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by Jim Gordon

I have talked a lot about the church system, pastors and leaving the institutional church. I do not want anyone to think I am against the organized church. Even though we are divided with denominations and various interpretations of the bible, we should be united in love for God and for one another.

My parents took me to church when I was so young I did not know what church was, and I was faithful just about every Sunday for the next 58 years.

Many good things happen in church, many good friends are made in church, a lot of good information and knowledge about God, love, grace and hope are found in church.

For my wife and I, we grew very dissatisfied with the method of church that is so common today. We would rush to get ready, rush to get there on time, shake a few hands, sit and listen to a few people do all the talking then rush out to get on with our day. There were times when we participated with the various meetings and opportunities the church offered and there were times when we only went to the planned meetings on Sunday and Wednesday.

I want to point out that if you enjoy gathering together on Saturday or Sunday with other believers in an organized service, there is nothing wrong with doing so.

While I personally do not believe church attendance is a must to be a follower of Christ, many people do believe so. That certainly does not make us enemies. Whether in the organized church or not we are all people who love God and are brothers and sisters in Christ. God loves us all just the same.

For me, a few things I look at differently about church is that I do not believe true church is a building, a place, or an organization. I believe Church is people and it does not matter if you attend a building or not. If you want to meet in a building that is OK, just realize you do not have to. We are the temple of God.

Pastors are not the mouthpiece or middle men/women of God. They are fellow brothers/sisters in Christ who are to support, encourage and build up others in their walk with God. The Holy Spirit lives within us and the Spirit is our teacher and guide.

Sunday is not the sabbath. That was old covenant. Many people call Sunday the Lord’s day and I agree, but I also say Monday is the Lord’s day just as every day is the Lord’s day. This (today) is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

I no longer believe in tithing. That also is old covenant. That is not to say we are not to give but we give as we determine in our heart. We give to help others, not to support a religious system. If you regularly attend an organized church then you should give to help support it. There are salaries to be paid, mortgages and utilities to be paid and various expenses to keep the organization running. Yet giving to those causes is not tithing and not required.

So basically, what it boils down to is that each of us in our own way want to love and worship God and we want others to know of God’s love. How we go about it, if we attend a building for a religious service with others or if we do not, makes no difference. We can go out daily knowing the Spirit of God lives within us, teaches us, guides us and shares the love of God with others. We do not need to look at each other and think the other is wrong for the way they choose to follow God. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we are called to assemble together in the commonality of showing the love of God to all we meet.

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by Jim Gordon

To take this title literally would be something that would make me mad and upset. In the midst of a pandemic some think it is spiritual to show they are not afraid and can ignore all that is being said because God will take care of them.  They tend to think it shows a lack of faith on their part to take the precautions many are calling for. Many say trust God and throw caution to the wind.

I do believe we will make it through this time and I do believe we can trust God to provide for us. Yet I do believe we have minds and common sense to do what we can, without panic to protect ourselves and to protect others.

The one statement that so many pastors and church organizations use to promote church attendance is the one mentioned above, forsake not the assembling of ourselves together. I have always been told that means we need to come together every Sunday at a designated place to sit through an organized meeting led by the pastor. If we fail to do so we are certainly not being the ‘good’ Christian we are supposed to be.

Yet to me, and especially in this time we are going through, this phrase speaks more to assembling together by helping one another, encouraging one another, checking on one another.  The dictionary describes assembling as bringing together or gather into one place. That does not necessarily mean a physical place but a place of agreement, a place of commonality for a similar purpose.

Now is the time to physically keep your distance, but it is also time to assemble together in the sense of fulfilling a common goal of caring for your fellow human being. It is time to put aside differences and join together for the purpose of caring for one another and supporting each other through these difficult times.

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by Jim Gordon

As christian people, we have always heard that we are to love our enemies. Do good to those who use you. Turn the other cheek.

The dictionary describes an enemy as a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against; or an adversary or opponent.

