In Search of the Perfect Church (Part Five)

blizzard

A Nor’easter is coming Lord.

It’s headed our way,

Straight at Your church Jesus.

Dear Savior, help us we pray.

The dark clouds encompass us,

powerful winds try to tear us away.

The BLIZZARD is upon us! HELP! We pray.

Heavy snow is causing us to fear.

Branches are breaking.

Please draw us near.

Your beautiful tree is torn in two.

Some people are leaving.

Others are waiting it through.

Jesus, Dear Jesus, what should I do?

Your church in the valley –

Your body of Christ,

help us, Lord Jesus, help us today.

Let us never fall away,

for You are our Rest.

You will always stay.

Hold us tightly to Your breast.

Teach us to love each other

and never to utter words of slander.

Empower us Comforter, Mighty Holy Spirit,

To forgive each other,

as Jesus forgives us every bit.

Dig us out Dear Savior.

Dig us out we pray.

“You are the Potter

And we are the clay.”*

Have Your way Dear Father –

Have Your Way.

( *Isaiah 45:9, Jeremiah 18:5-6)

Since we are going through our fifth heat wave in the Summer of 2013, I decided to talk about a New England Nor’easter to try to cool us off. I did think about writing about the church in the scorching dessert, but I was just too hot for that. Anyway, back to “In Search of the Prefect Church (Part Five), which I hope will be the last installment (for now) of what has become a “blog series.”  My amateur poetry will also come to an end (for now).

The Protestant Christian church where God first opened the ears of my heart to the GOOD NEWS – the Gospel of Christ – came to existence as a result of a “church split.” The reason for the split, or so I thought, was that the Pastor wanted to reach out to the college students, in our five-college area. Most of us did not know about his “extra curricular activities.” Despite the first Pastor’s sin, many people came to a saving knowledge of Christ, including one such as I. I look at it this way: If God made a donkey talk to save Balaam, God is more than able to use anyone for His glory (Numbers 22:26-34), and that includes Pastor #1, and that includes you and me. Pastor #1, left after seven years, before his infidelity was made known to everyone. God blessed the church (which I will refer to as CC) with a godly Pastor #2 who ministered to us and with us for over twenty years. Pastor #2 left us in 2005. Although it was sad to see him leave, after seeing his family grow with our families, we knew it was time for him to go and time for us to grow in new ways. Many of us can’t decipher who we miss more – the Pastor or his wife who is an accomplished pianist. Her farewell gift to all of us was a CD of our favorite hymns and contemporary songs, with her piano playing. It is a beautiful and lasting gift.  I am listening to it as I write. It is “Gloriously” soothing music.

After many months of searching, the Pastoral Search Committee found Pastor #3. He was brought to the CC congregation for consideration. We heard him preach and had a question and answer time with him and his wife. Pastor #3 was unanimously accepted by the congregation as the new Senior Pastor of the body of Christ at CC, in 2006. Pastor #3 is a godly man, a faithful and loving husband and a devoted father. Many thought he was more approachable than Pastor #2, but I think many were intimidated by Pastor #2’s size. The third Pastor was definitely more approachable than our first Pastor, who tended to favor attractive women, businessmen and jocks, all of whom I am not (although I did manage to talk him into speaking at my community college psychology class). Pastor #3 was very relational and would seek people out to talk to and not just the “pretty” people. Many times, while I was “rolling” behind him, he would grab my wheelchair to say “Hi” and talk about college football (he liked the Trojans and I liked the Ducks).  He and his wife came to a few of my baseball parties at “Fenway West” (my house). His wife also brought me one of the most delicious apple pies I have ever eaten (except for my sister’s). They were very loving and kind when they met my mom, who was in bed, and were very willing to help with adjusting her pillow and raising her head to help her feel more comfortable. Pastor #3 was an all-around nice guy. So, what went so terribly wrong that made him resign after six years? What went so terribly wrong, from the very beginning of his ministry with us, that a slow but steady trickle of people were leaving the church without giving a reason why? What went so terribly wrong , at the end of his ministry with us, which caused a church split – about sixty people leaving and forming a new church of their own? What went so terribly wrong?

