Tag Archives: christianity

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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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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The Worldly Church

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

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

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

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

They listen.  They cheer.  They give money.

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

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

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

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

2 Timothy 3 New International Version (NIV) 

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

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

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

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

Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel.  The Good News.

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

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

They will seek to be the Jesus people need.

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

They should be all of us.

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

Love should be our nucleus.

As it should be.

As we walk together.

 

 

 

 

 

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