16 There are six things the Lord hates— no, seven things he detests: 18 a heart that plots evil,
Proverbs 6:16, 18 NLT
Today’s disgusting thing to God is a heart that plots evil. And this is one that most folks say is easily identifiable–in others. Isn’t it amazing that it is so easy to identify evil in others–but fail to see it in ourselves? I remember what a friend, Ronnie Wicks once said in a small group: “My sin is not as bad as your sin.” Ronnie wasn’t being self-righteous–simply stating the attitude that so many Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters have.
Have you ever taken one of those surveys that asks you to rate your experience? People tend to follow that same format when looking (which is a polite way of saying judging) at others. We rate them on this scale: Very Good (which are those folks who go the extra mile to be good)–Good (which is simply another word for mediocre)–Bad (typically those who aren’t like you)–and Evil (this is the elite of the Bad who do unspeakable things). And most folks would never see themselves as Evil.
We don’t like that word Evil; it’s rarely used nowadays, and it’s used to describe something out there. But Solomon is very clear that Evil exists–and it exists in the human heart. There are 2 words Solomon uses: machăshâbâh and ‘āven. Machăshâbâh is a contrivance–which is a ruse or scheme. ‘āven is used for the word Evil or Iniquity. But here’s something interesting about that word–the proper meaning is to pant, to exert oneself, usually in vain; to come to naught.
What’s my point? Here’s my point. Evil is everything we do to avoid living under God’s rule–the way we are created to live. It’s the plans, schemes, devices, the machinations (another strong word) we conspire with to avoid the life, the only life we need. There is no difference between bad and evil. Rebelling against God, choosing our own way–is simply Evil.
Now, let’s get back to that word machăshâbâh. Remember that its proper meaning is to pant, to exert oneself, usually in vain; to come to naught. Whatever we do that fails to produce the life of holiness, as God designed it–all the different spins we put on The Gospel to justify ourselves and our views–are only exertions of our imaginations that leave us exhausted and produces nothing!
There is not difference between Bad and Evil. Exerting our own ways over God’s way is Evil–and God finds this Disgusting!
A text message this morning got me to thinking. My thinking went way back in time–October 1974 to be exact. This was when I was appointed to serve 2 small congregations while I pursued licensing as a pastor at the ripe old age of 18 years old. I mention this because we all know that beginning at 18, we tend to be full of vim and vigor; or was the vim and vinegar? Come to think of it, the latter is more true for me than I want to admit. My thinking moved forward through all the years I served as a pastor all the way to right now.
And now? I have less vim, but at times, a whole lot more vinegar. If you have followed me here on this blog, you know it’s true. And you may wonder who is about the become the object of my vinegary thoughts. It is my profession–“the” pastor. I was trained in the classical model of “The Professional Pastor”. I had someone whom I thought was a colleague, tell me once after I made the decision to remain in serving small and medium churches as what we call a “Local Pastor”, “You really need to become one of us.” His poke was that until one was an ordained elder in the UMC, they weren’t really pastors. By the way, I was eventually ordained, but not to be “one of them”.
The text message from this morning, well, it brought me under conviction of the Holy Spirit. Stay with me a moment, especially if you are a pastor. And really hang in with me if you are studying to become a pastor. In reflecting over these past 46 plus years, one picture stands clear to me. The church in the U.S. has been in a steady decline; almost to the stage of an avalanche. There have been all kinds of explanations, even justifications (even though we can never justify decline) for this event. But the biggest thing is the placing of blame on this state of disgrace.
I realize that some of this decline is caused by Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who vainly think the local church exists for them–and who fight tooth and nail to keep their control. But from my perspective–we pastors share the major share of the blame. We were trained to be professionals rather than authentic people who are to be servant leaders. I remember an incident at my previous appointment. After a funeral in my first year, the family was gathered for a meal in the church fellowship hall. I noticed the tea glasses, water glasses, and coffee cups were nearly empty. Well, I proceeded to go to each table refilling their beverage of choice. One of the church members mentioned, “This is our new pastor.” and the response was obviously one of shock when she said, “Oh, really?” To my fellow pastors–if you expect church folks to do things you are unwilling to do or think it is beneath your training, then you’re in the wrong place.
