Nov 9, 2006

final thoughts

There's always a final post...

It's time to head off in a different direction, and limit my time on the computer. I will continue reading and tossing out an occasional opinion on your blogs.

Thanks to everyone who took time to read my posts, and those who left so many great comments. I have been blessed to know you; I pray God will watch over you at all times.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Nov 4, 2006

a sobering statistic

Living in an affluent society has a tendency to insulate us from the pain and hunger children experience every day in some parts of the world. God knows and loves every child, and surely as His children we are responsible (to the best of our ability) to make a difference in their lives. If we honestly proclaim Jesus as our Lord, and walk in His path, we can't ignore or side-step our obligation to help these children.

Lifeline of Hope, an international orphan aid & adoption organization, in their Nov 2006 Family Bulletin included this sobering statistic:
By the end of this day...and every day, thirty thousand children will be lost to disease, war, starvation, suicide, drugs and murder throughout our world. The saddest part of this heart-wrenching statistic is that each and every death is needless and preventable!
What else needs to be said!

Oct 30, 2006

let the little children come

There must be some way to help children learn about Jesus even when their parents could care less. While I'm not always pleased with the Sunday School System in our churches, I am convinced they are a boon for children who, for whatever reason, may not be reached by any other method.

Recently a grandmother (out of state member of the COC) came into our area for a few months to help her daughter (who is not currently in church) during some difficult times. Grandmother always brought her three grandchildren to Sunday school, but now since moving back to her home state the children no longer have anyone in their family concerned with getting them up and ready on Sunday morning

I mentioned my concern to the grandmother that the children might have a difficult time getting to church after she left, and offered to help in any way necessary so they could continue meeting with us; she thought she could influence her daughter to bring the children on Sunday, but a month later and nothing seems to be happening! I discovered the parents are separated, and the children are bouncing around like crazy, so it may be difficult to form a viable plan that will insure the children have the opportunity to continue their biblical education.

There was a time when parents allowed almost anyone to pick up their kids and take them to church, but since the advent of the religious pervert most parents are shying away from this option...and I don't blame them!

So, what is a good plan to help children attend Sunday School when the parents obviously don't care?

Oct 25, 2006

wait for the lord

Job was a shining exemplar of trust and patience, he waited for the Lord to make His point, and trusted Him for deliverance. Americans seem to seldom practice patience anymore; any new trinket that catches our fancy must be seized immediately, even if our pockets are empty, and our checking account has bottomed-out. We circumvent the problem with good old Yankee ingenuity; we grab the plastic monster and charge! Waiting is not the favorite pastime for most of us, we want it right now. Yep, I'm guilty too!

While impatience in a secular society is often dangerous, it can become a major disaster in the spiritual realm if we're not willing to wait for the Lord:
Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14 ESV
Too often we ask favors of God, but when instant answers are not forthcoming we become impatient and frustrated, and doubt God's ability to deliver as promised. Often it's difficult to realize that Gods timetable in no way resembles ours. How often do we give up too soon while the Lord is still in the process of answering our prayers?

Patience is one tough attribute to possess, but we need to trust more in the Lord, and try real hard to get a better grasp of His eternal timetable.

Oct 17, 2006

robotic christians

We all know Christians who have thoughtlessly accepted their parents religion as gospel truth, and hoisted the same age-old personal opinions and lifeless traditions on their backs as their parents bore. Not that everything our forefathers believed and practiced is wrong, but anything that effects our eternal salvation should be accepted only after thorough investigation in the light of God's word.

Each of us will stand or fall before God's judgement alone; it will do us absolutely no good to point our bony fingers at some other person blaming them for our failures. Being a Christian is not a robotic existence where we follow blindly the teachings of men, rather an active participation in following Jesus wherever He leads.

Strolling through life haphazardly without sensing God's presence, and doing His work out of habit rather than love can be lethal to the soul. Everyday (24/7) we are in the presence of our Creator as His angels minister in our behalf, and we are beneficiaries of His eternal promises; surely this should inspire us to live vibrant and gracious lives before Him, not following by habit, but by faith and love.

While spiritual perfection will always elude us, we acknowledge the sacrificial blood of Jesus, and our confessed faith in Him certainly gives us abundant hope. Mimicking Christianity as a lifeless robot is not cool, but living a spirit filled life is the answer. There is great news though:
He saved us not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ESV Titus 3: 5-7
We are blessed; God loves us beyond measure.

Oct 11, 2006

my way or the highway

Divisions in the body of Christ are wrong!

It's amazing how easy it is over time to forge a belief system based on our personal interpretation of scripture supported by our dubious common sense.

We often harbor opinions of our parents, relatives, and church family without really understanding the history of these opinions. Often these opinions are embedded in us from birth and have no basis in fact, yet we are primed and more than willing to fuss and fight at the drop of a hat to defend our perception of truth with anyone daring to state an opposing viewpoint.

It's time to reach out to others who don't share our opinions, and let them know we consider them our brothers and sisters without condemning them for what we consider infractions of our "church" rules; not treating them like misguided children, but as equals in God's kingdom.

Many moons ago I honestly believed anyone not professing to be a bona fide member of "our" one and only church (Church of Christ) was apostate; thus only those of us who shared the same personal interpretation of scripture were in favor with can imagine the fate of those who disagreed with us!

There are now, and will be in the future, non-essential opinions that separate Christians in the church, and we can't smugly assume we're always right while everyone else is wrong...we need hours of honest dialogue coupled with an abundance of unfeigned love for those we differ with if our goal of unity is to be realized. We need to completely abandon our my-way-or-the-highway philosophy and agree to extend our hands in fellowship to God's children, even if they (God forbid) only use one cup for communion, or pound piano keys in their worship service.

Oct 4, 2006

sowing discord

Erik Tryggestad writing for The Christian Chronicle presents some difficult scenarios American evangelists create in mission fields when they opt to push teachings that are divisive.

Some mission based churches are being divided by the very things that have long divided churches in America. Some quotes from the article:
Some churches in Malawi sing during the Lord’s Supper. Others don’t.

Until recently, the difference never kept congregations from fellowshipping with each other, said Priestly Nkhonjera, a minister in the small African country.

But then some — including missionaries from the United States — started teaching that singing during communion is wrong.

Now some Malawian churches ask visitors about the issue and, based on their response, either welcome them or show them the exit, Nkhonjera said.
The African nation’s woes illustrate what can happen when churches in the United States export their divisions to the mission field, missionaries say. Young congregations in developing countries often find themselves in the middle of controversies among American churches — including divorce and remarriage, the working of the Holy Spirit and how many cups are used in communion.
These problems shouldn't surprise anyone; pushing our opinions on new Christians, and causing divisions within the Lord's body is not a demonstration of Christian love. Read the complete Christian chronicle article for its full impact.

Aug 22, 2006

the right ear of malchus

Just some curiosity here!

After Judas applied the finishing touches in his betrayal of Jesus with a kiss, Simon Peter brandished a sword and sliced off the right ear of Malchus (the servant of the high priest,) as described by Luke in chapter 22:49-51 (ESV):

And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, 'Lord shall we strike with the sword?' And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, 'no more of this!' And he touched his ear and healed him.

