Saturday, July 25, 2015

Lowest Common Denominator of Denominational Doctrinal Differences

Does it ever just get to you?  Have you ever read the words “Unity in the Spirit” and thought, does that really mean everyone, no matter what they believe?  Does it only apply for certain belief systems? Does that mean only the people who believe the same exact way I believe? Is there a standard that can't be disputed?  Why does the Bible seem so clouded in some areas?  Why isn't it all just plain and clear and straightforward?

Have you ever thought that perhaps it is clear and plain and straightforward and the problem lies with us and our understanding or lack thereof?

 I’m certain I am not the only one who has wondered about why there are so many denominations!  Don't we all share the same basic belief premises?

·         That in the beginning God Created the Heavens and the Earth
·         That Jesus is the Savior Who died to pay the penalty of all sin for all people
·         That obedience to God is the surest way to blessings in this life now and Eternally after physical death occurs

And then all the divergent thought processes begin.

You must be dipped in water; You must be sprinkled with water blessed by a clergyman; You must be fully submerged in a tub of water; You must be baptized to be considered Saved and able to enter Heaven at your death on earth; Baptism is only a symbol and doesn’t play a significant role in Salvation or eligibility for Heaven

You must repeat this set of words in this way to pray; You must pray straight from the heart; You mustn't be repetitious in prayer; You must pray out loud; You must pray silently; You must pray privately in a closet or closed room; You must pray corporately

You must accept Christ as Savior and confess Him Lord; (wait, there is scripture that clearly supports that doctrine.  Romans 10: 9-10)

You can’t wear makeup or cut your hair if you are female; Outward things are not important for God looks on the HEART, not the flesh; You must dress this way; You must dress that way; How you dress has no bearing on where you stand with God, it is only the spiritual connection that is significant in relation to where you stand with God

You must bow before a statue; You must not bow before a statue; You must NOT have graven images of any kind (oh, yea first commandment Exodus 20:4) Symbols and pictures and statues are fine; Symbols and pictures and statues are satanic and distract from worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth; How you Worship isn’t significant but only that you Worship; God accepts many forms of Worship; God only accepts these certain types and styles of Worship

There must be music for Worship; There must not be music for Worship; It must be this type of music to be Worship; it doesn't matter what type of music you choose;

Dancing is a sin; Dancing is not a sin (David danced in Worship before the Lord, was he sinning?  Some say yes and that's why his wife despised him.  Others say no and that's why he took a new wife and forsook Michal)

You will act this way; You will not act that way and on and on and on with many rules and regulations, most of which can be proven and/or dis-proven depending on which scripture you read and how you read it and what version of the bible publication you happen to be reading.

I believe the Bible clearly states several doctrine that are set in stone.

1.     There is clearly a blessing, a reward to believing God. Hebrews 11:6 addresses this simply.  To come to God at all starts with believing that He exists AND that He rewards those who seek Him.

2.    We are Saved through Jesus.  Acts 2:21 and Romans 1:13 clearly indicate salvation comes to any and all who call on the Name of Jesus.  Romans 10:9-10 again speaks of confession of Jesus as Lord and believing in our heart that God raised Him from the dead.

3.    There are certain obedience behaviors expected to show themselves as evidence in the lives of those who profess to be Gods children. James 2:14 speaks clearly to committing actual works that line up with our confession to trusting in and having faith toward God.  It isn’t enough to confess, there must be evidence in our actions.

4.    None of us gets it right all the time. 1John 1:8 leaves no room for doubt that we all sin, but that repentance with confession to the Lord gains us forgiveness.  Not just at the first instance of salvation, but throughout our lives from there forward, as we sin, we repent, we ask forgiveness and we receive that forgiveness.

 Why then all the infighting and disunity in what is supposed to be, according to Ephesians 4, one unified Body of Christ?  In 1Corinthians 9:19 and on, Apostle Paul speaks of being all things to all people. This section of scripture in Corinthians covers a lot of if not all the reasons there are so many "denominations" with different practices. Stop and think, and I believe you will see the sense of it.

