Thursday, June 25, 2009

What is your religion? A blog discussion shared...

“Religions with no Scriptural foundation fool the masses, because the masses won't study the word of our creator to get the truth from him for themselves. This is why the savior calls us out of all religion, so that we might know Him personally for ourselves. Religion all has its base in man – and in Luciferic arcane, esoteric knowledge.”

This may come as a surprise and offend, but most all church organizations function on the basis of the roman catholic church; whether by its traditions, format of service, hymns, laity, administration, domination, supposed hierarchy, doctrine. All of them have booklets, bibles, literature to provide you a means of proof texting to their way of thinking.

The church organization is no place to raise your children. Raise them at home, teach them, read with them, pray with them. We might even learn something ourselves. We might even develop a closer relationship with them and our Creator. Don't rely on a social scene to mold your child.

Don't be lazy, search out the Creator and Savior for yourself. Be personally responsible. Love your enemies, pray for those who use you. Your mind will clear from all the rhetoric.

Reader 1 reply:
That's why I always say that Christ came to save us from religion; not start a new one.

Reader 2 reply :
Not surprised nor offended. Thank you for your inspirational thoughts.

Reader 3 reply:
thanks! I think after the various splits it really hit home, and this way of thinking made much more sense to me and my family at least.

Reader 4 reply:
Love your thinking, BUT... :-)

Wouldn't you agree that there is SOME value to corporate worship? No, it shouldn't be the target of our lives, but I think David was on to something when he said that he was glad to go to the Lord's house.

Yes, our spiritual lives can stagnate when we get comfortable in a church where we like the people, our kids have friends, we like the music, etc. All of those things are good - don't get me wrong - but if we ignore a close relationship with our Father and Brother because we are just having a good time socializing, then we've gone off track. Still, I don't recommend throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I go to a variety of churches. Sometimes I go to a church purely for the worship experience. Sometimes I go to a church to learn from men who are smarter than I am. Sometimes I go to a church because my children will enjoy others their age. Many times I go to church primarily to encourage and lift-up as many people as I can.

Author reply to Reader 4:
Gotcha...not saying don't go. That would be quite hypocritical to say that I or any of us are above it. Just saying there are better options, better matters to focus on and not to fool ourselves into thinking that church-going is THE path. I won't say I've gone full circle, since I don't know what full circle is for me yet, but I understand the problem of being left to myself and the danger of trailing off due to my own weaknesses. Sometimes, many times, most times, we need each other to help us, pick us up, encourage…love. But then again, a church service isn’t the only place it, if it even does, happens.

I appreciate you Reader 4.

And to add…rather than just saying I go to church each week, keep a Sabbath, observe special observances, I’d rather be able to say that I help people. I’d rather be known for that. I’d rather experience firsthand the beauty of giving directly to a need. We rob ourselves spiritually when we throw money to someone to do a work that we ourselves should.

Ready 4 reply:
Amen, brother.

Matt. 25:31-46 shows eternal life depends on loving others.

Gal. 5:14 "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

I understand what you are saying and I agree. For years I thought my spiritual obligation was simply punching my timecard at church each week for two hours, attending special observances, avoiding certain foods, etc. I had no idea how far I was missing the mark.

So now, I try to make a positive impact on others' lives. Give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, post incredible wisdom. :-)

I appreciate you too. I admire the sacrifices you make on behalf on our Lord. Keep it up!

Reader 5 reply:
A reporter floating at sea approached a deserted island. From a distance, he could see a lone man and three huts on the island.

When he arrived at shore, he asked the lone inhabitant, "I realize that the middle hut is your home, but what are the other two huts for?

The man on the island said, "the hut on the left is the church I attend...and the hut on the right is the church I used to attend.

Reader 6 reply:
"We rob ourselves spiritually when we throw money to someone to do a work that we ourselves should"

Very true.

