Finding Balance

January 22, 2012

In my years since becoming a Christian, I have found that people in general tend to be like pendulums that are normally broken to either stay on the Left or Right side of the swing without ever seeing the middle or they are stuck in the middle and never move at all. Indeed the ones that are moving are normally moving so fast that they are banging the edge of the clock casing and may only vary one or two degrees the other way. All three are broken but think they are right. Thus they are unbalanced.

In order to rightly consider balance, we have to leave the clock imagery and think more on a linear scale. That is because we have to look at right/wrong, good/bad, sound or false doctrine. There is no room to swing on such issues though extreme Left or Right are still as broken as those who try to drive down the center of the road on a major highway during rush hour. The middle can be quite dangerous and often leads to muddled, myopic misunderstanding of the issues which ends in paralysis or at best a meager attempt at finding balance that is hindered by fear, ignorance and more often apathy or hypocrisy trying to play both ends against the middle to avoid confrontation or controversy. Often the practice is justified under the guise of love, grace or peace. Yet, there can be no true love, grace or peace without balance. Balance is indeed hard to find.

I have come up with a 1-10 line that I think shows why it is hard to find balance. If we look at Extreme Left as a 1 and extreme Right as a 10 that puts the Middle at 5. Thus we might be led to believe that balance is 5. Yet, that really tends to leave us with the lukewarm situation that Jesus condemned in Revelation as not ever satisfying the need since it is never hot when it needs to be or cold when it needs to be so that it is no warmth for the aching bones or the cold refreshing drink needed by the hot and thirsty. It is just blasé.

Many find the Middle as the way to bring peace to the World and yet Jesus said He came to bring a sword that would bring about division even among families. He was speaking of the Word, which indeed divides people according to how they receive that Word and yet to those who seek to rightly divide it that same Word can bring about unity. It is a savor of life to some and a savor of death to others. Thus balance in the Word will still cause polarity and division and not necessarily peace and unity with all as some hope it will.

In fact, if you see the results of Scripture in action as used by the prophets, apostles and Jesus you will find that its balanced use results in an 8 on the scale. That makes it left of extreme Right and right of the Middle and really far right of extreme Left so that to many people it will appear to be extreme Right from their perspective. And because it is still left of extreme Right they will react to it as vehemently as anyone from the extreme Left or the worried Middle that do not want rock boats.

Balance needs to be viewed from God’s perspective and thus from the Word itself. Remember we are told that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts so it is not going to be a perfect center on any human scale. You see God is balanced and this world is way out of balance. God was once accused by His people as unequal or unfair or unbalanced and He had to point out that it was their perspective that was unequal, not His. To be balanced it has to be His scale and not ours. That is why on our scale it will come out to an 8 and looks unbalanced from all sides.

How can you tell if you are scripturally balanced? Well, to even start to find it you will have to chuck most of what you were taught no matter what denomination or non-denomination you are as every group has error in it be it intentional or unintentional. We have picked up a lot of man-made hoo-ha and traditions that cloud the Word and block our ears to the still small voice. I am including Baptists, lest you think I believe they are perfect. I think some of them have the best potential for finding balance compared to the rest of the groups, but we have our Left and Right clock casing bangers and blasé Middle folks as well. How do you think I gained some of my knowledge? 😉 I have had to tiptoe through the mine fields for some time.

When you look at Jesus’ teachings he ticked off pretty much everyone in the religious and political systems at some point. He smacked the Pharisees (extreme Right) though they were at that point the closest to being balanced as they had some things right. They were just hypocritical and oft times interpreted the Word to suit their desires or benefit just like many extreme Right and experiential “spiritual” groups today. He slammed the Sadducees (extreme Left) because of their unbelief and ignorance of Scripture and the God they were dealing with and we have multitudes of these folks as well We already discussed those who want to hide and not rock any boats or afraid to be called extreme anything and that group seems to growing by leaps and bounds in this culture. He offended the Herodians and the Zealots when He said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s for both groups did not like Rome and longed for the Messiah to remove them from Roman rule. That would frustrate most political groups today for none of them are close to balanced. and the Tea Party would not be happy and certainly He would not be Republican, Democrat or fit into any other faction, for all of them have flaws.

