Friday, May 23, 2014

More - what is wrong about the Church

If you have been following me, I have to apologize for the delay as I have had to tend to more pressing business - that is, finding a job.  It's a long story.  One of these days I may take time to share the ugly details.

As I was considering what to write about I received an e-mail from The American Spectator and an article - The Loneliness of American Society, based on a report by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that was originally published in the American Sociological Review (NSR) and authored by three - obviously talented sociologists, at Duke and the University of Arizona.  They claim the study was based on 1,500 face to face interviews where the respondents - one in four, claimed to be bored with their life styles.  Well, that wasn't their words.  They preferred to use terms like "social isolation" and "significant decrease" in social connections to close friends and families.

I would have to believe that if we went to a few of the 100+ churches in our relatively small community, you might have uncovered similar thoughts.

I am 84 years of age and recently became a widower and I can easily understand such feelings.   I moved to this community to marry my wife and now, my in-laws have chosen to ignore me.  That was made worse by the fact my wife really did not enjoy making friends in our community and I was left, almost alone.  There were moments when I yearned to give up and hopefully join her, simply by not eating more than enough to just ease the pain in my stomach.

But I have been a Christian for over 39 years and the more I tried to pity myself, the more I was reminded of that scripture that reads:  "You shall be given power when the Holy Spirit comes and you shall be My witnesses,,,"  (Acts 1:8)  I decided to use that "power" to get up and walk and my life took on new meaning and purpose.  Whereas I only had 7-8 people I could call my friends when my wife passed on, I just counted and I have over 125 who I could call and talk to whenever I had something of interest to others.

I have to wonder if those esteemed sociologists had thought of questioning the others that they talked with, what contributions they to they offer that would appeal to the others?

Then the report turns to a Rabbi who suggested that "we are raising a generation of children who are (as he is quoted as saying) orphans in time."  "They are," he continued, "incapable of integrating their past and their future, living instinctively in an almost animal like fashion only in the present."  He offers an opinion that they wander about aimlessly without connections - physically, emotionally or spiritually.

I have to wonder where his synagogue is located.   Surely, not in the America that was to be the focus of this article.  I will admit that there are children acting as children and I would point to the fact that far too many of our children are getting pregnant and adding to the problem.  But I see an America that is beginning to awaken to the fact that a new day is dawning and proof of that can be found everywhere you see youngsters congregate.  They are holding in their hands, examples of technology that was not even imagined when my children were in their teens.

When I was their age, we had to make do with whatever was available as there was a war sapping a huge portion of our resources and technology was not a part of our education. And there were problems in our families - real problems, girls getting pregnant and boys being buried as casualties of a war that created a real reason for fear for most of us.

The real difference between then and now is that my generation went to church, regularly and if there was to be a community effort to draw us together, it was orchestrated by the churches and most of them were not even speaking to one another. 

Now we have multi-million dollar companies grinding out tons of literature on how to rear the children, teach the children, enthuse the children, employ the children and for the most part, most of it is not in tune with the times.  That not only applies to children in the church, but also to the parents, the married couples, the divorced couples, the middle aged singles, the seniors, etc., etc. and the glue that used to hold the church together is missing.

Do you recall the scripture I quoted earlier?  Acts 1:8   "You shall be My witnesses."

Ever been to court?  Ever been required to appear as a witness?  If you have you ought to recall the bailiff instructing you that you are to "...tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,"  You are help accountable for what you saw and often, just your opinion of what you had seen>

Therein is the real problem.  If there were witnesses going out from all of the churches we have in virtually every city and town in our country, into the community, telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we would see the change that I would have to believe Dr. Crouse is seeking.

The word isn't in the Bible, at least those that I own.  It is accountability.  And it flows from the highest point to even "the least of these" - the subjects of the report I mentioned in the beginning of this article.  But why should we?  The article explains it in Biblical terms - "the fields are ripe for harvest."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What's Right about the Church I

If you have been following my thoughts - a few have admitted that they do, and I would expect that among those who have not admitted it, there are those who disagree with me. That is perfectly admissible.  We learn more by exploring our differences that we do when we merely accept opinions without ever challenging them.

