Sunday, September 11, 2016

Church Going Ain't Always What it is Suppose to Be

     I have some neighbors who have not been to church in many years despite both having grown up in the church.  Being a person of curious nature, I inquired of them as to why they no longer attended.  I will have to admit their answer filled me with dismay.  It seems before they quit going to church they went to quite a few trying to find one they could call home.  Jerry, not his real name, confessed to me they simply could not find a church in which they felt welcome so after a while they simply gave up.  Jerry's wife, Samantha, also not her real name, told me she felt like she was being appraised in every church they went into.  "I don't understand why but I just felt so self conscious", she told me.  They both confessed they missed going to church and firmly believed they should be going.
     I recently met a young man who adamantly believes that Jesus Christ could be his savior.  I was a bit perplexed when he explained what he meant by "could be".  He grew up going to church with his parents and the church as well as its members played a large role in his upbringing.  He told me Jesus had always been a big part of his life and he believed he loved Jesus but he was convinced by his parents and other members of his home church that Jesus did not love him.  Barely able to contain myself after hearing this I asked him to please give me one reason he might have come to that conclusion.  Sadly, it is what his father told him point blank about five minutes after he confessed to his family that he was gay.  He tried to continue going to church and just staying away from his parents but the word soon got out and he was shunned and ridiculed by many of the other church members as well.
     A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a homeless man who told me he wanted desperately to go back to church.  The last time he tried, he sat near the back so as not to draw attention to himself.  At the conclusion of the service, one of the associate pastors came to him and asked him to please bathe and wear clean clothes more fitting for worship if he came back.  Being homeless makes it very hard to stay clean and he said he was wearing the best clothes he had.
     I recently heard of a black church of which it was said had an amazing pastor.  The gentleman who told me about it was infirm, living in an elderly care facility, and unable to make the trip to church.  He suggested I give it a try.  I did.  I was not welcomed with open arms.  The looks I received from many in the congregation had me a bit on edge within seconds of walking through the door.  The gentleman I sat next to asked me point blank why I was there.  I responded, "because I love Jesus".  He looked at me angrily and asked, "you couldn't find a white church to love Him in?"  Appalled as well as feeling a bit dejected, I exited the church.  No one made a move to stop me.
      I have written earlier about how the churches in America are responsible for their own demise.  These are glaring examples of just how true that is.  All of this reminds me of the words of Saint Paul in Romans 8: 38-39.  "I am convinced that neither death not life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."   Will mankind ever truly learn the importance of simple love?  Would it not be wonderful if we all could learn to love before the second coming?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pathways To God


    Everyone knows my main theme so let's put it to work here.  The worlds main religions, from Christianity and Judaism to Muslim and Hindu, are so vastly different from each other as to be mind boggling.  These differences and some misguided feelings of superiority of one over another have lead to many conflicts.  As most know, many of those conflicts are violently continuing even now.  I have been fortunate enough in my life to have known people and have friends from all faiths.  I have also been fortunate enough to see many of them within the practice of their religions.  I have been extremely fortunate to learn one amazing and perfect phenomenon.  All of these religions adhere to the belief that love of their deity and a love for each other is tantamount to the essence of their spirit and it's survival.  With that in mind, I have trouble understanding why any one of them thinks up to 5 billion people who don't agree with them  are wrong and have no future.  For reference, there are 2.2 billion Christians, 1.6 Billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, and 1/2 billion Buddhists.
     I just find it all dumbfounding.  Having friends in other faiths and seeing for myself what kind of people they are forced me to my knees to seek understanding and that understanding was granted.  It came in the breathtaking understanding of the commonality between these faiths.  My heart swelled and my thoughts swam with a feeling of brotherhood with all of God's creations.  God is everything and God is everywhere.  It is what we teach our children but we haven't begun to understand what we were teaching. We failed to grasp just how big that really is.
     I believe that each of us as Christians must have our own personal relationship with God and within that relationship is a covenant that guides us personally in our effort to be closer to Him.   In essence, because of my personal relationship with Him, what is right or wrong for me, may not be the same for someone else.  It does not mean either of us is closer or further from God nor does it change the basic morality of right and wrong.  I have come to the understanding it is the same for different faiths as well. 
     Remembering God is everything and God is everywhere, makes it fairly easy to understand how He could have different covenants with different groups, if one can overcome a lifetime worth of programming.  Each religion presents itself to be the one true religion which is indeed the main point of that lifetime's worth of programming we must overcome.  Until we reach a point where we can feel empathy for each others beliefs, we will continue to violate the very principles of our religions by fighting, arguing, and yes, even killing and destroying.  We must come to terms with the idea that we all truly are the children of God despite how we interpret that for ourselves personally.  Only then can we begin to live the way He intended us to live and have real peace between those of us who's beliefs are different.  We can begin by concentrating on those things which are not different such as the love for God and for each other.  These two concepts alone would give us the empathy we need to forge forward with a new understanding to an era more blessed by God than any other time in history.
     My advice to everyone is to unleash yourself, go forth, and try to befriend someone who is of a different faith than your own.  You will be amazed at what wonderful people you will meet and that alone will help you to confront that lifetime's worth of programming that strives to convince you of your own superiority.  Humble yourself and love.  This is the person God wants you to be, not the one who adorns and adores himself or places himself and his beliefs above all others.




