Tag Archives: Faith

“It’s No Secret: I Love the Church!”

I love the church! Not just (just?!) the church universal, that marvelous, amazing, and miraculous Body of Christ composed of all of God’s children, everyone who ever has or ever will wear Christ’s name, all the sons and daughters of God. Oh, I love “that” church, too.

But I also love the smaller local expressions of that Body, the little bands of disciples—all of them small indeed, whatever their size, compared to the grand Body from which they spring—working in thousands of thousands of places to share Christ’s love. I love the church.

Oh, I know, loving the church is not always fashionable. Many of my generation who were sentenced to too much time in the 60s and 70s decided that all “institutions” are suspect. Many others of later generations—different views and different areas of blindness—have decided that the church is not “relevant.” Not enough of a social service agency? Not (lock)step enough with the latest opinion polls? Oh, I do recognize some of the truth in the charge, but, still, I’m trying to understand how worshiping the One who gives us each breath could ever be anything other than intensely relevant to folks who enjoy breathing.

Some, also like me, grew up in “separatist” traditions or groups who tended to talk more about “the church”—meaning their little walled-off franchise of it—than they did about the Lord of the church. That sad mistake makes it easy to lose respect for the church as seen in the little all-too-human local expressions of Christ’s Body.

Yes, I know, when bad things happen in the church, the ugliness is even worse precisely because we know how beautiful the church can and should be. When a church gets caught up in power struggles disguised as pious piffle, dividing and walling itself off from the rest of the Body over molehills masquerading as mountains, prancing around like the old naked emperor parading “issues” that most sensible folks (in the church or outside it) recognize as no clothes at all, it looks really bad. It’s like a hairy wart on the nose of Miss America, or (and I could really cry a tear over this one) a cow patty dropped on top of a luscious cheesecake.

But, in spite of very real flaws, I still love the church. I’ve seen her beauty. I’ve felt her warmth and been embraced by her love, and the very best blessings of my life have been gifts from the Lord given through her hands.

I love the church, and I love the little church I’m a part of, and I hope you love “yours.” We’re family, you see. Over the years in this little group, I’ve seen walking through our doors and worshiping in our pews folks as diverse and deeply loved as a Cornell-educated F-16 pilot and his sweet law-student wife, a child just born weighing in at less than 4 lbs, a frail (though gigantic in the faith) little widow well into her 90s struggling to church every Sunday on a walker while so many younger and healthier folks slept in unaware that the blessing she claimed while they slumbered was worth more than gold.

I love the church! Vertically and horizontally, all because of a cross, she and her King have my heart.

 

 

   You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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“You Must Read and Understand These Instructions”

I’m considering buying a new weed-eater. It’s an extravagant thought. The old one, older than five of my grandkids, is still working fine but taking longer on first start. My patience is wearing thin, but my memory is still good. I remember when I bought that machine.

It was also an extravagant purchase. Its predecessor was sputtering along just fine in two-cycle engine form, but a couple of my sons had just moved into a different house and needed weed-whacking equipment. In a gesture of paternal magnanimity, I donated the old weed-destroyer to the cause. I didn’t tell them that it will likely out-value anything else left in the estate for them when I’ve departed. But they seemed appreciative.

I ceremonially handed over the old weed-eater and straightway departed (in a less final sense) to procure a new one. The shopping trip was like all of my shopping trips. I wasted gas going to four stores to save money and ended up back at the first store and lined up to pay twice as much as I thought the item would cost.

When I got my shiny new weed-whacker home, I was tempted to fire it up just to check out the brand new thimble-sized engine, but it was midnight. I’d given my (mixed) gas can away, too, and couldn’t buy a new one to get the petrol cocktail mixed up (shaken, not stirred) until Monday. So I parked the new machine on the living room floor for the weekend and actually started reading the instructions.

