Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The World, The Flesh, and The Church - Part 1

Our Nation, and in fact, our planet with its diversity of nation-states, is in trouble Big trouble. If you do nothing more than glean headlines from your ISP home page you already know that much. What you may not know, however, is that the problem isn’t what you think it is, or what they are. Mainstream Media, whether observed from their televised reports, print media, RSS feeds on the internet or #tweets all have ideas, but I’d like to suggest that all of them are wrong.

I know that sounds frightfully arrogant of me, but trust me. I know. Someone. This Someone? He wrote a Book. In His Book He predicts what’s going to happen to the world, and why, and He has an absolutely amazing track record! He’s never been wrong!

However, in the interest of time and attention spans, I’m only going to focus on one part of the problem. I selected this particular slice of the problem pie because no matter which of the scores of names you use to describe it, it still figures into every aspect of the world’s struggles as we know them and as we face them not only today, but historically and anthropologically speaking, for as long as man has walked this planet.

Now most people might think that our problem has to do with climate change. Some will say the biggest problems facing the world are world politics or ISIS in the Middle East or perhaps Boko Haram in Nigeria, or the Iranian nuclear crisis, Korea, China, Russia, social genocide, or other territorial political crises.

These are very real problems. And very real issues, but they are neither individually nor collectively, ‘THE’ issue. These are all symptoms, and the world and its palette of nation states is wasting untold trillions of dollars and other natural resources trying to patch volcanos with Band-Aids while the planet is hemorrhaging unimpeded from an issue we refuse to acknowledge because frankly, it isn’t politically or socially expedient.

The real problem America faces today; the real problem the whole of mankind faces today is neither political, social, nor the much bemoaned and scientifically irrelevant, climate change. Our real problem is as old as mankind. Our problem was, is, and continues to be a SPIRITUAL problem. And by spiritual, I mean THE CHURCH!

For clarity’s sake, it’s important for you to understand that when I say “the Church”, I’m not talking about any particular individual religious organization. To put it more bluntly, I’m not speaking about the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, any of the Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors of Baptist churches, the Presbyterian Church, the Nazarene Church, the Pentecostal Church, the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church, OR ANY OTHER RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION CREATED BY HUMANS TO WORSHIP GOD WITH THE WORD ‘CHURCH’ IN THEIR NAME. Neither am I speaking about parachurch organizations or religious organizations that mainstream churches look at as being religious cults.

The Church I’m talking about is the church described in the Bible (e.g. Matthew 16.18ff) . Now you might think that’s who I just been mentioning with these organizations I listed, and undoubtedly there will be some members of those organizations who meet the Biblical definition that I’m going to give you. Just as there will undoubtedly be a fairly good number who will not meet the Biblical definition for ‘church’. But there is good news, and that’s that the Bible’s definition of the church defines a relationship, and you are in the unique position of being able to use information in this article taken directly from the Bible to alter your relationship with Jesus Christ, which changes your position as it relates to the Biblical church.

Technically speaking, the Biblical church really isn’t a man-made organization. Neither is it a stone and mortar location. It should ultimately have a Biblically outlined human hierarchy or internal structure, but the Biblical church, while being associated with other Biblical churches, is not ruled by a human grand overseer. The Biblical church is an organism, an. autonomous body of Christ followers who gather together regularly for a variety of purposes, including teaching each other, helping each other, learning and practicing evangelistic outreach. In fact, the church as the Bible describes it is something probably very different from what most of us have grown up witnessing, with its rituals, liturgies, and traditions.

The word the Bible uses for church is the Greek word “Ecclesia”, and it means “to be set apart”, or “to be called out from among”; “to be chosen”; “the select”. It’s from this word, and others, that the concept of the rapture of the church; the “being called out from among” the rest of the world at the sound of the trumpet of God, those who are his are taken. This is the event that’s described in 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

The Rapture is something the church looks forward to with great anticipation, because the Bible teaches that it could happen “In a moment, in the twinkling on an eye,” and it’s the first of a major chain of events leading to the Second Coming of Christ, His Thousand Year Reign on Earth, and finally, Eternity with our Savior in Heaven. But that’s an entirely different study that could, and indeed, does, take books to do it justice, and there’s much more to the church than that.

