Tag Archives: christianity

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.

 

Tagged , ,

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.

 

 

 

.

 

 

Tagged , , , ,

Once Upon a Church

churchdoorSome brief church stories.

I have attended a few churches in the past 40 years, from a small Presbyterian congregation in Irvington, NJ, to an Assemblies church in Newport News, VA, to a few here in southern NJ.  It has been the few I have attended in the last 25 plus years that opened my eyes to some very important issues that are serious issues in the Church, at large.

First, let me mention that little church in Irvington.  That was the place the Lord used to get my attention in His direction.  The pastor, Wade, was loving and patient and didn’t judge those to whom he ministered.  I have nothing but great memories of those days and the people I got to know.  Wade, particularly.  For that matter, we are still in touch through social media and he has a blog, here. (The Lazarus Project, The Horizontal Church – Take a peek, if you wish.)

Since Then.

The church that really opened my eyes to some issues was a small congregation from the Cherry Hill, NJ area.  We were part of that one for twenty years.  We were deacons, my wife was on the music team, I ran the sound board, our kids did various stuff. About fifteen of those years were spent under a pastor who became more proprietor than pastor…more of a manipulator than minister.  In the last 5 years we were there, his demanding ways became more rigid and his doctrinal views were questionable, at best.  There are a few brow-raising details…but, to make a long story short, we left that church.

What happened after that was we have been basically shunned.  We left nearly nine years ago, and no one from that church ever has called or emailed to see how we are.  We knew most of those people for twenty years. Our children basically grew up in that church.  One family I knew from north NJ and we go back to the late seventies.  How much have I heard from them?  Nothing.

Now, I know what you are saying.  I could call those folks too.  Well, I did.  One family welcomed my calls and we talk from time to time.  Others, it was rather cold, awkward…as if I had some sort of communicable disease or something.  Even the couple I knew from forty years ago has had nothing to do with us.

Shunned.

Then…

We attended a rather large church for a couple of years.  It was a bit of a drive, but worth the trip.  Met some great people, there.  Unfortunately, we were having transportation issues and decided it more prudent to go to a church closer to home.  We kind of just left. Funny thing was, virtually no one noticed we were gone.  Well, one guy emailed me after about a month and I was able to explain things.  But, I was part of a greeting team and the team leader called me a few months after we had left to ask me to head up the team on Sunday.  I informed him we hadn’t been there in X-amount of time – he had no idea.  That team served once a month and no one on the team noticed my absence.

Forgotten.

Finally…

The church we went to next we only attended for about a year.  I attended a couple of study groups and we got to know a few folks there.  We stopped going.  Not one person wanted to know what happened or where we were.

Unnoticed.

Now, don’t think I am trying to get anyone to feel sorry for me or my family.  No need to. This was not meant as a complaint forum.  Just some brief stories to show that we need to consider something Jesus said.

Love one another.

It seems that we have lost the idea of what it is to love one another.  There is also confusion between loving our neighbors versus loving one another.  To put it simply, our neighbor is pretty much everyone.  One another is those with whom we fellowship as believers.

As I have stated several times, love is putting oneself aside for another.  It is putting another ahead…to consider another more highly than ourselves.  When we shun, overlook or forget someone, unless we have a memory issue, we are basically putting self interest above others.

We say we fellowship.  Do we?  Is fellowship just sitting next to each other while listening to the pastor drone on about stuff?  Is it about those covered dish gatherings?  I think it is more…it is about relating with one another.

Just a thought…one thing we need to be careful of is calling or talking people to “convince” them to stay among the congregation.  That is just a marketing ploy.  What we need to do is love, no matter who they are, where they are or why they may be leaving or thinking of leaving.  We should love one another in spite of viewpoints, quirks, ideals, hobbies, habits…just love one another, period.  Can’t do it?  Pray and ask the Lord to work love through us.

After 20 years…

One would think that, after twenty years, that bonds would have been made.  After raising all of your children with that place and having taken part in all sorts of different aspects and activities, one would think that the bonds would be stronger than the fact that you might leave their midst.  But, when we forget how to love, we place importance on things that are less important than what Jesus told us is.

One another.

To be fair, there is the passage about not to fellowship with those who embrace sin or false teachers.  I will probably approach that one, at another time.

 

 

Tagged , ,

Others, Before Me…Part 6

There is one verse that is outstanding, to me, in 1 Corinthians 13…verse 11…

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

The paragraph in which this sentence lies seems to cover a little territory.  I know there are great commentaries covering it, but this once sentence just jumps out at me.  It reminds me of what a person who walks in love is.

Mature.

Not like over 50 mature.  Old…like, well, okay…me.  We may be old, but maturity is not necessarily about age.