I am convinced that Professionally Trained Pastors are the Achilles Heel of the U.S. Church. It did not happen overnight–it took centuries for this to develop and in 2021, we are reaping the harvest of this with declining congregations. When I began this journey, I thought my job was to herd them up and get them moving in the right direction under MY leadership. What I discovered was that this model was more like herding cats. So I started looking for a different model to emulate. Here’s what I noticed over the past 4 decades plus of noticing.
The Underachiever Model. This is the pastor who really doesn’t care about the flock, just the paycheck, and the next church.
The Don’t Rock The Boat Model. This pastor is focused on survival–their own and that of their family. These fear confrontation–and as such, cannot guide the church to where it needs to be.
Then on the opposite end is The Dynamite Model. I do not mean as in dynamic–but dynamite, C-4 explosives, and the like. They are convinced that their job is to correct the problems that they see as the real problems. Their definition of “real” problems are typically about 7 bubbles off plumb. They do catastrophic damage to a congregation and leaves the damage behind for the next pastor to deal with. And you can always count on The Dynamite Model to leave a few unexploded devices behind which will explode at the worst possible moment.
The One Issue Model. This pastor has defined the one issue that a church needs to address even before they arrive. They are convinced that their own wisdom knows which issue the church MUST address.
The Goodyear Blimp Model. I’m not talking about their physical size. It’s the size of their ego. It is large and very inflated. They want the church to know that they have the latest Rock Star Pastor. I once listened to a mega-church’s podcast of a worship service. Truthfully, I only listened for about 3 minutes. The person who was going to bring God’s word opened up that “their” pastor and wife would be back next week. And she said, “Let’s give a hand to Pastor ________ and his wife _______ and let them know how much we missed them. I changed to another podcast–it was about herding cats.
And last but by no means least, The Control Freak Model. Churches are not churches without them. Instead of checking the pulse of the congregation, they are putting the thumb down on folks. Nothing can be done without their permission. If something is done without their permission? Forget that adage that says it is easier to ask for forgiveness after the fact rather than seek permission first. Obviously, whoever came up with that adage never had to deal with The Control Freak Pastor. They make Kim Jong-un look like the second coming of George Washington.
Why do I say that The Professional Pastor the primary cause of church decline? I look at the first Models of the church. There was leadership, trained leadership–but that leadership did not get in the way of the church reaching thousands and thousands of people. Oh, for sure, when a local church lost its sense of its true mission, someone was there to set the record straight. And then turned them loose to be The Body Of Christ. No one had to ask permission to lift up the name of Jesus. No one had to ask approval to feed the hungry, take care of the widows and orphans, and bear witness to Jesus and the power of the Cross to save. No one waited for some Professional Pastor to do the work.
There is another Model, a Model that the U.S. church in particular needs today. I would call us The Pastor Model. This pastor guides the congregation into a deeper relationship with Jesus, first and foremost. Then The Pastor Model challenges and equips the Congregation to BE the Body of Christ. And when the Congregation wants to be that Body–he or she gives them PERMISSION to be the Body Of Christ. The congregation doesn’t have to ask The Pastor Model for permission to do anything that lifts up the name of Jesus–and lifts up the least, the last, and the lost. In recent years, when someone comes to me and asks, “Is it OK with you if I do this, that, or the other?”, my response now is: “If it exalts Jesus, if the honors God and the Holy Spirit, if it touches the least, the last, or the lost, then know you have God’s permission and that’s good enough. Now, can I help you or do I just need to stay out of the way?”
In my tribe, only Ordained Pastors can administer the sacraments–as if we are somehow more holy than anyone else. Local pastors can administer the sacraments ONLY in the church they serve. The irony of my tribe is that it also professes the power and importance of the priesthood of all believers. I guess all doesn’t mean all. Before this pandemic hit, there was a significant rise in the number of House Churches. These are homes where people are hungry for a deeper relationship with Jesus, a connection with other Followers, and believe that the Kingdom Of God is needed in their neighborhoods, towns, cities, communities, states, and nation.
