Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Escaping the Thorns

The following scenario is from The Gospel for the Middle – A Synchroblog

Fielding Melish and his wife Felicia have two children, ages 10 and 6. They live in a very remote part of Maine, USA. They are surrounded by extended family, none of whom are Christians. The nearest churches are one hour away, and by all evangelical standards, none of them are good. These churches are either highly legalistic, highly libertine, or just flat-out flaky.

One of Fielding’s cousins is a practicing Christian. They see each other once a year. Fielding’s cousin has shared Christ with Fielding many times over the years. Whenever they’ve talked about spiritual things, Fielding shows interest.

Felicia grew up in a Christian home. She’s received Christ, but she isn’t evangelistic and is overwhelmed with working long hours and raising two small children. She would love to find a church nearby for the spiritual support and instruction, but none exist.

Fielding has no college education. While he is capable of reading, he is not a reader. He doesn’t use the Web either. He’s a man who works with his hands, both for his career and for recreation. He’s an “outdoorsman.” He hunts, he builds, he does manual labor, etc. In his spare time, he helps his elderly parents with various building projects.

Fielding is not an atheist. Neither is he an agnostic. He believes in God. He believes Jesus is the Savior of the world who died for our sins and rose again from the dead. He hasn’t fully surrendered his life to Christ, but he is not sure what that looks like exactly. His children know a little about the Lord, mostly because of what their mother has taught them.

Recently Fielding asked this question:
When I’m with my cousin once a year, I want to learn more about God. But when I come back home, and I’m around everyone else, my mind is off of God, and I am back to working, raising my kids, and helping my parents. Someone needs to come up with a solution for people like me . . . people who are in the middle. (By “in the middle,” Fielding means someone who believes in Jesus, but who isn’t fully absorbed in the faith yet either. They simply don’t know enough nor do they have any spiritual support system around them.)
Relocating is not an option for Fielding and his wife. Even if they wanted to relocate, they don’t see a way they could do it financially.

Remember: Fielding and his wife don’t personally know any Christians. None of their extended family or coworkers are believers either. And the nearest churches (which are an hour away) aren’t recommended.

Question

If you were Fielding’s cousin, how would you instruct him and his wife the next time you saw them?

Answer
Mark 4:3,7-9: The sower went out to sow; as he was sowing ...{some} seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” And He was saying, “ He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 
It's all up to You
In all honesty, there is nothing that anyone can create to help people who are looking for things to do (other than changing their behaviors) to build and strengthen their relationship with God.  Relationship with and thirst for God is not found through traditions, programs, churches, pastors or teachers.  Those things may be helpful in supplementing our pre-existing relationship with God, but it is our desire, our seeking that fulfills the need.

It can be likened to a woman finding a man she loves and wants to marry, but then finding that she also adores his family.  So she ends up spending all of her time with his family, listening to his father and mother speaking wonderful things about her husband-to-be, all the while wondering, "why is my relationship with the man I love, suffering?  I'm learning about him, I'm understanding things about him, I love him, but his relationship to me and my relationship to him are practically non-existent."  What did she do wrong?  She applied an inappropriate focus.  There were many things his family could teach her about her husband-to-be, but it was the relationship that suffered because she refused to seek after him and, instead, sought after something related to him. 

Seeking follows Drawing
Jesus said, "and I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." (John 12:32)  Did Jesus mean that the crucifixion would draw men, or was He speaking of His intention to draw all men?  I believe He was speaking of His intention to draw all men:
So also it is written, 'The first man, Adam, became a living soul.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual." (1 Corinthians 15:45-46)
So, the drawing of the life-giving spirit happens in the natural first.  Once we are aware of a drawing, we then may seek after it - which means we "do something."  Conversely, when we do something without His drawing, then we are answering a calling from the flesh, or better, the spirit of man.

Doing vs. Seeking
We have been continually, repeatedly, ad-nauseum taught to "do" things for God.  Doing in and of itself is not wrong - it is how we teach children - but the Scriptures teach us to be seekers.  And I do not mean "Seeker" in the man-made traditional sense, but a Seeker in the Biblical sense.  Consider Psalm 1: 
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.  The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Where does a person walk?  Towards that thing which they seek.  Why would a person obtain counsel?  Because they seek wisdom.  Why do we stand in or walk in a path?  Because we seek the destination to which it leads.  Seeking is our first step, which is followed by doing.  A person who is tired of doing has been doing for the sake of doing.  It is most likely they never attempted to seek first the Lord.  There is a difference in seeking the Lord for the sake of seeking the Lord - it being the end its self, and seeking God for the purpose of asking Him, "what do I do?" We do and do and do but with the wrong fuel to power the engine.  Seeking the Lord for the relationship with the Lord is the fuel, seeking Him moves us towards the Drawer of all men, Jesus Christ. 

Conclusion
In the end, you must determine for your self: do I know Him?  If the answer is yes, then you need to answer the next question: why do I let the cares of the world choke out His drawing of me towards Him?  Once you've either answered that question, or accepted that it is the truth of your existence, then you have a decision to make.  Are you going to continue life in the weeds, or are you going to make time to seek after God?  

There are a lot of ways to seek after God - the Bible is full of them, but the Psalms are a good place to start.  The Psalms reflect the hearts of those seeking after God through their fears, their hurts and their joys.  They also make for incredible discussion material with God.  For example,
I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “ I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32)
In essence, the Lord has given us conversational material to use in building our relationship with Him.

If you don't like to read, then I would suggest that you listen instead.  One of the best auditory versions of the Bible is the KJV by Alexander Scourby.  The KJV may be difficult for some to read, but Alexander Scourby makes the KJV extremely accessible and easily understood.
Deuteronomy 4:5-6a, 9: See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes ... Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons
Psalm 119:2-3: How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart. They also do no unrighteousness; they walk in His ways.

Matthew 6:33: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Hebrews 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.



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