Dec 24, 2005

We Are Not Alone

Christians living in a tumultuous world are constantly bombarded with evil in a concerted effort to conform us to this world. Satan knows exactly how, and when, to tempt us at our most vulnerable moments. God is always with us, and even when we are tempted His right hand of protection is extended.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you will be able to endure it. ~ 1 Cor. 10:13 (ESV)
The Forty-first chapter of Isaiah is a great story of how God shows His love and mercy towards His people. Christians today have the same help and love the Israelites were offered, and He is always available for His people in times of need.
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my right hand. ~ Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

for I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'fear not, I am the one who helps you'. ~ Isaiah 41:13 (ESV)
When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God Of Israel will not forsake them. ~ Isaiah 41:17 (ESV)
We are blessed beyond measure that God is willing, and able to move mountains to protect and care for us. Isaiah chapter forty-one displays His grace and mercy to those who are His people; we need to read this promise often, and understand that He lovingly watches over us and will never forsake us.

Dec 16, 2005

God Upholds The Weak

Making snap judgments about people who didn't agree with MY particular Bible interpretation was once deeply embedded into my Christian thought. I mean ..... how could I be wrong! I honestly believed that I was a member of the Lord's only recognized body on earth; the Church of Christ, and it was only logical that since there was only one true church, and you were not a member of that body, you was not a Christian....after all, how could some one in the Baptist, Methodist, or Catholic church be saved, they didn't follow the New Testament pattern, and on top of that wore the wrong "church" name.
"Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;" ---Romans 14:10 (ESV)
It never fails to baffle me how I could read Romans 14:10 without seeing how judgmental I had become. Of course I didn't think I was being judgmental at the time, because my judgment wasn't geared to a brother, or at least I didn't think so.
"Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." ---Romans 14:4 (ESV)
The Lord knows who is a member of His body, and certainly doesn't need any help from me, or anyone else to enlighten Him. What's truly amazing is the fact that He can uphold us and make us stand before Him.

We should not be worried how others judge us; the Lord knows us, loves us, and promises to uphold us. In our weakest moments, He is there ready to pick us up, dust us off, and return us to an upright position. This promise is for all His children, not just a few who believe they have attained perfection, and would dare pass judgment on their brothers and sisters.

Dec 11, 2005

Dark Places And Bright Lights

Hitting the local cafe for an early morning cup of coffee is my preferred method of kick-starting another day. Coffee shops are a great way to make new friends and solve the world's problems (the government should check with us before making major decisions.) Five months ago I moved to this little mountain community and didn't know anyone; my coffee breaks have now produced a few friends, and also a few problems.

From the beginning I have made it plain to each of them that I believe in God, and while not perfect, I strive daily to follow where Jesus leads. Rather than irritate them with my attempts to be "preachy" (is this a word! if not, it should be) I just use every opportunity available to let them know God loves them. Alone with them they talk about God, but as a group the subject is usually ignored.
"...Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." ---Matt. 5:16 (ESV)
These coffee jockeys while playfully aggravating one another will use rather coarse language at times, and have no qualms about using God's name improperly; not seeming to care if they offend anyone in hearing distance. While I enjoy their company and consider them friends, it bothers me to no end when they spout their foul language, especially when everyone in the coffee shop can hear them.....and here I am right in the middle of them, and on the surface not a very shinning example of being a Christian. Certainly some in the room cubby-hole all of us into the same rowdy category because of the actions of one or two who turned the air blue for a second.

While bad company corrupts good morals, how can we teach the unsaved without being in their company? People who categorize us as being sinners because we associate with the lost without knowing the situation, are usually the same people who could care less about the lost. Jesus constantly received flak for associating with those unacceptable to the mainstream religion of the day, yet He continued to seek those who were lost and hurting, and didn't let a little criticism change His direction. Our light indeed should burn brightly before a lost world, but those judging us for something they don't understand have no effect on our light, and while our light may be doused in their minds, I believe it will shine brightly before God.

We seldom reach the lost without engaging them in their own territory. If they decided to attend the church services they could catch a glimple of what it means to worship God, but most people who are not Christians don't hang around Christians; so unless you go to them on their grounds, how can you make an impact in their lives?

I'm not advocating that we associate with the lost by following them in sin, but we can by loving them, and being near them, show them a better way to live. Being seen in a crowd associating with sinners (and who of us are not sinners) may seem on the surface as being the wrong place for a Christian, but where else can a Christian be of more service than with those who need Him the most?

Dec 3, 2005

Your Church Might Be A Country Club, If:

More than once I have visited a church where the leaders were successful in creating a county club (anything goes) atmosphere, where the emphasis on Jesus appears to have been lost in the shuffle. Too often these country club churches seek to please the membership rather than fulfill their mission of reaching the lost. They have developed multiple programs for everything under the sun, except reaching the lost.

