Been thinking a lot about the difference between religion and relationships. How can I classify what I have between myself and the Lord? I don’t think it’s as simple as saying I am not in a religion, or saying that I am just in a relationship.
What is your motivation in going, or not going, to church on Sundays? Do you go so you can see your friends? Hear some witty story from your pastor/priest? Sing the songs? Maybe you go to hear the message, but you feel somewhat empty at the close, so you just decide not to go at all. Or maybe you hear something that doesn’t sit well inside, so you just call it all off and decide that church just isn’t right for you.
When I was a kid, I actually enjoyed going to church with my mom and sister once we were there. I liked it because my sis and I would pass notes and giggle about whatever we were drawing pictures of. The best part was trying not to laugh out loud (as that would have been rude), which always made us laugh harder. I remember keeping one ear open to the pastor, so I would catch his often told jokes. When we would leave the chapel, I would have a list in my head of how many ceiling tiles there were, along with lighting counts, and how many rectangles I could create out of the designs on the walls.
Two weekends ago I experienced a Roman-Catholic wedding. It was a first…and I was very intrigued to see how their ceremony would unfold. The church was gorgeous, and a bit overwhelming, as the walls were adorned with statues of Mary, and young Jesus, as well as past priests, stain glass, and beautiful fabrics. The ceilings were vaulted, painted wood slats.. it truly was a masterpiece. I can’t imagine being a child in a church like that.. think of all the things to stare at instead of listening to the message! Just being an adult I had a hard time with it.
The priest gave a message about love, and honoring the rite of marriage and all it entails. There were lots of tiny jokes, and laughing, and after his message, they celebrated communion. He read Matthew 26:
26 “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
I was kind of surprised that the only scripture mentioned the entire time, an hour long ceremony, would include so little of God’s Word, though one of the most powerful.. especially as the start to a new marriage. I say kind of because it reminded me of the church I attended as a kid. The sermon was based around one line, or passage, from the Bible, and then a story was told, full of jokes, and ‘feel’ good advice. Being a total bystander, I felt like something was missing. Yes, there were prayers, and religious jargon, but there was no Spirit. I was saddened as I looked around at 100+ people reciting lines they had learned as children, some not even knowing what they were saying. It was the same songs, the same recited words, and the same stand/sit/kneel they had been doing their whole lives. It was what I had been doing all along, too… until I rebelled and moved as far away as possible at 17 so I wouldn’t be subjected to something I didn’t believe in.
I was recently sharing my story of how I came to really know God, and was saved. The other person looked at me kinda odd. I think maybe we underestimate the word ‘saved’.. so here is the definition from dictionary.com:
To be saved is to experience something amazing, and it truly is God performing every single one of those 8 definitions for us. The Spirit of God comes over you, and you KNOW at that moment that you are somehow changed. My life is now in the hands of Someone more capable of handling it. While reflecting on what I had witnessed at the church, I really wanted to share about what it is supposed to mean to ‘go to church’. I realize that it was a wedding ceremony, but if one is going to spend an hour reciting ritual passages, in a house dedicated to God, there should be more than one reading of the Words He wrote to us. The entire Bible is about His love to us.. representing a bride (us) and the Groom (God). He laid down His life for us.. would you do the same for your significant other?
The church should be a place where believers in Christ’s death and resurrection gather to learn and grow together by reading and examining His words to us.. the Bible. How can you know if your church truly exemplifies the example God set for us? While attending, ask yourself these questions:
I want to stress that I am not the end-all-be-all informer for what is right or wrong, however, a thorough read through the book of Acts will greatly improve your outlook on what the church is supposed to look like. No church is perfect, but there are good ones out there that strive to obey the example God laid out. If you are not reading God’s word, and are not receiving it from your church, how will you know what His will for you is?
God has so inundated me lately with practical truths.. He showed me that it IS possible to give something over to Him, wholeheartedly. It’s true I have given Him my life, but in all actuality, God didn’t ask me in that instance. All it takes is for you to go to a place where there are no distractions.. tell Him you are there and ready to hear from Him, and He will be there. You may not even know what He has been trying to show you (as with me) until you finally take that step to meet him in your quiet place.
“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matthew 6:6
When you make the effort to meet Him, He will be waiting for you.. and even if you do not have the words to speak, be still.. know that He is God.. and the words will come. You will see that His desire for you is for good, to save you.. over and over again.
He has so captivated my attention over the past two weeks. He has shown me that I need to be in prayer over the things that I witness in my daily life. He has shown me that the climax of being saved is not over, that there are always deeper spiritual revelations to be had, but I have to make that effort to join Him where He can always be found. He wants us to rely on Him.. daily.. to be reminded of Him in all things.