I would add something to this thought. It is not just a matter of money. Our presence is a way to support a cause. Sitting on a hall listening to a mediocre sermon, even though we don´t want to give money to them is a way to waste our precious time that could be spent on the real issues, such as visiting orphans, widows, the sick and in need, etc.

I guess some people insist on going just to fellowship, that´s fine, but not the best way to celebrate the Sabbath rest on a weekly basis.

I have learned that we meet with others that think like us, walk as one with the Spirit that binds us together and helps sharpening each other, prophecy to each other, comfort each other, love each other, etc.

Organized religious groups do not provide that because God is not inside organized religion as a rule, on the contrary, he shook the comfort zone and does not want that easy warming chair system, or money throwing system.

I am certain he wants to test our hearts now and create a real living spiritual friendship and relationship with each of us on a one on one basis. That would be step 1 of attaching us strongly to the trunk.

Then we will be ready to create a relationship with Him as a Church, as The Church and bride. That would be step 2, when we are all attached to the trunk.

Anyway, throwing money to any human ministry or human cause sounds repulsive to me. To print hymnals, to print bibles, to print magazines, aarrggg....

But if I see someone doing the right thing, feeding the needy, taking care of the sick, adopting kids, taking care of the environment, etc, etc.. that makes me smile and reminds me that we don´t need to suffer, we just need to continue doing the right thing in silence.

Have a good sabbath, and may God be with you and your family tonight and tomorrow...

Author reply to Reader 4:
One thing I read of what you wrote and wanted to comment on, but forgot...

You mentioned that about David going to the Lord's house...

And I say absolutely. But don't we understand that that house today is us individually? We are the temple. His Spirit resides in us. The veil is torn. Yes?

Reader 5 reply:
I see your point. But my experience is that, whether or not people are going to serve the widows and orphans has little to do with what they do on the sabbath. Whether they meet in a small group or a big group, the temptation to withdraw is the same. I would say that big groups offer more opportunity for serving widows in that they are readily available. But again, it is probably the same small percentage in the big groups as in the small ones that go out of their way to serve.

Reader 7 reply:
Interesting insight to ponder.

Author reply to reader 5:
What is that saying...

5% of the people do 95% of the work...

Author comment:
I recall very well being one of those individuals that would ridicule and judge someone for saying, "I feel like that I should just live a good life, being an example to others, helping." I remember vividly the self righteous mindset I had due to them trying to justify not focusing on church attendance. As you can imagine, I'm ashamed of that and have recanted.

Anecdote: Someone just brought to my attention of how ministers continue to receive recognition for years of service to a church. No harm. But I compare that to the recognition that the apostles received in having their heads decapitated. Quite a contrast. We really don't know what persecution is...yet.

Reader 8 reply:
thx for posting this. Not sure why but the Spirit spoke through your message. Yeah, that sounds all sanctimonious by our upbringing (it was my upbringing to deny that voice in a lot of ways and only at 40-something does it "speak" ... when I listen).

>>The church organization is no place to raise your children. Raise them at home, teach them, read with them, pray with them. We might even learn something ourselves. We might even develop a closer relationship with them and our Creator. Don't rely on a social scene to mold your child<<

Until about a month ago I faithfully attended a small offshoot of an offshoot of an offshoot. I don't know what finally broke but it just became clear that the ritual of church was nothing to me. Work is part of it. I have a "great job" by worldly standards but it's so unbelievably empty of meaning I cannot describe it. When I looked for meaning in "church", as good as it is, it's just not THERE either. You're right. Deut 6:7 is about time and the only time I have is... the Sabbath. If we run around and get all churchy on Sabbath but neglect this *time* with our children, our allotment of that time is pretty worthless. Granted, I could get a lot more efficient in our Sabbath ritual and get the kids in line but, it "feels like" a bit of catch 22. We've been so caught up in Sabbath ritual that I'm not sure our 13 year old knows *WHY*.

k. probably TMI at this point. would enjoy hearing your thoughts and the journey that led to your post.

tx again for going public.

