SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! PLEASE!

I wonder if there is anybody anywhere – any pastor, elder, deacon, council member, or anyone else – who has the nerve, the guts, the balls (sorry girls) to say “enough is enough” and just shut the church doors and keep them locked? Because something has got to change in the way “church” is being done. Has anybody anywhere had enough yet? Had enough of the week after week cutesy, cliché, clever, crowd-pleasing song and dance? Had enough of pacifying egos, patting backs, padding asses, promoting programs, purchasing properties, pitching pennies in offering plates, and giving applause to performers? Had enough determining if we will be a contemporary, traditional, blended, emergent, seeker, …type of congregation?

How about this:

Let’s refocus, reform, and return to being relevant and useful to GOD and to the people around us instead of just being another form of entertainment and recreation.

Let’s get back into the salt and light business, where we influence, affect, and lead the culture instead of conforming to it.

Let’s take back from the government the people-care businesses of healthcare, welfare, childcare, elderly care – you know the “orphans and widows” stuff talked about all throughout the Bible.

The government doesn’t know how to care for anything but itself and its primary function is to protect our borders and to police our land.

Let’s let the government do its job and we’ll do ours. The Church’s job is to witness of Christ in our lives and evidence this by our love for other people through our helpful words and good deeds – how we sacrifice for others, how we serve others, and how we share with others – all the things that Jesus modeled as He walked upon this earth.

So let’s stop building churches and let’s start being churches.

How about this:

What if all the Jesus followers in each community all worshipped together every week? What a novel idea!

Because we don’t need padded pews, theatre lighting, surround-sound, video screens, stained glass, and coffee & donuts to worship. We can worship Almighty GOD anyplace, anytime – if we have the want to.

In good weather worship can take place at a park, a beach, a football stadium, a parking lot, an open field, etc…

In poor weather worship can take place at an arena, a theatre, a barn, a warehouse, a gymnasium, etc…

As it is right now we have thousands of individual congregations all doing the exact same things, yet each has the perception that it is somehow special and unique. Each is wasting resources of time, money, property, and energy.

Just imagine what it would look like, and all the good that could be done, if each zip code had one common unity (community) of believers sharing their common union (communion) in, with, under, and through Christ.

Let’s stop playing church and actually play the church.

Let’s turn our buildings into things like orphanages, homeless shelters, hospitals, medical clinics, counseling centers, daycare centers, elderly care homes, community centers, after-school centers…

Let’s get back into the people care business which is what making disciples is all about – you know “The Great Commission.”

There are weak, sick, broken, hurting, dying people all around us.

Let’s tell them about Jesus and touch them with His love.

Let’s re-model our buildings and re-define our building programs and put our millions into people caring activities that do more than take up an hour or two of our Sunday mornings.

Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before GOD the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

James 1:26-27 (The Message)

WANDERING…WHERE OR NOWHERE?

You are wandering along on a journey – we all are – as none of us has yet arrived. Life now is a foretaste of the life to come. Today is preparation and practice, for this life  is broken, weak, and sick. Life occurs with its pains and pressures, stressors and struggles, trials and troubles… and is leading to what? To Where? What is the point of our wandering? Where is it taking us? What is it producing in us? How is it developing us and determining our future?

To answer these questions, you must consider who it is you are wandering with?

Are you wandering alone or are you wandering with others? If you are wandering alone, where are you leading yourself? If you are wandering with others, who are they and who is doing the leading? Are you leading them – to where? Or are they leading you – to where? The truth is, our wandering is not leading to an ending, but rather a beginning. For a few, those who are wandering right now by holding firmly to the blessed hope, the LORD Jesus, and eagerly anticipating His promised return, this new beginning will be extraordinary in every way – beyond anything we can imagine or expect. But for most, those who are wandering alone or only with the companionship of family, friends, and acquaintances, these people will wish their new beginning was a final ending instead. Because wandering without Jesus is wandering into death – a death so dreadful that it makes even demons shudder.

Of course, this kind of talk conjures up laughs, weird looks, and ridicule today as we find ourselves wandering through a materialistic world where we are controlled by and consumed with satisfying ourselves with everything produced by it. Thus we have little awareness and even less appetite for anything else. So we are easy prey for charismatic personalities, those who push for political correctness, those motivational coercers, and those clever hucksters, who are all selling their version of “snake oil” in the form of special rights for a select few, new environmental agendas, get-rich-quick schemes, exercise-free diets, and innovative miracle products, etc…

But these people mock and curse the things they do not understand. Like animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and they bring about their own destruction. How terrible it will be for them! For they follow the evil example of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they will do anything for money. And like Korah, they will perish because of their rebellion. When these people join you in fellowship meals celebrating the love of the Lord, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are shameless in the way they care only about themselves. They are like clouds blowing over dry land without giving rain, promising much but producing nothing. They are like trees without fruit at harvest time. They are not only dead but doubly dead, for they have been pulled out by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the dirty foam of their shameful deeds. They are wandering stars, heading for everlasting gloom and darkness.   Jude 10-13

 

So in your wandering right now, who are you wandering with and where is your wandering leading you?