I'm curious to know what actually happened to the servants ear! When Jesus "touched his ear" did he reattach the ear, replace the ear with a new ear, or just heal what was left dangling from his lopsided head? Whatever the healing process, surely his ear was replaced with the perfect match.

Certainly Malchus instantly realized the great power of Jesus when his ear was miraculously restored, and it's hard to believe the arresting party missed this unusual event; they would have to be physically and spiritually blind to overlook such an unusual occurrence, and it's hard to imagine this group thought they were arresting just another average ol' Joe. I'm curious how this might have shaped their future lives.

When reaching old age, could Grandpa Malchus describe his encounter with the Lord that night to his grandchildren while pointing to his perfectly replaced ear without considering the pain of losing an ear, and the subsequent miraculous replacement? Surely the world of Malchus was shook to the core by this miracle, and it must have crossed his mind that Jesus was the promised son of God. I'm curious if he ever accepted Jesus as the Messiah, and his Lord.

And the sword(s) the apostles carried, that's another poser for another time.

Aug 14, 2006

a snake story

The Sierra Nevada mountains in California is a beautiful place to live, but being surrounded by all this beauty and quietness exacts a price; like meeting face to face with a two foot long Gopher snake in your silverware drawer while reaching for a fork. A snake this size may not seem large at first thought, but when crammed in a small drawer it's huge!

A snake out in the woods away from the house doesn't bother me, but when its living inside the house slithering through the kitchen cabinets its a major catastrophe, as far as I'm concerned.

What really hurts is that by the time I finished running through the woods, getting as much space between me and the critter as I could, it disappeared. Now my imagination is running wild with a snake in the house that I can't locate. I can't even put my feet under the table to eat without first checking for a snake. Going to bed at night is another story!

Enough snaky stuff; Just wanted to share this lovely experience.

Aug 8, 2006

retraction and removal of lark posts

Sheepishly I have removed the posts from my blog based on articles from Lark.

Kendall Ball (and I thank him) made a comment on the last article I posted asking if I knew the Lark site was purely fictional, similar to The Onion, and some of the other tongue-in-cheek sites. While I knew the information was skewed to a point to embellish certain aspects of the story, I honestly thought the articles were based on facts (even after reading their disclaimer,) but they are 100% fiction.

Please forgive my ignorance! I removed them as soon as I received the confirmation from the Lark site which is presented below:

My email to LarkNews on 8/4/06:

Editor of LarkNews Staff:

Of course many of your articles are based on satire, but I was wondering if the information itself is valid, or just based on humor from start to finish?


And the reply from the LarkNews staff on 8/6/06:

Larry, thanks for asking. The articles are purely made up. They have no basis in reality to our knowledge.

LarkNews staff

So now I sit around with egg on my face promising myself to check information a whole lot better before I toss it on a page again.

The only good thing is the fact that those weird stories are not a part of some churches, for this I'm thankful. Sorry I goofed...

Aug 4, 2006

questions, questions, questions

Am I the only person on earth who hates to fill out a questionnaire?

The little COC group where I meet has handed all the members a questionnaire that is a real doozy... it has four categories with seven questions in each category. Each question is to be answered on a scale of 1 to 5; 1 being tops.

A sampling of the questions:

I am motivated to earn as much money as I can to be able to give to the Lord's work.

Meeting obvious needs has special appeal to me, because I respond quickly to needs that I see. Others think that I am being pushy.

I welcome opportunities to do physical jobs thus relieving others in the church to do their work among the members.

When I see problems with the system I am motivated to speak out boldly about it.

Nothing was mentioned about the why of the questionnaire, but I assume it's the brain child of the elders, but who knows! We are allotted two weeks to return them; after that the preacher promises to corral us individually to be sure we respond.

My dilemma is whether to lose the questionnaire, or face the preachers wrath!

Aug 1, 2006

disappearing christians

Family Org, a web site of Focus on the Family cites a sobering statistic that should cause us to consider the way we relate, or don't relate, to those in our church family. I have no way of knowing if every detail of this statistic is accurate, but do know that many souls are leaving the church. Below is a quote that is scary, and sad:
Approximately 22 million Americans say they are Christians and made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, and say that commitment is still important to them, but they have struggled with faith or relational issues and therefore quit going to church. Tens of thousands more will join their ranks this week.
When one considers the value God places on even one soul, and multiplies that 22 million times, it is beyond tragic. What must we, as the church, do to stop this migration from His body? It's easy to always condemn those leaving as being weak, if this is true, what are we doing to strengthen them in an effort to make them strong?

There are many professing Christians who have left the church and no one seems to care. No one in their church family has contacted them, and the one leaving feels that the church doesn't care one way or the other about them. If our blood brother or sister just disappeared, for whatever reason, we wouldn't stop looking until we found out exactly what happened, but if it's our Christian brothers and sisters we often just look the other way and write them off.

Not everyone claiming Jesus as their savior will remain faithful, but when 22 million Americans leave the church, something is definitely wrong!

ADDED NOTE: Al Maxey in his newest Reflections article; Churches of Christ in Crisis, describes some of the problems causing the church to decrease numerically.

Jul 24, 2006

unhappy soul

Spending time in a coffee shop sipping their horrendously foul brew is not always a complete waste of time. Many people you never see anywhere else are killing a little time, and looking for conversation.

A gentleman who comes in occasionally is generally ignored by the patrons, and even the waitresses spend little time with him; hello ... your order please ... and the usual hope-you-leave-a-tip smile. He is a rather small man in his mid-thirties with long stringy brown hair way past his shoulders, slightly paunchy, heavily scarred face, and a right eye that seems to meander without any specific purpose. He usually sits across from me at the counter (15-20' ft. away,) but one morning he plopped down on a stool beside me without uttering a word, or looking my direction.

I decided to make an effort to engage him in conversation:

"Hello, how are you today?"

No response. Okay, perhaps he didn't hear me, lets try again;

"Hello, hows things going?" (spoke with a little more gusto.)

This time he mumbled something; have no idea what. Okay, were gaining, lets try once more;

"Nice day huh?"

His first decipherable words were softly whispered;

"Not bad!"

Within minutes he was conversing quite well, and I discovered he had been in a car accident when he was only seventeen years old that put him in a coma for two years. He said it was his fault; he had been drinking. As a result of the accident the right side of his face is completely paralyzed (reason enough for a meandering eye.) He still doesn't say much to anyone, but he will nod in my direction when he's in the cafe, and occasionally speak to me.

Bad choices we make, even as teenagers, can often haunt us throughout our remaining days. This man knows other people ignore him because of his appearance, so he responds with silence. Over time perhaps God can work through me (or some other person) in such a way that this man will understand that Jesus died for him, God loves him, and his future can be unimaginably wonderful.

Jul 17, 2006

the church gossip

Anonymous email

Mildred, the church gossip, self-appointed monitor of the church's morals, kept sticking her nose into other people's business.

Several members did not approve of her extra curricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence. She made a mistake, however, when she accused Henry, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup truck parked in front of the town's only bar one afternoon. She emphatically told Henry and several others that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing.

Henry, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away. He didn't explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing.

Later that evening, Henry quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred's house . . . walked home . . and left it there all night.

Jul 13, 2006

freedom from tradition

The Sunday School System, Sunday night services, and Wednesday night study have great merit, but they are not scripturally binding on Christians, they are merely based in tradition. Anyone insisting that you must participate in a Sunday School program in order to be a child of God is wrong (not that it's unscriptural to go to Sunday School,) but it is unscriptural for another person to bind their personal opinions on other Christians.

Any group of believers who bind their traditional viewpoints on other believers rob them of their freedom in Christ, and enslave them like puppets to a human religious system.
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Gal 5:1 ESV
Many Christians honestly believe that every time the door to the "church building" is ajar, you absolutely must be present in order to be a true follower of Jesus. Any person not attending these meetings are often considered unfaithful members, and soon find themselves on the outside looking in, even if the reasons for not attending these meetings are valid (not that they have to be valid.)

Enjoy your freedom in Christ, and don't allow anyone to hamper your relationship with Jesus because of their Pharisaical pronouncements on your Christian walk.

Jun 30, 2006

summertime hiatus

Summertime = less posting + more time to hang around the lake with my trusty hound dog.

Jun 26, 2006

discussions with a pentecostal preacher

Recently I had the opportunity to engage in a candid conversation with a Pentecostal preacher that revealed some interesting thoughts regarding how he, and other "pastors," perceive the Church of Christ.

He was curious why COC ministers always refuse invitations to work with the local Ministerial Association in supporting their efforts to create a better community, and especially to promote Jesus in the community. Evidently all (or nearly all) local churches partner in this work.

This group (by his definition) does not set any rules that govern churches; it is an informal group with the goal of making an impact in their city by working together to promote Jesus, and in no way geared to promote any particular church, or agenda.

According to many in the COC it is unscriptural to join such organizations based on their interpretation of 2 Cor. 6:14-16:
"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; ..."
These verses serve as proof-text for many in the COC for refusing to unite with other denominational groups for any reason, even when these groups are trying to better their communities by introducing Jesus to the unchurched. By twisting these verses into something not intended, we are insinuating that members of the Ministerial Associations are unbelievers, lawless, in darkness, in accord with the Devil, and not a temple of God.

Combining resources and working as a team with "denominational churches" has usually been taboo for the COC regardless of the situation, or the good that could be accomplished. Is it any wonder that in some communities the COC is viewed as cultic, isolationistic, and self-centered!

How can it be wrong for Christians from different "churches" to unite in a concerted effort to help their community? In the wake of Katrina many Churches of Christ did unite with other religious groups to help their communities, but it usually takes a full-blown catastrophe for this to happen.

Just wondering!

Jun 19, 2006

seeking unity as individuals

If any hope for unity (even within Restoration churches) is forthcoming, it will most likely occur because of individual effort rather than as a group.

We have sat around waiting for some sort of unification plan to unfold for years without success. This statement will probably get me in hot water with a few elders, but when you go for years and years with little, if any, plan to rectify our disunity problems, seldom hearing a word about our need for unity from the pulpit, or privately for that matter, I can't help but suspect that many of our leaders are too busy protecting our fenced-in position, and see unity as a low priority endeavor.

Perhaps this approach is oversimplified; but as individuals within a church, we need to find ways to seek unity, even when our church leadership apparently disagrees. It would be great to have our elders leading the way to unity, but my experience (along with many of my brothers and sisters in other RM churches ) give no reasons to believe unity is something being discussed, or pursued, by our leaders.

Rather than waiting for our "church" to initiate (which seldom happens) some sort of unity seminar (or whatever) focusing on drawing divergent churches together, we need to take the proverbial bull-by-the-horns, and within our own hearts have the courage to unite (especially with those we share RM roots) with our brothers and sisters who sport a different name on their "church sign."

I don't know how others approach this disunited mess, but when I talk to my friends in churches with different names on their signs, we discuss our positive feelings about our relationship to God, not accusing each other of our failings, but accepting each other as a part of the Lord's body with love, knowing we are truly brothers and sisters united in His cause.

Unity is certainly an attainable goal that Christians can strive toward without attempting to create every church into a carbon copy of what we think it should be, but with the realization that none of us are perfect (including us,) and we can all dwell together in peace and love fully recognizing each other as children of God; thus brothers and sisters.

Jun 12, 2006

crooked halo

The most visible, and stunning example of bad judgement in a person professing to be a Christian, I have ever witnessed, occurred several years ago in a combination restaurant/bar in my home town.

Many of the local church groups in our community formed a church baseball league, and the elders of the COC after long deliberation decided it wasn't unscriptural, or a known work of the Devil, so with their blessings we put together a rag-tag baseball team, and fought gallantly against the Baptist, Mennonites, the Church of God, and the champion Pentecostals.

Following one of the games a baseball player decided he was in dire need of something to drink, so the place he chose to sate his thirst was a local bar, and what he chose to drink was several bottles of beer. As he was mingling with the drunks he became loud enough for me to hear his distinctive voice in the adjacent restaurant. I casually and carefully walked over to the door leading into the bar, and much to my chagrin ... it was one of the baseball players. He was celebrating a victory with a bottle of beer in his hand while wearing a dirty baseball jersey with; "CHURCH OF CHRIST" written in big capital letters on the back.

Needless to say "church baseball" is no longer a popular subject with this particular church.

More than likely all Christians at one time or another have been guilty of hypocrisy (yep! even me,) but for some reason this incident of my brother wearing his "church jersey" in a bar while getting drunk has left an indelible mark on my mind. You may know of worse indiscretions by Christians in public, but the jersey incident has to be ranked rather high on the bad judgement list.

Jun 7, 2006

where's the joy?

Christians should display more joy in their everyday lives than any group on earth; sadly this is not always the case.

Our days should be filled with joy, not walking around wearing mugs that would blend right in with the wanted posters in the Post Office. Christian joy should translate to smiles and friendliness, not frowns and gloominess.

Christians are not excluded from many of the same problems that weigh-down all humans, we often find ourselves in the same morass as unbelievers, and bear many of the same burdens, sadness, and guilt. Thankfully, those in Jesus have an ever present help that we can bet our lives on, and this alone should cause us to overflow with joy.

The first century church had a ton of joy even during one of the worst periods of Christian persecution in history. A few of our "church" tribes believe they have captured the essence of the early church, but seem to have neglected to restore the joy of being a Christian.

As His children, we realize God loves and protects us, yet we often mope around looking in every nook and cranny for the negatives, while the obvious blessings that surround us escape our notice. Counting our daily blessings should give us all the incentative we need to express ourselves in a joyful manner.

Like most Christians, I fail miserably at times to possess the joy that Jesus gives, and certainly don't always reflect a joyful image as I should, but one thing I have discovered; if I start out each day with a smile and a kind word (even if I'm dying inside,) people respond with a tidal wave of kindness and joy.

Perhaps if we spent a little time in quite contemplation we might realize the blessings we reap daily as children of God; our sins are forgiven, we have a God who listens to us, we possess the Spirit of God within us, we are blessed with a Christian community, and finally we have the promise of eternal life in the presence of God...surely this is enough to promote an occasional smile.

Jun 2, 2006

variations of unity

Understanding unity when applied to uniting different "churches" into one united body often becomes a little confusing, at least to me. When we speak of unity with other Christians, just what kind of unity are we seeking?

