Happy? Really?

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I’m taking a break from this Radical series because I have some issues.  Not the ones those who know me may think I have, but I have a real issue with a phrase that is most inappropriate to me.  And if you want to think, “Well that’s your problem”, go  right ahead, if it makes you feel better about yourself.  I am not changing my feelings right now.  It’s about the phrase “Happy Memorial Day”!

 When I looked up that word on dictionary.com it only adds to my issues about this phrase.  According to the website it means:  “delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing”.  Can you now feel a sense of my righteous indignation?  I mean, businesses have flood the advertising world with big banners over their sale prices, “Happy Memorial Day”!  Happy New Year, Happy Birthday, Happy Mothers Day, Happy Fathers Day, Happy Fourth of July, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Christmas (I won’t say the word ‘holidays) are all appropriate.  Not so with this day, Memorial Day.

Instead of using the word “Happy”, use the definition and it sounds like this:  “Delighted, Pleased, or Glad You Lost A Family Member, Friend Or Fellow Soldier In Combat.”  Someone reading this just thought, “Wait a minute Radical Kingdom Pastor, that’s not what I mean when I say Happy Memorial Day!”  BUT, if words having meanings, and they do, then this is exactly what you are saying.  Because words DO have meaning, this is why I refuse to say, I can’t even write it down any more.  It makes me nauseated.

Part of my nausea from hearing that phrase comes from some of my life experiences.  I am the very proud Father and Father-In-Law of 2 combat veterans.  Each time they were deployed (one time they were both deployed in Iraq at the same time) I lived with the fear that a car would pull up in my driveway and a fine dressed soldier would step out of it and walk to our front door.  I still remember to this day that Saturday morning when my phone rang.  It was my son calling from Iraq and his first words were “Dad, I’m OK.”  I immediately knew something was wrong.  His Humvee had been hit by an IED, but he was OK.  But for many other families, friends, and fellow soldiers, everything was NOT OK.  What was my fear, is now their daily reality.

And if someone who is reading these words has lost a family member, friend or fellow soldier-in-arms, please know that even though I do not know your pain, my heart does ache for you.  And on this MEMORIAL DAY, and every day, I live with gratitude for the freedoms I enjoy because of their sacrifice.  And even more so on this day, I pray for your comfort and for God to continue to give you the strength to get through another day.  You will never get over your loss, but with God’s grace, you will get through those tough moments when you miss them so very much.

I do have a wish, I call it a High Hope, that Democrats and Republicans would take this day to remember that this nation is much more than your egos and personal ideologies.  Remember that your comfort has been made possible only, I said ONLY because of the sacrifices of those we are called to remember this day.  And to all the news media people, YOU are not the protectors of liberty, but are protected by the blood of those who gave it all, and to all who gave some.  News people, just get over yourselves and know your place in all this we call the U.S. of A.

And to all you Churchians, Tenured Pew Sitters and Protectors Of Religion–YOU need to remember that your spiritual freedom also came with a price and that price included blood.  Not just any blood, but the blood of Jesus, who became human just like us.  Remember that for HIM to become one of us, He freely  GAVE UP His divine nature.  And you want to complain about YOUR stuff?  Wanting things YOUR way?  You really want to whine that things are not like they were in 1960 or 1970 when there are so many who need what only the Good News of the Kingdom can deliver?  Shame on you, shame on you, SHAME ON YOU!

This day should remind us that to live a life that is both meaningful and worthwhile we need to live the way these heroes died and the way Jesus died!  Stop being so selfish and petty.  For heaven’s sake get over yourselves.  Today is Memorial Day–remember and live with deeper purpose and gratitude.  I invite to you view this link to a video titled “Signs And Numbers”.  It’s a few years old and the numbers are even larger, but the message remains the same.

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him.

#9 Ignoring That We Are In A War

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(This is the second in a 10 part series.  Number 8 will be released tomorrow.  If you are just starting to read this series, you will need to start with Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church! first and then #10: Choosing Religion Over Relationship before reading this one)

I remember when our Tribe released its new “Official Hymnal” back in 1989.  It had been 25 years since the previous “Official Hymnal” had been release after 4 years of work.  My Tribe is not known for being among the fastest to embrace anything new.  And now, 27 years later, the process has started for another new “Official Hymnal” for our Tribe.  One thing I remember about the process that produced our current “Official Hymnal” is a controversy around one single hymn:  “Onward Christian Soldiers”.

