Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Freedom

Are you free?   Like really free?   I was walking with a buddy at work the other day,  and there are painted lines to separate the walkway from the area in the warehouse where the forklift runs.   The lines are like the commandments in the Bible.   They show us where to walk so sin doesn't run us down like a loaded down forklift.

We see these lines,  and we begin to obsess over where the lines are.   We want to know "is this a sin? "  or "is that a sin?"   We want to know where the edge of the cliff is because we are obsessed with walking on the edge.   We want to stay as close to the temptation as we can without actually stepping over it,  which we usually end up doing.

Maybe it's time we begin to live out of who we really are.   As sons and daughters of God,  we are free to live without being trapped by sin.   Everything in God's laws and commands are there to give us life.   There is fulfillment of the Old Testament laws,  we no longer have to sacrifice,  we don't wear four tassels and we can eat bacon.   We have freeing laws,  like love God,  love for Him sets us free.   Love others because anger and hate are a prison.   Share and build community,  we are meant to be with others.   Avoid those things that will trap you and snare you and destroy your life.

The road is narrow and few find it,  but we don't have to live on the edge of the path.   Let's move to the center and run with the freedom of God's incredible grace.   Let's focus more on how we can love others instead of how close we can get to sin.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I'm Back

Well I haven't blogged in a while.  I have been working nights and still recovering from surgery so I took a mental break.  I continued to read my Bible, but stopped reading just about everything else.  I didn't write anything and just shut down some.  It was a good mental vacation, but I missed writing, so I'm back.  I want to share a few things I learned during my time away.

First, I have found I have a deep craving for wisdom.  I have been reading and re-reading Proverbs in an attempt to gain wisdom.  I have prayed for wisdom and really begun to think about who I spend time with.  I crave wise mentors in my life and need to make a strong effort to be with those who are wise.

I am learning patience.  I struggle with feeling hopeless about my desire for vocational ministry.  I felt called into vocational ministry since I was 16, spent 20 years working and preparing and then it seemed one day is was gone.  There are some days I feel like that life is gone, that I will never again be in vocational ministry.  People love to tell me that I just need to be in ministry where I am.  That's called being a Christian, of course I do ministry where I am.  Vocational Ministry is different all together, and I miss it a great deal.  I must continue to be patient and see what God has in store for me.  It's not easy.

I am learning to take each day as it comes.  There is value in planning and preparation, but the best laid plans do often go astray.  I am trying to put my focus in where I am and what I'm doing.  When I'm at work, I focus on work, and I try to do the same at home.  It's not always easy, I want to focus on all the things I need to do and all the things I have to do and all the things I want to do.  Lots of distractions that I'm trying to cut out.

Now that I'm back, I hope to blog more.  I have a few reviews to write and some things I want to share.  I hope you'll join me as I begin my writing adventure again.  I've missed sharing with you.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Look Inside the Depressed Soul

I have written several times about struggling with depression, I don't want to rehash all of that.  I want to consider for a moment if we were to take out my soul and dissect it, what would be find inside.

My soul looks no different than any other.  It's a reflection of who I am as a person, fragile yet resilient, tender but sometimes rude.  It longs to give but it can also take, it loves but can be overcome with rage.  The depression has caused it to be a darker shade, you can see by looking on the outside it's over come by some shadows of despair.  What would you expect to find filling such a soul?  Bitter poison?  Garbage, dark and foul sludge?  Is it full of hate and disgust?  What will be filling a soul of depression when looking inside.

Opening up my soul, there is nothing.  It's empty, no garbage, no sludge just a hollow, cacophonous void.  There are small spots in the corner of the remaining joy and hope.  There is a small puddle of bitterness, some anger splattered, all the human emotions but just trace amounts.  For the majority, it's just empty.  The air is stale, there is no movement or breeze.  It's just an empty space.

The soul longs for something to fill the empty space.  There is a longing for love and joy and peace to fill the gaps.  There was a time when emotions flowed in the soul more freely, but they have all dried up.  Only residue of their existence remains.  The is no reason, no blockage or structural defect that has caused the emptiness.  It just is, it's a reality that I have not found the key to repairing.

As I close my soul up, I ask myself, what is the answer?  How do I fill my soul again?  There are so many opinions, voices on the outside shouting at me, telling me what to do.  Fix my circumstances, just get over it, deal with my issues and stop feeling sorry for myself.  I have tried to get over it, tried food and exercise and medication.  The empty spaces remain.  Occasionally an emotion will run for a little while, but then dries up again.

