Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Day God Put His Existence On The Line!

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 NIV

I never know what will get me thinking but on Wednesday night, I was asked if I wanted to comment on this passage and having decided many years ago now that I would take advantage of every opportunity, whether right, wrong, or totally ignorant on the topic and state my current belief, I gave a short and incomplete answer. On Thursday and Friday the topic kept going through my mind and I discovered a thought in the back of my I have never expressed or even considered. The thought, resulting in the title of these comments came when I began, once again, considering what I believed about Jesus.

I believe the day in question, is the day Jesus was born. I know that I am way out on a limb, but I believe God sent his Son, the second part of the Trinity, to become flesh. I have known people who believe Jesus came to earth 100% God, 50% man and God, 100% man until a specific point in His ministry, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met a person who believes this second part of the Trinity became 100% man, from birth to death on the cross. This is exactly where I come down in my belief, at least until I discover something convincing me of something else.

Two beliefs coming from scripture currently weigh most convincingly on me as the foundation for this belief. First, is the statement of the Word becoming flesh and even though I have no knowledge of translation details, this strongly encourages me to see a change that has taken place for the individual we call Son or Jesus. In my mind, it is a change of existence. I believe all of the characteristics we recognize about God have now changed and become completely man with all of the characteristics common to man. I believe all qualities of eternal, omnipotent, omniscience, etc. were left behind and Jesus in now subject to all of the same conditions as man. The statement of God not being able to be tempted comes into play next as a foundation for this belief. We are told how Jesus was tempted in every way as man and in my mind, I have to believe Jesus cheated when tempted if He was God, simply represented as man in the flesh.

I believe most of the challenge coming to this belief comes from the “power” Jesus had to heal, control, the elements of nature and know things only someone with the characteristics of God could possess. All of these things can be argued, but I will simply admit to the wonder of miracles coming forth from Jesus during His time on earth as a man. My solution is the power of God coming from the Father. At the time of raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus says, “I know you hear me but I’m saying this so everyone else knows.” We also know how God has given various characters the same power to work miracles from the beginning of time and so for Him to give Jesus miraculous powers does not surprise me in the least.  In Luke 2:52, we are told Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man. Am I the only one who objects to the concept of God being able to grow in wisdom, stature and favor of God? It seems ridiculous to me to claim God improves in relation to God. This would be true for any part of the Trinity.

The story jumps forward in the life of Jesus and we come to Matthew 3:17 NIV. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” During my lifetime, I have often struggled with the need for Jesus to be baptized and John seems to have the same struggle because he like myself had associated baptism with only the forgiveness of sin and Jesus had no sin to forgive! The more I’ve studied, the more baptism has come to represent the visual statement of who I am and the choice I’ve made to accept the plan of God given to mankind through the Messiah Jesus! Our Messiah says He is in need of baptism to fulfill all righteousness, the very righteousness of God. I have come to believe Jesus was baptized for exactly the same reason we are to submit to baptism. We are visually placing our faith in the plan of God through Jesus and totally buying into the plan God has for the salvation of all mankind. Jesus has grown in wisdom, stature and favor with God and at this very moment, He has decided to show He is completely buying into the plan set forth and to His Father, has now committed Himself 100% to the fulfillment of all He knows will come to pass, even His death on the Cross! How can our Father in Heaven not burst forth with joy, making the heavens open up, the dove descend and then make His proclamation of extreme encouragement to His SON? I know it is an extreme thought, but I believe this to be the sign God and all of creation was awaiting to insure the very existence of creation and the Creator!

When I use the word existence, it definitely shows a change in belief from what I was raised with and believed well into my adult life. For most of my life, I held strongly to the belief of man possessing an eternal soul which would go to heaven to be with God for evermore if baptized and found “faithful.” If I was not “found faithful,” I would be cast into hell on the final day to be tortured for all eternity as the penalty for my sin. My study of what I originally thought was “limited” information in scripture on the topic has since led me to see how much this is an extreme blasphemy on the character of God as our traditional belief actually turns our Father into some cruel beast making the loud proclamation of God actually being less loving and compassionate than 99.99% of all mankind! How can this be and how can we even suggest this application to our Creator? In our society, a great deal of society calls the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment. If I were to suggest a better penalty using the example of what God has planned for the sinner being to torture them to the point just prior to death and never allowing death to take place, I would likely be locked up as the most wicked of all men and a danger to society.

