And We Are Keeping This Because?

Holding On To Spiritual Clutter

cluttered-garage

Something amazing happened yesterday that absolutely surprised me and filled me with indescribable joy.  Some of the Worship Team came to remove the Chrismons from the tree in the sanctuary and to take down and put up all the decorations from the Advent Season.  Down the hallway from the sanctuary is a series of storage closets with those louvered bi-fold doors.  I had looked in them before and they were filled with a lot of stuff, I mean a LOT of STUFF.  Now here is what surprised me and created a sense of euphoric joy.

The Worship Team leader asked me if they could clean up those closets, remove what we did not need and then organize it.  Do you know what I did?  I made the sign of the Cross over them, ordained them to the task (if I had a bottle of anointing oil I would have anointed them with oil) and blessed them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost!  And they went to work sorting and determining what we actually use.  Among the many items was an old metal box that we determined that at one time was the heart of the church phone system.  There were a few coffee pots, some “made in China” bud vases covered in about 15 years of holy dust (it is a church you know), assorted sizes of nearly used-up candles, and a variety of items too numerous to list.

Some items were moved to a new storage location we call the dumpster.  Other items were moved to the stage in the fellowship hall, neatly arranged.  An announcement will be made for the next two Sundays inviting the folks to browse through those items to take home with them if they have any value to them, after which those items will be re-purposed at the local thrift store.  Then they organized and stored the items we actually need and use.  It was a beautiful sight to behold.  As a pastor, it was one of those moments when God affirms to you that your work in the Lord is not in vain.  But this morning it caused me to think.

How much spiritual clutter do we carry around with us that is either unnecessary or is no longer needed in our spiritual journey?  Right now I am thinking about my Old Testament professor at Birmingham Southern College, Dr. Wells, God rest his soul.  On top of his office desk were piles and piles of paper and in front of those piles was a sign I have never forgotten.  It said:  “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what’s the sign of an empty desk?”  I admit that most of the time my desk top is, well I won’t say cluttered, but I will say it’s “organized chaos”.  I do know where to look when I need something, well, some of the time.  And I am also realizing more frequently, that my “organized clutter desk top” is a sign that I am keeping spiritual clutter that needs to be gone.

Paul understood the tendency to hold on to things that were once thought to be important but no longer serve a useful purpose.  Look carefully at Philippians 3:2:-14  from The Message

2-6 Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.

7-9 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’srighteousness.

10-11 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

Our life in Christ is a forward moving life.  I love the way The Message renders verse 14: I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”  But sometimes the Enemy tries to get us to hold on to some things that keep us from the onward movement with Jesus.  For some it is old guilt; for others it is old fears; and for many it is old failures.  The Enemy entraps them with all that “used to be” and lies to them by saying “that’s all there will be and it will always be that way.”

All of the trash and junk of sin was nailed to the Cross and onto Jesus.  He bore all of that guilt, fear and failures.  And because He carried it all the way to His grave God offers to set us free from all of it, I mean ALL of it.  He makes this offer as a pure gift, absolute grace: You no longer have to carry it around!  I am setting you free!”  God liberates us and then declares us righteous, right with Him by giving to us all of the righteousness that is Jesus.  It’s like trading in an old clunker of a car for a brand new car, a new car that has no payments to make because the price was paid in full for us.  Just accept God’s gift, plain a simple.

But then there’s that “other” clutter we carry around sometimes.  It’s like all that stuff stored in those closets.  At one time they were useful and beneficial, but they have served their purpose.  Something new and better has arrived on the scene.  But sometimes we long for the comfort of the old and familiar rather than the fresh and new of the Holy Spirit.  So like that old PBX system, we hold on to it just in case that new PBX system fails us.  What I’m trying to say is that sometimes the Enemy wants us to be more religious than righteous.  And to be religious means we hold onto the old ways simply because they are the old ways.  It can become like Paul warned young Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:5,

They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

Please do not misunderstand me and say things about me that simply are not true.  I am not against the rich traditions of the Church.  They are priceless reminders of the faithfulness of God and God’s promises to guide us into a new future with Him.  But these rich traditions become spiritual clutter when they are no longer used as reminders of God’s faithful presence and His promises of a new future.  When Jesus was talking about the New Covenant and true Kingdom of God He compares it with new wine.  He summed up the New Covenant this way in Luke 5:38-39 and The Voice© puts it like this:

New demands new—new wine for new wineskins.  Anyway, those who’ve never tasted the new wine won’t know what they’re missing; they’ll always say, “The old wine is good enough for me!”

