There’s just nothing like those endless desert landscapes, intolerably vast stretches of frozen tundra, and unbroken strings of mile-high mountain ranges (all lying, of course, within five miles of home) that cause children worldwide to cry out in desperation, half-way accross town to Grandma’s house, “Are we THERE, YET?!!!” Didn’t change a thing or make the journey any shorter (doubled it for our parents!), but no doubt we’ve all uttered those words at some time or another. Once we’ve grown older and somewhat wiser, our “Are we there yet’s” become much less visible – the nervous looking around an unfamiliar neighborhood, straining to spy out a landmark we’d expected, some sign that we’re about to bring our family safely in for the “landing” we’d hoped for: that vacation spot we saw in the brochure — the one we’re praying is as easy to get to as it said!
Now, understandably, none of us would strike out on vacation without thoroughly researching the spot, making reservations, and getting our GPS updated, as insurance against the unpleasant opposites of happy endings. But I truly wonder if all of us research a much more important destination with the diligence it deserves. The information that’s crucial to making sure we arrive where we’re intending to is readily available to all of us, often with a copy on the coffee table or a bedside stand, though sometimes with about as much wear as the map in a real man’s glove compartment (you know, the “maps are for wimps – I know where I’m going!” men in our lives).
I’ve been blogging for just over a month, now, and for you who’ve read a post or two, you know I usually talk about the most important thing to me, being the faith that grows more precious each day, but also the foundational basis for that and where it contrasts with ideas that many around me consider foregone conclusions. Each time I write a post, I search myself and my motives in prayer, because, although I love to write, and am passionate about the Word of God, I certainly want to never be callously fielding “potshots” at people just for effect, or to try to sound as though I’m the only one who cares about what is right. The effect of doing a blog, tagging it to Facebook, etc., is that I’ve gone “inside out” for all to really know the down-to-business specifics of this faith that those who’ve known me for any length of time have seen from mostly from the outside. I’ve been a die-hard “the last thing I’d want to do is offend anyone or push someone away” type of believer, because I don’t want to be offended or pushed away by others. That’s what clicked with me about the blog idea. I’ll never know if you read it or not, unless you comment, or mention it in conversation, and it won’t be a problem either way. I get to put a plate of thoughts on the social media coffee table and you’re all welcome to take them if you’d like or keep scrolling. Works for me.
On the other hand, I am aware that readers who are near and dear to me may be put off to a greater degree than I had considered when starting, because the things that are said aren’t compatible with others’ beliefs and that fact leaves some decision-making to be done: A) She’s over the edge this time; B) She’s brainwashed – I knew it was coming out one day ;C) She’s making this up (o.k. lying) or D) She’s saying something I can’t truly get on board with, but won’t write off just yet, in case there’s something there I haven’t thought of or known before — but may just realize I need.
Back to the analogy about vacationing and maps in glove compartments, please remember that the only references I’ve given are from the King James Bible – no new book, no tract, or new version of the Word or rising star mega-church leader who’s now gotten the answer you’ve been looking for. I refer to the documentation of the early church’s beginnings and teachings and insist that the things they said they did were what they really did, the things they did were what Jesus intended for them to do, they worked for them, and they were not intended to be abandoned by later adherents to the faith of Christianity. Of this fact I am a first-hand witness, because by doing what they did, I got what they got. So, that’s the map: the Bible, which of course, everyone claims to be fully following in any belief system that embraces Christianity. I’m astounded sometimes that people who so strongly defend their beliefs as being right and worthy of their following to the Throne of Judgement, (where all that is done here will be rewarded whether right or wrong) seem weak in the scriptural basis for their views. I don’t intend for that to sound harsh, for I know that no amount of Bible study will allow anyone to support a belief system that is contradictory to what God established. But very often there appears to be little or no in-depth personal Bible study to “see if these things be true”. Point being, STUDY. We’re going to be judged by the Word of God (John 12:48, Rev. 20:12), and we’re staking our eternity and that of our families’ on our understanding of God’s plan for us to be ready to meet him: do we dare sit on what we’ve been told by someone else or scriptures we’ve heard quoted, or reading we’ve done only where we were directed by someone else to read?
Ever gotten bad directions? As a Social Worker, I’ve had to find a place or two in my career, and have been amazed to find how often people said turn “right” when they meant “left” – somehow they thought I’d figure that out I guess, and a few miles and most of my gas later, I did exactly that. Then there’s the ever popular shortcut. Aren’t they entertaining? You can see a lot of
scary interesting countryside that way, beating yourself up for not sticking with the original plan, being off course, losing time, and facing darkness in a neighborhood you’d never get near in the daytime! Can we afford to assume we haven’t been the victims of bad directions, or possibly taken a “short cut” in our walk with God?
A few months ago, heading out on a first-time home health visit, I had excellent directions from the gentleman I was scheduled to see on a Medical Social Work call. But instead of turning where he said turn (very explicitly warning me to wait for that road), I first came to one that I had been on before, and was more familiar with, and without really taking time to make sure it was what he meant, felt like it had to be what I needed. I happily sped off to view pretty countryside and chickens for awhile, slowly beginning to suspect something might be wrong here! I had, in fact, never gotten to the road he was talking about, because I so naturally turned onto the one that I remember travelling on as a kid several times, and noticed often whenever driving that direction on the highway because of some familiar landmarks that are beside it. I’d never even noticed the road he was talking about existed, in all honesty. The poor man (who fortunately was not terribly ill, and thank Goodness, was waiting for the social worker and not the ambulance!), had to be consulted by cellphone (with a battery dying from my desperate use of the Maps app!) more times than I’d care to admit, about the landmarks he told me to watch for:a church and a water tank. I actually was seeing a church and a water tank, but not the turn I needed. Finally, he thought to ask me about the original road I’d turned off the highway onto, and then I realized I’d gotten off the highway too quickly, and instead should have waited for the road I was intended to take. Without doing that, I could see all kinds of landmarks that I tried to make be the ones I needed, but they weren’t the real ones that lead to his house. Once my tracks were retraced for the ??th time, and I got to the right starting point, I was amazed at how well he’d directed me and how little trouble it was to get there. I would have never seen it from where I was, though, no matter how long I drove. It’s easy to make a wrong turn, especially when you think you already know where you’re going.
When trying to explain why I could be so utterly bold as to say that it matters what you believe, even within the Christian-belieiving religions, and that the only thing that is solid and right is the actual message of the Apostles, as described in the Book of Acts, the response often (understandably) turns toward the fact that there are so many notable groups/churches/denominations in the world, all telling people how to be saved, and millions of people following those ways of believing.. It’s assumed that this group of Apostolics is just, at heart, another branch of the same vine, and has it’s own way of looking at things. Why get all exclusive, alienating people and even making them think you believe that somehow, someone they (and you) loved could be lost, based on a doctrine they didn’t grow up believing in? I must stop and say here that the Throne of Judgement will be occupied by One, and it will be his Words that will judge us all; not mine, yours or anyone else’s. What I do or what I believe, or what you do or believe will not make that any different for anyone else on that side of life. My belief in what the Apostles preached does not dishonor the memory of any loved one, nor is it a comment on what wonderful people I knew them to be or how I loved them. We all will face the same Throne, and we will only be asked about our response to his Word, not anyone else’s. My willingness to risk being misunderstood in that, or any other, way and even to risk the loss of closeness with ones I love (though that is not my desire) is completely based on the fact that I am, back-to-the-wall-to-the-death convinced that this matters enough to risk it. I picture the emotions I would feel if I were in your position at this point, and I only ask that they result in the pricking of the walls of your heart, with the other challenge I have for you: PRAY! Ask God, sincerely, repeatedly, daily, (not just once, but until you know you’ve been heard) to lead you into all truth because you want to obey it – not to win a debate or discussion about scripture, but to fall more deeply in love with Jesus than you’ve ever done or believed you could do, and to know without a doubt that you’ve fully obeyed the Gospel.
Are we there, yet? I know this is a longer blog post than usual (and that’s saying a lot!), but one further observation. In determining whether the Apostolic message, as contained in Acts 2:38 and a host of other places and supporting scriptures, is just another version of the same thing, or is truly unique in the world, consider this: for the majority of Christian denominations, the experience is about the same. Some may venture to talk about repentance, and people do make some changes when they repent, and that really feels good. For the most part, though, outward appearances change very little (I know, God looks on the heart, but man only has the outside to look at, and it needs to reflect God’s power working on the inside as well). They have in common for the most part, that their services differ only in the types of songs that are played, the order of service and how or how often they observe Communion. However, when you’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb through baptism specifically in his name (Jesus), after truly repenting and turning from sin, then have the Holy Ghost come in (and only God himself can cause this to happen) with the evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance, followed by a truely different manner of living and outward appearance, as evidence of obedience to God’s Word, you know you’ve arrived at a destination that’s not a part of the norm. When you’ve stumbled to an altar, so stirred over the annointed preaching you’ve just heard that you’re racked with weeping at the feet of Jesus in a prayer meeting that is shaking the gates of hell, you know you’re not at the crowded “church of the what-time-do-we-get-out-of-here-the-restaurants-are-filling-up” destination. Please note that I am not trying to belittle anyone’s experience, but to only say that there really is a difference in more than just the words we use to describe what we believe. Trust me, I wouldn’t go this far out on a limb for just another version of the same thing. The experience of walking in the Spirit gives evidence that something has to be different about the Apostolic doctrine. Please don’t blindly trust the beliefs you’ve gotten from your forefathers, or from someone you met who cared enough to give the best directions they had at the time, or from any other source. Study (especially the book of Acts but all the Bible supports what is said there), Pray (like you’ve never prayed before – with fasting if you’re able; it’s that important, and helps insure that God knows how serious you areabout knowing what he wants for you), Seek (go see what’s going on and compare it first hand to what you think or believe). Thanks for listening/reading/putting up with my blog.
I’d love to hear from you. If you see this on Facebook, feel free to post a comment or to message me (a little more private way to ask) if you have a question. Blog comments are always welcome, as well. If you get really hungry to learn more about what I’m referring to, come visit us at:
Bay Springs, MS
By the grace of God, we’re getting to experience a taste of
Church the way it was meant to be…
and glad to know there’s more where that came from!