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Category Archives: Relationships

Hope Deferred

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Delayed promises, unfulfilled dreams, missed expectations. The things we humans hope for yet trust God that He has our best in mind and our puny hopes are replaced with His grand plans.

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Broken promises, disingenuity, deception. These are NOT words associated with a perfect heavenly Father. They are also not words and phrases one would expect to hear connected with God’s Church, yet today we see it still in many areas.

Why?

I believe one reason is that we’re in the last of days. No doubt our enemy, satan, knows this. Using every tactic he’s honed he desires to get the Church off track. His game plan is to get Christians focused on their belly buttons or the lint in someone else’s… Discourage believers with the heart-sickness of broken dreams… Cultivate Pastors and Elders deluded with authority, who forget servanthood and become like the Pharisees of old. He’d like to convince regular church goers that their weekday sins somehow fly under the radar and get as many folks believing they are Christian as if it is the same as “American” or “Canadian” while  being nothing remotely Christ-like.

Christ’s followers expect to be a fighter in a battle, not a potato on a couch. We’re promised tribulation, we’re asked to die to ourselves. We’re promised victory and great reward when we endure to the end. Somehow, though, it’s easier when the battle is against evil, against injustice outside the church walls. It’s harder when we find ourselves wounded by our own family. Yet isn’t our response to be the same? Keep our eyes on Christ, draw close to Him, count on Him for our justice either now or later, count on Him for our joy in spite of the pain.

I’m certainly not saying that’s easy. I think it’s one of the hardest things to do. Natural emotions are real. God gave us those emotions and doesn’t begrudge us when we experience them. My heroes in the faith have experienced deep emotions as a result of brother- or sister-inflicted wounds yet instead of retaliation they seek God and a trusted confident to work through the pain and arrive at a place of healing and wholeness.

Life is messy, inside and outside of the Church. I’ll take the messiness with a loving Father, Brother, and Helper to guide and comfort me over messiness with no hope and no support. This time on earth is a blink of an eye compared to eternity, what will be our response to injustice (inside and outside the church) and the call of God to die to ourselves?

Put on the “whole armor” friends — I don’t think the ride is going to get any smoother. 🙂

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Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Relationships, The Church, The Journey

 

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Do Not Be Deceived, Even in Church

A few months ago I posted a piece, Shunned: When Church Goes Terribly Wrong which received an incredible number of responses to my personal email. This actually surprised me but apparently (and very unfortunately) this is not as rare as I’d thought or imagined.

Today I read this blog post and felt it was an important add for anyone to read who commented or related to the above:

CONSIDERING (AND SURVIVING) UNHEALTHY CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS, PART 1

The author of this piece intends to add a couple of additional posts and I will add them here. I think it’s very important to recognize and deal with this if you find yourself in situations of a similar nature. If you do, LEAVE — sooner rather than later, to avoid developing unhealthy habits and piled up regrets. BUT don’t leave the Church, just leave the unhealthy group. Messed-up Pastors and church leaders are NOT Jesus Christ! Find a vibrant, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, people-loving church where the Pastor is a friend not a fixture, a shepherd and not a sheriff, and where you can use your gifts to serve and be real with people who encourage and do not quash your growing walk with and love for Jesus Christ.

Blessings,
Amy

UPDATE: Here are Parts 2 and 3:

CONSIDERING (AND SURVIVING) UNHEALTHY CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS, PART 2

CONSIDERING (AND SURVIVING) UNHEALTHY CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATIONS, PART 3

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Relationships, The Church

 

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Doors, Part One

I learned two new things I often incorrectly assume about ‘doors’ this week. First, that we Christians (especially in the West) assume God opens and closes them and we can rest secure in ordering our steps according to these “open doors,” but that’s not necessarily true. Second, that we often ascribe the verse about “God standing at the door of our heart, knocking” to the door of the heart of the unbeliever; Jesus waiting to be let in. That also, is not necessarily true.

