Sunday, September 25, 2016

Finding my Christian faith.

I was raised in the Methodist church. It wasn't until I was nearly an adult that I experienced other churches such as Baptist or Catholic and even Mormon. I was shocked at the difference in behavior and practice. Baptists screamed at me that I was a sinner and Catholics did a lot kneeling and some odd thing with water. I began to question not my faith, but how to worship in the right Christian manner. What was the truth?

Truth is different for many of us. What I say here is not meant to be insulting, but describes my journey which has led to my own personal belief system. It may not agree with yours, but that is not to be debated here. I will not debate what I believe, why and whether it's right or not. I'm just going to share how I came to be who I am.

I have never doubted that Jesus is my savior. That is fact to me and no so-called science is going to change that. Just as one believes that a parent loves you, without any absolute proof except that they say so (they could be lying), I believe in Jesus' love.

What I doubted was the right way to worship Him. There are so many variants. The first thing I had to decide for myself was how to know. You can't come to a conclusion of worship unless you have a guide of some kind.

We all played the telephone game as children. Remember? You whisper a sentence to the person sitting next to you and that person leans to the person on his opposite side and whispers the same sentence and you go around to a bunch of people until there is no one else, then the last person says aloud what he heard. It's never the same as when it started.

This was proof for me that I cannot rely on what someone tells me. Traditional and verbal hand-me-down doctrine will be tainted. It also meant that one pastor's interpretation of something may not coincide with another's. The proof of this is historical fact. Cults have been borne out of these kinds of things. I learned early on that you have to educate yourself, rather than rely on someone else to educate you.

For this reason, Catholicism and Orthodoxy was discarded, for me. Its reliance on tradition and on decisions made in a hierarchy is simply, for me, too political for a religious establishment. Yes, I believe in church leaders but not in religious laws made by man.

The only answer for my problem was sola scriptura, or that the scriptures are the sole authority in all matters of doctrine (or belief) and practice. This cannot be doubted. It is written right there in black and white and has everything one needs to know right there.

In order to believe this, however, this means you have to believe it's inspired by God. That seemed like the most logical conclusion. If I don't believe in man-made tradition, then God would need to speak to me in another way. The Word had to be the right way. It is only logical.

Already, I have narrowed down my belief system and it didn't take long to figure that out.

Next I had to look at various non-Catholic/Orthodox beliefs. Baptist is huge and comes in so many varieties it'll make your head spin. What separates them from others is the belief that you must be dunked for baptism.

Here's my problem with that. Already I have shunned transubstantiation. Why? The Bible says "my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed". Jesus didn't slice off his skin and hand it out to eat nor did he drain his blood and hand it out to drink. For me, it is simply symbolic. It means that I am to remember Him always for communion and take wine and bread in His name.

Now, if I believe that, then that means that full dunking for baptism is also merely a symbol in practice. Water does not wash away your sin. It does not ward off evil spirits. It is an element created by God and the dunking in water is another symbol of the washing away of sins. It helps us understand what that means to us. If I believe that, then I can say goodbye to the Baptist belief system as well.

One simple verse in Revelation helps relieve me of Mormonism: For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book -- Revelation 22:18 (KJV)

Well, I'm not wanting those plagues so I'm not taking any chances here. Mormons counter that verse by saying John only meant the book of Revelation, not the Bible as a whole book, but that's not what John says. Sorry, no-can-do there. It sounds pretty clear to me and again, this is my belief. You are welcome to follow your own heart.

Don't get me wrong. I have family that is near and dear to me who are devout Mormons. I fully respect their beliefs. I just may not agree, but I also disagree with those who love Obama. It doesn't make me love my family any less.

Moving along.

Jehovah's Witnesses and other similar beliefs are not going to be discussed here except to say this: anyone who says I cannot get medical treatments (or even certain medical treatments) is automatically out. God has made it clear that we have a responsibility to ourselves and to Him. He will not help the lazy nor those who do not want to take care of themselves. This goes hand in hand with medical treatment. I'm not saying you have to receive medical treatment, I'm saying a church should not tell you that you cannot.

Then of course there is shunning. It is true that there is scripture which says to shun those who do not live Christians lives, but then Jesus also taught us that we are not to judge, we are to forgive and shunning is judging without forgiveness. I have come to the conclusion that when the Bible speaks of shunning people, that the meaning isn't the actual person, but the ways of that person because after all, it's the ways that make that person wrong. That leaves out any sect that shuns anyone whatsoever.

