It comes as no surprise to discover that churches hurt people. The surprise comes when OUR church hurts US. Somehow, churches that dish out pain are reserved for those people, in those cities, over there. Not on our turf.
And then it happens.
We take a five week break, and no one from the church staff team contacts us.
We serve in children’s ministry, faithfully every month for two years. And when we ask for a well-deserved break, we are given a guilt trip instead of a pat on the back.
We preach and teach our hearts out, week in and week out, and watch as good people make a stampede for the back doors because the preaching or teaching isn’t “deep” enough.
Church people hurt people.
Can I get an amen? And when we are hurt by churches – whether it’s by people in the pews, staff team members, or leadership boards and committees who question our character – we must do two things.
First, we must visit our pain. This will feel like an extended visit with our in-laws, because it is a time for answering hard questions. During our visit, we must have the courage to ask why we have been hurt so badly. Did we place unrealistic expectations on a people? Did we think we were more important than we turned out to be? Were we misunderstood? Did we feel like our hopes and dreams were squelched? Was there a legitimate bait and switch? Did we keep quiet for too long? Did we remain the squeaky wheel for too long? Is it really all their fault, or is there something we did wrong?
For me, this visit lasted the better part of one year. At one point, in the Summer of 2008, I honestly thought I was done.
There’s a second thing we must do. With Braveheart courage, we must end the visit we’ve established with our pain. This has been, after all, only a visit. We have walked in. We have sat down. We have cried honest tears. And now, we stand up, and we walk back out the door.
Most hurting church people refuse this part of the process, for it is perhaps the most difficult part of living in honest Christian community. It’s too easy not to forgive the church. It gives many of us an excuse never to go back.
And we take it. We choose to hate those people instead of forgiving them. And “hate” is not too strong a word for this. We know that from our experience.
The Apostle John picked up his pen toward the end of his life, and wrote the following to a splintered group of church people who had hurt each other – divided over a theological issue called “Gnosticism” – and who had become bitter and resentful as a result…
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him” (1 John 2:10-11).
When I am hurt by the church, and I choose to hold onto that hurt like a precious family heirloom – without forcing myself to go through the long, arduous process of healing and restoration – I will, by default, become a bitter, resentful person. I will “not know where I am going because the darkness has blinded me.” Been there? Me too.
I don’t want to be a Christian living in darkness. What’s the point of that?
For me, my journey out of my pain has involved really spending time with God and studying His Word. Learning what the church is all about and actively making steps to change the way we think, which in most cases causes the hurt. While that decision isn’t right for everyone, it’s been my way out of the darkness, and into the light.
Don’t allow the pain that someone forces upon you draw you away from God. Hurt is real, but so is He (God). The hurt, as bad as it can feel is only a tool that God uses to develop you, if you allow Him too. Grow through the pain!
Thank you, it was meant to be! You hurt me; but you couldn’t break me. You talk about me; but you couldn’t change the truth. You lied on me; but you couldn’t steal my integrity. Your efforts made me a stronger and better man; but it wasn’t your intensions. I forgave you; but can you admit and forgive yourself?
“I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46)
This world is dark as midnight; Jesus has come that by faith we may have light, and may no longer sit in the gloom which covers all the rest of mankind.
Whosoever is a very wide term: it means you and me. If we trust in Jesus we shall no more sit in the dark shadow of death, but shall enter into the warm light of a day which shall never end. Why do we not come out into the light at once?
A cloud may sometimes hover over us, but we shall not abide in darkness if we believe in Jesus. He has come to give us broad daylight. Shall He come in vain? If we have faith we have the privilege of sunlight: let us enjoy it. From the night of natural depravity, of ignorance, of doubt, of despair, of sin, of dread, Jesus has come to set us free; and all believers shall know that He no more comes in vain than the sun rises and fails to scatter his heat and light.
Shake off thy depression, dear brother. Abide not in the dark, but abide in the light. In Jesus is thy hope, thy joy, thy Heaven. Look to Him, to Him only, and thou shalt rejoice as the birds rejoice at sunrise, and as the angels rejoice before the throne.
I remember when I was a little boy and my father took us on a family vacation to Ruby Falls. I remember being in a cave and they turned the lights out. A voice came over the speaker and said if you stayed in this dark for too long you would go blind. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know that so many Christian walk in darkness for so long when they see the light it blinds them. Like waking up in the morning and someone turns on a bright light.
Abide in the light of our Savior, so when someone tries to shine the light on you the light of God leaves them as deer staring into headlights.
Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless–that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8–9 MSG
In Other Words
In summary, God wants us to be agreeable, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble. It gives God no pleasure when we become obsessed with getting even, behave like put-down artist, or become champions of sarcastic word wars. We are called to be different. We are to bless, not curse. When we bless others, even in adverse circumstances, we also receive blessings. Bless and be blessed, that’s God’s way.
ü God wants us to get along with grumpy people
ü He wants us to return sarcasm with sympathy, distain with empathy
ü Jesus wants us to be loving and compassionate, even when surrounded by hate
ü Our Father is not happy when we waste time in getting even or playing “pay-back”
ü He is not pleased when we put others down instead of lifting them up
ü God winces when we willingly become bows for poisoned arrows of sarcasm
ü Jesus empowers us to be different
ü Our Father expects us to both bless and be a blessing to others
ü When we bless each other, then surely we are being blessed
Questions and Thoughts to Aid Digestion
Have you ever launched a counter-attack against sarcasm? Were you happy with the results?
How much do you grow in the Lord when you have vindictive or spiteful thoughts?
Which seems more natural, to turn our cheek, or to slap theirs?
How often are you caught in the act of being a blessing to someone else?
Because God expects us to be meek, does that mean we should be weak?
“Success” does indeed have its rewards. Therefore the temptation to parade the accouterments of achievement in front of others in order to garner their admiration is almost irresistible! After all,
“If you‘ve got it, FLAUNT IT!“ (But subtly, of course.)
Let’s just admit that it’s hard to be humble when you’re soooo good!
God is not against success. But He is against pride. And the pride that often accompanies our success can indeed be seductive.
Take for example the experiences of:
“But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God… “ (2 Chronicles 26:16)
“After Rehoboam‘s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord.“ (2 Chronicles 12:1)
“Jeshurun grew fat… filled with food… heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior.“ (Deuteronomy. 32:15)
Because “SUCCESS” IS A SEDUCTIVE MISTRESS we would be wise to heed sage old King Solomon — who himself was seduced by his success — when he prayed:
“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?‘ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.“ (Proverbs 30:8, 9)
QUESTION: How well are you handling your “success” in the eyes of the Lord Jesus?
- Is He pleased as He observes you, His humble, self-sacrificing, and gracious servant? Or:
- Is He grieved by a pride-ridden life that is locked on to spiritual cruise-control?
The problem is that a lot of us are in spiritual cruise control. We are not pursuing God. We are not following after righteousness. The Christian life is like a greased pole: either you are climbing or slipping. How about you? Are you climbing? Are you growing? Are you maturing? Or are you going backward? It is time for us to use what God has given so we can go out and do some serious spiritual four-wheeling.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:26)
As I sit quietly I can hear my heart beat, just listening for God’s Spirit to speak to me. This is the place where my faith grows, in my time of quietness I can feel the Spirit of God preparing me for tomorrow. “The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20) I heart races and then it seems to stop, my mind is at the center of consciousness that generates my thoughts. My hand sprints across the page of my notebook, my pen feels like a baton waiting to conduct the great performers.
Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted”. “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength”. Such words reveal to us the close connection between quietness and faith. They show us what a deep need there is of quietness, as an element of true waiting upon God. “Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God” (Zephaniah 1:7) If we are to have our whole heart turned toward God, we must have it turned away from man, from all that occupies and interests, whether of joy or sorrow.
God is a being of such infinite greatness and glory, and our nature has become so estranged from Him, that it requires our whole heart and desires set upon Him, even in some little measure, to know and receive Him. Everything that is not God, that excites our fears or stirs our efforts or awakens our hopes or makes us glad, hinders us in our perfect waiting on Him. The message is one of deep meaning: “Take heed, and be quiet”; “In quietness…shall be your strength”; “It is good that a man should… quietly wait.”
As long as the Waiting on God is chiefly regarded as an end toward more effectual prayer, and the obtaining of our petitions, this spirit of perfect quietness will not be obtained. But, when it is seen that Waiting on God is itself an unspeakable blessedness one of the highest forms of fellowship with the Holy One the adoration of Him in His glory will of necessity humble the soul into a holy stillness, making way for God to speak and reveal Himself. Then, it comes to the fulfillment of the precious promise, that all of self and self-effort will be humbled: “The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:11).
“Take heed, and be quiet” (Isaiah 7:4). “It is good that a man… quietly wait.” Take time to be separate from all friends and all duties, all cares and all joys; time to be still and quiet before God. Take time not only to secure stillness from man and the world, but from self and its energy. Let the Word and prayer be very precious. We will discover that it grows upon us, and the little season of silent worship will bring a peace and a rest that give a blessing not only in prayer, but all day.
The quietness is the confession of our meekness. It will not be done with all our willing and running, with all our thinking and praying. We must receive it from God. It is the confession of our faith that our God will, in His time, come to our help the quiet resting in Him alone.
“My soul, wait thou only upon God!”
Sam and Jean had a hellish marriage.
With a history of promiscuity, personal insecurities, etc., etc., both brought excess baggage into the relationship that contributed toward constant
conflict. Both however, had recently become followers of Christ and were committed to living out their marriage vows His way.
That was twenty years ago. Today I was on the phone with Sam as he mused over the fact that he and Jean had become “best friends.”
It seems to me there are several reasons for this remarkable transformation:
1. Both were willing to humble themselves and seek out competent and godly counsel to help them identify and root out the origins of their problems:
“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” (Proverbs 11:14)
2. Both were committed to spiritual growth: Consistent times of prayerful meditation upon God’s Word:
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Jos. 1:8)
3. Both surrounded themselves with godly people to whom they chose to be accountable; people from whom they gained supportive strength:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) (See 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11; Hebrews 12:12-15)
4. Both were committed to persevering through their problems. In their minds divorce was never an option. Thus, they chose to face, rather than deny
or ignore the critical issues:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) (See Romans 5:3 ; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 3:8-11)
Over the years, I have met few couples who did not face daunting challenges in their marriage. I have come to believe that marital success or failure
is determined not by the size of the problems, but by whether or not the couple is willing to face and deal with the problematic issues, whatever the pain, whatever the cost.
Living as we do in a crybaby world “if it feels good do it” society where marriage vows often read, “as long as we both shall love,”
instead of “till death do us part,” we need to comprehend the fact that God hates divorce, and only granted it because of people’s hardness of heart. (Malachi 2:16; Mark 10:2-9)
QUESTION: Are you demonstrating your commitment to your marriage by taking whatever steps are biblical and necessary to resolve the difficult
issues that inevitably could destroy it? If not, why not?
THOUGHT: If you applied these principles and biblical truths to every area of your life, what would the outcome be?
The Famine in Our Land
“Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land”. Genesis 12:10 Just like in the days of Abram there is a famine in our land. God sent Abram to the promise land, Canaan a land that should have been flowing with milk and honey. However the land has now become dry and dusty, similar to our church today. In the same way Abram had to leave Canaan “The Promise” and go to a place to really appreciate God and who He is, we are at a point where we need to leave the “institutionalized church”, the money thirsty, Tower of Babel building, ego seeking church. The place which has become the replacement for the “Body of Christ” is in a famine. The Body of Christ “The Church”, “The Promise” today is experiencing a famine.
A famine is sweeping our land, from the sun drenched coast of California to the icy shores of Massachusetts. The barrenness stretches from Antarctica to Aruba and from Zambia to Zimbabwe. No amount of rain, sleet, or snow can relieve this famine. Only the water of the Word of God can quench our thirsty spirits and bring life from death. People don’t take lighting as seriously as they should. When you hear thunder, do you rush indoors and seek shelter or do you casually wind up your activities and stroll inside unaware of the danger lurking above you? When it comes to weather, we don’t always clearly see the danger on the horizon. We don’t even realize that lighting kills some people every year than tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards combined.
Nor do we take the danger of not reading the Bible seriously enough. Christians take the church building more serious than they do the Word of God. Matter of fact most Christians including pastors go to church more each week than they read their Bible. We know that we should read the Word, yet there is always something more pressing, something that just cannot wait that we do instead, choir practice, book club meetings (which has become most of the churches ministries) drama, and dance rehearsals, etc… What we know in our heads seldom penetrates our hearts, leaving us in danger, a danger we all too often dismiss. A biblical famine is sweeping our world, and many in the church cannot see the danger. They ignore the consequences of neglecting God’s Word.
The world is under siege by an enemy that has but one good attribute: patience. Of course, the forces of evil do not use patience to advance the kingdom of God; they use it to further the kingdom of Satan. Every day they persuade churchgoers to neglect reading the Word. As result, people slip further and further away from their heavenly Father. He longs to speak to us through His Word, yet many say by their actions, “Sorry. Not today. I have more important things to do.” Many will read bits and pieces of the Bible without allowing it to affect their attitudes and actions; the truths of Scripture go in one ear and out the other without reaching their hearts. And even if they do understand Scripture, are they acting on it? No! Many are lost in church because they have never drenched their minds and spirits with the water of life, the Word of God.
