Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Same God - New Covenant: Speaking to the Church

This is for all you teachers and preachers out there. Please consider this if you ever speak to a group of 5 or more.

There is a flaw in the thinking of those of us who live in the New Covenant times. (That would be all of you reading this.) The flaw is that we still see God in an Old Covenant relationship with his people – his Church.

In the Old Covenant, (before Jesus came) God related to Israel, for the most part, as a whole – as one nation. They were given the law as a whole, they were told to fast and pray on the same days, they were told to feast and party on the same days and they were all given exactly the same prescription for how they were to conduct themselves. He was the God of Israel. We do see him deal with individual people but even most of the time in dealing with the individual it was for the nation.

Now we spring into the New Covenant times. Jesus comes and starts to deal with people – one on one. How many times in the New Testament do we see him speaking to a single person? He does speak to crowds but sometimes actually makes it confusing for the crowd and then explains it to the smaller groups or individuals. Then he dies and ascends and then we have the Holy Spirit that indwells each individual person.

So now we have the same God as the Old Testament but the playing field is drastically changed. One author likens this to a man who is single, now finding himself married - he is the same man in both instances but now the rules of conduct are vastly changed.

The problem that I see in public speaking, whether it is from a pulpit, a TV screen, a book or a teaching tape is this: The speaker assumes that the message they have to speak is for EVERYONE listening. They view the Church like God treated Israel in the Old Testament.

Here are some of the statements made that I have heard or read recently that show this mindset:
God wants to heal you today. (all of you?)
I relate to my child this way, and you must follow exactly what I do. (but what if they are totally different temperaments?)
God wants you all to be owners of your business instead of working for someone else. (But what if I am not geared to be a business owner – what if I hate to do all the things that that requires – or what if I want to spend time with my family instead?)
If you put out a fleece like Gideon did, you are showing a lack of faith. (Give Gideon a break, he was about to take a very small army against a huge one…wouldn’t you want to make sure you did not mistake what you thought was God for bad pizza the night before? – What about the fact that God understands my level of faith and is not irritated that I ask for confirmation?
You must make a covenant with God over your city. (Really? What if I can barely keep up with my toddlers and new baby right now? Do I have to do that too?)
It is never ok to borrow money. (Never?)
A stay-at-home dad is never right. (and you know this how? What if my family is more important than me working two jobs when my wife can work one and she loves it?)

(Please feel free to add to my list!)

Do you see how the old mindset creeps in? The old mindset says that God intends the same thing for everyone at the same time. How in the world can you stand up in front of 100 people and tell them, in detail, how they are supposed to live, work, treat their children, run their business, or eat? (please don’t misunderstand me – I am not talking of the central truths that say we must show the fruit of the spirit in dealing with people or the central truths of who God is – I’m talking about those who would say that we need to spank a child at every act of willfulness or those who say that you need to only eat the Daniel diet to be truly well or that God ALWAYS does things a certain way)

When you call a fast for your church do you make sure that you address the pregnant moms and the guy going through chemotherapy? When you plan your many meetings do you account for the man who is already working 50 hours a week? And how about the lady in the wheelchair that has had the “God wants to heal you today” spoken over her hundreds of times? Does God want all of us wealthy today? Do each one of us need to step out in radical faith this week? Is everyone called to be at the conference you have planned this week or they will miss God?

Please, I beg of you. When speaking to more people than you can actually know, individually, what is going on in their lives or when speaking to more people in a setting where they cannot ask questions on the spot of how your words impact their lives, please don’t make sweeping proclamations. Please don’t assume that God is saying the same things to all of them at the same time.

He is an individual God. His timing is always right. His words always pierce our heart.

Your words may just be making it much harder for your listeners to live and walk with this amazing, individual God that we have. You may be heaping bundles of bondage on them that they were never meant to carry. Please don’t do this to the people that God has allowed you to speak to.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Discipleship and My Kids


The new pop song right now that is causing such an uproar is Katy Perry’s song, “I Kissed a Girl.” Erin mentioned it the other day and I did some of my own research. (I have a kid who is a brilliant song writer and musician so I felt an affinity for the parents of Katy - someday if she decides to do anything with her music, they could be interviewing me) Here is a girl who grew up in a Methodist home with two Methodist preachers as parents. Her first album (under Katy Hudson) was a “Christian” album. (Here is a link to the lyrics of the album.) But if you ever watched her videos I Kissed a Girl, or the one out on the charts now, you would have assumed that there was no Christianity in her upbringing. Or at least her parents really messed up in her upbringing. That is what I would have thought a year or so ago.

