Spoken Word – When Did We Lose Our Souls?
I sit and I intently ponder
mind focused and filled with wondering
when, where, how, and why
did life become so parched and dry?
So empty of any depth or meaning
filled with loud, judgmental screaming.
Shouts of “justice” and “my rights”
verbal outbursts, tantrums, fights
all while claiming to be seeking
peace and harmony
fairness and equality
when in actuality
The order of the day has become
division and strife.
No regard for any life
save our own – me and mine.
Don’t disagree with me this time
or I’ll unload my every thought,
feeling, and selfish opinion all over you and yours.
Hiding behind computer screens
phones and social media scenes
fingers clicking furiously
to rip apart right from the seams
anyone who dares to disagree
or have individual thoughts, unique perspective,
or a mind that thinks differently, no matter how refective.
What an offensive
The “causes” of the conflicted day:
marriage for the straight or gay,
exposed nipples for baby’s meal
Are leggings real
Black lives matter.
Blue lives matter.
Lions and elephants and dog lives matter.
All lives matter.
Except of course
those that haven’t left the source
of sustenance that is their mother’s womb.
They don’t matter til they’ve crossed into the room
caught by a doc
and uttering that first crying wail.
Don’t even go there.
Refugees and aliens
Open the borders. Shut them again!
They’re dying, and starving, and being killed.
But they’ll come into our country and steal
our benefits, our jobs
Do we give it up that easily?
Fly the colored rainbow flag.
Stars and bars
No that one’s bad
Why? Because “I said” it is
since one man wore it when he did
My cause is greater than your own.
My voice is louder
passion prouder and
Damn it, I. Am. Right.
Is this what we have become?
People who scream
riot and ream
anyone and everyone over the coals
who dares to oppose
our singular views?
Closed-minded, open-mouthed expectations of compliance
with nothing but selfish reliance
on platforms that are so wrapped
in politics or personal agendas
that we’ve forgotten how to live?
How to love?
How to be simply
And allow others to be the same…
When did our hearts become so hard?
When did we lose our souls?
We must hit our knees. Get on our face.
Crawl into the secret place
where we can quietly
weepingly listen, and plead
for mercy from the One Whose bleeding
hands and feet and sword pierced side
spirit surrendered died
for every freedom and hand-crafted life
that you are targeting with strife
and vilifying accusations
Can we extend our hardened wounded souls
out to the Father to be made whole?
And cry compassionate tears for those
who are hurting
for someone to affirm that they belong.
Allow His love our hearts to pierce
and His eyes to be ours with grace so fiercely
extended to everyone bought by His death.
That bear His warm life-giving breath.
His absolute and undeserved grace.
Just as we do.
passionately pray that we can truly repent and
image, by Cheppy Japz, found at: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/empty-soul-cheppy-japz.html
“Love Wins” and the Confederate Flag
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.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
As the internet is overrun with the story of the Duggar family’s skeletons in the closet, and Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) coming out, the opinions and commentaries are on the verge of “breaking” the internet. Opinions range from staunch defense of the Duggar Family or Jenner’s choices, to absolute outrage about the same. There are those who attribute every perceived failure to Obama and the Democrats – or to Conservatives and Republicans (which, btw, are not one in the same). Others cannot voice their opinion without it being done via creating an argument that blames the issue on religion and either the belief in God, or the lack thereof. Still others seem to have lost all sense of decorum, dignity, respect for others, or even self-respect and spew their thoughts with vile words, profanity, and crass indifference to the feelings of any family members who may be hurt, or offended, by their damaging words. Disagreeing with “popular opinion” earns the labels of “hate mongers” or “bigot”, “Intolerant” or “ignorant”.
It’s a disturbing trend. A quick and violent shove towards mind-numbing same-ness and lack of sufferance for those who dare to be different – or at least those who dare to express their opinions that differ from the supposedly moral, or immoral, majority.
Can we put our big girl/boy britches on and grow up?!
Disagreement with an opinion, no matter how popular that opinion, does not equal “hate speech” in an intelligent and thinking society. Simply disagreeing with someone – or their lifestyle – does not indicate hatred or evil. It is entirely possible to disagree, even vehemently, yet continue to treat one another with civility, respect, dignity, and fierce love.
This, my friends, is why we were designed with a mind, will, and emotions rather than created as clones of one another all marching in the same direction and step. What would be the point and purpose?
