Story #4 Continued – Live Interview-Story of Recovery from a Church of God childhood-Part 2

Well, we’re back with another portion of an interview conducted this year.   This is another portion of an earlier interview.  This person, who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian church, talks about why it was difficult for children in this performance-based religion, the church politics that created such a system,  the disruption caused by this system to her relationship with her family, and shame-based church disciplines.  I know for me and my family, it was damaging to hear over the pulpit that there is no favoritism in God’s church and that partiality was a sin, and then to see it all around you not from the lay members but the leadership.

Approx. 16 minutes, voices have been altered.

UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS CHURCH STRUCTURE

downloadI began to wonder as I looked around my church if I was in an episode of  Upstairs/Downstairs?  Is there a servant class and an upper class.  There are the ministers and then the lowly people who can only speak a certain way to the leaders etc.  We went one day when our pastor was sick to visit and one person exclaimed  in wonder and awe of his position, “how do I encourage my pastor”.    I bristled at this ( not visibly) but I thought “the same way you would anyone else who was sick”.  Somehow we’ve got it twisted that a Pastor is someone other just a man or woman who are kept by God like we are by the same Spirit.images

A reader of this blog reminded me of another essential reason abusiveness happens in our American churches, and that is an incorrect church structure. The church is supposed to be comprised of many members who make up the body of Christ. I Corinthians 12 gives us a picture of God’s church and the balance that’s supposed to happen in the body. This is the opposite of pastoral authoritarianism.  I think incorrect church structure is a breeding ground for corrupt leadership. Whenever we fail to follow scripture in any area, we’ll suffer some negative consequences. If the Pastor constitutes all the decisions and all of the leadership, then that is not the scriptural definition of the body of Christ. Continue reading

How Church Leaders Can Damage Families

download (6)Can a belief come from God if it is ultimately damaging to family life? The Bible may state a particular thing, and WE develop a wrong belief system around that verse. “Obey them that have the rule over you” (Hebrews 13:17) is often extracted from it’s surrounding content to push authoritarian rule. Consider this. In the Bible, the creation of the family (Adam and Eve) preceded the establishment of the church, and the family was created by God. How then can churches hold belief systems that damage family relationships? Continue reading

Story #4 – Live Interview – A Story of Recovery from a Church of God Childhood – Part 1

This is a beautiful and touching story of recovery from a religious system with a damaging atmosphere.  This interview was conducted with a young lady who was saved as a child only to realize that several detrimental things from the church followed her and others into their adult lives.

  1.  She mourns very little connection with her natural blood relatives.  The church was considered her family where holidays and other times were not spent knowing her relatives.
  2. John 9:31 that God does not hear sinners’ prayers was drummed into the doctrine to such a point that often some adults from the church have trouble praying to God because they feel God will not hear them. (I want to address this later in a separate blog.  This was taught incorrectly and out of context).
  3. She remembers it as a male-dominated religion where the women and children did most of the suffering. (I remember a Joliet, IL Pastor of our group gathered young men together to apologize to them for things they endured as children, but it was an all-male meeting when overall girls suffered disproportionately more troubles to adhere to standards)
  4. She remembers the strong focus on God as a God of judgment and not much emphasis on God’s love.

approx. 15 minutes

What is Religious Abuse?

You may wonder what is religious or spiritual abuse?

It’s not anger at going to church when you’d rather stay in bed or learning scriptures you thought were boring or sitting through long tiring sermons. Religion can become abusive when it involves a spiritual system that has developed either around a particularly authoritarian charismatic leader or domineering spiritual authority leading a church or group of churches.

Religious abuse can come in many forms. From what I’ve experienced, it happens when leaders and people of spiritual authority use scriptures and religious doctrines to manipulate people into obeying or performing activities that benefit the leader or the organization and not the individual’s walk with God. When other people are being used for the personal gratification of a leader or an organization, that is religious abuse.

If I can convince you that you cannot keep a relationship with God unless you come to my church and my organization, that’s manipulation. If I use —

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

to say that disobeying me is like disobeying God, because God has placed me in authority and I make you feel that my opinion as a leader is equal with God, that is abusive.

Remember , everyone in such a system: parents, children, sisters, brothers are family units and are caught up in the throes of that system. It will affect your relationship with with your family and other loved ones.

