Monday, December 3, 2012

COME TO ME


Sometimes all we need are the words of a song to bring us to a place where we stop and remember how much God loves us.

May God Richly Bless You
~Peace
Al

Monday, October 22, 2012

ONLY GRACE

My Apologies for Being so Sporadic in My postings

~This is a beautiful song that deserves a listen.~
 

Grace is a difficult concept for so many of us to figure out. That God would forgive us of all of our misdeeds as a gift goes against who we are as people. Over the years the church has found numerous ways for its people to pay for that gift. There has been penance, good deeds and even detailed lists that people are forced to adhere to. The main way these have been enforced has been guilt. Yet, these feeble attempts and the guilt behind them only nullify the grace of God. If a person has been freed from earning their salvation, the works exude from them. Listen to Paul in Ephesians 2:


"For it has been by grace you have been saved, through faith
-- and this not from yourselves -- it is a gift from God --
not by works, so that no one can boast. 
For we are God's workmanship (masterpiece,Gk),
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do."

So there are works, they flow from us as gratitude for the gift from God.

Here is where the trouble comes into the equation. People mess up. I have taken messing up to an art form during my 60 years. Granted, much of that was before I became a Christian, yet a great deal has occurred since I became a Christian. I have failed my family, my church, myself and my God. I have walked away from God, with no intention of looking back and somehow He drew me home. 

This week I had a conversation with a young man who has made mistakes and is trying to find his way back in serving the Lord. He is discouraged because when he is attempting to do something public in the church -- he sees the eyes of judgment of those who knew him when he was struggling with his faith. It is as though they are waiting for him to mess up again -- spoiler alert! -- he will! Just as those people who are constantly pulling him back to his mistakes. Only God knows the heart of a person. Only God knows the true struggles and temptations a person is going through.

When a person fails, we should be there to help them up. Will they mess up again? -- probably, but so do all of us. One of the reasons the church exists is to be a representation of God's love, mercy and grace. People who go to church aren't perfect, not even close. We are all there as people who have failed God and other people in our lives. We are there to encourage each other to be better people. We lend a hand when someone falls and if they fall again -- we are still there holding out a hand of reconciliation.

More than anything else, we need our Father's Eyes.

Peace
~Al

Friday, August 31, 2012

GUARDIAN

~This week Alanis Morissette released her new album Havoc/Bright Lights this one song deeply moved me Please enjoy before YouTube pulls it~

As a kid who grew up in a tough neighborhood, I seemed to get in fights continually. I can honestly say that I have no idea how many fights I have won or lost. The one thing my Dad taught me was to NEVER show vulnerability. The reason being, if someone you are fighting knows you are hurt - they will zero in on your pain. That may or may not have been good advise to a teenager who was perpetually getting into conflicts -- but for a normal person it was and is horrible advice. As one who grew up in the 50's and 60's boys and men were to emulate John Wayne. You never showed weakness, vulnerability or pain -- above all you never cried.
     As a result, many of us grew up with detached and unemotional fathers. Anger was the only emotion they seemed willing to share.
     Unfortunately, this tendency to hide our pain has continued into the 21st Century. Oh, it is not as violent as my teenage years, but it is there all the same. When asked how we are doing? People say, "Fine", "Great" or Canadians, "Not too bad". We have learned through years of this conditioning to bury our pain and our struggles. We are surrounded by people who are completely overwhelmed on the inside, while all the time seem to have it all together.
     Christians get up on Sunday and put on their Sunday Go to Meeting Cloths. Never intending to share their struggles and honestly not wanting hear anyone else's. It is no wonder that our kids and young adults see this as hypocrisy. They hear the conversations about lack of money, jobs at risk, looming foreclosures and marital discord -- Yet everything is "Fine", "Great" and "Wonderful".
     Everyone need a safe place. A place where we can be who we are, warts and all. For many it is a close friend, sibling or spouse. For others it is a group of people who can be trusted. But more than anything it is a place where people actually care. My son and I were talking about how people love to watch others fail - I believe many NASCAR fans watch it for the wrecks. I told Nathan how Paul in Romans 12 said we are to "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." It appears Nathan has hit the nail on the head for much of our culture -- we rejoice when people weep and weep when people rejoice.
     All I am asking for in this short message is to ask you to find and surround yourself with people that care about you. More than that, I ask that you actually care about the people God puts on your path. Share the joys and sorrows of your life and those of those around you.
Peace
~Al

