Thursday, October 29, 2015

Without Honor

Have you ever been caught in a lie?  Certainly many have memories of those childhood fibs and falsehoods that they were caught in that ultimately led to punishments of varying degrees; from being caught justifying why your hand was in the cookie jar to being somewhere you were not supposed to be after curfew.  Chastisement was just and we can now look back upon those corrective life lessons as necessary if not with a bit of amusement.
But as an adult, have you ever been exposed in a falsehood or in deceit?  Most would say no, or be unwilling to admit it.  Many would justify levels of falsehood.  Telling the children there are no more snacks left when the jar is empty isn't wrong.  They're the ones who emptied it.  It doesn't matter that you stashed a package for yourself in the bedroom so you could have a few also.  You're entitled to it, after all.  You bought them.  There's nothing wrong with this ... until said children walk in on you with wrappers rustling and Oreo crumbs on the bed sheets.
Or less humorously, the one many eventually deal with - Santa.  He's real kids!  He leaves the presents!  He sneaks in and you better behave or you won't get any.  "Mom and dad - why are you still up and who do those belong to?"  Really?  You're going to harp on Santa?
Take it further, the half-truth to the boss.  "Yes I have the report ready for Thursday."  (Well, I have the rough draft done, but I'll have plenty of time to finish it before then.)  The half-intent to the friend.  "Sure I can meet you."  "Oh, sorry I can't make it, _____ came up."  The half-promise to the spouse.  "Sure, I'll take care of that."  "I couldn't get to it because ______."  The full blown lie to the child "No, I don't have time for that because_____."  "Well, Daddy had to do this instead." 
Like the erosion of a seaside land mass, these and many similar scenarios that many of us are regularly engaged in erode our integrity daily.  Tiny bits at a time, our honor slowly dissipates from us, imperceptible through the fog of our legitimate excuses.  Until one day we find ourselves shame-facedly trying to defend indefensible actions.  Scrambling for footing on shifting sand, we are confronted with the crushing weight of the toppling of our perceptions of the acceptable and the permissible.  
Truth's honesty is the most marvelous of sanctuaries to build and uphold the worth and well being of the individual and of relationships.  But it is also a punishing weight bearing down upon the heads of those who have walked away from it, whether blatantly or little by little.  To lose honesty is to lose integrity and to be without integrity is to be without honor.  In this state, one must either bitterly come to terms with the state of their loss, or callously choose to abandon honor and integrity altogether for self at the cost of others.  It is not difficult to conjure images of the latter in today's society. In fact, I don't think it would be inaccurate to state that we live in the days were society actually encourages embracing the latter. 
Honor, therefore stands out juxtapositioned against the white noise of those without it.  This is why we are repeatedly called to it in scripture.  To walk with honor is not to seek a spotlight to walk in; it is quite the opposite as shown in Proverbs 18:12 .  It is to walk with such integrity that honor follows as a shadow in its brilliance.  This honor has weight to it, it is perceptible.  It affects the actions of those around it.
Conversely, regaining lost honor is difficult.  To have lied and been found out, wounding hearts; to have spoken badly of others to their knowledge; to make promises with no regard of whether they are kept.   Honor's trust can only be rebuilt when joined with humility and the searching of the one to whom all honor belongs. 
And this one, he knows the pain of having lost all honor.  He knows the crushing weight of despair  in becoming not only dishonorable, but of becoming so shameful in his very being that the One who shaped the stars and called the oceans forth was forced to turn from him as He could not bear the sin and shame that was on him.  This one knows the burning pain of a broken heart heavy within the chest as no one being in existence.  For this reason, this Eternal King can say to us
"Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.  When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."
Psalm 91:14-16 ESV

Because of a cross without honor
Upon which hung a King without honor
Who became my Savior
I don't have to live
Without Honor


Thursday, October 8, 2015

My Lighthouse

"My Lighthouse"
In my wrestling and in my doubts
In my failures You won't walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

In the silence, You won't let go
In my questions, Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

My Lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse
I will trust the promise,
You will carry me safe to shore (Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore (Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore (Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore

I won't fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I'll rise and sing
My God's love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

Fire before us, You're the brightest
You will lead us through the storms
by Rend Collective

O God of our salvation,the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; 
the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might;
 who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
Psalm 65:5-8 ESV


Friday, August 21, 2015


Detestable.  Despicable.  Shocking.  Offensive.  Repulsive.  Disgusting.  Loathsome.  Vile. 

