Selective Grace – Reformation Day Rant

“I’m in my bro’s church, broom, broom … get out of me church …awe!”

An acquaintance posted the following scripture on FB with not comment.  I don’t know why, but it set me off a bit.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

There is nothing wrong with this scripture.  Jesus died to free us from our sin and it is important that we follow His example into a resurrected life. It is quite an appropriate scripture for a people who have gotten their priorities really messed up to look closely at themselves and hold each other accountable to the mission that is set before us.

The problem I have is that many believers in our church have looked at the words of these verses to use as a weapon to use against the sins that they find most appalling.  As I scan my Facebook news feed, many times the same people who rant against sexually immorality (outside the church … btw, the government is outside the church not matter how much we want to claim that this is a Christian nation), are the same people who espouse ultra patriotism/nationalism (idolatry) and support unregulated capitalism (greedy swindlers).  I love my country and appreciate the economic and religious freedoms that it affords, but morality is more than sex and social failures.  We like to quote the fathers of our nation to prove that we are a Christian nation, but even John Adams saw early on that it was not necessarily so. He foresaw the problems inherent to our form of government and when he spoke of the morality that would doom our way of life, he was looking into many of the problems we face today.

Gentleman,

While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practicing iniquity and extravagance, and displays I have received from Major-General Hull and Brigadier, General Walker your unanimous address from Lexington, animated with a martial spirit, and expressed with a military dignity becoming your character and the memorable plains on which it was adopted. in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the World; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, • would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. (Message from John Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts 1798)

He was not concerned so much with sexual morality, drinking, language, or the sins that bring down individuals.  It was the issues that subjugate the weak that worried him.  Avarice (extreme greed for wealth or material gain), ambition, revenge, or gallantry … sounds eerily  like the drivers of our current economic social climate.  This falls right in line with the moral concerns that Paul mentioned above.  How is it that many conservative christian people have aligned themselves with political movements that support and encourage legislation that gives advantage to those which best utilize these immoral characteristics?  Those political movements shrewdly also aligned themselves with the conservative church on social issues to ensure the unrestrained exercise of their avarice.

Morality is much more about the heart and the way we look at the world than it is about many of the things we get bent out of shape over. (Comment from Twitter “I don’t see how someone can use that kind of language and call themselves a Christian)  Maybe we should try to see the Epistles and the OT from the perspective of hills from which Jesus viewed the world.  Take a peek from the highest point on the temple and the mountain where He was tempted and rejected the treasures of this world; from the mount where he gave the masses the beatitudes and the rest of that great sermon of love and mercy; from the mount where he was transfigured and received His last moment of encouragement before taking that final road; and from Calvary where He not only looked upon our sin, but took it upon himself.  Maybe … if I can see from  the heights that Jesus viewed the world maybe I can find a way to judge but do it as he did and “judge rightly” and free my brothers and sisters from my selective grace.

 

Fundamentalist – Yes or No?

Twitter … Why you askin’ all them questions?  How am I supposed to answer that in 140 characters!

OK … I am forced into a quick blog entry by a Twitter conversation with @neely_baugh and @beardme74.  It started with a discussion on wifely submission … (we will save that one for another article) and it became about a fundamentalism.  Like is the norm on Twitter … I threw out some fodder about being a reforming fundamentalist without thinking that out.  Here is the exchange that followed:

CalvinistBarneyFife ‏@beardme74
@chuckdadof7 @Neely_Baugh @DefendTheSheep fundamentalist is a big word. How do you define it?

Chuck Farley ‏@chuckdadof7
@beardme74 @Neely_Baugh I still believe in the five fundamentals of the 1910 NBC, but not the follow on interpretations of scripture.
Chuck Farley ‏@chuckdadof7

@beardme74 @Neely_Baugh I am hopefully looking at scripture as a whole and not a compilation album of history, stories, and procedures.

Then Neely got me really thinking …

Neely Baugh ‏@Neely_Baugh
@chuckdadof7 @beardme74 I define fundamentalism as rigidity and an unwillingness to value differing beliefs. Can happen in any religion.

fun•da•men•tal (ˌfʌn dəˈmɛn tl)

adj.

1. serving as, or being an essential part of, a foundation or basis; basic; underlying: fundamental principles.
2. of, pertaining to, or affecting the foundation or basis: a fundamental revision.
3. being an original or primary source: a fundamental idea.
n.
4. a basic principle, rule, law, or the like that serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part.

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-37)

So is fundamentalism it a conservative thing? It does not look like it. Either we have  a basic principal, rule, law, or the like that serves as groundwork for our beliefs (the rock) or … we just hang out on the beach and just let the elements decide where we stand . A so called liberal or progressive may have a strong fundamental belief that everyone must be willing to accept and value other Peoples beliefs therefore he or she is a fundamentalist.

Now this certainly is not the way Neely and I were looking at the word fundamentalist.  I am not sure how Deputy Fife was thinking about it when he asked the question, but I like the way he directed traffic.

