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Archive for January, 2013

I’ve been thinking about this book quite a bit lately, especially since reading part of The Five Love Languages of God.

My primary love language is words of affirmation. In high school I started focusing on good things teachers said about me. I’d learned well that if I was good enough at something, people would say good things, so I did my best to excel, and often did. I also began to focus on God more and imagine Him saying good things about me too. I also listened to a lot of songs and Christian TV programs that were positive and encouraging and said good things.

When I went to college, I started going to a UPC where the pastor often said encouraging things. His whole sermons were often wrapped in “You can make it” and “God loves you”. I ate that up. But there was less and less of those kind words over time. A compliment was a very rare thing for me in my former church, though negative words were common. More than that, the Bible was used so negatively that reading it became difficult.

According to the books by Chapman, people who are disciplined or rejected in their primary love language feel it more severely. That’s why telling one child “go to your room” brings them to tears, while another cries when you tell them you’re disappointed in them.

Abuse-especially in the primary love language-seems to deplete a person’s “love tank” very quickly. And even the average person needs at least two positive words for every negative one. (http://www.peggybert.com/2010/09/30/…egative-words/) (I personally think for many people it’s closer to five to one.)

Church abuses speak to people’s love languages in a very negative way. When a person whose primary language is quality time is shunned continually, they feel rejected. Because the rejection is from the church-especially if they view the church in terms of “man of God”, “people of God”, “church family” and so forth, they begin to feel rejected by God Himself. And then the abusive church may point fingers and tell them that proves they aren’t right. They try to “get right” and, not knowing why they are being rejected but still experiencing that pain, feel they can never please God.

The same is true for words of affirmation. My former pastor would often say what, to me, were very harsh things from the pulpit. Seeking comfort and understanding, I would go to him, hoping for an encouraging word. Instead I would be rebuked. People several times told me “You should hear what they’re saying about you!” and act like others’ slander shouldn’t affect me. Again, in these times if I went to the pastor, I would often be rebuked or told I was doing something wrong.

People whose language is acts of service must feel the harshness of a church that will not let them serve in any capacity (we had to have written permission from the pastor to clean a window or scrub a toilet) or in a church where everything is done for a handful of people and everyone else is expected to fend for themselves. Those who love to give surely feel unloved when no gifts, cards, or even hugs are shared. And in a church where people aren’t supposed to touch, and if they do-outside of a handshake-they are accused of lust (even woman to woman or man to man), those whose language is touch must feel they are in a very cold place indeed.

I’ve been reading The Five Love Languages of God. Chapman gives specific examples in the Bible of passages where God expresses His love for us through words of affirmation. (He does something similar for each language.) It’s been a long time since I’ve heard some of those verses. Many times something in a passage above or below was twisted to express God’s anger, hatred, wrath, and so forth. It’s amazing to me that someone reads these passages differently. I also see why the negative preaching and rebukes were taking such a toll.

Also, now finding myself in a church where people do love each other, I’m amazed at the different outlook. People who are treated in positive, respectful ways are more likely to be positive and respectful themselves.

It’s interesting that the Bible teaches so much on love, even saying God IS love, but love was seen as “soft” in my former church. In the past few months, watching healthy people interact in positive, loving ways, I’ve come to think maybe my former church missed it not in doctrine or in legalism, but first in love.

Loving people tends to bring out the best in them.

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Been reading a book that explained grace in less than 306 pages.

Quote:
So in Christ God did for man what neither he, no one else, nor anything else could do for him. That is the very essence of grace… grace means that God gives us what we need, not what we deserve.
Originally the Greek word rendered “grace” meant to make a gift, then to forgive a debt, then to forgive a wrong, and finally to forgive sin. So basically grace is a gift, as expressed in Romans 3:24. Literally, “Being declared righteous as a gift by his grace through the full redemption, the one in Christ Jesus.”
Note that salvation is not “out of yourselves” or “out of works” as the source. It is “of God the gift”. It is by grace made possible in the individual through his faith. Good works are the fruit, not the root, of salvation.

