CUPCAKES!

 “You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”

Matthew chapter 12, verses 34 thru 37; from The Message (Msg)

Cupcakes! We are living in a world of cupcakes! No, not the kind one sees at parties! It’s people I’m talking about. When I was young, I often wondered why “old people” were always so. . .so blunt. They didn’t mince or sugar-coat their words. And now that I’m old, I understand. As I get older I know that my time here is getting shorter and shorter. Thus, my opportunities to speak the truth are becoming fewer and fewer. I realize that I just don’t have the time to draw pictures to explain the things that are really important. It seems my ability and talent to be snarky has come into full bloom. I define snarky as a mixture of satire with a heavy dose of sarcasm. But here’s the thing–I don’t use it very often. Some may say otherwise, but they’re wrong. I refrain from using my snarky more times than Carter has little pills. (You have to be from the south to know what that phrase means!)

My previous post brought out my snarkiness. And as snarky tends to do, I offended at least one person. (click here to see the post) Someone thought my insights worthy of passing along to several people via email. And I am humbled they thought so. Apparently one of the recipients did not like my blunt honesty. And had this to say about my post: It’s insulting and immature to speak to grown people who can think and decide for them self. To point I think it’s low class to say suck it up buttercup.”

Allow me the kindness to pull out one part of that comment for further reflection: It’s insulting and immature to speak to grown people who can think and decide for them self.” Yes, people can think and decide for themselves. Got no problem with that premise. Our problem as a church, culture, and society is HOW people think. I.E.–people are all to quick and easy to be offended–especially with The Truth. It goes beyond the insane concept of political correctness. It’s rooted in how people respond. And the United Methodist Institution is an excellent case study.

People are so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings that it has become more important to be nice than it is to be truthful. Somehow it has become mean and ugly and hateful to be truthful; that somehow if we disagree with someone that we can’t and don’t love them. Where did this idea come from? I KNOW! I KNOW! From the heart and mind of Satan! Yes, Virginia, there is a Satan even if you think there isn’t. Nowadays the only way you can love someone is to approve, bless, and sanctify how they think. And if you can’t–well you are just plain ol’ mean and insulting.

I sigh a deep sigh when I think that it’s more important to make people feel good than it is to be truthful. Did you notice how Jesus responded in the passage I opened with this morning? You have minds like a snake pit! Did I miss something here? If Jesus said that today, people would demand an apology from Jesus! And IF Jesus was present like He was then, then by their views, Jesus should have said afterwards: “Oh, I’m so very sorry I offended you. And so that you can feel better about yourself, I renounce those words and I agree with you. Feel better now? Good! Here’s you a cupcake.

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WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING???

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.

Romans chapter 8, verses 6-7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Recently I had a conversation with a fellow United Methodist clergy on Facebook. It was focused on a post this individual had made. It was surprisingly civil (up to this point)–still, I couldn’t help but think: What are they teaching now in United Methodist Seminaries? Here’s the screenshot of that comment:

This person compared understanding Scriptures to a 3-legged stool. The top is the Scriptures and the 3 legs are tradition, reason, and experience. Thus, without tradition, or reason, or experience, one cannot adequately understand Scripture. The primary (and often times “sole determining factor”) way to understand Scripture is through tradition, reason, and experience. Now, before you call me that dreaded “fundamentalist”, hear me out. We do not study the Scriptures in a vacuum. There are traditions. We all have experiences. And God created us to be able to reason, or think if you prefer.

But it seems that many of our clergy are using reason as the final determining factor. In other words, if it doesn’t make sense to us, or if the culture tells us something contrary, then we are free to change or ignore what the Bible clearly teaches. This is what many seminaries are teaching. Not all of them, mind you; but enough of them are and the result has been the dilution and devolution of the power of Scripture to guide us and form in us the life of Holiness demanded by God for His Image Bearers. Go back to the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool.

The writer is correct in stating that for a three-legged stool to be secure enough to sit on, it needs all three legs. And, by implication, those 3 legs need to be the same length. Otherwise it is unstable. But do not overlook the other implication–that Scripture (the seat of that three-legged stool) cannot safely support us until all three of those legs are the same length. In other words, Scripture is to be formed by OUR traditions, experiences, and reasoning.

Can I be frank with you? I know, my name is Randy. But I need to be FRANK with you this morning. Using the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool, when those who are supposed to be our Spiritual Leaders are taught that human reasoning overrides the Scriptures and that we need to change our beliefs about anything in the Bible, then the result is the chaos and soon to follow destruction of the United Methodist, and any other church that follows the same primrose path. And to my fundamentalist friends, if you allow your traditions to determine your beliefs about the Bible, then your three-legged stool is just as unsteady.