A little brief history as I understand it … the christian fundamentalist movement came out of some strife within the church at the beginning of the last century similar to what we are seeing today.  (I call it the Mary & Martha debate) Social vs Spiritual, Works vs Faith, Law vs Grace.  God is always in balance, but we are not so good at it.  At that time, part of the church saw great need to address social issues that arose in the aftermath of reconstruction, abuses  as a result of the industrial revolution, and a general revolt against Victorianism. Basically, Christian people cannot live in the presence of oppression without God’s conviction coming down.

No Not that Mary & Martha
No Not that Mary & Martha

The Martha’s of the world wanted to jump in and right all of the wrongs and just took off and sort of left their faith behind (It is in her nature).  The Mary’s just wanted to hang out at Jesus’s feet (didn’t realize that he was not sitting there anymore, He was about His Father’s business.

Some cooler heads got together at Princeton and drafted the Five Fundamentals.

  • Biblical inspiration and the inerrancy of scripture as a result of this
  • Virgin birth of Jesus
  • Belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin
  • Bodily resurrection of Jesus
  • Historical reality of the miracles of Jesus

It is dangerous to synthesize faith into a little box. In short order, a group of men took the Bible, the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Book of Common Prayer and condensed it into five short statements.

That first one is the problem … not whether it is true or not, but what does it mean? It is somewhat shifting sand in itself.  I truly believe that the Bible in its many forms and translations says exactly what God wants it to say when it is read or heard under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So yes it is inerrant and inspired.  The problem is that we as humans (Marys, Marthas, or whoever we are) stink at waiting on that inspiration. We grab the parts we like or “speak to us” and run with it.  So we make the Word whatever we want it to be.

There are laws in the book, but it is  not a law-book. There is history in it, but it is not a history book. It includes a play, but it is not a drama.  Songs and poems are a big part of the volume but it is not a music book. Stories? yes but it is not a story.

Then what is this book?  The best I can gather is that it is an unfinished love letter for the Creator and his creation.  He is speaking to each of us and to all of us.  He knows the ending, but He laves the creation to finish the story. So unless I can read or hear His word as His beloved and I will never know the inspiration of that perfect, inerrant love letter.

So, yes.  I am a fundamentalist.  What fundamentals do I stand on?  These five are a pretty good start, but there is much more that I think that my Creator is saying to me.  You will have to come back to find out.

 

Why Are We “Acting the Goat”?

Acting the goat.

Disclaimer:  This article has not been written with the intent to slander goats or offend goat lovers. The goat is a time honored metaphor used to indicate diverse attitudes of humans towards each other. Goats and sheep have attitudes that serve them well considering their physical attributes and place in nature.  I apologize if comparing people to goats is offensive to the goats or their advocates.

Initially, I thought it was the political season that was starting to irritate me with just about everyone around me.  The ramp up of attack ads, manipulative Facebook promotions, and “fair & balanced” media coverage began to develop an environment began to bring out the worst of character in just about everyone I know.  Many who I thought to be loving and caring suddenly began to launch attacks those with differing views. Intelligent well intentioned individuals, attacking and countering their own friends with weapons supplied by groups trained and commissioned to develop well defined battle lines.  Observing this who process I came to realization that,it is not the process that is so vexing, it is the ease at which we allow ourselves to become transformed.

Some interesting characteristics about goats: (from http://fiascofarm.com/goats/behavior.htm#amf )

  • No matter how sweet and loving your goat may be with you, they will on occasion get violent with their herd-mates. This is the natural ways of things, and no matter how you want them to always get along, there will be occasions where your goats fight and take “pot shots” at each other.
  • Goats do not push well.  If you push them to get them out of your way, they will lean into the push.  It you want them to move, pull them.
  • They will fight between themselves to establish dominance and they will take “pot-shots” at smaller goats to show them who is boss.  There is really nothing you can do to get them not to do this – it’s what goats do.

Understanding the nature of a goat makes it very easy manipulate them.  If I push … they push back. It is easy to get them to take pot shots. In the end “There is really nothing you can do to get them not to do this- it’s what goats do”

One of my best friends realized this the other day and acknowledged his political “goatiness” on Facebook Here is the excerpt from that FB conversation:

Friend:  I’ve decided something last night and this morning. We lost. It’s that simple. So now I am going to walk away from a hobby I’ve had for a long time. I’m a political junkie I guess. I watch it, read it, and talk about it. However I feel that it’s a waste of my time.
So with God’s help I will walk away from it and spend the time doing what is far more important than this. Digging into my word, praying, preaching, and teaching my Grandson about the Lord! May God bless President Obama with the wisdom to do what is right and the strength of will to know and do God’s will! May he bless congress with the same, and may He pour out His spirit on the USA!

Response Not me. I agree the part about spending more time in the word and such. But I will always keep my eye on politics. Remember, it is when Christians turned their backs that prayer was removed from school and Roe VS Wade was passed. Now so many years later, all religions except Christianity are PC. And instead of abortion being made legal, we now get to have our tax dollars help to pay for it even if we are morally opposed it it. No, I do not think completely stepping away from politics is the answer.

My Response:  It was not when we took our eyes off politics, it was when we took our eyes off the Lord, stopped doing His work, and started acting like goats instead of sheep that we lost His blessing. When we aligned ourselves with “the most of these” instead of “the least these” we surrendered them to the enemy. Who are the least of these?  They are those little blue spots in those big red states. They are the ones stained with pain and agony of sin who we scoff at, call names, and tell to go back to where they came from. They are the one’s that someone else offered a false hope and gladly accepted it when we kept the truth to ourselves seeking only our prosperity and comfort. It will not be a politician that answers for this tragedy before His throne, it will be those who neglected the power available to change their lives yet kept it for themselves!

This exchange was not included to make a political statement.  If you are offended and angry about any of the thoughts express in the above exchange … YOU are “Acting the Goat”.  If you push back and become angry when someone pushes your button or disagrees… goat.  If you are tempted to take a “pot shot” … goat.  Is it important to you to establish dominance … you guessed it …goat.

Maybe you think being a goat is OK.  You like goats and that is who you are.  Well, all I can say is, have fun with that, but fortunately, we don’t have to be goats and we don’t have act like goats.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him,then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt 25:31-46 ESV)

I have been acting the goat way to much and I am pretty much fed up with it.  With God’s help, I am pressing forward into the plan that He has for me and no longer pushing back.  Pot shots are kind of fun, but not at the expense of relationships.     I urge any of you that truly desire to see our world changed, commit to learning the life of the sheep and following the Shepard that will always lead us into green pastures.  If you don’t know The Shepard, I would love to introduce you.

Not convinced … listen all the way through this song … maybe you will get it.

The Fire is Burning – Hot Button Issues (Death)

Over 30 years ago, I became a part of our Creator’s plan to rescue His world from our sin inspired abuse.  Overly dramatic way of saying that?  Maybe, but it seems to me that His word is pretty clear about His coordinated effort to restore the creation that He entrusted to us. What is important is that He gave us a responsibility over His creation; not a responsibility as enforcers of law, but as shepherds and stewards of His grace and love.  “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. ”  The only thing I really know of Jesus is the grace, love, and mercy that He has shown to me.  If this is the part that He has shown to me and modeled in His Son, then that is all I can share with a world that needs it as badly as I do.

[Note: I know I used the word creation.  Please do not get hung up on this.  I don’t really care how important you think it is, how stupid or blind your think the opposing side is, how you interpret scripture, what you think the humanist agenda maybe … blah, blah, blah … let’s just leave it at once there was a different existence (or lack of existence) and now somehow we are here.  Yes, I believe that there is a God that has a plan and had the plan from the beginning and brought all this into being.  You may not believe that and that is fine, you can read all this and chuckle at my ignorance, I am OK with that. You may believe in a miraculous literal 6 day creation and a day of rest or you may believe something in between.  Origins may be important to you and think I am compromising the truth.  OK that is fine too.  Feel free to shake your head and pray for me if you do that sort of thing.]

Back to the story … I stepped into a new culture that was completely foreign to me and I had no idea what this new world should look like or how I fit into it.  So like so many of us, I resorted to the same lazy method of learning that I always had … hang with the inhabitants and mimic their behaviors.  Oh and at the same time, Lynn and I were starting on that adventure of marriage and parenthood.

Music, prayer, bible study, topical sermons, and fellowship meals.  At first, being part of a fellowship with “common” beliefs was great. I was a bit of a love sponge and I was eating it up … for a while. The challenge was that we had been raised with experiences,  values, beliefs, relationships, and baggage.  What it seemed like we were being asked to do was exchange all of those things for a new set of experiences, values, beliefs, relationships … and baggage.  Obviously no one actually said that, but as young people we were all for a radical change and so we bought the whole package, especially the “hot button issues.”

After many trips, falls, failures, stops and starts there was a defining moment that brought a challenge to my belief paradigm.  I can’t even tell you what year it occurred.  It was a discussion between my Dad and my brother-in-law. They were discussing the inerrancy of scriptures and my Dad asked a simple question, “What in scripture makes you think Jesus would be for capital punishment?”  Whoa!  I could not reconcile Jesus’s character and teachings in the gospel with the death penalty.  I did not mention it at the time, but every year when I performed my annual ritual of reading the Lord of the Rings (Yes it was a book first), this conversation came back to me.

Of course this is not scripture, but it seems much like the conversation that Jesus had with a group of men who were a bit too eager to dole out death.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:3-11)

Admittedly, I don’t read Greek and do not have access to ancient original texts, but as I understand it, pre-Constantine Christians, (through the 3rd century) were pretty consistent in their stands against the taking of lives in any case.  As a sailor sleeping between the tubes that held enough power to annihilate millions of lives, this was a problem for me.  The thought of being part of a shooting war bothered me more than I ever admitted. As I walked about Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates and met shop keepers and their families, I began to see the world differently.  Sitting in a class room of special needs students in Kuwait City and seeing the love and tenderness that those parents had for those children softened my heart.  They saw us the same way, but thought of our government and leaders as “Christian Extremists.” I could not imagine being a part of an attack that left these families as “collateral damage.”

