Strictness or Sanctification?

There have been some thoughts furiously floating around in my head..

Am I resisting a push towards Sanctification, or a Strict Structure?

  • If I notice strictness in my church, should I just let go and trust the direction things are going? or trust that there are good reasons behind the way things are going?
  • If I notice strictness in my church, should I ultimately question whether or not following this strictness is somehow God’s will?
  • Am I ultimately being obedient to Christ or to a leader/system?

… I guess that even the most well intentioned church structure, can hinder a Christian’s faith. The foundation of our lives is our obedience to Christ, and sometimes that comes in conflict with the direction that others proscribe.

  • If I notice that leaders and systems claim to have certain things “worked-out,”should I still be in a questioning mindset? What if I come to a different conclusion? Am I being a rebel if differ? And who am I being a rebel to?
  • If I notice that leaders and systems can pin-point the best “practices and disciplines” to their mental capability should I willfully submit, when my heart is elsewhere?

God looks at our heart, and man looks at the outward appearance. Better a ineloquent prayer or song, or an unscheduled prayer life with my sincerity, then a rigid, scheduled prayer out of heartless duty.

Image result for 1 samuel 16:7

And I ask myself, again, what if these practices are good? And what if someday, my life will have more “discipline,” and I will have a scheduled prayer time – that is never missed, and a scheduled bible time, but cannot do so in the mean time? Am I being rebellious? or real?
Is it satisfactory to pray regularly but not a certain time of the day?

  • If I notice that everyone in my church prays for 50-80+ people each, out-loud, on a rotating and scheduled prayer list and I cannot do it sincerely — Who am I displeasing? my church family? Myself? God?
  • Is it fine to pray for a fraction of that list so that I can pray thoughtfully?
  • Is it fine to pray for people not on that list?

It is tricky, because prayer in itself is good, and regular prayer is even better, plus praying for many people is great –but my heart’ just ain’t in it when its done that way!  God is not angry with me. This is the right kind of rebellion. Rebelling out of the humble realization that I cannot complete this task with the right motives. And even when I pray for an enablement to pray for so many people, my spirit stirs and spurs up red flags, and stop-signs. Image result for red flag

Perfectionism and Legalism

  • If I notice that there is disdain for certain versions of the bible, but I find them easier to read, and therefore more edifying, should I be edified or ignorant and conformed?

…I just don’t believe in putting a stumbling block in place of understanding the Bible. I don’t care if a king commissioned a certain bible, if I cannot understand it, if it uses outdated words, and awkward sentence structures, to whose benefit is it?

When I ask myself these questions, does it reveal who or what has too much power and influence over me? And how did it come to this? Am I going with an unspoken current of submission to man?

Let me fix my gaze back upon the Lord and His Word, so that I aim to please Him and no other!

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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A Christian is…

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The Love and Self-Sufficiency of God

“Isn’t it amazing how the Angels fell, yet God did not give them a savior? That ought to tell us something. He didn’t have to send one to us either. If God had saved no man He would still be God. He owes nothing to Man.” – Paul Washer, The Love of God sermon

“Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, still the sun would shine by day and the stars by night, for these owe nothing to the millions who benefit from their light. So, were every man on earth to become atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away.” – A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, Chapter 6 The Self-Sufficiency of God.

But even though God does not need us, He still provided us with a savior so that we can be made worthy of Him and be with Him into eternity. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Self Compassion vs Biblical Truth

A couple years ago, I received my regular email from a certain representative of my national body of social work (I am no longer in this field). This email usually contained new research findings on specific therapies/interventions,  and promoted training programs and seminars. One time, the email was was about self-compassion. This stood out to me because I saw a counsellor a few months before who recommended this practice to me. I was not able to successfully implement this practice because of it was missing a crucial aspect of reality. Self-compassion, though flowery and serene sounding, contains a sinister omission of the Lord our God and replaces it with new age thought:

The new age doctrine of Self-Compassion tells people to

  1. Be kind to themselves as they would be kind to others (Luke 6:31, but reversed, with focus on self)
  2. Recognize that human suffering is universally felt, so to be lead to realize that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with us, that we are not fundamentally damaged in any way (which goes against Romans 3:10& Ecclesiastes 7:20) This then is to…
  3. Lessen the experience of painful feelings and thoughts, and prevent ‘over-identifying with them’ and avoiding labels of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and fulfilling the ultimate goal of…
  4. Reduction of suffering, and accepting ourselves as we are.

The Bible is the measure of truth as it is the “inerrant word of God which is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So I will use a simple comparison between what the bible teaches, and what self-compassion teaches

 The biblical reason behind suffering.

 “There was a time on this earth when suffering and sorrow did not exist. When God first created man upon the earth, everything was perfect. There was no sickness, no pain, no sorrow of any kind. It was God’s plan for man to live in peace and harmony never having to experience sorrow. According to Genesis chapter three, it wasn’t until man chose the way of Satan, rather than the way of God, that sorrow entered the world. Man sins against God in Genesis 3:6-7, and God reveals to Adam and Eve the consequences of sin in Genesis 3:16-19. God told Adam and Eve that they would now experience SORROW and DEATH. Therefore, the suffering and sorrow that you and I face today is not the work of an unjust God; it’s the consequences of sin. We suffer because we are sinners. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Melton, 1994, para. 3)

Self-Compassion’s reason behind suffering:

“Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us”

“All humans suffer, however. The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect. Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.”

