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Archive for the ‘Acceptance of Others’ Category

It is sad that Christianity is divided into so many different groups. We all have a little different interpretation of the bible and a little different understanding of doctrine. Obviously, we are not going to agree on everything but we certainly should be able to love one another and accept each other even when we differ on these things.

DenominationsandDoctrines

It is hard to understand why this is when God tells us we are to be one as Jesus and the Father are one. Yet, we understand that we are human and it is easy to lose sight of our first love. If we could only stay focused on Christ, listening for his voice and the guidance of the Spirit, loving God and loving others as God intended, then we could begin to look past our differences.

The problem seems to be that we are unwilling to see any other viewpoint other than our own. There are those such as my wife and I that do not attend an organized church. There are those who attend a church every time the doors are open. Some attend a house church, some meet with fellow believers at cafe’s, parks or restaurants and others meet in their homes over dinner. We should accept these differences and love one another rather than argue over who is right and who is wrong.

There really is not a right or wrong way to assemble together and we need to stop expecting everyone to do things exactly the same way. We should respect others viewpoints and focus on loving them rather than expecting them to see things our way.

ChurchisWhoWeAre

Things will not change until we start focusing on what is common in our lives rather than the differences. The common focus should be on Christ, the head of the body. After that we should focus on loving others rather than arguing about the differences in interpretation and doctrine.

We also need to keep in mind that we are all constantly changing as God brings new truth to us. We are all learning and changing as we are ready to accept new truths. The interpretations I had five years ago are completely different from some of the interpretations I have now. I am sure in another five years they will change again as God leads me into more truth.

Sometimes we are afraid to accept others interpretations because we feel if we do not hold to our way of thinking we are compromising and not standing up for what we believe. We do not have to give up how we interpret the bible, but neither should we think everyone else is wrong. Besides, we really are not responsible for convicting people of sin or leading them into truth or even saving them. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. We are told to love God and love others.

When we realize we are each equally important functioning parts of the body and Christ is the head, we can start to change how we feel about those who do not see things exactly the way we do. We can begin to accept the differences in our brothers and sisters in Christ as we realize we are all following after our Father and our goal is to show His love to all people.

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It is amazing to me the variety of voices and views there are in the christian world vying for our attention.

Everyone has their own views and interpretations. I think we can learn something from everyone. Whether it is something new, a better way of doing things, a different way of thinking or just realizing we do not agree with what we hear and it bolsters our own faith.

The problem is that everyone has an opinion. That does not mean everyone is right or wrong. God works in each of us in different ways and what may be right for one person is not right for another.

We need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit each day, listen for his voice and ask that He will lead us into truth. God will speak and lead us through the Spirit, through the bible and through words spoken from fellow believers. The bible says his sheep know his voice so we need to be sure we are hearing from him, yet we can be assured we can know his voice.

Our relationship with the Father is a day by day experience. What we know and understand today may be completely different from what we believed when we were younger. What we believe today will probably change in the future. God leads us into His truth in His timing as we are ready and open to it.

Our goal is to daily seek the guidance of God through the Spirit and seek His truth. To many of us want to put our focus on a man, a popular evangelist or pastor. Obviously, we can learn from listening to others views and opinions but when we focus on people we can get off track and confused very easily.

Everyone has a different opinion. You can listen to one person or group and hear what they think is the truth, then find another person or group who has a completely different take on the same subject. Putting our trust in people and their opinions often leads to fighting and arguing. Many times, when we have been shown something or led in a particular way we expect everyone to see it our way and to believe the same thing.

The only way to get past all the different views and opinions is to focus on Christ. He will teach us and lead us into the truth. That is not to say we are all going to think and feel the same way on everything. God deals with us personally and in different ways and as followers of Jesus there are many different paths we will walk throughout this life.

We need to remember that the Spirit speaks from within us, he speaks to us from the written word and he can speak to us through other people. We need to be sure we are hearing his voice and know he does not always speak the same way and does not always have the same life experiences for everyone.

It is time we become followers of Jesus and stop being followers of men. Nothing wrong with listening and hearing the views of others, but take it as that. It is their view and opinion. Only Jesus is the one to follow and to be our everything.

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Have you ever taken time to sit down and start talking about old memories with someone?

My wife and I spent the other evening doing just that. It is enjoyable sometimes to just talk and bring up old times from childhood. It is amazing the things that came to mind that we remembered from pre-kindergarten up through young adulthood and the present.

I can actually remember an event when a photographer came to our house and set up a big light and a chair in the corner of the room. I remember seeing it all from another angle in the room but was not sure why I remember it from that angle. Only after talking with my parents and telling them of the memory they told me that my dad was holding me while the photographer got the camera set up. They said there was a bright light against the wall focusing on the chair in the corner. It was a big surprise to me when they told me I was only six months old at the time yet I can vividly remember the scene in my head.

The brain we were blessed with sure is a remarkable member of the body. It is amazing the things you can remember. My wife and I talked about so many events over the evening from the earliest memories all the way up to the present.

