Monday, January 6, 2014

Prayer & Authority on the Spectrum of Christianity

I want to tell you all the reasons I love prayer.  This week I had a wonderful opportunity to visit with two churches aside from my own. Everyone prays in their own way and has their own beliefs about prayer.  The first group I met with has a strong belief in "Gifts of the Spirit".  The minister's wife got up on stage after the rockband music and she pointed out a few sisters in the group who were in need of special blessings.  It was heart warming to see these sisters surrounded by their church family who put their hands on the shoulders of the woman in the center and prayed for her.  What a beautiful message of support!  To hear how these women pray for you and to even be encircled about by their prayers.  Now, I did not participate because I anticipated the next thing.  Suddenly the room was loud with mumblings- I think they call them "prayer tongues".  Anyways, with the minister's wife over the speaker mumbling and all the mumbling surrounding each of these women in need I wasn't comfortable- so I left.  I think they are wonderfully good people, but they do not understand the gifts of the spirit.  I have actually been prayed over by one of these women and she did not break into tongues over me.  It was a lovely experience.  We talked some about her beliefs because she & those of her church believe strongly in commanding things to happen in their prayers.  They do it all in the name of Jesus- so I asked (non-direct quote), "How do you know what the will of God is concerning these things?"  I did not ask it flippantly- I was genuinely curious about that belief.  The ladies responded that God does not want us to suffer- so if we have a trial, His will is always to take it away. I told them of the value I saw in the wisdom and compassion gained from the trials of life and how I felt it was a part of the purpose of life to experience trials and some of those trials would not be lifted until after this life.  We respectfully disagreed about it.  They are a curious people though- there is definitely a spectrum of what Christianity means to people.  Christ is a vastly different person/God from one set of beliefs to another. I also found it funny how we pulled a completely different main word out of a scripture which was discussed during the bible study, "For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith."  Mark 11:23.  So, when asked about this scripture- what was it about?  I said Faith.  They all agreed is was "saith". It bespeaks to their belief in commanding things to happen (which is not of itself a bad belief). They are a good people- just odd & some times when they're speaking English- it's as if it's a different English & I wish I had a good translation for it because I'm lost.  It's like Christian Jive. There is a peculiar pattern of speech and a lot of jargon.  (If you don't know "Jive" it comes from a comic movie called "Airplane"- it's supposedly an African-American English Dialect.  If you see it & you've heard the Christian Jive- it's totally fitting. you can check it out on youtube).  
Anyways, the other people I met with were the 7th Day Adventists.  I immediately felt at home when I walked in.  It was a modest old church building with a smell and a carpet that reminded me of the old church building I went to church in before we got a standard LDS chapel.  There was even an upper room tabernacle and some good pieces of Christian artwork which reminded me of "the good ole' days", it felt like a step back in time.  I love these people.  They are rather chill.  There was no fancy lighting or fanatical minister.  I wasn't able to attend service with them- just bible study.  People welcomed me and commented on their uniqueness of having a Saturday service- they seemed rather happy about that fact.  Other people who met me commented that they loved it there because everything was bible centered.  The Bible study had an ominous start.  The guy who had "prepared" the lesson didn't look prepared or very interested at first.  We sat in the upper tabernacle- a balcony that overlooked the rest of the chapel.  The man teaching the lesson delayed and delayed, but we eventually started. He opened the study book as if he hadn't cracked it open before that moment.  He had some trouble deciding where to start, and I wondered if maybe the other classes had a more interested teacher.  However, a short while later I found myself in the most wonderful discussion.  These people had a thrilling spiritual autonomy that was missing at the "church of tongues".  They loved the bible- they knew the gospel of Christ.  When they were asked a question, the most beautiful answers came from every person.  They spoke my English!  It was a wonderful experience to hear these people preach and learn even by the same spirit that I preach and learn.  The divine presence of the Holy Spirit is with those people when they discuss the scriptures.  I thoroughly enjoyed conversing with them and hearing their insights on scripture, faith, prayer, and authority.
