Tag Archive: Church


I’m turning 60 years old this year.  I’m not sure how I got this old.  Just yesterday I was 45.  It seems like yesterday we moved to South Carolina.  Fourteen years later and it seems like yesterday the moving van pulled up.  It took some time.  Baltimore is no longer home.  Bluffton is home.  It helps when the grandkids live right around the corner. Such transitions take time.  I don’t know where the last 14 years have gone.  

Since I can now live in Sun City (I don’t), and I’m entering my sixties, I decided to write to the older generations.  Just today I got a chance to talk to a 21 year old.  He was so young.  My kids are in their late 30’s.  Having a chance to engage a kid was energizing for sure.  In many aspects his life is drastically different than my world.  He doesn’t know life without a cell phone.  I remember days we worried about the influence of television.  He doesn’t even watch it.  He watches his cell phone.  

Recently, I was in a meeting with two different generations.  One of the older men sat and listened for the entire hour.  He didn’t say a word.  As we left, one of the young guys referred to his silence.  He replied, “I’m listening and learning.”  What was he learning?  He was learning about the conflicts and challenges the young guys face.  He was learning there was a lot he did not know.  So he listened.

More and more, especially in the church, the older generation (Baby Boomers) are becoming detached from the technologically infused younger generations.  The detachment means the kids don’t call.  It means if the Boomers don’t engage the Internet, more than likely they won’t be in communication with their grandkids.  Last week I Face-Timed my mother who lives in West Virginia.  She found it amazing to see her youngest son some 650 miles away.  For the first time in a long time, she didn’t ask when we were going to stop by.  The technology might be scary for us old guys, but it’s quite amazing.  

We like to blame the younger generations for the detachment.  It’s not their fault.  It’s nobody’s fault.  Let’s be truthful.  It’s hard enough to maintain the relationships right in from of us much less keeping the long distance ones going.  Some of the detachment is distance.  We blame them for not staying in contact.  They blame us for moving away.  Meanwhile, we refuse to learn the new technology that can connect us with them on the other side of the world.  

On top of distance, there are the cultural influences that separate us.  I still hear the Boomers complaining about no prayer in school.  I hate to say it, but that bus left the station a long time ago, and it’s not coming back.  Today, my grandkids have to figure out transgenders, as well as the broken family unit.  Often they have to do so on their own.  

Meanwhile, our generation complains that the younger generation is selfish and egocentric.  We must be honest.  We are just as bad, if not worse.  When the Bible talks about thinking about others more than ourselves and we don’t apply it to our children and grandchildren, we are the selfish and narcissistic ones.  When we demand they respond to us when we played our part in the failed relationship, we violate the basics of Jesus’ words about loving our neighbor, which means laying down our life for their sake of our neighbor.  We fail to understand that our kids are Biblically defined as our neighbor.  We don’t know them.  It’s long over due to stop blaming anybody and start listening. Listening to learn and to know.

We are studying the Psalms on Sunday during the education hour.  I have been reminded that Psalms say a lot about generational relationships.  It doesn’t surprise me that our generation only knows Bible passages that point fingers at our kids.  Psalms 71 says we have a responsibility to proclaim the power of God and his marvelous deeds to the next generation.  Somehow, we replaced God.  We declare our deeds – we think we are the greatest generation.  No wonder they quit listening.  

 In Psalm 78 Asaph asks God to have their children set their hope in God and not be like their fathers who are a stubborn and rebellious generation whose heart was not faithful to God.  Faithfulness is not defined by church attendance.  It’s defined by loving God and loving others.  Anybody notice that Jesus loved others by listening first and responding second?

Psalm 145 repeats Psalm 71.  Instead of talking about us and pointing fingers at them we are to declare the work of our Lord. What is the work of the Lord?  He loved us.  With that love he moves us to love others not just ourselves.  

Maybe we exasperated our children (Ephesians 5).  There is only one act of love to redeem our relationships with our kids.  Ask for forgiveness.  By laying our lives down we will then be considered the greatest generation.  

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This past week I traveled to Wake Forest, NC for training.  Honestly, I hate driving long distances.  It bores me to tears.  I used to like it.  Things change.  Anyway, as I drove up and down the road my mind began to race.  When it races anything is possible.  

I became transfixed on the idea that my trip resembles society.  Here I was driving past towns, through cities with all sorts of people around me.  I had a general idea where I was at all times.  There were places that stood out.  How can anyone miss South of The Border?  The billboards are so silly yet so funny.  I wonder how many of us have stopped just to check it out.  I bet it’s more than most want to admit.  

