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I asked my son if he was ever bored in our new church and he said yes.  To that I said, “good.”  Why would I say such a thing?  Because in our former church we were overstimulated with entertainment.   My son understood exactly what I was saying.  Being human, we might feel bored (in our weak bodies) when the truth is repeated to us.  We might have to stretch through and work to listen.  This is NOT a signal that the pastor is doing something wrong and needs to enterain.  If I am bored, I do not need a new and catchy song or a lazer light show.  I need the truth.  I need Christ.  I need the gospel.  If I am bored, I need to examine my heart.  I have time to think and examine my heart.  If it’s all about a theme, all about the great music to make me emotional, all about some false cause (that may sound good) then I can be distracted from truth of my condition.  At least if I’m bored, no pastor had to compromise the message.  The problem is with me and not the church.  This is NOT to say that we cannot be bored with a lie.  I know I became quite bored in a very agitated way with my church once I could see the real problems for what they are.  And I must admit now in the new church I’m actually not bored.  But if I do become bored I will not fret.  If the truth is preached, it doesn’t matter how I feel about it, I am glad to get the truth. 

Of course, what I wrote above is just my own thoughts.

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Going through the gospel of John as a congregation at our new church continues to contradict our former church.  Weekly, my husband and I will have at least one (if not many) sideways knowing glances with one eyebrow up.  First there was the reference to what the entire book is written for.  “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God…”  John wasn’t written to have us interpret each and every detail with mystery.  No mystery, straight forward “you must be born again.”  Each week we hear the events as John records them, and how the people reacted to Jesus, and what Jesus said and did.  No new meanings applied, just the plain facts based on scripture.  We might move to a later part of John or to another gospel to show the importance of this or that scripture or the cultural significance of this or that  part of John…or we might move to the Old Testament when appropriate to bring up long standing traditions of men being broken or scripture being fulfilled, or to show why something was done this way in the days when Jesus walked the earth.   It’s refreshing to just read along with the pastor, and to not get “red flags” every so often causing a completely different reason for the sideways glances and eyebrows.  It’s nice to actually hear all about Jesus and not about the pastor’s kids and wife in a story to make whatever point.  It’ s nice not to hear canned stories and jokes that I can find immediately online in some other pastor’s sermons.  It”s nice to hear about the gospel  and not the plans of the church to build this or that.  No slick videos promoting the different ministries in the church or calls to give to the new building campaign, no calls to serve the emerging generation and to pass the baton.  No limited focus on families with babies or on youth.  So far, it appears the pastor and this new church are focused on Christ, Christian living as revealed in the gospels.  Quotes are almost always from the bible, and if they are from someone else they are always cited well.  I really cannot recall a quote from someone except John this past few months, but I’m not saying there hasnt’ been one…maybe quoting Piper or MacArthur?  I don’t have to go home and read up on strange authors or search out who the new speaker at our pulpit is (who came from out of town).  It’s just been our pastors at the pulpit.  There’s not a lot of  repetition of themes, no pounding us with the same terms and redefining them over and over again (like missional, transformation, etc).  There’s rarely a “new conference” or “retreat.”  Yes, they do have a men’s retreat coming up, but it’s not been overblown.  No promises that you’ll come back a completely new and improved husband and father.  It’s just a weekend away with speakers, the bible, and prayer.  And the sermons, they are longer.  Here’s church…pray, then song time with scripture reading.  Next sermon (again started with prayer and including scripture).  Prayer again then offering with instrumental music.  I think another song. Announcements.  Prayer…and that’s it.

