Sunday, July 23, 2006

The church I am looking for....

So my husband did this HUUUUGEEEE blog about the kind of church he's looking for. It's pretty interesting and I am in agreement with him- but that got me thinking- what am I looking for in a church? So here goes (this is an ever changing process so bear with me....)

1. A Church where Christ is Lord. Everything points to Him always and amen.

2. A place where culture doesn't have equal footing with Christ- seriously. Been there- done that- it's idolatry. I think this push towards "relevance" can cloud issues- not that it's not important to meet people where they are- it is- but Jesus did that. It is the Holy Spirit who touches people's hearts- not how trendy we dress or how cool our music is.

3. Cool music, I know, I know- I am contradicting myself. But I love to worship. I love worship teams who worship instead of singing songs. I think if people were more concerned with meeting God and ushering in His presence than with the mix in the monitor...well, interesting things would happen.

4. A place of outreach- concerned with more than us four. Seriously- a place where people are welcome no matter what. I, for one, am thankful Jesus didn't expect me to get all shiny and happy before He let me accept Him- or before I was accepted. I am seeking a place that looks to the community and the world- not to bang them over the head with a Bible or condemn them- but to take care of them. I find it fascinating that the Seattle region seems to have a consistent heart for Africa- it's pretty amazing. I want to see missions- local and international.

5. A House of Prayer. If this is a top priority.... Wow. God shows up. 'Nuff said.

6. A place that is genuine. I won't get on my soapbox of "shiny happy christians"- but I want to be somewhere where it's ok to struggle and be in process and for other people to know it's ok too- a place of extreme grace.

7. A place of friends- to be genuine and seek God with- and to laugh a lot.

Well, that's the short list. It's out there somewhere. We'll find it. I gotta go- I am late for church.
God Bless.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I know, I's a link- to a very interesting essay on "health" of the spiritual variety- I just find it fascinating and I am relieved to find I am not the only one pondering this issue in our culture of megachurches and "beautiful people." Seriously- read the essay- here's a glimpse....

Dallas Willard writes, "So we must see from our heart that: Blessed are the physically repulsive, Blessed are those who smell bad, The twisted, misshapen, deformed, The too big, too little, too loud, The bald, the fat, and the old- For they are all riotously celebrated in the party of Jesus."


"Picture again the coffee-clutch: twelve beautiful people sitting in a comfortable room talking about God. A group of twelve healthy persons who are only healthy because they purposely exclude any persons with messy lives is not a healthy community. The cliché is that “the dead sea is dead because it has no outlet.”


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The truth about 4 letter words....

I read this yesterday, and it had the quite profound impact on me. The speaker is Tony Campolo and he's speaking at a Christian College, probably several years ago...

"The United Nations reports that over 10,000 people starve to death each day, and most of you don't give a shit. However, what is even more tragic is that most of you are more concerned about that fact that I just said a bad word than you are about the fact that 10,000 people are going to die today."

And, ain't that the truth with most church folks? Sadly, he did get several letters regarding his bad language- and not a single letter addressing the issue of people dying.

Seriously, in my past, there have been times that this kind of attitude has been very prevalent with me...and I deeply repent those times. I'm thankful that God is making me more aware of what is truly important than the petty issues we all seem to get caught up in. This statement got me to pondering legalism. The interesting thing about legalists is that they don't think they are being legalistic- seriously. They are earnest and sincere. (I was) And I thought about the lure of legalism. It's extremely seductive. Philip Yancey says that "legalism disguises our need to receive grace." He also states that the opposite of sin is grace, not virtue. Interesting. I think legalism, in whatever form it comes in, don't drink, don't chew- don't go with girls that do, etc. etc.... is very comforting. There is a set of guidelines to follow and you know what to do to be "righteous." For instance, my legalism took the form of: read at least 3 chapters of the Bible everyday, journal, pray for an hour, submit to authority without question, dress a certain way, you can drink- but not too much, you can't be alone with a person of the opposite sex, etc. etc...and that is what defined my christianity. Some of these things were actually good things- but if you missed a day or screwed up-you felt like you were a bad christian...well, there's no life in that. I think many people get sucked into that kind of thinking because the concept of grace is SO mindblowing and legalism is easier to wrap your brain around. There are little checkpoints that you have to make sure you're doing everything right.

Philip Yancey also states, "By it's very nature, legalism encourages hypocrisy because it defines a set of behavior that may cloak what is going on inside." How true is this? We've all been taken aback by the news that someone's marriage is falling apart or something horrible is going on- and we had no idea that was happening. That-serial-killer-seemed-like-such-a-nice-fellow-syndrome. I think that shiny-happy-christianity is a perfect breeding ground for legalism. You know what is expected of you- and you can make the outside match-up even if the inside is a disaster. Thank God for His infinite mercy and grace- even for we recovering legalists.

My dad once called me "self-righteous"- I think it's probably the most hurtful thing he has ever said to me. And I think, he was right. I was self-righteous- with the best intentions. Legalism is such a clever trap- so seductive- so easy to fall into.

Right now, I don't feel righteous at all- and that's probably not a bad place to be. I think the confusion that I've been dealing with recently finds it's roots in legalism and religion- not in Christ- not in my faith in my Abba Father- but in things that man has twisted out of whack. Currently, we are not tightly involved in any particular church- we do have a church we have been attending regularly- but we haven't been there long enough to know the culture or anything like that. I feel like I am flailing about like a fish out of water. But yesterday, I had the revelation that - at the moment- there are no "legalistic" pressures around me. And subconsciously, I think I've been seeking that- something to tell me that I'm ok- that I'm doing what I am supposed to be doing. There are no expectations really placed on me- so I don't know what to do. I've been going crazy trying to meet expectations that don't exist. It's exhausting. So now, I really just need to pursue God and find out what HIS expectations are- and I have a pretty good idea about that- it's all in THE BOOK.

I am not sure, but I don't think I am the only one who gets off track once in a while, or more than once in awhile. But I am thankful for the revelation of Holy Spirit to get me back on track and renew my mind.

I believe every denomination has it's own brand of legalism- no one is immune. If you think you're immune, you might be legalistic. Legalism pulls us away from the truth. It pulls us away from intimacy with Jesus and pulls us away from what God has called us to do...The Great Commandment and The Great Commission. It's much easier to get all indignant about a cuss word, tattoo or hem length and puff ourselves up with self-righteousness than it is to love and bless that person who cut you off in traffic or held up the grocery checkout line forever. Legalism also creates division in the Body of Christ- which is tragic. I guess it's a lifelong battle- one I choose to keep fighting.