May 18, 2007

New Blog Address

Goodbye Blogger.

Hello Wordpress.

New address: The Occasional Opinion

May 16, 2007

Francis Marie Lyon 1929-2007

Attending a memorial service (funerals to some) ranks low on my list of joyful and fun events. Yesterday I went to the funeral of a dear elderly sister expecting the usual sad and depressing ceremony that so often seems to bring more sadness into the lives of the family than encouragement. Much to my surprise what I experienced was a wonderful celebration of the life of this Christian woman.

The event was a farewell party for a loving woman who had dedicated her life to follow Jesus through the rich as well as the lean years, and her family had no doubts where she would spend eternity. What a great testimony this woman has left for her immediate family, church family, and friends throughout the community.

She will be missed by all, but she is in a far better place.

May 13, 2007

Blog Dread

If this page appears as a total mess it's because I finally decided it was time to make the change from the old Blogger and switch to the New Blogger. For some time I have been dreading this, now I know the fear was justified; for something lauded as quick and easy...NOT!

Why can't someone develop a change-over that includes the tweaks, etc. from the old template, so a person can just hit the NEW BUTTON and everything dances along happily and orderly in the right direction? As soon as I get use to this new system, Google will change to something even EASIER, so once more I can start from scratch.

May 8, 2007

I Like the Church of Christ

Usually I post about things happening in the church that I don't agree with, and while I don't believe wondering openly about matters affecting the church is inappropriate, it may be time to present some things I believe are generally positive about the Church of Christ (well, most of them):

  • ITS INDEPENDENT STANCE that refuses to tolerate any hierarchical church governments that issue laws and regulations seeking to conform the local churches to meet their personal scriptural interpretation. Since each COC is autonomous, it is not as likely to become corrupted by other churches.
  • THE NAME, CHURCH OF CHRIST, certainly portrays the fact that we are the church, and we belong to Christ. Many churches have concocted names that often reveal what they believe, or what someone else calls them, but have little meaning in designating them as Christians. I prefer something as simple as, the church that meets at _______; the Lords church at ______; or something simple and meaningful without the usual ostentatious verbiage. At any rate the Church of Christ is a great name in my book.
  • ITS SIMPLE ORGANIZATION utilizing elders and deacons instead of being governed by committee, or hierarchy, fits my understanding of the scriptures. Some in the COC have seen this as archaic, and went on to what they believe are newer and better means of leadership, but many of us old die-hards still hold to the elder/deacon approach. I know of one large COC that has elders, but no deacons. They rely on committees to run just about everything, but at least there are elders making the final decisions...hopefully!
There are many great reasons to claim the Church of Christ as my choice, but for now I'm basically comfortable with it's approach to following Jesus, and feel at home within its environs (probably because it's the only church I have ever known.) There are now so many different variations in the COC that it's almost impossible to generalize any specific COC belief, but warts and all, I still like it...

Apr 30, 2007

Throwing Preachers in the Pool

Occasionally I mention my friendship with the local Pentecostal preacher; he is moving to a larger city because of his wife's health problems, and I will miss him. He is a good honest man, and while we differ, often drastically on our perception of truth, we overlook each others faults and consider ourselves brothers in serving the Lord.

The Pentecostal hierarchy he associates with has a pool of preachers that are assigned to churches throughout their jurisdiction, so he has to jump back into the pool and start over again. For a church to accept him as their preacher he must first preach for them, then they will vote whether or not he is acceptable. If after three preachers are refused by a church the ministerial association will appoint a preacher from their available pool to fill the vacancy, whether that church likes it or not.

The requirements for a preacher in his church are high; they have to meet certain qualifications educationally, and spiritually, including an ordination ceremony, and a series of tests before they are recognized as acceptable candidates to preach. I couldn't help but remind him that Jesus selected a bunch of fishermen to become Apostles that wouldn't even qualify to be in his church's preacher pool. We're still friends :)

Churches of Christ can run into problems selecting a preacher, but at least its members have the final word on who stands in the pulpit on Sunday morning. Without our stand for church autonomy we could be at the mercy of some hierarchal ministerial association paid to decide what is in our best thanks!

Apr 24, 2007

Rants, Rants, and More Rants

Churches will never meet the expectations of all their members. The church is inhabited by God's elect, but we are still human, and what one Christian perceives as absolute truth is a bunch of hogwash to another. Perhaps the questions listed below are old and something we have come to accept, but surely the body of Christ is more than a social club for retired Christians:

  • Why are some churches so self-centered that sinners in their community are left to fend for themselves without ever knowing that God exists and loves them?

