humbleshoeshineboy

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Legal Monsters

The latest horror to hit the news is David and Louise Turpin and their 13 abused children. We are all shocked and disgusted by the parents and wonder how they got away with this for so long. How could anyone abuse and starve their own family? Why didn’t someone say anything? Most will agree, no matter how harsh the punishment for those inhumane monsters, it isn’t harsh enough. Our hearts just bleed for those poor kids.

But what if what they did was legal? Is it possible that someone can be treated as cruelly as that and the law is on the side of the perpetrator? Yes it is, and let me tell you a true story.

There is a kind and sweet woman in her mid 70’s in the very later stages of Alzheimers disease. Lets call her Lorraine for this story. She chose to live with her son and his wife because of how her husband treated her. Lorraine was very happy living with them. She got 3 meals a day, her medicine, clean clothes and a room and bed of her own. Best of all for her, is that she got to see a lot of people. Lorraine is a people person and even though she couldn’t remember many names or who they were, everyone she met got a hug and a warm ” I love you”. As soon as company left, she was ready for some more people to come over. She was a joy to everyone that met her.

You see previously, when she was living with her husband, lets call him Lew, she didn’t get 3 meals a day, have a bed to sleep in, have someone to help her take care of her bathroom issues( by this time she was entirely incontinent), have clean clothes or even have her medicine. No one ever visited. Instead of kindness or hugs, she was called stupid or dummy because she couldn’t remember how to take care of herself and Lew. She couldn’t cook, do laundry, bathe herself, dress herself properly, or make it to the bathroom on time. She would unintentionally wander off or forget how to get back in the house. Communicating was getting difficult for her. Instead of love and care, she got insulted and made to feel worthless and ashamed of herself. He wouldn’t hesitate to belittle her in public. Lew wouldn’t even give her the medicine the doctors prescribed for her because it cost him money and wouldn’t cure her anyway. Any money spent on her was a waste in Lew’s opinion. She was there to take care of him and when she couldn’t, she was an object of scorn. He would say to her, that she ruined his life by getting sick. He didn’t even pretend to love her.

Fortunately after moving to the sons home, she really began to come out of her shell. It took a while, but getting her medicine, 3 meals a day, a warm bed to sleep in, and a loving family environment, she began to improve greatly. She requires 24 hour care and a watchful eye. Physically, she gained weight after being malnourished and her other health problems were being addressed. Mentally is where the biggest gains came. She began to laugh, not be laughed at. Lorraine wasn’t ashamed of herself anymore and she became the funny gal again, laughing freely without any hesitation. Even if she didn’t understand the joke, she would still laugh. She began to smile very often and noticed the beautiful things in nature. Like a beaten puppy learning to play, she could be herself again, and come out of her protective shell.

For nearly a year she was with her son, while Lew was still at his place and things were okay.  Okay until the suggestion was made that Lew could maybe help pay for some of Lorraine’s supplies. Now that the wife was caring for Lorraine fulltime, they were down to one income and things were tight. There are programs to assist, but Lew refused to fill out the needed paperwork. You see, Lew was spending all of his and her Social Security checks and her annuity. Lew takes good care of himself and it shows. It seemed like he couldn’t spend her money fast enough, but the thought of spending a penny on her was too much. He drove a brand new pickup, but had no money for a pair of shoes for Lorraine. On one of his weekend visits, he left with her and never returned. In fact, he refused to bring her back. Now she can’t get away. Back to no bed, malnutrition, not getting her medicine, no bathing or clean clothes, no one to help with her bathroom issues and no hugs or ” I love you’s”. Now she’s back to being the dummy and stupid, in a filthy home.

So why can’t she go back to the sons home?  The legal device to abuse someone is called Power of Attorney (POA). Since Lorraine is legally incompetent because of her Alzheimers disease, Lew is her POA. Lorraine doesn’t have the right to speak or decide for herself. Someone incompetent is unable to communicate with legal authority about what he/she wants to do. The POA cant be forcibly removed from Lew until he’s declared legally incompetent. He even brags that no one can make him do anything. Seems like he is correct. She has said she wanted to return to the sons home and has even pleaded with a social worker that she needs help.  Can you imagine the horror of begging for help and watching the Sheriffs car leave you behind? What do you think happened to her after that? Legally he had no choice. The Sheriff can’t remove her without immediate danger of injury or death.  Malnourishment, verbal abuse, cruelty, filthy conditions, lack of medical care don’t count. There is no law against forcing someone to live in squalid conditions. You see in this case, Lew is the one the law protects. The “David Turpin” in this case is on the laws side and the abused  person has no rights. Cruelty is sanctioned by our legal system.

