Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quakers---Orthodox-Evangelical-Holiness


In 1966 my family begin attending an old-fashioned Quaker meeting—one with ‘Mind God” painted across the front of the church. We never danced went to movies, watched television, played cards and the girls never wore jewelry or lipstick or cut their hair. In 1967 I attended a Bible school that was influenced by this group of Quakers. Most of those I went to Bible School with have moved far beyond those days, some even wish to forget the days of “legalism”. But there were some aspects of the “old fashion, orthodox/evangelical/holiness Quakers” that stand out among all Quaker groups. They were serious about what they believed, they were sticklers to procedures, they preached holiness, they were willing to be a “peculiar people”, they were harder in their judgment of themselves than those on the outside, they were serious about Bible study and were excellent students of scripture, they produced some great children, (look at me).  I would like to look at these aspects in a little more detail.  This is one of the spiritual branches from the roots of my spiritual heritage.
I was raised with the premise the church is the center of the Christian’s social life. Our life revolved around the church. Serving God was serious business and was to be first place in our life. It is difficult for me to understand how the church is no longer center in the life of Christians. All too often, people want to come to church not to worship but to be entertained. They want their ears tickled. They come for a "good time", not to worship and serve Jesus.  This is, after all the church of peoples rights. To be honest, I get weary of those who as my father would say are “flippant and fickle in their dedication” to Jesus Christ. Being a Christian is serious it is  all about putting God first; it is about believing the Bible and obeying it; it is about being willing to remain faithful and true to Jesus.  The Quakers I grew up with were serious about who they were.  They understood their spiritual heritage and what they believed and why they believed it.  While progressive Quakers are enchanted with Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and Paula White, these Quakers were reading books by George Fox, Robert Barclay and even John Wesley.  The laity read more theology books than any progressive Quaker minister I have met.  Maybe it is because they did not consume their time with television and video games. 
When it comes to business meetings, I long for the day when a business meeting is conducted with the seriousness of   worship.  After all, that is what made Quaker business different from other church practices---Robert’s Rules of Order would never be considered in a Quaker business meeting.   I understand the business procedure of Friends is viewed as impractical to non-Quakers, and as a Quaker I must say that it does not always work as well as it should. Nonetheless, it has been a center-piece of the Quakers for almost 400 years, at times seeing us through extremely difficult decision and divisions.  For the non-Quaker imagine gathering for a business meeting, where participants are sitting there in thoughtful silence. If someone has something to say, they politely address the Clerk, “Clerk please”, when recognized they stand up and speak; then others take their turn. No one ever interrupts.(OK there were times of passion when interruption occurred). When a person finishes having his or her say, the silence resumes until someone else is moved to speak. A Clerk presides over the meeting, no vote is taken. When the Clerk has a “sense of the meeting” a decision is made with the approval of those in attendance.  This eliminated the “them and those” from the decision.  To the Quakers I grew up with this was the only way to conduct business.  There were procedure and they were to be followed.
The doctrine that set the orthodox/evangelical/holiness Quaker aside from others was the preaching and teaching of Christian Perfection.  Perfection or as some would say holiness other may call this the baptism of the Spirit was the message of separation from the world.  This doctrinal view is no longer taught by most Quakers yet, these “old-fashioned holiness Quaker preachers” made “preaching holiness” a major doctrine of the meeting.  They were Spirit-filled and taught that this was the essential baptism of the Scriptures.  It was a life of holy living.  They understood holiness involved a lifestyle.  Living a holy life is just that—a lifestyle, something to live. Religious experience is not just “follow the Inner Light” as most Quakers like to emphasize, it is a change of who we are and how we live.  As to their practical teaching on Perfection as Barclay taught it is more realistic and achievable than modern Quakers like to accept.
 They were willing to be peculiar, to be different from the world and cared little for what the world thinks of their dress or habits. They taught Christians are called to be a peculiar from secular society. The Quaker life-style of  plainness,  and holiness may not have changed a materialistic church but they were willing to be set apart and surrendered to a life that was “not of this world”, yet “in the world “ a life called  to be a “peculiar people.” 
I found they were less judgmental towards the lost than most people felt.  I know there are some who are bitter toward the standard of the church in personal areas, but this bitterness is often rooted in deeper problems. The reserved attitude toward “outsiders” came more from not knowing how to approach them than ignoring or condemning them.
What I miss the most in my life as a “wanderer in a land of Biblical ignorance” is that progressive Quakers would rather discuss  the last football game, car race or some other sport than to discuss the Bible.  To a minister of the Bible who is serious about knowledge and application of the Scripture--- these folk are your dream members.   I’d rather deal with a group of people who read and study the Bible constantly than people who treat the Bible as a book of personal opinions with a who-cares attitude. Teach a Bible class with these people present and they will read and study and even argue with you. Teach a class to most Quakers and they nod, look at their watches and say “whatever.” I like it that these Quakers treat the Bible so seriously.
 I once had a lady in a Christian Education workshop on the importance of teaching the Bible, asked me if I was going to discuss Jesus in the workshop.  I replied, yes.  She informed me her meeting did not teach the Bible or stories about Jesus.  I asked her where was the “Christian” in the education if the Bible and Christ were not included. She said social issues were more important than the Bible and Jesus.  No wonder we have so much ignorance in the church.
Many of the children raised in the orthodox/evangelical/holiness Quaker home have a strong spiritual foundation.  These Quakers produced strong Christians who kept the core values of orthodox/evangelical/holiness Quakers even if they abandon their Quaker ideas.  They still regard studying the Bible, attending Sunday school, and sharing scriptural truths as important to their faith. Many have become stable ministers in many denominations.   I once had a Yearly Meeting Superintendent tell me he wished he had a dozen ministers with the orthodox/evangelical/holiness Quaker background. . .they were the most stable ministers in the Yearly Meeting.  They were less demanding and were willing to stick it out in difficult times.
Now you have some knowledge of my spiritual roots.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Accountability Questions

