Monday, October 10, 2011

Trouble, Churches, and Pain

On Trouble
Remember when you were little and you would get in trouble? What was that? There was the punishment or consequence, but that wasn't in trouble. A Mom might tell her child, "You are in so much trouble right now, just wait until your Daddy gets home." The child is currently in trouble, but the punishment or consequence is still yet to come. Trouble must be something other than a spanking or a time out. Kids will recognize that they are in trouble before they even get caught.

I theorize that "Trouble" must then be a current state of a relationship that begins at the moment of disobedience and ends at the moment of completion of the punishment or consequence. It is a breach in the relationship between a parent and a child where the child shows himself to be irresponsible, and trust is lost.

I think it's the same with God. When we sin, we are in "trouble." Our relationship with God is broken until we confess and are forgiven. The punishment has already been paid by Jesus on the cross and even though we might suffer through some of the consequences, the eternal result of our sin no longer rests upon our shoulders.

That being said, we should confess to God right away. There's nothing worse than being in trouble waiting for the punishment to come upon you. Until "daddy comes home," the child waits and fears and his relationship with his mom is horrible. They don't talk or laugh or play or do any of the other things children should do with their mothers. They just wait and fear.

We don't have to be that way. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. Confess, Repent, and be restored. Leave trouble behind. You don't need it anymore.

On Churches
One of the things I personally believe is splitting the body of Christ is the comparison of churches. We Christians play the, "the church I go to is better than that church," and "We do things the right way here," cards way too much. (I think once is too much.) What exactly is the criteria for a good church? I believe they are the same three things that one should look for in a spouse.

1. Does the church (spouse) encourage you to grow in your personal relationship with the Lord?
If your relationship with God isn't growing by where you're going, you should ask yourself why you are going there. This doesn't mean that a church has to offer personal Spiritual Challenges and have milestones so you can prove that you're a greater Christian than you were previously. But it does mean that when you do go to church, you are going for Jesus and not because you like a music style or teaching style or display of Spiritual gifts. I'm convinced that I could be amongst any of my Christian brethren and still connect with my Jesus because I can connect with Him on my own. It's just good to connect corporately as well as individually. The Bible calls us to be a body for Christ, not a winnebago. We are to be like cells living and working together, not independent.

2. Does the church (spouse) encourage you to get into God's Word?
Jesus calls us to worship God in truth and in love. We need both. The Bible has both. It has the truth and it was written in love. We need to get into it, know it, live it. Whatever church you go to needs to be built on the foundations laid out in the Bible. There are a lot of bad churches out there. (And I'm not talking about churches that just aren't as good as the one I go to, but churches that teach lies and call them truth.) And in order to spot the lie, you need to know the truth. I don't have to memorize that a rhinoceros isn't yellow if I know that they are grey. If I know what color they are, I don't need to know what color they are not. I would be able to figure that lie out if someone was trying to convince me of anything else. If that church (spouse) is not encouraging you to get in the Word yourself, they could could be setting you up to believe a lie. (Also check everything. The most effective lies are those that are mostly true.)

3. Can you serve your church (spouse) joyfully?
You must serve. We all need to serve each other and no Christian is exempt. Service is something that people who are following Jesus will eventually enjoy and want to do, but sometimes it starts out with serving just because you know it's good. If you can't serve, you will never really be apart. Customers are never a part of the store even if that's where their money goes. They are not part of the store even though it would not exist without them. The people who work there are part of the store because they work there. They spend time and energy to make the store function. So must you be with your church. You don't have to do it all, but you have to be involved somehow. The church that doesn't need any more servants doesn't need any more congregants either. (If you have too many servants, send them my way. We could always use more over at my church.)

If you can fulfill these three criteria, I believe that you can find a home with any body of believers. Music style and Pastor personality should have nothing to do with it. Of course, if you were looking for a church, the first thing you should do is pray. If God makes the choice for you, then just thank Him and obey.