Once I’d trimmed the two manuals down to the King’s English only, I was left with eighty-four pages of weed-eater literature. Only twenty-six pages counted as “instructions.” The lion’s share was the “safety manual.” It was evidently a vicious machine.

Of course, there was very little plot to the two-volume novel. Most of the pages were covered with lawyer droppings. Safety booklets will soon come, no doubt, attached to every nail you buy at your local hardware store. Restaurants will be including safety manuals with toothpicks, and toothpick manufacturers will be paying hefty fines since they knowingly sold their wares and conned us, poor victims that we are, into thinking toothpicks were safe.

But I read and learned . . .

The muffler would be hot. Good.

The State of California (which, safety labels assure us, can always be counted on to know so much more than other states) was concerned that my sucking in weed-eater exhaust could cause birth defects. (I’m relieved to report that my grandchildren are fine.)

The thing could amputate my fingers. I figured I’d have to be uncommonly determined to be fingerless, but I supposed it could happen.

It seemed that it would also be a bad idea to run it indoors, to use it to shorten power lines, or to operate it when drunk.

And so on.

I’m not sure I finished reading, partly because reading these manuals, I was warned, was not enough. I needed to “read and understand” all of the warnings. I doubted that I’d ever be able to honestly check off that last part.

I can only imagine the size of the manuals that must come with today’s weed-eaters. I see no evidence that common sense is on the upswing. And we have more lawyers.

The Maker of this world was kind enough to include a manual that we really should read and, yes, do our best to understand. He wrote it not to keep Heaven out of court, but to keep us out of trouble. But the main reason he wrote it was to point us not to the law but to the Savior.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


When God Walks with Us in the Fiery Furnace

One of the finest of many great gifts my mother gave me when I was just a little guy was reading to me. Most of all, she read me Bible stories.

Since I wasn’t a declared English major in my youngest days (that came later), and since Mom was smart, she didn’t, when I was little, read the stories straight from the King James or any other Bible version; she read them from a couple of really good Bible story books. I suspect that she also edited and embellished a bit as she went, at least in places where she found the story books a bit inaccurate or lacking.

The best thing about the story books (I still have them) was that they had great pictures. I still have those, too. They’re tattooed into my brain and, unlike most tattoos, won’t go out of style, leaving you with the equivalent of having your high school senior pic, coolness date long since expired, grafted onto your saggy bicep.

One of my favorite stories was from Daniel 3. It was the story of “Three Men in a Furnace.” Pictured in the illustration is quite a mighty fire, and pictured in the fire are four fellows, not three. The text of both the Bible and the story book agreed with the picture. (Read Daniel 3.)

We called them the “three Hebrew children.” I don’t know why. Children they were not. They were some of most impressive of the Israelites taken captive by the Babylonians. These three—renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (I liked the names)—were from Judah and had been specifically trained for service in the king’s court.

I’m not sure how the three felt about their lot, but it could have been worse. Well, right up until the time when it got a lot worse.

King Nebuchadnezzar, suddenly afflicted by the kind of modern-as-tomorrow fit of megalomania that you’ve probably noticed powerful world leaders still regularly fall prey to, ordered a 90-foot-tall, gold-plated idol to be built. When he struck up the band, all of his people were to bow, nose down in the dirt, or else be tossed into a furnace of fire.

You really should read the story. I’m abbreviating ruthlessly as I just tell you that our three men of faith didn’t need more than the one God, would not worship the idol, and, after they courteously and consistently defied the king’s order, were thrown into a turbo-charged fire where they were joined by a strikingly glorious fourth figure. They came away unharmed, un-toasted, and highly respected. And ol’ King Neb learned an important lesson from the highest King.

Oh, I loved that story of great faith in action and of God’s salvation and power. I still do. The outcome is utterly amazing.

But I think that now the most striking part of the story to me is not the obvious miracle but is found in what those three heroes actually said to the king as they affirmed their faith. The “God we serve is able to save us,” they said, but “even if he does not, we will not serve your gods.”

