The Worldly Church

“There’s a stylized, bastardized Christianity that many politicians and celebrity pastors have peddled for years; one that has slowly but surely become our American template. It’s a bloated, opulent, consumerist, aggressive, nationalistic, might is right amalgam that really doesn’t resemble Jesus much at all.” – John Pavlovitz (johnpavlovitz.com)

In the quest to be what actually results in the above description, church leadership has stooped to tactics which include lying, manipulating and over-sensationalizing.  They have misinterpreted scripture and misrepresented the Gospel. They either don’t see it, or don’t care, since they often get what they want.

If you have to lie, manipulate or over-sensationalize in order to prove what you say is right or true, then you have nothing to stand on.  Besides, this is how the world works, not how things get done in God’s Kingdom.

But, there is an audience.  A flock.  A band of followers.moneypreacher

They listen.  They cheer.  They give money.

Nickles and noses.  A faithful audience that hands over money.

They make it all sound so good and specific scriptures (often out of context or ‘clobber’ verses) are used and then, they place Jesus’ Name on it and it is all accepted as right and true.

Not all churches or ministries are like this.  But, way too many in the US are. They could be a small congregation of 30 or a massive mega-church. Tactics are used to hold those people there, control/manipulate them and make sure they give money.

Rather than being “transformed by the renewing of the mind”, it is a system which would act in a manner reflecting the world system of kings and superstars…that is, being “conformed to this world”. To use manipulating tactics to attract and keep people is the world system way.  To do all of this for big money is greedy and selfish.  To aspire for worldly treasures…massive salaries, huge and opulent buildings, power, notoriety and huge followings are all earthly treasures, even if they are dressed up as “Kingdom building”.

2 Timothy 3 New International Version (NIV) 

3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds,who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.~

This has been taught as being about general sin and the “unsaved”.  But, if we take a closer look, it is about the Church.  Key..verse 5, “…having a form of godliness…”  Another key, verse 7, “…always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth”, and “…these teachers oppose the truth”.  That last one has my attention.

I am amazed how anyone who calls themselves a teacher or a preacher would dare oppose the truth.  They appear to speak the truth, but much of what they spread has little to no truth.  Then, if confronted with what is correct and true in scripture, they deny it.  They are convinced they have all the “proof” they need for what they believe and teach.  This is what makes them, basically, dangerous.  This is why we read in verse 5, “Have nothing to do with these people”.  They draw people in, drag them down and take their money.  They do this, all the while believing they are serving the Lord.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!~

This is not just about the people who are “traditional Christians” or pastors by career only, nor is it about the ritualistic religious. An example of the subject of this verse in plain view, right on the television. Yes, the beloved “televangelist”.  Not all people of this ilk are on TV, but these guys are the epitome of what we see in this verse.  They often use false prophecies, sensational End-Time Eschatology topics, as well as, rhetoric and “clobber scriptures” to take their stands against abortion and homosexuality.  They use fear tactics to sway people to the altar and shaming tactics to convince people toward certain behaviors.

controlcartoonThe result is followers, which brings power and, often, massive amounts of money, which further feeds the power.  Meanwhile, they are convinced they are doing the will of God, pointing out that they are doing His will.  Often, however, their speech and actions show some things that are not Christ-like, at all.

They use Jesus’ name as a rubber stamp that they have permission to use on whatever they feel should be God’s will.  They stamp it on the opulent buildings, the huge salaries, the judgmental statements and messages and even the false prophecies.  If they want a specific candidate for office, they put Jesus’ name on that, too.  If they want people to behave a certain way, His name (and a good deal of shaming) is spoken.

By the way…using Jesus’ name to garner favor or to persuade God or people is using His name in vain.  I believe the Commandments these guys blast at people has something in there about that.

There is a faction of the Church, I believe, which will rise up.  They will not rise up in power or come with convincing words.  They will not seek to build huge ministries or massive buildings.  Their goal will not include having a title, a following, a huge salary or a lavish lifestyle.  They will bring one thing.

The Gospel.  The Good News.

Their lives will reflect what we read about Jesus in His Earthly ministry.

Love will be the nucleus of what they say and do.

They will seek to be the Jesus people need.

They will expose truth to and about these modern day Pharisees.

They should be all of us.

We need to be Jesus to a lost and hurting world.

Love should be our nucleus.

As it should be.

As we walk together.

 

 

 

 

 

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Trust and Let Go

If you don’t mind, I am going to be a little honest, here.

I don’t trust, easily.  I have lost some trust in certain people – sales people, doctors, politicians.  Okay…those are kinda standard.  Some people have basically lost their trust – former employers and employees, former pastors and a few family members.  My parents even lost a little trust.  I also admit, I have a tough time trusting the Lord.

