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For those of you who have left the institutional church you will probably relate to what I am saying.

After being out of organized religion for nearly three years now, some of the traditional and normal terms of the christianese language really bother me. I guess it should not do so because I certainly understand why people say them and I used to say them myself at one time or another. Even after being away from the traditional church for three years some of the terms of speech are still hard to quit saying.

christianese

Now days my wife and I see things a little differently. This is my viewpoint and I certainly do not mean to say it is wrong to use certain terms or that I am right and everyone else is wrong. It is just one of those things that make me cringe when I hear certain terms.

Such as ‘this is the Lord’s day’ when people talk about Sunday. Many Christians use the term the Lord’s Day when talking about the Sabbath or the day of rest. To them it is the day we go to church and worship God. Personally, I believe every day is the Lord’s Day as the Bible says in Psalms 118:24 this is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it. It does not mention a particular day.

Or the term ‘we are on our way to the house of God’, like God lives in a house. People are talking about going to church but God does not live in buildings or houses, He lives in us. Do you not know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? (I Corinthians 6:19)

We will hear people talk about ‘the Word of God’ and know they are talking about the Bible. I think the Word of God is a person, not a book. The Bible talks about God and it leads us to Jesus but the Bible is a book written by men who were inspired by God but not controlled by God. The Word of God who is living, all powerful, inerrant and perfect, sharper than any two-edged sword is Jesus. As the Bible states in John 1:1 in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

We mention God as a male Father, yet God really is not male or female. God is spirit and I believe has both male and female attributes. I certainly do not think there is anything wrong with saying Father or Him or Her, but it is a mindset we have that God is a man with all the attributes of a male. We picture God as a huge blank-faced man sitting up in heaven looking down on us, but God is spirit, God is everywhere and the Kingdom of God is within us.

Pastors will talk about special services by telling the people to be sure and come tonight because ‘God is going to show up and the Spirit is going to fall on those who are here’. That one gets me because God lives within us and is everywhere so how is He going to show up up now and then at special times and places? And didn’t the Spirit come upon humans on the day of Pentecost? Why would he fall upon us again when he is already living within us?

god is here

I realize a lot of the time we use these terms out of habit even when our beliefs and interpretations have changed. We seem to be so indoctrinated by the teaching of the institutional church and the denominations we grew up in that these terms just come out. I know this is probably a minor thing and whether we use such terms or not we are talking about the same God and we all love God. Yet I wonder if by using these terms are we reacting to a mindset of old covenant thinking rather than the new covenant day of grace.

My wife and I are certainly finding out that when leaving the institutional church and the many traditions, doctrines, interpretations and terms of speech we were taught over the years, it is much harder to break free from the institutional way of thinking than it is physically leaving the building.

Here in the United States we recently celebrated our national independence. We all enjoy the sense of pride we feel at this time of year and we celebrate the freedoms we have. We enjoy watching fireworks and the many ways of celebrating with friends and family.

I, along with most Americans, love my country. I certainly do not agree with everything that goes on and we are not even close to being a perfect country. I also cannot agree that we are a Christian country or one nation under God, yet in my opinion that this is a great country and I am very happy living here. So many opportunities, so many good things and so much abundance for a lot of us. So many people served our country and gave their lives for it and we are all very appreciative.

We have a democracy and freedom that a lot of people do not have although as time goes by it seems we are losing more and more of them. Yet I would not want to live anywhere else.

The political system that has been set up in our country gives everyone the right, freedom and opportunity to vote and/or run for office. I do have a problem with the fact that so many people think that being a Christian means being a Republican. Truthfully these days I think our political system is one where neither party is totally moral or completely trust-worthy, so I certainly do not put my hope or trust in any political group.

As followers of Christ we know that our true citizenship is in heaven and our true leader is Jesus. When it comes right down to it our all-out allegiance is to God and not to any country or political system.

KingdomofGodwithinYou

I do not think there is anything wrong with loving and respecting your country. Like Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”. No matter which country you live in you have grown up there and love your country.

Although we are separated by countries and political systems those who are followers of Christ are united in being citizens of the Kingdom of God.

We need to remember that our loyalty is not to be to any country or political system. Our true loyalty is to the Kingdom of God. Our true allegiance is to God and living as one with our Father.

As followers of Christ feel free to celebrate the good things we have in this country. Respect the people who have given so much for the freedom we enjoy. But keep in mind that this is not our home. Our home is with God, we live in the Kingdom of God and no matter what country you live in God is within you through the Spirit.

