Monday, March 29, 2010

Life Goes On, Regardless

This past week, I learned that one of our young adults in church is about to become engaged. His sister is already engaged and preparing for her wedding later this summer. Two young people from one family preparing for marriage at the same time. I said I was thrilled for them and I am. Sort of.
I can't help feeling a bit wistful as I watch two outstanding young people prepare to move on with their lives. Sure, it's exciting and I am happy to know they've met the right people for their lives. No doubt, God answered prayer and that's a wonderful thing. But I also know that quality people are hard to replace - really, really hard - and these two are going to be missed profoundly.
As happy as I am to see them moving on, I can't help feeling sad that they are indeed moving on. But that's life, and life is always moving. No matter what we do, we can't keep things the way they are. Life is going to move on regardless of how much we try to hold it in place. Kids grow up, get married and move on. Church members come and go. People age. Grand kids have the audacity to arrive and then grow up before you know it. (I've discovered to my chagrin that our grandchildren have found a way to grow up faster than our own kids.)
The simple, stark truth that life is going to go on means there is no such thing as reaching a point where we can just "put it on cruise,"certainly not in church. The surest way to kill a church is to do nothing. It will grow up, grow old, die and disappear all on its own. We who inhabit the pulpit on Sunday morning do not have the luxury of waiting until tomorrow to build the church. The problem is not, as some people think, that tomorrow never comes. The truth is that tomorrow comes too often, too soon and too quickly.
I do not want to reach the end of my ministry and wish I had my tomorrows back.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Faith and Obamacare

After the U. S. House of Representatives passed the President's health care bill Sunday night, my wife and I had a serious conversation about our future. Certain facts were clear and indisputable. We are growing older and approaching retirement age. Her employment is our only source of health insurance. My pastor's salary is not enough to pay for the health insurance required by the government under the new health bill. Given those circumstances, my wife observed, "I won't be able to retire." She's right. If she retires, we won't have insurance. If either one of us retire, we won't have enough income to live on. Social Security is flat busted broke. If we depend on the government to provide health care, it won't happen because:
(a.) Obamacare takes 500 billion dollars from Medicare in order to finance the new government-run health care. That deficit is shifted to the individual states - a burden they cannot possibly afford. Older citizens are going to have to do with less so that younger citizens can be covered.
(b.) Obamacare is noticeably geared toward younger people. They have a tax-paying future. My wife and I don't. We simply won't be a good investment of the government's time and money. The older we grow, the more we will be a liability to the system.
Add to this the fact that businesses - especially small ones - are going to be forced to hire more and more part-time workers as a way of coping with the outrageous expense of providing health insurance for full-time employees. That's sure to impact congregations, particularly small churches like our own.
So we are facing a future with less and less health care as we grow older combined with less income and ever-shrinking Social Security. What are we to do?
For starters we could trust the Lord. "God knows we have this situation," my wife said. "He always has." Yes, and there's no expiration date on the promise "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you." There is also another observation in the Psalms: "I have been young and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging bread."
I couldn't help thinking of one of my favorite people, George Muller of Bristol, England. It was Muller who founded orphanages, built schools, financed missionaries and pastored a church all by prayer and without a cent to his name. Penniless and yet he received from God everything he needed as if he owned every bank in Europe. Muller never claimed to have the gift of faith, but he did acknowledge using the faith he had better than most people.
There is a lesson here for us. Our health care and retirement - once the envy of the world - may be history as we know it. But God isn't. He is still good to His word, and His word tells us we can trust Him to provide when all human programs have utterly failed. I don't know what is going to become of our country, our health care or our lives as Belinda and I face retirement - if it ever comes. I just know that when we get to that point, God will be there. What a comfort.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Racism, Balance and the Current Administration

I met a very nice gentleman recently who, as it turned out, is quite liberal in his politics. He is a thunderously worshipful supporter of President Obama and the present administration. When I gave a more conservative point of view to him in writing, some people interpreted my remarks as an expression of racism and that is more than a little inaccurate. There aren't many preachers who can put "ordained in and pastored a black church" on their resume'. But I can. Many years later when our family served as home missionaries in Louisiana, we were the minority in a neighborhood that resembled the "rainbow coalition" on steroids. Our kids had no idea what the word "racism" meant. We never taught the meaning of the subject because we didn't need to. It would have been as useless as discussing various brands of poison. Why bring it up? It was no accident that our older daughter requested that two very dear friends - "Americans of African descent" - sing at her wedding.
So when someone takes my differences in politics as a latent form of racism I have reason to be upset. I do not have a problem with the President being an African-American. I do not have a problem with the President being an Anglo-African-American for that matter. I do have a problem with the President being the kind of political person he is regardless of his race.
But I do think the President's race is an issue and here's how. Barack Obama is a reflection of the particular liberal ideology in which he was educated and to which he has exposed himself over the years. How do I know? I had the same education a la Wright State University. It was there that I learned "black liberation" theories of history. That doctrine teaches a twisted form of racially cynical attitude combined with a superiority complex such as one finds in the rantings of Louis Farrenkahn or Jeremiah Wright. If the President buys into thinking of that kind, he will come across to the average American - of any race - as condescending, entitled, and not really one of us. An attitude like that will drive people away because we elected a president - we did not anoint a king. And the last thing we want in the White House is an insufferable snob. What this country needs is exactly what the Scripture demands of a leader: "to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God."