Thursday, April 30, 2015

For Keri

Here are some thoughts about the article you shared. It seems a little rambly I hope it’s not too disconnected. (ref; christianityfortherestofus.com; “Disillusioned Christian”)

Disillusioned Christian. A very interesting and thoughtful article. I found myself identifying with much of what he said. However even though for some time now I have felt disillusioned about the church system I have not become disillusioned with Jesus. I still believe what I have believed for a long time about him and in many ways very similar to what much of main line Christianity professes.
There have been times when I just wanted to chuck it all in and walk away. It didn’t work! The truth is it didn’t and doesn’t work the way I was always taught. The feel-good religion is a lie. That’s not to say that there are no good feelings. But, the reality of the gospel message does not make me giddy. The rhythmic music and the entertaining speeches are enjoyable but they are not a help in the daily life.

Money is a little like truth. When you have 3 or 4 Benjamin’s in your pocket you know you can handle most of life’s regular situations. Truth is like that only better. To handle those daily situations you will need to sacrifice some of those Bens. To get through the day the truth is you will need to give up some other things as well.

For myself at some time I realized that my plans and my strategy was yielding some pretty unsatisfactory results. What are the alternatives? The religious system is all I have known for over 60 years. Heaven and Hell are not big motivators. A life that works; now that could get me excited. Over the years I have seen some people who seemed to be successful in their life. I am talking about success in the difficulties not without difficulties. I am talking about people like Steve Saint (The End of the Spear) or Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place). These are real people and they found their strength and their direction as they looked at Jesus. I have known some similar people as well although their lives were not filled with so much public drama, still they succeeded by looking to Jesus following his example and obeying his commands.

Jesus is much more than a Bible story. He is a real person whose life is revealed little by little throughout the Bible. I cannot know him by just reading about him. I must learn by obeying what he says, and follow the example I see in the Bible. As I am doing this I am experiencing better results. Also, as I am doing this it is requiring that I change my behavior, thoughts and attitudes in many ways I never expected or would have been willing to change. Truth demands sacrifice!

So in the mean time I am not sure where I belong when it comes to churches, but wherever I am I know that my focus is on following Jesus and learning how to obey his commands.
There are still no easy answers. J

Here is a little of how it is working, sort of, for me. In one paragraph he speaks of staying silent or shouting angrily at no one in particular (The great nameless faceless “they”) I have found or I believe God has shown me an answer to this. I do not like the answer but I believe it is the answer for me.
Isa 42:1-4 The LORD says, "Here is my servant, whom I strengthen--- the one I have chosen, with whom I am pleased. I have filled him with my Spirit, and he will bring justice to every nation. He will not shout or raise his voice or make loud speeches in the streets. He will not break off a bent reed nor put out a flickering lamp. He will bring lasting justice to all. He will not lose hope or courage; he will establish justice on the earth. Distant lands eagerly wait for his teaching."
Matthew quotes this when he is writing about Jesus in Matthew 12:18. For me this works in that as I want to be like Jesus, I need to find the way to conform my life, thoughts and attitudes to this. So for a while now I have been thinking about it. I especially think about it when things are said by those I care about that I believe are damaging things to be saying. (Facebook!) I know that mostly people do not want to be corrected. I don’t! So I get to be quiet or not respond directly. Often I simply get to pray and think about my own life. This is a response I don’t enjoy because I want to do something, but I know it is the right response. Someone may ask for my thoughts and hopefully I will be able to share them in a way that is helpful.

In the next paragraph he says he’s stuck and not making progress. I suspect that this may not be true if he is sincerely seeking. It sometimes takes a lot of work to get a garden ready to produce a good crop. In our lives as well sometimes we do a lot of work that doesn’t appear evident for some time. Sharpening the hoe and collecting seeds doesn’t look like anything in the garden patch but they are necessary, doing them is progress toward the crop. The most productive thing I have ever done in this regard is to memorize and meditate on Matthew 5:3-9. When I began and for a long time it didn’t seem like I was accomplishing anything. But as I thought about the meanings of the words I saw the wisdom and aspired to be conformed to those virtues. As I did this I suppose I was praying, and little by little I have begun to see changes. It is very slow, but it is progress.

I would dearly love to find others who want to follow Jesus and become more and more like him. I am not offended by many church services, but I am seldom helped either. It is a matter of a community sharing our struggles and accepting that we are individually in different places and that we each have our own understanding of how it works; how God wants to work in our lives. I believe following and obeying Jesus is the way and I don’t think that will change, but I am pretty sure that screaming that into your face won’t convince you and it certainly isn’t making me any more like him.

So those are some of my thoughts. I hope they are understandable and that you may find some encouragement for your life there. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I Desperately Desire to be In Church!

I desperately desire to be in church! But what does that mean? I know it seems like a simple statement that can easily be fulfilled at any of many local meeting places. But, what is church? And, how does it compare with all of those local meetings that are considered to be church?

In nearly every “church meeting” I have gone to there is a very similar pattern that is followed. First there is a “worship time”, where a single person or very small group of people decide what everyone will sing and then lead singing of their preferred genre of “worship songs”. This is not a time for discussing what songs are better. It is simply what I have seen. This is usually followed by an offering to support “The Lord’s Work” which is also determined by another small group of “leaders”. In some groups the communion service is included here, though it varies from group to group.” Then there is a “message” given by someone whose primary employment is to bring a message each week or even 3 times a week that will keep people coming back and satisfied that they are participating in “The Lord’s work.” The message will also include a strong encouragement to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior so you can go to Heaven and avoid going to Hell.

Singing songs, giving offerings, receiving communion and hearing a message of encouragement are all good things that God’s Word encourages us to be doing. But is this the pattern that is described in the New Testament for the Church to be following? I must allow that there are many similarities. However there seems to be a large disparity between how this is currently accomplished and how the Word of God describes the development of the meeting of believers.

In 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 we have a large portion of the description of how the local assemblies are to function. It is surely no accident that those 2 important chapters are surrounding the incomparable glory that is 1 Corinthians 13. Anyone who would set about to correct the majority of Christendom must absolutely recognize the gravity and necessity of charity as described in this passage or else simply slam about wounding and doing damage to the Church of God.

A large difference that I see between the modern American church and the instructions I read in the New Testament is what might be called full participation. As I have mentioned, in the popular church meeting the messages are primarily brought by a paid minister who was selected by either a small group of leaders or by a popular vote of the congregation. This person is chosen because of the college that they attended, because they are a gifted speaker, or because they have shown leadership abilities in another assembly. 1 Corinthians 14 begins with the encouragement to follow after charity and desire spiritual abilities but especially that you may prophesy. Then from verse 24 to verse 33 there are clear directions for the conduct of a meeting. I am especially aware that participation is encouraged for all. Verse 31 says “all may prophesy”. Here you may understand that by prophesy I am considering this the same as bringing the message of encouragement. I think the context supports this.

There are other aspects of the Biblical pattern for the church which could be considered at a later time if there is interest, but just now this is a good place to stop. I am sure there are some who would protest that this could not work because the general congregation lacks training to be able to express themselves. There would be error and confusion in what was shared. The problems go on and on, and they are justified. But they are not problems that the current system avoids. Yet the pattern set down in scripture is just that; The Scriptural pattern.  I and many others have seen the Scriptural pattern for meetings yield very good fruit in the lives of many. Some of the strongest admonitions for my life have come from simple testimonies of what might be called unlearned men, women, and even children who sincerely shared what they heard the Spirit telling them.