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Church Life


An organized church is very important. Many of them support missionaries; which includes not only Bible-thumper type missionaries, but also school teachers, health workers, mechanics, pilots, electricians, dentists, farming experts— every useful trade and skill you can imagine: sort of like a religious Peace Corps. And church is also an important port of entry for people who are just getting started in Christianity. It's kind of like a salt marsh, a calm-water nursery where young sea life matures and gets strong enough to move out into deeper water to live as adult life forms.

A church like the one where I met Joanne— one that's Bible centered and looking out for Jesus' best interests —is very alive and a valuable asset to the community, no doubt about it. Some years ago, a good friend of mine's marriage was pretty rocky. His life was coming unraveled and he was very depressed about it. So, not even knowing why he would do this because he has never been religious, he wandered into a church in his neighborhood and just sat in a pew, all alone, reflecting upon the mess he'd made of his life. The pastor of that church came over and talked with him for a bit. What if there were no churches? In his hour of trouble, my friend had somewhere to go. Oftentimes when wild animals are desperate, they will approach humans for help; especially during winter when food is scarce. I think the human heart is like that. When we're crushed by circumstances beyond our control, the heart yearns for its maker's assistance.

Church life plays an important role in the lives of many born-again Christians. However, way too many of us have practically made it a sacred cow. And there are some traps to watch out for too. In this topic, we'll go into Membership, Attendance, Tithing, Faith Promise, and Giving.


How We Met       

I was a very reclusive, hermit kind of guy before I started going to church back in the mid 70's, and I didn't go to the main services right away. On Wednesday evenings, a small church in La Mesa California, whose pastor hosted a radio bible program at the time, a man I trusted, held a mid-week bible study. That's where it started for me because I was just too shy to just jump right into the midst of large assemblies.

The folks in the mid-week bible study were mostly middle aged and senior citizens and very tolerant of my awkwardness. They started their meetings with a couple of hymns, none of which I knew because we never sang anything at all in the Catholic churches my family attended when I was growing up. I was much too bashful and self conscious to do the singing so I would wait just outside the door until they were done and then go on in.

After about two years in that small community church, I moved to a monster Conservative Baptist church in San Diego where I was singing bass in their choir of about ninety people when I met Joanne in the newly organized singles group. Those were really fun times.

Actually I had a life in two singles groups. There was another one in a Wesleyan church in the nearby community of Lemon Grove that was even larger than the singles' group at the Baptist church. I would sing at the service of the Baptist church, and then jump in my Volkswagen and just make it in time for the meeting at the Wesleyan church. Later, after the Baptist church got their single's group better organized, I stopped attending the one at the Wesleyan church.

The Wesleyan group had many previously married people in it with children, so outings and socials were really fun with all the kids along too. They brought an innocence and an atmosphere of family life into the group that would have never existed without them. 

Joanne and I met in the singles group at the big Baptist church; but we went to pre-marriage counseling at the Wesleyan church. And afterwards we were married somewhere else in a little tiny community church in Spring Valley.

Our marriage was very simple. We didn't have a wedding; there were no guests, not even our parents or best friends. The witness for it was the pastor's daughter; who just happened to be in the sanctuary that Saturday morning doing some janitor work for her dad. The pastor, who was handicapped in one of his hands, took our one and only wedding photograph with Joanne's cheap little Kodak Instamatic camera.

Counting the rings, the blood tests, and the marriage license, we spent about $534 to get married. That budget-friendly wedding is one of our most cherished memories.

Not long after Nate was born, we dropped out of all church activities because he was so unhappy in the nursery. When he was old enough for first grade, we started in at another Baptist church up here in Oregon and continued there for nine years.

I promised Nate, way back, that if he would attend Sunday school at least until he was fourteen, I would never force him to go again. When he turned fourteen I kept my promise; although he continued for some time afterwards.

Church life was fun. It was a little difficult for me at first because I was a friendless loner, preferring a solo way of life. But after a while I got used to it. Joanne and I met lots of really good people; and for the most part, we had a pretty good time and picked up an enormous amount of information about New Testament Christianity along the way.

