Tuesday, December 6, 2011

King James and I

The English language can be a big problem for a lot of Christians.  Yep, that’s right.  But of course I am talking about King James English.  All the Bibles that I grew up with were translated into King James English.  I dare say that many a problem has arisen because of someone’s interpretation of a verse in the King James Bible. 

I was reading in Hebrews today.  Chapter 2, verses 5-8.  I am just going to quote verse 5 here: “For unto the angels hath he not put into subjection the world to come, whereof we speak”.  You got me, I didn’t have any idea what that meant and I graduated from college.  The NIV Bible says: “It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking”.  That’s a little better. 

I just don’t know which of the other translations are accurate.  There is always some controversy over the translation from Hebrew to English or Greek to English.  King James is always the one that I go back to. 

And you know, I think a lot of Christians have this problem.  It’s probably part of the reason why we have so many different protestant denominations.  Two old guys got in an argument over the meaning of some verse and pretty soon they started a new church. 

I like to read the Bible taking into consideration the time and place of the verse.  What was going on at that time?  Why did the New Testament writers need to bring up a subject.  Taking verses out of context and then using King James English can lead to problems in my book. 

I think I could read 3 chapters a day in the King James Bible and not understand over half of what I read.  This is true confession time.  So how do Christians overcome the challenges of King James English? 
I am going to start sounding like a broken record here, but I only know of one way to learn the Bible, regardless of the translation.  Go to church, Sunday school and pray.  By talking and praying with other Christians is the only way that I know of that will really help me grow in my Christian life.  I can’t sit at home and grow because I need someone to explain to me verses like Hebrews, Chapter 2, and verse 5. 

Cowboy poetry

Got this in an email.  Thought that it was appropriate.  Good reminder why you should pray regularly. 

Jake, the rancher, went one day

To fix a distant fence.
The wind was cold and gusty
And the clouds rolled gray and dense.

As he pounded the last staples in
And gathered tools to go,
The temperature had fallen,
The wind and snow began to blow.

When he finally reached his pickup,
He felt a heavy heart.
From the sound of that ignition
He knew it wouldn't start.

So Jake did what most of us
Would do if we had been there.
He humbly bowed his balding head
And sent aloft a prayer.

As he turned the key for the last time,
He softly cursed his luck
They found him three days later,
Frozen stiff in that old truck.

Now Jake had been around in life
And done his share of roaming.
But when he saw Heaven, he was shocked --
It looked just like Wyoming !

Of all the saints in Heaven,
His favorite was St. Peter ...


So they sat and talked a minute or two,
Or maybe it was three.
Nobody was keeping' score --
In Heaven, time is free.

“I've always heard,” Jake said to Pete ,
“that God will answer prayer,
But one time I asked for help,
Well, he just plain wasn't there.

Does God answer prayers of some,
And ignore the prayers of others?
That don't seem exactly square --
I know all men are brothers.

Or does he randomly reply,
Without good rhyme or reason?
Maybe, it's the time of day,
The weather or the season.

Now I ain't trying to act smart,
It's just the way I feel.
And I was wondering', could you tell me
What the heck's the deal?”

Peter listened very patiently
And when Jake was done,
There were smiles of recognition,
And he said, “So, you're the one!”

“That day your truck, it wouldn't start,
And you sent your prayer a flying,
You gave us all a real bad time,
With hundreds of us trying.

A thousand angels rushed,
To check the status of your file,
But you know, Jake , we hadn't heard
From you in quite a long while.

And though all prayers are answered,
And God ain't got no quota,
He didn't recognize your voice,
And started a truck in Minnesota.”

BETTER KEEP IN TOUCH

Monday, December 5, 2011

What is Prayer?

If I were a poet, I would come up with something like Bob Dylan’s “The answer is blowing in the wind”.  But alas, I am not a poet.

If I were a wordsmith, I would stitch together a mosaic of multi-syllable words that would paint a rather elaborate picture of prayer.  But again, I am not a wordsmith.

And if I were a biblical scholar, I could quote you verse after verse of scripture to illustrate what prayer is.  Sorrowfully, I am not even a good Biblical student much less a scholar.   How can I possibly answer the question?  I have no means with which to adequately describe prayer.

Or do I?  Does the ordinary Christian have the tools to answer the question?  It’s complicated, but after examining the question, I believe that I have the ability to answer the question: What is Prayer?  And you do too.  The real problem with the question though, is that there are many answers to the question.  In the light of your personal relationship with Jesus, you know what prayer means to you.  Like fingerprints, no two Christians have the same prayer life. 

So if the question is multiple choice, and I answer “a” and you answer “b” and your friend answers “c”, we are all right.  As I explore the answer, I find that the best type of prayer for me is a prayer of searching.  Searching for the “next right thing” to do that would please God.  When I pray for others, it’s to find peace in their relationship with God.   

