Thursday, July 2, 2015

WARNING: Might remind you of someone...

A little video reflecting an important teaching from the Bible... 



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rainbow Connections

I guess I feel the need to apologize... 


I'm sorry...

I'm sorry, but I will not allow anyone to force me to redefine the meaning of "love."

Note that I did not say "marriage."  That was on purpose; by design.

Many years ago, when confronted with what a church pastor felt was my completely non-biblical and incorrect view of speaking on tongues, I was challenged to do something I rarely did - actually research the Bible and see if my views on that topic could be supported.

Weeks of research led me to the conclusion that SOME of what I believed was wrong while MOST of what I believed was easily supported by the Bible, which I believe to be God's written Word for all mankind.

In recent weeks I have begun the same process with the, now, very controversial issue of same-sex marriage.

As I read the scriptures - both old and new testament - and even the red words by Jesus - I don't see any way around the notion that, as far as the Bible is concerned, a "homosexual lifestyle" is NOT commended by God.  It is always spoken of in negative terms.  The same way divorce, adultery, gluttony, gossip, slander, hate, blasphemy, murder and other issues are spoken of in negative terms. It is never brought forth as a desirable lifestyle.  Not once.  That can only lead to the conclusion that, as far as God is concerned, it is a sin.

Like every other sin, however, it is also trumped by God's love, mercy and grace.  He does not turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to our sin.  He does something better - he restores us.  He accomplished this by offering His only son, Jesus, on the cross to be the one-time sacrifice for our sins.  That's not my opinion - that is fact from the Bible. If you don't believe the Bible, then it's a moot point for you - I get that.  But that means ALL content of the Bible must be moot - you can't pick and choose only the parts you like or agree with.  That's another post for another time...

The point is - God's LOVE is THE most important thing.  And His love is NEVER forced or pushed or shoved or used as fodder for battle, hate, anger or dispute.  True, actual love - God's love - somehow permeates every man-designed theory, notion, attitude and action.  God's love always wins. To say "Love Wins" (the current battle cry regarding same-sex marriage) is far too simplistic and, actually, untrue.  The love I have for my dog does not "win."  It's just a really nice feeling I have.  But GOD'S LOVE always runs deeper and shines brighter.

The current climate of "you BETTER paste a rainbow on your FB page to prove you love!" is just bullshit.  That is FORCING love.  That is DEMANDING love.  That is SHOVING a particular human definition of love into people's faces that comes from arrogance and is laced in hate.

To truly love means to figure out a way to get past those things that separate us.  It does not mean we must fully embrace nor accept the thoughts, beliefs and actions of others.  That is not love.  That is pandering.

I love gay people.  I love black people.  I love tall people, short people, skinny people, fat people, stupid people, smart people.  SOME people irritate the hell out of me.  Just like I irritate the hell out of people sometimes.  But LOVE - REAL love - GOD'S love - gets past all that.  God's love calls us to actually allow others to be who they are without fear of being bullied, forced, chastised, or pushed around until they cave in.  That is how I am to love a homosexual.  And that is how a homosexual is supposed to love me. The love God calls us to is never a one-way street.

God's love truly is unconditional. Period.

Based on what I read in the Bible, I can never agree that "a homosexual lifestyle" is acceptable to God.  However, I will ALWAYS agree that a homosexual, just like me, needs to be loved and accepted for who they are as a human being.  No finger pointing.  No slandering.  No hate.  This is the ONLY type of love mandated by God - - that we love one another in spite of our differences. God created me to love you.  God created you to love me.  He created us to love one another regardless of our political bias, our religious beliefs, our morals, our arrogance, our lousy personalities... and the list goes on and on.

Love One Another - That's God's plan.  

There will always be those screaming for laws on the books to FORCE this or that philosophy. Those laws do not define the underlying issue or concept.  They - are - just - laws.

But God's law - in this case, His law regarding love - is the only true law to follow.

Love like God.  Love like Jesus...

because the only Rainbow Connection worth embracing is the one that connects us to God's love.




Monday, June 8, 2015

Stinky Fish



Let me just say at the outset, this is more of a rant than a blog post. 