Of anyone to trust, I should certainly trust the Lord…right?  But, probably because of things that went on in my life over the years, I gained a sense of wanting to control things. When we are in control, we are not trusting someone else.

But, certainly, the Lord is completely trustworthy.  He loves us unconditionally and He “works all things for good…”.  Trusting Him should be easy.  Well, when one is used to taking control of certain areas of their life, trust does not come easy.

To trust is to let go and let someone else take care of things.monkeytrap

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart…”, we read in Proverbs.  Our heart is our will.  We need to decide whether we are going to trust Him, or not.  We can examine His track record and see that He does work things for good.  Granted, it does not feel like it when things are just perpetually awful, though.

We read in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

This is metaphoric of a dark place.  A place where there is no sunlight.  Kinda scary.  Can’t see everything, if anything at all.  Every sound makes you jump a little, because you can’t see what it was or where it came from.

But, David takes comfort…

  • The Lord is with him
  • The Lord has a rod of protection
  • The Lord has a staff of guidance.

There are those who say that the rod is for our correction.  This makes God out to be some sort of taskmaster, stick in hand, ready to whack us once we step out of line.  Really, the rod is for protection from predators.  One fox gets too close to a sheep and…SMACK!  One snake gets caught slithering around…THUD!  It was not – no matter how convincing a teaching may sound – it was not used to break a leg of a wandering sheep (this doctrine is used by leaders who exercise control over people).

The staff is used to guide.  As the sheep herd move along, the shepherd would use the staff to tap and guide sheep back into the herd so they would stay together, as he led them to other pastures.

Back in Proverbs 3, the other part of the aforementioned verse is, “…and lean not on your own understanding.”  To lean is to find support, preferably solid, reliable support.  Our own understanding is what we see, perceive, or know (or think we know).  This really shows what trust in someone else is not.

God sees the whole picture.  He sees all the circumstances and people involved.  He knows the wisest course of action.  He knows when inaction is the better course.  When we are stuck between a rock and a hard place, we need to seek and wait on Him.

Isaiah 40:31 starts with, “They that wait upon the Lord…”  That word, wait, is the same word in Hebrew as trust.  Personally, I find that interesting.  So, if we are to wait upon the Lord, we do need to trust Him…is this right?  It seems so.

Life is full of struggles and stresses for me and my family, as with many people. But they have appeared to “blossom” in the last few years.  Just when we think we were on a good path, something comes along and seems to knock us off.  Then, what I do, is look for a way to fix it (especially when I feel guilty over being a cause for much of the circumstances), when most of it is not in my control.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe we need to be wise and diligent about things.  But, life does give us more than we can handle.  Yes, the Lord allows more than we can handle.

We are broken people living in a broken world full of broken people.  Crap happens.  We might do it to ourselves or someone else may cause it, but consequences follow.  We are not necessarily “under attack from the enemy”, nor are we (ever) “being punished” by the Lord for something.  Whether we did something out of unwise impulsiveness, outright stupidity, selfish intentions or if someone else caused our circumstances, the Lord is fully aware and has an answer.

He sees the big picture.  Abraham knew this.  Gideon learned it.  Moses caught on.

handholdCan I just rest in Him?  Can I let go and allow Him to take care of these things that are too big for me to handle?  Am I able to allow His wisdom to speak, rather than “leaning on my own understanding”?

Maybe you struggle with trust, too.  I don’t think I am the only one out there.  But, I think, perhaps, if we keep seeking Him and not hold onto that which we think we should control, that maybe…just maybe…we might see just how He will handle things, as we walk together.

 

 

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Did You Hear That?

“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

There are those who will hold up there Bibles and claim that we need to “spread the word” so that others might believe.

In other words, shove scripture in their faces.

If we are “lacking faith”, we must paste our faces in our Bibles, thus “hearing”, until our faith returns.  It is as if “hearing” scripture increases our faith.

Sorry, but I have a hard time with these ideas.

oldmanear.jpgThe Bible is not the “word of God”.  The Bible does not give us faith. Jesus is the living Word of God (John 1).  Even though scripture is “God-breathed”, it is not the word of God.  One good explanation – one better than I can articulate – can be found here… http://www.patheos.com/blogs/emergentvillage/2013/04/the-bible-is-not-the-word-of-god-a-polemic-against-christendom/

Let’s see if we can simply define the main points of this passage.

Faith.  Faith is believing but, as I see it, with follow-through.  When we do what God says, we are acting in faith.  It is based on what God says, first.  Faith is not proven by our works but, basically comes to life in and with our works.

Hearing.  Listening, heeding, giving consideration.  It goes into the idea of obeying, which is action.  So, where are we going with this?

The word of God.  That which God speaks to us.  His commands.  Again…the Bible is not the word of God.

God speaks.  We heed/obey.  Faith is active.ear

Believing in something means nothing, by itself.  That’s just mental assent.  Doing something based on what God tells us is faith.

(Note:  Doing what we think should be done, assuming it is His will and adding His Name to it is not faith.  It is presumptive and can be arrogant. Interestingly, Romans 14 shows us that stuff that does not come from faith…is sin.  Another topic to be tackled at another time.)

Without works (the effort, motion, obedience), faith (belief) is dead. (James 2)

Dead.headstone

It was never given life.  Like, useless.

You can’t kill faith, per se, but it has no life – no substance – if we don’t act upon what we are commanded to do or walk in what the Lord is speaking to us.

It is sort of like, believing your car runs and can get you places.  But, that belief is useless if you don’t turn the key, put the car in gear and drive.

This does not mean that we become useless in the Kingdom because we missed or refused a command by the Lord.  God will not become disappointed in us, become angry with us or disown us.  Grace doesn’t work that way.

Faith is not something we muster up.  It is not something we can measure.  It is not something someone has more of than another.  Faith comes from the Lord.  He reveals Himself and His love to us.  He proves Himself to us and we choose to trust and believe. With that, we have incentive to do and go as He says.  When we do what He tells us, we are acting in faith.

Did Abraham do what he felt he should do and ask God to bless it?  No…he did what God was speaking to him.  But, God spent years encouraging Abraham and proving Himself. Abraham did not move in blind faith, either.  He did what he did based on what he knew about God.  Then, when God spoke, Abraham “believed God”…or, he agreed with God.

Faith = belief = agreement.  From what we see about Abraham, belief = agreement.  He could agree (believe) because he had enough evidence in order to trust God.  Therefore, God’s word was heard and faith came to Abraham.  Abraham could then obey out of that faith.

Quotes about faith, from my old pal Mike…

“Obedience is born from faith, not to get to it.”

“Obedience has to have faith and hope, or it is just religious peity.”

“We don’t work toward faith, but work from it.”

(from a conversation with Michael Willingham, author of Charlie’s Spacesuit and long time friend)

Forget about faith seminars, how to grow or increase our faith, mustering up our faith or considering who has more or less faith. From what we read, faith comes from the Lord.  He speaks, we hear, then we go from there.

As for obedience, it is not like a dog obeying its master.  While there may be consequences, we will not be punished or outcast because we missed or disobeyed a directive from the Lord.  From what I see,  we do that more to one another than the Lord does to us.  Adam and Eve were not cursed for their actions, but their actions did have consequences.  Consequences are not punishment, even though they can serve as a good lesson.

Our ears toward the voice of the Lord.  He will speak, in His time.  We will know when He speaks.  He has spoken through scripture.  But, His word comes from Him, not just from some pages.  He can speak to us directly, too.  Maybe even through another person.  No matter how He speaks to us, we will know it is Him.  From that point, we have the opportunity to walk in what He says.

So, we believe in Him, He speaks and we heed and do as He says.  Seems simple enough. Now, you may read this and see where I am amiss, or maybe you have a better way of describing something I have attempted to describe, here.  I would be only too glad to see and learn from whatever anyone has to say…as we walk together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My war against independence — just a jesus follower

Love is tricky business. Funny thing is, it’s supposedly the very thing that our faith is built on. This entire Christian thing is summed up in love. At least it’s supposed to be. But, this world has distorted our view of love. It’s distorted mine. The other day, God and I were having a rather […]

via My war against independence — just a jesus follower

Spiritual Diabetes

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

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

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

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

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

Soaking in Doctrine

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

Here are a few:

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

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

Sweetened with Convincing Wordssugarcube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change Your Diet!

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

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

How to know…

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

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

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

Not worth it.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting Fleeced

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

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

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

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

The Tithe

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

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

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

Offerings

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

There are no commands to make financial offerings.

The Hook

sheeping-the-fleece

Original art by Michael Willingham

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

Really?

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

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

Personal Story

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

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

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

Reality

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

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

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

It is all about giving.

A short list.

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

I know there are more.

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

Before I get strung up…

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

 Stewardship (Merriam Webster)

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

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

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

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

It’s about the heart.

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

To whom do we give?

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

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

 

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If I Knew Then…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me.

My agenda.

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

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

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

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

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

Men, listen up. Ephesians 5:25

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

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

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

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

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

Love sets me aside.

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

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

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

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

It should have mattered.

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

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

Husbands, love your wives.

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

Love.  Your.  Wives.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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