See, I believed that if you would teach your kids about Jesus, maybe even home school them, serve the church with them together and teach them to abstain from the world that they would grow up to be great Christians when they were older.

I know better now.

The thing that has struck me over the past year is the fact that each of my children need to have their own encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. The other thing that I now realize is that I can’t make this encounter happen. I can’t spoon feed the truth to my children and have it change their hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can do this.

I used to think that it was up to me whether they turned out Christian or Pagan. Now I realize it is up to them. Just by getting them to ‘believe’ the right things or mouth the right words or say the right prayers at a young age does not guarantee that they would ‘follow’ the right path. It is more than that.

Jesus did not stroll past Matthew and say - “Believe in me Matthew,” or, “Say this about me, Matthew.” He said, “Follow me, Matthew.” Believing did not make Matthew a disciple. Following did.

Whether our children are raised in a non-Christian environment or a Christian one is not the deciding factor. What our children DO with the information is. They have to look at Jesus and decide whether or not to follow him. And here’s the kicker! Katy Perry needs to decide this but so also does the good little girl who is still un-pierced, wearing modest clothing, un-drugged and is still singing in the church choir or praise team. Because the good little girl is not off scott free just by following all the expectations that her Christian upbringing is providing for her. She too needs to make a choice. She too needs her own run-in with Jesus. Because without an actual salvation experience, she will just become a Pharisee and never a disciple. We might like this better than the Katy Perry’s out there but frankly I think they just might do greater damage.

As I look at the vast differences in my own 7 kids, as I look at their differing personalities, as I discern their separate strengths and weaknesses, and as I see some of the paths that they have decided to take I realize one thing. I need to pray that somewhere on their own paths - whether the paths that look ‘Christian’ or decidedly ‘un-Christian’ - Jesus will some day step into the way and say, “Follow Me.” I pray when that day comes they will decide to step off their path and follow him into the wilderness of the life He wants them to have.

My job in all of this???? To live life with the Father, the life of discipleship, that will make them want what I have. I’m out to make them jealous of my relationship with Him and show them that it is possible for them too. If I do that…I have accomplished the discipleship of my children that I long to do.

And who knows…I might have a tattooed, pierced, little girl who absolutely is in love with her Heavenly Father. Now that would be really cool.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Marbles in My Mouth

I feel like I have marbles in my mouth.

It used to be easy to speak "Christianese." But words mean a lot to me and I just can’t seem to spit out sentences using the words that I have always used.

Before, I would say simple sentences such as;

“Today at church I really enjoyed the worship.”

But when you don’t believe that church is that time on Sunday morning when believers come together for teaching, singing and tithing and worship is much bigger than a song you might sing, I find myself in trouble…. verbally that is.

Now I find I have to speak in complex, seemingly befuddling sentences such as,
“Today when we….um… got together with….you know…. a bunch of people that love Jesus at…um… the building down the street I really enjoyed the time they…ahhh…. devoted…(deep breath).. to singing songs that…ummmm…. told Jesus how we love him.”

Sometimes it is really hard as I trip over my words and decide how to say something that used to be so simple.

Best Friend just shakes her head.... And probably mumbles under her breath, "Bless her heart." (She is from the South after all.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"The Kingdom of Wordland' by VF @ Clarity Rediscovered

I found this series of posts from a blogger who goes by VF at Clarity Rediscovered. It is an allegory with 5 chapters (short posts) that was both staggering in some of its similarity to our own situation and hauntingly prophetic as to what we see the path our CLB is taking.

This is another one of those, "You mean we are not the only one?" kind of moments.

The Kingdom of Wordland

Chapter One: In the Beginning

Chapter Three: The Big Move

Chapter Four: A Mass Exodus

Chapter Five: The Aftermath

A Virtual Soul Spa

On of my greatest delights is to walk into a spa. I've always wanted to open my own and offer a place filled not only with gentle music and soothing scents, but a place that seems to embody the touch of our Master. A place where when you enter your feet are lovingly washed by an attendant before any service is done.

Today I found a "virtual" spa. Mostly, I don't like music on a website because to me it feels intrusive but this music was the kind that makes you breath deep and be still. The words today and the visuals that she places on the site were like a spa for the deepest part of me.

Find a quiet place today, turn on the sound to your computer, take a deep breath and spend a moment at this site today.
A Holy Experience: Joy Thirst

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Statement of Faith

After attending my first Charismatic service on Sunday since we left our CLB, I am left with so many questions.

The biggest one I walked away with was this: If I were ever somehow put in charge of leading a service, (which I’m sure I won’t be but go with me here for a minute) and the subject of having faith that God would heal you, came up....what would I say?