Many preachers would lack sermon material if they stuck to the Word instead of their personal political leanings. The Bible gives plenty of instruction about the role of government. Preach the Word and for those who hear; their politics will match the Word and we won’t have to have partisan services. There was a time when politicians were only divided in how they accomplished the things they believed in. Most of their beliefs were grounded in the Word. When we quit praying and preaching and started politicking the power of the Word in the culture was diminished and we lost the heart of the politicians and hence we have what we have, which is indeed inferior.

A couple of my peers called me a Maverick some years back and it stuck. I have also been called a paradigm challenger, a Liberal, a legalist, a compromiser and a few other names we will omit for mixed company reasons. The names varied with the topic we were discussing. I do not quote party lines well and ask a lot of questions and challenge the most noble and educated when things set off an alarm in my heart. Some of my college professors liked that and others did not.

I have no desire to visit anything like a Guiana or Waco so I ask no matter who might be doing the teaching if things do not seem to follow a good algorithm or hermeneutic. As I am a Baptist, I spend most of my time with them but I have been involved with many groups outside the Baptists over the years. Sometimes the groups sought me out to debate and other times I have heard of a debate and chimed in to ding or commend both sides for various points of the debate.

Some may be thinking what kind of arrogant or prideful so and so does this dude think he is, but I assure you that I have had to be on my face before God many times to avoid that state. I often feel a lot like Amos who had to say that he was not a prophet or a son of a prophet but just a picker of sycamore fruit. I am nobody and would love to be one of those “go along to get along” types because I like being a part of the group and have friends. I just can’t do it.

There have been times I tried to shut up and walk away or ignore something but just can’t do it. I want to be right for it is right to be right not because I want to be right to exalt me. He is the only one that should be exalted for only He is worthy. I often feel like a PFC challenging the General and as retired military I know that if you are going to do that you better be right so I do not do it lightly or arrogantly. It is often with great fear and trepidation that I do so, but I must do what I believe I must do. The same goes for you.

So many Christians never question their doctrines. They just roll with the flow. I was a Methodist and my wife was a Lutheran as kids and neither of us really knew anything about our denominations. I went because that is where my mother sent me and my wife went with her aunt. If you would have asked about Wesley or Luther or any doctrinal question we would have shrugged our shoulders and admitted that we had no clue. Sadly, many Baptists are the same way and we are supposed to be people of the Book.

The non-denoms are as bad or maybe worse since more people go for the music, the fellowship/networking and motivational speaking than because of the doctrinal stance of the church. Yoga, weight watchers and other activities attract more people than a doctrinal bible study or sermon. They may “praise and worship” for an hour while the preaching of the Word gets dropped back to fifteen minutes or less and yet it is the Word that generates the faith that should bring about praise and worship. His Word is what God promised would not return unto Him void, not great music. I was at one church where I heard the song leader ask the pastor if he could cut five minutes from his sermon so they could add another song. I am glad that he did not ask me as I might have hurt his feelings.

On the other hand, some will not sing a song that isn’t at least fifty years old though one hundred or more is better for others. God has not quit calling preachers but some seem to think He quit calling singers in the 50’s or 60’s.

The youth are relegated to age groups when the older are to teach the younger so how does that happen? Then we wonder why, like Rehoboam, they listen more to their peers than to their parents or teachers? Indeed, days or age should bring about wisdom and the right to speak and be heard but remember it was a young lad that had to step up and give Job and his friends some instruction.

The one room schools gave us some of the greatest people of our history. Why, because the older kids were used to tutor the younger so they learned to look out for them and share what wisdom they had and the younger looked up to them and learn to respect age even as they were learning wisdom in their lives. Not to mention that they taught the Bible. It was a powerful balance and brought about a strong country. Now everyone is in their age group and abhor the ones not in their group so that young people do not want to be in Sunday School with OLD people and old people do not want to participate in the mentoring of those crazy kids. Is it any wonder our country is declining? We have millions of Rehoboams running about and sadly Solomon’s advisers do not seem to care.

