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As a young adult I continued on with the weekly attendance at the same local church, although the particular place would be changing over time.

At my ‘home’ church my parents were always active and well known. My dad was Sunday school superintendent and Lay leader. My mom helped in Junior church, Vacation bible school and worked in the office on Sunday. As a young adult I have to say I enjoyed the popularity of being known by about everyone in the congregation. I even had my own key to the church building so I could go in anytime I wanted and pray or play the piano or just talk with a friend or two.

churchkey

I think it was around this stage that things began to change for me. I began having questions about things I was reading in the bible but I knew that it was best to keep these questions to myself. I figured there were logical explanations that I would figure out as time went by, or it was a matter of not completely understanding the bible yet I knew they were not questions I should bring up openly or people would begin to question my faith.

A friend of mine invited me to his church for a special service. After the service he introduced me to his pastor and we talked a little bit. The pastor was very friendly and seemed interested in having me there. He kept talking about getting together with me to play checkers and talk a bit, but when I told him I had a home church he all of a sudden lost interest, thanked me for coming and took off to talk to someone else.

After twenty years or so in my home church I felt it was time to move on. I thought I had come to a point where I was not learning or growing and a new church would be the answer. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a long drawn out process of eventually leaving the system.

As I began to venture out and look at other churches I first went to a church of the same denomination, thinking new people and a different pastor was what I needed. It did not take long to realize I was not satisfied anymore than I was at my previous church. So off I went looking to a different denomination to try out.

A friend of mine at work suggested visiting his church because it was friendly and exciting and had a pastor that preached the ‘full gospel’. I thought I would give it a try and after a couple visits thought I had found the most spiritual people in town. I also found a woman there who later became my wife. It was a non-denominational church and openly participated in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was on cloud nine for a while thinking I had found what I was looking for, a place where the Spirit was falling on the congregation and God would show up for each service.

It took ten years but as I got to know people on a more personal level I found out they were not as spiritual as I had first thought. It turned out that many of them only used different spiritual words and terms but were no different than any other christian I knew. The church service, although more lively and exciting was still pretty much the same format and way of doing things.

So what did I do? Yep, my wife and I headed off for another church. This time we landed at a different style church than I had never been in before….a mega-church. Wow, talk about exciting. They had a full band and the service was televised so there were lights, sound systems and performers in make-up. Again I thought I had found the most spiritual people I had ever known.

megachurch

After about three years it all kind of lost its excitement. I again noticed the same underlying system was in place. It was a little different in the fact that the pastor, if seen anytime off stage was escorted by body guards. When I wanted to walk around the large church complex and take a look at things ushers stopped me and told me I was not allowed in that particular area. Now to someone who used to have a key to the church building this was a big blow. I just could not get used to the tight security and the TV professionalism the pastor and musicians carried out each week.

About this time my marriage of thirteen years fell apart. Things just did not work out and we went our separate ways. It was a blow to me because I was always taught in church how much God hated divorce. I had seen many pastors and church workers in the past be told they could no longer participate in leadership roles at church due to being divorced. So I ended up dropping out of church due to guilt. I figured I would no longer be accepted there and actually thought God might be mad at me. This went on for about three years.

Now the best thing for me happened when I met my current wife. Yes, we ended up getting married even though I was taught divorce was wrong but remarriage was even worse. We both felt very much in love and believed that the love we felt could not be wrong and we believed God brought us together to live a happy life for him. I also felt good when we agreed we needed to get back in church. Fortunately things began to change when we found our new church.

This time we ended up back at a denominational church but much smaller and more like the church I grew up in. The pastor was different. He seemed to have an enthusiasm and preached with excitement that neither of us had seen before. It was a friendly church, yet as time went on we realized it was a church that was pretty much run by two different families. As we got to know the pastor more we found that he was frustrated from the pressure put on him by these families who wanted things done their way. We also found out that the pastor recently had an encounter with the Holy Spirit and he was preaching with new power and enthusiasm, something we really enjoyed but this particular denominational church wanted nothing to do with it. The pastor was a great help to my wife and I telling us about grace, forgiveness and the love of God like we had never heard before.

Unfortunately this did not last but for a few years. The pastor moved out of state and the church kind of fell apart. So again, off we went looking for something else. What we found next was the beginning of the end of our time in the organization. This will be talked about in the next article.

I think I have been involved in church for nearly 60 years. I know my parents took me to church the first Sunday I was home from the hospital and ready to be out.

I have so many good memories over the years of growing up in church. When I say church I am talking about the building, the organization, the traditional religious system that we all think of when we say church.

I remember all the usual parts of church like going to Sunday school, Vacation Bible school, Children’s church, Junior church and Youth group. I liked going to these activities and I never asked to stay home or miss them. Actually I was disappointed if I was sick and could not go.

cookies

In the first church I was part of I remember during Sunday school the main thing I was taught (at least in my eyes) was how to eat a cooking with my finger through the hole in the middle. I do not think my parents were to happy with that and it was not long afterward that my parents moved to another church where I stayed for another 20 years.

There we were taught all the traditional bible stories and were rewarded with pins for good attendance. I enjoyed learning and was presented a bible for doing so well with quizzes and attendance. I enjoyed meeting new kids my age and getting to know them although it took a long time to do since I only saw them for an hour one day each week.

I was always part of Vacation bible school each summer. My mom helped as an assistant or a teacher and I enjoyed hearing the bible stories and making crafts. I remember at the age of ten I accepted Christ at Vacation bible school. I can remember listening to a nice older lady talk about how God loved us and sent his son to die for us. I remember raising my hand when she asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ as savior, then I walked up front and was led in a prayer. Even at the age of ten I realized that just because my parents were Christians I needed to make a decision for myself. It was the best decision I ever made.

As the years went by I moved up to the Youth Group and the various activities young teenagers get to do. I can remember one time I was on the phone with our Youth Leader for well over an hour as he tried to talk me into going on a youth camping trip that I wanted nothing to do with. He was sure he was going to talk me into going but in the end, I won out and did not go. I wondered why he spent so much time trying to convince me to go when he could have talked with three or four other kids who may have really enjoyed it.

Of course as a teenager we would always find the best seat in the Sunday morning worship service, which was the back row. I think the pastor was just happy we were even in the service at all. I also was on the church basketball team and met more new people. I thought it a little weird that many of the kids on the church team were hot-tempered and foul mouthed. I knew that most were not regular church attendees and they only came to church during basketball season. I also knew they were required to be at church as often as possible if they wanted to play. Once basketball was over I never saw them again until the next season.

piano

Once people found out I could play the drums and the piano they quickly enlisted me to play for special services and the children’s church. I did not want to do it since I was extremely nervous about being in front of people, but I felt I would be wrong to turn down using my ‘talents’ for the Lord.

Once I said yes to something the ball really started rolling. Next I was helping with Junior church, going on youth conference trips out of state, doing visitation with the pastor and then added to the Administrative Board. Wow, that was an eye opener.

I had always had a high regard for the church board members who were the ‘backbone’ of the church. I thought what spiritual people they must be to be entrusted with the plans and happenings of the church.

It did not take long to see that what went on in the monthly meeting was certainly not very spiritual. I had never seen so much arguing and disagreement in my life up to that point. Needless to say I did not stay part of the board very long. I decided to leave that to the much older and wiser people (who knew how to argue much better than I).

Well, so much for the early years of my church attendance. It was pretty typical and non-eventful, but I really enjoyed the experiences. I learned a lot and met many people who I enjoyed being around, although most of them I never saw outside of the church building or church planned events. This pretty much brings us up to my church history as a young adult which will be discussed in the next article. Can any of you relate to similar experiences?

If you are around people a lot or are on social media you will see many people are ready to argue in order to prove their way of thinking, especially in regard to spiritual matters.

arguingoninternet

Some atheists complain about christians believing in a fairy in the sky, some people get mad over the transgender debate, gays are treated like second-class citizens and some of them are hateful toward christians. Many christians fight with other christians and some can be very judgmental and condemning of atheists and the LGBT community. It seems each group is trying to prove why they are right and the other group is wrong and many times they do it in ways that are not so nice.

