Category Archives: Character

Do Not Support PBA

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

Over. And over. And over, again.

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

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

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

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

Basics of Three Little Kittens

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

I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

PBA is Performance Based Approval.  

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

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

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

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

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

He approved of every single one.

Really?  Yes, He did.

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

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

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

All to win approval.

No.  This is too much pressure for people.

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

In this case, I do not support PBA.

 

Another Great Post Worth Reading

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

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

The Profession Obsession or the Confession Direction

I have a long time friend, Mike, I have known since we served together in the Navy back in the early eighties.  He and I have managed to keep in touch and we talk together frequently, mostly by text messaging.  Besides pre-pubescent level insanity befitting two guys in their mid fifties, we share epiphanies and inspirations and often learn from one another.  Here is the sum of what Mike opened with recently:

What direction is love in your life?  If your theology hinges on your love for God, then the blood and the cross eventually take second place.  This can produce a compulsion to work and brag about your love for God and thinking you have “levels of faith”.

Interesting.  Wouldn’t you say?

loudmouthSo much of the Church has gone the way of professing their love for God and the result is a misinterpretation of what it means to love God.  If it becomes strictly a matter of us loving Him, then the Cross means nothing.

It starts with the Cross…His love for us.

We read, “Love the Lord with all you heart, all your soul and all your mind.”  However, this has become something of a doctrine of our effort toward salvation and approval by God.  It is as if they promote a gauge of how much a person loves God, which is measured in words and deeds.  In other words, the more work you do and the louder you can shout and profess your love for God, the more approved you are and the greater the proof of your salvation.

If you ask me, this sounds tiresome.  How do these “professors” and their faithful followers keep up with this?  Well, it’s like that commercial for a brand of anti-depression medication, where the people carry a paper smiley-face mask with them.  They put on a facade.

Fake it?  Yes.  Put on a happy face.  Therefore, all this profession is a facade in front of others along with an attempt to impress God.

Impress God?  As if.

How can anyone impress the Creator of the Universe?  Peasants.

His love for us, however, outshines anything we can even attempt to do to impress Him. He isn’t impressed with us or anything we do.  He loves us.

Law is profession.handup

It takes no faith to profess something.  You can shout anything you want from whatever vast knowledge or belief you may or may not have.  Profession takes no faith.  There are plenty of pulpit-pounding purveyors of various doctrines out there who profess stuff they don’t understand or necessarily believe. Confession, however, does.

Love is confession

We confess that He loves us.  Since we know He loves us, we love Him in return.

Parents, your children’s love for you is out of response to your love for them.  You don’t demand or command that they love you.  They love you because they know you love them.

How much more does the Father love us?

The danger of enforcing profession.

When leaders profess love for God and enforce (encourage?) the profession of love for God by others, what happens is individual efforts to impress God with our love for Him.  What we may see is people straining to reach God, singing and shouting loudly during “worship service”, as if the louder and more exuberant they become, the more obvious it will be to God how much they love Him.  Many of these people are insecure in the idea of God’s love for them.

Another, probably bigger danger is the judgmental statements that start with, “If you truly love the Lord…”.  This forces people to profess and/or prove their love for the Lord.  It results in the facade of behavioral modification.

God.  Loves.  You.

Learn that.  Agree with it.  Believe it.  Know it.  Take refuge in that.  Just sit back and know that He loves you.  Know that His work on the Cross is sufficient.  Did He not say, “It is finished.”?  We don’t need to stress and strain or prove our love for Him…He loves us, no matter what.

When we embrace the fact that He loves us, our love for Him follows.  Then, we begin to act on that love, when He calls, commands or speaks to us…and we obey because we love Him. We do for Him out of our love for Him and our love for Him is in response to His love for us.

Knowing how loved we are prompts, propels and compels us to love and serve Him.

A very busy man in ministry was once asked how he did all that he did, with the travel and ridiculous schedule.  His reply, “I know that I know that God loves me.”

Let’s not gauge our spirituality or our standing by how much (we think) we love God.  Let’s not measure how much we love God by what we do, how we do it or how we behave.  This is backward.  Our love is incomplete, impure and has its share of conditions and reservations.

We need to go back to the Cross.

We need to remember how completely and unconditionally He loves us.

1 John 4:10 (NIV), This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This gives us a good starting point toward loving Him.  First – and always – His love, proven at the Cross. Then, our love for Him follows.  It is more organic than demanded.

