For church last Sunday, I attended the LCMS church service and Sunday school class, as has become my custom, and also what I call the “Word of Faith” church, which I have not visited in a while. Here are some items:
A. Philippians 1:27 states: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (KJV). The “Word of Faith” pastor said that Paul was exhorting the Philippian Christians to act as citizens of the Kingdom of God. This was appropriate for Christians in Philippi, which was a Roman province and had a lot of Roman citizens. That reminded me of something that the LCMS pastor said a few weeks ago in Bible study: “Octavian—-when he became Caesar Augustus—-established the city as a colony/city ruled directly by Rome and encouraged Roman citizens and veterans of the Praetorian Guard to settle there.”
B. Among other things, I am currently reading Neil Baulch’s Stop Preaching God’s Love, for Heaven’s Sake!: The Root Problem in the Church Today. See here to download the book for free. Baulch does not deny that God is loving, but Baulch believes that there is a disproportionate emphasis on that in the church today. Jesus preached repentance, warned of hell, and was often not meek and mild in his interactions; he could be snarky, even with his disciples. Jesus did not heal everyone but often healed or helped those who sought him out and came to him. I was thinking about this book in my church activities. The LCMS pastor shared that a friend of his is getting his second divorce and, while the pastor initially judged the friend, the pastor concluded that his friend must be in pain and needed love, not condemnation. The LCMS teacher said that Jesus made the first move in salvation: the person wronged went proactively to the people who wronged him and arranged for their forgiveness. Someone in the class said that being a disciple of Jesus means asking Jesus questions in an attempt to understand; indeed, Jesus’s disciples asked him questions, but there was a time when they were afraid to do so (Mark 9:32). The “Word of Faith” pastor said that Jesus received life from the Father and poured it into people around him. All of these things, both what Baulch observes and what people at church said, are part of who Jesus is.
C. Church was tough today, since I was being instructed in sermons and teachings to do things that I did not want to do: enthusiastically share my faith, forgive liberally rather than dosing it out to those I think deserve it, get to know my next-door neighbors and reach out to them in love, be consistently loving, treat others as more important than myself, and go against the flow of people around me in my walk with Christ, receiving opposition and even hatred. Some things that were said hit close to home. The Sunday school teacher said that we were supposed to imitate Jesus: we are not to say, “Well, that’s what Jesus would do, but I’ll do my own thing.” The “Word of Faith” pastor said that a lot of people are happy when things go their way, but Jesus’s joy is different; he also said that many people crave validation and are upset when they are ignored or rejected, or their opinions are devalued; they may even refuse to love the person back. Jesus, he said, struggled on the cross with God forsaking him but came to give his spirit into God’s hands. I would prefer to be by myself, or with people I am used to, and read or listen to podcasts, without having to interact with too many outsiders. Spirituality is still a part of my life, since it interests me and provides me with personal edification. Service still fits into my life somewhere, since I figure that I am serving people when I blog or write reviews about books. People may not think these things are enough, though. Yet, I still incorporate some of the things I heard Sunday morning into my life. A therapist suggested that I say hello to people and use their names even if they do not entirely reciprocate, since it is better to give than to receive; I have found that to be a helpful rule in my life.