Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beware Of Dangerous Pets

By Pastor Bruce Oyen

     The theme for these thoughts came to mind while reading an article in Centralia, Washington's newspaper, The Chronicle, on Friday, July 15. The article is found on page Main 6, and is titled, "Eight-Foot Anaconda Seized From Home." A picture of the anaconda accompanies the article. 
      Here is part of the article: "Animal control officers seized an 8-foot anaconda from a Longview man this week after it and two other snakes escaped from a garage. Mike Nicholson, an animal control supervisor, said he confiscated the anaconda, which will grow to hundreds of pounds, because it's too dangerous to be kept in the community as a pet. 'Can you imagine in another two or three years when this snake is 20 feet long and it's wrapped its body around a baby or a dog?' he asked. 'I can't have that.' " The article says two other snakes had been captured by their owner before authorities arrived. The article said the two other snakes were "a 10-foot Colombian red tail boa constrictor and a 6-foot Burmese python,"
      If you follow the news, you know that snakes are not the only dangerous pets some persons own. Some pit bull dogs viciously attack adults, children, other animals, and even their owners. Some persons keep potentially dangerous spiders as pets. And others have other dangerous animals as pets. 
      One thing I have learned about pets that have attacked their owners is that their owners didn't expect them to become dangerous. They knew they had the potential to do so, but felt safe having them as pets.
      That is the way it is with some activities we might involve ourselves in. Think of the millions of persons who started to smoke, dip, or chew tobacco, and have not only become addicted to it and spent a lot of money on it,  but also have ruined their health with it. What at first was a pet became an enemy.
       Think of the millions of persons who started out doing a little "harmless" gambling, only to find themselves totally consumed by gambling. They went from spending maybe only a few dollars a month gambling to spending every dollar they have on this vice. What started out as a pet became an enemy.
      Think of the millions of persons who started out as very moderate social drinkers, only to become addicted to alcoholic beverages. Now, the alcohol controls them, and it has harmed their bodies, minds, marriages, families, friendships, and jobs. What was at first a pet became an enemy.
      The Bible warns of the deceptive and destructive nature of  bad habits and bad companions that promote bad habits. Consider some of its warnings. Proverbs 5:22 and 23 says: "The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray." Proverbs 20;1 says: "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise." Proverbs 23:31says: "Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder."  Galatians 6:7 and 8 says: "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh, will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." 1 Corinthians 15:33 says: "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals.' "  ( All Biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version)
     In conclusion, we need to remember that what start out as seemingly harmless pets can easily turn out to be an enemy.      

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Reflections On Camp Fires And Fireplaces

By Pastor Bruce Oyen

      Have you ever been camping? In my teen years, my oldest brother and his wife took me camping several times in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We would get some wood and make fires on which to cook meals, or just to enjoy them in the evening.  They also took me along on winter weekends, when we would drive north from Minneapolis to Hinckley, MN. My brother would park his car just outside of Hinckley, and we would ski cross on the frozen Kettle River to a cabin up-river. The only source of heat in the cabin was a fireplace. We would gather wood, put it in the fireplace, and get a good fire going to warm up the cabin and to cook meals.     
    After I got married and we had kids, we went camping, too. Sometimes it was at a KOA campground, and sometimes at Woodruff Park, which is a few miles east of Miles City, MT. We would gather wood and get a fire going on which to cook food, roast marshmallows, or just to enjoy it in the evening.     
     One of the things all these fires had in common is that they would die out if we didn't keep them supplied with wood. Sometimes we had to get up during the night to put more wood on the fires to keep them going. We didn't sleep well, but we had a fire ready to use in the morning.
     Those fires of long ago remind me of something stated in the Bible. The New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition, words Proverbs 26:20 and 21 this way: "For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife."  The New King James Version puts verse 20 this way: "Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases." The ESV (English Standard Version) puts verse 20 this way: "For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases."
     Here is what The Net Bible commentary says on verse 20:  "Gossip (that is, the one who goes around whispering and slandering) fuels contention just as wood fuels a fire. The point of the proverb is to prevent contention – if one takes away the cause, contention will cease (e.g., 18:8)."
     Here is what John Gill's commentary says on verse 20: "men cease to quarrel one with another; they hold their peace and are silent, when there are none to bring tales from one to another, or any whisperer or backbiter to suggest evil things of each other; or when such are discouraged on both sides, and their tales are not listened to; or when they are detected and thrust out of doors, as they deserve, then strife subsides, and peace ensues. Contention is like a fire, the flame of which is blown up by talebearers and whisperers, who are as incendiaries, and as such are to be treated."
     You and I are responsible to help the fires of of lies, slander, misinformation, faultfinding, gossip, and discontent die out. We can do this by not giving an ear to those who want to involve us in these things. We can do this by telling such persons that they are wrong in what they are doing. We can do this by not telling others what we have heard. We can do this by exposing those who have a habit of keeping such fires going. If we do our part, there will be no wood to burn, and the fire will soon die out.
      We all would profit from taking heed to what we read in Proverbs 10:19. The New King James Version puts it this way: "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Change: Resist It Or Accept It?

