A favorite poem of many is Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Here is the poem.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
The occasion was the dying of Dylan Thomas’ father. Mr. Thomas was angry with his father because he felt his father wasn’t trying hard enough to fight his oncoming demise. He wanted his father to fight against death. He didn’t want his father to die.
I get to where I want to scream this poem out to our churches today. So many seem to be laying down and letting the fog and darkness of cessation slowly envelope them. Perhaps like the accident victim who has suffered a trauma they are weak from the blows they’ve suffered and don’t realize they are slipping into unconsciousness and then death. The end descends peacefully upon them as the final breath is breathed.
Perhaps it’s weariness that is overwhelming these churches. It’s true it has been a long fight and here I do not mean the kind of fight where brother is pitted against brother. No, this fight is one where brother, and sister, stood alongside their sibling and contended against the forces of destruction that are increasing their attacks against our loved and their despised institution. The soldiers see the battle excruciatingly closely and sense the defeat coming. Their bones tired and their spirit disheartened they wait, very consciously, for the enemy to overrun their position and the only hope they have is that their post will not fall before they have passed so that they do not have to endure the defeat.
In either scenario the trauma victim nor the soldier realizes there are spectators and fellow soldiers screaming at them to continue the fight. Kindred spirits who have the additional grief of friends giving up the battle.
The semi-comatose have grown deaf to their band of brothers who are still in the fight. Perhaps in their semi-comatose state they derisively laugh at the foolishness of their companion's continued struggle against the dying of the light. “Enjoy sweet slumber,” they whisper.
So too the ones weary from battle suffer from limited vision. They cannot see the other troops waging battle successfully on the other side of the hill. Their reality is all that seems to exist. They slip into slumber not realizing that if battle tactics were changed the fight could turn. That if they would press on replacements and replenishment would arrive to sustain the post. If they would but receive current orders and not insist on outdated ones, the enemy could be defeated, and the townspeople saved. Faithfully and stubbornly, but foolishly they cling to outdated battle plans and ineffective missions.
In their depleted vision and memory, they do not see their leader advancing. They do not hear the words of encouragement that they are conquerors. They do not remember that the battle is won, that the enemy is defeated and that the attacks being lobbied are the death throes of the enemy not the successful advancement. If only their vision could be improved. If only their hearing were sharpened perhaps then their strength would return. Perhaps then they would not be nattering nabobs of negativity. Perhaps then the dimming of their eyes would see their city shining bright.
If only their faith in their leader could be renewed. If only their confidence in their commander could be restored. If they could realize their efforts are not in vain. If they could value saved lives more than their life’s comfort. Perhaps then the battle could turn. The commander continues to speak, He is ready to strengthen wobbly knees, He is ready with replenishing resources. His storehouses are not emptied but His laborers are few.
He's waiting to see if there is sufficient faith. He’s waiting to see if there are trustworthy individuals. He’s waiting to hear the shared call for help. He’s listening for unity. He’s waiting for the fervorous call and the submissive obedience. He’s waiting to hear the call for new orders and to have the confidence they will be followed.
Church – Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Your personal ending is not the end of all. Fight as long as you have life and help the rest to live!
I love the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. There is such a wealth of wisdom in the, usually, short sayings. One piece of wisdom that stands out to me is Proverbs 24:33,34. It reads, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.” God thought it was so important to say this that He led the scribe of Proverbs to include it two times! In Proverbs 6:10,11 we read the exact, same saying.
While some of the proverbs can leave one scratching his or her head, this one is easy to understand. One must work diligently throughout their life, or everything worked for will be gone in what seems like an instant. People will wonder, “How did this happen!”
I often think of this proverb in relation to churches. I’m passionate about the local church. My intensity regarding the local church is too much for many people. I get that and I don’t like that it makes people uncomfortable, but I see the times and I have concern and I grieve regarding the state of the local church.