But the day finally came when we knew more about the Bible and how to live the Christian life than the teachers who were leading the classes. According to Eph 4:11-16, that's perfectly normal and it's actually supposed to be that way when church leaders do their jobs. Anyway we became frustrated and bored so we began to look about for a place to carve out our own little niche in Christian service.

That's how we eventually ended up on the web. Joanne and I are convinced that out in cyberspace, drifting around on the internet, are born-again Christians who never go to church; and they don't intend to go; ever. But we don't care about that. That's their own business and it's not an issue with us. But we know from Hebrews 10:25 they still need encouragement and support from other believers. And we know from Ephesians 4:11-16 someone has got to train them too.

I have a great gift for explaining New Testament Christianity, but because I'm a welder, and tend to tread on people's feelings with my crude blue collar social skills, Joanne has to read all the stuff I write and then weed out the unkind things I just naturally have a way of saying without even knowing it. She's saved the day many, many times like that. Joanne has a wonderful nurturing heart. If you met her, she would be your friend instantly. It's really hard to believe she was ever into Woman's Lib because the two of us together have become an outstanding team, and she's my son's best friend and confidante.

And she's an excellent proof reader too. Many times she has to point out that a particular sentence or paragraph makes no sense and doesn't spell things out clear enough. So everything at our web site has her imprimatur on it in one way or another and that's why our Sunday school has her name on it too.

Membership       

Membership was something I never gave much thought until one evening the big Baptist church brought in a guest speaker; a hired gun to recruit new people. His argument for membership made good sense and what the heck, why not? So I went through the usual process. First the pastor's class, then the membership committee, then water baptism for those who had never done it yet, and finally the right hand of fellowship at an evening service. Then we discovered that membership carries some heavy responsibilities.

Someone came up with an expensive building program that was going to be financed with a clever scheme to borrow the money from the members. The plan was given a catchy slogan called "Serving and Saving" and the planners had a pretty good sales pitch to make it all sound very reasonable.

But Joanne and I didn't feel comfortable with the idea. In fact we were very troubled. Since we couldn't, in all good conscience, support the church's new ambitions, we decided to terminate our membership. You might be tempted to think that was a very drastic thing to do but under those particular circumstances, it was the wisest thing for the two of us.

We know from Hebrews 13:17 that we are all accountable for our attitude towards the people who are responsible for making a church run. No one should ever join a church and then try to reform it. No way! Forget it! Members are required to submit, not to go to war with reforms.

Here's the wording of that passage:

"Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."

If a member can't offer a church his entire, whole hearted support, then it's much better for everyone if he attends only as a guest. You can still be a great help to them by getting involved in some limited way, and you can still take advantage of many of their programs too.

But please never put your name on the dotted line if you have serious reservations about the way the leadership is operating unless you are very sure it won't bother you. Some people could care less, and they are the lucky ones in that respect because they're happy as clams and perfectly satisfied with their church. But I've seen families get very stressed and upset with the leadership and that's just no good at all.

Attendance   

Not everything is spelled out in black and white in the New Testament. For instance, no one is forbidden to eat food blessed by a rabbi. And no one is commanded to go to church on a Sunday, nor to take communion, nor even to observe specified holy days. Things like that are a matter of personal choice.

And we also know from chapter 14 in Romans that it's wrong to violate our convictions. If we don't feel comfortable about something, anything at all; then for us that becomes sin if we push on. I'm not talking about cut and dried revelations of the will of God because that's not the issue in Romans 14. On the contrary, it presents guidelines for the born-again Christian about things that are vague and not clearly spelled out.

Two principles are evident in Romans 14 that we dare not miss; and both could easily prevent a lot of squabbling among born-again Christian church members.

The first principle is spelled out in the very first verse of the chapter. Born-again Christians are absolutely forbidden to argue among ourselves about things that are unclear and forever in the limbo of debate. If believers had only obeyed this very simple command, it would have stopped many of the senseless divisions that have fractured Christianity down through the centuries. Both sides of many issues have very convincing arguments and both sides are happy with their own decisions about it. But because neither is tolerant of the other, they will always be embroiled in conflict. Which brings up the second principle; which is located in verse 5.

"Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind."

There are control-freaks who just have to be right about everything. And for them, it's not good enough to be right, no; everybody else has to be wrong. It says in verse 22 that it's a happy person who is comfortable with their personal convictions. Now I ask you; what's the point in arguing and debating with another believer in an aggressive effort to discredit their opinions simply for the sake of promoting your own? Won't you actually be damaging that person's peace of mind? Yes, you will and you will be totally in the wrong for it when it concerns insignificant issues.

1Tim 6:3-5 ...If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth

It's important to note that Romans 14 doesn't apply to debating your beliefs with outsiders like Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses. It only applies to those within the household of faith so we don't end up destroying each other over gray areas that aren't clearly spelled out in the Bible.

But it's so natural to impose our personal convictions upon others isn't it? Some of us can listen to Metallica, bang around in a mosh pit, crowd surf, and watch R rated movies. But others could never live with themselves if they allowed any of that in their life. Some feel that cosmetics are wrong for Christians, while others have no problem at all sunbathing at the beach in a speedo or a string bikini. Others feel that guns and tobacco and alcohol are totally wrong, while others believe those things are personal decisions.

See how it works? That's what Romans 14 is all about. And it really strikes a mortal blow at those who have a predisposition for imposing their personal values upon others. According to Romans 14:4 and 14:10-13 it's a shameful practice to impose man-made Christian conduct upon other born-again Christians.

Church covenants are of course another matter entirely. No one is holding a gun to your head to join a church. But if you do, then it is your sacred duty to comply with the mandates of the covenant whether you agree with them or not. But if you intend to stay, you must comply. The directives of a church covenant don't even have to be biblical. A local church, after all, is really the domain of the pastors and trustees. You're an outsider invading their world. So if you want to be a part of their world, then you have to play by their rules. That's just common sense.

But anyway, here's what we're getting at. According to Hebrews 10:25, born-again Christians are not to disband. However, there are really no specific commands regarding where they should meet, nor with how many, nor even on what day, nor how often. The Corinthians' custom was to meet on the first day of the week; but that isn't a God-given rule so it would be a mistake to argue about something like that.

There's really no rule about frequency either. Some Christians couldn't live with themselves if they didn't go to church at least once a week. But others may feel that even once a year at Easter is too much. Neither side is right and neither is wrong because it's truly a gray area.

At Matthew 18:20 Jesus said that if two or three people assemble in his name he's there in the midst. So the minimum New Testament requirement for an assembly is really only two people. At my job, I rub shoulders with other believers every day. According to Jesus, we are a valid assembly. So I actually assemble with other believers at least forty hours a week.

I can appreciate that not everyone can live with our views about church attendance, and we won't battle with them over it because it's a matter of opinion and not really spelled out in the New Testament. But I strongly object to anyone who tries to enforce their own feelings about church attendance. If they tried, I would have to claim the rights of the weaker brother at Romans 14:1 and politely, but firmly, ask them not to debate that subject in my presence.

It's unfortunate that so many born-again Christians have been led to believe that church attendance is a measure of spirituality because according to John 4:21-24 the Lord would never agree with that philosophy.

"Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem... Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is a spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

So genuine worship is expressed in loyalty and submission to the will of God in every facet of your life; not just one morning a week in church.

We're aware that some feel pretty strong about church attendance. But they have to understand that not everyone shares their feelings and no one is required to. If some want to assemble with other believers every waking hour, that's their business and more power to them. But the Spirit of God requires every one of us to respect Romans 14 and allow others to hold their own convictions about things like that. Some have challenged us by asking: What if everyone felt like you do about church attendance? Well, if everyone felt like we do, then there wouldn't be any arguing about it, would there? But the law of averages just doesn't work that way in real life.

Practically every church operates around a core of dedicated people who believe very strongly in what they are doing. Pew-warmers come and go all the time, but that core group holds its ground and anchors the church against the storms of revolving membership and the specter of financial ruin. If you join that group, you'll be expected to help them hold their ground. So don't join if you're not prepared to do that.

