Religion As A Spectrum

When I first sat down to write this blog post I had come to the realization that regardless of what you believe, belief often exists on a spectrum that can actually tie people of different faiths closer together than those of the same spiritual background. But as I explored this idea more I came to the realization that as much as I’d like to believe that religion is a spectrum, scripture tells me the unpopular message that I should be totally sold out to God or not believe in him all. 

While talking with a friend who is Muslim, I discussed the idea that in many ways, though I am Christian, I might feel closer to a Muslim who is religious than a Christian who isn’t that religious. At my current stage of life I am growing in my personal walk with God but have encountered countless people who have told me that religion is good, but not if it becomes too important in our lives.

I’m reminded of the guy from a dating app who warned me of his aunt who never got married because she was so religious and spent all her life serving God. Or well-meaning friends who see completely following God as a loss of sorts because of what could be understood to be rigid rules within Christianity.

The idea that I could connect with a Muslim more than a less religious Christian was crazy to me at the time because for a long time I held schemas in my head of what it meant to be a Christian versus believing a different faith. And to me, there was no way that I could really connect with others of different religious backgrounds.

The idea of connecting with someone of a different faith was first planted in my head years ago. I was hosting a GIG or Group Investigating God with a college friend and most weeks our group consisted of the executive team from the Atheist/Agnostic club at our college. During our last meeting I invited a Muslim friend and was surprised by how my Muslim friend and I defended faith and the existence of a God, though to us this God was different. Because to believe at all is to share something beautiful in common, compared to a person who does not believe in the existence of anything.

But before we can really look at the intersection of faiths, let’s look at how I personally define what it means to be a Christian vs. a Muslim.

Defining a ‘Christian’ 

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First, we encounter the argument of how you choose to define what it means to be Christian. For the purposes of this post- I’ve indicated how I categorize someone as almost a “baseline” Christian. I realize that you the reader may have a different definition of what being a Christian means.

And even as I tried to define a “baseline” Christian I wondered if it was fair to say that they tithe because I’ve heard that very few people actually do this. Then there are people who love God but regularly miss church.

Defining a ‘Muslim’ 

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I asked a friend how she defines a Muslim and she indicated the above and clarified that she also considered that recognizing one God, the day of judgement, and believing Mohammed is a prophet is enough.

The Intersection 

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You can see above how the intersection between how “close” you can feel to someone who also holds faith, even if they believe in a different God. That is compared to someone who is a different faith but isn’t as religious.

I was honestly super proud of this realization until I realized that I was missing one important fact.

God Doesn’t Want Christians On a Spectrum 

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To follow and listen to God’s word instructs me of the fact that God doesn’t want Christians on a spectrum. Thus negating the entire that a spectrum could even exist. 

Revelation 3:15-16 New International Version (NIV)
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

The reality is that Christianity cannot exist on a spectrum because scripture instructs that you must either you are completely sold out for God or you should not believe in him at all.

The danger of our society is a culture in which people decide that they are kinda sorta Christian. This is a topic that was spoken about this past Sunday at my church.

It also begins to become easy to think that giving 10% is a lot if you surround yourself with other people who don’t give at all. But God’s standards for serving him are radically not in relation to those in our lives and instead is revealed in his word.

As I grow as a person and in my walk with God I am also learning to respect the journeys of others and realize that though scripture is clear, we might still be on a spectrum of belief. But while on this spectrum, I think we cannot deny the command from scripture to avoid at all costs, lukewarm Christianity.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Can Christianity exist on a spectrum? Is my definition of following Christ too rigid? 

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What happens when you stop praying?

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If you don’t already, make sure to hit follow and subscribe to my YouTube channel and watch the video version of this blog post

What happens when you stop praying?  Seriously, have you ever thought about this?  What really happens during this time?  I am a prayer group leader at my Christian fellowship and I found that there were times when I simply forgot to pray.  Immediately after a big retreat with InterVarsity everyone was so hyped and excited, but as time progressed slowly and slowly things started to pile up with school.  Before I knew it I was sitting on the train and realizing that I hadn’t spent any time in prayer with God for an entire week.  How did this even happen?

