Tag: church life

The Bible Says [insert your interpretation here]

bibleI cringe when I hear someone say “the Bible says….”. It’s not that I don’t believe in the Bible or that the Bible doesn’t have truths about God but I have seen how people will use the Bible to support their arguments.

Since my father passed away in November I have been studying various beliefs about what happens after we die. I’m not obsessed with this study nor do I think I’m going to find the absolute answer but it has been interesting to learn the various interpretations of what the Bible says.  If you’ve never done this before let me tell you that there are a lot of beliefs out there.

I typed “what happens when Christians die” in the search of YouTube and the first one was a guy who was absolutely certain that when we die that we stay in the grave until the Second Coming of Christ. This is what some folks commonly refer to as “soul sleep”. I had a few Bible passages that I was curious how he would explain. One passage was when Christ was on the cross and told the thief that “today you will be with me in paradise”. That seemed to be pretty clear to me and totally disproved the theology of soul sleep. This guy explained this verse that the comma was in the wrong place with the word “today”. He never really explained his proof about the incorrect punctuation.  Then there are those who are militant in their beliefs against the soul sleep theory and even call it heresy.  I wouldn’t exactly call it that and besides, we have no control of what happens to us when we die.

Therein lies the problem with people using the Bible to win an argument. I don’t think you can ever use the Bible in an argument.  I have seen this happen so many times that anyone can slant the Bible in the direction to support their position. I have known people who were strictly opposed to certain things and used their Bible to back them up until they were personally affected by that situation then they suddenly saw the Bible in a different view about the issue.  Just last week I heard about someone who said the Bible prohibited wearing different materials of clothing.  Seriously?  Now, let me tell you that I came from an extreme Pentecostal upbringing and I never heard of that.  I am sure if it were in there that we would have followed it along with the other “advice to members”.

All of my life the church would talk about “rightly dividing the Word” but I always saw how people would divide it in support of their view – or what they would call – their conviction.  I have always been suspicious of people who propose that they have the truth about what the Bible says.

Once upon a time I went to church with a couple who strongly opposed divorce and remarriage yet they changed their judgment on this when their precious son divorced and remarried. They explained it that the first marriage was a “mistake” since they were young and got divorced so quickly. Yes, it was okay then. Funny how our judgments can change when the issue lands on us.

I’ve never been one to debate anyone about the Bible because it is never a winnable situation. I have never seen someone back down and defer to what the Bible says. Instead people are more likely to use the Bible back against you with their handpicked verses.

When I grew up in the church, we were taught that the King James Version of the Bible was the truth Word of God.  A  lot of people still believe this today.  Some are adamant that the King James Version of the Bible is the only true version of the Bible.  What’s funny is that people think that this is how Jesus talked.  Jesus did not speak in the King James English.  He spoke most in Aramaic.  When I used to watch people speak in tongues and when they would give the interpretation if it wasn’t in the King James language then it wasn’t viewed as being from God.  This is ridiculous.  I’m sorry but we get hung up on the silliest things.  It is no wonder that people have a poor view of Christians.  We have embarrassed God and made Him out to be something that He is not.

This is part of the problem with quoting the Bible to support your position.  You can’t always simply pick a single verse or passage.  There are several things you need to consider:

  1. Context – You can’t always just take one verse.  You have to read verses before and after the verse and even other passages to get the context of what was being said.
  2. Culture – You need to consider how people lived during that time period and what their manners and customs were in order to fully understand some passages.
  3. Language – The Bible was translated from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and some passages need a word study since things aren’t always translated word-for-word.
  4. History – The Bible must also line up with historical records.  The Books of the Bible aren’t arranged chronologically so it can be a little confusing to establish the correct timetables.

The King James Version was originally translated by 47 scholars from the Church of England.  The New Testament was translated from Greek and the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew and Aramaic.  This is no easy task since you can’t always translate every word from one language to another and many times it comes down to man’s interpretation of it.  So there’s a big issue right there.

I had a preacher one time tell me that I was sinning because I wasn’t obeying the verse in Genesis 1:28 that said to be “fruitful and multiply” because I hadn’t had children yet.  I quickly pointed out that this was IN THE BEGINNING and it was for Adam and Eve to populate the Earth.  Good grief.  This man had lots of children of his own and wasn’t doing a good job taking care of the kids he had.

Do I believe the Bible?  Yes.  I do think there are some truths in it but I am careful in searching it for myself.  I also try not to force feed it to someone else.   When you go to the Bible, it involves in digging it out in order to understand it.  That’s what preachers are supposed to do.  I am sure there are some out there who are doing their best with this.  I am not going to be critical of them but I always caution people to never, ever simply just rely upon the preacher to interpret scripture for you.  Some are sincere in their translation to you but be very careful not to follow people.  Also, don’t just type an issue in the search box and believe everything someone says.  Remember:  Just because someone can post a video on YouTube doesn’t mean it is true.

Back in the early 1990s, the church denomination I was a member of had a great debate about the wearing of wedding rings.  For years it was prohibited by the church to wear any jewelry.  This great wedding ring debate caused enormous divisions within the church, in fact, several groups left to create their own organizations because of it.  When I approached my pastor that I was going to wear my wedding ring, he denied that the church had even passed that members could wear wedding rings.  He went on to lecture me about this and that he was disappointed in me with the background I had in the church.  Yes, you are reading this right.  Just simply the issue of wearing a wedding ring.  For years the church used the scripture in 1 Peter 3:3 that says “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry….”  Funny but I never saw a rule against braiding hair but they certainly made a rule against wearing jewelry.  The church did actually change to allow wedding rings much to the dismay of that pastor and many of the strict thinkers.

So what changed?  Did God change?  Nope, it was man’s interpretation of what God had said.

So how can you study the Bible for yourself?  Here are some things I would suggest:

  1. Choose a topic or passage.   I would NOT recommend to start reading the Bible like a book from page 1. You will lose interest when you get to Leviticus.  Trust me.
  2. Find relevant verses on the topic or passage to get the context.  Use a good concordance.
  3. Get the background.  Who is writing this passage? Who are they writing to? Why are they writing it?
  4. Read multiple translations.  Don’t just use the King James Version.  The Amplified Bible is a good one as well as the New International Version.
  5. Read Bible commentaries. 
  6. Pray about what you are reading.  It only makes sense to get help from the book’s author.

If you are a believer, stop hitting people over the head with your King James Bible (or any Bible) and stop arguing with Bible verses. It’s not going to work and you aren’t going to convert anyone that way.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The First Sundays of August

first sundayWhen I was growing up as the son of a preacher man, the first Sunday of August marked the beginning of a new church year in our denomination.  Over the course of 18 years at home, seven of those first Sundays in August were the first Sunday in a new church.  Let me tell you that those first Sundays in a new church were scary.  I never liked them.  The preacher’s family is always in a fish bowl but never as much as that first Sunday when everyone is checking out the new preacher and his family.  It was never a fun experience for me and perhaps one reason I am quite reserved in the beginning when I meet new people or I am in a new situation.

Kids are cruel and I have experienced that first hand in the church and before any first day in a new school.  In many of these first Sundays I heard their unfiltered comments.  “He’s ugly” or “He looks nerdy” were the ones that pierced my feelings the most.  Yes, it was a cruel initiation at a new church.  Unfortunately, if the parents didn’t like my dad being the pastor, the kids took it out on me.  I was just part of the collateral damage to their dislike for him.  It wasn’t always like this but I would say it happened more than not.

My dad pastored churches in Georgia.  The worst memory of all was a small community in South Georgia named Axson.  It wasn’t even a city but it has lasting injuries on my memories.  My dad replaced a long-time pastor who was related to many of the members so that first Sunday was filled with people checking us out.  This little community church had a lot of folks who were involved in tobacco farming which was a bit interesting since our church taught that smoking was a sin.  Not sure how they worked all that out in their salvation but they were a tough bunch.  The first Sunday I heard the kids’ cruel comments and their snickers as I would pass by.  No one wanted to befriend me or even attempt to talk to me.  I was an outsider and they were intent on keeping it that way.  They made my life hell especially on the school bus where they would sit in the back of the bus and flip me off.  I would have complained to the bus driver – and he did witness it – but he was related to them too.  Yeah, some things you can’t forget – even 40 years or so later.  Our time at this church didn’t last long as it became just too much to overcome the adversity.