Will we always agree? Of course not.
Should we be free to express our varying opinions? With respect, kindness, and appropriateness – absolutely.
Will we convince others to agree with our feelings? At times we may.
When someone disagrees with us, and will never agree with us, is this a sign of an evil heart or villainous motives? Come on. Really?
And this one is specifically for those who claim “Christ-follower”….
Is it our responsibility to condemn others “outside the faith”, convince them of perceived wrongs, and convict them in the courts of our minds and social media feeds? No. It is not.
It is our responsibility to point them to the heart of Christ through our own actions, words, faith, and evident love. The rest is between them and their Father, God.
Why intolerantly crying for tolerance – from either side of the opinion – when what we really want is for everyone to think, act, and be as we are or they’re wrong, Wrong, WRONG?
For the sake of intelligent thought and growing up, let’s give room for mature and civil disagreement without cutting people off, arrogantly “unfriending” those who have other opinions, calling names, and resorting to overall petty immature arguments.
PS Christ-followers: (Holding fellow Christ-followers accountable to scripture is another thing entirely. We’d better be doing that – with all love and humility – or we can’t truly love one another well)
God Can’t Make Me Sick
God can’t – won’t – doesn’t make me sick. He cannot do so.
I’ve known good people who got sick. I’ve known not-so-good people who got sick. And I’ve known Godly people who got sick unto death.
I’ve also heard, at times, someone say “God made me sick”, God caused this for His purposes”, or “God must’ve needed another angel” when someone has died.
If I said “I hate to disagree” I would be dishonest. I don’t hate to disagree. I, very adamantly, disagree with the notion that God makes us sick or needs us in Heaven and so He causes us to suffer with agonizing symptoms and to waste away miserably and painfully with our families/friends aching as we die. That is the opposite of the heart of Christ. And Jesus – very boldly – said “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen My Father”.
When Jesus walked the earth, He. Healed.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” – Matthew 4:23
“…who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.” – Luke 6:18-19
“but the crowds… followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” – Luke 9:11
There are no instances where Christ made someone sick, or caused someone to be sick. None.
There are no instances where Christ caused someone’s death because God “needed them”. Matter of fact, Lazarus died and Jesus raised him up. Four. Days. Later.
AND, Elijah and Enoch simply went to be with the God of the Heavens. They weren’t stricken with a disease and painfully suffer until they died. They “went to be” with God. Moses, Methusaleh, Adam, Joseph, the list goes on of those who knew God and simply lived until they died. They lived their years of promise and their bodies “resigned” so that they could be with the God Who made them.
Nope. God doesn’t make me sick. He can’t. It would require that He go against His own character, which would make Him dishonest. And God is not able to lie. He is not capable of darkness. There is no sickness or death in Him.
Then where does sickness originate?
As Christ-followers…. actually, as human beings created in the image of God, we have an enemy. From the time that Adam and Eve were created to this day, the “enemy of our Spirit” – in other words Satan (yes, he does exist) – has sought to prevent us from drawing close to God, from trusting God, from understanding His fierce love, and from receiving His undeserved yet freely given grace. He has fought, rather warred, against mankind in an effort to keep us from what he no longer has – a relationship with and direct access to God.
And when Adam and Eve disobeyed God they opened the way for sin, disobedience, disease, and death to enter into the life of every man who would follow. Sin. Darkness. Death. They all entered this, now fallen, world and were followed by natural consequences and all things “bad”.
Why did God allow it? Why were these things given entrance into the world? Because man chose. Man chose to disobey and, therefore, to allow the spirit that was contrary to God’s to come into the world.
Why does God allow good, Godly, people to suffer with sickness? I don’t know why some are supernaturally healed and others remain ill. I don’t know why some are miraculously preserved from death and others join God too early. I don’t know. And neither does anyone else.
There are some things we don’t understand. But what we should understand is (again) where Christ said “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen My Father”. We should understand how the disciples continued to affect the world like Christ and they healed others in His name. They didn’t cause others to be sick. They didn’t wish sickness on anyone. They DID admonish, at times after healing someone, to go and change the habits/patterns of life or suffer consequences worse than the original sickness. However, the disciples never prayed for someone to get sick or gave them a sickness. They followed Christ’s example and healed… cured… those who were diseased.
If you believe that God caused you to be sick, or made you sick, then why ask others to pray for you to be healed? Wouldn’t that be asking God to go against Himself? Seems like a waste. Or a contradiction.
