Saturday, January 4, 2020

01/04/2020, SATURDAY, REFERENCE TO APPALACHIAN IRISHMAN


Well, 10/31/16 Halloween was over three years ago! Today, 1/4/2020, Saturday, I just read my 10/31/16 last post. I would not change a word today!

On 12/31/19, at 6:36 PM, I received an e-mail from a lady, whom we knew, and her husband, back in our Dexter, Missouri, preparation days, before our five-year missionary work in Russia (10/1/94 to 9/30/99). I had received five sporadic e-mails from this good lady, from 10/2/2003 to 8/19/2008, until the latest and sixth email. The timing of this good lady’s e-mail was interesting, within the context of 12/31/99 and 12/31/19.

Today, 1/4/2020, I replied to the good lady’s e-mail, in which I referenced this, my blog site. I also referenced, as I do to you now also, dear reader, that my active blog site is AppalachianIrishman.blogspot.com! You are welcome to “visit” there as often as you wish. Stay a while and have some coffee with me!

Monday, October 31, 2016


SALVATION BY GRACE THRU FAITH
Photo: by Gabriƫl Metsu - National Gallery of Ireland, Public Domain

Saturday, 10/29/16, 5:30 PM

As I sit, acting as if I’m watching college football, I decided to begin this little treatise. I am still healing, in shoulder, knee, and foot. I must do something more constructive than watch football. Limited physically as I am, my mind still works.

Last Sunday, 10/23/16, our youngest niece was “saved,” as my brother related by text then by phone conversation. “Saved” is in quotations, not as if I doubt the spiritual transaction that occurred, but that I may elaborate on the concept, scripturally. A week has gone by, but our niece will be immersed tomorrow. Better a week late than never. Of course, I am proud of our niece, for she made the faith commitment, with immersion forthcoming, to be saved.

My purpose is to briefly discuss the biblical act of being saved, by God’s grace, with emphasis on the full faith response of the person who is saved.

The historical backdrop is that I was raised in the Baptist Church but that I was truly “saved” in the Church of Christ. This is not because I could not have been “saved” in the Baptist Church. It is because my Baptist Church experience was more from peer pressure than from the heart. My Church of Christ experience was most definitively from the heart, in that I knew exactly what I was doing and why.

Multiple scriptures teach that we are saved by grace thru faith. See, for example, Jn. 3:16, Eph. 2:8-10, etc. What, however, is saving faith? What does it involve?

A study of scripture indicates that saving faith involves active commitment. For example, see Eph. 2:8-10, Jas. 2:14-26, etc. Faith must lead a person to do something. It is not just intellectual consent.

In the New Testament, saving faith always includes repentance (i.e., turning from a sinful to a godly lifestyle), confession of that faith, and immersion. “Faith” does not save unless it includes repentance, confession, and immersion. At this time, I will side step the debate on whether, to be saved, one must understand that immersion is essential to salvation and not what one does after being saved. Since immersion is always included, quite promptly, in the saving faith response to grace, it is essential, regardless of whether one thinks he is saved before or after immersion. The following records of conversion in Acts prove this clearly. Please note that repentance, confession, and immersion are not stated specifically each time. This is as if Luke, the inspired author, assumed saving faith included these.
 
-- The Jews on Pentecost (Acts 2). Note verses 38, 41.
-- Priests and others “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
-- The Samaritans, Simon, and the Ethiopian (Acts 8). Note verses 12-13 and verses 35-38.
-- Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9; 22; and 26). Note 9:18 and 22:16.
-- Cornelius and household (Acts 10; 11). Note 10:47,48.
-- The proconsul and the Gentiles (Acts 13:12,48).
-- Those at Iconium and Derbe (Acts 14:1,20b,21).
-- Lydia (Acts 16). Note verses 14 and 15.
-- The jailor and his family (Acts 16). Note verses 30-34.
-- Those at Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens (Acts 17). Note verses 4,12,30,34.
-- Crispus, his family, and Corinthians (Acts 18). Note verse 8.
-- The Ephesians (Acts 19). Note verse 5.