I don't think it would be a stretch to state that every one of us can easily picture at least one news headline in the past weeks that we would characterize with more than one of these words.  In fact, the media as of late seems awash with that which pushes the bounds of decency further and further from what should seem to be common sense humanity.  Tiny unborn beings bartered for organs.  Well known individuals brought low by infidelity and scandal.  Politicians failing miserably in feigning ignorance or basic knowledge of association with corruption or poor judgment.  It seems there is a swell of the detestable that cannot be ignored without completely cutting one's self off from the world around them.

Of late I have begun to feel disgusted at the detestable.  Among these news stories are individuals who have claimed superior morals and better values than most who are now the butt of every conceivable joke.  Their lives, which have always been under the microscope, have been found corrupted and even fallen into depravity.  This is a God-send for a media who has always sought the downfall of these self-righteous, holier-than-thou bible thumpers. 

Others have been caught in lurid and despicable acts.  Convicted, they'll go to prison.  Lives are torn apart and they too, are now an attraction for mockery.  Again, I feel disgusted at the detestable actions of others.  But I'm not referring to the guilty.  Certainly their crimes against the innocent and their own families are shameful and horrible.  A terrible price is being paid as Hell claims victory in the sundering of their lives, their reputations, and their loved ones.

I have been amazed and shocked at the rapid response of judgment and vitriol in all of these scenarios.  It is evident that guilt is present.  What has amazed me is something that I can only ascribe to a near hatred and delight at the downfall of others.  Again, I find this detestable.  But I am not moved towards revulsion for the media or the public in general.  From these I expect this behavior.  They can act no differently.  They are trapped in a fallen state, convicted by the lifestyles of those who aren't, and very often seeking the worst in others to justify a lost existence that they may or may not be aware of.  This behavior is fully to be expected.

What has amazed me to the point of sadness is the reaction of those claiming Christ.  I cannot number the social media posts, conversations, and emails that I have witnessed that essentially are celebrating the downfall of these individuals.  Some are more poignant than others but all of them are basically saying the same thing:  "See - they got what they deserved!"  On social media these posts are typically followed by several agreeing comments or "likes", the essence of a digital "AMEN!  Preach it!"

I would agree, these people did get what they deserved.  It's pretty clear in Romans 6:23 - "The wages of sin is death" and these people opened the door and invited death right in.  Death to their marriages.  Death to their families' well being.  Death to their finances.  Yes they are living scripture out to the fullest.

What has me saddened is that so many who quickly engage in the conversations of grace, love, hope, and tolerance are also so quick to publicly point out the depths of these individuals' depravity, so quick to celebrate their downfall, so ready to join the world at large in pointing the accusing finger.  The problem is, I only read of one individual in scripture who successfully wore the mantle of accuser.

There's an old story about a man who had an irritation in his eye.  It was caused by a speck, sawdust, some irritant that was hard to see and even more difficult to remove.  The attempt caused his eye to redden, tears to flow, and was somewhat noticeable to others.

Of those who noticed, was a man who had been disfigured in an accident. He'd survived but in the process had been wounded terribly.  He had been impaled.  Puss and infection constantly plagued the wound and though it was painful, he'd been fearful to remove the impalement even though doctors had promised him a full recovery.  A large piece of lumber had been driven straight into his eye socket.  With such a wound, he was completely blinded in one eye with reduced vision in the other.

This wounded man began to focus on the rubbings and irritations of the other.  As he watched him struggle he began to become irritated with his flailing about and gyrations.  Finally he'd had it.  He blurted out "ENOUGH!!!  You need to stop acting so foolishly or you'll permanently damage your eye.  Here, sit still while I help you get that out!"

Matthew 7:3-5

"But I'm not a child molester!"  "I've never cheated on my spouse!"  Great.  Good for you.  You're in good company.  But not good enough.  In fact, even your most minor infringements were vile enough, detestable enough, and offensive enough that the very King of all creation had to leave a throne of unimaginable splendor, bind himself in a mortal frame, and permit wicked men to tortuously kill him as a substitute for your trespasses against a holy and sinless God - all because he was not willing to exist throughout the innumerable eons of eternity without you. 

