Entries tagged with “Religion”.


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Once upon a time it was easy to think that America was almost 100% Christian.  Even with our diverse immigrant population a large majority of the country espoused some type of Christian faith.  Even if you didn’t attend church on a regular basis, you probably claimed to be a Christian.  We all know the C & E people – Christmas and Easter.

Even in politics almost everyone claims to have some Christian experience, often maybe just a grandparent who went to church.  In many parts of the country you at least attended church for the social benefits.  Well Barna recently released some new information that shouldn’t be too startling.

The study discovered that half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs.

The research also indicated that more and more individuals are less-willing to accept the dictates of any one deonomination but are more likely to take an a la carte approach.

By a three to one margin (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church. Although born again Christians were among the segments least likely to adopt the a la carte approach to beliefs, a considerable majority even of born again adults (61%) has taken that route. Leading the charge in the move to customize one’s package of beliefs are people under the age of 25, among whom more than four out of five (82%) said they develop their own combination of beliefs rather than adopt a set proposed by a church.

I would lump myself into that category. I don’t neccessarily agree with all of any one denomination’s perspectives or opinions, but attempt to find a balance of what the Bible teaches.  There are obviously some problems to this trend and Barna noted two:

Growing numbers of people now serve as their own theologian-in-residence. One consequence is that Americans are embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs. Barna pointed out, as examples, that millions of people who consider themselves to be Christian now believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the lessons it teaches at the same time that they believe Jesus Christ sinned. Millions also contend that they will experience eternal salvation because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as their savior, but also believe that a person can do enough good works to earn eternal salvation.

Obviously attending an evangelical college and getting some training in the Bible is helpful in shaping my personal beliefs, but I am sure that at some point my beliefs will err from Biblical teaching. That is when my fellow believers can lovingly correct me.  Every believer needs to be a part of a Christian fellowship. This doesn’t mean that they have to attend church on Sunday morning/evening and Wendsday night service, but it does require some form of fellowship where you can be taught by more experienced teachers and live and explore the Bible together.

Would you agree with Barna’s research? Where are you at on this issue?

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What is our part in the world today? As Christians we are called to a “Higher Calling” than our neighbors, but what does that mean?

I know that those are some of the questions I struggle with at different times.  I really wish I could have heard the message at Church on this topic, but I was busy doing a run through for our new student-focused Sunday service called Aftershock. 

This is a new Sunday morning experience designed specifically for middle and high school students.  It will be very high energy, with teens playing in the worship band and taking part in the drama.  This is a big step for the 3 year old ministry of The Bridge Community Church. Our hope is that kids from across the area will come check out this event that occurs each Sunday at 11:27 at a local high school (our entire church meets there).

This weekly service will be supplemented by, what look to be, great small groups that will meet in place of our mid-week gathering.  I am very excited about this new adventure, I have been with the student ministry for 2 1/2 years.  It is an interesting time in my life since I am looking for a job and moving away.  It is hard to know how much to invest and what commitments I can make while at the same time wanting to invest my energy into helping impact our communities youth.  It has been a struggle. I would like to be a part of the small groups, but know that it wouldn’t be a good idea to “abandon” them at a crucial point in the development cycle of the groups.  So I have taken a more “behind the scenes” approach and offer support for everyone and just provide my presence and continue building relationships with some of the kids who have been there since the beginning (many of them know I am planning to move).

I have enjoyed this as My Part of serving Christ and learning more about youth and youth programming.  There is more from the service, based on what my wife and others have said. 

The synopsis from the journaling sheet says:

This week, Chris shared about the horror of “if only” and the miracle of our presence.  These are simple yet profound things to not just think about but to grab hold of with great intent.  As we prioritize our lives, we need constantly ask ourselves whether or not the way we live is fulfilling the part that we play in this life before we leave this place.

I was told he talked a lot about “self-talk” and both positive and negative self-perceptions can impact our reliance on God and His provisions.  We may put ourselves down too much and feel useless, or we may be prideful and forget why we are positive.

He also talked about our part being holier than our neighbors.  Not in a negative “holier than thou” way, but in an internal “how should I react to this situation in order to honor and please God” type of way. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33 NIV

For this series they provided journaling questions:

  • Do you see yourself as having something valuable?
  • What would it take for you to see every moment as gold?
  • What moments will you face today that you need to seize?
  • Who has been there for you in the critical moments of your life? Did they fully know their impact on your life at the time?
  • Miracles are all around us – do you see it? Are you a part of it? How do you know?
  • Write a prayer to God about your desire to do your part.
  • Write about what you have learned about God and yourself this week.

 

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Forgiveness is never easy. Webster defines forgive as giving up resentment of something or to cease to feel resentment against an offender.

It is easy to forgive someone who accidentally does something to you, or to forgive a loved one for something.  But to forgive an enemy or someone who has done something horrific?  That is scandalous.  Stan Guthrie in a January column in Christianity Today talks about this scandalous forgiveness.  Using the example of the 10 Amish girls killed last year, Ted Haggard’s unfaithfulness and cover up and finally Corrie ten Boom’s forgiveness of her former Nazi guard. 

Quick forgiveness is sometimes called cheap grace, it is important to forgive though, because Jesus has provided forgiveness for us, and it didn’t come cheap.  We can never pardon a sin or change what has happened, but we can change our circumstances and perspective by beginning the process of forgiveness and allowing redemption to flow from us.  I like this from Guthrie’s article, he is actually quoting Lewis Smedes’, a Fuller Theological Seminary professor of theology and ethics, definition of forgiveness: “forgiveness is an inner response to evil that (when possible) finds fulfillment in outward reconciliation.”  

I like that because it notes the two dimensions of forgiveness, the inner and outer.  We can offer forgiveness, but true and ultimate forgiveness includes reconciliation.  Our world needs less cheap grace and more reconciliation.  When Christ reigns supreme in our lives we can offer forgiveness and reconciliation that will change the world.  The Amish massacre was a great example of a community offering forgiveness and grace, and the world noticed. 

If we continue in the same way, we can impact and change our relationships and community, through forgiveness.

 

 

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I just started reading Isaiah the other day and was hit by these passages from the first chapter. I’m using the NKJV but love what The Message says.

13 -17“Quit your worship charades.
I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—
meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!
You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion,
while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance,
I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray,
I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing
people to pieces, and your hands are bloody. Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good. Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.

WOW, we know from countless other passages that God doesn’t like empty worship (vs 13-15). The NKJV actually uses the word futile to describe the religious practices. The Nelson Complete Study System notes say the actions were futile because the people did not celebrate them out of love for God. In the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 Jesus says that the religious practices alone aren’t enough, but you must “go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor. ”

I have actually heard Micah 6:8 be used to define worship. It says:

8But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously

Not only does this sound like the exact opposite of what is occuring in Is 1:13-15, but it also sounds precisely like verse 17.

In summary, all the “religous practices” do not add up to much without loving God. Mark 12:28-34 is helpful in understanding what loving God means. Quoting verses 30-31

30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Isaiah is calling us to give up futile religion and love God by loving those around us.

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