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Too Simple and Too Complicated At the Same Time April 8, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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I have a friend at church who likes to throw questions my way, like he’s testing me. I like this because it sharpens me. But then, sometimes I don’t answer the way he thinks is right, and I see “The Cold Shoulder, the Frenzied Eyebrow, the Grimace of Doom, the Sneer of Despair, the Crippling Wince of Guilt, the Scowl of Impending Wrath, and worst of all, the Nostril Flare of Total Rejection.” (thank you, “Kronk’s New Groove,” 2005)

Sometimes I have an opportunity to grade test papers. When I do, the questions can sometimes be straightforward and simple. Other times the grading criteria come down to tricky word usage expectations and specific requirements that are more like the trick questions from my friend at church. Answer one little thing wrong and the whole thing counts for nothing.

I have a neighbor who doesn’t go to church. He says it’s because he can’t find a church that will teach the Bible and quit asking for money at every turn. I ask him to come to church with me and I see similar expressions to Kronk’s dad’s.

I have another neighbor who goes to church but thinks details of doctrines are a waste of time and all we need to teach is God’s love. But ask him how to talk to someone in a cult that teaches that God is love AND has a bunch of funky doctrines added on that aren’t in the Bible, and he looks at me like I’m a beast with 7 heads and 10 horns (see Revelation 12, 13, and 17)

And I have kids who are being influenced by the world in ways I am only beginning to witness, who need truth pumped into their brains so they’ll spot the lies. The internet, social media, music, TV, the news, commercials, magazines, books, all teach different messages that aren’t in my Bible.

I’m not accusing my friend of being wrong. His quizzes are trick questions and he knows it. He wants me to think and be wise. I’m not accusing my neighbor of being wrong about churches. I’ve been to several in the area and there are churches teaching incorrect doctrine (in my opinion), not teaching the full truth and leaving out the inconvenient ones, and begging for money so their pastors can wear suits and drive fancy cars and go on expensive trips, and take their cronies with them.

There are pastors who do legitimate missions work. Trips to places where people live in garbage dumps and scrape out a survival, to minister with shoes, and clothes, and food, and livestock, and building supplies, and doctors and dentists AND the gospel, I won’t call wrong. I hope my neighbor finds a church where the pastor does that, and takes him along. I’d love to go myself, sometime, if the opportunity and the finances came together right.

I am still not sure about my other neighbor. If the doctrine isn’t important, how will he know if he’s being led astray, or maybe more importantly, his own children? We “study to show [ourselves] as [workmen] approved by God, who do not need to be ashamed, and who correctly handle the word of truth.” And we can’t do that if we aren’t in it digging for details.

The doctrines can be so intricate and tricky, as demonstrated by my friend at church. The turn of a word, the omission of a word, and you change the whole verse and its’ full meaning. AND they can be so simple, as demonstrated by the kids and their understanding of God’s love and His gift he offers to us to accept on faith. We can worship God outdoors and by ourselves. AND, there’s an encouragement we don’t get if we don’t worship with others, setting aside our petty, unimportant picayune details that no one understands but ourselves and maybe the person who taught us (right or wrong), and just celebrating God’s love. As we grow, we learn a balance between growing in our knowledge of the truth, and zeroing in on the celebration side of faith.

And there’s a time and a place to talk about money. If God really has your heart, He has your checkbook too. At least a tenth of it, and probably more. Each gift to God becomes a celebration of the way He abundantly provides for your needs and allows you to help others.

Frequently what you believe depends on either how trusting you are, how wise you are, who your teachers are or were, and how carefully you are able to study a subject or a text. The old April Fools’ Day joke is, “Did you know the word ‘gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary?”

You’ll repeat what your teachers taught you. You’ll repeat what you’ve learned and memorized and read, in or out of context, aptly or ineptly. But, one of my seminary professors told every class, “Don’t just take your Sunday School Teachers’ word for it. Read what it says.” It really is as simple as a child’s understanding. And it really is complex and intricate in some ways. Somewhere in between, Jesus tries to meet us where we are, to help us “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)”

Psalm 2:11 teaches “Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate His rule with trembling.” I think that gives us a good way to work out (our salvation). We serve, and we celebrate. If you can find a church that grows while it serves and celebrates, go and learn what teachings, what doctrines, motivate them to do that. And sign up to participate!

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