A Social Gospel?

As Resurrection Sunday approaches, my mind naturally inclines to Calvary, to the glorious and complete redemption there.

But- it further goes to the churches in our land of late.

To pondering what the sermons across the country will consist of…

Will humble gratitude for the cross prevail?

Will a brokenness over the broken body of our Savior have its proper place?

Or will the disturbing trend for feel-goodism be front and center?

It can be a blatant parade of back-patting and busy work, a focus firmly centered on egg hiding and hunting and new clothes…

Or it can be more subtle, a type of gladness without the substance.

Doing the things because we always do the things, but all without pausing to contemplate why we do the things…

Or, sometimes, even if they are God’s things!

Yes, indeed, speaking His name, singing His praise,and doing good unto others can most definitely be His things!

But, then, there is also speaking His name in an attempt to gain His endorsement over sin, doing what we call good deeds that do not a thing for someone’s eternal destiny, aligning with what we deem the “correct” culture that has not a hint of Biblical correctness or an understanding of what mercy really means, and singing in a soulful, hip sort of way, but rarely inviting Him further than our lips…

It is a something that has infiltrated our churches at an alarming rate.

I did not coin this phrase, but it well suits where we are-

What we are far too often presenting is:

A social gospel.

An attempt to “cool” up and make “user friendly” the message of Christ that strips all the meaning.

And it sure doesn’t have to be Resurrection Sunday to see it.

But this season we celebrate His indescribably beautiful sacrifice to us does emphasize for me the disparity existing far too often between the soul of the church and the soul of the Lord…

So, all that spiel to say I offer you a perhaps different something to think on this Good Friday.

A list, if you will, of what the Gospel is and is not about…

It’s not about being cool.

It’s about being faithful.

It’s not about putting a happy face

To every gritty ounce of grace.

It isn’t the nod to embrace

The filth of our sin.

Rather, it is the precious breaking of

Those terrible bonds

Our mind must stay upon.

The cross must brutally remind

Of the Salvation we could not

Ourselves find…

Sundays of lapping up a self-soothing

Phrase,

Cannot cure the disease of humanity’s

Vacant glaze.

For your belly with fill for a while;

You might even dare a smile.

But the hollow, sin-shrunken frame

Stays on your back mile for mile…

You trade true freedom

For endless, useless scrabbling,

A weak, powerless strum

Over allowing Jesus in to blast away

All the wastelands you’re still

Inhabiting!

“But, I want to feel good, ” a grumble

Rises in the crowd,

“Jesus means all I do and all I am is

Stamped approved!

Let me float on my mellow cloud

And the rest of you can just sit there

Letting your Bible and your truth bog

Down your mood…”

“Ah, but friend,” comes the pleading

Reply.

“There is but one Bible. One truth. One Christ.

Christianity has never meant you’ll

Feel good for always-

Not in this life, anyway…

It’s about Jesus taking on the

Degradation we could not will away.

Not that we might stay in it,

But that He could split the veil

And show us a better way….

It is about endurance of hope

In the recognition of every high and

Low.

It’s about denying self and taking up

One’s cross,

Knowing the depth of His love

Covers every cost.

It is mercy, to be sure.

But blended perfectly with His

Holiness,

And this alone, church,

Must be our answer-no compromise!

For only in His truth do we begin to recognize

Desperate humanity’s cure….

May we hold fast to His truth this Resurrection season and always! Blessings and prayers on your Good Friday, dear friends! โค

Good Grief, Charlie Brown or The Red Baron Strikes Again

Fair warning: I feel a bit like a cranky old lady tonight. It isn’t that this is not true to form, but it may sound a tad more sarcastic than my more poetical side. But, when He lays it on my heart, what can I do but speak it? Besides, I always remember Apostle Paul had a fair amount of sarcastic wit when he had a piece to speak. So, if the author of a good portion of our New Testament could do it, I figure God can utilize it in me, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

So…that title might stir some supposing on subject matter….

But, no...this isn’t truly about Apple’s decision to snatch away childhood memories, though the greed that appears to be behind the decision to hold the Peanuts specials more or less captive and the price-gouging of DVDs by some that has followed does play into the broader picture I wish to speak of:

Rampant self-centeredness.

In a world consumed by pandemic, it is the real plague, or to pull out the Charlie Brown analogy a bit, the Red Baron of our existence.

Always has been, honestly, though this easy access age seems to put it endlessly in our faces.