Thus far, I have narrowed down my own personal belief system to 2 or 3 sects. We are left with Methodists, some Lutheran churches and Presbyterian. Of course, there are many non-denominational churches that I'm aligned with so far as well, but of the big churches, it is the 2 or 3.

Lately, homosexuality has become an issue in churches regarding membership and even leadership. The Bible makes it clear: homosexuality is a sin, plain and simple. This means zero leadership in the church. Who am I to judge? No one. Therefore I don't judge. I sin, everyone sins. However, a total disregard for the scripture is bad leadership and by practicing homosexuality, one is making it clear they have a total disregard for the scripture.

I'm not holding only homosexuals accountable here. I'm also holding those unmarried couples living together (I even did it, but I'm accountable for it and I am married now), having sex, etc. Leaders of the church need to be living a path that is a good example. Members should be good examples and by becoming a member of the church, you are making an oath that you will try to live a righteous life.

As you can see, homosexuality is just one wrong of many and is not to be held higher above others, nor dismissed. It is a problem and any church who allows it or condones it and even performs marriages for homosexuals is an abomination since said church is encouraging sin.

Moving along...

When it comes to Saints and Mary and all those things I see nowhere in the Bible that says this is allowed. Man is man and God is God. Mary was selected by God to have the Christ but she is still woman and not God.

However, I do understand the need to recognize those who have made special contributions, in the name of Christianity, to the world in their lifetime. Mother Teresa has been in the news time and again lately for her special contributions. I'm not convinced of these special miracles that are required to elevate her status, but she clearly left her mark on the world in her fervor to feed the hungry.

Francis of Assisi's love of animals is enough for me to appreciate his work. I do not mind my dogs wearing a medallion with a prayer and so forth. Again, I fully respect their work but I do not believe them to be elevated above mankind.

Also, you cannot put a number on prayers. A rosary is all well and good, but a prayer for every bead is like a quota. It is unfair to believe that God believes we should maintain a quota for prayers. I see nothing wrong with its use, provided the prayers are from the heart, but I see nothing wrong in not using it. I won't.

Probably in comparing Catholics to Christianity as a whole, the biggest problem I have with them is forgiveness. Only God can forgive you of your sins. Catholics believe that Jesus gave the keys to Peter thus making Peter the first pope with ability to pass that "power" on to whomever he wished. If he really gave him those keys, where are they? No matter how hard I look, I don't see any keys anywhere. Why is that? It's because it was symbolic and the true meaning was that he had taught Peter all he needed to know. That was the "power" he gave him. No where in that scripture does it say Peter has the power to forgive sins.

To me, that is an abomination. Granted, confessing your sins to anyone is cleansing to the soul and I believe you should do just that. However the priest cannot tell you whether or not you are forgiven and furthermore, you cannot buy forgiveness through good works. That reeks of corruption.

NO. The only one who can forgive is God. I should want to do good works and even if I don't, God will forgive me.

I believe the best prayer is to pray like Solomon by asking only for wisdom for myself and mercy for others. He is not Santa Claus and I cannot pray for the dead. They are already where they belong when dead and that was up to them. I can however pray for those living that they make their way to the right side prior to death.

All of this I have come to believe by reading the Bible. Also, reading the entire context of the Bible and not just a verse and twisting it to suit my own desires and what I think I need. This is why Sola Scriptura is so important. The corruption of churches and their trying to validate their wrongdoings make way for much misinformation. The Bible is the only thing I need. I don't need a church, though it is great food for the Christian soul. The Bible is what will teach you what you need to know. It teaches us what Jesus taught early Christians and it answers questions the early church had.

I think that over the years, churches have become to self-interested and have lost their paths. For now, I am a Methodist as my family has been for hundreds of years (since the church was founded). The irony is that I do not much care for how the "method" is carried out. It is simply the beliefs that it practices that I agree with.

However, there are plenty of non-denominational churches out there that are aligned with my beliefs, but finding those can be difficult. I encourage everyone to do the research yourself to find your true belief system. Do not allow any one church tell you what they think you should believe. Decide for yourself and once you do, you'll find that you're much more peaceful when it comes to your belief.

For me, it has made me a stronger Christian. It has made me realize that even if I sin, God loves me and there should be no guilt. I should try and live the best way possible but when I slip and fall, he is okay with that. I just need to get up, brush myself off and try again.

May God bless you all and be my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

No comments: