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Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

by Jim Gordon

My wife and I often discuss using the word Christian these days. We wonder whether we should describe ourselves by the word Christian or not. We think it all boils down to what we mean by the word Christian.

So often the word means many things we are not. Say the word Christian and many people automatically stereotype you to basic beliefs and doctrines of the religion of Christianity and not necessarily to what we truly believe.

If being a Christian is being part of a religious organization that meets in a building on a particular day and follows set doctrines based on a particular denomination then no, we are not Christians. If being a Christian is being part of a group that is opposed to all other people and religions and only accepts those who believe like we do then no, we are not Christians. If being a Christian has anything to do with man-made religion, exclusion, hatred, following old covenant law then no, we are not Christians.

In Acts 11:26 the disciples were first called Christians by people in Antioch. I always heard that they were called Christians because they were acting like Christ. The people there were calling them little Christ’s because of the way they showed the love and power of Christ. Now, if that is what is meant by being a Christian then we are all in.

There are many ways we can described ourselves…believers, Christ followers, disciples of Christ, followers of the way, and even Christians. Yet the term itself really does not matter. What matters is how we live our lives. Is Christ preeminent? Are we living as one with him? Are we allowing the love of Christ to live through us, accepting others, loving others and being little Christ’s to all we meet? If not, whatever word we use to describe our religious belief does not make any difference.

When people see us, they should see Christ. When people see Christ, they should see God who is love. He lives within us and we should be known for the love we have for him and for the love we have for our fellow human beings. Do not worry so much about the label we use. Follow the leading of the Spirit of Christ who lives within us. Share the love of God with each and every person we meet. Be known for sharing the love of God rather than for what religious word we choose to use.

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by Rocky Glenn

When Jim Gordon invited Mike Edwards and I to join him as coauthors at Done With Religion, I don’t think any of us anticipated the bond and brotherhood that lie ahead of us.  The three of us have spent the last six months getting to know each other discussing what we believe and why we believe it as well as what we used to believe and why we believed it at the time.  The conversation below is an excerpt of one of those discussions as we speculate why it took so long to arrive at our current beliefs if we truly believe we have become more Christlike as we grow more open-minded and less dogmatic.  Our hopes in sharing this discussion is to encourage those who may be wondering the same and perhaps feeling the same regrets expressed.

Mike:  We believe the way we do now. But we use to believe another way a while back.

I know there aren’t answers but how do we explain to ourselves and others if asked – why doesn’t God show us the light sooner. I know I am assuming we are more enlightened now than years ago. I am assuming it is more Christlike, unless clearly moral like bullying, to come off open-minded than dogmatic.

I think so many more may be open to God if there was so much less dogmatism. I know God isn’t controlling but so many well-meaning leaders and laypeople seem misguided (or perhaps we are the ones wrong) and all of us are simply trying to be faithful to God. I truly think so many are intending to be faithful to God. I dread to think how I would have responded 30 years ago if social media was around.

I’m not convinced it’s because some of us are more moral than others. If we are more enlightened, why weren’t we more enlightened years ago? I must admit watching all this on Facebook, etc. is discouraging, especially when it is Christians. So many of them seem hopeless.

Rocky:  I think your thoughts capture what is possibly my greatest regret . . . the amount of time and number of years I spent not only misbelieving but also misteaching others.  To me the best analogy would be Jesus’s parable of the tares and wheat.  If you remove the tares before it’s time you will remove the wheat also.  Although as we first come out of it our tendency is to discard anything and everything related to what we are leaving behind. The further I am away from it the more I realize there are some foundational truths planted there that remain.

Jim:  As far as why God doesn’t show us the light sooner, I surely do not have the total answer. I do believe it is the timing thing. I think God teaches us and brings us to new understanding only as we are ready for it. I feel there is a reason for the things we go through and I am thankful for the time in the church system. I guess I would not have known the difference if I had not been a part.

So many people in church today are there because they truly believe that is the right way and they truly love God. I know the many years I was a part of it I felt I was doing what God wanted and was learning about him. Really, that system is all we know. That is what we were brought up in and felt was what God intended.

I am thankful that the Spirit lives within us and does not give up on us. I know I had questions over the years but was afraid to ask or just figured there was a reasonable answer that was more than I could understand.

Fortunately, in time those questions and many more came up again and I started thinking and debating with myself about them. It still took years of this plus feeling so unsatisfied at church that caused us to come to the point of leaving. It is all a timing thing.