Today, I am here to talk about  the many reason I like the church, pray for the church, and do what I can to promote it.  I don't particularly care for denominations, but they have their place.  I only wish they were on the streets where the rest of us live out our lives.

It was on those streets that I met the two men I want to tell you about today.  They are old friends of mine.  Of course I am not referring to their ages.  I am the old guy.  I met both of them on the pages of the newspaper I have loved every since I moved to Tennessee.  Of course, I am referring to The Tennessean.

Brad Schmitt used to be a regular contributor, a staff member of the paper if my memory serves me as well as it is supposed to do.  Now I learn that he has been, maybe still is, in "recovery".  He is writing about some of the people he has met through the meetings which are part of that process.  I am fortunate that I have never reached the point where I thought it would help me to get involved with recovery programs and I was fortunate enough to not have loved ones urging me to get involved.

I recognize, however, many of the people he refers to in his article.  I have known them in the many "meetings" I have "chaired" over the years, hoping to help people deal with their problems involving employment.  I recognize many of the symptoms Brad mentions.  And I completely agree with his most profound finding - that "needs" come in a variety of ways all connected to the personality of the complainer.  And far too often, that person serves to disrupt the reason for the meeting.  There is a solution and most of us don't recognize it.  It took awhile but Brad has taken a firm hold of it.

The basic problem is not with leader, per se, but stems from his/her willingness to recognize that he/he is the problem.  In the church, we are commended to love one another.  That is our calling.  It has little to do with the problems of organization, finances, location or any of the myriad problems that confound church elders.  It needs to be laid at the feet of all of the members, that there are people who are - in fact, hard to love.  We sit next to them in the pews, we meet them coming and going and when we are not listening to the most basic of all of the commandments, we try to ignore them.  As Brad suggests, it is a challenge, but challenges are typical in our daily life.  Ask anyone who has thought of excelling in sports.  There are "naturals" of course, but they are few and far between.  The big "money" goes to those coaches who can convince the "hard to learn" to become team players.  And so it should be with church members.  It is not the places in the hierarchy, we should seek, but the eternal friendships we create by the efforts we make to love others.

Turning to my other friend, he will have to remain nameless as I don't have his permission to remind others of his wisdom - as I write this.  His headline read, "Rejoicing at execution is a sign of spiritual sickness."  He was referring to the pathetic situation in Oklahoma where an execution failed to be carried out as programmed and led to the agonizing death of the prisoner.  No one wanted that, of course, but then if you read any of the numerous articles relating to this incident, you would have read of those who rejoiced at his agony,

I have personally known three murderers in my life.  One was a good friend at one time, another was an extremely talented artist and musician, while the third became a friend I met while visiting "death row" here in Tennessee.  All three were eventually released from their sentence and have gone on to live honorable lives.  They are the products of what the church calls, redemption.  Of course, those of us who believe in the Bible are destined for eternal life based on that same concept.

Based on my own experience challenging the death penalty, I have found there are those who believe it is legitimate based on what they have heard the Bible says, ..."an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."  Others are content to just remove another "bad" person from our midst.  I have challenged churches where I had a voice and am met with an attitude that life and death appear to be God's business and a lay person can only agree or disagree with the leadership of the church.  Which brings us back to the command for us to love one another.  Loving a murderer isn't easy, I know all about that, but when you see the benefits of actually loving others, you really want to fall on your knees and thank God for His wisdom.  I won't go as far as my friend in suggesting that rejoicing at the plight of others is a sign of spiritual weakness, but I will contend that the penalty for not loving others is far worse than any of the other transgressions.  It robs you of the possibility that you might learn from the experience,

My simple prayer for you is that you will think on these thoughts.   

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Problems with the Church IV

Every time I turn around it seems, I come face-to-face with the problems that appear to infest the Church, the "body of Christ" as many among us would proclaim.

Today, it was an established executive with a well known publishing corporation that specializes in ministry books and pamphlets  He titled his "blog" - Saints on the Lonely Walk of Faith.

Now I probably would not have had anything to say if he had used a word like "frustrating" or "confusing" as - in my opinion,  there is much to be said about the frustration in the church and that many of its followers are confused by what they observe along the way.