It’s what causes the all-too-abundant parade of posturing that comes out of so many walks of life:

Be it Hollywood, Washington, or-dare I say- our own neighborhood.

Far too often, in countless ways, everything boils down to “looking out for number one”.

If I get my piece of the pie or heck, the whole pie, I’m good. ๐Ÿ™„

Forget the other guy because the other guy ought to be looking out for himself.

Because, really, isn’t life about saving our own hides?

Covering our own respective hind ends?

Getting our faces in whatever limelight is afforded us?

Staking our claims.

Pressing for what we want and when we want it.

Stacking our wallets!

Getting the job, the car, the suit, the house.

The Life!

Oh, and the rep. Mustn’t ever forget the proper, politically astute, carefully couched, self-righteous posing that allows for your rep.

Most important accessory of all!

So, when you have all that together, who gives a flying fig for the other guy?

Unless, of course, the other guy can provide a photo op for your “charitable cause” or especially, as more often the case in our virtue signaling culture, if he dares to cramp your style.

Then, you care about him.

Or at least, in case of the latter, about what he’s doing wrong.

Then, he must hear about it and hear about it from you. For only you can say it right.

Not to mention all the likes you’ll accumulate from your followers or how much more you can amass for your brand when you verbally or textually take him down.

That much more power to wield from atop the tower you rest yourself upon!

Hurrah!

After all, it’s your life, right?

It’s all about yourself, is it not? ๐Ÿ™„

Ummm….no.

Ok. Not loud enough.

Ahem. Again:

Noooooo!

None of this life-I repeat-none of it is meant to be about ourselves.

No…despite so much pumped into us from birth on to the contrary, it’s really about one thing and one thing only:

Christ and Him crucified.

Rejoicing in the amazing fact He did it for us self-serving folks and seeking to instead serve Him.

And what does that often look like here on this earth?

Well… looking out for the other guy.

After all, there’s this from the Savior himself:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.โ€™

Matt. 25:40.

Now, this is emphatically NOT so you can look good on social media.

Nor so you can put the other guy “in his place”.

*Cough.* Plank in the eye. ๐Ÿ˜‰ *Cough*.

Rather, it is so you can have the joy of sharing the love of Jesus with another human life without regard to what you can get out of it and, prayerfully, point the way to salvation through Him.

That’s it. Really.

God’s generosity to us lending itself to what should be ours to others.

Funny how that nasty Red Baron of self-centeredness has a way of complicating a truly simple matter, isn’t it?๐Ÿ˜

Oh, may we defeat this tendency for self-centeredness! May the Lord press on our hearts love and concern for the other guy!

Thanks for reading, dear friends! Much love, many blessings and prayers to you! โค

God’s Reality in a Fake World

If there’s one thing I have surmised over the years, it’s that the world is chock-full of false fronts.

Propped-up guarantees.

Surreptitious happenings behind the scenes.

Manipulated headlines.

Scriptedrealities”.

It’s a practice as old as a slithering snake deceiving Eve.

Only now, it’s found a whole new venue, often splashed across the various screens of our various devices.

It’s what tweaks the phrases, alters the photographs, teases the heart with carefully calculated angst, plies the mind with double and triple speak.

It twists the truth up into pretzels worthy of cheese dip at the mall. ๐Ÿ˜

It even jangles through the dinner hour on our phones with robo-calls trying their darndest to convince us we’ve earned a free trip to the Carribean if only we will stay on the line ( And shell out lots of personal info and possibly a “minor” fee, naturally. ๐Ÿ™„).

And, along those lines, let’s not get into the vast piles of info raked in from us by the social media empire…๐Ÿ˜ฎ

These sort of ramshackle happenings even apparently infiltrate happy little restaurant games-to the extent there’s now a three-part documentary outlining why no one we know ever won more than free fries from the Monopoly tabs. ๐Ÿ˜

Makes it tough to know who and what to trust in this world!

Now, despite all that spiel, though, I am not what you’d call a hard-core conspiracy theorist.

That level of sniffing out the nefarious takes up more time and energy than I’m able or willing to sacrifice.

It can also lead a person down more than a few rabbit trails!

But, this I will say. Though the devil may try his best to fool us, there is One who has a firm grip on reality.

The real reality.

In fact, He is the maker of it.

And never will He ever pull even a scrap of wool over our eyes.

For His word is truth itself.

And where there is God’s perfect truth, there is the ability to trust.

