FRAYED – A Church Unraveling

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My longest posts are, generally, the ones where I am pouring out my heart.   So, consider this your warning.  Grab a cup of coffee and get comfy, we may be here a for a while.   My heart is heavy to day.

In recent days my eyes have been opened to how others view the church, more so than ever.  In particular, it has been most apparent as more church/Christian scandals break the news.  From a popular Christian family (who is caught up in the sinful decisions of one of their sons), the Ashley Madison leak (which exposed the names of Christian men and women wrapped up in adultery), bakeries and state clerks (caught up in the gay marriage SCOTUS decision),  and into the press and debates over the released Planned Parenthood videos (and the push to defund Planned Parenthood).

We are called hypocrites for standing against gay marriage, while divorce is still rampant within the church.   In other words, they wonder why we consider ourselves an authority on what a healthy marriage actually looks like… since we can’t seem to get that right ourselves.  We lost our integrity.

We are called hypocrites for standing against something when our own past, or current hidden sins, are being exposed for the world to see.  We lost our transparency.

We are called a “hate group” because of the words of our mouths and behaviors/actions are anything but Christ like. We say the most terrible things about people who are not “just like us”.  We lost our love.

We tear apart people we have never even met based on what a news article says about them.  We cry paranoia over news reports and internet articles where we are only receiving part of the story.     We lost our discernment.

In stead of loving people, we feel justified in screaming “murderer” at a women who had an abortion.  Without any knowledge of the events that brought her to the clinic that day.  We don’t take the time to understand people, but feel justified in judging them.  We lost our compassion.

What does the world see, when it looks at us?  What are we known for?

By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35 (HCSB)

We have become our own greatest obstacle.

We argue over translations of the scriptures, then we wonder why the world doesn’t trust the scriptures to be accurate.

We argue over personal interpretations of scriptures, to the point that we have divided from a unified body of believers into denominations.  Then, we wonder why the world doesn’t trust that we know what we are talking about.

We rake leaders and teachers, over the coals in public and social media forums.  These are our own sisters and brothers in Christ!  Then, we wonder why the world doesn’t trust us with their failures and short comings.

We put on a false purity, holiness, righteousness, knowledge, wisdom, and illusions of “Christianity” instead of being authentic, transparent, and vulnerable.

We use judgement as a way to sit above others making our sin look smaller, because they are so much worse than we are.

We sell ourselves to the world as people who “have it all together” or “have all the right answers” and then we stumble and fall and discredit ourselves and our faith.  When the reality is that none of us have it all together or the right answers.  We are not spared trials and obstacles.  We simply have a hope that carries us through, and a trust that nothing we do when we fail can separate us from the LOVE OF GOD!

I find myself over, and over again, praying the Holy Spirit would convict us all to get beyond this place of division over foolish arguments and reconcile us to a united body of believers who stand in one accord, sharing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  That we can be like Paul, who admitted of the sinners he was the worst.   Using that as our platform to woe people to Christ, instead of our “holiness”.

We have become slaves to the traditions and human commands of what a “Christian” should look like, that we have neglected what the scriptures say.  These human commands, they sound good and right, but if we are not testing them to the scriptures, and not praying for the Holy Spirit to help us discern truth… we become trapped.

Colossians 2

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ.[a] All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.

I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature[b] dwells bodily[c] in Christ, 10 and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah.[d] 12 Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. 14 He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.[e]

16 Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.[f] 17 These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is[g] the Messiah. 18 Let no one disqualify you,[h] insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his unspiritual[i] mind. 19 He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.

20 If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. 23 Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.[j]

The hard truth is the greatest obstacle to our sharing of the Gospel, has become ourselves.

We are not known for our love, hope, and faith.

We are known for hate, judgement, and we lack the basic understandings of our faith.

We are guilty of quoting scripture out of context; or stating the Bible says something that can’t be found in any book, chapter or verse.  We look past certain scriptures as being “out dated” or part of a different “culture”  in one breath, while claiming we believe in the full authority of the scriptures in another breath.

We are unable to defend our faith, because we have not learned it.  We are not students of the word.  We are repeaters of other teachers.  And, even worse, we are repeaters of the teachers who say what we want to hear.  (2 Timothy 4:3)

We look to the scriptures to learn about ourselves.  How does this pertain to me, when we should be asking how it pertains to God.

