#2 False Humility

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(This is Number 9 in a series.  I encourage you to read in order, Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church!#10: Choosing Religion Over Relationship#9 Ignoring That We Are In A War#8: Wrong priorities7: Cookie Cutter Attitude#6. Self Reliance#5 Fear Of Change;  #4 Form Rather Than Substance; and #3 The Loss Of Passion.  The tenth and final one in this series should come tomorrow!)

Remember that these are my reflections on what I have observed about the western church, and in particular the church in the good old U.S.A.  Without the empirical work such as that done by groups like Barna I am left with simple observations, deep reflections and even deeper prayers.  So this work is subjective so I do not ask nor even expect anyone to agree with my conclusions.  This blog has simply given me a means to express the deep burden I have for the local church in the U.S.A., and for my own Tribe.

This next one may not have made the lists of others who have tried to label the various maladies that has infected (and might I add “affected”) the western church.  It is the most subtle, and thus most deceptive, of all the reasons why our churches are in an overall state of decline (with pockets of exceptional congregations that are in fact growing).  It is because of its deceptive nature that it comes in strong at #2:  False Humility!

Because someone will take me out of context, I must preface my next remarks with this. true-humility-871x650 Humility is a much-needed and often missing virtue.  I have found that many think it is M.I.A. among those in my profession, that of being a pastor.  And I will admit that some of my fellow shepherds seem to have a propensity of not modeling this virtue of humility.  So, in some sense, I would have to agree that some of my companions really appear to lack this essential virtue.  But humility is not limited to the “Backward’s Collar Society” (known by most as “preachers”).  It is to be modeled at every level in the life of local congregations.  Humility is what gives our witness and message credibility.  But not all that is called and treated as humility, is true humility.  There is a false, counterfeit humility that is greatly impending the impact of the local church.

While some my think my reflections and comments reveal my lack of hope about the future of the western church, I am very optimistic about the future of the, let’s call it “organized western church”.    One of the reasons I am so optimistic is the rise of the group known as the “Dones”.  I believe the Dones reveal something more than just giving up, as some critics have said about them.  No, they are done with the institution of church, to which I gladly shout, “Bravo!  Amen and Amen!”  These Dones have understood which so many Tenured Pew Sitters have either not understood, or have simply been living in denial.  The local church will never prosper as she is designed as an institution.

She truly is a living organism.  But when programs and missions are clearly designed to maintain the institution and to protect their version of orthodoxy, it slowly bleeds the church until she is on life support without much hope.  The Dones are teaching us that it is futile and a waste of God’s many great gifts to focus on survival in order to protect a history that once reflected the Kingdom but is far removed from that Kingdom today.  If we listen to the Dones, we can hear not just them, but God calling us back to our deepest roots and richest orthodoxies which is that of caring about and caring for others in the ways that Jesus did as He walked this earth and now moves on this earth through the Holy Spirit.  The Dones are teaching us again about the importance of relationships–both human and Divine.

Another reason I see that there is hope for the future of the western church is The Nones.  Like the Dones, they have no interest in the organized institution that is being guided and maintained by the Tenured Pew Sitters.  The Nones are longing for a better world and they clearly see that the push by liberalism that WE can make the world a better place is nothing more than political promises–empty and without hope.  This longing for a better world by The Nones is closer to the Kingdom of God than many realize.  You see, Jesus came for this very reason–to give us live and show us how to live life that has deep purpose and abiding peace.

The difference I see between The Nones and The Dones is that The Dones know that the source of this deep purpose and abiding joy comes from God, not by sitting in the pew.  The Nones know there is a better way to make a difference in their community and they are looking for ways to make it a reality.  This is GREAT news for local congregations.  Here is a group of people who know little or nothing about the Bible, and what they know about religion is enough to know that religion doesn’t work.  I say this is great news for the church because we are surrounded by a growing number of Harvest Hands, hands that are longing to do the work of God.  We just need to show them by our example.

But the main reason I am hopeful for the future of the western church is because I am seeing signs of God’s Kingdom strong and vibrant almost every day.  God is on the move here in the good old U.S.A.  The Dones and The Nones are not the only ones dissatisfied with the status quo.  I am seeing and hearing stories of real Disciples of Jesus connecting with their communities, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to make a difference in hearts and lives one at a time.  I am sensing and seeing the beginnings of a great upheaval and revival.  Some are hearing and faithfully responding to God’s call, even in small pockets of communities.  But more are needed.

