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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

We were tootling along just fine in our schedule at small group last night, when, as far as I’m concerned, a grenade was dropped. One man, prominent in our group, mentioned a book that he said, “is the best book I’ve ever read.” Uh oh. It’s not the Bible, so what could it be? A book on the prodigal son by Henri Nouwen. He’s reading it, and will pass it on to the eager next person in the group. Another woman wrote the title down. I sat there, quietly taking it in. Now I have to proceed carefully. The man is not a bible study leader nor pastor. He’s also not necessarily tainted because he likes this one book. I do think, however, that we need to figure out how to address this so I am carefully taking advice from people I respect. I will not go in guns blazing, but I do not believe we should ignore this. My husband was proud of me, I am usually blasting away when I see a problem. I’ve learned. There is wisdom in silence for a time while we gather information and carefully present the problems with Nouwen.

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There is a cost to intermingling with pagans and atheists you don’t really know, it can hurt.  I have kept an online blog for years originally starting it with the intent to witness to others.  It started with an interest in an art project a teenager had done.  It was a stunning piece, made the papers, and I began a search for the art.  I found her online blog.  I began to read stories of her life, her daily thoughts.  It was shocking to me to see the world of teens.  I came from a small town and had sheltered myself really.  I was a goody two shoes so to speak, and though I did see some bad things in my young life, I had not intended to see these things, I had not sought them out.  This teen was involved with a man older than she, and her friends were wild.  They lived in an art underworld, their parents often approved, but some had no idea.  They dabbled in drugs, sex with multiple partners, parties, and the like.  They ran their own lives, and were extreme in what they did.  They also interacted with me, a Christian, for a while.  Soon, they grew bored and angry with me.  I represented a stupidity they didn’t want anything to do with.  I was banned from several blogs as a troll.  I had attempted to witness, and it appears I failed. 

Through friends of friends on the blog, I began going back and forth with a man who is agnostic/atheist.  He created his own symbol for his non-religion (or maybe it is a secularism/humanism so actually a type of religious system).  He began a sort of religious think tank blog where people could make a point and it could be picked apart by others.    No one just accepted anything a Christian or even a theist of any type would say.  It was all fairy tales to most of them.  There were times when the discussion was interesting, but was it helpful?  Some people came in as Christians and fought hard, some made fools of themselves.  There were hateful jokes and angry statements made by pagans and atheists alike, but to be truthful, there were some claiming Christ who did not speak kindly.  Did anyone really change?  Not really.  I made the attempt to reach out as a believer in Christ, shared what I could, and eventully the postings died down on the page from everyone.  I do think the agnostic/atheist did respect me in some way, but that was not my goal in any way. 

A few people popped into my life from communities formed on the blog.  A few have actually been online “friends” for ten years now.  They have even followed me over to my facebook page.  One man works in his community, lived without a car for years, and has not been attending a local church.  He became a Christian a few years after I met him.  His focus in his posts is on the simple things in life, and on scripture.  He reads his bible daily.  He avoids churches I believe becaue everything he’s been to has been seeker friendly or some other sort of weakened/false gospel.  He fellowships mostly with those he knows online.  Only recently did he get a vehicle, and he began in Genesis once again.  I consider him to be a brother in Christ, and see how he’s grown in the last few years.

One more woman has remained.  There was a community that began as a Christian discussion area, and she began posting there.  Initially, we got off to a bad start, and began to argue online.  We stuck it out though, and she’s been in contact with me for about 10 years.  When I was banned from the teenager’s pages, she was there to tell me they were idiots.  She lives a very sad life, it seems she cannot get a leg up.   Her parents are mean to her, she’s an adult, but makes bad choices.  She has had bad relationships with men, and she is generally depressed.  She also escapes with alcohol at times.  She’s gone to psychologists and they have labeled her with a mild mental illness.  She’s moody, opinionated, and often lashes out if you step on her toes.  I have a few times, and I’ve been put out of her life for a while.  Usually, it’s when I post about abortion.  She’s had two abortions and was with a man in a bad relationship.  She’s wounded, she gets hurt and angry when I mention abortion.  Recently, I began posting a lot of pro-life videos and links on my facebook as a reaction to the doctor who had been doing murders on babies after being born alive in his “botched” abortions.  He had also killed a woman, so now he is seen as evil by more than just pro-lifers.  Well, my long time online friend reacted with anger.  She thanked me for opening up old wounds and making her feel like, well, to put it less sharply, like dung.  All because I posted links on my facebook.  Links that showed survivors of abortions or clever comments about how those for abortions are all born now…just like those for slavery in America weren’t slaves.   I had not even thought of her when I posted, and had not intended to bring up bad memories.  Fact is though, she doesn’t feel guilt because I posted these things.  She doesn’t feel depression and torment because of anything anyone else has done.  She is tormented, depressed, and feels terrible about herself because she’s being confronted face to face with the consequences of her sin.  She says she worries what religious people (she used colorful curse words) think of her, what I think of her.  I do not think she is anything but a sinner.  I am a sinner too, but I am saved by grace and I trust Christ because He drew me for some reason I cannot explain.  I am NO better than she is, but I am better off as I see it.  I know how to ask for forgiveness. 

