Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday Devotion by Ray Stedman

                                            Read the Scripture: 2 Corinthians 7:2-16

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Whenever somebody accuses you of being wrong or tells you the truth about yourself, it hurts. It can produce one of two reactions, what Paul calls either godly sorrow orworldly sorrow. We all feel hurt, but the question, of course, is, Is it godly sorrow, or is it worldly sorrow? Godly sorrow is the pain of suddenly becoming aware of something about yourself that has been hidden to you. An awareness of something wrong about yourself that you have not been able to see always creates a sense of anger, perhaps, of defensiveness, of injury, and often of tears. It is the moment of self-awareness, or what we call a moment of truth. Have you ever had that happen to you? You were going about your life, thinking you were doing okay, when somebody came along and told you something about yourself. Even as that person said the words, there was a stab in your heart that said, That's right, isn't it? You may be defensive, you may argue, or you may fight back, but deep inside you know that is true. It hurts, but if it is godly hurt, it leads to repentance. It makes you change. You alter your behavior.
I well remember how when I was a young Christian I had a great struggle in my life with an oversensitivity to people. I had such a poor self-image that I was dependent upon the way people thought about me for my feelings about myself. Consequently, if they did not always say nice things and treat me well, I was very hurt and upset. You could cause me to go into a morass of self-pity for days merely by making an offhand remark about me that cut me down. I had my moment of truth one day when I was talking with a Christian about another matter, but in the conversation she said something that struck like an arrow into my heart. She said, I've learned that sensitivity is nothing but selfishness. I did not want to admit it, but I knew it was true. I knew that what I really wanted was to be the center of attention and have everybody ministering to me and taking care of me.
The next time somebody hurt me, however, I decided to act on the basis of what I had learned and say, That's not his fault. He didn't intend to say something offensive. It is I who am feeling it. I'm taking it wrong. I did this, and after several such experiences, I suddenly began to feel a marvelous sense of freedom. The tiger was off my back, and I was free to enjoy things much more than I ever had before. I will never forget the sense of liberation that came when I acknowledged even the painful truth that somebody had unwittingly spoken to me. That is what Paul is talking about. Godly sorrow acknowledges the truth and changes its behavior, and that in turn leads to a sense of freedom and deliverance.
Lord, thank You for the opportunities You give me to repent. Help me to respond not just by feeling bad but also by acting on the basis of the truth I have learned.
Life Application: Godly repentance cleanses and liberates us. Do we keep the door of repentance open to God's saving grace in us and through us?

You can find more devotions by Ray Stedman at

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Around the House

Well, I've been sick and since I can't keep still even when I'm sick, I thought I'd blog what I've been up to while stuck in this house. I created a new office space! I like this arrangement ... Mason has his little space, I have mine, and we're all happy... (well, it makes the mom in me happy). I still need to do something to the windows...

I also made a tv/reading room in the front room. I'll post some pics when I think it's cute enough ;).
I guess I've been busy even though I haven't been feeling well.

This underway has been so long it seems! I can't wait for Daniel to get home! I found some pics of him on my SD card the other day and it was like a surprise to myself! Ha!

Speaking of which .... I also bought this book today! My friend, Crystal, wrote it and I can't wait to get it in the mail and read it! She said I would relate to the book because my husband is always gone. So if you're a military wife, I'm sure you'll like it, check it out here. The book is also at Amazon and on Kindle! <--- Love that!

And these are the cookies I didn't bake (or boil long enough) with Charlie in the background who has been stalking the kitchen all day ;)

*They are misshaped because Ally wanted them to be done in a hurry so we put wax paper on top with  lunch box ice packs to cool them quickly. They taste good. That's all that matters!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learning, Growing, Rambling ...

These are just thoughts I'm having as I study more, seek God more, and learn new truths about my own life. I've run into some really funny videos lately that address how fake Christians can be ... and then I heard a sermon along the same line ...

I'm excited about it because I think I'm seeing more and more Christians getting real with themselves and their search for truth among the Christian life. This has had me buzzing since the beginning of my 'return to church'. So this is a rambling my learning process, my growth lately, and some other stuff. I have some pretty strong words for those of us that have ever lived in denial, 'pretended', or who have just aimlessly 'gone through the motions'.

As I learn more about relationships, co-dependency, and what is true (God's truth), I have come to realize that no matter how many nuggets I find in a book or how many quotes that speak deeply to a situation, if I do not apply those things to my life, it's all pointless! And I mean ... REALLY apply them ... in a way that causes us to approach a situation differently because of the truths we have learned.

I wonder when is the last time I learned something and actually walked it out? Okay ... people say, "walk it out" and my mind doesn't grasp what that really means. It doesn't just mean to apply a truth to our own thinking so that we 'feel better' about us and how we live! It doesn't mean that this knowledge now takes up space in our brain, that it gave us an 'ah-ha' moment, or even that we have the ability to teach it to others, no, no, no ...

It means ... -oh, there is depth in what this means- ... It means ... To take these truths and then USE them TRUTHFULLY in new situations or (probably more appropriate) in the situations you HAVEN'T DEALT WITH yet!

You know how people always say things like , 'in your mess you find your message'? Well, if we don't deal with our mess truthfully, we don't really get the message ... we haven't really 'walked it out' if we haven't used the truth to deal with our mess. And to put it quite frankly, to 'deal with our mess' means to work out your issues once and for all!

You have anger issues? You have issues with your spouse? You have issues with addiction? You have issues with letting people walk all over you? You have issues with being a 'serve-a-holic' or a workaholic? You have issues with pornography? You have issues with gossip? You have issues with being jealous of a person or a person's talent? Guess what? There is a reason for all of these things coming up in your life. *If we don't deal with them, how can we ever help anyone else? Let's just stop trying to help other people until we've ... removed the logs that are blinding us.

We have GOT to deal with it and STOP walking around like Stepford Christians!!!!!! Hello!!! We are jacked-up individuals! I'm sorry, but I just get sick to death of people PRETENDING!!! Guess what???!!! You are just as messed up as I AM!!! LOL! How long will we just keep living in denial ...and for the very few honest Christians that admit having problems (Bless their hearts), we'll tell them what we've learned from a book because WE HAVE NO REAL EXPERIENCE in 'pushing through', 'praying through', or 'pressing through' ANYTHING! Well, that's just sad!

How often are we really making changes in our lives with God's truth that HEALS? I know I don't as often as I should and I don't see a lot of Christians having their lives changed drastically over and over again.

Change, hmmm ...

Our hair,
our car,
our clothes,
our church,
our job,
our house,
our location ...

We can find new places, things, and people to keep covering it all up, but in the end we are left with the same false belief working against us in our lives that isn't producing any fruit. Worse, it also plays out (in one way or another) in our children's lives ... and their children ... and it goes on and on until we decide to grab hold of the truth (freely given to us) to stop it!

There was a day in your life, or several days maybe, that the enemy wanted you to believe a lie... and you did.

You believed that you weren't good enough, that you deserved what you got, that you were not loved by someone or anyone, that you were rejected or neglected, that you were hopeless, that you were all alone ...

If you ever believed a lie like that, and we all have at one time or another, there is a truth that will heal your false belief. You find that truth in a eulogy God wrote for you. This is why knowing who God says you are is important. This is why our 'Identity in Christ' is important. And the longer we believe what He says about us, the more we begin to believe we don't have our own identity at all. Let's call off the search for self! We belong to God and that is where we are kept. We are not even our own. And we don't need to be ... we might WANT to show ourselves ... but all God is concerned about is that we reflect His son! That's the light the shines in darkness! That's the salt of the earth! It isn't YOU.

God didn't choose us because of how much money we make, or how good we are at something ... we've already been chosen. It's done. No reason for competing with one another or being jealous of God's other children. Let me tell you a secret .... They were chosen TOO! ((GASP)) hahaha.
We were ALL chosen and God doesn't have favorites!

To sum up my rant ... lol

Let's start believing what God says about us- get rid of our false beliefs,
let's get rid of the root cause of our dysfunction once and for all
and deal with our issues truthfully- stop being Stepford Christians,
let's become a light that looks just like Jesus so others will be drawn to HIM, not us
and give God ALL the glory!


Because it's just not about us!

Who does God say I am? Or ... The eulogy God wrote about each of us ... :)

• I am a child of God.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. John 1:12

• I am a branch of the true vine, and a conduit of Christ’s life.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:1, 5

• I am a friend of Jesus.
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have
called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15

• I have been justified and redeemed.
being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24

• My old self was crucified with Christ, and I am no longer a slave to sin.
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, that we would no longer be slaves to sin. Romans 6:6

• I will not be condemned by God.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

• I have been set free from the law of sin and death.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Romans 8:2

• As a child of God, I am a fellow heir with Christ.
and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him
in order that we may also be glorified with Him. Romans 8:17

• I have been accepted by Christ.
Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. Romans 15:7

• I have been called to be a saint.
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. 1 Corinthians 1:2 (Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2)

In Christ Jesus, I have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30

• My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me.
Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1
Corinthians 3:16 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 1 Corinthians 6:19

• I am joined to the Lord and am one spirit with Him.
But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 1 Corinthians 6:17

• God leads me in the triumph and knowledge of Christ.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the
sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14

• The hardening of my mind has been removed in Christ.
But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:14

• I am a new creature in Christ.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new
things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

• I have become the righteousness of God in Christ.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21

• I have been made one with all who are in Christ Jesus.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

• I am no longer a slave, but a child and an heir.
Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians
• I have been set free in Christ.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

• I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual
blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3

I am chosen, holy, and blameless before God.
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and
blameless before Him. Ephesians 1:4

• I am redeemed and forgiven by the grace of Christ.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7

• I have been predestined by God to obtain an inheritance.
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose
who works all things after the counsel of His will. Ephesians 1:10-11

• I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise. Ephesians 1:13

• Because of God’s mercy and love, I have been made alive with Christ.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we
were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been
saved). Ephesians 2:4-5

• I am seated in the heavenly places with Christ.
and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:6

• I am God’s workmanship created to produce good works.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

• I have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ.
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of
Christ. Ephesians 2:13

• I am a member of Christ’s body and a partaker of His promise.
the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3:6; 5:30

• I have boldness and confident access to God through faith in Christ.
in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Ephesians 3:12

• My new self is righteous and holy.
put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:24

• I was formerly darkness, but now I am light in the Lord.
you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.
Ephesians 5:8

• I am a citizen of heaven.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus
Christ. Philippians 3:20

• The peace of God guards my heart and mind.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

• God supplies all my needs.
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

• I have been made complete in Christ.
in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority. Colossians

• I have been raised up with Christ.
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1

• My life is hidden with Christ in God.
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

• Christ is my life, and I will be revealed with Him in glory.
When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:4

• I have been chosen of God, and I am holy and beloved.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

• God loves me and has chosen me.
knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you. 1 Thessalonians 1:4

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Who does God say I am?

Often times I have found myself in a room full of  people that have no idea who they are. I try to mingle and start conversations with people-only to hear them talk about material possessions, the weather (that's a safe one), or most often, women talk to me about their husband's careers. I never hear about who people really are!

I'm not judging them, because I can remember being the same way. As a young officer wife, I felt out of place many times. But when I think back to that time now, I'm glad that I was uncomfortable in those places. Because to be comfortable in not knowing yourself is pretty dangerous as I now understand who I am. 

What I believe I'm seeing is complacency in conforming to a subculture. To be complacent is a feeling of security- and we tend to stop the meaning there. But in the definition complacency also means; while being secure, we can also be unaware of potential danger.  

Is there danger in not knowing who we are? I say YES! The danger is letting others tell us who we are. People (human nature) begin to quickly define for themselves who we are whether or not we have expressed ourselves in this way or not. They start to 'put us in a box'. The problem comes when we find ourselves constantly trying to climb out of their box- OR WORSE ...We don't even try to climb out at all! 

Maybe we like who they think we are.  
Maybe 'being accepted' in this subculture is worth losing our true identity.
Maybe having a 'place' in our box is comfortable, secure, cozy...   

Have you ever been around people and someone said something that you didn't really know anything about, but you pretended to know? Why?

Have you ever acted as though you were 'spiritual', but are really confused about how to be spiritual all together? Why?

Have you ever agreed with someone's thoughts on a subject you have never even researched? Why?

Do you follow someone's teaching blindly without seeking God yourself? Why?

This is how we throw our identity away. We no longer seek Christ for answers, we just conform to the people around us.

We sometimes think that because things are going great and we are comfortable that life is good. We can even be fooled into thinking it's a Godly life and we are just blessed. Why would we think otherwise? We've  been living in a box- a comfortable, tiny,controlled environment. 

What would it be like if we decided today,
'I'm going to be myself!
I'm going to be who God made me to be! 
Even if people around me think I'm crazy. 
Even if people around me have never seen 'this me' before, 
I'm going to take hold of everything God has for me, 
tear this 'box' apart getting out of it, 
and run as fast as I can to GOD who tells me who I am, 
and find out His purpose for my life.'

Who does GOD say I am?
The answers are here. You can print this pdf file and put it on your bathroom mirror as a reminder. 

What did God create me to do? Find the gifts inside of you- that God wants you to unlock here

If you are not a believer and would like to begin to know who you are in Christ you can start with The Sinner's Prayer.

Authenticity begins with the discovery of who you are ... but is fully developed by understanding Whose you are. 
~ Mary Angeline Ross

Friday, August 19, 2011

Prepare the Way

Hello World-Changers!

I've been thinking a lot about 'preparation' lately. I watched an awesome sermon by Steve Harvey that sort of sparked a 'new thing' in my spirit. He talked about preparing your life for what you're asking God for. Well, I've had to prepare for lots of things, but I guess the biggest thing I've had to prepare for has been our children being born.

When I was pregnant with my kids there always came a 'nesting' close to the end of the pregnancy. This is an overwhelming need to organize, clean, wash, bleach, get the room ready, etc. And the closer it gets to the arrival, the more excited you get!

We prepared our minds, our finances, our lives, and a room. When we were 'expecting' Mason, we cleaned out a room that was once used for storage and here, we gave him his own place in our home.

We talked about this baby before he was born. I thought of all the things he might like. I thought about his future, his wife, his kids, etc. We talked about how excited we were! We found out that he was a boy and we were so happy because we had our girl and now, a boy!

What I'm finding now to be more important than the physical preparation for a baby is the atmosphere in which the baby would be born into. When we think of a birth, we get excited! We love the thought of a tiny little human entering the world. We even send out birth announcements to people we barely know!

But can you imagine a baby being born into a negative atmosphere? Where the mother may not have even been excited at all ... maybe in fear that something might be wrong with her baby ... Or maybe parents that don't even want their child. Or just negative people surrounding the baby that just make the environment a negative place ...

Studies have been done on this matter and psychologists have found that this 'atmosphere' plays a huge role in the development of the child. Sometimes even causing the baby to not bond with its own mother.

Well, I think this is the very same thing we might experience with God's plan for our lives. You see, I'm aware of a plan God is putting together for my family. It's a plan for ministry. But the more God reveals to us, the more I become ... skeptical or fearful . I find myself letting others speak negativity into God's plan for OUR life. I find myself waiting for what I KNOW to be true before I get excited.

Instead of walking by faith, I've been walking by SIGHT. (sigh ... thanks AGAIN to my pastor)

Instead of 'preparing' for what God has for me, I've been waiting to see the bigger picture ... waiting for the baby to be born to count all the fingers and toes ...before I get excited. I haven't given God 'room' for what He's about to do in my life. I haven't prepared and carried on as if I was 'expecting'... anything.

I hope you learn right along with me ... that we've got to get excited and believe for it BEFORE it comes! We need to be EXPECTING and making room and PREPARING in our lives for what God has for us. We need to speak life into, around, on top and bottom of the dream, the gift, the future, He holds for us. We need to prepare a joyful, exciting, positive-speaking atmosphere for God's plan to be birthed in.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

This scripture says that 'HE KNOWS'. We do not have to know ... we just have to BELIEVE.
Get Ready, Get Ready!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Detoxing from "Church" by Jason Zahariades

I've just read the most awesome article ever and want to share it here.
I have been thinking about this exact same thing lately and when reading this, I felt like, 'Finally, I'm not crazy! Someone thinks the same thing I do!' Check out Jason's blog here. He does an amazing job of articulating what I feel is a very important subject among the church today. Enjoy!

Here is a most impressive writing from Jason Zahariades. He has contributed some of his writings to books such as, 'The Relevant Church' and 'Out of the Ooze'.

Detoxing From “Church”

Beginning the Process
Back in February, as Mark and I were praying and talking about beginning a missional community, I emailed a guy on the other side of the US who had already begun one of these communities. Here are a couple of things he said in our correspondences.

"Here's a strong statement: most evangelicals, including Vineyard people, are addicted to church culture. Take away their Sunday service, their bible studies, prayer meetings, and five-song worship teams and they start having withdrawals quickly. I think that it is a necessary part of this process to have a detox time... I would suggest a time of at least a year of not doing the 'normal' church stuff. For us, during that time of detachment we only did a few things together – ask hard questions and eat. Those were our corporate disciplines."

In another email he reinforced the point:

"Let me reiterate from my last email that one of the most beneficial things you might do is take a break from all things church for a while. This may seem really counterproductive, especially when you start having people wanting to be a part of your community immediately. But if your aim is to get people to begin thinking outside the bounds of cultural Christianity, some significantly radical action is required."

When I first read these comments, I knew he was stating something profound. What I didn't anticipate was the extent of my own addiction to the contemporary church and the painful detox process I would experience. What I'm coming face to face with through the process is the non-authenticity and impotence of my own faith. Let me explain.

My Addiction To “Church”
In the Americanized church, the organization is designed to turn life and faith into a simple prepackaged consumer product. This is what John Drane calls the “McDonaldization of the Church.”

• I need to worship. So I go to my local church, which, if it’s cutting-edge, has a worship pastor on staff that prepares an inspiring "worship experience" for me on a weekly basis. One local church I know advertises its worship services on its marquee, "We worship five times, three ways, one God." (Hello! Is it me or does that just sound wrong?)

• I also need to fellowship with my fellow Christians. So I go to my local church to attend a programmed version of community that provides a surface-level contact with people around some form of activity at my convenience. If I need more fellowship, I go to a small group, usually focused on the dynamic personality of the small group leader or on the subject matter I feel I need to better my life. But again, this is at my convenience and fairly optional if my schedule becomes too demanding.

• I need discipleship and Christian growth. So I go to my local church to attend Sunday services, Bible studies and small groups where someone opens the Bible and tells me what it says and how it should apply to my life. I also have the option of learning "practical" topics such as how to be a good spouse, parent, employee, leader, steward, etc.

• I need to serve. So I go to my local church and participate in a program where I use my time and skills in a fairly convenient manner to help others. For the most part, it’s fairly safe. And if I'm a volunteer, my participation is completely based on my schedule.

• I need to be engaged in mission. So I go to my local church to connect to their evangelistic ministry and their missions program. Every so often I might volunteer to hand out sodas or serve coffee in a convenient and semi-relational form of "reaching people" for Christ. I might also give money to local missionaries the church supports and maybe participate in a weekend mission trip.

• I need a children's program to educate my kids. So I go to my local church to place my children in the care of Sunday school teachers and youth pastors who will provide the spiritual and moral foundation for their Christian growth via an age-relevant program.

• I need purpose for my life. So I go to my local church, hoping to find a leader with a vision big enough to inspire me. Then I sacrifice my time, energy, and money to become involved in the leader’s vision so I can build something big for God with him. New programs. New buildings. New projects. New groups. New services. New converts. New church plants. New missions. More and more and more vision to give my life a reason to exist.

To make matters worse, as a pastor on staff, all of my relationships and ministries are mediated through my title and position in the organization. An unhealthy symbiotic relationship occurs between myself and the organization as my life and faith becomes synonymous with the success of the organization. If we, as leaders, can design an organization that satisfies the consumer needs of a couple hundred people... well, then we must be doing something right in God's kingdom. And the more people we reach, then the better we are. So I preach, lead worship, administrate, counsel, teach, organize, recruit, train, write, and do practically everything as a “pastor” of an organization. Eventually my identity becomes distorted by what I do for the church. What’s worse, my role and effectiveness as a staff pastor are intimately connected to my own formation and personal development. This continues to blur the line between my personal life and faith and my abilities as a leader of an organization.

Detoxing From “Church”
Now strip all of that away. Imagine what you would have left after you remove from your life everything connected with the organizational church. I mean everything. I’ve discovered the hard way that living most of my adult life in cultural Christianity has formed my entire identity as a Christian. And when everything in my life connected with the church is gone, including sixteen years of professional ministry, I’m confronted with the true raw status my personal faith.

Now I'm going to say something harsh: In order to BE the Church, we need to leave the church. In other words, in order to truly become God's people as he intended, we must abandon our cultural version of organizational church. The application of this statement might vary, but it must happen. And as we abandon the church to become the Church, we will go through a detox period.

Why such drastic measures? Involvement in an organizational consumer-driven church blinds us to the real state of our lives. By participating in this kind of church I can enjoy inspiring worship, biblical exposition of Scripture, fellowship, small groups, kids programs, service projects, missions, discipleship, books, radio broadcasts, multimedia presentations and virtually anything else I need in my spiritual life. In fact, I can enjoy an entirely alternative lifestyle where Christianity is prepackaged for me – books, music, entertainment, news reports, advice, etc. And as I consume it, it forms a fa├žade over the real condition of my life. The rub is when my true condition actually bubbles to the surface and I find myself troubled, discontent or miserable. Then the church or the pastor or the worship team has lost the “anointing” and I must find a new organizational church that will provide me what I need to feel better about who I am.

In this distorted perspective, I fail to recognize that the true state of my life and faith is who I am and what I do in relation to God and his kingdom, not who I am and what I do in relation to the church.

Moving From Being Churched To Being The Church
Detoxing from any kind of substance abuse is only a means to a much greater end. It is the essential process toward a healthy life, free from oppressive addiction. The same is true for one who detoxes from the church. Remember, we must leave the church in order to BE the Church. We must stop being churched and start being the Church.

What is the Church? It is a community of people who are each following Christ into his divine life and love here on earth. They are learning how to become by grace what Christ is by nature – the full and complete emptying of self in order to participate fully in God’s kingdom so as to be a redemptive force that recreates all aspects of life and creation (Philippians 2:5-16; Colossians 1:19; Romans 8:19-21). The Church is a group of Christ-followers who are sent as Jesus was sent (John 20:21). In this way, the Church is the continuation of Christ’s incarnation on earth.

These and other biblical aspects of the Church run counter to cultural Christianity and its addictive prepackaged consumerist version of the church. Being the Church is about who I am and who I am becoming as I follow Christ individually and in a community. Being the Church is becoming like Christ so together, I and other Christ-followers may continue his incarnation on and to the world.

A primary difference between being churched and being the Church is how I approach the community. Being churched assumes the organizational church is designed from the perspective that I am a consumer of religious goods and service. Therefore, I am expected to participate in the church’s programs chiefly to receive and consume. It’s the organization’s responsibility to program, coordinate and provide what I need for my spiritual satisfaction.

But being the Church requires me to take full responsibility to follow Christ and Christ alone into his life. I can't say this enough: We are to become by grace what Jesus is by nature. And he did not have an organization mediating his life and faith. He had a relationship with the Father by walking in the Spirit, expressed through a life of spiritual disciplines. Then he invites us to learn from him how to develop the same kind of intimate relationship with the Father in the same way (Matthew 11:27-30).

The Christian community is then made up of Christ-followers who encourage, challenge, pray, minister, learn, honor, love and spur each other on. But it is not the community’s nor the community leaders’ responsibility to program or lead others into divine life. Only Christ can do that. So while my needs remain the same, I must look not to an organization, but to Christ alone to lead me into his divine life and love.

• I still need to worship, but I am to worship first as an individual follower of Christ daily. I am a priest, offering all of my life back to God in constant prayer, joy and thankfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Then from the overflow of my personal worship, I join in corporate worship with others who also worship God on a daily basis.

• I still need to fellowship, but now I must actually alter my schedule and hang out with people in real ways – over meals, over coffee, at my home or theirs. This also means that there isn't a program or an event to generate fellowship. I have to initiate. I have to be prepared to discuss life and faith in real ways that encourage and build each other up. I have to be prepared to be used by Christ to pray, listen, minister, laugh, cry, confront, encourage, etc., all on the leading of the Spirit and not at the cue of a leader or scheduled time in a service.

• I still need discipleship and growth, but now I must walk with Christ, by grace in the Spirit through a life of spiritual discipline. I must follow Christ into a curriculum of spiritual disciplines that transforms my inner world into Christ’s inner life. As such, I must study the Bible. I must pray. I must meditate. I must take my own personal retreats. I must read. I must educate myself. I must become theologically astute and spiritually vibrant. I must discover God's will for my life and not some canned version from a pastor who talks at me for 45 minutes each week. I must put the same or more energy and time into my personal faith than I do into my occupation, education, and entertainment.

• I still need to serve, but now I must look for the opportunities in my life. I can't enjoy the safety of a program with other Christians. I must view my entire life as service to the people I live with and live around. I must discover the poor and marginalized in my life and be Christ to them. I can't just give money to the organization to do it for me.

• I still need to engage in mission, but now I must actually BE a witness of Christ's eternal divine life to the people I live with, work with, play with and shop with. I must actually be a living, albeit flawed, example of divine life on earth. I must be able to say, "When you see me, you see the Father." Then I must view my family, my neighborhood, my job, and my entire life as my mission field. Not in the imperialistic way the church has done evangelism and missions, but in the winsome, educated and Spirit-led way that drew thousands to Jesus when he walked this earth.

• I still need to raise my children in life and faith, but now I carry the lion's share of the responsibility. As their parent, my faith and life form their faith and life. I must learn to dialogue at their level. I must lead them in prayer, in worship, in fellowship, in spiritual disciplines, in service, in mission, in play.

• I still need purpose for my life, but now I learn from Christ how to be like him so I can live like him – completely toward God for the sake of the world.

The Proper Role of Community
Now I know having read everything so far, it is easy to conclude, “Then I don’t need community.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth. What we don’t need is the organizational consumer church as a provider of religious goods and services. The consumer ethic of our surrounding culture has infected the organizational church turning pastors into entrepreneurs and CEOs and turning Christians into consumers.

Once we understand what it means to be the people of God and to shoulder the personal responsibility of transformation into Christlikeness, then we begin to realize we need authentic Christian community more than ever. Let me explain.

In Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard lays out a general pattern for personal transformation. He states:

If we are to be spiritually formed in Christ, we must have and must implement the appropriate vision, intention, and means… If this VIM pattern [vision, intention, and means] is not put in place properly and held there, Christ simply will not be formed in us.

This pattern for spiritual formation is a fine balance between the individual and the community. First, the vision essential for transformation is a vision of life now and forever in God’s will, partaking in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and participating by our actions in what God is doing now in our lifetime on earth. This vision is given to humanity by God, revealed to God’s covenant people, the Jews, and given fullest expression in Jesus. As such, a personal vision for life in the kingdom comes directly from the Living Christ, but is also mediated through God’s covenant community, the Church.

Second, the intention for spiritual formation is brought to completion only by a decision to fulfill or carry through with the intention. In this case, the intention to obey the model and teachings of Jesus must be “sealed” with an individual’s decision to actually obey Christ in all of life. The intention and decision, which lie in the realm and responsibility of the individual, can only be formed and sustained by a forceful vision, which comes directly from Christ and is supplemented by the community.

Willard makes a significant point in this area, stating:

Our belief and feelings cannot be changed by a choice. We cannot just choose to have different beliefs or feelings. But we do have some liberty to take in different ideas and information and to think about things in different ways. We can choose to take in the Word of God, and when we do that, beliefs and feelings will be steadily pulled in a godly direction.

In other words, the will is moved by insight into truth and reality, which in turn, evokes emotion appropriate to a new state of the will. This is how real inward change occurs. The consumer-based church does the exact opposite, trying to motivate and inspire people to choose to believe and do things they really don’t believe. This approach does not result in any lasting spiritual formation.

Finally, the vision and intention to follow and obey Christ will naturally lead to seeking out and applying the means to that end. Scripture and church history are replete with the appropriate means for spiritual formation. The key is to target the aspects of our humanity – the thoughts, feelings, will, social relations and bodily inclinations – with the abundant individual and corporate spiritual disciplines available to us so that we become people who naturally and easily embody Christlikeness. In this way, the statement, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” rings true for spiritual formation.

To illustrate this process, Dallas makes an interesting statement, “Any successful plan for spiritual formation, whether for the individual or group, will in fact be significantly similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous program.” In AA, the participant is envisioned with the potential new life of sobriety and freedom from addiction that is available to him or her. The vision is then pursued by an intention to realize it, actuated by a decision. The means are then applied to produce the desirable state.

The program illustrates the important balance between the individual and the community. The individual must possess the vision, supplemented by the relational structure of the AA group. The intention and its accompanying decision rest solely on the individual. The means are then carried out primarily by the individual throughout his or her daily life, supported by the relationships and structure of the local AA community. The point is that as important as the community is, success and failure of AA in an individual’s life rests primarily on the individual’s intention to follow through daily. The community exists to support the individual’s pursuit of sobriety.

The Christian community’s role is very similar. Willard states that God’s plan for spiritual formation through the local Christian community is threefold: First, create an ethos and culture that places apprenticeship to Christ in all the minute aspects of life as central. This creates the necessary vision to fuel the individual’s intention. Second, immerse apprentices at all levels of growth in the Trinitarian presence of God through the community’s structure and life. In this way, the community’s primary purpose is to encounter the Trinitarian presence and hold people up within it. Finally, arrange for the inner transformation of people in such a way that doing the words and deeds of Christ is not the focus but the natural outcome or side effect.

This creates a community of Christ’s apprentices in which each member is pursuing Christ, spending time with him in the course of their daily life in order to learn how to be like him. When the community gathers, all relationships are then mediated through Christ. Willard describes this Christocentric community in The Divine Conspiracy:

In the spiritual community there is never any immediate relationship between human beings. Another way of saying this is that among those who live as Jesus’ apprentices, there are no relationships that omit the presence and action of Jesus. We never go “one on one”; all relationships are mediated through him. I never think simply of what I am going to do with you, to you, or for you. I think of what we, Jesus and I, are going to do with you, to you, and for you. Likewise, I never think of what you are going to do with me, to me, and for me, but of what will be done by you and Jesus with me, to me, and for me.

In this way, Christ fills all of our needs for life and formation as we follow him (2 Peter 1:3), not by participating in and consuming the organizational church’s programs. As I follow the resurrected Christ with others who are following him, he meets us and ministers to us through all the members of the community.

As our understanding of being the Church changes, the role of proper Christian community changes. We discover a need for authentic community more than any of us realized. As a follower of Christ, I constantly need my fellow Christ-followers. I cannot enter into Christ’s divine life and love apart from Christ-mediated community with them. His life and love are expressed in fully giving myself to them (Ephesians 5:1-2). Therefore, I need to be with my fellow Christ-followers so I can serve them, love them and pour out on them everything I am becoming in Christ for their benefit. And they need to do that for me. Together, fully giving ourselves to each other, we continue on into Christlikeness.

This kind of Christian community is essential to grow into Christ’s life. Christ is formed in each of his apprentices as they engage his abundant grace in daily living through a life of spiritual disciplines. As each Christ-follower shoulders his or her responsibility of following Jesus into the life he has mastered and alone can share, all are then supported by Christ as each member brings Christ being formed in them to the community.

Only Christ is the source of divine life. Each member must follow Jesus daily to learn his divine life. Each member must shoulder the responsibility to work out his or her salvation and not expect the community or its leaders to do it for him or her. In Christ, we can learn together, serve together, grow together, love together, etc. But we must first and foremost follow Christ into his life. And to do this we must abandon the distorted and addictive version of the consumer church in order to be free to become Christ’s Church.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Trust Him in Faith

Prayer leads to answers. But sometimes the answers aren't so clear. So we wait. And wait. And sometimes wait a really long time. Then all of a sudden, like a domino effect, something happens; we hear a sermon, someone we know speaks right into our situation, we hear something in a song that we didn't quite hear before, it all becomes clear.

At this point, I find myself in a pickle. I start to question this seemingly blatant answer. Mind you, most of the time, these are answers to tiny little questions that I've asked. Like, 'How can I make better use of my time?' Or, 'What's the next study I should do?' But even with a big decision, it's the same ...

Isn't it funny how we begin to question, 'Was that really God?'

The process looks something like this;

1. God gives us a word, an answer to prayer.

2. We definitely hear it! Right in front of us- things obviously shift right into place!

3. Then we doubt what God said to us.

4. We start thinking negatively about our situation and even enlist friends into the negativity.

5. We begin to think that it wasn't really God and we must have really 'missed God'.

6. We conclude with 'I'll just keep praying about it'.

7. Rinse and Repeat. (Sigh)

This is because, just like the Bible tells us, the enemy will come to steal it away!

So what should we do when God gives us an answer to prayer, a Word, a command, an understanding? We should take that word, receive it, and pray over it! Protect the Word from the enemy! We have angels doing battle for us in order to protect the words God gives us.

Believe it or not, there really is a conspiracy to make you think you've 'missed God', it's called the devil! Don't wait to see this process play out and then decide it was God because of all the strife you had to endure to believe it. Why entertain the enemy at all? Air on the side of God! That's what I'm deciding to do! Trust Him in Faith.

Okay, Okay ... what if it's really not God? My favorite answer to this question- and I don't know who said it, but when asked 'What if it's not God, but the devil', the reply was, "I don't pray to the devil".

When I have a conversation with God, I believe it really is God.