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Archive for July, 2011

For 19 years, I was a part of a church that believed in “standards”, rules that prohibited everyone in the group from certain ways of dressing and attendance at certain functions.Women couldn’t wear pants, cut or trim their hair, or have slits in their skirts. No one could show any part of their torso from their collar bone to their calf to their forearm. People couldn’t go to the movie theater, a skating rink, a bar, or a sporting event. They were not to dance, own a television (or watch movies or shows any other way), or have Facebook or other social network accounts.

Historically and Biblically, they were on shaky ground:

Women were told to wear skirts because Deut 22:5 says a woman shouldn’t wear what pertains to a man. They said pants pertain to men and skirts pertain to women. Sure, in today’s culture everyone wears pants, but only women wear skirts. However, show me a typical man who would shop for his jeans in the woman’s department. Yes, women’s clothing has changed over time. It has become more practical, more functional (overall, at least). But are skirts really the dividing line? There were other things that “pertained to men” within the last 50 years or so that became acceptable even under some of the strictest standards: skirts/pants that button or zip in the front rather than the side or back, suit jackets tailored after mens’, and tailored shirts that button in front. (http://www.clotheslinejournal.com/shirtwaist.htm)

1 Cor 11 talks about hair. Really, it talks about veils and proper decorum in services, in keeping with the rest of the book. There’s no other passage in the Bible that could be construed to be discussing uncut hair or even long hair on a woman. When the Jerusalem Council sent word to the gentile churches about what was proper, they wrote about eating blood, eating foods sacrificed to idols, meat of strangled animals, and sexual immorality. (Acts 15:29 and 21:25) If clothing and hair were so important, why were they not mentioned in either of these passages? Surely Greeks and Romans didn’t adopt traditional Jewish clothes when Rome conquered Israel! We were often told that women never cut their hair until the Roaring Twenties when the flapper style and bob came into fashion. However, this is also historically inaccurate. Though the majority of women did not traditionally cut their hair SHORT  prior to the ’20s, they did cut it at times. In Victorian times and prior-some believe beginning in the 1400s-women would cut locks of their hair to give to a lover, close friend, or family member. These locks were often woven into intricate designs, watch fobs, or jewelry and became an (now little known) art! (http://www.victorianhairartists.com/victorianhairworkhistory.php) Anyone with a more literary bent only has to think back to Loisa May Alcott’s Little Women or O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi for other examples of earlier times’ feelings on women cutting their hair–in both stories, someone cuts their hair and sells it. Though in both the one who cuts their har is seen as doing something out of the ordinary, there is no moral implication named as to why it shouldn’t have been cut. Both stories were written in a time when morals were woven into stories, but in both of these, the women are seen as self-sacrificing and loving.The only disappointment expressed is that their hair was beautiful in it’s longer form, not that anything was wrong with cutting it to begin with.

Can you think of other historical evidence that these were not new in the 1920s-50s? If so, please share them.

 

 

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Foundations

Originally posted October 26, 2010

When I first left my former church, and for several years before that, I was terrified to let go of what I’d been taught. What if it was THE Truth? Would I be lost? Would I go to Hell? Would God strike me down? Was I really walking out on Him?

My fears were very well taught in the church I’d been in, but they were completely unfounded. Walking out of a building doesn’t signify one’s lack of faith. Neither does asking questions or even having doubts, as odd as that may seem. But can a person have faith if there are no doubts? And as for walking out on God… how can you walk out on an omnipresent God? Where can you go that He isn’t?

So… I’ve blogged about foundations before, but I’m doing it again. It’s wonderful to be able to ask questions, to examine beliefs without fear. God knows about the doubts, and I really don’t think He minds. How can my brain grasp an idea as big as God, anyway? 1 Cor 3:11For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Jesus is our foundation. Other places call Him the corner stone and the rock. Our salvation is in Him. (And if God is real, nothing can shake Him.)

1 Cor 3:12Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 

All the doctrines and teachings and everything we’ve done and believed could be things that were built on Jesus. And when trials come or everything falls apart, it looks to us, standing on the ground, like the foundation must surely be gone. But the foundation isn’t above ground where we can see; it’s down in the ground. What we’re seeing is everything that’s been built being shaken and blowing away.

