Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Posts tagged ‘Church’

Hijacking the Bible

IMG_2683
Somewhere along the way the church, our church of which we are all part of the body, allowed scripture to be ‘hijacked.’ No longer was it wisdom for a way to live, but instead, in many congregations, it became a set of rules to bash people over the heads with. And many of the rules are so twisted they no longer make scriptural sense. Let me give you a sense of what I am referring to.

The Slippery Slope:
Today many will warn you to stay far away from people committing sinful behavior or you will surely fall. (This argument amuses successful people who have done much better in life than those who are issuing this warning without ever falling into the sins these people say their associations will surely lead to.) This is also not scriptural. Let’s use alcohol as an example. (Though you could also use some of the current arguments about men working too closely with women.) Jesus drank wine, and spoke to and ate with sinners. There are even times the Bible tells us we may drink (which are typically conveniently left out of the slippery slope argument) . There were also drunkards who existed during Biblical times, so their existence is not a call for abstinence. While we are not to tempt those who have issues in this area, nor are we to put others in danger by driving after we have had something to drink, complete prohibition is not Biblical, nor is it a sound argument. What prohibition leads to is a separation of Christian from non-Christian that more resembles the rules of the Pharisees than it does the behavior of our Savior. But people continue to use this argument to keep Christians from witnessing in bars, on the streets and in other places where people are obviously in need and could use a loving Savior, as well as a loving relationship with a caring human being.
What is a sound is that we are to live joyfully, and help those who are falling. Unless we have a weakness in the area they are failing in, we are to get close. We are to help, not avoid the person in trouble. We are to be like a brother and help them out of whatever sin is destroying their lives (which may mean that at times we give up our rights in order to not tempt their weakness, as Paul gave up meat). And we are to continue helping as long as they keep repenting. Sure, there are times the Bible tells you to avoid someone, but these times are when they are rebellious and stubborn in their sin. When they want help, as messy as it may be, we are there for them.
Real life: Our church has a women’s group that goes to the strip clubs. The women bring presents and get to know the employees. At first it was weird, but now the staff loves them as much as the women love the staff and lives are being changed. No good Christian woman has been tempted to get on a pole, and the men of the church have an added reason for not showing up; their wife’s friends might be there!

Avoid the Appearance of Evil:
Surely we are not to pretend we are doing wrong in order to appease the crowd and avoid confrontation, but today this phrase is commonly used to mean a bit more than that. People who commonly use this phrase seemingly forget that Jesus was accused of being a drunkard, because, unlike John the Baptist, He drank alcohol, and He explained to the crowd that there was no pleasing them. If He abstained like John they would accuse Him of having a demon, if He did not abstain, they accuse Him of being a sinner. (Mt. 11:18-19) Most of the time, when people are told to avoid the appearance of evil, this is choice they have: Either they are not to fit in with common culture, and alienate the sinner who is seeking Christ, or they risk being called a sinner by those in the church. Does this mean you must drink or engage in other things that become vices when done in excess? No. John the Baptist was clearly correct in not drinking because that was the life God called him to live, but it is not everyone’s call, and we must be sensitive to that truth.

There are No Grey Areas:
There are many, many grey areas discussed in scripture. There are times when something is right to do, and times when it is clearly wrong. Here are a few examples:
David and his men were given the bread of presence, which is reserved for the priests alone to eat and they did not sin. (Mk. 2:25-26)
Aaron’s sons were smote for not following God’s commands regarding the incense at the Tabernacle, yet Aaron’s other sons were shown mercy when they did not obey the rules regarding the meat. Why? Because one set of brothers was rebellious while the others were trying to be humble. Motives matter. (Lev. 10:1-2, 16-20)
God does not punish the women when they become prostitutes because the culture of the time has pushed them into it. (Hosea 4:14)
Samuel is instructed by God to not tell the whole truth about his trip to Bethlehem. (1 Sam 16:2-3) Rahab and the midwives who save the Hebrew babies are also praised and rewarded for their lies. (It seems the scriptural admonitions about lying are do not do it unless someone is trying to kill someone and then you may mislead them.)

No Foul Language or Name Calling:
The Bible is full of not-so-nice language. Why do we not see it? Because most translations clean it up to conform with today’s Christian Correct standards. Here are a few examples:
In Philippians 3:8 what Paul considers ‘garbage’ or ‘rubbish’ should actually be translated as ‘excrement.’
The ‘filthy rags’ in Isaiah 64:6 are used menstrual rags.
God will smear people’s faces with ‘dung’ in Malachi 2:3 for what they have done.
Jesus and others call the legalists of the time ‘white-washed tombs,’ ‘broods of vipers (demons),’ and told them that their true father was the devil (John 8:44). I’m sure they enjoyed that….
So while we are to avoid being crude for the sake of crudeness or merely to injure another, it does seem that using strong language is appropriate at some times in scripture.

The Rules Are The Rules:
Isaiah 28:9-10 ” “Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that [fn]; a little here, a little there.”
Mature Christians are to rely on wisdom and understanding, not strict rules that say do this/ don’t do that. Further, the weak are those who need extra rules and restrictions. So while those who are mature are to avoid doing things that are permissible in order to not cause the weak to stumble, it is the weak who need the rules who are the less mature, indicating they are not to be the ones in charge. (1 Cor. 8)

Men and Women Must Maintain a Proper Distance:
In the New Testament Jesus had female followers who supported His ministry and whom He called disciples. (Mt. 12:49, Acts 9:36) He ate at their houses and allowed a woman to dry His feet with her hair (a very inappropriate thing to do at the time). He also spoke to women in public (also extremely risqué behavior for a man). Paul had many close co-workers who were female, and John wrote a very personal letter to a woman in 2 John. Prophets also stayed in widows (no men in the homes) houses, some of whom were young enough to have dependent children living with them.
The scriptural admonitions are not to sleep with the women, and if you are tempted, to maintain a distance because you are weak. But only the weak need these rules. In society today doctors, police and firemen deal with naked women as part of their job, and we expect them to be appropriate. Men can obviously obtain a level of maturity necessary to do this, and it is sad that many in our churches teach that they can’t.

Women Cannot Lead:
The issues with many churches current views on women are numerous, but let us examine a few of the whopping lies that are out there:
Women cannot be in charge of men, yet Deborah was in charge of Israel, Samson’s mother and Rebekah were given prophecy from God even though their godly husbands were around (and Samson’s father wanted to learn more. Judges 13) Abraham is told to listen to Sarah regarding what to do with Ishmael even though Sarah’s wishes are in conflict with his. (Gen 21:12) Women supported Jesus’ ministry financially (Lk 8:3), and were the first to proclaim that He is risen.
Women are also not perfectly suited to housework according to scripture. The Proverbs 31 woman has servants for that and works outside the home, even to the point of managing a vineyard, which we can assume has males working which she must supervise. She is a wealthy woman in her own right and she is to be praised. Sheerah too is credited with being a working woman, building at least three cities that stood for many, many years. (1 Chron. 7:24) Women helped rebuild the wall during Nehemiah’s time (when the elite men would not)(Neh. 3:12), were assigned jobs at the Tent of Meeting (Ex 38:8, 1 Sam 2:22), and many were shepherdesses (not a safe, or dainty profession).
Men too get the shaft in these teachings when they are told they are not nurturing and are to be less emotional. (Have you seen how many times men cry in scripture! ) Instead what we see in scripture is that men are to be highly involved in the rearing of their children, and that even God chooses female imagery to describe Himself.(Is. 66:13, Mt. 23:37) The line between what is male and what is female is not as finely drawn as we are sometimes led to believe, cheating the man out of activities that build a strong relationship with His children. (Further, the teaching of children is something God will do when the earth is renewed, making it the most important job in the church! Is. 54:13)

We Are the Moral Police of the World:
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 tells us that we are not to judge those outside the church. Why? Because they are not followers of Christ and therefore we should expect them to sin! Instead our focus should be on cleaning up the problems within the church, and probably not the ones you are thinking of. Among those we are not to give the Christian name to are: the sexually immoral- with an emphasis in other places on those who do not care for their families (1 Tim. 5:8), the greedy, the slanderer (so many Christians spend so much time putting down other people for how bad they are this would clean out the church!), the unrepentant alcoholic and the swindler (those who use Christ to gain money? Living off the church in ways that are not quite right…). This is not to say that we do not try to help these people before we stop calling them ‘brother in Christ,’ (Matthew 18: 15-17- the three strike law- is still in effect.) but we do not allow our church to become a cloister for mean people who do not treat others well. The church, like Israel, is to be a beacon to those who are lost showing them that there is a better way to live, and it involves a relationship with a God who loves us. How can we do that if our relationships with others in the church suck?
Instead many churches focus on the sins of the world. Who cares what the world is doing? What matters scripturally is what we are doing. Was there any class of sinner Christ refused to forgive? (No.) Then our mission outside the church is to show people Christ’s love in the same non-judgmental way He did. He ate with sinners, conversed with prostitutes etc. (But today we put down those who try to preach in bars and do not lovingly accept the immodestly dressed woman into our midst when she shows up on Sunday.) What He did not do is call the overly religious, legalistic people of His time His followers. Today too many in the church spend much of their time complaining about how bad the sinners are, and not enough time figuring out how to love them and help them into a relationship where a powerful Holy Spirit can do more for them than rude remark or disdainful look ever will. So WWJD? Judgmental attitudes and nasty labels were for the religious who thought they were better than everyone else; let’s follow His example.

But we keep putting legalists in charge (where they admittedly like to be) even though the Bible tells us not to…
The mature in the church, the ones to be called ‘elders’ and have positions, are to be respected in the community. They are not to be the weak, who need extra rules, but those who have shown wisdom (including mercy) in doing justice. These are not to be new believers, yet many times that is exactly who we put in charge. Like the Jewish people in Jesus’ day, the legalists are the ones we look up to and revere. This is not to be so. Let us do a better job, putting people who have gained wisdom are respect into position, and let us stop beating each other up with what people suppose is the Word, but truly is not.