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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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Today I saw a woman from our former church.  Last time I saw her we were about to leave the former church but did not share this information with her and her husband.  We were not openly plunking reasons out in the lobby of the church on that last day to everyone we saw though it was tempting and we wanted to so badly.  Well, our kids are both taking some standardized tests, so we had a little time to chat.  We both just talked about our children and lives.  She was about to leave (of course there were many mothers in this area too, some may or may not be going to our former church…you never know) but said to me, “where are you going to church?’  I told her, and she realized some others who went to our former church had made their way to this particular church.  She then commented that it sure seemed like a lot of people have left my former church (can I just say I leap a little inside when I hear this, but then recall that people leave for good reasons and bad reasons and for no reason at all).  She talked about how many reasons seemed like conflicts with individuals or specific personal issues.  She opened it up.  I did share a bit, that we really had been asked NOT to share why we left.  I did also say that it was the teaching that we struggled with.  I then backed up saying many elders and one pastor were great to us (which is true) but I was trying to soften the issues.  I then said that each family has to decide for themselves.  Also true, but again it’s a way to give her comfort for attending a church that needs a lot of redirection to get back on focus to Christ.  I hate when I lay it out there, and then don’t really do what I should which is stick 100% to what I said.  I do want to be careful, but sometimes I get asked why I left and out pops some right to the point statement that I can tell shocks.  Then I begin to soften it.    Uncomfortable.  I didn’t expect her actually to ask, so I really wasn’t prepared.

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I’m just a Christain woman with no leadership really in my family. I’ve really had to dig and learn for myself, and have trusted pastors and leaders to teach me truth. I spent time in high school being a girl who was basically a “goody two shoes.” I cussed, rarely went to parties but did go to a few. I was worldly, I knew nothing much else. I couldn’t really figure out how to grow until I got out on my own. I did study the Bible at times, prayed every day, and just learned as I went. When I got to college I found other Christians, and could attend church where I wanted to. I was in Navigators, and we were encouraged to study the Bible and memorize scripture. I wasn’t so great at the memorization, but I did attempt to do it. I really have always had a relationship with Christ as far as I could remember, and have had knowledge that I am a siner in need of my savior. Once married, my husband and I sought a church we could raise a family in. In the “Great Northwest” we found a non-denominational church we enjoyed. We continued Bible study weekly as we had from the first days of our marriage. We learned, we grew. We moved back to the Midwest. We found another non-denominational church. I recalled that Hank Hanergraff spoke there once and so I thought it would be good to try. I believe we had actually visited before we moved to the Northwest, and we knew we’d go there when we came back. We interviewed the church leadership as much as they interviewed us. We didn’t know enough to ask better questions. We joined small group, which I always called “Bible study” because that’s what I wanted it to be. We did study the Bible, we also used many little books and I know we always tried to get back to the Bible. We thirsted to know the scriptures and not something else. Not that we didn’t enjoy learning our spiritual gifts (which changed over time by the way) and learning how to handle our money or marriage tips. We did learn things, but did the things we learned have much to really do with the scriptures, with Christian living in the way Christ intended for us? We eventually figured out there were problems, partly because we became leaders of small group and were being trained about transformation/spiritual formation. The church changed the sign out front and the word “transformation” took a large part. A Christian in the wild wood saw danger. This Christian took to studying and figuring it out. My relationship with God has remained, Christ has not ever let me down. People and leadership has let me down. They have hidden their true agenda, (I have to say this…the weasles), and yet I have not been alone. My husband has been my support, noting that discernment is one of those spiritual gifts he believes I do have based on experience. When it comes to my fears when someone is teaching me, if I am bold enough to speak out I have often been right that something is wrong. I may not know enough to figure out WHAT but I can just say, “this doesn’t seem right.” I am generally good this way with men too, sometimes I just know this man is ego oriented…is up to something shady. (of course, not always, but many times I can do this). Now, I often push those feelings down, try not to judge. However, when it’s horrible and I feel I’m being warned by the Holy Spirit over and over again, I cannot ignore. I am not adrift with no hope, with nothing to guide me. I have God’s word written in scriptures. I can study. I have others I trust, and I can still ask their advice. I have prayer, I have the Holy Spirit. I have my husband who has a better memory than I do and can say “yes, he DID say what you think you heard.” There are many snares out here in the wild wood, many wolves to eat a lost little lamb. I am not a lost little lamb. I have a shepherd that will come looking for me if I go astray. Thank God for His Shepherd.

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Found this online, and was disturbed just in the set up of the message, I haven’t even listened to the whole thing but am posting as I go here…
http://www.viddyou.com/viddstream?videoid=57097

I already don’t like the contradiction between “God is unlimited and all powerful” and yet we have some sort of power to limit him. We have to do this and such…”He won’t do more than what you believe Him for.” Really? You mean we have to believe God will do something before he will choose to? So what of Pharoah? He didn’t believe and yet God did some pretty big things in front of Pharoah. This whole thing denies how God GIVES US the faith we need. God is in control, period. Correct me please if I am wrong. Speaker here is Richard Blackaby son of Henry Blackaby.

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We left our church because we saw emergent creeping in. We were unsure if we were on target at first, but now I have no doubt we were right. Sometimes it’s a conversation with friends still attending, sometimes we pop into someone who left months or years ago. At any rate, the things that some say were “lies from the pit of hell” that came from our mouths are ever more proving to have not been lies.

My advice, if you have any strange little feelings that your church is “off” on biblical teaching in any way is to go to the leadership and ask questions. Be wise in how you ask, think, study, pray, pray pray. Ask them what books they recommend. Ask them what speakers they are listening to. Ask them what conferences they plan to attend. Ask their opinion about different books. Ask them what they know about this or that topic. Ask their favorite passages in scripture. Ask, ask, ask. Then, you can begin to challenge. Challenge on what they say at the pulpit, challenge on what they read, who they listen to, who they quote. If a pastor is following Christ, they likely will appreciate information that is helpful. If not, you’re going to go through a bit of trial. Pray for your friends but don’t burn bridges with them. You never know who will see what you are seeing, and who else is asking. Things are not what they seem. You might think someone is against you, but unless you hear it from their lips…or from the lips of someone you trust…don’t assume they are in agreement with the wrong teachings in your church. If you can find an ally, grab hold of them. Always pray. Offer to pray for your pastors, and really do it. Offer to pray with others who have the same doubts you do. It’s possible God may spare your church from ruin. You never know. Do what is best.

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For the short term, it seems the former church has changed a bit. They did spend an awful long time in Nehemiah. Now they’re working on themes of people in the passion story (using scriptures as they did before with a sermon series in a theme for about 6 weeks). However, the missional pastor is the one who has made a slight change. His sermons were previously padded with quotes from Donald Miller, Michael Frost, Warren, possibly Ortberg and others contemplative/emergent/seeker friendly. Listening to a recent sermon on the church web page made me smile. He made sure he quoted C.S. Lewis right away, and then went on to quote Piper. It was a great Piper quote too. It placed the purpose of the church not on missions, but on worship of God. No weird statements of “Christ coursing through your veins” or talking about the “Wholly Other.” It’s an improvement. How come it seems to me they are trying to reassure those left behind that they aren’t into the emergent authors? Real change would be a phone call saying “thank you” for us pointing out the problems. It would take a lot of humility for that one!

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Today my children participated in Awana Bible Quiz. They basically answered multiple choice questions about bible verses, definitions of words in particular verses, answers to questions in the Awana handbooks, and other similar questions. I have no problem with this as the kids do have to study their verses and memorize them to do well. We are involved in Awana partly because of the verse memorization, and because of the experiences the kids enjoy with others. It’s a Wednesday night thing, not a substitute for home bible study or church services. So far, I’ve not heard anything leaning contemplative at the meetings, I help with Awana myself so that I can see what’s going on. I know the Cubbies program is much like it has been for several years, but the books have been changing for the older kids. I have my children focus on the verses, and even then I’m not really worried about it as I’d rather have them learn from better versions of the bible itself. With that out of the way I’d like to share what bothered me about today.

