Archives For December 2013

The Church Is Full Of Hypocrites

“Church is full of hypocrites.”  “When I go to church I feel judged.” “The views of the church are outdated.” “Church is boring…” I just read that these are the primary reasons why people don’t go to church. Since I have spent most of my life outside of the church I can relate to these sentiments. However, from my 20 year perspective within the church I also see another side of things.

Church is full of hypocrites. The church is a place of healing, hope and love. My pastor recently made a point that I had never considered before (this happens often). He said few people come to Christ at the top of their game, almost all of us come in need and we bring a mess with us. We come broken and looking for hope. We should find hope and encouragement within the church.

Since the church is full of people it is not perfect. Despite the fact that many of us are actively trying to live a life that is honoring to God every single one of us falls short. The ability to humbly receive His grace and forgiveness and move forward is a sign of a maturing Christian. The willingness to reach out to love others, despite of, or because of, our inherent weakness is the true measure of Christ within us. We are hypocrites if we deny our weakness while casting stones at others for theirs. This is not a reflection of God’s love.

When I go to church I feel judged. God has an amazing plan for each of our lives. It is a plan of prosperity and fulfillment. Like an athlete in training, there are things we can do to help us along that path and there are things we can do that are detrimental to that path. One of the ways we know what might not be beneficial for us is the conviction we feel about that thing when confronted with it.

God uses the feeling of conviction to show us where we are falling short. The sole purpose of conviction is to bring about change for the better. I have sat in church many times feeling convicted about things I have done or left undone. God does not bring shame, He does not beat us down with the weight of our sins. He sent Jesus to bear our sins that we could be free of shame and self-loathing. We may feel conviction, not judgment, as we sit church but that is simply a gentle call to a fuller life by a loving Father.

The views of the church are outdated. Recently a popular celebrity has been condemned for expressing his Biblical views on homosexuality. I have read that those views are outdated and do not take into consideration today’s enlightened thinking and our newfound sensitivity. It can be unpopular to express Biblical viewpoints. People might get offended. This man was fired from his job.

Some may view the word of God as outdated but His word does not change. It does not take into account what is trending today. It is the same yesterday today and forever.  It is absolute and it is relevant today.

We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. We do so daily, all of us. God does not call us to sit in judgment of the world. He calls us to be faithful, to love others as we love ourselves, to deal with the plank in our own eye before we concern ourselves with the splinter in our brother’s. While we were ALL sinners Christ died for us and He calls us to love others as He loves us. Love isn’t a feeling, it’s a verb, an action word, something we do.

God’s word is timeless, not subject to trends, it doesn’t go out of style. His message is love and reconciliation. Let’s make sure that when we publically express it we do it in a spirit of love otherwise we use His name in vain.

Church is boring.  Jesus’ church is not boring. If your church is boring you might want to start looking around. Church isn’t about entertainment but any place that the living, vibrant word of God is preached should be full of life. Our church should challenge, teach and help equip us. It should breathe life into our families and our communities.  The church should be helping to radically change lives, feed the hungry and give hope to the hopeless. None of this is boring.

Our worship should be heartfelt and passionate. The scripture is full of encouragement and examples of praising God in our worship. Jesus said the very stones would cry out if His disciples weren’t praising God. David danced with wreckless abandon before the Lord. Psalm 150 extols us to praise Him enthusiastically, praise Him according to HIS greatness. Psalms 95 says, “Make a joyful noise…” None of this sounds boring to me.

There is no doubt that some people’s motivation in praise is to draw attention to themselves. John 4 tells us that God seeks worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. It may be hard not to judge people’s motives as they worship but, for most of us, every moment we spend worrying about what others are doing during worship is a wasted moment. Worship can be a dynamic interaction with our Father and no one has ever walked away from real interaction with God yawning and bored.

If the church you go to isn’t what you think it should be then you can find another church or help change the climate of the church you are in. Just make sure what you are looking for is Biblical, yes, that means you have to read the Bible to see what is Biblical.

One last thing, don’t give up on church because you have been disappointed in church in the past. That dog won’t hunt. We didn’t give up on women after the first one (or several) didn’t work out. Back in the day I didn’t swear I’d never go to another bar because I didn’t like one I visited. God has something amazing for you and it is in church. What do you think?

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Peace which passes all understanding

Heaven Seems Secondary 

 

I am not a Christian because of a promise of heaven. That has never been a motivating factor for me.  If I was so concerned about the (hopefully) distant future I would eat better, save money and generally have a more long term approach to life. I know there are plenty of people who live that way and I envy them.

 

I did not become a Christian because my sin was so overwhelming that I craved God’s forgiveness. As I have grown in my faith I have come to better understand this and I am incredibly grateful for God’s absolute forgiveness, my freedom from condemnation and the sacrifice it took to make that possible. I often thank Him for His amazing grace and pray that I never take it for granted.

