Politics or Praise, what’s in your church?

Lately I’ve been doing research for a series of posts I plan to do in regards to why young people and even some older people leave the church, the Christian church. The reasons have been many and not all that surprising for the most part. After all, those that don’t like Christianity are happy to give you the reasons on air whenever they get the chance.

I will get in to each reason later, but it recently occurred to me that they all had something in common. Those in leadership positions of the church, elected or simply held in high regard, let the members of the church down. Why, because they are looked up to as examples of what a Christian should be. The fairly new Christians, and that is of any age, often see hypocrisy occurring when people forget they are a church and begin acting as though the church is some power organization that one needs to control or be a part of.

I’ve been part of a church that went from having to park on the grass and sitting in folding chairs of a 300+ capacity church to having only 100 show up for service. All because of politics. Most often it is because someone didn’t like the pastor and when that one influential person leaves, all those that are on that person’s side, follow suit. By the way, he was an amazing pastor who got my father back into church after being out for over 30 years.

While everyone is involved in the politics, as opposed to praising and praying, the people of the church are not being fed spiritually nor being fed the knowledge of scripture. Two very important things in a Christians foundation of belief.

Another thing that happens is members see the infighting and power struggle of the church and can’t help but notice the hypocrisy occurring. The gossip, the whispers, the sometimes outright lying. The causing of conflict and discord in the church.

Those involved in the conflict are so caught up in what is happening that they don’t realize they are failing others. They see their needs as being the most important needs, but they explain this away by saying it is also best for all those in the church. Is it really?

I am a fan of the Simple Church. It is a book by Thom S. Rainer and talks about how to cut out all of those things that a church doesn’t really need. In other words, back to basics. I heard him speak on this at a SBC conference once and the end to all the headaches of what was occurring in my church looked to be in sight. I’m a peacemaker. That’s what my spiritual gift has been identified as. That is one reason a lot of my posts seem to give a bit of two sides of things and rarely have an edge to them. As the head of the Deacons, and Sunday School, and Youth Director, I embraced the Simple Church.

For us it was almost too late. But we still survive.

I am not speaking about conflict in the church just be talking. It really dose run people off. If this is all you have experienced in a church, or the majority of your time, then why would you want to stay there?

With that I give you the following passage.

Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
        haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
        a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
        a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” NIV Translation

This is a list from lowest of the things he detests to his most. Note his most despised thing, those who cause conflict or discord within the church. This doesn’t mean those who ask questions, because one who believes wants to know as much as possible and needs to know in order to be able to give answers when asked. This means those who are out for some kind of control or want to get their way in a dispute.

When whispers and gossip begins to spread and your church numbers begin to dwindle , there is something wrong. Look in the mirror and see if you have the heart of Jesus for all members of your church. If you are not happy in your church, then find another one, but leave quietly. Don’t leave with a roar in an attempt to break a church down. Because when you do, the young Christians, and I mean young as in new to being a Christian at any age, only see hypocrisy and the discord caused. They do not receive the spiritual energizing and feeding they need with their fellow Christians that is so important, especially in the early stages.

For those thinking God only spoke to the Jews in the Old Testament about conflict and lying and gossipers, check out Romans Chapter 1 and see what He says they deserve.

Finally, I give you one of my favorite verses.

Psalm 46:10

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Emphasis mine.)

This is the Old Testament and means Christians and Jews alike, should be still and remember that what we can do is finite, what God can do is infinite.

Be still can mean that people who believe they can do good works to show they are good and mighty are foolish because they do not give God the credit for their ability to achieve.

Christians should be still and observe all that God has done and can do, and realize that we shouldn’t sweat over things we can’t control. Do what is within your control, and as you do so with God’s help, you will be able to discover there are more things in your control because you have grown. This is what young Christians should be able to look forward to, not a conflict torn church that denies them the opportunity, or perhaps a young person thinking of asking Jesus into his/her heart and walks away instead because of what they see.

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It’s Sunday all over again.