Consumed with the topic for the past ten years or so, I have come to believe God’s plan for the wicked is total destruction on that last day. I have come to believe we do not possess a soul, but rather according to the scripture, we became a living soul. The living soul, the very essence of who we are will either be destroyed or given eternal life on that last day. This brings me back to Jesus and the next belief came to me when attending the Rethinking Hell Conference in Houston a few years ago and listening to a professor who believed in the universal salvation of all people and none getting punished on the last day. He had several things that a person believing in what I have just expressed would have to believe if they were to be consistent in their belief and it had to do with the price Christ paid for our sin. I realized during the lecture how I had to accept the existence of Christ actually ceased with His death on the cross. Yes, the second part of the Trinity was no more! I know this to be an extreme thought but in comparison to believing Jesus adequately paid the price for all sin by being tortured for three days hardly equals the penalty even one of us would pay for if destined to a torturing hell for all of eternity. It is not hard to see our price for sin would be much more severe than the price Jesus paid for all sins everywhere throughout time.

Yes, I believe Jesus experienced death in exactly the same way all of us will experience death when we come to the end of our life. I believe as fully man He ceased to exist with the last breath of his body and the last beat of His heart and we, mortal man, will cease to exist in the same way. The BIG difference is found in Jesus going to the first death free of sin and not accountable to the second death on the great day yet to come. He was raised, the “first fruit” from the grave, having EARNED the reward of eternal life, not only for Himself but for all of those who become heirs through the plan of God in Jesus.

If there is any merit in my last statement, then there is also an unstated possibility. If Jesus earned the right to eternal life in facing the first death sinless, then His very existence on earth declares a willingness to who He was, GOD on the line for us. I almost come to tears even now when I think of God loving us so much He gave us His only son. If what I currently believe is accurate, the level of God’s love for us has just shot up exponentially as the possibility exists for failure. Yes, I believe failure would have ended up with God facing the second death on the final day, and yes, the result being found in the loss of existence.

We all know how the story came out and the joy we look forward to on the last day because of what Jesus accomplished when He went to the first death without sin and so now, I can finish my comment on 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, which was challenged based on the “timeline.” I also have the benefit of what I believe is the importance of expressing a belief so you can further your learning when challenged.

Jesus, with His success, is now at the right hand of God reigning supreme. In Revelation 20:14-15 we are told, Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.Our next view in Revelation is of the “new” Jerusalem coming down to be with God forever more. The last enemy, death, has been destroyed along with the wicked who are not found in the Lamb’s book of life. Here is where my mind goes wandering off into what I see as never being stated and yet has become a current belief held based on the challenge received on Wednesday night. I don’t believe Jesus ever assumed His eternal existence and completeness of being God as part of the Trinity, but rather had all power and authority given to Him from the Father. Yes, the first one in line on that last day to receive eternal life will be Jesus! Through Him and under His authority, His book has been delivered up with our names and so we will join Him, heirs with Him for all eternity. I believe, He will be Jesus, exactly in the resurrected form as we will be given when raised and given eternal life. When this happens, He will return all power and authority to the Father where there will no longer be the existence of the Trinity Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in apposition to the rest of us, but as the passage ends, Jesus will take His place with us, having given up His position in the Trinity to become man, and God will be all in all!

As the Trinity was one in the beginning, I believe we all will exist as one with God when time ceases to exist.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Just a Thought from Reading - (Our tent, Our Mansion, With God Forever!)

I love it when I am listening in a bible class, reading the bible, or reading something from an outside source about the bible and my mind takes a detour of thought. Having begun a study of the apostle Paul in our Sunday morning bible class, I want to be reading on my own so my learning might be more fruitful. I have and incredible teacher, Lanny Partain, who is always successful in getting my mind flowing. In the direction he might like is not always a given, but I fully believe he simply wants people to think about God. 

The reading I have been doing (ever so slowly since the writing is way above my head) is from N. T. Wrights book, "Paul, The Faithfulness of God." While difficult to read from my almost non-existent background in theology, he does stir my thought and when combined with Sunday morning class this morning, the tangent is exciting and I believe plausible, even if it is no more than a figment of my imagination.

