A Conversation With a Friend- Religion and Spirituality

The word religion is not a popular one today. It seems many people look at it with a negative connotation. Even Christians want to steer away from using the word, saying things like, “it’s a relationship not religion.” There was a video that went viral a few years ago called by Jefferson Bethke called, “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus. I have even found myself trying to avoid that word when speaking of Jesus or Christianity. I hear people say, “she/he is very religious” another phrase I hear a lot is, “I am not religious, I am spiritual.

I had lunch with a good friend. We got into this conversation. She said she saw herself as spiritual but not religious. I asked, “what does that mean to you?” I really genuinely wanted to know because I myself did not know what that really meant to her. She said, “well religion had a negative association, and she felt “religious” meant rigid and set in their ways not willing to budge. This was a paraphrase from what I recall. Anyway she saw it as strict and unwavering. She also said she did not agree with being held to a man-made set of beliefs written out and using that as your only guide, and she mentioned the Bible. She did not like “organized religion.” I hear that term “organized” and never understood it. If you don’t like religion just say you don’t like religion. Why put the organized part in front of it? It sounds like you might consider chaotic or random religion.

My dad asked me the day before I met with my friend, “How do you keep from worshiping the Bible instead of the God of the Bible?” I thought for a minute, and I said, “prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to search my heart and worship in spirit and in truth. I mentioned this to my friend. A side note, my friend grew up in a very legalistic, religious home, they attended a church that is considered now to be a cult. She even admitted to having deep emotional ties to the topic and even having a distorted view of these things. Can you blame her?

So Back to the story, I told her it’s about spirit and truth. My view of when people say they are spiritual is they are really attracted to the spirit side, which is where longing and desire resides. We all have this deep within our spirits. We have a need to understand our origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. These questions as Ravi Zacharias  says, will have to be answered at some point in our lives. Our spirit longs for these things to be answered. Worship in spirit is only part of the equation, the other essential part is truth. I expressed to my friend to ask herself what she truly believes, and if what she believes is true.  It’s only rational to test our belief systems. She in essence said well, we can’t really know, because our perspectives are all skewed based on our experiences and our emotional attachments. I have heard this argument before, that we can’t know for sure. This doesn’t add up, I told her if we can’t know or if it is not possible, we should have never found out that it was impossible, we should just exist. CS Lewis said, “If the universe has no meaning, we should have never found out that it has no meaning. We humans have something different in us than every other species. We need the questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny answered. This is essential in our human need. She is right when she says our experience and emotion can take over and lead us but I don’t think it’s impossible to see through it. I believe the Holy Spirit can knock the lenses right out of our glasses so we can see the truth. When we are really open to finding the truth and seeking the truth genuinely, I believe God honors that. “Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.” At the end of the day, if someone asked me are you religious or spiritual, I would say both. Religion is simply a system of beliefs that we adhere to make our decisions on origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. I definitely think we are made for an organized system, because our origin is organized, our meaning and morality is organized and our destiny is organized. We aren’t made for randomness. The only organized set of beliefs that seem to answer these questions rationally, logically and experiential is Christianity. So am I religious? Sure. Am I spiritual? You bet. I am a spirit. This body is wasting away but my spirit is being renewed daily and preparing for eternity. My spirituality is how I commune with God. It is where my deepest longings and desires are. It’s how I can have a thriving relationship with Jesus.

What are your thoughts on this? I would love to know how you would respond in this context.

Blessings,

Johanna

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Heaven? Never Ending Church Service?

I grew up in church. We went Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and if there was special things going on maybe more. This was the norm and the routine.

Now this is not a anti church post, but more of our view of what Heaven is going to be like. I have to say, for a long time I have always thought heaven is just going to be sitting around for eternity singing songs and well just being at church all the time. This idea of heaven did nothing for my longing for eternity, and as a result effected the way I lived out my faith.

I get these sensations a lot, they don’t last long, maybe not even a second, but its a wave that makes my heart burst with joy and fulfillment. Sometimes music will trigger it, or a smell, or being at a place, or sometimes I can’t even pinpoint the trigger, but as quickly as it comes, it’s gone and I go chasing it to get that sensation again. I think this sensation is a small dose of what eternity will be like. God gives us these glimpses to awaken in us life, abundant life; then we go screw it up by our misplaced desire. C.S. Lewis said the beauty was not in those things, rather it only came through those things.