COURAGE, COWARDNESS, OR CRAZY?

There is a lot being said these days in respect to courage. Bruce Jennder, or, I guess it’s now officially, Caitlyn, is being praised and promoted by many media and special agenda groups as being courageous. But is this really what courage is? When did courage become a matter of constructing oneself to the feelings he/she might be having in a given moment, or even over a longer period of months or years?

Feelings certainly play an important role in our lives, for they give us insight into where we currently are physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually; but when feelings are allowed to take control, and become the driving force in our lives, the result is usually something closer to cowardness or craziness, certainly not courage.

For example:

Whenever someone says: “I feel _________” (fill in the blank).

The next question that should be asked is “Why?”

“Why do I feel this way right now?”

“Why do I feel ______ (fill in the blank) about this or that?”

“Why do I feel ______ (fill in the blank) about him or her?”

“Why do I feel______ (fill in the blank) about myself?”

Generally speaking, our thoughts produce our feelings which result in our behaviors. Our feelings are always legitimate, because they are what they are for whatever reason, and we certainly have the right to feel what we feel when we feel it.

Our feelings are neither right nor wrong, but the critical issue is what we do with the feelings we feel? It is important to be aware of them, to explore them, and to understand them; yet to go ahead and act on our feelings can be downright crazy, since this can cause all kinds of problems for us. Plus, our feelings are constantly changing.

Feelings come and feelings go. And our feelings are determined by so many factors like: who we are, what we are thinking about, where we are at, who we are with, what we are doing, what we want, what we need, etc…

Also, our feelings often work through our senses as the things we are seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting can all have an influence on what we feel.

Problems arise when people fixate on their feelings and allow them to control their thoughts and behaviors, without first questioning the feelings in a logical, reasonable, common sense approach. For unchecked feelings can give a person an inaccurate assessment of a situation. Here’s how this can work in some people:

When a person’s true or perceived emotional/relational needs are not being met in an adequate way by the significant people in his/her life, it can generate feelings of insecurity and inferiority, which then may lead the person into thinking he/she is unappreciated, unrecognized, unloved, and unwanted (and feeling these things too). So instead of questioning the feelings and communicating them to others (which would be the courageous thing to do), the person caves in to the feelings out of cowardness and often does something totally crazy.

Where can one turn when there is conflict and confusion between our thoughts and feelings? Where can we find a point of reference – a true north, an accurate measure, a proper gage?

The Word of GOD, The Bible. This timeless, best-selling book contains the standard operating procedures for human life, including all the basic instructions for making sense of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

There’s nothing like the written Word of GOD for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is GOD-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live GOD’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks GOD has for us.     2 Timothy 3:15-17 (The Message)

WHO IS YAHWEH TO YOU?

All people are born with an intrinsic relationship with GOD, for He is someone to everyone, one way or another. As such, everybody has some level of accountability and responsibility to GOD and is without any excuse in this matter, for He designed, created, and sustains us. HE IS our source of life.

 

But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!

Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.     Romans 1:19-27  (The Message)

GOD is Yahweh, as this the name that He gave to Himself.

 

But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘Yahweh, the God of your ancestors – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.’”  Exodus 3:13-15 (NLT)

 

Yahweh refers to Himself as “I AM”, we tell Him, “YOU ARE”, and when referring of Him to others we say “HE IS.” Yahweh is the one, true, Triune GOD, and Jesus, His Son, is the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

The basic question is then this: Who is Yahweh to you?

What is your relationship to Him? You get to choose. Do you feel close or far way from Him? To you believe you know Him and He knows you in a personal way? How do you approach Him – timidly, boldly, or not at all? How do you communicate with Him – formally, frequently, or never? What exactly is your level of intimacy with Yahweh?

 

HE IS Creator to all people – those of every tongue, tribe, group, and nation – whether or not they choose to acknowledge Him as such (including you).

HE IS is a god – one of many gods – for many groups who welcome and recognize a plethora of deities whom they invoke and appease in order to have their basic needs met.

HE IS God, in one variation to people of the Jewish and Islamic faiths as these recognize and worship the GOD of Abraham.

