We’re Returning the Tee Shirts

A few weeks ago I went to my first big concert in years. After becoming chronically ill, it’s been challenging to participate in a lot of things I loved like concerts, dancing, even going to movies.  We made sure that at the show I’d be able to sit rather than stand, and still see what was going on.  The band we saw was For King & Country and it my birthday gift to my wife.  We had not ever been to a Christian identified concert together and we were excited.

However…lately whether its movies or music or books from Christian identified sources, I have been finding myself needing to increasingly discern them. The question that comes up is “how does the measure up to what the Bible says?”  Also highly important is if I’m hearing something that doesn’t line up God’s Word, what do I do with this particular thing.  Another clue to discerning is this: does it preach another gospel?  Because of all these thoughts in my head I asked my wife if we could pray before the show for protection and discernment.  We did and we came away from the event unsure if we’ll listen to this band further.

On another post I discussed how subtle Satan is. Just look to Genesis 3 to see how the enemy used the tool of misdirection and distraction to get Eve away from God’s glory and blessings.  After much consideration, I am convinced that He is at war with us (and always has been) especially within the realm of Christian entertainment, and I believe the subtlety of His evil will continue to fool the church.  Entertainment isn’t the only place this is and has been going on.  Churches, pastors, improvement books, etc. are subject to the snares of evil.  At the end of the day I have learned what I have to ask, regardless of how godly the person, place, or thing is: does it reflect clearly God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:5).

Please excuse the following digression

Even this question has become tricky due to the myriad of different translations of the Bible. In the recent Bible edition of the Christian Book.com catalogue was a parallel Bible that had the KJV, NKJV, NIV, and ESV translations.  The description mentioned that the KJV was “poetic” whilst the NIV was “accurate.”  I’m not sure who decided to utilize these particular adjectives in describing these translations, but I’m not sure I trust their assessments.  For example Rick Warren said of the KJV translation in his 1995 version of The Purpose Driven Life:

Read Scripture from a newer translation. With all the wonderful translations and paraphrases available today, there is no legitimate reason for complicating the Good News with four-hundred-year-old English.  

Clarity is more important than poetry.

Such a statement is confusing to me because my current understanding is that the KJV is that it’s one of the oldest and widely used Bible translations around (older translations include The Great Bible, Geneva Bible, Coverdale Bible, Wycliffe’s Bible, etc) and people have been able to understand it just fine. Are we to assume because we have to look up a word in the dictionary from time to time that we should go ahead and read translations like this from Proverbs 7:

…Walking the streets, loitering in the mall, hanging out at every corner in town. 

She runs a halfway house to hell… 

Or does a translation like this work just fine?

Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner. 

Her house is the way to hell…

It seems to me that the latter translation is pretty clear but I admit I’m not an expert in biblical languages. That being said I get concerned when a translation adds in words or phrases that veer from the heart of the closest thing we know to be original.  I’m not sure adding in a reference to the mall or a halfway house is necessary or clear.  Maybe I’m getting old but I thought people were not to add or take away from the Word of God (Rev. 22:18-19, Deut. 4:2 & 12:32).  One could argue that God told Eugene Peterson, author of the Message Bible to write the words “mall” and “halfway House” but I think I’ll just stick to my KJV thank you very much.

Back to the actual point of this post 

We started off the night enjoying the show. As you can see from above the concert lighting was fun.  The singers/brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone performed well and we enjoyed the part from their show where they band actually got in the audience.

Before the intermission of their Priceless show we were entreated by Joel to donate to a children’s Christian charity. During this intermission I went onto the GuideStar and Charity Navigator websites to see how their sponsored organization measured up.  Though overall the organization got high marks, there are other Christian themed children’s charities that do a bit better and the best one rated has a CEO whose income is half of what FK&C’s charity CEO makes.

Later in the show we got to hear about how priceless women are. Of course it is the Priceless tour so I expected a tie in to the upcoming Priceless film coming out later this year.  That being said I was surprised just how long the speech was.  Though we women are priceless, I have noticed this sort of self-helpy trend happening a lot more in Christian music lately were the singers croon about how awesome we all are.  Low self-esteem is certainly not a way to glorify our Lord, but neither is an incessant focus on the self regardless of our personal assessment.