I believe with every fiber of my being, that God is calling out to new leaders in our local congregations.  God has put within them the gifts, tools, abilities, and most of all, a passion for the true mission of the Kingdom of God.  I hear of pastors reaching out to those who have not been in leadership before but…but those being called out are saying No!  No to the Mission.  No to the Kingdom of God.  And it is not because they do not believe in the mission of the Kingdom.  It is Reason #2:  False Humility.

I hear people and hear the stories from other pastors of those being called out into new ventures and new adventures repeatedly say, “Well, I’m just not the leadership type.  I’m just a poor Christian that doesn’t have what it takes to be that kind of leader.”  They pass it off as humility.  By the way, if you are one of those who thinks that you don’t have it, remember Gideon, hiding in a wine pit threshing wheat because he was afraid of his enemies when God called him a “mighty man of valor”!

This False Humility that comes from the mentality that you do not have what it takes, is robbing the church of valuable leadership and keeping her from the task at hand.  False Humility keeps one out of the mainstream of the movement of the Holy Spirit because He is calling us out of our comfort zones into places where we will fall flat on our faces, UNLESS we have on to Him.  It is not easy getting out of these comfort zones, and though getting outside these comfort zones is the place to grow and be who God created you to be, still they resist.  Why?  Either they do not see what God has placed in them to achieve His purposes, or they doubt that God will do it for them.  If you are one of the doubters, then listen to Paul’s words here:

Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master.  All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you.  It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.  If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness.  We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.  That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.  As it is, there’s not much chance of that.

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (The Message)

Our message is not about ourselves, it is always about Jesus, who is living in the hearts of every person who trusts in His Redeeming work on the Cross and who is willing to be His Disciple.  The more you see yourself as ordinary, the more you see yourself as an unadorned clay pot, or in my case–a cracked pot–the more your local congregation needs you and it is the reason He is calling you into the work of the Kingdom.

God is calling up a new group, a new class of leaders.  Here is the best definition of leadership:  One person influencing another person with the Gospel for the sake of the Gospel!  You have a sphere of influence and God needs you to be found–found to be available.  Don’t worry about being ready, God takes care of that part when you trust Him, listen to Him and Follow Him into the domain of the Enemy; and let His power flow through you.  Trust Him to provide the power, and do not let False Humility keep you away from where God is calling you.

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#4 Form Rather Than Substance

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(This is the seventh in a 10 part series.  Item Number 3 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, then #10: Choosing Religion Over Relationship;  #9 Ignoring That We Are In A War#8: Wrong priorities7: Cookie Cutter Attitude;   #6. Self Reliance; and finally read #5 Fear Of Change before reading this one)

In this exploration of those things that are among the most vile things that are destroying the western church, particularly in the U.S.A., I hope you have seen a common thread.  In each item there is a corresponding Scripture.  The passage is either an indictment against that attitude or it is a passage that shows the exact opposite and how the church needs to embody that positive trait in order to be faithful in and to the Kingdom of God. Any single one will diminish the impact a local congregation has on a community.

Coming in at a very strong #4 is one that has plagued the church since her inception.  It has rightly earned its place on this list.  It is Choosing Form Over Substance.  Look carefully at 2 Timothy 3:1-5 from the New Living Translation:

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

Hone in on verse 5:  “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.”  The King James Version puts it like this:  “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power .”  Unlike the other symptoms of a dying congregation, this particular one manifests itself in 2 diametrically opposed systems, and we need to look at both of them.

First, there is the form of traditionalism.  Now, do you go spouting off your mouth and revealing your ignorance by saying that I do not like traditions.  I know we live in a free country where you are free to act and speak as stupid as you so please, but don’t abuse this freedom.  I love rich traditions both in family and in the family of faith.  But I did not use the word “traditions”; I used the word traditionalism.

Traditionalism does not value the rich traditions because they elevate them to the status of idols by making them simply a means to create a faux self that they think looks good on the outside.  And they believe they can produce this themselves.  It is all about human effort.  You can look through that litany of things Paul writes about to Timothy and one thing becomes evidently clear.  They are promoters of Self.  Everything is about the external and nothing is about the internal.  They are more concern with their outward appearance than they are about their true inward being.  Seems like I recall Jesus having some tough and harsh things to say to, who were those really religious folks?  Oh, Pharisees!  I seem to recall something about them being low down snakes and something about looking like a cemetery on Decoration Sunday; really pretty on top but below they were nothing but dead bones.

Traditionalism is all about keeping up the appearance and it becomes a cheap substitute, much like when King Rehoboam replaced the gold shields that had been stolen with brass shields.  It keeps a person from dealing with the truth because many Tenured Pew Sitters simply cannot handle the truth.  Rather than looking for where God is at work and pursuing those things with Him, they are more concerned with going through the motions rather than being swept up by this fresh wind of the Holy Spirit.  This is one extreme.

