Church – or Religious Social-Club?

It should have been an older Pastor’s ultimate “gravy-job“. It was a large church, in an affluent part of a major city, and they were looking for a Senior Pastor. The salary and benefits package would have done many corporate CEO’s proud. It really WAS a “plum-job“, for the right Pastor. Looking for a change in scenery, and hoping to retire in a few years, Pastor-Bob applied, along with a several other applicants.

A few weeks after Pastor-Bob applied, he got a cordial letter from the Pastor Search Committee of the church asking him to come candidate(preach) at the church. When he went there to candidate, the facilities were impressive, and the parking lot was full of late-model upscale cars, an obvious display of the affluence of the members, but when he went into the church, he sensed that all was not as it seemed. Many of the members were aloof, and there seemed to be quite a few cliques, because the members didn’t really mingle. They just huddled in small groups. He might have his work cut out for him if he went there, because it seemed more like a social-club than a church.

The Pastor Search Committee was impressed with his grasp of the Word, and his ability to articulate the great truths of Scripture, so they voted unanimously to call Pastor-Bob to be their Senior Pastor. That was when he began planning his “not-so-grand” entrance.

While some of the details are contrived or embellished, it is based on a true story from an American Pastor, and the church could really have been almost any church in the world.

When he walked into the church for his first Sunday as their new Pastor, his breath smelled of cheap whiskey and stale cigars. He had fished his tattered clothes and mismatched shoes out of a dumpster. His hair was long and unkempt, and he had a scraggly beard. He resembled a hobo, a vagabond, or one of the homeless people down by the bus station. He came in limping and leaning on his cane, not exactly what the church was looking for in a Senior Pastor. The only person who greeted him was the usher who shuffled him to the far-back corner of the sanctuary. Everyone else ignored him, looking away in disgust. Some even moved farther away from him when he sat down.

Only two people were in on this little skit, his wife, and the Clerk of Session. His wife dropped him off about a block from the church so that he could walk by himself into the church. She parked their older car in the back corner of the parking lot and slipped inside quietly, where she could observe what was going to happen.

As the service progressed, the congregation wondered who was going to preach, because the chair where their Pastor usually sat was empty. Finally, the only Elder who was “in the know” stood up, and said that it was his great honor and privilege to welcome their new Pastor, Pastor-Bob. As Pastor-Bob slowly made his way to the front of the church, the congregation let out a collective “gasp“. Who was THAT man? Certainly that wasn’t their new Pastor, was it? That wasn’t the man who had candidated there a few weeks before, or was it?

When Pastor Bob got to the pulpit, and shook the hand of the Elder, he faced the congregation and said “I’m not sure that I am in the right place. I thought that I was coming to Pastor a church, but what I see here is a social-club, masquerading as a church.” Then he opened his Bible and said, “Turn with me to James 2, beginning at verse 1:”

2 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1-8)

After reading from James 2, he related both his experiences when he had been there before, and what he had just experienced, and asked “Do you want to be a church, or do you want to be a social-club, masquerading as a church? If all you want is a “feel-good” Chaplain for your social-club, I am the wrong man for the job, but if you want to truly be the church of Jesus Christ, we have some work to do, but God can do it.

How we treat those around us, and those who walk through our doors matters – to God, and it should matter to us. We show the genuineness of our salvation by how we treat others, and God WILL judge us by our actions, or inaction:

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

How we treat those who walk through the doors of our churches matters – to God, and it should matter to us too. Having been a Deacon in a church, I know first-hand that occasionally someone will come to our churches seeking some kind of help. While it behooves us to be good stewards of the resources that God has provided to our mercy-ministries, we can’t treat every sob-story with suspicion, because where there ARE genuine-needs, needs we should meet to the best of our ability. Sometimes it will be best if one of the Deacons goes with the person to get what they need, rather than handing them money which may get used for drugs or alcohol instead.

