Tag Archives: The Great Commandment

Termites in our Churches

Do our churches have “church termites”?   Are you one of them?   Termites eat away the structure of a house from within.   Not until the structure is almost a shell does their work begin to show.   “Church termites” are very similar.   Alert!  Alert!   Their work is beginning to show!    Many of our churches are just shells of what they once were.   They have gone from being vibrant, sturdy, and involved  structures meeting the needs of their congregations, community and world, to just shells of what they once were.

What happened?  Of course to answer that question completely  would require a book, but I want to focus on a very subtle thing that has caused much of the destruction of the church—-the existence of “church termites“.  The question is:   What is a “church termite”.   You may not have to look any further than your own mirror to see one!

Just look for a “comfortable Christian” and you’ve found one!   Most churches are full of them. Here are a few ideas of what to look for to find them:

Look for a church that does not challenge its congregation to its mission of practicing the Great Commandment-–in fact that has lost memory of what it’s real mission is about. ( See Matthew 22:36-39 for the great commandment in case your memory is poor in this area).   Carrying out the Great Commandment is not a comfortable thing to do.   The challenge of “loving your neighbor as yourself”  is not a comfortable challenge.   It is a formidable challenge.

Look for a church members who don’t have time to do Bible Studies because they must do other things they consider more important—-almost anything is more important!  The church usually has lowest priority  among the demands for their time and talent and money instead of highest priority.  Termites at work!

Look for church budgets passed by termites that spend most of the money given to the church upon their congregations and very little  on community outreach, social justice for the homeless, or carrying out their mission of proclaiming the good news Jesus proclaimed.      These budgets  prefer making sure everyone of their congregation is sitting in comfortable pews in air conditioned comfort once a week to going into the community in the name of Jesus every day and showing by their life the Way of Jesus.   They prefer improvements to their buildings.   They spend thousands in maintenance and upkeep of their building   and pennies, in comparison, for Week of Compassion,  community outreach,  the poor, the homeless, the outcasts.   More termites at work!

Look for churches who have no children’s Christian  education program because everyone is too busy with other things to teach children about Jesus.   All those people who are too busy are seeking their own comfort, not following Jesus as a disciple, and  are among the termites chewing away on their church.

Jesus did not call his disciples to a life of comfort sitting in a padded pew with air conditioning  and listening to beautiful music.   He called his disciples to serve, telling them that “the greatest among you will be the servant of all.”  .   He called them to follow him into the world of his day.   To heal.   To help.  To proclaim God’s love for all of his creation and his children.   Jesus did not tell them that to be his disciple they had to make sure they were comfortable.   He said that “if you  would be my disciple, you must take up your cross daily  and follow me.”   Carrying a cross is not comfortable.   Following Jesus is not comfortable as he went a lot of places we would prefer not to go.   Most of the members of our congregations would take this challenge by saying—-well, if that’s what you want—count me out!   They are “church termites”.

This attitude of seeking “my comfort” is destroying our churches.   More and more we see the effect of this attitude as our church buildings remain intact and solid but the congregations dwindle and eventually die within their comfortable buildings as the membership thinks only of their comfort and not their mission as a church.   For the church is not a building—it is a living, breathing body of people who seek to become disciples and followers of Jesus, the Christ.   If that is not their purpose then they have no purpose.

Where are your priorities?    Are you a “comfortable Christian”?     Or are you one of the termites that is destroying the church from within?

 

 

 

Fear Can Kill Us

 

 

 

Present day Americans are full of fear.   We fear other people who are not “like us”.  We fear other religions.   We fear poverty and we fear street people (homeless).   We fear people of other races and nationalities.  We fear unemployment.  We fear retirement and running out of money before we die.   If we are black, we fear policemen.  If we are policemen, we fear blacks.  We fear flying due to terrorist attacks.  We fear mass shootings in shopping malls and we fear for our children with mass shootings at schools.   So what do we do?—we buy guns to protect ourselves from other people who are not like us.   We install expensive security systems in our homes, our schools, our airports and municipal buildings.  So—now we are in fear of the guns being carried by everyone because we know that few really know how or when to use them!!  And so the circle of fear goes on and on, around and around, in an unending cycle of violence and fear and violence and fear and people continue to die because of our fears.   OUR FEARS ARE KILLING US!!

Isn’t there another way to live our lives?  A better way?  Yes!   Jesus pointed to it a couple of thousand years ago,   The Apostle Paul explained it in I Corinthians 13:1-13.   But it seems that we Christians have missed the point that both were making for most of the time the last two thousand years.

The point they were making is:  The way of love is the way to end fear, not more weapons.   Jesus said it when he explained that the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  Paul explained it in his “love chapter” of First Corinthians as a “better way” he would show them, concluding with the words:  “Faith, Hope, and Love remain—but the greatest of these is Love.”

