Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Church Hoppers

Chuckle: "A sign in a hospital maternity ward read -- NO CHILDREN ALLOWED!"
Ponder This: “There once was a mule who found himself between two haystacks, completely unable to decide which one to eat first. Because of his indecision, he didn't eat either one; he just stood there until he starved. Many people are like the mule when deciding which church to attend. They wander back and forth, never committing themselves, and meanwhile going (spiritually) hungry."  --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
    "God has combined the members of the body (the church) . . . so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" " (I Corinthians 12:24b, 25-27 NIV). "From Him (Christ) the whole body (church), joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part (church member) does its work" (Ephesians 4:16 NIV).
We live in a “ME” generation -- the world revolves around me and it's what I want that is most important. With this in mind, I think this piece by syndicated columnist Betsy Hart is worth sharing with you verbatim.
The Gospel According To Church "Hoppers"
Church "hopping" is the ultimate "all about me" experience. I'm talking about the growing tendency in America's evangelical churches for folks who decide, after they have officially joined a particular church, that "Oh, that pastor down the street is a little more high-energy than mine," or "Gee, the music here isn't really meeting all my needs right now," or "I really am not crazy about that new children's church director."
They just up and leave, and go to a new church in their community. Until they hop from that one. Here's where I really agree with my Roman Catholic friends when they say, "You protestants are so focused on your 'personal relationship with Christ' that you forget it's not all about you."
Every time a person who has made a public vow of membership to the church body leaves for superficial reasons, he leaves a unique hole. The departure dispirits the pastor and often the children of the congregation and other members of the body. Moreover, hopping from a church when a desire, or even a real need, isn't being met in the moment means that person can't ultimately be held accountable in his religious life. He just hops if he doesn't want anyone reaching out to him.
We have little sense anymore that we are to join a church body and, generally speaking, submit -- doesn't that word just make you cringe? -- to its authority. Even when there are things that don't suit our fancy in the church. Sure, we often can and should try to change those things for what we consider the better.
Actually, we treat our church members a lot like we treat our marriages. Hey, if I'm not "happy" in the moment, just move on, right? The impact on others or a pledge to something bigger than ourselves doesn't matter because "it's all about me."
The American Protestant Church has, generally speaking, tragically normalized divorce and, essentially, spouse hopping. I don't know if there's cause and effect, or if church hopping and spouse hopping are just symptoms of the same problem -- our increasingly "all about me" culture. But I do know hoppers are typically unsatisfied no matter where they hop -- because perfection doesn't exist in this world.
Many churches say they are seeking to be relevant. But the way to do that isn't to accommodate or enable insidious cultural trends. It is to do what churches are called to do, and stand as a bulwark against such trends.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Freedom At What Price

Have a Great   Veterans Day    Veterans Day!
"Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities . . . because it is the quality which guarantees all others." --Winston Churchill
    "You, my brothers (and sisters), were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another" (Galatians 5:13).
On this Veterans Day, people across America will pause to remember the price that has been paid by veterans throughout our nation's history for the freedoms we enjoy. On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln stood on the battlefield at Gettysburg to dedicate part of the land as a national cemetery. His words:
"We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that a nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Along with Gettysburg, there were Valley Forge, Flanders Field, Omaha Beach, Iwo Jima, Pork Chop Hill, the Mekong, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraqi Freedom and other conflicts involving our armed forces. What images of courage and carnage these wars bring to our minds! But, if freedom is to endure in future generations, we must be willing to pay the price, because "freedom is never free." It has cost the lives of thousands of men and women, and many have carried the scars of war through their lifetimes because of their wounds. Every veteran, living or dead, has contributed greatly to the preservation of our freedoms.
Since freedom always comes at a staggering cost, let's commit ourselves to the preservation of those freedoms. They are much too precious to waste or take lightly. As we recognize and express our gratitude to all veterans, let's also take time to thank God for the privilege of being an American.
Love, Jerry & Dotse                

Monday, November 10, 2014

Physician Assisted Suicide

“Man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door of his prison and run away.  A man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him.” –Plato, Dialogues 

