Friday, June 11, 2010


Last week I was web surfing on and came across a story of people who call themselves “spiritual, but not religious”. There is a groundswell in the American culture to reject the institution of the church, but not spirituality. This should not come as a surprise. As the pinnacle of God’s creation, we are made to worship. The problem is that our worship can be misplaced and we can find ourselves worshipping the creation instead of the creator. When I was in high school, our marching band took a trip to California. Part of our leisure time involved a stop along the Pacific Coast Highway. The tour bus pulled over so we could take pictures. The view was breathtaking. We were atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean at sunset. Over one hundred feet below, a herd of sea lions lay basking on the beach in the winter sun. I only wish I had a video to share of what I witnessed next. A vintage red VW bus parked near us. Out came two hippie ladies. The first was very large. She carried an inadequately braced stool and a conga drum. She sat on the stool at the edge of the cliff facing the sun, and started playing an ostinato rhythm on her drum. I should have offered a prayer that the stool would not succumb to her weight, casting her off the cliff like a lemming.  Next, a lanky brunette came beside her, arms raised while she danced in praise of the sun.

Did that scene seem alien to you? It sure did to me 22 years ago and it still does today. Get ready, because you are going to see much more of this sort of thing. These ladies would probably consider themselves to be spiritual, but not religious. How Oprahesque! A quick Google search of SBNR will lead one to myriad hits. On top of the list is . They have their own Facebook page that just started this month (June 2010). They already have nearly 3,000 who have indicated that the “like” the page.

In the bible, Paul states that this would happen in the last days. Paul writes about it in I Timothy 4.  In verse 1, he says some will abandon the faith. Our pastor recently shared that this has nothing to do with salvation, but instead it is a rejection of the institution of the church. Incidentally, the church was established by Jesus. Jesus said to Peter, "You are Rock and on this rock I will build my Church." (Matthew 16: 18). In his letter to Timothy, Paul follows that people will replace (AKA giving to idolatry) the church by following demons, deceitful spirits, and false teachers.

“Spiritual but not religious” dogma allows YOU, not Jesus, to be the author and finisher of your own faith. It sounds enlightened in our culture, but it is actually a completely self-absorbed attitude. Here’s a post from a follower of the SBNR Facebook page.

“I believe all religions have many great things that we can relate to and enjoy.. that is the beauty of it (not limiting yourself to one religion)... it’s like there is a great feast with many tasty foods on the table and you can just walk around and eat a bit of everything and taste anything you want.. so why limit ours...”

Did you notice who many I’s, we’s, selves’, ours’, there are in that quote? There is nothing about worship of God, serving others, or any other ideals the church holds dear. SBNR identification removes any responsibility of following doctrine, established morality, service, giving, scripture, prayer, and spiritual disciplines of any sort because they set their own. How convenient!

I am very troubled by the trend of people leaving the church to pursue their own spiritual path. I have repeatedly heard people piously tell me, “I believe in God. I’m spiritual. I just don’t want to have anything to do with ‘organized religion’.” What’s the alternative? Disorganized religion? I guess so. Whether or not you are a part of a bible believing church, please consider Hebrews 10:24-25.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The Day of Christ’s return is fast approaching. Can you see it? We are to spur one another to love and good deeds. I would say we need a good kick in the pants! It’s hard to either give a kick or receive a kick if we are not meeting together. Don’t be religious in a legalistic sense. Don’t be a Pharisee. Be purely religious.  Anything else is to be like the fat drummer lady on the cliff; a spiritual lemming!

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. - James 1:27

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Fellowship of His Sufferings

Read Philippians 3:1-21
We often like to quote the first third of Philippians 3:10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection”. That is the stuff of victory! To intimately “know” Jesus is divine. To experience the dynamite “power of His resurrection” is supernatural. Pastor Dennis Whitmire of First Baptist Church of Nash, Texas said that people tend stop there, because what follows is not so glamorous. The verse continues to say, “and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Oh, we really do not want to consider suffering. And being conformed to His dead is certainly an uncomfortable prospect. But that is exactly what Paul said. In preceding verses, Paul warns us to beware of putting our confidence in the flesh. Before He had an encounter on the Damascus road, he had accomplished much. Paul was a Hebrew, followed every minute detail of the law, a Pharisee and the model Pharisee. He considered all of these things as a loss when compared with knowing Christ, sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings, and being conformed to His death.
It is time that we remove a false image of Christ from our minds. If we are honest, we have sanitized who Jesus truly is. He left heaven’s glory, to be born in a smelly manger, served fallen man, suffered unimaginable scorn, ridicule and cruelty at His trial and scourging, and strained for every last breath as he hung, unrecognizable, on a cruel Roman cross.
Before the wonderful fragrance of a perfume can be enjoyed, a rather uncomfortable process must occur.
1. Collection -The plant substances (flowers, grasses, herbs, spices) must be chosen, usually hand picked to make the perfume desired by the perfumer. It is a real art the perfumer performs in selecting the right combinations of substances to make the desired blend. Like the perfumer, God is sovereign and He chooses those He desires to make His chosen fragrance to perfume our world. (I Peter 2:9)
2. Extraction -The perfumer extracts the oils from plants through different processes: steam distillation, solvent extraction, effleurage, maceration, and expression. These processes involved heat, steam, boiling, spinning, dissolving chemicals, and pressing. The result is a more concentrated oil. God does the same in His refining process for his chosen flowers. He places us in difficult circumstances to purify us for His use (Psalm 66:10).
3. Blending –The perfume oils are blended together. The oils and proportions are chosen by a man known as a “nose”. The nose may chose hundreds of oils in one perfume. God places each member of the body into the local church to accomplish His purposes. We are not here by chance or choice. He calls us to the local church. 1 Corinthians 12:12-37…”God has combined the members of the body.”

4. Aging - The great perfume is often aged for years after being blended. After proper aging, a “nose” will test the perfume for the correct aroma. The perfume industry uses musical jargon to describe the quality of perfumes. Perfumes have three notes. “Notes de tete” or top notes have tangy or citrus-like smells. “Notes de coeur” or central or heart notes (flowers like rose and jasmine) give the perfume body. “Notes de fond” or base notes (woody fragrances) give a lasting fragrance. It takes much time for a fine perfume to age and it takes time for the members of a church body to become what God desires. We need all kinds: top notes, heart notes, and base notes to be a fully functioning body. We’d all like to sing the melody, but without the harmony and bass parts, our music would be rather bland!

I love the imagery of the perfume and the refining process involved with that to describe what Paul was speaking of when he said, “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.

How easy it is to blame our difficulties on the Devil. When you go through trials, consider these two questions. Am I in this situation because of my actions? Could God have placed me in this circumstance so that I can share in the fellowship of His sufferings? God could be refining you to transform you into the image of Christ!

*Information about the manufacture of perfumes was gathered from