Famines don’t suddenly appear out of nowhere; they develop slowly. Day by day, they squeeze the life out of the land. Grass gradually loses its verdure and turns brown. You can’t see it happening in an instant; shrubs and trees do not suddenly succumb to the lack of water. Weeks or months may pass before you perceive the changes Then you say, “What happened? Everything is dead!” The word picture aptly describes the lukewarm Christian. The lost in church are withering from a lack of spiritual water: the Bible. The church is nursing on a substitute, entertainment! They are depressed, angry, and spiritually depleted, unaware. They are dry and parched in their souls, longing for something to quench their thirst. Unfortunately, few realize they are being drawn by the Holy Spirit and that they need to be washed and nourished by the everlasting spring of life-giving water. As Scripture tells us, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,” Ephesians 5:25-26 “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life”. Revelation 22:17
Scripture clearly teaches that reading the Bible is essential for Christians. When you read the Bible, you are hearing God speak to you personally. Can you picture yourself in a desert with no water? Without water, you would die. Take that picture and apply it to the Bible. Bam! You are dead! We refuse to open the Bible, and then wonder why life isn’t what you expected; it’s much like standing in the middle of a barren desert. Water is essential to life; in fact, most humans can survive only three days without it. Without water, our bodies dehydrate. This is simple science. The sad reality for many today is that they are refusing to replenish their souls and spirits with the water of the Word; therefore, they are unable to live the abundant, fruitful life that the Lords wants them to live. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 Your pastor can’t refresh you or even give you what you need to be refreshed. Matter of fact most pastors are dehydrated themselves. The worship leader may make you sweat, but try living off sweat.
Concrete mix comes in a powder and unless you add water it remains dry and dusty. The Word of God is your water for your mix. Without the Bible, your spiritual concrete will never set. You’ll never be capable of living the Christian life or obeying Jesus. Then Moses told the Israelites to “be careful to observe” How can people carefully observe the words of the Lord if they don’t know them? A person carefully observing the Word of God will hold it in high regard and take it seriously. The lost in church love to choose which commands they will obey, even the pastors. If some part isn’t convenient, or if it requires too much work on their parts, many simply discard or ignore those truths. They may say, “I’ll have to pray about that”; yet, inwardly, they have already made up in their minds to disobey, figuring god is loving, forgiving God.
The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 32:47 “It is a futile thing, because is your life”. Our belief system is revealed by what we do. In other words, deeds are based on faith. What is in a heat comes out in the person’s life. As Luke 6:43-45 says,
“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”.
If the church is not consistently in the Word of God, it will be only a shell without foundation or substance. Knowing God is knowing His Word. Having faith is obeying God. “It is your life.” Can the lord be any clearer? Apart from Jesus and His Word, eternal life cannot be achieved, for we all sin and “fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. When you look at your Bible, what do you think? Do you treat it like the very Words of God? Don’t try to substitute your pastor, your church, your Christians friends, your spouse, or anything else in this world for the Word of God! 1 Samuel 3:7 says, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” Verse 21 says, “The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” God longs to give the lost in church life – real life – eternal life. It comes only through Jesus Christ who reveals Himself through the Holy Spirit and Scripture.
God wants to shatter the comfort zones of those lost in church, the mind-set that says, “I hear from God when the preacher is talking, when the choir is singing, when my pastor is praying. What more do you expect of me? God expects a lot more of you than an hour or two a week. Try giving your spouse that much time and see where that gets you. Matter of fact that hour or two you spend in church (as you call it) God Himself is not please with it. For many lost in church today, the most comfortable thing to do is hide, to pretend He’s not watching. They resort to our first parents’ behavior. After disobeying God, Adam and Eve did what came naturally to sinners. Genesis 3:8-14 tells the story.
The lost church are hiding behind their church membership, their pastor, their good deeds, their parents’ walk with God, or other flimsy excuses that will not be accepted by a holy God. There’s an astonishingly bizarre attitude among many churchgoers today. What they say they know, they don’t do. They understand the importance of spending time in their Bibles, yet their consciences don’t seem to stop them from ignoring this truth. 1 Timothy 4:1-2 speaks to this attitude: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron”. In other words, many lost in church can be compared to religious hypocrites who knowingly listen to the devil (I wanted to drop some names here, but God wouldn’t allow me) instead of God. A spiritual war of biblical magnitude is assaulting the world today, and many in the church are saying, “What war?” We are being blessed! The truth, they have made a deal with Satan. They settled for blessings from Satan and rejected the armor and weapons to fight effectively.
Instead of fighting the spiritual battles church seems to enjoy the fight amongst themselves with even recognizing it. What does God see when He looks at the “institutionalized church”? Does He see humble saints hungry for His voice? Spiritually deprived slaves worshipping a master call pastor? Old club hands getting their party on in the church house? I believe that too often God sees people starving and malnourished by a lack of spiritual food. What’s happening her? It’s a look at the church today. Can you imagine a week without food? Many in the church haven’t read their Bibles all week; they are spiritually empty. Too many go to church on Sunday morning, open their Bibles, and then close them until the following week. The truth of the matter most pastor are quiet happy with that. Why? Because if you ever grew into the knowledge of God, they know you would have to leave. Most of them would be out of the pimping business because you would become the truth ministers “disciples” of the Word of God. Wise up! The Bible holds the key.
Abraham Lincoln said “I have come to realize that people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
This morning tell your body and soul that I am happy, healthy, and feel great! Speak to your world and create it as man was originally intended to do.
It seems that whatever we say is what we settle for.
Speak to your mountain today and see it removed. Doubt not and simply believe you are created as an agent for change in this world.
Proverb 23:7 says “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
To change your circumstance, change your thinking! To change your thinking, change your words!”
While people look for better methods, God looks for better people. Choose to believe God today, choose to be happy today!
Life is too short and tomorrow is not promised, make every day the best day of your life.
I am praying for a mountain moving experience in your life today.
We live in a lost world, a world more frightening than anything Steven King could have imagined. Its fearsomeness lies not in prehistoric monsters, but in the inhabitants who have turned away from their Creator and rejected the only Redeemer who could rescue them from their spiritual sickness. Disconnected from the God of grace, human beings live in disgrace, choosing to become their own gods. Burdened by their sins, they seek relief from the consequences of their actions but continue to do the very things that enslave them.
Yesterday as my wife and I sit in the gymnasium waiting for our younger daughter’s musical performance to begin. I look over and notice my wife crying. Our other daughter had given her an obituary of a person she knew. I understand the intense sorrow she was feeling. She was crying because of the physical deaf, but there is the deaf of a spiritual man that I moan for everyday. There are so many Christian in a quest to find themselves in church often die a slow and painful deaf. This leads to a religious experience in which the God of the Bible is thought to be nothing more than whispers in the wind, a voice cling in the desert, or an opinion that can be easily ignored.
