Friday, May 6, 2016

Call of God or Indigestion?

Reverend Peter McBlabbermouth shared the story of his "call to ministry" countless times and it was a story that warmed the hearts of the hearer.  He also told the story about his decision to be a business owner to help support his calling to preach, teach, and bleach.  The church had grown in popularity as a result of his pseudo rock-star status, yet it just wasn't enough for him so he hosted town hall meetings at the church and pushed the envelope where his non-profit status was concerned.  

Pastor Peter, however, was undeterred and one night while sitting on the commode, an idea came to him:  He should run for office and legislate the degenerate masses into Christian submission and through political morality, he could expand the kingdom of God.  

It was either yet another "call of God" or a bad case of indigestion.  

In our contemporary culture we have at work two, maybe three primary theological constructs for those who do believe in God.  These are particularly evident in those who seek more power and prestige within the circle of believers and this is not to say that they are the only doctrinal or theological systems in the universe. 

1.  Hands Off:  God has set the wheels in motion and is disconnected from the everyday lives of believers and is just waiting for the right combination of events to take place in order to justify His return.  

2.  Hand-Wringing God:  God is completely dependent upon His creation to take the lead and usher in a new era of "godliness" in His name, but under the guise of political power.  

3.  Gambling God:  God as a cosmic slot machine.  We ask, or demand of God, and he is obligated to help us in our time of need or desire.  Kinda like when Ted Cruz proclaimed that God had called him to be President.  Turned out, it was indigestion.  

Pastor Peter will be embarking upon a very treacherous road an it is one that could cause the faith of some to be thrown into a ditch.  In the event that Pastor Peter loses his race after God "called' him to run, does that mean God was unable to see through His plan through to fruition?  Does it mean that Pastor Peter was/is a false prophet and should be stoned according to the rules of prophets?  Are those running against Pastor Peter to be considered of the devil because they oppose the one whom God has called to run for political office?

Of course, there is the other side of the coin as well.  In the event that Pastor Peter wins, chances are that he will be an egomaniacal tyrant who feels justified to say and do whatever because, after all, the "call" of God was upon him.  We've seen it happen before, haven't we?

So, what do you do when you see a religious leader make the decision that "God called him/her" to run?  Simple.

1.  Run Away:  In the New Testament, you see that in the end, the Anti-Christ was a religious leader who loosed Old Slew Foot.  This would end badly for everyone.

2.  Laugh:  Have a little fun with it and send campaign contributions in the form of antacids.  

3.  Call Him/Her Out To His Face:  We all know of the rift between Peter and Paul because old Peter had some pork on his breath while telling others not to.  The fact of the matter is that we should keep it within the confines of the Church and call the false prophet out for what he/she is and do so with impunity.  In the New Testament, the harshest words Christ uttered were to the religious leaders of the day who had political connections; the Pharisees.   It wasn't the "gay agenda" or the "pot smokers" Jesus ripped to shreds, but rather the self-righteous Pharisees.
They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Are you getting the picture yet?  Don't let the indigestion of some who think themselves greater than they are be vomited all over you.

Be safe, and remember it's all about full contact faith.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Good Things Happen To Bad People

David asked a very poignant question in Psalm 94:3.  In his frustration and exhaustion, he asked, "How long, O Lord, how long will the wicked exult?"  (NASB)  It's a question, no doubt that we all have asked countless times through our lives when we see people all around us seem to get away with all kinds of madness and meanwhile, God appears to be doing nothing about it.  It is a question, a conundrum if you will, that has faced the Church throughout time and the responses boil down to limp-wristed sissy answers to cliche's that sound even more silly than platitudes.  It's a serious question that deserves a serious look.

Let's consider some of the answers and how they feel in real life:

Psalms 94:8-10:  This is a serious rebuke to those who doubt that God will repay and in other words, David is telling everyone that God is God and we're not.  For the skeptic who despises the fact that the "God trump card" is being played here, there isn't much that can be done and said.  It's the Divine Prerogative.  For the individual who is truly struggling with the injustice of another, sometimes that strong-armed approach just serves to anger further.  A rapist gets away with rape because he could afford a good attorney and the victim is left staring at the outcome as a constant reminder of their violation and "Gog is God" is supposed to help?  It's probably going to turn the individual away from God rather than draw them near.