See also the inspired statements in Acts of Peter (3:19) and Paul (13:39; 15:11; 20:21; 26:20).

Sunday, 10/30/16, 6 PM

Well, I had to stop yesterday, to go with my wife to her parents’ house, for their wedding anniversary supper. Before this hour today, I reviewed and finished the Acts references, which I did not have time to do yesterday. By the way, I drove the car for the first time, this afternoon. I drove my wife, among other nearby places, around the House Mountain parking lot.

So, to get back on point, what is my point? A reading of the Acts texts (above) makes clear that a believer is immersed immediately, with the emphasis on life-changing faith, which precedes immersion. Clearly, immersion is a prompt act of saving faith.

I, therefore, critique both the Baptist Church and the Church of Christ. How? The Baptist Church emphasizes salvation by faith, usually by means of a prayer request for salvation. (By the way, Acts contains no instance of a person’s faith response, to God’s saving grace, to include a prayer! Of course, if the person praying is making the required faith/repentance/ confession commitment, then the prayer is just the expression of these, without which the prayer is meaningless. I, however, digress.) The Baptist Church critique is that they wait, a few days, a week, a month, or longer, before the person’s faith response is finalized in immersion. Immersion, and its immediate connection to faith, as Acts indicates (see above), is not honored.

Monday, 10/31/16 (Halloween and our doggy Molly’s “birthday”)

Now, how about my Church of Christ critique? The Church of Christ so emphasizes that immersion is essential to salvation that it downplays the required faith commitment, which should be obvious in the immersion step. How many times, in the Church of Christ, have I heard and read about someone “being immersed,” “obeying the gospel,” “being added to the church,” etc., without one mention of saving faith or of “being saved?” The consequence of this “rush to immersion” is that some (God knows how many) do not truly make the required faith commitment, which includes repentance, as reflected in how little, if any, their lives are truly changed by what should be (i.e., immersion) an immediate response to a genuine faith commitment to Christ. Immersion without faith just gets one wet.

So, aside from filling the hours of boredom, as I slowly recover physically, what have I accomplished, aside from venting steam? Hum. Well, I suppose that I write this for the benefit of my brother and his family, initially. Further, this thought in writing demonstrates that God could still use me, in his service and ministry, if he would just open a door for me to do so. Scarred spiritually and physically as I am, I would still find life purpose in God’s service, instead of what I have been doing all these years since Mom went to be with Jesus. (Of course, this opens up a far deeper discussion, into which I have delved elsewhere in my writings.) Of course, I have written to state that no one church (i.e., Church of Christ) is without fault in scriptural understanding. God, however, in his grace, includes in his Son’s church (i.e., the little ‘c’ church of Christ) all those who in genuine faith -- even if mistaken in some areas -- devote themselves to his Son. We are saved by grace thru faith, not thru perfect doctrinal understanding. Finally, I have written to honor my brother and his family, as they walk with the Master, as a family, along life’s journey. Perhaps God will be gracious toward them, granting them life peace and fulfillment, without the type of useless sufferings that I have and am facing.

In closing, I will now step directly into what I side stepped earlier: whether, to be saved, one must understand that immersion is essential to salvation and not what one does after being saved. A Church of Christ member tries to “convert” a Baptist -- because the Baptist thought he were saved, before finalizing his faith in immersion -- while not realizing that the Baptist may have a more genuine faith commitment than he does.

A good father tells his son, if he wants a candy bar, to dig up the garden weeds and water the corn. The son, eager to please his father, and get a candy bar, digs up the weeds, accidentally with some potatoes, and forgets to water the corn. The good father gives his son the candy bar, with a hug, then reminds him to water the corn, which the son does promptly. How much greater is our Good Father? So, “Father, I think that I was saved when I turned from sin and toward you, but before I was immersed, which I did very soon afterward. Is that okay?” “Yes, son, it’s okay. You are my child. Just remember that immersion is included in saving faith, when you tell others.” “Thank you, Father! I will!”

