Meant to be workers of the land

There are so many dire reports about the amount of people who are overweight in this country. We here opinions every day about how we should stop eating red meat, or how we should stop eating glutens, or how we should limit the amount of starchy food we eat, and fried foods, and so on and so forth. There are so many experts telling us their way is the right way and that other experts are not as informed as they are. To go along with the food restriction suggestions are a myriad of exercise regimens we can do. We can Zumba, cardio-box, spin, p90x, extreme fitness, and anything else one can think of that can be turned into a 30 to 45 minute exercise DVD for your viewing pleasure. And don’t forget all the in-home exercise machines and contraptions you can hang on your doors or chairs or windows or bannister or where an extra-thick rubber band can be attached. There are so many people telling us how to fix our obesity without really thinking of why are we prone to obesity in the first place?

In the garden, even before the fall of Adam and Eve, the only responsibility for Adam was to be a caretaker of the garden that God had created. That’s it, and to eat the fruit of any tree he wanted except for the one of The Knowledge of Good and Evil. Pretty simple task but we know that he failed, and we failed. So now he was told that he was produce his food from the ground by the sweat of his brow, toiling with the earth to plant and harvest his crops and raise animals for food. It would be hard work requiring a lot of calories to create the energy we would need to complete our work. It would seem that we were meant to be people who labored in a field, physically working to feed our families. And it seems that, if we were working with that much physical labor then we would not need to worry too much about what we ate.

We were not meant to sit in buildings, at a desk, eating crappy food with the only exercise we get is when we need to walk from our cubicle to the bathroom, a meeting, or to get more food. The reason why we have some many places for fitness is because, guess what, our bodies were meant to endure some type of physical exertion on a daily basis. We wouldn’t need special diets and fitness centers if we were doing what God had designed us to do, and that was to labor for our food. We would have to moderate and balance what we do eat but how many calories or red meat or glutens would not matter because we would burn it off anyway. This is why we are fighting obesity. I understand the artificial sugars don’t help matters but would they even be an issue if we had more people living off what they could grow on their own? This is why I think that one of the reasons why God had meant for us to be laborers and not couch potatoes is so we wouldn’t need to worry about what we were eating. The other reason I will share another time.

Casual attitude

The casualness of the modern Christian, has it become an epidemic? Have we focused on the grace, mercy, love, kindness, patience and peace of our Lord so much so that we forgot why we need them in the first place? Have we lost sight of the fact that we need these attributes of God shared with because we are sinners? The other side of these attributes is His condemnation, judgment, punishment and eternal separation from His presence, all of which exude from the same source: our Heavenly Father’s holiness. He cannot separate one set from the other because they are all a part of His essence. It would be impossible because God is simple in His nature and He cannot be double-minded.

But I am double-minded. I am always compromising for the sake of my own reasons. I am more consistent in making excuses for disregarding the standards and statutes of my Lord than I am at obeying His word. I am certainly not always showing Him that I love by keeping His commands. I am like a tax accountant and tax lawyer, always looking for that loophole through which I can jump so I can indulge the flesh. Don’t we always talk about people but sometimes we disguise it as being concerned with whatever is going on and we want to know what to pray for, but what we really want to do is gossip? Or we watch a TV show with occasional scenes that would seriously be considered inappropriate but we excuse it because we like the show? I mean, there a lot of shows on TV that are really well written and are enjoyable to watch but would we invite Peter, John or Paul over to watch them with us?

We live a world that is more than fifty shades of gray. We live in a very gray world I every sense of the word, gray as in a dismal and miserable place at times, and gray in that we blur the lines between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. When I read the bible I read a lot of black and white decrees from God and then a lot of attempts by Israel to smudge those lines so as to justify their actions. We cannot be casual about our attitude towards what our Lord expects. We must take them as seriously as He does and expects us to. He is not going to fool around on Judgment Day, and there certainly will not be any wiggle room in regards to our actions.

Defending the freedom to think for oneself

I have been reading some articles recently.  Some had to do with speaking out against same-sex marriages, and another one I read today had to do with the effects of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.  I disagree with both the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriages and the legalization of marijuana.  If people of the same sex want to get married then let them, but don’t call it marriage.  God’s definitiion of marriage, one man and one woman witnessed before Him, still stands despite what any court or government legislates.  If people want to smoke marijuana and get high, then let them, but don’t tell me it’s the “safe” drug without addictive qualities.  It is a tobacco and we already know the harmful side effects of smoking tobacco, and habitual smokers aren’t the most ambitious people.

