I was born and raised in the suburbs of New Jersey as a Roman Catholic. As a kid I had the normal suburbanite upbringing as well as the normal youthful dilemmas that come from anti-authority, cynical, and a general dislike for religious overtones.
The Roman Catholic religion, while I grew up, had to be spoon fed to us because “we people were too stupid to understand what the bible said.” (Those were not my words, but those of the Priest of our local parish.) Mystery is great for television, but not for religion. Although, there is some mystery within the bible, but most of which has a distinct meaning and can be gleaned from the text and through researching some of the commentaries. There are certain things within that will ever remain a mystery until the second coming of Christ.
I left home at the age of 18 when I joined the military, in which I served 12 years of service. I served 3 years over in Germany (beautiful Country!) and returned to the US in 1988, back to Nebraska from whence I came originally. It was about that time my wife started going to church with her mom and in some point in time I started going, too. I ended up getting many of the answers that I could not get from Catholicism. I was reading the bible daily and then I committed my life to Jesus, under the flag of Pentecostalism. Things were going well and then my dad died in 1989. It was a tough blow but was able to keep things together, but regretted many chances I threw away through which I could have become closer to my dad. But of course we each must carry a burden, or two, but we also need tho learn to forgive ourselves, as well. Moving on in life with the knowledge that we have learned a valuable lesson.
It was during this time (1988-1990) that I attained my Associates in Applied Science of Avionics and followed-on to attain my Bachelor of Science in Electronics-Management. After which I left the military in 1992. In 1993, I began working for the USPS which has provided my family with a good living…I am truly blessed.
Now 1995 was an interesting year. While reading the bible and watching how the church (that i was attending) ran itself were not exactly according to the biblical mandates. The Pastor was trying to run things his way and the Deacon Board was blocking many of his moves. Almost like how our government runs itself…nothing but power play after power play. Then, it came to a head: The pastor was tendering his resignation and this particular church was going through another split. Seems to be pretty common throughout the evangelical world, these days. I had come to realize a very important lesson during this period. Back to the Pastor, there were rumors flying and apparently they panned out to be true. He was spreading the Word of God from the pulpit and it turned out the rumors turned out to be true. My wife and I split from the original church to follow the pastor to his new church…only to leave that church.
Lesson #1: Do not follow people, Follow the Christ and imitate the likes of Jesus in your actions!
Afterward, I looked for another church – same denomination – other problems plagued the other two churches I visited. One finagled a way to use the funds from the general fund to build their new sanctuary; the other I visited was looking for “special donations” to upgrade the carpet. Of course, in my opinion, the carpets were fine. Neither of these churches was working in their biblical best, as per the book of Acts (in my humble opinion). So this lead me to my next profound lesson…there was a quote, not certain if it is correct but it went like this “…to name me is to define me…”, or “…to name me is to kill me…”
Lesson #2: Beware of Religion(s) and denominations, by their very nature when you become a member YOU subscribe & acquiesce to their specific doctrine or dogma!
[For example: If they do not believe in dancing or drinking – you must stop doing both, otherwise, you commit a sin in the church’s eye. But that is not exactly scripturally based.]
Then, the latter part of the 1990’s I read the bible and by the early 2000’s I began to flounder.
2 Peter 2:21-22 (NKJV)
For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
In other words, I was the dog! I didn’t quite give up on God, but nor was I true to my faith. I had fallen back into many of my old ways. Don’t get me wrong, Just because I am a Christian does not prevent me from sinning, but it is a test (of sort) to see how you will fare in hard times with respect to your faith…and I failed miserably! Good, bad, or indifferent…we are all blessed with the greatest gift God could ever endow man with – FREEWILL. Freewill is a double-edged blade; it can be both good and bad but it all depends how you handle it and use it! I have been blessed over the years to have certain people who are Christian to cross my path, enabling and encouraging me. This brings about lesson 3…
Lesson #3: The only doctrine that you should follow is that of the Biblical text! Always place it into context with the Bible as a whole work.
They say that you can’t do anything and it is God who does it all. There is some truth to that statement, but is also misleading. I did all the running I could to get away from God’s grasp, but you just cannot out run God if he had decreed you to be one of his flock! If you do not believe me just ponder on David, Job, Jonah, the Tower of Babel, and Saul (who later became the Apostle Paul.) If God wants you, you will be guided to do so all while using your freewill. God will give each of us a chance to change our ways up until we lose the breath of life that resides within us.
I am the type of person who needs to be on a mission, if you can understand that. I am one who has to be assigned something, otherwise I will not do much of anything! I became an ordained minister, as they will be judged far more severely than anyone else it seemed to be the perfect fire to be built under my backside to get me into gear. And I guess that is just what I needed! I was awarded my Ph. D. for Philosophy in Religion, perhaps in time I will seek my D. D. When it is all over and done with they are just pieces of paper with little to no meaning other than to the person whose name is on the “Awarded to” line. In this technical & information age within which we resided a church could in-fact be on-line; because it is written:
Matthew 18:19-21 (NKJV)
“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
The church is in all reality the people that comprise it. I have problems with religious doctrine and dogma which usurp power and meaning over the Scriptures. I have some problems with big churches, and smaller ones for that matter, which permit politics to get in the way of God’s Word. I also have BIG problems with many of the so-called corporate churches, 501(c)3 tax exempt status from the IRS; but that can actually be a separate blog topic. I do have some problems with Pastors which perform full-time in the clergy, some of them take advantage of that and others do not; I am personally in agreement with the Apostle Paul where he told us that we should not be a burden to other – hence, he had a job to provide for his own needs. But there are two sides to that particular argument.
I have realigned my life with God, through Jesus. I have rededicated my life as a Christian, nothing more because to follow the Christ is all you need…it is all written down. I do not claim nor will I ever claim a denominational belief system which will require of me an allegiance to them.
I am 53 and still uncertain where my piece of the puzzle is, but I know it is out there. I still have not entered, nor found, a home church as of yet but I know that I will be driven to it. One thing I need to do is to look at the churches in the area, which I have been looking at them and taking careful note on the denomination(s). While mending from a hip replacement I do seem to have plenty of time on my hands. Of course, some people did not make their mark until they hit their 60’s or older.
Godspeed my friends!
I hope this gave you a little insight to me.