Leading in the Church

Are You One of The “Tolerant” Swine

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My son and I were recently discussing the current cultural fad of crying for tolerance while being completely intolerant of anyone who dares to disagree with an individual’s particular views, lifestyle choices, beliefs, etc.  We were both explaining our frustrations with the immaturity that is so evidently displayed by those who demand that one think, act, or believe exactly as they do or else be given the moniker “Intolerant Bigot!” or the like. And then there’s the ever over-used, misquoted and misrepresentation of Christ’s words “Judge not” if one dares to speak a word of dissension with a popular opinion.

We both find it amazing that so many are completely blind to their intolerant “tolerance” and are so very narrow-minded and arrogant that they are unable to entertain, or even calmly listen to, a differing perspective – and will vehemently debate that theirs is the only right perception – all while hurling insults and infantile name-calling towards the offender who dares to not share their opinion.  Simply, and discouragingly, amazing.

While talking about the increasingly argumentative nature of society and their intolerance for varied viewpoints, I said simply “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.  It’s not worth the argument.”  This got me thinking (a dangerous thing at times) about the nature of swine and what this portion of scripture could possibly mean.

Consider: Swine will eat anything.  They have no discernment or discriminating tastes. Whatever is placed in front of the swine, if hungry, will be devoured.  A swine will eat until he is full, but as soon as there is a vacancy in his stomach, he will devour whatever else is immediately available to satisfy his hunger urge. Isn’t this a picture of what has become of our society?  Whatever is most visible, and touted as important most often, is grabbed hold of and devoured by indiscriminate people who swallow it all without question and then look round for the next great outcry that they can scarf up to feed their hunger for drama and self-importance.

The government says that an issue is critical (like, for instance, a flag) and throws out its “feed”, filled with vilifying language, particles of semi-true information, and subtle innuendos that all who don’t swallow the hand-fed swill are hateful and bigoted folk.  So society gobbles it up without bothering to examine what they’re devouring for corruption, rottenness, or truth-vacant toxins.

“Religion” throws out the seeds of dissension and animosity, under the guise of “righteousness” and “favor”, and demands that others live up to impossibly perfect-looking standards created in the mind of a pompous (not pious) human who claims to be speaking for God.  However, the example being set is a far cry from the examples  of grace, love, humility, and even truly righteous judgment – given by Christ.  Yet because it is peppered with improper scripture and seasoned with legalism disguised as holiness, it is gobbled up almost madly by those who are naive and emotionally vulnerable – only to be self-righteously vomited back out over others in an effort to obtain some sense of spiritual self-significance………… (Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?)

The media feeds one-sided images of violence and controversy every few days, seeming to delight in the fact that their negative, offense-stirring, hatred laced “commentaries” do nothing to improve society or encourage unity in a nation that is torn.  Instead, they throw around words like “bigots”, “racist”, “intolerant”, and “prejudice” with a glibness that testifies to their belief that society is but a mass of ignorant beasts who will fight and battle for a piece of whatever has been thrown at their feet to eat.  Sadly, much of society has proven the media’s belief to be true by acting like mind-numbed, illiterate swine who cannot think for themselves and are too lazy to try.

For God’s sake.  When did our society become so obtuse?

Is it not obvious that society is being led to the slaughter completely engorged on the tripe with which they have been slopped? Devouring the fecal matter that is being fed by a self-aggrandizing government, some very visible but very wrong religious charlatans, and an arrogant media – all while refusing to seek out the truth buried in the filth, or to graciously allow for differing perspectives, opinions, and choices – is the norm for most these days.  The crude simpletons.  The “swine” of our society.

How about wading through the waste that is being offered and digging through the dung to find some balance?

How about refusing to swallow the rubbish that everyone who disagrees with you is an intolerant bigot, and give tolerant space for differences?  (I thought intolerance was the refusal to accept differences anyway.  But I must have gotten that wrong somehow.)

How about having intelligent conversations about important issues instead of stale squabbles about things that will be nothing more than refuse in the grand scheme of things?

Here’s one.  So many things go on around us while society gnaws on and feuds over the noxious and negligible filth that we’re being malnourished with to distract. How about actually reading and researching some of the real crises happening?  Things like people being slaughtered for their beliefs.  Children being sold as sex-slaves.  Personal agendas being passed through government – riding incognito on the coattails of a bill – that take away more of those rights everyone so adamantly cries out for… the list is long when it comes to real things we should be feeding on instead of the tripe that is so easily accessible.

