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Archive for the ‘The church’ Category

As I look over various postings on social media, it does not take long to realize there are a wide variety of opinions in the christian world. Various biblical interpretations and views on christian doctrine, gun control and a wide variety of issues of our day.

The sad thing is that so often I see the opinions expressed get turned into arguments, name calling and sometimes what seems to be down-right hatred toward one another.

ArguingoverDoctrine

It is sad that we who are christians and supposed to be known for our love for one another get so caught up on arguing over doctrine and interpretation. Why is it we cannot accept that we all have a different view and opinion. We all have a different way of seeing things and interpreting the bible.

As I was in a waiting room the other day, a lady walked in and I heard her tell the receptionist that she was recently widowed. That got me to thinking how a major change in our lives can change our priorities.

When a person hears that they have a serious health condition, or they lose a loved one all the differences of opinion, biblical interpretation and doctrine seem to become less important. The arguing over our views and opinions all of a sudden lose their meaning.

It is times like this that many people come together and encourage and support those who are going through a rough time. It is great that this happens and it is the way it should be.

Yet it is disappointing that it takes a bad situation to bring people together. Why is it we cannot express our views and opinions and accept there are going to be differences of opinion? Why is it we cannot accept one another in our differences and treat one another with respect?

LoveOneAnother

There is certainly nothing wrong with having an opinion. Having different interpretations of the bible and various views on doctrine is normal and good. We can learn from one another when we reasonably discuss these differences. But when we get offended, when we get mad and feel we have to prove our point, that is where the problems begin.

We need to get to a place in our lives that we can discuss our views, listen to the views of others and accept one another in our differences. People need to see that christian people are a family who can love and accept one another whether we completely agree or not.

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It can be hard accepting the fact that God lives within us. For years we were taught God is in heaven and if we follow the commandments and do good things, one day we will go to heaven and live with him face to face. We have an image of God sitting on a throne in heaven and we are far, far away down on earth.

god is here

Pastors will tell us that God will show up now and then at a special meeting, or when a special service is planned and the Spirit will fall upon us. Yet we know that God is with us all the time and the Spirit fell on the human race two thousand years ago.

The more I read, I am finding that we really have the whole thing backwards.

The Old Covenant has been fulfilled in Christ and we are living under a New Covenant. We no longer have to try to be good enough. The law was a tutor that led us to Christ, but now that Christ has come and restored fellowship between God and people we no longer need a tutor. We are free from the law and we are children of God through the gift of his grace.

Jesus came to live among us and show us the love of God. When Jesus left, he said he would send us the Spirit. God has now come to live within us. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have the mind of Christ. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be one with God, just as he and the Father are one.

Sounds to me that we are missing the main point. We do not have to wait to die and go to heaven to enjoy kingdom living. We do not have to wait to be united with the Father. We no longer need to look to a human guide, teacher or preacher. We have the living, powerful, perfect Word of God living inside us who is the Spirit of Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with listening to others, getting their thoughts and ideas and being encouraged by other believers, but we do not need to rely on other humans. We have the Spirit within us, teaching us and guiding us in the way he has for us.

We do not have to look up in the sky and speak words to some far-away place and wonder if God is listening. We can turn our thoughts inward and realize the Spirit is right there within us, listening, loving us and ready to teach us as we begin to hear his voice from within.

We are all at different stages along the path we walk with him, and we need to remember none of us have it all figured out. We so often want to fight and argue from the understanding we currently have without realizing that we have not reached completion. There is more the Spirit wants to teach us as we become ready to accept it.

For my wife and me, we have changed a lot over the past few years but we realize we have not come to perfection. We will continue to change over the next few years also. So why argue over doctrine, interpretations and beliefs as if we had it all figured out and everyone else is wrong. We all have more to learn as we walk with the Spirit each day.

We should come to accept each other where we are currently, realizing what we know and believe today will more likely change as we continue to walk under the guidance of the Spirit. We can love each other, learn from one another and accept each other as we are, just like Jesus loves and accepts us just as we are.

KingdomofGodwithinYou

We should be looking deep within ourselves, listening for the voice and guidance of the Spirit rather than putting all hope in others, and to those we think are more spiritual because they have been trained, educated and paid to do so. Remember, we are all kings and priests and have the same Spirit within us. Each of us are equal and important parts of the body with Christ as the head. His Church is not a building, not a denomination but people.

This is not saying we are all God, but the Spirit lives within us and we are one with our Father. It would do us all good to start focusing on this fact rather than what we have been taught in the past, that being one with God is a future event after we die. Kingdom living is now. Listening to the Spirit, being taught by him and living day by day in communion with the Father is a reality that we all need to realize is happening now.

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One big sore spot with me within the christian religion is listening to big-named evangelists and preachers tell us we need to give them our money so they can go forth and proclaim the gospel.

money

They will pile up big bank accounts, nice houses, huge buildings, expensive jets, cars and who knows what else, all under the guise of being able to proclaim to gospel to more people.

