God’s design is okay…this is truly bad enough.  But, to be a Christian and ignore the example and teachings of Jesus Himself is repulsive.  This is not to say one side is “worse” than the other, but some words carry a different punch than others do.

Sure, there are articles claiming homosexuality is fine with God and while they sound rather educated, the information is seriously flawed.  Does it win anyone to the Kingdom?  Probably not.  But, if you line up all the folks with all the negative, bashing and judgmental statements against gays, you will see one of the most Kingdom repellent activities of all.

I am not okay with people telling anyone something that is wrong is okay.  Satan convinced Eve of such notions.  This leads people to believe that we can interpret scripture and God’s commands in a way that suits our desires.   They use intelligent wording and apparent/alleged interpretation and definitions to prove a scripture doesn’t mean what it says.  While I understand many of the translations in scripture need improvement, some of these well-meaning folks have only made things sound more correct than they are.  However, in the midst of all of this, there is no message given that makes anyone thinks God hates them.

This is where the Right Wing Christians step over the line.  They shout more messages of what they are against, that people think God is against them.  We have well known and respected men like Pat Robertson letting people know what makes him sick concerning homosexuals and Franklin Graham saying that Christians who voted for Mr. Obama should question their salvation.  This side of Right has done a lot to show people that God is a God of wrath and hatred, ready to strike against anyone who does not tow His line.  Tell me…weren’t the Pharisees and Saducees all about the law and living in such a way to please (or appease) God?  Weren’t they the ones who pushed the idea that salvation would come through works and holy living?  Jesus often had choice words for them.

Jesus did not advocate sin.  However, He did not harp on it.  He did not call the woman at the well a dirty whore and then tell her she needed to get right before going to tell the people to come hear Jesus.  He did not tell Zaccheus, “I am coming to your house, as soon as you get yourself right.”  Everyone was welcome in His presence, to hear Him teach, to allow Him to lay hands on them, to ask Him questions.  Do our words show His love or our hatred?

Where Does This Leave Us?

Let’s be careful not to embrace every story or teaching, especially if it is “new”.  Examine, study for ourselves and consider other points of view, even if they’re contrary to everything we grew up knowing.  We also need to set our emotions aside and embrace what is real and true.  How?  Again…study for ourselves.

Do research on a topic and find all sides.  Seek out the ones that truly prove their claims,  When my friend Michael Willingham and I did our articles concerning the Biblical view of women, we stated our cases, citing the teachings of others who laid out solid evidence.  We found that many teachings the Church embraced for centuries has been in error.  The evidence was there.  We studied it for ourselves rather than blindly accepting what didn’t seem right.

The Barometer

Jesus.  We can read the accounts of what He said and did while physically on Earth.  We also read the activities of His apostles during the dawn of the Church.  That is the barometer from which we need to measure our words and activities.  Left or Right, we need to do this, in order to be true.

 

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The Christianising of America

crossflagHow many times have we heard it?  “America is a Christian Nation!”

Of course, there is the counter-argument, “America is NOT a Christian Nation!”

Well, that should cover both points of view quite nicely.  As a citizen of the United States, as a follower of Jesus Christ and as a reasonable human being (that may be arguable for those who know me), I want to see if I can lay out some sort of sense for both of these arguments.

I thought about listing several of the Founding Fathers and showing whether or not they were actually Christians.  As I looked them up, the ones who were not outright deists were not all conclusively provable as Christians.  So, before I entered into exhaustive research, I figured I would go from a Biblical sense approach, along with a little logic, simply based on the idea of the claim of America being a Christian Nation.

The Ten Commandments
Every time a public building wants to remove a long-standing copy of the Ten Commandments from their wall, the outcry is loud and angry.  “These are the principles upon which this nation was founded!”, one may cry.  Another yells to leave our “Biblical heritage” alone. Yet, there are others who yell just as loudly about the “separation of Church and State”.  Well, how would Jesus see this?

First, Jesus did not go around with the Ten Commandments out in front of Him, declaring they be displayed for all to see.  For that matter, He did not reference them much, at all.  The only times He did say anything about them was when asked about them.  In Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”, He opens with what we call “The Beatitudes”, in Matthew 5.

The Beatitudes

He said:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What do we see here?  It is more obvious what we do not see here…”Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not”.  No, this is one of those instances He takes the Law out of the picture, instead teaching grace and relationship.  So, if we were to consider what is “Christian”, that is, “Christ-like”, we should further consider that Jesus is more about relationship and far less about rules, rites and law.

If I were to make my first point, it would be, if this is a Christian Nation, why are we so hung up on a set of rules that Jesus Himself did not make a huge issue out of?

