THOUGHTS & COMMENTS
1Now the Spirit speaketh
expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith,
From birth we're taught to be suspicious of everything and everybody. It's "Don't touch this because it might burn you," "Don't eat that, it might me poison," "Don't talk to strangers because they might be a kidnapper," "Check your fruit and candy in your trick or treat bag carefully because they might have put something bad in it." Later we're instructed to "pick your friends carefully," "Don't come home late," "Don't talk to strangers." As adults we learn to cover our keypad when we type in our pin number, to not listen to advertisers over the phone or the web, don't respond to links on emails, assume our email might be bugged, or that the letter we get from our friends might really be SPAM or a Phishing expedition, take every contract to a lawyer, don't give out our mother's maiden name or our... whatever. There is danger on every corner, and we must be on our toes every second if we wish to make it through this modern "civilized" society.
Yes, we must be careful with our money, with our car, with our house, with our lawn mower, and with even our trash. There is someone out to get us at every turn of the road.
Have I said anything that goes contrary to your own experience? Then consider this:
We send little Johnny and Joan off to school and tell them to listen carefully to what they are being taught. Are you aware of what they're teaching little Johnny and Joan these days?
We take Little Johnny and Joan to church with us, and we listen to what we're taught in whatever church we happen to belong to. That church might have been picked by our great-great grandparents hundreds of years ago. We continue that tradition. Our church might have been selected because of the pretty steeple and the sound of the bells it rings to call the faithful to service. It might have been chosen by using a more sophisticated method such as eenyie, meeney, minee, mo. But whatever the method, there you are, and faithfully as is expected.
You are taught a variety of things in the church you attend. One of the things you're taught is that you have chosen the right church, the right denomination, the one that will save your soul and insure your acceptance into Heaven and into God's good graces. If there is a church that teaches you are in the wrong church to achieve these things, I'm unaware of its existence.
What you learn in that church is the truth. You know it's the truth because your pastor told you so. You also know that what you are taught is strictly by the Bible, and you know this for the same reason you know you are in the right church.
There are many other churches in your town, maybe even hundreds of churches. Almost all these churches know for sure they are the one and only church, that they are teaching the truth as laid out in the Bible, and that they are the one and only way to God's good graces and to the Pearly Gates of Heaven.
The truth taught at your church, as with all the others, is not the same truth that was being taught less than a hundred years ago. Truth, and God's purposes and meanings have changed, in some cases considerably, in this past lifetime. Life, as does time, moves on. The only thing that remains the same is the ignorance of mankind.
The things we are so careful with are material, they are temporal, and they are temporary. Most of them are also replaceable, and possibly even insured. Yet, in spite of the value of the things we protect, they are ours, and we feel they are worthy of our diligence and our protection.
What value do you place on your life? What value do you place on your eternal life? Is it not worth protecting? Is it not worth giving as careful a consideration as is, say, your lawn mower?
Why then, may I ask, are you willing to place all your confidence in the words of a single pastor, a single doctrine, and not check it out as thoroughly as you would the warranty on the lawn mower you purchase? Why haven't you read the fine print in that contract, the Bible, you signed when you were baptized and became a member of the family of God?
Could it be that you really place no value in your belief? Might it be that you don't really believe in God and in the Bible? Is it possible that what you believe in is the church you attend, it's social functions, the fellowship it affords?
Is it worth looking into the truth of your Christianity? Or are you satisfied to just go along with the flow, and to find out at the Judgement if you have made the right choices or not.
I'm sure you've heard it said that the Church is like fishing boat. Our job is to bring the lost fish out of the roaring sea of humanity and into the safety of the Church, the boat. Nice thought. And I suspect you might even know where the verse is that Jesus uses this illustration.
You also know that once a fish is in the boat, it's forever in the boat, and can't be lost again. Isn't that right? I bet you know where that Scripture is as well.
Of course, like with anything else, there are conditions to be met before a fish is allowed into the boat. The fish must be baptized, join your church, and agree with all the doctrines of your church. They can't believe in a heresy such as others do who don't believe in your Articles of Faith, your Fundamental doctrines.
All children, it seems, learn the skill of selective listening. Where they learn it I don't know. Surely they're not taught it by their parents, at least not intentionally. Selective hearing is a valuable tool. If we had to hear exactly what we're being told, then we would have no excuse to do something else, or nothing at all. Because this ability is so important, and so self-satisfying, we learn to perfect it as we grow older. Then, when we're real old, and we have the skill perfected, we find others come to us to learn how they can perfect that skill as well.
It's a funny thing about skills such as selective hearing. We love to use it ourselves, but we hate it when others use that same skill on us. Somehow the skill is a one way street, just like a lot of skills we practice and enjoy. Want me to give you an example off the top of my head? Ok, how about being a good loser. We like to play with a good loser, and the better they are at losing, the better we like it. But we don't like playing with a good winner. Somehow their being good at winning takes the fun out of the game, and we're likely to avoid playing the game with that person in the future.