After the quizing, there was a message from one of the missionary leader type Awana men. He told us about a book he read ( Annointed for Business). He then proceeded to describe four types of Christians. I was thinking right away that either you are a Christian or you’re not, kind of like being pregnant or not. There’s not “a little pregnant” just “early pregnant” and so was thinking it might be more like a discussion on signs of maturity or something. He began with level one. He actually called them “level one Christians.” These are the hypocrites, the two faced Christians. Okay, already I’m thinking the obvious, these are NOT Christians. He gave a scary story of a youth who committed suicide, and the kids who had once been in his youth group a few years earlier had teased him while there, so he stopped going. What might have occured had they not been two faced hypocrites as Christians? This boy might have stayed in youth group and maybe wouldn’t have killed himself. (Huh, so he could pick on another kid because youth group was supposed to make us better right?….or is it true that we’re all sinners…). Level two Christians are the Pharasees. That’s right, they are the letter of the law keepers. They come to God out of fear not love, they are holier than thou. I wonder if they think about reformed people when they mention this, or if they really mean the people who claim to be Christians but are actually very legalistic? Would this author include those who believe homosexuality is wrong? I would love to know exactly what was defined in the book because many times this area is where Christianity is attacked as being too traditional and the myth is used to steer people into “seeker friendly” churches. Hopefully this is not what was happening here, but I’ll never trust again without checking for myself. The third level Christian is alright, according to the leader and the author he quotes. This one is lead by the Holy Spirit and does many things in obedience not out of duty or obligation but out of love. These Christians are considered pretty good. This level is fine, but this leader mentioned there are ways that are bad, okay, better, and best. Level four Christians sound like the one this leader and the author want everyone to be. They are Christians who “transform” their environment. They are the ones that, in the workplace or school, cause everything to be better. They are the ones who, in his example, end up making everyone behave better because they are around. The leader shared that at one public school, an Awana group asked to use the school facilities for meetings. Although only 12 children were in the club, the teachers at the end of the school year thanked the Awana leader because the kids had behaved so well and had done better even on school work. The principal had resisted at first, but now admitted that this group had done something good. Even the peers of the Awana kids were acting better. Problems solved, right?

So, what’s wrong with this presentation? The fact is a false Christianity is presented. There are “levels” of Christians. There’s better and worse Christians. Is that how Jesus sees us? What of the persecuted Christians who make little to no impact on the evil culture around and are murdered? Remember Moses? Pharoah’s heart was hardened, the Israelite generation wasted what they knew of God from this experience. Was Moses considered faithful by God or not? Sure, it sounds good, it goes down easy. However, the bitterness sits in my stomach and makes me ill. The message was hollow. No one was saved by this message. This is the message that was given to children and parents in an attempt to motivate them to action. Was it the action God would have wanted from a leader? Also, who transforms us? Is it an Awana leader or is it the faith we have in Chirst and His grace and mercy because of His sacrifice for our sins? What has transformative power?
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On another note, the church that sponsors the Awana club our kids attend is one of our former church’s plants. I was speaking with a few leaders, and one who now also left our former church and attends the one we like (confusing enough yet?) came up to me and said he heard about a new thing Rick Warren was coming out with and he thought of me. Since we’d had these discussions before, I knew he is aware of how I feel about the program Rick Warren is selling. He then mentioned that’s why he was fed up with our former church, because of the “following of men’s books” instead of studying the Bible. One woman who attends this church plant said, “yeah, you know, I really like it when our pastor does a series from an actual book of the Bible. Last spring we did an 8 week series on [a book in the new testament] and I really learned a lot.” She went on to say she really only knows a lot about that one book of the Bible and would love to do more books in the Bible instead of books from authors. Wow. I hope this gets her to thinking. She’s probably a Christian who wants the real meat and not some false meat, huh?

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Wake up!

Why do we sleep?  Why do we allow ourselves to be taken away?  It’s because we would rather sleep than face the stark reality that is the world pretending to be the church.  We would rather pretend that what’s happening is okay, it’s fine to change the way we worship.  As long as we’re sincere, God will understand.  So what if the pastor mentions at one ment or quotes emergent/emerging men and women?  So what if the skit attacks Christianity in a way, or if the comic brought in says some off color things, it’s all good Christian fellowship, right?  What if Bible study is no longer called Bible study and is “small group” or “life group” or some other such thing?  So what if we’re following a popular book in small groups and from the pulpit and it’s just fluffy, what’s the harm?

The harm is we are walking ourselves right into our own destruction.  We’re taking our kids down with us, giving them candy instead of the real meals, the real food they need.  We are accepting of things not right, a bit off.  This little bit of arsenic in the brownie mix will kill us slowly, and we’re willing participants.  Just like the Jews around the time of WW2.  They didn’t want to believe it was bad, that they were slowly being strangled to death.  We don’t want to admit we’re being starved to death and fed poison when we do eat.  We willingly walk the road with lies, and because we are trying to “not rock the boat” and be seen as nice and good people, we just go right along.  We even hear sermons and prayers differently than they are truly presented, and different than they are intended.  We don’t ask the questions.  We might find out we have cancer in our churchy building, then what? We would have to do something then, and that would be unpleasant. Wake up people! Wake up!

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