Legalism

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Sheep

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Sheep are stupid. Get one sheep running and they will all run. If one plunges to its death, the others will follow.  Is it any wonder then, why a shepherd was so important for a flock? Not in my mind.

Sheep are stupid. But as a pastor and as a leader I HAVE to be careful how and why I say that. They do, after all, consider me their leader and will (generally) follow.  🙂  If I say they are stupid…okay let’s say “not so smart”  to be kinder…what does that say about me?  See my point? 🙂 🙂

But this is not a post about the sanity of sheep or the insanity of the leader/pastor.  I want to consider something else. Scripture often compares God’s people to sheep. That ought to humble us. We need godly shepherds to lead us. Luke 15 tells us the story of the lost sheep. Jesus tells us He is the “Good Shepherd.” So that definitely puts us in the sheep category.

When it comes to the local church, I believe the “office” of pastor is a Scriptural term. Some refer to that as an elder in the church. Others, like me, take the passage in Ephesians 4:11 as one of the ministries of leadership in the church. (I do not believe in the “five-fold ministry” that some teach. The Greek language shows pastor-teacher as the same person not a separate entity. For those who care it is called Granville-Sharps Rule. You can look it up for an explanation of you care to.)

But my thoughts this morning are not geared toward that aspect of being a shepherd. I’m concerned about the reports I hear from local people, and on blogs, about the “heavy-handedness” of pastors. Lords. Dictators. Abusers with words.  Iron-fisted. Those who use their legalism as a hammer. I remember hearing Charles Stanley saying once, “Shepherds don’t beat sheep; they feed sheep.”  I cringe, and it is all I can do to stay quiet, when I hear someone local talk about being beat into submission by words from the pulpit.  “If you divorce you will go to hell.”  “If you don’t tithe you are not a real Christian.” “I’m the pastor and since I’m in charge I have the say-so around here.” Say what?  Since when is the church “his church” anyway? The last time I looked it said Jesus was the head of the church. Nowhere in the Bible does it give any shepherd the right to beat the sheep.

Case in point: When I was struggling with the whole Church, Inc concept, I was told the pastor had the vision. God gave him that vision. He cast the vision and the leaders and the people followed. This principle sets the pastor up for a huge fall or a huge success, depending on his influence. Corporate America may work that way, but the last time I looked the Bible calls for plurality of leadership. I personally believe that the temptation to become controlling and to overstep our reach is one every shepherd must fight. IMHO it is outside my role as a shepherd to manipulate and control the sheep God has given me to shepherd.  I believe God has given me the sheep He has to love, nourish and care for…not beat them into subjection.

What are your thoughts?

QuietRoar

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

A Quiet Roar: Sometimes Disruption Is Overdue

Over the years I have read a ton-and I mean a ton!- of books. As you might imagine, most are of the non-fiction type. After all, my work as a pastor requires I read, read, and read some more.

But every once in awhile I come across a fiction book that grips me and won’t let me go. Back in 1994 I read the very first book by Randall Arthur called Wisdom Hunter (WH). I read it one year later on a personal fasting retreat and wept through most of it because it was like looking into a mirror-seeing what I didn’t like-but wanting so badly to be what I read. WH was the final nail in my coffin of legalism. The follow up to that book was titled Betrayal, and once again I was filleted. Jason Faircloth, the pastor from WH made a very pointed appearance in Betrayal and once again pointed out the dangers of legalism. In between Mr. Arthur wrote Jordan’s Crossing, another Jason Faircloth book, only this time dealing with Jordan’s emptiness caused by liberalism. The final installment (or so I thought) was Forgotten Road, a novel dealing with the emptiness of the health/wealth (un)gospel. Jason made an appearance in that book as well.

