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Posts Tagged ‘christian living’

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 Jordan Hathcock

Ritual is simply a set of practices in a period of chaos so we can experience the chaos safely.  –Jason Coker

In a time of unrest and chaos, the tool that seems to work most effectively is the practice of rites and rituals. Now, this can be (and most likely is) triggering for most of us who have experienced unhealthy spiritual practices. Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is something more and more people are dealing with and I know its something that is not to be taken lightly. When it comes to the Christian tradition, the “church” has not always been a place that produces healthy rites and rituals to assist us in getting through the ambiguous times in our lives. Instead, church practices often get the process ass backwards: We develop rites and rituals to control and manipulate people to believe and act a certain way instead of creating spaces available for us to grow in these times of pandemonium. Cognitive dissonance is viewed as an issue of faith instead of a step needed to be taken within the spiritual journey.

Deconstruction has been the “new” practice within the religious sphere in the last twenty years or so due to many factors. With the new internet age and the huge amount of access to resources, its been more and more difficult for the “powers that be” to keep a more discrete way of posturing when it comes to past, present and future church practices. Postmodernism has brought a lot of problems to be answered when it comes to religious institutions. When people have these crises of faith, the church is not equipped with the space (rites and rituals) to help heal and liberate those who need it. Deconstruction is a step that should be perceived as a healthy process that helps us mature in our faith. It shouldn’t be perceived as a problem to be solved but as a ritual to be practiced. We must learn to let go of corrosive practices of rules due to fear and embrace a more playful experimental practice of understanding.

How does that look like? Well, there are many ways we can experience spiritual practices that help us through the journey of life. It doesn’t have to be practices in a “brick and mortar” church setting. It can be a nature walk, surfing (my favorite), exercising, playing music, painting a picture, or crafting some good beer (my other favorite). There are various of ways to experience divine guidance. The Christian traditions rites and rituals that have been with us for 2,000 plus years can be practiced in a new light as well. We can always find new ways to interpret and repurpose a practice within a church setting to help us better connect and move to more liberating heights. Traditions are good if used in a healthy and freeing way. We can let go of the damaging aspects of a rite and ritual and still actually practice the act itself. I understand some are unable to ever practice certain rites and rituals within Christianity due to RTS and that is OK! Along as you find some time of ritual to practice to better center you as a human being, I think the world can benefit from it. With that being said, there are still some beautiful practices with this Christian religion that I still find beneficial. An example that I have come to experience when it comes to repurposing a certain spiritual practice is Communion/Eucharist/Lords Table (whatever name floats your boat).

The tradition that I grew up in (L.D.S.) named this practice The Sacrament. It has elements of truth (like all spiritual practices do in a sense) but also some pretty damaging aspects as well. In my opinion and experience (along with many others) the concept of purity codes comes to mind. In order to partake of the sacrament, you had to be “worthy” and “believe” in the church’s teachings. The point of this ritual is to renew the covenant you made at baptism. Unfortunately, this interpretation of the purpose of the Lords Table misses some really important factors to help oneself to become part of the gospel message. Instead of bringing us together with Christ and participating in the way of love, it becomes a rule one must follow in order to remain a “member of a church”. We are not part of some corporation that keeps track of its members “loyalty”. This also brings out zealot faith and judgment on others who do not partake of Communion. This should not be the point of why we partake of the bread and wine of Christ.

Fortunately, I found a Church (Oceanside Sanctuary ) that has taken the practice of Communion to a level of healing and liberation one needs when it comes to healthy rites and rituals (yes, a bold claim I know). We think it is important to take Communion weekly, so we can come to the table of love and mercy despite our differences. Let’s face it, we all have our own views on anything from sex, politics, sports, education and of course on our theological views regarding the Christian tradition itself. But, guess what? Unity is possible within diversity. That is what Jesus came to bring. The commonwealth of God is the reality where love can guide us to true freedom even through our messy differences. If we cannot practice healthy rite & rituals in a church setting, how the hell will we ever expect to see needed results outside the sanctuary walls?…

For Christians, to share in the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, means to live as people who know that they are always *guests*—that they have been welcomed and that they are wanted. It is perhaps the most simple thing that we can say about Holy Communion, yet it is still supremely worth saying. In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ tells us that he wants our company. -Rowan Williams

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By Jim Gordon

When you first hear this, you think of someone who has lost their faith and turned their back on God. That is certainly not the case with me. Let me explain.

When I say christianity I am talking about the religious organization. The true sense of the word Christian means little Christ, or someone who follows the example of Jesus by loving God and loving others. This is not what I am talking about.

The religion of Christianity is the many denominations, the various doctrines and the requirement to follow the rules that men and women tell us we need to follow to be “good christians”.

Church attendance, tithing, adhering to the belief that the bible is inerrant, basically following the rules of the traditional institutional church organization. Being told that grace is not enough because we have to add following the rules and do things that people think are right to be considered a christian.

So often you see two or three church buildings within a mile of each other. There are so many usually because those that attend cannot agree on doctrine and bible interpretation and they have to separate from one another. They still try to follow the ten commandments and try to be good people by what they do when God said it is finished. Because of the grace of Christ we can rest in the love of God.

Jesus said to love God and love one another, but we tend to fight and argue amongst ourselves while those outside of christianity watch and wonder why they would need to be a part of it.

It seems more often than not, when christianity is mentioned the thought is of people who go to church on Sunday then act like everyone else the rest of the week. The thought of people who try their best to follow the rules but spend most of their time feeling guilty because they cannot do so. So much of christianity seems to be so exclusive to people who they feel are different. It says love your neighbor and love your enemy but christianity so often loves only those who have the same views and opinions about the bible.

That is why my wife and I have left the religion of christianity. We have been walking outside the walls of institutional church and religion yet have not left our faith in God. We want to follow the example of Jesus who showed us what God is really like. A God of love and acceptance. A God who loves people and treats everyone with kindness, respect and as equals. We want to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. We have given up on following the pastor or evangelist or any human who thinks they are the mouthpiece of God. We no longer need a human teacher or guide since Jesus sent the Spirit to be with us constantly.

All that is asked of us is to share the good news of the gospel which is that God loves us. We share that by loving God and loving all people, not by shoving our opinion down the throats of others. Making disciples is sharing the love of God, encouraging one another and helping each other to daily live a life that is loving and helpful.

So yes, I am done with christianity. I am not done with faith in God. I am not done with following the example of Jesus. I am not done with loving people and sharing the love of God with everyone. Forget the religion and follow the way of God by loving one another.

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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

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

As Christians, we have always been taught that we need to have the answers. Study to show thyself approved meant you must have an answer for every question people asked 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 will have more answers, mostly for my own sake and not necessarily to defend my beliefs.

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 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 him out to be. They try to fit everything into a box and do not 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 about what the religious system taught us and what we always just accepted. Now, rather than suppressing these questions I have allowed them to surface and truly seek the guidance of the Spirit.

Mick Mooney once 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 do not get the answers, we should continue to be asking and seeking the truth from the Spirit who is within us. God is big enough and loving enough to accept us even with our questioning.

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