I believe in Jesus, but I am not a Jesus freak!

Did I catch your attention? If you are a faithful Christian did you think my comment was sacrilegious? Believe me, that was not my intent. I believe in Jesus and I am a Jesus lover!

I am watching “The Today Show” and Bill O’Reilly is going to be interviewed. One of the discussion topics is teaching about Jesus in the public school system. I am not against people learning about Jesus. I think he did, and will do, miraculous things on this earth. I will hold off on my comments until I hear what Bill says.

Okay, Bill just said that he wants kids to learn about Jesus as a person, not as part of religion. He explained that our government was formed around a Judeo-Christian religion and that children need to learn the background of our government. I totally agree with that.

When I was in junior high, my literature teacher used a book that would cause huge controversy now in the public school system. It was “the Bible AS LITERATURE”, edited by Alton C. Capps.  Introduction…”Modern civilization is greatly indebted to the Bible. The foundations of modern Western culture evolved primarily from two sources: Athens and Jerusalem. Western culture, particularly the English speaking word, is more indebted to the Hebrew influence than to the Greek.”

If you think about it, the school system teaches other religions as stories and cultural experiences all of the time. In my school system, Second graders are taught about Hanukkah. They read the story about the 8 days and the oil; some classes make potato latkes as part of the cultural experience. When I asked a teacher how they can teach about the Jewish faith and not say anything about Christmas, her comment back to me was that Judaism is an ethnicity, Christianity is a religion.

Greek and Roman mythology is taught in the school system. These are stories that are about the gods of their religion. As they have been known more for their story value than their religious value, it is acceptable to learn these stories in the school system.

I have often referred to “the Bible” literature book in my discussions with people about “teaching” the Bible in school. There are so many great adventures, life lessons, murder, incest, redemption, in the Bible. If people got past the “religious part” of the Book, they could read every type of genre in one book!

Now back to my Jesus Freak comment. I have always been a church goer. When I was young, even a snow storm would not stop my dad from piling all of us into the station wagon and driving the mile to church. There were times that we were the only family in church with the pastor who had to walk across the street. We were very committed to being in church every Sunday.

When I was in 8th grade, I had my first Christian re-birth. Even though I was a church goer, on that day, I really took my belief to heart and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Throughout the years I have had many re-births; when my grandmother was diagnosed and died from ovarian cancer in an 11 month time frame, the Sunday I walked into my church sanctuary holding my 5-day-old daughter and many more, small, Christian growth spurts.

As a Christian, I believe that it is just as wrong to witness to those who are not ready to hear His word, as it is to not witness to those who are prepared to open their hearts to hearing the Word of God. I am very careful with whom I speak my faith because I do not want to be “the person” that scares someone away from getting to know my Lord. But I also have the fear that maybe I miss out on an opportunity. It is through prayer and an openness to hearing what God wants you to do that you understand your walk in this life.

I think what I fail to do many times is listen, be still and listen. God speaks with me every day, I have no doubt. I don’t think I hear Him every day though because I fail to be still. If this was January 1, I would say that needs to be my New Year’s resolution. I guess that becomes my April 10th resolution.

I am best when I think of God as a parent. I look to how I have raised my children and I can relate to the expectations that God has for me because I have the same expectations for my children. I know that if I push too much, at the wrong time, I will only get resistance. But there are times when I push and my children are open to my words and I receive results; at the correct time, with the proper words, they are open to my words and actions.

The term Jesus Freak arose in the 60’s and continued through the 70’s. My definition is not a positive term but one that denotes a person who is pushy in presenting their witness. They are “out there” and are not in touch with the world around them. In my opinion, they are witnessing and not thinking about their words or actions; they are not thinking that their actions may be driving people away for Jesus, instead of drawing them near the faith.

We must live in the world. In the six years that we homeschooled, I felt it was important to be involved in the community. I did not put my children in the protective cocoon and sheltered them from the world. I believe that I have a duty to teach my children how to live a Christian life in a secular world. I cannot do that if they are not exposed to outside influences. I will not always be around to protect them. I needed to provide them with the tools to be strong in all circumstances. I needed to help boost their self-esteem and give them confidence to handle all situations.

I don’t believe that being a Jesus Freak is a positive model for them or me. I believe that living a clean life, a faithful life and teaching my children that a church family is important will help them to be able to go out on their own and stand up to the trials and tribulations of life.

I believe in Jesus and I pray that I will be open to being still and listening to know when it is my time to share my faith and the wonderful life a person can have with Jesus in their life.

 

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And the tears, they fell…

Easter is near. But first we must make it to Good Friday. Maundy Thursday was very emotional for me. I would like to tell you that I don’t know why, but I do know. I sat in the first row, on the lectern side of the sanctuary. This put me straight in line with the pastor. I was able to look at her as she spoke about Peter denying Jesus; as she spoke of forgetting a name or denying a relationship.

But more than the message, I was front and center for communion. I watched as young people kneeled for communion and stayed longer than most, praying. I looked at the very young getting excited about getting bread and grape juice. I saw the old kneeling, barely able to get down and then up again.

I specifically had great feelings for a 90+ year old who bowed her head, buried in her arms. She looked so intense in her praying. I thought to myself, what could she be praying? She was so intense. Was she thanking God for her fulfilled life? Was she praying for her husband who is long past? Was she praying for her granddaughter who was kneeling next to her? Maybe none of these things but maybe all of them.