There were even these bracelets for sale at the show that read “Priceless.” Both I & my wife almost got one for me in the middle of the speech.  I admit it…I was swayed!  But in the end both of us grew tired of the “you go girl” message when after all, the point of it was to sell bracelets and get folks to see their movie in November.

Those parts of their show is not what ultimately concerned us. It was their song dedication near the end of the show.  In fact when he said “I’d like to dedicate this song to the Celebrate Recovery movement” I wasn’t sure I heard right.  I looked at my wife for confirmation and yup…the song Fix My Eyes was indeed dedicated to Rick Warren’s “christianized” self-help unit of his organization.  The dedication was subtle and without reference so there was no way to see it coming.  Through the last two songs that played I physically felt my heart sink.

Some context  

I intend to write about my time in and now happily out of 12 step recovery but for now I’ll just say I believe that ultimately AA was conceived in something most people don’t understand, and that I want no part of it, or 12 step offshoots. For 22 years in both AA & Al-anon I tried to adhere to the principles, doctrines, and dogma of such programs.  I tried to be “good” and do what was in the literature because I was told their way was ultimately the only way to be a serene and useful person.  I was told I would die, kill others, or be a kind of social outlaw if I didn’t adhere to their concepts.

God protected me through those years. His grace saved me from further involvement in 12 steps.  What I have come to understand, after studying AA’s origin’s and 12 step ties to other organizations, is that the world of recovery is one of harm due to deception, false teaching,  brainwashing, and occult foundations.  At times I still very much feel like I’m de-programming.  In my opinion I feel AA and its subsequent 12 step programs are malicious cults that hide behind the guise of self-improvement and resolving addictions with bad science and even worse intentions.  I won’t have a thing to do with any group or ideology that espouses the 12 steps or association thereof (Jeremiah 23:32).

Interestingly

Ironically my wife and I just happened to be reading Warren B. Smith’s Deceived on Purpose, a book that discusses Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven church.  We had only read about 40 pages but had already deduced from other books we’ve read concerning church apostasy that the origins of this church may not be as it appears.  I had only vaguely known about Celebrate Recovery because in the past I occasionally heard people reference it in meetings.  When I got home from the show I did a key word search on the band we just saw and Celebrate Recovery.  There is a webpage on the band site giving people a free song download in regard to Warren’s alternate recovery program.  For King & Country has also played at Saddleback and is definitely tied into Warren’s movement.

So What  

For the next few days after the show we researched all we could on Rick Warren whilst finishing Smith’s book. We then ordered and began reading Smith’s next book on the topic A Wonderful Deception.  We had no idea when we were at that concert how concerning Mr. Warren’s church and P.E.A.C.E. plan are.  We didn’t know Warren and his associates are key players in the emerging church movement, and we didn’t know how deeply tied to new ageism/new spirituality he is.  It is my current assessment that there is something deeply disturbing, willfully apostate, and evil going on with all things associated with anything Purpose Driven and its related entities.  Keep in mind I’m not here to question Warren’s character or say he is or is not something.  Simply stated, I’m saying after further research, I believe something is very wrong with what he’s created and am concerned for those who take seriously anything that his church espouses.

We purchased 2 tee shirts at the FK&C show and we’re sending them back. We considered sending the band a letter and some accompanying information but we’re not sure our words would get into the right hands.  We’re also not sure if the band is so innocent of Warren’s ideology anyway so we’d like to simply remove the shirts from our home and move on (Jeremiah 50:8).

After this experience I find myself when listening to Christian music wondering who and what the bands are associated with. Trip Lee for example is a rapper we have liked.  But his latest video Manolo is, though creative, basically an advertisement for the idea that heaven can be reached via computer.  Like so many churches and so called Christian books, I find myself needing to be much more discerning with music and scrutinize what I’m hearing and what associations bands may have.

