Who Needs Christ During Christmas?

Recently American Atheists posted an advertisement in Times Square asking who needs Christ in Christmas and answering, “Nobody.” In a Fox News segment (read: debate where people yell at each other), the president of that organization, David Silverman, said:

Christmas is actually better without the Christ… we are speculating that for a large majority of Christians, especially the Christians that only go to church on Christmas and Easter because they have to… the religion is not the best part of Christmas. In fact it’s not even a good part of Christmas. All of the fun parts of Christmas… not only predate Christianity, but they are also completely devoid of religion.

I find a lot I can agreed with in what Mr. Silverman said. For instance, I agree that for many people, especially those who only go to church a couple times a year and who feel like they “have to” go to church at Christmas, the religious aspects of Christmas really aren’t that much fun. I believe they aren’t fun because I believe that a person who checks the box, so to speak, by attending on Christmas and Easter, and who doesn’t regularly congregate with other believers to grow in their faith may not actually be a Christian when defined as “Christ follower.” After all, in the most basic terms, Jesus enjoyed going to church every week and he and his apostles encouraged believers to do the same thing.

It then follows that if a Christmas celebrant isn’t actually a “Christian” then they probably don’t mind the unabashed commercialism and greed that, for so many in modern America, Christmas has come to represent. And if that’s the case, then Christmas is absolutely more fun without God, Christ and church. So, by his definitions, Mr. Silverman may be right.

After watching this video and thinking about what Christmas means I’m left with one defining question I think I, as someone who calls myself a “Christian,” should ask myself: Do I look forward to and enjoy the non-religious parts of Christmas more than the religious parts?

If so I may have a problem.

A passage to ponder: 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

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Never Already Happened

Listening to David Crowder Band’s Never Let Go can be an emotional experience. At my church, Springhouse Worship and Arts Center, I’ve seen an accompanying performance dance to the song that enhances the emotive power of the song that declares that God really won’t ever let us go. What I realized recently was that I’ve always thought of that phrase, and that truth, as a promise for the future and that it is really, when you get right down to it, only half the story.

My story starts like a lot of Gen-Xer stories: an underage mom gets knocked up, a hasty marriage ends when reality sets in, rinse and repeat. When all was said and done I ended up having several sets of parents and six brothers and sisters. Like so many of my lost generation, I lived through abuse, custody battles and most significantly a lack of security so profound that it would reduce my childhood years to dust and rubble. The one thing I knew when I cried myself to sleep too frequently was that I was hurting and it seemed that there was nothing that could be done about it.

So I retreated. I went inside and the world outside me passed like a TV show I couldn’t turn off but I did my best to tune out. Long before Adam Sandler’s movie, I remember dreaming that if I could have one super power it would be to fast forward my life. In so many ways I realize now that I did have that power… and I used it.

I don’t remember much detail of my life starting from the horrific custody fights of my preschool years until sixth grade. The reason I remember sixth grade is because that’s when I started waking up. Several things changed during that school year and right after.

First, my Mom who had been living for much of the previous years hundreds of miles away was now nearby and visited often. No more airplane trips to see her and my brother and sister from her second marriage. She was now married to a Christian man she had met at a Bible study (another reason to study!) and for the first time in a long time she seemed happy and shared that happiness with me.

Second, it was towards the end of that school year that my father, who I lived with, took me to a book store and offered to buy me any book I wanted. I don’t recall this being an abnormal occurance – not that I recall much – but I never took advantage of his offer on prior trips. That day I bought a book with a sword wielding female warrior on the front. It was Darkness and Light, a Dragonlance fantasy novel. It changed my life that summer when after devouring that novel I would go on to read at least a dozen more books before the start of seventh grade.

Then my father generously and lovingly allowed me to move in with my mom that summer when I asked for permission. I have no idea why he let me since legally he didn’t have to, but it was one of the landmark moments of my life. Not because my dad sucked or anything – he did the best he could being in the tough situation he found himself in – but because my mom made me go to church through high school.