Yesterday, I heard the classic charismatic theme of God wants to you be healed, saved and delivered today.

I realized that I could never make that promise to a group of people.

So I would have to say something to the effect that: 1) God can heal. 2) I would love for you to be healed. 3) I am willing to ask that you be healed. 4) I know God will hear us.

But if that is all that I could say about healing, wouldn't that take someone’s faith away? We had always had taught to us that we needed to raise the faith level of the people in the room by convincing them that God WOULD heal. That way they would have faith to BE healed.

But even scripturally, I can’t make those promises. Jesus didn’t always heal everyone. Sometimes he just didn’t (did only what he saw the Father doing kind of thing). Other times he couldn’t heal because of the atmosphere of disbelief. Other times it seemed that he had a different time frame in mind - like in Lazarus and the man born blind.

So my question is this: What is faith and what are we to have faith in?

I can no longer preach a faith that God will always heal. Nor will I preach that it is always because of your lack of faith that you are not healed.

I truly believe that there is a faith in our God who can heal but I wonder if the faith is misplaced.

Maybe we have placed our faith in what God does... or can do...and not who he is.

See, if I have faith in a God of love then my faith rests in his love for me - no matter what my circumstances. My faith is wrapped up in His love, ergo in who he is, not what he can do.

It says that people lived in caves and were sawed in two ‘in faith.’ Their faith did not rescue them from our vantage point so it is safe to assume that what is preached as faith today misses the mark.

Faith has to be big enough to encompass both getting what you have asked for, believed in and been promised, and not getting what you have asked for, believed in and were promised.

Therefore, it is my conclusion tonight that faith has to be much bigger than what I heard on Sunday morning. In fact my faith has to be as big as the heart of the Father.

Faith has to be the determination to trust in this Father heart no matter what. Faith has to say to the Enemy of our souls that no matter what, I will have faith in, trust in and rest in the Love of God.

Therein lies my faith tonight.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Worship That He is Pleased With - or Worship in the Bathroom

I went to an institutional ‘church’ service this morning. I’ve felt like I wanted to go all week and kept silent – feeling like the desire would pass. Well it didn’t. Then I found out on Saturday night that a good friend might be there with her new baby (and husband too ;). So this morning I woke up with barely enough time to get there (it was in another town over an hour away) and told Marsh that I wanted to go. After he swallowed his amazement that I actually wanted to go to a service, he kindly got up and within about 20 minutes we were out the door. I asked my daughter, Britt if she wanted to go with us and since we had a chance of seeing our friend she piled into the back.

I had not been in a service since we had left our CLB (church left behind), so this was a big deal for me. I was not sure how I would react. Would I be able to stay? How would the music affect me? Would I cry or get mad? (Britt really did not want to go into the service but knew she could hang out in the coffee shop while we were there.)

As we arrived we met up with the people that I was hoping to see. In fact we got to see many of the people whom we have gotten to know over the years both here and at this church. It was so warm and loving. The hugs and touches were truly healing to me.

As the music began, I let it swirl around me. It felt like I was sitting in a hot tub. It was warm and healing in so many ways. Yes, there were some lyrics that I would have like changed. But really when they came up it was like a leaf fell into the water and with a swish of my hand I could dismiss it and usher it out of the tub. Healing and warm. I liked it.

But here is what this post is all about. See, when we arrived at the building we had been traveling for a bit over an hour and a half. So one of our first stops after all the hugging was to the ladies room. I was sitting in a stall when I heard a voice from the room. Someone was kind of moaning and talking about her asthma medication. As I exited the stall I saw a very large woman standing there holding a knee high nylon sock- minus her shoe. As Britt and I both looked at her she began telling us that her medication had not kicked in enough for her to bend over and put her socks on. She was a bit mentally unstable and not a very "put together" person. Someone to avoid.

As she talked, I (to my shame) paused a second to determine what I would do. But my daughter responded immediately. She got on her knees and began to put the nylon sock over the woman’s swollen foot while talking kindly to her.

Now you need to understand something about Britt. She hates germs. She would NEVER kneel on a public restroom’s floor. On top of that she has this thing about feet. She just doesn’t ever touch anyone’s feet. I can barely get her to massage mine and she loves me. I don’t think she has ever touched another persons’ foot in her life. But here she was on her knees in a public restroom helping a very “unlovely” person put on her nylons.

As I sat in the music service today and they said, “Let us worship God today together,” I heard the words, “As much as you have done for the least of these.”

