Church? What’s the Point?

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I believe in God, why go to church?

A large and growing portion of our population believes in God, many even claiming to be Christian, see no reason to go to church. Busy lives, bad experiences, no experience, uncertainty of beliefs and countless other reasons erase the perceived value in gathering in the name of Christ. I say perceived because like other parts of our well being, the result of neglecting it isn’t something we notice right away. It’s a gradual process to start feeling worse from a lack of exercise, gain weight from a poor diet or stress, lose imagination from monotony, and if we’ve never had something, we don’t know what we’re missing anyway. The deficit eventually shows itself quite plainly, though we may not know how or why it got so out of control.

“Home Sweet Home”

It’s as old a saying as any, home sweet home is an homage to the comfort and peace that comes with isolation from the outside world in a familiar environment. Unfortunately home sweet home is losing its meaning. Sarcasm is increasingly it’s common use as we return from a long day only to begin a new schedule of must dos or family conflicts. Internet, television, video games, homework, work from home, cell phones and more can destroy the tranquility of home and bring the world right in with us. The place of solace a home should be gets lost and all we want to do is “get away”. Those who can afford it find and return to a favorite vacation spot, buy a beach house or cabin in the woods, a “home away from home” to seek the comfort and rejuvenation we get from knowing what to expect and relieving ourselves from our responsibilities, if only for a while.
Home is more than a place, it’s a feeling. “You can never go home again” is reflective of the ever changing world and our ever changing selves. Home for most people is a time and place of consistency, free from interruptions and pressure.

But Church?

Those who believe and those who are seeking are missing a glorious opportunity by not gathering as a body to honor God. It gives us a chance to shut off cell phones, relax with familiar faces and learn, to be reminded and expand our understanding of the truth that everything will work out, and why it doesn’t depend on us. A time to honor our unwavering, eternal creator. Any flame needs fuel, gathering with others in the name of the Lord refills our spiritual lamps. We are sent to shine the light of Jesus in the world and without regular engagement with the word and the body of Christ its not a light anyone will see in you.
Exercising once in a while just leaves you hurting for days. Yo-yo diets don’t work. Engaging any endeavor only comes to fruition with steady, ongoing attention. Starting to attend church can be painful at first. Finding one that fits, facing your brokenness, and accepting that Jesus Christ gave up his perfect life for you are all difficult things to come to terms with. Going to church once in a while is like a yo-yo diet, you start to feel better so you give in to old ways and by the time you start again you’re right back where you started. To gain any earthly comfort from your faith you must engage it regularly.
God asks only for our faith, give it to him and he will support us through whatever challenges the world throws at us. Once we accept His truth and turn to His way, life is given to us. Devoting time to God changes our perspective on the things we fill the rest of our time with, going to church is an honor and a blessing, not an obligation.

Holy Cow III

( for parts I and II go to Mettlechurch.com )

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If the differing views on what qualifies as acceptable have become so broad as to be no longer coherent as a unified body, how do we define and defend the true heart and spirit of Christianity without offending a great number of Christians? Frankly, we can’t. Nor can we expect to espouse our own beliefs without being offended by the critiques generated against them. The Lord offered different levels of understanding to different people throughout history. Things made clear to one person or group are deeply shrouded to others. Where we get caught up is when we work too hard to interpret what is written in the Bible, or when we think the message meant for us is meant for everyone.

Stand on Solid Ground

No matter how much or how long we study and pray for a full understanding of our place and responsibility as a member of the body of Christ, we will never fully comprehend it. The biggest mistakes generally spawn from an overconfidence in what we think we know. There are many things however, that are undeniable truths of Christianity, which to abandon is to abandon the entirety of Christian faith. Stand firm on the Word of God, whether it’s popular or not. Faith without integrity is no faith at all.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
If you disagree with this, you are not a Christian.
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father,
through Whom all things came into existence,
Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down from the heavens, and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man, and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures and ascended to heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father, and will come again with glory to judge living and dead, of Whose kingdom there will be no end;
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and life-giver, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is together worshipped and together glorified, Who spoke through the prophets;
in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We confess one baptism to the remission of sins; We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen
Without belief in what the Creed of Nicea proclaims, you are not a Christian. To disagree or debate the basic truth of this statement is to not believe in Christ. It’s far from all encompassing, but it is the core of any Christian’s faith. No, It’s not in the Bible, it doesn’t have to be to be true. It is a foundation statement of what the Bible teaches.