Even. If. He. Does. Not.

God may give me exactly the answer to my prayer that I want. He may amaze and astound me. But you tell me which takes greater faith: to see the fourth figure present in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3 or to trust that he is walking with you through the fiery trial you face right now “even if” the show-stopping miracle you want seems not to be in God’s present plan?

I submit that God’s presence in both is very real.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Trouble Comes with This World, But Drama Is Optional

NoDrama

Some people live life with their sirens running. They are either creating wrecks, running Code 3 toward emergencies, or chasing ambulances to be sure to have a front row seat to view the carnage. Right in your living room. If you allow it.

My question is, why would you? Offhand, can you think of any way that a siren wailing in your home or church or business can be conducive to peace, good sense, and harmony?

What I’m talking about, of course, is “drama.”

By virtue (more accurately, by the lack of virtue) of the sin-sick human condition and this fallen world, we will all at times face pain, suffering, trouble, and even tragedy. And, oh, yes, swimming in what is often a sea of selfishness means that we regularly paddle into relational challenges that would be difficult even if we were wise enough never to slop around in them like pigs in mud.

But there’s the key. Sorrows, troubles, difficulties—they come to us all. Jesus said it clearly: “In this world you will have trouble . . .” (John 16:33). But he went on to say, “Don’t be such sick fools that you relish wallowing in it.”

Well, that’s not exactly what he said. What he actually went on to say is, “But be of good cheer! I have overcome the world.” Don’t you agree that being “of good cheer” implies making a choice that rules out romping around in our troubles? Getting our jollies from splashing in the mud as we pull others in to join us?

Trouble is bad enough without drama, and embracing drama as we deal with difficulty is—we might as well admit it—a choice that tempts us all on some level. When we introduce drama, the spotlight’s focus shifts, for at least a while, to us. The more drama we create, the longer we own the stage.

It’s one thing to have to pass on bad news; it’s another to relish being the first to report it. It’s one thing to have to deal with difficulty; it’s another to egg it on, throw fuel on the fire, inject more poison with sharp tongues.

Face it. Some people stoke drama because they’re Satan-inspired to create chaos and destroy harmony. Others just get used to living in drama and become adrenalin junkies never completely happy without a crisis. They become perpetual victims or voyeurs of other victims. To be sure, some of the pain, sickness, difficulty, they deal with is real. But their reaction is over the top and drama is their dysfunctional constant, their abnormal normal, sucking everyone in their path into its vortex.

Our choice? To jump into the drama with them and blow into the whirlwind, or to set wise and real boundaries, distancing ourselves from the drama and those who would suck us into it. If we choose to embrace it, exacerbate it, marry it, tolerate it, or otherwise allow ourselves to be infected by it, our predictable misery will not still the storm.

Whoever said this spoke truth: “Drama does not just walk into our lives. Either we create it, invite it, or associate with it.”

Don’t do it! This loud world has sirens enough.

 

        You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


A Rule That Will Bless Us: No Whining Allowed

[Note: One of the sweetest and best ladies I’ve ever known, Vernell Cotten Nance, my mother-in-law, just passed away. Maybe this is a good time to reprise this column from August 2012.]

My mother-in-law has just moved from her apartment down and around the corner from our house, where she moved around five years ago, to assisted living in a community about 75 miles away.

I don’t like it much. I know—we’ve all heard the jokes about mothers-in-law. And, yes, I’m afraid we’ve all seen some who deserved both to be the brunt of jokes and to be drop-kicked a blessed distance away.

But by far most of the mothers-in-law that I’ve known actually do the job quite well and are a major blessing. And I’m convinced that mine is the best of all. Vernell simply amazes me, and from the first moment over 37 years ago when it began to look like I might become her son-in-law, I knew for sure I was getting the better end of the bargain.

I would describe her first as Christlike, and that means loving and unselfish and grateful and winsome and . . . all sorts of good things. I could talk for a very long time about all the good things she is.

