Sharp Stuff

imageHad a great chat with friends at breakfast last week. One of the issues was accountability and how it happens.

Everyone calls for it but of course we always want to be in the “driver’s seat”. In other words it’s a great deal more comfortable being the one CALLING for accountability than being called to account yourself!

It hasn’t happened yet- and might not due to schedules… but I may be able to spend a few hours in the woods at some point this autumn. So I’m about to check my Swiss Army knife to be sure it’s sharpened.

I have been, best I know how, sharpening knives for years, both my own and sometimes my wife has a kitchen knife or two, shears and such that I sharpen for her.

I’ve learned several methods that seem to work well using everything from basic wet stones to “crock sticks” that mount in a wooden base, a “Lansky” sharpening system that uses clamps and where you place the blade at various levels in order to take the old steel off a bit, and level-by-level finally get it to a finer, honed shape, basic files, all the way to a sidewalk when nothing else was available to help get a sharper edge on a blade.

Sometimes I just use the little one-hand, shorter sticks that are encased in plastic where you run the blade through about a dozen times and that’s that.

Depending on several variables (use of fine oil or none, the kind of material the blade is made out of, etc.) any of these methods can do the job.

Then again, some work better with -some- blades in terms of the sharpened edge both getting sharp and with regard to holding an edge for a lot longer before having to do it again.

Myself and many others I know quote the following biblical proverb from time to time:

“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.”

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27.17)

There is a truth here… that of friendship. It’s not always possible to truly be a friend of those who you are trying to sharpen- and that goes for their “sharpening” you as well… but friendship is likely the easiest and best way for the process to prove fruitful.

When someone clearly loves you- and you them, it’s a lot easier to hold one another accountable. When the relationship is truly based on genuine love, accountability, though often painful- is likely to be successful as opposed to two upset parties slugging it out over whatever issues and one or both parties don’t really care in a deep, loving way about the welfare of the other. Sometimes it’s about winning, not authentic love or accountability. Hmmmm!

While we can’t always know the other person’s motives and true heart- and they don’t always know ours -it does seem true that genuine friendship is the key in -loving- God’s way, in accountability that builds up even though there is a “tearing down” factor involved.

Are you in a band or choir? Church? Politics? Neighborhood folks? No major solutions here, just thinking about the process 🙂

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Sky Falling or Wide Open (re. The Church)?

Read a couple interesting articles today, both of which have great and in my view, flawed points.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/23/author-reveals-4-reasons-nobody-wants-to-go-to-church-anymore/

and

http://www3.tusculum.edu/for/featured/2012/‘open-source-church’-concept-explored-during-first-session-of-theologian-in-residence-lecture-series/

IS the church “in decline” in the U.S.? What about all those local churches and house churches few know about or poll on all such matters?

DOES open source (I write this on a Linux computer by the way) mean “no structure/anything goes”? Nope.

Form never equals substance. Is God open? Perfect? Righteous in all His judgments? Christians believe He is and still we also disagree with Him at times! No shock that those who disbelieve in church or even God would disagree with Him? And disagreeing with a load of imperfect, sometimes sinning saints, same-same.

Do individual Christians as well as local churches at times “sandbag” those who might otherwise join in faith and relationship? Of course. It’s wrong but nothing new, sad to say.

Are we to seek numbers or authentic relationships? I think the Bible itself is clear on this… consider Jesus talking about focus on the 1 who is lost and leaving the 99 behind at times. People are more than numbers and nobody wants to be treated like one.

Like I said, I agree with points and disagree with others made by all 3 of the folks presenting the ideas. Rather than unpack all that, I’d rather spend time in this blog offering a few reasons why some of the negative things are as they are followed by what I believe are time-tested, viable solutions.

At the end of the day, love invites.

If you are God (Who “-is- love”) you may well command also.

Right off the bat, not only do believers but those not of the Christian faith love promises kept… but disdain commands! I can think of many ways people of faith as well as agnostics and atheists line up for promises and kisses but run from commandments and personal crosses. Nothing particularly new about this!

There were certainly those in the early church (as now) who “commanded” people but always those already in the faith. Some of the scriptures that make this plain include 1 Tim. 4.11, 1 Thes. 4.2, 2 Thes. 3.10, 1 Jn. 2.17

In terms of mission, of outreach to people who have not been following Jesus, how do we see (now and in history) people turning to faith in Him and linking with those Christ-followers in their immediate geographical locale?

It’s not rocket science and it’s not a mountain too large to climb.

