(Articles of Faith)
Part 1 of 2
7Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Mark 7:)
We, by we I mean people in general, not necessarily you or me, have a desire to know "where a person is coming from" when we're talking to them. If we have some idea of what a person's background is, such as their education, their upbringing or their belief system, we're better able to follow them and know where they're heading with what they're telling us. A Hindu, as a for-instance, when speaking of God or Eternity does not mean at all the same thing as does a Methodist or a Baptist. What one says is not necessarily what the other is hearing or picturing in their mind.
In the past I've avoided posting my Articles of Faith for several reasons. The main reason for my silence on this matter is that I hadn't yet formulated any system of beliefs. And this stands true today, I'm still in the process of learning. therefore I have but a vague idea as to what I believe in several of the areas I'm about to present. However I think I have enough knowledge into my beliefs whereby I can (holding on with fingertips only) present my beliefs to you.
Before I delve into the specifics of my beliefs I want to say something about Articles of Faith and doctrines in general. The first thing I draw the reader's attention to is the group-think mentality of the churches that state at the beginning of their Articles of Faith "WE BELIEVE." It is my opinion that any church that believes in the leadership of the Holy Spirit would not make such a universal statement, thereby canceling any outside influence other than what they, the denomination demands. More on this later.
I for one have no "We Believe"s to present in these Articles of Faith, only an "I Believe," and that for the time present as my understanding of the Word continually grows. And with growth, there is by necessity change. As Jesus made clear to the religious authorities of His day, doctrines and traditions are a seal on understanding. Once rules and regulations are set in stone it takes a bulldozer or a stick of dynamite to move them. Even the Word of God is unable to penetrate those who have chosen to wear the blinders of doctrine and traditions.
The following Articles of Faith are reprints of those posted on most of the Traditional churches. Accompanying each of the articles is my own view on that article, stating where I agree or disagree with the views as expressed by the masses:
ARTICLES OF FAITH
In general Articles of Faith are the fundamental beliefs of a church or organization boiled down to the bare bone. All churches have their Articles of Faith, including those referred to as "Cults." In general the articles are listed in the order (as much as can be) of their importance as far as a particular denomination or church is concerned:
1. THE BIBLE IS THE VERBALLY INSPIRED WORD OF GOD AND AS SUCH IS INFALLIBLE, IN THE ORIGINAL AUTOGRAPHS: Words are tricky. It's through the use of words that a con man can take us for everything we have, yet feel confident that we have taken advantage of the con man. Lawyers are paid according to their ability to manipulate words set in stone.
In this first article of faith we have an ambivalent use of words that cause us to believe we fully understand what's being said, while in fact it says the opposite of what we assume it says. Notice the addition of the phrase "In its original autograph." None of us have, nor are we able to see those "original autographs." And if you check out the marginal notes on many of the Bibles in circulation it will say that some important parts of your Bible (whichever version that might be) has added, or has left out segments that are not in "the better manuscripts. The meaning of this is no one can be sure who has, or if anyone has a true copy of the "original autographs." Using this reasoning, anyone can claim to have the "original autographs," while discounting another person's view of the "original autographs." There are those who carry the designation "cult" that have their own version of the Bible, and there are groups of "Theologians" who's entire efforts are to discredit the Bible, and this by using the very Bible they desire to discount as evidence of their findings.
I believe the Bible is the complete Word of God, in the form I hold in my hand. I don't find anything in my Bible that causes me any problem whereby I have to disqualify one part in order to make the rest of the Bible fall in line. On top of this we're told that the Bible is now written on our hearts. and that the Holy Spirit has been given to us with the purpose of interpreting the Bible to us. This I find to be true, at least as it applies to me. Whether this is true of others I can't possibly know. But if a person has to rely on the instructions of someone else other than the Holy Spirit, then I would hold such a person's opinion at arm's distance as I would a dirty diaper.
2. THERE IS ONE GOD MANIFEST IN THREE PERSONS: I'm going to break this second article into several parts because it involves many doctrines in one single phrase.
There are churches who believe that God is in three distinct persons. And there are a great many people who believe this to such an extreme they will kill, or at least they will kill with their looks and their words, anyone who disagrees with this view.
Not everyone believes in the Trinity. Those who do accept the doctrine of the Trinity consider those who disagree with them a cult, unworthy of the name Christian.
Does the Bible indicate that there is such a Godhead as the Trinity? Some theologians and pastors have found what they consider evidence of such a personage, however in my opinion their evidence is rather skimpy at best. As for me, I believe that if Jesus, or the Father, wanted us to believe in the Trinity, He (They) would have stated such an opinion loud and clear as they have every other teaching they insist on without our having to hire lawyers to discover which loop hole such a doctrine has been buried under. In essence, I believe that the entire subject of the Trinity is a non-issue, and has no place in such important confining documents as Articles of Faith. It certainly shouldn't be used as a building block with which to separate the Body of Christ.
JESUS, THE SECOND PERSON OF THE TRINITY: Again, where do we find Jesus even hinting that He is part of something called the Trinity? Is He? I don't know. I believe He's now (if not before) a part of God, howbeit I don't agree at all with the concept as expressed in any of the churches I've checked out.