My online friend blames actions like mine for her rejection of the church, for her rejection of Christ.  The fact is, her own sin is what keeps her from God.  Her own blindness and hardened heart.  For some reason, the Father broke through mine.  I pray for my online friend (who really is seperated from me by a great chasm, but I have had a shot to share the gospel with her).  I cannot fellowship with her, I cannot be yolked with her, and it makes me sad that I cannot do anything to save her.  And yet, I know that I am also free in this truth.  It’s only up to me to be an ambassador for Christ.  I may not do it in the perfect way, I may not really help anyone, but I am glad I care about this woman.  I pray for her because I believe I am supposed to.  I know I am not good at this, I also know I just have to keep doing the best I can.

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Is it bad that I pay my children to read the Bible?  I give them the money once they’ve read it through.  25c per book.  The oldest, age 14 and 12, have completed it once.  The 2nd time they go through it they have to take notes so that it’s not just speed reading.  (My oldest read it in 3 months straight through, and that’s okay, but I want him to really pay attention next time). 

I do read to the kids but have not been consistent about this.  I know as a kid I was NOT read the bible at home.  I lived with an aunt and uncle for four years, and they read those blue Bible Stories books you see at the doctor’s office, they must have had the set.  When I moved back in with my dad at age 10 I didn’t even get the Bible stories, so my kids definitely are ahead of me at the same age but I want to do more.  They do memorize verses for a bible club, we’ve worked on those together week after week, singing verses in the car and repeating them.  I know I could work more with them.  I just hope they are getting the Word in deep. 

We speak about God often, and when in a discipline situation, we talk about the behavior, if it is wrong or right, and why.  We do use the word “sin” and the child asks the parent or other child for forgiveness and then goes to pray about things with God, confessing sins and asking forgiveness.  When I do something sinful, (like react in great anger or speak to my children in a way that is out of line) I make sure to ask for forgiveness too.

My husband and I pray with the kids daily.  Daily.  Meals, before bed, and at other opportune times.  When we read scripture, we often include prayer.

I know I could do better, I could bring prayer and the Word in more.  I hope I am not neglectful of my duty to really teach my children about Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.  They learn a lot at our church, but I believe it is best for us as parents to teach our children the truth in the Bible.

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Leonard Sweet mentions Dan Kimball and says he’s his doctoral mentor.   I wonder how much this will/has influenced Dan Kimball?  This talk is all about coffee and not really saying anything about their relationship nor Dan’s beliefs…just a document of relationship.

http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/FeedEnclosure/georgefox.edu.1952351666.01952351672.1947923694/enclosure.mp3

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Yes, I am a Christian woman. I am a wife and a mom. But what “brand” of Christian? I am a protestant. This is for sure. I believe in the Trinity (three persons one God…not easy to comprehend but I can sort of get it…). I believe the basics that exclude me from being a “christian like” cult member, basically the creed that goes, “I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen” I believe I was chosen, partly because there is NO WAY in my family I would have chosen Christ on my own. No way. I believe my faith was given to me by God and not something I made or did on my own. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God though I do feel there was a time when I was converted or at least confirmed to be truly His. (I think I was 7, yes I prayed a prayer, but it was more a knowing I was His for sure, that’s it…and it was in a Nazarene church.) I do believe God does work in lives, He’s not hands off. It’s the Holy Spirit working in the heart of a believer, leading, comforting. However, it’s more in hindsight that it can be seen to be the Holy Spirit usually though I have had times I do feel Him working in my life in real time. I do believe there are things I am meant to do and these things do come about, but it’s not a purpose driven thing. I believe I am a sinner, saved by grace and through the mercy of our Lord because Jesus Christ died on the cross. The most important thing though is that He raised from the dead. I hope in this, I count on this. I believe He will come again and raise up all people from the dead in order to judge everyone. I believe I will be judged and found not guilty only because Christ paid the penalty and I am His. I used to believe in something like “pray this prayer” for salvation and now I don’t though I do think salvation can happen to a person during prayer. I do think there is an acceptance of the fact that one is in Christ, a repentance and a trusting in Christ, and this is where the praying can be. I believe we are baptised by the Holy Spirit when we are saved but that we should follow with water baptism. I am not offended by infant baptism, but I cannot see how that is something that should be done. The circumcision argument seems a little bit off to me. I believe in taking communion together in the body of Christ in rememberance of Him and of His body and His blood. I do not believe the elements change into His body and actual blood. I also am confused a bit about the Lutheran idea of presence.

I believe prayer is a time when we express our adoration of God, a time to confess sins, a time to thank God, and a time to make requests to Him (think ACTS). I believe we hear from God in His word. I do also believe we are to learn from others, but this is NOT God’s word. It is okay for me to seek older women (as a woman) or teachers to guide as older women and pastors are told specifically to teach a person like me. If they are getting their instruction from the bible, then I’m good learning from them. I do think God does want us in a church and with other believers so we can be held accountable, so we can learn from others. I wish to be in fellowship with other believers and have always sought this out. Worship…I believe we can worship with our actions and words, and with our attitude. However, I do believe I can fool myself into thinking I’m worshipping when I really am not. It’s hard for me at times to worship rightly.

Gifts are a confusing topic for me right now. I am tending to think that the Evangelical church has misused scripture when it comes to gifts, and so has the Charismatic church. Sure, we’re all made in a unique way. We each have personalities and propensities (did I say that right?). But, I do not believe a survey can show what God desires for me to do with my life. I am frustrated by being plugged into some fill in the dot thing and told I am a teacher, a prophet, and a discerner, then told a list of jobs I can do in the church (like you would do in high school with a guidance counselor). Annoying. I do think there are things God has given me since birth He intends for me to use. I also think circumstances mold us, and the things we are able to do at one time we may not be able to do later…but things we haven’t been able to do we might later. It’s not like we have this little treasure box we open and one day discover we are gifted as a pastor or as a good hostess. Did He ever command us to spend time sitting in a circle with others talking about a survey we did and talking about our special gifts as if God were some fairy godmother and we were sleeping beauty? Ugh.

That said, I believe for some reason I am critical of teachers and am skeptical at times when I need to be. I think this is only by God’s grace, and I have learned to follow a thread of information to find where it leads. I pick up on cues from a teacher (not right away unfortunately all the time). If something doesn’t sound right, I go searching. This I think is part of my makeup whether through circumstance or just the way God made me when He was forming me. My husband trusts me time and again when I say, “that teacher isn’t right.” I cannot always point to a scripture on that day, but give me time, I’ll figure it out somehow. I have been duped too, many times, but at some point I eventually see a red flag and I’m on it. Usually I am afraid to trust this at first, it takes time for me to actually stand up and say something is wrong until I feel I know for sure. I believe it is my duty to be discerning. So I think it’s important to study the bible.

The bible is also important to study in general so we know what God wants us to know, and so we can know Him. I believe that every teacher should be tested by the scriptures. I believe I should be tested there also, and I believe I am such a terrible sinner. Thank God He had men record the Good News and not just the law there!

Oh, I could probably ramble on and on about what I believe. What am I though? I mean, I read about Arminians, Calvinists…and then there’s the denomination. I am not at this time Lutheran though I am liking some Lutherans out there and how they really treasure the bible and the gospel…and go after false teachers. I like the serious Presbyterians out there. I just am not into that infant baptism thing and then the communion thing….in the way a Lutheran would be. I tend to like dunking for baptism too, though I’m not a stickler on it.

Am I confusing or wishy washy? Too far from the true teachings of the Bible? Am I in some terrible error? I pray God pulls me to Him always. It is so humiliating to be such an idiot and horrible and humbling to see how much I do not know, and what a sinner I am!

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Switching from a Purpose Driven church with entertainment to a bible teaching church may have a few effects, one of which initially is boredom.  This may seem unholy and wrong to admit, but it has happened.  We felt it in our house.  A dry feeling.  But like eating healthy food for once as a normal way of life rather than just once in a while, old habits are hard to break.

Exercise and eating healthy will be difficult for someone coming from terrible habits.  We want to drift back to the soda, we want to taste the sugary sweet candy.  We want to have french fries and greasy hamburgers with lots of cheese.  Why?  We’re addicted.  What do bad eating and exercise habits get us?  Diabetes, heart problems, early death.  We become fat and unable to enjoy life.