So, an enemy can go from someone who rubs you the wrong way all the way to someone who wants to literally kill you. How is it possible that we can love our enemies when we think about the more extreme sense of the word?

In all honesty, we cannot. In our own human ways, we are incapable of loving people like this. We have a hard-enough time loving people who are different from us and not really an enemy as described above.

In some cases, we can make up our mind to look past someone who treats us bad. We can make sure to treat them in a kind way, help them when they have a problem, support them any way we can. We can walk away rather than argue. We can smile and be pleasant rather than give them a dirty look or flip them off. Sometimes it is within our human power to make a choice to treat others as we would like to be treated. There are other times when, in our own strength, it is just impossible to be loving.

Obviously, we look to our role model, Jesus, and see how he lived. He truly loved people. It did matter if they agreed with him, if they were despised by the general population, if they hated him, or if they put him to death. He loved mankind. He came with the purpose to show the love of God to a fallen world.

Without the love of God living within us, and with us staying out-of-the-way and allowing that love to come through, we will not be able to truly love our enemies. But, the power of the Spirit living within us is more than able to do what we cannot do on our own.

We have to come to an end of ourselves, just as in the case of grace. We are totally unable to keep the commandments and live a perfect life that God commands. The ten commandments are a tutor that leads us to the fact that we are incapable of fulfilling this requirement.

Thankfully the New Covenant took effect when Jesus died and rose again. The free gift of God’s grace cleansed us and renewed our fellowship with God. Now, because of Him, we can not only love those who treat us good, but also our enemies. We are now one with God and it is his Spirit that loves through us, just as Jesus did when he was in his earthly body.

Obviously, loving our enemies is something we are unable to do apart from the love and strength of the Spirit that lives within us. Yet with God, all things are possible.

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by Jim Gordon

Discrimination is something that has gone on for a long time…too long. It is not just racial, which is bad enough. It is racial, sexual, gender, religious, political, national and probably other ways I am forgetting.

Any type of discrimination is wrong. It is not treating people as they should be treated. It causes division and causes people to be separated into class descriptions, and this should not be. There should be no second class citizens in our world.

I believe God created human beings and we are all created to be treated equally. We all should have the same rights and privileges, we should all have the same equality to be who we are, to be happy and live a full and complete life.

Discrimination happens to white and black, LGBTQ and straight, Christian, Atheist, Muslim and Jew, American and any other country. I see it as people saying those who are different from us are a lower class of people or not deserving of the same treatment and same rights as us. This is completely wrong and completely not Christ-like.

We are all human beings and no matter what label we wear, what color we are, where we live, what religion we are or what sexual identity we claim, we are all to be equally treated and loved.

God loves us all and as followers of Christ we are to love God and love one another. There is nothing in the way Jesus lived that says we are only to accept those who think the same as us. Jesus loved all people no matter who they were, where they were from or what they believed.

Worst off, even if we see someone as an enemy we are still told to love our enemies. There is no excuse for anyone to treat another person or group of people with discrimination. Everyone should be loved and even though we may not agree, we all should be accepted and treated with respect and kindness.

I certainly have seen more discrimination and hateful acts recently coming from those who claim to follow Christ. They seem to think it is OK to treat others with malice and contempt. For some reason they think this will make people see their mistake and come to a Christian way of thinking. Personally, I do not believe that is the way to draw others to the love of God. I also do not believe we need to have an ulterior motive of treating people in a way that we think will show them they need to come to our way of thinking. We are all free to believe as we choose and should not have any particular view shoved down our throat.

In a perfect world, we could all live our lives as we see is right for us and everyone would accept one another in those differences. Unfortunately, in our world that is never going to happen. Yet that does not mean we stop striving for a better world or for more acceptance and understanding among all people.

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by Jim Gordon

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 today’s world, 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 be more comfortable and satisfied in our lives. Seems like we will do anything we can to get ahead in life, to get all the comforts and things to make it easier for us.