By Pastor Bruce Oyen
       Someone wrote a book about the fact that though pain in life is inevitable, misery is optional. How true! Sooner or later, everyone is going to experience pain. It might be physical, such as when you get a headache, a broken leg, or a stubbed toe. It might be emotional, such as  when your spouse leaves you for someone else, or a friend moves away, or a loved one dies. 
      When we experience physical pain, usually something can be done to relieve it. For a headache, we can take aspirins. For a broken leg, we can get it set and take a painkiller, if necessary. When a toe is stubbed,  we usually just have to wait for the pain to go away.
      But when we experience emotional pain, relief does not come as easily, for emotional pain isn't relieved by remedies used to deal with physical pain. The point of the book referred to above is that though emotional pain is inevitable, misery over it is optional. Though our emotional pain over some negative experience in life is legitimate, and can make us feel miserable, hanging on to the misery is optional. We can choose to be permanently miserable because of our experience, or we can choose to move on in life and put it behind us and live constructively. As someone has wisely said, we can't control what others do to us, but we can control what we do about it. That is, we can choose to be its permanent victim or to get over it.
      Now, let me apply these thoughts to the subject of change. In life, change is inevitable, but resistance is optional. The year right now is 2011. Think of the remarkable changes, some good and some bad, that have come to the world in the last 150 years and less. Here in the USA we have gone from using horses and buggies to using cars and planes. We have gone from being earth-bound to flying in outer space. We have gone from newspapers and telegraphs to phones and cell phones and the internet. As the saying goes, "Where she stops, nobody knows!" But we do know that change comes hard to some persons. I saw on TV the interview a journalist had with a man who was at least 100 years old. The journalist told the man he must have seen many changes in his long life. The man agreed, but said he had opposed every one of them!
      Change has affected every aspect of life, including traditional Christian religious practices. Consider some examples of changes in many churches: hymnbooks have been replaced with songs on a screen. Pews have been replaced with chairs.  Pianos and organs have been replaced with keyboards and drums and guitars. Formal dress has been replaced with casual dress. One Sunday morning service has been replaced with two or more services. A church might now offer a traditional service and a contemporary service. Churches now often meet in the church buildings for Sunday morning services and in homes for Sunday evening Bible study and fellowship. The once-common midweek service that was held in the church building might now meet in homes, or there might not even be a mid-week meeting. The former, almost exclusive use of the King James Version has given way to the New King James, the NIV, the NASB, and other translations. Sermon content in many Bible-believing churches has gone from Bible exposition and teaching in lecture format to attempting to communicate Christian truth by stories and drama.
      It is not my goal to evaluate these changes. Admittedly, some are good, some are bad, and some are neither good or bad. Rather, my goal is to challenge us to think about the fact that change is not bad just because it is change. But strong traditionalists are either unable or unwilling to distinguish between good and bad change. To them, change itself is bad, period! They like things to remain as they always have been. What was good enough for their grandparents and their parents, is good enough for them and for everyone else, too. Or, if they were not raised to attend church, how and when things were done after they started attending church,  is to them how and when they always should be done. So, whenever change is contemplated they immediately put up resistance to it, like the old man referred to above. They don't evaluate the change, they just resist it. That is not good. What is good, is to try and make an open-minded evaluation of the matter.
      But how do we do so? The way to evaluate the goodness or badness of church-changes is to ask if the changes violate any direct teachings of the Bible. For those who consider the Bible to be God's Word, it is the standard by which evaluations are to be made. So, for, example, if the Bible does not prohibit having church meetings in homes, we have to allow flexibility on that subject. If it does not say how many times a week a church must meet, flexibility must be allowed. If the Bible does not prohibit any deviation from the normal times and locations for church meetings, flexibility must be allowed. And the fact is, the Bible does not have laws on any of these points. So, traditionalists must admit the fact that their objections to changes in these particular matters is based on their own opinions, not on the teachings of the Bible.
   Here are two more examples: some persons approve of singing into a microphone in a stand, but disapprove of using a  hand-held microphone. Some persons approve of playing an acoustic guitar into a microphone, but disapprove of playing an acoustic guitar that is plugged into a speaker. Where in the Bible does it approve of some microphones, but not others? Where does it approve of one acoustic guitar, but not another? The answer to both questions is, "Nowhere." These persons are entitled to their own opinions, but let's hope they know the difference between personal opinions and Biblical teaching. When the difference is not known, it results in unnecessary conflicts between Christians.
     Another point to be kept in mind before objecting to church-changes is to determine if the objection will promote the common good of the church, or if it will promote tension. The same thing must be done when a change is being considered. Leaders should not promote a change that the majority objects to. That causes tension. But, unfortunately, it also is true that many times those who oppose change don't accept the will of the majority. They have to have things go their way. And if they don't get their way, they make their disapproval obvious to all. This causes tension in the group. The worst damage is done when they work behind the scenes, carrying their discontent to whoever will listen.
      Instead of spreading their discontent, such persons should follow the example of some fine Christians I knew many years ago in Minnesota. Those persons had been taught that it was wrong to have a meal on church property. Therefore, they refused to eat meals on church property. But, they did not make it an issue with others. They were wise enough to let others have their own opinion, while they peacefully lived by their own opinion.
     Another point to consider is whether or not resistance to change will promote or hinder the  progress of the church.  Sometimes a change will help a church reach more persons with the gospel. Or, it might get more of the church people involved in the work of the church. Do we want to interfere with these good results of change, just to keep doing things as they always have been done?
    Traditionalists need to think about the fact that their accepted ways of doing things very likely were once new ideas that were objected to by those who wanted things to continue "as they have always been done" by their grandparents, parents, and favorite preacher and church. For example, years ago it was offensive to many persons when someone played a guitar in church. No doubt, there were church fights over the subject. The fights were not just over how the guitar was played, but over the use of the guitar in church, period. But now it is fairly common to have guitars used in church services. Many current-day traditionalists like to hear guitars used in church services and would think objecting to their use is ridiculous. To them, what they approve of is good, and what they disapprove of is bad. The opinions of others don't count. That, my friends, needs to change!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Tale Of Two Men And One Church