Selective hearing is the basis of many things. One such thing is the church. If it wasn't for people with selective hearing there would be no pastors, no Bible college teachers, and no members of the denominations. If people actually read for themselves to learn what the Bible said, if people actually consulted God to find out what He wants us to know, then people wouldn't be listening to the partial truths and fairy tales taught from the pulpit. Want an example? I thought you might. Let's use the example I began this story with, that of fishing. Do you recall where the parable is? Me neither, but it just so happens I have a concordance right here with me:
There it is, plain as day. There's no way of getting around it, fish of "Every kind," which includes the bad fishes, are to be brought into the Salvation Express church vessel. Well, we got what we wanted, so let's go home, shall we?
But wait! Just for fun, let's pretend like we don't have selective hearing and see what else Jesus has to say about this fishing trip:
Did I read this right? Did Jesus say not everyone will get to stay in the boat of Salvation? Maybe Jesus meant something else beyond what He appears to have meant. It must me so, as thousands of preachers and theologians can't possibly be wrong, can they?
Remember, we're still talking about those that have been bought into the boat, not those still floundering in the sea of humanity, the "great unsaved."
I don't know about you, but it looks like Jesus actually meant what He said. The funny thing about it is (that's funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha), none of us will know fore sure whether we're a "keeper" or a castaway until it's too late. This would appear to conflict with the doctrine of the security of the believer. And it surely doesn't sound as easy to hear as what we're taught, that once we're in the boat, all our cares have gone bye-bye. If being in the boat isn't our means of security, our source of peace of mind, then just where is our comfort to come from? The Bible gives us lots of guideposts by which to measure our progress, but since we would rather settle back in our pews and enjoy the ride on the "Comfort Train," we'll not see or recognize those guidelines. And if one or two of those guidelines makes itself too obvious to ignore, we have the pastor to explain it away. Aren't we lucky? I just hope he's as good at explaining things to God at the Judgement as he is to us. But then again, I doubt Jesus has as selective a hearing as we do, not when what we say violates what He says.
As per usual, I could be the one in the wrong. I would like to be wrong on this because I know far too many people who are counting on my being wrong. But there's more yet to this parable. Maybe Jesus will say something to prove that I'm out in left field with my back turned to the plate:
Another common practice we learned as a child is to take all the good things said to anyone, all the nice promises, and apply them to ourself. Of course we filter out what we're told must be done to receive the promise (which wasn't even made to us in the first place) and only concentrate on the promise, and we hold the promiser to their unmade promise in spite of the fact we didn't do our part. Let's apply that principle of assuming what's told to the Apostles to ourselves in this case. Did you understand what Jesus was talking about? Do you know who will be cast back into the sea? Do you know who will be gnashing teeth?
52Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old. (Mat 13:)
The pastor behind the pulpit and the teachers, and the evangelists all claim to have special understanding into the ways of God. They claim this merely by accepting the position they hold. If I take on a job as a mechanic, I am allowing the assumption that I know how to work on cars. If I don't know how to work on cars, I can make a big mistake that can cost someone who trusted in my ability to lose their life. If a pastor or a teacher instructs you in error, and you end up being cast back into the sea, what liability do you suppose they will have to account for?
If you trust a mechanic who has not listened in class, who has selective hearing, that mechanic will have to account for his error. But regardless of what happens to him, you're dead!
In case you're interested, "Bad" (as in fish) means "Worthless, literally or morally rotten, corrupt, rotten." Think about that. In your boat, your church, there are those who are good fish, and there are those who are morally rotten, just as they were before they were brought into the boat. Which are you? What signs do you see in your life that gives you confidence that you are one of the good fish? Can you name any? Are you growing in "goodness"? If not, Why not? Because you're told you're perfect just as you are? Hmm. You must hear a different voice than I hear.
Here we have another parable saying the same thing, only the bad "fish," those who don't produce fruit, are not thrown back in the sea, but somewhere a bit harsher.
There are many other places where this Greek word for "bad" is used, but these verses use the exact word, only translated a bit different.
Notice that Jesus says our words express our heart. This we know of our actions as well. We can claim all we want to be saved, to be securely in the lifeboat of salvation, but if our actions and our directions aren't toward God and His desires for us, then all our confidence will get us nowhere fast.
I just thought you'd like to know.
There's no better teacher than experience.
I was thinking today how the Army, in order to teach me what war is about, had me taste a bit of everything bitter before I was sent into battle. Certain of those things they wanted me to learn is what it's like to be shot at, what having a gas bomb thrown at us is like, and what it's like to hike 20 miles in one day with full field pack, rifle, and everything else we might happen to need along the way.
Now, they could have easily had us gather in a warm room, sat us in comfortable chairs, and told us that tear gas will burn the skin and eyes making you wish you had kept your gas mask on. They could have just told us that. They could have told us that being shot at was no fun and we should keep our head down when bullets are flying over head. They could have done this. They could have told us that a 20 mile march is hard on the feet and not very enjoyable. They could have done this. And if they had told us these things, every one of us new, raw recruits would have nodded our yawning head and say we fully agree and understand the importance of all that had been said. I had walked a mile to school carrying my school books a few times. I've had things thrown at me, like when playing baseball and I was up to bat, or when in the center of a game of dodge ball. I have had alcohol poured on an open wound, so I was no stranger to the pain of burning substances. Yes, I and the other guys knew just what to expect when we were sent to the front of the battle. Life had trained us well. A nice, comfortable refresher would have been more than sufficient to prepare us for the riggers of war.
