Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

A Hill On Which To Stand

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…that was the title to the Sunday School lesson I participated in this past Sunday.  Well, the Sunday School lesson I mostly silently sat through anyway.  I’m a member of a Southern Baptist Church but for the last three Sundays haven’t been able to muster up the motivation to go.  The Sunday before this I went to an Episcopal Church service which was quite nice for a change of pace.  I’m trying to figure out where I fit in since my views are so radically changing.

Let me set the stage a bit.  I’m in a Sunday School class where about 8 of us attend on a regular basis.  There were about that many of us there this past Sunday.  This lesson was a continuation from the previous Sunday when I was not there.  The teacher had provided an outline of each of the four points with questions that followed.  The scripture was 1 Kings 18:16-19:18.  This is where Elijah challenges King Ahab to a duel of the gods.  And his God won.  Jezebel threatens his life because he had all the prophets of Baal killed.  These are the four points:

1.  Choose your camp
2.  Trust in God’s help
3.  Watch for slips
4.  Climb back up

I missed the first two points, but if you’re at all familiar with the text it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.  So I came in on points 3 and 4.    Point 3 was about how when we’ve had these amazing mountain top experiences we need to be oh so careful not to slip down and fall.  What caused Elijah to run?  Fear.  But God had just done this miraculous thing.  Why would he be afraid?  After he runs away he sits down under a tree and has a pity party and falls asleep (I’m paraphrasing obviously). An angel comes to him, touches him and tells him to get up and eat and drink a cake of bread and a jar of water.  Twice.  This sustains him for a 40 day journey. Really, two cakes of bread and two jars of water sustain him for a 40 day journey?  When I eat breakfast I’m hungry again by 10 am.  Now normally I’m right in line with the questions and can give the typical “right” answers.  I know what they are.  Having been mostly quiet to this point and wondering what I was doing there, I piped up and said “why doesn’t God do that today, why doesn’t He send an angel and some cakes of bread to us in our discouragement?”. In unison the rest of the class says…”oh but He does…He does it and you just don’t recognize it”.  Uh huh.  That’s a platitude that a year ago I would have chimed right in on.  But really, I think they missed my point entirely.  I’m not asking for signs like the Pharisees.  I’m asking for a sign like Gideon.  There’s a ginormous difference.

In point 4 the teacher went on about how gracious God had dealt with Elijah in his discouragement, how God had personally shown Himself to Elijah.  She asked the question:  Has God ever asked you “What are you doing here?”  Everybody’s nodding their heads in agreement. I’m thinking…nope…God’s never spoken to me in a audible way.  To be quite honest I don’t think He’s spoken to any of you that way either, but to each her own.  Definitely, without a doubt, if God comes to me and speaks to me personally I’ll take back all my questioning.  But I’m not holding my breath.

See He sends Elijah out to stand on Mount Horeb so he can see the LORD.  God sends a great wind that tears the mountains apart and shatters rocks.  He sends an earthquake.  Then came fire.  God was not in any of those.  He was in a gentle whisper.  Now I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m questioning how it is that Elijah survived the mighty wind, the earthquake and the fire.  Then beyond that I’m telling you I have BEGGED God to just whisper in my ear and I swear all I hear are crickets chirping.

Then the teacher summed it all up quite nicely with additional questions.  How can self-pity cripple your efforts?   Ouch!  Biting my tongue hurts.  She continues…How can you keep from feeling sorry for yourself?  Hmm…..I’ll have to think about that for a minute.  Here’s a novel idea:  How about we stop waiting around for an invisible worker of wonders to whisper in our ears the answers to all of life’s problems and get off our butts and do things for ourselves?  That’s usually the way things get accomplished, right?  I mean when all is said and done, at the end of it all, don’t we normally ask for God’s help and then go about making what we asked for happen anyway?  So is God doing it or are we?  And if it’s us doing it (I’ve never seen Him lap up a sacrifice on an altar drenched with water), why not skip the middle man and just get on with it?  Isn’t that a hill on which to stand?

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6 thoughts on “A Hill On Which To Stand

  1. I’ve told this story before. One of my last church attendances, our (Willow-Creek style) Church gave a sorta altar call. This was extremely rare. The preacher had talked about four (4) things hindering spiritual growth, or some such thing—money, sex, pride and one other I completely forgot.He asked the audience to stand if they were willing to admit this thing was standing in their way of growing with God, and committing to stop letting it. First he said “Sex. Is sex standing in your way, either your desires, or temptations or something else?” Maybe 5% stood up. (We all have our eyes closed, allegedly.)Then he moved to the next one. Money. Now an additional 20-25% stood. Anyone who has been to these types of services could already see what would happen. Sure enough, “Pride” generated another 50-60%. The last one—it could have been anything. Even “John Madden’s use of chalk boarding during the big football game”—every other person stood up.Except me.Later, my daughter asked why I didn’t stand, and I explained how this was emotional blackmail. People were standing because everyone else was—not because they meant it. I asked if she would even remember what she stood for in a few days; let alone committing to avoid it. After thinking for a moment, she saw my point.These questions, “Who has had a still small voice from God?” generate the same emotional response. If you DARE to say, “You know, I’m not sure I have. Sure, I have heard compulsions in my head, but it could equally be my subconscious desire to do something.” I wonder how many other people, instead of nodding “yes!” would join you and say the same thing. People so often follow what the leader or first response is. If the first person says, “I heard a voice!”—the others follow.

