Category Archives: Empty Nest

The attraction model

cross

When my home church of 15 years started using the “the attraction” model to drive church growth it seemed like a good idea, at first.
But after 5+ years of watching this model in action, I’ve witnessed the scattering of sheep (believers) from that church in search of a “shepherd” and the same apostasy in an alarming number of churches as I’ve sought to find a new home church.

I say apostasy with certainty because the attraction model is in direct conflict with God’s word. It is a different gospel — one based on social justice and “love” for all. Nowhere in the bible is there an example of Jesus making friends with nonbelievers, or Him starting a campaign or vision to right a social injustice.

No, He went right to the heart of the manner with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4: 7-32), at the dinner table with Levi and the publicans (Luke 5: 27-33), and with the young rich man who wanted to know how to go to heaven (Matt 19:16-30), just to name a few examples.

He didn’t lift the woman at the well from her “circumstances.” Instead He gave her liberty from her sin (Romans 6:18). Believers are not instructed to liberate people. That is Jesus job. That is why He died. He’s the ONLY one who can set people free. Even in the worst circumstances — slavery, abuse, poverty — people CAN be free.

Jesus told them the truth and that was the most loving thing He could do. He proclaimed the the gospel Romans 6:23 puts it in the most succinct terms – For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gal 1:6-10 warns against another gospel. It says – 6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

The other reason I say this is apostasy is because James 4:4 and John 15: 9-19 both say that friendship with the world is to be an enemy of God. If the world hates us, know it hated Him before it hated us.

James 4:4 says – Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

John 15: 9-19 brings the point home. It says –
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
18 If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

People who insist on making friendships and alliances with lovers of the world need to check their doctrine against God’s word. And I don’t mean the watered-down version of the holy book, but a literal, word for word translation of the bible (ESV, NASB, KJV etc.).

The truth is offensive because it IS narrow-minded and unchanging, but Christians are tasked with proclaiming the good news (the gospel of Jesus Christ) – Mk 15:16.

Even when the culture changes, God does not.
If He kowtowed to men’s whims or changing self-centered values, what kind of God would He be?
I’m afraid not powerful enough.

Our God is almighty with resources and power beyond what we can imagine. He is unchanging, merciful and long-suffering.
And I’m so thankful for that.

Advertisements

The divorce (from the pattern of the world)

divre

For a few weeks now, the word “rigid” has come to mind, particularly so because for the past 11 months, my husband and I have been actively searching for a new church home.

Some may say that we’ve become rigid in our older years, that our standards are too unrealistic, but our standards haven’t changed in our whole adult (Christian) life. Our former church, which we were members of for more than a decade, and many other church’s standards have changed.

In our church, the change started soon after the installation of a new pastor five years ago. Even though the new pastor was much younger than us, we kept an open mind about his ability to lead a flock because our thought was that everyone has to start somewhere, right?

That, and we were highly involved with several ministries at the church so we weren’t going to hightail it out of there on the first Sunday we felt uncomfortable. We were members, after all.

We wanted to keep our emotion about the change in pastors out of the equation and be discerning about his preaching/teaching/leading of our large congregation, but soon after he came, many of the “older” members left to find other church homes.

In the five years since the change, we have watched our once vibrant Sunday school class of 100, dwindle to a mere handful along with the complete disappearance of many other classes. In January of 2012, we decided to leave the church as well.

It’s been very much like a divorce in that we became uncomfortable because we no longer shared the same views, standards or goals as our church. We’d grown apart, and just as in many divorces, the church family was split in different directions as they sought to bring back consistency, direction and order to their lives.

The other thing we noticed after leaving was how much God was directing our new “home church” search. We’ve visited several churches looking for solid “bible” teaching. You wouldn’t think it would be hard since all preachers are called to teach/lead their flocks, but the meaning of that has taken a strange and dangerous twist.

Instead of “preaching or teaching” from the bible, many churches we’ve visited (and our former church included) have started using excerpts of one or two bible verses along with a devotional, or other material written in the last couple of centuries. The writings may or may not be those of a Christian, but are usually from someone with some wisdom. Or, they may forgo the bible altogether and just use man-inspired material for instructing the flock.