This is what happened to us at the previous church.  We enjoyed a LOT of cool programs.  Our kids were entertained.  We felt we were growing in the faith.  Yes, we did grow, but looking back, the times we did grow were when we insisted to study the bible verse by verse in small group.  There were some messages by the pastors that carried truth, so we did learn from those.  However, much was social, much was wrong teaching.  We ignored the problems for a while.  It caught up to us.  We began to see the problems.

When we opened our ears and looked around, we heard the pastors preaching things that were not biblical.  Suddenly, the candy coating didn’t feel good anymore.  We realized the illness in our faith.  We were not being fed often enough.  Yes, there was service, we were served in many ways.  But the teaching was in error just as often as it was in truth.  We allowed the error to go on when we were blind to it, but once we saw it we realized we had to escape.

We eventually landed in a church where the bible is preached verse by verse.  We started out with some initial joy, because our worries about the former church were confirmed.  Still, we missed some of the trappings.  We missed the social time, many people were new to us.  We missed the upbeat music a great deal.  Still, the true spiritual food was making us feel better because our spiritual bodies were getting the right nutrition.  Now my children recognize the former church for what it is, and they do not want to go back to the candy.  We don’t either. 

Of course, we listen and are very careful, we do not want to believe the pastor without checking things out.  It’s kind of like reading the labels.  We want to know what’s going on at the church, what they are truly about.  Is the spiritual food healthy and true?  If it is, then we will see growth and not experience the physical illness.  The hard work put in (not works for salvation mind you, but the study of God’s word and prayer, the service to the body, and the support of those who go out and preach to others…or even maybe us going out some day when we’re prepared…these things are the hard things), will result in a healthy Christian perspective.  Staying on guard is important, reading for ourselves.  After all, it’s supposed to be our faith we’re working out right?  And as time goes on, what was previously boring is actually very exciting.  Scriptural study is not some mundane thing, it’s a wonderful joy to hear and read truth.

note:  If I am saying something wrong by winging it, PLEASE let me know here.  I know these are my human thoughts, not God’s words.

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The difference between the Spiritual Formation and sanctification is where you go for it. In Spiritual Formation a person goes inward…and supposedly listens. In sanctification, a person goes into God’s word…and the focus is on God. Though both are a process, one is about the Glory of God and the other is about “making my life better now.”

I would love any insight on sanctification vs. spiritual formation…I am not as studied as I should be on this for sure.

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I’ve had a few friends leave our former church.  They have seen emergent creep in, though it’s not been admitted and was adamantly denied.  The church is overt about spiritual formation though, there’s even a person on staff with a title containing the words spiritual formation. 

One of my friends is still trapped there, with a husband who doesn’t believe there’s a problem.  She’s being submissive to him, but is also not attending sermons any longer.  I believe she likely helps in different areas so as to avoid regular service.  God must have her there for a reason.  It’s very hard for her, to see things creeping in…or even openly being presented that aren’t biblical. 

I’ve noticed some things about people leaving.  Some fight for a while.  One man we know was an elder and tried to change things there, eventually they had to leave.  The church was going in a direction they were not comfortable with.  Scripture was being mishandled, and they had issues with an elder who was being supported by the church that didn’t believe the literal interpretation of Genesis.  Others left because of this issue. 

When Rick Warren’s materials were presented church wide and manditory for small groups, some people fought or brought out issues with the materials.  The alterations of scripture, the use for whatever purpose suits Mr. Warren really bothered those paying attention.   They went through the system, talking to pastors or elders.  They eventually left, not many knew of most of their problems.  We’ve even been told they were led to believe they were basically alone in their assertions.  This has proven itself to not be true, more than one couple left because of the Rick Warren studies.

We left because we saw things tiptoeing emergent.  We really didn’t understand what emerging/emergent was, and to be honest, I am not sure I’d say now the church is emergent.  However, the youth program is tripping into emergent stuff all the time, and Rob Bell has been played in some small groups.  The church has not taken a stand against it, and because of this, they are basically saying they approve.  Some pastors’ and elders’ children leave and end up at an emergent church in the area.  If our former church is not emergent, they are friends with emergent with no apology.  A few recognized this as a problem and have left.

Those leaving all realize the same thing in the end.  The fight won’t get you anywhere.  It’s not that we shouldn’t fight at all, because there are times when God has let the fight occur and also let those fighting loose for a time.  Standing up is very hard.  At some point though, because we’re sick of starving, we all leave.  We seek out a church that focuses on the bible, and on Christ.  We look for a God centered rather than man centered gospel.