Country club churches dot the landscape all over our fair country, and bear little resemblance to the church depicted in the Bible. If the church is the earthly body of Christ (and it is) then we need to follow after Jesus rather than attending a church where the emphasis is placed on our entertainment instead of preparing us to live Godly lives and harvest lost souls.

Your church might be a country club, if:

Your entire weeks contribution is used to buy ice cream for the weekly Sasquatch Admiration Society meeting in room #304.

The elders proudly announce the new Martha Stewart, Spitfire Self-igniting, radically engineered, atom fueled cook stove has been installed right next to the matching refrigerator in the "church" kitchen.

You always have Sunday lunch with the IN group, and never have occasion to invite visitors-- especially the poor, ill dressed, and un-churched --to share your table. You do have a Christian image to uphold, you just can't be seen with the un-churched!

You are asked to reach deep into your pocket to embellish the fellowship hall by adding an NBA (National Basketball Association) type wood floor, and increase the size of the playing field to a full court so a few of the members can have some fun. Of course it can also be used for sock hops.

You are a member of six clubs in the church; the Boy Scouts Boosters, Camp XIII Bonfire Extinguishers, Boar Hunters of America, Yellow Primrose Association, Chicago Bear Tailgaters, and the Blue Boys '73 Corvette Club, but can't locate the verse in the bible where "Jesus Wept."

Everyone during the worship service is wearing their favorite NFL T-shirt while munching on popcorn, eating hot dogs, and sipping cokes.

The church leaders turn their heads when you are sinful, and go out of their way to remove any possible guilt that just might harm your psyche.


I prefer a small church with a big heart, using the Lord's money wisely to feed the poor, care for the sick, and save the lost; not pampering the in-house membership.

Nov 14, 2005

The Church Of Diotrephes

Many moons ago I had the misfortune to meet with a church sporting a dyed-in-the-wool Diotrephes preacher. There was about 300 members at the time, yet in his eyes no one was qualified to be an elder, so he assumed the role of Super Solo Preacher/Elder. Occasionally talk was heard of selecting elders and deacons, but not for long, these novel ideas were quickly squelched and a few heads rolled.
"I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church."
3 John 9, 10 (ESV)
Over time a clique developed and only those core members supporting his inerrant opinions were considered truly Christian. Many members left disenchanted, others were withdrawn from, and sent scurrying down the road. After about ten years only 50-60 hard core members that are completely in subjection to his leadership remain at this location.

This church will not work with--and in many cases not recognize--other Churches of Christ in the area, because in his eyes all other COC groups have gone astray, and are no longer a part of the Lord's church. This preacher (?) goes beyond the precept that only COC groups are members of Christ's body; only his church, and those believing exactly like him are acceptable to the Lord.

Men who demand total control of a church, and refuse to work in tandem with other members will destroy that church. They will not tolerate any opinions other than their own perfect understanding of God's Word, and will fight to the bitter end to uphold their self-appointed position against all comers.

Nov 6, 2005

Huge Logs And Sawdust

Many "churches" have a vision problem; they see all the little flaws in other "churches," but seem incapable of seeing huge flaws in their own group.
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother 'let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (ESV Matt 7:3-5)
Christians habitually entering the Sunday morning worship service with long solemn faces consider this expression (attitude) to reflect the seriousness of the service and the majesty of God; other members waltz in sporting happy faces, reflecting what they feel exemplifies God's love, and they smile because they appreciate all the blessings He has lavished upon them. Both on occasions comment that the other bunch doesn't see the "worship service" in the right perspective. Both see logs in their brother's eye.

The Lord's table is an example of trying to find the appropriate face (attitude) to partake of the emblems in the proper manner. While the emblems represent His death and burial, they also represent His resurrection from the dead. One person is thinking of what He had to go through for us and is sad, another is pondering His resurrection to life and a future eternal life with Him, and they are smiling and happy.

It seems to me that all we can do is accept differing attitudes (smiley faces & solemn faces) with unfeigned love for them in our hearts, and realize that we sometimes just see things differently, neither group may have the wrong attitude, just a different perspective.

We are all different. Sometimes we carry a speck in our eye, and at other times a log. It certainly doesn't behoove me to resent another Christian because they don't see things the way I do! We may be members of His body, but we differ drastically at times, and none of us, on every occasion, will meet the expectations of our brothers and sisters perfectly.