I believe church attendance is highly overrated. It's become a fetish: a sacred cow that has managed to usurp true Bible Christianity and replace it with little more than a country club that serves only to round out somebody's social résumé.

Church attendance has become the standard by which a modern Christian's piety is gauged; and it's not supposed to be that way. Scarcely a word is said in the New Testament about mandatory church attendance, but there are many, many words and verses mandating good conduct. Why isn't good conduct emphasized today instead of church attendance? I'll tell you why. Because it is far easier to go to church than it is to behave and keep a civil tongue in your head.

Jas 1:26-27 …If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep one's self unspotted from the world.

Jas 1:22-25 …And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don't obey, you are only fooling yourself. For if you just listen and don't obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you keep looking steadily into God's perfect law— the law that sets you free —and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

You've heard of the undead? Well, there are quite a few churchians who, because of their conduct, are the unblessed.

Tithing      

Tithing is mandated for Jews by Moses' Covenanted Law; and nobody has any choice about it. But no such requirement is imposed upon those who are outside the Law's jurisdiction. We know from Galatians 5:6 that New Testament faith works by love; not by force of law.

The Collection

There are churcheslike the church of Laodicea (Rev 3:14-22) whose spiritual condition is so deplorable that the Bible's Christ isn't even a member let alone in charge. He's depicted outside churches like that banging on their doors trying to get someone's attention to let him in. Not even the pastors and their staffs are rightly associated with God. You certainly wouldn't want to support a church in that condition. Before giving a single penny to any church, I would insist that you first verify that the Bible's Christ is even in their neck of the woods.

An "expert witness" can be defined as: A witness, who by virtue of education, training, skill, or experience, is believed to have knowledge in a particular subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the witness's specialized (scientific, technical or other) opinion about an evidence or fact issue within the scope of their expertise, referred to as the expert opinion, as an assistance to the fact-finder.

You would think that most Christians would readily agree that when it comes to testing the validity of someone's claim to have Christ that Almighty God would certainly be an unimpeachable expert witness. But no, it rarely works out that way. It has been my own personal experience that Christians almost always, and with scant few exceptions, throw out God's testimony and rely upon their own feelings instead. That is a very dumb thing to do.

1John 5:9 . .We accept human testimony; but God's testimony carries more weight because it's the testimony of God

According to God's testimony as an expert witness in all matters pertaining to His own son; Christians without eternal life are, in reality, quite christless.

1John 5:11-12 . . And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the life, does not have God's son.

And according to Jesus' testimony as an expert witness in all matters pertaining to his own religion; Christians who lack eternal life abide in Death, and in grave danger of the wrath of God.

John 5:24 . .Truly, Truly, I say unto you; those who heed my message, and trust in God who sent me, have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already transferred from Death into Life.

Pew warmers who refuse to believe that it is necessary to possess eternal life in order to possess God's son, insinuate that the Bible's God is a dishonest person of low moral integrity who can't be trusted to tell the truth.

1John 5:10-12 . . Anyone who does not believe God insinuates that He's a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His son. And this is the testimony: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in His son. So whoever has God's son has the life; whoever does not have the life, does not have His son.

People passing themselves off as Christians, while not currently in possession of eternal life, are faking it; they're actually unbelievers. Note the grammatical tense of the "have" verbs in these next passages as they relate to belief. The verbs are is in the present tense; not future indicating that believers are already in possession of eternal life right now, in this life, before they pass on— no delay, and no waiting period.

John 3:36 . . He who believes in the Son has eternal life

John 6:47 . .Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.

John 5:24 . . I assure you, those who heed my message and trust in God who sent me, have eternal life.

1John 5:13 . . I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Believers then, as Jesus testified in John 5:24, are in absolutely no danger of retribution. And why is that? Because eternal life is a kind of life that cannot die; therefore, it is invulnerable to the wages of sin.

Rom 6:23 . .For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life.

All of The Lord's sheep have it.

John 10:27 . . My sheep heed my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish

John 17:2 . . For you granted him authority over all people that he may give eternal life to all those you have given him.

According to Jesus' own personal prayer; Christians lacking eternal life know neither him or his God.

John 17:3-4 . . Now this is eternal life [as opposed to human life] that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

In summary: churchians who do not possess eternal life, are: 1) christless, 2) dead, 3) in grave danger of eternal suffering, 4) not Jesus' sheep, 5) know neither Jesus or God, 6) do not trust God, 7) do not accept Jesus' testimony, 8) do not accept God's testimony, 9) do not heed Jesus' voice, 10) do not follow Jesus, 11) are not among the people whom God gave to His son, and 12) are unbelievers.

The status of unbelievers is very grim.

John 3:36 . .Whoever believes the Son has eternal life, but whoever disbelieves the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.

So then, if you're confident beyond a reasonable doubt that the pastor and staff of your church are in the right-now possession of eternal life, then the dollar amount you pitch into the collection is insignificant. The really important factor is to make sure your giving is whole-hearted. If you're giving money to a church simply out of peer pressure and/or the call of duty, then you are definitely not being whole-hearted in your donations.

2Cor 9:6-8 . . Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Just as an experiment, look around you at the congregation next Sunday and count the number of cheerful faces you see when the plate is passed around.

And I strongly recommend you avoid schemes like the so-called Faith Promise which is a means of pressuring people into pledging money they don't have for budgets and building programs and then expecting God to somehow come up with it for them; in effect, making God a co-signer on an obligation without His consent.

2Cor 8:12 . . For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, rather than according to what he does not have.

And never forget that the money in your pocket is yours; and no church has an eo ipso claim on it just because you're a Christian; e.g.

Acts 5:4 . .While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?

Ananias and Sapphira were under no obligation to share the sale of their property with a church. But when they decided to do so, they pretended to donae 100% of the sale price, when in reality, they kept some for themselves.

Peter didn't reprimand them for keeping some of the money, nor would he have reprimanded them had they kept it all. It was their pretense that cost them their lives; which leads me to my final point: Always be honest in your giving; and that includes how you report it to the IRS.

The Lord's Supper                          

Participation in the communion service isn't mandatory. Jesus' only words concerning its frequency are "as often as you do this" (1Cor 11:24-25).

One of the points of controversy involving the elements of the service is the beverage. Some insist it has to be wine; specifically alcoholic wine.

The New Testament Greek words for the "fruit of the vine" that Jesus had his men imbibe at his last meal are genema and ampelos. Those words are ambiguous, and neither one specifically indicates an alcoholic beverage, nor even grapes. They can indicate a fruit itself, or fruit juice, or wine, and/or jams and jellies.

Checking back in Exodus 12, there is not one beverage specified for Passover meals; no, not even ordinary water. So then, a beverage at Passover is apparently an option rather than a mandate; and subsequently, the nature of the beverage is also an option.

The beverage doesn't necessarily have to be alcoholic, nor does it necessarily have to be non alcoholic since neither is clearly specified. But in consideration of underage Christian children, and recovering alcoholics, I would definitely lean towards non alcoholic so as not to cast a stumbling block before someone for whom Christ gave his life to rescue from the wrath of God.

Rom 14:1 ...Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

Rom 14:13 ...Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

Rom 14:15 ...If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.

Rom 14:19 ...Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Rom 14:21 ...It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

The important aspect of The Lord's supper is, after all, not strict observance of details like the bakery product and the beverage, but rather, Jesus' crucifixion.

1Cor 11:24-25 ...And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said; Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

When people put the emphasis upon the elements rather than upon their purpose, they are actually just going through a dry ritual rather than a heart-felt memorial service. And that is not a good thing.

1Cor 11:27-30 ...So if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, that person is guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God's judgment upon yourself.

Prosperity                     

Material goods aren't sinful in and of themselves.

Gen 24:1 …And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and The Lord had blessed Abraham in all things

Gen 24:35-36 …And The Lord hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses. And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath.

So then, it's not prosperity that's condemned in The Bible, it's one's attitude towards prosperity that matters.