What I really wanted to talk about were the comments that people wrote in response to the article.  I am tired of people in favor of same-sex saying if they love each other then it must right.  If it was wrong then they couldn’t possible love each other or it would feel wrong.  Perhaps the fact that those who support same-sex “marriages” are militant, abrasive and intolerant towards those who oppose their point of view is really their way of ackowledging and expressing that deep down they know it is wrong but they want to be right.  It’s the same thing over and over, a parody of the Sixties, you know, if it fees good then if must be groovy and far out to indulge. 

Same thing with marijuana, someone asking why their isn’t a sister article condemning the abuse of alcohol.  Well, I’m sorry, but the effects of a person abusing alcohol and driving while intoxicated have been well documented long before marijuana became legalized so there is no point is discussing it further.  The reason why the article put a bad spin on recreational marijuana usage is because it had only recently become legalized and we are now able to gather some empirical data to make a statement of the success or failure of the action.  So, if bad things are happening because of the legalizization of marijuana then opponents have a right to point to the empirical data that supports their argument. 

The bottom line is people are always going to be on either side of an issue.  To be dismissive of the side that opposes same-sex unions or legalizing marijuana because they disagree is being shallow-minded and intolerant, and bordering on being opposed to the first amendment protection of free speech, which I am sure the pro side accused the con side of.  My thought is that our society and culture will continue to endorse and make almost any behavior legitimate, except the behavior that stands firm on the truth of the bible and remains unwavering in defending that truth.

My flippant Christianity

Martin Luther fought against counterfeit Christianity. He fought against the Vatican selling what they called “indulgences” in order to pay for the new St. Peter’s Basilica. I am not sure if I can remember if Luther had an opinion on some of the other practices that were going on, such as pieces of wood alleged to be splintered off from the cross, a bottle containing Mary’s tears, and other such items people could sell as religious relics from the time of Jesus and the apostles. It tells of how superstitious the people of Luther’s time were, and easily they thought that these material things and gestures could somehow put them in better standing with the Almighty. They believed a flip of a coin into a wooden box would have an effect on the amount of time spent in purgatory, and then this allows them to spend time on other fleshly indulgences.

But am I really much different? Do I go through the motions in church, singing, occasionally raising my hands while singing, putting an envelope in the offering, and other things I do that in appearance seem like I am a person who has it together as a Christian. Maybe I am not much different. Maybe I believe that if I do these things, offer quick little prayers and a few coppers into the bucket and off I go to my own little world. And it is a little world compared to the big world God wants me to engage as an ambassador for the Gospel. The reality is that I consider myself an embarrassment as an ambassador. I am pathetically weak where I should be strong and incredibly self-centered where I should be entirely self-less.

I am a flippant Christian. I don’t take seriously enough the faith I confess. I don’t venture into the four corners of the earth to spread the gospel. I am not concerned with my neighbor in another country and I am not concerned with my neighbor next door. I pray for distant things that would hurt the least. I pray for obvious concerns for family members but neglect to pray for the salvation of my neighbor. I am more interested in what I am going to do after church than in the sermon that is being preached ten feet away. I am more concerned about being recognized for serving than I am in truly being a servant. I am a hypocrite and I have received my reward. Now it’s time I threw away the stubble and hay I have accumulated and seek after treasures that are stored in heaven, awaiting my arrival.

I need to stop indulging in my own indulgences. I need to stop treating times and acts of worship as indulgences. It is time for to die instead of holding on the little stem of a tree as I fall over the precipice. It is time I let go and fall into the arms of Jesus and let Him set my path.

The weathervane moves with the wind

On my way to work I pass several churches. In the center of one of the towns is a Unitarian church. The other day I noticed they hung a giant gay pride 6 color rainbow flag, something I did not find too surprising. Today, out of curiosity, I decided to see if there was a cross decorating some part of the outside of the church. Once again I was not surprised to not find one, but I did see something that was more telling about the churches beliefs than anything else. On the top of the steeple there was a weather vane with an image of a chicken on top.

I dare say that I would not consider Universalist Unitarian congregation at part of the church as a whole. I would not consider it a church at all. I would likely call it a social club or something of that nature. It’s nice that all are welcome, and I would say that all are welcome at the church that I attend, but to embrace something that is in direct opposition to what the word of God teaches cannot be considered as part of the universal church body. God is a God of love but His love is part of His holiness, and holiness requires us to be held accountable to His standards.

I don’t know how it is possible to reconcile a position such as this. This is what happens when a church follows the lead of the current philosophy of the culture around than continuing to believe in what the bible teaches. The fact is that sin has not changed, ever. We have always been sinners. The other fact is that we have always tried to manipulate the context so we justify our pursuit of sin and to more prolific in that pursuit. There are two constants in the whole of human history: we are sinners and in rebellion against God, and God still loves us and is willing to forgive us of those sins.

