Finding the Authentic Church and Why it is Important – Part One

I have often wondered why churches are so different in styles and beliefs, thinking they were all pointing to Jesus. I was naive to think that and very very wrong.  I started researching what the different denominations were and why they are different. Growing up I just figured it was different friends and family that gathered at the different churchs for whatever reason. It took me a while to grasp the concept that it isn’t about Christ that makes their differences. It is about themselves. It is about satan. It’s about people twisting church into their own comfortable place to gather.  A place where their rules feel better than God’s rules. A place where man creates and controls the atmosphere. A place where the masks cover the sins beneath. Where worship is planned in advance thus removing the spontaneous authentensity. Where people put on shows of faith and generosity that don’t come from the heart or the Spirit. I’m not talking about the Muslim and Jehovah’s Witnesses and such. I’m talking about the Christians.

Don’t misunderstand…I am a Christian. But because of these differences, I consider myself a Christ Follower instead. I think it is a more specific description considering all of those differences. I decided to do some research to discover what Scripture says the authentic church should look like. I opened my Bible up to Acts to start my journey. The first thing I ran across were the requirements for membership into God’s church. This reminded me of my childhood when my cousins built a fort and put a sign on the door that read “no girls allowed”. I eventually made my way in but only after completing a dare. I don’t remember the dare but knowing them it was a creepy one. It seems there are always requirements for membership regardless of what we are joining.

I found the first step in Acts 2 which says that sinners are to hear the word of God (Acts 2:37). This makes sense since you cannot believe in something you don’t know or learn about first. How can anyone believe or know about Christ unless he learns about Him first? Romans 10:17 reinforces this and reads “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God“.

Since hearing the word produces faith in Jesus as the Son of God, faith is the second step. Faith is defined as “confidence or trust in a person, belief that is not based on proof, and belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion“. This step is important since you cannot move forward to the next step without it. It is also important to be learning about Jesus from an authentic church and not learning things that are not true. Otherwise, what is your faith based on? Lies, half-truths, man-made rules and junk that will deceive you and destroy your walk with Jesus (Acts 2:22-37, John 3:16).

Adam and Eve knew they had sinned in the garden before their eyes were opened. They tried to hide from God but He knew what they had done. His reaction was not for His benefit but for their benefit. He wanted to hear from them whether or not they would tell the truth and be sorry for what they did. The next step is repentenance (Acts 2:38; 17:30). Repentenance is explained as “Repentance goes beyond feeling to express distinct purposes of turning from sin to righteousness; the Bible word most often translated repentance means a change of mental and spiritual attitude toward sin [Century Dictionary]”. Turning from sin means not going back. Not repeating the sins we asked forgiveness for. Of course we all sin and yes, sometimes we recommit them, but having a heart of repentance and faith in Jesus can keep us from those sins if we choose to fully and deligently repent. It takes work. It takes prayer. It takes commitment. Trust Jesus and keep your eyes on Him.

Confession of Christ must precede Baptism so this is the next step. (Matthew 1-:32, Acts 8:37, Romans 10:9-10) Since we are baptized into Christ (Galations 3:27), it is Christ we are to confess our belief in. Confessing in someone else would not make us Christians. Therefore baptism would be a waste of time. Being baptized into Christ declares our gratitude and love for our mighty saviour. It is Him and only Him that saves us.

Lastly we are to be baptized in water for remission of sins. (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21) Let me apologize now. I don’t mean to step on toes but I have to be honest or this blog is for not. No where in Scripture is sprinkling for baptism used. You will find general sprinkling for other purposes (example Hebrews 9) but never for human baptism. I can only speculate about the ramifications of this error but I, for one, would not take any chances. I would encourage you, if you have the slightest bit of doubt, to be baptized in water so you will not end your days wondering if you did the right thing.

So there you have it. This is only the beginning of my journey. There are many more aspects of the authentic church to come. Please feel free to comment but I encourage you to back up your comments with Scripture since Scripture is the ultimate authority.

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Makayla

I first met Makayla when she was 5, I think. Her mom had died a few years earlier and my daughter was engaged to her dad. She was the cutest little thing, sweet and had beautiful curly hair. Today she is a sophomore in High School. Wow, the time does fly. But she is just as beautiful and sweet as she ever was and a little more. We love her without any “step” and she is a joy to be around.

But there is a problem. She hates her hair. It is so curly you cannot comb or brush it when it is dry. It fizzes if she plays with it so she keeps it up on her head in a bun of sorts. The bad thing is she doesn’t take care of it because she doesn’t like it. We have spent a small fortune on shampoos and conditioners, asked everyone for advise but nothing has helped.

She thinks she is ugly because she hates her hair. She sees pictures of girls on sees them on TV and doesn’t understand why she can’t look like they do. All of this has caused her to gain weight. She is an emotional eater. She doesn’t understand the limits or why certain foods should be avoided. She is pre-diabetic, which is what killed her mother, but she doesn’t seem to care because she blames everything on her hair.

So the following is what I want to say to her. I’m thinking it might be a little too abrupt. What do you think?

From the magazines at the grocery store checkout, from billboards to TV shows, it’s hard to escape the world’s twisted idea of what it says a “beautiful woman” looks like.  The world does an excellent job of seducing women and girls into thinking they are not beautiful enough. It offers everything from beauty products to surgery to help you attain the beauty it says you deserve. But why do you listen to the worlds definition of beauty? Why is the world an authority on what beauty is?

You are a child of God. He made you for a specific reason and He made you the way you are for that reason. It is imperative to study and learn how to embrace a biblical and spiritual balance that honors the God who created you. You don’t need to work on your outer appearance. You need to work on your inner beauty character. That is where your beauty blossoms and flows to the outside of you. God calls you beautiful! Exactly the way He made you. Not the way the world wants you to be.

Vacation Bible School or Battle Mom Royale

This week has been amazing so far. I have been looking for the Holy Spirit to show up and He certainly has done so. I am praying for a particular woman though and I’ll tell you why.

The first day she and I had a small confrontation. It wasn’t just between her and I though, she made sure the entire church knew about it. I guess that sounds a little bitter. I am praying it up but I haven’t turned it loose yet. Hopefully this post will help make that happen.

She was standing on the opposite end of the same pew I was standing in. She was motioning to her daughter for her to go to her. She neglected to speak to me or my two co-leaders personally. She didn’t care that we have a checkout process. She was ready to go and wanted what she wanted. I was in the process of dismissing another child while this was going on, so I put my hand in front of her child to stop her and instructed her to wait. I specifically said “No, you need to wait”. That was all I did and said. The woman loudly proclaimed at me “That was rude.” I know I looked at her in amazement because I was dumbfounded. I didn’t think it was rude to protect her child. I didn’t know this woman from Eve and because I was already talking to one child, I had not heard her child tell me the woman was her mom.

Admittedly, I had hoped she would be polite enough to walk over and ask me for her child but apparently I was expecting too much. So as I stood there like a deer in the headlights, she had placed her hands on her hips by now and was glaring at me. I had to stop my gaze from becoming a glare and quickly turned to the next child hoping I could shake this and it be done with. I went home, vented a little and was ready for the next day.

Sure enough, the next day we were both back and ready to tackle anything. My joke, sorry. This time she was polite and waited for her child’s name to be called. Rather smooth but without any eye contact. No problem. Let’s move past yesterday’s whatever it was.

Thursday, today, rolls around. Her daughter responded to the invitation. Hallelujah! What an awesome time. I was excited, the workers were excited, so we were anticipating equal excitement from her mother.

Again she stood a pews’ distance from any of us three workers and said “Where’s Roni?” I remained where I was and projected politely to her, “She responded to the invitation.” Instead of smiles and other exciting exclamations she started rambling. As she rambled, she walked past me to where my two co-workers were standing without looking in my direction or acknowledging I existed. Her rambling went like this “She got saved two weeks ago. She knows all about Jesus. She doesn’t need to talk to a counselor.” By this time I stopped listening and started praying for her. I wanted to say a lot but I knew it would fall on deaf ears. My two co-workers tried to calm her down and explain that she still had questions but the mothers response was a rude and abrasive, “Yea, I get it. Roni is an attention hound.” And she walked away.

OK, putting this on paper, of sorts, did help me release the anger and animosity I think I had been feeling along with still being dumbfounded by her behavior. But now it has changed to sadness. I’m still dumbfounded how a mother could act that way let alone have those feelings about their child.

Today, Friday, I was talking with another leader who is a little more familiar with this woman and learned a few things. She has made being a foster parent a career. She has adopted five children and is working on number six. She is traveling at the speed of sound and missing everything God has placed in her path.

We have no idea what these children deal with on a daily basis, or the parents for that matter. I will be praying for Roni and her mom for some time to come.

Stay safe and God bless…

 

Spring Vacation

Vacation… A time of relaxation and rejuvenation. A time to visit family and old friends. A time to unwind and look forward to a restart. Actually, vacation went very well. The only hitch was mom getting a stomach bug. But everything else was great.

My sister still tried to back us out of Sunday, right up to that morning but I smiled, held my ground and held God’s hand. It was awesome to see my son and his little family dedicate themselves to Christ. It was more than worth the extra miles and aggravation.

Stay safe and God bless…

The Art of Misunderstanding Revisited

Just when you think enough is enough and it can’t get any worse, it gets worse. I have concluded that 99% of the problem is a total lack of communication. None! Two people talk over here while two others talk over there and never do they all come together in the same conversation. Thus, no one is on the right page, let alone the same one.

So we drive for an hour to the train station. We get comfortable for about an hour or so watching all the people come and go. Then I notice the status sign is blinking that our train will be delayed for an additional hour. Not bad, we can handle that.

You see, this whole mess started when we decided to go to North Carolina for a week. My son asked if we could come up a few days earlier so he could attend a Masonic event with my dad. Since no one else wanted to go up early, and dad has been wanting to ride the train up, we decided this was a good time to do just that. The misunderstandings started there and have snowballed every turn since.

About the time the train should have arrived in the station to prepare for boarding, an announcement was made. The engine could not proceed in the condition it was in so they had to send for another one from Jacksonville. By way of Tampa, it would take an additional seven hours before the train would arrive in Orlando. Bottom line, we would not be boarding until about 4am the next morning.

Now I’m not beyond camping out waiting for a plane or train or whatever but that is a very lone time. So I consulted with the attendent about the timing and our ability to reach our destination in time to attend the event we were going to in the first place. He advised it was not possible to reach our destination in time. So we got a refund and waited for our ride back home.

We’ll all drive up together like we originally planned in the first place. Everything happens for a reason and while we are disappointed all around, we have to trust the reasons we don’t get to see. Faith runs deep even when we don’t understand everything. We just have to trust God and know He will work it all out. He always does.

Stay safe and God bless

The Art of Misunderstandings

So, I’ve been busy for a while working on my Etsy store and dealing with other obligations. I’m back mostly to vent. Go figure! If I don’t, I might explode.

I am recovering from a bad UTI but I’m having lingering abdominal pain. I called my doctor last week, last Thursday to be exact, and have not heard back from them. I suppose I won’t. I plan on calling them tomorrow but I doubt if I will get favorable results. I know what the pain is. I’ve had it before. I have a new doctor since my previous one decided to go to a VA. Lucky for them but now I have to start over.

I have AS (spinal arthritis), Fibromyalgia, regular arthritis and a host of other things. Since they are mostly pain related, no one believes how much pain I am in. I don’t take pain pills mostly because they don’t work for me but also because I don’t want to give in and live like an addicted zombie.

This new pain is low and constant. Back in 2006 I had the same pain. I thought it was an ulcer. I was in the middle of a separation and my ex was making my life miserable. My doctor prescribed me a small little pill to take three times a day and it did the trick over the course of a few months. Who would have thought that anxiety could cause so much pain. I hate thinking I will have to prove myself all over again. Not to mention not being able to get a response from the doctor in the first place.

Pain and all, I’m leaving Friday for North Carolina, with my dad, for a weeks visit with my children and grandchildren. My dad gets to go with my son to a masonic shindig while we are there and that will be very cool for them. They haven’t had much grown-up time to spend with each other. I’m just looking forward to being able to take my dad up by train. Something I do often but he never has. My mom and sister are driving up the middle of next week. Then we’ll all drive back together. Yay boy! What fun that will be.

Well I’ve learned my lesson even though my feelings are destroyed right now. I will never try to include them in anything ever again. I won’t care when they say I didn’t let them know about something in time. When the grandkids graduate or whatever, I’ll go and they can see the pictures. It just isn’t worth this pain. So here I am. I’m trying to understand why my parents and sister don’t think the newest great grandchild’s Christening is important enough to take an extra vacation day to attend. I just want to cry. A once in a lifetime thing and they could care less. I just don’t understand.

Yes, I’m giving it to God but it still hurts.

Stay safe and God bless…

Do you have the answer?

I need your help! I’m not sure what this means but I can’t seem to figure it out. So here goes.

I prayed and asked God to allow me to see people the way He does. Instead, now I see all of their sin. Their stupid choices, their sinful decisions and behaviors, the willful disregard for God and His love. I find myself picking apart their issues. Being their judge of sorts but I am painfully aware that I have no business judging anyone. We all sin. So what is this? I don’t like it and I can’t seem to make it go away.

I prayed the prayer hoping to see the beauty in people. Instead I see the junk. Not everyone mind you, just the ones that I know for a fact have made or are making horrible choices. I don’t want to see the junk, I want to see the beauty. I know there is beauty there but for some reason the junk flies in my face. I don’t like it. I want it to stop.

I know we all sin and are all equal to one another in God’s eyes so why do I care so much about their junk? Why does their choices to sin bother me so much that it’s all I see when I look at them?  Am I so in love with God that people who toss Him aside make me this angry? Could that be what this is? Could it be that easy? It’s hard for me to even talk to them, it is so bad. I have to suppress the urge to smack them and shove the truth down their throats. Wow, that was harsh.

I have been praying for a few days for this to change. I’m not sure what God is trying to show me or teach me about myself or Him but I’m ready to get it and move on. Seriously, how do I make this stop?

Stay safe and God bless…

Are You Doing It Right?

I am constantly on a quest for self-improvement. I want to get so close to God on this earth that people will think I am already in Heaven. I know that sounds a little silly but I am happiest when I am in the presence of God and to be as close to Him as possible is a moment by moment quest.

It isn’t exhaustive by any means. It is actually easy as long as I don’t let the things of this world interfere. Today, as I was working on my studies, I came across this sentence. “Daily put-off the old self and put-on the new self by biblically responding to life’s irritations and offenses.” I had read and studied the passage in Ephesians 4 for years but here was a solution I had not learned before. Here was the HOW… “by biblically responding to life’s irritations and offenses.” 

Ephesians 4:22-24 (NKJV)  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

Suddenly I felt vindicated or something. I often wonder if I am doing things right or if God is shaking His head at me. But this tells me how I should be responding and that I am mostly getting it right. I’m not sure why this was a surprise or “ah ha” moment. I guess I second guess myself too much. Well, I just wanted to share in case you are like me and needed some clarification. We’re OK after all.

Stay safe and God bless…

 


 

A Picture of Paradise

Luke 23:43 promises we will spend eternity, forever with Jesus. The Scripture reads in part, “today you will be with me in paradise”. There are several key things in this verse that make me very happy to be a Christ follower.

First is the word ” today “. This word has sparked controversy for many years across many denominations. Personally it confirms to me that the people who believe in purgatory have got it wrong. Jesus would not have said ” today ” if He didn’t mean it. So I believe that if I die today, I will be with Jesus today because He says so.

Next is the word “you”. Throughout the bible there are several references to specific people. In Leviticus, God sent word through Moses to the Israelites about how He expected them to behave. Here though, He uses the word ” you”. So, in the absence of a specific people here, this tells me He means everyone.

Next is “with me”. This confirms that we will be with Jesus in eternity. If not, He would have worded this another way.

Last but not least are the words ” in paradise “. Wahoo!!! This is so cool. I can scarcely begin to imagine what paradise will be like. I can see it being the Garden of Eden, the way God intended it to be. A place where there is no darkness, no pain, no tears, no fear (Rev. 21).

I hope you are as excited about this verse as I am. Stay safe and God bless.

And the Winner is…

I was reading my morning devotion and the scripture verse was Exodus 34:14 “for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God“. It went on to talk about how Paul explained to the church in Corinth that he was jealous for them with a godly jealously in 2 Corinthians 11:2 (For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy.”). And more scripture that tells us we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him”). If jealousy is in His image then how can it be a bad thing? So I started to wonder about this jealously Paul (and others) was speaking of since, in my understanding of the word, ranks up there with envy.

To make matters worse, envy is defined as “the desire to have for oneself something possessed by another, covetousness”. OK, so now, we’ve added yet another word to this issue that is clearly talked about in scripture under the heading of “Thou shalt not”.

But never fear, my trusty dictionary will clear this up. I dug around in the “jealous” department and discovered that it isn’t actually similar to envy although we sometimes use the different words and meanings interchangeably. Way down in the definition of jealous I found that it also means “solicitous or vigilant in maintaining or guarding something” and ” intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry”. Phew!

Now we’re getting somewhere. But as I pondered my own “jealously” issues for Christ, it brought up questions. Could all those people standing around preaching and yelling (“repent and be saved” or “Jesus is coming, get right with God or die”) and a variety of others, actually be reacting to this world out of Godly jealously? We tend to think they are a little nuts, ignore them and continue on about our day but what if it is real honest Godly jealously? What if they have it right and we are just uncomfortable with their delivery? What if, instead of ignoring them and walking briskly away, we shaked their hand and acknowledged our new understanding of their mission?

I don’t know if this will help me when I get passionately defensive of Christ or if it will fuel my patience and love of those who choose not to follow Him. But at least now I have a new found understanding and tolerance for those who choose to shout it in the streets.

This ending wasn’t anything I had envisioned for this post when I started it. I paused a lot and prayed a lot over it so hopefully it is what God directed me to write.

Stay safe and God bless.

And the Verdict is…

My dad was working a puzzle today and asked me if  g-u-i-l-t-y was the correct spelling for the word “guilty”. For the first time that word hit me like it never has before. I was slightly stunned as I sat there and pondered what it felt like to be pronounced guilty of something. Yes we are all guilty of lying but hopefully grow out of that as maturity sets in. And I’m sure everyone has gone home with a pen from work in their pocket from time to time. So what was it today about this word.

It felt as though I had just been given a moment to physically feel what being guilty really feels like. That shock when you think your life is about to change forever. Just a brief amount of time that couldn’t have been more than several seconds but felt longer. I am guilty, me, I did it. For that moment I felt guilty. I felt condemned. We talk about that and explain it as we spread the Gospel but this was the first time I had ever physically felt my guilt.

But God wasn’t done with me yet…

Before I could feel bad about that guilt, God replaced it with feelings of redemption, forgiveness and grace. I love it when God gives me small glimpses into His heart.

Stay safe and God bless.

A Lie is Still a Lie

I’m not bragging when I talk about myself by any means. I use my experiences as examples of hurdles you can jump over too. I was fired from three jobs during the course of my years as a software consultant because I wouldn’t lie to clients. I know the look on my face the first time was priceless. The deer in the headlights thing comes to mind. But to ask someone to lie…how do you do that and expect them to actually do it? When I said “No” the look on his face was as though I had slapped him, so I’m sure I was the first “No”. When he stuttered the “W, W, W, Well, you’re fired” at me, I calmly stood up and walked out with my head held high.

The second time I said “No”, the man asked me “Why not?”. I was all too happy to tell him. I explained to him that my committment to God was greater than any amount of money and I had no intention of dishonoring God for any man. He sat there with a dumbfounded look on his face only because I’m sure he had no idea what I had just said. I struggled to contain my laughter at his reaction while holding back my anger all at the same time. Again I calmly walked out.

The third time I said “No”, went about the same way as the second only there were several people in the room. After I made my stand they all made snide comments as though I were not in the room at all. It was somewhat comical at first but as I thought about what they were asking me to do, I started to wonder why I was in this situation another time. I left the room watching them out of the corner of my eye as they clamored to figure out what went wrong. I sort of smiled as I left but not because I felt I had gotten something over on them, I was smiling because that is what God wanted me to do. I wanted to get mad and say things I knew I shouldn’t. But it wasn’t my reputation on the line here, it was theirs.

There are tons of liars in scripture. God never said the lies were OK but he still used the people who made them for His purposes. From the serpent who lied to Eve throughout time, liars will be a part of life. Lets look at a few from scripture.

Genesis 31:7 (NKJV) “Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.

1 Kings 21:1-16 NKJV) “She wrote letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth with high honor among the people; and seat two men, scoundrels, before him to bear witness against him, saying, ‘You have blasphemed God and the king.’ Then take him out, and stone him, that he may die.”

Proverbs 11:1 (NKJV) “Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight.” and Micah 6:11 (NKJV) “Shall I count pure those with the wicked scales,
And with the bag of deceitful weights?

People lie for all sorts of reasons but the ones that have impacted me the most are the ones where people are attempting to profit from their lies. Back to the third time…See, they had invested about two months of 40-60 hour work weeks in me to get me ready for this client project not thinking that my lying would be a show stopper. Needless to say they were livid. One of them came after me crying his eyes out because he knew his failure to convince me to lie would be the lose of his job. Another was mad enough that I was ready to defend myself because his body posture was very aggressive. And from a woman who was fairly sweet the day before, came words I had never heard in my life.

I know it is human nature to lie in order to avoid difficulty we choose not to face, but I also know there are consequences. Whether we face them now, later or seem to get away with our lies, there is One who knows every word and every thought that we have ever had. While it is true that God is a forgiving God, I personally never want to do anything on purpose to disappoint Him.  Romans 3:4 (NKJV) “Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.”

Stay safe and God bless.