In the second chapter of his book, N.T. Wright is discussing the worldview of Paul and describes the temple as Paul would have most likely understood in his development. He expresses the temple as being a microcosm of creation where the heavens and earth come together and God is with His people on the throne. As I understand things, the original creation has God with Adam and all is well prior to sin entering the garden. The temple desired by David and built by his son Solomon becomes God's dwelling place with His people and represents (in my understanding of what is written) a time when creation will be back as planned with God living once again in the midst of HIs people. Paul like other faithful Jews, is awaiting the time when all is made new and his job on earth is to continually prepare and nurture people back into being the faithful people finally out of bondage to this world of sin. 

Coming to mind is this passage from 2 Corinthians 5:4 NIV

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

It catches my attention because it seemed to speak to me of the same thing being represented in Wright's book regarding bondage. In a way, we have what is described as a tent and this is only a preliminary dwelling as we move toward the final heavenly dwelling with God. I definitely see our earthly (bondage body) now and the free and perfect covering/body when we are rewarded with eternal life with God.

My mind immediately went to a song I sang just a few days ago, "I've Got a Mansion," and thoughts went even further. Some translations us the word rooms in John 1:14, but the ASV used the word, mansions.

In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 

I can't even begin to consider how many times I've been told the concept described concerning our final dwelling with God is so wonderful the writers simply could not put things in to adequate words for us to know how special things would be. While in my youth, I often dreamed and thought of how wonderful it would be to get to Heaven and we would sing the songs about how wonderful Heaven must be. Like many, I dreamed of my spirit going to God at death as is taught and believed by many still today. As I began reading and trying to understand for myself what was being said, I gradually gave up the concept of existing for all eternity because of what I had been taught was "included" in the concept of being made in the image of God and took on a belief which I think is more in line with what the bible actually says. As I have been so many times, I might be wrong on this too, but the bible seems to tell me that only God is eternal and His gift to us on judgment day will be eternal life. Until then, I have the promise of being eternal with Him and nothing more.

I read Revelation 21:1-4 and I no longer dream of going to Heaven, but rather being with God, much like I think Wright is telling us about Paul looking forward to a time when all will be new and right with creation once again.

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

After leaving class this morning, I was excited because I knew I had come to looking forward to the time when I would be given eternal life and a perfect "heavenly" body, but what I had not considered prior to class this morning was the community of God in the final setting when all is as it should be. The thoughts came from the discussion of the church and how we are members of the one body of Christ. The community of Christ tasked with making the will of God done on earth as it is in Heaven and all the while figuratively walking around in the desert (bondage of our current situation and need for a tent) one step closer to the "Promised Land!"

As far as I understand, God never returned to the temple and to me, right now, Revelation 21 speaks of the next time (final time) when God will be HOME and all will be as planned by our Heavenly Father. The body of Christ, the Community of God all together in one place for all eternity. In my reasoning, it is a grand thought and yet, the most exciting part was what came next in my thinking.
The community of God will no longer be wandering in the desert but in the house of God where in the translation from ASV there will be many mansions. Whether simple fantasy of thought or reality,
we will no longer be clothed in a tent. We will be clothed in a MANSION!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Did Jesus Pay the Price For My Sin?

This is one of the questions I can answer right from the start according to my belief structure. Yes, Jesus paid the full price necessary to pardon me from my sin. It should be a really short question and answer statement but after being in worship with my church family this morning, I couldn’t get these thoughts out of my mind because what I was taught growing up would not allow me to answer this question with a YES!

I am used to the concept of crime and the punishment to fit the crime. From a very young age, this mischievous guy began to experience the pain of a belt used on my bottom for things I said and did around the house to the fines I had to pay for tickets received while driving. Speaking of a ticket, I would show up in court on the day assigned and discover how much I had to pay. In the days prior to my commercial license, I could even satisfy the debt by taking defensive driving. Regardless of the situation, I was guilty and paid the price. While it never happened to me, I have seen parents reach into their pockets and pay the price for their teenager and this brings me to the point of confusion with Jesus paying the price according to the “biblical” view I was raised to understand. When the parent pays the price, the judge doesn’t look over and say, “Oh, if you are paying the price for your child, you may pay this lesser amount!” It just does not happen and so I can’t accept it happening when Jesus paid the price for me.

