Saturday, January 19, 2008

Getting back to foundational faith

We have been attending our present church for about seven months. During that time I have been brought to realize the need to reevaluate my thought processes and assumptions about my faith. I have been a Christian for 18 years, and yet, somehow I think I have been more American than Christian. I have to remind myself at times of the seemingly obvious truth that Christianity is not primarily American; in fact it is not this-worldly at all, it is not global, it is not multi-national; it doesn't place its trust in any mere human being or organization; it is heavenly, and it corresponds only to heavenly ideals. So many times I have presented a thought to our pastor and he responds with a question regarding why I believe that, and I am often stymied. I've seen it happen with others as well; I think it is a healthy thing to have these assumptions challenged, so that we can give a reason for the hope that is within us without coloring it with earthly influences.
How encumbered we are in the culture in which we live! And yet the Bible warns us to not be conformed to the pattern of this world and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds...this is a huge challenge, as I see it.
How can we not be conformed to the pattern of this world somewhat, when we live in it? We are to be in it but not of it. This is fairly easy to define when using extreme terms, such as that a Christian would not generally find himself comfortable with some worldly behaviors such as carousing and breaking the Ten Commandments in the more obvious ways; but what about balancing material concerns, stewardship, living out the fruit of the Spirit, being salt and light...there are Scriptures that address these kinds of things, but I think they may be more subject to interpretation than the Ten Commandments (though I realize Jesus showed the proper interpretation of those also to be more inward and complex than what the Jews saw in the Old Testament); I see how fine that line can be in my life these days.
I realize for example that I need to strive to maintain our home so that it is a haven and a good representation of stewardship in Christ; but at what point does that detract from my being a good neighbor who can serve another, who can not be distracted so much with my own needs that I ignore the spiritual or physical needs of my neighbor, my brother, my friend, even my enemy, all for whom Christ died? It is a hard balance and as we work to make our house attractive to sell, I realize we're improving its appeal to align with the more materialistic bent of today's buyer. Is this wrong, or is it right to make it as beautiful as possible, so that we get a good price, so that we are less likely to need to rely on others financially in the future, as we get older and our finances may become more strained? Is this not trusting God, or is it being a good steward? These are things I have to address in my own conscience, and I can only do it by praying and asking for God's help and guidance, because the Scriptures that come to my mind could be applied either way on it.
So far in this project, I do believe that God has helped and blessed us, as we have been guided to excellent workmen and the project has been as stressless as any I've heard of, and it's been as affordable as I could have imagined. I hope to think this is an indicator that God is not distressed by what could be viewed as materialism. I've prayed that He would close the doors to it if it weren't His will, and yet they've been wide open.
This seems to me to be a good example of wrestling with how much we conform to the pattern of this world. How the Scriptures are lived out, whether according to American values, or heavenly ones, that is the challenge. Even what church we choose to attend can influence, and be influenced by, our stand on the Scriptures. Are we consumers as we choose a church? Is the church we attend chosen because it is comfortable, because it is easy to agree with what is taught there, because it has a smorgasbord of programs that appeal to all the age groups of our family? Or do we attend because it in fact challenges our comfort and our assumptions regarding our faith?
I remember from long ago a family about whom I kept hearing sniping comments, who had undergone some financial challenges along with a career change, and I prayed that God would help me understand the truth about them. I'm not positive that a dream I had about them was God's answer to this prayer, but I dreamt that the huge brick house that they lived in had become a house with clear walls, with a layer of bricks only at the base, at the foundation. I saw that they had needed to start over again, rebuilding their lives from the foundation, brick by brick. They had huge challenges and the sniping comments were the last thing they needed. I relate that picture to my faith--I feel the need to bring it down to the foundational truths, and build it up brick by brick, contrary to the culture, and with God's help, to rebuild it in line with heavenly priorities and ideals. It seems so disheartening to start over, and yet I think that a clarified view of God's purposes will be the end reward; this is such a worthwhile incentive. How well I will continue on this rebuilding, keeping heavenly priorities in mind, persevering to the end I don't know, but I hope it will continue and that I will have a clearer understanding of how to live out my faith in such a way as to please God and love my neighbor.

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