I have grappled with these questions for a very long time and I still don’t fully know the answers. In the movies, at least when I was a kid, there was a clear “good guy” and a clear “bad guy” but, it’s not that way in real life. In a way, we are all “bad guys” – our human nature gets in the way of doing what’s right and good and pleasing to God. Perhaps we all “dropped the ball” when, after a long search, we found a Pastor and thought our work was done. We forgot how much New England is truly a mission field. New Englanders are generally set in our ways. We enjoy our privacy, we cherish our traditions and we are not generally outwardly emotional,  except when it comes to our sports teams  – we are rabid New England sports fans. If we had a motto for the region, it would be, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” We really needed a “hyperbaric chamber” that would slowly let Pastor #3 enter into the New England “atmosphere.”

On the other hand, I don’t think Pastor #3 did anything slowly. He was a ball of energy when he preached and his wre not a typical three-point-sermon, complete with alliteration and bulletin outline insert. Instead, he was all over the place, in what he was saying and literally all over the front of the church as he was speaking.  He also was not slow in making changes: Instead of “Senior” Pastor, he wanted to be known as “Lead” Pastor; instead of having a Worship “Service,“ we now had a Worship “Gathering”; instead of being “missions-minded,” we were to be “missional.”  These peripheral changes came during Pastor #3’s first year at CC. Other more substantial and noticeable changes which Pastor #3 wanted to do, changes that would change how we governed ourselves as a church and some theological differences, created a rift between himself and the Elders and between the Elders themselves.

The changes which took place during the first year proved to be too much for some, so they left the church. While people were leaving, new people were coming into the church and coming to Christ. Even so, no one knew exactly why people were leaving and, personally, I believe that is an important thing to find out. So, along with helping the Pastor transition into a New England church, we also needed an “exit interview” procedure to ascertain why people were leaving. At the end of Pastor #3’s time at CC, we had three very painful congregational meetings, filled with angry people who did not want Pastor #3 leave, those who sided with the Elders who wanted him to leave, and those felt broadsided with what was happening. Instead of the peaceful agreeable congregational meetings we were used to, there were angry words shouted from “both sides of the aisle.” The meetings turned into volatile situations that could erupt into violence at anytime. There were even death threats given by members to each other. It was just horrible. From Psalm 133:1: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!“, We went to Psalm 55:12-13: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.” We needed God to intervene and dig us out of this avalanche of emotions. And I believe God did intervene and is still working things out for ou good and for His glory. As His children, God desires us to listen to His voice and obey His leading.

me writing 2

Instead of going into the specifics of CC’s church conflict (warts), since I do not know all of the facts, I will present some of the general church conflicts (warts) the Christian Church, as a whole, have been dealing with since its inception at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) to the present time. It is a wonder that the Church still exists. It is truly a miracle and the will of God that it keeps on going (Matthew 16:18 and 19:20). In the following church conflicts, some may be what CC has been going through and some may NOT describe what CC has been going through. The reason being, I want to still be alive after writing Part Five (I do not want to slander anyone).

It is very peculiar (in a bad way) that Christians take God’s gifts  to be  used to unit us, and we use these very gifts from God to divide us. For example, God has given us His Holy Spirit to unite us into the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul urges the Ephesians (and us) to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all” (4:2-6).

In CC’s By-Laws, ARTICLE V – Statement of Faith, it writes this about the Holy Spirit:

Jesus' Baptism

“We believe that the Holy Spirit is God and has come into the world to reveal and glorify Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts and draws sinners to Christ, imparts New Life, continually indwells them from the moment of spiritual birth, seals, sanctifies and empowers them through His spiritual gifts for life and service. His fullness, power and control are appropriated in the believer’s life by faith (John 15:26; 16:8-11; John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5; II Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter 1:1-3; Romans 8:2; Acts 1:8 Ephesians 3:16; I Corinthians 2:1-4; I Corinthians 12; I Thessalonians 1:5.”

The Holy Spirit’s “job” is to glorify Christ. Yet some Christian churches elevate the worship of the Holy Spirit above Christ. They also elevate the gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly the “sign gifts”: speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy and miracles. They believe all Christians must seek to speak in tongues. When Christians speak in tongues, it is a sign that they have been baptized (or slain) in the Spirit and now they are truly born again. They also believe that, if a Christian has enough faith, s/he is to be healed of his/her sickness, disability or disease. If believers are not healed, it is because of a lack of faith. I do not believe these things to be true. I do believe in what the CC By-Laws Statement of Faith says, regarding the Holy Spirit, because of what the Bible says.

imagesCAL8J6TR

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way…Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”(I Corinthians 12:27-31 and 13:4-7, 13).

