Friday, September 21, 2012

Crisis of Faith

Shame on any of us who would dare to speak as though we have God all figured out, or act as though we can anticipate Him. I know I myself have had times where I have walked in this kind of confidence. I think it's large groups of people walking around in exactly this kind of confidence that might be dividing the church.

The Bible says that God's ways are not our ways, and His knowledge is so high that we can never attain it.  And yet how many of us dare to speak for Him?  As if somehow we know exactly what He is thinking, or exactly how He will respond to us, or worse, to someone else.

I come from a somewhat charismatic background, though the "Holy Spirit driven" atmosphere that I started my walk of faith in greatly waned over the years.  God has moved us somewhere now where I see much less of the "charismatic" than what I grew in, and yet, where we are now is solidly and completely scripturally sound. Or at least, I think it is... And yet I know many who are much farther down the "charismatic scale, and they are in (seemingly) good strong churches where God seems to be moving as well. 

Someone grabbed hold of my husband's arm last night and "read" him according to his personal Holy Spirit meter, "You're pretty light," he said, as if he carried some sort of spiritual authority.  The bible says out words are to "build up" and my thought was that his comment was completely contrary to that, so is that the marker of "not of God" that I saw?  He told us story after story before that about a "deliverance ministry" of sorts, casting demons off people. I know that is possible-- Jesus did it, and before He ascended He told the disciples they would do "greater works" than He with the help of the Holy Spirit. So is it possible for those things to happen?  Yes. But through out our whole conversation the word that I heard most out of his mouth, was "I"... I, I, I....

Finally I said, "you know it's not you, right?"  He said, "The Bible says I will have power."  I said, "The Bible says apart from Christ you can do NOTHING."  People thinking that God using them makes them special, it's dangerous ground.  If they begin to believe the power is their own? To prophesy, to heal, even to minister... I don't want that from any MAN (or woman) I want it only from the Lord.  And yes God uses broken (sinful, prideful, WRONG) vessels, but there has to be room for Him to pour through, and that's not possible when someone is full of SELF.

I have times in my life where I know God has spoken to me-- promises made, directions given, encouragement bestowed-- and I think of the scripture that says "Wisdom is justified by her children."  A secular equivalent might be "The proof is in the pudding."  I can tell you that God promised me a daughter long before she came, but if she never came, then he didn't promise. But if I can point to her and show you she's here, can I claim I truly heard Him, or would you call it a coincidence.

"The Church."  Jesus wasn't referring to a small group of people who met in a single building, but that's how we have redefined it. "My church..." and we are speaking of the small congregation of people coming together under one roof.  But Jesus was talking about all who followed Him.  Even pastors can become guilty of felling competitive instead of camaraderie.  They won't partner or interact with another body outside their denomination or even outside their walls for fear of losing some tithing congregant to another "church."  (They're not all like that, but some are.)

There is such a wide berth of belief and practice-- The extreme charismatic of a proclaimed "flow" all the way to the driest most ritualistic of beliefs.  The gift of tongues- some believe, some do not.  They either exist or they don't. Prophesy? Some walk around spouting it at will, can they actually do that? (Since it has to be of God to be real, and not of themselves) to those who believe the "time of prophecy" was only in the early days of the church. But why would God do that?  Would He do that?

I am asking.  I am asking for wisdom.  The Bible says if I lack wisdom I should ask of God because He GIVES it liberally and without finding fault.  What does that look like?  How do I know it's him.  Oh yes, wisdom is justified by her children.  But how do I know when I am listening?  Does He speak?  The Bible says He is the Good Shepherd and His sheep know his voice.  He must have a voice.

This I know: Christ and Him crucified. My "crisis" of faith is not in my salvation.  I have absolutely no doubt who Jesus was, or what He did, and what it means for me.  But I feel like, in this moment, it's the only thing I am absolutely positive and certain of.  That and the times in the past that He has given me wisdom and direction, and it has already proven true.  Though some might call it coincidence.

That basis of faith is so simple, but nothing else about following Christ is uncomplicated. If I am this overwhelmed and caught in the cross hairs of the diversified practices and beliefs of "churches" then how much more confusing must it be for the unbeliever?

I feel like my foundation is being shaken.  I feel like I really don't know anything.  And the many or any who might want to come along and "tell me" what they know to try to bring me the clarity they feel so confident they have, and are so certain they can offer me... I want to say, "Show me where the Word of God says that." I have had seasons where I felt like I knew where God wanted me, or I at least I knew I was on the right track.  Right now I have no sense of that at all.