HE IS King to the nation of Israel, though not currently realized as such, as most Israelite’s today have rejected Jesus as their Messiah, but will one day find out that He is their true King of King’s and LORD or LORD’s.

HE IS is Messiah to millions of the Christian faith who have received His grace – the forgiveness of sins, and a new, eternal life through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

 

So, Who is Yahweh to you?

 

If HE IS only the Creator to you, you may feel quite distant from Him and know very little about Him.

If HE IS only one of many little gods to you, you may feel confused by Him and don’t understand how to approach Him.

If HE IS God to you, but a misrepresentation of the GOD who HE IS because of a religion’s refusal to acknowledge Him as He has revealed Himself and related to the human race, you may feel alienated, and humiliated by Him and by the rest of the world.

If HE IS only King to you, you may fear His power and authority, but you limit Him as being responsible for only your provision and protection.

 

But if HE IS Messiah to you, this changes everything. If Yahweh is your Messiah, HE IS your one, true, triune GOD!

HE IS your loving and loyal Father who provides you with affirmation and approval.

HE IS your ever-present and empathetic Savior and Friend who provides you with assurance and acceptance.

HE IS your constant Helper and competent Counselor who provides you with assistance and advice.

 

Again, the question of the day:  WHO IS YAHWEH TO YOU?

LIFE IN PRISON

Our lives are full of what we call “oxymorons” – figures of speech in which seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side. Consider these for instance: “free speech”  “same-sex marriage”  “life in prison.”

Now think about that last one for a moment, “life in prison.” If a crime warrants “life” doesn’t it seem strange that it results in a unending prison sentence? Our nation spends billions of dollars annually to house criminals who will never again step foot in or contribute to society in any way, shape, or form. Many of these criminals continually insult, endanger, abuse, and injure prison guards, staff, and other inmates. Is this absolute insanity, or what?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to re-think the way criminals are sentenced and punished in our country. The last public hanging in the United States took place on August 14, 1936, as Rainey Bethea was placed in the gallows in Owensboro, Kentucky for robbing, raping and murdering Lischia Edwards, a 70 year old woman. Oh my! Yes, I can already see the aghast faces and hear the livid outcries. Hanging? Think this through, before you blow a gasket. Hanging is easy, cheap, and done in an instant, plus it doesn’t leave any mess behind either. And also, “life in prison” is not life. It is far more civil and more humane to give a person their quick, due punishment, even capital punishment, than it is to ban them from society and put them in a cage for the rest of their days on earth.

The theory behind punishment is to teach and correct proper behavior, while correcting and deterring improper behavior. Clearly, “prison” is doing very little to correct and deter improper behavior in our land these days. Our prisons are overflowing, and a great many who are housed in them are repeat offenders. Our current “correctional” system is ineffective, so maybe it is time to return to the basics again. Public execution (hangings) was an effective way to correct and deter bad behavior. “Life is prison” is not. “Life in prison” provides food, clothes, and shelter; entertainment, exercise, and education – and by the reports we hear in the news – a whole lot more. It is unfathomable and unconscionable to think that somehow, prisoners have regular access to illegal drugs, elicit sex, and smuggled in weapons. It is inexcusable to hear  about the amount of violence taking place inside prison walls. Why is such behavior tolerated? Aren’t prisoners locked up as our way to put an end to such behaviors? Prisons should not be violent places as prisoners should be in the process of reforming and preparing to return to society. Unruly and uncooperative prisoners should face the same consequences as those who receive “life sentences” – public execution by hanging, for if a criminal won’t behave in prison, they will never behave in society either.

When the general public (men, women, and children) is given the opportunity to see and experience (up close and personal) the formal and final consequences of specific unacceptable behaviors, such behaviors will soon diminish. Locking a person in a cage for life is far less humane than hanging – most people won’t even put their pets in cages today, and zoos don’t even do this very much anymore. And this has little to do with matters of forgiveness, compassion, or human rights. Any and all of us can fully forgive another who has wronged us or our loved ones, yet this has no bearings upon, nor excuses, the punishment which the crime requires – as it is the government’s right and duty to enforce the consequences it deems appropriate.

As far as compassion goes, should the main emphasis of our compassion be placed upon the few who take from and cause fear, pain, and destruction in our society, or to the many who daily attempt to contribute to and make this country a better place to live? Is it really compassionate to lock a person in a cage for the rest of his/her life? Or, is it more compassionate to give a person what his/her crime deserves and get it over with fairly and quickly? What should matter most is what is best to the whole of society, not to the harmers of society. As has been said over the years: “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few;” and “the sacrifice of a few for the benefit of many.”

Finally, in regards to human rights. People who engage in any of the behaviors which result in “life sentences” should have their rights relinquished, as they have proved they are a danger to society. We humans have no greater rights than to obey what GOD expects from us in life:

But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,

what GOD is looking for in men and women.

It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,

be compassionate and loyal in your love,

and don’t take yourself too seriously – take GOD seriously.  

Micah 6:8 (The Message)

Public execution (hanging) is not unjust. A “life” sentence should result in a “life” punishment – that is justice. “Mercy” is not getting what we deserve. Should the most mercy be shown to society or to our criminals? Is it fair, just, and merciful for you and I to “house” people for “life” – which often equates to many decades and billions of tax-payer dollars? This sounds more like a punishment to us than a punishment to the criminals. And a great many of these “life in prison” criminals would engage in the same behaviors again and again if given the opportunity to do so. Is it fair, just, and merciful to have other criminals, who are in prison for lesser offenses, continually cause daily ruckus inside prison walls – creating fear, making threats, and causing injuries to guards, staff, and other inmates? Who benefits from such insanity as this?

Every person on planet earth has every opportunity “to get right with their Creator” at any moment. And one can experience his/her “come to Jesus moment” while rotting in a prison cell or right before he/she hangs from a rope. Physical death is not the worst thing that happens in our life; all of our bodies are deteriorating and in the process of dying. Living is a whole lot harder than dying is, but people are afraid of dying because they don’t know anything about it, since nobody has ever come back from death to explain it. Anyway, all people live forever spiritually – either in heaven with Jesus, or in hell with the satan. So, the sooner that saints get to heaven, the better it is for them; and the sooner that sinners get to hell, the better it is for us.

PRACTICING PRESENTNESS – LIVING IN THE NOW

Presentness is being fully present in the current moment.

Presentness is being the person you are, in the place you are, with the people you are with right now.

Presentness is tuning yourself and your senses in to this instant:  Hearing the sounds and voices; Seeing the sights and faces; Smelling the aromas; Touching the textures; Tasting the foods and drinks;

Presentness is training and teaching yourself to take notice of and experience the details of life happening in and around you, and it takes practice to be present. Far too many people are living everywhere but now. They are looking back or looking ahead – reminiscing over who and where they used to be, or wondering about who and where they’re gonna be; all the while missing the most important time of all – now.

One of the great benefits of presentness is gaining awareness of yourself – understanding who you are, why you feel what you feel, and why you behave as you do.

So try this:

Start being who you are right now. Be (act) your age too. Kids shouldn’t try to be grown-ups, and grown-ups shouldn’t try to be kids. Being “young” at heart doesn’t mean you have to look, dress, or act like a youngster. And being “mature” for your age doesn’t mean you have to be all serious. Enjoy the age you are and the stage of life you are in right now.

Start being where you are right now.

Stop.  Be still.  Stay quiet and calm.  Practice Presentness.

Open your ears…

What do you hear around you right now? Take a present sense of your surroundings – all the sounds of people, machines, creatures…

Open your eyes…

What do you see around you right now? Take a present sense of your surroundings – all the sights of people, plants, buildings, colors, creatures, things…

Open your nose…

What do you smell around you right now? Take a present sense of your surroundings – all the smells in your current location, on yourself, on your clothes, other people, foods, drinks, machinery, nature…

Open your touch…

What do you feel around you right now? Take a present sense of your surroundings – all the things your body is in contact with – the clothes, shoes, hats, gloves on your body; whatever you may be sitting on, standing on, leaning against; what is in your reach that you can tough with your hands, your feet, your skin?

Open your taste buds…

What do you taste in your mouth right now? Take a present sense of your surroundings – all the foods and drinks you currently have or may have already had.

Open your emotions…

What do you feel within you right now? Take a present sense of your inner self – all the emotion you are experiencing. Are you mad, sad, glad, anxious, afraid, surprised?

Finally, open yourself up to the others you are with and around right now. Put down the phone or whatever other device you have, and get to know the people you are with and around…and let them get to know you too.

Practice Presentness – live in the now!

THE BASICS

I once heard Allistair Begg say, “The main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things.”

In other words, the main things are the basics; and boy, do we ever seem to be struggling with the basics these days.

The basics aren’t new nor anything close to brain surgery. No, the basics are the easy stuff – the simple things that even the most ignorant and obstinate people can learn and follow. The basics are the straightforward, essential, and indispensible truths that are to guard and govern our relationships. For the basics provide the human race with an appropriate code of conduct and engagement with GOD, others, ourselves, and the earth.

So let’s review the basics, because basically, we if we can’t get the basics right, what chance do we have in navigating our way through life and having any sense of significance, satisfaction, and success?