Driving up and down the road is no different than living in my neighborhood and even going to church.  We all whiz through our daily lives passing people on the left and on the right.  When we slow down a little bit, people pass us without looking back.  We know where we are.  We stop and look at things, especially those that get our attention ,just like South of the Border.  However, we seldom have the time to talk with anybody.  If we can’t talk with anyone, we don’t have the chance to know them.  They don’t get to know me either.

Just about every person I have counseled, including many teenagers, somewhere along the line talks about being lonely.  Some have more friends than anyone can count.  Some are involved in everything under the sun.  They run from one event to the other with little chance to catch their breath.  Surrounded by a great crowd, they declare loneliness.  How is this possible?  It’s very possible.  Being known and knowing someone is not a priority to anyone.  Yet it’s something that is a necessity for a healthy and intuitive life.  Left on our own is not a good place to be.  We grow when we engage others.  The biggest thing we grow in is grace and love.  They are attributes that need personal engagement.  

I can understand why hurt and discouraged people leave the church scene.  I don’t believe it is good, but I get it.  What good is time spent attending if the people are no different than those driving to the next event up I-95?  We see them.  We might even follow them for a while like I followed a driver for about 75 miles.  We were driving in tandem, following the same tract and going the same speed.  We acknowledged each other with a nod of the head and a slight wave at times.  But he got off an exit where I was not headed, and our relationship ended.  All we had was a nod and a wave.  

At church we are often in a hurry to get somewhere and only get a nod and a handshake.  I heard of a gentleman who was trying out a church his friend attended.  He liked the church and reported that it really was a nice place.  However, for 6 weeks he stood in the narthex or vestibule (hallway for non-church goers) and shook all sorts of hands.  In those 6 weeks nobody invited him to their house, out to lunch, or even to invite him to grab a donut and cup of coffee in the fellowship hall.  Like he said, “the church was friendly but not too warm.”  They were in a hurry to get to the next thing on the schedule.  Off the exit they went.

Jesus was constantly on the road.  He walked roads and crossed seas in boats.  As I look into the gospels, I see Jesus stopping to engage people.  Many were people that most avoided.  They were outcasts in their society.  Unclean and untouchable.  But Jesus stopped to engage them.  He asked them questions.  He touched their lives.  He knew their names, and he knew their story, and he still stopped.  

In today’s world I’m convinced more than ever the Children of God must purpose to stop and touch those God puts in their path.  Leave living like your home is in the fast lane of I-16 headed to Atlanta.  Those in our culture are done with the church that invites them in and leaves them to fend for themselves.  They’re also done with people who say they love, only to be abandoned.  

Too late in life I get it that the gospel is for the ones I used to avoid in life.  I get it now that the idea of Jesus to make me bigger and better is a false gospel.  John the Baptist had it right when he declared, “He must increase and I must decrease.”  It’s not our nature unless we stop and look to the one who laid his life down to engage us with his love.  

When we sinned, the first recorded words of God to man are found in the first book of the Bible, Genesis.  God asked a very interesting question.  He asked, “Where are you?”  That question is very applicable today.  Where are we?  We tend to be either head down, forward ho, or we have our heads up, looking to touch those in need with the love and grace of Jesus.  The person who needs our touch is probably right in front of us. 

He was on his knee declaring his love for her.  “I would do anything for you,” he declared.  Of course his plea was followed up with “I love you.  You know I do.”  He knew the words.  He knew her weak point.  She was caving and he knew it.

Of course his words were all lies.  He would not do anything.  He didn’t love her.  He loved himself.  He was lying to her.  Not only was he lying with his spoken words, he was lying by omission as well.  Only later when more information sneaked out behind the curtain of manipulation and deception would she realize its often not the words one says that are important.  It’s the words they don’t say.  

Our world is full of lies.  We often wonder what has happened to the younger generations.  What happened?  Just about every aspect of life lied to them.  Moms and Dads said their family was built on love, only to have it all crumble when one of them declares they want a divorce.  The politicians lie constantly, and we reelect the liars over and over again.  They declare what they are going to do and stand for, only to compromise when money, ego, and reputation stand in the way.  Education not only has failed; it has lied as well.  “Get a college degree,” they claim, only to find out four years later their major was obsolete.  

Recently, I have run into 3 college graduates, all whom I encouraged to get a college degree.  They were working low paying jobs, hating life, and wondering where they went wrong.  A college degree did nothing for them. The market was saturated within their field.  All they are told is “Good luck.”  

Parents have lied.  The government lied.  The schools lied.  The only thing left is the church.  With sadness in my heart, I must admit, “We lied too.”  

Right now I’m reading a book titled, Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe by Larry Osborne.  He did an excellent job explaining the 10 points.  He was right.  We believe things we were taught to be true.  Open the Bible.  Study it (just don’t read it). It won’t take extremely long to find the 10 points.  Basically, we lied to sell a happy Jesus to a culture that doesn’t want a Jesus who says things that are tough to swallow at times.  We also put man in the center of our circle instead of Jesus.  When we do that, it is easy to manipulate the meaning of certain Scripture to be what we want it to be instead of becoming the people God wants us to be.  It doesn’t take much.  

On a missions trip, we became engaged with some Muslims.  Nobody pulled out a gun.  We had very meaningful interactions.  I was actually asked to convert to Islam.  The reasoning; “We believe in the same God,” the learned man declared.  “Instead of us becoming a Christian, you become a Muslim,” made sense to him.  As we debated his statement, one thing became clear.  He knew the Bible better than 95% of Christians I know.  Of course, if basically all we do is have a 5 minute devotional and attend on Sunday mornings for the preachers sermon, we are not going to “know” the Bible.  Truthfully, I’m not sure many can catch when a preacher drifts off of Biblical truth at any given time.  It’s easy to sway the unlearned.  Just ask the politicians; they are experts.  

A friend once said in a group meeting he feared that he has been lied to as a believer.  I didn’t have the heart to declare he probably has been.  The lie I bought hook, line and sinker was the idea that if I believe in Jesus, everything comes out o.k.  I’ve heard it preached.  I’ve been taught it.  Just obey and watch your life get better.  Tow the line, and, how does that one song go, …”everything will be o.k.”  Not true at all.  

Some days I wonder what has made me stay in the faith.  Why don’t I get out of church work and go back in the business world?  For some reason I can’t.  

Belief in Jesus is not about what I get.  It’s not about having hell insurance.  It’s not about quoting misapplied and out of context Bible verses to give me or anyone else hope.  Belief in Jesus as the Son of God is based on it being true.  That is the bottom line.  

It is the issue that was common through out the gospels.  Everyone loved the good and cool things Jesus did and said.  Till he declared, “I and the Father are one.”  They ran for the hills and crucified him.  Little did they know he would rise again.  Is this true?  If it isn’t ,anyone declaring Christ has been lied to once again.

Is it true?  Only you can answer that one.  If it is true, it’s a life changer.  Literally.  A friend of mine who never read the Bible was given one in college.  He was encouraged to read the book of John.  He did.  His roommate asked him what he thought.  He replied, “If this is true, I’m screwed.”  Well, he wasn’t, as he determined under careful analysis that indeed the declarations and work of Jesus were true.  Hold on to that one.  It’s all we need.  Don’t worry about changing your life; it will.  Jesus declared it, and it is true.  Now read the Bible with Jesus as your lens, not man.  It makes a lot of sense that way.

Last week I introduced the concept of being a healing Christian, ministry and church. Since my buddy Dwayne informed me he wanted to “heal” in 2019, “healing” has been coming up over and over again.

Remember, I’m not talking about physical healing.  It is more of a healing that comes from the inside out.  With that in mind, Jesus didn’t separate the body, mind and soul.  He actually kept the three together since they are so vitally linked together.  Let’s face it.  If the body hurts, our mind and soul will hurt.   If our mind is constantly depressed or preoccupied, our body and soul will suffer.  If our soul is sour what makes us think the other two won’t be?  Jesus kept the three together since we are such a delicate creation.  

We do not believe in Jesus to get an easy life.  If that were sound theology, then the poor apostles were given a bum deal.  They all died a horrible death except for John.  Even with John, it is believed he was placed in boiling water and later exiled to the island of Patmos.  At that time there were no resorts on the island.  It was a hard life.  

Paul, the apostle, in Second Corinthians says we suffer so we can minister to fellow sufferers.  Our world says we should not have to suffer.  They are wrong.  This world is suffering.  I have yet to meet anyone who has not had to suffer real pain in this life.  There is the pain of broken bones and surgery.  The pain that sears the soul is broken relationships, betrayal, abandonment and lies.  Best friends can be the worst friends.  Family pain is brutal.  Our bones will heal.  Our bodies will mend.  But our minds and souls hurt for a lifetime.

Recently, I came across a lady who though no fault of her own experienced the death of a child.  While functional, she could not get the feelings of guilt and failure out of her heart.  She will probably die a broken person.  Now here is where we have to take a hard look.  What is faith in Christ at this point?

Some will say the broken lady does not have enough faith.  Some might say she has a false impression of who Jesus really is.  Others might say she never had faith.  I talked to her.  Without question she believed and believes in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So, what is the problem?  Does she not pray enough?  No, she prays daily.  Does she not read the Bible?  Nope, she does.  Did she quit on the church?  Every Sunday she is there.  So, what’s the problem?  She is a human being, just like you and me.

Sunday is not a day to put on a front like we have it all together.  Quite the opposite.  It should be a place where broken people can come and find their hope and healing in Jesus.  It is a healing that takes a lifetime.  