One church may continually find fault with other churches because they don't fit into their rigid expectation of what constitutes a perfect church, this is an example of a church with a long solemn face. The happy-face churches don't appreciate the insinuations that they are not truly Christians, but only pretenders; so they denounce the "perfect church" as delusional, and on-and-on it goes!

All Christians should have as their goal a unified local church, willing to accept each other in spite of their differing hermeneutic and varied opinions. It should also be the goal of the "my-way-or-the-highway" churches to acknowledge they have brothers and sisters in "churches" other than their own tribe, and together they constitute the living body of Christ.

Oct 30, 2005

The Sunday School System

For some time now many Christians have been home-schooling their children, because they don't trust our increasingly secular educational institutions. Is it possible that our church Sunday School systems are even more dangerous to our children?

We send our highly impressionable children to a Sunday morning class and assume they are learning about God and all things Christian; yet it has been my experience to realize at a later time that what the teacher taught my children was not scriptural, but rather a mass indoctrination of that churches many traditional and narrow-minded viewpoints.

Sunday School teachers are often selected because they raised their hand when the elders were looking for prospective teachers, and not because they have even the remotest ability to teach. Too often the elders don't make it a point to attend these teachers classrooms occasionally to determine the teachers ability, and what is being taught. I taught for several years and not once did an elder attend my class to determine my ability to teach, or even what, or how, I taught the children....this is not good!

Sunday school classes if conducted properly, and supervised, can be a great source of spiritual learning for all of us, but classes promoting the wrong agenda can be outright dangerous. Our children are often bombarded week-after-week with a lethal dose of biased opinions that may color their thinking for many years. There are some great Sunday School teachers out there; I'm not talking about you!

Just as some parents are home-schooling their children because they don't trust our educational institutions, it may be time to home-school our children on Sunday mornings in lieu of risking their impressionable minds to a Sunday School teacher who is not qualified, or is sending the wrong message about our relationship to Jesus.

The Sunday School system should be something you don't have to fret with; something you can rely on to teach your children about Jesus; something that is monitored by the elders for its scriptural and ethical content. Perhaps we take it for granted that when our children are in Sunday School they are in good hands. Why not insure your children's spiritual health by checking these classes, talking to the teachers, and questioning the children about what they are being taught.

Oct 28, 2005

Voting One Into The Church (2)

Some commenting on my last post had never heard of voting one into the church, or voting one into the church by the Southern Baptist Church. I was hoping they were right and my experience was only an isolated event, but Google quickly made it apparent that this is a common practice among some churches.

A couple citations from churches requiring a vote for one to be accepted into their body:

"To be admitted into church membership, applicants shall be recommended by the elders for admission and accepted by vote of the members at any regular or special meeting of the members, and shall at that point relinquish their membership in other churches."

"A. Initial Membership Requirements - Any born again believer in the Lord Jesus, after being baptized by the scriptural mode of immersion, upon recommendation by the Advisory Council, may be received into the fellowship by a vote of the church at any regular church meeting. Any born again believer who has been immersed may, upon recommendation by the Advisory Council, be received by letter from another church of like faith and practice, or by confession of faith in Christ, by a vote of the church at a regular meeting."

Oct 23, 2005

Voting One Into The Church

There are churches (probably in your neighborhood) that reserve the right to vote for, or against, you becoming a member of the Lord's church.

Voting whether or not to accept your request for baptism into Brand X church is totally ridiculous! If you believe in Jesus, God forgives you, and Christ adds you to His church; who am I to vote to accept or reject your membership into His body? I discussed this voting travesty with a member of the Southern Baptist Church, and the person said that while this was a practice of their church, they had never barred a baptismal candidate from becoming a member of their church; yet they continue to presume the right to vote you IN or OUT.

Since no one but God can know the heart of a repentant sinner, how can we judge any persons worthiness to become a Christian based on our meager information about them, and then decide whether or not to accept their hand in fellowship? A person who may have been the worlds worse reprobate last week may have discussed his situation with the Lord and made drastic changes. How can any group of Christians be so presumptuous as to vote whether you enter the church, and ultimately your eternal destiny?

If any of us are in a church that rejects the misfits, the torn and tattered, the prostitutes, or any sinner that desires to be baptized and wants to be a part of the Lord's church, we need to seriously reexamine our Christian belief system.

Oct 18, 2005

When It's Right To "Forsake The Assembly"

When Sunday morning rolls around many Christians do all the necessary chores associated with making the "church assembly" on time. Some will be disappointed because they are missing their favorite NFL team, others a company picnic, etc., but how often do we attend services when we really shouldn't?
"not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Heb. 10:25, ESV)
When "forsaking the assembly" just might be appropriate:

When my neighbor is on the side of the road in the ditch (whether proverbial, or actually) and needing help; to ignore him and drive past in a mad rush to the "church building" would be wrong.

