Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Friday, November 25, 2011
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
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
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
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 clichés 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.
Friday, November 11, 2011
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......