Category: church

Stairway to Heaven the Irony

Let’s talk about change.  I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s – that’s 1960’s and 1970’s for those of you born after 2000!  We had a battle in the church during that time over Rock music.   We actually had sermons and books written about it.  If you haven’t heard, it’s from the devil himself.  Some of the classic reasons were 1) evil lyrics 2) the beat – many called it syncopation 3) lifestyles of the musicians 4) It was bad and loud and it was leading kids to dance, sex and drugs.   I clearly remember attending meetings at Youth For Christ which defamed any kind of Rock music and following the meetings we were supposed to go home and burn our vinyl albums.

One of the most popular songs of that era was ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin.   If you don’t know all the evilness of this song, please google it.  There is enough written about it to keep you busy for the weekend.   I never bought into all the negative hype on Rock music.  Of course there is bad stuff in it but there is bad stuff in everything.

Advance to 2011.  Seeker churches are the ‘in thing’: Everyone dresses down in casual clothes, talented musicians play contemporary music, open auditoriums and chairs instead of pews, simple messages of hope and grace.  Hey, if it is bringing people into the Kingdom I’m all for it.  Don’t tell anyone but one of these churches played the above mentioned songs in church!  What would Bob Larson say?!!

There is an irony of course.  I’m not sure what those speakers in the 60’s and 70’s would think about playing this music in church.  If it is truly Satanic is it still Satanic if Christians are singing it in church?  What about that syncopated beat? Drums?  I doubt that these performers are old enough to remember those lectures.  They probably never burned their vinyl records or played them backwards to hear the hidden messages.

Sins come and go.  God stays the same.  We all need to get closer to Him.  Don’t worry about the irony – just keep walking closer each day.  Don’t build idols.  Don’t follow anything that leads you astray.  God is bigger than Rock music.  I’m not sure about Country music but I know He can win the battle over the stairway to heaven.

John 9:16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

 

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National Day of Mennonites

With everyone and everything getting a “National Day”, I thought it was deserved to have a National Mennonite Day.   In January alone there are ridiculous days for: Hangover Day, Bloody Mary Day, Chocolate Covered Cherry Day, Drinking Straw Day, etc etc.  I don’t know who promotes these ideas or how they get established.  I assume that someone makes the first step in “declaring it”.  Maybe someone will read this and know how to take it to the next step.  Do we contact a Senator?

Here is my declaration:  I am nominating January 31st (the death date of Menno Simons) as “The National Day of Mennonites”.   We don’t know his birthdate so I went with his death date instead.

If you know what to do next, please let us all know.  Maybe someday the mail will stop and the banks will be closed.  We could get a day off from school and work.  Mennonite Schools should definitely be closed to honor the day!

I did my duty.  Now do yours.  Write letters.  Protest.  Make T-shirts and wear them to conference.  Make banners to hang at your church.  Everyone should be able to enjoy a National Day of Mennonites.  There could be sales but wait…Mennonites don’t spend money.  Oh well, we’ll think of something!

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I’m tired of going to church

I am 56 years old which means that I have lived through approximately 2,912 Sundays.  I have been in church on at least 2,000 of those (I’m guessing).  I am tired of going to church.  I have no major complaints.  I’m just tired of going.  Over the years there have been pro-church times and anti-church times.

High school was a plus time because I wanted to see my friends in youth group.

College was a down time because youth group is over and not really feeling a part of anything.

Marriage was a good time – building new relationships and having children.  You get a lot of support for child rearing at church.  Babysitters, advice, clothes, etc.

Disasters and crushing times are a good time to be at church – when we lost our son, the church was at it’s best.  I can’t say enough for how they cared for us.  I can’t imagine going through a natural disaster or difficult time in life without having the support of a church.

Empty Nest – This is my period of life.  When I was a child, my parents made me go.  When I was a parent I made my kids go (which then included me!).  Now there is no one to make me go and sometimes I just don’t want to.   I don’t have any major complaints.  No church is perfect.  If it was perfect I would ruin it as soon as I stepped in.