When my friend/neighbor is sick and needs my immediate attention. Leaving a person who is sick to fend for himself when he really needs my help is wrong, and does not reflect a Christ-like attitude.

When I have a contagious disease that might put my brothers and sisters (especially little children and the elderly) at risk.

If I only attend the Sunday morning assembly in order to improve my social, or business status among the members.

When I attend to show off my new duds, or to impress you with my new automobile. Pretty much in line with the previous reason.

When I attend with a divisive attitude, not caring about the unity of the church, but rather my own agenda, I harm the church and should stay home.

If I attend just to get a hand-out, or other financial support.

While a few of these reasons may not seem reasonable to some Christians, I have a hard time picturing Jesus on his way to the "church services" and ignoring a person in dire need stranded in a ditch. I'm even having a hard time picturing Jesus with the flu assembling with all the little children and elderly who may become infected because of His attendance.

Perhaps you can come up with other reasons that are scriptural, or just make good common sense why we should forsake the assembly. I'm not trying to finagle ways to get out of attending the Sunday morning services, but I know of people who have actually felt compelled to "go to church" when the Christian response should have been to help their neighbor at that exact time.

Personally I had rather face God for missing a "church assembly" than for missing an opportunity to serve my neighbor when they are in need; even if it happens to be on a Sunday morning!

Oct 12, 2005

Walking And Talking Jesus

Christians living exemplary lives in the midst of an unbelieving world is what motivates most people to accept Jesus. People who aren't Christians don't attend Sunday morning services; so unless we pattern our lives after Jesus and walk in His footsteps during the rest of the week, few will SEE any reason to alter their worldly lifestyles.

Waiting at the "church building" for sinners to come to their senses on Sunday morning certainly never worked in the past, want work today, and will not work in the future. There are several great programs now that take the gospel to the people in the streets, but I doubt these people will be comfortable attending "church" in many of our ostentatious buildings. Unless we plant a church in their community where they feel comfortable, our grandiose plans may just fail.

Until we are determined to sacrifice our personal lives (myself included) and walk with Jesus daily in the full presence of a watchful world--not as being perfect, but as loving God and our neighbors--I'm of the opinion the lost will remain lost.
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
You may be walking in the light just fine, that's great; but for the rest of us who stagger, stumble, and fall time after time, we are being watched by unbelievers who wonder if the Christian life is what it's cracked up to be. If you can't tell the Christians from the sinners, one just has to wonder!

Oct 7, 2005

Beware; The Yoke Might Be On You

After reading David U's post on Sectarianism on his blog, Light and Salt; my memory was jogged regarding how the CoC I once attended refused to share anything with any "false" churches in their community sporting any name other than "Church of Christ" on their church signs. Their reasoning was based on 2 Cor. 6:14 (NEV)
"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"
Unless you have spent some time with the legalistic branch of the CoC you may find it difficult to believe that generally this group will not pool their resources, or work hand-in-hand with the Baptists, Nazarenes, Methodists, or any other religious group, regardless of how desperate the situation may be in their community.

When a non-christian home was almost destroyed by fire, several different brands of churches in the small community banded together to help rebuild the home. The CoC in this town refused to join this band-of-churches because they believed it would unequally yoke them with unbelievers, and as a result they would be walking in darkness.

One rebel elder, and four or five of us "fellowshippers of darkness," decided to join the "apostate" churches and help rebuild the home. We worked side-by-side with Baptists, and a member of the Pentecost church until the job was finished, and enjoyed every minute of it.

While we were acting like carpenters, the verse quoted above was tossed into the conversation several times by our preacher, and several others, in an attempt to prove how wrong we were during our "ungodly" alliance with the unbelievers.

The CoC where I attended also refused to join the other churches in the community for an Easter observance, because we would be seen as unequally yoked with them, and give the impression that we were just another denomination.

Unfortunately, there are still ultra-legal churches (at least in CA) that subscribe to the same old illogical traditional interpretations of scripture that I was nurtured with many moons ago.

To repeat myself from an earlier post; "Old traditions never die; they just hang around forever."

Oct 3, 2005

Is My Brothers Ponytail Too Long

Dear Apostle Paul,

Would you elaborate on your "long hair" thoughts, and specify exactly how long a mans hair is when it disgraces him? We have a brother with a ponytail, is this acceptable, or do we wrestle him down and cut off the excess hair, or just disfellowship him?
"Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him," (1 Cor. 11:14 ESV)
I realize this verse, by itself, is somewhat out of context, but it never ceases to amaze me how we can take this verse and condemn a man for wearing his hair too long when we don't even know what "too long" means. There may be a simple answer for this, if so, it escapes me!