This is hard to admit for me all this and I can’t say that I am conflicted about it. I am a veteran.  My soldier son-in-law just came back from Iraq to a heroes welcome and my son is a Marine Reservist. It is difficult to be proud and yet so conflicted.  I think one of the things about war and violence in general that is a given that the vanquished never love the victor.  So is it our job to “defend” our nation and our freedoms or is it our mission to provide love to those who are hateful?  I don’t know exactly how to do this, but I believe that even if we think it is an impossible assignment does not mean that it is not our mission.  (I am still ruminating on this and I am not looking for someone to help me figure it out.  As I hinted to above, I am done with being told what to believe)

So what am I trying to say?  Here it comes my liberal friends … I am pro-life.  I categorize capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia, and war as violent acts that do not seem to fit into the character of a the one who set a pattern of giving second chances and healing.  Although I have been accused of being a sexist and woman abuser by a family member because of this stand, I can not reconcile taking a life just because its convenient, unfair, or tragic.  Whether it is a result of a violent act of aggression, poverty, or just oops … I believe that the life within is valuable.  Now you may be able to justify this by saying that while a baby is inside the womb, that it is not a person and is just a part of the woman’s body.  I am not a woman and I have never carried a baby inside of me (although 10 little appendages did carry the Farley gene pool from the moment of conception).  Every woman I know that was carrying a child that they wanted, considered it a child, even those who have previously had abortions.

We, (myself include) have this tremendous ability to redefine things in order to avoid the uncomfortable truth of situations.

  • Collateral damageWe raise armies, put them in snazzy uniforms, teach them words like courage, duty, and honor to protect them from the hard truth that they are becoming part of a killing machine.  We change the name of the department that they work for from the Department of War to the Department of Defense so that it sounds more acceptable. We glamorize these weapons that are designed to kill massive numbers of people from large distances so that we can comfortably take lives without even seeing the “target.”  We come up with slick marketing campaigns that label these with beautiful words like “shield” and “freedom” and dehumanize our opponents with terms like empire of evil.  It sounds rather romantic when we are painted with honorable words and the enemy is cast as monsters.  Maybe they have been deceived by evil leaders … but who is to say that we have not been deceived as well?  How can we avoid the fact that we are killing … people?  By redefining war.
  • MLK Cap PunWe have developed a nation and a society that was founded and has been maintained through violence.  It is glorified in our media (maybe with a long face, but glorified all the same).  We color manhood with a broad brush of machismo and leave our daughters completely confused by the mixed messages that we send them.  Battle lines have been established between the “haves” and “have-nots,” developing extreme arrogance on the one hand and despair on the other.  It is no wonder that we have a society with heinous and violent criminals and victims who demand justice.  Justice – a redefined name for vengeance?  We disguise the vengeful taking of a life, albeit a guilty life, behind “protecting” the public and call it justice?  Are we so quick to decide that a person has no worth? Are they beyond healing?  Is there no possibility that this person could not positively impact someone’s life in the future? How can we avoid the fact that we are killing … a person?  By redefining justice.
  • BurmaWe are a people devoid of meaningful relationships with few solid role models to teach us the important skill of loving one another.  We have defined love as an ideal to be reached or a physical bond that quiets our emptiness if only for a moment.  We have lost the concept of love, compassion and grace as a way of life. We strive for the unreachable goal of love and settle for a cheap counterfeit of physical contact. A gift that was created to be the deepest physical bond between loving human beings has been reduced to an instinct driven form of entertainment that instead of developing bonds, creates addiction.  The means for lovingly creating life has become a weapon, a crutch, or a poor attempt at imitating intimacy.  The life that was intended to bring joy and multiply love has been re-labeled a mistake, a misfortune, an inconvenience.  (“religious” families have heaped shame on their children further compounding the confusion) We have redefined an embryo, zygote, and a fetus as just a tissue that is an extension of the mother; therefore not a life with value and a plan (the actual definition calls it an offspring).  We use words like reproductive rights and the right of choice to protect women from becoming mommies.  In moments of clarity we realize that it might actually be a life, but reason that it would not be fair to bring this child into an “unfit” or “unprepared” family situation or that the child is imperfect and would not have the highest quality of life.  We say that we are actually saving lives because women would die in botched attempts to terminate pregnancies.  How can we avoid the fact that we are killing … a person?  By redefining love.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  (Jeremiah 29;11)

20 years ago, I sat in a rocking chair next to Lynn’s bed at Norfolk General Hospital, rocking and singing to my third son,  Andrew Cory, who had passed away before he was born.  Andrew’s life, not his death, were a part of God’s plan to renew and restore His creation. Our grief and subsequent healing over the hole that was left in our hearts were the evidence of God’s grace.  Our grief counselor at the time told us that the difference in losing an unborn child or an infant is the lack of memories.  What is lost is a future and a hope!

The value in any life is that future and hope.  When we take a life, we have made a judgement that there is no hope for that person and we reason that we are taking away a hopeless future. God’s plan of rescue is to restore that hope and He wants us to be a part of that.

