Should I Stay or Should I Go?

One of the wonderful, amazing things about people is their variety. God has created us with different personalities and placed us into different environments, with different people surrounding and influencing us. He has given us unique stories to shape us as we grow in Him.

It’s no wonder that we have such different tastes and preferences, and this variety truly is the spice of life. But it comes at a cost. As Christians, we worship one God, accept one Lord and Saviour of our lives, but we have so many different ways of expressing our love for Him that to the outsider – and maybe to the insider too – it can sometimes seem like our beliefs are totally different too.

Do you prefer to worship just with voices? With timbrel and harp? With a pipe organ? An acoustic guitar? A rock band? Do you like your service to follow a set format, even a standardised liturgy? Or should it be free to follow the movement of the Holy Spirit?

And what do you want from your sermon? How do you want to be preached to? Again there are many forms and styles, and I’ve heard a few of them. The truth is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of sermon, just as there is no ‘best’ way to worship, or to organise a Sunday service.

If you’ve been asking yourself questions about life, and what it’s all about, and if this has led you to a church, but you haven’t felt comfortable, don’t assume that this means Christianity isn’t for you. Please believe me when I say that Jesus does love you, and wants a relationship with you. Is there anyone in the world who could honestly say they don’t like music? I think not. If someone who had been deprived of music all their life was introduced to The Beatles and told “this is music – how do you like it?” How would they react? Of course we don’t know, because it might touch them deeply, or it might just sound like a cacophony to them. But would they be right to dismiss all music as a result? No, they could try a different style – many different styles – and I’m sure they would find several that fit just perfectly to their taste and sensibilities. So if you’re uncomfortable in one church, find another with a different style. And if that one isn’t right, try another. Eventually you’ll find one that really connects you to Jesus, and that will be an awesome day!

If you were brought up in church and you’re heartily sick of it, does that mean you’ve ‘outgrown’ Christianity? Does it mean it was never meant for you in the first place? No it doesn’t. How many of us have the same musical tastes as our parents? There may be a little crossover, but probably not much. Through our early years we have no choice but to listen to what our parents play, and when we get a chance to rebel against it, we usually do; but by cutting music out of our lives? I don’t think so! Nor do we have to cut Jesus out of our lives if the way He has been introduced to us doesn’t feel relevant anymore. No, look for a church with a different angle, a different style, one that fits you – and that church is out there.

If you have been attending a church for some time, and found it fulfilling, but now it feels stale, or just wrong for some other reason, then it’s maybe not wise to jump ship so quickly. Here is an article that provides good food for thought in those circumstances: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/07/23/good-reasons-for-moving-on/. Ultimately though, I would say this is a time for prayer and contemplating the will of God in your life. Any reason to move on is right if it is God’s reason.

I want to add one caveat to everything I’ve just said. I’ve spoken a lot about what is basically finding a church that fits you. I think this is very different to finding a religion/faith/worldview that fits you. The former is vital for your spiritual growth, pursuing the latter could be disastrous.

Although I believed in God, creator of the universe, for as long as I can remember, it took me a long time to find my life in Christ. I spent many years in a wilderness looking for a religion that fitted me. That was of course a doomed project. The only way to succeed would be to create my own religion and fill it with my own truth. It’s been done before, and it’s almost becoming a desirable goal in today’s relativistic, secular society. See this excellent article for a discussion of the problem: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/february/dear-rihanna-your-truth-wont-set-you-free.html?paging=off.

When I opened my mind and heart to listen to Jesus I didn’t understand everything I was hearing from Him. And when I gave my life to Him I didn’t like everything He asked me to do. Being a Christian isn’t about God fitting around your will, it’s about you fitting around God’s will, or as the apostle Paul said far more eloquently: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Don’t expect any church to make you feel great and comfortable and righteous all the time. If it does then there’s something seriously wrong. A good church, like the indwelling Holy Spirit, is also there to make you uncomfortable sometimes, to convict you when your imperfect will contradicts God’s. But a good church will be one that helps you connect with Christ at the times when you feel disconnected, and one that draws you deeper into Him at all times, because its style fits yours and you don’t get distracted by the wrong type of music or the wrong kind of preaching.

A final thought. Your church may change, and you certainly should change, but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Of the Wicked and the Godly

Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper — it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land. Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.

The wicked plot against the godly; they snarl at them in defiance. But the Lord just laughs, for he sees their day of judgment coming. The wicked draw their swords and string their bows to kill the poor and the oppressed, to slaughter those who do right. But their swords will stab their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.

It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the Lord takes care of the godly. Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough. But the wicked will die.

The Lord’s enemies are like flowers in a field — they will disappear like smoke. The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers. Those the Lord blesses will possess the land, but those he curses will die.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. The godly always give generous loans to others, and their children are a blessing.

Turn from evil and do good, and you will live in the land forever. For the Lord loves justice, and he will never abandon the godly. He will keep them safe forever, but the children of the wicked will die. The godly will possess the land and will live there forever.

The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong. They have made God’s law their own, so they will never slip from his path. The wicked wait in ambush for the godly, looking for an excuse to kill them. But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.

Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed. I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing like a tree in its native soil. But when I looked again, they were gone! Though I searched for them, I could not find them!

Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace. But the rebellious will be destroyed; they have no future. The Lord rescues the godly; he is their fortress in times of trouble. The Lord helps them, rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in him.

King David, Psalm 37, New Living Translation