Have some mettle.

Still not sure what you believe? Fine, pray and study, ask questions. Don’t let society prevent you from engaging your faith. Don’t be afraid of what you may find out about God or yourself. If you are wondering, he is calling.
Stand up for what you believe and speak it with confidence. If your beliefs lead you away from the Bible, then go. Don’t expect God to change, don’t think by altering the Bible that the true word of God has changed. If you are sure that gays should marry, or that women should lead churches, go down with your burning ship if you believe it. You think heaven can be found through some other means than Jesus Christ, jump on the express rail to hell. Playing the part of a Christian while remaining convinced you’re saved because you’re such a great person, you will be shown the truth of your pride.
Believe in Jesus Christ and The Word? Hold tight to it, revel in it, pity those who have separated themselves from it. Read the Bible, know what it says and try to understand why. No one has full understanding of the Bible despite the claims of many, but much more of it is direct and to the point than many “experts” would have you believe. If an interpretation gives a piece of scripture a different meaning than the words plainly spell out, it’s wrong. There may be deeper meaning involved and in many cases there is, but something as simple as “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” needs no further interpretation, it

In His Name

Heresy is a man made crime, devised to give and maintain power to earthly masters. Things of God are eternal and not subject to ongoing whims of humanity. We are to gather and pray in His name. When we gather in his name we are not there on our own behalf, we are Christ’s representatives. Our prayers,are his prayers.We are to shine the light of His glory, not our own. We are to hold strong to the truth of scripture and share the message of salvation.

Holy Cow II

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What still qualifies as heresy?

To be Christian, do you have to believe Christ is the only way to eternal life? Some who claim they are, don’t. Does a Christian think the Bible is divinely inspired scripture? There are many working on changing it. Are these recently revived heresies still wrong considering how many people believe them? Does the changing view of revolving society have any bearing on the eternal truths of God’s message and standards?
With all the variety of church teachings and practices that have come about, what could even be called heresy these days? To be heretical is to go against the predominant beliefs, but hairs have been split so many times there is little left that is sacred. The Nicene Creed and the apostles creed both still hold up in most churches, but little else has universal agreement. It seems as though anything else you want to throw in the mix with them is totally up for debate. Surely there must be a number of people required to agree on something before it is established as a “common belief”. Mormons, Jehovah’s witnesses, and a variety of other groups claim to be believers in Christ but have greatly different views than Roman Catholics or protestants. There are a lot of them, so does that disqualify their differences as heresy? Under the official definition, it would seem they are.
As a person trying to come to a more stable grip on what you truly believe, its impossible to find the answers by looking up and down a rule book, especially when the rule book has things in it contradicting any reasonable understanding or is otherwise completely unrelated to the scripture its supposed to uphold. Something becoming holy simply by being popular among a certain crowd screams out against the necessary universal truth required of something truly divine.
“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Jesus said this. It has been used to give way to a great many things which oppose his greatest commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” The things common throughout religious communities that go against what the Bible teaches are far too numerous to get into, not to mention all the stuff that has been tacked on because it doesn’t say you can’t. Christ was offering an ongoing dialog with the understanding that the rest of his message has already been considered when petitioning for exception or change. We should not expect our neighbors to be struck down and all their stuff to be given to you and your brother in law because you prayed for it and said “in Jesus name” at the end.
He spoke of things like, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” and“So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said, ‘this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” When reaching various consensus’, forgotten is the requirement of keeping with the teachings of God for their beliefs and traditions to be valid points of faith or honorable forms of worship.

