Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thoughts on BND article on Why young people are leaving religion

I was reading an article in the Belleville New Democrat, Saturday, October 23, 2010. It was entitled "More and more young people are leaving religion." It had some interesting things to say. It really wasn't a surprise to me. Young people leave religion regularly. The article was trying to make the case that in recent years, more young people (defined as twentysomethings) have left organized religion than in years gone by (stating that it is roughly four times higher). These are not people who have become atheists but are people who are still religious but don't like organized religion.

The reason - organized religion has become synonymous with conservative political parties and agendas. I guess I can see this. There are many religious groups that have become very political and as such, have driven some from the church with their agenda. But the whole thing begins to make me uncomfortable. Why? Because I can see this as yet another excuse to say "I believe in God but don't believe in religion." This statement is so overused it is ridiculous. We can get into the whole thought that if you believe in God, would you not want to follow what He says? The answer is generally, "According to who?" And we head down the road towards making God's Word relative to each person, open to what you want it to say and to follow only what you want. This is usually followed by trying to justify some sinful behavior that God has already condemned. Excuse me, I have digressed from where I was really heading.

There was a paragraph almost at the end that read, "More likely is that as growing numbers of young Americans reject religious doctrine that is too political or intolerant for their taste, innovative religious leaders will concoct more palatable offerings. Jesus taught his disciples to be 'fishers of me,' and the pool of un-churched moderate and progressive young people must be an attractive target for religious anglers." (BND Oct. 23, 2010 p. A5)

This set my teeth on edge. The writer is probably correct in his assessment of the way that churches will try to reach these young Americans. They will sell their soul to the god of modern thought (or postmodern if you like) and will give up the true teachings of the Lord for the ways of the world. The argument will be that they are just doing what they can to reach these young people. But can you give up the Word of God for the "good of the people" and still give the people something good? Can you "soften" sin in order to make people comfortable? In doing so, have you not said to God, "I don't think you quite have it correct. In order to reach these people with the message of the Gospel, I will need to change what you say about sin, life and salvation." That, my friends, is a terrible thing to have happen.

But it doesn't surprise me. We are told of this in Scripture. "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV) Turning away from sound teaching - it is happening when we don't want to tolerate those who bring the teaching of the Law to bear on our societal situation. Pastors are tempted to give away some of the teachings of the Word in order to fill the pews. When all is said and done, does the church that is built on the thinking that we need to change the message of Law & Gospel in order to suit people's tastes have anything to stand on? Is it not building on sand? Will it not collapse - if not at this time then at the time of the coming of Jesus on the Last Day?

We need to continue to build on the Rock. We need to focus on God and His Word. The church is not meant to be political. I agree with many who say that many churches have become to political. The church is not meant to be running the government any more than the government is meant to run the church. (This is why I refuse to put out "voter's guides" and the like. If you want to know who to vote for, do your own research. You will not find me or St. Paul's Lutheran telling you who to vote for.) But the church is meant to bring the Word of God into the lives of people. If they are sinning, it needs to be addressed. That often means that the church is not going to be PC (politically correct) in what it says. But we do not fear that. Instead we understand that we must follow God rather than man.

Will people continue to leave the church? Unfortunately, yes. Even if the church changes its message and "softens" sin, people will continue to leave the church. They will only stay if they know that what they are hearing week after week is the true, full Word of God and not some watered down teaching that changes with the whims of people.

"As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hope in the Lord

There are so many things that I think about blogging about, then I get caught up in the day and don't get around to them. Most of the time they come from my morning Scripture readings and I don't want to stop reading to blog. That means that they pass quickly into another realm - and not the cyber realm.

I was in Psalm 42 and read, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" (Ps. 42:5a, 11a ESV) When I read this, I thought about how we are so often in our lives. Something happens and we become upset. We don't like the way things are going. We feel that it is unfair, etc. We struggle with our lives. We face illness. We face financial difficulties. We face family problems. The list of things that cause one to be in turmoil or "down in the dumps" is as varied as there are people. And it changes from day to day.

And I wonder, why do we become "cast down" and "in turmoil"? Is it because our lives really stink? Are our lives really that bad? I can hear the resounding "YES!" coming from those who are going through those times. I won't "diss" you on that. But let me also ask you, "Where does your hope lie? Where were you when these things happened? What was the condition of your relationship with the Lord?"

The Psalm goes on, "Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." (Ps. 42:5b, 11b ESV) Too often, our hope is in ourselves or someone or something. We look at our lives and focus on "me". We lose sight of God and His guidance and strength for our lives. We are so caught up in ourselves that we don't go to the one place that gives strength - the Lord.

I know that even when we hope in God, our lives can still stink. There will still be pain and suffering. Spouses will still argue, say heated things, perhaps even act in ways that lead to divorce. Children will still refuse to listen to their parents and think that their parents are stupid and have no idea what it is like to be their age. Workers will think that bosses are idiots and bosses will think that workers are lazy, no good bums who are only wanting to rip off the company. Sickness will still land a person in the hospital. Pain will drive people to more powerful medication. Anger will still lead people to act and say things they shouldn't. Basically, sin will still be in our midst, no matter what takes place.

BUT...where is your hope? Too often, we turn from the Lord in times of turmoil. Satan uses them to tempt us to doubt the way of the Lord. Hope in the Lord. Hope in the One who has gone through the pain that you are going through, who has gone through the loss that you are facing, who has been rejected by people just as you are being rejected by that one special person. Hope in the Lord. Trust in Him. Doubt that you can? Before you turn away, take His hands in yours and examine the scars you find there. Those scars are from nails. They are from when He hung on a cross, completely rejected by friends, family and followers. Those are from a time when the eternal Father turned His face from His Son and looked the other way while He suffered and died. He knows. He feels. He has been there.

And He overcame - for you! FOR YOU! He overcame all the turmoil of this world. He has overcome all that you are facing. He is victorious. He is living. He is saying to you, "Come to Me. Hope in Me. Trust in Me. I will carry you through." Will it still hurt? Yes. Will it overwhelm? Only if you try to do it alone. Hope in the Lord and He will carry you and your burden. Will you make it through? Yes. Better yet, let me say a resounding, "YES!"

Remember these words, "My soul is cast down within me, therefore I remember you." (Ps. 42:6 ESV) The Lord hasn't forgotten you!