Tag Archives: religion

Blinded to See

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Ok, I know this isn’t a new concept, but a recent firefighter training exercise during one of my Fire 1&2 classes helped me realize how much I didn’t know about something I thought I knew.  I already knew, as I’m sure most of you know, that when one of our senses is taken away or limited, we rely on other senses to compensate, but what I didn’t realize was how much I rely on my sight and that I didn’t know my equipment as well as I thought I did.  Relying on or focusing on one thing more than others can cause us to miss things in so many areas of our lives, from knowing our equipment, having good leadership skills, to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

So what was the training exercise?  In a nutshell, we had to simulate replacing our air cylinder under no visibility conditions by being blindfolded with all our gear on.  Although performing that task while being blindfolded can be challenging, what made it even more challenging was having to do it wearing thick fire gloves.  Not only was our sight removed, but our sense of touch was also hindered.

As I thought about the various ways the lesson could be applied, I was reminded of a TV show I’d seen a few times years ago called Dating in the Dark.  It was a reality show in which three men and three women entered a pitch black room, sat at a table, and tried to get to know each other quickly.  After the brief group meeting, each contestant could invite another contestant to have a one-on-one date, again in a completely dark room.  What was interesting was how each person reacted when they were finally allowed to see the one they’d chosen.  Some were ecstatic to find they had chosen an extremely attractive person, while others sometimes looked like they wanted to vomit when their date’s physical form was unveiled, even if they loved that person’s personality and other characteristics such as voice, laugh, or touch.  I know physical attraction can be a huge factor in having an intimate relationship, but it was sad to watch people being rejected because of the superficial focus.  That actually goes both ways; seeing only a person’s attractiveness can cause us to miss both great and ugly character qualities, or it can cause a person to feel like mere ‘arm candy’.

Just as knowing our equipment is important, good leaders know those they lead.  When leaders focus primarily on only one or two things, they miss the big picture, and their leadership and team suffer.  Good leaders are like good incident commanders, knowing the strengths and limitations of their crew, positioning themselves at a good vantage point to get a good overall view, having good communication skills, and being able to multi-task and delegate to get the job done efficiently.  Good leaders are able to lead, because they can see who and where they are leading.  Bad leaders think they see and know everything, but they are like the blind leading the blind.  Jesus called the religious leaders of His time “blind guides”, because they focused so much on trying to be right with God by following certain rules or having certain beliefs, and trying to be respected and praised by striving to be seen and praised for their good deeds and knowledge, that they missed the most important things… humility, mercy and love.

I don’t claim to see and know everything.  I know I have blind spots, too, but I’m learning and trying to see and understand things more clearly and am grateful for lessons and training exercises that help reveal my weaknesses.

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No Lamb Cuddles

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This past weekend, I was able to gain firsthand experience of one of Jesus’ parables. A friend’s parents own a sheep farm, and while visiting him and his wife with another friend, he asked if I would like to see the lambs and possibly get a cuddle.

Umm, yes, please!

While giving a tour of the sheep farm, he explained that we would be going to a field where 1-year lambs were grazing with rams, rather than visiting the field where lambs were with the ewes, because the ewes can become feisty, while the rams remain chill. It reminded me of the difference between some mothers and fathers— mothers tend to be more protective and careful, while fathers tend to be more relaxed when it comes to their children.

As we drew near to the sheep, although they were mildly curious, they did not recognize our voices, so they would not come near, and some even moved further away. No matter how sweetly we spoke to the sheep and tried to convince them to come near, there were no lamb cuddles for us that day. My friend said that if his mother, their shepherdess, was with us, they would have come running as soon as they heard her.

Jesus’ parable, directed toward the Pharisees, stated that His sheep follow Him because they recognize His voice, but will never follow a stranger and will even run away, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice. The point Jesus was making to the religious leaders, who were considered by most Jews to be closest to God, was they were not recognizing Him as being from God, because they were not His sheep and even accused Him of being a demon possessed sinner. Instead of recognizing God’s voice and following Jesus as the Good Shepherd, they refused to follow Him and were even trying to kill Him and steal His sheep by trying to convince people to believe and follow them! I have come across people who are so done with religion and traditional church, myself included, but still believe in God. Could it be that we are running away, because we realize some of the voices don’t really sound like Jesus’?