I’ve listened to over 2000 sermons and sang enough hymns and worship songs to last awhile.  I went from a conservative church to a contemporary one.  I’ve gone from an old congregation to a young one.  An old stone structure to meeting in a gym.  From Mennonite to Baptist to a cell based charismatic.  Pews and folding chairs.  I’ve been in just about every denomination at one point or other.  I’ve seen scandals, blow ups, deceit, back stabbing, crying, yelling, grace, forgiveness and mercy.   I’ve seen a lot of love and a little bit of hate.  I’ve been in churches that spoke in tongues and churches that said they are of the devil.

The point is, I’ve seen almost all that can be seen in a church and heard almost anything you might want to hear (or not hear).  Unless something radical comes along, I’m just a little bored with the whole thing.  It’s not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad.  I’m just a little tired of it.  Sleeping in on Sundays at my age and going out for coffee with my wife is pretty nice and I may just do it again this Sunday!

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Barbie Savior

Short term missions have long been a topic of debate in the mission world.  Are they really “mission” trips or are they vacations in a developing nation?  Are they worth the money?  Do they do more harm than good?  Are they offensive to local populations?  The questions go on and on.  I have no aspiration to settle the argument here!  I’m just trying to catch you up on some of the recent rumblings in the internet “mission” world.

One of the latest popular trends is Barbie Savior on Instagram, @BarbieSavior on Twitter and the blog BarbieSavior.com/blog.

Here is a quote from their “about” page:

Barbie Savior began in 2016 by two friends who were simply tired of the acclaim of the White Savior on social media. It began as a joke – a place for us to express our frustrations. Our little Instagram account, however, caused quite the stir. It was clear we struck a nerve on the age old topic of the White Savior Complex.

Together we have over a decade of studying, traveling, and working abroad. While this left us cynical and jaded enough to create Barbie Savior, we know full well that this issue – and these conversations – are so much bigger than us.

One post comments on the problems with visiting orphanages:

So many of us start out by volunteering in orphanages. We believe in the biblical and humanitarian call to look after orphans. It starts with our innate desire to do good, so how did we get it so wrong? How did the first line of defense for orphan care become so harmful? When did we decide it was the healthy, proper thing to do to visit orphanages and “experience” the African orphan? This industry, “orphanage tourism”, is detrimental in countless ways.

To see more blog posts in this program, please search #stoporphantrips on social media.

Another hot topic related to this on the internet is #LintonLies.  I’m not going to go into details on this.  A quick summary is Aspiring actress Louise Linton recently released an extract from her memoir detailing her experiences in Zambia as a young  white saviour idealistic volunteer.

I think anyone who has worked in missions for any length of time and/or worked in orphanages has seen mission trips that just made them want to puke!  Or at least cry.  Teams of youth bouncing around acting stupid.  Older teams that really just wanted to shop for deals at markets.  Teams that wanted to hold babies and children and tell them that they were going to take them home.  Teams photographing in an insensitive way that embarrassed the locals.  Teams that spent horrendous amounts of money to build a wall that the locals could do for a fraction of a fraction of the cost.

But…..there is always a but….

For all the “damage” and “waste” that an American short term mission trip can cause there are some very valid huge benefits and facts:

1) Many if not most missionaries get their “heart call” for missions by the seed planted on a short term mission trip.

2) Americans are criticized for lack of knowledge of other cultures.  Developing culture is not really taught in our schools and most people do not have an inborn desire to start studying them.  Most who develop a passion for this get it from visiting another country.

3) Most people do not really have a passion to give to a ministry unless they embrace it personally.  Short term missions are a great way to build loyalty.

