Greetings, gentle readers. I hope this Lenten season finds you well.
I’m sure from the title, you have surmised what this post will address. After all, about 90% of my posts since November have had to do with my struggles with an old pain. And there seems to be no end to those insufferable (I mean, er…inspirational) Internet memes in my Facebook feed that constantly admonish me to just “forget it and let it all go.”
Well, you’d be wrong. 🙂
I was doing research for another topic the other day and stumbled across Philippians 3, where the Apostle Paul speaks about “forgetting what is behind.” And after reading what he wrote, I wondered for a second if he had utterly lost his mind and I had signed up for the wrong religion: Continue reading
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Fundamentalist Jesus. Fundamentalist Jesus had parents who were above reproach. They were founding members of the local temple. His mother was married when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Everyone said fundamentalist Jesus would grow up to do a mighty work for God.
Fundamentalist Jesus grew into a young adult, working hard in his earthly father’s carpentry shop and obeying his parents. When people in the community had parties where alcohol was served, fundamentalist Jesus stayed home. “Drinking wine is a sin,” he would say. “And I don’t wish to be seen in the company of sinners. Just think of what it would do to my reputation!”
Later, fundamentalist Jesus enrolled in the Bible school at his local synagogue. He learned all about God’s will for his life and how to build an effective ministry. He became a close friend of some of the religious leaders who mentored him. “These guys follow God’s commands to the letter,” he said. “They really have their lives in order. Just look at how blessed they are!”
Fundamentalist Jesus worked his way up in the temple, overseeing different ministries and earning a comfortable salary. Whenever he went out in public, he was often accosted by people who were sick and impoverished. One day, a man with leprosy asked him for help. “Well, it’s obvious you’re not living right, or you wouldn’t be sick,” Jesus told him. “Go to the temple and ask the priests to offer a sacrifice for you. I know lambs are expensive, but sometimes you have to invest in your spirituality!” Continue reading
For the past few weeks, my church cell group has been talking about revival. Last night we discussed how God chooses believers to be catalysts for revival. One of the stories that came up was that of Evan Roberts, a Welsh coal miner-turned-preacher who began a revival in 1904 that saw 100,000 converts in one year. It’s listed among the greatest revivals in history.
But what’s astonishing about this story is how the revival came about. For 11 years, Roberts prayed for revival to come to his community. He asked God to bend the hearts around him to God’s will. Even while he dug in the coal mines, Roberts prayed. In essence, his prayer was “Lord, bend them.” For 11 years, his request went unanswered.
Finally, Roberts attended a Christian convention with evangelist Seth Joshua. While Joshua prayed over a group of believers, Roberts heard him say, “Lord, bend them.” Roberts took up the prayer, applying it to himself: “Lord, bend me!” Within six months, Roberts was leading thousands of souls to Christ.
Many Christians today pray for God to change their communities, their friends, their families, their employers, their coworkers and their president. But what God really wants is to empower believers to do His work. That requires a change in us. God doesn’t just want to bend your boss. He wants to bend you!
Consider the scriptures: Continue reading
Earlier today, I did some gardening. I love gardening because it lends a certain clarity to my thoughts. As I pulled weeds and rearranged a flower bed, I meditated on the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, in which Jesus illustrates the different ways the gospel is received among hearers:
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away” (verses 3-5).
He goes on to talk about the seed that fell among thorns and the seed that fell on good soil. Afterwards, he explains the parable to his disciples:
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (verses 19-21).
I believe that part about rocky soil describes many charismatic churches today.
I was raised in the charismatic faith. It’s a denomination that celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (see Acts 2) and emphasizes operating in the gifts of the Spirit. Worship is often characterized by enthusiastic singing, dancing, and the raising of hands. All of that certainly makes church exciting.
However, I’ve watched far too many people get burned out in these churches and completely forfeit their faith as a result. The modern charismatic church is riddled with problems that, I believe, make them more susceptible to heresies and deception than other denominations. I say this not as a bitter critic, but as one who is honestly concerned. It’s time these problems were addressed–and for good reason!
So after a heavenly choir descended from heaven and sang for me, my faith was set in stone, right? I wish, but no. It was only a couple of years after this that my church was literally torn apart in the most devastating way. And my faith nearly became a casualty.
I believe it was sometime around the Women’s Encounter that my husband and I started dating. God brought him into my life as promised. And after dating for a long while, we wanted to get married. I was graduating from college and looking forward to starting a new phase of life. By then, our pastor had been at the church for 8 years. He and his wife led the cell group that me and my fiance attended every week. Despite some of the concerns I had about the pastor’s attitudes and teachings, I felt close to him and his wife. I asked him if he would officiate at our wedding. He said he would.
A few months later, however, the pastor backed out on us. He said his son had changed his wedding date to the same weekend, and the ceremony was in another state. We would have to ask another pastor. I was disappointed, but seeing as how there were three other pastors (youth, children and worship) at our church, I thought this wouldn’t be a problem. I asked the youth pastor, and he agreed to do it.
A month before our wedding, the youth pastor backed out, too. He was resigning and taking a job in another state. He knew before he agreed to do the wedding, but didn’t want to tell me for fear that word would get out to the rest of the congregation. He wanted it to remain a secret until the last minute. I was flabbergasted. Something was up. Continue reading