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If you liked this, you might also like… Lost and Found

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The Greatest of These


Some Christians put more emphasis on the spiritual gifts, like preaching, teaching, evangelizing, or in the charismatic circles, sign gifts like speaking in tongues, as if the gifts of the Spirit are more important than the fruit of the Spirit.  “I’m a preacher, Bible teacher, or missionary, so I am spiritually superior to you and more effective in spreading the Gospel and teaching spiritual things than you,” or “I speak in tongues, so I am more spiritual than you”.  After adding the poster to my Facebook page and receiving a few comments, I realized that the quote parallels 1 Corinthians 13, also known as ‘The Love Chapter’.  Basically, the gifts are meaningless without the fruit.  “And the greatest of these is love…”

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Where’s the Fruit?
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Unconditional Love and Grace Are Not Dirty Words

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A few weeks ago I heard a preacher talk about God’s unconditional love as if it was a dirty word. On another occasion, an old friend spoke of grace with equal disdain. I understand where they were coming from. One was coming from an attitude of legalism, while the other was grieving over grace being taken for granted and used as a license to sin. I am grateful that the pastors and teachers at the church I attend preach about God’s unconditional love and grace in a balanced way and without contempt.

 My daughter and I were discussing how people see truths differently depending on where they are in life and through which lens they are looking. For example, a person who truly recognizes his or her own utter depravity and the amazing grace and unconditional love of God, tends to really understand grace and is able to be gracious toward others. They see grace in a very positive way. Those who tend toward legalism and feel justified because they are able to keep certain commandments or live what they consider to be a good Christian life, tend to view unconditional love and grace with less value and speak contemptuously about churches that emphasize God’s love and grace. It is reminiscent of what Jesus said to Simon, the Pharisee, when he scorned Jesus for allowing a prostitute to wipe His feet with her hair. Jesus said:

“Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gave me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but his woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much; but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” (Luke 7:36-50)

The preacher I heard also mentioned visiting a fellow Christian, and upon finding out he had beer in his refrigerator, condemned him and questioned whether or not the man was a true Christian. Even if the man was an alcoholic, it does not mean he is not a Christian. What if he is addicted but wants to quit? What if he agrees with God that his drunkenness is sin? Didn’t the Apostle Paul himself say in the very same letter to the Romans concerning there being “therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, that he himself does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he wants to do? Didn’t Paul call himself a wretched man and thank God for Jesus Christ his Lord? (Romans 7 :14-25)

The attitude of the preacher reminds me of the parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the publican (with modern claims added in italics and parentheses for emphasis):

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (Alcohol has never touched my lips, nor my feet entered a movie theater. I am in church every time the doors are open, and I go out soul-winning every week.)” And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. —Luke 18:9-14

Another preacher, who is full of grace, has never condemned his crack addict friend. He does not question his love for the Lord just because his friend is in church for a time and then falls back into his crack addiction. This preacher loves his friend unconditionally and encourages him to never, ever, ever give up. Which one would you say is more like Jesus?

Unconditional love and grace are, indeed, not to be used as a license to do whatever we want. If we do that, then it is fair that our love for God would be put in question. But if we hate when we sin, if we agree with God and try to turn away from doing it again…

and again…

and again,

He forgives us 70 x 7, because He is full of grace and a love that does not put conditions on us, like doing penance, before He will love us again. His love is unconditional. A person who simply dismisses sin and makes light of it because of grace and unconditional love, may need to consider the seriousness of sin, the purpose of obedience, and his/her own love for God. Likewise, people who speak of unconditional love and grace with disdain, may need to consider their own depravity and remember from what they themselves have been saved.

If I err, I would rather err on the side of love and grace.

 

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Godly Songs Are Not Repetitious and Are Full of Doctrine. Oh Really?

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A few weeks ago, I attended a local event hosted by a church, which was also attended by several pastors within their association. Have you ever heard Christians dis other churches for singing anything other than hymns? They say things like, “Godly music must be rich in doctrine,” or “Songs of worship should not be repetitious. That’s what’s wrong with today’s contemporary songs. They’re just fluff,” and they actually call the songs that other churches sing “ungodly”. I often wonder if they have ever read, studied or been helped by the book of Psalms.

