"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials."

Posts tagged ‘Church’

Rest? Who Has Time to Rest?

Every day is full.  It is Springtime after all.  I feed the hummingbirds and are they ever hungry!  I have gardening to do including opening the fountains and cleaning the outdoor living spaces.  The house needs to be power-washed and the deck must be painted.

I am busy with church.  Friday night, I will be making food for a special dinner.  The annual church tent sale will require some time, as well.

I have started a new business and try to spend about four hours on the phone each day getting it up and running.     This has nothing to do with the day-to-day household chores.

I love to blog and it has been totally neglected by my “busy-ness.”

I can always find something that needs to be done and I know that I am not alone in this.  “Martha, Martha” is not a quote that I want to hear from Jesus.

When I read Ransomed Heart’s blog,  I was convicted that I had things out-of-order.  Here is a quick quote from that post.

All you athletes out there know that runners need rest days to recover and repair muscles in order to get stronger. Runner’s World says, “It is important to realize rest days are when improvements are actually made as opposed to during the days when the runner is training.”  Who knew?

Intentionally resting is vital for all of us.”

She ends the post with the quote our church has on our tee shirts.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

So, the question is, “Why, when I know resting in His Presence is my necessary food, do I put it at the bottom of my ‘to-do’ list?”

Today, I am laying aside all that creates pressure in my life and going into the throne room to rest in my Daddy’s everlasting arms.  I will trust Him that all will wait until I get re-acquainted with the One who loves me.

Will you?

If the Door is Open, Why are You Still in the Cage?

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The eagle was restless.  He had been in this cage in the zoo for several years.  It was where they brought him after he broke his wing.  He moved back and forth within the confines of the space.  He knew somehow that he was made for more but all he knew was the four corners of his prison.  He really didn’t even have room to fly and it was something he no longer remembered.  His handler would open the door and he would hop out on his leather glove and he would feed him.  It worked, but something was different.

When his handler came today they moved him to a smaller cage after the feeding.  This was unacceptable and he cried out his distress.  They put the enclosure in a van and they began moving.  He was confused and frightened.  They drove for a long time and when the vehicle stopped, a new emotion hit the bird.  His heart was racing and he felt like it would explode in his proud breast as panic overwhelmed him.

The handler removed the cage and sat it on the ground a few feet away from the van.   Then a remarkable thing happened.  He opened the door to this small cage and stepped away.  The eagle sat there looking at the opening.  What did it mean?  Usually, he put his hand with the leather glove in the space and he would get on it, but today, he just opened the door.

The mountain air was refreshing him and he raised his head.  The man knelt to the side of the cage and the leathered hand offered him food to leave the enclosure.  He tentatively took it.  Stepping back, he offered more food and the eagle knew that to get it, he would have to step out of the cage.  Tentatively and with apprehension, he slowly inched forward in ‘un-eagle’ like fashion.  He took the food and turned to go back in to the cage, but the door was closed.

He was free!  Free to sit on the ground.  Free to fly, but to the frustration of his friend was that he just sat there, puzzling over his new situation.  He began to walk around on the soft mountain turf.  He walked over and climbed on a rock and looked out over his new domain.  He longed to see more.  He longed for  . . . something.

In the distance, he heard the cry of another eagle and something broke inside his heart.  Without fanfare or preamble, he spread his wings and lifted into the air over the canyon.  When he heard the call of one like him, everything came into focus.  He didn’t need a lesson on how to fly.  Flying was part of who he is.  He is an eagle.  Soaring higher and higher, moving toward the other eagle, he was truly free.

Years ago, I was with an early morning prayer group, when God gave me a vision as I sat on the steps that led up to the platform in the church.  I was looking out over the pews that would soon be occupied by the congregation.  In the vision, I could see them sitting there inside cages with the doors open.  They were free, but they had chosen to stay enclosed in the prison of their own beliefs and laws.  They didn’t understand the fullness of what Christ had done for them.  They were eagles who were sitting in parlor cages like chickens unable to take their freedom.  My heart broke.

The Scripture in Galatians 5:1 in one translation reads, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”  This troubled me greatly as I was saved and in the church, but I was not free.  I told a friend of mine, a pastor’s wife, that ‘I knew Christianity worked.”  She asked me to call her when I figured it out!

We can be blind guides leading others.  We have an open door.  Jesus Christ is the door.  We have stepped inside and we are free, but we are paralyzed because we don’t understand what the freedom means.  So, how do we fly?