In so many ways I’ve lived under the specter of my lost youth my whole life. It’s almost as if by fast forwarding it I’d somehow become doomed to relive it indefinitely – the past hurt simmering just under the surface negatively impacting relationships and decisions.

For a long time I blamed my mom. (Curiously, I never blamed my dad, who I think may also have had a fast forward power of a sort; he seems to me to have been a bystander in so many of my rare memories.) My mom, though, here was some I could blame. She made bad choice after bad choice. What I failed to see while blinded by my need for an outlet for my pain was that she was a 16 year old pregnant kid, scared to death, disowned by her family and looking for love in all the wrong places.

16 is four years older than my eldest daughter.

Empathy is the seed of love. For so long I lacked empathy for my mom. When I thought of my lost childhood I thought of my lost childhood. Never her lost decades, supposedly her best years. Never my father’s lost years. Certainly not my full-blood brother who seemed to have everything going for him. All I could think about was my hurt and my loneliness.

I don’t think I ever thought about it like this, but I realize now that I never considered that God was there either. Maybe it’s easier to remove God from the equation instead of trying to account for why he didn’t intervene.

After David Crowder came Michael Gungor’s Beautiful Things where he sings to God, “You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of the dust.” The dust.

And I realized He had.

As I worshiped, I was overwhelmed with the revelation that God was there all the time; He never let go of me. For the first time I realized that “never” applied to the past as well as the future. God never let me go and he made a beautiful thing out of the dust of my life (to reference Gungor, another amazing band).

He’s taken a child who missed full years of school (sitting in a desk in the hallway or in a principal’s office) and blessed him with enough intellectual gifts to help him overcome his lack of knowledge and a father who gave him a love of reading. Combined, those two things – untapped intellect and voracious reading – got him into college. This same kid with less than a 2.9 GPA in High School was the first in his family to get a degree.

He took the son, conceived in youthful fornication, and gave him to a virgin woman as a virgin man.

He took a child who was hurt so terribly by divorce and instability and made him into a husband to a single woman for 15 years and counting.

He took a lonely boy and gave him loving brothers and sisters, two loving sets of parents, and most importantly four loving children who have never known life that wasn’t filled with joy, friends and love.

The list could go on and on. But what is clear is that my life has been redeemed! Once I looked backward for the evidence of His intervention instead of looking forward for the hope of intervention it became clear. I can see the steps of my life being ordered in such a way as to overcome the poor decisions and terrible situations. I stopped wondering why I wasn’t saved from things and started seeing what I had been delivered to.

He never let me go. He makes beautiful things from the dust.

Thank you Jesus.

Does God Laugh at You?

Something I think is very revealing about individual believers is our choice of title for God. Some use Lord, Healer, Jehovah, and so on. One I have never felt comfortable with was Father.

When others would pray, “Father in Heaven,” or worse, “Abba Father” I would cringe. I just don’t get it. I’m certain it has to do with my family and my relationship with my earthly father, which isn’t bad, but definitely not one that would lend itself well to calling God the same name.

But when I became a father, especially when I had a son, things started to change for me. All the sudden I started recognizing connections between my actions as father and God as Father. I’d be holding my son as he cried after falling down, and I’d hug him and say, “Daddy’s got you” and I’d tear up and think to myself, “This is how God feels when I’m hurting.” When my sons – I have two now; there was a sale on KidBay – do well at something I feel immense pride in them. I realize that this is how God feels about our success. When I watch my sons play with each other my heart swells with love and I realize this is how God loves us – His “heart” swells with love!

And I realize, this is how God loves me.

We in the church talk a good game about God and love. But do we believe it?

Take for instance this quote I heard when I was listening to the radio yesterday:

When a man stands against God, God laughs!

I’m sure the preacher, Ron Moore of Journey Radio Ministry, meant well. He was talking about those who oppose God and how their power and ability to actually oppose God is laughable when comparing their power to God’s power. But he has it all wrong.

When a man stands against God, God weeps!

How do I know? I know the same way I know that if my son turned against me or started doing things I knew were bad for him I would weep for him. I certainly wouldn’t laugh:

“What son? You hate me and no longer want to have a relationship with me? Ha! I laugh at you!”

