So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.
Romans 14:22 NIV

The other day our preacher asked our congregation if there were any scriptures we wish God had not put in the Bible. At the time I couldn’t think of anything because I’m a good Christian and believe that all scripture is God breathed and beneficial for etc. etc. etc. And then tonight one hit me. It’s the verse above. Guess I’m not as good a Christian as I thought.

It comes at the end of a section of Paul talking about being considerate of your family in the things that you do. He talks about food, holy days, and opinions, and he comes to rest here. I don’t like it. That’s not true I actually like the concept a lot. I love the idea that what I believe is really no ones business but God’s and mine. And I love the idea that if I know my brother believes differently than I do that I have the opportunity to love my brother by humbling myself for the sake of his relationship with Christ. It’s amazing to me that the God, who created a system so intricate down to the very cells of the tips of the fingers writing this post, left me gray areas to figure out how I relate to Him. He left parts of our relationship up to me.

On the surface this idea is actually kind of stupid. I mean broken down to its basest form, this is a being, of such power that his breath creates stars, gave a dirt clod the power to choose how to relate to him. Stupid right? But without it I can’t give Him my love. If He had dictated every single thing to us then I would have no choice in the matter. I would have no place for my individuality to express its love to my a Father. I would only be able to give him obedience. And while he wants obedience, he wants obedience done in love not compulsion. I think it’s awesome that God allowed me to customize the way I express my love for him.

So why do I have a problem with this verse? Because we SUCK at it. Mankind absolutely stinks at activating this.

Today I was participating with the youth group I lead in watching a live feed of Winterfest from Gatlinburg, Tennessee. (We couldn’t be there in person this year due to weather.) So I’m watching Jeff and Taylor Walling speak and I’m completely fangirling out. Not because it was Jeff Walling, met him once and shook his hand turns out he’s just a human like me. I was fangirling because they were talking about the Restoration Movement, which spawned the creation of my tribe. I love talking and hearing about this movement. So there I am trying not to squeal because these teens I minister to, and like 14,00 others, are about to hear about one of my favorite topics. And then they started putting up three of the four major tenants of the restoration movement. On the outside I maybe look like I am intently listening, but on the inside I’m bouncing around celebrating because maybe someone I’m sitting the room is going to see what the ideas were that started my tribe and MAYBE go, “Hey why can’t we just do that!” And they turn around the banner that has the motto, or whatever I am supposed to call it that says this, “In faith,unity. In opinions, liberty. In all things, love.”

Now in my personal study into the restoration, my understanding is the phrase was actually, “In essentials, unity…,” but Walling is talking to students who might not understand what the word essentials means so, Jeff if you are reading this (yeah right) I forgive you. And before you say it’s just words, remember what God used to create everything.

Anyway, there is that pesky Romans 14 idea again. In opinions, liberty. I mean that’s really what verse 22 is saying isn’t it? Whatever you believe about this is between you and God. Simple reasoning leads me to believe that if what I believe about these things is between God and I, then what you, or anyone else, believes about these things must be between you and God too. I don’t know if the problem lies in human nature or if it’s due to our culture but we don’t like people to have differing opinions. About anything. We’ve got all kinds of media out there talking about one point of view and saying that any other point of view is held solely by idiots. It is my observation that it isn’t just American culture that is this way, but hey…that’s just my opinion.

Right now we live in a world where little girls get involved in horrible emotional abuse on YouTube videos of bands that won’t be here in 2 years. We have people driving down the road with bumper stickers profanely displaying the support or despise of an idea. There has long been a battle over which is better Chevy or Ford. We fight over sports teams and clothing brands and musicians and politics and tv shows and comic books brands. (Skidmore if you are reading this I’m working really hard to get past your love for DC’s knock off version of Marvel’s clearly superior Namor. I’m only name dropping because I’m cool enough for him to follow me on twitter #lifegoalachieved #cofcfamous #Winterfestheadliner #selfie). We have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and all kinds of things where we can post links and shout to the world, “THIS IS THE RIGHT OPINION TO HAVE AND OH WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT I HAVE IT AND IF YOU DON’T AGREE ITS ONLY BECAUSE YOU STUPID AND WRONG! AND YOUR MOM IS UGLY!” It’s like we look for lines in the sand to draw to stand on the “right side” of.

One of the most disheartening things that has happened to me was opening up the front cover of a book called The Directory of the Churches of Christ. The intent behind this book was to help you find a place to worship when you were away from home. It’s probably in your church library or in the church secretary’s office. Go look. Inside this front cover you have about 3 pages of abbreviation explanations. It has things like one cup, instrumental, non cooperative, no bible school, and the list goes on and on. The whole idea about the restoration movement was unity. And here in a tribe that all too often claims to be THE church of Christ, we find divisions. I hate that.

I don’t hate Romans 14:22, I love it with all my heart. It is my favorite part of the Bible because it tells me the relationship I have with God is unique to me. I wish it wasn’t in there because then I wouldn’t have the expectation of His people, including myself, to follow it. As it is we are, as they say, without excuse. So I guess since it’s in there I’m going to have to respect your opinion, even if I don’t agree with it or like it. I don’t have to make it my own or believe it but I have to respect you and your relationship with God enough to make accommodations for it when we are together. And to make it worse, I have to do this whether you reciprocate or not. I have to because my belief about this verse is that is one of the ways I can show God I love Him. And I do love Him. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

(Ok Skidmore, I guess it’s ok if you love Aquaman)

Recently I have heard people say things like, “Let’s lift God up,” or, “Lets put God in the most high place.” I’ve heard this several times and the questions, how exactly did God fall out of the most high place, and just how strong are you that you can lift God?