But lonely, I'm sorry but after walking in faith for the past thirty-nine years - as of last Monday, the only loneliness I have found has been a figment of my own imagination.  It will be eight months tomorrow since my beloved wife passed away and I hurt, oh, how I hurt for awhile.  Then I would discover that her family who had always professed love for me during our marriage, no longer even cared for me.  I started to wait impatiently for their calls, at times hoping they might stop by to visit, but it would never happen.  One morning, I woke up to a feeling that I was all alone in a city I hardly knew and loneliness appeared to be an option.

Then, I opened my Bible for a word of comfort and there it was, Jesus' words, "I will ask the Father and He will give you another helper, that He may be with you forever, that is the spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him, or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.  (John 14:16-17)

The "He" of course was the Holy Spirit, the one with whom I had wrestled for awhile, confused by those who were fervently teaching about Him and eagerly employing the "magic" of speaking in tongues.  It sounded good, but it didn't work for me as they said it would work until that fateful evening as I sat between two sisters with a problem that they insisted I had caused.  One would say I had done "this" and the other would insist I had done "that" and I did not understand either claim.  Finally, I suggested we pray and they led and each fervently pleaded their case to the Father and I sat there amazed as what they were claiming in their prayers was not the same as when their voices were raised against me.  I started to pray, asking the Father to give me the words to say and to my amazement, the words that came out of my mouth were intelligible at best.  I started to stop and they urged me to continue as there were tears falling across  their faces and then, they got up from their seats and came and fell at my feet.

What had happened?  One thing that had actually happened was that both of these dear friends were now asking me to forgive them, while in my heart-of-hearts, I needed them to forgive me.  We made our amends quickly and would go on our separate ways.  It was not long afterwards that I received another job offer in another city and we would never meet again, at least here on earth.

I kept asking, what had actually happened, did I really speak in tongues, and it would be years before I would have that experience again.  What does it mean to me?  It means that God is true to His word, He had sent another helper and on occasion, He has demonstrated His power over my tongue.

But that it not the important past.  Awakening from my concerns that I host lost my dear wife and her references to me that I had been, her "rock", I began to fill my life with an understanding that I needed to get on with my life.  I forgave those who had confused me by their actions and I have to believe that it is God who reminds me to pray for each of them, daily.  They might not care.  I know, He cares.

Arising from the suggestion of loneliness I asked God to show me what to do on a daily basis, He has led me to uncover people waiting to express their love for others by loving me.

I would remind my friend that the walk of faith is not a lonely walk, but one filled with the promises we can find throughout the scriptures and all we are required to do is act on them.

I am reminded that on the streets where we each live, the houses were filled with people who need to know the truth that sets us free and the joys we will experience as we grasp the realities in His promises.

It will soon be my 85th birthday, God willing, and I am reminded of another old man's voice who I met within days of my "conversion".  He and the others were singing a song that lifted my spirit with these words, "It gets sweeter and sweeter as the days go by, oh, what a love between my Lord and I."  I went over to see him as the services ended and asked, "Are those words that you were singing true to you?"

"Yes, son," he replied, "It gets even sweeter than that."   And so it has been in my life.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Problems in the Church III

OK, here we go again.  For some reason, I have been inundated with articles regarding the problems in the church, or concerning the church, so I have paused a bit to see which of these I could trust.

We live in a word where any of us with access to a computer can say whatever we please about anything or anyone we choose to dislike and I have been amazed at the lack of serious contradictions. In my circle of friends, I simply do not listen to the complaints, the whining if you prefer as I do, about what is wrong with us and where we are heading, if we do not change our ways.  My position is a simple one - I believe in God and although there have been moments in my life when I thought that such a hope was fleeting, the fact is, just as I was ready to believe that the worst was about to happen, somehow, God has always intervened.

So it was yesterday as I opened my mail to find the regular monthly issue of Steve's Letter from the Key Life Network and inspired by this long time friend of mine, Steve Brown.  In case you have not heard of him, you need to take time to listen to a few of the thoughts he expressed in his letter.

He starts out by sharing our mutual belief that we love the church and he quotes Ephesians 5:25, "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her."

He quotes Henri Nouwen, another older "friend" of mine who adds, "..."When we say you love Jesus, but you hate the Church, we end up losing not only the Church, but Jesus as well."  He goes on to add, ..."the Church is an often fallible human organization that needs our forgiveness,,," and I might add, if we realize where we were when we first came to realize the validity of Christ's message to all of mankind, we should recall that the forgiveness we were offered is of the same nature as the forgiveness the Church deserves.