No Answer Answer:    Sometimes, the best answer is no answer whatsoever.  Think about it; the world is a jacked up place to be sometimes and even the most deplorable among us seem to catch breaks that we can't comprehend.  Largely it is because we are linear thinkers as human beings and or foresight is limited.  In other words, there are things in the human existence that we just can't explain.  To be perfectly honest, this is one of the most effective answers when asked by people outside of the faith because if we're going to be intellectually honest, we don't have a clue why the dirtbags prevail so often.  

People Suck:  Ken Lay and the boys from Enron, the fat cats in oil and gas who seem to own the legislature, the former Speaker of the House who got 15 months in prison for child molestation, among countless others seem to just get away with doing sucky stuff because, well, people suck.  We live in a world that is controlled by people, run by people, and as a result of the fallen condition of man, there is not a doggone one of us who isn't jacked up in one way or another.

As uncomfortable as those answers may be, they are all a reality and embroiled in truth.  God does things that we just don't understand and it is so by design.  When those around us are hurting or feeling covetous about what others are doing or receiving, it is an opportunity for us to look ourselves in the mirror and literally count our blessings.  For every one of us who are complaining about others, there is someone else who sees our situation and wishes they were as fortunate as we are.

Good things happen to bad people every day and bad things happen to those whom we believe to be good.  The reality is that if you read Romans 3, you see that none of us are good people and any blessings we receive are in spite of ho we are rather than because of who we are.

Stay in touch.


Friday, April 15, 2016

How Much Is Enough?

There was a pastor at a national conference who arrived in his top-of-the-line Lincoln and wearing only the finest in garments.  His jewelry was impeccable and glimmered in the sunlight.  His smile exposed exceedingly white teeth and his face had just enough of a beard to look like a borderline hipster and someone who, though in his early 40's, was in tune with the current fashion trends.  The sparkle in his eyes set of the whole of the ensemble and his feigned concern for others kept him in good standing with his congregation.   His congregation was not wealthy, but it was evident that the older brackets were funding the church and the pastor(s) with their hard-earned money and did so from a posture of mercy and genuine faith.

The pastor was asked about his clothing, his large house with a "back porch" large enough and upscale enough to host a Governor's Ball.  His response was simple and from the heart.

"The congregation expects me to live a lifestyle that is similar to those who are our major donors but is still appealing to the 20-something generation," he said with a smile and continued.

"It's what is to be expected from a pastor or any pastor of churches our size."

The person at the other end of the conversation wasn't surprised and actually anticipated the response.

"Pastor, of course, it's to be expected," the man said with downcast eyes, "it justifies the greed of your congregation if they see you living in such a manner."

The story isn't unusual and more often than not is descriptive of many Church leaders in our contemporary culture.  When contrasted with the 1st century Christians, it becomes even more obvious that our priorities have changed.  Forget about "blessed are the poor," but rather embrace the "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."  The more successful the pastorate appears, the more likely the chances that the congregation will sacrifice whatever necessary to maintain that visage to outsiders, to those who are curious about the church itself.  

How much is enough?  We often complain about how much politicians and elected officials make every year, but how often do we look at the extravagance of the so-called "shepherds of the flock?"  Philosopher Paul C. Payne was quoted in Michael Scott Horton's amazing book, "Putting Amazing Back Into Grace," as saying; "Today, the world doesn't take the Church seriously because today, the Church isn't serious."  

A rather sad state of affairs, wouldn't you agree?  We should consider ourselves blessed in every circumstance that we have breath.  We can justify and rationalize our greed and you'll hear it from many pulpits; particularly where the topic of "tithing" is concerned.  You'll hear from the pulpit that if you give more, you'll be blessed more.  You'll hear stories from the pastorate themselves who will say that it is their experience that when they "surrendered their finances," God blessed them and that it is basically reasonable for you to expect the same.

Paul said in Phil. 4:12:
"I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need."
How is that reconciled with what we see around us?  Paul also gave us a warning in Acts 20:29, 30:  
"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them."  
These days, the wolves wear designer clothes, have expensive houses, and run multi-million dollar churches whose business model is simply growth and more growth and more locations.  But know that you don't have to be a victim of these scumbags, and yes, they are scumbags.  It's time for you to express your faith and embrace your faith and celebrate your personal relationship with God and let the rest of them drive themselves straight to hell in their fancy cars and big houses.  

Use your Full Contact Faith.  It's yours.