I realized that I had seen worship this morning. Not in the music minister’s leading, or the band expertly playing or the lady beautifully dancing with the flags or in the upturned faces and hands of those around me but in the humility and love of my daughter in the bathroom. She wasn't in the "worship service" with me. But she had truly worshiped Jesus that day and I know he looked on her act of worship and smiled.

Next time, I don’t want to pause, I want to beat her to it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What is Your Favorite Post on Your Own Blog?

Yesterday, I told you what my favorite post (that I had written) was.

I would love to know this: What is your favorite post that you have posted on your blog?

You can include why it is if you want. Be sure to post the link to it.


Here is Barry's at Honest Faith entitled 'Sacred Places'
Here is Erin's at Decompressing Faith entitled 'An Early Grave, A Better Land'
Mike at Still a Night Own on 'Beating a Dead Cow'
And Heather at A Deconstructed Christian on Things I Learned From Church (That Didn’t Prove True And What I Am Learning Lately)
Katherine Gunn from A Voice in The Desert picks her's entitled 'So...who do you follow?'
Cindy at Run With It posted her favorite. It is entitled, 'another day in paradise.'
Joe from Evangelist Changing chose: 'The Hit'
And Abmo from Windblown Hope chooses his; 'When I Am Weak - Part 3'
John from Cohesive Faith adds his: 'Problems are More Than Skin Deep'

Friday, October 10, 2008

Grace and the Building of Boats - Part 4

And here is the last (and my very favorite post that I have ever written) of the series... Thanks for reading along.

Theologically Shopping For a New Boat Called Grace

So I have been shopping around for a new boat. My older children will have to shop for their own boat. My younger children will be in this new boat with Husband and myself until they are old enough for their own boat. (Yes, he is shopping with me fortunately.)

We have looked around at all the stores. Some have speed crafts, some have seemingly very simple crafts but the paddles are huge, some look too much like the last boat we left. Some have less “fixings” on them but seem just as heavy. Some purport that they are “new and improved and more relevant.” Some are telling us that they are working on a new model because they found out after years and years of getting everyone to buy their boat that it had major leaks in it and could not get the people to where they were going. Now they are going to build a new one that is going to get the required results. We are welcome to buy their book on the making of the new craft. It just seems that they are not going back far enough to the blueprints to really do a good job at this new one. I don’t know… A couple of stores are only building luxury liners. You can haul a ton of people on them.

But in every store there is a boat off in the corner. It is very dusty. It does not look like it will hold up at all. The salesmen do their best to try to keep us from even examining it. They all seem to say the same kind of things. Things like:

“That boat is way too simple. It will never get you anywhere, just look at it. It does not look safe to me. "
"Too flimsy. How will your kids be safe in that?"
"If you got in you would almost be IN the water."
"The water is way too close to the top."
"It is too small. Your kids may fall out or be tempted to swim in the water."
"It does not give you enough distance away from the water.”

Most of all they all stress that they have NEVER seen anyone use this boat. Others had come in and cut it up for parts for their other boats but no one had actually sailed in it. Well, that is not true. They had heard stories of someone trying it and being very successful at navigating the waters in it but those were just stories. No one there at the store thought it could be trusted or used.

But this boat draws us. Why? It is so simple. When we step into it, …it fits us - completely and thoroughly. It is light, even the boys can carry it. We can see that in its lightness it is strong. The material is nothing we have ever seen before. Well we had seen it when we tried to cut it apart and pad our old boat with it but to see it as the whole craft is amazing. It has a built in navigation system straight from the manufacturer. That was something that the old boats said they had but they also had other navigational systems that they seemed to rely on more frequently. This new boat has nothing else. That seems very scary.

Everything about this boat which has been christened “Grace” seems to be different yet strangely it feels right.

When we asked the salesman about this boat and what the cost of it was he said the strangest thing. He said that they had had a prophet looking guy come in from the home office and say cryptically that this boat was to be given to anyone who asked for it for free, but to warn the consumer that it would cost them their lives. The salesman was very confused as to what that meant and could not tell us anything more than that. I think he was a little miffed because if we took this boat for free he would not get a commission. Plus he did not want to be responsible if it cost us our lives.

He told us that the only payment was a measure of Faith…and that was the final question to ourselves - As we dug deep into our own pockets and searched for Faith would we find it?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.

We have bought the boat, or I think….really….it has bought us.

This is the scariest thing we have ever done.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Grace and the Building of Boats - Part 3

Grace and What She Says

We needed to leave our old boat. It was too heavy. We couldn’t paddle it anymore. Our kids were being hurt by all the things that were poking them. They were jumping ship. It was leaking as much as we didn't want to admit it. And most of all, as I studied The Book, it wasn't what the Master Builder had in mind at all.