It would be easy to label one paranoid or overly suspicious these days.  Cass Sunstein, Obama’s former advisor and Administrator of Information & Regulatory Affairs under his administration would certainly consider anyone who connects the dots a bit too much to be worthy of the label terrorist.  It would be even easier to say “hey if it makes you feel good then it’s OK.”  But I’ve learned from sharing about my feelings and experiences for over 2 decades that one can still be fooled and unaware of deception, no matter how “uplifting” the words may appear.

This post is not about convincing you to hate anyone or stop listening to FK&C or any other band or person.  The point is that as I’m learning more about how subtle the enemy is, I’m also learning more about freedom.  Everyday I get to choose what I surround myself with.  For example I no longer watch/listen to the news or secular music anymore because of the lies and immorality.  This is my choice and a freedom the Lord gives me.  I get to separate myself from false teachings and the result every time is not one of “missing out” but of having Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior (Ephesians 3:12).

Look for Yourself

After looking into not only what Mr. Warren preaches, who he’s allied with, and what his mission/movement is actually doing to people here and in Africa, I have to say I believe this man is not to be trusted for matters of faith.  That being said it would be easier for you the reader to have me spell out everything apostate about Rick Warren’s church and P.E.A.C.E plan but over the last few years we’ve found researching for ourselves to be a great way to learn.  It’s always good to look at both sides of something, scrutinize, and then decide.  It’s also been our habit to see what the people who we question have to say for themselves.  Finally as a Bible believing Christian I ask “does this hold up to Scripture?”  I’ll leave you with the following words and pray for continued discernment for us all.

“We have a kingdom that nothing can destroy… it’s indestructible, it’s unshakable, going to last forever, it’s going to cover the planet.” -Rick Warren

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.  -Matthew 19-20

And you can go argue about prophecy all you want but Jesus Christ is not going to conclude history until everybody he’s wanted to hear the world has had a chance to hear the word. -Rick Warren

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. -Mark 13:32

Everything great done in this world is done by passionate people. -Rick Warren

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. -John 5:24

“In 1939, in a stadium much like this, in Munich Germany, they packed it out with young men and women in brown shirts, for a fanatical man standing behind a podium named Adolf Hitler, the personification of evil.

And in that stadium, those in brown shirts formed with their bodies a sign that said, in the whole stadium, “Hitler, we are yours.”

 “…I think ‘what would happen if American Christians, if world Christians, if just the Christians in this stadium, followers of Christ, would say ‘Jesus, we are yours’ ?

“I’m looking at a stadium full of people who are saying ‘whatever it takes’.” -Rick Warren

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned into fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4

When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. He said in essence, “The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I’ve given you. Focus on that! . . .”

If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy. -Rick Warren

Here is the part that is none of our business

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive youFor many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.   For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.  Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sakeAnd then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one anotherAnd many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive manyAnd because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.  But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.  When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:).

Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.  And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!  But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:  For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.  And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.  Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it notFor there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

Behold, I have told you before.  Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it notFor as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.  For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.  Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.  Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.  –Matthew Chapter 24

(The underlined is my emphasis in relation to Warren’s teachings.)

 

 

 

 

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Forbidden Trees

city tree

What are the forbidden trees in your life? This week I looked at the deception Eve experienced in Genesis 3.  Thanks to a study a godly friend lent me entitled “To Stand and Not be Moved” by Fran Sciacca, my understanding of what happened to Eve and how it affects my life has been of great impact.  Some Christians don’t talk much about Satan and this I believe is a real disservice to the church.  Some preachers say the Adversary is behind everything bad and other preachers say He & His evil doesn’t even exist.  I suspect Satan is more cunning than we give Him credit for, more pervasive than we realize, and yet His power over us can be fought.

In Eden Eve was distracted from seeing the bounty of beautiful edible trees that surrounded her because the Adversary got her to simply change her focus. His first communication to her was a subtle yet pointed question: “…Ye shall not eat of every tree in the garden? (Genesis 3:1)”  Talk about a loaded question!  This is literally the original loaded question.  At this point Satan didn’t have to make a promise, do a song and dance, or make the fruit more pretty.  He asked a leading question that she decided to respond to.  Her sin began not when she ate the fruit.  Nor did it begin when she believed His lies about becoming immortal and being a god that knows good from evil.  Her sin didn’t even really begin when she was distracted.  It began when she lost her gratefulness for God’s bounty.

The story of original sin demonstrates some clear points on the road of sin. This is my interpretation & I always encourage you the reader to have a Berean mindset about anything I say.  So with that in mind:

Points on the road to sin

  • Not being thankful to God for His many blessings
  • Distraction, usually by subtle means
  • Doubt in our Lord
  • Attempting to usurp God (ie. There is no God, God is in me, we are all Gods, etc.)
  • Pride in ourselves
  • Becoming less happy
  • Becoming fooled and lacking good judgment
  • Attempting to self sooth with sin after sinning or feeling shame

This is not exact and varies in a given situation but overall some or all the points happen. For example Eve became distracted by Satan and changed her focus to the forbidden tree because she was susceptible to it. She was vulnerable to this ploy because her heart at that moment wasn’t thankful for God’s enormous bounty. From there all it took was the most subtle of distractions which was Satan getting her to change her focus from bounty to what was forbidden and what she didn’t/couldn’t have (what appeared to be missing in her life).

Her doubt wasn’t articulated but was demonstrated when she believed the serpent, rather than obeying God’s commandment to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was at that point she chose to doubt what God told her and believe some-one or some-thing else. When the Adversary told Eve she could be a god and she believed Him, she was trying to usurp God and His authority. Her pride came from the desire to gain wisdom from the forbidden fruit that she was deceived about. She wanted to be smart, immortal, and a god for what purpose? Because she thought it would make her, as we say in the West Coast, totally awesome. Without gratefulness for God’s abundance, without knowing one’s proper place in life, without believing all she needed was or would be provided for, she was ultimately unhappy with her circumstances, though she was in God’s bountiful garden.

In unhappiness, pride, doubt, and deception, it becomes much easier to be fooled and make foolish choices that harm. Eve took that fruit because her judgement was poor. John 7:24 tells us to judge righteous judgement rather than go off appearances. Jeremiah 17:5-12 demonstrates that when man trusts in man (or serpent) above God his heart will be departed from the Lord & he will “inhabit the parched places in the wilderness.” Those that trust God shall not be moved like a tree planted near water that always bears fruit. Eve was not strong like that an unmovable tree because she was weakened first by ingratitude and eventually by a wicked unhappy heart. Eve became a fool, fooled Adam, and experienced the pain that comes from separation from the Lord.

Now I’m sure you dear reader have never experienced what Eve went through so I’ll use myself as an example of what that road to sin has looked like. Now keep in mind this happened rather quickly & quite frankly I had forgotten it until I prayed in repentance for something unrelated. Anyway I was at Trader Joe’s with the wife and checking out with the cashier. As the young man started to scan our items, I saw one item go past the scanner but didn’t hear it make a beep sound as it went by. I looked at that bottle, then looked to see if the price of it showed up on the display, didn’t see it, and thought “I’m not saying anything.” Now keep in mind I pray several times a day and thought that was enough. But in Trader Joe’s I was distracted by all the goodies and at that given moment I was very distracted because I thinking about the conversation I had just listened to between the previous customer and the cashier.

On another post I’ll talk about why I don’t pay much attention to politics and especially this particular presidential election, but for now I’ll just say I was disturbed by what I heard and well, annoyed that I had to overhear the conversation. My heart wasn’t grateful for being able to buy food at such low prices or for the car that brought us to the store or for my wife being there so I didn’t have to push the cart or most importantly, that the Almighty had blessed us with so much at that moment. My distraction was not sought out yet I was tempted by thinking about how different I wished modern day politics would be. I forgot about the Lord and instead of having faith in His plan, in my pride thought of how things should be, according to…well me.

In that moment I made myself into a god and became all the unhappier for it (even if it was momentary). Though I don’t believe I consciously said to myself “hey getting this product for free with make things better” I fooled myself into thinking doing something that is against my morals & values (stealing) was ok because it wasn’t direct. It was subtle and of poor judgement. Ironically when I looked at the receipt a day later it turned out we did in fact pay for the product. But I had already committed theft in my heart and it all started because I didn’t look to “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2).

Am I saying “the Devil made me do it?” Not necessarily but I’m still working out theologically what such a saying might mean for me. If indeed Satan is more pervasive & subtle than I understood then maybe a Trader Joe’s visit is indeed a lesson on what vulnerability to Satan looks like. Perhaps this is the most boring “confession” you’ve ever read but I don’t care. When I repented this sin my heart became less foolish, unhappy, prideful, and ungrateful (Romans 1:21-22). Yet the good news is that I am more free thanks to confessing to Jesus and so very thankful that he saved not only my soul, but gave us His holy Word to live our lives by.

What is the forbidden fruit in your life? Where does your lack of thankfulness bring unhappiness? What is in the rest of your garden? What has God Almighty given you? For me it is clear being in the world means there will be both times of need and times of abundance and usually they occur at once. I take much comfort in Paul’s letter to the Philippians when he says:

I know both how to be abased and I know how to abound:to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

 

 

 

Don’t Go There or There or There

love saves

Within the span of three weeks there were four different encounters I had where my faith was involved and there was either rejection or mercy. Actually 3 out of the 4 instances involved less than good fruit yet one was the epitome of James 3:13-18.

The first encounter occurred after a preliminary search to join a Bible study in town. Because my spouse and I are not members of a church community yet (because we have either been not welcomed or have been not able to abide by a particular churches theology) a friend, after hearing of my desire to find others to worship with, suggested I join a Bible study.  Many if not most churches have them, but again, this would involve trying to find a church that makes sense.  Instead of searching church by church to find such a study I went onto my favorite search engine and looked up Portland-Oregon-Bible-Study.  It turned out the website Meet Up had groups holding Bible study’s so I joined the site (though I hate joining anything online) and inquired with some groups about their study.

A group suggested to me was a Portland LGBT Christian group that showed that they have Bible studies and other activities like book clubs, dinners together, etc. Though I don’t identify as gay per se, the sex of my spouse sort of puts me in that category by default, and so there you go. I was allowed to join the group and was informed about an upcoming book group where Marcus Borg’s “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time” would be discussed.  Having worked with religious books for years I knew that Borg had very liberal and to us, heretical beliefs that we feel contradict basic tenants of Christianity.  Because of this book pick, which sadly didn’t surprise me in some ways, it seemed time to ask the group leader if this was a group that would be beneficial to us and us to them.

My questions included how we may fit into such a group since we believe the Bible is the Word of God and infallible. I asked if books along the lines of theology that Borg and those of his ilk (including Matthew Fox, Henri Nouwen, Harry Emerson Fosdick) espouse were the norm for book picks.  Finally I asked if a more “conservative” couple that seeks to live out 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 in all we do, would be accepted into the group and find other kindred Christians like us there.  All this I asked respectfully with a willingness to answer any questions or clarify any statements.  My wife checked over my email and felt it was direct yet gentle, reasonable, and without negativity.

The response? I received an email 2 days later from Meet Up explaining that I had been removed from the group.  In addition I was blocked from being able to contact the organizer with any further communication.

The second encounter involved a cashier I’ve been acquainted with for years at our local co-op. After casually asking her if she had any Easter plans, she went on to tell me about an article she read recently about the poet Nikki Giovanni.  She noted that the poet was raised Baptist and now rejects the faith because of its obsession with death.  The cashier went on to note that wearing a cross was a further symbol of a culture of death and that those who wear them probably celebrate the electric chair or gallows.  That day I just happened to be wearing my largest and most ornate cross due to Easter week.  I pulled it out as she shared and asked without malice “you mean like this one?”  The cashier went on to literally make a gag sound, say yuck, and continue her comments.

