Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The State of Christianity Today

As I read my Bible, I continually grow dismayed and disheartened at the state of Christianity in these last days. So much of what I see happening in the church today can be read in the pages of the Gospels, we simply have to look at the descriptions of the Pharisees, scribes and lawyers. We, today, have become those hypocrites of Jesus' earthly time.

I read the headlines that Christianity is the largest "religion" on earth, today, and I'm reminded of Jesus' words in Luke 13; "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Or in Matthew 7; "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven...Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Also in Luke 11; "And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness."

How does all of this reconcile with the church today? We have so many who call themselves "christian" and they so completely look the part. They have tidied up their outward appearance, and their superficial acts make them appear to be on the right, narrow path, but if you look closely, you don't see the fruits Jesus said would come from the trees of the faithful. When was the last time they gave food to the poor? When have they taken clothing from their closet and wrapped a naked man with them? When was the last time they gave shelter to the homeless? And, I'm not talking about giving money to their local church so the church can do these things to the community at large. I have yet to read where Jesus told us to give all our stuff to the local church so they could do these types of ministering; He commanded that each and every one of us, as individuals do these things.

Luke 3 reads, "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him who has none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise." We are the wealthiest people in the world, in the United States of America, yet we hoard all these treasures while others, even in this country, are going to bed hungry, naked and homeless. It's no wonder that Jesus will say to many on the day of Judgement, "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not....Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."

In pulpit after pulpit we're not hearing love preached, but hate. I am ashamed when I hear from the pulpit, "if a man doesn't work, he doesn't eat" to justify not helping someone who is poor, hungry and homeless. Yes, Paul wrote those words, but if you look at the context of that statement, he was talking about someone who was in the local church but wasn't working to build that church, but instead only showed up to eat when they prepared a meal. He wasn't talking about the poor in the community, he was talking about in the context of building the physical building of the church.

There are those who are seated in their customary seat every time the church doors open, but they have never stepped out of their comfort zone to offer words to the lost on the streets of their community. They have never offered a meal or a helping hand to those in their cities or towns who are hungry, or given a coat to someone who is cold and they wouldn't dream of offering one of the empty beds in their homes to someone who is homeless. I've heard preachers talk about their stock portfolio but have never heard those same preachers mention their interaction with the lost and hurting of their community. And many of those same preachers are quick to speak about electing a certain political party to office, condemning the other party to be filled with the lost, the evil and the demonic. What part of "be not concerned for the things of this world," do they not get? What part of "this world is not my home" do they not understand?

And, just like the Pharisees of 2,000 ago, we work way too hard trying to make those we believe to be unsaved act as we think Christians should behave. We spend much time, effort, energy and money trying to pass legislation in this country to outlaw what we see as sin. It's just another example of our cleaning the outside of the cup while leaving the inside filthy. What do we think we're going to accomplish by forcing the non-believer to behave as we believe a person should behave? Can we seriously believe by forcing the unsaved to behave according to our moral code that we're going to save the soul of that unbeliever? Or are we just trying to do these things to cover up our lack of action on the things the Bible commands us to be doing?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Guns Do Not Kill People

The headline read, "Guns killed more people on Christmas in the US than in an entire year in these ..." Statements, and headlines, this this always rile me up. GUNS DO NOT KILL PEOPLE!! Yes, literally thousands of people are murdered each year using firearms, but the "gun" was the method of killing, they don't DO the killing; people kill people using them.

You never see headlines like, "Knife Killed Couple" or "Baseball Murders Man" or "Couple Killed by Car" -- why not? Because there are not organized groups united to stamp out knives, baseball bats or cars so they don't use emotional headlines that blame the murders using those instruments like they do when discussing firearms. To say that a "gun" killed someone is to give a piece of hardware the ability to think, make decisions and perpetrate actions that are impossible for an inanimate object to perform. So, the question becomes: why do people blame guns for killings instead of people using guns?

The answer is simple, really: there are those who are intent on removing firearms from the hands of every person on the planet. The ultimate goal is to leave the general population without means of protection so that only governments, and criminals, will be in possession of firearms, thereby giving the government the ability to enslave a population without the fear of resistance. Doing away with the 2nd Amendment in the United States will NOT, CAN NOT, remove firearms from the hands of criminals. If, by some strange happenstance, the government of the United States were to achieve the outlawing of private citizens owning firearms that would have absolutely no effect on criminals possessing them. The number one cause of violation probation reincarceration is parolees being in possession of firearms. Despite being told when they are paroled that they are not to possess firearms it is generally one of the first items a convict buys, or steals, upon their release. Background checks and laws stating they cannot possess them does absolutely nothing to deter them.