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What is My Search?



I am searching for like-minded Christians in the Knoxville area, especially those in the Church of Christ, who also seek authenticity and renewal. Surely, I am not alone. We could begin by communicating via this forum and by e-mail. Just leave a comment, to join in.

My search is based on a dream. The dream is to be a part of a genuine body of believers who question and study openly, without fearing to rock the boat, to challenge, to seek more than the status quo.

My efforts, so far, have been confined to dialoging or visiting web forums, such as Ex Church of Christ Support Group, Grace Centered Christian Forums: Churches of Christ Forum, and, for a perspective on from where I came, The Preacher's Files, where have written under “notgiven0101.” I visit other blogs, such as those listed under “Blogs and Groups” on the lower right of this site, posting a few comments occasionally.

Anyone interested in beginning a conversation?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why I Left?


The following is a reprint of an article that I published on my other blog, on March 7, 2009. (Please follow the link above.) I trust that the article provides food for thought and discussion.

Today, while exploring the Internet, being too lazy to explore a mountain, I discovered an article at The Christian Chronicle, regarding why members leave the Church of Christ. The article points to a survey being conducted by Flavil Yeakley, the director of the Harding Center for Church Growth, in Searcy, Arkansas. The following are my responses to the survey questions.

1. Why did you leave the Churches of Christ?
I served in fulltime ministry for 14 years, including five years as a missionary. I was a member of the Church of Christ for 26.5 years, including four years before my fulltime ministry and 8.5 years after. I am still a member of Christ’s church.

First, I left the Church of Christ, finally, because I could not continue to associate with a group that--by a doctrinal implication that does not understand grace fully--concludes that the soul of my godly mother, who passed in 2000, is destined for hell, since she was a member of the Baptist Church. Silently, I disagreed with the implication for 7.5 years, uncomfortably taking my place on the pew, as I moved from lifeless congregation to lifeless congregation in the area.

My mother was saved by God’s grace, and she lived her life as a humble and shining example of God’s loving grace in her life. She may have had sincere misunderstanding on certain points of doctrine, which the Church of Christ stresses, but she was saved by God’s grace. Her salvation was not determined by her perfect doctrinal understanding but by her sincere, if imperfect, faith response to God’s free gift.

Second, I left the Church of Christ, because I could no longer tolerate the arrogant hypocrisy of that body, which, by implication, denies the fullness of grace, by asserting that its doctrinal understanding is correct and that all who disagree are in need of salvation. The body of Christ is exclusive, in that it is composed of all who are saved by grace through faith, yes. The Church of Christ, however, in its legalistic and elementary understanding of grace, cannot, with straight face, lay claim as the exclusive body of Christ. My God and my God’s grace are bigger than that.

Third, I left the Church of Christ, because I realized that the standard hermeneutical approach of its members is a foreign imposition on scripture. The model views scripture as legal code and interprets scripture by legal method. Scripture, in particular the New Testament, is composed primarily of inspired and authoritative but occasional letters. Interpreting occasional letters as legal code represents the imposition of foreign scaffolding on the text. This scaffolding skews the focus from grace to legalistic accuracy in obedience. Certainly, grace inspires our attempt to follow Christ’s will as accurately as humanly possible. Our salvation, however, is not merited by how perfectly we follow an understanding of Christ’s law that is skewed in its understanding by a legalistic approach to hermeneutics.

Fourth, I left the Church of Christ, because its local congregations, at least in this area, are lifeless. The candlestick has been removed. The Spirit of Christ is not present. In His place, is a spirit of legalism, which expects unquestioned conformity to the legal code. There is no freedom, without consequence, to question, to explore, to discuss openly. I was shackled in my silence, feeling unable to openly engage in dialogue on the points in this commentary. I felt as if I would be ostracized, shunned, labeled as a “change agent.” I am thankful that this forum allows me to express myself anonymously.