Reader 9 reply:
I've read all your posts carefully, twice. I understand where you get a lot of your animosity towards churches, we went to the same one for years. That was a cult not a religion, and the wounds to the heart lasted awhile. That being said not all churches are merely organized religion, our congregation for instance is very disorganized, no magazines, no hymnals, etc. But no Bibles? surely you mean the Catholic version, or something similar like the book of the Mormon and so on, otherwise how does one study the word?

Back to the our unorganized congregation, kind of a fly by the seat of your pants day at church, fun inspirational and a great way to get away from the world without hiding in our homes, together rejoicing in the Love of the Lord and the Grace of Jesus Christ. Our "services" are never really done the same way twice, this due to individual participation, we are extremely interactive. All in all its a tool if you will, just like the small group we started…

Like the various ministries we are a part of, some of them we started ourselves, some others have started. Our congregation is dedicated to helping others, and for some getting involved with helping those in need is difficult on they're own, not everyone is strong socially. As a congregation we function as a large family (mind you at best there is only 60 of us) not only to each other but to the community at large. I agree the spirit resides in all of us, just as it did the apostles, who traveled the world setting up...churches? There truly is a need for churches, not to say that this negates your need to strengthen, individually, your relationship with Christ, but a church is an extremely useful tool for teaching, learning, loving, and sharing. Money, donations, even tithe (if one should choose to do so), if squandered, or misused, sure that’s a waste. But without church funds some of the truly important ministries would be hard to maintain, if possible at all.

We no longer have a single minister, and after Mr. B retires next year, we no longer pay them. The people who speak on a regular basis do so because they are "lead" to do so, called to be shepherds so to speak. I truly believe that God always intended us to gather in his name, After all it was Christ who said "Wherever two or more of you gather in my name I will be there" I'm not shunning the importance of the personal walk with Christ, But he is calling us to help bring all of mankind closer to him and to each other. Love and God bless!

Reader 10 reply:
Go a step further and study the history, even the bible in its current form was put together by catholic/orthodox founders c 300-400 a.d., from texts that predate christianity by up to 10,000 - 18,000 years. Those orthodox founders bragged in letters to their friends about their modifications and copious additions and omissions made of the texts. The stories that the catholics said are 2000 years old are actually thousands of years old.

Reader 5 reply:
Did I just wake up in the twilight zone?

Reader 11 comment:
I've been following this thread as well and I gotta side with Reader 9 here.
It's all well and good to learn and study on your own but at some point, it seems that most solo-tyerians (or whatever you'd call someone that claims Christianity but eschews a weekly gathering) feel a burning urge to find someone like-minded at talk about it eventually - like online.

How does that address the spiritual health of the elderly or the growth of children? In addition, a weekly meeting provides service opportunities for those that need them to remain focused. Sorry, but my level of ADD is such that if I don't have a regular responsibility to focus on (like worship leading) I will drift.

Finally, the solo-tyerian philosophy has a tendency to trend its practitioners towards the 'all Christians are equal but I'm a little more equal than you', IMHO. I had enough of that attitude back in the day.

Author reply to readers 9 and 11:
Everyone, including myself, wants to, needs to believe that their belief system is intact and that we're all going about things the "right" way...otherwise what do we have, right?

Guys, thanks for chiming in. I think if you reread, I'm not calling a convocation evil. On the contrary, it's vital. I'm just calling attention to matters of concern. Our views of religion and how to worship are so tainted by peripheral paradigms. If we just put ourselves in the scriptures, we’d get a different read.

It’s interesting when one is asked what is your religion and our culture dictates it to be answered with denomination or belief system and not how we live our lives or where our true devotion is. And yet true religion is to tend to others. We realize we don’t need to form a committee to do this right?

Author reply to reader 9:
I can't really say that I have "animosity" towards a former way of churching. Maybe more of an urgency now to be personally responsible. Not wait for a group to be formed and someone to tell me how we're going to go about helping someone. Or to tell me, "this is who God is.” Granted, we need help, and what better way to exemplify His way than to help each other.

I’m not expecting to rock anybody’s world with this, but then again, I firmly believe in “they who have ears, let them hear.” I’m not one to sit by when something is put upon me.

This sort of thing is not generally well received when it disturbs a way of thinking. Particularly when that way of thinking has been our whole life up to now.

Reader 2 comment:
I have enjoyed reading the many comments on this thread. Of particular interest is Reader 10’s comment regarding catholic/orthodox founders' involvement in religion, as it relates to the author’s original post and is worth consideration. As for me, I think of myself a nomadic fellowshipper. I enjoy and am thankful for friends and family who worship in various ways and sizes of groups... and the opportunity to join them at my choosing.

Author reply:
Reader 2, I share in that sentiment. I find that it's not healthy for me to get too comfortable in any single assembly. In many cases, we're looking for someone to stand up and lead or others jockeying for position. And we can fool ourselves sometimes thinking that it's for the good. Our views of spiritual leaders can truly tainted by today's measurements. We, the body of believers are either lifting them up, or they are demanding it from the fellowship, or both.

Reader 12 reply:
I wish to address the comments of Reader 10 regarding the validity of the Bible itself. There is a great amount of evidence that shows the Bible we have today is as original and true to the most recent manuscripts. Consider the Dead Sea Scrolls for instance. In this discovery alone they found a complete manuscript of the book of Isaiah. This was dated to 100 BCE. We also have a fragment of the book of John that dates to 125 AD. When you compare the number of manuscripts or partial manuscripts in existence and compare their dates to the original date of writing and then compare all that to other works by Plato and such it is not even comparable. There is so much more documentation and evidence for the Biblical record.
The other thing is that translations are not done off of a copy of a copy of a copy. Most all of the translations go back to the most original manuscripts available. If you want to just talk manuscript evidence the evidence for the Bible beats everything hands down.

As far as the letters from church fathers, I would like to see how hard evidence of this and then find out what real scholars say about this. Conspiracy theories are always there to throw doubt onto God's word but I know those words to be true and full of life.

Reader 11 reply:
Reader 2, I appreciate your comments. 'Nomadic fellowshipper' actually has a nice ring to it. Your last line is particularly appreciated. As one who does participate in leadership and more substantially in our church's praise and worship services, I can tell you that while it takes effort and time, it is time well spent. I get a great deal of spiritual strength/focus through the efforts I put into service - that others find those efforts beneficial is almost a by-product. We have 'nomads' that sometimes drift in and out of our services and I think that's cool - a service planned for 50 might as well feed 51 or 101. I don't look down at someone that chooses to walk alone. I think the body of Christ has many aspects - each performs it's own function, but they all work to the same goal.

Thanks for hosting this discussion. I'm off on vacation next week so I'll probably be too late to jump in on any subsequent threads. Be well.

Reader 1 comments:
My wife and I have been around the block a few times now. When we fled one church we tried its offshoot and saw what that was about at the infamous meeting. We then attended fairly regular. We helped to build the building when it was offshoot controlled and helped to finish it when it passed control until some Sabbath related issues came up. It all seems silly now. We visited home groups. We hung out with the Messianics for awhile and watch quite a few of them renounce Christ. We have met with "audio tape home churches". By merit of being the son of a member, I even got to see another group from the inside before its satanic decree went out. Now that we live in New England, we bounce around between home groups and visit the a local assembly occasionally.

One thing that I have consistently noticed is the old adage, "Birds of a feather, flock together."

The problem is not all, but many of those feathers are nothing else than weaknesses, errors and lack of vision from years of baggage manifested in various ways as a result of conditioning (often Pavlovian) by men for years. Most of us are birds of a ruffled feather and our judgment is skewed. The author is correct. While we pointed fingers at the Catholic Church, we sure liked their model of authority and chain of command and thus practiced their model of religion.

Let me back that up.