In fact while the FACT of the church doesn’t occur until the second chapter of Acts, the idea of The Church not only occurs throughout the Old Testament, it is clearly evident in the mind of God in eternity past even before the universe around us was created. So when we talk about the church, I want to be absolutely certain you understand that we are not talking about man made organizations that have the word church in them. We’re not talking about the places where people gather that have the word church in their name. To the contrary, this word “ecclesia” is limited entirely to the people who gather at these places, and not all of them. The Bible gives absolute and specific criteria as to who does and does not constitute ECCLESIA.

You see, it’s the people who are the Church. Again, an organism because the Church is alive! Not the organization. Not the building. The people. And the only some of the people. Romans 3:23 reads “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. Romans 6:23 reads “The wages of (or the payment for that) sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In John 3:16 Jesus said “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life” and in John 14:6 Jesus said “I am the way I am the truth, I am the life. No man can come to the father but by me.” And in 1st  John 1:9, John wrote “If we confess our sin he meaning Jesus he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

In other places the Bible tells us that it is not God’s will that anyone should perish. You see, Jesus came to this earth to live a sinless life, to die on the cross. to be raised from the dead on the third day as proof the Father accepted His sacrifice to be the substitutionary sacrificial of atonement – the final payment for our sins - so we wouldn’t have to spend eternity in hell.

If you want to take part in the discussion about the church, doesn’t it make sense to you to be a part of the church? I hope you noticed that I haven’t been singling out denominations in this discussion. They don’t really matter. While the church is made up of members of different religious denominations, the church isn’t any particular religious denomination. In fact Christianity is not even a religion at all!

To be a Christian means to be a Christ follower! Not a member of man-made religion.

We’re going to be talking about the church over the course of the next several blogs. I’d like to invite you to be a part of that discussion, by being a part of His church. You might ask how do I do that? It’s simple. Invite Jesus into your heart. You see the Scripture that I posted a few paragraphs above? You do it by first confessing your sins to Jesus. Then by repenting of your sins. That word repenting means turning completely around and going in the opposite direction from the one you’re headed now. Changing your mind about sin is another way to put it. Then ask Jesus Christ to come and live in your heart and forgive you of your sins and be your Savior and Lord

You can do that by saying a simple prayer like this one. In your own words, say something like this: Dear Jesus, I know I’m a sinner. I confess my sins before you today. I repent of my sins and I ask you to come into my heart and forgive me of my sins. Be my Lord and my Savior and I claim your promise that you will forgive my sins; you will live in my life and I will live with you in Heaven forever! In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

That’s all there is to it. It really is that simple. But it’s life-changing.

Now I started this out by saying that the problem the world faces today is a spiritual problem not a political problem. And I believe that spiritual problem has at its heart the church. That’s what we’ll be talking about the next time. I hope you’ll join me. God bless you.


*Special thanks to James H. Russell for his contributions to this first step of the journey, David Bond for igniting the flame to look at the problem differently, David Pantana, Henry McKinney and Tim St.Clair, college friends whose social media posts have triggered ideas, Linda Roth, who is a better editor than I am a writer, and Homer G. Lindsay, Jr, whose preaching the morning of 21 November, 1965 led me to realize my lost condition, and invite Jesus Christ into my heart saying a prayer not unlike the one above.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Where Did I Go So Horribly Wrong?

And when does the pain of caring go away?

I was afraid to hold you at first, you’re seemed so small,
not at all like your sister, so quiet, reserved, and still.
It’s not that she was in better or you will be worse,
the two of you would just very, very different.
It’s even a little awkward to say that you were small,
when I look back after all these years,
especially compared to all those other new babies
who weighed six or seven pounds when they were born,
and here your sister and you checked in at 8.10 and 9.4, respectively.