In the above Scripture passage, the Apostle Paul asks rhetorical questions. The answer to all his questions is “NO!” Every Christian does not have every Spiritual Gift. Not all Christians have the gift of tongues or the gift of healing or miracles or prophecy or any other gift. The Corinthians wanted the gifts that would put them in the “lime light”, but he urged them to seek the gift of love more than anything else. Love should be the only gift all Christian should seek after.

“For God is not a God of disorder BUT of peace… Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophecy, and do not forbid the speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (I Corinthians 14:33 and 39).

Christians should not expect all Christians to have the gifts of tongues and healing and prophecy. Also, who am I to judge my brother’s or sister’s gift is not real? I should not judge their gifts. Only God is the judge of all. However, I may have a different understanding of prophecy. I believe prophecy is the “telling forth of God’s Truth” and not foretelling the future. An example of prophecy is when someone explains the meaning of a Scripture passage. I believe this because of what Jesus said in Acts 1:7: “…It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” So, if someone announces a date for the end of the world, I am not going to stock up on canned goods, bottled water and toilet paper. Instead, I’m going to continue to do what Jesus instructs me to keep on doing – serving Him and serving others. Jesus’ Parable of the Good Servant explains it well:

lamp unto my feet

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him…Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions” (Luke 12:35-36, 42-44).

In regard to the gift of healing, I believe Jesus sometimes chooses to use our faith to heal us, as He did with the woman “who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years” (Mark 5:25). Jesus healed her and said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34). There are many other examples of Jesus using someone’s faith to heal them. However, I do not believe Jesus is limited by our faith to heal those He chooses to heal. For example, the demon-possessed man living in the tombs did not trust in Jesus, yet Jesus healed him. He trusted in Jesus after he was healed. (Luke 8:26-39). There are many other examples in Scripture where Jesus heals people with no faith at all. There is also an example when He does not heal people, but leaves town before they can get to Him: “Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for You!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come’” (Mark 1:36-38). This was early in the morning, the day after Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and many others (Mark 1:29-34). I believe  people from nearby villages heard Jesus was healing many and were going to where He was to be healed by Him.

Jesus did give his first disciples the power to heal and there are many healings recorded in the book of Acts. I believe Paul might have had the Gift of Healing. In the Book of Acts, Paul healed the man “who was lame from birth” (14:8-10), “a slave girl who had spirit by which she predicted the future” (16:?16-18), and brought back to life a boy who “fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead” (20:9-12). Paul also was healed from blindness by Ananias (9:17-19) and from a snake bite (28:1-6),  Healing is listed as a Spiritual Gift in I Corinthians 12:9. But, we also read that Paul was not healed  from his “thorn in [the] flesh,” even though he pleaded “three times with the Lord to take it away” (II Corinthians 12:7-8). Instead, Jesus said to Him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).

Even though Paul might have had the Gift of Healing, ultimately it was Jesus’ decision who would be healed and who would glorify Him in their weakness. Paul writes about Epaphroditus’ recovery from illness in Philippians 2:27-30: “Indeed he was ill, and almost died. BUT GOD had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.” In I Timothy 5:23 Paul instructs Timothy, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”  In II Timothy 4:20 Paul writes, “Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.”   It is interesting to me that Paul did not exhort Timothy and Trophimus to get their acts together and get healed. He did not question their faith. Paul knew from his own personal experience that God does not always choose to heal, but chooses to be glorified in our brokenness, and that’s where our faith lies. Can we echo Paul’s words, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (II Corinthians 12:9b). Paul also writes:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:16-18).

Why would Paul write this passage and many more passages like this one, if all Christians are to be healed through the strength of their faith?