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Psalm 136 is an example of a psalm that contains a lot of repetition:

An exhortation to give thanks to God for particular mercies

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:

With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:

But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:

Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.

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Is Psalm 136 ungodly and unsuitable for church worship because it is repetitious? If not, then why are contemporary songs rejected simply because they contain some repetition?

The song in the video below is the cry of a broken heart, a crushed spirit due to the loss of a child. The lyrics reveal the struggle of the heart to continue trusting in God— “To think that Providence would take a child from his mother while she prays, is appalling.”

Wasn’t King David open and honest with the LORD? Can we not be as well, or is this song also unacceptable and ungodly?

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Psalm 6 is an example of a psalm that does not contain the kind of doctrine that the pontificators say godly songs should contain. It is a cry of the heart:

David’s complaint in his sickness

To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.

O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.

My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?

Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.

For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.

Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.

The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer. Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.

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The same pontificators talk about how things are a matter of the heart, and yet deny the same when they reject songs that are cries of the heart to God. Which is it? Is it really a matter of the heart or a matter of musical taste?

 

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Book Review: Revelation: Four Views – A Parallel Commentary

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Have you had nagging questions even after hearing several teachings on the book of Revelation and the End Times?  Although I am still reading Revelation: Four Views, Revised and Updated – A Parallel Commentary by Steve Gregg, it has answered some of those nagging questions I have had for years.  Things that I had been taught just didn’t seem to square up with Scripture.  Some things seemed to have been forced, like trying to push a square peg into a round hole.  I’m not saying I understand it all now, but I feel like the dimmer switch has been turned up and opened my understanding regarding more than just the subject of the End Times.

The book is set up in four parallel columns, presenting the four most commonly held views of interpretation.  It is easy to read, so it’s a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about the book of Revelation and end times theology.  It might even answer some nagging questions you have.

 

Disclosure:  After stumbling upon it, I bought the book myself, and although the link above is an affiliate link, I am not required to give a favorable review.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 


It’s Not About Religion, But It’s Not Just About a Relationship Either

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You’ve probably heard it.

You’ve probably read it.

I know I’ve said it.

“It’s not about religion. It’s about a relationship.”

Although I said it in It’s Not About Going to Heaven, I also mentioned that Jesus’ dying on the cross was about reconciliation and getting to spend an eternity with God.

But there’s more.

Yesterday at church, our co-pastor, Josh, preached the morning sermon, and I wrote something down because of something he had said. I wish I could remember what he said, but all I wrote was “relationship & fellowship”, and as I pondered the two, although it was not exactly what his sermon was about, I realized that having a relationship with people… or God, does not automatically lead to having fellowship with them.

Fellowship is not about Christian socializing, like church potlucks and picnics, although that is what we generally think of when we use the word fellowship.

Although the term fellowship is used mostly among Christians, it is also used by groups of learned or skilled people in pursuit of mutual knowledge or talent. I know a married couple, who are professional photographers, master photographers, and were the first married couple to become Fellows as well. To become a Fellow within a group of academia is generally a great honor and something that is not bestowed lightly. Within Christianity, the term comes from the Greek koinonia, meaning “communion, joint participation, or partnership”. I have heard our pastor and other preachers define it like this:

“Fellowship is two fellows in a ship, rowing in the same direction.”

In life, there are relationships that occur naturally, like within families. We have a relationship that is created either by birth or marriage, but we don’t necessarily get along, get together or pursue the same goals as a family group. We may have a relationship, but we don’t always have fellowship.

We all have a relationship with God whether we believe in Him or not, because He is our Creator, but we do not all have fellowship with Him. We might have even said “the prayer” and call ourselves Christians and not have fellowship with Him.

But, if we are trying to seek Him, (even if we get distracted), and if we are trying to do what He said, (even if we fail), and if we are trying to discern His will and participate in His purposes and goals, (even if we sometimes think our way is His way), then we have fellowship with Him. He is so patient and gracious, that even when we break fellowship with Him, He still pursues us.

It’s not just about a relationship.