Again, this is another non-issue that doesn't belong in this document.
RECEIVED A CORPOREAL BODY: Certainly Jesus was God in the flesh. However I disagree with the common view, even though it must sound all the world as if I'm agreeing with it. I believe it's God Himself, through the Holy Spirit (which is God) Who became flesh, through the person of Jesus Christ. And I believe that He desires to do the same through us, the Christian, which efforts we inhibit by our standing on such obstacles as articles of faith that direct our attention away from God's objectives.
God wants of us, and to do with us, as He wanted with the first man, Adam. Jesus opened the door to our being able to fulfill that purpose. It's up to us if we enter through that door, or if we play church outside the Temple God is building.
WAS BORN OF A VIRGIN: Was Jesus born of a virgin? There's two places where this concept is mentioned. The first is a vague prophesy of the event. The second is undeniable to those of us who take the Bible to be the true Word of God. However, again, I feel this event shouldn't even be mentioned in such doctrines as articles of faith. I think any Christian who wants to follow the Lord into truth will accept without difficulty that Jesus' birth was miraculous. And those who do not believe in miracles, who try to explain away the very method God has of revealing Himself, and His doings toward us, is not in tune with the Holy Spirit, and therefore not converted. But again, even though I consider this subject to be an important part of the Christian experience, I don't believe it should be a wall that hinders Christian fellowship.
(MARY DIDN'T REMAIN A VIRGIN, SHE WAS MARRIED AND HAD OTHER CHILDREN.): This parentheses is sometimes added to differentiate a Protestant church from Catholicism. A Catholic will stand firm on the belief that Mary remained a virgin, while a Protestant will fight for the notion that she had other children. What difference does it make? Why do we get so huffy about things that are not important? What is Christianity about anyway? Is it about arguing doctrines? Or is it about living the life of Christ and allowing the light (and the love) we supposedly posses to shine through our differences?
HE LIVED A SINLESS LIFE, PERFORMED MIRACLES, WAS CRUCIFIED, HE WAS RESURRECTED FROM THE DEAD. HE WAS SEEN BY MANY OVER THE NEXT 30 DAYS, THEN ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN: (Actually it was 40 days, but I'm not about to quibble with the experts.) Here we have what might well be considered a distinction that separates a believer from a non-believer. In my opinion these are the only elements of Christianity that should even be considered as articles of faith. If Jesus didn't live a sinless life, if He wasn't crucified, and if He didn't raise from the dead, then all the Bible is a lie, and it would be pointless to be a Christian in the first place. As Paul said "we are most miserable."
3. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE THIRD PERSON OF THE TRINITY: We've returned to the Trinity. How did anyone decide the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity anyway? Maybe He's the second? And again, why even mention it at all in this document?
I believe this aspect of Christianity is a key issue and deserves a great deal more emphases than it receives in the churches. And I believe this, along with certain other aspects not mentioned or barely touched on in articles of faith, should be the foundation of this document, and the rest eliminated.
I believe we were cleansed from our past sins, but from that point on we're to eradicate sin from our life, and to remain clean through the process of confession and repentance (judging ourself). And this to me is far more important than any of the words placed on a sheet of paper, regardless if its called Articles of Faith, "We believe," or church doctrines.
Jesus is the Seed, the plant that grows from the Seed should be just like the Seed, not an inferior copy of the Seed. Jesus was the beginning, those of us who follow will be striving to perfect themself as directed; if not, then the Seed has landed on faulty soil. More on this later.
4. THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS PREFIGURES THE RESURRECTION OF THE BELIEVER AFTER JESUS' RETURN: No argument here. However I want to present an addendum. Those who will experience this transfiguration will be those who diligently seek to be like Jesus, and to fulfill His desire ("commandments,") not those who merely talk about serving.
The other side of the grace coin is the doctrine of selective salvation. According to this doctrine there are some people who have been chosen for salvation ("irresistible grace") and they can't lose this grace if so chosen; and that there are those who have been chosen to be damned from the foundation of the earth. In other words, we have no choice in the matter. Which view is correct? Is it possible that both are wrong? Or maybe both are correct?
The fact of selective salvation is obvious in the Bible, as illustrated in the lives of such people as Abraham who it appears did nothing to warrant his being selected for his part in the salvation plan God has for humanity (in contrast to such people as Noah who did). Nor did those in Abraham's blood line prove themselves worthy of their calling. Moses tried to resist the job God had created him for, but to no avail. Moses had no say-so in his future. He was not given "free will."
Jacob and Esau were chosen for their destiny long before they were born. Jacob was loved while Esau was rejected, and this through no fault or credit due them or the lives they led. It was God's choice, not theirs. We see this exemplified in Isaac and Ishmael as well, and in the fate of Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt. And again we find God's hand in the life of Nebuchadnezzar and the fate of Babylon. Add to the list Jonah and Job, two prime examples of those who did all they could to resist their position in God's purposes.
