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Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

In my darkest days after a miscarriage when my baby died at 16 weeks, I prayed like a gulping fish out of water. It was constant, it was painful. I relied on my Lord for every moment. I could not be happy, I did not have comfort. But I knew where to find comfort and how to survive. I had to rest in His hands. I had no choice. For me, grief was a gift. This gift brought me nose to nose with my self reliance, with my foolishness. My baby was gone, and I had not been content to that point. I begged God many days to change things. Maybe the sonogram and doppler had been wrong. Maybe God would perform a miracle. This was not His will. During these days, I had to pray for each and every moment. Just sitting without crying in front of my other children was awful. I wanted to glorify Him in my pain. I wanted suffering not to be lost.

Our former pastor was preaching on the Sermon on the Mount. Yes, this is our old church. I sent him a note expressing that I thought grief was a gift. I was then asked to speak on “blessed are those who mourn.” Just a few short weeks after my miscarriage, I found myself telling about 2000 people (give or take) about my grief. I had been encouraged by a doctor to take anti-depressants and sleeping pills. I couldn’t do this, I had to mourn. I shared in my “testimony” that I believe we feel death is unfair (or really the seperation not actually death as punishment for sin) because our hearts are set for eternity. We were created originally to be in fellowship with God and with one another. When someone dies, we mourn the life. I was encouraged early on to “get over it” and even was reminded by my OB that I have a beautiful family already. This is true, yet I was seperated from my child. Despite never meeting this child, I had to mourn this life I would not know. My grief was the point, the life God created mattered to me, mattered to God. My grief did more though, it brought me face down to God. I remembered how I am dust, I am nothing. The only thing that makes me something is Christ and his grace, his mercy.

When I was in a van accident several years ago, I again prayed and leaned on God. I tend to become a hermit after having a child, and it might be months before I go out alone without any children at all. My youngest at the time was 4 months old, and I told my husband one day I needed to run an errand, and would be right back. I usually take a child or two with me, but I knew he had to work. On a tight schedule, I rushed off. On the way home, the van was sounding funny. I punched the gas at one point just to check it out, and the van suddenly died. Most cars were traveling 70 mph on this road. I was in the left lane of three, and saw an exit up ahead. I thought I might coast into the exit with flashers and I’d be safe. Not so. My van died in the center lane of the highway. I could only sit, knowing I should have gotten off on the left shoulder. Cars and even semi-trucks passed me at full speed for a few minutes. I prayed desperately in the moments I waited to be hit. I didn’t really know what exactly to pray but, “God, please help me.” I held on to the steering wheel, stayed in drive with flashers on, listened to Phyllis Shaffley (well, didn’t listen any more, but knew she was on) and watched my rear view mirror. I saw two vehicles split to go around me and one behind them continue going forward. BAM! I felt the crash jolt me, and suddenly I was screaming without realizing it, screaming without faith, all in fear. I could see my car ceiling as my seat had broken back. I could see my back door with the window crashed out, it was open wide. I felt myself rocket forward and fish tail, I actually thought I was spinning. I just held on, and screamed to God to help me, I didn’t want to die. I suddenly realized I had stopped moving, and sat up still screaming. I was thinking of whether or not I should get out of the van, would a car hit me trying to pass? I suddenly spotted people on the road, and I screamed at them afraid they’d be hit. However, when I looked back I realized the police had already come. A fireman pulled my side window off the back of the van asking me if my children had been with me. He was relieved when I said “no” quickly. The couple who had stopped offered me their phone and I called my husband. I did go to the emergency room seeing frosty images as I looked around, and had a badly bruised arm with a strap burn burn on the seatbelt, bumped knees from steering wheel, and my head had a big goose egg where I had landed right in my 4 year old daughter’s car seat. My seat had broken into the recline position and so I was leaning on top of my daughter’s car seat as the van stopped moving. With all the excitement, I focused on getting out of the ER and home to my children. My 4 month old had cried the entire time for a feeding, and with arm in sling it was hard to take care of her but I did it. A few days later I was in the shower replaying the accident when it suddenly it me that my kids weren’t with me, and I had been reclined into where my precious 4 year old daughter would have been. Her legs would have been crushed, and who knows exactly how my head came down. The cover of her seat had been pulled off her head rest, so it seemed my head hit there. It’s possible I would have bumped heads with her. In an instant I was crying and actually kissing my hands and throwing the kisses to God in praise. It was not a planned action on my part, I did this spontaneously. My spirit was just taken by the moment and the possibilities, God had spared me the horrible nightmare of my children being hurt or killed in that accident. I came away with a scar from the seat belt burn, but otherwise, I didn’t even experience whiplash because the seat broke down. I know what desperate and “life flashing before your eyes” prayers are like. God was with me though I feared.

I have had many events I can recall leaning on God in prayer. Some were while in labor, when baby had a decel and I feared a c-section. All the sounds and people around, and I submitted to God’s will and an outcome I could not control. There were times in which people I loved were dying, like my grandfather and my aunt. I grieved to the Lord, cried for them and begged comfort in their pain. I also prayed for salvation (my Grandpa assured me two weeks before his death that he had assurance of his salvation).

Many moments of prayer are dramatic, I know I need to lean, but I also lean in the little moments. Some mornings I just whisper a prayer as I wake up. I know I will be faced with temptations to waste my time, to be angry at my children, or to overeat. I will be tempted to selfishness. I have to rely on the Lord for strength to get through just being me every waking moment. I praise Him for his steadfastness, His sovereignty. I thank Him for His grace and mercy. I ask His forgiveness. Every day, in the little things, I struggle. Every moment, I need to lean on Him. I am nothing without Christ. He saves me.

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I am a Christian.  The reason I decided up on such a simple title is because as a child we used to sing a song that spelled “I am a C…I am a C.H…I am a C.H.R.I.S.T.I.A.N.”  In the church I formerly attended (and in some we have visited) pastors are in the habit of using the term “Christ Followers” to replace the word “Christian.”  This has been explained to me in a few unsatisfactory ways.  First, an elder explained that we need to be sensitive to those who are offended by the Christian past, and so Christ Follower is a descriptive term that better paints a picture of what we are.  Uh, not good enough for me.  My husband said, “but why would we give in to them and give up what we’ve been called since Antioch?’  I’ve read that some use the term “Christ Followers” because the first ones to call us Christians were our persecutors.  Okay, I recall the verse, and it doesn’t seem like Luke cared if it was persecutors or not, no negatives were ascribed to the use of the term Christian.  

In a twistification of meaning, I heard one of the many former pastors say we are “little Christs.”  Uhmmmm, what?  That just sounds dangerous to me.  Even if it were true the word could mean that (and I’m saying IF) in English it sounds too much like “we are little gods).  In our “exit” meeting, we asked the lead pastor about the definition “little Christs” and he said “well, when you become a Christian you ask Christ to come into your heart.”  So even when the word Christian has a distorted meaning in that church. 

My title does refer to a song I was taught as a child, and it does go on to spell out…”and I have C.H.R.I.S.T. in my H.E.A.R.T. and I will L.I.V.E. E.T.E.R.N.A.L.L.Y.”  As a child, I never once thought that meant I really had a little tiny piece of my Savior inside of me.  I really thought it was like when you say “I’ll keep you in my heart” as more like the faith or love I have for Christ.  I know the Holy Spirit indwells us once we are redeemed.  We are part of the family of God, we become in unity with Christ.  “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  I don’t believe I have a literal piece of Christ inside me, but that we’re connected like family, in faith through grace and mercy given by God.  Anyone with more study want to help me out here in this?  I want to explain this to my children in such a way that they always have this doctrine right, that they have a clear understanding.  I hope I don’t sound like an idiot here.  A few verses below may be a good start.  Context, meaning, culture at the time, Greek…

 

Colossians 1:27 (NIV)

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Ephesians 3:16-18 (NIV) I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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So many things swirl in my head since looking into Purpose Driven Life and Spiritual Transformation in our old church.  I’ve learned a great deal more than I ever wanted to know.  I was quite content with my church.  Still, I was noting that the small group model was failing our family (back when we were doing 40 days…they split our group).  We were not making the connections promised, and the growth we felt was stagnating.  But, we were not blaming the church and were blaming human relationships.  Of course, Christians are going to fail to be perfect, and therefore, it was human sin in small groups causing the problem.   Ahhh thinking about all the things that lead up to our leaving, all the dissatisfaction, the time we wasted thinking we were doing something good…all the warning signs…it just sits in my head and I cannot believe it. 

Now, as I wrote, I know more than I want to know.  I feel so inadequate, so duped.  I also feel so helpless, and am so aware of my sin and my weakness.  This thing is very BIG.  Very big.  Some days I think, “is all this we learned just a farce and was our old church really okay?  Are we exaggerating this?”  Then, I think back, remember, and look around at the Bible studying/humble/respected Christians that left before us.  I look at what our former church was clearly promoting, and I know at least one thing we’re right about, their focus is off of Christ and onto man.  They are into things we didn’t ever learn about in the past that this church is into.  The deception is so subtle.  Really, it’s hard to know the sheep from the wolves (except the overt ones).  Honestly, if someone came to me and said last year this time, “your church is into some things that are new age” I would have wondered what they were talking about.  In truth though, I am the type that would have not scoffed at them, and I would have researched.  I’ve learned though, when bringing up the issues with people who attend, we get those that trust us enough to research, those that cannot see it, those that don’t want to know, and those that deceive on accident, and those that do it on purpose. 

