The thoughts below are my opinions, based on what I have personally experienced or observed.
Today’s article is in fact about the Christian experience, and hopefully those of you who do not consider yourselves a part of that journey, will continue to read with curiosity, or at least visit us again when the subject returns to photography.
There are many different ways that people who call themselves Christian become educated and fulfilled. There is denominational Christianity which often means following a specific denomination, but not being too connected to an individual church. There is “church specific” Christianity which has more to do with liking a particular church or pastor than worrying about the denomination. There are those who follow Christian authors. In other words, they frequent Christian book stores and get their information and inspiration from those books. Then of the course there is the internet, and television/radio. Most of my learning comes from the Bible, but most of my guidance comes from the TV or the internet. Scary but doable. Among TV preaching is the local church (that’s right), the “super church, superstar” minister, and the religious networks
Everything above is fraught with peril and sometimes evil. Keep in mind my own personal philosophy. My guidance and my spiritual uplifting comes first and foremost from the Word of God. The Bible. Everything else is made up by people. Some of that made up stuff is from godly people and I can tolerate it although I will personally do without it, and some is truly blasphemous and scary.
Following a denomination is most often because of how or where, you were brought up. It has some advantages, but many parishioners just go through the motions because that is what they’ve always done. I am betting, most self-proclaimed Christians, who follow a particular denomination, or support an individual church or ministry, do not truly know what it stands for. How their interpretation of the Bible lines up with 2,000 years of scholars and others. If it is even the true Bible they preach from, if they even preach the Bible at all.
Every individual church, whether that be the tiny little church on the corner, or the world’s biggest TV ministry, does have to raise money. How they raise it matters. Selling you things is in my opinion fine, but what do they sell. I believe in ministries that sell things that educate you in the ways of God, as it shows us in the Bible. No I do not think that a pound of butter carved to look like Jesus, is in keeping with the ways of God. Prayer shawls, examples of blood moons and other such manufactured ideas do little other than make you believe that Jesus did not come to fulfill the law (prayer shawls), or that something that is perfectly natural (blood moons), and has happened forever, has a significance that is not addressed in the Bible. A lot of what churches and ministries do and sell to raise money, is anything but Godly, or of God. Everyone has to make up their own mind as to whether a church/ministry is raising money in an appropriate fashion.
Personally I prefer not to, for physical reasons, attend church in person, but I admit that anyone who knows me, would make book on the fact that I wouldn’t if I could. I am not sure about that myself. None the less, via TV, radio and the internet, I follow over a dozen ministries. I am very careful, and I have never found a single location where I could get behind everything that is taught. As you would expect, I am going to give you my opinions on what sends me running away from many of these ministries, and would also send me running from the church/denomination/ministry down the street. .
Any church/ministry that does not teach about sin, on a regular basis, is not using the Word of God as their guidepost. They are trying to not offend you instead of filling you with God’s Word. They want to make it easy for you to like them and stay with them, but put little credence on your eternal salvation. I would run not walk from such a false or pretend Christian entity.
Any church/ministry who does not at some point teach end time prophecy, either through church sermons, or separate teachings (it is long and difficult to teach), either is afraid of what you will think, or doesn’t believe it. Over one half of the Bible is prophecy. You are not a Christian if you cast it aside. It might take me a while to realize their omission, but I would never stay with a church/ministry that shirks this incredibly important job.
Satan! That’s right. Born as Lucifer, now known as Satan, the Morning Star, or just plain the Devil. If they do not teach about Satan and other evil entities, it is because they do not want to offend you, or they do not want to scare you, or more likely they think you will not truly believe what they teach, and you might even make fun of them. And most likely, they do not believe it themselves. If they (or you) do not believe about Satan, you are following a book other than the Bible. A book about the story of sin, and the Bible is that, is a book about Satan. Maybe your minister could find a job selling cars. I would leave yesterday.
Many if not most of today’s Christian based religions, attempt to tell us there are works to be done, which will guide you to heaven. This is not only not Biblical, it is a punch in the eye to the very reason that Jesus did what he did. This is the single most difficult thing for human beings to understand. No….there has to be something I can do from within my own will, to earn my way to heaven! Those that teach that, have never read the Bible. The reason our Lord and Savior died to cleanse you from your sins, is specifically because you cannot do it yourself. It is a gift of Grace, from God. You have a part in it for sure. Those who give up easy may not make it. Those who continue to willingly and purposely sin after salvation may have turned their back on God. We have conditional, eternal security once we are born again.
All, of that does not mean that born again Christians should not produce the fruits of their salvation. That includes caring about your fellow-man, and reaching out. It is pure unadulterated ego, that drives man to think it is in his hands to work his way to heaven. It is ignorance or selfishness to think that good works are somehow wrong. The fruits of salvation, are born of a desire to do God’s Work, but to satisfy your own carnal wants.
One common belief today is that the Bible is yesterday’s news. In other words it was fine for way back then, but today is different. So was 1980. 1250 was different than Biblical times. So was 25 AD. What is your cutoff date? When did God give you specifically the information that His Word is out of date? The Bible is eternal. It stands up today and will continue to do so tomorrow.
The Bible is the Word of God via the Holy Ghost/Spirit. It is hand written by men who were guided by Spirit of the one and only God. It is true, that you have to understand that those men wrote from the perspective they lived in at that time, but that does not mean it is not the Holy Word of God, and it is still applicable. If the customs of that time were such and such, we will have something equal to that today. I have never found a verse that cannot apply today. At least when you understand that verse, in the context of the verses or chapters and books that surround it. The Bible stands as it is. I would sprint away from a church/ministry that does not, or does not want to see this, and teach it.
