A Divided World, A Divided Nation, A Divided Church, A Divided Home, A Divided Marriage, A Divided Soul…

Crack

(FreeImages.com/AndrewHildebrand)

There is so much that can unify us, but when I look around, I see so much division!

I see a divided world: first-world countries versus third-world countries.  I see a divided nation: very clearly defined differences in ideologies/beliefs and political systems.  I see a divided church: legalism versus grace versus faux-grace and one denomination against another denomination.  I see divided homes: parents warring against children and vise versa.  I see divided marriages: marriages that elevate one gender against the other and one belief system against another.  I see divided souls: people that walk in confusion, doubts, unrest, and inconsistency.  I see divided identities…

I see a world that reflects nations that reflects churches that reflects families that reflects marriages that reflects souls.

I see so many divided souls because the pains/wounds and mistakes of the past still imprison the present and the futures, unless truth/life is allowed to bring healing.

This can seem to over-simply things, but it is not a simple process.  It takes layers of healing to occur before we begin to stop living from the past and begin to live from the future.

We experience pain in our past, and we decide to live differently.  In fact, we will often pick something very different from our past and think that choice and system of belief will guarantee that we have moved on.

We understand that the systems of our past were broken and faulty, but what we don’t understand is what wholeness looks like. 

Without understanding wholeness ourselves, we will hop from one broken system to another.  They may have a different name, appearance, and message, but the crazy thing is they can often be just the other side of the coin that we had in the past.

Just picking a different system does not guarantee that we are headed into true life, freedom, and healing.

The problem is that when we are wounded, we will choose something different, but the different is not necessarily all whole and good itself. 

At first, the different feels good, safe, and liberating.  It’s a break from those things and people that wounded us in the past.  After awhile though, we begin to realize that throwing off one yoke doesn’t mean we haven’t picked up another yoke with which to replace it.

In fact, the nature of woundedness means we will often pick up another yoke just as heavy or heavier than the one before.  It just looks different and feels different so we don’t realize that it is still a yoke.

And… Freedom is not living a life free of any constraints, responsibilities, expectations, structures, or truth to guide us. 

Something in life is always compelling us.  It’s either others, a system, a belief, or ourselves.

We hear that we are to live freely for ourselves — that we dream our biggest dreams and allow no one to hold us back.

We think that by breaking free from others we break free ourselves.  There is some merit to this.  We don’t want to live to please everyone else, but on the other hand, we don’t want to live to please ourselves or that is the ultimate form of narcissism.

How do we therefore break free from people and at the same time break free from ourselves?

When you have felt the bondage of control and manipulation by others, you often think that freedom means the absence of accountability, structure, or response on our parts.  You think it means that you are free to live and believe however you choose.  To a huge extent, you are.  We are free to choose what we believe and how we live, but we are never free from the outcomes of those choices — just like, thank God, neither are those who have hurt us!

Do we really want a world that is devoid of consequences or accountability? 

Do we really want a world that chooses to live for self in order to liberate self?  Does that really make sense?

Can we be liberated if we live in bondage to the whims and desires of self?

Ultimately, we will also hold others captive to our own selfish desires.

…And… Can we really live free when we merely live in a reactionary state from the past?  Is that not still living under the influence of the past?

The point is we may choose something different because it is different, and maybe we will find something true and good in the process, but maybe we won’t.

If we are simply living from reactionary mode, our decisions are not based on clear and truthful thinking.  Reactionary mode means that we are unable to accurately position ourselves and our beliefs on a foundation of clear and stable thinking.

What then is the answer?

Find healing.  Be aware of your sources.  Find God for Himself rather than the twisted examples perhaps you were shown.  Find Him where He reveals Himself: creation, His Word (take off others glasses when reading it), simply communicate with Him.  Talk with Him, ask Him your questions, and listen.

Know that freedom is more than throwing off bondage.  It’s replacing it with truth. 

Truth is actually the surest form of freedom there is.

I hear though a lot of people who react to the word truth.  There are several reasons for this response: reaction to their past (haven’t healed fully yet), they are still in the state of living ultimately for themselves, they are reacting to twisted thinking that was portrayed as “truth,” and they don’t actually understand what truth is.

If you want to know truth, find God.  Seek Him.  Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and then listen, observe, and ponder.

Luke 20:21

21 Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth:

John 1:14

The Word Becomes Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 8:32

32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

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The Church

Church on a hill

(FreeImages.com/Aleš Čerin)

God is the Architect, Jesus is the Builder, and the Holy Spirit is He who breathes the life of God into the structure.  — Marilyn Hickey

To the above quote, I would add, “And the Body of Christ is the Building.”

What a lovely way of describing the Source, Foundation, Life, and Structure of the Church!

An Act Of Worship

this would be a sweet background!

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=358948&searchId=f7b0e354b768a2e09b31aa55744ef613&npos=16)

Sometimes, it’s easier to “do” church, to “do” worship then it is to really worship. 

Ever been there? 

I have been there before, thinking I was so “righteous” in my worship because I could state certain “Church-ese” phrases so eloquently.  I have thought in the past that I was worshiping God because my manner was so “holy”.  I have thought I was worshiping God because I was in a place that appeared to be worshipful.

The truth is worship is never about the outward.  It’s not about the look or feel of a place.  It’s not about the people in the place.  It’s not about the appearance of the other worshipers — their sobriety or their demonstrative expressions of worship.  Worship isn’t limited to a specific emotion.  Worship isn’t limited to a place or a group of people.

Worship is about a Person.  It’s about Jesus.  It’s about God the Father who sacrificed His very Son to give us a tangible example of what love really is.

I Googled the definition of worship off Thesaurus.com.  The following list includes other words that describe worship:

According to these other words, worship expresses a heart attitude (awe, love, veneration, adulation, adoration, glory, praise, etc…).

Worship describes a heart attitude that then expresses itself in adoration, praise, service, love, prayer, devotion, etc…

Exodus 20:3

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

God is to be the object of our worship.  Ultimately, He has the right to ask this of us as He is the One to Whom we owe our very lives, life, and eternity. 

Atheists refuse to recognize that there is a Sovereign Power that holds this universe together.  Yet, there is a “Force” keeping atoms from flying apart.  There is a Force that started matter/life in the beginning.

Even our very breaths pay homage to our Creator.  Here’s a quote from Jason Gray’s blog http://www.rabbitroom.com/2011/08/is-the-name-of-god-the-sound-of-our-breathing:

“…God’s name, YHWH, is comprised of aspirated consonants that, spoken, are the sound of breathing.”

So every time we breathe, our bodies literally say God’s name!  Is this just “happenstance,” or is it not significant to know that the God who created us would put His very name within each breath we take to remind us that our lives are truly and literally dependent upon His life within us?

Worship occurs every time we place ourselves in full surrender to God and hand over the reigns of control to Him.

So often we want everything on our terms — even our so-called “worship”.  We want to think God is limited to specific places, people, positions, practices, phrases, etc… The reality is God is worshiped among any and all who are surrendered to Him.

Every time, personal ambitions are put aside and we are surrendered to God’s working in and through our lives, God is worshiped.

Today, maybe you are feeling overwhelmed by the drudgery of your current affairs.  Perhaps, life feels bitterly cruel to you today because of current trials you are experiencing.  Perhaps, you are lonely or alone.  Perhaps, you are living in a home with an unsaved spouse or unsaved parents and siblings.  Perhaps, you are the only individual at your work who is saved or appears to be saved.

This is for you, my friend.  No matter where you are, with whom you are, how you are feeling today, you have something to offer to God.  You have yourself!

The gift God asks and wants more than anything else is You!  Yes, You! 

God doesn’t ask you to wait to come to Him or to wait to be used by Him until you are “all-beautified” or “perfected”.   God wants us to come as we are to Him.  God asks us to give ourselves to Him — just as we are. 

Dear friends, He will take the rubbish.  He will take the wounds.  He will take the sickness.  He will take the hurts.  He will take the past.  He will take us just as we are, and He will transform and redeem what we give to Him.

Yes, dear friends, this is grace!  Jesus just wants you.  It means though that you have to surrender to Him, offer yourself to Him, and stop trying to fix what you can’t fix.

It’s all about the holy act of surrender — that is the essence of worship.