There seems to be no way to change this church.  Only God can do it, and we pray He will open more eyes.  I am thankful for the ones who have seen and have made their way out.

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Baptism has been understood and practiced different ways within Christianity.  I have felt, and this is just feelings without complete scriptural backing, that baptism is an act of obedience.  It is to be done after a person trusts Christ.  It is not a means of salvation, not that the regeneration cannot occur simultaneously, but I personally feel (again, feel not know) that there is a true baptism on the spirit or heart and this work is done by the Holy Spirit.  Those who are saved by grace through faith are to be baptised to show their faith publicly, because it is commanded. 

I do not believe infant baptism hurts anyone, but do not believe it is necessary.  I was baptised at a very young age (baby or toddler) and later trusted Christ.  Because I had been baptised Lutheran and at a young age (I recall it, recall crying…so I think I had to be older than an infant) I decided to be baptised later as an adult to publicly show my faith.  Christ was baptised, so no Christian should be above the act of water baptism. 

I believe, unless there is a physical reason why not, that a person should be immersed.  It was how Christ did it.  Baptism represents a cleansing, and I believe it’s best shown through actual dunking.  Sprinkling is not wrong in my opinion, I just think the dunking is a better way. 

So, how’s that for clear as mud?  I want to study baptism again.  I know that I went through it in college because some guys from the Church of Christ were stressing the need for baptism for salvation.  I recall coming out of those talks with the belief that the water baptism was for obedience as a symbol of our cleansing, but that those who trust Christ and are saved by grace through faith have a baptism that is from the Holy Spirit and not only of water.  There is no magic in the act, no magic in the water.  Of course, I also have heard Charismatic people claim tongues etc as a sign of Holy Spirit baptism and I say that is hogwash (respectfully, of course).

Anyone want to give a scriptural reason for baptism…either dunking wholly…sprinkling…infant…after trusting Christ…or whatever variation thereof.  I know there is a right way, a right true answer about baptism.  I know God knows.  I just want to be clear about it myself.

I have been in contact with a Lutheran on this issue of baptism and have not been satisfied with infant baptism.  I was told it has been a tradition through the ages to baptise infants…but why is this not modeled in Acts?

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I have discovered others who have become disenchanted with the direction their church is headed.  Frustrations are similar,  reactions too.  Solutions vary depending on the family and situation.

One woman left a baptist church that was seeker friendly and is seeking to understand all that is Lutheran.  She desires really the companionship and servant attitude in the Baptist church, but wants the systematic theology of the Lutheran church. 

Nazarenes are struggling as their churches have been infiltrated with seeker friendly and contemplative teachings.  This is very similar to my experience in non-denominational churches.

Some have noted the youth programs in their church are more for entertainment.  There may again be service as a focus, but the fruits don’t go beyond this in changed lives.  The youth group kids from church look like every other group of kids. 

So what is the solution?  Which church will best meet the needs of a person thirsting for a focus on Christ who recognizes a need to get into the bible?  I believe that answer is much more complicated than it might appear.  Just finding a church claiming to be a “people of the book” is not enough. 

I fear a big separation that will do no one any good in the long run.  I fear we’ll have the passion in service oriented congregations.  We’ll have the connectedness of the body in small group/seeker friendly congregations, and well have serious study in churches with liturgy.  I would like to see churches who value the bible as it should be.  I then would like to see the body of Christ in service to one another out of love.  I hope churches with serious bible study would also have fellowship with one another.  I hope there will be a passion to follow and worship, and a passion to support those who go beyond the local church to give the gospel to others beyond the walls of the church. 

I still carry the fear of being duped.  I see good things in my current church.  Pastors preach well and from the text, expository style.  People are serving one another.  There is a connectedness in the body (the pastor went out of his way to walk up to us in the hallway and ask about a family member he heard had health issues…we are very new to this church and people go out of their way to make sure we feel welcomed and remembered).  There are missionaries supported.  I’m just waiting for the honeymoon phase to end.

When will a program check out as tainted by contemplative?  When will I see the compromises?  Of course, I do not expect the church to be perfect.  However, I am still cautious.  I feel for those who haven’t yet found a church to scrutinize, however. 

We’ve seen good things in this church, many good things.  It’s horrible to keep trying churches and only seeing seeker friendly, contemplative, or emergent (or a mix of everything) tainting all.  I pray for brothers and sisters who don’t get any refreshing from the pulpit.

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