Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

My Photo
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Why our Churches are Failing

I haven't been inside a church in several years. I have a hearing problem - tinnitus - that drives me crazy at times, and has an accompanying problem that causes sound - ANY sound - to be anywhere from minimally annoying to downright excruciating. There are only a few types of churches that don't include singing (making a joyful noise unto the Lord) or preaching, or some other form of sound. Those that don't do these things don't appeal to me much, so I stay in my quiet home and read my Bible, and think.

God is very real to me. There have been many, many times in my life where, without His DIRECT intervention, I wouldn't be here today. He guides my life in most of what I do. This blog is inspired by Samuel Adams, a hard-drinking, hard-fisted rabble-rouser, but also a deep believer in God. As a disabled veteran, there have been many times when my pension has failed to meet my monthly living expenses, and there's never any room for emergencies. Emergencies still happen, and yet each time the money - or a friend, or someone ELSE's friend - somehow appears to solve the emergency.

The words of Matthew 7:7-8 say:

7. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8. for every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Of course, it takes more than just asking, or we would all be richer than Ceaser. Jesus also says, a little further in Matthew, Chapter 21:

18 ¶ Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Faith is required, a deep-seated belief that what we ask for shall be given to us. Even then, why are not all rich, living in mansions, and reclining, people of leisure? Back in Matthew, Chapter 19, we see Jesus talking to a young man:

16 ¶ And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23 ¶ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

There are a lot of explanations for this passage, and almost every minister in the last 300 years has preached at least one of them. But there's quite a bit going on here. Jesus never uses words to teach one lesson, when they can teach two, or three, or more. It's not just that the young man didn't want to give up his possessions, or that they were more important to him than God. They were the trappings of success, whether from his own work or from the work of others, and success was important. Even that, though, isn't the main lesson. Jesus saw the young man's heart, and knew it. He knew that the man's following of the commandments were like following a checklist - "I have to do this, and I have to do that, and I have to do these things" - rather than the establishment of a way of life based on WORSHIP of GOD through obedience to His Commandments. The young man followed the LETTER of the law, but had no understanding of the SPIRIT behind it. It was a ritual to be followed, not each commandment a statement of faith, and of celebration of the Glory of God.

Today, most churches are the same way: they preach the Bible, the preach the Ten Commandments, they preach the virgin birth, the life and parables, and the Reserection of Jesus, but it's all a checklist - "do this this Sunday, that next Sunday". The bureaucracy, the regimentation, even the sameness in church after church, reflects Man, not God. The Church was supposed to be the Shepherd, but the Shepherd has lost his way - and in truth, all too frequently his will to do the difficult job of being the shepherd of God's people on this earth.

Many churches try to encourage others to join with them by watering down God's truth - trying to hide the fact that certain behavior is unacceptable to God. It's not that it's unacceptable to church-members, but to GOD! We can pray for such people, we can administer to them, we can even help them when they're troubled, sick, or afflicted. We can welcome them into our midst, and do what we can for them. But we cannot change God's mind - we cannot make the unacceptable, acceptable. God requires two things from sinners - acknowledgement of sin, and a sincere repentence. Repentence requires both a plea for forgiveness, and a turning away from sinful behavior. There are no half-way steps, no matter how many churches preach that there are.

Church members ask for sucess, for riches, for fame, rather than the one true thing that will guarantee even greater reward - to follow the path God has set for them. God knows our needs, and provides, as Jesus says in Matthew 6:

25 ¶ Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

God provides. He provides what we need, when we need it. He also knows that we often ask for things we don't need, just WANT. He knows that possessions sometimes push aside the true riches - the riches of a daily experience with the very Creator of the world. Sometimes He gives us these things, just to teach us that worldy possessions don't bring happiness.

Going to church doesn't please God, if the only reason we go is to check off a square. Prayer, prayer chains, and prayer vigils, can work miracles, if those that pray do so in faith. If it's just to check off another square, it's a waste of time. Even evangelizing - from the pulpit, from the streetcorner, in a homeless shelter - must be done in the spirit of service to God, or it's just exercise. God sees our hearts. He knows why we do every thing. If it's not truly for His glory, it's like the prayers of the Pharisees - done for earthly reward, not our rewards in Heaven.

Too many churches today are social clubs, not houses of worship. They refuse to follow the teachings of God in all things. They refuse to help their members grow, not only in the Word of God, but in His Spirit, as well. And they're failing. Again, in Matthew 7:

15 ¶ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
21 ¶ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Consider our churches in the same light. Don't judge them by denomination, or congregation, or pastor, but by the fruits of their ministry. Those that bring forth good fruit - that daily bring the blessings of God to those in need, whether physical or spiritual, through the works of individual worshipers, are the churches of God. Those that teach the children that attend the truth, the glory of following God, the peace that comes from His presence in our hearts, are the true servants of God, and the Shepherd of His flock. The rest will be cast into the outer darkness.


Post a Comment

<< Home