Archives For love

Pig in hat

A recent study revealed that about 78% of Americans consider themselves Christians. Mixed in with that number, in order, are Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox (both Greek and Russian) and then a line item that comes in at .3% that’s just called “other.” I wonder who those people are?

I know you probably know this, but not everyone who cries out “Lord, Lord” is actually a Christian. Where I live, there’s a little Baptist church pretty much on every corner, except for the corners with a CVS or a QT. But thinking about it, we can get pretty religious about our pharmaceutical and convenience store needs.

Think about it like this – why is the world so screwed up if all those people are actually followers of Jesus Christ? The best, easiest answer is, it wouldn’t be if they actually were.

I remember in high school, people who were in the running for Homecoming King would always have their bio read during a school-wide assembly, “Yes, he’s the greatest and he knows it! He loves the foosball, hang gliding, galivanting with all his foosball friends, and he’s a member of the [local Christian denomination left unnamed to protect the innocent].” Then all of us who were members of that church would look at each other, and say, “I’ve never once seen him there, how about you?”

I’m thinking back to something I read in Mark the other day. Jesus was beboppin’ around, hitting town after town, doing his thing – a few miracles, some sermons, he fed a few folks, told some stories, and then one day, around dinner time, some of the local preachers and church staffers came up to him and questioned him real good about his heathen, sinful ways.

You see, Jews believed you had to wash yourself in a particular way before eating, or you would be ceremonial unclean.

And now for three short vignettes:

When I was a kid, if you came to church with shorts on, you’d be shown the door. Didn’t matter if you were lost as a goose and had never been and the Holy Spirit himself drove you to the front door and said go in. Shorts were not allowed. Not at church, not at the church office, not at church camp, not on a church trip of any kind. KNEES WERE SINFUL DID YOU NOT KNOW THIS??

A few years back, I was a youth pastor. I met a great guy at a school event, invited him to come to church, and he showed up with a hat on. On a Wednesday night. In the youth building. I had so many people complain about that hat! I thought at first they were kidding, but no, they were dead serious and quoted me scripture that said people can’t wear hats to church. I asked one guy to go study I Corinthians 11, then instructed him to make sure his wife shaved her head before leading prayer before the Wednesday night church supper next time.

In another church we had a youth band. Kids were coming in from everywhere, getting saved, getting fired up, bringing friends, leading bible studies at school – and the catalyst for all that was the band. Sure as heck wasn’t a middle aged bald headed youth guy. Well, there was some praying, too. Anyway – a church member told me if I didn’t “unplug those evil drums and guitars” he would unplug them and they would stay unplugged forever. I think he meant to go all Keith Moon on them.

Anyway.

How many of you were told by your parents as a child, and to this day tell your children, to wash up before dinner? It’s all about the hygene, right? They could have some unknown sand box pathogen and end up on an episode of House.

How many of you are Jewish? Well, they’re the ones that started that. What we call hygene, Jesus called something else. In Mark 7 the religious leaders asked Jesus why he didn’t wash up before eating. He flat out called them hypocrites. Look it up. Wow, right? Way less than tactful, Jesus.

Thing is, he wasn’t there to placate the pastor of some crappy little church. He wasn’t there to uphold the traditional, or to make the religious people happy. He didn’t come to bring peace – he came with a sword. He came to cut his people free.

How can you know someone is who they say they are? Well, a doctor wears a white lab coat, a leopard has spots. Birds fly and bees be. Generally.

“Well, Christians read the bible and pray a lot, and go to church a lot. Sometimes they don’t eat for whatever reason, and some of them when they pray it’s not real words coming out of their mouth. And they have a bunch of bibles.”

No.

There’s only one way to tell a Christian. Jesus said in John 13:34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

When we can get over ourselves, get past our traditions, give up our hurts and our past, when we can actually love like Christ loved – sacrificially, unflinchingly, unapologetically, wholeheartedly, unconditionally, and without regard for personal safety – then everyone will know! There will be no doubt who and who’s we are.

How do you love? Like a regular person? With strings attached? You can love like that, but don’t call yourself a Christian if you do.

How I Got Here

June 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

Of all the things I have learned, the most important is that I am blessed – beyond reason. Looking back, especially over the last few years, I have been so ungrateful – for my family, my home, my health, my friends – and the list could go on.

Something happened to me along the way, not just one thing, but several somethings. In the midst of my blessedness, I experienced life. Just like happens to you and everyone else, life happened to me.

When I was 16, I made a huge life decision, and I pursued that decision. When other people didn’t understand, even when it seemed I would never get there, I never lost sight of that decision. I knew that God had gifted me and called me into full time vocational ministry, and even with all the youthful missteps and detours I took along the way, I saw a clear path into that calling.

