Friday, November 7, 2014

History Stuff: Jerry McAuley

I am admittedly partial to saints like myself; people whose lives were a wreck before Jesus rescued them. That leads me to the man who started the first rescue mission in NYC; Jerry McAuley.  I  threw together the following  short bio from a handful of sources.

  Jerry McAuley was a  self-described “rogue and river thief,”. Born in Ireland in 1839 he was raised by his grandmother because his mother could not or would not care for him and nobody knew who his father was. The grandma cursed him when he threw clods at her while she prayed her rosary.
Eventually she shunted him off to relatives in New York. He ran away from home and lived by stealing--drifting in and out of prison. When he was nineteen, authorities, only too happy to get him off the street, convicted him on trumped up robbery charges. He was sentenced to fifteen years in Sing Sing prison. For the first time in his life, Jerry found himself obeying rules. He saw it as his one chance to regain freedom. He learned to read.
  The event that transformed him from an "impossible" case to a soul winner was the testimony of a former pal who had become a Christian. Jerry wanted the hope he saw in Orville Gardner. He began reading the Bible and tried desperately to pray. Finally one night a supernatural presence appeared in his cell and a voice seemed to say, "Son, your sins which are many are forgiven." McAuley did not change all at once. He still drank too much and fought. But that night he was converted.
  Pardoned by Governor Horatio Seymour, he went free on March 8, 1864. After a renewal of his faith, Jerry McAuley began to work for God. He saved money and on this day, October 8, 1871, opened the Water Street mission in New York City to reclaim men like himself. Set in an old dance hall, it was the first rescue mission in the United States, the forerunner of many more.
  Hundreds of men were turned from lives of sin and misery to hope in Christ. Jerry also inspired Emma Mott Whittemore to begin her Door of Hope mission for fallen women. Jerry's life demonstrates the power of God to do the impossible: to change lives that are rotten to the core.
Today there are more than 300 Rescue Missions in North America and many are the direct result of the McAuley vision. He died in 1884 and his last words were “It’s all right up there”

  As great a story as that is, as I was  researching images of McAuley, and images of the  mission house, I found this article by a man who has a niche audience if there ever was one.   It appears there was a drinking fountain dedicated to  Jerry McAuley, and although disconnected, it still exists in Greeley Square Park in NYC.  Isn't that  just  delightfully obscure and amazing?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Things Which Cannot Happen

"But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." Matt 19:26
  It is an oft-quoted verse, right? It is a verse that I believe to be as true as  I believe the rest of the Bible to be true.  But apparently , while all things are possible, they are some things, that according to God simply cannot happen.And while I certainly believe it to be true as much as I believe the entire Bible to be true, there are some things that , according to scripture, cannot happen.  

"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded ?" (1 Kings 8:27)
  In my role as the Grand Inquisitor  of the Most Unusual Sunday School Class in America I was teaching my way through Genesis a few years back and I tried to  impress upon my students  how vast the second heaven is.   I took a bowling ball, which happens to be roughly 100,000th the size of the sun, and used that as a reference.  I did the math ( and then checked it) and by shrinking down everything  to 100,000th of its size, Mercury winds up the size of a pin head, the Earth winds up being the size of a marble.  We went out into the parking lot of the church house and started walking off the distances between the planets, using appropriately sized stand-ins for the planets. We had to cut it short because by the time we got to Jupiter we were over a block away from the bowling ball.  my point is that  the second heaven is  bigger than we even have words for.  It's so vast we cannot see the end of it, and the distance between the  first heaven so great that I'm not sure we have numbers for it. Everything  big I've ever seen  is on the Earth, and the Earth is a very small part of a much bigger thing.  The creation is  so majestic that we can't even comprehend it. The smartest man in the  fastest ship couldn't make it out of our galaxy in a lifetime. There are  sounds we can't hear, colors we can't see, and places that God made  just for himself ( Rev 4:11)
  But according to scripture, as big and as magnificent all that is, God is bigger.  The universe cannot contain him.  He is  bigger than what he made. Part of the "mystery of Godliness" mentioned in 1 Timothy is that God, who cannot be contained by the heavens themselves, could dwell in his fullness bodily in something the size of a man.
"O LORD God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this. " Ezra 9:15. Another thing which cannot happen is that wicked men cannot stand before God.  God's holiness and righteousness burns like a consuming fire. With eyes that are purer than to behold evil, the proud are broken before him when they see him.  The mighty men who  held other men's hearts in their grip quake when they see him.  In his righteousness and holiness, Jesus Christ is the most terrifying thing that there ever was or ever will be, and when he appears in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who would not obey the gospel, lost mankind would rather be under the mountain than to see his face.
  That's why your only hope is to put your faith in his son.  Your only hope is repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  There will be no explanations, no time for excuses.  If your unrighteous, the conversation won't even get that far.  You 'll quake and   moan and cry out and all your  reasons for rejecting the gospel will seem like the height of foolishness. Clad in the filthy  rags of your own self-righteousness, you won't be able to stand before him.  It simply cannot happen.
  "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came , and the scripture cannot be broken ;" John 10:35 God's word is more true than your failures. If the Bible says you can have  the victory ( and it does) and you live a life of defeat, that proves nothing.  If the Bible says the sun stood still in the  sky and a thousand astronomers  proclaim to be impossible, that proves nothing. The scriptures cannot be broken, and it will happen exactly the way it was written down regardless of the odds.
  Consider this.  Jeconiah's descendants were cursed and could not sit on the throne, but one of his descendants had to sit on the throne because the Messiah must come out of the seed of David.  Impossible, and so God causes a virgin birth. Why? Because  the scriptures cannot be broken.  He created the worlds by his word, and he upholds all things by the word of his power.  The scripture is more certain than  the next sunrise.
  Consider this.  It was  customary to break the legs of people  being crucified in order to  hasten their demise, and it had been customary for centuries. But the scriptures said that not a bone of his would be broken, so without knowing why, Roman soldiers who did not believe the scriptures fulfilled the scriptures.  Why? Because the  scriptures cannot be broken. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Modern Day Inquisition

  The Inquisition, which began in 1209 and was conducted off and on for the next 600 years, is one of the darkest times on human history.  The basic facts are timeless; a ruling group drunk with power and unchecked by any sort of reasonably effective opposition, convinced themselves they were doing God's work and used  power both political and ecclesiastical to wage war on their enemies. To oppose them was to oppose God, at least according to them, and the blood flowed from one end of Europe to the other for  6 centuries.
  Richard Bennett has researched the Inquisition in great detail and he writes

"The methods of the Inquisition were an outrage to elementary principles of justice. Anyone could be arrested on suspicion. The trials were secret. The prisoner was not allowed to know the accusers or witnesses. The Bishops and priests who acted as judges had absolute power. The evidence of infamous persons, criminals, or perjurers was admitted so long as it was hostile. Children older than twelve were required to bear testimony. The prisoner was disallowed the help of an advocate, for anyone defending a prisoner was held guilty of the crime of heresy. A person tried by the Inquisition was scarcely ever acquitted. 'In the register of Carcassonne from 1249 to 1258, comprising about two hundred cases, there is not a single case in which a prisoner was discharged as innocent.' Tanon, a French investigator, wrote, 'There is scarcely ever an acquittal, pure and simple, in the sentence of the Inquisition.'"
"The prisons of the Inquisition were some of the most common and atrocious places. The Inquisitors could leave people in their prisons indefinitely, without trial. The Inquisitor Eymeric, in his records called Directorium,stated that a person believed guilty 'shall be shut up in prison, strictly confined and in chains. If he shows no willingness to be converted there is no need for haste for the pains and privations of imprisonment often bring about a change of mind.'"

