Saturday, October 30, 2010

Disinfecting or Discipling?

Have you ever felt the urgency that you MUST share something or pop?

Finally!   Finally!  A book has been written that states what I consider to be a clear portrait of the church today!  What I couldn't define in my own mind with my own words has been beautifully defined by a young man named David Platt.

This book makes me want to dance a jig and yell, "See, I'm NOT crazy! Some one else sees dead churches."  {Don't judge me}  LOL!

We are disinfecting instead of discipling.   Please do not grow weary with my book quotes.  It is just that I read so much.   Words and ideas that touch my soul need to be shared or I'll burst.  That statement is no less true for the explanation this young author writes in his book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream

Disinfecting Christians from the world involves isolating followers of Christ in a spiritual safe-deposit box called the church building and teaching them to be good.  Success in the church is defined by how big a building you have to house all the Christians, and the goal is to gather as many people as possible for a couple of hours each week in that place where we are isolated and insulated from the realities of the world around us.  When we gather at the building, we learn to be good.  Being good is defined by what we avoid in the world.  We are holy because of what we don't participate in (and we may be the only organization in the world defining success by what we don't do).  We live decent lives in decent homes with decent jobs and decent families as decent citizens.  We are decent church members with little impact on the world.

Discipling is much different.  It involves propelling Christians into the world to risk their lives for the sake of others.  The world becomes the focus and success is gauged by not how many we can get into our buildings but on how many are leaving our buildings to take on the world...all of a sudden, holiness is defined by what we do instead of what we do not.

How many Christians do you know who live like this?   I suspect not nearly enough.

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stained Glass Masquerade

God has a way of connecting people at the right time and place {He's GREAT that way}!   Thank you friends (you know who you are and I hope you are reading this)  for suggesting this song by Casting Crowns.  It is perfect.   Speak BOLDLY dear ones for you are not alone.

"Would it set me free if I dared to let you see the truth behind the person that you imagine me to be?

Would your arms be open or would you walk away?

Would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay?"  

Casting Crowns


Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Answer To The Question

Last week I wrote a post called The Gospel Of Ideas. I shared an excerpt from the book "Searching For God Knows What" by Donald Miller wherein he posed a question to the students of the Bible class he was teaching.  I want to follow-up on that post and share Mr. Miller's excerpt from the same book to answer the question.

"The story bears repeating: I presented a gospel to Christian Bible college students and left out Jesus. Nobody noticed, even when I asked them to think very hard about what it was I had left out. To a culture that believes they go to heaven based on whether they are morally pure, or that they understand some theological ideas or that they are very spiritual, Jesus is completely unnecessary. At best, He is an afterthought, a technicality by which we become morally pure, or a subject of which we know, or a founding father of our woo-woo spirituality. These students loved Jesus very much, and they were terrific kids whom I loved being with, it is just that when they thought of the gospel, they thought of the message in terms of a series of thoughts or principles, not in mysterious relational dynamics. The least important of the ideas, to this class, was knowing Jesus; the least important of the ideas was the one that is RELATIONAL. The gospel of Jesus, then, mistakenly assumed by this class, is something different from Jesus himself."

Sometimes I think churches have reduced this relationship to a formulistic equation. A+B+C = Salvation. Admit, Believe, Confess and you are Heaven bound!   I know a lot of Christians who adhere to this formula, yet do not seem to know Jesus himself.   I also know many morally good people who see Christ as unnecessary.   I encounter these two scenarios almost every day of my life.   Both make me sad.   Both spark anger.   Both cause me to speak with holy boldness (thanks CM).   And I believe both are what caused me to step away from church and concentrate on knowing Jesus better.  I believe that Jesus is the only way to God.  The book of Romans is clear on this subject; faith in Christ is necessary for salvation.  I also believe salvation does not end with a formula.   We are not called to stay in our holy huddles, pat ourselves on the back, and be comfortable in our chosen pew.  Actually, Jesus us told us to do the exact opposite and quiet honestly, I am weary of living a safe, comfortable, lukewarm type of life.  

The last few months I have taken an honest look at my life and what I see in myself is exactly what Francis Chan outlines in his book "Crazy Love"...

"Lukewarm people:

...attend church fairly regularly.  It is what is expected of them, what they believe good Christians do, so they go.

...give money to charity and to the long as it doesn't impinge on their standard of living.

...tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict.  They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions than what God thinks of their hearts and lives.

...don't want to be saved from their sins, they want to be saved from the penalty of their sins.

...are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act.

...rarely share their faith with neighbors, coworkers or friends.

...gauge their morality or goodness by comparing themselves to the secular world.

...say they love Jesus and He is a part of their lives.  But only a part. God, but not with all their heart, soul and strength. others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves and mostly focus their love on those who with who they connect.  Their love is highly conditional, selective and generally comes with strings attached.

...think about life on earth much more often than eternity.

...are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor.  Untold numbers feel called to minister to the rich; very few feel called to minister to the poor. whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty.  They do the bare minimum to be "good enough" without it requiring too much of them.

...are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control.

...feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican or live in America. not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to.  They have their savings account, their retirement plan, their life is figured and mapped out, their refrigerators are full and for the most part are in good health.  Their lives wouldn't look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God.

...probably drink less and swear less than average, but besides that, they really are not very different from your typical unbeliever.  They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn't be more wrong."

2 Corinthians 13:5 tells me to "examine myself, to see whether I am in the faith; test myself."   And so I did.   I am far lacking.     Not a pretty picture at all!   

Jesus also says in Luke 14:34-35, "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out."   Not a pretty analogy is it?  Lukewarm and uncommitted faith is completely useless...not even a benefit for a manure pile.   Ouch!

As I have studied and read over the passed few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that the culture and the church has manipulated the gospel to fit its preferences.

Now what?

To be continued......

(This post is dedicated to a dear friend whose granddaughter is pregnant and unmarried.   Her family wanted to give her a baby shower at the church where her granddaughter attends, but the pastor felt it would be "inappropriate under the circumstances".   She was also advised to no longer sing in the choir as it wasn't proper to stand in front of the congregation.   I'm pretty sure the members carry large bags of rocks with them.  My heart breaks for her.   Isn't it a good thing Mary wasn't living in our culture?)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Gospel Of Ideas

The following is an excerpt from a book I recently read “Searching for God Knows What” by author Donald Miller. I enjoy Miller’s conversational style writing and this particular passage reminded me of many conversations that I’ve had with fellow Christ-followers. Read the passage and see if you know the answer to the question he asked the group of students in class. I would love to know your thoughts regarding this; feel free to leave a comment. My comments are moderated, so if your response is of a personal nature, I won’t publish it. Some things need to remain private.

“So removed is our understanding of the gospel as a relational invitation that recently, while teaching a class of Bible college students, I presented a form of the gospel but left out a key element, to see if they would notice. I told them in advance that I was going to leave out a critical element of the gospel, and I asked them to listen carefully to figure out the missing piece.

I told them man was sinful, and this was obvious when we looked at the culture we lived in. I pointed out specific examples of depravity including homosexuality, abortion, drug use, song lyrics on the radio, newspaper headlines, and so on. Then I told the class that man must repent, and showed them Scriptures that spoke firmly of this idea. I used the true-life example I heard from a preacher about a man in Missouri who, warning people of a bridge that had collapsed, shot a flare gun directly at oncoming cars so they would stop before they drove over the bridge to their deaths. I said I was like that man, shooting flares at cars, and they could be mad at me and frustrated, but I was saving their lives, because the wages of sin is death, and they had to repent in order to see heaven. I then pointed to Scripture about the wages of sin being death, and talked at length about how sin separates us from God.

Then I spoke of the beauty of morality, and told a story of a friend who chose not to cheat on his wife and so now enjoy the fruits of his marriage, committed in love to his wife, grateful that he never betrayed the purity and beauty of their relationship. I talked about heaven and how great it will be to walk on streets of gold and how there will probably be millions of miles of mountains and rivers and how great it will be to fish those rivers and sit with our friends around a fire beneath a mountain peak that reaches up into stars so thick we could barely imagine the beauty of the expanse. I gave the class statistics regarding teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, going into detail about what it is they would be saved from if they would only repent, and how their lives could be God-honoring and God-centered and this would give them a sense of purity and a feeling of fulfillment on earth, and that God would provide for them in relationships and in finances and in comfort.

When I was done, I rested my case and asked the class if they could tell me, “What did I leave out of the gospel presentation?” I waited as a class of Bible college students - who that year, had read several textbooks about Christian theology, who had read the majority of the Bible, all of whom had taken an evangelism class only weeks before in which they went door-to-door to hundreds of homes and shared their faith using pamphlets that explained the gospel, who had grown up in Christian homes attending strong evangelical churches, who had taken both New Testament Introduction and Old Testament Introduction - sat there for several minutes in uncomfortable silence. None of the forty-five students in the class knew the answer.”

Do you? What did Mr. Miller leave out? I’ll conclude this in a few days, but I would love to hear your response.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How To Be Alone

Chances are, you've seen this video....but just in case you missed it, I wanted to share it with you.  I spotted this on a good friends blog and asked if I could copy her.  She sweetly said yes! 

Technically, I am not alone, but I think this message isn't singularly geared to those looking for a life partner.  

I am completely comfortable being alone and Tanya Davis' poem resonates to the deepest part of my soul.