The Army, I found out, does not like to do things the easy way. They don't like to take our word for it that we know what to do if we found ourself in combat situations. The Army has strange ways of doing things. Yes, that they do.
In order for us to learn what it's like to march twenty miles, they made us march twenty miles. So we would know what tear gas was like, they put us in a little room, with our gas masks on of course, and they set off a tear gas bomb in the middle of the room. Seeing as how there were no windows in this tiny room, and the door was closed, we had little escape from the gas that invaded the atmosphere.
What a blessing that gas mask was. We all were very glad to have it on. Of course the gas burned the areas of our body not protected by the mask, such as our neck where we had freshly shaved that morning. (Shaving causes the skin to be extra sensitive as anyone who has spattered themselves with strong aftershave lotion knows).
The Army wanted us to learn what it was like to be in the midst of tear gas with a gas mask on. And that we learned well. The problem is, that is not all they wanted us to learn. They wanted us to know what it was like to be in a room filled with tear gas without our gas mask. So guess what they did to teach us this lesson. If you guessed that they gave us a lecture, give yourself an "F" for this class.
Gas and long hikes are not all the Army wanted us to experience. They wanted us to experience having bullets whiz over our head about knee high off the ground while we crawled under the gunfire. Can you guess what they did to teach us? If you guessed that they made us crawl the length of a football field with machine gun fire 16 inches off the ground, give yourself a "B." If you guessed that they had us crawl under barbed wire with bombs going off in pits near our head, crawling over logs that seemed to be a foot high, all the while carrying our weapon, our pack, our ammo belt, and whatever other item they could think of at the moment (I think there was one guy dragging a kitchen sink, but don't hold me to that). If this is what you guessed, then give yourself an "A." But be aware, you're having an intellectual understanding of these things is a far cry from having learned them by experience.
Yes. In order to make sure we knew what they were talking about, they put us to the test, and had us taste battle instead of explain what battle was all about.
God was testing the Hebrews to see if they were worthy to be given the land God claims as His own. They had said:
That's the Israelites and the Old Testament. What about the New Covenant that we're under?
25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. 27Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, SHALL BE GUILTY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29For he that EATETH AND DRINKETH UNWORTHILY, EATETH AND DRINKETH DAMNATION TO HIMSELF, not discerning the Lord's body. (1Cor 11:)
4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Heb 6:)
Communion is much more than mere breaking of bread together. It is the renewing of your covenant, your promise with God, just as the Israelites made and renewed with God in the wilderness, and that they continually broke.. The chances are you were never told you were making a covenant with God at your baptism. That you were buried in death with Jesus you were told, but that to be reborn into life meant there had to be a change of life. And that change had to come from you.
Do you understand what's being said in the passages above? Do you remember Jesus when you partake of Communion? Do you remember the promise you made when you took on the name of Christian? I'll bet you never even payed any attention to what you were vowing. I didn't. But I'm remembering it now. Then again from the baptisms I've seen of late, and from what people have told me of their experience, there are no oaths or any such statements to the effect that a person understands the great import of the step they're taking. Is that true of you and your church? Does your pastor tell you that you're promising to love and obey? Does he stress the need for absolute obedience? Does he warn you that as a Christian when you sin you're crucifying Jesus afresh? Does he warn you of the consequences for failing to live up to your promise? Surely he does. It's a vital part of taking on the name of Christ, and not something to be undertaken lightly.
8Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. (Mat 22:)
36Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:)
We're promised something much greater than a piece of land flowing with milk and honey. Do we really think we have to do little to be counted worthy of such a promise?
5But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (1Tim 4:)
32And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,.....38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Heb 11:)
14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him......? 17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. 19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:)
We expect to sit back in our easy chair and watch the time go by with a snack of some kind in our hand. We're told by many of the churches that the Bible doesn't really mean our works will be judged. Works is a bad word with them, so they neither teach or exhibit works. As for myself, I wouldn't want to be a pastor or a teacher who will have to explain such a teaching at the Great White Throne.
Anyone can say they have faith, even a baby in a crib (if it can talk). Anyone can say they'll be a loyal and capable soldier once the war begins. But as for me, I want someone who has been tried under battle conditions watching my back rather than someone who's good at spouting out words as to how good a soldier he will be.
It's common in the churches to have people talk about how they will stand up for Jesus when the time comes, yet they're afraid to mention His name in Supermarket conversation. They will tell us that they will be the most loyal of servants when they get to Heaven and be in the presence of the Lord. Everything is "Up there," at another time and place, but they have no fruit to present as evidence of their claim.
If Job, David, Abraham, and so many other of the heros of faith have had their faith tested, what in the world causes us to think we will be able to slide by without being tested, yet reap the rewards of the tested?
Take a very close look at this verse. We see for one thing that Jesus tasted what we all have to endure, that is, death. He suffered, and through His suffering, God suffered and tasted death for us.
If we expect to achieve Heaven, we must endure the hells of this life, the fires that are designed to try us, to purify us, and to taste what Jesus endured for us.
Many places we read that we will suffer and be persecuted because of being loyal to Jesus. Yet we're taught that by joining the church we become free from suffering. We're to endure what Jesus endured, just as He endured what we must endure, and that He endured in place of us.
