Let the Church be the Church

It seems like every time I open up facebook or other social media, there is another post or article bashing Christians or the church.   And sadly, these are from Christians.

for blog, inside of church

Let me say that I have been hurt by those in the church many times, but I do not want to get swept up in this thought process.  I just want you to know I am not coming from a “pollyanish” viewpoint.

From these postings, we are shamed that we don’t love the poor enough nor graciously accept sinners.  We don’t give enough and are made to feel like jerks because we go to church in man-made buildings with A/C.

Outside service

Lest I sound like one who “protesteth too much,” please allow me to share some things I see that are good and right in the churches we have attended recently.

First, my husband (Tom) has preached for 39 years in churches in different states.  We’ve seen the good, bad and ugly in many situations.  But we have definitely seen the good.  Tom is doing mission work now but here are some observations I have made.

We have attended a church a few times which gives 50% of their income to missions.  They had an announcement in their bulletin a few weeks ago about a friendship program with international students.   They are reaching out to many.   Many of their men still wear suits and ties and they are a tad bit conservative in their music and worship, but they are reaching the world for Christ.  (I only mention the suits and ties because some people think that type of dress offends others).

A tiny church on the North Shore of Oahu has increased their giving twice to support our ministry more.   Waialua Christian Church is led by Steve Sturm.  Steve and his wife, Blossom, toil tirelessly but most of their “fruit” eventually move, since many of them are military people.  But they love…deeply.

Waialua 6

Two good friends of mine quietly go to jail every Thursday night to minister to the women there.   Their husbands support them, their church prays for them, and they go.  Another friend I have (who is 82 years old) goes every week to a prison to teach, sing and play the piano.

I know of a couple who left their secure ministry at a fairly large church to run a ministry for the disenfranchised of Joplin, Missouri.

I know of Christians, from churches we have served, who have apologized to us and accepted our love, bringing healing to our relationships.

There is a small church in rural Missouri which had 9 baptisms a couple of months ago…and it wasn’t the “pretty people” who were baptized.  Somebody had to love them into that.

There are friends of mine who are growing by leaps and bounds (who attend traditional churches), and those who have incredible ministries to homosexuals, single parents, un-wed mothers, addicts (and the list goes on).

There are those we know who preach the Word of God without fear (including our son) and who love others sincerely at the same time – because how can you preach the Word and not love?

Others go on missions trip, collect items for the poor, serve meals and those who reach out to the homeless.

Still others lose sleep to be with those who are hurting, sick or grieving.

This is not a conclusive list…in fact, it is just the very tip of the iceberg! 

This is all (and more) within our small sphere of friendships or acquaintances.   I cannot believe that we are the only ones who see Christ at work through others.   Are we perfect?  Of course not!  But there are many I know who are trying to draw closer to the Lord and wanting to serve Him with their whole hearts.

God has not called us to deride other Christians, through sarcasm or shame-based criticism, for what they are not doing.  He wants to know what WE are going to do.   And quite honestly, when we judge others like this, are we not doing the same thing for which we are judging them?

When we give up trying to be responsible for others’ actions, or lack of service, or complacency, we will do a lot to move closer to Jesus and allow His Holy Spirit to convict others.

We don’t know what others are doing behind the scenes, nor do we know what is going on in their lives.  Let’s just be the church in our own lives, pray for others, love others and quit bashing that which Christ died for!

I would love to hear how you or those you know are serving others and reaching them for Christ.

 

I Can’t Walk Straight

Walking straight

“Their tidal-wave faith drowns the sand pebble efforts I make to draw near to God.”

We were blessed to recently hear our son preach at his new church in Iowa. He started a series on the book of Mark in the New Testament, but one thing he told about in this specific message made an impression on me.

It was a story he shared of a neighbor he and Beth had in Massachusetts.  She had walked away from the church and they were talking with her about it.  She gave the reason as, “I can’t walk straight.”  I was struck by the fact that she felt hopeless to “make it” in the Christian world.

It made me think of the many times I have felt like giving up because I feel like I can’t “walk straight.”  I compare my Christian journey to others in the faith who seem to have it all together.  They sail through rough times on the wings of angels, it seems.   They don’t struggle with depression, don’t worry, don’t get angry, don’t….well, you get my drift.

