Thursday, April 23, 2015

Please, Shake My Faith

Mark 9:42
Image result for little dorrit mr. pancks stills
Mr. Pancks, who embraced the reproof of his friend
-from BBC's Little Dorrit
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea."

God's children are precious to Him.  He makes this clear in His word and with this verse in particular.   The consequences of causing someone in The Faith to stumble will be severe, I'm sure.  But the title of this blog post really has nothing to do with this verse.  I began by quoting it so that we could get that fact out of the way.   

As a believer in God's Word and in Jesus Christ as my Savior I have to confess that I've constantly wrestled with the issue of Truth.  From the creation of the world, Satan twisted God's Word and His intent in speaking it in order to cause men and women to stumble.  The sad part is, many people have succumbed to his deceit and fallen for "faiths" that are not rooted in truth.   Even those in the Church who are actual children of God can fall prey to lies and begin to believe things that are not true.  Their "faith" earnest though it may be, is rooted in doctrine that is false.  

When someone is confronted with opposition to his "faith", it is not uncommon for him to resist it.  Anger may rise.  Emotions may threaten to get out of control.  Relationships can even disintegrate all at the instigation of opposing beliefs.  Some people fear this and actually shy away from conflicts such as this like it was a deadly plague.   But I say, "Bring it on!". 

Having my faith challenged has done nothing but cause me to dig deeper into the Word of God in order to know what is really true.  And I've found that sometimes, I've placed my faith in a doctrine that is absolutely wrong.   I spent the first twenty years of my life believing something that was wrong that I was taught in Sunday school as a child.  My "faith" held me in the bondage of paralyzing fear.  When I was in my early twenties, this matter came to an ugly head and dealing with it became a matter of life and death for me.   How I wish someone had rocked my world earlier, and shaken my "faith" sooner.  I think of all the years I lived in fear, dreading meeting God the Father and I wonder at the waste.   How much praise was forsaken?   How much joy?

God was kind to bring the error of my beliefs to a point where I had to deal with it.  But after twenty years of believing what I was taught it was pretty engrained into my way of thinking.  And it was difficult.  I felt like I was betraying truth just for considering the opposing theological doctrine.  But, when everything was stripped away, all I really ever wanted was the Truth, not a counterfeit.  God did not want me to believe a lie either because to know the Truth is to know Him.  

Charles Dickens wrote a book called Little Dorrit.   I love the story and BBC did an excellent job of dramatizing the tale.  One of the characters in the book is Mr. Pancks.  He's a quirky little guy who's very smart, but he makes a very big mistake.  He convinces Mr. Clennam to invest his money and the money of his company with Mr. Merdle, The Man of The Age. The investment turns out to be a very bad investment and Mr. Clennam looses everything.  But Mr. Pancks, knowing he was wrong, does not just walk away.  He goes directly to Mr. Clennam with great remorse for his advice and begs Mr. Clennam to express his displeasure saying,  "Come on, at me again!  At me again!".  He desperately wants the confrontation because he feels so badly for his role in Mr. Clennam's ruin. He didn't want to plug his ears and run away from the confrontation.  He didn't deny that he was wrong or insist that he was right merely because of the sincerity of his faith in his advice.  

You may be wondering why on earth I'm bringing that scene up in this post.  I love the scene because I can relate so well to Mr. Pancks' willingness to embrace the facts even if it exposes and highlights his error.  The world would have you believe that truth is subjective, that you can hold to something you sincerely believe in even if others disagree with you and it will be true for you.  It would have you believe that no one is ever wrong and that every thought or opinion is equally valid.   But there is only One truth, and that Truth will set you free.  It doesn't matter how passionately someone holds to his faith if his faith is wrong.  Fervency and sincerity will not lend credibility to it in the end.  Those who sincerely believe a lie will only be sincerely wrong in the end.  I never want to be sincerely wrong, but if I am, I would beg for someone who knows the truth to shake my faith.  In the spirit of Mr. Pancks I say,  "Come on, at me again! At me again!"  

One problem I see regarding this subject is that people seem to be to easily offended.  I don't equate confrontation with personal attack.  No one should.  But I can't even begin to count all the times I've heard people say they "feel attacked" by others merely because someone in the church doesn't agree with them.  Their pride gets in the way and they are unable to glean wisdom from listening to others.   

