Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stop asking What, Just Consider Why

I have grown up mostly in the 80s and 90s, and during those time periods, there has been a shift in the way examination and beliefs have processed. In the baby boomer generation, the question was “what should we do”? In my generation, Gen X and Gen Y, the question is not so much of how, but why? Why do we do things, what is the purpose and what is the point? Are we doing something that is worth while, is this worth our time and effort? This is a departure from the philosophy of our baby boomer parents, who told us what to do, but the question of why was usually answered with “because I said so”. This wasn’t enough for us then, and it’s certainly not enough for us today. In the realm of theology and the exploration of God’s word, the question is not so much of “what” but of “why”? God is moving, calling us to follow and there are things we should do and should not do, but why?
There are many things about God’s rules and laws that we take for granted, like the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes that tell us how we should behave. These are clear commandments, and like the Great Commission, we need to follow them, but have we ever stopped to ask why? Have we stopped to ask why God gives us things to do and things not to do? I believe that God encourages us and pushes us to ask the question why. The reason I believe is simple, God calls us to obedience to have a deeper, more intimate and fulfilling relationship with Him. This is the purpose of the commandments, for the Great Commission, for the wisdom of Paul and Peter, James and John, the writings of the Old and New Testament all exist for this one principle, that we can know and love God more and have a deeper relationship with Him.
The purpose of any theological system should not be to understand what God does, but who God is and why God is doing what He is doing. We should not approach God as a distant school master, who exists to keep us in line. Instead, we should approach God as loving father, who desires a deeper relationship with us. His desire is that we would live a fulfilling life, filled with love and joy and peace. We can find these things in our Heavenly Father, regardless of the turmoil of life, the difficult situations and the trials and temptations. The why to our what is this, that we would find all that we need in our Father.
This should change the way we approach God, the Bible and the rules and commands He gave us. They are not rules to keep us from life, but guidelines to make sure we have a full and substantial life. These truths that God gives us will free us from the bonds of sin, from the chains of error and the shackles that so often come with all disobedience. God will set us free if we will be open to be set free. God will give us life if we are just willing to live it. God wants to have a deeper relationship with us, and He longs to reveal more and more of His nature and character. In this, or any theological exercise, our goal should be to know God, love Him more and share what we have found with others. My prayer in this is that we will discover the depths of truth in His love and the freedom of His grace, as well as His commands.
Much of the on going debate in Theological systems comes from the question of “what is the process, what should we do”? We have been so focused on trying to understand the process that we have almost neglected the purpose of the very thing we are seeking to study and understand, that is the work of Christ in the power of His salvation to bring people to reconciliation with God.
What we have done is looked at two paths that both lead to the same place, to the power of God in salvation. One road is that of human choice, seeking God and crying out to Him. The other road is that of God extending grace to sinners and calling those He has chosen and predestined. Both paths go the same direction and both lead to the same destination. From an eternal view, the paths are one in the same. From a Theological view, the paths are different, but the destination is the same.
The purpose of the journey, however, is what I want to focus on and to look at the journey, we have to overlap the paths. Which ever path you choose to walk down, the purpose God has is this: for you to grow in relationship to the Father, to fall in love with Christ, to be filled with the Spirit and build a strong and healthy community with other believers. The works, prepared for us, have this as a result. We are involved with God to do each of these things.
We know God is at work in our world, that He never sleeps and He is always vigilant. We also know that God is working in His people and through His people. God left His people, the church, on earth to do the works prepared for them. In working with God, we see the power of God and we learn and grow to understand His character. As we reach out to the lost, to the dying world we are able to radiate the love of God. By being these conduits and vessels of God, we learn more and more about the nature of the Father. The more we know God, the more we will grow in love of God. Our relationship will continue to deepen and grow. He invites us to join Him where He is working, we learned this from Henry Blackaby and his Experiencing God material. God wants us to join Him so we can grow into relationship with Him, and it makes sense. I have learned a great deal about the people I work with by working with them. I can see their strengths and weaknesses, their ups and downs. Working side by side with someone reveals a great deal about their character. God wants us to know His character, so He works with us, in us and through us.
God works with us and tells us to work with each other. The church should be a mobilized work force, doing God’s work. When we join God at work together, we build a strong community, and that community in turn creates a healthy place for people to connect. New believers join and begin to work with us, learning about us, learning about God. Every educator knows that experience is the best teacher, that everyone learns best by doing, and hands on is the best classroom. You want people to be discipled, work with them.
Many of our theological questions are answered through working with God. Do you want to know how Salvation works, how it happens? Stop arguing over the theological systems and remember your salvation experience. Share with others and see how they experience God. What happens? How is God at work, and how are the people responding, acting and behaving? What does a genuine salvation experience look like when all the pieces are in place? What does it look like when a spirit filled believer shares Christ with the fertile soil and produces a harvest? That is what theology needs to be, field research. We can argue back and forth about how God does things in the classrooms and board rooms, but in the mission field, God will simply show us. The word comes alive, we hide it in our hearts and then we open up our hearts.
Stop asking the simple questions, stop looking for the simple “what do we do” and start asking “why does this matter” because when we look at how it matters, it changes everything. When we look at how the Theology of Salvation works in the lives of your neighbor, your friend, your coworker, it matters. When it becomes more than just a sighed confession or document or creed and becomes a way of life. That is what Wovenism is about, how do I, a simple man become a conduit of the Immortal, All Powerful, All Knowing God of the Universe who holds all of creation in His hand? I say yes to the invitation, I step out and faith and I do the work that was prepared for me from a time before time and I go. I ask myself “why does it matter” and I look the person in the eyes and I say, “you, you are why it matters”.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Breakfast time Curse

