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Archive for the ‘Good doctrine: a closer look’ Category

I had someone recently inform me that someone in my new church had manipulated me. They didn’t ask whether I’d made a decision and followed through or if the other person had pressured me. They didn’t know the other person. They didn’t ask any of the particulars. They made a statement and I said that wasn’t always the case and gave that particular situation as example. Their immediate response was not a healthy “maybe things are different in different places” or “how did you feel about this statement”, but simply “they were manipulating you.”

The situation I had used as an example is one I’m particularly happy about. It was a good choice for me. I’ve not had one regret about the situation, and have actually become more pleased with it over time. But their statement still troubled me deeply. I was manipulated in my former church. I don’t want to be manipulated again. But more than that, what they said was manipulative, in that they didn’t take time to find out “the rest of the story” but simply shot that back at me out of the blue.

What is manipulation? Is it open discussion and dialogue, leading to a well informed opinion, or statements that are sly or twisted with an intent to deceive or meet their own end? It’s most definitely the latter.

There’ve been a whole lot of times in Pentecost that I’ve seen things twisted that way to silence, to wound, to block another way of thinking, to stop someone from doing a thing. I guess what took my breath away this time was that I wasn’t talking to a Pentecostal… and I’ve been in a healthy situation (the one the person attacked) long enough to realize just how unhealthy the person’s statement was.

Now, if I could just go ahead and get over “furious” and get to “forgiveness” maybe things could get back to normal for me.

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“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” James D. Miles

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f…type=3&theater

I saw this on Facebook today. It brought back memories. In my former church, the men were expected to be “manly”… to laugh and be tough if others or themselves were hurt. One of the first indications I had that something was dreadfully wrong with my former pastor was that he sat and laughed while his son poked the eyes out of a live frog, then impaled the still living frog on a stick and continued playing with it. Both were laughing. The thought of it still turns my stomach.

Blood doesn’t bother me. Cruelty does. If he’d killed the frog and disemboweled it, I wouldn’t have been surprised. It was that the frog was still alive while he continued to abuse it that disgusted me.

I think of that situation that night several years ago, see this picture and quote, and think of the men I now know. Men who seem gentle and kind, who don’t see those as weakness or effeminate characteristics, but as strength, and as the fruit of the spirit.

For so many years I listened while my former pastor told me there was something wrong with me. I prayed that “something” would change, that whatever was wrong wouldn’t be anymore. And for years it seemed like I lived in fear that I would end up leaving or being kicked out and do my best to stay. It’s weird to wake up and realize that all the time you prayed for something, you fought the answer to the prayer. It’s strange to realize that I asked God to fix whatever was “wrong with me”, not realizing that the thing that was most wrong was that I would stay in that environment to begin with.

I’m thankful that God answers prayers… even when we don’t know what we’re asking, and even when we don’t want or are scared of the answer we’re given. He does know what’s best for us, He does care for us, and He did answer my prayers.

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It’s very interesting how differently various denominations/churches interpret certain verses. This morning my church ordained four deacons. Something was said about ordaining and laying on of hands, and I’ve been thinking “this I gotta see!” The ordination seemed about like a wedding, vows and such. Laying on of hands was funny–the pastor had them kneel, and then the two pastors and the two deacons walked BEHIND them and put a hand on their shoulder and prayed for them. One at a time–first person prayed for first deacon, then moved to second deacon while the second prayed for the first. First time I’ve ever heard more than one person praying out loud at the same time in a Baptist church, though! Also one of the only times I’ve seen more than just one or two men there wear ties.

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Most of you know I recently joined a mainstream church. Going there’s been interesting at times… They can quote a verse and understand it completely differently than me, can use a Bible term I’ve thought I understood and mean something else by it, and sometimes have a very different perspective that I do on things. This week there’s been more of that…

Two weeks ago there was a business meeting. There are some major changes being considered, and a few that already took place (someone resigned a position). I missed the meeting, but two days ago in class the meeting was discussed. Emotionally. In front of everyone. And the door of the class wasn’t even shut or guarded! Eeek! hee hee Seriously, though, at my former church people got in big trouble for much less than was said in class. People only disagreed with the pastor’s decisions in very private places with very close and trusted friends… if they even did that much. When I left, there were two women who called me begging me to come back… and begging me not to tell their husbands or the pastor that they’d even called me. They didn’t even trust their husbands to “reach out to a backslider”. There were some things that were only discussed in a car or in the privacy of a member’s house, just between two people. And even then in hushed voices.

So now I’m in a church where people begin talking about something openly and emotionally. I don’t know any of the ones in that class, and wasn’t sure at all what was going on, whether to just leave or stay or speak up or hold my tongue or what to do. It scared me. Above that, this was one of those “I’ll have a special meeting after the meeting and if you need information come ask me” type things–which always meant extremely dangerous water-taboo topics and no room for disagreements or discussion-in my former church. There are a few people I trust, but only one really knows much about my background and could easily answer my questions. The pastor. I’m not allergic to him (I ran from any pastor for a long time after leaving) so I asked.

He seemed very open and honest with me. He gave me some information about how the church operates, briefly explained what was discussed in the meeting, offered information about the doctrinal point that led to the resignation, and apologized if that was too much information.