My husband and I  watch a show called American Pickers. Its a show where these two guys go around the country and pick for antiques and collectibles. Most of the places that they pick from are these people who have been collecting their whole life practically and have so much stuff that it kind of looks like a hoarder. They have so much stuff, you have to climb through it to find the “rusty gold” like they call it. In one of the episodes the collector was asked what got him started collecting, he said, ” It reminds me of the things I grew up with. I don’t really know the attachment, but kind of wish I didn’t have it cause it’s like a disease.” I was taken by his genuine honesty. It got me thinking this guy was chasing after a longing inside him, and by his own admission I don’t think he understood that fully, but what was interesting was his comment about wishing he didn’t have this attachment because it’s like a disease. I could see how all that collecting, searching for that one item would bring that sensation of heaven back, and you might get a glimpse, and then poof it’s gone just as quickly as it came. Then you have to get another item and another, and soon you have barns and barns of stuff, and none of it is doing anything of eternal value. He tapped into something when he said a “disease”. In reality it really is a growing malignancy that he was feeding. All that stuff wasn’t bringing ultimate fulfillment. Was he trusting in the “stuff” for the beauty and sensation of heaven?

Our view of heaven is of the most utmost importance. I know this now. How much we anticipate eternity, will determine how we live our life here on earth. If we give no thought to it or there is no excitement for it, then most likely the way we live our lives on earth will have very little eternal benefit. On the flip side, when we are embracing the longing for eternity and looking on it with great anticipation, the more we will want to live for eternal benefit. God gave us deep longings, but when we trust in anything but Him to fulfill it we end up with a heap of junk, a disease that just grows and grows, and the bigger it gets the harder it is to control.

If we truly believe in eternity with this great anticipation, this gives the motivation to share the gospel. This is what we have to look forward to. Jesus said, “Look, I am making all things new.” That feeling you get when you buy something new, like new car, going on vacation, etc. well thats just a simulated feeling for what Jesus is talking about. I can’t even explain it, but the thought is making me excited. The newness will never where off, and it will be all your longings fulfilled!! And its all IN HIM! Jesus wants you to feel the desires he has placed in you and then trust in Him. Jesus would always question, what are you seeking? What do you want? It all had to do with desire.

ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT ETERNITY!?  I hope you will never think of heaven as just a big never ending sing-along again. Go and share this truth the next time you share the gospel. Just asking someone what they want, and what they are seeking can open up doors for them to do their own reflection and then we can say I know who can meet your deepest longing!

He created you, He can complete you!

Eternity in our Hearts

 

Well this is another blog on eternity. This is one topic I can’t seem to stop talking about. I am forever talking about eternity. 🙂

It is hard to wrap our minds around the infinite. I remember as a kid talking to my dad about outer space and the universe. I was in awe over the fact that if you kept going up into space you would never hit a wall that says no outlet, rather you could keep traveling forward. WOW! I could see where the desire to be an astronaut would be appealing; to be able to study this incredible universe. Its amazing, but yet unfathomable all at the same time.

We trust a lot in things that will all eventually fail us and come to an end. We trust in money to keep us stable. We trust in the loyalty  and presence of loved ones. We trust in medicine, exercise to keep our health in tact. We trust in the intellect to help us feel in control. We can even trust in doctrine and theology. In Ecclesiastes we read, all of this is meaningless on its own merits without God. To everything there is a season, a time and a purpose. Why would we want to put our whole hearted trust in these things, without God these things have no meaning.

God on the other hand has no end. He is ever increasing. He will never fail us. I was thinking how so many don’t give any thought to eternity. It seems easier to live for the now, but yet all the same time we were created for eternity, so no matter how we try to escape the thought of eternity, it is written in our hearts. The trap is we try to substitute this longing in our hearts for eternity for finite things that come to an end. St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you.” This is an ongoing journey. On this earth we have to deal with the restless struggle, but we choose to respond to it by falling at the feet of Jesus every day. He renews us daily. We must be renewed daily. We can’t just store up for a week and think that is going to sustain us. It doesn’t work that way just like we get hungry for food. We could eat a huge meal if we wanted, but the next day we will have to eat again to be nourished or we will whither away. Our hearts and souls are no different. We hunger for eternity, for God who is never ending, who never runs empty, who never fails. Why fill this hunger with cheap substitutes that don’t nourish that don’t satisfy? Its a trap, the substitute might seem appetizing but its death in the end. Its like the irony of being on a boat thirsty, seeing ocean water all around, but knowing that if you drank of that water it would kill you.

It seems so simple, yet we can be so foolish. We have two choices, choose the finite or choose the infinite. Trust in everything that will eventually come to and end, or trust in the One who has no end. Trust in the thing that only leads to death or trust in Him who is the giver of life.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hit a wall that says no outlet. I want to keep traveling forward discovering the wonder and awe of God and all the while being filled up with Jesus, the only one who can fully satisfy. I daily want to get on the rocket ship of my heart, and set out on the journey that He has set before me. I don’t want to just live a hum- drum Christian life only saying and doing all the appropriate things, but rather I want to live it with my whole being. Will you join me?

Eternally His,

Johanna