But one thing keeps occurring to me, and it centers on what she is not and never has been. She has never been a whiner. (I wish I was more like her!)

Dr. Charles Siburt, a truly amazing Christian man, professor, minister mentor, church fuss mediator, etc., passed away recently, and a friend of mine remembered him saying this: “There is no way to modulate the human voice so as to make whining an acceptable sound.”

My mother-in-law would have liked him. Vernell is one of the most patient and forgiving people I have ever known, but my wife, truly her daughter in this respect as well, will tell you that her mother has never had much patience for whining or whiners. Juana remembers, for example, coming home from school as a child and starting to fuss about a situation, another student, or a teacher.

“Now, Juana . . .” her mother would say, and then give a lesson on “Why We Don’t Whine, Why Whining Is Obnoxious, and Why You Are Never Allowed to Become a Whiner.” She didn’t actually give the sermon a title, but that’s what the lesson was. For most of the rest of my wife’s childhood, two words were all her mother had to say to silence completely any whiny utterance: “Now, Juana . . .”

The gift Vernell gave her daughter has been passed on. My sons and I know quite well that if we feel like whining, we’d better look elsewhere than to the wife and mom who loves us too much to let us get in the habit of emitting whiny sounds.

Vernell has buried two fine husbands, and she genuinely grieved, but I’ll always remember what she said: “I don’t like this, but if I were the only one this had ever happened to, I might have a reason to complain.” Wow.

She will be happy in her new home. You can count on it. She plans to be.

It’s okay for us to be sad that she won’t be as close by. Healthy tears are allowed. Just not whining.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


God’s Grace Is Amazing, But It Is Not “Easy”

God’s grace is wonderful. But if we think grace is easy, we need to think some more.

One of Jesus’ most famous stories was told in response to a religious lawyer’s question: “Teacher, who is my neighbor?”

The question was blatantly self-serving. Luke prefaces the lawyer’s question: “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked . . .”

The greatest temptation we all face is to try to “justify” ourselves rather than accepting by faith the justification that comes only through grace. We understand the question’s tone all too well.

“And who is my neighbor?” (10:29).

Let’s make a law about this so I can be very sure I’ve done what is required and no more. After all, love is costly business, and I’d hate to waste a lot of time loving someone with no claim on my love. Let’s clear this up so I can check this off the “to do” list, present the completed list to God, and expect to be paid a wage for services rendered.

We’re all expert in religious accounting. It’s easier to count than to worship. Trusting ourselves rather than trusting God is humanity’s default mode. And it’s easy to find a religious group that is more of a “religious” accounting firm focusing on our effort to keep the law rather than being the worshiping Body of Christ focusing on blood-bought salvation we in no way earn.

Ah, but that “all-about-me” question hangs in the air: “Who is my neighbor?”

Remember the story? A foolish traveler, a Jew, is waylaid by robbers, beaten senseless, and crumpled by the side of the road. In turn two religious men, a priest and a Levite, see him and walk on by, willfully blind to his need. But a Samaritan, a man whose race and religion all Jews, including this lawyer, would despise, stops, helps the man, and even pays for his lodging and care.

Then Jesus asks his own question: Who was a neighbor to the man in need? And the lawyer stammers, “The one who had mercy on him.” “Go,” Jesus says, “and do likewise,” indicating that the lawyer will never run out of neighbors and never be able to check this item off his religious “to do” list.

Salvation by law, by rule-keeping, which is no salvation at all, says, “How little can I do and be saved?” Salvation by grace through faith says, “How may I joyfully honor the God who has already saved me?”

So here are a few religiously legal questions for us, though you could add a thousand more: How often must I go to church? How much of my money do I have to give? How much can I play with sin in action or attitude? When can I say I’ve completed all the “right” rituals, worshiped enough and just “right”? When can I look down on others of God’s children who are not as “right”? How many miles away from my own front door does my responsibility to show God’s love extend?