None of us is exactly the same as others of us.  We all want and actually need different things in order to feel "right" in ourselves.  We need different experiences we can respond to and be comfortable with. 

 Some personality types need tight structure to thrive and be fulfilled.  Others crave far less restrictions in order to thrive and fulfill our purpose.  Some people must have excitement and change on a regular basis to suit their hearts desires.  Other people prefer the steady stability of sameness and feel best when they've planted deep roots.  While some people desire traditional ceremonial behaviors to feel close to God, others simply must try new and unique things to achieve that sense of unity and closeness to Him. 

The point is that we are all wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139) each of us with unique characteristics and personalities.  There is nothing boring or bad or wrong, there is just the joy of all the infinitely diverse ways God has seen fit to bless us!  

We are blessed in that God makes room for all of it.  There is a framework within which it all works; boundaries that when kept to, allow for all the freedom we could ever ask for to explore and experiment and find our own comforting space; the way to Worship and serve and honor and fully enjoy fellowship with the Lord our Creator.  

The TRUTH sets those boundaries, not us.  

We with all our human failure in the flesh have decided that those who don't think or act or dress or perform like us are not part of the unified Body with us.  We find it very difficult to let go of our need to control and our ego that insists on being "right".

The TRUTH tells us that those who put their faith in God, trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior and their lives show some kind of evidence of those beliefs are all part of ONE BODY OF CHRIST.

The rest?  The Worship styles, the times and places of gathering, the ceremonial stuff?  Shouldn't be the focus.  These are all flesh based acts designed to bring us to the Spiritual.  Using these things against us is how the devil divides and conquers us.  

We can stop him cold in his tracks so easily.  

Keep our eyes on Jesus.  Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and Love our Neighbors as ourselves.  

Who cares if they use bread or crackers or wafers of some kind to celebrate Communion?  Or if they call it the Lords Supper?  Focusing on such insignificant and unimportant things is to be deceived out of enjoying fellowship in the Spirit with Brothers and Sisters in Christ. 

Go back and read the scriptures, not with an eye toward proving your personal thought process, but with a heart humbled that asks God to show you His truth.  I think you may come away very, very blessed.

When we seek out those who believe in God and confess Jesus as Savior and accept them as we want to be accepted, we will find STRENGTH and UNITY and BLESSINGS.  We don't have to act the same, to be of the same BODY. In fact, those differences are one of the things that strengthen the Body.  Everyone has their own gift, their own ability that serves a unique purpose that blesses the whole Body of Christ.

  And in that unity and strength, I know, because God declares it is so, that we will find VICTORY THROUGH JESUS, individually and as a Body.  Here in America there is outcry by some for restoring our nation.  This is how we will find strength as a nation.  
Because - "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" Psalm 33:12

You are very welcome to click on Comments and share your thoughts.  God bless us, everyone!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Gathering Times

everything is always just as it was...
                                                                       ...until it isn't anymore

Job 3:14 when kings and counselors of the earth who built ruins for themselves…..

When the kings and important men of the earth first built, what they built were fine palaces and homes.  Then those buildings become ruins because eventually everything on the earth is destroyed by erosion, flood, earthquakes or just age.  The things of this world DO NOT LAST.  Jesus wasn’t joking when He told us to store up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust can’t ruin things.  It isn’t that we shouldn’t be concerned about our things on this earth.  It’s more that we shouldn’t be OVERLY concerned – they should never take precedence over the things of the Lord.

I turn to my Father in heaven.  I kneel humbly before Him in prayer and ask Him to keep my heart right before Him.  Then I remind myself that we are dealing with imperfect flesh, of which I am the first in line for that label. It all seems so difficult, making the right choices, doing the right things and doing them for the right reason, too!

God what is the answer? We are doing the best we can do, aren’t we?

