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New here. And struggling with my long time Christian faith. Please advise.

Discussion in 'General Struggles' started by Evening Mist, Feb 7, 2003.

  1. Evening Mist

    Evening Mist gentle mother

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    I’m struggling. I still call myself a Christian, but my beliefs no longer resemble anything similar to the Christians I’ve known in my life. I wonder if I should drop the “label” but the fact that I am a believer of an all powerful and wonderfully good God and follower of Jesus remains.

    My beliefs began to change when I became a parent. I believe in gentle and respectful parenting. I believe that I should “do unto my children” as I would want done to me. I am responsive, to the point of getting up 6 times a night with them. I hold them a lot, sleep with them often. Comfort them always. I answer their questions, and I value their perspectives. I do not spank. I discipline by “coaching” and supporting their explorations, and imposing limits with their safety in mind. They listen because they love and trust me. We are very attached to each other.

    My approach to parenting has caused me to challenge my assumptions about the nature of God and God’s relationship with us as children. I am overwhelmed by the love, devotion, attention, responsiveness, patience, and care that our heavenly parent MUST feel if God is truly good. But these beliefs run counter to the beliefs about obedience and punishment that I was raised to take for granted in church, and in my family of origin.

    The next phase in my struggles began about a year ago when I started to feel vaguely “left out” of the loop because of my gender. I don’t know how to explain this well – but the lack of feminine influence in the history of the church became painful to me. References to “mankind” in the bible and in hymns began to sting me. Soon, references to God as being exclusively “male” in nature began to feel painful too. These references center on words like “father and son” and I have no reflection in those images. Christian “put-downs” of traditionally feminine characteristics began to make me feel that I have no place in this faith. Christianity is patriarchal. It relies on systems of power and authority, instead of the systems of connection, trust, interdependency and relatedness that work better for me in daily life. It doesn’t seem that I, as a woman, have any real role to play or any real connection to the Christian God. (I don’t know if this is sensible. I’m trying very hard.)

    When I close my eyes and try to envision God as “feminine” my perceptions of God changes so radically. Possessiveness transforms into protectiveness. Control transforms into empowerment. But no Christian I have ever known worships a feminine God. A female god would be seen as “less than.” So, what does that say about me as a woman?

    I am growing less certain of so many doctrines and beliefs that I took for granted as a younger person. My answers to questions about what is sin, and what is not, who goes to heaven, who is saved, etc. are now usually “I don’t know.” I no longer see the bible in the same way that I did. I don’t reject it, but I DO question traditionally interpretations of much of it. And I am beginning to see inspiration and the hand of the Deity in so many mundane everyday things all around me. Mud on my children’s faces. People doing their jobs well. Satisfying food and sleep. Acts of peace and kindness.

    I don’t know what is happening to me. My faith is morphing into a shape that does not fit the Christian mold. Can’t be contained by a book or a doctrine. Where once I felt I knew all the rules, walked a straight and narrow path, and did not waver in my beliefs – I now feel a growing sense of tolerance for diversity in beliefs (even admiration and respect for it) and an overwhelming sense that God has laid before us MANY different good choices in life. So many people in my life would call me a “heretic” if they knew the thoughts that are going on in my head. I am frightened of loosing God. I am frightened of being wrong, or going off the “deep end.” My husband sees me “going off in my own direction,” as he puts it. He is worried about me, and misses my presence in church, where I no longer feel remotely comfortable being. But how can I control the shape of truth in my life? How can I pay lip service to things that no longer ring true in my heart? Things that strike me as dangerous. Sigh. I don’t know what to do with myself. But I don’t know how long I can continue with this feeling of restlessness and displacement.

    :sigh:
     
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  2. Bruno

    Bruno happy puppy

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    Don't think of God as male, or female. He is your parent and your best friend as long as you accept Him. We can all be His children. He doesn't discriminate between sexes, colors, etc. What matters the most is what dominates in your heart. If it is love (and it sounds like it is), God is what you want. He IS Love. Don't worry about not going to church. Start a personal relationship with Jesus. It IS possible, as long as you want it. Talk to Him like you would talk to your best friend and He will answer all your questions and prayers. Don't be afraid to ask, He is very generous. Make sure to read the Holy Bible on regular basis, especially the New Testament, for He will answer many of your questions through it.
     
  3. Evening Mist

    Evening Mist gentle mother

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    Thank you Bruno. I have spoken to Jesus like a friend since I could walk and talk. I do pray continually. My problem is -- this direction that I am being taken in is diverging drastically from everything I've ever known to be true of Christianity. I feel I am on a journey all by myself. When I see my Christian friends and famliy walking such a different path -- I can't help but question my own direction.
     
  4. Bruno

    Bruno happy puppy

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    Why are you letting others sway you in their direction? This is between you and Jesus. If you have Him as your best friend, you should never feel alone. He NEVER leaves you. It sounds like you are in a wrong church. Do you read the Holy Bible?
     
  5. Evening Mist

    Evening Mist gentle mother

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    I have many times over. I've been raised in a number of churches. Lately, I can only take small peices of the Bible at a time. But I do what I feel able to. I no loner feel that I understand it though. I would not say that I have gone so far as to reject parts of the bible, but I definately have set aside what I can't intepret to resonate with a loving God. Texts that I once struggled with have often come back to me in a new light months or years after having set them aside.

    Lately, my focus has been on the sermon on the mount.

    Tell me Bruno, or anyone -- the word "surrender" keeps coming to my mind. I used to think I knew what it means to surrender to God. But I just don't know what that means now. How do you do that? How do you surrender what God has given you? How do you surrender will, heart, intellect -- when those are the tools that we have to work with?
     
  6. Bruno

    Bruno happy puppy

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    That is Jesus speaking to you. Give yourself up to Him. Don't fight him. Don't listen to people who make you doubt Him. Put ALL your trust into Him and He will take good care of you. He wants you to be with Him, but He gave us all freedom of choice. We choose if we want to be with Him forever, or not. If you TRULY want to spend eternity with God and all those who are with Him, you MUST surrender to Him. Give up your sin by acknowledging it and telling Him you need and want His help. This has to come from your heart, for God knows if you are being honest. Tell Him you want to follow in His footsteps and MEAN it! Then read the New Testament (John is a great place to start) again and if you come across any passages that you have questions about, you can ask here in the Deeper Fellowship forum and you will likely get a clarification. There are many great people here who have a very close relationship with Jesus.
     
  7. OracleX

    OracleX Healer of Broken Hearts

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    God is God, He doesn't fit in to a box that so many people like to try and put Him in. As far as a gender? How I view it is that God is my Father and hence takes on a male image in my mind. Christ was a male when on earth. And the Holy Spirit I have never thought to have a gender. Now in heaven when we have our new bodies, I don't believe that we will have a gender - we won't marry or have children. If we do not have a gender in our new bodies I am not sure why God would? What purpose does gender have in heaven? These are questions the will probably never be answered until we die and meet Him in heaven.

    How you see God makes a BIG differnce on your relationship with Him and your faith as a Christian. For me, I never really had much of a relationship with God the Father growing up and prayed more to Jesus because my father on earth was as very abusive and hate filled man. But once I got past that, I pray to each part of God and love my heavenly Father. My relationship with God is much different and better.

    God loves everyone - male or female. He has laid down some guidelines in His Word about what each is suppose to do. God is not a sexist. The major destinction that is made in the Bible is who should teach and pastor a church. That was something God decided back in the Garden of Eden. When Eve sinned, there were consequences and is one of them. 2 Timothy makes this link and talks to the roles. There is nothing that I have ever seen in the Bible that says that women are not as good as men. What is there is a defining of roles.

    You mentioned about that you felt that Christianity feels like a system of power or authority. The Bible does not lay that sort of a structure out. There is no one here on Earth that is better than someone else. There is no 'government' structure to a the church. The church does not have presidents and vice presidents and layers like that. What the Bible lays out for the church is that there is a pastor and deacons - and the requirements for these are high. Any other structure that is added is exactly that, added. That is why there is so many different denominations. Some have bishops, some have directors, some have many many layers. The church in the Bible is not described as the corporate or industry style church that many have turned out to be.

    God never asked to believe then turn off our brains. We are to search the Word for truth and guidence in life. Do not take what others tell you as the Word of God. When you hear or are told or taugh something in the church that doesn't sit right, follow up on it in the Word. Pastors are humans and are able to make mistakes and unfortunately able to mislead people - intentionaly or not.

    If you are struggling with the church, I would suggest that you spend much time reading the Word about the church and what it is suppose to be and how it is suppose to operate. Spend much time in prayer asking God for wisdom and understanding, He gives generously to all that ask in faith. Although I would usually never suggest that one does not attend church, if it is really a stumbling block for you - read and pray and ask God what to do. Fellowship is very important for a believer to have to maintain a healthy relationship with God. We are also commanded by God to be in fellowship.

