Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Our New Label: "Church Drop Outs"!

Well, it has been an entire year since we officially became church drop outs! Oh how some of you must cringe when you read this sentence! And I know some of you understand where we are because you too are now church "drop outs".

Have we "back sliden"?
Is our spirituality at risk?
Are we being disobedient?
Has our love grown cold?
Have we been misled and fallen into deception and heresy?

The questions could go on and on . And I have asked myself and the Lord these same questions many times since our move out here to Arizona. However, the answers that I am finding to these very questions have been liberating and yes vindicating to the perplexity I have carried within my heart and mind.

I do not self righteously look down upon those who have remained in the organized church setting. By doing that I would be judging them just as many "church goers" have judged many of us who have been led in a different way. This past year has enabled me to see with clarity that God calls all people to be members of His family, we just operate in various ways.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life! Does that mean to find Him, we must all go to the temples to serve Him? No, we are the temple and we are all church goers in whatever capacity He calls us. Yes, we are all church goers because wherever we transport the presence of God (who lives within us) we are fulfilling the purpose of God.

It has been amazing to watch God orchestrate relationships in this new season of our lives. The way church has looked for us has been different from anything I could have ever imagined. Without striving to search for our church family, God has been setting up meetings and gatherings with other believers who also have an
"outside the walls" vision for church. Most of these precious people have been hurt by the organized church in many ways. However, there is a holy wrestling and passion that is bringing healing to us all. No we do not just sit around and fume about our wounds, but we share our desire to go beyond what we have always known to become the mobilized church using our gifts and resources to invest in one another and those future members of God's household.

Another thing that has amazed me is that in this season where I really do not have so much to give, God has placed people in my life who do not expect me to give! This has been quite chaffing. And I know it is good because I have always wanted to give and have loved to give.However, these sweet saints just keep giving and giving to our family expecting nothing in return. Since the pregnancy with the twins, I have been trying to mainly take care of myself and do whatever I can to take care of the other children in the home. In the past, we were always giving. We would have people over for dinner at least once a week, we served various ways in the church, and volunteered in the community. And I hate to be this honest, but many times we did these things because we thought we were being obedient and earning a greater level of approval of God. But now as we have rested and been less busy this year, God shows us that He is still proud of us. It is about who HE is not what I do.

Since we have been here, precious families have invited us into their homes for meals, they have had our children over to spend time with their children,they have given us gifts for the babies and clothing for our other children and brought us meals. There has been no expectation of anything in return. Now this is the church,the true church.

In a week or two, we will be meeting with some families to watch a set of DVDs called "Church Outside the Walls" I am growing more excited to receive a greater understanding of God's heart for the church. I realize that for many years I only lived one or two facets of what God wants for the church. Exciting times are ahead. Below are some descriptions of this study we will be participating in.

Church Outside The Walls

"This will be a four part video series with each video running about thirty minutes. The documentary focuses on Christians who have left Sunday morning 'church' services and the whole system of doing 'church' in order to return to the simplicity of Christ.

The first video of the series is titled, 'The Dropouts'. In this video we will meet some of these people who have dropped out of attending a 'church organization'. Who are these people and why have they chosen to do so? Are they Lone Rangers? Rebels? Non-conformists? Flakes? Wounded believers who need to be won back?

How has their decision to drop out affected their spiritual health? Are they still walking with the Lord or are they backsliders? Or have they been snatched up by wolves or carried away by false doctrines? Usually we hear about these people through pastors or church leaders and are told what they are like. But have we actually taken the time to really meet them and listen to them?

In this video we do just that. We hear straight from them why they dropped out, and how they are doing spiritually since dropping out. Be warned! Some of their answers may shock you!

This unsettling video examines what we call 'church' today. What are some of the root causes of the current atmosphere of mediocrity we find in many of today's Christian institutions? This video is a journey that uncovers the facts and connects the dots of church history from the early apostles to today. It exposes the real origins of many of the traditions commonly held today. Biblically based, historically accurate, this riveting video exudes a passion for restoring believers to the simplicity and purity of knowing Christ.

In Parts 2 & 3 we set out to take a look at how 'church' has evolved from the times of the early apostles until today. How did it get this way?