If you think these are law questions and not grace questions, not the kinds of questions God wants us to waste time asking, I think you’re right. A legal approach to religion is not only cold, shallow, and barren, it is far too easy.

Grace? Now that’s another thing entirely!

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


Nearest the Axle, the Spokes of a Wheel Are Nearest to Each Other

My favorite columnist, Charles Krauthammer, passed away in June. When I (very often) miss his wit, wisdom, common sense, and uncommon command of the English language, I pull out his book Things That Matter, a compilation of some of his best columns.

One of those was written in 1999 shortly after Time magazine had named Albert Einstein as the “Person of the Century.” An “interesting and solid choice,” Krauthammer wrote, albeit a wrong one. “The only possible answer,” he continued, “is Winston Churchill.” Why? “Indispensability.” “Without Churchill, the world today would be unrecognizable—dark, impoverished, tortured.” Yes, it would.

Krauthammer noted that Einstein certainly possessed the “finest mind of the century” and was “deeply humane and philosophical.” He even said, “I would nominate him as the most admirable man of the century.” But indispensable? Churchill, not Einstein.

Krauthammer didn’t jump on into postulations regarding any other categories, but one that particularly interests me was settled long ago. The most influential Christian apologist of the 20th century? C. S. Lewis. An “apologist” in this context is a “defender” who writes to logically defend, make the rational case for, the truth of Christianity.

I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of people have read his classic Mere Christianity? And I wonder how many thousands of those have found it to be the catalyst God used to launch their journey into the Christian faith? (Charles Colson of Watergate fame was one of those.)

I’ve long thought that the preface of Mere Christianity is itself more than worth the price of the book. In it Lewis makes it clear that he is writing to highlight the beliefs held in common, all through the centuries, by those in the whole Christian “house.” He is not at all intending to discuss the differences of views from any particular room (denomination). And he wisely writes, “Our differences should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son”; otherwise, we drive people away.

Lewis goes on to note that before publication he sent the second section of the book, “What Christians Believe,” to four clergymen from four different Christian groups to be sure he was on track. A minor quibble or two, but yes, they said.

But the really interesting thing he discovered came from responses after publication. Any serious criticism seemed to come from “borderline people” not seriously involved in any Christian tradition. He actually found this rather “consoling,” an indication that it is “at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to every other in spirit . . . And this suggests that at the centre of each there is a something, or a Someone, who against all divergencies of belief, all differences of temperament, . . . speaks with the same voice.”

Are we surprised? A point far out on the spoke of a wheel is farthest from the other spokes. The center point of the whole “wheel” of Christianity is Christ. Those nearest to the axle, whatever “spoke” they’re on, are closest both to Him and to each other.

 

 

     You’re invite to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“What Are You Waiting For?”

What are you waiting for? The truth is that most of us spend the vast majority of our lives waiting for something.

Maybe it’s a birthday. A vacation. A holiday. A graduation. A wedding. An anniversary. A retirement.

Maybe it’s when the baby is finally born, or the student loan (good luck waiting that out!) or car or house or business loan is eventually paid off.

You waited—even as you were working all the necessary hours and many more—to achieve that hard-to-reach business goal or rank. You waited—even as you trained, practiced, sweated—to finally earn that coveted professional certification. It took all of the knowledge, skill, and experience you possessed—and more—for you to finally finish that massive multi-year project, but you did.

Maybe what you’re waiting for right now is not warm or fuzzy, not exciting at all, but you’re waiting nonetheless. Waiting for the chemotherapy to be over once and for all. Waiting for the divorce to be final and that corner turned. Waiting to be dismissed from rehab and praying to keep the freedom you’re working so hard to find.