1Tim 6:17-18 …Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Paul's instructions to Timothy didn't condemn prosperity per se, nor did his instructions condemn prosperous Christian people per se. All's he did in that passage was to urge Timothy to remind prosperous Christians of five things: 1) don't let prosperity go to your head and make you a snob, 2) don't depend on your wealth for security, 3) depend upon God, 4) prosperity is a gift from God to enjoy, and 5) share your prosperity to aid in the lives of others less fortunate than yourselves.

1Tim 6:18-19 …Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

We have known Christians so guilt ridden over their prosperity that they can't enjoy it. That is a sinful, evil condition and fails to appreciate the hand of God's providence. They invariably end up condemning others for treating themselves to nice things while at the same time wishing they could have some of those nice things themselves.

Acts 5:3-4 …Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal?

Peter didn't condemn Ananias for keeping some of the sale price of his property to himself. No, Ananias' property and his money were all his to do with as he pleased; every bit of it. Peter condemned Ananias for lying to God.

Here in America, in a free democracy, your money is still yours, in spite of the all the pulpit pounding about how God owns everything. The Bible still says that the laborer is worthy of his hire. If you work for your money, you deserve to have it; and the Bible never considers poverty itself more blessed than prosperity itself; never.

Objection: We can't take it with us!

Possessions like real estate, guns, musical instruments, and well made jewelry and watches are not a waste of money. They can be left to your posterity.

Prov 13:22 ...A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children

Possessions are like money in the bank. Not only can you enjoy things like real estate, guns, musical instruments, and well made jewelry and watches while you're here, but if you, and/or your posterity, should ever fall on hard times, it's easy to turn your treasures into relatively quick money and thus help you and/or your posterity survive hard times.

Americans are the worst savers on earth. The majority of us live from paycheck to paycheck as if there's no tomorrow. Well... one very easy way to save some of your money is in simple things like quality guns, watches, and jewelry. True, you never get back what you paid for them; but you will get back something. And something is always better than nothing.

Prov 21:20 ...The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.

Love                           

The Bible says that God is love (1John 4:8).

Note that the sentence didn't say God is loving. It said God is love. So that God is love just like God is eternal life. God isn't *an eternal life; no, He is eternal life just like He is love. So then, God has always been love and God has always been eternal life. You are human life. But you are not love, nor will you ever be love, no matter how loving you might be.

Love needs an outlet. Can you just imagine love living solo? No, love would never live solo. Love is gregarious, love desires to share, love desires to nurture, and love needs companionship. It would be very strange for love to be content solo because love needs someone to love.

God would find someone to love even if He had to create someone to love. That's just the way He is. And I truly believe the Bible's God would get lonely without someone to love because the Bible's God is a nurturing God who even cares for people who hate His guts for no good reason other than the fact that He's the one holding all the aces.

Question: How could one that knows everything have "emotions" as well?

Einstein was brilliant, yet he had feelings and sensitivities. Steven Hawking is brilliant too, and he has feelings and sensitivities. It would be a very odd person of intellect who had no feelings. Human beings were created in God's image. So then, what you see in human beings— to a degree —pretty much suggests what you can expect to see in God. The Almighty isn't a computer or some sort of living encyclopedia. God is a sentient being: a person; a whole person.

In the case of God being love; it's not strictly emotion. Love can be expressed in kindness, sympathy, courtesy, patience, nurturing, concern, thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and charity. And it's possible to love people without liking them.

Personally, I love my wife because I like her. But I don't like my next door neighbors. They cut some limbs off one of my trees without talking to me about it first. But although I don't like my neighbors; I'm still civil towards them; and I think God is a lot like that. He probably can't stand most of us, but continues to let us drink His water and breathe His air; and all without charging anybody a single red cent.

Since God is eternal life, then by default, He is the one and only source of eternal life. And since He is love, then by default, He is the one and only source of love. As a rule, human beings tolerate neighbors from hell only because they know it's the right thing to do; but God tolerates neighbors from hell because it is His nature to tolerate them. Lots of Christians are good at imitating the love of God; but precious few are able to duplicate it because Almighty God is the custodian of His own nature.

