Monumental Selfishness

I write my blogs as an outlet, sometime as an outlet for passion, sometimes for a prophetic word and sometimes in disgust and anger.  This is one of those disgust and anger times (with likely prophetic overtones).  I have to be careful as my much more mercy oriented wife exhorted me to be cautious about what I might say, but I am getting closer and closer to “taking numbers and naming names” when it comes to some of the bile I see “Christians” spewing.  This will be short but goes to the core of Jesus, the Gospel, the Love of the Father and asking “just where is YOUR home?”

This blog is simply posing the question “what are the really important things in your ‘Christian’ life”?  And yes, I put Christian in quotes a second time as I suspect there are many out there who are just playing church because it’s the cool thing to do but who have little willingness to actually embrace the heart of the Father. 2 Peter 3:9

Is prayer in school important to you?  What about tax deductions for donations to the church? Are the Ten Commandments carved in stone and place in your town square important to you?  Is the preservation of your earthly home and your earthly country your focus? Are Easter bunnies and Christmas lights on your list of top ten things you must have to enjoy “your” Christianity? Then it’s just that, “your Christianity”, and not the one that I read about in the Bible which places our citizenship in an eternal heaven and not some fading home on this earth to try and fight for and preserve for “just us Christians”.

I am not saying that those things are bad, not at all.  But I am saying that if devotion to things like the ones mentioned above take priority over opportunities to lovingly rub shoulders with those who don’t know Christ then you yourself have not experienced the fullness of the love of Christ in your own life.  And this is why I call it monumental selfishness because you are choosing temporal things over the call to share eternal joy with someone who isn’t “like you”!

christian-hypocrcy

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Did another one bite the dust? We’re not quite sure.

There are some questions when asked and then answered one is left with …. well, an answer.  There are other times when, for whatever reason, answers are given in such a way as to avoid being pinned down as having given …. well, an answer.  Such is the recent dilemma placed on Pastor Houston and Hillsong church in responding to reports that one of the male choir directors of the NYC branch announced his engagement last year to one of the male choir members.

For the purpose of illustration, to make a point about trying to differentiate between sins, and of course to be PC on this very pop culture hot topic, I am going to flip the sin to gossip and insert that sin into the narrative.  HOPEFULLY gossip is still one of those things that, although many engage in this abomination, they would never defend it.  So here goes.

A couple of members of the choir in Hillsong NYC have announced they are unrepentant gossips.  Hillsong indicated they were “asked” to step down from leadership.   In response to questions about this announcement by the gossiping couple the pastor of Hillsong NYC, Pastor Carl Lentz, responded

“Jesus was in the thick of an era where gossiping, just like it is today, was widely prevalent. And I’m still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people.  You won’t find it because He never did”. Lentz went on to say   “We have a lot of men and women who gossip in our church and I pray we always do”.

I must interject here for the purpose of TRUTH, whereas I’m sure gossip was prevalent in Israel in that day, some “other” sins were NOT prevalent in Israel as capital punishment was exacted for some of the “other” sins and as such were simply NOT common, as Lentz suggest, and it might actually have seemed odd for Jesus, while speaking significantly on the subject of sexual immorality, to single out an abomination not prominent in that day in that nation.

lentz 1

That’s Pastor Lentz on the left with Justin Bieber & Usher at an NBA game.

In an interview with Playbill.com, Josh Canfield (one of the gossips) said “I became truthful with my church. I’m a part of Hillsong NYC. I’m one of their choir directors. I also sing on their Worship team. They’ve been amazing as well. Nothing has changed there now that I’m completely out (about gossiping) with Reed. He sings in the choir as well”.

lentz 2

Here is the “gossiping” couple!

Senior Pastor of Hillsong international, Brian Houston, said in response to comments on gossiping given by Lentz

“What Carl always says for us, it’s a conversation.  For us, it’s easy to reduce what you think about gossiping to just a public statement. And that would keep a lot of people happy. But we feel at this point, it is an ongoing conversation, that the real issues in people’s lives are too important for us to just reduce it down to a “yes” or “no” answer”.

