Monday, May 28, 2012

Organic Church

What does church look like?

The church we read about in the New Testament was "organic."  By that I mean it was born from and sustained by spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions, controlled by human hierarchy, shaped by lifeless rituals, and held together by religious programs.
To use an illustration, if I try to create an orange in a laboratory, the lab-created orange would not be organic. But if I planted a seed into the ground and it produced an orange tree, the tree would be organic.
The same way, whenever we sin-scarred mortals try to create a church the same way we would start a business corporation, we are defying the organic principle of church life. An organic church is one that is naturally produced when a group of people have encountered Jesus Christ in reality (external ecclesiastical props being unnecessary), and the DNA of the church is free to work without hindrance.
To put it in a sentence, organic church life is not a theater with a script; it's a gathered community that lives by divine life. By contrast, the modern institutional church operates on the same organizational principles that run corporate America.

Excerpt from Reimagining Church
by Frank Viola

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life and Truth

Here's a copy-paste post from my other blog,  I wanted to share it here as well since it deals with matters of faith.

 It's been hard to find time to update, and when I do have the time, sleep sounds much more appealing. Other priorities, y'know. I'm sure you all can understand that.  I know I say this just about every time I write a real entry, but gosh-darn, life has been so busy.  I can't remember the last time I had a day to just relax.  I don't think I've had any of those for the past, oh, seven weeks.  In retrospect, I'm so thankful that we sent the kiddos to my mother-in-law's after Jub'ee was born because once the kids came back, life went from zero to sixty in point five seconds.

I've had a couple of those, "Man, I wish my mama was here," moments.  I really cannot allow myself to think about how I wish things were.  Fact is, she's disabled and unable to help in that capacity, but I know she really wishes she was able, and, if she was able, she would be here every time I whimpered. I know I've expressed before how my mom was before the car accident that changed her life (and therefore our lives) eleven years ago.  She was able to whip a house into shape (and I'm talking model-home-shape, white-glove-test shape, near-perfection sparkleatude) in what seemed like mere seconds, all while dinner stewed on the stove.  Seriously, Mom was Wonder Woman, except with a bun (and more modest clothing).  I know my mom has spent many hours (days) sobbing because she can't be what she desires to be for her daughter and grandchildren.  There are few things my mom wants more than to serve us in that capacity.  She would have been the picture perfect epitome of a grandmother.  Not that she's not a fabulous Nana just as she is now, but her disabilities keep her from serving as I know she desires to serve.  She just isn't able to do that, and I totally understand that.  I am very grateful that she was able to do that with my first child.

{Mom and Jubilee}

 I remember coming home from the hospital with Merikalyn wrapped in my teenage arms.  Mom and Dad had overhauled our humble abode (a tiny trailer, just perfect for a family of three), caught up the laundry, and prepared meals for us to feast on.  My place had never seemed more inviting.  And boy, did I need my mama that first week (not just because I was a new mother, but because I came home with double mastitis and a high fever, plus a severe case of anemia to boot).  I know that was extremely exhausting for my Mom, but I am so glad the Lord gave her strength to do that for me.  What a blessing! The Lord has been gracious to give her strength when I've really needed her to have strength!

Anyway, like I said, life has been a little crazy.  My husband worked nights for the first two months of Jubilee's life, which was nice in many ways (having him home during the day has been such a blessing!), but exhausting as well.  We are both so tired.  In fact, a couple days ago, after dinner with my favorite midwife (my friend Nanci), I came home, did that "bad mommy thing" (put the babies to bed, then put on a movie for the kids to watch and told them to go to bed when it was done), and crashed.... at 7:30pm.  I slept for 12 hours (not solid sleep, since I did have to wake up to make sure the kids went to bed, and to nurse the baby several times as well, but solid enough), and still felt weary when I woke up.  I am definitely having to take naps.  I told my brother today that I am turning into our mom! (I used to think it was crazy that she had to take daily naps!  I didn't understand that we adults don't have all the energy our kiddos do!)

I am really not sure how we manage to do all that we do.  I could use more hours in the day, but I am thankful that there aren't more hours in the day because I am worn out with the twenty-four I'm given!  I am really, really glad we put in the effort to teach our children how to care for the home because I know that I would be even more weary if I had to do everything myself.  They don't know how much of a blessing they are by helping with the dishes and laundry!  (But I try to encourage and remind them of how awesome they are!) I am so amazingly, wonderfully blessed. I feel like God has just loaded my arms with gifts beyond measure.  Sometimes I get "a little" overwhelmed, but that overwhelming feeling is just a reminder that I am trying too hard to juggle on my own terms, and I need to rely on Him and His strength, not my own ideals, my own agenda, my own strength.

