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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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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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Sin? What Sin?

In the American church there is a practice commanded of us that people rarely obey. We are to confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed. I think there are many who walk around dealing with physical and spiritual illnesses unnecessarily simply because we refuse to acknowledge, let alone confess, our sins.

This morning I read John Fischer’s blog, The Catch, in which he discusses this. He concludes, “It is far worse, and does greater damage to others and the truth to hide your sin than to bring it out into the open.” Here is a link to the full post:

Claim and Shame

I believe real healing will come to believers who start to sincerely confess their sins to one another, and that revival would break out in any church that started acting like one, especially in this area. And if many churches started acting like they were part of The Church, there were most certainly be a sea change in our Western culture. I would seriously like to be part of that.

Would you?

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in God's Word, Sin, The Church, The Heart

 

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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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