Progressives, Jen Hatmaker, and Grace & Truth

The Christian internet has once again exploded. On Tuesday, in an interview with religionnews.com, popular Christian author, speaker, and HGTV star, Jen Hatmaker, voiced her belief that gay marriage can be “holy”. Kaboom!

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On blogs, Facebook threads, and articles across the internet, progressive Christians are celebrating Jen while fundamental Christians are destroying her.  Both camps are also viciously tearing into each other. Sometimes I hate social media and the internet. I hate what it does to us and what it allows us to do to others.

I totally get why “progressive” Christians react against people they see as “fundy and stuck in the past”. I am right there with them, frustrated with tradition and religion and rules. But just because some people who believe the Bible literally are ignorant, stubborn, and judgmental, it doesn’t mean that we can pick and choose which parts of the Bible we like and which parts we throw away. That’s also an ignorant way of dealing with things…as though we, limited creations, are somehow capable of deciding which parts of the All-powerful God’s Word are true and which are worthy of the trash can.

Both parties are guilty of sweeping black and white assumptions and judgement.

Just because I believe that homosexuality is a sin (as is gossip, lying, pride, lust, etc.) and I’m not a supporter of gay marriage, does not mean that I am not a supporter of people who are gay. I love them because, just like me, they were created in the image of God and Jesus died for them and wants them to have a relationship with Him.

Guess what? I have can opinions and beliefs but keep them to myself while loving the people around me. I do not have to vocally attack homosexuality, but neither do I have to support it to be a loving, Jesus-like Christian.

If only Christians were as passionate about their love for and relationship with Jesus as we are about stupid issues…

I chose to stand on a literal belief that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. But that does not mean that I am obsessed with morals and getting people to do “the right thing”. It means that I am obsessed with the amazing, mind-blowing God who created us for one purpose – to know Him.

Yup, I’m crazy enough to believe that Genesis is the literal history of a huge, amazing, loving God who personally created the first people, joined them together as a married couple, made a beautiful garden for them to enjoy, and walked in that garden with them. Before they chose to disobey, God KNEW His children in a personal, real, intimate way. I think that has always been His goal.

I believe that the rest of the Bible, when you read it in context, shows the story of God pursuing the people He created, culminating in the death of Jesus, the God-man, for the sins of the world. Jesus’ death changed everything. The veil in the temple was torn, and humanity once again had access to their Creator. Knowing God through Jesus transforms us. He changes us. It’s not about people trying to earn something from God, behaving so that we can get His blessing or favor. It’s about Jesus doing everything for us, so that we can enter His Presence, delight in a real relationship with Him, and allow Him to make us into the person He created us to be. When we actually experience Jesus, we will be changed. As Jesus makes us like Himself, our behavior will change. This is good news! Why aren’t we yelling about this?

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We have no business condemning or judging other people. But neither can we rewrite God’s Word. There must be a balance of Grace and Truth. Jesus beautifully illustrates this perfect balance. I love this story from John 8.

The prideful, religious guys catch a woman “getting it on” with a man she isn’t married to. They drag her out of the house and down to Jesus where they want Him to stone her for her sin. Jesus puts the religious guys in their place by telling them to go ahead and stone her if they are sinless themselves. They all begin to leave. Finally it’s just Jesus and the woman sitting in the dirt. He doesn’t judge her or condemn her. And being God, the only perfect one, it would absolutely be okay if He did. But He doesn’t. Jesus affirms her, tells her he doesn’t condemn her, shows her radical grace, and then speaks truth “go and leave your life of sin”.

Friends, fellow believers in Jesus, and seekers of Him, we lose our power when we stop being like Jesus. We must have grace and truth. We do not condemn, we do not reject. We love like a tidal wave, overwhelming, all-consuming Jesus’ love. But we also speak truth. We do not shy away from uncomfortable truth, despite what our culture thinks or if it is politically correct. Our God is indescribably bigger than us and we don’t have to understand Him to believe Him. We must live like Jesus in this broken world, shinning like stars, pointing others to the incredible possibility of an actual relationship with the God of the Universe.

It Doesn’t Matter Who Wins the Election

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People are so worked up and stressed out about this presidential election that the American Psychological Association has identified a new disorder. They are calling it Election Stress Disorder. If you think I’m joking, check out this article.

I’ve tried really hard to stay out of the chaos. I’ve almost completely resisted being political on social media, and I’ve unfollowed some of my more political friends. (Sorry, guys!) But as the election looms in just three weeks, and we will be forced to choose someone to be president, I’d like to remind all of you that it doesn’t really matter.

It doesn’t matter who wins the election. Seriously, in the grand scheme of things, God’s scheme, it doesn’t matter.

Stick with me for a few minutes.

  • In the history of our world there have been many nations and civilizations with bad leaders. There is nothing new under the sun. It is not the end of the world. We will survive.
  • The United States is not a “special” nation appointed by God for anything. We are just one of many nations in the world. Contrary to what some Christians claim, the United States was never even a “Christian” nation, whatever that means. The US was begun by theists who respected God and the Bible, but were not necessarily living in active relationships with Jesus. Certain types of Christians (Cough, like the cult I grew up in.) have perpetuated myths about our founding fathers. If we never were a Christian nation, we cannot stop being a Christian nation. Not to mention I’m not even sure if it’s healthy to be a “Christian” nation. Let’s save that for when Jesus rules the world.
  • Also, while we are talking about Christian myths, the US and Israel are not synonymous. We cannot take promises God made to Israel and claim them for the US. We are not God’s holy people. (Another thing I grew up believing.)
  • There is nothing in the Bible that says God gave Christians the job of “morality police”. We are not supposed to be running around forcing our morals on other people through the government or otherwise. We cannot expect a culture that has rejected God and the Bible to follow Christian morals. It is okay if the culture is a wreck. It was a wreck in the 1st century and the new believers stood out like lights in the darkness. Not because they were running around, freaking out, yelling about morals, but because they knew Someone who made them different, and they were full of love, peace, joy, etc.
  • If our culture continues to be a wreck, it’s not a bad thing. It’s actually easier to share the message of Jesus with someone who is broken and has never heard of it before than it is to share it with a “moral” person who thinks they are good enough or are already familiar with Christianity. My brother-in-law and his wife spent the summer in England last year sharing the gospel with college students at a university. They couldn’t get over how interested these young atheists and agnostics were to hear what they believed as Christians. So, bring on the darkness! Let’s be lights!
  • Jesus is coming back, you guys! This world is not our home!! So we live here for a few years and maybe our comfort level isn’t as high as we’d like. Oh well. We get to be with Jesus for eternity! And, we have the privilege of sharing His amazing message with others while we are on earth. It’s okay.
  • While we are talking about losing our comfort, let me give you a hint…we are ridiculously comfortable as American Christians. We are so comfortable that we have a hard time having a genuine relationship with Jesus because we are distracted and satisfied without Him. When have I grown the most spiritually? When I was going through trials, or when I was doing “without” such as living at camp or on a mission trip in Haiti. We could all do with a little less comfort. It won’t kill us. (And if it does, who cares? We get to be with Jesus!)

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We absolutely should vote and be a part of this process. But in the end, if our choice doesn’t win, it doesn’t really matter. Jesus is still Jesus. The gospel is still the good news. And God is still in control!

We still have a purpose: to enjoy the relationship with God that Jesus provided through His death. We still have a mission: to share the good news of Jesus with the world. We still have a future hope: eternity with our Creator in the most amazing place we can never imagine.

Clickbait, Disagreement, and Choosing What is Right

 

This week I got into an online discussion over on Jefferson Bethke’s (author of Jesus>Religion and It’s Not What You Think) Facebook page. He posted an article called “9 Sins the Church Is Surprisingly OK With as Long as You Love Jesus” and asked what we thought.

I thought it was a stupid clickbait title with a clickbait image. (Definition of clickbait – content on the internet of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular website.) But I perused the article anyway. I didn’t get further than their supposed nine sins: fear, apathy, gluttony, worry, flattery, comfort, consumerism, patriotism, and lying, before I started feeling frustrated. Sure, some of those things can be considered “sins” and all of them can be bad for you, but really? Guilt and shame anyone?

I posted a comment expressing my feelings. Jefferson Bethke agreed! (I was a little excited about that.) Surprisingly, that comment quickly became the most popular, but then the disagreement started.

I was told that “you are deceived when you don’t know the scriptures.” and “You need to know Jesus, the Character of God, and your views will change. Otherwise you will suckle milk and look like you do for a very very very long time.” Nice. Thanks. Did you read my comment?

The personal disagreement didn’t bother me. I like a good, healthy discussion. But what did bother me was all the other comments on the post. People struggling with anxiety disorders feeling judged and condemned. “Christians” saying pretty mean things to each other… Lots of comments that didn’t sound like Jesus coming from people who claim His name.

As I sat and processed, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote a year ago. So here it is, with some tweeks because I can’t help myself.

Why do we choose to do right…to stop sinning?

Is it because we are afraid of making God angry or disappointed? Are we trying to keep God happy? Is it so that we will look good to other people? Are we trying to maintain a “good testimony” so that people will think we are “godly”?

Or maybe we don’t worry about it, because you know, grace! Doesn’t that mean we can do whatever we want and still be forgiven?

I find there are often two camps within Christianity: the rule-followers and the no-rulers. The rule-followers call the no-rulers “worldly” and “licentious” (which is a big word that just means they don’t follow the rules). The no-rulers call the rule-followers “close minded” and “legalistic”. Yada yada. You get the point.

I’m pretty sure that they are both wrong.

Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand firm in it. And do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Jesus wants us to be free. He died to set us free. Free from rules, and free from sin.

We shouldn’t be living under a yoke of slavery to rules trying to make God happy with us and avoid His judgment. He already put His wrath and the judgment for sin on His Son, Jesus Christ. Once we trust that Jesus took the punishment for our sin, we have access to a relationship with a God who loves us unconditionally!

But neither do we have to live under a yoke of slavery to sin. We don’t have to be controlled by our habits and addictions any longer. When Jesus died, He set us free from the punishment of sin, but also from the power of sin. He has given us His Holy Spirit to live inside of us and empower us to follow Him.

Why do I chose to do what is right? Mostly because I love Jesus and also because I don’t like the consequences that come when I choose sin and live for myself.

This article and the online debate that it generated once again reminded me that rules and standards cannot overcome our sin nature. Only Jesus can set us free, only by the power of His death and resurrection.

If your version of Christianity is about anything or anyone other than Jesus, then it’s wrong.

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If you think you are making God happy with your rule following, you aren’t. If you care more about yourself and your good/fun life than you care about Jesus and developing a relationship with Him, then you are missing the point.

When our “Christianity” stops being about Jesus, His amazing grace, and our ability to know God through Jesus, it ceases to be true Christianity.

I’m finishing with a beautiful prayer from the apostle Paul. This is why we chose to do the right thing…not because someone showed us a list of 9 sins to avoid, but because of JESUS!

” I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

How to Believe the Bible and Still Love People

Rant time!

I am sick and tired of people in the media or on social media assuming that there are only two types of Christians. Type #1 being the “extremists” who actually believe the Bible and can’t wait to smack people with rules, condemnation, and judgement. And, type #2 being the “progressives” who care more about cultural relevance, social justice, and tolerance than what the Bible actually says. It’s as though it is impossible for me to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible and love people at the same time. That makes me mad! Why do they think that? Possibly because of a media bias against Christians, and possibly because of the MANY Christians who don’t seem able to combine belief with loving words and actions.

This rant continues with 4 reminders for those of you who, like me, hold a literal interpretation of the Bible and want to be a loving example of Jesus Christ.

  1. Belief ≠ Reaction

pout-1190741_1920This is a pet peeve of mine. We need to think before we post that meme, or share that article, or make that comment on social media. Are we reacting in a way that honors God or that makes us look stupid? I’m not happy with the state of our country, or current politics, or some of the policies that have been made lately, but I try really hard not to publicly react.

Let’s attempt to think things through and ask questions like, “If I do/say this will it make God look bigger? Will people think He is awesome? Will this create an atmosphere of love and acceptance? Will it push people away?”

Just because something makes me upset, doesn’t mean I have to react on social media. (That’s what my husband, and sister, and friends are for.)

  1. Belief ≠ Talk

speech-1026399_1920We need to know when to say nothing. Just because I disagree doesn’t always mean I have to let people know. It is possible to “not agree” without vocally disagreeing. It is possible to wait to share your opinion until someone asks for it.

When Jesus was here on earth, He asked tons of questions. This is interesting to me because, of all people, He actually had accurate information to give. What if we followed Jesus’ example and worked on asking good questions that encouraged others to talk and process instead of just pushing our beliefs on them?

  1. Belief ≠ Stupid

stupid-487043_1920Just because I do not believe in many of our culture’s more liberal ideologies does not make me stupid. However, sometimes Christians can look stupid because they haven’t taken the time to figure out why they have certain beliefs. I’m not talking about screaming apologetics at people. I’m talking about knowing what the Bible says, searching your own heart, talking to God, and taking the time to “work out your salvation” (Phil. 2:12). Personal stories and experiences are way less threatening than “statistics” and “facts”. Listen, ask questions. Be gentle, be full of grace, and please, try to sound intelligent.

  1. Belief ≠ Hate

heart-462873_1280Just because I do not agree with a homosexual or transgender lifestyle, doesn’t mean that I hate these people! Absolutely not! On the contrary, when I read about the high percentages of  depression and suicide within the LGBT community, it makes me care about them even more!

I believe that everyone was made in the image of God. I believe that everyone has a sin nature that separates them from a relationship with God. Even though I think homosexuality is a sin, I also think that looking at porn is a sin, along with lying, gossiping, and eating too much! Sin is everywhere and it is something Jesus came to destroy! He took the punishment for sin and He destroyed the power of it. How is anyone going to hear and believe the amazing news of Jesus if His followers (Christians) are too full of hate and fear to share the gospel?

We need to love people with the same crazy, radical, intense, unconditional love that Jesus has for us! Don’t think you can do it? Ask God to give you as much of His heart for people as you can handle. I guarantee you will be a tearful, broken wreck who can’t stop loving people even when it doesn’t make any sense!


So there you go. I can believe in traditional marriage, literal creation, Jesus as the only way to heaven, etc. and still passionately love the people in the world. I will avoid public reactions, realize it’s possible to disagree without being vocal about it, work to have intelligent reasons for my beliefs, and destroy hate by the power of God’s unconditional love. Will you join me? If Jesus lives really inside of us, then let’s show Him to the world!

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Is It Really Jesus Calling?

Disclaimer: This is NOT a rant! This is what happens after I have ranted to my husband, and sister, and random other people. This is me attempting to write a logically thought-out response toward something I feel passionate about. 🙂 

“What do you thinking about the book, ‘Jesus Calling’?” This post started with an innocent question from a friend. What did I think? I didn’t know…

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I’ve never been a fan. In the twelve years since it was first published, I’ve never owned a copy. The few times I picked it up at a friend’s house, I thought it was a little sketchy and kind of weird; but, I’ve never thought I needed to vocally condemn it either. I basically dealt with my iffy feelings about “Jesus Calling” by ignoring it. However, after looking into the book, the author, other people’s opinions, and deciding what I personally think, I can’t ignore it any longer. (Especially since “Jesus Calling” has been a top seller for the past decade.)

I started by looking into people’s criticisms online. There are some pretty negative reviews, including accusations of New Age and occult influence. Some of the reviewers were crazy, fundamentalists yelling about demons and women preachers. I crossed them off the list. A few complained about Sarah Young’s mystic version of God. I could kind of see their point. I found one critique that seemed intelligent and balanced, although I still didn’t agree with everything he said. That author was concerned about how similar Young’s teachings were to a popular New Age book he recently read. It made me curious.

I borrowed a copy of “Jesus Calling” to look at for myself. I read the entire Foreword where Sarah Young gives her testimony of finding salvation, her experiences in Jesus’ Presence, and how she came to write the book. Even though she writes as though her words are coming from Jesus Himself, she makes sure to tell her readers that they are not Scripture. I also paged through the book, reading sections here and there and looking up the Bible verses she used to support her thoughts.

So, what do I think?

I don’t think that “Jesus Calling” is an evil book from the devil, and I do believe that the author, Sarah Young, has a good heart and purpose behind her writings. That said, I also have some serious problems with the book and cautions for those who love it.

altar-window-1059741_1920My biggest problem is that Sarah Young created this “pretend Jesus” who does all the talking. Maybe this would be fine if the real Jesus was just a good teacher, or if she was paraphrasing his actual quotes. But, she isn’t paraphrasing Jesus, she is coming up with words and phrases and ideas that never came from Him. Some of these are Biblical concepts, and others are not. Jesus wasn’t just a good guy who said nice things; He is the very Creator of the Universe, the Sovereign God, the Beginning and the End! Imagining things and pretending Jesus said them seems…presumptuous. Okay, honestly it terrifies me!! God is WAY too big for me to be putting words in His mouth. I struggle to even read some of the sections because I can’t deal with the fact that “Jesus” is supposed to be talking to me… I just keep wondering what the Real Jesus thinks.

I worry about new or immature Christians who don’t have a good background in the Bible. Will they get confused and think these are truly the words of Jesus Christ, the Son of God? Do they have discernment to see that some of the things she says are not in fact truth (even though they sound wonderful)?

Are people actually looking up the verses at the bottom of each page? I know that’s how the author wants the book to be read, but is it happening? Are they reading the context surrounding those verses to see what they really mean? Are they actually getting into the Word of God or are they only reading the words of “fake Jesus”? This is especially concerning to me after coming out of a cult where every lie was backed up by a Bible verse reference. (But when you read the verse in context, it didn’t make any sense.)

Maybe growing up in and then leaving a cult has given me a highly sensitive B.S. meter, or perhaps God has given me the gift of discernment. All I know is that “Jesus Calling” is setting off warning signals in my brain. Reading the Foreword, where Sarah Young talks about how she came to write the book, is where it started getting sketchy for me.

bench-1289528_1920“I began to wonder if I could change my prayer times from monologue to dialogue. I had been writing in prayer journals for many years, but this was one-way communication: I did all the talking. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God might want to communicate to me on a given day. I decided to “listen” with pen in hand, writing down whatever I “heard” in my mind…My journaling thus changed from monologue to dialogue. This new way of communicating with God became the high point of my day.” Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Maybe I’m crazy, but I thought God gave us the Bible to communicate with us!

Sarah Young doesn’t claim that her writings are inspired (which is good), but I still feel like she is setting aside the living Word of God to pursue “subjective experiences”. In my own life this is usually when things start getting weird. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the Holy Spirit speaks, and I have felt often Him speak to me personally, but it’s not normally when I’m seeking it, and it’s usually through the Bible itself.

“In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and peace.” This quote explains why Young chose to wrote this devotional. I appreciate her heart. I agree with her conclusion. But, I worry that her fake Jesus has distracted people from the real One.

Jesus says He is with us always (Matthew 28:20); if we are in Christ, we have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell within us (Romans 8:9-11). We don’t have to seek after a Presence or an experience, rather we need to become more aware of the God who is always with us. Where do we learn more about Him, who He is and what He sounds like? The Bible.

My challenge for you:

If you want to know what the real Jesus sounds like, then I challenge you to do this. Put away your “Jesus Calling” for a while and S.O.A.K. your way through the gospel of John (the gospel with more of Jesus recorded words than any other). Read a little section or a couple of verses at a time. This is not a race or a competition, this is a slow soak. You will need a notebook.

S – Scripture, take a minute or two and write out your verses for the day. This slows you down and makes you actually think about the words.

O – Observe. What’s going on in the passage? What just happened? What comes next? Who is He talking to? What is the context? Etc.

A – Apply. How do these verses apply to your life right now?

K – Kneel in Prayer. Obviously you don’t have to actually kneel, but take some time to talk with Jesus about what you just read and observed and want to apply to your life. I like to write out my prayer because it make me think and it gives me something to look back on.

Jesus Calling

What am I trying to say? Here it is in a nutshell. I have problems with “Jesus Calling” because of the fake Jesus who does all the talking. Not everything Sarah Young writes is Biblical and I think God is WAY too big for us to presumptuously put words in His mouth. I agree that we are looking for a deeper experience with Jesus, but I believe that we will find Him in the pages of the actual Word of God and not in the imaginations of a human author.

I realize that this blog post holds potential for controversy, but I’m still curious to know your thoughts!

 

An interesting article for futher reading: http://www.cicministry.org/commentary/issue125.htm

Is God Your Heavenly Vending Machine? (Pt 1)

 

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We say we believe God is all-powerful and that He has the ability to intervene on our behalf. But what about when He doesn’t? I had a mini “crisis of faith” this week that has made me reevaluate what I believe about God, His promises, and how to get what I want.

It started before I got sick. A couple we knew in Bible College lost their healthy, newborn son to unforeseen complications, after two miscarriages, while on the mission field. Then a wonderful, sweet, loving woman, who was also a pastor’s wife, suddenly died. Really, God? So I was already questioning, already doubting, and then I got sick.

I hadn’t been this sick in over 20 years, not since I was a kid! It dragged on and on!! I was supposed to have a lovely day to work on my book proposal while my mother-in-law watched the kiddos. She still watched my children, but I laid on the couch while they were gone and tried not to die. I was supposed to go with my husband (a youth pastor) and the teens to an exciting conference this weekend while my parents kept the kids. They went without me. My parents still kept the kids, and I laid on the couch. I couldn’t even keep my thoughts straight, let alone write a coherent sentence. I’d prayed for healing, lots of people were praying, and I was still sick. Sick and filled with doubts.

We have all been there. Something falls apart, or a prayer doesn’t get answered, or a tragedy happens, and we start wondering: Is God really real? Is He really in control? Is He really good? Am I believing a lie?

My feverish brain had four days to wrestle with these questions in-between naps and excessive amounts of Netflix.

vendingmachine_lead1We see a “good” outcome we want, and we know that God could do it. There are plenty of examples of miracles in the Bible, and we hear modern-day stories. We know our desires are possible too. How do we get God to agree? Cooperate? How do we “twist His arm”? Which combination of buttons do we push on His vending machine?

You don’t talk like that? Me either, at least not out loud, but that’s how we act!

We don’t understand God, we can’t! He is way too big. So, we tend to create a version of God that we can understand, a god made in our own image. We can manipulate people, why not God? I see this happening in at least three ways.

  1. We Create Formulas.

I was raised under the shadow of the king of formulas. If you can get your hands on any of Bill Gothard’s materials, you will see 3 steps to this and 5 steps to that, always promising blessing and success. A perfect example is the book Gothard wrote called “The Power of Crying Out”. He basically shows verses (mostly out of context of course) where people “called out” or “cried out”. Then he turns around and promises that if we pray loudly God hears us and will respond better than if we pray quietly. What?

It’s not just my old cult leader who does this! I’ve read formulaic thinking on blogs, and in books, and heard it from the mouths of Christians across the range of Evangelicalism.

I have seen people take Bible stories and turn them into formulas. So-and-so did x, y, and got z, therefore, if we also do x, and y, we will get our z. Sorry, it would be nice, but I don’t think it works this way! God is not a vending machine! We cannot enter A5 and B10 and get a Snickers bar and bag of Doritos every time.

  1. We Claim “Promises”

Ever heard this verse used as a promise for physical healing? It’s pretty popular. “By His stripes we are healed.” It amazes me how many people use this verse and are clueless about the context. First of all, it’s not even a whole verse; it’s a phrase at the end of one. Read the whole thing and see if you can figure out the context and whether or not it’s appropriate to say it promises physical healing.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3 (NIV)

It doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to see that this verse is a prophecy about the coming Savior and how we would be rescued by his death. Jesus’ wounds healed us, but it wasn’t a physical healing, it was a supernatural, spiritual one!

How about this? “We walk by faith and not by sight.” People use this verse to claim physical healing. You know what I’m going to say: Context! The verse comes from 2 Corinthians 5, ironically a chapter about heaven and one day being with Christ. It is not talking about getting physically healed either! Here is verse 7, sandwiched between verses 6 and 8 for context sake.

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NIV)

Claiming “promises” like these (even if they WERE in context) and others, is still at their root a formulaic approach. We are still trying to find a way to guarantee a specific outcome, to push the right buttons.

  1. We Take the Blame (or put it on others):

“I guess I didn’t have enough faith.”

“We didn’t have enough faith.”

“Their faith was lacking.”

These are all real responses that I have heard from people when their prayers weren’t answered the way they hoped. Right. Because there is a specific amount of faith that will twist God’s arm and make Him give us what we want. I don’t think so. It’s formulaic thinking again!

Where do we get this idea that our lack of faith is to blame? From the Bible. There are tons of verses talking about having faith, and asking for things in faith. Here are just two of them.

“He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” Luke 17:6

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” James 1:6-7

If these were the only verses I read, then I could easily believe that I am at fault because of my lack of faith. However, when I take a closer look, I realize that James is talking about asking God for wisdom (vs 5). The specific promise is that if we ask for wisdom, God will give it to us. And while it is important to have faith as we pray, what is the object of our faith? Our ability to move a mulberry tree (or a mountain), or the God that made it? There are no verses that (used in context) guarantee any and every outcome based on our faith.

So, what does God actually promise us?

Stay tuned! Part 2 is coming tomorrow…

That Dang Proverbs 31 Woman!

This is, if you couldn’t tell from the title, a rant. Fair warning!

I thought I was over her, had moved past, and was able to let it go. Guess not! Last night I came across a blog post written by two young, single, childless women about motherhood, and being a “godly” mother, and the evils of day care or working outside the home… (First off, sorry girls, but you don’t get an opinion on being a mother until you are one! Not to mention, people in their late teens, early 20’s (Especially home-schoolers. I can say this because I was one.) always think they know everything and have every answer (I did), but they don’t. Not by a long shot!!) Of course they cited my least favorite passage as one of their proofs, Proverbs 31.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Proverbs 31 in itself, especially if you read it in a version other that the King James. But that dang woman was held up as the epitome of womanhood All. The. Freakin. Time. growing up in my conservative, homeschooling “cult”. It was this impossible goal to try and attain. We heard about her every Mother’s Day at least, maybe more. The “Proverbs 31 Woman” home-schooled, and gardened, and made all her own clothes, and baked fresh ground whole wheat bread, all while running a home based business, and having 12+ children, and being super submissive to her husband. She wore skirts only, maybe even a head-covering, and always spoke in a soft, quiet voice (to demonstrate her quiet and gentle spirit). Sound like anyone you’ve ever seen before? *coughMichelleDuggar*

Okay, it’s possible that I might be exaggerating a very, little bit… Don’t get me wrong, I am not against gender roles (in a relaxed and casual fashion). I am a mostly stay-at-home mother of two little children and have been for the past 5+ years. I even started gardening a couple of summers ago. But, the teachings I was raised with, almost destroyed me as a mother. More on that in a bit.

I AM against re92570055strictive gender roles! I’m against the idea that women can’t or shouldn’t get educated or have a job. I’m totally against the idea that somehow women staying home and living like its the 1800s (or even the 1950s) is more godly! I absolutely HATE how some conservative groups still treat women as inferior. Have you read about Jesus Christ and his radical interactions with women??

If you want to stay home and bake whole wheat bread because You Want To, great! Fabulous! But if you want to go to college and have a career, that’s also great and fabulous! Our personal choices as a family shouldn’t be automatically viewed as a representation of our “godliness”. Can you say Pharisee?!

If you actually read Proverbs 31 (my version is ESV) you will notice a couple of things.

  1. It’s really more about a business woman than anyone else. She’s working hard, buying and selling, and making things.
  2. The lady has maidservants. MAIDSERVANTS!! Plural!!! So someone else is doing all her cleaning, cooking, and possibly caring for her children! Which is how she has time to be a business woman. (This was NEVER talked about in my fundy days!)
  3. Her children aren’t even mentioned until vs 28 and all they do is “rise up and call her blessed”.

So there! Ha! Go take your out of context Scriptures and insinuated opinions and stuff it!

By the time I had children, I was well out of my “cult” days. But the teachings I grew up with followed me. Somehow I still believed that motherhood was the ultimate calling of woman, and that I should be totally fulfilled by being a mom. But it was WAY harder than I ever imagined… Honestly, I really struggled the first few years with babies. I didn’t even like being a mom most days and the guilt of those feelings nearly destroyed me. Until…one day I realized the truth. God never said I had to be fulfilled being a mother. God never said being a mother was the ultimate pinnacle of being female. My feelings were validated! Surprisingly, that knowledge actually freed me to enjoy being a mom.

I am a woman, mom, wife, daughter, friend, blogger, hopeful author, pastor’s wife, lover of nature, substitute teacher, part time jewelry artisan, camp health officer, restorer of old furniture, etc. But most of all, I am a child of God, loved and valued, redeemed, able to have a relationship with my Creator because of my amazing Savior, Jesus Christ. Actually, I might even be a Proverbs 31 woman…someone who is working hard, using her gifts, and seeking to love and serve her family.

Striving to be meet certain “criteria” will never bring us fulfillment, whether we are staying at home or not. Only a real relationship with Jesus satisfies us, and that should be our ultimate goal no matter what else we do.

“….a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

What the Lawsuit Against Bill Gothard and IBLP Means to Me

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Yesterday a lawsuit was refiled against IBLP (The Institute in Basic Life Principles) and now includes Bill Gothard. It was originally filed on behalf of 5 women who claimed sexual abuse. The new lawsuit includes 10 women and the charges are more severe. You can read the whole story here at the Washington Post, or google Bill Gothard and read it on a number of other news sites.

There will be Christians who use this story to cry “persecution” and there will be people who are mad at how Christians are taking other “Christians” to court. People will stand up for Bill Gothard and claim that this is all slander invented for the purpose of destroying a “man of God”.

I am someone who has a bit of an inside perspective since I was homeschooled for seven years in Gothard’s ATI program and was involved in his “ministry” until I was 22. I attended his seminars, went to a church heavily influenced by his teachings, and spent a year taking online classes from his “college” including two classes where we took apart his Basic and Advanced Seminars and found Scripture to back up his points. (Which I couldn’t do and which ended up being the beginning of my doubts about everything.) I even, regrettably, helped to teach children’s programs while their parents attended Bill’s Seminars.

I now believe that not only are Bill Gothard’s teachings twisted and dangerous, not only were they created with ulterior motives, but they have also influenced, either directly or indirectly, a huge percentage of evangelical churches and Christians. Gothard’s teachings have destroyed families, encouraged abuse, supported legalism, and created a false view of God (among other things). I would go so far as to say that Gothard made up an impostor Jesus based on his own personal goals and ideas.

With all that said, how do I feel about the lawsuit? I am NOT gleeful that all of this is being paraded in front of the world; I DON”T feel satisfied revenge for all the damage done to me and people I love. BUT…

I am very excited that both Bill and his organization are being shown for what they truly are. I hope the organization known as IBLP goes down in smoke and rubble and is completely discredited. And I hope that Bill Gothard is shown to be who he truly is and not who he has pretended to be. I long for people who are still trapped in this system of beliefs to be set free. I hope that people who have been influenced by Gothard and his teachings will have their eyes opened to the lies, twisted Scriptures, and false beliefs about God.

I want, more than anything, for people to find the real God, and the real Jesus who is not full of “49 Commands” (a Gothard teaching), but grace and love and mercy. I want them to discover the God who created us for a relationship with Himself and did whatever it took to make that relationship possible, including murdering His own Son… The God who doesn’t love us more when we follow the rules, but who knows the depths of our sin and selfishness and loves us anyway… A God who does not operate in formulas and steps, or give secret, hidden messages (like Bill claimed multiple times), but who is so amazing we can never understand Him, and so simple that a child can believe.

There you go, my thoughts on the lawsuit. What do you think?

 

Here are some more links if you want more information:

For truth about all things IBLP/ATI/Gothard check out Recovering Grace. They have some great Facebook support/recovery groups for ATI Students, ATI Parents, and a new one that was just started for anyone influenced by IBLP.

If you want to read the whole lawsuit, you can find it at Homeschoolers Anonymous. Just a warning though, it is graphic.

 

 

A Rant About Christianity (and Jesus)

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I read a young man’s deconversion story today, and it broke me. Yup, you read that right, his deconversion, as in the story of how he decided that God wasn’t real and walked away from his beliefs. I’ve felt a lot of emotions since this morning…frustration, anger, sorrow.

Do you  want to know why he walked away and chose to stop believing? A lot of it came down to the fact that when his life fell apart, the Christians he knew had plenty of judgement and quick answers, but not a lot of love. And the people who took him in, and loved him, and cared for him, and accepted him, were agnostics.

There is so much going through my head right now…

What would Jesus have done if this young man came to him? Would He have judged him and told him that he was being punished? Would He have given him pat answers and expected him to get back up on his feet? Nope.  I’m pretty sure He would have held him and cried. And maybe Jesus would have talked about how much He hates the mess this broken world is in, and how He can’t wait to fix it. And probably Jesus wouldn’t have said much at all…He would have just been there.

Christianity is broken, peoples; the church is broken. Millennials are walking away from their beliefs every day and I honestly can’t say I blame them.

They are tired of empty tradition, and rules, and religion.

They are sick of condemnation, and judgement, and hypocrites.

So they leave.

Big, fancy church buildings with talented bands, dynamic speakers, and smoke machines can’t keep them either. Because Millennials see past all that. It looks like fake, and Millennials hate fake. They want honesty, authenticity, genuineness…

I sat at Starbucks today with my peppermint hot cocoa, trying not to cry in public, and jotted down thoughts, as fast as they came. Here are some of them…

How Did We Get Here? Maybe too many years of tradition, doing what has always been done. Maybe not enough people who actually know what the Bible says for themselves, so they are easily swayed by teachers/preachers. (That’s what happened with my family and Bill Gothard.) Maybe getting caught up in looking and being different (standards) instead of being caught up with the One who will make us different. Maybe fixating on building a large following (mega-church) instead of fixating on Jesus. I don’t know…I think there are a lot of reasons that Christianity is what it is today. But, there is hope! Because the church is made up of individual people, and if those people begin to love, get to know, and follow Jesus, the church can change! It will change because Jesus will change us!

What Do We Do Now?

  • Examine our hearts. Start with salvation…are we trusting in Jesus and His death alone to save us, or are we trusting in our works, our prayer, that moment we went forward, the time we raised our hand…where is your trust? Where is your faith? (John 3:16-18)
  • Get to know Jesus. Read the Bible for ourselves, not because it makes us more spiritual or to get more brownie points with God, but because we want to know who this God is and who we are as His children. Pray! Not a dry monologue, but a sincere conversation. It might be awkward at first, but it becomes amazing! Coming right to God, as His child, is one of our special privileges. 🙂
  • Honestly, everything else will naturally flow out of these first things. We will be loving, grace filled people because we will see God’s amazing grace and love towards us. We will have joy because we will have experienced God’s Presence. Etc.
  • Jesus will work on us and help us to let go of selfishness, sin, and addictions. Not because we have to in order to earn something from Him, but because He loves us and wants us to be free.

It’s happening. I believe it. God is changing His people and His church. More and more people are finding a real relationship with Jesus instead of a dead religion. Jefferson Bethke (I put a link to his site on his name) is a great example, with his books “Jesus>Religion” and “It’s Not What You Think”. People want what he has to say. They are hungry for more, as his large following evidences.

What Do I Want? More than anything else, I just want the real Jesus to be known! I want people to find a genuine, satisfying, incredible relationship with Him. I want people who called themselves Christians to become obsessed with Jesus in a whole new way. I want Christians to be known for their love. I want them to love sinners and skeptics and haters in a way that makes people think they are crazy. Because that’s how much Jesus loves us. I want people to find freedom, joy, and abundant life because of Jesus.

Thanks for reading my rant! I’d love to hear some of your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Islam is Not the Enemy

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Warning: This is a rant. You might get offended.

Refuges, gun control, Muslims, Islam…hot topics in the last few weeks. Facebook is full of it: articles, memes, statuses, etc. Everyone has an opinion. People calling themselves Christians have opinions. And now I am going to get blunt. Some of their posts and the things they share are downright ignorant and offensive. Christians, this post is for you, those of you who claim to believe in Jesus as your Savior, I’m going to remind you of a couple of things and inform you of some others. Here we go! 🙂

Islam is not the enemy. Muslims are not the enemy, not even radical ones who commit acts of terrorism.

  • Did you know that a Muslim can never be certain if they are going to heaven or not? That they just have to hope in the mercy of Allah, hope that in the end their good deeds will outweigh their bad ones?
  • Did you know that most prayers in Islam are simply a repeated ritual and that Allah is not portrayed as a personal god to be known?
  • Did you know that the Quran cannot be read “in context” because the verses don’t always go together with the next verse? It was compiled after Muhammad’s death by men who had listened to him and memorized what he said. The first complete manuscript on record is dated 200 years after Muhammad’s death.
  • Did you know that in order to understand the Quran, Muslims rely on hadith, Muhammad’s words and actions recorded in tradition, kind of like biographies? Different types of Muslims rely on different authors because they don’t always agree.
  • Did you know that while Islam teaches that Jesus was a historical character, even a prophet, he was NOT the Son of God, he did NOT die on the cross, and he was NOT raised to life?

Islam is not the enemy. Just reading over these few points reminds me who the real enemy is – someone who not only hates God but also hates the people He created. Someone who is really good at telling lies and spinning half-truths. Someone whose main goals are to steal, kill, and destroy. The enemy is Satan. Muslims are just lost children of God.

And these precious people are never going to find the truth about Jesus if the only Christians they encounter are so filled with fear and worry that all they can do is hate. They will never find Jesus if the Christians they meet don’t know their Bible, because devout Muslims not only know the Quran and the hadith, they also know the Bible. These lost children will never meet Jesus if they don’t meet Christians who know Him, who have an active relationship with Him.

So, Christians, stop it! Stop being afraid of what you don’t understand. Get educated. Stop expecting this world to be comfortable and satisfying. Stop being shocked and horrified when bad things happen. This is not our home! We were made for more! Stop living for yourself. Use your short vapor of a life to share Jesus because it’s gonna be over really soon. Stop fearing death or the unknown! Be bold, be confident, be fearless because you have the God of the Universe living inside of you, closer than your next breath. Stop believing lies! Start trusting in the truth.

These things that consume our thoughts, and the news, and our Facebook wall…none of them really matter. This world that seems to be falling apart just a little bit more every day…who cares? Let it fall! Because…

Two thousand years ago, a baby quietly slipped into our world. In a tiny town, in a tiny country, looking like an unplanned pregnancy with an unwed mother. Announced not to celebrities, but to a few despised shepherds. Laid not in a cradle, but in a stone feeding trough. Seemingly insignificant, but changing history. A baby, God. Choosing to live humbly among His people. Born to die. The One who spoke the world into existence dependent on His creation for nourishment. The backwards, inside-out, incomprehensible Kingdom had begun. The Promise fulfilled. God with man once again. Restoration. Hope. Peace. Life. Future!

Do you believe this? Do you? Then let’s live it! Let’s go all in! Let’s read God’s Word. Let’s believe it and live it! Let’s love Him and love people! Let’s get to know Him and follow Him. Let’s give Jesus our lives, let Him live through us, let Him change us! Let’s do this! Are you with me?

 

 

IMG_3645If you are interested in getting better informed about Islam, and better understanding Muslims, I just read a fabulous book called “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity” by Nabeel Qureshi. Wow! Such a powerful story! Not only does it help to explain Islam, it also provides strong supports for Christianity. It might be my new favorite book and is available at Christian books stores for $17.99 or on Amazon for $13.99.