The Lord has been doing some major "house cleaning" in my heart, and as a result I have experienced a lot of spiritual warfare.  Satan knows just how to push my buttons, how to flare up my pride and selfishness, how toget me berating myself... and the Lord keeps reminding me that I don't have to listen to that garbage.  One of the things I have felt prompted to do is regularly write down truths the Lord wants me to focus on. I don't know about you, but I've spent much of my time rehearsing the lies the devil whispers in my ear, but not near as much time reminding myself of God's truths.  

Last week, the Lord had me focusing on these truths:
  • My identity is found in Christ.
  • I am loved, deeply loved, by God.
  • There is infinite power in the palm of my Father's hand.
  • The Lord desires to bless me, not to hurt me.
  • My Father hates to see me suffer, but loves me enough to allow it because it refines me, grows me, molds my character.
  • Jesus will NEVER let me down.
  • I can ALWAYS depend on Him.
  • He cares about even the smallest details of my life. It matters to Him.
  • He hears me. He is listening.
  • Nothing is impossible for Him.
Whenever Satan starts poking and pestering me, the Lord reminds me to live and move in the Truth of His Word.  I am not what or who Satan says I am. I am who God says I am.  God is not who Satan says He is.  God is who He says He is, who His Word says He is.  I cannot tell you how ..... strong..... the Lord has been impressing that upon me. Satan wants me to believe lies about myself and my God so I live a defeated life.  God wants me to believe that, through Christ Jesus, I am worthy. I am passionately loved and pursued by Him.  When I live and move and breathe in those truths, I live in the light, and the Spirit can live mightily through me.

My sweet little Evie-toddler just came to me with her pajamas gripped in her chubby little fist wanting me to put them on her, and I was reminded that, you know, she makes a lot of mistakes.  She's learning. She's growing.  When she makes a mistake, I don't furrow my brow and shake my finger at her yelling, "Why are you so dumb? Why did you do that!?  Why can't you get that right?"  That would be ridiculous! Her little toddler feet are going to trip and fall.  She's going to get into stuff she's not supposed to get into.  She's going to spill stuff, break stuff, ruin stuff.... and I will still love her just as much as I do when she's perfectly behaved.  I know she's going to make mistakes. I know she's going to have booboos and break things and hurt my mamaheart sometimes. God knows I'm going to have booboos and break things and grieve His Spirit.  When I slip and fall and make massive mistakes, He's not hovering over me berating me, telling me I'm worthless. That is what Satan does, not my loving Father.  When I screw things up, nail pierced hands pick me back up.  I am deeply loved. When I make a mess, the Lord helps clean it up. He loves me. He adores me.  A good picture of His love is the parable of the Prodigal Son who takes his inheritance, wastes it, and returns home a complete mess.  His father doesn't go off on a tirade of how dumb his son acted. The father doesn't punish his son.  He doesn't call him names and tell him he's worthless.  NO! He welcomes him home, hugs him tight, and throws a big party!  He kills the fattened calf and invites everyone to celebrate.  Why? Not because his son was disobedient, but because his son turned his heart to his father.  What a picture of the Father's love for me.... and for you!

Anyway, I had not intended to go into all of this.  I really was just coming here to say, "Hi, I'm still here. Still putting one foot in front of the other."

It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Break every chain

I had some major chains broke over the weekend.
Christ desires to set us free from all those chains that bind us, but sometimes our insecurities have us clinging to our chains.  We worry about what it will look like if we raise our hands in praise, if we stand up and twirl around as we sing boldly to our great god.  We worry what people will think about us if we live truly free, unafraid.  A life lived in passionate worship to our Lord seems radical to others.  We desire more of God but we're afraid to give more of ourselves.

Maybe we're afraid of what God will do with our lives if we surrender every aspect to Him.  Maybe we're afraid of looking like a fool.  Do we really trust God is who He says He is?  Do we trust that He loves us, that He is a loving, gracious Father and His plan is good, even if it doesn't look "good" to us?

Do we truly understand the power that comes with trusting in Him?  The power He has to dig out the junk in our lives so He can fill us up with Himself.  The power to overcome addictions, poisonous thought patterns, dangerous cycles.

Do you have some chains in your life you need broken?
Chains in your worship and praise of God?
Chains in your marriage?
Chains in how you view yourself, your spouse, your children, your God?
Chains of unbelief?

Satan wants to keep you chained.  He doesn't like that you've committed your life to God, and if he can't stop that, then he's going to try his hardest to hinder you. He doesn't want you to be truly free.  He may know he's lost the war, but he's going to try to win some battles.  We need to understand that Satan is real, and he seeks to hinder us from being fully committed, fully sold-out, fully passionate and submitted to Christ.  He wants us to hold back.  

But we have a weapon far greater than him.  There is POWER in the Name of Jesus.  And HE has the power to break all those chains Satan has placed upon us.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I want to share with you an excerpt from an article that really spoke to me.  Jesus truly loves us more than we can imagine. Maybe you need to be reminded of that today, just as I do.