So the first Sundays at a new church weren’t always a great experience and unfortunately the bad experiences burn into our memory more than the good ones but there were some good experiences.  I remember two.  The first Sundays in Villa Rica and Savannah were the best ones I have memories of.  Both churches had teens that actually talked to me the first Sunday and included me as a part of their group.  When I say teens I’m not talking about a huge megachurch.  Back in those days and in the church I was a part of, a “big” church would be a congregation of 50 or more.  Most were not.  After the Axson experience, the young people at Villa Rica was the next “first Sunday” at a new church and was a total opposite of the bad I had gone through in that nasty little family church.  (No love lost there)  The young people at Villa Rica made me feel at home from the first Sunday.  I still remember the Smiths and the Horsleys and how they were some of the coolest people I ever met.  The first Sunday in Savannah was also very welcoming as well.  I also loved the city.  It was my last “first Sunday” I was experience at a new church.

The other churches were Valdosta, Moultrie, Temple and Homeland.  You’d probably need to Google it to find Temple and Homeland.  I was too young to really remember the first churches in Valdosta and Moultrie.

I have to tell the story about Temple.  The church was actually called “Oak Hill” and was probably the smallest church my dad ever pastored.  It was on a hill somewhere near Temple, Georgia but there wasn’t a tree on the entire property and most definitely absent of any oak trees.  I don’t think I ever heard why it was ever called “Oak Hill”.  My dad was appointed to this church after leaving a one-year stay in Moultrie, Georgia.  We left a church that had a parsonage (a house for the pastor and family) to Oak Hill which did not have a residence for the pastor.  My parents were unable to find a place to live in the short time to relocate there.  With time running out, we decided to temporarily move into the Sunday School rooms in back of the church.  It wasn’t a huge issue since the church was so small that they were using the Sunday School rooms anyway.  The issue for us was that the church did not have “modern” bathrooms.  The only facilities were two outhouses on the property.  Yep, outhouses – like Little House on the Prairie days.  We used them too and at my age I saw it as an adventure but my parents weren’t so enthused about it.  We each took baths in my small kiddie swimming pool.  I can’t remember exactly how we did that but it was quite an interesting temporary situation.  Eventually we were blessed with an opportunity to buy a mobile home and set it up on the property.  If memory serves me correctly, our pioneer days experience lasted for about three months.

As far as my first Sunday at Oak Hill….there’s not much to say about it since the church had no kids or teens at all.  I was the youngest one there so there wasn’t any peer pressure to deal with.  In the year at that church, my mother was my Sunday School teacher and there were some Sundays that we were the only ones my dad had in attendance for his sermon.  Yes, it was small.

Those seven first Sundays formed me.  Not just that one day but in the other Sundays that followed.  It wasn’t a charmed life.  Learning the new people.  Knowing who you could trust and who were a bad influence.  It probably had a lot to do with my introverted ways.  I wouldn’t always open up too much too soon until I got to know people.  Many times people would comment about how quiet I was.  I was quiet but I learned to observe people first and I still do that even today.

These first Sundays in August prepared me for the other firsts such as the first days on a new job.  In reflection those church Sundays might have prepared me for dealing with the new situations as an adult.  I have learned that the person who tells you office gossip on the first day is always the person who is the problem in the office.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to name those people here.  I can tell you I learned that perception in the first Sundays in church and it has been true every time.  I can also tell you that nobody in your new place cares about what successes you have had in other places, you always have to proof yourself with the new people.

Today is the first Sunday of August but I’m glad that I’m not in a new church this morning.

First Sunday In August

I have some memories about the first Sunday in August.   

Growing up as a preachers kid in Georgia, this particular Sunday signaled the beginning of a new church year in our church organization.   Six times while I was living at home, this was our first Sunday at a new church.  Meeting people I had never met before and being guarded about what I did and what I said.  It was a fish bowl existence for me and probably the main reason I have an introverted personality today.  Even now, it takes me a while to warm up to new people or a new place.  I am also careful to not open up too much too soon. 

There are some things we learned about these experiences.  

  • The first person to tell you all the problems of a church was always the one that was the troublemaker.  I remember at one church we had barely got moved into the parsonage before someone came and told us about the problems of the church.  That was the person who turned out to be the problem.  
  • You learn to be very observant and know the motives of people.  Just watch and it doesn’t take long until their true colors come out.  You would assume that you shouldn’t have to think about these things with church people but the reality can be very sobering.  
  • People who bragged on themselves and what they did in the church were usually the ones that you couldn’t get to do anything after the “honeymoon period” was over.   Some people just simply resist submitting to authority.  They don’t want a pastor to lead them.