Some might be afraid to ask this question, but it needs asking.  More importantly, it needs answered.  Are we doing the very best we can do to obey the last command our Lord and Savior Jesus left us with?  In our gatherings on Saturdays or Sunday mornings and different evenings throughout the week, are we fulfilling His purposes for us?  

I’ve sat through some church services, fighting to keep myself awake and let me tell you, it was quite a tussle!  BORING!  Is that how we see Jesus?  Is that how we are to portray Him to others?  
Sleepy, unimaginative, drab, droning on from one liturgical scheduled agenda item to the next?  
On the farther end of the spectrum I’ve cringed and covered my ears to keep my eardrums intact with all the shouting and carrying on at some other services.  Is this how some see Jesus?  A crazed screaming lunatic trying to whip up some emotional nirvana for theatrical purpose? 

How are we portraying Him in our church services?  It’s of the utmost importance that we find the answer to this question in order to answer an equally important question.  

What is the purpose of our church services? 
I want to admit right off the bat here that I don’t pretend to have the answer, and I don’t think I know all there is to know.  I am simply one who, through the outrageous grace of God, has been saved by the Blood of Christ and am walking through the process of sanctification as best I can the same as others are.  

I know I am not the only one questioning what goes on in our churches, because people who say they love God stay away Sunday after Sunday. 

WHY?  Entire books have been written about getting MEN into the churches, getting young people involved.  Why are the majority of church services filled with women or simply empty?

Maybe a time of awakening in the models and programs of church is due – even long overdue.  Often, we continue in following patterns even when they no longer produce good fruit simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  

That isn’t a good enough reason when it is obvious the goal isn’t being accomplished.  The gathering of saints isn’t for the sake of itself.  In Ephesians, we see the reason the saints are to gather together laid out by the Apostle Paul. 

  1.    .  Equipping the saints – Preaching and teaching the Word of God, which is our SWORD, by reading and studying together to gain deeper understanding and discover the practical application of biblical truths for our daily living as the children of God.  
  2.       Build up or edify the Body of Christ in love – meeting needs through prayers, healing or even such mundane needs such as food or clothing, and encouraging one another in our walk of faith, strengthening each other through the sharing of our testimonies.
  3.        Doing the work of the ministry – this covers everything from administrative tasks to evangelism and all the in between stuff involved with discipling others in walking with Christ, helping each other with whatever is needed and the practical side of living life.

If our church gatherings aren’t accomplishing these things, perhaps its time we took a good, hard, long look at our church services and ask God – what should we be doing differently to more perfectly accomplish Your will and purposes?  

I keep reading I Corinthians 14.  The Apostle Paul isn’t so specific there isn’t room to fit his directions into our cultural needs, but he does lay out some basics it wouldn’t hurt us to pray about incorporating into our own weekly meetings.  

Verses 1-26, it is obvious he is straightening out some errors in the early church, and we’d do well to take to heart that error creeps in and needs correcting.  It is a good thing to check our course and correct it to assure we continue on a path that honors our Lord.  

From verse 26 all the way through chapter 16 verse 24, we see a picture of a vibrant, growing church that bears much fruit to Gods glory and declares the message of salvation to the lost.
We see a picture of a lively gathering, where folks are involved and interacting, not nodding toward sleep in a pew.  

We see the Holy Spirit manifest, but in an orderly fashion that shows respect and awe for our Holy God.  We see teaching taking place.  We see planning to reach the lost with the gospel message and then those plans carried out.  We see giving taking place that has purpose to bless those individuals in need and to meet the needs of those in the church.  We see exchange from one gathering of saints to another for the purpose of inspiring unity, keeping the Body of Christ connected in spite of geographic distance.  We see instruction and discipline taking place in love, so the Body will be healthy and growing.