After years of fear, and of killing other individuals out of fear in our own country and killing others around the world because of our fear of them, isn’t it time to try another way?—-a better way?—the way of love? instead of the way of hatred and fear and the resulting violence?

Take the Iraq War, for example:  We have spent, as a nation, according to a study by Brown University in 2013, about 2 trillion dollars on this war.   Add the benefits to veterans over a lifetime and the amount goes up more trillions of dollars.   This was a war started out of fear—a fear that turned out to be unfounded, that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and preparing to use them on the United States and the world.   The weapons were never found after extensive searching, but the U.S. made a preemptive first strike and then it was too late.   So, fear ran its course and thousands upon thousands of human lives were extinguished on both sides because of that fear.   And 2+ trillions of dollars were spent because of that fear.   We chose to act out of fear and have reaped what benefits?   We have reaped more fear and more hatred from those whose families we have killed and destroyed.   We have reaped more suffering and death of our soldiers who were killed or maimed and whose lives and the lives of their families were changed forever by their time in Iraq.   And now we see the rise of ISIS that operates by generating fear and hatred of all but their own brand of Islamic extremists—-and the fear of ISIS is threatening to start the cycle all over again.  And the cycle of fear goes on and on, and on, and on, and on….

Love is the only way to break the cycle of violence we are caught in.  Consider this thought   If we had taken the 2 trillion dollars spent on the Iraq war and spent it for humanitarians purposes in the Middle East in poverty stricken nations, in our own nation in helping the poor and homeless and providing jobs that paid well—-if we had used the money to lift up people rather than killing them, to help them find ways to produce food for their families, to provide hospitals and adequate medical care for themselves and their children, to help them improve technologically,  what would the difference be?    If we had spent the money for humanitarian things like decent water wells, the Heifer Project, the Peace Corps and had used it to buy houses for our homeless and provide jobs for the unemployed in this country and other countries—-what difference would it have made?   In other words—-if we had uused that 2 trillion dollars to show love and care for human beings created in God’s image—instead of shooting them down in fear and hatred or ignoring the poor in our own country–have we any idea what difference that might have made in the present state of the world?   Will we ever know?   Not until we have tried it.

The gun creates fear and hatred.  Love creates trust and compassion.  That is true on the individual level and it is true on the national and international level.  Perhaps it is time to end the politics of fear and try the politics of love at all levels—but the best place to begin is in our own lives, in our own cities and towns in our own country.   Who knows?  It might spread to our states, our country and the world from those simple beginnings?!!   The change begins with you and me!

Your Values….Really???

I believe most of us would agree, after giving it some thought, that our values are reflected in our actions.   That is, our behavior demonstrates what we value and what are our priorities much better than what we say.

If this is true, then why do we so often fail to see the contradictions between what people say and what they do and  also fail to see the contradictions in our own lives?  Several examples….There are a large number of voters in Kansas who say that they will base their vote this election on the fact that the candidate is “Pro-Life”.    This group says their chief value is “life”, in this case “the life of the unborn child.”     That’s their choice and I might state that, except in special cases such as incest and rape I agree .    However, if they are “Pro-Life” I see a huge contradiction between that value and their actions,  because once the baby is born these same people are the same ones who lead in the  defunding of early childhood education,  withholding medical care from thousands of children in Kansas by not extending the federal Medicaid program,   cutting funds for classrooms,  paying below poverty wages to working parents—–all of this leads me to think they are not “Pro-Life” but they are “Pro-myself  making money”.   Their true value is “money” not “lives of children”.    Their actions demonstrate their real value.   Once the child is born they lose all interest in children’s welfare as they grow into adulthood.    That costs money!

Another example:    Most of us would agree that one of our values is honesty.   We appreciate it in others.   We practice it ourselves.   We see it as the basis of a society that works.    Now,  answer truthfully—-if you are in a checkout line and you give the clerk a twenty dollar bill and get change for a fifty dollar bill, what do you do?    Do you pocket the money and smile about the windfall?   Or do you tell the clerk about the mistake and get the correct change?    What you do determines whether you value honesty or money the most!    Same is true on Income Taxes—-do we ever “forget” to report some things, or “inflate” an expense that would be difficult to verify?     The difference in value here  again is honesty or money?    Which is it for you?  Which for me?

This same principle holds true for us in the practice of our Christian faith.    Do we agree that a Christian’s values should be attached to the Great Commandment of Jesus that says “You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength;  and your neighbor as yourself?”    Love God—–love your neighbor as you love yourself.    But do our actions show  our love for God and our neighbor?     Do our actions  from day to day demonstrate that?    In what way?  Name a few of those actions?   If we’re having trouble doing that, then we need to  ask ourselves this question   How many of our actions show that our love for ourselves trumps our love of neighbor?    How many of our actions show our love of ourselves trumps our love for God?   