 

Hope

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.     (Hebrew 10:23-25)

The Fire is Burning – A New Direction of Faith

A child of the 60’s and 70’s and a self-proclaimed “lyrics” guy, I was partial to schmaltzy love songs, smooth vocal harmonies, R&B, and soft rock. (Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Manhattans, etc) I never really appreciated the rock we now call “Classic Rock” or the up and coming “Metal”.  If I couldn’t understand the lyrics, it was not music.  When I became a Dad, I began to listen to that “hellion” music my kids were listening to and, well, I began to like it. About the same time, my friend Mark introduced me to the sound board and I began to hear things I never heard before. All of my children have in one way or another helped to evolve my taste in music.  So all of your old fuddy-duddies who are haters of the new stuff (it’s too loud, I can’t understand the lyrics, Rap is not music, blah-blah-blah)  … you are only hurting yourself and missing some blessings. (this has little to do with my subject, but if you can’t handle Switchfoot, you are missing some great lyrics not to mention some really passionate musicians)

Several years ago, Josiah and I were driving back from Bowling Green KY.  Those long road trips were always special to me.  We did not talk a great deal, but we would listen to music and sometime discuss how it affected us.  He had just downloaded Switchfoot’s “Hello Hurricane” album and this song jumped out of the speakers and smacked me up-side the head. As a sound guy I was first grabbed by the driving bass line, but then the second or third time through, the lyrics grabbed me.  I had to find out mare about this John M. Perkins guy. Here is a good overview of John M Perkins if you are interested.  I am reading in Let Justice Roll Down and I highly recommend it) Anyways … This sort of began this Drought Condition series.  I had always felt like something out by my faith seemed counterfeit.  As I read the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7 and the parable of the sheep and the goats (Why Are We “Acting the Goat”?), conviction began to fall hard.  The resurrected life that was modeled by the one who had rescued me was not the one I was living.  Although I should not have used this as a justification for living in the Saturday (Sunday’s not coming … it is here ya’ll), I noticed that I was not seeing it modeled by anyone around me … pulpit or pew.

So for two years I have avoided it no matter how many times I have been prodded.

I read the amazing accounts of a young man who I watched grow up with my children touching the lives of the homeless in St. Louis Drew O’Brien.  I remember just 8 or 9 years ago when we sat in the ER praying for this young man to survive a catastrophic fall, I am reading about him developing close relationships with the homeless and oppressed in St. Louis and moving on to the (Bethel Dream Center) in Alaska to take God’s love to another people group that are on the outskirts of society.  I was touched, but not enough get off the goat list.

I began to see people who were shedding the facade of “righteous” living (goats in sheep’s clothing), stopped waiting for the prodigals to come home, and jumped down in the mud to help them escape life with the pigs.  People like:

  •  Jamie – The Very Worst Missionary, who after trying it the “right” way came to a realization that what sets us apart is not our religious affiliation or our empty words, but it is our love.  Her stories or social reaching out first into her community, then into the lives of victims of the sex slave trade, and efforts to awaken the christian community to the necessity of being responsible for society as a whole.
  • Cathleen Falsani – A journalist and long time conservative religion writer for the Chicago Sun-times wrote about the skepticism that as she encountered a church that had abandoned the most urgent physical and spiritual needs of a world that desperately needs our help. She found that she had a love for mothers and that all mothers, despite their social setting want to love their children.  She used this common bond to begin touching lives.
  • Bono -yea that Bono –  I am not going to say much here, if you are interested, check out his speech at Georgetown University

These people and their views would not be welcomed in the churches I have attended.   They do not align their views with a political party.  Patriotism does rival their devotion to God.  They do not have love litmus tests like abortion, homosexuality,  addictions, and other “serious sins.”  Concern for the decay of our christian society and our christian nation are not filling the news feeds of their Facebook pages.  Life for them does not revolve around church events and productions.  Their hearts are not broken by the moral decay of our nation, they are broken for broken individuals whose lives are wrought with the decay that is brought about by living in a society that does not place the same value on them that Jesus did. The realization that we are not a church that is characterized as peacemakers brings them to their knees.

If all there is to life as a Christian is going to church, ranting about the injustice of our government towards the church, demanding 2nd Amendment Rights, worrying about the inability of our government to keep itself from reflecting the greed and immorality of our society, honoring our heroes who we send off to “defend” our freedoms, putting on dramatic and musical productions, and pray about our own sicknesses and misfortunes, then maybe this is not for me.  Fortunately, this is not the pattern that Jesus and the early church set for us, so I am not quite ready to bail just yet.

This all may sound rather self-righteous, harsh, and maybe even bitter.  That is not at all my intent.  I love my church friends and appreciate all that they have poured into me.  If it were not for the love poured into my family over the years and miraculous moves of God that I have seen, I would have abandoned my faith years ago. I just have come to a realization that maybe Jesus has a better plan for me.  My Pastor Jim Johnson in Georgia used to say over and over, “Love Jesus, Love People … it is that simple.”  I always loved that.  It might be that simple but simple does not mean easy. Loving is much harder and requires a lot more effort than we are putting forth.  Pastor Terry Sikes here in Lexington painted a beautiful picture of the church being a center of ministry that reached out into the community  being Jesus in a hurting world.  That is exactly what I felt that God was wanting to bring about a resurrection of His creation. I am longing for more than words and tire of being a goat.

