Friday, July 22, 2011

The Faith Component

There's been a lively discussion on CityBusinessChurch blog called Let us have this debate again and after reading through for days and considering both sides (as much as I can since I'm already a believer in Christ), I wrote out my own conclusion to what this type of discussion ultimately brings me to.  So thought to copy it here so I can refer to it in the future if needed.  That's one of the reasons I like having a blog - it's a great place to record and save your thoughts.  Anyway, here is my comment:

Detox Church Group said:
July 22nd, 2011 at 1:14 pm
As for chiming in - this type of discussion ultimately takes me to the faith component to any belief system. I believe that Jayjacque touched on it earlier. Anyway, it would take as much faith for me to become an atheist as it does to remain a believer in Christ’s deity.
For some background - I’ve been in relationship with who I perceive as the Spirit of Jesus since my senior year of high school. I came to that by a series of events unique to my life, arranged by something that knew what was going on with me at the time. If I wrote about those events it may not mean anything to the reader, but the way my life unfolded in a series of days - weeks - revealed to me that the Lord is personally “acquainted with all my ways” as the Psalmist David mentions in Psalm 139.

Call me delusional, a complete loon for fabricating a lifetime bond in my mind, but if it takes faith to believe one way or other, I’d rather use my energy to believe in a Someone who actually assists me through life. The alternative is to believe I’m on my own as a random sack of DNA with no consequence beyond my breath - a few years muddled through on this earth.

Whether it be by the answers (results) to prayers I’ve prayed or the sense of calm I feel by the thought of his presence, the spirit of Christ has been a consistent guide throughout the progress of my life. The Bible has been a key, but not the only one, to my connection with God. It has conveyed God’s attributes, good or bad, even if raising questions due to the barbaric account of OT Jewish history. We have to consider that man has progressed from primitive ways and even if we aren’t completely able to cohabit the earth without war and pillage to this date, we’ve come a long way. It’s a war of good vs evil within us all that remains our struggle. Because we’ve changed over time we aren’t locked into patterning our lives according to the ways of the people who lived during the times the various books in the Bible were written - both old and new testament. I choose to believe that God understands that and would like us to use wisdom and discernment in how we live out our faith according to the times we live in. Could it be that he dealt in barbaric ways with a barbaric people because that is the only way they knew to that date?

I have to admit whether the Bible is historically accurate to the word or not doesn’t seem to diminish how it helps me on a personal level. Even though I read through the OT occasionally when I feel like it, I don’t usually turn to it for comfort and strength, especially after years in an authoritarian church that patterned itself after the OT (giving new meaning to loony if you ask me). But Psalms, Proverbs, Eccl, even the book of Job speak to me - all written before Christ and I turn to many NT texts that were all written because Jesus Christ lived. But I also turn to secular, non-biblical texts for encouragement. Movies and music also give me a shot in the arm when I need it.

If I were to approach God on a purely intellectual level (laughable considering how little I know!), the barbaric accounts would certainly give me more of a pause, but since my approach to him is beyond the cranial, I guess I trust in his intelligence and love even though the writings he gave us were in the limitation of the timeframe they were penned. Since I also come to him by my spirit which may sound a bit loonish, I guess there’s a need to know I’m more than my head. If we aren’t merely physical beings and we exhibit spiritual qualities, maybe that’s not so crazy. Try as we may, nourishment to the mind and body can’t always satisfy what is spirit within us, although that is only noticeable over time when one discovers something missing within. It’s the faith component that helps us know we possess on unseen essence of spirit. We see the result of our spirit in our ability to be generous, extend kindness, choose to love, all of which require that we think beyond ourselves to the needs of others. God too is an unseen essence of spirit. He has been likened to the wind - we see its evidence in the trees blowing and in the study of meterology, etc. We may not see him but we see the evidence of his benevolence all around us. One person may interpret that evidence as only man’s doing; but another may see it as the hand of God influencing mankind. Either way, there is a faith component contributing to the belief.