In speaking with an aunt, uncle, and cousin this weekend, I got more to think about.  My uncle’s very faithful Christian mother and father refuse to attend their Nazarene church any longer.  They objected to much of the things going on.  I think it was a “Purpose Driven” church.  The pastors brought in rock style music, and multimedia presentations.  When the elderly of the church…and more conservative came forward, they were basically told that there was no going back and the youth were being reached.  They tried to form their own church, but the Nazarene church wouldn’t allow it.  This faithful woman is distraught and cannot attend church anymore.  She’s also now dealing with a homebound husband at a time when she’d need the church the most.  They are in their 80’s.  The calousness shows the fruits well in this case.  It also shows how far reaching this problem of church shifting has become.  Long time solid members of churches are being cut off.  When they speak for truth, they are being ignored, abused, and shunned.  Fruits are showing themselves as rot. 

Looking at how the world has changed, makes me think it’s possible we’re ever closer to loosing freedoms as many have said we would when things came closer to the return of Christ.  It feels this way.  I know people have believed the world was at it’s end many times before.  At the same time, I do feel that if we turn to our Father in repentance things could turn around.  It’s really up to God’s will.

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I have not told the pastor left behind more than, “I don’t think we did well in the meeting.”  He would not like to hear how the lead pastor put things, I’m sure.  I don’t know if we should tell him or if there is some sort of confidentiality thing.  I want to be fair, and want to give the feel of the meeting should I share.  I mean, we weren’t getting yelled at.  It was a calm discussion, and I believe the lead pastor honestly thinks we are in sin, and we aren’t teachable anymore in his church.  I believe he is in error for sure, and how he handled that last meeting was wrong.  Defensiveness, I could understand as it’s human.  He doesn’t see his errors, and our letter was pretty stinging.  It did not directly address his sermons, and his sermons were less obvious anyway.  However, in the meeting we tried to focus on his responsibility as leader to study what the others speaking from the pulpit were saying and redirect their sermons to what the Bible teaches and what the church claims to believe.  In the few things we asked him, I could tell this pastor has gone into spiritual disciplines and said when I was concerned with the little Christ term, “you are a little Christ if you have Jesus in your heart.”  Some of that scares me.  So, there’s a little family with a husband hired as pastor in this church who sees the emergent popping up at this church and who encouraged the letter, and what he’ll hear of the meeting was that we did not listen and aren’t teachable.  He’ll hear we’re going to a good church now.  That’s maybe it.  Maybe even he’ll hear that we are extreme?  Maybe crazy? 

We have friends left there too.  We’ve spoken to one couple who knows all this, and was helping us to decide if what we saw was real.  They weren’t concerned, didn’t buy what we saw at Lighthouse trails.  They really know the ins and outs of the church in different ways than we do.  It took a while, but eventually, they could see it too.  Because they had been out of church for illness, they really hadn’t seen the changes that were happening.  Once the pastor started inserting “new age” style terms (the associate, not the head pastor), this couple could agree there’s something amiss.  Outside sources, for example, long conference speeches we were able to link to our friends showed them what a few leaders emergent/even missional were thinking and the direction it looks to all be heading.  It was this combined with the words of the pastors that really convinced them.  They have chosen to stay, and help out in the children’s ministry.  I’m told they see how Christ is a part of the curriculum for children in messages and training for the instructors, but somewhere it’s dropped by the time it’s given to the kids.  They, along with the pastor of children and others working with the curriculum are putting Christ back in.  This is good to know, that the younger ones in church, the children up to 6th grade, are still hearing the gospel in children’s ministry.  So, though our friends are left behind (as is another woman who often works in children’s music ministry)…I believe God has them there for a time.  Their teaching is likely reaching the children God intends for it to.  God has mercy, and I believe may still have this church in His sight.  The lead pastor and others in leadership may have their plans, but really, there is hope that things can get better….or if things don’t get better at least the children haven’t been left without some truth.  The minister left behind also speaks occassionally from the pulpit, and has a visual role in the church almost every week.  Therefore, I believe he is one reason people are hearing the true gospel focused on Christ rather than man.  I do not feel the leaders intend for the focus to be off, but it’s just happening because they are following so hard after faulty men and faulty plans. 