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

FOLLOWERS AND LEADERS

I apologize for not posting for over a month. My doctor found what he called "an acute blood clot" - (I didn't find it cute) - in my mid-thigh. Needless to say, I have been on industrial strength Drain-o blood thinners. They left me extremely weak. Thankfully I am balancing out on Cumadin and the clot appears to be gone.
I would also like to thank those who have viewed my blog, which is at its first anniversary - 24,350 views so far.
______________________________________________________________

~Please Watch This Video by my Friend Curt Cloninger~


Leadership! I hear a great deal about how we need more leaders in the church. We have Leadership Training Courses, Seminars, Retreats and even para-church organizations dedicated to training leaders. I think Curt is right - we need better followers. As human beings we have a tendency to elevate people in our expectations. More often than not, they prove to be just as frail and weak as the rest of us. We have seen ministers of gigantic churches fail morally and have witnessed the devastation left in the wake.

In Mark 10:35-37, 41-45 listen to what Jesus had to say about followers and leaders:
" James and John, Zebedee's sons, came up to him.
'Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.'
'What is it? I'll see what I can do.'
'Arrange it,' they said,
'so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory
-- one of us at the right, the other at you left.'"
....
"When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John.
Jesus got them together to settle things down.
'You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,'
he said,
'and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads.
It's not going to be that way with you.
Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.
Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.
That is what the Son of Man has done:
He came to serve, not to be served -- and then to 
give his life in exchange for many who are held hostage."
(The Message)

If I were asked, "What is the largest problem facing the church?" I would say, "We no longer follow Jesus." We have divided his Body the Church over utter nonsense. We have split churches over dogmatic issues that have nothing to do with following Jesus. We have ostracized and shunned the very people Jesus surrounded himself with. We now have Mega-Churches and Mega-Preachers, yet to simply follow Jesus is woefully overlooked.

Jesus saw his followers as being the type of followers that when they had 100 sheep in a field and one went missing, would leave the 99 in search of the 1. The church is NOT a political power broker. It does NOT have the corner on the truth -- no matter which preacher is your favorite. It is NOT a place to get dressed up and meet once a week in a multi-million dollar building. THE CHURCH IS TO BE THE REPRESENTATION OF JESUS ON THIS EARTH!

We have been called to follow him, follow his example and touch people the way he did. The Kingdom of God is radical. It is not American, European, Asian, African or anything of this world. It is simply the method God has chosen to touch and heal a broken world.

Please spend some time in the Gospels. See if you can learn how Jesus thought and felt about people - then go and do likewise.

Peace
~Al

Saturday, June 30, 2012

THE GIFT

~Take a Break From Your Troubles 
and Listen to This Song~

We wake each day with a gift. Too often we are so consumed with the everyday grind, we miss what is around us. Yes, I could talk about the world's problems, i.e. The economy, The Middle East, disease, war and death. If you want to hear about those things, just turn on CNN, FoxNews or MSNBC. I believe that there are far too many of us obsessing on how bad the world is and are missing the gift that each day brings. There is a wonderful verse in Psalms 118:24, 

"This is the day the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad in it."

l am fully aware of the troubles that come our way and I have often spoken about those times of pain. At times the darkness is so overwhelming, we just want to crawl into a cave. I have been in that cave and the darkness was all around me -- BUT CAVES ARE DARK! The only way to get away from that darkness is to get out of your cave and walk into the sunlight. Take a moment out of each day and look for beauty, you will find it. We are a "get it done" kind of people. We fill the silence in our lives with noise and meaningless activities. Because of that we are not still enough to hear the voice of God. Regardless of the pain or hurt we are experiencing there can be beauty. I remember my ex-wife Angela, on her deathbed, had bird feeders right outside the window. She could watch the beauty around her while suffering from ALS.

We talk about having a "bad" day; that too is relative. Truth be told, no matter how bad your day is going -- someone is having a worse day. Now I do not know the context of this picture, but I can say, this guy is having a bad day. I would say he might have gotten carried away with looking for the beauty in nature and where his clothes are is anyone's guess.