 Quakers have a tradition of reading “Queries.” Not that they are done so much today as in the past they are still needed.  These probing questions stimulate individuals, leaders, or people in church business meetings to ask themselves how well they are doing. The goal is to stimulate one another to love, good works and living like Christ. A modern term for “Queries” is accountability questions

.Leaders Accountability Questions
  1. Have we prayerfully listened for the voice of the Good Shepherd, discerned what God was doing and guided our church body where its Head, our Lord Jesus Christ, led us?
  2. Have we served others by doing good? Have we proclaimed the gospel, fulfilling the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment?
  3. Have we obeyed the Scriptures by giving correction to those who have gone astray?
  4. Have we built unity for important steps of faith, asking for church-wide prayer and congregational feedback?
  5. Have we tried to squelch gossip and instead encouraged the disgruntled to talk to the right person in the right spirit?
  6. Have we dealt fairly with conflict and tried to bring about biblical reconciliation?
  7. Have we stayed active—personally and corporately—in sharing our faith, making disciples and developing leaders? Have we encouraged all our people to use their unique spiritual gifts?
  8. Have we faithfully taught the word and truth of God, including those testimonies which we as Friends have been called to uphold?
 Individual Accountability Questions
These questions are designed primarily for groups of two or three who meet weekly for accountability, Bible study and prayer. Please note that some emphasize what we should do, while others emphasize what we should not do.
  1. Have you verbally shared your faith in Christ this week?
  2. Have you found joy in the Lord through prayer, Bible reading, public worship, and a lifestyle of giving thanks in all circumstances? Were you in worship last Sunday and faithful in ministry to your church this week?
  3. Have you given Christ control of all your activities, entertainment and imagination?
  4. Have you forgiven everyone who hurt you or disappointed you, seeking to resolve any conflict with love and understanding?
  5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind his/her back or face to face? Have you kept away from racist jokes and comments?
  6. Have you avoided emotional or sexual intimacy outside of marriage this week? Have you engaged in lustful attitudes, pornography or sexually explicit communication?
  7. Have you actively nourished your marriage, family and friends in Christ, making your home a pleasant, peaceful place? Have you kept marriage and family in balance with work and career?
  8. Have you given to Christ all you own and all you influence? Have you been completely above reproach in your financial dealings, prompt in paying your debts, careful to live within your income, honoring Christ with tithes and offerings?
  9. Have you succumbed to a bad habit, personal addiction or kept any kind of idol in your heart, such as greed for money? Have you abstained from the use of harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs and from the abuse of good things, such as food and medications?
  10. Have you deceived anyone, told half-truths or outright lies this week?
  11. Have you taken a day of rest and restoration this week?
Congregation Accountability Questions
  1. Have we witnessed effectively for Christ through our church’s events, programs, retreats, camps, and organized evangelistic efforts? Have we assimilated new believers into our fellowship and helped them grow in the faith and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?
  2. Have we built loyalty for placing weekly worship as a higher priority than pleasure, youth sports, business or recreation? Have we encouraged our people to worship and serve in one congregation rather than becoming consumers of programs offered by different churches?
  3. Has our congregational life together revealed an intense desire to obey the written and living Word of God?
  4. Have we spent time in silent listening to the Holy Spirit in both personal and corporate worship?
  5. Have we prayed publicly and often for God to send out workers from among us into His harvest fields?
  6. Have we honored and protected those neglected by society—the unborn, poor, prisoners, orphans, widows, abandoned, disabled, disadvantaged, addicted, institutionalized, homeless, hungry? Since we cannot do everything, have we done something?
  7. Have we taught and practiced spiritual disciplines—Bible reading, prayer, fasting, witnessing, service, worship, silence, solitude?
  8. Have we honored our pastors and staff with love and appreciation, making their ministry a joy, not drudgery?
  9. Have we honored the counsel of our elders and pastors? When we were not in unity, did we find the mind of Christ through discussion and prayer rather than through politicking and voting?
  10. Have we encouraged and built each other up, speaking only what is helpful? Have we resolved conflict effectively by avoiding gossip and encouraging critics to talk with the right person in the right spirit?
  11. Have we encouraged people in the church to use their spiritual gifts and to work together in teams for the cause of Christ?
  12. Have we called for dedication to God of our time, talent and treasure, offering control of our money and our resources to Christ?
  13. Have we prayed for those in authority? Have we encouraged people to vote and to carry out civic responsibilities in the name of Christ?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Family Character