The sad part is what it took for me to realize this was because I was beginning to feel weaker and weaker in my faith.  Ever since our retreat my history class has started a new section, the life of Jesus and the old testament.  We are essentially studying the bible together.  The only difference is that instead of praising God in many ways I felt as though God was being attacked.

The funny thing is that the minute I felt as though I was being attacked I retreated instead of pulling closer to God.  I let these words being spoken against my father break me and I stopped praying.  When I realized this I couldn’t even understand how I allowed myself to do this.  Here I was in the Christian battlefield and as arrows are being flung against me, instead of pulling out my armor I decide to walk out defenseless into an open field.

Luckily, even when I am so careless, God is always in control and covered me so carefully and wonderfully when I was unworthy.

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We forget that limits do not apply when we are talking to the creator of heaven and earth.  We are so used to the way in which things are done in our lives that the idea of something supernatural or beyond our understanding is incomprehensible.  This is because we are human beings, are more than anything else we are so limited.

But this limit is not placed on God.  You may feel as though you have no control, and you may not.  The important thing is that God does have control and he’s the only thing that actually matters.

It’s easy to be a Christian in the constraints of a Christian club and church.  Being a Christian means going out where no one else believes what you believe and standing firm on your ground.

Its funny because I remember saying how I was so angry about registering for this teacher because he had amazing reviews on ratemyprofessor.com and I was so sure he would be good.  I never anticipated how against religion he would be.  He told us to try being Christians in the finance world and reap all of the pain that comes along with that.  But when I mentioned this to other people they told me I was wrong and that he had horrible ratings on line and that I must have read them wrong.  Their words were enough for me to doubt something I was confident of.

When I went home a few hours later I remembered what they said and looked up ratings for my teacher again, they were amazing.  I was right and I doubted myself because of what other people around me told me.

So many times I fee l like this very same thing happens when I’m in history class.  I know what I believe, I have evidence in my very life to prove it.  But when I am told I am wrong, its hard for me not to stand my ground.

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God calls us to be so much more.  God wants so much more from us.  And this is why prayer is so important.  This is our direct connection to our father and our King of Kings.  As long as you are willing to pray, you will hear from God.  But in the process you must also rid yourself of everything else that comes before him in your life.

Time is one of the most important things in the world.  Stop giving your time to people who hurt you, things that do not matter and wasting away your life.  You become more and more like the people you surround yourself with.  Surround yourself with the presence of God, and pray to your father.

Practicing what you preach

I’m a prayer group leader at my InterVarsity chapter and just now I have been handed a figurative smack in the face.  I had a really dull moment and realized that I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching.  Not just that, I wasn’t even close to where I was saying others should be in their walks with christ.  And I felt like such a hypocrite.  I think that when I took up this position I imagined I would have to be perfect, infallible, and be at this peak with my walk with God.  But I started writing this post right before my prayer group this past thursday.  I ended up sharing how I was feeling and realized I didn’t have to be perfect.  I was met by so much support from people who said they have all been where I felt like I was at the moment.

Earlier this week as a team (small group team) we looked at the passage in which Jesus calms the storm.  What I found so ironic was the fact that here I was stressing and worrying about my own problems and forgetting what I had just learned.  One of my team members pointed it out to another member but someone it just hit me so hard.  How could I miss out on such an amazing message?

In this passage the disciples almost accuse Jesus crying out “Teacher don’t you care if we drown” when they are met by this massive storm that almost overfills the boat.  The funny thing is Jesus was sleeping on a CUSHION right before.  And before they could say anything else Jesus pulls a Chuck Norris move and calms the sea just by speaking.

How many times have we felt like that before in our life?  Like the waters are overwhelming and we can’t stay afloat any longer?  But the thing is God was always in control from the start.  He has always been in control, will be in control and is in control right now.  We never have to worry.  For the opposite of love is not hate but fear because perfect love casts out al fear.  We create this divide between us and God when we allow ourselves to be afraid like this.  We are created to do so much more and be so much more in our lives.

I wrote this post feeling like a hypocrite but I realize now that I am just growing.  I am not at a “peak” with my relationship with God, you cannot reach a peak and you can always know more and grow closer.  I want to draw closer now and remember everything I learn.  Because Jesus calms the storm and he can calm your storm too.  Just give him full control.

Re: Roomtogrow

1) What is your motivation behind certain things you undertake? What drives you?

I like this question a lot, I guess because it asks me to tap into this part of myself that I’ve almost always had.  When I was really young I was really unmotivated but my mother motivated me.  I remember thinking that getting a B in a class as big deal,  fast forward to high school and I cringe when I get anything less than an A.  My mom encouraged me to try as hard as I can because I could be the best I could.  I’m motivated by my desire to actually do something of worth in my life, and to know that I did the very best I could at the end of the day.

2) What is your favorite holiday?

I like Thanksgiving the best, I guess because its the one holiday when I can actually do something with my church and we do it every year without fail.  I don’t have a lot of things that certain in my life, but I know that every thanksgiving will start with my church and there’s something really nice and reassuring about certainty.  Plus the food is always good.  🙂

3) Do you get irritated/upset easily? If so, by what?

Oh yes I get angry very easily!  Sometimes I’ll just be in a bad mood or something will offset it.  But I’ve learned not the let my emotions get the best of me, its not fair to anyone.  So if and when I do get upset I try to pull myself out of that mood.  If I can’t I wallow in sadness or anger by myself for a little bit!  But sometimes its just the best way to deal with it.  Because allowing myself to be angry is like a drug.  Indulging feels great, but there’s always the aftermath.  I’ve broken MANY phones because something caused me to become angry,and in the end it’s not worth it.  Being angry is only satisfying in the moment.

4) What is your favorite thing to do on a hot summer day?

I LOVE finding a book I’m dying to read, siting down in the place where its sunny but not to hot and just reading.  Maybe have iced tea on the side and just read all day.  My mom may scream in terror when she sees I’ve become ten shades darker, but nothing feels better than finding a good book and reading it.

5) What is your definition of faith? Love?

My definition of faith is

Hebrews 11:11

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see

I believe love is selflessness, loving someone so much that their happiness and joy is more important than your own could ever be.  Is that not the best thing you can do?  Put other people’s needs and desires before your own?  If someone can do that for you, then you know you’ve found a keeper!  Because it’s easy to say, but so hard to do in practice.

6) What is unconditional love to you?

It’ll sound corny fo’ sure to you.  But unconditional love to me is what Jesus did on the cross.  He didn’t have to do it, we didn’t deserve it, but he did it for us.  That’s love.  Something so deep and vast you find yourself lost in it.  That’s the love that Christ has for us each and everyday.

7) What kind of hopes do you have about this life? Or maybe about the life afterward?

I want to break the mold.  I want to be happy and stop caring about all of these things that are so unimportant.  I want to live breaking the conventions and teach my children to never be ashamed of themselves or their faith.  I want to live for Christ and be someone who is so in love with God that nothing else can really matter at the end of the day.

 

Day 15: Bible Verse

Jeremiah 29:11

New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This single bible verse has been coming into my life time and time again, its almost like I can’t escape it!  But this verse inspires me in so many ways.  So many times I’m left feeling out of control of everything around me.  I think this verse constantly speaks into my life when I find myself wanting to take control over the situations around me.

The thing is, we can’t always be in control, never really.  And this can feel really scary to accept, but to know Jesus is in control is so comforting because he knows exactly what we need and has a plan and a purpose for everything.

Whenever I find myself feeling upset, I think of my father holding me and shielding me.  I never actually need to be afraid of anything.  Being afraid is like me lugging a large umbrella when I’m praying for sunshine all day.  God’s in control, never forget that.

Addictions-16/365

from deviantart.com, originally a header for my blog

Hey Y’all, [okay this is TOO weird], HELLO EVERYONE!  XD

This post is about addictions, big or small addictions can be debilitating and as a Christian I found it hard to believe that I actually do have addictions that I consider “small” BUT affect my life tremendously.