I’m finding myself in a very nice place. Different language, different culture. New “foods” (Bible teachings), different clothes, whole different outlook. It’s weird sometimes. We live in the same country, in the same town, but I feel like I’m from a different planet. I like their culture. But sometimes something about it still surprises me. From now on I don’t think I’ll need to explain “due to past experiences”. I can just say, “well, I think I’m experiencing a little culture shock right now. Could you explain…?” And as I look back over the last year and a half, trying to find a church, I realize there may have been several times my hesitation or concerns might have been culture shock.

This is a good culture. It’s a healthy culture. Maybe the difference between Siberia and small town US… or more. There are no travel guides I could read to prepare for this journey, no Pentecostalese-Christianese dictionaries… so there has been some culture shock to deal with. But it’s worth it.

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So you’ve faced a storm lately? Faced deafening winds, the heat of fiery trials, earthquakes that seem to shake everything right out from under you? Listen closely. Maybe there’ve been a lot of earthquakes and fires and wind in your life. A lot of huge, noisy, tumultuous, chaotic occurrences. Disasters, if you will. But they weren’t God, no matter how many people would like to say they were. Listen closely, now that they’ve passed. Sometimes what sounds like silence after all that deafening noise is actually the whisper of God. (1 Kings 19:12-13)

Elijah knew that none of those things that came before God was God. He was on a mountain in an earthquake. Did he cry out? Did he wonder if what he was experiencing would crush him? I would have. But he realized, somehow, for all his fear and upset, in spite of the drought and the wickedness and a king and queen who killed prophets like him, that the fires and earthquakes and winds weren’t God. They came before, proclaiming the power and glory of God, but they themselves were not God. God came as a quiet whisper. Gentle. In the hush after the deafening noise. I wonder if Elijah realized the parallel to his life? That God wasn’t in the craziness of the world around him, in the actions of Ahab or the wickedness of Jezebel, the dryness of the drought or the fury of the rain, but was there, nonetheless? I wonder if he realized though that God would proclaim His glory even in those stormy situations, that His great power would be known even in those things that shook Elijah’s world? But that it would be through those quiet whispers, almost missed after the tumult, where he found God’s strength?

It’s easy, in life, to look at what we consider our most desperate and darkest situations and think that God isn’t there, or that there’s no way God could get glory from those. But we don’t stand where God stands, on the edge of eternity. We don’t know the plans He has or the beauty He foresees for each of our lives. But He does. The God who spoke to an earth without form and void and made something very good out of it is still speaking to bleak situations today. He is still creating, and recreating, our lives. Listen, and maybe you can hear His whisper, too.

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A few days ago, I found myself standing in the rain wondering what to do, worrying someone from my former church would come up and say something, feeling frustrated, and feeling like an idiot. I went home and took a nap… and woke up crying. Not hard, but just frustrated.

I must have been half asleep still. I knew that I was reacting to the way things had been in my former church, not to what was really happening that day. I must not have been quite awake. I don’t really remember praying, but in almost the same minute that the tears started, an image came to mind, of Jesus holding me like He would a child, hushing me and telling me everything was alright.

I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I’d let Jesus really quiet me. I don’t know how to put it in words, but there’s a difference between saying we trust Him and resting in Him, knowing He loves us. Maybe it’s the difference between the child who screams and pushes away from the parent in anger, wanting what they want-right now-and nothing else, and the child who asks and accepts the parent’s answer, knowing that though they may want one thing, the parent may have something better in mind.

As a Pentecostal, I was taught to “intercede”, to “pray until something happens”, to “pray through”, to fast until I got a “break-through”… if I didn’t get married or didn’t get the job or some other “blessing” I was told that I “must not be praying hard enough” or was told maybe I should “fast for it”. But I don’t have to struggle or worry or wrestle with God for what I want. Not only should I want what He wants and trust that’s exactly what I’m getting, but also rest in the simple fact that He’s in charge, He loves me, and He has our best interest in mind.

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I saw an amazing picture today. It was of a hillside and a valley, which a shepherd was walking through with his flock. The artwork was good, but that wasn’t what got my attention.

In the picture, the shepherd was following the sheep. The sheep weren’t in a line behind the shepherd. They weren’t clustered tightly around him. He was behind them as they went up the hill!

As I stood there I realized that if the shepherd is to protect his sheep, he must stay in the rear, in the background. If he doesn’t, a lion or bear will rush up behind the flock and take a straggler or a sheep might wander off. With the sheep in front, he can make sure they are safe. He can defend them if anything jumps out, and he can watch to make sure all are safe and well.

I’m not a big sheep person. I don’t know much about sheep or shepherding. But I do know pastors who want to compare themselves to the shepherd and their people to the sheep. And I know enough to know that the picture I saw today is probably a much more accurate depiction of how sheep should be “led” most of the time than any I’ve heard preached.

Sheep know where to go. The path is familiar to them. The shepherd is there to defend them and help them, but not to drag them along. A true shepherd won’t be in front where he gets their attention and just expects them to follow. He isn’t to the side beating them with his staff. He’s behind them, calling them if they wander, watching for dangers, and making sure they stay together. Their focus isn’t him. It’s the journey, the mountain top, the grass, the water. And he’s ok with that, because sheep focused on those things are healthy sheep.

Hmmm… a real shepherd is there to serve the sheep. They’re his focus, though he’s not theirs. Shepherding was lowly work in Bible times. Shepherds weren’t looked up to or thought of as great. Shepherding went to the youngest son. It was a lowly, lonely task.

Ps 23 The Lord is my shepherd…
Mt 11:28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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