The other extreme of this is where brokenness that comes from sinfulness is celebrated and worn as a badge of honor.  It’s like, the more brokenness you reveal and share, suddenly the more holy and Christ-like you become.  This idea of celebrating brokenness has gotten a bit out of control.  Yes God loves us where we are and as we are.  But God wants to do more.  He wants to bring about a complete transformation.  But instead, some seem to take pride in their brokenness by calling it, “the way God created me”.

There is a movement afoot that promotes that God is such pure love that just about anything is permissible, within their definition of reason of course.  In this group no one wants to embark on the journey to become who God created them to be.  But it seems that some want to celebrate how they feel rather than how God’s grace makes us whole and brings us back to our true self–the self HE created us to be.  They insist that it is God’s love and His love alone, without anything else happening, that makes them whole.

But notice that last line of Paul  They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.”  The Gospel Jesus came to share and the Kingdom that His Gospel points to is the one that yes, loves us just as we are, but goes much further and even deeper.  It is about trusting His power to change the brokenness that truly exists in all of us into that intended design God has for us.  He wants to make us holy and this image of holy is to become exactly like Him.  It is not about self polishing or throwing away old ideas of what sin is and does to us.  It is about radical transformation that comes from His power working on the inside of us.

One of the founders of my Tribe was a fellow by the name of John Wesley.  He once wrote:

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I am seeing Wesley’s troubling concern coming true in my Tribe.  But not only in my Tribe, but in other Tribes as well.  We can be just as beautiful as a cemetery on Decoration Sunday but without the power of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and without His presence and power to help us overcome our sin, we will remain sinners–sinners that are lost without the Savior.  We become a form that has no substance.  Oh Lord, save us from ourselves!

Wrong Wood, Wrong Place, Wrong Time

 

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From where I live out my faith (not meaning my literal community, but the culture around me) it appears that a lot more people seem to love Jesus just a little bit more this time of year.  I mean, I see social media posts of people who are outraged that businesses no longer use “Merry Christmas” signs but “Happy Holidays”.  I’ve seen scores of posts saying “Keep Christ In Christmas, comment Amen and copy and paste.”  Or, “If you are not ashamed of Jesus, say Merry Christmas.”  Oh, and people who will not purchase Christmas cards unless they have a manger scene, shepherds, wise men and a star.  Christmas is so important for some that they make their second semi-annual pilgrimage to a church (the first pilgrimage being Easter).

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Now do not get me wrong; I am always glad when anyone decides to attend a worship service because it will give them the best opportunity to experience God, more than clicking “like” or “share” buttons.  It is probably just me, but I cannot help but wonder:  “Why do more people ‘like’ and ‘share’ Jesus more now than they did in October?”  I did a little bit of research about Advent and Christmas and was amazed at all the different information that is out there.  But it seems that the consensus is that the “official” Advent and Christmas season for the church did not solidify itself until the latter part of the fourth and early part of the fifth centuries.

However, Lent is the oldest season recognized by most churches.  It actually started as a result of the Council of Nicea in 325.  Lent was designed to be a season of reflection leading up to the death and Resurrection of Jesus.  Obviously, at least to me, the early church considered the Cross far more important than the manger.  Thus, the title of this blog emerged:  Wrong Wood, Wrong Place, Wrong Time.  After reading all this about what others have said, I wondered what did Paul have to say?  Did Paul ever write about the importance of placing glory around the manger?  Did Paul find it important and necessary to boast about the manger?  Well, here is what I discovered, a long time ago.  It’s from Galatians 6:14-15 and I love the way The Voice puts it:

14 May I never put anything above the cross of our Lord Jesus the Anointed. Through Him, the world has been crucified to me and I to this world.15 Let me be clear: circumcision won’t save you—uncircumcision won’t either for that matter—for both amount to nothing. God’s new creation is what counts, and it counts for everything.

So why do people suddenly love Jesus more this time of year?  I have an opinion on this question and I am going to share it with you.  It’s easier to love a baby in a manger than it is to love The Savior who died on the Cross.  Why is it easier to love the manger more than the Cross?  Allow me to share with you 3 reasons:

 1.  Because at the Cross we are confronted with the ugliness of our own sins.

The Enemy tries to hide from our eyes the hideous nature that lives inside all of us, even among the best of us.  He hides it by convincing us that we are not as bad as others, therefore we are OK.  He hides it by convincing us that it’s not our fault but someone or something else is to blame.  And most recently, he has convinced some that the Progressives are right, that we are simply born this way, therefore God created us this way and it’s OK.  The truth is that sin reveals the truth that we look more like Quasimodo than Prince Charming or Sleeping Beauty.  By never looking into the face of Jesus as He hung on that Cross, we never can never fully see the hideous nature inside, nor the brokenness that exists in our life.

