In the early months of 2011, I published a web series discussing six different theologies, and my fasting ended in July of that year. During the last month of my fast, I began writing a tremendous amount regarding my thoughts about the cofc. In August I learned about my application for non-ministerial work, and what the result of that process indicated.
I attended a cofc Bible School because I couldn’t understand the Bible. I learned how to study in the Greek. I learned contextual studies. And I learned a host of other things, like Hebrew, that affected my understanding of the Bible.
After I graduated Bible School, while I was in pulpit ministry, I studied and studied looking for resolution to issues common to my experiences within the churches of Christ. But it was the answers to those pursuits put me at odds with the very segment of the church that taught me.
After learning about the process for non-ministerial work, I would go on to write a paper addressing some specific theological issues. Then I would begin writing my answers to the big question: Why?
But after August 2011, I think it would be almost another two years before I would almost completely disassociate with the cofc. I cannot adequately describe my difficulty in parting from that which trained me. I have respect for their hearts, but the manner in which the Bible is interpreted is insufficient to address contextual issues.
Around August 2011, I began hanging out with some Messianic Jews. It felt fresh. It provided opportunities to see a different style of discipled life. I came to see the traditions that Jews have, and the manner in which these Jews lived their lives and displayed their faith in Jesus.
Two things I observed. One, which I appreciate the most, is that when one attends a Messianic Synagogue, a congregation of Jewish believers in Jesus, one is guaranteed to observe the very pages of the New Testament and begin having a new appreciation for Paul’s letters, because those tensions and arguments still exist. Two, I took my experiences from ministry and study with me into that congregation, and refrained from getting too involved, for the exact same reasons.
Some Christians will disparage Messianic Jews for their practices and their interpretations, but those critics should take an honest look at themselves and/or other Christian churches. Each side is occupied by those who want to do their own will instead of the truth. There are unhealthy things, and it usually takes a well-studied person to see those problems, or it takes a person who is led by the Holy Spirit or a person who has the gift of discernment.
I have learned that there is no perfect set of Christians. Some will respond saying, “Duh!” But that is not my point. I am saying that people gather and associate with those who “think” about the Bible similar to themselves, and few, very few, will go beyond what they understand. Yet, these same people want to proclaim how others are doing “the faith” wrong. With these folks, I dialogue, but I simply do not invest time with them beyond their own willingness to comprehend that there are greater truths than what they understand.
On September 19, I wrote in my journal:
My 40 days / 40 nights of drawing near to God ended at sundown/twilight Saturday night, but the last day was tremendously trying…
Going back to work Friday afternoon, my car died. It made it to work, for which I am grateful. God did allow me to do my work and my car did break down in an area that is not on the highway so things were a blessing in that respect. …
As for my Fiero, it would start and run, but putting it into gear… would immediately stall out the engine. I could go nowhere.
But looking back on it, I have to admit that I had a love for that car. Through my years, I had many Fieros. It was the last of my Fieros. Some were sold off so I could go to Bible School and the remainder were sold off as we moved. Those cars were my intense interest for many years.
Only after going back through these things, did I learn that my Fiero quit on me during my 40 days / 40 nights. I was saddened when it broke down, but not nearly as bothered as I might have expected. As I see it now, it sounds silly, but my drawing near, my fast, my devotion to understand God and his leading, helped me part with something that had become an important part of my life.
Yes, I know it’s a car, but to me it was more than a car. I kind of have a penchant for taking what other’s throw away and making it usable again. That particular Fiero embodies that effort. I parked that Fiero at my parents’ and it sat there until last year. My son decided he wanted it, and we’ve been working on it.
On September 29, 2011, I wrote the following in my journal:
The last year has been an amazing ride.
Something new has been started, and I think the vehicle situation is symbolic of that, out with the old (Fiero) in with the new (Passat). …passports are in our future what does that mean?
That entry includes two things that I need to talk about. One is the Passat. The other is the passports.
