Friday, September 25, 2009

Why I Love The Psalms

I love the Psalms.  The psalmists were honest with their feelings.  They didn't pretend everything was wonderful but still expressed trust in God.   It gives me great comfort to know that others before me (thousands of years before me) experienced grief, pain, disappointment and loss.   This is today's psalm:

Psalm 118

 1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
      His faithful love endures forever.
 2 Let all Israel repeat:
      “His faithful love endures forever.”
 3 Let Aaron’s descendants, the priests, repeat:
      “His faithful love endures forever.”
 4 Let all who fear the Lord repeat:
      “His faithful love endures forever.”
 5 In my distress I prayed to the Lord,
      and the Lord answered me and set me free.
 6 The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
      What can mere people do to me?
 7 Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me.
      I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
      than to trust in people.
 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
      than to trust in princes.
 10 Though hostile nations surrounded me,
      I destroyed them all with the authority of the Lord.
 11 Yes, they surrounded and attacked me,
      but I destroyed them all with the authority of the Lord.
 12 They swarmed around me like bees;
      they blazed against me like a crackling fire.
      But I destroyed them all with the authority of the Lord.
 13 My enemies did their best to kill me,
      but the Lord rescued me.
 14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
      he has given me victory.
 15 Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly.
      The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!
 16 The strong right arm of the Lord is raised in triumph.
      The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!
 17 I will not die; instead, I will live
      to tell what the Lord has done.
 18 The Lord has punished me severely,
      but he did not let me die.
 19 Open for me the gates where the righteous enter,
      and I will go in and thank the Lord.
 20 These gates lead to the presence of the Lord,
      and the godly enter there.
 21 I thank you for answering my prayer
      and giving me victory!
 22 The stone that the builders rejected
      has now become the cornerstone.
 23 This is the Lord’s doing,
      and it is wonderful to see.
 24 This is the day the Lord has made.
      We will rejoice and be glad in it.
 25 Please, Lord, please save us.
      Please, Lord, please give us success.
 26 Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
      We bless you from the house of the Lord.
 27 The Lord is God, shining upon us.
      Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar.
 28 You are my God, and I will praise you!
      You are my God, and I will exalt you!
 29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
      His faithful love endures forever.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Tale of Two....

We had an interesting thing happen yesterday.  We had a yard sale (for the second week in a row) to get rid of "stuff".  At one point we were in the midst of a family argument about what we were going to sell and what we were NOT going to sell.  (It's hard to see family things sell that we always had but recently never used.  Anyway...)  As we were arguing amongst ourselves two different people came up and quickly left.  There was no way they were going to stay with an argument going on! 
Later on, however, when emotions had calmed and everyone was getting along, another few people came up.  They didn't really buy much.  In fact, we gave them a few things.  They thanked us and left but a few minutes later came back.  Their reason for coming back?  They noticed by some things written on shirts and other places, as well as the kindness they saw and experienced, that our family was different.  They asked if we were Christians to which my husband responded.  Turns out they are too.  They had been looking for a church home and not found one yet.  Jim sadly told them our story and what happened to our church.  They were really saddened and wanted to stay in touch so we exchanged phone numbers.  Hopefully we will get together again with them.
So, the lesson I learned from this....
Churches are like families.  When people visit a church and see people NOT getting along, when they see arguments and fighting and sense tension they will turn and go.  The opposite is also true.  When visitors come to a church and find that the people are kind to each other, that they love each other and those who visit,  when they see that the things written on walls are matched by how the people act towards each other and them, they will come back and ask what's different about them. 
We have a friend who spends a fair amount of time at our house.  The reason?  He feels loved and welcomed and accepted here (and the feeling is mutual) rather than being at his own home where there is tension and "too much drama".  How we treat each other says a lot to those around us. 
It breaks my heart that there are people who have walked away from the church because of what they see in the people.  At this point, I'm almost one of those.  Thankfully there are still some Christians who show grace and kindness and love and understanding.  It's thanks to those people that I will "go back" to church. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Newsweek Article

We read this in Newsweek yesterday and thought it was very apropos.

"Anne Graham Lotz, the second of Billy and Ruth Graham's five children, says it's all right: as long as you have a personal relationship with Jesus, church doesn't really matter. Neither does denomination. "Religion is an impediment to knowing God," says Lotz, who is promoting a new book, The Magnificent Obsession. "Procedures, rituals, creeds: how in the world can they help you connect with God? … If you're sprinkled when you're baptized or dunked when you're baptized, it doesn't matter as far as your salvation goes."