I’m not saying that devotionals or other materials are bad. What I am saying is that Romans 12 instructs believers not to conform to this world, but if preachers are teaching how we should “get along” or “how we live” in this world, and aren’t using the bible for instruction, reproof and correction as 2 Tim 3:15-16 says, aren’t they teaching us how to conform to the culture. How to fit in?

This is completely opposite what believers are instructed to do.

Something believers need to be wary about is that when a church is more concerned with finding or using material that everyone can understand, they are at risk for misleading their flock. Because God’s book — the Holy Bible — is whole. It is everything we need and should not to be added to, nor taken away from (Revelation 22: 18-19). According to 2 Corinthians 3:12-17, God removes the veil when we turn into Him so that we can understand His truth. By watering down (rewriting) the gospel, it leaves no room for the work of the Holy Spirit to give individuals understanding and clarity.

In John 5:37-40, Jesus says if His father’s words do not abide in us then we believe not. To back up a bit to verse 24, for those who hear His truth and believe will have everlasting life.

When we put our complete faith in God, the Holy Spirit abides in us and His truths: words/passages from the bible that formerly made no sense to us, are made clear to us because the veil has been removed.

My husband and I think we may have found a church we can call home. They so far, are teaching/preaching the bible from the pulpit. It is a small congregation, with a pastor whose focus and responsibility is on caring for his flock.

You might call that rigid, but I call it obedience to Romans 12.


The slave vs. the servant:

Do you know the difference?

I had en ephiphany this morning. Some months ago, I read the book Redemption by Mark Driscoll, which by the way, I won’t recommend reading, but will elaborate on why later on in this blog.

One of the key ideas in the book, is that we are slaves to our “idols” (distractions that keep us from full relationship with God) much like the Israelites in the book of Exodus. The book says that we need to get rid of our idols and become “slaves” to righteousness.

As a mature Christian, I understand what Mark means, but the word “slave” never set well with me because the word has a negative connotation.

Many months ago, I started reading the KJV version of the bible instead of the NIV. I understand it nowdays in a way I never could before. (Thank you Jesus for lifting the veil.) For quite some time, I’ve been matching verses in both translations to see where they differ and if the changes, change the meaning. Many times, the NIV simply takes out the “thee’s,” “thou’s,” and words ending in “eth.” I don’t have a problem with that, but I am noticing in some places where replacing a word with a similar word, changes the meaning.

I think the slave vs. servant is one of those “key” changes that could be problematic in sharing the gospel with nonbelievers.

Websters dictionary defines a slave as one who is bound in servitude as the property of a person or household. Slavery is a condition of hard work and subjection.

The definition of servant is one who expresses submission, recognizance, or debt to another: obedient servant.

These definitions are vastly different as one means you have no choice in the matter, the other means a willing submission, obedience to your debtor.

If you look in the bible for verses that speak to our attitude towards a relationship with God, the NIV uses the word “slave” instead of “servant,” and while it seems the difference is slight, stop to ponder what you think and what you feel about both of those words.

For example:
Romans 6:17-18 – (NIV) 17 “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
(KJV)17 “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”

Colossians 3:22 – (NIV) 22 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”
(KJV) 22 “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;”

Ephesians 6:5 – (NIV) 5 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”
(KJV) 5 “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;”

I’m not saying the NIV is bad, but I think that it’s always a good practice to balance it against the King James to make sure that the meaning has not been lost in translation.

The relationship we have in Christ we’ve chosen in total freedom; and not under the threat of slavery.

When I think of slavery, I think of being owned by someone. It is very negative and makes me think of torture, neglect, being shackled without choice.

When I think of servant, I automatically think of choice: The freedom to choose to serve someone or something. I also think of it as a selfless act of love and gratitude.

Many people are in some sort of bondage to something (eg. TV, video games, drinking, drugs, porno, overeating, to name a few) but isn’t it really that we’ve just chosen to serve those things rather than serve God fully?

