Monday, 13 November 2017

A Hard Word: Does Your Ear Have An Itch?

"And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray." (Jesus; Mt. 24:11; ESV)

I saw this cartoon online recently and the first thing I thought was, "There is probably more truth than fiction here." Obviously we cannot and should not paint everyone with the same brush, yet it seems to me that when I look at much of the "Christian" (or maybe "pseudo-Christian" is a better word) world today, many seem to have traded in "what God has said" for "what you would rather hear." At the very least, there seems to be a growing tendency among some to recreating God in their own image and after their own twisted and hermeneutically-flawed interpretations of the Bible.

Maybe it's always been that way and we're just noticing it more and more now in this online digital age, where everyone can publicly share their own brand of heresies and two-cents worth for all the world to read and get more confused by. It's gotten to the point where I find myself needing to unplug from social media more and more, and return to curling up with my Bible or another good book, just to clear my head from some of the garbage and pseudo-Christian teachings out there. Again, I am not painting all with the same brush; there is lots of good solid and sound doctrine out there too. However some of the stuff out there, disguised as Christian, I'm sure must make the early Christian church turn in their graves!

And yet it really shouldn't surprise us. Paul said to Timothy, "For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, and will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions." (2 Timothy 4: 3-4; Amplified)

Remember someone else who once asked, "Did God actually say …?" (Genesis 3:1). It seems to me that he asks it still and unfortunately many, even in the church, are listening. 😢

Maybe it's just me, but when I look around me at some of the things the church now accepts as normal, things clearly contrary to "what God has said," not just in Old Testament law but also in the New Testament, it all looks like a whole new religion. What do we do with that? It worries me to think of how many people, despite all their good intentions and sincere beliefs, may one day hear an "I never knew you" from Jesus. It's a hard and troubling word, and yet it is there in our beloved Gospels. Again, what do we do with that?

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way
is easy that leads to destruction." (Jesus; Mt. 7:13; ESV)
Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name? And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands]." (Matthew 7: 21-23; Amplified). Yes, that's a hard word.

Does your ear have an itch? Be careful who you let scratch it.

Something to think about. Peace.

Cartoon Sources: Unknown

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Habit Overcomes Habit

"Habit overcomes habit."
(Thomas 'a Kempis)

This week marked another first for me. No, it wasn't something off the proverbial bucket list like going to the infamous Sturgis biker rally was for me a few years ago. But it was a first nonetheless, in that it I had never experienced anything quite like it before, and most likely something that I may never experience in my lifetime again.

What am I talking about? I am talking about sharing a lunch table with a coworker and friend, as well as four elderly nuns clad in their traditional habits. My only regret is that I didn't think to get a picture until it was too late.

Working for a Catholic-based healthcare organization as I do, though I am not Catholic myself, I have met several nuns (sisters), all of whom, like nurses, have shed their traditional habits/uniforms and begun dressing like everyone else. That's really unfortunate, in my humble opinion. I fear they may have thrown out the proverbial baby with the bath water. I'd long to see nurses once again uniformed in their traditional whites and caps, and I'd love to see nuns in their traditional habits, but I've digressed from what I've intended to say here.

So when four nuns who used to manage one of the healthcare facilities that I now work at were invited to visit their old facility, and came dressed in their traditional habits, I simply had to sit down with them over a meal. As I reflected on this afterwards, a couple things struck me as interesting:
  1. It's perfectly all right to not agree with everyone on matters of the faith. These sisters and I are clearly not on the same page when it comes to understanding our faith walks.
  2. There is nothing like sharing a meal together to at least semi-erase those lines of division and soften the tensions between brothers and sisters of different faith backgrounds.
  3. Jesus ate even with sinners and prostitutes; can we not at least eat with those who call on the same Lord and God, albeit with a little different understanding than ours?
  4. Maybe we are to be pitied more than all men if we think that we, in our little traditions and denominations, have a clearer understanding of the things of God than those in other traditions and denominations. At the very least, do not such attitudes border on arrogance on our part? Hmm, I wonder. 
  5. It seemed clearer than ever throughout the meal that they too were children of our Heavenly Father, and if He has accepted them just as they are, dare I do otherwise?
  6. Maybe that is why Jesus is so often depicted in the Bible at a table, even with a Judas. There were no Judas' at this table, though I personally have walked a less than exemplary Christian walk myself a time or ten. I suppose therein is the lesson: "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10). Thankfully that's where grace comes in.
  7. Judgment, if it is to happen, is not our responsibility; loving others, including those who think differently than us, is our responsibility. If we are to be judged, perhaps it will first and foremost be on how well we did (or didn't) love one another, and perhaps especially those who think differently than us. Let's leave it to God to sort out the rest of the puzzle.
I was reminded of the time when we pastored an institutional church years ago. Before going to church, my wife almost always put a pot roast or some other dish in the oven on a timer. Then, if we saw a new comer in the church, we always invited them home with us for a meal. Regardless of where they came from, or whether or not they shared our faith views, they went home at the end of the day feeling like someone cared and that they made new friends. And all of this was before we even had a chance to discern exactly where they stood in the faith.

Yes, there is something about sharing a meal that breaks down walls of mistrust and misunderstanding, and helps us to see others through the eyes of Jesus. The habit-clad nuns I met that day, and had the privilege of sharing lunch with, turned out to be beautiful and wonderful people. My prayer is that God may bless and keep them.

What an awesome day! What an honour to share the table with those beautiful saints! If anyone walked away blessed that day, I'm pretty sure that it was me. Something to think about.

Peace & Blessings, my friends.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons