Friday, May 29, 2009

Church Sign

"Build Your Life by the Book"

Do you agree?

Makes a relationship with the Creator seem pedantic to me.

'Ere Faith?

In faith there is movement and development. Each day something is new. To be Christian, faith has to be new - that is, alive and growing. It cannot be static, finished settled. When Scripture, prayer, worship, ministry become routine, they are dead. When I conclude that I can now cope with the aw-ful love of God, I have headed for the shallows to avoid the deeps. I could more sasily contain Niagara Falls in a teacup than I can comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.

From The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Thursday, May 28, 2009

God is (Always) Good

This relates to a an earlier post I had about God's Goodness.

We had a double blow of bad news yesterday - my wife's company is not doing well, and she was told that she had to take a 40% pay cut and there's a small legal issue we are having to deal with also.

I proclaim that God is STILL good, no matter what my circumstance might be.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Truth Are YOU Willing to Die For?

Why are we so willing to die for doctrine that somebody taught us? Doctrine that we had no hand in formulating. Doctrine that is really someone ELSE’S interpretation of Scripture.

We join a church (non-denom or mainline) and then we start being taught– we are taught through preaching (which, by the way, is just ONE man – the SAME man – week after week), through Sunday school (again, ONE person), or any other teaching ministry. After a while, these doctrines get ingrained so much, we can’t even tell you how we got where we are. We don’t question – we just accept. And THEN, if someone postulates ANOTHER possibility, or suggests that YOUR doctrine MAY not be a correct interpretation of Scripture (some of which I call the Extrapolation of Scripture), well, THEN we get upset. "Don't overturn MY applecart!"

Suggest to a Baptist that we may not be “saved to serve”, and you get hostility.

Suggest to a Pentecostal that ALL people may not get the gift of tongues, and you get aggression.

Suggest to a Lutheran that Luther might be wrong about some things, and you get anger.

Again, besides preaching Christ crucified, why do we get so hung up on denominational distinctives?

If we would just take a moment to think about something, then MAYBE we could get some better perspective and actually have a RELATIONSHIP with the One who sent His Son for that reason and none other.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grace Walk Radio's Interview of Me

I appreciate Dave Lesniak letting me have the opportunity for this

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Performance-Based Acceptance Story

For me (US really – because it included my wife and also my children to some extent), we were happy in our small Independent Baptist church that we had been attending since 1991. It was the only church our children knew. All of our close relationships were grounded in this assembly. All of THEIR friends were there.

I had a Spiritual awakening in 1997, and soon became very involved in the ministry at that church. They were excited and encouraged to see me finally come alive. Previously, I would just attend the service and would not speak to anyone. I don’t know why I was awakened then, but immediately started to work in doing SOMETHING as I was told that I SHOULD do and I was eager to since I believed these people knew the correct way. I want to say that at this time, we were a spirit led church and God was blessing us with closeness in fellowship and (I know this is an external) growth.

Over the next year or so, I became a Deacon and, gradually, our work load increased. My wife is one of the hardest workers I know. Understand, we were never asked how we were doing as a family, or if there is too much work put upon us. Not only that, we were told, from the pulpit, that we could never do enough to pay back what Jesus had done for us. Therefore, we always felt like we had to do even more in order to maintain our right standing before God. It was not as much expressed, as implied.

We were considered FAITHFUL because we were at every service –and I mean EVERY service. Sunday’s became so stressful for us, that we came to dread them. This was a typical Sunday: arrive at church at 9:15 since we both taught Sunday School, go to choir room to practice before the service, service ends at 12:15ish, lunch, home at 2 (if we were lucky), back at church at 4:30 for choir practice, service at 6, service ends at 7:15ish. If it was my month to count the offering and lock-up the building, then I would not leave until 8 or 8:30. And THAT was a TYPICAL Sunday. If there was a special event, then it was squeezed into the middle of the day somehow.

Wednesday’s, we were there at 6:55 (since, of course, we taught AWANA) and didn’t get home until after 9. We did all of this for YEARS! And keep in mind, there were Mission’s Conferences, and revivals also.

At some point, we began to say to ourselves that something was wrong. Christianity was not supposed to be this way. Where was the Life that Jesus promised – and not JUST Life, but ABUNDANT Life? Where was Jesus easy yoke? The light burden? I looked around and all I saw were people just like us. Empty eyes, hungry souls, tired spirits. But we soldiered on as we were told. “Finish the race”.

