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Saturday, November 28, 2009

XLIV. You're Okay

Have you ever heard the expression: "You're okay, I'm okay, we're all okay"? Or what about this one: "there are no absolute truths in the universe"? These are two ways humans have tried to justify how we are. In other words they are two excuses for being corrupted and ways to blame others for who we are.
If we're all okay, then why do we argue about being okay? If we're all okay then why do we hurt people? Why do we lie, cheat, steal, murder, hate, abuse, neglect, slander, have jealousy and greed? It's because none of us are okay. Even if we have been the victims of some of the things mentioned we still have a sinful nature. None of us are innocent if we know the difference between right and wrong. We all need help in this world to cope and understand. We all need a savior for the next world so none of us have to die a second time.
If there are no absolute truths in this world then the statement alone is a contradiction in terms. How can there be no absolute truths if that statement itself is supposed to be the truth? It isn't! There are truths, there are half-truths, there are partial truths, and then there are lies. But do you want to know something? The statement above can be shortened to: There are truths and there are lies. Because there are no such things as half-truths or partial truths. There are only truths and lies and both of them are complete. If any statement has a lie in it then it is a lie. That was even learned in math class. If "p" then "q". Remember? If "p" has any false statement within it then "q" can not happen. Or language arts class that got us to realize if any statement has any thing in it that is false then the whole statement is false. Hence, there ARE ABSOLUTE TRUTHS because there ARE ABSOLUTE LIES! The question though is, where does truth come from? Only one place can truth come from...the beginning.
When someone is trying to tell the truth, if they start from the middle of the story then odds are the story is not accurate. This is why evolution can not be completely accurate. It starts at what is found and works its way backwards to explain the present. Creationism and Christianity starts from the beginning and keeps moving forward. This concept is lost on those who are non-believers. But that just holds truth to scripture. 1 Corinthians 1:18-30:
  • 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
  • 19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
  • 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
  • 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
  • 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
  • 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
  • 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
  • 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
  • 26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
  • 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
  • 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,
  • 29 so that no one may boast before him.
  • 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Today, the ones who look for wisdom in this world and make up their own truth is what this piece of scripture calls "Greek". And what Paul calls "the Jew" is what we could say today are those who know the truth yet refuse to obey it.

Why is this important? Because without the absolute truth in our life we can never be okay. If we all live by our own personal truths and not the standards of God then our lives, experiences, values, ideologies and what have you collide. This is when all of the aforementioned problems come into existence.

Atheism, Humanism, Liberalism, and other "isms" that might be out there start to destroy these standards. Even though these groups can not always be grouped together nor be used interchangeably they still end up doing the same thing. They will try and take the value of truth, real truth, and distort it. Some do it out of ignorance, some for spite.

You're not okay. None of us are until we get back to the Absolute Truth: John 14:6

  • Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Yes, it seems unfortunate, but sometimes, the truth hurts.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

XLIII. Influences

People come into our lives for one reason: to influence it. Whether we want them to or not they do. With each new face we see either in passing or in acquaintance we are changed. But which ones change us the most? Here are the results from last month's poll: "What influences the most?"
  • (51%) Church/Religion.
  • (22%) Family.
  • (14%) Friends.
  • (5%) Music/Art/Reading.
  • (2%) Personal interests.
  • (2%) Something else.
  • (0%) Politics/Government.
  • (0%) Celebrities (all kinds).
  • (0%) World Issues.

It seems the ones that influence us the most are the ones that shape our beliefs. Things that go on around us such as those in our environment apparently really do not influence us as much as we say. If we are upset with the way things are going on in the world it won't change who we are. And there is a biblical concept with that. Happiness is external. Joy is internal. We may not like the way things are going but if we have the right belief system then those things can not harm us. Zero in this poll back that up by saying world issues, although may bother us when we here it, do not change who we are. Neither do politicians nor celebrities as well. Which is kind of strange because who do politicians get to endorse them thinking that it will change who votes for them? Celebrities! And the pomposity of some celebs who think if they say something then others will follow. Take Alec Baldwin who said if George Bush won in 2004 then he would move to Canada. The only good thing that Alec Baldwin has ever done was play in Betelgeuse, and even in that role he played a dead man. No one cares what you say Alec, or you Susan, or you Barbara. All of these said similar things during the 2000 campaign as well. And unfortunately, they are still American citizens living in the US. I guess they are just as much as liars filled with empty promises as liberal politicians.

Eighty-seven percent are influenced by those we grow up with or shape our beliefs. This is why it is so important to fill your minds with positive thoughts and beliefs. This is why a morality system is needed. Not one that changes with every new world issue or newly elected leader who promises change, but one that is solid and never bends or breaks, one that stands forever. Isaiah 40:8

  • The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.

Sorry atheists, church is still one of the biggest influences in our lives. You can keep your personal interests (2%) and teach your own children but stay out of the rest of our lives.

