UPDATED -October 14, 2012
The older I get, the less I am able to renounce the secular and religious convictions I have –even if they make sense only to me. Many of them are my irreplaceable life standards –like this one from 1 John 5:11 “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (Although the foregoing is not an explanation of RELIGION, it could be an outline.) Actually, what really matters to me is that I know clearly what are my convictions, and why I have them.
The Holy Scripture (contained in the Bible) is the blueprint for how and what I think, live, and believe –even when I don’t always align my heart and will as I should. Specifically, I choose to believe the Scripture is God’s Word -God’s decree. (At this time, a debate about belief in God isn’t practical. I’ve discussed why I believe in God in a different composition. I also am not disrespecting anyone else’s right to not believe.)
Pertinent to Divine religion, in my opinion, are Scriptures like these: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” -Romans 10:17. “And I will give you pastors according to my heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” -Jeremiah 3:15. Consequently, since I believe God’s Word, I accept that there are pastors for God’s people. Further, I know that all of my life, what I have most benefited from has been anointed preachers-teachers; and those doctrines “organize” and develop my beliefs.
In part 1, the tribute I wrote about the pastor of the church I attended for the past 4 years makes it obvious that I believed that he was a God-authorized pastor. (Update: God returned me to that same church and pastor, for a set time and with a distinct assignment.) I’m especially bringing up this matter because, true religion requires certain conduct of me as a proclaimer of the gospel of Jesus Christ –and from me toward this pastor-preacher. More about this later.
Equally or more significant than those two passages, I cannot get around this one: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, . . .”-Hebrews 10:25. No matter how I churn the words around, or even if I would rather enjoy listening to songs and sermons in the comfort of my home, I cannot get around God’s decree about assembling in worship gatherings. For a very long period of my life, I never imagined doing otherwise. I formerly immensely enjoyed religious services prior to the onslaught of— “perilous times” (2 Timothy3:1).
All the same, it is imperative to interject this: the Hebrews 10:25 passage about not ’forsaking the assembling of ourselves together’ is not compelling religious adherents to attend worship services for purposes of personal gratification, nor to attend for social networking, political meandering –regardless of, (in quests for earthly, rather than eternal pursuits), too much of that is precisely what occurs in many churches (aside from the usual & acceptable backstabbing, back biting, plotting, and “sitting in the seat of the scornful”).
Too many ‘gathering together’ Christians live as if they are clueless about what hymns like this mean: “Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for everyone, and there’s a cross for me.” Accordingly, certain things have caused “organized religion” to lose its appeal and diminish the sense of community people once looked forward to experiencing. (I’m beginning to feel a little like singing, “give me that old-time religion, it’s good enough for me.”) But pointedly, the ultimate objective for not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together seems to lie in the 24th verse which states: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” Disinterest toward fellow assembly members is not the way that religious gatherings should be.
Elaborating further, the assembling yourselves “together” verse DID NOT state that when people arrive at congregations, they should mingle only with people who suit their social statuses, or with people who have not (intentionally or unintentionally or even deservedly) offended someone with whom they are friends or related, etc., and so on goes this satisfying mindset. (Example: It’s perfectly okay if Joe Blow steals from Stella Sue because Joe is related to me, and nobody had better be upset about it, talk about it, nor seek restitution. . .Yeah right!) That type of “assembling oneself together” in God’s house of worship is neither the “together” that God intended, nor is the heart and spirit of Jesus Christ –the One who loved the church and gave His life for her (Ephesians 5:2 and 5:25). Jesus DID NOT give His life to create an elite church, nor a church whereby certain people are more meaningful than others! To be blunt, if God wanted people to only associate with “their” kind, arguably they don’t need to utilize HIS HOUSE for their social get-togethers. And frankly, interacting with other members could help to improve their capacity for laboring together in God’s vineyard, for His purposes.
Further, in the gospels, Jesus explicitly taught about addressing offenses (heads up for people who relish whitewashing), of which exposure or confronting is the very thing needed –as Jesus taught, for purposes of gaining “thy brother” (an obvious foreign concept in too many religious assemblies where the focus is NOT the Lord Jesus).
Likewise, the reason why hatred, self-serving, misunderstandings, intolerance, inability & refusal to relate to people with viewpoints and ideals different from COZY / “at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1) Christians, and social cliques, are because too many purported “religious people” refrain from loving people who don’t talk, act, or think as they do. As such, intolerance, prejudice, jealousy (foolish and unfounded!) are major hindrances to why actual purposes for “assembling” together are adversely impacting churches across the nation. Little wonder the Gallup Poll reports: “American Confidence in Religion at All-Time Low” http://www.christianpost.com/news/gallup-american-confidence-in-religion-at-all-time-low-78213/ .
