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Posts Tagged ‘experience’

Hebrews says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled…” In the United States, our legal system calls things “marriage” that the Bible most certainly would not. But if we only looked at that one verse from Hebrews, we could believe that the thing called marriage that isn’t, is “honorable”. We could pull in other teachings about marriage and how great it is and what it means spiritually, and encourage people to accomplish those great things and represent those great truths by practicing the thing falsely called marriage. If this stood for a few generations, most people would forget that it is a perversion of what the Bible calls marriage.

What if there are other Christian practices that this has happened to, in the forgotten past? How do we trust that what we understand to be the biblical and Christian practices of Church gatherings, pastoring, church leadership and decision-making, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, ordination, etc. are the things the Bible is discussing?

Like we can with marriage, we can compare other Scriptures to our practices, right? We can ask, “Did God say anything else about these practices? Did God address what we are doing, regardless of what it is called, in positive or negative ways?”

I believe it is possible for God to reveal corrections to us* if we are humbly seeking Him, and if He wants to at the moment. It seems like sometimes He doesn’t want to, and I’m not quite clear why.

I want to have respect for generations of believers who have been inviting God’s discernment, and to value their conclusions. I don’t see any honest way to do this without acknowledging that there have been stretches of time where Christianity (the public institution, anyway) has promoted false understandings of things, and it has taken a long time to straighten some of them out. I have to acknowledge that different parts of the Church, distanced by geography (at least) have for long periods of time held different beliefs from one another.

How much weight should we put on our own experiences? If our experiences seem to line up with a teaching, and be fruitful for the Kingdom of God, does that indicate that these understandings and practices are the things God intends?

*Who ought “us” to be, though? Is it my job, without holding a position of authority in the Church, to discern these things? For myself? For the Church? For society? Is it my job to say anything to others if I believe I have discerned that our conventional practice is wrong?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A friend was telling me about a book the other day.  She said that in the first page not only had the author stated his thesis; he had also persuaded her of its truth.  The following hundred fifty pages were spent reiterating the point and adding evidence with which to convict the audience of the need for the final third of his book, advice for applying the concept.  My friend has always been more interested in writing that was more practical than philosophical, and essentially agreed with the premise of this book before she began to read it.  So she sloughed through the repetitive, unnecessary chapters getting quite bored and wondering if the book was worth her time. 

And today, while I pondered her conversational book review, I realized something.  When I read, I cannot wait to share what I have learned with someone else.  I want to discuss the statements, to criticize them or exult in them, to take every piece of information from the book and draw conclusions from it.  I am rather bored by a book that is a list of how-to steps, because inevitably my situation is omitted, and I chafe under the restrictions of specifics.  As a little girl playing with legos, I always altered the instructions that came with the little car kits.  During a lecture, I much prefer taking my own notes to filling in blanks.  When I read, I am not merely receiving what the author intended; I am springboarding from there to further conclusions, adding the information to everything else I know and experience, in order to richly apply the new ideas. 

Not only am I blending each new piece of media with the others of my experience; I am contributing to the community knowledge and awareness.  Were I to read the book my friend was describing, I would not only be gaining information useful for my life, but also things that I could transfer to my friends, some of whom might benefit from all those tedious persuasion points.  I could write about the subject here (except I already have, when I read reviews of the same book by other bloggers – sharing their knowledge with their community).  Think about reviews and quotes, the work of one man in reading an entire volume in order to bring you a concise summary and sample. 

Have you an idea of the impact on your world when you read a book or watch a movie or listen to a song – or even have an experience?  We are, when living in community, all something like the feared and almost unstoppable Borg of Star Trek invention.  Our understanding is assimilated into a collective.  Except in our case, instead of our brains being hacked and joined to an impersonal super-computer, we are a collective by reason of our relationships: our compassion for others, and wisdom in choosing when to share and what.  Communication is key. 

Imagine a person who was reading, thinking, watching, and living – but who never communicated any of what he learned.  Though his experiences would shape him and his decisions and so impact the people around him, how much more could they all benefit if he was using his time not selfishly, but for what it could offer neighbors, family, and friends?  What I do not have time to read, watch, or do might be in the realm of the experiences of my acquaintance, who could give me the relevant parts or the most interesting parts. 

Worse than someone who will not communicate is a passive member of the community.  All he does is absorb media, blinking at a screen, fiddling with a video game, settling for mediocrity in all of his pursuits, never aspiring to innovation or improvement.  Such a person is not contributing to the community, is wasting his potential, while benefiting like a parasite from the efforts of others.  Even if he is a hermit, excluding himself from the community, by residing in the vicinity of communities (even in a macro situation like the large geography of a state or country) he will be the recipient of at least a few good things brought about by the selfless enterprise of others.  A country is strong when the people are united.  It will be profitable, creative, defensive, and resilient. 

