Archive for December, 2016

Nasty Habits

Maybe some of you will understand what I’m talking about, maybe some will have no clue.  Have you ever done something for so long that you really don’t know why you do it that way? Now I’m not talking about seriously bad habits,  just those things that if someone asks you why,  you have no idea how to respond. The ones that have gone on for generations are the most amazing to me. For example, since the very first purchase of an automobile in our family, going back 100 years, everyone since has always purchased the same make of car. Thank goodness they didn’t buy a Studebaker or Kissel, or we would all be walking!  To this day, buying something else just seems unthinkable and counterintuitive.

Often our church life is filled with those things too. We do things out of simple habit, don’t we? We sit in the same spot, say the same prayers and responses, sing the same songs, and  talk  to the same people. That has become the church experience for us, that’s just how we do it. We staunchly reject any change because, well, then it doesn’t fit our habit of church. New people are ok, I guess,  but they had better stick with the plan and sit in the cheap seats or they will experience the cold shoulder. If they have kids, they’d better keep quiet and they had better dress like us and make us feel good about ourselves. After all, that’s what church is for, to make us feel good and holy.

We build big beautiful buildings, have programs to include people that we accept, lovely music (but with out that satanic beat), spend money on programs, supplies, sound equipment, cushy seats, and hire a Pastor that makes us feel like we’re better than everyone else because we dressed up and showed up. That Pastor better keep the sermons light and fluffy for everyone, because we cant afford to lose anyone. We’ve got big bills to pay! Plus, it gives opportunity to cut down folks that have a horrible voice or maybe don’t dress as nice as us. Jesus sure is lucky to have us!

But friends, why are we doing it this way? For example, nowhere in the Bible does it ever say the church is a building. Absolutely nowhere. They met in peoples homes. So now we have a big building, fancy it up and wait for people to come to us. Again, nowhere in the Bible does it suggest that people should come to us. It says we are to go out into the world, not hide in a self righteous holy huddle in a building. How many churches go out and do anything anymore? Except for a dozen Jews that were Jesus’ pals, the whole world was unwashed filthy heathens, but they didn’t hide. They went hundreds of miles on foot to share the good news of Jesus and they all died very ugly deaths except for John. Their converts died ugly deaths too, but they kept preaching and establishing churches. They weren’t real estate developers , songwriters or tailors. They sought out the lost. That’s what Jesus said to do.

Now flash back to us.  American holier than thou us. We hide in a building and the only good we do for the world is to tell them how they ought to act. That’s our habit and just how things are done.  If folks don’t dress like us sing like us or live like us, we exclude them or at least keep them alienated till they leave.

What are we doing? How could we have developed these habits that are so far from what Jesus taught? The American church has become what He preached against. Is it really just habit or are we really that rotten and worldly? Perhaps its time to re-examine what we are doing in Jesus’ name. I know that I am. It is uncomfortable friends. Kicking the habit of churchism is counter-cultural. Then again, my Savior was quite a counter-cultural hero, and He really got a lot of resistance. Can we, as individuals, take the ridicule of following Jesus’ words over church society? Can we stand up to the councils and committees that regulate who gets to hear about a gracious and loving Savior? Can we change our own thoughts about who is worthy and what God would really have us do in His name?

Friends, lets not waste any more of our time being slaves to churchism. I want to be a slave of Jesus Christ, not a building or social committee. I don’t know all of your stories or struggles, but I want you to know that you are always presentable to be with Jesus. Don’t let church people scare you away from Jesus. He may be the only one that accepts you and I, and I’m ok with that.

 

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Rejection

That’s kind of an ugly topic isn’t it?  I don’t like it either.  Jesus warned us about it, but its easier to read about than to experience. I’m at the vantage point that I’m taking note of how many times Jesus talks about being rejected and how He was rejected, even by the people of His hometown. He tries to give us strength and encouragement, while giving us warning that His followers will get the same treatment.

When I used to think about Jesus’ rejection, I had always thought that it was the worldly and all the “Bad” people that mistreated Him. Still, now I look at who He really quarreled with, who taunted, schemed behind His back and sought to quiet Him. It wasn’t the Romans or Gentiles. It was the religious elite of that time. Those who dressed just right, spoke eloquently and hung around the other self proclaimed righteous. The elite that had things set up just the way they wanted it and all that Jesus stuff was really rocking their boat. It was more important who you were on their social ladder to them and that they could pick and choose whoever they wanted to have around them.

2000 years later and nothing has changed. The elites are still in charge and all that Jesus stuff better not get in the way of the people in control. The social club is for making the elites look good. If someone starts taking the Bible too seriously, the scheming begins. We have elders, councils and committees to keep the elite in power and more importantly, to keep the outsiders out.

Luke 10:16 ” He who hears you, hears me, He who rejects you, rejects Me,  and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me”

I can’t help but wonder how long it would take for many of our elitist American churches to bounce Jesus out. Maybe He would sing too loud, or raise His hands and study His Bible or even (gasp!) have a tattoo! Maybe social time would find Him talking about His father or teaching and smiling while He did it. Maybe Holy Scripture would be more important than whoever brought cookies or His common lowly attire. Even God couldn’t help Him if He fell out of grace with the social committee (oops, council). Jesus would have to be placed away from people, marginalized and belittled until He got the hint and left. His only chance to hide is at Bible studies or worship nights that are too insignificant for the church elite to attend. Now, with that Jesus stuff gone, the committees can go back to work finding more paying members of the church and pondering why people aren’t rushing into the church to be in the presence of the Holy Council! Can you hear the crickets? Yup!

I’ll admit it, I don’t know how to handle those things. Jesus always knew the right thing to do, and I don’t.  My response is to get mad, but I don’t think that’s always right. Jesus would never conform to manmade social structure. His favorite people were the ones that the church elite rejected. Nope, conforming isn’t an option. Just cut and run? I wish I knew the answer. I know the world doesn’t know and since Jesus is my gracious King, I suppose the answer has to be in my Bible. Scripture has never let me down, but left to my own thoughts, I will certainly do the wrong thing. Being a Christian shouldn’t be this hard, but Jesus warned believers that it would be . Why aren’t we filled with joy like the persecuted church in the middle east or China? I guess its the difference between American church goers and true believers ready to die for Jesus. Death and poverty are all around them. We are so unworthy to be on the same planet as those folks. They know the real love for our Savior, not that poser social club that many of us experience. That must be why we give coins to missions, but don’t want to learn about the people and their unshakeable faith. They just aren’t sanitary enough and guilt isn’t the warm fuzzy emotion that we demand. Please don’t think that I’m picking on a single church or denomination, but don’t think that I’m excluding any church from this disease either. I guess I’m just as guilty in that when a church council agrees with me, I think they’re wonderful. Only when I’m the target do I get upset. I sure am. Pray for me friends, I really need it this week. I need Jesus’ wisdom to handle things in a way that glorifies Him.

May Almighty God have mercy on us all.

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