Church

Who Are You – Really?

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When your words and actions can continue to be consistent – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when integrity follows you.

When your opinion of another remains the same – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you can be trusted with relationships.

When it isn’t necessary to play the victim role or the pity card for attention – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you are strong in character… and in internal stature.

When your personality and values do not change – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when you carry yourself with authenticity.

When you no longer need to “keep up with the Jones” – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your security is not in things, and you have learned to be content.

When your convictions remain firm – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your beliefs are your own, and not wavering with the winds.

When your worship and wonder of God remains outside of Sunday mornings – regardless of who is present, or who is no longer in your presence – that is when your “love relationship” is with God and not 4 walls of brick and mortar.

Who are you?

Taking no thought of who is present…… or who has walked away……..

Who are you?

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God Can’t Make Me Sick

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God can’t – won’t – doesn’t make me sick.  He cannot do so.

I’ve known good people who got sick. I’ve known not-so-good people who got sick.  And I’ve known Godly people who got sick unto death.

I’ve also heard, at times, someone say “God made me sick”, God caused this for His purposes”, or “God must’ve needed another angel” when someone has died.

If I said “I hate to disagree” I would be dishonest.  I don’t hate to disagree.  I, very adamantly, disagree with the notion that God makes us sick or needs us in Heaven and so He causes us to suffer with agonizing symptoms and to waste away miserably and painfully with our families/friends aching as we die.  That is the opposite of the heart of Christ.  And Jesus – very boldly – said “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen My Father”.

When Jesus walked the earth, He. Healed.

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” – Matthew 4:23

“…who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.” – Luke 6:18-19

“but the crowds… followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” – Luke 9:11

There are no instances where Christ made someone sick, or caused someone to be sick.  None.

There are no instances where Christ caused someone’s death because God “needed them”.  Matter of fact, Lazarus died and Jesus raised him up.  Four. Days. Later.

AND, Elijah and Enoch simply went to be with the God of the Heavens.  They weren’t stricken with a disease and painfully suffer until they died.  They “went to be” with God.  Moses, Methusaleh, Adam, Joseph, the list goes on of those who knew God and simply lived until they died.  They lived their years of promise and their bodies “resigned” so that they could be with the God Who made them.

Nope.  God doesn’t make me sick.  He can’t.  It would require that He go against His own character, which would make Him dishonest.  And God is not able to lie.  He is not capable of darkness.  There is no sickness or death in Him.

Then where does sickness originate?

As Christ-followers…. actually, as human beings created in the image of God, we have an enemy.  From the time that Adam and Eve were created to this day, the “enemy of our Spirit” – in other words Satan (yes, he does exist) – has sought to prevent us from drawing close to God, from trusting God, from understanding His fierce love, and from receiving His undeserved yet freely given grace.  He has fought, rather warred, against mankind in an effort to keep us from what he no longer has – a relationship with and direct access to God.

And when Adam and Eve disobeyed God they opened the way for sin, disobedience, disease, and death to enter into the life of every man who would follow.  Sin. Darkness. Death. They all entered this, now fallen, world and were followed by natural consequences and all things “bad”.

Why did God allow it?  Why were these things given entrance into the world? Because man chose.  Man chose to disobey and, therefore, to allow the spirit that was contrary to God’s to come into the world.

Why does God allow good, Godly, people to suffer with sickness? I don’t know why some are supernaturally healed and others remain ill.  I don’t know why some are miraculously preserved from death and others join God too early.  I don’t know.  And neither does anyone else.

There are some things we don’t understand.  But what we should understand is (again) where Christ said “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen My Father”.  We should understand how the disciples continued to affect the world like Christ and they healed others in His name.  They didn’t cause others to be sick.  They didn’t wish sickness on anyone.  They DID admonish, at times after healing someone, to go and change the habits/patterns of life or suffer consequences worse than the original sickness.  However, the disciples never prayed for someone to get sick or gave them a sickness. They followed Christ’s example and healed… cured… those who were diseased.

If you believe that God caused you to be sick, or made you sick, then why ask others to pray for you to be healed?  Wouldn’t that be asking God to go against Himself?  Seems like a waste.  Or a contradiction.

Selah.

“Every GOOD and PERFECT gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

“…Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.…” – James 5:14-16

Car Clings and Commmitment

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So I Attached a cling to my car yesterday. Only the 3rd that I have put on any car in dozens of years.

