Category Archives: Church

Change is not always comfortable

Romans 12:2 “Don’t be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your very being, and that will prove the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.”


The church has been a large part of my life for over 50 years. The perfected sameness of three hymns, an offering, and forty minutes of Bible-centered preaching all concluding with an opportunity to find peace was the formula of the Church. But that idealistic church has changed.

The change in climate in the church has slowly and almost imperceptibly shifted itself into something different. Can you feel it? Much like a grand ship not going fast enough in a headwind, the church seems to be drifting. In response to the secular, the church is no longer a place of forgiveness for sinful people, but a place of feeling good about ourselves. Instead of being a place where grace and mercy were to be found, it has slowly, imperceptibly, and almost without notice, drifted by culture.  It has changed from changing people to meet God’s expectations to “can’t we just get along.” The church I knew was a place of commitment, resilience, and sacrifice. It was a place of finding the will of God and following that will.  It has become a place of social gathering in the hope some of the holy stuff may rub off on them. Social justice is not Biblical justice.

Then again it might be my age. Yet I find myself humming the song, “Give me that old-time religion.”

Thank you church!

2 Thessalonians 1:3

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.”


The church which I attend has an ongoing emphasis, “I love my Church”.  There are shirts, there are sermons, and there are continual efforts to be a church that is centered in our community. I thank God for those who are willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our world. Faith is growing.  The expressed love for one another is exampled by sincere expressions of love and concern. I do love my Church.  It is not the building, it is not the songs we sing, it is not the lighting or even the big screens with providing the sermon points. It is a Pastor willing to do what is needed when there is a need. There is a genuine concern for those who cannot help themselves.  It is not giving up our young people to a culture that would harden their hearts. It is real and true Bible study.  It is a group of men and women who take the time to be Christian all the time. For these things that are increasing, I am thankful for the Church.


A little further!

Hillside Thoughts for Wednesday – Day 278 of the year 2022 – October 5

Matthew 5:38-42

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”


Is Jesus suggesting that I must allow the evil in this world to triumph? Am I to assume the role of victim in any encounter with someone who would do me harm? Is all that I own subject to anyone who wants to borrow it? This teaching of Jesus is tough.  I don’t want my cheek slapped. I don’t want to give my shirt away.  I don’t want to go the extra mile.  I don’t want to lend my favorite fishing pole to a clutz. There must be something more here than a radical reaction to an offense.

The culture in which we live remains resolute in its ability to accomplish much. There are many things the secular world can do better than the church. There is a place for government to do things the individual cannot.  Industry can build a car without being Christian. But there is one thing the world around you cannot do.  That thing is the offer of grace. Jesus was saying we are to be different from our culture or government or industry.  We have the ability to look beyond the requirements and need to go a little further and be grace and mercy.


The Word or the song?

MARK 6:34 says,  “And Jesus, when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them because they were as sheep not having a shepherd:  and He began to teach them many things.”

I have searched for a place to exercise my spiritual gifts.  I pastored four churches, taught hundreds of Bible Studies, written hundreds of devotions, yet as I sit in my local church as a congregant, I feel there is a gap between my expectations and reality. This situation has caused me to think that there is a pandemic within organized Christianity. The common thread is a subtle change from the centrality of the Word of God to something that could arguably be considered as important. Worship is a good thing but is it enough?  The change is from discipleship to worship.  I deeply understand and seek to worship my God in word and deed but I struggle with the lack of spiritual depth that a constant diet of worship and praise seems to provide.

So what is the reasoning behind this subtle change in style and methodology?  Is it easier to sing and raise our hands than to rightly divide the word of truth?  Is it more palatable to feel good by ecstatically repeating words over and over in the cadence of a snare drum and brass cymbal than to dig deeper into the Word of God and perhaps find something in our lives that requires change.

So who within the church today is supporting this well-meaning paradigm?  Today, in America, churches are full of sheep not having a shepherd.  Within these churches across our country, hungry sheep wait to be fed and to be led into the things of God.  Unfortunately, these same multitudes are being shepherded by someone not willing to, as Jesus stated, “If you love me feed my sheep.”  Barna’s studies state that two-thirds of all those who classify themselves as regular attendees have the primary desire for their attendance is to discover more about God.  But when asked if their last church service meet that need, only six percent responded that the last church service they attended met that expectation.

And, unfortunately, while there is a yearning for God in the pew, there appears to be a falling away in the pulpit.  I not saying that much of today’s clergy is spiritually bankrupt, I am just saying it is easier to go with the flow.