Listed below are four variations of unity (there are many more,) each with a different set of circumstances that will require radically different approaches if we're honestly seeking to unite in fellowship with those we disagree with religiously:

Unity within a particular tribe ... All the believers at one location who proclaim themselves the body of Christ, and work together as a separate church, yet are part of a larger group of churches sharing the same "church name," and belief system.

Unity between the individual churches (as described above) who all share the same "church name," but retain their autonomy while being loosely knit together forming a larger body, or denomination, of those who together (occasionally at least,) share similar beliefs.

Unity within the Restoration Movement. Churches with roots in the Stone-Campbell Movement who have divided many times over the years, and now seldom recognize each other as a viable Christian body.

Unity involving all churches regardless of their denominational name, who profess Jesus as their savior, even if there are drastic differences in their belief system.

It seems unlikely, if not impossible, to have Christian unity when one tribe presumes they alone are perfect interpreters of Gods Word, and refuse to fellowship anyone with a different opinion. Unity in Christ will only exist if we recognize that each person, or church, will never be the exact clone of the other.

In a small community where I was raised, one Church of Christ split over time into three separate tribes each sporting the Church of Christ name over their door. Each of these churches claimed to be the ONE and ONLY true body of Christ, and each believed they were following the perfect pattern of the first century church. They were not bashful about bad-mouthing each other, and totally refused to recognize each other as a body of Christ. A multiplicity of churches, each proclaiming themselves as the one and only body of Christ, is totally confusing to the unchurched; confusing enough to those already in the Lord's body.

Sitting around twiddling-our-thumbs waiting for churches we feel have apostatized to repent of their folly and come running back to the original fold is just not going to happen. Many of the churches split from the COC are content where they are; they see no need to return and resume the same old bickering that caused the divisions in the first place.

Unity within a single tribe of Christians, while difficult, is usually realized to some degree, but unity with those outside our select group can approach the impossible!

May 24, 2006

complete lack of compassion

Recently a group of at least 40 climbers attempting to reach the summit of Mt. Everest walked past a man dying of oxygen deficiency. Their goal of reaching the summit was evidently more important to them then making an effort to save the British mountaineer's life; he eventually died.

Luke (10:29-37) gives us the story of the good Samaritan who went out of his way to help a man left half dead by robbers. The priest and Levite ignored the dying man and callously walked past, yet a lowly Samaritan showed compassion and helped:
"But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him." Luke 10: 33,34 ESV
The guilty climbers in this article; Hillary rips climbers who left dying man, will forever be haunted by their lack of compassion for a fellow human being. Life is often of little importance to the self-centered who put their ambitions far above the well-being of their companions. It would be interesting to know how they would feel if it was their son, or father, who they left lying in the snow to die!

Before condemning these men to Satan's future habitation; don't we basically do the same thing every day these 40 mountaineers are guilty of; walking past men and women who are dying in sin without Jesus and never offering help, or a word of encouragement?

May 20, 2006

our unfathomable creator

God, being spirit, is not restricted by human form, function, or appearance, but you already know this, so indulge me!

Many entertain an image of God they have seen in a Rembrandt or Michelangelo painting. Some think of God as having long flowing white hair, dressed in a snow-white robe while spending eons perched on a really fancy throne.

This impression many have of God seems way too restrictive. I like to think of God as covering the entire universe equally (or as equally as He wants to,) yet always being near us and working in our lives. Viewing God as a perpetual throne-sitter just doesn't make sense; not that He couldn't run the universe from one location, but how, and why, would God (a spirit) confine Himself to a chair!

Imposing human restraints on deity by our human imagination is always futile. God is not confined to any dimension of time or space, but able to transcend all dimensions even without wearing a cape. God can encompass all things, at all times, in all dimensions, with one hand tied behind His back...if He had a hand and a back.

May 11, 2006

unity concessions

The Lord does not approve of divisions in His body; yet we opt to divide over often insignificant opinions, occasionally over something as simple as personality conflicts.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that unless the divided churches rooted in the Restoration Movement find ways to unite, our prospects of forming any viable unity with churches outside the RM is probably not going to happen.

My overly simplified solution for ending divisions: Perhaps rather than having our occasional (and usually unfruitful) unity conference featuring our most articulate and well known speakers, why not just announce a great big ol' picnic BBQ and allow the conference to take place from table-to-table among the rank-and-file members. If we're truly seeking Christian union then we need to engage the total membership, not just a select few that often present their own thoughts rather than what the congregation desires.

Below are several concessions we might have to live with if any form of unity is realized. There are many more; perhaps you can add others, or give good reasons why we shouldn't concede these:

1. While we may have an aversion to instrumental music we don't have to use it, but we must be willing to allow those who are not adverse to using instruments to do so without condemning them.

2. Churches utilizing one cup, two cups, or hundreds of cups in celebrating the Lord's Supper should not cause divisions, we can choose what we believe to be correct, and let other churches make their choice as well .... it doesn't really matter!

3. Whether to use church contributions for orphanages, colleges, preacher schools, or other places we feel need our help will have to be determined by each church, and respected by other churches that don't agree.

4. Sunday schools are great, and we can continue to use this tool, but for church groups that don't believe it's right, then they should continue Sunday mornings sans the Sunday School System, without either group condemning the other. It should be the choice of each church, and all Christians should understand this is simply a matter of choice and not a life-and-death situation.

We don't have to concede anything that goes against our conscience that we feel is absolute truth, in fact it would be wrong. We just need to realize that as believers we are God's children, and while we may not agree exactly on the scriptures, we can still be ONE in Him.

May 8, 2006

prospects for unity

From birth my religious thinking was shaped and nurtured (warped might be a better term) by a church believing they alone represented the true church on earth. Things were simple in those days; identifying the Lord's church was as uncomplicated as reading the sign over the entrance into the building, if it said CHURCH OF CHRIST it was THE church (although this wasn't always true, some churches that wore the proper name were lost,) any other name written on the sign revealed an apostate church where I had no brothers and sisters to fellowship.

One of the primary objectives of the Restoration Movement was to unite Christians; yet over the years those within the RM have splintered into dozens of separate groups where fellowship, even between churches with the same heritage, is almost nonexistent. What started out as being a noble endeavor to unite God's children has regressed to the point that we seldom, if ever, seek unity with other Christians. Many in the COC honestly believe there can be no unity unless those who disagree with us completely drop their cherished beliefs and fully adopt our viewpoint-we are always right, and your usually wrong!

The religious world is not blind to the failure of the RM to achieve unity, and by our actions it's easy to see that we desire unity only on our terms. In order to have Christian unity we must find a way to show other Christians we truly desire their fellowship without demanding anything of them that God doesn't require.

Since no one is perfect, even the Christian, there will be disagreements on every conceivable doctrine, and if we expect every church to fall in line with our particular beliefs we will always be disappointed. Believe it or not, many people in what many of us might call false churches, actually are honest in what they believe, even if their wrong. Many in the Church of Christ are also honestly wrong in what they believe (this may be a shock to some in the Church of Christ.)

Some questions to ponder:

1. What will those in the COC concede for the sake of unity, and what do we expect other groups we discuss unity with to concede?

2. How well can we accept change after years of believing we alone have the perfect pattern for the church?

3. Do we really expect other groups to throw away their beliefs and adopt our viewpoint?

Apr 23, 2006

buddy, can you spare a dime?

