|Don't Blame God|
#011, January 1999
As I was finishing up my previous Sharing, I ran across the following item I had cut out, about 10 years ago, and placed into one of my prayer room books I use for daily reading/meditation. It is entitled DON'T BLAME GOD by Leslie G. Thomas, and was apparently from something called the Sword & Staff (don't know if that's a book, newsletter, or what). Anyway, it tied in so well with both my previous and this Sharing, I thought I'd start off with it.
"Let us suppose that an evangelist comes to our community to conduct a religious meeting and proceeds as follows: At the first service he preaches that salvation is by faith only, but at the next one he contends that it is by faith exercised in obedience to the gospel, rather than by faith alone. At the third service he declares that either sprinkling, pouring or immersion is baptism, but at the fourth service he plainly shows that immersion is baptism. At the fifth service he tells the people they ought to baptize their babies, but at the sixth service he says that penitent believers are the only spiritual subjects of baptism. At the seventh service he preaches once in grace, always in grace; but at the eighth he tells people that it is possible for them to fall from grace, that some have fallen, and that the Bible tells how to keep from falling. At the ninth service he teaches that it is all right to have human creeds, but at the tenth he declares that we should take the Bible as our only guide in religion.
No thoughtful person would continue to listen to ONE preacher preach like that, but the majority of people are perfectly willing for TEN preachers to preach these conflicting ideas. They say that if one man should preach that way he would contradict himself and be inconsistent, but what kind of a God do they suppose we have if He endorses all these conflicting doctrines and has sent out these preachers to preach them?"
In the same prayer room book as DON'T BLAME GOD was a description of Jesus which I had cut out from somewhere about the same time. In part it goes as follows:
"He was born contrary to the laws of nature, was reared in obscurity and lived in poverty; only once did he ever cross the boundaries of his own small country; he had no wealth or influence, training or education and his parents knew nothing of the niceties of social tradition. In infancy, he startled a king, in boyhood, puzzled the wise; in manhood, ruled the course of nature. He healed the multitudes without medicine, and made no charges for his services. He never wrote a book, yet all the libraries of the world could not contain all the books that could be written about him. He never wrote a song, and yet has provided the themes for more songs than all earthly writers combined. He never founded a college, yet all the schools of earth have not had the students that sat at his feet. He never practiced medicine, yet he has healed more broken hearts that the world has ever taken note of. He never marshaled an army, never drafted a soldier, or fired a gun, yet no leader has ever had the volunteers, who, under his orders, made rebels stack arms and surrender to his command, never firing a shot."
These two items stand in stark contrast to one another for me. It is the reason I spend most of my time with Scripture in the four Gospels. What did Jesus say? What did he do? How did he respond to challenges? It is why I recommend beginning Bible readers to start there. Preferably in a Bible that has Jesus words in red type, so you can focus on them. It is why the central christian life programs question remains "what would Jesus do?
(My poem "Feelings Are Always Valid" was included as a part of this newsletter)
"You have much more power when you are working for the right thing than when you are working against the wrong thing. And of course if the right thing is established, the wrong thing will fade away of its own accord because all things that are not in harmony contain within themselves the seeds of their own destruction." - Peace Pilgrim
"ANY FOOL CAN CRITICIZE, CONDEMN
AND COMPLAIN AND MOST FOOLS DO . . . . .
Last time (a mere six months ago, don’t you remember?) I mentioned I would try to share a little history and insight about christian life programs in this issue. It is the third aspect (of the primary seven) of a touch of william to have come into being. I added it in 1992. But, for the life of me, I cannot remember if I did it primarily as a pro-active choice or reactive, as a way to identify specifically Christian materials, when I was criticized about some of the materials here.
clp is what I refer to as a focused mission. It fits into the broader mission statement of atow but has its own more specialized purpose, which is to help Christians live what they say they believe. It is important to note that this does not mean telling them what to believe. I sometimes need to point out to those who want to argue that I did not name it "Christian Theological Institute" on purpose. The point is to help live, not debate. I try to accomplish this primarily with the support materials at the Center, and on occasion, personal counsel. Those who promote secular ways are bombarding us daily with materialistic, selfish (look out for no.1), and egotistical ways of looking at things. One visit (to a church) a week is not going to combat 6 days and 22 hours of worldly viewpoints all by itself. Hopefully, christian life programs can, in some small way, help keep Christ’s message available for encouragement all week long.
