Monday, April 27, 2009

Of Legalism and Liberalism

Two very similar words that to me both describe forms of extremism, one indicating too much the other to little. My initial experience with legalism goes back to when I first became a Christian. I didn't have a very good working knowledge of the "New Covenant" of grace and I was trying to be good enough on my own to merit my salvation, it wasn't very long until my tenuous grip on holiness gave way to my feelings of discouragement...

Liberalism was much more fun!

It's ideology seemed to me to be one of encouraging everyone to play fast and loose with the sin in their lives and to place total faith in the never ending indulgence of a loving, forgiving God. I was really estranged from Jesus, it became awkward spending time with Him only when I wanted something from Him. I was just too embarrassed or convicted to spend any other time with Him. From that time on I just assumed the position of "pilot of my life" because I couldn't understand how to have a relationship with Jesus, but He never abandoned me...

I believe that Jesus was a "real" person, not someone who seemed contrived or that had the stink of religiosity on Him...
(He wasn't legalistic)
But at the same time I see Him as being someone who wasn't afraid to challenge hypocrisy or spiritual pride when He found it.
(He didn't "liberalize" the truth to please others)

Just like the greatest show on earth, life must go on! Three rings? At times I felt as if I must of had a half dozen!...There was always something worthwhile happening in at least one of them that had the potential to either confirm or deny my suspicions or to perhaps clarify my confusion. I was a man in search of answers, but It wasn't until years later that I was taught about belief systems and the ways in which we perceive ourselves, others, and God. In a legalistic perspective, the focus is on us and our ability to earn our salvation which is of course incongruent with what the Gospels teach. Liberalism is very similar in that we become our own God, except that it's a more relative "everybody's doing it" mind set. So then, instead of having faith in our own abilities to keep the law, (as in legalism) we're deluded into thinking that we're above it...also out of step with Gods word.

It's impossible to have a good relationship with someone you're not on the same page with or if you have a confused concept of the expectations involved on both sides. I needed a simple explanation, but that's one of the hardest things to find! It was in the lyrics of the song "When you gonna wake up" by Bob Dylan that I got it...

"Do you ever wonder, just what God requires? Do you think He's just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires? when you gonna wake up and find strength in the things that remain? There's a man on a cross and He be crucified for you, believe on His power that's about all you've got to do"

Sounds simple right? and it is, Just believe! Not in a vague or ambiguous concept of a God, or of a Jesus that we saw in a stained glass window of a church, but in a more real, personal, friend who's closer than a brother that walks with me and talks with me Jesus! To believe with at least the same faith we have in our physical senses and with as much certainty, much in the same way that I wouldn't step out in traffic if I believed that a car was coming!

But there's so much more!

It's in the believing that the omnipotent God of the universe loved me so much that He would send His son to die for me, not because He had to, but because it was the only way that we could spend eternity in heaven with Him. It's in this belief that we find the source of our joy, that we find an order to our steps in life, that we need only to seek His face as we walk beside Him as His children. Jesus raised the standard or the conception of what was previously seen as love, to die for someone else is a rare thing but to die for a pitiful sinner? Not because He had to, but because He chose to, because He loves us all and will do everything He can to make sure we spend eternity with Him in the place He has prepared for us, but we must choose to receive it, to accept His cleansing blood that was shed for our sins on the cross.

This is a commentary I got from bible gateway,

Jesus Christ, for obtaining the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The gospel so much exceeds the law in glory, that it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation. But even the New Testament will be a killing letter, if shown as a mere system or form, and without dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to give it a quickening power. (2Co 3:12-18)

sure, you're free in Christ...just don't forget where the power comes from or the great price He had to pay to buy it...I've heard it said that the thing Satan fears the most is a Christian who knows who he is in Christ, why? because it makes them proud, or humble? neither answer seemed to be right to me...maybe it's that when we become one with Christ, that we're able to get beyond the self and the ego and tap into the great power we're heirs to being the brethren of Christ...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Somewhere in the middle...

I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box…nor am I the dullest.