Think of it this way, Charles Manson got 3 meals a day, a warm clean bed, clean clothes and any healthcare he needed. According to the law, because of the POA, sweet Lorraine has no right to the same treatment that Charles Manson got. The POA has no requirement to provide these things or care for her safety in any way. Its pretty hard to believe isn’t it? If she robbed a bank and went to jail, it would be a huge improvement for her. Any abuse in jail couldn’t be any more cruel than what she gets now from her own husband.

So who’s to blame? Why cant something be done? I will say this, people of authority are trying. They truly are, but this Power of Attorney system is messed up. Everyone needs a POA for very good reasons, but there needs to be some minimum standards acceptable by law. There has to be a limit to the amount of cruelty that the law can tolerate. Who can fix this? I just don’t know. I hate the idea of more laws, but the current care of Lorraine even violates the Geneva Convention standards of humane treatment, and the good people trying to help are blocked by POA rights.

I know many of you can’t believe that nothing can be done. So far that is the case. Mistreatment or abuse of a horse or any other animal will get you sent to jail, but an old person? Not so much. I have no doubt in my mind that Lorraine will die directly or indirectly from her treatment by her husband, if she won’t be allowed to leave. She may wander off, get sick from being so weak, or just die inside from hopelessness. In her generation this wouldn’t happen. Why are we allowing it in ours? Certainly Lorraine isn’t the only one in a POA prison. There may be thousands or more. I don’t have all the answers friends, but this is the most inhumane  thing that I’ve ever witnessed. Won’t someone help free Lorraine? I’m asking for your prayers. Pray hard friends

 

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Hiking With Woody and Scott

Woody and Scott have been friends since grade school. She is two years older, but she always had time for Scott. Woody had graduated from college a few years earlier, but now that Scott finally graduated, they were on the adventure that they had talked about for a long time. Both were pretty active hikers, so hiking on the Sierra Nevada Trail was the dream vacation for both of them. One particular highlight of the journey was being able to watch the sunrise from one of the highest peaks in the area. It was so high, that to get there in time to see the sunrise, they had to start out when it was still very dark.

Since Woody had been in the workforce for a couple years and had a good income, she was able to bring along an item that would make the dark part of their hike a lot easier. She had been able to find a set of night vision goggles on Ebay for pretty cheap and was eager to try them out. While Scott didn’t have a set, he would have to listen to Woody’s instruction, and their journey would go much quicker and safer.

I think its important to note how close Scott and Woody were. Woody was the stable one, not a lot of glitter and glamor, but always made the right decisions. Kind and quiet. Scott was nearly the opposite, one of those chaps that always had to do things his own way. Not bad hearted mind you, just stubborn. Woody always was able to look past his stubbornness and see the good in him. Many did not. Throughout Scotts life, Woody was the one person he could always count on while licking his wounds from another misadventure. She was always there with encouragement and always knew just what to say to get him back on his feet. As soon as his ego was restored, he was back on to another wild idea.

This hike was one thing that, these seemingly opposite friends, had looked forward to for a long time. Their reasons were different. For Woody it was more spiritual and for Scott it was a conquest. Still, their different motivations would lead them to the same point at sunrise. Watching a sunrise from a mountain peak is quite a breathtaking sight, regardless of motive.

The morning started well. Both were packed with everything they would need the night before, so it was a matter of a quick breakfast and they were on their way. Woody was playing with her night vision goggles and they worked great. She could see everything just fine. Scott grumbled a bit that he didn’t have a set, but he was really glad that they would make the hike a little easier. They had worked out a system so that he would get her directions to avoid any mishaps. If he got too far away, he wouldn’t hear her instruction, so he had to stay close. Hiking in the dark is dangerous in mountain lion country, not to mention rocks, loose stone and trees. Still confident, the pair headed out for the prize.

The trip started out pretty good, a few light mishaps as they got their signals coordinated, but they were getting the hang of it, and it was going smoother. It was going so smooth, that Scott started getting a little over confident. Woody was giving him constant signals to warn him of danger. As often happens, Scotts stubborn streak began to show. He began to ignore her advice and started to wander a bit. He’d stumble over a rock and move back close for a little while, but would soon wander again. After a while he had convinced himself that he was sick of listening to Woody always telling him what to do. After all, he had gotten this far ok, why did he need her anyway? So Scott began veering off, Woody’s voice getting more faint as he found his own way. He was glad when he couldn’t hear her anymore, he was so sick of being told to” do this, don’t do that,” he just didn’t want to hear it. He still liked her of course, but being watched over was too much. After all, he was a good hiker. His mind began to wander to many of the other hikes they had been on. He even had to help her a few times too. Well, maybe she didn’t need the help, but he enjoyed the feeling of helping out.