Charisma Magazine reported that at a news conference for Hillsong in New York City, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Houston to clarify his church’s position on gossiping. But Houston would not offer a definitive answer, instead saying that it was

“an ongoing conversation” among church leaders, and they were “on the journey with it”

The most recent official response from Hillsong and Pastor Houston on gossiping reads

“Hillsong’s position on gossip and gossipers has not changed and is consistent with Scripture. As I have stated previously, I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.  Several months ago when one of our choir directors made an unexpected public statement regarding his decision to become a gossip with a man who sometimes sang in the choir, it was a complete surprise to us as well. It is my understanding that they have not been involved in an active leadership or ministry role since. That said, we still love them and acknowledge that they – like all of us – are on a journey, and our role as a church is to assist them on this journey with grace and compassion.”

On the subject of gossiping, Carl Lentz is on record from the pulpit of Hillsong NYC as saying

“We have a stance on love, and on everything else we have conversations.  Some churches want us to give blanket answers on huge issues. Well, my Bible says, be attentive to individual needs. So I’m not gonna make polarizing political statements about certain things in our Christian community right now. No matter who says what, we won’t be pressured into giving blanket statements”.

Question:  Just when did the subject of gossiping become a political issue?  I thought it was a sin issue which separates us from God, salvation and eternity?  But I digress – actually maybe not!

Senior Pastor Houston is on the record on the subject of gossip as saying –

“The world we live in, whether we like it or not, is changing around and about us.  The world’s changing, and we want to stay relevant as a church, so that’s a vexing thing.” Adding  that it is appropriate to consider the words of the bible alongside the changing culture and the experience of the people in the pews.

So can you help me here?  Exactly what is Hillsong’s position on gossiping?  Which scriptures are they being consistent with?  Which writings of Paul do they see as clear on gossip?  Scripture says a lot of things on a myriad of subjects.  Is it too much to ask for a yes or no answer on gossiping?  Is it too much to ask they actually give reference to which of Paul’s writings they are referring to on the subject of gossiping like in Romans 1

26 For this reason God allowed their shameful passions to control them. Their women have exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 Likewise, their men have given up natural sexual relations with women and burn with lust for each other. Men commit indecent acts with men, so they experience among themselves the punishment they deserve for their perversion.28 And because they thought it was worthless to acknowledge God, God allowed their own immoral minds to control them. So they do these indecent things. 29 Their lives are filled with of all kinds of sexual sins, wickedness, and greed. They are mean. They are filled with envy, murder, quarreling, deceit, and viciousness. They are GOSSIPS 30 slanderers, haters of God, haughty, arrogant, and boastful. They think up new ways to be cruel. They don’t obey their parents, 31 don’t have any sense, don’t keep promises, and don’t show love to their own families or mercy to others. 32 Although they know God’s judgment that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do these things but also approve of others who do them.

In conclusion, NOW can you tell me what scripture/Paul clearly says about gossiping (among other things)?

Burkas in the Buff – a contradiction of outrage!

This blog has been a long time coming as the events spanned many years followed by much contemplation as to how and what to write.  The events are not hearsay but were personally witnessed.  The apparent contradiction is equally real and confusing.

When our kids were growing up, Barbie was the master of the nursing cloth.  Any one not sitting right next to her would have had no idea she was nursing but might rather have questioned her taste in style.  Our 1st daughter Brandi raised the bar with what I refer to as the nursing smock resembling an abbreviated Burka offering absolute modesty.

smock

Some years and grand children back we (Brandi, Barbie and I) were in a church service together where Brandi nursed one of her children just a seat or 2 away from me.  I was even unaware she had done this.  After the service was over one of the pastor’s wives came up to Brandi and asked she not do this again in the future as her actions could cause men in the service to sin in their hearts.  As this happened some years ago, the steam and flames have long since ceased coming out of my ears.