We are no different than many of the churches in the NT days.

And difficult times are still ahead.

2 Timothy 3

But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!

For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men who are corrupt in mind, worthless in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress, for their lack of understanding will be clear to all, as theirs[a] was also.

10 But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, 11 along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 1Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God[b] and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We think that this warning in 2 Timothy 3 is about the world alone, but it isn’t.  This was a letter written to the church, about the things happening within the community and within the church.

We… the body of believers…. will become:

Lovers of self.

Lovers of money.

Boastful and proud.

Blasphemers.

Disobedient and Ungrateful.

Unholy, unloving, irreconcilable.

Slanderers, without self control.

Without love of what is good.

Traitors, reckless.

Conceited and lovers of pleasure over God.

We will hold to the form of godliness, but deny it’s power.

We will become so focused on loving people, that we will distance ourselves from The Word.  Or, we will become so legalistic to the Scriptures, that we will distance our selves from the people who need to hear it the most.

The lion doesn’t go after the animals in the pack, he goes after the one who is isolated, alone, and hurt.  Isolated from the body of believers, as we miss corporate worship.  Isolated from our sisters in Christ, as we hold grudges and fight against reconciliation.  Hiding from our family, instead of embracing them.  Isolated from the Word as we become more dependent on what others say about it, versus reading it for ourselves.  Isolated as we become too busy to – pray, study, attend service, fellowship with other believers.

Our “righteous” divisions are isolating ourselves from the greater body.

And we think we are being holy.

That we have some greater knowledge than they do.

That our self gratifying interpretation is better.

We argue with fellow believers instead of loving them.

We have become proud, and our pride is literally festering and manifesting itself in every area of our lives.

And then we wonder why we are not known by our love?

Our love, has been overshadowed.

We have overshadowed Christ, with our own self righteousness.

We want the world to see us, how holy we are, how knowledgeable we are, and how much will live “in accordance to the scriptures”.

But we are told that all of that means nothing, if we don’t have love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Being right, has become more important than love.

If you wonder why no one seems to listen to you, I wonder…

Are you the sound of love?  Or, are you just making noise?

For the Love of Peace….

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This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

For the Love of Peace

If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (HCSB)

The pressures of life are surmounting.   The pressures on women are driving us to anxiety and depression.  Once upon a time, the only expectations upon us were to be image bearers, good wives, good mothers, good stewards, and good students of the word.  Over the course of history, to modern day, those expectations grew.

A perfect home.

Perfect children.

The perfect wife.

Then we added to those pressures as women entered the work force.   Now not only did we have to be perfect in every way at home, but also at work.  As more women entered the work force, the expectations upon them grew to become a super woman.

Then, there was a shift.  Women began staying home with their children again.  However, this added to the pressures of the perfect home life because she no longer had to balance outside work and housework.  We thrust upon her the notion that children’s birthday parties had to be grand, we needed to scrapbook every day of our children’s lives, and that we had to not only be the super mom… but also the super wife.  Proverbs 31 Woman became a piece of scripture that women were clinging to in order to become the super Christian woman, as well.

The pressure was mounting.

And then, it happened… social media exploded and took women along for the ride.

We had Pinterest to help us make the perfect meals, hand craft decorations for our homes, and upping the children’s birthday party to epic levels.

Facebook tossed in our faces, daily, the women who were winning at life.  Working out every day to maintain her perfect body.  Her perfect weekend crafting with her kids.  Date night, once a week, with her perfect husband.  The flowers he sends her, the gifts he gives her, the attention he showers her with.

Instagram became a revealing window to how much fun others were having, without us.  We saw their “girls weekend getaway” that we were not invited to.   We commented on the fifty hand made invitations for her Women’s Ministry luncheon.  We loved her outfit of the day photo, while we sat in the jeans we bought six years ago that are holding on by threads.

The pressure kept growing… and growing….

Before we could even realize it was happening, the green eyed monster of envy was rearing it’s ugly head.  To see it, we just had to look in the mirror.

We were jealous of her doting husband.

We felt left out of the fun.

We didn’t think we could compete with her talent.

We were no longer content with our homes, or their decor.

We lamented over our lack of funds to go on vacations or buy new clothes.

We began to hate our own bodies.

We became jealous over the opportunities their children have.

And that is when it happened, the pressure became too much.. and we blew up.