I love Jesus and I love His children.  But over the past several years I've experienced what I might call a lack of Christian love from some (note, I did say some) of His followers.  And, frankly, I don't get it... it leaves me feeling like the "fish" is a little stinky.

My most recent experience was with an up-and-coming Christian organization who creates ministry content for use in churches for all age groups.  They are located out of state which is why I found it odd - almost a "God-thing" - that I found their job listing on Craigslist in my own state.  The job appealed to me and seemed to be a perfect fit for my skill sets.  The idea of a regular full-time position has been growing within me for some time and I felt that, perhaps, God was leading me in this new direction.

So, I sent an initial email of introduction, they responded, we chatted over email and by phone, they flew me to their corporate offices for an interview, the interview went great, I got home and received a job offer from them with a salary that, honestly, was quite low for what the position demanded and the skill sets I brought to the table.  

I came back to them with a counter offer which was the top of their posted salary bracket.

Then I received an email saying they changed their mind; that I actually did not meet the needs for the position after all and a few other things that, really, were not true.   And this left me wondering why, then, the initial email offer if I did not meet the requirements?  

My dilemma is that, because they are a Christian company, and I am a Christian, there is an unwritten rule that we must hide behind phrases such as "God guided me" or "we prayed about this" or "the Lord told us..."  

Really?  How 'bout honesty?  

Why can't you just say, "no, we are only offering what we are offering and that's the end of the discussion" without trying to turn it into some sort of "holy" event?

What angers me is that this sort of "mixed message" experience goes on sometimes within Christian businesses, be it a church, a media company, a university or similar Christian organizations.  I know people first hand who have gone thru similar, heart-wrenching, confusing experiences within the Christian community.  I don't get it.  I don't like it.  

And - it - stinks!

Sadly, this company's decision was made based on money.  I understand that businesses have budgets and that money is needed to operate companies and all of that.  So, then, don't offer a salary bracket in your ad to begin with and don't belittle the applicant or their abilities in order to justify paying them less!  Very bad form...

Why do Christians and Christian organizations feel the need to hide behind the fish?  It is not more mature to be dishonest.  It is not more godly to pretend all is well and then turn the tables on someone. In fact, it is very dishonoring to God and your fellow believer to speak in a condescending "holy" tone of voice when in your heart you have no intention of following through with what you are inferring.  That is not what it means to be a Christian.  

As I say, there are plenty of really great Christians and Christian companies out there.  I just feel led to call out the ones who reveal themselves to be lacking in living out what that fish on the building actually represents.  

Some will say, "grow thicker skin, Dan, just get over it and move on."  I did and I have.  This is not about throwing a pity party.  It's about holding each other accountable in the Kingdom. 

So, please listen...

If you run a Christian organization, or help lead one, please do all of us a favor and either live what you preach, or scrape the stinky fish off the building.  

Because sometimes you are definitely NOT doing what Jesus would do.  

Saturday, February 7, 2015

My Christian Can Beat Up Your Christian! - Part 3


In this discussion about what I call, "Christian Arrogance," we are following an acrostic on the word "PRIDE."  

In the last entry, we talked about "P - Position."  

Here, we talk about "R - Rules" - or, regiment, and how we can become arrogant in our ability to follow the rules or regiments of "being a Christian."  

We need rules, to a certain extent.  We need to know, for example, that a red light indicates stopping at intersections.  To stay fit and healthy, you must adhere to a certain regiment of making wise food choices and exercising consistently.  It's okay, and even necessary at times, to have rules and regiments that we live by.

Some people become quite arrogant, pushy and obsessive about their exercise and nutrition rules even to the point of forcing those rules on others, as if they, and they alone, have suddenly discovered the only truth available regarding health and shove that info in your face to prove you are not now, nor will you ever be, as healthy as they are. 

There are Christians who do the very same thing with their faith journey.  

They are very, very proud of the fact that they rise at 5am, spend 30-minutes alone with God, spend another 30-minutes reading His Word, attend an adult Sunday school class, attend a mid-week Bible study, sit in the front during the service (to be "seen and glean"), teach the children, sing in the choir, donate to the food bank and help set up chairs for the men's meeting.  