All of a sudden the rocks that he was walking on gave way and he slid down the trail ten feet. Even in the dark, he knew how awful that could have ended. His heart was racing and he could barely keep air in his lungs! He seen the danger of not hearing Woody’s advice. He had a choice, he could keep hiking his own way, or humble himself and go back to Woody who could see and warn him of the danger. He knew the danger of going ahead, but he was too prideful to go back to Woody, so he decided that the problem was the trail. After all, being on the trail didn’t prevent him from harm and even in the beginning he thought Woody gave him a few bad tips too. Scott decided that there are a lot of different ways to the peak. He didn’t have to listen to anybody. Of course there was that little problem of not being able to see anything. Well, he thought that he could feel his way around ok. Heck, he’s been hiking so much that he probably has a sixth sense about these things, he will just get a feeling on which way to go.

So, how do you think it went for Scott?  Scott ended up in a dark valley while Woody was waiting for him on the peak. Scott wasn’t there, he didn’t see it, but the sunrise was glorious without him.

So often the world views the Bible as a book of rules. If you follow the rules, you get to go to heaven, while rulebreakers go to hell. God just made up these rules and we have to do what he says or we are going to receive a penalty. Somehow that has morphed into giving people the idea that being a good citizen is all it takes to go to heaven. If you ask the average person on the street, they will tell you that they believe that they’re going to heaven because basically they are a good person, haven’t murdered anyone, and aren’t Adolph Hitler. That is being a good Christian to most Americans. Good citizen= good Christian. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that. Absolutely nowhere. The Bible says that you can’t be good enough. Who did Jesus bust on the most? The people who thought that they were good enough. He really cussed them out.

That’s one of the penalties of biblical illiteracy. People who know nothing about it pass on plenty of information. We’ve all heard, “God helps those who help themselves.” That is not only not in the Bible, but the opposite is true. It just doesn’t say that at all. The Bible says that Jesus picked up the weak and broken people, the screw-ups, the people that society (the literal self righteous) had thrown away. They believed in Him and He rescued them.

In our story, Scott isn’t following the rules. He is being a bad citizen. He liked the concept of Woody helping, but not the instruction. He chose to not follow the rules that would have helped him but chose instead to do it his own way with his own rationalization. How many of us today choose our own path, throwing off the confines of that oppressive system, thinking we can do it on our own? We like the concept of God or some “Higher Power” , but He or She better not get too close to us or try to have any impact on our lives or behavior. Back off God, I’ll call you if I need you.

So what does the Bible really say? It says that the God of the universe, the Creator, wants to have a relationship with you. Not just theoretically, corporately you, but personally you. Not as others see you, or judge you, or try to define you by putting you in some box. Not that fake, in control person, that you show the world, but just the plain old flawed you. That is what matters most to Him. What we see as rules are there to guide us to stay in close relationship with Him. People bristle at the idea of sin, even the concept, as an old fashioned way of life that needs to be crushed. God doesn’t bully anyone or have an ego problem. God hates sin, not because it breaks a rule, but because it moves us further from God. Sin hurts our journey with God. No one sins and gets closer to Jesus. God hates anything that moves us away from Him. He loves us that much, even if we don’t understand it. Your understanding of danger doesn’t mean that isn’t there. Don’t think of your time on earth as 80 years of 30 minute sitcoms, its an 80 year journey. Its a time that our experiences can bring us closer to God if we choose. Its not a test and at the end God has a checklist, giving you a pass/fail grade. Stealing a candy bar in 3rd grade won’t be noted on the test.  The Bible says that in the end, our eternity is based on whether He knew us personally, not on what good things we’ve done. That’s in Matthew 7: 21-23, look it up yourself.

When Woody was telling Scott the hazards around him and warning him of the danger, she wasn’t making up some rules to control him, she wanted what was best for him. She knew what would happen if he didn’t follow her instructions, she could see it clearly. She begged him but he felt he knew better. He followed his feelings and wouldn’t soften his self determination. No one was going to tell him what to do or be restricted by her orders. His way was more fun and he didn’t answer to anyone. Scott quickly found himself lost and alone. Like most of us, he wouldn’t admit it. He just made up stuff to justify his position. Still, regardless of his outside blustering, inside he knew he was alone. No amount of made up, self generated spirituality is going to change that. A god you just make up on your own, isn’t much of a god. Same goes for made up spirituality. If you make it up, its just made up.

The saddest part about the whole story is that if Scott would have let down his pride and called out to Woody, she would have been able to rescue him. She was willing, able, and ready. She wouldn’t force him, he has a free will to choose. It didn’t have to end that way. Scott had the final decision and it ended very badly for him.