On the inside.

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  When these things happen, when the pressure grows to the point where we are going to blow…  someone is inevitably going to get caught in the wake of the explosion.

We will hate our selves, for the areas we failed.

We will hate our families, for what they are not.

We will hate others, for what they have … and we don’t.

Jealousy will poison our souls to the point that it will destroy us from the inside out, if we don’t spiritually check ourselves.

When these pressures surmount like this, we have only two ways to respond after we blow our tops.

  1.  We pull up our big girl panties, set our minds right, and find peace with the blessings that God has given us.

—-  OR —-

2. We begin to elevate ourselves, by tearing down others.

There are so many scriptures that point us toward peaceful living.  Blessed are the peacemakers (Matt 5:9),  Seek and Pursue Peace (Psalm 34:14), There is Future for those in Peace (Psalm 34:34), Live at Peace with Others (Romans 12:18)… these are just a few.  God wants us to be at PEACE in our lives, not fear… not anxiousness… not jealousy or discontent.   God wants us to LOVE in our lives, not hate… not condemn… not hurt or divide.  In fact, God’s word says that we will be KNOWN BY OUR LOVE (John 13:35).  When we LOVE, we not only have peace in our own lives, but we GIVE PEACE TO OTHERS.

God wants us to live in peace, and yet more often than not…  we go the other route.

Whether it is rooted in jealousy or a lack of confidence in ourselves (and our decisions or abilities), we begin to lash out.    It starts with the thoughts in our heads, begins to fall out of our mouths in our words, and then eventually felt in our actions and deeds.

We create competition, where there is none.  We become critical of their decisions and opportunities, instead of embracing our own unique blessings.  We try and bring others to our side, by gossiping about the person.  We try and force our opinions on others, not because we desire to see change in them for the better, but really to affirm that we are right.  Our thoughts become so self centered, that we can no longer see that person(s) in a positive light.   If we are not careful, it can begin to consume us.

If we are not at peace, we are at war… within our own heart and mind.  War is messy, and it has many casualties.  It will cost you happiness, contentment, and relationships.

 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7 (HCSB)

Do not be conformed to this world, choose to live in peace.  Be known for your love.

“Let’s lay down our junk, our wonky junk that messes up relationships and community and togetherness. We won’t let our own crazy stop us from affirming each other and banging the drum for our sisters.” – Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

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Learn more about Jen Hatmaker’s new book “For the Love” at:  http://forthelovebook.com/

BOOK REVIEW: The Whole Bible in 16 Verses!

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses” by Chris Bruno.  While Family Christian did gift me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own. 

16verses

If someone came up to you, and asked if you could summarize the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, could you? What would be the key points you would want to include? What is the most important scriptures that you would want to convey? Those are some tough questions.

However, they are important questions for anyone serving in ministry. If we are teaching children, we need to understand the overall theme of the Bible. If we are leading a ministry or teaching bible studies, we should have a basic grasp of the overarching story line.

If you could only have twenty minutes with someone, to share the structure of God’s Word, there is a lot of text to shuffle through. Everything is important, it is the life breath of God in written word, that allows us to commune with Him. How do you cut anything out?

The good news, you don’t have to. Until you are at a place where you are an expert theologian, someone else has stepped up to the plate to identify the entire story of the bible, in just sixteen verses.

Chris Bruno tackles this task perfectly, but writing a concise and to the point guide through the scriptures that best represent that over all theme of The Word. The chapters are short and easy to tackle, making this book a perfect addition to your morning devotions. His organization of the selected scriptures covers everything from creation, biblical prophesy, fulfillment in Jesus Christ and the end of days, still to come. Bruno also takes care to help guide the new believer, or new Bible reader, on the next steps to take after finishing this book. Bruno points the reader back to the original text, God’s word. This clearly indicates this book is not a replacement for the true word of God, “read this and you’ll have all you need to know”. NO! Instead, Bruno gives us the prompting to learn more on our own and fill those gaps between the sixteen verses.

The chapters are structured in a manner that helps you not just understand the scripture, but how they each fit into the story over all.

If you are a new believer, or wanting to read the bible for the very first time, this is a great book to start with. It is also a great option for evangelism, have a few copies on your bookshelf to share and give away. It’s simple, easy to read and to the point; this book will not overwhelm someone who is encountering God for the very first time.

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