What person of reason relishes “assembling” at environments like those described above?! And “demons” like it when ostracized, tormented, pillaged people who are seeking God are sent away from assemblies wounded and permanently disfigured in their spirits. Demons delight when people are so turned off about church, the Scriptures, and God, that they want complete disassociation. But, after periods of healing, truly religious people understand and believe that Jesus gave His life for His Church. They not only have remorse for personal sins, they are the people who abide or return where God has called them –and they labor and intercede for God’s glory and His purity to prevail in His people, and in churches (everywhere) gathered in His Name. People who are committed to God press onward; they do not sell the truth (Proverbs 23:23); and they are mindful of bygone religious soldiers who were “steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding (1 Cor.15:58).
Even more specifically, I’m calling to remembrance my “spiritual coaches” (what I’m talking about is explained in my memoir) who perpetually prompt me to consider that Isaiah 54:17 is not saying that weapons won’t be formed against people who trust God. Rather, weapons will not have the result of injury, but the outcome of promotion. The reason being, what was meant for evil, will turn for my good; and underhanded liars will be exposed when the light (the facts) show, rather than move away.
The religious convictions that I was taught leads me to agree, it is fantastic if weapons (Isaiah 54:17); inquisitions (Jeremiah 17:10; Psalm 139:23-24); pruning knives (John 15:2); swords (Luke 12:51) -and whatever causes religious development; whatever reveals imposters who are in the way, instead of on the way in terms of serving Jesus Christ.
Serving God is not a type of ‘nicety’ Sunday exhibition for a few hours, huddled among loved ones, aloof from other church attendees. Pleasing and serving God includes visiting those in prison –not merely friends and family; attending to members who are ill and in trouble –and not simply one’s own family and friends; but fellow church members (rather than gossip about them); it also include being a kind sympathetic ear –in case there’s something one can do or suggest or refer to relieve a fellow member.
Further, service to God IS NOT limited to only favoring pastors and their families, while ignoring suffering, troubled, grieving, broken family fellow members, particularly when their sorrows, struggles, and weaknesses are widely known in the congregation. (Among the problems, weaknesses, sins, burdens, addictions that church members and their loved-ones grapple with include pornography, sexuality, homosexuality, gaming, alcohol, infidelity, fear, and so many things that imperfect human beings have yet to overcome.) In fact, an extremely complimentary, God-pleasing manner that religious people can show their love and appreciation for their pastors, religious leaders, and foremostly to the Lord Jesus Christ, is to serve God beyond the pews, the choir, ushers –succinctly outside the church walls, even if no accolades or money comes from it. **Another method where religious people could be helpful to each other if opportunities arise, is to share information like meaningful Internet articles. If we’ve read something interesting, chances are that same information might be helpful to someone else. ['Knowledge puffs a person up, but love edifies' (1 Corinthians 8:1)] So, we don’t have to only offer what we discover at home –and doing so just might enhance unity. Jesus prayed for oneness in John 17:21.
If people who attend church (me included!) practice more of what we supposedly attend “organized religion” for, there will be an increase of respect and admiration for the church that Jesus built upon a “rock.” Pastors and church staff are not the only ones with tasks of telephoning and visiting sick, absent, distressed and bereaved people –and their family members, and so and so. Also, when new people join churches, it isn’t the task of only certain people to welcome and show them kindness. There are certain TV talk shows that are doing better jobs at helping families and friends resolve minor conflicts than church people who are fully aware of those conflicts, since they openly scorn, gossip, and sometimes have whispering campaigns, instead of this: “blessed are the peacemakers.” Hence, who knowingly wants to embrace these churches? If anything, all people would do is come for the good music and singing, but remain detached from what “assembling ourselves together” is all about. It’s not possible to learn about Jesus in malignant discussions.
