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Posts Tagged ‘denomination’

Most of us Christians seem to be the same in regard to those with whom we associate. We tend to find others who are like us. I think that is one reason we have so many different denominations in the organized church. We cannot agree on doctrine, interpretation of the Bible and many other subjects, so we tend to congregate together with people who most think the same as we do. And usually, once we find like-minded friends, we get comfortable in those groups and would prefer no new people want to join.

My wife and I had this happen a couple of times with one particular fellowship. Several home groups had been organized over time and when we came along, as new people in the “church”, we thought it would be good to get involved. My wife called the home group leaders of two different groups to get information, and both times she heard a voice on the other end of the phone that very obviously was not thrilled that someone new wanted to come into their group. Needless to say, we did not join either group.

It is sad that we Christians, who should be known for our love for one another, still pick and choose who we want in our group. We only want to be friends with those who feel and think like us.

4corners

Even among organized churches, we see separation. You can have a Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian church on 3 out of 4 corners, and people go in and out of their respective denomination and never smile or wave at someone going into the other. Normally we would not think of merging together as one in Christ because those across the street think differently than we do (and I know there are a few exceptions). For those of us who are outside the walls of the institutional church, we can meet together with a few others at a restaurant on a Wednesday night, and as the Pentecostal people start coming in after service, all we want to do is look at them strange and make sly remarks. Where is the love and acceptance in that? And this is among fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not even mentioning how we treat those who do not know God or who do not even believe God exists.

I really think that being more Christ-like may not mean being more holy, or closer to being perfect, it may mean hanging out with people who are a lot less perfect. Jesus was known for associating with people who the religious crowd had no interest. They were the people who never dreamed of being called a friend of God, or attending the local fellowship, or even getting a smile from someone. They were the outcasts, those that religious people did not want to associate with or even have a conversation.

I’ve noticed most people tend to focus more on being like someone else they know and admire, rather than being more like Christ. I think it is easier to be more like a friend because deep down we feel we can measure up, or it is possible to achieve being like another person. We can see the mistakes and shortcomings in others, and we usually feel we are just as good as they are…or better.

That fact is, it is easier being like another person. We feel we are unable to attain being like Jesus. In our own strength, that is so true. The good thing is, Christ does not expect us to live in our own strength. He said it is not good for man (human, both men and women) to be alone. For this reason, he provided a help-mate for us. He sent the Holy Spirit to be our strength, teacher, comforter and guide. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the love of Christ within us, we can be more like Jesus as we learn to love and accept everyone.

So many times, we want to be more like Mike, or Jim or William because they are people we admire and want to be like, mainly because they think a lot like us and do things we would want to do.

Of course being like Jesus would mean we would love and accept people most Christians want to avoid and stay away from, just as in the parable of the Good Samaritan. We want to pass by on the other side of the street rather than show love and compassion to one of ‘those’ people.

modernlastsupper1

Jesus said to love our neighbor. We agree with that as long as our neighbor is like Mike, or Jim or William. The bad thing is that if our neighbor is a person we consider an outcast of society, or someone who is involved in things we think are wrong, we do not want anything to do with them. Yet Jesus did not say love your neighbor if they think like you, are pleasant to be around, are Christians of the same denomination. No, our neighbor is everyone we come in contact with throughout our day, no matter who they are, what their lifestyle or belief and no matter what others think of them.

Our job is not to condemn others and point out their sins and mistakes. Our life is to be like Christ, loving others, accepting others and letting them see the love the Father has for them, knowing that we were no different. God loved us, and died for us while we were yet sinners.

Why is it that after accepting God’s love and forgiveness for ourselves, we do not want to offer the same to our fellow human beings?

By the power and love of the Holy Spirit within us, we can hang out with people we never dreamed we would on our own. The love of Christ can work through us, helping us accept others and love them just the way they are. That does not mean we have to participate in everything they do, we do not have to agree with their lifestyle, but we can love them and accept them as they are, knowing that Christ did the same thing, and still does through us.

A good article by Ronnie McBrayer with a different look on this subject can be read here:
http://ronniemcbrayer.net/2015/08/24/tea-and-apple-pies/

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When we think about Jesus, we automatically think of Christianity. Although the two are completely different.

Jesus didn’t come to start Christianity. Jesus was not a Christian. We are missing the whole point when we focus on religion rather than the real reason Jesus came to live among us. He came to show us the Father and the love He has for each and every one of us, no matter what we call ourselves or what group we belong too. He even loves those who don’t think he exists.

According to Wikipedia it is stated that according to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jewish, Christianity and every other religion are all actually related. They are all human based ways of trying to please the God (or gods) they believe in and serve.

In regard to just Christian denominations, World Christian Encyclopedia says that world Christianity consists of 6 major ecclesiastical-cultural blocs, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries. It certainly can’t be stated that people are not interested in some type of higher power.

We want to argue over religion and who is right, who is wrong. All the different religions of the world can’t agree on who we believe in or what is right. We even break it down more and argue within Christianity with all the different denominations, as we consider ourselves Catholic, or Methodist, or Lutheran, Presbyterian or part of the thousand other groups. We argue over whose interpretation is right and really don’t want to associate with those who feel differently.

