Posted tagged ‘religion’

An Open Serving Policy

July 8, 2014

Greystone Bakery taught me about grace once again.

Anyone that comes to the front door of their bakery is given the chance to work, no questions asked. When a job becomes available they take the next person off the waiting list and give them a job.

keep out

I want to be part of a church that has an “open” serving policy. Anyone who wants to serve, can. This doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want, in whatever way they want.

There are standards and expectations for certain types of service. Elders and deacons are held to higher standards than others. But, graceful churches, like Jesus, can adopt an open serving policy. Think of the band of misfits Jesus used. One of them wasn’t even a believer.

The open hiring policy of Greystone says your past isn’t your future.

Reluctance:

  1. Children need protection from predators.
  2. Financial integrity is essential.
  3. Quality of service needs to be held high.

In other words, open serving doesn’t mean anyone can do anything. But, its incumbent for those who believe in grace to express grace by providing places of service for anyone.

Religious pressure:

Could it be that you are worried about what other believers think? After all, what would “they” think if the person who is passing out bulletins was drunk last night?

I’d rather offend a religious person than belittle an unbeliever by excluding them, unnecessarily.

Bigger issue:

The bigger issue is you feel superior to “them.” Your sins aren’t as bad as their sins. But, you don’t have permission to look down on outsiders, especially when Jesus loves them and died for them.

Low responsibility jobs have low or no standards. For example, the next time you take out the garbage, ask the guy who was drunk last night to help.

The Long Holy Nose

January 22, 2014

nose

Christians, under the guise of holiness, judge and condemn “sinners.” When we do, we condemn ourselves.

What makes you better than others?

  • You don’t murder. But, you hate.
  • You don’t rob banks. But, you steal another’s reputation with gossip.
  • You aren’t a drunk. But, you disobey your parents.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I’m trying to help you see that Christians aren’t above others.

Stop looking down your long holy nose at people God loves.

The long holy nose makes us ugly. I’m convinced that the ugliest people in the world are self-righteous, good-living, religious people. The truth is, “We” need God’s love as much as “they” do.

Holy living is not an excuse from compassion, respect, or kindness.

Holiness:

Lets call fellow believers to holiness. The issue isn’t should we live holy lives. The issue is how we grow in grace by faith.

Inviting Christians to holiness requires transparent connection. Apart from connection, calling fellow believers to holiness is self-righteous and arrogant. When you call someone to holiness, get in it with them.

Faith:

Lets call people who aren’t believers, to trust in Jesus. The issue isn’t moral reform. It’s Jesus.

Inviting people to trust in Jesus requires connection. Connection empowers the call. Disconnection makes us look like arrogant fools.

Let’s call fellow believers to trust God in new ways. We need to trust Jesus today like we did when we trusted Jesus for the first time.

The people “out there” didn’t make Jesus dirty when he rubbed elbows with them. They won’t make you dirty when you connect with them, either.

Love:

Love is not rude or arrogant. Love is kind, patient, hopeful. Love endures. You have permission to live a holy life and treat people who don’t know Jesus with Love.

Rethink Glorifying God

January 16, 2013

smile

The trouble with saying, “Glorify God” is the language doesn’t fit everyday life. It’s the language of religion. Churchy people love religious mumbo jumbo. But saying, “Glorify God,” doesn’t sound liberating and vibrant to average folk.

But how:

Glorify God by enjoying his provision. Include everything from colors to sensations. Persistently miserable people can’t and don’t glorify God, regardless of what they say.

Those without joy, can’t glorify God.

You powerfully glorify God when you enjoy life even when life hurts. James 1:2 says; consider it joy when adversity or suffering invades (paraphrase). Joyful hearts glorify God.

Respectful language, apart from joyful hearts, dishonors God.

God’s provision reveals Him. Nature, relationships, human capacity, art, and imagination tell us who God is. See His splendor in the snow, for example. But, of course, if you hate life, you hate the one who made you and it’s impossible to glorify Him.

Glorify God by enjoying his person. If you believe God is a heavenly kill-joy, it’s impossible to enjoy Him and impossible to glorify Him.

If you’re a miserable Christian, please find joy or practice some other religion, for God’s sake.

  • Take a breath and enjoy it.
  • Hold a loved one and find God, again.
  • Believe life has purpose even during chaos.

Accept Him:

Joy bubbles up when you accept God for who he is. One way to accept God is to acknowledge His control. Joy drains when you play the role of controller. Perhaps you want to be God, Adam did. But you aren’t. The sooner you get clear on that, the sooner you’ll find joy.

Joy spills into everyday life when you enjoy God’s provision and person. Let’s toss out religious hocus pocus and live joyfully.

Then next time someone says, Glorify God, thinking about living joyfully. Go one step more, let others know you enjoy Him.

P.S. I’m not suggesting that Christians must always be happy. 1Peter 1:6 acknowledges seasons when believers may be in heaviness, to use the KJV translation.

But I Don’t Want to be a Butt

January 5, 2013

Why can't you be like me

Church people love trying to mold others into acceptability. I hear them complain how others aren’t behaving or thinking “properly.” Arrogance oozes from their words.

