Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To know Him is to love Him (or vice versa?)

I think one of the biggest areas I struggle with is knowing vs knowing about God. I mean, I think I have faith. But how do I know. Do I really have faith if it is never tested? How do I know the difference between the "Hand of God", serendipity, and circumstance? Is there a difference?

In his book 'Waking The Dead', John Eldredge says this:
Having a doctrine pass before the mind is not what the Bible means by knowing the truth. It’s only when it reaches down deep into the heart that the truth begins to set us free, just as a key must penetrate a lock to turn it, or as rainfall must saturate the earth down to the roots in order for your garden to grow.

So the question that keeps coming back up is "how?" How do you get faith? How do you get to know God? I know all the right answers about prayer and reading Scripture. But I struggle with understanding what is meant by certain parts of the Bible or how it should be interpreted.

So is the answer to simply do it more? I mean, if I can't often make heads or tails out of what the Scripture is saying, will reading more often and more fervently help me?

I feel like a lot of the 30 - 50 year old crowd is walking around with a "Bible Story" view of Christianity. That is, we all hold onto the Bible stories we learned in Sunday School or "My First Bible" as kids. But it is the part about going deeper that is the stumbling block.

That leads me to ask the question: Who has the responsibility to equip a person with the things needed to grow as a Christian? Is it the "corporate" Church on Sundays? Is it the Christian community at large? Is it the individual himself in a sink-or-swim sort of situation?

I feel like it really comes down to Love: God's love for us, our love for each other, our love of God, and more. It's more of a feeling than a fact. But perhaps that signifies faith in the end.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres... And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:4-7, 13 NIV)

Monday, December 17, 2007

I want to sing a song.....

I recently picked up a few Third Day CDs (some on iTunes and some "fer real" discs). I really like their Offerings collections. There are 2 songs that have grabbed ahold of me and won't let go right now: "Show Me Your Glory" and "Sing a Song."

Show Me Your Glory has such a powerful message in it about what I think is important to being a Christian. Specifically in the lyrics:

When I climb down the mountain
and get back to my life,
I won't settle for ordinary things.
I'm gonna follow You forever
and for all of my days
I won't rest 'til I see you again.

God's glory and splendor are so awesome that we should not settle for the same ole ordinary, worldly things as we did before. Our lives should be a continual desire and adventure to get closer to God. I believe that the act of seeking after God in order to become more Christ-like is one of the fundamental aspects of living out my faith.

Shifting gears a little bit, I also like the message in "Sing a Song." The refrain (if the song actually has one?) goes like:

I want to sing
a song of Your faithfulness
a song of Your grace
and of Your loving kindness
to the glory of Your Name.
With everything that's in me, Lord,
listen to me say,
I want to sing a song for You,
I want to sing a song.

This, for me, is such a great message of praising God. No pretense, no "I need to say praise before I ask for blessing", just pure unadulterated praise. I really wish that I could keep my heart and mind in this mode all the time. What a difference it makes in my days (and nights) when I "set my mind on things above" and truly praise the Lord

And, yes, I sing these songs whilst driving down the road in the car. What God didn't give me in vocal talent he more than made up for in enthusiasm and volume...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Seeking. Knowing.

Last year (2006) I kind of had a "Come to Jesus" time in the Fall. Things were really starting to pile up at work and at home. Stress levels in relationships, and most especially within me, were getting to a boiling point. I hadn't really thought about God in any real way for years. Perhaps decade or more.

And to tell you the truth, I wasn't thinking about him in Fall '06 either. But I was getting really close to hitting the bottom, I felt.

Through what I believed to be serendipity, or good karma, or whatever, I received unexpected financial help that helped us get some footing underneath us again. Not attributing this to God's plan, I pretty much just heaved a sign of relief and went back to tackling life one emergency at a time.

I pretty much went on this way until Spring '07. I met a fellow that was doing some contract work for my employer. He was a nice guy, kinda funny most times (of the Ha-ha variety). In talking here and there, I learned that he is a Christian. And a pretty daggum strong one it seems...

I got interested in Jesus suddenly it seemed. I started reading 'Mere Christianity' by C. S. Lewis and decided regular attendance at our church would be better than just the here-and-there attendance we had before. I downloaded sermons from other churches and even tried to get a Bible study going once a week at work.

What I really started to discover was that I was getting to know about God... but I wasn't getting to know God. Through the fellowship with other Christians, I started to see the differences between those two things.

Now, I'm working on knowing instead of knowing about... More to come on that.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Why does it matter?

That's the question that was circling around the house for a few years every time Sunday morning rolled around. Why does it matter if we go to church this week? I've got a Bible and I don't need anyone to talk to God for me. I can talk to him any time I want to. Besides, I've seen the stories about these televangelists and "Big Church" folks that say they are working for God but only really seem to be lining their pockets. Pffttt!!!

So, I guess I'll be Christian but I won't be religious. How's that? I love God but I don't trust his ground crew....

Sounds nice and self righteous. I can do better on my own. Or can I?

I thought I had it figured out but then I realized that I was missing something. It was getting to be too easy to rationalize my faith away and to postpone turning to God. This couldn't be the way it was supposed to be.

But those people at church... they all seem to have it together. They're all shiny and happy and living good Christian lives. I don't have any of that. I can't go in there until I'm a better Christian. But I'm not doing such a good job on my own, am I?

So, I decided that the best thing to do was to just go. I mean, there are about a billion churches. I should be able to find one I could at least try for a while.

Turns out that all those people in the church are just like me: human, broken, seeking. Seeking something...

And that's when I started to see some of what the Church is for. Community, sharing, blessing, helping. It doesn't have anything to do with the building, the songs, which Sunday School class you are in, or whether you attend the programs. It's about belonging to a community of people who, in one way or another, are seeking for that which is bigger than them. And believing, in whole or in part, that it has to do with Jesus.

So, I ask, does regular church attendance matter to you?