We all have so many reasons to believe in something greater than ourselves. But tonight I felt it. I felt the need to believe in a Savior of the World. I felt the need to cry because he sacrificed everything for me, someone who would not come around until over 1900 years after his death. I felt the need to cry, to let it all out.

It was a very intense service for me. I like to think that God is setting me up for a growth in my faith. I have been asking for it and maybe I will be getting what I asked for in developing a deeper, more intense relationship with my Lord.

As Easter arrives, I hope to feel a sense of jubilance, knowing that Jesus Christ, in deed, did die for my sins. He died for the sins that I had not even committed. I have been forgiven for everything that I will do in my life. It is up to me to ask for forgiveness. It is up to all of us to ask forgiveness. But the great thing is, is if we ask and are sincere, we are forgiven. That is what makes Easter so great, we are forgiven!

May your Good Friday, bring you to Easter! Amen and Amen!

Lessons from the past

Council Bluffs, IA. 1931

Council Bluffs, IA. 1931

“The more things change, the more they stay the same”, I do not know who said that, but the more I delve into the past, the more I realize the truthfulness in those words.

I have been saying for years that it is going to  be hard to take all of the bad that has been happening in the world and make our world a more innocent place. I keep hoping that somehow, someway, future generations will not have to be faced with so much, in-your-face, death, destruction and promiscuity. Sometimes I see the light of hope but for the most part, I think that the future has a lot to be desired. And then….I see something from the past that makes me think, “The more things change…”

Eighty-two years ago this year, my grandmother graduated from high school. The year was 1931 and the United States was in a depression. Thomas Edison died, and Pearl Buck‘s “The Good Earth” was the best-seller of the year. While times were not easy, I often think that things were much simpler and the world didn’t have near the problems of today. Maybe I should say that I thought things were much easier until I started going through my grandmother’s things.

When she died twenty years ago, I was the recipient of all of her cookbooks (probably 500) and when my grandfather died seven years ago, I received all of the photographs to archive and any other papers, books,  and magazines of interest.Scan10066

One of the things that I just recently reviewed was my grandmother’s graduation journal. There wasn’t much in it, a few names, a couple of photos and a couple of newspaper articles. I found out that her class colors were red and gold. The class flower was the American Beauty Rose and the class motto was: “They conquer who believe they can.” There was nothing on the pages for ‘dances and parties’ or ‘clubs and societies’. So that will remain a mystery to me.

One of the articles was about the Baccalaureate ceremony that was held in her town of Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Sunday, May 31. Grandma wrote that Martha Klotz was her partner for walking down the aisle to be seated for the address. The headline of the newspaper article was “COOPER PREACHES TO A.L. SENIORS” Under the headline, the drop-headline read, “DECLARES WORLD IS CALLING FOR PURITY, CONSECRATION, SACRIFICE.” Below that headline there was a third headline “CITES BIBLE EXAMPLES”.

(As a clarification in case you do not know, a baccalaureate address is a church service for the graduating seniors and their families. When I graduated our baccalaureate was for the four high schools in my community. I do know that my community, where I live now, does not offer a baccalaureate address. I do not know if it is held in any communities anymore with all of this political correctness and separating schools and churches.)

“The world is calling for separation, purity, consecration and sacrifice as portrayed by Abraham, Joseph, Saul of Tarsus and Jesus, more loudly than it did in biblical times, Rev. Francis E Cooper, pastor of the First Baptist church told members of the Abraham Lincoln high school graduating class at the baccalaureate services held at the Broadway theater Sunday morning.

‘Our worth in life will be measured not by our personal happiness but by our personal service, he said.'”

Rev. Cooper went on to compare the above mentioned men of the Bible to the character traits also mentioned above: Abraham with separation, Joseph with purity, Saul (Apostle Paul) consecrated to service and Jesus to sacrifice.

The end of the article has Cooper urging students, “You students are going out in the world with your soul in your hands. Remember the law of Christ.”

While I understand that we are not a world of Christians, I think we can all agree that there are lessons that come from a faith/religion that apply to all people’s no matter what their faith. Can we all agree that the premise of the Ten Commandments is good? Do we not want to teach our children not to lie, not to steal, not to kill, etc…? I think if we look passed the fact that the laws came from Moses, who received them from God, we should be able to agree that they are good rules in which to live.

Reverend Cooper did not go into details as to why he felt he needed to deliver the words that he did. I can only imagine that he felt that there was too much promiscuity and too many other things happening that broke the Laws of Moses. I have to think that he felt our world was “going to hell in a hand basket”.

I wish I would have seen this book when my grandmother was alive so I would have had the chance to ask her about it. I wish I would have taken the time to get to know more about her when she was in high school; what was her life like? What challenges did her generation face? Sadly, all of the members of my family from that generation are dead. There is so much that I will never know.

While I still wonder what life is going to be like in the future. While I still worry that we have taken so many steps towards a life without following the Ten Commandments. I can rest assured that Rev. Cooper probably felt the same way that I felt. Because of this, I have hope.

I know that my husband and I are raising our children to follow the Ten Commandments and grow to be great adults, just like my grandparents raised my parents and the way my parents raised me. I pray that my children do the same, so that there is hope in this world, that in the end, goodness wins out.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” There are challenges in every generation to test the character of individuals. And while there are some that fail, it is obvious that over three generations of my family history, goodness has won and we walk in the confidence that we are living our lives with personal service in mind, which gives us great happiness.

While she was not Baptist, I think Rev. Cooper would have been pleased with how Jessie Fogle (maiden name) lived her life and taught service to the future generations of her family.