Candy blogs: I am honored to be guest posting today over at my new online friends’, Kevin & Melissa Main’s, blog … MainWriters: Faith and Family. Click here to read it. This is one of my favorite posts written as I was pondering and praising God for freedom in Christ.
Kevin and Melissa Main are avid writers with many gifts and talents to share with the Body of Christ. You will enjoy their work, photographs and their wisdom.
For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy! Psalm 149:4-5
Candy blogs: I recently spoke on the subject of one of God’s almost forgotten character traits … that of His HOLINESS. I preface this by saying that God’s holiness is only one of many of his character traits. I happen to be calling out this one in particular to take a look at today.
I experienced, what some might label, a more “severe” religious upbringing. I wasn’t allowed to wear pants to church or have my ears pierced or go swimming on Sundays or play games with a regular deck of cards or go to school dances. We didn’t say gosh or gol or darn or dang. And when the PG rating for movies first came out when I was in high school, I wasn’t allowed to go to them. I was taught that these things were part of living a “holy” life. I had my little run-ins with these “rules” growing up but my perception of God was never stern or harsh or unfeeling. Somehow I was able to understand the co-existence of God’s holiness and God’s grace and mercy. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
Even though I moved away from those types of severe behaviors when I grew up, I believe that, in the pursuit of being palatable to the culture, the Church today has lost much of the reverence that God’s holiness requires.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the Church didn’t need to make some changes to stay relevant. I don’t believe we should stay stuck in one place. There are many ways to live out the Christian life and many ways to “do” church and many ways to reach out to pre-Christians. But somewhere along the way, I believe the holiness of God became a bit like this scene from the Wizard of Oz … (click on the link to view)
Notice how their initial reverence and respect and awe, and even fear, turned to casual conversation and even confrontation and demands when they discovered that the wizard was common and approachable. In their eyes, when “that veil was torn”, the wizard had lost his awe and mystery.
Let’s clarify the meaning of these words … holiness and reverence and respect and awe.
-specially recognized as or declared sacred by religious use or authority; consecrated
-HOLY refers to the divine, that which has its sanctity directly from God or is connected with Him
a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe
esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person
-an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, produced by that which is grand, sublime or extremely powerful
-power to inspire fear or reverence
-to influence or restrain by awe
Wow, we really don’t think in these terms anymore, do we? There aren’t a lot of people or things we feel this way about anymore. Everything is so accessible now. We use these words so flippantly, so non-chalantly today … Holy (holy cow!) … awe/awesome (you’re so awesome, dude). The way we use these words in our culture have nothing to do with their true meaning. They’ve lost their impact.
In the Old Testament pleasing God was very black and white. God’s presence was represented in the Ark of the Covenant. If you were in the presence of the Ark, you were in the presence of God. Thus, the Ark was holy because God dwelled there. God gave very clear instructions how to treat the Ark, and thus how to respond to Himself.
• When the Philistines captured the Ark in battle, so many horrible things happened to them, they couldn’t get rid of it fast enough. (I Sam. 4-5) God rained down judgment on them because they were treating the holy Ark with such disrespect. And since the Ark represented God, they were disrespecting God himself.
• Uzzah just touched the Ark and God struck him down (II Sam. 6) He didn’t wait to consider that Uzzah’s intentions were good. God had said that the Ark wasn’t to be touched, and when it was, punishment and justice were immediate. The comments in my study Bible say that this event is a reminder to those of us who claim to serve God that we must acknowledge His rule with absolute seriousness. I had to sit with this awhile.
In our culture we tend to have a very blasé view of sin. We tend to justify our sins and dismiss them as “mistakes”. But the holiness in God still hates sin and requires justice. God will forgive the sinner, but He will, He MUST, still judge the sin.
Ah, but you can’t talk about God’s holiness without talking about God’s mercy. Stay tuned for part II! Mercy came running …
I’ve missed you all! I’ve been busy writing new talks. Pray for me.
Candy blogs: Have you seen the new Facebook “like”?
** Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. **
Do you know that 170,000 people have clicked that like button? I have to admit that I am a little put off by it. It would seem that there are many Christians feeling guilty for not going to church … or something. Of course that Facebook statement is true. We HAVE gone overboard at times with the do’s and don’ts of godliness. But sometimes we can get relationship mixed up with rules.
We can interpret Scripture with a pointing finger, thinking it is more noble or spiritual to be crushed and subdued by God’s Word. Or we can let the cleansing Word wash over us, inspiring and convicting us to be more like his Son instead of guilting us into being less like the world. The movement toward godliness and holiness, and the natural subsequent thought, attitude and lifestyle changes are simply an outward expression of an inward willingness and desire to do things God’s way. Discipline and pointing fingers can only carry us so far, and, as Beth Moore says, our hearts lead us to relationship.
First and foremost … II Timothy 3:14-17
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
That being said, here are some Scriptures that have been interpreted as rules and relationship.
The Rules say, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
Relationship says, “… let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience …” Hebrews 10:22a
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:8a
The Rules say, “You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14
Relationship says: “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Malachi 2:15
“My lover is mine and I am his …” Song of Solomon 2:16a
“You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes …” Song of Solomon 3:9
Standing in the Garage
We need the Body of Christ and the Body needs us. Our spiritual gifts are given to encourage the Body, and we need the gifts of others. We need help with blind spots. Our voices and hearts mingle with the Body in worship together. It is in the Body that we celebrate victories and are exhorted and encouraged in trials. We hear the Word of God on a consistent basis; over time, we see growth and change. We can do more for our communities and the world together than we can alone. Our combined spiritual gifts are powerful! We serve, we give, we fellowship, we love and are loved.