I have four grown children and three grandchildren.  Watching the stages of maturity has been a front-row adventure.  One of our grandchildren is 6 months old – and yes, she is totally cute!  We have a grandson who is a year and a half and another granddaughter who just turned 4.  Yeah, they are super cute, too.  At each of their stages, they all have one thing in common.  Their main concern is themselves.

740739_10152402552320224_2073004953_o

Our first grandchild, a tad over 4 years ago.  The old guy is me.

As for our grown children, they have mostly grown out of that self thing.  The three who are married now consider their spouses and their children.  They even deny themselves something they want so their families can have what they want or need.  But, when they were the ages of their own children, they were just as self-needy.

There is nothing wrong with that, in a small child.  Our youngest granddaughter can do nothing for her self.  She depends on Mommy and Daddy to feed, change and entertain her. She needs these things and they lavish them upon her.  But, in about 15 or 20 years, she should have grown out of this stage.  Our daughter’s son is a year and a half…he gets around and can entertain himself, but still has his needs he depends on Mommy and Daddy for.  Even our four year old granddaughter has demands for food, entertainment, etc.

Love puts others, first.  Immaturity is about self.  Therefore, it stands to reason, to love without reservation, selflessly and without condition is mature.

One more post to go in this series.  Hope ya’ll ain’t bored, yet.

Tagged , , ,

Others, Before Me…part 4

I have worked with a few people who couldn’t get enough of themselves, as I am sure you may have.  Every accomplishment, large or insignificant, is proudly spoken, as they regale the masses with their feats, accomplishments or abilities.

They were truly legends, in their own minds.

Even in the Church, we hear it.  How many people were “saved” after hearing my message, all the healing when I laid hands on them, how I served, what I did, how much better my church is than yours, my doctrine is superior, look at all I have…blah, blah, blah.

After reading two things that love is, we now see a few of what love is not.

Boastingbigmouth

When we are full of ourselves and our accomplishments and let the world know about it, this is boasting.  Boasting speaks of me and how wonderful I am, bringing myself glory, exulting in all my accomplishments and all that I am. More than just bragging, it is all about self.  It has a very close cousin..pride…which is talked about below.  However, boasting is all out of the mouth.

I am the greatest, look at all I have done, you wish you could be me, no one is better than I, God obviously blesses me special…and on and on until they either shut up or the listener leaves to throw up.

Pridepuffychest

Next, we see that love is not proud.  Pride.  This isn’t pride in your appearance or your country…this is haughtiness and arrogance.  Some Bible versions say, puffed up.  What I picture is a barnyard rooster, with his breast feathers all puffed out, strutting around the yard.  This is the pride that says, “Yeah, I am all that and everything else should bow before me.”

Pride can be shown without words.  A former co-worker of mine told me of a church he visited where during a social time, the pastor sat on a seat, high enough to see over the crowd, with a bunch of men standing around him…no one could get near him.  He just sat, smugly watching.

I don’t know who that pastor is, but his imitation of Jesus needs tweaking.  Actually, it needs an appearance.

Love contradicts the ideas of boasting and pride.   These two are ego feeders and have no place in the service of others.

Humility humility

Ever hear someone go on about how they were humbled?  Not like someone who actually was, but someone who got their hands a little dirty or actually spoke to a sinner, once.  If that was being humbled, I think all you did was give your pride a little time off.

I have heard others who simply self-denigrate, put themselves down and deny any well-doing on their own part.  You may have heard it…“Oh, I am just a humble servant of the Lord.  What I do is nothing.  I am pleased to serve with these feeble hands, two left feet and this hideously ugly face.  I am but a worm in the Kingdom.  All the glory is His.”  

Slap that jerk into reality.

Whoa!  Not really!  That would not be loving, at all.

Humility is not about putting oneself down as much as putting oneself aside.  While we can fully acknowledge our talents, abilities, hard work and our worth in God’s eyes, we can also let someone get credit even if we don’t.  We can also appreciate when someone gives us credit or praise, but do so without stockpiling it on our “greatest hits” resume’.  Whatever we do, whatever we accomplish, we don’t need to strut around with a banner that tells everyone how special or important we are.

Your thinking about slapping that person, aren’t you.  I am too, honestly. *sigh*

Moving on.

We can go through the list of what love is and is not, but I think the point is clear…love sets me aside in order to bless or serve someone else.  I will have a few more parts to this little series and will cover other portions of the well known Love Chapter.  There are some other points of love I see which I would like to share.

If you are reading this little series, hang in there.  Just a few more parts to go.

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Others, Before Me…Part 2

Someone once called me a “kind man” because I handled a vendor (who had made a mistake) without raising my voice or berating him. I was being nice, but I think that being kind has just a bit more to it than being nice.  Anyone can be nice – some can even pull of a facade of niceness in order to manipulate others.  To be kind, however, takes real action and that would derive from goodwill.