There was a group of people who became very vocal in their opposition to this ancient classic being included in this new “Official Hymnal”.  Their opposition was not based on the tune or range of musical notes, meaning, “It’s a hard hymn for ordinary people to sing.”  No!  Their opposition to the hymn was that it was too militaristic; that the image of being soldiers, moving forward, and fighting a “war”, well that just offended them.  They said that the church is NOT an army and should not be singing about being one.  As a footnote, they lost that battle and it was included in our current “Official Hymnal”.  My best guess estimate is that they don’t sing it when it is listed in their bulletin.

They were and others continue to be offended at the idea that the Body of Christ, the church, their local church are to be an army engaged in a war.  I am offended that they are offended!  And the failure to recognize this “war” is literally killing the western church because the Enemy is winning more battles because soldiers are M.I.A. from their posts.  Allow me a moment to explain why I believe this made my list at #9.

When I discovered the New Living Translation, I experienced a profound appreciation for both its simplicity in understanding, and its depth in translating the ancient texts.  One of the earliest differences I discovered was how it rendered the  Old Testament phrase Yĕhovah  tsaba’.  Other translations coined it as “the Lord of Hosts” or “the Lord Almighty“.  The New Living Translation put it like this:  The Lord of Heaven’s Army.  Then I noticed that Eugene Peterson and his translators put it like this:  The God of the Angel Armies.  So I just had to check Strong’s work and, lo and behold, that word tsaba’ actually means “an army”. (As a footnote for any purists that might accidentally be reading my blog who insist that the KJV is the only translation that accurately renders the original Hebrew and Greek texts, you need to find another argument.)

The origins of this war goes back prior to the Creation work of God.  The prophet Isaiah  in chapter 14 verse 12 introduces us to one named Lucifer.  Some call him the Devil and others call him Satan or the Evil One.  I prefer the term “the Enemy” and I do so because I recognize the war that is going on around us.  Lucifer was once a high ranking officer in the Lord of Heaven’s Army but he lost that position when he tried to claim the position of God, himself.  He lost that battle and when God created this universe and put His image on Adam and Eve, the Enemy turned his efforts against the image bearers.  Ever since the Enemy won that battle, the war has been on.  The Enemy knows he cannot defeat God (already tried and lost), so he turns his attention on us.

Now Paul writes in Ephesians 6:11-13 (NLT)

11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

That word “fighting” or “wrestle” is an interest Greek word, palē.  It literally means “wrestling; a contest between two in which each endeavours to throw the other, and which is decided when the victor is able to hold his opponent down with his hand upon his neck.”  Hold his opponent down with his hand upon his neck?  That sound pretty serious to me.  And I am just wondering, when was the last time I had thrown the Enemy down and had my hand around his neck?  When was the last time YOU have thrown the Enemy down and had YOUR hand around his neck?

Now I add this point to my 10 Top List knowing that there are some local Tribes (otherwise known as local churches) and a few renegades who left the reservation, that are fighting a war, but against the wrong ones.  They are fighting against Target, Lowes, the F.C.C. and F.T.C.  Heck, they even fight within their own local Tribe, attacking those who do not agree with them.  In short, many are fighting the wrong enemy.  And the Enemy is laughing so hard that he peed in his pants (as opposed to peeing in his pants out of fear of us, the church).

Why are there so many in the church, particularly in the realm of what we call the “Western” church (no, this isn’t about those wild west movies) believing that we are not in a war and oppose that very idea?  My personal observation is that too many are following what I call the “Faux Jesus”, which was born in the imagination of the Enemy.  Here are some of the key characteristics of Faux Jesus:

1.  He is more meek than anything else

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Think about the pictures drawn by the Masters from the Renaissance.  He is mild looking, thin, almost emaciated looking.  Does this picture look like the Son of the God described in Exodus 15:3 (NLT)?

The Lord is a warrior; Yahweh is his name!

People want the meek Jesus because then they believe He does not want to rule over us.  The meek Faux Jesus doesn’t make any demands from us.

2.  He is always gentle

The gentle Faux Jesus is preferred because it makes it easier for them to focus on the gentleness and overlook the rest.  Jesus was the object of some mean people’s anger.  A gentle Faux Jesus means we are to be gentle and kind and that is all.  I mean, Faux Jesus can be gentle, but real Jesus?  Yes he showed gentleness in dealing with sinners, but He also made a whip and used it to drive out the money changers in the Temple.  And when the crowds around him built up, He was always saying hard and harsh things that caused many to quit follower Him around.  Faux Jesus is always gentle but the real Jesus is a force to be reckoned with.

