“The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence

The compendium 25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics (edited by Julia L. Roller and published in 2011) includes The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, saying of it: “It is estimated than in the more than three centuries since [it] was first published, more Christians have read it than any book other than the Bible.”

I am thrilled to hear this because I have such a high regard for this little book.  See my post: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

Dialogue with “ExChristian.Net” (re: Heaven and Hell)

Last month I came across a post called “Hell – Roots” on a site called ExChristian.net.  I thought this provided a good opportunity to tell the news of how everyone is going to heaven.  I was confirming the thesis of the post – which was that an eternal afterlife of hell was not something people needed to worry about.  I was thus taken by surprise at the hostility toward my message. 

The tone of the dialogue is decidedly less edifying than that of Dialogue with “Common Sense Atheism” that I posted earlier today.  In fact, so upset were they with my message that they banned me from the site.  Thus I was responding to various challenges when I found the comment mechanism inoperable for me and saw the pop-up “You have been banned from commenting on this site,” or something to that effect.

While this experience was jarring, I attribute it to the fact that it is a site intended for proselytizing.  That is, they are welcoming “de-converted Christians” and don’t want anyone making comments that might interfere with that process.  While I don’t consider that attitude wise, it does make their action rational. 

It interests me to juxtapose in my mind this dialogue with the Dialogue with Don and Robert (re: Heaven and Hell).  In both cases, you have people rejecting the idea that everyone is going to heaven on the basis that it is not true.  The former – atheists – believe it’s not true because they don’t believe anyone is going.  The latter – Christians – believe it’s not true because they believe only they are going. 

I would have thought a group of exChristians (or at least some of them) would be interested in the idea that they could reject what was wrong with modern-day Christianity without having to reject what was right with it (that is, hold on to the baby of Christ and throw out the bath water of churchianity).  I learned something.  Here then is that conversation (I show up in the comments as “mdgantt”).

Why I Am For Christ…but Don’t Call Myself a Christian

I love Jesus Christ.  He is the one true God.  And He’s the God not just of Christians, but of all humanity.  This is why I don’t call myself a Christian.  I don’t want to be set apart from rest of the human race; I want to be one with it.

Christianity today has become Churchianity.  That is, it’s devoted not to Christ but to itself.  Church has become an idol – meaning it interferes with the true worship of God.  Church behavior is one of the biggest obstacles to people seeing Christ.  The church doesn’t need to be reformed, it needs to be abandoned.

I don’t mind being called a Christian, especially if it brings glory to Christ.  And I love it when Christians promote Christ.  But Christians who promote church or themselves do not honor Christ.  Moreover, when most people call themselves Christians they are setting themselves apart from their fellow human beings – as if there’s a pecking order in humanity.  This does not please God, and therefore it’s not something I want to encourage.

Jesus died for the whole human race that we all might go to heaven.  For this reason, we all should repent.  But repentance doesn’t mean going to church it means loving God and your neighbor.  It means purifying your heart before God, not wearing a label and associating with supposedly holy people.

As the song says, “Jesus is the answer for the world today; above Him there’s no other, Jesus is the way.”  Christians should not be followed, but Christ should.

I don’t want to be called Christian.  I don’t want to be called anything.  I only want Him to be called Lord.  And for Hi m to call me obedient.

Related posts:

Spiritual Christianity Versus Social Christianity

True Christianity

Dialogue with Don (re: Church)

In this discussion, Don is objecting to my position on church.  I believe that it is unnecessary, as I make clear in like Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church as well as in the title of the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.  Don’s position is the traditional evangelical Christian view that involvement in church is necessary to pleasing Jesus.

Don and I went to high school together a little over forty years ago.  We’ve interacted only sporadically since then.  This dialogue originally took place as a comment exchange a couple of months ago.  If you want see it in its original context, see The Church Adds Its Ideas to God’s Ideas.  I’ve done only minor editing here, and that for the sake of readability.

Mike:  Jesus calls us to come to Him.  The church adds that this means we should come to church (even though Jesus never said this).

Jesus says that we should be generous.  The church adds that this means we should give money to the church (even though Jesus never said this).

Jesus says that we should honor Him.  The church adds that this means we should honor the church as we would honor Him (even though Jesus never said this).

Jesus says that we should acknowledge Him as Lord of our lives.  The church adds that we cannot do this without being an active part of a church (even though Jesus never said this).

