My Miseducation About Perfection

If I’ve learned anything it’s this:  It is not enough to realize that I had a difficult childhood. I must find out how this dysfunction affected my personality and behaviors so that I can be my authentic self.

I’ve written about perfectionism before, and yet as I go on in life,  I see more clearly the dangers of this insidious disease.  I’m reminded that the wrong type of perfectionism comes from damaged homes and false signals.  Some people bring this wrong mindset into their life and into their spiritual walk.  Years ago while participating in a married couple’s class at our church. The question on the floor was what is it that your spouse does that irritates you and how do you cope with it.   A minister’s wife got up and said, “Oh my husband is perfect.  He doesn’t do anything to irritate me.”  At first, I thought they were joking, but they weren’t.  How can that be?  Is he a clone?  Is he in a coma?  I couldn’t comprehend this at all. What had gone wrong there? Did she expects people to buy that? Continue reading “My Miseducation About Perfection”

The Shock of Romans 14

One day a Christian friend was driving me to an appointment. I was thankful for the ride, but we began to talk about Dan Ryan Expressway drivers and how some of them were just crazy. If you’ve ever been to Chicago and drove on the Dan Ryan, you would have given us a high-five. Some of the drivers are just insane the way they dodge in and out of traffic, won’t let you in the adjacent lane. The trick seems to be DON’T use your turn signals, just TAKE the opening.

Ahh…the Dan Ryan

I drive it every day of the week and understand the madness.

However, my friend began to say that the drivers were morally wrong. I was trying to figure out if he was serious. Then he started to talk about how the drivers had the wrong spirit (and many of them absolutely do), but he said this mainly because the drivers would not just wait in line for the feeder to merge onto the I-290. They would go the next lane, get as far as they could to the front and then cut in.

Ok. So it’s not the best thing to do, but I’ve done it, and no, it doesn’t work for the grand scheme of traffic, but sometimes I just don’t feel like waiting and want to get ahead of the other 50 cars. Am I going to hell for this?! I don’t think so, but my friend was so adamant that it was morally wrong I was concerned that they may have walked out the next time I preached. So I listened rather silently with interest, as my friend was taking his theory over the top declaring  that these drivers were “in trouble with God.” His protests were met with my “oh, yeah?” and “Hmm.” I kept my expressway sin to myself. So far, Jesus and I are okay with my driving style, and that’s where it stays. I feel no condemnation when I’m running late, doing what I’ve got to do short of riding the shoulder and putting people’s lives in danger. See how people can think differently.  So let’s talk about personal convictions in Romans 14.

Verse 14

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Years ago I preached on Romans chapter 14, and as I went through the scriptures, I realized how problematic it was for our brand of religion.

Romans 14 is a scary thought to some. If people are led by God, won’t they feel differently about different things? Absolutely! Will God always point them to the same solution? Absolutely not!

After I preached about this chapter, someone came up to me totally confused  “How do you practice those scriptures and not compromise our standards?” So I took some time, there in the parking lot, and went over some points of scripture with them, but they left my presence very, VERY concerned. I didn’t know how to put any spin on it to make it fit what we practiced (controlling people’s every move) so I just taught it as it was.

I believe what stirred the pot was,  how does a church give people such liberty of conscience and still make them follow all of our rules? That would mean they would just be in the hands of God for Him to talk to them as He saw fit.  To some, that would never do.  I guess they would have to leave people alone and trust God to lead them. Like I said, scary thought.

This chapter gives Christians the freedom to walk with God based on His Word along and their culture.

It was then I realized that for some it was easier to explain AWAY Romans 14 or ignore it.

So let’s rip that page out.

shutterstock_154923812-800x430

What is Romans 14 Telling Us?
Romans 14 speaks of matters of conscience, personal convictions in our walk with God. For those that enjoy controlling other Christians, this may seem a fate worse than death.
What we personally feel free in doing and what we don’t is subjective and personal when it comes to the unwritten aspects of scripture. Paul addressed this because of the culture clash between Jews and Gentiles that caused a schism in the church at Rome. Paul spends 13 chapters talking about doctrine and then says in 14 and 15, “oh, by the way, stop fussing with one another over this small stuff, you’re all going to just give an account to God for yourself anyway.” Paul explained how to overcome this point of contention. These were minor issues that had little to do with salvation and the gospel of Christ but had everything to do with differences in visualizing of what it means to be a Christian in practical application. Something that frankly has caused divisions throughout church history.

Romans 14 has everything to do with being aware of who you are spiritually are in Christ. What you do to honor God and what you feel as a Christian you should restrain yourself from. It’s a chapter about holding your convictions in the spirit of love toward your fellow Christian Let’s take a look. Paul says:

1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.

First thought: Don’t be arrogant about your convictions! To walk with God, one must keep a spirit of humility. This involves just being happy with whatever freedoms the Lord gives your conscience and leaving other people’s convictions alone. None of the Gentiles could feel superior to their Jewish counterparts and vice versa. We have many Christians today who will downgrade your walk with God to 0, if you don’t vote a certain way, or feel like they feel on social issues. It’s important to look at Romans 14 and dial it back a bit.

My husband has a Christian friend who is on the total opposite of the political spectrum, but they never attack one another’s commitment to God. I admire that.

