02/09/2017

Religion Vs Relationship

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:17 am by The Water Bearer

People Often Misjudge

I can hear the whispers, whispers from people who think they once knew me. Now that I have begun sharing my faith in a more public forum, the whispers are hovering… “She’s changed, She’s gone all religious!”

I understand that those who never really knew me may think that I must have turned some huge corner in my set of beliefs, because I’ve never looked like your average “Christian” on the outside. I’m far too open about my brokenness, my flaws are too boisterous to be hidden away. I am much too concerned about breaking curses inside, than focusing on a mask of goodness on the outside. I try to live in the freedom of authenticity, fully aware of my lack of perfection.

The truth is, I’ve held the same beliefs for my entire life. My first prayer was answered when I was 8 years old, and I have felt a unique connection to God ever since. The reason I may not look or act like your stereotypical “Christian” may be because my faith was never nurtured in a church environment, so I find it quite bizarre, that I am now the founder of an incredible Scripture-Based Wellness program like Sanctuary Stretch!

To be completely honest, I like being called religious about as much as most people like being called “sinners”. In fact I prefer admitting myself as a sinner, far more than religious or even Christian. I have plenty of faith and devotion, Im just put off by the picture that those words conjure up. Religion did a real number on me, my family and many of my loved ones, and probably many of yours too. In my history, to be called religious was the biggest insult going. It deemed you unfit for human interaction, it exiled you from your family and labeled you crazy! 

The word ‘Heretic’ is probably closer to the right title for me. Now before you go grab your torch and pitchfork, hear me out. A heretic is someone who strongly opposes an established belief. Therefore, if the established belief is that you must look perfect on the outside, and go to a particular church regularly, and walk, talk and act like all others in that church, in order to be saved, then yes I strongly oppose!

Obviously not everyone in Christian circles are guilty of promoting this belief, many are genuine and humble, they accept that God is working with everyone everywhere. But even still, as a whole, ‘playing God’ and misjudgment is rife and much damage has been done.

1 Samuel 16:7 “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Inauthentic Connections

We are biologically designed to search for a place where we fit. A community. A tribe. We’re easily tempted to change our outsides to fit in with a particular group, rather than to stand in authenticity and risk being rejected or ridiculed. I always felt like a round peg looking for a place to fit, but everywhere I went I found people who inflicted guilt trips in order to shave a bit off me here and there to get me to fit into their square hole. A relationship with God can not be forced, coerced or manipulated, just as with any genuine relationship. It grows in our hearts as we engage transparently, more and more, which is a very difficult thing for humans to assess from the outside.

Guilt is a powerful tool to promote conformity, but the desire for external acceptance often causes us to miss the whole point of faith entirely. We were all made with extreme diversity. Billions of humans designed to be unique and complex, to have different experiences and hearts that soften under different circumstances, can not, and should not have to be all on the exact same narrow path in order to experience a true relationship with their creator. Thinking this way only promotes disingenuous mindlessness, following the herd, which scarily only pushes our flaws deeper within, where they can fester and poison us even further, and then threaten future generations dramatically.

The even scarier part is that when we have perfected our mask, and found a tribe that accepts us, we no longer desperately need a Saviour. Our relationship with God then also lacks the authenticity vital for changing our hearts.

He Came For The Broken

So if I am not “religious” why am I promoting faith? And what kind of faith am I promoting?

My faith walk has not consisted of sitting in a comfy church chair, with a neatly pressed suit, and the fruits of the spirit on show for all to see. My walk has been more like a bloopers reel. From the outside you would have seen, a terrified thumb-sucker, who grew to dabble with drugs and promiscuity for ‘tribe’ approval. A teen mum with a hideous emotionally manipulative nature. A young Mum involved in a car accident that wiped out my ability to function and achieve, taking my self-worth along for the ride, leaving me injured, anxious, depressed and battling sucidal thoughts. I’ve had numerous health concerns, panic attacks and car phobia, I’ve been dependant on countless prescription drugs and always been more comfortable around a pool table than a pulpit. Pretty much my entire faith walk has consisted of me wrestling with inner enemies, falling flat on my face, turning my heart towards Christ for His guidance and abundant Grace and being set on my feet over and over and over again.

Along this journey it may have appeared that I was far from God, and far from saved, but I can assure you that God made His awesome presence felt every single step of the way. My relationship with Him grew as my faith did, I came to depend on Him a little more, and a little more. Each time I fell was a chance to give Him more and more control over my heart and my life. He never once let me down! Every inch of suffering on that road has been filled with intention and meaning. SLOWLY refining me, as is still the case!

I have come across many people in this life, who feel far too broken to put themselves in the firing line of a religious group. Those unwilling and unable to pretend they have the fruits of the spirit flowing from every orifice. I can testify that I actually FELT the fruits of the spirits being developed and experienced inside of me, long before anyone else could see them on the outside. God knows, Men don’t!

Breaking the Myth

Somewhere along the way a myth began to surface in Christian circles, that being ‘saved’ is an attractive process. We conjure up pictures of saints volunteering their time to a worthy cause with no thought for self, we picture hands raised in worship and wide smiles on faces. We picture sanity, health and prosperity, and a multitude of Christian Brothers and Sisters united in compassion and joy. We picture political correctness and perfect manners. Truth be told, the process of becoming ‘reborn’ requires complete destruction and then reconstruction, a public death accompanied with humiliation. It is a life long marathon, not a sprint. It can not be rushed. It is never a pretty sight to become desperate for God to do a work in us. Hungering and thirsting for the Word is born from intense periods of the inner war.  God is thorough if nothing else, He is not willing for us to just sit the test, He wants us to get an A+. Which of course means being tested and tested and tested again. Each time, a new level of self-deception is revealed and a new piece of truth replaces it.

And lets not kid ourselves into thinking for one minute that once we have turned our own hearts inside out and had them purified that we are going to look all shiny and new. Absolutely not, we then begin interceding for the generational curses in our families, and after that we carry the yoke of our ministries and communities. As long as we walk this earth we have more purging to be done.

A Place to Fit

The reason I have such a passion to now share my experiences of faith in such a public way, is because everyone deserves a little encouragement to turn their hearts to God. It’s far from an easy road and trying to overcome the obsticles of life without God is something I wouldn’t want to inflict on anyone. Its one thing to be separated from God because we chose that in our hearts, but its an entirely different ball of wax to feel separated from God because we are too broken to pretend we aren’t broken. Or battling too many inner enemies to worry about how offensive our external smoke-screen is. Or put off by religiosity and misjudgment.

Intimacy with God is personal, private, and often painful. But it is only with His strength that we get through it and come out a little better each time. My hope is that no matter where you are on your faith walk, you feel the need to take time out from distractions and expectations, to turn your hearts to Him and enter God’s presence. That is what Sanctuary Stretch hopes to encourage. Whether you are needing to fill your cup in order to pour into the lives of others going through trials, or if you need your cup filling because you are being emptied daily by your own trials.

All can benefit from a true intimate relationship with God, if they are willing.

Romans 10:13 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 

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11/12/2015

Imitation Faith

Posted in Finding Faith, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , at 1:51 pm by The Water Bearer

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One of the major reasons I have avoided religious institutions during my faith walk, is due to the abundance of Imitation Faith which I have witnessed, and I realise I am not alone in this. While I thoroughly love being part of a faith-group where I can share in worship, and servitude, which challenges me, and yet supports me in my faith walk, I have found it difficult to find lasting support for the type of relationship I have with my Lord and Saviour. Still I keep an open heart, an open mind, and a willing spirit to go wherever He directs me. The true test is to be completely myself and not contort into someone I feel the church might support, I must focus on the promise that God supports me, and that is all I need. That being said, I have been blessed many times within church walls as God has moved me in and about. In fact I am currently befriending a new congregation and excited to see how God moves there.

Evidence of Imitation Faith disheartens and upsets me. Sometimes the imitation is glaringly obvious, you can tell within one interaction. Often the imitation appears so similar to the genuine article, making it difficult to identify, and it can take quite some time to recognise. If there is the possibility of hearing from the Lord through a Donkey, we have to have open ears no matter our whereabouts. It’s hard to explain how to tell the fake, because it’s not always due to behaviour, or language, or anything exterior. Sometimes it can be genuine for a season and then become corrupted. It is a constant battle of discernment. Genuine faith is an internal, private journey with submission to the specific, individual guidance from God, with opportunities to exercise our faith and obedience to fulfill each request, developing and maintaining a covenant with Him. Through each unique relationship, God reveals Himself to us, this is how we develop a familiarity with God’s Character so we can recognise, trust and truly love Him. Imitation faith attempts to push us all onto one same narrow path, it fails to grasp how vastly unique each of us is and which level our faith is at, or what is required to gain the next perfect level. It can severely mislead believers away from their God given path with guilt, than towards it with support. It’s no wonder that it can be something to be wary of. Much evidence throughout the bible states that within the Nation of believers there were only ever a remnant who obeyed God, only a remnant who trusted Him. Something else to remember is that Christ spoke in parables for a reason, to hide the truth, to prevent the imitation from knowing the secrets of the gospel. For good reason….

Matthew 13

He that hath ears, let him hear. 10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 And he answered and said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.13 Therefore speak I to them in parables; because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.14 And unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand; And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive:15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, And I should heal them.16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.17 For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not.

Recently during a great conversation, I was reminded of a metaphor which my Dad used to explain imitation faith to me when I first began my adult faith walk. It was invaluable for me as a ‘Baby Christian’ to understand how easily we can be deceived into building imitation faith as apposed to genuine faith.

There was once a man who was flat broke, he had many bills to pay and debt collectors breathing down his neck. During a moment of extreme desperation he fell to his knees and prayed “If there is a God, please help me pay my bills”. The next week he was walking along the road on his way to a job interview for a job he would rather not do, when he discovered a briefcase, unlocked, full of money. Now the money was counterfeit, but the man didn’t care to wonder nor check. He went to the post office and paid his bills, it worked. His debt was cleared, he thanked “God” and he decided not to go to the job interview after-all.

The metaphor is that the pursuit of faith is just like the man’s pursuit of money, he needed it, he prayed for it, yet he found something less than perfection, less than righteous, less than true and he accepted it. He accepted it because it was an easier ‘answer’ to his prayer than the job interview God had actually provided, for a job that would have taught him priceless lessons about himself, about hard work, about responsibility, about the character of God and how to develop true faith in Him. He would have received an abundance of Godly blessings that would not only have covered his debts, but given him a lifetime without worry of money. He didn’t push past the imitation in order to search out the genuine, and settled for much less.

Lord, cover our mind with the amour of your salvation, that we may see and perceive, and hear and understand. That we never settle for the easier false options in our walk, and that we are blessed to be privy to your hidden truths, which fall on the soft soil of our hearts and not be stolen away, or overgrown with falsehood. In Yeshua’s Mighty Name I Pray! Amen!

 

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