This is the same backwards logic the corrupt religion of Islam uses in blaming women for the evil in men’s hearts causing them to lust after all women so the obvious answer is to cover over the sin issue in the men by the reactive covering of their women in portable tents.  This fails to address either some potential seductive nature of the woman but more importantly excuses and justifies the sin nature of the man.  And just for the record, this cloaking of their women has done nothing to stay the lust, fornication, homosexuality and other sexual acting out by Muslim men.

Side note:  In contrast to covered/smock nursing, open breast nursing may be one of the big PC promoted practices in America which also occurs in some churches and cultures around the globe, it is not, however, something I feel comfortable with in public or in church in America – my personal opinion.

I am a big believer in modesty in both men and women.  Although it would be hard to start much of a mega-church based solely on modesty as the word is only mention a couple of times in the whole of scripture with little advice as to what it means.  But there is at least one place where God Himself is addressing how those who minister before the Lord are to dress in order to not chance any over exposure.  In Ex 28 the Lord orders Aaron to have the priest wear what could only be described as pajama bottoms underneath their floor length robes in order to not risk the guilt that would be associated with exposure as they climbed the alter or stage.

A more recent occurrence happened at a church which has been somewhat proactive in promoting modest dress by those who are on the worship team or sing in the choir.  They have a posted dress code which would be consider reasonable by most Christians.  Among other things, tight fitting shirts, skinny jeans or leggings alone (without an additional covering top/dress) are not allowed for men or women.

The problem with a posted set of standards is that if not enforced they becomes a cliché or joke to most all who see it.  Such has been the case at this church.  On several occasions the skinny jeans and leggings dress code has been ignored, stretched (pun intended) or blatantly violated to the extreme occurrence of a camel toe making an appearance on stage by one of the worship team members.

camel

My son after reading this blog pointed out to me that I might have been a bit one sided and sexist as he has witnessed the male moose hump on the platform as well.  Although I had also seen this I was unaware there was a similar animal term coined to describe it.  So for those who are not familiar with either term suffice it to say it is the clear display of “nether regions” anatomy by means of tight jeans or leggings.  Make the leggings flesh colored, and almost all mystery is removed.

Let’s be clear, I am not advocating burka type dress codes for pastors and worship leaders but neither do I think completely modest nursing women should be relegated to some back room with poor/no sound.  I can choose not to frequent places known for questionable dress, but church and the platform in particular should always be a safe place for our eyes.  There may well be a few out there who are saying to yourselves “what is he even talking about?”.  But I can assure you it is not most men and certainly not our most vulnerable youth who are bombarded with ever increasing “eye candy” challenges on a daily basis.  Having been a youth pastor for 15 years, well aware of my own faults and counseled with many adults, this almost constant assault on our eyes from billboards, advertisements, the internet and simply walking in the mall is perhaps the greatest “trip” hazard facing men.

Sure I could simply choose to avert my eyes (which I do), worship in the foyer or otherwise try and ignore stuff like this but then that would be maintaining the status quo and what we have done all to often in the church with other “stuff” like divorce, gossip, etc. etc (with devastating consequences).  And whereas I can look away from the over exposure, I can no longer keep my mouth shut.

I will go so far as to place responsibility/blame squarely on the guy who, in his mind, is undressing a modestly covered women (whether nursing or not) and likewise place the responsibility/blame on the woman who dresses so as to put on display and remove any questions as to the finer points of her anatomy.  There is a clear difference in those two scenarios as one requires vain imaginations and the other does not and any one saying otherwise is simply lying to themselves or perhaps the most naive person on the face of the planet.  Surly we can find the Lord’s heart for modesty somewhere between treating modestly nursing women as temptresses and what seems to me to be provocative and tempting visits by desert animal feet on the platforms of the church.