My son has gone to parochial for the past four years simply because we are better equipped to teach our kids why bowing to crucifixes and depictions of the Virgin Mary is idolatry than to explain to them why it’s not OK for Heather to have two mommies when Heather and her two mommies seem so nice; but that’s another argument for another time. Heather Has Two Mommies is a book title commonly read to primary grade schoolers up here; no offense intended to anyone who happens to bear the name. My point is I have had the opportunity to see firsthand that we were patterned after a Catholic template. Pope=Pastor General, Arch Bishops=Evangelists, Bishops=Regional Pastors, Priests=Ministers all the way down to the laity.

We had obvious differences from the CC to distance ourselves, but that point is even to this day you will find those who claim to have the power to cut you off from your Father in Heaven if your have the audacity to question there wisdom, judgment, or motives. What they fail to see is that we are in a marriage covenant and they themselves say when they officiate a wedding, “What God has bound in Heaven, let no man tear asunder.” Instead, they are of their fathers the Pharisees for whom Christ had these words:

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”

The Pharisees who derived there power from Herod who derived his power from Pilot who derived his power from Caesar were granted control of the place of worship and reserved the right to destroy it if offended. That is how the Pharisees erroneously claimed stewardship to the Kingdom’s door.

Today we have 501c3 corporations that derive their so called power to disfellowship you from the Body of Christ from the Governor of their home state who derives his power from the Government of the United States that derives its power from a faceless IRS/Federal Reserve that holds the specter of 501c3 revocation if the registered corporation offends it or any of its subsidiaries. In the end it’s all politics and it’s the politics of the Pharisees that killed Christ.

Some of the worst politics I’ve ever seen were at a private seminary. It used to bother me greatly that politics could be so cut throat at a place where politics didn’t belong. It used to bother me until it occurred to me that all manmade institutions are by nature political. I can’t be helped. That’s what I mean by saying Christ came to save us from religion, not start a new one.

Christ rather told His disciples to go out and be fishers of men. One of those disciples, Philip encountered an Ethiopian reading the Book of Isaiah. I think the story went something like this:

(After having the initial conversation)
And Phillip having perceived this Eunuch had the Spirit potentially working with him gave him literature and tarried with him for six months, and having perceived this man of Ethiopia would not cause dissention, invited the Eunuch to attend church services and tarried with him yet another six months. Perceiving the man of Ethiopia was rich and increased with goods for after all he was born on a cart, Philip determined this man could go far to further the work and expand it into third world countries so he baptized him, trained him in the ways of the ministry and the chain of command; and before disappearing he left him with instructions to stay in contact with headquarters and a five baskets of literature to bring forth a great multitude of coworkers.

If you read the actual scripture, it rather sounds like Philip, doing his job of fisher of men was a catch and release guy, but his handling of the Ethiopian was lousy politics.

I think what is at the heart of the author’s sentiments is while going to church has value, you shouldn’t need it; at least for long. A good minister who should be a big brother sheep while understanding there is but one Shepherd, should not convince you that Christ is a drug and he is the peddler that you have to come back to every week for your fix. All governments including what we called the Government of God on Earth will inevitably seek to make you dependent. That's politics.

The time of the Tabernacle came and went. The time of the physical temple came and went. The time of corporate churches (Just another physical temple to act as a sifter) came and went. Now is the time of the Abrahams. God is raising up folks who like Abraham follow Him because they have faith and love of righteousness. They have searched for Him because they know in the bottom of their gut there is something wrong with our fallen way of existence and they seek Him out directly. When they find Him they have a very special extraordinary relationship with Him. There was no temple for Abraham to go to. There was no minister to call except for Melchizidek, the one who became Christ. Abraham was of the order of Melchizidek and we should be too; not only ministers but every last mother’s son of us.

Does the author hold animus toward corporate churches? No, but after getting over it he has seen the foundational cracks and isn’t going to go in with rose colored glasses to be fooled again.

Is the author coming to see a superior way? Yes.

