Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wolves In The Church

This past Sunday our Bible study was on “wolves in sheep’s clothing”.  The question was asked if we could identify the “wolves” within the Church in general.  I was actually ready for this question.  Almost every week I receive mail, phone calls or emails from individuals who want me to support some “ministry.”   I am told that the big churches have used this "ministry" to better their outreach, train leaders or enrich marriages,  the material has been prepared by well known Christians. (Many of these “famous Christians” I have never heard of, nor have they shared their ministry with me personally.) But, after a few minutes on the phone or reading through the material I find the real reason they are asking for support they are selling merchandise and not ministering. This got me to thinking, what has happened to the “free gospel”? You know “freely you received, freely give”?   The merchandising of the gospel is being carried out by individuals who have very little regard for the message of Jesus Christ and no reverence toward God—they use the gospel to make money-- they are wolves.

We have reduced the gospel message to slogans, video games, fictional movies, wrist bands, tattoos and religious jewelry. The hymns of the church have been replaced by tattooed freaks that are no more than wannabe rock stars.  The sad part of this is there are those who have been deceived into believing this is the way to bring men, women, boys and girls to Christ. 

Now, that I have lost the contemporary music crowd let me add another group.  I have always enjoyed Southern Gospel music. Even though my musical taste is more Gospel Bluegrass, I enjoy Southern Gospel music. However, I am increasingly frustrated with the whole Christian music industry. Today’s Christian music scene is becoming nothing more than an entourage of Hollywood wannabes. Anyone with a little discernment can see there is very little true spirituality in the songs of today, most songs center on the individual and not on Jesus Christ.  Southern Gospel is no longer Southern Gospel.  The same problems found in the secular music industry are found in the Gospel music industry—sex, drugs and alcohol.  Could it be because the message of salvation is not the real reason for these entertainers but rather money?  These are the singing wolves.

Another area where the gospel has been merchandised by the religious hucksters is in the publishing industry.  I am often asked if I have read the latest Christian new best seller by___ and you fill in the blank.  My standard reply is if it was not written prior to 1830, no I have not read the book.  There is no place in Christianity that propagates false-teaching more than in a Christian book store.  If you put the title with any “religious” sounding idea they will sell it.  Most Christian book stores are filled with self-help books based on non-scripture concepts.  You will find a large section of charismatic writers, feminized Bible study guides and health and wealth books. There will be a large selection of “religious fiction” along with various new age theologies it is no wonder there is very little understanding among Christians of what the Bible actually teaches.  Daily devotional books have actually replaced studying the scriptures.  Personally I am not interested in your opinions on what the scriptures teach.  Opinions are not needed in the Church.  What we need, is to accept the Word of God as it written.  After all, the scriptures are not given to private interpretation.  

So should we put a price on the message of the Gospel?  Jesus was willing to give freely, Matthew 10:7-8 KJV) . . .and as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. {8} Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
Paul could have been the first to profit from the Gospel but he didn’t.  He could have had a palace, chariots, ships and gold and silver if he only would have preached a prosperity gospel.  But, sadly Paul was not as financially astute as the evangelist of the 21st Century.  His message was, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:12 KJV)  He actually did the opposite of the modern day religious huckster, “Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?” (2 Corinthians 11:7 KJV)  

Preachers are merchandising the gospel.  Preachers who charge a set amount to come and preach have not learn to trust the Lord to provide.  Several years ago our church invited a minster to hold a week-end special service.  The Board was going to pay him a set amount, he said, “No I will trust God to provide.”  The amount he received from the free-will offering was three times more than what he would have received from a set amount.  God does provide. 

Ever since the prosperity, health and wealth denominations have taken over the mass marketing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Church as a whole as suffered.  The prosperity, health and wealth movement has preached a false Christianity while holding their ministry up as the light of truth. The scandals generated from greed, immorality, and false-teachings of these prosperity preachers and so-called Christian entertainers have done more to damage the Church than the critics outside the Church.  It is time we get back to primitive Christianity and stop merchandising the Gospel of Jesus Christ and run the wolves out of the Church.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Politics of Family Values

We have official entered the political campaign season.  Each candidate will stress their support of “family values” which will include: marriage, anti-abortion, anti-gay, and education.  What we will not hear is what they have done to change the “family values” in their community, state or their political party in a positive manner. Often family values are used to distract from the real issues facing our nation.  The political rhetoric of family values to legislate national morality will never work and is nothing but political promises that will never change the morality of this nation.  

Let me address the two big “A’s” of family values to illustrate my point.  Abortion and Adoption are both family value issues that relate to children.  The issue of abortion among most conservative voters is a tunnel vision approach.  Adoption on the other side is not even a subject for discussion. I think the facts will speak louder than any political promise or rhetoric.

