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Category Archives: The Church

You Are Capable (of great sin)

There but for the grace of God go I. (John Bradford)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

I am more than capable. So is everyone. If you deny it you need to repent for lying to yourself and everyone else. (Barnabas Piper)

This is good:

Shelve Your Shock.

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Posted by on April 11, 2014 in God's Word, Grace, Sin, The Church

 

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For Your Consideration 7.12.13

I received “God’s Favorite Place on Earth” by Frank Viola today! Very excited to dig in and offer a review in the coming days.

In the meantime,here are a couple of blog posts published at Desiring God that challenged and encouraged me this week:

If you have not read anything by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, you really must. This piece will give you a taste of not only her story, but her exceptional writing style. An excerpt:

The Bible is not some pragmatist’s paradigm. It is the double-edged sword that chiseled truth into my stony heart, rendering it new and with it, recreating me as a new creature in Christ, a daughter of the King. I have no personal sexual orientation to call my own after Christ chisels my heart anew — and neither do you. We have Christ orientation, an alien identity to which we claim no rights. Do we struggle with sin? Yes. Is temptation a sin? No. What distinguishes temptation from sin? Temptation clobbers you from the outside and lures you to do its bidding. Sin makes temptation a house pet, gets it a collar and leash, and is deceived to believe that it can be restrained by impositions of civility. What you do with temptation reveals Who owns your heart. How you talk about other people’s sin patterns reveals Who owns your heart.

Read the rest here in her post called, DOMA and the Rock.

The second, written by Jonathan Parnell, is Three Things We Should Know About God. And I confess, “Creator” was one of my three. Think of three things that come to your heart and mind when you think of God then read this post. I promise you will be thankful and encouraged. Here’s a sample:

When you think of God, do you think happy? Or do you think stern? Sadly, it is common for us to think of God as a negative caricature would depict him. Do you think of him frowning? Is he seething with anger like a capricious despot? Or do you see him who is glad at heart — glad in the glory of his Son and the communion that they share? Do we see him as the Father who said of Jesus, with no hesitation, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17)? Do we see him as the Father who delights to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32)? Do we see him as the God who overflows with joy when a sinner repents (Luke 15:7)?

So long as sin exists, he feels indignation every day (Psalm 7:11). But at heart — who he is in himself — God is happy. To grasp this truth will work wonders in our souls.

Keep feeding your mind and soul with GOOD things. Drink deeply from God’s rich word, and never stop learning, seeking, growing, thirsting, following hard after Him.

Blessings on you this weekend!

 

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Honor Much, Suffer Well

I feel the need to apologize. But let me set this up.

Like many Christian leaders, I believe we are living in the last days. Like many believers, I think our country is, like my Grandpa used to say, going to hell in a handbasket. I am like many American Christians: saddened, angry and frustrated at the actions of our government and decisions by our judges and courts. Until now I have been very vocal about my feelings about these things.

This morning, however, a 26-year-old brilliant speaker and one of the Pastors at my church spoke on a passage of scripture in 1 Peter 2 (verses 11-25). His message, titled, “A Colony of Heaven in a Hostile World,” challenged us to “honor much and suffer well” as we face difficult situations in our personal lives and within our radically changing culture. He reminded us that God’s word commands us to honor the Emperor (or respect the King) and that for us, today, that means our President. Unpacking that phrase he showed us that this means to honor, respect and assist those in authority. I have to admit, I bristled a bit at that.

I confess: I think our current President is the worst we’ve ever had. I think he’s incompetent, deceitful and manipulative. I think his actions clearly show his disregard for our Constitution, citizens’ rights, the Founders’ intent, and the very fabric of our great country. I think he’s aiding and abetting our enemies and is playing fast and loose with our taxes. I could go on, and no doubt many of you agree. I don’t think it’s wrong to state opinion when based on public fact.

The Emperor was Nero when Peter wrote his letter. He was one of the worst tyrants in history. He hated Christians so much that he would impale them on stakes and set them on fire in his gardens and porticos for light in the evenings. I’m pretty sure Peter’s contemporaries were talking about this — it was most certainly fact. It was most certainly evil and wrong. Yet this is the dude Peter said to “honor, respect and assist.” Now, I am pretty up to date on news that even the mainstream media refuses to report, but I’m pretty sure President Obama hasn’t lit up any believers for lamplight on the White House lawn, yet.

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So here is my apology: I have spent a lot of energy sharing op eds, blogs and articles on Facebook, Twitter, and Scoop.it that were unkind to the President and other leaders. While staying away from the photos with “IDIOT” stamped across the foreheads of prominent leaders saying and doing silly things, I have “liked” posts that disrespected and dishonored the President and other leaders. I apologize. I recognize that God expects me to travel a higher road. I realize that as a follower of Christ I am to emulate Him and we never once heard Him diss the Emperor.

Pastor Travis Clark went on share that “the most Christ-like think you can do is love and honor those you completely disagree with,” and he quoted Jeremiah 29:7:

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

The city referenced here is Babylon, where God sent the Israelites into slavery. For a very, very long time.

So, should we do less? I don’t find it difficult at all to love and honor friends with whom I disagree. But how do you love and honor those who lead poorly, treat you badly, persecute you, and take away your rights?

  • Pray
  • Find common ground
  • Point to Jesus

This does NOT mean to put your head in the sand! We are still called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. We are to be knowledgeable. We are to “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17). DO serve the less fortunate, DO work to correct injustice, DO vote in the next elections and do it with knowledge about the candidates and the issues and wisdom about how they line up with the word of God. Do these things with honor.

“The Gospel is not just a call to heaven–it is a call to a new order of life here and now.” (Another great quote from Pastor Travis.)  “For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” (2 Corinthians 6:2). When we honor much and suffer well, God gets all the glory. Let’s make sure we glorify our one, true King by obeying his words to respect and honor our current “king.”

