Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Grief and Misery vs. Grace and Mercy

As some of you may have noticed, it's been a while since I've posted anything to this blog. Many probably thought I had abandoned the blog. Well, not really. Something called "life" got in the way. My wife discovered she had cancer, and 7 years later she succumbed.

That's not the entire reason, though, why I paused. We had started going to a church that sounded great. They taught "expositionally" (verse-by-verse) through the Bible, with a topical flavor to it. People wanted to be there to learn, not just to perform. People were coming in from all around, sick and tired of the meaningless ritual and hungry for God's Word.

Two things happened, though. The first was with me. I got lazy. In my previous church, I knew I wasn't going to be blessed by the beautiful music or the responsive reading or the "sermonettes for Christian-ettes." I sensed God wanted me there to feel like I belonged, and to show some of them what life in Christ was really about. That's life, 24/7, not just on Sunday morning. (I don't want to mention why I felt ashamed to attend church board meetings.)

In this new place, I was being fed. I didn't have to do as much heavy-lifting. It was all truth straight from Scripture. Wasn't it?

Something changed, though. Encouragement for growing in Christ became a focus on "doing life right." That turned into "obeying the commands of the Lord." Now, don't think I'm trying to dismiss the Ten Commandments or anything. I won't even say that calling baptism a "command from the Lord" was incorrect. They missed a vital point, though: what about those who couldn't obey every single precise command they pronounced? Were they shown grace and mercy publicly?

Nope.

Instead, the vibe tended to be towards making them feel guilty for "disobeying the Lord."

It got worse. The senior pastor at one time, in one service (the one that didn't get recorded, of course), pronounced that married couples who didn't raise children -- either their own or adoptees -- were disobeying God's command! After service I asked him about this, and he sounded like he was desperately trying to back-pedal, with comments like "oh, it's a personal issue when you do this" and so forth. He never said he was mistaken, though.

I understand, or at least I've been told, that some people feel like they can "get away with disobeying," like little children hiding. I also know that I never depended on that, because it never worked for me. (I'd get blamed for stuff I didn't do anyhow, so what's the difference?) If adults really are that immature, then I suppose an emphasis on "accountability" and the like makes some sense.

God still loves us, though! Check out Romans 8:31-39. John 3:16-21. We still sin, yet Jesus took the death those sins cause and nailed them with His own body on the cross! Yes, sins still have earthly consequences. Yes, we should experience some grief and misery as the Holy Spirit convicts (but doesn't condemn) us. That shouldn't be the overriding emphasis from the pulpit, though! We all need grace and mercy, not guilt and misery!

Like I said above, if you feel no guilt and misery, the problem isn't the disobedience. The problem is your personal, one-on-one relationship with God. Encouragement to get that business settled is a good thing. I hope this little paragraph serves as that encouragement. But there's still hope.

Because of my upbringing, I beat myself up too much, according to my mother and my late wife, over little things. I don't believe for a moment that I'm going to get away with anything in the sight of God. I let myself get beat up over "willful disobedience," about not having children, about missing several other commands.

I had lost faith that God still accepted me.

I got lost in the grief and misery, never seeing the grace and mercy.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Fool's Gold: Fruit of the Spirit

We have tests. We have pop-up quizzes. We have so many ways to discover what "fruit of the Spirit" we have, what we should have, and how we're going to Hell because we don't have that one particular one your church demands (*coughTonguescough*).

Daniel Emery Price of the Christ Hold Fast blog has done a far better job of demonstrating the problem than I could. Click on the link above to read one of the best articles I've read in quite a while!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fool's Gold: Overwhelming Happiness

I'm sure you've heard songs such as, “There is Joy in the Lord,” “Joy To The World,” and numerous others. (Since I’m married to a Joy, I have probably heard more than most. 😁) For many people, though, that “joy” seems to be all they seek after. If they feel good, then they are “blessed.” If not, then maybe it’s their fault for “quenching the spirit” or lacking “faith.”