I simply LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, this video.  I hope you enjoy it also.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Holy Discontent

I think it is safe to say that I am burned out and disillusioned by the church as I know it.   I could tell you many personal experiences that led me to this point, but I won't.   What I will say, and this is strictly my personal opinion, politics prevail within the church walls.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ has become man's agenda for glorification rather than God's agenda to make His Son famous among the nations.  We are building altars to ourselves, rather than altars to the Father.   We are ministering to the Baby Boomers with money who want to be comfortable with the status quo rather than seeking ways to minister to the X, Y, Z  generations that will someday lead the church.  I've heard leaders say that we are only two generations from losing the church.  My response to this...if you  are not seeking new ways to minister to the younger generations (youth, young adults/professionals, young married with/out families), you will lose the church.   It is that simple.    I'm not saying change the message.   Never change or compromise the message.....but do change the method..    Sorry folks, the X, Y, Z generations were not raised in the perfect 1950's (the rose colored glasses years) where their future looks bright and social security was secure.   They are living in uncertain economic times being bombarded by propaganda from evolution to socialism.  It is not the same world!

Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, has written a book called Holy Discontent.  What is Holy Discontent? 

"What is the one aspect of this broken world that, when you see it, touch it, get near it, you just can't stand? Very likely, that firestorm of frustration reflects your holy discontent, a reality so troubling that you are thrust off the couch and into the game. It's during these defining times when your eyes open to the needs surrounding you and your heart hungers to respond that you hear God say, I feel the same way about this problem. Now, let's go solve it together!   There are a lot of Christ-followers who haven't taken the time to figure out what their holy discontent is, and so they're doing a gradual slide into apathy and complacency and that is unconscionable in a broken and lost world."

To find more information about Holy Discontent here is a great web-site:  Holy Discontent.  For those who are not prone to search web-sites, here is a quick video.

What is your Holy Discontent?

To be continued...

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Yoke Is Easy, My Burden Is Light

Isn't it odd that in order to strengthen my relationship with Christ, I had to step away from the church? 

When I found that I could no longer worship in spirit and truth, that my anxiety level would increase every time I walked through the church doors, I realized I was not free in Christ because my personal convictions of worship and service did not align with the majority.   That is not to say I felt my own convictions were superior, on the contrary, I felt they were inferior.  I was expected, even required, to participate in service opportunities that I in no way felt led by the Holy Spirit.  I was participating out of obligation and guilt and it was like a cinder block setting on my chest; a weight too heavy for me to bear.   The verse "My yoke is easy, My burden is light" would often invade my thoughts and I would say, "No, Lord, they are not."   And this begin to effect my mental and emotional state.  When I finally stopped "doing" long enough and started "being", I  understood that the weight I was carrying was not of God, but of man.  That is why it was so heavy!   In all my busyness,  I could not get a vision of what God wanted for me personally.  I think this is true for the church as a whole.  We have become so busy doing church work, that we are neglecting our vision for the work of the Church.

The meaning of religion, in the dictionary, has to do with a belief in and a commitment to something or someone. It also means that a person is bound to the something or someone.  Commitment to God and being bound to Him is not a bad thing; the problem is that most people are bound to a set of rules and regulations, most of which were instituted by man, not God!   I desperately needed a sabbatical from "religion" and I boldly took it.  Even though it cut across the grain of societal expectations, even though it meant neglecting church duties, I decided that listening to Jesus and learning his ways were more important than anything else I could choose. No one can rip this precious spiritual truth away from me.     When I began to view my relationship with Christ in the light of how God saw me, rather than how others saw me, my perspective begin to change.

To Be Continued.....

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Am A Member Of The NCCC

Continued from "Touch Down Jesus" post.

Good stewardship of the church's money is a reflection of the hearts in the church members.   If money is carelessly wasted, extravagantly spent, or squirreled away, there is a good chance that those in authority over the money live similar lifestyles.   The truth is, those that have the authority usually have their own agenda; albeit, in the name of the Lord's work.   We proudly spout about seeking the Lord's will, but secretly, in the depths of our hearts desire our own way more.   This is the nature of man.   I know this to be true because I have experienced it myself and so have many others with who I have spoken regarding this topic.  The difference?   I am willing to say it aloud.   It is safe to say I am Not a Cookie-Cutter Christian and my writing this will not make me popular, but I've decided I need to be real.  If a church decides to borrow, say $2,000,000, to add on to their already beautiful facility that has not reached full capacity, under the pretense of  "the space is needed in order to grow the church" (or, if we build it, they will come syndrome), in my humble opinion, it is a safe bet the decision was man made and not God ordained.  