This King doesn't revel in the downfall of the wicked.  He doesn't celebrate the just desserts of poor choices and bad decisions.  In fact, every recording of his having encountered individuals thus embroiled shows him embracing their brokenness, accepting their frailties, and pointing them to a better way.  No judgment, no condemnation, no "I told you so".  His only anger is directed against those righteous who would put the fallen where they belong, publicize their shame, and cast them out of the "good people" club.

I wonder what this King thinks of us when we have the audacity to even speak about the failings and downfalls of another given the lengths he went to and what he endured to reclaim us from death and Hell.  He always loves us in the deepest sense of the word.  Where others revel in the falling of others, He revels in the rescue.  And they witness our willingness to point out the trespass of others.  They hone in on the rapidity with which we cry "foul" when others fall.  But I wonder, given everything he as gone through to rescue each and every one of us, would he not find our judgments, our pointing fingers, our actions detestable?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Self is impatient, frustrated and unwilling.
Self is unkind, inattentive, indifferent and unfeeling.
Self is rarely content, or trusting.
Self is arrogant and assuming, inflated with pride.
Self seeks to raise itself above others.
Self is coarse, impolite, abusive, and insulting.
Self lacks grace.
Self demands its own way. 
Self is not pleasant or cheerful.
Self is resentful, moody, easily annoyed and quick tempered.
Self is easily offended. 
Self holds onto injury and trespass, contemplating and brooding over wrongs done to it.
Self flourishes in favoritism, partiality, and negligence.
Self gains satisfaction when others get what they deserve.
Self is apathetic when genuine integrity and truth prevail.
Self is idle and gives up under pressure. 
Self distrusts and regularly questions the motives of others. 
Self readily despairs in trial and opposition.
Self readily surrenders and abandons. 
Self is undependable.
Self is defined by its failures.
Self consumes.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The War We'll Never Win

A court announces a decision.  Many in this nation erupt in celebration.  For many in this nation:  dysphoria.  Debate ensues. Many are relieved - finally discrimination is diminished. Many are discouraged - there seems no climbing back from the moral precipice that we've cast ourselves.  Morality and righteousness are focal points for some. Liberties, and freedoms are of central concern to others. A nation is fraught with tension as political parties can agree on virtually nothing and stalemate has become the norm on issues of policy throughout the land.

Outside of our borders wars are erupting in distant lands. Those who seek our nation's downfall are empowered and emboldened.  Diseases ravage entire nations.  Children and entire families are kidnapped, massacred or worse in the name of religion. With a divided land we continue to seemingly decline in the world around us and this has many worried or at least concerned about the state of global affairs as the Enemy moves, apparently unfettered, in hearts and minds. Pray harder, work harder, strategize more to stop him. "Sweet Jesus come soon!"

For many of who call on the name of Christ, the pressure is escalating even in the day to day.  Perhaps the work environment is filled with those who are just a bit more vocal in their disdain for the "Christians" of this land.  Plenty of examples of detestable behavior exist and if need be the dirty word "televangelist" automatically conjures the failings of decades past and drags them forward to the modern believer's feet for immediate association with any who would dare utter the words "do you know Jesus?"

We huddle under the umbrella of church and small group, hedging out societal evils with prayers of repentance for our nation and ourselves.  Justly so.  We become emboldened with the might and power of the very Word of the ages, given to us for life and salvation.  Take up the helmet of salvation, and the shield of faith.  Put on the belt of truth.  Shod your feet with the gospel.  Sharpen the sword.  Onward Christian Soldier.  Absolutely!

We carry this forward.  We offer our prayers to hold at bay what seems a tsunami of the demonic knowing that our God is capable of miracles in the midst of insurmountable odds.  The existence of a minuscule nation surrounded by innumerable enemies called Israel is proof positive.  We carry this into our worlds, ready to engage when necessary, battle when required, fight for the Godly cause and ready to stand firm to help restore this nation to its God-fearing glory.  But there is a question that does not enter our minds and perhaps it should.  What if we're not supposed to win?  What if we're not supposed to succeed against what could only be described as a global unleashing of Hell upon this globe?  Mighty as the armed Christian is; powerful as the faith filled believer is promised to be, what if victory isn't in the cards and never was?