I think that this might stem from and underestimation of who God is and an overestimation of our importance. First God’s position in this world is not dependent on me nor contingent on the amount of praise I give him. He IS the ruler of everything regardless of how I regard him. To think otherwise is foolishness and to further thing that he needs us to put him back in the place he belongs is nothing short of the deepest and most sincere arrogance. Worse than that its highly dangerous.

The god that I can move and that needs my praise is a small ineffectual god. If he requires my esteem to reside in the place he belongs he is a weak god. In fact at god that needs me for anything at all is false and powerless. None of these descriptions fit the world creator and destroyer that I read about in the Bible.

There is a disturbing pattern in our selfish and self centered society of shrinking God down to something along the lines of Dobby the house elf. Though a creature of immense power God is forever hobbled to indentured servitude because He needs us to give Him the sock of our praise to set Him free. Why would anyone want to serve a God that impotent?

You know there is even the prevailing attitude that Christ lived a perfect life for us? Some of you probably even think that. Well I hate to break it to you that’s not true. He did not live a perfect life for us, he lived a perfect life because that was who he was. Do we benefit from that? You bet your sweet bippy we do, but its pure rotten arrogance to think that it happened because of us.

I cannot gift God with honor, I am in serious debt to Him when in comes to honor. In fact any honor I may happen to have was a loan from Him. I have created nothing in this world that would make me WORTHY of honor and yet I have the gaul to come into His throne room and say things like, “I want and I need.” I don’t make humble requests of a being so terribly powerful He could create light with a word and could end my life with a thought. No come before Him with gentle demands and false humility. That friends and family is dangerous.

Recently my wife was reading in the book of Ecclesisastes and found a verse I had never seen before, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. (Ecclesiastes 5:1 NIV). If that doesn’t convict you then I suggest you reexamine your heart. “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.” One of the other things I have witnessed is a rush into the throne room of God without any thought of what you are doing. I have heard men in front of thousands approach God flippantly and laxidasically. How many of you would run into the office of the president and say “Hey I want you to make sure that Betty Jo Godlymom gets good doctors. Ok thanks for being a powerful president, k bye.” You just wouldn’t do that and yet its becoming common practice to cooly slide into the throne room of God after a message has been given. There have even been a few times i couldn’t tell that a sermon had ended and a prayer started. Shouldn’t our talking with God be distinguishable from our talking to man?
I think maybe it comes from a desire to be familiar with God. God wants us to be familiar with Him, not what we want Him to be. We want God to be the loving father figure that answers his child’s every whim and desire. We want Him to be the gentle shepherd who speaks to us softly and is slightly amused at our errant ways. The problem is while those might be aspects of His personality that is not who He is in His entirety. If thats the only side of God we serve then we don’t serve God at all. What we serve is an imaginary God that is everything we want and ask him to be, and more correctly we worship ourselves and call it God.

Please understand that God is not small nor is He powerless nor does He need you at all. Next time you pray read the description of just exactly what you are walking into when you come before The God in Revelation 4. Then think about if you really want to stand before Him and say things like I want and I need and I lift you up. You are insignificant in the realm God lives in. “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.”

About 12 years ago I was in a friend’s apartment getting ready to leave for Brazil the next morning. We were watching the news talking about a huge tornado coming towards the area. The eye of this storm was supposed to be a mile wide. Several other friends who lived in the same apartment complex came over and we all went outside and watched the sky.

The big daddy never came near us but we could see it. It barely rained where we were. If I remember right all of us slept together in the same apartment. The next morning I got up and went to the airport and flew out to Brazil and as we left we flew over Moore, Oklahoma, the town that was demolished yesterday. The images I’m seeing on the news sites and on Facebook right now are almost identical to what I saw 12 years ago.

That storm passed through during the night so the schools that were destroyed were empty. During that storm I knew people who knew people who lost things but no one I knew was directly effected. This time very dear friends lost a barn and I thank God that that is all they lost. They very easily could no longer be here. This time I had friends that lived in a neighborhood that was utterly destroyed but as far as I know they weren’t even touched. And I thank God that they are ok.

As I am getting all my news of people who I know and love from that area from Facebook its very possible that I have lost some one I love. I’m sure that won’t all hash out for a couple of weeks. But I do have friends that I KNOW are ok. And I thank God for that. I have also seen a lot of foolish statements on Facebook about what happened this week that almost break my heart worse than looking at what was destroyed. I see people trying to say that this is God’s will, and that is false. I see people getting angry at the school district for not canceling school as if anyone in that town could have known what was about to happen. That is like saying that the daycare in the Federal buildings in OKC should have known to close the day that Timothy McVeigh blew it up. I have seen people blaming God for letting this happen. I see a lot of hurt and confusion talking, I also see a lot of ignorance being spoken as well.

In a time like this its a great deal easier to see God’s love. Now you might think I’m saying this because of all the people who are showing up to local churches to bring supplies, but that’s not it. Or maybe it’s because of all the people who have left their jobs to go help people sort out and clean up what used to be their home, but that’s not it either. Could it me in the statement of an elderly gentleman who when interviewed said “All this stuff belongs to God anyway, he can do what he wants with it,” but that’s not it either (although I pray that we can all get to that point in our life where this is a reality for us and not just a church saying). Where I see it is in the tornado.