To my fellow Pastors, encourage your congregations. Inspire your people given to your care (not your dictatorship)! Don’t be afraid to give them permission to be who God calls them to be, The Body Of Christ. Support them in what they do. Help them but only when asked. Praise them when they look like Jesus. And if they get off-mission–gently take them aside and remind them who WE BOTH serve. You can’t build someone up (remember Ephesians 4:11-12) if you constantly tear them down, or worse, never give them the opportunity to do the real work of Jesus Christ.
If some pastor (or Churchian or Tenured Pewsitter) is upset with me, understand I will soon be 65, closer to the moment I stand before my Judge. The last thing I want to be held accountable for is my failure to speak the truth in love. So if you are offended–it is what it is. I still love you and my prayer for you is that your heart, mind, and eyes will be opened to the Mission God has called us to do.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him.
This morning as I was sitting on the patio, enjoying the last 2 days of this holy respite at Millsite Lake, I had another Musing. This time with family has always been a time to rest and recharge the old batteries. As I was looking across the calm lake, seeing the reflections of the stars on the surface, I looked up at those stars; as I did I told Heavenly Daddy, “Wow! What joy y’all must have had as you created this universe!”
And I meant it! I started imagining the joy the 3 of Them had as they unfolded their heart and mind in creation! Yes, I believe in Intelligent Design! I don’t have enough faith to think this wondrous universe just sorta happened by accident. It would take a lot of faith to believe in the big bang because it doesn’t make any sense to think everything I see is the result of “it just so happened that” kind of thinking.
And as I imagined that scene, the 3 of Them in Perfect Collaboration, creating this Wonder, I saw them smiling, laughing with joy; patting each other on the back and saying to each other, “You did real good with that one” And in that moment, I joined in with their smiling and joyful laughter. And then I realized something that brought me back down to earth. Here’s that thought: “So many people do not see the joy of God; they only see a god of anger and judgment.”
And I’m looking up at all those stars, knowing there were unfathomable more stars out there that I couldn’t see because of the lights from nearby cities wondering, “How in the world can people not see how great a joy that Daddy, Jesus and Spirit have for them? How do they NOT hear the joyful laughter of God?” And in an instant I had the answer to those 2 questions: “They have not seen or experience this because the typical image produced by the typical church hasn’t given them this view.”
Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters paint not an imperfect picture of God (because none of us are capable of painting that perfect picture–if you can then your god is way too small)–they paint a distorted picture of God. They paint a Salvador Dali or abstract art type of picture of God. Recently in one of my messages I said, “If we go into a church service looking like we’re mad at the world and leave looking like we are relieved the service is over, no wonder people want nothing to do with our God.”
Not long ago, I had the holy moment to talk with a “Done”. If you are unfamiliar with the term “Done” (what rock have you been hiding under?), “Dones” are those who haven’t turned their back on Jesus, but they are “DONE” with the church; finished with it; fed up with it; exhausted from it. This person explained to me they dropped out of church because of the judgmental attitudes of that particular church (not the ones I currently serve, thank you, Jesus). This explains why at times I loathe the terms “church” and “christian” to describe the movement that I have given my heart, mind and life to.
We, as Disciples And Followers of Jesus (I prefer this term to the word “christian”) need to reclaim the Joyful Laughter Of God. Isn’t this what Jesus meant in this story:
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.”
Luke 15:4-7 The Message
There is coming a moment when God will bring everything we now see and know to an end–and bring about The Everlasting And Eternal Kingdom. We call this The Great Wedding Banquet. Do you think this scene will be like some formal dinning event like in The Hampton’s or with the Rockefeller Family, where people are sitting politely and subdued?
There is going to be “Great Rejoicing”, UNRESTRAINED JOY when it happens. And here’s the Great News–WE DON’T HAVE TO WAIT TO EXPERIENCE THAT KIND OF UNSHACKLED AND UNCONTROLLABLE JOYFUL LAUGHTER! It’s out there–the reason for it–it’s all around us–the JOYFUL LAUGHTER OF GOD. It is heard when you marvel at His Creation rather than looking with disgust at the culture. You can hear it every time another miracle happens. It’s the loudest every time a person surrenders and submits to His Grace and discovers that both the guilt and power of sin over them is taken away.
So, Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. Make sure all the glory goes to HIM…and join in the laughter of Daddy, Jesus, And The Spirit!
