Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday School

Today I went to Sunday school and I'm glad I did. I was invited by my friends Tasha and Henry; Henry normally teaches the class I attended but had this Sunday off. Tasha and Henry are friends I first met at Willow Creek Baptist Church but lost contact with when I stopped going to church about five years ago. I bumped into them at the library about six months ago and found out that they still have the same e-mail address so I e-mailed them occasionally and about two weeks ago they invited me to the Sunday school class.

I'm really glad I went to Sunday school today. Everyone there was really nice and I felt a real spirituality in the room. I'm beginning to think that my divine discontent may be due to the fact that I'm not putting myself in a spiritual environment. It was uplifting to be around people who have a relationship with Christ and real faith. I haven't felt such a spiritual charge since I attended a bar mitzvah about seven years. The atmosphere in the synagouge was so reverential and spiritual--despite it being a Reform synagogue--that I seriously considered converting to Judaism. The only thing that stopped me was the doctrine, hammered into me in church, that Jesus was the only way to heaven. I think if I didn't believe that doctrine I'd be Jewish now!

Anyway, today really opened my eyes. I'm going back to Sunday school next week. I need to feed my soul if it's going to be healthy and grow. I'm also hoping to get answers to at least some of my questions. The fact that you can ask questions in Sunday school and have deep discussions about specific issues is why I've always liked it better than church. I've never felt a spiritual charge in church. Oh, I've heard some good sermons, but I always felt like I was being preached at rather than preached to. Needless to say, I didn't stay for the church service today and I won't next Sunday, either. To me, Sunday school is my church service. A lot of folks will disagree with me, but if the purpose of a church service is to teach, uplift, and strengthen people's faith then Sunday school is church because it did all that for me today. I can't wait to get more next week.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

When God Doesn't Show Up

As I've always understood it, the whole point of Christianity is to be saved; that's everything. And the way to be saved, according to all the Christian books I've read and tv shows I've watched, is to ask Jesus into your heart and accept Him as your lord and saviour. But what if you do that and Jesus doesn't show up?

That happened to me when I was a teenager. Back then I had total faith in God and the Bible. If the Bible said it, I believed it. I wanted to be right with God. I had heard at church that all you had to do to be saved was say the sinner's prayer, believe it with all your heart and--presto!--you were "in" with God. So I did that when I was about 15, and nothing happened. I experienced none of the peace, love, joy, or presence of God that was in all the conversion stories I'd heard. I was convinced I'd done something wrong so, a short time later, I asked Jesus into my heart again, and again nothing happened. I felt nothing from God, and no one has ever been able to tell me why. Looking back, I feel that was the beginning of my divine discontent.

Trying to figure out why God ignored me, why He didn't show up, has been very depressing. It's affected my whole spiritual life. My faith has been all but destroyed. How can I have faith when I prayed the most vital prayer you can pray, trusting God totally, and He was a no-show? I don't trust God now; I can't. I'd like to; I've struggled to. I've prayed to God many, many times since that Big Let Down so many years ago and I can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of times I believe He answered me. The Bible says that without faith you can't please God, but I know from bitter personal experience that you can't please Him with faith, either.

Please understand. I'm not complaining about God not giving me a car or something trivial like that. I'm talking about my eternal destiny. Over and over again the Bible promises that if you ask God for anything with faith, He'll answer you. I was acting on that promise when I asked Jesus to save me and all I got was cold silence. Some might say that I'm putting too much weight on the conversion experiences of others and that just because a lot of people have an actual spiritual experience when they give their lives to Christ that doesn't mean everyone will. True. But if you feel no differently after saying the sinner's prayer, if you have no experience of any kind, how do you know you're saved? Surely, Christ coming into your heart should make you feel something!

But that's where real faith comes into play, some will say. Faith is not feeling. Faith is believing God's promises whether or not you feel anything or see any evidence for them. I once heard it described as being similar to getting on an elevator. When you get on an elevator, you know that you'll get to the floor you want simply by pushing a button, regardless of how you feel. Your feelings don't make the elevator go up or down, pushing the button does. Likewise, feelings don't get your prayers answered, faith does.

Ok, so faith isn't a feeling. Why then does Christian tv only show the emotional stories of salvation? I mean, did you ever hear someone on the 700 Club or TBN say, "Yes, I prayed the sinner's prayer and I feel just as empty as did I before, but I know I'm saved." NO! The testimonies you hear are always full of emotion, with people crying and going on and on about how Jesus delivered them from this or that sin, or healed them, or brought them prosperity, etc. So excuse me for thinking that asking Jesus into my heart meant He'd actually show up.

