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"Measure not men by Sundays, without regarding what they do all the week after." - Thomas Fuller
Enough Fooling God
If you consider yourself a religious person, you may want to braise yourself for a rough ride ahead. This is one blog i have considered writing for a long time, but knew, somehow, had to wait. I wanted to make sure it was going to come from the soundness of my mind, a peaceful heart, and a spirit of truth that always liberates. That is my hope. So, here goes!
(Religion being so broad and controversial tis said is best to be avoided. I have made it a rule to veer away from debating and discussing the subject, out of respect for our belief differences, and because it is a battle i think can only be won in the spiritual realm, and not by the flesh.) But, this is one aspect of religion which i want to tackle, and i hope, by the end of it, you'll understand why.
It's nothing new. They did it then, and it's still going on now. But, aren't we all guilty? We dangle religion in each other's faces, flaunt our pomposity and condenscend on those who differ from us. And we presume the Gracious God we claim to worship, loves us too much to mind. Not if we pay attention to the strong rebuke Jesus gave to the religious leaders of His time. He described them as hypocritical...and these were his very words: "This people honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." How dare these priests, these men of the cloak, ministers and religious teachers pretend to be what they are not! Whitewashed tombs, disguising their inner corruption
We are no different because we are kept in the dark, and therefore can't see truth. "They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."Matt 15:14 Worst yet, we pick up the spirit of those we fellowship with, and we become copycats of their phony holy behavior, it's hard to tell what is acting and what is real. Religious clones are produced by cult groups and we've seen the many dangers, such as those of Jim Jones. Need we wonder why the world is turned off, and won't have anything to do with anyone who merely preaches and 'acts religious'? So, why do we keep mouthing off Bible words and phrases all over the place, like bullets that keep missing their marks? We talk our spiritual talk, which no one understands, because there is no heart in it. Really, we must ask, where is the love in our message? Pray say, do we really care, the way the Lord showed us how to care? If we don't, then let's leave people alone! God knows who He can use to reach the friendless, the widows, downcast, losers and rejected. Believe it or not, there are millions of faithful and authentic God loving people who know how to give genuine friendship, share food, listen to someone's pain, visit the sick, and be with the fatherless. True religion is simple. It's a lifetstyle of love and goodness, just like Jesus lived it, and gave His life for it. St Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.".
So, how about we get real once and for all? Let's burst our theological 'pufferies', do more praying, and go out and shake the marketplace. If we do this, we will see a real spiritual awakening in our homes, neighborhoods, and offices. There will be less need to blow millions to build church facilities that become nothing more than pricey "aquariums", catering to fish watchers, rather than 'fishers of men'. All we see are cliques of overfed, pew warming members, with "country club" mentalities waiting to be raptured. After all, they have secured their eternal home, and their potlucks can go on. They have no clue how bad the world is hurting, as they have never gone out to share a bowl of soup with the homeless.
Ministers are guilty and should be held accountable for the 'fattening' of their congregation. First of all, it's wrong to call us "lay" people, a term that does not appear in the Bible. This error continues where Priests and Pastors are catapulted like gods, and are given positions of power, and therefore feel they can rule and control their gullible flock. I've seen members abused, used, treated like mindless sheep, manipulated and at times be discarded when no longer useful. Rather than build up and equip an 'army' of strong effective witnesses, to win the world, we become dependent on a handful of leaders, who call us to be volunteers to serve their 'earthly kingdom'. Our hard earned wages and income fill the church's coffers to pay overheads, and support the rich lifetstyles of the celebrity 'shepherd', idols of our own making. And what have they ever done for the dying and the poor? They send them crumbs to humor them so they can quickly go away, then they boast of their benevolence and print it on their Sunday bulletin. And what do we get for faithfully serving the church for years, and for pouring our valuable resources? Cold shoulders, a promised prayer, one little visit when we're sick, what? I am not exagerating. Sam Pascoe said:"Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise." Maybe that's not fair, because it's not only in America and Christianity that we see this happen. Religion is flawed, because man who makes it is flawed. We see wars waged in the name of God, issues on marriage and birth being fought endlessly. No thanks to religion.
I have experienced the highs and lows of living the faith life. Finding intimacy with God, growing in the word, meeting some of the most remarkable teachers and prayer partrners have been the most precious of all. I've had the opportunity to meet great preachers, dine with some called 'worldshakers', and traveled to far away places to attend high impact conferences. Our family have had the privilege of being part of spearheading fundraisers to build large churches. We assisted foreign evangelists who used our home as a halfway place for missionaries in training. It does not matter that we have been forgotten and been forsaken by the so called brethren. God always has a way of reminding us how flawed we humans are, and that His work among the lost never cease. I remember one low moment, when a senior minister of one of these megachurches who refused to officiate the last rite service for our family. He claimed he did not know our dead, the man whose sacrifice and invaluable support for the very church that employed him was historical. I knew about this ministers priviledged lifetyle, the golf games. Yet, he found no time to grieve with us. How strange that our comfort and help came from secular friends. The God praisers were nowhere to be found.
Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples: "The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men." Matt 23:1-5
Man run religion disappoints. But, we cannot mistake it for God. Most religions have organized behaviors, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural), and/or scriptures. The practice of a religion includes sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Which brings me back to my point, that we don't need more religiosity. We need a spiritual conversion. We need a God relationship that makes us real and honest.
Jesus religion of compassion
I have spiritually outgrown many of my bad experiences brought on by being involved with the religious community. I am no longer bothered by the gossips, the holier than thou types, legalists and judgementalists. I have been blessed by good Christian friends who have stood by me in my darkest hours. Still, people who make a lot of noise about their religion make me cringe. I know i shouldn't mind the exercise of free speech, but i feel tempted to ask many of these folks a 'list of good deeds' they have done. Show me the money, we say. Well, show me your actions, and then we can believe each other's religion. Don't get me wrong. We need bold witnesses who are unafraid to share the powerful message of redemption. But we are useless when the word is not made alive through demonstrated love. Micah 6:8, He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? "
It's been over 20 years that i have been a Christian, and i will not trade my faith for anything in this world. I am a Christ lover and follower, and i am 100% unashamed. I'm not without fault, for that would be the biggest lie. I am who i am by the grace of God. Despite all the anomalies i have witnessed from the religious sector, I will continue to honor all the Godly men and women martyred for the sake of the gospel. I am forever inspired by the early church disciples, teachers and preachers who paved the way to bring the message of salvation where it is very much alive and well. I salute 'saints' like Mother Teresa who loved the poor, evangelists who go into the unreached corners of the planet, the Oprahs of the celebrity world who use their platform to bring hope to the helpless. I especially admire those who are unnoticed, those who open their homes, share their goods, give their time and energy to love on the lost, and bless the distressed.
If we are busy living our religion, there will be no time for us to play religion.-mequote