Needless to say, we all have our interpretations, thoughts and ideas, but those just make us unique individuals. They were not intended to cause separations and divisions among us. We should be able to be ourselves and yet love and accept those who are different from us.

If we could get past the religious part of our beliefs and live in the freedom God provided, things would go much better. Rather than defend our denominational interpretations and our personal ideas, if we would love and accept others with the love of Christ, people would be more open to hear about our Father.

Christ-Christians

We are normally busy pointing out the mistakes of others, even our brothers and sisters in Christ who have a different view, and condemning those who we consider sinners. When we do so, the love Jesus told us to show everyone seems to get missed. I personally don’t think it is our job to convict people of their sins. Most people know their shortcomings already, and the Holy Spirit will convict the worldly of their sins, drawing them to repentance.

Jesus told us to love God and love others…period. When we focus on the gospels and the life of Jesus and realize that he didn’t condemn and point out the sins and mistakes of people, we can see a distinct difference from the way we act today. He only had an issue with the religious leaders who thought they were better than everyone else because of their works.

When it comes to saying I am a Christian, I am hesitant anymore because of the meaning it receives from most people. If being a Christian means a follower of Christ, someone who wants to be like Christ, and show the love of God to everyone, then I am for it. But if being a Christian is the typical church going, law following, condemning others way of life, I am done with that. In that sense, Christianity is not the answer, nor is any other man-made religion.

Jesus is not into religion. Jesus came to show the love of God to every human being no matter who they are or what they believe. Jesus crosses the barriers of religion and loves everyone. In the world today, we are the Jesus people see, and we should be ready to show the love and acceptance that he showed to everyone we meet.

You may be interested in reading an article on the same topic by my friend Glenn Hager. Read it here: http://www.glennhager.com/2013/05/17/did-jesus-start-a-religion/

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I took my wife to the store the other day, and as I was sitting in the car waiting on her, I observed some people going in and out who stood out based on their style of dress. A gentlemen in his late 50’s came out in a sun dress and carrying a purse (yes, I actually saw that), then two women in their 30’s walked in wearing small scarf-like head coverings, blue blouses and green skirts.

We all know of the Amish, Mennonite and various religious groups who dress modestly and alike, and of the various denominations that focus on women not wearing makeup, jewelry, pants, to low of tops or to short of dresses.

I have noticed that people make a point of dressing a certain way based on their beliefs, lifestyle, doctrine or religion. I have also noticed a lot of people who make sure they wear appropriate clothing, yet sometimes dress their inner spirit as mean, grumpy and unloving. It has always bothered me to see someone wearing a cross necklace or a group praying before eating, then treat people mean or uncaring.

I remember when I was younger I liked an evangelist that was fairly popular. His name was Bob Harrington and he was known as the Chaplain of Bourbon Street (anyone remember him?). He mentioned once that he wore certain colors of clothing based on what they meant to him, such as red for the blood of Jesus, and green for eternal life. Of course I had to go out and buy certain colors based on that, but what did that really mean to anyone? No one else knew what that meant and it did not make a difference to anyone else.

I wonder sometimes why it is we seem to put so much importance on our outward appearance, dressing the right way, wearing appropriate jewelry or images, yet we seem to forget our inner person.

It’s our inner self where the Spirit of God resides. It is his love and acceptance that really makes the difference, not our outward apparel.

It is just like living by law or grace, we want to do things to justify our relationship with God. Living by law is our way of outwardly trying to earn salvation and God’s love, yet we no longer live under the Old Covenant of Law. Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant and made a new agreement whereby He did all the work. It is by grace and his work that we are justified, holy and righteous. It is not our outward appearance but His spirit within us.

christian shirt

Our outward style can be anyway we feel comfortable, but it is the inward spirit that makes the difference. I think it is appropriate to dress modestly, but there are so many styles, and each of us are unique that we can dress according what we like, and let the loving Spirit of God be what really stands out in the way we love, accept and treat those we come in contact with each day.

When we base our christian witness on what we do outwardly and with our appearance, it is not going to make any difference in any one’s life. When we try to imitate someone and how they do things, it is not going to make any difference in any one’s life. It is only when we realize that God lives within us, and it is by His power that anything will happen. We are to allow Him to live through us, loving others and accepting them, no matter what their outward appearance.

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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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My wife and I question these days whether we should consider ourselves Christians or not. We think it all boils down to what we mean by Christian.

If being a Christian is being part of a religion that meets in a building on a particular day and follows set doctrines based on what denomination we belong to, then no, we are not Christians. If being a Christian is considered being part of a group that is basically just a different interpretation and belief from Jews, or Muslim, or Baptist, Methodist, Charismatic etc., then no, we are not Christians. If being a Christian is being part of a group that is opposed to all other religions and only accept those who believe like we do, then no, we are not Christians. If being a Christian has anything to do with religion, 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, Christians. Yet, the name itself doesn’t really 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, the name really doesn’t make any difference.

When people see us, they should see Christ. 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 man. Don’t worry so much about the label we use. Let Christ live through us each and every day with everyone we meet.

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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.

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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