Does he believe that congregating is bad? No, but watch out for big fish in little ponds that think they own the pond and will seek to expand it.

Does he see a problem with trying to resurrect a system that failed? Yes.

I’ve watched him for a long time and he like me has gone through a lot of trial and error, and a great deal of proving all things to come to a great crossroads in his life. What some may call animosity; I see a next plateau of wisdom; of having the capability to call a spade a spade without animus or resentment. He is one of the most sincere seekers of truth I’ve known. Those two things, animus and resentment will manifest in error, and I perceive that he is walking the walk without the crutch of religion while seeing more clearly than ever.

He is one of the few people I know, and that shamefully excludes myself that actually practices James 1:27. Folks should listen to him.

May the remainder of the Sabbath for all of you be joyous!

Author replies to reader 1:
Well, I'm glad I got that off my chest. :)

Thank you, and I think you understand where I'm driving at, but embarrassingly, I'm shamed by words that I absolutely don't deserve. I appreciate your candor nonetheless.

I want to add a bit to clarify this aspect about the bible, it's authority and the validity of whether we have the whole message intended for us by our Creator, in my opinion.

I believe firmly that societies/cultures of the past, as they do today, dictate what records of history are passed on and unfortunately the very pieces of literature we have today to refute, dispute, condone, confirm history are in and of themselves shaped by those very cultures. We have nothing else...nada...EXCEPT, a more powerful creator and the faith in that Creator to preserve for us just what we need in order to have that relationship with Him. I, undoubtedly believe there are modifications, deletions, additions to the scriptures not to mention the loss of the true meaning of what was written in the translation, especially when there are no unequivocal words in the language it's translated to. Did I say that right?

Anyway, again, if we seek out that relationship, we know we have what we need. But we, being who we are, thrive on knowledge and not simplicity. And of course, our nature is not one that bodes well with that. I mean, to love an enemy, pray for those that use us, visit the absurd. I’ll let my minister do that. That’s what we pay him for right? I mean who am I to pray over someone....really?

Reader 2 comment:
I love all the thoughtful discourse... Is it time for the pot-luck yet? ;-)

Reader 11 comment:
ROFL! Reader 2, again, I will extend the invite to stop at our Fellowship any time you nomad yourself through Ohio - whether or not you like the message, you'll probably like the people ... and the snack table. The music ... well, maybe you'll catch us on a good week.

As to the preceding commentary, I stand by my first post and would like to point out the multi-layered missive above as proof of my last point in that comment.

Hard as it may be for many to believe, I actually did attend that seminary - somewhat before the author, perhaps before reader 1. Before that I went several years to summer camp when there was only one. In both places, I learned that what is organized and led by man invariably at some points shows all of man's flaws. Still, Christ directed his disciples to lead people to Him. Go into the world and teach, I believe it said. Some learn just fine on their own - have the iron will and intellect to find their own path. Great! More power to them!

What about the rest of us? Those whose gifts are not as well rounded as yours? Who appreciate someone gifted in more scholarly pursuits than ourselves that brings something new to the table. I agree that blindly following a man (or man's organization) is foolhardy. I enjoy healthy discourse, I enjoy hearing points of view or ideas that I have not considered and I enjoy following up by reading the Bible and making my own determination of what I think of them.

The other point is this: What of Worship leaders, Youth pastors, those who set up, or who provide food for the fellowship table. Are you saying that there is no value to service or are you suggesting that every one of those people are doing it for their own self-aggrandizement?

Again, I'm not suggesting that anyone is any less of a Christian for not attending church. I object to the suggestion that those that do are somehow unenlightened hicks that just don't know any better. Now I'm really on vacation.

Author replies to reader 11:
Whether you catch this before vacation or not, I must say that it seems that you may be putting words in other's mouth. What you describe is a bit insensitive to impute those motives of thought.