Now that I have gotten the gratuitous nudity out of the way, let me just say - SLOW DOWN. Every day we are bombarded by urgent and important demands. Too often we rush to face the urgent and we miss the important. As your day starts to fill up, ask yourself if this next task is urgent or important. You will soon come to the realization that what is urgent is often NOT important. Urgent things drain us and important things fill us. Here are some important things:
  • Loving your family
  • Spending time with those you care about
  • Quietness
  • Spirituality and your relationship with God
  • Caring for people who have less than yourself
  • Helping people who can never pay you back
  • The laughter of a child
  • The embrace of a loved one.
Remember this: 
I don't know of a single person on their deathbed saying, 
"I should have spent more time at the office."

Learn to be still.


The song below is taken from an ancient Navajo, (Dineh) poem. It holds great truth.


Peace,
Al









Wednesday, June 20, 2012

HIT

Of all of the Rocky movies, my favorites were the last and the first. Everyone remembers the story of, Rocky, the underdog who gets his big break and meet Apollo Creed in the ring. We cheered when The Rocky Theme was played. Rocky calling for Adrianne after the fight - "Adrienne, I did it!". The final movie, Rocky Balboa, had the hero well past his prime. A man who had buried the love of his life, Adrienne. The Rocky Theme would play softly and very slowly as we watched Rocky sit at the graveside of Adrienne in a wooden chair - and talk to her. In the last movie, Rocky is a has-been with brain damage and he is alienated from his son. He has been to the mountaintop and now is back in the valley. He is a lonely -- BUT NOT A BROKEN man!

The scene below is, in my opinion, one of the greatest scenes I have seen in any movie:
"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life...
But it ain't about how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. . It's How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done...
Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not point fingers and blame other people. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that!..!!!"
This movie had a huge impact on me because what was said was so true in my own life. " Its not how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." I think most of us have had our fair share of hits. How we respond to those hits determines if we choose to be a "victim" or a "victor". I have had some hits in my life that I thought would knock me out of the game. Honestly, my initial defensive response was to blame the situation or other people or a person in general; then I came to realize that it was my choice that caused it. I am not saying that there cannot be outside influences, but there comes a time when you have to say to yourself,
"OK, that sucked and it really hurt me - DEAL WITH IT!"
I know many people who are clinging to past pain or even past successes that have  long ago gone away. In many cases losing success is one of the hardest. When I went through my divorce I had a successful Mortgage Banking company, (that was before they became the pariahs of our society), I went from making mid six-figures to nothing. The next year my gross salary was $27,000. My family was shattered, I was alone, I had lawsuits against me, I was in bankruptcy and foreclosure. I even had the District Attorney's Office deposing me to see if I had done anything that warranted prosecution. Yet, through the grace of God - I survived.
For me, it felt like I had hornets swirling around my head. It seemed that wherever I turned there was another attack - I was completely overwhelmed. I sat down one night with a pad of paper and I wrote down all of the things that I was facing. I took the hardest ones first and made a list. I had decided I would fight them one at a time. I can handle one hornet better than a swarm. One by one I took them on, but with a constant gaze toward the future. It took years and it wasn't easy but by focusing on the future I was able to defeat the past. Now, I am not Superman, there were times I felt like ending it all with a bullet to the brain. Yet the drive to make it through the "Perfect Storm" in my life gave me that North Star to guide me.
For those of you in your own "Perfect Storm", all I can tell you is to look to the future. Dwelling in the past, whether success or hurt will keep you nailed in the past. You will never move forward, you will constantly blame others and most importantly you will NEVER heal. When Paul writes in Philippians 3 he is reflecting on all of his grand accomplishments:
"But whatever was to my profit, I now consider it loss 
for the sake of Christ.
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to
the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whose sake I have lost ALL things.
I consider them rubbish (Gk. Manure/dung, rotting food),
that I may gain Christ ....
But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus 
took hold of me.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 3:7-8, 12b, 13b - NIV)
It is interesting that Paul uses a word for dung in referring to his past and present accomplishments. For Paul, his life is consumed in Jesus Christ. We should take comfort in knowing that although this world will beat you down, there is One who will lift you up. Look to the future and for help on its horizon.
Below is Rocky remembering a talk he had with his trainer Mickey. If nothing else -- Listen to the angel on your shoulder,
"Get up you son of a bitch! Mickey loves you!"
Peace,
Al