In the New Testament we read where the twelve Apostles, including Judas, were chosen by God the Father, and it was not their (the disciple's) choice that placed them in the inner circle of the Lord's plan. If we need further evidence of this preselection (predestination), we need look no farther than the conversion of Paul.
On the free-will side of the coin, there is little to substantiate such a doctrine, certainly there are few examples given to us of God allowing for free will. But one verse is all it takes to open the door to a possibility. We find this opening in the Lord's statement that "Whosoever will" may be saved.
6. WE'RE ALL BORN INTO SIN: If we're born into sin, or become sinners because of our own sins, what's the difference? Why bother even having such a doctrine included in this document?
ADDITIONAL BELIEFS, ISSUES AND COMMENTS REGARDING VARIOUS ASPECTS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND OF THE WORD:
As for "devotion to an individual," I should suppose that a church without a devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ wouldn't be much of a Christian church at all.
It seems to me that theologians and other "experts" have a way of taking a word and giving it a meaning it really doesn't have merely by flooding it with words of their own creation.
DENOMINATION OF CULTS, THE "WE BELIEVE": In my immediate family there is a high priest in the Mormon church, a Pentecostal missionary (used to be), an Atheist-Buddhist-Fundamental preacher, and myself a once-Philosophical-Pentecostal-now Outsider Baptist (in church affiliation only, not by membership). In other words there's no one in my small family that can stand by another and say "we believe," regardless of the subject. We disagree on everything. Our family get-togethers were a synonym for hell on earth.
It would seem to me that there are few people in any association, whether it be a man and wife or a sewing circle where two people can honestly say "we believe," thereby allowing someone else to speak for any of the others. I believe that if such a situation exists it can only indicate that one or more of the parties are either mindless, or they believe in nothing and therefore whatever someone else says, they accept, whether they understand it or not.
In just about any of the churches a person can walk in, come forward, sign a card, be baptized and thereby become "eternally saved," indicating they firmly "believe" all the precepts and the doctrines of the church. A person can know nothing whatever about the doctrines of a church, and care even less to learn them, yet be a part of the "We Believe." This is the "We believe" that isolates one denomination from another and that supposedly will cause a person to please God and allow them into the very place that Adam was evicted from because of his lack of belief and his disobedience.
I am of the opinion that most, if not all those who are a part of a "We Believe" do not believe anything, but rather they accept what they hear. I also have no doubt that there's a billion folks who will agree with me as it applies to other people, but will violently reject such a notion when applied to themselves. Peter tells us we're to be ready to give a reason for our hope (1Peter 3:15). I take this to include having a reason for our faith as well. And I suspect more is required of us then to point at our pastor and say "because he said so."
WHAT IS TRUTH?: This important question was asked of Jesus by Pilot. Pilot had been hearing lie after lie hurled at him from every direction and from every religious leader in effort to force him to do what he least wanted to do.
Today we face the same situation as did Pilot. On one hand we have hundreds of churches and preachers, ranging from the very lax to the ultra strict, trying to force their opnion upon us. Each of these salesmen of salvation claim to have the truth, yet the truth seems to escape all of them to one degree or another. We, as humans, tend to doubt our own concept of truth, so we allow the opinion of one or the other of these salesmen to convince us that their brand of truth is the one and only truth to be had. Once having made this commitment, we then insist that our truth is the only truth, in spite of the fact we hardly (if at all) know what our truth is saying.
On the other hand we have the Bible that most of us who go by the name of Christian accept as truth to one degree or another. Because we hold truth itself in our hand, we should be able to find for ourself what truth is. But instead of allowing the Book of Truth to speak to us, we allow those who claim to know the truth, and to know the Bible, to tell us what the Bible says, which of course agrees whole-heartedly with our teacher's brand of truth. Those who read the Bible at all (while watching their favorite soap opera or the big game of the year so their reading won't be a "waste of time"), will naturally read it in such a way as to support what they know to be truth. Whatever seems to disagree with our truth we either dismiss as an error, or we consider it our own failure to fully understand what is being said. A man once said (and I suspect he speaks for most of us who have bothered to think about it), he listens to others with an ear bent toward finding where they disagree with him in order to see where they are wrong. I admit to doing this, do you?
Jesus said "Seek and ye shall find." If we don't seek truth, truth will elude us and we will by default accept fantasy as truth, and stand firm on that fantasy allowing no one to disturb our system of beliefs.
It's natural for us as humans to seek an answer. We resent and resist questions, especially if we don't have an answer to the question asked of us. Wisdom comes, not from having many answers, but in asking many questions. Solomon is evidence of this. When he wrote his many proverbs he seemed to have all the answers, and therefor he asked no questions. When he was old, he looked back on his life and saw it as vanity. Ecclesiastes is written by a man who thought he had all the answers in his youth (and what youth doesn't think their vain understandings are truth in themself?), but discovered that truth does not exist outside of God.
Answers are a result of having placed a cap on the search for truth, of having settled somewhere along the road to truth. The "We Believe" statements are a seal on the search for truth before a person even understands there is a search to be made. And having become a part of the "We Believe," a person is allowed to look for truth no farther than the boundaries, the doctrines, that church has established without appearing to be a heretic, thereby incurring the wrath of that association.