We sat and talked for what seemed like twenty minutes but was actually over an hour. The time flew by and we both enjoyed talking and listening to each other discuss our childhood memories.

Communication

I truly think, for married couples especially, this is one way to grow closer together with those you love and trust. Opening yourself up more, sharing things you might not have shared with anyone before and having good honest communication helps build trust and respect for one another.

Some of the events were funny, others sad and some just down right embarrassing. My wife pointed out that all the events of the past make us who we are today. God takes the good, the bad and the ugly and uses it all to make us the person we are today. A person he can use to help others who may be going through similar events right now who need someone who can understand and provide encouragement.

Take some time and enjoy the memories of the past, realizing that the past is over and done but it made you what you are today. Then be ready to encourage someone who may be going through a tough time because of some of the choices they made and are feeling bad about. The bad choices can be used as stepping stones to much better things.

The funny thing was, after talking about all the memories of the past and remembering things from so long ago, when my wife asked me what I had for lunch at work a couple days ago….I could not remember. Can anyone relate?

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After over fifty years in the organized religious church system my wife and I decided we had enough. Let me make clear what I am talking about when I say church (lower c). I am talking about a building, a religious organization with a pastor and board of elders in charge, a place for people to gather who are somewhat like-minded in their doctrine and beliefs.

There are many reasons why people leave the church system. People are hurt, abused, burned out and frustrated with the whole system.

People get hurt by being misunderstood or treated wrong by another church member. Something was said or done that made someone mad and the hurt feelings got the better of them and they decided to leave. Maybe a church leader did or said something that was misunderstood and hurt the feelings of another.

SpiritualAbuse

Many abuses can happen within the religious organization. Leaders of the church can manipulate people and take advantage due to their position and how the congregation places their pastor on a pedestal. Other members can say or do something that hurts the feelings of others. We have all heard of various cases of abuse among church leaders and congregants over the years. Fortunately this does not happen everywhere, but it does happen more than we want to admit.

People get burned out because they are so willing to work for the church and they are asked to do everything. Sometimes every night of the week they are busy with the work of the church, many times not getting to do anything they want to do and even at times neglecting their loved ones. Once they finally say no they are treated like someone fallen from grace.

Others get frustrated with the church politics, the cliques among members, the pastor’s sermon style, the worship music or some other specific reason they are no longer interested in attending a particular church. Most times they leave and go to another church thinking they will find what they are looking for at a different building yet under the same setup.

Sometimes we just get tired of the same thing week after week so we leave looking for a different church style, seeking a different preaching style and wanting to meet new people.

There are so many various reasons why we christians leave a particular church and move on. Yet for my wife and me none of the above reasons where why we left.

We were not hurt, abused or burned out. We were not mad or frustrated with any person or teaching. After church hopping for a while we found we were just as dissatisfied no matter where we attended.

For us we had a deep feeling of dissatisfaction with the basic concept of the modern-day church. We felt the organized system was not what God intended when He said He would build His Church. His Church (capital C) is not built with hands, brick, mortar, denominations or doctrines. His Church is made up of each of us who are followers of Christ. Each of us are kings and priests in the Kingdom of God and we each can have something to say and do that will be an encouragement to others.

Jesusandmanasone

To us Church is a community of believers living each day outside the walls of the religious systems and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Church is a community of people daily loving God and loving others as Jesus did while on earth. Jesus loved, cared for and respected people no matter what label they had attached to them.

The church organization is not a bad thing. Many people learn about God’s love there, many find fellowship and purpose there. It is a choice each of us has to make for ourselves.

For my wife and me, we had no more interest in attending a weekly meeting listening to one person do all the talking. We had no more interest in being stereotyped according to the doctrine of the church to which we belonged. We feel so much more freedom living for God each day outside the walls of religion, free to love people of all backgrounds and beliefs without being judged or condemned because we do so.

This is our decision. We do not say we are right and everyone else is wrong. It is a decision you have to make for yourself. The thing we all need to remember is whether we go to church or not, we as followers of Christ are all members of his Church. We need to stop condemning those who see things differently. Whether in church or out of church we are to love all people the way they are and even more so those who are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to be known as followers of Christ by the love we have for one another.

If you go to church and are satisfied there, if you are learning about the love of our Father and serving others with your talents, do not seek to leave. If you are in church but are feeling dissatisfied and unhappy with the ways of the traditional church, leave and do not feel guilty about it. Either way let us not get into an ‘us versus them’ attitude because we see things differently.

We are each walking with God on the path He has for us. Not everyone will be on the same path. Keep seeking the guidance of the Spirit, love God and love others as you walk along your path each day.

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Why does the word inclusion make so many of us christian people cringe?

inclusion

We often want to only include our preferred group. People who think like us and have faith like us. If you think differently we feel you should stay in your own group with like-minded people, but leave us alone. Sorry to say I used to feel the same way, but have thankfully changed my mind.