 

I became a Christian in 1993 because I had been on a long search for something and I felt like God was revealing Himself to me over a period of time and in a number of small ways. Eventually it seemed like everywhere I looked there was God this and Jesus that. I didn’t, and still don’t, have all the answers but I know God has revealed Himself to me and I have turned my life over to Him. I believe the Bible is the Word of God even though it still holds many questions for me.

 

I think the primary thing that I received with my profession of faith that has kept me coming back and keeps me moving forward is His peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace that “passes all understanding” sustains me on a daily, often moment by moment, basis.

 

Growing in faith will often come with a new understanding of what a word really means. Biblical “Peace” is an example of this, (“Love” is another example.) Jesus said, “…my peace I give you.”  Phillipians 4:7 says the peace of God “passes all understanding.”  That means that as we do our part, being, “…anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” God’s peace will “guard our heart.”

 

This is another one of those things that doesn’t make sense, it just is. As we rely on God and communicate with Him we can walk in His peace, peace that passes all understanding. What does that mean? It means we don’t have to carry the burdens we often carry. We don’t have to be anxious, fear or fret. Fear, as in being scared, anxious or worried, doesn’t come from God. He doesn’t want us carrying that and He shows us how to get out from under it.

 

The practical application of that process can be challenging and it takes practice and a growing faith. I recently stood over my dying father in law as my mother in law, his wife of 45 years, was saying “We trust you Lord.”  I took up her profession and it helped bring peace to a chaotic situation. We didn’t want to be in that situation but we were, God was not absent and despite incredible loss and nearly overwhelming heartache, His peace was there.

 

God’s peace does not necessarily mean an absence of surrounding turmoil, it means that within the situation, any situation, we can have peace. Although I almost always feel His peace when I need it, I try to remember that despite how I feel, God has not forsaken me. Jesus is called Emmanuel which means, “God with us”. Even Jesus, in his most trying moment, appears to have felt abandoned. It is, however, safe to say, that as Christ looks back on that moment, He sees His father with Him.

 

Jesus tells us that in this world we will have trouble but in Him we can have peace. Receiving and walking in that peace, for me, is the most powerful of His gifts to me. I may see it differently looking back from eternity but as I go through my days, each with trouble of its own, I am ever grateful for His peace.

I like the word “knucklehead”. It’s not too harsh but conveys a message. Sometimes it seems like I’m surrounded by knuckleheads. However, in those rare moments when I step back and take an objective look at myself I often shake my head and mutter, “Knucklehead”.

 

The church I go to celebrates “Ugly”. T-shirts, bumper stickers and books proclaim “I’m Ugly”, “My Church is Ugly”, “The Power of Ugly”.  It means, “Like you, I have real issues. I’m not pretending I’m perfect. I don’t have it all together. However, with God’s grace and with His direction, I’m working on it. You can too.”

 

Knucklehead or Ugly, the story is the same. We are (hopefully) a work in progress. If you don’t think you’re a knucklehead then you’ve probably never been married. A good woman will help you see yourself in a more realistic light (so will a dressing room mirror). Most of us know we could use a little tweeking, to put it mildy, and we periodically make efforts to change. These efforts are worth our time but we need to make sure we put 1st things 1st.

 

If we want the very best out of life there is nothing more important than a personal relationship with our Creator through Jesus Christ. Starting a relationship with God does not require us to change but developing a deeper relationship with God does bring about change. You cannot get to know Him better without realizing the need for some modifications in your life. Change is not a pre-requisite for a meaningful relationship with God but a natural by-product of it. Jack Nicholson once professed to a woman, “You make we want to be a better man.” Amen brother. Drawing close to God will make you want to be a better man and He will help you make it happen.

 

Here is the good news and bad news; This change, it takes place within you and it is a lifelong process. The other knuckleheads probably won’t change anytime soon. God wants you to be able to love them where they are like He loves you where you are. I thought a better plan might be for God to magically transform me and then work on everyone around me. Maybe not even in that order. Apparently not.

 

As it turns out, what other people do is not what is important, it’s how I deal with it that matters. Of course this is not revelation knowledge, I’m familiar with the concept. However, learning to take it on board and finding peace, His peace, in every situation can be a tough. It can be easy to justify our behavior when we consider what other people did to make that happen. Something I find myself saying more often is, “I’m not responsible for how they act, I’m responsible for how I act.”

 

I love the saying, “Sometimes God calms the storm, sometimes He calms the sailor.” Developing a close relationship with God does not mean that He changes the world around you. He will, however, change the world within you if you let Him. A natural by-product of your inner world changing is that the world around you slowly changes.

 

If the offences committed against you are governing forces in your life, you can be free of that. God does not want those things to rule you. Regardless of the severity of the offence, His peace can set you free. Have questions? Let me know.

