Posted By Nan
As those who regularly read my blog know, my husband and I left the church system shortly after I started writing my blog. I prayed and studied the Bible for a few months, seeking to learn whether I was required to attend church. I discovered there is no Biblical directive to join a church, only a directive to fellowship with others when able. After much prayer, my husband I then left the church system.
What you may not know is that every so often I have been tempted to join a church. Every time I have prayed about joining one God has said NO. Recently I have felt drawn again to belong to a church family. At the same time I saw a local church building a community centre and really wanted to be part of that. Almost as soon as the thought was formed, God was urging me to speak to this church. I sat on that directive for over a year, until friends gave me a contact for someone in that centre.
I rang the contact and we agreed to meet. The meeting seemed to go well. The next day, I was at a training day, and I received a far from pleasant text from that person. The person saw something on my professional counselling website they did not like and had judged me without praying about it or talking to me about it.
After praying about this I learned two things. These are what I will be discussing in my blog.
The first is that sometimes when God wants to say NO, He directs us to seek to do the opposite. For me, He knew my longing, and knew that longing may override any prayerful consideration I may put in and any directions God may be giving me. So He directed me to offer my involvement so that I could understand the NO He gave me through the other person. That was quite a learning experience for me. I am used to the idea of doors closing when I try under my own strength to do something, but this was a new thing for me. God had asked me to seek out this person. It is possible that, had that person been one to prayerfully seek God’s will, the outcome would be different. Maybe the Yes would only have come if that person had been seeking God instead of his own personal belief system.
That is quite a thought to consider. What if the NO God gives us is conditional on other people and their responses as well as our own?
That makes sense when I consider times in the past when I sought to do things, only to be stopped. If we look at the life of Jesus in the Gospels, there are many examples of Jesus not doing things because He was blocked by the people He was seeking to work with. The most obvious example is Matthew 13:53-58 where Jesus was not listened to nor able to perform many miracles in Nazareth because the people would not accept Him.
The second point I wanted to make about this is about the culturally influenced interpretation of the Bible in Western Christianity. To put this in context, we need to consider the changes that took place in Europe as people moved out of the Middle Ages with its adherence to God and the directives of the Church. Life revolved around God and the philosophical underpinning of life was about God.
As Europe moved into the new age after that time, people began to challenge God’s existence. This left a vacuum in our concept of what life was. Philosophers started to conceptualise what life meant without God. This philosophising led to the Enlightenment period. A changed perception of life without God also challenged the authority of the church. This led to the breaking up of Christianity into rival, and at the time warring, factions within Christianity. As the new factions formed into denominations they took into their doctrine the new philosophies of life without God. It wasn’t a deliberate thing, but when the conversation within a society centres around a particular subject, it is hard to avoid it. Also, most people were not even aware that these new conversations were about conceptualising life without God.
Much of the doctrine of the Western Church is based on philosophies that were against God. These cultural practices are so entrenched in the Western Church people believe they are actually the proper way to worship God. It often results in the “throwing out of the baby with the bathwater”. Ways of conceptualising God, especially in regard to the Spiritual aspect of life, have been cast aside and now looked on suspiciously. People reject things they label as not being of God, because they are not part of Western Christianity. They ignore the evidence of life during the time of Jesus. They ignore the writings of Jewish writers in the period leading up to birth of Jesus and His new gospel. They ignore the experience of the early church. They fail to read the Bible in its proper context and instead either completely ignore its writings or take phrases out of context to support their cultural beliefs.
People seeking God today turn away from Christianity because they don’t find God there. Their God shaped hole needs to be filled with the spiritual, and that is sadly lacking in much of the Western Church. They turn to other religions that use the spiritual in their practices. I should point out here that ALL things are created by God. All things glorify God and all are used by and acceptable to God. Western Christianity has rejected things that were previously an integral part of Christian Worship. So things that are created by God are being rejected by the Western Church.
In addition to this culturally influenced doctrine, there is a lack of leaders in Western Christianity who know God. So many are more involved in the intrigues of human hierarchies than spending time in prayer seeking to know God and His will. There is a tendency for those who minister to the church communities – the pastors, reverends, ministers, priests etc. – to tell people what they should think and who God is, rather than encouraging them to know God themselves. People are told things they shouldn’t do, or that others do that are wrong and believe that is in the Bible. But when challenged, people cannot provide the Bible verse to back up what they say. In fact, a discussion of the Bible quickly reveals most people do not know their Bible. They don’t actually read the Bible. They rely on the interpretation of others. This means they are vulnerable to being told the wrong thing. That puts them at risk of false prophets. It also puts them at risk of not hearing God’s messages for them and not doing what He wants them to do.
So what does all this have to do with my experience with the person at the church community centre?
This person objected to something I used in my professional counselling practice that I spent many weeks praying about before making the decision to train to use this. I also sought advice from Christian mentors on whether I should train in this spiritual practice. The clear answer from God was yes. This man not only rejected me immediately based on a cultural belief about what was acceptable to God, he also rejected God’s directive for my life.
In a previous blog I mentioned the story of a woman attacking me about a decision I had made, that I had spent many long hours praying about. As I left the meeting, God had said to me “In denying you have done what I told you, she has rejected Me and she will have to answer to me for that”. The same applies to this man, and anyone else we encounter in life who rejects us for following God’s directive, that they have decided is against God.
Earlier in the blog I mentioned that NO sometimes comes about because the other person is not ready for us to do what God wants. This man, caught up in cultural observances is not ready for what God wants. So the answer was NO.
The following night I was at a social get together of professionals who work in my building. There I met a new professional who is Christian and does not belong to a church. We had a lovely time of fellowship. I was longing for fellowship and God supplied it. And I didn’t have to go to a church to find that fellowship.
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