Refuse to be a swine. Read. Research. Entertain opposing opinions.  Listen to perspectives different from your own. Seek out truth.

You might find some real pearls of wisdom amidst all of the rubbish.

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“Love Wins” and the Confederate Flag

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Recently we spent a week away to get a break from the stress and struggles of work/life.  We had no wifi while on vacation, and perhaps that was a good thing. What I was able to see on my newsfeed – at random moments and locations during the week – made me sad and frustrated.
So much dissension. So much division. So much immaturity and selfishness.

With all of the controversy surrounding flags and gay marriage this past week It seems that, if someone disagrees with another person’s opinion/choices/convictions, then they are “hateful”, “stupid”, “prejudiced”, and to be immediately unfriended. Really?

As has been so prevalent of late, it seems that if one person flies a flag according to the heritage they’ve learned – and another sees it as a hurtful reminder of things or a symbol of division – then those two individuals cannot ever abide in the same “space” as friends, family, or comrades. The ONLY possible explanation is that one or the other is filled with hatred, bigotry, and evil.

Or if one agrees with the Supreme Court decision – and another does not – then those two individuals also cannot possibly occupy the same “space”, the same family, or the same circle of friends. One or the other of them MUST have a heart filled with spite, ugliness, and (again) hatred.

So let me make sure I’ve got this right. You cannot rightly hold a differing opinion from another person in your life. It can’t be rationally discussed. The differences can’t be reasonably heard. No agreement, compromise, or even agreement-to-disagree can be reached. Having different opinions causes such a breach in the relationship that it cannot be overcome – and the relationship is set aside because someone doesn’t think, act, believe, speak, just like you do. Is that how it is?

What a very boring, predictable, immature, and narrow-minded life that thought process dictates.
To surround oneself with only those who are a mirror image is to design a life void of creativity, challenge, and critical thinking. To only be around those who think and act as we do is to stifle any chance for growth or increasing in maturity. To demand that those you know be no different… hold no different opinion/conviction… and to characterize them with unkind and hateful labels, if they dare to think differently, is arrogant and prideful.

When you have walked every step that someone else has walked, and you have heard – and really listened to – the experiences, learnings, and cultural biases that have brought them their convictions and opinions, then, and only then, can you begin to understand whether someone’s heart is truly evil and knowingly full of hatred. I can guarantee that, the majority of the time, that is not the case.

However it’s much easier to spew venom towards someone who disagrees with us than it is to have REAL, HONEST give-and-take conversation in order to learn from one another.

Last time I checked it was entirely possible to disagree with someone’s lifestyle, choices, or thoughts and still love that person and/or treat them with respect and dignity as a God-created human being. If you find that isn’t possible, no matter which side of an issue you stand upon, perhaps a SELF-examination is needed.

Time to grow up.

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Pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and do something?

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“Love God, love people”.

Seems to be the catchphrase of churches today.  Looks great on a billboard or t-shirt.  Sounds like a great mantra.  Excellent quote for a bumper sticker.  Blogs and books are written about it quite a lot these days.  I see/hear/read that phrase everywhere of late.  It’s an inspiring, healthy, scripture-based phrase.  Can’t argue with that. Right?

Oh, but I can.

Last week, my daughter and I were out in our community and we pulled up to a red light.  In front of us was a church with a large yard banner that read… you guessed it… “Loving God. Loving People.” I sighed and said “It’d be nice if churches did more than just post that quote everywhere”, which prompted a conversation with my daughter about the importance of doing versus simply saying something so powerful.

Church-folk, we need to have the same conversation.  Can we talk?

Can we!  Churches, and church-folk, can talk a good talk.  We can talk for hours on end…all about church.

We talk about inviting people to church.  What the church is doing this week. What the church has challenged us to do.  How much we give to the church. How the church is doing this or that this week and you must come.  How well the church is doing because we had this many or that many on any given day.  We church-folk can talk about “our” church.

And we can talk about our church leaders.

