The Lightbulb

 

“Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.”

Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

When it comes to true religion, the right concept is always in the back our brains, yet the principle can quickly be snuffed out by our surroundings. The Bible defines true religion as being free from the world and loving others as we love ourselves. Continue reading “The Lightbulb”

Healing Divine and Otherwise

For the next few posts, I’m back to more spiritual awareness. This next series of posts may be bit dark, but I hope that they help people understand why man-controlled religion can be deadly, and why it is of the utmost importance to have a relationship with God for ourselves. I distinguish mainstream religion from walking with Jesus because from what I see in America, we tend to get the two confused. When we look at scripture, God says that he will dwell in his people and that those who accept and receive Christ into their hearts and follow his words would be his people. He no longer needed his people to have a temple with His presence dwelling in the ark and the tablets of stone to remind them of righteousness. We, his people were to be living epistles, read by all men. The word of God was to be written in our hearts. We as the people of God were to be his dwelling place, his priesthood and he would establish a new covenant. Finally, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, the veil that separated man from God was pulled away. We no longer need a mediator or anyone to go to God for us, we could approach God directly through prayer and walk with him in a personal way. Continue reading “Healing Divine and Otherwise”

The Shock of Romans 14

One day a Christian friend was driving me to an appointment. I was thankful for the ride, but we began to talk about Dan Ryan Expressway drivers and how some of them were just crazy. If you’ve ever been to Chicago and drove on the Dan Ryan, you would have given us a high-five. Some of the drivers are just insane the way they dodge in and out of traffic, won’t let you in the adjacent lane. The trick seems to be DON’T use your turn signals, just TAKE the opening.

Ahh…the Dan Ryan

I drive it every day of the week and understand the madness.

However, my friend began to say that the drivers were morally wrong. I was trying to figure out if he was serious. Then he started to talk about how the drivers had the wrong spirit (and many of them absolutely do), but he said this mainly because the drivers would not just wait in line for the feeder to merge onto the I-290. They would go the next lane, get as far as they could to the front and then cut in.

Ok. So it’s not the best thing to do, but I’ve done it, and no, it doesn’t work for the grand scheme of traffic, but sometimes I just don’t feel like waiting and want to get ahead of the other 50 cars. Am I going to hell for this?! I don’t think so, but my friend was so adamant that it was morally wrong I was concerned that they may have walked out the next time I preached. So I listened rather silently with interest, as my friend was taking his theory over the top declaring  that these drivers were “in trouble with God.” His protests were met with my “oh, yeah?” and “Hmm.” I kept my expressway sin to myself. So far, Jesus and I are okay with my driving style, and that’s where it stays. I feel no condemnation when I’m running late, doing what I’ve got to do short of riding the shoulder and putting people’s lives in danger. See how people can think differently.  So let’s talk about personal convictions in Romans 14.

Verse 14

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Years ago I preached on Romans chapter 14, and as I went through the scriptures, I realized how problematic it was for our brand of religion.

Romans 14 is a scary thought to some. If people are led by God, won’t they feel differently about different things? Absolutely! Will God always point them to the same solution? Absolutely not!

After I preached about this chapter, someone came up to me totally confused  “How do you practice those scriptures and not compromise our standards?” So I took some time, there in the parking lot, and went over some points of scripture with them, but they left my presence very, VERY concerned. I didn’t know how to put any spin on it to make it fit what we practiced (controlling people’s every move) so I just taught it as it was.

I believe what stirred the pot was,  how does a church give people such liberty of conscience and still make them follow all of our rules? That would mean they would just be in the hands of God for Him to talk to them as He saw fit.  To some, that would never do.  I guess they would have to leave people alone and trust God to lead them. Like I said, scary thought.

This chapter gives Christians the freedom to walk with God based on His Word along and their culture.

It was then I realized that for some it was easier to explain AWAY Romans 14 or ignore it.