A marine was interviewed in the recent past when city after city began to succumb and fall under control of ISIS forces in Iraq.  This Marine had fought in several of those locations.  He had helped to liberate some of those places and lost brothers in arms in the process.  Blood was spilled and a steep price was paid.  The interviewer, playing on the Marine's past and attempting to lead the marine to say something provocative regarding the current administration's handling of the unfolding crisis asked "How do we win this war?"  The Marine answered "I have no idea - I was never trained to win wars.  That took place far above me.  I was trained to win battles.  If you want to ask me how to take a hill, an area, or a neighborhood - I can help you.  But winning wars is above my pay grade."

So often we are grieved by the news we watch and the desperation we witness on a global scale.  I am thankful that God is opening hearts to compassion - the suffering with others.  Too often too many turn a numb face from the realities of the tragedies that are moment by moment occurring around this sphere, occurring even within miles or blocks of their home.  I firmly know the admonition of James 1:27 and what "true religion" looks like to Him, the one who rebuffed the "religious" and their misguided notions.  But I don't ever recall a passage in his Word where I'm called to be worried or anxious about how we get from Alpha to Omega, from Genesis to Revelations.  I never read that it is on us to usher in His reign on this earth.  In fact I remember where I am specifically instructed to not be anxious in Philippians 4:6

What if Christians remembered that we're not commanded to win the war at all. It's already been won. We're called to win the battles within our own dermis, the ongoing war that rages within.  Beyond this, we're commissioned to engage in the day to day encounters of compassion, battles against poverty, abuse, brutality, battles of grace and love in the midst of judgement and condemnation.  Those are the footsteps of my Savior.  When he trod this earth, he didn't overwhelm a pagan empire or overthrow a corrupted theocracy, though this is what the twelve men who traveled with him fully expected,  Rather he intersected lives, one at a time, footstep by footstep, touch by touch.

Winning the morality war is ultimately a losing war in our hands - it has to be in order for the last entries of the book we claim as His Word to be accurate. It is above our pay grade; but locking arms and facing our own battles and supporting others as they face theirs is fully within our mandate.  To do so requires true acceptance, forgiveness, and love.

The continued darkening of this temporal globe is a war that we'll never win...
In order to bring about the eternity that He's already won

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Promises of a Fool

Six Thousand Nine-Hundred Thirty Nine.  Plus one.  At the date of this writing that is how many days it has been since a very nervous young and long haired boy stood facing an equally nervous and radiant blue eyed girl and promised security, eternal love, the world, and beyond.  Nineteen years ago, plus one day.  To quote a recent James Bond movie, we "still had spots" - yet our trials to date, our proven love, and the sheer strength of our commitment to each other and to our Lord fueled our decision to launch into a new life together as husband and wife.  Invincible. 

Within short years invulnerability was laid low by cancer.  Security and trust eroded as a boy failed to grow into a man; failed to step into his new found role of servant, leader, and protector.  Failed to understand the depth of vows made and the lengths such vows would take him to.  The world shifted under our feet as intended plans and expectations eluded or evaporated.  What in my mind was to be the norm of marriage, home, family, progress, prosperity - all fell apart and out of order.  Even the bedrock of church and faith fell into question as I sought small groups, church attendance, and the actions of my faith to strengthen rather than seeking the One in whom my faith was founded. 

"If we could just attend church more often"
"If we could just connect with the right group of friends or right circle to encourage"
"If we were just more faithful"

Through this and the days after I began to encounter something in my bride that still rips at my chest, tears at my heart - though often I was blinded by the veil of anger and selfishness.  I began to see tears in those blue eyes.  At first only once in a great while, but then more frequently as offense and hurt became more frequent.  Where two had begun a new journey in the same direction energized by their love and God's promises, both now felt weighted by life's daily drain and the vast differences between each other discovered through the simple act of living as husband and wife.

Pregnancy.  The solution to renew our hearts, to re-emerge better, stronger, more united than ever.  I was working two jobs at the time and was excited to finally shoulder the mantle of "father", to become the provider for a "family".  At last - we were on track to what was ordained.  Our previous trials had strengthened us for the ultimate journey ahead.

Miscarriage.  Crushing despair.  My bride was lost and I, to my shame, buried myself in my two places of employment, leaving her to cope alone.  To this day that wound has left scars, though loved over and forgiven. 

Pregnancy.  Again, promise tethered to fear from recent loss.  Joyfully a son was born, but joy was quickly stolen as seemingly insurmountable and previously unknown birth defects threatened to immediately extinguish new life.  But miracle after miracle was witnessed from the "right nurse" happening to be on shift to the actual surgeon who perfected the procedure of operating through a tiny one inch opening in my one-day-old son's chest cavity to correct organs and save his life - God repeatedly and miraculously provided in the following months and years as if to say "You are not alone - your vows were not between two people but between a man, a woman, and Myself."