So over the past year I have begun to run across the writings of others with the same longing.  N.T Wright, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Shane Claiborne, Tony Compolo … and the early church. I don’t know how to go forward, but I can’t go back.  I think I will start with Paul’s words to the Romans who were dealing with integrating a diverse society, full of sin, that was threatened by the appeal of the love that exhibited to “the least of these”.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

So I have a goat brain that is in desperate need of renewal.  Not sure how a guy that is afraid of talking to his neighbors is going to move on to touching the lives of people in need, but I am confident that He will bring about the changes He has planned.

Any of my Christian friends that are still my friends, come back and see how it goes.  Any of my more liberal friends, I will be offending you as well here shortly, so don’t get to excited.

A Spark – Is Fire Imminent (Part 2)

Drought produces very little except … a fantastic supply of tinder.

Initially, the onset of drought is slow and almost imperceptible.  In humans, studies have shown that a person often mistakes signs of dehydration for hunger which even further confuses matters. As the dryness advances though, it is difficult to deny the overpowering thirst that inevitably comes when cut off from the source of life giving water.

As one might expect, I have gathered the following quote from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (via wikipedia)  “Controlled or prescribed burning, also known as hazard reduction burning or swailing is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for foresters. Hazard reduction or controlled burning is conducted during the cooler months to reduce fuel buildup and decrease the likelihood of serious hotter fires.[1] Controlled burning stimulates the germination of some desirable forest trees, thus renewing the forest.”

Courtesy of quotesbuddy.com

My own spiritual dehydration so to speak was no different.  Idleness grew into discontentment; discontentment to doubt; and doubt to despair.  Actively participating  in the stagnation of God’s people has stacked a good supply of dry tinder for quick ignition.

For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water. And the strong shall become tinder, and his work a spark, and both of them shall burn together, with none to quench them. (Isaiah 1:30,31)

Fortunately we have a Father in heaven Who has a controlled burn plan.  Despite our apparent failure in providing proper stewardship for His creation, He is faithful to consume us with His cleansing fire.  All that is required now is a spark to the tinder.

So we have established the fact that conditions are perfect for fire.  We are no longer bearing fruit, the wood is dry, and the leaves are turning brown. (Intermission – this is where I stopped writing in 2012)

It seems ridiculous that I am picking this up nearly 2 full years later … and it is still applicable.  I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking back then.  I know that I was fed up with my own stagnation.  I was disillusioned by what I was seeing in the world and in the church.  An overwhelming feeling of internal pressure was building within me and I just knew that I was about to lift a relief valve. (The fire was already burning)

Any who followed this blog or on Facebook  may have noticed that I stay away from controversial topics.  This is not because I don’t have strong opinions.  Amazingly, even the few friends I have don’t really know where I stand on many issues.  How could that be if these are really strongly held opinions?

Let me ‘splain. When I write procedures or directions I often like to “bullet” them out for clarity so let’s just do that with a passage of scripture, Romans 12:9-21.  I think this is well within the purpose and context of this passage.

  • Let love be genuine.
  • Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
  • Love one another with brotherly affection.
  • Outdo one another in showing honor.
  • Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
  • Never be wise in your own sight.
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Summary: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I am not the first to load my weapon with these bullets.  Although it is sometimes useful to identify points in this manner it can also be rather dangerous.  When reading a list I believe that we often infer the conjunction of our choice.  Is it and or is it or?  Let me make this clear, these are not meant to be bullets  to be loaded as we see fit, one at a time, to pick of the target of our choice.  If this was a multiple choice question, the answer would be all of the above.  It is and not or!

So what does that have to do with me keeping my mouth shut even though I supposedly have strong opinions?  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”   I have used this to justify my idleness and compromise.  Ironically (I sure hope I am using that correctly), it is the use of the “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good”  bullet to justify actions, attitudes, and rants that are, in my opinion, not scripturally justifiable that had me ready to lose it.

So how do we find this balance? When and how do I speak truth and still live peaceably with all?  Well, I don’t know, but I am going to give it a shot over the next few weeks.  Fortunately, I have not done very good at developing my SEO so I will hopefully only offend a few people. (which could be everyone I know)

 

 

Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (The Prequel)

As I reflect on my last article, Fire is Imminent Part I, I realize a few things:

  1.  My blog no longer has anything to do with its original intent (journaling my first marathon) and I really need to either start another blog or put some time into a revamping this one.
  2. That my running experience has brought out some of the initial signs of the drought condition in my life.
  3. Before I can discuss my world perspective and the path I believe that God is opening before us, I need to reconcile the last few years of drought that have brought me to this place.
  4. Attempting to paint pretty nature metaphors is not my forte.