They can quote book, chapter and verse of the Bible…in several translations.   They brag about having no baggage.  Their tidal-wave faith drowns the sand pebble efforts I make to draw near to God.

waves against sand

Guilt and shame wash over me and I ask God why I seem to struggle so much with my faith.  I ask Him A LOT!  I do all the “right” things also.  I spend quality time in prayer and the word of God.  I rebuke satan and quote scripture.  I am constantly trying to find ways I can help others, but still….many times I feel weak.

My husband has been my greatest encouragement in my life.   Yet, he is one whose faith hardly ever wavers.   He’s been through storms that would make Jesus’ disciples quake.   Yet, he has never once, in the 40 years I have known him, thought about walking away from God.

Even with our differences, his patience, love and care for me and my fragilities is breathtaking.   I think there are several reasons for this.

First, he loves me more than anyone on earth – and I know it. (Although I admit, I do wonder about those darn grandkids sometimes).    Secondly, he has walked with me through many valleys and he knows how I struggle.  He also knows me because he has taken time to listen and care, and not judge.  He wants the very best for me, but he also acknowledges the lack of “tools” I was given.

For example, it is very difficult for me to believe that God loves me.  I can give that encouragement to others all day long, and truly believe it for them…..but it’s ever so difficult to accept for myself.   And I’ve heard about every answer for it I know.

Judgement is something we pass onto other Christians in a shameful way.  We may not voice it but we pridefully tell our own selves, “I would never do that.”  “What is wrong with her, why can’t she …. (fill in the blank.)

We condemn others with that judgement without ever taking the time to get to know someone.   That is sad and unfortunate.   It’s when we take time to understand others that we stretch our care of human beings, whom God has created in His own imagine, but whom He also knows  are very fragile.   And even if we don’t necessarily like what others do, we are strongly commanded many times to love them.

I find it interesting (and think it’s no mistake) that the love list in 1 Corinthians begins with, “Love is patient…”  To truly love others, especially some, takes a great deal of patience.   In fact, it takes lots of patience to exhibit love to our spouses and children at times. So, imagine what it will take to love others, especially those we don’t want to love.

But scripture dictates it.  And 1 Corinthians 13 is a great place to start with how we do love.   It’s the greatest “way.”

In fact SO great is its command and way that Paul begins the chapter with his own rightfully shame-based diatribe for those who think they have it all together.

Simply put, it doesn’t matter who we think we are, what we think we’ve accomplished, how together we think we have it….if we aren’t loving, none of that matters.  NONE OF IT!!!!

In a little more modern terms, it doesn’t matter if we are the minister of a huge church with eloquent sermons, if we’re on the mission field, or doing great things winning the world to Christ, or know the Bible from front to back.  If we’re not loving – patient, kind, humble, seeking good of others, etc., it simply does not matter who we are, or what we’re doing.

And what is the point of all this?    To obey God, and to walk beside and with others so we ALL can walk straight.

 

 

 

This crazy week! Sharks, Girls vs. Boys, Friendships and Kim Davis

Jed in cowboy outfit

This has been  crazy week.   But, at least I’ve learned a few things.   Some good, some sad, some not so great.

I learned that raising girls is much different than boys.  Girls are like, “I had a fever one time and now I have a sore throat.”  “Ow, ow, ow, I hurt my foot,” (as I hunt and hunt for even a faint red spot on it).   Girls will create a safe place in the pool so the shark can’t get them.

Boys on the other hand are like, “Yeah, I have a 105 fever and I’m puking, but I can still go play basketball.”   Boys like to bleed and boys taunt the shark in the pool so it WILL come get them.   Girls can have a huge appetite as well as boys, but girls nibble….boys devour.

I have some incredible friends.  Some have been with me for over 40 years and are precious to me, as are the ones who are newer.  We still laugh, still play cards, but don’t quite stay up as late as we used to for nights on end.  But they love me, accept me and believe the best in me.  And when I am disappointed by others…they are there.

And then I learned about Kim Davis…someone nobody had heard of before this week.