Waiting can be a big part of the adventure on the journey toward a goal. It can be a sweet blessing. Waiting can be the cask in which the draft is aged and infused with layer upon layer of flavorful complexity. It can be precious time, essential time. Waiting can be filled with anxiety as each day, each hour, each moment seems to bring its own ominous question mark. It can be excruciating.

Scripture overflows with examples of waiting and wait-ers. We read the amazing story of the patriarch Joseph and see him waiting in a pit, waiting in a prison, waiting, unbeknownst to himself, to save his family (and many more), bless the whole world, and be a major link in fulfilling God’s promise to us all.

How many long years did David wait before he actually began to reign as king of Israel?

In a rather negative example, we see a surly prophet named Jonah waiting for three interminable days in the belly of an oversized fish and then waiting, scowling, grinching, sweating on the top of a hill hoping against hope that God might ditch mercy and scorch and destroy a city He seemed determine to save.

Nine months of waiting became for the Virgin Mary precious, invaluable time.

Jesus himself waited for thirty years to begin his primary ministry and, as it began, spent forty days in the wilderness being tested and, I think we can also say, waiting.

Saul of Tarsus was stopped in his tracks on his way to Damascus by Christ and a blinding light. But becoming Paul the apostle also entailed spending three years in Arabia, waiting, learning, being molded by his Lord; the waiting was essential to what he would become and do.

Whenever you find yourself navigating an “in-between” time, a time of waiting, well, you may find that it’s actually priceless time God can use to shape and hone your life into a far richer blessing than it could ever be apart from the waiting.

Pastor and author John Ortberg’s words are wise: “Who you become while you’re waiting is as important as what you’re waiting for.”

 

 

    You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“Sensdistra Is Good for What Ails Ya!”

A good commercial can be a lot of fun. I’m thinking about the TV sort. You know—cave men, lizards with British accents. That sort of thing.

But I am full to overflowing (yea, verily, to nausea) with two other TV ad-types—those pumped out by slime-oozing lawyers and those peddled by drug pushers. Let’s tackle the latter.

I am very thankful indeed for the availability of needed medications that make our lives much better. But whatever side of the political spectrum you find yourself on, is it hard to figure out that our medical system is messed up, wasteful, unaffordable, and in need of massive change?

Case in point: drugs. How helpful are drugs if you can’t afford them? And just a few of the reasons you may have a hard time affording them are legitimately high costs in research and development, much higher costs because attorneys are involved, and the kind of stinky skullduggery that always attaches itself to big bucks and big institutions.

Ah, yes, and the cost of commercials. The commercials must work, or the folks spending big bucks on them wouldn’t spend big bucks on them. They can’t be targeted just at doctors, but I liked it better when my physician just told me what medicine I needed. If it might cause “oily discharge” or gruesome death as a side effect, he’d probably mention it. It’s laughable that company lawyers, who’d rather their clients not get out of bed and thus manage “risk,” force half of the stupid commercials to be devoted to listing atrocious side effects. Just stuff it! I mean, the brochure. Into the box. Just get off my TV! Your commercials make that vast mind-numbing wasteland even more vapid.

Alas, the never-ending drug ads just keep piling up. Lest they drive me nuts, I just laugh at them. (Is it possible to be amorous to much effect in two separate bathtubs?)

As word guy, I can’t help but wonder how much money the drug companies spend naming their concoctions. I can help them, I think, and for less than a cool million.

I’ve started keeping a list of drug trade names. Filled a page of a yellow pad with just 78 of the better-known. (You can easily find around 4000 on the web at lists such as http://www.needymed.com.)

Most (not all) are three syllables. The emphasis is usually on the first. Some make sense. Allegra® has to do with allergies. Some are take-offs on the chemical name. Paxil® is Latin “pax” for peace and sounds a little like paroxetine. Where they got Xeljanz® for tofacitinib, Jardiance® for empagliflozin or Kystrexxa® for pegloticase, I don’t have a clue. (Those are all patented trade names; leave ’em alone or the lawyers will be after you.)