Pregnancy.  Again - difficulties, near loss of life.  Diagnosed disease.  Disappearance of disease.  Miracles again witnessed by many - irrefutably the hand of God.  "I am with you."  It begins to dawn on this man that trial and storm are to be part of this journey, part of this partnership, not an abnormality to be avoided at all costs.   I began to understand the purpose for the darkened path, in fact its necessity for born out of them are the greatest of victories.  The brightest of beacons shine forth.

Those who know our family are keenly aware of our family history of recent years.  Of adoption, of foster care, of the challenges and the amazing workings of God in our lives through the hands of others while on this leg of our lives' journey.  The darkened path has been a frequent road of travel.  Yet we've been absolutely amazed at the continued outpouring of others into our lives.  We've marvelled at the encouragements, the friendships formed, the true uniting of hearts as God has interwoven us with others who have sacrificed and lost, who have walked through darkened woods, navigated stormy days - all to be strengthened for the journey to compassionately pursue His heart to love others in the fullest extent of the word regardless the cost. 

Fool. noun - a person who lacks judgement or sense.  When I was standing in front of the assembled gathering of witnesses to the exchanging of vows, I had no clue as to the heights, the depths, or the breadth of which my vows would be tested in the coming years.  The promises I made were the promises of a fool.  Did I love my bride-to-be less?  No.  But I had no maturity and still viewed the two of us as separate individuals, that would remain so even after marriage.  Very simply, I was not truly ready to lay myself fully down for her, though I had tremendous love, devotion, and affection for her.

This created terrible problems for us in following years that took a great deal of work to get past.  But now I recognize her for the priceless soul mate that she is, my absolute partner and the one that I cherish.  I did not arrive at this station without a tremendous stripping of self, and I have a great deal yet to purge.  Recently my Pastor shared one of the most humble and honest messages I've ever heard about this role of husbands and their responsibilities in the home.  It speaks to the always taboo word of "submission" in the marriage, but deals with it in the most profound and honest way.  I dearly wish I had heard these words before I had married my bride, understood the full depth of meaning behind them - it would have saved us, specifically me, many missteps.  In fact, this message gets to the very basics of how each of us should be treating others, whether in a marriage or not.  If you take nothing else from this writing, I urge you to listen here.

This is what I promised my bride I would do at the alter and failed time and time to deliver upon as I had yet to mature spiritually and emotionally into one who would lay down his life for another.  Jesus apparently ran into the same thing all around him for he stated "greater love has no man..." (John 15:13).   I'll spend the rest of my days pursuing her and pursuing the perfection of this promise.  Likewise we have a Savior who promised his bride to pursue us relentlessly. Only, unlike myself, he never failed. He knew from the outset the full weight of his promises and from day one he has always held up his vows.  These are not the promises of a fool.  These are the fully upheld promises of a King.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Simple Currency

