I don't have many readers left from the old days when I did a lot of political blogging. (And drunk blogging.) My writing was staunchly conservative and I was convince all liberals were idiots. While I have not ceased being conservative, I no longer think all liberals are idiots. Actually, I think there are no more liberal idiots than there are conservative idiots. The idiots are among the far left and the far right with most people more toward the middle and just leaning liberal or conservative. See how easily I threw the idiot card? That's the number one reason I don't blog about politics. It just pisses me off and stresses me out, and it's too easy to make sweeping generalizations in a nasty way. It's also why I don't listen to talk radio. Not political nor religious. Because in both cases the underlying result is to fire up the base, and get them angry enough to fight the people on the other side. Not to win them over to one side, but to force them to agree with that side, and demonize them if they don't agree. Win at all costs.
Problem is, each side just digs in their heels more or more convinced that they are right and the other side is stupid/evil/lazy/greedy/jerks. The schism widens, the rhetoric ramps up, and the media (news, entertainment, religious) exploits it all further distorting and escalating the real issue driving the schisms even wider and the people angrier at each other until hate abounds albeit while many haters deny that they hate. But their words tell a different story. And this is why I don't spend so much time on Facebook anymore.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29, ESV)
I think that we Americans are sort of hard-wired to fight for our rights (to paaaaartay! - Had to. Squirrel!). But I think that somewhere along the line as American Christians we blurred the line (if not completely removed it) between our United States citizenship and our citizenship in heaven. So many of us have been taught (whether explicitly or implicitly) that the United States is the new Israel ordained by God as a favored Christian nation. As such, we have elevated our nation's leaders beyond their clearly laid out constitutional mandate as leading our nation to be spiritual leaders of our nation also contrary to what is laid out in our constitution. We demand our leaders to proclaim they are Christian before we will vote for them, and then we cry and rage when they don't live up to what is really an unconstitutional standard. It is absolutely not a constitutional requirement for our elected officials to be Christians. It is also not a constitutional requirement of US citizenship to be Christian. Therefore it stands to reason that we are going to have leaders who are not Christians serving an electorate who either aren't Christians or aren't conservative Christians or are nominal/cultural Christians. Most importantly, not any of our elected officials are perfect (Christian or not) and every single earthly government makes a crummy god.
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17, ESV)
Nero was emperor when Peter wrote that. No one in our government is an emperor nor does our government as a whole entity equate with being an emperor. Is our government corrupt? Absolutely, and so are we who elect our officials to office to serve us. So pray for them. Yes, be informed of their character. Yes, vote your conscience. Pray for your elected officials the same way you would pray for your best friend or family member. Don't demonize them because they don't do things the way you think you would if you were in their shoes. Don't demonize the people who vote differently than you do. Don't demonize unbelievers because they don't follow the American Christian moral code. Pray for everyone who doesn't think or believe the way you do not so they will become a clone of you but that if they don't know Jesus as Lord and Savior that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to the Truth. Not what you think is true, but what is really and truly capital T Truth. Quit just throwing salt.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6 ESV
Rather than include the Beastie Boys, here's how Pastor Benji preached this concept. Hopefully I didn't lift too much of his material. ;)
This may end up being a continuation of yesterday's post though not in any specific manner. By that I mean I am not publicly elaborating on the incident. Or well, at least not until James and Lee talk to a couple of other folks and get to the bottom of what led up to Saturday's incident. And to set the stage for where I am coming from on all this, let me give you some info on my background for those who don't know. I grew up in very conservative Missionary Baptist churches who considered Southern Baptist too liberal, but not so strict as Independent Fundamental Baptists. My dad was a deacon, and both of my parents were very active in the local church with my dad generally also being active in the local association. Essentially, I fall under the category of "preacher's kid." I often say I've been a Baptist 12 years longer than I've been a believer even though I no longer belong to a Baptist church.
I walked away from the church when I was 19, and it took nearly 20 years for me to return. When I came back, everything changed. I wanted to read my bible. I wanted to study it. I wanted to pray, and have learned through the reading and studying and my less than eloquent prayer that praying isn't about asking for what I want that I think will make me happy. I was the prodigal son for those 20 years away. But I was also still in the mindset I had grown up in which amounted to the prodigal's older brother. And I fed that with talk radio and reading certain pastors and Christian writers. But I just couldn't keep it down. It kept me hungry all the time because somehow I knew I wasn't really growing, and was instead stressing on things that weren't mine to stress on. This is also why I don't blog about politics anymore. I was feeling too militant.
Now with that out of the way, maybe I can remember what I was going to write about. ;) Using "counter-cultural" is usually used by Christians to other Christians to live differently than the world because we should not look and/or sound like non-believers. We are to be salt and light among the world to point to world to Jesus. And so we have our own culture, but if we aren't careful we make our own culture a little-g god of its own. We forget that our holiness comes from the finished work of Jesus Christ alone and start acting like we are able to behave good enough to be worthy of grace. Once we do that, then we ourselves become the judge and determine who is worthy to belong among us by imposing a "conservative" set of rules that are meant to show 1) that we ourselves are spiritually mature and 2) to impose a faux spiritual maturity on spiritual babies who will either learn how to pretend or will eventually go away because they are made to feel so uncomfortable by being unable to live up to those who have deemed themselves spiritually mature enough to be the judge.
This is how many churches end up bearing more of a resemblance to a country club than a gathering of followers of Jesus. Instead of reaching out and embracing the lost, we end up reaching out to fill our pews with people who either already look and act like us or who are willing to pretend in order to fit into the church culture. Instead of making disciples, we are making cliques. Then when someone dares to buck against the church culture we unbiblically run them off (often in secret or known only among our little gossip cliques), or when someone gets fed up and leaves on their own (whether because of the gossip and backbiting/slander or not), they are shunned and treated as enemies. And then we wonder why our churches are in decline and/or outright dying and why we aren't growing. It really isn't rocket science.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23, ESV)
There is quite a contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Country-clubbing your church isn't fruit of the Spirit. Constantly telling the single mother that she is living in sin and then gossiping about her is not a fruit of the Spirit. Having an angry outburst at a former member who has been picking up food for your food bank every other Wednesday for the last 5 years even AFTER leaving your church because he dared to pick up a bag of food for his son is not displaying the fruit of the Spirit. This is why we need people in the church being counter culture to the church culture so that the church can be salt and light instead of just another one of the world's exclusive clubs that treats the Word of God as merely a rulebook.
I had big plans and topics for this week. But things aren't working out like I had planned. I'm in class for a couple of weeks so my mind is more occupied than normal with that. Last night was my scheduled counseling, so it was already late when I got home, and eating and going to bed were about all that happened. Tonight I plan to go to Al-Anon, but that's going to depend upon how I feel when I get home. Plus, I have a basket full of laundry from Saturday that needs to be put away which also means I have some pants and tops that need to either be thrown back in the dryer or actually ironed.
Now, I have a post sitting in my drafts folder that kind of sums up why I don't believe in coincidences. However, I've never really liked how it sounds because since it primarily involves me, I am afraid it seems self-aggrandizing. This weekend there was an incident with Lee that I won't get into the details of because I have gossiped that enough even though I am still pretty pissed off about what happened to him. Anyway, James and I were informed of the incident that evening when we got to Lee & Rachel's. Through the course of all of this, James and I convinced Lee & Rachel to come to church with us at Newhope church. We normally go to the afternoon service, and they were all for that. Since I played with the worship team that day, I was there for all 3 services, and therefore got to hear Pastor Nate's sermon 3 times.
I'm going back up a little at this point because I just realized it is relevant. The incident occurred where we (both my husband and I and Lee & Rachel) used to go to church, and only involved one person there. It actually probably involves 2, but the other one is purely speculative based on information I shouldn't know, but do because it indirectly impacted me. Anyway, I dumped part of my knowledge as I finally had the evidence of who was at the root of most of the trouble-making and connected a bunch of dots. And I was then told about another lady who also used to attend and why she finally quit going there. That crap pissed me all off too, because it's so blatantly unbiblical, self-righteous, and downright mean and just plain evil.
So, there we all sat during the 3rd service, and Pastor Nate said, "If other churches don't want you, we do." That may not be the exact quote, but it's the exact meaning. And that was the only time in all 3 services I heard him say that, which just happened to be the one service that Lee & Rachel came to...their first time there. And after what had happened the day before. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Now, for the friends I have at the old church who read my blog, I am not making a sweeping indictment of the entire church. Almost everyone there embodies how a follower of Jesus Christ should walk and conduct themselves. Also, I want to state for the record that I love each and every member of that church. But there are some destructive actions that have been made for at least 4 years that will have to be addressed sooner or later if that church is ever going to grow. And that means that someone is going to have to stand up to the bullies in truth and love.
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16, ESV)
I have started, and deleted this post about 3 times now. It's gone from snarky to whiny to incoherent. As I sit here trying for the 4th time to get this written, this version may be snarky AND whiny AND incoherent. See, there are events and conversations behind it that would give it the necessary context, but I don't want to blog about those. But there was one conversation that has kind of served as a catalyst for wanting to write about this because something was said that kind of shook me up and made me think.
At one point I said essentially that doctrinally I am still a baptist. Then later as I thought on it I thought "But culturally, I don't think I am." This brought up the realization that I have been a baptist my whole life - 12 years longer than I've been a believer. So naturally, me being me, I "have" to question whether I have picked baptist churches as an adult because I am altogether baptist or if it's because that's all I know. I mean, seriously, up until the past month, aside from a handful of base chapel services when I was active duty, the only non-baptist church I had ever attended was a Catholic church with my best friend in high school for a few months.
There are some things that I am sure of.
1. I don't want my "Christian experience" to consist of just church attendance. That's performance. I did that for my entire childhood as a deacon's kid. I don't want to just play the part at church services and functions. Like I said, been there done that.
2. I don't want to go through the motions and not get out of my comfort zone. Kind of like #1, only I want to perform in a way that brings glory to God and not attention to me. "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven."
3. I want to reach out to the lost, particularly the unchurched. You know, the ones who don't know how to "perform" as a "good Christian" is supposed to. Rough, crude, and unpolished. The ones that folks who grew up in church and never openly rebelled/strayed don't know how to relate to.
4. I don't want to "get our country back to God" by means of political activism under the banner of the church. We cannot ever change a culture of any kind through politics. No law ever changed a person's heart. Plus, the USA has never been nor will ever be the new Israel which is to say we, as a country, are NOT God's chosen people.
So far, this seems to be kind of a ramble, but whatever. That's what happens when I don't fully contextualize. ;) Where I am right now is with my family looking for a new home church. Let me tell you, when you leave a church where you love each and every person there, it is like breaking up. It's not pleasant. It hurts. It hurts you, and it hurts them. But sometimes you have to move on for the sake of the whole family, and when your kids don't want to go anymore, and you reach the point that it is nearly impossible to force them, it's time to move on. Hence the dilemma. Do I continue to press for a baptist church out of tradition? And I have come to the conclusion that what I want is a church faithful to scripture, zealous for evangelism and discipleship, as focused on children and youth ministries as adult, and not afraid to open up in worship and in life (meaning, you can't be open if you "bite and devour" aka gossip and backbite).
I think I managed to hit snarky, whiny, and incoherent. Therefore, since I have labored over this post for well over a week, I leave you with a little "Flyman."
I generally try to come up with a title and write around it. That doesn’t always work out so well, and is often why I end up not writing at all. Eh, whatever. This time, though, I know what I want as title because it is the subject of what I want to write about. And for some reason, thinking “Something is missing” reminds me of that scene from Star Trek: Generations when Picard meets Kirk in the Nexus. And as an aside, I generally don’t think the odd numbered Star Trek movies are all the great. This was #7. But it’s Kirk, and I am digressing.
Over a 9 day span, I had migraines for 7 of the days. I have never had migraines like that. They weren’t so bad I couldn’t go to work, but while I forced myself to work, that was the only place I forced myself to. This past Sunday, I finally decided that since I didn’t have anywhere I absolutely had to go, that I would take a valium and see how that worked. All the pain went away, and I sat all afternoon knitting. Ok, not all afternoon. I did get up from time to time and do stuff. And it made me a little dizzy which made me a little sick so it’s not like I want to take it again. However, it confirmed that my migraines were from stress and tension. I already suspected that. Oh, and I haven’t had a migraine since. 3 days straight. Imagine!
But even before the pain lifted, I knew that something had to happen. Something had to change. Petra has quoted this to me time and time again:
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
(2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)
At least I think that’s the one. ;) Anyway, you would think it would eventually sink into my thick head. But, no, I have to learn the same lessons over and over the hard way. It’s so frustrating, and maddening. I know this stuff. I grew up with it. Why after all these years is it still not sticking?
I’ve noticed that over the past couple of years I have grown less judgemental of non-believers, and have finally got it through my head that not everyone grew up saturated in a “fundamentalist” Baptist church in the Bible belt where most everyone is assumed to at least be a regular church attendee with at least a basic knowledge of the Bible belt legalistic moralism “Christianity.” See what I did there? My judgementalism transferred from non-believers to Christians. I seem to so easily point out what is wrong with other Christians, while still setting myself up in my ivory tower of self-righteouness because I “get it.” Except I didn’t.
Last week it finally sunk in that I was missing something, and it isn't toast. ;) Something big that was keeping me back and hindering my prayers and keeping me from experience the peace and joy that I am supposed to have. Now I know that doesn’t mean I’m supposed to have a carefree easy life. Jesus didn’t say, “Take up your Lazyboy and chill out” but “Take up your cross and follow me.” I understand what that means, and it is by no means an easy, comfortable life. But yet I still try to control circumstances around me so that life's easier or so I don't get hurt. Fear and worry. Lacking trust in the One who is the only one I can trust.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)
Contentment escapes me. Even when things are going fairly well, and I feel like I'm getting a breather, something is missing. I have come to the conclusion (partially from judging others for this very thing) that what I am missing is the Holy Spirit. Not that the Holy Spirit isn't there,
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
(Ephesians 1:13 ESV)
but that I have spent so much of my life working at controlling the circumstances around me that I have missed out on the Spirit's power in my life. The power to make me content no matter the circumstances. The power to feel peace and joy when the world is falling apart around me. But most of all the power to obey. The power to forgive. The power to love. The power to praise God no matter what, and to trust Him completely with everything. Because He is in control anyway. And this all changed what I prayed for. Because I asked for what I also fear while confessing the fear as I prayed. I mean, it's not like he doesn't know. But I can't overcome the fear without the Spirit either.
