Force-fed spirit

Have you ever seen a horse get a pill? They take a sort-of gun, stick it deep down the horse’s throat, put the pill inside and push a plunger that forces the pill down its gullet. It’s not very easy to do, and it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun for the horse, either.  I am willing to bet the more you do it, the less likely the horse will be willing to cooperate. And I guarantee he will hate that gun!

It is the same way with humans and religion. When we are brought up with religion as a part of our lives, it can be either an edifying and pleasant experience, or it can be a pain in the tuchas, generating resentment. I wanted to have a Bar Mitzvah, and I am appreciative that my parents went along with it, but they didn’t really care one way or the other. I know many Catholics who went to Catholic school, all the way through high school, and never learned one thing about God. They didn’t want to because it was force-fed to them. They read the Catechism, studied hard, and at their Confirmation, when the Priest told them they had the spirit of Christ in them, all they felt was relief that it was over.

I am sorry, but no one can tell you you have the spirit of God in you- you need to accept it yourself. You are saved by faith, not by giving the correct answer on a quiz.

How many of you know someone who has turned from God only because they had Him shoved down their throats from an early age? I met a woman once (and that was enough) who was raised Ultra-Orthodox, and as soon as she grew old enough to be on her own, she converted to become a Quaker. Then she started to find any other Jew-turned-Quaker person she could. I met her when I was leading the Shabbat services for an assisted living facility. I did a totally Jewish (i.e., non-Messianic) service and the funny thing is: there were only 1 or 2 Jewish people, and about 10-12 Gentiles attending. Yet, this “converted” woman raised a stink that I was teaching about Jesus and she insisted (now remember- she turned her back on Judaism and became a Quaker) that Jesus has nothing to do with Shabbat services. She even told me, after I confirmed that I was Messianic, that we were alike, both of us have given up our Judaism.

No, I didn’t hit her, although…..

It ended up that I stopped doing the services because the management was afraid of upsetting her. That’s what comes from force-feeding people religion. They grow up hating the religion, but still feeling tied to it, so they end up confused and bigoted. It turns them away from God.

Whether Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, whatever- when we raise our children we need to teach them about God, not about religion.  Remember: God has no religion, only people do. And look how we screw up everything we touch, so maybe it’s best to teach our kids about God and let them decide about religion on their own.

Yes- this is a somewhat radical thought. I confess I can’t give any experiential advice since I didn’t get to raise my children. All I can suggest is that they be taught the word of God, straight from the Bible. If you are a church-going worshipper, taking them along is necessary when they are too young to be on their own. But once they can be left at home, they should get to choose. It is important that the parents show them the “fun” side of worship, keep them involved in the congregational and social aspects of worship. If the place where you worship doesn’t have children-friendly activities, you should find another place.  It is important that children are raised with God representing fun and peacefulness. We need to fill them with the joy and wonder that David felt.

Of course, this means the parents have to know the Lord, intimately. Everyone of the people I know who is not “saved” is religious by practice, but they don’t practice their religion. They just go through the motions: go to services on Shabbat or Sunday, go to the main Holiday or Holy Day celebrations, write a check for what is comfortable (i.e., not tithing correctly, but tithing conveniently), follow the regulations they are comfortable with and find excuses to ignore the ones they don’t like. You know what I am talking about, don’t you?

And this isn’t just for non-Believers. Oh no! We all know some “Buffet Believers”, too.

The Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, is available to all of us. In the days before Yeshua, it was given and then taken back. Once the breach sin causes between God and people was repaired by the sacrificial death and resurrection of Yeshua, the Ruach became available for us to have and keep. It is now a lifetime gift. We need to treat it with the respect and awe it deserves, and not hand it out like someone calling for the next deli customer:

“OK. Number 17- got your answers ready? Hello? Number 17?  Number 17!- speak up now or you will go to Hell!”

No, no,no…the giving of the Holy Spirit can only be from God. It always has been from God, and can only be from God. And only when someone of age asks for it. The Elders of the Messianic Community laid hands on people and they were given the Spirit, but it didn’t come from the Elders- it came from God! The Elders were nothing more than a conduit for the Spirit to transfer through. Just as the miracles that were done were from the power of God and not from the power of men, so ,too, the Spirit is transferred through us. It can be given directly from God, or through those God chooses to use. But it is ALWAYS from God. And we must want it.  We must ask for it; at least, if we want to keep it. There are some stories in the Bible when God did give His Ruach for a time, even though the people didn’t ask for it: for example, the few elders who refused to attend Moses’s meeting when he called for the 70 Elders and Shaul, the King, when he first was to be anointed.

But if we want to have God’s Holy Spirit in us forever, we must ask Him for it. It can’t be handed out like Halloween candy or grade school test papers. It is way too valuable to just throw to someone who may not even care about it and are just doing what they are doing because they are told they have to. That’s not how to teach others to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and might.

Here’s the hardest part of all- the best way (I think) to teach our children, and anyone else (for that matter) about God’s wonderful peace and the joy of salvation, is to show them what it is. We need to be living water ourselves, and to demonstrate how accepting the Ruach has changed us for the better. How it has given us peace in a world full of disarray, how it holds us together during times when we just want to fall apart, and how it gives us hope for the future. I don’t see how anyone can feel peaceful when they think everything that exists, everything that has ever happened, and anything that might ever happen, is all by chance. No control, no plan, no way that anything you want will come to be except by luck. How can anyone live with that? No wonder they are so lost; in fact, they are so lost they think they know where they are. They think they are in control. It is the blind leading the blind.

Teach your kids, your friends and loved ones, even your enemies, about God by showing them what He has done for you. Make them jealous for His spirit, make them desire the peace you feel (which you need to show) and the joy you get when you worship. If they don’t go to worship, talk about it. Don’t ram it down their throat, just mention it in passing. And always find a way to bring God into the  conversation; gently, just as an aside (‘you know, there is a story about that I read in a book once….’ Don’t tell them it’s from the Bible until after you have told it. They will think it’s gossip and be all-attentive, so by the time you tell them the meaning and the source, God’s word will have been spread. And His word never returns void.)

OK, that is a little sneaky, but we are lambs in a fold of wolves- we need to be gentle as doves and wise as serpents (that’s from the Bible, you know. I’ll give you a hint- look for it in Mattitayu.)

This is a hard thing to do- live as God wants us to live. None of us do it totally correct. I confess I don’t do it well, at all. But I try, and I know that it does work sometimes. I am so totally blessed when someone asks me if I am a Believer because they noticed how I act. I am so proud of myself, and happy that I must be pleasing the Lord to get asked that question. Oh, Lord- if only I was asked that question daily! I am so sorry that I am not.

How do your kids feel about God? How do your friends, the ones that aren’t Believers, feel about God? Do they see Him in you?

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