Monday, February 24, 2020
Parable of Planned Parenthood
“Counting time in the womb which I always do because God does,” he’d say when asked his age, “I’m…”
He believed in the sanctity of all human life from womb to tomb; even beginning worship with a nod to divinely planned parenthood: “Before you were born, God knew you. Then God made you. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. God loves you so much. So He enfleshed in Jesus to save you. Now God wants you to be His. Let us worship God!”
She didn’t make an appointment to see him.
Waiting in the parking lot for him on Monday morning, he could see from the look on her face through the car window that she was angry as he pulled in.
Bolting out of her car as he barely got out of his, she blurted, “I need to see you right now!”
Whenever someone tells a pastor that they need to see them, especially first thing on Monday morning, it usually means they might have to update their vita at worst or endure a tongue-lashing at best.
“I really hated yesterday’s sermon,” she started as soon as she sat down in his study.
Trained for such moments, he responded, “You really hated yesterday’s sermon.”
She fired away: “You spoke against abortion. You said it’s a sin. You said it’s murder. You said there are really, really, really rare instances when it’s the right thing to do; but then you started your usual horse___ about it being really, really, really rare instances when it’s O.K. and an exception to the rule and how exceptions to the rules are called exceptions to the rules because they occur so infrequently that they’re exceptions to the rules. You are so full of…and I’m so tired of hearing you say Jesus is pro-life and Christians are pro-life and quoting Scripture and Mother Teresa and…”
He didn’t interrupt her.
Continuing to vent, her voice began to crack, tears welled in her eyes, and she seemed to be transferring a deep pain more than anger to him.
She started sobbing and stopped talking suddenly.
He said, “I am sorry if I have offended you; but I sense this is very personal to you.”
“___ yeah, excuse my language,” she said with an unmistakable brokenness.
Her sobbing became uncontrollable.
Trusting his instincts were inspired not indigested, he asked, “I may be wrong, and please forgive me if I am wrong, but have you had an abortion?”
“Yes,” she screamed, “and your predecessor said it was the right thing to do to save my marriage because my husband wasn’t the father. Then I was counseled at the clinic that it was the right thing to do because I wasn’t emotionally ready for another child; especially that way. But you make me feel so guilty for doing what they said was the right thing to do.”
“But,” he risked, “no one can make us feel anything without our consent. I’m wondering, and please tell me if I am wrong, if you’ve ever really agreed with them that it was the right thing to do.”
The flood of tears and groans from the deepest recesses of her being increased voluminously.
She cried, “What difference does it make now? My baby’s dead! I can’t bring my baby back! I’ve got to live with this for the rest of my life! You’ve just ripped the scab off my soul! I’ve been trying to get over it! I can’t! You’ve just made it worse! I hate you!”
“I think you hate what you’ve done,” he said while quickly adding before losing her, “and, still, I have some good news for you. God loves you and your baby and please give me a few moments to tell you about it.”
Looking up and directly into his eyes with a thirst for absolution, she almost begged, “Please!”
“First,” he said with convincing certainty, “God created your baby’s soul and your baby’s soul always belongs to God and is with God right now. By grace through faith in Jesus, your soul will be with your baby’s soul when we’re together in heaven.”
She exhaled loudly with relief.
“I also want you know,” he offered, “God will forgive what you did because God loves you so much. He came in Jesus because we make lots of mistakes – small and big – and we need someone to save us from the damning consequences of those mistakes.”
So desperate to feel forgiven, she leaned forward; feasting on every gospel note.
“Just like your baby will be with God forever in heaven, you will join your baby and everyone else as long as you trust your baby into His care, trust yourself into His care, and admit your mistake rather than make excuses for it.”
Then they spent some time in 1 John 1.
Her tears and groans were transformed from anger, fear, guilt and sorrow to an experience of forgiveness generating refreshed calm in detachment from past sin along with an anticipation of eternally reconciled reunion with God’s whole family.
Life is sacred by God’s design.
Life comes from God.
Life returns to God.
Father God’s love for life is limitless.
Paul: “God is for us. God is on our side. No one can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Blessings and Love!
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Parable of Money
Money has no value until we attach ours to it.
It’s not what we have that counts; but who we are that compels what we do with what we have.
Jesus said, “What you say and do betray who I am to you. If you really love Me, you will pay attention to Me and then say and do what I have said and done. Loving Me is loving like Me with grace, mercy, and forgiveness. How you treat others, everyone being a part of My family, is really how you are treating Me. When you care for the hungry, homeless, imprisoned, alienated, needy, deprived, underprivileged, poor and persecuted, you are caring for Me. What you do and don’t do for others, you do and don’t do for Me.”