Being nice is just a matter of pleasantness, gentle speech, gentle behavior and such. Anyone can be nice or even fake niceness.

To be kind, as per Greek defining, is full of service to others.

loveiskind 

Paul’s #2 hit in the ubiquitous love chapter is that love is kind.

This is more than just a nice thing.  This is action.  Love in action.

Love is action.

I love that definition…full of service to others.

Service.  To.  Others.helpinghand

Jesus told the questioning Pharisees that of all the Laws, the greatest included loving our neighbors.  Then, His New Commandment was to love one another.

Others.  Our neighbors (people, at large) and one another (fellow believers).

Love. Is.  Kind.

Action.  Serving others.

Serving.  It is not about self.

Jesus was quoted in Matthew and Mark, “The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve…”.  Jesus was totally kind.  He fed, He healed, He taught – He even washed the nasty feet of all those guys.  He never had prerequisites or conditions, except to be present and willing to receive.

Today, we hear of “random acts of kindness”.  I believe that, in the economy of love, kindness is active and it should be specific and deliberate.  No offense to the aforementioned statement, but I just think we should be more deliberate and targeted when it comes to serving others.

We live in a lost and hurting world.  Sure, you are now thinking, “Thank you, Capt. Obvious.”.  But, the best way to reach people is by actively serving them.  And, we should do it strictly to bless them…not just to “win them over”.

Kindness is a major outward expression of love.  In its true form, it does not come with an agenda, does not have any requirements of the receivers either before or after serving them and should be done without compulsion.  It is to be done from the heart and without condition.

Mother Theresa was kind.  That guy waiting in line who pays for the struggling mother’s groceries is kind. Feeding the homeless…kindness.  Lending a confident ear…kindness. Free tutoring for a less privileged kid…this is kind.

Love is kind.

Yet another item orbiting around the nucleus of love.

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Others, Before Me…Part 1

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” – Joyce Meyer
“Be patient and understanding.  Life is too short to be vengeful or malicious.” – Phillips Brooks
“Patience is a virtue and I am learning patience.  It’s a tough lesson.”  – Elon Musk

Some picture patience as being laid back, nothing bothers you, you don’t mind waiting in a long line and you pause before answering a question.  It is like being a pro-valium poster model.  Sure, I suppose we can run with these…or walk, if we are patient enough.

Paul made a list of some of the things, patience being the first, that are powered by love in 1st Corinthians 13.

Oh, you’ve read that one?  Great!  I want to pick it apart a little, if I may.  No, I haven’t come up with any new revelations, here.  But, maybe a different perspective.

Now, back to patience.  Thank you for being patient with my brief ramble.

The first thing Paul mentions is kind of a pinnacle of the attributes of love.  We can read in scripture about how God said to be patient and how we are won over by His patience (Rom. 2), besides His love and tolerance.  We are encouraged to be patient in a few places in scripture.  But, what is this stuff about being patient and why is being patient part of love?

Let me share this…I remember a former pastor (among others in my life) telling me, “I have been patient with this/you up until now…”.  Well, if you were truly patient, you might not have set a time limit for it.

As we walk through the famous Chapter 13, we may notice a little trend…this love thing shows a setting aside of self for the benefit of another.  Being patient is more than just being able to wait for someone or wait for them to do something.  I will attempt a little Greek research, now.

The word for patient in Greek is makrothumei in 1 Cor. 13.  Patience is makrothumeo…broken down, this is makro, which means distant, far off or large (like the prefix we know, macro).  The other half is from thumos which has to do with temper, passion, emotion.  If you ask me, it sounds a bit like self-control.

Patience.  Set your emotion a far distance away.

Furious emoticon

What?  Are you serious?  I can’t do that!  I feel it boiling up inside me and I have to either say or do something!

To be impatient is me controlling the situation.  That is…this is wrong, this person is doing that, my circumstances are like this, etc.  If love puts me aside, then patience would be me putting my emotions aside and not letting them selfishly dictate my words or actions.

Breathe.  Pray.

Jesus showed us how to be patient.  Examples; Peter, James and John, teachers of the Law, the many crowds and the millenia of humanity before and since.  He created humanity and has put up with a whole bunch of crap, ever since.  He has great and perfect patience.

After all, He has been putting up with me.

Grin all you want…He puts up with you, too!

If we see love as the nucleus (the central and most important part of an object, movement, or group, forming the basis for its activity and growth), then patience is one of those things that spins off of it.

Our love for the Lord should allow us to wait upon Him.  Our love for others should cause us to tolerate their differences, downfalls, imperfections, quirks and even their oddities.  If love is patient, then my emotions take a backseat for the good of another and for the work of the Lord.

It is not just waiting in the matter of time.  It is a matter of considering another more highly, that their well-being, their feelings…their soul…as more important than whatever agenda we feel to be more important.

Tagged , , , , , ,