Steve reminds all of us that we are more often hurt by members of the Church and not the church itself. When Derlene and I talked about marriage, I had to realize that she had been hurt by members of the churches she attended, not because of what they did, but what they did not do; that is, reflect the love that we all eventually learn is the essence of the One we accept as our personal Lord and Savior.  We tried to find a church, but there were problems, so we opted for the "Church" that was offered on our TV sets on Sunday morning and found a Pastor who provided words of encouragement for our daily lives from the Bible.  And after our church, we turned off the TV and discussed how the words we had heard were applicable to our daily lives.  We learned together that church is not necessarily what we might like to believe, but always was, what we chose to make of it.

Our first obligation of being associated with a Church is not to boast of its size, nor the competence of the ministerial staff, now even the friendliness of the people, but have we been inspired to develop the practice of loving one another.  The Apostle John writes that, "We love because He first loved us.  If anyone says, 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother who he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen,  And this commandment we have from Him; whoever loves God must also love his brother."  (I John 4:19:21)

Steve reminds us that as as a well known and highly respected public speaker and Pastor, he has been on the receiving end of rejection and judgement and a lack of compassion and was quick to remind all of us with ears to hear, he has been on the other end more times that he can count.  Now, you know why I love him and highly respect him as he has had to walk through the storms of life as we all do, and yet, he is like all of us, his ability to forgive has risen him above those storms.
We learn how to fix others when we have perfected the practice of fixing ourselves.

Many among us can related to an incident when a farmer was approached by a man who had just ran over one of the farmer's calves.  Prepared to pay the farmer for his loss, he asked, "How much did the calf cost?"  "Well now, it is was only worth $200 today, but in six years - if you have not killed him, it would have been worth $900.  So, I am out $900."  The man reached for his checkbook and wrote out a check for $900.  "Please note that I postdated the check six years from now."

I related to Steve's story immediately.  I spent the first 45 years of my life - in church, and apparently the only thing I ever believed was that I was good, because of all the good people around me.  Then, I would discover they were not as good as I had expected and dared to ask God about it.  He was quick to remind me that it was not the "good" nor the "bad" of others, but the righteousness displayed by His Son that really matters.  I accepted His explanation and have walked in that light every since.  I finally realized there is very little to be gained by accepting post dated checks.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Loving one another....

This was going to be - the Church III, but I was interrupted this morning while waiting to go to church, my church.   In my years with Derlene, since she really was not comfortable with church folks, we had two rituals on Sunday morning.  The first part was CBS's Sunday Morning program which I have been watching for years and the other was Joel Osteen's TV program.  I will continue to watch CBS as it's focus is always on people and I happen to believe that is why the church has existed over the years, to serve people, God's creation.

Anyway, this morning, I found myself intrigued by another of their segments, focusing on children with Autism.  This morning, the subject was the second son of a couple who seemed to be very happy with their marriage and especially, their first son.  The next one was what many would call - different, he turned out to be Autistic in his second year,  True to form, the couple could not understand this and in spite of all of the counsel they received, the best "remedy" seemed to be his fascination with tapes of Disney movies and he would set for hours watching them, thoroughly pleased with his life.  Then, as he was in his fourth year he came to his mother, specifically and accurately quoting a character in one of the many movies he had been watching   His mother was, at first, astounded but they took him to the specialists who were aware of his life and things began to change.  I had hoped to get a re-run to share with you the details I have forgotten about it, but as the years passed along he has progressed into what we want to call normal life and the segment closed with a clip of him tutoring others with the same affliction.

I had wanted to have this available as there are professionals dealing with this discovery, but it reminded me of my own experiences with autistic children.

Many years ago, I was helping people in our church in another city with the problems they presented to us and a couple introduced me to Autism.  It seemed as though they had traveled several miles hoping to find someone who would pray and lay hands on them and remove this tragedy from their lives.  I agreed to do this, but first I asked where they lived and when they told me, it seemed as if I was being  "instructed" to go there and meet the boy, I will call him Tommy.  To make a longer experience shorter, I agreed to go and wound up in their living room three weeks later.  Tommy seemed to recognize me as he took me by the hand and led me to the room where he normally played.  He wanted me to set on the floor with him and for two hours, he kept "instructing" me by putting a toy in my hand and then showing me what to do.  Then, all of a sudden, he stopped, put the toys away and took me back to his parents in their living room.  We had never said a word to one another and I had no words or explanation for what had happened.  I just knew I was supposed to be there.