The other day I was listening to Andy Andrew’s podcast. I love the guy because he thinks differently–and I love it when people think differently. I guess it’s because I think differently than most folks. Just ask some of my parishioners and former parishioners. I can’t remember the exact comment, but Andy said something to the effect: “Don’t make God roll his eyes at you.”
This got me to thinking: Does God ever roll His eyes at us? You do know what “the eye roll” means, don’t you? It means: “Who ties your shoelaces for you?” “Who brushes your teeth for you?” “I’d give you a penny for more of your thoughts, but you wouldn’t have enough money on you to give me back my change.” So, this morning, IF God does roll His eyes at us, here is a small partial list of things that would make God roll His eyes:
“This church isn’t meeting my needs”
Blaming the homeless for being homeless
Enjoying Thanksgiving meal while planning Black Friday Shopping
Expecting the church staff to be responsible for ALL the mission and ministry of the church.
Judging someone because of what they wear
Being rude to a cashier, or anyone for that matter
“My sin isn’t as bad as their sin”
Going into church looking mad and leaving church looking relieved that it’s over
Saying to someone at the funeral home, “God needed them more than you.”
“The Bible needs to be updated to match our culture.”
Giving the International Sign Of Displeasure because that driver wasn’t driving fast enough in the left lane to suit you.
Putting labels on others because of their past
Saying to the preacher, “I know a lot of people who needed to hear that sermon!”
“That’s NOT my responsibility or job!”
“Well, it must have been the will of God.” (spoken after some tragedy or disaster)
Oh, I could go on and on. So in the comments section, tell me what else might would make God roll His eyes at someone.
Something got me to thinking this morning. Remember my last post, that where I’m from there are only 2 seasons: Hunting and Football. Well, it’s the Football Season that has filled my mind with so many random thoughts. But one thought screamed out louder than all the other. At this time lift up your trays, put away all electronic devices, and place your bags in the overhead compartment or in front of your feet. We are about to take-off.
Saturday the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers face-off on the gridiron battlefield in pursuit of that illusive National Championship at the capital of National Champions, Bryant-Denny Stadium. Neither team has experienced the agony of defeat thus far this season. But comes Saturday evening, one of them will. Players, coaches and staffs have worked hard for this moment. Both teams had a bye-week coming into this epic confrontation. Coaches and staff have been teaching. Players have been learning.
This is great stuff! Talent against talent. Desire against desire. This is THE opportunity for one of these teams to get closer to their goal of an SEC Championship and potentially another National Championship. The attention should be on those who, through sweat, tears and blood, have the opportunity to seek the rewards.
Ticket prices were already way above face-value because of the nature of this epic battle. And now, those prices are orbiting Mars. Why the spike in prices? Because President Trump will be in attendance at the game. THIS IS NOT A RANT AGAINST OUR PRESIDENT! Simply an observation from a football fan, and a Crimson Tide Fan. For many, it seems that the focus is off of the Teams and players and onto a single person. Granted, the last time President Trump watched the Crimson Tide play they brought home a Championship Trophy. But even the sports news outlets are focusing on “The Visit”. And that, my friends, is what screamed at me this morning.
In the Body of Christ, I see much, way too much emphasis put on things other than our Reason. Styles of worship, religious doctrine, personal feelings, superstar preachers (of which I’m NOT), appearance of facilities (exempli gratia–color of the carpet; I’ve seen a church nearly split on this issue), dress code in the ‘sanctuary’, is it ‘A-men’ or ‘Ah-men’ (again, I’ve heard this issue), who should be allowed in, who should NOT be allowed in, the use of robes (again, been there-done that-got the T shirt [wanna see my scars?] to prove it), denominational labels, pipe organs, drum sets, temperature in the sanctuary, pews versus chairs; and the list goes on ad nauseam.
Is this really what “church” is all about? A lot of folks think so–and it has become such a pungently odoriferous aroma that my spirit crawls with angst when I even hear the word “church”. The focus has become all those “other” things to the point that 6 things have happened (you can probably think of more, so add them to the comment section below):
Those who long to serve Jesus have become disgusted and walked away; many after long years of service. They have been labeled “the dones”.