Why Do We Keep Separating the Men from the Women?


After a particularly great men’s conference, one of my male friends made the following statement. He said, ‘I wish my daughter had been there. I want her to know what kind of man she is to look for, and this speaker made it so clear.’

He has a point. A good one. Why should the other gender not know what the church is saying to their spouse (literal or potential)? Would the men have more of an incentive to be a wonderful man of God if they knew the women had heard the message as well, and were holding them accountable? Would the young girls choose more wisely, and thus motivate the boys to be better husbands, if they had heard what a mature man believes all men could and should be? Why do we keep separating the sexes?

The Pharisee-controlled society of Jesus’ day separated them; but the early church did not. Women supported Jesus’ ministry and sat at His feet to learn. Women were in the Upper Room, and told of the empty tomb. Women ministered with Paul and one taught Apollo along side her husband. With so many examples of the sexes together, why the over-fascination with splitting them up?

The sad truth is that more women probably watched the movie Courageous than men. More women currently attend Bible studies and have daily devotional time. More women work in the church. More women are told that they have to remain pure, but cannot expect this of their future husband. More women settle for men who are not what they should be, and then try to change them once they are married. More women are leading the homes because the man is absent, physically, or emotionally. Our notion of separate, but equal does not work. Men and women are to become one, not separate entities who split the work according to gender roles that make little sense now that there are modern conveniences and the children go off to school. And even if you choose to teach them that way, shouldn’t the other sex know what they can expect?

And our women’s groups seem to be compensating by throwing tea parties and dumbing-down the curriculum choices. Where one could once get fed deeply, a woman is more likely to be required to dress up like a princess at a pre-school party and asked ‘non-judgmental’ questions that have no right answer, rather than examine what the truth is according to God’s Word. Would this occur if the men were invited?

I am tired of women’s conferences that have no meat! (Literally and figuratively- have you seen the menus? Which begs the question: Who decided BBQ and wings were only for men? And how did I miss that meeting?!)

I want my daughters to know what a true man of God should look like, and I want people to stop implying that ‘real men can’t help themselves’ as a motivation to keep them modest. I want the men to stand up and protest any time it is implied that they are animal-like slaves to their hormones, because they don’t want their girls picking a man who is. Sure, modesty is good. But a real man throws his coat over the naked girl and saves her from the burning building without a second glance. He does not ogle her and then blame her for whatever wrong thing he does next.

I also want my sons to know that the good girls make the best wives and that they have no chance of getting them if they are not behaving themselves. I want them to understand that purity is for before marriage, and that girls can and do make the change. False teachings cannot be corrected when one side has no ability to say, ‘That is definitely not true’ and discuss it. Men and women’s roles in today’s society continue to be different- that much is true. But society is changing rapidly and the answer to how we keep up and remain godly lies in communication, not private lectures that are soon forgotten, and occasionally focus on an ideal that could only be achieved in the 1950s or before. Let’s stop playing around and get real.

My Encounters With the Holy Ghost (Con’t): Mercy

Mercy

Can’t tell you. I have none. Okay that is not entirely true, but I do resemble Bones (from the TV show) just to give you a clue as to who I am. The gift of mercy involves knowing when to punish and when not to punish. I need a definition to follow, and mine is, when the person repents stop the punishment. Punishment is to bring the person to repentance so they will not repeat the act. When the purpose, repentance, has been accomplished, no more is needed. People with the gift of mercy do not need a definition. They instinctively know what a person needs in order to be right with Christ, and can show love and compassion as soon as it is needed. That does not mean they condone sin. It just means that they are the first to see when punishment should change to much love and are quick to give it.

Don’t worry if this is not you, just be aware and jump on board when you see someone you know who flows in this gift lavishing praise and comfort on someone you recently wanted to kill and know you need to change as well. Now there are people who want to love everyone all of the time. This is not mercy, this is indiscriminate affection. It is immature since it often enables people to believe that it is okay to sin and hurt others. These people are annoying because they get in the way of others who are truly trying to help the person overcome whatever it is that is affecting their lives. A person who flows with mercy does not do this. They do not enable people. They just know exactly when to show love, how to show it so the person best receives it and when it is inappropriate to do so. They are awesome people to be around, since they are very affirming. And they are good for you since they do not flatter and lie to make you feel better. This is why it is a spiritual gift. Many can flatter and lie, or give ‘love’ to everyone, but the Bible tells us that flattery is wicked, and that there are times to punish, reprimand and leave people alone in there sin. People with the gift of mercy know this, and can give ‘love’ without forgetting that these other things need to be there as well.

My Encounters With the Holy Ghost (Con’t): Apostle

Apostle

The gift of apostle is a much-debated gift. Not everyone agrees as to what this is. To me, after much study of scripture, it is a church planter. The term ‘apostle’ means one who is sent out, and it implies that he has a message from someone important like a king. In scripture we see apostles planting churches, and then moving on once the church is established (and not always well established) to plant another. Many of our missionaries may have this gift. I was blessed to speak with a couple that planted over 30 churches in Europe before they went to be with the Lord. This is who I see having this gift today.

Tag Cloud