Why do so many people spend so much time arguing and defending personal views when we cannot prove any of it? Seriously, none of us can prove beyond a doubt our thoughts and views on spiritual things or life after death. We cannot prove God exists and we cannot prove he does not exist. There are so many varying doctrines, interpretations of the bible and denominations among christianity that it is not surprising we do not know who is right or wrong?

If we really think about it no matter what your religion, what your faith or belief, what your lifestyle, if you are atheist, christian, gay, agnostic, transgender, if you have a scientific view or creationist view none of us can prove our way of thought in regard to spiritual matters. It is our personal view and it is good to have those views but we should not be trying to prove our way and push it onto others expecting them to see things our way.

Each group is passionate about the way they see things and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is expecting everyone to agree and go along with our way of thinking.

We are not all going to agree on things, yet we should be able to be accepting of others. Being accepting does not mean we always agree with one another or approve of everything people do, but we should be able to be kind and show respect for everyone even in our differences. Being judgmental, condemning, or poking fun at one another is certainly not being loving and kind.

It all boils down to no matter what route we take in life, what we think about life after death, what we think about God or spiritual life, none of us can prove our way of thinking, at least not until death. Once we die, if there is life after death and I believe there is, we will know for sure at that point. Until that time we can only follow our way of thinking or believing, yet we should be respectful of others and the way they think.

loveyourneighbor

Those of us who are followers of Jesus should especially be loving and kind because Christ told us to love God and love one another. He did not say we should only love those who believe like us.

When reading about Jesus in the gospels we see a person who loved people and was accepting of everyone. He did not condemn nor judge and I believe he was God in human form showing us that God loves us all.

I believe God provides grace for everyone, but he gives us all freedom to choose what to believe and whether to accept it or not. I believe we should offer the same option to our fellow human beings no matter what label we put on them.

Fellowship

Fellowship is an important part of living as a follower of Jesus. Fellowship with other believers can be encouraging and helps build one another up.

When we hear about fellowship today we usually think of church. Several churches even have the word fellowship in their name.

According to the dictionary fellowship means friendly relationship; companionship; an association of persons having similar tastes, interests; friendliness.

I grew up in the organized church and thought for years I was having good fellowship every time I attended a Sunday morning service. As time went on I began to question if we were actually enjoying good fellowship or not. If fellowship was a relationship or companionship with others how was that being obtained by sitting in a pew every Sunday looking at the back of someone’s head? We never really showed friendliness just sitting there and we never knew if the person in front or back of us had the same tastes or interests. How were we having fellowship when we just sat and listened to a select few run the program?

sundayservice

After my wife and I decided to leave the organization and live outside the walls of religion we wondered how we would find fellowship with others of similar tastes. Truthfully it did not take long. God started bringing people across our paths in places and at times we never expected.

We were sitting in a local cafe one morning relaxing and drinking our morning coffee when we noticed two men at the next table. One was a young long-haired rock group looking person talking with an older gentleman. We could not help but hear their conversation at times and we kept hearing them talking about God and life in Christ.

After some time of listening we decided to politely ask about their conversation and found that the younger guy was in a christian heavy metal band, had left the traditional church a few years ago and was living outside the walls of religion like us. This was an encouragement to us because it showed us that God will bring about the people for fellowship any time and in any place.

We have met many people over the past two years who have similar tastes and interests on our path outside the walls. We have joined in with people many times at a restaurant or in our homes for fellowship and food. Most of the time it has only been 3 to 5 people, but we have had so much more meaningful fellowship with others outside of traditional church than we did sitting in the typical service.

As written in 1 Corinthians 14:26… what then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

To my wife and me the church mentioned here is not a building of four walls with a select few people running the program on a set day and time. The Church is a community of Christ followers who have a friendly relationship and associate any day, any time, any place when Christ brings them together to lift up Christ and his love, to encourage one another and to get to know the tastes and interests of each other.

communityofbelievers

Obviously fellowship can also happen with people of different tastes and interests, different faith, different lifestyles. We can be loving and accepting of all as we get to know and understand each other and treat each other with kindness, respect and friendliness.

Yet fellowship among believers is needed for us to be encouraged and built up. As mentioned in Hebrews 10:25… not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near. This verse in no way says we must assemble in a building with a set program on a set day or led by a select group of people. This verse just means as followers of Christ we need each other. We need time together getting to know one another, build one another up in Christ and live a life that shows the world the good news of the gospel, which is that God loves each and every one of us.

Only My View

My last post about ‘LGBT and the church’ received several comments that obviously disagreed with my views. That is fine and only to be expected because this is a public site and others are free to share their views.

Although it seems to me that sometimes people spend more time trying to prove their views and point out why they think other people are wrong rather than accept the fact that everyone sees things differently and no one is going to agree on everything.

I post my articles based on the fact they are only my opinion and the way I see things at this point in my walk with God. I am not going to change the opinion of any one else and I do not try to do so. No one is going to change my opinion either as I know each of us has a different view and I am not going to change my views based on human opinion. I know the Spirit of God within will teach and guide and my views will probably be different on some things than they are now as new truth is opened up by the Spirit.

As a follower of Christ I refuse to be judgmental and condemning. Even when other christians say I am wrong for not pointing out what they think are sins of others, I refuse to do so. I feel that being an example of Christ means to love people without condemnation and without ulterior motives.

LovelikeJesus1

It’s funny how christians are called to love people yet many spend more time judging each other and condemning those who have different views.

For me I will continue to love and accept all people whether male, female, white, black, gay, straight, transgender, christian, jew, hindu, atheist, etc without judgment or condemnation.

The thing many forget is that loving and accepting people does not mean we always agree or condone the actions of one another but we can respect each other and treat one another with kindness.

Recently I read an article that I enjoyed reading yet I had some reservation with it because it had an undertone that seemed to make sure to say that being gay is a sin. Basically the article was on LGBT issues and the church. I thought the article was good but there were a few things in the article that made me think it was stating that we should accept gay people but still needed to point out that being gay is a sin, or that acting upon those feelings was sinful.

Obviously I may have misinterpreted what the author was saying and I am not sure if the author meant to make it sound that way, yet there are many Christian writers that definitely feel the need to make a point of saying that being gay is sinful. My thought is why do we christians feel the need to point out what we think are faults and sins of others. Why do we have the sense that we can play God and say what is and what is not a sin and who deserves our love and who does not?

First off, no matter who we are or what we think I do not believe any of us as followers of Christ are to be the sin police. We are called to love God and love others, not to point out what we think is sinful behavior in others. The law shows that we cannot live a perfect life and the Spirit convicts the world of sin, so by pointing out what we think is sin in other people is going beyond what God has called us to do.

Second, I am not one to say that being gay is a sin. I do not think that is the job of followers of Christ. There are certainly many different ideas and interpretations of biblical verses that shed a different light on the subject than what we grew up with in the church and to make a judgment on what is and what is not a sin in this area is not for us to do.

What about gay and transgender people who are Christians, are we to completely discount their faith and experience just because we think they are living sinful lives?

If we want to talk about sin then we have to point out that we all have sinned in one way or another, yet because of Christ the sinful nature has been crucified with Christ and the spirit within us is holy and righteous. Of course in the world we still commit sins but we are cleansed and forgiven of our sinful nature through grace. This is not narrowed down to only certain groups of people, grace has been made available to human beings as a whole.

John 3-16

To start separating people into different groups because of sin is wrong. We are not called to separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters and we are to love and accept everyone in this world just as Jesus did, showing the love of God to everyone.

What has always bothered me is that we are so quick to make being gay a sin that is worse than anything else. Even those who accept the LGBT community still make a point of saying that gay life is sinful. They use such comments as hate the sin love the sinner or being gay is OK as long as you do not act on your feelings, yet statements such as these can be very hurtful.