I will say this, what you first stated about appreciating a scholarly view...therein could lie a bit of the folly that we all corner ourselves into and then excuse ourselves from the responsibility of study. Nobody needs to be a scholar to be at one with our Creator. We know that. He chose the weak and foolish. And trust me, I’m there, at the weak and foolish dept that is.

Bottom line...we’re all going to do what we need to do, or at least think we need to do, or, event yet, pick the path of least resistance. I’m merely drawing attention to an observation that I have firsthand experienced in my own life. I can’t speak, nor do I want to pretend to speak to what others must do. Albeit, that point may be debated in the way I so emphatically started this thread. Call it admonition. 

Author replies to reader 11 continued:
"unenlightened hicks" - interesting term since that is what someone else in your city used when I was trying to warn of a particular pastor's shenanigans. The person literally told me they didn't want to be "enlightened." Unfortunate that we stay locked in a paradigm based on our own pride. Not saying that's the case for you. But I'll admit to having such stubbornness...still do. I get locked into a mode of thinking and it’s like pulling teeth to change it. Usually takes a train wreck to see something different.

Let me emphatically say, I am not against people going to church. It’s all about perspective. And since I grew up in the atmosphere I did, I think I have a little perspective, good and bad, along with everyone else. Certainly not superior.

It’s our nature to protect and defend our paradigm, if we don’t, then we have to ask why are we allowing that paradigm to continue.

Reader 13 reply:
I find the above thread very interesting, because it ties in with a stage of life I'm currently in. I've actually been seeing a professional counselor the past few months to deal w/ some of the things I went through growing up in said church organization & going to the same seminary. I know experiences can differ by what church area you attended, but the one I attended had some traumatic effects I've never dealt with.

I've visited a variety of different denominations over the years - from very conservative to more pentecostal. For 4 years, Larry and I attended a Mexican Baptist church. Now, we currently attend a progressive Mennonite church. I've found that I've become comfortable in a variety of settings because I've come to see "church" as the whole body of Christ, which transcends buildings, walls, doctrines and denominations.

While I do believe fellowship is an important part of Christian growth and participation, I did not come to know Jesus or the Holy Spirit from within the walls of an organized church. It took me removing myself from the structure for awhile to get my head together. Then, I rejoined the more organized aspects of the church.

However, this summer, after talking to my counselor and pastor, I've decided I need to "take time off" from the organized church, again, b/c the institutionalized aspect of it is hard for me to deal with at the moment while I'm dealing with things from my past. I told my pastor this, and he's very supportive. But, he said something I never thought of before, and it really helped me to see "church" from a different viewpoint. He said, "the organized church is one avenue people choose to 'express' their worship and faith." From that angle, I could relate to those who do enjoy having a more structured environment in which to worship. I'll eventually join that structure again, while at the same time knowing it's not the structure or how well I fit into it that determines whether I am a follower of Christ.

We all go through seasons, and many of us have had to go through or are going through some seasons of intense reflection and healing. But, such is the beauty of belonging to Christ and being a part of His Body ... through His love, mercy and grace, we are afforded the time and circumstances we individually need to realize that healing and, eventually, be made perfect by a gentle, patient and good King, Savior, Lord, Master, High Priest, Bridegroom, Best Friend, etc. who has all the time in the universe.

A book I found really helpful was, "The Shack." The way God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are portrayed in that book is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit I hope to relate to.

Thanks for starting this thread. The Lord's blessings to you and everyone else here as you all continue through your own journeys.

Reader 14 comment:
wow. Other than that, all I can say is that I am thinking of James 1:23-27.
Thanks for the great discussion stimulus!

Reader 15 comment:
Hold on -- what's wrong with the Catholic Church? :)

As a Catholic convert, allow me to point out that the person who accepts Holy Scripture in all its books as God-breathed is following Tradition. The Church wrote, preserved, and defined the canon of Scripture. As is often said, the Bible didn't float down from heaven intact, and it doesn't come with an inspired Table of Contents. It was handed down to us by the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. If we hold dear our books of the Bible as inspired and inerrant (as we should), then it's not unreasonable to consider other things the Church hands down to us.