Here are the ten most basic Basics for us humans to live by:

Basics One, Two, Three, and Four – Know GOD, Fear GOD, Obey GOD, Worship GOD

Basically, there is one GOD – Yahweh, the Creator and Sustainer of all life everywhere. He is Triune in His existence, expression, and interaction with His Creation. So invite Him, include Him, and expect His involvement in all things.

Learn how to relate to Him as the loving Father and He will give you the affirmation and approval you long for;

Learn how to relate to Him as the Son, Jesus, our Savior and friend, who will give you the assurance and acceptance you lack;

Learn how to relate to Him as the Holy Spirit, our Helper and Counselor, who will provide you with assistance and advice as you journey through life.

Acknowledge Yahweh as GOD; Don’t get cute and clever and invent your own gods. Yahweh is the only real GOD. All the rest are nothing more than idols and images made with human hands, or ideas and imaginations invented in human minds.

Attribute creation and all that is good, right, true, and beautiful in it to GOD; Respect Him and respect what He has made. Be responsible stewards of the earth and environment as He expects each person to care for it. 

Admit total dependence upon GOD as your provider and your protector; Use His name in the appropriate contexts – not loosely, magically, or vulgarly.

Accept that GOD is sovereign over all – including everything in life and death; Just as birth is normal and natural, death, too, is a normal and natural part of our existence and thousands of people of every age die every day. So learn to talk about, prepare for, and expect death – your own and your loved ones.

Adore GOD with regular worship, praise, and thanksgiving; Take time out of each day, each week, each season for reflection, recreation, and rest.

Basic Five – Give Your Parents Honor and Respect

Basically, give your parents – your mother and your father – honor and respect. They brought you into this world just as their parents, and their parents before them did the same. They are not perfect, most in fact are far from it, and many times it is best to do what they say and not do what they do. Still, don’t give them a hard time, as they have tried to do the best they can with what they’ve got, and some don’t got a lot. Listen from them, learn from them (including their mistakes), and love and care them (especially in their old age).  

Basic Six – Don’t Murder

Basically, don’t murder other people – not with your wishes, your words, or your weapons. And this includes infants, invalids, and elderly. Don’t plot or plan how you might take someone out. Let it go…let it go. Leave vengeance to GOD as He alone is sovereign.  

Basic Seven – No Sex Anywhere but Marriage

Basically, here’s the real scoop on sex – it’s best to just leave it be. Sex doesn’t belong everywhere with everyone. Sex only works out well in one place – in marriage. And real, true marriage is a one man and one woman relationship in which the two are committed to one another until death parts them.

When sex is experimented with and participated in anyplace else outside of marriage, it produces all kinds of problems, pains, and predicaments. So, leave it be. 

Basic Eight – No Stealing

Basically don’t do it! Don’t take what isn’t yours to take. If it ain’t yours, keep your hands off it! Only take what you have paid for or what you have permission to take or use. When you borrow something, bring it back quickly and in better condition than when you borrowed it.

And don’t treat everything as being disposable. Use things correctly and carefully. Clean things up after you use them, and apply proper maintenance as recommended.

This applies everywhere at the store, restaurant, shop, factory, office, church, even at home. Don’t take from your parents, your siblings, your roommates, your relatives, your friends, your neighbors, your children, or your spouse.  

Basic Nine – No Lying, No Cheating, No Gossiping

Basically, using fiction, fabricating the truth, and giving false information is just plain lying. A lie is a lie whether it is a little white, black, brown, yellow, or red one. A lie is still a lie if it occurs in the courtroom, the classroom, the board room, or the dining room.

And no cheating either. Basically, cheating is just another form of lying as you falsify something to get ahead of others, to look better than you really are, or try to obtain something you didn’t earn and don’t deserve.

Let’s throw gossiping in here too. There’s no need for it. Basically, gossip can include certain elements of murder, stealing, lying, cheating, and coveting as words can do a tremendous amount of damage to another person in many ways.

Try this: THENK before you speak. Only say what is True, Helpful, Encouraging, Necessary, and Kind

Boy, I can hear the world getting a whole lot quieter already.

Basic Ten – No Coveting

Basically, coveting is wanting something that someone else has that you don’t. And when you “want” what someone else has it produces strong feelings of envy, jealousy, dissatisfaction, and discontent inside you. These covetous feelings can lead you into breaking or rebuffing all the previous nine basics in order to get what you want.

Coveting can occur in regards to possessions (automobiles, boats, clothes, and jewelry, etc..), properties (homes, businesses, etc…), positions, power, prestige, and even people (spouses, children, relatives, ancestry).

Pretty basic stuff, right?