Archive for November, 2016

A Lot Less Churches

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

churchesThis morning at the “Y” I overheard a couple of guys talking about their churches. One was saying that his church recently got about thirty new people because another church in the neighborhood had gone through its “umpteenth split”. The details were real gory; yet I had to chuckle.  Not because it was funny, but wondering what the newly unemployed preacher had been thinking when he took the job in the first placed. Stepping into that dysfunctional mess was like marrying someone who had said “I do” zillion times previously.

In 1993 my wife and I, along with a couple of our best friends, started what we all thought was the first “split proof”  church in the history of the world. We succeeded —- for twelve years almost to the day! Then the bottom fell out! I came to understand through that 12 year experience, most of which was positive, that even in a “split proof church”, there is still one flaw – people. In our case, there was no one cause. It was more of a matter of me mishandling several different issues that alone were not that significant, but taken together effectively transferred the power to one family. One day I looked up and was holding the very short end of the stick. Now, the former best friends do not speak to each other and the “split proof church” has joined the ranks of nearly every other church. That is a shame. We are a sorry witness to the Gospel we proclaim.  The Supreme Court recently ruled that corporations “are like people”. I’m not sure about that, but I know that is true of churches.

I still think that it is theoretically possible to have a split proof church. Here is how: At the very first hint of a strain in a relationship, everybody must follow this commandment or be shot: Matthew 5:23-24 CEV So if you are about to place your gift on the altar and remember that someone is angry with you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. Make peace with that person, then come back and offer your gift to God.  Pebbles unaddressed become boulders very quickly. If more of us lived that verse, the world would be a better place and there would be a lot less churches.

Special Announcement:

Miracles Still Happen

Crossroad Community Church will have a final service on December 18.  After Christmas, we will launch the “CCC Miracles Still Happen Grant Program”.  God has blessed us financially, so we want to pass His blessing on to other churches / 501c3 ministries.  These grants are not intended for operational expenses but rather for very specific projects. In phase one (now) we invite pastors / ministry leaders to email johngouldener@gmail.com with a short description of your church and its need. If our grant committee selects you for phase two, we will email an application packet to gather more information which will include financial statements, board members, corporate charter, 501c3 acceptance, etc. We expect that all the grants will be awarded in the first quarter of 2017.  With God miracles still happen! God Bless.

 

Getting Through Hell

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

hell_headerI just got a call from a friend that made my day. He told me that his son was in treatment at Sierra Tucson for drug addiction. I had lunch with this man last week and had recommended that the son go there. I shared with him how my time there, for trauma treatment from childhood sexual abuse, in 2005 had been life changing. Shortly after I returned home from ST, a friend took me to breakfast. He presented me with a refrigerator magnet that says, “If you’re going through hell, keep going”.  Better advice I have never been given! Thankfully, I have made my way to the other side and now I have something in common with millions of others who have  taken the same advice. The key to any recovery or even life in general is to simply “keep going”. As a pastor and former hospital chaplain, I have ministered to hundreds of dying people.  They pretty much always fall into two categories: quitters and folks that “keep going”. There is no comparison to the quality of life of the two.  Regardless of the struggle you may be in right now, the key is to “keep going”, because when you do, you always make it through.

When your “hell” is rooted in actions done to you by others, the best means of propulsion through it is forgiveness.  Without it, we become frozen in our hole of misery, victims trapped by our own bitterness. That is a hellish way to live! When you hold on to your security blanket of hate, you automatically stop moving.  At that point all you are doing is slowly squeezing the life out of your soul. You never get on with your life unless you let it go. Without forgiveness, sooner or later you are toast. That is the reason the Bible tells us not to keep a record of wrongs (I Corinthians 13:5).  Every time you recall the hurt you immediately make a willful choice to “keep going” by reminding yourself anew that you are once again going to give up your right to get even. Instead you mindfully pray that God will bless the very people who have hurt you. One of my “ah ha moments” was the day that it occurred to me that life never happens in a vacuum. By that I mean, that as a rule, other things are going on because people do not wake up one day and decide to hurt you. It is only hurt people who hurt people — understanding that truth has been a healing salve in my own journey. Never forget that as bad as things may be, they are never as bad as they seem and there is always a bright light when you make it through.

At the Crossroads

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

donald_trump_rnc_h_2016For half of Americans President-Elect Trump’s unlikely victory is assessed as a disaster of the greatest magnitude.  For the other half, it is manna from heaven. How do “We the People” reconcile those two antagonistic points of view? As a nation that is the challenge we face together this morning. In my personal life, out of my greatest single defeat spring my maximum growth curve. Of course, amid the pain I was blind to that truth. I am a Believer, so with my back against the wall, and no other viable choice, I did a new thing. I entirely surrendered my bitter disappointment to my only sure Source of relief. After that initial step, I continued leaning on Him by doing the next right thing until together we have walked into the greatest period of my life. For me the “next right thing” included steps like forgiveness, swapping hate for love, praying for enemies, keeping no record of wrongs, refusing to throw stones along with a daily surrender to the power of my Savior.

Today America is at a crossroads. One road is the wider one so it is the easier traveled. It is the road which has split us right down the middle and got us where we are.   It is dotted with trusted and familiar rest stops of “right against left”, “black against white”, “straight against gay” and countless other perilous “Us against them” notions. Fortunately, there is another road, “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:14 NLT) I have no doubt that God’s hand is involved in the unique opportunity we all have today. Never again will it be politics as usual. Things have changed! We can keep trudging down the wide and perilous roadway of hate and division or we can FINALLY at least TRY to follow Jesus’ most important commands, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) I do not know one single Christian who is doing either. We are just as disobedient as the Israelites of old. It did not end well for them. If we will each surrender our self-will to Jesus’ will we can once again actually be the UNITED States of America!

Walking on Water

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Walk On Water

The other day I heard a pastor say, “Without doubt we would not need faith”. That got me to thinking again about those two. At our house, we have a statue titled Walking on Water.  It shows Jesus standing on a wave pulling Peter to safety, as he begins to sink into his doubts.   Perhaps you remember the story; if not that’s fine. The disciples were out in the sea when a storm suddenly came up….

About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water.  When the disciples saw him, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost.  But Jesus spoke to them at once. “It’s all right,” he said. “I am here! Don’t be afraid.”  Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water.”  “All right, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him. “You don’t have much faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  And when they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. Matthew 14:25-33 (NLT)

In the everyday and not so everyday storms of life, sometimes our faith falters. This does not necessarily mean we have failed. When Peter’s faith faltered, he reached out to Jesus, the only one who could help. He was afraid; he doubted, but he still looked to Christ. When you are fearful of the troubles around you, doubting Jesus presence or ability to help, you must remember that he is the only one who can help.  The point that Peter’s action   vividly demonstrates is that when you feel like you are about to sink into the depths of doubt, is when you’ve got to call out!  That is all God expects of you.  You do the calling and he’ll do the rest. With God,  anything is possible —- even walking on water!