This post will discuss the first “ah ha”: An open door does not mean God opened it.

I am reading “Tempted and Tried” by Russell Moore. In a chapter called “Slaughterhouse Drive” (about how cows are mercifully and calmly lead to their unexpected and painless death) there is this disturbing news:

You are being watched. The demonic powers have had millenia to observe human nature. . . . The spiritual powers out there are expert cosmic farmer-ranchers and are customizing a temptation plan that fits with the way your desires, particularly, work. They notice what turns your head, what quickens your pulse. Like the Roman guard feeling around, with a spike in one hand, on the Lord Jesus’ arm, seeking his vein under the skin, the demonic beings are marking out your weak points, sizing you up to that they might crucify you. They’ll find what you want and give it to you. . . Sometimes Christians make decisions based on opportunities come open. In our spiritual lingo we often talk about “open doors” and “closed doors” and “seeing where God is at work” in circumstances, as evidence of God’s leading us to do something or other. There’s a sense in which that’s wisdom, observing the situation around us in order to make a decision. But sometimes people will assume the “open doors” in their lives are all signals to go forward. How could it not be right when everything seems to be fitting together perfectly? But what if something wicked is just ahead of you, opening those doors for you, right down to the chambers of hell?

In looking back on my life I can see how this is so true. I grew up in a church where people were often heard to say “where God closes a door, He opens a window.” And I grew up believing circumstances such as opportunities landing in my lap, or plans abruptly interrupted were “signs” that I should walk this way or that. Looking back I see many “open doors” I walked through blindly…and right into a snare or deep, dark pit. Like the open door in the back of the wardrobe that is so difficult to be found again from the side of Narnia, the pit is hard to crawl out of…

This is not a word of gloom and doom, but hearkening to the wisdom of the author of the book cited above, to Proverbs, and to Christ Himself who clearly tells us that He is “sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

I must not forget I am not excused from the wrestling mat. If I am to follow Christ I must be a discerning disciple of His word and how to practically apply it (“study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”), I must put on the whole armor required for spiritual warfare, I am not to dismiss or minimize the determination of the enemy to keep me ineffective for the Kingdom (at the minimum) and destroy me (at the heart of the liar’s plan).

In this country we do so much in solitude and too little in community. Wrestling with cosmic powers of evil and engaging in spiritual warfare are not activities I wish to do alone. Pray for each other, confess to one another, encourage one another, bear one another’s burdens, speak the truth to one another in love: “We are better together,” especially in battle.

 

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Who Am I to Judge?

How many times have you heard someone misquote scriptures, admonishing us not to judge? Usually these folks also misquote scriptures about loving one another. In their theology we are neither to hold each other accountable nor point out any shortcoming or behaviors that would hinder either the person or the church. We’re just to “love” — whatever that kind of “love” means.

I think one of the reasons the American Church is weak and ineffective is because we have bought into the secular worldview of “tolerance” to the point that commands to encourage one another in the faith are about as watered down as the trite, “I’ll lift you up in prayer” and the wimpy, “Hang in there.” So when a sister in the faith is caught up in sin, or a brother’s actions clearly do not honor or bring glory to God, we look the other way. And those new to the faith or just considering Christ see this and think, “Why should I ‘get saved’? I’m as good or better than they are!” If you can’t tell the difference between the people in the pews and the brothers in the bars, what’s the point of church?