I wrote drug names on slips of paper, put them in three bowls, one for each syllable, and then drew, combined, and laughed. So here ya go, drug pushers. These are free for the taking, and there are scads of combinations. But I’d accept a check.

Spitavtyx. Crestoppa. Lotaflo. Humnocol. Oproqura. Vyervo. Tretilor. Lipfexty. Orrevia. Wellfypro. Valuvia. Neudivnax. Elitrin. Migcardya. Celtrudgrix. Levlasmax. Sensdistra. Litavtor. Shinazi. Alvanpril. Glalartik. Eljanztix. Trexlicort. Viliquin. Remdaxia. And on we could go. (If I’ve stumbled onto any real names, it’s accidental!)

The real fun might come if we were to try to postulate what maladies might be connected with each of my cobbled together drug names. At least one needs to be for “oily discharge.”

The Creator of our universe has lots of names. I’m particularly fond of Lord, Father, Abba. Whatever the number of syllables, the emphasis—first, last, and forever—is on love.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


When “War” Comes to Worship, All Sides Lose

I try to avoid ever firing any shots in what have been called the “worship wars.”

“Worship” and “war.” Those two words together, not held at arm’s length from each other by a conjunction, form a jarring contradiction.

We know what the Apostle Paul would say because we know what he did say in Philippians 4:2 to two squabbling gals named Euodia and Syntyche (who some wit has christened Odious and Soon-touchy). He doesn’t describe the “issue” or take sides. He just says, “Get along.” The mere fact that Christians were fussing was shameful, as out of place as a cow patty on a cheesecake. It still is.

Our Lord Jesus went to the cross, completely emptying himself, laying aside his own will, out of his love for his Father and us. How ludicrous, how deeply wrong, it is for those saved by his sacrifice to refuse to sacrifice their own rights—maybe even to shoulder the unbearable burden of singing a song or two that we might not like but that might very much bless someone else?

I wonder. In times of persecution, do people worry and fuss about such minutia? I wonder how long we could endure the real thing if our idea of suffering is to sing a song we don’t like or endure a service with the thermostat set a bit too high or too low for our personal comfort. (Oh, it’s impossible to ever get that one “right.”)

I do understand why some fine pastors I very much respect and some great churches have chosen to offer separate “traditional” and “contemporary” services, particularly when the whole congregation can’t fit into the building at the same time anyway. I’d likely do the same thing. But, ideally, I much prefer a “blended” worship where we sing a variety of styles and thereby inch up on something called sacrifice. Or love.

As the disparity between styles widens, though, I admit that “blended” is a challenge. “God of Our Fathers” cries out for an organ. “Kumbaya” equivalents, soundly Trinitarian (that’s good) with three hundred verses (fine for the first 150), need a guitar (and maybe a campfire). And the latest coolest Christian Luv Radio Top 40 or sorta sacred rap songs call for calisthenics, maybe some amazing riffs, and perhaps a good deal of other jumping about. It can be a tad jarring to go straight from some of these into others of these.

Yes, and I suppose church folks have always been like all folks. Everyone is somewhere on a continuum from dyed in the wool and pretty much calcified traditional (danger: ossified folks bend poorly and break easily) to folks burdened by carrying about a heavy load of coolness (danger: cool marches on, and we look silly chasing it). The fact that the former folks on one side of that continuum have usually paid the freight and are the reason the church exists perhaps should at least not be totally forgotten but never brandished like a club.

But the One who truly paid the price, the Reason the church exists, is Jesus. And if we ever catch ourselves fussing about worship, we’ve already lost the fight and are utterly defeated. Claiming to see better than our brothers and sisters in Christ’s family, we’ve already poked out one eye and are half-blind and stumbling; we’ve lost the focus of all worship, and we are denying the Cross. Then whether we’re doing so with a pipe organ, a cappella, or a heavy metal guitar makes precious little difference.

 

 

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Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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