Thursday, March 5, 2009

What would you believe?

I actually had someone from church ask me what was wrong with me since I haven't blogged lately. There are a couple of reasons, but I won't go into that. Besides, I did blog about Swagbucks - so check that out!

I was invited out a couple of weeks ago for games & pizza to the house of a couple I would have said were acquaintances. I knew them through my sister, and through the website I call (actual name has a "my" where the "their" is) - and to see them out while shopping. I was a bit nervous as I had never been around them other than what I mentioned, and I found out that they were nervous as they thought I might be shy - an idea that has them snorting now. :-) I had a great evening visiting with them and their kids. We played games, and had some interesting conversation. I really enjoyed the evening, and hope this doesn't sound corny, but had to think of Anne of Green Gables and her "kindred spirits" idea. That's what is neat - when you are around someone you may not know very well - or at all - but you have similar ideals and beliefs and can chat about stuff, and not always agree 100%, but still have great conversation.

Anyway, long intro to the idea I wanted to present, and have been thinking about since then. I asked them a question that I have thought about. It is a hypothetical question, but one that makes me think: had I - or you - been raised non-Christian, knew nothing about Christianity, the Bible, what is right or wrong, lived no where close to any kind of church or Christian, yet became a Christian from reading the Bible - what would we believe? If we had to depend on God and His Word - and nothing else - what would our belief system be? How would we dress? Would we believe once saved always saved, or would we believe you can lose your salvation?

We are all a product of how we were raised, and what church we grew up in or was saved in. My church believes and teaches, based on Scripture - that a woman should not wear pants, as they were made for man, and was a man's garment. People not raised in my type of church were raised to believe that the Scripture in question is either Old Testament and doesn't apply, or that pants made for women are women's clothes and that the Scripture doesn't apply to that.

We are all guilty of just blindly following what our church teaches and what we were raised to believe, and on both sides of the fence - whether a "strict" church, or "liberal", we never take the time to ask God what He wants.

The last major blog post I did, I talked about fences, and yes they are important, and since we humans like to go the path of least resistance, I am afraid we need guidelines/fences, but when people start going beyond those fences, what do we do? I will be one of the first to admit that everything my church - and similar churches - teach, are not Heaven & Hell issues, and that you could safely "remove a fence railing" and not suffer spiritually. Yet I look at Christians I have worked with and been around who attended churches that hold not outward dress standard, etc, and wonder how on earth they can do the things that they do and call themselves Christians. I have seen Christians from that side of the more liberal realm lie, rip off people, swear, lust, though married, and it is hard for me to give credence to their Christianity.

I have seen the kind of movies and shows Christians watch, and wonder if we are that wrong for taking a stand against TV. I have waited on women at the Christian bookstore whose breasts were practically hanging out of their blouse, and wonder what their idea of modesty is.

I honestly believe that everyone's belief system would be different if we had to totally rely on God and the Bible for what we believe. Many of us would be stricter in our outward dress and the activities we do. Many of us would probably loosen up a bit.

I think it boils down to how much we truly love God, and how much we really want to please Him and live for Him in every area of our life. If we had that mindset and only knew what the Bible said, would we be running around in a bikini - if a woman - or shirtless - if a man? Or would we truly seek God on what His idea of modesty is.

There are people who don't remotely believe as I do, and I have total confidence in them. There are people who believe as I do, or even stricter, and I don't have an ounce of confidence in them, so standards and outward appearance doesn't make you a Christian - though I firmly believe there should be a marked difference in Christians and non-Christians. We are too easily influenced by culture and our peers.

Ever notice that anyone driving slower than you is a jerk or moron, and anyone driving faster than you is an idiot? I fear that mentality seeps into the religious world. Anyone more liberal than us just can't be a Christian, and anyone more strict than us is just going too far. Why do we always think we are the only one who is right? The only one who has all the answers? I'm guilty of it, and if we were all honest, most of us are.

I may have mentioned it in my last post - that has been too long to remember - but I believe the answer is two-fold. First is seeking God's will for everything we believe - doctrine, theology, dress, activities, etc. The second is balance. You can go too far left or right. Where that balance is should be found by listening to God. There are people who believe that once you get light on something - you need to do it, but I have heard preachers preach some pretty radical ideas over the years, so obviously you can't depend solely on the preacher to give you your belief system.

