Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:10-11
Sunday, February 1, 2009
"You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again'. John 3:7
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
We hear the term "Born Again" so often it has become a cliche and, for far too many, a joke. Yet, it was Jesus, who is God, who used the term and He said you had to be "Born Again" or you could not enter Heaven. It is more difficult for a person to get into heaven than for a person to get through airport security.
I don't particularly mind the comedians making jokes about being Born Again. It tells us who they are and they need our prayer. It is the same with all those celebrities who get busted and show up in court with a spanking new Bible under one arm claiming they found Jesus.
Who bother me are those electronic evangelists who tell one and all being Born Again is the end of troubles. If you just trust in them, you will be prosperous and healthy. If you send them $100, then expect a thousand dollars back. If they place a hand on your forehead the aches in your liver will go away. If you just listen to their version of God's blessings you'll get the job you want, the house you want, the woman or man of your dreams and a big shiny luxury car at Christmas with a shiny red bow on top. Too many of these types give the impression getting saved is like getting a big old sundae with a cherry on top. Its like winning the Powerball.
Sometimes getting saved comes with a hole in the ceiling.
With the birth of an actual living, breathing daughter in 1978, our life was going very well. My wife had two of her three wishes: I was happy and doing great in my job, and had been at the same employer for over five years, and she had a baby of our own. We still didn't have a house, but that would come -- with a price.
We were active in the church, well-liked and with several friendships that neither required removal of any clothing or downing a bottle of whiskey. Sounded like those "prosperity-preachers" might be right.
Jesus said: "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
You know what? I think Satan and his cronies have a different reaction when a sinner repents, not one of joy, but of anger. I believe when you get "Born Again" you become a target for the Devil, especially if you are an activist about it. Lucifer may not be able to snatch you out of the hand of Christ, but he might be able to find ways to distract you and make you ineffective, maybe even make you a detriment to others who are watching.
Early 1978 began with a miracle, but by the end we were in the middle of a war.
1977 had been a banner year for the steel fabricating company where I worked. We set a new sales record both in volume, sales and profit. It 1978 in all rolled south. The Japanese were allegedly dumping steel out west. United States steel corporations were collapsing. The U.S. steel industry could not compete with the import price of Japanese steel and be profitable. The owner of the company I worked for refused to buy foreign steel. His patriotism was admirable, but buying domestic also meant we could not compete with our competitors on price either. We went from a record year in profits to a record year in losses.
There were many days that year when I had all my work finished by 10:00 in the morning and could only sit twiddling my thumbs, along with my co-workers, for the rest of the day. By early autumn rumors were circulating about the company's future. Some people found jobs elsewhere and left, including my immediate supervisor. I was called to the CEO's office and told he was shutting down the Philadelphia operation and moving the headquarters to our Chicago plant, he hoped I would move with them. He offered me a 47% salary increase to do so.
There are other things beside money. Most of our other things were here, our families, our friends, our church, our life histories. We didn't want to go to Chicago, but what to do? We had a child now, I would need a job. And one night in November the phone rang...
It was the man who had been my boss, the one who had left when the rumors began. He had taken a job as Financial Vice-President of a large medical center, one with two major hospitals, a college, a nursing school, and axillary clinics. He offered me the job of Budget Director, which I accepted. It seemed an opportunity, but was in truth a nightmare of interdepartmental rivalry and office politics to the extreme. It didn't take me long to learn that either.
It also meant we had to move to make the commute practical. We still were near our families, friends and history, but we had to leave the church in New Jersey and find a new Bible-believing church in Pennsylvania, which we did.
We couldn't afford to buy a house, but were tired of apartments, so we rented a house. We specified strongly to the realtor we wanted a house that would stay a rental, we wanted to stay in it for a few years, we were tired of moving. This was the eighth move for us in the 17 years we had been married, one more move than companies I had worked for in that time. We had a baby; we wanted to settle down.
Six months into 1979, I was mired in the political intrigue between doctors, nurses, nuns and administrators, everyday was a struggle to accomplish anything. I was not working directly with my old boss who had hired me, but with a new comer, a job-hopping, ladder-climbing guy who cared less about patients, staff or people in general, then his own advancement. He was already angry at me. He wanted me to fire my secretary, a long-time employee, not for any fault of her's. He told me to fire her because that would put "the fear of god" into the other employees and they would respects me. I refused to fire her; he said I was weak.
Six months into 1979, the realtor, our rental agent, knocked on our door and said the lady who owned the house planned to sell it and wanted us to have first crack. Would we make an offer. Hadn't we told this man we wanted a house that would not go on the market, that we wished to stay a few years? Now we had to move to another rental house. Because the lady was anxious to sell, they didn't hold us to the lease term and in August we had moved again.
A third of the way into 1980, the constant office warfare continued, but despite it, I had brought last years budget in on time for the first time in a decade, I had automated the reports of my office and upgraded my secretary's responsibilities and created a solid communication program between departments for dealing with any and all budget issues. I expected a nice raise. I was asked to come to the personnel department (they weren't using the term Human Resources yet).
The Head of Personnel was very nervous. He kept stuttering, hemming and hawing. he didn't know how to put it, what to call it.
"Was I being fired," I asked.
"Well, no, I wasn't being fired. No, no, he wouldn't say I was being fired."
I wasn't being fired, but I was losing my job. The hospital was owned by an order of nuns. Now this order wanted a nun in my position. I could stick around until I found something else. I had an office, a telephone, my salary and absolutely nothing to do. This was even worse than when I had to twiddle my thumbs at the steel fabricator. At least there I had work until 10:00 AM. here I had nothing. So I listened to the radio a lot, sent out a lot of resumes and in between read a lot of novels.
To be continued: The Attacks Scale Upward