So let’s rip that page out.

shutterstock_154923812-800x430

What is Romans 14 Telling Us?
Romans 14 speaks of matters of conscience, personal convictions in our walk with God. For those that enjoy controlling other Christians, this may seem a fate worse than death.
What we personally feel free in doing and what we don’t is subjective and personal when it comes to the unwritten aspects of scripture. Paul addressed this because of the culture clash between Jews and Gentiles that caused a schism in the church at Rome. Paul spends 13 chapters talking about doctrine and then says in 14 and 15, “oh, by the way, stop fussing with one another over this small stuff, you’re all going to just give an account to God for yourself anyway.” Paul explained how to overcome this point of contention. These were minor issues that had little to do with salvation and the gospel of Christ but had everything to do with differences in visualizing of what it means to be a Christian in practical application. Something that frankly has caused divisions throughout church history.

Romans 14 has everything to do with being aware of who you are spiritually are in Christ. What you do to honor God and what you feel as a Christian you should restrain yourself from. It’s a chapter about holding your convictions in the spirit of love toward your fellow Christian Let’s take a look. Paul says:

1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.

First thought: Don’t be arrogant about your convictions! To walk with God, one must keep a spirit of humility. This involves just being happy with whatever freedoms the Lord gives your conscience and leaving other people’s convictions alone. None of the Gentiles could feel superior to their Jewish counterparts and vice versa. We have many Christians today who will downgrade your walk with God to 0, if you don’t vote a certain way, or feel like they feel on social issues. It’s important to look at Romans 14 and dial it back a bit.

My husband has a Christian friend who is on the total opposite of the political spectrum, but they never attack one another’s commitment to God. I admire that.

Frankly, anytime the reality of our religious practices fail to match up with the principles of the scripture, something is probably wrong with the method and not the scripture.
Throughout Romans, Paul talks to both a Jewish and Gentile audience. He switches back and forth between these two audiences. The Book of Romans is one of the most solidly doctrinal books about salvation in the New Testament, and I believe Paul, in this letter, stops a moment to address the differences in their cultures.

Second thought: Paul calls those that have severe conscience scruples, weak. One Christian may feel they need to bow their head in prayer before going to the even the grocery store down the street; another may not feel all that is necessary and prays as he goes, knowing and believing the Lord is always by his side. Paul said both are just fine.
In matters of conscience, this is where you have to be “fully persuaded in your own mind.” According to Paul, we should not force our convictions on others. These people were all serious about serving God. The ones who had scruples were just as serious as the ones that did not.

I am painfully aware that there were times in my walk with God that I felt ALL Christians should follow what the Lord showed ME. There are times I was so confident that God had spoken that I couldn’t imagine that he didn’t tell the next guy the same thing. But that’s how some Christians behave. Thankfully, I’ve grown.

God knows our make-up, our constitution. He remembers that we are dust. He knows what will send us down the wrong path and what will keep us in the straight and narrow. It’s not the same for every person. Everyone is not tempted by the same things. God focuses on the condition of our hearts, and our heart purity. I cannot decide for another person what will affect their heart purity toward God in matters of personal conviction. So in the gray areas, we have to keep in connection with God so that we can stay on the right path. Walking with God cannot involve someone else telling you what convictions you must have.

3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.

God’s love toward us is immeasurable, and he will not allow us to drift away if we stick strictly to the instructions he’s laid out in his Word. He also wants us to treat others with His amazing love, even when we don’t agree.

12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God…

19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.

So we have spiritual responsibility internally and externally. A Christian must be aware and persuaded of what pleases God in his personal walk. He must be tuned in to the voice of God and what God requires of him. He also must commit to carrying his conviction in the love of God and not flaunt his liberty in a way that will cause someone to lose his faith in Christ.

#walkonwater

Are Negative Personality Traits An Excuse to Sin?

For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,  Hebrews 2:11

Our backgrounds, childhoods, upbringing can affect our personality traits. But does this necessarily have to hurt our walk with the Lord? Sometimes it can. God never tempts any man toward sin.  The fault lies in our own desires and temptation from Satan. God allows us to see our personal weaknesses so that we may better understand ourselves and as a result,  lay these undesirable characteristics at the feet of Jesus.

