Saturday, August 22, 2009

Too Late For Such Questions

In full disclosure I have had 3 diet cokes since 9pm and even a bit of sugar so of course I can't sleep and my mind is going in circles.

First of all, I make no sense. I am a skeptic of much, in deep thought about the things I hear and read in the Bible and yet there are many things that make little sense that I simply find myself believing. Like Jonah being swallowed by a big fish for three days. I believe that happened. I believe that Christ did many miracles and rose from the dead.

I remember a book that was very popular several years ago titled Don't Sweat The Small Stuff. Well, I suppose I do sweat the small stuff.

I was reading tonight in Acts 16. The familiar story of Paul and Silas in prison, praying and singing hymns to God and they were freed by a great earthquake. Wouldn't one immediately think that God had come to their rescue? That He wanted them to flee and be released? Yet Paul and the prisoners stayed so they could share the gospel with the prison guard, a prison guard who no doubt heard their prayers and hymns and fully believed that their God provided an earthquake for their release. He asks "What must I do to be saved?" The answer? "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household." They spoke the Gospel to him and his family (somehow they managed to be there too) and the guard washed their wounds and was baptized at once, and all his family..... and he took them to his home, fed them and "rejoiced along with his entire household that he believed in God."

This entire account (and more that I haven't mentioned) completely baffles me. First: the slave girl that had the demon in her, she spoke the truth...... "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." Yet Paul was annoyed and cast out her demon...... a demon that spoke truth! I never think of demons that speak truth.

Of course, this is the reason that Paul and Silas were beaten and put into jail: Because they took away the owner of the slave girl's income since she was of value to them through her fortune-telling. It seems in the book of Acts to profit from something often works against the gospel message. I find this interesting because Christianity today has become an industry of great profit. And this causes me so many more questions.

Last fall I went through a study of James and it brings up testing of one's faith and to consider it joy when facing trials of many kinds. Likewise, 1 Peter brings up twice enduring sorrows while suffering unjustly and again admonishes us to rejoice in suffering and sharing in Christ's sufferings. I wonder if it wasn't just the earthquake and the fact that Paul and Silas remained in the jail when by all accounts they could and should of have left, but combined with the witness of their singing and praying to God that caused the jailer to believe in God. Words plus the action of obedience in the joy they expressed when one would expect only the absence of joy and then the fact that thy did not escape the jail.

Like I mentioned before, I am baffled by the fact that Paul and company remained in jail after it seemed God clearly was releasing them. Yet even though God was releasing them, Paul remained and was able to share the good news with the jailer. I don't understand this one bit. How often have I been in situations where I think that by the circumstances that God had clearly intervened and because of such I had a clear answer of what I was to do. I don't know. When I was in high school I performed in a a production my church put on about the story of Joseph. I believe it was called "Dreamer" Interestingly, I remember and can recite most of the songs and even dialogue in the musical. In it there's a song called He Opens A Window. Basically, the saying of when God closes a door he opens a window. To me, this earthquake was a sign of an open door, right? A miraculous sign that if it was me, I'd think that God wanted me to flee and yet Paul stays to share Christ with the jailer. How'd he know? Was there another motive for staying? I actually think there was: The Church in Philippi. I wonder if it was for the sake of the Gospel and the Church that he did not wish to run and be considered a lawbreaker and make the gospel message more difficult. I find this very interesting too. I have no answers.

Back to the jailer: He believed. He brought his whole household and they believed and were immediately baptized. I don't understand baptism. I was baptized when I was 9 or 10 and I know that I accepted Christ (when I was 4) and I knew what baptism meant and I was baptized in a baptist church so of course baptism is a large part of their belief system, but in the church I attended in Jr. High through college, the portable baptismal was filled maybe 4 times a year for baptisms. Since being married I have attended churches for the past 15 years and have yet to witness a single baptism in the 4 churches I attended and I wonder: Is baptism mandatory? (or is there just less conversions?) Is it a part of the salvation process or is it the public declaration and not necessary or as important as just a private decision to believe and follow God? Ironically, before I even was reminded of this passage while lying in bed tonight, I was at church with a group of scrapbooking ladies and the subject actually came up about baptism and how in the early church people believed and were baptized right away. So why is that something that we don't do anymore? I don't think I believe that baptism is required for salvation, but..... well, I'm confused. Anyone care to explain?