If it takes faith to believe in ourselves alone or to believe in a creator who loves us and cares what happens to us, I figure I may as well employ that faith on the side of who I believe to be God. Furthermore, if a gift of eternal life is offered with stipulations (through, as the story goes, the acceptance of Jesus as God’s son who gave his life on earth in exchange for our ultimate separation from God), I’d rather err on the side of believing it’s true. If I were to die and find out it is indeed true, I’d be happy I fought to keep my faith in Jesus intact. If I were to choose to not accept the gift with its stipulations and then die and find out that Jesus turned out to be just another guy with no power to save, what harm did it do me to believe it in earthly life? It helped me through all the rough times, gave me joy and security in the knowledge I am loved. Sure, I’d be stunned and disappointed but maybe not if it turned out the last breath I took was indeed the end of me. What if I chose to not accept the gift and when I die it turns out to be what I should have done? Then it would be a fatal error. Not saying I believe only from fear, but it does come into play ever so slightly as I’m choosing one side or the other.

I guess we can conclude it is a gamble. I suppose none of will have ABSOLUTE proof till we each take our last breath. Meanwhile, we each have the component of faith in whatever it is we choose to believe.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Payment for Services Rendered

While cleaning my window blinds this afternoon (by myself because I can't afford to have a housekeeping service) a new thought occurred to me about why the church across town allows their pastor leaders to live a lifestyle of the Up-and-Coming Elite in good conscience. Till now, when they cross my mind, I've been perplexed, wondering how they can justify the senior pastor family freely accessing the money provided by the weekly tithes and endless extra offerings to use as their personal expense accounts.

Since I'm cleaning, I can't help but wonder if each member of the family employs a housekeeper (one for each household). If not that, then they at least have a volunteer come once a week so they are getting free housecleaning - no harm in that other than for the poor schmuck who then has to go home and clean her own house, again for free. It's been said that the senior pastor household has their grocery shopping done for them (eyeroll). The younger set loves to shop, we know that. Maybe not for groceries, but there is plenty of evidence that clothes shopping is a favorite pastime.

The question always begs to be asked: What do the faithful tithers think of the fact that the money they give to run the ministry is used to keep their pastors in expensive houses, cars and clothes when other fastidious ministers can't afford luxuries with the allowances given to them by their churches.

As I mused, a little light flickered on. I realized the tithers justify it as paying their pastors for services rendered. They think they are giving in obedience to God's word - or what they think they know to be God's word but all they are really doing is paying for something they want their pastors to do for them.

Their tithe:
1)pays for a bi-weekly commentary on the Bible (is it so they don't have to study it themselves?); 2)pays for a false sense of security as in a covering (if you are under the leader's canopy then Satan can't get to you as easily);
3)pays for their pastors to look successful so Christianity is attractive to non-believers, especially to those with money and position.

Much like Prince William and his new bride appear beautiful and dignified, the royal pastor clan must have an allure of importance and presence everywhere they go. The faithful tithers are paying for this assurance. They are paying to feel like they are important by association. I really have no bone to pick with them for doing so, other than this church claims tax exempt status as a 501 3 C non-profit organization. Seems like that fact alone could warrent that the money be used in ways to profit others beyond the pastor family.

As I pondered this, I couldn't help but remember what I had read in the Gospel of Mark earlier in the day about the rich young man who wanted to inherit eternal life. It paints such a different picture than my musings of pastoral affluence. Here's what I read:

The Rich and the Kingdom of God
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. (19) You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! (25) It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel (30) will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (31) But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

If Jesus wanted us to live like kings wouldn't he have said so? Instead he emphasizes how a rich lifestyle is in conflict with living for God. Of course, then I remember that those who believe in the prosperity doctrine use these same verses (29 and 30) as text to validate their position on the accumulation of earthly possessions - when in fact the text says if you sacrifice for God it will be made up to you somehow but not without earthly troubles. I think the key word there is 'sacrifice' and you certainly don't see a lot of that going on in prosperity gospel circles.

Oh well, at least my mini revelation helps me see why the faithful tithers keep giving to the black hole across town, and why the pastor leaders can sleep at night.

While I slave away vacuuming wood window blinds, I think it could be worse - I could be cleaning 2 houses instead of just one. (If I ever do that it will be for my parents who could use the help.) So today, I'm counting my blessings once again that I am free from the old world. Yes, I still think about it, processing the affects of being in there way too long. Even so, I'd rather be doing this than be in that orbit of delusion paying someone else to do and be something that I should have been doing and being for myself all along.

And I can't help but lament that I used to be there doing what they do. The old saying is so utterly true, "But for the grace of God, go I". Or how about "Once I was blind but now I see."?