We also can celebrate our independence from the old sin nature through Christ each and every day in any country or political system. We can rest in our freedom in Christ and live for him daily. Let His life flow out of you to show others the love and freedom He has given to us by grace through Christ.

Ephesians 1:22,23 — And He put all things in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

What stands out most to me is the description of what true church is, which is His body. It is not a building. It is not a place we go on a certain day. Christ is the head of all of us who are saved by grace. We are the church.

I do not see separation in this statement. I do not see denominations, buildings, programs and formal services trying to get people to come to us. I do not see separated groups based on doctrine.

I see a living, active group of people going out into the world day by day in the love and strength of the Spirit. I see a united effort seeking to show the love of God to all we meet each day.

Body of Christ

I see people looking to Jesus through the Holy Spirit for truth and guidance. No more looking to a man, woman or a group of elders for teaching and guidance. Christ is our head and the Spirit is our teacher. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, bishops, elders and any such leader mentioned are not positions of authority but are fellow believers who help encourage and build up their brothers and sisters through servant-hood example.

This leads me to think it is time to stop arguing over doctrines and interpretations. It is time to stop looking to other brothers and sisters whom we elevate into a higher position. We need to realize we are all kings and priests and able to teach and give a word to uplift one another. We need to allow God to live through us daily as we go out into the world and show His love to people who are hurting, who are outcasts and who need to be uplifted and encouraged. It is time to look past the labels we put on one another and see human beings who were created in the image of God and who need love, acceptance and fellowship with the Spirit and with one another just as much as the rest of us.

We are the Church, we are the people of God who are filled with the power and love of the Holy Spirit going out into our world showing that God loves them.

I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I do not want to be someone who is always against something. Seems so many christian people today speak out more about what they are against and who they are against.

Whatever that may be, against this sin or that sin, against particular lifestyles, against a particular denomination or Bible version, all the different subjects we Christians can think of that end up taking away our main focus….loving God and loving others. We will take the bible and twist interpretations and meanings or use verses out of context trying to prove our point.

WhatAreYouAgainst

Jesus told us in the New Covenant that His commands were to love God and love others. We do not have to agree with everyone to love them. We obviously all have our convictions of right and wrong and we are not going to agree on every one of them. We do not have to focus on those convictions or try to push our views on others. We are told to love others no matter what. We are not responsible for converting people, that is God’s job. We are told to love them.

When Jesus walked the earth He did not spend a lot of time with the religious people. He was out with the sick, poor, the neglected, and those the religious people did not want to be around.

I know I did it for a long time. I thought I was better than others because I went to church. I felt I had to stay away from those who did not believe because their sins would rub off on me. I would always hang out with my church friends and stay away from the “worldly” people.

I would spend more time trying to prove my points and my beliefs, telling people what was wrong and what to stay away from, rather than spend time with God and others.

Obviously God calls us to follow Him and that is going to be in different ways for each of us. Yet to spend more time arguing, condemning, trying to prove our views on the Bible, pointing out people’s mistakes and shortcomings does not do anything except turn people away from us.

When we begin to understand the freedom we have in Christ and start living through grace that Christ provided, we can be free to love and accept all those we come in contact with each day even in our differences. We can show the love of Christ to all by allowing the Spirit to live through us.

Do not worry so much about who is right and who is wrong. Do not always be against something. Be for Jesus. Be for love. Be for others. Follow Jesus and let him love through you. Let him be the central focus of your life and allow his love to flow out of you and touch those around you.

It is sad but I am seeing more and more how a lot of us have an Us versus Them mentality….and that is just among Christians.

For those of us who are followers of Christ we are to love and accept others in the name of Christ. Yet many of us cannot even accept other believers.

We get upset when someone has a different interpretation, a different doctrine, or they go to a different church or no church at all.

UsvsThem

Why is it when we are to be known for our love for one another that we can be so condemning and mean to each other?

I feel being a Christian is being in community with others, not necessarily with others with the same doctrine or interpretation, but someone to communicate with, fellowship with, have discussions and be ourselves without judgment and condemnation.

For those who do not see eye to eye on church attendance, there is no reason why we have to argue with each other. So many people who still attend an organized religious organization are quick to say those of us who have left the organization are wrong or disobeying the bible by not assembling together.

Yet those who are outside the walls of religion can easily argue with those who still attend, saying they are wrong and disobeying God by staying within the man-run organization.

Acceptance

We should be able to understand that we all have different ways of seeing things, different ways of worship and different paths in our walk with Christ. Whether we are in or out of the organization we are seeking to serve and follow the same Father.

