13 January 2013

Take It From A Pharisee

I'm like a modern-day Pharisee. Since the Bible teaches us to judge a person by their fruit, I'd be considered the golden apple; the solid example of how a good Christian should walk and talk (Mat 7:17-20).
Leading people into the "presence" of God.

However, I had an extremely unfair advantage over most. I grew up in a protective bubble.

Actually, both of my parents are better examples of how a Christian should look than I am. Just to give you an idea, I've never heard either of them say a cuss word in my life. I mean, not even the c-word (crap). And, I'm pretty sure the state has no clue who my mom is because she's never gotten a traffic ticket and never done anything wrong. She's always been the good one and wanted to set the example so her kids wouldn't have any excuses.

Knowing this, you could only imagine the pressure that was on me to do the right thing.

Thankfully, God blessed me with a very special gift. I had the uncanny ability to do exactly as I'm told. Plus, trouble couldn't find me if it wanted to. The hardest problem I had was just trying to remember what my mom told me to do (and it's still that way). But, what man doesn't have memory problems? This is why God made women - to remember EVERYTHING.

Anyway, growing up I didn't have many friends. And, the friends I did have didn't influence me to drink or do drugs, so that was never a problem. Peer pressure wasn't an issue either. I laughed at it.

I grew up in church from day one. Everyone knows that in order to raise a child in the way they should go, you gotta get them plugged in early (Pro 22:6). Therefore, church was my second home.

I was raised in the Assembly of God denomination for the first 21 years of my life. Obviously, this was the closest to perfect church anyone could attend. We would dance, shout, raise our hands, jump pews, speak in tongues, and occasionally run around the sanctuary on a "Jericho march." Since Pentecostal's use the gifts of the Spirit, we always thought of ourselves as better than other churches. Not only were we good at following God's rules, we had the rare spiritual fruit to show (1 Cor 12:7-11).

Just as I was about to enter college, my parents divorced. This seemed to change things in my life. Actually, for the better. I quickly learned that I had a lot of growing up to do. I didn't have many friends, so I decided to do the only thing you can do; make more. I started asking people if they wanted to hang. This morphed into something I never saw coming. I became an official and unofficial event planner. My phone would ring off the hook. When people wanted to do something besides sit at home, they called me. How does one go from 2 friends in high school (out of 2000 students) to people calling you left and right in college?

Also, I'd always had a passion for music. I used to play alto sax in the church orchestra and for the school band, but I had no love for the instrument. Thankfully, I could somewhat sing and I tried out for the high school choir (my mom's best friend got me in. Plus all the prettiest girls were in the choir. Score!). As a tenor, I began developing a voice. Then, one day, the worship leader at another church overheard me singing. She asked me to be on their praise team. This started my long-term church singing "career."

Even though I mostly went to one church growing up, I decided I wanted to visit other churches with my friends. While in college, I quickly discovered that my church wasn't the only place to find people who really loved Jesus. So, I made it my mission to visit every denomination there was (as long as it wasn't a cult). I even went to several non-denominational churches. This helped me learn more about what I believed and experience different styles and traditions.

After college things started to get pretty serious.

It doesn't matter what church you attend, you'll soon learn that Christians, who truly love God, will serve others (John 13:1-17). I decided to serve in any capacity I could. It didn't matter if it was directing traffic, packing up equipment, singing, teaching Sunday School, leading small groups, running sound or power point, joining a prayer group, starting a small group, taking up the offering, cleaning, greeting at the door, counseling, conducting announcements, leading others to Christ etc (not all at once, of course). Basically, I've done it all. Well, except for working in the nursery or around kids. This is a no-no. No single man is allowed to work with children unless they're highly supervised by women. After all, men are the devil and are guilty until proven innocent.

Even though I've worked all these voluntary roles, I never felt quite satisfied. No matter how much I did, there was just something missing. So, I tried to do it better and harder.

Next, I decided to do missions. I knew a missionary family that helped save orphans from human trafficking in Moldova, so I called the guy up and asked him to mentor me. He agreed and I gave my everything to the ministry for about 2 years. I did my best to build relationships and love on these boys and girls overseas. I even decided that I wanted to permanently move to Moldova. But, apparently I wasn't the right fit for them.

Finally, I turned to fasting. I learned that fasting is the true way to get real answer to prayer (Mark 9:28-29). By my early 30's, I was determined to do whatever it took to be on fire for God. If I was going to be an example of Christ and lead God's people, I wanted to do everything Jesus did.

However, I had a problem. I never fasted from food for more than a couple of meals. So, I decided to start small and try a whole day. Well, I kept going. That whole day turned into 40 days. Another year later, I tried fasting again for 21 days with only water. The next year, the same thing. I did it with all my heart, soul, and strength, but nothing really changed. I wasn't getting the answers I was looking for.

To be even more honest, I've probably done (or not done) more than most ministers in the Christian faith. Not only was I good at being churchy, I also never smoked, never drank alcohol, never did drugs, never had sex, nor did I steal anything bigger than maybe some pens and sticky notes from work. Honestly, if I were to run for president, the media would be bored to death trying to find dirt on me.

And, let's not forget about my devotion to tithes and offerings. I've probably given more than most people could imagine. Praying and studying the Word were also easy for me to do.

So, why am I bragging about all this?

Well, I'm actually not bragging. I'm trying to show you how much slavery I was in. I'm trying to show you that no matter how well you do things, it's never going to get you closer to Jesus.

But, the choice is up to you.
Giving candy to orphans in Moldova.

You can either keep doing the church thing and all this stuff like I did, or you could take my word for it and know none of it works (Ecc 2:10-11). None of it will ever get you anywhere closer to God or help you become a better Christian. I did it all. I did it all better than anyone I know in the Bible Buckle of the Bible Belt. However, I never knew Jesus.