Given her maiden name, you would think that Lotz, an evangelist who travels around the world urging people to come to Jesus, would embody old-fashioned, conservative evangelism. Her father has always strongly advised Christians to attend church; the Billy Graham Evangelistic Asso-ciation Web site tells new Christians to make church a regular part of their lives: "Whatever it meant to you in the past, going to church can now become a rich and rewarding experience."

But like so many other Christians, Lotz, 61, had too many bad experiences in church to believe that God dwells there—and only there. She was kicked out of one church, she says, for insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture. She left another more recently in a fight concerning a new pastor. She soon came to realize that she was a "believer in exile," she says, and for more than a year she wandered from church to church looking for a home. "I've had Christians treat me in a way that is so wrong and so vicious, I realized there's a difference between God's people and God."

Still, conservative Christians have always distanced themselves from progressives by insisting that church—and the adherence to a strict set of doctrines—is a way to derive meaning. And, ultimately, Lotz found her way back there with help from her husband, a strict Southern Baptist. Church may not be necessary to knowing God, she says, but it keeps the relationship going: "You can really love the Lord, but after a while, if you're all by yourself, the fire goes cold."

© 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Maybe this would have helped.... (or not)

Another Lark News classic:


MENLO PARK, Calif. — When Brent Libby started attending Green Valley Baptist church, he was surprised at the icy reception he received.
The reason: the pastor knew all about Libby. He'd read about him on, a website which chronicles bad behavior by local church-goers. Libby's file included a photograph and comments written by his former pastor that said, "Argues with me over minor doctrinal points after every service. Thinks he knows Greek. Not interested in maturing, just debate. Wolf rating: 3."
"This site is our advance warning system," says pastor Jeff Wheeler of Green Valley Baptist. "It's long overdue."
WolfWarning was started in 2006 by a pastor in Corvallis, Ore., who was tired of seeing troublesome Christians bounce from one church to another, causing the same types of problems. The website now has local chapters in 112 cities.

"When pastors hear about this, they latch on real quick," says the founder.
WolfWarning is restricted to members and is full of dossier-like "files" on people who've been identified by a pastor as a wolf. The pastor gives that person a "wolf rating" to indicate how troublesome he or she was. A rating of 1 or 2 means a minor annoyance; 9 and 10 mean a bona fide church-splitter.
Premium members get an alert each time a new wolf is posted.
"It can be addictive," says one pastor who slips out during Sunday morning worship if he sees someone in the audience he suspects of being on WolfWarning.
A perusal of WolfWarning files finds comments that range from "Distracting, flamboyant worship style," to "Always complains, never volunteers," to the more serious "Tries to seduce lonely single mothers." A typical post from January reads, "She prophesies in a harrowing wail, usually at end of worship time. Accuses pastor of quenching spirit if stopped. Wolf rating: 5."

A pastor in Austin recently changed his sermon because he recognized someone from WolfWarning in the pew on Sunday morning. The "wolf" reportedly would join a small group and take over discussions to preach his own version of the prosperity message. The pastor remarked during his sermon that anyone who spoke more than 3 minutes total in their small group meeting was "probably full of pride." He encouraged people to set an egg timer to keep people from going over time.
"That guy never came back to our church," he says. "WolfWarning helped me protect my flock."
Pastors who belong to the growing WolfWarning community adhere to a code of ethics that includes "no ax-grinding," and "no posting until you have honestly tried to shepherd this person for 6 months, or until they leave."

But some don't like the idea of casting aspersions. A pastor in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., refused to join WolfWarning because he thought "it was no way to treat sheep." But within 8 months all the troublemakers in town ended up at his church. He joined WolfWarning and was "golblasted" at how many wolves he recognized.
"I thought we were struggling because I was unspiritual or lazy," he says. "Now I realize I'd created a wolf magnet."
He quickly became the most active member of his local WolfWarning chapter.
"It gave me a new confidence in ministry," he says.

When "wolf" Brent Libby visited Jeff Wheeler of Green Valley Baptist to niggle over a theological point, Wheeler cut to the chase and told Libby he'd been warned about his argumentative spirit. Libby was stunned and angry, but has since reformed. He now debates his ideas in national online chat rooms so not to poison local relationships. He also lobbied to have his file removed from WolfWarning.
"I'm practicing positive behavior," he says. "They've already lowered my wolf rating to 1."