Followers of Christ

What God declares the believing heart confesses without the need for further proof. Indeed, to seek proof is to admit doubt, and to obtain proof is to render faith superfluous. – A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy

Boy I was mad when I read this quote on my Facebook page the other day. The quote seemed to be used to excuse our ignorance and encourage us to avoid looking into the context to back our beliefs.

I recently have been part of a few frustrating conversations on Facebook. I was questioning the literalness of the Genesis story. There are many Christians who still consider the Earth to be six thousand years old. There are also many Christians who think it is wrong to question whether the Bible is infallible. Not only do the scriptures need to be divinely inspired, they must not have faults. What do these Christians use to back up their claim of the Bible’s infallibility? Well the Bible of course. This is like me saying I am without error because I say so. It doesn’t make sense. So here is where the quote comes in. We are not supposed to make sense of it. In fact, if we are to seek out proof of the Bible being infallible we are showing ourselves to be with doubt. Having doubt is a big no no in Christianity.

Well I must admit, I have my doubts about my faith. I find myself constantly questioning the validity of scriptures and sometimes even have my doubts as to whether or not God is there for me. But, to me the ones who show the most doubt are those who are not willing to ask or look into the tough questions. If one truly has faith in something he or she should be willing to test it. Instead most Christians I have encountered close themselves up. When I question one of their beliefs I am accused of wanting to start an argument. I am told Facebook isn’t a good forum for conversation or debate. Face to face conversation doesn’t seem to work out much better. I left Church about four years ago. Before I left however I sat down with many friends and talked with my youth pastor about the reasons I was frustrated. I told them about my problems with the Church and asked some tough questions about leadership’s doctrines and beliefs. My questions were almost entirely ignored. My pastors told me they would get back to me and never did. I wasn’t doing my job. I wasn’t playing my role as a mindless sheep.

Christians look at the world and say, “It needs salvation”. I want to know what is “salvation” to most Christians? Is it saying, “I accept Jesus”? Is it going to Church? Is it getting drunk in the Holy Spirit? I have seen people do all these things and nothing really fruitful has come out of it. I remember every year going to the Vision Conference with my Church’s youth ministry and observing countless people get “blown away by the Holly Spirit”. Leadership spent tons of time and resources getting videos made, surround sound working, and big name Christian speakers to come in so they could convert the unsaved youth. After each conference we heard about how lives were changed and God was going to show up and grow the numbers. As of now the youth ministry I attended is less than half the size it was when I left but they’re still preaching the same message.

An emotionally charged service can give you a high just like any other drug. I need to keep reminding myself when most Christians post statuses on Facebook like, “I am so hungry for God’s mysteries” they are not inviting conversation as much as inviting people to “like” their status or write a nice short, “Amen” or “That is so good bro”. I can’t blame them. Living on a high feels good. Seeing people “like” or complement me on my status makes me feel special. These are not unnatural things to want. However, they are selfish. What bothers me is the way some disguise them to seem noble and righteous.

I am reminded of a quote from Gandhi, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”. I think this is because where Gandhi found Christ open minded he found Christians closed off. Where he found Christ to be inclusive he found most Christians to exclusive. Jesus had no need to be in a building in order to minister. He did not go to the people who considered themselves religious; instead he went to the tax collectors, prostitutes, and those on the fringes. Jesus had us reexamine the scriptures. He built upon the teachings of the scriptures and made the people see His father outside the Jewish religion. Just look at Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5 and the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Bible does not become stronger when you deny its faults. Instead you are making it inaccessible by claiming righteousness where there is fault. Literally thousands of people were involved with creating what we now consider the Bible. And as of today there are several dozen different version of the English translation alone. You will read different commentaries from each theologian who writes the study notes you see on the bottom half of your Bible. This is because the Bible isn’t black and white. The Bible consists of sixty-six different pieces of writings, chosen from many other pieces that for holy or political reasons were left out.

The Pharisees could not see who Jesus really was because their religion blinded them. Let us not make the same mistake. I like the phrase, “The proof is in the pudding”. When we see religions advocating for feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and providing for the homeless, we need to stop and see where God can be seen. As Christians lets seek out the proof of our God, no matter where it takes us. We must not fall into the same trap the followers of the crusades, supporters of slavery, or those responsible for the many massacres of the Native Americans used to justify their follies. Even today the Bible is being used as support for dehumanizing homosexual relationships, justification for woman to not be allowed in leadership, and an excuse to not to take care of the natural resources of this world. Without our God given ability to reason we can make something as wonderful as the Bible support awful and destructive things. God does not want mindless followers. He wants followers who are so confident in their faith proof will only strengthen it.

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Born A Sinner

Through out my childhood of being raised in the Church I was told by my pastors and Sunday school teachers  I was born a sinner. It was the great warning given to the Church. All you need to do is look at the Bible and you can see how sinful we really are. Verses like Psalms 58:3 “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies”, Proverbs 22:15 “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him”, and Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”, have all been used to prove we are sick and evil creatures. The trump card when trying to prove our original sinful nature often comes from John 8:44 when Jesus was talking to a group of Jews who questioned who he was and the truth he spoke. He said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires”.  Gosh! It can’t get much worse then being told you are the devils child.