XLII. Types of Church Goers

From one man's perspective in the last ten years, subject to change:
On each given Sunday there are 7 types of people who attend church. Each person will have their own personal reason to be there such as to learn, or lead, or listen, or even be cynical. But each of the seven groups will also have their own characteristics and needs as a whole that will differ from the other six. Here are the 7 groups:
  1. The Leader (The Minister/Elders)
  2. The Teacher (The "Scholar"/Advice giver)
  3. The Mature (The Worker)
  4. The Newbie (New Babies in Christ)
  5. The Rider of the fence (The Hurting)
  6. The Non-believer (The Skeptic)
  7. The Visitor (The Out of towner)
In a small church, let's say 100 people, there is usually only one leader, the senior minister or as many will call the pastor. What the pastor is,is another post and will not be the focus on this thought. This is the main visionary and will do much of the work that deals with spiritual matters. At this point there will usually be two or so teachers, hopefully elders, that will take some of the duties when the minister needs a break. They will probably be elderly gentlemen who are set in their ways but would like for more people to get involved. The ones who will get involved at this stage are the mature Christians who have been around for a long time. This will almost be half the church. Most of them will be either from the same family or close-knitted friends. Because of this group, they will invite other friends they wish to be a part of the church, and some will come from their invitation. This is the Newbie, which will be a small percentage, maybe 10% of the attendance. The Newbie does not know how to get involved and feels out of place. This group will be your revolving door group. Many will stay for a while, many will leave due to this out of place feeling. Then there will be those who are riding the fence each week. Another 40% or so will be there because they are seekers. They don't know why they are being called to church but they are hurting and are looking for shelter from this world. This will be the largest group who will become of course the next "Newbies". This is the group that can make a church look like they are growing or dying. The you have the non-believer. There will usually be a small number who show up just to see how skeptical they can be of church. They are dragged in by a spouse, or child. They will sit quietly in the back pew and wait for someone not to greet them so they have an excuse of not to come back and say that Christians are not that friendly. And then as always you will have a visitor or two you hope to give inspiration to so they can take something back to their home church. However, being a small church will not really give them much to take since they will be closely arranged, cliquish if you will.
If this church survives and grows to about 200 what happens to these groups? The numbers and their feelings will change. Some of the elders will become younger and start to become leaders and share responsibility with the minister. They will start to have visions of their own about what the church can be and will really get things going. They will train others into the teacher position so more classes can be taught. At this point there will be 3-5 leaders instead of 1. There will be now around 5 teachers to take on classes while the leaders are getting programs that are needed to start. The mature Christian group will not grow that much since they are still the workers and some will see what it takes to be committed to the church and keep it going and will not want to move forward with their faith. The Newbies will have almost tripled because family members have invited other family members and more friends but will stop not want to get completely involved. Those riding the fence will not grow in percent but will in numbers and be the largest group you have. They will have shown up in numbers because they start to hear what the church is doing around the community and will want to check it out. And of course that will bring even more non-believers just by pure natural growth of all the other groups. And since the reputation of the church is starting to spread more visitors will tend to go to your church than somewhere else. This will be your thriving church. Once you hit the 200 mark, the church starts to change.
What happens if this church keeps growing and hits maybe 500? The leadership starts to stop growing. There are plans to start programs but some will not see that as part of the original plan and will leave or step down because of that. Some may stay and remain teachers because they still feel a connection to the people. But now some of the teachers start to feel overwhelmed due to all the programs/lessons that need to be explained to the people. The mature group may grow in numbers but the percentage is becoming smaller and smaller, again because these are the workers and the field is ripe for harvest but the workers are few! At this point, the Newbies is your largest grower of the groups. They are riding the highs from the thriving church and are desiring to learn more, another reason why the teacher becomes overwhelmed. At this point many of the elders will not do the teaching since they are too busy starting programs and trying to figure out budget needs. But if they do not stay teaching then you will lose many of those who are new and they will become a revolving door (in and out of the church or go somewhere else feeling the same out of place feeling as before). And now that you have a growing reputation many non-believers will be at your door wondering what the big deal is. At this point, visitors start to become part of the furniture, no one really notices them anymore.
MEGA CHURCH! Your church hits or is close to 1000. The new creature of creation, the thing God created on the 8th day. A whole new mentality sets in. The leadership still hasn't grown that much, but now due to because they are afraid someone will change their vision. Egos may have already set in and that is not good for spiritual growth. You now may have plenty of teachers but some will be outside the vision (even perhaps outside the "denomination" and will not be allowed to teach because will teach others something differently than what the leaders want. The mature Christian at this point can't take it anymore and will start to leave. They are tired of the leadership not doing things for spiritual growth. And at this point the Newbie group is so large that the leadership thinks they are doing all the right things so they will turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the Mature Christian. They will focus on this group for all of their programs. But they will not get them to the next point of growth. The vision is tunnel. Those riding the fence in a mega church feel comfortable because they are lost in the crowd. No one really goes after them because the closeness of the groups is not that tight. They do not feel pressured and so will never know that they need to get more involved and learn more about who Christ is. Where are the teachers? They are out-numbered because many of the Mature who could be teachers are gone due to frustration of the leadership. Still growing though in numbers are the non-believers. They finally become friends and regular attenders but have no clue what the story of Christ still is about because all of the programs are about finding yourself in today's world. To them these lessons make sense so they stay. But they never will know. And visitors? Who?
The point is: church needs something for everyone. Leaders need to get away and reflect. Teachers need help and support from the leaders and perhaps need to be the same people. Mature Christians are the core and need to be fed and not forgotten about their needs too. The Newbie needs guidance and something will get them to go deeper into the word. The rider needs something that makes them want to be a part of something but with substance. And the non-believer needs something to believe in. Stop watering down the Gospel of Christ, it's for everyone.
All sizes of churches can work. But you have to look out for the warning signs and deal with them. Too many time churches focus on the Newbie and leave nothing else for the rest. The leaders think they are doing right because their numbers keep growing. They forgot it's not about the numbers. It's about a spiritual warfare. If all you do is worry about the Newbie then the Mature Core of believers will fall away and all you have left are babies who can't take care of themselves.

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