Friday, August 29, 2014

THE TELLING OF A TALE WITH LABELS

Labels are telling. They can tell us the amount of cotton to lycra ratio in a garment. They tell us how long we can trust the milk to last. They tell us what symptoms to watch for when taking a medicine. All this is good. Thank God for labels.

When we use labels for people however, it tells a different story. It may tell us as much about the one using the label as it does about the one who is the  subject of the label. For me to call someone a liberal, politically or theologically, may reveal that I'm a bit [I wonder where "a bit" is located on the continuum?] to the right of where I perceive them to be in whatever subject is being addressed. If someone were to call me a fundamentalist [which is absurd by the way] it may show they are a bit to the left of wherever they think I am in reference to whatever area of theology we are talking about. It is a rare occasion when labels actually reflect reality about someone. 

It could be that labels are good or bad depending on the motivation of the label giver. For me to determine in my own mind that someone is a bigot/racist because of their hatred for a person of another ethnic, religious, or societal group, can be a healthy thing if my motivation is to help protect the one/ones judged or to avoid being like the one judging. That label gives me fair warning, as I said, in my own mind. 

But if I call someone who disagrees with me a trouble maker [a label] because I don't like being disagreed with or am fearful of rocking the boat of an appearance of unity [which isn't true unity at all] because of what I think someone on the outside looking might think, it is an unfortunate, if not unfair label I've assigned to another person. That's REALLY unhealthy.

To feel the need to label someone publicly, with condemnation, because of a position or thought they hold on some issue may mean that I have a problem no matter the subject being debated. That kind of public use of labels with a condemning attitude seems to me to be just cause to challenge any person's motivation.

As I said, labels are telling. It is what they actually tell us about ourselves that we have to eventually get to if we're going to be effective in building communication. 

It may be wise to limit labels to products entirely and just flat out eliminate public use of them in our communication and conversations.  


That's my thought about it anyway.

Paul B.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A SIMPLE WORD ON A SERIOUS SUBJECT.

Our culture does not like much of what we Christians hold to as revealed truth in scripture. [Even Christians disagree among themselves on the meaning of many passages and truths.] That's a given and it's OK.

But for PASTORS to be surprised, shocked or offended by this is a bit naive. To condemn our culture [or Christians with differing views of some things in scripture] for this is just flat out wrong. To get angry at them for it is beyond the pale. [Which often leads to the characterization in the picture on the left of this post.]

For pastors to try to convince others of their rightness or to try to bring conviction on others for their wrongness [according to our view] would be an attempt at playing the Holy Spirit. That's as big a no-no as could be committed by Kingdom kids. 

So what are pastors to do? I don't think any pastor should compromise or water down what they believe the Bible says in any passage they truly study and share. [Even for other Christians who might disagree.] 

But ALL pastors DO need to be careful of a couple of things when disagreeing with culture OR with other Christians. One is to remember that we're just as human as our audience and can err in our conclusions on occasion. and the other is to make sure whatever truth we think we're delivering from our viewpoint is done so in a loving and gracious way, NEVER lording it over others with an interpretation. [Per the finger-pointing picture to the left.]

As I said above and it bears repeating, to be shocked by either a disagreeing Christian or an offended non-believer, or even surprised by either, is a bit naive. But to CONDEMN either is just wrong and to get angry at EITHER is beyond the pale. [Again, see the picture.]

Then there is this thing of always wanting to get people to return to our services whether they are Christian or not. [ Seeker friendly] If anyone chooses to return to another service or not return, agrees with our interpretation or not, likes us or chooses to despise us is, while not unimportant to be sure, far down on the list of concerns we might have when we attempt to share or teach as a pastor what we believe to be the truth of any given passage with which we're dealing. 

[You can see my assumption is we really do buy into the two things to be remembered. 1__We're just as human as our audience and can err in our conclusions on occasion. 2__Whatever truth we think we're delivering from our viewpoint is to be done so in a loving and gracious way with no lording over others, This is because delivering truth is NEVER more of a priority than is loving people.]

Paul B.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

ON BEING A RELIGION-LESS CHRISTIAN ___PART 1

Religion is a much misunderstood word. It is even the cause of real debate on occasion. [Not to mention wars.] The New International Version of the scripture says it quite well when speaking about religion that could be considered real and valid in James 1:27 when it says this, "Religion___[A derivative of threskos; meaning a ceremonial observance__religion__ worshipping__with emphasis on the external, says Strong’s Word Studies]___that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Across the years I've been asked many, many times, "What religion are you?" I've always answered that question this way, "I don't have a religion. In fact, I may be the most non-religious person you're likely to meet." The person asking the question usually looks at me as if I'm a little odd. [Correctly so, perhaps!] Were they to then go on and ask me, [they usually don't] "Aren’t you part of the Christian religion?" My answer would still be No!  The "Christian Religion" can be totally different than having a relationship with Jesus Christ."

All of this is meant in a very serious and respectful manner, I assure you. But it is a simple statement of truth as I see it, and my purpose is NOT to try to get anyone to see it my way at all. I have some very good friends, even blog friends, who would disagree with my assertion and view of this. You know what? That’s OK! Our fellowship is not based on a certain view of a certain topic. 

I hold to my view because of my understanding of what I see as a biblically based principle that says being a Christian is more than simply saying one believes in Christ. [The devils believe that way too, and tremble, scripture says.] Christians are people [This rules out there being Christian literature, songs, schools, nations, etc.] who share His life. Our privilege is to say with Paul, "For to me to live is Christ."

