October 20, 2014

When I was Wrong

I'm just going to start writing and see the form this post takes.

Something bothered me about my last post but I couldn't quite totally put my finger on it. I kept asking God, What is it? Please give me your wisdom and discernment. If I said anything wrong, please show me, I want to correct it. Why don't I have peace? What is it??

And I think after prayer and time in the Word and a timely conversation with a friend and a couple sermons, it came down to two things:

1) I love the Church. I do. But have you ever read something that created contempt in you towards something or someone? I'm trying to think of something specific... Like if you read a very anti-fill-in-the-blank post or opinion or comment or status you come away with this contempt and disgust towards that specific topic/person/party/subject? I think my last post, however inadvertently and unintended, had a high likelihood of creating contempt towards preaching and pastors and the Church in America.

Don't get me wrong. There's a place for sound judgment, and that's Biblical. But I think when we exercise Biblical judgment it should be specific and have strong Biblical grounds. But if we just make blanket statements towards something overall, it paints the entire picture in a negative light, when in reality there are a lot of people in the body of Christ in America who love Jesus and his Word and are seeking to follow him as best as they know how.

With that said, I shouldn't have generally targeted topical teaching or the Church overall in America. Because while I'm inside my head and know exactly what I mean, nobody else is and so you only hear what I write and not all the inner dialogue that accompanies it.

So to clarify: what do I even mean about a small God and what did topical teaching or the Church in American have to do with my statement?

I'm going to use an illustration Matt uses that I think is so wise and helps us easily understand. If I don't eat anything all week and then Sunday morning comes along and I finally eat something, I'm going to scarf it down because I'm starving. But I'm going to be starving again in a few hours because my body is malnourished but that's too bad because my next meal isn't for seven more days. Well, to add to that, what if the meal I had was just a hotel-type breakfast buffet? Very light, non-substantive food. That adds to an already serious problem.

Unfortunately, I think that's what can often happen in many believers' walk with God. We don't seek God or read his Word or talk with him at all during the week and then Sunday comes along and we try to spiritually stuff ourselves, hoping it'll last but most often it doesn't and then we start the week off again in that same pattern and it doesn't take long before we're spiritually malnourished. Well, what if we add to an already serious problem and the only spiritual food we get on Sunday is light and fluffy and non-substantive? It doesn't teach or equip us how to know and walk with God ourselves, which is very, very Biblical and is actually what shepherds in the New Testament are encouraged to do: equip believers into maturity in their faith and knowing Christ.

This is a downwards spiral that is very likely to lead us into all sorts of unBiblical thinking, like: something bad happened to me, God doesn't love me; I don't feel God so he must not love me or be near to me; I don't feel like reading his Word so I won't; I'm not equipped to talk about God or share Jesus with others so I won't; I'm afraid what people will think of me when I pray so I don't, and on and on.

The only way those types of beliefs (and many others) about God are confronted and grown is in light of the truth of Scripture and growing in the knowledge of Christ, both through his Word and in communing with him. If we're not doing these things, we easily develop a small or inaccurate view of God.

It's always awkward when you're first getting to know someone; it takes time and intentionality and purposefulness to get to a place of familiarity and deeper trust and I think the same is often true of God as we pursue knowing him and getting to a place of trust and loving him and stepping out in faith (which gets deeper and deeper the longer we pursue him and walk with him).

Which I think lends to a bigger and more accurate view of God, a big God if you will. Does it take tragedy to become discontent with shallow belief and a desire to know him more? No, absolutely not. It takes a starting place. For me, it happened in college. I grew up in a legalistic church where knowing God equated trying not to do bad things (like have a TV in your home) and trying really hard to do good things (like be at every church event). Both of those were outward things and hardly indicative of a truly transformed heart. I can't remember one time hearing that Jesus transforms us from the inside out and gives us his Holy Spirit to do what we can't do in our natural selves, however well-intentioned we may be; like Ravi Zacharias has so perfectly said, The Holy Spirit doesn't just change what we do, he changes what we want to do. Boom. Yes.

Our desires change. And when we sin, it grieves us. And when we've gone several days without spending any time with him, we feel it. When I said that for me it started in college, this is what it looked like: I had a woman (hi, Laura!) start meeting with me every week and for the first time I was actually being equipped and taught to study the Bible for myself and talk to Jesus normally and without fanciful words and invoking a passionate voice (anyone relate? or was that just me?). But the number one thing I started doing was to simply ask Jesus for what I lacked (and it's a discipline I do to this very day): Lord, would you give me a desire to read your word? Would you give me a desire to meet with you? Would you fill me with hunger and passion to know you and your Word? Would you stir the affections of my heart to love you and to love what you love?

I asked and I still ask. I began to be gut-honest with him about where I was at and my lack of desire. And that continues to this day. I've become more and more gut-honest with him through the years, particularly after the last almost-two years.

Does this all make sense? I feel like I'm rambling.

So, reigning it in. I shouldn't have made such general statements about the Church in America because we can get wisdom and grow from topical or less-inductive sermons. It just can't be our only spiritual food. It has to be coupled with knowing and loving Jesus for ourselves or we'll be ill-equipped for anything other than good tidings.

And (and I promise this is it),

2) This one is brief. I strongly recommended reading, Rare Bird, and I still do but just keep in mind that it's a memoir so it shouldn't be read as a prescriptive book on grief, but rather a descriptive book on one woman's journey of grief. That means I would recommend using discernment on a couple things mentioned in there. Overall, a great book though.

Ok, whew, what are your thoughts? Can you relate? Any stories of your own?

And a couple pictures to make up for my rambling...

(These are oldies but goodies.)

Blankie marks on Asher's face, he's woken up like that since he was about a month old!

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