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

LIVING YEARS

~ This Song Came on the Radio and it Touched Me. ~



I come in contact with so many people who have been hurt or alienated from a parent, friend or sibling. Often times there can be decades between any type of communication. In my own life, as a survivor of various types of abuse, I close a door in my mind on that person. I guess I got that from my Dad. He was a very "compartmentalized" man. He could seal off emotions, feelings and even memories that he chose to forget. I know now that is probably the worst thing a person can do. We stuff our anger and even hatred so far down inside of us we no longer seem to feel the pain.

That may be true to our conscious mind but it just brews and festers below the surface. We seem fine on the outside, but beneath is festering rot.Then comes a time when you can no longer talk things out. That person is gone and all is left is a nagging sense of shame and guilt for not acting sooner, or if that rot has progressed - you are glad that person has gone.


During these past couple of years it seems that many people I know have died. Maybe it is because I am an old man and my peer group is just getting smaller by attrition. But since I am an old man, I have learned a few things.
There is an interesting story at the beginning of John 8:

John 8:1-11 (MSG)
To Throw The Stone

"Jesus went across to the Mount of Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them. The religion scholars and the Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said,
"Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?"

They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring some charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said,
"The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone."
Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, 
beginning with the oldest.

The woman was left alone.

Jesus stood up and spoke to her,

"Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?"

"No one, Master"

"Neither do I," said Jesus
"Go on your way. From now on, don't sin"

Did you catch those who walked away first? It was the oldest in the crowd. There is something that comes with age - knowing you are not always on the right side. With age, through the lenses of our own personal failures and pain, you realize that life is not as simple as it was in your 20's. In my 20's, 30's and even in my 40's I had all the answers. Now as I approach the sunset of my life, I see the questions I overlooked in my youth.

In my pursuit of the truth I had made the Bible into a rule book that I could use to order my life - and often times, order the lives of others. Now I look at the Bible in its entirety, I see a symphony or a dance that God has created to help us live, love and get along with one another in this world.

I don't know if you noticed they only brought the woman before Jesus. I always thought it took two people to commit adultery. Not to justify adultery, but what were the circumstances? Where was the guy? Was he in the crowd holding a stone? Was she set up to be a pawn? I assume Jesus understood the game that was going on. Many have wondered what he was writing in the dirt, I think he was bored with the entire spectacle and sickened by their religious hypocrisy. I imagine him doodling.

Now back to the topic at hand, Are there people in your life you are angry with? Have you hurt someone? Has someone hurt you? NOW is the time to straighten things out. I have spoken about my Father's abuse of me as a kid. I can also tell you that when my Dad passed away, we were on great terms. It wasn't my great ability to forgive or my compassionate heart. I had been touched by the grace of God. What caused me to do what I did came because I realized how much God had forgiven and accepted me.



My Dad was recovering from prostate surgery. (This is kind of gross) He hadn't had a bowel movement in three days and I was supposed to take him back to the hospital the next day. In the middle of the night the air in our house turned blue as I heard a string of profanity being shouted by my Father. I got up, and let's just say 'The dam broke". He was completely covered with excrement and VERY embarrassed. I pulled him into the bathroom and turned on the shower. I started removing his soiled pajamas, as he kept saying "No! No!" I got him into the shower and cleaned him up. He calmed down and was crying and said,
"After all I have done to you, how can you do this?". I just said, "Because you are my Dad."


From that point on, he was my Dad; we had a good relationship over the next three years until he passed away. I know there must be someone in your life you can reach out to. Whether you were the cause or the recipient - reconciliation is a good thing.


Peace,
~Al

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fallen

~THIS WAS ONE OF MY FIRST BLOGS~
Sarah McLachlan is one of my favorite artists. This song was one of those I felt she was talking to me. If you have ever failed, and Lord knows I have done that in an almost nuclear proportion, this may be a voice calling in the wilderness of your life. I have had many failures in my life. 

The line that keeps going through my mind is, 
"We believed that we could change ourselves the past could be undone, but we carry on our backs the burden time always reveals. In the lonely light of morning, in the wound that would not heal. The bitter taste of losing everything that I've held so dear" 


For me it was I came from an extremely dysfunctional family. My Mother left my Father when I was six weeks old and I was raised by his sister who had been widowed during WWII. In fact, "Babe", finally told me when I was ten that she was actually my aunt. (I always wondered why my Mom & Dad were brother and sister - I didn't grow up on the set of "Deliverance".) My Father was a merchant marine and was gone most of the time I grew up. Where the major dysfunction came into play was that everyone in my family was an alcoholic. My Father, when he came home was physically and sexually abusive to me. I can remember being awoken to him beating me with a belt or his fists and then pleasuring himself at my expense. He was always a very angry man. With Babe, she was usually passed out by the time I got home from school. I would find something to eat and watch TV until the channels signed off. I did hear on some late show this English guy saying that people should read the "Classics", so when the Bookmobile came around I told the travelling librarian I wanted to read them and she started feeding me books. I started then and have read about a book a week since I started. 


When the "white flight" occurred in our area of Richmond, our family did not have a ticket to move to the suburbs. So, I grew up as a white kid in an African American area. I did learn to love and appreciate that culture and I also learned how to fight pretty well. It seemed there was always someone wanting to see if I made a wrong turn somewhere and wound up in the wrong neighborhood. This led my life into gangs and a great deal of time interacting with law enforcement. Then at seventeen I became a Christian and was told that everything in my past was forgiven and forgotten.


I went on to become a minister after studying Bible at Abilene Christian University and eventually a Master's from GTU in Berkeley. I had all of the answers to questions nobody asked and became a spiritual leader. Then that line in Sarah's song came back that I believed the past could be undone. Needless to say, after failing in ministry and the end of my second marriage - In the lonely light of morning in the wound that would not heal - I lost my business, wife and two children. I had become a successful business person and now was in a small apartment and in the midst of bankruptcy. Somehow I thought I had overcome the wounds, yet I carried on my back the burden time will always revel.

I was alone. I had no money. None of my friends were around. So I crawled into a cave. I started drinking and would drink until I passed out every night, except on weekends when my kids would visit (I refused to give my kids what I got from my Father). I remember wishing someone would call, but I hadn't made that easy for anyone. I felt a great deal of resentment against people I had helped in my business and soon realized that it was just part of the whole masquerade that I had somehow become this successful and popular person.

Then I met Josephine. She had never heard of me, she had no idea I had been this big shot. She just slowly pulled me from my cave and inspired me to start over again. She was everything I was not. Josephine is a free spirit and I am not. She is spontaneous and I am boring. Above all she is the most compassionate person I have ever met. We have been married for sixteen years and I love her more today than when we first met. She encouraged me to start a new career, to seek out old friends and most importantly - not to give up on God. My kids Sarah and Nathan are the light of my life and I am so happy they love me. Every night I text them a silly picture to let them know I am thinking of them and that I love them.



Now why am I writing this? Well, to let you know I do not know all of the answers to life. In fact, I seem to have more questions about life than  I did forty years ago. However, I also know what it is like to lose everything. As I said in a previous blog about the Road We Walk, it is a one way journey. Whatever place you find yourself - you need to keep moving forward. You need to find your North Star and NEVER lose sight of it. In the midst of the pain and the desire not to see or talk to anyone, you have to force yourself to reach out. Facebook has been a great place to at least communicate with people from my past. Some of them I have helped and others I have hurt and let down. Refreshingly, I have found acceptance from both groups. 

Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation that is so awful we see no way out. All of those people who I thought didn't care - some were trying to find me, I just had a very deep cave. Ask for help. Find someone or a group of people you can trust. You are not alone. In all of this I can say God did not abandon me, I walked away from Him. Don't wallow in self pity there is no perfect life, just life itself. When I was a kid I would watch "Ozzie and Harriett", "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" - then I would sit and wonder if that was what the "real" world was like -- it isn't. The world is messed up and people are messed up.

You are not alone in this struggle. I hope my words have helped at least someone who can see there is a way out of the darkness.

Peace
~Al

Friday, May 18, 2012

ANGELA





It has been one year to the day of, my ex-wife, Angela's passing. One year ago I was sitting across the bed from Curtis, Angela's husband. We were both holding one of her hands as she passed away from this world. Angela gave a valiant fight against an unstoppable foe - ALS. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or "Lou Gehrig's Disease" it takes no prisoners

If there ever was a disease to cause me to doubt my faith in God, it would be ALS. With the brain fully functioning, your body starts to fail one part at a grueling time. You can no longer talk, walk, swallow, use your hands and breathing becomes more of a problem. What you can look forward to is to suffocate in your own fluids and mucous. All the time with a fully functional brain, knowing exactly what is happening.

While Curtis and I were there at the house, Sarah and Nathan had gone to a cafe. (I asked them to do that so they wouldn't have to watch their Mom pass away. They left when she fell asleep.) After that draining experience, I had to drive over to meet Sarah and Nathan -- I had no idea what I was going to say.

Sarah was 23 and Nathan was 18, their Mom was dead and the remnant of our family is small. Over the past year I have watched how each one has grieved. Sarah was very expressive in her grief and to this day has a vacancy in her heart. Nathan expressed his grief in stoicism and an impenetrable wall of silence. They, like all of us, handle these things differently  and each has the same amount of hurt and pain. I have done my best to let them both know they are valued and loved.

Angela would be very proud of how they have each grown into young adults. Sarah, now 24, lives in Oregon and is currently studying nursing with an eye toward Naturopathic Medicine. Music is her true love and I believe her cathartic release. She has grown into a warm, compassionate, intelligent beautiful woman.

Nathan, will be 20 in June, he inherited my twisted sense of humor. He just finished his first year at UNR, studying Psychology. He is a bookworm and loves StarCraft and Diablo 3. He is also gifted musically and often is up late at night writing music on his computer. He is  bright and has a wonderful sense of humor.

Both Sarah and Nathan have turned out well. This is a tough time for them and they could use your prayers.



So now after a year, I pause to reflect on how Angela's passing has affected me.
  • It was an ugly divorce with fault on each side, yet, in spite of all of the pain we caused each other - forgiveness felt much better than the hate.
  • Sarah and Nathan, seeing that Angela and I could forgive each other was a good thing to see.
  • Curtis' and Josephine's understanding and inner strength was good to see. As the current spouses neither were threatened by the fact that Angela and I no longer clung to anger.
  • Shortly after Angela's death I started writing this blog to express a great deal of feelings I had buried much too long.
  • 2011 was a horrible year. Shortly after Angela's passing Josephine went to Ireland to experience the loss of multiple uncles her Dad and her Sister.

The song below was played at Angela's Memorial Service. The words express, better than I can, how I feel and I am sure Angela is feeling right now.






Peace,
Al

Friday, May 11, 2012

RAISE ME UP

~This is one of my favorite songs and this rendition
by Celtic Women is beautiful~

There are times in all of our lives that we feel as though we have hit the bottom. We seem to languish in depression and self-doubt - we cannot. for the life of us, see hope. Then the ephiney hits us and we realize the bottom is just the path back to the top. God sends people into our lives that seem to have just the right words or maybe that hug at just the right time. The phone rings and a voice you haven't heard in ages calls with encouragement.
Acts4-36-37
Encourager-barnabas In Acts 4 we are introduced to a man named Joseph, whom the Apostles nicknamed "Barnabas" -- Son of Encouragement. Of the many biblical characters I would love to spend time with, my choice is Barnabas. Imagine being a person who was known for his encouragement. He wasn't know for riches, power, fame or anything we consider great in our culture -- HE WAS A SOURCE OF ENCOURAGEMENT. If I have a tombstone, I would like to see those words written on it.

As a person who has touched the bottom of life, I can tell you there are a set of stairs down there, heading up. I hope you can find a person in your time of need who will raise you up. More importantly, I pray that you can be a source of encouragement to those around you. To see the potential that God has placed in all of His children. In short, to see people as Jesus did. I have often said that the Judgmnet will not consist of a quiz to see if you held the right dogma or to check your church attendance time-card. I really believe many will hear, "You have my Son's eyes. You saw in each person you encountered the image of God." 