So do you think Woody was bullying him around for her own ego, trying to oppress him? No, I think she was good hearted and she just wanted to enjoy being with her friend. She wanted what was best for him. God wants what best for you too. He doesn’t want anything bad to happen to you. Sin, as He defines it takes you further away from Him. Humans redefining sin isn’t going to change it. His definition of sin is all that matters, not yours or the Government or the media. You won’t  always understand what He is having you go through, but you have to trust and obey. Most importantly, God wants to be close to you. Adam walked with God, not because it was a perceived rule, but because it was a good relationship. Sin messed it up. The first thing Adam did was hide, the relationship was fractured. In our walk with God, sin messes it up too, but we don’t need to stay separated from Him. God doesn’t hold a grudge against you because you messed up, just call out to Him and He’ll bring you back on the path with Him. Jesus made that possible, thank Him. Some days I mess up so bad that I cant believe that He even wants me around. That’s love , I guess.

He had a whole bunch of people write a book about Himself and His relationship with us. Everything isn’t in there, but enough for you to get to know Him and see how much He loves you. If you get in a good relationship with Him, He’ll tell you more, I promise.   That’s what the Bible really says. Don’t be gullible, study it yourself. Don’t wait, start and expand that relationship today. That beautiful sunrise is going to happen, where will you be? Watching it from above or in a dark valley? Choose wisely.

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The Beat Goes On

There’s a lot to be thankful for this week. Things have been falling into place for our little house church, The Salvage Yard. We have all our legal ducks in a row and all is well there. Also,  The Salvage Yard Biker Church from Illinois has kindly allowed us borrow part of their name. We didn’t want to cause trouble with anyone and I have to say that they are a fantastic group of people. Please check them out on Facebook.

We have been making slow progress with getting our place ready, some with acquiring needed supplies and some learning from folks with some great ideas. This doesn’t need to be as complicated as I’m making it, but I really want to do this well. We find more and more people who were hurt by a church and would never step into one again, but aren’t really against God at all. They just wont play church. Well, I’m not going to play church here either. God is too important to me for that and I don’t want to get in His way.

So here’s the part that makes me cringe a bit. We can’t have anarchy. Unfortunately that means rules and some sort of a system. Ugh. Many of us have seen rules and procedure restrict a church to being useless or have seen it go the other way and it becomes Boss Hogg and her husband Roscoe P Coltrane and a bunch of boob deputies bullying people around. Those are some good reasons for people to stay away from a church, not ways to bring folks in.

The main idea of a house church isn’t to make it larger, 30 people is plenty, but to grow people within the church to become leaders and branch off and cultivate more house churches. That’s how it was done after Jesus was resurrected. Expand and divide. Still Paul and the others acted as overseers to keep the message accurate. Paul wanted to expand the geography of the Church( not the real estate), but sometimes he had to get after some of his church plants that went off track. Much of Johns Revelation was Gods different warnings to the young Christian churches. Many of them weren’t even 40 years old at the time Revelation was written.

I need a board of elders, Godly ( but not perfect) men, who have their noses in the word of God. I have two other men in mind and that should be plenty for our little house church. Hopefully with their guidance we can come up with the best ” soft ” rules. Just enough to maintain order and so everyone gets treated with kindness and respect. There will be no attire requirements or “goodness” requirements. You can’t fool God, so don’t put on a show for us. We’re all sinners saved by Jesus here. How you dress, drive, speak or sing doesn’t matter to God and it doesn’t matter to me. If you know nothing about Jesus and the whole “Christian” thing, you are especially welcome. There will be plenty of free food and we aren’t trying to sell you anything. Hopefully we can send you home with a stomach that is full, but sore from laughter and eager to come back again. We serve a good God and we just want to show you what that’s all about and answer any questions that you might have.

One of the other rules that I will insist on is that no money ever changes hands here. We don’t want your money. You do need to give it, but you aren’t going to give it here. We may suggest a mission of the month or you can give it to another local church, but leave your checkbook home. Having said that, if you want to bring some food to pass around( the meal is a large part of a home church) or a case of water or soda, that is certainly encouraged. Those things are a very large part of fellowship. Even Jesus didn’t fulfill His mission till He had a large(last) supper with His best friends. We’d love to have you participate in the food part, both bringing and eating. Don’t ever think that if you have nothing to bring that you aren’t welcome. We want you here and we just want to serve. Just be prepared to take some goodies home with you!

There is plenty more to come. I just wanted to keep you folks updated and share where we are right now. We have a soft target of mid March for our first service and services will be on Saturday afternoons so it wont conflict with those that would like to continue going to their traditional church. Bible studies and worship nights are also on the radar. We need your prayers friends. Pray hard

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Holy Networking?

OK, I have to admit it, sometimes I’m a little slow at catching on to some pretty simple things. Back in my business days and racing days, networking was of the highest importance. Knowing who can help you find your way is absolutely priceless. Yet, until lately, I haven’t really applied it to advancing Gods Word. We seem to be like sheep and just follow the locals and that seems to be all of the pool of resources that we have to work with. If you happen to be in an area that has Christian drought, well, that’s just unfortunate.