I will continue on, to persevere with an empty space inside my soul.  I will go forward, whether I feel like it or not and seek the answer.  Maybe one day I'll find it, maybe I won't.  For now my companion is a hollow space that I long to fill with goodness.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Time for my X-Mas Post

I write a blog about this every year, and since we have the tree up, it's time for me to write my yearly blog on the nature of Christians around Christmas time.  You see, something happens to Christians around this time of year that instead of being the hands and feet of Jesus, we become overly sensitive cry babies, getting mad if someone says the wrong blessing.  People in stores and banks and other places of business have the gall to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas".

The other issue is the infamous X-Mas.  The problem with this is the X is the Greek letter for Christ.  X-mas was started by Christians because they understood that X=Christ.  Then we forgot that X=Christ and started blaming the filthy sinner of taking Christ out of Christmas.

So here is my rant.  We are suppose to represent Christ, and I'm sure He never threw a fit over something as trivial as how people greeted him.  Holiday is a variation of Holy Day, so it's still in a sense a Christian greeting.  Instead of being gracious, smiling and saying "Merry Christmas" back, we have thrown a fit about it publicly.  It has caused those who are far from God to move farther from God.  We have damaged our one job, our purpose for being on earth over a holiday greeting.

I saw a picture on Facebook that says "But the Christ back in Christmas?  How about putting the Christ back in Christian".  That does sum up a little about how we act during this time of year.  Let's be gracious, offering kindness and understanding.  Let's be the Christ at Christmas instead of worrying about how Wal-mart employees greet us.  Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thoughts of Ferguson, How Do We Make Sense?

Unless you've been under a rock, you know the grand jury chose not to indite the officer responsible for the death of a young black man in a suburb of St. Louis.  The result of that decision has been a great deal of social unrest in Ferguson.  Looting an rioting and protest both peaceful and violent.  As Christians, as people of faith, what do we do in response to the heaping of tragedy on tragedy?  How can we make sense of what is happening?

Civil unrest due to ethnic or cultural differences has existed since the tower of Babel.  Man was split into different culture groups, which we have mistakenly called "race".  Let's be clear, humans are all one race, but we have different culture and ethic groups, sometimes based on a similar genetic trait such as the amount of melanin and skin pigment.  Cultures often considered themselves better than other cultures or people groups, sometimes leading to killing them, enslaving them, persecuting them or other harmful or shameful behaviors.  In this country, Africans were brought on ships in horrible conditions and made slaves.  Once slavery was abolished, the now American blacks had no rights, or very few.  This has been a long standing issue, and the economic disparity that exists has created a culture and ethic clash for many in the black community.  This is what exists in Ferguson, and it doesn't matter if the officer in question was justified or unjustified in the shooting.  It matters that the members of that community feel like they are marginalized and shunned.

As Christians, we must recognize that in our own communities, there are many who feel they are not cared for or cared about.  They may be black or Hispanic or white or a mixture of cultures.  They feel like no one cares, they feel like they have no opportunity and will never be able to get out of life they find themselves.  Many are angry or depressed or a combination.  People are hurting and when a tragedy occurs like happened in Ferguson, it causes even deeper feeling of alienation.  We must come along side these hurting people and love them, pray for them and help them to feel connected to a community of support and encouragement.  The church should be active and alive in these communities and bringing support.  For too long, the only supportive community has been that of the gang, the criminal groups or the drug culture.  They have used the opportunity of the hurt to enlist and grow their communities.  The church needs to make sure we are building communities there.

We need to help the kids.  The kids suffer more than anyone in these communities.  They are targets of gangs and drug dealers, trying to recruit them.  They are often alone as mom works to pay the bills.  Sometimes dad is around, sometimes dad isn't around.  The air of hopelessness is all around them, often the schools and programs in the area struggle more and have less to offer.  It's a situation that causes a perpetual cycle, many feel like there is no way out.  The church, Christians need to be present in the situation, giving and sharing and loving.  We need to give the kids something to hope for, and a reason to be happy.

Ferguson reminds us that there are hurts in this country that run deep.  People are hurt and angry and when things like this occur, it releases pain that has been pushed down for too long.  The violence isn't coming just from this even, but from years, decades of hurt and abandonment.  We can speak out against the violence, but more talking will never heal their hearts.  We need to be the hands, the feet of Jesus and do what we can to make things better for everyone, meet them where they are and love them where they live.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How To Tell If You Are in A Cult

With the rise in popularity of the non-Denominational church, coupled with some pretty wild theology out there today, there are people who have found themselves in a cult instead of a Gospel focused church.  Don't let this happen to you, examine a few things in your church, it may not be a church at all.  You may find yourself in a cult, and if so, it's time to pack up and run.  Here are a few places to begin your examination if you are suspicious and think your local fellowship may be headed a cult like direction.