Back in the day, which would be a couple of years ago now, I would spend Sundays on my blog sharing my thoughts about my faith. Please, don’t turn the channel yet. This particular post won’t exactly be faith sharing as one might think of it. It’s more like explaining, and that’s to Christians as well. We can all learn a little something we thought we knew already.

It’s Father’s Day here in the USA and in an article I read yesterday a celebrity of sorts was quoted as saying “It’s God first and family second.” I’ve seen and heard that phrase plenty during my years as a Christian, but when I read it this time, it occurred to me, for the first time, that many people probably misunderstand what that really means, including the Christians that say it. That brings me to my purpose for writing today.

I believe that a large majority of Christians today haven’t been taught properly about what being a Christian is, because I don’t see them being Christ like, and if you talk to them about Christianity, they can’t do what is called defending the faith. Meaning, they can’t explain why they are a Christian or why certain things are the way they are in the Bible. Even those who think they know it all continue to learn every day. And if they aren’t? They might need to be checked on by a brother or sister in Christ. No, there isn’t a Christ Cops airing on TV busting backsliding Baptists.

Christians are at various stages in their life as a Christian, ranging from Baby Christian, which is what I was at 23 when I was saved to Mature Christian, where I feel comfortable in saying I am now. Not telling you my age. But age don’t mean a thing when it comes to your walk with Christ. Here are some things any stage of a Christian’s maturity level in their walk and knowledge should think about when reading the Bible.  Or for non-believers who hear people quoting scripture to prove how evil Christians must be.

1) The Bible is a text book. More precisely, a History book. It’s not a book of fairy tales or approved by God events. If that were the case, the Bible would be a lot shorter. As with any text book, the author, God doesn’t have to, and most likely doesn’t, approve of every last fact in the Bible. God either directly told, as to Moses, what to write, or He inspired someone to write, as in the New Testament, those feelings and put them in to words that God approved of. Normally in the New Testament these are letters to either churches, mentors, or students who are helping a church.

2) The Old Testament is the history of the Jews and is included in the Bible to show us why Jesus had to come, and thus Christianity begins. That’s correct, Christians don’t follow the Old Testament. Christianity doesn’t begin until the New Testament. We don’t follow or believe in or even like the idea of the laws/rules that the Jews had to live by. There are some denominations of Christianity that do follow parts of the Old Testament, but they are in a very small minority but always seemed to get picked by media to represent all of Christianity.

3) All you really need are the words of Jesus to follow. If anything else in the New Testament disagrees with the words of Jesus then those words are incorrect and are just an opinion of whoever physically wrote those words. Usually the author will say, in some way, they are giving their own opinion.

4) If you are reading the Bible or hear a verse from scripture you need to keep these things in mind; where, when, and why (WWW). That goes for any historical text you might read.  I’ll give you an example. 1 Corinthians 14:34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” These are the words of Paul writing to the church in Corinth.

Where and When: Corinth, first century A.D.. Why is Corinth important? Because it is a Roman controlled city, under Roman law.

Why: Corinth is having problems with all sorts of members who are doing things to draw the attention of others.

Results of WWW: Roman law during this period forbade women from speaking in public gatherings and many other things. They couldn’t even own property. The house was their domain and that is where they were expected to talk and ask questions about anything from church to politics. Thus in order to keep the young Christian churches growing and spreading, it was important not to give Rome a reason to break up or give problems to a church. The use of the lowercase L in law is important here, as if Paul were referring to Jewish Law he would normally use the uppercase L, as he does earlier in the same portion of the text, not the lower which normally referred to Roman or local law.

I hope you see why the WWW is important to know when reading or interpreting something in the Bible. I’ve never really heard people outside of fellow Apologists who explain details like that. With Jews writing these letters, it is important to remember how important word selection and letter case is.

5) The Bible we have was put together by man. Man chose which letters and text to include in a unified book form. Constantine order for Bibles to be made for the Bishop of Constantinople and the churches in the area around the city. It is believed this may have been what prompted the idea of having just one version of the Bible that could be used, although some Bibles, even today, have a few extra books outside of what was finally decided upon. Some say it was divinely inspired as to what to include. Perhaps. I leave that for you to decide. I just know I stick to the words Jesus said, and I know I’m doing good. Although I still mess up in some way every day.