Alienated from God and His laws of living, they live their lives the way they want, unashamed of their double-mindness and lack of faith. Like people who have deliberately spread the AIDS virus, they justify their search for self-satisfaction with rationalizations such as, “It’s my body. I can do with it as I please.” They are disconnected from God and others. There is so much similarity to the church today. Instead of truly loving people, they use them as objects for their satisfaction, tools for their self-satisfaction. God’s will is replaced with the will to pleasure self: “If it feels good, (like Nike) just do it.” Most of what is done on Sunday morning in church is a stroke of the feelings, the pew sitters want to feel good and the pulpit pimps want to live good. Morality is lost in a sea of relativism, and as Paul said, “The whole creation groans” Romans 8:22
Can you hear the groaning of our lost world? Listen to the cries of young girls with unwanted pregnancies, the result of a search for love and acceptance, a search for their lost selves. Most are the victims of religious church folks, who found more pleasure in serving in the church building or the pastor than loving and teaching at home. Listen to the angry, bitter words spoken by a couple who once vowed to love, honor, and respect one another. Listen as selfish demands obscure their recognition of each other’s needs. This is my personal testimony, church, pastor and I almost destroyed my marriage. It is so easy to get caught up in the ministry as we call it, which is really a stroking on man; that you lose things that are really important to you and God. My old pastor would always tell me that my wife was going to destroy the ministry and that she didn’t love me. Why? Because she refused to buy stock into what I had been sold from the man I believed was walking with God. The truth of it all she should have been the ministry’s objective.
Listen to the moans of the drug addicts, the homeless and the downcast. Listen to the excuse of the overworked, the driven, the dishonest all of whom the church tries to fix by having programs for, feeding once a week or casting demons out of. The church as we see it today has lost its biblical roots as the first century Christians laid the foundations for the Church. Listen to the groans of the world.
But listen also for a Voice of hope. In the middle of the chaos, His Voice can still be heard, saying, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save and to save what was lost” Luke 19:10
Some of us heard this Voice. In this lost world, we have been found. We admitted that the restlessness of our souls can be stilled only by a return to our God. We have discovered our need for God and have given up our sins for His way – a better way, based on truth, hope, and justice. Like a bride longing for the return of her betrothed, we await the coming of our Lord with breathlessness impossible to describe. We know the Redeemer, Jesus Christ who bore our sins on a cross and opened the way for us to be found to be reconnected to the Father and to one another. As Isaiah 55:6 teaches, we have sought the Lord while He way be found; we have called upon Him while He is near. We have been saved! Not commercialized! I know you may be saying not my church, you don’t know my pastor, we are doing God’s will, and we are growing!
Why then is there so little difference between the church and the unchurched, the lost and the found, the faithful and the faithless? At a time when there may be more professions of faith than ever before, why has the church lost its impact? Why are there so many decisions for Christ with so few commitments to Christ? Why is the lostness of the world so descriptive of the church itself? Why are there as many teenage pregnancies and marital break-ups in the church as there are in the world? Why is it that out of ten self-described Christians only one claims that his or her spiritual growth is a high priority in life?
Could it be that some of us are actually lost in church? Could it be that the evangelized need to be evangelized? Could it be that many in the church don’t want the truth anymore?
As churches reach out to a lost world with the Gospel, many are growing. Facilities are expanding. Church budgets are mounting. Billboards (boards to help pay the bills) are being erected to attract newcomers trying their way and old-comers trying to find the hottest club.
My prayer is that my writings will serve as a sign – not just for the unchurched, but for the lost in church. I want to write specifically about some tough issues that we can’t afford to ignore, this is my purpose for this life. The apostle Paul admonition to believers in the early church applies today: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” Phil.2:12-13
My concern is not only that the lost in church would be found, but also that having been truly found, we may more effectively reach our lost world with God’s healing grace. 2 Chronicles promises,
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land”.
My writing is not for the individual who is comfortable with the status quo of Christianity. It is meant for the lost as well as the saved that are searching for the God of the Bible and not the pastor of the church. Those who will not rest until they have found the truth – God truth. My prayer is that the Son of Man will continue to seek and save the lost – weather it be the lost in the world or the lost in church.
The Five Star Hotel
“I see what you’ve done. Now see what I’ve done. I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don’t have much strength; I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn’t deny me when times were rough. “And watch as I take those who call themselves true believers but are nothing of the kind, pretenders whose true membership is in the club of Satan—watch as I strip off their pretensions and they’re forced to acknowledge it’s you that I’ve loved.”Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I’ll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test. “I’m on my way; I’ll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown. Revelation 3:8-11
So often I wonder if I am losing my mind because of the thoughts I have sometimes. I often wonder if I am the only one thinking the way I think. My wife tells me, normal (not the word she uses, but maybe what she is thinking) people don’t think the way you do. I am sure if John had a wife when he was writing the book of Revelation she would have said him the same thing him, my wife say to me sometime. My suggestion to my wife is always follow me, if I am wrong the worst thing could happen is you will deepen your relationship with God and His people. But what if I am right?
My wife and I spent a week in Orlando, Fl. For the first three days we stayed in a three star hotel and for the last four days we moved into a five star hotel. One of the things I always ask God to do is teach me as I live this life, in everything I do. Well, He always does, however, sometimes I wish I had not asked for the lesson He teaches me.
The three star hotel we were in was a very nice place, but when we saw the five star mega (you know where I am going) hotel it was pleasing to the eye and enticing to the ego. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, 2 Timothy 4:3. The first night we stayed in this mega hotel God begin to minister to me. As I slept I begin to dream as if Satan himself was tempting me to return to the thing I once loved to do in the world. I remember waking up having to go down on my knees asking God for his strength to overcome.
This is the first trick of the Devil, if he can get us caught up in the beauty of the eyes and the praise of the ears he can easily return us to the love of the world. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. Matthew 4:8 This is the same trick Satan tried on our Lord. So often we lose sight of the Father, behind the building and the pastor.
This is what happened within the mega hotel and so often happens within the mega or institutionalized church. When I finish talking to my Father, I decided to go to the gym for a workout. I went down to the workout room ready to have a great workout. The nice lady who meets me at the door asked me had I signed up for the workout room yet. (The usher with the tithe envelop) I said no this is my first time here. She said I will be glad to assist you; our fee is $10.00 per day. What! In the three star hotel I had just left the workout room was free. So, I took me a long walk for free.
When I arrived back at the hotel my wife was just waking up complaining about her back hurting. She said this bed is nothing like the one at the other hotel. The room was big and beautiful, but it lacks the very essential thing to fulfill the purpose in which we were in it. The hotel that we had just left, the beds were like sleeping on clouds. When you woke up from your sleep you felt refreshed.
When I first came into the hotel parking garage to park my car I was told to just go on through, but the next time they ask for my room number, my name and gave me a pass. I didn’t think much of it; I had asked the lady at check-in about parking. She told they would ask me for my room number and that was it. Well on the day of check-out there was a billed slid under my door for $6.00 a day parking. Man at the hotel we left we have free parking and a shorter walk to the car.
I know you may be saying what in the world are you trying to say? I am glad you are wondering if you don’t have it by now. You see that same thing happen to us when we move from church building to church building, from pastor to pastor, and from body to body (of people).
As I view the movements that accrue within the body of believers 90% of them are made based on sight and what they hear and not based upon the moving of the spirit of God. The moving from one hotel to another was not base upon the needs of my wife and me, but the satisfaction of the flesh. As I am writing this on a fight from Orlando to Cleveland, I just realized that so many people were loving there stay at this hotel. They were so caught up in the luxury of everything; they didn’t realize the price they had to pay for going mega.