As a young man I so wanted to be “special”…most of my deviant behaviors and rebellions were a ruse to throw people off from seeing who I really was, to appear to be somehow above the rules or to be an exception of some kind while at the same time, acting out in such a way that perhaps someone might interpret my actions and help me.

Since then life’s taught me that it’s in the expression of love where I’ve most fully experienced God. It’s a very personal, individual thing for each of us. We use the word relationship to describe those places where we share a common ground with something or someone. That’s so important because it’s our connectedness that opens up our lives to all that God longs to give us, it also allows us to experience a greater meaning through the abandonment of ourselves.

Then again, sometimes it’s just all about the tuna salad…


this is how I roll…and whatever you may do, don’t forget the woven wheat crackers (just sayin)

I don’t normally prepare food in the bathroom but I’m in a motel room… I know, EWWWWW

I’ve always been a believer of “that which does not kill us, (can make us deathly ill) and then we become resistant to it”.


I’m really glad to be tucked away here in this room today, I’ve been wanting to write lately but I’ve just been unable to get that first sentence or working title to compel me to do more with it. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to write about how glad I am that I’m not one of those really smart people who won’t accept anything that they can’t understand completely or who reject the notion that there had to be “intelligence” behind intelligent design. (Personally, I’m not interested in a God that I can completely understand) I still want to know why, if we evolved from apes, there are still non-evolved apes today.


What happened there?

Another recurrent (and connected) thought I’ve been having has to do with how we try to put God into a box, limiting the ways that He can show us love or how we can experience Him. Some people don’t believe in using medicine’s because God is their healer,does that mean that God can’t work through doctors? Some won’t listen to any “secular” type music because it’s not considered to be Christian…but God spoke to Moses through a bush! They’re unable to understand that sometimes people are challenged or even inspired more by mediocre preaching than they are by some really great preachers. That it’s primarily through the presence of need that the best in people is stirred up enough for them to take action…

Wait a minute Alton, you’re starting to sound like one of those liberal theology, back slidden, lukewarm, types that the bible says will be spewed out of His mouth for being “neither hot, nor cold”. Well, the truth is that I am feeling colder towards “religion”, and warmer towards relationships. Colder towards rules and laws and the condemnation that’s heaped on people in the name of “Christian love”, warmer to a personal ministry that firstly bonds itself to people through a shared compassionate understanding of sin and the effects it’s had on our life before one ever quotes even one bible verse to them. Do you ever wonder why people, maybe even some that you know, will stand up and cheer,scream,and shout at a kids baseball game…and then sit there like the living dead on Sunday morning while the pastor stands on his head spittin out nickles to get a rise out of them. I wonder if it’s got anything to do with where they “see God” or with how they see themselves being involved in this relationship as “the father”. maybe it’s just, somewhere in the middle…

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's in there...

Last Friday I took off from Myrtle, Mo. on a bus trip with the F.F.A. teacher and students for a preliminary state qualifying meet in Cape Girardeau,Mo. We drove for about an hour or more and I was getting tired so I started talking to the Ag teacher about a variety of topics related to agriculture. The drought in California, soil conservation, even the mineral depletion of our soil and the resulting lack of nutritional value in commercially grown vegetables. As I drove along I began to understand that different people perceive “excellence” in different ways and that in some peoples eye’s quantity does equal quality. When it’s all about the money, (and what isn’t these days) success is seen as profits to the farmer. I certainly don’t have a problem with that but wouldn’t you know it I would have a problem with the whole idea of money being more important than people.

I was reminded of this passage from one of the greatest novels of all time…

He loved the land no more than the bank loved the land. He could admire the tractor, it’s machined surfaces, it’s surge of power, the roar of it’s detonating cylinders but it was not his tractor…The driver sat in his iron seat and he was proud of the straight lines he did not will, proud of the tractor he did not own or love, proud of the power he could not control. And when the crop grew, and was harvested, no man had crumbled a hot clod in his fingers and let the earth sift past his fingertips. No man had touched the seed, or lusted for the growth. Men ate what they had not raised, had no connection with the bread. The land bore under iron, and under iron gradually died; for it was not loved or hated, it had no prayers or curses.