How much we don’t agree with this leader.  Or how that leader is “not in their place of giftedness” (which, in non-church vernacular means that they should quit – or be removed from their position – and do something else because we think that they suck at what they’re doing).  We talk about this one that’s controlling.  This one’s “falling away”, or “in sin”, “not hooked up anymore”, or “struggling with something”, because they’re not doing as many things inside the four walls of the church (building) as they used to.  OR we talk about our poor, pitiful, pastor and his wife.  They’re so misunderstood and unsupported.  Life is so difficult for them.  They don’t have good “armor-bearers” and there is too much demand placed on them.  They’ve got such a hard calling to minister/serve the people in the church, it’s a wonder that they stay. (Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve served in church leadership for over 20-some years and it’s no ball of fun at times, can be very difficult, and is – most definitely – not for the faint of heart. However, the pity parties don’t accomplish anything except division.)

We can also talk about each other.  Like. Dogs.

She doesn’t live up to our standards for her life.  He isn’t doing what we think he should be doing (because, you know we know better than he/she does regarding what God has spoken to them or intended for them). How dare they leave our church?  “They’re not following God they’re following a man.”  “They left us abandoned”.  “Their heart isn’t right” because they left, so let’s talk about them to everyone we know that they know and see if we can’t damage their heart even more by our gossip and hurtful words.

We can talk.

We can also talk about those who don’t attend any church. Those who believe differently from us.  Those who don’t WANT anything to do with church – or Christ – for whatever reason.  “Those people”… “Them”… “Non-believers”… “Seekers”… “Sinners” (which, last time I checked defined every single one of us who breathes.  But I digress.)… “Un-churched”.  We talk about how they need to come to our church.  How they need to “get connected” with our groups.  How “they” are going to hell.  How God hates “them” and what they do.  How “they” are wrong and we’re right.  How “they” don’t act/speak/live in a way that meets our approval because we “talk the talk and walk the walk”, meanwhile “they” do not even know what the heck we are talking about.

We talk and we talk and we talk.  All while our little church logos, bumper stickers, and banners wave in the wind crying “We love God and we love people!”

It looks real nice on that church sign.  And we wear it proudly on our pre-washed bright colored t-shirt.  But here’s a “solid” for you: Words. Mean. Nothing. Without. Actions.

Scripture says: “You shall love the Lord, Your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no greater commandment than these.” – Mark 12:30-31

And in James 2:14-26 we’re admonished not to just wish a “God bless you” on people in faith, but to do something to meet their practical needs.

And there’s the ever popular 1 Corinthians 13.  “The love chapter”.  Part of which – verses 4-8 – people quote in marriage ceremonies, public speeches, and more.  However, the first 3 verses aren’t very well known.  They’re a little more challenging.  A little more of a “truth slap” to those of us who claim to follow Christ.  Here’s a paraphrase from a recent sermon I heard about these 3 verses:

It doesn’t matter how “in tune with the Spirit” I believe that I am, if I do not love others – graciously and without expecting something in return – then I am nothing but a lot of loud noise, according to God. (- 1 Cor 13:1 para) Spiritual gifts, “experiences”, knowledge is not ultimately the point. Without love it means nothing. (- 1 Cor 13:2 para) Even if I do the most extravagant thing that I can, to show how spiritual I am, but do it for any other reason but love, it doesn’t matter. (- 1 Cor 13:3 para)

So, churches and church-folk, how about we stop talking and do something about loving God and loving people?

How about instead of expecting people to come to our fabulous, exciting, well-done, sometimes spirit-filled, church service (all of which I, personally, love attending myself, btw), we GO into all the world and share the gospel by loving others practically and meeting their needs?

How about instead of using the money that people have given – because pastors have taught them “do not mock God, but bring 10% of everything you make to church first” (another post, another day) – to pad a “rainy day” bank account like a hoarder who doesn’t want to let the smallest thing go… how about we use some of that money to do things for the community that we are planted in and the people – both in our church and without – who have real needs?  Wouldn’t that demonstrate Christ a little better than money in the bank?

Or what if, instead of starting our own “helping” organizations – that compete with the ones already proven and serving in the community – so that we can proudly boast about how we have a “Christian” soup kitchen, food pantry, clothing bank, homeless shelter, serving organization to exalt our name… what if we pooled our resources, time, and energy to come alongside those already established places and “make a name for ourselves” as the church that truly gets involved by working with our community organizations by providing love, support, and volunteer hours?

What if, instead of having to advertise that we “love God and love people” with printed chotchkes, stickers, and signs, it was simply known that that group of people who attend that church really love God and care about people, all because it was demonstrated instead of talked about?

The bottom line… Christ didn’t just talk about serving others, loving others, dying for others.  He DID SOMETHING.  His hands and feet were always extended to give, serve, love, help, touch, do, and provide the ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us.