 

 

 

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Beginning Rebuilding

I don’t know about you, but once in a while, I wonder why something is named a certain name.  This is a little about my motivation behind Nehemiah Project.

In a few previous posts, I have shared experiences with a previous church.  After leaving that church, my wife and I began to re-examine what we have been taught for years.  It was  time to rebuild.

About a year ago, maybe a little longer, the name of Nehemiah started swirling around in my head.  Plenty of swirling room in there, trust me.  So, I re-read about our dear old wall-repair guy.  I saw some stuff that I must have overlooked, before.

So, the wall has been heavily damaged…destroyed.  Nehemiah had a deep desire to restore the wall.  The first step…he prayed about it.  Then, it was the Lord who gave him the go-ahead.  Then, as we know, he got permission from the king as well as building supplies.

brokewallThe rebuilding project was underway.  Having taken part in some household remodeling, I can imagine that there was clearing of the rubble, removing damaged parts on the wall, (carefully, so as to not further damage the wall) assessing what can be reused versus what will need to be replaced.  This was not a small garden wall. For that matter, this was about rebuilding the city, not just the outer wall.  The rebuilding of the wall would give way to people returning and the city being rebuilt.

Overall, I see Nehemiah as someone who wanted to protect people and restore the home of himself and his people.  I suspect that he might have tried to do it alone, if no one else signed up to take part in the rebuilding project.

There are other aspects and details to Nehemiah.  But, this is not a study on Nehemiah. This is about rebuilding.

Many of us have been raised on doctrines that are contrary to the Gospel message. These doctrines have been added to and morphed beyond what was already scripturally unrecognizable.  This has not only affected the Gospel message, but has had an impact on society, as well.

Note…I do not believe that the US is a Christian nation, but I do believe the Church has some influence.  Not the lobbying and protesting sort (although, there can be a time and place for such things), but many people do react to what they see and experience with Christians.

We need to assess the doctrines that we have been fed.  We need to sort them out and get rid of the ones that have no integrity.  We need to rebuild what has been torn down by doctrines of legalism, hatred, greed and hierarchy.  We need to build one another up, with the love and grace of Jesus.  It is time to return to His original intent.

I don’t mind challenging these old doctrines.  Sure, some may call me a heretic.  But, by the true definition of a heretic, I’m fine with that.  I have no problem challenging orthodoxy.  I do my best to avoid heated argument, but I am not opposed to reasonable discourse.  No, not to change anyone’s thinking (well, it would be nice if that happened)…but, perhaps to challenge them to think and consider that the old way might not be correct.

Like Nehemiah, we need to begin by praying.  Just one on one with the Lord.  Gain His perspective and see what it is He wants us to change personally, then seek what He wants us to do with that.

As for Nehemiah Project, I have it in my heart that it go beyond a blog.  For now, I wait.  I feel like a horse in the gate.

But, I wait.

Not easy.

I don’t like waiting.  But, I also don’t like the consequences of charging ahead of what the Lord wants.

Been there, done that.  Not so much good.

My desire is that people move forward.  We need to get beyond the fairy-tales and made up doctrines.  We need to return to the Gospel…how Jesus did things while He was here.  We ought to get back to grace, mercy and love – love being at the nucleus.

Love is Who He is.

That is a solid foundation from which to build.

 

 

 

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He Said…What?!

I am one who believes that I can confront someone when the issue is more serious than who the person is I need to confront.  This includes pastors.

Going back more than 8 years ago, there was an interesting set of circumstances between our pastor, one of the youth leaders and our son.  It all started when our, then, pastor was passing by an area grocery store and “sensed in his spirit” my son working there.

He mentioned it to our son and got this other young man, Chuck, in on it and decided that our son should apply for a job at this store.  Our son was about 15, at the time, so he was a minor and not a licensed driver.

When our son told us about this, we told him it was not possible, as the distance and traffic would cause us over an hour worth of driving him back and forth.  The following youth meeting, the pastor and Chuck decided that Chuck could take our son out there to apply.

I called the pastor the following night – a Saturday – and firmly let him know my disgust over this whole thing.  I was angry.

“Who do you guys think you are making decisions for my son?”, I started, with a small amount of volume and obvious anger.  As we talked, I calmed down and explained that it was impractical for our son to work two towns over through dense traffic.

Then, Sunday came.  The pastor met me as we were walking in. “Can I see you guys after service?”