Graphically, Francis explained how we’re loving Jesus by loving others when asked why he cared for lepers and offered holy kisses to them: “When I kiss a leper, I’m kissing Jesus.”
John was Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Belvidere, New Jersey near the Delaware Water Gap.
Along Route 46 near the church was Hot Dog Johnny’s.
It was a popular fast food restaurant.
Johnny was a member of the church.
Whenever Johnny and John got together, Johnny would recite the Ten Commandments and then say, “Pastor, I have never broken one of them.”
Aside from most pastors agreeing with the last person that they’ve talked to like bad sentences ending in prepositions for job security, Johnny gave a lot of money to the church and, well, you know how that goes.
Anyway, same routine whenever they got together.
One day – it must have been a bad day for the pastor like too many days when parishioners transfer their pathologies to pastors because they know their pastors have bills to pay and can’t afford to be too righteously offensive/defensive – after Johnny’s recitation and claim, John blurted, “O.K., Johnny. I know you know the Ten Commandments and you always tell me how you’ve never broken any of them. But how about this? Jesus said to give away what we don’t need. You’re a very wealthy man. What do you think about that?”
Johnny answered, “Jesus could not have meant that.”
Jesus could not have meant loving by concrete caring for less advantaged people is the same thing as loving Him.
Jesus could not have meant churches that store treasures in endowments while people within spitting distance of their pews and pulpits are starving and needing help now are no heaven good.
Jesus could not have meant God likes the rainbow of His family’s diversity infinitely more than exclusively black, brown, red, white, and yellow churches and that churches of one color, class, and culture resemble cultic tribes more than what He had in mind for His existential body called the Church.
Jesus could not have meant sex is best within the bounds of marriage between a woman and a man.
Jesus could not have meant all life is sacred from womb to tomb.
Jesus could not have meant…
Obviously, Jesus could not have meant the red quotes in the Bible; because most churches have watered them down or rationalized them away from their lives and ministries.
Getting back to John who tried to help Johnny with what Jesus meant, he cautioned seminarians that he mentored, “For God’s sake, don’t let academics ruin you. I will pray every day that you don’t separate yourself from God and His people by degrees.”
Yes, Forrest, it happens.
Money, like everything else in our lives, has no value until we attach ours to it.
Values esteem God or sculpt gods.
Blessings and Love!
Friday, February 7, 2020
Parable of the Divorce Recovery Group
The apostle said new Christians are often puffed-up, conceited, and full of themselves; thinking no one knows Jesus like they know Jesus.
Ever been to one of those what’s-happening-now churches filled with millennials?
Enthusiasm exceeding education.
That’s why so many young pastors fresh out of seminary get into so much trouble.
They act like they know it all.
It ends, of course, when confronted inevitably by saints that have been reading the Bible and running churches for decades before the puppies were weaned.
Anyway, young pastors feel especially regarded, respected, and rewarded for their 7+ years of college and seminary when everybody around town, it seems, wants to hear from them.
Don’t shatter the delusions of your young pastor thirsting for professional affirmation and personal affection by betraying the truth that civic, social, and church groups just need to fill their calendars with the pool only so deep.
So feeling more important than the reality behind the invitation, he addressed the local divorce recovery group.
He began with a review of marriage theology.
Young pastors like to feel significant.
They want to make a difference.
That’s why he decided to move from the obvious to the obvious:
“You’re here tonight because you’re divorced. You failed in marriage. So I’m going to take you deeper into why you’re divorced and how you can avoid divorce if you ever get married again.”
But that’s what DRGs want to know.
He hooked ‘em.
He started with a review of Willard F. Harley, Jr.’s classic how-to on keeping romance in marriage with a title that initiated immediate squirms: His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage.
Unsettling yet compelling because most of ‘em had cheated on their spouses or been cheated on by their spouses and it ended in divorce.
He had ‘em.
He outlined the needs that must be met to keep marriages, uh, humming.
A woman’s basic needs in marriage are affection, conversation, honesty and openness, financial support, and family commitment.
A man’s basic needs in marriage are sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, domestic support, and admiration.
Nods accompanied by nervous laughter punctuated by giggles.
Movin’ from teachin’ and preachin’ to meddlin’, he crossed the river of “a nice talk by the nice young pastor” when he said to dropping jaws and stiffening spines, “Your spouse’s needs will be met with or without you. If your wife/husband ain’t gettin’ it at home, they’re gonna get it from someone someplace else.”