I grow weary of the number game churches play.   The church will not admit to this being true, but it is.   If it were not true, why would we be promoting High Attendance Day or Bring A Guest To Church Day?  The church will say it is to reach more people for Christ and that may well be the case in the hearts of some.  My experience; however, has taught me "let's get the numbers on the role so that our reports will be up for the quarter" is the more likely reason.   What church doesn't like to boast about it being so crowded "we had to bring in extra chairs?"     Just because a church is growing in numbers, doesn't mean it is a healthy church.  It is very easy to grow in numbers and not grow spiritually.  Unfortunately, I see this happening more and more.   So much time is required to accomplish the myriad activities of the church, that very little time is left to cultivate families and strengthen a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

And so, I stepped away from church attendance for a while.   To be continued....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Touch Down Jesus

I am not a regular church attender.   My husband and sons are faithful in their participation in church activities but their rebel mother is not.  Some think "rebel"  is a defining word for who I am and to some degree it may apply.  Being a rebel in the small town where I have lived my entire life apparently means, "she is not a regular church attender; therefore, she must be rebelling against the Lord."   The truth is, my relationship with Jesus Christ is solid.   It is the relationship against the politics of the church from which I am rebelling.   Not only that, I have decided to no longer stay silent which makes me even more rebellious. 

I am not out to harm the church; I love what the church stands for and I honestly think without the local church the world would be a more desolate place.  The church's job is to minister to the community and world and I have to say that the church I do not attend does this generously with their offering.   The church facility is beautiful, modern and immaculately clean.  Everyone dresses in their finest and speaks perfect Christianise.  It's a lovely place, where love is practiced, as well as preached.   As long as you agree with and vote yes at all the business meetings, you are considered a fine, fair, faith filled follower of the Lord.   Also, please don't question the decisions of those in authority.   After all, they have prayed and sought the Lord's will concerning the decisions and God has revealed to them what needs to happen in order to take church growth to the next level. 

Have you heard the story of Touch Down Jesus? 

In 2004, on the grounds of Solid Rock Church outside Monroe, Ohio, a six story high "Jesus" was built with his arms outstretched as a beacon of hope and salvation.   The statue was named "King of Kings" but colloquially became called "Touch Down Jesus" because the arms approximate the signal a referee makes for a touchdown in football.

On June 14, 2010, lightening struck the statue's right hand and burned it to the ground.   Touch Down Jesus became Torch Down Jesus.  Estimated damage:  $700,000.   The church says "Touch Down Jesus" will be resurrected because it was such a "ministry" to the community.   Really?   Ministry?   Sounds like an ego trip to me but I could be wrong.

I picture the Jesus I know, shaking his head sadly and saying "they just don't get it."

What if that church did something radical instead?  What if the church took the $700,000 or more that it will take to rebuild the styrofoam, wood and steel structure and feed the hungry, help widows and orphans, or pay the bills for the unemployed of that community?  Wouldn't that be considered ministry?   And wouldn't that be better stewardship of money?

To be continued.....

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Think It's Going To Rain Today

The autumn rain's gentle pitter-patter

Comforts my weary soul

And pauses my busyness

Long enough for me to stop

And give thanks to the Maker

Who sends both sunshine and rain

On the just and unjust equally.

His Love has no boundaries.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Beverly, Are You Sure?

I attended the Type-A-Mom Conference held at the Asheville Renaissance Hotel, in North Carolina, last weekend.   I use the word "attended" loosely.  I chose to visit one-on-one with some fantastic bloggers and enjoy downtown Asheville, instead of sitting in stuffy workshops.  Who knew that hidden in the lush mountains of North Carolina exists an eclectic artsy culture? 

I tend to learn more from personal conversation and  observation rather than listening to someone exult about their personal success.   Success is a relative term.  For example, I heard a woman boast about how many times her site shut down the server due to the myriad of  hits she received.  She was bold and brassy!   On the other hand, an unpretentious lady shared about how protective she is of her family time and how she strives for balance in her home.   Both women felt successful with their blogging efforts; their perspectives are equally interesting and I learned something from both.  Sweet!

Our room before the influx of women.....Reading Rosie, Megan from Sweet Sadie Marie, Kym from String Bean 17, and Jen from Great Little Stories shared the room.

Thomas Wolfe, considered by many to be one of the giants of 20th Century American Literature immortalized his childhood home in his epic autobiographical novel, Look Homeward, Angel. Wolfe's colorful portrayal of his family, his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, and the Old Kentucky Home boarding house earned the historic Victorian home a place as one of American Literature's most famous landmarks and set right across the street from the hotel. 

I had to take a photo....

Mellow Mushroom, one of downtown Asheville's many quirky restaurants was within easy walking distance and open for a late-night pizza run.  Yum!


Antiquing in Asheville is premium (if you have the dough).

Reading Rosie, Mary Poppins...or Beverly?  Only a few know "for sure."

Thanks for reading, Rosie.