I know it sounds negative but I’m just telling you the experience I had with this.  Opinions will vary depending on who you ask but I know other preacher’s kids who had very similar experiences.  It just always amazed me how things developed from that first Sunday.   God – and people – work in mysterious ways.

If I can be totally transparent with you, I would have to admit the worst first Sunday experience was in a tiny community church in Axson, Georgia.  Man, those folks were tough and the kids my age didn’t cut me any slack at all.  They made fun of me and keep me as the outsider.  On the other end of the first Sunday in August was the first Sunday in Villa Rica.  The kids there accepted me from the first time we met.  Both of those experiences have stayed with me even today.  I look at some fondly and others not so much.  

Thankfully I don’t have to deal with the first Sunday of August the same anymore.  

Scars Behind The Pulpit

1004042_4755874105948_1857431354_n

It was a year ago today that my mother passed away.  I know it’s a cliché but it’s hard to believe that she’s gone.

My mother had a lot of scars.  They were scars you couldn’t see on the outside.

She grew up as a preacher’s kid along with her other five sisters.  (She is pictured above in the lower right)  She used to tell the story of how she never wanted to marry a preacher yet in twist of fate she ended up being married to one and spent many years being the preacher’s wife.  Of course, that made me a preacher’s kid when I came along.

Being a preacher’s wife is not the glamorous life for many.  It’s a life where you have to put on a face and live the way your are EXPECTED to live.  Everything you do is magnified, especially the negative.  My mother endured at many churches.   If you think being the first-lady of a church is filled with people who are the true model of Christians, think again.  There are many good people but there are many others who judge the preacher’s wife unfairly or discover that she is human with her own flaws, quirks and pains.

Being “ON” every service is not the easiest thing to do.  Preacher’s wives will be watched all the time and you are expected to be everything to everyone.  It would surprise you the things people do and say.  My mother took it all.  She heard the criticisms of my father and me from others as well.  As you know, it’s hard enough to be criticized but when people criticize the ones you love it’s even more difficult.

Yet you’re supposed to keep the smile on your face…..even if you suffer from migraine headaches.  My mother suffered a lot with those headaches and church members were mostly unsympathetic about her pain since it was “just” a headache or even that she wasn’t healed.  Yet, they would often complain about the slightest ailment and expect to be coddled.  The empathy for pain never seemed to work both ways.

In thinking about my mother’s life, I think the breaking point came in June 1989 when her father died.  She was never the same after that.  In addition to her headaches, her heart broke.  I will never know fully what she went through.   Our relationship suffered too.  Several times she told me how sad she was and how she wish she could just die to be with her daddy.  I believed that pain was a dark cloud over her the rest of her life.

I never desired to become a preacher myself although many people tried to call me.   I saw too much on how it was more than just preaching a sermon behind a pulpit every Sunday morning.  A preacher’s calling affects the entire family.

A year ago when I read on Facebook that my mother had passed away.  I hated every church member that ever mistreated her and the scar it left inside of her and how it affected the rest of her life.  I cursed the cult that we were associated with and glad that I was no longer a part of it.  I talked to God a lot during these days last year.  As the days passed, I began to think of how her pain has now turned to gain for where she is now.  No more physical pain and the scars in her heart are healed by the master physician.

A preacher’s wife is not the carbon copy of the mother of Jesus.   She is human and at times, she’s not going to feel like putting on the face.   Cut her some slack.  Don’t be so mean.  If you can’t say something encouraging then don’t say anything at all.  She has feelings just like you do.  You have no idea if she is at a breaking point or what she is dealing with inside.

If you are considering marrying a preacher – especially pastor of a church – consider it very carefully.   While it is a noble and honorable desire to support someone you love in the ministry, you need to be aware of these:

  • Prepare for criticism.
  • You will be watched all the time.
  • Believe it or not, there are some really mean people who claim to be Christians.
  • Your husband will need you to be his cheerleader much more than in most any other profession.
  • Create a safe place for you and your family.
  • Don’t neglect your own time with God.

If you are already a preacher’s wife, I would say for you to be strong and stay the course.  Never, ever compromise on being yourself.  Understand that you will never make everyone happy.  Also keep in mind that other people’s opinion of you is not as important as God’s opinion of you.  Be quick to forgive and let things go.

I hope that the words to this song is true for my mother today:

“So, I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down.  I will cling to the old rugged Cross.  And exchange it some day for a crown.”