Sunday, July 17, 2005

Who Needs Church Anyways?

I know there are several understandings of what a church is, but this is the one I agree with.

When I tell people I go to church, it so happens to be a building I go to. Well, it isn't. Not exactly. Church is not a location but a gathering. Church is a group. This group is made up of Christians, determined to make some physical/social expression of their devotion to God.

I have heard it said that Christians don't need to go to church to be a good Christian.

I have a couple problems with that statement. First, what in the world is a "good" Christian? If I listed the characteristics of a good Christian and a bad one, the lists would be identical, save a few things here or there. The word "good" is one I'd like to throw out to describe the productivity of a Christian. More on that later.
The second thing that bothers me is the fallacy in the statement; essentially, Christians who don't voluntarily participate in a church need to reevaluate whether he or she should consider him or herself a Christian. Such participation is assumed in the Biblical understanding of the word.

Perhaps by explaining what church means to me, everyone can understand my theological stance on the Church.

When I wake up on a Sunday morning, and travel to a church building, a couple of things happen. I am certain I will see others coming to the same place to be around each other. They go in part to be around each other. Church involves is an aspect of fellowship. A Church is nothing without the people. I also am certain I can expect a certain focus to be had on the Spiritual. You see the spiritual component isn't always the same, nor do I think it should be, because that would be boring and inauthentic. This spiritual focus that all come to participate in is designed primarily to give thanks to the God of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If not thanks, then honor.

The Bible describes those that follow Christ as the Body of Christ. Christians make up this body. I Corinthians describes the Body as being made up of many parts, Jesus serving as head, but hands and feet, etc. are assigned to his followers. You see it is a metaphor. When Christians gather and worship God, they are taking necessary steps to commune with, and become empowered by, the God of the Universe. In my opinion, a Christian is lacking significant service to the Kingdom of God if he or she is not involved in a church. And frankly, without church, a Christian will starve and fall away from the faith. It is a place of instruction, accountability, healing. We are resposibile for one another's well-being.

The Church is not perfect. In fact, the majority of the time it fails to accomplish its objective, losing sight of its purpose. But that doesn't mean it is obsolete and irrelevant. God still works through the Church. He has been doing it for thousands of years, and even outside of a building. You see, people are the Church... people fail... God forgives and uses us despite our failings... and only through his grace do we stand and have victory.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Just a Thought About Paradise and How I Would Not Want Any Part With It.

I fell asleep the other night thinking about what it is going to be like in Heaven. Supposedly, it will be free of evil. There will be no more tears; only joy, love, and pure communion with God. On thinking about this, I started wondering about differing interpretations on how residence in Heaven is attained.

I wondered how some thought they could be certain they were getting into Heaven by being good people, by not killing, but trying to be helpful, and not harmful.

That just doesn't make sense; it isn't enough, and here is why:

Imagine the most normal of people living a life free of doing harm, not stealing, killing, etc. In fact, you can picture this person being the most honorable of humanity for all I care. Nobel Peace Prize winner, charitable throughout life, pulled injured victims from a burning building... whatever, it does not matter. When this good person arrives in Heaven (and according to some peoples' beliefs, he or she will), we are presented with a not so obvious discrepancy with the picture. This person will not be perfect. Let that sink in. According to this one theory of admittance into Heaven, the place will be filled with people that are not perfect. In other words, inhabitants of Heaven will be flawed. They would still have the potential to sin. Sin is simply doing the wrong thing, according to God's guidelines.

Now if Heaven has sinners, those capable of being selfish, choosing themselves over others and God's way, then how can Heaven be any different than Earth in its nature? Here on Earth, I see perfectly good people choosing to live their lives in fear, not saying the things they need to say, not doing the things they ought to do. I'm not even talking about what it says to do in the Bible. I'm talking about common sense things that would make the world a better place if they weren't so selfish. Without people changing in that way, a deep down change, a change in nature, where we stop bickering over traffic and store signs and politics... Heaven will be no Haven.

There IS a way to correct this dilemma.

It takes that deep down change I mentioned before. Here's the deal though. The change is not attainable by one's own doings. No mere man or woman has what it takes to become selfless enough to deserve Heaven. It takes a God willing to offer the power over selfishness, over sin, to be able to attain a level of perfectedness worthy of Heaven. Only one person in All of History had what it took to get into Heaven... to be technical, He still has it, for He is not dead. Jesus was victorious over Death. His perfect life destroyed the hold Death had over LIFE (not the magazine). I can understand how this may sound odd, even fairy-tale-like in nature, but think about it. What is Heaven if it isn't Life at its Fullest? What is Death if it isn't losing control over our existence? The way I see it, when Jesus died on the cross two thousand years ago and rose a few days later, He ended the power of our sin to condemn us to Death. Death is separation from God, Life is Communion with God.

And here is what it all boils down to.

If Jesus has the power over sin, death, powerlessness... only by asking for His help can we have any chance to experience Fulfilled Life. The thing is, Jesus offers us this power. It is a gift - God's Grace - and it means the recipient must allow Christ to become a resident within that individual's heart. Essentially, the Living God, Jesus Christ, allows us to identify and become part of Him. Once apart of Him, that person is transformed and found faultless before God.

Not everything is explained, but the point is this:

Heaven would be no Heaven if God did not make some way
to change the inhabitants into a perfected people.

The only one capable of such perfection made such a transformation available.

There is no way to the Paradise which is Heaven apart from the touch of Jesus in our lives,
or else Paradise would not be as nice as we all imagined.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Fun With Photoshop II

A Sunset View from a Sheep Farm in Utah.

This also was blended and am glad you can now see the sheep.