Another Disclaimer:  Today’s entry is not for you. After observing this past season of agenda driven manipulation, I feel that it is important that I establish in my heart just where I stand, what agenda and motivation might be driving me, and whether I have any business moving forward with any thoughts that might be considered persuasive or argumentative. If I continue with this series, this journal may have no bearing whatsoever on discussions that are ahead.  Feel free to stop reading now and save yourself a boring read.

Good Bye Daddy:  In the fall 2007,  life revolved around our first experience of giving away a daughter in marriage   A wedding is obviously a very emotional time. For me it turned out to be an Alpha/Omega moment.  Obviously, it was the beginning of a new life for Sarah and Michael, but it signaled to me the beginning of the end for me (Daddy).   During Sarah’s wedding I removed a white linen scarf from my neck and placed it on Michael’s to signify the passing of my fatherly covering on to her new husband.  Though out my adult life, I was able to hide behind the noble pursuit of marriage and fatherhood; now I began to realize that I could no longer cower behind my role as Daddy.  God had an identity that He had established for me from the beginning; A purpose much bigger that I was willing to accept, but  I could no longer hide from it.  So what does one do when he is exposed? … obviously one runs!

Enter the Maraman:  After the wedding, Taylor, a friend at work handed me a book, “Ultra Marathon Man” by Dean Karnazes.  As the book was passed around the office, a group of us decided to sign up for the Louisville Derby Festival Marathon in April 2008.  I won’t go into the rest of that story since this site was created for that purpose. If you are still reading (God love you) and are interested in that journey you can start with, About – Just a Footman and 1st Marathon.  It was a fantastic experience that I would not trade for anything.  I thought during that training that maybe this was a direction that I might want to explore.  I made some attempts at gathering some people together to form a runners fellowship, but after the race the race that fire quickly died.  Unfortunately, although I can run pretty well, I have no passion for it.  As a matter of fact, if you read many of my blog entries you will find that I actually despise running.  Since that time I have completed a sprint triathlon and some long over night relay races, but nothing has ignited any new interest.

Who the Heck You are I think?  Late 2008 brought another wedding (My oldest son). Having not reconciled the first wedding, this one was more than I could handle. The fall and winter brought maybe the lowest point in my adult life.  I believe that depression is often brought on by a complete lack of purpose and I had abandoned my search for purpose for a season.  Suddenly I was questioning everything I had ever believed.  Although I felt like my life was spinning out of control, somehow, through God’s grace, steadiness began to take control again, but not after I had made many bad decisions and hurt many people.  Still confused, without a passion for much of anything, I sunk into a stagnant pool of muck.  Although many major life events would occur over the next couple of years that should have brought great joy, my shoulders remained bent and I could not lift my gaze above the horizon.

New Titles / New Realizations:  The Spring of 2010 brought the birth of our first grandchild and another wedding (My oldest Daughter) that brought a halt to the slide.  I bore a new title, Poopaw, but it did not take me long to surmise that this new role as grandfather and associated awesome title did not give me purpose or the passion that would be required to pull me out of this self-inflicted hell-hole.  Additionally, in the Spring of 2010 a glimmer of something began to grow deep down.  A talent and gift that had always been evident started to emerge again out of the shadows.

Pressing Toward the Goal:   Coaching had been a part of my life on and off as far back as 2005, but in 2006 I started as an assistant soccer coach.  My knowledge of kids and love of sport seemed to be a enough to help out despite my complete ignorance of soccer.  In 2007 I began head coaching and in the Fall of 2009 I obtained my first certification.  My youngest son had moved beyond my level of coaching, but the love of these young boys and girls compelled me to continue.  It became increasingly clear to me, that combining sport with character and relationship building was something that I could do that might make a difference.  The Fall of 2010 brought a group of young men into my life that altered my whole view of coaching and began to give me a glimpse of the purpose that God might have for me.  As I sought ways to instill character, leadership, and unity in these you men, God began to pull me out of the despair that had for so long enslaved me and set me on a path toward the goal.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

The Drought is Not Over:   “I do not consider that I have made it my own”  Roots are still anchored in hard and cracked ground, leaves are brown and brittle, and there is little or no fruit of any type hanging from the branches.  I do not know the anguish that God feels when He looks at His creation and I am not driven by a passion to share His love, compassion, mercy and grace with a world that so desperately needs Him.

Father, drop a spark into this weed of a man and burn up all that does not bare fruit. Make real to me your anguish for a world that knows despair far beyond anything that I have encountered over my short time on earth. Set me ablaze with a passion for your will and set a clear purpose before me.  If it is Your will use me to ignite a forest fire in those who are called by Your name.

Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (Part I)

Winter rolls into spring ushering in the hope of new life.  Fresh green sprouts explode out of ground and branch, combining water and nutrients energy provided from above during the lengthening days, begin the annual process of replenishing the fruitfulness of the land.   Surrounded by new life, an abundance of sunshine, and rivers flowing with fresh stores of water do not foretell the season to come. Nature considers not the slow approach of summer.

