Wednesday, October 23, 2019

In Light of Recent Events

In general, I never really felt like I fit into Christian culture.  I wasn't ever struggling with big issues like my sexuality, but something about me, just wasn't what I perceived as the acceptable way to be a Christian.

I loved Jesus and I loved my church.  I was blessed to grow up in a good one.  Pastor Grant Edwards and Pastor John Essig not only spoke the word of God from a pulpit on Sundays, but also in the way they lived.  When I needed someone to talk to John Essig's door was open and when my mom, sister and I had no where to go in the middle of messy life with my abusive stepdad, Grant and his family welcomed us into their homes on more than one occasion.  I didn't just see Jesus from my sermon notes, I saw Him in everyday life throughout the years I was able to go to Fellowship in Springfield, Ohio.

When I went to college, I not only struggled with finding healing from past abuse and my abortion, but I also struggled with my role in the church.  TCU is a great school and Texas is a great state, but so many churches made it clear, a woman wasn't allowed in leadership.

It led to a tension that I had to come to grips with.  I wanted to serve God and honor him and if that meant I couldn't lead, well I would figure it out, but I also felt God's nudge for me to lead and I was stuck in needing a resolution between these sides.  I can recall conversations I had in those years.  One particularly with my roommate who asked me something like, "Carrie, what if you are the only Christian in a country where no one knows Jesus, are you just supposed to keep quiet because you're a woman?"

When I came to Visalia after graduation and before going to Colorado, my dad introduced me to Bible scholar, Kenneth Bailey.  In fact, I got to hear him speak in southern California on my trek up to Visalia.  Kenneth Bailey in his life, looked at the Middle Eastern roots of the scriptures and showed how, in a culture where women weren't allowed to do anything, Jesus gave space for them to be his disciples, apostles, elders and even witnesses to major events. 

This point was driven home by theologian J├╝rgen Moltmann when he said “without women preachers, we would have no knowledge of the resurrection.”

Yes, there are scriptures about women being silent in church, but again understanding the context behind the scripture gleans new meaning.  I also got to sit in a Jewish Synagogue in Jerusalem and understood first hand why a woman, sitting with other women, unable to hear and unable to read, might want to call down to her husband for clarity and why, for the order of the service, be asked to wait until she got home. 

There are also scriptures that say in Christ we aren't male or female, slave or free (Galatians 3:28) and that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit on all people regardless of fleshly distinction (Acts 2:17).  White, black, brown, male, female, isn't a thing in God's world, we are his people.

We can't take one scripture and build an entire theology around it, we must instead take it all as a collective message and draw our conclusions from the whole.

Gaining understanding gave me peace.  It helped me to know God had given me the clearance to go wherever he called me.  Even though I felt the leadership tug, I never planned to go into ministry.  What started as a temporary Youth Pastor position became a lifetime commitment as I now stand in the humble position of Associate Pastor in our church.

 I hear it said often that its 2019, times have changed, but if that is all it was, I couldn't be a pastor.  That wouldn't be reason enough for me.  Regardless of the year, the Bible makes the case for women in leadership and I can stand on its truth.  I know others can make a case for the opposite and as long as we can live in a place of mutual respect, I’m okay with the disagreement. Aside from my own personal quest, women in ministry is a non-essential.  Its an area we can agree to disagree.

So why am I even talking about this?  Well if you are in the Christian community at all, or know someone who is, you probably know about the latest John MacArthur/Beth Moore debacle.  A recent conference included a panel to include John MacArthur, where they were asked to play a game, a game of word association, but instead of just a fun game of - blue - sky - rain - clouds - white...they did what they have done before and listed a Christian leader and were asked to comment in a judgemental fashion.

This time they named, Beth Moore.  She was called a Narcissist, told to "Go Home" and John MacArthur went as far as to say, “There is no case that can be made Biblically for a woman preacher, period, paragraph, end of discussion.” To which an audience cheered, laughed, clapped and jeered.

The game alone is appalling, especially on a stage as a Christian witness, but to also put yourself on the pinnacle of Scripture authority to whom no one can disagree, is arrogant at best.  What happened to the humility we are to have as leaders in the Christian faith?  What happened to honoring the body?  This is not the way we were called to live. We were called to be different.  To live in love in the face of discord and disagreement.  I loved Pastor Jeremy Hudson's response on Facebook, and especially resonated with this section, 

"The roaring laughter and applause from the audience seems to indicate that the Church has gotten more comfortable taking our dialogue cues from the pages of politics rather than the pages of Scripture.