Christ promised that he would build his church and at the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Is it possible that the Church Christ promised to build looks different than much of what we call 'church' today? Parts 2 & 3 shines the spotlight on the historical evolution of organized religion and positional authority.

Part 3 takes a hard look at many of the doctrinal interpretations common in today's church. Is there a scriptural basis for the form of leadership practiced today? Does the Bible teach that the followers of Christ are to attend weekly services? Why do the programs designed yield such minute results? What does the Bible teach about being the family of God?

This documentary delves into many of the components common to today’s Christian institutions such as:

The clergy/laity distinction
The function of the elder/overseer
The role of the pastor
Church services
Church buildings
Programs & Outreach

Part 4 takes an objective look at what the scriptures say about church as a family. How do brothers and sisters in the family of God encourage, correct, equip and build up one another in Christ? What is biblical discipleship, and how does it fit into a family relationship?

This 40 minute video begins to answer many of the questions people have asked about this new journey of freedom from religious obligation. Some of the topics address questions about worship, fellowship, meetings and much more. What if you're alone? What about your children?

We explore ways in which the family of God reaches out to those who do not yet know him. Does it take large organizations and evangelism programs to resource effective witness? Is evangelism something we do or a fruit of our life? How do relational followers of Christ fulfill the Great Commission?

In this DVD we observe how some believers are learning what it means to become 'friends of sinners'. We hear from those who believe that where and how they live and what they do for employment and entertainment is all strategic to loving the lost into an extended family."

So there you have it. This is only a portion of the new adventure the Lord has led us into. It is exciting! It is uncomfortable at times! However, I have honestly seached for a Person named Truth. I have been seeking this One called the Way. And crying out to a Father called the Life. And I am finding Him more and more each day. I would have it no other way for wherever He leads I will go.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is this You God?

I am increasingly amazed at how God is revealing more and more to my heart. My life as well as my heart is changing quicker than I realized. For months after we first moved to Arizona it seemed nothing was happening. What I am referring to is my spiritual journey which before our move out west included church life. My very core and life was steeped in the activities of church.

My "churched" brothers and sisters in the Lord have no idea where I am at this point in my life. Some think they do and I know it is out of genuine concern. I used to be like them. Even last year, I would be concerned if I had found out a dear sibling in the Lord had fallen away from church. I would think things like, "Something is terribly wrong. They must be fallen away in their relationship with the Lord." Or, "They are falling into error and falsehood." These would be some of my exact thoughts even a year ago.

I do not write to defend my stance. I write here because it helps me to sort out all the things changing so quickly in me.And if by some chance someone stumbles across this blog, maybe it will help them in some way. Maybe there is some sister in the Lord who is going through something similar...Lord, let them find this blog and be encouraged in some way. Let them know that you do not judge them for the things they are feeling. Protect them from guilt and other voices who would condemn them into thinking they are way off course.

It is difficult not to judge if you have not been on this side of the road. The Lord has allowed me to be on this side of the street in this season so I can truly feel the frustration and pain of those who have left the organized church.No longer will I wrongly judge those who have left and label them as backslidden. Who am I to make that call? How do I know what is really going on? Could it be that maybe, just maybe the Lord called them out of the church for something different? And how dare we now label them as "unchurched". We must stop that right now! We are all the church no matter how we are called to act as the church. It is that simple.

Yesterday, my eyes were opened even more. What most people who are close to me do not realize is that I have been in tears, on my face constantly asking the Lord to show us if we are really off course. I have asked the Lord to show us what to do. "God? Do you want us to find a church? Where do you want us to go? Are we just bitter now and basking in unforgiveness for pain we have endured? Give me a clean heart if that is so." Over and over. Day after day I have strained my heart in prayer and soaked my floor in tears because I just want to be in His will.

And the funny and strange thing is the Lord has not given me any instructions.He has not given John any either. Why is that? I have come to realize that the Lord many time will not tell us what to do. He just wants us to rest and abide in Him. Just be. Just be. Just be. And through that HE will gently guide us.