Most people have close ties to their biological families.  Most families have ties with denomination families.  That is only natural. On one hand you have the Catholic faith that requires great study just to become a Catholic.  Catholics are not encouraged to marry outside the denomination.  Why?  I can only guess that they want to keep the Catholic faith true to its roots.  I see practicing Catholics as living a very structured life.  Sunday services consist of rituals and liturgies that are strictly adhered to.  And Catholics aren’t the only denomination that has these types of services.  Baptists publish “What we believe” on our web page and in our Sunday morning handout.  If you agree with us, then we are quite happy to dunk you and put you in a pew.  Which side is right?  You have to answer that question for yourself.

But I think it is quite rare for people to change denominations.  And if they do, it is most likely to a non-denominational church. The best answer for you is the best answer for you.  Ha, that was a copout.  But it’s true, only you can decide how to find your own personal relationship with Jesus. 

Now I want to explore the biggest stumbling block for most Christian and non-Christians.  We can’t seem to adequately answer the question: “Why does bad things happen to good people and what we perceive to be wicked people get a free pass”.  If I had the answer to that question, I could fill all the churches in the United States.  They would be jam packed every Sunday.  If you go to church at all, you have heard many sermons on this subject.  While I was in alcohol recovery, the biggest challenge for most people in rehab was turning their lives over to a “Higher Power”.  And this “Higher Power” could be anything that kept you from drinking.  It’s evident to me that the underlying personal struggles of alcoholics point back to a real problem in believing in anything.  While they don’t want to relinquish control of their lives to a Higher Power, they fail to recognize that in fact they have done just that.  Only their “Higher Power” is alcohol or the drug of their choice. 

I want to quote you a passage from a book that I have been reading.  “Trembling at the Threshold of a Biblical Text, by James L. Crenshaw.

“Small wonder that the prophet wanted to understand why God strengthens such cruel people.  So we hear a second prayerful complaint from his trembling lips: “Why do you allow relatively good people to fall at the hands of those who are wicked than they?”  The prophet knows that his own people are far from perfect, but he also knows that some of them try to practice common decency.  Why, then must they die when their murderers are totally devoid of goodness?  This, too, is the universal cry when innocents perish and worthless people thrive.  Is there one among us who has not uttered this cry at some time or other?  It is a protest against wasted lives, the early death of a loved one who might have brought so much happiness to others, now forced to endure great loss for no apparent reason.  At is very heart this is a question about the way God runs the world.  From our perspective, God is not doing a very good job”.

People don’t understand the way of God.  And they get angry when there is no good reason to give them for a tragedy other than “God needed another angel”.  The truest fact is that we are all going to die.  I have wrestled with that wondering why I was even born if I have to die.  It wasn’t until I found strength in Jesus that I could be unafraid.  Yet, when a loved one dies, we are afraid.  We are afraid for ourselves and for our loved one.  We are afraid that we can’t live without that loved one.  We are afraid for our loved one too.  Why?  It’s because of that story about the mustard seed in the Bible.  We profess faith, but yet many times our faith is no larger than that small mustard seed.  We can be ashamed of our lack of faith, but we all struggle at times with it.  Even Jesus was tempted.  So we must just pray. 

Finally, the last question.  Can someone teach you how to pray?  My personal feelings are it’s a very personal thing.  But, that being said, I really like a prayer group.  A small group of people that you can share with and pray with.  I try to attend a men’s prayer group on Friday mornings at my church.  I find a lot of strength there.  Men praying to God.  It don’t get much better. 
Here's Bob Dylan singing "Blowing in the Wind".

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Pledge Allegiance To the Flag


Of the United States of America
And to the Union
For which it Stands,
One Nation, Under God

Indivisiable,
With Liberty and Justice for All.

One of the big political footballs this election cycle is God.  Christians are all up in arms because many want to take the “under God” phrase out of the pledge.  I can’t tell you how many emails that I have gotten on this subject and I am supposed to send the message to 10 of my friends.  The same with Facebook, the action states, “repost this if you agree”.  It’s like if I don’t repost it, then I am against this little two word phrase.  I’ve got some news for you; we have more problems that worrying about this phrase. 

I don’t want them to take the phrase out of the allegiance, but I am not going to get all that bothered by it either.  We Americans are quite smug.  We took over the word, American.  Last I looked there was a North America and a South America.  Canadians are in North America with the United States.  Aren’t they Americans?  What about the countries in South America?  The citizens of the United State have the idea that we are a chosen nation.  That’s where the smugness comes in.  I ask, chosen by whom? Do you really think that God chose the United States?  If so, what were we chosen to do? 

I feel about the pledge of allegiance like I feel about a common prayer that we say when we sit down to eat.  “Thank you God for our food and our health today, Amen.”  We say it like we were repeating a nursery rhyme, almost like we were singing it.  I personally feel like the powers that be are making a big deal out of the “under God” phrase so we forget about the second half of that sentence, “with Liberty and Justice for all”.  That’s the part of the sentence that I am concerned with.  Remember religious liberty is a part of liberty.  As they take away our liberties, we lose more than just that “under God” phrase.  And don’t get me started on “justice”.  We all know that “money talks” in our political system and yet we just let it happen.  We feel powerless and in many ways we are. 