And the next musing: Again in Acts, the phrase: "you and your household" or "the entire household" believed in the Lord and was saved. Again, tonight we were talking about Catholicism and infant baptism and all that and I knew there are reasons and verses that certain denominations use for upholding that belief and I wonder if these verses are it? I don't know. Just a thought and for the record, I don't believe in infant baptism. I wonder if the phrase is used so heavily in Acts because it was a given; the gospel fully lived out, will be shared in a household by those closest to the person that has been transformed. I don't know exactly because then there's the thought that not all are chosen to be Christ followers. But that's another discussion.

The jailer heard Paul singing and praying even though Paul and Silas had been treated unfairly and beaten. He witnessed a miracle of God. Paul then stayed (and saved his life, spiritually and physically) to witness to him and his whole family believed and was baptized at once. The jailer washed their wounds, took them home and fed them... and rejoiced because he he believed in God. Paul was released privately in the morning and that wasn't enough: Paul demanded (again, for the sake of the gospel and Church?) to be publicly released and the leaders even apologized to them.

This Gospel is powerful and yet I am a skeptic. Tonight I meant to just randomly list the top 50 questions going through my head. I was going to start with the earthquake and Paul and Silas' obedience in staying in jail even when it seemed so clear God was providing for them. As I read the chapter I realized I had many more questions than just this one. So I now ask what your thoughts are. How does one know what God's will is? Wasn't this clearly an open door? What about baptism? Is it still mandated today? Why are there so few baptism? Why are they relegated to twice a year or less? Are there any conversions? What about the truth speaking demon in the slave girl? What about a whole household being saved? What about infant baptism? What about joy in suffering? What about profitable Christianity and Christianity as an industry?

1 comment:

  1. Trying to answer all your questions is like trying to eat an elephant in one fell swoop! Impossible for me! So, I will tackle one of them – Paul and Silas. The only explanation (to me) is that Paul and Silas were in tune enough with the Holy Spirit. I think we miss opportunities like Paul and Silas had because we immediately say "thank you God for providing an escape and we run! Instead of thanking God for providing an escape, and then asking what's my next step, through the doors or not? As we learn to balance our facts about God's Word with the gentle stir of the Holy Spirit, we will have a changed and radical life that looks crazy, (like not escaping from jail when clearly God provided a miraculous way out) because before we take steps of faith, our heart's ears and eyes are open, listening and looking for something more, something different, or clearance to continue on through the open door. It's all about the relationship, the intimate relationship we have with our Triune God. "My sheep her My voice" principles.
    You know, my goal with my horse is to have at least one of her ears pointing and open towards me. This is a natural thing they do in the wild towards the lead mare in their heard. Its purpose is for survival. The lead mare protects, leads them to food, disciplines them and gives them security and love. So when my horse has her ear towards me that tells me she is waiting for my direction and even though she is continuing on with her walk around the pen, eating grass or nuzzling the horse next to her, the ideal and most beneficial posture for her is to have at least one ear open and pointing to me, so that at a moment's notice she can receive direction that could literally save her life. And the lives of the other horses around her. When trust is the foundation of the relationship, she will learn to do as I ask, even when it doesn't make sense to her. It's amazing to see - and that feeling I get when it happens, is most likely just a smidgen of how God feels when we are in tune with the Holy Spirit and respond to Him. Just for the record, my horse is a lot like me! She doesn't always have her ear open and pointed towards me, and I don't always have my heart open and pointed towards the Holy Spirit. Both cases, we miss out. My horse misses out on a treat, and a bonding moment with me that builds our trust and ultimately her safety and happiness as a horse; and I miss out on a bonding moment with my God that builds my trust in Him and ultimately my safety and joy as His child. Well, VB, my encouragement to you is to perhaps set aside some of these questions, and just enjoy your life and look for where the Holy Spirit is moving around you, listen to that still small voice, and even though it seems crazy, respond, and see how it changes you. You just might feel a gust of wind while you're sitting in the pews, and you would know that it was for you.