I took a few wrong turns, but eventually ended up right where I set out to be.  And it was nothing like I thought it would be. It really kinda sucked to be honest. I loved and excelled at certain facets of it, others I disliked so much that I didn’t even do them. Which speaks to my immaturity at the time, and ultimately it speaks to why I’m not working in a church right now.

I used my gifts to cover my weaknesses, and while I am very strong in certain areas, I didn’t even try to develop skills in my weak areas, and I never accepted help from others in those areas either. Since then I’ve learned so much -

I never thought that administrative duties were much fun, so I didn’t do anything like that. I spent my time reading, studying, meeting with people, teaching, preaching, but all the work that was required of me that undergirds all that – I just flat out refused to do it. People even asked me all the time what they could do to help – “Nothing” I would say. Now my job is administrative, and believe it or not, I see the importance in it and how vital it is that those things be done with excellence.

Another thing I refused to do is build bridges. About 95% of the people I meet, I find common ground, and it’s easy to build a relationship. If it wasn’t easy, I didn’t do it. Some people are hard to get along with, hard to build a relationship with, and what I’ve found is, often times these people are the most important ones, the ones that will stand with you no matter what. Another important lesson learned, and I learned it outside the church.

I also learned about who my source is. My source cannot be me. I’m not strong enough, not smart enough, not *anything* enough. I am not sufficient. I thought I was though – I was young, bulletproof, nothing could hurt me, nothing could stick. Until it all fell apart, I thought I was doing just fine on my own. I forgot that the one who called me and gifted me would also be the one to sustain me regardless of what came my way. I won’t forget that most important lesson again.

Where I am now – the place I ended up – is the exact place I learned all this – kicking and screaming the whole way. Not two days ago my boss was bragging on me, and she reminded me of who I was when I first started – lacking in so many skills, immature, whiny – and she reminded me of how much grace she showed me those first two years. She said she saw something there and thought I was worth it. I cried then and I’m crying now. Grace.

Grace is the one thing I have in abundance that I deserve the least. The most important blessing there is. I am so blessed! Beyond reason. But God’s love for us doesn’t have anything to do with logic and it certainly isn’t based on what we truly deserve. We’d all be in deep trouble if grace was based on anything but the fact that God is love. God is love!

God is love and God never changes – I say this a lot because I am convinced it is true -nothing you do or don’t do can cause God to love you any less. He IS LOVE. And what he wants for you is to become the person he paid for, the person he bought with blood, the person he dreamed of, the person he redeemed you to be. His goal for you is for you to live like you will when you are in heaven, here on earth.

There’s a lot involved in that. It’s a process. You’ll be there one day, the next you’ll be 1000 miles away. You’ll walk through deserts, you’ll stand on mountain tops, you’ll be lifted high and you’ll be crushed. That’s the life part.

No matter where you are, know this one most important thing: God is love, God loves you, his grace is sufficient regardless. How did I get here? I lived life on my own, it sucked, I learned to trust God. He is everything, and he is all I will ever need.


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(Adjust volume, hit the play button)

Do you remember a time when you were not the cool kid? Maybe you were and you fell from glory, or maybe you never were. The world is not all math geeks or super jocks – there’s a lot more to it than all that.

I grew up in a small town right in the middle of Oklahoma. We had to drive 30 minutes to the nearest movie theater, and it really wasn’t a good one. The mall kinda sucked too. One thing we did though – we all cruised Air Depot. Every Friday and Saturday night, thousands of cars driving up and down the same 3 mile stretch from about 8 pm – midnight. Hard core cruisers stayed way later. I’ve know people who were there from dusk til dawn. There was also 12th street in Moore, OK – that was pretty far away, but when they shut down Air Depot, that’s where we all went.

It didn’t matter who you were - band geek, chess geek, computer club, cheerleader, jock, hot chick or weirdo. You could at least cruise AD. There was excitement, fighting, true love, gun shots, cops, fast cars – just like in the movies. It was a microcosm of all of life. Those were some of the best days I’ve ever had!

I know many of you reading this had similar experiences growing up, and I hope you have as many great memories as I do. I love to look back and remember those times, but we can’t stay there. Life is a process, and we all have to grow into it. I hate that though, and I fought it tooth and nail. I wish I hadn’t, because I missed some other stuff along the way that I’m just now figuring out. But God is faithful, and he is redeeming all of my past mistakes.

No matter how big and bright, or how dark and aweful our past is, it’s gone! It’s true that who we are now is built upon that foundation, but that doesn’t have to be all there is. What I’ve discovered is, there is a source – of life, of light, of joy – that can make all your past worthwhile. Even those hard or terrible things, even those things you can’t even talk about.

What I’ve learned is, that in the midst of learning to love and trust God, all those things – good and bad – that I thought defined me and shaped me were just things. Like a light bulb or a piece of string. Just a thing. And if I focused on my relationship with God, it became him who defined me, not those things. My past became less of a hindrance, or less of a thing that I relied upon for strength instead of God.