Next column:  Is the tithe still necessary or is it a tool for ecumenical blackmail?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

God Is God and You're Not

In our contemporary culture, the doctrine of human potential permeates the very fabric of our being.  Whether it be tennis shoe commercials featuring athletes encouraging you to be like them, or if it is a laundry detergent that will make your whites whiter and your colors more colorful, the messages of how we can be what we were "designed" to be if we just push a little harder or buy the right products.  It is nothing short of abject insanity and we love every second of it.  We have taught ourselves to believe in ourselves to the point we are guilty of worshiping ourselves as though we are deity.  

"With God's help," is a common phrase to describe an attempt at an otherwise unattainable feat.  Since we're in the political season, you'll see many people attributing their desire for power to something "God told them" to do.  More often than not, it is merely indigestion they are dealing with rather than a calling from the Almighty but again, it underscores how, even in the Christian Church, there can be those among us who are steeped in the doctrine of human potential.

Let's take a hard look at what Paul writes of human potential (Romans 9:14-18, NASB):
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
Whoa.  That's remarkably different than what we have been hearing from pulpits across the country.  We want to hear about how God is our co-pilot; our personal slot machine who will keep us whole, healed, and if we behave, we'll be blessed financially too.  


God is God and He alone is worthy of praise.  We tend to forget that He is the Creator of all that exists around us and it His judgment alone that matters in the end.  He will show mercy and compassion upon whom He chooses and not who we choose.  We can pray, we can worship, we can beg, but the ultimate decision is His, not ours.  

It is not about mankind who wills, runs, chases his tail, wrings his hands, or worries, but rather it is He who has power.  We forget that and frankly, anything short of that represents a God that is unworthy of any worship.  We tend to use God as our heavenly butler by asking for "a hedge of protection," or to demand that the devil himself should obey us because we said so.  We're treading on dangerous ground and at the very foundation of our faith is the fact that God is God.  We are not God.

Allow that to sink in for a moment.  Hopefully, you will find great peace in knowing that the doctrines of human potential are useless but that He is the one sustaining all that lives and that we are in the arms of the One who has the power to forgive and to bless as He sees fit.  Man is fallible; He is not and He loves us.  Take comfort in that.

Thoughts?  Disagreements?  Angry?  

Let us know.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Making Today Count

Tens of thousands of college students begin their Spring Break festivities today and they are locked and loaded to get loaded.  It's not unusual really; our culture has sort of softened and we have almost come to expect as much from college students.   There will be hundreds hurt, there will be rapes, there will be deaths, and we will only hear about a handful of them - if at all.  

Today, thousands of basketball fans are hyped up about the airing of the Final Four and in particular, the Oklahoma Sooners.  The crowds are already gathering, the sports broadcasters are wetting themselves, and the feeling of intense anticipation and expectation fills the hearts to overflowing with testosterone and adrenaline.  

It's also true that today men and women are standing a post overseas so that we can have the Final Four and the decadence of Spring Break.  These are men and women who haven't been home in months; men and women who have sworn to defend the Constitution against enemies both foreign and domestic and they do so ready to lay down their lives for us.  

Which do you think will receive more coverage in the media over the weekend?  Exactly.

Our lives are called to be in such a manner as to make every single second count and to appreciate every breath we take.  The fervor of Spring Break and the Final Four have become almost sacerdotal and the fact that we have people standing a post for us to be rather boring and mundane.  We are called to be different than the mainstream and it begins with a posture of gratitude and thankfulness.  It is how we make every day count and have meaning.

Contemporary culture has diluted the spiritual element of our everyday existence and the Church has made an effort to fit in and to seem just like everyone else; to blend in, if you will.  But that is the opposite of what we're supposed to be.  While the rest of the world is screaming and rending their clothing over the results of the Final Four, we are to be thankful that we have electricity to power our electronics.  While there are others who are gorging themselves on game-time snacks, we are to be thankful to the Father for His sustenance.

"Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, who brings forth bread from the earth."

There will be celebrations of libations and excessive drinking held by many who are not even old enough to legally consume alcohol at Spring Break.  There will be cheap booze and unprecedented amounts of the same passed around.  As believers, we are to make each meal, each second count and be thankful for more of His sustenance.

"Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, who creates the fruit of the vine."

Let's not stand in judgment today but rather pray for those who are heading out to party their butts off and pray for the men and women who are standing guard for us.  We can do this.  It doesn't require much effort at all, really, but just even a few minutes in prayer for the safety of our nation's youth and our nation's fighting men and women.

For the basketball fans; simply enjoy it and show your gratitude, not your cocky attitude.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Now, What?