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  2. @DagoodS says: "These questions, “Who has had a still small voice from God?” generate the same emotional response. If you DARE to say, “You know, I’m not sure I have. Sure, I have heard compulsions in my head, but it could equally be my subconscious desire to do something.” I wonder how many other people, instead of nodding “yes!” would join you and say the same thing."Oddly enough at this point in the discussion everyone's thoughts turned to just how often they'd heard that still small voice. I did somewhat voice that sometimes I think our own desires pop in there and we attribute them to God. Then they all started talking about how the devil, yes that's right – Satan himself, gets into our thoughts and it's hard to know the difference. Discussion turned to spiritual warfare and I kind of zoned out. It's hard for me to even think that way anymore. I'm not judging them one iota. That is who I used to be. I bought into all of that hook, line and sinker. It's just that now I find it increasingly difficult to see the difference between hearing God's voice and reasoning things out for myself. You're right about the emotional blackmail. That's one of the reasons I've found it difficult to attend the worship service. Our pastor has very intense, high pressure altar calls. It's painful to sit through.

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  3. Hi D'Ma. I lost my comment this morning due to some incompatibility between our blogging systems. Hope this works this time.I can't tell you just how many times I asked questions or contributed comments to Sunday School discussions, only to hear silence such that you could hear a pin drop. I guess my questions hinted of not trusting the leader/pastor/speaker…but of course, that wasn't it at all. It's just that I often saw things from another perspective and simply wondered. There was this one time where I shared another perspective and oh my gosh, people hardly moved or breathed. But they were squirming. I decided I wouldn't go back. Clearly it was a waste of time. Later I learned from the teaching pastor himself that what I had contributed completely changed his mind about his series, and he totally revamped it because of me! Here's the thing though…he never told me or let me know that I had personally helped him change his mind. I found out my accident actually. When I said I'd come back now for the rest of the series, he actually didn't feel I needed to because I already knew it. I felt he was intimidated by me and who knows, maybe he worried I'd throw up another challenge and he'd have to revamp again? I found asking questions or trying to contribute to discussions often led to silence. Very, very frustrating. And I got tired of hearing what seemed like 'canned' responses. Stepford Christianity. :-(… Zoe ~

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  4. @Zoe, Sorry about your comment being lost. Not sure what's going on with that. I checked my spam box and there's nothing there. Someone else tried to comment yesterday it got lost, too.Yes, I know the drill well. Before my divorce my ex-husband and I were in a couple's Sunday School class with a woman who knows all the Godly answers. I know them too. I've studied the Bible. The teacher of that class posed a question about a real life situation. The rest of the class just sat there. So I posited my answer, saying that I know what the right answer is, but that if I'm honest that's not how I feel about it. Then offered up my honest answer only to be lambasted by the self-righteous woman as to how I wasn't trusting God and lacked understanding. To which I replied I understood all of that quite well, but I live in the real world and have honest human feelings about things. Sure I can give a 'canned' answer, but it wouldn't be truthful. Oh well, such is life.

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  5. Hi D'Ma. I lost my comment this morning due to some incompatibility between our blogging systems. Hope this works this time.I can't tell you just how many times I asked questions or contributed comments to Sunday School discussions, only to hear silence such that you could hear a pin drop. I guess my questions hinted of not trusting the leader/pastor/speaker…but of course, that wasn't it at all. It's just that I often saw things from another perspective and simply wondered. There was this one time where I shared another perspective and oh my gosh, people hardly moved or breathed. But they were squirming. I decided I wouldn't go back. Clearly it was a waste of time. Later I learned from the teaching pastor himself that what I had contributed completely changed his mind about his series, and he totally revamped it because of me! Here's the thing though…he never told me or let me know that I had personally helped him change his mind. I found out my accident actually. When I said I'd come back now for the rest of the series, he actually didn't feel I needed to because I already knew it. I felt he was intimidated by me and who knows, maybe he worried I'd throw up another challenge and he'd have to revamp again? I found asking questions or trying to contribute to discussions often led to silence. Very, very frustrating. And I got tired of hearing what seemed like 'canned' responses. Stepford Christianity. :-(… Zoe ~

    Like

  6. @DagoodS says: "These questions, “Who has had a still small voice from God?” generate the same emotional response. If you DARE to say, “You know, I’m not sure I have. Sure, I have heard compulsions in my head, but it could equally be my subconscious desire to do something.” I wonder how many other people, instead of nodding “yes!” would join you and say the same thing."Oddly enough at this point in the discussion everyone's thoughts turned to just how often they'd heard that still small voice. I did somewhat voice that sometimes I think our own desires pop in there and we attribute them to God. Then they all started talking about how the devil, yes that's right – Satan himself, gets into our thoughts and it's hard to know the difference. Discussion turned to spiritual warfare and I kind of zoned out. It's hard for me to even think that way anymore. I'm not judging them one iota. That is who I used to be. I bought into all of that hook, line and sinker. It's just that now I find it increasingly difficult to see the difference between hearing God's voice and reasoning things out for myself. You're right about the emotional blackmail. That's one of the reasons I've found it difficult to attend the worship service. Our pastor has very intense, high pressure altar calls. It's painful to sit through.

    Like

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