Tuesday, January 30, 2007

there were people like me...(1 of 2)

There weren't too many people who thought like me. Especially not my age. Most people didn't question the lyrics to the worship songs and the content of the sermons. But I was frustrated. I was confused. It did not seem like the church I was involved in matched with the church in Acts 2. But it wasn't just my church, it was a lot of churches. We seemed to be more concerned with just getting people in the doors than we were with authentically discipling them. It seemed like the God of the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, and Jonathan Edwards was a much more powerful and majestic God than my God. My God seemed to be small, almost pocket sized.

In youth group, we talked about how God wanted us to live a pure life-abstaining from drugs, sex, alcohol, etc. God wanted us to obey our parents joyfully and share the gospel and serve people across the world. But I felt like I had this pocket Jesus. A Jesus I could pull out at will when I needed help. A Jesus that I could grasp, and comprehend, and understand. A Jesus that was easy.

In the Sunday sermons, it seemed as if the things that were presented were packaged in this user friendly format. It seemed as if things were marketed up in order to attract the consumer-it seemed like a business. I can remember one sermon series entitled "10 Habits of Highly Effective People." Sounds like a motivational series right? It was actually a series on the 10 commandments. It provoked me that we would switch the word 'habit' for 'commandment.' It was as if these were suggestions to follow if you wanted to be a good person, instead of laws that were given to the Israelites in order to show them their need for a Savior.

Also, I was so very frustrated by the songs we would sing. I was so very tired of singing about myself-what I was going to do, what I had done, what I wanted.

Faithfulness, faithfulness is what I
long for.
Faithfulness is what I need.
Faithfulness, faithfulness is what.
You want from me.

Come, now is the time to worship
Come, now is the time to give your heart
Come, just as you are to worship
Come, just as you are before your God

The above songs aren't bad or sinful by any means. But they are man focused. And isn't it always the time to worship? It feels like we are singing to each other, about ourselves. Instead we should sing to our Lord and Savior about Himself. I didn't want to sing about me. I am dirty and unclean and wretched. I wanted to sing about God-who is perfect and holy and looks on me with love, when He used to look upon me as an object of wrath.

Also, I was tired of singing songs that were just "almost" biblically correct.

Crucified, laid behind a stone
You lived to die, rejected and alone
Like a rose, trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of me
Above all...
I know a lot of the frustration came from differences in doctrine. But I just didn't think that Christ was thinking about me, above all, when He was upon the cross. I think He was thinking about His Father's glory above all. I think He was thinking about what was being accomplished for the Kingdom above all.

You might be thinking I am crazy. You might be thinking that I am legalistic and over analyzing and over thinking. Trust me, my best friend thinks this about me often! :-) (And it is something that I have to be cautious of. And I love her for cautioning me time and time again.)

But I look at it this way. If Susie has never been to my church before, and then comes one Sunday. Perhaps she is called to respond to the Gospel, which she does obediently by repenting and believing that day. Now, say the first song she sings as a believer says "You thought of me above all." This causes her to think of HER importance. Of HER worth. Of HER good deeds. It's subtle, but trust me it's there and it's dangerous. I think the achilles heel of Christianity today is the believer that thinks he or she is good and therefore DESERVES salvation. It's a slippery theological path.

So all this mumble jumble to say that I was frustrated. And my friends at my church back home listened to me, and they understood what I was saying, but they thought I was over thinking. That I just needed to let it go, and not focus on the bad stuff, but rather the good stuff.

Recently, I myself questioned a friend on this. We were at an event where they were asking people to give money so that they could go take the gospel to unreached people. I didn't feel so led at that moment because I don't agree with everything they stand for. Then, for a minute, I thought maybe that was wrong. Maybe it was ok if it wasn't 100% truth, so long as it was mostly truth. So I asked this friend if perhaps I should give. If perhaps it would be better for a watered down gospel to go out than for no gospel at all. And his response resonated in my heart, and confirmed what I had been thinking at first.
He said "Look at the Bible Jenn. What did Christ do? He didn't present a watered down gospel. He presented absolute truth. Isn't that the example we then should follow? Why settle for less than biblical truth?"

That, my friends, sums up the confusion in my heart before I got involved with Sovereign Grace. We should not settle for mediocre and almost absolute truth and only a tiny bit wrong. We are not called to settle! Christ does not want His church, His BRIDE to settle.
And it was 730ish days ago that the Lord led me to a group of churches where there were people like me....

...to be continued....

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

erasing shadows....

