Category Archives: Church Dogma

Twenty-First Century Reformation

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

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

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

Another Reformation is Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Alleged War on Christmas

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

Not allowed to say Merry Christmas?

Says, who?

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

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

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

Give me a break.

Now we want to legislate holiday greetings.  Really?

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

A brief tale of arrogance.

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

Pompous ass.

Yeah, I said it.

Christmas is a made up holiday.

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

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

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

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

There is no war on Christmas

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

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

They are bullies who claim to be the victims.

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

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

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

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers…”

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

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

Keep Christ in Christmas?

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

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

 

 

 

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Are We Supposed to “Defend the Faith”?

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

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

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

Let’s take this from the back end.

The Faith

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

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

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

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

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

Defending this Faith

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

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

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

There are a couple of things I see.

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

I think He has all the defense He needs.

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

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

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

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

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

Be witnesses, yes.

Love our neighbors, for sure.

Know Him…absolutely.

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

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

Thoughts?

 

Turning the Tables and Kicking Butts

Not a terribly sanctified title, I suppose.  If this is a problem…well…get over it.

In the ancient Jewish culture, the seriousness of sacrifices was like a life or death matter. This was what people did to seek forgiveness or gain or keep God’s approval.  The thing was, there was not a Temple on every corner.  People had to travel to Jerusalem in order to exercise sacrificial rites, often traveling long distances.  Well, this is relative…we have cars, trains and planes, now…they traveled by foot or beast.  Long, dusty travel.

Since they had to travel, carrying animals for sacrifice was inconvenient, if not out of the question. So, it was acceptable to buy animals when they got into town. Some may wonder why Jesus would barge in there and start turning over tables and whipping to drive out sellers.  Here is a recount, from John 2…

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

Let me repeat…this was an acceptable practice.  So, why would Jesus make such a production?

Price gouging.

Profiting from people’s desperation.

They were charging many times more than the animals would sell for otherwise.  If there were sellers elsewhere in town, prices were competitive.  But, at the temple, last minute, the prices were outrageous.

I have heard this taught with the focus on these guys selling stuff at the Temple, as Jesus exclaimed how it was to be a “house of prayer”, as He was “cleansing” the Temple of these profiteers who were selling on God’s property…that is, stuff should not be sold at all on Temple grounds.  This has also been the reason many churches won’t even have rummage sales to raise funds.

I don’t think this is the whole idea, though.  I believe He was protecting the people from being used by men wanting to make some fast money off of peoples’ desperation.  If we watch what Jesus was doing throughout His time, here, He often stood between the Pharisees (and other Jewish leaders) and the people.  In this case, the people were being taken advantage of in the name of what they would give to the Lord.

It’s not unlike when a lumberyard sells 25 dollar plywood for one hundred dollars, or more, or when fuel prices triple, just before or after a hurricane.

As I see it, we still have this problem.  Maybe you see it, too. People are being ripped of and taken advantage of in their quest to gain approval they don’t need, in the first place.  It comes with words…the convincing, manipulative words of men who, in many cases, profit greatly from the desperation of people.

Again…this is as I see it.  I am sharing my observations.

Tithing

Now, if you tithe, I ask, don’t fire back at me for this.  I am not asking you to agree with me…I am merely sharing what I have learned, in brief.

The popular Malachi passage was not addressed to the masses, but to the priests.  This was speaking about produce, not money and it went into a storehouse for distribution, not the synagogue for support of it or the Temple. Also, the idea of the local church mystically becoming a storehouse is unfounded.

Prosperity Teachings

Another way are the prosperity teachings.  This is a boldly indecent doctrine, raking in mass amounts of money with the lie of a promise that the giver will be “blessed”.  Some congregations have an attendee base made up of many financially struggling people who gladly give with the idea that God will raise them from their humble circumstances. However, the only ones making a fortune are the ones teaching these counterfeit messages.  The message appeals to greed, desperation and peoples’ desire to please God (by tithing/giving).  A few even give their last bit of money for nothing, because they want to find favor with God.

Where the money goes

In the US, seventy percent of the average church budget goes for buildings and salaries. Not feeding people in need, not clothing for the poor, not missions, not housing…that stuff all squeezes out somewhere among the remaining 30 percent.

Meanwhile, pastors are made into professionals and paid executive salaries in many cases, and buildings are made to be inviting and comfortable if not luxurious.  Somehow, this does not add up to what we can read about being witnesses, serving or being a pastor/elder…or even the “Great Commission”.

Manipulating the desperate ones.

It’s not always about money.

The invitation to go to Heaven or the threat of Hell after a long message appealing to peoples’ emotions, is a manipulative tactic to convince people to make an altar call. These altar calls often breed emotional responses and are the least effective way to lead people to the Lord, anyway.  But, those who do this are happy as they watch the droves come down the aisles and proclaim the numbers of those  who “came forward”.

There is also the threat of God’s disapproval over stuff deemed wrong as another manipulative tactic to keep members in line.  I have heard people…pastors from the pulpit, too…say how God can be disappointed in someone.  Wow…where did they get that idea?  What part of the Bible did God ever say, “I am so disappointed in you.”?

It comes down to Law.

If it isn’t bad enough for people to lean on the Law, they make Law out of things that really have no scriptural support, whatsoever.  What makes matters worse, the people who deliver that garbage are famous, sought after teachers, who are educated and have studied the Bible quite thoroughly.  However, one would think that they never studied the ministry and words of Jesus, Himself.

Have we forgotten about Jesus?

It just seems that simple.  Many of us claim, “The Bible plainly says…”, or, “It is clear in scripture…”, yet totally miss the simple and obvious accounts of Jesus’ ministry.  Of all the claims and declarations we can make, we seem to overlook Who we claim to serve.

Let’s get back to Jesus. Who He is. What He said and how He treated people while He was among men.  With that, we will see the old doctrines we have been following and pushing are not all they are cracked up to be.

For that matter, many of these old dogmas are just plain cracked.

Back to the Beginning.

It has always been about Jesus.  From the beginning, through the middle, now and on to Eternity.  Follow Him.  When we do that, we will begin to see how to live, serve and love His people and Him, as He has first loved us.

 

 

 

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Wasted Palm Branches

palmsIn many traditional Christian churches, Palm Sunday is celebrated with the waving of palm leaves and some even re-enact the laying of palms on the ground.  It reminds people of the day Jesus rode in on a donkey (fulfilling a prophecy, of course) and the masses waved palm branches and placed them, along with their coats (ever wonder why they don’t call it “Coat Sunday”?  I guess it just doesn’t have a good ring to it.), on the ground before Jesus, as the shouted, “Hosanna!”  Well, perhaps that scene was not what we have made it out to be.

Let’s see if you see what I see.  Your input is welcome.

Many teach that these people were worshiping Jesus, even though they were the same ones that wanted Barrabas when given the choice.  I even once heard that they “forgot” Who it was they worshiped with the laying of palms and decided they wanted the political prisoner released.

I don’t believe they were worshiping the Messiah, though.

Well, at least not the Messiah they thought they were worshiping.

There was a preconceived idea about the Messiah.  The Pharisees had their version. Many of the people had theirs, much of which was taught by the leadership.  Honestly, it was more of a political version than the one Jesus said He is.  The general idea was that the Messiah would come as a leader or a ruler and use His power to dispel the unwanted government(s).

The Pharisees were seemingly disappointed when they got to see Jesus and hear His words.  They had no problem with the miracles, really.  Even His popularity was not a problem at first, had He fit their ideal Messiah.  As time went on, His popularity did become an issue, as people were more drawn to Jesus and His teachings than what the Pharisees were doling out.

The people thought they had that Messiah that would put the Roman government out. They probably even wanted the oppressive Pharisees out, too.  They were ready for someone to rescue them from the system.  For that, they could shout, “Hosanna!”  The all powerful Jesus was their man.

Then, they changed their minds.  Jesus was captured and arrested.  Now, the Jewish leaders could swoop in and start manipulating the crowd.

It was the chief priests and elders who got the crowd riled up against Jesus.  Rather than reasoning or thinking for themselves, they allowed the false rationale and spread it around.  They started to believe Barabbas would save them from the Roman Empire.