    I will pray that God will comfort you and bring hope to your heart. I will leave some scripture that talks to what you are dealing with. God brings times of trails to us for a reason, He doesn't toy or do it to have fun. Keep praying and keep reading your Bible. God will show you the way and you will come out the other side stronger than you went in. Never forget that there are people that care about you and that are holding you in prayer.

    1 Timothy 2:9-15
    "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint."


    1 Timothy 3:1-13
    "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. "


    James 1:2-12
    "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. "
     
  8. seebs

    seebs God Made Me A Skeptic

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    I have always assumed that references to "man" and "mankind" in the Bible are gender-neutral; English, by a historical quirk, uses the same words for both gender-neutral and male.

    I don't think God is "male" or "female" in any meaningful sense; I think people tend to put filters like that on when trying to reach for God, because we don't have personal experience of non-gendered entities that are still "personal". I think the Hebrews, who were a patriarchal society, necessarily saw God as "male".

    A lot of people I've known were raised to fundamentalist Christianity, and found that they couldn't hold to it and follow God at the same time. Follow Christ, not the Christians; we're wrong sometimes, He isn't. Better, I think, for you to accept what is obvious to you, and where God leads you, than to try to cling to something you don't really believe.

    When we talk about surrendering things to God, it doesn't necessarily mean not having those things anymore - it means turning them to His purposes, not ours. As it happens, our purposes are likely to coincide, and the closer you come to God, the more often your purposes will be His.

    The way you're raising your children sounds just fine to me.

    If you hang around here for a while, you'll discover that Christians have many, many, widely differing beliefs. We're all trying to find God, and none of us have got it all figured out yet. Your differences from those around you are a *good* thing; they help you come to terms with God on a personal level, instead of imitating people.

    Welcome to the boards, newbie! :)
     
  9. Evening Mist

    Evening Mist gentle mother

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    Thank you Seebs. There is a lot of wisdom in your simple words, I think.

    Yes, this is the turning point that I am. I am just not sure exactly how to let go of the bathwater and still hang onto the baby. And it is scary -- to have been raised in an environment that says "believe this or else burn...." I mean, scary to challenge what is true when beliefs have been pushed on me by means of fear. The idea that only certain sorts of Christians are *real* Christians is very deply imbeded in my psyche. And I myself no longer fit the definition of that "certain sort." I can't just "fake" it either. I'm just not that good a liar.

    But a good parent allows their child a range of feelings, and space and grace to figure things out without fear. And I cannot imagine a good God who would not be this sort of heavenly parent.

    Oracle -- I'm not sure what exactly to say. When those passages about women and men in the church are given to me, I only feel that someone is trying to "put me in my place." I do not believe that is what God is speaking to me now. While I am willing and able to wrestle with them, I simply cannot take them at face value as a step by step guide for my life right now. There are more basic issues at stake. But I do appreciate your prayers and kind words. Very much so!
     
  10. seebs

    seebs God Made Me A Skeptic

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    John 3:16, friend. It's not believing in the Bible, or in any interpretation of it, that saves you; it's Christ.

    Read Luke 10:25-37.

    That should address your concerns. All our theology and debates is just attempts to love God better. What's important isn't that you *have* the truth - it's that you *want* the truth, and earnestly seek it. You'll be wrong on some things; so will everyone else, including all the people at any church you ever see. But that's not the *point* - the point is that you work out your salvation with God, do your best, and have *faith*.

    Faith doesn't mean "I sit around memorizing passages to quote when people disagree with me"; it means you leave the worries to other people, and trust God to sort things out. He's got you covered.
     
  11. Evening Mist

    Evening Mist gentle mother

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    Okay. You are right. Thank you.

    God has me covered.
     
  12. Evening Mist

    Evening Mist gentle mother

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    Wait -- why did you tell me to read the story of the good samaritan?

    Because the samaritan wasn't the "right sort of christian" either?
     
  13. OracleX

    OracleX Healer of Broken Hearts

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    I like how Seebs explained it.

    Our salvation is based on our decision to follow Jesus Christ. That He died for our sins and that He is the only way to God.

    As far as what the Bible says, I think that one of the dangerous things that are happening today is that people think that they can improve on Gods Word. That their strategy or their plan is better than what is found in the Bible. God never plan for Christianity to be a complicated thing - it really is much simpler than most make it out to be.

    I am sorry if quoting those passages did not help you situation, I was just try to respond to some of your comments. Whenever I have questions or I here something, the Word is the first place I look for an answer. Although the knowledge of the Bible is not required for salvation, it is required to grow in your faith. I couldn't imagine how one would survive without the Bible or the fellowship of a good healthy church.
     
