Friday, April 3, 2009

Dealing With Indecision

Hi everyone! It's me, xHWA. I wanted to get some stuff off my chest, so I decided to share some things with y'all. Nothing scripturally deep, really. And I hope something I say is a help to somebody somehow.

One thing I've noticed since my gaining freedom from Armstrongism is that a weight has been hung around my neck which hinders nearly all I do, and that weight is named "indecision". This is not something new, as if to say it appeared after exiting my former affiliation, but it had been there for some years. The thing is, while a person is in a controlling system and so very many decisions are made for you ahead of time, one just becomes acclimated to those conditions. All I really ever needed to ask was "when is such and such". I never had to decide much for myself.

Now, toss into that mix a healthy dose of latent fear and doubt. For so very many years I was taught that a great many things were from Satan and led directly to Gehenna without passing go. Well, being for the most part ignorant of the truth (which is why I appreciate this blog so deeply), what do I know otherwise? I don't think to look to others to tell me what to do but rather to tell me what they did and how that turned out. The way I figure things, I have to force myself to make decisions or I will always be nothing but a sheep - tossed to and fro by every wind (doctrine or otherwise). 

I have noticed this same behavior in some other former Armstrongists. They read one thing and agree with it... until they have time to think about it. That's when the doubt sets in. They second guess themselves, come to the realization that they aren't really sure about what they first thought and that they don't trust this or that about it, then decide it's probably best to change their mind and go the other way. Whether this is wise or not is really haphazard at best. Certainly I'm not advocating a 'full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes' approach. But it's the constant fear, doubt, indecision, and second-guessing that I'm getting at. It's as if we've become rabbits rather than sheep - darting here and there, stopping and feinting and running away.

What I have been dealing with lately are the natural decisions anyone would expect after closing any chapter and starting a new one. I have been asking "what now?" I have been seeking answers, trying to learn what I believe that is true and what I believe that is false. That's a tall order all by itself! (Imagine it with all that baggage of fear and indecision piled on. If you've left a cult, you know what I mean.) I've been talking hours on end with my wife about how we handle the children. We need to make a decision about things that have never been an issue in the past. For example, it's the Easter season now. I still have a great deal of hesitation about the holidays. Do I lighten up about Easter and let my kids go on an Easter egg hunt with their new friends? Do I avoid all that like the plague because it's from Satan and leads directly to Gehenna without passing go? Then there is the issue of the various denominations out there. Which church most closely matches what I believe is true? The best I can do is go with what I believe. One thing I stand absolutely firm on -- NO CONDEMNATION! Let me illustrate what I mean.

The Catholics are too much like a cult for my taste (and my friend's taste who spend 14+ years in the missionary and seminary). Still, I believe real, honest, genuine Christians exist there. Are they all? As if to say, is the Catholic Church the one true church? No. I believe the "one true church" to be spiritual, and it utterly disregards corporate man-made boundaries. So the Catholic Church is not the "one true church", but the one true church does exist at points inside the Catholic Church. Probably even Armstrongism too, so far as I know. Who am I to judge? People would say, "But xHWA, the Catholic Church is rife with idolatry! They kneel before and kiss relics, they adore Mary, they pray to dead men, they set the Pope almost as Christ Himself, etc, etc!" OK. Granted. But then here comes that judgment and condemnation again. Herbert Armstrong had a disturbingly similar set of policies, IMHO. People idolized HWA, thought of him as second only to Christ Himself, held a hierarchical government that made idols of the ministry, used White Out to blot the face of Jesus from all books and spat on crucifixes but seemed to believe the second Commandment did not apply to images of HWA which were everywhere! You can plaster your walls with pictures and praise to HWA, but if you have a crucifix anywhere... GEHENNA!! And HWA condemned all but his own cult. I want nothing at all whatsoever to do with that. 
Who are we to judge another Man's servant? Christ said "...what is that to you? You follow Me." I hold that I, as a Christian, am called to be a witness for the defense, not the prosecution. If I can hold out hope that Christ is truly in certain members of the Catholic Church or other places, then that is what I will do - even with all the flaws. Even so, I cannot personally become a member of those groups because of those flaws. I simply disagree with them too strongly. [Please keep in mind my comments are my own opinion.]

