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Jesus > Religion?

I wanted to share a video I was recently shown. Overall, it’s a pretty powerful message, and I it really strikes a chord with me. I have struggled for a long time with my feelings about religion and ‘the church’ seeming to be more important (in some instances) than the core of our beliefs. Especially with regard to some specific Christian denominations. I understand the concept of tithing, of being generous with what God has provided in your life. But at times I have felt like that is the core message: you need to give more time, more money, more effort, etc. And in many cases, especially recently, people are using their ‘religion’ (Christianity) to ridicule the lives of others. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, right?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying organized religion is bad — in fact, we absolutely need it to help connect those who are seeking God with His message. But in some churches, I feel like the message is lost in self-righteousness and self-justification. I am someone who strongly believes I do not need someone to ‘intervene’ in my relationship with God. I do not need to seek “permission” or follow a doctrine to take communion or to be worth of worshiping in His house. I only need the love of Jesus to cleanse my sins – not the blessings of a human middle-man.

The speaker in this video, Jefferson Bethke, is a pretty young guy.  So I’m not certain he has all the answers in life, and there are certainly some flaws in this argument. But this poem is powerful, and carries a strong message. Do I agree that ‘Jesus hates religion’? Not entirely. But I do believe strongly in John 14:6, and the idea that is instilled (through some religions or Christian denominations) that you need to be in God’s house, listening to another man speak, to receive His Word and blessing. What do you think?

~Mike

Sentimentality

(Note: this entry was originally posted on 03-30-2004 on a earlier blog. I passed this place again Sunday and remembered this old entry. Sadly, the place is now falling apart even more, and will likely soon be consumed by time)

Off to the left of I-64 West, near Jasper, IN, there’s an abandoned farm that sits nestled in the trees, along a bubbling creek.

Notice I said farm. That’s because the whole place is there — house, barn, outbuildings, everything. Bit by bit it’s starting to crumble and fall. In just the past few years, the large barn has collapsed. The wood on all the buildings is weathered and old. Nature is slowly reclaiming what were once well-worn pathways and barnyards.

I’m not really a collector of “antiques”, but old things bring me pause. I can’t help but to let my mind drift when I see abandoned homes, old furniture, or forgotten heirlooms. I wonder about the people and families who once owned and cherished these items. What were they like? Where were they from? What happened to them?

I’m a sentimental nut… I don’t know who owned (or now owns) this farm. I don’t know why it was abandoned, or why it still stands. Perhaps flooding from the creek eventually drove the owners to higher ground. Or maybe tuberculosis rendered the family unable to care for the place. Slowly it fell into disrepair. Slowly it was forgotten.

But someone sawed the boards for that house by hand, and nailed them in place with pride. Someone meticulously laid that stone fence by hand. Someone carved the ornamental dresser with care and detail. And someone once shined that pocket-watch daily, winding it gently to keep it in time.

Legacies live and die… The Cracker Barrel restaurants have great food and an inviting atmosphere, but I nearly despise their decor. It makes me sad to see the portraits and pictures on the wall. Our ancestors dressed and posed with dignity, only to be forgotten generations later. Faces without names. The fruits of their labor now forgotten, discarded in favor of the present.

Have you ever wondered what your mark upon this world will be once you’ve left it behind? Have you made provisions to ensure your children will know where they came from, and how they got here?

Next time you are in a Cracker Barrel, do more than glance at the pictures. Look into their eyes. See their hopes and dreams, pain and suffering, love and loss. Remember these were once living, breathing people — not decorations.

Then ask yourself… in 100 years, will this be me?