Many times the money they raise is coming from people who can barely afford to meet living expenses day to day. They will give money to these people because they are told it will help them better spread the gospel around the world. They are also told they are robbing from God if they do not give.

If I understand what I read in the bible, Jesus and his twelve disciples turned the world upside down with their love and by teaching the good news that God loves them. I do not remember reading about how much money they had, or how many luxuries they had that helped them spread the gospel.

It really bothers me that the money spent buying these people some of the luxuries of life could be used to help many starving, homeless, jobless people across our country or around the world.

As christians, we are all called to proclaim the gospel. We do so in the way we live. We are to show love to all people and help those in need with the means we have been given.

We are not under the old covenant law that said bring ten percent into the storehouse. We should give to help others, but not out of obligation. We are to give out of love and that amount we have determined without our own heart to give.

PriesthoodofBelievers

No person, man or woman, should be looked upon as more important or more spiritually holy than anyone else. We are to be a priesthood of all believers with no one more important than another.

Rather than focus on those who are demanding we give them our money to support the kingdom of God, let us follow after the example of Jesus by loving all people and using the money, gifts and talents he has given us to help those we can directly.

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Several of my past articles have mentioned modern day church and how it is off base from what it was intended. I want to make clear that I am not against church, but I also want to make clear what I mean when I say church.

Normally when the word church is mentioned, we think of a building we go to on a certain day to learn about and worship God. We also think in terms of how much we go to church as being a guide to how spiritual we are, or how close we are to God. We think of the doctrines, rules and regulations placed on us by the church as ways to make us better Christians.

Church

I think we need to reset our thinking. The Church is not a building. The Church is the bride of Christ, all of us who are saved by grace. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The building is just a place where we can meet and conduct spiritual meetings. It is another place to enjoy christian fellowship. Rather than see church as a place we go, we are to be the Church daily living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and showing the love of God to all people.

Another area where we confuse the meaning of words is in regard to the word of God. When we talk about the word of God we usually think of the Bible. The Bible is inspired by God, but the true living Word of God is Jesus. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus is the Word of God.

WordofGod1

Far to often we christians put too much emphasis on the Bible, sometimes even thinking of it as part of the trinity. Remember it is not Father, Son and Holy Bible. Again, the Bible is written by men but is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. It is certainly profitable to read the Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but we need to focus on the fact that the Word of God is alive and living within each of us as followers of Christ.

Although it may seem unimportant on how we think of church or the Bible, I think it is very important that we understand what is really meant. The old mindset of a building and a book need to be replaced with the fact that the Church are those of us who are redeemed through the blood of Christ and the Word of God is Christ Himself, alive and living within us.

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As someone who has grown up in organized religion, I can honestly say that the institutional church has fallen way off course. What we call church today many times seems more like a large corporation run by a CEO and executive board.

We seem to be more focused on our programs, building bigger buildings, having a bigger and better worship band, getting on radio or TV and being a step ahead of the church down the street.

Variousbeliefs

Our churches today are so divided by denominations, doctrines and biblical interpretations that it seems we fight among ourselves more than anything. Many places there is literally a church building every mile or two from each other yet we cannot come together and our world continues to get worse and worse.

It amazes me how upset and defensive people can get when you mention that going to church is not a requirement. They seem to forget that the church is not a building and is not a place we go to, but the Church is the body of believers. Usually the first verse that is quoted when we talk about not going to church is 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.

Nowhere does this verse say that we have to assemble in a building on a certain day at a certain time. Nowhere does it say we have to have a pastor to teach us, or a worship band to lead us in praise and worship.

I feel that sometimes we Christians want to be entertained and told what to believe, then go home feeling satisfied that we have fulfilled our duty until next Sunday. We have become lazy and do not want to spend the time with God, reading His words and letting the Holy Spirit teach us. As 1 John 2:23 states – as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you (the Holy Spirit), and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. That can be in a restaurant, in a home, in a park or any place believers join together. Many people put more emphasis on where we meet and not enough emphasis on spending time with the one we love. Why is it we feel the need to go to a building anyway, God said we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God told us that He is always with us so why is it people say they are going to the house of God to meet with Him. We are the house of God and He is always with us.

Going to an organized religious building is not wrong, but we should call it what it is. The church building that people go to once a week is a place where the members of the Church get together. The Church are those of us who are saved through faith in Christ.

TheLoveofGod

So often we Christians can get more involved with the things about Christ, the services, the meetings, the up-keep of a building and the money to keep the bills paid that we lose sight of our first love. Jesus is the head, He is to have the preeminence. We should be putting our focus on Christ, loving Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and loving others with the love of God.