Guess I’ve lived in the midwest too long–I picture a tornado. The tornado doesn’t usually even fracture the foundation, even if it turns the house to splinters. In the tornado, officials even tell you to go to the basement, because the foundation is the safest place to be. I know it’s different with earthquakes, but even in earthquakes it seems like the foundations that are built right are not what usually crumbles. If the foundation isn’t built right, the owners often bulldoze and start over.

14If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved….

I got pretty mad about the rubble people built in my life, of pleasing others rather than God and of false teachings and doctrines. And then I realized I wanted those things to topple. I decided I could almost enjoy watching all they built fall, because then I’d know what was built well and what wasn’t. After the shaking is finished, I can go in, sweep out all the rubbish, and check the foundation and anything left standing. Something stronger can then be built where the straw houses were built before.

Have I “survived”? Well there are still some things shaking in my life. The straw houses didn’t survive, though, and I can laugh as I sweep them away.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKMw1ndl-EY

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Questions

Originally posted January 3, 2011

Some years ago, I was thrown out of a church because the pastor falsely accused me of things and wouldn’t allow me to even say I hadn’t done what he accused me of. He told me that if he said I did it, he was a Man of God, and God had obviously talked to him about me and revealed the wickedness in my heart. He also preached that I would walk out of church the night he kicked me out and immediately go and cut my hair and wear pants and makeup. I felt like I was betraying him by NOT doing those things, proving that he was a false prophet. I hadn’t done anything wrong, and I believed THE Truth, so I didn’t cut my hair or put on pants. I simply found another Oneness church and tried to act like nothing had happened.

The new pastor told me to just forget about what had happened and move on. But I couldn’t. What happened had created a lot of questions and doubts in my mind, things that I needed to work through and discuss. I needed time to heal. They wanted to act like there was nothing to heal, and that hurt worse.

I always felt condemned for not doing crazy things in church. After being kicked out, something disconnected. I went to church, and would shake “under the power of God.” I’d never done that before. People would tell me how close I must be to God. I didn’t feel close to God. I’d been kicked out of a church, but they didn’t know that, so I felt like a hypocrite. I also knew the shaking wasn’t God, it was me wrestling hard to reconcile what I believed was The Truth with what I had seen, heard, and experienced that blared that it wasn’t. There was such a deep grief and so much condemnation associated with praying, fasting, and studying the Bible… and especially with worship. The new church was very pushy about how much I should worship and exactly how we should and shouldn’t worship. That didn’t help me at all, because so much of what he told us we needed to do seemed unnatural or just plain weird or wrong to me.

It took me years to untangle what had happened in the church I was kicked out of. I had been happy in a way, and spoke in tongues often and danced a lot. When I was kicked out, even though I went to a different oneness Pentecostal church (where the pastor assured me I was fine), things just weren’t the same. I doubted pretty much everything I was feeling, because the pastor who kicked me out said I was backslid and terribly wrong. If that were true (and of course it must be-he was a Holy Ghost filled preacher) then what I had felt, and the speaking in tongues and the worship I was doing must be all wrong, too. How could sweet and bitter water come from the same source, after all? I almost “got past that” but then with all the show and people really hurting people in the altar of the new church, I started relooking some things.

At the same time, I went through a time when every time I tried to pray, I’d pretty much immediately fall into heartwrenching grief and start sobbing and speaking in tongues. I knew that wasn’t right. There is joy in the Holy Ghost, and what was happening couldn’t have been considered intercession. I’d focus on God and say “I love you” or think of a recent service or have a happy thought that I’d be able to stay in that church for the rest of my life… and suddenly start bawling, when I hadn’t been sad before that word of prayer or that thought of thankfulness! A week of that would have been one thing, but that went on for a month or more. And I couldn’t seem to pray at all at church. By the end of that time, I knew something was terribly wrong, but I didn’t know what (or wouldn’t admit it) for a few more years.

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Originally posted February 8, 2010

I have heard way too many times that basically God just dumps trials and tests on us as Christians, because “he that the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” and “the trying of our faith worketh patience.”

God is NOT responsible for people’s lies, gossip, spite, malice, and so forth. God is NOT the author of confusion. So He doesn’t tell people to do those things to us, nor does He decide to “put us through” those types of “trials”. When people backbite, gossip, slander, or abuse people, those aren’t trials God has put on us. That isn’t God testing us, that’s people sinning against us! I don’t care who does them. It can be the pastor’s pet, his family, or him, it can be someone who talks in tongues daily or hourly, but when they do those things, it’s still not of God. It’s still sin.

It seems like the last few years people in churches I’ve been to have stopped blaming the devil and started blaming God for all the hurt they cause others. When will they ever take responsibility for their actions?

*The amount of gossip and backbiting I saw in my former church disturbed me. It’s one reason I don’t talk too harshly or in depth about them now–I don’t want to, because in doing so I might be acting just like them.

I used to be a firm believer in tongues. But right after church, women would be in the restroom mopping their sweat and talking about how they’d slapped someone “in the Spirit” or laughing about someone getting called to the office. I couldn’t understand how someone could “shout” and speak in tongues in service and talk about the “powerful move of the Holy Ghost” yet before church was dismissed be talking-excitedly, almost happily-about someone who might be in trouble or looking down on someone who didn’t shout as much as they did. It made no sense, and still doesn’t.

I don’t speak in tongues now. I don’t go to a church that advertises itself as “Spirit-filled”. They are, but in a different way than Pentecostals and Charismatics think of it. God moves there. I stand in awe of the ways He speaks to me in those services. But I haven’t been slapped “in the Holy Ghost” or walked in on a single gossip session yet. Not only should a church be Spirit filled, but it’s people should show fruit of the Spirit, and should focus not on outward signs of being “Spirit filled” (tongues, exuberant worship) but instead should focus on being Spirit led.

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Originally posted July 2, 2010

I just had an interesting thought. In my first Pentecostal chuch, there was a whole lot of singing about sacrifice.

I will Give You All
“God spoke to Abraham and said, give your only son, to offer as a sacrifice to the one you love. Lord if you ask of me to give, the very thing that I love the best, give me the courage and the strength to be willing to say yes”

I want to Live the Way You Want Me to  Live
“I want to live, the way, you want me to live. I want to give, until there’s just no more to give. I want to love, love til there’s just no more love. I could never, ever outlove the Lord”

Songs like that. And in most churches I was familiar with there was a lot of talk about “sacrificial offerings”, “sacrificial giving”, “giving everything to Jesus”, “giving Jesus your very best”, “dying daily”, “crucifying the flesh”, “putting the flesh under subjection”, and so forth. They asked often enough in my former church if we were willing to die for Jesus that I even had a nightmare that incorporated that question.

There was a lot of talk about sacrifice, giving, and such, but little talk of love and Jesus’ sacrifice for us (unless it was to say we needed to do the same for Him). Can you imagine thinking of your spouse only in terms of what you should give, how obligated you are to him/her, how much you will have to give up for him/her, and how bad it will be for you if you don’t?!?! That’s not love at all. Dedication, maybe. Obligation, absolutely. Fear, probably. But it isn’t love.

I got ahold of a CD about a year and a half or so before I left. There was a song on it that said
“Just to draw close to thee, that’s where I long to be, let me hide myself in your heart to find my destiny. Every step I take, is one less step I need, to be in your presence, and close to thee.”
Another said
“There is none like You. No one else can touch my heart like you do. I can search through all eternity, Lord, and find there is none like you.
Your mercies flow like a river wide, and healing comes from your hand. Suffering children are safe in your arms. There is none like you…”

When things got bad at church, I’d close my eyes and start singing one of those to myself. I’d sing my own song to God and remember that what I was seeing and hearing didn’t reflect Who the Bible said God was.

Those are still some of my favorite songs today. God gave me strength and peace through them when I needed it most.

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Originally posted May 8, 2010

1 Cor 5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

I’ve had this verse used against me quite a bit now. No, I haven’t fornicated or committed any other sin that shocked even people who are not in the church, like this passage discusses. I am not one, as verses 10-11 indicate, who is “…covetous, or extortioners, or …idolaters…” or “a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner.”

