Fellowship of the Saints

A church home should be a place where you can connect with fellow believers so that while you are strengthening your vertical relationship you are growing a horizontal one that is your support structure. Sometimes it is hard to do even if you find a church where you like the teaching, because like many small towns, everyone already knows each other, cliques have formed, and families all know each other and trying to break through those barriers is like putting on shoes that are two sizes too small…you know they will never fit, but you keep trying.

That’s not to say that you cannot find friends that you can fellowship with, but they can be rare and in very small quantities. For an introvert like me that’s not always a bad thing, but there are no things like girls night out, or random Bible studies or even just being invited to gatherings and parties at church.

Paul had fellowship with many people. He ministered with Luke, Barnabas, and Timothy just to name a few. So, Paul was blessed with fellowship beyond compare and yet he was in essence a “newbie”. However, he didn’t have to try to make a way with these men, they just has a companionship that also helped them in ministry. That kind of thing is hard to find now a days in churches, especially ones where the church is still quite young and many families have been there from the beginning.

Fellowship of the saints should be like putting on a pair of slippers and getting comfortable for the night, not cramming your foot into tight sneakers that are a size too small and you can’t lace them up.

 

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I Am Not Adequate

I am doing an inductive study for a few weeks before my regular class resumes in the fall and the lesson this week is about adequacy. I looked up what adequate meant and the first definition was this; as much or as good as necessary for some requirement or purpose; fully sufficient, suitable, or fit, but the one that struck me the most is; barely sufficient or suitable.

This past week or so two former classmates passed away and while I know one is now dancing on a sea of glass, the other make me pause and think, “was I adequate enough?” and the answer I give in my head is, “No.” Long ago this person started asking questions of me that I am not sure I was able to answer well enough. Some of it was because I was a new believer and while I was on fire for God I still believed that I could argue someone into the Kingdom and some was because I was not adequately prepared to guide someone through the necessary steps that would lead them to that kingdom. At least that is what now resonates in my mind. The thought that his decision might not have been the one that produced the outcome that we as believers should want for everyone, makes me want to sit down and weep.

My heart hurts to think of missed opportunities and my inadequacies as a believer to disciple as we are called, but this is where I have to rely on God because as it says in the book of Matthew 19 when the disciples ask who then can be saved Jesus replies to them, “25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, Then who can be saved? 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, with people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

So while my inadequacies are by and large out there for the world to see, but despite that failing character trait God can and will with the aid of the Holy Spirit help me plant the seeds that will add to His kingdom. Who knows maybe I will be surprised at who I meet one day in heaven.

 

Whose Kingdom Are You Building

I was on Facebook the other day and saw an ad for “Kingdom Builders” and I was perplexed at the ad. It stated that with classes from Joyce Meyer, Reinhard Bonnke, Darlene Zschech and others you will learn how to write books, start a business and grow your ministry. None of which sounds bad from the outset, but then when you click the link the quote about Ms. Lowe who is the driving force behind Kingdom Builders says that she is a strategist to the stars having helped them build their brands, but yet has led over 500,000 business people to faith. On the site there are quotes from prominent men and women who are or are thought to be people of faith. Then below those quotes are others from people claiming that Ms. Lowe helped them write a book in a weekend and sell out the first print, or their book reached number one on Amazon, or making $5,000 from one client as a relationship coach.

I don’t know why I even stopped on that particular ad, or even why it was in my feed. The ads tend to be based on your profile, so I guess gullible, non Bible reading Christian would be what they think of me.  In the book of Matthew in chapter 6 verses 19-21 we are told to store up treasures in heaven; “19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I am not saying that there is anything wrong with working towards providing a better life for you and your family, nor is there anything wrong with being rich, but if things are more important to you like the rich man who asked Jesus in the book of Matthew what he should do to obtain eternal life after asking if the man had kept the commandments, “20 The young man said to Him, all these things I have kept; what am I still lacking 21 Jesus said to him, If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. 23 And Jesus said to His disciples, Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

It makes me sad when I see other Christians who are only pursuing the almighty dollar instead of just pursuing The Almighty. Sure it is not fun to struggle and wouldn’t it be great if we could all have all the money we needed when we needed, but then wouldn’t that just create greater and greater need? There is nothing wrong with learning to hone your God-given gifts, we are called to use these gifts instead of hide them under a bushel, but we are not called to build an empire and making it sound prettier to a Christian by calling it kingdom building does not change what it is….greed.

Demands

Have you ever questioned whether we have the right to demand something from your home church? For instance if you break your leg, can you demand that they accommodate you while you are in a cast and have crutches? Or you or your child have special needs and you demand that they include you or your child in every activity whether you or your child can function I that atmosphere. Where do we draw the line on what we can demand of others in our church body?

In prayer we demand a lot of God and He can deliver if it’s in His will. However, I imagine as any good father the tone of your demand must be tempered in love. So why do we as humans demand so much from our church and only occasionally ask in love? The answer lies in the fact that we are operating in the flesh a lot and that we tend to think that we deserve certain considerations.

