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Posts Tagged ‘Bible Study’

There is a routine I have in those free times when I turn on my computer. It is usually accompanied by supper or a bowl of Extreme Moosetracks chocolate ice cream.

The first thing I do is pull up my Outlook Express and get it started downloading my emails. Then I open a window of Facebook (more recently via Google Chrome) and log in. While that is loading, I open two more tabs and send them to Blogger and WordPress.

Facebook is a between times activity. When a separate page is loading, or between tasks, I go scroll through my friends’ status updates, commenting on a few of them. I check to see who is listed as “online” at the moment, but hardly ever start chats with them. If a friend wants to chat with me, however, I’m usually up for it.

My Blogger Dashboard has my blog reader listed on it, so I begin scrolling through recently updated blogs for any that look interesting. I always click on the first post from A Holy Experience. That beautiful site plays the most peaceful music in the background, a soothing atmospheric playlist that can repeat for hours without growing old. It is also one of the blogs on which I will read every post until I am caught up. The other blog for which I do that is my brother’s, Silence Spoken. We’re like best friends, so I know most of what he says, though his poetry is a removed perspective, a picturesque turn of words to express the big ideas in his head and heart. Usually I will go through and open all the eye-catching blog titles in their own new tabs, so that I can read them later.

My email takes a while to download, but by this time they should be viewable. I start by deleting the emails I don’t want: updates from Amazon.com, Avon, weather forecasts from the week prior, Human Events ads and articles that I get because they are kind enough to email me Ann Coulter’s articles each week. Then I start at the earliest unread email and begin reading. Most are little Facebook notifications: someone commented on my wall. Another person added a comment to a wall-post or status on which I had commented. Friend requests and acceptances. Every month or so I collect all these into a separate file for archived Facebook notifications. The best things to read are emails sent just to me by a real live friend. Life ponderings, prayers and prayer requests, encouragement, or invitations to get together, these are my computer priority, and almost always earn a reply.

Blogger and WordPress will tell me if I have comments to approve for my blogs. I’ll read those, post them, and reply to them. On Blogger I will check out their profiles and their blogs if they have any. Then I stick in my USB thumb drive to upload the blogs I’ve written during my breaks at work. You can observe for yourself how frequently this happens. Finally I check WordPress for my blog stats, to see which posts are the most popular and if there are any surges of traffic. My most popular articles are about auto warranty telemarketers, chivalry and romanticism, making grilled cheese sandwiches Sometimes I’ll get a hit on a post I forgot I wrote, and I go see what the post was about.

Next I open an additional Internet Explorer or Google Chrome window. I use that to do my projects. Maybe I’m going to search for some information. See if a book I heard about is at my library. Renew library items. Shop. Check my Etsy.com shop, Mi-Re-Do.com website, Googleads, or ebay. I like to download “Let My People Think” at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Maybe I’ll be researching for my blog or my business.

IMDB is the best website for information on movies and actors – unless you want to buy a movie, and then Amazon is the place. When I post book reviews, I post them to Amazon.com as well. To see a decent review of a recent mainstream movie, Plugged In is pretty good. They do have spoilers, and I don’t always agree with their assessments or interpretations, but they have accurate objectionable content evaluation. For Bible Study, I use Blue Letter Bible, which has multiple versions, an online Strong’s concordance that can cross-reference the Greek words and root words too. Del.icio.us is on my toolbar so that I can quickly bookmark any awesome but singular articles I find and want to remember. (WordPress’s widget allows you to see my recent tags on Del.icio.us.)

If I am bored or lonely, I will frequently refresh Facebook and go searching for more than status updates on my friends, looking through their new photo albums especially. The best are babies and weddings, followed very closely by scenic pictures of far-off lands. When inspired, I update my own status. It usually has to do with what I did that day, will do tomorrow, or have been thinking. For some reason movies make frequent appearances.

When it seems my favorite blogs have been insufficiently updated, when I am craving a good intellectual read or a warm, encouraging girlfriend read, I’ll go to blogs that have lots of links and start exploring. Carolyn McCulley often has good links. WordPress has a tag surfer feature to find like-topic blogs. Or I can search places like Ligonier Ministries or Boundless for interesting articles. When I find a blog I may want to follow, I do follow it, pasting its URL into my Blog Reader on Blogger. It’s an eclectic list, as you can see if you look on my Profile.

Before I turn off my computer, I refresh Facebook one more time and check for any new emails. Then I minimize any windows I want to keep open, close the rest, and put my little laptop into hibernation.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’m in between churches right now – between congregations. All summer and fall I’ve been casually attending the meetings of various friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to not be obligated to make an appearance at any one building on a Sunday morning. I might tell a friend I’m coming, or I might decide Saturday night. Some Sundays I sleep in. Sunday morning heathenism is rather refreshing.

Except it isn’t heathenism. A lot of what happens in those buildings on Sunday mornings is of heathen origin. But heathenism is a lot more than skipping a sermon and praise concert. It is a lifestyle of rejecting God, and that I certainly have not done.

I believe the Bible teaches Christians to gather regularly with each other. That isn’t something I have abandoned either. My recent experience is filled with times of fellowship and encouragement with other believers. We do ministry together, hold each other accountable for our walks with God, philosophically tackle the dilemmas we’re facing, study the Bible, and pray. During these times we also tend to eat, to play games, to laugh and tease, sometimes to work. Kids running around get swept up by disciples of Jesus, who – like Him – love children.

About a month ago some friends invited me to their church. I went that weekend. This week they asked me what I thought, and didn’t I like it (since I hadn’t been back). And I froze, because, well, I did like it. The people were friendly and the teachings were biblical and stimulating. But I don’t think I’ll join. This Sunday I did go back there, though. And my friends’ thirteen-year-old son confronted me, “I thought you said our church was just ‘ok’.”

Hard to explain. This particular church is on the good end of mainstream churches. They have good doctrine. A lot of their money goes to missions. Kids are with parents in church for most of the time, and youth aren’t separated from their families. The music isn’t too loud or too self-centered. With a congregation of about 50, the pastor and teachers can know everyone.

After pondering for a day or so, here is my answer to the thirteen-year-old friend: (it’s alliterative so I can remember!)
1) Plurality. There is only one pastor at the church. He’s the head man. I believe Jesus is the head of the Church, and that leadership beneath Him must be shared among more than one equal. Whenever real life cases are discussed in the New Testament, the word is used in the plural. (Elders) In this way they can model cooperation and problem solving. Congregations and pastors are kept mindful that Christ is the true head, and that the Church is His project. Also, when one is weak, there is another to be strong, the proverbial man to pick you up when you fall. Two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Pastoring is a lonely job, being at the top instead of a part of your congregation as friends and brothers. My Bible describes a different sort of dynamic, where pastors are respected for being respectable and where everyone is exercising his gifts for the good of all: pastors, prophets, discerners, helpers, administrators, on and on.
2) Property. This was quite confusing to my friend, who expects people to scorn his church for meeting in the club house of a condominium complex. Whether you own a building, rent it, or have borrowed money from a bank to claim that you own it, all represent instances where the Church of God has used resources God entrusted to them not to do what He has instructed: caring for the poor, widows, orphans, and missionaries – but to have a separate place to meet. I believe churches are meant to be gathered in homes. Limited in size, surrounded by hospitality and everyday life, the atmosphere of house church encourages the participation of everyone, the familial fellowship of believers, and the synthesis of sacred and secular.
3) Preaching. The New Testament describes and even commends preaching. Except almost always the lecture style sermon was delivered to an unsaved audience. It is a tool of evangelism. And evangelism is not the purpose of the regular gathering of believers. In fact, the church meetings described in 1 Corinthians are much more open and unstructured than what we usually think of as church. No one was scheduled to speak. Anyone (any man?) was allowed to bring a word, be it a prophecy, a teaching, a tongue – as long as he spoke it for the edification of the group. He may share a testimony of God’s work or an instruction or challenge the Spirit laid on his heart to give to his friends. A teaching might be towards an identified deficiency of understanding or may flow out of the studies individuals are making during the week on their own. Prophecy may correct the direction the congregation is going, may identify weaknesses and strengths among them, may warn them, or may give them hope and vision for the future. Some verses indicate that individuals may also bring songs of their choosing to the meetings of believers, with which to encourage each other.

Now that I’ve said those things, I do believe that there is a place for the lecture-style teaching we call sermons. I really enjoy Bible conferences, and am not opposed to worship concerts where the band has practiced and is intending to honor God. When I visit my friends’ churches, I usually view those services as conferences, and I look for the Spirit-driven gatherings elsewhere. At this stage of my life I’m not content with the small groups and Bible studies that have been getting me by. So I’m still looking, reading books and searching websites from people who are practicing what the Bible teaches about Church. I’m excited to see where that leads.

Some questions remain, stronger tensions between the familiar and the ideal: how is authority supposed to work in the church? Is it important? Is it a matter of exercising authority or of submitting to authority? How much should we submit? What shall Christians do for evangelism? Wouldn’t it be better to team up? But is it wrong to invite people in to hear the gospel, or should we go out to them? Are women to speak in the church meetings? If not, why on earth did Paul say so? – Just to prove I don’t think I know everything!

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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“One may steal your thunder, but the lightning is always God’s.” – my family (a collaborative quote, in which we were stealing each other’s thunder)

Several weeks ago – this post is way behind, so sorry – my brother gathered a group of our friends who, along with others of our acquaintance, have independently sensed the call to do something with our knowledge and fellowship.  We are so good at parties, but we lose focus.  So many of us have been wondering where God wants us to act.  My brother gathered us to pray and share Scripture, seeking God for where He wants us to serve, why, how, who, etc.  It must be a God thing, or it is nothing. 

Last year for a few months I attended a young adult Bible study and worship time in which I sensed that most of us were passionately eager to serve God, to have a part in His work, but He hadn’t told us where to go.  He has been building faith in a young generation, like armies in waiting.  And we gathered to wait on Him, to encourage our readiness, and to seek God’s marching orders.  Some days I think there are so many causes, that I wonder why it’s difficult to find mine.  And then I remember that God has us waiting.  Until God speaks, I can wait. 

Karen Hancock’s allegory, Arena, is a vivid description of Christian living.  At one point all those “saved” are waiting, studying and training, in a well-provisioned safe haven.  They must wait for the exact moment at which God will give them a sign to move out and cross the enemy-infested lands to the portal to home.  If they leave too early or too late, they will run across lines and camps of enemies and be lost.  So they wait.  So we wait. 

But we believe God is at work.  Over Memorial Day Weekend I attended the New Attitude Conference in Louisville, KY.  Put on by Sovereign Grace and featuring Josh Harris, Eric Simmons, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, CJ Mahaney, and John Piper as speakers, the young adult conference attracted 3,000 soldiers in waiting.  I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, to find most of them as directionless as me.  Ok, most of them had college degree or career goals, but spiritually we weren’t sure where God wanted us.  Some of us, in the midst of waiting, felt like the fight to keep heads above water while treading was all we could do.  Maintaining a devotional and prayer life, passionately worshiping God and memorizing His Word were high orders. 

Then John Piper spoke on William Tyndale, who most certainly had a calling and was not about to waste his life.  He translated the whole New Testament and several Old Testament books into English for the first time.  And he wrote books and campaigned for the Bible to be printed in the common tongue and made available to the people – at the risk and cost of his own life.  The challenge went out and resonated with the three thousand in attendance. 

Why does it resonate?  Because God is at work, in the grassroots, you might say, reviving our faith in a big God.  Twenty-something Christians, though comparatively immature in our marriage and childbearing rates and economic productivity, are getting excited about the truth, about a God bigger than themselves.  Rejecting the shallow self-help and entertainment-driven church culture, they are reading up on Jonathan Edwards and getting excited about William Tyndale, singing theology-rich God-centered worship songs like Chris Tomlin’s How Great is Our God, or Isaac Watts’ hymns. 

This is the subject of Young, Restless, and Reformed.  Collin Hansen took a tour of the country to find out about this multi-rooted movement of ‘young Calvinists.’  He did a great job of filling pages with information about theology, denominations, organizations, authors, and what’s so exciting to us about God’s sovereignty.  Grace, a consistent description of the world, a God worth worshiping – we have lots of answers, lots of paths that are bringing us to become part of the revival of Calvinism in the West.  Why is God doing this?  We wait to see. 

Not only are our discoveries and conversions to Calvinism different; the lifestyles and trappings in which we couch our belief in the sovereignty of God also run a spectrum, which Collin Hansen (a writer for Christianity Today) describes with excellence: from liturgical and traditional presbyterians to charismatic and modern Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney.  Then there’s the unusual mix of Baptists and Calvinism (which for the moment describes me, though I find myself pretty much in pieces of everything).  On of the most interesting parts of Young, Restless, and Reformed to me was the chapter on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Al Mohler’s Calvinist makeover of the college.  So that’s why my friends at Elect Exiles are Election-affirming and Baptist.  I’m from a church that, in my observation, has been more typical of 20th century S. Baptists: in between Calvinism and Arminianism and reluctant to debate the issue.  The tides are turning.  I’ll confess belief in a big, sovereign God was a prerequisite for me to vote for our current pastor. 

This is a book I will recommend to pretty much everyone.  The only disappointment I had was that the chapter on New Attitude, titled “Forget Reinvention,” didn’t say much about the conference.  If you want to know about that, the New Attitude website has plenty of info to get you hyped about next year.  I read the book in a few days, and told everyone I know about the book for the next several weeks.  Read it, talk about it, and be encouraged by all the others God is calling.  Keep waiting. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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The book I just finished, A Walk with Jane Austen, is about a regular Christian girl who wouldn’t want me to call her that any more than I would want to be called ordinary. But she is a Christian, single, no one born important. She loves Jane Austen, knows a lot about her books and life, wanted to go to England, and so she did. This authoress has her ups and downs, struggles wandering about England looking for sites associated with her heroine. There is romance and analysis of romance and longing for the love that lasts beyond the wondering.

Lori Smith, the Austen fan, writes, “I long for someone to care about the quotidian things, to know about the daily turmoil and disruptions.” Whereas in context she was speaking of marriage, I can relate to her as a writer. We’re obsessed. I’m not writing these things because I think they’re important, but because I think them in sentence form.

For example, I want to tell you that I didn’t feel like being in a hurry this morning, so I ran conditioner through my hair and styled it like an elf (inspired by Deborah Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond last night, and my dad noting that her ears stuck out of her hairstyle), straightened up a bit, and rather than making a lunch (realizing at the last minute that I have zero cash in my purse after Village Inn Tuesday night and not yet cashing my paycheck), I loaded my backpack with juice and water bottles.

On Saturday I think I might try to be silent all day, but now I’m conflicted, because I want to go to the abortion clinic and pray, and while I can do that without talking aloud, I can’t figure out what to tell my friends who also gather there and who already think I don’t know how to talk while they themselves are not known for their timidity.

When I was in third grade, my teacher praised a four-line long sentence, and so I began for spelling assignments to attempt one ultra-long sentence each week. I got some a page long, but they were horrible sentences, filled with commas that should have been periods, delighting in the recent discovery of semi-colons, and profusely employing conjunctions. I think they call them run-on’s. But the practice, of trying to fill a page with one connected thought without stopping for a period, has contributed to the writer I am today (see above paragraph). Perhaps it is what wants me to see the unbroken theme of a passage of Scripture, too.

My doctor is on break, and no doubt listening to the fluttering clack of keys as I type out thoughts as fast as I possibly can, interrupted by the discordant beat of the backspace key when I get ahead of myself. I wonder what she thinks. Once I told her I was writing a book, which was true, but I’m not sure I’ll publish it. A published author wrote the advice to aspiring authors that they should write a book, and then write another one, then another one. Forget about publishing the first one you finish, was basically their point. At the time I read it, I couldn’t imagine abandoning the first full-length, actually ended novel I wrote, but now I’m quite unimpressed by it (though I do love parts of it), that I may take the advice and write something else. I am so not-diligent.

The use of the word “so” just there reminded me. Last week a friend went to a Bible study expositing John 3:16. I know, we think there can’t be much there if everyone knows it and it hasn’t taken over the world yet. One of the things he said was that “God so loved the world” was not a statement of how much God loved the world, but how God loved the world. It refers us to the context, drawing a comparison (usually we would use like or as). Though this John 3:16 usage is older and more correct, I can see how it developed into its present form, and if one insisted interpreting a word literally, my sentence would still make sense.

Patients come in and, noting how quiet and secluded is my office, inquire what I do all day. If only they knew that I sit at my computer and type out my thoughts, goaded by the wise words of books and Bible, by recollections of conversations. Here, in fact, is where I wrote most of my book that may or may never be published. I might as well write in silence, and publish it on my blog. There’s little difference in the result, and I’m more satisfied to have my thoughts offered to the world even if few people take them.

I just stopped, stretched, and looked at the clock, wondering whether I have time to read Ephesians and get some semblance of an idea of what we’ll talk about at church on Sunday. And the clock reminded me of one of my favorite Mark Schultz songs, about life in corporate America. I sing it twice a week after church (Mondays and Wednesdays), when I’m almost the last to leave the empty parking lot, and I see how close I can get to 80 mph. Most of the time I get within 50 mph of the song’s 80, before I have to slow down for the corner and re-admittance into society’s roads and regulations. But in the song, he sings about an afternoon smattering of looking at the clock, spinning in the chair, and solitaire. Any minute now I’ll be busy with real work again, and I’ll probably stop writing and get back to Ephesians.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Simon says?  Exercises?  Arrests?  Hide and go seek?  Illegal hands to the face? 

 

My hands have spent a lot of time on my head lately.  Life is too big for me sometimes.  Like this week.  At my church I’ve been teaching a women’s Sunday morning Bible study on Ephesians.  Have you ever looked at a hill from a distance and thought you could get to the top in an hour or two, only to discover when you get closer that the hill is a mountain with no scalable paths?  And for a breathless, unmeasurable time, you think you’ll never make it; you wonder why you tried.  At the last possible moment, wings come in, sweeping you up like the eagles to hobbits on Mount Doom.  God’s grace comes beneath your weakness, and through no fault of your own, you’re at the top, taking down your hands from your face to enjoy the view. 

I watched a movie the other night.  It wasn’t a really good movie.  The cinematography was unique, and the acting was superb.  Anthony Hopkins, playing a familiarly dramatic role, was suppressing his emotions, and trying to hide them.  He kept holding his face in front of his eyes as if shielding them from a light, when really he was shielding tears from sight.  Even when there aren’t people to see me, I keep putting my hand over my eyes.  Actually, at twenty-three, it’s hard to cry anymore, so the gesture is an act of the will to indicate emotion I can’t express any other way.  But the emotions, even at my age, must be expressed. 

A friend and I are starting a small group for high school girls, and quite frankly, I don’t know where to start in connecting with them.  Emma describes Robert Martin to her friend Harriet (in the Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation) as a man as much above her notice as below it.  Is evangelism and discipleship like that?  Either people know they need discipleship and God’s grace because they’re that mature or because they’re that empty? And I’m looking at some of these girls seeing so much need, but they’re not quite broken enough yet to value it, and I don’t know how to start a conversation or to whet an appetite for a close relationship with God.  I guess it’s all up to Him. 

Psalm 32 contains God’s promise to guide me with His eyes.  So maybe putting my palms over my eyes is a way of getting me to follow Him, recognizing my own lack of wisdom.  Too bad God has to force me into faith. 

Then recently every time I try to get on the internet (check my library due dates, blog, check messages, look up movie times) I have to refresh a hundred times, and it still doesn’t work.  I’m so inefficient, and end up doing a fraction of the things I’d intended with a day.  That’s a cause of frustrated grasping of my head. 

Maybe excitement could explain the frequent movement, too.  This week quite unexpectedly I made my first sale on my business website: www.LadyofLongbourn.com  Another exciting find was a website about Hebrew alphabets and words that argues for a Hebrew – or Edenic (long story) – etymology for most words worldwide. True or not my mind has been spinning with possibilities, and I’m finding it incredibly easy to learn new Hebrew words.  But then I always have. 

On Monday I got a bargain at the thrift store, and spent less than $3 on a brand new CD of classic hymns sung by the amazing St. Olaf’s Choir.  St. Olaf is a Lutheran Bible College whose incredible music department was featured on TV this Christmas season.  My brother and I stayed up irrationally (but not atypically) late watching it one night.  The beauty – the gift of it so touched me that I put my hands to my head. 

Dad and I went to the Colorado Republican caucus on Tuesday, which was an experience in disorganization and disbelief you wouldn’t, uh, believe!  Do you know the actual rules stated that ties in our precinct should be decided by a coin toss?  No one had any idea what they were doing, and since I couldn’t help us out, I put my hands on my head. 

Sunday I sat on the floor in my sanctuary, which was an exciting change.  You’ve no idea how many times I wanted to sit on the floor instead of formal, uncomfortable, modern chairs.  Mary of Bethany sat at Jesus’ feet, and that is quite my preference.  I probably won’t do it all the time; I fought against feeling self-conscious.  But it was neat to experience freedom in that way. 

The Superbowl…  Ok, to stop all scorn in its tracks, I babysat for a neighborhood outreach party put on by a church plant in Denver, and then hung out with everyone for the last quarter, so it isn’t like I was idolizing football or anything.  The Superbowl was a nail-biter, quite exciting.  I couldn’t believe some of the plays I witnessed.  Nice escape, interesting throw, and impossible catch for essential first down.  Yep.  I even know what I’m talking about.  Hands over my eyes. 

Monday was a rambling day, much like this post.  How beautiful to spend unhurried time at the library, wandering around, thinking, scurrying back and forth from the movie shelves to the computers (which work!) there, as an idea of another movie to watch came to mind…  And then on Wednesday I got to go to tea with a new friend.  Tea, yes.  I had mint chai, which is just as good as the other varieties I’ve had.  With enough sugar almost any tea tastes good, I think.  I just needed to get tea done the British way, with milk, too. 

I’ve been doing much praying for a special person, name to be announced sometime after I learn it myself.  My expectations for him are so high that it’s only right I support him now, already, in prayer.  But then I miss him.  And I cover my face shutting out the vastness of the world that separates him from me – but, of course, all in God’s capable and good hands.  Um.  That was code.  It all means that I wonder where my husband is, and when he’ll come, and want him to be here sooner than later, but I have no idea who or where He is.  But God knows, and I trust God. 

This week I spoke with a few friends about honesty, and how we wish the world would let us say the truth, say what’s on our hearts without code or offense.  At least with them I’ll practice it.  I hope they will with me.  No mask here.  Which reminds me – I’ve watched several movies with masks or masquerades in them recently.  Lots of movies. 

But movies always make me think.  A movie I want to see as of today is Penelope, due to limited release on February 29.  The fantasy, fairy-tale-ish story has a message of honesty, of taking the hands from the face and being yourself for all the world to see and know – even risking the hurt. 

YLCF was a special blessing this evening, since the most recent post specifically addressed the topic of waiting for one’s handsome prince, and what to do while you wait.  I know those things.  I certainly rebel on occasion.  The reminder was important to get me refocused, to seek the most excellent and most fulfilling. 

I’m craving tea: my mom’s blackberry, which I never like.  The clock, at almost midnight after a long day, declines my craving.  In fact I even have to stop my ramble through writing.  This post is the way I used to write emails to my friends: late at night, a summary of a dozen thoughts and events that come together to form a sort of three-strand theme.  If my brother were writing, this would be a strongly metaphorical poem (trying to make sense of which would bring my hands once again to my head).  My other brother would tell a wonderful allegory.  I’m trying to get the latter to guest blog here sometime.  He has a great story about orange juice… 

Ramble away in the comments.  Feel free to put the unconcise, irrelevant, unfinished thoughts you can’t submit as an English paper, or publish on your blog, or tell your friends when they ask how you are doing.  Good night. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Do you ever have the problem where you finally get inspired or convicted to do something, and you have other commitments?  Even in little areas, like last night I’m inspired to worship, but it’s like 11 PM and I had an early morning?  Or I finally get a break to call and just set up a time to discuss some things with my pastor, and I realize the weekend is here; it’s my pastor’s “day off,”… 

Wait!  Why on earth, thought I, do pastors have days off?  Why do they want them?  I don’t want a day where I don’t get to do the ministry God called me to, or where my friends don’t call me if they’re in need.  I don’t want to be ever inaccessible to my Christian friends. 

Now, I’m not saying this in judgment of my pastor, because I’m projecting an unwillingness to disturb him onto him.  I have not been told not to call or email him on “days off.”  But I have experienced church leaders and staff who felt annoyed when their co-heirs with Christ asked them about co-labors on a day when they weren’t scheduled, or on Sunday morning, at church.  Is our view of the purpose of gathering so distorted that we really think Sundays are all about getting fed?  Sitting in a chair and hearing music and a lecture?  I know that Mary chose the better thing (believe me, I relate to her!) than Martha, but doesn’t God want us to be at His service, ready whenever He calls?  Is this about loving each other, or isn’t it? 

And, as is a good practice when such thoughts carry me away, I consider: How does this apply to me?  In what ways am I too busy with my scheduled ministry or my expectations for a day to be sensitive to what God wants me to do?  Why, just last night after a Bible study I looked around and wondered who I wanted to talk to, and why didn’t anyone talk to me?  Only afterward did I realize that I had been self-focused, not seeking opportunities to be a blessing to the new friends around me. 

Thankfully, God has been pointing these things out to me more frequently.  My prayer is that God would take away the self-thoughts and unkindness that sneaks into my life from out of the blue.  I need to be more diligent in that prayer. 

To God be all glory. 

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In case you haven’t determined from my other posts, especially those about “Changing Church,” I have some serious concerns about the evangelical Christian Church in America. A year ago I led a Bible study. And it is a symptom of the problems with evangelicalism that I must clarify: that means we took passages of the Bible and studied them. We figured out what the words meant, how the passages were connected with other parts of Scripture, and how to apply them. The topic was spiritual gifts. One of the primary passages on spiritual gifts in the Bible is 1 Corinthians. Typically a theologian would point you to select verses in chapter 12. However, spiritual gifts are the topic throughout 12, 13, and 14. This information fits because, in context, we saw that spiritual gifts are (this is so obvious) part of Church structure and purpose. Our group ended up discussing and discovering a lot about how the Church was intended to “run.”

from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:16

Ephesians 4, also a defining passage for the Church, is another chapter describing spiritual gifts. There are also passages in Romans and 1 Peter. In none of these do we see church buildings. The four-point sermon is not described, nor the “invitation.” Come to think of it, a weekly offering wasn’t part of the instructions. There is no gift for “treasury,” though there is one for “giving.”

To some extent, I am still trying to figure out what the Bible teaches about the design for the Church. What did Paul tell Timothy the Church should look like? How should the assemblies go? Who should assemble; when; where; how often? Is it like a network of small groups that interact and overlap? How do elders fit in? What does an elder do? How many elders did God plan for churches? Do they need to be formally ordained? Does a teacher have to be an elder? Does an elder have to teach? If they do, is it every week?

*Deep breath* I have a lot of questions. And I have some ideas I’m exploring. Some might ask how relevant my search is to real life. Occasionally God reminds me He is more important than a completely worked-out theology. He’ll teach me what I need to know. Mostly I need to know I should trust Him.

So I read up on these things. And I try to have an application-oriented study. But I’m not pragmatic. Truth is more important to me than success. I won’t take a group that “does it right” without believing the right thing. I’d rather not be part of a church that is high on creeds and low on follow-through. For one thing, that is my tendency, and I need influences to counter my laziness.

I’m not alone in my dissatisfaction with the Church. A lot of people my age leave, and I can’t entirely blame them. For one thing, my friends and I want challenged. We want examples. We need interaction across generations that is generally unavailable to us at traditional churches. Some who leave their childhood churches gather with others craving spiritual experiences though they were raised outside of church. An overall term for these gatherings is the “emergent church.”

This church and its leaders tend to have embraced a unique philosophy/theology. It is unitarian, communal, experiential: meaning respectively that there could be many roads to salvation and a relationship with God, evangelism and the Christian life should be more about serving the poor and building real there-for-you relationships, and worship must be a multi-sensory encounter.

One of the most frequent things I hear is an emphasis, almost a demand, for “alternative worship.” There is also contemplative prayer. The idea that conversion is a process can be found. In a book I am currently reading, a missionary is encouraging Muslim converts to keep the Koran, keep the the mosques, and be “Messianic Muslims.”

Here’s the thing. Most of these emergent believers and former evangelicals (and some others: family-integrated church members, some house churches, other conservative “fundamentalist” movements) are identifying real problems in the Church. The difference is the source of their solution.

I am searching for a back-to-the-Bible approach such as advocated by the New Testament Reformation Fellowship. The other options would be slight reform (as explained in the Purpose Driven Church and other such books) or theological abdication for what works. These alternatives are man-centered, offering either that which appeals and entertains men, or that which men think will work, borrowing “truth” from “wherever it can be found,” including pagan religions, popular psychology, New Age spirituality, Hollywood, and ancient mysticism.

Back to the topic of spiritual gifts, one oft-overlooked and even supressed gift is that of discernment. “Discerning of spirits,” can mean telling whether a spirit (message or soul) is from God or not. John MacArthur has compiled an entire book on the subject for contemporary issues, entitled Fool’s Gold. There are websites like Let Us Reason, Apprising Ministries, and the Christian Research Net. I believe this is one of my gifts as well as a topic I believe to be vital to the Church.

So I feel obligated to warn you about reliance on The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Brennan Manning’s writings, Rick Warren’s writings, anything Emergent Church or “Christian mysticism.” The argument that one must have read a book to denounce it, or have met a person to know that they are false teachers is invalid. The spiritual gift of discernment comes from God, and is primarily a testing of spirits against the pure, absolutely true Word of God. For specifics of why these people, books, movements, and ideas are unbiblical, please consult the links above. I have personally had exposure to each of these, but not immersion. However, the links provided do go into detail, with quotes and point-by-point refutations.

To summarize: the Church has problems. The solution to these problems can be found in the Bible, and the cause in how we have sold out to our culture and human philosophies rather than believing the instructions God gave. Some people who recognize these same problems and are very insightful in how they are related to each other and to statistics coming out about the Church have resorted to unbiblical “solutions,” which will cause more harm than good. Christians must be on their guard against these philosophies and practices. This is done by being solidly grounded in the Bible, and testing every movement against it.

Colossians 2:6-8, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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