This gets us down to what it means to be a soul healer.  First and foremost we must embrace the human condition.  It has been a long time since I have come across anyone that doesn’t have a sense that we are broken.  I once had an on going conversation with a psychology teacher.  In the middle, he asked if I was a Christian.  Of course I responded in the affirmative.  I asked him how he figured it out.  He replied, “You know something is broken, and we have not come up with the solution.”  I asked him if he could give an answer to the human sin issue.  He replied, “No, and all our science fails to answer it as well.”  Of course it does.  What’s broke is broke.  

I don’t have to point out brokenness when someone comes for counsel as a believer or a non-believer.  Moral goodness is relative.  When brought under the microscope of God’s holiness, we are in big trouble.  We know it.  Our own arrogance doesn’t want to acknowledge it especially in this critical culture.  

While it seems like a hopeless condition there is healing.  It isn’t healing that takes away the pain or the memory.  Not at all.  Actually pain is a great reminder of the need.  That’s the problem with great prosperity.  We can insulate ourselves from brokenness to some extent.  It causes us to avoid the truth.  Once realized, the healing is the ability to get up the next day and find a new normal.  

Jesus never promised the same old, same old.  No, the gospel says there is a new beginning.  We take with us the scars and yet-to-be-fixed brokenness and find a new normal based on the hope and the truth that God allowed us to suffer to bring healing to someone else.  In the meantime, we can get out of bed the next morning since we are in the hands of the Lord Jesus who gave us the example of suffering to bring healing.

How do we get out of bed?  Dependent upon grace that God has already granted us and the grace we turn around and give to fellow sufferers.  A healing church allows God to do what God does instead of rescuing the hurting and becoming their little “s” savior.  To do that involves truly walking in the Spirit.  Love the unlovable.  Have joy in the rain and the sun.  Be peace among the chaos.   Exercise patience. Practice meekness to conquer the self-serving pride.  Be kind.  A gentle touch heals a bitter wound.  Encourage self-control for the hurting,  as they tend to hurt others in their suffering.    

To heal we rest on God’s path and timing.  In the meantime, let’s walk together.  My name’s John.  What’s yours?  I have a story and I would love to hear yours. 

We sat across from each other discussing various facts and philosophies of life.  We meet weekly, sharing ideas and thoughts with great freedom.  As we sat there I asked what I thought was a simple question.  “What is your dream?”  He surprised me with his answer, and then he knocked me out with his question.  He asked me, “Are you living your dream?”

I wanted to lie.  But I resisted.  “Honestly,” I began, “No I am not living my dream and my dream is closely connected to my calling.”  I began to tell him my story that I would like to share with you.

I didn’t go into ministry till I was close to 40 years old.  I do not consider what I do a job.  In fact, I have had a lot of heated discussions with fellow ministers over the topic.  We are called.  Money should be the last question not the first one.  Once a minister looks at his position as a job, he loses the calling.  I believe the calling to be serious and important.  

I spent my first few years in youth ministry.  For some reason, I was either attracted to the “least of these” (Matthew 25) or they were attracted to me.  Since I spent my first career in education and business, I think I do not approach ministry like the professional pastor.  Anyway, the attraction to the troubled, non-church kids created problems.

The church I was at actually started an alternative Sunday school class and youth group for the church kids.  They didn’t like their kids hanging out with gang members, those with bad reputations, drop-outs, and others that tend not to be welcome in the local church.  It’s kind of funny if you think about it.  If we understand the Christian faith, it is the Christian who should be impacting the world instead of the world impacting the church.  Amazingly, we believe that, but practicing it is a different story.

Let’s just say the conflict caused constant friction.  One elder told me he liked me but not the kids I attracted.  I asked him if he knew any of the kids he was talking about.  He replied, “No, I don’t.”  With my blood boiling, I probably said some things I should not have.  I regret that.  Grace for the wayward is grace for the Pharisee.  I learned that over the years.  I think.

Anyway, it reached a point I decided I wanted to reach people the church tends to miss.  We tend to miss modern day lepers.  It isn’t necessarily the fault of the Christian.  Lepers struggle to find comfort in the church as well.  It’s not about blaming anyone.  It’s about taking steps to touch the lives of those who seldom get touched by the redeemed.

In this short version, let’s just say it is with this desire I ended up in South Carolina instead of sitting comfortably in Maryland.  God provided a way and eventually a church that wanted to reach the unreachable as well.  The stories are incredible.  I wish I had the room to tell a few.  They include federal inmates, adulterers, single parents, the homeless, addicts, the mentally ill and more.  Their stories are not mine.  I have no right to tell them.  All I can say is I’m the lucky one, if there is such a thing in the Christian faith.  I get to see God at work in places most people don’t even get to see.  I get to see love, grace, and mercy win the day.  

