I make it a policy to fulfil my words as best I can. Those "words" or promises I am either unable to carry out, or are delinquent in fulfilling, I feel guilty over. For this reason I try to do what I say I will just as quickly and as soon as I can. I don't like it a bit when I think back and remember something I said I would do, and had forgotten it. It naggs me and causes me guilt pangs.
It is not my purpose here to judge the moral value of remembering promises or other statements of intent. The degree I experience this attribute is more akin to a mania, that is a problem, then it is a moral virtue.
Perhaps this is natural. As stated above, I am not this way, so I am not one to know if it is natural or not. I have faults that seem natural to me, and I expect them to be natural in others. And the more the fault is embedded in me, the more natural it seems. Only after I have decided to conquer the fault can I see clearly that it in fact was not "natural," but rather a debilitating fault.
That's how we respond to one another. But how about in other aspects of our daily life? Does this natural tendency apply there as well? For instance, that loan you took out with the bank; can you just sort of "forget" to pay it, and suffer no consequences? Or how about those wedding vows, part of which states that you promise to: "Love and obey?" How well are you keeping them?
And, along with your fulfilling your promises; how much importance do you place on others fulfilling their promises to you? For instance, do you expect your neighbor to return the lawnmower he borrowed from you? Or for your son-in-law to repay the money you paid to bail him out of jail? Or how about your spouse's vow to be faithful to you and to honor and obey? Do you expect him or her to back up their promises with deeds?
An example of this can be found in prisons. A thief who will rob you blind and think nothing of it will be ready to do great bodily harm to another prisoner who steals from him. A prison thief is considered one of the lowest forms of life. Rules that are not accepted or followed in society are demanded by those very same people when it effects them.
Criminals are not the only people who have this attitude; we all do to one degree or another. Our purpose as civilized human beings (and especially as Christians) is to overcome these human tendencies, and become that which we are least inclined to be. Prisons are established for that purpose, and life here on earth is for just such an intent for the rest of us.
And this same "allegiance" and obedience is part of the promises we made to God when we took on the label of Christian. We promised to "Love and Obey." We promised to "Take up our cross and follow Jesus to our death (to self). We promised to be a "shining light" to the World, and giving whatever glory we receive to God. We promised to "Repent" of our selfish deeds and to turn our back on sin. We promised to "Forgive others as we ourselves seek to be forgiven." We promised to "Judge ourselves so that we may not be judged." We promised to refrain from judging others, even our enemies who wish us evil, and instead to "Bless our enemies" and to help those who persecute us. We promised to be obedient to all those put in position of authority over us, and to not speak evil of these "powers." We promised to "Endure to the end" and to "Overcome as He (Jesus) has overcome."
How well are you keeping your promises to God?
How do you think God will react to our "natural tendency" to forget our little promises?
"Yes, I know. I been there myself a time or two. What did you do while you were there?"
"Oh, I did plenty, believe you me. I spent all day going through everything there was to see."
"You did? All in one day? I spent a week there and didn't see it all. Did you pay for a guide or something?"
"Oh no. I just took my time and looked everything over carefully. I saw it all."
"You saw it all? Like what?"
"Well, I saw a bunch of figurines of things like American Indians. And I saw pictures of Indians dancing. I saw books with lots of pretty pictures and a history of the Grand Canyon. I even saw a big painting of a huge hole in the ground that must have been a mile deep. It was really impressive, believe you me."
"It sounds to me like you were in a gift shop or something. Didn't you take a donkey ride down the canyon or visit any of the exhibits they have there?"
"I don't know about any of that. All I know is when I got there a man directed me to this door that goes to a big room filled with pretty things. That's where I spent my time. I didn't hear about any donkeys or exhibits or nothing like that."
I suppose since the beginning of the church as we know it, that is since Constantine and what we now refer to as the Catholic church it has been believed that our works, that is to say our deeds will make the difference if we are accepted into Heaven or not. And there certainly is plenty of Scripture to back up such a belief. Jesus Himself, both in the Gospels and in Revelation made it clear that we will be judged according to our works.