For the Christ followers seen in the New Testament, Christianity was not a sales pitch to get people to make a decision about belief. [Though no one doubts that the will and even a belief system is involved.] They had no desire to share a carefully worked-out gimmick that would manipulate an on-the-spot decision to "get somebody saved." For them, witnessing was a spontaneous enthusiasm for a way of life, that was inexplicable except for the One Who is Himself the Source of that life, that on occasion brought about questions asked by others which allowed for the truth of the gospel of Christ to be shared and, hopefully, heard and accepted.
Someone I admire and deeply appreciate said it this way....

"The first century Christians were people who knew Jesus in a unique way. They were in love with Him. They were filled with His Spirit. Because He was their very life, His fruit [The Fruit of the Spirit] was evident in the way they lived. Peter tells us that as we live out that fruit as we're doing good to others, it will attract their attention and they will want to know and ask, 'why are you living life the way you do?' It is then that we can speak up and tell them as explained in this verse, 'Always with the utmost courtesy, be ready to give an answer.'  (1 Pet. 3:14-15 The Message) When this happens, God has placed the opportunity in our laps to share the Good News of the Gospel gently and respectfully."

So, witnessing is more than a "sales pitch" to get people to change their belief or their behavior by deciding in the moment that they accept certain thoughts about Jesus and are willing to do certain things for Him.  [Be baptized, go to church, say a prayer, tithe, etc.]  Christianity is simply not a life filled with doing certain religious things. [Even Southern Baptist things.]

So you see, Christianity is not a religion at all.

It is a new life shared with the One Who is Himself... Life.

Next time in Part 11, I will show the biblical illustration of this. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SOME WORDS ON A WORRISOME ISSUE [From my often not-so-wise, in the opinion of many, point of view on things political.]

There are scores of present-day stories that could be told of people who have immigrated to the shores of America and who, through legal means and in a lawful manner, have become a productive and proud segment of our society. Their work ethic is often second to none and match the work habits of the hard working immigrants, turned citizens, of our past. Many present day legal immigrants and many who have already become Naturalized Citizens live next door to us and are productive, proud, tax paying citizens who LOVE America and put forth an effort to raise families and build a value system that does America, their new home, proud.

So, I believe it is "nigh on to impossible to paint with a broad brush" any conversation about our immigration problems and be accurate in the doing of it. The Conservative who loudly and angrily cries, "close the border, and if you don't, you're giving away American jobs," is shouting an over-statement to a serious problem. The Liberal who shouts just as angrily and just as loudly, "Open the border," and if you don't, the 'send me your huddled masses yearning to be free' statement, is a total lie,  is shouting an over-statement as well, IMHO. 

Both groups and statements may, in fact, be evidencing that ideology at least APPEARS to mean more to the adherents of those two positions than does solving the problem. Our immigration issue at present CANNOT be limited to such "broad strokes" that make it a one-dimensional idealogical issue. No one denies that the present chaos on the border, which may have come about because of ambiguous language being used by American politicians, has to be solved with some impunity involved for those who can be accurately defined as children. ["Impunity__exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action."]

It is also evident to me that Faith-based groups need to jump in with both feet to assist these children with little thought given to the politics of it all seeing it as a Kingdom opportunity for some real Kingdom ministry. But, just as I believe it would be a Constitutional violation for Conservatives to demand that our government declare that "Jesus is the only way" of salvation, I see it just as much a Constitutional violation for liberals to try to get the government to do "what Jesus would do" with regards to this issue, since not all Americans are Christians and our Constitution forbids the establishment of any religion. All this is a given, it seems to me.

But I also think we all would have to agree that there are legal aspects of immigration that stare us in the face on both the side of the nation FROM WHICH the immigrants [Emigration] are coming and the nation TO WHICH they are coming. [Immigration] Those legal aspects have to be noted and honored ON BOTH SIDES. [On our side Constitutionally.] If an immigrant kills a person in the country from which they come, and steals their money IN ORDER TO COME, [or a ton of lesser crimes] there is a problem. It needs to be handled legally. If they come as an immigrant to a nation and establish themselves as continual welfare recipients of the nation to which they've come, [or a ton of lesser issues] with no effort to be productive, there is a problem. It needs to be handled legally and constitutionally. 

You can see that there are more issues than sometimes meet the eye which simply do not lend themselves to simple black and white answers such as opening OR closing the border, period! And we simply cannot IGNORE the consequences of our actions pertaining to our borders by FAILING to build a LEGAL safety net.

So, Congress must be wise in passing new laws and regulations dealing with comprehensive immigration guidelines that can be consistently and constitutionally applied in every state of the union. The outcome of ANY AND ALL new immigration laws or rules must incorporate a sensible, yet expeditious, period of transition with a clear goal of how ANY new immigrant who is legally qualified, can become a new American citizen.  

“Amnesty for all” MAY NOT BE the best approach as we face the future of immigration reform.  However, amnesty "for those who have lived and worked" a significant part of their lives in the communities of America may be a sound approach given certain sound and sensible limitations. Selected amnesty may be a necessary part of the equation.


I don't know all the answers. I don't even know how to ask all the right questions yet. But I do know loud, angry, mean-spirited arguments on EITHER SIDE of the issue exacerbates the problem rather than moves toward solving it. [I'm assuming Christians would want to refrain from this kind of rhetoric regardless of political views.]

Paul B.