I had no idea what it was about.  I didn’t even consider it was about the discussion the night before.  Not only did I calm down during that discussion, but I apologized for being so animated.

This was the first of two definite “ambush” meetings.  My wife and I met the pastor and his wife and one of the other pastors and his wife in a classroom after service.  The senior pastor started with me, right off.

“The way you spoke to me last night was rude and disrespectful.”

Well, I was upset, but I believed I had reason to be.  I did remind him that, if he recalled, I did calm down through the conversation and made a quick apology for my emoted verbage.  He went on with, “I hope no one in your family was in hearing shot.”  I assured him I was alone in a room when I called.  Then, he said something that floors me to this day…

“You offended the office of the Pastor.”

Really?  Is that really a thing?

When you are cornered with such a barrage of accusations, unless you are quick on your feet, you simply apologize and wait for the smoke to clear.  Even though I apologized, it was more for pacification.  I knew I was not wrong.  After all, his actions concerning my son were technically a usurpation of the parents.

He made the decision and told our son he should apply to that store and Chuck would take him.  The parents were told afterward.

That don’t fly with me.

Parent “outranks” pastor.  Our children were given to us…we were responsible for them. No one can override that.  Pastor or not…you get between us and our kids, I just might let you hear about it.

As for that disrespecting the office thing…this is a load of crap.  It does not hold up scripturally nor by any definition of what a pastor is.

Do I have a point?  Let’s see if I can make sense of this.

First, the hierarchy that has been established in church leadership is mostly  counterfeit. What has been dubbed the 5-Fold Ministry is not what some teachings declare.  It has become a list of levels of hierarchy and this is not suggested, at all.  Pastors have become bosses, presidents, be-all and end-all, first and last word and overly revered for what should be a serving position (and no…”pulpit ministry” is not serving).

Second, parents are the parents.  No one should usurp parental authority.  No one.  As parents, we need to live up to the responsibility and not let others dictate what our kids do or where they go.  This does not mean we should not listen to good parenting advice or suggestions concerning our kids.  It means no one else makes ultimate decisions for our kids.

I have a few stories from those days, which I might share as I go.  This is not to expose what went on (church name deliberately not mentioned), but to share what I learned in the process.

sunsteepleAs the Church, we need to start emptying our heads of the doctrines that have been taught for centuries and spend time with the Lord and in scripture.  We need to challenge the age-old doctrines which either do no good or even do more harm than good.  So many of these doctrines hold people back from their full potential, by placing them in a servile status. The very idea of clergy and laity has nothing to do with any possible scriptural instructions or even suggestions.

I believe the Church can move forward into greater things if we ditch the levels of hierarchy and realize that, regardless of the authority given, we are all the same level of servant.  We need more people doing what needs to be done and less “leaders” teaching us how to be good Christians.

Maybe church gatherings should be more about planning and organizing how to practically love one another and our neighbors.

Maybe pastors should not tell people where to go or how to serve, but serve first and perhaps others will join in.

Maybe we should stop being so lazy, relying on leaders to tell us what to do and seek the Lord ourselves and go forward in what He has for us.

Well, it seems like I stretched this one out, a tad.  But, that incident was one of the ones that started me on a journey to seek out some reality.

Some might call me a heretic.  Fine.  I can handle being accused of challenging orthodoxy – especially when so much of it has little or nothing to do with scripture.

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Ministry Vs. Invitations

Every church, it seems, has some sort of an “outreach” program.  From what I have observed, there are two main ideas of what “outreach” is.

joinusThe lesser version is where the target of outreach is a getting people into a church. Whatever the specific program, the idea is to add numbers to their gathering.  Most think this is good ministry and what they are doing is spreading the Gospel.  While most involved are genuine, they are missing the fact that what they are doing is attracting people to their church.

When Jesus said, “Go, therefore…”, there was no indication of any instruction that included inviting people to be among their number.  There was a commission to preach the Gospel.

Jesus demonstrated what it is to minister to people.  Of course, minister = serve. He taught, healed and He had the disciples distribute food (that He multiplied) to thousands. Very few of these people became part of the crowd that followed Him.  Yet, He never selected, segregated, cast away, shunned or denied anyone healing or a meal.

For some reason, we feel that if someone does not want anything to do with us or the message we are shoving down their throats, we may feel justified in having nothing to do with them anymore.

‘Tis ignominious thinking, there.

Stop inviting them to church!

