"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard;" - Matthew 10:16-17
There is nothing more frightening than a group of bored teenagers. Someone is bound to come up with a really stupid idea and the rest will say "Sure!" because they are also bored and have nothing better to do. How do I know this? Because I was a really bored teenager one day when a friend said to me, "Let's drive 2 1/2 hours to northern Wisconsin and climb some cliffs, without using ropes or anything else important, like, oh, I don't know . . . OUR BRAINS!?!?"
"What a stupid thing to do," I told myself, as I clung to a little nub of a rock, 2/3 of the way up a 100-foot cliff in Door County's Peninsula State Park. No ropes, no real free-climbing experience except for the occasional childhood tree. And now, through my idealistic "I am invincible" thinking, I had led myself and a friend into a life-or-death scenario, dependant solely on one huge leap of faith. Literally.
There was nowhere to go, looking up at our hopeful destination, and we sure as heck weren't going to try inching our way back down that cliff. My eyes became focused on a tree root, just beyond my reach to the right. It looked strong enough, and there was a climbing route above it, but in order to reach our means of escape I would have to let go of the rock I was clinging to. The one "sure thing" I knew, I was going to have to leave behind, in hopes of continuing the climb to safety. I had to have faith in that tree root, that it would hold my weight. If it broke, I knew I would soon be doing the same thing on the rocks below. But I had no choice. I had to jump so . . . I jumped.
Once I had made that decision and survived, my friend, who was following me all the way, quickly made the same leap of faith. For him it was much easier because he had seen me do it first. And he KNEW the tree root had held my weight. Sometimes it is safer to be a follower than it is being a leader. Read on.
Leaders and teachers have a tremendous responsibility. But followers have a tremendous responsibility as well. Who are the examples you are following in YOUR faith walk?
When I first came to believe, I trusted everybody. Everything in my Christian life was sweetness and light. I listened intently to sermons. I read many books - absorbing all kinds of information as my spiritual knowledge grew. What a naive little lamb I was. Then one day, all that changed.
I listened to an eighth grade confirmation lesson at a local Lutheran church of the ELCA variety. It was a simple multiple-choice question: "The Bible _____." a) is a history book, b) is the inerrant word of God, c) is a collection of stories to learn from and d) contains errors and contradictions.
That seemed like a rather easy question to me. I smiled as I waited for one of the teens to answer. As a relatively young "student" myself, I selected "b", the inerrant word of God. Then came the answer. It's a good feeling, knowing the answer. I KNEW I was right. God's Word is true! Yet, when the answer was revealed, the youth pastor said the correct answer was "d." - contains errors and contradictions. What!?
How can the Bible contain errors and contradictions? Which of God's wonderful statements was in error? I thought God's Word was true. Doubt began to creep in. Into my mind as well as the minds of the students.
Do you see the dangers of what they were teaching? And they were teaching this to young, growing minds. That was the beginning of the end for me at that church. Those poor, helpless little lambs.
But, as God always does, he turned a bad thing into something good. I began to dig my heals in. I began to study. And I grew stronger in my faith and in my beliefs as a result. I became a Berean!
"Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." - Acts 17:11
Today, we see different faiths, different pastors leading different flocks. Unfortunately, worshipping different gods than ours I'm afraid. Who can we trust? Ever hear the phrase, "wolves in sheep's clothing? "Baaah."
There was a band back in the 60's named Sam the Sham and the Pharohs. They had a song called Little Red Riding Hood. It was their rendition of an old French fairy tale, sung from the viewpoint of the wolf. Near the end of the song you can hear the wolf howl, "A-ooo" then say, . . . "I mean, baaah." Yup. A wolf in sheep's clothing. Unfortunately, they exist in our world today and it ain't no fairy tale.
Former pastor Rob Bell now spends his time teaching that there is no hell. "A-ooo! I mean, baaah." Joel Osteen teaches that we can just "declare" our wants to God and have them fulfilled. "A-ooo! I mean baaah." Oprah Winfrey says she is a Christian, yet she denies that Jesus is the only way to heaven. "A-ooo! I mean baaah." Emergent leader Tony Jones questions the validity of the atonement of Jesus Christ, calling it, "the depraved doctrine of original sin." "A-ooo! I mean, baaah."
When I listen to anyone speak these days, whether on TV or delivering a message on a Sunday morning, I now listen through a filter. This filter is available to anyone who wishes to use it. It's called God's Word - the Bible.
The aforementioned television is an especially dangerous place to learn about trust and/or the Bible. I trust only in what I have learned from God, NOT in what others would have us believe.
The current mini-series on The History Channel for example - "The Bible." Is it truthful? Can we trust it? Is it correct? Hey, it's on TV. It must be true, right? Hmm. I have compared The Bible's version of their chosen biblical stories against what the Bible actually says about them and sadly, there ARE mistakes, "errors and omissions", in their depiction of things. "Ninja" angels might make for a more interesting Sodom and Gomorrah story but their leaping, spinning, double-sword wielding antics are not in the Bible. The exclusion of certain important elements of the story (like the townspeople wanting to have sex with the angels) creates a "new version" of the story for the audience to "believe" in. It may be politically correct perhaps, but their program is leading potential believers astray. "A-ooo, I mean baaah."
Matthew 24:4-5 - "Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many."
In our human relationships, we often find ourselves as lambs among wolves. Human relationships rarely are perfect. Even the best earthly relationships encounter bumps in the road from time to time. We learn through experience. But if our spiritual leaders and churches begin straying from God's written Word in their teaching, they are leading us, their flocks, into dangerous territory. DEADLY territory. And our very souls are at stake. "A-oooooooo!"
Here are some words of advice from someone you CAN trust . . . God, through King Solomon . . . you know, he's the one who prayed for wisdom and received it.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6