Hear me out! Yes, reason, tradition, and experience are helpful tools when it comes to understanding Scripture! But they do not determine what is THE TRUTH! The Truth is set by the Bible for all matters of faith, life, and conduct. But none of them gives us the permission to change The Standard clearly set in The Bible! From my perspective, many seminary professors took a bite of that apple Satan offered Eve and Adam, and unlike Eve and Adam who recognized the shame and mistake, they “reason” that the apple is good, and that Satan was right. Is there any doubts now as to why the United Methodist Tribe is imploding? It looks like that three-legged stool analogy doesn’t work after all.

JUST THROW IT AWAY AND FORGET ABOUT IT!

For my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you we are nothing but The Denominational version of the Titanic. If you are a United Methodist and don’t know what I’m talking about, “SHAME ON YOU! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND!” Why? Because this problem isn’t going away. And we cannot remain true to our Wesleyan heritage as long as This Problem exists. They (meaning Progressives, or as I prefer to call them, ‘ProAgressives’) want–nay DESIRE–nay again–they are DETERMINED to throw out the Bible and our Orthodox faith like yesterday’s trash. They “know” more than what The Bible clearly says–and for more than the Saints who sought and fought to preserve the Orthodox Faith. In case you may not be familiar with the word Orthodox (because it is a big word like mahogany), perhaps these synonyms will help you understand it better.

from http://www.thesaurus.com

Three of them in particular fit the bill to understand what I mean by the Orthodox Faith: authoritative, buttoned down, and by the numbers! But. . . there are those in this Tribe I have been a part of for over 66 years who are convinced (or should I say deceived) that the tried and proven truth about sexual ethic of the Bible is. . .well. . .just plain wrong. Jesus was all about the love, they claim. And they claim that only 2 genders, male and female, are way too restrictive for people to really be who they are. So, they’ve added 72 additional gender designations. Forget the science, forget the biology, and forget Genesis chapter 2. And forget how our stance on sexuality has been unchanged since 1972. It states that all people stand equally in need of God’s grace. However, the practice of homosexuality is incompatable with Christian teachings–i.e.–the orthodox faith. Homosexuality is not any worse than any other sin–but it is outside God’s design and thus it is a sin–along with that long litany of stuff that puts all of us outside of God’s Desgin.

And now to this past week–and it shows how far my beloved Tribe has wandered. According to our approved procedures and rules, no self avowed practicing homosexual can be licensed, commissioned, nor ordained. To assure fidelity to the Bible and our procedures, we have this group called The Board Of Ordained Ministry. Some call it the BOOM or BOM for short. In the most recent session of the Florida Annual Conference, their BOOM recommended 16 candidates to be commissioned on the path to full ordination. Of the 16, two admitted that they were self-avowed practicing homosexuals–clearly in violation of The Bible and our rules. However, the Florida BOOM approved them. But they still needed 3/4 of the ordained clergy to give final approval. And the stuff hit the fire.

What Bishop Ken Carter and the Florida BOOM did was to put all 16 candidates in a single vote. As a group, vote up or down. Now, in fairness, I do not know that the other 14 candidates met the requirements. However, we do know that 2 did not! And the resulting firestorm has been aimed at the 27.3% who voted against the 16 because Bishop Carter would not allow them to vote on the candidates one by one. 27.3% voted according to their ordination vows and the Bible, and now they are the villians. So, the 27.3% who acted in the same spirit as Joshua and Caleb (see the story of the 10 spies) are treated with great disdain and anger.

And a fellow blogger joins in the disdain and anger, Rev. Jim Harnish. You can read his blog here. Jim asserts that the orthodox faith is invalid because, well because we are such more enlightened. And during the eventual commissioning and ordaining service, Bishop Ken Carter apologized to that group with these words:

“I grieve the harm you have experienced.
I am committed to the support of your callings …

I would have gladly commissioned each of you, and gladly appointed each of you …

Bishop Ken Carter

So, Bishop Carter would have gladly thrown away both the Bible and our Discipline. Whether that’s what he meant or not, this is exactly what he was saying and doing. And to my fellow Brother Jim I say that simply because you have changed your views about The Bible and our Discipline, a Discipline you promised you would faithfully follow when you were ordained, doesn’t mean you are right. I am grieved that you would allow culture to define your faith rather than allow God’s Word to Transform the culture. And thus, we see the 21st Century version of the Titanic raising her bow in preparation for sinking. I am not angry–I am sad–and I am disappointed that there are those who will abandon John Wesley’s passion to be people of “homo unius libri.” (a people of One Book!)