Have you ever wonder why some families seem to get along with each other and find true contentment and happiness, while others are ravaged by anger, bitterness, and division?  The difference is not money, education, or opportunities.  The difference is character.  Some families are very poor, yet are truly successful in terms of family relationships.  There are also wealthy families who have never experienced true peace and happiness.  That is not to say the poor has character and the rich do not.  Character is found when God has been the center of one’s life.

Things I learned from the porch swing, the kitchen table, the rocking chair, living in the country and church.

In spite of unprecedented technological developments, there is a growing concern that we are failing in the most important of all achievements—building stronger families.  Just recently we have been told by researchers that marriage has lost support among some of the religious faithful. In some denominations, pastors avoid preaching and teaching about marriage for fear of offending divorced parishioners or those who are “living together”.  Marriage is also discredited or neglected in the popular culture. Consequently, young adults, who desperately want to avoid marital failure, find little advice, support and guidance on marriage from the peer or popular culture or from parents, pastors or others who have traditionally guided and supported the younger generation in matters of courtship and marriage.  Culture is changing, families are changing, and relationships are changing when we will find some stability?

I have noticed. . .

We have more conveniences to save time and less time to enjoy life
We have more knowledge but less wisdom.
We have expensive houses but broken homes,
We clean up our air and water but pollute our souls and spirits.
We travel around the world but not to our families.
We add years to life but not life to years.
We don’t build houses with porches.  A porch was a place where social events took place with friends and neighbors.

 Here is what I have learned over the years.

From The Porch Swing—My favorite place when visiting my grandparents was the back porch swing.  It was there I learned about my family. Storytelling was a major part of my grandparent’s life.  They had a story for everything about life.  They shared what it was like when they were children.  The games they played the friends they had, and what their family life was like. Every family has certain things they do because someone in the family started doing it that way.  Some of these traditions came from superstitions and some from necessity.  Doing things a certain way was just part of being in the family.  This was the wisdom of the  family. Statements like, “You are so dirty you are not fit to associate with hogs”.“The only way you could become a bigger liar is you’d have to put on weight.” “He’s doing’ good,-- got the world by the tail with a down-hill pull.”  “That dog won’t hunt.”  “A fat dog won’t go huntin’ he just stays around home.” “You are only as good as your word.”

From The Kitchen Table

Hygiene--  Go wash your hands before you come to the table.  Cleanliness is next to godliness.  Take off your hat and comb your hair.

Prayer—Lord we thank you for this food and the hands that prepared it and nourish it to our bodies. Amen

Manners--The kitchen table was a place where you were taught good character. One of the most effective ways to teach character and explain a character quality is by connecting it to something memorable and it will make a lasting impression.

“We don’t eat until we give Thanks” (gratefulness)  “Don’t reach across the table, wait your turn.” (patience)  Pass the bread—please. (politeness)  Don’t take all the potatoes—leave some for someone else.(sharing)  Use your fork, not your hands  Slow down and chew your food and keep your mouth shut when you chew. Eat everything on your plate—there are starving children all over the world.(missions)  Ask to be excused. (respect)

We don’t have rocking chairs today because we don’t have the time to just sit.
  
From The Rocking Chair

Songs of the church---  I learned more songs from the rocking chair than I did at church.  My mother would sing to us while we were growing up.  In turn when we had to “rock” one of our brothers or sisters, we would sing the songs we were taught.

Storytelling--- Mom would have us sit around her rocking chair and she would read or tell us a story.  I listened to stories about James Chalmers, and how he preached to the cannibals.  About Hudson Taylor and his life among the Chinese’s.    I learned to tell those same stories while trying to get my brothers or sisters to sleep. 

