I just spent a week and a half in the VA hospital in Richmond Virginia. Nothing was wrong, it was just respite care. Respite is a provision the VA for caregivers, such as my wife, enabling them to get a break from their 24/7 care for veterans, me. We are very thankful for this opportunity; it is of great benefit to both of us, only in different ways. Judy took the trip, got some well-deserved rest and was completely relieved caring for me. I am very grateful that she was able to do this.
On the other hand, I was treated to the exquisite care and lavish living of the VA medical center in Richmond. My routine there is far different from at home. Since I had only a few appointments and those in the afternoon, the nursing staff felt no pressure to get me going early. At home I am usually in my wheelchair by about 9:30 – 10 AM. This was not the case in respite care at Richmond VA. My record this time was 3:15 PM. So, by now you get the point, things are different when I have respite.
On the bright side, I received several visitors from our church in Hampton. Jim Rogers, Caleb and Angela Hurst, Ray Perez and Jake Hughes brightened my stay there. I was also able to get to a AAA league baseball game. Input that paragraph and I wanted to do that night got
One of the great challenges is getting to Chapel on Sunday. First, service begins at 10 AM. I was there for two Sundays and was able to roll in about 10:15 each time. The services were “Protestant” in the broadest sense: informal liturgy of singing of hymns, announcements, praise and prayer requests, prayer and the message. By now, I’ve been to quite a few Chapel services and have come to expect inclusive, politically correct and nice religious sounding talks.
So I was very surprised when the speaker that Sunday announced that her topic was to be forgiveness. She discoursed for 35 minutes (quite long by VA standards), citing her qualifications (BA, Virginia; MSW, Virginia Tech and M.Div., Samuel Somebody School of Theology) and experience as a social worker within the VA. She pointed out the need for forgiveness in personal relationships, in families and in society. She spoke of the benefits of forgiveness and dangers of not forgiving. Finally, she urged us all to “just forgive and get on with life and accept one another’s inadequacies…”
To her credit, she did mention sin. However, in her view sin is “something inhibiting normalcy.” She explained that sin was anything which represses inner positivity, which is one’s normal state, apart from sin. There was no mention of sins impact upon one’s relationship with God. There was no mention of God’s forgiveness in Christ. In fact, Jesus wasn’t even mentioned until the closing song, which was a gospel song.
This experience epitomizes what Dr. Michael Horton wrote of in a book published in 2008 and entitled Christless Christianity. He argues that while we invoke the name of Christ, too often Christ and the Christ-centered gospel are pushed aside. The result is a message and a faith that are, in Horton’s words, “trivial, sentimental, affirming, and irrelevant.” This alternative “gospel” is a message of moralism, personal comfort, self-help, self-improvement, and individualistic religion. It trivializes God, making him a means to our selfish ends. He argues that the solution is returned to the unadulterated gospel of Christ taught in the Bible.
Take the time to view and listen to this five-minute clip. Https://youtu.be/1ReJr_Z1GQY (Notice that it was recorded in August 2008 almost exactly 8 years ago.)
So here we are in 2016. All of a sudden Christians are waking up and recognizing that we have become a minority. Our culture has “outgrown” the gospel and tolerates almost anything and everything. Churches which have been historically Christian became traditionally Christian and have now become tolerant Christians. Horton’s term Christless Christianity characterizes many who claim to be Christian churches and organizations.
There are no shortcuts and there are no quick and easy answers. One thing we know is that the Lord has promised us that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” As we continue trusting in the Lord and his plan, we can 1). Pray for God’s “kingdom to come and will to be done on earth like it is in heaven”; 2). Cling to and communicate (think: share with others) in word and deed the saving gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible; 3). Seek opportunities to (gently) confront and correct the darkness in which we live. For instance, to the chagrin of the chaplain standing next to her, I politely informed the speaker that I was disappointed that she could speak of forgiveness in a church service and not once mention Christ. I pray that she is it some thought.
We are not the first to live in troubled times. Jesus told his disciples to be light in a dark world. The apostle Paul reminds us of the priority of the gospel:
1 Corinthians 15:1–4 (ESV)
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, …