Here are some anecdotal reasons why. Here in Louisville, there is a nice church facility that was operating as a Baptist church when we moved to the area some 25 years ago. It is now an Islamic school. I don’t begrudge Islamic parents seeking parochial education for their children, but it grieves me that this Baptist Church no longer exists at that location.
There is another church facility near me that was once a large Baptist church. That church is now owned by a Christian school. Again, I’m happy that children are being trained in the Christian faith, but I grieve that the church is no longer worshipping in that location.
A few years ago, there was a church that was very involved in local area ministries and had a building in which they housed volunteer Vacation Bible School workers who came to Louisville for the summer to help various churches. On one occasion I drove by the church and the property was surrounded by chain link fences and was apparently closed. I asked an associational leader what happened. He told that the church had gotten to a place financially where it was largely supported by one elderly woman. She passed away, her support stopped, and the church was no longer able to keep the doors open.
There are many more stories I could tell of Baptist churches that have closed or merged with other churches because they became too small to stay open and or be self-supporting. There are many other non-Baptist churches that are no longer operating like a Presbyterian church that is now owned by Indians (India Indians). Again, I don’t begrudge the Indians practicing their faith, but it grieves me that an Evangelical Christian Protestant church is no longer functioning.
Then there are the statistical studies. For 40 years or more I’ve been told in various meetings that 80% of churches are plateaued or declining. Thom Rainer’s organization did a study and found the number was more accurately 65%; better but still troubling. Recently I reached out to one of our state Baptist workers regarding the number of Baptist church closures over the past few years. He reported that 30 church had closed in the previous four-year period. That is an average of 7.5 churches per year! While not as bad as I had expected, 7.5 churches a year still makes me grieve and that is just Kentucky Baptist Churches. The reports on mainline church decline are much more troubling.
Following is a clipping from the July 13, 2021, Christianity Today article, “Mainline Protestants Are Still Declining, But That’s Not Good News for Evangelicals”, “By their own membership tallies, mainline denominations are showing drops of 15 percent, 25 percent, and even 40 percent over the span of the last decade.”
Finally, in 2009, I served as Part-Time Minister of Music for a church in Louisville. In the 1960s and 1970s the church had as many as 1,200 people attending worship. At one time they were a leading Southern Baptist church in growth. When I came in 2009 the church usually ran 150 in worship with occasional “special day” attendance of 200+. By pre-COVID 2019 the attendance was approximately 70 and now the church is averaging 40.
Certainly, COVID has hurt our church attendance, but it doesn’t deserve all the blame as church decline was well evidenced before the Spring of 2020.
I believe I am justified in my grief and intense passion regarding church decline. I’m no expert in church growth. I have read Thom Rainer’s books and followed his blog for years. He is a leading Southern Baptist professor, author, and researcher on church growth. I have also stayed informed by publications released by The Barna Group especially when George Barna was alive and heading the organization.
I don’t know the answer and the truth is there is no THE answer that applies equally well to each church. A friend, George Yates, has written a book, “Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church.” In addition, he has worked as a consultant with many churches across the United States to help them avoid and reverse decline in their church. I’ve heard Reverend Yates say that he feels the decline can be traced back to an initial cause mentioned in Revelation chapter two. God is speaking to the church in Ephesus. Initially He commends the church for their hard work. However, in verse four God says, “Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first!” (NIV)
I think there is a lot of merit to his observation. Too many churches seem to have lost their, or have a seriously reduced, love for Jesus Christ. I fear too many in the church do not have a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.
I grew up attending church and I have a deep love for the local church, any local church, not just the one I attend. I want the churches, including my church, to be healthy and growing. I want them to be a joy to attend. I want to sing with my friends the great hymns of the faith and the great new songs of faith. I want to be challenged and enlightened by a deep look into the scripture and I want to challenge and enlighten those to whom I am sharing God’s word. I know there is a wonderful abundant life in store for those who love God and live according to His purpose, and I get very intense in trying to help people grow in Christ and have that abundant life.
If my intensity has offended you, I apologize. It was not my intent to offend. However, I cannot serve my God with a lukewarm attitude and action. I will try to be less offensive while maintaining my zeal for His church. My prayer is that God will remind you of His love for you and that your love will be restored to what it once was.