The verses above 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 God has blessed us with to help the less fortunate.

God says that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love others as ourself. 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. How can we encourage and build up someone, how can we help meet a need in their life.

There is nothing wrong with taking thought of our wants, needs and interests. 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, look past the labels that are placed upon them and see the human being that we can help and encourage with the love and leading of God.

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by Jordan Hathcock

We don’t want the Christian tradition to become an antique shop just preserving old things. We want to build on old things and allow them to be useful in different ages, vocabularies, and cultures. We want our faith to be ever new, so that it can speak to souls alive and in need right now! – Richard Rohr

During the holiday season, we can see the old ways of tradition booming forth within each culture context. In most Western societies, the Christmas tradition rings loudest with its songs, lights, decorations and food. Not to take way the amazing traditions of Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Yule, etc. What I am doing here is simply pointing out a renewed since of presence within the Christmas tradition. It’s easy to see the beauty within the holiday of Christmas and forget how much it has evolved since it’s beginnings.

In many instances, the Christmas holiday borrows from other ancient traditions to capture the currents cultures needs and desires. For example, the lights on the Christmas tree. Early Christians adopted this custom from early Celtics due to its symbolism of keeping “the evil spirits at bay”. Christians repurposed this custom into a symbol of resurrection to the “tree of paradise”. Both customs bring with it a truth of protection and new beginnings. Thus, the reason early Christians adopted the custom.

Also, even with the issues the Santa Clause brings (consumerism, greed, etc.), he did stem from a real Christian figure in Saint Nicholas as well as the folklore character known as Woden. Both figures brought gifts to the ones in need (which is a great symbol of what God does for her creation). I think the actual historic figure in this (Saint Nicholas) should be the one we tell our kids about. Here is what the real deal good old Saint Nicholas was about:

He used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick, and children in need. He gave in secret, expecting nothing in return. Nicholas saved young women from slavery, protected sailors, spared innocents from execution, provided grain in a famine, and rescued a kidnaped boy.

All of this really points to numerous amounts of diverse traditions from ancient times that are still bringing about new ways of life in this holiday season. See, when we discover that the old ways were new once in time, we discover that the old ways always can become the new ways if we allow them to be renewed. I think we get to caught up in the tug between old vs. new that it ends up always being this dualistic battle instead of being a beautiful complementation.

We must let go of the idea that we must have this ageism divide between the old and new. To become unified (John 17:23) we will have to be more open to both sides of the old and new paradigm. Of course, when we see a tradition that brings harm to and individual or group, we have to cease the practice of that particular tradition and let it go. This can be hard for both sides. There will always be a time where regardless of how new or old a practice is, death and resurrection is going to be needed for a new type of design.

Jesus brings this same type of idea up when he said: “Every disciple of the kingdom is like a householder who draws out from his storage room, things both old and new”. —Matthew 13:52. It’s when come to the reality of the responsibilities of someone who is for the abundant life of all (not just some who have the same type of beliefs), regardless if it holds to the old or new ways. This is no easy feat. Fear has to die and love has to reign. It’ll be difficult but I believe it’s something that needs to be done if we ever want a world that brings life instead of death…

Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways, And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low, I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not, And restless and lost on a road that I know.- Henry Lawson

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by Jim Gordon

After having a discussion with some friends on the topic of the Spirit within and hearing his voice, I thought it appropriate to repost an article from a couple years ago on the subject.

Growing up in the organized church, we were told that the Holy Spirit came to reside within us once we accepted Christ. We were also told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have no need that any man should teach us. Yet when it came to really emphasizing what that meant and how to hear the Spirit, the church seemed to have dropped the ball in that area.

We do not seem to hear a lot of teaching on what it means for the Spirit to live within us. We are not told how to listen for the Spirit and what are we actually supposed to be listening for. Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice, yet most of us were taught that his voice is really the words written in the bible or spoken by the pastor.