Interesting thing about Barabbas…bar means, son of and abba means father.  Son of the father.  His name was fully, Jesus Barabbas.  Or, Jesus, son of the Father.  He had an identification that bore a resemblance of a savior.

In Matthew 27, verse 17, we see a distinction when Pilate asked the people who they wanted…“Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”  Basically, do you want this Jesus, or Jesus you have been calling Christ/Messiah/Savior?  This same crowd was just yelling “Hosanna!” about Christ, now suddenly wanted the one they thought would save them from what they thought they needed saving from.

Shall I get current eventful here, for a moment?  I hope you don’t mind.

This past election revealed much about a good portion of the Church.  Whether these people would admit it or not, Jesus is not enough for them.  Not only do they have Pharisee-esque rules, but want to impose them on others   They want legislation to force others to conform to rules they think should be adhered to.  Then, they voted for  – and told others to vote for – someone they thought would bring that legislation they so desire.

However, Jesus changes people from the inside, out.  He gives grace.  He shows love.  He is love.  When He came here, He came to serve.  He did not come to kick out Rome and establish a Theocracy.  This is what the Jewish leaders and many of the people wanted. Soon, they realized that Jesus was not about to be what they wanted.

They wanted Barabbas.

Barabbas was an insurrectionist who wound up in prison for murder during an uprising. He wanted Rome out.  The Pharisees wanted Rome out, because they wanted to rule with a self-righteous iron fist.  They did not like Jesus teaching and acting in a manner unlike the Messiah they had decided should be.

It seems that Barabbas was one who wanted to “make Israel great, again”.

In reality, Barabbas was not able to give them what they wanted, anyway. Rome continued to rule for years, afterward.

To me, the whole palm waving celebration is useless.  It was not intended to praise the real Jesus, but to praise their idea of Jesus.  His “triumphal entry” was not all that it has been cooked up to be.  While the King really was riding in right in front of them, they did not really see Him as the Messiah or the King of kings.  In Matthew 21, we see that they thought of Jesus as just a prophet from a nearby town…

10 When Jesus came to Jerusalem, everyone in the city was excited and asked, “Who can this be?”
11 The crowd answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

They respected Him as a great prophet.  It seems they did not recognize Him as the promised Messiah.  They were laying down palm leaves and their coats for a revered prophet.  Yes, they did acknowledge Him as the Son of David.  But, did they see Who it really was, riding right there in front of them?

Peter knew Who He was.

The Samaritan woman knew Who He was.

Zaccheus knew Who He was.

Mary Magdalene knew Who He was.

The crowd, however, saw a great prophet.  They thought this prophet might be the guy to deliver them from Rome.  They wanted the Messiah that would heal and do miracles. They also wanted the Messiah that would rule and reign and they thought that would or, at least, should happen on Earth in that present time.

Nowadays, people still have a limited view of the Savior.  Not just personally, as what Jesus does for us as individuals.  But, also our perception of His dealings with the rest of the planet.  We want Him to lay down the law and remove the lawbreakers.  We expect Him to establish a Christian Theocracy, here on Earth.

Especially in the United States…the so-called, “Christian Nation”.

Well, no.  I already have an article with my thoughts on that.

Jesus did not come to alter the system or take it over with the Ten Commandments as the standard.  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), is one main reason He came.

Yet, here, many among our ranks want to establish a Christian Nation, filled with Mosaic level rules and law.  Is the Jesus we read about enough?  Is the Jesus we claim to know enough?

Or, do we want or own version of Barabbas?  Do we have our own idea of Who the Messiah is?  Maybe we have some inflated idea of who we are in Him and still want to plaster His name on what we do in order to justify our plans and ideas.

It is time to get back with the Savior Jesus.

We don’t need another great prophet.  We need “Jesus, called the Christ”.

We don’t need another Barabbas.  We need the one and only Savior.

 

 

 

 

 

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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Grown-Up Stuff…A Few More Thoughts

Get the Church out of the bedroom!

Oh, I can hear the logic, now.  That’s impossible!  We are the Church!  Now, what we need to do is just follow along, here.

Within the Church, there are those who over-legislate sex among just about everything else.  They make rules for frequency, positions, men being in charge, lights out, only in the bedroom, only for procreation…blah, blah, blah.