Friday, July 29, 2016

Pray.....Then Talk

29 July 2016    

     I was standing on my front porch today when my next door neighbor came home (the lady of the house) and I mainly noticed because I had not seen them in several days.  It was a bit of a relief I guess you could say, to see her and know everything was alright.   We waved at each other but she showed not a hint of her usual smile.  She went inside for a bit and when she came back out, she walked over to where I was standing.  She told me her husband had collapsed at work with a seizure and had been rushed to the hospital.  She said they had found a tumor in his brain that they were going to surgically remove most of this very afternoon.  They told her they knew they could not get all of it but they would give him radiation to get the last bit.  They told her the prognosis was fair.  She was on the way back to the hospital and had no more time to talk so I told her I would pray for him and for her.  After she left I did pray for him and have several times since.  I also called several other people and got them praying as well.  With God's help, they will both get through this.

5 August 2016
Update Update Update Update Update Update
There is really good news to put here and something for everyone who prayed for my neighbor to pray for again.  Make it a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.  It seems the doctor was amazed that once into the surgery, the actuality did not match the pictures and the situation was suddenly less dire than believed.  He came through surgery amazingly, is home and up and around and the prognosis is excellent.  I've not talked to him yet but I am sure he would thank everyone from the bottom of his heart for their prayers.                                                   Update Update Update Update Update Update

 
     One of the people I called was my sister.  Somehow, probably in the talking about prayer, I guess I got a little preachy with my sister.  This is something I try not to do because she has not been open to it in the past.  Don't misunderstand.  She is a Christian.  She has been going to the Methodist church in town all of her life.  She is also 12 years older than I and she may have had a little trouble coming to terms with her little brother telling her about God.  In her defense, I do tend to proselytize a bit when I get started but the message I have is so wonderful to me and has filled my life so completely, I seem to be unable and unwilling to stop.  I knew a good long while ago that she only read this blog right after I first started it and went on my initial trip.  It's possible she did not realize I was keeping the blog going.  At any rate, almost everything I said to her, she agreed with.  She did not seem to get cooler when I began talking about the lack of necessity of studying and reading the old testament as a Christian.  She agreed with that completely.    Her response did seem a bit reserved when I spoke of the absurdity of the book of Revelations.  I didn't go very far into it and I did mention this blog.  I believe I may have sparked enough interest in her that she will pay it a visit.  I do not, however, expect her to change any idea she may have about any aspect of her personal convictions.  One thing I have learned in all of this is "us older folk can be really set in our ways".  Also, I'm pretty sure, because I know what type of person she is, she does not have to worry about the destruction of her soul.  She is simply a good person with a good and caring heart.
     Now comes your question which I'm sure is "So what's the point?"   Well, I had two points to make in this writing.  One was my neighbor, Byron.  He needs your prayers.  If you would give just a moment of your time and lift him up to God, I am sure it would be well received, appreciated, and helpful.  My second point was just about talking to people.  I do talk about God almost everywhere I go.  I also love to talk about current events, politics, football and numerous other subjects although I am prone to steer even the most spirited sports banter in the direction of God.  I do this simply because it is my favorite subject.  You may wonder if I ever get negative responses from people.  Of course I do but that doesn't stop me.  I have too many times seen a planted seed grow to fruition and change lives.  It seems to me that anyone who feels good about having God in their lives should therefore evangelize.  There are only two things to consider.  Suppose you passed up a chance to plant a seed and in the end that person's soul eventually faced destruction or suppose you did plant the seed and it grew and flowered and changed lives and helped pave a path to Heaven for that person.  Which side of that consideration would make you feel better about yourself?  Remember, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  God bless you all and please, don't keep good news to yourself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Brief Continuation of "Attitudes"

