THE


RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY


There is much wrong with the Church today. Our traditions have done just what Jesus said they do: "make void the Word of God." This section of Fifty Pieces comments on various shortcomings in today's churches, and lays the blame squarely on inadequate or misdirected teaching. There seem to be two main types of churches, Lawyers and Lovers. Both kinds are usually found to be long on Fellowship.






LAWYERS AND LOVERS



Christianity is serious business. But most Christians don't want anything to do with the serious part. They'd rather try to play it safe and controlled and comfortable. The large part of Christianity that plays safe are two types: Lawyers and Lovers.

If you're going to be a Christian, be one.

We hear a lot about what it means to be a Christian. Too bad most of what we hear is based, not on God's word, but on what men say is necessary for Christian behavior. Do do this, and don't do that. All that stuff is bunk!! And the problem lies with the devil. Did that perk up your ears?

There's only one place to really find out about God. The Bible.

Now it follows, that if God's will and ways are best presented in the Bible, that the devil will do what he can to undermine any serious study of God's word. If Satan can keep people, who are honestly seeking God, in God's word, but parallel to His will, then those folks will head toward the mark but miss it.

The Christian Bible studies I've seen miss God's message by going for the Law or the Love; and there are also those who hang out in the philosophical realm, endlessly debating how many angels can stand on the head of a pin. Lord save us!

Christians follow Christ. A loaded statement because the Lawyers bolt themselves to Jesus' commands that deal with righteous living, and the Lovers glom onto His commands of righteous Loving . Both ignore Jesus acts. His example.

Jesus did both. That's a point of confusion. He fulfilled the Law by Loving His neighbor; but only those that "got in His face." And he told us to do the same, BUT.......

All Christ's acts were acts in trust of the Word(s) that God gave Him: 1-that God was empowering Jesus over all flesh, 2-was asking Him to do certain things (to relate God's message), 3- would reward Christ in a certain way.

Jesus said, "I am the Way, no man come to the Father but by me." Christ didn't go around caring for the poor. He didn't find housing for the homeless. He didn't take up collections for widows. He didn't head the committee to build a new wing for the orphanage. He didn't even open a clinic so as to centralize His healings. He didn't seek out people upon whom to bestow His Love. So much for Jesus' commands!

God's message, which came through Jesus, is that same old message He's been telling us forever; forever, if you count the stars, but that's a different story. The trouble with most Christians today is that they don't believe in God. They simply refuse to admit to the eternal side of things. And I don't blame them. Once you admit to the Eternal, you have to admit to the devil.

Christians understand that there is a dark side. You can always tell a true Christian, because they don't flinch when you ask them if they believe in the devil. It's that little blink of the eyes that gives away the folks who want a safe place to hide in God. There is none. Jesus said, "In this world ye shall have tribulation." I've met Christians that'll even smile or "refuse to believe that God'd allow such a thing to exist. The devil must be 'good' in disguise." Exactly right. It's the devil's best disguise. Angel of Light.

If you believe in the God of the History of this earth, you have no other choice but to believe in Satan as well. That's the rub. That's what makes this Christianity stuff serious business. The devil is real, and he's not on God's side!!

When you ask a member of the first church of Hunt and Peck if he believes in Satan you're bound to notice him flinch. They're the Lawyers. They're need for spiritual approval (a need we all try to satisfy) drives them to hunt up a verse, and peck it out of context to either show how Righteous their behavior is, or how sinful somebody else's is. They can only cross reference the verses that bless them or condemn you and me. Faulty study of God's word. By the way, I've never seen the verse that forbids smoking: even though some historical writings allude to the smoking of hashish, or its cousins, right outside God's Temple.

Intellectuals aren't any better off. They're need for spiritual approval just takes a different form. But they still sidestep the more unpleasant things of Christianity. One big way to be safe, is to blame translation for not being able to believe the uncomfortable stuff. They say things like, "Well, that was written expressly for the people of that tiny little town because of economic conditions." Bunk!!

These folks have become the Lovers; probably in reaction to the Hunt and Peck crowd. Lovers get along with everyone. They take better care of the community than any other group you can name. They really help a lot of people. They are warm, non- judgmental, Loving folks. They are very active in the "Love Thy Neighbor" movement.

However, both Lawyers and Lovers wind up, unfortunately, in the Insidious Church of Do-It-Yourself. The Law Bunch lives by the Rules, because they "can." The Love Bunch lives off the Love of Jesus, because they can. Both neglect Christ's message, His acts and what motivated them: trust in God that is evident in daily life.

He said, "No one comes to the Father but by me," by doing how I do. This is a real nice twist on that thing our parents always said. They said, "Do as I say, not as I do." Jesus said, "Do as I do, not as I say." You see, Jesus was perfect in that He always chose the Word of God before His own desires. He was the strongest man that ever lived.

I count sin as selfishness. And selfishness as no more than desire beyond need. Jesus did His job down here and then asked God if He could get out of the crucifixion. But He was quick to add, "Thy will be done." Jesus always CHOSE God's way.