Rather than fight and argue amongst ourselves, we should realize we are all seeking the same purpose in living for God and showing others that He loves them. Those in the organized church love God and want to serve Him just as much as those outside the walls of religion and traditional church.

When we realize we are the Church no matter if we attend an organized service or if we never walk into a church building we will do much better at showing the love of God to a hurting world. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and he lives within us. We are all equally functioning parts of the body of Christ, who is the head of the body.

They will know we are Christians (followers of Christ) by the love we have for one another. We need to stop fighting and arguing over our doctrinal differences and various interpretations and love God and one another. Our goal is to be loving and kind and have a servant spirit to all we meet along the way.

Thinking about the tragedy in Orlando and several of the other terrorist tragedies around the world got me to thinking about all the blaming and finger-pointing going on. My personal opinion is more about extremists, which is a group we really do not hear a lot about. We hear a lot about Muslim extremists but extremists in general are much more than Muslim or any particular group of people.

PrayforOrlando

Extremists are a group made up of many groups. We have religious extremists, political extremists, LGBT extremists, racial extremists,  Christian extremists (another group we hear little about), Muslim extremists and a host of others groups that go to the extreme with trying to force their belief on others.

Extremism according to the dictionary is: going to the utmost or very great lengths in action, habit, or opinion; exceeding the bounds of moderation.

Today this seems to be associated with those who are dangerous and who will go to any lengths to promote their way or life and get others to accept their beliefs, even to torture and killing.

In a world where extremism takes over there is no peace. No one is safe from verbal and physical abuse and harm.

This is not to say that every person should be lumped into the extremist basket. Each and every group have many people who want to have a happy life, accept others and enjoy living in a way that they are happy and comfortable. Each group mentioned above have people who get along with others, love people, go to work, pay their bills, enjoy their family and are satisfied with life as they know it.

Unfortunately it is the extremists who get all the attention. It is the extremists who do all the damage and cause the hatred and un-acceptance of others who are different from them.

To me it is really disturbing to read some of the Christian extremists comments, a group who should be known for love and acceptance but are showing their true colors of hatred and unacceptance. These are not true Christians and it is a tragedy in itself that people will use the guise of Christianity to promote and spread their hatred and un-Christ-like ways.

StopExtremism

Rather than blame as a whole the LGBT community, Christian, Muslim and other religious people, the various races or the gun rights advocates for all the trouble, hatred, condemnation and judgment we should be looking at the extremists of each group. They are the ones who keep things stirred up and causing mistrust, unacceptance and hatred.

It is said that Jesus was an extremists in his time. I tend to agree with that statement. Yet Jesus was an extremists of the opposite kind. He was extreme in his love for others and those the religious crowd did not want to be around. He was extreme in bucking the religious system of rules and working your way to favor with God. The extremists today use hate, fear and murder to promote their way of life. Jesus used love, acceptance and doing good to others. We need more extremists like Jesus in our world today.

If we could change or control the extremists of today and get past all the labels we put on one another, maybe we could begin to see each other as human beings who want a good, happy and satisfying life. It will be then that we could learn to accept one another and live in a more peaceful atmosphere.

Dead Flowers

A lot of people like to get flowers. Fresh cut flowers are so fresh and colorful and can be enjoyed for several days.

The only problem with cut flowers is that they do not last. Cut flowers are outwardly colorful and beautiful but they are actually dead.

The flowers die because they have been separated from the vine. The part that goes into the ground and gives water, nutrients and supplies life to the flower can no longer supply what is necessary for the colorful part to continue living.

Just as cut flowers wither and die because they have been cut off from their life source, so we as followers of Christ can wither and die spiritually if we are cut off from our source of life who is Jesus.

Flowers2

He is the vine, we are the branches. Apart from the vine just as the flowers are in the process of dying, so we too are in the process of dying spiritually.

John 15:5 – I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Apart from Christ we can do nothing that brings spiritual life to ourselves and spiritual joy to others. Apart from the vine we cannot bear good fruit. This is why it is so important to be connected to Christ who is our life source.

It is in Him that we live, move and have our being. He supplies all our need. He provides us daily with what we need to truly live for him. We cannot do anything that is of any spiritual worth or that makes a real difference in the life of another apart from Him.

Our main focus should be on Christ. He is our life. We need to give Christ the preeminence in all things. He is the Vine, we are the branches, apart from Him we can do nothing.

To continue showing the love and acceptance of God to others, to bring the good news of the gospel of Christ to those we meet we need to be attached to the vine, our life source who is Jesus, God within us.

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