I’m sure some of you think I have lost my mind but let me explain. You know when God set up the world he designed tornadoes? He put it in his design that when the conditions are right wind and water will be come a devastating force that we can neither predict nor control. We can make guesses and observations but we can no more control the direction of a tornado than we can change the color of the sky. But God can control it. While I do not believe He directly caused this tornado it is His design. I also have read about the power of my brother and Savior simply speaking to a similar storm and it went immediately calm. And if this is what my God can do when limited to human form how much more could He do when He is unlimited.

So how does that exactly show His love? I mean doesn’t it make sense that if He really is a loving and all-powerful God, why didn’t he stop this? Did the people of Moore do something wrong and they needed to be punished? I mean Moore has been slapped like this several times. In fact the year after the storm I experienced they got hit again. I doubt that God is punishing Moore. Or maybe those people who died he needed in heaven.

I’m going to take a small break in my narrative and soap box for a moment. All of you people who are saying things like “At least these little children are with God now,” or “God must have needed them in heave,” could you kindly do us all a favor and shut your mouth. that is not helpful and it’s just plain ignorant. If you think for a second that God’s heart is not absolutely shattered at the loss of life, child or adult, you clearly have no understanding of who God really is. If your child was suffering, no matter what the cause, you would be suffering as well. So if you, being an utterly imperfect parent, feel this way, how much more is God enduring right now? Comments like the one above only hurt and misrepresent God. If you are looking for something to say that will comfort people stick with I’m sorry and I’m praying. That is unless you happen to know a magical combination of cliché’s that will actually restore those lives that are gone, then you can say horrible things like “This must be God’s will.”

Ok back to the original line of thought.So how do I see God’s love in Him not stopping a terrible storm that took lots of lives and destroyed so much? It’s because He didn’t interfere. WHAT?! Yeah it’s because He didn’t change anything He created simply because I don’t like the results. It shows me that I am not in control. It shows me that my life should not be about what I want because what want is irrelevant. Life is not about my happiness. Life is not about being free from suffering. In the words of the wise Dread Pirate Roberts, “Life is pain.”

In times of loss and pain we always look for reason or explanation as to why this was a good thing. You know what, sometimes bad things happen. It’s not God’s plan, it’s not His will but it happened. Instead of looking for your own explanation in times like this turn to God for comfort. Too often when things like this happen we turn to God for him to explain Himself. I dare say that exercise is futile because I fear His explanation will be, sometimes bad things happen. But if we instead will turn to him for comfort and consolation I believe we will find an embrace that will comfort better than any hug ever could. If we ask Him to help with the pain I think we will find rest that beats any blanket and warm bed.

In times like these don’t run to God with your accusatory wagging finger or your idiotic explanation of the unexplainable. Instead run to Him with your broken heart and your bottomless sadness, as a child runs to his father after he has fallen off his bike and skinned his knee. Run to Him and crawl up in his lap with your hurt, let him clean your wound. Let him stitch up the scar and let Him hold you in His arms. Come to Him humbly and broken and He will comfort you.

For Example

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWWbOY97lFw

I’ve been meaning to blog for several weeks and things have just been so crazy around here I haven’t had time. In that time many ideas have come and gone bringing me to the conclusion that I need to buy a literate flying monkey to fly over my shoulder so that I can simply mutter the idea to him and he can write it down. I think I will name him Rupert. What does that have to do with relevancy? Nothing.

I try to stay pretty well read when it comes to youth ministry and I have heard this line said several times in both the books I read and in the talks I’ve heard: “We have to keep the word of God relevant!” Well I have a problem with that, because either the word of God is relevant or it isn’t. I can’t make God’s word anything other than what it is. What we need to be guarding is our presentation of the Word. By trying to “make God’s word relevant” or focus becomes less on what is God saying to me and more on how can I make God’s word speak. What we do in effect is put words into the mouth of God. Now I don’t know about you but I don’t know that I want to be telling God what he should be saying.

I think we spend too much time trying to show teens and possibly the church how the things in the world look similar to what is in the Bible. We waste hours trying to find video clips and songs that are popular so that we can some how twist them to fit what the Bible says. Basically we try to get the things in this world to speak for God. We end up with ridiculous boxed curriculum like “The Simpson’s Gospel” or “The Office Small Group Study.” I don’t know about you but I don’t want the world telling God what he should be saying.

So what do we do different? We sit down with the book and let it speak to us. We let God speak for Himself. I can’t tell you how many times I have approached my study for class thinking, “Ok here’s what I want to say so how do I use the Bible to make my point?” I do it too much (although doing it at all is too much.) Think real hard and think when was the last time you sat down to read the Bible to see what he had to say to you? Not going in to study a particular subject just to let him talk? How much time do you spend every week reading the new book on relevant ministry or the new “movement in evangelical theology.” Which side is heavier on that scale?

If our presentation of God’s work makes it come off as irrelevant or inapplicable then it’s not God’s word that needs to change, its our presentation. We think we need to make our presentation exciting and entertaining, but does that really mean we need to have 5 video’s of Lost queued up in MediaShout to get kids to pay attention? Is that even for them or have you become bored with the Word? It’s normal and it’s not shameful you just need to realize it and figure out why. Enthusiasm and positivity are contagious, but so are apathy and pessimism. Your attitude comes through in your presentation and saturates your message. If you can’t be enthusiastic about it (no I’m not going to say don’t teach it) then be honest about that and spend some time explaining why you still believe its important even though you aren’t excited about it. That in itself is a lesson we all need to know. Christianity isn’t always light shows and good feelings but of all the things it is, it is ALWAYS relevant.