My grandfather had a saying that locks were for keeping law abiding people out of your home. A criminal couldn't care less about the locks on your doors, he finds a way to break into your house anyway. Same goes for criminals being in possession of firearms. No amount of background checks, restrictions, registrations, etc., are going to keep firearms out of the hands of the criminal element in this world. And the argument that if no one possesses a weapon legally would mean there are none for criminals to steal is ludicrous! There are more than enough firearms in the hands of the criminal element that they don't require legally owned firearms in order to be armed and commit crime using them. The only thing removing firearms from law abiding citizens will accomplish is MORE murders, robberies and other violent crimes using firearms because there would be no deterrent to criminals using firearms, such as the fear that the intended victim may well be armed. It's cliché to say it, but if guns are outlawed only the outlaws will have guns.

Returning to the headline at the beginning of this post, it should read "Murderers Killed More People on Christmas in the US Using Guns Than in An Entire Year in These...." But, that would not be nearly as emotional a headline and would do nothing to help the cause of those who are intent on depriving the ordinary citizen the right to protect and defend himself and his family.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Living With Spiritual/Emotional Pain

You'd think I'd be be accustomed to the pain and the loss that comes from being excluded, abandoned or betrayed; Lord knows I've experienced enough of it in my life. The scenario has played out so many times I've lost count where someone tells me that I cannot be in their life because someone else is in their life and there's no room for me. Or just having someone drop out of my life without explanation or reason, only refusal to speak to me or give me any indication they're aware that I'm still alive on the planet.

I've been told I get my feelings hurt too easily or that I take any kind of slight rejection completely out of proportion, but how is someone who has known complete, utter rejection by someone they love, and someone who is supposed to love them, supposed to categorize or compartmentalize rejection and abandonment? The pain of not being chosen, ever, by anyone after experiencing numerous instances of being shut out brings a pain, an emptiness and a depression that is difficult to express to someone who has never experienced a lifetime of rejection, abandonment and betrayal without ever having experienced a single instance of being chosen and loved completely without condition.

Yes, there have been instances where I thought I was loved completely and unconditionally, but eventually that person chose to exclude me from their life due to someone else. That leads to a feeling that the period of unconditional, complete acceptance wasn't truly unconditional or complete. Ultimately, I've been left all alone without explanation about why it is that no one can love me completely, unconditionally and without end. There is, apparently, something so totally flawed or broken in me that I cannot be loved the way I love, accepted the way I accept and cherished the way I cherish.

Yes, I know God loves me completely, totally, without condition and without end, but that doesn't truly take the place of having another person on this planet to do the same. No family member, whether by blood or by choosing, no soulmate, no one. Yes, I have friends who love me, but it still not the same. Being rejected by one's family and never having known the true love of a soulmate leaves a hole within the heart and the soul of a person.

Apparently it's a hole that can never truly be filled unless it is filled by the family who has rejected and abandoned you or by a soulmate that you have no hope of ever finding.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Phenomena of Attachment Disorder Among Adopted & Step-Children

The sense of abandonment and the feeling of being unlovable among adopted and step-children, especially step-children whose mother is not a part of their lives, seems to be growing in today's society. This is a phenomena I am well acquainted with, having suffered with it, myself, for most of my life.

I was recently speaking to a friend who was telling me about the experiences of her child, who was adopted. I will not be using any identifying information for the friend or her child in order to protect their anonymity. Yet, while I was speaking to my friend about the behaviors of her daughter, I realized just how many of those same behaviors I exhibited during my life, especially as I entered and lived through my teen years.

Attention seeking behavior is common, but the underlying cause of this behavior is what I call, "proving your love." The child will act out in ways that are designed to test the limits of the parent or guardian, so as to "prove" they love the child beyond all condition. If the parent or guardian "gives up" and places the child in some type of residential program, they have, in the mind of the child, proved that the child is unlovable or that they never loved the child, at all. Often, the child isn't aware of the core motivation or cannot explain why they behaved the way they did, but that is truly the underlying psychological motivation. They feel compelled to behave in the most outlandish ways in order to make the parent or guardian prove their love by continuing to accept them and keep them in their care and custody.

These behaviors can include, but are not limited to, lying, smoking, sexual behavior, breaking rules, talking back, failing grades, even mildly criminal acts such as breaking and entering and petty theft. Even while behaving in this manner, the child is miserable, argumentative, unhappy and confused. They're more likely to be unable to explain their mood and feelings because they truly don't understand why they are doing the things they do. It took many years of therapy before I began to understand why I had behaved the way I did as a pre-teen and teen.

In my own life, my Mother was absent for over 9 years, beginning at age 4. As a teen, I had no memories of living with my Mother until just after my 4th birthday, but I knew I had had no contact with her for 9 years, 2 months and 10 days, between the ages of 4 and 13. It didn't help my own situation that my step-mother treated me differently than she did her own biological child, or that she left me on the anniversary of the day she took over the care and custody of my brother and I, leaving us to be shuffled across the country for several days, unsure where we would land.