To leap to the assumption that the United States is “God’s chosen people” is just wrong.  But first, let’s just play like we were “chosen by God”.  Be careful of what you ask for.  We can all agree that the Israelites in the Old Testament were “God’s Chosen People”.  What did God do for them?  Many times as they drifted from God, he let other countries defeat them.  Defeated so badly,that they lost their homeland and were dispersed throughout the Middle East.  Persecuted by their enemies and many were killed.  If we are “God’s chosen people than we have a lot to look forward to.  Now some will tell me that’s exactly what’s happening to the United States today.  We are being punished because we are turning away from God. 

Now we are getting closer to the true problem.  What are we teaching in our churches?  It seems like one extreme or the other.  There is a preacher in Houston whose church was a pro basketball arena.  He’s on every Sunday morning.  Thousands of people in attendance.  I have to be careful here, because I do not want to be seen as judging him.  My concern with him and his church is it’s what I perceive to be an “entertainment church”.  Now you say, “What the heck does that mean?”.  To me it means that the sermons are all about “feel good”.  He’s always preaching about how God wants you to have money, a job and to be successful.  He says, “look at me” and is proud of it.  I almost feel like I am attending a multi-level distribution company convention.  The top level distributors get up on stage and tell about their struggles and they still made it to the top and by golly so can you. If I could just recruit those thousands of people in his church to sign up as my recruits and pay the monthly fees to do it, I could be rich and successful.  Wait a minute, that’s exactly what’s he done.  I guess I need to go start my own “feel good” church. 

The other side of the coin is the “hell, fire and brimstone” preacher.  I know you have all heard a preacher like this one, but he one that comes to mind for me was on the television real early on Sunday mornings.  He always drew a picture while he preached.  He drew with chalk, and he was quite the artist.  Watched the show just to watch him draw.  He preached “gloom and doom”.  Never once did I hear him tell about the joy of being a Christian.  His church was always full, but it was a small church.  I think of those types of preachers as “Old Testament” preachers.  God was quite vengeful in the Old Testament. 

All Christians in the United States are either in churches like the two that I described or more likely somewhere in between.  Many claim to be Christians but don’t attend church at all.  They say, I don’t need church to know Jesus.  And you know, that’s true.  Christians are in many phases of development.  Little Christians (young kids) are still in that magical phase, where they liken Jesus to Santa Clause.  They can’t see either one, but believe in both. 

Some Christians never get out of this phase and even some mature Christians are lured back into this phase.  In the magical phase, God always rewards good and punishes evil.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever prayed like this:  “God, I’ll never do it again if you’ll just get me out of this jam”.  Or how about this prayer that many say while sitting in the waiting room at a hospital while a loved one is undergoing surgery in a life threatening situation: “God please don’t let them die, Please take care of them” repeated over and over and over.   Come on, I know you’ve done it; I know I have on many occasions. 

In an earlier post, I said that you are either moving forwards or backwards in your Christian belief, that there is no neutral.  Many Christians start sliding backwards when they don’t get favorable answers to their prayers.  And that’s a shame.  So they retreat back to their couch on Sunday mornings and watch church on TV.  And they flip channels like they were watching football games.  Trying to find that one preacher that is preaching a message that makes them happy.

While we are watching TV, we are multi-tasking and doing the Facebook thing too.  We are looking to see if somebody gave us a heart or helped us on Farmville or posted a picture of their kids or grandkids.  I daresay that we all know what “like” means on Facebook.  And then someone comes along and posts something about somebody wanting to do away with the “under God” phrase in the pledge and wants us to like their post and then repost it.  Doing our Christian and patriotic duty, we “like” them a lot.  Oh boy, now we feel good.  We don’t even have to watch that preacher any more.  We have done our duty for the day.  I just wonder how much God “likes” us. 

I am lucky in that I found a church that lives in the Bible.  Our preacher tells us about life.  How the life we live here on earth is just a journey to prepare us for heaven.  As in any journey, there are good times and bad times.  God is constantly teaching us throughout all phases in our life.  He knows we will hurt at times and he will comfort us if we turn it over to him.  My church tries to live by Jesus’s word: “Love one another like you love yourself”.  I find great comfort in that message.  And I am so grateful that I see that message in the members of my church.  I can see the footprints of God there and feel his presence. 

As for me, I just pray that God’s helps me to hear him when he tells me about his will for my life.  I get confused and I need God and my church family to help me. I need to read the Bible daily.  That is the only way that I can continue to grow in my Christian life. I need prayer to guide me, my church family to show me and the Bible to allow me to read the greatest story ever told. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Oh, The Games People Play Now

Every night and every day now

Never meaning what they say now

Never meaning what they say.



Oh, they while away the hours

In their ivory towers

To be covered up with flowers

In the back of a black limousine



The Games People Play, by Joe South. 



You know I am finding it’s a little tougher being a “listening to God” Christian than I ever thought it would be.  I was saved a long time ago and have said my prayers for years.  Yet, I have not practiced what I espoused. 

It’s funny how you can read the Bible for a lifetime and never realize the persecution that early Christians went through to be believers.  We back down from our beliefs if we are thought to be threatening at all.  We sit silent in our pews. 

