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.