Since the Bible doesn't specify the length of the hair when it becomes disgraceful for him, how do we determine whether a mans hair is appropriate, or too long? Some questions needing answers before we judge John Doe with his ponytail as being disgraceful:

1. Just how long does the hair have to be before its disgraceful not to get a haircut?

2. Since the Bible doesn't mention a specific length as being "long hair," who is the Hair Judge who knows exactly what is too long, and what is acceptable?

3. We may all agree that a mans hair is too long, but how much too long? If he clips a foot off his floor-sweeping hair is he now acceptable, if not, where should the barber stop so that he is no longer disgraceful?

4. Our opinions differ as to what is "long hair," and what is acceptable to one person is completely out of whack with anothers view. Since we can't agree, who determines how to treat this long-haired disgraceful person?

Just some hairy thoughts!

Sep 29, 2005

Old Traditions Never Die; They Just Hang Around Forever

Douglas MacArthur, in his farewell speech, quoted one of the most popular barracks ballads of his earlier days, "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away." It's my opinion that many Church of Christ traditions never die; they just hang around forever.

The slightest perceived infraction of some traditional "church law" will cause the most lukewarm pew-sitter to rise up in arms to defend the one-and-only true church from any change that might disrupt his comfort zone. Often it doesn't matter that a traditional viewpoint has no scriptural basis, it's just always been done that way, so why change!

Several people who are Christians, but not of the COC persuasion, have recently related their frustrations to me concerning the beliefs of some in the COC. One person has a daughter who is married to a member of the COC, and he was told by his son-in-law that he would be forever lost unless he left his current denominational church and became a member of the COC. Another person casually mentioned that all the Church of Christers (sp) where he was from believed he was going to hell, and that he was a member of an apostate church.

If I don't go to Sunday School I sin; if I miss Wednesday night services I'm lukewarm at best, and I sin; if I change the order of worship, I sin; if I don't see the need to pass the collection plate every Sunday, I sin; if I see nothing wrong in women passing the communion plates, and I publicly announce this, I sin; if I think elders should lead by example, not as "church bosses," I sin; If I can't carry a tune in a basket (whether due to allergies, or just a lousy voice) yet sing silently in my heart, I sin. This list could go on forever, and believe me, there are Christians in these groups that will let you know instantly every time you violate one of their cherished traditions.

We don't all have to agree on every little detail, but we certainly need to open our minds to the possibility that we just might be wrong occasionally. I have revisited many of these tradition-bound churches over the years and unfortunately they never change....why should they change, they are THE church, and as THE church they alone perfectly understand Gods Word, so why listen to any non-COC scriptural interpretation!

Some members of the COC (even in the my way or the highway groups) realize changes are needed, but they also realize it will not happen in their lifetime.

Sep 25, 2005

Often The Footprints Seem Faint

Making a decision to follow Jesus is not a part-time commitment. Every day it's important to review our relationship with our Creator. Following Jesus requires daily rededication and renewed energy if we truly seek to pattern our lives after Him.

One day we're on-fire for Christ, and the next day we languish in a lukewarm melancholy state of affairs. Our human nature (more often then not) over-rides our heavenly nature, and often the path featuring the footprints of Jesus may seem shadowy at best.

Accepting Jesus is a complete change in our human nature; we should seek things of a heavenly nature with an eye to spending eternity with our Lord, not a longing for earthly treasures and personal ambitions. It's easy to understand what our relationship to God should be, but an altogether different scenario often hits us right between the eyes, clouding our determination to obey His will.

Anyone able to follow the Lord without running into a brick wall occasionally has my vote for Saint of the Year. The rest of us will just have to struggle daily, do the best we can, and have the guts and determination to reset our course when the wind is knocked out of our sails.

It is way too important for anyone to ignore the call of Jesus. We will make mistakes, run into walls, say and do the wrong things, but when we recall that Jesus died for us on the cross, and that His blood cleanses our every sin, we should have the faith and confidence to daily renew our dedication to be in obedience to His will.

Now I (great big capital "I") need to practice what I preach!

Sep 11, 2005

God Works In Mysterious Ways

Strange how things that seem insignificant at the time can blossom into something really important. Case in point; as I was heading home from my early morning coffee shop routine I received a call from my son wanting me to have breakfast with him, so I found the first wide spot in the road and headed back down the hill to the cafe.

Just as I made my U-turn I noticed a little boy (about 18-months old) and his dog playing in the middle of the road where I had just passed a few seconds before. There was no homes nearby and this little barefoot boy clad only in a pampery-type thing, on a cold mountain morning was having the time of his life.