Above Rubies, Issue # 84:  My Sheep, Mushies (by Kate Marchiniak)

Whenever I think back on this season of shepherding, a "Mushies" story is forever etched in my memory. It was a sunny day. I had gone into town to do the weekly errands, leaving the sheep contentedly grazing.  As I hopped out of the car on my return, the sound of continual bleating filled the air.  Something was up. It was Mushies. Her bleats were desperate.

I walked into the field. She immediately ran over, stood right in front of me, looked up at my face, and stamped her hoof, her bleats becoming more desperate by the minute.  My heart sank. I knew instinctively what had happened- a coyote had taken her lamb. She was trying to say to me, "Where have you taken my baby? What have you done with her?"

To fully understand her anguish, Mushies was the only orphan that had not conceived for many lambing seasons.  Usually, any infertile ewe is culled from the flock as production is important in a flock, but her special relationship with the shepherd saved her!

[...] As I looked down at my bleating Mushies, my heart went out to her. I tried to console her. Of course, I could not convey to her that it wasn't me that had taken her lamb. It was the enemy! It was living in a rugged land! She cried for days and wouldn't have anything to do with me for weeks.

I never loved her more. As her shepherd, my heart ached, and I wept over her loss. She never conceived again. Even as I type, I feel again the pain she went through!

Our Shepherd, Jesus, aches over our pain and weeks over the seasons of our loss, never loving us more. That can often sound trite in a season of pain, but, truly, there is no one who cares for us like Him.  Who knows us like our Shepherd? [...]

Truth rings from the old hymn, "No one ever cared for me like Jesus.  There's no other friend so kind as He. No one else could take the sin and darkness from me. O how much He cares for me!"

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Marks of a Cult

Links worth checking out

The Marks of Cultism by Zac Poonen
Some great points made in this article.  We believe that Christianity (as a culture) is becoming largely cultish, and Poonen's article is a reflection of what we have seen and experienced. He defines a cult as a group that lifts up another person (or persons) to Christ status (a worship-like attitude of the messenger, whose word is held up as "gospel truth" rather than tested against scripture), has a book in addition to the bible that is regarded to be as infallible as the bible itself (Poonen writes, "Many cultistic groups may deny that they give such a place to the writings of their founder. But their attitude towards that one book indicates that they do place it on equality with the Bible. Their actions speak louder than their words.") which may include teachings, articles, catechisms, or hymns, is highly exclusive in their fellowship ("Cultistically-minded believers feel that fellowship with other born-again believers outside of their own group has little or no spiritual value. [...] Such a group usually considers itself to be the only true church and believes that all those who belong to Christ's Bride will ultimately find their way to them," Poonen explains.), has no (or little) burden for evangelism ("While there may be some cultistic groups that engage in evangelism on a limited scale among the heathen, generally speaking, most cultistic believers work only among other Christians. They do not have any desire to preach the gospel to every creature, as Jesus commanded (Mark 16:15). Instead, they major only on making disciples to their own group from among other believers.").

Poonen also points out that cults often devalue part of the gospel message- Justification by Faith.  "Scripture does speak of works as the proof of our faith (James 2:24). But Scripture also teaches that "to the one who does not work, but believes in Him Who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom.4:5). The danger here is not just one of imbalance, but of heresy - for when one Biblical truth is carried to an extreme, to the exclusion of other Biblical truths, it can become a heresy. And further, if we hold a Biblical doctrine, but never teach it in our churches, it will become equivalent to our not believing in it at all. For unspoken truth, like an unused muscle, loses its function gradually and is finally lost altogether to the church. "The truth does not lie in one extreme or the other. Much less does it lie in the middle. The truth lies in both extremes held together." We must be careful that our teaching is not a reaction to the extremes that others have gone to. Many preachers have indeed turned the teaching of justification by faith into licence for sin. But that should not make us throw away this Scriptural truth, and go to the opposite extreme of preaching justification by works alone. Cultistic believers, generally speaking, preach on justification by good works only. Hinduism and all heathen religions do that too. If at all a cultistic believer speaks on Romans 4, it will be in such a way as to prove that Romans 4 also teaches justification by works!! Cultistic believers usually play down the truth of "Christ becoming our righteousness" (1 Cor.1:30), and major only on "the righteousness of the law being fulfilled in us" (Rom.8:4)."

There is real danger there, as we depend on that grace and the promise of Christ as our righteousness.  We cannot forget that God's word clearly says that even our righteous works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Jesus Christ did not die so that our own works would suddenly become righteous. We have been crucified and risen with Him so that His works may live through us.

Poonen's goes on to state that other marks of cultism are secrecy of beliefs (When confronted with an issue that has no scriptural foundation, they may state, "You just need to have faith."  In my experience, cultish groups may guard writings or recordings [sermons] because they do not want them to get into the "wrong hands".  If you are preaching the Truth of God from His Holy Word, you do not have to worry about whose hands it falls into.) and the demand of uniformity among members (lots of good points he makes in regards to this).