But you don’t understand, my problems are worse than a martyr’s – Said Nobody EVER!!!

I have not yet watched the video of the beheadings of 21 Egyptian brothers.  I am very conflicted as to whether I will on not.  Part of me wants to and part of me is loathe to watch it and I have no particular “spiritual” reason for either.  But I have read accounts of a father in Egypt having to stop watching it after seeing his son crying out the name of Jesus Christ just before his beheading.  Other reports are of many of them proclaiming Jesus as their only savior as the knives come out.

I have seen a picture of the sea turned BLOOD red and I can just imagine the chorus of their blood crying out from the sand and the sea.

Part of me cries uncontrollably, part of me wishes I could have been a sniper on a sand dune overlooking the event to take out the executioners before they could carry out their empty deed.  I say empty because I cannot imagine someone with any self esteem, worth or noble purpose in life being able to do this kind of thing.

Then there is the part of me which cries almost more intently because of my complaints to my wife, my kids (and worse yet) the Lord about my problems.  Until the last couple of days my problems loomed large and many would agree as to the severity of what I am facing.  But in light of the real life, captured on video and broadcast to the whole world, plight of these precious Coptic brothers in the Lord facing modern day martyrdom my issues are just that – temporal issues with no eternal implications.

I have seen postings of praying for the executioners.  I know I should be there, but not just yet Lord.  Please give me a few more hours of righteous indignation and desire for exacting retribution of similar fashion.  But even as I write that I hear scripture proclaiming the Father is so very patient in His return – not willing for any to perish, but that all would come to repentance.  But I don’t want them to repent!  I want them to pay and I want to be the one that makes them pay.

But then I hear the rebuking words of Jesus to James and John – “you don’t know what kind of spirit you have taken on” and all of a sudden I have become no better than those lost souls on the beach in Libya – having no knowledge of the risen Savior.  I know from how low I have been pull up and compassion begins to roll in like a flood – God, you take a pass on my problems if you can save but one.

PS – There but by the grace of God went Paul …. re-phrase – There went Paul before the grace of God!

Maybe the church could learn something from McDonald’s!

McDonalds is not my favorite place to eat and in fact I may have spoiled my kids from even gracing the doors of Ronald’s place because of all the times we stopped there on road trips.  It was simply one of the cheapest and quickest ways to get food to go while on long vacation drives.  And although not my favorite place to eat, there is one thing about McDonalds I do really appreciate – if you go to a Mickey Ds in Tulsa, San Diego, Hawaii or DC you know exactly what is on the menu and how it is going to taste, in other words, consistency.  Just this week I had a double quarter pounder w/cheese for the first time in several years and it was exactly as I remember it from years previous.

This is where I believe the church could learn a lesson.  This blog will not be so much about which is right or wrong, but rather exposing some of the inconsistencies Barbie and I have witnessed over the years.  Some have not impacted our lives very much and others more so.

I will start with a short caveat about our time in Israel in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  We were part of an organization made up of Christians from all denominational backgrounds and many different countries.  Some were conservative dispensationalist, some more liberal Europeans still others were looser independent charismatics.  This variety made little difference in our fellowship as we were focused on a bigger, God given, goal of service to the Jewish people.  Our unity of purpose made those theological issues pale in comparison.  This common goal allowed us to be very consistent in the expression of our commitment and love.

Some years after returning to the states, we felt it necessary to switch churches when one of the elders at the church we were attending decried what became known as the Toronto blessing or renewal movement as being from Satan.  And although I might have agreed that some of what was exhibited early on was pretty weird and not exactly in scripture, I was not ready to throw the whole movement under the bus because of a few bad passengers.  A few years later we were applying to be part of a Christian organization which ministers to the military.  We had nearly completed the application process when presented with a form indicating we must not practice glossolalia – or speaking in tongues.  Now I personally don’t get bent out of shape if someone speaks in tongues or not, but I do know there is a scripture rebuking anyone who tries to forbid it (1 Cor.14:39)  This one seemed like déjà vu from when I was 11 and our family was kicked out of the Baptist church for speaking in tongues.