Church people have started to seek after some dangerous things. This is the first of a series I’m calling “Fool’s Gold.” I don’t use the term “fool” in judgment, only to express how many people have been fooled by so much that the modern-day church does.

One of the many things that have distracted me from this blog lately has been the death of my mother-in-law. She was raised Pentecostal Holiness, a combination that seems rather dangerous if you dig into it. She and my father-in-law once visited a Freewill Baptist church. Her response was that “they don't believe in the Holy Spirit.” I asked my wife what she meant, and she said they weren’t clapping, jumping, and raising a ruckus during service.

This style of service used to be reserved for “Charismatic” congregations or (pardon my antiquated terminology here) “churches for black folks.” They were loud, active, and definitely spirited. In more modern times, though, this has leaked into what most call “contemporary services” aimed at attracting younger people. Of course, every side has its own opinions on the merits and failures of their side vs. the other side. That in itself makes me think of the house divided against itself (Mark 3:23-26), but that’s another subject.

Loud volumes produce adrenaline, according to several articles I have read. It gives way to the thrill of the adrenaline rush that makes thrill rides such as roller coasters fun for many people. The problem is that continued adrenaline can cause medical issues down the road.

Consider This: if you go to a church to feel good, what happens when you stop feeling good?

Jesus offered a different look at how life in Him works. He referred to suffering (Romans 5:1-5), persecution, and other unpleasant situations. Some choose to “fake it ’til you make it” with a deceiving smile. Is that not a lie? Is that, therefore, not a sin?

There are going to be days when the faithful will find himself or herself in dire straits. Just look at the book of Job! Depressing? It can be, even when trying to lift some measure of hope from it. I’ve been there lately, with a number of medical and family issues going down. Do I “speak positive into the situation?” Job didn’t! He admitted that he hurt. He also retained his faith in God!

Consider This: if you go to a church to worship God, what happens when you don’t feel good?

The person who worships a feeling will find that feelings don’t make good foundations of faith. They aren’t faithful. They don’t deserve our trust. Only Christ does.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Being Anxious For Nothing, Just Anxious!

I haven't been a fan of many blogs lately. Some remain steadfast, but too many "Christian" blogs have turned away from God's truth to embrace something else.

One blogger, Tim Challies, has always been unique for me. Recently he had a guest post that struck home with me. It can be found at this link: Some things you should know about Christians who struggle with anxiety. I suggest you read it through, then return here.

Welcome back. I know some will poo-poo the whole concept of anxiety being outside of one's control. If you feel that way — if you think that uncontrollable anxiety is on par with the LGBTQIA excuse of "God made me that way" and you cannot accept it — then feel free to stop here. Thanks.

For those who didn't ditch, let me say that I can empathize all too well with Adam Ford's situation. I have had various degrees of panic and anxiety attacks as far back as I can recall. Social anxiety comes and goes for me. My mother has noted that the symptoms of panic/anxiety disorder have run in her family, and I've been able to see it now that I'm aware of it.

Too many people pull out Philippians 4:6, with its admonition to "be anxious about nothing." While I encourage you to read the rest of the context, of course, I will say that those of us with PAD do precisely that: be anxious for nothing. Such anxiety attacks pop up out of the clear blue with no discernable cause, other than our bodies decide they need to do it.

So many want to point the finger of accusation, or to beat down the "sin" with a barrage of out-of-context verses. Trust me, it just comes off as condemning.

I consider my disorder to be my equivalent of Paul's humbling thorn in the flesh. It reminds me that I am not in control. It reminds me that I am imperfect. It reminds me that I am dependent on the mercy and grace bought for me on the cross.

Consider This: aren't we all?

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Acceptance or Hatred? God says, "Neither, and Both!"

I really haven't wanted to dwell on this, but I must. It seems that, according to popular opinion, a Christian must either accept a sin, or hate the person. After all, that's what God does, right?

Wrong!

