Recently a religious woman in our town threw an accusation my way. “You know, she admits to listening to secular music.” Wow! I thought. That’s the worse thing I do? Well then, I must be in pretty good shape!
Where do we as Christians get the idea that everything is evil and nothing is good?
“No pants on women, it makes them look like men.”
“Don’t say Oh My God! It’s taking the Lord’s Name in Vain.”
“No sleeveless blouses on women, armpits are evil.”
okay I made up the armpits are evil but really what is the reason a woman can’t show her shoulders in public?
“No crosses whatsoever, they are demonic!”
Okay but in movies they ward off vampires….just saying…..
“HIDE! On Halloween.”
Uh, because this is the only day the LORD didn’t make right? (Insert sarcastic snicker here)
“Dance at the altar before the Lord or you are not really worshiping.”
“Don’t dance at the altar before the Lord. This is not a disco!”
“Contemporary music is just a fad, hymns will come back.”
“You can’t watch a rated R movie, but look the other way, and pass the cash over to your kids so they can go see it.”
“No spaghetti straps on dresses.”
This is especially true if you even remotely attractive.
This is critical if you are someone in danger of making a golden calf.
Can you think of more?
Then let’s go to the other spectrum:
“We live together because if we got married, I’d lose my benefits. God sees my heart.”
“I taught Sunday School before. Let someone else have a turn.”
This is usually followed by a rant about children today.
“I don’t report my tips to the IRS. They don’t need my money.”
“I work part-time because otherwise my ex would get her back child support.”
Bible study? Girl, I’ve read the bible several times, what can you teach me?”
It’s not gossip if it’s true.
I’m just wondering at what point we stop fighting each other, live out what the word says, quit making excuses and speaking in half truths, which are lies we tell ourselves to make us feel good, and get on with the business at hand? What is the business at hand? To reach out to people who are hurting and show them a Jesus who loves them, not because they look right, act right or are right, but because he just does.
Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
How do we get anything done when we won’t stop living in religious fear and condemnation of one another. As I told the TLC women recently, “What makes you right?”
My good friends and mentors in ministry, Bishop Gregory and Dr. Gayla Holley, recently had a horrible loss in their family. They put their precious little dog Missy, a yorkie terrier, outside in their yard and a turkey vulture took her. They were shocked and devastated at what had happened. When Gayla told me about it, I immediately had tears in my eyes and my hand went to my throat, as I could imagine the pain my friends are going through. Being a dog lover and knowing that dogs aren’t pets for long, they become a part of your family, I understood the grief they must be feeling.
They both felt badly about Missy. They shed some tears, they tried to figure out why this would happen. It was really a sad time. You see, Missy first belonged to a family who just didn’t have time for her. Her family knew they needed to find a good home for her and along came the Holleys. With them, Missy traveled the country in their RV, she slept in pajamas and got special treats. She watched the news on their laps. She got table scraps when her mom wasn’t looking. She even liked cuddling up in bed with them. She lived the life of luxury for a dog.
What happened next didn’t surprise me at all. They rescued another dog within a week. A Maltese who was in desperate need of a groomer. He is now living the life! Too soon you might say? Not when your life is about love.
See, there is an important lesson here about love and loss. In our grief we can decide to put up a wall and say to ourselves that we will never love again. We can decide that the loss is just too great and our hearts are much too broken to ever take another chance. We can live in the good ‘ol days when they were with us. In fact, the natural response to death is to nurse grief. To speak statements that shut love out.
It is a very powerful statement to remain open to love and shut out grief. Yes, grief is necessary and needed but love is even more so. In this case they determined that there were a lot of dogs that needed love more than they needed grief. Missy isn’t an afterthought. She is missed, she is loved still, and she isn’t replaced. This new life with a new dog will be a process just as anything in life is. No two dogs are the same. In fact, her memory is such a good one that they opened their lives up to even more love. That is a testimony to Missy’s life if ever there was one.
Sometimes in ministry you learn deep lessons not in what people say to you but in how their life is lived out before you.
A man who had been bitten by a dog went about in quest of someone who might heal him. A friend, meeting him and learning what he wanted, said, “If you would be cured, take a piece of bread, and dip it in the blood from your wound, and go and give it to the dog that bit you.” The man who had been bitten laughed at this advice and said, “Why? If I should do so, it would be as if I should beg every dog in the town to bite me.”
Benefits bestowed upon the evil-disposed increase their means of inuring you.
Through our church we run a thrift store. Our thrift store handles our benevolence as well. It’s curious to me when people try to point fingers at us for their perceived offenses at what we do. Recently a customer came in to purchase $12.00 worth of items. She tried to pay with her debit card but it was declined. She rummaged through her purse to come up some of the money but she was still short. Our cashier explained that she didn’t have the authority to override the purchase for a lesser amount. The customer became livid.
“I can’t believe you won’t let me have the rest of my purchase. You are supposed to be the church. I am going to tell all of my friends not to come here.”
Our cashier was upset because she was following policy and asked me later how it should have been handled. Our cashier said that because the items weren’t essentials, she felt confident in maintaining the policy. I backed up our cashier’s judgment.
We often get these rants. What is amazing is that people often throw the “you’re supposed to be the church” comment to us. In other words, what they are saying is that since we are the church they should be allowed to take advantage of us. We should bow to their whims. We should give them what they want.