This week, I had a “Facebook Friend” post the word Hypochristian and give the definition.  First of all, I found the definition of Hypochristian in the Urban Dictionary.  Click on the link to take you to it’s home page.  Right off you find: Urban Dictionary is the dictionary you wrote.  What this means is that anyone on the internet can make up any word and post it in a dictionary.  This so called friend posted it like it was authoritative, but he gave no resources as to where he found the definition.  I found the definition. 

Now go the this link: Hypochristian.  Here you will find the so called definition.  My so called friend only posted the first of 3 different definitions.  Below is the first definition which I replied back to my friend.

Contraction of the words 'hypocrite' and 'Christian'. Any Christian who claims to follow the teaching of Christ but whose belief structure, values and/or actions directly contradict such a claim. Typically, hypochristians support things such as the Death Penalty, engage in heavily in proselytizing and judgement of others whose beliefs differ from theirs. Additionally, they often oppose things that go against their beliefs such as gay marriage, evolution, and other scientific law amidst wide amounts of ethical, scientific, moral, and logical arguments (even within their own supposed claim of beliefs) that would prove otherwise. Hypochristians are best categorized as individuals so stubbornly and fanatically devoted to their beliefs that they border on sheer stupidity.

I told him that I was not proselytizing or judging anyone.  I went further to say that Christians are sinners too and we have our faults, but that doesn’t make us a hypocrite.  I went on to say that I respect the right of anyone to their beliefs, but I have my beliefs and it’s just wrong to call me a name because I am a Christian.  I was trying my best to be polite but firm and let him know that I love Christ.   

He came back and said that my reply fit the definition.  That was a little to much to get go.  I told him that I would be a hypocrite if I let him post something that was entirely made up and then let it go as authoritarian.  I would also be a hypocrite if I didn’t let him know that his post was just wrong.  I love Christ and it is my duty and obligation to defend Christ.  By being quite, I am simply living in that Ivory Tower in the above song.  I put it back to him rather strongly and quite frankly, it felt good.

I want to recommend a book, The Culture of Disbelief, by Stephan L. Carter.  Here’s a review that I found.

The Culture Of Disbelief has been the subject of an enormous amount of media attention from the first moment it was published. That media attention was only amplified when President Clinton praised the book while telling a group of religious leaders that America is too secular. Hugely successful in hardcover, the Anchor paperback is sure to find a large audience as the ever-increasing, enduring debate about the relationship of church and state in America continues.

In The Culture Of Disbelief, Stephen Carter explains how we can preserve the vital separation of church and state while embracing rather than trivializing the faith of millions of citizens or treating religious believers with disdain. What makes Carter's work so intriguing is that he uses liberal means to arrive at what are often considered conservative ends. Explaining how preserving a special role for religious communities can strengthen our democracy, The Culture Of Disbelief recovers the long tradition of liberal religious witness (for example, the antislavery, antisegregation, and Vietnam-era antiwar movements). Carter argues that the problem with the 1992 Republican convention was not the fact of open religious advocacy, but the political positions being advocated.

On page 107, in the chapter on The Separation of Church and State, he says; “For the most significant aspect of the separation of church and state is not, as some seem to think, the shielding of the secular world from too strong a religious influence; the principal task of the separation of church and state is to secure religious liberty.”

This country was founded on great principles.  The love of God was one of them.  It’s time to stop hiding your beliefs.  It seems like every time I speak out now, some people are offended by my beliefs.  Just speaking about Christ almost makes me a radical right winger in some places.  I’ve got to tell you, I don’t even know what they are really talking about when people say I am part of the “religious right”.  Well, I am right about Christ and that’s enough for me.  Almost.

The teachings of Christ tell us to tell people about him.  I prefer to do it with my actions rather than words.  But….sometimes you just have to stand up and be counted as a Christian.  It may mean ridicule, persecution or you just lose friends.  You know, that’s OK.

Well I have been rambling a bit so to sum it up.  I am going to pray every day for God to give me the strength to stand up for him.  I don’t want to back down and not be counted.  Hope you will join me.

Oh, the games people play…… Here's Joe South singing "The Games People Play".  If it's been a while since you have listened to the words, I encourage you to listen to the whole song.  It's a good one. Think about it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Life, Liberty and Blah, Blah, Blah

Our founding fathers were brilliant men, no doubt about that.  The Declaration of Independence is one of the most remarkable documents ever written.  But I fear that my generation bears little resemblance to our founding fathers.  The founding fathers of any nation are passionate about their dreams for their country.   Unfortunately, as generations pass, nations drift farther and farther away from their original ideals.  We, the United States, are not any different.

I am quite sure our founding fathers would not recognize the United States of today.  And maybe it’s partly their fault.  We they said, “We hold these truths to be self evident”, they never realized that future generations would twist these words to pacify a people. 

“That all men are created equal”.  After nearly 250 years, we aren’t even close.  Oh, we abolished slavery, gave women the vote, and integrated our schools.  We kept the Indians on the reservation. 

You see, our founding fathers were shortsighted in some ways.  They weren’t thinking about Indians, Negros or women.  They were thinking about themselves.  Democracy was a new idea at the time.  A great experiment so to speak.  How could they include any other classes of people when freedom was something so new?  They needed to experience freedom themselves.