So, according to the Catholics there are two requirements that must be met in order to pass through the Pearly Gates:
First you must be a Catholic and follow the dictates of the Pope. If your not a Catholic, regardless of how well you follow the Bible and believe in Jesus and God, you are no more than any other lost sinner. And according to the latest statement by the Pope, this view hasn't changed.
The second thing you must do is perform the works and the liturgies of the church. Let me reemphasize: perform the works and the liturgies of the church! Doing that which the Bible says, and which God and Jesus said to do is not enough; you must do whatever the current Pope says you must do.
But let's say you are a Catholic, but not performing too well: can you be lost like the rest of the unCatholicized world? No, Catholics can't be lost, but they can be punished and tortured until they fit the mold of what the Catholic church teaches God demands of good Catholics. This "Out" is called "Purgatory." Therefore, since you can make up what you lacked here on earth in the "Middle World" of Purgatory, you can do what you will here, and still make it to Heaven.
This means, by stretching the point just a tiny bit, Al Capone and Hitler will be with those of you Catholics who weren't perfect enough to merit the straight path to Heaven.
This "Second Chance" rings clear to me of the Hindu and other such belief in reincarnation whereby everyone will eventually make it to the same destination. The Hindus, of course, do not believe in the Bible, but I don't know how the Catholics get around Hebrews 9:27 because the two Catholic commentaries I own seem to have ignored commenting on that verse.
So, although the Protests teach that the Catholics are wrong and that works don't matter, they are really saying that works do matter and that we must perform certain rituals and laws.
Works, although one of the major dividing lines between Catholics and Protestants, is in actuality only a minor difference.
Where the Protestants have really deviated from the doctrine of the Catholic church is two areas. The first of these differences is in the emphases on Grace. According to the Catholics Jesus dying on the cross, therefore providing us with Grace, was only partially sufficient to save us. That is, along with Grace, me must perform the works as well.
Since the Protestants have taken away works, that only leaves Grace. And through Grace, don't you know, you can make it to Heaven merely by becoming a Christian, that is, saying a few words and taking a dunking. This smacks very near to the Kingdom message and others who preach that all mankind will be saved in the end anyway. In fact, as far as I can see, the only difference between the Protestant view and the "Everyone Saved" concept is in the dunking, the prayer of repentance, and a belief in their doctrine and belonging to their church. Oh yes, and not being a Cult member, or a heathen, or a Catholic.
Oh, one other thing must be fulfilled as well, according to the Protestants, even if you have performed the required rituals - you can't belonging to any of the other Protestant churches other than the one who is doing the talking.
The second area of departure from the Catholic church is in the belief of Purgatory. This is an important issue. By taking away Purgatory, the Protestants have also taken away any "second chance" to redeem oneself and make it into Heaven. But that is a small concern, because according to Protestant doctrine you can't be lost anyway. The only way to be lost is to not be a converted Protestant.
Or to be a Catholic.
Or to be a member of what the Protestants call a "Cult."
In the process of reforming the church they, to varying degrees, have taken on aspects of the Catholic church, and of the Protestant church, and from other sources such as the writings of their founder.
For the most part, I think it is safe to say, the cults are inclined toward the Protestant belief, and if pushed into a corner would say they were Protestant. However, even many of the Protestant churches are disinclined to accept the term "Protestant" for their denomination, saying they are "protesting" against nothing.
Most of the Cults are inclined toward Catholicism in their demands that works be a part of getting to Heaven. They are also like the Catholics in that they believe you have to be a part of their church to pass through the Golden Gates.
But then, this characteristic of demanding servitude to a particular church and set of doctrines is Protestant thinking as well. So in that regard they are all the same.
Then there are those groups such as the "Kingdom" denomination (if it can be called that) who believe hell is not a place for people, and that all will be saved, even if it be through the fires of Purgatory. In this they are like the Cults, yet they are like the Protestant, and still yet, because of their belief in the second chance of redemption through Purgatory they are like the Catholics. Where this group particularly differs from the others is in that one does not have to belong to their church in order to make it to Heaven.
Nor a Baptist.
Nor any other denomination other than their own.
It is more than common to read in the paper that the Democrats and the Republicans are at loggerheads over some project or another, and usually about both the one and the others all at the same time. It is truly amazing to me how we can get so many people in the Republican Party, and they all happen to be conservative; and get so many people into the Democratic Party and they all be liberal. I would say that such a phenomenon is approaching a miracle.
