Tag Archive: wandering

I can tell it’s time for a vacation.  The articles of the  last few weeks have been hard to write.  Usually, when the mind is not putting things together, it’s time to take a break.  I tell people all the time when I sense they are running on empty, “Even Jesus took a break, and you ain’t Jesus.”  My time away is still ,as of today, 16 days away.  I see light at the end of the tunnel.  In the mean time readers, you may have to put up with my ramblings that may seem to run all over the place.  It’s how my tired mind works.  Or doesn’t.  

I like to listen to Johnny Cash’s music.  His songs are so full of life.  People who have had struggles and I mean serious struggles seem to relate to his songs.  My personal favorite is “A Boy Named Sue.”  I remember the first time I heard that one.  I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.  Johnny came out with that one in 1969.  I was 10 years old.  I thought it was so funny that someone would name his boy, Sue.  

Just the other day my iPod shuffled the classic hit into play mode.  Again, a smile crossed my face as I ventured back to 1969.  Only this time, not only did I enjoy Johnny’s live rendition, I focused on the words of his dad.  He named him Sue because he knew he was not going to be along, and he wanted his boy to grow up tough.  A bit over the top, but the message comes through.  He loved his son enough to give him a girl’s name.  Let’s just say it was a different world in 1969.  

We could argue all day long that if that dad really loved his boy he would hot have wandered away.  I use the word “wander” on purpose.  Jesus describes us as wandering sheep in Luke 15.  Do you know why sheep wander? It’s easy.  They are natural wanderers!  Sometimes I think we forget the basics of Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus had no real issues with our nature.  Our fallen nature should not surprise anyone.  In that amazing chapter written by Dr. Luke, Jesus is addressing the group who thought they had their act together.  He describes us as lost sheep, lost coins, and rebellious kids.  In all of this, Jesus does not issue one single negative comment.  Instead, he talks about his love and grace.  His love to find us and welcome us home.  HIs grace to restore us in relationship with Him.  

I have way too many discussions with fellow “Christians” who want to talk about the reasons we are losing the next generation.  We want to blame technology.  We want to blame the education system.  We want to blame the youth group leaders.  We want to blame just about anything we can get our hands on.  That is, as long as you don’t blame me.  You can blame me, though.  I will admit I’m a natural wanderer.  I get lost at times and, yes, I too can shake my fist at my God and take off on my own path.  Any one of those three will impact my church, my family, and my community.  That is, if I don’t have a sound understanding of the nature of man and the nature of God and how they engage one another.

It is at this point we need to stop our debating and useless blame shifting.  The struggle to give the gospel to the next generation has been an issue since man sinned.  After Adam and Eve came Cain, and he killed his brother.   Noah had an issue with Ham.  David, yes, the great King David, a man after God’s own heart, had serious next generation problems.  In case you don’t know, his one son sexually abused his sister. David’s son Absalom killed the abuser-brother.  Eventually, Absalom rebelled against dad, but, was killed fighting against him.  Don’t forget Solomon, the one son left.  He had serious women issues.  What did David do in all this?  From what we see, not much at all.  

There are plenty of other next generation problems in Scripture as well as the entire history of the church.  It is a common problem.  We waste too much time trying to fix blame.  Fixing blame takes the heat off of those trying to find a solution.  

In the end of the day, each one of us needs to take personal responsibility as we address the next generations.  Instead of judgment, we need to express grace.  Instead of fixing blame on everyone and everything else, we extend mercy by taking responsibility for our failures and sin.  Instead of building walls expecting the next generation to leap tall buildings in a single bound, we express our love by walking with them as the Prodigal Father did in Luke 15 with our arms wide open looking to embrace our natural wanderers.

We as adult individuals either live our lives thinking we are the potter, or we live our lives understanding we are the clay, being honest with our human nature and responding with great love, grace, and mercy.  It’s truly the Jesus way.  

I can hear Johnny Cash now…”I hear the train a coming…”. I hear the vacation train coming around the bend.  

There is an interesting “Bible Study” that meets on Friday mornings at Bible Missionary Baptist Church. I’m not sure it is a Bible study. After a fifteen minute devotional the discussion could go. In any direction and on any topic at any minute. I’m not sure it is a “men’s” group even though it is attended by only men. The men are from all different churches, colors, and socio-economic backgrounds. We never solve the world’s problems, and, from time to time we probably make a few.
Over the years, many have come and many have gone. Some come trying to gain support for their cause, organization or church. That is not going to happen. Others can’t handle the non-structured meeting. Believe me, it has very little structure. Some think it is too conservative. One thing we always do, regardless of the opinion or topic, we go back to the Scriptures to set our bearing straight. Those who tend to leave think their opinion trumps God’s. Personally, I have never known that to work well.
I have developed some true friends in this group. We hold hands when we pray. We hug when we leave. We don’t see color. We don’t see styles of clothing. We don’t see our differences. We see our similarities. Nobody’s words trump anybody else’s. There are Friday mornings I don’t want to get up at 5 to make the meeting. The strange thing is. I can’t miss it. It is a beautiful expression of the gospel.
One day we were talking about something and one of the members said something that caught my attention. He said, “Mist in the pulpit is fog in the pew.” From time to time ,my brother has some good ones. This one made me think.
The prophets of the Old Testament often spoke against the “shepherds” of the time. The prophet Jeremiah was beaten by the priests. He was dumped in a hole to die. It wasn’t the people. It was the religious leaders. It was also the religious leaders that worked together to have Jesus crucified. Jesus displayed immense grace to the sinner. To the self-righteous leaders he issued seven woes, which in that day, was the ultimate condemnation.
The more I look at this one I laugh. I laugh a lot. It is the shepherd who gets up and instructs the people every Sunday. If the sheep challenge the shepherd, they may end up like the prophet Jeremiah, “beaten up” with words and loss of reputations. How many people have left the church when they met with leadership because they were rejected and often ignored?
Several years ago, I was struggling with my senior pastor. He wasn’t going off the wall or anything, but he was drifting. I was in a class at seminary, and we were asked to talk about something that was bothering us. I mentioned very lightly about my struggle with the pastor. A lady in the class ripped me up one side and down the other. She said things like, “How dare you doubt God’s servant.” It got worse from there. This would not be the last time I’ve been ostracized for being critical of leadership.
However, if we apply my fellow Friday brother’s statement to anything else that is important to us we, would not remain still and silent. When our government leadership wavers, we have an opinion. When education is failing, we don’t blame the students. We address the leadership. My son was a regional manager for a restaurant company for a short time. He told me straight up, if a restaurant is struggling, it’s due to poor management.
If Jesus calls us sheep (we are), then at some level, when the sheep are wandering, the shepherds should be challenged from the Word of God. I was looking at some statistics about the declining church attendance in America. It was put together by a non-religious entity. What was interesting is the fact that the churches that have abandoned critical issues such as the divinity of Christ, inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures, and other long-time Christian fundamentals are declining much faster then the “conservative” ones. Giving the sheep what they want is not Christianity. Leading them to the cross with the Scriptures as our guide is.
Brothers and sisters…instead of abandoning the bride of Christ, it’s well-time we find shepherds who not only preach the Word but live it as well. We live in an age of compromise. Jesus didn’t compromise. It cost Him. That cost was our salvation. What is required of us? The same.