Now let’s talk about “Certain Unalienable Rights”.  What the heck does that mean?  It just rolls off your tongue and it just feels powerful.  Let’s start with the definition of “unalienable”.  Had to look it up.  Unalienable:  The state of a thing or right which cannot be sold.     In other words, these rights are inherent.  These are rights given by God. 

Now let’s talk about that.  The first unalienable right mentioned is the right to life.  Somebody has got to help me here, I can’t find that chapter and verse.  I can find the part about “An eye for and eye” and “thou shalt not kill”.  It takes a real spin doctor to put those two together for me.  I can also find the part that tells us that we are not promised tomorrow.  So just what is this “right to life”.  God gave us life and he can take it.  It is God given not a man’s inherent right.  We do have man made laws that punish those that don’t respect life.  That’s true, but in the end, God has given us this human life.  It’s up to us to use that life honoring God.  God has promised us eternal life if we believe.  So to me the only unalienable right granted by God was that of our salvation.  We can’t sale or give away that right.  If we believe, then we are promised eternal life in heaven. 

So how can I rationalize abortion rights, the death penalty and cruel and unusual punishment?  I can’t.  And thankfully, it’s not my problem.  I know that sound crass, but in reality, I have to just give it to God.  I know what I believe about abortion and the death penalty and just like trying to reconcile “an eye for and eye and thou shalt not kill”, I can’t explain them to anyone without putting my spin on it. 

Now let’s talk about liberty.  The liberties of the founding fathers were reserved mainly for male landowners.  Liberty was a big thing for them.  In the due course of the last 250 years, we have eroded our liberties to the point that the founding fathers would call for another revolution.  The problem is that our liberties have been taken away so gradually that we don’t even see it.  It’s like sticking a chicken in a pot of water and start cooking.  The chicken is cooked before he realizes that anything is wrong.  And so goes with our liberties.  We are pretty much cooked, we just don’t know it yet. 

The last unalienable right specifically mentioned is “the pursuit of happiness”.  I think this right is the most misunderstood and has caused us the most trouble as a nation.  First of all, how do you pursue happiness.  More money, bigger job, bigger house, more toys..  We all know in our hearts that material goods don’t bring real happiness, yet this is what we always think this part of the Declaration of Independence means.  The pursuit of happiness has brought us; alcoholism, suicides, drug addiction, and numerous other addictions.  It has made a whole industry of counselors, therapists and a new branch of medicine.  Boy do we have the drugs to counteract any feeling that we might have.  All in the name of “the pursuit of happiness”.  In reality, the faster you pursue happiness the more elusive it is. 

So what did the founding fathers have in mind when they wrote down the pursuit of happiness?  Well remember, it was a Christian nation at that time.  Maybe they meant the ability to live a Godly life here on earth without fear of persecution.  Because isn’t that where real happiness lies.  I know it is for me.  When I am close to God, I am happy.  I have no fears, because I give them to him.  To me, that’s the pursuit of happiness. 

Don’t know why this came to mind, but it did.  I guess God wanted me to say it or at least write it down.  The Declaration of Independence means something different to me now than what I was taught growing up. 

God Bless..
Please listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Follow the Recipe

In Gary Zukav’s book; “Soul Stories”, he tells about a baker that is showing his students how to bake basic bread.  He said that there were two major requirements.  The second of which is to follow the recipe.   Can you guess what the first requirement is?

The first requirement is, you gotta want to make that bread.  Now I can hear you saying, “That goes without saying”.  Without thinking about it much, I would have to agree with you.  But let’s look deeper into this “want to” thing.  Have you ever wondered why sometimes mom’s recipe doesn’t turn out just right?  You follow it to the exact measurements, but it just doesn’t taste like the recipe that you remember. 

Ever wonder why some teams win all the time and other teams with the same talent are just mediocre. It’s very simple.  You gotta want it.  In a previous post, I talked about either moving forward or going backward.  Remember there is no neutral.  Exactly what does “gotta want it” mean?  Well it’s very hard to explain in words, because it something from your gut.  Something that you feel.  Something that you can’t turn loose of. 

This time last year, my wife and I were both in Alcohol Rehab Centers.  Different centers, but we were both inpatient for 30 days.  I missed Thanksgiving last year with my mom.  It was her last Thanksgiving.  I regret that, but I was committed to my 30 days.  I was in a 12 step Rehab Center.  In those 30 days we covered the first 3 steps.  Those first three steps involved recognizing that you were powerless over alcohol, that there was a higher power that could help you and the third step involved turning you life and will over to your higher power.  The Big Book, written for alcoholics, was very specific in that if you didn’t turn your life and will over to your higher power, then you would not succeed in staying sober.

Pretty heady stuff.  They preached this to us for 30 days.  What still amazes me about Rehab, was that it was not the first Rehab for about half of the patients.  One guy was at his 10th rehab and he was in his mid 20’s.  To stay sober, you “gotta want” to stay sober and you have to turn it over to God. 

Sounds very simple doesn’t it?  But it is elusive.  You have to be diligent and want it every day.  But you know this is true with anything in life.  If you don’t want it, you won’t get it.  You can spend thousands and thousands on self-help books and gurus. You can attend many conferences and talk to lots of counselors.  But there is only one counselor that counts.  He will come into your life if you ask, but it’s something you gotta want.  This is personal.  Nobody else can help you.  Who is that counselor?  Jesus Christ. 