We are living in tough times. The need for people who can offer a word of encouragement has never been higher. I would simply encourage you to step back from the daily stress in your life and be a source of encouragement. There are a great deal of people who are hurting around you. Many have lost their jobs, houses or a loved one to extreme sickness or death. Activley seek out people around you to encourage.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was a senior in High School. This was one of my favorite songs and as I hear it again I can say -- it still is. Listen to these words and see if you can live them.


Pray that God can lead you to those you can encourage.
Peace
~Al
www.allachner.com

Monday, May 7, 2012

POSTMODERNISM #2

I thought I would assemble some quotes from Christian thinkers that can help facilitate a discussion of Postmodernism at - http://allachner.com/forum .

"Because we are commanded by God to form and reform culture, Christians have to be actively engaged with culture: studying it, discerning positive and negative aspects, and working to redeem it. We are to be in the world but not of it, working to restrain evil and advance redemptive potentials. We are called to be salt in the world, working to enrich culture and preserve life-affirming aspects. We are also called to be a light to show the way for cultural development, uncovering and disentangling forces for good and evil, and redirecting unhealthy or destructive patterns toward principles in line with loving god and serving our neighbor. And the culture we are called to form and reform, to move toward redemption, includes even popular culture."  William Romanowski


"Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting."  Francis Schaeffer


"Traditional Christian teaching has been otherworldly in its emphasis. It has had more to say about how to accept failure than about how to succeed, more about suffering than about action. Theology has been the preserve of those who minister as priests and pastors to the inner spiritual life of their people. Consequently, when theologians whose whole work is in this pastoral ministry try to speak about matters of politics and economics, their words do not carry weight."   Lesslie Newbigin


In 1968 Francis Schaffer wrote these words. They are strangely prophetic:
The God Who Is There
"Men are facing a society without structure and they want to fill the void that has appeared. For a long time Reformation ideas formed the basis of North European culture, and this extended to include that of America and English-speaking Canada, etc. But today that has been destroyed by the relativism both inside [82] and outside the churches. Hence historic Christianity is now a minority group....

      "Society cannot function without form and motivation. As the old sociological forms have been swept away, new ones must be found or society breaks down altogether. Sir Julian Huxley has stepped in at this point with his suggestion that religion has a real place in modern society. But, he would contend, it must be understood that religion is always evolving and that it needs to come under the control of society.
      "This suggestion is not as ridiculous as it sounds, even coming from a convinced humanist, if one understands the mentality of our age. The prevailing dialectical methodology fits itself easily into religious forms....
     "Teilhard de Chardin... illustrates that the progressive Roman Catholic theologians are further away from historic Reformation Christianity than classical Roman Catholicism, because they are also dialectical thinkers.
     "The orthodox Roman Catholic would tell me that I am bound for hell because I reject the true Church. He is dealing with a concept of absolute truth. But the new Roman Catholic who sits at my fireside says, ‘You are all right, Dr. Schaeffer, because you are so sincere.’ In the new Roman Catholicism such a statement usually means that the dialectical method has taken over.
Therefore we are not surprised to find that ... others such as Hans KUng have been strongly influenced by neo-orthodoxy. It is important to note that the position on Scripture by the Vatican Council has shifted in the same-direction and men such as Raymond Panikkar, Dom Bede Griffiths [close friend of C. S. Lewis]... are proclaiming a synthesis between Roman Catholicism and Hinduism." 83
"The time, therefore, does seem right for this new theology to give the needed sociological forms and motivations. It is true, of course, that society could look elsewhere amongst the secular mysticisms for a new evolving religion, but the new theology has some strong advantages.
      "Firstly, the undefined connotation words that they are using are deeply rooted in our Western culture. This is much easier and more powerful than using new and untraditional words.
      "Secondly, these men control almost every large denomination in Protestantism.... This gives them the advantage of functioning within the organisational stream of the Church, and thus both its organisation and linguistic continuity is at their disposal.
      "Thirdly, people in our culture in general are already in process of being accustomed to accept non-defined, contentless religious words and symbols, without any rational or historical control. Such words and symbols are ready to be filled with the content of the moment. The words ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’ are the most ready for the manipulator. The phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ has become a contentless banner which can be carried in any direction for sociological purposes.