The title “Christian” means “little Christs.” We are to strive to be like Jesus. We are “the called out ones.” We are “set apart.” We are strongly admonished not to love the world or the things in the world. We are God’s family. We are the “bride of Christ.” Now if I dress like a hooker, drink like a fish, swear like a longshoreman, or stab my friends in the backs, you have every right (as my Christian brother or sister) to take me aside and lovingly point out to me my shortcomings (and if I was behaving like that you might also question whether I was following Christ!). I have told my friends that I expect them to show me my blind spots. I think if they don’t, they must not love me very much. Hebrews 3 tells us, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

In order to point out someone else’s mistake you must make a judgment about it. How else can you know? You see the behavior, you compare it to what God’s word says, you make a judgement as to whether it lines up or not, and act or speak accordingly. If you use my bathroom and find porn under the sink, it’s not a stretch to discern a problem. Discernment is sound judgement. Then you need to speak the truth in love. (This is extends to discerning bad from good, from better, from best doctrine as well, but that’s another post for another time…)

In 1 Corinthians 2:14 we read that the spiritual person is to judge all things. We have the mind of Christ. This does NOT mean we make a value judgement on our brother or sister. We do not make a judgment on the “severity” of the sin. We do not judge the heart or the motives. Leave that to the only One who can. Who is to say one sin is worse than another? And why do we presume to classify certain temptations as worse than others? Why do we shun the gay guy but come along side the man struggling with a porn addiction?

In 1 Corinthians 5 we see that church strongly chastised for not grieving over sin practiced by someone in the their midst and were called to remove that person from their fellowship. And of course we all know Matthew 18 where Jesus tell us to show our brother his fault privately. If he doesn’t repent, take a couple of others, and so on. We also know Jesus told us we need to take the ‘log’ out of our own eye before we can help a brother with the ‘speck’ in his. How often do we do this? And how often do we avert our eyes, embarrassed and sad and grieved but unresponsive?

I think another reason for missing the boat in this area is our lack of authentic Christian community. I Corinthians 12 tells us that “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” We are called to bear one another’s burdens and often than burden is unrelenting temptation as in the case of those recovering from addictions or struggling with homosexuality. Doing life together is often messy. We don’t want to get messy with others. So we leave them to struggle alone, we look the other way, we don’t follow Christ’s commands.

We are one body. We are to suffer together, we are to rejoice together. We are to encourage one another and hold one another accountable. We can do none of this if we don’t know each other. Strong and deep community breeds honest relationships; brothers and sisters with log-less eyes helping each other with specks. Outside a few vibrant small groups, I think this is largely missing in the church today. Let’s prayerfully consider how we might cultivate an authentic, vibrant, discerning, sin-confessing, healing community of believers. I’d like that very much.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in God's Word, Obedience, Relationships, Sin, The Church

 

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Storming the Gates of Hell. Like a Dove.

A couple of nights ago I watched the most wonderfully refreshing video on sharing your faith in a very winsome way. Greg Koukl teaches simple, easy and effective ways to engage people in spiritual discussion without defense or offense, without anger or anxiety. (This may not sit well with the “Turn or Burn” crowd, but they should be rethinking their no-win strategy, anyway.) This WILL resonate with those going through The Faith study by Chuck Colson or anyone who wants a NORMAL and relational way of discussing important topics.

I first read about Mr. Koukl’s book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions on Justin Taylor’s blog. It hosts the video I watched.

From there you can watch Part 2 of that same evening event on Vimeo, where you’ll also find other videos of similar teaching by Greg. You might also check out his organization and Web site, Stand to Reason.

Learning these tactics is critical for today’s Christ follower—with our culture bent on discrediting anything Christian and radical Islam raging across our campuses, we must be prepared “in season and out” to give solid reason for what we believe AND how best to do this. Understanding these tactics and using them is one of the best weapons against the enemy in our supreme endeavor to persuade folks off the path to hell. And we don’t have to go all commando to do it!

I hope you will make time to listen to the videos or buy the book. Let me know if you put this into practice and what your experiences are!

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Missions, Relationships, The Church

 

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Why Church is Fantastic

My pastor said something this morning that pleased me to no end: “If a church is dictating behaviors, that’s a huge red flag!” The church should stand on the authority of God (the Bible) and nothing else. We are to imitate Jesus, and no one else. So, if the church has expectations of its members that are outside that, major red flags should cause us to run to the scriptures and stand on truth alone.

I thought that was a very fitting thing to be said and a good way to start what I think is a deserved and required response to, “Shunned: When the Church Goes Terribly Wrong.” I mentioned that the response to that post was tremendous and it saddened me greatly that so many have been hurt by church leaders, church members or bad church doctrine. BUT it must be made very clear that those unfortunate and terrible situations should not and do not diminish the glory and perfection of God and His design for His followers on this earth.

Church is fantastic — when you’re in a good one! Here is why:

  1. Love! Everyone needs it and it’s not so easy to find. A good, solid church community is filled with people who love God, love each other, and love others outside their community. Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
  2. Related to this, the church is home to the proliferation of authentic relationships based on the solid foundation of shared beliefs. It is important to know what you believe and what the church believes. If either one doesn’t line up with the word of God, then there is a problem.
  3. Purpose. There are things we can do in community that we can’t do on our own. We are “better together.” Corporate worship is rich and fulfilling and a mirror of one of our major pastimes in heaven. We are encouraged and challenged by the preaching of the word of God. We use our gifts to help others and others’ gifts are used to help us. Only in a community of believers can we obey Christ’s command to remember Him through what we call “communion” or “the Lord’s supper.”
  4. Hope and healing. We get beat up all week long. We hear more lies than truth, we experience stress and anxiety, pain and fatigue, sometimes even depression and despair. The church is a safe haven where we can find arms to hold, words to comfort, empathy that others have been there and come through, and very real help in time of need.
There are many more reasons why church is fantastic, and I am so glad that most people I heard from, who were shunned from previous churches or experienced major hurts, are now happily engaged in a healthy community and healing from those wounds. But since we live in America, a nation where over 75% of its citizens believe they are Christian, there are a bunch of churches that are nothing more than “spiritual clubs” of sorts, with very little to recommend the Christ on Whom they base their name. A good set of guidelines for finding a good church and running from a “bad” one:
  1. Does the church preach from the Bible? Know the word of God and test the beliefs of the church against God’s word alone. Reject church doctrine or rules that are not grounded in the word of God. Reject churches that don’t preach the word at all. Don’t be shy about asking questions, both initially (who are you, what do you believe?) and later on (where is that in the scripture? can you explain more about that?). God gave you a brain: It’s OK to use it!
  2. Do you feel welcomed? The church is your spiritual family — you should soon feel like a welcomed friend, not an outsider. But don’t judge a book by its cover: One visit doesn’t provide the whole picture and the people you meet sitting next to you might be visitors just like you! You wouldn’t buy a house without checking it out thoroughly, do the same with your church family. Look for love and care demonstrated between people; Look for smiles and laughter, hugs and tears; Look for diversity; Look for authenticity.
  3. Pray. God knows exactly what you need. He knows others’ need that can be met by you. There is a place where everything gets worked out. It’s not always neat, because people are often messy, but within our fallen, messy, human relationships, there is beauty and something precious that just doesn’t happen elsewhere. Pray that God would clearly reveal the right community in which to become a part of the family.
There is more, like my personal favorite: Diversity! I love churches made up of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures, but above are the things that I have found to be very true, and very healing, for me.
And now I can say, “Church is fantastic!” Glory to God for His grace, mercy and love!
 
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Posted by on August 14, 2011 in God's Word, Relationships, The Church

 

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God’s Friends

Last week’s blog received a tremendous response. My heart grieves to learn SO many are wounded or still healing from hurtful words and actions of fellow Christians. While I have been preparing a follow up post on this topic, I came across this post from John Fischer which I think is pertinent and thoughtful. I repost it here for your refreshment:

http://catchjohnfischer.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/friends-of-god/

And please don’t forget to check out this Web site if you have been the victim of an abusive church relationship. There is hope and healing ALWAYS!  http://www.barnabasministry.com/

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2011 in God's Word, Relationships, The Church

 

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