“… you do not have, because you do not ask.”
This week I celebrate a birthday. Though I am joyous beyond measure, I also feel a sense of concern, of sorrow, but, somewhat of hope. In the last few months, my prayers mostly of thanks and gratitude, were geared toward entities of understanding and truth. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, through prayers, God has provided the answers I sought after, concerning His words and some teachings developed from them. These replies, now open the door much wider, to honor Him through the real meaning of His words. Words that untruths and make belief, can never do.
On the journey, I often looked in the mirror to try to determine whether my rejection of the beliefs and actions of some in the name of God, was simply based on my occasional stiff and reserved character. Should I just loosen up a bit? Let my hair down? Just listen to the sounds of worship, to just dance in the name of Christ? With no discomfort, there were moments when I allowed myself to do all this. Yet, I returned home with many questions about myself. I returned home offering more care to myself. To not fall, to not conform, to not be entranced by sounds. To be careful what organizations I donate to, to question what was said, to be careful not to fall. Not Fall for it all!
Some forms of Christianity now, are so different from what I knew as a child. In fact, even in my early adult life, I tended to stay in comfortable ranges of what I was accustomed to. In my late twenties, my marriage brought me to a legalistic form. Then through the rise of Christian television, I started seeing a different shape. The music, the makeup and hair on the female pastors, the clothing, the diamonds. I found all of this to be amazement. This was not the Christianity I knew! Declaring and decreeing as elements to prayers, I found fascinating and confusing. Pastors who slivered their tongues, and who claimed to touch people with the Holy Spirit, were ambiguous. Those who offered to heal and claimed to heal people, were mesmerizing. This form of Christianity…all so new to me.
The language of prosperity and all the props, caused my friends who were into new age, and other faiths during this time, to say to me “They criticize us for our beliefs, but they do the same.” At that moment, I couldn’t comprehend what these friends were saying. One friend even said, come to my church, you’ll see. I visited the next week. Jesus was mentioned as the great way-shower. Leaders and doctrines of other faiths, were mentioned too. The music, though the words were different, were in a sense the same. Hypnotic and trance-like. Prayers were about declaring and decreeing. The same as what I’d viewed on television, as what I’d heard before!
I visited my friend’s church a few more times, because I really wanted to know why people chose the path of inter-spirituality. I wanted to know why they needed more than just Jesus. My openness to understanding all this, created friendships, which at the time seemed healthy if religion or spirituality were not mentioned. But, for me, it was impossible to remain close friends with people who did not live by the teachings of Jesus. I experienced this on so many levels. The need for more and more was rampant. With no regret, I had to end those friendships.
This journey led me to seminary to study more about world religions and to understand better, how these religions interpret eternity. The reveal was that in every faith other than Christianity, something had to be done or accomplished by each person, which would then guarantee a life with God in eternity. In comparison, I understood my Jesus already did everything for me. I wouldn’t say my seminary life was rewarding to me, but it was revealing. It brought me back to my core puritan faith. The one which is quiet, biblically grounded, and understands God’s word as the only way to miracles and healing. God’s words and their meanings are profound, when I take the time to understand what He is really saying.
As I began this day, I turned to James 4. I read the chapter, and read over and over, what God’s words say, written in the second and third verses.
“…you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.” – James 4:2-3.
No declares, no decrees, right? But instead, prayer!
I thought then of my perception of what I was seeing on Christian television in my younger years, and presently (as of six months ago. I no longer watch), and why then it was so puzzling, but yet, fascinating to me. Cravings of Christian wealth, make belief, and improper desires are still evident. Unfortunately, designed spaces engulfed with the destruction of God’s fundamental teachings from Himself, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. No hyperbole meant in this statement! Instead, simply studied and proven facts!
Legalism in the church destroys, ultimate Father/child relationships with God. However, I argue that swaying His words and creating new doctrines (think kenosis, modalism, & etc., here) for financial gains, recognition, or power, are equally as dangerous. For me, the time I spend in the Bible, far outweighs instances I use to see, showcasing people swept into trying to do God’s work outside of what is right there in His words. Like some of the same behaviors and transmissions I used to see on Christian television!
My moments in the Bible, highlight my errors and my ways, more often than I’d like them to. But this time with God, also reveal the kindness, patience, and gentleness of loving Yahweh! All disclosed without elements of question. Without more. In silence, His wonderful attributes continue to be uncovered. They are uncovered in His words. They encourage me to ask for forgiveness. My sins did not stop at the cross. I must always ask for forgiveness.
Moments are slowly returning when I can corporately study the Bible outside of the more. Outside of distractions. Moments return where I can join a biblically-focused church family once again. Moments of this week arrive in the place where I am one year older. Moments recur where I can honor and worship Yahweh, with Him alone. At special moments, and in spaces, where I just ask.
My concerns and sorrow mentioned above are grounded in the idea that some in Christianity don’t ask, the way God has requested them to. James tells us to…just ask. To just pray. In verse two, concerning prayer, Yahweh through James, tells us nothing else!