Surrender to God, and allow yourself to be a gift of worship to Him, revealing the matchless grace and power of Jesus!

The glory is and always has been His all along.

He is the reason we live and breathe and hope!

Job 33:4

“The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

Doctrine Or Is It Tradition?

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Anyone who has previously read my posts on the subject of truth knows that I believe in absolutes.  Setting that aside, let’s delve into the topic of doctrine versus tradition.

So many churches cling to their traditions.  These traditions were often established to give a sense of order and “security” to those who like the comfort of familiarity and order within their worship.

Order is good and beneficial.  In fact, God is a God of order.  Most of life functions better within some sort of order.  The opposite is true; randomness breeds chaos.

The danger with our forms of order and/or traditions is the following:

  • Tradition can easily become so familiar that it becomes part of what we “worship.”  Worship may seem like a strong term to use, but if we follow something with no willingness to change the way we practice it, then it is part of what we obey and therefore “worship.” 
  • Sometimes, the practices we follow are more a result of the familiar and personal preferences then of actual conviction or of Divine guidance.

It can become difficult to distinguish between what is doctrine and what is tradition. Differentiating between the two is extremely important.

Tradition is an order, a form, a preference, a practice that has been established over a length of time (generally passed down from generations).  It is merely a personal preference.  This does not make it necessarily wrong in and of itself.  It can become very wrong though when it is adhered to with as much staunch teaching and in practice as if it was doctrine itself.

Doctrine is clear, Biblical teaching, based on the truth of God’s Word.  It is to be obeyed. 

It is also important to delineate between major and minor doctrines.  So often minor doctrines are emphasized as if they are major doctrinal tenets of our faith.  As some have said, “Don’t major in the minor.”  And another famous cliche’, “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.”

What becomes even more dangerous is when we are unwilling to change when it becomes apparent that the tradition is no longer applicable and has no reason for staunch loyalty due to its lack of Scriptural teaching.

Fear and pride can be the “root” of many of our traditions and resulting practices.  On the surface, it can all sound good, spiritual, and wise.  Yet, if we put our traditions above actual Scriptural teachings and use it to become the “pulpit” upon which we “bully”, ostracize, or discipline fellow Christians, we must ask ourselves, “What is really behind why we do the things we do?”

I love the following quotes taken from the book, Think Differently, Live Differently by Bob Hamp.  He said:

“Familiarity becomes tradition and unbending tradition becomes rigidity. Rigidity refers to a way of viewing reality. It is a mindset that says, ‘We’ve always done it this way, and change is evil.’ … Rigidity is a way of thinking that limits the fluidity of life and in so doing, reduces the quality of life. The Pharisees believed that a crippled woman should stay crippled because people were not supposed to ‘work’ (including healing) on the Sabbath. But Jesus healed her on the Sabbath because He had a bigger and better understanding about the true purpose of that day. Rigidity is not the same as order, though its proponents would say it is. It does not allow for change, growth, context, priority or any one of a multitude of factors that influence life. Rigidity is often the precursor to collapse. In the building industry, architects and engineers have discovered that in order to build earthquake-proof buildings, they must allow room for flex. When the ground moves, a building that is too rigid will topple. If the structure has some ‘give’ to it, it will sway with the movement and remain standing and intact.”

Traditions can replace the life of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but there is “fluidity” where God’s Spirit is working.

Don’t let your order become your god.

Saturday Fun!

This past Saturday, Jonathan and I had fun helping with a singles’ conference at our church. It was great to see everyone who came, to watch their fun, to converse with everyone, to hear the good messages, and to taste the delicious cooking! We were both very encouraged! This was our second singles’ conference at our church, and we are hoping it continues to be a blessing throughout the years. We already have our speaker scheduled for next year. Getting ready for the conference and the conference itself was our Saturday so I don’t have a whole lot more to write about. 🙂

Playing Church

One evening when Jonathan had come home from work he called me to quickly come see what the boys were doing. They were sitting side by side on our prone Pac ‘N Play, holding books in their hands and singing. Their riding cars were parked nearby. Singing a definite tune, the following words were sung, “On Bethlehem, Christ died for my sins… Christ died for my sins… Christ died for my sins… on Bethlehem.” Will then said that they were at church.