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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Follow The Spirit or Follow The Man

Over the past three years and more aggressively here recently, I've been reading the Bible with the idea of reading it and understanding it with how I understand it, not how I was taught. When I first started, it was more with the idea of reading it like I woke up one day with amnesia and couldn't remember anything about it that I'd been taught. Eventually I started coming across scriptures and thinking...wait a second, did I read that right, I don't remember it being taught to me like that. It wasn't long before I started comparing other opinions to my own about what I was reading. Now, I've put myself back into a "teaching environment" (the church).

There was a time in my life, before I learned how cruel the world can really be, that even though someone had really, really wronged me, I was very quick to point out that in spite of the wrong that a person did to me, they had good qualities as a person. These days, it's hard to keep from embellishing the wrong, let alone saying that there was anything good about someone that has wronged us. Then I think about the people we admire and how we feel about the people they dislike. I've learned that people assume what you think or feel according to "the group" you belong to, regardless of the fact that you don't think or feel the same way the rest of the group does. Many times it can be decided without even meeting you whether they love you or hate you.

That could be why I'm having issues with going to church. Maybe not so much going to church, but committing myself to the right church. It was suggested that I should find a church where I could submit myself to someone's authority over my spiritual life. If you're set on going only one day a week, go on Sunday night or Wednesday night instead. Yes, I'm encouraging some of you to sleep in on Sunday and catch the evening service. I will forewarn you by experience, it's much harder to make yourself go to the evening service than it is the morning service. So if you decide that's what your going to do, I also encourage you to take the transition slowly. Maybe try it one week and then the next week go to the morning service. It's during the evening service when you are most likely to see what your pastor is really about. When you can really see their zeal for God.

In order for me to submit to anyone's authority over my spiritual life, I'm going to have to trust that person to not mislead me. I have been in search of that person and either they don't want to be placed in that position or I don't have that kind of trust in them. In John 10, Jesus talks about the sheep following their master's voice and fleeing from a voice they don't recognize. He also talks about there being one fold and one shepherd. That we are supposed to go out and gather the sheep into the fold and that He is the shepherd. Having him as the authority that I submit my whole life to is a scary place to be, but I think being submitted to the wrong authority would be an even scarier place.

I'm not condemning our churches and discouraging you from going. Having a church family is important. Sometimes they pick up the slack for us by encouraging our children to listen, ask questions and read their Bible. My girls will come and ask me what the pastor meant when he was talking about a scripture. I tell them what I think about it and then encourage them to read the scripture for themselves and come and talk to me about what it means to them. They hear me talk about my spiritual struggles as well as the outcomes. At first they thought I was a little strange and even protested going to church, but all I did was pray that God would take care of it and He did and He is.

Both of my daughters read their Bibles on a daily basis out of sheer curiosity, not by my coaxing. Just the other night, my youngest daughter came and told me that she was talking about reading the Bible with a friend of hers at school. The friend at school encouraged her to read Acts, because "it will explain a lot of stuff to ya." She attends a public junior high school. They might be able to keep prayer out of the schools, but God is much more powerful than they are. God is still very much alive in our public schools in our kids, but we have to make sure that He is thriving in their lives as well as our own.

Looking back now, within just the past few months, all I did was listen to my heart and what I felt God wanted me to do. If we're led by the Spirit, then how could any of our actions be wrong? When we're doing what God wants us to do, even when we think we have messed up or Satan tries to deceive us, what Satan would have meant for evil, God turns it around and uses it for the good. We just have to keep our focus on who we're following and who we trust. If we alienate ourselves from other believers just because they have views based on following a man instead of the Spirit, I think we hold a certain accountability for not giving God the chance to use us in some way to reveal the truth to them. I'm not saying that we're supposed to speak up and say anything, but I do think at the very least we are supposed to pray for them and what better time to do it while your in the midst of them while God's spirit is also in the midst.

I'm not called to be a preacher (I can hear most of you saying "Praise The Lord!" :), but I do feel that I am called to tell people to start grounding themselves in their faith. Be sure who your master is. Have you ever contemplated whether or not to get on a rollercoaster because someone said it was safe? I remember telling my little girl that it was okay to get on the rollercoaster, she wouldn't get hurt. As the ride came to a stop, a little boy was sitting in the seat with a bloody nose. During the ride, he had hit his nose on the bar holding him in. At that point, she said, "Nope! I ain't riding" and quickly walked back down the ramp away from it. I wasn't the only one saying that it was safe, but she trusted me. I have a really hard time trusting that someone is not going to mislead me and it wouldn't be because they intended to. When we're in doubt, we fall back on what we've been taught, either by God or by man.

I believe there are Spirit led churches, but I also have seen men be led by the Spirit and then really mess up. Think about what that does to that person's followers. There were plenty of us that thought the world of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. When they were popular, I was a child and what I saw was that somebody had lied to a bunch of people and said they were a Christian and turns out they weren't. Now that I've finally "become an adult" spiritually, I realize that at some point they had to be Christians and followed the Spirit otherwise they wouldn't have made it as far as they did. It was when they decided they didn't need God anymore to tell them what to do that they fell. I know there's controversy over Pat Robertson right now, but obviously He is following the Spirit and being faithful to God otherwise I'm sure somebody would have been able to pull something out of the closet on him by now.

With the times the way they are, my generation is losing it's zeal for God. We feel we've been misled and we're reluctant to go to church. We're even more reluctant to take our kids for fear of them being misled. My oldest teenage daughter has a group of about 7 or 8 close friends and only one of them goes to church. Her mother gave me the courage to stand up to my girls even if it made them mad at me. Another one of them used to go to church until her mother quit going. I can understand not wanting to go to church, but I've also seen the effects firsthand of what happens to children when they go and when they don't.

Whether you like it or not, these kids are our future. We can either take the responsibility ourselves for making sure they have the opportunity to have their own relationship with God or we can pass that responsibility on to someone else. I don't want to put my trust in someone else to make sure that they know about God. Too many other parents have placed that responsibility on us and some of us haven't even decided to accept it. I could leave it up to someone else to tell them that they can put their trust in Jesus. I am no more special in His eyes than you are. You also can see to it that you are grounded in your faith. Know your master's voice and share in the responsibility of making sure that others are encouraged to come to or come back to Christ and bring their families.


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