Notice the use of the word "Grace" in the verses previous to the last. We like to fall back on this word as if it's a "Get out of jail free" card and exempts us from any condemnation, rules, or discomfort spoken of and illustrated in the Bible. But notice that it's Grace that took Jesus to the cross. This should help us broaden our understanding of just what grace is.
1For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1Cor 11:)
I could never figure out why the preachers of my churches, and the others of great age and wisdom, condemned those who gave up everything to dedicate their lives to the poor and to God. I would hear Mother Teresa condemned to hell because she was a Catholic, and this by a beer drinking, lazy sloth who himself thought he was destined for Heaven because of the church he attended. This never made sense to me. But neither did it make sense that the myths of Hercules was obviously a fantasy, but Samson was Gospel. To me the Bible was just a lot of interesting children's stories people read even when they were grown up for some reason. I had no concept of the Bible, of Christianity, of Christ (or God for that matter) in my youth. I was told I was "saved," whatever that means, because I was baptized and went to church. Because none of this made sense to me, nor as far as I could see did it make sense to anyone else because I couldn't see anyone else living the Christian life (this even more so in these latter times) as I supposed it to be. To me Church was a place you went on Sunday when you felt like it, and tried to have a good time whether you wanted to be there are not.
In other words, I was the normal everyday Christian.
Judge myself? I hadn't the slightest idea what that was all about. And today, in most of the churches I've been to (except the cults) they would condemn me fore even thinking of judging myself. I'm supposed to have confidence in my salvation, and have joy because I am saved just as I am. It's ok to judge those outside my faith, they deserve whatever they get. But don't by an means judge myself.
Sorry, I just can't see it that way, as appealing to my flesh as it may be.
Moses was up on the mountain doing the Lord's work on behalf of the people. The people could see the happenings on top of the mountain, they knew Moses was with God, and so did Aaron.
The people wanted a god they could see, like the Egyptians had. Aaron, the people now having chosen him as their leader (after all, hadn't God Himself ordained Aaron to be His representative to the people of God?) decided to lead the people down the garden path they wanted to go instead of reason with them and keep them on the straight and narrow.
"What did these people do to you?" Moses asked of Aaron. They gave him authority. They fed his ego. They caused him to close his mind to the truth and to create a new picture using old paints. They told him what they wanted as a replacement of the real and living God, and Aaron, the obliging man of God he was, gave them what they asked for. Today we have exactly this same situation. The people have spoken, they want a God who is nothing but kindness and love, with no anger toward anyone but the great unsaved. Because of Aaron's intentional blindness, the people were cursed, and many, probably thousands, were destroyed. What will be the result of our modern calf-builders be do you suppose?
This picture is still with us. All the churches have boosted the esteem of some leader, from the Pope on down to the pastor or elder of the smallest church. We have given them total authority, thus controlling what we consider right and what is wrong. They tell us what we are to believe. And if we choose not to believe what they deliver to us, we are told we are doomed to an eternity in hell.
Blindness in an individual can cause many problems. When that one person is a leader, the problems caused are multiplied. Aaron caused thousands to be killed, yet he himself suffered no harm. We see this picture again when David numbered the people. David was spared punishment, but his sin caused the death of 70,000 innocent people. An unknown and insignificant person can cause the defeat and loss of courage of an entire nation, even the nation of God. In Joshua chapter 7 we read of just such a person (Achan) who took something for himself, an insignificant thing in itself, and because of that small act, God turned His back on His own people. God told Joshua, that because of that one man's sin, the nation had sinned against Him, and therefore had to be punished. Until that "leaven" had been dealt with, the nation suffered. "A little leaven, leaveneth the whole lump" Paul tells us. That sin we allow to remain in our life, destroys our life, and our family's with it. That sin we knowingly allow in the church, undermines the entire church body. To see evidence of this, watch what's happening in the Lutheran, the Episcopal and following close behind the other stalwart denominations of the world.
It might be said (and I'm sure it is many times), that the examples given are those from the Old Testament. God now looks upon sin and disobedience differently since we unmercifully killed His only begotten Son. He is no longer angry at those who take on His name and do not follow His commandments. Somehow that doesn't register with me. I wonder if it will with God. When Moses sent spies into the Promised Land in order to report back to the people of God what they could expect, the spies brought back glowing reports of the land. At the same time they brought with them discouragement and lack of faith. As in times past the people listened to the wrong leaders, they disregarded their own experience, and chose to kill Moses and pick a leader who would lead them back to Egypt, the land they had escaped.
Look at the churches today. Notice how they are appealing to the worldly side of man's fallen nature to fill the pews. They sing the songs (most of them) but the rhythm the songs are played to is that of the world, while the words cater to our wants, and what God can do for us. We are not desiring to please God, but to please ourselves. We are not endeavoring to fill the Kingdom of Heaven with those worthy of Heaven, but to fill our pews with people who refuse to leave the pleasures of the world they are to depart from. The people have chosen themselves leaders who will take them comfortably back into Egypt and bondage, the place they supposed were so desirous to leave behind them.
If it was so easy for the people to convince a God-chosen leader, one sanctified and anointed by God Himself to sin and become blind, how much more, during these last days of the Apostate church can we expect such to be so?