There is a house with roses in the front yard. In this house lives a stubborn old missionary and his daughter. There is really nothing special about this house, but if you saw it like I do there is no mansion in Beverly Hills, no estate in England that could rival it’s beauty.

In this house there is a freezer with the most delicious homemade freezer jam ever made with tiny crystals of sugar hidden it that become their own special surprise. In this house there is a small dachshund that will bark at anyone who walks through the door no matter who it is or how long they have lived there.

In front of this house is a bench in a rose garden that started me in the most spectacular adventure I have ever been on. On that bench I fell in love for the last time after having fought it all the way.

In this house I silenced a man who had never in his life been found at a loss for words. In this house I was often awaken to GOOD MORNING TO YOU!!! Often times harmonized poorly. Never at less than full volume. Never sung well.

In this house is a table where I have set many mornings reading the comic section of the paper because its the only part of the paper I can stand to read. I was required to be at this table at least once a week for a family meal. It consequently was the only meal I would have with this group of people that didn’t involve the phrase “To heaven if we follow Jesus,” uttered at kneejerk speed.

All around this house are flowers, mostly roses but always flowers. I’ve often been there in the winter when I’m sure it would have been impossible to have flowers, but for some reason every memory of that house has flowers in it. These flowers were planted by some one I believe had to a direct descendant of Eve herself. I don’t think she could have killed a plant if she wanted to, but then again I do believe this woman could accomplish anything she set her mind to.

In this house was a 300 gallon fish tank. That’s probably an exaggeration but I’m pretty sure Bass Pro Shop got their design ideas from this tank. Every other tank I have ever seen always had just a little algae build up on it somewhere. Never this one. Every single viewing surface of this tank was spotless…on the inside. The outside always seemed to have at least 3 or 4 sets of tiny fingerprints from unimaginably loved grandchildren. I always loved looking at that tank. I couldn’t tell you what kind if fish were in it but I can tell you that they were happy fish. Everything in that house was happy even when it wasn’t.

In this house is a couch that has seen more Mariners games than the people that sat on it. It has seen countless college football games that its controlling occupant watched through his mouth. This couch has seen every episode of Star Trek and just about every crime drama ever. This couch was where I was sitting when I saw the stubborn old missionary in his underwear and undershirt. It is also where I watched him ride a NordicTrak in spandex. These two memories are the only two memories I have worked tirelessly to scrub
from my banks and have not yet succeeded at.

In this house is a bedroom with bookshelves crammed way beyond their weight capacity with books. I couldn’t tell you what kind of books they were because it always felt slightly odd to me to be in there.

In this house is a kitchen that if it were a recipe book it would have made Julia Child weep at her own inadequacy. The walls of this room are saturated with aromas of countless meals and sealed in with a thick coating of the love that went into every one. Some how even just a glass of water from there tasted better, even though it was terrible municipal water.

In this kitchen I made a promise that I was reminded of today. You see every Saturday I set about the task of shaving my head. If you read my blog regularly you already know why so I won’t recount it again, although I never grow tired of telling it. Every Saturday I wish my hair would start thinning because some days the task of shaving this orb of wisdom is just exhausting. And every Saturday I am reminded of just how much I am loved. Not was loved not used to be loved, AM loved.

Every time I shave my head a new memory pops into my head. Today it was something small but it feels huge to me. You see in that bedroom is a bed. I set next to this bed as my aunt was passing away and held her hand. She either hiccuped or a sharp pain hit her, I choose to believe it was a hiccup, and I said to her, “Yeah I have that effect on most women.” She squeezed my hand because she was way beyond being able to talk at that point, and I choose to believe that was her smacking me on the arm for being a smart mouth again. I also choose to believe it was as much of her signature laugh as she could muster. In my head I heard her laugh.

It’s hard to believe that the memory of that house means so much to me. I mean none of the people that lived there are related to me by blood, though if she ever heard me say that I’d be in trouble. Why would a 300 pound man be afraid of a little old (I get hit for that too) 120 pound woman with a bum hip? I don’t know but I was and to be honest I still kind of am.

The house used to be on street named something like T&G or something which I always though sounded like a name to knock off root beer. They have since changed the name of the street to Brickyard which I think is much more fitting. The spiritual houses that were built in that house were made from strong bricks made with African clay and potting soil. I have a few of them in my own house. They are strong and I believe unbreakable. I’m proud to share them with the thousands of people that have them and I look forward to seeing them in my children’s lives.

There is a house with roses in the front yard. It’s not much to look at if you don’t know how to see it. It may look to you just like every other double wide on that street, but to me, oh to me, it is one of the most beautiful houses I have ever seen. When I get to heaven, after I’ve seen my Father, my very next stop will be to find the house in heaven with the roses in the front yard.

When I was in third grade I was diagnosed with ADD. I don’t remember every drug they tried but I remember that I took a drug called Cylert because none of the other drugs worked. For most of you that means nothing at all so I want to tell you a little bit about Cylert. Now when most people hear ADD or ADHD they instantly go to Ritalin because that is what is most often prescribed and for people with ADD or ADHD it tends to help them alot. But if Ritalin doesn’t work they try a couple of other things that get incrementally more dangerous as you go up. Cylert is the top of the chart. I had to get liver tests every 6 months to make sure that it wasn’t doing too much damage. When I was diagnosed ADD was kind of the cutting edge diagnosis. Basically if he is overactive and we don’t know what it is we’ll call it ADD. Its further confused because ADD has no unique symptoms, its shares symptoms with depression and generalized anxiety disorder. When I was 25 I was re-diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and to my surprise the very first medication I was prescribed did wonders! Cylert is a stimulant so it messes with your system quite a bit and what I’m on now is not and doesn’t require blood tests. So for almost 16 I had been on a dangerous drug that did nothing but put me in a fog because I was misdiagnosed.