Talk is cheap. Doing something that demonstrates Christ to others is what matters.  Otherwise, we’re just making noise… unpleasant, undesirable, unheeded noise with our ever-moving lips.

Again, pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and actually DO something?

CATALYST 2014 – Strengthen Your Core

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Core

Reviewing notes from the 2nd session of Catalyst, with Christine Caine, and my mind and heart are, again, challenged and convicted.  Following is a cursory summary of things my spirit – and pen – “caught” from her passionate fire. (Direct quotes are in italics)

Christine Caine:

Christine shared her own recent and personal battle with cancer, surgery, and recovery. She talked about how, in order for her body to be strengthened following surgery, it was necessary for her to strengthen her core before proceeding with more strenuous exercises.  She had been warned that, if she didn’t re-strengthen her core – and resumed running too early – her body would, eventually, collapse. She likened this to our spiritual life.

“If we haven’t strengthened our spiritual core, eventually our world will collapse.”

Matthew 22:34-40: 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

“The typical ‘Christian’ is trying to serve God with a toxic heart, a wounded soul, and a tormented mind.”  If we don’t allow His presence into these, the deepest places where we have been hurt and damaged [our core], then we cannot be capable leaders.

“We are a bunch of Christians running around wanting to change the world but not willing to be changed.  Until we change ourselves we will never change the world.”

“My gift wouldn’t have taken me where my character couldn’t have kept me without a strong spiritual core.”  In other words, character has to be developed, and God must be granted full access to the darkest places in our heart, soul, and mind, in order to be effective with the gifts that He has given.

Addressing the heart:

“You do what you want when it’s a passion.  You do what you have to when it’s an obligation.  Remember when serving God was a passion?”

If our leadership is about us and our satisfaction, our ego, and/or our self-fulfillment, then how does God fit into this? “If your heart is so full of yourself then there’s no room for Him.”

As Christ-followers, if we aren’t seeking Him passionately…. “If Jesus is not enough for His church then why would he be enough for the world?”

“Get off of Facebook and in the face of God!”

“Skinny jeans and tattoos do not make you a powerful leader for God.  Being filled with the presence and power of God makes you a powerful leader!”

In reference to the soul:

When we prayed to receive Christ, our soul wasn’t instantly changed and all of the damage completely healed.  Our soul was saved… redeemed… yet still needed (or needs) to be healed and restored. But many of us have locked God out of the very place that – when healed – can be stronger and so much more powerful.

“The pain of recovery is often more powerful than the pain of injury.”

“If we don’t allow God to ‘go in deep’ and heal the wounded places in our soul it will become infected and seep out, like [disgusting and oozing] pus, into your leadership.”

We go to church on Sundays and yet don’t allow God to change the deepest part of us.  We don’t allow Him into our lives the rest of the week, so our souls are gasping for breath and life. “If we could stop surviving on church as if it’s life support then we could be the powerful and prophetic people we were called to be!”

And what about the mind?:

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Be ruthless about what goes into your mind!  “Don’t ‘jump on the enemy’s train of thoughts of worry, negativity… fear.”  2 Timothy 1:7 says for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

We often lie awake at night with our mind filled with worry and fear.  We forget that “My God never sleeps or slumbers!  He’s always working in every situation so God’s got this. I’m gonna get some sleep!”

And when we allow the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Never Sleeping God access to the damaged places of our heart, soul, and mind then we become the called leaders that we were intended to be.

“The degree to which we are healed and free is the degree to which we can lead others to freedom.  We reproduce who we are.”

Christine shared a story about her youngest daughter and how her husband is always telling their daughter that she is beautiful, smart, and called by God.  Recently, she began attending school and a little boy was picking on her.  He grabbed her “wubby” from her and said to her:”You’re ugly and you’re stupid!”  To which she replied: “I am NOT!  My Daddy says that I am……”

Whenever the enemy comes against us – whether in our mind, or through the words/actions of others – we remind ourselves of who God says we are.  And we remind the enemy… “‘My DADDY says…..’ and we rebuke the lies of the enemy with what The Father says about us!”

Are there parts of your own heart, soul, and/or mind that you have not allowed God full access to?  Pray.  Ask Him.  Listen for His response.  And then take some “J.A.M. time” (Jesus-And-Me) and allow Him to peel back the layers of pain, and even shame, to discover the powerful core of you which yearns and longs for Him!