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March 23, 2010

Rethinking My Faith

For years while a member of the modern evangelical movement, I was caught in a trap of both works and trying to rely on my goodness to live my christian faith. It was a vicious cycle, because you can *never* be good enough, which then would lead to guilt, which would then lead to a re-committing of myself to God. But not long after this cycle was complete I would screw up and it would start over again, try living like this for years and you may start to understand the depth of my issues with the Evangelical church as it stands today.

I can’t tell you how many guilt ridden alter calls I had to endure, and when your already in a position where you question your faith it feeds the cycle of despair (should I go down?, am I good enough to stay in my seat). My wife and I knew a friend who would go down every time, no matter what was being called out, down she went. Eventually I ran headfirst into fundamentalism that finally choked my faith and I turned my back on the church and walked away, I spent 4 years in the post Evangelical Wasteland (as termed by Michael Spencer). I still believed in God, but no longer in church. I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy, the overbearing nature, the non-thinking attitude. I was tired of being told which translation to read, what not to drink, what not to read, I was tired of Christians who made it a point to become the sin police for their pet concerns, and none of these things and I mean NOT ONE could be found in the bible I was reading!!.

But I’m back at God’s calling (another message for another time), and this time around I’ve approached all this with the idea that I’m no longer going to let any man *tell* me what I believe. I’m going to figure it out myself, not that I won’t listen to or take direction (proverbs makes it very clear that a wise man listens to direction). But *never* again will I allow someone to define my belief and set another trap for me without my first discerning the truth of what is being said, this by the way is a strong biblical position. Paul in the book of Acts praises the bereans for dissecting every word he would say (acts 17:11…), we are also encouraged to handle God’s word correctly (2 Timothy 2:15).

So through all this I’ve been changing, it’s been what a Episcopalian friend called a ‘process’ referring to the constant change believers go through. It’s not been easy at times, more than once I’ve yelled at God in frustration and anger. It all peaked a few months ago when I hit the bottom while looking for a church. I destroyed a macarthur study bible that I’d had for years, I yelled and screamed at God about how painful going through this process of finding a church only to find out they had no depth, no real doctrine, had charismatic leanings and any number of other things. I almost gave up again, then a friend pointed me to Michael Spencers site and I realized that I was not alone in this fight. It changed EVERYTHING, I stopped and started re-thinking the way I was approaching my life, my family and finding a church to worship in. It led me to a little Anglican church which is within a short driving distance, I’m not much for miracles. But in Idaho there are only TWO Anglican churches and the newest plant just happens to be within a short drive, I would call that providence pure and simple.

So I’m now starting to put it all together, the more I learn about my theology (and theology in general) and start to read different voices in the christian community (gasp I know, I do read things outside the bible!!!). I’m realizing that the guilt I was living under was a trap, mentally I understood but it’s only recently that it’s taken root. Once I learned what Grace *really* means (that I am by nature a sinner, but God’s gift covers my sins if I will accept and that Grace covers the things I struggle with) I stopped getting caught up in coming down on myself. It’s not that I don’t sin, I do, everyday. *BUT* I’m covered, and I lean on God to give me the strength and wisdom to overcome my sins and change my ways, it’s a ‘process’ as Father Michael so aptly put it. I’ve also come to finally understand what Romans 8:1 really means, it’s not that people can’t ‘condemn’ me, but that because of what Christ has done I now no longer live in condemnation. That’s like a 500 pound weight off my back and it allows me to be free, finally free.

And that gets to the heart of my message here, I like beer, in fact I like to brew beer. Luther drank beer, almost all the great church fathers drank beer and spent time in pubs (did you know that most songs in the hymnal where re-used pub songs!). So it is without shame that I will tell you that I’m brewing beer again, I’m also making meade again (honey wine), and I enjoy a good beer after a hard days work. I have my secret vices on T.V. (warehouse 13, Fringe, Burn Notice, Sanctuary), I still listen to rock music. I drive my car like a maniac at times, I’ve stopped worrying about what others think. And I’m working on getting a degree in theology, it all makes for a much happier me. This doesn’t mean I get to do any sin I want, that’s not the point of grace. But it does mean that I’m not ‘Majoring in the Minors’ any longer, the more I read scripture the more I realize that God’s aware that we are human to the core, with all our faults and issues. He just loves us anyway, so many people get caught up in being pious that they miss the blessing that grace and freedom under Christ can give them, they want to play church and live a life that would offend a trappist monk!.

And my faith is expanding, the more I learn the more it grows. I have a stack of reading material that will keep me busy for years, all of it centered around God and the Bible. I still have bad days, we all do, it’s part of being human, but God’s love and more importantly his forgiveness and Grace are there too cover me. I don’t get caught up in beating myself up, but I’m also open to changing and I growth in new areas. I’ve learned to lean on him when things are tough and to praise him and be thankful through both the good and bad times, that’s a key point. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank him for what he’s done for us, no matter what happens he paid a price for me that I will always be thankful for.

Now if I can just figure out all the technical terms for a liturgical service, I can stop worrying about the service and if I’m doing something wrong ;)



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