I am not necessarily just talking about organized religion or institutional church, but accepting people in general in our daily lives.

We see this so much within christianity, such a wide variety of denominations and interpretations of the bible. This is only mentioning fellow believers who believe that God is with us and loves us.

When it comes to including people who we see as completely different from us, it is even worse. African-American, White, LGBT, Atheist, Muslim, Jew and on it goes. We seem to think as believers in God we need to separate ourselves from those who see things differently. We think we should not associate with them or people will think we agree with them and are a part of their way of living.

Really, behind all the labels we put on people we are all basically the same, so why not associate and get to know people who we feel are different from us? We can learn from one another and get to know one another and find that we really are not all that different.

inclusionbyjesus

We see Jesus do this all the time when reading the gospels in the bible. He did not differentiate people based on their religion, belief, lifestyle or nationality. He did not separate himself from those who thought, believed and lived differently. He loved and accepted all people.

Obviously loving and accepting people does not mean agreement nor are we going to always get along in life and live happily ever after together. Yet I believe it does mean treating others the same, with respect, kindness, acceptance and with the love of God through the power of the Spirit within.

Inclusion is not a bad word. It is not a bad or unholy way to live. Inclusion is about ALL of us. Inclusion is about living full lives – about learning to live together. Inclusion makes the world our classroom for a full life. Inclusion treasures diversity and builds community. Inclusion is about our abilities – our gifts and how to share them. Inclusion is the way of God and the way of showing the love of God to all we meet.

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Do you get tired of seeing such disagreement among fellow christians? We do not see a lot of unity and agreement at all today.

unityamongbrethren

Jesus said his followers were to be known for their love for one another. Yet today it is hard to find brothers and sisters in Christ being loving and kind.

Fortunately this is not the case in every situation, but it seems a lot more common than it should be.

I am not just talking about being accepting and kind toward those who are outside the christian faith, but it is hard to find true love and acceptance among brethren of different denominations within the faith.

If we go to the same church building and accept the same doctrines, you will usually find love and acceptance. I remember when I was in the church system the first thing I would ask someone was where they went to church. If they went to an organization I liked and agreed with, I would pretty much instantly like the person. If they went to a place that was different in their way of worship or interpretation of the bible, then I would immediately be on guard and almost dismiss them as someone to get to know. This seems to be a pretty common occurrence.

It is sad that we put such walls up with people who think differently. It is sad that we have made such importance out of buildings, doctrines, interpretations and bible versions that we forget God loves each of us no matter what we believe. We are to love God and love others just as God does no matter what they believe, especially among those who are also followers of Jesus.

Loving and accepting people does not mean we are always in agreement and that we always get along. Of course there will be disagreements and differences of opinions, probably even arguments and hurt feelings at times, but that is life. We can disagree and even argue at times and still respect and accept the other person.

By the power of the Spirit within us, we can accept, respect and be loving toward others. Not only our brothers and sisters in Christ, but those who are not of the christian faith and belief. I think we can disagree and have different opinions and still act in a respectful and accepting way toward our fellow human beings.

loveoneanother

Jesus said that they will know we are his disciples by the love we have for one another. Love draws people, but condemnation, judgment and unloving behavior drives them away. Many times, when I say we are to love and accept others I get a lot of comments about being wrong because as christians we are to point out the sins and mistakes of others. They say our responsibility is to make sure others know what they are doing is wrong….at least by their way of thought.

I personally do not think we are to be the sin police. We are not told to do such things. We are told to love God and love others. As far as I am concerned the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin where conviction is needed. That is between the Spirit and each individual as to what they do and how they respond. We are only to love others.

Love draws, God is love. Rather than judge, condemn, separate and argue, get out there among humanity and let the love of God flow out of you by the power of the Spirit. There is a whole world of hurting people, both christian and non-christian who can use the encouragement of an accepting person who cares and shows the love of God.

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Philippians 2:3-7 – Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

In our world today it seems everyone has the I am number one attitude. We are all interested in what is best for us, what makes us happy, how to make ourselves more comfortable and satisfied in life. It seems we will do anything to get ahead in life and to get all the comforts and ‘things’ to make it easier for us.

The above verses from Philippians state that as followers of Christ we should be doing just the opposite. Our thoughts and attitudes should be how we can show the love of God to others, what we can do to help those in need, how can we use the money and things God has blessed us with to help the less fortunate.

love-god-love-people

 

God says that the fulfillment of the law is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and to love others as yourself. While the jobs and things we have been given and blessed with by God are not wrong, we need to keep in mind that they are not the important part of our lives. We are to be thinking of others and their need for love, acceptance and help. We are to consider how we can encourage and build up someone and how can we help meet a need in their life.

There is nothing wrong with taking thought of our wants, needs and interests but the verse states ‘do not merely look out for your own interests’. Unfortunately, many times our own interests are all that concern us. May we daily ask God to help us think of others and be ready to care for them in any way possible with God’s leading.

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