These are not bad things.  In fact, these are GOOD things!  Until you shove your over-extended goodness in the face of fellow believers in an attempt to prove just how "good" you are at "following God's rules." 

The Bible has many examples of pride - and they are never portrayed as something to strive for. Rather, they are revealed as something to avoid.  "God hates a haughty spirit..." (Proverbs 18:16).  

It's important to consider how Jesus dealt with this matter of regiment and rules in His own relationship with God.  In a nutshell, Jesus NEVER alerted everyone to His personal plan of intimacy or obedience to God.  He simply did it.  We know He went off by himself to pray, for example, because Luke tells us so. (Luke 5:16).  But Jesus never said, "Okay, guys, here's what I'm gonna go do now - I'm gonna go be with God in a quiet time - you know, like YOU guys SHOULD be doing." 

I am always amused by the comment from the Pharisee in Luke 18, verse 11: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men..." 

Be honest - haven't you thought that sometimes?  Our modern version of that statement might go like this: "God, I might have had lustful thoughts, or uttered cuss words, or even hated my next-door neighbor, but - I never killed anyone, or stole money from the bank, or did drugs.  Thank you, God, that I'm not THAT bad.  Thank you, God, that I read my Bible every day and do all that other stuff on my "God list" that I know makes you happy.  I am so amazing, huh?" 

Your wording might be different, but that's essentially what many of us do because, sadly, we actually believe that DOING THE LIST is what makes God happy.

That isn't what makes God happy.  He looks at the HEART, not our ability to "do the list." 

If you are over-pleased with your ability to "do the list" (the rules and regiment), then I suggest you reconsider that aspect of your spiritual life.  I encourage all of us to be less prideful in our ability to follow the rules.  

Remember, one of "the rules" is humility and it doesn't really fly to show off your Christianity if you want to be humble. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Christian Can Beat Up Your Christian - Part 2


In discussing Christian Arrogance, I will follow an acrostic on the word P.R.I.D.E.  Seems appropriate... right?  

The P in our acrostic is for POSITION or placement; meaning, WHERE we place ourselves as compared to others on a scale between un-holy, doomed to hell all the way up to God's right-hand man.  

In my 40+ years as a Christian I have come across many--far TOO many--fellow believers who seem to believe that, because they are a Christian, they are "just a little bit better" than everyone else around them.  It is almost as if they are thinking, "Neener, Neener - I'm going to heaven, because I'm good - and you're going to hell, because you're bad!" I honestly feel that the main reason we ever feel like this often has to do with wrong teachings from some in our Christian culture.  Somewhere along the line we mixed up the notion of "chosen by God" with "chosen for abilities" or some other crazy notion.

Sadly, this attitude rises to the surface in ways that cause the non-believers around us to sniff out our arrogance and run for the hills.  I don't think we have intentionally attempted to make others feel less worthy or less valuable, but it does happen.  Yes,we are loved by God.  But that does not mean we are BETTER than anyone around us.  And for those who are agreeing with this statement, don't be so smug - you do it, too!  And, so do I.  Though I am trying to be less this way the older I get.

How did Jesus deal with His "Position?" 

Think about this - - no, really, think about this.

Jesus - was (is) THE Son of God; He IS God - in the flesh.  Jesus was - God in a human body - interacting with His very own creation.  That is mind-boggling!  

And, yet, even with His DNA, Jesus remained a SERVANT to everyone around Him.  He placed himself at the bottom, in other words.  Never was it, "Hey, look what I can do!"  (And He could do a lot!)  It was always, "Hey, look what I can do - for YOU!"  

Are we like that?  No, really, are we?  

Probably. Sometimes. At church. In front of the pastor. 

What about at Walmart? Or the gas station? Or when we pass a homeless man in smelly clothes who has a sign asking for money?  

I encourage you (and me) to re-think what our POSITION actually is, as follows of Jesus Christ. Don't allow yourself to become too arrogant in your mistaken "lofty" placement in the Kingdom. Absolutely believe, and live, as a child of the King!  But never forget that THIS King wears a crown of thorns - not diamonds. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Christian Can Beat Up Your Christian! - Part 1



It is almost humorous to be writing about this topic, because when a person sits down to pen an article or blog or book, it infers that person is an expert on the topic being discussed. And since the topic of this 7-part series is "Christian Arrogance," it feels somewhat ironic to me.