“The old is good enough for me and it should be good enough for you!”  Such are the words of those who have traded in their relationship with God for a religious attitude.  It is easy to hold on to the past as if it will be enough.  So we store it away and it collects dust.  Dust collectors serve no useful purpose.  I’m sure if there had been a committee there to decide what items were kept and what items were disposed by the Worship Team, some, if not most of those items would have been kept simply because “some day we might need them” or “we use to use them so keep them”.  I read somewhere that if you haven’t worn an item of clothing in 2 years you need to get rid of it because if it’s been 2 years since you wore it why do you think anything will change?

Have you ever watched one of those shows about “hoarders”?  It is both sickening and heartbreaking to see people surrounded by stuff that is stifling the life right out of them.  It is even sadder when people who have been touched and transformed by the grace of God hold on to the old stuff rather than embrace the new movement of the Holy Spirit.  I believe with all my heart that traditional means of worship is a powerful way to experience the presence and promises of God.  But if we do it just because we’ve always done it that way, well it is simply stored clutter.

clutter2

Not long after I had met our local Superintendent of Education he was sharing with me his dreams and vision for our local schools.  It was bold and daring, and much-needed.  He briefly lamented the fact that some were not seeing the vision.  It was at that point the Spirit prompted me to share with him this enduring truth.  I said, “Keith, do you know the 7 words of a dying church?  These 7 words will also fit into any organization, even schools.”  He asked me, “What are they?”  I replied:

“We’ve never done it that way before!”

The clutter simply is a way to hide from the movement of God through the Holy Spirit.  Is there spiritual clutter in your heart?  In your mind?  Things that are not helping you connect to the Presence and Promises of God?  If we cannot connect to the Presence and the Promises, then we will never connect to the Power.  Without the power we are just another religion, and Jesus did not die for another religion.

Love God with all your heart; love others the way God loves you; and make sure all the glory goes to Him!  Let’s pray:

Lord, I pray with all my heart Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”  If I am a spiritual hoarder, help me see the clutter and especially help me allow YOU to take out whatever offends you.  Amen and Amen!

Wrong Wood, Wrong Place, Wrong Time

 

manger-cross

From where I live out my faith (not meaning my literal community, but the culture around me) it appears that a lot more people seem to love Jesus just a little bit more this time of year.  I mean, I see social media posts of people who are outraged that businesses no longer use “Merry Christmas” signs but “Happy Holidays”.  I’ve seen scores of posts saying “Keep Christ In Christmas, comment Amen and copy and paste.”  Or, “If you are not ashamed of Jesus, say Merry Christmas.”  Oh, and people who will not purchase Christmas cards unless they have a manger scene, shepherds, wise men and a star.  Christmas is so important for some that they make their second semi-annual pilgrimage to a church (the first pilgrimage being Easter).

easter-crowd-is-coming

Now do not get me wrong; I am always glad when anyone decides to attend a worship service because it will give them the best opportunity to experience God, more than clicking “like” or “share” buttons.  It is probably just me, but I cannot help but wonder:  “Why do more people ‘like’ and ‘share’ Jesus more now than they did in October?”  I did a little bit of research about Advent and Christmas and was amazed at all the different information that is out there.  But it seems that the consensus is that the “official” Advent and Christmas season for the church did not solidify itself until the latter part of the fourth and early part of the fifth centuries.

However, Lent is the oldest season recognized by most churches.  It actually started as a result of the Council of Nicea in 325.  Lent was designed to be a season of reflection leading up to the death and Resurrection of Jesus.  Obviously, at least to me, the early church considered the Cross far more important than the manger.  Thus, the title of this blog emerged:  Wrong Wood, Wrong Place, Wrong Time.  After reading all this about what others have said, I wondered what did Paul have to say?  Did Paul ever write about the importance of placing glory around the manger?  Did Paul find it important and necessary to boast about the manger?  Well, here is what I discovered, a long time ago.  It’s from Galatians 6:14-15 and I love the way The Voice puts it:

14 May I never put anything above the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed. Through Him, the world has been crucified to me and I to this world.15 Let me be clear: circumcision won’t save you—uncircumcision won’t either for that matter—for both amount to nothing. God’s new creation is what counts, and it counts for everything.

So why do people suddenly love Jesus more this time of year?  I have an opinion on this question and I am going to share it with you.  It’s easier to love a baby in a manger than it is to love The Savior who died on the Cross.  Why is it easier to love the manger more than the Cross?  Allow me to share with you 3 reasons:

 1.  Because at the Cross we are confronted with the ugliness of our own sins.

The Enemy tries to hide from our eyes the hideous nature that lives inside all of us, even among the best of us.  He hides it by convincing us that we are not as bad as others, therefore we are OK.  He hides it by convincing us that it’s not our fault but someone or something else is to blame.  And most recently, he has convinced some that the Progressives are right, that we are simply born this way, therefore God created us this way and it’s OK.  The truth is that sin reveals the truth that we look more like Quasimodo than Prince Charming or Sleeping Beauty.  By never looking into the face of Jesus as He hung on that Cross, we never can never fully see the hideous nature inside, nor the brokenness that exists in our life.