Church, we need to be mindful of when we put our sinful human characteristics on God and instead take His divine and perfect characteristics on ourselves. We laugh at our enemies. God loves them and tells us to love them.

God loves us. Our Father loves us.

I’ll keep trying until that name becomes comfortable.

Knowing Who You Are

When the preacher gets done and invites people up to the front for prayer it is never a good thing for your daughter to look at you, smiling, and tell you that you should go get prayer.

That happened today. At Springhouse Worship & Arts Center, Barbie Loflin, one of the pastors, was preaching on being judgmental. The Holy Spirit My daughter convicted me – non-judgmentally, of course. Because I do judge. I do judge a lot and I know it.

What I didn’t know was why I judged, which is something that Barbie explained well. In her words:

I was asking God what I was going to teach on and I heard Him answer, “Who do you say I am?”

According to Pastor Barbie, we think judge because we think we are better than others but in reality we judge because we don’t know who Christ is and who we are in Christ.

If we judge we:

  • are insecure
  • are non-discerning
  • need a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit
  • really are better than everyone else

I am all of of those. I do need a revelation of Christ and a revelation of who I am in Him. I need a dose of reality to strip away my perceived superiority.

It hit home when Pastor Barbie said that judging is actually counterfeit discernment. Being a know-it-all I want to be right, but when I judge I am actually being wrong, whether I’m technically right about the topic or not.

I want to be discerning. I want to see people as God’s sons and daughters. I need empathy. I need a soft heart.

And sometimes I just don’t have one anymore.

Keith Green expressed how I feel best:

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood

So I went up and prayed. Because my daughter called me on it and because I knew I needed to change. All I could think of, all I could pray was, “I repent and I want a soft heart.”

Know what I mean?

Does Anyone Thank God for You?

I’m sure you’ve noticed that at funerals the deceased was only good things like loving, funny, generous, caring, always been there for everyone, and so on. Prior to their death, however, I wonder how many times they were told these things. And because I’m narcisistic, I wonder how many people think these things of me. Now, I mean, before I die.

Then I come across passages like Philemon 1:4-7, where Paul is thanking God for three fellow Christians and I wonder if anyone thanks God for me. Have you ever wondered that yourself?

Does anyone thank God for you?

Here’s the deal: I think you gotta have a lot going for you to have someone thank God for you. First, you got to have a friend who is actually a good enough Christian to actually think about praying for someone other than themselves (and the new car they want, and so on.) Next, you got to live a life where your friend just can’t stop themselves – they just have to thank God for you.

Assuming you have such a friend, have you considered whether or not you live a life where people actually want to thank God for you? I am tonight and I’m pretty sure I don’t like the answer.

I know my wife sometimes thanks God for me. Without me, who would teach her longsuffering and patience? I also get to count my kids as a “yes” too since I’m their boss and I can totally boss them to thank God for me. Friends and people I know, though? I’m much less sure.

Here is what Paul said,

I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints. I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ. For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

So to be worthy of thanking God for, according to Paul, you need to answer yes to the following questions:

  • Am I known for my love and faith for Jesus and love for all the saints?
  • Does my love for everyone cause joy and encouragement among the people I hang with?
  • Do my actions refresh the hearts of the saints like a ice cold Coke on a summer day?

For me? Not exactly. To be way too transparent for comfort, I’m probably best known for:

  • My love of sarcasm and poking fun at people I know.
  • My laissez-faire attitude toward authority.
  • My salty personality that drives young women to weeping and old men to gnashing of teeth.

Yeah, I can totally suck sometimes much of the time. But the thing is I really, really want to be someone who people thank God for. But clearly, I just don’t want to work for it.

So we have two choices: 1) I can try harder to actually follow Christ (like the name Christian implies), or 2) I can talk all of you in to pretending that I’m like Philemon, Apphia and Archippus and to thank God for me even though I don’t deserve it.

History tells me that I’m extremely unlikely to go with option 1 so that leaves option 2. What do you say?

Photo by Deviant Artist hfootball.