Stop the arguing over different interpretations and denominational doctrines and start loving others no matter what. It is then that the world will know we are His disciples and see a difference in the way we live as Christians.

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For those of us who have left the traditional church system, there can be times of discouragement, questioning and just plain not knowing what to do. Do not feel guilty for having such feelings.

I know that my wife and myself became fed up with the religious church system after spending over fifty years in it. Week after week we went to a pre-planned service, sat and watched only a few select people participate and listened to one person talk and tell us about God.

If was obvious there was a divide, a group of people who participated and a group of people who sat and listened. I remember thinking how spiritual the leaders of the church must be and how knowledgeable they were to hold positions in the church. I always thought I had nothing to say that would be important or helpful and I was so thankful for the pastor and the elders who seemed to have it all together.

As time went on I began wondering about certain verses in the bible that talked about each person having a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.

Or what about verses talking about us as living stones being built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. To me this says that all Christians are a holy priesthood and can offer spiritual sacrifices to God. All have the right to go directly to God through Jesus Christ our High Priest.

We are told that we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that we may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

All these verses and many others sure sounded to me that we were all capable, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, to be equals with all others who followed Christ. All can serve and fulfill a purpose in the Kingdom of God.

My wife and I came to believe that the divide we see in the Christian church was really very unbiblical. There are no first and second-class citizens of the Kingdom. There should not be a clergy-laity divide within the true Church that God is building through Christ.

church-people-or-building

We were always taught that the church, the brick and mortar building people attend once a week, was the house of God. Yet the bible says that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God is within us.

Finally making the choice to leave the church system, we decided to walk with God outside the walls of religion. This of course is a very unpopular decision in the Christian world. People have lost friends and fellowship with other believers because of this choice because those who are in the system feel leaving it is wrong.

I have heard of many people after leaving became known as back-sliders, people fallen from their faith and who have lost their relationship with God. When people find out we no longer attend a church they do their best to reason with us and try to get us back in line and back in the church system.

After three years being out of the institutional church, neither of us want to go back. We have found a freedom to live with God apart from the denominational requirements, various doctrines, the many man-made ways of following God and the thousands of interpretations of the bible that differ from church to church.

Over time God has brought people into our lives in ways we never expected. We are finding many new relationships online with people who have also left the church system. Fellowship is needed among us followers of Christ but that does not have to be done in a building on a set day and being face to face. In fact, we have had more meaningful relationships being outside of church then we did in it including online and face-to-face fellowship.

MindofChrist

If we believe the Holy Spirit lives within us, that we have the mind of Christ, and that the kingdom of God is within us then we need no man to teach us. The Spirit will guide each of us in the way he has for us to go. We are not going to all agree and walk in perfect agreement, but God leads each of us on separate paths yet leads us all into a close fellowship with Him.

For those with young kids it can be even more troubling because you are not sure what to do with the kids. Yet I believe that God will guide you and bring ways of showing the love of God to your kids whether it be in a group or in your family at home. I do not want to give out ideas for you to try because I believe the Spirit of God will guide and direct you in the way you are to go in teaching your children.

I do believe that God is big enough and personal enough to guide us outside the traditional church and the clergy system we have all know all our lives. It is a difficult road to go but it certainly seems to me a much better way to follow God and live for Him.

What decision you make in regard to attending church or walking outside the walls, remember both groups are children of God and trying to follow Him the way they feel is best. In church or out of church we all make up The Church, each of us equally important and equally able to let God love through us.

Focus of following God in the way he leads you, love others equally, do not think more highly of yourself than of others. Be open to let God lead you on the path he has for you whether it is in traditional religious ways or the unpopular way of living outside the walls of church and religion. Love and accept others as they are and let the love of God touch everyone you meet along the way.

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We know when the word church is used most of the time we are talking about the modern-day, organized religious organization that people attend on Saturday or Sunday. The traditional organized church with its many programs, leaders, pastors, rules and regulations.

We forget that the Church is not a building or an institution but a community of people who love God and love one another. Whether in church or out we are all one body with Christ as the head.

OneBody

I think an issue today among those of us who have left the organized church is to feel those who are still involved in church and those who think differently than us are our enemies. This is not the correct way of thinking.

People attend church for various reasons such as out of obligation, guilt, social purposes or because they have always gone to church. Yet there are many people attending church that truly love God and want to follow Him and show his love to others.

Many outside of church start thinking they are more righteous or further along in their walk with God than those who still attend church. This is a bad attitude to have and we should be loving and accepting of those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter if they attend church or not. Just as those who faithfully attend church should not look down on those who have left the organized system looking at them as if they are backsliders or have lost their faith. Our Father will lead each of us in the way he has for us in his timing.

The important thing is our love for God and for one another. No matter what we do on Sunday mornings, whether we attend a church building or love God from outside the walls, our goal is to decrease to self, our desires and plans and allow Him to increase and love others through us.

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