So, too, is a church that is united.  God did not place His children as individual hermits to meditate on Him and reach full potential of godliness, testimony, or understanding.  He placed us as a people, in an organism called the church, made up of many members that the world may see our love in community, proclaiming not that God is near them, nor that God is in them, but that God is truly among them.  It is almost redundant to say that church is community.  But it is counterintuitive to today’s citizen.  He is taught to think of church as an institution, a collection of programs and “services,” which the religious attend and in which they ritually participate. 

The Bible teaches that the people redeemed by Christ’s grace are to walk in the Spirit, to live by faith, praying without ceasing.  We are saved individually, each bearing God’s image, each a man for whom Jesus gave His Life.  But that salvation and faith and Spirit pours into the collective when the “members” gather.  Then that which a person has read, learned, or experienced should be brought forward and discussed: questioned, projected, contrasted, added to the knowledge and circumstances of others, and then applied.  What esteem we should have for those with whom we fellowship, embracing their words whether encouraging or correcting, for we are all benefiting from the voice of God on many ears! 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I asked a while back what was the truest expression of love.  Fiction and stories have always served to teach me.  They make me think, and ponder scenarios beyond my experience.  When I don’t have a book that perfectly suits a question I’m considering, I (sometimes consciously) devise a story of my own.  That is the setting for the question I asked. 

My initial scenario was a man and woman in love under oppressive circumstances who had several options: 1.  Part and give each other up.  2.  Part promising to be faithfully and exclusively devoted to one another despite separation.  3.  Marry and face permanent endangerment or death as a result.  So the questions are: 1.  Is it better to sacrifice and let each other possibly find love elsewhere?  2.  Is it more faithful to the feelings and nature of love to continue feeling for each other when all chance of enactment is past?  3.  Is consummation so important to love that you would risk each other? 

Suppose you’re in A Walk to Remember.  Do you marry when your marriage is guaranteed to be short-lived?  What if you’re in Pirates of the Caribbean?  Do you marry if you know (which was, I allow, not the case in the movie) that the relationship will consist of one day in 3652?  You’re a mother in Nazi Germany who has a chance of sending her children away to safety, but she’ll never see them again.  (supplied by my mom): Or should missionary parents endanger their kids by discipling them at home or protect them by sending them to boarding school?  Then again, is life and safety more important than a relationship with your parents? 

Michael Card wrote “God’s only way is to give and to die.”  I wasn’t only asking about romantic love.  But I confess I’ve always got that under consideration, being interested in the subject.  Seriously, I can see the usefulness of reading all the relationship books.  Aside from personal application, I believe such subjects are fundamental points in the development of one’s relationship with God and others.  Plus it’s Valentine’s Day, so I have an excuse – for today. 

Gratification is doing whatever the feelings of love motivate you to do in a moment.  This promises the most instant satisfaction, but it might be deceptive.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like hugging someone and decided I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or more deeply would rather not. 

Consumation would be a more long-term, planned and waited for climax of a relationship.  It doesn’t necessarily indicate commitment, but it is a fulfillment of something hoped and worked for.  What is the consummate activity of friendship, or of parenting?  For some friends it might be meeting, or reading journals or going on a trip together.  In Butterfly Kisses, Bob Carlisle indicates that the peak of parenting is when his daughter is given away in marriage.  Consumation might be understood as the “truest expression of love” by definition.  It might be too specific, though.  Let’s keep exploring. 

Commitment is, in this case, synonymous with faithfulness and loyalty.  True love inspires commitment.  There’s no greater gift to offer a person than your eternal devotion.  Then again, what if the love is unrequited?  What if there is eternal separation to match the eternal commitment?  Then the commitment doesn’t mean anything. 

Sacrifice.  Obviously there are different levels of sacrifice.  A guy who sees a romantic comedy instead of the latest Will Smith alien movie is being sacrificial (generally speaking), but that is not the truest expression of love.  Maybe a bunch of little things all added together are the kind of sacrifice I mean.  There isn’t opportunity for each of us to die for another to demonstrate our love.  Romans 12:1 talks about being a living sacrifice, which is totally giving one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength to the purposes and good of another.  Or maybe sacrifice is the answer in some instances and not others. 

As I think about this, I remember love languages.  I don’t even know what they all are.  There is giving and touch, probably words, and maybe service.  I’m still missing one.  Anyway, this side of the argument points out that the motive is important, not the expression. 

My mom kept saying “it depends” when I asked her this question.  I wasn’t asking what was right or wrong, or the choice that should be made in a given circumstance.  Perhaps my point is to show how those things can conflict with expressing love.  Am I wrong?  After all, God is love. Ought love to be the ultimate consideration?  When faced with a choice between improving a relationship and improving the other person (making them good-er) in your relationship, which claim is superior? 

I could invite a friend to ice cream because I want to build our relationship, and spending time is a good way to brick our relationship.  Or it could be because I know they like ice cream and I want to brick them.  Or I could be bricking myself because I like ice cream.  So which is more important?  Which is love? 

There I go again.  I can’t blog without asking questions.  But to answer my original survey, if I were taking a test, I’d pick sacrifice.  I can refute the others (to my own satisfaction, but I can’t necessarily prove my case). 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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