Let me be clear; It is never, Never, NEVER ok to attack someone else because you disagree with their view point. That was how the Pharisees did it, not Jesus."

Kathrin Koehler comment on Jeremy's post poignantly describes the scene when she says, "Listening to the audio of this conference was almost surreal... like an excerpt from the Hunger Games with host Caesar Flickerman."

So in a world so divided on so many issues, how did God tell us to act? 

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18)

"The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another." (1 John 3:11)

"Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins." (1 Peter 4:8)

"Do all your work in love." (1 Corinthians 16:14)

"Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together." (Ephesians 4:2-3)

We are a world of people all different and can all read these non-essential faith concepts and understand if differently.  When we respect that and love in the face of difference we resemble Christ, we learn, and grow as people.  Beth Moore has apparently read these passages above, because when it came time to respond, instead of throwing her jabs back over the fence, she responded in love, as one of her tweets ends in, "I esteem you as my sibling in Christ."  Wow! That would take a lot of prayer and submission to God for me to use that line.  Way to Go Beth! 

Trust me we are going to disagree on a lot of topics between now and the time we die, but as Christians, how we respond is just as important as the truth in our response.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Its Not Sin

Being a Christian in 2019 is hard and the biggest reason its so hard is because "Christian" can mean a variety of things based on who you are talk to.  That is confusing.  The Bible understood through context is really the only starting off place for knowing truly what a Christian is and what they believe.  As we navigate the definitions or the central beliefs, we have to be cautious with taking a belief as it comes from the lips of friends, family and acquaintances as a Bible-based Christian principle.  

March of this year, our dog was hit by a car, and in a process of a couple months, needed two surgeries, in that window, our 4-year old randomly started seizing and almost died in the local ER before recovering at the children's hospital about an hour away. 

Also in this time frame, we needed to get our roof replaced after some record rainfall left puddles in our house.  Just as we came out of all of that, our second dog and a neighbor dog got into a fight and we had to pay for the vet bills for the neighbor's dog.  

We then discovered my car was having trouble and had to be repaired.  In 5 months not only did we suffer these incidents and a few other ones too, but these incidents came with 5 major financial hits.  We went from being debt-free to $20,000 in debt and that is after the almost $10,000 we were able to pay off. 

As my husband discussed all of this with a friend, the friend (self-proclaimed fellow Christian) mentioned to my husband that maybe we had some sin in our lives that was causing all of this.  

Insert eye roll here.  Bad theology rears its ugly head.  To set the record straight, that comment is wrong!  Negative life happenings is not automatically a result of sin. If you are in question of that, read the book of Job in the Bible.  Job's friends accused Job of sin when his world was rocked, but God set them straight.  Life is hard.  

I'm not saying God never punished someone, and I'm also not saying, natural consequences of our choices isn't a thing, because it is.  But just because you go through a hard time, doesn't mean, you have sin in your life. It also doesn’t mean God has forgotten you.  God is always with us in the midst of the hard times and the good. You are a human being living in the imperfect world.  God does make us a promise in the hard times. 

 John 16:33 says, 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We are promised peace in the middle of the mess we call life. As Christians, we know this world is not our home.  That eternal home is heaven.  Our goal should never be a problem free life.  Instead it should be to follow Jesus and to trust him in the midst of whatever storm we have endured.  If I'm being honest, some of my biggest blessings and strongest traits were forged out of the hard things I went through in life.  A few of them were a result of sin, but God didn't forget about me or abandon me.  He let me figure it out and when I came back running, he was there.  He guided me and I followed and I was better for it.  

Sin is the wrong we do against God, and it does separate us from God.  The point of dealing with sin is so that we may be closer to our Creator.  Its not just wrong actions but attitudes and when we read the Bible, we see that the religious leaders who acted above the law and spent their time condemning the people, were living in sin.     

Each of us as friends should be supportive for those in our lives as they walk through life, waiting to cast judgement when we don't have all the information. We are best at speaking wisdom when its wrapped in love.  We also should take time to reflect into our own lives.  David is a great example of how we should approach God.  He was humble as he asked God to search him and lead him to in the right way (Psalm 139).  We all have areas we could improve or change, even in the smallest of ways.  Go to God and ask him if there is sin in your life, but not because you are fearful of being zapped, but because life connect to Jesus is the best life! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Who Is At The Door?