 " To quote Lea, 'The dungeons of the Inquisition were abodes of fearful misery, but where there were reasons for increasing their terrors there was no difficulty in increasing the hardships. The chains and starvation in a stifling hole was a favorite device for extracting confession from unwilling lips.'
"Historians give us some detailed information about some of the prisons of the Inquisition. Even some Catholic priests complained about the prison conditions in some towns in the south of France. Historians tell that the cells were fitted up with a variety of instruments to cause severe suffering. Many prisoners, through the severity of their torments, lost the use of their limbs and were rendered utterly helpless. "
  As the old saying goes, the only thing men learn from history is that men learn nothing form  history, and the  ways, methods and mentality that fueled the Inquisition exist in the modern War on Terror.  Beginning in the wake  September 11th disaster draconian laws were passed, and that infrastructure of abuse has been tweaked and modified to a point that would make Torquemada proud. The foot soldiers and inquisitors in this new assault on humanity include members of elite American military units, as well as professional interrogators from the CIA, FBI and the NSA.  To these  footsoldiers and their superiors, no rule is too precious to break, no line too sacred to  cross.  The Constitution is a roadblock in their self-noble quest to keep us free. Heretics, I'm sorry, I mean 'terrorists' must be hunted down and rooted out at all cost.
  Consider the case of Jose Padilla. Mr Padilla is an American citizen, presumably with the right to a trial by a jury of his peers.  But the   True Believers of this new Inquisition instead  carted him away in secret, and held him without bond or legal counsel for years. He was found guilty and will spend the rest of his life in a Supermax prison, despite having  failed to kill a single human being.  The intent was enough, and the government felt no need to 'prove' their case the way they would a normal attempted murder case. They claimed that to actually produce evidence against Padilla would compromise national security.  You see, in the new Inquisition, just like the old, the accusation is enough, proof is merely a footnote.
  Well, after all, Padilla is a bad guy, right? And at least he continues to breath, which is more than you can say for Anwar al-Awlaki, also an America citizen. Anwar and his 16 year old son are both dead today because the American president selected them for death by drone.  They were never charged with a crime, never indicted. They were never arrested, and never allowed to face ther accusers.  Their accuser sat half a world away and signed their death warrants.  The execution was carried out, then denied and only admitted to  later.
  The entire story of the War on Terror has been the shredding of freedom under the guise of protecting it.  The abuses  continue and no one is exempt.  The laws that were purpotedly passed to  stop terrorists have been invoked in all manner of circumstances.
  The Inquisition went on as long as it did because of the  fanatical hatred of its overlords, and the  simple fact that there is always another heretic somewhere to burn.  The new Inquisition is just as perpetual because there will always be a bad guy somewhere real or imaginary somewhere on the planet.  There will always be another dragon to slay, and thanks to the NDAA passed in 2012, the Inquisition can go on forever, and in your own backyard.
  As an afterthought, if you are counting on a political party to come into power that will reverse this trend, good luck.  The Patriot Act was signed into law by a published advocate of small government, although he wasn't known for being bright.  The  GOP  offering up for his replacement was  also famously terrible, and the great white horse of the 2012 campaign openly admitted his support for the NDAA.
  In fact, out of the entire stable of 2012 candidates, only one of them would address these issues from a freedom perspective.  But how he didn't get the job is a whole separate story.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Deputation Speech I Would Love to Give