I’ve never heard it explained that way. Grace is a gift. We can’t earn a gift. A person doesn’t beg for a gift. A person can’t ask for a gift and it still be a true gift. A real gift-at least to me-is undeserved, unexpected, unmerited, and completely free (it doesn’t come with strings attached-such as ‘do this and you’ll get it’, ‘do that and you can keep it’).

Also a gift, by it’s very nature of being a gift, cannot be something we earned. (If we earned it, it’s a wage. We earned our wage-Rom 6:23. Don’t like the wages. The gift is much better!)

+++++++++++++++++++

But wait… we shouldn’t stray too far that way, or we’ll get an “anything goes” attitude! No, not if we’re sincere. If I get a gift from someone, what should I do with it? I’d be ungrateful if I flung any gift away, but if it’s something I need, I know I need it, and I refuse to use it, then how much more so!! Yet the giver doesn’t take that gift back. He doesn’t come, knock on the door, and say “Pardon me, I noticed you haven’t used my wonderful gift. Give it back so I can give it to someone more appreciative!” He might not give me more gifts, but he certainly won’t take away the gift I’ve been given.

Sure, we could toss a gift aside. We could refuse it. But if we love the giver, we’ll value and treasure the gift, and the gift will mean that much more. And in loving the giver, we’ll want to give back what small tokens we can.

And to me that’s freedom. We can follow rules because we have to in order to earn something unobtainable, or we can rest assured knowing we’ll be given what we need, responding freely, in love, to the One who gave so much to us. Each might look the same outwardly, but one is done from fear, while the other is done through faith, from a cheerful, willing heart, the overflow of an abundance of the Giver’s love.

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I should answer some questions I’ve been blogging about. They might or might not help someone else later. I’ll post them just in case they might help someone, though.

Quote:
So I still have questions:
Would being rebaptized help further the gospel in any way?
Would it be meaningful to me personally? (if so, how?)
What are my reasons and motives? Would this be a reaction against the church I left, or a response to God?
Would it be a positive experience for me, or would I have doubts/would being rebaptized go against conscience?
Quote:
Would being rebaptized help further the gospel in any way?

Probably not in the short term, at least. There are plenty of churches I could join and be a part of without being rebaptized.

Quote:
Would it be meaningful to me personally? (if so, how?)
What are my reasons and motives? Would this be a reaction against the church I left, or a response to God?

Yes. I’m not sure all are good reasons to be rebaptized, but there are many ways it would be meaningful to me. I won’t go into the reasons here right now, though I thought about it. Everyone is different in this area though, and would have to honestly answer for themselves based on prayerful consideration, not anything I’d write.

Quote:
Would it be a positive experience for me, or would I have doubts/would being rebaptized go against conscience?

Yes, it would be a positive experience for me, I’m fairly certain. No, being rebaptized wouldn’t go against my conscience. Above that, I can’t view God as being displeased with either choice, as long as my decision is based in faith rather than fear and is done in good conscience.

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I’m staying in a place like this!!
I joined the church I’ve been attending today. I’ve been considering it for awhile now, but haven’t really mentioned that here because I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. I wanted this to be my decision, and don’t want to hurt, confuse, or upset anyone else through it.

Still… if you’re looking for a church, be encouraged.

I’ve always liked this church but there were a few points I thought we were in disagreement on that I hesitated about. And, I’d been going to churches and looking for what was wrong with them rather than what was right.

After asking a number of questions, observing people’s interactions with each other and others, taking lots of notes and praying about it, I’ve decided this is where I need to be. It seems to be an amazingly healthy church.

After my last questions, the pastor gave me a book that outlines their beliefs. Opening the book, I assumed I’d find a lot of scripture to back all kinds of opinions and interpretations of scripture. I braced myself for a long boring read. 🙂 And was amazed. There is time given to their understanding of God, baptism, communion and so forth, but there is equal time given to discussions of loving and respecting one another, of accepting each others’ differences even while each expressing their opinions when they feel led, of the worth and value of every individual on earth and so forth. Reading their “doctrinal” explanations, I found that they explained their views well, but often on non-essentials printed two or even three or more viewpoints, giving equal attention to the pros and cons of each view and restating acceptance of people no matter which view they held.