First, the church, biblically speaking, isn’t a building nor series of them. The biblical term means “assembly”, it is a gathering of people who love and follow Jesus.

Secondly, for all the reality and truth of Christian churches in decline, people leaving or staying away from them, it’s the people rather than the buildings or I would largely argue the people more than the programs which are problematic. It’s not “structure A vs. structure B or C”.

If WE (you and I, dear saint) aren’t willing to serve people in love and motivated by God’s love serve those around us, all bets are off as to what sort of fruitfulness our local assembly will ever produce.

Let me add that all true Christian believers in the U.S. are not any one “brand” though at times we may be though of in terms of “ALL Christians”, “ALL evangelicals”, “ALL name-the-denomination-or-church-association-or-even-individual-local-church) ” are like THAT!!”

See, you don’t have to be a Christian to judge a person or entire people group.

All are not right-wing Republicans. “All” do not fully agree with all other Christians.

Most know this but such sense often never enters the conversation.

Conversation is of course a huge need, not simply one-way lecture. Authority issues (who gets their way) always include or separate people and this is as plainly obvious OUTSIDE any form of Christian gathering as it is within the churches.

Christians have not cornered the market on pettiness, ignorance, selfishness snubbing others or straight-up hypocrisy. Fact of history don’t you think?

So here is my very simplistic response to “the church (ALL of it in every form and place??!!) is IRRELEVANT and I ain’t messin’ wit’ ’em!”:

Not always, but often it’s someone, a few someones or a large group from a local congregation of Christians who help meet actual needs for needy people around where they live and/or meet.

Historically the church has grown in times of war, famine, natural disasters and when individuals didn’t have the money, transportation or in other ways, availability to meet their own needs.

In terms of meeting loving, caring people who helped with food, clothing, clean water, housing, helped build/serve/visit/take people to hospital or help out those in jail or prison, the long historical reality is that such people loved enough and authentically did so over a period of time… which resulted in many of those they served to faith and following Jesus Christ.

Yes, those 6 things Jesus spoke of in Matthew chapter 25: food, water, clothing, shelter, hospital and prison visitation/care/aftercare still ring loudly to an increasing number of people who either don’t have access or have been refused access to such relationships and practical service among others and in other programs.

The “sky is falling” as it always has!

When we begin to talk about Bible definitions of sin people feel judged. When we neglect serving as we’re each able to via our individual gifts, talents and yes, time and sacrifice, they ARE judged: they are judged unworthy and feel like it.

Unrighteous people in and outside the churches (local congregations) often point fingers. Books and web blogs are written about what to do.

Love, serving to meet genuine needs, two-way conversations that build relationship and not merely “I got what I wanted” dependency can be quantified by a historical reality: sheep go where they’re fed.

Now, if a person WANTS to eat garbage, live as a “goat”, there’s nothing I know of that can automatically stop them. They don’t want to be fed.

We -all- will never in this life agree about everything in terms of how to “do” church, on various doctrines and so on. What we all agree on is that when we meet another’s need with love, compassion and respect (though rarely tacit agreement on ALL points!!), good things happen.

A scriptural assembly is a gathering of people God rules even when those attending often themselves don’t like it! A waste of time is where the gathered people rule and the Spirit is grieved and quenched… and let’s ’em have their way though they actively reject His Word and will as a matter of course… rejecting The Comforter for comfort.

It all begins with me. Relationship issues, lack of loving obedience and servanthood via my own life are the real enemy.

In part, my hope comes from the reality that there are genuine, loving Christ-followers who have served and won others to a sound faith- past and present.

An authentic walk with Jesus in our daily life and loving service for others combined are still our best answer to the questions that come our way.

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

-Glenn

God Promotes Ugly!

Allow me to accent what I’d say is truly God’s promotion of the ugly!

Years ago I read a number of varied articles by wonderful and solid Christian authors discussing the arts.

They -rightly- mind you, focused on the beauty of God revealed in His creation and via people.

At the same time in Adam, Eve, Cain, Saul, even King David, Judas, Herod, Ananias and Sapphira, Hitler, and yes, you and I- we see sin, not only righteousness and holiness. We deal with greed, abuse and outright evil in our world and at times in every kind of Christian (or other) assembly of humans.

The fact is that God’s glory and truth do not only shine through beauty.

Is it not also true that God shows us His beauty through what we humans will solidly say are “ugly” things?

Consider the very cross of Jesus. Picture the snake in the beautiful garden, the bloodshed all through the Old Testament.

