When I was a kid I went to church at my parents request. Request? More like a mandate. We attended a small church with about 50 members and a bi-vocational pastor. Bi-vocational just means he had a second job aside from being a pastor. In his case it was because the church could not pay him enough to live on.
I heard lots of messages from him and others in the church but the biggest I heard was about fire and brimstone. Death and Hell and all that. Not a lot of fun for a young person and certainly not a place I wanted to spend part of my weekend. Don’t think I dismiss the fire and brimstone (it is in the bible) but I’m pretty sure it was not what Jesus intended to leave us with.
Fast forward about 50 years. I am coming up on 59 this year and I have learned a lot. I have learned a lot about God, the church and I have formed some beliefs and opinions. I got a chance to share this recently and some events today prompted me to share them here.
I heard someone talking about religion and they came up with a one word definition for Christianity as LOVE. I would offer another word. That word is GRACE. Most of us (I’m a Christian) would say Love is key but human love is not enough. God’s love is the beginning and that is most shown by his grace. To not give us what we deserve. We believe that our destiny is ultimately death as the wages of sin but by God’s grace we have been forgiven through Jesus Christ. Our biggest problem is that the church has failed to deliver on the one thing that only the church can do.
Housing for the homeless can be addressed by Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army or the sick can be treated by Doctors without Borders. Hunger can be helped by community food pantries. The church CAN do these things and I think it should but the message has to be one of grace first. To extend grace to the hungry, the poor, the pedophile, the hooker and the long list of other ‘thou shalt not’s. All these things are a concern because God says they are but He does not give us the ‘right’ to judge.
Our charge to judge, if it exists at all, is limited to those who claim to be Christians. Those who have not accepted Christ are solely judged by God.
We are also charged to Love each other (other Christians) so the world would know who we are. To be attractive to the world and bring others into relationship with Him because of that love.
Another aspect of the discussion was one of the difference between religion and Christianity. Not to be glib but a simple way I try to explain my thoughts is to say religion is man reaching up to God. Christianity is God reaching down to man. It is the difference between man doing something to make himself right with God but Christianity is God (through what Jesus did on the cross) making it right with us.
It is a gift offered to all that will accept it.
Finally, it is not our job to try and be good enough. We are to simply come, surrender to Christ and He accepts us as we are but He loves us too much to let us stay that way. He will change us as we spend time with Him. The problem is we don’t do that. We don’t surrender and we don’t spend time with Him.
It really is that simple as I consider all I have learned and lived for almost 60 years. To abide in Christ is to be changed. Not my will or work but His alone.
Last thing I read today was something from Dr. J. Vernon McGee. I used to listen to Dr. McGee on his Through The Bible program on KBRT transmitting off Catalina Island, CA. Loved that man and his messages. Sadly he died about 1988 but I recently found him on an app. Yes, there’s an app for that. He would take listeners through the bible in 5 years, one daily program at a time sharing this commentary on the passages he read. Loved his down the earth way of talking and I can still hear that distinctive voice explaining the bible to me.
The thing I read today that I have been marinating on is the fact that most references to people seeing God in the bible reflect on how they are driven to lay on their faces in the presence of a Holy God. I have not checked thoroughly yet but I believe in most cases the ones driven to lay prostrate are lifted to their feet and told to fear not. It seems that Christianity has the only God who we fall on our faces when confronted with but then raised up by that God to be in relationship with him.
All the other religions seem to have a god that demands we stay down. Just a thought I am working on. More to come.
Not sure this matters to anyone but me but I have been thinking on it all day and just wanted to share the thoughts with all of you.
Thanks for listening,
PS. if this sparks a thought or comment, I would love to hear from you. Call me (678-231-1578) or comment or email me. God Bless.
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