Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is My Difference All Right With You?

Father I do not seek you in the same way my friends do.
I honor You in all that I do;
You honor me too.

Yet because I do not serve You in the same way that they do;
They think I surely don’t know You.

Is it true Father, do I not know You?
Do I not honor You in all that I do?

Because my relationship with You, Father, is different,
Does that mean I don't serve You?

I do not judge my friends, or the way that they serve You.

I do not ask You which one is closer.

I only ask, "Am I all right with You?"

         The journey of rediscovery and commitment I find myself navigating, at times causes me to laugh, and at other times to cry. Sixteen months ago I resigned a pastorate because my wife and I sensed a season of change in our ministry. Eleven months ago I completed the ordination process eager to step right into the change I knew was just around the next bend, and now almost a year later I have no better idea where God is calling me than I did when I knew it was time to leave that pastorate. But, as I dig out, dust off, and update my previous attempts at writing a thought provoking devotional, I catch myself reliving the experiences that have shaped me as a person. 

“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” — Titus 1:15 (KJV)

         It doesn't take long in Christian circles to feel condemnation from other believers who are supposed to love and affirm you in the faith. At least, that was my experience as I left home to attend a Christian college. I felt the calling into full-time ministry, and I had some evidence of the fruit of Christian maturity. Once on campus and assigned a living space the challenges to my faith began. My first roommate was from an extremely legalistic background and measured holiness by waking early and shouting prayers to the heavens. When he wasn’t doing that he was “evangelizing”. You know, the real in your face Bible thumping — “Repent, you sinner! You’re going straight to HELL!”

         Personally, I find no peace standing on a street corner preaching damnation to the passers by. I am not saying there is anything wrong with people who exercise their faith in that way. I am just saying that it is not the way God has dealt with me to walk before Him. Yet, as I was studying for the ministry, it seemed that no one understood my perspective or the ministry I believed God called me into. If I did not take part in the activities my roommates considered spiritual they did not consider me Christian.

         After about a month of this condemnation I felt justified throwing a little back the other direction. I was losing sleep because of early morning prayers and late night jam sessions, so I got up, went into the kitchen and asked: “Have you ever backslid?” He answered, “Yes. Why do you ask?”

         At that point I knew I had him, so I said, “I’ve been having trouble understanding this passage and I wondered if you might help me?” He replied, “Sure, I can help you. What is the passage?”

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” — Hebrews 6:4-6 (KJV)

         I shared the Scripture and left the room. Feeling completely satisfied and somewhat justified that I sent my roommate’s theology into a tailspin. When he could not reconcile what he read in the Word with his life, he all but lost hope. For that I am deeply sorry, because had I approached the situation differently I might have been able to teach him something about the grace, and love of God. Instead of simply continuing the pattern of frustration and judgment that was being passed back and forth between us. The situation did teach me a lot about commitment.

         The Lord began dealing with me and what I learned is: It is not my place to interfere with God’s plan for His servants. We are all on the same journey but we are in different stages of development. It’s my responsibility to extend a helping hand where I can and receive help graciously when I need it. After weeks of mental and spiritual struggle, I went back to my roommate and asked him to forgive me. I shared additional scriptures to ease the anguish he was experiencing. We both grew in our understanding and view of God and His Word. Therefore, I believe we all have something of importance to impart to those with whom we make contact in life. And none of us regardless of position are any more important to God than another.

"If now thou hast understanding, hear this: hearken to the voice of my words. Shall even he that hateth right govern? and wilt thou condemn him that is most just? Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly? How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of his hands." — Job 34:16-19 (KJV)

         In fact, the Lord addressed Eli on the matter of whom He would honor. Do you remember the story? If not it's found in 1 Samuel. Eli was the High Priest and his sons were not following God’s commands. They were manipulating ministry situations to get their own way and benefit themselves.  According to the story, God is able to clean up His own house and deal with His servants. He does not need our help. In fact, we often get in His way and delay the lesson He is teaching others.

"Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." — 1 Samuel 2:30 (KJV)

         Living our lives to honor God is our main purpose. There are other examples from Scripture. Take a look at David. He was a man with several problems. His father-in-law wanted to kill him. His son attempted to steal the kingdom from him, and there were also his personal bouts with sin; yet, David, upon his deliverance, had quite a bit to say about the faithfulness of the Lord; and, I now find myself in agreement with what he had to say. I trust that as you read this, you too will be able to reflect on the mighty hand of God at work in your own situation. God is at work and He faithfully protects those who are dedicated to His service.

"For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.” — 2 Samuel 22:29-31 (KJV)

         Our lives are not always the picture of rock solid Christian perfection others expect. I, for one, am glad God is the judge. The foundation of our holiness is God. If we abstain from an activity we must examine our basis for avoiding it. On the other hand, if we take part in an activity we need to understand why we are involved. In either case do we strengthen, weaken, or deny our faith?

         Regardless of the organization, fellowship or denomination we are affiliated with, we ultimately are God’s servant, child, and friend. The difficulty with denominations, organization and fellowships is not that we have differences, but that we will not accept the differences we have. If God can accept us with our differences we need to learn to accept each other. The fact is, if there are some we would rather not see in heaven we might not need to worry about it. (Think about it for a minute; I'm sure the meaning will hit you soon.) In spite of our differences God provides, He directs our paths, and somehow accomplishes His will through us even though we are not always the most willing servants.

         God is on time when it comes to the matter of His provisions for us, and although we may have many accusers, Jesus does not condemn us. The Spirit of God brings hope, restoration and reconciliation. When we find ourselves caught up in any sin, the only solution is repentance, but differences in our practice of worship do not in and of themselves constitute sin. Are the things we “DO” done in “Spirit and Truth”? 

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