Now, this is where the dream can disappear.  Let’s be honest.  The situation in Maryland is the battle all churches face along the line.  Instead of givers we become takers.  The needs, often assumed instead of real, move outreach into in-reach.  Often it’s hard to see.  We wake up one day and realize we spend most of our ministry time inside the church walls and very little outside.

Lives cease to change and we somehow role into making the parishioners happy instead of challenging them to forfeit themselves for the sake of others.  When we focus inwardly, our contact with those whom we tend to miss diminishes greatly.  And we wonder why church growth ceases and we lose our voice in the community.  

I’m there right now.  So my answer about living my dream is honest.  I spend most of my time with fellow Christians who struggle to admit their sin, brokenness and pain and have less and less contact with the truly broken and hurting.  Church people hide their issues. The only difference I can see between a Christian and a non-believer is God’s grace of which I am the most unworthy but the most fortunate.

  It is nobody’s fault but my own.  The prophet Jeremiah never got off point as he ministered to a people that wanted compromise and feel good ministry.  He held the line.  He rested in the promises of God instead of the desires of the people.  I have to make some changes.  Not because I have to.  It’s my calling.  Anybody want to join me?  

The recent events politically and culturally have left a very divided society.  Adding social media to the mix, where anyone can offer a critique at any given time leaves us with a critical spirit and a divided nation.  This cultural phenomenon has occupied my thoughts for some time now.  Maybe I can share a few since it potentially has a tremendous impact on all of us.

Back in 1973 Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson wrote what we know as the Humanist Manifesto II.  The Church did not pay much attention to it.  The movement actually began in 1933 with the writing of the 1st Manifesto.  We paid no attention to it since Christianity dominated the scene.  However, it was a religious humanism that began to infect the education system and even the church.  

It is important to take notice of this movement.  In 2003 the humanist expression went from individuals to groups with Humanist Manifesto III.  It’s not a movement.  It’s a faith expression.  It is a faith in man and science.  Man is assumed to be basically good.  As Wikipedia says, “humans are the integral part of nature and working to benefit society maximizes human nature.”  These two elements fuel dissension with the Christian faith.  Unfortunately, the Christian faith has been influenced with a man -ocused expression dominated by a prosperity teaching that is far from the Biblical Jesus.  

Am I boring you yet?  I have stated often that Christians like to talk “what” and don’t pay enough attention to “why.”  The humanist movement has dominated higher education.  Man is good, and getting in with the crowd for the betterment of society is the end result.  If you are not with the in- crowd you are ostracized.  Who between the ages of 16 and 25 wants to be ostracized?  And we wonder why our children and grandchildren raised in the faith walk away in their late teens and early twenties.  It is that age when the philosophies of the world that we paid little attention to become practical life.  

On the other hand, Christianity says man is basically evil, and the hope for a better society is by faith in Jesus Christ.  That doesn’t gel well with the humanist movement at all.  For a young believer in the college scene it doesn’t take long to grasp that the two don’t mix.  Few are prepared and fewer survive.  

The religious humanist movement has been patient and quiet.  They don’t need big people.  All they have done is influenced young minds since 1933.  That is 75 years.  To understand the mess consider the impact.  The last generation dominated by Christian morals and beliefs was the Baby Boomers.  With the generations past them (Gen X,Y, and Z) came the tsunami of humanist educational faith.  That is correct…faith.  Everyone believes in something, and our culture now believes in man as our hope.  Religious humanism is now a practice not a philosophy.  With the last general election Baby Boomers (the last faith-based generation) have lost the voting block.  They are now outnumbered.  The religious humanists are now not only in control of the education system; they now have the popular vote.  God is out in education.  He is out in our politics and barely alive in our families.  

No wonder we are at odds in our country.  The belief in separation of church and state from the humanist view (no God anywhere and anytime) has now impacted all aspects of culture.  Remember, they believe the only hope is man to be working together for the benefit of society.  The question is “Who determines what is a benefit?”  The voting populous does.  

I have just scratched the philosophical and historical basis of an anti-Jesus society.  We didn’t think it could happen in good ole America did we?  It isn’t a coming tsunami.  It’s here.  

So what do Bible believing, Jesus based people of the faith do?

Some are in a separatist mode.  They are isolating and ruing the day all hell breaks lose.  

Others have compromised.  They have allowed religious humanist beliefs to impact their expression of the Christian faith.  In one aspect they have tried to meet the enemy half way.  It doesn’t work.  The Scriptures say we are battling an adversary who is a “roaring lion seeking who it will devour.”  The enemy takes no prisoners.  Compromise will lead to being devoured with anti-Biblical thought and practice.  Again it’s not coming; it’s here.