This next one might seem a bit odd as we now attend an AG church (which traditionally prohibits alcohol), but what is the deal with trying to dictate abstention from any alcohol?  Some places respectfully address it up front, such as ORU and others.  One organization I was in training with over the course of almost 3 years did it a bit differently and frankly deceptively.  I was taking these courses towards the goal of becoming a credentialed chaplain.  In addition to the cost of the courses, I even had to travel to the DC area twice involving plane flights and hotels.  After I had successfully compleated the course I was handed the final application packet in which there was a “Personal Conduct” agreement I had to sign.  Most of the items listed were scripturally addressed moral issues.  But then at the end was listed no alcohol consumption even for communion.  I made an appeal regarding the alcohol prohibition based on the scripturally founded acceptance of alcohol which included Jesus and the disciples (as long as it did not involve drunkenness).  The reply was dismissive and condescending expressing that they never indicated their conduct agreement was based on scripture.  I guess one makes certain assumptions when the name “Christ” is in the title of their organization.  Mind you the director and the person rejecting my appeal is morbidly obese and seems to ignore the fact scripture speaks as much about gluttony as drunkenness.  Even more disturbing is the fact that even after exhorting them several times they still withhold that conduct agreement and spring it on applicants at the very end???

Another similar situation happened a couple of years ago when a prominent Christian organization canceled a speaking engagement by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty when they found out the family had invested in a California winery.  And again, as the previous illustration, the head of the organization who made the decision probably weighed at least 400 lbs.  Phil was slated to share his testimony to a large gathering of young people as to how drugs, sex and alcohol almost destroyed his marriage and came close to killing him and how his walk of faith with Jesus saved his life and marriage.  Do these people who “strain at a gnat” and swallow way too much camel, hamburgers, bacon and soft drinks really believe their hypocrisy is somehow lost on those young people not to mention the scrutiny of the un-churched.  And consider the irony that Jesus and the 12 might not be welcome to share with those young people or lecture at some Christian universities because of their reputation of drinking and even making wine.

When it comes to worship it would come as little surprise to those of you who know us that we lean far to the side of quieter more reflective types of worship and less to the orchestrated big production worship.  This dividing line has been a deal breaker for many.  But truth be told, we are primarily speaking of preferences on these subjects and not issues of spirituality – Seriously ……

Then there are the immersion vs. sprinkling groups, the instrument vs. no instruments churches, the Saturday vs. Sunday crowds, the transubstantiation vs. bread and grape juice people etc. etc. etc.  I could go on and on listing areas where the Church is inconsistent or hypocritical on many issues that are simply not really that important to our salvation.  Of course baptism and communion are vitally important, but not the precise method.  The sad truth is that when we do argue or make big deals over these kinds of things, what we have done is to give the world ample fodder for their justification to reject Christ.  Not because of Christ, but because of us and our stupid pet peeves or trivial issues.  We do this while at the same time ignoring issues which have proven to be far more devastating to the character of the church such as porn, gossip, divorce, greed as so on.  And just for the record, this is not a new issue; Paul had to addressed stuff like this in his letter to the Colossians when he mocked those trying to dictate diet going so far as to charge that we not to put up with or be bullied by people who try and control what we eat or drink.  He further described these kinds of people as arrogant and resorting to worldly ways of manipulation.

Having it your way cannot be some cute advertising slogan as it serves only you and your preferences.  Our goal must be to have it God’s way.  In the church our consistency is not looking and tasting the same but rather showing the world the unity of calling and fellowship we have in the midst of our diversity, much like those groups in Israel.  We must embrace the vast array of practices in the worldwide church (not having to do with foundational issues of salvation) as the infinitely creative nature of God and not some battle line because “Whose side are you on anyway?”