     Of the time I spend surfing around on the internet, the vast majority is spent reading news stories from all over the world.   I even occasionally run across items like "Dear Abby".  After reading one of those articles just now, I had to make a comment here.  A young woman who wrote to Abby was distraught because she and her two children had been ostracized by her aunts and uncles.  These are the brothers and sisters of her deceased parents.  She explained how they were all devout Christians and could not abide the fact that she had given birth to 2 children out of wedlock.  Their attitude seems to fit right in with what I have written here in several articles.  I simply find it personally dumbfounding that these people can be so prejudiced and judgemental and still call themselves Christians.  This is truly a good example of why Christianity is in decline for the first time in history.  It is another case of folks trying to live by the old and new testaments and I offer this example up as yet another reason this can not and should not be done.  Once again I will say as plainly as I know how, "God's covenant with us as Christians is found in the New Testament and NOT the old Testament."  If I could somehow convince people to practice their Christianity based solely on the New Testament, which I honestly believe is the way it should be, so many of the problems we face today would simply melt away into nothingness.  Old prejudices would dissolve and be replaced with love.  The anger people feel for those who believe differently from themselves would be replaced with empathy and understanding.  Minds filled with hatred would be tempered and consoled and God's love would show them there is NO NEED TO HATE!  God wants us to love.  Love Him and love each other.
     The "religious" folk in our world are so caught up in the idea that all of the Bible is to be considered a holy book they have become frightened by the prospect of not adhering to every word of it which is creating problems rather than teaching us what God truly wants from us.  People were appalled when I took a Bible and ripped it in half separating the testaments.  I have read and studied the old testament just as I have the new testament.  I don't recommend everyone do that because it can simply be too confusing.  Again, I implore all those who read this to please remember, as a Christian, the basis for your covenant with God is found ONLY in the New Testament which is why it was written and put in book form to begin with.  May God bless you all with His love and may you bless those around you with your love.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Attitudes

     I keep vainly searching my head for some type of way to soften the way I say this but I fear it will still be harsh.   Too many folks have attitudes that cause then to be in direct conflict with Jesus' pronouncement of the second most important commandment which is to love one another.  I have and am seeing this attitude in every direction around me and it would seem to be in every aspect of our society.
     Some of the things I have heard:
1.   A Man with a masters degree is overheard joking about the uneducated ignorant farmers in the area.

2.  This same man was later heard disparaging the intelligence of the man he paid 200 bucks to unstop his sewer line.

3.  A women entering a restaurant is over heard saying she was never hard up or stupid enough to have to be a waitress.

4. An owner of a local business says he only hires stupid people because he can get away with only paying them minimum wage.

5.  A black business owner says he only hires white people because he can't trust black people as they all steal from him.

6.  A man paying a contractor to do some remodeling work on his house was heard talking about what a crook the contractor was but he was watching him closely.

7.  A woman who I know has wrecked a great many vehicles complains because no one else on the road knows how to drive.

     These are just a few of the situations I have heard for myself in my sleepy little southern corner of this country.  When you factor in the shootings of police officers as well as the devastating attack on the nightclub in Orlando, the daily confrontations between all types of factions nationwide and even worldwide, our situation is dire indeed.
     Simply put, attitudes must change.  Folks must stop thinking of themselves as better than those around them.  We must understand that "love thy neighbor as thyself" starts with your attitude toward yourself and is best when tempered with a bit of humility.  If you regard someone with disdain because they don't quite reach your formal education level or because they are a different color or culture or any one of a myriad of reasons, you are not following Jesus's directive on love.  I understand the temptation to rile yourself against others when we are whipped into a frenzy by the media or even others on social media.  Then again, those temptations that challenge your attitude also threaten your relationship with God.  We must strive to control those feelings and even pray for God's help in doing so.  Christianity is in a spiraling decline in our country and I believe these attitudes are a direct result of that decline.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Gaming?!?! A Call to Arms