At first, we thought it was us. Then, slowly – over the course of a few years, we began to realize it was the fact that we were exhausted – spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.

The beginning of the end for me there was a few years ago. I had led a group of wonderful people through Henry Blackaby’s “Experiencing God”. It was life-changing. Our small group of 10 people grew in the Lord so much, it affected the entire church. People could see a change in us and recognized the quickening of our spirits.

Since this was a Sunday School class, and also since it was a limited study, when we finished, a few of the people had to get back into their classes since other people had to step in for this short time.

I went to the pastor, and asked (the whole group WANTED to continue) about doing another study Sunday evenings DURING church. He thought a minute and said, “No, I don’t think so. It would take too many people out of the service.”

At that point I knew that the TRADITION was more important than the spiritual condition of the people there. I guess at that time, the door closed in my heart for the affection of the ministry at that church. BUT, we hung on saying that we loved the people too much to leave. So we stumbled on for a couple of more years – all the while growing deader and deader spiritually. We became wearier and wearier.

Finally, in June of ’08, I told my wife I was ready to start looking for another church. We did not know it was going to change our lives so radically.

I won’t go into the details of the exit, but let me just say it was not pretty. We lost A LOT of friends – people who we thought really loved us. It was then that I learned about conditional love. For some there, THEIR love was conditional to where we fellowshipped. If we didn’t fellowship with them, then we were disloyal and deserved their scorn. It has been, and continues to be, heartbreaking. I probably think about it every day.

BUT, God is good. The next week after we left, we visited another Independent Baptist church in the area. That Thursday, two wonderful men visited us, and we talked for about 2 hours. One of them, in passing, mentioned the book “Grace Walk” that he had really enjoyed. I don’t know what peaked my interest about it, but I went to the bookstore the next day and bought it.

That was on a Friday – I finished it on Sunday. I couldn’t put it down. It answered questions that my heart had been straining to get an answer to.

My life will never be the same. NEVER again will I be under bondage to a system or a single man’s teaching. I believe that God wants us to seek Him out for ourselves. He knows the outcome, but enjoys our reaction to revelation, nonetheless. He enjoys OUR journey.

Peace and blessings to all

This is part of a synchroblog started by brother Joel. Here is his link.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Fellowship of His Suffering

I was humbled when these words were ascribed to me and my situation by a friend that I met. I had met him through another dear friend, and was honored to be able to share my heart with both of them in a meeting in North Georgia.

My heart is very tender right now, and I was sharing with another sister, Jamie, that if THIS is the pain required to take me to the next level, I'm not sure I can do it.

I have asked God to let me know Him better - to manifest Himself in my life and I came to the realization today, that being CONFORMED in the image of Christ is painful - this conFORmaton. It's like a broken leg that didn't get set right - it has to be REbroken and REformed. This process is not an easy one. The fellowship of His suffering.

Jamie shared with me that the battlefield for the believer is in the mind, and I can attest to that. My friend, Dave Lesniak, shared with me that when we get bombarded with lies in our mind - when our thought pattern runs away with negative thoughts like a runaway freight train, what we need to do is speak truth to ourselves - aloud!

He gave me some Truth to tell myself, and I have to tell you that it stopped that thought train in its tracks.

If any of you are going through the same thing I am right now, please know that Paul says we fight against unseen powers, and that fight is in our minds. We just have to recognize that and be ready to flood our minds with Truth.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Our TRUE Sabbath

...the Church is more focused on monitoring the earth, the devil, and Adam's dominion than on gazing at her restful Lord.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ by Lynn Hiles

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jesus, the Provacateur

Lately, I’ve been kind of “stuck” in the 3rd chapter of John. We always seem to go directly to the 16th verse and just camp there, but Jesus starts talking in verse 3 and continues talking to Nicodemus for another 4 verses.

The words of Jesus have always amazed me. NO ONE speaks in the way He does!

For example, in verse 2, Nicodemus says, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”

Notice what Jesus says next – He immediately challenges everything that Nicodemus THINKS he knows about God and the Scriptures!

” Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus answered a question that Nicodemus didn’t even ask! And not only that, what He says is not just a paradigm shift, but a completely new concept altogether!

It’s been my observation that Jesus NEVER answered a question directly, and often deflected the conversation to the real heart of the matter.