Jesus entered the same type of world.  Nothing has changed in the history of man.  We either depend upon man or God.  Take your pick!  The methodology is not what we tend to think as well.  Jesus said to love your neighbor.  He didn’t give us an out.  He included our enemy as well (Matthew 5:44).  Christianity is not a spectator sport, and you won’t hear the bugle sound retreat.  As Jesus encouraged, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” All is not lost.  Love well. 

My father did not like crowds.  I think he would rather be infested with fleas and ticks then stand in line.  While he had to deal with the public in his career, he was an introvert at heart.  Going to Disney World made him have the jitters.

His hatred of crowds led us to one of the worst nights a young family can possible endure at a sporting event.  Dad surprised us one night by informing us he was going to take us to an Orioles game at the old Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street.  Somebody probably gave him the tickets.  It was the only time I can remember going to a sporting event with my father as a young boy.  

Parking at Memorial Stadium was horrid.  There was one big parking lot across the street from the stadium.  On anticipated big nights, they parked cars bumper to bumper.  Sometimes one could sit in the parking lot for at least an hour waiting for the cars in front and beside to move.  For some reason it was one of those nights.

This was in the era of great baseball in Baltimore.  Then team, with all-stars Brooks and Frank Robinson, combined with an incredible pitching staff led by Jim Palmer and managed by Earl Weaver, was always in contention.  I don’t remember much about the game.  However, I do remember the last two innings.  The O’s were losing but not by much.  I believe it was 2 runs.  Dad decided to avoid the lines and crowds coming out of the stadium to leave early.  

We argued with Dad the best we could in a day when no one argued with their father.  We reminded him over and over we were blocked in about 1/3 of the way into the parking lot.  It didn’t matter.  Dad insisted we would catch a break and be home before the game ended.  Well, that didn’t happen.  Not even close.

We sat in the parking lot for what seemed like hours.  Dad turned on the radio, and we listened to the 8th inning.  Dad did not put on the engine or the air conditioning.  I thought we would die of thirst.  He turned the radio off going into the ninth inning for fear the battery would run down.  

We didn’t need the radio.  After a few minutes the roar of the crowd told us what happened.  The Orioles won the game in the bottom of the 9th on a one-out three-run homer by Frank Robinson.  We were there.  In the parking lot watching the ecstatic crowd walk out with smiles from ear to ear.  We were probably the only Baltimore family with deep frowns and tears in our eyes.  

We never talked about that night in our family.  It was too painful.  Dad solved the problem in the future.  He never took us to another game.  He sat on the sidelines till we were old enough to take him to a game.

I remember that night probably more than anything else before I turned 10.  I loved baseball.  Going to a game in those days was a big event.  We didn’t have spendable income in those days.  Every dollar counted.  To have such a special event end so miserably makes that night stand out like few do.

As I move into the latter part of my years in ministry I stand amazed at people who treat their faith experience like dad did on that hot night on 33rd street.  I meet so many people who say they believe in Jesus, yet, they don’t stay in the ball game.  They head to the parking lot of their homes and lives never getting to enjoy a game-winning home run.  

I was in that crowd.  Go to church.  Do your duty.  Be as good as you can be and everything should work out.  As soon as you can, head to the parking lot.  It doesn’t matter that we have the Lord of Lords and King of Kings at bat and know how this game of life will end.  We would rather sit in the parking lot in silence.  

Somewhere out there are a few who stayed in the ball game that night. They can tell you the wonder of that one night when a miracle happened.  We heard the roar.  That’s about all we can say.  

 

Sometime I wonder what God thinks?  I know that is quite impossible to figure out what God is thinking.  Isaiah told us His thoughts are not our thoughts.  We are so limited.  However, as my mind wanders the far spaces of time I wonder what God thinks about technology, the current state of the church, my thoughts (how few there are at times), our culture, as well as our lack of culture.  The list could go on.  Maybe I’m going crazy.  

Have you ever wondered what God thinks about the Internet?  It can be such a wonderful means of communication and information processing.  On the other hand, it can lead us down a dark, dark path.  The ability to read this article as a blog post allows readers to never have to go out and get the newspaper in their bare feet.  Amazing if you think about it.  My guess is God gave us the ability to create it.  It remains the heart of the user that is the issue.  

I wonder what God thinks about air conditioning and garage door openers.  Yup, I’m really losing it now.  Before these great technological advances, we sat on the porch in the cool of the evening or left the widows wide open for a little breeze.  Once the night air began to change, the window fan sucked all the fresh air through the house.  In the process, during the open window age, we heard our neighbors.  We spoke with our neighbors.  We knew our neighbors and, probably, a little more than we liked.  Once the air conditioner came along, we no longer heard our neighbors and don’t talk with them either. 