After all, in God’s economy things are not how we think. Remember, ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first’? Why shouldn’t we believe that if we respond as God commands He will do great things, just at the right time? I believe He will. So I will stop dissing Mr. Obama and start finding common good. I will pray for our leaders, this nation, and for God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

 

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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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American Christians and the Government

There is no doubt that we are watching textbook tyranny unfold before us. The rights and liberties of American Christians, Americans without a voice, and now American conservatives in general, have been slowly and steadily stripped over the last two decades. Laws reflecting moral decline are in place largely because Christians and God-believing conservatives have done nothing, or at least not enough.

Perhaps some feel that a Christian’s business is about the Church and not the government. Politics are dirty business and we don’t want to go there. Some stick their head in the sand hoping it will all go away and God will wave His hand and make it all right some day. (He certainly will, but how terrible will be that wave!)

The country was founded on Christian principles by God-fearing men. Our constitution is not outdated and is meant to protect our freedom from tyranny, but there are those in power today who would like to label it antiquated and wipe it away.

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We are called to be salt and light, yet where are we in this season, in these debates? We are told to be gentle as doves yet wise as serpents. Are we obeying? Do we know what is at stake? It seems clear to me that satan is behind the sinister goings on in our government and administrative pawns are playing in his hands. The battle is not with men and women, but with spiritual principalities and powers of darkness. We must pray. Pray for revival. Only a heart-change in the leaders of this country and its citizens will right this listing ship.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.  ~1 Timothy 2:1-6

But prayer is key but it is not the only thing we should do. We must not be silent. Our examples in God’s word show Jesus and His disciples speaking loudly and clearly to religious leaders and government officials. We speak by voting, we speak by writing and calling our elected representatives, we speak by sharing truth with others. We speak by refusing to go along with laws or mandates that are contrary to God’s word. We speak by defending the defenseless. We speak by our actions: Caring for the sick, poor, homeless, imprisoned as if each of them were Christ Himself.

This world is not our home. Let’s not be comfortable with it. May we not be found sleeping on the job!

 

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

With God, there is neither turning nor shifting of shadow. He does not change. With us humans, however, there is change galore. Some of us crave it (and in its absence will rearrange the livingroom furniture) and some of us hate it (resisting with every fiber of our being the slightest change to the routine we have come to cherish). But there is something to be said about balance when it comes to change.

God calls us to change in many ways. When He calls us to repent He calls us to change our mind and walk the other way. When He calls us to be transformed into the image of His Son, He calls us to change the way we think and act. We don’t do these things on our own, of course, but by the power of His Spirit. Christ followers don’t disagree with these changes — they are required processes for every believer. Yet we do seem to get quite agitated when faced with external change initiated by others or even circumstances. We bristle if we do not understand the reason for the change and fold our arms in defiance if we disagree with it.

This happens in American churches every day. I’ve seen it often since I became a Christian in 1968. Looking back, some of the changes are laughable: When the traditional church in which I grew up had the wooden pews padded, and when the first electric guitar was played in a Sunday service.(OH! the talk…!) Some changes were concerning, like the man-made rules introduced left and right at a church I attended for a few years in my early 20’s. And some were necessary, like hard decisions required to deal with suffering finances or striving to be a relevant voice to a spiritually dying community.

My church is going through a pretty big change right now. Friends are dealing with it in very different ways. My small group of women has been discussing the thoughtfulness and balance required to properly approach and navigate change that isn’t easily understood. Since we’re in the midst of the journey these aren’t complete answers, but rather steps to consider when dealing with change that may introduce discomfort. Here are some things we’ve been discussing:

  1. Pray. This counsel can be applied in any situation and should be the first any of us do when we don’t understand something or seek to understand something. If we haven’t spent a good amount of time talking to God about the situation, we don’t have the right to speak much about it to others.
  2. Ask. Avoid hypotheses and speculation and conversation that may stir up strife. Go straight to someone who has the answer (after step one above, of course!) and ask, with humility and sincerity. Then listen well. Continue the dialog if necessary.
  3. Wait. Recognize that sometimes the answers aren’t complete or fully known, especially when change is fresh. Be patient, leaders are often still working through how to respond and manage the change themselves. Give them time to seek God and make decisions.
  4. Watch (Your Mouth). Avoid whining, complaining, jumping to conclusions, gossiping, or bad-mouthing God’s elect. This produces a bitterness in your own heart while causing dissention and division. We are called to be one as God is One. Loving each other is a sign we are His. Not loving is a sign we are the Devil’s. Hating a brother or sister is a serious sin.
  5. Help. Find out how you can support the change, be involved in a ministry, meet a need, make new friends. Being active members of the body enables us to be more patient, see more clearly, love more deeply, and mature more rapidly.
  6. Pray (Some More!). Perhaps it is time for you to move on to another ministry or church family. Let God be the One to direct you in that decision, not your current discomfort. Is there a clear word to go or stay? Listen. Until there is a clear conviction in your heart, see #3 and continue to pray.

My story: I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I am called specifically to the church I now attend — it wasn’t my own decision. This was several years ago. Since that time there have been a couple rough patches. Very close friends have left. At one point a friend encouraged me to join her in an exodus. I listen to my close friends and take their admonishment seriously, but God has the final word. He did not then, nor has He yet, prompted me to leave this family. Many things are changing. Some things I don’t yet understand. Many faces are different, I am missing familiar brothers and sisters and meeting new ones, but this is my family. And as long as it is called “today” I will be encouraged and encourage my friends.

Young Woman Facing the Sky

So, turn and face the change.

What works best for you when you are dealing with change?

 

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2012 in 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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