Still, I’m learning the power of networking in Christian circles. I didn’t necessarily say church circles, that’s worth noting. We often pray for God to help us with things, even the things that we really feel that God is leading us to, but we restrict ourselves to our tiny group. Maybe God has very talented people that He trained for His purpose, waiting to assist you. Lets face it, Gods calling for you isn’t restricted to you doing things alone. God always provides a way. Its unlikely that God will send someone knocking on your door to help. Its possible, but for the most part, you are probably just wasting time. Jesus could have handled things anyway He wanted on earth, but when He was here, He had people to help Him. Willing people, flawed, but eager to help assist Him and be part of something bigger than themselves.  Jesus is God, but it wasn’t a one man show. After Jesus had departed, the apostles did a mighty fine job networking as well. Paul was quite spectacular at it and we can all learn from him.

If you truly believe that God has called you to step out, above the mindless mass of churchism, you will have to go find help. Go, that’s a verb, get off your butt and find people to help you. My experience is that you will need to go beyond your immediate surroundings to find them. You will be amazed at what true believers will do to help. God will truly blow your mind! Remember to treat those folks with love and kindness as they are sent by God.

Perhaps you are a Godsend to someone else. Don’t hold back, invest yourself in those folks. I’ve seen Godly groups of people do things that are really game changing. Even a few things that I’ve been humbled to be a part. Somehow, if its Gods will, things come together in supernatural ways, not because we are good, but because we are willing servants. As Tony Evans would say,” God can’t steer a car that isn’t in motion.” Wise words indeed.

Over the last several years, but more so in the last year, I’ve been the humble recipient of many blessings. Some folks have been so kind. Some folks were unkind enough to inspire me to step up to serve my Savior even more. Good and evil can inspire, I guess. But friends, the blessing to me is the good and solid Believers that we’ve met on our journey. I’m a happy introvert, but when my lovely bride has convinced me to step out (a little), we have been so blessed with a support group that I’m very proud to have known.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that God has a plan for you. Yes, you. You aren’t the only one either. If you are willing to step out in faith, God has it all figured out and people in place to make it happen. Gods people aren’t hiding behind 4 walls, they don’t sit around and cluck with all the other chickens, and it isn’t just a Sunday thing.  You’ll be able to tell who they are pretty easily. The question is, will they be able to find you? Are you standing out as someone that God is able to use? Become active, not to be seen, just to serve. Don’t become a busybody for your benefit. Jesus had plenty of harsh words for that crowd. Humility has become such a rare thing these days and is a quality that seems to be required for God to use you. Find Believers to help you with that. There are so many kind and passionate people out there. I’m praying for you and your friends that you haven’t even met yet. Be humble and serve.

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No Junkyards in Heaven

My wife and I were very blessed this weekend with the opportunity to get to know our Brother in the Lord, Brian Cole. He has one of those unbelievable stories of coming out of a horrible lifestyle. Its so incredible that I don’t even know how to summarize it. Brian had made many bad choices that lead him into drugs and the occult, and 33 years of being locked up. His story is also about redemption. Through a God guided series of events he became a believer and servant of Jesus. It kind of reminded me of CS Lewis’ “being the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England”.  I highly recommend that you check out Brians website http://www.setusfree.org . His testimony can be found on Youtube as well. I hope it moves you as deeply as it moved me.

As I listened to Brian’s testimony, I was reminded of Jesus speaking to Peter in Luke 22:32 ” But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

Imagine that, Jesus knew Peter was going to fail, but still had great plans and work for him to do. Jesus was already beyond Peters sin and knew that Peters heart was with Him. Jesus didn’t throw him away. Jesus didn’t throw Brian away either. Brian didn’t have faith, but He had plans for him, and even before Brian was saved, he had a purpose.

What needs to be convicting for the rest of us, is that we didn’t think God could use people like Peter or Brian. Do we consider that God could have a purpose in mind for a Satan worshipper and meth head. Someone who denied Christ? God was way past their sin and today, both of them get glory in Jesus’ eyes because they are strengthening their brothers. Brian sure was an unyielding and needed breathe of fresh air for us.

Maybe the next “Brian Cole” is still sitting in prison. Maybe some of us need to get off our Holy Arses and go find him. Jesus didn’t find any throw-away people, all had value to Him. Enough value to die for. Jesus died between two thieves and one got saved. Not because he wasn’t as filthy as the other, but because Jesus was there and offered him hope and he trusted Jesus. Who is telling the thieves and criminals of today about Jesus?  Why are we keeping eternal hope to ourselves? It really seems like the ultimate cruelty doesn’t it? If they were important to Jesus and we are His humble servants, why aren’t the same people important to us? Not everyone recovering from the effects of sinful decisions will go out and change the world, but you can for them. You can change their eternity. If only one gets saved, the rejoicing in Heaven will blow your mind. Throwaways matter to Jesus, they matter to Brian and they matter to me. Do they matter to you?