  • Why are so many churches divided into cliques; seldom extending their hand of fellowship, or friendship for that matter, to their brothers and sisters among them who feel lost and out of place?

  • Why do some churches continually preach to the choir (themselves,) and expect their lost neighbors to come to the "church building" if they want to hear a soul-saving sermon?

  • Why do some churches continually spend the Lord's money on grander and more unique church buildings, while neglecting the poor, widows, and orphans?

  • Why do some churches seek worldly honors, acclaim, and prestige; forgetting that we are only pilgrims on earth for a short time?

Not all churches are guilty of these shortcomings, but I have seen many examples of these listed questions in my small part of the perhaps it's spread far and wide. While the church is a refuge for the saved, it's not just a building that houses a few weekly meetings, it should be the primary influence in the community to save the lost, feed the poor, and in general spread the gospel everywhere, not just in isolated human structures we call church buildings.

Mar 24, 2007

Playing with Religious Toys

Often people plaster big ugly labels on our religious foreheads based on how they perceive we interpret scripture. Unfortunately, we're often mislabeled, and doomed to walk around sporting false labels when they don't represent what we actually believe. The quirky characterizations in the list below spotlights how some in the Church of Christ play with their toys; sadly enough, these one-liners present a lot of truth.

The following list, swiped at Sadistic Desire, provides humorous insight into what other people think we believe:

  • Voodoo - "Let me borrow that doll for a second..."
  • Confucianism - "Once a toy is dipped in water, it is no longer dry"
  • Capitalism - "He who dies with the most toys, wins"
  • Hari Krishna - "He who plays with the most toys, wins"
  • Judaism - "He who buys the most toys at the lowest price, wins"
  • Catholicism - "He who denies himself the most toys, wins"
  • Anglican - "They were our toys first"
  • Greek Orthodox - "No, they were OURS first"
  • Branch Davidians - "He who dies playing with the biggest toys, wins"
  • Mormonism - "Every boy may have as many toys as he wants"
  • 7th Day Adventists - "He who plays with his toys on Saturday, loses"
  • Amish - "Toys with batteries are surely a sin"
  • Church of Christ - "He whose toys make music, loses"
  • Baptist - "Once played, always played"
  • Church of Christ, Scientist - "We are the toys"
  • Jehovah's Witnesses - "He who 'places' the most toys door-to-door, wins"
  • Non-Denominationalism - "Does it really matter where the toys came from?"
  • Communism - "Everyone gets the same number of toys"
  • Hedonism - "Hang the rule book! Let's play!"
  • Atheism - "There is no toy maker"
  • Polytheism - "There are many toy makers"
  • Evolutionism - "The toys made themselves"

Mar 19, 2007

Illuminating a Dark World

We have spent incalculable hours plopped in uncomfortable pews listening to the various ways we can build up our brothers and sisters in Christ. We promote every conceivable method to glue our members together; ice cream socials, finger food brunches, and dinner-on-the-grounds to name a few, yet how often are we encouraged to step outside our fellowship, and mingle with the sinner who really needs our help?how often are we encouraged to step outside our fellowship, and mingle with the sinner who really needs our help?

Often, after hearing the typical Sunday morning sermon, we are left with the impression that we are to separate ourselves from the sinner completely; yes, this helps remove their influence on our lives, but it also removes our influence in their lives. We can continue to ignore the sinner on their own turf, or maybe just wait for them to show up at the church building...isn't that a novel idea!

Several churches I'm aware of practice love to the max, but primarily among themselves. Too often we get so involved in our own church relationships that we overlook those on the outside. The church should be a refuge of love for the Christian, but not a place to hide from the sinner who needs our help.

Our light shines brightest when those around us have no lamps. Going into a dark sinful world is often scary and not very pleasant, but Jesus set the example of associating with sinners in order to teach them the good news, and if we ignore their silent pleas for help, we are missing the point and looking the wrong direction. Jesus set the example in Matthew 9:12,13:
But when he heard it, he said, "those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

Mar 12, 2007

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two
"wolves" inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather:
"Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Mar 7, 2007

update; the children are back

In an earlier post; Let the little children come, I wrestled with the problem of keeping children in Sunday School when the parents obviously could care less, and made no provision for their spiritual welfare. The three children mentioned in that post attended with their visiting Grandmother, but when she returned home they disappeared for months.

Just wanted to let those who commented on this post, as well as others that dropped by, that with a lot of effort and tons of prayer from the church, the Sunday School teacher arranged for the children to be picked up on Sunday mornings, and once again we're blessed to see their smiling faces.

