I CAN’T UNDERSTAND IT!

I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.

Exodus chapter 20, verse 2; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

I can’t understand IT. I mean, REALLY don’t understand IT! Is there anyone out there who can help me? Now before you start referring me to therapists or psychiatrists, allow me to define IT! Why Is Religion More Important Than The Relationship? When Did That Happen? HOW Did That Happen? It only took me a half of cup of coffee when the Spirit planted that question in me. See, even the Spirit waits until I have that wonderful “living” water. And so, He and I talked a while about my question.

So, what is a “religion”? Well, according to Google, it’s “a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance”. If it’s indeed of supreme importance, how does one acknowledge it? How does it manifest itself? Well, here’s a partial list that I’ve come up with; maybe you can add to the list:

  • You’ve got to have beliefs/doctrines about it (something there must invoke convictions otherwise it’s not of supreme importance)
  • There must be some set of written or unwritten rules (how can it be a “religion” without some rules, right?)
  • It’s got to shape your opinions
  • It must control your attitudes
  • It creates your perspective
  • It demands your attention and loyalty
  • It gives you priorities
  • It must have outcomes ( also known as consequences)

But on the otherhand, A Relationship provides us one thing a religion can never give us. Personal Presence! Religion is cold and indifferent. It can never give us the assurance of that Personal Presence! After God delivered the Hebrews from what He called the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery He assured them of His Presence–in them and among them. I am compelled to tell you something this morning: Verily, verily, give up on religion, thus saith The Preacherman! Religion may tell me HOW to live–But The Relationship shows and helps me to live–to live the life He created for me. Oh yes, there are rules and expectations–we call that Holiness. But because of His Presence, He teaches me and He enables me. A religion can teach you–but only His Presence enables us to live out This Relationship! So, why is religion so important? Until you can convince me otherwise–I’ll stick with The Relationship!

WHERE DO YOU BELONG?

The longing to belong is one of the most basic human emotions! I know there are those we call hermits who cut themselve off from all human contact. They achieve this by building a stone wall around that desire to belong to keep it under control. But this does not negate that most basic desire: the longing to belong! So, let me ask you this morning, “Where do YOU belong?” The answer lies in our true identity. And this is where all the chaos and problems begin.

Some think their identity is found in who they want to have sex with. No, this Preacherman isn’t afraid to talk about sex. Others think their identity is found in those who think just like them. Still others think their identity is found with those who have the same fashion taste as they do. Still others think their identity is found with those who societal norms have declared they are the “in” group. Still others think their identity is found with those who have the same political views. Still others think their identity is found with those who like to do the things they like to do. Still others think. . .get my point?

But what if I told you that the longing to belong isn’t in any of these types of things? It’s the truth, whether you believe me or not. Remember that the longing to belong is the one of, if not the most basic human need. Where does it come from? Glad you asked! It comes from The One who created us–God! God the Father! God the Son! God the Holy Spirit! Why do I say this? Because of all that God created only one thing bears His Image–and that’s us Human Beings! Not the trees, not the skies, not the stars, not the fish or any other critter. It’s Us Human Beings!

And why is this truth so important? (And it is very IMPORTANT!) God created us for intimate friendship and fellowship with Him and all the other Image Bearers! But with the introduction of sin (thanks, Adam and Eve!), that friendship and fellowship was broken. But don’t despair! God did something about that sin. He didn’t change His mind about sin! Au contraire, my friend. In fact, He showed us how damaging and destructive Sin is when His Son, Jesus, died on that Roman Cross. And through our faith in His act of grace filled love, the disease of sin is taken out of us!

And we BELONG to God, Our Creator, Father, Savior, and Sustainer! Now some want to say that it’s love–love is what makes us holy! Whoa! Wait a second buckeroo! It isn’t love that makes us holy. It’s Holiness that makes us Love! And holiness is clearly defined by the Bible, not the so-called experts on the Bible. Holiness is more that what we do and don’t do. Holiness is the life long transformation back into our original image. And don’t think for a nano-second that means you have to give up your individuality. God doesn’t use a cookie cutter–that’s what Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters do.

No, God made you uniquely YOU! Within this human form there’s no way any one of us can fully express God’s Glorious Image! So God gives His Image Bearers (at conception, I might add!) each a uniquely personal way to reveal His Glory. But if we let other things tell us where we belong–well–we just end up angy, bitter, and hateful. More than this, we end up empty. So don’t worry if others tell you that you don’t belong! After all, they didn’t create you. You belong to God who is working to bring HIS glory out in you!

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

And I leave you with this song:

I Give Up On Religion!

That’s right! Yours truly is announcing to the world that I have given up on religion! From this point forward, if I am given a form asking for my religious preference, or asked the question directly, my answer is NONE! “But wait just a dog gone minute! You’re suppose to be a preacher, pastor, teacher! And now you are telling me that you do NOT have a religion?” That’s right, Buckaroo!