Imagine my surprise and excitement when Randall Arthur’s publishing company announced a new novel! Man, I jumped on that like bugs on a night light. As it was I was #102 of 120 signed copies. I gotta tell ya! If you read no other novel this coming year, please please please read Quiet Roar. The main character is like a female version of Jason Faircloth. Take a hot topic (female pastors…which I am saying neither yay or nay to here); add in a lot of small town church drama; a mysterious woman; and even more mysterious benefactor; a dash of contemporary culture and world events (Muslims, the church not staying so “white”, and some other events); and I kid you not, you have a recipe for a lot of sleepless nights (or at least staying up past your normal bed time).  Right now it is only available from Amazon on Kindle. HOWEVER, you can purchase it directly from Randall’s website.  I personally know Randy and he is the real deal.

May I also suggest reading Wisdom Hunter and Betrayal (since renamed Brotherhood of Betrayal) as companion volumes? You can find all his other books on Amazon as well as his website. I GUARANTEE your life and faith will no longer be the same.

Shameless

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

It is called Shameless Promotion.

And so it is. I have another post coming out tomorrow morning for the weekend and wanted to fill in today so I thought, “Why not?”

Theology without love is simply bad theology.

To read the rest of this devotion, please head over to my other blog based on New Morning Mercies called Be Transformed.

I’d love to see you over there and hear your thoughts.

Religion

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

One of the values of my new blog, Be Transformed,  is the emphasis it places on grace. Actually, since it focuses on the daily devotions found in New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, it is really only fair to say NMM places an emphasis on grace. I do invite you to join me there-not only in the discussion but also in the daily reading.

But this post is not a plug for Be Transformed.  It may appear that way, but it really isn’t. However…  🙂  Back in October I read a devotion by Derwin Gray called A Never-Ending Climb. I thought it was really good so I clipped it for future use. I saw it again today and decided it was a good one to use today:

Religion, or works-based righteousness, paints a picture of a god sitting atop a high peak, waiting for us to scale the mountain through our good behavior or adherence to religious principles. The more “good” we do the closer we come to approaching our god. If we do something bad, however, the god on top of the mountain turns Zeus-like and throws a lightning bolt to strike us and knock us back down the mountain. After the electric shock wears off and our singed hair stops smoking, we dust ourselves off, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and start the long trek all over again.

Long story short: the trek of works-based righteousness is a never-ending hill climb. One step up and two back. That to me is what religion is like. To give another picture it is like the hamster in the wheel. “‘Round and ’round it goes, where it stop nobody knows.”

Get off the treadmill. Be done with works-based religion. Get on the GRACE track.

Freedom!

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

One of the best scenes of Braveheart is when Mel Gibson’s character, William Wallace, is having the life ooze out of him and just before he dies he yells, “Freedom!”

Freedom is something we all want. Next week we will be celebrating our country’s Independence Day. Many in the throes of prison or an addiction will cry out for freedom. But what about those chained to a system or a mindset who will cry out for freedom? Will they find it?

I read this recently:

“Other than the name of Jesus, it may be the most important word in all the Bible: GRACE. Grace in the person and work-the life, death and resurrection-of Jesus is what made the difference. If you’re God’s child, stop hiding behind your tree of shame.”  (Tripp-New Morning Mercies-June 29).

This Sunday I’m preaching on Freedom!  I’ll be using John 8 (the woman caught in adultery) and I Cor. 7: 21-13. My focus? Grace frees; the law enslaves. Living in grace is radically exciting; living in law is morbidly exhausting. The follower of Christ can live in freedom-freedom from law, from rules, regulations, and other life-killing bacteria. The purpose of grace is to give freedom.

I’d appreciate your prayers. Meanwhile, have a Happy 4th!!

Wars

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Some wars are justified; some are not. (not a political statement so stay away from there). Church history gives us plenty of ammunition for proof. The Reformation is a perfect example of that.

Down through the years, music has been a battleground. I was hoping it was over but recently one of our college students came home and I asked him about the bruhaha about the music that he got involved in. Seems the college president made the comment that the only “real” Christian music was southern gospel and hymns and he challenged the students to give up their “devil” music (my summary not exact words).