To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be “homo unius libri.”

John Wesley (June 17, 1706-March 2, 1791)

Footnote: Though I am saddened, maligned by others, accused of quitting and giving up–I am still praying and hopeful that this blight and disorder–this cancerous lie–can be put in it’s rightful place. Back to hell where it came from and where it belongs! Furthermore, I am confident that the Wesleyan desire for renewal and revival is not dead on this earth. The signs are everywhere. And if our leadership in the UMC doesn’t have a change of heart–it will happen with another people–NOT in the UMC!

It Matters!

It Matters! There’s so much talk–scratch that–there’s so much SHOUTING about WHO matters. Black Lives. Blue Lives. Asian Lives. White Lives. All Lives. But this morning I don’t want to talk about WHO matters. The burden that has been in my heart for some time now has been IT MATTERS! The reason being is that there are so many–way too many–who believe IT DOESN’T MATTER–though it does. What is the IT I’m talking about?

The IT is What We Believe About God And His Word–otherwise known as The Bible! Theological progressives are promoting this crazy idea that when it comes to God and His Word, it doesn’t matter what we believe, as long as we believe, especially that part about Love. Progressives say, “Just let us believe what we want. And you can believe what you want. And let’s just live together side by side. As long as we love each other, then the rest doesn’t matter.” But IT does MATTER!

People are heading down what they believe is the yellow brick road to enlightenment full speed ahead. But left in the wake of their ignis fatuus are broken, disillusioned, and deeply wounded people. They live a disconsolate and wistful existence. And the Progressives blame that lugubrious state of mind on those who of us who understand that IT DOES MATTER what we believe. While their mantra has been “You believe what you want and we believe what we want and we can still get along” is an incongruity because it elevates US human beings as the highest and final authority of what it means to put our faith in Christ–and to be His disciple and follower.

This kind of thinking is built upon a supposition that we humans are fully capable of understanding the heart and mind of God. That WE have the mental acuities to determine who God created us to become. That WE are free to determine what is right and what is wrong; what is acceptable and what is unacceptable; what is sin and what is not sin. In an online conversation with a progressive, she told me, “The Fall was a good thing because it freed us to determine our own life.” Excuse me, but isn’t that what Satan told Eve and Adam? I think it was.

Another alleged Gospel has been presented–it may sound good and reasonable to the human mind. It even sounds like it’s the way for all of us to get along. But sounding good and being good isn’t the same. Paul warned about this in Galatians Chapter 1, Verses 8 and 9–“Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.  I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.”

Good News includes the truth that there is also Bad News! The bad news is that we are all infected, tainted, and under the influence of sin. This infection has corrupted our mind, and thus our ability to understand exactly what God wants of us. And the only reliable source to understand both the nature of sin and how it is affecting us is found in The Bible. Though the Bible was written by human hands, and though human minds brought together all these books as our Canon–our source for authority over us–I maintain that God was watching over these processes ensuring that today we have an accurate and reliable foundation, both about sin and God’s Grace. If God cannot protect The Truth from being transmitted through the millenniums, then God cannot be trusted at all.

We are not equipped mentally nor spiritually to determine what is or isn’t sin. Besides, we already have those definitions. It’s called The Bible. Here in The Bible is where we find Personal Holiness. Do we always get it right the first time? Hardly! But we are not left alone to our own devices to figure it out. We have many centuries of writers and witnesses who attest to the Truth of God’s Word. The Orthodox ways, though not perfected completely, reveal to us that Truth is Truth is Truth. And we are not free to redefine things like sin and personal holiness.

We have the Holy Spirit to help us. And the Holy Spirit will not, cannot contradict The Bible. We need to be careful, very careful, how we handle This Word. It matters what we believe–when it comes to sin, salvation, and a life of holiness. It matters, even if you think it doesn’t matter.

You Believe WHAT About God? Tuesday Thoughts 21 January 2020

I thought this Tuesday Thoughts edition was going to take a while to figure out what to write. I was wrong. It comes out of something that happened last week: 4 year old Wyatt Spann died from cancer. And this reminded me of something that happened a few years ago–the death of another young child, Noah Crowe, from cancer. It’s not “MY” feelings about these tragedies, but the things “some” people say. To be more specific: What some who call themselves ‘Christians’ say to broken and grieving hearts. It’s not only at funeral homes where they speak these abominations, but being active in disaster response, I’ve heard some of the same poor, DEPLORABLE theology.

