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.

I hear a lot–I mean A LOT–of people complaining about the Walmart Self Checkout system. And if you would allow me to be blunt-honest with you, I would say that I ABSOLUTELY LOATHE that self checkout system. I don’t go to Walmart to become their unpaid cashier associate. And to make a bit of confession, I have used it before because of time restraints. But now I simply don’t go if I am under time retraints. Now I patiently wait in line for that lonely, single cashier (occasionally there are 2).

And that’s what got me to thinking–about people. No, not Walmart’s corporate board who made this horrible decision; the people, and in particular those poor souls who use the self checkout system. Every time I go in to our local Walmart I see several people using that system. Do they realize they are only adding to the corporate pockets more money and denying people a job? But they look like sheeple–you know–a cross between sheep and people.

So many, TOOO many people are choosing for themselves this Walmart kind of life. What am I ranting about? Look at that first word in the sign:

SELF! Our culture is putting the emphasis on SELF! What WE want. What WE deserve. How that WE are capable of figuring out this thing called life without any other help. And for God to help us out? Jeez Louise, we don’t need His help at all. We can do it ourself! And now we are being overwhelmed by a tsunami of consequences. Lives are being crushed and pushed around; only to be swept out to sea. I remember a song from my teenage years, “The Age Of Aquarius”! Well, 2022 is The Age Of Self-Aggrandizement!

REALITY CHECK! We can’t handle life by SELF! We need help–but not just any help. We don’t need Dr. Phil, or Oprah, nor the advice of Trevor Noah. And we really need to stop talking to ourselves in order to get sound advice. When we talk to ourselves like this, what we end up with is a lot of sound and very little advice. What we need is to look–look above this mess to the only ONE who took the chaos and created the earth and the universe. And for heaven’s sake–stop using the self checkout line at Walmart!

In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.

Psalm 120, verse 1; from the English Standard Version

Saturday Fairy Tales: The Walking Stick

Once upon a time, there was a man named Henry. Henry loved to walk through the hills near his home. Some of the paths were treacherous, and several times he nearly lost his balance. One day as he was walking along, a limb had broken off and was blocking his path. He reached and picked it up and had an epiphany. “This would make the perfect Walking Stick!” thought Henry. So he took it home, and with a little work in his workshop, he had the perfect Walking Stick.

It was about 6 and a half feet long and was very sturdy. This Walking Stick became his companion on every walk. One day as he was climbing one of those treacherous hills he started to slip, but his Walking Stick steadied him. “What good fortune happened to me that I have this Walking Stick!”, said Henry. On another walk, a snake was in his path. With the end of his Walking Stick, he flipped that snake out of his path. “What good fortune happened to me that I have this Walking Stick!”, said Henry. Later that week a coyote started towards him. He thought about his Walking Stick, and he started swinging it like a sword, and the coyote ran away in fear. “What good fortune happened to me that I have this Walking Stick!”, said Henry.

Henry became quite confident with his Walking Stick’s power and in his skills in using it. He found more and more uses for his Walking Stick. He often said to himself, “What good fortune happened to me that I have this Walking Stick!” But one afternoon, as he was walking with his powerful Walking Stick, a bear came charging at him. Nothing he did with his Walking Stick deterred that bear. And the Walking Stick in which he placed so much confidence, was unable to save him from that bear! The End!

The Moral Of The Story

Though Henry was very confident about his Walking Stick and in his ability to use it–it wasn’t enough for every situation he faced. Every day people have confidence in things and their abilities to use them to successfully navigate life. But those things are incapable of always helping us. Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can help us navigate life and conquer those problems that threaten our peace and our life.