Now I know I’m a minister and this is supposed to be a spiritual blog, don’t worry I had to tell you all of that to start you off where I was when I thought of something. The reason all medications for ADD didn’t work was because I didn’t have ADD. Now they found something that kind of dealt with the symptoms but it never really helped with the problem. I think we at times do something similar to that in our churches. We notice problems the church is suffering with and we start throwing programming at it. “Oh our parents don’t seem to know how to effectively parent there kids? Let’s do a series of parenting classes.” “Oh the older members are complaining alot about not being considered? Lets start a golden oldies class so we they can have a class they feel is directed to them.” “Hey our teens don’t seem to have very much biblical knowledge! Lets start a Bible Bowl ministry so we can get them to study more.” Now I am not saying programming is wrong, that we shouldn’t have it, or even that they aren’t doing any good. What I’m asking is are we throwing medications at the symptoms and not spending time looking at the problem.

What if the parents don’t know how to parent because their parents used all the programs we are throwing but didn’t understand the basic concepts and principles of parenting? What if they know what to do but not why they are doing it?  What if the reason the older members are complaining about being neglected because they are lonely? What if the problems they are having have nothing to do with what happens on Wednesdays and Sundays but the fact that those are the only times they see anyone? What if the reason the kids don’t have a whole lot of knowledge is because the children’s ministry has been hodgepodged for 30 years and no real lesson plan has assured they get a good foundation? What if the problem is that parents aren’t taking time to study themselves and expecting the programs at church to take care of their kids for them?

If all we are doing is coming up with different programs to deal with the symptoms and not the problem we might find some things that help for a while but eventually they won’t work any more. Then we’ll have to do a bigger program that takes up more man hours and more energy. But what if the parenting classes we chose to implement taught less about what to do and more why to do it? What if  we started getting the retirees together for lunch a couple days a week so that they could see each other?

In my experience what we tend to do as a fellowship is throw money and programming at problems so that we can deal with them super fast and often times we don’t stop to look if what we are doing is actually addressing the problem. To do that risks people getting fed up and leaving and that means our membership will go down. If our membership goes down we won’t be able to maintain the programming we have going financially and man power wise. Those are very real concerns, but I truly believe that if we will take the time to address the problems and not the complaints we will find our congregations more energized and less programmed into compliance because they are doing so many things they don’t have time to stop and see the problems.

I think that if we stopped and looked we would find that the programming necessary to address the problems people in the congregation are having, we would find that the answers are very simple, very easy to implement, and you will have a hard time finding work for all the volunteers to do.

If you come to Christianity looking for black and white I think you might be out of luck. I grew up in my faith thinking that with Christianity there were no shades of gray, that a relationship with God dealt only in black and white. By that I mean that there was an absolute right and wrong in every situation that was irrespective of the individuals involved in the situation. As I have grown in my faith I have learned that there is actually alot of things left up to us.

To me a reliance on absolutes shows a shallow faith. I don’t say that as a judgement, its an observation from my own life. It’s really easy to stand up for “what’s right” when you believe that your idea of right is the absolute truth. It’s easy when you believe what is right for you is right for everyone. You don’t have to question whether what you are doing violates your own conscience. You don’t have to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your life. You don’t have to let Him tell you how your relationship with God is. You can really ignore him completely. The question is what do you do when you read, “ So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.,” Romans 14:22? What do you do with the passage when it says if you believe its wrong then for you it is wrong? How do you apply a blanket black and white rule when God says, “Really that’s up to you how to interpret this?”

I think maybe one of our flaws come in viewing Christianity as a corporate lifestyle with individual elements instead of an individual relationship with corporate elements. Looking at it this way we start dealing with entitlements and judgement that I don’t think have any place in a relationship with Jesus. I think of it like looking through the eyes of a younger sibling. This is completely speculation because I neither have, nor am a younger sibling. To me its like the younger sibling and looking at all the things the older sibling is allowed to do that the younger is not. Now we all know that there is nothing wrong with making mac and cheese on the stove, but letting a 4 year old do it isn’t a good idea. So we tell the younger sibling that its wrong for him to make mac and cheese on the stove top but it’s not wrong for the 15 year old to do it. Looking at Christianity as a corporate lifestyle would be like that 4 year old saying that, instead of it being wrong for him, it is wrong for everyone to make mac and cheese on the stove. Then anytime the 15 year old older sibling makes mac and cheese on the stove the 4 year old giving him a sound scolding for doing something that is wrong. The thought of it is ridiculous but it really isn’t all that different. Looking at Christianity as a personal lifestyle would be like the 4 year old realizing that its not right for HIM to make mac and cheese on the stove, but it doesn’t mean that making mac and cheese on the stove is wrong. Maybe this is an oversimplification of the issue but it makes sense in my head.