Paul speaking to the Roman church said “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”   I long for the day when more and more preachers begin refusing to “trim the truth in the name of tickling the ears of the people.

Not wanting to be a part of the problem and becoming part of the solution, I have found a better solution to sitting on my holy petard. I am actively finding my place in changing the Church. I must change it from the inside of a church.  I can no longer just point fingers.  I must be a change agent. Spiritual gifts are not to be hoarded or kept to myself.  I will make every effort to stick my foot in the door and make a difference where I can.

I will not do only what is expected but do as much as I can without incurring the wrath of the church hierarchy.

All hail the power of the skeptic

Close your eyes and imagine a church sanctuary filled with those who all think, believe, and feel the same. They all say AMEN at the appropriate times. They all pay exactly ten percent of their income.  The songs are all well accepted and sung with both bravado and familiarity. The Preacher of the day is recognized with constant bobblehead responses. After service, everyone remains to greet each other and inquire about the glorious victories of overcoming.

Open your eyes and realize this perfected vision is not real.  Christians are not cookies cut out of the heavenly bread of life each perfectly identical to the other. This picture is what Psychologists refer to as groupthink.  It is a place where the congregation values consensus and conformity over vulnerability and self-examination.

The church needs a liberal sprinkling of skepticism.  Without criticism, dissent, and critique, there is no place to grow. There is nowhere to go to be more than the status quo.  An unexamined faith only leads to idolizing an ideal image, a disdain for outsiders, a denial of personal faults, and a lack of growth. Without a dose of dissent, there is no place for healing.

We need a liberal dash of skepticism, uncertainty, critique, and self-examination. Further, this infusion of questioning is to be handled with care and respect.  The number one roadblock to faith for a true skeptic is not a theological stance about Jesus, but the behavior of those who claim to follow Jesus. Those of us who diligently question almost everything find it striking that those who are in the knowing, act as if they have a monopoly on what it is to be proper or good. This ownership comes with dread, a rejection, a fear of any who would ask why.

Those who have doubt or uncertainty should not silence their questions to be accepted by the Body cemented.  We should not silence the skeptic for the sake of the comfortable.  Being a skeptic does not automatically mean heresy any more than the status quo automatically equates to perfection.

Those who are asking questions are vital to the church.  They make the church vibrant, accepting, and accessible.  They give the comfortable a chance to grow a little.


Isaiah 25:9 “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

I am peculiar.  I act peculiar.  I have a belief that is peculiar.  I have a faith that is peculiar.  I am so peculiar that I believe God caused a virgin to give birth.  I am so peculiar that I believe in walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead, and a man being God simultaneously.  I am so peculiar that I believe that the same man who was beaten, spit upon, and died on a cross was raised on the third day.  I am so peculiar to believe that this same man now sits on the throne of the universe. I invite you to join me in my peculiarity!

I have a dream

To steal a phrase of Martin Luther King Jr. and a synopsis of the Sermon on the Mount, this is the text of my dream for the church which are honored Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Written by someone who is a PINOGAM.  (Person In Need Of Grace And Mercy).

My fellow citizens, I have a dream for you today!

A dream:

Where The Kingdom of Heaven’s gates are thrown open to the Poor in Spirit.
Where those who are oppressed and put down are comforted,
Where the meek and lowly are welcomed to their inheritance,
Where those who have found a deep longing for righteousness are filled,
Where those who show mercy will be welcomed and forgiven,
Where The pure in heart will be overwhelmed and awed by the sight of God,
Where those who have sought peace and justice will receive their rightful name of children of heaven,
Where those who have been ridiculed, made fun of, put down, hung up, killed, ostracized will permanently possess the Kingdom of heaven.

You see I have a dream for you!

A dream for you to be the flavor and brightness of the world.
A dream that you will find a place of righteousness greater than any in the time of Jesus.
A dream where murder, adultery, divorce, broken promises, retribution, never happen in your lives.
A dream where there is true and unfailing love for your enemies.

I pray for a day,

When the needy will be supplied
When prayer will be more than lip service
When forgiveness is the new normal
When fasting is more than way to loose weight

There is a dream in my heart for you all, A day in which:

Your treasures in heaven become more important than any here on earth.
Your eyes are open to new opportunities and light.
All that happens in your life does not shadow God’s blessings.

I have a dream where:

We come to a place where we are able to discern right from wrong without any planks in our eyes,
Where we can petition God for heavenly things instead of earthly.

