July 26, 2007

Progress. Bad. Huh?

God has me think often about progress. Remember when you couldn't: record a TV show, microwave a meal, listen to a CD, get satellite TV, drive a car with more than 150 HP, word process, talk on a cell phone, get money from an ATM, pay for gas at the pump. All of these have come in the last twenty-five years. AMAZING progress. Why so amazing? Because for thousands of years, ending around the turn of the century in the US, the yeast pot was a fixture in every household. "The yeast pot you say?" Yes the yeast pot I say. Every kitchen had one, or your bread did not rise. You could make no wine, or beer, or hard spirits. It was a pot that the cooks kept in their kitchens that had a live yeast culture in it. Yeast is a single celled living organism. So you had to keep feeding the little buggers, or they would die. If you were a farmer, you could go without good bread for a couple of weeks before you made it to a neighbors to borrow some of their yeast. Now we have 280 different kinds of identified yeast. Sold in little dry packets, not kept in a culture that smelled like the men's room corner in a bar.

From something so simple as making bread that was a complex and difficult thing to do, we have simplified it to something a machine can do if we just give it the right ingredients. How is progress made, by building on the knowledge and foundations of others. All of this progress is considered good for humanity by giving more time for people to do other things, like study the bible on their own, instead of allowing the clergy to do it for them, and telling them what to think about it. This is the crux of the problem for many of us that have chosen to leave organized religions. In our desire to learn more of God, we search the scriptures, and read books that offer many thoughts about God and religion, that have scriptural basis. Because of our own studies and books in the christian bookstores we find a wide range of thoughts and beliefs that differ from the teachings of our chosen churches. The knowledge contained in the bible and books sometimes lead us to differing points of belief than our pastors or reverends or priests. We are basically building on the knowledge of the past, to increase our understanding in the present. We are making progress because the knowledge of the past is finally available to all.

Finally available? What do you mean? Well, how many christian bookstores were around twenty-five years ago. Very few. How many now? More, though certainly not as many as secular bookstores. But even those secular bookstores carry books on religion. Our ability to learn has exponentially increased very recently in historical terms. This is causing a crisis of faith to many. As God speaks to people in their studies, they find verses that completely contradict what they have always been taught, the conviction of the truth of the thought, stays with them irrefutably. To keep things like this from happening, some faiths have forbidden reading to their congregations except for specifically authorized books. That is ridiculous you say, well the catholics started that practice long ago. Keep people stupid, and they will believe what is told from the pulpit.

The crisis of faith mentioned above, is then taken to the leader of the church, and talked about. The person you talk to shows you the same old tired drivel that you have seen many times before and is no help in solving the crisis. Why? Because of doctrine. Doctrines are basically a way of thinking about The God, but area accepted as complete, and in no need of revision. Since there is no need of revision, your spiritual leader, no longer studies or hides the word of God in their heart, and no longer matures in the faith. Because they learned all they needed to learn in seminary. More on this in "To Be A Servant" December 28, 2006. So if you truly desire God, and daily hide the word in your heart, you quickly, within 2 to 3 years, become more knowledgeable about the bible than you spiritual leader. Then he can no longer answer any of your questions, and becomes useless to you. That is when the decision to leave church for many is reached, because they receive no hope there. Not only that, but the pastor/reverend/priest (PRP) our of concern for you spiritual well being, talks to others in the church to try and help,"Guide you back to the path." This normally means pressure being put on you to take those irrefutable truths you have been guided to by God, and rejecting them. Knowing that if you do, you are rejecting God. Your love for God being much stronger than your love of the people that are pressuring and cajoling you, you leave. Becoming a servant of God, rather than someone of a christian faith.

The progress you have made as a follower of God, has or will make you an outcast of your church. Making progress bad in the eyes of the established doctrinal organizations. But does not God want you to grow? Does he not want you to move on to meat, rather than remain suckling at the breast? Of course he wants you to grow. But the growth process for a servant of God is not much different than it is for a small child. It goes in spurts. At the appropriate time, a child will have a growth spurt. Also for us servants, God will reveal truths to us at the appropriate time. Leaving many of us at different levels of growth, and differing paths, even though we study together. More on this at an old post "On Our Own" January 5th, 2007. So through our progress, we out grow our chosen places of faith, by being a servant, and obeying God by hiding the word in our hearts. Progressing in the faith is a good thing, but seen as bad by organized religion, because in their rigidity, they lose followers.