One thing the three of us are certain of is we are likely not alone in our questioning.  If this is a conversation you find yourself identifying with, we welcome your feedback and would love to hear from you.  What are your thoughts and experiences as you’ve walked out the journey of your faith?

If you would like to read more of each of our thoughts on the subject, here are related articles from each of us:

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by Rocky Glenn

Being born with an evangelist for a father and a mother who not only taught more of my Sunday school and vacation Bible school classes than I can remember, but also traveled with dad as part of a southern gospel group, it’s no surprise most memories of early childhood involve some sort of church activity or function.  From carrying cardboard sheep clothed in a robe in the annual Christmas play to sitting front row during the Saturday night singings, from helping to print the church bulletins at home in our basement to laying out the stencils on the plywood as dad painted the revival sign, from singing in the kid’s choir to eating flower shortbread cookies with holes in the center while drinking from little plastic jugs filled with grape flavored drink, childhood for me was church.  Of all those memories, one of my favorite memories is the excitement of dad receiving a new set of gospel tracts in the mail and knowing I got to help sort and stamp them.

If you’re unfamiliar, a gospel tract is simply a pamphlet or brochure containing a scripture or religious message.  Most tracts are typically small, pocket-sized and can easily be distributed by hand, left on a gas pump, under a car’s windshield wiper, on the restaurant table, or behind the faucet in a public restroom.  Not only do I remember the joy of sorting and stamping them with dad, I was thrilled when dad would slide one out of his shirt pocket and let me be the one to leave it behind.  Dad had various rubber stamps we would use with his red ink pad to stamp either our home address and phone number or the church’s name, address, and phone number on the chance someone might find the printed invitation to Christ and need to contact someone to pray or ask questions.  In my early twenties, I carried the practice of distributing tracts with me on my second of three business trips to Las Vegas after learning on the previous trip of the advertising materials distributed on the street which, to put it mildly and nicely, were certainly not about spreading the gospel of Jesus.

As a boy, when dad’s new shipments of tracts would arrive, I would hound him night after night until he finally said it was time to sort out the bad and stamp the good.  It was dad’s job to sort them and my job to stamp them.  At times there were more good than bad and other times more bad than good.  As I got older, dad started explaining to me the determining factor on the good and bad tracts and I got to assist with the sorting prior to stamping . . . but only once or twice . . . and then we stopped sorting altogether and simply started stamping all of them.  When it came to sorting the tracts, it wasn’t about color, it wasn’t about size, it wasn’t about print, and there was no scientific method involved.  Sorting the tracts came to down three little letters . . . K – J – V.  The good tracts were those with scripture references from the authorized 1611 King James Version of the Bible.  The bad tracts were those which referenced any version other than KJV.  As dad started to teach me how to sort the tracts and was faced with my questions of why we couldn’t use the “bad” tracts, he found himself questioning if there was anything really bad about them at all.  If they pointed someone to Christ, could they really be considered bad?  As the revelation began to set in, we stopped sorting the tracts and simply stamped them all to prepare for distribution.

Jesus faced a similar situation with his disciples in the town of Capernaum.  John approached Jesus explaining they had encountered a man that did not belong to their group or follow them casting out devils in the name of Jesus.  What’s not certain in either narrative listed in the gospel of Mark or Luke is John’s intentions in making such a report. Was he complaining or was he boasting?  We cannot be certain, but I would suspect it was hint of both.  He was upset with the idea of others using Jesus’s name yet commending himself to the master for taking efforts to stop the man.  Whatever his intention, Christ’s response is certainly not what he expected, “Don’t stop him. He that is not against me is for me.”  The beauty of such a statement is reinforced just immediately before John had even approached Jesus.  In the moments prior, he took a child in his arms and said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this welcomes me.”  There is no mention of Jesus correcting the child for the manner in which he approached him.  It simply says he took him in his arms.  While Jesus was seeking to make all welcome, John was seeking to sort out the bad.

The life of a churchboy is a life of sorting out the bad.  It’s a life of living as if your way to Jesus is the only way.  It’s a life not realizing anything – whether it may be something we prefer, like, or even agree with –  which points to Christ and not away from him is a good thing.  It’s a life of choosing to be right over choosing to be welcoming.  It’s a life lived seeing things through a glass dimly.

Just as Christ extended his arms to welcome the child, it’s time we extend our arms to make all welcome.  It’s time we stop seeking to sort out the bad.

Rocky

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As Easter approaches, a popular morning TV program has been doing a series on the topic, ‘Can you be Spiritual without being Religious?’.