The celebration of the resurrection of The Christ has passed, the turkey and ham are in the fridge, the leftover sweets and pies are stored away, and the Easter services are behind us.  Soon, the messages of the resurrection will fade into our memory and though some will be reawakened, some of us will still be slumbering through the mundane and repetitive messages that were fed to us on Easter Sunday.  

Now, what?

Now, we continue our lives as though every day was Resurrection Day.  Every day is Passover, Pentecost, Purim, Yom Kippur, and every day is to be a celebration of life and life everlasting.  Because of His work on the cross and His subsequent rise from the dead, there is finally hope.  There is a sense of belonging that many of us have missed in our lives for most of our lives.  A true sense of brother and sisterhood where no matter the color of the skin, no matter the birthplace, and no matter the gender, there is now a bond that we can all share. 

For those who believe, there is now a sense of relief as well; a renewal of the mind and soul that rejuvenating.  The feeling of forgiveness that transcends a simple, "It's okay;" it is the final resolution wherein The Christ has said, "It is finished."  It's over, friends, the hard work has been completed and it is all His work, not ours.  His work on the Cross and his resurrection means that there is a way for us to have true fellowship with the Father and if that isn't cause to rejoice, I don't know what is.

Today and every day to follow presents an opportunity to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  We have the chance to live out the commands found in Scripture and to do so with a a feeling of eternal accomplishment, because we are dealing with issues that truly are eternal.  Here are some things that you can do with that energy and revival within you that has taken place:

1.  Feed the hungry.  Make a monthly donation to a homeless shelter specifically for feeding the hungry at that facility. 

2.  Care for the sick.  There are probably people within your immediate sphere of influence who are sick physically or may be struggling with an emotional issue.  Just be there for them and provide a loving and caring hand for them. 

3.  Volunteer at the VA.  There are a lot of us who say, "We support the troops," but are often too lazy to get off the couch and actually do it.  With the new found appreciation for life and the assurance of life everlasting, take some time to appreciate those who are watchers on the wall, standing a post so we can continue our freedom of religion.

What are you being called to do?  You're certainly not called to do nothing.  Pray without ceasing and determine what it is you see the Father leading you to do and when you do, embrace it with everything you have.  Be strong and use the power given to you by the resurrection of The Christ to take your life to a new level of service.

Let's do this.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Or Bad Friday?

Today is Good Friday; three days prior to the triumphant resurrection of The Christ.  It is on this day that the visage of the crucifixion be forever in the forefront of our minds and seared into our being like branded cattle.  It's the day that we mourn the death of The Christ and anticipate His resurrection.  

More than likely, most brothers and sisters are preparing for a big Easter dinner while our Jewish friends are preparing for the Passover fast and feast.  In the Passover, we see a fast that is not an easy fast; rather it's a beastly thing where you are entitled no creature comforts whatsoever and the Scripture readings are the scary ones.  You learn of the Holy Spirit passing over the homes with lamb's blood and taking the first born son of all the others.

Think about that for just a second:  How could that be a celebratory or "good" anything?  Sure, many are and will be saved throughout eternity because of the Lamb's sacrifice but imagine the multitudes who will not be "passed over" but rather taken, as it were.  That is nothing short of horror.  The screams of mothers at Passover were echoed throughout time and space and reverberated at that very moment when Christ took up His cross.

His voice could be heard telling the Father to forgive because they (we) "know not what they do."  He also called out to the Father asking why He had forsaken Him.   THAT is the reality of "Good" Friday.  For the Father and for Mary and Jesus' loved ones, it was unadulterated agony and a sense of loss.  His death on the cross was because of and for us.  Every sin we've committed and every sin we will commit was suddenly and instantly covered by His blood.  It was on that day that we were declared guilty by every fiber in the cosmos and at that same moment, we were declared righteous in the sight of God because He took upon Himself our sin. 

The real good news took place three days later when He defeated sin and death and walked among us again.  Because of that act, not only are we dead to sin, but are alive in Him.  As Paul said in Galatians 2:20 (NASB):
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
It is no longer that us who lives, but Christ lives in us.  He is our hope of glory.

The celebration this weekend is largely secular and have been integrated into traditions of orthodox traditions.  The saying, "It's for the children," is bologna.  Accept it for what it is and don't try to sanctify that which is secular and in so doing, make that which is sacred, secular.   

Do yourself a favor and remember the fact that it is both good and bad Friday.