As I have studied more and more about the grace gospel of our Father, I am drawn to her like a bug to a light. She fascinates me. She calls out to me. She even feels dangerous. Can you get too close to Grace? Is She really safe?

Grace says that Jesus paid the whole thing.
Grace says it is not by my disciplines that I am saved.
Grace says that Father loves me, likes me and is even very, very fond of me.
Grace says that if it is by grace it is no longer by works – because if it were, it would no longer be grace.. (Rom 11:6)
Grace says if you look to any law to justify you (make you more OK with God) you have fallen away from grace. (Gal 5:4)
Grace says, in one of her most famous passages that it is by grace we have been saved through faith---and this not from ourselves, it is a gift of God---not of works (the stuff we do) because we would boast and brag about ourselves. (Eph 2:8-9)
Grace is an easy yoke.
She is loving - not judging, forgiving - not holding grudges, freeing - not restricting,
admitting your doubts - yet choosing faith.
She is risky - not safe.
She is relationship - not rules.

Mostly, Grace says, “I’m enough."


I think it was the central message of Paul to all his churches. They also had boats built to navigate through life. There boats were called “The Law.” But you know, their Law was not much different than what I had built my boat out of. Mostly my boat was Old Testament Law and all it’s rules brought over into the New Covenant (a fancy way of talking about the differences that Jesus came to make) and with a new coat of paint I called it Grace. But it wasn’t.

It was as heavy and cumbersome as The Law. I was just as boastful and proud of what I was doing to be OK with God. Pharisees still paddle their boats around today and I was one.

So I need a new craft. This craft will be made of Grace.

More on that tomorrow in, “Theologically Shopping For a New Boat Called Grace.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Republishing Grace and the Building of Boats - Part 2

I am republishing a series I did last November on the analogy of boats and my religious life that I was leaving behind. Hope you enjoy:

Grace and Why Would You Leave Your Boat

In my last post I described the boat we had built in our family to safely navigate the waters of our life in Jesus. Remember that it was very outfitted. We had everything we could think of in it to keep us safe. It was huge! Big! Sturdy! So why would we want to leave it?

Did I mention that it was heavy? It did not seem so heavy when we first started building it. In fact it was quite light. At the beginning there were not many expectations for our boats or others. We just needed to love God, love to worship him and love each other. We often tied our boats together and ate and had fun. Our kids played together and we loved to be together. We didn’t only meet together on a Sunday morning but played together as families a lot during the week.

But little by little over the years it seemed that something would happen. Either someone would wreck their boat or the leader would notice that something was missing from his boat and we would add things to keep us safe. And so, over time, it became very heavy. Just to take it out on a Sunday would make you tired. It was so much easier to just keep it tied to the dock.

We added the spiritual disciplines so that everyone would be safer. We thought there would be fewer wrecks if everyone was doing the five or then 6 or then 7 disciplines. Our kids would be safer. People would get to the goal in one piece. But as things were added it just got heavier and heavier. Some actually sank because of all the stuff that was added.

And did I tell you that this boat got uncomfortable? With all the additions it seems that you were always being stuck with something that you had not done yet or needed to add. All the stuff made it impossible to move around freely. We felt crammed. When we did get together with others on a Sunday morning I felt so proud of my boat that I wanted everything to be perfect. I started making my children play the part of being happy in this boat. They had to be at all the meetings, events and such. There were not times of fun as much as we had had before with the others in their boats. It seemed that after all the “shoulds” there was less time for just fun.

And where was grace? Well we knew of this material of grace. We liked the feel of it. Of course you could not build a boat out of it, (or so we thought) but you could cut it up and use it in places to try to pad all the things that seemed to poke at you when you were sitting or working in this boat. Grace was sometimes used in our boat but you could not use too much of it. A little poking and prodding was good for our kids, right?

I think the final straw for us though was the addition of seat belts of loyalty and not questioning. As they got tighter and tighter we started realizing that it went against what Jesus said about building boats in the first place. He came to set us free. His burden was light. There was only one Father, Teacher and Rabbi….Him. We began to listen to other stories about boats out there that were absolutely wonderful. Did they really exist? We needed something.

Tomorrow’s installment is Grace and What She Says.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Republishing Grace and the Building of Boats - Part I

Every now and again I get a comment that lets me know I am being an encouragement to someone who has just left or is leaving an abusive church situation. Let me tell you, that makes my day. I remember writing Grace, clinging to anything or anyone to tell me I wasn't alone and maybe was not as crazy as I felt. The other day I got a message from someone and then they posted my post on Leaving on their website and said this: "Here you have it.. I am not alone!"

It is the reason why I published my own blog (that,.....and the whole not being able to afford therapy thing ;) ) I know there are many readers who have joined me since then and in looking through my blogs the other day, I re-read the ones that spoke of my religious 'boat' being destroyed and a new 'boat' called Grace replacing it. I thought over the next few days I would re-run those posts because in all that I wrote, they remain some of my favorite ways that I processed my journey.

So from November 11, 2007:

Just a mere 9 months ago I was in a boat. This boat was taking me and my family down the river we call "Life in Christ."

It was a good boat, very strong. It had all the bells and whistles of rules and legalism. Of course we looked at those who were Catholic or Amish and told ourselves that our boat was not legalistic...but it was in its own way. It gave you exactly what you needed to do to belong to our group and be what we thought was a successful and vibrant Christian.

We had the bells and whistles of Bible Study, Prayer, Journaling, Outreach, Worship, Tithing, Giving, Rest, Prophecy, Headship, Covering, Submission, Women in Ministry, Small Groups, Discipleship, and so on. The seat belts were installed and tightened by being loyal and not questioning the ones who directed our little fleet of boats. If you were really loyal then your boat got to be in contact with the leaders' boats in a much more significant way. Our job was to look successful and encourage others to build a boat just like ours and journey with us.

Those who did not build boats like ours we looked upon with sadness. They obviously did not know what we knew about boat building. Theirs had major pieces of equipment missing. They allowed other boats to float along with them. We could not understand why they would not see how wonderful our boat building projects were and just come over and build boats exactly like ours.

Best of all our children were safe in this boat with us. They looked good. They knew all the features of this boat and could tell you exactly what you were to do with them. Our family’s boat was one of the best in the church. Many times we were applauded for having the kind of boat that the leaders said best exemplified and reflected them. I was always looking for the new additions that they would propose and hurriedly add them to our boat.

Six months ago we left the group of boats we had been traveling with. We started reading about grace. Grace in the gospels is everywhere. Most of what the disciples struggled with after Jesus left them with the Holy Spirit was how to go about living this grace filled life in a group of people who understood nothing but legalism.As we left our group and started studying this message of grace, we found we also wanted to leave the boat that we had built.

I will leave the “why” of that for tomorrow’s post.

Monday, October 6, 2008

When the Warning Lights Go Off

This week as I browsed the web and read my email I ran into two sites that bothered me greatly. One was a video of a woman (Winnie Banov)who was ‘drunk’ in the spirit and preaching a message. I pushed past my initial discomfort at the manner in which her message was delivered and tried to understand the message itself. I couldn’t. It was all about Melchizedek and the supposed “bliss” (in the Spirit) that he was supposed to represent. Some how this ‘bliss’ was to put you more in touch with God’s spirit - in a drunk sort of way. This 'bliss' was supposedly supposed to please God if you participated in it.

The next was an email from Francis Frangipane. He talked about how we need to make a covenant with God for particular situations in our lives. He does detail how Jesus completed the covenant that was required for salvation but then goes on to explain how, because God is a covenantal God, we then need to make covenants with Him for our city or our family. He actually says:

Making a covenant with God takes us further into our goal of Christlikeness. It is the highest relationship we can enjoy with God and it is the most deeply surrendered. It is, in truth, that which brings Him the most pleasure. To those who covenant with God, He says, "Gather My godly ones to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice" (Ps 50:5). (emphasis mine)

I then read an article from Bob DeWaay about pietism and how it plays out in our lives as Christians today and in history. While I don’t agree with the whole article (I love that I can do this now), it finally occurred to me the problem that I am seeing in the Charismatic church. They believe that you need to add something to the work of Jesus. Pietism is the belief that you can add something of your own to make yourself more holy and more acceptable to God.

I’ve touched on this before, but it finally cemented into place for me. Both of these that I read/watched were telling you something “extra scriptural” that you needed to do/be for God to be happy with you.

Now it would be easy to sit back in my arm chair and say, “I will do nothing. Jesus did everything. Grace is all there is. It is done.” I am always tempted to swing to the complete other side. But that is also not the whole gospel.

Jesus says this, “(Mat 11:28-30 NIV) "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

See, Jesus does not say, there is no yoke. He in fact offers a yoke of his own. His is light but it still exists. There is something that he wants us to carry. There is a yoke that is meant to imply ‘work.’ It may come in the form of praying for our families or our country. It may involve experiencing the Holy Spirit in a greater degree. But it is an easy yoke. It does not involve the angst of feeling like you are not doing enough compared to the next person. It does not involve comparison.