The church preaches the truth but adds to it ideas of their own that are not truth.  You must be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Jesus is the wheat.  Everything else is chaff.

Don:  What do you mean by “the church?”

Mike:  The organizations that call themselves churches today. I used a singular term to describe them as a group but there are, of course, tens of thousands of Christian denominations and countless non-denominational churches. Regardless of their number, the characterizations I gave generally apply to them all, but especially to the more biblically-oriented ones.

By the way, I applaud any church when it preaches Jesus – not because it is a church, but because it is preaching Jesus.

Don: There are some very complicated statements that you made and to respond to them would be more lengthy than what you said. However, let me give you some basic responses. No, Jesus during his earthly ministry did not recommend the organizational structure of the local church, however it was illustrated in things that he did. He discipled people in ministry, illustrated baptism and the Lord’s supper. He did advocate and also lead what could be described as congregational meetings and outreach services. People that were discipled by Him did outline the basic structure in the local church elsewhere in the New Testament. He advocated helping the poor, widows, sick, prisoners, orphaned, etc. How are you going to do this without money. He did say, “Give and it will be given unto you.” Paul in the epistles particularly when writing to the Church at Corinth mentioned the taking of offerings to supply the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem who had suffered a great deal. Paul also talked about those who preach receiving funds for their ministry. Christians meeting together eventually build buildings for their activities. The people that attend give money to pay for those buildings. The funds are also used for mission activities and preaching the gospel, feeding the needy and so many other things. Are we perfect in our fellowships and gathering places, no, but most are trying to do well in honoring Christ. Also, when speaking of the church you need to consider that The Church is referred to as the bride of Christ.

Mike: You paint a vivid picture of how churches today have departed from Jesus’ commands and from the practices of the New Testament church. Instead of giving to “the poor, widows, sick, prisoners, orphaned, etc.” today’s churches collect for their buildings – just as you say. Sure, some of that money goes to the poor, but only a fraction. As you also rightly say, the New Testament church collected in one city to send to its poor in another city. Churches today do not do that; they collect for themselves (and maybe give a fraction elsewhere). Are most people in today’s churches trying to do right in the sight of God? Yes, but so are many people who don’t attend church.

As for “the church” being the bride of Christ, that was spoken of the New Testament church which was one undivided body. The apostles rebuked even the beginnings of division (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Yet today’s churches exist in tens of thousands of different denominations, and even more nondenominational churches, thoroughly demonstrating that it is not the kingdom of God because of its divided state (Matthew 12:25).

The Kingdom of God is in our midst. It is available to everyone, whether they go to church or not. Those who trust and obey Jesus are seeking it. This trusting and seeking means keeping His commandments. Your acknowledgement that Jesus did not command church attendance should make you think. If going to church was essential to our pleasing Him, why would He not command it? And if we say that it is essential when He didn’t, are we not adding to the word of God our own man-made commandments?

Dialogues

I began publishing “dialogues” on this blog today.  Initially, there are four of them.  Three with atheists who challenge my message and one with Christians who challenge it.  The dialogues with the three atheists are ongoing.  The one with the two Christians occurred several months ago and is concluded.  Other dialogues may be added over time.

I hasten to add that I don’t like using labels like “atheist” and “Christian” because they can cubbyhole and divide people.  Therefore, I don’t really look at the individuals with whom I’m conversing through these lenses.  I just use them to help organize the content on the site to help people find their way to content that interests them.  Therefore, “atheist” in this context is simply a way of saying that the dialogue is based on someone challenging my reasons for having faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible.  “Christian” in this context means someone is challenging my position when it departs from traditional church-based Christianity.  The “Dialogues with Atheists,” therefore, are usually about who Jesus was while “Dialogues with Christians” are usually about what Jesus teaches.  Thus, to help you find discussions which are relevant to you interests I use these categories.  However, I eschew all such labels for people and consider us all part of the same human race – the one for whom Christ died.

All these dialogues are civil arguments, conversational debates.  If we all communicate truthfully with, and respectfully toward, each other, we will all learn from each other.  And those who read the exchanges will learn as well.  May the best ideas (that is, the truth of God) prevail – regardless of how many of us get to utter a piece of it.

The first three Dialogues with Atheists are Dialogue with Ken, Dialogue with Willy, and Dialogue with Rob.

The first Dialogues with Christians is Dialogue with Don and Robert.