So often in friendships, we let little things go by, unchallenged and unbroached. It may be an off the cuff statement. It may be a misunderstood action. It may be the very lack of action. We let these little things build upon one another until all of the sudden, we just break and the friendships are often impacted in a negative way.

Once again, this was something I didn't have a title for until Diane Taulbee mentioned that her and a friend had made a committment to one another and to the Lord. They wanted to actively "erase shadows" from their friendship. If an action or comment by one gave the other an uneasy feeling, they would verbalize their concerns in those moments. This is in contrast to allowing slight hurt the opportunity to fester into a open sore.

I can't say that I have always been successful at doing this in my own life. In fact, I can flat out say that I have intensely failed at this time and time again, due to sin, e.g. self-pity, carelessness, pride.

But I can say this: the concept is more prominent in my mind. The desire to erase the shadows is there. The blessing of friends who understand the importance of this is there. The able strength of the Holy Spirit is within me.

"Be killing sin, or it will be killing you."
~John Owen

Proverbs 8:6-8
Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right,
7for my mouth will utter truth;
wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8All the words of my mouth are righteous;
there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.

Zachariah 8:16-17
16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts;
do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this," declares the LORD.

2 Corinthians 6:4, 6-8
4...as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,
by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love;
by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;
through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

730ish days ago....

Ok. So I know the closing days of December are really when you are supposed to sit and ponder the failures of the past year and hopes for the future. But you see, I was a little busy.

I was a little busy meeting my new nephew, Josiah Scott, who was born on December 21. I was a little busy in Misssissippi getting up at 5:30 AM to shoot Bambi. I was a little busy flying home on a plane and finally doing Christmas with my mom and Jeff and Phillip. I was a little busy packing for Passion and preparing my heart to meet with the Lord. Needless the say, New Years came and went without any thought being given on my part to resolutions or anything along those lines.

In the days since Passion, I have had nothing to do however except sit and ponder. I have had all the time in the world to journal and dream and wonder and regret. And one thing keeps coming to the forefront of my mind.

It was this coming weekend, 2 years ago, that I first walked through the doors of a Sovereign Grace church. It was a little over 730 days ago that I was first introduced to this movement of churches. I can still remember that first Sunday very vividly in my head. The night before, I had looked up directions on Mapquest in my dorm room and hadn't really given it much thought other than that. The service starts at 10 AM. I left my dorm at 9:45 AM. First mistake. It takes 5 minutes to get off campus at 20 MPH. Bad start. Even worse, I start heading south on 13th St instead of north. It takes me about 5 minutes to realize this. So, by the time I'm heading the correct direction, it's already 10 AM. I almost gave up, and thought, I'll go next Sunday. But I didn't, and kept driving along.

I finally (after 3 more wrong turns) show up to the church around 10:20. It's the middle of worship I figure. I'm used to Baptist churches where you enter from the back and can sneak in quietly when you are late and figure who is going to notice you. I'm praying that this is the same situation at this new church.

But alas, God is a funny God. The church meets in a school (because, as we all know, church is about the body of people, not the building itself). They meet in the cafeteria of an elementary school, where the doors are located on the side, meaning you have to walk in and EVERYONE WILL SEE YOU. Even worse, they worship with the lights fully on-no dimmed mood lights here. Which means, as you walk in, LATE, you will catch everyone's eye.

What will they think? They're going to not like me because I am late. I hope I'm dressed ok. What if I can't find Joe and Tara and other people I know? What if they didn't even come this Sunday? What if I have to sit by myself? Man. I'm such a loser. I should just get back in my car and go home. So, instead of walking in at 10:20, I stand in the little foyer, trying to hide from all these strangers, fearful of what they would think of me.

Now, get this. It's gets worse. Some member at the church was also running late. And she's walking up and doesn't know me so she introduces herself and asks if I want to walk in with her. I LIE and say "That's ok. I'm waiting for a friend." This way, maybe she'll walk in there and say "Don't judge the girl who is about to walk in really late. She's waiting for a friend. That's why she's late. It's not her fault."

It was a sad sad day in the life of Jennifer Lorraine.

I didn't really know what all those thoughts and fears were. I would have said I was just nervous, being by myself in a new place. I never saw it for what it was for quite sometime. One day though David Gilland was joking around with me and I was doing something because of my fear of man. I'm sure I shot back some joke in the same vein, but I couldn't stop thinking about those 3 words. FEAR OF MAN. Which really comes down to pride-thinking that anyone would even care to dwell upon me or rest their thoughts upon me, thinking that this world is somehow focused upon me.