Knowing these verses are part of most Christians foundational beliefs you can see why they have such a hard time connecting to the secular world. The foundation of our faith tells us not to trust the world. We are told the world is an evil place full of deceit and folly. Quite literally all of you non-Christians are considered no better then the devil. Am I the only one here who sees how this is setting both sides up for failure?

Let me first explain my original philosophy on what my job was as a Christian. When I was still part of the Church my main mission was to bring people to Jesus. The world outside the Church was a world in need of salvation. It was a world all damned to hell unless I and my fellow Christians did something about it. We were God’s soldiers. We were sent into the world to invite people to our youth groups and bible studies so they could be converted to Christianity. The main mission was to see the secular friends we invited to Church raise their hands when asked if they wanted to give their souls to Jesus and go up to the front of the alter so they could accept Jesus into their hearts. The Church rejoiced with “Hallelujah” and clapping when our pastor told us at the beginning of service, “We had twenty five people give their soul to God last week”.

I believed it was my job as a Christian to protect my soul from the evils of the world. Those who did not know Jesus were enemies in the eyes of the Church. I may have had secular friends but I was careful not to be influenced by them. I was warned numerous times their hearts were evil and if I let down my guard I would fall into their sinful ways. My secular friends were those who went out drinking, disobeyed their parents, and thought only of themselves. I never cared enough to know who they were; learn about their hobbies, understand their views on life, or hear about what they wanted to do in the future. I didn’t get to know these things because I was so convinced it wasn’t worth anything unless they first accepted Jesus into their hearts. I was ignorant and naive. I had the audacity to believe they should care about me and my views without giving a crap about theirs. I pursued relationships thinking myself superior and neglecting the truth in my secular friends lives. Is there any greater sin then denying Jesus where he is evident? That is what I did for a good portion of my life. It is what much of the Church still does today.

Christians must understand when they deny Jesus in the lives of nonbelievers, they are look in the faces of Mahatma Gandhi, Tenzin Gyatso (the Dali Lama), and Malala Yousafzai and say “God does not live in you”. I like to bring up these names to Christians when discussing salvation and truth. Most Christians I know still stick to the idea God is only in Christianity. Even more Christians I know stick to the idea that “accepting Jesus” (becoming Christian) is the most important thing we can do in this life. Well Mahatma Gandhi, Tenzin Gyatso, and Malala Yousafzai are not Christian and either did not or will not convert to the Christian faith. Much of their humanitarian work is inspired by their personal faith in Buddhism, Islam, or Hindu. As a youth being raised in a Christian Church I would have been worried about these peoples souls. I would have looked past the work they have done for God because they don’t attribute their faith to the right name. I would have said I, as a 14 year old Christian boy who was mostly just minding his own business not doing anything for the poor, the sick, or the uneducated, was closer to God then these people. Can’t you see something is wrong with this picture?

I am sure a good portion of you would reply, “Nope”.  There is nothing wrong with the way I once thought. The problem I am making in my last paragraph is putting works ahead of faith. When I first began to question these things the biggest argument was always, “God does not judge us based on works but rather faith”. All the things I see non-Christians do for others is done out of their selfish sinful nature. It sure looks as if the sixteen year old girl Malala is advocating for education for all and pushing towards non-violence because of her faith and her love for the others, but in reality she is just trying to fill the empty void that only can truly be filled by Jesus Christ. Sure Gandhi might have been the main one responsible for the freedom of the Indian people from Europe and might have saved countless lives through advocating fighting with none violence, but he was a Hindu when he died and thus suffering in an eternal Hell. After countless conversations of putting up with these arguments and trying to diplomatically reply to why I don’t agree with them I want to give you a definitive answer to what I think of this line of thinking. BULL SHIT!

I am tired of needing to argue whether humanitarians who have done greater things then I could imagine are in question of damnation. I am tired of talking to Christian friends who deny God in a sixteen year old girl who was able to forgive the man who shot her, or in a man who has spent his whole life teaching the importance of living for others, or in a leader who won a war through not being willing to pick up a sword or fire a gun.  I am tired of seeing Christians constantly give sin and “the devil” more power and influence then their own God. How narrow minded is it to say our God can only be seen in one religion?!  How naive is it for us Christians to say we have a monopoly on truth?! Not only does this hurt our ability to recognize God in others, it hurts our ability to recognize His absence in ourselves. Thinking ourselves closer to God then people like Malala, The Dali Lama, and Gandhi, allows us to feel good about living a mediocre life where we go to our Bible studies and Church services but don’t live our faith out in the regular world. It is so much easier to ignore people when you see them as the child of the devil instead of a child of God. Words like, “I believe in Jesus” become more important to us then feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the poor, and taking care of the sick.