Now don’t get it twisted and think that I’m saying there is no absolute right and wrong. I believe they are, and they are specified in God’s word. For instance infidelity is one of those things that is absolutely wrong. And everyone would agree that extramarital sex is wrong. But if that’s all we have to worry about that’s a pretty low bar set. All I have to do to be faithful to my wife is not have sex with another woman that’s easy. But to me infidelity means alot more. It means that if I put anything, other than my relationship with God, in front of my relationship with my wife I am being unfaithful. To me the man who spends more time and energy at his job than he does on his relationship with his wife, he has been unfaithful. To me the man that holds his own desires above the needs of his wife, he has been unfaithful. To me the man that turns to other women or other people for the emotional relationship he should have with his wife has been unfaithful. But that’s what I believe, and while I think its a great way to look at things, I have no right to hold you to that. That’s is what the Holy Spirit said to me. I have to work hard at not judging the people I see doing what would be wrong for me. Now does that mean I can’t tell other people about what I believe? Absolutely not and to do that would be selfish. The Holy Spirit has revealed something to me, I should share that. But if I go beyond telling you what I was told then I step into that judgement realm and my study has led me to believe that’s wrong too. Judgement is not my job, that’s Jesus’. My job is to tell what I’ve been told.

In an effort to be righteous we have equated with being right with being righteous. So instead of studying and listening to what the Holy Spirit tells us, we look to the word to find out what is absolutely right and wrong and then apply our interpretation as what the word says as absolute truth. The problem is we can all read the exact same thing and come to different conclusions, so who is right? Is your interpretation right because you can read Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Ethiopic? Is mine right because I know more about the culture it was written in? WHO’S INTERPRETATION IS RIGHT?!?!?!

There was a group that set about to define that for everyone and when THE authority came he said “You’ve heard it said, but I say to you.” Basically he took the bar and set it even higher and harder. The message I got was it wasn’t about righteousness because righteousness for us is unattainable. The message was about relationship. Only through a relationship would righteousness be available to us. And it doesn’t belong to us.

You have an option: You can have self-righteousness, which no one says they want but we all tend to choose that more often than not, or you can have real-righteousness, but that only comes with giving up the need to be right. When we are presented with flaws in what we thought were absolute truths an option is placed in front of you: Do I hold to what I have always believed to be right and sink my heels in and refuse to let go of the righteousness I’ve built up for myself; OR do I value my relationship with my Brother and Savior enough to let go of it and do what I know to do now? The problem is I have to admit that I might have been wrong about something, and I don’t like doing that.

Have you ever ridiculed a child who just learned to walk for having crawled previously? Why not? You and I both know that humans were made to walk on two feet and that’s the best way of propulsion available to us. Why wouldn’t you think a baby was stupid for ever crawling? We weren’t made to crawl. Giraffe babies are running with in minutes of being born so I mean there’s that. So why wouldn’t you ever consider a crawling baby as foolish? The idea sounds funny doesn’t it, but its not a joke. If you would no more consider a baby foolish for getting around the only way it knew how until it was ready for a different way, why would you do the same thing to yourself and to your brother in your faith. Maybe we could get alot further as a people if we would stop kicking crawling babies and help them learn to walk. Maybe if instead of pointing out what you are doing wrong I could spend my time showing you what I have found to be a better way. Maybe we could realize that we aren’t as far along in our faith as we think we are and maybe we can realize that there are others ahead of and behind us. Maybe we can realize that God works in us all differently but loves us all equally. Maybe if we could stop expecting babies to run and start helping them learn to walk we could have more people crossing the finish line. Righteousness isn’t a goal its a gift. Self-righteousness is a hobble, an anchor, a stumbling block, and a hindrance to you and anyone you throw it at. You would do well just to do away with it all together.

How grateful are you? Recently I have hit this patch where I am hyper aware of the people in my life that do awful jobs and I am extremely grateful. What sparked it was walking out to my car today with almost intolerably cold and windy weather conditions. It was miserable to be in just to walk out to the car, and then I realized; my garbage men are riding on the back of a truck picking up other people’s garbage, all day. I have never thanked them for that. Is it their job? Yeah they get paid for it. But still when was the last time you thought to say thank you to these men? If you are like me then most of the time even if you are out there when they are you try to pretend they aren’t there. If it were not for them you would have piles and piles of moldy bread and Chick-Fil-A wrappers to deal with. I spent my short drive to work trying to think of ways I could thank them for what they do.

The other thing that came to my mind was how thankful I am to my brothers over at Duck Commander. They have no way to know how much joy they bring into my life just by simply letting me watch them live. I find my self saying “Well Hey” and “Jack” way more than I used to. I have also adopted the Phil Robertson thumbs up. I don’t know why it just seems happier and more enthusiastic than a normal thumbs up. These people are a part of my family and even though they have no idea who I am, they bring me so much encouragement. The best days I have are ones that start with watching their show. There is so much negativity in this world, ESPECIALLY on that television. Its nice to know that I have family committed not just to putting out something fun to watch but using that as a springboard to give people hope. I think that’s what makes this show so special to me.

So what does that have to do with being grateful? I don’t know the Robertson’s, even though I’ve read Willie and Korrie’s book and plan to read Phil’s. The Robertson’s don’t know me. But I am thankful to them for the encouragement they bring me. I would like to meet them, not because they are famous, but because I would like a chance to tell them face to face that I appreciate what they do. And this sparks another thought in me. Gratitude, REAL gratitude, inspires action. Because I became aware of my gratitude I wanted to do something for these people that I don’t even know. If Jase Robertson were to send me a tweet asking me to pick him up at the airport and drive him to West Virginia, I have to say I would do it. And it isn’t because from what I have seen of him, he seems to be a kindred spirit, its because I almost I feel like I owe him for the joy he has unknowingly brought me. It’s not an indebtedness but more of a I WANT to do something for not just Jase but even my garbage man. If he were to come up and ask me to use the bathroom or for a cup of coffee or something, I would happily do that.