Reader 9 comment:
Even though it seems that being long winded is accepted on this thread this time around I will attempt to be brief (I tend to yammer a bit, apologies). Take the essence of Readers 13, 2, 5, 11, and a splash of 12 and my first post and you have my ideal walk with Christ. Ever changing yet stable and secure. No one way will give you all the answers unless that way is Christ, and I agree one hundred percent the Lord has all the power and will never lead astray. I also agree that the only sure thing with man is he is flawed (am I ever). In defense of Reader 11 he was merely asking questions not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth, his reaction slightly mirrored my own in regards to Reader 1’s post, which was less of a discussion and more of a baseball bat in word form. I understand how you can get worked up when your excited, but I still found myself also jumping to the defense...again I apologize(Man, flawed :) ) Thanks for the discussion my friend! The Shack was a great book!

Author reply to Readers 15 and 13:
In regards to the CC, you make my case in point. :)

Thank you. You well know my thoughts are not intent to make enemies or offend.

One thought regarding "the Shack". I've heard many make reference to it and described some of its content and approach. Having not read it, and at this point, no intent to, I can't really speak to it. However, I would use caution in taking literally what someone does in creating a fictional depiction of our Creator all in the word of defining Him better for us to understand. I mean, we were just talking about unenlightened. Do we not see the admission of being unenlightened by going to such a resource to help us better understand our Creator. I can think of nobody better to go to than “the One” to know Him better. Did I hear correctly that the Shack refers to the Creator in the form of a motherly black woman? Don’t throw stones...yet. I’m just trying to understand the reasoning.

Author comment:
For the record, I'm not really an advocate for the term enlightened, at least in the sense of the state one can be in. Enlightened to me means one who has knowledge, and that can be anything, good or bad, usually bad.

I'd rather be in a state of walking with our Creator and to whatever end of good that I exude, I credit it to the Holy Spirit speaking or doing through me. I’m certainly not saying there’s good being exuded, trust me. I say IF. Otherwise, I’m rotten to the core and am a true example of one absolutely needing and relying on His grace. I take Him at His word when he says “he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” I’m going to need it. But don’t misunderstand, that’s not my motive. We’re all trying to change. Which leads me to my next “note”.

Reader 9 reply:
" The Shack" truly is a fictional book, one persons view of what they believe the message of Christ to be. At one point yes, a motherly black woman (among others), more I believe the authors expression that the Lord could appear to be whomever or whatever he wanted to be, As Paul said "I will be everything to everyone". The story is simply the authors expression of Christ's sacrifice for us, and Gods unconditional love towards us, not an attempt to define our creator. It is a wonderful story. I also enjoyed the "Left Behind Series", but in no way do I feel it to be an accurate description of the time to come, only an entertaining story. But even fiction can stimulate positive thought, such as patience, forgiveness, and compassion, by merely seeing things from another point of view. For one to even buy these books they have to go to fiction, If taken literally perhaps the issue isn't with the writer(not to say in some cases it is) but possibly the reader. I just happen to like to read.

Reader 13 reply:
I think the author wrote The Shack for his children - as a way to present his faith to them in a story form. I think what is so intriguing about it is that it shows God in trinity relating to the main character, Mack, in unconventional ways we wouldn't necessarily envision - getting down on a human level where Mack can relate to each of them. It brings out more of the long-suffering, grace and love-oriented aspects of God as He is working with Mack, who is in the midst of a faith crisis due to a family tragedy. And, God the Father appears, at first, to Mack as a motherly black woman b/c of Mack's past with his human father (something dealt with later in the book). There's one line in it I really love. In a nutshell, Mack asks Jesus if all roads lead to him. He says they do not and that most roads don't lead anywhere, but then He says, “What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.” Reminds me of the Lord leaving the 99 to go after the 1 lost lamb.

Author comment:
One potentially final remark...

May I suggest your religion be about what you do personally rather than where and how often you go to church?