Those who are hurting, broken, or disgusted with their life refuse to turn to the church because they see it as a place with more dysfunction than their own life. They have been labeled “the nones”.
Those who sit in the pews believe that they should be the consumers of what the church provides, rather than the producers of the Mission. I call them “the selfish”.
The Church that once influenced the culture for the better, is now influenced BY the culture. I call this “heart-breaking”.
There is a lack of Biblical Wisdom and Knowledge that has led to people defining the Bible to fit their life rather than allowing the Word of God define their life. I call this “sad”.
And people are being ignored and going into eternity without a relationship with Jesus. I call this “exponential tragedy”.
What is all this about? This life that Jesus came to provide through His suffering, death and Resurrection? It’s certainly none of the things I’ve described that blinds people to the real Reason for following Jesus. Our Reason for following Jesus must be the same Reason He came into His creation as one of His creations:
16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
Luke 4:16-21 (NLT)
If you consider, or ‘call’ yourself a Christian, how much of you day looks like what Jesus said here in Luke? This is the Reason to be a Real Follower Of Jesus:
To live by the guidance and in the power of the Holy Spirit
To bring Good News, the BEST News of all to all who are spiritually poor, even bankrupt
To set captives free
To help the spiritually blind see The Father who loves them so very much
To bring freedom to those who are being oppressed by The Enemy (that’s Satan, just in case you forgot or didn’t know)
And that we can all be delivered from the Old Life and given the New Life–that everything in a person’s past is covered by the blood of Jesus and removed from them forever!
I just have to ask: If you go to church somewhere, is this the Reason your church is there? If not, don’t you think it’s time for this to become THE REASON? I do, and I’m seeing signs of this happening now. Make sure you know that you have the right Reason for your life.
And love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
The serpent told the Woman, “You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.” Genesis 3:4-5, The Message
Though I haven’t been actively writing much lately, I have been actively thinking… more like…reflecting on the current state of affairs. I have been engaged in active observation of our culture… of the church… and though it’s given me a headache, frustrations, aggravations, agitations, and a variety of discombobulations, it has not filled me with despair nor desperation. Maybe a Goody’s Headache powder or a little 15 year old single malt–but I’m not anywhere near throwing in the towel and giving up. But I have reached a moment. It happened this evening as I was taking a shower. This moment is NOT an epiphany–but a question? Here it is:
In the book of Acts, those who committed to be Disciples of Jesus were committed to the Good News of The Kingdom of God. Their life was called Koinonia, a shared life together. Others were always more important than themselves. Sharing was natural. Caring was deeper. They hungered for more understanding of this Kingdom. This Kingdom came first. Koinonia Community marked by being TOGETHER in the Ekklesia (that’s the Greek word mistranslated as church). Ekklesia is a Greek word that means “the called out ones”. They were passionate about The Gospel of The Kingdom of God, telling that powerful story. And church today? Tenured Pew Sitters have stopped being producers for the Kingdom and started being the Consumers. As consumers, they want to church to do and be what best suits them. They want to be in control. It’s no longer about Koinonia Life, but what suits them.
Another thing, it seems there are those who think that with the passing of centuries, suddenly WE know more about what God means than the ancient writers who shared their stories. I know the saying , “With age comes wisdom.” LIE! LIE! LIE! I’ve seen way too many examples of age coming all by itself; wiðutan–that’s an old English word that means ” a word expressing lack or want of something”. They called themselves “Progressives”, thinking that their thinking is making progress for humanity. They insist that there are parts of the Biblical Ethos that is, for a lack of a better word from me, WRONG! Progressives insist that our minds, our reasoning processes (a process that is polluted by sin in ALL of us) are better suited to guide us in life on earth. Pardon me, but isn’t that what Satan told Eve and Adam? It’s not longer about seeking, praying and listening to the Holy Spirit.