If one man stands alone as the last one believing Christ died for his sins, is he a heretic, and if so, is that a bad thing?

Matters of faith are not simply a popularity contest. Every belief, every truth, even sharing the story of Jesus Christ has been exceedingly unpopular in different times and places. Countless people have stood for beliefs which now seem unquestionable, only to be burned alive because it wasn’t popular when they said it. If one man stands alone as the last one believing Christ died for his sins, is he a heretic, and if so, is that a bad thing? The way God enabled our redemption, was by coming into the world as a heretic. Bringing a message of love, understanding and reconciliation which was so unpopular he was crucified for it. It wasn’t a new message, looking back it was already spelled out in the earliest communications of God to men, it had simply been turned on its head through adaptation to popular opinion.
From the Sacred Calf in the desert to the murder of Jesus Christ, mass murder of unbelievers to mass suicide, commonality of beliefs in no way indicates correctness of beliefs. There is an ever growing expanse of beliefs, people always thinking they have found a more righteous path, and in our societal turn to ignore rather than confront, it will continue, heresy has become a nothing word with little to no consequence.
(To be concluded…)

Holy Cow

And other Christian heresiescow
Definition of heretic
1religion :a person who differs in opinion from established religious dogma (see dogma 2);especially :a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church who refuses to acknowledge or accept a revealed truth
• The church regards them as heretics.
2:one who differs in opinion from an accepted belief or doctrine :nonconformist

If you find serious fault within the structures of the church, you’re not alone. Christians have been finding faults among their fellow saints from the very beginning. Heresy has become more often noticed and spoken of by those outside organized religion than those within it. Some pretty obvious deviations from what Christ said provide easy targets for critics, both uninformed and informed, and those who participate in organized religion and those who don’t.

For over 300 years, the Christian faith expanded rapidly with little centralized leadership despite serious opposition, spawning varying beliefs among different church communities. Most of the root beliefs were the same but not always, and serious fundamentals were being twisted within certain groups. In the fourth century, the basic beliefs of Christians were confirmed by gathering the church leaders of the time. Known as the Council of Nicea, this group established a standard doctrine of faith for the followers of Jesus Christ. The church now had a unified understanding of beliefs. The Council had been called for by the Roman emperor Constantine due to his own conversion to Christianity from pagan beliefs, he accepted their doctrine and established it as the accepted religion of Rome. The other thing put in place was centralized earthly leadership attached to the ruling government. Those who refused to accept the newly established order were labelled heretics and either killed or forced underground by Roman authorities.

For the next 700 years these tenants of faith held together Christians as a single group. But as religious practices grew and hierarchy expanded, eventually there was a split. Known as the great schism, the catholic (universal) church was divided into two distinct factions, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic. The Eastern Orthodox dissenters were essentially accusing the church of heresy and didn’t want to be under Roman authority, so they split off and formed their own central leadership. These two groups continued to grow both in size and religious rules, divided by region and leadership for another 500 years, quieting any major dissent under the guise of silencing heretics. Then came the Reformation. A movement of faithful Christians of various levels of authority within the Roman church who were essentially labeling the Roman Catholic church and it’s leadership heretics.

Commonly blamed on Henry the VIII wanting a divorce, the reformation storm was brewing long before he was even born. With the major turning point coming through Martin Luther, the reformation gave heresy its biggest and broadest introduction to the average person. Suddenly everyone was vying for position as the new leadership of proper Christian faith. Since that time the number of Christian denominations has continued to grow, with each new division sighting another perceived heresy as their need to start a new group rather than be included with another.

According to the oldest of Christian communities, everyone not following their established and eternally updated doctrine and practices is a heretic. According to the newest of Christian communities, every group already existing are heretics. So as it turns out, all Christians are heretics depending on who you ask. It doesn’t carry the weight it once did, beheadings, torture, burning at the stake and the like doesn’t go on between rival Christian communities or individuals like it has in the past. There are vast and growing differences in beliefs and practices among those who consider themselves Christian, thankfully the desire and acceptability of killing each other over them has settled. Disagreements once grounds for scourging and execution have been accepted as theological differences worthy of little more than a roll of the eyes.