A rather refreshing thing to realize in an all-too-often fake world! โ˜บ

May we ever rely upon His truth to guide us through these times of deception. Blessings and prayers to you, friends! Thanks for reading!

Above the Noise

These days there is so much clamoring for our attention, not the least of which is information.

There’s more social media sites, websites, newsfeeds, etcetera, etcetera than you can shake a smartphone at.

And all of it seems to make the claim through hollering headlines of either major breakthroughs or breaking news-or both.

Click over here. Instant answers. Click over there. Immediate blow-by-blow, complete with pictures.

Here a click. There a click. Everywhere a click-click. ๐Ÿ™„

So easy to get sucked right into these copious amounts of chatter.

And so much of it is either so dark and ugly or so shallow and insipid, it can leave you fearfully burrowing under the covers or sinking into an apathetic coma.

Neither position is terribly conducive to a productive walk with the Lord, to say the least!

So, what, in the end, is the solution to all this?

One cannot exist on a steady diet of either inane fluff or doom and gloom.

We cannot pretend there’s not bad in this world. If we ignore it altogether, we are neglecting to call out the truth or recognize areas sorely in need of prayer.

Neither can we become so bogged down with this evil that we only speak Chicken Little and stir others up with the notion there is nothing to look forward to but an inevitable crash on the noggin.

Let them know there’s judgment for unbelief in the end, to be sure, but, not at the expense of neglecting to share the living hope found in Christ.

Somewhere there must exist a balance.

Know the here and now truth-things are rough in this world, apt to get rougher. No doubt.

But-know the ultimate truth as well-Jesus is coming and things will be made right in Him. Hallelujah!

Go ahead, switch on the news of the day, good, bad, and ugly-for a limited time.

But, don’t forget to switch on the Good News of salvation in your heart to temper it! And never shut that off!

Suffice to say, there will always, always be a lot of nagging noise on this old spinning ball.

These days, it’s more accessible than ever.

But, when you keep your ears trained for His voice over all others, He can lift you above the noise.

Prayers and blessings, friends! May we learn to listen to His voice above the noise of this world.

We’re Fighting the Wrong Enemy

I feel like I might be harping on this issue, but it’s what He’s placed on my heart…

Even in my somewhat limited scope of living, I hear and read so many things from fellow believers:

“If only so-and-so group would stop doing this, we (Christians) wouldn’t have to do this.”

“If that wasn’t happening over here, we wouldn’t have to do that over there.”

“We have to mobilize ourselves.”

“Fight fire with fire.”

“Get stirred up for a cause.”

“Take down the enemy.”

Wait…what?๐Ÿค”

Now, which enemy is it that you refer to?

“Well, the other side, of course.”

Ah. The other side.

The nameless, faceless amalgamation that stands for everything you do not.

That enemy?

Yes, keep them in that clumped up category to make it more palatable:

The liberal.

The neo-Nazi feminist.

The tree-hugging, seal-cub-saving, vegan toothpick.

The hateful Atheist.

The snowflake millennial.

The lisping fruitcake.

I could go on tossing out cruel, pointless stereotypes, but, that’s belaboring the point.

Which is that every one of those groups, the groups we as Christians often deride and label oh-so-conveniently are not just collective groups across the divide.

They’re people.

Individual people with names and hearts and dreams and vulnerabilites.

Created by the same Creator as us.

Souls for whom Jesus died, same as us.

Souls He expects us to care about, even when they answer with vigor.

And it’s not our job to fight them, no matter how much we might disagree with them.

They are not our enemy.

That designation belongs to he who is in the world.

Remember? The one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy?

The prowling lion, seeking to devour?

All too often, we believers forget that, standing idly by, hurling our useless words at the ones being devoured instead of addressing he who devours.

And don’t you think the devil loves that?

For he knows it does nobody any good to stand there stomping our feet and shouting at these misguided souls to stop letting the lion devour them.

Especially if we get so busy on that particular bent that we lose sight of sharing the way out of the lion’s jaws-the truth found in the Word and the grace Jesus provided through the blood He shed on Calvary!

Satan delights for us to forget that key!

Now, this is not at all to give the tired, off-the-mark argument of “judge not lest you be judged.” That verse gets misused way too often to excuse all sorts of rampant, ungodly behavior!

No, we must remain firm in our stance for Christ and in the Word.

But, that stance must always, always be in love or we’ve lost our foundation.

It isn’t to say all will answer our love with gratitude.

Most assuredly not!