We have heard it said that if it is not in the bible it is not of God. We are told God only speaks through the written word, yet there are so many interpretations, various doctrines and so many verses that were written to a specific person or group of persons. These writings were often for a specific time period that no longer relates directly to us except as an example to learn about the nature of God.

I feel so much has been lost over the years from when the original writings were done. So many of the translations have changed the original meanings because of changes in times, word meanings, traditions and such. Without the Spirit bringing to life the words we read, and through confirmation through his voice within we are really left to our personal views and opinions and what others have told us the written word means.

The bible is not God and it is not a god. The bible was inspired by an infallible God yet written by very fallible men, men who were inspired yet wrote with their personal views and ways of writing. The bible is about people trying to find, follow and fellowship with God and teaches us ways to do that. The written word leads us to the Living Word, who is Jesus.

The bible tells us that the Spirit now lives within us. Yet so often, even though we say it we do not act like we really believe it. Time and time again the bible mentions we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, the Spirit and the Kingdom are within you. And time and time again we seem to go right on thinking God is far away from us and all we can do is read from his word or have some pastor tell us what God is saying.

There are many people who say they speak for God but are nowhere close to being a godly example. It is easy to say God told me this or that, or say God told me to tell you something yet the person saying such things is only going on their personal feelings and interpretations. Anyone can say God told them this or that and expect us to do what they say, but we need to listen to the Spirit for ourselves and listen for the confirmation from within as to what is of God and what is not.

I believe if God says the Spirit lives within us and we can hear his voice, then it is something not to be taken lightly. As followers of Christ we can rely on the Spirit within us to teach us and guide us into his truth. We have to be listening and open to God to know his voice, but we can hear it and know it is from God. To say that we can only hear from God through the written word is to miss a more intimate fellowship with God.

Is the bible to be ignored? Are we to stop reading the written word and only follow what we feel is the voice of the Spirit? No, both the written word and the Living Word that lives within us are important. The written word is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Yet without the Living Word bringing those words to life, it is just a book about humans trying to find God. We need to be listening for the quiet voice of the Spirit of Christ who actually lives within us for truth and guidance. Sometimes he will speak directly in our spirits, sometimes he will speak through his written word and sometimes through others.

Also remember that God is alive and his Spirit is within us. Do not think that He can only speak through one particular means. Yet do not jump at every voice you hear, make sure it is the voice of His Spirit. Although the bible says we have the mind of Christ we also have the mind of Jim, or Mike or Betty. We are still human and need to be sure we are hearing from the Spirit of Christ and not our natural spirit. Still, Jesus said His sheep hear his voice, which to me says we can hear and know it is from God.

We also know that the Spirit can speak to one person one way and another person in a different way. Just because the Spirit is speaking to me does not mean he is telling you the same thing. Just because I hear the Spirit say something to me does not mean it is something that has to be announced to everyone. It may be that he is speaking to me for something I need to do or learn and it is not meant for others to hear.

My friend Michael Clark wrote about this topic and said in his article: “Jesus is the Word of God! He speaks to those who are His sheep. They know His voice and will not follow the voices of strangers (read John Ch. 10). Yet, so many Christians have said to me, “How can I know when Jesus is speaking to me?” To many of them the answer is, “Unplug! You are listening to and reading too many teachers. Break this habit of heaping to yourself teachers who tickle your ears. Get alone with God for a few months until you start hearing His whispered voice. Talk with Him and let Him be your friend above all friends.”

Just as we think of the church as a building with an organized program, it is so much more than that. The Church is a community of people daily following the Spirit and living in the kingdom of God during our life now. We also think of the word of God as a book, yet the true and living Word of God is so much more than that. Jesus is the Living Word of God and we can hear the voice of the Spirit which is within us. We can hear his voice through the written word, but keep in mind that God speaks in more ways than one.

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