When we look at the meaning of servant over slave, we can understand that it was our willfull choice to think, live and act the way we do.

I know. It’s hard to put ourselves under the microscope, but to live as a believer, we must be brutally honest with ourselves. We choose to serve many, many things, but when we become addicted to those things, it truly becomes slavery. We are in bondage.

The good news is that God provides a way for us to be completely “free” of anything that separates us from Him. The question is, do we really, really want that?

As I said earlier, the book called Redemption by Mark Driscoll, makes a valid point in that our “idols” enslave us and keep us from relationship with God, but the book also says that it’s better to be a slave to Christ (righteousness) than a slave to an addiction.

This is where I have to step away from it. Why would people in their right mind choose slavery to one thing to slavery over another? Why would we choose to be a slave to a master we can’t see, don’t know, or understand over being a slave to a material or physical things we can touch, feel, experience?

We don’t have to be in ANY kind of slavery. God lets us willfully, freely choose Him.

If you really want to be free to serve a mighty God, the bible is the best book for that; however, in the beginning, you may need help navigating through the passages. Neil T. Anderson has written several books on Freedom in Christ. But there are two I’m thinking about specifically that do a wonderful job of helping people become free — “Victory Over the Darkness” and “Bondage Breaker.”

I encourage anyone who is reading this blog, to take a good look at your life.

What fills your time?

Many of us have to work (and no, that’s not slavery — we get to choose who we serve) but outside of that, how do we spend our “free” time? Do we fill it with kid activities (sports, dance, play dates, etc.) and/or adult activities (hobbies, movies, exercise, etc.)?

None of those are bad things, but inside your daily living, how much time is spent “serving” God? Spending time with God?

To be healthy, we need a balance. It’s different for everyone, but through prayer and bible reading, God will guide you in every part of your life.


The purpose of scripture


2 Timothy 3

This is a really meaningful chapter, especially when you view it through the lens of our current culture.

It describes how people in latter days will act (vs. 2-5), what they think of God’s power (vs. 6-8), and their folly (vs. 9).

Verse 5 is particularly interesting in that it says “…having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.”

I would describe many church leaders this way. In my hometown, anyhow. But further on into the passage, it talks about defending the faith and how the scriptures are intended to be used. Vs. 15-17 says “15 And that from a child thou has known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

It is a challenge to find a church that uses scripture this way. Ten years ago, my home church taught this way. I can remember leaving church on many occasions feeling convicted and having to really consider my lifestyle, my thinking, my actions.

Nowadays, if I attend that same church, I may or may not hear a snippet of scripture, but I will definitely come away with feel-good fuzzy feelings.

I don’t mean that we can’t find comfort, strength and encouragement from God’s word. We certainly can, but in our current world, God’s word is twisted, edited or ignored and it’s used primarily for our glorification.

Today, believers who speak God’s truth and live by it are called judgmental, hypocritical, and mean. Where once, God’s word was used to guide our behavior and bring about healthy change, it is instead turned against the believer who is hated and is thought to be dangerous.

To be a true believer, you don’t fit in this world (culture), you will be hated, and you may end up paying for your faith with your life but what better way to live than for the glory of the kingdom. Matthew 10:22 says “And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”

I am praying mightily for and encouraging my family, friends and others, to prayerfully consider the teaching they get from their churches.

Matthew 7:13-14 says, “13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it.”

I don’t mean if you’re in a mega-church that you’re listening to false teaching, but I am asking that you really start paying attention. Thanks to the world wide web, there is a wealth of good, solid bible teaching/instruction at your fingertips. Start researching the doctrine and theology of the church you attend and match it against scripture. It’s the only doctrine there is. Any deviation, twisting or omission of God’s word is a false teaching.

Look for other sources for biblical teaching rather than just in your hometown. If you’re like me, you may be hard-pressed to find a church who meets God’s criteria, but you can find good pastors online or in smaller churches who use the bible as their only doctrine.