Just like the poet’s circle, clp has gone through some door testing before coming back to where it is today. For a brief period it was separated out from atow, and filed as a non-profit corporation, by those who felt God was leading in that direction. When that did not gel, I brought it back under the a touch of william umbrella (without being a corporation). Sometimes I get concerned that using the term christian life sets up too many preconceived ideas in different peoples minds about what the Center should be. But Jesus is the central focus here, and living what I say I believe is the challenge. So, along with the Sharing in Christ signs on the sides of the building, christain life programs is likely here for the duration.
a related perspective from the book In God’s Care
"Self-interest is trendy. Many children are raised to believe that they should put themselves first. They get various messages throughout their growing years, such as ‘Look out for number one,’ and ‘If you don’t toot your own horn, nobody else will.’ We are surrounded by commercial appeals that urge us to indulge ourselves, to yield to our urges. Selfishness is quite respectable, but deadly.
With so much media emphasis on ‘self,’ it’s easy to forget that selfishness is the root of unhappiness. Focusing on getting all we want leads to the conclusion that we’re not getting what’s coming to us, therefore stunting our spiritual growth. God will provide, but we can’t hear what God wants for us over the din of our demands."
From "Parent Talk" letter July 7, 1998
Jennifer was a cheerful, almost five-year-old girl with bouncy golden curls. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand she saw them – a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box. "Oh please, Mommy, can I have them? Please, Mommy – PLEASE!!" Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl’s upturned face. "$1.95. That’s almost two dollars. If you really want them, I’ll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from your Grandma."
As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her piggy bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and ask Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace. Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere – Sunday School, Kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.
Jenny had a very loving daddy, and every night when she was ready for bed he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night, when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?"
"Oh, yes, Daddy – you know that I love you."
"Then give me your pearls."
"Oh, Daddy – not my pearls ... but you can have Princess, the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me – she’s my favorite."
"That’s okay, honey. Daddy loves you. Good night." And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.
About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, "Do you love me?"
"Oh, yes Daddy — you know that I love you."
"Then give me your pearls."
"Oh, Daddy — not my pearls ... but you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper."
"That’s okay. Sleep well, little one. Daddy loves you." As always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.
A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.
"What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?"
Jenny didn’t say anything, but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, "Here, Daddy, it’s for you."
With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace and with the other hand, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.
So like our Heavenly Father.
WHAT ARE YOU HANGING ONTO?
The one thing I seem to be able to count on around here is constant change. I closed the booth at the Mega Mall in September, and by the time you read this I will have closed the Grapevine booth as well. I have to assume whatever purpose there was in being led to do them has been accomplished. Contributions have dropped significantly and they became too costly to maintain.
I probably kept them a little longer than I should have based on available resources, but eventually the choice became clear. If you are looking for something that was in one of these booths, most items have been absorbed into Cherokee Bill’s Trade Center here.
Also by the time you read this, Donna and I should be totally debt free. No mortgage. No car payments. No credit cards, or installment loans of any kind.
Just wanted you to know that I live what I preach. And it truly does make life simpler. How did it happen? It started with prayer several years ago, followed by the necessary choices, as God indicated the way, to allow it to occur.
This leads me right into the next item taken from a Lutheran daily meditations book a few years ago.
Bell the Cat
"A little girl once said, ‘We always had a lot of birds in our yard, and they would sing ever so pretty. But then we got this cat and it scared the birds away. Caught and ate some, too! I worried about the little birds. I didn’t know what to do to save them. I asked mommy and she said maybe I should pray for them. So I did. I prayed. I prayed real hard to God to save the little birds. Then I said ‘Amen’ and went outside and tied a bell on the cat.’ What sort of persons should we be? Holy and godly. That means prayerful persons. But real prayer says ‘Amen’ and then ties a bell on the cat."
Is it time for your actions to
line up with your prayers?
Within all people there is every power and capacity needed for full and interesting living. When they discover this and set about developing and calling forth these powers, they have no further desire for any of the more superficial things of life.