If you drive the streets of any city in America, you WILL encounter people who are homeless, particularly here in Florida, where our moderate climate makes it easier for them to survive on the streets. They may be begging on a street-corner, or huddled in an alley, but they have no place to call “home“. Sadly, many of them are Veterans, men and women who have been used-up by our Armed Forces, and dumped back on our streets, with little or no support-system or training to reintegrate into our society.

The person in need may NOT be homeless, but may be your neighbor. It may be necessary to exercise the same level same level of prudence that churches must exercise when supplying needs. I used to have a neighbor who was frequently broke, but she would pay the satellite-TV bill and buy beer before she bought groceries, so I didn’t usually hand her money, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t sometimes take care of her needs. I did buy some of her medications and took her grocery-shopping when she was broke, not because she had mismanaged her money, but because she didn’t have any income due to illness or injury. There was a difference.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, WE are the church, and we bring our attitudes towards those who are less fortunate than us into that building we call the “church“. The problems that Pastor found in the church in the story were amplified-symptoms of the attitudes of its members. While there were homeless people on the streets trying to eke-out their existence, church members were well-fed, lived in virtual-mansions, and drove cars that cost more than many houses, and they didn’t care. After all, they HAD earned that “right“…

I don’t live in a mansion, eat steak and lobster every night or drive a luxury-vehicle, but I DO have a place to call “home“, eat well, and have a dependable vehicle, which is far more than homeless people can enjoy. Maybe I SHOULD keep some extra cash in my vehicle to give people in need, and take that giving-attitude to church with me. How about you?

Church – or Social-Club?

The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

Sola Deo Gloria!

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Do You Need Help?

Sometimes that question is music to my ears, but at other times, I hate that question with a purple-passion. Say what? Yes, there are times when I legitimately want and need help, but there are times when I could use some help, but am loath to admit it.

Thanks…

I wrote “Tired Of Being “Tough”” a little over a year ago about my struggles with handling all the losses I have had in the last several months. That is one time when I am very grateful that help IS available, because since I wrote and posted that piece, I have had several more traumatic-losses, which now brings the number of significant-losses to four. The most recent loss was in July, when I lost my brother. That is a LOT of losses for one person to process and handle at the same time. I am still seeing a mental-health counselor once a quarter, and I am thankful that he is there for me.

We have all been in stores when we can’t seem to find ANYTHING, at least not what we are looking for. WalMart is infamous for rearranging their stores in a seemingly-random manner, and even if we have been in that same store dozens of times, there is always something we can’t find, and only store employees know where it is. That is when I don’t mind asking, or getting asked, if I need help. I have even been known to ask another customer if they know where what I am looking for is. Sometimes it is almost right under my nose but I was too blind to see it.

I was in Staples recently looking for a new desktop computer, and one of the employees was there to explain the differences between the various models they have, and make recommendations about which one would best suit my needs. Thank you very much! A new computer will have to wait a while, because I have several more important issues to take care of first.

I called Tire Kingdom a few days ago about two tires for my vehicle. The store manager graciously helped me select the tires that would best suit my needs, based on his many years of experience in the tire business, and what he runs on his personal vehicles. His recommendations verified my own gut-feeling, so my new tires are being shipped in from their warehouse. Thank you very much!

Thanks, but no-thanks…

There are also times when I DO need help, but I am too stubborn to admit it. Maybe, it’s more like, too PROUD to admit it. I have needed those tires for several weeks, but haven’t had the money to buy them, so I have kept putting it off. Now, it is crunch-time, because I just don’t trust them, particularly on the highway, any more. I made the mistake of admitting to one of my church’s deacons that I need two new tires but don’t have the money for them, so he offered help from the deacon’s fund. I declined.

Last year was a different story. My refrigerator died suddenly last March, and I didn’t have any choice about accepting help to buy a new fridge because I didn’t have the money. I was able to maximize the help by getting my new fridge on sale. That helped me be a good steward of the resources God provided through my church.

Why is this year any different? I know that I wasn’t as frugal with my resources in the last year as I should have been, but, then again, I was counting on some income to help pay me extra expenses which never materialized. That left me in a bind as far as taking care of my own needs.