Nicodemus was wanting to talk about Jesus authority and He turns it around and confronts his preconceived notions. That’s why I don’t understand why people have such a hard time with The Shack and its depiction of God as a black woman. In the book, “Papa” says to a shocked Mack that He can choose to appear however He wishes, but their "meeting" was about shattering preconceived notions about who Mack thinks God is.

Jesus was always provocative in His speech. I believe that’s why we so often misunderstand them – they are much deeper than they appear on the surface and often answer a question we didn't even know to ask.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Church Sign

Current sign at a local Baptist church:

"Grace - not a licence to sin, but a reason to serve."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Not of My Making by Margaret W. Jones, Ph. D.

Welcome to the latest stop of the virtual book tour for Dr. Jones Not of My Making – Bullying, Scapegoating, and Misconduct in Churches, 410 pages, Pluck Press

I was contacted by Dr. Jones’ press agent back in late March or early April asking if I wanted to be a host for one of her stops, and I was honored. I am assuming she found me because spiritual abuse has been a periodic theme in my blog as that is the central theme of her book.

I received it in mid-April, and I finished reading it over the next few days. I believe this is a self-published work, and comes from hers and others correspondence (emails and letters), but mostly from her journal. She is a dedicated journal-er, and finds it cathartic.

In the preface, she states “many people involved in these events experienced things differently and would without a doubt tell the story differently”. Dr. Jones clearly says that this is HER story and “told from [her] point of view.” (p. 11) In the spirit of fairness, she tried to get the individuals involved to make corrections where they thought they were needed. MOST did not take her up on the offer, save for a few, and Dr. Jones allowed additions where she agreed they were indeed legitimate.

The book starts in the mid-fifties when she was molested at four years old by a neighbor after her siblings left for school. Her mother, as an alcoholic, was neglectful and her father was verbally and emotionally abusive.

When she is old enough for school, she is not accepted by her peers as her mother doesn’t make sure she is bathed and clothed in a proper manner. She goes on to talk about how most of her primary education only had people who were mean and shunning to her.

She thought college would be different, but still did not receive real acceptance until she met her husband, Lyndon Jones. They went on to get married and have two children. They being a biracial couple – she white and he black – contributed to a broad, continuing, and incomplete acceptance for her in the social and religious groups in her life.

She also was sexually abused by an uncle when she was a child, and this – plus her parents neglect and verbal/emotional abuse - attributed to her lifelong need for acceptance – FROM others and FOR herself. She admits to abusing herself (cutting/burning) to “relieve the pain.”

She ultimately finished her education – earning a Ph. D. in psychology, and goes into practice with her husband.

The book’s main theme is her experience in two different churches. The first one is a Unitarian/Universalist (UU), and the later one, Lutheran.

In the part about the UU church (starting on p. 55), she later talks about the supposed “tolerance” of the people there, and she shows how their tolerance is relative. I agree with and love her quote about it – “…it is easy to be tolerant with something you don’t feel strongly about. The true test of tolerance is when you can accept and not condemn someone for holding a different view on an issue that touches you deeply.” (p. 71)

After several incidents where she is misunderstood and misjudged, and later when the minister reveals intimate information about her, she tries to get vindication and validation for herself.

(I am HIGHLY condensing these incidents)

The second one highlights her problems at the Lutheran church she attended after the UU church. Different particulars, same underlying issues.

At 410 pages, the first 54 take up her early years while the remaining 355 encompass the other two episodes.

I don’t know if the book had any formal editing, but I believe that the book would have been helped by a competent editor. While I thought the writing to be fairly solid, I found a few parts confusing and, just at times, disjointed. And I also believe that the book could have been much shorter, while easily making the same point.

Also, fundamentally, I feel that her trying to make her view point heard over and over by all the parties involved, went on a lot longer than it would have for me. I just don’t think I would have continued to pursue vindication as long as she did. It also appears, that she believed that if people would only sit down and hear her out, they would ultimately LIKE her. I have come to believe that you cannot force people to like you – they usually don’t change after they’ve made up their minds – no matter what evidence you produce to show how wrong they are. Maybe ESPECIALLY because you show them they are wrong.

I read the whole book expecting a clean outcome that ultimately never comes – only a sense of acceptance of the situation on Dr. Jones’ part. Her own redemption, if you will.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about her story of lifelong abuse and perhaps shares her history of neglect and mistreatment.

Dr. Jones will take your questions today.