In an article called “Getting to the Heart of Conflict” there is one paragraph that stood out for me; “The trouble is that if our desire is not met, these attitudes can lead to a vicious cycle. The more we want something, the more we think of it as something we need and deserve. And the more we think we are entitled to it, the more convinced we are that we cannot be happy and secure without it.”

The word entitled really struck me. We hear it so often in today’s world because the generations coming up feel that the world owes them something. As Christians the only thing we are entitled to is death for our sins, but Jesus paid that cost for us. In 2 Kings 5 there is a man named Naaman who feels that he is entitled. He has leprosy and goes to see Elisha with all his horses and chariots for a cure. When Elisha tells Naaman to go wash in the Jordan 7 times Naaman goes away furious and says, (2 Kings 5:11) “He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.” Naaman felt the he was entitled to be healed without doing something to be healed. He demanded Elisha to heal him. Now Naaman certainly learned his lesson when he did go and wash in the Jordan and became healed, but rarely do people who demand things or feel entitled see that it’s not all about them. We need to accept responsibility for ourselves and our families and we cannot demand that our needs be met by others without doing something ourselves.

In an article called “The Entitlement Cure” author Dr. John Townsend states, “Entitlement can be cured too. We won’t be able to wave our hands over the problems of our loved ones. We also can’t expect that they will get it right the first time. Most likely, we will have to walk with them down a Hard Way path of healing.”

So if you feel you are entitled to some extra special care, or demand that you and or your family be accommodated remember that Naaman was healed and then offered what he could to Elisha. What do you/we have to offer in return?

 

 

 

 

Comfort In My Affliction?

In Psalm 119:50 it reads “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your word has revived me.” I haven’t been feeling too much comfort in my affliction these past few days. I have felt really awful. I have an infection and it is dragging me down and making me halt all I had been doing or was going to do. In fact I have been pretty ticked off at God since I have cried out to help me and yet still feel like the bottom of a shoe that has stepped in dog doo.

Then in Romans 5:3 we learn, “3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;” Other words for perseverance are tenacity, persistence, and pluck. I have no pluck left. Pluck went out the door when the cough started and a lung left my body (not really, but you get the picture).

The question here is, “Is it ok to be mad at God?” In our flesh when we get angry with God it’s more about doubting that He loves us, or cares that we feel cruddy or has left us to fend for ourselves. It’s not true and as believers we know this, but as humans sometimes it’s hard to hang on to that. The good thing is that God doesn’t leave us, He lets us go to figure it out so that we can have a deeper understanding and relationship with Him.

I am not going to lie to you, I am not liking this and I am not happy that even after seeing a doctor and trying some natural cures to feel better that I still feel like an 18 wheeler ran over me like a speed bump on the highway. I am not going to lie and say that if this “trial” is for someone else they better darn well learn the lesson quickly because I am quite anxious to be over this crud; and thoughts of retribution (if I can find who the lesson is for) have crossed my mind. However, I am sick and when we are sick the “woe is me!” monster appears and all we want is relief. I don’t want to learn a lesson, understand that I needed to slow down, someone else needed to know how to handle this, or whatever the case may be, but it’s necessary, because we live in a fallen world and someone decided they needed to share their germs with me.

Mary

Since Mother’s Day is tomorrow I have been thinking about the ultimate mother, Mary. In 2016 Tyler Perry produced a program called “The Passion” at Easter time and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, but I was struck not so much by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (that always deserves a hallelujah and amen!) portrayed in the show, but of the sacrifice of Mary. Trisha Yearwood played the part of Mary and there was a song called Broken that she sang right before Jesus was put to death. It tore me up inside and made me really reflect on how Mary felt giving up her son for the whole world.

I don’t know if I could have been as brave as she. Mary had incredible faith and knew from the time that she had the baby that He was not all hers. However, I think (this is purely my opinion) like many, she pushed the thought that some day He would be gone to the back of her head, or maybe it was there all along waiting till the day that the Jews crucified her Son.

I don’t know that I could live through my son’s life knowing that one day I had to give him up for the sake of the whole world. My son is mine and yet her Son is mine too. The absolute ache that accompanies the thought that my son would be put to death tears me up inside and for me it’s just a thought, for Mary it was reality. The chorus from the song makes me choke up to even contemplate what she was feeling;

I’m falling apart, I’m barely breathing
With a broken heart that’s still beating
In the pain there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I’m holdin’ on, I’m holdin’ on, I’m holdin’ on
I’m barely holdin’ on to you

In the end our children are gifts from God and no matter how much we love them and care for them they are His, they are just on loan to us.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I Just Can’t

Some days I get to a point where I just can’t. I can’t quiet all the thoughts, I can’t quiet all the things that are clamoring for my attention, I can’t adult anymore. I have been in that space for a few days this week. I am not worrying about anything it’s just gotten to be a bit too much.

I think these are the times that I know I have strayed the furthest from scripture. I haven’t picked up my Bible in a few days, and it’s showing in the wear and tear of my soul.  So where should I spend my time today? I am not one who can just open a book and start studying unless I have a purpose and an outline (yes I am in a few Bible classes just because of this quirk of mine). I tend to bounce around according to the mood I am in.

