Wednesday, June 1, 2016

struggles of faith

I ask my newly converted friend what he's going to do this summer and as he replies "I'm going to study the Bible more", I find myself rolling my eyes. As I walk through church to teach  the kids' class I find myself laughing at the "other convert" being an active recruit for prayer. He is always praying... I think to myself. Inwardly I can't stop myself from wandering... Can't wait to see you stick around and follow Jesus for a year maybe 2 years and see how peppy you are. Hang out in the church a little longer see what it's really like.

I know it sounds terrible, but I just can't help classify most of my Adventist friends as raised in the church or "converts" based on how excited they are about Jesus. Been in the church for a while? Your family was Adventist? You probably go to church most Saturdays, skip Sabbath School, don't really care that much about your faith...

Newly convert? Oh I see you praying, telling all your friends how great God is, going to all the extra meetings, sharing your testimony like it's golden and your on Operah.. No don't bother trying to give me a Bible study, I'm "good" and saved too, sorry I'm not as smiley as you are.

When did I become so cynical about a faith I've surrendered my life too again and again?

The problem is not the new believers or converts who are on fire for God.

The problem is me with little fervor, quick to judge and become burnt out... Why am I so
bitter? Why am I like the judgmental second son that isn't so happy when his lost brother returns home and his dad throws a party?

Do I think I am faithful because I have followed God for so long? Does that make me a recipient of extra mercy, extra blessings because I have followed God for this or not done that? Do I wish I would have sinned more so I could try it? Do I desire to be rebellious against Christ and the faith?

Why do I look around and see big sins and fail to see my own selfishness and pride that separate me from the character of Christ? Why is it so easy for me to live on the fence thinking that "I am holier than thou" yet not spending enough time on my knees or in the Word of God to defeat the enemy and fight the battle of God?

So often if I hang out in Adventist or Christian circles (at college, at church, at summer camp)  I see a lot of nice people with a really small amount of faith. I know that sounds critical, harsh, judgmental and it is. But I believe from my heart that so often following Jesus is reduced to wearing the goody good sticker on your forehead which means you are nice to people and say and do the right things.

But in my heart I feel the longing for a faith that is so much bigger and a Biblical Savior who is so much more powerful than politically polite. And I want to know this Jesus- this God- I want to see this Hero, this crazy romancer in my life, in my friends' and families' lives, and in the church. And when I see Him, when I experience Him, I awake from my sleep and worldly daydreams and become ALIVE.

How do I nourish my own personal EXPERIENCE with God to pursue a long term relationships with Him that will not easily fade?

Where do I get the authentic faith to marry a sex offender and love him as a husband? To leave my family and friends behind (for nonselfish motives) and go to another country to sacrifice my health, my career dreams, my money for them? How do I walk to a cross- the most painful death known to mankind- and let someone pierce nails through my hands?

Sometimes I listen to my friends talk about Jesus and their lack of relationship with Him. They tell me that they do the right things but they don't really know Him personally and they desire their faith to get stronger. And sometimes I ask them if they have ever experienced Jesus for themselves? And so many of them tell me no and that's something I don't get.

See for me, I know Jesus because I know He has loved me personally, healed me personally, rescued me when I needed it the most. I know He has called me, I know He has used me. I have confidence in Him and His plan for my life.

Yet sometimes I think the church has taught us about Jesus but not how to know Jesus. Maybe in the families many Adventists grew up in they were given "spiritual milk" and taught basic principles of Christian love like being kind to one another, sharing, saying happy Sabbath, forgiving our family and friends. Yet maybe they didn't learn how to eat solid food?  and instead were taught they could have the world and follow God too? (We think we don't have to commit suicide to our self and our own dreams and desires and pursuits of this world and that literally strangles us) Maybe I don't know how to eat solid spiritual food? And maybe it's easy to look at many professed Christians or people in the faith and say well they're doing that.. so it's ok for me to live like this.

1 Corinthians 13:2 says Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly—as infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for solid food. In fact you are still not ready, for you are still worldly.

-- Basically where I'm at right now, is I love God but I know my faith and love relationship with Him needs resurrecting. I want to follow Christ and His commandments but I'm tired of being defined by rules or high expectations. I desire authentic faith and I know that my spiritual walk can't be lived on the mountain alone but will journey from valley to mountaintop. Yet I need a spiritual attitude adjustment that will better equip me to love people for God commands me to love in every part of the journey. I want more faith and real food.

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