Below are some of the DESPICABLE, VILE, LOATHSOME AND WRETCHED things some people believe, and Dear Lord In Heaven, say to people in the worst moment of their lives:

  • God needed them more than you. Really? God actually needs something to exist? I always believed He was self-sufficient.
  • God wanted another angel in heaven. Again, really? If God wanted another angel all He has to do is create another one.
  • He was just saving them from the future heartaches they would face. Bejeezus, folks! This is so asinine I’m not even going to comment on it!
  • It was the will of God! Good Lord, in Heaven. Does your ‘god’ (notice the use of lowercase) will and plan for parents to lose their child? Do you really think God wills suffering and heartache? If you do, you have given your heart to a cruel god (again, lowercase)!

Honestly? I don’t fully understand why children have to suffer, even die from cancer or a million and one causes. And speaking of being honest, I shout out in anger and frustration at God when it happens. I was angry when little Noah died. I am angry that Wyatt died. And in this moment I’m praying for another infant, little McCoy who is suffering from liver failure. Truthfully, I’m frustrated that God hasn’t yet healed McCoy.

I don’t understand or pretend to know why such things happen. I have some thoughts; maybe another Tuesday I’ll share them. But right now, in this moment, here is the single thread I’m holding onto: God Did Not Will Or Cause These Tragic Deaths! God was not behind it, but He Is In Front Of The Aftermath And With Us In Our Pains And Griefs!

And in this morning’s frustration, God who is out front and ahead of us gave me a Scripture that refutes the above-mentioned Despicable Theology: “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10 NLT)

I always thought that phrase “be still” literally meant “don’t move”. But that’s not what the Hebrew word raphah means. It means “to let drop, abandon. Can’t you see? You and I don’t give God His identity. We don’t define God. Even though many try, defining God and His Ways are way above our pay grade. And when you feel the need to explain God to people facing these types of situations, my counsel to you is DON’T DO IT! If you really want to help them, try crying with them.

The Inconvenient Jesus

Being “in the country” means sometimes you have to go the distance to find what you are looking for. Now, understand that I model the example of buying locally as much as possible. But sometimes . . . you have to go the distance. We frequently have to go north of here to see some of our doctors, and most importantly, to go see Dad. In one of these paths I inevitably have to stop at this particular convenience store; “have to” being the operative word.

You see, I have an enormous love for coffee, and I have to take a little “fluid pill” prescribed by my doctor to help with my blood pressure. Well, if you love coffee and have to take one of those demon pills–then you understand why I “have to” stop there. And out of respect for that business owner, I do purchase something for the convenience of their restroom. Now, to my gripe.

The first time I stopped there, I was in shock. This is a southern convenience store and to my horror and deep disappointment, they were no where to be seen. My heart sank and a gloomy cloud formed over my mind. My heart and mind were set on, and wanted one of these southern delicacies:

How dare them consider themselves a southern convenience store and NOT sell Little Debbie products. It’s immoral and should be illegal for a southern convenience store shelves to be bare of Little Debbie snacks! It’s the preferred snack of Coach Nick Saban! This alone should be enough of a mandate to carry them. I shouldn’t stop there; I wouldn’t stop there–if it weren’t for my love of coffee and that little demon pill. So, I stop there nearly every time because it creates an inconvenience if I don’t! What’s all this ranting have to do with the Kingdom? What’s the lesson in this? Glad you asked . . .

The influence of the Kingdom of God is waning and even sickly in the U.S.  This sickness did not happen overnight–but through a process over the last several decades.  It happened as Tenured Pew Sitters began longing for a ‘More Convenient’ Jesus; a Jesus that is comfortable with what they are comfortable with; a Jesus who does not challenge their views; and most of all, A Jesus That Serves Their Desire To Be The Consumer Of Rather Than The Producers Of The Kingdom Life.

And this desire for a ‘More Convenient’ Jesus by the Tenured Pew Sitters has produced a new variety of people who have diluted The Message of The Kingdom.  They proudly label themselves as Progressives.  They, too, want a ‘More Convenient’ Jesus.  They want a Jesus that neither challenges nor inspires them to the life of Transforming Grace.  But rather than being consumers like the Tenured Pew Sitters, they are producers of a message that Jesus is all love, and as such, requires nothing to change in us except that we love, and that is all.  It’s not considered ‘loving’ to embrace the Christian-Judaeo morals and values–but being mean, ugly and unreasonable.  Cover immorality over with love and instantly it’s no longer immoral.  ‘Convenient Jesus’ does not mention sin–but angrily points the finger at any who disagree with their ‘Convenient Jesus’.