We cannot continue on calling ourselves followers of God and His Son Jesus if we decide to deliberately disregard what the bible teaches about sin. We cannot, as a church, wet our finger and stick in the air to see which way the cultural wind is blowing and adjust our message to accommodate the masses. We must holy as are Heavenly Father is holy, which means we must stand apart. He never changes, no matter what is going on in His creation, and we must as a church must never change our stance on His truth so that we can be more appealing to society. We must hold firm, and we can if we are listening to what Jesus teaches and doing what He teaches because our house will be built on His Solid Rock.

Committed faith

We have all heard the story of Daniel and the lion’s den, and how his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused to deny their God and were willing to suffer the consequences for their stand. They were not willing to acquiesce to the decrees of a secular authority that forced them to choose between obeying God and obeying man. They would have had to choose between kneeling to a man-made idol and kneeling before their God. These are not choices that are easy to make when one’s life is on the line. But it is an easy decision to make when the person understands who the Giver of life is, and it is not any one man or government, it is the God who sits on His throne in Heaven.

This kind of faith truly shows itself when one is faced with nothing. What I mean is when all that a person knows is taken away, no family, no heritage, no land, no earthly possessions, and all that they have left is their life, faith in the Maker of all things is the only preservation of life left. Faith in man is misplaced faith. Man is nearly incapable of impartial and objective decisions, and those decisions that are objective are 100% influenced by God as it suits His purpose. In the U.S., we lack the passion to have this kind of faith. We have a lot of material wealth available to us, even those who are considered poor seem to be able to purchase a cell phone, flat screen TV and cable service to go with it. The majority of us are not in danger of going without food for more than a day. We are not persecuted for believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and we are imprisoned because we defy the government and worship our God.

Daniel and his friends were taken from their home by the Babylonian Empire. The nation of Israel was being punished by God for their disobedience and worshiping of other gods and giving to the other gods what was rightfully God’s. But Daniel and his friends determined that they would honor their God by not defiling their persons while in captivity. They knew whom they would serve and had placed their faith in the God who would preserve them. They were willing to thrown into the fiery furnace or into the den of starved lions, not caring if God chose to save them because they had placed faith totally in Him and were willing to die for that faith. Read the response from Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

That kind of committed faith is severely lacking in our culture. It may be evident in individual cases and sometimes in a church, but on a whole, we have more faith in our wallets and bank accounts, and more concern for our self-preservation, than we do in our God and for the things that concern Him.

Sin is Sin, no matter the context

Recently a lot of people in my life, people I know well and those who are on the fringe, have lived in a way in direct contradiction to how the bible says we should live.  These are people who attend church and profess to love God, and yet are very casual about what is going on in their sex life in relation to what God says about sexual relations.  This may not seem serious and that I may be making something bigger than it has to be, but this is serious to God and He takes His statutes very seriously, His Holiness mandates this.  Should we be any less serious?

Someone got pregnant out of wedlock and wants to have her babies dedicated in a church.  The father, who is married but is in a strange kind of situation, really wants nothing to do with the them.  I cannot in a clear conscience be okay with the dedication of the result of the relationship because she does not see that she has sinned.  This is the area where we have now had the most problems in the church, sex outside of the context of marriage.  We have morphed our view of sex with that of the secular society.  We have adopted the motto of the world, “Sex is sex, it’s only natural”.  It is only right if the couple involved are married, husband and wife, man and woman.

A man and woman got married last summer.  They have been together for at least six years.  I only know this because they had a six year old daughter but they just decided to get married last summer.  Meanwhile, they have been going to church regularly while living together and the pastor seemed to fine with it.  I am having a difficult time understanding the whole situation, and they are not the only couple I know who have gone through this.   I have fornicated too many times and it still bothers me everyday and I feel like I should repent again everyday.

We know that stealing, cheating, murder, deceit, and other sins are sins, but we refuse to grasp the idea that gossip and fornication are sins too.  And we must purge our minds of the idea that sex and talking about someone’s problems are acceptable.  Judgment begins with the church, not judgmentalism.  We must rightly judge members of the church body so that we do not let the infection of sin fester and destroy the body of the church.  I am not perfect, no where close, and I am reminded of my weakness every single day, but I know that my sin is wrong in light of the word of God and it is time that the those who claim to know Jesus see their sin as sin, and to stop making excuses.

Back to the story

So now I am back to the story.  After I had taken the ten weeks to assess the church, I met with the Elders and the other leaders of the church.  I told them some of my thoughts but I did not show all my cards right away.  I decided to hold back a little until I had a better working knowledge of them.  I also wanted the whole church to hear my expectations and know what my vision of this church is at the same time.  I didn’t want to give anyone a sneak preview of my sermon series.  I told them that I would like all of my sermons recorded on a cd so we can make them available for anyone who may want them.  One thing I was sure of, I had to change the culture of the church, and it was going to be a harsh reality to some.