I typically don’t put them on because it’s rare that I find one creative enough to be appealing for me. (However, I do have a “We will We Will WOK you” one that I plan to put on in honor of my crazy Asian Shmexy because I think it’s hysterically funny given the context of life with Jun-Jun!)

I also don’t put them on because, to me, they are a commitment. Placing a cling on your car is making a very public statement that you are committed to the cause of whatever is displayed on your vehicle…. and you will, therefore be judged according to those things.

For instance: I have never put a “Jesus fish” on my car because 1. Jesus was not a fish. 2. I have never, ever, been persecuted like the Christ-followers of old who used this symbol as a way to find one another. And 3. Although I find honking long and loudly, middle fingers, cursing/yelling at others, and other immature displays of aggressive road rage ridiculous, I have been known to look at someone with THAT look and shake my head in derision while muttering loudly about their incompetent driving and such in my not-so-far-in-the-past mild road rage days. Wouldn’t have represented the “Jesus fish” very well now, would it?

And I’ve never put a “save the tatas” cling on NOT because I don’t support breast cancer awareness – and not because I am not proud that there is a movement towards a cure – but because I participate in absolutely nothing breast-cancer-awareness related except to have that compassion for sufferers and survivors in my own heart. So why advertise as if I am passionately involved in finding a cure, running the annual race, and furiously donating money to the cause? (Put down your judgment gavel, please. And no, I don’t judge others who have all these cause-related clings because I don’t know their life. This is a PERSONAL random conviction – not one that I apply to every soul that breathes.)

Plus – even the window clings are hard to get off after a while.

Anyway – the point…
I put a cling on (No, not a Klingon) yesterday because 1. I was given it and 2. I am cautiously optimistic about being part of a place where my husband is excited to be, learning about forgiveness/character/grace, and growing.  I see him growing through scripture, teachings, and the recent joining of a small group of people who talk about the realities of walking with Christ (in spite of his insecurities regarding people getting to know him and vice versa). And I’m beyond thrilled that HE is motivated to be a part. So, with his blessing, I took the plunge and attached the cling to the rear window of my car. Bam! There’s a commitment sticker on my window. Just like that.

An artistically creative cat face, an asian “punny” tribute to Queen, and an Elevation cling. Pretty strange combo for a pretty eclectic mix of a family. Well… we’re nothing if not real. 🙂

PS – I’ll probably find a cling, one day, that honestly articulates being a real follower of Christ who is authentic, faulty, flawed, and doing their dang best but liable to make many a mistake along the way. (Contrary to all the “Christian kitschy” that is out there now.) And that one I’ll grab up and stick on there too…. and probably give away like candy.

Pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and do something?

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“Love God, love people”.

Seems to be the catchphrase of churches today.  Looks great on a billboard or t-shirt.  Sounds like a great mantra.  Excellent quote for a bumper sticker.  Blogs and books are written about it quite a lot these days.  I see/hear/read that phrase everywhere of late.  It’s an inspiring, healthy, scripture-based phrase.  Can’t argue with that. Right?

Oh, but I can.

Last week, my daughter and I were out in our community and we pulled up to a red light.  In front of us was a church with a large yard banner that read… you guessed it… “Loving God. Loving People.” I sighed and said “It’d be nice if churches did more than just post that quote everywhere”, which prompted a conversation with my daughter about the importance of doing versus simply saying something so powerful.

Church-folk, we need to have the same conversation.  Can we talk?

Can we!  Churches, and church-folk, can talk a good talk.  We can talk for hours on end…all about church.

We talk about inviting people to church.  What the church is doing this week. What the church has challenged us to do.  How much we give to the church. How the church is doing this or that this week and you must come.  How well the church is doing because we had this many or that many on any given day.  We church-folk can talk about “our” church.

And we can talk about our church leaders.

How much we don’t agree with this leader.  Or how that leader is “not in their place of giftedness” (which, in non-church vernacular means that they should quit – or be removed from their position – and do something else because we think that they suck at what they’re doing).  We talk about this one that’s controlling.  This one’s “falling away”, or “in sin”, “not hooked up anymore”, or “struggling with something”, because they’re not doing as many things inside the four walls of the church (building) as they used to.  OR we talk about our poor, pitiful, pastor and his wife.  They’re so misunderstood and unsupported.  Life is so difficult for them.  They don’t have good “armor-bearers” and there is too much demand placed on them.  They’ve got such a hard calling to minister/serve the people in the church, it’s a wonder that they stay. (Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve served in church leadership for over 20-some years and it’s no ball of fun at times, can be very difficult, and is – most definitely – not for the faint of heart. However, the pity parties don’t accomplish anything except division.)