But here’s the thing:  ‘Convenient Jesus’ doesn’t exist–never has–never will.  Whether one is of the ilk of Tenured Pew Sitters or the ilk of Progressives, Jesus is anything but convenient.  Allow me to explain with some examples from the Real Jesus:

  • When the woman caught in the act of adultery was dragged before Jesus: (John 8:10-11) Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  Giving up what makes one feel good, well that’s inconvenient.
  • When someone wanted to follow Jesus, but wanted first to bury his father: (Luke 9:60) But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”  Jesus doesn’t want to fit into your schedule; that doesn’t sound convenient.
  • When Jesus told the disciples of him impending death He called out to the crowd: (Luke 9:23)   Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”  Life from a cross doesn’t sound convenient.  (OK 1 more in case you missed the point)
  • When James and John wanted the places of honor:  (Matthew 20:26-27) But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.”Being a servant and a slave doesn’t fit into the sin-tainted game plan.

Convenience is the desire of the old heart and the old life.  It is also the lie from Satan.  Jesus came to create inconvenience in us so that we can be set free from the bondage of sin.  Jesus did not come in our human form to make our lives easy–rather He came in human form to make our lives full and complete.  And sometimes . . . well it is inconvenient.  But don’t stress out–He promises to be with us to guide and empower us to the only life that really matters.  The life God created for us–not the life we designed for ourselves.

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

Did You Really Ask That Question?

Well, things are really shaking and moving in California; and not in a good way. My heart goes out to all those impacted by this disaster. I’ve read a lot about “experts” saying this may well be the prelude to “The Big One.” Excuse me, now I’ve only experienced a few minor tremors (yes, in Alabama we do have earthquakes, small ones, but it was still an earthquake), but what could be bigger than a 7.1? Gee whiz, geologists, thanks for adding to their fear.

But those comments are not the cause of me writing this morning. It was a question posed by someone in a Facebook group of which I am a member. This person asked the group, “Do you think this earthquake is the result of God’s judgement against the people of California?” This picture must have been the expression on my face when I read it.

Being a Disaster Response Coordinator for my local Tribe, this and similar statements irk me on the scale of a 10.7. When a person goes through a natural disaster, they don’t need The Disaster of Poor Theology. Statements like:

  • “God needed them more than we did.”
  • “It was just things.”
  • “We have to accept it as God’s will even if we don’t understand or like it.”
  • “You’re young, you can always find someone else.”
  • “God just wanted your attention.”
  • “If y’all don’t repent, something worse is going to happen.”
  • I could go on, but I won’t….

Even as I’m writing, I remember something very dumb I said back in the early 80’s when I was in seminary. The Aids crisis was growing and I asked a fellow pastor, whom I looked up to because he was conservative like me, “Don’t you think this Aids epidemic is God’s punishment?” Even now, I’m hanging my head in shame for even allowing that thought to remain in my head. His response caught me off guard. “NO! All our punishments were put on Jesus while He was on the cross!” He then gently addressed my Poor Theology; and I’ve never forgotten it. Come to think of it, his facial expression was just like that picture above.

To say this latest earthquake is God punishing California, qualifies you for membership in that Wacko Westboro Baptist Cult. Look, maybe you or someone you know is going through a difficult time–a disaster if you will. Maybe you are thinking, “God is punishing me and I deserve it.” Well, you are half right.

We all deserve to be punished for our sins, but Jesus took that well-deserved punishment upon Himself as He hung on that cross. The prophet Isaiah foretold this truth:

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5 (NLT)

The next time you see someone going through a disaster–be it a natural disaster, man-made disaster, a spiritual disaster that resulted from poor choices in their life–don’t look at them and think, “Well, they got what they deserved.” And don’t you dare say it! Instead, be broken and cry for them. Then get up and do something to help rebuild their lives.

Yes, God disciplines–He disciplines those whom He loves and who loves Him. But disasters are not acts of discipline. They are reflections of our current reality–that we and our natural world are infected, affected and broken by sin. Not just Adam and Eve’s sin, but our sin as well. If you think God is punishing California, get your emergency kits out because He is about to punish you, too.

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