Kim Davis 2

She has taken a stand because of her belief in Almighty God and His precepts.  I never dreamed I would see this in our country and I’m sure many Christians are repeating the same sentiments.

But it also emboldens me to live my faith, not obnoxiously, but in a way that I would be willing to be persecuted if the time came.  May God be with her, give her strength and protection…and may the rest of us be strong in our faith.  What an example she is.

But I learned one more thing about the Kim Davis situation….the world doesn’t understand conversion into Jesus Christ.   That’s ok…Jesus said it wouldn’t.  We can’t expect them to.   But sadly, many Christians don’t get it either.  Yes, she has multiple marriages and these happened before she turned to the Lord.  The world is tearing her apart because of it and can only yell, “hypocrisy.”

Perhaps this is why she is so willing to take a stand, because she understands the pain of brokenness, and she wants to stand for truth, justice and true love.  Her heart has changed devotion, from living for the world, to living for God.

Is she perfect?  No.  Who is.   I’m sad to see Christians vilify her along with unbelievers.   Do we not even believe our own message of grace?

I’m thankful for that grace.  I have been labeled a hypocrite by others also.   Yes, by Christians.   We shoot our own wounded.   May God forgive us.

 

 

Josh Duggar and The Heart

heart with cross

No doubt, the home-school and quiverfull world has been rocked with the latest news of Josh Duggar’s infidelity and sin.  In fact, many Christians are dismayed, disturbed and even disgusted.  Someone who has come from a strong Christian home, been in Christian leadership, with a beautiful wife and children,  has fallen. Plenty has been written about how he needs to repent, and how God can forgive him; and yes He can!

I believe we should learn several things from this.  Here are a few I can think of.

No amount of Christian upbringing can be a 100% guarantee for pure, Christian living.  I have wonderful Christian friends who daily wonder where they went wrong.   I watched them raise their children and know the prayer and devotion that went into their child-rearing.  Yet, some of them agonize over their prodigal children.  The fact is – we all have to make our own decisions as we grow older.  We live in a fallen world and we sin.  Satan will stop at nothing to destroy us.  We’re warned to, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil…”   (1 Peter 5, NLT)

Homeschooling does not save you.  I have wonderful friends on both sides of the aisle on this.  Those who lovingly homeschool their children, and those who lovingly send theirs to public school.   I have seen homeschool children leave the Christian faith, and I have seen some of the strongest Christians come through the public school system.  There are arguments for both

We can protect, shelter, shield and even shut ourselves off from the world, but the truth is – we have an enemy who will find us.   Continuing the passage from 1 Peter 5, “…he (satan) prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”   There is only one thing that can protect us, “…stand firm against him and be strong in your faith.”  Whether we are schooled at home or in another building….if we are not teaching our children to be strong in the faith, they are defenseless as they become adults.

Making judgment calls about either side benefits nobody.  Sadly, I have heard derision for the “other side” from both homeschoolers and traditional school people, whether they be parents, students or those who hold opinions of one of the other.   WHERE one chooses education for their children should not be a litmus test for one’s salvation.  Pride should have no place in our conversation.  But sadly, that is not the case.   I have to be honest, I have heard this come from those who homeschool more than the other way around.

FINALLY...and this gets to the gist of this blog and Josh Duggar’s problem.

Only the Maker of our hearts can purify us through the blood of Jesus Christ.   Only He can cleanse us from all unrighteousness, as we confess our sins.  Not homeschooling or utilizing public         education, having 20 kids or 2, leading a ministry or working in the worldly job force, abstaining from alcohol or having a glass of wine, having Christian parents or raised by heathens, wearing long denim skirts or short denim shorts,  having long hair or short, dating or courting,  wearing khakis or denim jeans, and the list goes on.

As people try to DO what it takes to be right with God, failure comes hard.  The more we worry about appearance management, the further we drift from the cross of Jesus Christ.  It’s a heart issue, plain and simple…and from a purified heart comes the right actions.

No amount of restrictions can come close to changing a life;  only realizing our dire need for a changed life through the power of the Holy Spirit, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Maybe, just maybe, if we figure out we need Jesus to purify us from all unrighteousness, we will have touched the hem of His garment….and be saved.