"Thank you, it's good to be with you.First of all , let me thank Pastor ------------ for letting us come in and  present the work."
  " I got saved in April of 1995 while a sailor stationed  in San Diego.  I have been in church a long time, like most of you, and like most of you I have sat there in the pew while a complete stranger stood before us and did what I am about to do; try and  convince people he does not know to  give him money, basically forever."
  "I've seen them and so have you.  The guy rolls in in a car that only got there by  divine intervention.  He  comes in with his herd of kids who are  squirmy from being in the car all day because he drove 7 or 8 hours to be at church that night.  I've sat in the pew and done exactly what you are doing right now; analyzing, assessing, and judging whether this guy and his  worn-out wife and squirmy kids meet my approval.  Is he funny? Is he personable?  What Bible college did  he graduate from? Is he sufficiently burdened?  Does his wife wear a dress, and how long is it? I've analyzed these guys from a hundred different angles and disqualified my fair share of them, just like some of you have already  disqualified me. Maybe I take their prayer card, and maybe I don't.  Maybe I take their prayer card and I lose it or my kid writes all over it, or I just forget.  Maybe I stick it in my  Bible in  one of the minor prophets, almost guaranteeing it will be a  while before I see it. And whether I approve or not, that guy  gets out of church that night, pours his family into their decrepit car,and does it  all over again with a completely different set of strangers tomorrow night.  Statistically, he'll do this for about three about  500 different churches."
  "I know nobody talks about this. I'm supposed to come in here, and  say the exact same thing  we said at the last church while my wife tries to pretend to be interested like she is hearing it for the first time.  I'm supposed to show you pictures of crowds of natives, and talk about the country where we are trying to go. I'm supposed to give you facts and figures like population and how many of them are unreached for Christ.  I am supposed to appear broken for the natives, although  being genuinely broken for a people  every night for  3 years is  almost emotionally impossible. I am supposed to  be super-spiritual.I am supposed to use every salesman trick in the book to woo you  out of some of your money."
  "I'm not going to do any of those things. I am going to  give you every reason not to support us, and then give you the one reason why you should."
  "So here are some reasons to not support us.  I'm not always the husband, or father, or church member that I should be.  I can be sort of petty and  am very impatient.  I do read my Bible all the time, but  there are huge chunks of it that I don't understand.  I preach  in public.  I never finished Bible Institute.  I have friends in the ministry that you probably don't like.  My kids sometimes misbehave, and my wife and I sometimes don't get along.  I get prideful, and I get loud.Oh, one more thing, when I  give you the one reason why you should support us, I'm going to take a Bible verse out of context to do it."
   "Now that we have all that out of the way, the Bible says In Isaiah 6:8 "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying , Whom shall I send , and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." That is the one reason that you should support us; we are willing to go in your stead.  We will be the ones that  will separate ourselves from family so you don't have to. We are the ones that will do without modern conveniences so that you can stay here.  I agree with you that a national pastor could probably do a better job, in fact, almost anybody here could probably do a better job, but the difference between us and all the qualified people is that we are willing to go. We are giving you the  chance of a lifetime,a chance to get involved in a great work of God without any serious inconvenience to you. We are workers, and we are going to work. The word of God will be preached, the  gospel will be proclaimed, and the saints will be edified.You can  help make our ministry possible without ever leaving the comfort of your hometown.  You don't have to quit your job, you don't have to sell your house, we'll go in your place.   All we want is your money, and we want it for as long as we are on the field."
  "Well, that's my pitch; at least a dozen reasons against, and one reason for.  We are the Alford family, and we are going to _______.  Thank you for your time."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Techno-Phobia and the Ministry