But, it isn’t for us to fret on that score. Do we really think God does not have it all in hand anyway?

Of course, He does!

All we can do is prayerfully, humbly tell the good news of salvation as He instructs us and then leave it in Hands.

If we could only use our desire to mobilize for that!

Another thing to pray for, I guess.๐Ÿ˜‰

We Are Never “Screwed”

Forgive me for the potential crudity in the title.

I began writing this just after a conversation with fellow believers who said if certain people won our next election in this country, we are “screwed”.

I could have added a bit more finesse to my phrasing, I suppose, but, as it still suits my feelings, I’ll let it sit.

Anyway…

I’ll tell you I started off this post weeks ago. I was in a flurry of furious thought, frankly, burrowing through headlong when I suddenly found myself unable to finish.

I think it was mostly for fear it would all just become a means to sputter the bitter anger I was so troubled by.

However, after a few weeks reflection, I feel like I can prayerfully explore these thoughts.

So, back to the beginning.

They said, “We’re screwed.”

And my first thought was, “No… no, we’re not. God is in control.”

I said as much.

I’m not sure if I was really heard or not, to be honest. When folks are on a roll, they don’t tend to want to be stopped in their tracks. And their track that day was to shake a fist at society.

My assertion was like an unwelcome gnat to be brushed off. ๐Ÿ˜

It’s not that I’m in love with the deteriorating morals on display in our current cultural climate.

Nor that I don’t care what goes on in this nation.

I most emphatically do!

But-

To say we’re “screwed” is to dismiss the One who is ultimately and always in control!

And I can’t rightly reconcile myself to that, no matter how much some of my fellow believers seem to want me to fall apart with them.

It isn’t that it’s easy or going to get any easier if the trend towards anything-but-Christ continues.

But, didn’t He warn us of this very thing in His word?

I’ve been in 1st and 2nd Timothy again recently, reading of the difficult times to come.

Lovers of self, lovers of money.

Boastful. Arrogant. Disobedient.

Ungrateful, unholy, profane.

Looking to have their ears tickled.

One need only glimpse at headlines or, dare I say, glance about the neighborhood to find these things.

Difficult times? We’re there.

We’re getting deeper and *spoiler alert* going to keep getting deeper all the time.

At least until Jesus comes back to take His own. (Come quickly, Lord Jesus!)

Now, it isn’t that we should just resign ourselves and sit back with folded hands watching the evil unfurl in front of us like the late, late movie we’re repulsed with yet can’t look away from.

God does ask us to stand up, workmen that need not be ashamed. We absolutely must be about the business of standing for Christ.

But, what should that standing look like? ๐Ÿค”

For, He also says He’s not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.

My amplified Bible actually says: “sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control.] ” 1 Tim. 1:7

I think, at times, we sacrifice the calm for the storm.

Namely, the storming of social media with our angry words, the storming of the streets with our shouting matches, the storming of government institutions in our frenzied attempts to bend policy to our will.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Jesus preached for us to go stomping about like the Hulk, smashing whatever’s in our way, so consumed with our righteous indignation we’ve swelled ourselves beyond recognition.

Now, yes, I hear someone out there bringing up the moneychangers Jesus rather firmly chased out of the temple.

He wasn’t necessarily calm then, was He?

No…but, He was always in control.

Not the anger controlling Him, as we are so prone to do.

Because, where Jesus went in there, took care of business, and moved on, we struggle much with that particular ability.

For, we as humanity have this nearly insatiable hunger to take something and gnaw on it.

Regurgitate. And gnaw some more. ๐Ÿ˜›

Forgetting often to reflect what we are chewing on and whether it was even beneficial in the first place.

We tend rather to assume if its flavor seems reminiscent of the “correct” side, it must be okay to have swishing around on our tongues, never knowing the sweetness of the Lord was never even there.

And so, we wind up choosing the bitter gall of whipping each other into a state of dark outrage instead.

We say things like, “We’re screwed.”, polluting ourselves with the claim it’s fact, dismissing all the while the purity and refreshing to be found in trusting the Lord, come what may.

I know I can’t change how others feel nor the lens they might be viewing our present circumstances from.

Only Jesus can do that.

So, the best I know to do is keep living and sharing His truth, no matter how many times it may be brushed aside.

And, of course, pray for the souls in need- both those tangled up in this self-serving world and those who don’t even realize the knots of anger they’re in.

May we be mindful of how we speak and where our trust lies, Lord.

Blessings, friends.