     It seems a lot of folks these days are into gaming.  Playing electronic games of all types is seen virtually everywhere.   Some drift from game to game to have a changing experience.  Some have a few games they play occasionally.  Still others pick one game and immerse themselves.  What I have found amazing is discovering how many people have a positive view of gaming in general.  Over the last few years I have talked to a lot of people and often steered the conversation to gaming just to see how many had a positive outlook.  My guess would be upwards of 90%.  Most of the folks in the negative range of 10% were older.  Many of them much older than I.
     I know one young fellow (I'm going to guess he is in his mid 30's) who spends almost all of his time gaming.  As I understand it, he is playing one game and it seems to have taken him over.  He has so far lost his job, his family, and his home.  He is drifting now from place to place staying with friends but spending most of his time in public wi-fi spots with his tablet and playing his game.  He looks to me to have lost 50 pounds or so and looks far older than his years.  I had known his father for years when he broke down and told me about his son.  I knew his son and had met him on several occasions.  He seemed most amicable and seemed to be quite an intelligent young man.  Rest assured this whole situation was a shocking and eye opening experience for me.
     Not to long ago, we decided on Chinese take-out for supper one evening.  Upon arriving to place our order, we saw a young couple sitting on a bench just outside of the restaurant.  One was looking at a tablet and the other was involved with a rather large cell phone.  We ordered our food and while we waited I walked over and looked out the plate glass window just behind where the couple was sitting.  They were both playing some type of game.  I have no idea how long they stayed because we got our food and left.  What was funny was when we came back a week later to get more Chinese food,  I like to comically say they were still there.  I'm sure it would be more apropos to say they were there again.  My daughter found it humorous when I so profoundly and adamantly  insisted they were "still" there.  By the way, they were still playing games and I will point out I never once saw then communicate with each other.
      I just read a story at ABC News about a man who pinned his six year old son down on the couch by sitting on him while he and his girlfriend played games on the TV.  The boy stopped breathing and died.  Of course the father has been charged.  If the story is still up, you can read about it here.
     My response to all of this is "OH MY LORD IN HEAVEN!  WHAT HAVE WE DONE?".  I don't know how to react.  I am completely dumbfounded.  Granted, I know a great many people who play the occasional game on the internet and are not or don't seem to be adversely affected but what can be done for the ones who are?  The only course of action I see that can be taken is prayer.  I understand addictions of all kinds affect all types of people and as is usually the case, rock bottom must be hit before they ask for help.  This gaming thing seems to me to be an odd addiction I have never even thought of before.  I have simply told the young man I know that I am available if he needs to talk and I have told him I am praying for him.  He has yet to even recognize he has a problem but when he does, I will do my best to help him regain himself.  I would encourage everyone to make it known that you also will be available if someone needs this or any other kind of help.  It is not words but rather deeds and a love of our fellow man that will pave a path for us to God's kingdom.

Friday, June 17, 2016

"My Home Town" or "A Clique of a Different Color"

    As I have said before, I grew up in a small South Carolina town which I have learned over the years was obviously quite different from many other small towns.  The town only had about 800 people and around 700 went to the 2 largest churches, a Methodist church and a Baptist church.  Of the other 100 or so, there were a few Presbyterians and a few families were Jewish.  In a nutshell, almost every person in town went to church on Sundays.  There were black folk and white folk and even some native Americans that all just seemed to co-mingle with not much thought as to any particular attribute other than we were all just plain "folk".   None of this seemed peculiar to me until I left that town at 17 and moved to South Carolina's capital city of Columbia.  While Columbia is not on the same level with cities such as Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles, it still caused quite a bit of culture shock in this impressionable young man.  People were not as friendly to one another as I was used to simply because there were too many of them.  Most of the people who were friendly were so in the cliques they had formed or become a part of such as neighbors, church members, work friends, social club members or whatever.  It was quite a contrast from that to which I was accustomed.
     In all honesty, what shocked me the most was how impolite some people could be.  My third day in the city found me in a stalled traffic situation.  The gentleman in the car in front of me had some problem with the guy beside him to his left.  I could not hear what was going on but I saw him yelling as he threw his umbrella out of his window and at the other car.  It broke the other car's front passenger window.  The fellow in front of me jumped over into the emergency lane and took off.  The other car wiggled and wriggled itself to a point where he could also get into the emergency lane and took out after the first car.  I never knew what was really going on but I saw them again about a quarter of a mile later pulled over by a state trooper.  Granted I felt a little like Gomer Pyle from Mayberry but I was dumbfounded by such behavior.  As the days went on, I began to realize I had led quite a sheltered but extremely lucky childhood.
     It took me until I was in my mid 40's and a lot of trips back home to figure out why there was such a difference in my home town culture and virtually everywhere else I had been.  In my home town, there was a great deal of respect shown for others at all times.  There was also a lot of help given to anyone who found themselves in need.  Folks got together a lot for all types of functions including civic celebrations, holidays, etc...  What I wanted to know was why these things were not to be found elsewhere other than in small cliques here and there.  Upon refection I realized my small town was a small clique.  There were families there that had known and worked with each other for a couple of hundred years.  The second thing that dawned on me was how lucky I was to have grown up in such a situation.  The truth of the matter is that most people that lived and worked in my home town simply loved being there and loved all the people around them.
     I can't really speak of what was concentrated on in the teachings of the churches there but what I can remember is I heard an awful lot about Jesus.   Let me see now.  Jesus, love, peace, serenity, happiness.  Oh my goodness!!!  It almost sounds as if I have hit on a theme.  Isn't it time to get on board?
    