Bathed in clear bright days of early summer, leaves and grasses rejoice in the light.  They reach up to absorb every bit of light and energize the reproduction of species.  Simultaneously, roots extend deep to draw in the cool life-giving water below.  Long gone are the sounds of swift creeks swollen by the melting snows.  Oblivious to the higher clouds and lower water tables, photosynthesis marches on. The once supple soil becomes a cracked and broken battleground  the moisture starved and wind whipped atmosphere battles thirsty roots for the last bits of surface water.  Finally, with no means of cooling and transport green begins to make its retreat.

I remember a newness of life.  God’s love was so real.  Everyday I was seeing new ways that he cared about me.  Well aware of the garbage that was inside of me, He saw fit to reach out to me and give me a new life.  Soaking in the compassion and grace that He afforded me I sought after more and more.  I loved the Spring and it seemed that so many around me were basking in His love as well.  Live was pretty awesome.

So what is the point?  Have we remembered the point? God made us for a reason and He is perfecting us for a purpose.   He planted us in a field to bring forth fruit.  Am I content with soaking in the warmth of His love and grace, soaking up rivers of His joy and peace, and consuming the nutrients of His Word and Holiness?  If this is the extent of my existence, then I am just a weed producing nothing but ground cover, squandering the resources intended to bring life to a sin and death stained world.

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”” (Matt 13:24-30)

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matt 7:19-20)

I have spent most of my adult life sucking up moisture and producing very little.  Observing the life of the church, I see much of the same condition.  God created us for a purpose that is being strangled by weeds that we have sown. 

Challenges – Fast Food Motivation

I am not sure what it is about a challenges, but this seems to be the year of the challenge. We no longer need the dare, the double dare, the double-dog dare, triple dare, or the coup de grâce, the triple-dog dare. A simple challenge is all it takes to get us to do the most ridiculous things.

No deep thoughts here.  I just know that currently, I am half way through a “Whole Life Challenge”, starting a “Simple Green Smoothie” challenge (desert for the whole life challenge), and … NaBloPoMo A blog a day for a month.  Why in the world would I do this?  Why not?

Finishing goals this year has not been a strong suit for me.  At this time of my life when everything is changing, I am looking for a fresh breeze to get me moving and I am looking forward to new challenges.  I can either stress about it or have fun with it.  I think I will do the latter.

I have six good blog drafts started and at least a dozen other topics written down, so I should be able to get something of worth out this month.  For a 52-year-old man, I am shocked at the amount of growth that God is bringing about in me.  I feet like a spiritual adolescent that is trying adjust to an ever-changing self.  I am excited, but a more than a little awkward with me.

I apologize for the rambling, but I am typing this one for me.  Tomorrow will bring a little more depth hopefully.

Spread Thin – Priorities and Changing Direction

Yes … this sound ominous, maybe a bit depressing, and possibly overly dramatic.   Well, duh! It is from the Lord of the Rings and it is supposed to be dark and dramatic. So what is drama any way?  Drama – any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results. (Dictionary.com).  Whose life is not full of this kind of drama?.  It is what makes life interesting after all.

Thin … stretched …  “like butter spread over too much bread.”  This may be my favorite line from all of literature.  I think I identify with this more than is healthy.  How is it that I am overwhelmed so easily? It might really discourage me if I did know that I am not alone in my “overwhelmedness” (feel free to use my new word). Just a little while on Facebook or Twitter and you see scores of people who seem to be ready to throw in the towel.  We have some good company.  David filled the Psalm with statements like this, “Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.” (Ps 143:4). What about Paul? “…For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” (2 Cor 1:8).

Certainly I am not comparing my “afflictions” with those guys. I know many of you that are living in constant pain, dealing with bad news, have lost loved ones, or are struggling with financial situations that I cannot even fathom. All over the world we are seeing people in dire situations that are beyond my comprehension. I am not persecuted, chased, or even going through anything that is outside the normal realms of life.  The “bread” is not to big, I just seem to always be running out off “butter.”  So why do I even mention my piddly little battle with life?

Simply because I know that I am not alone and that God has a mission for us that depends on hope!

So Paul was despairing of life in in 2 Cor 1:8 & 9, but he knew there was a lifeline:

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (2 Cor 1:9,10)

So if I am grappling with life changes, some minor health issues, or just not getting my way, I can rest in Him because I can be confident that He is going to bring about His purpose through me.  It is His plan so I need to rely on Him instead of fighting.

To be honest, I have been working on this little spiel for weeks.  Mostly because I am bummed about letting life get to me.  Coaching, parenting, husbanding, car and pet malfunction and a touch of bronchitis filled my days.  Something had to give, but my pride said I have to make it all work.  I did not want to give up on my plan. The last two weeks God has been slowly replacing my disappointment with peace and restoring my hope.  I am not quite there yet, but He is filling my butter dish.  Can’t make a grilled cheese yet. (Mostly because my children have me on this “whole life challenge” think and I am not allowed to have any dairy products (except butter). (OK maybe I am being persecuted #lifewithoutcheese)

Anyway … all of this to say that instead of writing about completing my second marathon over the weekend, I am whining about disappointment and being stretched and spread over too much life.  Stretching is growing.  Training continues for an event to be announced later … if it is in His plan.