Friday, November 13, 2015

Why Is Anyone Following Lysa Terkeurst?

My apologies to Lysa right up front. But she is one of a group of leaders under scrutiny by…wait for it…

...other Christians.
And I’m not talking about scrutiny as in 1 Corinthians 14:29, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said;” or 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “But test all things. Hold fast to what is good.”(emphasis mine) I mean scrutiny like, “Why You Shouldn’t Be Following Lysa Terkeurst” scrutiny. Yeah, it’s personal.
I might be way out of line with this one, but why is anyone following anyone but Jesus? Christians are followers of Christ. If we were followers of anyone else, we’d be Lysians, or Grahamatons, or Stanleyites.
James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” What about your brother? You’ve known him his whole life. You know he has a heart for Jesus. He, like the rest of us, gets it wrong occasionally. Sometimes he really goes out on a limb and says something thoroughly unbiblical. Do you hold a press conference? Write a blog? I hope you’d be moved by your responsibility for his spiritual health, motivated by love for a member of your family, and privately urge him to check his facts. (John 13:34, 35) Why do we treat the members of our family (of Christ) so differently? Would Martha Stewart’s mother publicly criticize her flambe -- telling others to never eat from her table again? Unbelievers don’t treat family that way! We wouldn’t treat our children that way, why do we treat God’s children that way?
Ever watch postgame interviews? A Receiver could have been stinking up the place the entire game, but does the QB tell everyone what a bad player this guy is? Publicly, they, as team members, maintain a united front. How much more, members of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 12:27) It is my belief, as Christians we should NEVER, NEVER, NEVER publicly admonish anyone. Take their work, go through it line by line, thoroughly evaluate it, criticize it, pick it apart until the cows come home, but NEVER, NEVER, NEVER attack a person. We shouldn’t be naming names, but rather, putting to the test concepts and teachings. People are not enemies; lies are our enemies.
A few months ago a friend gave me a book, written by someone who was part of the Word of Faith movement. I’m not a fan. However, I do believe the author has a desire to know and serve God. (Not that it’s subject to my judgment anyway) Point is, I took from the book truth, and left the rest alone. So what if I’d taken the time, sent this brother an email, pointed out the things he taught which I believe are contrary to Scripture, and he told me to get lost? Even told me he knew they were contrary to Scripture; but they were popular ideas, and he was more devoted to selling books than to telling the truth? I’m still not certain it gives me license to publicly -- in front of unbelievers and believers alike -- call him out. First of all, why would the world care, except to point to the existing divisions among Christians and our apparent hypocrisy? Secondly, biblical conflict resolution, even when taken to its most extreme limits -- separation -- has the ultimate goal of repentance and restoration, not humiliation.
WHENEVER we put our hope in anyone but Jesus we take our chances.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

How Do I Love Thee...

Scott and I attended a church pastored by an older man from West Virginia -- yeah, homey. Sometimes he'd tear up; sometimes he'd get a little loud. Scott loved him. But older men retire, and he did. The new pastor, a bit younger, was an intellect. I enjoyed learning about the Bible in light of Jewish texts, and examining background information. The more I learned in his midweek Bible study, the more I wanted to learn. Scott was lost in the sauce. Scott was Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, and I was Horton's Portable Seminary. We began to feel God's leading to find another church. How on earth would my intellectual thirst be quenched in a place where Scott found inspiration and guidance? Well, it's taken me almost two years to get it, but the answer is: it won't. It won't, because that's not what God wants for me. "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8) Not a thing in there about earning a doctorate in Theology in your spare time. Don't get me wrong; God does not want us to be ignorant, but when we love His Word more than we love Him, we are idol worshippers. And I had become an idol worshipper. I took notes until my fingers cramped; fast-forwarded through the "application" parts of online sermons just to get to the facts. I rarely poured out my heart before Him, and even more rarely sought what was in His. He had been telling me for two years -- at least -- to stop compiling facts and start living in His presence.