While the best of my reading in the Bible tells me the wages (penalty) of sin is death, I was taught something quite different. I was taught the bible said death but that God had something far worse in mind for me if I was to continue the life of sin! Oh, nothing would be a simple as death but instead I would be tortured in the fires of hell for all eternity! This concept had its effect on me and scared me enough to “obey the gospel” as all of my bible teachers and preachers exclaimed. From an honest desire (I believe) to impress upon me the need to have a relationship with God, I was taught I had been created with a soul that would live forever and my choice was whether I wanted to spend that forever being tortured or in Heaven where all pain and tears ceased to exist. Wow, what kid having felt the sting of earthly punishment on his behind, would not want to be in Heaven without pain. I thought my Papa was the finest man on earth and yet, he also while standing next to a large fire impressed upon me how much he want to make sure I never felt the fires of hell because standing beside a fire at a distance to feel the burning was nothing like actually being in the fire and never being able to get out.

It would be my hope that my question at the top now has another aspect of reasoning. While it might just be another paradox alluding my understanding, how can the punishment for me without Jesus be more than Jesus paid? He rose on the third day and this makes me believe He did not undergo the torture of hell for all eternity. Am I to belief Jesus gets a pass on the full price or that some “game” is being played out where the guilty are punished more severely because they chose not to accept the payment by someone else?
When thinking of this, I immediately think of the criminals on trial who might have done some incredibly wicked thing several times and as the verdict is handed down, I hear, “because of this verdict, you will be given life in prison with no parole. On the second charge you will be given life in prison with no parole and on the third charge you will also be given life in prison with no parole.” It seems rather “stupid” to me, but in cases like this we might often hear the phrase, “these penalties will be served back to back or simultaneously.”

According to the best of my human reasoning, which might prove faulty, I fail to see how Jesus paid the complete debt for all of humanities sin with even three days in the hell when I am told the wicked will face torture at judgment lasting for all of eternity. Much like the crusades being a terrible and destructive force against Christianity, I fully believe the concept of torment taught to me as a child is even more destructive to those needing and wanting the salvation offered by God through His son Jesus, who I believe fully paid the price!

Having stated my belief of Jesus completely paying the price for my sin and the sin of everyone else, I wish only to help others realize how easy it is to reconcile a complete payment for sin. To get to this point in my life, I had to completely rethink everything I had been taught concerning heaven and hell and I’m not even sure I know how long this has consumed my thinking over the last 5-10 years.

First, I was taught that a part of me was eternal and would live forever instead of what I believe the bible teaches of us being created by God who has always desired for us to be reconciled back to Him so He can reward us with an eternal existence. I believe eternal life, living forever is a gift to those He calls His own and will be received as a gift!

Second, I believe the lost will die for good at judgment. They will have no hope of being resurrected again or having any part in life for all of eternity. It will be a punishment with the eternal consequence of no longer existing! If we take our “heritage filters” off, I believe this is exactly what we get from what is said in the Bible.

Third, I believe Jesus gave put up His own eternal existence to come to earth as a man and earn, not only His own eternity with His Father but ours as well!

Fourth, Jesus was convicted by man and sentenced to die. I believe He was put to death and ceased to exist just like I believe will happen to the wicked on judgment day. (I find myself out on a limb by myself with this one having never heard anyone exclaim the same thing and yet it is my “current” belief)

Fifth, the glorious thing is that DEATH had no power over Him because He was innocent of ALL charges. While men put Him to death, God who is faithful resurrected/recreated Him giving Him the gift of eternal life He chose to turn down for all of us. He was only the FIRST of many, having fully died for ALL SIN!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Issue I See Being Missed in the Same Sex Marriage Decision

I would suggest as I start to write my thoughts, how the issue of same sex marriage will be seen from each side as they have always seen it in the past. While I assume this is the case, I will pray for people to see the issue as God would want them to see. The sad thing, is that I nor anyone writing on the subject has the mind and knowledge to know the absolutes of God’s mind and without such knowledge, I believe we can only do our best to approach God as much like He would like us to be.

As I have read various comments and listened to many people talk and discuss the decision by our Supreme Court recently, I find myself disgusted because I just don’t think our Supreme Court has any business dealing with this issue defining marriage. It is my belief they have been manipulated to side against the dominant religious beliefs of our country, thinking they are protecting the rights of those outside of this thought. Instead of addressing the issue of how same sex couples were being treated in society, relative to work, health benefits, and other options available to married heterosexuals, they chose to redefine a word having been defined way before modern civilization.