Now, Authority is something that came up among both groups.  The first group spent a long time on it and they emphasized how obedient and submissive you were supposed to be to your pastor.  I feel somewhat guilty for this, but I call it a "Bubble-Eyed Sheep" type of flock.  At the "Church of tongues" every person who came up to me to say why they liked it there (at least 5 people)- said, "Pastor Bob is anointed." or they commented on the wife being anointed.  I was actually confused by this- in what manner have they been anointed?  They talked about the safety they felt for being part of this flock... that they weren't to doubt anything the pastor or his wife said... I asked them about where authority came from- they got very confused and I tried to explain my question- as it went along with the lesson.  "So, they use the word government which creates a parallel between the government of the church and the government of a nation.  If any person decided to form a police force, formed in the name of stopping crime, they would have good intentions, but no authority.  They would be imprisoned for undermining the authorized police force... so, how do you know who has the authority to govern the church of Christ?" To continue:  Wouldn't it be easy for a person to lead many astray as a wolf in sheep's clothing- professing to be doing everything with authority and in the name of Christ, but not having it?  It is easy to get confused between the feelings of your heart and the feelings of the spirit.  This creates a need for spiritual autonomy and a need for proper lines of designating Authority.  I think it is better to meet as the Seventh Day Adventists- not claiming authority of themselves, but only claiming to seek the spirit's guidance as they open the word together and discuss and pray to know the Lord's interpretation individually, and it's ok to not have the same answer.  This is so much better than have it taught to them as a collective and taking everything at face value.  The Adventists said the only authority was in the word (The bible).  They also loved the Old Testament (another thing that puts them on the cool side of unique among Christians- some Christians just want to throw the OT in the bin).  Perhaps I missed something because I left early to attend to my other Saturday plans, but I felt the wonderful, familiar light of the Spirit with the people of that church.  I wish I had a tape recorder with me- very cool people. I will be back.  This is all pretty funny coming from a Mormon- how joyous I am about the 7th Day Adventists.  I love their parenting philosophy.  I love their mellow excitement.  I know about 3 things about them- so it's not a change of religion happening here.  I am just so pleased that they know my Christ.  So high fives to you Adventists who might happen upon my blog- y'all are a breath of fresh air.  If perchance you find your Sunday without plans, take a moment to bridge a gap between you and your local Mormons.  You might find you have a lot of cool similarities & they will likely enjoy your insights.
What are my thoughts on prayer and Authority as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?  well- We believe that all Authority must come from Christ.  We believe the scriptures to be the word of God.  The Scriptures are authorized by Christ because He called those prophets and gave them the authority to lead His people and write His word, prophecies, and commandments.  We believe that Christ appeared to Joseph Smith.  We believe that those OT prophets who had the priesthood and the keys of authority from Christ also visited Joseph and conferred those things upon him.  Does that mean that I am a bubble eyed sheep?  I certainly hope not!  I sincerely seek for myself a witness of all things that are taught to me.  I seek my personal understanding of the scriptures.  If something taught in the church does not align with my heart- I discuss it with God.  I patiently wait his answers & I do not completely obey what is not in my heart. I can have faith- but it is put there by the Spirit.  I am willing to test out certain doctrines to see if they produce that same Spirit that I know to be of God.  My Faith will not be renovated by any force other than the Spirit of God.  I claim the privilege of praying to my almighty God.  I know He hears and answers me.  I am so grateful that in prayer, I can gain a greater knowledge of God's thoughts and His will concerning me & my issues.  Such beautiful wisdom and peace and perspective!  Such light and joy!  When I pray with a question, I pour my thoughts and feelings out to God- I listen, I check my understanding, and continue to tell him how I think and feel about the things I understand by the spirit- (those answers I might be receiving from Him).  I do not want to be receiving my own human wisdom- this process weeds out my wisdom and leaves between me and God an alignment of thinking and feeling & a more complete answer.  Sometimes there is not an answer ready for me and I have to settle for a comfort that God will send the answer in good time.  I know that God loves you and me.  I know He answers prayers and He values a personal relationship with us- His children.  <3 p="">

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