Romans 12: The Gallbladder of Christ

Most of the time when I hear Romans 12 being taught it is about the Body of Christ and how we all work together and have our roles, which is appropriate. But I find that there is a disconnect between hearing that we all have roles and seeing everyone actually take a role. Well, an active one anyway. I hear that we are to be hands and feet and then I see a church full of appendixes and gallbladders. I’m sure these parts are important I just don’t know what they do; if anything.

Just after Paul talks about how we are all the Body of Christ he then explains what he means by way of a list. It is important to note that this is not a checklist, but a way of living. Paul talks about prophets, servants, encouragers, teachers, leaders, givers and the merciful but he doesn’t imply that those are the categories of the Body and there is no reason to believe that this is a comprehensive list either. He is simply saying, “If you have a gift use it.”

Unfortunately, the church knows this all too well as finding our gifts and acting on them is less about actually finding the gifts God gives us than finding the things we like to do and doing what we already do but now with a stamp of approval.

The logic goes: I’ve decided that I have the gift of playing video games because it is what I like to do (so obviously God made me this way) so to act on my gift I will play with joy and that will be my role in the Body. I love my gift. It is totally what I like, by myself and for myself so why wouldn’t I love it?

Satire aside – this is a real issue the church deals with. Everyday activities that we already do have become our “gifts” and this is why the church is so much less effective than it could be.

Paul is clear that while there are more than just a few named gifts God expects every part of the Body to act in certain ways. The gifts are different starting points with a common end point.

Starting in verse 9 and continuing through the end of the chapter and beyond, Paul lists out some of the things that each member of the Body should do, no matter what we think our gift is:

  • Really love everyone.
  • Hate & despise what is evil and keep only the good stuff.
  • Love each other like family.
  • Treat each other like you want to be treated.
  • Work hard (with your whole heart) serving the Lord.
  • Be joyful.
  • Be patient.
  • Pray all the time, especially when trouble comes.
  • Bless those that don’t like you.
  • Be happy with those who are happy and empathize with those who are not.
  • Live in peace; don’t fight among each other.
  • Make friends with those that don’t have any or are undesirable.
  • Don’t think yourself better or smarter than anyone else.
  • Do not take revenge.
  • Do things that everyone knows are good.
  • Do your best to get a long with everyone.

Paul (and thus God) is very clear that these things and more are how we should live our lives. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the gift of mercy – you still need to pray for those who wrong you, being nice to them and avoid spite, anger and thoughts of revenge. If you have the gift of teaching you still need to give to the poor, befriend those who need friends, and work hard to not think you are smarter or better than anyone. The combinations are endless because there is no end – everyone with any gift needs to act in every way.

If we can tell what kind of tree something is by its fruit let me ask what kind of tree Christianity looks like. What kind of tree is your local church? What kind of tree are you?

It is time the church stopped being Frankentrees – mismatched good and bad (well mostly bad) fruit. I’m not trying to bring us down – I know we can do better than this. God tells us in Acts 1:8

When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive power!

That power is enough to be Body of Christ as we are supposed to be – in God’s image; not our own. I encourage you to ask for it.

We can do better.

Another World

I was reading a book and came across a story that I have to share. I want to know if you believe this or if this is too far fetched. Your answer and mine will have far ranging repercussions. I will paraphrase:

A native missionary in India went with his family to preach the Gospel in a small secluded town. The town was under the dominion of several practitioners of witchcraft who held the townsfolk in fear and bondage. The evil priests were said to cause the deaths of townspeople or their animals and to cause crops to fail.

The priests came to the missionary in the town square where he was preaching and warned him that they would kill him and his family if he didn’t stop preaching. The missionary refused.

Days later, the priests went back to the missionary and asked about his power. They said, “We sent our spirits to kill you but they came back to us saying that you and your family were protected by fire. So we sent out more powerful spirits but they also came back to us saying that you were protected by fire and angels.”

The missionary shared that Christ protected him. The priests were convicted of their sins and turned to the Lord. (Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yahannan, p.21,22)

I had two thoughts about this:

  1. If these things don’t really happen then we are liars.
  2. If these kinds of things really happen then we are wasting our lives.