“Every GOOD and PERFECT gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17
“…Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.…” – James 5:14-16
Don’t Leave the Tent!
Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. – Exodus 33:7-11
This is one of my favorite passages in scripture. Most people aren’t even aware that it is there. However, I think it is a very powerful story of worship and of the presence of God.
Every time I read this snippet of the story of Moses and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, I am struck by several things.
The first is in verse 7. It says that “everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting….”. So the tent of meeting was placed outside of the camp, but it was available for anyone who wanted to go and seek God. Anyone who wanted to be in His presence was invited to go out to the tent of meeting, at any time that they desired. However, this short passage doesn’t mention anyone going to the tent except for Moses and Joshua.
The second is that, whenever Moses would go to the tent, the people would get up and stand in the doorways of their own tents and watch for a sign that God’s presence was visiting Moses. And when they would see the pillar of cloud they would stand and worship from their own tent doors… they would worship from afar…
The people who had been rescued from the enslavement of the Egyptians, though invited, didn’t enter the tent of meeting to be in God’s presence. They stood at a distance and watched for their leader to enter God’s presence and then they worshipped without drawing near. Never experiencing His presence for themselves. Never investing themselves in taking the journey to where God’s presence was housed. Selah. (Pause and think on that)
And then there’s Moses. The passage says that God spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to a friend. When Moses would go out to spend time in God’s presence, then God talked with him. Personally. Intimately. Comfortably. As if speaking to a close friend.
Finally, the passage names Joshua. Scripture says that Joshua was a young man, and that he never left the tent of meeting. He, in spite of his youth, made the decision to remain where God’s presence resided. He did not leave. He literally chose to LIVE where God was. He determined that he wanted, more than anything else at that time, to spend his days – and his nights – communing with God.
Such a powerful “little” story.
In the Old Testament, the presence of God was housed in one location. The Israelites chose to remain a distance from this place and worship God without drawing near to His face and presence. They stayed, “safely”, removed from where the powerful evidence of God would appear. Joshua, on the other hand, chose to remain incessantly where God was. Night and day He sought after God.
Of the two, who do we more resemble in these advanced times? The ones who have been freed from the enslavement of the enemy, yet we worship the One Who paid for our freedom and liberty from afar? Or the one who longed to be nowhere else but face-to-face with God?
God’s presence is no longer housed in a specific tent outside the city. It is no longer inaccessible to those who refuse to leave the safety of their own comfort zone. Wherever we are, God, Himself, is there…. Scripture, in Psalm 139: 7-10 says “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
And Jeremiah 23:24 says “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.”
There is nowhere that we can go where God’s presence does not reside. His presence is in even the most secret of places. And it is our choice whether to abide… remain… LIVE in His presence, or to stand back and watch others spend time with Him, as one spends time with a close friend, and miss out on knowing Him intimately.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13
Don’t leave the tent.
Whose Approval Do You Seek?
“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” – Jesus (John 5:43-44)
Ouch! How often do we “receive glory” from one another – in the form of adulation, approval, applause, affirmation and adoration – and place that “glory”, or opinion, above the opinion that Christ holds of us?
We will receive the praise, and even criticisms, of man and take it to heart, allowing it to inflate our heads or damage our souls. However, when Christ says that He loves us, we question how that is possible. After all, we KNOW ourselves. And when Christ says that we are forgiven from our past and that He “remembers our sins no more” when we repent, we refuse to receive that forgiveness and, instead, allow our minds to be tortuously haunted by the enemy of our souls who would like nothing more than for us to be running scared and beaten by guilt and shame.
OR when His Holy Spirit reminds us of things in our lives that are keeping us from drawing near to Christ – or becoming more like Him – yet friends/family/society says “Its okay”, “Its no big deal”, or the ever-popular “Its your life/body do what feels right”, we receive the “glory” from man instead of the loving admonition from God… because it’s easier, more comfortable, and MUCH more pleasing to our ears and ego.
As long as our most valuable approval comes from men then we will never, not EVER, recognize and relax in who God created us to be. Which means that we will never, not EVER, be comfortable in our own skin or with our own unique set of gifts/talents.
What a miserable way to live… constantly changing opinions, convictions, and even appearance, to avoid being beaten around the head by the ever-wavering opinions of man.