I stopped my pickup and coaxed him out of the road, but every time I tried to pick him up or get close to him the dog made threatening advances in my direction ..... what now! After managing to keep him out of the road for awhile, and finally realizing that no one seemed to be looking for the lad, I called 9-1-1 and reported the problem. While talking to the lady at 9-1-1, a pickup pulled up and an elderly gentlemen announced that he was the boy's grandfather, and what was I doing with his grandson. Excuse me!

Finally all ended well, and grandpa and grandson rode off into the hills. Evidently the boy slipped away from home while everyone else was asleep, and decided to follow his grandfather to town.

Guess I related all this because it just seems strange how something as insignificant as a cell phone call can have such important implications in a persons life. This little boy might have been found by his grandfather, but I kept him out of the road for at least ten minutes and who knows what might have happened to him if my plans had not been altered.

God works in mysterious ways, who knows!

Sep 3, 2005

New Church; First Impressions

What a difference a week makes! Last week I assembled with the CoC in Lake Isabella CA and was warmly welcomed by all eight members of this group. The week before I assembled (early service) with a CofC in Bakersfield CA and was totally lost among 450 members.

This small group could be considered a house church, but they own a small building that might accomodate 75-80 people. The preacher, his wife, son, and daughter-in-law drive from Ridgecrest (about 60 miles distance) every Sunday to assemble with this church.

There is a somewhat larger CoC in Mt. Mesa (six miles from Lake Isabella) with 30-40 members, but I doubt if they could be any warmer or more Christ-like than the Lake Isabella church. I was humbly impressed with their friendliness and love for each other.

I look forward to working with this small group, and pray that I can be of service to them and the community at large.


Finally settled in my new home and enjoying sunsets, mountain views, and peace and quite. Having said that, I feel fortunate to even have a home, given all the loss of life and property damage suffered when Katrina ripped through Mississippi and Lousiana.

We often take a lot for granted and may not thank God as we should for all the daily blessings He showers on us. When tragedy strikes and puts us on our knees, we realize how fragile our lives are in this earthly existence, and the importance of walking hand-in-hand with our Creator.

Those desiring to help the victims of hurricane Katrina can specify a particular area of the Gulf Coast they would like to aid and send their gifts to:

Gateway Church of Christ
245 Brent Lane
Pensacola, FL 32503

Check John Dobbs blog for more information on how to help these unfortunate victims of Katrina.

Aug 10, 2005

Slow To Post

Currently I'm in the process of moving from this hot desert to a cooler mountain site. Should be about a month, and everything will (I hope) be back to normal and I can concentrate a little more on posting.

If moving wasn't bad enough, I downloaded the new Internet Explorer 7 Beta, and when all was said and done, I had to reinstall WindowsXP. DO NOT INSTALL THIS BETA PROGRAM!

Hope to post in a couple weeks.

Jul 24, 2005

Dear God, Please Say Yes

God loves us and answers our prayers, but we’re often guilty of petitioning for things that are not in accordance to His will, and our prayers are not answered as we would like. There are times when His answer is difficult to comprehend, and we're confused and can't perceive a definite answer. What is our response when our finite minds just can't grasp the answer to our prayers?

We may desire with all our heart to get a positive answer, and just have a difficult time accepting anything else. Whatever the reason; when our understanding is clouded, do we continue to pray unceasingly for our petition, and if so, for how long? How do we avoid being repetitious when we continue to ask daily, over-and-over, for the exact same thing, but are no closer to an answer than we were several weeks back?

Is a negative answer to our prayer because it's not in accordance to His will, or because we are of little faith, or both; how do we determine which? Are we patient enough to see the long-range results of our prayer, or do we expect an instant fix?

Perhaps at times when we're in murky water all we can do is pray for a clearer vision. It's difficult to know how much time needs to pass before we finally realize Gods' answer, and it may not be what we want to hear. On the other hand, we know that prayer is powerful, and we certainly hate to give up without a good fight.

Possibly I'm the only one that gets confused with Gods' answer to my prayer, but I know of people who pray for an automobile, then run down and buy a new Mercedes Benz when they don't have enough money for a used Volkswagon Minibus. Maybe their confused too!

Confusion often reigns when we misinterpret Gods' answers to our prayers. Perhaps I just get confused more than most folks. :)

Jul 18, 2005

Monster Lizards, And Believing A Lie

My dog was walking me today, and while rubber-necking in every direction I looked down just in time to see a huge lizard where my foot was about to land; leaping much higher into the air then an old man should, and punctuating the air with enough hollering to get the attention of other walkers, I sheepishly realized in mid-air the lizard was fake.