You are probably wondering what all of this has to do with “It’s God first and family second.” When many Christians see or say this, they really put God before the family in such a way that it interferes with family. The truth of it is, if you are following God, following Jesus, then you are not allowing what I call pollutants to contaminate your life and interfere with your relationship with your family. When you put God first you really are doing so in order to be a stronger and better person for your family. No, you won’t be perfect. No one ever will be. The whole point is for you to know that and keep trying, talk to God and ask for His help to give you strength to get through whatever might be giving you problems. Don’t confuse God and church as the same thing. I know people, like myself at one point, who thought if I am doing everything that I’m asked to do for the church then that’s what God wants me to do. But that can interfere with your family life. You can put God first everywhere you are and at any time.

It’s God, Family, then church.

Well, I hope I helped someone out there understand a little bit more about Christianity, at least how I see it. I’ve experienced a lot, learned a lot, and led a lot. I’ve fallen even more than all of those three put together. God isn’t about a building or what a preacher says to you or about a clique or club inside the church. God can’t be contained by a building. The only time God is in a church is when his followers are there to talk to Him, to worship Him, or praise Him. Because each believer/follower, has a bit of God in their heart.

I end with a New Testament verse that I live by and an Old Testament I live by that is still relevant for we Christians.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;” 46:10a This helped in my time of great confusion, distress, and fear. We all need to learn to be still. Pick our battles. Choose our moments. And let all the other insanity be. Do what we can, and let others do what they can, and be happy with what we have done while still living our life by living it not existing it.

The Power of Positivity.

The power of positivity. In order for it to change your life you have to understand a few things and apply it across the board.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. That was the verse I was given to study upon. Not a lot to go on there and of course I did as I always do and went to the book itself and read the verses leading up to and following it.

“12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:12-18

That’s a lot to throw at you but I liked it. It’s something I’ve reminded people from time to time when things have looked bad and they’ve looked weary at church. This always leads into questioning about what good is happening in life. The bad things can be powerful because they can loom large. One reason problems can be large is because we give so much power to things. It’s like when you have that one favorite TV show and you MUST see it every week. Then it gets cancelled. You feel it’s the end of the world. But then what happens? You find a new favorite.

But sometimes big things are big things. You still can’t let them control your entire life. The worry about them affects the other areas. Eventually that one thing ends up destroying everything else.

You know, some people like to use that old idea of a grain of sand turning into a pearl when they talk about how an irritant can bring about something wonderful. Well, that irritant is in one spot, it doesn’t move around to all areas of the oyster. The oyster lives a fine and happy life with a pearl.

It’s a struggle to work against the negative. Or it can be. Put with practice, focusing on the positive, you end up having the positive weed its way into the negative areas. It’s always better to go into a job interview with a good and positive attitude than a negative one.

Ronovan

Romans 1:16

Change your mind…change your life.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (James 3:9-10)

One way to change your life is to change your mind. One sign of a changing mind is a changing tongue. Years ago I was a swearer. I wasn’t a major profanity person but I used some language. And yes, I was a Christian then too. Then I found out I was going to be a father so I made the decision to change. If I was going to tell my child to be a certain way, shouldn’t I be the living example of that way?

To do this I made certain to not fill my life with things that were filled with what I didn’t want. I changed my music listening, reading, TV viewing. No, I didn’t become a fanatic about it, but I did make deliberate decisions. An example would be TV. If a show happened to have a bad word in it as part of a scene because the scene was emotional or something, okay, I got it. If the whole show was laced with it, and had scenes that sensationalized things it shouldn’t, I stayed away.

The same thing went for music. Although for that I mostly went to Contemporary Christian music. I like it. I still listen to my old 80s music for fun. And there are some music acts I like even now. But I still heed my initial parameters. And let me tell you, it is sad when you hear a song with a good beat and then they start in with the language or sexist or derogatory content.