I have a dream in which all who search for the narrow gate will find it.

I have a dream where Kingdom of Heaven Citizens:

Might look at every teacher, preacher or prophet, and look carefully at their fruit that you will know true from false.
That God can search me and find nothing that would shadow my words as I have taught and will teach.
Where there is no hypocrisy in our deeds.
Where there is no hypocrisy in our motives.
Where there is no hypocrisy in our character.

I have a dream:

In that great storm which is coming that I know my foundation is true.

I have a dream today.

A dream of a great and glorious day:

Where every valley shall be raised, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see this day together. 

God Bless you and Keep you as you make your own dreams. 

Just Larry

He has risen

Tomorrow on Easter, I will not be going to a church building and celebrate with fellow believers. Easter will look very different this year. I feel a little sad and disturbed.  Easter is the biggest day of the year for Christians. 

I love the big event. Churches around the world pull out all the stops for this special day.  They do special music, everyone is dressed up, we usually see the biggest crowds, those who don’t usually attend show up, there may be an egg hunt on the lawn, the preacher will have his sermon refined to a fine point and rehearsed to a place where he could do it without notes.  It is a wonderful day in the controlled chaos that is called Easter. All in the hope of a spiritual breakthrough for someone on the edges of the church. 

I’m sad that it won’t be happening this year. Or at least not in the way that I’m used to.

Yet then I must take a step back and come to the realization, Church is about more than the big event happening at your building. It’s about the big event that happened 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem when it was discovered that there wasn’t a body in Jesus’ tomb.

This is a time of social distancing and face masks.  For some, it is a time which, “the Church has left the building.”

There is a valuable truth to be comprehended here.  When the Church is forced not to meet together there comes to us a lesson.  That lesson is: the church is not a building, WE ARE THE CHURCH. Church isn’t an event you go to. It’s a people you belong to.

So as you gather around your blue tinged screens, watching a message or two, please remember and set your hearts on the founder. A founder who came out of the grave on the third day.



The domesticated Church

In the last 250 years the United States has changed drastically. This change is an antithesis what our country was founded upon.  The very idea of a nation that could and did have the right to believe what they ever they like was one of the best ideas of the Bill of Rights. Our nation has changed. It has changed from the idea of freedom of religion to freedom from religion.

The very idea a nation can survive in a culture where there is a choice between religion and no religion at all was simply crazy thinking in the beginning of our nation.  Our dependence upon the divine was built into every thing our nations was built upon. Belief was the basis for our total identity. It was not what was possessed it what was believed. A mandate to believe in something was required in oursociety. There were few atheists or agnostics.

There was no duality in the early years of our republic.  Religion and life were inextricably tied together. It changed in small little steps. Now we live in an age that would separate Faith and life.  The default mode is to see faith as simply an escape from the madness.  Carl Marx is now seen as correct when he was quoted as saying, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Christianity or any belief is seen as a crutch. And we have fallen for a dualism.  The life of the everyday has been segmented from the life of faith.  It is much like a plate of food where the mashed potatoes are never allowed to touch the peas. 

This dualism attitude says it really doesn’t matter who is in control: Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Communist, Secular Humanists, Green, Libertarians.  The secular can go ahead and run the world.  Let them run the country as long as those who believe can have their little piece of heaven.  As long as Jesus is there in the believers little corner of life, all is well.  Jesus can be well scheduled, secluded, private and quiet.

If one would try to invade the other’s space, whether the world into faith or faith into the world there is anger.  Any attempt to join the two is seen as revolt of personal rights.  Today, there is a separation worlds because there is no possibility of co-mingling of authority.  The world would say the only authority is man.  Faith says the only authority is God.  They don’t mix well. 

Christianity in the west has become like a boxing ring. Christians in one corner and the world in the other.  And if each is in their respective corners all is quiet.  The Faithful, if they stay in their corner they are ignored by the world.  The world is equally ignored in our prayer closets and our pulpits.  Until one or the other makes a step to meet in the middle there is no reaction.

This duality of life is almost satisfying.  There is little motivation to step out to the middle of the ring. To enter the battle place to fight the good fight.

A Christian nation is a good thought.  It gives the average churchman solace of purpose. It is an acknowledgement of rightness of God.  It is good to be a part of something that is well accepted.  There is even a group called the Religious Right that has influence on the culture of the West. They have made an imperceptibly small nudge toward the center and the other corner calls foul.  Foul because the world not only wants its corner but the middle too.

