Before the critics run after me over the use of the word religion, let me bring clarity to the word itself. First James talks about “pure religion” in James 1:27. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” So, with that said, I believe there is a religion that adds value.
When many of my friends talk about the religious or religion or religiosity we are describing the actions that bring business and not relationship. The following of rules without the knowledge of One who cares for them.Many years ago, I had a wonderful friend. His name was James Berkley. He used to regularly travel from the West Coast to visit our fellowship. One night he showed up late, handed my wife a sheaf of songs and asked her to prepare for them. “The late James Berkley is here” announced my friend Kevin Ford.
As me and the other musicians readied for the time of worship, James was his lovable self. (Even writing this I am reminded of how much I miss his laughter. He died a few years ago, preaching on the Father and fatherhood.) Finally we started. Our fellowship hall was packed with people from different streams of belief and church denominations. Frankly, you could feel the pull in the air. No one “wanted” to worship. After a while, James looked at my friend Dana, the bassist and myself and said “can you play ‘Rolling On the River’ by Ike and Tina Turner?” (Uhhh. Yes, we were born yesterday.) My friend Dana had no idea where we were headed. (He was an AG pastor with perhaps the most to “lose”.) The music began to play. And these were the words James began to sing…
“Left a big church in the city, working for religion every night and day…” (I am not the “anti big church guy-but I am the anti-religiosity guy.)
The place was undone in just a few moments and worship touched the Father. We were in fact, “rolling on the river”!
I would probably define religion along these lines. Works without joy, rules without relationship. Man’s method of getting somewhere rather than accepting His visitation 2,000 years ago and having accomplished everything so you could be in constant relationship without having to “work” something up.
“Real religion” is not about “going to church” but being the church. Not about how much you pray or sing, dress or read your Bible. It is about being in a vital relationship with the one who loves you. His name is Jesus.
You can go to “church” every night and NOT be religious and you can go once a month and be very religious. For instance I was brought into the kingdom with this mindset, “when the doors are open you need to be here.” I disagree with that now. Could I be there every night and be okay? Of course and would be if that is what I thought the Lord was asking of me. In our fellowship as a leader, there are things you are “asked” to do out of relationship. But in truth, I do the majority of things because I can. We limit in most cases the amount of things we do so no one “burns out”.
When peace or joy has evaporated and the world seems heavy it is time to revisit some things!
This morning I was reading an article about a woman I do not know. Her name is Leah Remini and she was talking about Scientology and why she had left. I want to say it is easy to point fingers at something and call it a cult or a religion and be equally as “religious” on our side of the coin. Here is what she said.
“I started thinking of my own childhood and how I grew up resenting my mother because she was never home,” Remini told Buzzfeed. “It’s funny; somehow my father, the guy who left his kids and never paid child support, was excluded from my resentment and I grew up resenting my mother for not being home to make food, like all my friends’ moms were. But my mom thought she was doing something good; she thought she was helping the planet. That’s what the Church tells you.”
I thought about that. How many parents (And now grandparents…) are paying the price for the hardness of religion with their children? I was one. We took our kids to church every time it was open and somehow we thought they would get it. That is akin to going to McDonalds with the belief you will become a burger! (A pink slime burger no less!)
Love is a crucial ingredient in the seedbed of grace and community. Look for it. Be it!
In two separate dreams this morning I saw the following.
In dream one I was returned to a mall I worked in some 30 years ago. As I wandered about the mall I saw old friends and people I had talked to and touched with the gospel of His goodness.
In dream two I was with friends who needed me to help them with a business idea. I agreed only to realize moments later what I had agreed to no longer was in my “tool box” and now what was I going to do. I found someone else equally capable of providing the service and released it into their hands. The results were better than I promised.
The dreams reminded me of a couple of things.
- Everything has a beginning. Walking into the old mall reminded me that I could and had touched lives. That even in our youth with the mistakes we make, we touch people.
- Everything has a season. My season of helping people the way I had was over.
- Everything has a purpose. The revealing of a season’s end was important.
I get it. Some of this dream was to encourage me. But part of the dream was to encourage you to not hold so tightly to the past, especially the “mistakes” that you might have made. Holding on to a past does not allow for you to be enabled for the future. Will you let go?
One of the greatest moves of grace will occur in camps where grace was not a person but an action. Where religion and style are more important than heart a lot of times. Folks, the boat has left. The changes are coming.
Many of these men and women have wanted to hold on to ministries that were birthed in goodness but have evolved into machines where the essence or the beginning reasons for wanting to be in ministry have changed. To let go of these means devastation of finance and such because it will appear as though they “left the camp”.
Today men and women “of the cloth” are caught up in “where are you Jesus?” weeping and nervous and God is waiting to receive them. These are the people who have disdained grace as hyper or “sloppy agape” but I am telling you they are going to encounter visitations such as Paul on the road to Damascus. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute ME?” (Do not miss what God is doing by wrongly discerning His body.) They have shunned emotions for “faith”.
I see Mormons and Scientologists and Jehovah’s Witness’ visited in the night, interrupted in the day. The power of the Lord upon them. (Many well-meaning Christians will try to say it is something else. Do NOT be deceived. God is bigger than your bubble!)
The message of grace is He is Grace! So many denigrate what God is doing and where He is doing it under the guise of a Berean. The Bereans were seeking the truth so they might engage in the joy of His goodness. They came with EAGERNESS and not disdain! Look for the good! Envision the Great!
God is invading the camps of the religious and turning their mourning into dancing. Not to establish a rule but to rule through His people who keep His character of mercy, grace and love. His light is entering the darkness even breaking the brightness of the day.
Devote your time to what He is doing and visit not “what He is not doing”. Let us be for something and not against something. (Do NOT call your finger pointing stance balance.)
Just the other night a friend of mine shared about “intellectual humility” and how Google was embracing it. It reminded me of the joke about “Intellectualism is the ability to listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.” It reminded me of how far we have come. Intellectual humility is about working together.
Let us break the molds of religious cloning and wavering works and let us return to His image, His creation. Let us collapse the chambers of confusion and embrace the buildings of building up.
This morning I shared this word with a young preacher friend of mine out west.
Saw this while praying for you.
I saw a road much like one would encounter in the west, say Arizona or New Mexico. A clear sunny day. I saw you driving in a car. Every now and then a sign would appear, indicating a town or mileage. I saw you beginning to get impatient, to speed up the car. You began to increase the speed of the car and finally as signs and landscape began to go by at a higher pace, you arrived at your destination.
You jumped out of the car. Ran into the building. Told them who you were and looked at the clerk. The people had no idea what you were talking about.
I prayed about this. There is coming a time when people will know you. But, I felt the Lord nudge me and say for you, “be patient. You will get there. Enjoy the ride.”
I think you are an awesome child of the King. I want the best for you. Let your walk make room for the connections and relationships that are part of the “daily bread” the Lord is bringing into your life.
Religion does not “enjoy the ride” and always seems to be in a hurry.
There is a revival of religion coming. But it will be the truth of God permeating lives with His goodness and mercy. Just watch.