When you think of addictions what exactly comes to mind?  I don’t know about you but I think of alcoholics, drug addicts, KE$HA [LOL im joking, but why does she need a dollar sign in her name anyway?].  You catch my drift right?  Well I never thought SIMS, or silly band collecting or even using my netbook could be considered a REAL addiction, that was until now.

I hadn’t realized it at the time but at one point I was addicted to playing SIMS games and it wasn’t the prettiest of sights.  I was playing SIMS on my computer for hours at a time and would wake up early every day just to play SIMS.  I stopped doing things I loved, because I loved playing SIMS more.  I was addicted, the short thrill of becoming a millionaire in a game was more appealing than reading or writing or even talking to REAL people!  [I’m not a weirdo or anything, I just REALLY liked that game].  I had played the game to completion dozens of times and was almost living through a virtual character, and what made it even worse was I couldn’t stop myself.

The only reason I stopped was because I got bored after a little while and knew how badly it was affecting me.  I rashly deleted it from my cpu and a few hours later BEGGED my brother to re-add it.  He said no, I was angry then, but I’m thankful now.  I was investing so much of my time and effort into this game that did not produce meaningful results and most of all I was taking time from all aspects of my life for a game.

1 Samuel 12:24
24 But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

I wasn’t serving my GOD ANYMORE!

Today I want you to look inside yourself and see what your addictions are be it big or small, and compleltly re- dedicate yourself to God.  If there’s one addiction that i would approve of, it would be an addiction to GOD!

See you tomorrow,

Nina Thomas

Love yourself…no not like THAT 12/365

by MurphyL6

I can’t believe it!  I’ve been blogging continuously for 12 DAYS!  I know that sounds like  an odd thing to celebrate, but for me?  Well that is what I would like to call an accomplishment!  YAY!  …no?  Well I have three hundred and some odd days to prove myself!  [I don’t enjoy math…]

I was kind of surprised because according to my blog stats many people are coming across my blog…they just don’t like commenting…but still people are reading!  So hello reader, thank you for taking the time to read!

OKAY so back to my topic!

LOVE YOURSELF!  YAY!  Okay …so you may be thinking, “What is this girl on and can I get some?” but I am not crazy [maybe just a little looney], today I wanted to focus on the importance of loving who you are!  I am so tired of seeing people with low self esteems [myself included], it seems as though people always want what they don’t have!

I have what you would call “frizzy uncontrollable hair”, so when my mom asked me if I wanted to get it Japanese straightened I jumped at the opportunity for flawlessly straight hair.  Right after the treatment I was thrilled, my hair was soft, manageable and amazing.  But 3 days later?  Bleh. I was tired of my straight hair and wanted me old hair back so badly!

Do you know how I felt when I got back my curly hair back?

…I wanted straight hair again!

I’ve seen overweight people wish they were skinny, skinny people wish they were fatter, all my life I’ve seen people unhappy with where they were in their lives, and one day I wondered- why?

I remember I had brought a friend to my house [she was overweight], and she wanted to talk to my mom so I brought her down and we were talking about senior pictures and I was saying how I changed a million times and she continued on to say “…I had a change of clothes but I didn’t think I should change, I don’t know-“she had continued saying it would be weird for her to do it and my mom stopped her mid sentence and told her that she should have taken as many changes as she wanted and that she shouldn’t wait for tommrow to live today.

Because of my friend’s weight she felt uncomfortable changing and thought she could only really feel comfortable once she lost weight but my mom didn’t let her think that way.

Sometimes I look at myself and feel as though the  onlyway for me to be okay is if my hair is straight or if my eyebrows are threaded and the list goes on.  But that is completly wrong!  Be happy with yourself as you are today, right now!  Don’t wait for tommrow because God only knows if there will even be a tommrow!

This post didn’t have anything to do with the bible directly, but the importance of loving yourself!  God made you the way you are for a reason!  Don’t doubt it and don’t waste time comparing yourself to the Joe Schmo next to you because you are unique and incredible in your own way!

Jeremiah 1:5

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

He knew us even before we were formed in the womb!  How great is our GOD!

See you tommrow,

Nina