Now I don’t agree with every opinion given, but that the topic is being discussed is a good thing, bringing to light that there is a difference between being spiritual and being religious.

Obviously these days when you use the word spiritual, you can get into all kinds of strange thoughts and ideas. When I say spiritual, I am talking about a daily life following Christ and allowing His love to flow through us.

Spiritual Religious

My wife and I are no longer religious, but we are more aware of the spiritual, day-to-day life with God.

We realize that God is not a being up in heaven, coming down to visit us only when the conditions are right, or we are in a certain building, or we have been extremely ‘good’ over the past week.

No, God is spirit, and He is with us constantly. More than that, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God dwells within us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us.

I am not sure why it is we have always thought of God as a being who is way up there somewhere. The bible makes clear that we are one with God, and that God dwells within us.

We  seem to think that the Kingdom of God is a place we go one of these days when this life on earth is over. I think this also is a big misconception. God says His Kingdom is within us. That means right now, not some future date.

If we could only get these truths in our head and in our spirit, I think we could live a life that would really make a difference. People would see such a change, a life of love, caring, power and compassion. Unfortunately, we have been taught by religion that this just isn’t the case. We rely on trying to work hard, follow the rules and just survive until we get to heaven. So we go on, living life without the power of the Kingdom of God, arguing amongst ourselves over doctrine and belief, and letting people see we really don’t have anything to offer them that is meaningful and different.

It is time we come to understand that God and His Kingdom are within us. He is not up there in heaven waiting on some future day when we go to join Him. God lives in us and is with us constantly.

Jesus was the perfect example of God living in man. We can be Jesus to the world today. We can show love, compassion, and acceptance to the world around us each day. We are not God, but we are one with God. The Spirit is within us and he will teach us and guide us daily. Listen for the voice of the Spirit in every situation. Realize God is within you and allow His love to touch those around you every day.

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It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. Galatians 5:1-4

As followers of Christ, we have been set free. From what have we been set free? Is it circumcision? I personally think circumcision is a place-holder in this verse. It could be anything we use to try to earn our right standing with God.

It Is By Grace

It is by grace we are accepted, and when we try to do anything….keep the law or do good works, we are putting trust in our work and not the work of Christ.

It we do not trust in the grace of God, the only thing we have left is to keep the Law, and we have to keep the whole Law. Obviously, we cannot do that, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

So why is this verse saying we have fallen from grace? What have we done to do so? It is by trying to keep the Law, trying to live by the Old Covenant and rejecting the grace Jesus provided.

The Old and the New

In today’s church it seems, at least for me, that the mingling of the Old and New Covenant is taught. We are told we are saved by grace, but we mature in the faith and live pleasing to God by keeping the Law. This just should not be. The above verse tells us that this is the way we fall from grace.

free from lawWe are free from the Law, we are free from the punishment for our old sin nature (still consequences sometimes, but not punishment), and we are free from trying to measure up by keeping rules and laws.

Jesus has already done all the work that needs to be done. We can now rest in the grace He provided. Good works will follow because of our love for him, not due to an obligation to measure up and earn his forgiveness.

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I have mentioned this in a previous article, and want to again make clear that I am not a teacher. The postings on this site are from a person who certainly has a lot to learn.

My wife and I feel the same on this subject, and as imperfect people who have been made holy and righteous through God’s grace, it is always good to remind ourselves and those who read these articles, that what is written is coming from someone who is on a daily path with our Father, yet constantly learning.

I don’t think any of us come to a point of knowing it all and being completely correct in our knowledge of God. Each of our lives are a daily process, sometimes one step forward and two steps back, but each and every step ordered by our Father.

After my wife and I left the institutional church, I began to see some similar divisions outside the walls as much as inside the walls. We found that even though we were outside the walls of a church, our minds still had many walls up. It was fairly easy to leave the walls of a church, but the walls that had been built up in our minds are much harder to leave.

I have found that each of us have our own views on doctrine and interpretations of the bible. I personally feel this just shows our uniqueness and individuality.

Denominations and Separation

In the organized church there are many denominations and sects. I always saw this as a great division in the body of Christ. Yet outside of church, I have found much of the same. There are universal thinkers, preterist views, anabaptist views, trinitarianism, unitarianism, pre-millennial, post-millennial, there is a hell, there is not a hell….on and on it goes and each think they are right and others have missed the truth.

There is nothing wrong with having different views and interpretations. God has designed us as unique people and He leads and guides us according to that uniqueness. The problem is how we think in our mind according to our interpretations and views.

