But Lord, I don’t want to quit church!

Have you ever been fully devoted to your religion?  Did you love going to church, mass, mosque or to temple?  Were you in love with the personal elevation that your commitment provided?

Did God begin to tug at your heart and say, “Let it go”?

And then did you reply as did Peter, “Not so, Lord!”?  . . . But eventually you surrendered to Him?

If you once depended on the acceptance that you received from others at church, and the purpose that your obedience to your religion gave you, and if you have walked away . . .  then you are a rare specimen whom I’d like to meet (leave a comment below!), just like Suzette once did.

Suzette left a comment on one of my blog posts this summer, and from there an email correspondence began.  Two weeks later, in August 2017, despite the fact that our homes are 1,200 miles apart, we were able to meet in person!  While traveling to a family wedding, my three teenagers and I needed to wait around the Sacramento airport for a few hours before my husband’s arrival.  Turns out it was Suzette’s day off of work.  As my kids sat and stared at their phones, I got to meet my new sister in Christ and fellowship with her amidst all the Baggage Claim carousels.  🙂

Despite the groovy God-oincidence that allowed us to meet face-to-face, what has actually bonded our friendship is our shared experience with being die-hard legalists.

We didn’t burn out, we were pulled out of Church by God’s direction.

Having been set free for ten years now, I have come to realize that people like Suzette and I are unique.  It seems that most people tire of their Churchianity slowly, like the fire from a candle that has been burning for hours and slowly extinguishes itself.

Suzette and I, on the other hand, were more like a firework that was sparkling and alive one minute, and then completely gone the next.  As a Bible Study leader once told me, “Oh!  You were a modern-day-Pharisee.  That’s pretty rare!”

Of course, that wasn’t true.  Nobody has ever come close to the ambitious zeal of the Pharisees.

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 5:20)

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that Suzette and I loved church.  Why?  It gave us an outlet for our religious pride!

We loved how much “better” we were compared to those lesser folks who didn’t work as hard.  We loved how good we were at obeying all of the rules.  We loved how important we were in the eyes of others.  We were convinced that we were “serving God,” and we loved that!  It’s gross, isn’t it!?  That is what the sin of religious pride feels like, and it sickens me to remember those times.  Obvioulsy we were totally deceived and in error, but nonetheless, the fact remains:  church energized us.

If you are in the same boat, and if God is tugging at your heart to quit church . . . please follow His leading.  Don’t be afraid.  If the Lord is leading you that way, say, Yes, Lord!

Jesus wants to set you free from the bondage of religion.  He wants to be your God, instead of church being your god.  Trust Him!  You won’t be disappointed.

You will no longer be wandering in the wilderness of Sinai; He will bring you into the New Covenant.  He will lead you right through the door which is Jesus Christ Himself, and He will plant you by the green pastures and still waters of the Promised Land of Rest.

Allow your legalism to kill you.  Whether it’s the rules of your denomination or the 613 Mosaic Laws themselves, allow the Law to kill you.

Paul said, “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.” Galatians 2:19

Believe the truth that you are completely forgiven, and that He now loves and accepts you on the basis of you being a new creation in Christ.

Allow the Law to kill you so that you might die to the Law and begin living in a close relationship with your God, the Lord Jesus Christ.  And if you’d like to hear more on this topic, please check out my blog:  Outside of Churchianity.

 

October 13, 2017

Faith Introduces Us To His Grace

Is faith some sort of magical power that we can wield in order to change our circumstances for the better? Does faith allow us to overcome all of our problems? Of course not.

Is the Christian life one where we use our great faith to ‘stand’ on the Scriptures, or we exercise our faith to ‘claim’ some sort of victory?  No. That is babyish.

Faith is not a mystical force that allows us to live a victorious life of health, wealth and prosperity. Beware of preachers who tell you so, who teach that your faith can bring you great material and physical success. In his first letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul calls such false teachers, “men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”

Don’t believe the liars who claim that faith should be used as a way OUT of tribulations. Listen to the apostle Paul, who tells us to rejoice IN THE MIDST of our tribulations!