There was a time when all the turmoil at CC was going on, I looked for another church to go to. CC’s daughter churches and a few others were just too far away. In town, I noticed a sign that said, “Envision[mytown], advertising a new church in town. A friend and I looked at their website. It turned out to be an Assembly of God Church, which “strongly encouraged the speaking of tongues” and the “Sign Gifts”. It was not a church for me. The world around me already tells me how much I don’t “measure up” to their standards of beauty, physical abilities, health and wealth. I don’t need my church to tell me the same things too. That’s why I have decided to “wait it through” and see what God will do with His body at CC.

water baptism

Along with the Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Christian Church also has different views on the Sacrament of Baptism. The Roman Catholic Church believes in Infant Baptism with the sprinkling of Holy Water by a Priest. Roman Catholics believe that the Sacrament of Baptism, along with the Sacraments of Confession, Communion and Confirmation are necessary for one’s salvation. Protestant churches, such as the Methodist Church also believe in Infant Baptism and what is called, “prevenient grace,” which means God is initiating His work of grace before the baby is able to be aware of it. They believe that Infant Baptism is the beginning of a long journey of faith, which is nurtured by the church community. They may say something like, “I was baptized a Methodist.” Protestant Pentecostals believe in two kindS of baptisms: 1. the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, when a believer begins to speak in tongues and some are actually  are “slain in the Spirit“ and literally faint;  Pentecostals believe when this happens, the person receives the Holy Spirit, 2. Pentecostals also perform Baptism by immersion for those who have accepted Christ as their Savior.

The Protestant Baptism I am most familiar with, and have been baptized in this way, is Christian Baptism by total immersion. I mentioned being baptized in a lake in April. This is performed when a person is old enough to accept Christ his/her personal Savior. My church has Infant Dedications, in which the parents promise to raise their child in the teachings of Christ and the congregation also vow to help the parents to nurture the child in Christ, so that one day the child will come to his/her own saving knowledge of Christ. The Baby Dedication is not a prerequisite for salvation and it does not mean the baby has joined the church.. Baptism by immersion is initiated by the person who has accepted Christ as his/her Savior and Lord and wants to make a public declaration of his/her identity in Christ. When the Pastor dunks us into the water, we identify in Christ’s death, and when we are raised up from the water, we identify with Christ’s Resurrection and our New Life in Him. Baptism, at least at CC, is not a prerequisite for Salvation or even for membership. It is a public announcement that, “YES, I LOVE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, Christ has paid the penalty for my sin on the cross and I want to live for Him now and forever!” No one said I had to be baptized. I did it because I was excited about my New Life in Christ. The cold weather or even my fear of the water could not stop me. Pastor #1 and his two Assistant Pastors performed my Baptism. I thought about being baptized again with Pastor #2, but I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t necessary. Who performed the Baptism wasn’t important, but Who I did it for and why I did it was more important. Once was enough for me.

Jesus and Charlie Brown

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men‘s sin against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ‘s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ‘s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God“” (II Corinthians 5:16-21).

eucharist

The Christian Church also has disagreements about the Lord’s Supper, commonly known as Communion. The following are the three beliefs about Communion (Taken from CONCISE THEOLOGY, by J. I. Packer [pp. 217-219])

TRANSUBSTANTIATION: The Roman Catholic Church believes Communion to be as defined by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, where it is stated that the bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the substance of Christ’s body and blood so that they are no longer bread and wine.

CONSUBSTANTIATION: (Luther did not like the term) This means Christ’s body and blood come to be present in, with, and under the form of bread and wine, which thus become more than the bread and wine. This belief is held by Lutherans and also by Eastern Orthodox and some Anglican churches.

The third view of Communion comes from the Protestant Reformers who believed that the Glorified Christ, Who now is in Heaven, is not present bodily, physically or locally in or around the bread and wine, during Communion. “This is My body…My blood” means “represents” not “constitutes.” Though the bread and the wine remain unchanged, Christ through the Spirit grants worshipers “true enjoyment of His personal presence, drawing them into fellowship with Himself in Heaven (see Hebrews 12:22-24) in a way that is glorious and real, though indescribable.” The Reformers also believed that “at the table we give thanks to Christ for His finished and accepted work of atonement, rather than repeat, renew, re-offer, re-present, or reactivate it, as Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass affirms” (see Hebrews 7:26-28).

My own view regarding Communion is the same as the Protestant Reformers. I believe the observance of the Lord’s Supper is a symbol of the Lord’s Last Supper and the bread and wine are symbols of His body broken for us and His blood shed on the cross for the remission of our sins (Matthew 26:28). When we celebrate the Lord’s Table, we do it in remembrance of what He has already done for us. Jesus commands us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper until He comes again (I Corinthians 11:23-26). There is no “magic” involved. At the same time, celebrating the Lord’s Supper sometimes gets a little to “casual” in some Protestant churches. For example, some churches encourage talking with each other, during Communion, instead of being in silent prayer. I believe we need to take Communion more seriously. It is more than a social gathering. It is a time to remember all that Jesus has done for us and it is a time to examine ourselves and confess any sin we are holding on to, and it is a time to ask for forgiveness and a time to forgive others (I Corinthians 11:27-29 and Matthew 5:23-24). Communion is a time to worship God – to give God His worth. It is a time to listen to what He has to say to us, a time of contemplation. Why does everything have to be so rowdy and loud to keep our attention? Sometimes, silent meditation is not only a good thing, but a needful thing.

jesus on the throne

“But the LORD is in His Holy Temple; let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20).

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His Name; worship the LORD in the splendor of His Holiness” (Psalm 29:2).

Protestant Christian churches differ in the way they govern themselves. This is explained well in the book, REDEEMING CHURCH CONFLICTS, by Tara Klena Barthel and David V. Edling (pp. 103-104):

“There are three fundamental forms of polity: prefacy (also known as Episcopal), Presbyterian, and congregational. In prelacy, the local church is administered by a distinct category of church officers often known as priests, with bishops over them; final decision-making authority is frequently found outside the local church.

Presbyterian polity requires the right of the local congregation to elect elders to an elder body (the local governing body of elders, which may be called a session, consistory, or council). The pastor or minister is one of the elders with equal stature and authority with lay elders. Corporately the elder body has governing authority over the local church; however, elders are also members of a regional presbytery or classis, which has authority over several churches in a region. Furthermore, some of the members of a presbytery are members of the general assembly (or synod), which has authority over all the churches in a nation or large region.

Congregationally run churches practice multiple forms of congregational polity. Some have a single elder (the pastor) and a board of elected deacons who serve under his authority (the form most commonly found in Baptist churches), while others have an elected elder board on which the pastor serves as one of many (a form found in many independent Bible churches). In a true congregational independency, every church is independent from every other, with internal decision-making authority usually divided between the officers and the members. In an extreme form of congregationalism the members vote on every decision.”

People who are planning to become members of a local church should know how the church is governed and why. CC fits into the congregational independent Bible church polity. We are an elder-led church with the Pastor being one of the elders and all the elders have equal authority. They are voted into the elder board by the members. The reason why CC is an elder-led church, and not a pastor-led church, is because of the history with our first pastor, who abused his authority. CC also has a board of deacons, who are also voted in by the congregation, who take care of the preparations for church functions (communion preparation, setting up for church meals together, clean-up, decorating church for the holidays) and the practical needs of the congregation (those who need help with food, clothing, shelter, financial assistance, visitation, hospitality).

hands united

One would think that independent Christian churches would be free from all disagreements. After all, they are independent and have no one to tell them what to do and how to do it. But, if you believe this, I have some swamp land to sell you. Some churches want to be known as Non-Denominational and others want to be known as Inter-Denominational. What’s the difference? Normally, I try not to get involved with discussing the minutia in the definition words. But, this time, I see a BIG difference between these two mindsets. Non-Denominational means having no denomination. When you have no denomination, in reality one becomes its own denomination unto itself. Inter-Denominational does not mean ecumenical, as in “anything and everything goes.” An Inter-Denominational church is made up of people from different backgrounds who have come together to celebrate what each one brings that as true and noble and right to worship God together in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Personally, I believe that there is not one Christian denomination or theology gets everything right and has everything we can know about God. God is too awesome for the human mind to comprehend. But together we can come to know the Triune God more fully and evenly.

Jesus in the clouds

The Christian Church has different views about the Second Coming of Christ and interpretations of the Book of Revelation. There’s the Millennium view, the Pre-millennial view, the A-millennial view and the Post-millennial view. Then, there’s the Rapture, Tribulation, Pre-tribulation Rapture, Mid-tribulation Rapture, Post-tribulation Rapture and Abomination of Desolation. But wait! That’s not all. The Christian Church has different theologies and interpretations of the whole Bible. There is the Dispensational vs. Reformed Theologies, the Calvinist vs. Arminian Theologies, and the Free Grace vs. Lordship Theologies. Theologians love to pontificate in perfunctory platitudes about all this stuff. All I know is that Jesus is coming back and I’m looking forward to it. I believe that God has predestined me to be His child, because He knows al things, and I know that I have a free will and I did make a choice to follow Him when I was eighteen years old. If you ask me how predestination and free will work together, I will tell you, “I don’t know, but God knows and I am not going to try to understand what is to hard to wrap my brain around. And, as far as Free Grace and Lordship, I did not know they were mutually exclusive. I know I have been saved by God’s grace and there is nothing I could have done to earn it. I also know that I had a need, in my heart of hearts, to repent and turn away from my sin and make Jesus Lord of my life. This came after He saved me. Why wouldn’t I want to make Jesus Lord of my life, knowing that He paid for my sins and loves me beyond measure? After He saved me, the Holy Spirit placed in my heart the desire to grow and become more like Christ. And when I mess up and fall back into my selfish ways, I know I will still be His child and He will be right there to pick me up and help me start over again. This is all I know.

How on earth did the Christian Church make it to the Twenty-First Century? God only knows. All I know is it is only by God’s grace that we are still here and it’s only by God’s grace that His people at CC will have our “warts” removed and let His beauty shine in us and through us again. If I ever found a perfect church and became a member, it wouldn’t be perfect anymore. So, my prayer for CC is this:

In My Life Lord, Be Glorified

(Bob Kilpatrick)

In my Life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified,

In my life, Lord, be glorified today.

[In my thoughts, Lord, be glorified, be glorified,

In my thoughts, Lord,  be glorified today.]

In Your Church, Lord, be glorified, be glorified,

In Your Church, Lord, be glorified today.

[I made up the second stanza.] This has been a very sad time for all of us at CC. It has been sad and extremely difficult for Pastor #3 (who is a godly man) and his family and for our elders (who are all godly men).  It has been an extremely difficult time for all of us; those who have left and those who have stayed. It has been an extremely sad time for me, to see my brothers and sisters in Christ leave my church family, many of whom I have known for most of my life and deeply admire and respect. As a church family, we have read the book REDEEMING CHURCH CONFLICTS, and have had small group discussions about the book. The next step in the healing process is to have an outside Christian group which ministers to churches in conflict come in and help us.

yogi berra

Church life is like the long baseball season. It is not that important how you start in April (although it does help) or even where you are in the standings at the All Star Break in July (although that helps too). It’s how you finish in October. While playing the game, if you are on first base and the next batter hit’s a shot into the right field corner, run as fast as you can and, no matter how tempting it is to look where the ball is, keep your eyes on the third base coach and do what He says. Remember, Jesus is waiting for you at Home plate! Yogi Berra made this saying famous, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” I am looking forward to the wonderful things God is planning to do at my home-away-from-home church.

Thanks so much for reading through this post. It went into “extra innings” and we made it through! My next post will be in September. God bless you and your Summer!

cardinals

“’Come now, let us reason together,’” says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:18).

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7 thoughts on “In Search of the Perfect Church (Part Five)

  1. This may be my favorite post so far. Thank you so much for your thoughtful series about church.

    Love you!!!

    Karen S.

    • Thank so much for reading through this “extra innings” post. I am so happy to see you and Paul on Sundays! God is working – He is digging us out to see His Son more clearly and deeply. -Lyd

  2. Thanks Lydia,   Have finally slowed down enough to read this /these.  I will have to go back and find the others. I think I’m in the broad sided category!   Love you, Louise

    ________________________________

    • Me too, Louise! It all seems so incomprehensible. I hear great things about you going to Kenya!:) Love you, Barb

    • Thank you so much Louise. I am so glad you are “weathering the storm” and helping us to “dig out” by your wonderful trips to Africa and other places with the “shoe boxes” at Christmas time. Your zeal for the Lord was not “snowed-in” by all the tormoil. It is so encouraging to see your smilely face. -Lyd

  3. Thanks for this, Lydia. There aren’t too many of us left who were baptized by Pastor #1! Death threats? Really?! When CC started, everyone got along because there was no other church around to go to… What in the world happened to that? You’re right – it’s a blizzard, designed to take out a voice of sanity in an insane Valley. Count on my ongoing prayers. Love, Barb

    • Thank you very much for your prayers Barb. I see God’s Hand working and healing all of us slowly but surely. We need to trust and obey Him.
      Love in Christ,
      Lydia

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