- Daily Word
From "Christ in Our Home"
"A story is told about an Indian who was very poor, but who was filled with the wonder of Jesus’ love. When the offering plate was passed, he said, ‘Put it down a little lower.’ When it descended, he said, ‘Still lower,’ until it rested on the floor. Then he stepped into it, giving his whole self."
..... "As He began to feel the awful weight of the approaching Atonement, Jesus acknowledged, ‘For this cause came I into the world’ (John 18:37). We too, brothers and sisters, came ‘into the world’ to pass through our particularized portions of the mortal experience. Even though our experiences do not even begin to approach our Master’s, nevertheless, to undergo this mortal experience is why we too are here! Purposefully pursuing this ‘cause’ brings ultimate meaning to our mortal lives. And we are greatly helped if we enter with faith that pavilion of perspective – the plan of salvation. Then the search for meaning is ended, even though further and resplendent discoveries await us. Alas, as Church members we sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry point .....
..... even when you and I do place something on the altar, we sometimes hang around as if waiting for a receipt .....
..... the Lord of the Universe lived modestly as a person ‘of no reputation.’ Christ ‘constructed’ the universe, yet in little Galilee He was known merely as ‘the carpenter’s son.’ You and I, when impacted by lesser irony, are so much more brittle, often forgetting that some tests by their very nature are unfair, especially when crusty irony is present .....
..... Strange as it seems, we sometimes respond better to larger challenges than to the incessant small ones. For example, impatience with a spouse may occur while a more public challenge is managed quite well. One can be sincerely grateful for his major blessings but regularly murmur over minor irritations. One can have humility that is hierarchical: being humble up, but not humble down. Enduring large tests while failing the seemingly small quizzes just won’t do. Such shortcomings must be addressed if we are really serious about becoming more like Jesus."
"How do we know if we have progressed from the ‘eye for an eye’ mentality and accepted His gospel to forgive and love one another? How we treat our family members, our neighbors, business associates, and all we meet will reveal if we have taken up His name upon us and do always remember Him."
- Elder Robert D Hales
..... "I couldn’t understand why the Church in Acts was so much more powerful than the Church today. Of course, I’d heard the religious explanations, religious ideas like, ‘Well, Brother, the early Church just needed more power than we do now...’ or ‘Miracles passed away with the first apostles...’ But, frankly, I just couldn’t accept such theories.
After all, the Bible doesn’t say anything about an ‘early’ or ‘late’ Church. It doesn’t say anything about a point in time when one of the apostles stood up and said, ‘If anybody’s going to get healed they’d better do it today because tomorrow healing passes away. After midnight there won’t be any more miracles because that’s when the late Church starts!’
The very thought of such a thing is ridiculous. What’s more, it doesn’t make scriptural sense because apostles (early or late) weren’t the ones who generated the power to work miracles .....
..... Since Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, there’s no biblical reason why the Church today shouldn’t function just as powerfully as it did in the book of Acts."
The article goes on to propose that the reason for the disparity is that the message being preached today has become a watered down version of the original one. And, that we rarely emphasize the powerful "anointed" definition embodied in the word "Christ." That rather than focusing on Jesus as THE CHRIST, "western believers have ignorantly used the word Christ as if it were Jesus’ last name. We’ve used it as a religious title." ( July/August 1996, begins on page 5)
Some Cute Poster Quotes
(Above a picture of Jesus ascending to heaven)
"In an era of corporate restructuring try an organization where top management hasn’t changed in 2000 years."
(Above a picture of a man surrounded by lions.
"Contrary to conventional wisdom, stress is not a 20th century phenomenon."
A NATIVE AMERICAN VIEW
"(Chief) Joseph (Heinmot Tooyalaket) replied that the Nez Perces did not want the white man’s schools.
‘Why do you not want schools?’ the commissioner asked
‘They will teach us to have churches,’ Joseph answered
‘Do you not want churches?’
‘No, we do not want churches.’
‘Why do you not want churches?’
‘They will teach us to quarrel about God,’ Joseph said.
‘We do not want to learn that. We may quarrel with men sometimes about things on this earth, but we never quarrel about God. We do not want to learn that.’"