Frankly, anytime the reality of our religious practices fail to match up with the principles of the scripture, something is probably wrong with the method and not the scripture.
Throughout Romans, Paul talks to both a Jewish and Gentile audience. He switches back and forth between these two audiences. The Book of Romans is one of the most solidly doctrinal books about salvation in the New Testament, and I believe Paul, in this letter, stops a moment to address the differences in their cultures.

Second thought: Paul calls those that have severe conscience scruples, weak. One Christian may feel they need to bow their head in prayer before going to the even the grocery store down the street; another may not feel all that is necessary and prays as he goes, knowing and believing the Lord is always by his side. Paul said both are just fine.
In matters of conscience, this is where you have to be “fully persuaded in your own mind.” According to Paul, we should not force our convictions on others. These people were all serious about serving God. The ones who had scruples were just as serious as the ones that did not.

I am painfully aware that there were times in my walk with God that I felt ALL Christians should follow what the Lord showed ME. There are times I was so confident that God had spoken that I couldn’t imagine that he didn’t tell the next guy the same thing. But that’s how some Christians behave. Thankfully, I’ve grown.

God knows our make-up, our constitution. He remembers that we are dust. He knows what will send us down the wrong path and what will keep us in the straight and narrow. It’s not the same for every person. Everyone is not tempted by the same things. God focuses on the condition of our hearts, and our heart purity. I cannot decide for another person what will affect their heart purity toward God in matters of personal conviction. So in the gray areas, we have to keep in connection with God so that we can stay on the right path. Walking with God cannot involve someone else telling you what convictions you must have.

3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.

God’s love toward us is immeasurable, and he will not allow us to drift away if we stick strictly to the instructions he’s laid out in his Word. He also wants us to treat others with His amazing love, even when we don’t agree.

12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God…

19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.

So we have spiritual responsibility internally and externally. A Christian must be aware and persuaded of what pleases God in his personal walk. He must be tuned in to the voice of God and what God requires of him. He also must commit to carrying his conviction in the love of God and not flaunt his liberty in a way that will cause someone to lose his faith in Christ.

#walkonwater

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.”

c4c7b-confused-black-man-green-shirt-400x295

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?

images

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.

download

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.

Meditation Builds Spiritual Strength

download (2)Do you ever wonder why sometimes you feel spiritually weak?  Check your levels of meditation. I can’t even list how many times in scripture God encourages us to meditate on his words.   There’s something wonderful that happens when we read and think about the words of God.  Not only do you begin to take in the true meaning of the words but they actually begin to change your thought process.

You see, as you think and think over the words again, they become a part of your mind and your heart.  Eventually, it will come out in our actions.  David said, “thy word have I  hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).  It is harder to ignore that voice in your head warning you against doing wrong when that voice has been allowed to drill into your mind.

I was reading a passage in Joshua, Chapter 1, verse 8 that caught my eye.

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

You may say how can I meditate day and night?   It’s just like when you eat a good meal and you remember that meal.  You bring it back up in conversation and may encourage a friend to try the dish or the restaurant where it was served.    When something is good to you, it will come back up and you’ll think about it.

Meditation is an exercise of the mind.  You become more spiritual when you think on the Word of God, which Christ said is the bread of life. Christ is the Word and the Word gives life to our spirit.   When we take in what is right, our spirit will reject what is wrong

When we take in what is right, our spirit will reject what is wrong and sinful.  We will lose our taste for wrongdoing if we take in and meditate on His words.  Sure, the flesh will always want wrong but we will find a strength to say no.  Our desires will change toward good and our heart will be affected by the power of divinely inspired words.

images (1)

 

Worry Never Changes Anything

One summer afternoon, I received two notices: the gas was going to get turned off and the bank was going to foreclose on our home.  I did what most responsible adults would do—I worried.  How can I fix this?  I pondered. Who can I call to help me?  It’s amazing how easily we can tell others no to worry until we are the ones who have to pack our bags and sit on the curb.  Panic started to trickle in.  My daughter, who was about seven years old, was concentrating on a double-dutch game. I had promised to show her how to turn while she was jumping rope.  She came in from playing outside and said,  “Come on, Mom; I thought you were going to show me.”

My first reaction was “Not now.”  But then I realized that life goes on and there was nothing I was going to do in the ten to fifteen minutes it would take to show her that would mean a hill of beans in the outcome of the situation.  In fact, I probably would have just sat and worried some more.  So she and I went outside, played Double Dutch, and had a great time. Both of us got really involved in the game, and I was able to relieve the emotional stress of the looming crisis. We all have to “let go” when we need to. My husband always says, “When there’s nothing you can do…there’s just nothing you can do.”  As adults, our lives can be filled with stressful circumstances, but I learned that day that having the heart of a child helps us relieve that stress.

Having the heart of a child, even in adult situations, is what the Bible encourages us to do.

Matthew 18:3 (KVJ) says, “ …Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Children are more trusting than adults and adjust to their circumstances more easily. As we grow older, we learn that everything may not turn out the way we’d like. Our problems seem larger and the consequences greater.  What was once a natural reaction—adjusting—has now become a chore. So as adults, we lose our sense of safety and have to relearn how to find the silver lining in the clouds,  smile when things are going badly, and trust that we will survive whatever happens to us. Seem impossible? Seem unrealistic?download

As I go through life, I realize God enables us to accomplish the same impossible feats over and over again when we overcome our fears and stretch out on faith.  I hope the stories I share with you will encourage you to trust God with your life. And even though you will make mistakes because that is part of the journey of life, I hope the lessons I’ve learned will teach you not to make the same mistakes that took me so long to realize I had made.