We need to challenge our doctrine. We need to challenge our attitudes to gain any progress towards balance and unity. We also need to challenge our traditions. There are many things in all groups that they do just because that is what they do. Do they have any real meaning? No. Are they just rituals without reality? Yes. Will they dump them? Highly unlikely, at best they may modify them in a small way or change the frequency, but dumping them completely scares people. It is like their traditions came down from Mt. Sinai and are in some sort of everlasting covenant that is somehow out of bounds of the New Covenant. I am not talking about biblical doctrines that we have debated for centuries. I mean cultural or other man-made traditions that are not even referred to in any way, shape or form in Scripture.

I was a member of a church once that did not pass an offering plate and that is almost a felony in some churches. You better pass a plate and at all three services and have a Sunday School offering as well. Knowing how some people attend church, it was probably set up so everyone would have an opportunity to give their tithes and offerings depending upon their attendance habits. The Sunday School offerings usually are used as a meant to teach the kids and to help pay for the cookies and juice they are given albeit I have seen places where some adults only attend Sunday School and go home. Maybe they want to beat the crowds at Luby’s, don’t like the preacher or something. Some are what we call SMOs or Sunday Morning Only and other due to work shifts can only make it Sunday night or Wednesday night. So it had some basis in logic and practicality.

However, this church found that they actually increased their offering by putting the plates at the door for people to give as they leave. I figured part of this came about by allowing those who invariably came in late after the offering to give as well as time for those who try to write their check as the offering is being taken as well as those who may have been especially touched by the message to increase their offering. Also, those who felt self-conscious that they could only give $1 or $5 or even loose change could put it in without much notice. Regardless of the motivation it proved to work far better for giving as well as not having to waste time in the service. Suggest that to your pastor and deacons and see if they get glazed eyes or turn pale and gasp at the thought.

I am glad that some groups are finally dumping the requirement for suits in the pulpit and in the pew. I was in a coal mining region for some time and most people would rent a tux for a wedding or senior prom but few owned a suit unless they were a doctor or lawyer. Yet, the pastor pushed that sort of thing and even required golden sport coats for the ushers because the pastor he admired had that going on at his church. Well, it was a tough field as it was from a theological perspective let alone trying to go against the societal dress code. That did not deter him and I am sure many did not think about attending because they did not have the clothes for church or thought it was a church for the upper crust when in fact it was an old schoolhouse remodeled into a church attended by mostly blue collar workers. Still, how many more may have came in out of curiosity had they not felt that they had to dress up to come to church? I am happy that folks actually dress at all for some have come to church scantily clad to the point of nearly naked. I have been asked from time to time about a dress code and I tell them that the Law and I frown on naked but after that I am fairly open. Does it really matter how a person is dressed? Did God not hear the Prodigal when he was in rags in the pig pen? If God looks on the heart we might need to be less concerned about “Sunday go-to-meetin’” clothes and look more at the needy heart be it clothed in rags or Armanis. I think James mentions something about preferred clothing as well.

These are only two things that we do traditionally that need to be reviewed and revamped. The way we do buildings needs to be trashed. Simple is the key. If Jesus can be born in a manger and not have a place His own to lay His head why do His disciples need multimillion dollar monoliths? Our money and manpower are to go into the mission, the message and the masses not to mansions that oft become mausoleums. Much money is wasted in keeping old buildings functional or maintaining high overhead buildings. I remember a missionary to France saying he needed $50K to remodel a building for a church building and we were sitting on $50K of padded pews. Stop building them to look like churches. Use a design so that if you need to move on to bigger and better or have declined and need to sell a corporation or even a school might want your building. The market for Gothic churches is very small.

Indeed, Jesus said, “you have heard it said, but I say unto you…” and He condemned the Pharisees for substituting the traditions of men for the commandments of God. It is time we start cleaning house.

1 Peter 4:17-18

17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? KJV

Wouldn’t it be good if when He came that He saw we were in the process of preparing for His coming by taking out the trash and tradition and seeking the balance of truth? Maranatha!


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