In dealing with the issues common in the discussion, I continue to hear and see the idea of various sins not being taken as seriously as the sin of homosexuality. Various references have been made to the many things in the Bible we are told are sinful disgusting behaviors and yet the emphasis is always that Christians are simply pushing a hateful agenda against homosexual people and the decision by court was viewed as a victory by many. Yes, there are many people far to the left and right of this issue and in both camps, there is absolute hate toward each other.

As a Christian, I feel really bad for anyone who embraces sin in their lives and I believe this is what the context of the biblical passages put forth on both sides deal with when we hear that “these will not inherit the kingdom of God!” As I said earlier, I am not gifted with the mind of God and it is also not my position on earth to judge another and tell them they are lost. On the other hand, I do feel it is my position to stand and confirm my belief of what constitutes sin when faced with the challenge to be accepting of sin or embrace it myself. I also think this would definitely influence who I hired and who I chose to work for in my daily life. I’ve heard people say, “I was born this way,” and I always want to reply, “You are absolutely correct because we were all born to be challenged by sin and Satan will find the one that tempts you the most.”

I mentioned embracing sin earlier and I see this as a major issue concerning some homosexual individuals. As a Christian, I do not wake up each day to harass people about the sin in their life or mistakes I think they might be making because I am challenged daily by the temptation of sin in my life and the mistakes I make regularly. Having spent time in the position of restaurant manager and more time as a teacher, I’ve seen much sadness and hurt from choices people make. I’ve known workers coming to work each day and stealing a little at a time from the company. I’ve known of those who “secretly” led a life of sexual frolicking and drunkenness away from school and work. I’ve suspected and later became aware of teachers with drug problems. It seems like we hear of some teacher almost weekly who can’t resist the temptation of their students as sexual partners and yet each of these people WAS BORN THAT WAY! The difference, in my opinion, is that they are discovered when they lose the struggle of temptation and we don’t see them out embracing and lobbying for the rights to be considered normal. As a Christian employer, do I maintain people who come to work drunk, on drugs, to steal, to curse constantly, to be sexually promiscuous, who dress obscenely, and many others. No, while I feel for them and know God still loves them, I can’t embrace who they are when they are around me.

Having said all of this, I do not fear the homosexual community any more than I fear those who I believe are making other mistakes in their lives. What I fear is the natural result of hate and personal selfishness. I believe this decision has opened the gate for the assertion of “rights” at a much higher level than we have already seen in the past and I will not even be allowed any decision to live the life I think I should strive towards as a Christian. I’ve always held that a private business should have the right to serve anyone they wish and for any reason, even if it is extreme prejudice! I hear someone talk about a great eating establishment and I’m instantly ready to give them a try. Someone else tells me about a bad experience they had at another place, and I’m very hesitant to walk through the doors. If a private business has enough bad publicity, they will not be in business very long.  If I want to petition an openly gay person from attending the neighborhood public high school or university, I should be told to mind my own business because they have as much right to be there as I do. If on the other hand, ian openly gay person wants to attend a private Christian school with a belief contrary to homosexual behavior, the school should be allowed to deny admission. I say “openly,” because I currently work for a private Christian school and have never heard anyone question someone as to their “orientation” and believe it possible or likely for someone attracted physically to those of their own sex to be attending private Christian schools.

When I think of my church family, I wonder how all of this will affect our future as a Christian denomination. I’ve seen people for years simply welcome people into our services regardless of who they might be. I’ve even championed the idea that if you are looking for perfect people you have come to the wrong place because we are struggling in our own lives and simply come together for strength and encouragement. The odd part of this scenario is that we pray and support people in their daily commitment to stay away from their sin. I’ve known leaders in the church who were alcoholics and not always successful in their attempts to remain sober. I’ve known those with drug problems and again, not always successful in their attempts. All of these people recognize their sin before God and are working not to be that person. I have also known one homosexual falling into the same category of working to be “what I believe God wants them to be,” and yet I fear those I know who want to control the church community and establish for all that sex between individuals of the same sex is normal and God ordained love.

The word love brings an entirely different thought forward because all of us are to love with the most powerful form of love towards everyone regardless of being male or female. Can we define love any more powerful than the love God had for us to give us His son as a sacrifice and then for Jesus to match the love of His father and actually go to the cross willingly so we could be forgiven our sins? Over the past days, I can’t even imagine how many times I’ve heard something concerning love wins! No one has ever been forbidden to love someone and I would say the truest love is much deeper and purer than sexual love! I heard one individual on a news story say this ruling was much more than sex because he would now be able to be there at the bedside of XXXXXX when he was needed. Does the definition of marriage need to be changed to guarantee someone the ability to aid, assist, or love an ill or dying person?