Because of our blindness we are unable to see that we are on a train heading for a collapsed bridge over a deep ravine. We're told, and we firmly believe, that we are the only ones on a secure track on our way to Glory Land. We can see all the derailments and train wrecks, and though we are on the same tracks as they were, following the same itinerary, we are assured by our conductor that what is happening to the rest of the Church world will never happen to us.
13But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2Tim 3:)
14And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression ["Violation"]. (1Tim 2:)
There's an interesting concept included in the above verse that could easily be missed if passed over quickly. Was Eve the only one who transgressed God's commandment? It appears to be so by what Paul has said here. In fact the real transgression was Adam's and not Eve's. Adam is the one who was told not te eat the fruit, Eve hadn't even been "born" as yet. We have this statement to confirm that there is something more to what is being said here than that Eve is the only one who is the transgressor:
Eve's transgression is having been deceived. Adam's transgression is having been stupid, as well as sinful and disobedient. He wasn't deceived as was Eve, he was just short-sighted and wicked. He was alike all the rest of us born of Adam and not of the Spirit.
I'm intrigued with the concepts of faith and belief. It appears to me that the world, especially the Christian world, passes by these two words with hardly a nod. As an example of what I mean, if I were to walk up to someone and say "it's a nice day isn't it," I might receive in response a few minutes or even hours of talk about the weather and things associated with the weather such as golf, fishing and the like. But if I were to approach someone and say: "I believe in Jesus," a person might growl at me and turn their back, or they might say "So do I." But what's the chances a person will spend a while talking about either Jesus, or more to the point, discuss what they mean by "Believe"?
Let's not talk about the weather here, let's talk about something with substance, like the word "Belief."
A thought came to me in the wee hours of the morning (by the way, just to show how finicky I am about words, I looked "wee hours" up in the dictionary. By golly, the word is there!). My thought was that belief is like a hand pump. From that thought came the question, is belief a verb? Or is it a noun? So I looked the words up. Indeed, the word Belief is a noun.
Belief is a noun. Belief is something you have, something "tangible" like a toothache. It's not something you can hold in your hand, such as a tennis ball, but it's something with substance. A tooth you can hold in your hand after the dentist extracts the aching tooth. The toothache, though a noun, cannot be held or touched. But the ache itself, although a verb in itself, is very real and very tactile (able to be felt, detected with the senses).
A person with belief, the noun, can be said to believe, which is an action word, a verb. The opposite of belief is unbelief. Someone who lacks belief is not going to do that which they do not believe in. Beyond unbelief is belief that the opposite is true. Confused? Let me explain. If I believe an airplane can fly I will have no difficulty entering that airplane, in fact I might even be anxious to do so. If I don't believe an airplane can fly, I won't be anxious to enter the plane, but I might be willing to give it a try. If I find the plane can fly, then I might well be anxious to fly in the future because of that belief. If on the other hand I believe the airplane can not fly, that is I have belief, a noun, but that belief is directed toward the negative of what is supposed, then you won't be able to get me on that airplane.
Now that I have you totally confused, let's look at the word "Faith."
Faith is a synonym for the word "Belief," as are the words "trust" and "confidence." I think most of us will agree that if someone has a belief in something, they can be said to have faith in that under discussion.
Faith again is a noun. But unlike Belief, I am unable to find a verb for the word faith. It seems to me, and I dare say I think you'll agree, that to believe could be, and is used as the verb for Faith. For instance the phrase "Having faith to believe." Believe therefore would be the action word for faith, and those with faith believe in that which they have faith in.
(If you think you're confused, you should be on this end trying to keep it all straight in your pea-picken' mind and looking up this stuff. Correction, my pea-pickin' mind. Yours might pick something else.)
Considering the foregoing, a person of faith is someone who acts on that faith. A person with a toothache is not likely to casually dismiss that toothache. As quickly as possible that tooth will be dealt with.
A person of faith is someone who acts on that faith. Benjamin Franklin and the Wright Brothers were men of faith. No amount of discouraging accusations could sway them from what they had set out to do. They had faith, and that faith was a driving force to get a thing done. The fact they succeeded is not evidence of their faith. They could well have failed and still have had the faith that drove them to try. In 1928 Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. We hear of her success, but we don't hear of her failed attempts, nor do we hear of the failed attempts of others who had tried to do the same thing. Does a failed attempt mean a lack of faith? Of course not. The attempt is proof positive of the faith the person has. If Amelia's airplane had faltered or run out of fuel before reaching land, her attempt would have been a failure, but here faith would have been proven as extreme.
Christians in the early stages of Christianity, and at other times throughout history, were driven to the extreme of their faith by threats, and in fact, being burned on stakes and fed to lions. The fact they did not relent in their faith toward Christ was evidence of their faith. Had they surrendered to the pressure placed upon them to renounce Jesus, they would have shown evidence of lack of total faith or that they had given in to fear, but that would not have said they didn't have faith. They just didn't have enough faith to carry them through to the end.
If Amelia had performed all her training flights, and if she had sat in her plane and flown to the edge of American soil, and then abandoned her flight because of fear; she would have proven her faith to be great, just not great enough to allow her to risk the final, dangerous step in her quest.