“Other” Religions
How many religions are represented in the U.S.?  Ten?  One hundred?  Ten thousand?  Most of us can name a few of the well known ones…besides Christianity, we have, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Ba’hai, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhism, Taoism…just off the top of my head.  There are also Christian denominations…Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Independent Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Church of God of Prophecy, Church of Christ, Episcopalian, Lutheran and on and on and on.  There are actually thousands of Christian denominations in the U.S.  Yes, thousands.

If we were to claim this a Christian Nation, does that mean that people of other religions should have no voice?  Would it further lead to which Christian voice should be listened to?  That is, which denomination is the true Christian voice?  After all, if we are to be a Christian nation, we have to face doctrinal differences and how they will play into policy making…right?  Let’s be honest – some denominations may have more liberal views while others far more conservative.

As for non-Christian religions, in an ideal “Christian Nation”, how do we handle these folks?  Do we want them freely expressing their religion, proselytizing, or wearing religious garb in the public streets of this “Christian Nation”?  After all, as a Christian Nation, we would have an image to uphold and we certainly wouldn’t want our children to be exposed to some sort of anti-Christ idol worship.  I speak with a bit of sarcasm, here, folks.

So, if there be a point #2, I would say it is the question of whether or not we would allow folks to be and do what God has allowed them for thousands of years.

Homosexuals and Baby Killers
Let’s get down to what we really want as an alleged Christian Nation.  What we really want to do is legislate peoples choices and the lives they live.  As a Christian Nation, we would prosecute abortionists and ban all same gender marriage.  What the heck…we may as well regenerate the old Sodomy laws and make homosexuality illegal.  Let’s not forget…no one of opposite gender should live together unless they are married.  And, if we really can tighten up the rules, no unmarried person should have sex and if found out can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  Wow…we can also finally take control of Hollywood and all those R-rated movies can be made illegal.

Ah, Christian paradise.  Yes.  We take this wicked, sinful, lust-laden land and return it to it’s so-called Christian roots.   Yes!  We can finally have the laws that make us more comfortable and people will feel safe.  We can elect officials that only agree with the stance we have as a “Christian Nation”.  Ah, Paradise.

Before anyone starts to sermonizing me, I do not think that homosexuality is God’s design and that abortion is an awful choice and does take a life.  So, any of you high-horse folks can just step down, step back and relax.

My point is (the third point, I suppose), it seems that the main reason people want to “return to our Christian roots”, is so we can have laws that make us feel more comfortable.  As noble as it seems of the surface to return to our roots, it really boils down to Christians getting what they want.

Our Forefathers
Any one of us can dig up some fine quotes from the founders of the United States of America.  We can find documents that cite Jesus’ name, as well as, “under God” and talk of God’s providence in this Land.  With some research, we can find out who had prayer lives, attended church regularly and observed all Christian holidays.  There were some Christians who took part in the founding of this country, but there were also non-Christians.  As for our signers of the Declaration of Independence, they were all of Christian denominations, but does that mean they were actual followers of Christ?  After all, anyone can be part of an organization, whether it be a church or a club.

What document declares the United States as a Christian Nation?  Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution of the United States declares our country as a “Christian Nation”.  Regardless of all the quotes, dedications to God and even saying we are, “one nation under God”, we were never declared to be a Christian Nation.  People moved over here to get away from religious oppressors and wanted the freedom to worship as they saw fit without any king telling them how they must worship.  Yet, there is no evidence that they wanted to establish a Christian Nation, per se.

Last Words
In the end of his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln finished with, “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  

By all accounts, Mr. Lincoln was a Christian.  The fourth and fifth words in this portion of the Gettysburg Address are, indeed, under God.  But, he said of the government…of, by and for…the people.  Not the Christians.  Not a Christian Nation.  To acknowledge that this Nation is under God, is not to declare it a Christian Nation, but to simply acknowledge that this Nation is not greater than the God in Whom the speaker believes.

If this were to be a Christian Nation, it would have been declared under Christ.  If this were to be a Christian Nation, we would be more concerned about the attributes of Jesus instead of the rules of the Ten Commandments.  If this were to be a Christian Nation, we would have to neglect the idea of a separation of Church and State and force a Theocracy upon the masses.  If this were to be a Christian Nation, we would have to ask that folks follow only Christ and not have the freedom to choose (a freedom God created us with) not to follow Him and to follow other gods, if any at all.  If we were to be a Christian Nation, we would have to enforce the moral laws we think should be enacted, not allowing people, once again, the freedom to live how they see fit (without bringing harm to others…murder, theft, violence…these are very important laws). whether they live together out of wedlock, live as homosexuals, or even as drunkards.  If this were to be a Christian Nation, we may as well forget the words of our First Amendment…”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”  Finally, if this were to be a Christian Nation, we would thereby be making law respecting an establishment of religion and prohibiting others to exercise their own.