Sorry, I didn't mean to get testy, it's just that this really bothers me. If my prayer to be saved was rejected then that means I'm going to hell, according to Christian doctrine. And I don't have the faith to ask God again; His silence has seen to that. So I need some real help to figure this out. I'm willing to listen to what anyone has to say.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A "Good" God

By now everyone's heard of Pat Robertson's comments about Ariel Sharon and the uproar they caused. For those who don't know, Mr. Robertson quoted the book of Joel where it says God has enmity against those who divide His land, and implied that Mr. Sharon's stroke might've been divine judgment. I actually saw the episode of The 700 Club, Mr. Robertson's tv show, where he made his remarks and I know they were misconstrued, perhaps deliberately so, by the media. What really fascinated me though, was why people reacted so viscerally to what Mr. Robertson said, or what they thought he said. I think I have an answer. People don't want a just God; they want a "good" one.

Most people don't want a God who has standards and holds people accountable for breaking them. This is true even of most self-identified conservative/evangelical Christians. I heard a few of them on Bill O'Reilly's radio show the day after Mr. Robertson made his statement. They expressed outrage and/or embarrassment over the remarks and were keen to distance themselves from them. "My God is a good God" was the general attitude of these Christians, "good" apparently meaning that God doesn't punish people or even have rules the breaking of which could lead to punishment. But if that's the kind of God they worship, they don't worship the God of the Bible.

The God of the Bible is good, but He also has commandments and moral absolutes. Our postmodern culture rejects moral absolutes in favor of moral relativism in which nothing is really wrong. It seems many Christians have absorbed that postmodern spirit but rather than admit it try to "Christianize" it by saying that God is "good", i.e. permissive and non-judgmental. Consequently, He would not have punished Ariel Sharon with a stroke because He doesn't have a standard of right and wrong. It's utterly astounding to me that people can call themselves Christians and read the Bible yet totally miss that the God thereof judges people and nations. What do they think the Flood, or the plagues on Egypt, were all about if not judgment for wickedness?

But, comes the usual protest, I don't want to know, let alone worship, a God who could flood an entire civilization or kill a nation's first born. That's cruel! So, they want a "good" God who lets evil reign unchallenged. Another favorite complaint, usually lodged by atheists, is that God can't exist or be good when there's so much evil in the world. God has to do something about evil before I'll believe in Him, these people say. But when God does do something about evil they call Him cruel! Sadly, confusingly, many Christians are in this camp. These people, believers and unbelievers alike, want to have their divine cake and eat it, too. They want a "good" God who, by their definition, can't judge people or intervene in human affairs to punish evil, yet they demand "doing something about evil" as proof that God exists! Talk about a catch 22.

I think a lot of people who claim to be Christians need to be honest with themselves about what they really believe and then realize they have to make a choice. They can have their "good" God who smiles indulgently at everything they do, or they can have the Biblical God, who doesn't. They can't have both. Lets hope they choose the true one.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Christian Heritage Clubs

Hi everyone! Again, I apologize for not posting for a while. My dsl was down even though my acount was paid in full and it took a while to get it back up. It's up now, and I mean to keep it that way!

I was thinking about my last post while I was offline. I think I have an idea for Christian kids to really be salt and light in the public schools if their parents insist on keeping them there; it's called Christian heritage clubs (CHC). Actually, I've been thinking about this idea for a while, years in fact. The basic idea is like a Bible club only better, much better.

I don't know about you, but the Bible club in my high school was nothing to write home about. The kids in it were nice and sincere, but unless you were invited to their before-school prayer meeting, you wouldn't have known the Bible club existed. That's not what I envision a Christian heritage club to be. No, CHC's are to be active, vibrant, even controversial participants in public school life.

These clubs are to teach other students, and even the teachers, the truth about the Christian heritage of America and Western civilization. As such, they will necessarily be adversaries to the secular humanist orthodoxy controlling public education. The kids in CHC's will have to be committed Christians, strong in their faith and KNOWING the history thereof. They'll also have to be committed Americans and Westerners and well versed in the pivotal role Christianity played in the development of both. Of course, they won't get that knowledge in public schools nor, sadly, will most of them get it from their parents or churches. They'll have to be knowledge go-getters combing the library and the 'net for the truth themselves. Once they've found the truth they can start their CHC. And then what? Lots of things.

A CHC could publish a newsletter detailing America's Godly heritage. The newsletter could tie in with a holiday or a topic in class. For instance, a November newsletter could disspell the myth that the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians, and not God, on the first Thanksgiving. Or if a history class was studying the Crusades, a CHC newsletter could give a pro-Christian perspective on those conflicts. Getting such an unpc, unmulticultural newsletter approved for distribution on public school grounds might be hard, but the resulting publicity could be good for the club.