I understand that we live in an entitled society but I wonder if they yell in the same fashion at their local Walmart or Target? When they are short on cash they do begin to yell and make a scene that their things should be free? I have had to put things back before, or leave a store without something I wanted. Trust me, it isn’t the end of the world.
I often find the people who come in using their vouchers are so much more respectful, often humbled by their life experience, they try to stay under their voucher amount. They come to the register and ask the cashier to ring up their purchases because they don’t want to go over their voucher amount.
Sometimes it makes me wonder if the economy is down because we are a society who must have what they want when they want it regardless of what the price someone else has to pay for them to have it?
It is because we are the church that we must be fair and even-handed. Not allowing others to take advantage of the generosity of many.
Psalm 27: 1 Light, space, zest – that’s God! So, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing. 2 When vandal hordes ride down ready to eat me alive, Those bullies and toughs fall flat on their faces. 3 When besieged, I’m calm as a baby. When all hell breaks loose, I’m collected and cool. 4 I’m asking God for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet. 5 That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, The perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic. 6 God holds me head and shoulders above all who try to pull me down. I’m headed for his place to offer anthems that will raise the roof! Already I’m singing God-songs; I’m making music to God. 7 Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs: “Be good to me! Answer me!” 8 When my heart whispered, “Seek God,” my whole being replied, “I’m seeking him!” 9 Don’t hide from me now! You’ve always been right there for me; don’t turn your back on me now. Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me; you’ve always kept the door open. 10 My father and mother walked out and left me, but God took me in.11 Point me down your highway, God; direct me along a well-lighted street; show my enemies whose side you’re on. 12 Don’t throw me to the dogs, those liars who are out to get me, filling the air with their threats. 13 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. 14 Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God. ~The Message
Two Horses—Author Unknown
Just up the road from my home is a field, with two horses in it.
From a distance, each horse looks like any other horse. But if you stop your car, or are walking by, you will notice something quite amazing….
Looking into the eyes of one horse will disclose that he is blind.His owner has chosen not to have him put down, but has made a good home for him.
This alone is amazing.
If you stand nearby and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell. Looking around for the source of the sound, you will see that it comes from the smaller horse in the field.Attached to the horse’s halter is a small bell.It lets the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow.
As you stand and watch these two friends, you’ll see that the horse with the bell is always checking on the blind horse, and that the blind horse will listen for the bell and then slowly walk to where the other horse is, trusting that he will not be led astray.
When the horse with the bell returns to the shelter of the barn each evening, it stops occasionally and looks back, making sure that the blind friend isn’t too far behind to hear the bell.
Like the owners of these two horses, God does not throw us away just because we are not perfect or because we have problems or challenges.
He watches over us and even brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need.
Sometimes we are the blind horse being guided by the little ringing bell of those who God places in our lives.
Other times we are the guide horse, helping others to find their way….
Good friends are like that…You may not always see them, but you know they are always there.
Please listen for my bell and I’ll listen for yours.
Be kinder than necessary – – – Everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
Matthew 26:6 When Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came up to him as he was eating dinner and anointed him with a bottle of very expensive perfume. 8 When the disciples saw what was happening, they were furious. “That’s criminal! 9 This could have been sold for a lot and the money handed out to the poor.” 10 When Jesus realized what was going on, he intervened. “Why are you giving this woman a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. ~”The Message”
If you’re still measuring out your offering then you haven’t discovered His worth yet. ~Klaus
John 8:12 Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”
We live in a two-story house. It gets incredibly hot upstairs in the summer. Our bedroom is especially hot, so a few years ago we bought blackout curtains, which help somewhat. I mean it’s cooler definitely but still hot in the room. The thing about blackout curtains is the room stays dark all the time.
Today, I threw open the curtains early in the morning and began to clean our room. Things look much different in the light. In the dark, I didn’t see the spiderweb that had started the week before, I didn’t see the thin layer of dust that was on the furniture, and the ceiling fan? Goodness! It needed a good cleaning!
As I got the cleaning supplies together and began to dust and clean I had a God-thought. I realized that many of us live our lives with blackout curtains. They serve to dim the sin in our lives and they serve to hide those areas we don’t really want to acknowledge. Only, we fool ourselves don’t we? Our room looked decent in the dark. In the light of day there were areas that needed attention. Just because we couldn’t see them didn’t mean they weren’t there, it was just hidden in the dark.
I began to see the choices we make. See, we don’t hide anything from God. God is light, and when he enters our life it illuminates that life completely. The problem is we want to see him as a nightlight. We want him to shed a little light, but not expose the all that is going on. It’s painful to see. What I thought would be an hour of cleaning was going to be much more intensive because now that I could see the dust, how could I ignore it and leave it? We were breathing it in, living in it and we could not let it continue. After I had dusted the ceiling fan, I had to then break out the vacuum cleaner, in order to vacuum, I had to make sure all the things on the floor were picked up and put in their place. It took work and determination but it is worth it for our well-being in the end.
The end result of my effort is that in light or dark, the room is substantially cleaner. Don’t be afraid to let the light of God illuminate your life. Then stand back and take a good look around. See the places that need attention. Deal with the garbage that maybe was useful in its time but no longer fits the lifestyle you are creating. Do the work it’s going to take to get things back in order. You’ll be better for it!