At core there is great value and purpose in the contrast between beauty and ugliness in our world.

Consider the Good News of Jesus without contrast to the bad news of our sinful nature and fallen world. Consider darkness vs. light.

Consider the majority of Psalms happen to be “laments” though packaged in a Book of praise and worship, God’s faithfulness, provision and His majesty revealed. So too in those lyrics, the depravity of humankind is displayed in full sail.

Think about thunder and lightning, both reflecting the power of God but also the possible destruction of hearing and at times, forest fires that burn while yet helping rehab that particular forest.

I would posit there are beautiful sides to ugly as well as what we humanly perceive as ugly sides to beauty.
Many believers have bought into “triumphalism” in our day as in past times. This is a notion that “everything is SWEET and only going to get SWEETER”. Mind in heaven… but feet on earth? Hmmmm.

Indeed, “in everything give thanks” but also “in the world you shall have tribulation”. Both are true. “Be of good cheer”… and “it also says”- “weep with those who weep.” At any point in time what seems ugly is that “weeping may tarry through the night”, but thank God, “joy comes in the morning.” All true. Both sides of it.

“We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” AND “NOW [at present] we see darkly… THEN face-to-face.”

And so I call to us what I believe God calls me to: balance. We need to deal with ugly/hard and beautiful/easy things, both. Grace comes in both packages though it often doesn’t feel like it!

“There is a time to kill and a time to heal.”

It’s not either-or but a both/and deal.

No crucifixion, no resurrection. No Good Friday (“Good”? That ugly scene from the garden, betrayal, beatings and mockery clear to the cross to the grave?!! Yes… “Good”!) no Easter Sunday.

Things to consider as we at times face friction amongst ourselves.

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Weed, Drink, Both?

I say “Nada” to both. I’ll explain that in a bit here. First let me highlight pros and cons of both re. legislation and criminal issues regarding both. If you read this through, you’ll understand I’m going back-and-forth as I do believe there are pros as well as cons in this!