God says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17).   I've said it before, sometimes sparks are just gonna fly.   But sparks do not necessarily indicate a battle or an attack.  It might just be that God is chiseling away doctrinal error.  Believers should embrace the privilege of speaking truth to each other, even when it takes some work in finding the common ground.  After all, Jesus is the Truth, so if we are seeking to know Him, then we will not shy away from investigating what God's Word has to say about any given matter.  

Please, shake my faith.  I believe it's rooted in the Word of God because I've searched it out.  You may have noticed something I've not yet noticed.  It might even be something crucial.  So go ahead and rock my world if you know something I don't know.  But be advised, words and opinions do not hold weight with me just because of the sincerity of your "faith".  It's got to be rooted in God's Word and it's got to be consistent with His character.  And if you're wrong, be ready to have your faith shaken.  Because sometimes when we think we are going to teach someone else something we know, God might just be bringing them into our circles so that we ourselves might be taught.  Are you humble enough to listen or are you too proud or afraid to allow your faith to be shaken? If your faith is rooted in Truth, you have nothing to worry about.  It will stand.  But if it's rooted in something other than Truth, you still don't need to worry.  The loss of an errant "faith" is nothing to mourn.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

"God Told Me..."

There's something that has never set well with me in the "Christian culture".  It's the tendency for people to ever so casually, yet ever so dangerously use God's name in vain.  I'm not talking about people and their use of  "om_"  or the typical form of taking God's name in vain by speaking it as an explicative.  Both those are wrong, but right now I'm talking about the way people say,

 "God said to me..." 


 "God told me..." 

and then they add His name to the thoughts or feelings they have.  I believe this is a very dangerous thing to do, but it's also a dangerous thing to believe, if you really believe you can think a thought and attach God's name to it as though He said it.  Think about it!  The voice that spoke the universe into existence would have significantly more impact and clarity than those who do this are considering!  Or maybe they think He's just being gentle with them, I don't know.  But I do know that God says our thoughts are NOT His thoughts.  So when someone is praying and a thought comes to his/her mind, it would be wise to resist the urge to try and add value to it by telling others that God said it.    

I do believe the Holy Spirit can lead people to learn something or make decisions, if their decisions are rooted in prayer and founded upon actual truth.  I also believe God does still audibly speak.  But if someone says to me, "God told me...(and then adds their convictions or impressions about any given thing)"  they instantly lose credibility with me because I know that when God speaks it's big, it's powerful, it not only rocks worlds but creates them.   To hear God's voice is a life altering experience.  And it isn't something anyone should or would casually reference.  

The danger in saying that God told you something when He didn't is that you are lying.  You are bearing false witness against God Himself and taking His name in vain.  And you break several commands of God in scripture that tell us that we are not to add to His words.  For instance;

Proverbs 30:5-6

"Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar."

I wonder how many people have said, "God told me to do this..." but then later claim that He's leading them in a different direction.  Does God change His mind like a man would change his mind? Does God mess up and need to make a recovery plan?  Never!  We can see from all of scripture that when God speaks it is powerful and true and it carries a weight unlike any man's words.  We can see from scripture that when God speaks it brings HIM glory, not typically bringing glory to any man.  

But when people claim that God told them something that they didn't hear Him say audibly or that they didn't read in a scripture that was directly spoken about them or to them, then usually what they are claiming is for the glory and exaltation their own will and plan.  Usually it's because something he/she is saying needs the weight of the unseen God for people (or even themselves) to believe it.  But God never needs men to add weight to His words.  And not one of us should be trying to add God's weight to our own words or thoughts by claiming He said it to us and us alone.  By doing so, we deceive ourselves and others.  And we become participants of Satan's age old game of twisting what God has said.  

If God ever literally speaks to you, I'd be so glad to listen to what He said.  I'm sure it would rock my world.  I'm sure my heart would burn within me and the Spirit of God within me would respond with confirmations and I would be cut to the heart.  When God speaks, men are greatly humbled and even fearful.  Yes, I said fearful.  You may want to argue with me and quote scripture to me telling me that 'perfect love casts out fear'.  But I would counter that with the fact that God says we are to fear Him and keep His commandments (Ecc. 12:13).  Trust me, if God speaks to you, fearing Him would not be a challenge, it would come naturally.  But I never hear anyone have even the remotest hint of the fear of the Lord when they claim He told them something.  Instead, their words are usually followed by lengthy explanations or qualifications for what they'd like God to have said in answer to their prayers.  

But consider, this is how seriously God takes this matter; 

Deuteronomy 18:20
"But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die."