The same goes for the other mainstream denominations. I feel I cannot join one or the other group because of this or that reason. 
For example, I don't want to be a Pentecostal because of the speaking in tongues doctrine. It just makes me far too uncomfortable. Is the Church of God there? Yes, I believe it is. But as much as I would love to go to some of the Pentecostal churches that are in my area, because man do they look like what I'm searching for, I don't feel it is the place for me. Visit? Maybe. Join? No. I see the Anglican/Episcopal church as being as close to Catholic as you can get without going over. They have their own failings; they have their own blessings. Once again, is the Body of Christ there? I hold out hope that it is... but I don't think it's the place for me either. I don't want a church that was started by one man, so many smaller groups are out. The Methodists refer to John Wesley too much for my taste. Besides, I don't want to get involved in all the splits they have been having lately. It seems that every time I look to see what the Methodists believe on one thing or the other, I see that they are still investigating it, and there is no official set belief. Just take a stand already! I get all the way down to Presbyterianism and I see that as being the closest mainstream match for me. Even so, I disagree with the L, I, and P of the Calvin's TULIP. James Pate asked me if I am a Calvinist. I would have to say no. So now I'm searching for a non-denominational church that affords me the freedom to believe what I do at this time, but isn't so darned wishy-washy that they just let everyone believe everything. I've seen community churches whose websites are downright silly. Just goofy. I've seen groups whose tag line is "church for people who don't go to church." What does that mean? I don't want a purveyor of pop-psychology. I want real messages from the Bible. If I wanted pop-psych, I'd watch Oprah. I've seen people like Joel Olsteen who say, on national television, that God wants him to be rich. Ummmmmm... not on my dollar you don't. I want my money to go to help the poor, not the well off. The last thing I want is some guy who calls himself a Pastor, but really is just a peddler of Christ. Had that already, thanks.

See what I'm saying? I kinda know what I want, but then the indecision sets in. Everything has both good and bad. I already accept that no one has the whole truth. But I start asking myself, what degree of error is acceptable? What doctrines can I just live with, and what must I avoid? Then the whole search becomes a dilemma, and I'm right back where I started. But what really bakes my noodle is the question: how much of my disagreements are simply my own misunderstandings of scripture and history from Armstrongism carrying over?

I have hope in the natural process of things. I learned years ago that when I start something new it will be unfamiliar and foreign to me until some point when I realize I have gotten used to things and it now seems more like second nature. 
Take jobs for instance. When you first start a new job you don't know the layout, the people, the traditions, etc. But after a few months or so you realize that you're at home there, you know the people, you have mastered the culture, you can anticipate things, and it is as if you had always been there. It is my hope that my problems will resolve themselves in time, so long as I can become aware of them and force myself to deal with them.
I have found some good candidates, and I am going to give them a shot. Wish me luck. My big concern is that things won't turn out, and I have to uproot the kids... AGAIN.

Well, I think that I am learning about priorities. A Christian's relationship with Jesus Christ is a personal thing. I told myself early on that even if I were to attend a mainstream denomination, I will not call myself after them. For example, if I went to a Presbyterian church, I will not call myself "a Presbyterian". No. I am a Christian. I invited Christ into my heart, as His temple, to be my Savior, apart from any other man or group. I decided when I left Armstrongism that my faith, even my very life, is in Jesus Christ alone and not any man or any group, or any law, or any strength or righteousness of my own. It's just me and Him (mostly Him). I can't save anyone else; I can't be saved by anyone else; I'm not calling myself after anyone else but Christ. No hyphenated names in this marriage!

Anywho... that's where I am. What I think is helping me the most is trying to follow what Christ said to Peter, "You follow Me." OK. I have questions and indecision galore about how to do that exactly. But here's one thing I do that I think is the right thing, I've boiled what I believe down to it's most basic elements. I believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, I share that with others, I strive for moral excellence in myself, and I believe what He wants me to do is to actively love others as myself. I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. I am growing into my relationship with Christ (a Christian walk is a growth process). If I don't want to be condemned for my failures then I can't condemn others either. The way I see it, God is love. God is the beginning and the end. That means love is the beginning and the end. Everything else really is just gravy on top of that.


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom.



Seeker Of Truth said...

Hi xHWA,

You said:
"They read one thing and agree with it... until they have time to think about it. That's when the doubt sets in. They second guess themselves, come to the realization that they aren't really sure about what they first thought and that they don't trust this or that about it, then decide it's probably best to change their mind and go the other way. Whether this is wise or not is really haphazard at best."


"I have been asking "what now?" I have been seeking answers, trying to learn what I believe that is true and what I believe that is false. That's a tall order all by itself!"

I spent ten months trying to figure out what I did and didn't believe. What helped me was keeping notes in a three-ring binder. I had dividers for each topic I looked into. I started by gathering scriptures and with those scripture notes I began to study in depth each subject, (my first subject was the 'did Jesus have a beginning' issue, which eventually became my first post when I started this blog). I kept all my messy scripture papers, all my research and my final statement of belief on each subbject I studied in the binder.

I found this helpful because in the beginning it was difficult to retain what I was learning over the Armstrongism that had burned a deep rut into my brain. I could refer to my binder with all the scriptures and information I had gathered.

You talked about churches and kinda knowing what you want.
We never joined another church, but we did visit a few to check them out. I decided I would go with what John said in 1Jn. 2:27 "...and you do not need anyone to teach you. But his annointing teaches you about all things..."