Eviction from the church is the very tool the domineering churches, referred to as cults, use to keep a person trapped in the organization and the belief system they have joined themself to. Jesus and the Apostles had to do God's work outside the accepted church of their day, to wander as outcasts among those deemed unacceptable by the elite of the church.
JUDGING OTHERS: In numerous places in the Bible we're warned not to judge others unless we ourselves want to be judged according to our own judgement of others. We are to judge, but our judgement is to be that of doctrine, something we ignore except when it's the doctrines of other churches that oppose our own. We're also to judge the behavior of those in our association, and to avoid those who do not conform to the commandments given to us by the Lord. This is clearly illustrated by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.] We're not to judge the person, but we're to keep a close eye for sin in the camp, something the churches of today fail to do.
All judgement must be out of love for the one who is amiss, we're not to judge others in order to make our self appear more holy than thou.
It does me little good to point out where there's a cancer on the flesh of another person if I'm not first making sure there is no cancer on my own person.
Judgement begins at home. We're first to judge ourself. If we judge ourself, the Bible tells us, we will not be judged. We're to judge, not the doctrines of others, but our own doctrine, the beliefs we place our hopes and our faith in, and that we supposedly live according to. If our beliefs or doctrine is faulted, then so will our actions be. And it's our actions, our "works" that will be judged.
Returning once again to the group-think of "We Believe." The very presence of such a statement is indicative of mind control, and thereby a group that uses such a tactic is in essence stating they are a cult, an individual society that has isolated itself from others who might believe differently than they themselves. Then to add sin to transgression they hurl accusations and condemnations at any of their "brothers" who fly the same banner, but of another color, believing themselves to be "holier than thou" (Isaiah 65:5). In so doing, the judging of others, they are placing themselves under the very condemnation they are casting at others.
LOVE: Love is the lack of condemnation. If Jesus was to have treated us according to what we deserve, this especially before our conversion, none of us would stand a chance of anything but the pits of hell. All through the Bible it is stated, and in the New Testament clearly illustrated, that we're to love others as God loves us. We're to be God's extension of love here on earth. When we show compassion for others, when we turn the other cheek, we're displaying our obedience to God and not to our own human nature. And it's our human nature we're to do away with if we expect to spend eternity with the Lord.
APPRECIATION: Lately I've been noticing a great lack of appreciation, in adults, and especially in the children. People have lost the ability to fulfill the very first and most insignificant aspect of appreciation, leastwise do they understand the more important aspects. I've seen where parents and grandparents will look askance at the children when they show a lack of appreciation, but none seem to bother to teach them where they are amiss.
What is appreciation? We think of appreciation as saying thank you when someone does something for us. But we, those of us with gray hair, have been taught to say thank you even when we are resentful of the gift we've been given. Thank you is the minimum one can offer in regards to appreciation.
The second aspect of appreciation is that of appreciating the gift. If a person we give to (or do something for) misuses or abuses the gift we've given them, if they get rid of it somehow, or it become lost in the shuffle of life, we don't consider that person as appreciative of what we've given them. They might display all the appearances of appreciation, but their actions don't back up their words.
The third and perhaps the most important aspect of appreciation is the appreciation one gives to the giver of the gift. Consider Santa Clause. The child, believing an old man they don't even know, goes to all the trouble to make a gift for them, and delivers that gift during the worst of weather. Does that child appreciate the giver of the gift (even if they know it came from his or her parents)? It's not likely they will. The gift is expected, and if it doesn't come on time, or if it isn't what they hoped for, they're disappointed. This is the opposite of appreciation.
We're taught to treat God the same way. People are enticed into the church with the promise of what God can do for them, such as give them a fruitful life, and eternity in Heaven to boot. When things don't go the way they expect, if they don't get all they "wish" for, they blame it on God and accuse Him of letting them down.
The Christian is promised nothing beyond abuse, a hard life, and persecution. Those who are willing to give up their own comforts and follow the Lord through the Valley of Trouble will receive life everlasting in Paradise. That's the promise we're given. But it's not the promise the churches tell the new convert they're signing up for. They haven't been told the cost of discipleship.
THE JUDGEMENT: We all must face Judgement. There are several ways we can prepare ourself for our judgement. First we have those who believe that by having been baptized, or by their belonging to the "right" church, or because their parents were ministers, or because of some other such thing, they will miss the Judgement. We read where we will all stand before the Seat of Judgement, and heading the list of those judged are those of the Church, the ones most inclined to think they will be missing the Judgement. There's no way of avoiding judgement, but there is a way of missing the Judgement that comes after all is said and done. If we judge ourself here and now, and we refrain from judging others, then there will be nothing that will need judged.
We're to work toward ridding ourself of all lusts, ego, and other such fleshly things in this life. We read that we are either feeding the Spirit, that the Spirit of God is leading us and molding us; or we're feeding the flesh, and the devil has us by the hand. It's by our works, our fruit, that we can know if we are following the right path that bypasses the Seat of Judgement.