John Steinbeck The Grapes Of Wrath

Look at all of the different ways we raise food in this country, giant hog farms that Iowa Governor Tom Harkin had to ask for millions of dollars to be tacked on to the stimulus bill so that they could do something about the horrendous smell there, the toxic slurry from which has done terrible damage to streams and rivers wherever they are.


And chicken farms? we raise poultry under conditions that would land you in jail if you tried them with the family pet. Cruel just doesn’t cover what we do to chickens, it’s sickening…they’re no longer animals, they’re only seen as “stock” inventory, they’re fed hormones and antibiotics to make them grow that have harmful side effects on us when we ingest them.

2163400974_2e56ab79fa_b These are Gods creatures, do you care?

Whats my “beef” on beef? they’re unnaturally fattened on grain so that they’ll weigh more which also increases the LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) content of the meat as opposed to being pasture fed which is much healthier for us and them! Of course throw in all of the hormones and antibiotics and we’re still just scratching the surface of the problem.

My last blog was about what I see as the state of our relationship with our health care system and how similar the church’s relationship is at times to the people we’ve been “commissioned” to be reaching for Christ. I’ve been wondering lately to what degree the modern institution we call “the church” resembles that first century church. Of course I understand that things change, and that instead of home based groups of worshipers we now have mega church’s that are run like corporations.

356825881_d59ceb3b6d_o1Here’s an example of the perception of Christian corporate thinking…

The Most Offensive Church Sign I Have Ever Seen by Jacob...K.

Another “Dandy”

I looked up the definition of the word “corporate” , here’s what I found…Corporate, is a word used to describe the shift of individual responsibility or liability from individuals or from a group of people who have come together with a single minded purpose. It’s kind of like having a scapegoat to blame your rotten behavior on, a nameless,faceless,heartless, impersonal, entity.

Nature has it’s own system of checks and balances that play out in man regardless of how intelligent man thinks he is or how special he believes he is. I see corporate farming as an unethical,unnatural, unhealthy, unfortunate, reality. I think that we were meant to live close to our food source’s, to have a connection to them, to occasionally do as Steinbeck said and crumble a hot dirt clod in our hands, to perhaps have a decent regard for the animals that sustain us. When man, for whatever reason, ignores these check’s and balances, the repercussions are always against himself, in spite of his mindset that he is the rooster who climbed upon the dung heap of love to crow.

It’s all about the relationship’s we have, to our food, to other people, and most importantly to our Heavenly Father. I wonder if Steinbeck’ s motivation to write the Grapes Of Wrath was how much money he’d make on it, or any artist’s motivation for that matter…what about you?

Someday, when it’s all been said and done, what will matter most about the way you’ve lived your life? Will it be the number of zero’s in your bank account, or will it be the difference you’ve made in other peoples lives for the better.

Our system of providing food is making us sick and starving us, it’s robbing us of critical vitamins and trace minerals that either aren’t found in our foods anymore or that are lost during processing as a result of non-ripe picking, transportation, and various profit motivated activities that I covered before relating to all different types of food. It’s got a lot to do with why we’re so overweight in this country, we keep eating and eating to try and get the nutrition we need while ingesting thousands of empty calories and unneeded fats. Is it really such a shock that we’re also spiritually starving in this country too?

So, whats your deal Alton?

Are you some kind of “chronic malcontent” ?

No, What I’m trying to say here is that man has allowed satan to pervert every blessing that God has given him into some kind of carcinogenic counterfeit…

This verse applies to everything having to do with man except that which God has had to do with man.

Proverbs 16:25 (King James Version)

25There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

So, that seems to be the central question, exactly what IS in there?

Is it love? if it’s not…then Gods not in it.

Is it just there? or is it the re-lationship.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

E.R. Theology

One of the primary reasons our health care system is in so much trouble is that as a society we tend to wait until we’ve reached the critical stage of a condition or a sickness before we decide that the thing to do is walk through the sliding glass doors of the emergency room of our local hospital. It’s by far the most expensive option that's available to us in just about every way possible… monetarily, physically, and even psychologically!

