Ugg. I Can’t Believe My Church…

We have all had those moments.  That time when someone in your church does something that just put you on edge, upsets, or irritates you.  Sometimes these things are petty, but many times large, important issues lie at the heart of the conflict.

Too many times, we hear stories about how one disagreement or frustration pushes a family out of the church; sometimes little things may even lead to a split within the church.

Why do these issues lead to such large problems?  I mean, its church right, why isn’t everyone there always patient and loving?

I think the heart of this problem is in the ‘church’ mindset.  We all fall victim at one point or another to the thought that church people are supposed to come to church with everything figured out – that problems don’t have a place in the church, and that if we show them, we will be kicked out, looked down upon, or something.

James Smith has a different perspective, that I feel embodies what church should be like.  He says “[t]he church … is a place to learn patience by practice.” (Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism, 30).  What would your church look like if everyone was ready to learn patience instead of assuming that we were all experts when we walked through the front door?


Originally posted by Dan Buckley on Sep 9, 2013

 

Merry Christmas

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

What does this mean?  Who Cares?  If you find yourself asking these questions, please don’t take my word for it or any other blog.  Read the rest of what God has to say.

If you get started and still have questions or thoughts, I would love to talk with you more about it and I am sure that your local pastor would too!

Changing Perspective

Trusting in God changes your relationship with him because if you truly trust in God, then you will praise him for the good in your life, but never fault him for the bad.  Without a full understanding, one may argue that, logically, if he gets credit for the good, he must get credit for the bad…

But if you think about it, that is how we treat all of our friends that we trust, thanking them for the good they bring us and looking to other, outside factors to explain the bad.

Imagine that you get picked up from work every day by your trusted friend. He picks you up reliably every day at the same time, in the same place for years, without fail. Your trust and friendship grow with time. Then, one day you find yourself sitting outside waiting for two hours without any sign of your friend. Your first thought probably is not “how awful is he” but instead “I wonder what happened? Was there an accident? A flat tire? An emergency of some kind?”

We don’t blame our friends for the stuff that goes on in the world, God is a friend too and there most definitely are external circumstances at work when he is taking care of you.

Thankfully Boasting

According to God, boasting isn’t sinful (2 Thessalonians 2:4).  This is a contradiction of what I typically think is right.

I usually assume that pride is bad and subsequently bragging about it is even worse.

In this passage, there a two distinct differences with the type of basting that I am used to looking so low upon.

  1. The purpose of the boasting was not in order to bring about a demonstration of Paul, or even the Thessalonian churches glory.  In contrast, it was used as evidence of the righteous judgment of God (v5)
  2. The boasting was really about God, who rightfully can be boasted about.

It is okay to find joy in God, and even excited tell others about it.  Do remember, however, that it is not about you and to remember that effective evangelism is bold and humble, and begets respect without sacrificing the truth of the Gospel (1 Thess 4:10-12; see previous note).

What can be taken away from this about the nature of pride?  It is good to be proud when it is truly earned and deserved.  We should be proud of other and ourselves when we overcome adversity or accomplish our goals.  The key is not to take too much pride.  Take only as much as the goal was worth.  Did you finally do your laundry after weeks of feeling lazy?  Yeah, tiny pride.  Did you get a great job that you have been striving for?  Yes, medium pride.  Did you defeat death and sin for all of man kind?  SUPER PRIDE! BOAST ABOUT IT!

And when we feel proud, it should still be accompanied by gratitude to the ones that made it possible.  I don’t care who you are or what you have done you didn’t do it alone.  Has someone encouraged you?  Let them know they are appreciated. Has someone mentored you along the way to reach your goals?  Thank them.  Did someone send their only son to give you freedom?  To Him, we should be eternally grateful.

The pride and the thankfulness should come proportionately.

Thank you for reading my disjointed thoughts.

El Salvador – Answered Prayers

Hello everyone!

I am sorry that it has taken so long for us to share about our trip to El Salvador.  We have been pretty busy with school, work, and other commitments and it has been hard to find a time where the two of us had free time at together.

Thank you all for praying with us for and during the trip to El Salvador.  We have asked you to pray for us and in a lot of different ways, and we saw God at work answering those prayers!

Thank you.

Here are just a few things that we have asked you to pray for and how God answered them.

Answered Prayers:

  1. Safety – We were safer than we ever could have imagined.  One of the people on the trip that was from NYC even said that it felt safer than a lot of the neighborhoods that he grew up near.  While El Salvador is still a very dangerous country, we were blessed to have felt extremely safe during our entire trip.
  2. Health – For the most part, everyone was healthy! Unfortunately, Amanda was a bit unwell for parts of the trip, but in these moments, the Lord provided an opportunity for her practice her Spanish! We were painting at a church, and Amanda couldn’t stand outside with the team to paint, so she painted and “talked” with the Salvadorans inside instead. It was a huge blessing for her to feel more confident in her Spanish communication abilities!
  3. For God’s will to be done – God is working in mighty and miraculous ways. In El Salvador, the staff is desiring rest because they are stretched thin with all the work that the Lord is doing. The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few. He has great plans, and the team needs more people to do the work!
  4. Grace – We heard many amazing stories of Grace in the lives of the people in El Salvador.  The most prominent in my mind was Alfredo.  Alfredo was heavily involved in the gang culture.  He had lived much of his life surrounded by violence, illegal activity, and every that comes along with it.  It was only two weeks before we got to El Salvador that Alfredo started coming to Hungary Church.  While we were there he had his trial for his crimes.  He went to court, ready to plead guilty.  Envision and Hungary Church prayed for God to work in and through Alfredo.  The night of his trial, we were all sitting in our debrief session and he walks and tells us his story.   He was waiting to go into the trial and his lawyer came and told him that all charges were dropped.  “I am a free man” he said concluding his story with a big smile on his face.  God is at work in the lives of the people of El Salvador.
  5. Finances – God is so incredibly merciful and loving! We entrusted Him to provide the money for this trip, and He provided abundantly! We raised slightly more than we needed, so that as a team, we were fully funded with one week left before the trip.
  6. Our hearts – We were able to spend a week intentionally focusing on the Lord, and we were able to come back from a week of hard work and feel rested and encouraged! The trip was a blessing to us, and it renewed our energy for the work we are doing here in Philly.
  7. Hearts of Salvadorans – God is at work in the Hungry church already.  As mentioned before, the people there are hungry for Truth.  They are yearning for Jesus.
  8. Discernment – We know that we are called to missions.  That was affirmed.  We do not know where we are going next, or where we will be called to, but missions is in our future.

Continued Prayers:

  1. Discernment for future missions – where will God be sending us next and for how long?  We know that god has called us to international missions, but we do not yet know how to get there, what or where he has called us to internationally.  Maybe El Salvador?
  2. Envision El Salvador – Hungary church is in need of more staff, and more resources.  Pray that the team at Envision can be strengthened to continue to do God’s work while they wait and pray that more staff members can be found.
  3. Ministries – Envision has many ministries including the after school program, the football ministry, Hungary church plant that they support.  Pray that they can continue to encourage and draw Salvadorans to the Church and to Jesus.
  4. Gangs –  The gangs are still the largest obstacle in El Salvador.  Many Salvadorans cannot follow Christ because they fear that if they leave the gangs they will be killed.  They gangs actually let them leave if it is for religious reason.  Because of this, many people use the excuse to leave the gang, and the gang doesn’t believe them and kills them anyway.  Not only that, but the gangs also heavily influence the way that the government is run.  They prevent the government from caring for its people as effectively as it might otherwise.  The gangs are hurting the people mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Pray that God can work miraculously to change a broken system.

 

Thank you again for praying alongside us! I hope that you continue to seek Jesus.  He is doing amazing things all over the world and we get to be a part of them.  It is aw-inspiring to know that we get to partner with our almighty God in the work that He is already doing.

Blood POURED out

I am so grateful that God sent his son to die; his blood covering my sins.  It is an amazingly relieving truth to know that I am forgiven.  In order for this truth to become a reality though, Jesus did have to die.  That is not a pretty sight.  It is gruesome and ugly, and yet somehow the truth of forgiveness is beautiful.

If you have ever wondered if Jesus’s blood is good enough for your sins, notice the way it is described in the bible: his blood was poured, not dripped, not leaking, not sipped, but spilled out.  If you have a bucket of paint and you pour it out over your painting, nothing is left uncovered.  Every nook and cranny is filled with the paint.  So to is your life.  Every nook and cranny is filled with forgiveness.

Okay, so maybe the forgiveness helps hide some of the sin but does it really cover it? Isn’t it still there underneath?

In an old small group that we were a part of, we did some art worship (shout our to Dan and Krissann Janowitz).  As I worshiped God with my horrendous painting ability, I learned something about forgiveness.  When I started, I want to make my colors a little darker, so I added just a little bit of black.  It didn’t take long, and every color that I had put on the page was black.  Very little shown through the black, except the things that I intentionally tried to keep the black away from (and even then, this was a hard process).

God’s forgiveness is the same way.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we can hide our sin, but instead that the cost that has been incurred by sinning has been payed in full.  It no longer exists. You are forgiven.

If you are struggling to know that you are forgiven,. I encourage you to read the bible and see the truth that God has shared with us.  We are more forgiven than we could ever know.


If you still struggle with knowing you are forgiven, I encourage you to talk to your pastors and start exploring what the Bible says about forgiveness with them.  Start the conversation and God will help finish it.