Jn. 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Jn. 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth.

and what Jesus said:
Mt. 18:20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Now as far as the children...
My daughter is 17. Four years ago she started attending the CMA (Christain Missionary Alliance) church with a family friend, and partisipating in their Wednesday night youth group 'Impact'
CMA don't focus on deep/hard issues but on the basics of Christianity; love, praise and worship. The deeper things, she gets taught here at home.
If one looked at her MySpace page, one would see the importance of God in her life. She has a Christian boyfriend and they encourage each other to trust in God. They have exchanged Promise Rings to "wait".
The point is that she got a good foundation from that church. She gets the deeper issues at home.

I don't know if any of this helps you in any way, but I hope it does.

xHWA said...

It certainly does help me, Seeker. I thank you.

And I'm very glad to hear about how well your daughter is turning out. That really gives me hope.

Seeker Of Truth said...

You're welcome xHWA.

Byker Bob said...

I avoided many of these issues upon leaving WCG. One of the dangers of false teachers is that once one comes to the knowledge that they cannot be trusted, often one loses faith not only in them, but also in God. So, I spent about five or six years partying my ass off, and then sunk into the quagmires of atheism and then agnosticism. In so doing, I put off the types of questions which you are now asking for over thirty years.

Like yourself, I have realized that being a true Christian does not mean subscribing to one of the many church corporate organizations. It is a private and deeply personal thing, this relationship we work on with Father God, and Jesus Christ. I believe that God gives us the wisdom to know how to use various tools which are placed in front of us. In other words, we get to extract what we need, carefully, working out our salvation with fear and trembling, from a variety of sources. Now, I can't imagine certain of the churches being very effective tools, because they don't allow us to extract, they want to co-opt the process, demanding 100% loyalty and obedience to themselves, as opposed to Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, we have to include the splinter groups in our list of ineffective tools or resources.

While we might obtain an occasional nugget from reading materials published by Pentecostal or Charismatic churches, I would literally be in fear attending their services, even though I know that some other Christians might actually find them to be edifying.

I do plan on attending church services Easter weekend. The pastor asked as many of us as possible to attend his Saturday services, so that special guests and relatives can attend the Sunday services, so I'll probably go on Saturday. He is doing a five part series on being a Christian Warrior, with the Easter service being dedicated to the ultimate warrior, Jesus Christ.

Sometimes, the scriptures we read can have many levels of meaning or application. When Christians are described as being ambassadors, or not of this world, I believe that can apply to the situations we face not only in allegiance to country, schools, or the companies we work for. It also can refer to the various churches, as well! In other words, when we do attend a church, because of the individual nature of our relationship with God, and the workings of our individual consciences (Paul covered this nicely), we become ambassadors for the Kingdom of God even to a church group with whom we might choose to fellowship! Why? I've heard statistics to the effect that 90% of all Christians don't act any differently from people "in the world". This is a statistic repeated by ministers on Family Life Radio.

One thing is for sure. You can easily discern false teachers. They are the ones who are quick to anger. They are authoritarian and attempt to usurp the role of the Holy Spirit by placing themselves, and obedience to themselves, in between the Christian and God. There is no such barrier! It was destroyed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and was physically manifested by the tearing of the veil to the Holy of Holies as Jesus died.

I never thought I would love being a Christian. That is because false teachers took all of the joy out of the process. Every day is a wonderful adventure, led by Heavenly Father, chock full of lessons for which I would never even be able to think to ask. I wish everyone could one day have this experience. It is sometimes gut wrenching, but the higher highs are worth every bit of the agony.


Luc said...

I personally prefer informal bible studies. Interactive learning through discussion makes the results of the studies become my own way of thinking, as apposed to the passive act of listening only, where by being a virtual spectator I may end up with nothing more than a script for parroting.

I do like listening to the Calvary Chapels radio programs. (The founder, Pastor Chuck Smith, will be speaking at the Epicenter Conference tomorrow) I find the speakers have done their home work so that they provide some in-depth dissertations on pertinent subjects. I don’t feel compelled to agree with them, which is something I would feel pressure to do if I were to become a member of a congregation.

Kids are another matter. I would probably attend a church to provide positive peer pressure for a child, even if the speakers were lacking in substance as long as they communicated core values and primary salvation issues were not neglected.

xHWA said...

Hi Bob! Hi Luc!

I notice that everyone here is having a perfectly fine time just staying on their own. I am glad it's working out for everyone.

Luc hit it on the head for me. I have kids and I really want them to have positive role models and a feeling of community. That is my #1 reason for looking for a church. I would also like the fellowship for myself and my wife.


"I never thought I would love being a Christian. That is because false teachers took all of the joy out of the process. Every day is a wonderful adventure, led by Heavenly Father, chock full of lessons for which I would never even be able to think to ask. I wish everyone could one day have this experience. It is sometimes gut wrenching, but the higher highs are worth every bit of the agony."

Amen, brother! I am right there with ya! Christ fills me with a joy that I had never known before and I just want everyone to feel this. It's a bear some days, but I wouldn't trade it.