about my heart…

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wesley had been on missionary journeys, preached, and taught and yet he did not know the blessed assurance of Christ. He had received this and that advice from pious men, generally to continue on until he knew for himself that salvation was his.

On 24 May, 1738, Wesley was dragged to the society meeting at Aldersgate where they started by reading Luther’s preface to Romans. Suddenly, something happened…

I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

His heart was strangely warmed.

Growing up a fundamentalist, as I have often documented, we dwelled in the constant fear that we would see God in his most wrathful state, our salvation dependent upon how our state of sinlessness before we died. There were no deathbed confessions, only a hope we could somehow measure up. When something bad happened, it was God warning us. We had deserved it and in God’s finite mercy, he had chosen to warn us before outright sending us to hell. If something bad happened, it was a sign we were in danger of hell. We should find the leaven in the house and get it out.

Wednesday night, I went to bed ready for an early start to our annual beachside vacation. I had a few things I needed to do at the office on Thursday but otherwise, I was ready to go. a few hours later, I awoke in what I now know was atrial fibrillation. Further, since I went undiscovered about roughly 2 hours, I was also dehydrated considerably. Long story short, there are a lot of issues compounded but I have a slightly enlarged left atrium of my heart and show signs of some heart damage. Most of the issues can be taken care of with a change of diet and a few medications to prevent major problems until I get everything else under control. The enlarged heart, however, will never go away.

I would rather not concern myself with what would have happened had I not been discovered when I did.

As I was laying in the ER room, and later in my hospital room, I pondered a few things. Not one of them included my state of perfection or my location in the life after this one. I have discovered that this is not my concern. If there is a God and if Christianity is true, then my state has already been secured. I have nothing to worry about — and nothing to do to add to that security. I can do nothing to be more saved than what Christ has done in his faithfulness. I cannot unsave myself either. I can, however, more fully rest upon him because I have had that faith tested and I did not waver.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I am not afraid of not waking up in the middle of the night. My fear, now, is to never see my loved ones again, to never hug my children again, and to never know another sunset. I worry about every odd pain or short breath. I am sure this will go away. I know I overthink things. But, it is a bit scary.

Fanny Crosby, a Methodist hymn writer, says it best.

 

The Dignity of Labor and the Rest of God (Repost)

Originally from here,

WEBCommentary(tm) – The Dignity of Labor and the Rest of God.

But, I think it has moved…

To the Coal Miners, to the Steel Workers, to the stay at home mothers, to the workers who labour…God bless you.

Monday, September 1 is Labor Day in America. Labor Day is that special day when recognition is given to the millions who make up the nation’s working force. It’s a day of recreation, citywide parades, end of summer barbeques and political speeches. For some it will be just an extra day to relax quietly at home.

Both work and the worker are certainly worthy of a holiday of their own. Jesus placed much emphasis on the dignity of labor and the rights of workers. Interestingly, he never identified with professional religion as a career. Instead he was a simple carpenter by trade and his followers were working men. In Luke 10:7, Jesus said, “The laborer is worthy of his hire.”

Wherever the gospel of Christ has been influential the nobility of the worker has emerged. Many fail to realize that the improved working conditions of labor in the West are due much to the influence of Christianity. It was during the industrial revolution, for instance, that the devout Christian statesmen Lord Shaftesbury sought to change the abysmal working conditions for the masses in Great Britain. Men worked as much as sixteen hours a day – six days a week. Women and little children labored in the mines and in the factories. Little boys were hired as chimney sweeps. The necessary protections for workers were not provided and some died in accidents – others just from sheer exhaustion. Workers were little more than objects of an employer’s economic exploitations. Shaftesbury’s legislation brought relief to these injustices.

Work is inexplicably linked to the great truth that all persons are made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:36). God has made mankind like himself – able to create, to conceive, to build and to make a difference. Idleness in life, however, strikes at the very heart of an individual’s personhood.

In Jesus’ “Parable of the Laborers”, the men standing in the market-place were not just loafers lazily whiling away the hours. They were men who had come looking for a job. Many brought the tools of their trade with them in hopes of getting hired. Some would wait until late in the evening for work because they were desperate to feed and clothe their families. But then the master came and took pity on them, sending them into his vineyards and paying them generously. Commentator William Barclay notes: “This parable states implicitly two great truths which are the very charter of the working man – the right of every man to work and the right of every man to a living wage for his work.” [2]

It’s unfortunate that many every day have to go to a job that they don’t enjoy. But even when this is the case, work still has its value not simply for monetary reasons, but for reasons of the soul. “Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do that day which must be done, whether you like it or not,” wrote Charles Kingsley. “Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content and a hundred virtues which the idle never know.” [3]

The most sublime beauty of the Christian concept of work, however, is that it can be connected with a divine calling. The apostle Paul admonished, “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians. 10:31). “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23) The late D. Elton Trueblood expounded on this notion, saying, “There was a time when the idea of calling was applied, almost exclusively, to the work of clergy and missionaries…Why, it is now asked, should not a man be called to be a brick mason or a banker? Why should not a fireman be conscious of a holy vocation? After all, he is certainly engaged in a work which saves lives and prevents much misery. Why should not a woman sense that she is called to be a mother, a wife, or a librarian?” [4] Indeed, all service when performed to the honor of God ranks the same with him. God makes the work holy and richly blesses it.