I believe we are truly in the End Times.  I see things happening very fast.  To continue as we are, if we are not reaching the lost with the message of Salvation regularly, if we aren’t seeing lives change, doesn’t make sense.  Not when time is short, and those we fail to reach are facing an ETERNITY of torment.  

If church services are not filled with excitement about all Christ has done for us, and encouraging saints to tell others of the wonders of salvation, then I say the time has come to change how we conduct church services.

What do you think?  Click on the Comments and share your thoughts.  We're all in this thing together.  Never forget that.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

All the Colors in the Rainbow

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.... 
Genesis 1:1

If you believe that, there is a long succession of events, all of which tie back to that one statement.

And if you don't choose to trust and believe that first and fundamental statement of truth you are lost to all truth that God the Creator has revealed to His creation.  

Personally, the idea of being anchored to a standard, even when I fail miserably to meet that standard, offers me hope.

Hope for a bright tomorrow, when I just might reach high enough.

Hope for existence when this physical life, which we all know without doubt has an expiration date, has played out.

Hope for change.  Hope for something more.  Hope for reason and purpose that go beyond my limited wisdom and understanding.  

I'm not saying I like all the truth standards that have been set by this Spirit Being we call God.  I can't even say I fully comprehend all of it. Much of it escaped my understanding; until I became a parent.  

Many times I made decisions I knew were BEST for my children.  And many is the time they disagreed! They even tried arguing the logic with me.

Sometimes they choose to disobey.  At those times they paid consequences for their disobedience.  

Once in a while we were all blessed to see the wisdom of my decisions over theirs, since I knew more than they did, and I understood things they didn't grasp yet.  But whether they understood or agreed, there were consequences to disobeying.  

Those consequences were not always in my power to control.  

That's why I asked them to obey even if they didn't agree or understand.

If they disregarded my rule about looking before crossing the street, the consequence could have been as tragic as death.

I remember my oldest son one time snarled at me when I reminded him to stop and wait for the cross walk light.  He insisted he had the right of way and the cars were supposed to stop for him in the cross walk.

Technically, he was correct.  The law stated that pedestrians in a cross walk had the right of way legally.

In reality, he was flirting with disaster.  By disregarding the safety rule I was trying to enforce; stop and look before crossing; if a car didn't stop, right or wrong, legal or illegal, his flesh body would pay a high price regardless of any consequence to the driver.

The possibility of such a high price, death, was the uncontrollable consequence my rule was intended to save him from. He didn't "believe" he would be hit by a car and he surely didn't believe he would die if he was hit.  But his belief or unbelief wasn't going to be the deciding factor.  If a car hit him at a high enough speed, he would probably be killed.  So I put a rule in place to protect him.

The rule didn't make him "feel" the way he wanted to feel.
The rule was restrictive to his way of thinking, because he didn't believe anything bad would happen to him.
The rule kept him from doing what he wanted to do.

But the rule was put in place because I LOVE him.

Not because I wanted to control him.
Not because I wanted to make him "feel" bad.
Not because I didn't want him to be happy.

But because it was BEST for him; I enforced the rule.  And because I am the parent I didn't owe an explanation or have to defend my decision to do what I knew to be right and best for my child.

In the beginning God created..... in that truth is this truth.  God created us.  Each and every wonderful one of us.  In this respect, God is our parent.  He knows more than we do.  He LOVES us.  So He has put certain "rules" in place to protect us from our own foolishness.

If we disregard the rules there are consequences.  We can't be angry at God when we get hurt or killed or sick or made miserable by the consequences of our actions when we disobey His instructions that He gave us for our good.

Rainbows are a beautiful reminder of Gods awesome love and grace.  The rainbow was a symbol given by God to let His precious created people know that He wouldn't lose His temper and flood the entire earth ever again.

But there are consequences to our actions.  Negative consequences in some cases, that are paid whether we "believe" in them or not.

Gods truth remains true at all times, for all people.

Before we get too caught up in applauding a decision contrary to Gods truth, we might want to consider that truth very, very carefully.