I expected to lose some people, possibly even some of the leadership.  I expected resistance and I expected people to go elsewhere to attend church.  I was calling out the church and asking them to break away from their complacency.  What I saw was not a good foundation for building a church because too many people were Sunday morning space-eaters.  I suspected that most were content to sit in church and hope they had limited contact with anyone.  Unfortunately, a cold church can be renamed a dead church.  I refused to preside over the funeral rites of any church.

Why do I believe that this church has been stagnant for too long?  All you have to do is listen and observe.  Even over a ten week period it is possible to assess and reach a conclusion about the state of the church.  The people in the church lacked fire, lacked a passion for the gospel.  They would all show up on Sunday, mime their way through the service, and disperse once the last note rang into the sanctuary, some didn’t even wait that long.  There were a handful of people who did what they could to sustain the health of the church but five people trying to effect change is difficult without some of type of support from the pulpit.

Someone had to poke the hornet’s nest.  Someone had to make everyone uncomfortable.  Someone had to cause people to squirm in their seats as they listened to the sermon.  Someone needed to push the buttons that caused a reaction.  People in general don’t want to get involved.  They like being able to be shadows, they are there but are not really consisting of any kind of substance.  Church was not meant to be a building, it was meant to be a community.  A church is not made of brick, mortar, plaster and wood, it is made of flesh and blood and bone.  A church is meant to be alive with the life-giving power of the gospel.  I was going to disturb the hornet’s nest and I was prepared to be stung a few times.

“Love Wins”? Love Has Already Won

The Supreme Court has ruled that gay marriage is an individual right guaranteed by the Constitution.  We can now marry almost anyone we want to marry, although it has not been made legal to marry multiple spouses, yet.  I am sure soon someone will sue somewhere and will somehow get the case heard before the Supreme Court.  Now the President tweeted that “Love Wins”.  What kind of love has won?  A humanistic, self-centered, self-indulgent, self-fulfilling, self-hating kind of love?  I don’t want a love that enables me to sin without any concern for future consequences, like what Paul said, “Eat, drink and be merry” with not a worry about tomorrow.

Love didn’t finally win on the day the Supreme Court made its landmark decision.  I didn’t even realize that love was still fighting a battle, nevermind the war the media portrayed.  Who was this gay love fighting against?  Ah, I see, they were fighting against an out dated, backwards and bigoted worldview that God created man and woman to be husband and wife.  It is so wrong to think that way, so mean-spirited, so hateful, and anti-love.  If we supposedly live and serve the God of love then how can we possibly think that homosexual love is possibly wrong?

Almost two thousand years love did win a battle,  it wasn’t much of a battle for us.  And it wasn’t much of a battle for our Father in heaven.  It was a six hour war for our Lord and Savior.  He did not so much as fight against His Heavenly Father as much as He endured the onslaught of His Father’s wrath.  It wasn’t just because of our sin that He willingly went to the cross.  That was a small part of it.  It was because He loved us.  His love was more than enough to overcome our sin.  His love was more than enough overcome His Father’s wrath.  His love is more than enough to guaranty our place as heirs in His kingdom.  Love did not win on June 26, 2015.  Love won before the world even began.

A Turn to the Left, A Turn for the Worse

We have moved to far to the left of the political center.  This country has moved closer to self-destruction in the last hundred years.  We have taken the lead of the Progressives and they have hooked their finger into the nose ring of this country.  We are not wandering into greener pastures and a better life, we have been led into a wasteland where the grass is brown and the water is dirty and scarce, by design.  We are not improving society by creating more government programs to assist people, we creating a society of dependency and oblivion as we watch mind-numbing reality TV and wait for the next government program that promises to fix all that ails us here.

What has happened?  We have stopped depending on the God of the universe and have attempted to usurp His authority here on His creation.  We always believe we can figure out how to do things better than God can.  Maybe it is because we know that we caused this mess and we are stubbornly stupid to believe we can fix it.  And when we screw things up, we blame God the mess and fallout around us, asking where He is and why He didn’t stop this tragedy from happening.  God is only convenient when it is convenient for us to need him.

This world will continue to fade into black as long as we continue to put human reasoning and use our humanistic enlightenment to manufacture bandages.  Our culture is pathetically lost and we do not even know it.  God’s truth and love is a brightly burning beacon of light that reveals all darkness and lightens the path so we don’t stumble, and are wandering around with flashlights with a beam that does not penetrate past our hands.  We cannot stop the inevitable end of the world because the God who is in control has determined a time when all our rebellion will cease and we will meet our maker.