This happens to so many of us in the body of Christ. We are deceived by the beauty around us and don’t recognize the price we have to pay to stay where we are within the body (if that’s really were we are). In the same way Satan attached me in my dreams to entice me to my former life; so many have been enticed while day dreaming at the prosperity of the Gospel. However, we didn’t go on our knees to ask God for help. We go to the lottery of the altar with a promise that God would bless you for this act.
In the same way my wife was awaken from her restless sleep with plain in her back. So many of go throughout the week without a day, hour, minute, or second of rest, because this place costs so much to maintain. The peace that we need in God has been replaced by the desire for man to build a throne for him to rule and sit on. Your backs are burden not by the cross we should bear, but by the ministries the body now has to wear. The place we left gave us the rest we needed to show God in our lives. Not like the place we are that make us live through the pain of no rest and fake like we have it going on.
The food that we received at that other hotel was free, refreshing and left no after taste in my mouth. Unlike the food or lack of that I received at this place. The problem with so many of us is that we can’t afford the pimps we have as pastors. You can never pay a hired hand enough to feed you what our Lord gave us for free. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” John 21:15. The love for the Lord is scarified for the love of church, entertainment and prosperity. The lamb starve from lack of spiritual food and is too weak too even fend for him/herself.
The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. John 10:12-13 This is what happens to us so often living large in the life of mega blessings, mega prayers, mega pastors and the dreams to go mega. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Philippians 4:11-13
Those who never knew me cast their lots…along with those who knew better…choosing to judge without knowing the truth —I felt bad for a moment…knowing God’s my witness…I wronged no one —therefore my Witness said to me…”judgment of others does not change who you are”….quite the opposite is true…it reveals who they are —the church exposed their hypocrisy…now they use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc…to hide their hands —those who talk in one direction…yet walk in another…separates themselves from the truth. ~KP
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Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared. ~KP
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Trust is rebuilt by focusing not on what the other person did or did not do but on critiquing one’s own behavior, improving one’s trustworthiness, and focusing attention not on words and promises but on actions, attitudes, and ways of being. ~KP
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My Pastor, he is the fundamental figure of the Christian faith. So prevailing is the pastor in the minds of most Christians that he is often better known, more highly praised, and more heavily relied upon than Jesus Christ Himself! Remove the pastor and most churches would be thrown into a panic. Remove the pastor and Christianity as we know it would die. The pastor is the dominating focal point, mainstay, and centerpiece of the contemporary church. He is the embodiment of Christianity. But here is the profound irony. There is not a single verse in the entire New Testament that supports the existence of the modern-day pastor! He simply did not exist in the early church.
The Pastor is in The Bible….Right?
The word pastor does appear in the New Testament:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, Ephesians 4:11
The following observations are too made about this text:
This is the only verse in the entire New Testament where the word pastor is used. One solitary verse is a mighty scanty piece of evidence on which to hang the Christian faith. In regard, there seems to be more biblical authority for snake handling (see Mark 16:18 and Acts 28:3-6) than there is for the present-day pastor.
The word is used in the plural. It is pastors. This is significant. For whosoever these “pastors” are they are plural in the church, not singular. Consequently, there is no biblical support for the practice of sola pastora (single pastor). The Greek word translated pastors is poimenas. It means shepherds. (Pastor is the Latin word for shepherd.) Pastor, then, is a metaphor to describe a particular function in the church. It is not an office or a title. The first-century shepherd had nothing to do with the specialized and professional sense it has come to have in contemporary Christianity. Therefore, Ephesians 4:11 does not evasion a pastoral office, but merely one of many functions in the church. It is a profound error, therefore, to confuse shepherds with an office or title as is commonly conceived today.
In Christians churches the pastors tend to be the spokesmen and representatives of the church and the church is often the pastor’s church. This is a great danger and threat to Christianity. The New Testament word for minister is diakonos. It means “servant.” But this word has been distorted because men have professionalized the ministry. We have taken the word minister and equated it with pastor, with no scriptural justification whatsoever. In like manner, we have mistakenly equated preaching and ministry with the pulpit sermon, again without biblical justification.
The unscriptural clergy/laity distinction has done untold harm to the body of Christ. It has divided the believing community into first and second class Christians. The clergy/laity perpetuates an awful falsehood namely, that some Christians are more privileged than others to serve the Lord. The one-man ministry is entirely for foreign to the New Testament, yet we embrace it while it suffocates our functioning. We are living stones, not dead ones. However, the pastoral office has transformed us into stones that do not breathe.
It has distorted the reality of the body, making the pastor a giant mouth and transforming you into a tiny ear. It has rendered you a mute spectator who is proficient at taking sermon notes and passing an offering plate. It has made ineffectual the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14, that every member has both right and the privilege to minister in a church meeting. It has voided the message of 1 Peter 2 that every brother and sister is a functioning priest.
Being a functioning priest does not mean that you may only perform highly restrictive forms of ministry like singing songs in your pew, raising your hand during worship, setting up the PowerPoint presentation, or teaching a Sunday school class. That is not the New Testament idea of ministry! These are mere aids for the pastor’s ministry.
We expect doctors and lawyers to serve us, not to train us to serve others. And why? Because they are experts. They are trained professionals. Unfortunately, we look upon the pastor in the same way. All of this does violence to the fact that every believer is a priest. Not only before God, but to one another. Jesus Christ is the only head over a church and the final word of it. By his office, the pastor displaces and supplants Christ’s headship by setting himself up as the church’s human head. As long as the pastoral office is present in a particular church, that church will have a slim chance of witnessing such a glorious thing.
The contemporary pastor not only does damage to God’s people, he does damage to himself. The pastoral office has a way of chewing up many who come within its parameters. Depression, burnout, stress, and emotional breakdown occur at abnormally high rates among pastors. This is one of the major reasons why many pastors live very artificial lives. In this regard, the pastoral role fosters dishonesty. Congregants expect their pastor to always be cheerful, completely spiritual, and available at a moment’s call. They also expect that he will have a perfectly disciplined family. Furthermore, he should never appear resentful or bitter. Many pastors take to his role like actors in a Greek drama. Many, if not most pastors cannot stay in their office without being corrupted on some level. The power-politics endemic to the office is a huge problem that isolates many of them and poisons their relationships with others.
Professional loneliness is another virus that runs high among pastors. The lone-ranger plague drives some ministers into other careers. It drives other into crueler fates. It is lonely at the top because Gog never intended for anyone to be at the top except His Son! In effect, the present day pastor tries to shoulder the fifty-eight New Testament “one another” exhortations all by himself. It is no wonder that many of them get crushed under the weight.
The contemporary pastor is the most unquestioned fixture in twenty-first-century Christianity. Yet not a strand of Scripture supports the existence of this office.