Somewhere in September 2011 Mary started looking for another car, because without the Fiero, we were a one-car family, that being our Suburban. Mary prayed and believed she was led to search for a VW Passat. She even prayed about how much we were to spend on it. On September 20, I recorded the following in my journal:
Just wanted to talk about the situation with my car and our automobile needs in general. I find myself confused regarding this entire situation, but what got my attention was an advertisement that came in the mail. …it was very specific, a VW ad, specifically for the 2012 Passat. I took this as no accident and shared it with Mary.
As of today, she feels that she was [led] to spend no more than $9000 for the [Passat]…. My point is that she felt that she was told, [via] a dream, to buy a Passat for [our daughter], [and our daughter] had a dream about a VW….
…I did my best to encourage [Mary] to do what she believed the dream is telling her to do, and all the evidence seems to be suggesting a VW Passat, …one that costs $9000. So it’s going to be interesting to see how this works out. But don’t think that I wasn’t considering, even if playfully, buying something other than a Passat.
And that introduces something strangely fascinating. So Mary dreamed about a Passat. Our daughter dreamed about a VW. Mary believed she was to not spend more than $9000. Based on that journal entry, it seems I felt the VW ad was an indicator for Mary, but I was still doubtful.
Well, Mary spent time researching and searching for a VW Passat. Her search narrowed it down to two or three. Mary communicated with them, telling them her maximum price of $9000. One of them came through. We drove to Corpus Christi to acquire the next car for our family. That car served us well, and was the car our daughter used to learn to drive. The demise of the Passat and Mary’s acquisition of her RX-8 are a story unto themselves.
The next thing I need to discuss is the passports. I don’t recall the exact date, but back in 2010, prior to our departure from Indiana, Mary had a dream that we were to obtain our passports.
I was her opponent. I did not believe her. At that time, I distrusted her dreams and talked her out of getting passports, using various reasons, like us not having the money.
Fast forward to 2011, after many experiences with her dreams and as my 40 days / 40 nights of drawing near to God were closing. My journal entry from September 19 includes:
…We had interpreted the Passport offices being open to be a sign that we were to get our passports, something [Mary] felt we were told to do in 2010, but I did not do. We began the process of obtaining our passports. Interestingly enough the passports of 2010, which we did not do, was sometime between mid-September and November of 2010, interesting that was about one year ago.
With that we began the process of obtaining our passports, one of which needs renewal.
I want to close out this installment with the following. On September 27, 2011 my journal has this entry:
Monday morning [yesterday] I was awakened by anxiety…. I vividly recall a dream I was having before [waking].
I was participating in a scholastic exam. Whether this was Elementary, High School, or Collegiate I do not know. But I am certain that I was called upon to put symbols on the board and have the other students match them with their definition – and that I said I could do. But once done with that, I don’t know how long it took, I was told to take the test myself. The test had many symbols (25, 50, 75, more, I don’t know how many) but I said I would not do it, my anxiety went way up and I said “Have Mary do it.” It was about this time I woke up, my heart racing. I felt really insufficient and incapable. …my mind seems to recall me being in a classroom style environment, with huge windows, with lots of sunlight coming through.
My entry says that I discussed the dream with Mary that Monday evening, and that Monday night “I went to bed [trying] to pray that if I needed to learn something then teach me.”
I have mentioned previously, these are the difficulties, the symbology of it all. At that time, I was really depending on Mary, along with a couple of others, to really help me understand what was happening to me, which is in my dream, I said “Have Mary do it.” At the time, I believed she was far more capable than I, hence why I felt insufficient and incapable.
Now, years later, I can see more of that dream. I am in a room, a metaphoric room, the windows permit people to look in and see what is going on in my life. The sunlight means that I am doing the matching of these symbols and their definitions in front of everyone. Tell me that “My Story” is not doing exactly that, and you and I will have a major disagreement.
Am I anxious? In 2011, in 2012, in 2013, in 2014, and in parts of 2015, I would have said, “Yes.” But now? Not really. I feel prepared. I feel capable.
Will I mismatch something? Perhaps. History has demonstrated that I rarely ever passed an exam with a perfect score.
However, a perfect score isn’t necessary. I just need to pass. But I aim to pass with flying colors.
Blessings and Shalom