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.

Frustration and Anger: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools Ecclesiastes 7:9 KJV

One day I was sitting at the table, trying to relax after putting the children to bed, and my husband was telling me about problems he was having on the job, problems new converts were having etc. I told him, “Hey honey, I really don’t want to hear about anyone’s problems right now.”   I had reached my human limit. I was tired, and I was frustrated. Continue reading “Frustration and Anger: Two Sides of the Same Coin”

Human Emotions

In the first three chapters of Genesis, we see fear, guilt, shame, contentment, anger, and happiness. Emotions are part of our existence, and while they should not be ignored, they are also not intended to rule our lives.  Jesus showed extreme levels of emotion in his walk here on earth.  He was human in every way.

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;  (Hebrews 5:7)

Emotions are part of our existence, and while they should not be ignored, they are also not intended to rule our lives.  Emotions come and go.  How many times have you felt depressed or sad, but the next morning you felt great?  I’ve known of some churches to teach the Christian experience at such an elevated level as to make it inhumane. Emotions do take time to process especially when something tragic happens like death, terminal illness, or a divorce.

It’s normal for us as humans to experience lingering sadness and depression over enormous hurts, such as the loss of a relationship or the death of a loved one.  If someone harms your child, it is human to feel hurt, anger, anguish, and a desire for justice.   While the Christian may certainly struggle with feelings of anger, hurt, revenge, we fight not to succumb to them and we pray for God to provide peace. Christ gives us strength beyond ourselves to endure and overcome.  I’ve been there and back and I’ve been amazed at His power to overcome evil with good.  Since God has grace for all these things, He encourages us to come boldly to the throne so that damaging emotions will not find a settled home in our hearts.

We will be hungry; that cannot be erased.  We will be angry.  We will desire the opposite sex and companionship; those hormones and attractions are part of our mortal fabric. We will get physically tired or even bored because humans crave variety.  We will not want to suffer problems, pain, death, injustices, rejection, isolation, loss of relationships, loss of health, or fear of the unknown. We will get physically tired or even bored because humans crave variety.

Though we are human, our hearts have been changed with the touch of the divine. Our focus while suffering these things should be to follow the steps of the one “who did no sin, neither was guile [craftiness or deception] found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).

In other words, Jesus left an example of how we should live. We should walk in the same path as our Savior. A person who believes he or she can’t overcome even the most minor temptations because “Well, what’s the use? God looks at me as a sinner anyway and I can’t stop doing wrong,” is not living the way God intended.  The mindset of Christ is to walk in his path and do what He would do.

Christ never emphasized the weakness of man over the power of God.

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The Humanity of Jesus

 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; (Hebrews 5:8)

Knowing all of our weaknesses and human frailties, God provided a remedy—Jesus Christ.   Romans 8:3 says, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh [the weakness of the law was not the law itself but the sinful nature of man] God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Jesus condemned using the weakness of the flesh as an excuse to sin by wrapping Himself in the same substance we are wrapped in—not just to be compassionate to our human condition, but to show us that His power could make us victorious over our sinful condition. The very purpose of this sacrifice was to free us from the power of sin and not just its penalty. Salvation doesn’t just cancel out the sins we committed; it also gives us power not to go back to those sins again and stay free from them. John 1:12 says, “To as many as received HIM, to them gave he POWER, to become the sons of God” (emphasis mine). Although being tempted is part of life, we, who are His children, always have the power to say “no” the devil and overcome temptations.

Praise God for that strength.

God exhorts us to watch and pray, be diligent, and stay away from things that will feed our temptations. Even though living free from sin does not involve excluding ourselves from everyday contact, 1 Corinthians 5:10 says, “for then must ye needs go out of the world.” Jesus did not pray that we are taken out of the world, but that we would be kept from the evil ( John 17:15).

A holy life is a simple obedience to the Lord with all your heart and all you know to be right.

The Bible shows several examples of Christ’s humanity.

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When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was willing to obey God’s plan and go through the expected suffering, but his humanity said in Matthew 26:39, “Lord, if this cup may pass from me….” In other words, He essentially said, “if there is any other way to avoid this agony and death, please find it.”  As a human, He did not want to go through the suffering.  When He learned Lazarus had died, Jesus cried out of hurt and compassion. He got tired, hungry, and thirsty. He suffered rejection, isolation, and injustices. He became angry and frustrated with the disciples at times.  Yet, Hebrews 5:8 states that He learned to obey God by the things He suffered.  We also have to learn to obey God through the trials we suffer.

excerpt from How to Walk on Water  DOWNLOAD THE BOOK

Riding the Waves

Getting through trials is all about riding the waves. It helps to remember the old adage, “Trials do not come to stay, but they come to pass.” They will end at some point, whether we hold on to God or not. Life keeps moving; situations change; seasons pass. If we just go where God is taking us until we arrive at the resolutions to our trials, we can meet these challenges and learn from them. Ecclesiastes 7:8 (KJV) tells us, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”

So often we allow our trials to get the best of us. We become victims of circumstance when we should be victorious.  Consequently, our confidence and trust in God becomes adversely affected. We become like a man on the ropes in a boxing match, in a vulnerable position and getting pummeled by his opponent. Every time he wants to get off the ropes, his movements are so restricted that he has trouble handling the punch his opponent is throwing. Isn’t that how we feel sometimes?  The punches of life are coming hard and heavy and we feel we have no place to go.  But as any boxing teacher will tell you, “Get off the ropes and use them to your advantage.”

The spring from the ropes can help you get out of your current situation and change your position. No boxer is out of the match because he gets in trouble; he’s only out of the match when he goes down for the count. It takes patience and steadfastness to stay with challenges until we see the end.

God never allows troubles to stay in our lives so we can suffer spiritual defeat.

Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV) says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

God allows troubles to come to us so we can help others.

2 Corinthians 1:4 (KJV) says that God comforts “…us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (emphasis mine).

Most of my experiences come from financial trials and church troubles, but God reminds me that He is a God of comfort for any need. If I have been afflicted, it is by God’s design for the consolation of others.

Excerpt from– How to Walk on Water   DOWNLOAD THE BOOK