Also, though people give their contributions to churches and public charities, there’s NO law against opening cupboards and refrigerators, and sharing of their substance with neighbors. A long time ago, I learned a law that has proven to reward me in my time of need. It’s this: “Cast your bread upon the waters: for you shall find it after many days.” –Ecclesiastes 11:1
As it pertains to God’s design for religion –as well as pertains to God’s family / God’s household– it cannot be ignored what Jesus said about both:
There came then His brethren and is mother, and, standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him. And the multitude sat about Him, and they said unto Him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And He answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And He looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother. [Mark 3:31-35, KJV]
One additional, most critical thing concerning religion Divine, church-attendance, “organized religion,” preachers, etc., I sometimes wish that I could scream the following from rooftops: Church leaders and pastors are not the only ones with the responsibility of studying and learning the Scriptures! In fact, it is the responsibility of every religious adherent! More important than knowing what our medications are, you and I should be EVEN MORE knowledgeable about the Scriptures! especially since we all know that Scriptures can be manipulated to say what people want them to say. [Granted, interpretation can be problematic for some people, just like if we obtained a new Rx. But we can ask questions of learned people --and the more learned people the better! And surely, there's the library. (When I lived a few years in a housing project, many many decades ago, I considered myself very wealthy to be able to live so near the local library in New Orleans.) The operative word is "learned," people who learned from learned people and institutions. ] But of greater importance, we should know the Scriptures because through them, we grow able to know and to love God, and desire to emulate Him, (and love our fellow man).
Probably because in lots of churches, outreaches have been assigned to one or two church staff persons, church members hastily defend what has translated into indifference by stating that their offerings take care of those issues. Some people have gone as far as saying they don’t have to be bothered with fellow members’ circumstances. But not only can such unloving viewpoints be seen in lots of congregations, a few conversations with the staff who ‘get paid to be bothered’, and glimpses at his or her increased prosperity –and a few discussions with people who received visits from persons who visit because it protects their job security, rather than visit because of genuine care– will demonstrate what really results from some of those one-man or one-woman ‘outreach’ shows. It’s shameful. Also, Jesus had to explain to people even when He was on earth, not to simply invite people who reciprocate invitations. (Luke 14:12 et seq.)
The presidential election campaigns, a news article, and the need to finalize that August part 1 religion discourse prompts today’s post. I am not going to write all I’d like to say about religion. I’ve probably written too much for some people. At any rate, a book I have been writing about my religion life, “More Than A Conqueror,” is nearly completed. It prompts me to share my conclusive decision about what I will do from here on, regarding my religious convictions.
Arguably, “organized religion” is distinguishable from “religion.” I’ve said good-bye to specific aspects of organized religion –undesirable ones. Also, it needs emphasizing that I’m not thinking in terms of one church, assembly, ministry, or leader. It would be as odd for a person to say he or she prefers chaotic and unorganized religion, as it would be odd for a sports fan to say that he or she prefers the NFL (or whatever sport preference) to be chaotic and “unorganized.” To be more precise, in saying hello to “divine religion.” I’m saying I am embracing the Kingdom of God; “seated in heavenly places” perspectives.
Since the August post, I’ve been looking forward to stating that I prefer “organized” over “disorganized.” Still, sometimes organized religion gets a bad rap. In the same regard that horrible marriages do not mean that people shouldn’t enter marriage. Or, because there are children who are born with birth defects, does not mean that all pregnancies should be avoided. This same principle applies for religion –organized or unorganized.
What brought about my writing this post, and yelled to be written, occurred after I watched several presidential re-election interviews, and after seeing this in the news yesterday: “Was Jesus Married?” First of all, I’m sure I’m not the only one whom that question offends; and who know it’s impossible to answer that question. *A graphic description follows to show how irksome it is to me to grapple with invasive blather that’s impossible to corroborate.
If it could have done any good, I might have yelled after I saw the story headline about Jesus. I didn’t want to yell because I am a Christian, nor because I am so pious. I wanted to yell because my Judge Judyness was kicking in at full throttle! (Judy’s mannerism is my way of describing how I behave when I feel assaulted by stupidity –including my own! As much, and as often as I try, I cannot help getting short-tempered. I am constantly availing myself of help with this problem area of dealing with, and working on being ‘angry and sin not’. )
Indulge my clarification please about why the “Was Jesus married” articles infuriate me. But first allow me to throw these in: Was the Apostle Paul married? Who has connections to which politicians? Where did Cain get his wife? Was Rev. James Cleveland gay? Did Alicia Keys break up a marriage? The lengthy quest to discover if Clay Aiken was gay? Whether Kate Middleton has a baby bump? What does John or Mary do for a living? (translation: does that person have an impressive job). Who is related to whom (as in name-dropping gossip). Is President Obama a Muslim? And here’s a personal one: Is it true I have a son? (*Yes, and so? Along with what’s meaningful to me, you can read about him in my extraordinary memoir.) As it pertains to religion, such discussions and busy bodies comport with “organized religion” that is bad, rather than building God’s Kingdom. And almost always, the ‘organized-church-going people’ who are in to that sort of thing (with “organized” church-going roots extend as far back as black pepper), have difficulty reciting even 10 Bible verses from memory, nor can tell where the verses are located in the Bible; and mercy and compassion is uncommon. THAT IS ORGANIZED RELIGION WITH WHICH I WANT NO ASSOCIATION.