God certainly works in marvelous ways; when we are dazed and staggered by seemingly impossible situations with no answers at hand, or on the horizon, He already has the solution. By trusting Him, persevering in our endeavors to solve the problem, and even quietly waiting for God's perfect timing, we eventually see daylight at the end of the tunnel, and the perfect answer to our prayers.

Feb 27, 2007

church identity crisis, or a needed adjustment

The Christian Chronicle currently features an article by Bobby Ross Jr posing the question whether or not the church is facing an identity crisis. Many different opinions are noted in this feature story, but it's obvious while many differ on why there is an identity crisis, most agree this is occurring in the Church of Christ.

Another discussion of this identity crisis can be found at Scott Freeman's blog. Comments on his post also point out that this identity problem is happening throughout the Restoration churches.

I would venture to opine that the only ones not having this identity crisis are those in the my-way-or-the-highway churches (including some COC groups) that have always maintained they alone are the true church of Christ. While many churches are pulling their heads out of the sand and seeking new ways to help their communities and communicate Jesus to the lost, many of our legalistic brethren are still oblivious to change, and honestly believe they already have everything down exactly as the Lord reveals, and certainly don't need to make any corrections. If you disagree with one of theses churches YOU are the one having an identity crisis!

Scott Freeman wrote; "I often wonder how big the table of fellowship might be." For some churches a very small table would suffice. Any church groups believing they alone are blessed with perfect scriptural interpretation will always find plenty of elbow room around their fellowship table. Any church groups believing they alone are blessed with perfect scriptural interpretation will always find plenty of elbow room around their fellowship table. Judging other believers as lost unless they lockstep to our particular belief system guarantees a small fellowship.

If Christians are having this crisis, just imagine the difficulty of those outside the body of Christ seeking to identify with a church! It's impossible for all of us to arrive at the same conclusions about every verse of scripture, and until we can agree to disagree, and still love and fellowship each other, we will continue to have a church identity problem.

No doubt many churches are having an identity crisis; perhaps this is God's way of drawing His children together around a larger table, where there is room for all Christians to extend their hands in fellowship, fully united in the body of Christ.

Feb 23, 2007

the traditional lord's supper

When we follow the same traditional worship service formula for years without the slightest deviation in form, our worship service becomes etched in stone. Any changes, even slight variations, are often deemed unacceptable, even sinful, by those who have adopted as absolute truth, the traditions of men.

Man-made traditions are not always horrible monsters, but become monsters when some in the church insist only these traditions are acceptable to God. Often scripture is twisted to fit a particular belief system, then thrust on the rest of the church as gospel truth. Traditions, over time, take on an aura of respectability regardless of their merit.

Commenting on John Dobbs site recently I listed a few traditional habits we often follow when participating in the communion service. The following practices are easily recognized by many in the church, and are absolute prerequisites (tongue-in-cheek somewhat) when commemorating the Lord's supper:
  • Always place the little lacy tablecloth on the communion table properly.
  • Always center the trays on the communion table; bread to the left of course.
  • Wear a coat, shinny shoes, and a rag tied around your neck.
  • When walking to the front be sure to get in step so all things will be done decently and in order.
  • Use the little plastic cups that the older members can't grasp, and men with large hands can’t get out of the tray.
  • Use the same prayers week after week so there is no confusion about what is going on.
  • Women can pass the emblems horizontally (from side-to-side while seated) to men, but not vertically (while standing.)
  • When the communion service is completed, and just prior to the giving process, be sure to say, “this is not a part of the communion service, but is a convenient time to give of our means.”

The list can go on forever. Following these steps will ensure a robotic communion service that any unthinking Christian can participate in without the slightest need to think outside the box. Not that all these practices are inappropriate, but with no variations over the years they become so engraved in our mind as being the only acceptable methods that anyone guilty of changing the format in the slightest is considered a suspect Christian.

Feb 20, 2007

once more with gusto

After a three-month hiatus since my "There's always a final post" statement, and missing the astute comments from my brilliant blog friends, I have once again decided to leap in with both feet, and drag my old occasional opinion blog back into the public arena.

This blog continues to see the need (even if with a small voice) to question the dangerous human traditions that continue to swirl around many in the Church of Christ separating them from not only other groups spawned within the Restoration Movement, but from other believers in Jesus as well. Thankfully, an ever increasing number in the COC realize they have brothers and sisters outside their little groups, and work overtime to extend their hands in fellowship to those once considered too imperfect to wear His name.

As always feel free to comment; our opinions will often differ, but hopefully not our dedication to follow Jesus faithfully.