By Pastor Bruce Oyen
Grace Baptist Church
Rochester, WA

      Brother X and Brother Y both attended the same church. It was called "Bible Believers Church." They both were professing Christians, and so they had many things in common.
      However, they were very different from one another, too. When Brother X went to church he enjoyed the fellowship with others before and after the services. "These folks sure are friendly!," he thought to himself. And he was certain to speak a good word about the church to anyone who was visiting the services.
      But when Brother Y went to church it was a very different matter. "It sure is hard to make friends at this church," he said to himself. "The people attending our church really don't care about others like they should," he told friends from a different church in town.
      Brother X was the kind of man who tried hard to get others to visit Bible Believers Church. He invited friends, neighbors and relatives to do so. He knew that he had to do his part if the church were to grow.
      But Brother Y . . . well, he sure wasn't like Brother X! He often complained that so few attended the church. And he seldom, if ever got anyone else to visit the services. "It's hard to ask others to attend an unfriendly church", he told himself. He attended regularly, but that was about all he ever did.
      Brother X, though, was one who volunteered to help out with projects at church whenever he could. Plus, if he saw that something needed to be done, such as painting a room, he told the pastor he would be glad to do it. He seemed to really enjoy doing things for the church, big or small. "It's great to serve the Lord through the church!," he told others. And one of his favorite songs was, "There Is Joy In Serving Jesus". He often requested it when special requests were taken by the song leader.
      Brother Y, on the other hand was quick to notice what needed to be done around the church, but slow to do anything about it. Except to complain. "Why doesn't someone wash the windows more often?," he thought. "And why does it take so long to get a fresh coat of paint on the front door of the church?," he asked himself.
      Brother X often noticed the good things about Bible Believers Church. Whenever visitors were in attendance, he told the pastor and others how good it was to have them in attendance. And he was certain to tell the visitors the same thing. And if he liked the special music, he said so. He made an effort to speak words of appreciation to those who did things around the church. That meant a lot to them.
      It was not that way with Brother Y. He seldom said a good word about the church. But he was quick to point out what he did not like! And there was a lot he did not like about it. In fact, there were so many things that Brother Y disliked about Bible Believers Church that he finally quit attending. He did not resign. he just dropped out. "I won't make any trouble if I just drop out. And no one will notice, anyway," he told himself.
      But people did notice. The pastor tried to get him to start attending church again. And so did Brother X. But it did not work. Brother Y simply would not go back to church. Nor did he attend elsewhere. "I don't know of any church in this town worth attending!," he muttered to himself.
     Some months passed, and new neighbors moved in across the street from Brother Y. He waved to them, but never introduced himself to them. He wasn't the out-going type. What got Brother Y's attention was the fact that on Sunday mornings when he would sit on his front step to read the paper and have a cup of coffee, he could see new his neighbors get in their car at about 9:30 with Bibles in hand and drive off. They would return at about 12:30. He assumed that they were going to church. And he was right. They were very dedicated church goers. "I wonder what church they attend," he said to himself.
     Well, one Sunday while Brother Y stayed home, Brother Z and his family, who were Brother Y's new neighbors, went to church. They heard the pastor preach about the importance of trying to win others to the Lord. The pastor challenged the congregation to speak to others that week about being saved. And he told them to invite others to attend the morning service the following Sunday so that they could hear the Gospel.
     Brother Z and his family listened carefully to the sermon that day, and they made up their minds to do what they could to reach someone else for the Lord Jesus Christ. When Brother Z and his family got home from church that day, they sat down to eat Sunday dinner like usual. During the meal, Brother Z looked out the window, and saw Brother Y sitting on his front step reading the paper and drinking coffee.