Realize when I am talking about feeding the hungry, sheltering the poor, and taking care of the sick, I am talking about spiritual growth. We mistake doing these things as physical acts of goodness. I rather believe those who are committed to these things are people who have a spiritual urge to do them. Whether they know it or not, someone has put the need to help others in their heart. I watch someone like Malala speak about her faith in God and I can no longer help but see my savior in the God she speaks of.

This I know is blasphemy to some of my friends. Many of the Christians who have stuck through reading this are probably throwing my comments out just because I have not used verses to back up my statements. I don’t want to get into a bible thumping debate. For some reasons Christians think the world should put a huge amount of weight on what they say the Bible says, even though they think very little of the other religious books of faith. However, I do want to close this post with one verse. Genesis 1: 27, “So God created mankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them”. Human kind was not created by the devil. We were not created in the image of the devil. We were created by God, in His image. We are all born children of God. Let us not forget we are seeing God’s creation when looking into the faces of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists. And Let us not be so naive to think God isn’t seen in those faiths. I consider myself to still be a Christian but I am not willing to limit God and His wonders to my personal faith. The more I look into other faiths and religions the more I can see God in them. I want to learn from the scientist inspired by the beauty of evolution. I want to understand the peace seen in Hinduism. I want to look upon the true face of God. The only way we will be able to do this is if we open ourselves to all of God’s creation.

The God Drug!

Ever think of God as a drug? The more I look around and study my fellow Christians, the more I get the feeling God is just another way to get high and forget about the hurts and needs of this world. Yes this is a big observation but I do not say it lightly. We live in world full of self indulgence. I can not help but notice how we as “Christians” are looking more and more like the world we claim to be trying to “save”.

There are two things that have inspired this post. First off, I have recently been impacted by a conversation/debate/argument (depending on who you ask) I have had with an old Church friend of mine about the topics of serving “the least of these” (Originating from Matthew 25: 31-46) and eternal damnation. Equally, I have been impacted by reading the book Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth. In this book, Gandhi seek after God far better then myself. In Mohandas Gandhi’s autobiography I have seen a man devoted to truth. Gandhi was willing to push himself to extremes for his cause. I have seen a man who had a heart for loving his neighbors and helping the needy. He seemed to use every aspect of his gifting and recourses to seek out God.

A problem arose for me in my discussion with my friend when my friend kept on posing the argument that we, “need to first seek out God”, before something like helping “the least of these” is relevant. My argument was, “When we help ‘the least of these’ we show we are seeking out God”. My friend did not agree. We went on for days with emails back and forth, both posing some good arguments and I think both would admit some “less then par” arguments as well. Eventually my friend requested we end the conversation. I felt we were stopping in a very bad spot, but reluctantly agreed.

The idea we need to first “seek out God” before “helping the least of these is relevant“, bugged me. The problem becomes how then do we seek out God? The only answers from my friend seemed to be through verbal prayer, fasting, and reading the Bible. Through experience and observation I have found that God can easily become a selfish thing. Prayer can easily be just a way to get hyped up and usually does not go much farther then  words. Fasting is often done for attention rather then to seek God out. And, reading the Bible often consists of finding verses that make God who you want Him to be, not figuring out who He really is.

When God is used in these ways He becomes just another drug we get high on. The problem with getting “high” on God is that it does not last. I have gone to Church conferences where the building seemed to be “on fire” for the Holy Spirit. I saw people dancing in the rows and falling down on the ground because they were so overpowered by the presence of God. I am not saying this was fake, that God was not really moving, but my problem was Nothing. Else. Happened. When we got back from the conference we talked a little about “how God moved”. We gave our testimonies to our Church congregations. Then life went back to normal, where we went to Church on Sunday morning and attended the weekly youth group. And, we began to look forward to the next conference where we could get our next high.

When we leave out a way of knowing or seeing God such as “helping the least of these”, we begin to make Christianity a very selfish thing. When we do not realize that loving our  neighbor is directly related to loving God, Christianity becomes stagnate and insignificant to the rest of the world.

In Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus replied to the Pharisees when asked what is the greatest commandment, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”. The “Love your neighbor as yourself” was just as important as loving the Lord. The reason why Jesus answered with both is because they go hand in hand.

Even though we have been commanded to minister in this world we also were told not to be of this world. The world tells us that possession and power is what brings us happiness. However, Jesus taught us to go beyond our selfish desires and turn to humility and forgiveness. Jesus taught us that we are suppose to be God’s hands and feet and start to show the world the selfless love of God.

Just because you know the right name does not mean you are serving God better then those who have not even heard of Christianity. The Pharisees were the ones that were interested in the letter of the law. They knew all the “right names”. But, Jesus made it clear “knowing” was not what was going to save them (John 5:39). What God cares about is how we follow Him. Instead of making God just another drug we get high on, let’s start to own His principles along with His name and change the world.