Yet another thing, unique to the U.S., is that politics will solve all our problems. Voting becomes a matter of religious preferences. It’s about which political party sits in the Oval Office, which party controls the Senate, which party controls the House of Representatives. We are about to enter a new election cycle and there will be all kinds of ads of candidates holding Bibles, talking about Biblical values, while standing in front of an American flag. Since when did Jesus give up His purpose of being The Messiah to a political party? I’m wondering if there are other responsibilities Jesus is giving up and where do I apply for it? People get all worked up over politics and say our nation is doomed because of this party, that party, that politician. Whatever happened to making our culture better through personal actions that reflect the heart, mind and glory of God? Somehow, I don’t think God is neither Democrat nor Republican. Furthermore, I strongly suspect that both parties causes God to have many a face palm moment!
Oh, I’m just getting started. Entitlement! In the words of Madea, “Oh, Lort!” Whatever happened to personal effort and goals worth WORKING toward? In an earlier blog I place much of the blame on participation trophies (Click here for that blog) People simply think that (and I call it a ‘philosophy’) I exist therefore I am owed! Look, folks, you are not owed anything simply because you breathe oxygen. It takes drive and determination to achieve success. You want us to reward mediocrity as if it were a virtue.
And then there’s “feelings”….feelings, nothing more than feelings….Got that song stuck in your head? Good. People are being lied to that you are who you feel like you are. In other words, your feelings override everything–biology, truth, reality. And to inflict as much damage and harm humanly possible, there are some who insist that God, the Creator, made you that way and that the Cross sanctifies your feelings. Well, I feel like a Billionaire, and you need to provide me with everything that would make me a billionaire. Whether I have the cash or not, give me what a Billionaire would want–a jet, huge mansion, multiple cars, you name it! After all, my feelings are that I’m a Billionaire, that’s what matters the most. Living by feelings does not liberate you–it makes you its prisoner. We are all more, much more, than our feelings!
Well, I could go on….but I’ll stop here. I’ll end with this:
The serpent told the Woman, “You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.”
It hit me late yesterday afternoon. We had been to our family doctor for check-ups, blood work, renewing prescriptions, flu shots, oh, a taking a slice of a mole on my shoulder for a biopsy. That last part wasn’t part of the plan. But perhaps it was that last one that led me to these thoughts: The Church Today Needs A Potato Theology. Are you scratching your head now, wondering where this left-handed maniac is headed? I know I’m thinking that, so stay with me a moment.
The nurse practitioner isn’t expecting anything bad from the biopsy of that mole. But…but to be sure she needed to get beneath the surface to know for certain. Then I started thinking about potatoes. Growing up with a Dad who loved to garden, I clearly remember that sometimes he planted potatoes. Most of the other fruits and vegetables he grew could be seen. But potatoes–all one could see is the plant. And they didn’t look like the french fries I so dearly loved. Oh, and the mashed potatoes. Before I could savor those flavors, I had to wait…wait until what was beneath the surface could be brought up. And it is now what I realize the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me.
The Bible is a lot like the simple potato. What we need and long for isn’t found at the surface, you have to dig down into it. It’s what I’m calling a “Potato Theology”–a theology that goes beyond the surface, and to the heart. Now, I know some, actually a lot of folks who openly say, “I’m not a theologian, I’m a Christian!” And they wonder why the church is suffering such great losses. Look at that word: Theology. It comes from 2 Greek words: Theos which means “God” and Logia which means “to reason or to study.” Theology is to study and think about God. To say you are not into theology or being a theologian means you are not into studying about God.
A Christian who claims they are not a theologian is saying “I’m not a thinking Christian.” Such an attitude fails to fully love God. Isn’t the greatest commandment to love God with all your heart, MIND, soul and strength (Mark 12:30)? The place, the best place, the foundation place to study about God is the Bible. But many, way too many, read only the surface words. And the result is that though they deny they have a theology, they do have one, and a poor one at that.
For example, many people believe that divorce disqualifies one from being a pastor and quote Titus 1:6 as their proof. That phrase “husband of one wife” in the Greek is ane mia gyne. It literally means “be faithful to the woman”. The Greek word for divorce is apolyo. Not present in Titus 1:6. Then there’s all those who quote from the Old Testament without understanding what is being said. Some use Leviticus to back up their point without discerning the different kinds of laws God gave the Hebrews. Some were moral laws while others were health laws. Unless one studies deeply they can mistake health laws needed to protect the population from sickness and disease, and consider them moral laws. For example, pork and shell-fish back then could contain all kinds of deadly bacteria. They didn’t know anything about bacteria, so God tells them not to eat those items. But today, we have health codes to protect us from those deadly bacteria.