A retired cop, a couple homeless guys, a Realtor, a chef, an old outlaw biker, a Florida Cracker, a 21 year old struggling with addiction and an autistic man. These are some of the guys that make up the men’s group at my church. They are God’s elite, a small group of special forces in my life that help keep me grounded and I am constantly learning from every man in our group.

Once a week we meet, drink coffee, read scripture and talk about how it applies to us in our daily lives. We lean on each other, challenge one another, console those in need, pray and provide encouragement. We also each commit to pray for one other guy and make contact through the week.

The first day I walked into the meeting and met some of those guys I thought, “This isn’t for me.” I was looking for a group of men who had it all together, they would immediately recognize my staggering potential, reach out, firmly grasp my hand, fix me with a steely gaze and say, “We’ve been waiting for you.” Instead what I found was a diverse group of normal guys just trying to follow God’s direction & be better men. It was exactly what I needed.

Our Creator has a plan for us and it is a better plan than we have for ourselves. That plan involves developing our relationship with God, leading our families, training our children and helping those around us. That plan also involves other men. We are stronger together and we are made to work together despite our tendency to want to go it alone. Jesus himself formed a small, inner group and the world still resonates with the efforts of those flawed men.

Most men do not make friends easily. In years past I forged friendships in bars around the world and through drunken experiences of which I have vague memories and numerous regrets. Today I am trying to forge friendships with other men who are interested in becoming better fathers, husbands & sons. I still love those guys from back in the day but now I want to build relationships that honor God and produce generational benefits for my family and those around me.

Inside a church near you there is a small group of men who are working through their commitment to a better way of life, a higher calling. They are not perfect, every day they struggle, fail, get back up and move forward. Those men need you and you need them.  If a structured group doesn’t exist you might be able to form one or find a church that has one. There are many resources available to bring focus to such a group. This webpage has several:

http://www.promisekeepers.org/programs/ambassadors/pk-ambassadors-resources

Are you looking for direction, partnership and encouragement? Do you have questions? Let me know.

For many years I charged through life without a care. “Be true to yourself” and “Look out for #1” were my guiding principles and Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” could have been my anthem. I was sure the example I was setting for my children would benefit them in the future. “I’m living my life and I am going to ride this thing until the wheels fall off. I encourage you to do the same.”

 

Today, I am 48, a father of 6, (2 marriages) and  trying to focus on being a better man. My priorities have changed and those around me benefit from that. I am still a knucklehead but maybe not quite the knucklehead I once was. I’m not a preacher, a pastor, or a motivational speaker (obviously). I’m a Dad, a husband, a son and a brother who wants something more. I am looking for other men, young and old, who are interested in the same thing. If you want more, even if you don’t even know what that looks like, maybe we can move forward together.

 

Want to hear something radical? Our creator has given us a User’s Manual and it is the Bible. Keep reading. Even without bringing Jesus & salvation into the picture, the principles put forth in the New Testament alone are a reasonable plan to live your life by. The Bible is to be taken as a whole. It would be unfair to the author of any work to pick and choose text and try to hang the theme upon that unless the author said, “It all boils down to this.” Turns out the Bible does say, “It all boils down to this…” Specifically, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Two things:

  1. Love God
  2. Love others 

We are all knuckleheads and hardly deserve the attention of our friends much less that of the Creator. Inexplicably, God desires a relationship with us. He has revealed Himself to you in His creation, in a breathtaking sunset and in the love you feel for your children. If you are opposed to wanting to learn more about who created you and why, I got nothing for you. Stop here and go back to whatever you were doing. I’m not interested arguing. If you have real questions about who God is and you want to learn more, stick around.

 

If you think loving your neighbor as yourself sounds unreasonable then you’re right. It is. I struggle with it all the time. Truthfully, I’m not sure how much I like most people and am pretty comfortable with the fact that that is a two way street. Apart from trying to allow God to work through me, and I’m not entirely sure how that works, I generally gravitate toward people who are similar to me, or more often, I just gravitate to me. I’m not saying it’s a good plan, its just the truth.

 

As I consider the world around me the call to be sold out to God and love others as myself can be a challenge. However, God is calling us to more. Nothing of value is ever easy. Life isn’t easy. What is ever accomplished without someone stepping out of their comfort zone and moving forward? God’s love and salvation are free. We can’t earn it and it is available to anyone who wants it. Just ask and it’s yours. Moving forward and developing a deep relationship with anyone, however, takes time and effort. It isn’t about religion or church. It is about a relationship with God and our relationship with each other. Men, we need God and we need each other. Surprisingly, God needs us. God uses people to accomplish His mission. God has chosen you for a mission that only you can do. You were born in this time and place, surrounded by the people who are around you, for a reason and you know it. God has given you abilities and talents and you can piss them away or use them for their intended purpose. What will it be? Do you feel like there is more to this thing?