Quick definition, a cult is a group that claims to be Christian, has characteristics of a Christian church, has some doctrine in common but moves away from orthodoxy in a foundation or key aspect.

First, examine the pastor and leadership.  The first sign of cult turnings of an independent church will be with the leadership.  If the focus is all on the pastor, if he talks about himself as much or more than about Christ, look out.  A pastor who is self focused and self absorbed will begin to desire to be worshiped himself.  Preaching makes it difficult to stay humble, you command the attention of a room full of people for 30 minutes or more every week.  They often tell you what a great job you did, it's easy to let the pride begin to change you.  If your pastor is more interested in himself than Jesus, then maybe it's time to go.

If the definitions of Christian truths are changed, there may be a problem.  If they add something to salvation, big problem.  Remember, you are saved by grace through faith, there are no works involved.  If you are told you have to do something to get to heaven, there is a problem.  You are saved by what Christ already did, He will draw you and you respond and confess sin and turn from your sinful ways.  This happens as a response to grace, not as a work.  If you are told you have to do a work, perform an act, display a gift to be saved, then you shouldn't hang out much longer.  If the church adds to the requirement of salvation, it's time to go.

If the Word of God is compromised, time to go.  God gave us everything we need in the Scripture, it's complete.  If you are told there are more books that need to be read, more gospels or modern day revelations, you should be shopping for a new church.  If you are told there are things being said, written or published that are equal with or more important than Scripture, there's a problem.  The best way to lead people astray is to give them something they will believe that tells them what they want.  These false scriptures will lead you away from what the Scripture teaches and can enslave you to cult doctrine.  That being said, books in themselves are not bad, but they must match up to what Scripture teaches and never be elevated to be along side or above Scripture.

Another thing to watch out for is how they talk about Jesus.  Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Jesus is Lord of lords, King of kings, the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.  Jesus is part of the Godhead, He is fully divine, He is God.  He is one with the Father and is far above all creation.  Any church that lessons the position of Jesus as less than any of these things has a problem.  Jesus is not a created being, He is co-eternal with the Father (settled by the Council of Nicaea).  Watch and make sure that your church puts Jesus in His proper place of honor and gives Him glory and honor and praise and worship as God.  Anything less is cult like.  If Jesus is not who the Scripture says He is, then Salvation will be flawed as well.

I hope and pray that you attend and are part of a Biblically solid and faithful Christian church.  If you are not, let me urge you to find one.  I know that leaving a church is incredibly difficult, especially if you have friends and family there.  It's worth it, and Jesus said that sometimes there would be divisions like this.  Jesus said that His coming would set family members against one another.  Sometimes this happens because someone is part of a cult and another member of the family wants out.  Jesus is worth it, and you eternal soul is worth it.  Find a solid, Bible teaching, faith holding, Jesus praising church to call your church home.  It's worth it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Who's Really the Problem

If you read any Christian blogs, including mine, you have probably heard about all the problems in the American church.  There is no end to the list of issues, yet I have discovered something interesting.  First it seems that it's every other church that is the problem.  It's every other Christian who has the issue, and it's always a problem someplace else.  I have served in a number of churches who claim to be different that all the other churches.  Most of the time, they weren't.  It always seems like the problem is out there, somewhere else.

For the life of me, I can't put my finger on the group or church that has the problem.  If you tell a church they are part of the problem, most of the time they can tell you why they aren't.  What I have learned is that we don't know we are part of the problem, that makes us part of the problem.  I know that I am in need of supernatural help to deal with my part of the problem.

I know that I am flawed, that I don't share my faith enough, I am not compassionate enough, I don't do all the things I know I should for the kingdom.  I think I know more than I probably do, I can be arrogant and prideful.  I have problems and issues, and I know I am a product of the American Church.  I have a hard time looking outside of the established paradigm and focusing on the purity of the Gospel.  I know that I am part of the problem and not enough of the solution.

How about you?  Are you more problem or more solution?  How many people are you actively sharing faith with, serving in Christ like ministry.  If you know the numbers off the top of your head, you are in bigger trouble than I am.  Let's begin to find our frailties and give them to the Father, begin to find our blind spots and work on them.  Maybe then, we can change this whole thing for the better.