MCCLURKIN ON THE ROLE OF BLACK PASTORS:
‘I Get So Mad at These Preachers!’ — Singer/preacher to Essence.
Essence.com sat down with Grammy-winning gospel great Donnie McClurkin, who also serves as pastor of the Perfecting Faith Church in Long Island, New York and has a bone to pick with preachers who put money above the Lord.
Below are his thoughts on the role of today’s black churches and its pastors in this dwindling economy, as told to Essence.com:
As pastors, we have to link arms and have bipartisanships. The [black] church has always been the face of the community. Now we have to take on the responsibility of becoming true servants to the people from all walks of life. I get so mad when I see these pimpin’ preachers driving Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, flying around in their private jets, and making it seem like prosperity and money is the way of God when 90 percent of your congregation is on Section 8 or can’t figure out how they are going to keep their lights on or feed their kids. I’m big on perception, and what would it look like for me to live so lavishly if the people in my church are struggling?
I don’t have a church, but I do have a church that I pastor. I can’t name something the Donnie McClurkin Temple because the people do not belong to me and if they did that would mean I have slaves. I am simply a vessel to deliver God’s word. At the end of the day, it’s God’s church, not mine.
The pace of life is such that fashions in clothes, music, language and lifestyle change so rapidly that two young people just a few tears apart in age may find it difficult to communicate with each other, because they belong to different generations. People often feel they know television characters better than they know their neighbors.
If, as I believe, real life does not depend upon possessions achievements or experiences, but upon relationships, then, for many people in America, real life is barely attainable. This restless, changing, fly-by-night generation, accustomed to rapid change in so many areas, finds it more and more difficult to achieve deep and lasting relationships with other people. So there is a sense of deprivation which stems from a failure to communicate with or relate to other people.
If many of us are out of touch, lonely, unrelated to those around us, there is also a cry for love, which shows itself in so ways, Love is a word which has been devalued greatly, but many has wanted, demand – but many are not sure what it really is.
For our generation, therefore, the most striking phrase in the New Testament — God is love — should be dramatic and exciting. Unhappily, though, this amazing statement causes little excitement even from Christian, who has been familiar with the works from childhood but has become immune to the impact of them.
It is a revolutionary statement. Let there be no doubt about that. It does not say, as well it might, that — God has loved — or that — God is loving — but that 1 John 4:16 — God is love. So far as I know, there is not another religion in the world that makes a claim like that. There has been no other God nor any religious leader of whom it has been said that he is love. We may say that a person loves, or is loving, but the claim that he is love itself is exclusive to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How we know that — God is love — and yet he must be more than one person if he is and always has been love. God’s character like his nature, is eternal, so it must be that before there was a universe and before there were any human beings to love, God was love, togetherness, harmony, peace. Here is the heart of love: the Father always loved the Son; the Son always loved the Father, and the Father and the Son always loved the Spirit. Here was and is a “triangular” relationship of perfect love, without any preference or envy.
Sometimes we may doubt whether there is such a thing as genuine, selfless love. We may have had bad experiences, in our childhood or in later life, and become cynical about the very possibility. But the truth is that at the heart of the universe, in its Creator, there is real, genuine and selfless love —there always has been, and there always will be.
Let’s take this a little father. For instance, is there any possibility of my breaking into the triangle of love? Can I take the hands of the Father and the Son and say, “Let me into this relationship?”
The truth is even better than the possibility, for the Father and the Son have already stretched out their hands and said: We want you to share this. Right from the opening chapters of the Bible there is this clear teaching of God is “togetherness”. Indeed, a literal translation of the first five words of the Bible would be, “In the beginning Gods (plural noun) created (singular verb) …’ Later the same occurs, “God said let us make man in our image.” It is though God was saying that the love and the unity enjoyed from eternity by the three persons of the Godhead were now to be available more widely. I suppose God created mankind because he wanted to bring more persons into the circle of His love. He made man and declared that it was not good for him to be alone. So, He allowed the man to rest and gave him a wife to become one and produce offsprings, to become a direct reflective of the Trinity. Just as the Father and the Son are one with produces the Spirit that goes out and pours itself upon others.
And that’s the hallmark of love. This love is never selfish, exclusive or narrow. It always wants to reach out and embrace others. I read that love is not sitting looking into each other’s eyes the whole time, but looking out in the same direction together.
Believers know that God loves them—he shows his love in many ways 1 John 4:10. As they trust in this love and live in it day by day, they come to understand that God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. To live in (or abide in) God is to live in (or abide in) love. It is one thing to know and believe in God’s love; it is quite another to actually appropriate God’s love into a person’s life so that the person “abides in love.” As noted in 1 John 4:8, because God is love, his people ought to be experiencing his transcendent and glorious love on a daily basis because he “abides” in them.
1 John reasserts the claim of all believers, “God loves us.” To say that “God is love” does not mean that the universe is under the control of an impersonal yet benevolent force. Nor does this statement imply that God merely possesses unusually great quantities of love. The statement means, rather, that God’s very nature and personality resonate love. Everything God has done and will do from eternity past to eternity future overflows with love.
This attribute of divine affection does not contradict any of his other perfections. God can be both loving and holy, loving and just, loving and sovereign. Practically speaking, this truth means that as we relate to God, we can always know that we are being treated with perfect, unconditional love. Our circumstances may be difficult, but behind it all and through it all, God will accomplish his best in our lives. Take a moment to thank God for the ways he has demonstrated his love to you.
Love is measured not so much in what it feels as in what it does: the suffering it is prepared to face, the pain it is prepared to accept. And it is suffering and pain that is the measure of God’s love.
God loves us in our sins not by letting us off but by providing his Son to die for us. It is a gesture of total love, for which the New Testament coins a special word, “grace”. It means a love that is not deserved and cannot be earned, a love that is simply poured out at the expense of the giver. Someone defined it as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”
God is like no other!
He is love!
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. Exodus 3:14
God is I AM who I AM = “LOVE”
Reflect on I AM today and every day.
Friends of mine, who doesn’t go to church any more, I asked if they could answer these questons for me. Here is their response….its long (25 questions in all) but very interesting.
1. What is your definition of church?
In a general sense the Church is made up of all those who follow Christ — both those who choose to gather together in a formal way and those who do not. The church is not buildings or clergy, it is people who love and are moving towards Jesus.
2. What do you feel is the purpose or aim of church? What should it be?
I may be cynical but in my experience of churches there is a vast difference between what I feel the purpose is and what it should be. Unfortunately I get the feeling that the church is losing its way. This is why I have chosen to remove myself from most elements of it.
To answer the question — I believe the purposes of the church should be numerous.
It should be in the business of creating spaces for people to connect with Jesus in a dynamic way. The church is not responsible for if people do connect or not, that is the individuals responsibility, but the church should be exploring relevant ways to help people on their journey. It should be a place that resources, supports and inspires people in their love and relationship for God.
The church should be in the business of growing community among its believers. Unfortunately this is an area where things often break down. If it wasn’t for the fact that we are all human it would work brilliantly!