He was a living example to us of how to Faithe; and a dying example.

You can't do translation tricks, or hunt and peck out verses, and come anywhere near understanding God's message. You must start to take, at face value, the whole book, in order to see the whole Christ.

The Bible has four names: one, God's Message (of salvation), embodied in two, Christ, attained through three, Faithing, based on God's faithfulness to keep His Word in the four, Bible.

The New Testament is the unfolding of the Old. The Old Testament in the Shadowland that leads us to Christ in the New Testament. All the stories and shadows that show us Jesus, teach us a lesson in Faithing. Abraham and Isaac, the Passover in Egypt. Read Hebrews 11.

Christianity isn't what it's cracked up to be. It's serious business, and we've got jobs to do for God. I'm doing one by sitting here writing this. Are you a Christian? What's your line of business??

Now, who wants to study God's word? Can you give up something one night a week to work on your soul??








FELLOWSHIP IS ALL THAT'S LEFT



Learning comes first. That's what this discussion is all about. If no learning takes place, we stay exactly where we were after the last lesson. There are a lot of people that have plateaued like that. Have you ever had the thought that a certain person seems to have stopped developing at age eighteen? Graduated from high school and stayed right at that level?

I have trouble trying to understand why some people are so resistant to learning. I've been a teacher all my life, and my opinion is that, generally, people aren't disposed to much beyond superficial investigation. If the point doesn't come clear in two or three sentences, it's too much trouble and, "I'd rather talk about drapes, or dragsters." Are we really just so lazy? Probably.

But look where that leads in our spiritual lives. Most of our study in the God frame is of the Bible. Let's apply that resistance to learning to the context of Bible study and see what falls out.

I've done a lot of Bible study, and let me tell you, it's no ice cream sundae. It's a lot of hard work and research to extract the intended meaning from a passage of scripture. I sometimes wind up using four or five different books, outside of the Bible, as cross references before I reach the point of satisfaction about the passage. Just looking up the meaning of dubious words in the Greek section at the back of my concordance takes enough time that I lose the thread of the communication and have to keep reviewing.

What if you don't have those extra resource books to work from? What if you don't have five different translations to help you get an overview of the meaning of a verse? What if you won't give up mysteries, or science fiction long enough to read the historical facts that verify the accuracy of the Bible's writings? What if you never go beyond the things that you think you understand clearly? Let me show you how proper study clarifies the meaning of a common verse of scripture.

One of the most familiar verses in Christianity is Romans 1:17,quoted by Paul from Habakkuk 2:4. He also quotes it twice more in Galations 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. "The just shall live by faith." What does that mean? Good folks will live their lives believing in God. NO. Good folks will live their lives trusting God. NO. A very good plan, but not what Habakkuk was saying. The contentious ones will say, "What's just?" Well, that's just mental masturbation. If you look up the Hebrew meaning of the word Habakkuk used for live you'll find it's a primary root that means, revive, keep alive, give life, let live, nourish, preserve(alive), quicken, recover, repair, restore(to life), save(alive, life), be whole.

Now what do we have? "Righteous folks will gain saving-life by faithing." And that's a whole lot different. It doesn't have anything to do with how we live. It says what we get by faithing, acting in trust of God.

If basing your Christian life on the scriptures is a valid form of behavior, then the unstudied person will have an extremely narrow view of Christianity. Tiptoe Christians; with a basis of faith so small they teeter on a tiny pinnacle like a ballerina. When you only stay with the things in the Bible that are real easy to understand, you have only the love your neighbor stuff, and the do's and don'ts.

Besides, didn't we learn all that good behavior stuff when we were kids? Is it true learning then to continue the pursuit of information already attained?

Yet, some Traditional Christians will smugly argue that all they need is the Word and the Spirit. A word they don't understand, and a Spirit that they can't substantiate with more than totally subjective evidence. I mean, I haven't seen the Holy Spirit lately, have you? And isn't it interesting that those same self-righteous folks will try to talk you and me into believing what they believe based on their personal experiences.

Don't those people recognize that it took a certain amount of learning to get them to their present self-satisfied state? Did Jesus just pop out of the air and save them? Or did they have to hear enough about Him to take that step in faith and act as though He really exists? Once having learned that, did they think that's all there was? It just doesn't make sense.

At the exposure to so great a thing as God and His salvation, I would expect people to turn into some kind of spiritual shrew, going around devouring everything about God they could get their minds on. Being too lazy to get beyond the subjective into the concrete leaves a person to fill in the blanks with conjecture. "Well, it probably means this." Don't say that! Look it up!! Just look it up! Conjectural beliefs are never able to stand up to truth. Truth rattles the cage of the Superficial Christian; and he'll hide immediately behind his good behavior.

Well, I certainly don't ever want to be in a position where someone can cause me to doubt God. I have too much trouble doing that on my own, already.

But don't get some Christians started telling of all the times when they just happened to turn to a particular verse by accident, and it gave them such insight, had such a specific meaning to their lives at the time. Those kinds of stories are okay for about a minute and a half, but soon seem to evolve into a personal brag, like some fish story. Fishing for scripture, out of context, leads to a lot of red herrings. So? I like puns.