While we may have been guided by “Christian values” and while some founders were Christians, I would have to say, no…we are not a Christian Nation and nor should we entertain the idea of attempting to make this a Christian Nation.  Yet, as Christians, we should endeavor to bring Christ to our neighbors and thus to our country, by feeding the poor, loving the unlovable and not pronouncing judgment over every “sinner” we meet.  We need to follow Christ’s example and walk it out.

It is time we stopped worrying about whether or not the United States of America is a Christian Nation.  As Christians…as the Church…we do need to pay more attention toward being the Church.  And, if there are any Commandments that are to be followed, they should be followed by us and, even then, there are only two main ones – love God and love others.  Jesus said so.

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Are You In a RUT?

Just going through the motions?

Just going through the motions?

Sunday after Sunday.  Maybe throw in a Wednesday night.

Week after week.

We get all dressed up, pile in the car and go to church.  We greet our friends, then sit as the service begins.  The music starts.  It may be an organ in some churches.  Maybe a piano in others.  Many have full bands or, “praise teams”.  But, the music starts, nonetheless.  Then, we rise to sing a few hymns, choruses or other Christian songs.  Then, we sit back down.

We are greeted by the senior pastor, one of the other pastors or another leader in our tidy congregation.  Maybe, we are then encouraged to, “Greet one another”.   Announcements are made.

“This meeting, blah, blah blah…that meeting, blah, blah, blah.  Don’t forget to pray for brother Maynard, as he is not feeling well this morning, blah, blah, blah.  Please, silence your cell phones, blah, blah, blah.”

Then, we rise and sing some more.  Some of us are really feeling God’s presence by now, right?  Time to sit back down.  Sister Verbose is coming up to the front to “receive our tithes and offerings”.  She gives a few verses and some encouraging words.  The plates are being passed.  We hear a nice offertory song.  Oooh…did you just feel that blessing?

Then…there he is.  Maybe he is wearing a nice suit.  Maybe a robe.  Maybe, if you are not all that uptight about your religion, he is wearing jeans and a casual shirt.  But, he is the man you will listen to for the next 30 to 45 minutes as he “preaches”.  Now, this has got to give you some goosebumps.

He concludes his sermon.  Weren’t you simply inspired?  You sure nodded your head enough.  Oh, and you even took notes.  That’s good.  I got some notes, too.   Now, let’s stand and sing some more.  Next, the pastor or someone else gives some closing remarks and we are dismissed.  We converse with a few friends on our way out.  We get into our car and drive home.

What was accomplished?  Sure, we got a good teaching and some of us will weigh what we heard and consider what the Lord had to say.  Some of us may even be inspired to act or change.  But, most of us will have gone no further than sitting, listening and nodding our heads.  I heard some guy, many years ago, say, “We too often confuse the nodding of the head with the doing of the hands.”

In too many churches, the gathering is about making sure that you sit and listen as a man tells you what you should believe and how you should live.  There is little to no true fellowship.  Well, you could go to a small group and get some fellowship there and be able to interact with the teaching…which is a bit closer to how the first century church conducted gatherings.  But, even those mid-week small groups or Bible studies are really another Sunday service put in a cozier form.  It just seems that the goal is to get everyone to walk the same, talk the same, behave the same and be sure that their only meetings are with those of their tidy little group or congregation.

Now, before I get raked over the coals, I am not accusing anyone of being part of a cult or that I have any better way of doing things than they do.  The traditional church has still preached the Gospel, helped people through healing processes, fed the poor and come to peoples’ aid in times of need.  The True Church is made up of those who truly follow Jesus Christ, even with (if not especially because of) all our imperfections and shortcomings.  However, the traditional church has gotten in the way of what the Church is supposed to be.  We are all hung up on ritual, tradition, routine and the comfort of someone else telling us what doctrines we should embrace.

Are some of us running on a hamster wheel?  Do we place a higher value on listening to a sermon rather than listening for God’s voice?  Do we get our thrill from singing a meaningful song more than helping someone in need?  Are we satisfied with superficial relationships rather than real fellowship?  Do you feel that attending and “tithing” is the extent of how you serve the Lord?

If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you are likely in a RUT.  You may be in a church that is a RUT or you may have placed yourself in the position of being in a RUT.  This does not necessarily mean we should leave our churches and find one that suits us better, but maybe a suggestion to re-examine what our motivations, intentions, decisions, inspirations are and from what source they come (Are we inspired because His Spirit is speaking, or because of an emotional experience?).

Let me put that this way…R.U.T.

Religious Uniformity Theater

Let’s face it.  It comes down to us and Jesus.  The songs will not maintain our relationship with Him.  Sermons will not make us better servants.  Wearing our “Sunday best” will not make us any more godly.  Weekly attendance does not prove our spiritual condition.  We just need to reconsider whether we are doing as the Lord commands us, or if we are going through the motions.

The YouTube link below will take you to Matthew West, Going Through The Motions.

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