So now let’s get back to the recipe.  It’s really very simple.  1. Believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and ask him to come into your life.  2.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.   That’s it. 

Oh, people will tell you that there are other requirements and try and complicate the recipe.  Listen to the Lord, he will guide you.  Now go bake this recipe every day and watch your life change. 
I love music.  I like to listen to music while I read.  It soothes my soul.  Today's video is one that I found on Youtube.  Never heard it before but I like it.  Turn it up.  Let it lift you up.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Recognize that Church

I've been a Southern Baptist for over 40 years now.  Still not sure exactly what that means.  The other day a friend of mine told me he was a recovering Baptist.  I think that I know what he means.  Wrote this little poem that kind of tells the Baptist story for a lot of folks. 


Baptists on Sunday

Stand up, Sit Down
Pass the plate around
Special tunes
Be home soon
The preacher's right on time.

Invocation
Convocation
Shake the preacher's hand
Car zoom
Get there soon
Just to get in line.

Sit down, say a prayer
Eat some Luby's fare
Give special thanks to the Lord
We beat the Methodists there.

I pick on the Methodists here because the Catholics always had early Mass and were through early anyway.  Besides, there were always having a Pot Luck Dinner at the church.  We Baptists finally caught on to that one. 


I have been reading parts of a book, "And Jesus Said", by William Barclay. This little books explains the background of the parables spoken by Jesus in the New Testament. I was particularly interested in Matthew 25: 14-30.  We have all read or heard The Parable of the Talents.  Think of talents as money.  The master was going away for a while and left 3 of his servants with different amounts of money.  Listen to the following video to hear the Bible Verses. 

There are many lessons to be learned from this Parable.  But the last verses in this reading stood out to me.  Quoting the book, “In Matthew the parable nears the end with the saying that the man who already has will receive still more, while the man who has not will lose what he has.” 
Ponder on this a minute.  Look deep.  The book goes on to say that this verse is a universal law of life.  What?  Keep thinking. 
When you were young and your mom forced you to take piano lessons, you learned to play a little bit.  You hated it and quit.  Now today, you’re lucky if you can play chop sticks.  Now think about your church pianist or music director.  Don’t you love to hear them play?  You may have had that opportunity, but you lost it. 
Do you get it yet?  The person that learns and keeps learning gets better and better, while the one that quits playing, loses the little that they had.   
I’ve taken a long time getting to this point, but now think about your church in regards to this verse.  

I ask you, Is your church growing? Are you investing in the church?  Or like the 3rd servant are you just trying to keep what you have.  So many Baptist Churches are so steeped in tradition that they are just trying to keep what they have.  They think that taking any chances is bad. And they just won't take a chance. 

We are so used to the old hymns that we sometimes reject the new music that is coming.  I have heard people complain about guitars and drums in a service.  It doesn’t sound like that old tinny piano that you used to hear while sitting next to your grandmother.  And you can still hear her voice, and she is off key and shrill but you cling to it.   Listen to this video and see if it doens't bring back some memories.  Maybe last Sunday..  I think I hear my grandma's shrill voice if I close my eyes and listen.


Now listen to this modern version of Bringing in the Sheeves and tell me which version would the young people today like to hear.  Would playing this version constitute taking a chance.  For some it would. 



I don’t go to my church because it’s a Baptist Church.  I go because I love the people and feel God’s presence there.  Like I said earlier, I am not sure what being Southern Baptist really means and I really don’t care.  But I have seen some Baptist Churches drop the Baptist name and become a nondenominational church.  For the most part they are still a Baptist Church, they just don’t call themselves Baptists anymore.  I guess these are Recovering Baptists.  I really think that these churches are changing to meet the needs of their people.  I am not advocating this position, I am just pointing out that it happens.  And it's happening more and more frequently. 

Churches are full of people.  People just like you and me.  In my lifetime, I have seen many theological changes.  Some are good and some are bad, in my opinion.  Like this parable in Matthew, you either learn or lose.  You are either going forward in your knowledge or you are going backward.  There is no neutral.  The same is true in your knowledge and understanding of Jesus.  You can’t grow in the Lord unless you continually seek him. 

I think a lot of church members get lazy.  They let others do the work and they just sit quietly in their pews on Sunday. They only talk when they are complaining about changes in the church.  The people doing the work in the church are getting all the benefits.  They are growing in the Lord.  You stop and look at those in your church that are the hardest workers.  You can see Jesus in them.  Now look at yourself if you are not working in your church.  Church is pretty much a hobby for you. You go when you feel like it and stay home if you can find something else to do.  But you are always there on Easter. 

I am almost 60 years old.  The church member that I have been describing is me.  I have been a lazy Christian.  I have lost numerous talents because I didn’t want to change.  I hope and pray that that is the old me.  With the Lord’s help, I will continue to serve him. 

I am not talking about my church.  Although, I think that we have some tendencies there.  Change is hard for little country churches.  But, I think this applies to a lot of churches, not only Baptists.   