I’ve watched these people interact with each other, and know they live what they say they believe. I’ve been surprised as they accepted me even though they might well guess (or know) where I came from and what my beliefs might be. Never once in all my questions did the pastor disagree with me or argue for an opinion. He would state some different views and encourage me to read certain passages when asked, but for him that was the end of his part in it–it was my decision, my choice what to believe. He never went back and asked if I’d read anything or if I’d come to any decisions. The choice was mine. The respect that shows amazed me. I’ve watched them interact with each other too, concerned for each other, loving each other, focused on others rather than themselves (in a positive way). For instance last night they had a pool party. No one went off into little whispering groups. No one was excluded, no one was the center of attention. Everyone had someone. I didn’t see anyone off to the side, alone, and I didn’t see any groups off to the side talking. No one complained!

So after thinking about it and praying about it and studying everything out, I read or skimmed most of the book, and was surprised to find that I agreed with many things in the book, even things I thought I was alone in believing. I’ve known for a week or more that I’d be here for awhile. But though they would have accepted me whether I joined or not, I wanted to make a commitment and a public statement of that. This morning I did.

LOL and then I realized I hadn’t “prayed about it” in the Pentecostal sense. 😮 Mild panic set in for a minute… then I realized that I HAD prayed about it. For weeks (and months and years, less specifically). I’ve been praying that God would show me where to go and give me peace about it, showing me what choices to make. He did. My prayers the last few days haven’t been “God, show me.” No… rather, they’ve been “God, thank you!” Not thanks that I found a church to call home, but thanks that finally things like His grace and love started making more sense, and that I was seeing those in action through the people I was worshiping with. So I’d prayed and He’d already answered.

Yes, there’s more to the story, but yes, my mind, heart and conscience are all in agreement. And I’m happy.

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The pastor gave me a copy of their basic statement of belief earlier this week. I love what I’ve been reading. I love what I’ve been seeing as I watch these people interact with each other and others, too. They have a good report in the community. They don’t argue, complain, or settle into clicks when they get together–their focus is outward, not selfish, it seems. They show genuine care for each other. Their beliefs (the written info I got) include statements about the worth of each person and the respect due to all, lots about God’s love and grace… even a few things I didn’t know ANYONE agreed with me on. When I asked about membership, I wasn’t told what to do, I was asked what I wanted to do. They accepted me even though I didn’t join and even when I told them I disagreed. No arguing, no debating, no telling me I’m wrong or trying to prove themselves right, just open study and discussion and seeking common ground. I could stay in a place like this…

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The church I grew up in told us to read the Bible.  It was something we “should” and “ought” to do.  Being good and dutiful people, we read our Bibles.  We went to Bible classes.  We got certificates for completing the classes.  We had a lot of Bible knowledge.
We also still gossiped about each other, lied, were mean to each other, and hid secret destructive behaviors from others.  And that was just in the 4th grade class.
I can’t entirely blame that church.  They were trying to teach us to do the right thing.  They forgot to teach us the right reason to read the Bible.
When Gina (my wife) sends me a text, I stop everything and read it.  When she buys me a card and writes something in it, I read it, save it, and re-read it.  Why do I do this?
I read because of the relationship.  What she says matters to me.
Why read the Bible?  Read it because of your relationship with Jesus.  Read it because your relationship with Jesus matters.  Read it because you will learn about Jesus’ story.  Read it because you will find your story in the stories of the Bible.
Because of relationship, not religion. The Bible is a love letter, not a rule book. Read it as such. It makes a whole lot more sense when we read it with the understanding that God is love. And it has a lot bigger impact when we realize that the God of love, loves us.

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God loves us. He delights in us. It’s his pleasure to help us. It doesn’t seem I addressed this well in my last entry, so I’ll try again. Apparently others have tried to express the same thought but also fall short. I’ll take a minute and address a few, because they have good points:

http://devotionalchristian.com/god-delights-in-us/

Psalm 35:27  “God delights in the well-being of His servant.”