THE HOLY GHOST: We consider the Holy Spirit to be something separate and distinct from God the Father. But Jesus tells us that God is spirit. Does a spirit need a spirit? God is Spirit. When we refer to the Holy Spirit, we're referring to God the Father. With this understanding in mind, read the 14th to the 16th chapters of John and see if it makes more sense than it has in the past.
The Holy Spirit is not merely a seal, something to insure that the Christian will (has to by some accounts) make it to Heaven. He is our instructor into the meanings of the Bible and the purposes of God. He is also our counselor, our tutor, the One who tells us what we must do in order to prepare us for the presence of God. We can't expect to stand before a perfect and righteous God in the same condition Adam was when he was kicked out of the presence of God. We may be covered by the blood, but that does not free us from the consequences promised those "branches" that do not produce fruit.
THE TABERNACLE: The Tabernacle is more than a fancy tent the Hebrew carried with them through the wilderness. The Tabernacle is a representation of Heaven and of our Lord. And beyond this, it's a representation of what we are supposed to become. Understanding the Tabernacle is much more than a venture into history, it's a key with which to unlock many of the secrets that remain hidden in the Word.
THE TEMPLE: Several times in the New Testament the believer is likened to a temple in which God will, and does reside. Consider how we're told that God lives in us, and at the same time the Holy Spirit lives in us. Now, read again what was said above in regards to the Holy Spirit.
While the Tabernacle is a portrayal of what Jesus would be (and is) like, and what the Millennium will consist of, the Temple is a picture of Eternity. When we read the last part of Revelation, and we compare what we read with Solomon's reign (not including his many failures) we have a better understanding of God's plan for us, and for His creation.
THE MILLENNIUM: The Millennium will be an extension of what was begun after Israel (under the direction of Joshua) entered Canaan. For a thousand years God will again rule the people of the world, but that rule will be through a body of people who are in a translated form, those who will take part in the first resurrection. God, through the Church, and beginning with Jesus, is in the process of preparing just such a "force," through which peace and security will be upheld. Satan and his influence will be nonexistent during this period, but human nature will still be in effect. During this time sin will bring about instant consequences as it did in the wilderness (Num 15:32), and the penalty executed immediately. Hearts will still desire to sin, and when the devil is released, those with an impulse to rebel, as Adam did, will find themselves acting out their rebellious nature against those who hold the power (the Holy City). Then God will deal collectively with those with a rebellious nature, as He did in the wilderness, and those remaining after the purge will be taken into Eternity.
Laws were established in the wilderness, and they were still in effect when Joshua led the people into the Promised Land. After the first generation of those who survived the wilderness testing died off, the children of those survivors fell to the whims of their neighbors they were supposed to separate themselves from. And this intermingling led to their downfall.
The Millennium, like the Promised Land, will be a land of milk and honey. But those who attain to this paradise must first make their journey through their wilderness testing.
David's rule was one of war, of physically taking possession of the land from the enemy, and having to deal with the corrupt power structure (King Saul, as well as his own sons) that were in force. The Millennium is to be the same, but in the Spiritual realm as well as the physical.
NEW JERUSALEM: New Jerusalem is given a prime spot all through the Bible, Old and New. In its foreshadowed state New Jerusalem is seen as Jerusalem, the Holy City, the Beloved City, Zion, and other such names. In the New Testament New Jerusalem is seen as the Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Temple, and numerous other identifiers.
New Jerusalem is the completed "city" that God will dwell in and work through, as He did through Jesus and the Apostles. However, as pictured in the Old Testament, God is not going to take up residence in His "Temple" until the building is complete down to the last brick. If we hope to be a part of the New Jerusalem, the Holy City, then we must be in the process of making our vessel, through the aid of the Holy Spirit, into a vessel of honor and not one of dishonor.
Those who are expecting to spend eternity flying around on a cloud, or on another planet, or in a huge building the size of the moon, are in for an awakening. I don't suppose believing in these fantasies in themselves are harmful since so many do, and so many have for hundreds of years. But if such imaginings cause a person to do little or nothing in preparation for Eternity, then I suggest such self-deceptions might cause a great deal of harm, and that for an eternity.
ESCHATOLOGY: Eschatology is the study of the end-times. Theories abound as to what the end will be like. Some people believe the end-times are here and now, and that we are living in the Millennium today. Others believe that all, or at least most of what is described in the prophets, Revelations, and in the Book of Daniel has already been played out. Others believe that all the end-time prophesies are yet to be fulfilled. I don't suppose any of these views are particularly more important than the others, they're nothing but theories after all. However, if a theory, any theory, causes a person to relax their efforts to fulfill God's commandments and to show love for one's brother and sister, then I believe that theory must be looked into and dealt with accordingly.
We humans have an innate tendency to see things in extremes. Because of this we have such things as denominations and political parties that are known for thrusting at one another. Have the prophesies been fulfilled? Are they presently being fulfilled? Will they be fulfilled in the future? Why can't all be true? Why does a prophesy that has been fulfilled in the past prevent it from also being fulfilled (and perhaps even to a stronger degree) in the future as well?