God sees all of our issues: our need for attention, our coldness toward people, our shyness, our tendencies to be aggressive, our suspicious and mistrustful eyes, our stubbornness, or avoidance of communication and conflicts, our exaggerations, our need to emulate others, our desire to exalt ourselves, our insecurities with ourselves, our hastiness, our passivity, or our controlling nature.  All are shortcomings that God wants us to eradicate from our lives. All are areas to which God does not turn a blind eye. When God creates situations that show us the negative side of our personality, it is for our growth as a believer.  We have loving God that shepherds our spiritual development.

Yet, after the situation has passed, we should examine why the struggle  with our personality happened in the first place: “Why did I overreact to that question?”  “Why did I assume the other person was wrong?”  “Why was I hurt by this situation?” If we are unwilling to seek God for the answers to these questions, we will only have a shallow Christian experience and not the deeper walk that God wants us to enjoy.

For example, a conflict between people is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to degenerate into catastrophic damage. Disturbances in relationships with the people around us often happen when differing views collide.  The collision can be the result of opposite perceptions.  People’s backgrounds and past experiences can affect how they view day-to-day situations. The way they think, the way they react to things or perceive things or the words that come out of their mouths. Someone who gets frustrated or gives up easily, for example, may need more encouragement to find a job or overcome a lingering trial because they lack perseverance. He or she doesn’t see things through to the end and quits too soon.  That person may struggle more to complete a task than someone who regularly sticks to his or her guns. God sees this weakness, however, and will send that person through areas that will try his or her stamina in that particular area. He will put that person in conflicts where he or she has to stay the course and see things through to the end without complaining.

Personality traits can hinder accomplishing goals.  Someone who gets frustrated or gives up easily, for example, may need more encouragement to find a job or overcome a lingering spiritual battle because they lack perseverance. He or she doesn’t see things through to the end and quits too soon.  That person may struggle more to complete a simple task than someone who regularly sticks to his or her guns. God sees this weakness, however, and will send that person through areas that will try his or her stamina. He will put that person in situations and conflicts where he or she has to stay the course and see things through to the end without complaining.

Christians even after being forgiven of all their sin, can hold onto behaviors such as laziness, undue criticism of others, controlling behaviors, perfectionism, stinginess, over-sensitiveness, stubbornness,  mistrust of others, argumentative behavior or chronic impatience for a variety of reasons having to do with their backgrounds. Although it is essential to get to the bottom of our personality issues, our background should never be an excuse for sinful behavior.  To sin, you have to make a choice.  In order to keep doing what’s right, the Christian must recognize and push back against the wrong that presents itself through the flesh.

God will come in through the sanctifying experience and give us the power to face these character killers, cleanse us and transform our personality where he will not be ashamed to call us brethren.

from How to Walk on Water              DOWNLOAD THE BOOK

Can Oppression Make You Crazy?

Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.

Ecc 7:7 (KJV)

I had never considered this scripture before but it is filled with understanding. Trust me, I will probably be meditating on this for a long time.  Not to excuse crazy behavior, but because I never realized the depths to which oppression can drive a person.

Extortion is a special type of oppression, but in some versions of the bible, the Hebrew word simply rendered Oppression.   To be clear, oppression is being unjustly treated or controlled, especially over a length of time.  This may send anyone over the edge.  God made the human psyche to have free will and not be controlled.  When a person is controlled in everything they do or not allowed to exercise their abilities or gifts, it can make them act out of normal character.  It can cause them to break ranks from the norm.

I believe God wants us to have the understanding for people that have been oppressed.  To expect a group of people or a person to stay under oppressive systems or a person to continue to stay in an oppressive situation is unreasonable.  When God sends us through trials and difficulties, he never allows this just as an exercise in cruelty.  On the spiritual side, it is a controlled situation.  God will get us out of it when He’s ready.

God realizes that persecutions, tyranny, confinement is a punishment that’s against our natural creation. He does not mean for us to stay oppressed.  Even the wisest and humblest person can be affected.

The second part of this scripture says that  “a gift destroyeth the heart”, which is often rendered as “a gift can bribe the heart”.   People can change their principles and integrity for money or support. They get bought out because of something they want.  As Christians, this is something we should never do.  We should keep our beliefs and integrity even if the entire world turns against us, as long as we are leaning on scripture.

The moral of all this:  good men can be turned and we have to be careful to not allow ourselves to be moved from a godly path in life.