Wednesday, January 30, 2013

To The Readers

As I get older, time is no longer measured in minutes and hours but in weeks and months.  It seem that it was just a few weeks ago that I was preparing for the New Year 2012.  This phenomenon of time passing swiftly by started the day I graduated from high school. The clock starting running faster as the amount of responsibility grew and the time required to complete important tasks took priority over just living life without direction or purpose.  As the family grew and jobs and education begin to take a major toll on life the days seemed shorter.  The older I became the weeks quickly flew by and years are coming and going at such a rapid rate that I am just getting 2012 down and now will need to learn to use 2013.

This year has been a year full of activity.  I started the year off being elected as Town Board president-- this has been an interesting experience in government responsibility.  I continue to do work for the Wayne Township Classroom Teachers Association handling teacher issues; this has become an important part of my life helping teachers deal with the stress and changes in education.  As the caretaker of Maple Lawn Cemetery each month of the passing year brought home the reality of how short life can be.  For me, time and energies are running short as the loads of projects and tasks continue to increase.   Retirement is not what it is cracked up to be.  There was a time in my life that I felt there was nothing really important to prove but today as I look down the short end of the road of life there are many things that I would like to accomplish before life ends.   As the years rapidly fly by I wonder if I will be able to make a major impact, not only my family, but my community and church as well.  

I believe that life is a journey best traveled with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  My life has been filled with lessons, hardships, heartaches, joys, celebrations and special moments that changed my outlook on life.  The road I have traveled has not been smooth but neither has it been as difficult as it could have been without the leadership and guidance of the Spirit.  The more I learn the less I feel I know.  No doubt by the time I reach the end of life I will look back on my journey and wonder how I was able to survive.  As I stumbled through life there have been times that my poor choices have become blessings in disguise.  What I have learned from the experiences of life is there will always be two choices.  We can focus on the fact that things did not go the way we wanted and life just passes us by.  The other choice is we can make the best of what is a bad situation and learn from the experience.  

Time stops for no one, and if we allow ourselves to focus on the poor choices and negative influences in our life we will miss some amazing experiences that life has to offer.  I will never be able to go back into the past and change the heartaches, hardships, poor choices and missed experiences but I can make the best of what remains on this journey of life so that when the end comes I will have no regrets of the life I have lived.

I will prepare for whatever 2013 has for me and be thankful that the LORD has granted to me the length of life that I have lived.  I would encourage you to allow God to direct your life.

The Loss of Power

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 2 Tim. 3:5

Over the past forty five years, I have watched as the "Body of Christ"- the Church, has lost it importance to believers and non-believers.  There was a time in the history of the Church where the attraction of a spiritual life drew men and women to the salvation.  In the very beginning of the Church there was a power that united people together as a "Body of Believers".

There could have been several reasons that people wanted to become part of the Church.  The ones that I feel would have had a major attraction to people outside the Church would have been the promises of a changed life, spiritual power, the hope of immortality, and a family or community to which they could belong.  The promise to become part of something that was greater than the individual and could meet the material, physical and spiritual needs would have been a major attraction to people in poverty, suffering from disease and the inequality of society.

Christianity offered what the government could not- mutual social support for its members-the household of faith.  The expression, "Behold how they love one another" was not a slogan it was a way of life for the believer. What separated Christianity from all other religions was not just a great religious message but a way of life that served the needs of the believer in the form of a united community. 

Christianity was born in the midst of paganism where there was no uniform religious belief or practice for the poor.  The Romans thought of themselves as highly religious.  The elite classes were the religious leaders.  Roman religion depended on knowledge and correct practice of prayer ritual and sacrifice and not on faith and doctrine.  Religion was to the Romans a tool for social order. Whereas to be part of the Christian community was to belong to a society of closely knit friends, brothers and sisters and Christ, this sense of belonging gave the early Church power.

Christianity grew because it addressed the basic needs of the believer and the community in which it ministered.  During the early history of the church persecution was often severe.  Which makes one ask the question, why would ordinary people be drawn to a community of believers, where their lives would be changed and they would be considered outcast by their families and neighbors to the point of death? 

Again, "Behold how they love one another", this came from the teachings of Jesus who instructed them to love one another, love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemy and to love God with all your heart.  Early Christians exhibited a love that was strange to the world around them.  They put to practice, "no great love than this that a man lay down his life for his friends".  Even though they did not strive to establish a political or religious power they became both through the demonstration of love.  What made the teachings of the Christian faith so different was the reversal of thought: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all; For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

If you study the beginning of the Church one begins to wonder how a handful of loyal followers could become so powerful and dynamic that they turned the world upside down in about twenty-four months.  Why was the Early Church successful when other movements failed?  Could it be that the believers accepted the teaching of Jesus without question?  Could it be that they demonstrated the ministry of Jesus daily—healing people, speaking with power and authority, doing bold and astonishing things that amazed everyone?  

When you think about the appeal that Christianity had for many people in the beginning it is clear that they were drawn to a community that cared for them and loved them.  This love had an enormous appeal to a society that did not care for the poor and destitute.  The community of believers practiced an equality that was unknown- a slave could become a bishop.  The believers of Jesus understood this and it made all the difference in the world.

Today the Church has relinquished its power to the government.  The government however, is trying to pass the responsibility for caring for the poor to the rich.  Taxing the rich is not the scriptural way of meeting the needs of the poor.  Jesus never forced the rich to be generous nor did he put the responsibility of taking care of the poor on the rich.  The Bible gives responsibility for the poor to Christians, not the rich.  Christians who agree with taxing the rich to support the poor are avoiding their responsibility as a Christian.  Christianity teaches personal responsibility in resolving the issues of the poor.  

Paul in writing to the church at Thessalonica said, In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you…. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat (2 Thes 5:6-8,10). Christianity does not approve of a "entitled life."

In times where families within the body of Christ are unable to provide for their own needs, the church must get involves.  Caring for those within the Body of Christ is part of the responsibility of every Christian. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him (1 Jn 3:16-17).  Paul wrote to Timothy, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1Tim.5:8)

The early Christian had a radically different attitude toward possessions. Instead of being something to enjoy, they were seen as a gift from God to be used to strengthen the Church.  All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. Christians like Barnabas responded to the gospel by selling their property and giving to those in need (Acts 4:36-37). There was no compulsion. All this giving was voluntary.  This is contrary to the mindset of today's Christian who feels it is important to accumulate possessions rather than share. 

Christian today are more like the story of Ananias and Saphira Ananias, giving the impression that they gave all while holding back for their own security. (Acts 5:3,4).

Another area that was the responsibility of the Church was healing.  The Early Christians healed all those who were sick. When Jesus sent out the disciple with the power to heal they came back amazed.  The early Christian was not afraid to pray, to anoint and the laying on of hands. Christians were not afraid to become instrument through which God's power could work. 

Christians have lost power over our bodies because we have forgotten who we are.  We are the temple and dwelling place of God and that our bodies are members of Christ himself who purchased us by his own blood.  We have been asked to honor Christ with our bodies.  It is by His stripes we have healing.  And James instructed us when we are sick to call for the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord and that the prayer of faith will make the sick well.  In times past the Lord sustained those on their sickbed and restored them from the bed of illness.  As Christian we must affirm the WORD and power to those who have lost their faith by a renewed emphasis on allowing healing from God.  

We have been instructed not to defile our bodies. Yet, in America we have become drug dependent.  Look at the following statistics:
  • ·         the average number of Americans using at least one prescription drug in the past month was 45%.
  • ·         1.6 billion drugs are ordered or provided during physician office visits
  • ·         Five out of six persons ages 65 and older take at least one medication, with almost 50% taking three or more.
  • ·         10% of adult women are taking antidepressants.
  • ·         Prescription drugs have become the fastest-growing component of overall health care costs in the U.S. These costs are now increasing at a rate of about 15% per year, a rate that far outpaces inflation.
·         Although prescriptions currently account for only 8-9% of all health care costs, prescription costs threaten to overtake spending for physicians' services and other categories of health spending.

The side-effects of most drugs have serious consequences, often more harmful than the illness they are "curing".   Christians have surrendered their health concerns to man rather than God.  We have allowed the hand of man with his poison that will defile the body and bring weakness and sickness to receive the honor for healing rather than allowing the designer of the body to solve our health concerns.

Is it any wonder the Church has lost it power?  What would happen if the Church regained its power to change lives, meet the material, physical and spiritual needs of mankind today?  The multitudes were attracted to the ministry of Jesus because of his ability to meet their needs.  He was able to meet their needs by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We once again need the power of the Holy Spirit upon the Church to attract men and women to Jesus Christ.  We need to take back our responsibility to the poor, sick, homeless, the orphaned and widow and show our faith by the power of trusting in God.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What 2013 May Bring-- An Observation

As 2012 ended there are several things that stand out to make it an exceptional year: the presidential election, the drought in the Mid-West, the high unemployment, the large number of foreclosures, the continuation of the war in Afghanistan, the murder of four Americans and the cover-up by the CIA and State Department, the murder of twenty children in Newtown, Connecticut and who could not forget the Mayan apocalypse.  However, there were some things that did not happen, the world did not come to an end, the Church was not raptured, the dollar did not collapse, the oceans did not rise to flood coastal cities, and World War III did not happen. Maybe not a great year but it could have been worse.

With 2013 changing the calendar there are a few things that I feel will be happening that will change the economic and spiritual condition in America.  I am not saying I can see the future I am only making an educated observation of the condition of things that are happening now and many will agree that if there is not a change of direction the conditions may even become worse than now.