Please say a prayer for your church.


Please listen to the following Youtube Video by Paul Simon.  Slip Sliding Away.  I hear something different now as I relate this song to the Parable of the Talents.  Enjoy




















Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Coincidences, I think not.

It’s been a few days now since the tragedy next door.  While I am tired to the bone, I have never experienced as close a relationship with God as I have in the past few days.   It’s been incredible.

Do you really believe in coincidences?  We throw the term, "coincidence" around all the time.  Or how about this; “I can’t believe that this happened, it’s just a miracle that all these things came together”.  I’ve heard that before and not really thought anything about it.  It’s just a saying. Ten minutes after you say it, you have forgotten all about it.

Well, maybe that's the problem that we Christians have in today’s secular world.  We have been inoculated with phrases and clich├ęs that we have learned in church all of our lives.  It’s gotten to the point where we can repeat these phrases and not really mean it.  It's just our coping mechanism.  We really don't want to get involved any further than acknowledging that "it's a miracle".

While applying for an insurance sales job back in my younger days, I was required to take an aptitude test to measure my sales aptitude.  I will never forget the owner of the agency talking to me after the test.  He told me he had given this test many times and had never seen anything like my score.  The test showed that I had “zero” empathy.  It meant that I really didn’t care about anyone or anything but was smart enough to know it and could produce “fake empathy” as needed.  This has bothered me for over 20 years now.  It was tough to hear someone tell me that I didn't have any empathy.  I can remember Ella Fitsgerald singing in that old commercial; “Is it real or is it Memorex”.  I am always looking at my emotions to check up on myself.  Am I really feeling something or am I faking it?

I can tell you, I wasn't faking it last Friday.  It was real.  I know what I felt.  I felt the presence of God.  It was very powerful.  So, now the question for me has changed.  It is no longer, do I believe in coincidences, but what are coincidences?

I know the answer and you do too.  Coincidences are opportunities.  God puts them there for you.  Why?  Because he wants you to grow in your faith and learn to trust him more.  But the real growth occurs before the coincidence.  Look back and see how God was preparing you for the “coincidence”.  I guess the real question is; Were you ready and then did you share Jesus?  Did you give God the glory? 

Did God prepare me for this last week?  Absolutely….. I am now convinced that the reason that we, as humans can’t stay in constant contact with God is that while it is incredibly invigorating, it is also very exhausting.  But you do get a glimpse of eternity and that should be enough to keep you coming back for more.

So my challenge to you and to myself is to get off the bench.  Be prepared, because you never know when God needs to use YOU.
Hope you take time to listen to the song that I have included here.  It is so true about me. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11

As this day draws to an end, I know that it is a date that I will never forget.  A day that started with such promise and ended with a terrible tragedy. 

This morning started out great.  I went to the Friday Morning Prayer Breakfast at Fitzhugh Baptist Church.  This is a breakfast for men. 

A young man named Cory brought the message today.  It was all about leadership.  He told about several figures in the Bible that God chose to lead.  He talked about Moses and Gideon.  These men never thought of themselves as leaders, as a matter of fact, they felt that they were anything but leaders.  But they listened to God and did his will.   Cory also made the statement that you can love somebody but not necessarily lead them, but that you can't lead anybody that you don't love.  Simple sentence, deep thought. 

I took those statements to heart and when I got home, my wife and I did our daily reading in "The Purpose Driven Life".  Today's reading talked about you.  "Only you can be you".  God gave each of us, different abilities.  No one is the same.  The chapter covered three ideas.  1. Applies your abilities. 2. Using your personality and 3. Employing your experiences. 

I want to backup a minute and talk about last night.  My wife and I invited our pastor and his wife over for dinner.  We had a great time.  I expressed my desire  to use my abilities to help the church in some way.  The first thing that he told me was to get involved in Sunday School.  Odd request I thought, but I said OK.  He said that it's in Sunday School that people learn the most about their fellow members.  He said that God will lead you.  Little did I know.

Now back to today.  God in his grace gave me all these thoughts just in time.  I was eating a late lunch around 2 this afternoon, when I heard my wife screaming in the other part of the house.  She has had many health issues this year and I came running.  She was crying and said that our next door neighbor had just called and that her husband had shot himself.  She said he was gone.  The last thing my wife told me as she ran out the house was that 911 hadn't been called and to make the call.

My wife is a rock in an emergency.  She handles the stress quite well and deals with what is at hand.  Me, on the other hand can get through it but it's very hard to get my emotions out of the way.

EMS had me on the line while the police were in route and asked me to look in the room where my neighbor had shot himself.  They wanted to know if he was breathing.  I took one look, one that will stay with me for my life, and turned away. 

I was able to get though it and wait with my wife and the wife of the deceased.  The lady was hysterical.  It was a very difficult situation.  But the emergency crews arrived and I was able to relax a little. 

Now here comes the part that Jesus had prepared me for.  Amazing.  My wife was consoling the lady and I was waiting outside for the 2 sons and some grand kids to arrive.  These folks have been my neighbors for 30 plus years and I watched these boys grow up.  About 4 years ago, the third son died in the house of an overdose of drugs.  Now we have a suicide. 

