Category Archives: Christian Living

The Purity Ring

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

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

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

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

A few thoughts.

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

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

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

Big sin, little sin.

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

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

What we do should be out of love.

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

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

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

To sum it up.

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

 

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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

One Warm Day

She looked out on the street and could feel the heat of the early afternoon sun as it poured through the window.  It was time to go get water.  The other women were back from the well.  She felt comfortable making the trip, in spite of the heat.

She didn’t mind the other women, really.  She didn’t dislike any of them.  It was just the comments since the last divorce.  Most of the comments were meant well…

“Oh, its a shame things went so badly for you, dear.”

“You know, if you had just made better choices…”

Then there were those that cut a little deeper…

“How many more men before you settle down.”

“What man would want a woman like that?”

Enough was enough.  It was better to endure the heat of the day, rather than put up with all the comments, whether direct or indirect.  Sometimes, there were looks, too.  She felt bad enough over her situation without the comments, even if some were meant with good intentions.

waterjarOff she went, jars ready to be filled.  It was about a mile, or so, up to the well her family had drawn from for generations.  As she walked, her mind wandered from one thought to another, as happens with any of us as we walk alone.  She pondered her life, she thought of the good friends she had, she wondered if God really cared for her and even wondered if those old jars would last just one more trip.

When she got to the well, she set down her jars, removed the cover and lowered the pail to dip for her first load of water.  As she raised the pail, she noticed someone walking in her direction.  At first, she didn’t think much of it…probably just another man coming to demand water. But, as the man drew closer, she noticed something different.

He dressed differently.  “Oh, no!  He’s a rabbi!  A Jew!  I have to hurry up and get out of here.  They hate Samaritans.”, she anxiously thought.

She began to hastily lower the pail to get the next scoop of water.  “He’s getting closer.  I’d better hurry.” But, no sooner could she formulate that thought, he was even closer.  He was close enough to talk to her…

“May I have some water, too?”, he asked.

He asked?  She thought. Usually, if a Jew lowers himself enough to say anything to a Samaritan, much less a woman, he snaps an order as if he were talking to a dog.  The fact that this rabbi is even in Samaria is unusual in itself.

With a suspicious tone while folding her arms in a guarded fashion, she answered him. “You are a Jew.  I am Samaritan.  We have nothing to do with each other.  Why are you asking me for a drink?”

He smiled, a warm, friendly smile.  It was the kind of smile a father would have looking at his beloved children.  She had no idea what to think of this guy.

He answered her, “You don’t know what God wants to give you, and you don’t know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would ask me for the water that gives life.”

She looked at him with suspicious, squinting eyes.  But, she had a reply.   “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where are you going to get this life-giving water? Our ancestor Jacob dug this well for us, and his family and animals got water from it. Are you greater than Jacob?”

She had no idea if this man was for real or just another mean-spirited Jewish leader about to give her a hard time.  Was he setting her up for a big put down?  He had more to say.

“Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again.  But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.”

Eternal life?  This intrigued her. She used her sleeve to wipe some sweat from her face as she pondered her next statement.  She brightened up a bit and told Him, ““Sir, please give me a drink of that water! Then I won’t get thirsty and have to come to this well again.”

The man smiled a warm, understanding smile.  He looked at her and gently asked her to go get her husband.

Oh, great.

This was a topic that did not sit well with her.  She hated explaining her situation. She especially hated the derisive remarks and judgmental statements.  So, rather than admit anything, she simply said, “I don’t have a husband.”

She figured she dodged that one.  No giving excuses.  No explaining the previous marriages.  But, this man was special…he seemed to know things.  He told her something a stranger would not know.

“You’re telling the truth. You don’t have a husband. You have already been married five times, and the man you are now living with isn’t your husband.”

Her mind went racing.  How did he know that?   Did someone tell him about me?  But, he seems to know.  Let’s see if he is the real deal.

She stood straight up and spoke confidently.  “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.  My ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say Jerusalem is the only place to worship.”

She figured he would just give another pat answer about Jerusalem, as she would expect a rabbi to give.  His answer was not what she expected.

“A time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.”

She was impressed, to say the least.  But, a little discouraged at the same time.  Like so many, she desired to see a savior.  She wanted to know the Messiah, because she knew the Messiah would have all the answers.  Then, she told the man, “When Messiah comes, He will let us know all things.”

He looked her directly in the eye and told her something that turned her life upside down.

“I am that one, and I am speaking to you now.”