As I mentioned before, I felt a great separation in the organized church due to so many separate churches, each based on their style of doctrine and interpretation. I grew up in the methodist church and never considered going to a different denomination. I thought I had the best doctrine and interpretation of the bible and figured all the other churches were a little off base. Fortunately, neither I nor my wife think that way anymore.

But I am finding that with all the different views outside of church, we can get into the same thought process.

The big difference, at least the way I see it, is in our minds. It is our attitude and the way we think that either separates us or opens up the path to fellowship.

When we think that our way is right, we tend to associate with others who are of the same views. We join together with those of like-doctrine. Just the same as those in church meet each week with others who deem themselves methodists or baptists or lutheran and so on, when we think our way is right and only want to meet with those who feel the same, we again divide the body of Christ.

mine is rightEven when we decide to fellowship with those outside our way of thinking, if we go into it with the thought that we are right and they are wrong, and have the intent to meet with them only to prove our way is right, we still cause division.

We are all Unique

It is time we realize that each of us are unique individuals, created by the Father and guided by the Holy Spirit in that uniqueness. We need to accept that we do not have all the answers, we may be right or we may be wrong. Each of us will change over the years as God leads us along and the Spirit reveals more truth to us.

We should be loving and accepting of everyone we meet, and be open to fellowship with any of our brothers and sisters in Christ, without any thought or intention of proving our way as the only way. There is nothing wrong with discussing our views, and we certainly can learn from others as we listen to them, but we need to keep it at discussing and listening and not trying to prove our point and convert people to our way of thinking.

It is so aggravating to me to see people get so defensive and argue over who is right. Especially on social media where other people can see that divisiveness (tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people) and hard feelings it can cause. My first thought when I read some of these discussions is, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”. Yet, we sometimes do not seem very loving toward our brothers and sisters.

Even though we are outside the walls of organized religion, I have to say there are many who are still part of the traditional church system who love God and have very open minds to accepting others and realizing their way is not the only true way.

It is obvious that after leaving the walls of traditional church and living free from organized religion, the walls in our minds are still a thing to be dealt with and torn down.

Time of Change

Our walk is a daily process. It is a constantly changing, learning process where our interpretations and views change over time as the Spirit sheds light on more truth. We need to keep in mind that we do not have it all figured out and we are not the only ones who are right. We may be right for the place on the path we are currently, but as we move forward, we may begin to see things differently.

The way my wife and I see it, the best thing is to keep an open mind, listen for the guidance of the Spirit constantly, love those you come in contact with each day and enjoy fellowship with anyone the Father places in your life, whether it is a short period of time or a lifetime.

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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 someplace we go. Christ is the head of all of us who are saved by grace. We are the church.

Body of Christ

I don’t see separation in this statement. I don’t see denominations, buildings and formal services trying to get people to come to us. I don’t see places 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 God. I see a united effort seeking to show the love of God to all we meet each day.

I see people looking to Jesus and 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.

This leads me to think it is time to stop arguing over doctrine and interpretations. It’s time to stop looking to other brothers and sisters whom we elevate into a higher position and 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.

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Do you find yourself questioning things more than you used too? I know I do.

As Christians, we’ve always been taught that we need to have the answers. Study to show thyself approved meant, you must have an answer for everything people come up with so you can prove your beliefs are right.

I remember having questions in the past, but I basically blew them off and buried them, thinking I was wrong to even think such things. As time went on, the questions kept popping up and I began to realize that questioning was not wrong.

I believe God accepts us, questions and all. I am hoping that one day I’ll have more answers, mostly for my own sake and not necessarily to defend my beliefs.

Welcometochurch

I think the modern-day church and religion in general do not like questions, at least not hard questions. Especially questions that make us wonder about the basic beliefs they teach. They like to have all the answers, and answers that fit into their particular belief and doctrine.

In his book ‘Dying to Religion and Empire: Giving up Our Religious Rites and Legal Rights’,  Jeremy Myers makes a statement that is oh so true: “And as is the nature with questions, asking hard questions rarely leads to answers, but only to more questions”

I think God is much bigger than what the church makes of him sometimes. They try to fit everything into a box and don’t like people asking questions that require out-of-the-box thinking.

It seems to me the spirit within, the spirit of truth, brings up questions that the religious system taught us and we always just accepted. Now, rather than suppressing these questions, I have allowed them to surface and truly seek God for guidance.

