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Archive for October, 2013

I saw this quote on a Facebook comment the other day and it really hit me.

Worry is praying to yourself.

Ouch! Now doesn’t that put worrying into perspective? I think I want to make this quote visible in my home because when I think of worry this way it really challenges me to turn my thoughts into prayer. Help me Lord!

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Our church is seeing an increase in visitors which is exciting. We added a second service because we feel like God has plans to grow our (church) family. Part of growing also means that when your split our current congregation into two services, it is more obvious who are visitors (simply because there are not as many people in our sanctuary). I don’t know if this is the reason or if this is just who I am but I find myself thinking more and more about what new people or visitors are thinking of our services.

I am finding myself at times cringing over something said (usually by my husband…love that man) because I am fearful that people will think we are weirdos! Part of the reason I would wonder this is because I once was a visitor to a church very similar to ours now and I told my then new husband I would never attend there. Let me explain.

It (the church) was just too weird! People waving these big flags around and dancing all over the place. People praying in tongues. The weird phrases that sounded all spiritual but mostly translated into gibberish to my then very traditionally raised Christian self. The people kind of seemed like they were living in the clouds or like they just were all “weird” people who attended that church. Surely they must be the more “needy” people. Yet, there was my husband who wasn’t weird to me (wild and crazy but not weird) and he was some how at home there. Even though I said I wouldn’t attend there, I think part of my journey began there too.

Because when you really get down to why a church like ours, one most people would call charismatic or pentecostal, makes a mainline-traditionally-raised Christian uncomfortable is because it is the unknown. And it isn’t as structured as we are used to. It is free. More freedom than we are used to in church. And we don’t know what to do with that freedom. We feel fear because it is the unknown and fear makes us do crazy things. We need something to make us feel comfortable once again so we begin to 1) make a case for why we don’t fit in a place like this or 2) we make judgments against the church. I am not saying everyone needs to be “charismatic” but I do believe we are meant to live in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ and if we have judgments in our heart, it keeps us from true unity. But in my own journey I have learned that the things that made me think that church was “weird” were really the things that made me feel uncomfortable and fearful. Because I was uncomfortable with freedom. I liked living in my comfortable box and in my nice structured church. And I didn’t want to be a weirdo.

While I don’t think we all need to be “charismatic” in our choice for a place of worship, I do think we are all meant to live in freedom and we are meant to know all of God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we try to keep part of who God is in a safe little box because we don’t understand Him, we miss who He is and we miss who we are. We sacrifice part of the freedom we are meant to live in. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (NIV) I like how the Amplified version says it, “In [this] freedom Christ has made us free – completely liberated us; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery – which you have once put off.”

For me the yoke of slavery that is talked about in this verse was legalism. Read about the Pharisees in the bible and you will know what I mean. Jesus told them they were like white washed tombs, clean on the outside but empty on the inside. I was void because my understanding of faith had a lot to do with works and less to do with who I was in Christ. I heard a speaker say recently that Christ didn’t just come to restore us, He came to replace us. As in we are meant to become like Christ (Galatians 2:20). There is a lot we can do on the outside to look like Christ, but we can still be empty and bound on the inside. A faith walk based mostly on works will keep us a slave to works because it gives us the illusion we can do it. We have what it takes. Living in grace acknowledges the greatness of our God and causes us to see our utter dependance upon Him. We can’t do it on our own. But with Him we can do great and mighty things. Grace also keeps us humble and mindful of our own sinfulness, our own need for a Savior. People who live in legalism and look really great on the outside can quickly become judgmental of the “sinner” because their works give them the illusion they have what it takes, that they are so great because they live such holy lives. Legalistic Christians are most comfortable with structure because they are good at following rules and guidelines. They, however, are not as comfortable with a “free” environment. That was me only a few years ago.

Thankfully when we first came to our church it wasn’t as weird free as it is now. I could handle it then. There were moments I felt scared but I had people I trusted to talk me through it. Our pastors listened patiently and lovingly to me rant about “how something that is only found in one book of the bible” can be so important and what the bible says about this and that. They never once made me feel stupid for asking these questions. They loved me where I was and shared their wisdom. Plus my husband was there through it all as well, loving me where I was at and never pressuring me to do something or be something other than who I was at that moment. And God began to change me. He softened my heart. Fear began to be replaced with peace and I began to see God could be trusted. And just because something made me feel uncomfortable didn’t make it unbiblical.

I began to experience grace and feel free. Free from needing to have it all figured out and free to quit striving to be this “good” Christian in my own strength. I began to see my emptiness and my need for a Savior and I saw the enormity of what God has done for me. Expressions during worship like raising my hands or dancing began to be a natural response of this Pharisee sinner set free. The freedom I saw around me no longer scared me because the same freedom was in me.

Now, back to the visitors coming to our church. I have been reflecting if my concern for how they feel is rooted in the fear of man and wanting to please people or if this concern has to do with my heart for people. People much like me a few years ago. I guess what I am working through is that I don’t want to feel like I need to apologize for who we are and I don’t want to cringe at things that are said (especially by my hubby who I think very highly of) because visitors will think my husband is weird will feel uncomfortable . But I do hope that my own story could be used to encourage others. I hope my story can encourage you.

God is trustworthy. Christ came to set us free. Freedom is not scary when you know the One who makes you free. Freedom is good. And if freedom makes me and my beloved church family weirdos, I am ok with that. I will take freedom any day over emptiness and legalism. For freedom Christ set us free!

Here is a great song about freedom:

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