I would come back three times and we would repeat the same ritual, except the last time I was there, he greeted me with a hug and a "Hi, Mac".  His parents said that was the first time he had ever spoken to an outsider.  I was moving out of the area, so we would not see each other but, his parents sent me letters where he had written those words and "Let's play".  Later on, they told me he was now in a full-time school and was progressing quite well.  I never fully understood that experience until now.

A few years ago I moved to this area and there was an Autistic child among my in-laws. The first time I met her, I was instantly in love with her.  Her young spirit filled whatever room she was in and after awhile, we learned to dance together.  There seemed to be a problem, however, as others pointed to the fact that her mother and the biological father were not married and it seemed apparent, this delightful little girl became a problem to everyone who was involved in the family dynamics.  It doesn't seem to bother her as she, like so many of the others, appear to live in their own little world.

Although we are now separated, I continue to pray for her and there have been moments when it was as if I was being asked to pray specifically for certain needs that she had.  How does one comprehend such requests when it appears, there is no way to understand the requests.

Then, this morning, as I watched the CBS program, I began to understand.  This autistic boy was very much like Tommy, my young friend from years past.  He found the "interpreter" he needed in the Disney films.  Tommy had used me to become an interpreter between himself and his family.  Autistic children need interpreters and they will find them wherever the medium is unconditional love.  They do not live on our plain, but if we learn to love them - unconditionally, they will invite us into their realm.

Why?  How does this happen?  We need to ask our own selves, why are we so content to live in an environment where we find it to be so easy to find reasons not to love one another?

Finally, I understand my own "problems" over the years.  I thought I had to learn to earn the love and respect of my own family, and when I tried and I was rejected on my terms, I isolated myself.  I was not autistic, but I might as well have been.  I used to laugh at myself, accusing myself of the fantasy "farms" I created.  Remember that old adage, "If you think you can, you can."  It took me nearly 45 years to abandon that lure.

Now, like the boy in that TV segment, I have overcome my phobias.  I have learned how to love, unconditionally and the miracle is, I know that I know, I am being loved in return. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Problems in the Church II

OK, I probably wore you out with the previous blog.  That is why I have title this one - II

There are problems, plural.  But if you take a close look at what we have come though in my lifetime, then there has to be hope.

I have the feeling that Rachael is no longer crying for her children - in our nation.

I was privilege to help implement the integration of blacks in to the USAF and we did it with no real problems, but if you would have asked me a year previously, I would have doubted it.  I had spent 30 days taking care of the Morning Report for an all-black unit that was attached to our base and when I got back to my barracks in the evening, the rants began.  But the unit, from their Captain down to the newest recruit, each man respected me and I would have been less than a man to have not respected them.

Such was not the case during my college years in Atlanta, GA, at the time when the Supreme Court issued their ruling in Brown vs. the Board of Education, literally commanding the States to end their discrimination practices when it came to education.  I will never forget the attitudes of co-workers at my part-time job, all Southern ladies, I had thought, but given the tone and the language of their responses, they might have been Southerners, but they certainly was not ladies.

After graduation, I began work as an employment consultant and would discover that all of our records were coded so as to tell us the race or the sexual preferences of each candidate - and that was in California.  We were ordered to delete the codes, but I would discover that if I presented the experience and potential, properly, it was not difficult to place people with a real interest of working, regardless of their race or sexual preference.

Things have improved in that area except that for reasons unknown to most of us, most black people seem to prefer their own race when it comes to religion.  Having attended many of their churches, I still prefer them when it comes to an enthusiastic response to the word of God, but I am careful where I express such thoughts.

Then, there is the church and our gay brothers and sisters.  It amazes me.  I have a number of gay friends and in fact, attended gay churches before moving to this area.  I do have some problems with some of them with regard to certain scriptures, but when it came to fellowship, I have more trouble with churches following a faith that is foreign to me.