    

Sunday, June 5, 2016

God is Good and God is Love

     In a little church I attended for a while, the preacher started every service by saying, "God is good."  The congregation would answer, "All the time."    Then the preacher would say, "All the time" and the congregation would say, "God is good."  I enjoyed this little ritual and it even became a way of greeting between myself and several other church members if I ever saw them away from church.  For me, I think it was just a way of reminding myself that God is indeed good and by being good, He is a God we should love.  That love should be based on His goodness.  All to often, however, that love is based on fear.  It seems to me that fear should not be a motivation for love.  If you love because of fear,  then that love becomes something you feel you must do rather than something you want to do.  Which would you personally rather have, someone who loves you because that's what they want to do or someone who loves you because they are afraid of you?  God is good all the time.  Which do you logically think He would rather have.
     So many churches today hammer it into their congregations that God should be feared.  When Christ said the most important commandment under the law was to love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, He was not whispering under His breath that we should be afraid. Jesus' entire ministry was centered around love.  It's amazing the impact He had upon this world with a ministry that barely extended through 3 years.  Even when He was upon the cross in agony, He asked God for forgiveness for those who tortured and persecuted Him.  That is love beyond the capabilities of mere mortal beings but we certainly could use the knowledge of it as an inspiration to let hate and prejudice go.  We could at least try to love.


Drop me a line anytime at gettoknowourlord@gmail.com.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Geriatric and the Juvenile Road Trip

     Hello my brothers and sisters.  Just today I returned home from a 5 day excursion with my 7 year old granddaughter, Eve.  (She saw me write this and wants me to point out she is almost 8).  We went first to Stone Mountain, Georgia, which was a first for both of us.  We had a wonderful time there as I watched her wear me out with all the activities in which she took part.  What equally amazed me was the sheer number of people who were also being worn out by watching their children and grand children, who wanted to talk and were hungry for words of encouragement as well as a better understanding of God's role in their lives.  I was wearing a t-shirt that identified me in no way whatsoever but people still came to me and struck up conversations that led to questions about their spirituality and their own relationships with God.  I was almost dumbstruck with the power of God as He led one after the other to me for council and understanding.  There was one especially poignant moment when Eve came running up to me smiling and laughing.  She had just finished an obstacle course type thing where she was hooked to a harness and had to climb along ropes, ladders and boards.  There were several people sitting around me when she ran up all excited about what she had just done.  An elderly woman asked her if she was scared when she was on the ropes.  Eve struck them all dumb when she answered simply, "Of course not.  God was with me and so was my granddaddy."  When she ran off to the next activity, I noticed everyone was simply staring at me incredulously, some with their mouths wide open.  The only thing I could think to say was, God is with us always and she knows that."  With some quick prayer several of them rededicated their lives to God at that moment.
     After Stone Mountain, we set out for northern South Carolina and visited the top of Sassafras Mountain, the highest mountain in the state. (I did not know that until we got there.)  Then we rode for a little into North Carolina until for some reason I felt compelled to head east.  Along the way we ran across one of the mountain streams I had told Eve about pointing out how cold that water was.  She wadded in that water until her feet turned blue and I almost hurt myself laughing.  Afterwards, we headed east.  My sister lives on the opposite side of South Carolina and for some reason I felt compelled to go see her.  Eve jumped at the idea even though she has not seen my sister but once when she was about 3.  A few blocks from my sister's house I called her.  My brother-in-law answered the phone and told me they had just gotten home and were getting the groceries out of the car.  I told him I would just call them back after giving them a chance to get settled.  Needless to say they were quite surprised when we pulled up in their yard.  My brother-in-law has been in quite bad health as of late with a myriad of problems.  Eve seemed to take his mind off all of it as he walked her around their yard telling her about the different plants and trees they have.  They live in the country and are flanked by two huge cornfields about which Eve had 100 questions and William just ate it up.  They chatted like old friends and I think it did him a world of good and my sister agreed.
     After being at my sister's house, Eve and I both agreed it might be time to head home.  By the time we reached home, we had put just over 1000 miles on the van but the story does not end there.  Julie, my daughter and Eve's mother, works third shift so she usually sleeps in the afternoon.  I called her on the way so she could take a nap early and be up to see us when we got home.  I must say it felt good to get home and get that hug.  She sat up with us for a couple of hours and then had no choice but to go to bed.  Eve and I spent 2 hours cleaning out the van and putting everything back in place after our trip .  We had a few things to run to the store for and on the way home she asked if we could eat at Cracker Barrel.  Here is where the story gets interesting again (just to show God wasn't snoozing).  There was one of our local police officers a few tables away having dinner with his wife and son.  When I saw him I did something I often do.  I went to him, apologized for disturbing him, asked to shake his hand and thanked him for his selfless service.  It was when I returned to my seat I did something I don't normally do and at the time I really wasn't sure why I felt so compelled.  I called my server over, asked her to go to the policeman's server and get his bill and bring it to me but to please have her tell the officer his families meal was simply on the house.  When he and his family had finished, he came to my table and told me he knew that was me and thanked me.  He told me he was mostly just a part time police officer because he was also a pastor.  He thanked me profusely but at the same time he implored me to give him the bill.  I politely refused and thanked him again for his service pointing out it was now meant for both of his jobs. 
     When he left, and elderly couple rose and came to our table.  She pointed to the cross around my neck and with a somewhat matter of fact tone of voice, she pointed to the cross and said, " You mean that thing don't you?"  My answer was simply, "Every second of every day".  She told me she had been ill for some time and at one point it became quite serious and she became very afraid.  It was then she remembered to pray and pray she did.  From that day forward she began to improve and today was the first time in quite a while she had been able to leave the house.  I asked her how she had prayed and what made her so sure of God's hand in her mending.  She told me her prayers were not for health but rather for acceptance of God's will and the strength to cope with His decision.  As for why she was so sure, she said her greatest single instance of improvement came immediately after her very first prayer.  Pains in different parts of her body that had been plaguing her simply went away.  Her shortness of breath was greatly improved and while she was still very weak, she could feel her strength returning.  Bear in mind she had been down and out for over a month and a half.  That first prayer was 2 days ago.  She asked me to pray for her continued improvement and to pray she would have the strength to face the hardship she knew she might face by dedicating her life to God.
     When they were gone, Eve and I finished our supper and she wanted to go look at the toys in the Cracker Barrel Store.  I went to pay the bill as she headed for the toy section.  On my way to her a gentleman approached me and told me with somewhat of a snicker that he had witnessed my supper.  He said it was witnessing such events that kept his faith strong and he asked me if I would mind if he told people about all he had witnessed.  Of course I told him I had no objection.  With that he reached out and hugged me, thanked me, and hurried away.
     I must say it has been quite a few days and it has also been a reminder I need to be out and about much more than I have been lately.  I must confess my health has not been at it's pinnacle as of late and I let it hold me down a bit.  When I came to that realization, guess what!  You got it!  Prayer!!!  And I can't believe how much better I feel right now.  With all this said, let me leave you with something I read on a coffee cup at Cracker Barrel.
                                          May love surround you. 
                                          May happiness be before you. 
                                          May trouble be behind you and
                                          may God be within you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Threat to Christianity