Having just come off of Easter weekend, thoughts continue to swirl regarding events of millennia past.  A man lived, truly lived, enshrouded in compassion.  Kneeling in the dust he pulled a used woman to her feet and instilled worth and purpose.  Stepping aside from vital tasks at hand, he confronted another woman whose faith brought her to merely touch his clothing for life giving restoration.  Risking health and well being, he engaged and embraced the diseased and outcast.  Berating his often agenda-minded followers, he instructed them to put aside the scholarly and bring forward the children who simply desired to bask in the affection of One with whom they felt safe to play and be as children should. 
This same compassion caused him to weep over a city and a people central to so many of his Father's pleadings and passions, yet so far from His heart.  This compassion fueled a holy rage against abusing racketeers that moved him to physically and violently expel them from His "Father's house".  This compassion, led him, an innocent man, to take on the mantle of criminal, villain, despised and detested.  Ultimately, this compassion led him to an agony filled and excruciating death.
Some would ask "Was it worth it?". 
He would answer " payment to restore you, absolutely.  Over, and over and over again." 
Yet once was all that was needed to usher all of us from under the impenetrable veil of separation from a Holy God and into His family.  And at the heart of this miraculous compassion is an even more miraculous love which has not only been passed to you and I, but has been freely given with the expectation that we will, likewise, freely offer in kind to others.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:12, 13 ESV 
But for most of us, this is a high price to ask.  We acknowledge this commandment (notice it is not requested but commanded) on a cerebral level, but to put feet to motion in the manner that was actually lived out 2000 years ago...I have often found modern reasonings why this is an impossibility to carry out to the fullest.
"I might offend if I point out their need..."
"I know of a ministry/program that deals with their specific woes - I'll point them there..."
"I don't have the answers they're searching for..."
"I've never been down their path/walked in their shoes - I can't relate..."
"It seems dangerous or unsafe..."
Yet we have been commanded.  How do we ignore such a polarizing word in the midst of this verse?  How do we embrace our fears and develop a passion for that which He was passionate?  How much of ourselves are we to sacrifice?  What it really boils down to is what is the worth of another and are we willing to pay it?  And what is the currency?
It is the same exchange that it was when He walked this plane:  compassion fueled by love.  In fact, we are admonished to put it on like daily clothing in Colossians 3:12 .
"But what of the cost?  Will there be loss?"
That is the beauty of love's inherent power - true love, unblemished and pure, embraces loss in exchange for the benefit of another.  It's His cosmic model.  Yet the gain far outweighs any tangible that can be grasped in tightly protective hands.  Nothing of lasting value can be clenched or horded.
Lyrics from a song entitled "What It Costs" by the band Switchfoot contain the following:
But love deals the currency of loss
Don't ever forget what it cost....
...Our story needs the pain that we outgrew
Yeah you can't call it love until you've lost
If you love someone this is what it cost
And love does cost.  It costs your insecurities.  It costs your prejudices.  It costs your biases.  It costs your pride.  It costs you financially and it costs your time.  In short, it costs everything of you, even your life...
Sound familiar?
This is price of Heaven; both a heaven gained as our lives touch others to transform and a Heaven gained as we take up our cross and follow.  It is why we are never promised an escape from the pain and the storms of this fallen sphere, but rather given countless opportunities to engage like souls who, also, have been broken.  Our lives are to be ruled by this exchange.  God himself identifies His person with it.  Bypassing the baubles and failing trinkets of this temporal, it is the commerce of the eternal.
It is a simple currency called love.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Losing My Religion