What has made us prisoners and enslaves us when the promised freedom is readily available?  We are caught in church doctrine, rules and the judgement of others and as well as

ourselves.  We want to do right but it seems that we do just the opposite much like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7.  What ties us to the cage?  When we are tempted and fail, we beat ourselves with our failure and then we step away from the door.  We are still free but we have no knowledge of how to fly – how to delight in the freedom.

The enemy knows that we are free, but he hates us and uses the only tool in his tool box:  condemnation.  He knows our weaknesses and so he arranges temptations.  When we give in, he then unleashes a barrage of words into our minds that sounds like us, but is really from him.

To illustrate:  Sue decided to eat in a healthy way and to stop eating sweets.  She did well for two weeks and was invited to a party.  They had the most beautiful array of desserts and she succumbed to the molten chocolate cake.  She savored each bite.  When she got home later, the pain began.  ‘Why did I do that?  I had promised myself I wouldn’t eat sugar and now I ate a huge dose of it!  I am a failure.  I can’t do this.  I will never be able to eat healthy!”  At that, she goes into the kitchen and opens the refrigerator door and begins to eat whatever she can find.

What Sue didn’t understand is that the molten chocolate cake wasn’t her enemy.  All she had to do was confess this to her God, forgive herself, and continue on the healthy eating path.  But when she listened to the lies of the enemy, she went back under bondage and entered the cage.  The door is still open, but she is in prison.

Listen, the voice of your Redeemer Who is calling to you.  Move toward it and begin to fly.  The truth is you are free!

 

Are You Religious? Take the test.

The Religion Test:

  1. If church promised a $10,000 door prize at the 11:00 service or Sunday, would you go?
  2. If you could work-out in the gym at church for free, would that make regular church attendance interesting.
  3. If your company offered you double time to work on Sunday, would you skip church?
  4. If church was a really fun place to go with golf tournaments, theater and musicals and a great social program, does that get you to attend?
  5. If you heard that the church was teaching about ways to draw near to God and become intimate with Him, would that attract you?
  6. Or perhaps there is nothing that could draw you away from the sports on TV or a day on the lake.
An affirmative answer to all but the fifth question proves that you are religious about something.  If you answered yes to five, you are interested in really getting to know God which is based on a relationship with Him and His love.

We quickly see what is the most important to us when we consider these questions.  Most of us would go for sure to get the money.  If we wanted to get fit, the gym has a certain appeal.  Turning down the overtime money would be difficult.  The social aspects of a big church serve to integrate you in the community and help to meet new friends.  But . . . how many of us really want to draw nearer to the God of the Universe.

Religion itself is bondage to something.  We think of the Pharisees and Saducees in the Bible.  They were the most religious of all as is some of the church leadership today.  What are you bound to?  Is the organized church the answer?  How do you escape religion and get to know the God that loves you?

How many of us want to really know Jesus Christ?  How many of us want to sit, face-to-face with the Father God and have a conversation?  How many of us want to “be the true church;” to be ‘the called out ones?’  Called out by the Father to hear His voice and walk in His ways?

But, you say . . . “I don’t know how to do that.”  Yes you do.  So do I.  Why is it so hard to start?  What is the fear?  Are we afraid that He will show us the areas we are avoiding in ourselves?  Is it because we think that we don’t need Him?  Are we doing just fine using our own resources?  Or has the demonic realm deceived us and convinced us that we don’t need to get too close to Him?

What keeps us from the joy of knowing the wonderful God that loves us, even before we give Him a thought.  Why are we so arrogant as to think that we don’t really need anyone or anything.  Has  American independence so infiltrated our thought process that we think that we can go it alone and be just fine?   Then, I remember exactly what I had when I was on my own before meeting Jesus Christ.  I was broken and filled with bravado.  I didn’t want anyone to know how wounded I was;  but, everyone knew.  I was the only one who was being fooled.  Are you fooling yourself?

In the Scripture, there is a story of five wise and five foolish virgins awaiting their bridegroom to come for them.  When the time came, the foolish ones wanted oil (a type of the Holy Spirit) for their lamps from the wise ladies who were wise enough to say no.  This is not something that you can do on the preparedness of another.  It is up to each of us to be filled with the Spirit and ready for the encounters that the God who loves us has for us.

My heart hungers for Him.  My flesh avoids Him.  It is up to me now to decide who is in charge, just as it is up to you.  Do I let my heart rule and fall in love with my Lord and live in His grace and glory OR do I let my flesh rule and continue to do my own thing.  Now is the day.  Tomorrow is too late.  He wants me to spend time with Him; to romance Him and to love Him.  He desires for me to walk out Spirit-life.