“Thich Nhat Hahn calls the intricate web of reciprocal cause and effect in which we are all imbedded “interbeing.”

So to summarize, the Bible teaches us our suffering was not God’s intended plan for us, rather it is due to the consequences of the rebellion of Adam and Eve which leads to our inherited sin nature. Self Compassion doctrine teaches that suffering is merely part of the human experience without explaining how it came about.

Certain questions are begged from the contrasting statements above:
are we really slaves to sin? do we really have control over over the root of our suffering?

The Bible teaches that everyone in a spiritual sense is a slave to something, either to sin or to Christ. Jesus Christ himself said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:34). Gotquestions.org explains this nicely: “Slaves have no will of their own. They are literally in bondage to their masters. When sin is our master, we are unable to resist it (n.d.).

Self-Compassion agrees with this to an extent and asserts that “any aspects of ourselves and the circumstances of our lives are not of our choosing, but instead stem from innumerable factors (genetic and/or environmental) that we have little control over”

So they recommend that the alleviation of suffering comes from the regurgitation of (false) mantras to ourselves (that are based off our Buddhism and new age philosophy). And could it go as far as suggesting that these self-statements have the power to change things from what they actually are!  Though surely one can put themselves into an altered state of consciousness and brainwash themselves into thinking whatever they fancy, but that is a dangerous departure from reality. This reminds me of the ‘word of faith movement‘ that promotes the ‘the power of positive confession’ that deifies man by making claims that man can speak life and death into situations and circumstances.

References

What does it mean to be a slave to sin?. (n.d.). GotQuestions.org. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.gotquestions.org/slave-to-sin.html

Melton, J. (1994, January 1). Why does God allow people to suffer?. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.biblebelievers.com/jmelton/suffer.html
Neff, Kristin . “Self-Compassion.” The three elements of self-compassion. N.p., 1 Jan. 2009. Web. 18 July 2014. <http://www.self-compassion.org/what-is-self-compassion/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion.html&gt;.

The Wrong Dream

I used to pursue the wrong dream. It was unimaginative, and dull, paved by hard concrete and city lights, office boardrooms and bureaucracy. It’s a dream where with every achievement, every recognition, and every monetary gain, I placed another gem in my worldly crown, while I reigned over the kingdom of me.

Like a dream it was warped, and self-referenced, with all things subjected to my desires. Where the other humans were mere pawns to be played, or resources to be extracted for a temporary purpose. In this dream I was ever learning but never wise, ever indulgent, but insatiable, living it up, but rotten and dead.

Now I no longer chase dreams, but His will. He turned the lights on and  replaced those dreams with vision-no longer blind. He woke me up not just from a fantasy, but from the dead-no longer dead in my sins. No longer sleeping, but saved.

 

Street Evangelism mini Story

So it’s been awhile since I’ve shared my street evangelism encounters and stories on here. Time for some updates. Since I’ve been out several times since my last post, and there is lots to share, I will condense my experiences into mini stories in no apparent order.

Encounter #1

One day when I was prepping my heart to share the gospel, I read the first chapter of Isaiah that really moved me (emphasis mine):

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!

For the Lord has spoken:
“I have nourished and brought up children,
And they have rebelled against Me;
The ox knows its owner
And the donkey its master’s crib;
But Israel does not know,
My people do not consider.”

Isaiah 1:1-3

As a new parent, I felt like I understood these verses on a deeper level than before. I could empathize as a parent about what it is like to nourish and bring up a child –even with my limited experience so far, and I could imagine the heartbreak of rebellion.

Then I read further on about the LORD’s loving call to restoration, despite Israel.

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.

Isaiah 1:18

Despite the fact that Israel was corrupt, and full of iniquity (immoral behaviour), The LORD extends an offer of mercy to them. The love of the LORD is so great!

But when I went out that evening, I had a very challenging encounter with a man. A man approached my husband and I and started yelling and violently waving his arms in our faces making false accusations and mocking the Lord:

“Yscreen-shot-2012-07-01-at-8-13-28-amou hate homosexuals!!!”

“Where is your God/Jesus?!!! I don’t see him anywhere!”

“God where are you?!!”

“you guys need to go home and stop what you are doing!”

His eyes were very intense. We get heckled quite a bit, and get lots of dirty looks, but I had never seen such a intense frenzied look before!

I will admit that I was silenced out of fear, but my husband was not. He calmly told him to calm down, and to not yell at us. This suggestion was not taken, and the man continued to yell at us. When he eventually left us, it was only brief as he literally came charging down the street at us I’d say 5-10 mins later. I was very frightened that he was going to take a swing at us. I took a few steps back, and my husband continued to engage with Him. I eventually convinced my husband that the conversation would be fruitless as we could not get a word in edgewise.

While he was doing this a crowd of people stopped in their tracks to witness the huge scene that was taking place. Some recorded with their phones-though I wish they would come to our aid instead of just recording it.

But despite this, I felt a small sense of peace that God would have some glory. The glory not in our evangelism attempt, which seemed like a failure outwardly, but in that His name was being shouted, despite how it was being shouted. And in a way, his mockery of God was so outrageous, that it might have convicted or convinced others just how outrageous it looks to mock God, no matter what the decibel level!

So, to return to the beginning of this night, I found it strange in hindsight, how whenever I feel most equipped with the filling of the Holy Spirit, and reassurance from His Word, I nearly always have an intense experience on the streets with the Gospel!