Sheer Christianity….

I came across an article entitled Sheer Christianity in the November 2012 Sojourners Magazine that moved me. I want to tell you a little about it and quote some of the inspiring words. It is by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson who is the general secretary of the Reformed Church of America. I have to admit that I don’t know much about this organization.  Here is a quote that got me to thinking about the issue. The article is basically about another article in Newsweek cover story entitled “Christianity in Crisis”

My sense is that people are leaving organized Christianity because it has left behind the radical message of its founder. It has been a long and continuous struggle….

The church confesses him as risen Savior and Lord. But then, so often, it tries to domesticate him, explaining away those sharp, demanding edges of his compelling words, and finding theological excuses for not following his radical ways.  We call upon people to believe “in” Jesus. But question is whether we “believe” Jesus…..

The more articles I run across about this the more I am surprised that what I discovered several years ago was not as outlandish as I had imagined.  When I sat down over four years ago and concentrated on the words of Jesus I discovered that his messages were not what I was hearing from the church congregation that I then belonged. Twelve years ago, as a condition of membership in that church, I was required to stand in front of the congregation and cite a bundle of various beliefs about Jesus. It didn’t strike at the time but all of those “pronouncement of beliefs” had little to do with the what Jesus told us to do. Instead were just things, mostly man-made, that I was required to believe about him.

From that point on for the next eight years I heard the common theme that I am a miserable person but God loves me anyway. I was told that if I felt like it I could say thanks to Jesus by my actions but those actions were totally optional. At the time that was convenient in that being a Christian, at least in that denomination, didn’t interfere with how I wanted to live my life. About the only thing required was to show up in the pews once in a while with a donation in hand and when I died I was assured that I would go heaven.  Pretty easy stuff, or at least that is what I was lead to believe.

But, as I mentioned above as I seriously studied into the words of Jesus I discovered that, contrary to what my church told me, being a follower of Jesus meant everything changed. I was to live my life as Jesus taught me. His words were very clear about that. The story about the sheep and the goats took on an entirely different meaning than what I was taught all those weeks in the pew. I was told that the sheep were believers and the goats were non-believers.  In reality I learned that, as Jesus said, the sheep are those that take care of the least of these and the goats were those that ignored Jesus’ words. So, as the quote above says many congregations today have domesticated Jesus. How sad is that????

How Did We Get Here??

Have you ever wondered about how we got to where we are in Christianity in the U.S. ? I started this blog in 2008 to study of how well current Christian denominations follow Jesus Christ’s words. As reported here (see the About This Blog button above) I found that hardly any of them pay much attention to Jesus’ words  especially putting them into action.  Instead they seem to be more interested in our sex lives and many other “empire” issues (empire meaning worldly issues). I was so disappointed in what I found I no longer call myself a Christian but simply a “follower of Jesus Christ”. The word “Christian” has just been polluted so much as to lose any spiritual value to me.

This finding was a big downer to me. I wondered just how today’s church drifted so far away from its foundation! It depressed me so much that in August of last year I basically quit blogging here. But with the disappointment came another mission and that is to try to find out what happened to the church of Jesus Christ? I have been on a study to discover that since that time and am now ready to start blogging about it.

I want to tell you up front a few guidelines that I am using during this study:

  • I am approaching this study pretty much from a historical standpoint. I will try not to get bogged down in theology but sometimes the two will blend together.
  • I will state again that I am by no means a church historian or theologian. I am just a guy who has questions. In some ways I think this is an advantage as I do not have a lot of baggage going into the study that would distort my findings. 
  • I am approaching this study to view the “forest” of Christian history and not going to talk much about the “trees”.  That is I will not get bogged down in the details nor will I get  into debates on any specific beliefs or doctrine.
  • As we get started I will try to give a basic time-line of events but after that I will likely be hitting on issues that cross different periods of the Christian evolution.
  • As a rule for all my blogs I will try to keep all individual posts around five hundred words or less. To do that some discussions will have to be split into multiple posts. I personally become bored if something drags on and on….  I call this “bla, bla, bla…”. I will try not to let that happen here.

So here we are at the beginning of another study this time into faiths and beliefs and other such things. I think you will be surprised as to what I found. Try to keep an open-mind about some of the issues that may be sensitive to you. I promise it will be anything but a boring journey.

Welcome to the Re-Purposed Red Letter Living Blog

After an almost one year hiatus I will soon be posting again on this blog with this new format and a new direction.

Where I Have Been:  The first three years this blog examined how current day churches are doing in following Jesus’ words as found in the red letters of most Christian bibles. That study was concluded in August of 2011 and is still available here for your review. If you want to know more about the results of this study click on the “About This Blog” button above.

Where Am I Headed: Going forward besides studying the red letters I will be concentrating on how we got to where the church is now and where it might be headed.  I do want to warn you up front if you are not familiar with this topic that the church has a very messy history.  We will investigate that in some detail here. As cited above you can learn more about this future work by clicking on the “About This Blog” button at the top of this page. If you are interested in these topics come back often. I plan on posting at least a couple of time a week here if not more. You can subscribe to this blog via email in the right column here.

Why Red Letters??

In many Bibles, some words are set apart with a red font. Why is this? It is to remind us that when God became Man and personally gave us words that those words are probably something we cannot afford to miss. So why don’t many churches today take the “red letters” to heart? Why aren’t we doing more to be Christ’s hands and feet to the poor, the disenfranchised, the weary, the ill, the fatherless, and the prisoners? It’s all there–in red letters. Why has the Church shirked its responsibilities, leaving the work to be done by governments, rock stars, and celebrities? We leave it up to our governments to do those tasks and then we complain when they take some of our tax dollars to accomplish it! Shame on us!!

It is quite troubling to me the number of Christian denominations that totally downplay those red letters. They instead deem all the words written by men and accumulated into what we know as the Bible to be of equal importance! I understand that the foundation for this misbelief goes back to the slippery slope idea that I have covered before. They want to believe that all the words were authored by God instead of just the red letters. This makes studying the Bible much easier for them as then they don’t have to discern what is currently relevant and what isn’t in that document. They just refuse to accept that some of those biblical words were written with a two thousand year old mentality and mindset and are no longer relevant to us today.

I choose not to take the easy way when it comes to following my Lord and savior. I will not just say the words and then lay back and let his grace flow over me. I choose not to solely depend on the “experts” to tell me what God’s message to me is. Instead I will take his grace and turn it into action as he commanded me to do. I will study the Bible and other similar documents from the early times to find what is relevant to me today and discount those things that come from pre-21st century knowledge and understanding. I will study the Bible and other such documents to find the messages in the underlying text but understand that that text could be just a story or myth passed down from the generations between when Christ roamed the earth and when the document was solidified four hundred years later.

It is quite refreshing to accept that I have a responsibility to actually do what Jesus commanded me to do and to study the words from the founding fathers to find those relevant to me and my daily life. I will not leave that important task up to others to do the work for me. It is not up to the theologians or even today’s clergy to push me into heaven or maybe more importantly to do God’s work here on earth. God gave me free choice and I choose to follow Him alone.