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Archive for May 5th, 2009

Before we left our former church I began to feel frozen.  I learned all this information about spiritual formation, emergent, purpose driven and the P.E.A.C.E. plan (which was presented to our congregation several times).  I began to understand all the things we did in our church that we felt good for doing were related to some author’s plans.  Every philosophy, the way we taught our children on Sunday mornings, the way we studied in small groups, the service projects we did, the way scriptures had been presented and often interpreted, were run through a filter of the strategies/plans/vision of our former church.  Our thinking on missions, service to others, finances, parenting, had all been shaped by this church.  We also had been big supporters of groups such as Focus on the Family which has since been stepping into “spiritual formation.”  I thought at first that our former church had “just changed.”  Because they have sermon notes saved online, I realized that this was not the case.  The changes have been in place at least since 2002.  We’ve only been there since 2000, but the sermons are not recorded online, so I’m not sure how much deviation there is from those first days.  At any rate, we didn’t notice issues until 2008.  That’s 7 years at least of this spiritual formation/purpose driven/seeker friendly/tip toe emergent stuff getting on us.  Rubbing this stink off has been a challenge.  It’s got to be in our thinking, in our reasons why.  So now, I am frozen.  Christians are to share the gospel, make disciples.  But how?  Even before I went to our former church, I learned the “quick and dirty” gospel.  “All have sinned” and “for God so loved the World” and “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and recieve him (because  a gift cannot be opened until recieved) and pray for forgiveness.  Say this prayer and boom, you are saved.  So now, I have to reevaluate.  I actually think my salvation wasn’t based on this, I did have an understanding that I was chosen by God and grace and mercy had nothing to do with a scripted prayer.  I’m confident in my salvation, sure of my guilt of sin, and know that I am only saved by the grace and mercy of Christ who died for me.  I really have always loved to read and dig into my bible, and loved to figure out exactly what scripture truly says and means.  This hasn’t changed, so reading my bible still gives me comfort.  Praying has been difficult for me lately though, knowing talk and teaching had been leading to possible contemplative style in our former church.  I talk to God directly, always  have.  I do not use any techniques like Lectio Divina as we hadn’t been lead through that yet.  Still, I struggle.  I have always thought that going off by myself and writing in a prayer journal is good (I would just write requests mostly in the journal, who I was praying for).  I would read scripture and summarize a bit for my own recall, then list my requests and people I’m praying for.  I also used to walk the neighborhood praying for people in the homes, for God to work in our city and eventually our nation.  I do long to be alone when praying, to be in nature, do actually find quiet to help out sometimes when I pray.  I do NOT empty my mind, believe you have to have solitude as a discipline.  But who hasn’t enjoyed praying outside in the early morning all alone while looking at something spectacular God has created?  Iwould not mistake this “feeling” for closeness to God or purity in Christian life, however, there is something nice about it.  However, I have been very cautious about what I do in prayer.   I no longer feel comfortable just praying.  I have to stop and think, “am I doing this wrong?”  Doing prayer wrong?  Yes, it’s possible to pray incorrectly, very possible.  Still, before I was just praying and not worrying about it all the time.  Same with service.  Before, I felt great helping clean up a school yard as part of a church project, or filling a box of toys for a child’s Christmas gift.  I realized that some service projects would not really be directly presenting the gospel, but it didn’t seem so bad.  Now, I wonder how much I would be part of some big agenda to “be a change agent.”  I don’t want to just sign up and have a wrong motive or give in the way God doesn’t prescribe.  So, I am frozen.  Which organizations aren’t tainted with the current emergent/new age/change the world through good works teachings?  Bell ringing for the Salvation Army?  Maybe not so good…they have some contemplative stuff on their web page.  Many old trusted places to serve or give seem to be turning contemplative.  What organizations can I have my children involved in?  We did Awana this year, and yet I saw some of their training for parents is “spiritual formation” style.  Though my kids have learned the verses, I fear eventually the teaching may grow suspect.  I have listened to the Cubbies teaching week after week, and so far have no problems with it.  Still, we’re thinking of stopping Awana.  We’d like to be involved in the church we choose to join, and are likely to find ways to teach verses without all that Awana brings (busy time).  Everywhere I go in Christian life, I feel frozen.  At least I know one thing, if I crack open my bible, I can trust scripture.  It’s the commentaries I worry about…

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I have come to a conclusion that there is a disconnect somewhere between those who are trained in Reformed theology and are highly educated and the general run of the mill Christian out here.  The disconnect has to do with the knowledge of church history and the study of historical figures such as Martin Luther, Spurgeon, etc.  I do not have a grasp on this church history.  I do not know TULIP, and need to actually read up on this.  I am a Christian who has really relied on sermon and bible study, that’s it.  I read my bible and listen in church.  I’ve been in bible study groups and been most happy when we actually have studied the bible rather than topics (around here we often say “stupid topics).  I have read a few books that have very little to do with church history.  I recall reading Josh McDowell’s book More Than a Carpenter, Cumby’s The Dangers of the Rainbow, Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth (yes, this scared me in my youth).  I read the Peretti books as well as the Lewis book, Screwtape Letters. Because of interest in popular themes, I read a book about one of the Columbine victims…was the title She Said Yes I also read the book about the McCoy babies and the one by Gracia Burnham about their captivity.   Because of my interest in cults, I have read books about witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and Hank’s book  Christianity in Crisis.  I’ve gone through various bible study books on many New Testament letters.  I have also read through books of the bible straight through for personal study.  At times I’ve gone through devotionals such as My Utmost for His Highest.  Because of my interest in the music of Rich Mullins, I’ve read a book with his articles and after his death, a book about his life.  I have a Strong’s concordance, an English Greek interlinear and several bibles around the house I dig into.

I didn’t really have leaders steer me in the direction of any kind of church history, or of studies on theology.  It wasn’t even on my radar.  Consequently, I am very confused about what would be best to read, best to search out.  There was quite a curve on reading up on emergent, Purpose Driven error, and contemplative/missional.  I just feel so ignorant, and also wonder if I am going in the right direction.

I am quite concerned for my children, wanting to teach them correctly and help them avoid the pitfalls I have come across.  I would like them to have the correct knowledge, not just for knowledge sake but as a tool to help protect them and also help them proceed as Christians confidently knowing the truth. 

Sometimes I just think, we should be able to just know what we need to know from the bible?  Yes, that would be nice.  Scripture is sufficient.  However, we do need the body of Christ to meet with so we can serve each other and so we can hold each other accountable.  Bereans likely studied scripture and pointed out things to one another.  I believe that’s what the theologians have done through out.  They study the scriptures and then point things out to the body, always teaching and shepherding.  I just want to be sure what I am learning is right, and who to read about first?  An unstudied person like me can find myself using a dictionary just to go through some blog posts of those who study these theologians.  I am perplexed.

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