I have been taught to “own” and accept my choices and decisions, for better or for worse, and to deal, as best I can, with the outcomes. Maybe I am too stubborn, or maybe I am too proud, but I can’t accept financial-assistance to buy my tires. Thanks, but no-thanks!

That brings us to the story of a man who WASN’T shy about asking for help:

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight

46 Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.” 50 Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. (Mark 10:46-52)

Bartimaeus couldn’t have descended much lower of the social-scale. He was blind, and a beggar. Only lepers were “below” him, and even servants and slaves “ranked” higher than him because they could at least work for their living. When he heard that Jesus was coming, out of desperation, with nothing to lose, and potentially everything to gain, he called-out to Jesus; “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus’ reputation had been spread far and wide, so Bartimaeus had probably heard many stories about His miraculous-healings. Would Jesus help him? Why did he throw aside his cloak when he was led to Jesus?

Do you detect a bit of “imagery” here?

50 Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!”

What did Bartimaeus call Jesus when he made his request? “Rabbi” was the typical title for religious leaders, but Bartimaeus called Jesus “Rabboni“. “Rabboni” is Hebrew for “my master“, a recognition of and submission to Jesus’ authority. Who else called Jesus “Rabboni“?

Since Bartimaeus was claiming Jesus as his master, he may have not wanted to appear before Jesus dressed as he was. That cloak may have been all he owned, and was probably little more than a rag. There was no shame attached to nakedness in the Bible, other than the shame associated with extreme-poverty or enslavement, so Bartimaeus’ only “shame” would have been his poverty, symbolized by his tattered cloak.

God commanded Isaiah, in Isaiah 20, to prophesy barefoot and naked for three years against Egypt and Cush. When they were conquered by the Assyrians, they would be led-away as slaves, barefoot and naked. Isaiah’s nakedness symbolized how they would be treated when they were conquered. It was also to serve as a warning to Israel, which had, contrary to God’s command, made a defense-pact with Egypt and Cush. It was not “shameful” for Isaiah to prophesy naked, but they would be shamed in their captivity.

After Bartimaues made his request to Jesus, Jesus healed him immediately, saying; “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.

Following Jesus, in gratitude for what He had done for him, was the natural-result of this incredible miracle. There are many other instances when Jesus healed people and they became His followers.

What about us?

We are constantly putting on a “show” for others, and ultimately for God, but why? We try to pretend that we have it all together, that we are self-sufficient, and that we have everything under control, and while we may fool the people around us, we can’t fool God. He sees us naked, as we are, stripped-bare of all of our pretenses, so why do we try to fool Him too?

Regardless of the resolution of my financial-situation, there is one person I, and you, need never be ashamed of asking for what we need – God. He already knows our needs before we ask Him, so why aren’t we willing to take our needs to Him? He won’t ever embarrass us, and He has far more resources than we can ever imagine. No, He probably won’t lead you to what you are looking for in that store, or get that item at the back of the top-shelf that you can’t reach, but He may just send someone who CAN help with what you need. Money probably won’t come raining-down from heaven, but some other provision may arrive unexpectedly. Yes, we need to be more like Bartimaeus, and less like stubborn-me.

Sola Deo Gloria!

 

“Tribalism” Is NOT a Dirty-Word

What IStribalism“?

Tribalism is the state of being organized by, or advocating for, tribes or tribal lifestyles. Human evolution has primarily occurred in small groups, as opposed to mass societies, and humans naturally maintain a social network. In popular culture, tribalism may also refer to a way of thinking or behaving in which people are loyal to their social group above all else, or, derogatorily, a type of discrimination or animosity based upon group differences. (Wikipedia)

Note: Mankind has NOT “evolved” into a tribal-society. God ordained human society around the family, which grew into a tribal-society. In the Old Testament, God organized the children of Israel into tribal-units, with each tribe given their allotted-portion of the Promised Land.

