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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

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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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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Pyromaniacs blogger Dan Phillips hit what I needed to read in a comment of a recent post on Charismatics…all credit to him and NOT to me, but I have to quote this comment completely:

“Everyone has good days, bad days. Sometimes you feel close to God, sometimes you don’t. The feelings are not God talking to you. There is no Scriptural warrant to turn your eyes away from the (hel-lo?) Word of God to reading tea-leaves, feelings, chicken-livers, or events. That message was so clear that an admitted non-Christian emailed me that he got it.

So, suffering Christian who is walking with the Lord to the best of your knowledge of Scripture, your experiences of trials and treachery and pain are not God telling you that He has rejected you. Look to Jesus, look to God’s word. Jesus saves, signs and portents don’t. Stand on Him and His Word.

And, despairing Christian who knows the same gloom and darkness of Spirit — in spite of walking in faith and obedience — which David, Luther, Spurgeon and countless others knew, those feelings are not God telling you He has rejected you. Look to Christ, look to God’s word. Jesus saves, He is what matters — not how saved or loved you feel.

God rejected Job’s comforters then, and He rejects them now. Supposed Christians will tell you (as you see here) that your tragedies are some sort of extra-biblical revelation, or that (as here) if you admit your suffering aloud there’s something wrong with you, and maybe you need drugs.

The truth: you can suffer while loved by God, and while in the will of God (1 Peter 1:6; 2:20-25; 4:16-19). Fix your hope completely on God’s mercy at Christ’s return (1 Peter 1:13). Your trials will turn to joy and glory (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Never lose sight of Him.”

http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2010/09/good-news-from-far-country.html

Good post too….

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A dear woman from our church is dying.  She has leukemia and has fought with every medical treatment possible.  About a year ago things looked bad.  They thought she was going to be dead before Mother’s Day, but she rebounded.  God blessed her with time, and she had ups and downs for months.  Little by little hope would grow for her life to be cancer free…but that hope is now dashed.  Tests show cancer is back, so now she’s living the long goodbye.  She has been an example of faith in the midst of trial, illness, and death on the door.  Her family, especially her husband, has been beaten but has always turned to Christ.  The church has been circling round this family, serving and praying.  They have been strengthened in weakness, and their faith is not broken no matter the terrible circumstances.  This time is no different, this news has not changed things.  Yes, this mommy is dying.  Yes this family is in pain, and they want to beg God for a miracle.  However, they are taking God’s will and are hoping to glorify God in life and in death.  It’s a hard thing to do, but so much grace comes from this life end testimony.  This mother, wife, and friend of many points to Christ.  She doesn’t try to be some sort of strong witness, she just turns to Christ.  The husband, daddy, and friend of many points also to Christ.  He leans on Christ and His church.  He begs for prayer, he also always says, “but God’s will be done.”   This little family just wants to walk in God’s will no matter the cost.

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Sometimes I feel so flat about going to church.  My former church was the feel good kind.  We’d gone there for 8 years before leaving.  It was a church with a lot of fun for our kids, a lot of contact through small groups.  We had gotten to know people there.  We were so blind to most of the issues, and though we knew people had been leaving over the years, we chalked most of that up to inconvenience. 

We live in an area with churches everywhere, so it was often true that people just left for whatever reason.  Until we heard of one specific couple who left because of the direction the church was going in…we thought our personal fears of the church were possibly just thoughts we were having…strange things we had to figure out but not real issues.  It wasn’t until we thought strongly about leaving that we began to run into people who expressed strong issues with specific things we were seeing ourselves and had left.

So now, we’re in a new church.  It’s got a lot going for it, most especially the word of God is preached from the bible itself clearly every Sunday we’ve been there so far.  This church staff and pastors recognize the problems in churches with emergent(ing) and purpose driven…etc.  This is refreshing. 

However, at this point I still feel a great distance when in church.  There are so many times when it’s a chore to get myself ready to go to church.  Once there, the message is great.  Until I’m there though, I am not looking forward to it.  I cannot put my finger on why though.

One thing I have learned in this process of leaving a church with a focus on emergent youth (even if they aren’t officially an emergent church) and going to another church is that you cannot trust your emotions.  Emotions are not faith.  Faith is something else altogether.  I do not buy that action preceeds emotion every time, and I do not believe that just by doing something you can always shape your emotions…that they will follow.  Some people are depressed no matter h0w much faith they have, and how much they pray. I was hurt by the whole process of leaving our former church.  I found out that my judgement of things was off, my view had been blocked, I had been fooled.