When I draw near, He will draw near to me.  Then I will wonder, whatever did I think was so important, that I didn’t stop and meet with this One I love.

Is the Presence of God Absent?

We walked into the church hopeful.  We had looked for a long time and we were getting discouraged.  Within a short time we knew we had hit the ‘religion’ jackpot.  There was an active ‘amen’ corner.   The lady that sang the solo had no talent and was chosen for her hair style and lack of make-up.  The reverend was very loud and pointed an accusing finger at the congregation who seemed to be used to the berating.  He talked of the devil and condemned each of us to our own private corner of hell UNLESS we repented from our sin.  I could think of no reason to repent but only had a desire to flee.  If this was ‘church,’ we wanted no part in it!  We quickly delivered ourselves outside to the fresh air and blue sky.  It was not our first disappointment and would not be our last.

It must grieve God’s Father heart that we can be satisfied to sit under this oppression and call it Christian.  Being abused every Sunday morning by a leader who has never even have had an encounter with the Living God.  There is a good chance that s/he is not even a part of God’s family.  This person is what the Bible calls a ‘hireling,’ not a shepherd.  He found a career and used his public speaking skills to try to scare people out of hell, but I think he may just have succeeded in convincing them that if this was what church was about, they wanted no part of it.

Other leaders may not be so overt, but they are all about psychology, or they are a friendly social club that only teaches the easy parts of the Bible  There are so many ways that the church has been infiltrated by the devil and the world.

When we were first brought into the family of God, we were zealous and accepted everything we encountered as coming from Heaven.  After several woundings and our son walking away in disgust, we realized that there must be more to the church thing than what we had first thought.

So, we continued our search to find a place where the Spirit of God actually showed up when we came together.  We love the Lord and spent time with Him on a regular basis.  We really did come into His Presence from time-to-time, but it seemed that the more we hung around certain churches, the less we encountered Him.  Finally we gave up and stayed home.  This was really not a solution either.  At home, we began to drift.  I started reading Christian Fiction instead of the Bible – a voyeur into the lives of people who actually seemed to get it.  My husband just pulled in and his wounds isolated him.  Every so often, I would venture into another ‘church.’  If I could persuade him to come, he would give me a list of why everything was wrong, and he was right!

But I was starved for fellowship – the kind the Bible speaks of – koininea – a coming together in unity and oneness.  Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father were One.  I wanted that and I wanted it with my husband.

I attended a small 7:00 AM fellowship in my small town.  There was a young man there that changed before my eyes.  He went from being a good denominational man to a radiant expression of the Presence of God.  He kept inviting me to come to a small church he attended.  He assurred me it was different.  I was intrigued.

When I went, it was definitely different – totally different from church as usual.  The leader claimed to walk and talk with God on a daily basis and taught the Word of God with authority.  Not completely convinced, I went several times before I asked hubby to come with me.  He came but not with a happy heart.  I could tell he was impressed but sitting for a long time is hard on him and the guy could talk!  After two and a half hours, the meeting broke up.  My dear man told me that I should go to this fellowship, but it wasn’t for him.

So with his blessing, I continued to go.  I changed so much that he knew something was up.  One day, he decided it was time to visit with the leader and he found a man-of-God who not only affirmed him but drew him into a friendship.

We began to attend as a couple.  God has done amazing things in our lives in the last six or seven months.  Now we sit through sermons that can last much longer than two hours and still be hungry for more.  We are learning to enter into and abide in the Presence of God.  He is not just Almighty God to us anymore; He is now our Papa – Abba – Father God.  He loves us and we know it.  We love Him because of it.

This fellowship has become our family.  We are now involved in going to the streets to invite people into His Presence.  It has changed our lives forever.

If your church doesn’t have the Presence of Father God in their services and if it doesn’t show in the lives of those who attend, find a place where God is present.  It makes all the difference.

Is your church abiding in His Presence.  Are you?

Religion or Encounter?? You choose!

My Mama didn’t believe in joining a church because of her Mama’s religion. They taught you would get ‘the Mark of the Beast’ if you did. (I didn’t know what that was.) Grandma’s religion had made atheists of all of her kids because it was, what was then called the “holiness” movement. She wore dark stockings, no make-up and did not believe in having much of anything. There was no radio, television, indoor plumbing and for many years, no refrigerator. She carried wood and coal and used an outhouse until she was 90 years old. Her belief colored all of our lives. Mom and Dad could never agree on what to do about church and so they slept in and sent me to a small church two blocks away.