My past is where it belongs – in the past. And I have a rich history. I was a goofball, I was moody, I jumped off things, into things and through things. I played pranks, I got into LOTS of trouble, most people liked me, some did not one tiny bit and probably still don’t. In spite of all that, and in spite of even the things that I can’t write here for fear of repercussions even 30 years later, I am a child of God, and everything – all those things – work together for good, because I love God!

Who or what do you love? Who or what do you look to when you seek to define who you are? If it’s your past, who you were in high school, if its your family, your accomplishments, the car you drive – you’re missing out on everything good. Only God can define a life! Only God can redeem a past – even a great past where everything went according to plan. Give it all to him and trust him with it. He can be trusted! And when you do – he will work it all out way better than you ever could.

Religions people are some of the most difficult people I know. I’m not talking about people who actually love Jesus, whose life is all about pursuing him – I’m talking about your standard every-day-run-of-the-mill church people. If you’ve been a guest at a church and been offended by someone who (not very politely) let you know you were sitting in their seat, you might know who I am talking about.

The thing is, we all have great potential to be just that - churchy, religious, overbaked, self-righteous. Maybe not overbaked, maybe undercooked. I don’t know. Either not quite done or way too done or maybe a little bit of both.

Hypocrisy really burns me up. I know who I am, I know my exact faults, I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I’m very honest about the fact that I am rough around the edges. Way less so than a 20 years ago, this time last year, or even a week ago. I’m in progress. The work is not done yet. The Holy Spirit is still working it out in my life, and I am letting him. I even went to a co-worker today and told him I was sorry for being a jerk. 15 years ago I would have beaten him and then laughed about it. I wish I was kidding.

I have never tried to make people feel bad for messing up. One time I went to a party (many moons ago) and got a little polluted. The next day I was confronted by some kids from church and they really laid it on thick, how Jesus was so ashamed, and how God was crying, how I needed to repent (For the record, I’m not a drinker these days, but I had the potential to be the fat dude in the corner that could outdo everyone when I was a kid). These same kids were sexually active, disobedient to their parents, disprespectful, and you already knew this but very judgemental.

It’s a conundrum, wrapped in an oxymoron, wrapped in a holier than thou. Wrapped in a tortilla. A corn one. I can’t wrap my mind around it to be honest. Every church where I’ve been on staff we had people like this. Every church I’ve been a member of has had people like this. I wonder if I’m like that sometimes and to keep from it I examine myself daily because to be blunt it makes me really mad. I think this type of behavior is disagreable to God too. How he actually feels I don’t know but that part of me that is him really doesn’t like seeing it.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech with contradictory terms – business ethics, rap music, true story, deficit spending. A churchy Christian is a living oxymoron. AKA a hypocrite.

It’s a distressing and difficult question - a conundrum. You probably hear it often enough how we are not supposed to judge people (Jesus said it in Matt 7). This little snippet of scripture is used to justify everything that anybody wants to do that they know is wrong but want to do anyway. If people would bother to read the whole passage, they would notice Jesus is talking to hypocrites to start with. The point is, a hypocrite has no basis of judgement because their lives are all out of whack – their standard of judgement is self, and when they stand in judgement over others they are in fact judging themselves guilty. See what he did there?

All those self-righteous people have already condemned themselves and they are probably not smart enough to understand it.

So how can we be true to the Word, stand for Truth, and not come across as a judgy, self-righteous prat? The thing is, Jesus was not telling us not to judge, he was telling us how to judge – not in hypocrisy, and not out of hate, but out of love, in humility, not superiority.

Galatians 6:1 says this – “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” The qualifications for judging another person are, you should be spiritual – seeking Christ daily – you should be seeking to restore the person gently, not dragging them through the mud and definitely not holding their sins against them or thinking you are better than them. And you had darned well better not have sin in your life.

If you are honest in your pursuit to restore a person, then God will be with you in it. If not, judge not, or you will be judged with the same standard that you are judging. It’s a fine line, and we are called to walk it, but we must walk it carefully, prayerfully, and with the Holy Spirit as a guide.

 

How many times in your life have you been wrong about something?  And did you like it?  I mean did you like it when you found out you were wrong?

If you did like it, congratulations on being first.  Because here’s the thing – we all have a point of view, and we think we are right, and we can defend our point of view until there are no words left – and it won’t matter to whoever we are arguing with if their views are different because they also can defend their veiws until they are blue in the face.

But what if you are wrong?  Who do you learn you are wrong from?  Not the person or group with an opposing viewpoint - you would never listen to them.  Where do we get understanding and knowledge from, and how do we trust that it is true?

Well, here’s my story – I’ve been wrong.  I’ve been told I was wrong and I didn’t believe it.  I had my arguments in place, I defended my little tower, I threw stones and took a few hits and my mind still was not changed.  I’m not talking about anything in particular here, even if you think I am – just in general.  My mind is made up, I’m right, you’re wrong.

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