UGH!

I like and respect Chuck Swindoll and read a great article by him last week on music. I’d like to share it with you in its entirety and hear your thoughts. It is entitled Sing New Songs…With Old Truths:

Without wanting to be misunderstood, let me say unashamedly that I love the grand old hymns. Throughout my Christian life, I have treasured their historic statements of the church’s faith, having committed many of them to memory.

They have been my dearest companions in dark hours of loneliness and discouragement and my greatest encouragers in times of celebration and adoration.

And while I’m the first to admit that while there’s nothing holy about a hymnal per se, hymns remain an important part of our Christian heritage. Why?

Because the theology of hymns is far too rich and beneficial to lose. The hymn writers were wordsmiths and musicians (seldom the same person) who wove theology and melody together into splendid compositions.

They gave us words for worship and marvelous music. One of the benefits of music—whatever style you choose—is that it helps cement truth in our brains stronger than memorizing words alone.

We remember words easier with a tune attached. Hymns bring to mind deep and practical truths, not only for times of worship but also for times of trial and distress.

I have always loved the old hymns, and I always will . . . because the truths they express are timeless.

However, let me quickly add that the canon isn’t closed on music for worship. In addition to hymns, each new generation will continue to compose fresh choruses of worship and new songs of praise . . . and that is as it should be—it’s biblical!

Fresh and Creative

Those churches who believe we should only have hymns have forgotten the words of David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, who wrote:

I will sing a new song to You, O God;
Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You. (Psalm 144:9, emphasis added)

The prophet Isaiah and the apostle John later used similar words (Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9). The worship of our Creator should stay fresh and creative.

There is everything right about singing new songs. But we must be certain that the songs we compose and sing express sound doctrine and not human-centered philosophy.

Simply claiming, “The Lord gave me this song,” doesn’t qualify it for public worship. Even Christians in the first century were urged to “test” the words they heard (1 John 4:1–6).

Furthermore, a good melody should never override our critical thinking. Lyrics take on significance only when they are filtered through the inerrant text of the Holy Scriptures.

The music can be new . . . but the truths the music proclaims must not be.

I second his thoughts. I love the new music. But I tire of the repetition which many of them have. I can think of a few right now which turn my stomach just thinking about them.

But I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Stone21

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Physical discipline is the only form of punishment.

So says some legalists. So says Stone 21 which Randy is refuting.

Don’t believe it? Ask Westboro. They flaunt those stupid signs which say, “God Hates Fags” and protest veterans’ funerals who die in combat. Why? Because they believe their death is the result of God meting out His vengeance and punishment upon American soldiers for America’s drift to okay homosexuality. While I have my personal belief about the morality of homosexuality (which is not the point of this post), I TOTALLY DISAGREE with Westboro that a soldier dies as punishment. In fact, I will go on record and say, “That is a bunch of crock!”

David committed sin with Bathsheba. The ramifications of that were felt down through the years. His loss of joy (not physical). The rape of his daughter by a heathen. The subsequent killing of that man by Absalom. The revolt of Absalom against his father. The eventual death of Absalom and David’s mourning. Chastisement and judgment comes in many and varied ways.

A wayward father who loses the love of his family. The drug-addled teen who loses his mind. The late night computer visits by a mom who decides to leave her family in the lurch. The devastation brought on by sin is ravenous but also different. No size fits all. Consequences of foolish choices happen.

The reality is this: no matter how discipline or chastisement happens it is a sobering thing.

This is one of my random posts from this book. What do you think?

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Piper

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

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I’m sure all of you have heard the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. To refresh your memory: Hamelin was a small town in Germany with a rat problem. A mysterious stranger showed and guaranteed he could remove the rats…for a fee of course. When he did (all but one), the mayor refused to pay him. So one day while the adults were in church, he came and played his pipe and all the children but three followed him, never to be see again.