3.  He just wants us to love each other like He loves us.

Now, the Real Jesus does want us to do that.  But followers of the Faux Jesus take it to the extreme.  They want us to love and let live.  Moral integrity and spiritual holiness of heart, mind and action are old fashion and out of date.  Faux Jesus followers say that we just love others, that’s all.  Loving others being defined as simply approving of their lifestyle and life choices.

I could go on listing other attributes of Faux Jesus, let’s just say that Faux Jesus doesn’t want us to realize we are in a battle and the hearts, minds, future and eternity of others are at stake.  When we fight the wrong enemy, when we refuse to fight, the real Enemy wins and maintains his control over a realm he stole from God in the Garden of Eden.

The church that is not throwing the enemy down to the ground and wrapping their hands around his neck are only being instruments for the Enemy to work his mayhem within this world, and in the lives of those around us.  Living as if there was not war going on is shameful and disgusting.  The church in the Western world will continue in its decline until we start acting like we are at war, because the war is going on whether you are engaged in it or not.

Don’t follow Faux Jesus!  Enlist with the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Heaven’s Army.  Army means we fight, fight all the way to the end!  Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!number-9

Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church!

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This morning I had another one of my moments of random thoughts.  It is a condition I am afflicted with regularly and I am learning to use it in ways that would be both inspiring and challenging.  This morning’s random thought came out of a conversation I had in 2016 with someone at church.  Our conversation emerged from that Sunday’s message that was about the question of human sexuality.  If you are a member of or are following the news in our Tribe, it is a hot topic button.  My point was that God calls us to love and care about others and that homosexuality is not the worst sin, and we needed to stop treating it that way.  We need to bear witness to the truth of Jesus through our lives and give the Spirit the opportunity to change whatever needs to be changed in our life.

This member told me a little later how much she appreciated my conversation on this delicate subject and asked me what I thought was the “worst” sin.  This random thought continues to flow through my gray matter.  I want to say up front and to be consistent with last Sunday’s sermon, that all sin is equally hideous and ugly.  At the foot of the Cross we are all equals, from the person in church to the criminal in a maximum security prison.  All sin demands a terrible price which Jesus gladly paid on the Cross out of His favor, kindness and mercy.  But…

But there are, call them “things” or “attitudes” or “beliefs” that are absolutely killing the western church.  As I reflected on what is killing our efforts to bring the Kingdom of God on earth, what is killing our desire that His will be done here as it is in heaven, I have come up with what I’m calling a “Top 10 List”.  This list is not, by any stretch of even my imagination, the only things that are killing the church’s effectiveness today.  I would say this Top 10 list is among the deadliest for any congregation.

So, for the next 10 days I will be addressing each of them.  Today all you are going to get from this blog is The List.  I would invite you to comment on other things you see that are killing the church today.  Now, this is not meant to condemn the church or any particular congregation.  It is not meant to tear down anyone or any church.  Think about this series like you would a visit to your doctor when you know something is wrong.  Would you want your doctor to simply say that you are OK, or would you rather she or he be truthful about what might be physically wrong with you?  To let you see where my heart is in all this, let me share my motivation and my heart with you.  It comes from Ephesians 4:15 and in God’s Word Translation is goes like this:

Instead, as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely in our relationship to Christ, who is the head.

I write and speak out of love for Jesus first, and also for you.  So here is my Top 10 List of things we need to stop doing.

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10.  Choosing religion over relationship

9.  Ignoring that we are in a war

8.  Wrong priorities

7.  Cookie Cutter attitude

6.  Self Reliance

5.  Fear of change

4.  Form rather than substance

3.  Loss of passion

2.  False humility

 1.  The worst one of all

I am not expecting everyone to agree with my conclusions.  Reality is, I expect some to be offended at me.  I strongly suspect that when Jesus walked this earth He deliberately said some things just to offend some in the crowd.  Well, here goes to 10 straight days of blogging.  Usually I do one per week here, and one on my other blog.  I ask for your prayers as I step into what I believe, are thoughts put in my heart and mind by the Holy Spirit.  And remember, love God with all your heart; love others the way Jesus loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!  Pray as you will…

Pastor Randy

Your Date That Will Live In Infamy

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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

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