What about in the bible where it says God hates divorce? Why don’t we separate those who have divorced into a lower class group of people like we do gay and transgender people? Based on statistics published in the online version of Charisma Magazine a report from a few years ago by the Barna Research Group revealed that 32 percent of those identified as born-again Christians have experienced at least one divorce. A related study also conducted by Barna Research found that among Protestant senior pastors, 15 percent have experienced divorce. Why is it that we Christians want to overlook such happenings among the Church yet make gay and transgender people the worst of sinners?

Obviously we all have our personal convictions of right and wrong and we want to live our lives in a pleasing way to God, but we are not to force our convictions and views on others. Just because others have different convictions and interpretations than we do does not mean we are right and they are wrong. We are not called to finger point, judge and condemn. We are called to love.

Love is the way of God and love does not include separation, judgment, condemnation or exclusion. Love is what we are called to show as followers of Christ and that includes everyone not just those who act, live and believe like we do.

Godloveseveryone

Whether gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, atheist, male, female, black, white or whatever religious belief you follow, apart from the labels we put on each other we are all human beings. Coming from a Christian perspective I believe we were all created in the likeness of God and loved by God. As followers of Christ we are to love our neighbor and respect each other no matter if we agree or not.

We are all entitled to live and believe in a way we feel is right. None of us should be pushing our beliefs on others and we should not have the attitude we are right and everyone else is wrong. We all have things to learn and we all should be willing to love others no matter what we believe. Our personal beliefs are basically all a matter of faith because none of us can prove beyond a doubt if our beliefs are right or wrong.

Speaking of people who see things differently than we Christians, whether you believe there is a God or not does not make a difference in how you should be treated. Unfortunately many times atheists are considered to be the archenemy of our Christian faith, yet we forget that atheist is just a label and there is a human being behind that label who deserves to be treated like anyone else. All of us are entitled to have our personal way of thinking and believing without condemnation and judgment from others.

As followers of Christ we are to live in the way Jesus lived which is the way of love and acceptance. That does not mean we all have to agree and live in complete harmony with one another. It does mean we can accept one another even in our differences knowing that in the eyes of God we are all loved and we can all respect one another and treat each other with kindness.

In our world the love of money is the driving force. Obviously money is important in our way of life and we all have to work to make money to live. Money itself is not evil and can be used for good things yet the love of money and the importance the world puts on it is a completely different thing.

Money pays our bills, buys us our daily needs and things we want for our enjoyment. Money can be used to help others, pay for education, helps us live comfortable lives and a host of other things. Money in itself is not the problem.

LoveofMoneyThe love of money is the issue and many people will stop at nothing to get it. The love of money is a driving force and many will spend their entire life working, doing what it takes to make all the money they can. Some will cheat and step on toes and whatever they can to make more money. They will give up time with their families and loved ones, give up all relaxation and things they enjoy doing and spend all their waking hours doing whatever it takes to make more money.

In the Kingdom of God the driving force is love. This is very unnatural to us humans and without the Spirit within us we cannot love with the love of Christ. Yet love is the name of the game when living for God.

Loving like Jesus loves means thinking of others more than ourselves, doing for others more than doing for ourselves, giving to others more than trying to gather more for ourselves.

Loving like Christ is a life of serving others and living an unselfish life. It is not allowing personal feelings, doctrines, interpretations, lifestyles or anything else to cause division and hatred among us.

Love is accepting others no matter what they look like, what they believe or how they act. Love does not see the labels we so easily put on others. Love sees beyond the outer layer and sees a human being, someone who was created in the image of God.

LovelikeJesus1

Obviously this type of love is a spiritual, godly type of love. We are not going to love everyone is a natural worldly way. There are too many personality types that just will not do well together. We are not going to like and agree with everyone, but we can respect and accept all we come in contact with during our lives. Loving others like Christ loves them is showing love in a godly way, respecting them and treating them as fellow human beings. Being mean, judgmental, condemning and showing hatred and non-acceptance is certainly not being loving in any way.

When it comes down to it there are two types of love. The love of money which leads to selfishness and greed, and the love of God which leads to loving and accepting others, kindness, peace, joy and a life of serving our fellow man.

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