Work also produces the necessity for rest. Thus Christ invites all laborers: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). There is no greater burden – nothing more “heavy laden” – than a broken relationship with God. The work of sinful passions is spiritually exhausting and completely unfruitful. Such panders with the promise of prosperity, freedom and happiness, only to disillusion with an impoverishment and restlessness of spirit. So Jesus adds, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:29).

Could there possibly be any finer celebration of Labor Day than for one to cease from sinful labors and enter into Christ’s rest? And what joy would also be brought to the celebration by entering into partnership with the gentle Savior – to learn to labor for his glory and reward – to render every service as the light load of his love.

Rev. Mark H. Creech
Director, Christian Action League of North Carolina

Of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” and Matthew 6

icebucketbreeBy now everyone knows and many have participated in the so called “Ice Bucket Challenge” with the intent to help charity.

It is absolutely wonderful that someone helps charities and, often, the motivations and ulterior motives for one doing so, are ignored on behalf of the end result of an act of charity, regardless as to whether such act is sincere or just a stunt.

One of the greatest marketing campaign in my opinion, in the field of charity as a skillful way to make people publicly demonstrate their charity by using the proverbial “blowing the trumpet” through getting an icy self inflicted shower, this cleverly planned campaign made people who otherwise are not attracted to charitable giving finally show some interest in altruism.

Now, even if one for the gift sake, or the cause it benefits, may ignore the fact that self-serving, opportunistic giving is not “real” giving, I really can’t say that the benefits of genuine Christian charity can be ascribed, to those who participated in such a public manner. Jesus told us to practice our charity in private. As God privately rewards those who pray in private, He will reward those who give in private; as men reward with accolades and recognition those who do it all in public, no reward will be left to those who find public approval and acceptance.

I know that, for many the Bible is a book to be questioned, ant it is only a part of other sources of religious authority, but, if these apologists of plurality of Christian authoritarian teaching could tell me, I would like to see any of their own para-sources of authority that teaches that our charitable acts should be practiced in public… Oh, but it is all for fun, intended to combine charity with fun… I’d say that I own a company, inactive at this moment, called “FunRaisers” whose slogan is “We put the FUN on FUND RAISING”, so, I am for having fun in giving, but, when the fun of giving becomes a buffoonish way of being ostentatious about your giving and attracting the attention to you more than to the cause you’re giving, then, YES, giving can become and exercise in the futile violation of Matthew 6.

Am I splitting hairs? Am I being demanding and legalistic? Well, saints, the little foxes spoil the vines, and often the things that we consider to be unimportant, and faddish, perhaps even innocent, but massively practiced, are the ones that will ultimately water down and dissolve good and traditional Christian teaching and trivialize the cause of those who truly depend on charitable donations. It will be not so far fetched for me to say that henceforth it will be very hard to motivate people to give to a great cause without somehow affording them some type of public recognition even if it includes something as innocent and clownish as wasting cold water! It is already happening! People get naked in the streets for the protection of animals, radio stations offer donations for each cockroach one can eat (as it happened in So. America) etc. So, where is the good old secret and worshipful giving?

I congratulate all of those who risked so much with a bucked of iced water being poured over their bodies, specially in summer, who sacrificed so much for the cause of charity. I give you my recognition and so do many Facebook and Tweet readers and the overwhelming majority of the population. Now with mine and the world’s recognition, plus the thrill of the cold water suddenly changing your body temperature, “you have received your reward”; expect none other!

My Faith

The question was asked of me recently when it was that I actually realized I had faith…I decided to answer in this way.

My faith was born in blood. Not the blood of Christ as you probably would expect, but the blood of a young lady when I was a young boy. We were walking back to her grandparents after watching a movie. She was shot and died on the street. She noticed the car and the gun men, I was to busy noticing her to see it. She died that I might live. She had “no greater love”. That is the day my faith was really born. My faith is in Christ and Him crucified as is my hope, but it didn’t start there. It started with one of His servants not with him.  Maybe I am odd, but I don’t think that my faith could have started any other way.

My faith grew as as a young adult in the blood of friends gone off to save the world. Friends who died that the Word of God might be spread to places like Afghanistan, China, North Korea, Pakistan, and the Sudan. Friends that believed that they not only could be a vehicle to change the world, but that they actually would be. With news of each death, the importance of the Word became stronger, not diminished. The need to share The Story became greater, not lesser. With each tear of sadness over lost friends came the blessed hope of Christ, and the joy of those who now believed. Eventually I would  go to similar places myself. Maybe I am odd, but I don’t think my faith could have grown any other way.