A yoke when used in the animal world is individual for each animal. A burden is carried usually only by one. Jesus has our yoke and our burden that we carry individualized for each of us. And when we carry it or put it on - it is easy and light.

In the future, when someone tells a whole group of people what God wants them to do so that He will be pleased with them…my radar will go up and my warning lights will flash. The chances that pietism is being preached is great and the chances that people are being compared and put into bondage is likely. And that yoke is not easy nor that burden light.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Rescue Parade - New Additions

Each Sunday for a while I'm going to encourage you to visit this page and see the newest entries to the Rescue Parade. (13 so far today)

The things that people are writing are simply amazing, astounding and touching. When reading them you realize that your very soul is being nourished by their words.

It is an amazing thing to hear the Father's heart for you. To pen the words that you hear will change something deep in your heart.

I encourage you to add yours to the list. You can add them to Tracy's page here too. Even if you don't add one, subscribe to the comments so you can stay updated as other's are added.

Some have said that they are having a hard time because they are in the middle of their story with the Father. That is OK. It doesn't change how he feels about you right now.

I have a 8 year old little boy. I could write something about him right now - knowing that he is not now what he will be at 20 or 40. But that does not change my love for him right now.

Your Father is the same. If you entered eternity right now - this is what he would say over your loved, rescued life.....

Friday, October 3, 2008

Broken on the Political Front

As I listen in on the political front I have decided that something is deeply broken in me.

I don’t trust leadership right now - church or state. The hurts of the church have gone deeper than religion. They effect how I view the world and thusly how I view men and women in the world that want to be my political leaders. Ms. Palin might be a very wonderful woman....but I have seen very wonderful women do very horrible things to protect the things that are valuable to them. Mr. Obama might be a captivating speaker but I have sat under captivating speakers before who spoke what turned out to be outright lies.

I wasn’t always this way. I trusted the government to take care of my family when I was a child - my dad was in the military. This breeds a deep trust in your government. I trusted my church and their teachings growing up through my teens and 20’s. That was destroyed but I just thought I had bought into the wrong brand. So I trusted again. I trusted our ‘church’s’ leaders. I trusted their teachings, their vision and their professed love for me, my family and our ‘church’ body. That did not work out so well…

I have seen firsthand what the desire for power and prestige does to a person. Heck, it just occurred to me that I have been that person. It is not so very far away to the core of who I am.

You take a man (or woman) add power, throw in a bunch of money and prestige, shake, and I am left with the bitter drink of distrust.

So I think that is why I am having such a hard time. I believe no one. I trust no organization. I can’t even start to believe that what they say now really reflects what they will do later or what they even believe in their hearts. Sound bites do not reveal the heart and motives. I want to believe them as I hear them speak…but something in me warns me again that I cannot always trust what I see. Great orators have deceived men for ages.

Add that to the fact that I don’t believe that I can start to understand the world in such a way that I could make informed decisions on the basis of my present knowledge - as limited as that is. Our world is too complex. When you think you understand and grasp an issue - there is a corresponding result in another quadrant that you didn’t even see. I don’t have the time to become a political science major. And even if I were an expert in a field such as that or economics or government - who’s to say I would have been taught a true and balanced perspective?

I understand why someone would be a one issue voter - whether it be abortion or the environment or health. Please don’t make fun of these people. Maybe that is all they have confidence in their own intellect for.

I know who I’m voting for. It’s not that. It is just that I don’t trust them, or anyone, anymore. And I really don’t like that about myself.

This is going to be a long few weeks for me.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Upside Down Kingdom

I love what I am seeing in scripture lately. I love it when it rocks my world with it's upside down way of seeing the Kingdom.

Internet Monk had a link the other day to Greg Boyd's website where, starting in October, they are beginning a series of weeks looking at some of the parables of Jesus and how he turns the thinking of the day upside down. It is entitled: The Great Reversal - The Upside Down Kingdom of God. I went onto the site and just browsed the passages he uses and then especially the cultural context that Jesus spoke into. I urge you to do the same.

Some of the ones that really stood out to me was how the world then viewed the poor, sick and destitute people. Like I wrote yesterday, both the rich and the poor believed that God did not love the poor and had no desire to be around them. Your riches were proof that God was on your side and blessing you.

One thing that Boyd points out is the importance of being asked to a banquet. See, in that day to be asked to a banquet showed your status in the city. Even where you sat at the table would show your importance. So when Jesus tells the story of a man throwing a banquet for his friends and his friends coming up with a lame excuse to not attend, it was a major slap in the face of the host. You never turned down an invitation. It was a major honor in that time to be asked to a banquet. Someone was spending a ton of money on the food. Therefore, it would mean the end of your relationship if you declined - especially for such a lame reason. So when Jesus then said that the host gave instructions to his servant to go to the highways and byways to compel the outcasts to come to his banquet...it was a HUGE deal. The most interesting thing is the word compel. See, these people had to be compelled to come because in that culture, even if they were invited, they were supposed to turn down the invitation(!!!) because they were not favored enough of God. You would never accept the invitation, because to do so was dishonoring your host.

