With Fear & Trembling

My family, headed by Gregg and with me lovingly and respectfully his second-in-command, is a bit weird religiously by most American standards. Well, okay, we’re a bit weird in lots of ways, but it stands out in our religious beliefs and practices. Basically, we straddle two Christian worldviews while rejecting the secular worldview as entirely as possible. So we take from each what we feel led to take, give to each what we feel convicted to give, and leave the rest alone. Because of that, no common worldview seems to think we’re “living right” or “doing religion” right, or good enough, or well enough, or whatever. And everyone seems to feel it is their right to judge our choices. It is astonishingly interesting.

This past holiday season, there were people who claimed I am “abusing” my children (and I’m not exaggerating for blogging effect — I field so much hate mail, you wouldn’t believe it) “abusing” them by not letting them experience the “joy” and “thrill” of dressing up and trick-or-treating for Halloween.  Because, after all, pretending to be an axe murderer, monster, demon, or witch/wizard is just joyful thrilling fun, right? One (unpublished) commenter suggested “Surely there is a way of celebrating the thrill of dressing up for Halloween without injecting a bunch of hyper-moralistic nonsense into it. ”

Orwell informed us many years ago that the further a society strays from truth, the more that society despises those who tell it. Apparently, I am also “abusing” my children by denying them the “wonder” and “excitement” of Santa Claus, justifying and encouraging something that is nothing less than a lie. “Santa Claus sees when you’re sleeping, knows when you’re awake, knows if you’ve been bad or good…” The truth is that an omniscient GOD watches, knows, and loves us and will forgive us despite our mistakes.  But, what do I know?  I’m simply a hyper moralistic fanatic.

We field criticism for our Christian beliefs as well. We are Christians. But we are very Hebraic in nature. We don’t feel like the “Old Testament” is, well, “old.” Certainly, it isn’t “obsolete” and it most definitely still “applies” to our lives on this earth. We like to think of it as the “Less Recent” Testament. We believe that Jesus lived His entire pure and sinless life while observing the tenets outlined in the Less Recent Testament and that we, likewise, should live — to the best of our ability and to the utmost of our daily desires — like He did and follow the words that He actually spoke. So, we believe that the commandments ought to be followed, that the feasts ought to be observed, and that dietary restrictions were handed down by Jehovah Shiraz for very sensible spiritual and health related reasons.

That said, we aren’t members of any Hebraic body. We don’t want to get personally caught up in steadfastly checking rules and laws and lose sight of the wonderful gift of GRACE given to us by Jehovah God in the form of His Son’s precious blood. This isn’t intended to be a criticism of my Hebraic readers. We simply know ourselves and we know that we would get down into those details. So, we celebrate with those who are more strict in their Hebraic expressions. We fellowship with like-minded believers, participate in feasts with like-minded believers, prayerfully and financially support the ministry efforts of like-minded believers

So where do “Jesus freaks” like us find ourselves three or more times a week? Usually, in an Americanized Christian church.

Our church is not a denomination — it is a movement — a movement created with the intent of removing the barriers thrown up by denominational dogmas and doctrines. Our church founders never even considered themselves as part of the “Protestant” sect — simply as members of “The Church of God.” Nothing added to it. We like that.

The secular world sees us as Jesus-freak fanatics who are oppressing our children and abusing them, denying them the basic joys of many shared childhood experiences in holidays, make-believe creatures (Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa, Mother Nature, etc.), and spending every moment we can grasp in fellowship with other believers instead of filling our time with activity after television watching after activity after electronic game console playing after activity.

Traditional Americanized Christian worldview perceives us as far too law-minded, far too rules-oriented, and therefore “doing it wrong” by observing a Levitical diet, or participating in the amazing experience of a Christian Passover instead of Easter egg hunting, etc. Someone in my Sunday School class even called me a “Pharisee.”

On the other side of the aisle, the Hebraic Christian worldview mainly sees us as missing the mark by referring to the son of God, Yeshua, using the Greek-ified moniker “Jesus,” by worshipping on the first day, Sunday, instead of the seventh day, Saturday, and by enjoying a (low-key and Santa free) Christmas season of giving our children three gifts each and traveling to visit family during the traditional holiday season.

I appreciate the fact that there are people in this world who disagree with how we live our lives. That’s fine. I even — and try to get this — I even RESPECT their choices. ALL of our friends and family do life differently than we do. WE are good with that, but for some reason, people look at us and aren’t good with our differences. I think the holiday season from Halloween through Christmas always brings the criticisms out into the open. And, I think that because I blog with such openness, it gives people both privately (email) and personally (in my face) the feeling that they have the “right” to criticize how we live and the lifestyle choices we make. It is what finally pushed me into taking a long blogging/partial social media break the last couple of weeks — just the fatigue from the constant judgement.

So here it is. Here is my proclamation for the entire world to see forever and ever and always. HERE is what I have to say to every group in this world who feels it necessary to judge how well we are living our lives, running our home, raising our children, and “doing religion” all within the context of our beliefs:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

The bottom line is that every single thing Gregg and I do, we do prayerfully with the intent of serving, obeying, or worshiping God our Creator and Father in heaven. Every decision we make, every step we take, every dollar we spend, every word we type is done with prayer and supplication.

When Gregg and I get out of bed in the morning, our purpose is to live FOR God — not for ourselves, not for each other, and not for our children — certainly not to the pleasure or satisfaction of any hypocrite who feels free to judge us so harshly.

The fact is that I’m not living for them, and I’m not aiming to please them. I am working out my own salvation with fear and trembling.


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