Since we are hoping to find a church community to join, the third encounter involved calling a Lutheran church a few miles from our home to inquire about their overall theology and if we, as a same sex couple, would be tolerated and/or accepted. Though neither of us know much about Lutherans other than that some family members are, we thought “why not?” so when I got the pastor on the phone I prayed and asked him if their theology was influenced by New Ageism or Christian authors who were influenced by types of spirituality that deviates from the Bible.  My second question was about my wife & me attending, with the clarification that we have no interest in changing the church as is, and respect their right to religious freedom.

The pastor answered my questions honestly and respectfully. Though he made no effort to get to know me or what my spouse and I were about, and assumed that which he cannot see. I appreciated him being upfront in letting me know that, no, they do not preach another gospel, and no, we would not be allowed to become members (only visitors) of his church.

In three weeks I experienced 3 kinds of rejection. In the first, apparently we were “too” Christian.  In the second, I was apparently too obsessed with the death of Jesus.  And in the third I was too gay.  How can one be both too Christian and too gay?  I have no idea! Thank the Lord that the above mentioned scenarios have taught me the road is indeed narrow and to follow it, it means the road looking very different from how we might have imagined.

Interestingly this week I had two dreams involving narrow roads. In one I had to walk upon a narrow dirt path in the woods carrying an ill pit bull mix to find it some help.  In the other, my wife and I were in a car on a skinny one lane road in the middle of the ocean, being driven by a confident and bubbly young lady.  In both dreams I had to leave fear behind and trust I’d get to where I needed to go.  I’m reminded of Matthew 14:22-33 where Peter trusted Jesus and walked on the water.  Since I have given my life over the Jesus I’m continually amazed by where being His follower has taken me.  After the three above encounters I felt moments of rejection.  Rejection is a really great way to take away one’s hope and plant disturbing seeds of hypocrisy that have to power to wither bodies and souls.

But this is when we Christians faithful to God’s Word are blessed! Luke tells us in chapter six that it is when we’re reproached, rejected, and hated for being believers that we can rejoice for our reward is great in heaven.

One could argue that in the third situation I was not rejected for being too Christian but not Christian enough!  That I refuse to repent for my marriage and get legally divorced from my wife so I may enter the kingdom.  This reminds me of the seven Woes’ in Matthew 23.  We sometimes attempt say certain people, based on the potentially poor judgment of going by what we cannot really see, cannot enter the kingdom and shut doors (physical & metaphorical) to them without having taken any time to know them.  We try to make believers into our own image rather than God’s.  We tell people they must follow the rules of this church or that sect or some other theology that is not in the Bible or misinterpreted.  We trade legalism for the heart of the law.  We all do it not only as the faithful but as humans in whatever set of beliefs we follow.

When we persecute other Christians (or anyone) regardless of what their sin or perceived sin is, we sin. Yes we can separate ourselves, but we first learn who someone is and attempt to meet them & hear them.  No matter what our final decision is about their place in our lives, churches, or organizations, we love them, pray for them, and remain peaceable and without hypocrisy (let me know if you’ve perfected that).

So girding my emotional loins I called a church a friend’s friend had recommended on our behalf. Having just had those dreams previously mentioned, I felt it was time to change my approach.  Just as I want people to meet with and get to know us beyond whatever labels others define us by, I also want to meet and get to know them.  I called this church and spoke with one of the pastors explaining that we’d like to meet with the appropriate clergy to discuss potentially going there.  My situation was briefly explained and I told him that more than anything, we just want to worship the Lord with others who are devoted to Him, without deviation from the Bible.  His response?  Excitement!  The main pastor is currently out of town so he suggested we set up a time to meet with both pastors.  He was everything written in James 3:17.  Pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, merciful, impartial, and without hypocrisy.  Our conversation bore good fruit because we both communicated in the vein of James 3:13.  I could even tell we may have some disagreement on points, but that we respected each other as believers growing in Christ.

To be true to our faith doesn’t mean we sign off on what isn’t acceptable to us. It also doesn’t mean we blindly reject others either.  This was not the narrow road I expected, but God continues to give me the strength to walk it.  We are blessed indeed!