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Pure Religion May 28, 2009

Filed under: Religion,Scripture — lifewalkblog @ 6:21 am
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Ok. So you take a stand against man’s religion, and what’s the first thing you hear?

That’s right; James 1:27.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” – NET

The hundreds of verses, many chapters, and various books of the New Testament, written to directly combat legalism and authoritarian religion are virtually ignored. Talk about selective quoting. This verse no more justifies religion than Luke 14:26 justifies hating your parents.  When a passage seems to go against a truth clearly and repeatedly taught in Scripture, then we must assume there is something being addressed on another level.

Of course, much of the confusion in understanding scripture lies in a wrong approach to the Bible in the first  place.
[See also, “A New Kind of Christianity” and “Velvet Elvis.”]
Scripture calls itself good (for training, doctrine, etc). It is not the “end all” in knowing God. we must draw near to Him, and let Him reveal Himself to us. Let Him reveal truth to us. There is so much more to God than the Holy Scriptures. Idol worship is when we worship anything other than God. Many Christians treat the Bible an additional object of worship; a fourth part of the Godhead.
His Word is alive, active, more powerful that a double-edged sword, and not confined to any book. It’s not about the letter. It’s about life in the Spirit.
I do believe the Bible is divinely inspired by God. There is divinely inspired poetry; divinely inspired metaphors; divinely inspired simile, and, yes, that which is divinely inspired to be taken literally. Understanding these different literary styles is vital. And divinely inspired does NOT mean divinely dictated. Big difference.
We must always take into consideration the original audience, as well as the human authors. We must look at the context of the surrounding passages; the letter in general, and (this is very important) the context of the story of God, and his provision of salvation by grace.

The NIRV really brings out the crux of James 1:27. It says:
“Here are the kinds of beliefs that God our Father accepts as pure and without fault. When widows and children who have no parents are in trouble, take care of them. And keep yourselves from being polluted by the world.”

It’s like saying, “So, you think your pretty religious. Well, your better off paying attention to things that really matter; like taking care of the needs of others. And don’t let the world, it’s sin, or it’s religious systems get between you and God.”

Jesus’ greatest detractors were the religious people. Paul battled the “Judaizers,” who tried to rob people of their freedom in Jesus. Today, the battle still rages. Religion was, is, and will always be in opposition to Jesus. God has set us free from sin AND religion. “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!”

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Here’s a good definition of religion from Greg Albrecht:

The popular, common denominator of religion is the idea that humans must do, perform and produce works, deeds, virtues or behaviors as stipulated by rituals, rites and regulations. The idea is that having performed ceremonies, having followed religious prescriptions, priests, pills and potions, then God is more pleased with humans than he otherwise would have been. This is the fundamental difference between biblical Christianity and religion in general (whether it be a non-Christian religion, or a practice which claims to be Christian). The gospel of Jesus Christ insists that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We are, according to the gospel, incapable of pleasing and appeasing God on the basis of our works. That is the definition of religion that PTM uses– and opposes, for it is the enemy of the gospel.

 

40 Days Or 12 Steps May 27, 2009

Filed under: Relating to God — lifewalkblog @ 3:28 pm
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The Bible doesn’t have some kind of 40 days of purpose or 12 step program as to how turning to God and seeking him must/should be done any more than it gives pointers on how a man or woman must/should fall in love with their spouse. Our relationship with God through Christ is a love relationship, based on his love which has been and is being demonstrated for each of us. We must individually determine (and please leave religion out of this relationship!) about how we respond to God — how we talk to him–how we seek him — how we come close to him.

 

Campolo Quote

Filed under: Social Issues — lifewalkblog @ 8:16 am
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“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.” ~ Tony Campolo

 

God’s Favor

Filed under: Uncategorized — lifewalkblog @ 8:14 am
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The cancer that goes into remission isn’t a sign of God’s favor or God’s victory over cancer. A prayer that asks for healing doesn’t manipulate God into loving one and hating another. All prayer asks God to be God, and that means even-handed mercy, unconditional love, courage to face even death, and the gift of self-sacrifice among strangers.

–Tom Ehrich

 

The Role Of Pastor (As We Practice It)

Filed under: Church,Religion — lifewalkblog @ 8:06 am
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Every day thousands of men and women routinely expect from “their pastor” the headship that belongs to Christ alone. If the pastor approves them, they feel approved by God. If the pastor disapproves of their choices or behavior, they feel rejected by Father. They begin to perform for people from a sense of obligation that comes from the expectations of others. Often, they are more concerned about pleasing the leadership of a local congregation than they are about pleasing their heavenly Father. In short, their Christianity has been mediated by a mere man.

By holding a position that was intended for Christ, the pastor is unwittingly performing a substitutionary role. Let me make it very clear: I am not suggesting that the pastor is therefore moving in the spirit of antichrist. What I do believe is that the system of positional authority and religious obligation is an antichrist system.  
The resulting tragedy of such a system is that one’s relationship with Christ never reaches the maturity and intimacy intended. Christ has been distanced from his flock by an intermediary.

 

Beyond Sunday Church

Filed under: Church,Religion — lifewalkblog @ 8:03 am
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For five decades and in growing numbers, Christians in America have been saying No to Sunday church. I think it is time we listened.

We have called the absent “unchurched,” “non-believers,” “former Christians,” “happy pagans,” “lost,” and a “mission field” “ripe for harvest.” These negative terms imply that the absent have a flaw that needs to be addressed. New congregations, most shedding denominational baggage, have harvested some of these former mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churchgoers. But even their numbers rise and fall, especially when the founding pastor slips up or retires, and the overall trend in church participation remains down. In some Western states, Sunday churchgoing has fallen below 10% of the population.

When this slide in church attendance began in 1964 as Boomers graduated from high school, many church leaders didn’t even acknowledge it. For years they kept counting the absent as present. Then, when the losses couldn’t be ignored, they blamed them on whatever hot-button issues were roiling the religious establishment, as if new liturgies, women in leadership, and liberals (or conservatives, take your pick) had driven people away.

We need to see that these “formers” aren’t saying No to God or to their Christian identity or to their yearning for faith. Many are saying No to Sunday church. They are expressing a preference for something other than getting up early on Sunday, driving across town, sitting in a pew for 60 to 120 minutes, making small talk with people they don’t see elsewhere, and driving home again.

They are saying No to Sunday, the only day they can get a slow start in this everyone-works-hard era. They are saying No to being an audience in an age of participation and self-determination. They are saying No to institutional preaching, repetitive liturgies, and assemblies controlled by small cadres usually older than themselves. They are saying No to being told what to believe. They are saying No to having their real questions ignored.

Instead, they find spiritual enrichment on the Internet and on television. They read faith-related books. They pray without being told what to pray. They find their own networks of faithful friends. The problem isn’t their faith. The problem is Christianity’s delivery system. We are stuck in trying to lure people to physical locations at a time of our choosing, to do what we think they ought to do, and to be loyal in paying for it. It is time we looked beyond the paradigm of Sunday church.

I think the future lies in multi-channeling: a combination of on-site, on-line, workplace and at-home offerings that create networks of self-determining constituents, many of whom might never attend Sunday church. The first challenge, however, is to recognize how deeply wedded we are to Sunday on-site participation as the only true expression, and measure, of faithfulness. Almost everything about our institutions — facilities, ordination training, staffing, budgeting — aims to draw people to a central location on Sunday.

We need to see that what works for some doesn’t work for others. Not because the others are flawed, not because our culture has collapsed, and not because “God is dead,” but because things change. Just as Jesus took his ministry out of the synagogue and radically rethought the meaning of Sabbath, so God is drawing us away from “former things,” even ones we treasure and consider our duty.

Tom Ehrich

Publisher of On a Journey

www.onajourney.org

Founder of the Church Wellness Project, a best practices guide to nurturing healthy congregations

www.churchwellness.com

 

The Letter Kills

Filed under: Scripture — lifewalkblog @ 8:02 am
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“The letter kills, but the Spirit brings life.” Let us let Jesus be Lord of Scripture, not the reverse! Old Testament laws about killing children who curse their parents, or killing homosexuals, or killing sorcerers, … are not reliable guides for those who follow Christ. We will edit, interpret, understand, and apply the Scriptures in the light of Jesus Christ. — R. Klassen

 

 
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