Other things CHC's could do are: print t-shirts promoting the club; hold debates with members of opposing clubs, like a gay rights club; invite Christian/conservative speakers to the school; hold special events on days that are important in the history of America and/or the West, but which go unnoticed by the schools ( for instance, have a Charles Martel Day on Oct. 10, the day the Frankish king defeated invading Muslims in the Battle of Tours in 732 AD); hold a pro-Christian/pro-family short story contest, then publish the winning story in the newsletter; always wear red, white, and blue on 9/11. These ideas are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
CHC'ers should get wildly creative in what they do. The possibilites are endless!

I hope this post will inspire the creation of CHC's all over America and even the world. If Christian parents really want and expect their kids to be salt and light in the public schools, then they should get them started on CHC's right away. I think that'll be a great way to take the bushel off of the lamp and get the salt out of the shaker.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sunshine Christians

First, Happy New Year to everyone! I hope 2006 will be better for, and bring much needed blessings to, all of us.

Second, I apologize for not posting in such a long time. My dsl was down due to lack of money and I just got it back up Friday. I'm happy to be posting regularly again and ask for your prayers that I'll have the money to pay the dsl bill next month!

I was thinking about a lot of things while I couldn't post. Since it was Christmas time the "War on Christmas" controversy took center stage in my thoughts. I listened to talk radio and heard all the horror stories about retailers not saying merry Christmas, the usual suspects criticizing Nativity scenes, and public schools banning the colors red and green because they were too Christmasy. Of all these stories, the ones about public schools interested me the most because they aggravated a problem I've had for a long time with Christians about their attitude toward public education.

I don't disagree with Christians' criticism of the public schools. They really do seem to have become seminaries of secular humanism, and not just at Christmas time. The problem I have is with Christians' unwillingness to really do anything about the situation. They love to complain about the spiritual, moral, and academic decay of public education yet the vast majority of Christian parents send their kids to--you guessed it!--public schools. I don't get it. If public schools are as toxic as many Christians say they are, why do so many of those same believers not take their kids out?

A few years ago, a couple of men whose names I can't remember introduced a resolution at the Southern Baptists' Convention calling on Christians to remove their children from public schools. If memory serves, they actually said that it was Christian parents' duty to do so. The resolution was defeated. One of the reasons given for the defeat was that abandoning the public schools would be too "radical", and make Christians look like the intolerant fanatics humanists already believe them to be. It was felt that Christians shouldn't play into the stereotype. Another reason for the defeat was the idea that Christians had to be salt and light in school. I found both of these reasons to be cop outs.

Christians are supposed to follow Christ, not the world. Pandering to the prejudices of Christ haters is not "living the Christian life". While Christians shouldn't be different from the world just for difference's sake, they should willingly depart from worldy ways as much as following Christ dictates. Certainly this should be so when it comes to the spiritual and moral well-being of their children. But that doesn't appear to be the case. Apparently, many of the faithful are sunshine Christians, loving their salvation but totally unwilling to sacrifice for it. That explains the pandering and the "salt and light" theory of public school attendance. Rather than admit that they aren't willing to make the lifestyle changes they'd have to make to take their kids out of public schools, many Christian parents say their kids are being salt and light in those schools. What little morality still exists in state schools, they argue, would vanish if their kids left. Oh how holy that sounds! Never mind that such rhetoric allows these people to claim the label Christian while living lives indistinguishable from the unbelieving world.

Now do you see my problem with a lot of Christians? Much of the controversies over things like Christmas could be avoided simply by Christian parents taking their Biblical authority seriously and giving their children a Godly education. That means not sending them to public schools if they are as bad as Christians have made them out to be for the better part of a generation. To those who don't want to make the necessary sacrifices, I say you can't put you child in the lions' den then complain when he gets eaten. To the salt and light crowd, I say a mass, or merely sizeable, exodus from public schools would probably get them scrambling to genuinely reform themselves, making them better, and more religion friendly, for the kids who stay. Thus, leaving public schools could be the best way to make them taste the salt and see the light.

But it's the churches, not an unchurched blogger, who should be telling Christians this. Instead, most churches seem committed to keeping their congregations comfortable in their shallowness. No "hard" sermons about sacrifice or being different from their neighbors when Christ demands it. Just a lot of fluff about how God wants them happy, healthy, and wealthy. Never mind that their children's commitment to a Christian worldview is being systematically destroyed by an institution that most Christians trust more than God. And they wonder why they're losing the culture war!

Christians need to put up or shut up. They should take their kids out of public schools or stop accusing those schools of spiritual rape. Their integrity is on the line. Sunshine Christianity won't do. It's either the real deal or no deal. The choice is theirs; I hope they make the right one.