Tribalism, it’s always worth remembering, is not one aspect of human experience. It’s the default human experience. It comes more naturally to us than any other way of life. For the overwhelming majority of our time on this planet, the tribe was the only form of human society. We lived for tens of thousands of years in compact, largely egalitarian groups of around 50 people or more, connected to each other by genetics and language, usually unwritten. Most tribes occupied their own familiar territory, with widespread sharing of food and no private property. A tribe had its own leaders and a myth of its own history. It sorted out what we did every day, what we thought every hour. (nymag.com)

Tribalism is getting a bad rap in 21st century American politics for precisely the same reason it is crucially-important that we preserve and maintain our tribalism. There ARE some things worth fighting for. The globalist/socialist cabal has been working feverishly for over sixty years to destroy the most basic unit of society, the family. Family is God’s idea, not just a human-construct.

One of the first steps in destroying the family was abortion-on-demand, which meant that women no longer had to take ownership of their sexual-choices. It became cheap and simple to eliminate that “problem” if a woman didn’t want the baby she conceived. In some societies, abortion can be used for gender-selection. Want a boy, but got a girl, just abort the girl, or visa-versa. If the baby has a “geneticdefect”, abort it and don’t “pollute” the gene-pool. Some parts of Scandinavia have all-but eradicated Down’s Syndrome through abortion. Human-life has become so devalued that people have become totally-disposable. Oh, but being against abortion is “tribalistic“…

The next step in destroying the family was divorce. As I was growing-up in the 50’s and 60’s, none of my friends were from single-parent homes. Divorces were hard to get and rare. I didn’t witness the effects of divorce first-hand until I was in my teens, in the early 70’s. Sadly, that divorce happened in our church, and the offender was one of our Elders. He preferred another woman’s bed to his own, and left his wife and three young daughters behind.

Then came divorce-on-demand – “no-fault” divorce, and as a result, the divorce-rate has exploded. It now stands at over fifty-percent. Yes, you read that right. More than half of the couples who say “I do” will say “I don’t” at some time in the future. “Til death do us part” has become “Til death or disconvenience do us part“. Sadly, the church hasn’t been spared from this divorce-epidemic. Do you still believe in marriage “Til death do us part“? That too is “tribalistic“.

The next step in destroying the family was “same-sex-marriage“, totally-ignoring God’s design for marriage, given in Genesis 2:24; “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”, and also ignoring the Creation mandate given in Genesis 1: 28; “28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Belief in traditional marriage is also “tribalistic”…

Along with “same-sex-marriage“, we are now seeing “gender-confusion“, again, ignoring God’s clear designs for humanity in Genesis1:27: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” People are now free to pick their gender, or none at all. Think it isn’t happening? A man, who I have known for several years and met in person, now believes that he is “transgender“, even though he is still clearly a man. He proudly displays pictures of himself dressed in women’s clothing, and is proudly leading his grandson down the same gender-confused path, including displaying pictures of his grandson dressed as a girl. I met a younger woman recently who is raising her baby, a boy, “gender-neutral“. Just wait until he is old enough to figure out that what is between his legs is different than what is between his mom’s and sister’s legs… She is going to have some splaining to do… Oh, by the way, believing that God only created two genders is also “tribalistic”.

Also along with the legalization of “same-sex-marriage” came the “normalization” of homosexuality, and anyone who is not “LGBTQ-friendly” is seen as a “bigot” and “homophobe“. There are “gay-pride” events and parades, but God help us if we had a “straight-pride” event or parade. Disney World, in Orlando, Florida is largest employer of gay individuals in the state, and it hosts week-long “gay-pride” events every year. Disney’s movies – for children, have become notorious for their satanic imagery and gay themes. I wonder if Walt Disney would approve, or is he turning over in his grave in disgust?

While all of these problems are significant, they are only the tip of the iceberg, so what is the REAL problem? If you look at every one of these problems, and the ideology behind them, the unifying-thread is that they are all godless. Once they threw God out of our society and civil discourse, the sky was the limit and all hell broke loose, and we have been reaping what we sowed, but to even mention that is also “tribalistic”.