  I have been saved, and in church  for a little over 19 years now, and in that time, I have noticed, among my particular flavor of Christianity an ever-shifting hostility towards technology.  I really do think it is, for the most apart, based off a  distrust of modernism in general, and as such this aversion has my sympathies. I am ,after all,  a self-confessed techno-hermit.  But unless you hold that position indefinitely as a movement, you wind up being really embarrassed by some of your predecessors when that tech becomes more readily accepted a few years later. Truth doesn’t  change, and truth doesn’t have to be updated every couple of years to stay relevant and avoid embarrassment, but tech hostility does.  I’ll give you an example.
  Back in the 1800’s it was very common to hear sermons directed against theatre attendance.  The general  notion was that it caused your mind to  be overly occupied with illusion and caused you to become  emotionally manipulated.  It was also cited as a poor use of the  few days that a man has on  Earth in which to live for God.   Those are all perfectly valid points, by the way, but nobody preaches against plays anymore.  In fact, the more modernistic  church assemblies will use plays or drama presentations as an 'outreach'.
  Having surrendered the high ground against  theaters, the whipping boy of the 1930's was the relatively new telephone.  Ministers warned their congregation that it enabled you to gossip without ever leaving your house and gobbled up time that could be spent better.  It was the tool of busybodies, people were warned.  Once again, all perfectly valid points, but time moved on and  eventually most people  had at least one telephone. Nobody preaches that you shouldn’t have a telephone now.  If your church doesn't have a telephone, you are regarded as some sort of  backwards weirdo.
  In the 1960’s  , television was the new culprit. Lester Roloff hammered on it incessantly, calling it "the enemy of all righteousness".  It was called an "open sewer line" into your living room and  would lead to the corruption of morals, and the collapse of the family.  I think the argument could be made that they were exactly right, but either way,   not only do most church members have a television, most preachers have one. Somebody somewhere decided that it was OK, and now if you preach against television, you  have to preach against the content, not the mere ownership of one.  Some churches broadcast their services on television, and nobody even raises an eyebrow.
  In the 1980’s and 90's there were still a handful  of guys preaching against going to the movies, but even by then those were considered the fringe element, and an embarrassment to everyone else.  I personally know of a church where you could not teach Sunday school if you were a  movie attendee. Now some of those guys had no problem going to blockbuster or watching the same movie on the television that previous generations railed against, which I always thought was sort of hypocritical.
   In the early 90’s everybody beat up on the internet. Now if a church doesn’t have a website, it’s backwards and not trying to reach the community.
  In the late 1990’s it was the internet, especially Myspace.  Myspace would  wreck your home,  dissolve your marriage and  poison your soul. I heard probably 20 or 25 messages against Myspace in the first   10 years I was saved.  I don’t know of any churches that had a Myspace page off hand, but I'm sure they are out there.
  The mid 2000’s brought us the evils of Facebook, until almost every preacher we know had one, and the ones that don’t have on use it to  spy on their congregation through other people’s accounts (while preaching against it. don't even get me started on how crazy that is). Churches now have FB pages.
  I have heard  pulpit warnings about texting, that is until a lot of preachers realized they were too busy to answer the phones their ancestors preached against, and  texting  was deemed convenient and good stewardship of one’s time.
  These different shifts in  mindset from one generation to the next seem to all follow the same pattern.  At first, the  technology is evil or corrupt or worldly, and generally a waste of time.  Later on it is  determined that 'some people' can use it without it destroying them ( I am currently hearing this argument  advanced  in regards to FB).  Once the technology  has mass acceptance, it becomes harder to oppose it and be taken seriously, so the  shift is that 'lots of people in our church use it' and that it's OK as long as it's used correctly.  within a few years, someone who tries to revisit the previous hostility is told  to not be so  uptight. After all everybody goes to the theater/owns a telephone/has the internet/has a FB page, right?  And after all, we can use this for the ministry, and that somehow makes null and void all previous arguments.  The last stage is the polar opposite of the first; people will look at you askew if you don't avail yourself of the latest technology.
  The  appearance from the outside looking in is  that the world is winning and the church is constantly getting pushed backwards, constantly drawing new lines of defense in the sand. That seems quite sad if it’s the case.
   So was it right to be opposed to all those things? And if it was, why is it acceptable now?  If it was wrong to be opposed to all those things, then who’s to say the next thing everybody gets vexed about won’t be just as silly a few years later?
  Here’s what I think.  I think all the warnings of previous generations are valid, and have borne themselves out to various degrees, but not for the reasons that are usually cited.  Theaters, movie houses,  Myspace, FB, the telephone are all amoral devices, but people are not.  People are rotten and prone to find newer and better ways to satisfy the lusts of their flesh. TV enabled the slothful to be slothful.  Telephones enabled the  gossiper to  gossip more effectively.  The internet  put a world of pornography at the fingertips of people who already wanted to look at it.  The problem isn’t the tech, the problem is the lust of your flesh. So if you want something to rally against, rally against that.
  As it turns out, that’s exactly where the Bible places the emphasis. That means, to quote the great Danny DiLeo, "The Bible is the most up to date technology existing in the world today" in that long before Shakespeare  wrote his first play or  Zuckerberg and his CIA handlers came up with FB, the Bible discerned the thoughts and intents of the hearts in mankind and pronounced judgement not on the 'how', but on the 'why'.  If you want to preach timeless messages that won't embarrass  everybody  a few years later, leave the hobby horses and  buzzwords aside, and proclaim the word of God.