We can also talk about each other.  Like. Dogs.

She doesn’t live up to our standards for her life.  He isn’t doing what we think he should be doing (because, you know we know better than he/she does regarding what God has spoken to them or intended for them). How dare they leave our church?  “They’re not following God they’re following a man.”  “They left us abandoned”.  “Their heart isn’t right” because they left, so let’s talk about them to everyone we know that they know and see if we can’t damage their heart even more by our gossip and hurtful words.

We can talk.

We can also talk about those who don’t attend any church. Those who believe differently from us.  Those who don’t WANT anything to do with church – or Christ – for whatever reason.  “Those people”… “Them”… “Non-believers”… “Seekers”… “Sinners” (which, last time I checked defined every single one of us who breathes.  But I digress.)… “Un-churched”.  We talk about how they need to come to our church.  How they need to “get connected” with our groups.  How “they” are going to hell.  How God hates “them” and what they do.  How “they” are wrong and we’re right.  How “they” don’t act/speak/live in a way that meets our approval because we “talk the talk and walk the walk”, meanwhile “they” do not even know what the heck we are talking about.

We talk and we talk and we talk.  All while our little church logos, bumper stickers, and banners wave in the wind crying “We love God and we love people!”

It looks real nice on that church sign.  And we wear it proudly on our pre-washed bright colored t-shirt.  But here’s a “solid” for you: Words. Mean. Nothing. Without. Actions.

Scripture says: “You shall love the Lord, Your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no greater commandment than these.” – Mark 12:30-31

And in James 2:14-26 we’re admonished not to just wish a “God bless you” on people in faith, but to do something to meet their practical needs.

And there’s the ever popular 1 Corinthians 13.  “The love chapter”.  Part of which – verses 4-8 – people quote in marriage ceremonies, public speeches, and more.  However, the first 3 verses aren’t very well known.  They’re a little more challenging.  A little more of a “truth slap” to those of us who claim to follow Christ.  Here’s a paraphrase from a recent sermon I heard about these 3 verses:

It doesn’t matter how “in tune with the Spirit” I believe that I am, if I do not love others – graciously and without expecting something in return – then I am nothing but a lot of loud noise, according to God. (- 1 Cor 13:1 para) Spiritual gifts, “experiences”, knowledge is not ultimately the point. Without love it means nothing. (- 1 Cor 13:2 para) Even if I do the most extravagant thing that I can, to show how spiritual I am, but do it for any other reason but love, it doesn’t matter. (- 1 Cor 13:3 para)

So, churches and church-folk, how about we stop talking and do something about loving God and loving people?

How about instead of expecting people to come to our fabulous, exciting, well-done, sometimes spirit-filled, church service (all of which I, personally, love attending myself, btw), we GO into all the world and share the gospel by loving others practically and meeting their needs?

How about instead of using the money that people have given – because pastors have taught them “do not mock God, but bring 10% of everything you make to church first” (another post, another day) – to pad a “rainy day” bank account like a hoarder who doesn’t want to let the smallest thing go… how about we use some of that money to do things for the community that we are planted in and the people – both in our church and without – who have real needs?  Wouldn’t that demonstrate Christ a little better than money in the bank?

Or what if, instead of starting our own “helping” organizations – that compete with the ones already proven and serving in the community – so that we can proudly boast about how we have a “Christian” soup kitchen, food pantry, clothing bank, homeless shelter, serving organization to exalt our name… what if we pooled our resources, time, and energy to come alongside those already established places and “make a name for ourselves” as the church that truly gets involved by working with our community organizations by providing love, support, and volunteer hours?

What if, instead of having to advertise that we “love God and love people” with printed chotchkes, stickers, and signs, it was simply known that that group of people who attend that church really love God and care about people, all because it was demonstrated instead of talked about?

The bottom line… Christ didn’t just talk about serving others, loving others, dying for others.  He DID SOMETHING.  His hands and feet were always extended to give, serve, love, help, touch, do, and provide the ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us.

Talk is cheap. Doing something that demonstrates Christ to others is what matters.  Otherwise, we’re just making noise… unpleasant, undesirable, unheeded noise with our ever-moving lips.

Again, pardon my cynicism, but can we please stop talking and actually DO something?