You can’t be two minds on a matter or it comes out in your language. If you give lip service to a subject you will get found out. People like to think you are what you are. No, you are what you turn yourself into. It’s been over a decade since I made myself a promise to watch my language. I continue to fulfill that promise. I’m still cautious of my viewing and listening indulgences. I figure if I’m not participating, that’s one less vote, so to speak, for that type of content.

Do you think you can change your life by changing your mind? Can you change your views of the world by changing your mind? Pick something this week that you know you shouldn’t be doing or saying and work at altering your life by finding out why you say that and then stop. For me, I found that by not having all those music and TV influences I was able to easily stop using language, even when people around me at work were using it. See what you can do this week.

Much Respect

Ronovan

It isn’t that easy.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)

If you’ve been visiting my site long enough you may have seen that verse before. It’s what I call my Life Verse. I have a couple of them. If you’re a Christian you’ve probably been asked what you’re Life Verse is. Imagine if you’re in your 20s, have been a Christian for like 2 years and are asked that. Your first thought is, “No one said that I had to have one of those when I got dunked in the water!”

You have to be careful and not just throw out any old verse.

A few readers have already clicked away by now, but the rest of you will find out what I’m writing about today.

I just finished going through one of those lists things, you know like ’10 Famous People Who Eat Chalk’ or ’23 Celebrities Who Used to be Famous’.

This was one about celebrities that we didn’t know were atheists.

There were some sad revelations: 1) I didn’t know who some of the people were, 2) Some are agnostic, not atheist (It’s okay to have questions.), and 3) Some you could just see being a Christian gets in the way of what they want in life.

One of the things that sparked me to write is what one person said. It was something like “It would be great if I were a Christian, then I could do anything and ask for forgiveness and be okay.”

That’s the voice of someone who hasn’t lived as a real Christian. When I do something wrong, yeah, I ask for forgiveness, but I don’t feel okay. You see, I’ve disappointed  God and insulted Jesus’s sacrifice. (And yes, you are supposed to put an ‘s for possessive when the name ends in s, I looked it up. Although either way is socially acceptable. Thus ends the editor voice version of me.) You can let a lot of people down and feel okay, you can get over it. But when you’ve done something bad, even if you get away with it, God knows, and you know God knows. Even when you say “Sorry!” you know God still knows.

It perturbs me when I see people speaking about the ease of Christianity. If I were not a Christian I would only have to deal with myself in those moments. I could forgive myself and move on. Now, I don’t wallow in my wrong doings. I know they are there. They come back to me at times. No, God isn’t reminding me. I remind myself because I know the injustice I’ve done to the one that made it possible for me to live without having to deal with what death brings. I will stand before God and answer for what I’ve done. The gifts in Heaven God had for me will be taken from for each of my wrong doings. But I will still be in Heaven. Even if all the gifts are gone, as long as I have one tiny spot in Heaven, I’m good.

Even that, I don’t DESERVE. Christians live like anyone else, except we carry a load that others shake off at times. If any Christian says they don’t have a load to carry then I would question them a little. I am able to lighten my load through prayer, Bible study, and trying to live my daily life the way I think Jesus would have me do it. Things will still happen to me here on Earth. Problems will still be faced. Sadness will still come. But I know at the end I’ll be good.

So it saddens me when I see comments about how easy it is. It saddens me to see people not wanting to be Christian because they don’t agree with something in the Bible. There’s a lot I don’t agree with but I understand the why of it during the time of it. That mainly applies to the Old Testament. You might realize at this time I am a New Testament guy. Jesus came to fulfill what was said in the Old Testament, about all those laws and things. Christians really have one law these days, follow Jesus. If you are a follower of his then you do what he taught. And he taught pretty good stuff. He’s the one that argued with the people who misinterpreted the Old Testament. He’s the one that helped people on the Sabbath. He’s the one that ate with the undesirable people of the time.

It isn’t easy inside or even out these days. Saying you’re a Christian can make people treat you differently, make jokes happen, bring about frowns. But I take it all in stride. That’s one thing that is easy with God. With God, you can face anything with a smile and head held up.