So 730 days ago began the destruction of self-of pride, vanity, self-worth, independence, fear of judgment, and fear of man. It's a long and slow path, but in the grace of God, I can see growth in my own life and pray that others can as well.

So as I reflect back on 2006, I can't not think about Abundant Grace Community Church. And as I reflect back on the church, I can't not think about my life before Abundant Grace. In the coming days, I plan to write more things that I have learned since coming to know this body of people. The things I have learned from these people and the sins that have been put to death in my heart as I have grown alongside these people.

It all began, 730ish days ago, when I was running late to church....

midget legs grow....

scared to tears...

The day was over 15 years ago. I was 5. The city was Brandon. The place was
Bealls. We were shopping. And I was lost. All I wanted to do was sit down and wail. I had lost my mom and my little midget legs couldn't find her anywhere! I can still remember that overwhelming feeling. You're lost and its scary because what if you never get unlost? What if you never find your way out?

It's funny though. Years go by, midget legs grow, and things change.


The day was 2 days ago. I was 20. The city was Atlanta. The place was the World Congress Center. We were at Passion. And I was lost. All I wanted to was praise my Sovereign God. I had left my group of friends to go drop something off on my own and somehow got turned around in the Go Center and had no idea how to get back to where they were. The 22,000+ other people wandering around didn't make it any easier. But do you know why I was lost? Because for the last 4 days, I had really had to find my own way. I rarely made a decision as to where to go, what to do, when to show up or what to eat. The Lord had blessed our little Passion contingent with men who were gifted and desirous to lead as the Lord has so called them. The Lord had also blessed this contingent with women who were desirous for these men to lead. Being lost wasn't scary. It was representative of just how much these men had lead and just how fully we had followed. Being lost was a moment to praise God.

You see, we girls had been praying for this. Not that I would get lost, but that these men would lead humbly and that we, as women, would follow humbly. That these men were serve us by leading and we would serve them by submitting & allowing them to serve. That the Lord would have both genders playing the roles that we, as Godly men and women, are called to play.

And you know what? It happened. Doors were held. Luggage was carried. Dinner was planned. Seats were saved. Biblical fellowship
occurred. Probing questions were asked. Encouragement abounded. God was glorified.

Of course, we spoke up and thanked the guys for their leadership. We praised the Lord for allowing all of this to happen. But I just wanted to take a minute to brag on these God glorifying, Christ exalting, Spirit following male friends of mine. I wanted to tell the world that this type of interaction is not dead.
Complementarianism does not just exist among generations of old, but it is alive and well among my generation.

You might be thinking,"So what? big deal. The men led, and you followed. That was nice of you." Oh my friend, it was not
just nice of us. It was us, in the grace and kindness of the Lord, mortifying sin in our own lives.

Look at Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said,
"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you."

This is the text in scripture following the fall of Adam and Eve, and all of mankind. When it says "desire" here, this, in the Hebrew, is saying that your desire will be to overpower, to overtake, to rule over your husband (you can see the parallel language in verse 4:7 as well...it's clearer if you know Hebrew, but it is not totally obliterated by the English translation). Women's desire is for the role that her husband is supposed to play.

Women's desire, if left unchanged by the power of the Spirit, would be to control and subdue man for her own gain. (There are of course, negative consequences from the fall for men, but I'm just talking about women here.) So, just the fact that the men were ABLE to lead is reason enough to praise God, but even more so that we WANTED them to lead. This is evidence of God is stripping away layers of self-exaltation and pride. He is replacing those layers with humility and submission in preparation for the roles we will play in the future.

So to my fellow women:

Thank you for submitting. Thank you for creating environments that allowed these guys to lead. Thank you for the encouragement you were to me in reminding me to die to my sinful desires.

To those guys:

Thank you for seeking the Lord. Thank you for growing in the roles that He has set before you. Thank you for leading humbly. Thank you for serving so effectively, efficiently, and kindly. You made it a joy to follow you.

To my God:

Thank you for both justifying us and sanctifying us. Thank you for answering our prayers. Thank you for working in our lives-molding our wills to your will and our desires to your desire. We praise you for your goodness and mercy and kindness. Keep this desire burning. Keep this growth continuous. Keep your glory central. Keep your name anthemed. Keep us mindful of our stance in grace.

PS For any of you hanging off the edge of your seats, I got unlost. I found my friends. And we all lived happily ever after. :-)