CATALYST 2014 – Strengthen Your Core

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Core

Reviewing notes from the 2nd session of Catalyst, with Christine Caine, and my mind and heart are, again, challenged and convicted.  Following is a cursory summary of things my spirit – and pen – “caught” from her passionate fire. (Direct quotes are in italics)

Christine Caine:

Christine shared her own recent and personal battle with cancer, surgery, and recovery. She talked about how, in order for her body to be strengthened following surgery, it was necessary for her to strengthen her core before proceeding with more strenuous exercises.  She had been warned that, if she didn’t re-strengthen her core – and resumed running too early – her body would, eventually, collapse. She likened this to our spiritual life.

“If we haven’t strengthened our spiritual core, eventually our world will collapse.”

Matthew 22:34-40: 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

“The typical ‘Christian’ is trying to serve God with a toxic heart, a wounded soul, and a tormented mind.”  If we don’t allow His presence into these, the deepest places where we have been hurt and damaged [our core], then we cannot be capable leaders.

“We are a bunch of Christians running around wanting to change the world but not willing to be changed.  Until we change ourselves we will never change the world.”

“My gift wouldn’t have taken me where my character couldn’t have kept me without a strong spiritual core.”  In other words, character has to be developed, and God must be granted full access to the darkest places in our heart, soul, and mind, in order to be effective with the gifts that He has given.

Addressing the heart:

“You do what you want when it’s a passion.  You do what you have to when it’s an obligation.  Remember when serving God was a passion?”

If our leadership is about us and our satisfaction, our ego, and/or our self-fulfillment, then how does God fit into this? “If your heart is so full of yourself then there’s no room for Him.”

As Christ-followers, if we aren’t seeking Him passionately…. “If Jesus is not enough for His church then why would he be enough for the world?”

“Get off of Facebook and in the face of God!”

“Skinny jeans and tattoos do not make you a powerful leader for God.  Being filled with the presence and power of God makes you a powerful leader!”

In reference to the soul:

When we prayed to receive Christ, our soul wasn’t instantly changed and all of the damage completely healed.  Our soul was saved… redeemed… yet still needed (or needs) to be healed and restored. But many of us have locked God out of the very place that – when healed – can be stronger and so much more powerful.

“The pain of recovery is often more powerful than the pain of injury.”

“If we don’t allow God to ‘go in deep’ and heal the wounded places in our soul it will become infected and seep out, like [disgusting and oozing] pus, into your leadership.”

We go to church on Sundays and yet don’t allow God to change the deepest part of us.  We don’t allow Him into our lives the rest of the week, so our souls are gasping for breath and life. “If we could stop surviving on church as if it’s life support then we could be the powerful and prophetic people we were called to be!”

And what about the mind?:

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Be ruthless about what goes into your mind!  “Don’t ‘jump on the enemy’s train of thoughts of worry, negativity… fear.”  2 Timothy 1:7 says for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

We often lie awake at night with our mind filled with worry and fear.  We forget that “My God never sleeps or slumbers!  He’s always working in every situation so God’s got this. I’m gonna get some sleep!”

And when we allow the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Never Sleeping God access to the damaged places of our heart, soul, and mind then we become the called leaders that we were intended to be.

“The degree to which we are healed and free is the degree to which we can lead others to freedom.  We reproduce who we are.”

Christine shared a story about her youngest daughter and how her husband is always telling their daughter that she is beautiful, smart, and called by God.  Recently, she began attending school and a little boy was picking on her.  He grabbed her “wubby” from her and said to her:”You’re ugly and you’re stupid!”  To which she replied: “I am NOT!  My Daddy says that I am……”

Whenever the enemy comes against us – whether in our mind, or through the words/actions of others – we remind ourselves of who God says we are.  And we remind the enemy… “‘My DADDY says…..’ and we rebuke the lies of the enemy with what The Father says about us!”

Are there parts of your own heart, soul, and/or mind that you have not allowed God full access to?  Pray.  Ask Him.  Listen for His response.  And then take some “J.A.M. time” (Jesus-And-Me) and allow Him to peel back the layers of pain, and even shame, to discover the powerful core of you which yearns and longs for Him!

Made For More, Frenemies, and Cement Shoes in the Church

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Hey Christ-follower, Ever found yourself in that in-between place where you’re not sure if the church you attend is the church where you belong?