Those in the corner act Christian.  As long as our corner is not invaded by the world, if the world does not take our tax deductions, If the world allows us to occupy a corner or two, then it is good. And this corner keeping attitude brings with it an expectation.  Not a faith expectation to change the world, but an expectation of something in this life.  It is an expectation in which each generation will have it a little better off.  We will live longer.  We will have all the food we need.  We will be able to go wherever we want. To be treated fairly.  In a Godly nation we will have the best healthcare, the best lifestyle, the best leisure opportunities.  This Nation which stamps on their money, “IN GOD WE TRUST”, comes with it an expectation of being better off than the ungodly nations.  In doing so we have lost the bigger viewpoint.  It is all about the battle.

We have developed a form of Christianity to support this concept of prosperity.  It has become a Christianity which is acceptable, comfortable, secure, and prosperous as seen by the other corner.  This corner Christianity that looks at our uniqueness, our personal goals, our own needs, our own wants, our own preferences, our own prosperity.  We have nice churches, nice chairs, nice heating and cooling, good lighting, the best music, and short messages about other people.

There is no call to be an alien, a traveler, or a selfless soul on a journey. It is an attitude of arrival.  Heaven on earth. And we are good with that. 

We get angry if the world doesn’t treat Christianity as something that is not normal.  The church has become comfortable.  And all this normalcy, this duality is destroying our relationship to the real Jesus.  The world has domesticated the church.  I don’t want to be a comfort seeking, entertainment addicted, survey craving, approval desiring Christian.  I can not stay in my corner.  I don’t want to waste my life just fitting in.  I want God.  And I want God to be the authority.  I want God to rule my life. No duality. Just primary. I want God in the whole ring.


As the Israelite’s wandered in the wilderness for 40 years looking for God and His will, I have constantly tried to understand what motivated the Israelite’s to go in circles for all these years in an environment that was trying to kill them with every step.  I would think they would have grown tired of constantly moving and getting nowhere. As a Christian, I find that at times I also take to wandering.  Why do I do the things I do?  I think there is a direct relationship between the wandering by the Israelite’s  when they were trying to find their purpose and following a Godly leadership, with my own Christian walk today. I would think that there are four ways to understand the motivation of Christians in today’s modernistic world: Gizmos, pathways, rebels, and stubborn fatalism.

Israel in the wilderness was called to follow an external device of smoke and fire.  True they had a leader. Yet even Moses was guided by these heavenly prompts. When the manifestation of God moved so did the Israelite’s.  It did not matter what the path these prompts pointed toward, there was an inner belief that these manifestations knew where they were going. They were guided every mile, every year to following the presence of God. When the smoke moved, they moved. Following as they were pointed, may well be characterized as a mechanical device or Gizmo we find in most cars: the GPS. When we want to go somewhere, we simply punch in a destination and there is a turn by turn guide to grandma’s house. It tells us when we will get there and even if there is any delay on our path.  We listen carefully to a voice, usually a woman’s voice, telling us where to turn, what road or exit to take, even the name and number of the street or highway which is on our path.

When our GPS Gizmo tells me to turn, I make every effort to follow and fully expecting she knows better than any path I could figure out. But there are times when I may well think “That’s not right”, or “I want to make my own path” or  “I know better than this,” or I want to stop along the way to get a Diet Pepsi.”  But when I do, my loyal GPS gleefully reports, “Recalculating.”

That little disembodied voice say does not say, “this is not what I told you to do.” Instead, this tiny Gizmo realizes the place you are and plans a new path. Recalculating is saying, “I will start from when you have gone astray and I will map you a new path to your destination. I will set you straight. Trust me I will get you want to go.”

Sometimes I question this seemingly blind faith in the displayed path.  I know for a fact there are two routes from the church to my house and they both get me there.  The problem is my GPS GIZMO randomly chooses one path over the other because they both are the same distance and duration.  To the Israelites God was their heavenly GIZMO.  God gave them a turn by turn directions and the first type of Israelite and consequently many blessed Christians will find their way to the promised land.