I even at times look back and think about how we came to seeing the issues.  It was really quick, actually.  The wool was pulled away and I saw the former shining church for what it was.  It’s not just that, but I saw that there was this network of churches.  I also saw some of my favorite things were not at all what I thought.

I used to listen to Focus on the Family daily, and other radio programs through out the week.  Finding them involved in contemplative and compromise took away my grounding and habits.  So much of what I did before was built on popular protestant trends….all not bad if the focus of these things remained on Christ and the bible. 

It was a shock to my system.  I can imagine maybe it’s like the way a woman feels if she finds out her husband is not who she’s always thought he is.  The church, and parachurch organizations who have let contemplative, emergent, purpose driven, marketing, and more enter and take over have been serving another master.  This has caused a great deal of confusion for me over the last several months.

So, the new church has a lot to overcome.  They are dealing with a woman who has been sucking off the marrow a bit on the wrong things and has been starving for it.  It’s not that I didn’t get good things from our church, or we didn’t have friendships and support when needed.  That church is right in these areas.  I think though the sacrifice of biblical teaching (not just using the bible for a means to an end) is not worth any connections and community. 

So now, I’m disconnected and emotionally not where I wish I was in the new church, in my life these days.  It’s not about emotion, it’s about Christ and following Him.  It’s about training my children in the church that is presenting the truth.  Now, I just pray for trust if this is the place for us to commit as members.  Who cares about emotions, I want the real deal….

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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 believe the church is splintering for a reason.  Something is up.  It’s not just fights about carpet color either, it’s about whether or not prayer styles being brought in to church are of eastern root and are biblical or not.  It’s about whether churches should follow plans of men like Warren, Hybels and if they should follow men like Pagitt or Maclaren.  Are authors like Dallas Willard leading us to a closer relationship with God or into works based faith and pagan practice?  It seems like there is a lot of fuzziness in Christianity, a lot of cirlces and rings that overlap.  Some churches are just beginning to use these authors, and preach these methods. 

 

In congregations everywhere on Sunday (and Saturday for some) warnings are popping up in the heads of believers.  Did the pastor just say that?  Really?  Is that what he meant?  What is this new program?  Who is this author?  How annoying to hear quote after quote.  How annoying, we’re using this term again this week, didn’t we have a sermon over this five weeks ago?  I sure wish we’d do a verse by verse study for a change.  Does this passage really mean what he says it means?  What do they mean I need to practice this way?  Is that works?  Did they forget something, like we need to repent? 

All over Christians are finding themselves lost in the church.  What is going on?  Why do we feel like we don’t belong anymore?  We cannot always put a finger on it, but something is wrong.

Then there is the other side.  Some of us have figured it out, and we float from church to church.  We are no longer trusting of men’s tongues.  We know that when you ask questions, things can be worded in a way that is meant to cause you to stop asking questions about the church and begin asking questions about yourself, your loyalty, your obedience, your willingness to change.  We find common ground online with people we do not know, or with distant friends who have gone through this and share a letter or email about their experiences.  Pastors have preached strange doctrines, new things have come up, or grandparents pushed out because they wouldn’t reach the youth.  Church changed quickly and when people asked what was up, and began to point out error, they were ushered out the door.  Some were encouraged to stay a while, but were told their decision to leave was good because they were no longer teachable, no longer with the plan.  “It’s your perception that matters really, so going to a new church where your family is comfortable is best.” 

So now, these people have to watch out for evil in their own approach.  Do they broadcast the problems to the world?  Do they share what they know in public?  Pride may creep in, and these folks have to watch for it.  It’s possible a reactionary church splinter may come off of this. 

It is easy to get trapped and tripped in a “we’re better than them.”  If *they* are telling lies, and are spreading false Christianity, we are still no better.  We are all sinners.  However, how do we approach this without sinning?  We must speak the truth in love.  We must share the Gospel, we must warn others of the dangers.  We must watch for evil that wants so much to make us ineffective.  The world is watching, the church is watching both apostate and true.  Our children are watching.  We need to proceed with wisdom.  Our mouths need to say what God would have us to say, no more, no less.  This is so hard.  If ever we needed to pray, to be close to our God, the time is now.  Draw near to Him, dear saints, draw near.

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