According to Psalm 119:105, God’s word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

I believe God’s word.

It is our guide, the very blueprint for our lives. I don’t need any other book to tell me how to live. God’s covered it all.

I’m just kicking myself for spending SO many years reading books on parenting, living happily, getting closer to God, when relying on God and believing His word, would’ve gotten me through all of that.

Today Lord, I trust you like none other. There is NO other truth than yours. John 14:16 Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.


The redeemer

All of us have a redemption story and most, if not all of them fall into one of four categories. Psalm 107 gives us a snapshot of what those types look like, but what do they look like in current culture?

The first type is the “Seeker.” (vs. 4-9)
The “Seeker” is someone who is a wanderer. They are hungry and thirsty for something meanginful that makes them feel important and happy, but everything they try is short-lived and offers immediate gratification, and leaves them wanting more. It’s a bit like eating Chinese food. You can eat a boatload of it. Stuff yourself, then an hour later, your hungry again.

Seekers also have no ties, no commitments, or no anchor in their lives. They remain aloof and always eager for the next adventure, the next thrill, or the next Chinese meal, hoping that will satisfy the deep longing they have.

Have you ever experienced the thrill of a fun and dangerous roller coaster ride or a parachute jump and then automatically wanted to do it again?

Seekers are forever searching for the fastest, dangerous roller coasters and highest, difficult parachute jumps in order to sustain the “adrenaline rush” they get from the activity.

The second type is the “Captive.” (vs. 10-16)
The “Captives” are people who are prisoners that live in darkness often shackled by something they cannot readily see. They are so enslaved sometimes that they remain in bondage until they die and many times they die as a result of the bondage.

You might be thinking that we don’t have slavery in our current culture, but almost all people are enslaved by something. Overeating, drugs, and drinking are some of the most obvious bonds, but watching questionable TV shows, listening to negative, degrading music, and participating in risky and damaging behaviors are invisible bonds that enslave us that no one but you knows about.

Repeating these types of behaviors over and over changes our perceptions and our thinking, which influences our decision-making processes and determines our behavior. It creates a pattern of sin that is very difficult to break. When this happens, you are enslaved.

The third category are “Fools.” (vs. 17-22)
No one wants to be in THIS category, yet many are. They are the people that think they know best. They also don’t understand their own limitations. Oftentimes, they get in situations where they’re in over their head, they feel overwhelmed, and they put themselves in danger without thinking about the ramifications.

These types of people, lose jobs, money and friendships and sometimes their lives for their foolish decisions. They reap what they sow.

The fourth type of person is “Self-Sufficient.” (vs. 23-32)
This type actually sounds like it should be a good type to be. These people are successful in business and in relationships. It seems that everything they touch turns to gold. Whatever they want, they go out there and grab it. People like this don’t see the need for God. As long as they can control their circumstances, they do well.

Being this type of person though is almost more dangerous than being any other type because they don’t leave any room for God. They think if they can’t make something happen, then it can’t be done.

In all of these scenarios, one thing is apparent. They all need deliverance (redemption) from themselves.

Seekers need a leader they can trust.
Captives need a savior who can liberate them from bondage.
Fools need wisdom which only comes from the truth of God’s word.
The self-sufficient need a deliverer when they can no longer control their circumstances.

Our path to a relationship with Christ is our own, but no matter what your redemption story is, there is only ONE redeemer.

God, through His son Jesus Christ is our leader, our savior, the source of wisdom and a deliverer who always provides a way of escape for us.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV) “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Thank you, Jesus!


The roadblock

I’m beginning to believe that ALL “self-help” books whether they are secular or religious in nature have one thing in common.
They are always a roadblock and many times a replacement for the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.

We the people, jack our lives up in so many ways, but instead of surrendering our complete will to God, our heavenly father, and His Holy Spirit, we look to human authors, human support/small groups, and the companionship of human beings instead of relying on the HS in our life to do the work of making us whole.