THE RAPTURE: There are several theories surrounding this future event. What is the rapture? When will the rapture take place? Will there be a rapture? The rapture, if nothing else, makes for good books and fantasy movies. And I suppose the movies about the rapture brings in, not only a lot of money, but people to fill the churches in an effort to avoid being "left behind."
Some people believe the rapture will take place after the Tribulation, others midway through the Tribulation, and the popular theory today is that the Church will be raptured even before the first bullet is fired.
I disagree with all these theories. The fact that every theory has Scripture backing up that theory should be sufficient evidence that something is being missed in all of them.
All the theories I've seen picture "believers" lifted up to a cloud, or somewhere in the great beyond, without the aid of life supports. Considering that Heaven is believed to be somewhere in the sky, and this belief being held even by those who don't believe in Heaven, it's understandable why people might accept such a theory.
If Heaven is up in the sky, where God supposedly lives, then any of the prevailing theories are up for grabs. For myself, for reasons I'll explain later, I don't think Heaven is somewhere "out there." This being the case, I believe the rapture, if it can in fact be called by such a designation, is the changing of these carnal, mortal bodies into what it was intended to be if it weren't for the fall of Adam. No one will be lifted up any farther than old terra firma. The "air" those who are translated will be lifted to is this air we breath every few seconds. Those who have died before the rapture are not breathing air, but they will be after the transformation. The clouds everyone is looking for are the clouds of witnesses, martyrs, that will be returning to earth when Jesus comes to judge this world. It was from a cloud God spoke with Moses. It was a cloud that led the people through the wilderness. It's a cloud in the form of the Holy Spirit we desire to lead us through our own wilderness training. The cloud Moses met with God through was not a rain cloud that we see on rainy days, of this we can be quite certain.
TONGUES (GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT): We know tongues exist or at least they did exist for a while. There are some things I read about in the Bible that I can't do. I've never spoken in tongues. But just because I haven't spoken in tongues does not cause me to discount the possibility that tongues are still in existence today. There are those who claim to speak in tongues, and I believe they do. My problem with tongues comes from those who believe in tongues also tend to believe those who don't speak in tongues do not have the Holy Spirit, so therefore they're not saved. Those outside think those inside are not in the will of God, and those inside point to the wall between them and think those outside are cursed by God. In my opinion the wall shouldn't exist, and the existence of such a wall places all involved outside the will of God.
PROPHESY: A prophet is someone who speaks for someone else. In the case of the Bible, a prophet is one who speaks for God. There are false prophets as well, and these we've been warned to beware of. A false prophet either speaks from their own heart, or like the Beasts of Revelation, they speak for Satan. They are Satan's mouthpiece here on earth.
Prophets can and do predict the future. We see this trait in almost all the prophets in the Bible. But more than this, a prophet speaks the words God wants His people to hear. The warnings and the praises God provides us, His people, are delivered through the mouth of a prophet. He can, and He does speak to us directly, usually through dreams and visions. For myself, twice I've had the Lord speak to me directly (not audibly from an external source, but distinctly nonetheless), and of course like most of us (I speak out of assumption of course) I've felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit as He directs me one way or another.
Are there prophets in the church today? Are those who stand up and say "Yea, yea, thus sayeth the Lord" actually prophets speaking for God? How can I know? I suppose some are, but I have little doubt but that many are just doing what is expected of them, as with any other endeavor in the churches where someone receives a form of recognition by doing so.
Are those who give prophesies about the future of the world actually prophets of God? Again, how can I know? However, I've heard many a prophesy given over the past 40 years or so where facts were presented that were later found to be false from the foundation up. None of the "facts' actually existed. What surprises me is that after all the extreme failures these "prophets" have on their record, they're still at it, and people are still listening to, quoting them, and supporting them. What is it the Bible tells us about a prophet who's prophesies fail?
I know God still speaks through lips of clay, because He speaks (and has spoken) through these lips. Just a few weeks ago He spoke through me to a church, and the pastor and his wife took great pains to discount what I had said. What was it I said? At the time I didn't know because I was surprised at what I was saying, having no intention whatever of saying what was being spoken through me. In times past, long ago, I had an experience where God was telling people about themselves, their past and their future, and this through me. Again I had no idea what I was saying, I was just a puppet mouthing the words, they weren't my words. The experience didn't last long, perhaps a few weeks, then it was taken from me.
There are times my fingers write prophesies (words, not forecasting the future) I didn't understand or know anything about until I wrote it. Writers call this "inspiration," and perhaps that's all it is. But I don't think so, at least not any human form of inspiration ("God breathed").
Yes, God still works through humans to tell His people what He wants them to hear. However, I don't believe He ever contradicts the Words He's given us in His Word, He merely explains them.
Am I a prophet because God speaks through me on occasion? Not really. A prophet is a person who's words are nothing but the words God gives them. I jabber too much, and because of this I pollute any possible standing as a prophet I might otherwise possess, if I have such a standing to begin with.