More General Info
Several of you have commented you enjoy receiving this newsletter, and asked why it does not come more often. One reason is the amount of time it takes, of course. But the primary consideration is financial. It has to wait until the regular bills are paid before I see if there are any funds left for the extra stamps, etc. What usually happens, is I decide after several months to go ahead and do one anyway, then try to squeeze out the funds somehow.
I’ll tell you what I would be interested in knowing. Is, how many of you actually read this far into the newsletter. So, let’s do a test. Let me know if you would please. A quick call to my answering machine (517) 627-7366, at your convenience, with the message "I read to page 7," and your name will give me an idea if I am making these newsletters too long.
I’ve enclosed a copy of the a touch of william brochure. A couple of suicides, of friends, or acquaintances of theirs, prompted comments from some members, that they wished the person had had the opportunity to talk with me, and visit the center. This brochure is for you to give away when you want to encourage someone to avail themselves of the resources here. Keep in mind though, I am not a licensed counselor. However, sometimes it helps to see somebody doing things differently, who’s been through many of the trials and similar emotions.
You will also find a "Request Card" enclosed. This is for your use. It’s pretty much self-explanatory. It might be helpful though, if you use the last option on the card, to circle whether it is a prayer request, question, comment, or other request, which you have placed on the back.
Special note: You DO NOT need to include your name for a prayer request if for some reason you wish anonymity.
Happenings in Our Country
I usually steer clear of political commentary. I typically see some validity, or thought worthiness, on each side of a political debate. But I do see something happening that concerns me.
We live in a democracy. It’s a good way to live. Yet, there are also some great dangers to a system of self-government. One of them is we can come to arrogantly believe that if a majority of us agree on something it automatically becomes right, or best, or truth. Media polls and TV are not the place to conduct trials. Truth is not subject to a popular consensus. Our history is filled with examples of bad choices that were either OK with, or ignored, by the majority of people.
We battle for our point of view, as if it will most certainly be proven right if more people agree with it than any other. Not necessarily so!
If we took a poll, or a vote, that said most people would like the sun to rise in the west, and set in the east, would the earth change it’s rotation to coincide with popular opinion? Ridiculous example, you say? I suggest it is not any more absurd than thinking God will change His moral or spiritual laws because most of us decide He should. Or, if we just choose to ignore them.
Recently we dropped OUR weapons of mass destruction on people, to prevent them from developing and using weapons of mass destruction. To me this is no different than the logic used by someone who murders an abortion doctor in the name of "right to life." It’s a dangerous path at best. And more probably, evil.
Now before some of you, whose personalities I know well, start to get all excited about this and the couple of items on the last pages, I do not claim to be the holder of absolute truth. But I see us getting very reckless in this country, on many different fronts. We would do well to pause and think before we decide to take over for God.
I’m not going to comment directly on the Clinton stuff, and Kevorkian on TV. I’ve included instead one article, and one excerpt from an article, which I thought raised a number of points worthy of consideration. Both were written before Clinton was impeached. The excerpt is from an article, by William J Bennett, in the January issue of Focus On The Family magazine starting on page 10. See what you think.
A Theory of Mine
I’ve taken the same viewpoint (as in the previous article) into the churches. It is not uncommon to hear people respond, "that’s the way we’ve always done it," or, "I have no problem with the way we’ve been doing this," when challenged to show Scriptural justification (the Bible is suppose to still have some input there) for the way something is done. My response is, "I know you don’t have a problem with it, but my question is, does God?" (Questions like this tend not to make me the most popular guy around.)
This newsletter has had several articles about the diverse viewpoints within Christianity, let alone if you were to include all the other religions, and then add science, and plain old common sense.
Is this OK with God? I have this theory that it is. I suspect that what God really wants is a very personal, faith based, relationship with each of us. Faith in Him. Not in science or religion. If science could prove God, or even just some of the Bible’s stories, many people would believe. But, it would be because of their faith in science. If all religions agreed, most of us would join, but it would be because of our faith in the majority, which translated into a faith in religion. But, those are not faith IN GOD. Personal. Up close. One on One. I think that’s where HE wants us.
Science serves it’s purpose. So does religion. I think both should have a place in our lives. But only God fills that place within us where God’s suppose to be. Open that door. I think you’ll find Him home.
In Christ’s love and mine,