Know what makes me nuts?  Well, there are a couple of things, but this one is maddening.  Cereal dust.  You know, you go to pour some cereal into a bowl and you get a pile of sawdust that was at one time your cereal?  I know it's an inevitability, the life of cereal is packing, sealing, packing, shipping, unpacking, stocking, buying, bagging, unbagging, opening and pouring.  Cereal dust is bound to happen, but someone must have a solution.  Can't we start a fund for someone to find the solution to the cause of Cereal dust?  It's a plague on humanity.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Problem of Being Overly Busy

Are you busy?  Probably, it seems we are all busy.  There is a huge problem that comes from us being busy all the time.  You see, we are told in scripture about a whole lot of "one anothers".  We are to support, care for, love, help and carry burdens for one another.  We are too be there and support one another and be knit together into the body of Christ.  Are we doing the things we should do as His body?

We see in Acts that all the believers were together daily.  They worshiped together every day, they prayed together, ate together and supported one another.  They devoted time and energy to one another.  The problem that comes with being so busy is that it takes the time away from being together with one another.  Most of the things that keep us busy are devoted mostly to ourselves.  We are busy with our jobs, hobbies, duties and obligations, projects, family, so on and so on.  We are so focused on ourselves and doing what is good for us that we have become too busy to maintain and build relationships.

Sometimes church keeps us so busy that we forget to be the church.  We spend so much time doing, setting up chairs, making coffee, writing or editing or making copies and preparing that we forget to do what we are suppose to be doing.  We spend so much time on the other pursuits that we forget that we are called to be with one another.  We are so busy with the tasks that we forget to love and care for one another.  We are ok bring 8 of 10 people along because we've forgotten it's all about the people.

Are you too busy?  Could be it's a sin in your life and you need to find a way to not be so busy.  Find a way to connect and grow with others into the body of Christ.  Stop doing church and be the church, and take an example from Acts, be together.  Be united and be less busy.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Open Letter for All Christians

Dear Fellow Christians,
     We have it wrong, we have put the emphasis on the wrong place for far too long.  I am talking about the focus on changing the country through legislation.  We have tried to make laws against immorality and sin.  We have tried to change people, tried to make them obey the things we have held sacred and dear.  The reality is, we can't.  We can't legislate people into right behavior, and we can't make laws to get people to heaven.  We have focused on the law and on legal routes.
    Let's change, let's try to change society and the world by telling people about Jesus.  The early church changed the Roman empire by being salt and light, not senators or Caeser.  They changed it at the grass roots level.  They changed the world because they loved the world, because God loves the world.  Let's share Christ, it changes people.
In Love,

Monday, July 21, 2014

Are Tattoo sinful?

Let's hit a hot button issue today, are tattoos sinful?  This should be easy, after all the Bible says not to get a tattoo, right?  Cut and dry?  This passage is found in Leviticus chapter 19 verse 28, right among a whole bunch of laws.  To be blunt, to use this verse against tattoos is the worst case of picking and choosing what to obey in the history of picking and choosing.  This passage condemns blended fabric (no 50/50 cotton blends), eating fruit before it's been 5 years, cutting your hair and your beard.  We don't follow any of those, but attempt to enforce the tattoo, why?  I'll tell you why, we think tattoos are bad and evil and we need justification.  After all, bikers and sailors get tattoos, and they are mean and dirty and curse a lot.

The fact is, Leviticus chapter 19 is written to tell the Hebrews how to be different from the Gentiles.  All the things the Lord says NOT to do are things the worshipers of Baals and Ashura DID do as part of worship.  The verse says do not cut or tattoo yourself.  Remember when Elijah was on Mt Caramel with the prophets of Baal, and to attempt to get Baal to act, the prophets began to cut themselves?  Ya, the scars that remained would be the tattoo (they didn't have a tattoo gun).  They would rub ash or other dark colors into the cuts to make them colored (sort of) and that was their tattoo.  It was done for religious reasons, and was forbidden for ancient Hebrews.  Christians today are not ancient Hebrews and we need to understand the Bible in context.

What about your body being a temple, does that mean to take care of your body?  Most of the places that is mentioned is talking about sexual relations.  Your body holds the Holy Spirit, and when you have sex, two become one.  Do not join your temple with a pagan temple (in the case of pagan prostitutes as in 1 Corinthians 6).  It also talks about division in the church, since we are the temple if we destroy the church and separate, we dishonor God's temple and will be destroyed, the sin of Ananias and Saphira.