Finally, if you know you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and you have never accepted Him as your personal Savior, I urge you to get with me or some other Christian you respect, and resolve this today. Also, if you believe or thought that you had made a genuine profession of faith years ago but today are not sure, I urge you to meet with me or some other Christian you respect and resolve your position with Christ today!
I am really excited this year because I have finally attracted some hummingbirds to my backyard. I've put out the feeders, changed the sugar water regularly, provided a bird bath with a floating fountain, made a small wild flower garden, and planted other plants to attract the birds. This Spring we regularly saw two hummingbirds visit our feeders. I think those two had children because we now see four flying around and two are larger than the other two. They are getting more bold as well as we watch them drink from the feeder, hover nearby, rest in the trees, and chase each other around.
The hummingbirds aren't the only guests we have. I also have a regular bird feeder and it is visited daily by up to a dozen mourning doves, Chick-a-Dees, Tufted Titmouse. Cowbirds, House Sparrows, and Blue Jays. The Blue Jays really like the whole peanuts I put out there for them. They must watch for me because I no sooner put out the peanuts and walk away that they don't swoop down and grab a peanut. I think there are probably a half-dozen Blue Jays.
I'd heard that hummingbirds can be aggressive and it is true. I've seen the daddy sit on a perch nearby and as soon as another hummingbird comes to feed it swoops down and chases it off. I also see them chasing each other around the yard. It is quite fun to watch them.
Another interesting observation on the regular bird feeder is that the most aggressive bird(s) are the Mourning Doves. We think of doves as peaceful and we talk and sing about the Dove of Peace but they are the most aggressive bird at that feeder. There is one dove that must think the feeder is hers. She will plant herself in the middle of the feeder and eat while keeping other birds at bay. I'd always heard Blue Jays were aggressive, and they can be, but at my feeder it's the doves that rule.
Oh, and I shouldn't forget the squirrels. Of course, I have squirrels.
But as much as I do for them As soon as I unlock our back door and step out on the deck they fly away as quickly as they can. Obviously they are scared of me. even though they wait for me to bring fresh food out and as much as they enjoy playing in the bird bath fountain. And though I would never hurt them.
I don't expect a Disney experience with them like we see in Disney movies but I wish they'd at least not act like they think I'm going to catch and roast them. I'd like to be able to be close to them and enjoy their beauty, songs, and antics.
Recently, I started wondering if that's how our heavenly Father feels. He provides for us day by day and moment by moment. We don't even know all the times He has protected us, provided for us, and met our needs. I'm sure He longs to commune with us like He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they sinned.
After Adam and Eve sinned there formed a separation between man and God. It wasn't possible to have full communion with Him because of the sin in our lives. When Jesus came He took our sin upon Himself. When He died on the cross He carried those sins to the grave, and when He rose from the grave He left the sins behind. Because of His work on our behalf we can now have a full and unhindered relationship with God. We must only believe that Jesus died and redeemed us. Then as we continue through life, when we fail and commit some sin, we have only to confess our wrong to Him and ask for forgiveness. The Bible teaches us that if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.
That means we can have a free and unhindered fellowship with Him. He can walk with us through the garden and through the struggles. Wherever we are, God is there walking along side us.
But too often I am like the birds I described. I'm afraid to be in God's presence. I run away when He comes near. When I run away I rob myself of communion with God and basking in His love for me.
John 3:17 tells us Jesus came to the world (us) not to condemn the world but to save the world and reconcile ourselves to Him. He came to give us life and that more abundant. Jesus said He wants to call me His friend. but in my guilt and fear I run away from His love.
I'm going to try and not be like my hummingbirds or any of the other birds. I'm going to strive to not sin and when I do confess my sin. That way I won't feel guilty. I also won't feel like God's out to get me and or punish me.
I'm sure I'll be happier basking in the Savior's love. We'll you join me there?