The church had me believing the whole time that I had a real relationship because my fruit looked so delicious. But just because someone's fruit looks good to eat, doesn't mean it doesn't lead to death (Gen 3:6). I soon learned that all the pastors, missionaries, and evangelists I followed, from all kinds of places, are completely clueless to who Jesus is and what he's really looking for.

Now that I stopped being such a religious douche bag, I'm more blessed, more loved, and making more of a difference than ever before.

Jesus is not about the church system or doing things right. He only wants you to know his heart (Acts 13:22).

A real relationship with Jesus is not doing things. It's simply learning from him who God created you to be.

PS - If anyone tries to convince you to do more for Jesus or that you need to "get right" with him, send them my way. I'll make mincemeat of their works and accomplishments. I'm only scratching the surface.


Psych You Out said...

The P.S. at the bottom is probably my favorite part, but then again, it's me, so of course it would be. :)

The more I spend time with you and get to know your heart, the more I subsequently see the ineffective works of most other Christians. There is so much talk and little to no heart. Last night at work I walked by several conversations that made me cringe. Arguments with others about Biblical reasons for this or that and whether to take the Bible literally or not. I never heard anything about relationship or "I talked to God about this". I've gotten to a point that it doesn't surprise me anymore. Christians would rather argue among themselves and put up a good front for the world instead of having a real life changing relationship with God. A good front doesn't really count for anything though, does it? It's like biting into a beautiful piece of fruit only to find that it's absolutely empty inside.

Dathan Ellis said...

Ha! Yeah, sometimes I have to come out and say it so others can have confidence too.

No, a good front is what I used to have. Now, I'm the real deal and it's nothing like what we're taught. We've been shown how to produce the fruit of good and evil; not life. My fave quote from what you said: "There is so much talk and little to no heart."

Charles Smith said...

The Idea of someone trying to force me to do anything volunteer related, was always a clue for me that it's not really on a volunteer basis. If you have to MAKE people volunteer, something isn't right. that's why whatever service i did was always limited.

Janet Ross said...

1)People are willing to give…give until it hurts and then give some more. If I take the way I have managed my church relationships (in the past) and apply it to my spousal or friend relationships I would end up divorcing the church as I did my ex-husband (wait… I haven’t been to church in how long? :). I will give in direct proportion to which I receive or am reciprocated. I have broken myself (and warn out my family) in the diligence of service & study for the one thing I was desperate for (which I already had) Love & acceptance. Let’s be honest – I WILL GO WHERE I FEEL LOVED AND ACCEPTED….duh.

2)The church (like others) is willing to TAKE (and take and take and take and…) even if they suspect that the givers are out of balance. Let’s make this clear – I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR ME; I am not saying that the church is responsible to make sure I am acting within reason but I do see several different ways the church could really discourage lop sided living. If I were a pastor and a poor family gave their entire tax refund to the church (or tried) I would counsel them against it. Knowing me, I would try to get a handle on the imbalance through a series that I would revisit from time to time from different perspectives. The larger the congregation the more need for other leaders to be trained to do the same.

We KNOW people will be lopsided (most families are dysfunctional) so why would anyone speak about giving every service? Those who grew up being motivated by guilt (um… that’s EVERYONE) will always be moved or angered. If not right away (I can block anything out for a while) after a time ‘serving’ & ‘giving’ becomes a position that I now feel is being hammered. You combine being hammered with the typical alienation of cliques & favoritism and I’m, again, the red headed stepchild of yet another church… no thanks.

Cliques only work if there are enough to suit every single person that comes in and the members of such cliques reach out and encourage new comers to find where they fit. An innate characteristic of Cliques is to focus inwardly not outwardly and they are typically counter productive…need proof? They dominate Junior high and high school and we all know during that time, you’re either ‘’hot’’ or your “not”.


Anonymous said...

I love u guys!!

Dathan Ellis said...

@Charles But, the church never forces you to do anything. ~;-) They never say you have to do anything at all. They just manipulate you and use fear to get you to do what they want. Good Christians do this or that because that's what good fruit looks like, or else your fruit stinks.

1) Agreed! You can't give until you receive first. The more you receive, the more you're able to give. (i.e. accept more forgiveness, the more your able to share)
2) No, the church is responsible. All church leaders have placed themselves in a leadership role to be responsible. Yes, I hear that we are ultimately responsible for ourselves, but it will be an ugly day in hell when these leaders come before God and realize what they've been doing. They're so clueless that they don't realize that they're manipulating God's people. Which means they don't know Jesus. Or, they're fully aware of their actions. Which means they are out to abuse God's people.

@Anonymous I love you too!! ~:-D

jeffery foster said...

If you truly know what jesus was here for, serving others and teaching them the truth, then you would automatically want to help a friend or person who is truly in need or just simply cant help themselves out in a certain situation.

Dathan Ellis said...

Well said. Couldn't agree more.

Allison said...

Hey now, you had a friend since the 2nd grade in me! Remember who jumped your car in college because she had jumper cables. And I couldn't sing so I decided to join the freaky group of CCPAC theater nuts! :) Loved this post though. Interesting to me what you said about your church, my mother in law is going there now and that scares me! Of course, my mother in law doesn't like me in the least so...

Dathan Ellis said...

Ok, we may have known each other, but we were more acquaintances. And, I completely forgot about the jumper cables incident! Thanks for saving my life that day. ~;-)

And, your mother-in-law doesn't know your heart. I'm sure she thinks you're going to hell or are completely misguided for just associating with some of the people you do. It's what they say of me. And, it's what they said about Jesus too.

lifewithin said...

Hey Dathan, I really enjoyed what you shared in this blog! You are loved!! :)

Dathan Ellis said...

Thank you life! Yes, I am loved. ~:-)