Monday, January 31, 2011

Beware of Churches....

It's Monday and I have tried to keep my promise and resolution of writing on each Monday. Somewhere along the way I'm sure I'll miss or perhaps won't have anything to say. Thus far, however, I've had something creep into my feeble little mind and I'll write it down (which is something I've not done in the past) and write about it each Monday. I'm now five for five.
My thought for the week involves being wary of certain kinds of churches. Through my lifetime I have seen large and small, conservative and liberal, college churches and community churches and whatever kinds of churches you want to see. I've seen lives destroyed and hearts broken by churches. All too frequently I have seen churches be almost less spiritual than the world around them. So hence comes this blog.

Beware of churches that have all the answers. In some ways it would be nice to be able to go to a little instruction book that gives specific instructions on each situation in life. Some may say we have that in the Bible. I agree to some extent, but God in His wisdom left things seemingly ambiguous. Oh, I know there are some "Thou shalts" and "Thou shalt nots." But when asked for the greatest command, Jesus said to love God with everything you have. How do you do that? I don't know. And churches that tell you how to do that really don't know either. I'm not calling for a situation ethics lifestyle. But I am saying, sometimes we just have to love God and do the best we can.

Beware of churches that don't know about grace. Perhaps I should say that don't practice grace. We use grace as a tool, as a leverage. Grace makes us uncomfortable...and it probably should. But I would rather sin on the side of grace than to destroy someone who may be trying, but I have no clue what their motive is. "But what about justice?," some may ask. Personally, I'll leave that one up to God who is far better at it than I am.

Beware of churches that don't know how to weep. Actually, my feeling is, we're pretty good at weeping. But there are a few out there who still have the old "don't let them see your tears" mentality. Jesus was called a Man of Sorrows. After all, didn't Jesus weep? I read where He cried over Jerusalem. Perhaps we should be a church that cries more over the lostness of the world.

Beware of churches that don't know how to laugh. I read an article the other day where a gentleman complained that people were laughing during someone's baptism. He complained that there was a solemnity that wasn't being observed. I'm sorry this brother doesn't understand the wonder of laughter. Doesn't Scripture say that even the angels rejoice when one is saved? Didn't Jesus have a sense of humor? How can you not laugh when He tells the story of the man with a 2 X 4 in his eye trying to remove the speck out of another's eye? Laughing is healthy. Smiles are a lot more inviting than frowns.

Beware of churches that don't know how to worship. We're getting better at this. And I have to admit, I need some work on this myself. For too long we have stood in our pews looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us. We haven't shared our worship together. It hasn't been a joyful time. It hasn't been a time of shared remembrance or celebration. We've gone through the motions for too long thinking that God is pleased. Worship is individual. Worship is corporate. When my daughter was little I would love to come home from work. When I walked in the door she would begin jumping up and down and shouting, "Daddy!! Daddy!! Daddy's home!!! Daddy's home!!!" She would run up and hug me and cling to me. Now was that wrong? No, just a child's heart wanting to be with her Father. Which brings me to the next one.

Beware of churches that don't love kids. You can tell what kind of church you have by seeing how the children are viewed. Are they treated with special care or are they are necessary nuisance? Do they have a prominent place in your worship or do we try to keep them silent? Jesus Himself told us that we should be like little children.

Beware of churches that don't love old folks. Once again, do we treasure these saints or do we brush them aside? How do we treat these precious ones who more than occasionally closer to their reward than the rest of us? Shouldn't we honor their white hair? Shouldn't we listen to their wisdom? Shouldn't we help them as they are absorbed into the universe of God's heaven?

Well, these are just a few things that came to my mind. I'm sure there are others. If you have some others, just comment. I would love to hear from you. Have a great day! JW

Monday, January 24, 2011

God is not Doctrine

I was reading a little C. S. Lewis the other day (What I can understand of him is excellent!) and he made a statement that caught my eye. He said, "Doctrines are not God." I stopped and highlighted that statement because I think it hits a nerve.
We in the Lord's church today have made doctrine God. And contrary to popular belief, the "change agents" (I really don't like that term. What the term means is someone with whom I don't agree with. That's usually what change agents mean.) that are out there do not want to throw doctrine out the window. But in many cases, our doctrine has become the most important thing. "Don't tell me what God is about," "Don't explain to me about God's grace." Just tell me what to do and I'll do it. I'll condemn others for not doing it and I'll beat them over the head with my doctrine."
Wow, that is so unlike my Father. Yet, that is what, I'm afraid, many in the church see in God. There are so many passages that talk about knowing God and loving God. God is love. God is realtionship. God is justice, yes, but He provides our way to know Him better. I prefer the latter to the former. Just a few words for thought. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Monday, January 17, 2011

Prohibition or Freedom?

