Friday, October 11, 2013

An Oreo Slave

I love Oreos.

The Double Stuf Oreos.

I love the original ones, but I also love the mint-filled ones.  This summer I found some with berry flavored filling which was also good. . . I mean, you can't go wrong.

Every time I buy Oreos, they own me.

I bring them home.  I open the package. . . they've made it even easier to open.  I have one or two. . . hands full.  I feel slightly satisfied, and I proceed to put them away and think about the next time I'll be able to have another one . . . or two!

I know they will own me when I buy them.  There's a little thing in the back of my brain running the whole time I own a package of Oreos.  That little thing has one function: to focus all it's energy on Oreos.  The net result is that I eat the entire package in a very short time.

Since I know this about myself, and I tend to be somewhat systematic, I have devised a rule to protect me from my Oreo slavery.  I buy Double Stuf Oreos in little sleeves.  They come in sleeves of about a half dozen Oreos.  Maybe more like eight to a package.  This way, I can eat all of the Oreos in the sleeve in one sitting without hurting myself!  This is better than having to eat a whole family pack of Oreos, eight at a time, over the course of one day!

Mrs O and I were talking the other day about church and Oreos.  Churches are full of little rules like my rule about buying Oreos in sleeves instead of family packs.  The trouble is, these rules are only methods of keeping on track with bigger purposes.  I mean, my bigger purpose is avoiding a stomach ache, an extra five pounds. . . nothing wrong with eating Oreos.  Nothing Holy about eight Oreos to a sitting as opposed to twelve. . . or six.

If I see someone in the grocery store buying a family pack of Oreos, I cannot assume they will have the same struggle I do.  It is not necessarily the same for them.  The other person may have no trouble rationing his Oreos.  Perhaps, he has avoided buying bacon, or cheese for similar reasons.  Perhaps food is not a problem at all.

I have to remember the main goal.  Avoiding stomach aches and an extra five pounds. . . there is more than one method to achieve this goal.  Even more important than five pounds would be a generally healthy lifestyle.  If I put my Oreo sleeve rule ahead of the greater goal of a healthy lifestyle, the unfortunate possibility is an unhealthy lifestyle due to some other vice, and a lack of enjoyment of life for the lack of Oreos!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hijacking The Good News

Mrs O and I were talking about the church the other day.  I mean, The Church as a whole, not any particular congregation.  We were talking about how we really have a bad PR problem.  People don't think of christians as rescuers, they think of us as oppressors.  They don't see our love for each other, they see our rules for each other.

What happened?

Are we the victims of the rumor mill?

Have lots of people been badly misinformed?

Well, I don't think so.  I think, in a lot of cases, our reputation is well deserved.  I think history is repeating itself.

Galations 4:29 begins: "But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law. . ."

You know, when I read a story from the Bible, I always put myself in the position of one of the characters in the story.  I assume to be one of those personalities and to have the task of acting like they did, or perhaps, as they should have acted.

Funny thing: I never put myself in the position of the Pharisees.  I never assume I am acting like one of them.  When I look at myself honestly, though, sometimes I do act like one of them.  Sometimes, I look at today's church and wonder if we are really growing christians, or if we are actually growing Pharisees.

My analysis of the Pharisees concludes they were well-meaning, diligent, self-disciplined folk.  Trouble is, they forgot who gave them their laws.  God is the one who provided the law, but God came before the law.  God had a plan and purposes before the law ever came to be.

God's purposes are higher than the law.

What are God's purposes?  Well, the Bible says his purpose is to love.  Feed the hungry.  Clothe the naked.  Defend the orphan and widow.  The list goes on.

The law just gives me a picture of what holiness would look like, if holiness were humanly possible.  But, strict adherence to the law without consideration of God's higher purposes, however, will result in failure.  Every.  Time.

Worse yet, is strict adherence to what I call guardrails.  These are rules contrived by me or others in my family or church culture.  Rules designed to keep me from violating the law.  Going to church every Sunday, for example, is one of these guardrails.  It's a good policy.  It is supposed to encourage me to stay on the right road--toward God's purpose.

Sometimes, church feels like it gets in the way, though.  It feels like I become beholden to the good rule of going to church more so than simply following God's law of keeping one day per week set apart for Him.  Going to church starts to feel like the law, and I forget all about the direction church is supposed to be taking me.  I feel as though I need to be in church every time the doors open.  Sunday morning, Sunday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night. . . no time left over for serving.

"Can't love you today, got to get to church and learn about how I am supposed to love you."


The Good News is better than that.  Now, if I took Sunday and spent all day serving the poor. . . would this be a fine way to keep one day per week set apart for God?  Would this not be the most perfect form of a worship service?

The punch line is simply this: the church is failing if it is not encouraging people to find Jesus and serve Him by loving people in practical ways.  If church gets to the point of preempting, precluding or preventing people from fulfilling God's purposes and demonstrating love, it has become worse than ineffective.  It has become evil.

Isaiah 1:10-15