Yesterday, I woke up at 3:40am after hearing the doorbell ring twice.  Kevin headed to the door and I was worried about pending danger.  The thing is, when I woke up, I realized the door bell and Kevin headed to do the door were both a dream.  My husband was still sound asleep beside me.  But the fear I felt in that moment, woke me up.   I immediately thought of an episode of Criminal Minds (a show I stopped watching when I had kids because the reality of the scripts were too real for me to process).  This episode of Criminal Minds was about a serial killer that approached people's front door with the ruse of a broken down vehicle, then used the open door to kill. 

As I sat up awake, I began to think about the front door.  That front door we all have with the cute wreath and Amazon packages out piled high can bring so many things into your home and ultimately, your life.  It can bring danger, it can bring a stranger, it can bring a package or a friend or family member.  Until we look through the glass or eye hole, we don't know what is at our front door.  We have a chose to open the door, ignore it or in emergency situations call the police. 

The front door is our gate to decide who we let in and who we keep out.  Our home is our domain and who we let in is important.  It can offer us joy and safety, annoyance, an opportunity to help or receive or it can bring fear.  Depending upon who is at the door, depends on what can happen.  

Then I started thinking of Jesus.  Yes, Jesus is close to most thoughts.  I had a classmate ask me in high school keyboarding class if my password for class was Jesus, so obviously, that fact that I love Jesus, isn't a secret.  By the way, my password was cheese - ha! Okay, I got off topic.  Do you know what word picture Jesus uses when he talks about a relationship with you and me?  You got it.  Its a door.

Romans 3:20 -  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me."

Jesus offers us the opportunity to have a relationship with him and he approaches us and allows us to decide if we will grant him access to our lives.  We get to choose.  I don't know about you (or even if we are on the same page here), but I love serving a God who is a gentleman; a God who lets me choose him.  But seriously guys, Jesus at the front door is an amazing reality! Can you imagine your favorite human hero or celebrity rolling up at your house and tapping at your front door?  What kind of reaction would that spawn?  Yet here the Bible tells us that Jesus, who is God, always was and always will be God, at your door!  We have an opportunity to connect with the Creator of the Universe, knocking on our door! Crazy cool!!!  He loves each of us just because we are his creation and he wants to know each of us! 

What do you want for your life?  We have all kinds of choices and sometimes we act like we don't have a choice, but we do.  After being a Christian for awhile we take for granted the huge opportunity we have to connect with Jesus, but that opportunity is there.  Will you take it?  Will you open the door?   

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Mind Buffet

Golden Corral, Hometown Buffet, Cici's Pizza, Sizzler, Souplantation and the list goes on of all-you-can-eat buffets in our country.  When you think of a buffet its a bounty of food available to eat.  Pay your price and eat everything you can in the sitting.

Well recently, I thought about another buffet.  The mind buffet.  What am I talking about?  I talking about the thoughts we fixate on and allow our brains to consume.  As I've been reading through,"Afraid of All the Things: Tornadoes, Cancer, Adoption, and Other Stuff You Need the Gospel For," by Scarlet Hiltibidal , I was reminded of the importance of what we mentally feed on.

If your fear is being struck by lightening, feeding on YouTube videos of people struck by lightening isn't going to help. It will in fact feed the fear that you don't want to grow.  That fear will get bigger.  You don't want that.  Living in fear is living in bondage.  You become a slave to the thing you fear.

As Scarlet points out in her book, the probability of you actually going through that thing you fear is slim to none.  In his book, "When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life," Dr. David D Burns, talks about a lie many people live by that says by worrying about something, they can keep it from happening, when in reality, worrying about it doesn't have any bearing on whether or not it happens.  

Feeding what fuels you towards peace is the best way to help yourself.  Here are some scriptures to help you in that journey.

Proverbs 4:23 - Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

2 Corinthians 10:5 - We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Colossians 3:2-5 - Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you did, and your life is now with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

I John 4:18 - There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Facing our fears with truth and love can be very powerful.  Feeding on truth and peace instead of fear is the best mind buffet we could ask for. If you are afraid of financial ruin, focus on being wise with your money and then trust God with the rest.  Financial ruin can happen to any of us and so many things are out of our control, so focusing on that doesn't help, but creating budgets and wise investing, etc, can be a great action step.

Obviously, if fear or anxiety is out of control, speaking to your doctor and/or therapist, is a necessary step.  I don't want to oversimplify a complex issue, but I do think checking what we are feeding on is something we all can do!

Happy Wednesday!