My thoughts below are based on both knowledge and things that are more difficult to explain. They are still however, my opinions. There are no specific churches or people targeted in my comments except my mention of religions who use the name of Jesus to gain members, and that is merely me pointing out a fact.
I know at times my articles here seem harsh on the Christian Church, but I believe it is important for those who do believe and for those who want to believe, that they understand exactly what the term “Christian Church” can mean. It is confusing to anybody who looks at current Christianity.
I know people take criticism of “the church” personally, as if it was leveled directly towards them, and that is understandable. You should want your church to be a true teacher of the Bible and the “entire” message of Christianity, and if you believe they are doing just that, you would understandably become defensive when you think someone is saying that they are not . Again, I do not target any specific churches in this post.
The only thing I truly ask of anyone who begins to read an article like the one I present to you today, is that you read it to the end. You will need a few minutes for that task. Whether you agree or not, I take articles like this more seriously than anything I do. I will “bare my soul” in this one.
Christ gave us His Church and told us to “be as one”. There are over 240 denominations and sub-denominations of what are labeled Christian churches, and over 30,000, if you look at variations of how or if the Gospel is actually taught. This does not include religions who use the name of Jesus to attract worshipers. A few of those would be the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) Church, Jehovah’s Witness, Christian Science and more. I am not being mean to those churches! There are many fine people in those religions. I have personal experience with Mormons and my memories are wonderful. They do not however, teach or believe in the Jesus of the Bible, but they do use His name to gain members. Islam also believes in a very, very different Jesus. That does not mean, they do not all have a right to exist, and a right to their beliefs. You have a right to believe anything in America, as long as you do not hurt others, or rob others of their rights.
Frankly, I am far more concerned with many of the hundreds, in fact thousands, of divided, connected and disconnected denominations and sub-denominations of actual Christianity than I am the churches I listed above. Many of those individual churches exist to propagate the opinions of humans, rather than to teach God’s Word. They teach the way they think “it ought to be” rather than what God has told us in His Word. They build churches that are created to make people feel better about themselves (and some churches exist to make you feel worse), rather than reveling in what God has given us, and feeling good about that. Often they are more about human ego than God and His Word. Many churches put their own identity as a church, above what God gives us in His Word. No denominational or nondenominational, or whatever they choose to call themselves church anywhere, obscure or famous, is above God and what He has given us.
From the mouth of Jesus.
Mathew 15: 7-9
7 You hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying,
8 These people draw near unto Me with their mouth, and honor Me with
their lips; but their heart is far from Me. (hypocrisy personified)
9 But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines and
commandments of men. (anything that adds to or takes away from God’s
Word, is the doctrine of man. Mentioning Jesus’ name, does not change that)
The church is what God gave us for worship and edification, it is not a building. A beautiful or historic old church building can add some atmosphere to your time there, but it is a building, not something worthy of our worship in and of itself. As a photographer I love cool buildings, especially churches, but I love cool rocks or trees as well. Sacred things certainly can and do happen in churches, but they can also happen in your basement or car. Worship of anybody or anything other than God, is a form of idolatry.
While churches (not buildings) need to be cognizant of the changing world around them, God’s Message is eternal. It does not need to be adjusted with every new fad or human whim. Every time the morality of the human world sinks another notch farther into the sewer of life, the church need not sink with it, and claim it is merely identifying with the world. The church, should be the one constant beacon for the morals that are taught in God’s letter to us, called the Bible. You and I change, sometimes for the worse, but God never changes!!!
HIS MESSAGE NEVER CHANGES!!!
He is eternal!!!
Are those seemingly “evolved and sophisticated” churches who seem to say they know better, telling us that God did not know how the world would change? In fact, when you read the Bible you will see that He did know.
Churches can do all sorts of worldly good, including charitable acts, and still not be a Godly purveyor of His Word. God calls us to be charitable and generous, but the first job of any Christian Church, is to introduce people to Jesus Christ and aid them to reach Salvation. The first job of Christianity is Salvation. If not, then the rest really does not matter. Then that church is just another server of man.
5: But to him who works not (he who (as he should) does not trust in his own works
for Salvation and Righteousness) but believes in Him Who justifies the
ungodly (through Christ and the Cross), his faith is counted for
Righteousness (God awards Righteousness only on the basis of Faith in
Christ and His finished Work)
Many (including entire religions) make the mistake of counting “works
for justification” in the Book of James, as meaning working for
Salvation. James is writing about works after Salvation, not for it.
Works never get you to Heaven, only your Faith in what Christ did for
us on the Cross. Even when we produce good works, we remain sinners. We are told this in dozens of locations in the Bible.
Salvation for us however, is not an end, it is a beginning!
The verses below, refer to where we are now in history. This is the moment in time, to understand what they mean.
l l Timothy 3: 1-5
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times will come.