It made me wonder how much of what I do is based on my gratitude. Shouldn’t the life I live be based on the gratitude of what Jesus did for me? I’m not talking about in the philosophical sense I’m talking about practicality. If I feel so grateful to my garbage man and a duck call making redneck, why do I act out my faith from obligation? Jesus the man gave his life for me, he didn’t just take my garbage to a landfill, he made it go away forever. Jesus the man gave me access to joy that doesn’t end a day or two later, not just broke a samurai sword cutting up fruit. And he has asked me for a favor, approach life looking for opportunities to bring people into him.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been struggling with a few people I interact with who are ministers as well. I have watched them be divisive, offensive, exclusive, and self righteous in one breath and then in the next one talk about grace and acceptance. I’ve watched them try to make the world meet Christ on their terms. I’ve struggled with anger and disappointment at the things they said and the mindset they appeared to have. I spent way too much time trying to figure out what to say to them to make them realize what they are doing. I wanted to show them that they were alienating people. I wanted to fix them and make them the way they should be. And then like a 2×6 (he used to use 2×4′s but I built up a tolerance) it slaps me in the face; I was trying to do the same thing they were doing. 

It always worries me when minister’s talk about anything with great certainty other than salvation. And when I say minister’s I mean even myself. The times I am most uncomfortable are when I realize I think I have the right answer to a question about faith. When that happens in my life it tends to become a soap box. And what I have noticed in the ministerial world is we don’t stand on soap boxes any more we wield them like weapons. We take that soap box that we are so sure is solid and we bash people to death with it. We tell them that the way they praise God is wrong. We tell them that the place they are worshiping is shameful. We tell them that the clothes they are wearing to services are disrespectful to God. And we bash and slam and crush until we meet with a logic or a reasoning sturdier than our soapbox and then we usually smash our soap box to bits. The smart thing to do at that point is to study just exactly what it was that destroyed our soap box and see what made it so strong. What we usually do, at least to my observation, is retreat back into our clubhouse with all the other people who have soapboxes like mine and put mine back together with their help and then back out I go. 

The only time I saw my savior take up arms was when he saw people disrespecting people looking for hope. It wasn’t going interrupt Jesus’ worship to have people in the court of the Gentiles selling sheep and trading money. It really wasn’t going to inconvenience him at all. Who it interrupted and inconvenience were people that really had no real reason to worship God anyway. Gentiles had no reason to claim anything from God. They never got to sit in on the services. Chances are they didn’t even get to hear what was being said. They for sure weren’t went in and wrecked shop because they were trying to worship YHWH in a marketplace. And he didn’t run them out so things looked like what he wanted them to look like. He wasn’t cracking the whip to make sure people dressed right or sang the way he was comfortable. I think he cleared the temple because the Jews had written the proselytes off because they weren’t like them. 

Maybe its high time we stopped acting out of what we believe is righteous indignation and more out of gratitude. That means we are going to have to leave the things that are comfortable and doing things the way Christ did. Jesus didn’t sit in the synagogue and wait for sinners to come to him, and then only when they dressed and acted appropriately. He went out and sat at the well with the Samaritan woman. He called Zaccheus down from the tree to go to dinner at his house. He met sinners where they were and offered them hope. His message never changed, but his presentation did. He didn’t tell shepherds using parables about fishing. He didn’t teach farmers using tax collector jargon. He saw exactly how people were and where they were, under the fig tree or in the leper colony, he went to them and offered them hope. 

He has asked us to spread the same hope the same way. Go to where the sick, lost, hurt people are and offer them hope. Not offer them the chance at hope if they fit into what Christ has put on your heart to be. Offer them the hope that you have. The hope you have is that as broken and wrong as you are ALL THE TIME, he can still use you and he still wants you. Ties or tank tops you are valuable to him.

Posted: February 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

bigpoppachunk:

I don’t know how many unique followers I have that I don’t share with Abby but this is too good of a story not to share. I dare say in a very few short years there will be preachers using this in their sermons. I am continually amazed by this woman. Please read and enjoy!

Originally posted on Life. Wherever I am.:

There has existed, in the annals of time, a section of Africa near the mountains of Zimbabwe, that has housed a creature of such shock and horror that the people there have refused, over multiple generations, to speak its name. And none now live who can recall to memory it’s despicable deeds.

 

Except me.

 

A long time ago there existed a village nestled snugly in a small valley. The people of this village kept the floors clean, their water unspoiled, and the children protected from wild beasts. They were a happy village, existing day-to-day in a state of peace and community, each sharing what they had with their neighbor.

 

One day a woman, in need of one more scoop of corn, came to her neighbor and asked to borrow from her supply. The neighbor woman said she would gladly loan the other woman some corn as long as she…

View original 684 more words

Last week I was humbled. I have recently started lifting weights again and last Tuesday we maxed out on bench and incline (that means I tested how much I could lift.) Last time I lifted I had gotten my max up to 315 on bench, something I was quite proud of. In the past I have had lapses between lifting and rarely had I lost more than 25-30 pounds on my max. So as I sat down to max again I figured that maybe I’d dropped to 275-285 and so I loaded up 250 thinking I would push that out of the way quite easily but I didn’t want to be TOO arrogant. I lifted it off the rack and I got a tad worried because it was heavy. As I lowered it to my chest my concern grew because this was REALLY heavy. At the point the bar hit my chest the concern gave way to resignation, I was NOT getting this bar back up. At the end of the night my max was 225…I had lost almost 100 pounds off of my last max. ONE HUNDRED POUNDS!!!!!!!! I was crest fallen.