2.  Because at the Cross we are confronted with the price God paid for our sins.

We are so torn apart by sin, that our God paid the price for our sins.  It is a price that we are unable, and truth be known, unwilling to pay.  But God was willing to do the unthinkable and the unimaginable.  God sent His Son, the extension of His true nature, into creation as one of those He created.  Then Jesus allowed God to place on His shoulders every sin of every person; all of my sins and all of your sins.  Then, when every sin was placed on Jesus, God did the unimaginable.  God turned away from His Son.  Jesus cried out on the Cross (Mark 15:34 NLT), “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  No, it just didn’t “feel” like God abandoned Him.  The price of every sin is that God the Perfect Judge, turn away from the sinner.  Jesus became the sinner and for the first and only time in all eternity, The Son became disconnected from The Father.  This may seem radical, even blasphemous to some of you but it is the price that sin demands be paid in order for us to be forgiven.  The price for our sin wasn’t paid in the wooden manger, but on the wooden Cross.

3.  Because at the Cross we are confronted with the demands of Jesus.

The demand of Jesus isn’t that we kneel at the manger but that we carry our Cross and live our lives from that Cross.  Jesus said in Mark 8:34 (NLT), Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said,“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”  In a consumer-driven economy and culture, the Enemy wants us to take that same consumer mentality into the church.  When we make the church about meeting our needs we make the church impotent and worthless.  We have to give up our own way and live the way Jesus died:  So that the world may know God’s love in such a way that they will allow the Holy Spirit into their life to redeem and transform them into their original design.  When I want to do things my way, in other words, be selfish and superficial, I remember King David at the threshing floor of Araunah.  In 1 Chronicles 21:14  (The Voice) King David said, No, I must buy it for the full price. I will not give your possessions to the Eternal as if they were my own, nor will I give a burnt offering which costs me nothing. I must sacrifice something for this offering.  

So it is easy, so much easier, way too easy to kneel before the Wrong Wood (the manger) at the Wrong Time (His birth) and at the Wrong Place (Bethlehem).  If this Season is to have any lasting impact on us, and thus be true to its meaning, then we must move beyond the typical scenes and remember why Jesus was born.  He was born to die for us so that we can be restored to the Fellowship of our Heaven Father, and become transformed to live the way He designed us to live.

the-manger-and-the-cross

Bil Keane’s character Dolly is right; we like seeing Baby Jesus much more than the Suffering Jesus.  But baby Jesus doesn’t help us; but the Suffering Jesus is our Savior.  Remember to love God with all your heart; love others the way Jesus loves you (and in case you haven’t gotten it yet, He loves you perfectly from The Cross); and make sure all the glory goes to Him!  Let’s pray:

I have only one Christmas wish that only you can give.  Show me if I am living from the Cross or my own way.  And if I am living my own way, save me from myself so that I might live the way you died for me.  Amen and Amen!

Do You Pass The Peace Or Pass By The Peace?

Oh Lord, It's Monday!

adventthepeacecandle

Well, our Advent Journey is about to end and as with the ending of any journey there should be some reflection about our experiences.  What memories have been renewed?  What new things have you seen that you have never seen before?  Were there any lessons learned?  Would you do it again?  Or would you file it under, “I’ll never do that again!”?  Or are you like so many today in our culture, have you been unmoved, changed by the true meaning of this season of anticipation?

Yesterday was the Fourth and final Sunday of Advent and the fourth candle was lit, the Candle of Peace.  One of the things we do as the church in regular times of worship and during special times of worship such as Holy Communion, is this thing called “the passing of the peace.”  One worshiper shares the peace of Christ with another worshiper through a…

View original post 795 more words

How To Handle Church Conflict

I think this blog is definitely worth sharing.  Kingdom Truth doesn’t come from one single source, and I do not have to reinvent the wheel every week.  Can you imagine what would happen in our communities if we faithfully followed Keith’s points?  Be blessed this week and remember:  Love God with all your heart, love others the way God loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!

 

Our goal in any conflict is to see things from Christ’s point of view.

Source: How To Handle Church Conflict

Your Date That Will Live In Infamy

ismtc1i

Tomorrow is December 7, Pearl Harbor Day.  As President Roosevelt addressed Congress, he coined a phrase that is synonymous with that dreadful day.  He called it “a date that will live in infamy.”  This quote marked that date not only in history books but in the hearts and minds of those who were alive that day, and continues to define that moment in history.  And the result of that date that will live in infamy was the rising up of what has been called the greatest generation ever.  And now on this upcoming seventy-fifth anniversary, this generation is becoming fewer and fewer.