     Has over 2000 years of growth for Christianity come to an end?  It would seem Christians are being attacked from every direction.  I fear a time very soon when in our country it will be considered politically incorrect to talk about or even mention our faith.  In every corner of our country I hear stories of how this is taking place and I have spent many hours in prayer seeking answers as to why and I believe I know the answer.  The funny thing is I have talked about the problem and the answer in many cases in this blog and never really put my finger on it....until now.
     The greatest threat to Christianity has proven to be Christians themselves.  All Christians are taught from the beginning to be strong in their convictions.  This lesson seems to manifest intolerance and an inability to see others as our brothers and sisters but rather as adversaries who don't share with us the same exact convictions.
     Anyone who is reading this, should have also read by now the entry entitled "God, the Undeniable Logic".  Christians have allowed themselves to be conflicted by the messages in different parts of the Bible.  A few  examples:  The old testament teaches and eye for an eye while the new testament teaches us to turn the other cheek.  The old testament teaches that if a man should sleep with a man as with a woman, he should be put to death while the new testament teaches us to love one another.  The old testament teaches us that God is a vengeful God while the new testament teaches us that God is love.
     I will readily admit there are some beautiful stories and passages in the old testament.  All of it, however, was written about and before the coming of Jesus Christ who came to set things right.  He brought a new message of love to the people and implored us to be like Him so we may come to better know God.  How is  it that so many Christians are so conflicted about the differences in these books and are not even aware of it?  It's almost as if they feel one way reading one passage and then they compartmentalize that feeling and change instantly when reading another.
I have come to the point in my life that when I advise a new Christian, I try to steer them away from the old testament in order to avoid the confusion.  I simply can not understand how someone can hold firm to many of the lessons in the old testament and still hold firm to the two most important commandments as given to us by Jesus.  Those are to love God and love each other.
     Christian churches want to grow but yet many are preaching the very intolerance that eventually pushes people away from the church.  It is time for Christians to get their priorities straight.  If you want to be the kind of Christian that Jesus Christ wanted us to be, then it is time to follow His examples and His teachings.  When Jesus came upon the prostitute about to be stoned to death, He simply said, "Let ye among you who is without sin cast the first stone."  If the Christian church wants to continue to grow, it must teach its followers to stop throwing those stones.  We must teach people the light of love rather than the darkness of intolerance.