Regarding our pasts:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. – Psalm 139:13-16
In other words He KNOWs us better than we know ourselves
Regarding our value to Him:
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. – 1 John 4:10
And although He KNOWs us – and everything we have ever done or said – He still sacrificed Christ for us
Regarding His love for us:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39
He loves us and – despite things that we have said or done that may have wounded His heart or the hearts and lives of others – He never stops loving us.
Regarding His sacrifice for us:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED…..For by grace you have been saved through faith. And THIS IS NOT YOUR OWN DOING; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:4-9 (ESV)
No, we truly didn’t deserve His sacrifice. Yet He gave His own life for us – in our undeserving state – because of His great love. If we deserved it, or could earn it, then Christ’s sacrifice was for naught.
Regarding our “nows” and our futures:
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
And when we receive His undeserved GRACE and FORGIVENESS, and commit our lives to following His will… not perfectly, but with the purpose of becoming like Him… then our past is no longer thought of by Him
When we open our hearts and minds to understand that Christ GAVE Himself up to one of the most painful, shameful, “senseless” deaths in order that we might recognize how very much He treasures us, what sense does it make to seek the adulation… the “glory”… of man instead of the approval of God?
And why put the words/opinions of man above the words/opinions of God – Who gave all that we might rest in who HE created us to be?
In Galatians 1:10 Paul writes: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Go back and read Romans 8:28-29 again…….. Seriously. Go read it…….
These 2 verses remind us that there is nothing that we can do to change how very much we are loved by Christ.
The love of man changes as quickly as the seasons and is as unstable as the winds.
The love of God never wavers.
Receive His “glory” and grace. Accept yourself how HE sees you.
Allow HIS opinion to be what governs your mind, will, emotions, actions, and speech. You may find yourself enjoying the freedom. I pray that you will. ❤
Pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and do something?
“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?
Religion IS A Crutch
Ever heard someone lash out with the words “Religion is a crutch!” Most of us have heard it more than once. Many who say they have a faith in Christ get offended, or highly defensive, when they hear this popular criticism. They tend to argue about doctrines, scriptures, and beliefs in an attempt to convince others that their religion is anything but a crutch.
Well, hold on to your pantyhose. This Christ-follower fully agrees. Religion IS a crutch.
Now before you throw those blasphemy stones you’ve got clenched in your raised fists, read on….
A crutch is defined as: “anything that serves as a temporary and often inappropriate support, supplement, or substitute; a prop”
Perfectly defines religion. Temporary. Unable to truly support. A poor substitute. Something that props you up… which, by the way, when removed will trigger a fall.
The definition of religion is “the practice of religious beliefs and/or ritual observances of faith”.
In scripture, Christ and those who mechanically practiced religion were not fans of one another.
The religious measured others according to their index of proper acts, acceptable behaviors, respectable lifestyles, and appreciable knowledge. If one didn’t conform to their preconceived notions of tolerable conduct, the religious would judge them as unworthy, unfaithful, even deplorable.
Christ measured others according to His Father, Whose heart knew of every decent and scandalous act ahead of their committal. Whose eyes saw every righteous and unrighteous behavior before they came to pass. Whose ears heard every respectful and shameful word before they were spoken. Who knew the measure of every lifestyle, deemed successful or unsuccessful by the fellow man, prior to the first breath of life. Yet His Father continued to love them, understanding their humanity, yet knowing that He created them with incredible potential and giftings for good.
Christ demonstrated what true faith should resemble, and those who counted on religion were considered inferior and judged harshly by Him for their false teachings and man-centered standards.
Sadly this seems to have been forgotten today. Today it seems so many still boost themselves up by bracing their lives on pompous practices and spiritually-superficial rites.
Obeying a list of “holy behaviors” will prop one up on a self-righteous and ego-aggrandizing pedestal. The problem is that this narcissistic truss will only provide a deceiving facade of support. With the first stumble, or deviation from the tally of rights and wrongs – like an injured man whose crutch is yanked from under him on a slippery surface – the pseudo-holy foundation tumbles, taking the soul bound by religion with it.
Unfortunately, those who have allowed themselves to be crippled by the demanding and unrealistic checklist, tend to reach for that same list of do’s/dont’s – making excuses for their own fallings, and holding others hostage to their deformed expectations of virtue. They find a strange sort of comfort in their religious list.