4) I look at missions in a similar way to professional sports.  Millions of children learn a sport and play on a “little league” team of some sort.  Hundreds of thousands of those children will play their sport at a high school level.  Thousands of them will play at a college level.  Hundreds will play at a professional level.  A few will become Rock Stars in their field and be forever remembered.  The same applies to missions.  Many will go on a week mission trip.  Only a few will make life long commitments.  Those life long people may be sickened watching the stupidity of a short term team but they need to realize that everyone starts somewhere.  I got weeded out of sports by the 6th grade.  I’m still battling through high school in the mission arena.

5) Orphan ministry – I don’t have room to go into that here (maybe later).  When we told a long termer on our first trip that we wanted to adopt he said “So you want the perfect child.  Girl, healthy, infant, light skinned”.  In other words – a trophy child that we could show off.  If you know our family or have read my blogs, you know that is NOT what we got.  I wish I could tell that long termer who we adopted and tell him that I am still offended by what he said – although at the time he said it, it was probably true.  You see, some of us learn from our short term trips.  Some of us don’t.

6) Missions as a whole is very messy.  Sometimes it is downright shitty (sorry but it fit).  Whether discussing long term, short term, misionation trips, styles of mission agencies, approach, orphanages – they are all messy and no one has all the answers.  We are a broken world but we have grace, mercy, love, hope and vision to try to learn a better way!

7) Go on a mission trip.  Don’t be a Barbie Savior.  Just go and serve.  Study another culture. Give to a missionary.  Cry for the lost. Adopt a needy child.  Just do something!

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What’s Happened to Church Volunteers?

As church leaders, we have all heard it many times:  “I’d love to help but I’m just too busy”.  I understand that.  We can’t do everything for everyone and sometimes the best thing to do is to say “no”.    But there seems to be a growing trend in the church that matches society – volunteering is a thing of the past.

Overall volunteering numbers are down and in a downward spiral – only 25% of Americans did any volunteering in 2013.  That’s down from 29% 10 years ago.  It’s easy to jump on the Millennials for this.  But is it all their fault?  One of the statistics states that people who are educated are the biggest decliners.  Maybe that’s because they need to work three jobs to pay for their student loans.

So what is affecting the church?  When my dad was a pastor, he was almost always a lone employee over the span of 30 years.  The churches he led all paid part time janitors.  He occasionally  had a part time secretary that was paid and sometimes he had a paid part time youth leader.  Looking at churches of a comparable size today you will find a paid pastor, paid children’s director, paid youth leader, paid associate pastor, paid administrator, paid secretary plus the trusty janitor and possibly more.  A church in my town is now paying someone to care for the baby nursery because no one would volunteer to do the job.

It is probably fair to say without doing a lot of research that a large part of our church budgets have now shifted to salaries which support the needs of the congregation rather than outreach and missions.  In a time when missionaries are facing higher costs to be on the field, they are competing with financial balancing at their home churches.

So what is causing us to pay nursery workers instead of finding volunteers?  Why are we needing to pay children’s workers, youth leaders, worship leaders, sound and tech people, and other care givers?  Are we really that busy that we can’t serve or is there a shift in our attitude towards giving our time?

One of the causes in the slide is the hiring of employees at all.  A church without a pastor will push everyone to chip in to cover the need.  As soon as a pastor is hired, everyone backs off and allows the “paid” professional to do the work.  This pattern continues down the line – if a youth leader is paid, volunteers who want to work with the youth will dwindle.  Is it wrong to hire staff?  No.  In many cases it is necessary and may be the best for the church.  But, leadership needs to be aware that the more positions are paid, the more members will be hesitant to volunteer because they are not getting paid.

A second cause is additional background checks, liability and cost to volunteering.  When I was a youth leader I often drove kids home from an event.  I would be very leery of doing that today with abuse allegations being common.  Even if I was totally innocent, my life would be ruined if one youth made a claim of inappropriate behavior.  That is a terrifying thought.  Some may be willing to teach Sunday School but don’t want the hassle of doing a background check.  It’s not that they are worried about the check – they just don’t want the added responsibility to teach a few Sundays a year.