Character--- You need to treat your brother or sister with kindness and not be mean to them.  They are your family.  Learned to show them love and real concern.  After all love is the most powerful force there is.  Without love there is no true character development.  Love is the basis for all character.

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your
family.   

What's mainly wrong with society today is that too many conveniences have taken away our individuality.  We don’t write letters, we text or email.  We don’t read books we surf the web. We don’t play games at the table anymore because our children are connected to a PlayStation or XBox.  We don’t sing together as a family because we are connected to an IPod or MP3 player for our music.  There's not a problem in America today, crime, drugs, education, divorce, delinquency that wouldn't be remedied, if we just had more time with the family---home life builds character.

We wouldn't have near the trouble in our schools if our kids learned from their parents at home.  There were very few crimes committed in the rural communities criminals didn't stop by to rob or rape, if they knew they'd be welcomed by 5 vicious dogs and a double barrel shotgun.

Our values were better when our families were close!  Dad played ball with his son not because he wanted him to be a great ballplayer but because he wanted to just be with him.  Your family didn’t need to be involved in everything.  You enjoyed being at home and had some family time, roasted marshmallows and popped popcorn and pony rode on Daddy's shoulders and learned how to make prettier quilts than anybody, made candy, put puzzles together, played board games, and even sang songs and you made the music. Language was refined you soon learned that bad words tasted like soap.  We didn’t have swimming pools we had a swimming hole. 

Church was important. In church we learned to sit with our parents and be quite.  We never ran in church, walked between adults while they were talking, or spoke without being spoken to first.  We learned to respect the church building.  During the sermon we were expected to listen.  There was no nursery or junior church.  Parents controlled their children with looks, snapping their fingers or thumping you on the head.  When you got home, if you acted up in church you were sure to learn the lesson of retribution and the meaning of sparing the rod and spoiling the child.

Were there family problems?  Yes.  Was there failure in families?  Yes.  Was the family stronger than today?  Yes. Can we change the wrong direction in which families are going? Yes.  If Christ is the center of the family, there can be a change.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's A Battlefield, Not A Waiting Station


Following the Civil War and up until the late 1970’s the trend throughout the Church was to isolate itself from the social and political problems facing the American culture.  The Church scorned politics, education, literature, the arts, and culture in general as irrelevant to the spiritual life of the believer and to withdraw from problems outside the narrow confines of the local church, the family, and personal ethics. The scriptural basis was not to be “unequally yoke with unbelievers.”

I have listen to many sermons that ridiculed education, spoke of the arts as sinful, and that politics was filled with corruption and sin and to be avoided at all cost.  The result was the Church did not take the social and cultural responsibility to influence these areas.  We have failed our commission, because we are afraid of the battle with evil.  So we will just maintain our position and wait for Jesus to come and take us off the battlefield.

This attitude has allowed a transfer of authority to non-Christians.  It gave educational institutions the unquestioned authority to promote humanism, remove prayer from schools, allowed the arts to move away from religious influence and politics to basically remove the historical place of Christianity from our government and society.

What makes this all so ironic is the major institutions of American humanism have been built with taxes paid by Christians and Christians ignored what was happening because they would not be around when the country went to hell.  They would be gone!   But they are still here, now what?

I have heard from the time I started attending church over fifty years ago that Jesus was coming back at any moment.  It worked great for the “altar call”, you could leave here tonight and miss going home with Jesus.  The emotional appeal worked, many times, the altar was lined with those who didn’t want to be left behind if Jesus came back tonight.

The problem is it was a psychological tactic that worked on the emotions of the seekers.  Today, it will not work.  People both in and out of the church have been duped by the modern day prophets.  Millions have been made on books, lectures, movies and seminars on scaring people to accept Jesus Christ based on some “end of the world prediction” and many are not buying the Church's explanation of the "end times".  Even Church members are turning to secular science and myths.  Why?  To many false-prophets.

It’s time the Church stop using tactics on its members who make-up the body of Christ and psychologically  take the war directly to the enemy.  It is time to fight an offensive campaign against evil. Do I believe Jesus could come at any time?  As God the Father is in charge, He can make that decision at any time—He is God.  But as a Christian I should stop acting and living like he can come back at any time.  Why? Because Christians are the reason our country is in the mess it is in.  We have been so “heavenly minded we are of no earthly value.”

We need to stop complaining and blaming and get involved in areas of influence in education, politics, the arts, and literature. We are the salt, let’s start acting like it. Stop acting like Jesus is going to remove you from the evil in this world and help fulfill His mission to “destroy the works of the devil”.