The church should be in the business of impacting the world we live in. Call it mission, service or justice — I don’t care — but do it! Jesus constantly called his followers to impact their world — to preach, to heal the sick, to cast out demons and to accept the sinner and ostracised.
As I said — I think the church has become distracted from its core call in all these areas.
3. What issues do you think the church is failing to deal with adequately?
It is failing to grapple effectively with its purposes. I think it often names them. Every church I’ve ever been to has had a wonderful mission statement — but I’m yet to see one that is living it out — or even really attempting to.
I think many churches are paralysed by fear. They are afraid of change, afraid of the world around them (that they are called to impact), they are afraid of ‘sinners’ and they are afraid to commit to real community.
One of the big failures that I see is that they are called toinclusivity yet time and time again are exclusive. It staggers me that we follow a man who entered into community with the most ‘repulsive’ people in his culture, yet most churches are unwilling to even consider such an act.
4. How do you see the church operating in the future?
inclusivity yet time and time again are exclusive. It staggers me that we follow a man who entered into community with the most ‘repulsive’ people in his culture, yet most churches are unwilling to even consider such an act.
4. How do you see the church operating in the future?
I wonder if the church will exist there. If it doesn’t make some fundamental changes it will end up being an extreme minority.
5. If you were to change one thing about church, what would it be?
I would infuse it with love. What’s love got to do, got to do with it? Love casts our fear. Love is at the core of everything Jesus talked about. Love, love changes everything. Hands and faces, earth and sky. Love, love changes everything. How you live and how you die
6. What do you believe to be the necessary actions/behavior of a Christian?
A Christian is a person who is in relationship with and moving towards Jesus. They are not someone who has it all worked out and they have not ‘arrived’. They ‘sin’ but they continue to seek God and allow her transformation and healing in their lives. They seek to live lives of love for God, others and self.
7. Why are you a non-church-goer?
Complicated question. There are many reasons, let me try to sum up some of them (watch out, this could be messy!)
After years of church going I became frustrated by the way it has become institutionalised. It frustrates me that it has become so rigid and closed to change and fluidity. Jesus gives a radical call to follow him, the majority of churches have become too comfortable, they have become like clubs and they have lost the passion. Like you (ed: Darren) said last week on your site, read Matthew 10 and compare the call of Jesus to his disciples with the way your church operates. Read Romans 12 and tell me where there is a church in the West grappling with that stuff! We’ve lost the plot — I have become disillusioned with being virtually the only person in a community of faith that wants it to be more than a nice and safe place to come and feel all warm and fuzzy with my middle class privileged life. Attending church sucked life from me — I figured that it was not healthy for me to continue to go.
8. What role did those who were in the church have on your decision to leave?
I wasn’t asked to leave, although I’ve heard since that some people are happy that I did. I attempted to discuss my frustrations with others in the community including leadership. They just asked me to ‘tone it down’.
9. What or who finally ‘pushed’ you?
The church I was a part of began to talk more and more about money. It was subtle, but it became more and more obsessed with raising money for its new building. The current building wasn’t being utilised, we were not growing, and it was proposed that the reason was we needed a new flash looking building. A campaign started to raise the millions needed to make it so that our community would flock onto our turf to be saved. Related to this was the topic of money in sermons. Our pastor read the book called ‘You need more Money!’ written by a prominent Australian pastor. Some of these ideas of prosperity began to gradually creep into his sermons. I cannot remember Jesus telling his disciples to accumulate resources, buy property and get all the latest and greatest technology in order to further the kingdom. It all made me feel physically sick.
The church rejected one of my friends who was brave enough to tell a pastor that he was struggling with homosexuality. He was told to either leave and not associate with anyone in the church or to repent and change. There was no offer of counselling, there was no understanding that he needed time to talk through what he was going through, there was no acknowledgement of God’s love for him — he either had to change instantly or leave. I felt physically sick.
10. What did you find most hurtful?
I watched my church slowly become obsessed with money. I also watched my friend reject God.
11. What feelings accompanied your decision to leave?
I left feeling broken and emotionally burnt out. I still feel drained years later.
12. Do you think you connect with God more, less or the same amount now as you did when you attended church?
I go through stages of closeness to God, but this is no different to when I attended church. Overall I feel more connected to Jesus now.
13. Do you still regularly meet together with other christians/groups/organisations? If so, please describe.
Not formally. I regularly connect with Christian friends for meals, to see movies, to pray and to talk about faith issues. But it is not formal. I would call it church though.
14. What other groups, organisations do you now go to to meet the needs that church did….if any.
I am very involved in community groups. I volunteer considerable time to local groups that have a social justice outlook on life. I will always serve my community — not just because I’m a community minded person, but out of my faith. I also am involved in a book club which is a place of community building and where we often talk about issues of faith. (although I’m only one of two Christians in the group)
15. How has this changed your relationship with non-christians?
I have so many more relationships with non-christians (I hate that term). I now have more time to connect with them as I’m not totally consumed with church activities. I also feel more free to talk about faith without them worrying about me trying to drag them to church to be saved. Since leaving the church I have had three non Christian friends become Christians. Two have joined churches, one meets regularly with me and another friend to pray and learn.
16. What do you miss about church now?
I cannot honestly think of anything. I feel so much more free now.
17. What is it about church that doesn’t connect with where you’re at?
I’ve said it all I think. Oh…I hate singing, I always found it to be an experience that stressed me out and made it difficult for me to connect with God. Why can’t church have ‘bush walking worship’?
18. Would you go back? Why or why not? Would anything make you go back to church?
I’ve considered it. I actually feel that one day I may go back, not because of what I’ll get out of it but for what I can offer. Not that I feel I have anything much to offer, but I see some little new churches starting in my city that I’d like to support. It scares me though.
19. Which would you prefer – people inviting you to attend church, or leaving you alone in your decision not to?
My old church friends do not talk to me any more because I associate with unacceptable types. So I never get such an invitation. It doesn’t bother me.
20. What are the most important/effective ways for you to sustain your christianity as a non-church-goer?
Prayer, service to others, eating with others. I celebrate life in the small things and see God in them every day.
21. What is the vision God has given you for your life?
In the normal things that I do, every day, I have the ability to be a light, to help others connect with the life that God offers. I always try to find what God is already doing in the world around me and to join him in it.
22. What do you say when people ask you “What church do you go to?”
‘I don’t go to A church’.
23. What question don’t you like other Christians asking you?
Is your belly button an inney or an outy? Mine is a major outy…they always want to see it.
24. What question do you wish other Christians would ask you?
Nothing springs to mind. I think I’ve said enough!
25. Is there anything else that you’d like to mention?
No — thanks for the questions.
Is There a God?