First, the economic condition of this country will continue down the road of ruin.  The leaders of this country do not have the moral courage to deal with our financial crisis. They have over-extended the national credit and weakened the dollar and this will be reflected in the stock market as it drops below the 2008 levels.

The Survivalist Preppers may not be as paranoid as they are made out to be.  They remind us that it was not raining when Noah was building the Ark.  The overall attitude of the country will be not to trust the government but rather fear the control they have over every aspect of our lives.  Confidence in the political leaders will be at an all-time low.  As the political promises fail and more and more families are hit with unemployment, foreclosures, and the inability to take care of their families the unrest in this country will be scary.  The number of home invasions, car-jackings and robberies will increase.  The fear created by the threat to take away guns has already caused a run on gun stores.  Preparing for the worst may not be a bad idea.  As Solomon stated, "A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences" Proverbs 22:3

As personal safety becomes an issue, more parents will remove their children from public school and homeschool them.  In a survey as why parents were homeschooling the reason that was most frequently cited as being applicable was concern about the environment of other schools including safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure. Eighty-five percent of homeschooled students were being homeschooled, in part, because of their parents’ concern about the environment of other schools. The next two reasons for homeschooling most frequently cited as applicable were to provide religious or moral instruction (72 percent) and dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools (68 percent).

With the latest mass murders taking place in Newtown, Connecticut parents are fearful for their children.  The number of bully incidents that public schools ignore has increased rather than decreased.  Violence in the public school will continue to increase rather than decrease. 

As new laws are passed legalizing the possession or use of marijuana the Federal government will start backing off and proposals to allow individuals to grow marijuana and hemp will be push through Congress.  The ground work will start in 2013 for this change.

As the freedoms of Americans are slowly being removed the government and big corporations will push to put more controls on the Internet.  National security will be used as the reason to control the Internet.   The Internet poses a huge threat to full government control of information. If you can control the media you can control the people.  This has been witnessed in Iran and China as they both have put restrictions on the Internet.  Our government cannot wait to put a stop to the free flow of information and will use whatever "crisis" they can conjure up to "shut down" your access to what is really happening.  2013 will be the year to place government control on the Internet.

It would be foolish to say that the price of food will remain stable.  As food price increases more of the spendable income will go towards food.  The full impact of the 2012 summer drought won't be felt until this year as the cost of meat jumps do to the higher feed cost, eggs will go up grains, fruits, and vegetables will continue to rise.  With the extreme swings in weather the prices could be even higher.  Maybe it is time to go back to gardens and canning.  It worked for my parents.

As food prices are climbing weekly the area taken for granted in this country that will have the greatest jump in cost will be clean water.  Water managers are concerned about the shortage of clean water—even without a drought the consequence may be severe.  Who would have thought the Great Mississippi would be so low that travel would be restricted?  The government's capacity for building new dams and reservoirs is limited due to its poor financial condition.  Surface water is limited, and groundwater in many states is being depleted faster than it can be replenished.  Local governments are searching for water supplies as the population growth demand more resources.  Many American have never appreciated the fact we have been blessed with clean water in abundance and without restrictions.  2013 will bring more water restriction as the demand for water increases. As we have witnessed extreme storms, droughts, and major climate changes this past year have had a major impact on clean water sources and will continue in 2013.  Learning how to purify water may not be a bad idea. 

As far as the world outlook goes the Muslim Brotherhood will have gained control of the majority of the Middle East.  With the US wanting to bring an end to the Iranian government, a major Middle East confrontation will take place as Iran crosses the "red line" and pushes the nuclear confrontation to a point of no return.  Even with the United States saying they are not setting a "red line" they will realize that nothing will change until a concrete threat is given and then it will be too late.  The end result will be a "justifiable war" on Iran to secure the safety of the world community.  2013 looks like the year to stop the "Iranian nuclear threat."

As the world moves towards a world conflict between the major world powers US and NATO will initiate an armed conflict with Iran which will end with Russian and China becoming involved. The conflict will be over the world's financial systems not a nuclear threat.  If 2013 is the beginning of the conflict the geopolitical structure of the world will change with the US losing its superpower status. The end result of a major world conflict will result in globalization and restructuring of the social culture of the world.  The clock of world destruction is rapidly approaching 12:00 midnight.  It is time for people to stand up as responsible citizens and stop the criminal actions of our government.  Failure to do so may be a failure to save our own life and civilization as we know it.

As the world under goes major changes there will be those within the Church that will call for an invasion of Iran-- all to bring on a war with Russia and China causing Armageddon and the second Coming of Christ and the Rapture of the Church.  2013 will no doubt bring new predictions of the end of the world, the Battle of Armageddon, or some major apocalypse but we are not given to the spirit of fear we are filled with hope knowing that whatever happens in 2013 the LORD will be in control and all will work according to his plan. We cannot forsake the mission of the Church because we are bound by fear but we must proclaim the message of salvation and hope.