Beginning sixty or so years ago, God has been methodically taken out of our schools, our courts, and even our cities and cemeteries. It is still “okay“, for now, to practice our religion in private, but heaven-forbid we do anything in public. Forget praying before a sporting event, such as a football game.

Schools, from pre-K on up, have become institutions of indoctrination, NOT education. My niece was in middle school last year, and on her first day of school, they were all handed TEN PAGES of rules. No school needs ten pages of rules, but they were to be graded on how well their teams of four students did in reciting their assigned section to memorize. They weren’t being educated, they were being turned into useful-idiots who will willingly do the bidding of the state. Is it any wonder that so many parents, particularly Christian parents, are home-schooling their children? At least the parents get some say in what their children are taught and learn, unlike the public schools which give the parents NO say in what their children are taught. Another option for parents who can’t home-school their children, but have the financial resources, is private schools, particularly Christian schools. If you oppose public-school indoctrination, you are also part of the wrong “tribe”.

While taking a strong, biblical, Christian stance on all of these issues will get you labeled as a “tribalist“, and our overall ideology is considered “tribalism“, the reality is that those who espouse these non-Christian ideologies are also “tribalistic“. We just happen to belong to different “tribes“, “tribes” that have very different ideologies and value-systems. The major political parties are just large “tribes”, comprised of many smaller “tribes”, so regardless of where you stand on any issue, there is a “tribe” for you.

Did you realize that Christians are “tribal”? Christians have divided ourselves up into numerous “denominations”, “tribes”, each with its own distinctive belief-system. I cannot be a member of a Baptist Church because I haven’t been “immersed”. I cannot take communion in a Catholic Church because I am not Catholic, nor may I take communion in many Orthodox Presbyterian Churches because I don’t belong to THAT church, even though I am a member-in-good-standing in a PCA Church. I cannot be an Elder in an Evangelical Free Church because I don’t subscribe to their system of Eschatology. Ironically, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is one of the easiest churches to join, because we accept people from all religious backgrounds.

I probably cannot be an officer in any PCA church because I reject some aspects of their Book of Church Order (BOCO), particularly their emphasis on the primacy of the Presbytery. I believe in the primacy of the local church, as taught in Scripture, NOT the primacy of the Presbytery. As a former Elder in a PCA church, I believe the BOCO has that backwards. Yes, some of my views have changed over the last twenty years.

Even “non-denominational” is “tribal”, because they reject membership in any major denomination.

Make no mistake about it – the battle-lines are drawn, and we are at war, not a shooting-war – yet, but a war of words and ideologies. The globalist/socialist cabal declared war on Christianity and traditional American values many years ago, so they are years ahead of us. So far, it looks like they are winning, but the battle if far from over. Don’t forget that there ARE some things worth fighting-for.

There is one more thing I need to mention – our right to self-defense. The founders of our country and the framers of our Constitution realized that the last defense against a totalitarian state was an armed populace. The Army that won the Revolutionary War was NOT a “professional-standing-army”. It was an army of citizen-soldiers. We have seen time after time that the first step a totalitarian wannabe dictator always takes is disarming the populace. Once the populace is disarmed, it is easy for the state to crush any dissent because the state has all the weapons. Foreseeing this possibility in the future, they enshrined our RIGHT to keep and bear arms in the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, which is under continuous-onslaught by those who believe that they are the only ones who deserve armed-security. Even the “celebrity” who organized a small protest outside the NRA Convention in Dallas this year had several bodyguards who were conspicuously-armed. The hypocrisy runs deep in that tribe. They don’t believe that we are smart enough to safely take charge of our own protection, but, in the words of Grady Judd, Sheriff of Polk County, Florida, “When seconds count, help is minutes away.” Who do YOU trust with your personal-security? Oh, but “clinging to our guns” is “tribal”…

Whether from political leaders or from those who shape the cultural ideas of the moment or from our neighbors, we are reminded that the message of God’s Word is rarely welcome in the public square.”

Take courage, God is still on His throne, and He still reigns supreme.

Sola Deo Gloria!