Too late! I had already made a fool of myself; nothing left to do but pick up the rubber lizard by the tail as if real, and heroically fling the monster into the brush before my audience had a chance to view the culprit. I believed a lie, and without thinking caused the curious crowd to buy into the "real" lizard thing as well.

Another example of believing a lie is the multitude of people who believe in all the UFO speculation. No amount of reason will change their minds, they are believing a lie (in my opinion,) yet many honestly believe they have witnessed alien aircraft, and some even believe they are victims of alien abductions. While I’m not from Missouri, I will have to see it before I believe it!

At this very moment all of us are believing a lie! Not purposely, but we actually believe something that is false, it makes sense to us, it’s logical, but it’s not true. It may be something our children have told us to keep them out of trouble; what a co-worker passed on to us in good faith, or what's reported on Fox News about some political shenanigans that contain a dab of truth and a bucket of fiction. Do we believe everything our government tells us, if so, we are believing a lie. Unfortunately as long as we endure life on earth we will be inundated by every conceivable lie.

Satan, being the master liar, continually fabricates lies in an attempt to separate us from our creator. As Christians we must always be alert to test whether something that appears good is actually from God, or like the fake lizard in my story, just another lie from Satan’s fertile mind.

Lies commingled with truth, and logical to our common sense are the toughest to ferret-out, and give us the most trouble. Often when we have time to test something it becomes apparent whether it’s a lie or the truth, but when something hits us in a flash, with no warning, we often believe a lie and fall into Satan’s snare.

Had I been more alert while walking, the fake lizard would have been easy to recognize, and I wouldn’t have made a fool of myself, but it caught me unaware, similar to how Satan prowls around and catches us when our defense is down; in our weakest moment.

Stay vigilant; beware of the wiles of Satan and monster lizards.

Jul 14, 2005

Church, Government, And Mad Cow Disease

Stumbled across this gem recently and it makes a lot of sense.

"Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that our government can track a cow born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she sleeps in the state of Washington, and they tracked her calves to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 11 million illegal aliens wandering around our country. Maybe we should give them all a cow."

Some churches mirror the government; they seem unable to locate millions of people desperately in need of God, but have no problem finding all kinds of entertaining activities and various self-help programs for those already in the church.

We build huge ostentatious buildings with eye-catching spires, gorgeous stained glass windows, and dress in our best black suits, then sit complacently in our comfy pews worshipping God in grandiose style; perhaps the beauty of the building and the worship ambiance will entice the poor and downtrodden souls in our communities to knock the doors down in order to worship with us; WRONG!

Until we commit to going out into the fields to the harvest, rather than waiting for the harvest to come to us, we are in a losing battle. Saving the lost in our communities without getting our hands dirty is a pipe dream!

Perhaps like our government that can't find the illegal aliens, we don't put enough effort into reaching the lost either. I'm not recommending we buy a cow for all the lost souls in the world, but we may need to rethink our Christian priorities. Waiting for the lost at the "church building" doesn't work now, and never has; going into the neighborhoods and telling others about Jesus just might be the ticket.

Jul 8, 2005

Slanting The Church Budget The Wrong Direction

Huge churches with large ministerial staffs dot the horizon in all directions, and many of these churches are doing a wonderful job, and certainly worthy of our emulation and respect. These churches appear to involve the entire congregation in their work; perhaps they have discovered the magic combination to effect change in their communities!

Unfortunately some large churches with multiple ministers, and saddled with astronomical mortgage payments, often find no available funds remaining to aid widows in need, orphans, and others needing help in their communities. When this happens I wonder about the elders vision of the church.

Not too many years ago Christians were more than willing to roll up their sleeves and take care of the many aspects of "church work" themselves. For example; if a member was a teacher, that person often was in charge of the educational programs, and a bookkeeper would handle the financial aspects. Freely offering our talents to the church promotes good Christian character, and allows us to eliminate the multi-minister system incorporated into many churches.

It has become too easy to shift our burdens, frustrations, and duties as Christians to a group of professional ministers who are paid to handle the situation. The fact that he/she might handle the matter better than us, does not give us an excuse to sit by twiddling-our-thumbs thinking our obligations as Christians can be transferred to another person.

Where I meet (1000 members) there are seven elders and four ministers (outreach, pulpit, youth, and associate minister) who constitute the church leadership. There are no deacons in this congregation; apparently the role of deacons is assumed by the professional ministers. Members who offer their services to the Lord labor under the leadership of the appropriate minister in charge of a particular project. I'm not condemning or approving this type of church management (although I certainly have my opinions,) but only stating how this church operates.

One possible solution; resurrect the office of deacon and put them in charge of the church programs; select at least another seven elders to share the leadership role, and reduce the budget by aiding, all but the pulpit minister, in finding wonderful jobs somewhere else. Suddenly the finances are under control, and money is available to help our communities, and fortunately, or unfortunately, pay off our astronomical mortgages. Is this a realistic scenario? Of course not!

Jul 6, 2005

Here Comes The Contribution Plate Again

The church where I assemble unveiled their 2005 budget recently, and it’s alarming where the elders have allocated the bulk of the offerings. If this budget is typical for modern churches I shudder to think where our hearts and priorities are leading us. Does the church where you meet allocate the Lords money with the same basic priorities of ministers and buildings first?

Perhaps I’m just a caveman in the modern era and don’t understand the nuances of modern budget allocation, but I get the feeling that many larger churches are rightly earning their reputations of being just another country club with the emphasis on themselves rather than showing love to the lost, hungry, and hurting in their communities.

How cheerfully can I present my offering on the first day of the week knowing that over 80% of my offering will go to ministerial salaries, mortgages, utilities, Insurance, Praise team supplies, and facility management! Ministerial salaries alone where I attend are $379,840 per year. I realize that oxen were permitted to eat of the grain while they were working, but I doubt they were allowed to gobble up the entire crop.

Another 7% is used for various men, women, and children ministries. Where I meet (approx. 1000 members) 87% of the contribution is earmarked for in-house expenditures. I have a problem with this!

A relatively token amount to care for orphans, feed the hungry, and benevolence is allocated, but the bulk of our offering is required just to maintain the ministers and the buildings. Perhaps I am looking at this whole contribution system wrong. If God is pleased with us spending the money on ourselves; continually improving our physical buildings and hiring more and more ministers for every conceivable project, then I am completely wrong!

If we can house, clothe, feed, and basically support an orphan through Lifeline of Hope for $10 per month, doesn’t this reflect Gods love more than utilizing the contributions on ourselves? $87 of every $100 I offer to the Lord is already designated for my comfort, recreation, and evidently the privilege to worship where we have gorgeous buildings and beautiful manicured yards.

Pushing the contribution plate under my nose just to add greater flair to our buildings and grounds, in my opinion, is wrong. My answer to this dilemma is to reverse the percentage of my offering; Now I offer 13% to the church where I assemble, and 87% to Lifeline of Hope and the Manuelito Navajo Children’s Home.

We are to offer our gifts of money cheerfully; with this in mind, I feel much more cheerful knowing I can support 15–20 orphans each month rather than offering a blank check each week to a church where we heap the money on ourselves. If you stumble on to this post and disagree, please comment and let me know where this is wrong, I have certainly been wrong before, and may be now.

Jul 2, 2005

Am I A Sunday Morning Lukewarm Pew-warmer?

JD Out Here Hope Remains posted an excellent article concerning the church, and our relationship to it. This sparked a deep need to re-examine my attitudes; the following questions leaped to mind:

Does the church where I assemble satisfy the expectations God has envisioned for her? If not, where does it fall short, and what can I do as a member of that specific congregation to realign it with Gods vision?

Is God satisfied with me as a member of the body of Christ, or am I basically a Sunday morning lukewarm pew-warmer?

Is my salvation guaranteed just because I attend church and rub shoulders with other Christians? Am I saved by osmosis; just being around Gods people?

If my neighbors who I have known for twenty years never become Christians because I never mentioned Christ to them, am I doing my duty as a Christian?

How dependent on God am I? If the church is paramount in my life why do I worry so much about earthly matters? If I am truly a child of God how often do I shoulder the cross of Jesus in my daily walk?

These questions represent only a few basic thoughts that we need to address in our relationship to God. Thanks JD for the challenge!

Jul 1, 2005

Introductory Thoughts

After a few months hiatus from blogging I decided once again to throw out an occasional opinion.

Whether my thoughts are of any value is questionable, but the thinking/writing process involved in blogging is my justification to post. Pondering aloud is great therapy; why should I bottle up my thoughts when I can share the aggravation :)

Christianity, or the lack thereof, is the major theme of this site, and after spending most of my life in the paternalistic branch of the Church of Christ and finally escaping their traditional rules and regulations, I occasionally feel the urge to vent; thus, this blog.

Understand that my frustrations are not with the Lord's church, and certainly not with many other groups of the Church of Christ that are grace oriented, but with the "my way or the highway" group that believe they alone constitute the true church, and only they are infallible interpreters of God's word. This pharisaical attitude is totally unacceptable!

Your comments are appreciated; of course if you disagree with me your probably wrong :) See, I have spent way too many years associated with this group and now perfection has rubbed off on me.