He turned up the heat: “A normal person has emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and sexual needs. A healthy marriage satisfies those needs. Let me be more specific. The Bible says a husband should not deny his wife and a wife should not deny her husband. If you’re denying your spouse, you are setting the stage for them to commit adultery; and if you cause them to commit adultrery, you are committing adultery at the same time by your omissions that caused their commissions.”
Politeness prohibited the exodus predicted by Colonel Jessup.
So he finished: “If you’re in a marriage of sexual dysfunction that proves you’re in a marriage of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual deprivation, pray God will change your spouse or change you or protect you when you’re prowling. Get on your knees and beg God not to lead you into temptation. That’s why He told you to pray that way. He knew you needed romance in your marriage; and if you’re not getting it in your marriage, you’ll need His help to keep you within the bounds of it.”
Yes, he was finished.
Never invited back.
Some civic, social, and church groups are not that hard up for speakers; preferring to be anesthetized than healed.
Truth isn’t always the path to popularity.
You can get nailed for telling the truth.
Jesus comes to mind.
Blessings and Love!
Saturday, February 1, 2020
Parable of Presence
…in big box stores, votes, banks, casinos, trenches, paint, bordello, board room, bedroom, locker room, fumas, farms, condos, condoms, cc’s, on the plate, at the job, in the womb, for pallbearers, under the hood, Montana, and…
Bigger is better…according to those that don’t know any, uh, better.
So he went to a big seminary with a big reputation for training big pastors for big churches.
“Somebody’s gotta minister to the rich,” he was reassured.
He was told he was part of a big legacy of the brightest and best for the biggest matters.
Quickly, he rose past not-really-peers from smaller seminaries with smaller reputations for training smaller pastors for smaller churches; for he knew, as was drilled into his bigger head, bigger pastors from the bigger seminary for the bigger, brightest, and best never went to smaller churches and paychecks.
Quickly, he hopped across those smaller steeping-stones to become among less than a handful of the youngest bigger pastors at some of the biggest churches in his formerly big franchise.
He was bigger; but he didn’t feel any better than when he was smaller.
He had climbed to the top of the ecclesiastical ladder of success only to discover he was leaning against the wrong building.
He fell off the ladder.
Years of thinking size matters made it hard for him to be smaller.
So he wanted to be bigger again.
He started climbing back up the ladder.
Then something happened.
It had been happening after America’s churches were at their biggest between WWII and the 60s; but now it was happening faster.
Attendances, finances, and memberships got smaller and smaller and smaller and…
Even the really, really, really big churches in big franchises of all the best flavors that could survive on dead people’s money were getting smaller and smaller and smaller and…
He was sad because he always thought size matters and bigger is better.
What was he to think about churches getting smaller and smaller and smaller and…?
He knew Jesus just isn’t what He used to be in America anymore.
He knew baptismal promises were right down there with marriage vows.
Except for the mirror’s reflection, he knew people that didn’t know any better wanted to blame anyone else including him for their churches getting smaller and smaller and smaller and…
He knew lots of things because he had been a big pastor that had gone to a big seminary with a big reputation for training the brightest and best to be big pastors of big churches.
Still, it’s hard to be smaller when you were bigger.
He became so sad.
“Maybe it’s me,” he prayed through tears to God, “and maybe it’s time for me to go away and back to You.”
“No,” said God, “it’s not time for you to go away…but it is time for you to come back to Me.”
He didn’t understand what God meant because he’d always thought he had a big relationship with God as a big pastor in big churches with big attendances, memberships, and bank accounts.
A revolutionary revelation came during a prayer meeting.
It was a small meeting of 12 in the big sanctuary of the church that could hold over 300.
He felt so small.
He was no longer a big pastor of a big church and he didn’t feel that he mattered anymore.
Just as he was about to end the meeting, the small assembly felt God’s biggest pleasure by His overwhelming presence and remembered Jesus’ promise: “Whenever and wherever just two or three believers come together to worship or pray or be together in My name, I will come and be with them and they will bathe in My presence.”
Suddenly, they didn’t feel small.
They didn’t feel big.
They felt calm, content, strong, sane, happy, and, most important, significantly special to God by His presence with them.
After the benediction, a woman said to the pastor, “Jesus said He would be present if two or three are gathered in His name. I got it! It’s not about how many or how much. It’s about Him! Who needs a lot of people when Jesus is there! That’s not so bad just having Jesus around! I’d rather be just with Jesus than in a stadium of thousands without Him!”
Just having Jesus around.
The pastor smiled.
He didn’t feel small anymore or the need to be bigger.
He felt special.
Really, really, really loved.
It always happens when God is present.
Sometimes we forget it is the Spirit in and around us not our size that matters most here and now and in the end.
Blessings and Love!