    Suddenly, it occurred to Brother Z that he should go and invite Brother Y to attend church with them the next Sunday. He told his family what he was going to do, and that he would be right back. Mrs. Z told her husband to take along a loaf of fresh bread for the neighbor. And she told Brother Z to ask the neighbor to have dinner with them the next Sunday. She knew friendship could make a good impression on him. So, Brother Z took the fresh bread and went on his mission. The two men had never formally met, and Brother Z was kind of nervous, but he went ahead with his plan anyway.
      After they introduced themselves, Brother Z told Brother Y, "I don't know if you are a church-goer or not, but we would be pleased to have you attend church with us next Sunday morning. And we would like to have you eat dinner with us afterward, too."
     Brother Y was caught off guard by the invitation. He said, "I used to attend church regularly, just like your family does. But I got so fed up with things at my church that I dropped out. That was right before you moved in. I have not been to church in several months, and I don't know if I will attend again anytime soon. The people at my church were not friendly. They didn't take care of the property the way they should. I did not like the pastor, and . . . Well, I better not say any more or I will regret it."
    Brother Z was quite surprised at Brother Y's angry statements. He said, "I am sorry you had such a negative experience. What church did you attend? It sounds like bad news to me." "Oh, I better not tell you. It will just sound like I am church-bashing. But I have had my fill of church, I can assure you!," said Brother Y.
    Brother Z was not one to give up easily, so he told his neighbor, "I am sorry to hear about your church. But they are not all that way. We went to a really good church back in Ohio. And we are quite pleased with the one we attend now. It has its faults, but all churches do. The folks at our church are friendly. The pastor preaches the Word of God. We sing the great hymns of the faith. And we are trying to reach others with the Gospel of Christ." Brother Z continued, "I moved to town for a better job at the lumberyard. I met a Christian man there named Brother X. He is one of those guys you can't help liking. He loves the Lord and has a positive outlook on life. Well, I told Brother X that we were looking for a good church to attend, and he invited us to his church. We tried it out, and joined it shortly afterward. Would you give it a try? It is called Bible Believers Church. Have you ever heard of it? I'm sure it's better than the one you used to attend."
    "Bible Believers Church? Uh...., uh....., yeah...., yes I have heard of it," said Brother Y. "You can't live in this town for as long as I have and not have heard of it." he said with a strange tone in his voice.
    With that, Brother Z said he had to go home and finish his dinner. When he got home his wife and children wanted to know how his conversation with the neighbor went." That took a lot more than a couple of minutes," Mrs. Z said. "What's up?" Brother Z told his wife that he never thought he would get in a discussion like that one. And he told them that Brother Y had dropped out of his church, and his reasons for doing so. And he told them that he also invited Brother Y to church and dinner next Sunday. He also told his family that they should be thankful they were attending Bible Believers Church, and not the one the neighbor used to attend.
     "Well, what do you think will come of it?," asked Mrs. Z. "I really don't know", Brother Z said. No doubt his former church has some serious problems. But he reminds me of the man that attended our church in Ohio. Do you remember him, dear? It was impossible to keep him happy. In fact, I sometimes wondered if we even went to the same church. No church is perfect, but perhaps they both need an attitude adjustment. Some see everyone else's faults, but not their own."
     With that, Brother Z went to the phone and called Brother X. "Brother X, this is Brother Z. I just had to call you. I invited my neighbor to attend church with us next Sunday, like the pastor told us to do. Well, to make a long story short, I sure got an earful from an angry man who quit his church due to its problems. Anyway, after hearing about his former church, I had to call you and thank you for inviting us to attend Bible Believers Church. Just think, we could have ended up at our neighbor's former church. What a bummer that would have been! Like I said, thanks for inviting us to your church! Gotta go for now." And then the men hung up their phones.
    The lesson in this story is obvious. We all have the potential to be either positive persons like Brother X and Brother Z, or  negative persons like Brother Y. It all depends on choices we make. We choose to be either a faultfinder, or positive. What have you chosen to be?