Romans 12: The Church of Equivocation

In Braveheart, William Wallace dies (stomach opened and all his insides pulled out while he is still alive – gruesome, right?) fighting for the freedom of his countrymen. At the run up to the big battle he says to his men:

Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!

Jack Dawson lets go and drowns in the freezing cold water of the Atlantic, instead of trying to share the raft, which may have tipped over, to save Rose in Titanic. Before letting go, Jack and Rose have this conversation where he makes it clear that his death should inspire Rose to fully live:

Winning that ticket, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me… it brought me to you. And I’m thankful for that, Rose. I’m thankful. You must do me this honor. Promise me you’ll survive. That you won’t give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise.

At the end of A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton goes to the gallows in the stead of Charles Darnay out of his love for Lucie and the hope that he has for her happiness. At the gallows, Carton says the most powerful line of any work of fiction of all time:

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.

And sadliest©, at the end of Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, Spock dies of radiation poisoning for the rest of the crew and James T. Kirk, to whom he says:

You are my superior officer. You are also my friend. I have been and always shall be yours.

Oh, someone get me some frakkin Kleenex!

Now those are sacrifices! Dying for your loved ones and your friends. These characters become heroes to us by showing us that there are things and people worth dying for. These ideals presented give us something to shoot for. I want to truly live, like William Wallace. I want to sacrifice myself for my love, like Jack Dawson and my friends like Spock. And I want to find redemption in my sacrifice like Sydney Carton.

The problem I have is that I don’t get a lot of opportunities to take up a weapon against my enemy, or choose myself or my love in an obvious do or die moment, or know with certainty of the peril of another of which I could intervene. I’m just not in life or death situations enough to act so nobly as these guys.

Paul begs us (yes, begs) in Romans 12:1 to sacrifice ourself for God:

So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as living sacrifices to Him. Your offering must be only for God (holy/ set apart) and pleasing to Him, which is the spiritual (authentic/ true) way for you to worship.

Like all good Christians after reading this passage, I kiss my wife and children good-bye and look for somewhere to die for God. Unfortunately, I don’t find anywhere. No lions to eat me in a coliseum. No Romans to hang me on crucifixes. Since there just isn’t an easy way to force martyrdom on myself (well, in my religion,) it is obvious that Paul is not saying to die for God.

Of course you know that. Church people, or Churchtopians© as I call us, have heard time and again that we are supposed to live for God. We’ve heard it so much that we’ve tuned it out. Like “I really should eat less fast food or I will get fat and die of an obesity related disease” and “smoking is going to kill me so I should stop” we find ways to ignore the good advice with excuses and equivocations.

We say, I will worship God by going to church (Lord knows that is a sacrifice!) or I will worship God by giving some money I happen to have in my wallet. We sooth our aching conscience by remembering all the crap we threw away gave away to the Goodwill to help poor people, bless their hearts!

But we can’t be saved by acting on rules we make up (see Romans 11: Not Finding What You’re Looking For for more on this topic.) The Bible is not about us and we don’t get to make up the rules on what satisfies God in terms of worship. Paul says, in verse 2:

Do not be shaped by this world (age/ culture); instead be changed within by changing the way you think. Then you will be able to decide (or understand) what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to Him and what is perfect.

Step one in learning how to sacrifice yourself for God: recognize that the answer does not come from any other source than God Himself. It is not found in our culture. It is only found in the Bible. So read the frakkin Bible.

Once we change the way we think, that is switch from a worldly “we can figure this out on our own” independence to a Godly “only God knows how to live right” dependence we will finally understand how to sacrifice ourselves for God.

And I think – for those of us who achieve this sacrifice – upon entering Heaven will find that the angels and saints, along with God will have watched the movie of our life and Jesus will have said over and again to the Holy Spirit, “Oh, someone get me some frakkin Kleenex!”