There have been parents who believed some pretty radical stuff - on both sides of the fence - so you can't depend solely on your parents. So who can you depend on? Well, how about God? No there is a novel idea - doing what God wants to get to Heaven instead of what your church or family wants!

I am afraid that we- myself included - all too easily dismiss God's telling us to change things in our lives. God doesn't yell or hit on the side of the head - though maybe He should - He speaks in quiet whispers, but all too often we don't hear, or we dismiss it as just a random thought that popped into our head. Not watch that show - or any show? Nah, that can't be God telling me that. Not go there, wear that - no, that isn't God saying that.

We can have random ideas pop into our heads, and sometimes the devil can plant ideas in our heads. I enjoyed reading the Hardy Boys books when I was a kid and teenager. I can still remember feeling if I ever truly became a Christian, I would have to give the books up. Looking back, I really don't think it was God telling me that. Sure, something like that can get in the way if we value it more than God, but God also knew that the day wasn't far off that I would outgrow the books and they wouldn't be of interest to me.

We are too tunnel visioned. We know what is right and wrong for us and we march on looking neither to the right or left refusing to consider the idea that a certain area does need worked on and maybe we should cut that out of our life. Or that we do need to ease up a bit in that one area and not be so hard-nosed.

For we more conservatives, if there is anything in our life we are doing just because the church says to - that is legalism. We need to get it from God. And on the flip side, if you believe you can live like the world and not be different in any way - that can also be legalism. There are still rules.

It is a narrow way, this Christian walk, but just as some try to make it too broad, there are also those who try to make it even more narrow than God has made it.

I read a blog post by someone recently that doesn't quite say what I have said, but I think is a good way to end this. Keeping God absent, by Jarrod Jones, author of 13 Ways to Ruin Your Life, and The Backward Life. I will post it here, and hope he doesn't mind:

"I want more of God’s presence. But how? What do I need to do? Where do I need to go? How do I need to pray? On what Scriptures must I meditate? What books do I read? What worship band must I follow? What preacher do I follow? What conference must I attend? What Church must I join? What type music must I listen to? To what podcasts must I subscribe? How do I get more of God’s presence into my life?
My struggles. You?

I’m still learning that God does His own thing. The Psalmist put it this way, He “does whatever pleases Him.” This sets the terms of my relationship with God. He is not my personal assistant. He doesn’t grace me with His presence at my every beck and call. Though I wish He would. Faith would be easier then.

God intervenes when He wants to intervene. He moves when He wants to move. He provides on the timetable in which He wants to provide, according to His glory and for my greater good, not for my comfort and convenience.

I like C.S. Lewis’ approach. But he reveals the best way to assure God’s absence. “Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on [and TV, and Computer, and Ipod, and Iphone]. Live in a crowd Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them carefully. But you’d be safer to stick to the papers. You’ll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or snobbish appeal.”
Touché. " (Jarrod Jones)


Kim M. said...

Good post, Mark.

I think if we #1 Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind #2 Love our neighbor as ourself ...
then we are doing pretty good.

Because if we have every outward standard there is and do not do the above things, then we are in trouble.

But if we do the above things then we will WANT TO please God. So those little things like Obeying Him & Pleasing Him won't be a struggle. (I love Michael so it isn't hard for me to do what he wants because I want to make him happy).

Craig and Heather said...

Very well said. My wife and I have been in the process of trying to shed what I call our "churchianity" for about 4 years now.

I have learned the following things in this process.

First: be patient. As you said, God does not move at my whim. I don't have to have the answers to all of my questions right away. That is where faith comes in. What I do when I don't understand is the true test of where I have placed my trust.

Second: you can't re-assess one thing at a time. It always bleeds over into other aspects of life. That is ok. Let it. God is the one working in me. Be open, be honest, be in the Word. Let Him lead.

Third: to obey is better than sacrifice. I find that I have my hands full doing what I know I am supposed to do and am not doing. I don't need to get too worked up about the things I don't know yet. Obey what you know. God will instruct you after you do that.

Finally: (not to say this is all I have learned, or all there is to learn) keep it simple. If I can't keep it simple, I don't understand it yet.


Christa said...

I didnt think it was corny--I love Anne of Green Gables!! Kindred spirits fits!! :)