Due to family situations, employment positions, or ministry transitions I’ve found myself swirling in the gap of longing for belonging more than once. I have also been at the place of questioning whether the church body where I have been attending is the right place for myself and/or my family.  With all of the life-altering dispositions, changing conditions, impositions, and re-positions I have found myself at both of these places more than once in the last quite-a-few years.

I remember lamenting to my counselor about my self-imposed frustrations with not trusting church leadership, feeling ignored and unappreciated as a divorced female called to ministry, and carrying around the baggage filled with my hurts imposed by “church people”.  My counselor listened patiently and then asked a dang good question.

She asked me if I had ever considered what my “absolutes” were.  What must the church absolutely do – according to my values, morals, beliefs, and convictions?  What must the church absolutely NOT do – according to the same?  And then her encouragement was that the in-betweens shouldn’t swing the pendulum towards belongingor not.  An impacting question followed by some needed, and balanced, exhortation.

Recently my soul and emotions have been, again, filled with that flustery feeling of restlessness with regards to life and ministry. It seems that the daylight occupation and crisis situations have demanded so much time and attention of late that life has resembled a breathless trek in a hamster wheel so much more than a meaningful journey of influence and inspiration.  For me, my friends, this is not what I was created for (In fact, this is not what any of us were created for).  And so, my frustration factor has increased along with my cries of “I was made for more!”

Consequently and habitually, as I have become more unsettled in my soul, I have found myself turning my dissatisfaction towards the church. Although my co-workers have long-sensed my turmoil with purposeless days, I realized I have been turning a more critical, sometimes untrusting, eye towards my community of Christ-following comrades.  After all, it’s an easier target for uneasiness and boredom than the salaried situation that supportsmy family, lifestyle, and penchant for giving “just because”.

Within the last couple of weeks I have come to several realizations based on reviewing my counselor’s questions, conversation with God, and self-examination and ego-busting.

1. I absolutely, positively, was made for more than what my life looks like at this moment.  However, in order to get to that “more” requires less… and more  Less time focused on the mundane and mind-numbing.  Less money spent on things that are pretty yet purposeless. Less energy given to emotional emergencies and perturbing pressures.  More time spent on the meaningful and missional.  More money focused on projects of principal. More energy invested in inspiring and engaging adventures.  I WAS made for more.  But making excuses for why life is less, instead of changing little things that can accomplish more, is a cop-out way of not being – doing – impacting – more.

2. Those in my community of believers are not my enemies.  Nor are they my several-faced frenemies.  They are friends. Associates. Companions.  And, most importantly, my mission mates.  Withhearts growing in God, there are few evil-hearted agents attempting to subvert the Body of Christ.  So very few vicious villains with motives to distract and deter those far from the Father. Considering my Crossroads comrades, I cannot convincingly contend that they do not wish to heal the hearts of the hurting or introduce others to the Lover Of Their Soul as passionately as I do.

These are not my enemies.  There is only one enemy of faith and community and he has no power where it is not given.

refuse-to-be-enemy-rock

3. When I waver in my position and am constantly looking for reasons to question my “wheres”, I am a “double-minded man (human)…unstable in all my ways”. I cannot learn contentment. I will not grow in stability and strength. I am unable to make a significant impact in the lives of others when I am earnestly scoping for greener grass.  I am uncommitted.  If I do not plant my feet and allow God to grow and increase my gifts and influence, If I do not go “all in”, then not only will my rewards be few – but my leadership leverage decreases, and my personal potential and purpose can’t produce fruit… for I have no roots.

So I’ve committed.  I’ve put on my cement shoes and I’m jumping in the water to be fully submerged in His Spirit and the sea of congregational intimacy for at least a year.  And with the plantingof my feet has come peace.  Contentment. Roots.

Will I ever be satisfied with my level of influence and leadership?  I hope not.  I hope that I continue to maintain that I was made for more, for this is a motivator to movement.  However, I must learn to be patient and content with where God has allowed me to be in order to grow and learn.  THIS is what will enable me to do, live, BE more.

 

For those who may wonder about my absolutes, they are as follows:

  1. The church must teach relationship with the heart and character of God – not the rules and regulations of man
  2. It must not twist scripture to prove man’s point – but instead teach scripture in a contextually accurate manner
  3. The church must show a heart for the hurting and seekers of truth
  4. It must accept and welcome my unique and eccentric family
  5. The church must extend grace and allow for all walks of life to be introduced to the unconditional, unfathomable love of Christ
  6. It must foster community, authenticity, and honest accountability
  7. And finally, the church must encourage the development and use of individual gifts and wirings of its members