What is a church?

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Many of us associate the word church with a building, but the original meaning was a group of believers. While a church building may be old, beautiful, a remembrance, or a masterpiece of creativity, it is an empty shell without the congregation. A true church is the sum of its members, whether they meet in a movie theatre, coffee shop, or simple home. Perhaps some of the strongest churches have met in forests, on mountains, even in cellars, during times of persecution (and still do in some parts of the world.)

A recent blog post set me thinking about churches. Probably the most diabolically clever move the enemy ever made was to make Christianity acceptable, safe. The ancient “church”, heartily relieved to no longer be hounded and persecuted, settled down to work in harmony with the prevailing worldly systems of its day. Sure, it had its revolutionaries, St. Francis, Luther, etc. But even Luther compromised when he saw where the truth of the scriptures was leading – the overthrow of the status quo. He sold out his followers and thousands died.

In every generation, and scattered throughout denominations one finds true Christians, always a minority. The proportion of these individuals in a church tends to decide how dead (going through the motions) or alive it is. A spirit filled pastor can sometimes bring a church to life, but the choice rests always on the congregation. It is not always shown by large numbers (think Noah and Jeremiah). In my experience small, personal churches tend to be more on fire, as they grow so do the problems. If you build something successful someone is sure to either try to destroy it or take it over – this happens!

The church I frequently attend is small, personal, accepting. They have all types and ages in their congregation, wealthy and privileged, to poor single mums from the counsel estate, 90 year olds to tiny tots (even teenagers). The pastors are sincere and loving. Testimonies, prophecy and prayer abound and are freely shared among the congregation both after and often during the service. It’s easy to see the love of Christ abounding. I notice how no one minds when a woman sings off key and two beats behind on every song, when several get up to help the one in a wheelchair, when someone breaks down in tears and the person next to them (not in any church position) puts an arm around them, when I see the free lunches offered to any that come (minus a sermon) and note the guy with a tattooed face I’d avoided sitting among them, greeted with a smile. While perhaps not as radical as my own beliefs (it still operates in conjunction with the “system”) I’d say it is an alive and growing church in the best meaning of the word.

 

God is not “a loving God”. “God is love.”

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This statement is so profound one has to let it really sink in. It just makes sense of everything. Where love is, there is God, where God is there is love. It makes no difference the race, the religion, the theology, if there is love there is God too, if there is no love the laws, the doctrines, the works are no more than husks.

“God is a spirit” and “God is love.” This speaks of real love of course the kind that is more concerned with another than itself (not the selfish possession of another  Hollywood can tend to hoist on us sometimes.) Love, pure, unconditional, sacrificial love, a touch of God’s spirit, the confirmation of our being made in His image. We know how to love and be loved. We don’t learn it. Babies just love, small children love and need love to thrive.

He could have been a God of war, of power, of justice and legality instead He is love and as His children we are blessed.

When confronted by the statement, “I don’t believe in God”. I ask, “Do you believe in love?” and smile to myself.

Who was he?

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“He was born in an obscure hill town in a small Mideastern country. In early childhood his family had to flee as refugees from political injustice and attempted infanticide.[1]

The son of a manual laborer,[2] he showed little promise of greatness. He had no opportunity for higher education as we know it, never learned anything about technology, never even possessed a TV, a computer, cell phone, or I pad. There is no record of him owning a home or even any form of transportation.

In his thirties he was living hand to mouth,[3] wandering from town to town, never going more than 100 miles from where he grew up. Yet his deep and caring love for mankind inspired a small group of others to travel with him to learn more.[4] He often spent his time around social outcasts and the seamier side of society.[5]

For a period of three years he managed to gather some crowds through the use of what some called miracles. But false charges[6] that he associated with suspected terrorist elements seeking to overthrow the government, and accusations that he was claiming to be the king of his own nation resulted in his arrest, torture, and subsequent execution[7] at the behest of some influential enemies.

His friends and associates claimed that the charges were trumped up and that the whole incident had been a conspiracy by top religious and political elements to discredit what they saw as their competition, but none were ever brought to justice for what happened.

His life on this earth ended as it had been lived: focused on giving all that he had in order to rescue others. From a life of obscurity, poverty, and oppression, he showed that the simple truth was greater than the greatest intellect. Through his love and care for the weakest and neediest, he proved that power and wealth were truly weak and worthless unless used for God.

Instead of his death being the end of an obscure life, his subsequent resurrection triggered a kind of uprising in the hearts of men, a revolution of freedom and truth and mercy[8] that the armies of the earth throughout history have been unable to crush, that the superpowers have been powerless to suppress, and that the deceits of greed, malice, and hatred have never been able to silence.

The attempt to stifle his voice by a torturous and brutal death was futile. It has burst out in the voices of those whose lives down through the ages have been transformed by the truth he gave and the spirit he provided and the love he instilled in their hearts. What he gave to those who chose to live the example he set has proven to be greater than all the forces that have tried to prevent it spreading throughout the earth.

The result: All the powers that have tried to sway this world throughout history, all the wealth of nations and influence of kings and queens, czars and emperors, presidents and dictators, and all the revolutions and wars combined have failed to have as great an impact on the lives and hearts of mankind as this one extraordinary life”.[9]

(Adaption of the essay “One Solitary Life” by Dr. James Allan Francis, 1926.)

What Do I Believe?

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from June 2014

Song Bird Songs

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I believe in love in spite of the hate I see in graphic media footage, I believe in light in spite of the darkness that pervades the arts and society as a whole, and yes, I believe in God.
There was a time I didn’t. I felt the existence of a God of love amidst this mess of violence and corruption was a fantasy invented by man’s need for reassurance, for a superman who would make things right. (How telling the preponderance of super heroes nowadays).
I’d tried most things, education, travel, Buddhism (and other religious teachings), the quest for love, and a great many less acceptable things in my desperation, when God pretty much hit me over the head in an intense personal encounter that changed my life and perspectives forever. I realized God didn’t need my belief in him to be real. He was there whether I believed…

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