There's a sense that all of us are to be prophets of God. Our lives are to be a prophesy, demonstrating what God expects of his people. Each of us are to be a representation of Jesus as Jesus was of the Father. We have our limitations of course, but within our limitations we should each of us present ourselves as a faithful ambassador of Christ.
EDIFYING THE BODY OF CHRIST: The churches are given special people who have the responsibility of edifying ("A builder of a house, confirm") the church, and instructing the congregation. Along with this responsibility these people take upon themselves is that of motivating the congregation to strive for perfection thereby causing them to be prepared to stand before the Lord in a righteous condition. Jesus gave us a parable about a man who arrived at a wedding, that apparently he had been invited to, without his wedding garment. This means to me he hadn't adequately prepared himself. How does a person learn what he or she must do in order to be prepared to meet their maker? Isn't that part of the responsibilities of the leaders of the church? If not them, then who is responsible for such preparations?
If you as a parent were to hire a piano teacher to instruct your child the art of the piano, and that teacher told you're child that what he already knows, which is little or nothing, is all he need learn in order to be an accomplished musician; what would you say to that teacher? Let's take that same concept into the church where the stakes are much higher, and the cost of tuition many times that of a piano teacher. Your teacher and your preacher tells you that once you are baptized and you've and read and agreed to the card they gave you stating the church's Articles of Faith, that you now know everything you need to know in order to be a full-fledged Christian. They tell you it's a good thing if you come to church and listen to the sermons, and that it's nice if you read your Bible, but none of that ("works") is necessary for your advancement to maturity as a Christian approved by God. What would you say of such a scenario?
THE CHURCH: The Church is to be an organism, much like a person is a living organism composed of many individual parts, all working together for the good of the whole. When one part of this organism (called a body in the Bible) is out of sync, is injured, or is contaminated, the entire body is effected. One part of the body is to watch out for, and to correct errors in the rest of the body. Consider the foot: the foot can carry the body where it needs to go, but it can not detect problems in the rest of the body. It takes our nerves to tell us that something is wrong with the body, and the eyes to locate the problem. If the foot is the part of the body with the problem, the foot is not able to rectify the problem it is experiencing.
In order for the body to be totally functional all parts of the body must not only work together, but every part must be equally matured and conditioned. One part of the body might be slow in its development, but that slow part should not be allowed to remain in an inferior condition. Take for instance a football player. If that player was to develop his legs for running faster than any other player on the field, but his arms were neglected and therefore too weak to throw the ball, what are the chances he would not be allowed to play the game because of the likelihood he will cause the team to fail?
Jesus is the Head of the body of Christ. We're told in the Bible we are to grow into the fulness and stature of the Head. What do you suppose would happen if part of the body, not only failed to mature as it should, thereby causing the body of Christ to be weak and dysfunctional, but didn't even try to improve itself? What do you think would be the result of such a lack of action?
Not long ago this nation had a Civil War. During that time our nation was weak as it related to the world as a whole. Had another country decided to conquer us at that time they would have had little difficulty doing so because we were so busy destroying ourself.
At one time the Church was a strong force with a lot of power. The church didn't necessarily use the power it held wisely, nor for altruistic purposes. But whatever it wanted to do, it could do with little resistance. When I was young the churches were strong and they pretty well worked together. I don't recall any strife within the Church as a whole, even though I'm sure there were contentions that didn't present themselves at that time. Today the Church is a weak, splintered group of people that not only condemns anyone that is not a Christian, but anyone not in the denomination the one pointing the finger belongs to. For this reason the churches are losing respect in the world, losing power to change the world, and are closing their doors by the thousands because of low participation. Rather than recognize and correct the problem that is causing the demise of the churches, the church instead intensifies its condemnation of others, and weakens itself even farther by falling to the influence of the world it's to remain separate from and to be an example to.
When the Master of the field returns, that field being the Church, what do you suppose He's going to think of His body that He suffered and died to create? What do you think He's going to say to those He left in charge of His sheep? What would you say if you were in the position of the Lord who gave Himself for what we've become?
DENOMINATIONS: The word denomination means to name something in order to cause it to be recognized as something different than anything that might be like it. In math we learned that if we put a number under a line that holds a whole number, we effectively divide that whole into the number serving as the denominator. In the case of the Church, the body of Christ, that denominator has many zeros in its number.
Paul had a great deal to say about dividing the Church, so I'll let him speak on the subject. I'll only add that I'm amazed the churches can venture so far into such an obvious departure from God's will, and yet be so proud of having done so.
FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT: What are the fruits of the Spirit? How do they effect us? And are we demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit? What happens when there's no fruit on the tree that so much labor has been applied to? What would you do with a plant or a tree that didn't produce good fruit?
THE DEVIL (LUCIFER): First of all, when we speak of lucifer (the word meaning "Day Star," a name given to Jesus, not the devil), we're talking about two separate things. Because of this it's difficult to respond to this question. Satan, the devil, was a devil from the beginning. He was created a devil. He is not doing battle with God. And he was created for the very purpose he's being used for, to test us to see if we're suitable material for the presence of God. If you have a problem with any of my observations, take it up with the Lord since it's He who said these things. As for me, I couldn't care less what the devil is or was since my battle is with my own nature, not the devil.