At first, she couldn’t formulate any words.  She just stared at him for a few moments. Then, her eyes got wide and she began to get excited.

“Wait…what?  You?  Really?  Well, yes!  Yes, I think it is you!  Who else would know know what you know?  It’s you!  It’s really you!  I gotta tell somebody!  I gotta tell everybody! You’re Him!  He’s you!  Stay here…I’ll be back.  Don’t move!  They have to meet you.  They all have to meet you!  Let me grab my water jars…oh, heck…they’ll wait.  I will be right back!”

Off she ran, back to the village to gather as many people as she could.  She told everyone she could, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be the Messiah?”

Yes, dear woman.  He is.  As a matter of fact, you don’t know this, but He told His disciples that He had to go to Samaria.  Apparently, He had an appointment…with you. He had an appointment with your people, too.  You just saw love in a Person.

Love in a Person.

Jesus.

As His followers, we should show that same love.  The story of the Woman at the Well is one of the prime examples of how to treat a stranger, a sinner and a woman.  Jesus did not go to her with any more agenda than to introduce Himself to her and her people.

 

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Compassion in Action

Luke 13:10-17

10 One Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by an evil spirit for eighteen years. She was completely bent over and could not straighten up. 12 When Jesus saw the woman, he called her over and said, “You are now well.” 13 He placed his hands on her, and right away she stood up straight and praised God.

14 The man in charge of the meeting place was angry because Jesus had healed someone on the Sabbath. So he said to the people, “Each week has six days when we can work. Come and be healed on one of those days, but not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord replied, “Are you trying to fool someone? Won’t any one of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath? 16 This woman belongs to the family of Abraham, but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years. Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?” 17 Jesus’ words made his enemies ashamed. But everyone else in the crowd was happy about the wonderful things he was doing.

This passage is familiar, particularly with the emphasis that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath.  As I see it, this was the first part of the indictment.  It speaks to the rigidity the leaders held and enforced concerning the Law.

The Law was never meant to override the needs of people.  Jesus made this point clear, when He said, “Won’t any of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath?”

It’s like, let’s be real…you are able to take care of your animals on the Sabbath, but a woman gets healed and you have a fit because she was healed on the Sabbath.

Really?

They seemed to forget about all those provisional things for people that were also clearly mentioned in the scriptures.  It was the Pharisees who decided all that extra stuff.  They had over two thousand rules in order to obey the Law and much of it was not based on scripture.

Wow.  Sounds a lot like what we hear from much of the Church, these days.

Right after He basically tells them that they treat livestock better than people, He points out two things.  First, He says, “This woman belongs to the family of Abraham…”.  In other words, “Boys, she is one of your own.”  He was showing them that they can’t even take care of one of their own (much less, anyone else) because of their sense of the Law.

He continued, “…but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years.  Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?”

womansetfreeSet. Her. Free.

For eighteen years she suffered this affliction.  It bound her.  She was limited. Uncomfortable. Likely, in some pain, too.  She was not free.  Jesus set her free.

Imagine, being her.  No running.  No leisurely strolls. In pain. Being considered as “less than”, or at least, feeling that way.  For 18 years.

No one really knows what caused her problem.  This is probably the reason she was said to have been “crippled by an evil spirit”.  Was it stress?  Depression?  Hopelessness?  All of those?  It may have been an injury, but my speculation is that her malady was due to an attack on her soul.  The father of lies got to her.

Jesus saw the woman and called her over.  She was just there, bent over and probably uncomfortable.  He was not about to wait for her to ask.  As usual, He had compassion. He saw her in her misery, unable to stand straight.  He calls her over, places His hands on her as He says, “You are now well.”

This had some impact.  The “enemies” were ashamed because…

  • Jesus showed the compassion that they would not
  • Jesus pointed out they had eighteen years to show some compassion
  • He pointed out that they would take better care of their animals on the Sabbath than they did people.

1 John 3:17 (NLT)  If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person?

Let’s forget the financial reference here, for a minute.  Let’s consider the point.  If there is something we have or are able to do and we overlook or bypass someone who has a need we can fill, we might lack compassion.

Compassion.  To “suffer with”.  Empathy.  When religious dictates rule over the needs of people, empathy and compassion go right out the window.  This was never God’s intention or plan and Jesus demonstrated compassion.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to move forward with compassion.  If I have the ability to do something and come across someone that has a need, I want to be one of those who extends a hand of compassion and love.

When people reach out a hand…are we willing to reach and pull them up?

 

 

 

 

 

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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