The truth is, I am not an expert on this topic. Merely an observer.

I have been a Christian for over 45 years and, in that time, I have seen the good, the bad, and, unfortunately, the ugly. The past several decades have been some of the most spirit-filled and exciting we have known as Christians. There has also been a growing seed of arrogance that has permeated many areas of our faith.

This series of blog posts, then, should be viewed as a type of "call to action" or "warning." I won't go so far as to say they are prophetic because when a person talks like that, the rest of the Christian community gets nervous. Some even paint signs and host rallies.

We will just agree that I have observed this Christian Arrogance in many ways and forms - even in my own life - and, therefore, feel the urgency to speak on it so that we who call ourselves believers can help those around us find the simplicity of Jesus in the chaos of religion.

The series is built on an acrostic on the word, "PRIDE."  The next article (Part 2) will speak on the "P" in that acrostic: POSITION - how we are prideful because of how we position ourselves in the Kingdom.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Count It ALL Joy...


"Count it all joy when various trials come your way..." That what it says in the Bible book of James, first chapter, second verse.

Seems a bit ridiculous at first glance. Consider my problems as something to be joyful about? Are you kidding? Do you know what I've been going through?

I've sat through many sermons on this particular topic and all of them end up going down a very similar path: life's painful experiences test your faith in God and refine you much the same way fine metals are refined in fire... therefore, be happy about what you go through.

Really?

Have you ever gone through anything difficult and maintained a smile on your face? Who does this? And don't say Tibetan Monks - because there's a part of me that wants to believe that even those robed ethereal types wince a bit when something bad happens to them - say, burn their tongue on the soup, or something.

The reality of life is that things are difficult. For you, for me - for all of us. Shit happens, as the bumper sticker says.

I used to misunderstand this verse. I read it as saying "God is testing your faith and that's why all this bad stuff is happening to you." But I don't believe that any more. I don't believe for one moment that the Almighty God of all we will ever know actually sets out to make my life hard. He loves me - unconditionally, completely and totally. He wants the BEST for me. Always. Therefore, God does not orchestrate the calamities of our lives. I also don't believe that God is a magician who waves a heavenly wand and simply zaps us free of pain. That would also not be loving. What He does do is allow us to learn from the mistakes we make as well as from the circumstances of life we encounter which are sometimes the results of mistakes those around us make.

So, the way I now view this verse (concept) is that life is difficult - sometimes it's my fault, sometimes it's your fault - sometimes it's the simple result of unpleasant and unexpected circumstances of life that impact us even though we have nothing to do with the cause. And what this verse does is remind us how we are to respond to these events - with JOY!

Responding joyfully in difficult circumstances is not easy to do. Anyone who tells you it is easy is either a liar or not living on this planet, walking among other human beings. Bad things happen all the time. And those bad things impact us. They can do everything from bend us, to break us, to destroy us. And it's in the course of those events - the on-going, the day-by-day, that we learn what it means to BECOME people who are able to consider such life events as moments of refinement, maturing, shaping, crafting... and THAT is what leads us to choosing to live JOYFUL lives rather than lives of bitterness, anger, despair and hopelessness.

Jesus did not look forward to being hung on a cross. The Bible does not seem to paint a picture of Him gallantly marching forward to face his death with heroics. He was not afraid - don't get me wrong. But Jesus Himself stated to His Father (God) that he'd rather not go through with this type of death. I can't imagine Him being "happy" about this. He knew it had to happen as the culmination of his ministry on Earth and the birthing of salvation for the rest of us. So, I can also imagine Jesus being somewhat "joyful" knowing what was COMING, though what he was going through was certainly not a "joyful" experience.

There is something to be said about endurance. Perhaps you have gone through days, weeks or even years of enduring - enduring painful life experiences you never thought you'd encounter. And now, today, you are still alive. Scarred, scratched and perhaps a little scared. But you are alive. (I know this because you are reading this blog!) Apparently, those events you never thought you could live through - well - you've lived through!

Here's that verse again... let it sink in...

Count it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4