I know there are certain ideals that make up one point of view over another, and that one party clings to one set of ideals, and the other to another set of ideals, and that people are drawn to one party over another because they agree with that party's point of view. What strikes me so strange is that it is not just one or two points that stand at opposite poles with the parties, but just about every topic that can be considered. As soon as one party opens its mouth, the other is wielding a big flag with "NO!" stamped across it. It seems to me that although a party is established because of its disagreement with another's, that somewhere along the line certain points of agreement would exist, if not even overlap one another. Instead politics is like a football game where the whole intent is to crush the opponent, steal the "ball," and claim the field for themself regardless of the expense or consequences.
I guess it's human nature to rebel against anything someone we have selected as an opponent proposes to do. I'm that way, and I have to watch myself that I don't fall into the infantile "no!" syndrome. Of course I don't purport to be edji-cated, or to have the intellect our elected officials do. But they do! And they are getting the big bucks to make decisions that will effect not only us, but future generations to come. Yet they are making decisions, and refusing to make decisions, that any ten-year-old who is paying attention to the news can see is lopsided at best.
This is with two parties. Just two parties can be at polar ends of any subject. It's amazing.
And as amazing as this is, how much more so is the ability of the churches to have over 33,000 different viewpoints, and all of them at loggerheads with one another! And if we and our posterity are subject to the consequences of the decisions and judgments of our elected politicians; how much more so is our eternal soul subject to the correct view of the shepherd we choose to listen to and to follow?
"But I'm tired, Martha. I worked hard all week and I need a day off. I'll go next week."
"No! It's Easter and you got to go to church. If you don't, God will be mad at you and send you to hell for eternity."
"God won't mind if I miss just one Sunday. I'll go next week, I promise."
"That's what you said last week, and the week before. We got to set an example for the kids. Besides, it won't hurt you to give up a couple hours a week for the sake of the Lord and your eternal soul. Get up before you make us all late."
"What does God want from us anyway? We pray at meal time and give our thanks, we tithe, and now He wants our day of rest besides? It ain't fair I tell you."
"It's not so much to ask considering what you get for it. Besides, you're coming up on a raise pretty soon, and you want to be on God's good side when it does. We need the new car we're going to get with that raise."
"But church is so boring! I have more fun at a PTA meeting than I do at church."
"You're not supposed to have fun at church, George, that's the idea of it. It's supposed to be like punishment, like a sacrifice sort of. If it was fun it wouldn't be a sacrifice and you wouldn't be earning brownie points with God. Get up before you make us all late."
Church is no exception. In fact one of the purposes of church is to show us all the right things we should be doing, and all the wrong things we shouldn't be doing. Some churches have a huge list of things we must do in order to be on the good side of God. Often the reason for wanting to be on the good side of God is that when God is pleased with us, He smiles down on us and showers us with blessings. Earn God's favor and get that new car. Get on God's bad side and a thunderbolt is liable to strike you dead.
One problem God had with Israel is she kept falling away to other gods that, so they claimed, gave them what they wanted. Whereas God's methods were different; unlike the "other gods," He punished them and had their enemies wipe them out on occasion in order to bring them back to him. Go against God's will and temporarily get what you want, but ultimately be destroyed. Follow God's will, accept His discipline and chastisement, and ultimately receive His reward. That was God's plan for Israel. (How many people, I wonder, are calling themselves "Christian" in order to get what they want, and would follow some other "god" if they could get what they wanted from it? And, what is the other god we serve today? Not Baal, or Molech, or any of the other god's the Israelites went whoring after. It's the same as the one Israel served other gods for -- getting what we want.)
Some churches have a clear-cut idea of what it takes to please God and get what they want, not to mention earn a sure ticket to Heaven. Other churches are not so clear, indicating that once you perform a few simple rituals, you are assured your mansion in the clouds. And moving a bit farther in that direction, we have those who believe that everyone will be saved regardless of how they behave here on this earth.
Then there are thousands of other views that run the gamut between these two extremes.