But please don't compare your church to a different church and don't rank churches on how "correct" they are. All that does is put more distance between you and your brethren. People are all different, so churches need to be different to reach them all. Some churches are more mission's based whereas others are more based on reaching out to the community. Both are needed. Some Pastors have special messages from the Lord to give so that all their sermons sound the same. God gave them that message to give so it would be going against God to complain about it. If you are not getting something from a church service, then that speaks of the condition of your heart. Even if I already know all the information that is preached, (and that is not often the case,) I still grow closer in what was reinforced from the message. The Word does not go out and return void, after all.

We all go to different churches and that's okay. Our Worship music is different and our Pastors are different and that's not only okay, but beneficial. We need to stop looking like the world and start looking like Jesus.

On Pain
We Christians try to be so tough. We don't wince anymore when people cuss in our presence. We watch movies with people sinning in front of our eyes and we laugh and eat pop corn. We allow people in our own church bodies to go through divorce and we just smile around them and try to change the subject to take their mind off.

Christians, we need to be offended again. We need to feel pain and let it show. When someone sins and I see it, I need to feel the pain of witnessing someone, or even one of my brothers in Christ, willingly separate themselves from my Savior. We put up these walls and harden our hearts because we don't want to be hurt, but Jesus got hurt for us. He showed His pain and we hide ours. We pretend like we don't care and one day, we just stop caring.

How much more would the world know us if we showed pain at sin... either our sin or someone else's. What if we cried whenever we heard about or talked about abortion and divorce. What if curse words containing the name of God actually brought tears to our eyes. Would the world notice? We might sternly tell people that they must respect God, but doesn't God live inside of us? Wouldn't they respect Him more through seeing Him in us than just hearing us tell them about what He finds acceptable and unacceptable?

The Bible says that they will know us by our love for one another. They will not know us by rules or standards or the books we carry around or the stickers on our cars. They will know us by our love, and love hurts. It pains me to see those I love in torment or anguish or anything beyond a mild discomfort. If I love someone, and they are not alright, I can't rest until I am a part of their pain. (The experience, not the cause.) But we Christians have the habit of playing the tough guy. We aren't phased by emotions or drama. Those who are must be weaker Christians. A boat may not always sail with the wind, but it always experiences the storm.


Anonymous said...

I feel pain. I guess I just don't show emotion. I can completley relate to "pain". After watching a movie called Time Changer I realized how much more we willingly sin and just blow it off. How can Christians just be okay with that. I am not one to stand up and yell it to the world either but people know they are offending me just by the expression on my face. I am an unconfrontational person. I like to hear others oppions but just because I hear what you are saying doesnt mean I agree or will change my mind, but I am not going to argue and fight with someone who doesn't believe.

Jonathan Dow said...

I'm not saying we should yell at the world because I don't think that does any good. I just think we become hardened to it because we don't want to be hurt, and that's not good.

Anonymous said...

What a great post Jonathan! I loved reading this.

I used to be distracted when I went to church. I loved the music and singing with all my heart. I loved hugging every single person there. I loved talking about God. Then one day a friend told me about how he loves to go and meet the Lord Himself and worship at His very throne and I was stabbed with the feeling of how I was completely missing out at church, because even though the things I loved about church are good things, I was allowing myself to be distracted from the most important thing! I had forgotten to come into my Lord's very presence, speak directly to Him, listen to Him, confess my sin before Him and my brethren, worship His glorious beautiful magnificence while singing or while praying, and all the while doing so next to my brothers and sisters, so that together we make a glorious and joyful noise before Him. I'm not worried about being too charismatic or pouring myself out before the Lord (as long as it's edifying to others and not being too distracting). I'm not worried about how I look, or if I'm on my knees while others are standing or if I'm standing with my arms stretched out while others are sitting, because it's just an outward expression of what's going on inside me as I worship the Most High and Living God. In Heaven, we will all worship God and confess His Lordship together, in one accord, and at the top of our spiritual lungs, and there won't be any embarrassment or apology for the way I look as I pour out everything i have before our God, who is worthy of everything I could ever offer to Him.

I can't wait til we all go to Heaven to worship and glorify Him together.

Jonathan Dow said...

I can't wait for Heaven either.