 

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Truth is Truth

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“Truth is truth.  It’s unbending in that way.  Reality is what you run into when you’re wrong.  Y’know, some of you want to think that what you believe makes something true or false.  It’s true or false regardless of what you believe about it.  Truth is unbending in that way.  You remember what they said, ‘God said it, I believe it, and that settles it’?  No, God said it and that settles it whether you believe it or not.”  —Steve Cobb, pastor in The Most Worthy Struggle (Feb. 2011)

Although I believe the Old and New Testaments are truth and Jesus Himself claimed to be the way, the truth and the life, I do not claim that everything I understand and believe is truth.  I am still studying and learning, casting off old traditions that leave questions and don’t square up, and holding fast to those that through study, application and experience I am convinced are solid.


Should Christians Be Happy All the Time?

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Three years ago, I had published a blog post that was inspired by a song taught to children in church, as well as an article by Russell Moore entitled Why Facebook (and Your Church) Might Be Making You Sad.  I had been considering posting it again, and although I could be wrong, I think the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge to go ahead and do so.

The song is high energy and fun to sing because of hand motions and increasing speed, but it hit me three years ago that it can also be very confusing and deceiving.  Why?  Well it goes like this:

I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.
I’m inright, outright, upright downright happy all the time.
Since Jesus Christ came in and cleansed my heart from sin,
I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.

Are Christians happy all the time?

When a little girl in a preschool class heard she would be singing the song, she cried out, “But I’m not happy all the time!”

Out of the mouth of babes.

Are Christians happy all the time?  Should we be?  We might try to pretend to be, but no, we’re not.  We have the same struggles as everyone else.  I think there are a few reasons we might put on a façade:  1) It makes us feel more religious/spiritual, 2) We have a sincere desire to glorify God, showing He is real and trustworthy, and we wrongly believe being happy all the time is most glorifying to God.  But can we truly reflect what’s real, if we ourselves are not?  Is that glorifying to God?

One of the things Russell Moore said in the article mentioned above is, “By not speaking, where the Bible speaks, to the full range of human emotion—including loneliness, guilt, desolation, anger, fear, desperation—we only leave our people there, wondering why they just can’t be “Christian” enough to smile through it all.”

Children, teenagers and even adults could be left asking themselves, “What’s wrong with me?  Why am I not happy all the time?”  Not only that, but they can learn to not trust the Bible or church, because what they’ve been taught either doesn’t square up with real life or they later realize they were led to believe something that isn’t true.  Even Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

I mean no disrespect to anyone who has taught or still teaches the song or songs like it, because no one would knowingly seek to confuse or deceive children.  Sometimes we do things because it’s what we ourselves were taught or because it’s what has always been done.  But I think when children speak or react, we ought to take note and consider if perhaps changes need to be made in the way we present things.

Edited on February 24, 2014 @ 20:48 to add:  I should have said and need to add that the preachers and teachers of the church I attend do speak to the range of emotions found in the Bible, so this post is not an indictment of them. The purpose of the post is to encourage review and consideration of things we’ve always done and things that may sound good but may not be true.


Tickle My Ears, Tell Me What I Like to Hear

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.  —2 Tim. 4:3

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. —2 Tim. 4:3

Oftentimes when someone talks about people going to certain churches to have their ears tickled or who have ‘itching ears’, they describe them as people who want to hear only ‘feel good’ messages, teachings and sermons that lack Biblical doctrine. While that may be true, those who love hard messages can also be guilty of having itching ears.

A careful reading of both 2 Timothy 3 and 4 reveals it is not merely talking about soft and fluffy feel good messages, but any teaching that is unsound, especially concerning salvation, and that includes teaching man-made rules, also known as the traditions of men or traditions of the elders, as though they were commandments from God. Fluffy teachings can tickle our ears if we don’t like being told what to do. Hard messages can tickle our ears if we, not only like to live by a strict set of rules that make us feel like elite Christians, but like telling others how they should live, too. Oh sure, both fluffy messages and hard ones may contain some truth, but as a Yiddish proverb says, “A half truth is a whole lie,” and can lead people astray. Either way, if we tend to heap unto ourselves teachers who tickle our ears so we feel better about ourselves, we may want to consider if what we’re listening to and who we follow are sound in doctrine.


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