I guess what really begins to irritate me is the idea that someone wants to change my religious perspective so that I accept what is being done as being in accordance with God’s will. I even heard a statement to that effect on the news recently of how God was now pleased. I’ve been a “caustic” Christian and had many things I was taught as a youth destroyed and while I might have fought all the way, I came to a new understanding. My real struggle now is the belief of not being able to believe, speak and act on the things I think are right before God.

I’ve been rambling to get the thoughts out of my head and yet my realization is how the government, once again stepping in to “solve” an issue, has done more harm than good. Our founding fathers did not give us the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness but basically said these were ours as rights from God. I believe our Supreme Court, much less in ability of mind than our founding fathers, has now established the right not to be offended by the beliefs of others. Instead of holding true to the concept of never being able to please all of the people all of the time, they decided we will pick our group to please.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Give God the Glory

I did this, I did that, I will do, I can do. When will it al end and when will we take ideas of being in control of anything and toss them in the trash. Not to be a Universalist, I would say we choose our destiny even though we don’t control our destiny. (Not sure why I just wrote that or even sure of what it might mean. It may be a condition of my past teaching, something relatively new, or a combination but I do not believe our prayers for the healing of us or another person have anything to do with the healing or non-healing taking place. I also believe the words; “God has answered our prayers” is effectively stealing the glory from God.

Yes, I know we have been told to pray on all things, to make our desires known, and to pray with the expectation of our prayers being answered. Misunderstood, I’ve also been told several times how sad it is that I don’t believe prayer does any good or simply that I don’t believe in prayer. Not believing in prayer, would be the same for me as saying I don’t believe in God. None of this is true and I definitely believe God brings healing to people. I’ve seen in my own life where there can be no answer but the intervention of God in what has taken place. My problem comes with the thought of some who think my prayer might be the reason behind the healing and often, it may not be just the prayer I offer, but also the prayers of many others praying.

I sincerely believe we do incredible damage to the Christian walk of others by teaching them our prayers can/will bring about healing. Almost every day I hear people tell others to lift it up to God and it will go away. If not this statement, I hear people asking for the prayers of others to make pain go away or healing take place. While I can find and fully accept many positive aspects of these prayers, we teach something I am convinced is the manipulation of what prayer actually does by Satan to create doubt and frustration with God. I believe we are teaching a lie and when “apparently” abandoned without healing, the faith of the individual often takes a hit, as they feel betrayed by the promise of God. This “promise of God” is actually little more than the wishful thinking of man superimposed on the promise of God.

I was once foolish enough to buy into the attempts of men and women to explain why healing did not take place. The idea I have been told most often growing up in the church, is that God always answers prayer but sometimes His answer is NO! If this does not do the job, then we were always taught to pray, “your will be done and not mine,” or the basic “cop out,” “if it is your will.” If we are taught something long enough, it becomes the truth. I currently believe two things about prayer. First, all prayer has a positive quality, which includes not only the person praying but also a person being prayed for and so I would encourage everyone to keep praying for others. Second, is how I believe we know the will of God and the prayers offered within His will, will ALWAYS happen as promised by God. Example: We know it is the will of God for us to avoid and say no to sins that challenge us each day. If I am a drunkard, and I am going to be around a lot of alcohol, I can acknowledge to God how I know it is His will that I not be falling off of my promise to remain sober and how I need His strength to get me through the day without falling. I have tried these prayers myself and encouraged others to see if the armor of God does not surround them when praying like this to the point of not even being mildly challenged in difficult situations. I am almost totally convinced that our fall back into any sin wanting control over us is due to us not taking the challenge to God on a regular basis and simply falling prey to Satan because the “shielding” power of the Holy Spirit has been dropped.

The basis for my problem accepting the most common believe concerning prayer comes from what I have to believe in order to accept the common belief. I have to first believe God is a respecter of persons. Yes, God likes some people better than others or the prayers of some are simply better worded or more fervent to change His mind. I’ll let the those holding the most common believe tell the young couple watching their baby die a painful death how they had not prayed enough for their baby as they watch the baby in the next bed scooped up and loved with a healing and the constant statements claiming, “our prayers have been answered!” I can’t believe how cruel we make this time for others because we have set them up to question God. Hearing how the death of your child was God’s will has to be one of the most torturous things we can say and as I near the end of these thoughts, I want to say again, I believe in prayer and also how it is very powerful.