Before you go to your corner and ponder whether you have sinned by reading my post, let me clear this up.  What I mean, here, is that we should not make outreach into a recruiting expedition.

We were never called to bring people to church.  We were never called to threaten people with Hell if they don’t yield to the message we are planting in their faces.  I fail to see how this is spreading “good news”.

What is “outreach”, anyway?  To be clear, you won’t find that word in the Bible.  We just added that one to our lingo, some time ago.  Basically, outreach is reaching beyond – so, it is not a mistaken word to add.  We should “reach beyond”.  This is what love would do.

It also means to – now, don’t be offset by the massive difficulty of this definition – to reach out.

But, as much as we use the word, outreach, we have allowed it to morph into something lesser.  It becomes less about ministering to people and more about marketing the local church.  We seem to want to reach out as long as we can pull them in.

Love does not pull.  Love draws.  Drawing is not manipulating or convincing…it happens more organically.  We cannot force it or manufacture it.  It is not our love that draws.  It is not us who draw.  Jesus draws.  It is His love, through us.handreach

We do have some effort on our part. If we are going to reach out, our efforts should be the same ones Jesus put forth.  Take care of people.

Feed, clothe and house the poor.

Welcome and love the disenfranchised.

Protect the weak from predators.

Serve the “less-than’s”.  Don’t let pride get in the way.

Make donations to or serve local food pantries or soup kitchens.

Raise money to help someone who has fallen behind, financially (unless you are loaded, then unlock that purse).

Have a shoulder available.  Sometimes people just need to vent to a non-judgmental ear.

If able, open home to someone who needs a home (teen having a tough time at home, pregnant teen, someone needing financial relief).  This has to be a well considered commitment – it can be a disturbance and upset to the household (we did this for a young woman and there were adjustments, but it was worth it.  Might tell that story, eventually).

Don’t forget, home first.

We also read to love others, especially those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).  While outreach is how we show our love to others, we must never forget loving one another. How we interact and take care of each other keeps us all going so we can feel free to reach out to the rest of the world.  Plus, people see how we treat each other and that speaks volumes. So, if a brother needs a “leg up”, another brother, who is able, should give him that boost.

Let’s be reminded…Jesus gave a new commandment…love one another.

Wear their shoes.

When Jesus saw the crowds, even when He was exhausted, He had “compassion on them” (Matt. 9, Mark 6).  To have compassion is to suffer with.  Let’s also consider, sympathy and empathy.  Jesus put Himself in their place…He felt their anguish, pain, anxiety and stress. He knew their loneliness, their shortfalls and their illnesses.  Rather than being all about our own agenda, we should listen to Him and allow Him to show us what He sees.

I, like many others, have been on the  receiving end of compassion as well as ignorance. There were times when I and my family needed some help and someone was there, without any of us asking.  Other times, I stood in “prayer circles”, explaining my trials during unemployment and was basically ignored, other than being prayed for.

The latter issue is huge.  There is too much “God bless you, be warmed and filled.”, which shows no love or compassion.  Too often, people of financial means essentially ignore the plight of a person in their lives who needs a boost.  No…just because someone has money should they dole it out to every struggling soul.  But, if someone has the means…well, John stated it well in 1 John 3…

16 By this we know [and have come to understand the depth and essence of His precious] love: that He [willingly] laid down His life for us [because He loved us]. And we ought to lay down our lives for the believers. 17 But whoever has the [a]world’s goods (adequate resources), and sees his brother in need, but has no compassion for him, how does the love of God live in him? 18 Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words]. (Amplified)

Less inviting.  More ministering.

Less preaching.  More serving.

Less apathy.  More compassion.

Less judgment.  More love.

I am no better at this.  I speak to myself, as well.  This year, I am praying to see what my hands can do.  I am tired of the same old – same old.  I feel it is time to rise up and be Jesus to people (especially in the current. political and “evangelical” climate).  For me, I am seeking just how that will go.  For now, I do what I can as opportunity is presented.

Let’s all seek ways to be Jesus to people.

 

 

 

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If You Aren’t Reading This Blog, You are Missing Out.

I have some history with anxiety and depression. But, they haven’t just affected me – I’ve learned to detect them behind pained smiles, hurting eyes and in surface conversations. But, before we go any further, let me first make one thing clear: if you suffer from anxiety or depression, this is NOT another Christian blog […]

via 4 Reasons Christians are Depressed — just a jesus follower

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