Occasionally I stumble across some Bible teaching that just doesn't seem to mesh (at least in my feeble mind) with what's written in another place. If the teachings seem to conflict (by my interpretation at least) perhaps my understanding is shallow, or it's a mystery that just doesn't lend itself to easy interpretation.

Jesus clearly states in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:42 ESV) we are to give alms to those who ask:
"Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."
Side note: What would you do if someone you don't even know asked to borrow your new $80,000 Hummer? Remember, were not to refuse the one who would borrow from us.

Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 ESV) presents a case for thoughtful giving. If we give indiscriminately to everyone who begs for help, we aid someone Paul tells us should not eat because they are unwilling to work.

"... If anyone is not willing to work let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living."
On the surface it appears these two passages of scripture place us in an untenable position, and wedges us between a rock and a hard place trying to figure out what to do when someone begs of us. Jesus says give to the one who begs, while Paul says if a man is to lazy to work he shouldn't eat.

When we provide alms to a beggar who is obviously too lazy to work (not referring to those truly in need,) he becomes useless to himself and society, and becomes dependent on handouts without seeing the need to provide for himself. By our alms we encourage laziness, and actually cause him more harm than good.

Jesus says give to the beggar, yet my common sense says don't give to the beggar; not without first checking to see if he's really in need, or just seeking to add my name to his list of suckers who support him. Sucker, or not, I prefer to err on the side of benevolence than to take a chance of rejecting my neighbor who truly needs help. It's not always an easy decision, especially with the overload of those on drugs, booze, and whatever, that are roaming our streets looking for an easy source of income to supply their bad habits.

Apr 19, 2006

a fragile religious freedom

For years we have lived in America with very little Christian bashing, but times they are a changin' as Bob Dylan rasped in his 1964 hit song. It has become the major goal of many atheists and the non-christian to undermine and scoff at our belief in a risen savior, and to deride our attempts to keep America a Christian nation. Their goal is a godless nation where we have no right, in any form, to proclaim God as our creator.

If we continue to sit around with folded hands,unconcerned and inactive, while a small percentage of our population rants against prayer, and other public displays of Christianity, we just may be looking for a good catacomb for our Sunday morning assembly. We must realize that our "church buildings" and "church signs" will eventually infringe on the rights of the non-christian minority, and soon (because of their loud protests) they will be the "squeaky wheel" our elected officials will be oiling.

We can still be Christians, but not permitted to refer to God or His Son publicly; pray, but only in our "church buildings" and closets. Basically just keep your religion and God to yourself, and don't promote your beliefs in a public manner.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer while imprisoned by Nazi thugs in Germany knew exactly how fragile religious freedom could be, and how it could be banished in a very short time. Read Bonhoeffer's Letters And Papers From Prison for a chilling account of life when religious freedom ceases to exist.

Apr 14, 2006

the perfect christian

Not only is it tough being a perfect Christian, it's impossible!

About twenty-five years ago a man caused a great deal of heartache to a small church he claimed as his family. He decided (in his own legalistic mind) that an elder must be perfect in order to shepherd the church scripturally, and went about promoting his agenda for perfect elders, and letting everyone know how corrupt the existing elders were...they were not perfect and should be replaced with those who were perfect.

Many in the church family (including the elders) attempted to explain that perfection was impossible for any mortal including those desiring to be an elder, but scripture, logic, and common sense meant nothing to him. He would always spout his favorite elder bashing scripture quoting Titus 1:7, 8 as absolute proof of his sound convictions.
For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.
Being "above reproach" was equivalent to being perfect in his mind, and he didn't think the existing elders were qualified to be shepherds and should resign. No one in the local church met his standards to lead as an elder...they just didn't meet his flawless interpretation of God's Word.

After causing a lot of problems this man eventually left the church and was always quick to pronounce the whole group as a bunch of hypocrites. Unfortunately he died a very bitter man with no use for the church.

We're all far from perfect-even our shepherds, but expecting perfection in others when we can't meet the criterion ourselves is ridiculous!

Apr 6, 2006

when brothers disagree

Alan Rouse causes my brain (or whatever that pea-sized-thinking-thing is) to hurt! His current post seeks a method to reconcile differences between Christians, and between different congregations. This post is basically an extension of my comments on his post.

Our conflicting brothers guide is found in Mat. 18:15-17 (ESV):

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of the two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
These verses reflect the biblical process for resolving conflicts between brethren, but care must be taken to insure that following this process doesn't generate additional problems that end up worse than the original. If I honestly, though unjustly, perceive a sin has been committed against me, and I roundup some of my biased friends to confront the "sinner" as witnesses, and my biased friends deem the evidence to be weighted in my favor, this would be unfair. It would be unfair even if the brother was actually guilty as charged. Imagine the consequences if this Christian charged with sinning against his brother is innocent, yet because of tainted testimony he is suddenly treated by the church as a "tax collector."

We pride ourselves in conforming our thoughts to Gods' Word, but often the scriptures are twisted just enough to fit our way of thinking. If the brother in the previous paragraph was honest about solving the problem with his brother, he would seek unbiased brothers/sisters to establish evidence that would be fair to all concerned.

It's difficult to believe a Christian could not find it in his/her heart to forgive another Christian who sinned against him; whether the sin was actual, or perceived...but it happens.

I wonder if Jesus forgave those who sinned against him?

Apr 5, 2006

warm planet theory

Scientific proof the earth is warming.

Apr 1, 2006

the "group think" principles

Check out an interesting post at Believing Thomas that lists the actions and thought processes of people involved in "group think." Often the legalistic tribes of the COC approach the concept of being a church the same way.

Of the symptoms indicative of "group think" (a term coined by the psychologist Irving Janis) a couple thoughts on his list fit comfortably in some churches:

7. "Direct pressure on dissenters to conform": Unless you believe and practice the way we do your wrong, and unless you conform to our precise understanding of scripture your not acceptable to God, and not recognized as a Christian by our group. Seems like something I have heard before!

8. "Self-appointed 'mindguards' protect the group from negative information": In a few of these groups only the King James Version is the only authorized and acceptable Bible Christians should read. Any book written by someone not sharing the groups particular belief system is suspect, and shouldn't be read because it only confuses us with false information.

Some symptoms of decisions affected by group think according to Janis:

1. "Incomplete survey of alternatives": You probably know of churches that refuse to even consider alternatives to their paternalistic and traditional practices. Can you imagine one of these churches considering the alternative of allowing a woman to stand up in front of the congregation and participate in the process of passing the communion to other Christians-even if she didn't speak a word!

3. "Failure to re-appraise initially rejected alternatives": Once an alternative has been dismissed by some churches it takes an act of congress for them to rethink their position. Old traditional methods are the only acceptable practices-if it was good enough for Grandpa Jones it's good enough for me!

Christians involved in a "group think" (my-way-or-the-highway) church wouldn't even realize the listed symptoms applied to them. While Janis may not intend his findings to be exclusive to church groups, his study certainly seems to apply to some churches where I was a member.

Mar 27, 2006

when prayers seem unanswered

Answers to our prayers with all their intertwining possibilities is absolutely mind-boggling. God has granted us, as mere sinful humans created from dust, the high privilege and honor of approaching His throne confidently in prayer. While engaged in prayer the Creator of the universe lovingly meets us one-on-one in live prime-time, and there is no need of an appointment, rescheduling, or fear of rejection. He listens patiently to our feeble pleas and even promises that His Spirit within us will intercede on our behalf.