So what do you do now that you have no spiritual home. Create one. Learning lessons from the early church, "Where two or more are gathered together in my name, there I will be also." We have the ability to be together over huge distances. Cyberly this is possible. This is the charge God has laid on my heart, To gather together unto him, those who are his true servants, and have outgrown their earthly place of worship. To try to get them to connect and build a community on line so that they will have companionship, worship, fellowship, understanding and acceptance. That they can discuss the questions that they have without fear of reprisals from the other members of the sect. I have set up a blog called Just Wondering @justwonderingfaith.blogspot.com. Here you can comment on questions, get a question posted, or just read responses and form your own opinions. But where ever you are. Try to connect to one other person however you can, to strart. Then go on from there. Continue to progress in your faith, becasue it is a good thing.

July 6, 2007

Nail In My Hand


-Chris Cornell, Audioslave

God has laid this thing on me for weeks, yet he chooses now to lay the inspiration on me. Two sheets to the wind, because obviously, three would be one too many. But on my way home from having a couple of drinks from my brother's home, God hits me with the Audioslave in the CD player. He says to me, "This is what the people want." This chorus of the song I am listening to. "This is why the law is so attractive. This is the seduction that subverts everything else. The attraction that is so undeniable, as to almost be an addiction. Wait, not almost, but actually an addiction, that when broken, causes great distress and anxiety to the reformed addict." It is the crux of human nature, "Show me how to live" could be the anthem for almost any self help book that wanted to be a success. That is what humanity cries out for!! "SHOW ME HOW TO LIVE!!!

That is the pivotal issue in the Law vs Grace Debate. The humanity cries forth. "Show me how to LIVE!!!" There is no shortage of people telling you how to live your life. Don't Smoke, don't drink, don't eat red meat, exercise regularly, get plenty of fiber, drink milk, don't drink milk, pay your taxes, only a fool would pay taxes, get all you can while on earth because you can't take it with you, only a fool thinks that material possessions make them happy, etc...etc...etc... For every school of thought on the planet, there is a school of thought against it. Learning to read and understand the bible has taught me that I can prove any theology that I want to prove if I pick the right verses. Using my bible snippets to my advantage, I can show anything in any light that I want. I can prove the Jehovah's Witness point of view, the Baptist point of view, the Vatican point of view, the etc... etc... etc... Too many arguments, too much crap.

This is where the issue comes to for me in Grace vs. Law, or Works vs. Faith. The established and accepted religious doctrines of our time, are Law and Works based. If you do this, you will be saved, and then once you are saved, you must act like this. EASY. Grace, says, that Jesus has already forgiven you, so sin no longer separates you from God. All you have to do is five things. They are Repent, Confess, Believe that Jesus made the Gift Of Grace Possible, Faith In God, and Obedience. Easy, right. No. That is harder than anything that law could possibly have. Why, because something is "Telling You How To Live" in the law based Faith. But in Grace based faith. The law is not there. It does not exist. The ten commandments, GONE. NO MORE. So how do you live with a Grace based faith? Well let's understand them each a ittle better before we get into that.

The similarities of the two are so close that, many do not really see the distinction. Because both teach that you must have those five things for salvation. Faith in "The God" is a given if you want his Grace. Belief that Jesus made Grace possible and available. Without this belief, you cannot believe in The God's Grace. Repent and Confess, are two that I believe cannot be separated. They are like peanut butter and jelly. Different, but go so well together. Repent, means to change one's mind, or have a paradigm shift. A paradigm is the way you see the world around you and perceive it. We are to change how we look at the world, and see it through The God's eyes. Confess means to agree with. Now that we see things through The God's eyes, we then must agree that what he wants, is what we will do. So to confess a sin is to agree with The God, that yes, what I am doing I believe to be a sin in your eyes, and that it is bad. The you must repent again, changing your mind that you will not do that again. This obviously will go on again and again. Last is obey, the stepchild of Repent and Confess. So as we change our minds, and agree with The God, then we must do as he asks. That is the crux of the difference between Grace and the Law. Obedience to The God.

Grace based faith does not believe that a physical act, or prayer, especially the sinner's prayer, has to be done to have salvation achieved, or maintained. My daughter has said the sinners prayer, she is no more a servant of God right now than a rock. Actually, the rock I am sure is a much better servant of God than she. For will they not cry out to the Savior when he returns? I digress, my point being, the intent of the heart was not there. Even though she went through the act, she did not go through the transformation of the heart where these changes must be made. So, in the law based faith, my daughter is SAVED and is going to HEAVEN. In Grace based faith, she is not saved, and may be going to the lake of fire. The crux of the difference being in the act, not the intent. To illustrate my point completely. A man confesses of a heinous crime. So the act of the confession is enough to make it a capital offense and a death sentence can be claimed. By the law, that man would be put to death. But if the man was tortured till he would confess anything, then the true intent was not confession of guilt, but the alleviation of pain, so the confession is invalid. It is not the act, but the intent that is being measured. Why you ask?

Real simple. God created a works based faith. The law and sacrifice system. This system said that if you did something wrong, then you had to sacrifice something truly valuable to God to have the sin forgiven so that you could go to heaven. Problem is, there was a loophole. No requirement of obedience, just absolution for sin. So the people knew that for the sacrifice to be accepted, it had to be of their best. So once a year, they would bring their best to the Temple to be placed upon the alter for forgiveness of their sins in the past year. Then they would go and sin as much as they wanted, knowing a reprieve was just a year away. The sinning at the time consisted of worshipping other Gods. Not cool. A broken commandment, but forgivable with the sacrifice. So the sacrifice system did not work. Now, the definitive "Show me how to live" was made by God, Given to Moses, and then given to the people. After a while, the law became greater than God. Because keeping the laws in service to God was no longer the important thing. The important thing became the laws themselves. They became the God of the people. People followed the laws, not because they wanted to, but because they had to, to keep from being stoned. So they did what they were told, but the intent behind it was resentment and fear of what would happen if anyone in the Temple found out. Sound familiar to anyone going to a church. That is why the intent is important. Acquiescence is not what God is after. It is complete and utter devotion. Freely given to him. Laws cause resentment and create intimidation, thus destroying the true intent of the believer. Contorting the actions from good works, to things of hatred and resentment.

Hatred and resentment you say. Oh yeah. One more time singing Christmas carols in the nasty stinking old folks home by my house, would have made me puke. Put me off of ever wanting to ever have any charitable feeling for the elderly ever again. A lot of good that did. I not only hated it, but resented the people that made me do it. This is where a lot of the people today turn away from the church. Away from God. Because the law based faith people, demand that you do things to be part of the church. And as they force you to do these things that you do not feel lead of God to do. You will become angrier and angrier until you finally take action. Most times it is just saying "To hell with God, if he is this much trouble I want nothing to do with him." That is truly sad, because many cannot separate the church from God. If they understand that the humans in the church are the problem not God, then they stay with God, but have not spiritual place to go to any more.

Now what is the law that they say you have to follow. Is it the one that says you should stone, adulterers, homosexuals, rapists and all kinds of other sinners. The one that has you following the sacrifice system. The one that has you going out to the mission field to convert and make disciples of all men. The problem with the law based faith, no one can agree on what the laws are, and if we do not know what they are, how can we follow them? "Well", they say, "follow the spirit of the laws." Well, the phrase "The Letter Of The Law" is there for a reason. And if we follow the spirit of the law, then we open ourselves up to the interpretations of the laws. That is why we now have so many different denominations. And why that moron who calls himself Pope just told the rest of the world that Catholicism is the only true religion, and that all others are false. Truly remarkable. The only faith that is a half a step away from paganism saying the rest are crap. Those spiritual lawyers are a bunch of quacks. So if the law isn't the ticket. How am I supposed to live?

By faith, is the answer. Faith is a really hard thing. Trust is a synonym of Faith. I trust you, and I have faith in you, are almost exactly the same thing. The people that we have to trust in a Grace based faith, is God and Ourselves. That is what makes Grace so tough. God has proven his faithfulness to man again, and again, and again. So trusting him is easier, than trusting the person that has let you down again and again and again by doing really stupid things. Yourself.
Why, because living without laws, but by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have to trust ourselves to get his guidance right. That is what makes Grace so hard. Living by faith, and faith alone. Without any tangible proof that we are bonded to The God through the Holy Spirit and the Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus the Christ. Except, the things that he brings to bear in our own lives. We want to believe in the works based faith, then we can say I did this, or I did that, so I deserve to go to Heaven. I did what I was supposed to do. That is so easy to hang your hat on. It is solid and real. But real faith is belief in things unseen.

The really wonderful part is though. If you live your life, in a true desire to please God. If you consider all of the things that you do through the Repented paradigm. You will not screw up, and do things wrong. That is how you can trust yourself, knowing that if you are truly acting with a servants heart, and trying to do what you can for God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, The God will judge the intent behind the actions, and see it for the worship that it is. The completely devoted servant doing their best to make their master happy. In his eyes, it will be good. If you are always trying to do the things that please God, and follow his will at all times, you will be able to say. "Lord, when were you in prison and I visited you? When were you hungry and I gave you Food? When were you naked and I clothed You?" Because you walk in his will so much, and bear so much fruit, that you will not be able to remember it all. When it comes time for judgement, Jesus will say,"In so much as you did it to the least of these, you have done it unto me. Welcome into my Kingdom, my servant in whom I am well pleased."