My faith became solidified in the death of my grandfather. Watching him suffer for numerous years with illness and helping to care for the one who had taught me nearly all that was important. The one who taught me the importance of prayer and the comfort that God can bring. In the hospital, around his bed with those grieving as he was nearing the end, my faith became solid when I realized what must be done. I grabbed his hands, and we prayed. Somewhere in that prayer he finally found peace. Interestingly enough, so did I. Maybe I am odd, but I don’t think that my faith could have been solidified any other way.

We need to understand that we should not be passing out pamphlets about God but rather be passing ourselves out as people of God. We need to realize that we don’t need to hand out bibles until we have lived the bible for those who would receive. We need to understand that before inviting people to church we should be inviting them to dinner, and lunch, and into our lives. I love the scriptures, study and read them often. Try to live them as well. That was not where my faith started. I love The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost, but that is not where my faith started. I love the churches I have helped in and the churches I only attended but they are not where my faith started. These things have refined my faith and helped it grow. They provided an incredibly useful base of knowledge of scriptures. My faith did not start there though.

I knew these words long before a 12 year old girl lived them for a 12 year old boy “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his own life for the life of his friend”. They were words on a page. Beautiful, poetic and inspiring words, but still just words on a page. Then someone lived them, and they became so much more than words, they became a lifestyle. Maybe I am odd, but I don’t think a life based on any other words is worth living.

 

Call For Papers – Reformed Theology and the African-American Experience #CFP

The title is my own

Ettelloc Publishing seeks papers from students in the fields of theology, practical theology, ethics and church history on the detrimental effects Reformed theology and especially Calvinism in its various forms have had on Black people whether in the past or present. If chosen all essays will be collected in an anthology that will be published in the year 2015.

Proposals of no more than 350 words will be due by October 1, 2014 and should be sent to info@ettellocpublishing.com

Love them all let God sort them out

This will be short, not overly sweet and blunt. While so many of us are busy debating who will go to hell and who will not, a decision that is far above our pay grade incidentally, we all to often ignore the fact that across the world and in our own nation, there are so many who think they are already living there. In Ferguson, our religious leaders are all to often (not always and not mine thankfully) taking sides instead of healing wounds. In Iraq the calls for prayer are followed by calls for further violence. The uproar over bringing sick Americans home for treatment of a deadly disease. We ignore Sudan, Mexican drug cartel killings, rampant gang violence in Chicago and so much more…I have this really revolutionary idea…let’s forget trying to figure out who is on their way to hell (judgement is real and God  will see to it, not us) and start actually helping those already living there.

a new book series: “The History of Reception of Biblical Texts”

From the Jim West,

Peter Lang Verlag is launching a new series titled The History of Reception of Biblical Texts. Scholars working in the field of reception history are encouraged to send along their manuscripts to the series Editor, Jim West.

The Series is brand new and aims to

… include a broad range of topics within the category of biblical reception history. Utilizing cutting edge biblical scholarship, these books discover, explain, and examine how the Bible has functioned in a variety of contexts throughout history. These monographs cover a wide range of topics including religions, visual arts, literature, film, music, context and community.

The description is quite broad because it is our belief that the history of reception of Biblical texts is expansive and virtually all encompassing.

We would love to hear from you if you have any questions and if you have a proposal.  Just drop the series editor an email at drjewest@gmail.com.

my interview in the local paper…

You can find it here:

Former fundamentalist preacher Joel Watts, now an active member of Christ Church United Methodist, holds a book of essays he co-edited on the process of leaving fundamentalism. The book includes a chapter on his isolating, fear-based affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ. He left the church after 32 years and now speaks out on the dangers of repressive and rigid fundamentalist teachings

via The Charleston Gazette | Innerviews: Spiritual saga traces break from fundamentalist church.

To those discovering this site for the first time…thanks for stopping by.

“Long Black Veil” and (re)telling the Story from a different perspective

So I am ate up with this song at the moment. This is the original:

There are several editions of it, but I heard the one from Sammi Smith today…for the first time… and it was awesome. Sorta of that feeling when I hear the Creed recited by a large crowd.

It is…well… it is.

But, when Sammi’s version got to this verse, I nearly…

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave where the night winds wail
Nobody knows, no, and nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

In her version, sang as the mistress, it goes like this:

I walk these hills in a long black veil
I visit my grave where the night winds wail
Nobody knows, no, and nobody sees
Nobody knows but me.

I can picture the two, if this was a real story, as I stood afar distance… both singing this verse… It is a matter of perspective, of the voice, that no one else knows what is happening. I think this happens in the Gospels as well. Perspectives change. Stories are told differently. Maybe not.

But it does happen in (re)reading prophecy where we read something clearly for someone else and we take for ourselves.

Also, because I know someone wants to hear it…