Saturday, April 30, 2011

Alive and Well!

Church isn't where you meet.  Church isn't a bulding.  Church is what you do.  Church is who you are.  Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ.  Let's not go to church, let's be the church.                                                                        ~Bridget Willard

This was the first time I was in the hospital since my Emily was born -- 18 years ago.  I had great nurses, techs and nutritionists, but it was, well...a hospital. I was happy to be released.  Hurrying home I packed my suitcases and we left for our conference.  I got to watch the services through live streaming in my hotel room, giving me time to rest and heal.  So to all you faithful readers who have been concerned, I am alive and well!

I chose to go to the last service because it's one of my favorites of the conference.  Five Bible College choirs and orchestras join together as a mass choir.  The director this year was a man who sang in RB's choir years ago.  We always love it when Jerry directs.

I hope you'll listen to their last song (linked here).  We hear so much about the failures of the church.  The church is either too conservative or too worldly.  Too many uncaring members.  Too many hypocrites.  Too boring.  Too many rules.  Too sick to do much good.

I disagree.  Oh yes, I do agree that you could find these "failures" and many other faults among the pews and even pulpits of the church.  I, too, get weary of the focus on rules without attention to integrity and character.  To the profession of love when the focus is funds.  But God's church?  His church goes beyond attendance numbers, the songs we do or do not sing, and the size of the church campus.  God's church is full of His presence.  His people, human yet forgiven, are living authentic lives, full of love for their Creator and Savior and each other.

I believe a healthy church uses the media of our day to reach all ages and diversities of its members.  They can sing with reverence Robert Grant's "Oh, worship the king..." written in the 1800s  and with the same heart of praise Jack Hayford's, "Majesty, worship His Majesty..."  written in 1997. A healthy church uses websites, Youtube videos and blogs to reach others with the same passion the early church used their sandals to walk from town to town preaching about Jesus. 

  The Church Awakening 
 A healthy church will use all menus available to enable God's children to grow in their faith and walk with God.  Bible studies, new believer classes, revivals, and Bible-based preaching.  Our pastor uses God's Word throughout his messages and I love finding the passages in my Bible, seeing the correlation between the Old and New Testament, prophecy from Isaiah fulfilled in Luke, etc.  A healthy church will be passionate for Christ, and that begins in the love of God and His Word.

This church isn't just my church or your church.  It's not limited to those in the United States.  It's not even confined to those meeting in Gothic cathedrals or small country churches.  It's not restricted to your denomination or mine.  God's church -- those who "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" come from all walks of life.  They may dress like you or they may not.  Their preferences in music may match yours and they may not.  God may have found them in the university or in jail.  They could be a sports hero or a homeless person. If God has accepted them into His church, who are we to criticize? Ultimately, if we do, we are criticizing and questioning the God we profess is living in our hearts and leading our lives.

The young people singing in the mass choir comes from various parts of the United States and other countries.  Yet they are passionate about the church of God -- the Triumphant Church.  Oh yes, many have tried to destroy it throughout the years. The Pharisees with their rules and rituals tried to destroy it -- even killing the Cornerstone of the church.  In the 1500s Bloody Mary tried to stamp it out by burning 300 Christians at the stake.   Today although our methods have changed, Satan uses us, whether with an everything goes embracement or nit-picking exclusion, to kill the church -- but it stands today.  Yes, God's church stands triumphant -- it is alive and well! 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guest Post: Jamie Isaacs

My friend's daughter, Jamie, wrote this article and I wanted my readers to have a chance to read -- and learn -- from it.

I took Ethan to the pet store to see the baby ducks and chicks. They were in two huge storage containers -- chicks in one and ducks in the other.
The bright yellow ducks were so adorable and sweet looking! They just waddled around in a tight little bunch and chirped at their visitors. The chicks, on the other hand -- what a difference!  I thought something was wrong because the blood was running down one poor little chick's tail feathers, coloring his white feather crimson. I watched in horror as the other chicks pecked repeatedly at the hurt bleeding chick; they were all chirping, but the hurt chick chirped really loud with pain every time his brothers and sister would peck his wounds. I couldn't bear to watch too much, so I found the sales clerk, and reported the incident!  She told me that they pick on the bigger chicks and they have to separate the hurt chicks from the rest of the brood until their wounds heal.  She never rescued the wounded chick while I was there. I couldn't take hearing and seeing that poor little chick get pecked on by his brothers and sister -- so we left the store.
Later the thought came to me how much we, as Christians, are like those little chicks. We see somebody who is prettier, smarter, skinnier, has more money, has everything we want in life and we feel like life is not fair. So to compensate for our own lack of "whatever," we put them down, say hurtful things or, in chicken terms, we "peck" at them, trying to make ourselves feel better. Here is a real life example for you:
Jadyn looked beautiful today -- hair curled, fancy Easter dress, beautiful shoes with some rhinestones and (barely) heels; plus, she is beautiful on the inside where it matters most, but another little girl told her, "Your face is ugly!"   It hurt Jadyn's heart. I tried to explain to her, "That girl LOVES to have fancy dresses and look like a princess; she was jealous of you because you looked so beautiful, and she didn't have a beautiful princess dress nor her hair curled."
Sometimes, we will see our brothers or sisters in Christ going through one of the hardest times of their life. Instead of loving and praying for them, we point fingers, call names, or get angry at them for letting us down. We "peck" their open wounds with judgmental words. They need us to pray, and to love them while they are broken and bleeding.  Instead, many times we fail.  In a spiritual sense we "peck our brother and sister to death."
I guess as I sit here sleepless tonight my prayer is, "God, it's not for me to understand the actions of others; I didn't give my life for them -- Jesus did.  If Jesus with His wisdom and mercy forgives or  picks up one who is hurting, who am I to gossip, judge, or feel bitterness? Help me to have a burden for those that are hurting, those that have fallen, not 'peck them to death,' but to help 'pick them back up.'  Amen."

I am sure you all hope we don't get pigs anytime soon -- I might start getting Life Lessons from the Hogs!
I need Thee, O Lord, for a curb on my tongue; when I am tempted to making carping criticisms and cruel judgements, keep me from speaking barbed words that hurt, and in which I find perverted satisfaction. Keep me from unkind words and from unkind silences. Restrain my judgements. Make my criticisms kind, generous, and constructive. Make me sweet inside, that I may be gentle with other people, gentle in the things I say, kind in what I do. Create in me that warmth of mercy that shall enable others to find Thy strength for their weakness, Thy peace for their strife, Thy joy for their sorrow, Thy love for their hatred, Thy compassion for their weakness. In thine own strong name, I pray. Amen.    ~Peter Marshall
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