Thursday, March 23, 2006

I Give You Milk to Drink

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

Fow when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men? What this is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.

-1 Corinthians 3:1-6 (NASB)

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.

- James 3:1-3 (NASB)

We are all mere men, struggling to maintain our faith against the corruption of the World, against the corruption of our own ungodly desires. I could include here -- and it is worthy of note -- Paul's mention of the disgrace that has befallen the "wisdom of man" in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1. When we desire wisdom, often when we look for ingenuity, the Body suffers.

For who are we now -- those of us who call ourselves "Christian?"

Some are of the Pope.

Some of Martin Luther.

Some of Zwingli, some of Calvin.

Still others of King Henry VIII.

And, yes, there are those of Alexander Campbell even . . .

So who is left for Christ?

Recognizing corruption in the church body I called home, I once thought I might start planting churches with a refined message -- one referred to as "Radical Restoration" by at least one writer. But there is no solution in this. For as soon as a man attempts to do good, another will come and use it for bad.

How long would it be before a group would arise saying, "I am of Preacher?" If I were to approach it with the revolutionary spirit I once harbored, I can guarantee in time this would happen.

There is nothing revolutionary left in the Bible that remains to be divined by some new approach. The revolution is left for each new convert when he/she first discovers God's love.

Maybe too many of us still search for that first feeling of epiphany we once enjoyed. Or maybe too many of us out of a godly zeal to be like the Apostles we admire reach decidedly ungodly conclusions.

I recall being taught that every church born is meant to die. There is a life cycle for a church just as for a human. Through the literature of the ages we have explored the declining quality one experiences with an immortal human life in this world. What becomes of the church that hangs on to immortality?

More importantly, to what measures must a church reach before claiming immortality?

Divisions do not occur because the Bible is so esoteric it openly lends itself to many widely varying interpretations.

Divisions occur because men come along and apply the wisdom of the world to the foolishness of God, and then looking for ingenuity in one of the oldest and most widely-read documents in history, they teach others this new point-of-view divined from the Word.

And these others teach others.

And the teachings are passed on to children.

And one man, one thought, takes on a life of its own after a couple centuries in existence.

Then when an honest father picks up the Bible gifted to him by his father and begins to teach his son, he carefully chooses the verses he has always seen taught and he teaches this point-of-view as if it originated with the Apostles at the asscension of Jesus.

Over time even explanations can be created to fend off criticism as to why this verse doesn't coincide with another.

And the Bible is compromised.

And the Faith is weakened.

And the Church is divided.

I fear calling myself a Preacher.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Call Me "Preacher"

Outwardly, I may not deserve the designation.

As I said in my last post, though I attend church I have no congregation of my own. I rarely ever speak in public. I am quiet and solemn with my faith, but I do not deny it and will not hide it.

Inwardly, however, I am a Preacher.

Some three years ago I had begun work in a low-paying job with little respect -- it was the second such job since quitting the Pulpit -- when a supervisor by the name of Bertha stopped me one slow afternoon.

"They say you are a Minister of the Gospel. Is that true?"

"Well . . . I used to be," I replied, "I gave it up."

"Oooh nooo, honey . . . that's wrong. You either are or you aren't. Real preachers, they don't decide to preach -- they's called. A real preacher can't decide to quit, its in his bones, in his blood. Truth is, honey, if you a preacher -- well, you always be a preacher."

I didn't argue with her; I believe she was probably right. I just thought perhaps I was never meant to be a preacher to begin.

But, no, its there. Just like Bertha said. It is like an ache in my bones, a fire in my blood. Shut up, closed in, locked away. Yearning to get out.

Let me tell you up-front: I am not an evangelist.

A true evangelist, one with that gift, can make friends with anyone and instantly know how to broach the subject of Christ and where in His story to begin. An evangelist takes each as he comes, one-by-one, and leads each to where he/she needs to be. That is indeed a gift, and one I greatly admire.

But I am not an evangelist.

I am a Preacher. Maybe a counselor, but definitely a Preacher.

When I feel it, when I am doing it for Him, when I am being led . . .

I can pull my handkerchief out, roll my sleeves up, and really get to preaching. And I promise you there will be no dozing while I am firing away, the passion is infective.

You can think of me as you like, but I will call myself Preacher.

In the Beginning . . .

Was the Word. And I learned it. And I obeyed it.

And then I set myself to preaching it.

But eventually I stopped. And was silent. Too silent.

The last time I took the pulpit was in Cuero, Texas, in a small congregation hosting a week-long Bible camp. I had volunteered to work with the teenage boys whom -- I came to learn -- were attending as part of a probationary sentence received for whatever amounts to juvenile delinquency these days.

I am not a youth minister.

On the third night of the camp I was scheduled to give a 7-10 minute "devotional" on Joseph. But I grabbed on to a concept of storing up our devotion in times of abundance to anticipate the times of barrenness.

After all, most true believers are more than willing to turn to God during times of sorrow. It tends to be the good times when we feel independent and feel we do not need Him.

I was convicted of this. After nearly an hour of preaching, I believe the Holy Spirit had convicted most everyone else, as well.

When I returned home after that week I received a "thank you" card from the church's minister.

"[Preacher], you have a gift. And if you ever stop preaching, may God have mercy on your soul."

I haven't spoken before a crowd since.

Well, that isn't entirely true. But I haven't done so for the right reasons, or with the Spirit's guidance. And if done without those, it might as well remain undone.

What I intend to have follow with this blog is only an outlet for my ponderings. I have no congregation, I am surrounded by deaf ears. I exist in an environment that feels most of the time much like the world of Jeremiah.

I have taken my lamp and hidden it. Perhaps, in time, I will explore why. But for now this blog will exist, and my thoughts will ring . . .

Like echoes of faith in an empty room.