Just the idea that Jesus loves us so much that he compels us to come to Him. Even when we have screwed up so much that we can't see why he would want us to come. Plus, Boyd pointed out that, in actuality, there was enough food prepared that there would have been enough for the original guests and those that were invited later. (He doesn't hate the rich either)

The other one that really struck me was the passage where the Pharisees came to him with the disciples of John and accused Jesus of eating and drinking with the sinners (not necessarily those who sinned but this bunch that were labeled outcasts because of their disease or poverty or lifestyle) Boyd says that the word for eating with the sinners implies that Jesus was actually hosting banquets and inviting the oppressed in.

I had never thought of Jesus hosting a banquet. I just always saw him as having no home therefore he always attended someone elses' house. But just the thought that Jesus hosted these people warmed my heart. No wonder the Pharisees got so bent out of shape. Jesus was not just ministering to these people, he was honoring them. And they (the Pharisees) were not getting invited to sit at the important seats.

I also loved the one where he was eating at a banquet at some Pharisee's house (the last one he was invited to by the way! ;P) Jesus told a story and began it with something like this. "Suppose you were a shepherd and had 100 sheep. You lost one....." He goes on from there. But the funny thing was that he said, "Suppose you were a shepherd." See, shepherds were one of those 'sinner' type people. They were the ones that God did not like. It would be like sitting down with a bunch of prophets, pastors and self proclaimed apostles today and starting a story like this; "Suppose you were a male prostitute..." You can hear the silence! "How dare he!!!"

I love the heart of Jesus today and want him to show me some more of his upside down kingdom as it relates to my own life.

A beer to Naked Pastor for use of his brilliant comic.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kingdom of God - Good News to the Poor

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has
anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 14:18-19

Good verse huh?

Before we left our CLB our leader preached a series of messages on "The Good News to the Poor." It drove my husband nuts because in the prosperity gospel that was being presented, the good news to the poor was that, because of the cross they did not have to be poor any longer. God had come through Jesus so that we no longer needed to be sick or poor. In my husband’s opinion (and now mine) the speaker was totally missing the point and even distorting the true gospel.

I have below a portion of the letter that he (Husband) wrote to our leader. See how it truly displays the heart of God towards us as opposed to the twisted words of the "other" gospel that God wants you rich.

Good news to the poor:

In the context of the day during the life and times of Jesus, if you had wealth, you were viewed of having the favor of God in your life. God was your friend, you were blessed, God was near you and like/approved of you.

If you were poor however, God was not near you, you were not favored of God. He obviously was not pleased with you and, plain, did not like you. You had no hope of God’s favor or His visitation. (In reality, it was a wide pendulum swing to the view of wealth and God’s favor, to the point of error.) The poor walked as second class citizens with the knowledge that God did not favor them, bless them and love them because of them and their sin. The rich were blessed, but they were cursed. There was little hope of anything else.

So here comes Jesus, and he preached “good news” to the poor. As a poor person, you would hear this, and your first reaction was almost disbelief. “You mean that God is coming to visit me?” “God noticed me?” “God is pleased and wants to be with me?” “I too can be favored and blessed by God?”

The answer Jesus brought to the people asking these questions was: “Yes!” The religious leaders would preach “No,” but Jesus was changing it!

To the Pharisees it was the religion and law of the day, but Jesus was preaching a different ‘good news:
“God is coming near, the favor of the Lord is near, to you, to all who will believe.”

Just as Jesus healed the lame man whose sins he had forgiven to prove the same, he healed the multitudes to prove the same: God had come near them. “Believe and receive! The Kingdom of God has come, to you!”

It was a paradigm shift to the people of the day who were rejected because they were poor. God would not visit them and they were not blessed. Jesus came to break that theology/practice/understanding of the people. Its not about poverty/money, but God is available to the poor! He likes the poor and wants to dwell with them and be with them. They are being invited to participate in His Kingdom.

So he sent out his boys (disciples) to the villages and towns, the highways and hedges, announcing that the Kingdom of God has come (to them!), ie: good news!

We too can preach the same:
God has come. He has favor for you.
God has come to you. You can come to God. He will dwell with you and you can dwell with him.

This is the Good News to the Poor!!