When trust is placed in a spiritual system, and that system becomes damaging to personal development, normal growth, childhood and physical health, then that belief system is dysfunctional.

When the system does not allow you as a parent to raise your children through your own relationship and understanding with God, that system takes the place of God in your life.

When the system preaches that the only way to heaven is through their organization and their organization stops following the Bible, that’s abusive.

When the system hides and ignores wrongdoing and still preaches that they believe in moral purity, then it’s abusive to hold everyone else to a standard that the leaders no longer have a regard for. Whether a church starts out right or has right teaching is not the question. A church’s doctrine can be sound, but if it is not followed correctly or is followed in toxic way that affects people’s lives, then that is a dangerous system.

Story #3 Reclaiming Childhood After Religious Abuse

In our religion, having control over your children was seen as a ticket to heaven. This is the case for many parents in fundamentalist churches and belief systems. The theology is that God entrusts the child’s soul into your hands and you as the parent are responsible for bringing up the child in the fear of God. Unfortunately, what should be a beautiful thing becomes tainted with someone’s personal ideology of child rearing.

In our group parents were fearful of not spanking the child enough or dispensing enough discipline for any perceived disrespect or actual disobedience. Spanking was preached but how and when was not. It was often preached, “don’t go to hell for your children” and that light or mild correction (like Eli gave to his sons in the Old Testament) was tantamount to a sin that would land you in hell. Devout members of our churches would have to acknowledge that a lenient mentality toward child rearing would garner you the label of being a bad parent.

Sadly, another thought that persisted was that children were put in a category as just unsaved. They could feel that they were not fully accepted. The ideology was that they were not saved and therefore subject to the whims of the devil, including lying, stealing, or manipulating. Being a Church of God child “hearing all this truth” and still not being saved was often a bad place to be.  

I know many parents did not allow their children to even pray saying “you’re teaching them to hypocrite” based on scriptures like the following:

 


We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. John 9:31 ESV

 


The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
Proverbs 15:8

Both scriptures were taken out of context and wrongly applied. If a child was of a certain age and not saved, it was as if the parental bond that should be there was cut loose and now because you are accountable you’re treated like any other sinner.

Though not all parents in our denomination had this mentality, but it was certainly in the air. Children were not really seen as children. There were only two categories–saved or unsaved.  You were one or the other. Often, children had little identity aside from “are you saved?”. You were either “in” or “out”. If you were not saved, then you had one foot in hell and were part of the “the others”–the “world”  spoken of in I John 2:15 and if you were saved, and for whatever reason your parents could not vouch for your “salvation”, it could be snatched away from you at any moment. If any saved adult, in fact, felt that you were not saved, then you were in trouble because “Sister so and so” doesn’t believe you’re saved.

One former Church of God member whose mother was a long standing devotee of a Chicago congregation and wished to remain anonymous, described her relationship with her mom and wrote the following in 2016 when I posted the Apology to my daughter:

As an adult today with children of my own, I still desperately search for a female role model to “mother” me as I feel it was lacking immensely in our home. No warmth, no down to earthness, everything was the bible this and God said this and the pastor said this.

I remember trembling when Pastor Miller would preach because my mom would come home and beat the stew out of us for something old that we did or she believed we did, and me the oldest was often the most targeted, because of something Pastor Miller said in the pulpit. As a teenager I longed for a woman to talk to about my growing body, my yearnings toward the opposite sex, and just things that teenagers deal with, but my mother’s head was so in the church cloud she couldn’t relate to me at all, and I would often get beat or punished for some of the things I was feeling.

I have often said, My mother didn’t know how to love us maternally, she only knew the bible way and just enough to stay “saved” in her eyes. People today say it’s a wonder I’m so balanced, warm and loving towards my children, who can talk to me about anything, in fact I call them in my room often as we just talk and laugh.

To this day, I long for a mother and daughter relationship with my mom, but her head is still so far up the church cloud that she neglects her grandchildren the same way we were neglected emotionally. Like a poster wrote above, I grew up hating the church and just started melting and trying to see things differently the last five years.

I wish you would have a raw and open meeting with the saints at 46th and Drexel specifically and read these comments (anonymously of course) to them. Maybe some of the healing can begin.

