From a Local Community Perspective
There is a hymn sung in most Christian churches (or used to be most, I’m not sure how many today) “Have Faith in God”. I remember that song was known by most everyone in our community when I was a child Pentecostal or non-Pentecostal. I had a grandmother who was a very devout (forgive me if my memory of the actual name is not quite accurate) Holiness Pentecostal Church of God, as best as I remember the name. It was easier to remember the Baptist that her husband, my grandfather, was a devout member of. I grew up with some time in both denominations, and it really wasn’t that confusing to me. I believe whole-heartedly in glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and in other gifts of the Spirit. My grandmother’s church believed that if you were saved then it would be manifested in tongue speaking. My grandmother worried about my grandfather’s faith, because he never spoke in tongues (to my knowledge) and didn’t believe it was necessary.
In my grandmother’s church, when they were ‘taken by the Spirit’ they may shout, dance, run around the pews, or whatever as the Spirit led. The main thing I learned was that the Scriptures were taught much better in my grandfather’s church. You see, much of the service at my grandmother’s church was spent in ‘Spirit filled’ shouting in tongues and even a lot of dancing, running, and jumping. I remember that the most I got from any message was a Bible verse every now and again and a few shouts about how great and good God is. In spite of this, they would put together enough words and verses to explain why they believed what they believed, and I learned (may not remember too well now) pretty much every verse and sermon explaining why they didn’t believe in ‘eternal security’ (once saved, always saved). In the Baptist church, I believe I learned more Bible because there was more time spent in language that I could understand. So I also learned all the verses and sermons behind the belief in eternal security. Though I believe in the ‘tongues’, I also believe whole-heartedly in Paul’s teaching that if used in a service, it should be limited and orderly, as well as the teaching that it is much better to speak a few words in a language that is understood than many words in a language that others didn’t understand.
With regards to eternal security, I wavered back and forth on that issue until I had a very personal experience when I was somewhere between 25 and 30 years of age. Anyway, this post isn’t about glossolalia or eternal security- so far just a little background. Back to the hymn, “Have Faith in God”. When I was a child, everyone, churched or unchurched in my little community knew that God was the Creator of the universe and god (small case ‘g’) was a false god or an idol or anything that was held in reverence other than ‘the’ God. We knew there were a few interpretations of the ideas of ‘Trinity’, ‘glossolalia’, and ‘eternal security’, but we also knew that many ideas didn’t constitute whether or not one had faith in Jesus as our Savior. Now, when you go online, it seems that the term ‘god’ is used quite a bit, and not in the context of anyone or anything to be reverenced. There are some who are disgusted and say that one shouldn’t take ‘God’s’ Name in vain. Well, this in itself is a misconception, because the letters g-o-d are not God’s Name. Be that as it may, it doesn’t mean that there is any real purpose for using that term as much as it is in a disrespectful way. Still, when I was a child, if someone spoke of ‘God’ then everyone knew Who was referred to. Now if someone speaks of ‘God’, then for some it may be Buddha, for some it may be Yahweh, for some it may be Allah, and for some it may be any number of perceived beings that are considered as the Creator or Master.
Next there are holidays from days gone by and today. Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc. were fun times. Yes, we understood the religious concepts behind Christmas and Easter, but we never confused them with the religious ideas associated with them as well. We knew that witches considered Halloween significant, but we didn’t believe in witches, so to us, it was just a time to dress funny and pretend to scare people (we knew we were pretending and we knew that the people were only pretending to be scared of us) and get candy. I don’t recall anyone having serious disillusionments about Santa not being real, because I think there came that certain age at which we all just began to realize it was meant to keep kids excited and families together. At the same time, we were taught in Sunday School that it wasn’t really Jesus’ birthday, but we just used it as a day to celebrate His birth, and we didn’t question Jesus just because Santa wasn’t real, because we learned Santa once a year, and Jesus at least three days a week, and often more than that. I can’t remember that I ever thought the Easter Bunny was real, but maybe when I was really young I did and just don’t remember. In any event, we learned the difference between non-fiction literature and fiction literature; between Sunday School lessons and fairy-tales; religious and secular; and between a time to be serious and a time to have fun. So I had been somewhat disappointed that some churches had begun to teach against Santa, Easter Bunny, and Halloween. Now, as I look at so many things that so many people believe, and it appears that so many people are not learning to differentiate real from unreal, then I begin to wonder what is happening in this world?
There are still many fine children who are growing up and learning Santa, Easter Bunny, and Halloween and still separating between non-fiction and fiction. At the same time, there seems to be an alarming number of people who seem to be living on some sort of edge bordering what’s real and what’s not real. I grew up seeing babies as ‘darling little angels’ and lost loved ones as being ‘angels’ but I knew that this didn’t mean literal angels in the sense of Gabriel and Michael in the Bible. And I knew that angels could do God’s bidding, and could help humans as God saw where a miraculous need was called for. But we were taught never to call upon angels or to expect them to be there for us, because we were taught that Jesus was always with us (and that’s better than having an angel with you) and that we were to only call upon the Lord (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, equally). Angels weren’t meant to serve human beings, but to serve the Lord. People were meant to serve one another, and if people served one another, there wouldn’t be so many needs in the world, because people would be meeting other people’s needs. Oh, but now, why should people think of serving one another, when it’s easier just to ask the Lord to send us an angel. There are some churches teaching that we are to call upon and depend upon messages, help, and even miracles from angels. This is contrary to the Bible and takes out so much of our personal responsibilities to one another.
Also, the church was to teach God’s Word. Now some churches are teaching Yoga which comes from Buddhism, and Karma which comes from Buddhism. Buddhists believe in Karma, but it is contrary to Christian Biblical teachings. It’s one thing for a Buddhist to think of Nirvana the way a Christian thinks of Heaven, but the concept of Nirvana and reaching Nirvana is completely contrary to the Christian concept of Heaven and reaching our eternal home through Jesus.
The Great Adversary to God and the church is a liar and the father of lies. Even in the early church it was taught to beware of the spirit of the antichrist which was already at work. Now I see how much this is at work in our churches today. Something to think about and pray about. God said through Hosea that the people will perish for a lack of knowledge. The Scriptures also teach that we are to study to show ourselves approved unto God. I don’t believe there is anything wrong (inherently) with fairy-tales, as long as people are taught the difference between truth and fiction. In this way, people learn to differentiate between what is a diversion and what is to be seriously contemplated. When people forget to teach the TRUTH, then the fairy-tales become the new norm. Something to think about and pray about.