Peter, I think we can assume, had faith in his Master. But when the time came to prove his ultimate faith, he failed. Did his failure prove he had no faith? No, it only showed him that he didn't have faith enough to endure to the end. With Peter, his faith, as with the other of the twelve, was in their Master, and not in their own understanding of what Jesus was all about, or what He was telling them. When the Master was gone, along with Him went their faith, thinking that all was lost. Their faith was in Jesus being who they believed Him to be, how they read the Scriptures, and not what He was in reality.
Faith, therefore belief, covers a great range in this modern world. We use the word Faith in the same way we use the word "Love." We can love anything from our chewing gum to our dearest sweetheart. When a person says love, they have said nothing at all. We don't know what they mean, or in fact what we mean when they, or we say the word love. If a person proves their love for us, as Jesus did on the cross, then we know to what degree that person loves, and what they mean by love. If we say we love someone, but we won't step out of our way for them, then our declaration of love is null and void.
Have you ever seen a sign in a store that says "We love our customers"? You know what they mean I'm sure. They wouldn't even bother to remember your name, leastwise show any compassion toward their customer. What they mean is "We love our customer's money."
In the churches faith and belief have been relegated to the lowest part of the concept they represent. Faith is something (to them) that is unproven and unprovable. Faith is a word tossed around as if it has no meaning at all, yet it is talked about as if it was of ultimate importance. It seems to me that faith is, to the Christian, something that once a person is baptized, is up to God to supply for us. We're taught in many of the churches that having been dipped in water begins a process whereby God will cause us to become what He wants us to be. If we become a criminal or a bum in the process of our having lived a so-called "Christian" life, it's not our failure, but God's. Therefore it is God's responsibility to reward us as if we had achieved total success. Does this sound like your view of the purification process of the Christian? What is your view of Faith and the righteousness of the saint? Have you given it much thought?
Faith for Amelia and all those people who have attempted great and dangerous tasks can bring great fame, possibly wealth, or it might (and often does) bring the faithful adventurer failure and death. This is in the secular world. How about faith in the Christian world?
The Christian is told he or she has faith merely because they attend church or they have been baptized. I'm told I have faith, I reply that I do in deed have faith when asked, and I never give my faith a second thought. I've been told I have faith, so therefore I have faith. This elusive faith I supposedly have, is it faith that will cause me to achieve great things in this life? I haven't seen my faith do anything but get me in trouble. No, I can't say the faith I purport to have, has done anything beyond what someone without faith has done. Faith, as I declare myself to have, is in my mind worthless. Because of my understanding and my awareness of my having a lack of faith is one reason I stay single and unattached. I don't believe I am faithful enough to make a good husband or even a loyal friend, in spite of the many people who try to convince me that me view of myself is wrong. Does this mean I think other people can't be loyal and faithful because I lack the ability? Not at all. I see people all around me that have far more ability to be faithful than I. My father was loyal to my mother until her death, and even beyond. Both of my brother-in-laws have shown this same dedicated loyalty. I have self-awareness, and this is something I think, even those who have proven their faith, often lack. They haven't examined their faith in the area of their standing with God, and for this reason I think they are setting themselves up to fail where success is essential.
If I was a soldier, and because I was a soldier in the American Army I was told that I was infallible, that I needn't fear because I was fully trained and invincible; yet if I hadn't trained in the art of war, nor learned to use my weapon, nor had I pushed my body in order to develop strength and endurance: What value would all the words of confidence in my ability have when the enemy charged our gates?
If we have faith in something that we spend little time and effort considering and preparing for, then our faith is worthless. And this I believe is the condition of our churches: We have lots of pretty words, but there is no substance expected or provided.
In the beginning of what I expected this "short" piece to be I said that faith is like a hand pump. How is that so?
When you turn on a faucet you have instant water. Why is this? In the pipes, behind the water flow, there is pressure. Take away the pressure and you have nothing. It's pressure that brings the water to your faucet.
When I was young I lived on a farm. Before we had a pump and indoor plumbing installed it was my job to go out to the well and fetch the water. This was a big job because there was livestock that needed water, there was water needed to clean, and to cook, and to drink. A lot of time therefore was spent at the water pump each day.
Water has a tendency to flow to the bottom. Water does not rise unless there is something pushing it up from beneath. A river flows downstream. Rain comes down. Of course I'm stating the obvious, but for a reason. To bring the water to the surface, I had to do a lot of pumping on the pump handle in order to "prime" the pump. Priming means I had to bring up a lot of air, thereby creating pressure behind the water I wanted. I had to do a lot of work to get a lot of what I didn't want in order to receive what I needed. If you've ever had to deal with a hand pump you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't then my words will mean little to you. Let it suffice for you to know that it's a lot of hard and frustrating work to fetch a pail of water from a well.
From a deep well, or when the water table drops, it takes a lot of extra pumping in order to bring the water to the surface, perhaps more than half your time and effort is spent bringing up air. If suction can not be created, or if it so happens that the well is dry, all the pumping in the world will not bring forth water. There have been times I spent a great deal of time and effort hoping for water, only to find that there was a tiny hole in the line somewhere, or that a gasket had worn out, so no water would be had. But it took all the extra work expended to learn this fact.
There are two things that can cause a person to continue pumping on a well when no water is issuing forth. If a person has brought up water in the past from that same well, they will remain at the pump for a considerable length of time trying to get water that isn't showing evidence of coming. Another reason a person will continue striving to bring up water is if they are thirsty and there is no other source of water to be had. In the first scenario it is faith that keeps a person at an unyielding pump. In the second scenario it is need and determination that keeps a person trying.