I Get It – Because I also don’t Get It!

A friend recently posted a video of ISIS in several situations executing various groups of people who I guess were opposing combatants.  I was deeply disturbed by the video and was left asking myself “so barbaric, how could anybody do that?”  As I was contemplating this video it came to me that Israel, under the direct command of God Himself, was ordered to “kill every man, woman and child” (I Sam. 15) which I also find disturbing.

So for all of you who feel like you don’t get it and can’t serve a god who would “do things like that” or “allow thus and so tragedy” I want you to know that I understand where you are coming from because I don’t exactly get it either. 

And just for the record, I don’t understand how a loving God could allow such a dedicated servant as Bro. Bill to suffer so much at the end of his life.  Neither do I understand why so many prayers go unanswered – including my own.  And why does the church in America seem so impotent?  I, for the most part, simply don’t know and don’t understand.  But what I do understand is being able to focus on the testimony of the life Bro. Bill lived and the prayers I have witnessed answers to (including my own).  And I can garner hints from scripture (Mal. 2:13-17) that the prayers of the church may not be answered because of the high percentage of divorce amongst His people.  And for the most part, those reasons feel somewhat academic.

And in light of a recent video of Victoria Osteen which has garnered a lot of blow back, do I serve Him for Him or for me.  That’s perhaps an even tougher question.  I answered her comments with “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe – Creator, Savior, Master, Lord – I obey because He is, not because I am” and I believe that with all my heart because Jesus in the garden submitted in obedience to a very hard thing because He preferred the Father’s desires over His own.  But as my wife pointed out to me this morning from Heb. 12:2 the reason Jesus (also) obeyed and endured the path to the cross was because of the joy and happiness He knew it would bring Him.  I’m not sure I totally get that either.

So here is the end of the matter for me – do I serve Him because He is the all powerful Creator who has the power with half of a thought to destroy me and all mankind or do I serve Him because He knew me in my mother’s womb and knows how much hair I have?  Do I serve Him because of the sacrifice of His Son for our sins or do I serve Him because He as the Potter and I the clay He can make me a special plate for kings or just as easily a chamber pot for slaves?  Am I devoted to Him because I have known His loving embrace in time of trouble or because at times I feel as though He is not involved in my daily life?  Is he worthy because of what I perceive as harsh judgment on individuals or entire people groups or because He shows mercy to someone who I see as unworthy. 

I am left with nothing else but the answer being YES to all the above.

Turn the Basket Upside Down and see what falls out!

Although the writing of this blog will do little to change the (forced) bowing down to special interest groups in America, it is worth noting the complete hypocrisy associated with these groups when it comes to Christians.

I do not need to spend much time listing all the law suits which have been brought by the gay community against various Christian businesses who have tried to refuse allowing that (gay) belief system to be practiced at or patronized by their business.  Bakers, photographers, florist, venues and others are on the list.  The most recent to hit the headlines was a farm wedding venue that refused service to a gay couple only to be forced to pay for their wedding and reception as punishment.

I’m sure those special interest groups are cheering at the “equality” and “justice” that has just been served.  But wait, what if the Christian community turned the tables on some of those special interest groups and decided to go and practice our religion at their venues and business.  I mean aren’t Christian supposed to spread the Gospel, preach and evangelize the world.  Maybe we should go to the gay bars or strip clubs and hold prayer meetings, preach loudly or hold worship services and try and cover up the naked dancers – because that would be us having the freedom to practice our beliefs at their place of business.  But try that and the cops will be called and you will be ask to leave or be arrested for disorderly conduct with a likely court order to “cease and desist”.

I don’t actually have to imagine the above scenario as it has actually happed just as described.  And just for the record, I do not propose Christians start doing this as it would be RUDE, CONTROLING and SELF-SERVING.  But let the gay community do it and it’s called fairness.  Really?  Yes really – – – – really really hypocritical.