I believe God heals because it is His plan in action! He is doing something He needs done and the only way it is going to happen is by stopping Satan dead in his tracks and over turning the “ruler of this world.” God doesn’t like one or the other better and the prayers from one group or the other are not better. Simply put, for God’s will to be done healing must take place. When this is done, let us not be so quick to take the glory for ourselves, but instead, give glory to God because His will is being done on earth as it is in Heaven! (Out of context I know but the thought coming to mind)

I didn’t spend time talking about all the things I believe are accomplished in prayer, my beliefs on why we were told to pray, or the promised power we share when praying in the will of God but possibly I will share these thoughts at a later time when I’ve focused away from what I consider is a harmful attitude towards prayer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Church of Christ Miracle

The title on these thoughts might seem a bit ridiculous but I grew up in this fellowship and was taught the age of miracles was over when the apostles were gone. Through the ages I believe the Holy Spirit has continued to work miracles for God’s people. This has happened even though our leaders and those writing commentaries on the Bible have declared otherwise to those of us with less understanding than themselves.

I was sitting in a chapel gathering of our students recently when this title came into my thoughts and the prompt came from watching the young children, who were being trained to lead a small short worship time to God. Watching the little boys get up to read from the Bible or lead a prayer, I suddenly realized my fellowship has always been this way. I even had a flashback to an email I received recently describing how our young men led a short devotional service for the chapel honoring our seniors.

When I think back on the years I’ve experienced growing up in the Churches of Christ, I can remember programs and special classes to train the young boys to be Christian men and eventually grow into church leaders capable of preaching, praying, leading songs, distributing communion trays, etc. Basically, as I look back, they were being taught how to “run/rule” the church organization. Some might think I’ve forgotten the little girls but with the little girls, the miracle is realized and mentioned shortly.

In every case I’ve known, the instructions to the boys dealt with the mechanics of what I now consider “artificial” worship, much like what was taking place in the time of Amos and focused on getting things right. To lead a prayer, the young man was instructed to include comments regarding care of the sick, the ability or leadership of the elders, thankfulness for Jesus, thankfulness for those meeting “at this place,” and other suggestions. We were also reminded to ask for the forgiveness of sins and officially close the prayer with, “in Jesus name, Amen.”
I’m surprised the thoughts I have now never entered my mind because there have been several occasions when hearing someone pray, I think something like, “ I wish I could pray like that, or wow, it is easy to tell they have a real relationship with God.”

Having written these words, I am convinced our efforts in the church to train our children up, have possibly been more heavily influenced by the “father of lies” instead of the God we believe sent His son for us. We have been teaching the mechanics of man made traditions of worship and passing them off as the true nature of what God wants from us.  We have been teaching a system of worship void of the heart where we place our trust in the confidence of doing things right.

When my fellowship took the time to teach our young girls, a different approach was taken. They were not taught the “proper” way to lead a prayer, singing or communion. They were not taught to organize their thoughts for a great message preached to the masses. Our young girls were taught to be SUBMISSIVE. They were taught to see others as more important than themselves (meaning men) but becoming a trait in most relationships. They were taught to be caregivers, kindly helping those in need. Our girls were taught to sacrifice their desires for others. There was a constant reminder on the need to control their behavior and to value purity.

When I began placing these thoughts on paper (yes pencil and paper because I like to review my rough draft when going to computer), I was only thinking of the irony we face trying to do God’s will as we work through the design of men. We want our children to grow up and become men and women of god and yet we use our traditional view of what this looks like in their training. In the beginning of this writing, I started by thinking the Church of Christ Miracle was how our women often grow up to be the most God like in their relationship with God and doing so without all of the training and opportunities given to our young boys. They learn to develop an intense and real relationship with God completely from the heart and many of the “trained” men simply develop a superficial relationship of serving God through various acts of man-made worship on Sunday. The miracle I considered was how the Holy Spirit used our concept of training proper “Church of Christ Women” to actually become women of God.

My question coming to mind now, is should we not throw out the gender based boy/girl roles WE created and teach our young men the lessons we traditionally teach the young girls? Then, it may be possible to grow up a generation of men and women of God. The true Church of Christ miracle is not what I started with but, instead, the reality of any young man growing up and developing a true, from the heart, relationship with God. What a wonderful miracle that we have any Men of God!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Shall We Listen to Jesus or Man?