Where did these rules come from?  As far as I can see…pretty much seems they are made up.

What about, “Be fruitful and multiply”.  Doesn’t that mean sex is only for procreation?

Nope.  There is no indication, not a hint…nuttin’ that gives a clue for that idea.

As for any of the other stuff, it is like someone was afraid of what sex could be and thought it to be something wrong.  There are no limits…whatever position, wherever hands go and whatever they do, oral stuff…all good.  Sex once a week, three times a week, or ten times a week…all good. Before children, as parents and into senior years…all good.  Whatever makes it good for the couple, is all good.

Bed half empty.

I heard a rather sad statistic…about half of married couples are NOT having sex.  What?! If we were to believe TV and movies, it would seem everyone is having sex fairly regularly.  But, then it stops sometime after marriage?  NO!  Whatever opportunities a couple has should be spent enjoying each other. There is nothing wrong with a couple who wants to be a bit slutty with each other.

Whoa!  Did you just use that word?

Yes, I did.  Get over it.  For that matter, if you are married, get over it, under it, on top of it, beside it…or whatever works for you and your spouse..as often as you can.  Go ahead and be a little slutty.

Geez, he said it again.

Mayest thou get over thyself.

Here is a bit of information that people tend to forget.  The whole good feeling, liking what you see, all the good touching, getting all fired up and all…God created that!  He made us that way!  You know what else?  He totally approves of whatever fun you like to have, too.

After all those kids and pizza.

There is that issue of body image.  Women are especially sensitive in this area.  Well, ladies, if your husband still likes being with you, even after all those kids and a few helpings of cake and potato chips, enjoy the ride.  It’s nice if you can stay or get back in shape, but if that guy is still warm for your form, then go and let him warm you up.

As time goes on, sexy takes on all new dimensions, with the help of gravity and maybe a few extra donuts.  And birthday cake. And everything between Thanksgiving and New Year.  Don’t sweat it.  If one of you is getting a bit spongy, likely the other is, as well.

It is not dignified for people over certain ages to engage in such relations.  Anyway, people lose interest after the years go by.

bedfeetReally?  Abraham and Sarah certainly were a fun pair, then.  I doubt they were honeymoon marathoners in their platinum years (at their ages, they passed golden years), but it seems they still had a reasonable fire in the furnace.  Let’s put it this way…if you are of certain senior age-range and still can and want to…go forth and enjoy!

Now, I am not opposed to losing weight and/or staying in reasonable shape.  Honestly, I think that sex can be more enjoyable when two people are less “girthy”.  And, when I say, ‘reasonable shape’, it means we don’t have to go all crazy at the gym and all that.  But, that we should be able to enjoy our time without a trip to the ER afterward.  Out of breath after the big event…expected.  Wheezing like a dying animal for just getting your clothes off…may want to make some changes.

A few more thoughts.

I just shared Anna McCarthy’s most recent post on depression (Just a Jesus Follower).  I think that many of the demands placed on people (by Christians) also affect what goes on between husband and wife.  Honestly, I think the reason so many people are not enjoying sex is because of everything around them.  Not only do we have many two-income households with children and all their demands and activities included, but in the Church we have many demands, as well.  We have to serve this much, we have to obey this way, we have to walk this line, our marriage has to appear like this, our demeanor has to look like that…and on, and on, and on.  We have been pounded with doctrines that have reduced us to often worrying what God is thinking of us, whether He is disappointed in us and even if we met some sort of condition to earn His love for us.  This does not encourage active snuggle time.

God loves you just as you are.  Warts, flab and all.  He created us just the way we should be. He created the sexual urge and did so for more than just procreation.  If you have been missing out on some good times for a while, maybe it is time to sit with your spouse and discuss the idea of getting back in the saddle, again.  Maybe it is time for me to stop using such corny metaphors. In any case, people need to feel free to get as nasty with each other as they see fit for themselves.

What rules?

Here are the only real rules – First, the marriage bed is un-defiled.  Second, do not deprive on another. Actually, these are not so much as rules, as they are declarations of the freedom to be with your spouse the way your spouse agree and enjoy being with one another.

If anyone wants any homework…well…you can make up your own assignment.

 

 

 

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