2.  Because at the Cross we are confronted with the price God paid for our sins.

We are so torn apart by sin, that our God paid the price for our sins.  It is a price that we are unable, and truth be known, unwilling to pay.  But God was willing to do the unthinkable and the unimaginable.  God sent His Son, the extension of His true nature, into creation as one of those He created.  Then Jesus allowed God to place on His shoulders every sin of every person; all of my sins and all of your sins.  Then, when every sin was placed on Jesus, God did the unimaginable.  God turned away from His Son.  Jesus cried out on the Cross (Mark 15:34 NLT), “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  No, it just didn’t “feel” like God abandoned Him.  The price of every sin is that God the Perfect Judge, turn away from the sinner.  Jesus became the sinner and for the first and only time in all eternity, The Son became disconnected from The Father.  This may seem radical, even blasphemous to some of you but it is the price that sin demands be paid in order for us to be forgiven.  The price for our sin wasn’t paid in the wooden manger, but on the wooden Cross.

3.  Because at the Cross we are confronted with the demands of Jesus.

The demand of Jesus isn’t that we kneel at the manger but that we carry our Cross and live our lives from that Cross.  Jesus said in Mark 8:34 (NLT), Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said,“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”  In a consumer-driven economy and culture, the Enemy wants us to take that same consumer mentality into the church.  When we make the church about meeting our needs we make the church impotent and worthless.  We have to give up our own way and live the way Jesus died:  So that the world may know God’s love in such a way that they will allow the Holy Spirit into their life to redeem and transform them into their original design.  When I want to do things my way, in other words, be selfish and superficial, I remember King David at the threshing floor of Araunah.  In 1 Chronicles 21:14  (The Voice) King David said, No, I must buy it for the full price. I will not give your possessions to the Eternal as if they were my own, nor will I give a burnt offering which costs me nothing. I must sacrifice something for this offering.  

So it is easy, so much easier, way too easy to kneel before the Wrong Wood (the manger) at the Wrong Time (His birth) and at the Wrong Place (Bethlehem).  If this Season is to have any lasting impact on us, and thus be true to its meaning, then we must move beyond the typical scenes and remember why Jesus was born.  He was born to die for us so that we can be restored to the Fellowship of our Heaven Father, and become transformed to live the way He designed us to live.

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Bil Keane’s character Dolly is right; we like seeing Baby Jesus much more than the Suffering Jesus.  But baby Jesus doesn’t help us; but the Suffering Jesus is our Savior.  Remember to love God with all your heart; love others the way Jesus loves you (and in case you haven’t gotten it yet, He loves you perfectly from The Cross); and make sure all the glory goes to Him!  Let’s pray:

I have only one Christmas wish that only you can give.  Show me if I am living from the Cross or my own way.  And if I am living my own way, save me from myself so that I might live the way you died for me.  Amen and Amen!

Do You Pass The Peace Or Pass By The Peace?

Oh Lord, It's Monday!

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Well, our Advent Journey is about to end and as with the ending of any journey there should be some reflection about our experiences.  What memories have been renewed?  What new things have you seen that you have never seen before?  Were there any lessons learned?  Would you do it again?  Or would you file it under, “I’ll never do that again!”?  Or are you like so many today in our culture, have you been unmoved, changed by the true meaning of this season of anticipation?

Yesterday was the Fourth and final Sunday of Advent and the fourth candle was lit, the Candle of Peace.  One of the things we do as the church in regular times of worship and during special times of worship such as Holy Communion, is this thing called “the passing of the peace.”  One worshiper shares the peace of Christ with another worshiper through a…

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How To Handle Church Conflict

I think this blog is definitely worth sharing.  Kingdom Truth doesn’t come from one single source, and I do not have to reinvent the wheel every week.  Can you imagine what would happen in our communities if we faithfully followed Keith’s points?  Be blessed this week and remember:  Love God with all your heart, love others the way God loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to Him!

 

Our goal in any conflict is to see things from Christ’s point of view.

Source: How To Handle Church Conflict

#NoBlackFridaySalesOnThanksgivingDay

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Disclaimer:  Some may not consider this a Kingdom issue, and I could agree with you.  But then we would both be wrong.