 

This is a real person with a real story.  And it is not just in one location. There are many fundamentalist types of religious groups that operate along the same wavelength based on what they believe to be God’s standards for obedience. Some parents did not understand the repercussions of misinterpreting such scriptures. However, we as leaders should have known since we handle the word of God and too often mistakes were just passed along to the next generation.

Can we as Christians learn from our mistakes? Can we help others not make the same mistakes? Can we adjust our teaching to make room for the emotional and physical safety of our children? Jesus would want us to do that.

If you can relate to her story, start the conversation in the comments below.

Are You Attending Church Today?

With one of the biggest Sundays on the Christian calendar coming up, I wanted to address this issue because some people will feel compelled to attend Easter Services even if they go no other time of the year. I usually would be at church front and center, but lately, I have not been a member of any congregation. It may not always stay that way, but I just have not felt led to any place at this time. After 30 years of going 4 times a week or more I know he is all-knowing and understands where I’m at in my spiritual walk. Involvement in a church community, and not just attending once or twice a year can be a beautiful thing.

Continue reading

Story #2 – Just Call Me Daddy (Audio Interview, Part 2)

This is part 2 to this interview, a chronicle of a family’s church struggle under an authoritarian Pastor.  Approx. 18 minutes. ( the beeps you hear are names and locations that are blocked).

Retro style microphone on  background

 

Story #1 – Get Rid of The Children

Spiritual abuse can involve being targeted by authority figures and humiliated by a community of people based on the influence of its leaders.

The following is a written story of an incident that caused this Christian to be traumatized at a time when love and understanding was needed most. Continue reading

The Silence is Broken…Again

How many times does it take for people to speak up before those in authority do something about wrong in their midst? Silencing people through intimidation and warnings to be obedient to church leadership are all symptoms of a dysfunctional religious organization and it is apparently very effective. When members feel they are better off not knowing what is wrong, there’s something very wrong. When church members have the attitude that they wish they didn’t know and cry “ I just want to go to church and be left alone,” there’s a serious problem. When people close their eyes to sin and wrong on one hand, and on the other hand, claim to hold up the blood-stained banner against all wrong in the name of Christ, again, something is seriously wrong.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke.

A few weeks ago, I was harassed on social media by someone from my former church organization. It had to be. Who else would care that much? For about 4 weeks, whenever I shared from this blog on Facebook, the person or persons would launch a complaint to FB that it was “ objectionable content.” FB in their attempt to err on the side of the complainer banned all links and information from this blog.

Continue reading

What Causes Silence?

When it comes to religion, I’ve learned to never confuse love for God with following man-made rules. It can get confusing, especially if you’re taught that following God and adhering to rules are one and the same. You want to respect a person’s title, position or rules but there are boundaries and precise lines that you must draw to avoid practicing any religion with the wrong mindset, and silence about wrongdoing should never be part of that mindset. Continue reading

Why Do We Worry?

Most people that believe in God will tell you that there’s no limit to what God can do. He can exceed what we ask him to do. Most people have experienced God working on their behalf. And still, each time, we’ve been pleasantly surprised when God works to the fullest. We testify and shout until the next time God’s divine hand shows itself in a big way in our lives.   That’s us.  We love when God does something great for us and yes, he deserves the praise.giphy

I believe there’s a part of us that often feels unworthy.  So when God does show out on our behalf we’re not only humbled and but also surprised. Think about this:   if we are children of the King and obedient to his will, we have every right to believe he will perform miracles for us. Sometimes after the miracle happens, I will say to myself, “I knew he would,” but it’s those in-between stages before he DOES IT that I often worry. Continue reading

Is Everyone Supposed to be the Same in Church?

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uniformity

/ˌyo͞onəˈfôrmədē/

noun

noun: uniformity; plural noun: uniformities

1.the quality or state of being uniform.

“an attempt to impose administrative and cultural uniformity”; synonyms: constancy, consistency, conformity, steadiness, invariability, invariableness, stability, regularity, evenness, lack of variation, lack of change,

uniFormity IS The OpPoSite of What YOu see HeRe.

See how I did that?

(In case you didn’t get it. I made the sentence the opposite of it’s meaning.)

Continue reading

God Loves Individuality

csm_individuality_and_collectivity__01_77aa31108aAfter being believing in a conformist type of Christianity for many years, God showed me that there is more freedom in Christ than what we know.  Look at how God created the universe.  Snowflakes, leaves, and stars are all things we can name where billions of them exist but no two are alike.  Our fingerprints are so unique we know that no one on this planet can sign in to work for us because out of billions of people, our fingerprints identify us.  So why, when it comes to God and worshipping him,  do we expect God to only talk to us a certain way or deal with our problems the same as the next guy. God recognizes our uniqueness.  He made us that way.  God looks at us as individual souls, with different understandings and convictions and he works with us on that basis.

Watch my Video on the subject. Continue reading

How Does Abuse Continue?

Over the last month, I’ve watched specials like Surviving R. Kelly and the abuse that happened to the Menendez Brothers.  In both cases, when allegations first came to the surface,  my initial feeling was that the media was stoking rumors and bringing down another talented black man, or that the Menendez brothers were running a scam by crying abuse. This was many years ago before the #metoo movement and other movements against sexual violence and psychological abuse that has created awareness. I’m so glad the cover is being pulled off of so much dirt. Continue reading

The Lightbulb

 

“Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.”

Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

When it comes to true religion, the right concept is always in the back our brains, yet the principle can quickly be snuffed out by our surroundings. The Bible defines true religion as being free from the world and loving others as we love ourselves. Continue reading

Our Actions Reveal Our Character

“The real me isn’t the person I describe, no the real me is me revealed by my actions.”

― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Assessing the Problem

How many times in relationships and life have we ignored people’s actions and tried to ascribe to them a better attribute than they deserve? Maybe they’re busy, perhaps they didn’t really mean what they said, or I know this person just lied to me, but maybe they misspoke. A detective in a documentary said one time that to ignore coincidence after coincidence is just plain stupid. When people act childish, manipulative, jealous or hateful. There is no mistake.

And that’s the hard part, isn’t it? It’s not that we don’t recognize these character flaws, we try to believe the best about people and unintentionally blind ourselves refusing to accept what we know in our heart of hearts. Continue reading

This is the Year of Possibilities

It’s a new year with new possibilities! I’m trying to get in better health this year. I did okay (for me anyway) last year and lost 25 lbs and have kept it off. I have so many joint and back issues, that I’m limited in exercise options. To make things worse I had the weirdest fall 2 months ago and injured my shoulder. But I’m reminded of people that have been in worse condition and retrieved their health. Obviously, I’m not going to be one of those people that are trying to run a marathon in the spring. Running was never a great thing for me. But swimming? Hey, I can do that. In fact, my doctor recommended swimming because of my muscle and joint problems.

Running and I don’t mix.

download (1) Continue reading

No Capes! The Day I Stopped Fixing Other People

e48df3c7d48dd4cd41c2ff3aae8b2722My goal this upcoming year is to stay focused on the here and now. This year I’m taking the philosophy of Edna Mode, the fictitious designer of superhero costumes in the Incredibles.

I’m going Mode mode. Renee a la Mode. Ok. Enough.

Her sentiment about “never looking back” is fantastic but that can be hard when you’ve got a lot of life to look back on. Staying in the present require changes that keep me in the right frame of mind. Facebook contacts may have to be blocked or less contact made with negative people, but I have to do whatever I can to remain on the upward track. I feel the tug from above to face forward and keep my emotions from getting tied up with the past.

I don’t mean to sound weird or schizophrenic, but all of us have an inner voice. The voice that tells us it’s time to move on and start a new chapter.  The voice that warns us in our gut about dangerous people. That gut feeling, Malcolm Gladwell calls it the Blink moment. Continue reading

The Grinch and Mrs. Milton

As I said in my last post, this is the first time in 35 years I’ll be acknowledging Christmas. After hours of discussion during our pre-dawn breakfast brawls, I told my husband that my feelings about Christmas had changed.

Gino and I playfully name our early morning discussions as “breakfast brawls” because we fuss and intellectually joust on a variety of subjects. This year the topic was Christmas. Both of us spent years loyally supporting the teachings of our church.

NO CHRISTMAS– its paganism–and we had ex’d Christmas out of our family life.

This year, we decided to give Christmas a second look. I upheld my church’s teaching and custom in my home faithfully: no lights, no trees, no presents, no Christmas cards (well maybe one to my wealthy Aunt in Brooklyn)–No, NO and NO to everything Christmas!

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To our fundamentalist religion, the very idea was too Roman Catholic (since they seemed to be the first ones to combine December 25 with the baby Jesus) and, need I repeat it, the practices were too pagan. In our eyes, Christ’s-Mass represented the combining of the winter solstice with the birth of Christ, and we refused to participate. Those bad Roman Catholics did this to us all. We had been enlightened, We were above all that, and we were serious about it.

To read about pagan practices associated with Christmas click here.

Many of the pagan practices associated with Christmas are easy to spot. Mistletoe, Yule, drunkenness and yes, caroling. Yet, I couldn’t ignore the fact that worldwide it had become part of Christian custom and tradition to celebrate the birth of Christ. It has become a time of year people try to show love to one another, meditate on the birth of Christ and his purpose for coming into the world, peace on earth and good will toward all men–you know– the Christmas spirit. In short, it is a universal Christian custom to honor the birth of the King of Kings.

Customs are simply practices created by communities of people. Those customs may endure regardless of the original source. Biblically, we have the freedom to acknowledge or not acknowledge a particular day.

Colossians 2:16-17 Let no man judge you in respect of a holy day.

Paul encouraged the Roman Christians not to change their love or view of one another based on differences of beliefs that had little to do with the true kingdom of God.

Paul stated in Romans 14:5
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

Yes, Christmas (and Easter) are man-created celebrations of sacred things. Some wish to observe and celebrate; others do not.

In our increasingly godless society, I find value in having opportunities to worship and tell what Christ means to me and how he changed my life.

It was funny to me how folks in my church were cautious not to honor Christmas but when Easter came, all the new hats and clothes would come out on Easter Sunday morning. Where is that in the bible? Were we told to celebrate his resurrection?

In my years since becoming a Christian, this issue of holidays has been a delicate dance. There are Christians who feel you are deceived and nigh backsliding if you join in Christmas celebrations and others don’t care and have their ugly Christmas sweaters and crazy shopping days ready to roll.

Our church was particularly joyless and confusing this time of year.

Let me tell you an interesting story about what happened in our church.

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My husband belonged to our church as a child in the 1960s. Now, up to this point, Christmas was not an issue. In fact, every year a beautifully decorated Christmas tree was placed by the stage in the basement of the church and from what I understand, the Pastor gave away presents to the children.

One year, as lore has it, an evangelist came through and like the Grinch, stole Christmas away in his little bible satchel and ran off.

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He preached against Christmas and decorating trees (Jeremiah 10) and from then on, he convinced the Pastor that it was not good for Christians to celebrate this pagan-infested banquet of evil. The Pastor started teaching against it. After a while, the tree in the basement came down, and the NO CHRISTMAS rule was in effect. It spread and spread throughout the years until, by the time I came to the church, you had to say “happy holidays” and not “Merry Christmas”. Saying Merry Christmas was not right. And you were literally reported to the ministers if you had a Christmas tree in your house.
Where is that evangelist anyway?

Some weakly try to keep this no Christmas tradition going, but many of the people in my church now acknowledge Christmas. Recently a Pastor stated during a church service that “saints (the Bible term for Christians) don’t celebrate Christmas”.

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The people in front of me looked around confused and shocked by the statement. This was the first time they heard this. Apparently, this was not a “thing” in their church, which was interesting to us because we grew up in an opposite atmosphere where such a statement would have been met with a hearty “amen”. See what I mean by confusing.

In all honesty, it really should have been left up to the individual.

While in our church, people were practically “turned in” for celebrating Christmas, many other branches of our church celebrated with vigor. For example, my husband and I were friends with a pastor in Oklahoma, and his kids would send us Christmas cards almost every year. But we felt odd sending them cards because–WE don’t do that. We were enlightened to the truth of Christmas. Well, should we send one back? We wondered. Was that joining in with the wrong “spirit”? We weren’t sure.

We were being rude for Christ’s sake, I guess. Everyone was left to fend for themselves in these situations.

Gino and I created a Family Appreciation Day around this time where we would give our children presents and tell them how much we loved and appreciated them. We’d stay up all night and have games and videos and special, once-a-year foods. We basically created our own celebration in the midst of our joyless anti-Christmas atmosphere. Our children knew what the deal was. They knew about the pagan roots and why we didn’t practice some things but looked forward to this fun time and the presents every year. We didn’t want them to go back to school from Christmas break with a lump of coal.

Here are some arguments that we used while under this spell and our thoughts on it now.
1) We don’t even know the day Christ was born.
Well, a lot of people of less significance to the history of the world, don’t know their birth date, but they know they were born. So they pick a day and celebrate. American slaves did that all the time. So there’s nothing wrong with a day to call attention to the birth of Christ. Besides, for some, this is the only time they may even think about Him at all. Any time I get an opportunity to talk about the King of all Kings or the plan of salvation is a beautiful time.

2) All the paganism and fantasy mixed in is just lying. Christians promote truth, and Santa, elves, reindeer, flying sleighs, and Ole St.Nick knowing whether you’re naughty or nice is all part of the Christmas scene. It’s just not truthful.

This is true! Those things are false. But who says those things have to be a part of your celebration. Why throw out the baby Jesus with the bath water? The birth of Christ is a true event. Stay away from the false. The original reason for the season is celebrating the birth of the savior to the world. This doesn’t mean one has to live on fantasy island. As Christians, we don’t have to indulge secularism. We can take it back and make it sacred. Make this time of year your own. Create holy family traditions. Eliminate the milk and cookies for Santa and bring out manger scenes and little drummer boy songs that tell about Christ. You have to stay focused on what is important to you and your family. Any time I can bring up what God has done for my life, it’s worth celebrating.

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice (Philippians 1:15-18)

3)Where do you see Christ telling anyone to celebrate his birthday in the bible? Ha! I would get my relatives with this one because of course, they couldn’t find any scripture like this. But we thought about this again. Where do we see Christ telling anyone to make a celebration about his resurrection either? But we gladly do this every year at Easter. It’s customary among almost the entirety of Christendom. Easter is a late development of Christian tradition and was never celebrated in the New Testament. Acts 12:4 ( only in the KJV) is the only place the word Easter is mentioned. Some Pastors because of this fact have taken to calling Easter Resurrection Sunday. But we won’t fuss about words.

4)We don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s Paganism!
Now, as much as my husband and I hollered these words, and said we were free from the Spirit of Christmas. Several conflicting issues would come up.

1 ) Our church gave out fruit and nut baskets to church members (BECAUSE IT’S THE HOLIDAYS!)

2) We sang all the Christmas songs in the hymnal around December 25, but not in July…only in December. Hark the Herald Angels Sing just did not fit near the 4th of July.

3) We had special Christmas morning church services, even though it’s “just a day” and Christ wasn’t born on the 25th. The justification was “it’s customary, and people are looking for church services during Christmas time. We’re catering to people’s understanding.” Or rather their CUSTOM. Helllooo?

4) Our church still went caroling on the street to reach people for Christ. No complaints about this. It was appropriate and beautifully done. But this does come from pagan practices and you don’t find that in the bible either.

5) We were instructed that if someone gives you a Christmas gift……TAKE IT and don’t be offensive, AND THANK THE PERSON AND JESUS….BUT we didn’t give OUT Christmas gifts to our families because that would be participating in the spirit of Christmas.

6) We did visit our families during this time, ate their figgy puddings, visited each other’s homes, and played board games and then enjoyed the AFTER Christmas sales. We still had a good time, but we did NOT decorate our houses.

So this year, we decided to do wreaths, poinsettias, candles, and cards and we’re working on gifts. We’re so out of practice. My husband couldn’t bring himself to do the lights and trees yet. Baby steps.

This year we will celebrate the fact that Christ was born, that he came to this world as part of God’s great plan of salvation and grew up to be the perfect example of holiness and the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And because of all this, we can lay our sins at the foot of the cross. Hallelujah!

No cookies will be left out for Santa though.

So Happy Hanukkah
Feliz Navidad
Happy Kwanzaa

I’m Out.

Church Can Hinder Spiritual Growth

Just reading the title may cause you to think I’m a bit off.

“Ain’t she a church-going lady? She’s a minister.”

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But hear me out.

I heard a well-known pastor in my denomination say publicly “Sometimes I find that people when they’re on their own, have stronger faith than those who are in a local congregation.”He went on to explain.

“Folks may be by themselves for various reasons, like too far from a church or something, and they want to obey God, they’re sincere for God, and they obey Him without any interferences. But when they become part of a church, most people become more concerned about what my friends think and what’s Sallie gotta say about it, and disobey God and become spiritually weak.”

Yeah, he said it, and I’m saying it too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been involved in wonderful, uplifting church services. I almost felt lifted to heavenly places by the atmosphere and the music. I’ve met good people, and seen good examples of spirituality but church must remain in its proper biblical place.

If you’re deeply involved in a neighborhood church, you have to prioritize and keep God first. I’ve seen many a Christian lose touch with God going to church faithfully, every Sunday. When you ask them if God has revealed his purpose for in the kingdom, they seem lost. Gathering with others that love Christ can be wonderful if you don’t let attending church and church culture replace your walk with God.

A local church is a body of baptized believers in Jesus Christ. Gatherings of Christians in ancient times took place traditionally on the day Christ rose from the dead and usually in synagogues or house groups since the first Christians were Jewish and were used to this tradition. We’ve carried this tradition on since the time of the Apostles. Most churches gather once a week for worship. In theory, these gatherings and assemblies of Christians are supposed to be a place where you can hear the word of God preached, learn more about scripture, grow and gather with other Christians to build one another up and serve one another. Back then, Christians and non-Christians were the only groups that existed and the non-Christians were broken up into a variety of institutions of worship. There were no right-wing Christians or moderates, just Christians.

Now, we have hundreds of Christians groups worldwide and even more splinters of those and so many churches in the United States (at last count from Christianity Today there are 384,000 Christian congregations in the U.S.), that it’s hard to keep track.

The whole idea of the gospel is to bring man back to right relationship with God, and open the way to direct communication with God. Somewhere in all this religion, spirituality and inner communion with the Almighty may tend to get lost. I believe this is why Jesus warned the disciples so sternly to avoid the “doctrine” of the Pharisees. Not because he didn’t believe in the Law, not at all. He came to fulfill the law. Jesus warned against practicing their brand of religion. In short, Judaism at the time consisted of a lot of man-made rules that the Pharisees themselves didn’t even follow. (See Matthew 15, Matthew 23 for Jesus’s criticisms of the religious systems of the time). It’s not religious practices that are wrong, the book of James talks about practices of “true religion”. It’s when religious practices are developed arbitrarily and are held as if you’ll drop into hell if you don’t follow them.

For me, if you can’t cover that practice with scripture..um…what are you doing?

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THINK ON THIS….
Church, pastors, priests, ministers should not be mediators between you and God.

Some Christians put the institution of the local church and all that is attached to it on the wrong level of importance. Why? Well, because this is the one thing they can physically see, and we humans tend to put more faith in the tangible.

So if “Pastor says…”, then should I do it, even if it doesn’t make any sense biblically? I’ve heard people reason themselves into obeying things that their Pastor can’t even explain with the bible. In some cases WON’T explain and just tells them to obey. Often people get so wrapped up in church-iosity they don’t even study or examine what they are taught.

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That type of religion stinks.

Our Personal Walk

According to the scriptures is Jesus Christ himself is our only mediator. He’s the only one worthy of that status as the Son of God. The Hebrew religion already had its, priest and rabbis who, by God’s temporary design, stood as mediators between Israel and God.

But when Christ died, as those who are familiar with the evidence know, the veil of the temple was split from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50). God tore this 60-foot veil that took 300 priests to move. No human could have done that. For Christians, this symbolizes that God had destroyed the barrier between God and man through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We no longer had to go through human mediators. Christ became our righteousness, our way to reach God.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21

In short, no human stands between you and God. God made that clear on the day Christ died.

Often we use our Pastor, or minister or other, fellow Christians as symbolic Old Testament priests.

By placing their opinions and rules above the word and the leading of God, by default, we give them that place. They now become in practice the Levitical priesthood. We imagine and they often do too, that somehow we need their approval for God’s divine favor. It can be deadly to spiritual awareness and our spiritual walk.

Our dependence on the human aspect of religion is what weakens us. We’ll look at our local church communities as the voice of God and replace God’s voice with opinions and rules. We may feel that God will not tell a person a person anything that is not sanctioned by a pastor or other Christians in our circle. The feeling of close community is where we have to be cautious. We can begin to lose the beauty of faith and walking with God when we place people on a pedestal.

It had gotten so bad in specific segments of our denomination that even if someone wanted to wear their hair a particular way if the Pastor didn’t like it or someone of prominence had a problem with it, that hairstyle had to go. Wow! Whenever anyone starts to take the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we should respectfully decline to accept masks of divine authority. Whatever God tells us to let go or remove from our lives should be a voluntary act of love. Anything else will be phony and only done to perpetuate a particular image and possibly just the comfort of others.

We weaken ourselves when we don’t live our spiritual lives authentically as God speaks to us. We lose our Enoch-experience. Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch pleased God. Enoch believed God and loved God, and this was before the Laws of Moses, and any rules instituted as Christian law, so what does that say about what’s necessary to commune with God?

Next time, let’s talk about Romans 14 and its lessons on what’s truly important to God.

Independence From Man-Made Religion

Hello everyone! Happy Independence day. I’ve been super busy with new things going on in my life. I’ve got a new speaking engagement coming up, and me and my husband have started a relationship coaching business. I’ll also do spiritual/life coaching. I’m working on an online bible study based on my book too. Man, I’ve got lots of work to do, not to mention a new grandbaby, helping my daughter and my two sons. One’s gone off to college and the other is starting his junior year in high school and on two sports teams. BUT only one is out of the house. They are learning and starting their lives and mom’s got to be there.

Hubby and I did a photo shoot and things are looking up for us

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Half of the time I look like this…images

 

It’s ok. God is doing new and wonderful things in our lives.

But the subject today is man-made religion. Here’s my thought.

I venture to say that most people if given a choice between church traditions and the Bible will choose church customs every time. This is because I believe people are more comfortable doing what the next man does over belief in something they cannot see. People prefer stability, and if someone is telling them what to do in all areas of their life, this often represents security for them. Often people come to God ready to love Him fully and obey whatever He tells them. This can be obeying what they see in black and white in the bible or just in their intuitive relationship with the Spirit of God. However, when they join a church (it doesn’t matter which belief persuasion) they run into the wall of church tradition. Very rarely do we find a church that allows people to just obey God as he speaks to them. In some way, they will they have to conform to a set of rules that some person has created. You understand that once you tie yourself to church rules, it’s not the bible that reigns, it’s the authority of the person that makes the rules.

This is why I often speak about spiritual awareness. Each of us came from God Almighty. All of us were born bent toward sin and sinful ways. Christ provided the way back to God by paying the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, forgiving us and removing any barriers to God through His Atonement. So why do we feel that unless we are tethered to a church building, we are missing out on a relationship with God?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe, strongly that church community is important. It offers us an opportunity to gather with other like-minded people who follow Christ. It gives a sense of belonging to those that follow the bible and it’s a time we can assemble with other Christians and worship and tell what God has done in our lives and share about his goodness. This is all very fulfilling and necessary for spiritual growth. We edify one another and certainly how can we do this at home or alone.

And yet, when God’s people come together, Satan often joins the party as well. More often than not, Christian gatherings can become a place where good followers of Christ can get sidetracked from God’s goals for their lives. Good people will fall into the trap of “you must do it THIS way” to be a good Christian. And the end result is that we begin to follow man more than God. We find ourselves being more concerned with what people think of us more than God’s view of us. We become more concerned with being called a good brother or sister according to the dictates of a man-influenced dogma, than being called God’s dear child.

So this Independence Day. Let’s declare of our freedom from man-dominated worship and vow to get in REAL connection with God himself.

As a minister, I’ve seen a repeated decline in spirituality from people that live their spiritual lives dependent on other people’s approval. True spirituality requires independence. Everyone must be free to follow his leading and obey His Spirit. Jesus plainly told the disciples, that they would have individual responsibilities to Him in their walk with God. Responsibilities others in their Christian community may not understand. But how many of us have the courage and confidence to move forward? We see this in the last chapter of John, when Peter, after receiving instruction that he should simply follow Jesus, turned and ask Jesus what would another disciple (John) do?

22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

This is where we have our struggles! And sure enough, shortly after that, the disciples started a rumor that Jesus said, John would not die. A rumor, a false one, about what Jesus said! This was not what He said, but people start rumors in church all the time don’t they? They know half of a story and fill in the rest with speculation—that’s just how folks are. Our walk with God is as individual as our fingerprints. So make a commitment to follow JUST JESUS and live as JUST A CHILD OF GOD without –isms and –tarians and –ologies and simply Follow Him!

Enjoy the fireworks!