Objection: For what purpose is God love?

I seriously doubt God is love for a *purpose. Would you rather the Bible's God be a Hitler, a Sadam Hussein, or a Pol Pot? Why can't the Bible's God just be a good natured guy without there being a reason for it? Do you yourself need a reason to be good before you'll be good?

Motivation                                 

There is a grace that any Christian would do well to obtain. The example of it is found in 2Cor 8:9. It's *compassion. Compassion causes us to be concerned enough about others to do something to help them out.

But be careful. The amount of money Christians donate to charity is their own business, but there is one principle we are all supposed to observe: Never go beyond your means.

According to 2Cor 9:3; Christians should help others with what they have, not with what they wish they had nor with what they expect to have. Paul commended the Macedonians for desiring to help others to the point where they themselves would be overextended. But please don't try to read something into 2Cor 9:3 that just can't be supported by the text. If you give someone your life jacket and put yourself in jeopardy of drowning because you can't swim, that's all very heroic and noble, but you've exceeded your limits. The Macedonians were willing to go that far but Paul stopped them.

Give some thought to your limitations, and then act wisely. According to 2Cor 9:12, if there first be a willing mind, it is accepted according to what we already have, and not what we hope to have later on.

The grace of liberality is not just a practice; it's in the heart, a personality, a felt desire to help others. Most of us are pretty good at accepting responsibility, but how do you really feel about it? If you're motivated by compassion, the rest will easily take care of itself. Chapter nine of 2Corinthians focuses on this very thing. Study it carefully.

While good is coming your way, it would be nice to share it. If you are the type who likes to make a pledge, that's fine too but please don't unless you really have the means to make good on it.

Ecc 5:1-6 ...Keep your mouth from being rash, and let not your throat be quick to bring forth speech before God. For God is in heaven and you are on earth; that is why your words should be few. Just as dreams come with much brooding, so does foolish utterance come with much speech. When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. For He has no pleasure in fools; what you vow, fulfill. It is better not to vow at all than to vow and not fulfill. Don’t let your mouth bring you into disfavor, and don’t plead before the messenger that it was an error, but fear God; else God may be angered by your talk and destroy your possessions. For much dreaming leads to futility and to superfluous talk.

Joanne and I used to support a missionary through an organization called CB International. But our missionary wasn't a Bible toting missionary. She specialized in burn therapy. For a long time she worked in Pakistan and around India and China. We believe she was doing something really useful so we were very happy to support her.

We also support a thirty minute Bible study program on the radio. It's goes out practically all over the whole world in a polyglot of languages. It's a five year trip through the entire Bible and then they start all over again.

We also support an organization called Jews For Jesus, a Jewish evangelistic group based in San Francisco.

And we support a local rescue shelter too.

We know from 2Cor 9:7 God approves of whole-hearted giving. So if believers have to give reluctantly, out of duty, they're missing the boat and actually going about it all wrong. So please make very sure your charity goes into programs that satisfy you. And into programs that you can support with whole-hearted enthusiasm and good will. We feel very good about sending money to that therapist, and to that Bible study program, and to the Jews, and to the shelter. That's what cheerful giving is all about. Those ministries are not a burden to us at all. No, it's our pleasure to support them.

Where To Attend Church?    

Although we've attended Wesleyan and non denominational Community churches, our own background has been with mostly Conservative Baptist churches. We spent about 23 years in those. You can probably find one in your area listed in the Yellow Pages. But depending on your own specific needs, another denomination might be better; e.g. the Wesleyan single's group I attended for a while.

However, no matter how holy and sanctified it appears, and no matter how much thought you put into the selection, the church you choose will still be infested with people who are secular and with others who do not actually believe the Bible even though they attend Sunday school and listen to the Pastor's sermons. That's perfectly normal and to be expected. Even the upper room, the holiest place on earth you could imagine, on the night Jesus ate his final pesach, was infiltrated by the Devil; so you guys be careful out there; watch your back, and don't expect your church to be perfect. Church is an assembly of human beings, and human beings are inherently imperfect.

 

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