Scripture, Sermons, and Other Spiritual Matters

Disclaimer: This post is from the archives, and may not represent the current views of the author. It also may not be at all interesting to read. Continue at your own peril!

I think it can be said that my days have been violently oscillating between two extremes: it’s either a good day or a bad day, and these seem to be alternating back and forth. Yesterday I was screwed up in the head, and today I’m feeling fine. I think it’s anybody’s guess as to why this is happening (unless the strong medications I’ve been experimenting with have something to do with it…just kidding), but I think part of it happens to be my inconsistent nature. Some days, I’ll start off the day right and have my quiet time with God, and other days, too many other thoughts cloud my mind and I just can’t focus. I still try, but it just doesn’t work. Then, each day on which I haven’t talked with God becomes a battle, usually a losing one, ending up with me at the bottom of a deep hole which I’ve managed to dig for myself. I ask for God’s forgiveness, and the next day I’m back on track, trying hard to get as close to God as possible – and at the same time, trying hard not to screw up as badly as the day before.

That’s basically what’s been going on in my life over the past week or two. Each day can be as different as black is from white, and I believe it’s all based on whether I started it off on the right foot or not. So, I suppose it’s a daily process, and I can’t depend on yesterday’s mercies to hold me over for today as well. I guess that’s why God’s mercies are new every morning. It reminds me of the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. God provided them with manna one day at a time, but they were the ones that had to go out and collect it every day. If they collected twice as much, hoping that it would save a trip for tomorrow, they were sorely mistaken, as it would rot overnight. It was God’s way of making sure they relied on Him, not just once or twice a week, but daily.

Today I read Matthew 5 for my devotions, which includes the Beattitudes as well as some other passages where Jesus basically “raises the bar” above the Law. Part of that was pretty depressing. After all, one of the things Jesus says is, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:20) I sat there thinking, “Man, I can’t even obey God outwardly, let alone even better than the Pharisees.” The Pharisees were basically concerned with obeying every detail of the Law, but not concerned with the intent of it. Basically, Jesus was saying that we need to obey the Law wholeheartedly, not just to keep up appearances. And that’s so hard! So that was pretty depressing for me. I mean, Jesus also says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (v. 48) But thankfully, previously in the chapter, He mentions this: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (v. 6) That’s the great part. Jesus says that we are to be righteous, but he offers the promise that if we seek it with all our heart, we’ll be filled with it. After all, we can do nothing to achieve righteousness – it’s only as a gift of God.

So here I am now, faced with a choice. It’s quite an important one. After reading my Bible and feeling all spiritual, I then sat down and opened my email. Basically, it was Kim, the leader of the youth’s Life Group, and she asked if I wanted to lead the Life Group on the 22nd. She said to speak on whatever God laid on my heart. And I sat there, faced with the choice. My first option would be to think of myself as much more spiritually mature than I really am, sit down and write a five-point sermon on a “spiritual” topic such as free will vs. predestination or the interpretation of Revelation, and then end up leaving God out of the process entirely. My second option would be to remember back to just yesterday and how completely inconsistent my walk with God is, and convince myself that I’m not good enough to speak on anything of importance without being a total hypocrite. The reality is, however, that the truth is somewhere in between those two options. I know I’m not good enough to speak on anything with any authority, but I also have a close personal friend of mine who is. His name is Jesus Christ, and I do my best to talk to Him every day and become more like Him. However, with that said, the truth is that many times I’m much too far away from Him and caught up in my own little world to be able to humbly ask Him for guidance as to what to speak on, and also be able to listen for an answer.

So what does a person do in a situation like this? Well, I guess the only real option I have is to pray about it. And pray, and pray, and pray. It’s not urgent that I give Kim an answer back in the next five minutes or anything, so I have time to figure out two things: a) whether God wants me to speak, and if so, b) what to speak on. I’m just afraid that I might hear what seems to be His voice but is really just my own mind trying to pick a subject that won’t make me look like an idiot. But the only way to find out is to try. So, that, along with a bunch of other things which pale in importance but surpass in urgency, is my duty for tonight. Hopefully as I seek God for guidance, He will provide me with it.