Very interesting, as I paused after the last paragraph, my TV was turned to watch James Robinson and I heard him tell his audience, "I won't give up on a marriage between a man and a woman" and I suppose he is saying, he will never support so-called "gay" marriages. Sounds good, but I have known several same-sex married couples and find that they are really concerned about one another and I have known gays who were not married and there were several reasons for their lack of interest in a marriage.  It all reminds me of my early days in church where some of the ladies were busy talking about marrying off their sons and daughters even before they had become of age.  I know of two of such marriages in which the husband brutalized his wife as his father had brutalized his mother and another where the wife became the most promiscuous woman in the area.  One of the children is still serving life in prison for murdering a friend.

Marriage ought not to be a community affair.  Certainly a celebration is in order but other than that, the two do not need the counsel or endorsement of others who are not intimately involved with their lives, to become successful. That ought to be policy and the commitment of the church.

Regarding scripture, in the older testament, the comments regarding homosexuality came at a time when the nation of Israel was in the process of formation.  The need for people was their most urgent issue and certainly to endorse same-sex marriages would not be appropriate.

Sometimes I wonder how many of the Biblical apologists ever look beyond the words they see in print.  And speaking of marriages, how many of our religious counselors have the knowledge to deal with lives that are not obliged to live by religious tenets?

The Problem in the Church - I

An old friend sent the following to me in his daily blog and I want to repeat what he had to say as I believe it is important.  I am not including his name as some may recognize his past and discard what he has to say.  I repeat his words as now, he is the Pastor on a growing church in a major city and as I said, I believe they are important:

"People everywhere are experiencing aspects of themselves and souls at a level so intriguing that they can no longer ignore it.  Millions of us are considering what we believe about ourselves and why we believe it.  We are also shifting our world view, including what we believe about God, the Bible and the extreme mythologies of Christianity.  And we are doing this while maintaining our cherished experiences of transcendence and spirituality. These are exciting times.  Full speed ahead in self-realization and expanded consciousness."

I am the one who placed the emphasis on his words, these are exciting times, as I believe that is an accurate evaluation of the times in which we live.

Remember, I was born in the midst of a critical period in our nation's history.  Ninety days after I was born, the stock market crashed, I mean, crashed.  Men were known to jump out the windows because they could not face the future and deal with their embarrassment at having been so very wrong.  The "Great" depression followed and it was not long before we were engaged in World War II.  We talk about our victory as though it was common place but the fact is, Germany and Japan were well prepared to end our dreams of a democratic society where even the "man on the street" could achieve whatever he set his heart to accomplish.  Within a decade, we went from literal rags to riches beyond our wildest imaginations.  Happy Days were here again.

Now, watch what has happened in the aftermath.  We got ourselves bogged down in a war in Korea that still is a threat not only to our nation, but all others.  If they started a nuclear war, the whole world be involved.  Then, there was Vietnam and we were embarrassed by the fact that our modern armies could not overwhelm an obviously, out manned group of patriots.  And worse, another group of religious zealots conceived of an attack at the heart of our most prosperous city and we suffered, 9/11.  Now, we are still attempting to extricate ourselves from wars that have seemed to have no end.  And they are not over.

Will it never end, we ask ourselves.  The answer - if you want to study your Bible, wars and the threat of wars will never end until, or if, we begin to embrace the teaching of the One who came, hailed as the Prince of Peace.

So what are we doing?  Look at what we have done.  The war in Vietnam was the beginning of the weariness that a nation suffers when justice is not served.  Count the casualties and you may be able to realize the effect it had on the families of those least prepared to lose their sons and daughters.  Listen closely and you may still hear - from centuries past, Rachael weeping for her children.

We had no sooner begun to forget the agony of Vietnam, than a voice came of of the wilderness from centuries past when God promised Abraham that he would become the "father of many nations".  Do you not recall that Abraham had a son by the hand maiden, Hagar, whose name was Ishmael?   Where were our foreign policy experts when nations like Great Britain were being embarrassed by groups of itinerant nomads, that we now respectfully acknowledge as, the nations of Islam.

A few of their zealots were gathered together in prison cells in Egypt and created their plans for retribution and one of them was named, Osama bin Laden.