I heard it on the radio and it immediately resounded with me.  The droning craggley voice of one of the musical heroes of my youth.  Remorsefully the singer laments the constraints of mental and emotional imprisonments juxtapositioned against unnerving raw exposure and the subsequent lack of security.  "That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight"  A well known song, one that many of my generation can sing nearly word for word.
Religion.  This word is a lightning rod for conflict.  Historically this conflict has been violent and it has been comfortably distant in text books and treatises.  Wars have been waged in the name of religion; armies amassed and mobilized for territorial conquest or defense, in the name of religion.  Or perhaps it is the preservation of religion that has been sought through the elimination of threats and challengers.  Exposing and obliterating societal evil has often been the banner under which the masses have gathered.  Fervor has often joined hands with ignorance to lead the charge in righting the scales, stamping out "the demonic" and restoring the ordained order. 
Even we who profess faith in Christ equate Pharisaical religious blindness to those who nailed a Savior to rough hewn timbers in a cruel Roman execution.  We have the luxury of comfortably scrutinizing their actions through the lenses of further writings of apostles, commentaries, and innumerable texts, bible studies, teachings, podcasts, videos, etc.  We readily recognize the crippling institution that the original law of Moses had become as expounded upon by men and it seems only logical to us that Jesus would simplify their hundreds of extra requirements into only a couple of commands "love God with everything in you, love your neighbor as yourself".  We recognize the insecurity of religion as power was stripped from the theocracy and freedom restored to the masses as the heavy yoke of "law" was lifted from their shoulders.  We see the avenging nature of religion in reaction to that threat to centralized power, not only against this Jesus, but time and time again through the centuries.
And though we consider ourselves far more enlightened, far more wise and knowledgeable than those of centuries past - the fruit of this spirit is at our feet again.  Religion is once again exterminating, removing dissent.  It has been all along, but in obscure lands, or remote locations with liquidation practices that have scarcely crossed our stream of consciousness.  But now it is on the offensive en masse, striking at interests closer to home.  Of course this is "another" religion and it is in "other" lands so condemnation is correct and proper. 
But in this time of global spiritual upheaval I find it unwise to ignore the parallels between faiths and fervours.  We are quick to embrace the differences between faiths, but I don't want to miss the opportunity to purge from myself that which tethers me to the dead weight of religion along with most of the rest of this "Christian" nation who will one day look into the heartbroken eyes of a Lord and Savior, one who did everything possible in time and creation to redeem, and hear "I never knew you".  That is the path laid before many of even this Christian religion, because religion cannot redeem - only relationship can.
Passages where we read of religion in the Bible fairly well erode at the philosophies and justifications for many of the actions performed in the name of religion.  God the Father desired relationship, not religion as shown in Isaiah 29:13.  Religion is rigid, constraining, imprisoning. Religion condemns.  God has another plan as pointed out in John 3:17.  When we're feeling unworthy or that we have nothing to offer, that we need shy away from an omnipotent and Holy God, to improve or alter ourselves before approaching - this is us giving ear to religion, lies whispered from the darkness;   lies that a sinless man laid himself out to be nailed as a sacrifice on yours and mine behalf to eliminate.
Those of the adoption and orphan care communities are also typically very familiar with the following:
If anyone thinks himself to be religious (piously observant of the external duties of his faith) and does not bridle his tongue but deludes his own heart, this person’s religious service is worthless (futile, barren). External religious worship (religion as it is expressed in outward acts) that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.
James 1:26-27 AMP
Controlling our tongue and reaching out to the down and out - pair that with Jesus' two commands  and an irrefutable example of life laid down for others and how can we legitimize any offense or selfish ambition that would bring harm to others?  Further, how can we doubt our own worth when the very Prince of all existence specifically sought us out and purchased us with his own life?  To do so is to give heed to the very heart of religion. 
Yet I find myself regularly struggling with the trappings.  Sin occurs and a resultant overcompensating penitent desire follows.  The instruction is clear - "repent" - about face.  Forgiven.  Yet for many of us this isn't enough.  We know there must be more required.  Perhaps some extra quiet time, some extra prayer.  Maybe some extra good works to seek out.  Anything to assuage the gnaw of guilt clinging.  We brush aside the still small voice stating "once for all" (Heb 7:27). 
"But for those who have willfully and purposefully with ill intent harmed us; for them there most certainly is a tribunal formed somewhere for their actions surely heaped levels of sin upon levels of sin to have permitted their hearts to darken such.  Their's will surely require a prolonged and arduous repentance for the damage done to God's child, let alone the work they will be required in rebuilding relationship and trust, won't it?"  Many of us have had this expectation and many of us are still wrestling with it and the hurt born from others.  Our own hurtful stumblings are forgiveable and misconstrued by the offended where the stumblings of others against us are deemed planned, premeditated, and hateful from a darkened heart, requiring that "extra mile" for recompense.
And yet through all of this "extra" we find ourselves still wallowing, still struggling, still enduring the same "thorns in the flesh".  Perhaps new light comes to Paul's statement "His grace is sufficient".  Is it possible that perhaps an omniscient, eternally patient and compassionate God who names himself "Love" is actually trying to purge religion and all of the extraneous weight that comes with it from us?
As a former student of architecture I spent many hours studying magnificent cathedrals constructed throughout the world.  Each of them had the lofty goal of emulating the presence of heaven on earth.  Many of them truly do leave the observer speechless as they stand gazing upward at the awe inspiring forms and heights. Colored glass ushers in sheets of rainbows that bring fantastically crafted stone figures to life in the lofty spaces above.  Yet for all of their grandeur, for all of the attempts of man to bring the presence of heaven to earth, none have rivaled the clearest starlit night, or the hues of a westward sun sinking below the horizon.  Failing to distinguish between the awe of the senses and the true holiness that resides within, these works of stone and glass sought to enshroud and possess the presence of God rather than point to his already existent presence all around and in us.
For this, the ruins of a time weathered and failing basilica juxtapositioned against the very heavens it is trying to capture is a potent picture.  In this simple image can be seen man's attempts to secure the eternal (religion) and the folly of such efforts as they fail to even begin to touch the oceans of heavens beyond.  It's not about our rites, our rituals, our requirements, our prescribed attendance or even the dollar figure.  These will never even reach the outer gates, much less God's ear when they are the focus.  Every day it's about losing our religion and pursuing our relationship with Him - and He's just a breath away.
"And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."
Romans 5:5 NLT