The fact that my father constantly told me I was uncontrollable and kept getting me kicked out of my living situation also compounded the feeling that no one could love me. Add in being rejected by step-mother (twice in 1 week) and my Mother rejecting my pleas to live with her while being physically abused by my father and you had the perfect recipe for a screwed up kid who was desperate to find ANYONE who would love unconditionally.

I'm not sure what the answer is for these children, other than intensive therapy and showing unconditional love while also setting boundaries for behavior. The child must be made to understand that there are limits to behavior, as well as consequences, while also being assured that they could never do anything to cause the love to come to an end. I know it's a tricky tightrope to walk to make a child understand these things, but the child must also be made to understand that the missing biological parents did not abandon the child due to anything the child did or is. The child must be made aware that the circumstances were beyond their control or influence, and if adopted, they must be made aware of the amount of love it required for their birth mother to give up custody of their own flesh and blood to ensure a good life for the child with loving, caring and responsible parents.

Above and beyond anything else that is, or can be done, the child must be made to feel the love, acceptance and concern of their parent or guardian; even in the face of behavior that makes you want to rip your hair out by the roots. And never voice to the child that you're at the end of your rope or threaten them with being sent to military school or some other residential program, as that will merely reinforce for the child what they are already feeling: that they're unlovable and that there is a limit to the love, acceptance and approval of their parent/guardian.

It's a scary, frustrating situation for the parents/guardians of this type of child, but it is equally scary, frustrating and confusing for the child. They will often complain to themselves that they don't know why they behave the way they do, and they will constantly promise themselves they will stop that type behavior, only to find themselves repeating the behaviors without thinking.

For my friend that's going through this, all I can offer is love, support, prayer and encouragement; the same things I offer her child. Hopefully with both individual and family therapy, they will get through this time and come out the other end stronger, and more bonded than ever before. That's my hope and my prayer.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

We Are the Pharisees & Sanhedrin

For several years now I have watched with utter amazement as the Christian community has continuously moved into becoming today's modern equivalent of the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and Sanhedrin of Jesus' day. We are moving to enact civilian/societal laws in order to force those we view as unsaved to behave as we believe Christians should behave. These laws are akin to the Law of Moses which was the national/civil law for the nation of Israel as well as the religious law for the Jewish people.

First question I have is: why are we expecting those we consider to be unsaved to act as though they are saved? My second question is: why are we so worried about what others are doing? And my third, and final question is: Why are we so consumed with the matters of this world?

The unsaved will never behave the way the saints behave. Even we, the saints, don't always behave the way we should. Even we, the sanctified, sin and miss the mark. So why are we expecting those who are not a part of the church to behave as though they were? And why are we trying to force them to? This is not showing them the light, love, mercy and grace that God showed us through His Son, Jesus Christ!

Why do we worry so much about what others are doing, when we, ourselves, have not achieved perfection? There's not a single soul on this planet who will have to answer for the actions/behaviors/sins of another. Even our pastors and other leaders will not have to answer for the sins of the individual members of their fold! We demand that the world allow us the freedom of will to live our lives and worship the way we choose, yet we work so hard to take away the free will of others to live their lives and worship, or not worship, they way they choose!

Over the past few decades I have watched as the Christian community in America has become more and more political and consumed with the matters of this world. We want to enact laws and enforce rules on the rest of the population so that they will live according to our interpretation of the Holy Bible, and what we believe to be God's will. We are trying so desperately to create a utopian society on this planet, yet our hearts and minds should not be consumed by the things and ways of this world. The Bible tells us that we are to be consumed with the matters of eternity!

The biggest issue dividing the church at the present age is homosexuality and "gay rights" -- there's a large segment of the Christian population that believes we should never accept "gay rights" and that we should enact laws to prevent homosexuals from having rights or protections under the law of the land. There's another large segment who believe that homosexuals should be allowed to have their "gay rights" but we should disassociate from them and we musn't allow them to marry because marriage is between "one man and one woman." There's another segment of Christianity that accepts gays without judgment, welcoming them into their churches and congregations, leaving the matter of judgment up to Christ.

Even we, the church, cannot all agree on what should or shouldn't be done or allowed by the sinners of this world, so how are we then going to force laws to be enacted to control the behaviors of those sinners? We can't, and we shouldn't! We do not fight against flesh and blood, the Bible says, so why are we, the saints of God trying so hard to battle those who are flesh and blood?

On the issue of marriage, let me add that David was a man after God's own heart, yet David had hundreds of wives and concubines; though the Bible only names 8 of his wives. And Solomon had over 700 wives and 300 concubines. Yes, I've heard all the "explanations" that God didn't approve of these multiple wives or the concubines, but "allowed" them for whatever reason. Since when has God EVER allowed sin because man wanted to commit sin? God has NEVER stood for sin to be committed without consequences. Maybe those consequences will not be meted out until Judgment Day, however, and it is never our place to try to mete judgment on anyone for their sin!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Appearances: Whose Opinion Matters Most

For the purposes of this blog post, the who and what matter little compared to the how and why, so the person and the conviction shall remain anonymous as I discuss the reaction and reasons.