God promises to answer our prayers in 1 John 5:14,15 (ESV):
And this is the confidence we have towards Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.
Prayer is an awesome gift from an awesome God.

The toughest part of prayer (to me) is grasping how and when prayer is answered. At times our prayers are answered almost instantly, completely, and recognizably; often nothing seems to happen at all. Since God always answers prayers, and when I'm unable to detect a positive answer, I can only assume He has denied my petition, or at least delayed it until a more opportune time.

Praying with selfish intent or for things harmful to us as Christians, and not receiving what we ask for is understandable, but millions of Christians praying for the lives of the starving and dying Jews during the Holocaust doesn't seem like a selfish endeavor, yet over six million men, women, and children were murdered during the Third Reich in spite of countless prayers on their behalf. Perhaps my miniscule brain doesn't have enough horsepower to fully comprehend the workings and thoughts of God..... Yep, that's it!

It all boils down to faith; by faith I believe that God, being perfect, accomplishes exactly what He desires. It's not within me to understand everything God sets in motion in His creation, but after reflecting on His perfection and total love for us, we have no alternative but to recognize His unerring decisions and live according to His will, which often means our prayers will be answered negatively for our own good, the good of others, or how it fits into His overall plan for His people.

Mar 22, 2006

some thoughts on unity

Perfection in any aspect of our lives is something we will never accomplish. We may do some things better than other things, and better than other people, but still, regardless of our high achievement (and accolades in some circles) we will never arrive before God in a perfect state.

Being religiously imperfect is also our lot as humans. We may do everything possible to follow the Bible perfectly; yet we go over-board in one direction and fall far short in another. Not that we don't understand how human and fallible we are, but often we hold on to cherished traditions in our churches for decades without honestly understanding why; we refuse, deny, or don't understand the spiritual consequences of loading our traditional baggage on the shoulders of other Christians, and those seeking to become Christians.

Spiritual change does not come easily and without a fight. When we realize what we have believed for decades is dead wrong it's tough to admit our failures. We need to continually examine our belief system making the necessary changes the Word of God and our conscience demands.

Perhaps our unwillingness to honestly appraise our beliefs and spiritual condition is a product of our fear that a thorough investigation might take us out of our comfort zone and put us in uncharted waters. Change is scary, but often necessary, especially if we are to ever unite with other Christians that also dread change.

Unity in the Christian community will only occur when we finally decide to make a concerted effort to understand our brothers and sisters in other churches rather than focusing on their glaring errors and glossing over their attributes. By dropping our preconceived ideas that have no scriptural basis, and realizing that we are far from perfect, we just might have grounds for a united fellowship.

Like the turtle, we quickly seek spiritual refuge in our shell after we spout our church laws and opinions, and refuse to investigate or consider the thoughts of other Christians. Perhaps we grab the one and only authorized, acceptable, and approved King James Version (some people actually believe this) and bolster our preconceived ideas while happily reflecting on the merits of Christianity without having to be unequally yoked with the other so-called Christian groups.

Will the time ever come when churches will agree to disagree over their opinions, and still work together united to spread the love of God within their communities rather than promote discord? If churches with different names on their signs ever realize unity it will be because of our incessant prayer and God's intervention.

Mar 17, 2006

polls and church growth

Strange results often occur when pollsters put their spin on poll findings. The following polls and quotes (if correct,) paint a downhill struggle for the church in America over the last few years:

"In America we are closing 7 more churches a day, than we are opening!! -Charles Arn"

"The United States of America remains the third largest unchurched nation in the world!

"In 1900 there were 27 churches for every 10,000 Americans. In 1950 there were 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans. In 1996 there were 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans. -George Gallup

"Evangelical churches have failed to gain an additional 2% of the American population in the past 50 years. In other words, we are not even reaching our children! -George Barna

"Estimated America Unchurched Population - 195 million (January 1996, Gallup Princeton Religion Report)."

"Half of all churches last year did not add one new member through conversion growth. -Charles Arn"

"During the last 10 years, the combined communicant membership of all Protestant Denominations has declined by 9.5% (4,498,242) while the national population has increased by 11.4% (24,153,000). -ASCG Journal of Church Growth"

Mar 14, 2006

10,000 disciples praying

The Disciples of Christ are praying for the future of their church and unity of God's children. I join Clarke over at ClarkeComments in urging all Christians, especially those with roots deep in the Restoration Movement, to participate in this effort. Prayer is vital if unity is to be achieved.

Sign up here and join other Christians praying for the unity of God's children.

Mar 10, 2006

cruel words innocently spoken

The last four or five Sunday mornings a young woman with two boys (7-10 years old,) and her little baby, have visited the church sitting on the back row with the rest of us back pew reprobates (as we call ourselves.) Her boys are a little rowdy, but definitely no worse than most other energetic children in a church setting.

About fifteen minutes into the "worship service" her boys were squirming around a little more than usual, and while she was trying to get them under control an elderly lady sitting in front of her who has a real problem hearing, and whispers loud enough to be heard all the way to the front of the building, whispered into another elderly sisters ear; "we're going to have to find another place to sit." This remark cut me like a knife, I can only imagine how the visiting mother must have felt.

The young lady was obviously hurt and embarrassed by the remark, and within a few minutes she bundled up her boys and headed out the door. I thought she was just taking the baby out for a minute, but she never returned. It worries me that this lady may never darken our doors again, and will carry a bitter taste in her mouth for Christians in general, and our little church in particular.

The elderly sister making the unkind remark is not accountable (at least in my opinion); she is approaching ninety, hard of hearing, doesn't realize she has the loudest whisper in history, and has border-line senility. She is a sweet sister who wouldn't harm anyone, yet her innocent words just crushed this young woman.

Later I contacted one of the elders and notified him of what had happened; thankfully he has her phone number and address and will make contact with her and try to explain that the cruel words innocently spoken were not the words describing how the rest of us feel towards her and her children.

Mar 6, 2006

ceni, silence, and unity

The Restoration Movement from its inception promoted unity among believers; yet today we are divided and splintered as bad, or worse, than any religious group in the world. It's difficult to convey a message promoting unity when our miserable track record evidences complete failure on our part.

The scriptures teach that division is wrong among brethren, and I believe most Christians realize that barricades between God's children are certainly undesirable. So how do we go about achieving unity? One reason it's so difficult to achieve unity is because we seek unity on our own terms, we want others to adopt our belief system (traditions and all,) while foregoing their own beliefs and traditions.

Once our plea was for unity among all believers, now the divisions within our own ranks are so deep we're seeking unity primarily within the Restoration churches; a far cry from the original intent. When we demonstrate the willingness to remove the weighty traditional baggage from our own shoulders, perhaps other people might notice and respond to our noble plea.

Alan Rouse (an elder in the COC in Atlanta Georgia) is asking some tough questions on his blog Christian Unity about CENI, and the Principle of Silence, in an attempt to better understand how these concepts impact the church.

After almost 200 years of fussing and fighting over these principles I can't help but wonder about their negative import. If members within the Restoration Movement can't agree on many of the practices CENI and Silence has produced over the years, how do we expect someone outside our little group to walk some of our narrow unlit paths when we can't even find it within ourselves to walk together!