This started me to thinking about our times, and the generation of young men and women who are now the age of The Greatest Generation on that date in infamy.  They have a name and they are called the Millennials.  Millennials are generally called “The Entitlement Generation”.  No, this is not another rant against them; for there are Millennials who do not feel entitled and are actually angered at their compatriots who feel entitled.  But still it made me angry, this generation of Millennials who believe they are entitled to anything but without making any effort or sacrifice.

But then I thought so more, and more deeply.  I reflected on the condition of the U.S. church and those who occupy the church with the single thought that they are the consumer and that the church exists to meet their wants and wishes.  And I thought even deeper, “This is the entitlement generation!”  And that thought made me angry, but then I thought, well actually it was the Holy Spirit that gave me a Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap up the back of my head:  “At times I feel entitled!”  If that doesn’t knock your feet right out from under you, something is seriously wrong with you.

And so I did some more thinking and this question came and would not let me go.  What marked this “Greatest generation” to be called such?  First they were predominantly isolationists, those who did not want to be involved in any shape, form or fashion with that war in Europe and the Pacific.  Why did I mention this first?  Hold that thought and hopefully it will become clear.

Second, I believe they are called the Greatest Generation because they were willing to rise to the occasion.  Though their deep convictions centered around isolationism, they were willing to meet the problem head on, most without any reservations.  Their world changed on that date in infamy and while they may not have liked giving up the isolationist view, they did!  On December 6, 1941 most were isolationists.  Early in the morning on December 7, 1941 they were isolationists.  But when their world drastically changed and needed someone to step up to this crisis, they stood up and declared they could be counted on in the days, months, even years ahead.

Third, they were willing to sacrifice in order to achieve the goal of ending this world at war.  They left behind jobs, families, and some even lied about their age and left high school to enlist.  They sacrificed more than time, they sacrificed strength and even their lives for something much bigger than themselves.  Even on the home front, sacrifices were made.  Many staple products were put on “ration” and one had to have a ration card for something as basic as sugar and gasoline.  At a time when women were primarily “housewives”, they entered the factories because most of the men were in the war.  And something else you need to remember–in this age of “recycling” where people seem to think we are the original recyclers, there were drives to collect anything that could be recycled into war materials.  And people often gave up items still usable for the “war effort”.

Finally, I believe they are the Greatest Generation because they did what needed to be done often with fear and uncertainty.  I love channels like The History Channel™ because of the details they often reveal.  Many of these men and women went into battle with differing levels of fear and uncertainty.  Now the survivors often share that they faced those feelings of fear; fear of being wounded, captured or even killed.  But those feelings of fear and uncertainty did not stop them from their tasks at hand.  As has been often said, bravery is not the absence of fear, but the strength to move forward with and through those fears.  Personally, I think this alone would qualify them to be called The Greatest Generation.

Now, back to my first reason why they are called The Greatest Generation:  their desire for isolation.  It was the date that will live in infamy that transformed them into a generation that was willing to step into, live in and even die for something much bigger than them.  The date that will live in infamy was their defining moment and their reaction to this defining moment is what earned them the title of The Greatest Generation ever.  It forever transformed them.  And this got me to thinking.

We need a “date that will live in infamy” to transform us.  I need a date that will live in infamy to transform me.  I am convinced now more than ever that we the church, the Body of Christ, those who call themselves disciples of Jesus, need to forever throw away this lie from the very pits of hell that following Jesus is about living in comfort and ease.  Personally, I think that the person who invented pew cushions was under the influence of our Enemy.  People wanted something to make them more comfortable in church, so voilà, comfort!

When we are comfortable in the pew, it makes it easier to be comfortable in a world filled with injustice, hurt, pain and loneliness.  When we are comfortable in the pew it makes it easier to forget that we are called to be involved in spiritual warfare.  When we are comfortable in our pew it makes it very easy to forget what Jesus said about following Him.  Read very carefully what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24 (NLT)

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.

The “date that will live in infamy” was perhaps the most uncomfortable day for that generation; but they allowed it to transform them into The Greatest Generation ever.  We, too, have a date that will live in infamy.  No, it wasn’t Christmas Day; it came some 33 years later when Jesus allowed humanity and Satan, to do their worst and most evil work of all.  In that sacrifice, and that sacrifice alone, HE paid the debt for our sins and offered to restore us and make us whole.

And along our life journey, there will be other infamous dates that will challenge us and try to crush us.  But remember, remember the first date in infamy, when God’s only Son said from that cruel cross, “Father forgive them.  They do not know what they are doing.”

Love God with all your heart; love others the way God loves you; and make sure all the glory goes to Him!  Let’s pray:

I ask You to show me if and where I have sought comfort rather than the cross.  And when those infamous dates come at me, I ask You for 2 things.  First, remind me of that first date that lives in infamy when You died on the cross for me.  And second, help me to see it as another defining moment where Your power and glory can shine through me.  Amen and Amen

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: