I’ve been in the process of writing this post over the past few days. It’s not funny, nor fuzzy feel good. But I think it’s something we all need to be praying about and asking God to examine us. Over and over, God has confirmed the directions in what He gives me to write. So I pray you read with your spiritual ears open. Lord, let these words glorify You and be worthy words that are useful and helpful.
My family serves in full time ministry at a wonderful church and we are so thankful to be where God has placed us. So I am looking at the church overall in America as I write. My heart has been conflicted for several years now by our lack of true community and discipleship in many of our churches. (Let me clarify, this is not to say all churches, and every member. Some churches are doing a better job than others and some people get it, others do not.) Stick with me and let me explain a little about where I come from.
I was raised in church. But I was lost. We went to church but I knew nothing about what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I knew what you were supposed to do and not do. I did a lot of what you were not supposed to do. My early years were filled with shame and guilt.
I didn’t understand who Jesus was, even though I had walked an isle and been baptized; attended a Christian school for several years; and was in church every time the door was open. All I knew was the ritual of going to church and that you should follow the rules. There was no knowledge of a daily, personal relationship with Christ that transforms our priorities, desires, speech, and thoughts. There was no understanding of how great Jesus’ love was for ME . . . a sinner. Discipleship was a concept my church community did not practice. We simply attended church.
When I came to Christ as a 20 year old student at Auburn University, I remember the feeling of going to church and feeling “less than.” I know what it feels like to walk into a church and feel like you don’t belong. I knew I was not good and that I needed Jesus. The good news is that I was at a church that did a great job loving on people like me! By the grace of God, I plugged into the Navigators for discipleship and WOW…..God changed my life! Relational discipleship was the model in both my church and Navigator group. For the first time in my life I was learning how to study the Bible, how to pray and how to build relationships with people. This was life changing stuff!!!
Not to digress, but I still had a lot of junk to deal with and that’s taken A LOT of years and counseling to work through. Folks, Jesus transforms our lives when we surrender to Him! But when we carry baggage from the past, we must work through those things in order to walk in freedom and be healed. There is no shame in addressing our junk!!! It is an absolute necessity to being healthy and fruitful in our lives. God’s love cannot flow through a clogged up vessel.
Now to continue on with why I started writing today.
We Can Know A Lot and Make Little Difference
For the kingdom realm of God comes with power, not simply impressive words. 1 Corinthians 4:20
We can use all the right words and do all the right things, but lack the power of God of in our lives. Faith is more than talk. God’s kingdom is to be lived, not just discussed. There is a difference in knowing (head knowledge only, no action is taken) and living out God’s commands in His power (heart knowledge that is being actively applied).
You are always on their lips
but far from their hearts. Jeremiah 12:2b
I find it alarming how often God warns us about talking the talk, but not walking the walk. In this passage from Jeremiah, he’s upset because the wicked are flourishing. Jeremiah had a difficult life, even though he was faithful and obedient to God. He loved God, but his life was hard. Later on in this passage, God says to His prophet that if things are hard for him now, how will handle the difficulties that will come when things get really tough.
Not all of God’s answers are nice and easy to handle. I have learned that through experience. I’m sure you have too. It’s always helpful to remind ourselves that He is God and we are not. Our relationship with Christ is not about getting what we want or relief from situations that are uncomfortable. Again, I see that as “Americanized” Christianity. We just want comfortable answers that fit into our plans.
What does it mean to live like Jesus and surrender our lives to His ways?
We must be committed to God even when life gets tough and the answers to our prayers don’t bring immediate relief.
You Can Sit In A Pew Every Week and Remain Unchanged
And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it. Ezekiel 33:31
I believe the American Church culture has led to a church that is mostly asleep. We may walk around and say the right things, but we are not experiencing God personally and thus we make very little difference in the world around us. This has been a concern of my heart for a number of years.
I know in many ways, I have been part of the problem. How narrow and limited my vision and understanding has been at times! My own faith has weathered storms and grown thin at moments. I’ve made the mistake of relying on self, and not putting all my hope in the ONE who IS my strength. I’ve gotten distracted by personal pain and issues, failing to press on. I’ve spent too many years wrestling through forgiveness issues when I have been wounded. To look back over the years, there is so much I’ve gotten wrong and in many ways I have failed to live up to what God made me to be. I’ve spent way too many years limping when I should’ve been running.
God’s commands are not optional . . . but I’m afraid that is how many of us live. I’m working through this myself. When we read God’s word and He says “Do” – we should commit and burn any bridges that would allow us to turn back (that’s paraphrasing what Oswald Chamber’s has said in Utmost for His Highest).
The blessings are laid out for those who do what God commands. Moreover, the devastating consequences are clear when we fail to do what God has commanded. But if we will repent, He will save us. Obedience doesn’t mean we won’t face hard, but it does promise God’s protection and provision through difficulty. God is so full of grace and mercy when we turn to Him.
Distractions Will Be the Death of Us
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:3-10)
What is God saying we should do in this passage? Are we warned about living in our flesh? What are the consequences? Are we given commands to follow? Dig in deeper and circle words that instruct us how to live, mark those words that warn us about the flesh, and underline words that state His provision for us as we obey.
If the enemy can paralyze our faith with pain and failure . . . he wins. If the enemy can keep us distracted by personal problems, busyness and worldly concerns (even good things like serving at church) . . . he wins. The enemy wants to take our eyes off of God and His promises, and have us look to our circumstances and human resources. It becomes all about us. And it is most definitely NOT about us. It’s all about JESUS. Who He Is. What He said. What He did. What we have in Him. What the future holds in Christ.
THAT is why we are here friends. All this other stuff is passing away. So let’s don’t waste our life. I don’t want to waste my time, energy, and money on stuff that won’t last for eternity. I bet you don’t either.
So let’s be alert to what God is calling us to do. Just know this . . . it probably won’t be all the stuff everyone else is doing. It may not be many of the things other people are asking you to do. It may not be some of the things you are currently doing. Just stay faithful to where you are and ask God to reveal these things to you as you go. Wait on Him and make sure you are in the Word and listening. When He speaks, be ready to act and burn those bridges as you commit to no turning back!
You have been prayed for!
Monica and Chuck