      "...because the phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ has been separated from true history and the content of Scripture, it can be used to trigger religiously motivated sociological actions directly contrary to the teaching of Christ.... It is against such manipulated semantic mysticism that we do very well to prepare ourselves, our children and our spiritual children." 84
Francis_schaeffer

Sunday, May 6, 2012

POSTMODERNISM #1

How was that title for a mouthful? During this week, I am planning on taking some small bites out of our current worldview. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of postmodernism - you are not alone. I would like to take a look at it from a Christian perspective. I will have a couple of videos below that can help set the stage.
Ep-chart-1-3

This is a great deal to absorb, but it is where our culture currently resides. This could be a good time to take a deeper look. I will hopefully have some discussions with you at http://allachner.com/forum

Peace,
~Al

Thursday, May 3, 2012

PEPPERDINE

I have been having a wonderful week here at Pepperdine University in Malibu. As you can see from the picture below, I couldn't have chosen a prettier place to recharge my internal batteries.

 

Pepperdine-university

I just came out of a class taught by Mike Cope, he has a refreshing mind and I am relishing each moment here. Enjoy Mike

 

 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Help in Time of Need

I will be hanging out at Pepperdine University this week. My blog will be back this weekend.

Pepperdine-university

Sunday, April 22, 2012

QUESTIONS

~For You Fellow Old People Out There~


I was given a great compliment this week by my Daughter Sarah. She posted this picture on Facebook and said. "Thanks for teaching me this..." I wrote back and told her that was the best compliment she could have given me.

I have always had a very critical mind, some would call it skeptical. It has always bothered me that so many people hold positions and beliefs that they heard somewhere and decided, I like that. They do absolutely no research to determine if it is true, false or something in between.

I have taught my kids that unless you can, with equal passion and knowledge, argue both sides of an issue -- you don't understand the issue. We live in an age of sound bites, half truths and a very ignorant audience. I love when Jay Leno goes out on one of his "Jay Walks". He asks people very simple questions and the answers are often very funny, yet sad. I understand that these people are picked because they gave the best clueless answer, but does it matter? The video below is more than just funny, it is extremely revealing - I suggest you watch it.


What is true in regards to history is also true with people of faith. In my experiences, many Christians know a few Bible stories but cannot tell you where those stories are found in the Bible. They believe in Jesus, yet have no idea if there is any actual historical evidence of his life, death, burial and resurrection. A large number of Christians know a few "proof-texts" that they learned in Sunday School, yet have no concept of how those texts fit into the context of what was written. When a person quotes a verse to me to justify a belief, I ask them to close their Bible and tell me what the paragraph is saying before that verse. I am not attempting to be a know-it-all, I simply believe a large number of Christians are Biblically illiterate. Their belief structures are based more on American virtues than what is found in the Bible. I have heard sections of the Constitution, quotes from Shakespeare and even movies quoted as Biblical verses. 

I remember when I was minister in the San Francisco Bay Area. A group of students from a Christian College wanted to come to our congregation to evangelize students at U.C. Berkeley. We had a nightly event on campus to discuss Christianity and they were inviting people to attend. While walking around Cal, I saw a one of the Christian College students crying. I asked her what happened? She said, "They don't believe in the Bible!" My unspoken response was "Duh!" I wound up talking to her and explained that most people she would encounter don't believe in the Bible. I can only describe her response as total horror. She had been raised in a Christian home in the "Bible-Belt"; it was inconceivable that people would question the Bible.

So, as we move along in a postmodernism culture.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism Have we really prepared the next generation to be people of faith? I wrote recently, we are losing the next generation to "spirituality" -- which is true. The congregation I attend, here in Reno, is viewed as being too rational. Yet, I see people of all ages who know why they believe what they believe. Questions are always allowed and we may disagree on some of the answers, but we still view each other as fellow citizens of the Kingdom of God. Or minister, Gary Cage PhD, has done a great job to make our congregation as a place where truth is pursued. If you are exploring the background of Christianity, I would recommend a link on our congregational website: http://evidencestudy.com/

If nothing else, I would ask you to question everything you read or hear. Research it and find what is true.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." - Thomas Jefferson

Peace