No matter how the verse may have "hit home", half the time it's an out-of-context revelation, and has little or no relation to the intended meaning. It looks to me as if most Christians have never been taught the difference between the spiritual and the literal meanings of Scripture. If you don't keep the two separate, you're doomed.

Well now, if we've got a lot of people basing their lives on the superficial aspects of the Bible's message, how will that manifest itself in the church and it's functions? Potlucks and Brimstone. If all you have to go on is God's love and The Rules, you end up "loving" all the people at church (even those you hate), and sitting through interminable lectures on righteous Christian behavior. Potlucks and Brimstone.

The conclusion is distressing to me. The above behavior is the bulwark of Fundamentalist Christianity. The conclusion is, that large numbers of Christians go to church for the fellowship; and that's distressing. They can't be going for the Bible study. True Bible study gets you out of the potluck and brimstone frame. The potluck becomes a way to make it easier for the folks to study, and not the main activity. The sermons on Sunday will be teaching sermons; with the shepherd of the flock, leading them into deeper and deeper areas of God's Word to motivate them to more study on their own.

Another thing that distresses me is that some churches have no adult study classes. Even on Sunday morning. And more, the adult classes that are going, are mostly led by the person willing to put in the extra time to organize a presentation from the denominational quarterly.

A teacher who teaches from a quarterly rarely is able to see any learning take place in his class. Two things tend to negate the message in the lesson. One, the time allowed is too short for any indepth discussion or questions. You have to finish this chapter in forty minutes, 'cuz you have to do the next chapter next Sunday. And the student stays stymied. Two, for a person leading the class because there was no one else, the class gets no more than rote presentation of the quarterly outline. Again, no learning.

Many of the "real" things about God for the Christian are the things that feed back to us from others. When we talk to people at church, and they mention reading a certain verse and thinking about us, we just know that it's confirmation from God of the rightness of our thought or decision. It's very like thinking about someone, and having them phone you two minutes later.

It only stands to reason that God would find it easier to use a person, rather than a tree, to help feed back bits of His truth to us. People talk eversomuch better than trees. Or even birds.

It's my idea that the overabundance of fellowship is symptomatic of poor Bible study. Fellowship seems to be all some churches do. Isn't it indicative of a social attitude, when five whole minutes are spent making sure everyone has their cup of coffee before a thirty minute class can get started?

When you don't get below the surface in studying the Bible, fellowship is all that's left.

One of the problems that has contributed to this sad state of affairs lies in the roots of the last era of the church. We've just come through the Evangelical era. Trouble is, most of Christianity doesn't know the era ended some time ago.

The church as a whole is no different than an individual Christian. A person is "evangelized", and then he or she is taught about God. In a lot of cases a people accept the Christian walk knowing very little about God, Jesus and the Bible. Then they begin the process of learning about God and what He wants.

The church has gone through the phase of evangelizing, but got stuck there, and didn't implement the teaching stage of the process. The teaching era started many years ago, but went unnoticed by most of the traditional church. Now it's time to get underneath the superficial saving truths, and into the greater truths in God's Word.

If Schliemann hadn't gotten below the surface in his study, Troy might still be a myth, and Homer's writing a fantasy.

A perfect example of improper Bible study is the misunderstanding of the word faith. If you cruise along and never research the word faith, you wind up believing in the walk of faith, and never taking a step.

No matter how some people may talk about faith, they live as if faith was a noun. Mostly when I hear someone declare they have faith, the context of their statement says belief, not faith.

The most elementary study will show faith to be the Greek word pistis. Pistis is most definitely a verb. Every time the King James has the word faith, my concordance lists faith being translated from pistis. Every single time, except once when hope is used. In that case, everyone should go through whatever version of the Bible they're using, and cross out the word faith and put in, "act in belief."

If you try that sometime, you'll find a whole new concept of the scriptures opening up to you. Don't you know that the Bible talks of little else beside faith? You've heard me say that if you took out of the Bible all the things about Satan and bad spirits there wouldn't be much left. You could read what's left in a week. Take out all the Bible has to say concerning faithing and you finish it in a night.

If the Bible is right about our being saved by faith, gaining life by faith, and being justified by faith, thereby gaining salvation, and faith is really a verb, I want to know how to verb. I want to know what to verb. I want to know how to faithe.

But if I'm more interested in my personal convenience and amusement than studying by Bible, I'll brush over the verses taking out only the immediate stuff. I may never understand faithing, and I won't get beyond the Potlucks and Brimstone.

My idea is that if a person really cares about the things of God, they'll put aside some of their personal stuff long enough to mine out of the Bible a little more truth than they already have.

I'm delighted to be free from socializing and sermonizing related to many traditional churches. Glad to be able to see those functions in their proper places. Thankful to be able to get on with finding out more about God.

And grateful to God, for being able to claim His promise of the Spirit through faithing, as it says in Galations 3:14.

Let's learn about faith.





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