Oh the Bible is great, but it is just symbolic. Many teach that falsehood (often atheists within the church) and they need to read a little deeper, or maybe study with an actual Biblical scholar. That is right, I am saying that the correct translation of the Bible is literal. That is something theologians have known for centuries, but is being discarded for convenience sake today. What a literal translation means is that those books/chapters/versus that are meant literally should be taken that way, and those that are metaphorical or symbolic, are taken to mean exactly what the symbolism or metaphor (or parable) stands for. That is complicated at first, but becomes easier every day. That symbolism has been interpreted by thousands of scholars, when you realize that 90% of Biblical scholars over a couple of thousand years, have come to one particular conclusion, you have a reasonable guide. I would not waste a moment of this precious life with a church/ministry that does not believe that the Bible is literal.
I would once again, run not walk away from any church/ministry that does not encourage me to read the Bible. I understand the reasoning used on parishioners which is that the clergy is educated to understand the Bible, and we are not. Well let’s educate ourselves. My experience in life is that when someone does not want me to read for myself, about anything they teach, but especially about the heart and soul of the theology of the church I am attending, it is because they do not want me to know that I am being mislead by them. It is Biblically proper for you to read the Word of God, and read it often.
Biblically, the job of a minister is important and demands respect, but he/she is no better or has no higher of a calling than any other. Yours may be to organize church meetings. It might be to teach Sunday School. Your calling may be to sing in the choir or play an instrument. It might even be to write about your (yours not mine) journey in understanding God’s Word, and sharing it with everyone who will listen. Human hierarchies are created by man, not God.
Any church/ministry that is based on things of the flesh, worldly things over Godly things, and carnality in general, would find itself in my rear view mirror as soon as those facts became apparent.
Church is not just a social club, an entertainment venue, or an institution for us to feel religious about ourselves. It is a great place to bond and form fellowships for the right reasons. Group prayer, and group worship are powerful things. A true church/ministry has a practical and spiritual application which is given by God, not man.
Above anything else, I wouldn’t waste a precious minute with a church/ministry that does not thoroughly and consistently teach the meaning of the Cross, and what Christ did there, in respect to our salvation through the shedding of his precious blood to cleanse our sin, and our sanctification for leading a more Godly and happy life. Those points, especially the first one, are the core of Christianity. Without it, we are not Christians. I also believe that this part of the Bible needs to be interpreted correctly. No errors.
Keep in mind, Jesus was appointed to go the Cross only once for all time. We are appointed to go there daily. Asking forgiveness of sin does not stop at salvation as some would teach. That guilt that you hopefully feel that makes you want to seek forgiveness is the Holy Spirit of God convicting you. Some who don’t want to bother with that would teach that it is another entity (Satan?) that is produces that feeling. I can tell you from personal experience that feeling that conviction and shedding my sin through the Blood of Jesus, is a wonderful act of kindness from God.
If you prefer, call it a conscience. That’s the thing that modern science firsts tells us we don’t have, and then rightfully assigns the lack of it to sociopaths. The majority of our serial killers lack a conscience.
So I guess I would not go to any church? I mean they’ve all got it wrong. Right? Not at all. It is true that there are both super sized TV ministries and tiny little churches in the country who would teach that only 1/10th of 1%of other churches have got it right. That’s nonsense. I would bet that at least 20% of all churches/ministries do an okay job of feeding your (Christian) spiritual needs. I am “somewhat” kidding.
There are small Biblical details, that are in fact, open to interpretation. There are also things that we are not told at all. Like everything in the Bible, that too is addressed. The day will come, for born again Christians to be given the answers to those few mysteries.
Please don’t accept the teachings of a church/denomination/ministry, just because it suits your feelings. Some people like a tough message and others (most) like an easy one. The kind of message that allows us to continue in our sins. How you’re feelings guide you about the message preached at your church/ministry is irrelevant. The Bible teaches that. Search for the Biblical truth, and let that be your signpost. Your feelings, can be manipulated.
There is a difference in understanding the Word of God, and using it and sharing it, and being a “bible thumper”. Bible verses do not enter my daily conversation in every sentence that I speak or write. The Bible can become a cliché or even unpleasant if you simply beat people over the head with it. I am speaking of us in our everyday lives, not the preacher on the pulpit or a church offered Bible class. Those entities should always be steeped in the truth and the Bible. Using the Bible to “only” make yourself look smart is sinful. Being able to call up a thousand Bible verses from memory only means you have a good memory. If you do not understand the true definition of those verses, they are meaningless. It’s knowing what those verses do mean and sharing those truths with others in an effort to not only to help guide them to an eternity with God, but help them to lead a better life now. The Bible is not meant to feed our fleshly shortcomings and egos.
There’s some paganism in almost every church in the world. Some churches/ministries are almost completely pagan, with a little Jesus thrown in to fool those who are looking for a Christian church. Hopefully I would realize this before I sat down, so I could just keep moving out the door I came in.
In my opinion, there is nothing greater we can do than understand what God’s role in our life is. Where we came from, where we are, and where we’re going. Coming to that understanding, requires some dependence from us, to trust other people. Trust with your eyes open, and your view focused tightly on God, not your fellow mortals (including me).
l l Chronicles 7:14
If My People, who are called by My Name (born again Christians), shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My Face ( repent in prayer to God), and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from Heaven (then and only then), and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land ( He will cure your sickness, which is in fact, sin).
As is always the case, this non-photography post will be moved straight down this page to live with other such articles, after 24 hours or so.
I am a day late, but I want to thank all you veterans, past, present and future. Thanks for serving. I believe that every day is your day..
God Bless, Wayne