ALL self-help books promote “work.” But they promote US doing the work since we basically are the ones who jack up our lives, but think about it. As long as we rely on any other book outside God’s Holy Word, we are relying on another man’s intrepretation of what, when, or how we get redeemed from our sin.

There is only ONE way to redemption. Christ blood shed on the cross paid the debt of our troubles and our transgressions. He is “the way, the truth and the life.” -John 14:6

Many authors feel they are spirit-led to write books and other materials that guide us into a redemptive relationship with God, but I now believe that all other books that “resonate” with people for their “Best Life Yet,” their “Emotionally, Healthy, Spirituality” and so on and so forth (the list of self-help, self-awareness is SO extensive, I’m encouraging people to do their own research) are nothing more than a ploy to keep you from “true” redemption and “true” salvation.

Scripture backs this up:
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”

2 Peter 2:1-3 “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”

These are but a few verses warning of what happens in the latter days.

Let God teach you. If you are a willing pupil, he will reveal His truth to you.

He did it for me; He’ll do it for you.

In no other time in history is the believer more at risk. We live in a world of lies. People whom we respect are buying into the idea that the truth of the gospel should be watered down, re-written so that all people can understand God and the importance of Him in our lives. Much trust has been placed in pastors of churches who are already apostate and the church bodies don’t know it.

They have been deluded according to 2 Thessalonians 2:10-13 “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

The truth is that God does reveal Himself through His word. If you cannot understand it, you have a spiritual conflict. Someone or something is preventing you from hearing the truth.

Don’t let ANYONE get in the way of your salvation. It’s personal and it’s eternal. And, yes, it’s very unpopular to do this. Many will think you’re weird, you’ve gone off the deep end and many will lose their own family members, according to Matthew 10:34-38.

But if you start to feel like you’re an outcast and you’ve become counter-cultural, then you’re on the right track!


The translation


I’m a firm believer that God speaks to us primarily through His word. That’s the reason He wrote it. It is our source of truth.

The only “real” truth in a world full of lies.

Pastors translate passages of the bible and call it a sermon, authors write books and bloggers write blogs around snippets of scripture, and much our culture has been trained to read the bible via a daily devotional email or in hard-copy devotions that were made so popular over the last couple of decades.

I’m not going to bag on pastors or authors. I enjoy reading and listening to other people’s viewpoints about scripture, for sure, but I don’t always accept their view as “gospel truth.”

I know alot of people who say that certain authors break down the scripture in such a way that they can understand it.

That bothers me, because just the change of a word or a phrase, and the use of only one verse, can change the whole meaning and therefore the interpretation of scripture as well. When that happens, we are relying more on man’s interpretation than on God’s word to enlighten us to His truths.

I get a few different email devotions every morning and I read them, then I look up the same verses in different translations other than what the devotion used, and I look at the scriptures around the verse to get a sense of the context.

This brings understanding to God’s word.

For example, earlier this week someone shared a verse with me that had alot of meaning for them and they gave it as an encouragement to me. The verse Jeremiah 29:11 is well known in the NIV translation; it goes like this:

For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This verse is one that inspires such hope for Christians, but this is a bit different than what the King James version states.

KJV says “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

To put context ( vs. 1-13) around this verse, God is speaking to the elders, priests and others whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive and is warning them against false prophets. He implores them to listen to Him and gives instruction to them about seeking Him and praying to Him alone.

In many devotions, verse 11 in the NIV has been pulled out of context and is primarily crafted around “our plan, our prosperity, our hope.”

It’s a feel-good verse for sure, but how many Christians do you know who never get to realize positive plans, lose jobs/livelihoods, feel hopeless over a terminal illness or sudden death.

It’s seems a false hope to me.

The KJV version of this verse seems to say that the Lord was thinking about His people in captivity, thought of peace and no evil for them, and that they would have an expected end.

An “expected end” could mean anything but I would never assume it meant prosperity.

As the scriptures get whittled down even further and get mingled with the interpretations of man, I know I must remain vigilant in searching for God’s truth, even in a feel-good devotion or an uplifting sermon.

Hail to the King!
The King James version, that is.