If people are to be attracted to become followers of “the Way” of Jesus the Christ they will be attracted by the actions of Christians “walking that Way” in their daily lives  and not by the words of those calling themselves Christians who tell   them of their beliefs.

Someone has said:   “What you do is what you believe.   Everything else is just religious talk”.     

Governor Sam, the Values Man

The ads on TV are continuous now as election time nears.   Governor Sam Brownback’s favorite, it appears,  is one where a group of people are gathered around him on lawn chairs in the back yard..   The men  are all wearing their best blue jeans and brand new cowboy straw hats and the women don’t look like they’ve ever set foot on a farm.  Sam is telling them that he grew up on a farm in eastern Kansas and that his parents still operate it and from time to time he visits—but his dad still won’t let him operate a combine or plant (much laughter here).    But—he continues—the important things he learned from his parents in growing up on that family farm are his values and his character…..

I think perhaps, Sam, you need to go home more often and ask for a refresher course in these two areas of values and character..   Obviously you either weren’t listening, are a slow learner, or are forgetful.   You just don’t seem to be operating on any values except “winning at all costs” and “maintaining your power at all costs.    I hope when you take that refresher course that you will ask Mom and Pop Brownback to emphasize some of the Biblical values especially.   For example:

The value of not bearing false witness against your neighbor—also known as truthfulness and honesty.    Look at the half-truths and the outright lies in your political ads about the state of the Kansas economy as well as your political mudslinging toward your opponent.

The value of compassion for the vulnerable, the poor, the sick and children..  This compassion was what Jesus, whom you profess to follow, demonstrated time after time during his ministry.   I see it in very few of your actions as governor the last four years.   You have refused to extend Medicaid coverage for a large number of Kansans who can’t afford health insurance but don’t now qualify for Medicaid, including lots of children.  Should they not  have health coverage?   No, you said in spite of overwhelming recommendations by Kansas doctors and hospitals that you do so.   Why?  Because that might cause problems with your political supporters who hate Obamacare for some reason and will stop backing you if you do so?     I don’t find any compassion at all here.   Even Republican governors in other states have expanded Medicaid out of concern for the poor in their state who did not have medical coverage.   You made  cuts in social programs and education in Kansas  so that the rich can get even richer through the abolition of the state income tax on “small business.” The resulting downturn of income for the state has caused and will cause further cuts in the programs for the poor and the sick and the mentally challenged, and for schools.    Where is your compassion?  —-how unlike the compassion that Jesus portrayed this all is!!

Are winning at all costs, even by shading the truth, and the character assassination of your political adversaries  the values that you learned at your parents’ knee?   I hope not.

How does misrepresenting the true facts of what is happening in Kansas  and saying “The sun is shining on Kansas and don’t let anyone tell you different” represent your values that you learned at your parents knee? Independent analysts, economic experts, all warn that Kansas is in trouble financially even if we do not spend more because of the tax cuts and resultant decreasing income for the state.  Two very reputable credit agencies downgraded Kansas’ credit rating this year because their economists warned of the financial trouble.   Does this sound like sunshine?   Are you being honest with Kansas about the sunshine or are you only saying it to get re-elected. Do you value honesty or a power?   When the two are in conflict, power seems to win.

How does making the rich more rich through your policies and the  laws you have signed, then blaming the poor for being poor because they won’t work fit into your value system?  How are the poor to find jobs if they are living on the street?   The jobs that are available are mostly ones that do not pay a living wage—-often below the minimum wage.   How are they to lift themselves out of poverty.   What did Jesus ever do that advocated blaming the poor for being poor? 

How about attacking the character of your opponent in the election and lying about his motives?    Where did you learn that particular value?    Even the ancient Greeks had a name for this— Argumentum ad Hominem”—and it described a spurious argument that attacks the person when you are not able to attack the person’s ideas.

Winning at any costs, the end justifies the means, is not a value that Jesus taught or practiced.    In fact Jesus said “the last shall be first and the first shall be last“.   He also said:   “he who is the master shall be the servant of all.”  Greed and power never were a part of the values that Jesus taught.  These two values ((greed and power) seem to dominate your value system and the actions that spring from it.  

Character is the result of our values.   And our values need to be weighed against the moral standard of the Great Commandment:   “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength—-and love your neighbor as you love yourself.   How do your values measure up to this Great Commandment, Sam?    I’m sure you love God and that you love yourself, it’s the love of neighbor that gives me a problem.    I think your neighbor is not considered to be the robbed and beaten and dying man on the side of the road who the Good Samaritan gave aid to.  That’s how Jesus defined who our neighbors were   I think your neighbors are  limited to your political allies and those who contribute vast sums of money to your political campaigns.  Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t believe most of your words!

Come on, Sam—-you really need that refresher course!!