Is it not written of Jesus telling us he would send the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things? Is it also not written of Jesus claiming some put their trust in the scripture than the one revealed in scripture? In my heritage, I grew up being taught the Bible is the authority over our lives and if we wished to have the promise of eternal life given to us at judgment, all we needed was to be found in the Bible. Failure to follow the Bible accurately enough would result in the eternal torture of hell. Read, study, and memorize so that we would miss nothing and not be trapped into the deceit of Satan.

Actually, I now believe Satan has used and continues to use our Bible to place our trust, even today in scripture rather than the one revealed in scripture. I still hear religious leaders encouraging us to spend time daily with the Word of God (meaning the Bible) and while the Bible is a great place to begin, I would suggest the actual Word of God is much more than the Bible and actually the very embodiment of Jesus! Did John not say, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God?” Where is our trust or should we say, “Satan get behind me?”

I would encourage my readers not to read much “into” my statements as I claim now to place much more of an equal importance of the Bible and the writings of writers like my current favorite, All Maxey, who offers weekly reflections to thousands of readers. I don’t mind saying I believe he and others (I’ve told him as much) are inspired writers for God in every sense of the word as we use it when referring to the writers in the Bible like Paul and the apostles. As I’ve written before, I’m surprised my fellowship ever accepted the Bible as we have it today because it was compiled hundreds of years following the time when my fellowship claimed direct interaction by God ceased.

I’ve often been accused of having to be right and my present answer is yes, but different than you might think. I believe our elevation of the Bible to “supreme” authority comes from our human desire/nature to have control over our own salvation in a legal “right” sense. We can’t accept two people being right before God if they believe differently on any number of subjects. Human nature, the one controlled by Satan would have us believe salvation is only available to those accurately knowing, understanding, and following the Bible and it is always “my” understanding because the tow of us can’t possibly be right.

Looking outside of the text to the one revealed in the text, I now believe our “rightness” before God demands the identical application of forgiveness from Jesus rather than the identical identity of the one being forgiven. Yes, I believe the only way to the Father is through Jesus. What I refuse to believe (at least right now) is that I or any other man or woman has the power to do any more in the process than point others to the one revealed. They don’t need the accuracy of our message, but rather the accuracy of Jesus forgiveness through the cross and the decision of God to forgive with the blood of His son.

In conclusion and to focus back on the title of these thoughts, I believe the Bible is the work of inspired men to have written down the things revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. I believe other men and women throughout history have taken the time to reveal things via the Holy Spirit and if not for the “official” compiling of the Bible, we would look at all of them with the same weight of belief. We would allow the Holy Spirit to work through us and verify whether what we read is of God or the evil one. I am fully convinced the majority of us have kicked the presence of the Holy Spirit living right inside of us to a “back burner” with no real purpose in our lives and yet we can only find true enjoyment in our Christian lives by allowing the Holy Spirit complete control of our lives and putting the Bible secondary in our lives with the rest of religious writings.

Jesus used the phrase, “it is written,” and I now wonder if there was a greater reasoning for this than we give credit. We have been taught to ask, “Where exactly did you get that from?” We want to know the exact book, chapter and verse for your enlightenment or it is not valid. I happen to know it is written that King Ramses could not have died from Tuberculosis because it was not discovered until 1832. To make my point, what is written does not have to be accurate and the discernment me have through the spirit will easily make the wiles of Satan as ridiculous as this statement. The Holy Spirit is not going to let us be led away to the loss of salvation!

Why do we have the Bible and other religious writings? Answer: To reveal what the Holy Spirit is speaking to the inspired writer and hopefully open the eyes and hearts of someone needing Jesus revealed? Why do we have the Holy Spirit? Answer: We have the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and confirm the righteousness of God and our place in His eternal plan.

One short after word is that yes, I understand how my fellowship accepted the Bible compiled after so many years as the final word from God and the last interaction of God with man. It is all wrapped up in one scripture I was taught as a little boy. 1 Corinthians 13:10 “When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part…” Yes, I was taught the Bible was perfect with no errors. Of course, when we place our trust in something so perfect, there can’t possibly be anyone who will see even one statement different from the rest of “us who are now perfect in God’s eyes!” We must be identical to trust the Bible for our salvation.  Better yet, let’s all place our trust in the ONE REVEALED!