Finally, I left the Church of Christ, because my brothers and sisters of so many years were not concerned enough to offer supportive inquiry as to why I had left fulltime ministry, after returning from my mission work. To this day, no one, not a one, has asked, “Why are you not preaching anymore?” Instead, their silence has greeted me.

In sum, I left the Church of Christ, for the reasons mentioned, because I have matured in my theological understanding, unfortunately, as brought about by my mother’s passing. If the Church of Christ can move beyond its elementary understanding of grace, I can re-embrace it. Otherwise, I am now free to find and identify with a true non-denominational body of Christ.

2. Do you have any advice or suggestions regarding things Churches of Christ could do to improve and do a better job of meeting the spiritual needs of those who are still members?

First, and foremost, church leaders should create a spirit of open, non-judgmental dialogue in the congregations. Allow members to feel free to question, to discuss, and to study, without fear of labeling. Through this renewal effort, churches could be revived, members could be retained, and Christ could be honored.

Second, local congregations should seek comment from those who have left. Of course, if relationship ties and brotherly connection were strained, this attempt will be difficult. Still, with open and honest hearts, leaders should attempt unbiased, non-judgmental communication with those who have left.

Third, leadership in these congregations, after receiving feedback from ex-members, should implement plans to address the legitimate reasons why their former members left.

Finally, the Church of Christ should rethink its hermeneutical approach, with a primary focus of exploring the amazing depth of God’s grace.

3. If, when you left the Churches of Christ, you joined another religious group, what church did you join? Also, please comment on what you have found in that other church that meets your spiritual needs better than what Churches of Christ were doing.

Currently, I am attending a non-denominational, community church that has ties to the Restoration Movement. In this body, I have found a rich understanding of grace, a natural, exegetical approach to scripture, and an authentic sense of community. This church is not without its problems. (Name one that is.) It is, however, more truly in line with the purpose that Christ intended for his body.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why Am I Here?


Why have I started this blog?

· Frustration
· A desire for change
· A need for authenticity
· An interest in dialogue
· A search for deeper meaning
· A wish to have my voice heard
· An opportunity to ask the questions
· An unwillingness to accept the status quo
· A desire for fellowship with like-minded souls

First, I am frustrated by the status quo, defend the faith, mentality in the Church of Christ. Open conversation in the reconsideration of established positions, without labeling, occurs rarely.

Second, I desire change. I cannot remain frustrated. I must influence change--in attitude, in perspective, in approach, in understanding. I cannot hide any longer.

Third, I need authenticity, in life generally and in spiritual matters particularly. Why do we go through the motions? Why do we continue, knowing that something is just not right? We are deceiving ourselves. Authenticity in spiritual matters must be realized.

Fourth, I am interested in dialogue, especially with those who share my mindset. We are not alone. We must not be afraid to speak, to be heard. Our dialogue must be honest and open. I do not seek unloving harsh debate.

Fifth, I search for deeper meaning in my spiritual life, as well as in life in general. I seek deeper understanding of God’s nature and will. Religious platitudes are insufficient, and they ring empty.

Sixth, I must have my voice heard! For too long, I have been silent. I have hidden. I have avoided. I have not wished to be attacked, labeled, or criticized. Others feel the same way. I will rock the boat. I must be true to myself, regardless.

Seventh, I must have an opportunity to ask questions, to seek answers. I will not allow others to intimidate me to silence. We must have freedom to discuss, in an open, loving manner, those points that burn, and are buried, deeply inside our souls.

Eighth, I am unwilling to accept the status quo any longer! Going along with the crowd is easier, but it is not always right. The time to change, to improve, to rethink is now.

Ninth, ultimately, I desire fellowship with like-minded souls. We should seek each other out, talk, network, and share. I envision scores, hundreds, thousands, of souls coming together, as the fresh winds guide us. We shall find a new movement.

These are my nine theses. Please join in!