What is faith? Faith is responding to God with a heart of trust. Faith becomes trust, or belief, when we respond to what the Lord Jesus reveals to us. In other words, the abstract noun ‘faith’ becomes the active verb ‘to believe’.

My relationship today with the Lord God is more real and fulfilling than any other relationship I have on this earth. That is only possible through faith. Every day I trust Him; every day I respond with faith to His presence in my life.

If you are drifting away from God, you can reverse that path by having more faith, which means deciding to trust Him more.

For example, if you think God is ashamed of you, you must exercise faith that God is NOT ashamed of you. (The fact that we still think and do things that ‘are’ shameful is not part of the equation.) We must believe what He has said in Hebrews 2:11.  He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters.

If you think He needs your money, your works, or your service, then you must exercise faith by believing that we have nothing to offer Him.  The apostle Paul speaks the truth when he says this about God:  “He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25).

If you think that He still holds your sins against you, then you must exercise faith in the truths He gave us in 1 John 4:8 & 16 and 1 Corinthians 13:5:  God is love, and love keeps no records of wrongs.

When God tries to teach you something new, when He reveals a new truth to you, you will have faith in Him if you believe Him.  Cast out the lie, and accept the truth.  If you do, you will have demonstrated “faith that pleases God” (Hebrews 11:6).

It seems that the trials and tribulations of life provide God with the greatest opportunity to teach us and to guide us.

Church attendance had always been very important to me, so after my husband quit church in 2002, at least I could say that we continued to go on Easter and Christmas Eve. But one year, he did not want to go. He wanted to go out and buy whiskey instead.

This was a potentially terrifying dilemma for me, the final blow to my dream of raising my kids in a Christian home.  But I was prepared.

God had been teaching me that He is looking for real faith that comes from the heart, as opposed to outward acts of religion that come from the flesh.(1 Samuel 16:7, John 7:24, Romans 2:28, 2 Corinthians 5:12, 2 Corinthians 10:7, 2 Timothy 3:5)

That evening I chose to trust God by not insisting that my family go to the Christmas Eve service.  Instead I gave my husband permission to go out and buy whiskey.

Let me reassure you by saying that my husband is not a drunk; he drinks very modestly and infrequently. The point of the story is that God led me to give my husband grace, to give up my efforts at trying to change him, to decide to accept him just the way he is, to show my husband the kindness of God.

It was the beginning of a new way of life for me: a life of faith.

God revealed a new truth to me — that church attendance is not important — and I responded by believing Him.  It’s that simple. God shows us truth and we respond by trusting Him.  That is faith.

Faith can not be observed; it can not be faked. God looks at a person’s heart, not at what can be seen or observed.  Church attendance can be both seen and observed. It doesn’t take any faith to go to church; it doesn’t take any faith to sing worship songs, or pay tithes.

Walking by faith means that you live according to the Tree of Life. You cannot live a life of faith if you are living according to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

If I had trusted in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you can be sure I would have insisted that we go to church (good), and that Christopher NOT buy whisky (evil).

God would eventually lead me to quit church entirely, and to stay home with my husband.  This is an example of the “obedience of faith,” that Paul speaks of in Romans 1:5. (By the way, I was thrilled that God allowed me to return to a tiny church two years later, in 2007.)

But that particular Christmas Eve night, all He was asking for was my faith:  to simply believe that He is trustworthy.

We are saved through faith by grace, and from then on our continual faith in Jesus leads us to a deeper knowledge of grace.  Every day, faith leads to more grace.

So faith introduces us to His grace.

“Through our Lord Jesus Christ…we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

The obedience of faith is the missing puzzle piece that many Christians are looking for; they need to add faith to their daily lives, which leads to an understanding of the grace of God.  Our faith in Him leads us to a deeper knowledge of Him who is gracious, and kind. Grace belongs to Him; HE is gracious.

Being a Christian is all about growing in grace and in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus. We are not told to grow in faith, we are told to grow in grace (2 Peter).

Allow faith to be your introduction into the grace in which we stand.

 

June 18, 2016

Be known by God

God had to forgive all of your sins — past, present and future — in order to give you His Spirit and to, therefore, have a close and loving relationship with you.

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