On February 9, 2015, Mick Mooney posted an article on Facebook, part of which says: “But who has the faith to ask questions with the intention of seeking the answers to them? Who can let their foundation be not a doctrine or dogma that must be defended, but Christ himself who needs no defense? For it is those who have their foundation solely upon Christ, who can walk in their faith without fear of questions, but rather they walk in their faith knowing that God is lighting their path with questions, and it is these very questions that are paving the path that the Spirit of God is guiding them upon”.

If you are feeling guilty for having questions, I have found it best to stop feeling that way and keep asking the questions. That is the best way to continue growing and learning in our walk with God. Even when we don’t get the answers, we should continue to be asking and seeking the truth from our Father.

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Kindness is something you don’t find much in our world today.

The Bible speaks about kindness many times. Kindness is one of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22.

The dictionary says kindness is being considerate, or helpful. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone treated each other with kindness?

It usually doesn’t take a lot to be kind. Sometimes I think we make it to hard, when something so simple and easy as a genuine smile can brighten someone’s day. Being polite and kind to others can sometimes be just what they need to make their day. Holding the door for someone, letting them go ahead of you in line, smiling and saying hello, you never know.

The little, everyday things we can do to show others kindness can be a seed planted in their lives that will one day grow and help lead them to Christ.

These days it seems we even have a hard time with Christians treating each other with kindness. We want to fight and argue over our views and interpretations and forget that as Christians, we all have the common ground of faith in Christ.

A friend of mine recently talked about relationships and how they seem to come to an end. He said it was based on what the relationship was about. If it is based on some thing or activity, once we get tired of that particular thing and move on, all the relationships based on that activity usually come to an end. Only the common ground of faith in Christ and His grace is what doesn’t change and the one thing that can hold together a friendship.

Let’s see if we can make a point to do one act of kindness each day. You never know where it may lead.

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Christianity can mean a couple different things, and it depends on what meaning we are using as to how I feel about it.

If, when talking about being a Christian, we mean we are following Christ, acting like Christ and living like Christ, I am all in for being a Christian.

Usually these days when being a Christian is mentioned, it’s more about the religion of Christianity. Just like Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Baha’i, Shinto, Taoism and a host of others, Christianity is a religion made up by men, and it is divided up into many various denominations. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did not start the Christian religion.

Here in the United States we are so proud to say that America is a Christian nation. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with that idea. America is a country made up of many religions and beliefs. Fortunately in this country we are not forced to be a part of any religion or belief. We have many freedoms that are not found in other places, and I am thankful for that fact. We are free to choose what we want to believe, who we want to follow and we have the right to express that without fear of punishment.

Following Christ is not about a religion. I actually think it is better sometimes not to even use the word Christian because of all the religious thoughts and ideas it brings up. Religion is a man-made, organized system that divides more than anything. We separate into groups that meet in buildings on set days and at set times, saying we welcome anyone, yet only want those who feel the same way we do in beliefs and interpretations.

It bothers me to see so many who profess to be Christians, those who believe in God and Jesus and spreading His love to others, who argue and fight with those who think differently. We are supposed to be known for our love for others and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Still, it seems a lot of Christians are more interested in defending their personal views and thoughts, getting mad and arguing amongst themselves while those outside of faith in Christ are looking at them and wondering why they need to have Christ in their lives.

Now, talking about Christianity in the sense that we are following Christ, living like Him and treating others like Jesus treated people, this is an entirely different thing. As mentioned in Acts 11:26, the disciples were first called Christians by the people of Antioch, because they saw the disciples acting so much like Christ. To me, this is the true meaning of a Christian.

True Christianity is a community of people who act like Christ and let him love through them. It is a daily life-style and is not separated into normal living and religious living. It is not specifically following set doctrines, or following rules of do’s and don’ts.  It is not meeting in a building once a week listening to one person talk, singing a few songs, shaking hands and going home. It is not a system of leaders who are on a higher level than others. It is daily life, following the leading of the Spirit, meeting with those we come in contact with along our daily routine, showing Christ’s love, eating together, laughing and crying together, accepting one another, talking and discussing our thoughts and views. Those who have gifts of leadership lead by example, lead as equals, and lead by a servant spirit to encourage and build up their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

As followers of Christ, we are to love others, accept others, and treat others with compassion, respect and love. We do not have to agree with everyone, just accept them. We can agree to disagree and love people just as they are. Everyone does not have to be just like us and they do not have to believe like us. They should be able to be themselves and we as Christ followers should be OK with it.

It’s time to stop being a Christian in the sense of religion, and focus on Jesus and let Him live through us. After all, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, God lives within us. There is no reason why we cannot love and accept others just like Christ loves and accepts everyone.

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