My moods have lately been a bit darker than normal, so maybe Job would be a good place to start today? Not because I can wallow, but because I can see that no matter how cruddy I feel, there truly has been someone else who has suffered significantly more. Maybe I should look into an epistle by Paul. He was a pretty straight shooter and while he believed with all his heart that Jesus was all we needed, he believed that action is also needed on our part, not just sitting on our laurels and expecting it to be done for us. Maybe a good gut wrenching Psalm by David. Nah, my nose is already stuffed up from allergies. Maybe today is just a good day to start at the beginning…

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.” It might help chase the darkness of my mood away.

 

 

Women

Before I even begin to delve into this topic I want to be perfectly clear that I am not a Pauline Christian. I take the full council of the Bible to heart.  The Old Testament gave us what were the laws and the history and the prophecy so that the New Testament could be a living thing for each of us.

Women can’t live with them, can’t shoot em. Wait a minute I am a woman! But even I get tired of the way some women feel the need to be superior to men in every instance including in the church. Now don’t get your knickers in a twist if you belong to a church who has a woman pastor, but I would not go to a church that had one and if the church that I attended decided that it was ok to have one I would be looking for a new church home. This is where the accusations of being a Pauline Christian come into play. I opened the blog today the way I did so that I could say I already addressed this part so save the finger pointing.

I personally think that women need to learn that they possess one the most powerful positions in the church and in Christian life they counsel the younger women and raise up the next generation. During the time of Saul (yes, I know that’s Paul, but he was a Pharisee at the time he was called Saul) Christians were called those practicing “The Way”, so women were raising children to carry on in The Way and what better position of power is there than that? Yes, men are the heads of the households and are the teachers of congregations, but women are the ones who are teaching and working with those who will become these men later in life.

In the Bible there are not many women mentioned at least not to the number that men are, but the women that are worth mentioning are those who have done great things and hold high places of esteem. So it would seem that God values women even more than society does. I mean really, who went to the empty tomb while all the Apostles were hiding in fear?  Let me give you a hint, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, we are told went to see the tomb in Matthew 28.

Women really need to let go of the need to be superior to men or the ego driven need to be pastors, preachers or teachers of men and be proud of the place that they hold in the heart of God. God has no favorites between the sexes as we see in Galatians 3:28 28There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.

Missed It

Three years ago I went on a mission trip and it was a moving experience. I am not sure that I would do it again. Don’t get me wrong, I have thought about it and even made some moves to possibly go, but the door was shut firmly on that, so maybe it’s not time or it’s not for me to do again.

That’s not what has been on my mind today. What has been rattling around in my brain is the one time I was made glaringly aware of missed opportunities to share the gospel, and one happened while on that mission trip. We were all gathered together and being instructed on how to greet the people native to this country and we were role playing on what to do when we made home visits. There were interpreters present and we needed to know how to speak so that our thoughts could be conveyed, but we were also practicing sharing the gospel with others that were not like us.

We weren’t prepared that is for sure. We did not have our Bibles that day and we were thrown into a situation and expected to respond. The teachers were asking questions that might be asked and this one is the one that leveled me, “Who is this Jesus?” I heard the opening and I didn’t take it. Even though we were role playing it was a missed opportunity for me and I have never forgotten it.

Let’s face it we don’t usually face a question so perfect as the one I did, but how many times do we let cold feet or tied tongues get in our way of sharing the gospel with someone. or how many times have we given a watered down answer to a question because we just “didn’t want to get into it”? I was hit with the proverbial 2×4 when I came across what Paul says in Acts 20:26 “Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.” He is telling the Ephesian elders that if a person refused to come to know Jesus and His death and resurrection it wasn’t for hi (Paul’s) lack of trying. Could I say that? No, not really. I know that I have not only had one missed moment that happened while role playing. How convicting is that?

I am trying to make a conscious effort to not have any more missed opportunities…are you?

Serving Two Masters

I didn’t post a blog yesterday. I am not sure it was writers block or intentional rebellion on my part. I sometimes have trouble reconciling that things that bother me and the  discussions I have in my head need to remain there and most especially shouldn’t be posted in a blog like this. I think it’s because I struggle to be in this world and not of it.

In the book of Matthew 6:24 we are told “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” I am not chasing wealth. I will admit that more funds in the bank would certainly help make life easier, but to chase wealth tends to leave you empty and hollow. My issue lies with how to live my life as a Christian and not sin.

I know I know you are probably saying just don’t give into the temptation and more often than not I can accomplish that, but then there are the times where my tongue can run away with me and I say something that its totally not loving and not even reproving in nature, but just plain mean or sarcastic.  In James 3 it speaks of how the tongue can be like a fire and consume even a forest. I think I could manage to wipe out a few forested areas with my fiery tongue. But in the world that kind of speech is ok. To speak to someone in fluent sarcasm is almost expected in some situations. To my shame I can easily fit in.

I have other foibles that could stumble ME not my brother, maybe I will discuss them in the coming days…..come along on my “world tour”.