A third possible reason is that many of us grew up in homes where our parents volunteered for everything and as a result were never home.  Being a preacher’s kid I felt the pain of my dad being away most nights at meetings and other ministry needs.  When I had my own children, I said that I wanted to be home with them so that they wouldn’t say that I cared for someone else more then them.

Whatever the reasons for the decline, the church today needs to be aware of the decline and confronting it.  Hiring every need is not the answer and will make our churches even more self centered than they are already.

1 Peter 5:2  Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.

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Pope says personal relationship with Jesus is dangerous

Pope Says Having A Personal Relationship With Jesus Is Dangerous And Harmful

John 14:6 – Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

In this video the Pope says that the “only way” to connect with God is through the church. And that a personal relationship with Jesus is wrong. Which is incorrect. To have a personal relationship with Jesus wherever you are is Bible Scripture truth!

Here is what he said:

“There is no “do-it-yourself” in the church, no “freelancers.” How many times did we hear Pope Benedict Describe the church as a “we” church? Sometime you may hear someone say, “I believe in God, In Jesus, but the church… I don’t care.” How many times have we heard this? This is wrong. There are those who believe you can have a personal, direct and immediate relationship with Jesus Christ outside the communion and mediation of the church. These temptations are dangerous and harmful. They are, in the words of the great Pope Paul VI, “absurd dichotomies.” It’s true that journeying together is challenging, and sometimes it can be tiring: it may be that some brother or sister (in the church) makes us face a problem, or scandalizes us. But the Lord entrusted his message of salvation to humans, all of us, as witnesses; and in our brothers and sisters, with their gifts and limits, who come to us and make themselves known. This means belonging to the church…”

Thoughts?

Pope Says Having A Personal Relationship With Jesus Is Dangerous And Harmful

#Sinning on #Easter

Do you feel worse when you sin on Good Friday, Easter, Christmas or even on a normal Sunday?

Do you restrain on “sinful” behavior or feel more guilty on certain days?

How about some examples: Do you go to “R” rated movies on Saturday and avoid them on Sunday?  Would you go to that same movie on Good Friday or Easter?  How about right after church?

That book that you are reading – would you take it on a church retreat?  Sell it at the Church’s yard sale or mission fundraiser?

Would you party on a normal Friday but not on Good Friday?  How would you feel about getting drunk at Easter dinner?

Does any of that matter?  Is sin a sin whether it is on a Sunday or Saturday or on Good Friday instead of Black Friday?  Why do we feel more guilty sinning in church than at home?  Why do people apologize for swearing in front of a pastor or priest?

Is God keeping score and making penalties higher on certain days?   On the other hand, if you feel guilty about watching a “dirty” movie on Sunday maybe you shouldn’t be watching it on Saturday either.

1 John 1:8-9 (NIV)

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

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Guns and Church pt 5

Take a look around you – in church, school, work, at the mall, on the street, in your neighborhood.

Who do you want carrying guns?  Take a look.  Which of the people around you do you trust with a loaded gun on their belt or in their purse?  Do you trust them?  Are they trained?  Do they have the wisdom and experience to be carrying a loaded weapon for their “defense” or “defense of others”?

If an armed man walked into your area, do you or that other person have the training and experience to handle their weapon or will you cause more harm to everyone in most situations?  Will you or they be too quick to pull their gun out when the situation could have been diffused in a better way?

If you think I am being harsh on guns – I’m not.  I am thinking through the issue.  You may think everyone carrying a gun is a clear headed, mature, self disciplined, not to mention, trained individual.  But what about that creepy guy – you know the one who isn’t quite stable?  You know who I mean.  The one who gets violent at times.  The one who can’t keep it together.  What if he is carrying a gun?

You see, if we open the doors for everyone to carry a gun; everyone may really carry a gun.  Even those who really shouldn’t be carrying guns.

Take a look around.  Who is carrying and who is not?  Who do you want carrying and who shouldn’t be?