The garage door opener allows us to get in and out of our car without going outside. Actually  I’m not sure that is possible here in the Lowcountry.  Garages have become our basements.  The cars are outside.  But, you get the point.  Our castle became a little more secure and if we want to, we can isolate ourselves a little bit more.  I wonder what God thinks about our isolation from a real neighbor but our tendency to allow a stranger to greatly influence our lives through a computer screen.  My guess is that, it remains the heart of the user once again.  If we care for our neighbor, AC and garage door openers will not separate us.

I wonder that God thinks about our relativistic, consumer driven, critical, narcissistic culture. That one isn’t too hard.  We like to think our culture is unique to Americans and our current place in history.  Wrong!  King Solomon, in all his wisdom, said, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  He was correct.  In the book of Judges it says, “Man did what was right in the sight of his own eyes.”  That fits relativism and the narcissism running the day.  All we did was label things.  Man has always wanted to be God.  That’s the curse.  We should be an extremely thankful people since God loves his man creation and set forth to redeem us.  His thoughts are wrapped in his love and grace.  

So, last of all, I wonder what God thinks about the current state of the church.  There will be many disagreements on this one I’m sure.  When over 50% of American churches hold to some form of health and wealth, prosperity teaching, the state of the church is far from healthy.  When pastors’ and priests’ evil sexual issues are brought to light, the church has serious issues.  It has been said that once the church responds poorly to a major cultural issue, such as sex abuse and harassment, the church has lost it’s ability to be heard due to its image being tarnished.  To quote a famous line, “Houston, we have a problem.”  Actually Apollo 13 had a huge problem.  It was only by the grace of God and men and women who worked overtime that it made it back.  

That is our hope as well.   The hope is not just to survive.  The hope is to see Christ in all His splendor and love.  The hope is to humbly love and express the grace of God to others beyond our computers, air conditioning, garage doors, self-consumed thinking and sin.  That is our hope in Christ.  It’s not what church we go to on Sunday morning.  It’s how we live the rest of the time.  That defines our heart.  It remains the heart of each person that consumes the thoughts of God. 

Today I write a letter to Generation X and Y…Z is too young yet.  This is to my children’s generation and my children as well… 

Dear Millennials,

You are my children and the parents of my grandchildren.  I have watched you grow up.  I will admit I complain about you.  However, at times I have stood in awe of you.  Every time I think I have you figured out, you surprise me.  My generation (baby boomers) likes to think we are the greatest generation and you are the not so great generation.  Forgive us.  We have our issues for sure.

The world has changed in your short life.  We thought it was awesome when man stepped on the moon.  What has transpired since your birth makes the Apollo program pale in significance.  There are more and more discoveries, inventions and philosophical changes I can only imagine how hard it is for you to keep up.  Just when you figure out life, it changes. And, often, that can be in hours.  As for us, we are pretty set in our ways.  

Watching you try to figure out employment and financial security makes me hurt.  We got college degrees and made a living with ease.  If we didn’t get a college degree, we learned a trade and often made more money working the trade than those who went to college.  As for you, the age of specialization has failed you.  We did not encourage you to learn a skill.  We told you to get degrees that are meaningless.  Careers have totally disappeared from our society, and we wonder why you came back and lived in the basement.

We hate to admit it but, many times, big business sent your jobs overseas to make our retirement accounts profitable.  However, we don’t want to talk about that.  In your lifetime greed morphed into avarice, leaving your entire world governed by consumerism and the mighty dollar.  In that, you better have lots of them.  If you don’t become workaholics like us we think you are lazy and selfish.  Boy, are we wrong.

I’m worried about you.  Opioid addiction is not retreating.  Your suicide rates are increasing yearly.  Divorce is now commonplace.  We didn’t have to worry about sexual identities, and we didn’t have to worry about offending someone of a different sexual orientation.  It must be confusing.  Our sexual revolution in the 60’s has blossomed into total sexual confusion. We started this mess and now don’t want to talk about it.  Even in the church, a young man told me recently it is hard to find a virgin.  The silence of my peers speaks.   

Instead of demanding your repentance, we need to repent.  We need to repent of our selfishness.  We left it up to the professionals to do the “Jesus” stuff.  We lived one way on Sunday and told you to be quiet about what went on the rest of the week.  When you rejected our form of Christianity we blamed you.

We griped about the 10 commandments being removed from public arenas and “Merry Christmas” being absent in our local stores, but we did not want anyone to hold us to the 10 commandments, especially the 10th one (go look it up).  We often demanded the Christmas greeting but cursed others if we were not served adequately.  

Our generation told you to worship our way and believe our way but seldom listened to your questions.  In fact, we seldom talked to you about anything.  We tried to buy your allegiance by giving you everything and yet abandoned the one thing you really needed…our time and our love.  

