Tag Archives: Church

The Lie that Fuels the Pride of the Church

I remember when I was in the prayer and fasting peak of my life.  I prayed with authority, knew more bible verses than I ever had, probably had the least amount of joy in my life and that’s when God cut me with his words.

I will share a little background with you to help understand what he said to me.  I know a man who has been a drug addict since he was 14 years old.  He engaged in promiscuous sex,  began dealing drugs, was in and out of courtrooms and almost killed himself through driving while super strung out on drugs…three times.  He was my age.

God said to me in that little prayer room where I was giving up my life serving the poor, “I love him as much as I love you.”  You might think this would have been a comfort, but I tell you, it was an offense.  I had been taught by leaders in the church that God held a special place for people like me, the good ones.  That he loved the saint more than the sinner.  I didn’t notice the arrogance towards others that crept in under this teaching.  I believed I truly was better than those other people.  That is what I believed.  And that is the lie that God wanted to root out of me.

There is sometimes a stench that comes in religious environments and its the stench of pride.  When people move in the power of God or feel his presence or know his word or obey his commands, sometimes there is a smelly lie that accompanies this that we have earned his favor.  That we deserve it.  We are no longer like those unreligious secular commoners, we are the fingers of God and deserve the better than them.  Surely we are better.


I can feel the slithering feeling of these garments of pride even now as I imagine it.  Even now as I remember it.  This is the stench the world hates.  And let me tell you, it is also the stench Jesus hates.

Jesus did not separate himself.  He did not pride himself on his spotlessness.  He did not cast judgment, nor condemnation.  The thing he openly rebuked is what I have written about above and it was alive and well in the reigning religious order of the time.  There will be offense in heaven and it won’t be at God as a terrorist, it will be at God as a merciful king.

Teaching parables, “I will pay the wages I want,” he says as he pays someone who barely worked at all the same amount as the one who worked the hardest, causing offense at all of their efforts.  “Let me give everything I have to my careless son,” he says to the offense of the dutiful, obedient, older brother.  “Cast the first stone,” he invites to the guilty condemners of a whore, leaving them with nothing left to throw.

God is offensive.  His love is offensive.  His generosity is offensive.  His mercy is offensive.  Get ready to be offended by God, not by his judgment but by his mercy.  No one has earned his love.  No one deserves his favor.  No one has maintained their own innocence.  No one in Christ is treated as they deserve, they are only ever treated as Christ deserves and nothing less.

God the father didn’t wait for your life to change before you were worth dying for.  No, it was the other way around.  He wanted to correct me that his love truly is free to all right now in full, not just to those who climb the religious ladder.

God doesn’t love in part, love is who he is and we are his dream.  All of us.  We get to treat all people with dignity whether or not they have forgotten it.  We aren’t invited by God to love every kind of person because he asks us to, we are invited to love every kind of person because they are worthy of it because his shed blood says so.

God wanted me to see that nothing I had of him was ever earned of my religious efforts, therefore none of him could ever be taken away from me.  All of my religious-performance-self was offended.  God loves the man I mentioned in the beginning of this piece as much as he loves me still to this day.    Maybe one day we all will believe this and then the world will truly recognize followers of Christ by their love.

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Judgement Free Living??

I heard a quote from somebody on you  tube last summer that I’ve never heard said before.  They said, “I never judge anybody.”  Whether or not this was true, the audacity of a person to live with the conviction of never judging anybody was still admirable.  It was like a thought that was too impossible to believe but upon hearing it was like a new air I wanted to keep breathing.

This may sound like an overly simple topic for Jesus himself said, “Do not judge.”  Pretty straight forward.  But for a human person other than Jesus himself to casually dialogue as if that reality was possible was entirely heavenly.

The world would play us on a string to have us do just the opposite.  Compare, condemn, divide, get defensive, get offended, react, live in opposition and controversy.  It is “cool” to be opinionated and not close minded.  The idea of not judging is cool but is often in reality partial as it stands in harsh condemnation of very judgmental religious institutions, therefore nullifying their non-judging stance.

But to really, I mean really, have the perspective in life that you have never walked in anyone else’s shoes, you have never lived their life, felt what they’ve felt, and been forced to make the decisions they have, never, for anyone, other than yourself.  Yet all of us undoubtable stand in judgment of some “other,” some “wrong” individuals in our perspective.

Here’s what this does: it only hurts ourselves.  When we stand in judgment of someone, of some hatred of act or word, whether based on politics, crime, color, or creed, we are smothering our own nature that was created in God’s image to love.  It suffocates our joy.

When we make snap judgments at news headlines and video clips we diminished our capacity for understanding and compassion.  He deny our role in helping where there is possible hurting need.  We remove ourselves from another’s humanity.

And what that does is deny the Christ that is living in every person.  Whether you agree with someone or not, whether you would have theoretically made differently choices than they have, they are still a living, breathing creation of God.  His life is breathing through them and he is experiencing life through what they experience, the good and the bad.  Nothing nullifies the value Christ’s death and resurrection has given all of humanity.  ALL OF HUMANITY.  Especially our enemies, especially those different from us.

Do not hurt yourself, do not deny your true nature as an origin of love, by judging another, by condemning them, by withholding your grace.  Do not suffocate the breathe of love that lives within you.  If you try and not judge, I will not try to judge either.  God bless.

No Man’s Land. Life Beyond Church

I wanted to write about this subject three weeks ago but am just getting around to it now.  This subject is “unbiblical” to the conventional Christian.  There is no life beyond church they would say.  I have even heard people within the church call people who have left their church “bastards.”  Yet here is where so many people find themselves.  And so… I write.

I am not going to spend time here defending this topic, I am going to go right into writing about it.  I remember asking God about his body, the church years ago which began a 15-year journey of seeing the ins and outs of church creation, growth, development, leadership, failure, hypocrisy, glory, strength, and blessing.  If the church were a closet full of clothing, I have worn almost every outfit in different seasons where I felt God leading me through relationship with people.

And yet I find myself, and other people I both respect and would call people of great faith, outside of regular church participation at the moment.  I will not group these people into people who are rebellious, hurt, bitter, or prideful.  These are beautiful, servant-hearted, prayerful, joyful, faithful, creative children of God.

So why do we find ourselves here in this field of spirituality beyond where the paved road ends?  Could there even be purpose in this?  God of course lives within the walls of his church but I think he is also moving his body, his people beyond not only church walls, but Christian culture.  There are so many people who carry the love of God and the ways of his kingdom into so many places; the home, business, arts, media, entertainment, education, etc.

Can I be a Christ follower without walking in American church culture and vocabulary? Of course I can. I hope we are sharing God’s culture, how he loves us and sees us, with people and nations.  I’d like to make the argument that this can happen 100% outside of meetings and buildings set aside for this purpose.  People can experience hearts and homes of heaven.

I don’t think there is necessarily a wrong reason that people have quit participating in a church regularly.  I do think there is a fullness of God’s people operating as a kingdom of priests as he originally intended.  His children have full union with the father.

Church family commitment is like marriage, you get involved because of what you have to give, what you have to offer, not what you have to get from it, or how they can serve you.  Community is beautiful and I think this can be found outside of a church governing structure and weekly scheduled meetings.  But…

What I’m seeing even more of is people who are very much on relative islands of preparation and intimacy right now.  Little pockets of service and relationship more based solely out of energy spent on building/maintaining healthy family relationships.  I do think it’s beautiful when the role of a mother and father are one and the same as the pastor and priest.  That discipleship and family are one and the same with no definitive line between the love of God and the love of family.

Not being understood and being judged is a regular occurrence of life and I’m being reminded over and over again to not care what other people think.  Especially people who care more about what my life looks like rather than wanting to hear my personal experience.

Being outside of a church structure doesn’t mean we quit learning about God as we live life with him.

I just wanted to write a bit of encouragement to those who find themselves in no man’s land.  Or not operating in the fullness of their giftings at whatever church they find themselves in.  You are not broken, you are not failing, and you have not been ‘taken out of ministry.’

God is so much bigger than our little religious mindsets of what freedom and spirituality look like.  He grows things inside of us we don’t even know need growing and often times they have nothing to do with external appearances.  Although God is in religious meetings every week, he is just as much at the dinner table, in the nursery of your house, at the grocery store, and in your office.

I love that the presence of the awareness of God is naturally felt at all hours in all places.  Our existence is one with his.  You are the church my friend, you couldn’t leave who you are.  You are his temple and the only building he cares about.  He’s never left the meeting of your life and God is not finished being in love with us wherever we are, whatever season we find ourselves in.  Joy is in his house, in his bride, and in his family.  Blessings to you, all the beautiful sons and daughters of God who find themselves in No Man’s Land.

Update on the Current Christian Iraqi Refugee Crisis in the Middle East

We arrived in Jordan one year ago to date.   Nothing has changed during that time for the course of tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees still stuck here in Jordan.   We have witnessed 25,000 Muslim Syrian refugees leave Jordan and go to Canada in the first three months of 2016.   I can count on my hands the number of Iraqi Christian refugees I have seen leave during the entire year.   When we first arrived in June of 2015, these refugees were distressed and seemingly without hope.  Now a year later they are even more desperate, emotionally less stable and still seemingly without hope.

Months ago, some families were told they were welcome with open arms only to have the world turn their face away after the shocking Paris attacks.  When people see the faces of Iraqi Christians refugees, they are clumped together with the faces of terrorist extremists, whether intentionally or unintentionally so.

Backstory

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For more than hundreds of years Christians have settled in the area of the Nineveh plains, otherwise known as Mosul.  They speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.  Additional Christians resettled here ten years ago as they fled Baghdad and the war that began to tare that city to shreds.  Mosul was defended by the Kurdish army otherwise known as the Peshmerga.  In the dark of night in June of 2014, the church bells rang through the city.  The Peshmerga had fled and ISIS was coming and would be in the city in three hours.  Thousands of families grabbed what they could in their hands and fled; some in cars, others on foot with children in the darkness for hours.  They all had one destination: Irbil, Kurdish territory.

Today

That was the terrible day that began the displacement of thousands of Christians in the Middle East.  Still they are without resettlement or any real hope of it.  In Jordan there is no feasibility for staying, there is no possibility even for the consideration of it.  The Jordanian government has given them five years tops for transitioning through to other countries.  In the meantime, these families cannot work, drive cars, or earn a living here, etc.  Live is stressful and different when a family has no intention of staying.  You don’t build relationships, you don’t seek to identify with the people, don’t attend school; you don’t plant roots.  Some families are still afraid to leave their homes.

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People in the West may think Jordan and Iraq are neighbors so at least it still is the same culture, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  In Jordan, the people speak a different language, eat entirely different foods, have a different religion, history and traditions.  The same goes for the northern Iraqi city of Irbil where there are thousands of refugees—now called IDPs, or internally displaced people are housed in camps.  To the West, Kurdistan is still Iraq.  In reality, Kurdistan is distinctly not Arab.  Kurdistan is Kurdish.  They exclusively speak the Kurdish language, eat Kurdish food, and live Kurdish.  If you are Arab, you are the what threatens their way of life, and here too, the Assyrian Christians have been lumped into the Arab threat.

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Here in Jordan, even now, new families are coming over every week from Irbil.  At first, my husband and I thought it was because they heard of a few families finally getting to leave, but after doing research we learned it is actually because the families that had fled to Irbil were staying there in the hopes that their lost land and homes would be one day be recaptured back from ISIS, delivering them from the threat of death—literally.  It seems they have now reached the end of their hope and are finally saying goodbye forever.

Once arriving in Jordan, they are entering a country saturated with refugees to overflowing.  In addition to the Iraqi’s mainly around the capital city of Amman, there are over one million refugees from Syria in the north.  No Iraqi’s are in camps here, they are all Syrian… and Palestinian. The Palestinian refugees that are in camps are still there, three generations later, from the displacement of what people here call the occupation their land by Israel.  (If you are traveling to Israel, you don’t tell people you are, you say you are going to Palestine, because here, the nation of Israel does not exist.)  Fortunately, recently there have been 85,000 work permits granted to Syrian refugees in efforts of integration and business regulation in the north by the Jordanian government.  Jordan is and has been a place of peace and consolation to the most dire of victims in this Middle Eastern chaos.

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Today we sat before an Iraqi refugee man nearly in tears saying, “I am responsible for my family, what am I to do?”  Yes, Joel and I work with Relief for these families, but money alone can not solve the problems these families have spread before them.  Even with clinic bills paid for, even with children in schooling we provide, even with a roof over their head, despair lingers.

They are not home, they have no family here, all their degrees and training in education in Iraq have become invalid requiring them to begin from square one wherever they go at any age (we know a man his first year into his practice as a doctor and one young woman who was due to graduate the week of fleeing), all the heavily regulated process towards marriage for anyone stops as grooms no longer have anything to offer a bride, and wherever a family may eventually end up they don’t know the language, culture or way of life, which are all very different.   Any money these families had in banks, the savings they had, the buildings, businesses, the cars, the land, farms, the places of all of their lifelong memories—gone.   This is the unseen effect of war, wherever it happens, whenever it happens.  Life stops. Unfortunately, the countries choosing war as a solution are often less familiar with the long-term effects on their own soil.

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After two years, the increase of stress and anxiety compounded by the lack of outlet for doing anything, going anywhere, any day of the week except waiting has caused depression to set in for some.  Families try to sleep through the day as much as possible for there is nothing, and no one for them to wake up for.  Don’t get me wrong, we are doing good things here; providing relief in the very middle of this crisis.  Patients are being seen for free, medical procedures are being helped with, languages are being learned, children are going to school, food is being distributed, and rent assistance is being given—all of those things are wonderful, critical, and important, but even with this they cannot stay, and the question in the back of everyone’s mind is, “Where can we call home?”