Honestly, I’m a bit ashamed that I have neglected those folks in prison. I haven’t even prayed for them or their families. It seems like we want them put away so we don’t even have to think about them or even see them. That is sin too, but we aren’t getting punished for our sinful attitudes. We only read about theirs. Are you ready for a paradigm shift ? I say lets go get them and serve them. Lets humble ourselves and reach out to their families. We are totally kidding ourselves if we think we are one ounce better than them. God has a plan for them and maybe it involves you. Change the world. Pray hard friends.

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The Ugly Church

There was a time, many years ago, that I was able to wear a suit and tie to church. Please understand, it wasn’t to impress anyone, it was just that I enjoyed wearing those types of clothes. I totally had it nailed with the “Dress for Success” crowd. Years later I found myself in a bluejeans  and t-shirt financial condition. It set me back a bit on how differently I was treated, not only in the outside world( I get that), but in the church as well. People spent a lot less time with me, and people no longer sought my advice on anything. There were still plenty of nice people, but it showed me an aspect of church folks that I didn’t care for. Eventually I got past all that, but I had developed a sensitivity for how church people treat those who look different. I was comfortable in church regardless of how others treat me, but what if it was the first church experience for someone? Would they ever come back? I doubt it, and I don’t blame them one bit. They will tell that story on how they tried religion once, but will never go back because of the judgment they received.

One day my wife and I were discussing how, again, someone else was shunned by others because of tattoos and attire. I made an off the cuff remark about how I would like to start The Ugly Church for folks that don’t fit the typical church model. Certainly not that these folks are ugly, just that they are rejected, even though they are really the type of people that Jesus had compassion and fellowship with. No one was too ugly for Jesus. I don’t just mean piercings, tattoos , and t-shirts, I mean folks that have made some really bad decisions in life and those who were victims of other peoples bad choices. They have been treated horribly by church people, in Jesus’ day and in ours. I say messed up people are loved by Jesus, friends of Jesus and deserve a place to worship Jesus without the Harper Valley PTA looking down their noses at them. That was the birth of The Ugly Church concept.

Well, another 5 years have passed and now I think its time to make that idea a reality. We’ve been really doing our homework on this subject. There are a lot of biker churches that are doing a terrific job, while traditional churches are failing miserably. Most biker churches really embody that Ugly Church idea. They know that you can’t clean up enough to come to Jesus, come to Jesus now, as you are, and He will make you clean. They are WAY ahead of me here and deserve a ton of respect for it. The name has evolved from The Ugly Church to The Salvage Yard, but the concept is the same.

I want to serve in a place that is ruled by the Word of God and some spiritual leaders encouraging and teaching people on their journey so they can move on to spread the love and good news of Jesus. That’s really how Jesus and a dozen Jewish guys changed the world. They didn’t dress pretty and hide behind 4 walls, they got out there and shared the love and hope that Jesus offered. John the Baptist just had to be a biker! You can’t be too ugly for me or Jesus. If you were hurt or mistreated by a church, you are loved here. If you were looked down on for your economic situation, you are loved here. If you listen to Christian metal, rap or rock, you are loved here. If you have tattoo’s, piercings, are biker trash, or trucker trash, you are loved here. No matter how dirty, unworthy or messed up that you think you are, Jesus loves you, and you are loved here. If you wear a suit and are among the pretty people looking for more than what you’ve been told, even you are loved here. All that’s required is that we treat each other with respect.

Friends, this is an ongoing process, and I’m bringing you along for the ride. I’ll share our successes and even our failures. We are getting a lot of our ideas from the home church movement. If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend Starting A House Church by Larry Kreider & Floyd McClung or House To House by Larry Kreider. This won’t happen overnight, so I’d really like some input from you folks. We don’t want your money but we sure do need your prayers. Plenty more coming soon! Pray hard friends

 

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The Toughest Hombre in Town

I can’t imagine a more difficult job than being a Pastor. He has to live out Philippians 2, while being surrounded by those who don’t. He has to be the church handyman, lawyer, counselor, babysitter ( for church members and their children), referee, preacher, student, and teacher. He has to have his phone on 24 hours a day. He has to try to minister to us whenever we have difficulty at any hour, share the love of Christ instead of punching us in the nose, which is more likely what we deserve. The people who most loudly detest being judged will nit pick a poor preacher apart. He must dress right , get his hair cut right, only say things to make people happy, and out of a 2000 word sermon, they will only remember a mispronounced word. He has to mediate between the elites and the lowly, and often finds himself stuck between some old bats having a lifelong cat fight. He needs to be perfect, but is still a man like the rest of us. I can’t pass that scrutiny for a day.