There is a saying I have said, that I’m not entirely sure I didn’t come up with myself, “Be humble or be humbled.” Its how I like to think I approach life. I know that God’s power is shown in my weakness, “…my power is made perfect in weakness,” I Corinthians 12:9. I also know that its hard for God to use me if I don’t approach the tasks given me with humility, AND if I ask Him to do what He needs to do to use me, that will generally start with humbling. That humbling can be self imposed or God imposed, and doing it myself is a much more pleasant experience. But if I am unwilling or unable to humble myself to the level that is useful, I can count on God to do it for me.

I said all that to say this, I have seen a startling arrogance with in the fellowship I claim. Many claim to be familiar enough with God to speak His mind for Him. They seem to know with great alacrity things that please and displease Him that I currently do not see in what He left us. I wish I could limit this to a rare few but to my recollection this is something that I have heard throughout my life. The range of topics is quite expansive, from clothing that should be worn to what exactly constitutes “orderly worship.”

This great certainty troubles me because it gives a false sense of safety that I don’t believe we are given in scripture. I fear that pursuit of truth has become a pursuit of correctness so that we can have a concrete defense of our own actions. I see this breeding an entitlement attitude when it comes to our relationship with God. “I KNOW that what I am doing is right and therefor God MUST accept it.” There has to be a reason Paul told the Philippian church to, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Phillipans 2:12

If you are looking for concrete answers to what exactly you have to do to please God, I fear my answer won’t help. I don’t know. I can’t give you any definites. Anyone that says that can is either lying (which I won’t rule out entirely but I would suggest that those people are few and far between) or is severely misguided themselves. I don’t know if this has come from the current faith culture wanting to have the guy up front tell them what they can do so they can do it and never have to do any study for themselves, or if it has arisen from a prideful mindset of ministers, wanting to have all the answers so people value them more. I dare say it is a combination of the two.

The fact of the matter is that there aren’t as many black and white issues in scripture as we would like. To be honest I wish there were because it would make things a lot easier. Maybe there wouldn’t be as many divisions among the people claiming to be family. Maybe we wouldn’t be fighting each other over things like styles of music, clapping, apparel, number of cups to use, kitchens, Sunday school, gender roles, and a myriad of other things we have used to divide ourselves. Each party believes that what they are doing is pleasing to God and what those who don’t agree with them is not. It would have been a lot easier if God had written an order of worship, job descriptions for each service we were to do, building plans for what pleases Him (Which by the way the only time he did that was when he described his tent, even the temple David designed was David’s design not God’s. I wonder if it had a kitchen), and what exactly He wants us to wear. But he didn’t. All we have is, “ Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin,” Romans 14:19-22.

I think that the flaw comes from a misconception about worship. When I stop to think about it it’s amazing to me how much like the Israelites in Jesus’ time we actually are. We rely on people that have degree’s in ministry and Masters of Divinity (what an arrogant name for a degree, and no the irony is not lost on me that I am soon to start the process of acquiring one of them) to tell us what pleases God. Instead of what animals and in what number we need to offer, we tell them how the Spirit will express Himself acceptably. Instead of what incense should we burn, we tell people what kind of praise is acceptable. Instead of how far can we travel from our home and still be within the law, we tell people what the can wear to our “worship service” and still be pleasing to God. The problem with all of this is in Hebrews we are told that all of those things were only facades pointing to what is available today. What “new order” are our “matter(s) of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations,” (Hebrews 9:10) pointing towards?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will,” Romans 12:1-2. Worship is not something you do on Sunday Morning, Sunday Night, Wednesday Night, and on the occasions of special Gospel Meetings. Worship is something you ARE not something you DO. If God has given your body a talent, using that talent is worship. If you are an exceptional electrician, you don’t need to fix the lights down at the church building to use your talent for worship. By simply being the kind of electrician Jesus would have been, doing your job so that when people see you work and see your work it will point to something bigger than yourself, and yes that is possible, you worship God. I believe that every act of worship has its appropriate place to be performed,and just as preaching to a light switch on the evils of not doing its job would do no more good to get it to work properly than would trying to encourage a congregation by wiring their eyes to light up when they blinked (something I wouldn’t turn down if possible provided I could pick the color. OOOOOO or be able to change the color!)

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,  while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,  so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other,” I Corinthians 12L21-25. Your ministers are no more important than you are, and look at this verse a little closer. Usually we think that this is talking about all the people that work behind the scenes. What if Paul was talking about ministers when he was talking about the parts treated with “special modesty?” I mean who has more exposure in the world you or your ministers? I know that the people I attend services with interact with a TON more lost people than I do. Maybe I as a minister am the unpresentable part. Maybe I’m the part that God gave greater honor to because I’m one of the parts who’s function lacks it.

To all my family, stop treating your ministers as something special, we don’t need it and to be honest it makes life really lonely. There is nothing about what we do that makes us more special than you because we get up in front of you and share what we have learned for the week. Minister’s stop acting like what you do is more important than the man who empties portajohns, its not. God has given us the abilities we have because they are what we need to be in relationship with Him. Maybe He gave us speaking abilities and a desire to study His word not because we are not stronger than the people we serve, but because without them we wouldn’t seek a relationship with him at all. It’s time for us to stop speaking for God, and start sharing what we learned not what we already know.

Be Humble or Be Humbled.