It is from that story we get our phrase “pay the piper.”

When we use that phrase we are basically saying a person will get what is coming to them. They will have to pay the consequences of their choices.

Galatians 6:6-16 leaves no stone unturned in its language: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked; whatever a man sows that shall he also reap.” I’m not sure it can get much clearer than that. Tragically, we live our lives thinking we can make bad choices, bad decisions, bad actions, and get away with it. Not get caught. But it is not to be.

In this passage Paul talks about two laws which have consequences:

The Law of the Harvest (I’ll share more in my next post)

The Law of Legalism (Paul’s reason for writing the book)

This sermon is the official finish of my almost solid 9 month series on Galatians. I took a few side trails on special days (Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) but have spent the rest of the time unfolding this marvelous book. It is time to bring it to a close. I’d like to thank those who stuck with me through it all. The people at OVCF were marvelous. And I’d really like to thank many of you for your faithful prayers. I sensed them each week.

Rules

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

I spent the day driving to and from Lafayette, IN (Purdue University…or as his mom will say, “Purdon’t. She went to Indiana State so there is just a touch of friendly rivalry there. Just a touch).  All in all it was a pleasant day. The wicked storm which looked to be brewing north of us, which caused me to stop and try to tarp the items in my truck, largely bypassed us. The rain held off as we unloaded. Purdue students did all the unloading and transporting the luggage to his room. The lunchtime pizza was excellent.  Anthony’s girlfriend, Mallory, was a good sport and fun to have along (she heads to IU tonight). The drive home was uneventful except for a slow down of traffic due to a detour because of an Interstate bridge being worked on. I am now sufficiently tired and find myself wishing I could lay down but since it is only 5:10 p.m. that would not be a good idea. 🙂

That means my brain is not firing on all cylinders at the moment. But I had a thought from Unoffendable I wanted to share. So I’m going to post it and let your minds give it some thought:

Rules are wonderful. Rules bring wisdom into our lives. They help us live better. They spare us from pain. BUT rules don’t change anyone’s heart, ever. Grace does. (p.167)

That saying alone is worth the price of admission to this book. If people (legalists) could only grasp that truth, maybe they would stop trying to force rules on people. Imagine the impact if churches and pastors and people grasped the real truth behind Brant’s statement.

Rules don’t change people. Grace does. No argument here. Any thoughts?

SAD

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

The house was strangely quiet last night. Oh, there were four adults there. We chatted away. We “pontificated.” We chuckled. We giggled. But the house was strangely quiet. The energy was gone. Let me restate that: the energy from the past week was gone. Jo and I took Braden, our grandson, back home yesterday. I drove the 4 hours one way and with barely a 15 minute turnaround drove the 4 hours back. Jo needed to be back by 5:30 for a 6:00 appointment. We made it at 5:25. But I digress. The energy, namely Braden, was gone. Amazing how an 8 1/2 year old can charge an atmosphere. His constant motion, constant activity, constant laughter, constant banter, lightened the room. I had never heard of LabRats before this week. He’s watched all episodes at least 5 times his mom says. We saw AntMan together Friday night and his description of it was video worthy. Tami (who didn’t go) was laughing so hard she was crying. He is certainly all boy. WOW the testosterone will have to work hard to keep up when he gets to that age. We will miss him for sure. (He also likes ice cream, which makes him ok in my book). 🙂

Sad #2: We drove by a church with this sign:

“He pleases God best who loves Him most.”

Say what? I had to do a double take on that. I think Prestonwood Baptist Church just went from Grace to Law.  I believe they got it wrong. Maybe there is something there I am missing. I can see it now: “What do you mean? My love for God is more than yours. He likes me best!” Somehow I think Prestonwood got it wrong. What do you think?

My online presence has taken a hit over the past week. I apologize for reading but not commenting on too many of your blogs. I hope to get back to a more normal (whatever that is) schedule.