Perhaps the only job worse is the Pastors wife. The grand old bitty’s are watching over her like a hawk watching over a mouse. They are ready to pounce. She is free slave labor for church leaders and has to dress perfect, hair perfect, sit in the right place, talk to the right people and her cooking must satisfy everyone’s taste. She is responsible for having the perfect family, dressed perfect and on time, all the time. She is under the magnifying glass 24 hours a day and better not have a weak moment. It would never be forgotten or forgiven.

So why would any logical thinking person make a career out of being a preacher? Why would anyone subject themselves to such horrible treatment for such little pay? Only the love of Jesus. Sharing the love of Christ is so deeply ingrained in him that he just cant stop. It’s part of who he is. His identity is in Christ. In most countries that outlaw Christianity, he is the first to die. In America, church members and leaders crucify him differently. He has become their whipping boy. Nothing will pound the love of Jesus out of someone like his own church. Its pretty sad, we need our Pastors more than ever right now and we feel that a gift certificate to the Golden Corral on Pastor Appreciation Day is plenty.

Perhaps we need to adjust our mindset to serving our Pastor, and not be so critical. Maybe we would get to know him well enough to know how difficult his job is. Lets look for ways that we can take some of the weight off his shoulders so he can focus on Gods word and Gods work. Lets look for ways that we can support him, not to be seen by others, but to truly serve. Most importantly, pray for your Pastor. Really do it, don’t just say it. If he isn’t there to teach and minister to you, who else is there? Thank and pray for them both, they need it!

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Lost Love

I’ve been reading a pretty interesting book by Larry Kreider and Floyd McClung called “Starting a House Church.” I’ll admit that as I put more years behind me, I’ve become pretty impatient with churches that are just social gathering places. Their contribution to Gods kingdom is maintaining a building, and to feel justified, they participate in food drives and clothing for the poor. Feeding to poor and taking care of the widows is a good thing, its a terrific thing, we should always be doing that and more, but that isn’t the main function of the church. Free fruit for old farts isn’t the great commission. The church is for spreading the good news of salvation through Jesus. God isn’t gonna ask someone if they got a piece of fruit from church, He’s gonna ask if Jesus is their Savior. That’s our job. That’s our purpose.

Here’s a paragraph from Larry and Floyds book, ” The greatest catalyst for spiritual growth in Christ is turning our eyes from ourselves and setting our sight on Jesus and the needs of those around us. A group of people who are always looking inward and who are content with the status quo will never grow and multiply. When house churches become content to stay the same, they build walls around themselves, causing others to feel unwelcome. On the other hand, the group that has a heart to reach out and to disciple new believers will be willing to change and will enjoy tremendous fellowship and meaningful relationships in the process. All this is to say that an outward focus benefits everyone in the long run, whereas looking inward prevents growth and, like an ingrown toenail, usually causes pain. Looking inward also results in competition and stagnation or, worse, spiritual pride.”

Hmmm, what do you think of that?  Is your church growing do to an outward focus or is it contracting because of an inward focus? Has it even become hostile to  ideas that could share the word of God? Has it become so stagnant that your church gatherings more resemble  the faces at the Department of Motor Vehicles? Attendance lower than the little bar down the street? At least they are happy to be there every night!

Where would Jesus be? He wouldn’t be hiding in a self justified mutual admiration society, that I’m sure of. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this, we are doing church all wrong and if Jesus came back today, he would kick our phony holy asses! Pointing that out will also make you wildly unpopular and really lights up the gossip channels! I’m ok, I don’t need it. Our leaders, in whatever form, MUST be in constant study of their Bible. Are you too busy? Then you don’t qualify to lead. Pick your priorities. The idea of someone coaching in a sport without knowing the rules or how the game is played is ludicrous, but  having people leading the church that aren’t even students of Jesus is even more crazy! This isn’t a game, this is eternal heaven or hell for someone who isn’t being witnessed to. If you need a social club to feel good about yourself, join the  Lions club or the Shriners. Maybe you do need to work two jobs to get by, but maybe spending less could be a worthy option for some too. Spending more than you make just makes you irresponsible and disqualifies you as a leader. If you truly need help, let us help you. Materialism can be a wicked master.

My discontentment with the status quo has  led us to make some hard decisions. We’ve moved into a less expensive home( poorly built so it turned out to be quite a project), we have kept our old cars, and are drastically reducing how much we spend and paying off what we are able. I will admit that it was hard at first, but I also don’t have to earn as much or pay as much taxes either. It has also freed up more time to be around other people and help them in various ways. Most importantly, it has freed up time for me to study the word of God. I’m pretty angry with myself for not hopping off the materialism train a long time ago. So much time wasted. I’m now able to take my eyes off all my cool stuff( and coveting other peoples cool stuff) and look outwardly as to what I can do, at what I should have been doing, and look outwardly at serving others and using my home for the glory of God. Ha Ha, silly concept isn’t it, as though anything that I have, I own. There are no U-Hauls behind a hearse, I own nothing.