We should be standing in the garage out of longing, not obligation. And not hoping to turn into a Christian by osmosis, but eagerly participating in an active, healthy Body of Christ. If you feel guilty or obligated about going to church, check yourself. Is it the wrong Body for you? Can you still hear the Lord’s voice leading you? Are you afraid God will ask something of you?
A Meaningless Piece of Paper?
My husband and I have loved each other for 34 years. We have worked hard at knowing each other, meeting each other’s needs, and learning to love each other. It’s been a long, hard road. But I don’t look at marriage like a trap or a box … or a rule. I don’t look at other men and wish I didn’t have to stay faithful to my husband. I don’t complain about only having one sexual partner. I don’t see our aging and think of trading him in for a younger model. Our marriage certificate is not meaningless to me. I LONG for my husband. I WANT to spend time with him. We CHOOSE each other every day because we have spent a lot of time together building and maintaining a relationship. The result is more longing.
His voice is so familiar to me, his touch so loving, his quirky ways so dear, his admiring glance so melting, his hard work shows so much caring … why would I ever want anyone else or reduce our relationship to a rule?
Letting our hearts lead us to relationship with our Heavenly Father is a far cry from being dragged kicking and screaming by obligation. God sees you. He knows you. He wants sweet communion, a sacred romance, not endless days in court. Beth Moore says He wants to thrill and satisfy your soul, delight you and fill your cup to overflowing. Let your heart lead.
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Thanks and hello to all my new blog followers! I love it when you stop by and leave comments!
Candy blogs: One of my favorite quotes: “He who is enslaved to the compass has the freedom of the seas.” This saying has been on my computer monitor at work for many years. It has helped me navigate the sometimes murky ethical waters of the corporate world. But I’ve found that it has many applications in my life.
It took time to come to the realization that “the compass” was not what was restricting my life. For so long I fought against the compass … feeling guilty for not reading the Bible enough, not praying enough, not going to church every Sunday, getting my ears pierced, wearing pants to church, swimming on Sundays, moving my hips when I sang, making out with my boyfriend, liking rock music, dancing, and then later not being the perfect June Cleaver wife and mother, overeating, going to R rated movies. The list is endless. Yes, it was a list.
I felt almost compelled to do these things because I felt restricted. I felt that “the compass” was legalistic and was boxing me in. The longer the list of don’ts, the faster I ran the other way. I hated being told what to do and how to spend my time. But as time passed I grew frustrated at the lack of spiritual power in my life. What did one have to DO anyway to have the dynamic spiritual life I saw in those around me?! I didn’t know where to go next. When had I done enough to gain favor with God? When had I crossed over the line into sin? It was a very confusing time. I was tired from the “doing.” I had swam and paddled and drifted but there was no destination in sight. I was lost on “the seas.” I had ignored the compass.
Recently, I found what I believe to be the original quote from above:
“The slave to the compass has freedom of the seas. The rest must sail close to the shore.” anon
It adds another dimension, doesn’t it? What is sailing close to the shore anyway? Sounds very poetic but how do we apply it in a practical way?
Giving up our rights. We must remember that we aren’t the center of the universe! We cannot look at everything based on how it makes US feel. Sometimes we must give up being right in order to save a relationship. Sometimes we must eliminate our expectations to keep from hurting others or being hurt by others. Sometimes we must put our needs aside for the needs of a loved one. Often we must give up what we want for the good of family, hold an opinion in check because it is poor timing or can’t be expressed without a critical tone, accept people and situations we have no control over and grieve in silence rather than lashing out in hurt or anger.
Abandoning the safety of the shoreline. The future is an unknown. Tomorrow is unknown. This is a breeding ground for fear. We so often step into the future fearfully, looking beside or behind us for the outline of the shore. To me the shore represents the past, the familiar. We’ve always done it a certain way, we’ve always believed this, we’ve always walked a certain path because it is familiar. Living too close to the shore brings living with hurt feelings, needing the approval of others, being bound by needless rules to follow and lists to check off, assuming the worst in others, nursing old grudges, feeling justified in being right at the expense of others, having a reputation as a grumbler, ignoring our God-given value and worth. We are too afraid to try new things, experience it in a different way, make that leap of faith for a deeper walk with Jesus. We use the shore as our reference point instead of the compass. Only the compass can take us into the deep places. If we choose the shoreline, we’ll always be looking behind instead of ahead to the freedom-filled life God has waiting for us.
Over time, the “doing” gives way to the “being.” We’re no longer drawn to the list of do’s and don’ts. The rules are viewed as “training” for ocean sailing! The compass keeps us on course. The result is the wind in our face!
Are we satisfied sailing close to the shore? Or can we hear the mysteries and deepness of the seas calling out to us … the call of freedom? With a compass, we can go anywhere! All we have to do is chart a course, check the compass and off we go … farther and farther from the safety and familiarity of the shoreline. Ahead? The vastness of the seas!
Proverbs 8:27-29 (King James Version)
27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: 28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: 29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth …
for those of you reading from somewhere else: