A burning desire to stay close to God PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Religion Editor   
Friday, 30 March 2012 08:19
Most Christians firmly believe there is only one God, with salvation coming through Jesus Christ, God's divine son.
Beyond the firm foundation, Christians rarely agree on many other concepts and ideas. Not even in Jesus' life was their accord, including his final days. Church divisions have been around before and since the life of Christ.
Such fights often drain our energy and weaken our connection with God. Even today within congregations and denominations, there is an endless supply of disagreements and views.
Too many people have lost their burning desire for God's love due to divisions in the faith community. One's faith is near and dear to our hearts and lives. We are so deeply passionate about our beliefs, it is sometimes difficult to understanding why others don't see things the same way. Fortunately, Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, is a time for reconciling many of those differences.
Rev. Kathryn Helleman, who teaches at Winebrenner Seminary in Findlay noted students at the school share their classroom with people from 38 different denominations.
"That means at any given point the odds are very good the person sitting on either side of you doesn't believe the same thing you believe on any given topic," Helleman said.
Rather than division, she says that diversity creates "a wonderful richness in the classroom."
Their differences help the students become energized to what she calls the "elephant in the room."
She said her students are likely to go back to their setting and continue to believe what they have always believed, but "it's now an informed belief."
Because the elephant is identified, it becomes manageable as everyone knows it is there.
Their beliefs are enhanced by a willingness to respect a difference of opinion. She says that helps each student "understand someone else holds their position as fervently and deeply as you do."
There is a story often told, which can also be found in various forms across the Internet, about a member of a congregation who stopped going to church. In short, when the pastor visited it was a cold night and there was a fire burning in the man's fireplace. After a long silence, the pastor removed a burning hot coal from the fire and set it aside on the hearth. It soon became cold and lost its energy.
Before leaving the pastor returned the coal to the fire and it again burned brightly. Without words, the message was clear. The man thanked the pastor for restoring his private fire and vowed he would return to church.
While some pastors share this story as a way to keep people in the pews, it can also apply to our need, our burning desire to be connected with the fiery passion of God.
People of faith often thrive when they stay connected to other believers. It is one way to keep the flame of love alive in their hearts and souls. More importantly, most  of the faithful feel the strong need to stay connected to the greater energy source of God.
While divisions within any given congregation or denomination can separate us, we mustn't let it sever our connection with God.
Despite any differences, we are united in God's fireplace of the faithful.
By staying close to other believers sharing the burning flame of our faith, we emit more light to shine brighter for the world to see. Staying close, we give off more heat to attract others to the light of God. Staying close, our fire remains strong and we are more enlightened.
When others join us, the fire of our collective faith grows. We all bring something different to God's fire - various woods from rich mahogany to cheap pine, newspapers or charcoal. It does not matter our composition. When we all join together, we can do more than any of us alone.
Helleman said, "That's the beauty of the church. We're a great kaleidoscope. I'm always frustrated when people want to divide the colors out."
It is human nature to separate ourselves out by the variations within whatever kaleidoscope we are looking through, including our belief systems.
If I'm green and they are blue, they are missing the yellow and that is automatically wrong.
"That's not the nature of the Creator I see," Helleman said. "The world is this incredible mixture of things and people and ideas. There is such beauty in that."
Thus, let us not be the ones to pass judgement when another person looks through God's kaleidoscope and sees different patterns and colors. As people of faith, let us unite as God planned.
 

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