Look carefully at John 3:1-21. This is what I like to call "the Gospel in a nutshell." This is the executive summary, the elevator speech, the short form of Jesus' purpose for being born, dying, and being resurrected. This is the real "love chapter" in the Bible, because it shows just how much God loves each and every one of us. Yep, He even loved the Pharisees, Judas Iscariot, Pilate, you, and me. He didn't send Jesus into the world to condemn every single sinner. We did that ourselves! God sends no one to Hell; we book that trip ourselves. It's a much easier trip, but the brochure doesn't really give an accurate picture of the destination.

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God! (Romans 3:23) BUT God loved us enough to provide the way to save us. All we need to do is accept the terms of the offer. 
 (Romans 3:19-26)

God is love, and God in us causes us to love others (1 John 4:7-14). Therefore, anyone in whom the spirit of God resides cannot hate the drunk, the murderer, the homosexual, or anyone else. We all still fall short, because we continue to live in a world rich with temptation, and we are still arrogant, self-hroghcentered, and stupid. That is our failure, not God's.

So why do so many LGBTQs say we hate them? Why do Muslims who act in a peaceful manner believe we hate them? Too often it's because we remain arrogant, self-centered, and stupid. Too often we are out of tune with the Holy Spirit (the real one, not the emotional high some believe is Him). Too often we are total failures at communication. On the other hand, too often homosexuals identify so closely with their choices that they cannot distinguish between the two. Too often Muslims adhere to the religion of their family and society that they do not see the difference.

We need to ensure we differentiate between the two.

We must not hate the homosexual. We must hate the sin, and we may mourn the trap of reasoning that they fall into, but we must not hate the person. They may see it as, "God made me that way," but we must realize that is no more nor no less true than God making me with depression and anxiety disorder. Both are just as accurate as saying that a man cannot help but be "turned on" by another woman, or vice versa.

If I cannot make that distinction, then perhaps it's far better to keep my mouth (or keyboard) inactive and allow God to work through all lives involved.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rapture Rupture

As I write this, many Christian communities are packing their bags, ready for the Big Event. So much had been said about the fourth "blood moon" coming up tonight that it had almost become sickening.

Everybody is ready for the Rapture!

For those who somehow have been protected from all the ruckus, the Rapture is the alleged event that shall occur before, during, or after the Great Teibulation, depending on which interpretation you choose. (Yes, I know some interpretations don't even bring in the Rapture, and at least one variation puts end-times prophesy mostly at the Masada incident. Let's not get into that debate, please.) This event, popularized by a variety of works including the Left Behind series of books and movies, causes all "true" Christians to leave the Earth suddenly. Again, the details of the departure and who is a "true Christian" has been thrown about with disgusting arrogance.

Consider This: what if we're ALL wrong about the Rapture?

Wouldn't it be a shock to discover that the Rapture has already hapened, but only 144,000 or so people disappeared … a number so small that nobody even noticed?

What would that mean for those of us "left behind?" Would it mean we should never have watched that R-rated movie on the "Sabbath?" Would it mean we should've joined this or that church, even though they all got left behind as well?

Maybe, just maybe, we were so focused on blood moons and the alledgedly "correct" and "uncorrupted by Greek" name of the Son of God that we failed to help the least of those among us. Maybe, instead of looking for signs and wonders, we needed to look for those whose last days are today or tomorrow, about to die without hope. Maybe, instead of being on street corners pushing tracts and pithy sayings in the hands and faces of random people, we needed to tell them the simple Gospel, such as can be found in John 3:1-21? Nothing complex, no rituals or rites, just simple truth and hope. "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2) instead of tongues and rosaries, church committees and home groups, accountability and "miracles."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Another Guest Post

To be honest, I am considering either changing this blog or creating a new one. Lately I've been more introspective and wanting to be a bit more generalized. I don't know yet.

Anyhow, you can find my second guest post revealing my heart at http://randomlychad.com/2013/11/its-not-just-divorce.html today.
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