If any of my family and friends go “Black Friday” shopping on Thanksgiving Day know that I am disappointed in you. It means you are selfish and care more about a “sale” than people. It is disgusting to me that anyone would deprive another person of having Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. I feel more disgust towards those who go shopping than the corporations that open up on Thanksgiving Day. Make Thanksgiving Day the MOST UNPROFITABLE DAY of the year for retail businesses that are open on Thanksgiving Day by staying at home. If I’ve offended anyone with these remarks, I want to say to you, “Oh, well…..”

#NoBlackFridaySalesOnThanksgivingDay

 

 

Participation Trophies Are To Blame

Why We Need To Ban Them!

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(Disclaimer:  This is a satirical article.  The appearance of reality is simply an inexplicable expression of my gift of sarcasm.  Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, is strictly incidental.)

For this past week since the Presidential election I have been observing with great insensitivity to the details.  I have intentionally looked long and deep at the people who are rioting in places like the Wacko Coast (known to some as the West Coast, including but not limited to the region known as the Northwest Coast), New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., and other areas known as The Great Void of Common Sense (such as Boston, Providence R.I., Portland Maine, et.al.).  I not only looked long at their faces but also into their eyes.  I have listened to their quotes with great ad nauseam as well.  And here is my personal conclusion to all the chaos:  PARTICIPATION TROPHIES ARE TO BLAME!

Soccer moms, millennial youth leaders, you heard me correctly.  The cause of all this rioting  and pestiferous savoir-faire lies clearly at the base of that gelastic and farcical mutation of human dignity and valuation called the Participation Trophy.  No other creation or contrivance of the acumen from Homo sapiens has accomplished such reprehensible and opprobrious corollary as the invidious Participation Trophy. Take a moment to ruminate on this aggregate denouement .

In our not so distant history trophies were reserved for actual proficiency in the pursuance of measurable skills and goals.  Typically these were reserved for measurable results that were classified as best, almost best, and above all the rest; otherwise known as first, second or third place.  Teams in the arenas of competition clearly understood this conceptualization.  The result of this conceptualization was that each member of the team would study, learn and practice their moxie in the effort to do more than participate, but to accomplish a measurable goal, that being success!

And in the realm of individual prowess, people would apply themselves to become the best at whatever they were involved.  This meant strenuous  and operose application of the most personal of resources–their time and effort.  But we engaged in this activity knowing ahead of time that we may not win that trophy.  And here is the epitome of our resolve and determination:  we went ahead and applied ourselves to put forth our best efforts in the pursuit of that trophy.  Today we are seen as maniacal, but it was simply the application and exertion of common sense.

And if that wasn’t maniacal enough, if we did not win a trophy we experienced this emotion called disappointment.  Now, to show you what wild and crazy people we were, after experiencing disappointment, we actually got over it.  Can you imagine that?  Got over it!  What was wrong with us.  And to further show our insanity, we picked ourselves back up and we really did try again.  We were convinced that crying and whining did not accomplish diddly-squat.  And to show how disrespectful and mean we were, we called those who did not get back up and try “cry babies”.

58193856.jpgBy not receiving this abominable thing called the PARTICIPATION TROPHY, we grew up believing and proving that courage, resolve, and hard work made our communities and culture better, not bitter.  We actually believed that success was borne out of both our best efforts and adversity.  Each success and each failure were moments to learn from and lessons that could be applied to real life.  We were daredevils who laughed in the face of potential failure because we knew we were stronger than any single moment in time.  Oh, and about our teams, we actually worked diligently at helping others to become better at their tasks.  But there was one trophy that was highly prized that was not designated for the best.  It was the “Most Improved Trophy”.  The improvement was not measured by participating.  Rather it came through showing both the desire to learn and the willingness to sacrifice for that measurable achievement.

If our nation is going to survive and become flourishing and not languishing, it will be when enough people stand up and declare with every fiber of their being, “NO MORE PARTICIPATION TROPHIES!”  Let’s start a dynamism that creates a paradigm shift in the United States.  Let us collect all the existing PARTICIPATION TROPHIES and deliver them to recycling centers.  And the parts that cannot be recycled, send them to innovative places that can re-purpose them into something that is actually useful, like a paperweight.  As much as I loathe governmental over-regulation, let us add another amendment to that document that was birthed from hard work and determination, otherwise known as the United States Constitution; an amendment that bans any and all PARTICIPATION TROPHIES until the end of time.

I leave you with this great work of art from one of this culture’s greatest and innovative minds, and challenge you, my readers, to start the hashtag #BanParticipationTrophies.  Oh wait, here’s a better idea.  Show and share this thing called determination and personal responsibility.  Teach others that failure is not fatal, but the opportunity to rise up and become stronger, and kinder.

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