God save them from themselves!  I pray for our former church, that the leadership see what is wrong.  Not what we presented, or what we believe is wrong.  I pray God shows them what HE sees is wrong, and there is repentence and humility and a turning toward Him.  We may have some areas we are picking on that aren’t as bad as we make them, we’re not sure.  However, obviously, there’s something going on if people are jumping ship and we haven’t even talked to them…people were doing it in the months and years before we left.  We had nothing to do with any of it as we were clueless.  God please bless our former church, whatever that means…

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It’s amazing how relieved I feel, and yet how sad I feel.  I have been attending this church for eight years, and intended to raise our children in this church.  Stability is a big deal to me, as is loyalty.  We had invested ourselves into children’s ministry, prayer ministry, and men’s ministry.  I had a particular desire to help women with miscarriage, and possibly to try to mentor pregnant women and teens.  Missionary work appeals to both of us, and we were hoping to go on short term missions as well as take our children on service missions.  Our church appeared to offer many places to devote service to God.  It was our desire to really devote ourselves to God’s service.  We still desire this, but we cannot do it in a church that has been going New Age. 

I am sad also because people are falling for a lie.  I love these people.  It’s like watching a person become a drug addict.  Knowing they won’t listen, it’s hard to sit and just watch.  That is likely what sent my husband for the doors.

Sunday, we almost attended a different church, but I couldn’t do it yet.  I had to feel closure, know it was my last Sunday there.  My husband actually parked in a church parking lot, and I said, “no, I’m not ready today.”  He promptly turned it around and we went to the church of our membership.  We listened to the sermon, which was more of the same.  The pastor talked about Christ coursing through our veins, and also had a time of silence at the end of the service.  Besides this, his message was about story and how we are to write ourselves into God’s story, and how the God’s story is the greatest story or some such something.  I will look at sermon notes later to get a better idea. 

We did let an elder friend of ours know we are leaving.  “Ouch,” was his reply.  He asked why, and so I delved carefully.  I tried to explain that really, our pastors have been promoting a religion much like the New Age.  I found my explaination to be halted, awkward, and difficult.  He listened.  He also said he was torn.  Listening to me had him confused.  One particular pastor was his mentor.  I had to share that this pastor really seems to be leading the charge following after Rick Warren/Dallas Willard and more.  He said, “you know, we came to a decision that people were just sitting and getting comfortable in our church, especially seasoned, mature Christians.  The 40 Days of Purpose was our way to combat that.”  I told him I understood why, that people can get complacent.  Still, the message has been tainted.  I shared a few phrases I have heard the pastors say, and one in particular was “Jesus coursing through your veins.”  Conversation moved on after a while, though I kept trying to revisit.  The elder went on to life and to things he has been involved in for business etc.  We chit chatted, and did come back to church topics.  He said, “we’re not called to change the church,” and “you need to do what you feel you are called to do.”  He added that if we were “not comfortable with the preaching in church we should find another church.”  He offered some other places, asked where we thought of attending and made a few comments on these places.  Really, he sidestepped the issue, and told me to not confront this in church.  I was told to write a letter, wait three days and then re-read it.  Send the letter, but don’t meet with any pastors.

I decided to write the letter, but I also decided to meet with one pastor.  This meeting will be next week based on schedule.  I hope to share a book with this pastor.  I hope he will hear me and investigate for himself.

Along the way, one of my friends who knows about my online writings has read about this issue.  Since this is also her church, she is alarmed.  At first, she didn’t believe it was really happening at our church.  Now she realizes better.  Her goal now is to just hang out, see if anyone will hear some reason.  She’s also going to work in church ministry and try to keep it pure where she is.  She hopes to impact the church in a positive way with the truth.  This also has been making her physically ill.  That is how she’s oppressed spiritually, through physical illness.  Hopefully, she can be healthy enough to fight the good fight here. 

I did listen to the last sermon online yesterday.  The quote, “Jesus coursing through your veins” has been edited out of the audio.  It’s a clear edit becaue you can hear the beginning of a word that is cut off.  Seems rather weird to me.  Evidence that they will likely back off any weird New Age language just to keep from running people off too early. 

So, our next step is meeting with the one pastor, meeting then with our small group, and letting our group shepherds know.  We also have to inform the children’s minister we won’t be helping.  I have let the pastor know I’m not helping with prayer any longer as I had before. 

We still have friends in the church.  I can think of some I want to inform.  I have got to figure out how to proceed in a way God would want.  My husband is pretty much hoping not to have to talk about this much more.  What he wants is to find a church and be in a Bible study group that actually studies the Bible and NOT some topic or book as often suggested by our church pastors.

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