No matter what you've done in your life, Jesus is ready to forgive you and open His storehouses of heaven to you. He forgives and forgets, Trust in Him today. And if you don't know Him the way I've described, please let someone near you know so they can help you resolve your conflict with God. Then your spirit will soar like a hummingbird!
In the fifth chapter of Matthew we read Jesus' teachings on a wide variety of subjects. The chapter starts with a group of blessings that have been termed, The Beatitudes. Each beatitude begins with "Blessed are . . ." and then proceeds to teach some way of living that causes one to be blessed. The beatitude section is beautiful prose and profound.
In the rest of the chapter, Jesus covers a variety of topics. The topics include murder, adultery, divorce, vengeance, and showing love to those we hate. In one section of this chapter Jesus addresses the Law, meaning the Ten Commandments God gave to the people through Moses and other directives. Jesus proclaims that He has come to fulfill or complete the Law. Indeed with His death on the cross Jesus does fulfill the Law and ushers mankind into the age of grace.
One should notice in Jesus' teaching on the various topics that the standard He sets is higher, deeper, and more demanding than the Old Testament commands given. I submit two examples to illustrate my point. "Thou shalt not murder." is the sixth commandment. Jesus says in Matthew 5 if one is angry with their brother, and elsewhere if you hate your brother, then you have committed murder. He goes deeper than the actual act of physically taking another's life and add our attitude.
The other example is the seventh commandment. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." that is sexual relations with a married person who is not one's spouse. Jesus adds that if one has lust in their heart towards another than they have committed adultery in their heart. Again Jesus adds attitude or thought in addition to the actual physical act.
Jesus also taught on being truthful and letting your word stand on it's own. In verses 33 through 37 of Matthew chapter five, Jesus teaches that we should not undergird our word by swearing on something. The swearing here is not using the seven forbidden words as the Comedian George Carlin once waxed amusingly upon. Rather it is saying an oath by something recognized as greater than ourselves. Jesus teaches us to let our Yes mean Yes or our No, No. Another way of saying this is "Say what you mean, and mean what you say!" Be a person who stands by their word. As you live your life in this manner, others will soon learn your word can be trusted. Being recognized as a person of one's word is a valuable, and rare, commodity.
Jesus expands His teaching on standing by one's word in Matthew 21:28-32. In this passage Jesus shares a parable about two sons. The father tells his sons to go work in the vineyard. One son says "No," and the other son says, "Yes." The son who answered "Yes," is the obedient son, right? As the parable continues we find that the son who readily replied, "Yes," or more exactly, "I will, sir." Did not do as he said he would. The son who said no, and I'm sure at the time disappointed if not angered his father, changed his mind and went to the field to work. Jesus puts forth the question, "Who did what his father wanted." To which those present answered correctly, "The first," that is the one who said no but then relented and obeyed.
Jesus used this parable to teach that there are people in the world who say "No" to God's ways but later repent and embrace Him and obey. There are also those who either by zealous exuberance, or a desire to curry favor immediately say yes but then fail to follow through or who perhaps had no intention of ever obeying. Jesus teaches it is the one who ultimately obeys who is in the right. Appearance means nothing, obedient action, even if one initially refuses, is rewarded. This passage is another example of saying what you mean and meaning what you say, however, if you say "No" but change your mind and obey, then you are forgiven and rewarded.
We must be people of our word; in our word to man but definitely in our word to God. "Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Galatians 6:7
In our scriptures the believers of God are encouraged to come to church to join in worshipping Him and to learn what the scriptures can teach us about God and how to live with our fellow man.
The most recognized verse about regular worship attendance is Hebrews 10:25. Following is Hebrews 10:24,25 "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
These verses teach us to encourage one another to live in love and do good towards others. The final lesson is that we should not give up on meeting together.
Humans are social creatures. Yes, we need alone time, but we need the interaction with others as well.
The previous eighteen months have been hard on our relationships, and churches, as we have needed to self-quarantine as a measure to prevent infection of the COVID-19 virus.