In life we have this same situation. Someone who has had success in a certain area will work to do that which appears to be a fruitless effort. The experience comes from having made smaller attempts, and having had successes come from one's effort. A person who has not challenged his fear of failure, who has not attempted the seemingly impractical, can not in honesty say they have faith.
Christianity and Godly pursuit comes after a long string of failures in life. When a person reaches the end of their ability to make life work as it should, when they are in desperate need for someone to rescue them, this is when they cry out for help from some other source beyond their own. There are two sources of rescue at this point. There is the church who offers immediate need and a promise of Godly assistance. Here is where most people find relief for their dilemma. They reach for the first hand that comes their way just as would a drowning man after a shipwreck. Any hand will do. Once a person is out of danger, they will do one of two things: They will either remain in that seemingly secure place, or they will retreat back to the life they were rescued from, hoping to have better success in the future.
God sent His people, the children of Abraham into Egyptian captivity and slavery before He brought them to the wilderness to try them. And those who passed the test He brought into His land, His special place. Why did God put His people in peril before He offered them His best? Does this sound like the God you've been taught to love and to follow? I doubt it. But regardless of our lack of understanding God's reason, He did this, and He did it for a good reason.
When we're rescued before we feel that we need rescuing, we enter into our new situation with half a heart. Jesus in the Book of Revelation describes such a person as being "Lukewarm." He said He would rather we be cold than to be lukewarm. A person who is lukewarm is impossible to motivate. They're like the person at a faucet that, although the faucet doesn't flow well, and the water isn't very pure, the person is not unsatisfied enough to do something about the faucet, or to seek another source of water. On the other hand, a person at a dry well, and who is thirsty ("cold"), is ready to listen to any alternative to their dilemma. Jesus referred to such a person as a child. And He said that we must, as a small child, enter into the Kingdom of God.
Churches, in their drive to fill seats, do not reach their helping hand to the needy but rather they extend their hand to the slothful. They, the churches, compete with one another to fetch those who are looking for something to do, something to make them feel superior and important, and those who are looking to be entertained. Jesus dismissed such people in favor of those who were outcasts, who were desperate, and who were earnestly seeking truth. Jesus did not water down His message in order to appease the people and keep them at His side and under His sway. His words were harsh and demanding to those who sought their own way, and they were gentle and comforting to those who were on their last leg.
15Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. (Mat 23:)
13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2Cor 11:)
Let's take a look at something else Jesus said:
As long as we cheapen the words "Faith," "Belief," and "Love," and place them on a level akin to talking about the weather we'll never understand what God is demanding of us. And if we miss hearing God's Words, as they did in the wilderness, and as the rulers of Israel did throughout their history, we'll also miss out on those rewards promised to the overcomer, to the faithful and to the believing.
It's now Christmas eve, and Santa-god is preparing his cloud..., I mean his reindeer for making his appearance. Every child knows that Santa knows if they're sleeping, and if they've been naughty or nice. If they've been good, they receive a gift, but if they've been bad, all they'll get is coal in their stocking.
There are certain things we know about Santa: he's jolly, and he's all love, especially toward children. He never gets mad, even when they put him in jail. In fact he converts his persecutors into believers and gives them the gift they always wanted.
The rest of the year, when Santa isn't bringing gifts, he's preparing a place..., I mean gifts for his next visit to the world.
Santa is hundreds of years old at least, and he will never die. We have no idea when he was created, nor where he came from. We have conflicting legends regarding his origin, and his destiny, but no one can say which, if any, of these legends are true. We only know that if we have faith in him, and his appearing, we will be rewarded. If we lose faith in the jolly old man, he will not visit us.
Santa is real to the young at heart. If we are childlike, then we can enter into his realm, his magic kingdom if you please. When we become too wise, too sure of ourself, and we count on our own maturity and logic, then Santa fades from our life like a ghost.
If we ask anything of Santa in his name he is sure to give it to us. If we somehow do not receive what we ask for, that means we either didn't believe hard enough, we didn't wish right, or on the right star, or we didn't continue our prayers to the end, or that we had been naughtier than we had been nice..
Does all this sound familiar to you at all? It seems to me I've heard this story a long time ago, like maybe from a couple thousand years or so. But that couldn't be, you and I, as adults, know there's no such thing as a Santa Clause, nor can a reasonable person believe in anything or anyone like Santa Clause. We dismissed such juvenile beliefs before we got out of long pants. Of course we hope there's a real Santa, and that he will somehow give us what we want, especially for the children's sake. And for those who are in our circle, we pretend like we believe in this loving, gift-bearing, flying, eternal, soon -to-return -for -us-with-gifts legend, but in our hearts we know better.
Consider how the Christian Church as a whole is fading into obscurity, both as an institution, and in reputation. It is having less and less influence in the would because of its walls and its compromising its convictions with that of the world. Meanwhile, Santa-god (Santa, in case you hadn't guessed, means "saint") is growing im popularity, and increasingly taking over the holiday that was established to celebrate our Lord's day of birth. And what power does the Christian Church as a body have to prevent this sacrilege? None, nor in many cases do the churches even care because they're too busy spending money they don't have for things they don't need for people they care little about, leaving them no money to contribute to the needy and the down-and outs of the Church and the world, to worry about such trivialities. Besides, wasn't the date of Jesus' birth merely a compromise with the pagan beliefs of the day to appease them? Probably so. But the intention of the celebration was not so.
