RUNNING AWAY FROM MY CHURCH – THE BOOK

Running Away From My Church Novel MessnerBefore there was time, before you and me,

The whole earth it trembled in glad harmony,

Great mysteries abounded, the sky never darkened,

All waters they flowed, from the fountain of youth.

Chorus:

The prairies they chanted, the mountains they roared

The forests they whispered, this heavenly song.

La, la la la la, la la la la la la,

La la la la, la la la la la.

 

From author Robert Messner comes an epic novel of religion and madness in the heartland of America. Just 16-years-old, Cameron’s despair increases daily as he watches his family become trapped within the machinations of the devious yet charming Pastor Tom. Soon, his mother’s devotion to this fundamentalist church and its leader threatens to tear the family apart. Can Cameron act quickly enough to save his family and his girlfriend before time runs out? To what lengths will he go to help his family escape from this cult? From start to the shocking finish, Running Away From My Church will keep you up late into the night and make you question everything you have ever known about American Christianity.

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The Sounds of Silence

I am currently in the midst of a fiery trial. The events of the past six months have tested my faith like never before. I had always heard about people going through storms like this one; I just never realized how bad it could get. Thanks be to God, all is not lost. I am not lost. The wind and the waves are finally abating. And I am thankful for the many valuable lessons I have learned throughout the ordeal.

One of these important lessons has been on the importance of silence.

Have you ever tried being silent for a few minutes? I don’t just mean closing your mouth. I mean being alone with yourself and really quieting your mind.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. In this digital age, our minds are conditioned to be constantly on the intake – we feed off of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, texts messages and much more – our troubled souls are somehow comforted (or numbed) by this never ending stream of news, gossip, and entertainment. Time slips by unaware; information helps us cope with boredom and loneliness. Continue reading “The Sounds of Silence”

Why Must Christians Defend Gun Rights?

The reactions from Left and Right are all too predictable in the wake of the Parkland shootings. My social media feeds are overflowing with self serving proclamations, dubious statistics, hateful name calling, and all around foolishness. As usual, both  sides are screaming at each other and no one is really listening.

I get the Left’s position on gun control. If we want to prevent these national tragedies, we should make it as difficult as possible for people to get their hands on assault rifles. Even if these guns can be obtained via illegal channels, why make it easy for a potential mass murderer to buy one? Close the legal channel first and then go after the other channels. I believe that common sense is on the side of more gun control.

I say this while at the same time acknowledging that Liberals are a bunch of hypocrites; their never ending tantrums about gun control rings hollow when one considers their stance on abortion and euthanasia. But those are separate issues and we should treat them as such. The Left could be right on gun control and wrong about plenty else. Continue reading “Why Must Christians Defend Gun Rights?”

Was I in a Cult?

When I tell people about my childhood church, they will usually insist that I was in a cult.  While I strongly suspect that they are correct, I never thought of myself as a cult member. Sure, my church may have shunned the outside world and taught that it alone possessed “the truth” but we never had to swear our undying loyalty to the leaders or live in a compound or drink poison. Should you wish to stop attending the church, you were free to do so, but you had to accept that the members who remained were no longer your brothers in the Lord or even friends; you were automatically disfellowshipped and labeled an apostate.

Continue reading “Was I in a Cult?”

Are Protestants Together?

Some time ago, I read the short book Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Catholicism written by the late Reformed preacher R.C. Sproul. It was a good read; I thought that Sproul treated this controversy with a degree of fairness and accuracy that was not present in other books that I have read on this subject. He basically laid the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Westminster Confession side-by-side as he worked through the major differences.  Sure, there were some snarky comments here and there but I overlooked these since it was clear that the book was being targeted mostly at people who already agreed with him.

By the time I was finished with the book, however, another question loomed large in my mind. Clearly, a great gulf exists between Catholics and Protestants. Anyone who knows history shouldn’t need much convincing of this. But there is an even more important question that cannot be ignored. Forget about unity among Protestants and Catholics. I think that the Lord will come back before that happens. What about Protestants? Are they together? Are they unified on the important issues? Do Protestants really have a leg to stand on when confronting Catholics? Continue reading “Are Protestants Together?”

The Problem With KJV Onlyism

Okay, so there is more than just one problem with the KJV Only movement. I know that. But having grown up in a KJV only church, there is one major problem that sticks out to me above the rest. It is not just a major problem; it is an insurmountable problem. And it drives me crazy.

If the King James Version, which is a 1611 English translation of the Bible, is truly the only infallible, inerrant, and inspired Word of God, then what about the billions of people who have lived and died and never understood a word of English? At this very moment, there are more than 6 billion people in the world who understand little or no English.

And lest we forget, it wasn’t until 1455 that the first Bible was printed (on the Gutenberg Press) and then much later into the 16th century before the Bible became affordable and widely available. These early Bibles were printed in Latin. This begs an important question. Did the Faithful over the centuries who either never had access to the Bible or had to read it in Latin go to hell because they never held the King James Version in their hands? Continue reading “The Problem With KJV Onlyism”

Do The Ancient Creeds Still Matter?

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made…

Do these words sound familiar? I hope they do.  These words, which have been recited in liturgy, at church councils, in battles, and at dinner tables in hundreds of languages, echo to us today through nearly 17 centuries of continual use. This creed is what has united the church (except perhaps in 1054 when it greatly divided the church) and has helped to defend it against all manner of heresies and attacks.

Sadly, I had never heard of this creed until I was in my late 20’s. In the church I grew up in, creeds were never recited; they were considered to be extra-Biblical and therefore highly suspect. Or maybe people just didn’t know about them. Prayer in our church was usually a long drawn out speech of varying eloquence depending on who was delivering it. Prayer was supposed to be spontaneous and elevated, not scripted and repetitious. To have recited a creed would have meant introducing a form of liturgy into our midst which would have taken us “dangerously” close to  Catholicism. After all, the word “catholic” is contained in the creed, right? More on that another time.  Continue reading “Do The Ancient Creeds Still Matter?”

Should Church Be Exciting?

One of my favorite places to sit and work is Panera Bread. No, this is not a plug for Panera Bread! It’s just that I enjoy the atmosphere – something about it helps me to complete my tasks more efficiently. I can sit in a booth for hours and lose myself in my work despite the noise around me.

But once in awhile I will tune into that noise and pick up on some interesting conversations. Especially about church. Sometimes there will be a pastor sitting nearby talking about church matters with a staff member. More often than not, however, I will just hear people complaining about their church. And usually, they are complaining about the worship service or the pastor’s sermons. How the service does not conform to their tastes. Or how they wish the music was different or the sermon was more interesting.

This got me thinking about what people expect from their churches and how they might be easily disappointed. The church experience is supposed to be a time of worship and communion yet how many American Christians expect to see a show on Sunday mornings? And how many churches try to oblige this wish by creating a “production” as opposed to a genuine worship service? Unfortunately, I have been in plenty of churches where I felt like I was more of a TV show prop than a congregant. Continue reading “Should Church Be Exciting?”

From Whence Cometh the Authority of a Pastor?

One of the central topics in my novel is the issue of church authority. When a pastor stands before a congregation claiming to be teaching the truth of God’s word, on what authority does he stand? Did God truly place him in that position or did he place himself in that position? Is the validity of his authority based on the consent of his followers or has it been bestowed upon him from On High? In other words, is his authority given by God or created by man? And how do we know? Continue reading “From Whence Cometh the Authority of a Pastor?”