The concepts of Silence and CENI have merit to a point, but over the years they have been used in ways that have alienated Christian brothers and sisters. Unfortunately both concepts are easily manipulated to suit a persons personal preferences, and often become wedges that divide, rather than unite God's children. These concepts can easily be construed to make my viewpoint and opinions gospel truth, and your viewpoint totally wrong.

We can have unity in Christ without total agreement in every detail. CENI and Silence can work to a point, but when it's used to hammer another Christian into submission who honestly disagrees with the conclusion, I think it kicks dirt on our efforts for unity.

As long as the CENI and Silence concepts are foundational in the COC groups I wonder if there will be any tangible results in our efforts for unity.

Mar 2, 2006

kiss vrs megachurches

There's a plethora of wonderful thoughts in the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid.) This philosophy (or whatever) just might be beneficial to many of us, especially churches. Not that simplicity is always the answer (sometimes the problems are complex,) but applying KISS when it's appropriate, is much better than following a complex system of problem solving that only adds to the confusion, and muddles up the solution.

We only have to look at the mess Washington has created over the years; complex red-tape and unwieldy programs that are impossible to govern and maintain even by the savy lawyer/politicians appointed to keep things running smooth.

The local church, like Washington, often gets so involved in it's own little world it over-manages and puts the lost in the community on the back-burner. Megachurches usually have a glut of programs for every conceivable situation, including harvesting souls, but often over-systemized programs require a ton of time and effort to manage, and solving problems is slow and cumbersome, usually a-day-late-and-a-dollar-short, missing critical time frames and seemingly lost in committee meetings, retreats, and self-improvement courses. A whole lot of chiefs, and a dearth of warriors seldom wins a war.

Emulating big business, or the government, does not offer positive solutions for church growth and solving problems in our churches and communities. The body of Christ you are a member of may be huge, and still do all the little things well, but believe me, there are many megachurches that are ninety-percent business and organization, and ten-percent into seeking the neglected, hurting, and lost souls in their communities.

Me-e-e-e-e wrong! probably, but where the church is heading (in my opinion) with all the emphasis on entertainment and showmanship is scary, but not to worry; in the future we can proudly wear our hula skirts, leis, and sandals to a luau "worship service" complete with palm trees and warm sand to run our toes through in the aisles, while listening to the background music of Don Ho and Hilo Hatti singing their favorite Hawaiian religious chants (accompanied by a bevy of ukes,) all the time enjoying an entertaining and enlightening sermon on the religious aspects of Hawaii five-0, delivered by an eloquent preacher sporting a bright red Kimono. Now we have truly arrived.

Feb 26, 2006

a baptismal quandary

A few thoughts concerning the heartache my aunt endured for years while associated with a very legalistic church that valued their perfect reasoning over her peace of mind.

As a young woman, my aunt was baptized while associated with the Baptist Church, and after being persuaded to join ranks with the Church of Christ she soon realized that her prior baptism was deemed suspect by a good majority of her new brothers and sisters in Christ.

After years and years of flak about her "unholy" baptism "into" the Baptist Church she relented, and was baptized "into" the COC by a COC minister (which made everything OK;) finally she was an acceptable sister in the one and only true church.

Years afterward she still believed her original baptism was for the right reasons and acceptable to God, and rightly wondered why she was so unacceptable to members of the COC until she was rebaptized. I wonder today as well!

Many (if not most) tribes of the COC have grudgingly changed much of their Pharisaical attitudes and no longer force their straight jacket opinions on God's children. Finally in some circles, God's mercy and grace take precedence over unerring perfectionism and tradition.

Feb 24, 2006

billy gates hates my blog

For those unfortunate enough to stumble onto my blog using Bill Gates (IE) browser, I apologize; it's really a mess! Works fine with Mozilla Firefox and Opera browsers, but completely haywire (for whatever reason) when Mr Gates decides to enter.

Shame! shame! shame! you should be using Firefox in the first place. I'm hoping to hang on until Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 is released; then it should render web pages a little better, unless this site is messed up beyond repair.

Wouldn't hurt to change my blog title as well; too many hits on Google for "the occasional opinion" that refer to everything in the world except this blog. Didn't know it was such a popular combination of words until lately. Enough shop talk.

Feb 21, 2006

walking humbly before god

Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) had his problems just like the rest of us, yet whatever the circumstances, he was able to pen some of the most inspiring thoughts ever recorded. The following prayer while attributed to him is not completely verified; whether he wrote it or not, it's a winner:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is injury, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
Where there is darkness, let me bring light.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Since our actions are being watched by unbelievers, it's critical that they observe us patterning our lives after Jesus, and not merely living as hypocrites differing little from the lost. Two short Saint Francis Quotes that help me understand how important it is for the Christian to walk in the footsteps of Jesus every day while living before an unbelieving world:
It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.
Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.
And lastly, his most famous quote (IMHO) most of us recognize immediately. This quote is hanging on many of our walls, and in some of our hearts:
Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know
the difference.

Feb 16, 2006

19th Century American Indians Perspective Of Christianity

The "unchurched" are often totally confused with all the different views we have about God's Word and how we apply it's teachings. Not only do churches have different perspectives on what the Bible teaches, but members within each group can't even agree among themselves. And we wonder why some people become exasperated and just give up!

When American religious clerics attempted to bring Christianity to the American Indian in the 19th century they often met with disaster for the same reasons. One American Indian summed up the problem very eloquently, but I can't find the quote so I will only outline its essence.

Many blackcoats (preachers) come to tell us about their Bible and that we should belong to their church, and we listen to them and try to understand what they want us to do, but when a preacher leaves they send another blackcoat with a bible saying his church is the right church and what all the other blackcoats said was wrong. Again and again this happens, and we are confused and don't believe the white mans religion. How can every blackcoat be right when they don't agree. Before you send us any more blackcoats let them meet in your country and decide who is right, then send them to us with one voice so we can understand your religion.

We have made Christianity just as confusing to the lost today as the blackcoats did to the American Indians almost two centuries ago. Should we even wonder why some people in need of Jesus close their eyes and ears when they see a Christian approaching?

An extract from the autobiography of Plenty-Coups (1848-1932) a chief of the Crow Nation:
...Their wise ones said we might have their religion, but when we tried to understand it we found that there were too many kinds of religion among white men for us to understand, and that scarcely any two white men agreed which was the right one to learn. This bothered us a good deal until we saw that the white man did not take his religion any more seriously than he did his laws, and that he kept both of them just behind him, like helpers, to use when they might do him good in his dealings with strangers...
As the eloquent Yogi Berra would say:
this is like deja vu all over again!

Jan 26, 2006

Dog Paddling In A Sea Of Lost Souls

Following in the footprints of Jesus entails a whole lot more than just walking through the double Oak doors of the sanctuary two or three times a week and plopping down on a nice cushioned pew, pinching the loaf, and throwing some loose change in the collection plate.

Christians willing to jump into the fire risking their resources and their very lives in order to engage the hopeless, jobless, depressed, drug addicted, winos, prostitutes, and others that are just plain hard to love are (in my opinion) those who truly seek to pattern their lives after Jesus. How many of us have the love and courage necessary to meet the needy and lost souls in their own environment? Do we honestly believe those needing Jesus will beat a path to our "church buildings" on Sunday morning to join us in praising God when we make no effort during the week to contact them?

