As I stated previously, this whole journey began for us in 2012 when we attended the LIFT Worship Consortium at Passion City Church. We had no idea a journey was beginning but with everything that occurred since that time, it is easy to look back and see that was the starting point. In the time prior to our trip and in the months that followed (as much as the ensuing sickness and surgery would allow), I was the lead teacher for the Wednesday night Bible study. As a small church family, I had led studies for a group of as small as 4 to as large as 12 through several new testament books and we had begun a study walking verse by verse through the book of 1 John. This is where the questions began, particularly in chapters 3 and 4 of the book. In these two chapters, we are instructed to love our brother. In fact, we are told quite specifically in chapter 4 verse 20 (from the KJV since that’s what we were studying at the time), “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” This concept caused great pain in our home. We were going through a time as a married couple where we were just plain miserable . . . not with each other, but with life in general, and in particular with life at church. Church had become an obligation. We had many discussions together, at times very tearful and emotional, simply asking the questions:
Why don’t we love these people?
If I don’t love these people as the Bible clearly states I must, do I not then love God?
Struggling with these questions and the inability to answer (or simple refusal to answer due to the implications thereof), left us both miserable and produced many nights falling asleep with tears dried on our faces, particular on Wednesday nights after I would lead a Bible study that pierced right to the heart of who we were and who we weren’t. We began to face the fact, that we did not love as God loved. Through these discussions, and the prayers that followed, God opened the door for us to leave and spoke to us that our time at that church had come to an end. Looking back for just a minute, something unknown to anyone other than Shannon, though she was unaware at the time, I had spoken with God on several occassions specifically since the beginning of that year, inquiring why we were still in the place we were. In Shannon’s words, “We just don’t fit!”
Fast forward to today . . . I now have answers to the questions above, but there are now many new questions. Before I move to the new questions, let’s provide some answers:
Why don’t we love these people? We did not love them, because we didn’t feel loved – not by them, but by God. We were working and working and working for approval unaware that we were already approved by God based on Jesus.
If I don’t love these people as the Bible clearly states I must, do I not then love God? We were attempting to love God based on what we were doing and the acceptance we thought we were earning. We were working for acceptance by God and, quite simply, were doing things out of obligation. Maybe if we sang enough, gave enough, taught enough and did enough at the church and for the church our works would outweigh our lack of love for others (kinda twisted, ain’t it?)
Let me clarify the answers above . . . these were not conscious thoughts we had at that time, but things that have been revealed to us and we have now been able to see as we have walked out of the churchboy world. These are answers that have been 4 years in the making!! As we continue to walk away from this world, I have had a number of new questions rise to the surface that I am seeking answers for:
Church . . . why do we do things the way we do? Who says we have to sing worship songs and then listen to a man talk for an alotted amount of time? Where did this format come from?
Where does God command us to tithe since Jesus fulfilled the law?
Where does scripture tell us God turned away from Christ while he was on the cross?
These are just a few I am struggling with right now, but in my questioning I am at peace. (More on that below.)
Most of you reading this are doing so because you know me. You know me because of my church service and duties. You know me because of my faithfulness. You know me because of my musical abilities and my commitments I’ve held at churches. Let me assure you of this . . . I have not forsaken my love for God. On the contrary, my love for God has never been more alive and it is my prayer that it is visible in my everyday life and through the words I share with you here. In fact, the greatest question I struggle with right now is simply this:
Why am I questioning everything I have ever been taught and believe and once held dear?
When I ask myself the above question, which usually happens on at least a weekly if not daily basis, I am reminded ever so gently by the Holy Spirit each and every time of Phillipians 2:13 NLT: “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” The only reason I’m even seeking these answers is because God is working in me and giving me the desire to search it out. I’ve heard it compared to peeling layers on an onion. You keep peeling and peeling and peeling in efforts to get the center. No matter whether you have the center in your hand or you’re currently holding a layer, you are still holding an onion. God is definitely at the center of this but He is every bit in each layer I peel.
Maybe this journey I’m on is one you’ve taken, are taking, or maybe even about to begin. If you’ve walked this path, I welcome your comments or discussion, but most of all your prayers. Not that you have everything figured out, but you are a fellow traveler on this road we call faith. I leave you today with a scripture I’ve known since a boy, but has become ever so alive to me, especially in the last 6 months:
Memorized from the KJV . . . “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”
Explained in the NLT . . . “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
So, I encourage you today to question . . . the above words of Christ from Matthew 7:7 implore it.