Now, before you begin to dislike me or unfollow me, listen to my reasons. I did NOT say that I am an atheist or agnostic–I’m not that stupid! I just said, “My religious preference is NONE because I don’t have any religion in me.” Think about what Religion has done over the ages. Here’s just a few examples, and reasons why:

  • Religion led to The Crusades
  • Religion caused The Inquisition
  • Religion was behind the genocide in Bosnia
  • Religion was why girls and women were excluded from schools in Afghanistan
  • Religion is why there is so much conflict in the Middle East
  • Religion has caused “religious” folks to look down on others
  • Religion divides people–even within Christendom
  • Religion is intertwining beliefs with politics (talk about a Train Wreck!)
  • Religion creates the illusion of moral superiority (“my brand of church is a whole lot better than yours!”)
  • It divides families and friends, creating distrust, even hate
  • It has led to a deep sense of complacency–causing apathy to the pains of real people in real places
  • And never forget what Karl Marx said about religion: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” And NO! I AM NOT A COMMUNIST!
  • And ad nauseam

So, if I’m no longer involved in religion, nor even religious; if I am not an atheist, agnostic, nor a communist; just what am I? This decision I have made has resulted in peace, hope, desire–in short–it has brought me to life. Since I an unencumbered by religion I am now free. I have to confess, sometimes I slip back into religion. But it doesn’t take as long as it once did to break free from the talons of religion. Here is how I self-identity when it comes to that horrible question “What is your religious preference?” I am a follower of Jesus!

“Why?”, you may ask. I could give you so many reasons. Instead I will give you just one, and from this single reason, begins to flow all of the other reasons:

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NLT)

Or, as another translation puts it:

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.

Micah 6:8 (The Message)

Think less of me if you like. Frown upon me if it makes you feel better. Me? I’m enjoying the liberty and joy of taking God seriously–instead of religion.

Why Have Religion?–Wednesday’s Wondering 12 February 2020

Lately I’ve been thinking about preferences. Not the preference of purchasing the name brand or the store brand. I’m thinking deeper; thinking about those questionnaires that have that asks you for your preference on Religion. Are you Christian, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, New Age, Mormon, Jehovah Witness? The list goes on. And usually there is that last choice: None of the above.

I remember several years ago when I went to a pre-admit for a procedure my cardiologist had ordered. The nurse was asking the usual questions. And one made me laugh, and she did too when I answered her. “Do you have any memory loss or lapse of memory?” I replied, “Not that I recall.”

And when it comes to the answer of my Religious Preference, I think from now on I’ll respond: None Of The Above. No, I haven’t become a None or a Done; well, maybe I am a Done. Yes! I am a Done! I’m Done with

  • Form rather than substance
  • Appearance rather than growth
  • Going through the motions rather than passion
  • Appearance rather than character of heart, mind and actions
  • Promoting doctrine rather than proclaiming transforming Grace
  • and most of all Religion rather than Relationship.

Do you really think that Jesus gave up heaven for Mary’s womb? Gave up a Throne to be placed in a feed trough? Gave up being praised for the mockery of the crowd while hanging on a cross? Did He do that and so much more just so we could have a Religion? So why have you accepted only a Religious Preference as a “thing” He wants you to have?

God never offers you a Religion; He offers you and me Relationship. Relationship carries us and guides us through the complexities of life on this orb called Earth. Relationship takes us from what we really are to who we are created to become. I’m Done with Religion. So when I answer one of those Religious Preference questionnaires I’m marking None of the above. Oh, you can keep your Religion and be short-changed, but not me.

But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.

Micah 6:8 (The Message)

Change In Names–Saturday Stories 25 January 2020

(Today’s story happened in 2004, but it will always be a part of the unfolding story of who I am and who I am becoming)

Would It Be OK?

When Debbie and I started dating, it wasn’t long before I met her granddaughter, Rileigh Breeze.  I quickly became known by her as “that ‘nother Randy.”  I was known as “that ‘nother Randy” because they had a long time family friend also named Randy.  So, when Rileigh Breeze talked about “Randy”, she needed a way to clarify which “Randy” she was talking about.  Now to her, it just made sense to call me “that ‘nother Randy” since the first “Randy” had been a part of her life for longer than I had been.  One day she was telling her “Auntie” something Randy had said.  But she quickly added, “Not Randy Randy, but Grammaw’s Randy.  You know, that ‘nother Randy.” 

It wasn’t long before I was known in Debbie’s family as “that ‘nother Randy.”  And I was OK with that designation.  It certainly eased the confusion as to which Randy was being discussed.  It made for clarity in communication, and besides, it was a cute and humorous way that Rileigh Breeze had made this distinction between the two Randy’s. Without something to make us distinctive, it would be confusing to know which one was which.  (If you think it would be confusing to have two family friends named Randy, how about 3 different people not only sharing the same first name, but also the same last name.  Yes, there are at least 3 different people named, you guessed it:  Randy Burbank; and yes, we are all cousins.  And please, no comments about the “Bob Newhart” show:  This is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl.)

Debbie and I had been dating almost a year when I asked her to become my wife and partner in God’s ministry.  Not long after we announced to her family that we would be married, Rileigh Breeze was talking with her Grammaw about what this meant and the changes that would occur; the biggest of which would be that Grammaw would move across the state, 2 hours away.  As best we can remember, during the conversation, she asked, “Grammaw, would it be OK if I called him Grampaw instead of that `nother Randy?”  And the first time she called out, “Hey, Grampaw” I knew something special had happened. 

Of course, she melted my heart, but something else happened.  Our relationship changed from one of friends, to that of family.  Even though there is not a genealogical connection, even though there is no shared DNA between Breeze and myself, she is and will always be one of my granddaughters, and I will always be her Grampaw.  The cultural designation would be she is a step-granddaughter, but not in my heart.  Debbie and I do not have step-grandchildren, only grandchildren. It was amazing to me the first time I heard Rileigh Breeze call me “Grampaw”.  Our relationship changed and took on a lot more depth; and it all happened when she called me by the name:  Grampaw.

Moral Of The Story

When God calls us by name, there is, without a doubt, a sound of love in the way He does it.  I knew there was a deepening of love between Breeze and myself, but it didn’t hit me until she called me by the name, “Grammpaw”!  God is constantly calling to us by name, and I want to encourage you not to be too busy so as to miss that moment.  Every time God calls you by name is a sacred and powerful moment that offers to change our relationship with Him with ourselves, and with others.

And why does God call us by name?  Because He has said:  “For I have ransomed you.”  Ransom is an interesting word in the Hebrew language.  It means:  “to act as a kinsman (family member).”  God wants us to know we can experience a family relationship with Him.  When I married Breeze’s Grammaw, I was no longer a friend, I was a family member and she acknowledged that with my new name.  God wants us to know that we are kin, we are family. 

Take The Combo!

It’s not a matter of need. It’s not a matter of choice. It’s not a matter of want. It’s a package deal–a combo meal if you would. But this Combo Meal does not come in regular or large or super-sized proportions. So, you don’t have a choice there. It only comes in the Eternal Size. True, it’s far more than you can handle in one sitting–but that’s how it comes.

And you can’t make substitutions or additions to it. Nope, it just comes in one Way. This Combo Meal is God–the Father-DADDY; the Son–Jesus-your brother; and the Holy Spirit-your Friend. They are ONE but not the same. Each is unique AND they are equal.

Yesterday morning in my “4 Minutes” time (which is how I now describe my morning devotion time; and it’s usually MORE than 4 minutes), I was talking with all 3 of Them and I just blurted out, “Wow! You 3 are some kind of combo meal!” All 4 of us laughed at my outburst. And it got me to thinking about this Monday Musing.

The Church Of The Anemic, which describes much of Western Christendom, has found itself this way from many reasons. One of the primary reasons is that the Average Pew Sitter neither appreciates, nor understands the unique Combo of The Trinity. Some want a father-figure; some want a get-out-of-hell-free-card; and some want a kind of feel-good-feeling.

The Holy Combo Package is an all or nothing offer. I’ve heard, and in my more younger and foolish days, call the Holy Spirit “it”. The Holy Spirit is not an “it”, but a Person. I use the word “Person” because this wordsmith hasn’t found another way to describe from a Time-Focused perspective the Infinite And Eternal Truth.

I am concerned that many have the view of The Holy Combo that I held in my younger, immature and more foolish days; that they exist in a hierarchy–Father is the Big Guy, Jesus is Middle Management, and The Spirit is the Floor Supervisor. Eventually, I came to understand the fallacy of such thinking. And when I read The Shack, by Paul Young, the Floodlight came on. I realize some have an “issue” with this book. Chill out! It’s only a book–but it shines with insight and wisdom. Now if your issue with the book is The Father being a big, black woman–remember He once spoke through Balaam’s jackass–and I’ve personally heard Him speak through other jackasses even today.

I could go on, but let me bring to an end this Monday Musing. As you do your “4 Minutes” with God each morning, think about ALL 3 OF THEM. Talk to each one at a time, and to all 3 of them at once. If you don’t like Paul Young’s images, come up with your own images; but remember God isn’t white middle class, or whatever your personal culture looks like. If you want God, you gotta get The Combo. And if you want a combo without some things or a couple of extra things, go to the McDonald’s Drive Thru. You can’t get that with God–It’s all or nothing.

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