Above that, this verse is not discussing walking past the person as though they don’t exist, giving them a whithering look as you pass them in public, refusing to accept change from them at the store or buying anything of theirs at a yard sale or even applying with their company… it isn’t talking about being RUDE in other words. The verse tells the church to deliver the person who does the things listed above (idolatry, fornication, drunkenness, extortion, covetousness, or railing (abuse)) to Satan (in other words to put them outside the safety and support of the church)… not to act like the devil themselves!!!

God never approves of rudeness and outright cruelty, selfrighteousness or pride. Read what Paul wrote in NLT: “Then you must cast this man out of the church and into Satan’s hands, so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved when the Lord returns. How terrible that you should boast about your spirituality, and yet you let this sort of thing go on. Don’t you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be affected? Remove this wicked person from among you so that you can stay pure.”

God in no way condones the rudeness that many people have allowed through these verses. Paul is simply telling the church to stop bragging how righteous they are, when they “associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler.” (v 11, NLT) He goes on to tell them that while a person is unrepentant they shouldn’t be considered a brother or sister. He doesn’t say the person should be counted as less than a heathen, or should never be able to come to church again, just that they should stop counting that man as a Christian as long as he is unrepentant.

Think about the bolded and the list in v 11 for a minute. If we are not to fellowship people who claim to be Christians and do the things listed above, and if we could be affected by those things if we allow them to continue in our midst, is it wrong to leave a church where these things are allowed to continue, and even encouraged?

I don’t advocate throwing people out of churches if they have these problems. But after having had this verse used on me more than once, I have to believe that if it is ever used, it should only be used as it was in this passage. This was an extreme case, for a widely known sin. The action wasn’t recommended for something people guessed might have happened, but for something that was well known both in and out of that body of believers. If a church believes in removing someone from fellowship based on this passage, they can remove the person from the support of the church without removing them from the pews, and without being rude. We can help the swindlers without putting them over the offering, the drunkards without putting money for their next bottle in their hands, the sexually immoral without allowing them to teach our Sunday School classes, and the railers and abusers without putting them behind our pulpits. Paul isn’t talking about banning anyone from all Christian contact or treating a person rudely, he is simply saying not to give that person the full benefits of true Christian fellowship. Separating him or putting him out of the church at that time didn’t mean casting him off a pew or out of a building. There weren’t pews or churches to throw him off of or out of. It simply meant to stop counting him as a complete part of the church until he repented.

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Originally posted April 28, 2010

I’ve heard it preached repeatedly that we can’t give God anything but our best. Deut 17:1 is used as a reason for this. But that passage isn’t talking about giving less than the best for sacrifices. It says nothing about seeking out the very fattest and best lamb, it just says not to give one that is blemished or obviously disfigured. It appears to be talking more about deliberately giving an unworthy sacrifice. Going to the heard and finding an animal not worth keeping and killing it. At any rate, it isn’t talking about beating ourselves over the head, losing sleep over whether we could have done anything better that day or not.

Of all of these, all but Deut 22:5 obviously discuss things spoken against in the 10 Commandments and again in the New Testament by Jesus and by the writers of the Epistles.

Food laws were reversed in Peter’s vision “what I have made clean call thou not common”. Gentiles were also made clean in this vision and the activities in Acts 10 that followed. What else was considered ‘clean’ at that point? What does Deut 22:5 really mean? Does it stand alone as saying women shouldn’t wear pants? Hardly. It is part of the blended gender issue that is defined as sexual immorality. There is nothing sexually immoral, nothing about blending genders determined by ladies wearing pants.

What things were abominable in the Bible?
In the Old Testament, certain foods (Lev 11), homosexual acts (Lev 18:22), idols (Deut 7:25, 12:31, 13:14), dishonorable sacrifices (Deut 17:1), mixing genders (Deut 22:5), cheating in business practices (or possibly favoring some people and cheating others) (Deut 25:16, Prov 11:1, Prov 20:10), frowardness (Prov 3:32), Prov 6:16 and 12:22 and 16:5, Justifying the wicked and condemning the just (Prov 17:15), Jer 6 and 8, Ez 18:12, sexual immorality Jer 22:11, were an abomination. Why pull out only Deut 22:5? Why are the others not preached often as abomination?

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