2 For men (many who call themselves Christians) shall be lovers of their own selves,
covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents,
unthankful and unholy.
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers,
incontinent, fierce and despisers of those who are good. (Does that last phrase sound anything like today?)
4 Traitors, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
5 Having a form of Godliness (all of the trappings and glitter of
Christianity, but without substance) but denying the power thereof (not
teaching, and therefore denying, the message of the Cross), from such
turn away. (ignore such churches).
The Message of The Cross, is not about those little items we wear around our neck. It is not about the cross on the top of a church. The actual cross, was a tool of torture and death used by the Romans. The Message of The Cross is about what Christ did for us there. It is about the message of salvation and eternal life. It is nice to have the symbol ( those crosses), but it is only a symbol.
Worship of anything or anybody other than God, is a form of idolatry.
The Time. For those who read, understand, and believe in God’s Word, you know that the time is getting near. Nobody knows when that time will arrive, but it “ain’t” thousands of years from now. 100 years, 50 years, 5 years. God’s children, including you and I, need to begin to decide whether we believe in religion or in God.
Lord knows, and I mean that the Lord truly knows, I struggle like everybody else. Maybe more than most. This has been a wonderful but difficult journey for a kid who went to Sunday School and church and took precious little away from it (I like to call it “Christianity lite”). Nice ceremonies and plays about religious things, but little substance. My first real action after my church experience, was to become an atheist, and then I spent most of my life floundering around searching for some grain of truth, and then finally, I came to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. On my journey, I have also searched philosophical and mystical religions like Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. I’ve been rewarded for that (accepting Christ) beyond my ability to explain, and yes there was a specific day and moment when I accepted.
The next five paragraphs are in some ways, my own personal testimony about myself, to you who are reading this article.
I cannot be the “personality” who I was (and am), at least since my teen years, and now be a “holy roller”. I am in no way a “bible thumper”.
When I first began producing posts on today’s subject, I found them easy to write, but very difficult to publish. At times when the moment came to hit the publish button, I would freeze. Early on, there were posts that sat in draft form for several days before I published. Some were deleted and never shared. I haven’t come very far because I wrote this article about two months ago. I may seem like the guy who loves to spout my opinions or flaunt some knowledge that I think I might possess, but it is against all of who I am to write about religion or the church. Sometimes our instincts are wrong and they need to be ignored. We use them to make things easier on ourselves rather than doing the right thing. Rather than saying something that needs to be said. Just maybe, what we think are our instincts, are actually Satan exploiting our weaknesses.
If I can do this, it is without question something that everyone can do. It doesn’t mean you walk around all day citing Scripture and acting holier than thou. I usually can’t remember the Scripture (actual wording) that I just read. Just share what you’ve seen, and what you know to be the truth.
Being born again doesn’t mean you actually lose your memory. I had great parents but I surely wasn’t born or raised in Mayberry. The most revealing fact I can impart to you about me, is that I’m more comfortable and at home with the sinners than I am with the saints. It’s difficult to deny who you have been, even when you realize who you are.
When we are born again, our changes do not include a change in the basic personality we were born with, but we can surely change the way we live, who we follow (God) and where we are going. We can become “new”, in those respects.
Let’s take a sidestep and look back at that church I spent most of my youth attending, primarily in Sunday School, but at times in church services.
They mentioned a few times in Sunday School and at services that Jesus saved and/or saves us from our sins. I’ve thought about that over and over again. There were never any actual explanations. Both saved us and saves us are used as terms.
If Jesus “saved” us from our sins, then that must mean that at one time people were not saved. If he “saves” us from our sins, then it must still be going on, and people must be sinful. Salvation must be an act that actually occurs. A verb of sorts. They never truly explained how salvation happens, in my church. It was the best kept secret in that church, and I suspect many if not most churches. It seemed as though they were saying that if you went to church (and made donations and participated in good deeds), eventually Jesus would say that you have gone for a while and you have done good deeds, so I think I’ll save you. I was worried, I never felt it happen. Shouldn’t I feel it?
It seems to me, that a religion that says Jesus will save you from your sins, ought to be talking about what we need saving from, how we reach that salvation, and they should do so to a large degree, every week. It should be in their literature, and they should be shouting it from the rooftops (there are some churches who do). There was mostly just silence on the matter in my church. In most circumstances, I wasn’t exactly sure what I needed saving from. Sin was mentioned, but just barely. Even the Bible stories we were taught in Sunday School, rarely concerned sin, or at least our sin. David and Goliath (bravery and righteousness), the Good Samaritan (charity), etc.
A few days ago I heard a pastor on the radio say that in today’s church, the Bible is a thousand miles long, but only 1/8th of an inch deep. He caught my attention and I listened to the rest of the sermon. There is still wisdom and Bible knowledge left, we just need to be willing to find it, and recognize it when we do.
