Monthly Archives: October 2016

What Should I Wear to Church?

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Help! I don’t know what to wear to Church. Ever said those words? I have, and I’ve heard them plenty of times. Why the hang up with clothes? I ask that sincerely and not trying to be sarcastic. Why are we so dysfunctional when it comes to what we’re going to wear to Church? That’s been on my mind lately. Probably a little more than it should.

There’s two answers to that question, although there might be others I haven’t thought of. First, we worry about how we look all the time! We worry about how we look too much of the time. We are constantly worrying about how we look. We idolize looks! It would be only natural then for us to act on Sunday morning the same way we act on Monday morning, Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning, etc., etc. Is that too harsh? Is my paint brush a little too wide? Maybe. But not by much if it is.

Here’s the second reason, as far as I can tell. We’ve been trained and programmed to “dress up” for Church. Every society has cultural norms. And one of our norms is that we get dressed up for weddings, funerals and to go to Church. But why? That’s the question I’m most curious in. Here’s a more specific question. If everything we do when it comes to our faith is supposed to come from the Bible then where does it talk about what we wear to worship? Well, it doesn’t actually – at all, ever. What’s more, there’s really no substantial examples in the extra-Biblical literature dealing with it either. So if it’s not in the Bible, should we (the Church) be upholding cultural norms? Hmm . . . yes and no.

Let me go ahead and let my cat out of the bag. This issue has become a sticking point for me. I am biased on this one. And as much as I try to stay objective, I’m not. I am strongly biased and slanted . . . towards the Bible. So that having been said, here’s a few thoughts on this issue (and it is an issue, at least in some churches). Because God never came down on one side or the other then I have no right to either. In life I always try to stay on God’s side – even when He doesn’t pick one. And since He said nothing about it, then I won’t either. That means that I don’t have the right to tell someone else how to dress, period. Of course there’s a common-sense caveat. This is assuming we’re not talking about sin (modesty, being a blatant temptation for others, etc).

Now let me switch sides and talk out of the other side of my mouth. As a preacher, I realize that there are culturally norms out there. And one of those cultural norms is that we dress up for Church – especially the preacher. If it were up to me, I would wear sandals, jeans and an un-tucked button-down shirt with sleeves rolled up. Why, because that’s what I wear every day. It’s what makes me comfortable.  But the catch is, it’s not up to me. It’s up to my Brothers and Sisters who I love more than my personal freedoms. It’s up to the non-Christian that I have never met who might step into a Church building for the time in years.

When I became a follower of Christ, I chose to become a slave to Christ. I also chose to die to myself so that I can truly live for Him. So when it comes to issues like this (issues that don’t matter to HIM), I can’t afford to forget that I am still His slave, called to do His work and help as many of His children find their way home. See this whole thing is a matter of spiritual maturity. (Put your big boy pants on for a moment). Anyone who demands that someone should or should not wear particular clothing is adjudicating their own personal opinions and preferences and as a result are demonstrating a lack of spiritual maturity. Likewise, anyone who says, “I can wear whatever I want” is also demonstrating a lack of spiritual maturity. In both instances, the person is demonstrating that they are slaves to themselves by seeking after their own interests – instead of the interests of the one who they claim to be a servant of. So, I suppose that also makes both people a hypocrite.

While in the middle of his argument on principles of conscience, Paul writes this:

For not one of us lives for himself, and not one of us dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God . . . Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this – not to put an obstacle or stumbling block in a brother’s way.              – Romans 14:7-10, 13

So here’s my bottom line on all this. I’m going to wear a tie and usually a jacket when I preach. Not because I like to or want to. But because there’s a chance that it might bother someone if I don’t. And I am committed to never knowingly taking a chance on being a stumbling block to a brother in Christ. Likewise, if someone chooses to wear jeans and a t-shirt to worship, I’m going to shake their hand, give them a hug and thank God that they made the decision to be there with me to worship of God together.

More of Him and less of me will take me to where I want to be.

Which Side Should I Choose?

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I often find myself thinking about and consequently writing about topics that have frequently been divisive and a source of arguments and contention for Christians. In many cases I have lived on both sides of many of these issues. When I was younger, I leaned toward “conservative” principles just for the sake of being “conservative.” I was taught by well-intentioned men that being conservative meant being right and being liberal meant being wrong.

As I’ve gotten older, my thoughts on that have changed. I haven’t “flipped” over to the “other side.” It’s just a matter of changing the bullseye that I was aiming for. I think I was just aiming for the wrong one. Now, I just try to be Biblical. That’s the bullseye I’m trying to hit now. If that turns out to be “conservative” – then great. If it turns out to be “liberal,” well that’s fine as well.

