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!

This, Too, Shall Pass

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The Bible uses the phrase “and it came to pass” repeatedly to signify that something has transpired or an event has occurred. It is usually accompanied by some version of the following familiar story:

During a Sunday class, the question was asked, “In your time of discouragement, what is your favorite scripture?”

A young man said, “’The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,’ Psalm 23:1.” A middle-aged woman said, “‘God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,’ Psalm 46:1.” Another woman said, “‘In this world, you shall have tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome this world,’ John 16:33-35.”

Then Mr. John, who was eighty years old, and had a head of white hair and dark black skin, stood up and said with as much strength as he could muster, “It says, ‘And it came to pass…’ eighty-five times in the Bible.” The class started to laugh a little, thinking that old Mr. John’s lack of memory was getting the best of him.

When the snickering stopped, he said, “At thirty, I lost my job with six hungry mouths and a wife to feed. I didn’t know how I would make it. At forty, my eldest son was killed overseas in the war. It knocked me down. At fifty, my house burned to the ground. Nothing was saved out of the house. At sixty, my wife of forty years got cancer. It slowly ate away at her. We cried together many a night on our knees in prayer. At sixty-five, she died. I still miss her today.

“The agony I went through in each of these situations was unbelievable. I wondered where God was. But each time I looked in the Bible and I saw one of those eighty-five verses that said, ‘And it came to pass,’ I felt God was telling me that my pain and my circumstances were also going to pass and that God would get me through them.”[1]

[1] Stephen Sheane, “The Table of the Shewbread,” http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/illustrations-about-influence.asp?Keyword=Influence [accessed May 25, 2011].

Excerpt from– How to Walk on Water   DOWNLOAD THE BOOK

One Dream Becomes Reality

If you are old enough to have watched television in the 1970s, you remember George Jefferson, the African-American neighbor of bigoted Archie Bunker in “All in the Family” who went from living in a modest home to a penthouse with a live-in maid. The show’s theme song was “Movin’ on Up.” If you in financial difficulty, God has his own time to move us from the prison to the palace.

The time we spent saving our house was for a reason. Sometimes we said, “Let’s just let it go and start over.” But God had a reason for keeping us in the frame of mind to keep it. And lo and behold, we had a huge amount of equity in our property despite the fact that we weren’t smart enough or savvy enough to have refinanced our property multiple times. And of course, we were unemployed! So after I worked for three years, Gino received the vision and burden to move. So we mapped out the best areas for education for our three children, but we were still open for other ideas.

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We had been living next to an affluent area called Beverly, which had nice houses and mansions. I had lived in the adjacent areas most of life, so I knew that area was out of our reach financially.  It was like being in the friend zone. Next the person all the time, but no relationship.

I had always walked through that neighborhood, looking at the tree-lined streets and valuable homes, with their distinct landscaping, and historical/landmark placards and thought, Well maybe one day, when Gino and I retire, we’ll be able to afford something here.

There was one house I really loved, but it didn’t have much closet space.  It was in the school district we wanted to be in, though, and it was a good financial buy because the houses were selling quite high in that area.  It sat and sat and sat and sat; no one wanted to put a contract on it. It was a perfectly good home that had been sitting for about nine months by the time we looked at it.  The owners accepted our offer and we moved into our dream neighborhood that I never thought we’d move into in my lifetime. It certainly wasn’t our real estate savvy or intellect that got us what we have—it was entirely the Lord. As always, all glory goes to Him.

Looking back, I don’t know how we went through hospitalizations, job injuries, financial ruin, employment problems, deaths, and illnesses on both sides of the family, in addition to church turmoil. Whew!

It was during the early years of these trials that God gave me the Psalm 37 formula for overcoming a trial, which I outline in this book, which has guided me through many heartaches and difficulties in my personal walk.  I have not been through everything; maybe I haven’t even been through as much as some, but I’ve been through enough to realize that all power belongs to God and He turns our lives however He chooses. We just have to hold His hand through all the twists and turns.

Through all this, I learned to trust God with my life—my money, my time, and my future.  I learned to rest even when it seemed I should not be resting.

I learned to wait because I never knew what God was trying to work, not only in my life but also in the lives of others during that time.

It took us years to recover from having little or no income, but now I walk down the streets of my beautiful neighborhood and tears come to my eyes because I know where God brought me from spiritually and naturally. Gino and I have never forgotten having so many bills and so little money.

We are just happy to have received God’s favor.

Feel free to leave your story:

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$4,000 In One Day Is Not Too Hard for God….

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We needed $4,000 to pay the mortgage again, and the lawyers gave us a two-week deadline. We were desperate, and I couldn’t seem to find a solution in my head. I thought maybe we could borrow small amounts from several people, but a week went by and still so solution.  I thought, “Well, it is what it is and the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”  I began to think of other places to live. Some may call this response a lack of faith, but I was being realistic.  I didn’t know what God ‘s will was in this situation.  He began to bring a certain sister to my mind—strongly.  I told my husband about this and he said this same sister had come to his mind, too. But she was not a blood relative and we were not close friends. She was a good, honest saint I had worshiped with, but she did not really know me. So how were we going to ask her for that kind of money?

I called her and explained that I needed help on a matter but was not sure how she would be able to help me.  She said, “Well, God already let me know that you all needed some help, so how much to you need?”

I thought the words were going to choke in my throat. “$4,000,” I said quietly.  You know how in your mind, you can’t fix your mouth to say the full amount but I figured that was close enough and we could find the rest somewhere else.

“That’s around the amount God told me you needed,” she said.

“Well,” I said bracing myself,  “It’s really more like $4,400, but if you can help some, that would be great.”

“I can handle that,” she said. “When do you need it?”

I gave her the schedule and she told me to bring the lawyer’s letter to her on Friday so she could get a cashier’s check to the proper parties by Sunday.  She was so gracious that she told us not to worry about when we’d paid her back until we got on our feet. She was true to her word and didn’t seem to worry about it.  Even after we got settled financially in more secure jobs, she told us to take our time.  She truly had the gift of giving and we paid her back in full.