Thursday, May 27, 2010

Not Christian but very religious

About five years after America’s Civil War ended, 1870, the majority of American Protestants were of the strong opinion that America was a Christian nation. Skeptics and non-Christians had another view, but there was in the nineteenth century indications that the Protestant majority carried the day.

Christian groups and individuals founded the first ten colleges for the training of preachers and teachers. It was a time of revivalism with the Baptists, Methodist, Presbyterians and splinter groups taking the lead evangelism in the expanding frontier.

Out of these spiritual awakenings came the evangelicals’ courage to declare that America was God’s special gift to the world. From the black slaves came the sense of this being the Promised Land. They related deeply with Moses as he lead the Hebrew slaves out of bondage. This grew out of the African-Americans knowing personally the horror of slavery.

The Civil War revealed the 200 years of slavery was inhumane and not in the long-term interest of the nation. England had outlawed the slave trade nearly a half-century earlier. The misery and agony of the war seemed to justify the spurts of revival services in the cities as well as the growing frontier. Suffering of the war was seen, by some, as a result of having strayed from the path God planned for “His” country.

Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, had stressed that a Holy God demanded a Holy people. The nation had to be pure for Christianity had proven to be the purist of religions (in their own eyes). The Old Testament was filled with examples of what happened to the nation that forgets God. It was at the heart of the Bible-exhorting evangelist’s message. Awakenings broke out during as in the days of New England’s Jonathan Edwards.

Being a leading nation with Christians of all stripes does not make a Christian nation. For those who want The Ten Commandments and other biblical rules and guides to replace the system we now have, are hopeless cases. Those having little knowledge of church history go blindly on their way, thinking they are bringing in God's Kingdom. Just a few hundred years Christianity was declared legal and even made the law of the Eastern and later Western church powers, its spiritually began to die. Power of government leadership was not in our Lord's plans. REMEMEBER: The church is just to be a holding pattern until the Kingdom of God is manifested in the return of Jesus the Christ to earth.

Though most television evangelists are the most outspokenly misled and misleading anyone who listens to their stuff, they are not alone in wanting a Christian American nation. I must be blunt here: such bad interpretation of scripture and purpose of gathering for worship is sadly lacking in this kind of thinking. It is not in the cards to lift the Declaration of Independence to biblical status and attach the Jewish law and Jesus' sayings as equal guide for any nation.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Make Prayer A Habit


As Will Shakespeare said in his play Othello: "I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver."

This unvarnish'd tale is one that I have heard on numerous occasions. I have no idea if this is true or not. I appreciate the question and quandary of the judge. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

In a small Texas town construction was begun on a tavern. A number of the community frowned upon the thought of a honky-tonk opening in their church-going town. So the townspeople started a campaign to halt its construction. Some local churches had special prayer meetings to thwart the effort. They sent petitions opposing the opening.

The construction went right on until the week before its scheduled opening. A most unusual and unexpected thing happened: lightning struck the tavern and it burned completely to the ground.

This caused the smug and self-righteous elite of the churches to see it as a most fortunate event. But the smiles left their faces when the bar owner sued the churches on the grounds that the churches were ultimately responsible, directly or indirectly, for the destruction of his building.

In its reply to the court, the churches lawyers vehemently denied all responsibility for the tavern's demise.

In the county courthouse, the judge heard all the evidence, peered out over his glasses, looked both the tavern owner and the church leaders right in the eyes, paused and said, “I am in a quandary, and I’m not sure how I'm going to decide this case."

Then the judge said: "On the one hand, we have a bar owner that believes in the power of prayer, and, on the other hand, we have our church congregations that doesn't!"

Churches put a lot of stock in prayer. Many churches have regular mid-week gathering they call Prayer Meeting; when members share prayer requests and pray for the sick, their missionaries, Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and even ask special guidance on government officials. (Too often prayer is considered "great" only if we get what we pray for.)

Prayer has been an important and basic part of religions all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs. (Save your opinions on dinosaurs and humans living at the same time. I know they did not.) Here are some opinions on prayer:

"Pray without ceasing" is good advice from Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. It is a response from our heart with others in church services or when alone, anywhere. It is an attitude that reminds us how dependent we are -- from rising sun to setting sun -- and in the dark of night.

The great hymn writer and evangelist, John Wesley, is said to have spent two hours a day in prayer, said: "God does nothing except in response to believing prayer." S.D. Gordon wrote: "The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray."

"Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man/woman is powerful on their knees" (Corrie ten Boom, survivor of Nazi concentration camps).

Believe it or not, the prayer of a serious and sincere supplicant does not change God's mind or purposes, but it sure does steady the knees and embolden the heart of the one praying.

The practice of repeating the Bible verses commonly called "The Lord's Prayer" is fine, but living out the memorized words by actually hallowing God's name; recognizing God's kingdom; and forgiving others makes for a richer life.