  14. Evening Mist

    Evening Mist gentle mother

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    Thank you Oracle! You have no need to apologize.
     
  15. seebs

    seebs God Made Me A Skeptic

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    Indeed. The Samaritans were pretty much utterly despised. To translate the story into the modern world, and get the full impact, imagine Jesus preaching to the KKK and telling the parable of "the good [bless and do not curse][bless and do not curse][bless and do not curse][bless and do not curse][bless and do not curse][bless and do not curse]". If you don't know how strong the hatred for these people was, you miss the point of the story.
     
  16. GodOwnsMe

    GodOwnsMe Well-Known Member

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    dude. I know a bit how you feel....... :hug: pray over this, keep praying to God you wanna know who He really is (ya know James 1/5 God will give you wisdom when you need it & ask !! :)
    I came over some cool verses one time when I was struggling w/ how to actually live..what God is like, etc.

    I received this e-mail for example:


    Say that again?
    Melody Campbell
    Jan 20, 2003

    And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD , the LORD , the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:6
    ********************************
    I have heard many a Bible Scholar say, "If God says it more than once in the scriptures, we should pay attention". How about something God says about Himself...a total of NINE times!

    In my study to discover what God says about Himself in scripture, today's scripture kept coming to my mind over and over. When I went to look it up at http://www.biblegateway.com with the phrase slow to anger the search results came back with 9 different verses! Since God repeat this characteristic through the mouth of the person that he spoke through, I think it must be an important attribute we should know about God.

    Let me ask you this, are you serving an angry God? Oh yes, it is true that 'he does not leave the guilty unpunished'. But He 'is a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.' (Nehemiah 9:17)


    For some, this image of God, keeps them cowering in a corner of their lives spiritually. Afraid to come out of this corner to ask for His forgiveness and fully invest the gifts that God has given them into the body of Christ.

    Remember the parable of the talents? In Matthew 25 14:30 "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.

    "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' "The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' "Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' "His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. "'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

    If you have walked in sin, God will forgive a truly repentant heart. You cannot earn his forgiveness - he gives it freely to a heart that turns from sin.

    How would it change your life if you walked in the reality that God is slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness? If you have repented, and turned from your sin -- then God isn't angry with you! And when you do blow it, he is SLOW to anger. That doesn't mean he will turn you head and let you get away with you sinful practices - NO He wants you to Turn From Your sin. In fact, he wants to live his life IN you and turn you from your sin.

    If God has not revealed to you any sin that you need to ask forgiveness for this day - then why are you walking around with your shoulders drooping so low. God is not angry with you and he Loves you!)
    ********************************

    many other cool verses & stuff about God......... if ya want I can post some...

    God's perfect, God's love.
    There's some stuff about Him I can't fully understand aswell but He won't let you & me down I'm sure :)
    God Bless you sista :hug:
    Karen
     
  17. Mr.Cheese

    Mr.Cheese Legend

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    I Pm'd ya!
    *hugs to evening mist*
     
  18. Mr.Cheese

    Mr.Cheese Legend

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    Ok, I feel dumb. If I had read this first I would have realized that like, everything I wrote has already been said.

    The "women" passages...
    We need to understand when and where and to who the letters were written. Ultimately I think a lot of the "put women in their place" verses were never intended to be used that way.
     
  19. Evening Mist

    Evening Mist gentle mother

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    I read your pm Mr. Cheese (mr. cheese????) and appreciated your words.

    Okay -- I didn't come right out and ask this in my OP, but what I'm talking about is possibly praying to God with God's more "feminine" attributes in mind. And possibly refering to God as "she" from time to time. I'm wondering if this crosses some line -- and falls outside of the realm of Christianity.
     
  20. seebs

    seebs God Made Me A Skeptic

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    My wife says that she always thinks of God as a big fat black woman who's always laughing at something.

    I guess, my thinking is, if you start thinking of God as having male and female aspects, or whatever, you're starting to migrate into various dualisms. I tend to think the best thing is to try to get away from the idea of God being gendered. That said:

    Job 38:28-29
    Hath the rain a father? Or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
    Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?

    You can also have endless fun debating the translation of Genesis 1:

    Genesis 1:27
    So God created Man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

    The question of which of these words are well-translated is a fuzzy one, and a case can be made for God being fairly plural; consider Genesis 26, "Let us make man in our image".

    It is possible that you would be wrong, and possible that you would even be heretical, but it seems to me that God would rather you pray in confusion than not pray at all.
     
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