Am I at the right church?  I feel like if I told them some of my story they would think me crazy, dangerous even.  But when I think of them I think of their love.  The Bible says that His people will be known by their love.  That's good.  But is that God reminding me of that scripture?  Is He "speaking" to me?   I don't have a sense of belonging there, and yet, it is a good place to be.

I look at my life and I feel like poor decisions up to this point have stuck me in a very precarious position, and I can look back and see things I wish I would have done differently.  But if I had taken some other path, the good things in my life would be different too, right?  So can it have been a mistake?  I don't know.  I DON'T KNOW!!!

Love and worship... love and worship... it's the last thing I THINK I felt confident I heard from the Lord.  It comes back to that.  But did I hear Him? Can I?  I don't know, because right now, He seems quiet. But did He ever speak.  The proof has been in the pudding at times, but in one "church" may would see it, and others might question my sanity... I feel a little crazy, I might side with those.

Christ and Him crucified.  It's like looking into a huge mosaic of broken pieces of misguided, well-intended, confused and confident people, beliefs and practices, and all I can make out of the picture is a cross in the middle.  The Cross of Christ, it is the only anchor to which I feel I can hold to with confidence.

Lord speak, Your servant is listening desperately. But will You?  Do You?  I do not know.  And yet you have... or was it coincidence?

For I determined to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bitter Dandelions

There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I was constantly in conversation with others inside my own head.  I would imagine the things they would say to me, and I would formulate the perfect replies, stinging and direct.  You see these conversations were never happy conversations, but rather they were rooted in hurts and offenses where I felt in my mind I had received no justice.

I remember the summer before this past when I was actually overwhelmed with them.  When at Bible study we scribbled down our private prayer requests for someone else to pray for over our summer together, mine may have seemed strange.  "Please pray for the imaginary conversations going on inside my head." My friend, however, understood and knew I was not fighting and kind of mental disease, but rather a spiritual one.  For it was in those imagined conversations in my mind that I was pouring Miracle Grow on seeds of bitterness.

Sadly those relationships were never righted, though not all fault is mine.  And I found that even after I left the relationships where I was, in fact, fostering bitterness, it took a very long time just to get even a little progress away from the bitterness that had become full grown in my heart.  Then one day I was driving along and I suddenly realized, I hadn't had a single thought of bitterness about those relationships in several days.  It may not seem like much, but when you're having them all day long for months, maybe even years, a few days can seem like a very long time.  I realized that in moving away from the relationships that had been so hard, I had actually found freedom.  I stopped watering the root, and the bitterness began to die.

Today I was taking a worship walk with the Lord.  It's something I am trying to incorporate  to tend to the health of mind, body and spirit.  I was talking to the Lord, listening to a worship song, praying for the people that He brought to my mind. And then suddenly a thought passed through my mind, as if it had drifted in on the wind.  An awkward conversation from days before that made me feel defensive, and suddenly I began to think about the follow up conversation I'd like to have. I imagined both parts, my own, and the other person, even though I had no certainty 6that any of my embarrassment or discomfort was rooted in any truth.  But I felt my mind began to judge the other to make me feel better about myself.

Thankfully, I recognized quickly this seed that had drifted into my mind.  Like dandelion dust, it drifted in without my intent or expectation, and it distracted me from thinking on the many good things there are to consider and rather creating in my own mind a scenario that might not even exist.  Like the large shadow of a small child, the light was obscured in such a way that it looked like something much bigger than the reality. Or perhaps it wasn't even a child causing the shadow, perhaps it was a complete illusion from nothing alive or true at all.

It occurred to me then that that is exactly how bitterness grows.  No one plants that seed in their own heart with intent.  Something in the wind drifts it towards us, and without any knowledge of it all, it begins to take root. The thing about a dandelion is this, it can look beautiful, even harmless in its growing form. A harmless little yellow flower, one might even find beauty in it, like we find justification in our offense.  But as it grows, it changes.  The yellow flower turns to the white puff children are so fond of picking from the grass to blow upon it.  A child has no idea of the havoc he may wreak as he blows on this kind of weed, but when Satan blows upon the similar weed within our hearts, he knows exactly the havoc he will wreak in our hearts and lives if he can just get the weed of bitterness to spread.

I looked up how you get rid of dandelions, and there is no way around it, the weeds have to be destroyed, and the sooner the better.  So is the same truth for the bitter seeds that drift into our hearts.  We have to pluck them out and destroy them swiftly.  We cannot allow them to grow or spread. I know this to be true, not from a conversation in my mind, but a word of Truth being spoken to my heart.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God 
and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Hebrews 12:15