I seldom hear Church people explore ways to maximize the strengths of others while minimizing and compensating for their weaknesses. Usually, they want to fix them.

Personal illustration:

I’m skilled at a few things and unskilled at many. Worse than that, my strengths are often weakness, too. I love changing things and hate repeating things, for example. Imaging how troubling that is to Churchy folk who love ritual. (They seldom attend Good News, surprisingly.)

My love for innovation isn’t a fluke. It’s how my Maker made me. Neglecting it insults Him.

Some don’t appreciate change like I do, just like I don’t appreciate sameness like they do.

The choice:

We can celebrate and leverage the difference or we can try molding others into our image, fixing them. The first approach expresses grace and faith; the second approach arrogance and manipulation.

The Body:

If some had their way, the entire Body/Church would be a butt, like they are. But, celebrating difference expands, enhances, and elevates the Body. We are members of each other. Hands don’t smell and noses don’t see.

Butt Christians:

  1. Think they have all the gifts.
  2. Believe everyone should be butts.
  3. Know the best way to do everything.
  4. Don’t accept or share their weaknesses.
  5. Work to mold others into butts.

Back to me:

The downside of innovation is instability. I tolerate ambiguity.  Actually, I love it. Forget fixing me. I ain’t broke. However, all innovation is like a Church that’s all butt. That’s why I must embrace those different from me.

Belonging:

Everyone wants to belong. The only way everyone belongs is by:

  1. Building transparent relationships.
  2. Celebrating diversity.
  3. Maximizing strengths.
  4. Compensating for weaknesses.
  5. Aligning around shared mission and vision.

To Hell with Karma

October 27, 2012

Last night we watched the reincarnation, karma filled movie, “Cloud Atlas.” It was entertaining and well-made as far as movies go.

I left the theater angry at the cruelty of Karma and sad for those who embrace it. Thankfully, the Tom Hanks character fought off evil impulses and got it right in the end.

Karma is the extension of the consequences of past actions into this and future lives. It is defeating and fatalistic. So is the Christian view of deterministic predestination, for that matter.

The law of karma is cruel for screw-ups. They deserve to suffer until they get it right.

The Christian idea of, “You reap what you sow’” is karma limited to this life. To hell with, “You reap what you so,” too!

Karma and the universal application of reaping what you sow leave no room for mercy and grace.

  • Mercy = you don’t reap the bad you sow.
  • Grace = you reap the good you don’t sow.

Mercy and grace aren’t fair. Thank God they aren’t.

If there is no mercy and grace with God, his invitation to draw near is an invitation to cold, hard justice. Run! I want nothing to do with Him. Do you?

The self-righteous love karma and reaping what they sow. As for me, I’ll take mercy and grace.

Why So Much Self-Righteousness

October 22, 2012

I often see self-righteous believers who think they are better than others. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve felt that way too.

Worse yet, unbelievers often complain that Christians are self-righteous – holier than thou – people.

How do we get that reputation?

We become self-righteous when we reject faith and grace and embrace law and works. Legalists are always arrogant. Grace always humbles.

Justification:

Even if you don’t feel it, all believers are declared righteous – JUSTIFIED. God’s declaration of your righteousness isn’t a fiction. He’s not closing his eyes and pretending. Justification isn’t a fairy-tale  It’s a validated verdict by God the judge. (Rom. 3:23-25)

How many of your sins has Jesus taken away? Is your guilty conscience greater than God’s verdict? Can you accept what God says?

Justification is a grace-benefit received by faith alone. It’s not a behavior-based benefit like rewards.

Self-justification:

Even though justification is a grace-benefit, nearly everyone feels a need to earn it. Jesus says there are two attributes of those who validate their own righteousness.

Two qualities of the Self-Righteous:

First, they look down their noses at others.

Second, they compare themselves with those they deem less worthy.

Read Luke 18:9-14 to get the word from the horse’s mouth.

Self-justification – self-righteousness – forces you to find a point of comparison below yourself. You need to compare yourself with someone less worthy in order to feel better about yourself.

Condemning:

Who has judged you as “less worthy?” I’ll tell you who judges me, Christians. Sure, there are a few unbelievers who love to gossip and put down. But, by far, it’s people who claim to be Christians who are putting other Christians down.

Why do we condemn? If Jesus is right, we are self-validating, self-righteous Pharisees.

Note: There is a difference between thinking someone is wrong and using their wrongness as a point of self-righteousness.

There is No Merit in Unmerited Favor

October 15, 2012

Merit badges are great when it comes to awards for achievement in Scouting. But, merit is repulsive when it comes to grace.

Any benefit received from God based on behavior – merit – is not a grace-benefit. ALL grace-benefits are irrevocable gifts received by faith alone.

Grace always comes before and excludes the recognition of behavior or works. It cannot take into account our evil deeds or our good works. Grace is UNmerited on the good side and the bad.

If God extended grace to you because of some good work, you would take credit for His grace. Something He’ll never allow anyone to do. Especially you.

There is no, if you do this for me,
then I’ll do that for you, in grace.

Works and grace:

If you say, “God did this for me because I did that for Him,” it’s not a grace-benefit. It’s merited benefit.