At that little church, we had a series of pastors, at least two of which I believe loved the Lord. The others were merely religious and not true shepherds.

The one that negatively impacted me the most was a man who had been asked to leave his previous denomination – and pastorate (at least that is what I remember.) Reverend was very unhappy. He had five children who were unique in that they didn’t even fit in and I know that was painful for them.

His wife was the one that still causes me to shake my head. One thing I remembered vividly was that she wore silk stockings with a seam down the back and acres of unshaved hair beneath them. She taught Sunday School. Her favorite song was “Holy, Holy, Holy” and I always felt she was singing about herself as she closed her eyes and warbled in a high stringy soprano.

She didn’t like me much. I was a bit of a leader among our small fellowship. The kids voted for me to give the Youth Sunday sermon. When the news got to Mrs. Reverend, she took me aside and said, “Reverend and I don’t believe that we should have someone in the pul-pit (emphasis on pit) that isn’t a member of the chucha (no ‘r’ and strong last ‘ch’).”

I was very hurt and confused. I left and went to a church across town until they left. It was years before I could hear the song ‘Holy, Holy, Holy and focus on the one it was about.

At no time did anyone in that small church talk to me about the Gospel. There was no power and often little love. It was a place where some folks were thought of as pillars and others as necessary but not honored.

When I went through my rebellious years, I turned from traditional ‘religion’ and started looking at alternatives including the New Age. I found the focus on me and I liked it. I had a new religion and I was the ‘god’ of that religion. It was comfortable but it did not satisfy.  I did what felt right in my own eyes.

Many years later, as I drove down the street listening to R. W. Shambach on the radio, the Holy Spirit spoke directly to my heart and my life changed forever. I had an encounter with the Living God.  I learned that afternoon that God was real, He loved me and had a plan for me  the most amazing thing of all, I found out that I was forgiven. God Himself walked me through receiving His forgiveness and washing me clean. No one can ever convince me that God is not real. He is real! I am His and He is mine.

Religion is an ugly thing.  It is a practice of traditions not instituted by God. It is primarily cultural and doesn’t focus itself on the love and Presence of God.   It talks about God but doesn’t really know Him and can be a mere history lesson.

Religion is found in many different forms and even embraces Christianity that has explained away the power of God.  Because they do not experience it, they deny it.  I includes many different belief systems from all around the world. It incites people to have wars to protect their doctrines and beliefs.  There is form but no supernatural power.

Today’s Lesson:

What religion has is tradition, judgement, culture, doctrine, history, and social clubs as well as conflict with anyone who disagrees with them. What God has is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Righteousness is His gift to us at our acceptance of His Son’s finished work.

Peace is ‘shalom’ in Hebrew which means wholeness – complete in Him.

Joy comes from His Presence and has no opposite and is found only abiding in Him.

A relationship with the Living God is far better than religion.

Are you in religion? Or do you personally know and fellowship with the living God?

If you don’t know Him, I invite you to an encounter with the Living God by accepting the finished work of His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is easy to do.  Just call on the Name of the Lord Jesus and believe with you heart – NOT your head – and you will be saved and He will send the Holy Spirit to Guide you into all Truth.  Then ask Him to make Himself real to you and He will.

Let me know if you make this decision.

Freedom

I wrote this when my children were little.

Sweet and Strong

My children are special to me,

They are whatever they want to be,

A ballet dancer, a movie star,

The cookie monster in the cookie jar.

They live with me and visit their Dad,

It’s the best arrangement to be had.

They get the best of both worlds you see;

Of Dad and his family and of kitty and me.

They are fun, they are special,

 They are my pride and joy;

This pretty sweet girl and this strong gentle boy.

Yep!  We got divorced when they were little and I remarried when they were nine and ten.  Now, I don’t know what was the more traumatic – the divorce or remarriage.  They were very resilient and have grown into fine adults, but they had faced many challenges by the time they left home to become their own persons.

After we had been married a year, Joe and I got ‘saved.’  It was wonderful and strange.  We started going to church whenever the door was open and if there wasn’t a church program, then we went to a visiting ministry.  We were in church twice on Sunday, had family altar on Monday, Tuesday was home fellowship, Wednesday was church, Thursday was choir practice, Friday was the youth meeting where we had a leadership role.  Saturday was open – really?