So that’s where I’m at in my journey. Discontentment leads to anger if you don’t seek out solutions. God has blessed me with the answers and confirmation that I needed, but I’m the weak link in the chain. God has again, chosen the unqualified. This is going to get pretty fun shortly. I will need a lot of prayer friends, as The Salvage Yard becomes a reality. I’ll share more of that with you next time! Pray hard friends

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Pauls Woodshed

One of the Apostle Pauls biggest challenges in the early church was in keeping the leaders of the newly founded Christian churches in line with Gods message. Some of those early leaders were simply drifting towards error, but some were becoming hostile. Paul had to take some of them to the woodshed to get things straightened out and he sure wasn’t bashful about it.The early church was simply a group of believers following Jesus command to spread the good news to all the world. It wasn’t a building. Their weren’t any church specific buildings for another 200 years. That command to the church still applies to us, despite of our inaction. Still, how did Paul know when a church leader was doing well or going astray? Because the leader was responsible for teaching the word of God. That’s a big statement, the leader was responsible for teaching the word of God. Someone didn’t get to be a Pastor or elder and hide. A leader was a teacher. That’s how you knew if their motivation lined up with Gods word. They had to come right out and tell you.

Fast forward 2000 years, how does it work now? One of the biggest surprises that I got when I returned to church life 20 years ago is that a typical evangelical Pastor has very little control over his church. His role as a leader is in name only. Bureaucracy runs the churches now. The people that run the show now are committees, councils, boards of dictators, etc.. Be honest, do you even know who those leaders are? Are they worthy of any leadership position or is their time be better spent in study? Often church bureaucracy is multi tiered so that very few even know who’s in charge of what. It helps to discourage hardcore believers from making any inroads or changes. So how do we even know what our leaders believe? They probably don’t teach or even attend Bible study or attend worship nights. Are they even reading and studying their Bible, or  are they just giving God a quickie 10 minute devotional in the morn to feel holy? There are many very fine people in those positions and my intent is not to put them down. I’m grateful for their service. Still, I’ve found that some in those positions are prideful control freaks. I’ve known some that are just nuts, I mean really nuts! Listening in on a Pastors private conversations with other church members, snooping around town to see who’s visiting who and deciding who is allowed to fellowship with the pastor. That’s worse than our federal government! So what happens with those people? Nothing. Yet. There isn’t any accountability in church bureaucracy or any insulated holy huddle. Paul couldn’t do anything with them either, because they don’t teach, they scheme. They meet in secret. Even Jesus struggled with people snooping, scheming and trying to shut Him up because He didn’t follow orders. They were called Pharisee’s then. He called them a brood of vipers and whitewashed tombs filled with dead mens bones. Today the hearts are the same, only the names have changed. Then again, Jesus and Paul really took them to the woodshed, didn’t they?

We need leaders that teach in some form and are accountable to the flock. How can we increase the amount of Kingdom men in churches if they see the punitive actions that are taken? Who needs that? Even better yet, take the death grip off your Pastor and let him preach the Word of God as he sees fit. The Pastors job is to be the leader, as Paul described it, not a spokesman for the board. The Pastors job is not to make us feel good about ourselves and bring in more paying customers. Its a crazy setup, the board chases out the hardcore believers and the Pastor is chastised for not bringing in the money donors.  That’s what churchism brings in folks. The narrow-mindedness of looking inward and not outward like Jesus told us to do, is what’s bringing down churches. Its pretty stressful when you don’t follow church protocol. I guess that is what the early church was fighting too. Jewish church society had set up a system that became their god. Rules, regulations, and procedure overtook them and they became too justified in themselves to let God get in the way. Jesus rocked their world! I hope you are rocking yours!

I sure hope it isn’t happening to your body of believers. I hope you take the time to pray and fellowship with them. Pride and controlism are sins that are tempting them. Pray that they have soft hearts for Jesus’ Word and hard as a rock against sin. The Bible tells us to not forsake the fellowship of believers, so we have to get together as believers. Its not optional. Some days I wish that wasn’t in my Bible. Some days I think I could get along just fine without all that drama. Still, there are plenty of good faithful people there too. Jesus also commanded us, not if we felt like it, commanded us to share the good news of our Savior to the world. He is our King, not just when its fun, so we must continue to serve Him. Not inwardly to make ourselves feel good, while we hide in a building, but to the  lost. There sure are plenty out there. Getting the good news of our Savior is the only hope they have. Don’t let some frustrated old wineskins in a building distract you. Put fresh wine in some fresh wineskins. The old will be gone soon and there isn’t much to replace them. Jesus is still my Lord, with or without the board. Pray and serve hard, friends

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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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