Rewards are always earned by works. Grace-benefits are always, only received by faith alone.

Result:

Grace is always disruptive; even disorienting to the legalist that lives within. Even as I type this, my inner legalist is grasping for something more concrete than grace to grab hold of. Something that satisfies my arrogant need to compensate God for His goodness.

Pride needs to feel like it deserves things. But, grace never considers what’s deserved.

Grace-benefits include:

  1. Nearness
  2. Justification
  3. Reconciliation
  4. Spiritual gifts
  5. Access

Grace frees; legalism obligates.

Grace enables the Christian life. We never begin living the Christian life until we realize we don’t have to.

Religious legalists have one goal in mind, controlling God – getting Him to do what we want – to “bless” us. In this regard, religious practices are nauseating manipulation.

Response:

Grace is an expression of God’s love. Live up to love not down to law.

Living up to love is loving in return.

Believers Always Move Second

October 8, 2012

Obedience is never a standalone thing. Life would be simpler if it was.

Obedience, from a Christian point of view, is only meaningful as an expression of love. Jesus put it this way, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” I’ll say the opposite. If you don’t love Him, don’t bother. Oh, go ahead and still lead a “good” life. But…

It’s degrading and insulting to call
obedience without love Christian living.

Paul explains the centrality of love when he explains that love gives meaning and worth to everything we do. On the other hand, without love it doesn’t matter what we do. (1Cor 13:1-3)

But how can we love Jesus?

The Bible’s one answer to loving Jesus is be loved by him. The reason we don’t know the love of God is we cling to self-sufficiency. We wrongly hope we can earn God’s love. It’s hard to be loved for no good reason.

Brokenness lets love in; sufficiency keeps it out.

The believer’s first privilege.

God always moves first, especially when it comes to love. God loves us before we love him. God loves us because of himself not because of us. It’s our privilege to believe in God’s unimaginable love.

The believer’s second privilege.

Christians always move second – in response. Our second moves are called many things, worship, gratitude and in 1 John 5:3, obedience. “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”

Love transforms obedience from burden to privilege.

Religious systems are evil when the focus on conformity and compliance while leaving out what really matters.

Do You Serve or are You a Servant

September 9, 2012

Service is about who you are not what you do.

When serving is something you do, service becomes an optional point of convenience or inconvenience. People who “do service” check their schedules, timelines, and agendas before serving. Leaders convince, cajole, or guilt people who “do service” into serving.

When serving is who you are, service is the only option.

Servants aren’t inconvenienced by service. The only question is, “Where is your most useful place of service.” Servants never ask “if” they should serve, only “where.”

Jesus didn’t simply perform acts of service. He was a servant.

Philippians 2:5–7 (NIV84) 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Grasping:

Jesus didn’t grasp for high position. He made himself low. What are you grasping? Do you grasp to be like God? Adam did. Or, are you making yourself nothing.

The God who made the world from nothing can make something of you.

Free to serve:

Jesus’ serves us so we can serve each other.

John 13:5 (NIV84) 5 After that (after dinner and before the crucifixion), he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

John 13:14 (NIV84) 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, …

It’s normal to complete verse 14, “You wash my feet.” But that’s not how servants operate. Jesus actually said, “Wash one another’s feet.”

His service frees us to serve.

Think how Jesus served the unworthy. Servants don’t embrace the worthy and ignore the unworthy because serving is who they are not what what they do. Legalism makes us serve. Grace makes us servants.

Pony Express Churches

August 18, 2012

The Pony Express was the brainchild of William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell. It operated for only eighteen months from 1860 to 1861.

The Pony Express died because it defined itself too narrowly and failed to adapt. Technology – the telegraph – killed the Pony Express.

If the Pony Express defined itself as a communications company rather than a letter carrying company it might still exist, only in a different form.

Churches can give artificial respiration to dying ponies or learn to define themselves in ways that align with transcendent Biblical truths; truths that don’t change even though the way they are expressed must.

God adapted himself to our context when he became man. Yet, he didn’t lose himself. His appearance changed but he didn’t. He never changes.

Transcendent Truths include:

  1. Grace alone.  We always freely receive provision from God. That’s how we become believers and that’s how we live, by grace. Christianity isn’t a self-help program. It’s a grace enabling program.
  2. Faith alone. We never work our way to God. He worked his way to us. Our responsibility is to believe. All commitments in our walk are expressions of learning to trust him alone.
  3. Jesus alone. He’s not one of many ways to rich relationship with God. He’s the only way.
  4. Response alone. All expressions of Christian living are response to God’s love and grace, that includes, service, worship, obedience, evangelism, and everything else we do.
  5. Love alone. Love is the only thing that makes life meaningful. Without it, life is empty, like clanging cymbals. The only way to love is to be loved. “We love because he loved.” (Back to #1) Even confrontation expresses love or it’s wasted, useless effort.

Most of the things Churches do in their gatherings are completely adaptable, consider music. There are no Christian notes or rythmns, only Christian lyrics.

What would you add or modify on my list of transcendent truths?

What is adaptable when it comes to Church gatherings and ministry?


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