I guess since I’m on a roll with this whole spiritual-sounding blog entry, I might as well continue with it. Nothing important really happened today anyways, so at least it’s giving me something to talk about. The other project which I started for myself last night is a result of looking at Christian universities. It all started when I began to look through brochures that I got at the Christian Colleges & Universities tour and figure out when I would have to apply by if I were interested. As I looked at a few of the places, one thing caught my eye for two of them (housed on the same campus) – they were Seventh-Day Adventist in denomination. That brought up an important but incredibly annoying point that I would have to consider when comparing Christian universities: denomination matters in some cases. I began to realize that I didn’t really know what Seventh-Day Adventists believed. I thought I remembered someone telling me that they were a cult, but I sure didn’t know. I went onto their website, and all the stuff sounded good. They believed that Jesus was divine, and that man was in need of a Saviour. But as I kept digging, I uncovered some other things. I continued to read about their beliefs, and suddenly this name came up: Ellen G. White. And it said that they held to her teachings. That was what stuck out and made me go, “Hmm.” They said they believed in the Bible as well as the words of the prophet White, and as I investigated more, her teachings were anything but in line with the Bible. There were things about receiving the mark of the beast if one didn’t adhere to observing the Sabbath on Saturday, and other such things. Apparently sin didn’t get blotted out at the time of Christ’s death. Apparently Jesus went to look at our case files on October 22nd, 1844. Interesting. I crossed that university off my list.

As I thought about it more, though, I realized just how little I knew about the different denominations that Protestant Christianity is divided into. I mean, what are the differences between Baptist and Pentecostal, or Anglican and Presbyterian? Why are there so many divisions of a religion, and how can a non-denominational church actually exist? As I thought about it, I realized just how important these questions are. After all, in a matter of nine months, I’ll likely be moving off to a different city for university, and what church am I going to go to if I don’t even know what each church believes? If I go and pick the wrong church, I could end up being convinced to believe something that contradicts the Bible. I mean, I doubt I’ll be visiting any Mormon churches or anything anytime soon, but I don’t even know what my own church believes, so how can I figure out whether that’s actually what I believe? What if I’m actually a Baptist going to a Pentecostal church? Or what if I find out that I believe in what the Lutherans believe? So I have resolved to figure out the major tenets of belief for some of the major denominations out there, as well as some cults – because you never know when you’ll have the chance to talk to a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness. That’s my new goal, and though it’ll likely take a while to find out what each separate denomination believes, it’ll be well worth it. Then perhaps I’ll be able to figure out whether I’m a Mennonite or not. Well, perhaps I already know that.

I guess that’s all I have to say today. Though this post was filled with spiritual matters, tomorrow’s post will likely be back to normal. After all, this Calvinism and Arminianism gives me a headache after a while. To finish off this entry quite nicely, I leave you with the words of Relient K in their song “Let It All Out.” My first paragraph reminded me of it (actually, the word “inconsistent” did so), and I think it’s only fitting to let you have the privilege of reading the words to this song. Read it, mull it over in your mind, and perhaps you’ll understand why I play this song after I screw up big-time.

Let it all out (get it all out)
Rip it out, remove it
Don’t be alarmed when the wound begins to bleed
‘Cause we’re so scared to find out (what this life’s all about)
So scared we’re gonna lose it
And knowing all along that’s exactly what we need

And today I’ll trust You with the confidence
Of a man who’s never known defeat
But tomorrow upon hearing what I did,
I’ll stare at You in disbelief
Oh inconsistent me!
Crying out for consistency

And You said, “I know that this will hurt,
But if I don’t break your heart, things will just get worse.
If the burden seems too much to bear, remember…
The end will justify the pain it took to get us there.”

And I’ll let it be known (times I have shown)
Signs of all my weakness
But somewhere in me, there is strength

And You’d promise me, that You believe
In time I will defeat this
‘Cause somewhere in me there is strength

And today I’ll trust You with the confidence
Of a man who’s never known defeat
I’ll try my best to just forget that that man isn’t me

Reach out to me, make my heart brand new
Every beat will be for You…for You…

And You know, and You know
When You touched my heavy heart, you made it light

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