It’s not always easy to discern what the Bible says. But because it’s not easy, doesn’t mean it is impossible. Use good resources to explore deeper. And thanks to this varmint called the internet, you don’t have to pay for tons of books or spend time in your local library. All I’m saying is that just as the best part of the potato lies beneath the surface, the best parts of the Bible are beneath the surface words.
Words cannot contain the wisdom of eternity, so we need more. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us through this awesome and powerful book. Take the time to go beyond the surface, beyond what others have said a passage means. Discover it for yourself. It’s not what’s on the surface we need most of all, but the Truth that lives deeply within these words. Without that deep dive into scriptures, we will reduce the Good News of The Kingdom to a list of rules, a list of “do this” and “don’t do that”, which results in a lot more “don’t do that”. Thus, a disciple of Jesus is reduced to what they don’t do, rather than the Holy Spirit that lives in them.
In short, we need to quit judging people based on what’s on their surface. Body piercings, tattoos, designer suits, how they fix their hair, wearing jewelry–all on the surface. Even Jesus made the point in Matthew 15 that it’s not the external that matters, but the internal. And when God went searching for a king to replace Saul, He looked deeper than surface appearances, He searched for a king who would share His own heart.
So, you see, we do need that POTATO THEOLOGY, one that looks beyond what’s one the surface. Let’s all dig deeper, it’s where the really good stuff is…..
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him….and get that shovel out and start digging, thar’s gold in them thar’ hills!
I’m referring to Juliet’s sadness of heart when she said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I know it’s a romantic tragedy play, but today I would engage those famous words in another context. I would write it this way: “What’s in a name of a church? Doesn’t it’s true nature always reveal itself?”
I have a habit of reading church signs–both the name and those cute little messages. One of my favorite “cutesy” is “Honk if you love Jesus. Text while driving if you want to see Him.” And names–it seems every community has a “Calvary”, “Bethlehem”, “Grace”, “Faith”, and “First”. I’ve also seen several “Corinth” named churches. Really? Do you know what was actually going on there? Why not just name it “Charles Manson”?
I’ve also seen “The Church of The Divine Metaphysical Reality” (what happens there???), and one of the more interesting ones, “First ******** (I’m leaving out the name of the Tribe to protect the innocent) Church, Number 2”. And I noticed one that read: “Little Hope Church”. Please, understand I’m not belittling or making fun of that church. The road is named “Little Hope Road”. Perhaps this explains the name of that church; I certainly hope so. But what kind of person would name a road “Little Hope”? The Body of Christ is a place for Mega Hope, not Little Hope. Perhaps I am the only one who notices this bit of incongruence. But it got me to thinking: What if those truth in advertising laws applied to church names? Here are a few I’ve come up with, along with their appropriate Mission Statement:
The Church Of We’re Better Than You
Where the Mission is to develop our sense of moral superiority
The Church Of The Sanctimonious
It’s all about the show and not about the action
The Church Of The Judges
Faithfully fulfilling our task of telling others where and why they are wrong, wrong, wrong!
The Church Of The Preacher
Providing The Best Preacher Out There For Your Entertainment
The Church Of The Comfortable
From seating to your conscience, our name says it all: Making you comfortable
The Church Of Wearing The Sunday Best
Because everyone knows you can’t worship God in jeans and flip-flops
The Church Of The Culture
Studying our culture with intensity so that we can better change the Bible to fit the Culture
The Guilt-Free Church
That’s right, if you think it’s right for you, then it’s right for you
The Church Of The Circle
Where a small and elite group runs everything so you don’t have to worry about anything
The Cookie Cutter Church
Working with all our energy to make you just like us
The Church Of The 50’s
Faithfully Doing What The Church Used To Do
The Church Of The Professionals
Providing staff to do the work so you don’t have to
The Church Of Apathy
Who cares about mission and mission statements
The Church Of YOU
That’s right, it’s all about you and never about others!
The Church Of God Wants You Wealthy!
Providing live feed from Joel Osteen every week
I could just go on and on. What about you? If you have a “Truth In Advertising” church name, feel free to share it in the comments section.
So here we are, the next to the last class. I hope you are learning something valuable here. Yesterday we looked at the Rules Plan and its shortcomings. Hopefully by now you know that God is not the Cosmic Warden, but that He sends The Good Shepherd to search for us. Take really good notes as we now look at:
Now this plan acknowledges that we don’t always get it right. But hey, it’s not our fault. There’s always a reason and good excuse for whatever we do wrong. For extra reading I encourage you to obtain the book Yes Lord I Have Sinned: But I Have Several Excellent Excuse. The best part of this plan is that it challenges our “creative” side to be able to justify our sins. And if you come up with an excuse that sounds good to you–then you get into heaven.
Another bonus to this plan is that if we want to be lazy and not find an excellent excuse, then there’s someone else to blame. It’s called “playing the victim” card. This plan works off of a truth: That Life Isn’t Fair. But hey, life should be fair, am I right? It’s about getting what we rightfully deserve, and usually without much if any effort.
In This Plan Consequences Are Inconsequential. Either by justification (coming up with an excellent excuse) or by playing the victim card, surely God won’t keep us out of heaven. It would not be reasonable of God to keep us out of heaven when there’s so much bad stuff out there. It is His creation. All He has to do is make life fair. Yet because of the evil and unfairness in this world, God will not hole us responsible. There are no consequences, so we get in.
But there are consequences to our choices and actions. Paul wrote in Romans 6:23—For the wages of sin is death. It doesn’t say, Unless you have a good excuse. That’s not how it works. Sin is sin regardless of our intentions or beliefs. Our intentions may have been good, our beliefs may have been sincere, but sin pays the same dividend every time—death! So, this plan doesn’t work either. This is perhaps, the riskiest plan of all. I say this because deep down inside us, we know there are consequences. It’s called shame, guilt or that nagging sense of personal failure.
Well, class, that’s the last plan. Tomorrow we will look at the Plan, the ONLY plan that will work. It tripped up Nicodemus, but maybe it won’t trip you up. And remember….love God with ALL your heart. Love others the WAY God loves you. And make sure ALL the glory goes to Him! By the way, don’t forget there will be a final exam.
Welcome back class. We’re looking at How Do You Get To Heaven? I’ve come up with a subtitle to this class: Spiritual Navigation Course. Yesterday we look at the Santa Claus Plan and its obvious failure. By the way, you can’t drop this course. Even those who skip class or refuse to sign up for it, they, too, will have the Final Exam by the Head Master. So I say again, take good notes and refer back to them daily. Now, on to the next plan:
God is the Cosmic Prison Warden who lays down the rules for us inmates. Know the rules, obey the rules and you get into heaven. That sounds simple enough. Here’s the Rules you need to remember:
Now if you can do this, you’ve got it made. It’s the religion of the Pharisees with a Protestant twist. It’s what I call “Legalism Light”. The biggest rule to remember is #4. Got it? It focuses on the external parts of our lives. Work on Rules Keeping. Everything you need to get into heaven is in the rules. Now, there is a beauty to this plan, in Rule #3. Every local church has its own set of rituals and traditions. If you don’t like the rituals and traditions at one church, shop around until you find one you like.
Well, there’s a problem. God is more than just rules, and so is His Kingdom. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:20—For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. It is a Kingdom, HIS Kingdom which means HE alone determines what it looks like to live in that Kingdom. God invites us to experience His power, the power that raise Jesus from the dead. And that power can never be found in rituals and traditions. Rituals and tradition can point us in the direction of that power, but they are NOT the power.
And then there’s this: Believing we are right, we can be wrong. In the end it doesn’t matter what we think God wants. It’s about what God really wants. Talk is just that–Talk. Power is what we need–words, rituals and traditions have none–unless they lead us to the throne of Grace.
That’s it for today. You know what I am about to say: Keep good notes. Review them every day because The Final Exam will happen. And remember…Love God with ALL your heart. Love others the WAY He loves you. And make sure ALL the glory goes to HIM.
Tomorrow we will look at the last plan, and then the last class will hopefully open your mind and heart to the only plan.