I found the following list on health benefits of regular church attendance.
According to Radiant Church, the most noteworthy health benefits of church attendance are as follows:
Regular church attendance helps each one of us stay connected with our faith community, to join in praising and worshipping God, assist in teaching our children about God and worship, and lifts our spirit when we see long time friends.
There are practical benefits of regular church attendance. From time to time each one of us needs practical help. It may be a financial need, help with moving, appliance repair, vehicle repair, and on and on the list goes. When we are part of a local body of faith we have the opportunity to help others and to receive help when we need it.
Finally regular church attendance helps all of us feel better. When we attend church we raise the number in attendance. Seeing greater church attendance encourages all of us.
If you don't have a church you regularly attend, or you've drifted away from church attendance, we at Campbellsburg Baptist Church invite you to worship with us. We won't make you feel awkward by pointing you out in the worship service as a guest. However, some of our members will take the time to welcome you and tell you they're glad you attended.
We can, and should, engage in private Bible reading and worship of God. Each one of us receives benefits from regular church attendance and our fellow worshippers are benefitted by our attendance.
I hope you will choose to make church attendance a regular part of your week. I really believe that taking time on Sunday to worship God and listen to His word, will make the rest of the week better for you.
I've included the link to the article I quoted below so you can read all the comments.
Read more: The Top Health Benefits Of Church Attendance • https://www.healthstatus.com/health_blog/wellness/the-top-health-benefits-of-church-attendance/#ixzz73i4CbntI
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Recently a friend blessed me by asking about the pattern for praying that I had mentioned in a sermon. We don't have to use any pattern or method in how we pray. After all, prayer is simply a conversation with God. However, sometimes it help to have a pattern to follow. If we review our prayers we may discover that all we do is ask God for something. There are many patterns and suggested formats for praying. Below is one that I use that is easy to remember and helps me.
The patterns uses the word ACTS as in the bible book The Acts of the Apostles. A very good book to read. In this pattern ACTS is used as an acrostic where each letter stands for a word.
A - Adoration---Praising and worshipping God Almighty and who He is
C - Confession---Agreeing with God about ways we have fallen short
T - Thanksgiving---Thanking God for specific ways He has blessed us
S - Supplication---Making our requests known to God.
A - Adoration
We worship the Supreme Creator of the universe. He is all powerful, all knowing, and all present. He speaks and worlds come into existence. He has no beginning and no end-the Alpha and Omega (first and last letters of the Greek alphabet). Praising and worshipping God is not stroking His ego. It is not flattery intended to get us what we want. Adoration is an expression of love. As powerful as God is His love for us is just as powerful. Spending time in adoring Him helps us establish the right relationship between us and God. He is The Almighty and we are His children. He is Savior and Lord. He is our authority. We follow Him not the reverse.
C - Confession
Confession means to agree with. In this case we are agreeing with God that we have fallen short of the mark, His desire for our lives. Sin is to miss the mark. To have a free and clear relationship with God it is necessary for us to admit where we have failed and accept His forgiveness. Jesus' death on the cross provides forgiveness for any sin we may have or are, or will commit. To appropriate His forgiveness we must acknowledge our error and receive His work on our behalf. In James 1:9 we have the promise; "If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." When we mess up we need to 'fess up. Once we have 'fessed up everything we have a relationship with Him that is free and unhindered.
T - Thanksgiving
The Bible teaches us "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17 We need to have the "attitude of gratitude".
S - Supplication
This is where we ask God for whatever is on our heart and for what we need. It isn't wrong to ask for God's help and provision but it should not be all of our prayer. God is not our genie in a bottle. To quote C.S. Lewis in his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe "he is not a tame lion." He is the Lion of Judah but He is not our pet. In humble submission to Him we ask Him for specific blessings, for provision, for ourselves and others.
So if you need a pattern to pray by I recommend using the A.C.T.S. pattern. It can help keep our prayers well said. However, the bottom line is pray! Talk with God daily and stay in an attitude of pray all day.