What is there that will bring the denominations together? We see how there is a lot of effot exerted toward this end, but there are still some holdouts. What will bring the diehards to the table?
We read in the book of Matthew where this very situation was encountered. The religious folk had a problem they were trying to deal with, and that problem was a man who went around doing good on the wrong day, and talking nasty about them and their denominational system. We read: "Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk." (Mat 22:15). What's the matter with this you ask? Nothing at all. It's like the Democrats getting together in an effort to figure out how they can undermine the plans of an Independant president's program. Then further on we read: "When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way. The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying," (Mat 22:23-24).
When the Democrats couldn't put down the prez, they send in the Republicans. Can you imagine the Democrats and the Republicans working together toward a common goal? We find that the best of the Big Two couldn't out-talk the Man, so what do they do?
"And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. (Mark 3:1-6)
When the combined efforts of the Democrates and the Republicans failed to undo the man in charge, they sat down at the peace table and broke bread with the with the Communist party. Now we have everyone but the Nazi party in the caucus, under one umbrella, and they have that seat reserved and a welcome sign nailed to the back of their chair.
Nothing brings enemies togethr like a common cause. We saw this very thing during WW2 when the Communists and the Americans joined ranks against Hitler and his boys. Again we saw this in Kuait more recently when we held hands with the very ones we're now fighting, against Iraq. History is filled with such strange bedfellows, when a common cause is presented to them.
What brought this to mind is what I read on the web the other day. I was reading a short piece about Witness Lee, a man who's main goal was to bring the denominations together, to have the walls of sectarianism torn down. He established a church with that goal in mind, and guess who opposed him and persecuted him for his efforts? Was it the Association for the Advancement of Atheists and Agnostics do you suppose? How about the Organization of Witches and Pagans? Of course it must be the Communists Against The Establishment Of A Unified Church that opposed this small church's effort to bring the churches to the peace table. No, it was the denominations. The denominations love their walls, their indepenant and aloof status. Imagine a Christian church worth it's salt that can't brag about its superiority while pointing a finger at everyone else and condemning their view. Unheard of!
Witness Lee is not the only person, or organization that has tried to bring the churches together, or better said, to bring the people out of the denominational system, and was persecuted by the churches for their effort, not by a long shot. In fact isn't that how the Protestant church was started? And started? And started? (How many Protestant churches are there anyway, all breaking away from themselves and building new walls to hide behind?)
Is trying for an interdenominational system a worthwhile goal? Maybe so, but not at the lowest lever which the Ecumenical councils are targeting. Is such a goal attainable? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. Whenever such an effort is undertaken, the only outcome that can be had is yet another denomination called undenominational, that has its own rules, doctrines and walls. We see this in the undenominational and nondenominational churches, the multitudes of them (and what's the difference?), all believing they are seperated from the Babylonian system. Then we have the extreme of Ecumenicalism, the Bahai and the Universalist churches and others like them (the number growing daily it seems), that either celebrate all religions and gods, or they celebrate none of the above. They've taken on the ultimate of Ecumicalism, but they have replaced sour milk with frosted air. Nothing has been added to zero.
Denominations love their denominational system, called in Revelation "Babylon." If you read that book, notice how in love the people are with their harlot queen, and how upset they become when she is destroyed by God. Babylon, unlike the Babylon of history, resents when the people who wish to serve the Living God come out of her, and they have, and they will persecute them to the death.
So please, if you read this or anything else I write, don't tell Babylon that I'm speaking ill of her walls. I wouldn't want to join Witness Lee and others of his ilk on the persecution line.
The walls of Babylon run the gambit of those akin to the mighty fortresses housing the conventional denominations such as the Catholic and the Mainline Fundamental churches; all the way down to the tissue-thin walls that separate segments of denominations within denominations, within denominations, ad nauseam. The walls become so thin in some cases that the organizations don't know which subdivisions to allow, and which to exclude. In some cases the various warring tribes meet in opposite sides of the same building.
I said no organization can form the "right" church. The belief of every one of the denominations is that they have in fact discovered the one and only way to worship and to serve God. We know this can't be true, but have we considered the logical alternative, that is that all denominations are dead wrong? Remember, all the warring factors came together to combat Jesus, and we see that all those factors were extremely wrong, both in their beliefs, and in their practices. Why should we be any different today?
Jesus gave us a parable that demonstrates what constitutes a person with a right heart, and one who has what is seen as right, but is dead wrong. Two men stood praying. One man praised God that he was so righteous, and began to name all the reasons he was righteous, and better than the other man. The other man had nothing to say for himself but that he was a desperate sinner, and begged for mercy. One received "justification," and the other didn't.
Today there are two churches in this world, and one of these churches has no name. The largest church by far is the one we see everywhere, it's the one made up of walls. The other Church, the one Jesus established, is not found within walls, but in the heart. Where the Holy Spirit is, where love is, is where the Church is. And this church can not be found by entering the door of any building.