(to be continued…)

What is a Church?

What is a church?

 

According to Webster, a church is:

  1. A building that is used for Christian religious services

  2. The clergy or officialdom of a religious body

  3. A body or organization of religious believers

  4. A public divine worship

  5. The clerical proffession

When we use the word church we’re usually referring to a building or an organization, definitions 1 and 3. When people blame the church for things they are referring more towards #2 or 5. Things like “I’m going to church” “that’s a beautiful old church” or “the church is having a fund raiser”. Or the negative side, “the church is judgmental”, “the church persecutes people”. These aren’t necessarily a misuse of the word, but it does distort people’s perception of what it really means. None of the world’s religions use the term “church” outside Christianity. Temples, Mosques and Synagogues serve much of the same purpose as places to practice the tenants of faith, but are considered holy places among Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews or any number of other religions.
As the facility manager for an Anglican Church, I take my job seriously. I want to maintain the highest of expectations as to the care and attention to detail, so it is welcoming to church members and accommodating for the work of the church. And though Christian facilities are to be respected for the work that they enable, they are just buildings. Property to be owned and maintained for the use of the Church, they aren’t sacred or holy. The Kingdom of Christ isn’t restricted to or centered on a location. The bible never refers to a building as a church.
Nowhere, even in the Old Testament do you see the word church mentioned, clarifying there is one Christian church and God gave his only son to and for the church. The first time the word is used is in Matthew 16:18 where Christ is quoted speaking to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus wasn’t saying he was beginning construction of a building on top of Peter, with walls and a moat designed to physically protect His followers from evil. Any reference to church you can find is referencing those joined together through faith in Christ. Faith in the Lord is our protection. The church as the bible uses it fits the 3rd and 4th definitions best.
In Paul’s letters he writes to the early members of the church. In 1 Corinthians 1:2 he says “to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Jesus Christ, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” Galatians 1:2-3 “ and all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia:” Ephesians 1:22-23 “ and he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” From the perspective of the Father, all Christians are gathered as the bride of His only Son.
We can refer to a portion of the entire church as a church, so you do have churches. In Acts 15:41 Paul “went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” He’s referring to multiple separate gatherings of church members. Each group is equally the church as an individual gathering, but the purpose and mission is all under the singular authority of Christ. Paul was attending to the needs of the whole church by addressing the individual needs of a particular group. You can compare it to personal fitness in a way. You only have one body, but it’s made up of many parts, each require different things to grow and stay healthy.
There are many factions or denominations of Christians, but only one body of Christ. Every person who has faith in Jesus Christ is a member of his Church. Each of us are like a single cell of a greater being, each with our own function. Christians commonly refer to the church building as church, that doesn’t mean that’s what the building is, that is what the building is for.

Showing up at “church” every Sunday no more makes you a Christian than wearing a suit makes you a gentleman. The Church, as the Bible teaches us Is Christ’s body, it’s health is maintained by offering honor to God and sharing the gospel with everyone by teaching and example.

Every Christian should feel like a welcome guest and a gracious host when attending church. Honoring the Lord of Hosts who has brought us into his Kingdom, serving and attending to our fellow saints. Whether that be at a building specifically designed and used for worship and sharing the gospel, or simply engaging in a conversation regarding faith. Matthew 18:20 says “for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”. All in all, definition #3 fits pretty well.
As for definition #4; a public divine worship. We don’t check our Faith at the door when we leave, we are to be lights to the world. Matthew 5:16 “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”. How we behave when we are outside church as a gathering, says as much or more about our individual faith as when we are among other Christians. As members of the Body of Christ, we are to behave as such wherever we are. Showing up at “church” every Sunday no more makes you a Christian than wearing a suit makes you a gentleman. The Church, as the Bible teaches us Is Christ’s body, it’s health is maintained by offering honor to God and sharing the gospel with everyone by teaching and example.