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)

Paganism Declawed

Yesterday was Valentine’s day, and amongst the hearts, flowers and chocolates adorning my Facebook wall was this post:

Valentine’s Day is pagan. Nimrod who you may know as Cupid was the first valentine. Nimrod had sexual relations with his mother. His mother would sleep with him and cause the other women around to do so also.

I believe that in Ancient Rome valentines day was a festival spread over 14 days called LUPERCALIA where the young girls would put their name in a box and the boys would pick a name and choose a random sexual partner each year for the festival.

Look it up for your self. Children of God we should not partake in these things. Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” NO TIME FOR COMPROMISE. #Pagan

I see similar posts at Easter (the festival of Eostre, the goddess of spring), and especially at Christmas (the Roman festival of Saturnus, the god of agriculture, is just one of many that were celebrated at midwinter). Some Christians see pagan symbolism in almost every aspect of daily life, but focus even more on what they see of it in festivals and celebrations. I find it very frustrating, and in the heat of that frustration I have to bite my tongue (or in this case restrain my fingers) so that I don’t come across as judgmental towards someone who I know has a heart for Jesus.

Why do I get frustrated? Because what I see is at best a distraction, and at worst Satan’s double-bluff mind games twisting Christians into doing his bidding.

I’m not particularly interested in Valentine’s Day, so I’m not here to defend it as an institution. I have mixed feelings about Christmas, as it becomes more secularised over the years. I grow more deeply fond of Easter as my appreciation of Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf also grows. So that is where I stand on these particular occasions. And here are my general thoughts on the subject raised in the Facebook post.

1 – A true witness delivers souls, but a deceitful witness speaks lies (Proverbs 14:25)

Myth, conjecture and hearsay are too often mixed up with grains of truth and presented as facts. In this case there is no firm evidence that Valentine’s Day has any connection to Lupercalia, and furthermore neither Valentine’s Day or Lupercalia have anything to do with Nimrod. As for Nimrod being Cupid, I don’t have any idea where this connection comes from. The myths about Cupid are just that – Roman myths, and although we’ve returned to Roman times in the chain, there is no link between Cupid and Lupercalia, so we are just left with a handful of unconnected characters and stories which have been spun into a narrative to suit the argument the writer wants to make. Anyone who researches these topics will see deceit, and this is not going to help bring people to Christ – it might even push them away.

2 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)

Whether or not it is what the writer intends, I sense an undercurrent of fear-mongering in Christianity vs Paganism arguments. If the reader continues to celebrate Valentine’s Day with their loved one after reading the post above, they are celebrating false gods and by implication denying the one true God. By sending a Valentine’s card they are associating themselves with incest. Fear of this guilt by association should be enough to stop the reader from practising these heathen rituals. There are often implications that by embracing celebrations with “pagan roots” you will unleash demonic spirits into your life. I’m sorry but this argument isn’t going to persuade me. See my next point too, because ultimately whatever festivals I choose to observe or ignore, I will do it based on my love for God and for people, according to the leading of the Holy Spirit within me. I put my trust in Christ, and in His power over evil.

3 – He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord (Romans 14:5-6)

It is often argued – correctly – that there is no mandate from the Bible to observe Christmas, Easter, or any other special day or event. Is it impertinent of me to mention that the people arguing this will often drive cars, use deodorant, or even preach through microphones, none of which are mandated by the Bible? But the serious point is that there are good reasons why people might wish to celebrate any or all of the festivals mentioned, be it God’s gift to us in the form of His Son, or Christ’s gift to us in the form of His death and resurrection, or the gift of love that we are all at liberty to share with each other. If anyone, for their own reasons, wishes not to celebrate any or all of them, that is perfectly reasonable and acceptable too. This is the Biblical mandate – that whatever we do or not do, it should be to the Lord.

4 – Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another (Romans 14:19)

My advice is simple. Don’t confuse non-Christians or new Christians with talk of paganism, or even pique their curiosity and thereby direct them towards researching practices and beliefs that they are not yet equipped to deal with in the full strength of Christ. There is a place for discussions on these subjects where they can be given proper and prayerful consideration, but a Facebook status is not it. Also, however sincere you are in your belief on these matters, it is clearly not the prevailing belief within the wider body of Christ, and disagreements with fellow Christians are almost inevitable – public disagreements that display disunity in the family of God, rather than the edifying and peace-making discussions that we need.

It is my opinion that whatever our personal views are on the validity of any celebration, any public comment we make should be used in a positive way to proclaim and promote the Gospel of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on our behalf.