It’s all a matter of faith, not in man, but in God.
What happens in churches that are weak in their faith? Firstly, they are or have become, humanistic, rather than Godly. The Bible is the story of sin. Where it came from and where it will go. It teaches you how to reduce the sin in your life, and how to receive absolution for the sins you have committed. Faith starved, humanistic churches often avoid such discussion. In many cases, they “pick and choose” the sins they do mention to carefully coincide with whatever today’s flavor of political correctness dictates. Man is their master, not God. You cannot teach the Bible, the Word of God, and remain politically correct. Those that do, are serving the wrong master.
It seems obvious to me, that pastors should continually educate you in how a walk with God works and how you study God‘s Word. In great and true churches, it is the overriding message and is given weekly.
The Trinity means three. One God, three parts. The Christian faith is not just about the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the educator and the One who will get you going, and keep you on track. God’s Spirit will open up His Word for you, and shed light on its meaning. He will also “convict” you of sin allowing you to confess it and be rid of it.
Any true purveyor of God’s Word will encourage you to read the Bible for yourself. Make sure it is a Bible that has not been created to mean things other than what it was intended for. Be weary of religions/denominations that have their own specific Bible and insist you use that. There are lists online of the best available but of course there is risk in that as well. In the end, call upon the Holy Spirit for understanding. The results will amaze you. I read an old version of the King James with very few alterations from the manuscript which is considered to be the closest to the original. There are “a few” other good Bibles but I do not consider my knowledge to be strong enough to create a list. I do occasionally use my King James Bible, look up a verse I want to use, and then go to the internet and check Bibles that are written more in modern American English, and compare the two. If, and I say if, I find an easier to understand version that says “exactly” the same thing as my Bible, I will happily use that instead.
A Bible that is easy to read is a good thing, but if it is false in its content, it can lead you to eternal death.
So, in the end, am I saying in this article that you cannot reach salvation if you are in the wrong church? No I am not saying that at all. I may not know a lot, but I know this for sure, you personally can reach salvation anywhere at anytime.
In my opinion, the Holy Spirit might speak to you, and you might truly accept, while you are worshiping at a meeting of Satanists. That (of course) wouldn’t mean that I should suggest for anyone to become a devil worshiper? Neither would I suggest a bad church. A good church, and/or a great teacher, is always the better route. Pay attention to the substance of the message, not the trappings. Pretty decorations and well performed ceremonies can be great, but they are no substitute for being fed a diet of God’s Word.
Trust God and His Message to you, over anything man (including me) or a church will tell you. He will lead you to a better place.
I don’t say any of these things out of some sort of personal wisdom. It comes only from a modicum of common sense. Teaching God’s Word isn’t that complicated, but churches don’t do it because they know most people don’t want to hear it, and they don’t want to teach you anything you don’t want to hear.
Pardon this next phrase, but it’s much about “putting asses in the seats”, and whatever you do to accomplish that is deemed okay. A full church that preaches untruths is harmful and anti God. If you preach the truth, you will succeed in the long run. You will reach those who you were meant to have reached. If you give them what they (sinners) want, you will always fail at the end. A full church, does not always mean you are succeeding.
Any church should have a strong leader. He/she needs to be accountable to the congregation, but the Godliness of that church should not be left up to a committee. That always produces humanism over Godliness. Just look at the majority of our government! Look at our schools.
We are in fact told in the Bible, that the Church will have its struggles. The Apostles fought humanism over Godliness in the Church throughout the New Testament. We are also told, that in the latter days, the church (not every church) will be weak and lacking in true Godliness. It’s not a difficult journey to realize that one form that it might take, would be a lack of “true” Bible teaching. Churches full of members fretting over human foibles, and looking for human answers instead of Godly ones. Sort of a social club. You might say they are grown-ups “playing church”. One that spends its time trying to accommodate what we want, or the way we think it “ought to be”, instead of what God has told us that He wants, and therefore, what we actually need. We humans will always choose the self-created humanistic things that make us feel better (and more powerful) about ourselves, and ignore God’s commands.
Yes, that is right, God doesn’t always ask us, He commands us. He is God! Not the human created god of political correctness that is so often taught, but the God of the Bible. He is to be loved beyond imagination, and yes, He is to be feared as well. It is impossible to teach the story of the Bible, Heaven and Hell, and not teach the fear of God, as well as His Love.
Left to our own volition, we are sinners at heart. That of course is not a popular message to preach today, because it is a message that people don’t want to hear. You can see the lack of that message in the current “snowflake” generation. We are born with a “sin nature”. Even after Salvation, the sin nature tugs at us. That is Satan doing his job. We need to do our job, but what that might be, is seldom taught. We have an insurmountable advantage over Satan if we only use it. We have God on our side!
The message of modern day atheists is that there is no such thing as true sin, and everything we do is merely relative (moral relevantism), and that belief is as common in the church as it is outside it. That’s pure secular humanism, even if it is wrapped in a building with a cross on the roof. It is born of atheism whether it is outside the church, or inside. Sin is sin!!
It would seem that people who already attend Christian churches, should be ahead of the game. Actually, from what I’ve seen, people in Churches who do not teach the truth are more difficult to connect with about the truth of God’s Word, than are those of completely different religions, or no religion at all. Many Muslims seem to accept God’s Word and convert to actual Christianity more readily than do many current Christian church goers. Sometimes those Christians have heard the same message (or lack of) for so long that they have stopped seeking ( or believing in) God on their own.
I am not suggesting that anybody stop going to church. We need churches now more than ever. We live in a fractured world, would it not be nice for believers in Christ to actually share in His Message and His Church? His Church, His true Church, is indeed our church as well. It’s there for all of us.
It is impossible to know what is in someone’s heart. I am quite sure, that there are people who I have considered reprehensible, and unredeemable, who have found the Lord in their final moments. In the end, it is surely between God and the individual. It is our job, I believe, to educate and aid whomever we can, to help find the path for that journey. That is sometimes difficult in its execution, but it is always simple in its concept.
I criticize criminals, especially bad ones, a lot on these pages and will continue to do so. Hopefully I’ve never written anything that says they are lost for eternity. God loves all His children, even those who have committed horrible sin. They have a chance until they
physically die, to come to the Lord. It behooves us to remember, that we are all sinners and we are just as eternally lost as a mass murderer if we do not accept the Salvation that is offered to us. It is offered by Grace (love) and Christ’s taking our punishment for us. We will die lost for any sin, I will repeat that, any sin that has not been paid for by Jesus. We just need to sincerely accept His Grace, and confess that sin.
Always remember, You can talk to God. He loves you and wants a PERSONAL relationship with you. He loves you in a way that we cannot even comprehend. His Son suffered our pain and our humiliation because of our sins, and did so for us. He stood in our place at the executioner’s stand. He gave His human life, so we could live. We can be cleansed with His precious Blood.
Lamentations is one of the most forgotten books of the Bible. It is Old Testament, and was probably written by the profit Jeremiah. It dealt primarily with Jeremiah’s lament over what was happening to Judah (Israel) and Jerusalem, but also with his personal grief.
Lamentations 3:37 Who is he who says it comes, when the Lord commands it does not? (The Holy Spirit, who speaking through Jeremiah, is saying it is about what the Lord commands, not man, whether something he (man) desires to happen or not.)
Lamentations 3:44 You have covered Yourself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through. (Prayer cannot “pass through” to God when sin is being harbored and not confessed).
Passages that get to the meat of man’s problems and his sin, are ignored by many churches.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the Power of God unto Salvation to everyone who believes; to the Jew and also to the Greek. (Salvation is for everyone, through what Jesus did for us on the Cross. You just need to sincerely accept it).
You will find below, not only one of the most significant passages in the Bible, but the sentence that sums it all up.
Jesus said to him, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.”
(Not through your personal deeds. Not through the denomination you belong to. Not through the building where you attend church. Not by way of the leader of your church. Not because of manmade religious ceremonies. Only through Christ. He is the only path. That, is the Message of the Cross. He does not give us a list of human substitutes that can bring you to the Father)
I know it seems like the Earth Image’s Blog has separated itself from its intended purpose, which would seem to have been nature photography. The truth is I always meant to write about whatever came to my mind. More and more over the years, my mind has been focused on the subject of today’s post. I know that distresses some. We are programmed to think we shouldn’t talk about such things in public. It is in fact between God and His people, but the Bible teaches how we can teach others with God’s help. There is little I can do in my own strength, or lack of, to dissuade anyone from whatever they now believe, or to persuade them to agree with what’s been written. In the end, that’s always between you and whom or whatever you follow or worship, and yes everyone worships something or somebody, be it man, inanimate object, a god, or Thee God.
This blog will never be all about religion or politics or photography or art. I am not “about” one thing or one subject, and I am incapable of keeping a blog that pretends I am. You may note, that I did finally make a slight change to the description of this blog as it resides next to the title. It has been changed from calling it a photo and info blog, to a photo, info and opinion blog. It should have always said that.
Only on rare occasions, and then only with political posts, do I actually attempt to offend anyone. I never, never, wish to offend my personal friends. With that said, I am willing to take the chance of their anger, if I believe strongly enough in what I write, and what I know. Time is too short to hold back. I am a “lay it all out there” sort of guy, and sometimes friends decide I am not worth the journey. That saddens me but that’s up to those people, there is little I can do about it.
I may not be perfect, but Jesus thinks I am to die for ~Unknown
It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.
May God Bless,