After all, adhering to a series of hallowed intentions takes less faith and diligence than building a relationship that is truthfully spiritual and real. The rules, regulations, and human-ordained practices of religion are a poor substitute for living with an honest and faith-filled relationship with the agape loving, grace-permeated Christ.
Religion is a crutch. It is an inappropriate prop for the self-righteous. Religion provides a false sense of support and stability and is a temporary aid to bolster the ego. It is a weak, ugly, foolish crutch that Christ would snatch away in a second to prompt our reliance on Him instead of ritualistic nonsense.
Stand up. Allow Christ to strengthen you as you choose to follow Him… Listening for His voice, obeying His promptings, and walking – unaided by man-made rules of legalism – with Him. Drop the crutch.
Oh… and drop your stones now also, please and thank you.
We All Are Peter
Ever read a scripture passage that reached into your soul a grabbed hold with an iron grip as if to say “Pay attention to me! I have something for you!”?
This past week I was reading and came across a passage like this. When the women had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, they encountered a man who told them “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” – Mark 16:6-7
Go and tell His disciples…. and Peter. In my mind this implied that Peter was being mentioned separately from the disciples possibly due to his sin of denying Christ 3x.
However, every Commentary that I read indicated otherwise. They all agreed that Peter was not be distinguished from the disciples, but instead was Peter was being singled out to assure that he was informed along with the other disciples… to guarantee that he was included in this report of Christ’s resurrection and His promise that He would come to them again.
Peter’s name was called out to make certain that he knew he was included in the invitation to meet with Christ once again.
I can only imagine how his heart must have skipped when his name was called. Such a mixture of excitement, anticipation, fear, and guilt. He had, after all, sworn and uttered curses as he denied even knowing who Christ was in the midst of the God-man’s most physically/emotionally demanding… potentially damaging… days on Earth. He had abandoned Christ. Turned his back on the Christ that he had walked with, talked with, ate with, slept beside, been taught by, and even been called by. Peter had refused to acknowledge the One Who had – with all patience and understanding – seen the potential in Peter’s strong-will, brash personality, and impulsivity.
Peter had sworn he knew no such man called “Christ”. Three. Scandalous. Times.
And yet, Peter was being called out by the same, Christ, and acknowledged as His in the presence of all the other disciples… who, most assuredly, knew of his shameful denials.
Scripture later records that Christ appeared to the disciples when they were fishing and John recognized Who was on the shore. And rather than waiting for the rest of the disciples to row there in their boat – for that would take to long – Peter jumped from the boat and began to swim to shore (is it any wonder with his impulsive nature?). He wanted to be in the presence of Jesus.
Christ waited until all the disciples were together and had shared a meal. He then called Peter’s name again. He singled him out once again in the presence of the others. Imagine… “Peter?”
Was He going to rebuke Peter for his sinful, slap in the face, spurning? Would he point out how Peter had denied Him and then, publicly, announce that he was no longer chosen to represent Christ? After all, how could he?
How could Christ, in all good conscience, allow Peter to represent Him and His cause knowing that Peter had stood before many and, cursing and swearing, joined in His ridicule and refused to acknowledge his relationship with Him ? How could the hand of God continue to anoint Peter’s life with such a blatant rejection? So many thoughts and emotions must have been leaving footprints on Peter’s mind and heart.
“Peter” “Yes, Lord?”
“Do you love me?”
Three times Christ asked if Peter loved Him. Scripture says that Peter was hurt because Christ asked him the third time. Could it have been another painful reminder of Peter’s 3 rebuffs?
“Lord, You know all things. You know that I love You”
And Christ, for the 3rd time, reaffirmed Peter’s calling to “feed My lambs”… to minister to those who are lost and hurting… to those who have no Shepherd.
“Lord, You know all things”…..
Indeed He does.
Christ knows all things. He knows that we are human. He knows that we make mistakes. He knows that we even, at times, reject or spurn His place in our life with our actions and/or words. He knows.
And yet, just like Peter, He continues to call out our name. He continues to let us know that if our heart is still trying to find Him through the dense fog of shame that can cloud our view of Him… if we are still seeking His light in the midst of our own mental and emotional darkness… if we are willing to jump out of the boat and “swim” towards Him – not waiting for things to be just right or others to come along with us… if our response is that pain-filled, guilt-ridden, cry of “Lord, you know all things. You KNOW that I love you”… then, in spite of our sin, He calls out our name and reminds us that we remain called, appointed, chosen, His.
Such marvelous Grace.