A friend of mine in Colorado has exchanged emails on the matter of pot legalization there. He’s sent me reports from all over the world on medical and social studies about this, and I’ve been reading up on them for several years now.
I have been thinking about writing on all this for months. So here we go!
I’ve been quite honest about my own addictions and dealt with most of them many years ago but still speak at recovery meetings, sometimes attend, enjoy reading and personally benefit from several groups doing 12 Step and related work and seeing the freedom and positive changes in my own and others via recovery services.
So here is my view in very brief:
IF you can argue (and you can, even in terms of what the Bible says) for moderate drinking (prior to drunkenness) you might also be able to argue for marijuana use, and I’m not talking medical pot either. So- at what point is one “buzzed but not impaired ” re. pot -as we might consider alcohol intake without being truly “drunk”? This is a major issue.
At the time I write this (October 2013) from my own studies online both pro and con, medical as well as scientific, it does seem that there are cancer patients and a few others with various illnesses who have had suffering relieved by use of some form of pot- often in a pill and often with some mixture of both of the main drugs derived from cannabis. Sometimes these and other drugs as well as holistic therapies were also used so it’s not a matter of 100 percent “weed” bringing the relief.
Proverbs tells us about a dying person being given alcohol to soothe their exit from this life. (Pro. 31.6) Then again the second part of the verse seems questionable in that I’ve known more depressed alcoholics than truly happy, joyous ones… so I wonder about this in the sense of a “command of God” for giving strong drink to someone who’s bummed out!
I’m on record for years saying that medicine is one thing, recreation another. I have no personal issue with medical marijuana IF it both works and if it is truly regulated in its use by qualified doctors.
Regarding alcohol: did U.S. prohibition work or did it only make way for more criminal activity and a black market? If one could legislate righteousness Jesus died in vain. You cannot, and He didn’t- thank God for Jesus!
At the same time let’s be honest about drug cartels, the fact that they make more from pot than any other sale… amazing and sick. So there is that benefit from tax (re. federal and state government regulation, oversight and financing) as well as a good sort of hit on some very evil people in the drug trade who would just as soon sell your little sister into sex slavery as sell you a load of pot. It’s all about which makes the most money.
When prohibition ended crime and criminals didn’t end. They migrated back into (or dreamed up new ways) of making illicit money from vice.
So let’s talk about what drunkenness has done for personal lives, marriages, children, road deaths and maiming and date-rape. Let’s also admit a good portion of the same thing does and will happen more re. legalization from excess of pot smoking or ingesting.
Can we not also face the fact that Americans and especially younger thrill-seekers don’t give a rip if it’s legal or not, nor the amounts deemed “safe” or “moderate”?
Would anyone like to argue with me about the fact that moderation is nearly a dinosaur in terms of American dna?
Then comes the concept of measurement of the substances and ingestion of elements (THC, etc.) in pot that makes one high.
Somebody (and several companies) will come up with technology for this but until then, what? How much is “too high to drive”? What sort of pot-measurement besides a blood test can tell a cop that you’re too loaded to get behind the wheel after a party? At present, no existo.
Does pot help cancer to not grow or is there evidence that it causes cancer? Jury’s still out on that for a while, but there is clear evidence that as in cigarette smoking, the pre-cancer stuff shows up with pot smoking nearly in near-exact form as those who develop cancer from cigs. By the way, studies indicate it won’t be before some 20 years pass that those smoking now are negatively affected in terms of major health issues related to pot use. Of course, alcohol abuse and sometimes pot use can bring that number down a bit.
In the end, if a Christian (or anyone, really) can justify one, they can likely justify the other.
I cannot.
On the basis of my personal moderation and addiction issues, the gateway drug that both were for me and plenty of my friends, health of myself and those of my friends still living, road, near-death and overdose issues related to these substances and those that followed my use of them, impairment to clear/sane thinking, application of the Bible to other areas of my life with regard to sexuality, “self vs. other people” choices and lifestyle. All of these contribute to my own position on both pot and alcohol use. Ain’t goin’ there, can’t go there, think the negatives far outweigh the benefits. Unless you’re perhaps dying.
At which time I’d rather pray than either drink or puff…
Neither God nor I am a fun cop, but what I do think to be true is that pleasure and the ability to get it wherever is pretty normal for any human. Acceptance by others is also a huge part of our decision-making. I think these and little else are the guts of why we eventually come to personal wreckage and at that point use these to self-medicate.
It’s likely true that relationship issues are more the cause and these two drugs more the symptoms re. the lives of most addicts… but you get my drift.
With God’s help and that of others I am free from drug, alcohol and smoking addictions… but still deal with food issues, sexual temptation, pride/insecurity issues among others. Sinless ain’t me!! I’m not arguing from a place of perfection or personal holiness, rather admitted weakness and knowing my personal ability to self-destruct as well as share such misery with those I influence!
Through the years I’ve learned genuine mercy doesn’t always come with a “Yes”, and that’s a really tough reality to swallow at times. I admit this. Then again, reality is likely what we seek to find a bit of relief from. Yes, even God’s view of reality.
To be blunt, such relief never relieved me, rather it added to my addictions and near death.
So, two main reasons I quit doing weed and all dope:  The realization that I was financing truly wicked people who also used human trafficking, murder, slavery and some who rape people all in the course of their daily “business”. The knowledge I was not only trashing myself , others around me were following my example. My conscience (even before I followed Jesus) started ringing these truths loudly every time I wanted to party with drinking/drugging buddies.
Legalization may fix the first problem but not the second.
Will legalization “fix” marijuana, hashish (if not pot, why not concentrated form?) and the gateway drug nature of addiction? Did EITHER prohibition or legalization “fix” the wrecks caused by alcohol consumption? I frankly think the answer to all these questions is “No”.
By the way, 45 years ago I (and others) could find weed cured with opium and forms of heroin added. I suspect such will happen via cartels, they get the game far better than average peeps. If one unleaded pot works, think about the possibilities re. hash or “leaded” additives. Been there, done that.
Christians (or not(, it’s wake-up time. Knowledge isn’t wisdom and what’s acceptable can victimize you and those you love.
We don’t need witch-hunts, we need love, relationship and humility, not mere pleasure cruises.
So these are the reasons I’ve taken and by God’s grace, maintained sobriety for some 42 years.
I have enough struggles within my own addictive nature and really don’t wish to wrestle with even more temptation beyond what I already face in the natural course of life.
At the very least, as I heard an old preacher say, “Others may. I cannot”.
Some things to consider? Thanks for stopping by!
-Glenn

Blessed Are Those Who…

So “blessed are…” who? This link goes to one of the best messages I’ve heard for quite some time.

Good friend and visiting (at JPUSA Chicago) Covenant Pastor Max Shapiro offers his distinctively political take on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5. He may or may not step on folks’ toes, but is he right? Listen and see what you think.

10/13/2013 “The Politics of Jesus”: Sermon on the Mount, stream or download via:

http://www.wilsonstation.com/sermons/