I recently received a message from a Christian who expressed his heartfelt convictions in his eMail newsletter. I know his heart is in the right place and he is doing all he knows to do to remain in God's will and follow God's leading. Shortly thereafter I began receiving eMails from people I do not know as responses, many asking to be removed from his mailing list, but all containing their reasons behind the request. Some of them even admitted that their reason was so that others would not believe they shared the convictions of the newsletter author. All of them were operating under the same motivation, however, that others would not believe they agreed or are following the heartfelt convictions of this man who is simply doing what he feels God is leading him to do.

How sad it is to think that people who profess faith in Christ are more concerned about the opinions of others on this earth than the opinion of God, Himself! This caused me to reflect on many areas of our daily Christian walk and how many times we may not totally agree with the opinions we're spouting, but are merely ensuring that the majority believe that we agree with them!

I know I have been the source of some consternation among Christian friends and family members because I have expressed opinions that do not align with the majority, or express beliefs that don't wholly conform to the majority. Truth be told, I'm more worried about what God thinks of me and my opinions/beliefs than I am about what others on this earth think.

I do believe the majority of Christians are truly doing the best they can to follow God's Will and plan to the best of their abilities, and I don't cotton to the idea that the majority are motivated by what others think of them when they voice their opinions and beliefs, but there is a sizable crowd out there who are more worried about how others view them than how God views them! And that's not only sad, it has the potential to wreck their eternal standing. I've heard many people talk about how going to church is not about being seen by those who are there, and so on, but how many of us truly do not wholeheartedly believe the standings we express, especially when it comes to the appearance of believing what someone we know and love is saying or doing?

Whether I believe what someone is saying or doing or believing is not up for public viewing or approval in my life. I refuse to disassociate myself from someone because others may believe I think or feel or believe the same things the person does. My life doesn't operate on the opinions of others. For that matter, neither did the life of Christ while He walked this planet! Remember how the scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus of being a sinner and wine bibber because He associated with same?

If I only surround myself with Christians who believe exactly the same way I believe, then whom shall I influence to turn their lives over solidly, completely and unashamedly to Christ? If I never associate with someone who is not a born-again Christian, then with whom am I sharing my salt and His light?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Being Weary

As a child growing up in church, I would hear older people talk of being weary, and I couldn't grasp what it was they meant. Even as a young Christian in my early adult years, I would hear that term and not truly understand what the person speaking meant. I got tired, just like everyone else, but there was something in the way the speaker uttered the phrase, “I'm so weary,” that conveyed something more than the tiredness I was familiar with. There was almost a hopelessness in their voice when they would speak of their weariness.

Today, I do understand what weariness truly means, and also the all encompassing feeling of being weary. After nearly 30 years of living in progressively worsening, non-stop pain, I have grown weary. After years of struggling financially, I have grown weary. After decades of battle after battle, struggle after struggle and tribulation after tribulation, I have grown weary. I've found myself crying out to God to bring an end to my weariness, to give me relief or simply take me Home to be with Him for eternity. To my dismay, He has done neither of those things.

In my weariness, I've questioned why God would allow me to continue in this weary state; what it is in His plan that seems to require that I live out this life in this condition. I've even outright asked Him why He's forsaken me in this place of pain, frustration, uncertainty and desperation. The only answer I've received, thus far, is silence.

Do these circumstances test my faith? Certainly. I am, after all, just a mere human who cannot understand the vastness or the eternal mind of God, Himself. Do they cause me to doubt the very existence of God Almighty? Absolutely not! I may doubt my place in His will, I may doubt my ability to follow His plan. I may even doubt my salvation, but I never, not for one moment have ever lost the absolute, complete, utter certainty that God is there, and that He hears my cries and my prayers. I don't even doubt that He's answered, though I doubt my ability to hear or understand His answer.

As the old hymn says, I am tired, I am weak and I am worn. Yes, I am even weary. But, through it all, I know that my God, my Savior, my King is still in control and that He shall deliver me from the pain, the uncertainty, the trials, the storms and even from the hopelessness that I sometimes feel due to my earthly eyes seeing only the circumstances that I'm surrounded with. My faith in Him, my absolute knowledge of His existence and His omniscience are not dimmed in the least; in fact, my faith and surety of His being is stronger than it's ever been.

Being weary, like all the other circumstances and conditions of this life is a temporary state of being, not a permanent, eternal condition. And through it all, I know that He continues to hold me in the palm of His hand and neither life, nor death, nor powers nor circumstance can ever remove me from His love, His mercy and His grace.