Is there really a God? After all, no one has ever seen “God” a fact that is inclined to make some abandon the search for him before they have really begun. Many have searched for Him and came up short in their quest to find the true God. So many have lost their patience on the road to truth and settled for a counterfeit who demands nothing of them. As the children of Israel were waiting and; realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?” (Exodus 32:1)
As did the Israelites with their need for a tangible God, they compelled the preacher Aaron to take their gold and make them a prosperity god. A god that were pleasing to the eye, and that they could be proud of which command nothing of them. This is were so many Christians are today worshipping a god that will cater to their fillings and wants, but demand no change. This leaves so many asking the question. Is there a God? Why would He allow this to go on for so long and so people get hurt from trying to keep the golden calf feed and fat?
See, the problem is it’s hard to recognize error unless we know the truth; counterfeits cannot be detected unless we know the genuine article. Likewise, there is no way to determine what is false about the gods we serve unless you know the God who is. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).” I our quest for God we have abandoned our search for truth. Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7.” When you look around our churches and our Christian communities, the fear of the Lord cease to exist. The foolishness from a lack of wisdom and biblical instructions in maintaining the grace of God has left many wondering “Is There a God.”
Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, told him to find “capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain; Exodus 18:21.” Where can one find such men today? Is there anyone fearing God? Gay men and women run rampant within the church. Divorce and adultery is the number three killer in the pulpit. Following divorce and adultery is the number two killer, “the love of money” men who are not trustworthy to give you the true word of God even when they are being paid to do so. Then we see the number one killer of them all “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud” Proverbs 18:12. The pride and ego of a man causes the heart beat of a silence killer. They lust after you as maggots on a dead animal “Is There a God.” Just like a mother crying out after the death of her two year old son asking, “Is There a God”
However, our spiritual growth is dependent upon our concept our God. What you think about God is the most important thing about you. In our spiritual lives, we cannot transcend the God we worship; we can rise no higher than what we believe to be the highest. (Think about it, if your highest belief is the lie that you live or sit under and not the truth, your worship is as Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “Much dreaming and many words are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Therefore stand in awe of God”). Our concept on God will have a marked affect on our practical lives. It is a psychological fact that we trend to become like what (or whom) we admire the most. Hero worship produces followers who tend to emulate their idols, whether they are athletes, saints, or gods. Because worshipers become like the gods they worship, our godliness trends to become like our God. Our concept of God will, therefore, define the limits of our godliness.
In his excellent book Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver lays out the answer to the question of why one’s beliefs are important. (His reasoning applies with even greater force to ideas about God.) A brief look at history tells the often-tragic tale of the results of beliefs. Hitler’s fascist ideas cost more than twelve million lives during the holocaust. Chairman Mao’s Communist ideas eliminated some thirty million. Stalin’s Marxist ideas eventually liquidated at least eighteen million. And when one’s beliefs involve God. And even more important consequence lies in the balance the timeless souls are billions. Theological ideas have longer-lasting consequences then mere political ideas – eternal consequences. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36
A commitment to what is less than ultimate will not be ultimately satisfying. No one knew this better than the wisest man who ever lived. Solomon tried everything “under the sun” for satisfaction. Weather it was wine, women, wealth, worldliness, wisdom, works, or wickedness, he concluded that all is “vanity” and “vexation of spirit” apart from God (Eccl. 1-2). True satisfaction is not found under the sun, but beyond the sun in the Son (Eccl. 12:1). God alone can fill the God-sized vacuum in every human heart. No one will find ultimate satisfaction in anything less than the Ultimate. The quest for eternal pleasure will never be found in anything but the Eternal. And the desire for infinite happiness cannot be found in anything short of the Infinite God.
Hence, any false view of God as less than the Ultimate, Infinite, and Eternal will not bring beatitude (blessedness) to the soul. As Augustine put it, the soul is restless until it finds rest in God – the true and living God. Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. 1 Chronicles 22:19 Our relationship with Christ hinges off our belief in God. Jesus clearly stated I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. John 5:30. Without truly knowing that the Father (God) exists, there is no power for the proclaimed to fame Christians. To be able to change this generation of pew sitters and pulpit pimps we have to know, “There Is a God.” The fear of the Lord must return to us with a repentance spirit. Where we can move into the position where we can honestly say Father, into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Psalms 31:5
Lucky to be in the land, we’re free from enemy worries….I said, “God, be gracious! Put me together again— I have been torn to pieces.”…My enemies are wishing the worst for me….If someone comes to see me, he mouths empty platitudes, All the while gathering gossip about me to entertain the street-corner crowd….These “friends” who hate me whisper slanders all over town. They form committees to plan misery for me….The rumor goes out….Even my best friend, the one I always told everything —he ate meals at my house all the time!— has bitten my hand….God, give grace, get me up on my feet. I’ll show them a thing or two….Meanwhile, I’m sure you’re on my side— no victory shouts yet from the enemy camp….You know me inside and out, you hold me together, you never fail to stand me tall in your presence so I can look you in the eye….Blessed is God! (Psalm 41:2-13) (MSG)
Life is full of surprises, from birth one seeks to have good friends. People to trust, people to love, people to share with, people to laugh with, people to cry with, but evil always corrupts good friendships. Most of us have been scarred from childhood. I recall my first childhood friend, (David Edmond) one I dream would last forever. We meet in Head Start, were brushing our teeth together and after that we did everything together. From Head Start through Middle School we were like two peas in a pod. Then in our Junior year of High School, Satan found his vise, David accused me of having sex with his girlfriend. A love between friends shattered, memories lost, plans destroyed, no hope to reunite.
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (Romans 7:20-21) (NIV)
I had never been with David’s girlfriend nor had it ever cross my mine. The hurt of your friendship being betrayed, the trust, and the shared thoughts gone to waste. The very thing that I never thought of doing, because of the hurt (the sin) I did.
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) (NLT)
After that I never really looked for anyone to be my friend, but we all lone to have a true friend. Consequently, even without looking you come across people who try to befriend you. Every once in a while I would except the friendship, and betrayal came along. I have always
made it a point if I am a friend, I am a friend, if I am not, I am not. Because, I believe the true friends sticks closer than a brother. However, so many don’t understand true friendship, because of selfishness, pride, jealousy, envy, spite, etc…..
But, should Christians be different? Man, when I became a Christian I hoped so, but…..Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13) (NKJV) What happen to this part of Christianity? Did we stop following Jesus Christ’s teachings? Did I error in thinking that love, friendships and relationships should be found in the Church?
Because this is what I found in the Church; Many will entreat the favor of a liberal man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. (Proverbs 19:6) (AMP) and Wealth addeth many friends; But the poor is separated from his friend. (Proverbs 19:4) (ASV) I am not even talking about material things. Stop giving attention to the man, get broken in your spirit, hurt from church groupies gossiping, speak out on the truth. You will quickly find out that the friend you thought you had forgot; And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13) (NKJV)
If you confess to be a Christian, study to be a friend.
If you confess to be a Christian and you are in love with the church, cheat on it and love people.
If you confess to be a Christian make a friend, keep a friend, love a friend, be a friend.
If you confess to be a Christian don’t be a hypocrite at the funeral!
Life is short and Christ is on His way!