BAPTISM: There are two baptisms, the first baptism, the one most of us think of when we hear the word, is insignificant in the scheme of things. Water baptism is a public demonstration of an inward change of direction. Those who are baptized in water also need to be baptized by the Holy Spirit in order to be complete. A Pentecostal will tell you this means speaking in tongues. This is not what I mean, otherwise I would be negating myself, seeing as how I've never spoken in tongues.
John's baptism is to repentance, and it includes a public confession of one's sin, just as the sin sacrifice made under the law.
The baptism Jesus offers is that of a changed nature through the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the very same Spirit that was working in Jesus during his ministry.[130 ] The Spirit, when received, leads us to our field of testing. After which we are expected to begin our ministry, our service to God and to our fellow man.
The baptism Jesus brings includes fire, along with the Holy Spirit. Fire speaks of testing, and testing speaks of persecution, tribulation, and perhaps death in the service of God.[134 Jesus told those (and us) who wanted to follow Him and be His disciple that they must surrender everything, including their family and even their life if necessary. We're to count the cost before we make such an important decision. As for myself, at the age of 12 when I was baptized I had no idea any cost were involved, nor had I been informed of such a cost. But my lack of education in the matter did not excuse me from fulfilling my end of the contract, which I'm now discovering in my latter years.
BABYLON: There are two wives within the Church as a body (as foreshadowed by the two wives of Abraham and Jacob; Judah and Samaria etc.). There's the faithful (and loved) wife, and there's the servant wife the Bible refers to as a harlot. The harlot can best be identified by her pride and her self-importance as the bride of Christ. She believes she is untouchable, and no matter what she does she will be held special in God's eyes. Her imprudence will lead to destruction in the end.
The faithful wife is humble and ready to respond at any beckoning of her Husband, regardless of the request. When she has done her best and fulfilled all the requirements placed on her, she does not feel satisfied with her accomplishments. This is the wife who will be taken into the Bridegroom's chamber behind the Vail.
Babylon is a very large city, full of pride, and working hard to increase its size and beauty, much like the grand cathedrals we see in Europe, large and impressive, but of non-effect.] Zion, Jerusalem, the city where God dwells is in hiding now, buried and silent within the hearts of the few and the isolated members of the Church willing to take the narrow path that leads through the Valley of Trouble.] Meanwhile, the broad road to Babylon, the city destined for destruction, is busy with the hustle and the bustle of those seeking the easy and the carnally satisfying things of this world.
144,000: Also known as the Man Child company, Joel's Army, First Fruits, and Benjamin the younger son. Whatever you want to call them, they're the "Angel" mentioned several places in John's revelation, and foreshadowed in Genesis through the story of Joseph and Jacob.
In the segment above I said the True Church is locked up in Babylon hidden away until time for them to present themselves. We see this pictured where Joseph was unjustly condemned after having been set up by Potiphar's wife, then held in prison until it was time for him to be used by God to save his people. Again we see where Jacob would not allow Benjamin to leave his company for fear of losing the last remaining son of his beloved wife. And still again when Joseph had his special cup hidden in Benjamin's things thereby setting him up for persecution and accusations, and in order to keep his younger brother with him. Read the last fifteen or so chapters of Genesis with this concept in mind and see if it doesn't bring clarity to the story.
Two thousand years ago we had twelve men (thirteen with Barnabas, another story in itself) who quite vividly portrayed what Jesus was like when He was accomplishing His mission here on earth. These men were the first of the First Fruits company, demonstrating to the world what a seed planed in good and receptive soil should become. Now, at the end of this grace period when the rest of the harvest has been prepared, the final stage of harvesting the crops will be accomplished. The laborers we will see in the "fields" will be identical to what was seen at the planting of the harvest, the Apostles setting the example. It will be at this time the world will hear the Message of the Kingdom we are supposed to be preaching today, but that has been sealed up from the days of the first Apostles.
The grace message we hear today has taken away our freedom to become sons of God, exemplified by the Apostles, and has been turned into a license to sin and believe we won't experience any consequences for having done so. Our peace is not in believing that Jesus died for sins in order that we may sin with immunity, our peace comes from knowing we are given the opportunity to be free from sin. And if we do sin, we have a way by which to be given a new start in the perfecting of ourself and thereby live a Spirit-filled life.
Paul, though he speaks a great deal on grace and liberty, pointing out that we are saved by grace alone other than the ritual of baptism, goes on to tell how he ignores this call to simplicity and with fear and trembling throws everything he has, and is, into living the perfect life. Why do you suppose he would fail to live up to what he preaches and would throw away the freedom from worry he espouses? Could there be something beyond the minimum he preaches that he presses to obtain? And if what he was striving for is that important, so important that he is afraid of missing it, shouldn't we look beyond the basics as well? If so, then why aren't we? And further still, why aren't we told about this higher calling in every service we attend rather than the call to the minimum we hear?
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