And now I wait.
Yesterday was something else. I woke up with a worse headache than I had gone to bed with, finally conceding that since no over the counter meds and no amount of hot showers were touching the pain significantly, the headache was a migraine. So I called in sick and took prescription pain meds which successfully took care of the pain while making me all loopy and ADHD. That’s why I didn’t write anything yesterday.
Tuesday night the hubby asked me, “So who do you think is going to win?” First I rolled my eyes because I knew he was just poking at me because I was so fed up with the politickin’, but then I grinned and I just said, “God.” Now I was pretty certain well before the election that President Obama would win reelection. In 2008 I was completely certain he would win the election. And, you know, in 2008, I realized that I could be at peace with Barack Obama as President even though I disagree with him politically on pretty much everything.
Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:20-22 ESV)
The President of the United States is not a king, nor is he the supreme ruler. His power is shared equally with that of Congress and the Supreme Court. In 2008, Republicans ridiculed the Democrats saying that they raised Barack Obama up as their messiah. After the lamenting I saw yesterday, Republicans did the same thing with Mitt Romney, and were therefore crushed by his loss as if the world is now going to end. There was (and still is) a plethora of derisive blaming and name-calling by defeated Republicans that is nothing short of vile and mean-spirited. And what’s worse is that many of the awful remarks I have seen are from professing Christians.
I think what the Christians lamenting the direction our nation is heading fail to realize is that we are not going to be judged for what is happening now or what is going to come now that the Republican messiah wasn’t elected (because apparently now if you are a Christian you have to be a Republican). We ARE being judged for what we have done for decades with our legalistic moralism and prosperity gospel teachings. The legalistic moralism focuses on sins that good Christians don’t do while the prosperity gospel promises us material wealth and happiness in the here and now. So what we are left with is either the self-righteous critical Christian or the selfish materialistic country club Christian, the latter of which pretty much prescribes to moral relativism and only as much backbone as to protect their possessions and personal comfort.
So to my fellow Christians I ask this: Which are you? Or are you a combination of both?
I think as a whole, Christians here in the US, particularly among the Bible Belt, are known more for what we are against than what we are for. We will attend political rallies disguised as prayer walks, and we will support entrepreneurs when they offend homosexuals, and then pat ourselves on our backs for standing up for our faith and our freedom of speech. But where is Christ in that? We want to pass laws to protect human life and protect marriage, but when has the law ever changed the human heart? We rail against homosexual marriage but turn a blind eye or even justify no-fault divorce. We may not be quite as vile as the Westboro Cult, but we still point the finger at homosexuals telling them that they are going to hell for their sin as if being homosexual is THE sin that will send them to hell, yet we are largely silent about fornication and adultery. Therefore, homosexuals see us just as they see the Westboro clowns because while we don’t picket funerals with “God hates fags” signs, we are just as guilty of not showing the love we are commanded to show to our neighbors.
So Christians, you want to “turn our country back to God”? You can’t do that through political means. Once social issues are political issues, the culture war on that issue has already been lost. Laws don’t change hearts; only the Holy Spirit can do that. Engage the culture instead of just condemning and avoiding it. Disciple instead of pressing for a quick decision that amounts to offering a “get out of hell free” card that produces no fruit. Stop looking at evangelism as a way to fill up your church building on Sunday mornings so you can continue to pay for it, and instead be willing to give up the comforts of an elaborate building in order to actually lead the lost to Christ and build his kingdom instead of filling our pews. Pray for a heart that is broken for the lost, and repent of your own self-righteousness. And pray for your duly elected leaders, whether you voted for them or not - not for your comfort, but for God’s glory.
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)
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I barely made it through the last verse and ending, and I remember thinking “I need to compose myself before the next song,” and when I turned to Josh to tell him to give me a minute, I guess he saw it before I had to speak, and spoke for a couple minutes while I stopped myself from sobbing, BUY SIBUTRAMINE NO PRESCRIPTION. It was the first time a song had affected me like that, get SIBUTRAMINE, and would not be the last. SIBUTRAMINE street price, I’ve had it happen again off and on, mostly during contemporary songs which reinforced my hymn bias.
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*By traditional, I mean songs in a hymn book, which in the churches I have been in are relatively modern (reformation-era) with the oldest being written by Martin Luther.
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*The post title is a partial quote from Practical Magic. The full quote is "And this is what comes from dabbling; I mean you can't practice witchcraft while you look down your nose at it.".