By Michael Mooney, NACM Exec. Elder
There is one Bible and Christians are supposed to be one Body, unified in Christ. Yet, there are a multitude of sects and denominations in Christianity. The National Association of Christian Ministers reports a survey from 2001 which approximates 33,820 denominations of Christianity in the world today. The obvious conclusion is that there are many different ideas about what our one Bible means. We are not likely to resolve this conflict, but we are able to better understand it; thereby, positioning ourselves to be advocates of Christian unity.
Often I find that people have different ideas about the nature of truth, and the interpretation of events in their lives. There are at least two typical responses to this:
- Some people understand these differences and find them to be non-threatening,
- Others feel an almost obsession to correct the thoughts of those who do not see things their way.
The purpose of this presentation is to demonstrate a way to share a common understanding with believers, in a non-judgmental, non-argumentative manner, which promotes acceptance and personal growth.
Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God. (Rom 15:7 GW)
In consideration of my own life, I find that I could have never predicted the way I would feel or even think when I attempted looked into the future and see myself at this present stage in my physical and spiritual development. Rather, most of the ideas that I had about life have since been replaced by understandings that I have redefined in order to be consistent with my interpretations of past experiences –all through the filter of my present understanding of God’s word. Every Christian that I have spoken with about this has agreed with me that they also share this experience. (Although, I sometimes I have to explain a little further before they understand well enough to agree). Nevertheless, the point is that they agree, and this is significant. The implications are that:
- 1) Christians are in a developmental process that involves growth (1 Corinthians 13:11; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
- 2) Growth is impossible without change (James 2:26).
- 3) Change means that something that once was, now is something different (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- 4) All spiritual change takes place first in the mind (John 1:12), because spirituality is grounded in faith (John 3:12), and faith is a matter of believing (Hebrews 11:1). Believing is impossible apart from thought processes (Luke 10:27; Isaiah 1:18).
- 5) Therefore, if Christians are growing, they must also be changing the way they think about things (Romans 2:2).
- 6) Bottom line, I have never met a seasoned believer who would argue that all of the interpretations they hold of scripture are constant and unchanged since the day they first believed (1Co 13:11)
How to Get It
Considering the above, I wanted to find a way to share with you the significance of this experience, so I pondered for an example. I tend to find the most memorable examples are the ones offered like presents wrapped in the paper and confetti of hyperbole (which are exaggerated examples).
You are about to engage in a creative activity designed to generate a sensory experience through imagination. PLEASE, take your time and give care not to rush through it. Follow each of the steps carefully, and make sure you are able to be alone with God during this activity –without interruptions. Remember to enjoy yourself…
Below you will find a short (fictional) story of a human experience with which most adults can relate in one way or another.
Step 1: Before reading, pray and ask God to offer you insight about yourself.
Step 2: Please read the story as though it is about you. At each paragraph, pause and try to visualize it as much as your imagination will permit –before moving to the next paragraph. Try to both see and feel the moment.
Step 3: At the end of the story, make a note of the process of change that took place, and the way that thoughts formed around the changes. Answer the question in terms of any insight you gain. There is no right or wrong answer.
- With the best of your ability, visualize yourself taking a walk through downtown USA. You grew up in this town and you make it a point to return to it every 5 years because you enjoy the nostalgia.
- Every time you visit you tend to notice changes. Old businesses are sometimes closed, new ones are opened, and you find yourself feeling as though you really cannot explain how you feel about these changes -even though you wished you could, and it sort of bothers you that you cannot.
- You remember all the hopes, dreams, and predictions that you made about the town over the years.
- Oddly enough, even the places from childhood that are still open do not seem to be as you remembered. Something is just not what it was. Yet in all fairness you cannot declare it wrong for what it has become. You wish you could belittle it, and talk about the way things were in the good old days. But deep inside you know better. For what really has changed is you.
- Knowing what you know now, you somehow begin to know your old memories in these terms also. This begins to strike so close to home that you see many mistakes that you made in the past. Looking back these mistakes seem so clear. You think, how did I make those choices when the answer was right in front of me?
- Your mind shifts and you decide that it is time to go. All sorts of random reasoning floods your thoughts. Your rational becomes that you are much older now, and for this reason there is no need to keep revising this town anymore.
- As you walk out into an open area of one of its historic streets, you look up into the sky to enjoy a view uninhibited by the limbs of trees. You see the wide, blue open sky, clouds, and rays from the light of sunshine as it pierces he clouds.
- All of a sudden something occurs to you. It is so subtle in your thoughts that you can hardly explain it with words. You know it needs further consideration. You never even considered it before because it just did not seem worthwhile. But now you are seeing things with greater clarity. You ask yourself, how might all of this turned out so differently if I had only started thinking about this sooner?
After reading this story, you should feel somewhat at a loss for words. This is because it is written in a way intended to leave you without solid conclusions regarding what you think. If you feel this way, this is good, for it is intended.