…..men ready for military service—able-bodied men who could handle shield and sword, who could use a bow, and who were trained for battle.
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Mennonite Church USA

DAILY NEWS POSTS

Lancaster Mennonite Conference leaders vote to leave MCUSA

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11.19. 2015 Written By: The Mennonite, Inc. staff 3676 Times read

With a vote of 82 percent, credentialed leaders in Lancaster Mennonite Conference (LMC) have voted to leave Mennonite Church USA. LMC credentialed leaders  have been participating in a process of discernment regarding LMC’s denominational affiliation with Mennonite Church USA. This process recently culminated in a resolution from the Board of Bishops that credentialed leaders were invited to affirm. The resolution needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Early on Nov. 19, the results of the returned ballots from active credentialed leaders of Lancaster Mennonite Conference were counted regarding LMC’s denominational affiliation.  The results returned with 82.3 percent of participating leaders affirming the proposal and 17.7 percent not affirming. Approximately 80 percent of eligible credentialed leaders participated in the vote.

This vote means the ratification of the Bishop Board resolution to withdraw LMC’s affiliation with Mennonite Church USA. LMC will now enter a two-year implementation period of withdrawal.

In a Nov. 19 statement, LMC said, “[This] announcement will likely be received in very different ways by leaders and congregations of Lancaster Mennonite Conference and across the denomination. Leaders were encouraged to interact with others in loving and respectful ways and to pray for the Lord’s leading in the life of LMC in the days ahead.”

On July 23, Weaver sent a letter to leaders in LMC informing them of the a proposal suggesting withdrawal from Mennonite Church USA. Since then, more than 1,800 people attended LMC listening meetings to offer information and gather feedback about the proposal. Seven hundred and twenty-six attendees filled out response sheets afterward. An Affiliation Task Force helped collect responses, which the Bishop Board used to guide their work. On Oct. 23, the Bishop Board affirmed the proposal.

In an interview with Mennonite World Review, LMC Executive Conference Minister Keith Weaver noted there were a number of reasons for questioning affiliation with Mennonite Church USA, including greater acceptance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer individuals in hiring policies and leadership roles.

Lancaster Mennonite Conference joined Mennonite Church USA in 2004. With 13,838 members in 163 congregations, LMC is Mennonite Church USA’s largest conference.

https://themennonite.org/daily-news/lancaster-mennonite-conference-leaders-vote-to-leave-mcusa/

Romans 16:17-18 (NIV)

All the churches of Christ send greetings.

17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

Revenge – pt 4 in Guns and Church

Revenge and Vengeance

We are taught not to commit revenge.  Personal vengeance is illegal.  We are required to allow the proper authorities to bring justice.  If we strike out in revenge to kill someone accused of killing a loved one, we will likely be punished for murder ourselves.

But happens when a country is attacked?  If a people group/country kills citizens of another country, retribution is expected.  Quick, harsh and deliberate punishment is expected.  The latest reaction comes from France for the attacks on Paris.

Does retaliation bring peace?  Does it bring justice?  Is a government retaliating violence any different than an individual seeking revenge and vengeance?

What would have happened if the USA hadn’t invaded Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks?  Would we have experienced more peace or less?  Were our actions simply vengeance or were they righteous actions to protect our country from further attacks?

Are we killing enemies before they kill (as we attempted in Iraq) or are we killing out of revenge and vengeance?  If we are seeking vengeance, who is in authority to judge it?  Is government vengeance righteous or evil?  Is it helpful or hurtful?  Does it lead to peace or more violence?

Are we as Christians more at peace by defending ourselves and protecting others or are we more at peace by allowing God to be our defender?  Are we at peace when we live in fear?  Is fear motivating us to defend ourselves?  Can we stand and worship in God’s peace while preparing to protect ourselves with violence?

Romans 12:19

19 Don’t take revenge, dear friends. Instead, let God’s anger take care of it. After all, Scripture says, “I alone have the right to take revenge. I will pay back, says the Lord.”

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