So, are tattoos a sin?  Yes and no.  For someone who has no moral objection, a clear conscience and feels it's ok, they are free in Christ to get a tattoo.  For someone who feels it's wrong, it's sin for them.  The Bible does not tell Christians not to get a tattoo, but it does tell us to listen to our conscience and not to offend others with our freedoms in Christ.  We are free in Christ to get a tattoo, but not free in Christ to offend another brother.  Keep them modest, keep them free of profanity, vulgarity and immorality (no naked people).  Keep them somewhere they don't offend people and don't condemn a person who feels a tattoo is a sin for them, because if it's a sin for them, they need to abstain.  For the rest of us, make sure you find a good artist!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Original (and Origin) Flaming Faggot

Maybe you have heard the term "faggot" or "flaming faggot" used in a derogatory way in referring to homosexual men.  Have you ever wondered where the word came from, or why it's used?  It's interesting enough that it shares a history with Christians, since Christians and homosexuals are at such odds, maybe it's worthwhile to discovered a shared past, or a shared enemy.  In this case, that enemy is fire.  You see, a faggot is not a gay man, a faggot is a bundle of sticks.  These were used to light fires, specifically when you burn someone alive at the stake.

In the early days of Christianity, professing Christians were burned alive at the stake.  They would be tied to a large poll coming from the ground, surrounded with wood, specifically faggots and they would be set to flaming to kill the Christian in a gruesome manor.  Many Christian men and women died in this way.  This tradition was stopped when Christianity became accepted and eventually the religion of the empire, but this does not end the time of the flaming faggot.  It shows up again in our shared past.

During the dark ages, the Roman Church began to condemn people as heretics for certain activities.  Some of these included sharing and reading the Bible without permission from the Bishop, or for worship outside of the church.  The most famous of these was the Spanish Inquisition, when thousands of faithful men and women were killed.  Many of them were burned alive at the stake for heresy.  We also see some tried as witches or devil worshipers and condemned to death.  Among those where any who were involved in homosexual activities, they would be burned alive, victims of the flaming faggot.

Even in this country, during the early days of America, men and women (mainly women) were burned alive at the stake, thought to be witches.  Those engaging in homosexuality were also thought to be involved in the occult or witch craft and were burned alive.  Death by burning has occurred all through our history, Christianity has been plagued by the smell of human flesh burning since the beginning.

Today, there are plenty of burnings happening, but they are not those of the flaming faggot type.  No one is being burned alive, but the rage and the anger continues to burn.  Protests, sit ins and demonstrations on both sides as issues rage and boil.  We have not loved one another for being two groups who claim to be about love.  Neither side shows much love to the other.

I hope that we can put the flaming faggots aside and act out the one thing we are both speaking and teaching, love.  Do homosexuals and Evangelical Christians have a lot of differences?  Yes, they do.  I myself do not believe that a homosexual lifestyle is pleasing to God, but I can love.  I can love the man who drinks, the man who curses, the man who has sexual relationships with multiple women or who loves another man.  I don't condemn any of them, but I love and pray for everyone, because everyone needs grace.  Let's put down the torches and let's put away using derogatory terms on each other and live out that one teaching we both shout so loudly.  Love.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reader's Request: Who Are You?

What is your Primary identity?  Who are you?  Well, I'm a dad, I'm a husband, I'm an operator at a food ingredient manufacturing plant, I'm a friend and a brother, I'm still a son even with my parents gone to Heaven.  I'm a lot of things, but what is my primary identity?

There are two kinds of people in the world, that's it.  Just two and the identity is most obvious at the day of the Great White Throne.  There are sheep and goats.  That's it, you are either on the right or the left.  The sheep, the believers, the followers of Jesus Christ are on the right, the goats, the lost, the unbelievers are on the left. You are either a Christian or a Pagan.  That's all.

So you say "that's great, that is who I am then, but who am I now?"  If you are a Christian, than any day, on your best day or your worst day you are Christ in __________(insert your name).  John Lynch delivers a great message you should watch here called Truefaced.  John says that you are wrapped in a robe of righteousness always because you are in Christ.

We like to define ourselves by what we do, what our job title is or what we have accomplished.  We put letters after our name, before our name, MD, PhD, Dr. Rev, the list goes on and on.  Who are you really?  I would submit to you that who you really are is the part of you that you are going to be for eternity.  That means you are either a sheep, a follower, an adopted Child of God, a Christian or you are not.  Where you spend eternity matters infinitely more than what you do for a living, what degrees you have, and what titles you carry.  The short time you spend in this life will have no consequence after one million years into eternity, and you will just be getting started.

We don't often fathom eternity, but being an eternal being, having infinite time ahead of us, that is where it matters who you are.  Are you one of His, or are you at odds with God and spending eternity separated from Him?  I recommend watching the video I posted earlier, and see how you can continue to grow into who you already as a Christ follower.