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Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Challenge Presented By The Changing Times

     Time brings with it so many changes.  I remember hearing the old folks talk when I was small.  They talked about when they got their first car, back then known as a horseless carriage.  They spoke of getting electricity and an electric ice box and once they had it how much as children they missed running along beside the horse pulled ice wagon that used to deliver ice every other day.  They talked of all the kids taking a bath every Saturday night so they didn't smell bad in church the next day.  They all used the same bath water.  It seems Daddy got the water first then Mama and then the kids starting with the oldest first.  My mother had 8 brothers and sisters so I'm pretty sure that bath water was mighty nasty when they got to the last youngun.  I thought it was awful when they talked about that bath but I really enjoyed some of their other stories.  One of my favorites was how they got a radio after they got electricity.  They used to sit together every night as a family and listen to stories brought to them courtesy of that newfangled RCA radio and those radio waves.  What joy they had in such a simple life.  My how times have changed.
     Some of the oldest folks back then didn't have much of an education and most of them had never read very much.  By the same token almost all of them had one book they prized and almost every one of them had read it cover to cover.  Of course that book was The Bible.  Bible salesmen used to come around periodically and that's when folks got the new ones for the kids that didn't have one or to replace the ones they had handed down to the kids.  The younguns thought it a pretty special time when they reached an age old enough to have their own Bible.  Again I say, "My!  How times have changed".
     In this day and age we now face, it's a daily challenge to follow the example set by Jesus to love one another.  Ten minutes of listening to the daily news or reading a newspaper can sure put a lot of pressure on that endeavor.  What are we suppose to feel about ISIS as they murder fellow Christians?  What are we suppose to feel about the deranged young man who goes into a church and murders those who have come to worship?  How are we suppose to deal with feelings about the man who does the same to our young people in schools?  And all that just scratches the surface.  It's hard to even talk about the people running for the office of president.  Then there is abortion, gay rights, transgender rights, drugs, and OH MY the list could just go on forever.  Life will never again be as simple as it once was and at the same time we hope we never have to be as deprived as folks were back then.  I, for one, really like clean bath water.
     So what do we do?  The answer is the same it has always been even if actually following through is much harder.  Jesus himself said the most important thing to do is to love.  Love God and love each other.  I pray every night for the leaders of ISIS.  I ask God to show them love and show them what is right.  I pray for Trump, Cruz, Clinton, and Sanders.  I ask God to show them a path of righteousness.  I even pray for Satan.  He once lived with and loved God but he fell away.  Imagine what the world would be like if God could get Satan back in His fold.
     What do I hear most often when I tell folks these things.  I'm idealistic.  I'm naive.  People have even called me unworldly and ignorant but you know what?  When I lay down at night to sleep after those prayers, I have a smile on my face and there is no doubt in my mind God is right there in my room with me watching over me as I sleep.  I can't think of a better way to get a good night's sleep.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Childhood Friend Goes To God

     When I was a child, my best friend was a girl who lived across the street from me.  I can still remember the endless days Janet and I spent together in childhood games.  We rode our bikes, jumped on pogo sticks, and climbed trees together.  As we aged and became young adults, we remained friends and consulted with each other as we prepared for adulthood.  Although she was a year younger, I always respected her for her wisdom as well as her loving heart and I always felt honored to call her a friend.
     As time and circumstance would have it, Janet and I drifted apart and sadly it has been almost 45 years since I last saw her.  She became a teacher for young children and was loved by one and all.  From what I hear now, she never lost that beautiful heart of hers.  She entered her retirement less than a year ago and spent most of her time showing that heart to all those around her.  Sadly, four days ago on the 16th of March, that heart gave out and she left this world.  My greatest regret is the space and time that came between us but I am consoled by the fact that she was a wonderful person who no doubt will now be in God's house for all of eternity.  I will see her again and I expect to shed tears of joy at that reunion.  Until then my dear friend Janet, I will miss you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Preparing Yourself to Hear God