I recently heard a man boast from the pulpit that he was proud of being conservative. I wonder why? That’s a man-made term with man-made inferences. God never said to be conservative, or liberal. He just said to be Godly. To be Holy. To be Christ-like. For some reason we have twisted that somewhat and added our own 2 cents into it. It’s those 2 cents that we argue about and divide ourselves over.

I was recently thinking about the meanings and definitions of these two terms. I think it’s kind of funny the way all this plays out. I could be wrong, but the way I understand it is that the term conservative came from people trying to conserve the original text and practice of the Bible. And on the flip-side, the term liberal came from the idea that people took liberties with the text with the Bible and made it’s net wider than it actually was. That makes sense. And in that way, (in my opinion) being a conservative is right and liberal is wrong. But you know what’s ironic about that, based off that definition some of the more conservative brothers and sisters I know are the most liberal.

Here’s what I mean. I know Christians who will insist on a dress code for worship. Yet the Bible says nothing about what we wear. Others will condemn their Christian family for not meeting on Sunday nights in a building. Yet the Bible says nothing about meeting for a second time on Sunday night. Others get dogmatic about which translation to use, yet it’s absolutely perfectly clear Jesus and Paul used both versions of the OT that were available to them. (I’d love to explain this if you don’t know what I’m talking about here).

Isn’t this taking liberties with the Bible by adding our 2 cents in when God never asked for our loose change? It’s kind of funny that the people who would proudly boast of their conservatism are actually undercover liberals. As for me, I’ll let others decide what label I should wear. I’m just going to focus on hitting God’s bullseye.

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The Shame of Sin

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Where’s the shame of sin? It seems like it keeps becoming harder and harder to find. Know what I mean? How often do you see people involve themselves in sin, in behavior that alienates them from God, and not so much as wink at it? Paul really warned against this when he wrote his letter to the Church in Ephesus. Notice what he said in chapter four.

17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

It can be real discouraging to see this so frequently, especially with younger Christians. And it really seems noticeable in settings like Facebook. I can’t remember how often I see kids use bad language or take God’s name in vain (0n FB) – just as a common part of their language. It makes me wonder where the shame is? These are kids who have been taught to honor God and know that type of behavior is wrong. So why is it so easy? Well, Paul gave us the answer. When our hearts become hardened against God we lose our sense of shame.

So what’s the answer to this? Well, sin is never an easy problem. But us Moms and Dads have got to become more involved in the lives of our kids. Each of those same kids who constantly use bad language on Facebook have parents that are frequently on Facebook. Do they see what their kids are doing and not respond? It certainly appears that way. Perhaps the parents are struggling with hardened hearts as well. Let’s be on the look out for each other; and not afraid of holding each other accountable when soul’s are in danger. Would you rather take a chance on hurting someones’ feelings or take a chance on Satan gaining control of their life? You choose.

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Vision and Church: Is it Important?

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I have often heard the saying that “if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”  Vision is 110% , must have, crucial for any organization. It’s not that you’ll fail without it – you just won’t succeed because you won’t have a target that you’re aiming for! All successful companies understand this idea extremely well. For example, look at Target and Wal-Mart. Both companies are in the same industry. Both companies appear to be competitors, but neither internally considers the other as a competitor. Why? Because they have a specific vision that they are trying to attain. The leaders of each company understand exactly what they want to look like. That’s their vision and there is 110% clarity. They don’t want to look the same. Look at the customers who shop in each of those stores. They don’t look the same, and that’s not an accident. Those companies know what they want to do and they excel at doing it.

Now what about your Church? What’s your vision? What are you aiming for? What do you want to look like? Have your leaders ever talked about it publicly? If you’re a leader do you know what you’re aiming for? If so, have you told the people who are doing the aiming and shooting? It would be good for them to know, don’t you think? These are great questions that, for too many Churches and Church leaders, have not been asked.

Here’s what happens when a Church doesn’t have a vision – when a Church doesn’t know what it’s aiming for. First, it becomes a self-serving group of people. In other words, it becomes a group of people who maintain the aquarium instead of fish for men. Why? Because as humans our natural tendency is to look inward instead of outward. If we’re not pointed in a specific direction then we’ll simply choose our own; and it will be inward. Second, a Church without a vision is one that goes through the motions and gets buried into deep spiritual ruts that are terribly difficult to get out of. Without a vision, organizations simply look to maintain the status quo. On the other hand, there is one huge plus for a Church that has a vision (other than knowing what you’re aiming for). It’s simply this, the people are motivated and energized. When you walk into the building or are around the people there’s an energy and excitement that wouldn’t otherwise exist. When the Church leaders actively and proactively communicate with clarity the group’s vision then people get excited; and excitement is contagious!

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