This family is like any other family and there are a lot of family issues involved.  But at the end of the day, they are a very close and loving family.  I really didn't know if the husband was a christian or not.  I missed an opportunity there.  I will regret that one.

I knew that God wanted me to wait outside for the family members as they arrived.  The place was crazy with all the police and fire department members there.  All I knew to do, was to hug the boys as they got there and pray with them.  Share Jesus with them.  Let them know the my wife and I will be there for them.

It is amazingly simple.  God puts you in position to share his word.  I was feeling really good this morning.  Then at the time of tragedy, I simply did what God had given to me.   I have been though lots of trials this year and God was simply using my experiences to help someone else.  Again, the simplicity amazes me.  I was using all the tools that God gave me from the reading the book  this morning and the prayer breakfast.  I was prepared for the situation.  How easy is that.  Just make yourself available. 

It was one of the most satisfying experiences in my life.  God gave me such serenity and I was just able to use it to his glory.  I had the opportunity that share Jesus with people all afternoon.  I am not bragging on myself at all.  I was just the instrument that allowed God to comfort these people.  I just made myself available, that's all. 

The most amazing thing is the feeling that you get.  I know you have heard it,  You don't need drugs or alcohol if you just get high on Jesus.  I got high on Jesus today.  And I want more......

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Courage

The Chistian that I describe here is someone that you know.  This Christian goes to church on Sunday, gives money to the church and even does service work.  Pretty upstanding person.  I know that you know this person because it may describe yourself.  Now let's see how that Christian operates in the real world.

I know you have heard this before.  I believe in Jesus, but I don't believe in religion.  I don't go to church because of all the hypocrates there.  I don't need any church, because I have my own relationship with God.  

We have all heard these statements and we have all nodded our heads, sometimes in agreement, other times just acknowledging the statement.  We let it pass and whoops, we failed that test.  God put this person in your life so you could witness to them.  I've made those statements before when I was away from the church.  Yes, I believed in Jesus, but I was on the sidelines.  Satan had disconnected me.

It took years for me to get back to church.  I just wish that someone had stayed on my case and gotten me back sooner.  Jesus was waiting for me, I was not listening. 

I want to be clear about something.  I am a very poor student of the Bible.  I cannot quote you one verse from memory and that is something that I am working on.  So, you ask, how can someone like me tell people about Jesus.  Easy, pray about it and just follow Jesus.

That person that tells you that they don't need the church may not be a lost soul, just a disconnected soul.  If we have trouble witnessing to lost souls, we should start on disconnected souls.  We run into them all the time and just let our opportunities pass.  Opportunities that God gave you to share your faith. 

Now I don't want you to think that I am calling you out for these missed opportunities to witness.  I am guilty myself.  I need to remind myself of this.  These people are in need of our prayers and our attention.  You don't need to be overbearing, just be there. Just don't deny Christ and say nothing or agree with the person.  God will be there to help you. 

Now as you read this, you may be thinking that I am some religious nut or part of the religious right.  No to either one.  I just love Jesus and it was his command to tell people about him.  I am simply trying to follow him..

If you have never heard the story behind the song; "Why Me Lord" by Kris Kristofferson, watch this video.  Great story and song.  He was invited to church. 

Talking with God

I read a lot about God and his plans for us during our human lifetime.  It's almost been a year since my last drink of alcohol and my mind is finally getting clear.  I won't lie to you, it's been a tough year, but in many ways one of the most rewarding years of my life.  I have been through countless personal challenges this past year.  I have grown close to God and he has made those challenges bearable.  In fact, I feel I have grown up a lot in my personal relationship with God.

The reading that I am sharing with you today, comes from the 27th day in the book, "The Purpose Driven Life".  Quoting, " Don't carelessly place yourself in tempting situations.  Avoid them.  Remember that is is easier to stay out of temptaion than to get out of it.  The Bible say, "Don't be so naive and self-confident.  You're not exempt.  You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else.  Forget about self-confidence; it's useless.  Cultivate God-confidence.""  1st Corinthians 10:12

That's pretty powerful stuff.  We always talk about building our self-confidence.  It's all over our culture.  It's so powerful in our culture that this a new idea for me.  Never thought of it this way.  An integral part of the 12 steps of AA is to turn over our lives to a "higher power".  The Big Book is quite clear in saying that without your "higher power", you will not beat your addiction. 

Turning your life over to God, builds God-confidence.  You begin to trust God and understand that he will help you defeat whatever tempations that you deal with.  This goes much deeper than alcohol.  It touches all the temptations that we deal with as Christians.

You may ask, how do you get that God-confidence.  The only way for me is to pray.  I don't mean cliche type prayers that you may have memorized.  Talk to God and tell him your fears and tempations and to pray for his help in turning those tempations away from you.  Lots of times we get caught up in the habit of praying a common prayer or repeating something that we have heard someone else pray.  Make prayer your conversation with God.  

God doesn't care if you stumble with words during a prayer.  He just wants you to confess to him your fears and ask for his help. 

I like to put music to my thoughts and George Stait's song; "Love without End, Amen" came to mind.  I hope you enjoy it.
Mike