Also, I cannot comprehend –neither do I want to understand– people’s need to COMPARE with me (as well as compare with others), information and notes they acquired through gossip, as if they seek to learn if what they heard was true. Here’s my open reply to data collecting / minding-other-people’s-business folk: Get a life! Visit information centers for meaningful knowledge! Hurry and find time to gain new or enlightened acquaintances! See what you can do to make a difference in our troubled economy –or go bless your neighbor! BETTER YET, go pray for, intercede for somebody, anybody! Yes, gossipy, nosey, gawking people utterly bother me! I guess if I could have anger permission, some of what I mentioned might be allowable. (Probably, it would be righteous indignation; and I would need my “Spiritual Coaches” to coach me along in processing my attitude correctly since I am still not doing as good a job as I would like along the lines of not being P’oed (especially because gossip / backbiting has been a vocational hurdle for me).
Moreover, as far as those kinds of questions are concerned, WHAT DIFFERENCE will the answer make to other people’s lives? In most of those instances, unless the answer can be gained so-to-speak from the horse’s mouth, how could the truth ever be known? Furthermore, sometimes when people tell the truth, they are not believed. Even more poignant, here’s how Jesus put it: “What is that to you?” (John 21:22)
Gossip about possible intimate information on religious leaders is a revolting problem nowadays –mainly because, almost as difficult as determining whether Jesus had a wife, that type of intimate gossip is not easy to prove; and even it were proven, the dilemma would follow such as so what? Ironically, not even talking about child molestation, or embezzlement of church funds, clergy reassignments and payoffs, nuns mistreated, preachers and staff abusing their positions of public trust receive as much gossip. But newsmonger tales about who bore preachers’ babies, and which floozie is sexually involved with whom, can be heard anytime / anywhere. Compare any of that to conversations about the Bible or missionary tasks, and there is a vast difference.
So. Along with gossip once again, I reference Judyness, as I state how I feel about talk that cannot be substantiated, especially talk which attempts to get people contemplating whether Jesus was married. Indisputably, no one can go back in time and gather evidence. Thus, the insult of asking me to contribute to, or to participate in invasive blather about ANY needless, distracting talk that neither I, nor anyone else can substantiate is like sitting someone’s behind on top of my face, and flatulating. Yes, that’s graphic; and that’s how much I dislike hazy, gossip that, in a round-about manner, attempts to get people thinking and discussing something impossible to ascertain.
It bothers me that those historians use time and money for contending, researching what is impossible to corroborate. In view of the serious problems of poverty, unemployment, and the problems of Capital Hill, it’s exasperating for people to talk about what amounts to “a frog went a courtin’ and he did ride, uh-huh.” It would be different if the Jesus question was not generated by historians and researchers. I hope that next they won’t study to find out whether the cow really did jump over the moon. <<Now, I’m being silly!
It would be wonderful if they would use research money to stock some food banks, or they would research solutions to poverty or political corruption. It would further be good if the researchers and historians who are directing America’s focus on Jesus’ wife, would use their platforms for helping Americans see how badly their members of congress are doing –like leaving town when President Obama is trying to get employment bills passed. If the American public became aware which congress members are skipping out, people will know whom to not re-elect. Distraction has always been an effective tool from what’s critical. Specifically, this is subject matter to which all American’s attention should be drawn: “Congress Must Act to Create Jobs and Grow the Economy” http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/09/22/weekly-address-congress-must-act-create-jobs-and-grow-economy and drawn to THIS>> Congress members back legislation that could benefit themselves, relatives http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress-members-back-legislation-that-could-benefit-themselves-relatives/2012/10/07/c2fa7d94-f3a9-11e1-a612-3cfc842a6d89_story.html.
**A post that also goes along with the foregoing, is this one: Religion Lesson? Obama-Biden Administration @ http://www.lawgrace.org/2012/10/02/religion-lesson-obama-biden-administration/