...I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. ~~~ Luke 15:7 ESV

Christian fellowship is absolutely great! What a wonderful experience and privilege it is to associate with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but if we spend all our time enjoying each others company and ignore the "unchurched," how will the lost find their way to Jesus? Some churches provide tons of programs geared to enrich the lives of its members, yet make little effort to impress the necessity of meeting the lost on their own turf.

Loving Jesus means we mingle with the lost and often unpleasant and unlikable people who desperately need real meaning in their lives. We must put forth every effort to show them that the way provided by God is the only answer to their problems.

Many Christians today have become complacent, and end up dog paddling in a sea of lost souls without making the slightest effort to throw out a lifeline.

Jan 21, 2006

Interesting Quote

Interesting quote I stumbled across on Gilbert Kerrigan's blog. He couldn't remember the source and neither can I, but it has some great points worth considering.

The average member of the church of Christ has heard 4,000 sermons, sung 20,000 songs, participated in 8,000 public prayers...and converted zero sinners.

God never intended for Christianity to be church-building centered. The message from God in the New Testament is that he intends for us to go to the lost. Instead, our usual evangelistic program involves having a nice building and nice services to which the lost can come. And if they don’t come, they are not reached. If our church-building evangelism method could win America, it would already have done so.

Our problem is that we have become spiritually lethargic. We are like a car stuck in a snow drift - the wheels are spinning and the motor is racing, but there is no forward motion. Congregations have full calendars with lots of programs and activities but no forward direction that will keep the main thing the main thing - growth.

We have become indifferent. It doesn’t really matter to us that we are not growing. People are lost, and we are evangelistically inactive.

Perhaps the Devil learned a lesson from first century Christianity. Today he is not persecuting us; he is lulling us to sleep.

Jan 12, 2006

Blessed Beyond Measure

Children of God living in an affluent society often take it for granted that He provides a bountiful supply of all our temporal needs. How often does our Christian brothers and sisters living in third world nations wake up to such an abundance of blessings! Do we consider those in the world who don't even have the basic needs of life such as food, clothing, and the ability to care for their children?

Perhaps we have become insensitive to a suffering world because we compare ourselves to the Jones family next door. Mr Jones has a nice home, two cars, and a motorhome just like me, so I'm not rich, just an average ol' Joe. I doubt that God shares this opinion.

We view television programs detailing the misery and famine in some foreign nation then during the commercial launch an all-out attack on the fridge for Cherry Chocolate Bon Bons without a second thought of those dying of hunger? If your guilty, join the boat, I'll be on the front seat.

As Gods' children we are blessed beyond measure, and need to keep the less fortunate in our prayers, but praying and thinking about the problems is not the ultimate answer; we need to ACT. What are we (as children of God) doing to help those in need around the world? If your like me your probably not doing enough. If you want to help some homeless children, please contact the Lifeline of Hope; they are a reputable organization (in my opinion.)

... Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. ~~Luke 12:48 ESV

Most Christians in the United States have been given much, and much will be required of us.

Jan 8, 2006

Hate, Division, And One Lost Soul

The church should be (and often is) the most loving and comforting society in the world; unfortunately the church can also be (thankfully not often) the most bitter, cruel, and heartless group imaginable.

A little over twenty years ago I was unfortunate enough to be in a meeting where four elders attempted to remove and withdraw fellowship from a fifth elder. For months the in-fighting was vicious among the elders and their proponents, and naturally this spilled over and infected (poisoned would be a better word) the entire church. Christian friendships I had previously thought were cemented with love were ended in a flash, and the church was segregated along "party" lines never to reunite.

This ominous general church meeting happened on a Sunday morning held right after the worship service while all the members were still present. The four united elders stood before the church and denounced the actions of one of their own, and labeled him as being liberal and following the teachings of a few radicals (probably change agents.) After the elders presented their case they announced that he would no longer be an elder in their church, and they were withdrawing fellowship from him. This was bad enough, but read on.....

The elder who was removed and withdrawn from (about 5-minutes into his early retirement) rose from his chair, took over the microphone and refused to be dismissed as an elder, and would not accept the elders decision to withdraw from him. This became quite ugly, and resulted in the four elders who were attempting to remove the (renegade?) elder each resigning one-by-one in front of the congregation. If not calamity enough, the deacons who shared the same position as the four now resigned elders, also resigned. When the last round ended only the elder who refused to be removed and two or three deacons who shared his convictions remained to serve the church.

This was the only church split I have ever witnessed. I know of many more, but the scene on this day was far worse than one could imagine if the Democratic and Republican conventions were held together in the same auditorium.

Can it get worse! Read on.... While this church was in the process of ripping itself apart, a man walked in who was not a member of this church and thinking this was the regular worship service took a seat near me. He smiled at a few people around him then settled in for a pleasant commune with God. After a few minutes of yelling, accusations, and finger-pointing he looked around confused, and I watched sadly and embarrassed as he rose slowly, head down, and without a glance at another person walked out the door...possibly forever!

Can you even imagine what this visitor was thinking when he left! I should have followed him out and attempted to explain that this was not a church service and not to get a general bad feeling about all churches because of what he had seen, but I was too shell-shocked by the unholy (yes, unholy) spectacle taking place to think straight. Over 20-years have passed and I still remember how happy he looked when he came in, and how sad he looked on leaving.

Perhaps it's not good to bring up problems a church faced years ago, but we do need to learn by our mistakes. We need to embrace our brothers and sisters wholeheartedly with unfeigned love so that these horrible ungodly events don't happen in the future. After all these years I can still hear the accusations and feel the hate (yes, hate) this church suffered when it divided.

My prayer is for a united and loving church where Gods' children love each other way too much to fracture over trivial matters or personalities.

Jan 1, 2006

Having A Christian Attitude

As Christians we daily thank (or should thank) our Father for the many wonderful gifts He lavishes on us; yet we're often guilty a short time later of griping and complaining about the slightest inconveniences we perceive, or imagine, that seem to be messing up our lives.

Since Christians are God's representatives on earth, should we prowl around griping all the time about our government, fellow workers, jobs, financial situations, and especially our Christian brothers and sisters! God is in control, and we will never understand certain aspects of why bad things happen to us, our friends, or our country, but as Christians we must realize that the world is looking at us, and how we handle a situation may influence a person to follow Christ, or to deny Him.

Having a Christian attitude in public places is essential. If we gripe, groan, moan, and generally cause a disturbance if the waitress brings us a bloody hamburger (when it's usually not the waitresses fault, but the cooks) how does this impact those around us? Wouldn't it be better to smile and ask politely for a little more heat on the meat? Perhaps a person in hearing range of the incident is a person who needs Jesus; I doubt they will be interested in hearing anything we say if we're inconsiderate, rude, and fussy with our waitress. We need to understand that people watch those professing to be Christians very closely, and we should always strive to behave decently so that God is glorified at all times.

We show our faith in God by our actions. If we understand that He is in control of our lives, and that all blessings flow from Him, then we should be peaceful, gentle, and loving before the world so that others will see Christ in us, rather than the world in us.