Hunt NH, I know that you are a good guy! You're one guy who knows alot about everything on here, and I mean that! I'm sorry to hear that the church you were plugged into wasn't a good one. I know exactly what you mean about God not being present there and how the members were often hypocrites of what they were doing on Sunday. Now that said, there are many churches out there that are not like that. Mine, for example is one that I can feel God's presence every Sunday in. We have a strong congregation and we do have those people who struggle. The important thing to remember is this, no one is perfect. I in no way am saying that I am. I sin everyday. That's life, and that's human nature. But the difference between us and a non-believer is that they don't ask for forgiveness for their sins so therefore they are going to have to answer for what they did on this earth. For you and I (and Christians alike) when we ask God for forgiveness, it's over with and done with. He doesn't hold that over our heads, and it won't come up on judgement day. Now if we don't repent from that sin, that's another situation! ha!
Believe me, I'm far from perfect. Now that said, I do try to live a Christian life. I'm not saying in order to go to Heaven you have to live a perfect life... but you do need to strive to be Christ-like- I do believe in that.
Witnessing God's word is something I struggle with. Like you said, it can be offensive to some people if it's delivered the wrong way. It's best to ease into the conversation and not put the person on pressure. Also, I try to talk to them one on one rather than in a group setting or at a restaurant or something. That way, there's only two eyes looking at them.
Like you, I too rejoice in God's wonder when I'm outside. It's amazing what he has accomplished on this earth! I can only imagine what Heaven will be like! This, however, isn't my sanctuary. I believe in going to Church on Sundays because that's how I was brought up. It's something that I live now. WHen I was a teen and in my very early 20's, I hated going to Church... I loved God, but hated having to go to Church. It was boring to me and seemed repeatative. It wasn't until just before I got married that I realized that Church can be SO much more than just a building that I attend every Sunday morning. There are so many activities and relationships that I enjoy now that I never knew I could have.
As for drinking, smoking, and swearing. As for me, I don't do two of the three any more and that's drinking and smoking. Smoking was honestly too expensive and I hated the effects on my body (tired and coughing all the time). The beer was harder to give up. I enjoyed it alot. However, my grandpa was an alcoholic and that has always scared me. Plus I made a vow to myself that I would not drink alcohol from the time my wife got pregnant on till the day I die. That was just my promise to myself. Now, do I think having a beer every now and then hurts? No, but I'm just not into that anymore. I have buddies that drink alot, but I don't go to the drinking parties anymore. I still hand out with them and golf and hunt w/them, but I took the drinking part out for me, and they respect that.
The swearing part is hard for me. I do not swear outloud though.... I cuss to myself. I know that sounds weird, but if I'm out working or doing something, I talk to myself alot, and when something goes wrong, I have a bad habit of cussing. I do not cuss around my wife and child though nor any other people. That is a struggle I have to deal with and I'm getting better at. I work with a guy who cusses every other word. It's just childish I think to cuss that much. He's a grown man with 3 kids. After knowing this guy for 3 years, and having been around him alot, he knows I don't cuss and I have noticed his cussing getting less and less.
I want to be absolutely clear here hunt nh,,,, I believe many of the things to you, but it seems like we just have a difference of opinion on some things. I am in no way trying to tell you how to live your life! I promise that. I do know, however, that you WILL be in Heaven one day because you have been saved. God bless you Brother and I enjoy talking about this!
...and on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my times has come, still my soul will sing Your praise unending, ten thousand years and then forevermore!