Thursday, May 31, 2007

Religion... it boils down to Relationship

I must state first and foremost that I am writing this post, knowing full-well that the topic I plan on discussing is very touchy one... to say the least. With that in mind, I offer a disclaimer: These insights are written with the intention to spark some contemplation within the Christian community regarding how we view our faith and what exactly we mean when we call ourselves "Christians." They are not intended to cause debate or offense and all comments on the topic would be greatly appreciated. So let's get this started...

A couple weeks ago at a youth group meeting, I posed this question: "If you had to describe Christianity in one word, what would it be?" I got a variety of responses including faith, love, salvation, and even a reference to John 3:16. I then offered my response, which was "relationship." After all... what makes Christianity unique in the miriad of other religions throughout the world? Relationship.

I have also been wondering, after reading "Searching for God Knows What" by Donald Miller (def. a must read), to what extent we as so called "Christians" have been substituting this relationship Christ intended for his followers to have with him... with a "formula-filled religion." In my opinion, it's an overwhelming truth within our faith that has stunted our production of spiritual fruits for way too long. I say this not to bash "organized religion," but only to make the point that I do believe, to some extent, it has replaced that sacred, holy, and loving relationship God longs for us to have with himself. Allow me to quote Donald...

"And that's the thing about being religious; it isn't this safe place in the soul you can go, it has just as many booby traps as any other thing you can get yourself into. It's a bloody brothel, in fact. Jesus even says there will be people who will heal other people, but when they die He is going to say He didn't know them. It is somewhat amazing to me, once again, that all of Christianity, all our grids and mathematics and truths and different groups subscribing to different theological ideas, boils down to our knowing Jesus and His knowing us."

Think about the "best Christian" you know. How would you describe that person? There are members of my youth group that use this terminology often to describe those Christians they admire and look up to. When I hear it, I ask them, "What exactly do you mean by they are a 'good Christian?" I get a list consisting of things such as this: regular church attendance, honesty, nice, don't smoke, drink, or curse, don't have sex, Bible knowledge, etc... I'm sure i'm not the only one who has heard this list.

But, what if, when describing a Christian we admire and look up to... instead of rattling off a list of do's and dont's, we would say something like,

"You can just tell he/she is in love with Jesus. He radiates from them. Whenever i'm around them... I can feel His Spirit flowing out of them."
I will go out on a limb and state that I think Jesus Christ would much rather have a follower that exemplifies the latter description. Is our "religion" as we know it getting us to that place? In my opinion, it isn't. What we need is a relationship revival. Christians need to determine in their hearts that they are going to seek God in everything they do, everything they say, every thought they think, and every decision they make. We need to determine that we are going to work at building our relationship with Jesus just as we build our relationships with our families, friends, and significant others... by loving them, talking with them, listening to them, and most importantly... speding TIME with them! He needs to become our priority... and when that happens, all of the do's and dont's will flow naturally from our closeness to Him. Until then... we will continue our measly attempts to follow all of the rules on our own and we will continue to fail. We've missed the point... relationship is what God desires, period.

In Him,

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Two Types of People...

This may, to some, seem to be a somewhat odd post to begin my new blogging adventure... but I believe i'm willing to take the risk.

Yesterday, to celebrate Memorial Day, my Mother and I decided to spend the day at a public pool right outside of our hometown. After arriving and finally finding a place to spread out our towels among the masses of people who also decided to venture to the pool on Memorial Day (I know... go figure), I decided to go ahead and go for a swim, despite my inclination to lay out for a while beforehand. When I made this suggestion to my mother, she said, "OK, but let's get in the shallow end." I gave in to her wishes and eased my way into the pool... freezing and making every attempt to avoid the splashing of the, what seemed like, hundreds of flailing children around me. "Why did I let her talk me into getting in over here," I thought to myself.

This scenario got me thinking about why in the world she didn't want to just jump in at the much more exciting, 10ft. deep end of the pool. It was then that I realized there are 2 types of people in this world. Type #1 eases their way into the shallow end of the pool, shivering and dreading every drop of water that touches them until, finally, they get up the nerve to submerge themselves completely... then realizing the relaxing coolness of the water and allowing themselves to enjoy the swim. Type #2 decides easing their way into the pool is much too time consuming and uncomfortable so they march straight to the deep in and jump. Sure, jumping may be a shock to the system at first... but is quick and requires much less uncomfortableness and thought. Besides... you can always get out if the water is too cold, right?

I'm definately a jumper... After this epiphany, I began to wonder if this tendency could translate at all into the circumstances of my life. I resolved at a resounding... duh! I love being a jumper. It is fun and exciting, yet uncertain and scary all at the same time. I can see this tendency in decisions i've made throughout my life. When I decide I want to do something, even if it seems outrageous... 9 times out of 10, it's going to happen. I can see this tendency in many relationships. I trust quickly and I have a lot of faith in people. This causes me to become attatched to people and relationships very quickly. I'm also impatient... the time it takes to ease your way into something just seems so mundane to me. Just jump... that's how I have lived my life.

I must admit, this tendency does get me into trouble. I get really excited about things really quickly, and it only takes the smallest doubt to send me straight into a screaching halt... like ice cold water. That being said... I thank my God for all of the "easer's" in my life. They keep me grounded and bring me back to reality when I need it. They force me to be patient. If you are an easer in my life... (i'm sure you know who you are) thank you!

No matter whether you are a jumper or an easer, my prayer for each of us is that we would realize that God made us either-or... for a reason. God bless those jumpers who move things forward and aren't scared of the risk of ice-cold water and God bless those easer's who are tuned to reality and keep us jumpers from hypothermia.

In Him,