If you ever doubt that God cares about your well-being; simply read this verse. He does. He cares about the details of our lives and how we are doing.

I was thinking this morning about how I was struggling in a certain area of my life. How it was nearly bringing me to tears. Then, this was the verse I happened to flip to in my little notebook. What a timely reminder that God cared how I was feeling and what I was going through!

Not only did it remind me that God cared about my emotional and physical struggles but it showed me that what He does for me is never dutiful. It is a joy. A DELIGHT.

Yes, God delights in our well-being. But today too many people think our well-being must be the thing that brings us great immediate comfort. That, however, isn’t always so. He cares about everything that happens to us, but he doesn’t stop everything that happens that we might perceive as negative. Why? Because he DOES love us. All of us. He doesn’t stop all negative in a fallen world from affecting us, but uses even the negative for positive if we’ll allow him to. Besides, he sees the bigger picture. He knows the end from the beginning.

I seriously doubt I’m the only one who has trouble thinking that God might allow us to go through something bad-really, really bad-for our own good, much less someone else’s. But then I think of the cross. God went through something really, really bad for our good. What right do I have to expect him to then never allow anything bad in my life?

Recently, Leandra Livesay blogged:

Delight! Such a fun word, the sound of it is just happy and joyful!  The dictionary defines Delight as 1: a high degree of gratification : joy; also : extreme satisfaction. 2: something that gives great pleasure.
Some of the things I delight in are watching my children laughing and playing with each other, watching an incredible sunset on the beach, spending time with family I haven’t seen in along time, seeing teenagers give their hearts to The Lord and most anything chocolate!
What are some things you “delight” in? The things we delight in are often what we love more than anything else, people or things we want to spend our time on. Have you ever thought that YOU are a delight? And not to just anyone. You are a delight, bringing great joy and satisfaction to the God who created you! How incredible is that?
This verse from the prophet Zephaniah really spoke to me years ago and helped me to realize how much God loves me.  “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17.
God takes great delight in you, He loves you, He rejoices over you. You are special and bring great pleasure to Him. The incredible emotions of delight you feel over the things that bring you joy are not even close to the way He feels about YOU! He demonstrated this by not only creating you exactly as you are, but by then sending His son to die for and redeem you. What amazing love!
Another person wrote:
Zeph 3:17
The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Throughout the Bible, we are told to ‘take delight in God” (Psalm 37:4) and to ‘rejoice in God (I Chronicles 16:10).

However, here is a wonderful picture of reversal. God is said to take delight in us and rejoice over us – with singing!!

Picture God jumping over the smallest achievement in us as a parent takes great pride in his child’s slightest action. Then imagine god breaking out in songs of happiness because of us! That is the kind of heavenly Father we have.

However, this does not mean that God is an indulgent parent who just spoils us rotten. The text here refers to those ‘remnant’ – the people who are the ‘residual’ believers who stick up for God and worship God despite the nation’s rebellion. These people have taken God to be their delight and in doing so, God takes delight in them as well.

God loves all of us (even with our sins and all) but it is those who have chosen to follow Him that He takes great delight in and rejoices over.

“Such as are upright in their way are his delight” (Proverbs 11:20).
“The prayer of the upright is his delight” (15:8).
“My strong enemy [was]…too strong for me…but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:17-19)

These are closer to what I wanted to express. He loves us. He delights in us. It’s his pleasure to do good for us.
Can you imagine a child who’s father delights in him? Who has Daddy’s full attention when he gurgles or coos or tries to stand up? When that child locks eyes with his daddy, Daddy doesn’t see anything else in the room. Time stops while he enjoys that moment with his child. That’s how God feels about you and me, too. It’s hard to imagine we might have the full attention of the God of the universe. And of course, because God is God we can all have his full attention at the same time, which is a little different. But when we pray, when we worship, when we just think about God… have we stopped to consider we have the full attention of the One who made us and who not only loves us, but is love?

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