But to me you seemed tiny; fragile, and I thought, somehow, I’d break you,
both of you. As silly as that sounds, that’s how I felt.
Even after a year’s worth of practice holding your sister
I still felt that way the first time I held you;
That against all odds I would still do the impossible
and be the father who broke his newborn the first time he held her,
And in the most horrendous kind of way imaginable,
nearly forty years later, I’m still petrified by that fear.

For 18 years I did my best to show you how the do your best
I tried to be there when I could, be all the things a father should.
I went to plays, games, concerts, gymnastics meets, and trips,
helped the coaches, teachers, volunteers and pretty much anyone
who put out the call, needed a helping hand, or volunteer.

I tried to teach you about Jesus, and the difference knowing Him would make in your life
when you committed to him and trusted your eternal future to His loving care.
And I tried to be a good responsible example at home what a husband and father should be,
although I guess that was probably my biggest failure.

I taught you to be strong. I taught you to stand up for yourself.
I taught you to never be afraid to speak your mind when you believe strongly in
something or someone, because you might be the only one
who takes up that person’s banner; who shows them someone cares.

Yes, I know I make my mistakes. Some of them repeatedly. Some of them huge.
But I tried to separate those things from you. You were never the source of the problems.
If anything, you were my anchor. You were what kept me going.
You are why I kept trying.

More than anything else, you are why I’m writing this. I can’t undo the past
or the mistakes that I made. I can’t change your perceptions of confused memories,
or memories of events that happen before you were born.
I can’t defend the versions of incidents that took place that I wasn’t there
to defend when you heard the version that you heard.
And I can’t make up for past mistakes I’ve apologized for
more times than I can remember because sometimes forgiveness
is accompanied by a “right to throw it up in your face again” clause.

I wasn’t a perfect Christian or a perfect Father, but I did try to raise you to not be disrespectful,
or to challenge your Elders about things you really weren’t there to know about,
much less contrast your ‘facts’ and the memories of we who actually lived the ‘facts”.
I can tell you how deeply it hurts when you call me a liar,
or challenge me or disrespect me in an open forum like Facebook
because your feelings don’t really matter when you’re calling me a liar
in front of people of examine my integrity when I’m Answering their questions
or offering an explanation about what the Bible means
when someone like Paul says “don’t be conformed to the world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”,
or something as simple as when I say “I’ll pray for you”.
YOU aren’t the one who‘s being called to the carpet.

I’m 62 years old now. 15 days from being 62 ½. I’ve been with me
for every one of those 62 ½ years. You, on the other hand,
depending on which of you are reading this, are either 35 or 36.
I have mostly known you for all of those years. But I was 25 years old
when the first one of you was born. Theoretically at least,
that’s 25 years of my life about which you know nothing.
There are an additional 25 years that have passed since your mother
made the decision that she did preferred the preference of another man.
And so realistically of those 62 ½ years, 50 of them
are unaccounted for in your knowledge base of my life. Therefore,
when I tell you what I’ve done with my life, you only really have about a dozen years
with which to accurately challenge my conclusions.
And even then, new and it only really be guessing.

Now you can ridicule me, challenge me, call me a liar,
call me ignorant, fight with me in an open forum,
disrespect me in an open forum, call me judgmental,
call me a hypocrite new and openly criticize me,
anything you want. But bear in mind
that your children see you treating your grandfather like this,
and if they see mom do it, they’ll decide it’s okay for them to do it,
and if it’s okay to do it to grandpa,
it’s okay with mom and dad,
and teachers,
and Sunday school teachers,
and any other adult. Because that’s what mommy does,
and that makes it okay. And that’s why I delete those disrespectful
crude, obnoxious posts, because strangely, I feel the need to protect my child
from wagging tongues that would see her saying such hurtful things
because she forgot “Honor your father and your mother,
so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."Exodus 20:12,
 while she was busy accusing him of Matthew 7:1-6.

Because no matter how badly I screwed up in the past,
no matter how many mistakes I made raising you.
You will always be my children, and I’ll always love you.

By David Roth
©17 May, 2015