The second way we can look at the wandering at the wilderness and also our Christian walks in our wandering is characterized by the ant. The total purpose of an individual ant is to serve the whole.  To follow the rules of searching to find a source of sustaining resources is the entirety of one class of ants.  Some stay home and take care of the young.  Some receive the bounty provided by the wanderers.  The wanderers provide for the rest of the ants.  Each ant has a responsibility to do their job and not to stray in the least. The philosophy of an ant is to survive the journey.  And they do this by sending out individual ants in search of a new source of food and bring it back the report to the nest.  To find their way back to the nest they produce tiny scent trails wherever they go.  They spread out as far as their scent will allow them to go.  If they don’t find anything they simply die.  Wandering along looking for some choice morsel or better yet a large source of choice morsels like a dollop dropped from my peanut and butter sandwich.  If they find the gooey mess, they follow their own scent trail back and tell everyone.  In rapid succession, hundreds of ants follow blindly the previously laid down path.  All the while, the additional scent is laid down to reinforce the path. Every ant in this parade simply follows the ant in front of them.  Every time a new path is found a group of ants will follow.  Every time there is a new source of plenty there are followers.  Each Ant following dutifully the ant in front of them.

A problem arises when the lead ant loses the scent for a moment and doesn’t know which way to go. When the scent is lost the lead ant turns abruptly looking for the scent again and all the while, every ant behind follows. The lead ant repeats this turning until it finds the scent. What often happens is they run across their own scent line and turn to follow it and in doing so they make a giant circle and they go around and around and around each of the succeeding circles.  Every ant following in step following the ant front of them. The mindset of every ant in the parade is to constantly follow the ant in front, “he must know where he’s going.” Every ant following believes and accepts the, “follow the one in front” idea and is fully convinced that they are going the right way.  And every trip in the grand circle it increases the scent and they can’t stop.  They go around and around and around and ultimately, they simply die of exhaustion. A catastrophic end. Again the Hebrews followed until most of them who had experienced Egypt died.  In the Christian walk we must keep the cloud in mind not the person in front.

The 3rd characteristic of those who would find themselves in the wilderness trying to find God’s will is the rebel. The rebel mindset says to himself, “there must be something more in my divine destiny of life.”  In the Hebrews in the wilderness, they were characterized as the “Grumblers”.  They grumbled about the quality of water, they grumbled with the lack of food, they grumbled with the lack of variety of provided food and they complained because there was not enough water.  Dissatisfied with Moses on the mountain they were the first ones to, “make a god for ourselves.”  This rebel belief reveals itself with trying and changing everything. A complaint of “we have always done it this way” is confronted with “we have never done it this way.” Let me be first.

These rebel firsts keep saying, “I have to go faster, fly higher, explore everywhere, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” “I am the creator of my destiny.” Or “I can do anything I want.” The rules of sanity and common sense simply doesn’t mean anything to me. It doesn’t matter if I crash and burn; at least I can be an example of what not to do. It is a modern self-description. It is a mindset that says, “I have emerged from the cave where man created God, created faith and created religion and I no longer will follow blindly. It is an attitude of personal self-responsibility. “I know who I am and I don’t need or want some old sage to dictate my life.”

The rebel is plastered all over YouTube.  Riding bicycles off of a roof into a swimming pool, or trying to jump over a car while it is coming at you at 20 miles an hour are examples of this rebel attitude.

It is the rebels who have stretched the common beliefs of the church. “Let’s have a church in a deserted drive-in theater,” or “we don’t need pews” or “let’s get tables and coffee” were all once thought of rebellious ideas. “Let me be the first, at least I will be cool about it.”

They live by their own rules because everyone else seems stuck in a pattern and that pattern is I can’t live with. This rebel spirit believes and is willing to die for that belief. Columbus was going somewhere and if he died along the way so be it. Alan Shepard strapped himself onto the back of a rocket to prove something not only to himself but everyone who was going to follow him. It is not a question of, “lead or follow” but just stay out my way.  And like Evil Knievel and all his copies, more often than not they crashed and crashed hard.

The last group of wanderers is those who simply give up: the fatalists.  “If we keep going, day after day, we will ultimately die, so why go on.”  To the fatalist, any path is a path to destruction.  The Egyptians wanted to kill them, the people in the destination wanted to kill them, the desert wanted to kill them, all the new laws set by Moses are all filled with death and punishment, I might as well just dig a hole and climb in. When the Christian does not see that perfect path before them like a heavenly GPS, or another ant in front of them, or there is no unction in your gumption to change the path, the fatalist simply sits down and dies. “If I don’t know where I am to be, this spot is good enough.”  These fatalists die alone because they find no responsibility to follow anyone or conform to any path.  

 Four paths:  Follow the presence of God, follow the other ants in front of you, rebel and do your own thing, or give up. As we walk the walk that is Christianity, it is my choice and it is your choice.