This is becoming more and more clear to me as each day passes. I can see Him doing that. All I have done is look to Him and He is faithfully leading the way. When we first moved here I thought that we should start looking for a church.Well ,we attended a couple and the peace was just not there for various reasons. I felt bad about not having peace about looking for a church. However the Lord spoke to my heart and told me I was putting this pressure on myself. He was not doing that.

So back to yesterday. A dear friend whom I met just a couple of months ago invited me to a ladies tea. I did not know any of these women. However, I really wanted to go and meet new people. This was another thing that had been bothering me. We had not found a church, so we have not met many people.However little by little I am seeing the Lord put those dear people in my life whom He wants there...not who I pick to be there. Interesting I think!

So I attended this beautiful tea and there were four other precious women there with the kindest ,most beautiful and peaceful faces. They had all come from different churches and denominations. And most interestingly, they all have come out of the organized church. We all shared our stories with openness and grace. Honestly I was a bit timid about going...did not know what to expect. I prayed that it would be a safe place where the Lord would be honored. And my prayers were answered.

It has been quiet surreal to sit and watch the Lord orchestrate how we are meeting people. It is like nothing I have ever encountered. And for those who may even be judging as they are reading this...hear this. These woman did not say one thing degrading about anyone. They shared openly and graciously about their experiences, where they are now in their journeys and mostly about their love relationships with the Lord. There was a level of authenticity I have never seen.

One of the women there is a grandmother. She and her husband have been out of the organized church for many years. I was amazed by the wisdom and grace that flowed from her words. She listened and encouraged and gave comfort through her words and countenance. Another dear lady was the daughter. She told me that she has always been close to the Lord but that since God had released her from the organized church she has walked in so much more freedom. I was blessed by her peace and how she was truly in engaged in everything shared. I could really tell there was something totally real about all of these women.

The sweet lady who hosted the tea expressed her passionate desire to gather believers together for genuine fellowship. I loved her heart and know that He is going to give her many ideas and opportunities to do just that. I was just blessed by her gift and willingness to open her home even to someone like me whom she did not even know.

And then there is my friend Donna who invited me to the tea. The Lord truly set up our meeting a couple of months ago. She came across one of my blogs and emailed me. We began to correspond and we found out we only live a few mileS from each other. She has lovingly reached out to me over and over. She and husband are beautiful people and their children are amazing!

So....Is this you God. Yes it is You. It has to be. And Lord you are doing something beyond what I can figure out. I am encouraged beyond what my words can express. Lord you truly have been setting me free when at times I felt so down and doubtful.

So I continue to reflect upon You and your words. These are a few that come to mind this day:



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weeping Walls

The walls are weeping.
For now they know,
The time is approaching
Where they'll divide no more.

I had mentioned in one of my posts on "A Heart at Home" how the Lord was showing me so many things through the words and actions of my children. It is because I have slowed down a lot in my busyness and trimmed down my "to do" list to just rest more and enjoy life.

The other night I was sitting out on the back patio watching the younger children converse with the neighbor kids who live directly behind us. The problem is there are tall concrete block walls around every yard in our neighborhood. Most of the neighborhoods out here in the Phoenix area have walled off yards with no gates leading to the other properties. These are supposed to be like privacy fences. However, they are nothing like the ones back East that are made of wood. At least with those you can peek through the cracks to see what your neighbor is doing.

I was amazed as I watched the children do anything they could to talk and connect with their new friends. We have a tree right beside the wall. At one time three of them were in the tree at once so they could see and talk to our neighbors. They were stacking large Rubbermaid containers so they could climb up and see over the wall. The neighbor children have a trampoline, so they would jump up and down while having conversations with our children in the tree.

Then they figured out a way to play. Our children fetched every ball we own and began tossing them back and forth over the wall with the neighbor kids. Back and forth, back and forth, over and over they played dodge ball with the ugly concrete wall dividing them.

Then as if it could not get any sweeter, they began to exchange gifts across the wall. Daniel our 8 year old ran back and forth from the house to the wall bringing little packages of Sweet Tarts to toss over to their friends. Also one of the neighbors gave Joshua one of his action figure toys.

They were all so excited to just connect with the other children. I was amazed as I was watching a living message being played out between humble little children. I mused at what a perfect picture of the church and the true heart of the church should be like. I was almost startled by the truth that this desire to connect with others in a meaningful way is a glimpse of what the church will become in the future. And God will use the next generation to rebuild the church into what HE wants it to be and look like. We are in for a shock.

As I watched the children passionately attempting to communicate and relate with others with the wall between them, I also saw a frustrated generation becoming sick and tired of meaningless walls that separate the body of Christ from each other as well as from the sea of people who never experienced or known the true love of Jesus.

I began to imagine them knocking down the walls in righteous anger with their bare hands. I almost saw them speak the word, "Dissolve!" and the blocks would crumble under the force of their bold tones. I then could almost see these young people crossing over where the walls once stood...the walls of comfort, the walls of religious arrogance, the walls of elitism, the walls of exclusivity, the walls of hypocrisy and judgement, the walls of bound up finances, and many more.

Every block that was used to build borders of strongholds in the church was no more. And the most exciting thing was the reality that this young generation will passionately and purposefully rebuild this wasteland into something not constructed with human hands but with the empowerment of God's spirit.After all the Lord says, "He will build His church!" My question is, "How long have we been building His church?"

The day is coming when we will all be shocked because the church will no longer look like we have always known it. The church will be whole. The church will be more than buildings, programs, platforms and pulpits. The church will be a people who are tired of the norm and are courageous enough to be the agents of change. I am seeing the restlessness already...even in my own children.And we should be excited!

I recently just completed the book "Unchristian". According to the thorough research and interviews collected in order to write the book, the younger generation of 19 to 29 year olds generally are turned off by the religious facades of the church as it is.They prefer to stay outside the walls. However, they possess a God given energy and sense of adventure that the Lord is already working through to turn the tide of the church as we have always known it.

This generation is committed to their communities of friends which is going to be the foundation of genuine community as God defines it. They also see through falsehood. They are less judgemental and more accepting of those whom we the church esteem as outcasts. They are bold in their observations and are fearless in voicing them. We, the older generation have labeled them as out of control, rebellious, disrespectful, and cynical.

However,over the last few months my eyes are being open more and more to how the Lord loves to take wild young people and turn them into wild Kingdom fireballs who will violently bring the flames of God to a stagnant land.They will do whatever it takes to sweep the earth with the love of God even if they have to break every bone in their hands to knock down divisive walls.

John the Baptist did not loudly and shamelessly proclaim the words, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." for nothing. He was not blowing hot air just to be heard! It was a word for us today. We must prepare by first repenting of all our wrong opinions of the newer generations and we must begin to proclaim how God is going to mightily appear through a church looking like we have never seen before.We must repent for all of our limited, logical, human blueprints implemented for building the church and seek His face in brokeness as to how HE wants it done. We must prepare and we should cry out for change now within our own hearts so us 30, 40, 50, 60,and 70 year old folks can lead the way for our young people. The walls of generational division must also fall and only God can show us how.The walls are weeping. Can you feel the their tears?

The walls are weeping
For now they know
The time is approaching
Where they will divide no more.

The once little feet who climbed over to see
Are also the ones that will set the world free
The walls are weeping
For the time has come
For the church to reign in victory
So that all may clearly see the Son.

No more falsehood
No one will be left out
All will be loved
And really know what Kingdom living is really about.

Prepare ye the way
For a kingdom so pure
Artificial walls are crumbling
And eternal ones will endure

We might be surprised
At all that we see
We might feel tempted to judge
It as coldness and apathy

And the thing we might find
In the terms we used to judge
Was the very wall in our own heart
Made of sinful sludge

Are your walls weeping?
Brother and sister rejoice,
for the time is approaching
When we all will be one voice.

And the moral of this story is: What will I do with the message? Will I go over the wall to meet my neighbor? Am I willing to climb the tree? Am I willing to scale that wall? Or maybe take a few extra steps to the adjacent street to meet the mom and dad who live in that home? I must follow the example of the children. I will let you know what happens! Until next time.....start slammin some walls!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Only Reason


Many people are estranged from God because of all the false teachings they have been ingrained with. In our country, most people really have heard about Jesus and they do not want to hear anymore. Why is that? It is sad that Christians overall have gained such a bad reputation over time.

In the past when someone would point out their mistrust of Christians, I would write it off as an attack from the Devil. Now I realize that even that attitude was pride and an excuse to not face the fact that maybe I really have misrepresented God to others.

The main purpose of the church to lead others to really know Christ as a person with feelings, a personality, and a massive heart that can love like no other. This makes Him Divine, yet His qualities are much like ours. After all, He purposefully created us in His image in order that we can relate to Him and Him to us. We are also called to live in way that show others that He is trustworthy. That He can be counted on.

And this is the only reason I started this blog. I feel like so many have been led astray in truly grasping the essence of who God is, how He feels and operates. Many have a negative opinion of God because of the family environments they grew up in. Their fathers were not around or were abusive, so how are those individuals supposed to understand that their heavenly Father is loving, kind, and stable?

And my question has been this, "Has the church and is the church really doing her job in teaching the whole truth about who He really is? Why are people leaving the church with these ingrained concepts that God is conditional instead of unconditional?" My motive is not to bash the church, but to somehow "speak out" as to God's heart for the church and how He is bringing change. The only way we can be agents of change is to look upon Jesus keep watching know Him and to ask Him to reveal Himself to us as He really is. It is then we are enable to represent Him in truth and grace.

To be perfectly honest, I can see how my perception of the Heavenly Father has been way out of line. Even in this season, I have battled with the "fear" of a God who operates on the reward and punishment system. We have been out of "church" as we have always known it for 9 months. I have struggled with guilt. Also, I have spoken out about my frustrations and I admit at times I have not chosen the healthiest ways to do that. So here comes the guilt after I asked for forgiveness. I have struggled with the thought of, "How is God going to punish me for this?"

Why have I had this view of God for so many years? Where did I pick this up? And how many others out there struggle with these same things? I do not totally blame the church as I am sure there have been other factors that have contributed to my perceptions of God. However, in the season away from church as I have always known it, I have truly been getting to know my Lord in a different light.I am seeing a much more gentle Saviour. And the strangest thing is that I thought I knew a lot about His tenderness.

The only reason I want to write on this blog is because I want to point others to Jesus and to help them know Who He really is. Just as John the Baptist proclaimed as he pointed to Christ, "Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world." Prepare ye the way of the Lord!"

How are we going to prepare the way for the Lord to come and show up in our lives and the lives of others? We have to change. We have to search and seek to find out Who He really is. It is finding out this very thing that we are set free from all the wrong mindsets we have had about Him. We are liberated and empowered by an intimate life with Him. It is then we can truly lay our own lives down fully to be living segments of the highway that leads to Christ.

Having an unhealthy and distorted fear of God hinders us because we are worried about how we will be rewarded and punished. We become performers instead of lovers. We become timid instead of bold. It is for freedom that Christ sets us free. How many of us church goers are in bondage and do not realize it? I know I have been and I realize God is changing a lot in me.

Another question I have had and even asked myself is this, "Am I too prideful to even consider that some of the things I have always thought and have believed could really be wrong? And would I really be willing to seek God myself to find out? Or do I just continue to stubbornly refuse to search out the possibility that I am wrong in an area of belief because of what I have learned from leaders and teachers?"

So many people who do not know Christ are turned off by our arrogance. And we think we are so humble. We clothe ourselves in our tidy spiritual attire and think we are reflecting Jesus. People are weary of our facades and can see straight through it all. We live in a society where trust in running dry. How can we regain trust in others? By stripping down! That is what Jesus did. He was stripped of His own clothing, His skin, His dignity and honor. He was REAL!

I know I said in my last post that I would share Jesus from the gospels and how He really lived. I think people are tired of reading Bible verses too. They connect it to our arrogance and how we try to cram our verses down their throats. So I seek a way to write about Jesus where we can really see Him for Who He really is.

So until next time, I will be searching, digging, gazing upon my only reason for caring about these ramblings!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

What if?

I am realizing more each day that people are beginning to think I am falling into error with my search for truth on the church and how it is operated overall nationally.I know I sound foolish for even taking time to write these things down.Who am I anyway? Just a plain simple housewife with no theological degree with a big heart that wants others to see Him for who He is. My heart is not to pridefully probe until I am proven right. That would be arrogant. My goal is not to tear down any one body or any person. This blog is not to hurt others even though I know others may be offended. However, as I have stated in other blogs, my heart is to open the truth so that others can see the true character of God. If we as children of the Lord do not pursue introducing the Person of Jesus in all areas of this journey. He has been misrepresented in so many ways. If we could display the reality of Jesus for who He really is in the way we live, serve and do church, I believe we would see more people being added into His kingdom.

Like I have shared before, I have had so many questions. I would like to share them. Ultimately I know that HE is the answer. He is the way.However, maybe the questions will provoke some thoughts.

What if all of us who have been taught one thing from the pulpit all of our lives would dare to venture out to seek the Holy Spirit and and dig in the Word of God ourselves? Would our thinking change? Would mindsets be torn down and rebuilt based on the whole truth of God instead of portions?

What if we all taught from our pulpits that the Holy Spirit will lead you in how to give of your life, finances, and other resources instead of teaching the law that we must give 10% of our income?

What if we stopped living our spiritual life by laws, tear down the church walls,focus on the poor and needy in our communities?

What if we stopped promoting leaders in the Body as if they are on a different spiritual plane than others, and start promoting everyone as equal importance in the Kingdom who too can hear from God?

What if we stopped judging the outcasts as though we know why they are in troubling situations and just love them regardless?

What if we truly learned to listen to others rather than thinking about what we want to say next?

What if we stopped acting like we know and have all the answers and just be real with others about our own weaknesses and failures so we could really gain their trust?

What if we closed our religious mouths a lot more and just love in our actions?

What if we opened out hearts and minds to what God may want the church to look like rather than how we have made it to be?

What if we took a few moments each day to encourage at least one person instead of finding fault with five people?

I write these things for myself more than anyone else. I am guilty. But I want to change and I believe He is changing me little by little as my eyes are open. I have to admit that I can relate more and more to why so many people no longer want to go to church. I feel their frustration and I feel their hurt. And I am thankful. I want to be an agent of change. Many times we cannot be the hands of God until we know what it feels like.

In my next blog, I am going to write about Jesus and things He said from the book of Matthew. When I read His words I am more aware of how we have missed some very important truths. I realized that as I have read these words so many times, I have failed to live them out. How I am reminded each day in the light of His grace that I need His mercy over and over. At the same time, I am challenged to be different with the help of His hand and love!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Starting Over


I have to admit that I have struggled in my attitude from time to time about this whole subject of "church" However, I have to believe it is an ongoing concern because I know that my heart and beliefs about the church will and have ultimately affected my children. It is not about me, but all of our world views undoubtedly trickle down through the generations.

As I have shared my frustrations by opening up with a few trusted friends, I have experienced several different reactions. The people who stand out to me are those who do not judge me for the questions that I ask and for the thoughts that I verbalize. I am thankful that I truly have a couple of safe places that I can be free. This is one problem with many churches today. People do not trust Christians because they come across as judgmental instead of safe. That is another post.

On the other hand, I have shared my heart with some who have looked at me as though I am just this wounded soul who needs restoration and then needs to be added back into the church. But I am at peace knowing that I am a member of God's household no matter what the setting, activity or location. I will never go back to church as I have known it before. I cannot.

Yes, I admit there are many wounds and I could kick myself for remaining in some of the situations I stayed in. But when you are in the middle of it, sometimes you are conformed to the group or the system you are in. Therefore, one may not recognize the problems fully until they are removed from it. Yes I have been wounded. However, maybe we need to listen up to the wounded instead of categorizing them. Maybe we should stop and listen to the hurting instead of labeling them as having a victim mentality.I am so tired of hearing that phrase as though the hurting need to just get over it and move on. Jesus came to heal, to bind the wounds. After we have healed, we then are empowered to move on.

I am 44 years old. Up until about 2 years ago, I thought that church was mostly about going to meetings or a building. I thought that in order to be considered part of the church, this requirement had to met. I often heard the verse that we should not forsake the assembling with other believers. In addition, I thought that if I did not desire to go, then something was wrong with my relationship with God.

God said that "I am going to build His church and the forces of hell shall not prevail against it." Why is it then that as more time passes most churches are either closing shop or people are getting out?" Maybe it is because man has for so long tried to build the church through programs, buildings, evangelistic strategies and other avenues. If these methods are so effective, then why are so many "unchurched" people turned off by the church today?

I think we should start over. Man has made his castle. Yet the walls of the church are coming down as we have always known it. Many will be shocked when we begin to see the true church emerge and look like something we never imagined. Many God loving folks who have left the institution of church will be accused of a having a love grown cold. Many are even being labeled as rebellious, cynical, uncommitted to Chirst and many other things. I even had someone tell me they were concerned that I was damaging my children by my attitude.

If there has been any damage done, it has been in process for years. We have taken our children to the institutional church all of their lives and they have learned the same limited view of what church is to be and look like. We have been out of the organized system now for 9 months and we continue to try and deprogram our kids in what the church really is. We want them to see that church is so much broader and greater than what they have learned and seen. If the Lord leads them to an organized structure to serve at some point in their lives, I pray they will have a broader and more open vision as to God's house and what that encompasses. We want them to have the understanding that the church starts in them and their relationship to Jesus Christ.This is what we have been trying to impart to them in this season.

I have been reading through the gospels and the book of Acts in my search for answers. I write and speak out about this because it bothers me. I may offend some. And those that know me may say, "What has happened to sweet Ange?" Well a lot is happening to me. I dare to go against the grain and have other's opinions of me change. I am really past the conforming individual I used to be. I used to be afraid to speak my thoughts to leaders because of fear of man. And because I thought I was being disrespectful to them as people and leaders.

But I continue to fish for truth. I find that in the first church of Acts the people were about loving God and each other. That was how they evangelized to reach the lost. Others watched the family of God share with each other, give of their resources, and forget selfishness. The outsiders saw the genuineness of their love and wanted to be a part. God drew others in through the empowerment of His love in actions in and through the people of His house(an unearthly structure).

They probably did not sit around and have planning meetings about how they were going to reach lost people. They just found the needs and met them. If outsiders could see this in our churches today, they would probably connect with us and stay with us. People in the body did not go without. If there was a need, it was met. Everyone was strengthened so that the body could be whole. A whole body is a healthy body and one that is effective in the community.Therefore I have concluded that the best evangelism is just loving one another with no strings attached.

In the gospels, Jesus encountered many people. He drew the crowds. However, His one on one encounters with people who were hurting or sick is what is highlighted. Jesus never used his power with the motive of trying to get people to join a church. He loved without strings, without conditions.

My intentions here are not to be critical as I know there are organized churches who are living out the life of the true church. However, we have a national problem. Most churches are not being effective. I speak out because if we do not, change will never come. And I know the Lord is changing me and setting me free from mindsets I have lived with for so many years. It seems simple to me if we could all get the message. Start over. Go back to the basic and simple way of living and being the church rather than building walls and programs that will one day not exist anyway.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Change Must Come and It Must Begin in Me

I have had a lot of questions in my heart and mind for the past year. I believe it really started more than a year ago. However, I shielded and stuffed those uncomfortable feelings and labeled myself as insecure, critical,disrespectful and rebellious. I admit that I have sometimes mishandled my struggles and allowed them to be verbalized in the wrong way which brought offense and hurt to others. I am sorry and I admit that I too am a hypocrite. I have spoken things that I failed to practice and live out myself. I have believed the words of man without going to the Word of God myself. In turn I would speak the same words to others as if they were the gospel.

After being a part of the institutional segment of church for 20 plus years, I now find myself not only in the literal desert in Phoenix, Arizona. However, I realize I am in a wilderness of sorts in my own internal landscape. It is here that I seek and thirst for Living Water. It is here that my mindsets and many things that I have always believed are being challenged. It is chaffing me. It is uncomfortable like an itchy wool sweater. I am in the heat. And the scratching of my struggle is exfoliating things from my life that are not intended to be there.

Why do I even care? Why can't I just forget it and move on? Why should it matter anyway? And am I responding solely out of wounds that will not close? Or do I actually house the heart of God for His lovely bride, the church, and all He wants to see come to pass in and through the church? Maybe it is a combination of all of these.

I think of Jesus on the cross with his blood filled wounds gaping for all to see. And He looks over to the criminal who is bleeding right along beside Him. The Wounded spoke to the wounded and said, " This day,you will join Me in paradise."

The Saviour was wounded not only in His body. But long before His crucifixion He was continually punctured with spears of ridicule, betrayal, and misunderstanding. However, He continued to touch and heal the hurting, diseased, and bleeding. Yes the wounded One was useful. The wounded One brought life and carried the hurting on His whipped laced shoulders.

Not that I am trying to put myself in the same place. None of us can do this. However, I am beyond the belief that the hurting are useless until mended. I admit, I have a ways to go. Even though the wounded many times do the wounding and I am guilty of that also. However, my heart and true motive is to draw others to Christ in a love relationship that is unconditional and real. My passion is to point the way to Christ alone for this is the only way we the church can really change and be what the Lord intends for us to be.

So why does this thing about church bug me? Because I love God's church and I know she is important to Him. The only reason I care is because He is in me. On my own, I would not give a darn. I would say, "Away with this. I have more to worry about."

So I ask what does God really want the church to look like? Or should I ask, "What does He want the church to be?" I have asked Him out loud many times on my bed, in the tub, standing in my kitchen." I walk in my house and I seek His heart. And I do not pretend to not be frustrated. He knows I am. That's what I love about my relationship with Him. I do not have to pretend.

So, what is the church to be? And is that how the American church looks today? Why are people not being ministered to? Why do we leave our places of worship feeling empty and guilty so much of the time? Why is the church not growing? Have we missed it altogether? Why are other countries sending missionaries to America to spread the gospel of Jesus? This is disturbing to me.

I know these are not new questions. There are many books out there about this very subject. There are many opinions on the Internet. I agree with some and others I do not. However, I walk with the Lord and I ask Him because I want the answer to come from Him. Not man.

I feel that the time has come for the redefinition! Does this mean we remake the Church into what we think it should like? Of course not. A couple of months ago I dreamed about a bride who was being adorned for the ceremony. In the dream, there was tanning lotion being applied to her legs which was making a mess. Also, there was lotion being applied to her back which was giving her pimples. What does all this mean? After searching and praying I realized that this is the picture of exactly what has happened to the Body of Christ, the Bride. Man had tried to apply external things that we thought would enhance her beauty and attractiveness. As a result, she is not quite as beautiful had she not been tampered with. We have tried to change the church from the outside in. The result has been crumbling structures that look gorgeous on the outside but is really an empty storehouse on the inside with nothing to offer to the hungry and hurting. Please understand that I speak generally here. There are churches that are doing well and are truly sincere in their work. But the problem as a whole is what gets to me.

Yes, redefinition means that we do not give her a new meaning. But we go back to what God shows in His word. His word is not a set of directions but a letter from His heart. So what does He want the church to look like and how can we partner with Him to work toward that?

Many will be offended as they read my thoughts. Again, I do not claim to know all the answers. I am just another person. And I am very simple in my thoughts and expressions. Do not make a judgement on what I say. Like I have already expressed, my heart is to point to the Way ,the Truth,and the Life. So ultimately I point you to Him and urge you to seek Him yourself. If my post here does nothing more than that, then I am overjoyed. That is what is wants...a love relationship with me and you. So if that is planted here, then His will is done.

In my next post, we will take a simple look at the book of Acts and how the early church was able to be such a blessing. The church was not perfect, but it was effective in operating in God's economy instead of man's financial structure. There was pure love and devotion drenched in sincere concern for those in physical and spiritual need.How can we return to this concept of sacrificial love? I believe it starts in the heart and change can only come as we as individuals are changed from the inside out. Lord, let it start in me.

Lord, turn me inside out.
Inspect my heart with the scope of Your loving light.
Let Your kingdom come in me as it is in Heaven,
As it exists in Your heart.
Scrape off the dirt on the inside.
Blow all my religious mindsets.
And clear the debris.
Allow me to see You as You really are.
Let the change come.
Let it start in my heart.
Open my eyes to really see.
And to understand
What Your love really is like.
It is not as I made it.
Forgive me.
Forgive your church.
Teach me afresh.
Redefine Yourself in me.