Romans 11: The Enemy of God

Recently, I tweeted a comment made by my pastor during service that caused a commotion I’ve kinda come to expect from our culture. I tweeted:

“We have this idea that we are all God’s children. But that’s not right. We are all God’s creation. If we receive Him we become His children.”

The problem is that many people misunderstand God. In our culture of unequivocal acceptance and tolerance we wear (by choice) rose colored glasses when it comes to things outside our control to the end of taking the bite out of them. So God is no longer something to be feared but someone who loves and accepts us as we are. Jesus is no longer the incarnation of God who taught on Hell more than any other subject but a good teacher who told us to love each other. Christianity is no longer a way of life but an outdated set of ideals from a culture less civilized than ours that we can draw from if we find something worth drawing.

But that isn’t how the Bible describes God, Jesus or Christianity. God is the scariest being in the universe. Period. There is nothing that should scare us more than God. On a whim, He could decide to stop holding our molecules together and like Professor X in X-Men 3 we would fly apart into billions of tiny particles. Or He could decide that we never existed and POOF! we are gone, never existed and no one knows us (Rm 11:36). (Really, what evidence do we have that this hasn’t ever happened?)

In Romans 11, Paul says this when talking to non-Jews about being grafted to the tree of salvation (a metaphor):

So do not brag about those branches that were broken off. If you brag, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in to the tree.” That is true. But those branches were broken off because they did not believe and were unfaithful, and you continue to be a part of the tree only because you believe and stay faithful. Do not be proud but be afraid. If God did not spare the natural branches, then he will not spare you either. (Rm 11:18-21)

So God is a god who saves those who believe and are faithful. If you are not faithful, which means a follower of Christ, then you are not going to be saved and he will break your branch off the tree of salvation. You cannot be both saved and unfaithful at the same time. Paul continues:

So you see that God is kind and also very strict. He punishes those who stop following Him. But God is kind to you, if you continue following Him in His kindness. If you do not you will also be cut off the tree… The Jews refused to accept the Good News (Gospel), so they are God’s enemies. (Rm 11:22, 28)

  • Were we all created in God’s image? Yes.
  • Does He love us all? Yes.
  • Will He cut us off from salvation if we stop following Him? Yes.
  • If we stop following Him no matter how much he loves us will we become His enemy? Yes.

How do we follow Him? Not from our own ideas of what that means, for certain! Instead by doing what He asked us to do in the Bible whether it makes sense to us or not. God’s opinion overrides all others.

No one can explain the things God decides or understand His ways. (Rm 11:33b)

Romans 11: Not Finding What You’re Looking For

What scares me the most about the Bible is that it is written for believers and at the same time about believers… and most of the stories about the believers are not good ones.

In Romans 11, Paul says:

So this is what has happened: The people of Israel did not succeed in what they were seeking for but the ones God chose did succeed. The others were made stubborn and refused to listen to God. (Rm 11:7)

The first thing we have to do when looking at passages like this is put it in context. What Paul of Romans is referring to when discussing seeking is salvation. He just got done referencing Elijah (1 Kg 19:10,14) where God says that he will save a remnant of his people.

Then Paul talks about God saving that remnant by Grace not by their actions. So the seeking here – in context – is Israel seeking to be saved.

The key question becomes: who is Paul talking to and referring to now?

I’m tempted, and I think the church at large is as well, to read passages like this and think these stories and condemnations are about Israel, unbelieving Jews and Pharisees. But Paul is not talking to Israel or Pharisees but rather to believers (see Rm 1:6)!

This is the scary part: Paul is telling believers, people who think they are Christians, that some of them, possibly most of them, will not succeed in being saved.

Saying the Lord’s Prayer or asking Jesus into our heart is not a magical phrase that gets you into Heaven. In fact, many people who say those phrases end up in Hell (see Matt 25:31-46).

I think the churches fundamental misunderstanding of being chosen has lead many to an incorrect worldview that seeks attendees, converts, and baptisms and teaches doctrine full of to-do and to-don’t lists. These converts and attendees end up with the wrong idea that actions can lead to salvation. Instead it is the opposite.

Then I wonder if I have fallen for this same misunderstanding. That scares me.