Why is it this way? Opinions vary, (that seems redundant)Here’s mine,

The powers that be, (aka insurance companies,hospitals) Are playing a statistical numbers game with us. By paying lip-service to the idea of preventative care they know that they’ll come out ahead if they just let people show up at emergency rooms for health care because there's a high probability that you might just go ahead and die while your there and that's a bunch cheaper for them than it would of been to,

A) Provide an accessible health maintainence structure
B) Treat the conditions they couldn’t prevent
C)Couldn’t think of a C but I left it open (this is an interactive blog, you fill it in)

The cockle bur under my saddle today has to do with what I see as people in the church operating from an eerily similar mindset.

At times it reminds me of a scenario like this, You walk into a hospital E.R. and tell the doctor “I’ve got a sharp pain right here in my chest,close to my heart” what does the doctor do? He hands you a medical book that covers all known sicknesses and illnesses both mental and physical and says “Son, the answer to your problem, your treatment and subsequent healing, are here in this book! open it and start reading, when you get to a point that you don’t understand something look in the back…there’s a glossary of terms and other helpful stuff to answer all of your questions, Okay? thanks…”

Should you press your case, or return later after having read the book and still don’t have the answer to your problem or feel any better they’re ready for you with the stock answer of “there’s lots of stuff we just don’t know, we try to do the best we can with what we’ve got”
listen, here’s a thought…why not lay down here on this gurney,we’ll take you up into our operating room and cut a few things out of you that we think may be involved! rest assured that we’ll bring to bear ALL of the vast medical knowledge we posess where your treatment is concerned…you remember how impressive that was to you before? You’re not in anyway hesitant or reluctant to trust us are you? afterall, we are the “only game in town” we’re sanctioned by the AMA, Please, please, just trust us! Oh why doesn’t anyone seem to trust us anymore? Where was I when you just needed someone to talk to about your stress issues, or your diet concerns? I was here! doing my best to deal with my own stressed out life with my huge belly hanging over my pants…I don’t understand why you never came to me before!
Years ago I saw a billboard that asked this question…Would you do for the truth, what the enemy does for a lie?

I can assure you that our enemy wastes NO opportunity to infuse his lies and deceptions upon mankind as a whole and upon us as individuals. I’m talking home field advantage here, the fix is definitely in, and the only way that we as Christians can ever hope to “beat the house” is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about what The Apostle Paul meant when he said that we are “more than conquerors, through Christ who strengthens us” At His ascension, Christ told us that he would leave us with the comforter,the counselor, the friend who is closer than a brother, and that it was good that he should go because the “Spirit” could be in all places at all times as opposed to He (Jesus) who walked in the flesh. Many people in the church know this and are perhaps frustrated or even discouraged because they haven’t seen a move of the Spirit in their congregation. I believe that the Spirit longs to move, longs to pour Himself out upon us and empower us to be the church of the book of Act’s,

So whats stopping Him?

He’s looking for a church that truly is “broken and spilled out” A church thats become so sick and disgusted with the ways of this world being crammed down their throat that they’ve vomited then out and are laying there prostrate with absolutely no other option than for Him to come and fill them. He’s looking for a church where the self has been crucified, that the gift of His presence will only glorify Christ! Not any man… and in today's world that's getting to be harder and harder to find.

How can I tie all of this together somehow, or in what direction should I go from here?
These thought’s come to mind. I must be the change I want to see in the world, My ability to affect or to ”change the world” for Christ begins and ends with my own openess and subjection to the only real power available to me to effect that change upon myself, that power being the Holy Spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the blood that was shed that made available that power and victory to you and I, which was done for us while we were yet sinners, not after we shaped up and started to fly right! Where more forgiveness is needed the grace of our Heavenly Father abounds even more unto us. I’m going to start walking, there’s no need to wait for everything to be given to me, When does a father give his son the ticket to ride the train? right before he steps on board thats when.