Well, I've begun. And this amazing thing has happened. I am realizing just how much He loves me. Me. Judi. Specially. Particularly. Personally. Deeply. And He chooses to show His love by showing me that He knows even the simplest things that trouble my heart or lighten it. Let me give you an example:

My mother was bitten by a dog when she was about six years old. Her father got rid of the dog, but she was terrified of dogs afterward, and had cats her whole childhood. Somewhere along the way, something changed. I distinctly remember Mom picking her new dog out of a litter of pups in a muddy garage. She loved that dog. Even after I left home, my mom had a dog. Several years ago, I bought her a dog. Always a dog. About a year and a half ago, Mom's dog died. She was crushed, and wanted a new one. Mom was having a few issues living on her own, and I thought a dog would be a little hard for her to handle. Plus, realistically, Mom is eighty-five: if something happened to her, what would I do with this dog? I'd even asked a friend to keep her ears open for anyone looking to home an older cat. But, Mom wanted a dog. The more she pleaded, the more awful I felt. Fast forward to August this year, time for Mom to move in with us. And Tinkerbell. And Bishop. This morning I was leaving for a bit. She asked, "Will my babies be staying here with me?"

"Yes, Mom, the dogs will stay here."

"You know I was bitten by a dog when I was in first grade or so."

"Yes, I know. Your dad's dog."

"I always had cats. I never wanted dogs. I never liked them until I met these two dogs."

Wow. God, did You really do that? God took something that -- let's face it, didn't keep me awake at night, but it made me feel bad. (And that's not hard to do in this season of my life; some days I feel like all I do is tell Mom what to do, or what not to do.) This thing that gnawed at me, months ago; that I'd never resolved, but merely forgotten. God -- not Alzheimer's -- erased all recollection of it in my mother's mind. It was not enough that she was appeased by the company of our two brutes, but Mom doesn't even remember liking dogs before these two. And it was because He loves me. All I had to do was be quiet enough to hear Him say it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why Should I Pray?

In August, American moviegoers became familiar with the term "war room" as it exists in a spiritual sense; for years it's been known to me as a prayer closet. Mine weighs about two tons and gets about twenty-one miles to the gallon on the highway. A few years ago I began praying in the darkness and solitude of my morning commute. In the twenty minutes or so it takes me to get to work, I pray for friends, family, coworkers, family of friends, friends of friends, and even enemies. Someone once asked me, "Do you pray for your enemies?" I honestly answered, "I do." Prayer is not like rubbing a  genie's lamp; prayer may or may not change my situation; but prayer has definitely changed me -- especially praying for my enemies.

Anyway, I wasn't praying for my enemies this morning. I was praying for a couple I know and love very much. They are going through some difficulties, and I was praying for peace within their home. "Especially now that..." I found myself saying. The instant it started to leave my lips I realized I was almost saying, "At least now." As if God can't or won't for all seasons, and that He might just be able to, or concede to for a little while. Can't you just hear God saying, "Oh, ok, but I'm not sure how long I can keep this up!"? Yeah, me neither. God doesn't have to try at anything. For me to imply, "Hey, I'll cut You a little slack; I know it's a lot to do," is not only insulting but weak. What does a student who does mediocre work get?

But that wasn't enough, the Holy Spirit took me just a little farther in His conviction. "Are you praying for your friends, or are you praying for My glory?" Whoa.

(People who don't know God like to paint Him as some egomaniacal four year-old, throwing temper tantrums over those who dis Him. My take on that is: create even a star from scratch, then we'll talk. God is worthy of all our praise, of all we can give Him. A point of irony is, without Him we truly have nothing to give.)

But let's get back to the question: Are you praying for your friends, or are you praying for My glory?

James 5:16 says, "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results."

So, that's what I should be doing, right? Yes, but. We are to pray for one another; God instilled in us empathy and compassion. Those things motivate us to pray. The more we begin to love Jesus, the more we love others. Jesus commanded us to pray for others. Our love for Him motivates us to obedience and imitation; obedience and imitation motivate us to pray for others. But what would God have as our greatest motivation for all we do? A desire to see Him glorified.

Watch this. Do I desire relief from financial burden? Great, but may it ultimately be for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom and bringing glory to God. If that is my motivation, I can just as easily thank God for -- even pray for, poverty! Do I desire peace and wellness for my friends? Who wouldn't? But may my deepest motivation be the glory of my Lord! If this is the case, I can obediently pray for my enemies -- even rejoice(!) when they are blessed. Rejoicing from the depths of my heart! Imagine that!

I'll keep that in mind the next time I throw my prayer closet in gear.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I Didn't Sign Up for This!

Marriage changes things. Specifically, people. When I was in my twenties any couple dating more than three months felt the pressure: ask the girl, flaunt the ring, set a date. Friends couldn't wait until the next wedding. Where was it going to be? Who would be in it? It was all about the party. Shortly thereafter, reality set in. The new groom didn't hang out with his friends any more; of course, it was her fault. The new bride stopped talking about fashion, and occupied her time clipping coupons and planning meals instead. Of course, that was her fault. It wasn't long after that there was talk of kids and minivans; time to buy a house or work harder for that promotion; put a little extra into your 401K. The carefree kids that shyly introduced their date to "the rest of the gang," met for football every Thanksgiving morning, worked on cars in the driveway, killed weekends driving just "to see where this road goes," or held "keggers" the instant Mom and Dad left for the weekend, had committed the worst of offenses against youth: they'd begun to grow up. Their last moments of youth had been extinguished on the paint-veiled cement "dance floor" of the local fire hall. Marriage changed them.

My husband and I have been married almost eight years; we have five children and somewhere around thirty-five years of marriage experience between us. And as I prepared this week, to go away for a couple days, it dawned on me: marriage changes things. Specifically people.

When I met Scott, he was a single dad trying to spend as much time as possible with his children. His job took him away for days on end, but when he had his children, it was all about them. He would cook for them. They rented movies together. He would take them four-by-fouring in the woods. He showered them, changed them, dressed them. He was "hands-on" in every sense of the word. Impressive. Fast forward to this point in our life. Outside of the obligatory expletives directed at FiOS for not having the movie he wanted or charging too much for the movie he wanted, he still remains pretty competent at renting movies. The children shower and dress themselves now, and thankfully, no longer require changing. We no longer own a suitable vehicle for woodland romps. But, I find myself inviting him to family activities I am responsible for organizing; and I must occasionally remind him about spending some time with the other people that share his home. His cooking is now a mere reheating of whatever I have prepared. And I tend to be not so impressed anymore. Please don't get me wrong: he is still a wonderful dad, and I love him deeply, but what happened to the guy who could actually open the pantry, find the peanut butter and make himself a sandwich? This guy I'm married to now peers into a fridge virtually spring-loaded with all manner of foods and grumbles, "There's nothing to eat." How did this happen?

I could speculate; say he got to comfortable, or I babied him too much. The truth of it is, marriage does change people. In today's society that's grounds for packing your bags and blowing Dodge. Why stay when "this" is not what you bargained for? Why stay when, only in name is this the same man you pledged your life and love to?

Sometimes, as a child, I'd try to play Checkers against myself. Playing against yourself is relatively easy, and you always know what to expect from your opponent -- no unpleasant surprises. But playing yourself is also unchallenging, dull, and a waste of time. What would marriage be like if your spouse remained exactly like she was fifteen years ago? That person you knew inside and out? No surprises. Unchallenging. Dull. A waste of time. After all, relationships are all about the people in them, and people change -- constantly. Good relationships are uncovering new ideas and dreams all the time. Good relationships keep us on our toes. Good relationships reach new goals, and reach new goals again. But reach them with another changing, growing person at your side.

Sure, I could pine for that impressive guy I met ten years ago. But I'd rather curl up next to the aging, sometimes comfortable -- maybe even a bit lazy -- guy I married, and rent a movie. Maybe one we've never seen before.