     So often when I talk to people, they tell me they listen and listen for God's answers to their prayers but never hear His answer.  I, too, have been in the same situation and wondered why He was not answering which often led to concern, fear, and even doubt.  Then came a day of revelation when God made me realize what I was doing wrong. I was listening but I was not hearing.  I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting in God's answers to me.  Maybe I was expecting a booming voice in the eastern sky, a trance like effect and His voice clear in my own head, or immediate understanding of what His answer was.  What I have learned is very different from what I expected. 
     Most people pray the hardest and the most fervently when they are distraught because of a problem in their  lives.  The very stress they feel often clouds or blocks their ability to discern Gods presence, love, and answers.  It's best to start with acknowledging His presence and using that very presence to clear your mind and make yourself accepting of His will.  Put the what I call "high speech" behind you and talk to Him with your heart in your every day language.  When I see a friend I have not seen in a good while, I don't say to him "It is good to see thee my brethren.  Thou hast been separate from me for too long".  I usually say something more like "Hey buddy.  Man it's good to see ya".  While I do praise God with reverence, when it gets into the actual meat of the prayer, I talk to Him as if He is not only my Heavenly Father but also my friend.  Doing so allows me to relax and talk to Him openly and unabashedly with my heart.  Once you relax and open your heart to pray, it is also much more open to hear. 
     While you are praying, also concentrate on your given situation or problem.  Try to think for yourself (although it may be less for yourself than you might think) what steps you might take to solve your dilemma. Ask God and yourself "What is the right thing to do?"  Don't stop until you can completely grasp the action you must take that you truly believe is the right thing, the right road, the right action.  Once you decide on the right action to be taken, you will feel some relief from your stress.  Guess what!  God just answered your prayer.
     Is all this true all the time.  Of course not.  Too often we let our own egos talk and decide for us rather than God.  The trick here is to take action but at the same time, keep God in the forefront of your mind and be accepting of the fact that He may alter your path at any given time.  Be open to that in the event you may have erred in your discernment.  As long as you keep you heart, mind, and soul focused on Him and His guidance, as well as doing that which you believe to be right, He will guide you and show you the true path.  You will be ready and able to hear Him.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

God, the Undeniable Logic

     It seems to me it's all about logic.  For years scientist worked around the theory there was a big bang and all of a sudden things that weren't all of a sudden were.  Logically they could not understand how everything fit together so perfectly.  Slowly they have come to understand, because of the pure logic in the way everything is put together, there must have been some type of intelligent design.  Because many are still afraid of that all powerful three letter word, God, they use the term "intelligent design".   It seems to me, simply because of the vast perplexities and complexities of the universe, maybe they should say "intelligent designer".  How vast and all knowing must be that designer.  How godlike......wait!  Maybe it is God.
     In my mind, I keep coming back to the logic of all of this.  God has created everything so perfectly and with such ease.  He created man to be his companion and in His desire to have willing companions he logically gave us free will.  As logic would have it, not all of His creations have embraced the idea of being His companion.  Also, many who did, did not follow His example and approach Him logically. This is the basis for what I have tried to say before.
     Love is logical.  He who has no love has misery.  God did not create us to be miserable.  For us to be His companions, that would not have been logical.  It stands to reason (another way of saying "Its logical") for us to show love brings us love from others and this makes us feel complete and happy.  In a nutshell, this just proves my point that love is logical.
     It makes sense to me that in God's giving of free will, he also gave us emotions.  Unfortunately, some of us do not handle those emotions very well.  What I'm saying is that sometimes we let our emotions confuse us and all too often we allow emotion to steer us down the wrong path.  The Christian crusades would be a glaring example of this.  Rather than understand God's love for what it was, there were those who wanted to force those who did not believe into compliance.  Those who refused to believe were killed.  I'm pretty sure there emotions had them so tied up they could not even remember the basic commandments God gave us which included "Thou shall not kill".  There are still legions of those who believe we must all believe as they believe.  My question to all of them is simply, "Where's the love?"
     I equate all of this with my lack of understanding of many of the beliefs that many do hold so dear.  So many of those beliefs simply are not logical.  As I have expressed in previous writings, it does not seem logical to me that God would create us, His children, tell us and show us His love in so many ways and then send us to eternal torment if we are not perfect.   Hell for His children just is not logical.  Likewise, there are many things written in our Bible that also are not logical.  Please don't misunderstand.  I believe The Bible is a wonderful book filled with many examples of God's love.  I also think we must look at this book logically.  Jesus said the greatest two commandments were to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Keeping those two things first and foremost in your mind as you read The Bible will quickly make you wonder how you can reconcile those two commandments with many things you read.  My advice to all is to try to do just that.  Many things may become clear for you as you read while concentrating on His love and the love you have for others.
     I recently had a minister (denomination intentionally withheld) tell me if it weren't for people's emotions and his abilities to touch those emotions, he would have no one in his church.  My contention is if ministers would explain the undeniable logic behind God and His creations, the churches would be overflowing.  Simply put, God is undeniable as is His logic.  Why then must we add to what we know is logically true?  Why do we add illogical fears to our teachings other than to frighten people into believing our way?  Why not just tell the truth and let that truth be a pure path to God?  Why should the ministers feel as if they are in control when logically we all should understand it is God who is in control and we should get our answers from Him?
     Here is the path I feel we should all be on.  PRAY!  Open your hearts and your minds to God and talk to Him.  He wants to hear you and He wants to talk to you but you must open your minds as well as your hearts.  Our minds are much more logical than our hearts and if we simply see and understand His logic, it is indeed undeniable.