    “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 NIV).
You may have followed the story of Brittany Maynard, the 29 year-old woman who died on Saturday, November 1, from a physician assisted suicide.  Because of her story, this vivacious young woman has become the face of a growing “Right to Die with dignity” movement in this country.  Early this year, while living in California, Brittany was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and given only months to live.  She moved to Oregon where state law allows the terminally ill to voluntarily choose to “die with dignity” from lethal medications provided by a physician.  Oregon is one of only a few states with laws allowing physicians to assist patients in taking their own lives.  This is a very emotional topic of debate with compelling arguments on both sides.   
The Scriptures reveal six people who resorted to suicide: Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 31:4), Saul’s armor-bearer (1 Samuel 31:4–6), Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:5). Samson is not included in this list because even though he was killed by his actions, his motive was to kill philistines, not himself. (Judges 16:26–31).
To my knowledge, the Bible is silent on the specific issue of assisted suicide; however, suicide is suicide, assisted or not.  Christianity has historically viewed our text, one of the original Ten Commandments, as prohibiting the taking of human life -- committing murder.  This interpretation, envisions suicide as self-murder.  This view is predicated on God being the only one with the authority to decide when and how a person should die.  This view allows us to say with the psalmist, “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15).  God is seen as both the giver and taker of life.  “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own”  (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV).  Suicide is wrong because it rejects God’s gift of life and the sanctity thereof.  No one should try to assume God’s authority for themselves.

After seeking God’s will, the person contemplating suicide should also consider the pain and grief that such action will inflict upon family members and close friends.  It seems selfish to live or die based solely on what works best for me without consideration of God’s will and being sensitive to the feelings of others.  For Christians, the following puts our lives in perspective:  For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord”  (Romans 14:7-8 NLT). 
Back to Brittany.  No doubt she was facing a horrible death with great suffering, and to die painlessly at a time of her own choosing appears to be a desirable alternative.  I’m sure we all sympathize with her and would support her dying naturally as painlessly as possible.  As Christians, we must base our opinions on God’s Word, and we should seek His will in all situations.  Even where assisted suicide is allowed by law, leaving God out of the decision-making process cannot bring glory to Him as the giver and sustainer of life.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

God Or Nothing

Chuckle: One Easter Sunday morning a preacher held up an egg and asked the children, "What's in here?" "I know!" a little boy exclaimed. "Pantyhose!"
Quote: "The sun, which has all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the world to do." --Galileo
    "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . . God saw all that he had made, and it was very good . . ." (Genesis 1:1,33 NIV).
Galileo (1564-1642), was a pioneer of modern physics and telescopic astronomy. A spacecraft, named for Galileo, was launched from a space shuttle on October 18, 1989 to orbit the planet Jupiter. Many years ago, Alfred Noyes made the following comments in reference to today's quote from Galileo.
"This was Galileo's answer to those who attacked him when he said that the earth was not the center of the universe. His system, the critics said, made human beings insignificant. Galileo's answer, made three hundred years ago, is a source of strength in our time. For today many of us again feel that the individual is insignificant in the immense universe of modern science. But if the physical sun can be so responsible for the minutest flower in the field, there is certainly no reason to feel that there is any limit to the scope of the central Power (God), which created all the suns, all life, all spiritual values and the spirit of man himself. Behind Galileo's defense was his own belief that the universe is centered on neither the earth nor the sun -- it is centered on either God or nothing. If the latter, there can be no real belief, no sense of philosophy. Out of this blind alley, he turns naturally to the other alternative -- God. Galileo's words, the first voice of modern science, call us back to faith, hope and true belief."
In our day, there is a constant battle between creationism and evolutionism; between intelligent design and science, with the "big bang" theory thrown in for good measure. In this brief space, I cannot begin to address all the aspects of this ongoing debate, even if I had the understanding to do so. But as I read the words of Galileo and a discussion of his conclusions, I was reminded once again of the central truth of the universe. God, in all his power and majesty, created all there is and yet is still mindful of each of us. “What is man that you are mindful of him” (Hebrews 2:6b).  God wants our lives to bloom to the fullest for his glory. As the sun nurtures the bunches of grapes and the flowers in the field, He nurtures each human life.
Because of his great love, that nurture has as its first goal to reconcile each person to himself -- to make us acceptable in his sight and presence -- through faith in his One and Only Son who was sacrificed for our sins. Then his nurture includes maturing each Christian into a beautiful, blooming, and productive life. He does this through his Word, and the indwelling of his Holy Spirit in a similar way as the rays of the sun nurture each living thing on earth. He wants his Son to be to you what his Sun is to a bunch of grapes or a beautiful rose in your yard -- as Galileo put it, "as if He has nothing else in the world to do" but tend to you. . . .

Love, Jerry & Dotse