We had the children do their homework for an hour, practice their band instruments for an hour and study the Bible for an hour – and then – they could go outside and play but they didn’t get to go very often.

We did some good things, but the schedule outweighed most of it.

To say that we made mistakes is an understatement.  We had great kids, but we never made knowing the Lord a good thing.  Jesus came because the Father loved us but all we knew was a series of rules to be followed and meetings to attend.  We have no defense.  We just wanted to do it right and in the process we became Pharisees and religionists.  We were like the only people in the Scriptures that Jesus ever got mad at.

My husband dropped out of the church process twice because what he experienced didn’t line up with the Scripture.  We didn’t put down roots because we couldn’t find the answers.

In my studies, I found the Scripture in Galatians that says, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free!”  I wasn’t free.  I didn’t know how to be free. Joe didn’t know how to be free.  I remember telling a friend who was a Pastor’s wife that I knew this had to work, and she asked me “to call her when I figured it out!”  She didn’t know either.  We were going through the motions that was expected by the church leadership and our peers. What we didn’t understand was that when our enemy was unsuccessful in killing Jesus, he decided to join the church.  He twists what happens and keeps us focused on ourselves.  It is a successful strategy and we live out of our heads instead of our hearts.  This diminishes the truth of the Spirit.  Without the Word, Christianity is just another religion.  Without the Spirit, it is all about rules and doctrine and has no life.

We spent a lot of time judging others who were as lost as we were.  We thought the little light that we saw was better than the little light that they had.  Judging is a bad deal.  The Scripture tells us that when we judge others, we are also judged the same.

We began to look for answers and went from one church to another regularly never finding the freedom we saw in the Scriptures.  Soon we realized that the way we had raised the children was counter productive, but they had moved on and there was no second chance.  We were saved but we had missed the love walk.

I apologized to our kids, but I don’t think they ever understood what we were talking about.  My heartache was that even though I know that Jesus is the answer, I didn’t know why, and my life didn’t reflect the joy and love I knew should be there.    I kept looking while  Joe just gave up and stayed home.  I got involved in several churches that made no sense and one group that was really dangerous.  Joe tried to tell me that I was on thin ice, but I didn’t listen.  It seemed to me that he was against everything and I wanted fellowship so I just closed my ears.  I learned that God gave me a husband to protect me and I should listen to him.  I won’t make that mistake again!

In the last year, we have been fortunate to find a fellowship that isn’t church as usual.  The leader really knows God.  He isn’t just talking about what he has read or heard others say.  He actually hears from the Lord and he is teaching us to hear for ourselves.   He hates religion!   He isn’t all about himself or being the super star.  He tells us how God has become real and changed his life from drug and sexual addictions to the free-est man I have ever met.  It is an honor to get to know him and a bigger honor to get to know Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Father God.

He has poured hours of one-on-one time into Joe and I.  In all the years we have sought the Lord, no one has ever been willing to share with us in this manner.  It has opened us up in new ways.  We have been privileged to meet the Lord face-to-face.  I read about it, but never thought it would happen to me.  I am very grateful.

As an encourager, he has helped us to see our gifts from our hearts and not from our heads.  He has encouraged me to write and because of it, my writing skills have improved greatly and I find joy in it daily.  I have watched him encourage one young man to develop his skills as our worship leader while developing other gifts in him at the same time.  He improves every time he leads us.  Another man is urged to use his gifts of leadership.  There are so many more.  He pours his life into us and we are developing, so that we can pour our lives into others.  It is a true discipleship program.

You may be thinking that your church is great. I am happy for you and I do  believe there are fellowships that are solid, but I also know that it is rare.  The “rule makers” that confine us are doing what they have been taught and they, too, need to be set free!  I pray regularly that the church will wake up.  It’s time!

Thank God that now I am free!  My prayer is that God will make Himself as real to others as He has made Himself to us.

Are you free?  Write me and let me know your thoughts.

Related sites:

www.pliablehearts.wordpress.com

www.swimlifelessons.wordpress.com

www.notafan.com

Scriptures:

All of the book of Galatians

Galatians 5:1  It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.  NASB

Matthew 7:1
Do not judge so that you will not be judged.

1 John 4:7
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is [a]born of God and knows God.

Ephesians 5:14
For this reason  it says, “ Awake, sleeper, And arise from  the dead, And Christ  will shine on you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore  encourage one another and  build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Hebrews 3:13
But  encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the  deceitfulness of sin.

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