The churches all, to some degree, and in one way or another, teach that God's purpose is to serve those He created. And the churches have Scripture to back up such a belief. In fact Jesus, who even the most liberal of churches, I believe would concede, represented God and was an example of how we are to behave toward one another, washed the disciple's feet demonstrating that God serves mankind. Then Jesus even died on the cross as an ultimate sacrifice for man. At the same time, and through the same event God, sacrificing His only worthy son, showed that He serves man.
Of course, besides the above (or along with it, depending on how you look at it) this sacrifice serves as an illustration of what God expects us to do. It could demonstrate that it is not God's intent to serve man, but that we, following the example of Jesus and the Apostles, are supposed to serve one another, and be obedient to God, even to the ultimate sacrifice of the cross, if we are so called upon.
I think most people would agree with that saying, at least if they are the one's credit is due.
It seems to me there's one Person who is not so well recognized as deserving credit for His efforts. Most of the churches, most of the conventional churches anyway, will acknowledge that God wrote the Bible. At least most such churches will say that God inspired the writings in the Bible. And how can they not if they claim the Bible is the "infallible Word of God."?
And if the Bible is infallible, which it says of itself in Matthew 5:18, then how can we get around it?
Well, many of the churches have gotten around it. They claim that, although the original texts were infallible, the copies are not. And since we no longer have the original texts, the Word is up for grabs.
Then we have those churches who believe the Bible we have is the infallible Word of God, but only the King James version is infallible. Yet the King James was written by a bunch of men, using fallible and conflicting texts that were considered heresy by the church of the day, and instituted by a king who was not much more than a confused idolater, and supervised by the Catholic church who does not accept the same books as do the Protestants who claim the Book to be infallible. To top this off, the original King James version is in a form that none of us could read if our life depended on it. And then there are translations of the KJ that are in foreign languages (such as the English conversions), so how can they also infallible?
And how about the Old Testament? If we are to regard the OT as infallible only in the original text we would all have to learn ancient Hebrew and Aramaic, which is no longer understood for certain in this day and age, even by the Hebrew speaking people and the scholars. And for the New Testament we would have to learn Koine Greek to know what was actually spoken by God.
If all these questions could be answered to everyone's satisfaction, there is yet other ways the experts have gotten around giving God the full credit for the Bible. They say certain verses have either been substituted, altered, misinterpreted, added or omitted by scribes along the way. And since scribes are now the ones who have power over the infallible Word, it is no longer infallible and can be "corrected" by whoever believes themselves to have received special revelation from God Himself.
There is yet another way the theologians have straight-armed the Word. Actually this way is not one, but is rather two or three ways, but difficult to sort out as separates because their edges are hard to define. One of these ways is to say the Word was inspired by God and that all the writer did was write down his experience of what God meant to say. An often used example of this is Paul equating faith and such as the "Armor of God." The preacher or whoever will say Paul did this because he was in prison and was surrounded by Roman soldiers all wearing armor. A fanciful conclusion at best, and it sure takes God out of the picture altogether. By placing Paul's experience as the motivation for the Scripture, any preacher can say whatever suits his fancy because it is only Paul's words, not God's. Now me, being unedjecated as I is would have been more inclined to say that Paul, being highly teached in the ways of the Old Testament was quoting Isaiah 59 where Isaiah said almost the same thing. But then, maybe Isaiah was surrounded by a bunch of Roman guards as well, don't 'cha think? Besides, Paul used this example other times as well. Maybe he was in prison writing those letters a long time!
Well, as I said, attributing the writing of the Bible to the writers themselves is just one of the ways the experts have of beating around the bush of Scripture. For instance, stating that Paul is not Paul, but some other guy going by that name; and that John was not the same John as the one who walked with Jesus; and that the books were written long after the Apostles were dead; and that some, like Mark, was written by some kid who was at the arrest of Jesus and ran away naked (at a time when only the 11 Apostles were there it being such a momentous and secretive occasion) so therefore knew all about Jesus. Or that the Gospels are copied one from another, or better yet, from some "Q" gospel that no longer exists and that there is no evidence whatever of such a book existing.
(Note the rest of the Scripture following verse 18 and see how it has been twisted until it runs backwards into nonexistence.)
18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.
25These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:)
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