There are those who would say our nation was asleep, while the greater truth is the reality that our religious leaders were gathering here and there across our nation and others with grandiose plans for the second coming of Christ.  Oh I know, many of these were as serious as a toothache, they realized that something needed to be done, but it is difficult to involve the people unless they can be prepared for war in the midst of peace.

One of my problems in referring to the immediate past is that the religious leadership of too many denominations have turned their people against themselves.  We witnessed the spread of a new disease, now known as AIDS, and when we realized that it was being transmitted by homosexuals, far too many of our own turned against them.  I was there, in the midst of the opposition as I was a "conservative" Christian and I have to admit, I was sickened by the efforts of those I had called my brothers and sisters.

I stepped aside and began to support organizations that promoted "human rights" and one day I was awakened to the realization that their objectives were no longer focused on the plight of the homosexual, but they had a higher goal, the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Is it any wonder that this on-coming generation is fleeing from the church.

The sin has been named, it is called hypocrisy.  The target is the church.  The future is bleak.  And sadly, those widely known as the leaders in our faith are vainly clinging to the ages old scriptures that were designed to address social problems in another age.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A meeting at the Church

This has turned out to be a very interesting moment in my life.  I am about to have my prayers be answered, in our church, in front of people that I have come to love and appreciate.

I just received an e-mail from our Pastor reminding us of a meeting that we will hare before the church session tomorrow, May 4, 2014.  We have been studying books related to the Christian faith and now, he would like us to express ourselves on our path of study for the future.  Amazing.  I have been praying to know a church with the courage to make such a request.  In my 80+ years of attending church, I have never heard of one that dared to ask the congregation about their desires.  I have always assumed that the sermons were based on the materials suggested by the headquarters of the faith, assuming that they knew about the best interests of all who are involved.

What a refreshing opportunity we have and I am praying that everyone will come with the same sense of fascination as to the possibilities for our future.

And the reason I posted the date is because it was precisely 39 years ago - on May 12, 1975, I chose to leave the "church" life to follow in the footsteps of the One I have come to know as my Lord and Savior.  Savior in the sense that He would have me become what I should have been, that is - His disciple, rather than the fool I had been; saved not because of the fear of a Hell to come, but for the sake of loving others as I believe that is His intent for all of us.  It has been quite an experience.  I have learned a lot

I hope to express my immediate goal, personally, and let the future dictate the rest.

At my age, I want to learn how to love more and be able to express it in many directions.  It is easy to love my brothers and sisters that will be assembled on Sunday, but I need to learn how to demonstrate that love in areas in which it appears to have become, a lost art.

I also want to learn how to ask more, of myself and others.  It is good to know where to find the appropriates verses in the Bible, but the problem always seems to be to get past the preconceived notions of others, even those who say that they share my faith.

I want to see my church extend their reach to others they do not know.  We excel in the areas where others seem to ignore opportunities, but to reach up and out and down, wherever it appears that any need exists.

More than anything I want us to share our prayer life.  I have often wondered what might happen if the church prayed in unison.  Recently, I learned that the churches in our area had increased a hundred fold in the past fifty years and I wondered, were they praying about the needs of others?  Anyone who has ever served a church, officially, knows that it costs money to maintain the properties and that adds to my wonderment.  How does the increase to just maintain additional facilities serve the kingdom of God?  Over the years we seem to have learned that big buildings with steeples, apparently reaching out to touch the hem of His garments, are not the way, but expending the reach of the church into the neighborhoods where the people live and move and have their being are more economical 

I moved from the prayer life of the church to the need for space on purpose.  I have known people who apparently prayed ministries into being.  An old friend of mine was heard to have prayed for a university and a hospital, and they appeared to be - for a season.  The real power of the church appears when the congregation learns to pray in unison.  If they pray for others, locally, regionally, nationally - or world wide, God appears to respond.  Some want to pray for things, but my years have taught me as I am thankful for what I have and as I pray for others, good things always seemed to happen.  If it works for the least among us, it surely will work to meet the needs of others.

So, as our meeting is assembled this Sunday, I will pray for our vision to reach beyond our walls and I do not necessarily mean our physical walls.  We all have them and like those at Jericho, I happen to think that we need to act with the same sense of concentration that brought down those walls.