First, the very politicians who have stood on “family values” platforms have made the laws that regulate our lives today.  It is easier to abort a child than to adopt a child due to federal laws enacted by our lawmakers.  There are thousands of children in foster care nationwide waiting to be adopted, and there are far more parents seeking to adopt children than there are children awaiting adoption. So why aren't the laws of supply and demand working in U.S.?  

If you want to adopt a baby in the United States, it can take anywhere from a year or two to get a child or up to a five-year wait. Some of the variables that can affect this time-frame include the age of the child you desire, the type of adoption (such as  public or a private agency) and whether you are willing to take on a child with special needs. 

If you want to abort a child in the United States, many states require that at least 24 hours elapse between the counseling and the abortion. In states in which the counseling must be obtained in person (rather than via mail, fax, Internet or phone) and the woman must then wait a specified time period, most often 24 hours, between the counseling and the procedure, the woman is effectively required to make two trips to the health care provider in order to obtain an abortion.  Some individuals consider this to be a hardship.

When State laws are proposed requiring medical professionals to attempt to obtain various personal information from women upon receiving an abortion it is considered degrading.  That information would include: the reason the woman sought the abortion, including the specific medical, social, and economic factors influencing the decision as well as whether the woman was using any form of birth control when she got pregnant and if so what type.  This is viewed as degrading?

Advocates of abortion feel these questions are not necessary and the government does not need to know why each woman chose abortion. Women should have the right to choose, and their decision should not be questioned. While it is not required that the woman disclose this information to proceed with the abortion, they believe that asking these questions is an invasion of one's privacy.

If you want to adopt a baby in the United States, you must submit to a home study.  Each adoption agencies sets their own guidelines used to conduct home studies. They must follow the general regulations of their State, but they have the freedom to develop their own application packet, policies, and procedures within those regulations. Prospective parents attend one or several group orientation sessions or a series of training classes before they complete an application.  

The home study itself is a written report of the findings of the social worker who has met with the applicants on several occasions, both individually and together, usually at the social worker's office. At least one meeting will occur in the applicant's home. If there are other people living in the home, they also will be interviewed by the social worker.

On average the home study process takes three to six months to complete, but it can take longer through public agencies. The home study process includes: Personal and family background-including upbringing, siblings, key events, and what was learned from them, marriage and family relationships. What is your motivation to adopt the child and your expectations for the child?  How will you bring the child into the family unit?  What type of family environment will the child be subjected to?  What is the physical and health of the applicants, their education, employment and finances, their health insurance and child care plans? References and criminal background clearances along with the social worker’s recommendation are needed before you are considered for an adoption of a child.  Some individuals do not consider this a hardship, degrading or an invasion of privacy. It is easier to qualify to take the life of a child then to give a child a home, security, and the benefits of a family.  

If you want to abort a child in the United States, the normal cost of a first-trimester abortion runs between $350 and $550, depending on subsidies, the method used, and other variables such as cost of living.  A 2001 study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute found that the average overall cost of an abortion in the United States was $468, a figure that has probably risen since then due to inflation, but that the average amount paid for an abortion (due to subsidies) is $372. The Guttmacher Institute has also found that 87% of private health care plans cover abortion services--but because a disproportionately high number of people have substandard plans, only 46% of American workers are covered by policies that include abortion.  Second-trimester abortions tend to be more expensive. A surgical abortion costs $400 if the pregnancy is in the first trimester, $495 at weeks 13-14, and $640 at weeks 15-16.

If you want to adopt a child it will cost from $5,000 to $40,000+ for private adoption and from free to $2500 for public adoption.  But far too many people wishing to adopt describe the agencies they dealt with as bureaucratic and unwelcoming.  Many agencies view their primary response in adoption as screening out "bad" parents rather than finding good ones. Some agencies require prospective parents to give sensitive personal and financial information and then be fingerprinted.  It is important that those responsible for arranging adoptions secure safe, appropriate homes for children.  But, too many public child welfare agencies treat prospective families as criminals rather than potential parents. If we could remove the barriers set in place by government regulations the demand for adoptions would match the supply — and every waiting child in America could have a family.

Now, back to “Family Values” as a plank in a political party’s platform, why is it that they never speak about the hardships created by the laws they passed in regards to the adoption of children? These laws have legalized the trafficking in children. It should never cost a family thousands of dollars to provide a life for a child. Yet, I don’t see rallies to provide “children with families” or slogans and billboards trying to find a family for a forgotten child.  We get so emotional about abortion laws that allow a life to be taken, but we allow politicians to create laws that are counterproductive to “family values” by holding hostage those who wish to give life to children that are lonely and forgotten. 

Here are a couple of verses that would make good planks in a political platform for “family values”. 

Exodus 22:22 “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath will become hot. . .”

Proverbs 6:16-17 “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. . .”

The only way to change the family values in this nation is given to us in the following: 2 Chronicles 7:14 14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.