I've often said that we could answer most if not all of our church questions if one little conundrum were settled. Silence of the Scriptures; does it mean prohibition or freedom? Really, you can't have it both ways. That's what happens to most of my friends who believe that it means prohibition.
For example, they may place restrictions on some things in worship, but allow worship leaders, church buildings, song books, church vans, or many other things that we use. (I know we don't use church vans in corporate worship. I just threw that in for fun. But I think you see what I'm saying.) Now if silence means restriction, then how can we justify these preceding things that we so readily use? Expedience. That's the words my friends use to justify the use of unlisted items. So how can we pick and choose?
May I give an example that God allows some things that aren't necessarily mentioned in Scripture? If you read about Jesus' life on this earth, note where He went to teach. Most of the Gospels use a phrase such as, "as was his custom...." He went to the synagogue. Where do you find the synagogue in the Scripture? Where is the authorization? It's not in the Old Testament. It's not in the New Testament. We first read about it there in the first four books of the New Testament. When Paul went on his missionary journeys, where did he go? He first went to the synagogues. The synagogues developed in the 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament. They are not authorized places of worship, yet we find Jesus going there....and never saying anything about them. With that, He gave tacit approval.
Now, in the age we live in now, wouldn't the same be true? I'm not calling for "anything goes" because I think you can get a general feeling by reading the New Testament what is appropriate or not. But there is a freedom that is given to us that comes from silence of the Scriptures.
Now, I'm sure there are those who would not agree with me. That's all right. These are just my thoughts and this is my blog. But I would appreciate your consideration. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Monday, January 10, 2011

He Shows Up

I was reading John's version of Jesus' resurrection and something caught my eye. Mary Magdelene went to the tomb and noticed that the stone had been removed. Peter and John run to the tomb and look in. Even though they noted that Jesus wasn't there and believed that He had risen, they left. Verse 10 of Chapter 20 says, "Then the disciples went back to their homes." Peter was never one known for his patience. I don't know about John. But it was a kind of "we've seen all we can see here" mentality and they left.

Mary on the other hand hung around and was weeping. Jesus showed up. She didn't know it was Him and she thought He was the gardener. All Jesus had to do was to say her name. "Mary." What a moment! What joy must have run through her bones at the moment. Fact is, had Peter and John hung around, they would have seen Him, too. Instead, a little while later, they were locked in a room when Jesus showed up to them.

I wonder how many of us become impatient, wanting to see Jesus right there and they way we want and envision the way He should show up. We wait a minute or two and then leave, missing the entire visitation. I wonder how many times Jesus has shown up in our lives and we either didn't see Him or we left before He came. Patience is not one of our virtues. The culture of now seems to have overtaken us. It happened again with the gentlemen on the road to Emmaus. In that case, He was with them and they didn't notice. May we never become so involved, so faithless, so impatient, that we won't wait long enough to see our Lord.

Dear Lord, forgive our crowded lives. Help us just to wait, to be still, to slow down and wait for your appearing. Open our eyes that we may see you in the little moments as well as the big ones. Give us the sense to know it's You. In Jesus name, Amen. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Papa White

I have been lax in blogging over the last year. So, I've decided to write more this year (One of my New Year's resolutions!). I realize that people who used to read this blog have quit looking to see if I written anything. So it will take time to build the readership back up. But I'm willing to do it. Once a week, at least, I'll write something. Sometimes it will be personal. Other times it won't. But I always hope you will enjoy the words.

Probably the biggest event in my life this year (yeah, already!) is the birth of my first grandson....Landry James Johnston. He was born yesterday, January 3, 2011. He was 7 lbs. 13 oz and 20 3/4 inches long. Everyone is doing well. I am proud of my daughter and son-in-law because they were wonderful during this process. And although they're moving away in March or April, they are going to be great parents.

I can't describe the first time I walked in the room just minutes after he was born. My daugther was holding her new son, "This is Landry," she said. I looked at her tired face, weary from childbirth, elated at this new stage in her life, and tears in her eyes. What is it that God built into women? That maternal instinct that is so tender, so wonderful to behold and so hard to describe. And I saw it in my wife as she set about to her grandmotherly duties. Smiling, cuddling, cooing, protecting. It truly is a joy to watch and experience.

I thought about the future. What a strange bookend of events. My first grandson was born on Monday and I go to my urologist for my cancer checkup on Friday. (By the way, everything is fine and I expect this check up to be good also. This is just the six month check up after my prostate surgery). This morning I thought of Travis and Meredith and I wished for them the same feeling I had when I saw my first grandson. I wish for them the same when they seen their first grandchild. I won't be around for that one probably. But that's all right. My goal, my job is to pass it on. Pass on the faith. Pass on the trust in the One and Only. I've already sung "Jesus Loves Me" to Landry. Maybe that's why he cried....But I want to be there for him to pass it on.

Wow! What an experience and what a jumbled mass of words. But you have to understand, I just became a grandfather for the very first time. Well, I can't wait to get out there to see him. I hope your day is as good as mine. JW Happy New Year!