Forgive us.  There was a man named Nehemiah who, when he heard the walls of Jerusalem (the Holy City) were in ruins, sat down, cried, and asked for forgiveness of his sins and his father’s sins.  Forgive us for failing to cry.  Forgive us for not confessing our sins and blaming you for the ills we face.  

After you forgive us, will you find it in your heart to talk with us?  I know we tend to talk to you, but we need help.  We need your help.  The Bible says if a brother asks for bread, don’t give him a stone.  Forgive us for giving you stones that weighed our relationships down.  It says if a brother asked for a coat, give him two.  Forgive us for selling our souls to give you what you wanted instead of what you needed.  We left you naked.  Last of all, it says if your brother asks you to walk a mile with him to walk an extra mile.  We need you to walk with us.  Please forgive us and walk with us once again.  Yes, we need to talk about Jesus.  I would like to know what you think.  I want to talk about the “why” not just the “what.” 

There is a lot more I would like to say, but, instead of a letter, let’s walk.  Let’s talk. The relationships are broken.  They need to be rebuilt.  I love you.  I miss you.   

From my heart to yours,    John R. Ring

I limped into church today.  I shed a few tears as well.  As I stood up to lead in prayer, all I could see were people I’ve walked with the past 12 years and I know their limp.  Sometimes our limp becomes us.  Like Jacob in the Old Testament.  God touched his hip, and he limped the rest of his life.  God does that.  He causes us to limp so we can slow down and know him.  We tend to want to take the lead instead of follow.  

I was reading an article the other day that talked about hurting Christians.  The author must limp as well.  He points to four elements that often leave us far from the spiritual high that others seem to relish.  The four characteristics that suck the life out of us are: isolation, loneliness, shame and worthlessness.  Often all four are a result of sin that finds us.  Other times we have no problem finding it on our own. 

It’s hard to think that in our current world we might struggle with isolation or loneliness.  To me they’re kissing cousins of the evil world.  We don’t need demon possession in our world.  Isolation and loneliness are evil’s best friends   

Church can often promote isolation and loneliness.  One time when you limp into church and someone asks, “How are you today?,” tell them.  For some reason we have this idea that Christians are not supposed to have issues much less sin issues.  When the body of Christ gathers, it should be a safe haven for those who limp.  Unfortunately, the local bar is the only safe haven.  In church you can call yourself a sinner; just don’t say what kind.  

When someone unloads his or her burdens, the kissing cousin of loneliness tag teams with isolation.  I’ve often pointed out that Jesus indeed answers our needs.  What we have failed to learn is that the Holy Spirit resides in believers.  It is through believers that he moves and his Holy Spirit flows.  We are the conduit for the power of God.  If we don’t answer the need of the limping, hurting brother or sister somebody or something else will.  

I honestly believe the main reason churches are struggling to keep people in the pews is their inability to care well for the limping, weary traveler on the path of life.  We have decided to choose, as a friend of mine who struggles to get out of bed every Sunday morning calls it, “a faith defined by unicorns and rainbows.”  As a friend asked this week, “Doesn’t Jesus want me to be happy?”  “Yes,” I answered, “but only by walking in the ways of the Lord as defined by the Holy Scriptures.”  Let’s just say he left quickly.  

Limping into church often lets others know we are suffering.  Since we learned nobody wants to be around suffering anymore (Apostle Paul said it’s the way into the kingdom of God) each limp sends impulses of shame to the heart.  Surely, if no one else is limping, something is wrong with us.  I asked that this morning, “What’s wrong with me?”  Maybe I’m not walking with the Lord.  Maybe I’m depressed.  Maybe I’m not praying enough.  Maybe I’m too serious.  Maybe I’m this.  Maybe I’m that.  Maybe.  Maybe.  Since no one wants to connect with the limp or tears, you know what that shame will do next week?  Keep us in bed.  

Eventually, as we wallow in our pain, worthlessness will take us to places we thought we would never go.  All four isolation, loneliness, shame and worthlessness – pounce on the wounded, leaving them paralyzed and numb.

A friend recently told me his mother died and he was absent from church for six weeks and not a soul called on him or showed up at the funeral.  He was on the path.  

Another soul talked about suffering the rejection by her friends due to a wayward husband.   There seems to be an unspoken fear of the single woman.  Instead of embracing the crippled woman, she is forced to limp in and out.

Jesus told his disciples a story.  He said there was a king who was having a banquet.  He invited the expected guests; the ones who usually attend a king’s banquet.  Only they had plenty of excuses.  So the king told his disciples to go out into the highway and byways and invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind” to his banquet.  I found out today in Luke 14 that there is nothing wrong with my limp.  There is nothing wrong with your limp either.  Line up the wheelchairs and the crutches next Sunday.  The crippled are coming to the banquet! Worship well!  We got the invite.