Monday, March 23, 2015

Life Together: What we can learn from Dietrich Bonhoeffer about Christian Fellowship

Christian fellowship has come to mean different things to different people.  To some, its a Sunday afternoon pot-luck, with rows of casserole dishes and pies made by silver haired ladies and busy Moms.  To others, its a Bible study at someone's home.  To others it may be getting together with a good Christian friend.  We, as American Christians, have done what most Americans do to everything.  We have taken something from the Bible and made it fit into our lives and culture. 

There is nothing wrong with making things fit within your cultural norms.  But with Christian fellowship, according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book "Life Together:  A discussion of Christian Fellowship", there is everything wrong with this.  For those you do not know, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor during Hitler's Germany.  He was executed at Flossenburg concentration camp, April 9, 1945.  The following is from the foreword of Bonhoeffer's book:

"For innumerable Christians in Germany, on the Continent, England and in America, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's death has been a contemporary confirmation of Tertullian's dictum,  The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church; for his life and death and his writings, which throb with the simple, downright faith of one who has met Jesus Christ and accepted the ultimate consequences of that encounter in the World (which he defined as the sphere of the concrete responsibility given to us by and in Jesus Christ)--these are still a living witness in the ecumenical church in which he served."

There is much that can be read on Bonhoeffer's life online or in many biographies.  I highly recommend you pick one up and read.  Not only does he speak truth on Christianity, but also his words resonate in today's world events like few others do.

Back to Christian fellowship.  Bonehoeffer says in his book that there is a difference between true Christian fellowship, that is where we are brought to community by Christ and Human Fellowship, which is where we are brought together by ourselves.  Something really struck me about the following passage:

"One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood.  He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere;  he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood.  Just at this point Christian brotherhood is threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of all, the danger of being poisoned at its root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship, of confounding the natural desire of the devout heart for community with the spiritual reality of Christian brotherhood.  In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality.  Second, that Christian brotherhood is a spiritual and not a human reality."

Now granted, this is only on page 26 of a 115 page book, but what he is saying struck me as the antithesis of everything most modern American churches stand for.  According to Bonhoeffer, we have taken the truth of true fellowship, with Christ as our only mediator, and turned it into a dream world of human community.  He does state later on that there is a place for both and we can't make everything spiritual, but if what he is saying is true, we have lost the point of being with other Christians.  That would explain why to many people they see no difference in the churches they visit than they do with people in the world.  Christians sagely say that it is because Christians aren't perfect and we are just sinners saved by grace.  We are human, so we will act like humans.  There is truth to this, of course.  But what really is happening is that we have taken something that is spiritual and tried to bring it down to our level, instead of trying to elevate ourselves. 

Not only do we begin to be annoyed by those around us and question their faith, we begin to elevate ourselves to the place of their judge.  Bonhoeffer states:

"Because Christ has long since acted decisively for my brother, before I could begin to act, I must leave him his freedom to be Christ's; I must meet him only as the person that he already is in Christ's eyes.  This is the meaning of the proposition that we can meet others only through the mediation of Christ.  Human love constructs its own image of the other person, of what he is and what he should become.  It takes the life of the other person into its own hands.  Spiritual love recognizes that true image of the other person which has received from Jesus Christ; the image of Jesus Christ himself embodied and would stamp upon all men."

Now, to clarify, there are all stages of Christian, and non-Christian, attending our churches today.  They may not be the level that Bonhoeffer states above.  However, that isn't who I am referring to.  It is the mature Christians, regardless of chronological age, the leaders, the teachers, the Pastors, that have fed into this idea Church may be one great big pot-luck.  Our programs, our youth groups, everything fosters the idea of community.  That's fine, as long as its a Christ centered community, not a group of Christian humans getting together and calling it a Christian community.

I am not a deep theological thinker like Bonehoeffer, but I can see this in congregations.  A few weeks ago, I posted on divorce in the church, how sometimes it was better just to part ways.  Bonhoeffer also states that this is true.  To paraphrase, he states that if as a community you have deluded yourselves to believe that church is a social hour, that all your human support and love comes from your fellow church members, or your Pastor, you should probably just walk away.  Our support, our love, and our help comes from Christ and Christ alone.  It is by his grace and that grace alone that we are allowed to have the community of other Christians. 

"Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.  No Christian community is more or less than this.  Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this.  We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ."

So when you are having strife in your church or with a Christian brother, remember this.  If your community has tried to become anything more or less than this, perhaps the potlucks are all you have left.  Christ left the building a long time ago.

Monday, March 2, 2015

When to say Yes, when to say no, and when to just shut up

I have been reading "The Best Yes" by Lysa TerKeurst.   She is an author after my own heart.  She likes to communicate in a conversational style, as I do  But what really struck me was the almost revolutionary idea of The Best Yes.   I won't steal her thunder, but the basic premise is that it is ok to say no and that most women in our world, Christian and otherwise, think you are being unkind by doing so.  This book is published by Moody Publishers, so it is a Christian slant, but even if you aren't Christian you could get a great deal out of this book.

Here are some take-aways from the book that I found interesting.  She talks a great deal about how non-working mothers find it necessary to make their working counterparts feel less than what they are.  Lysa will be the first to say that most of her reactions to these less than tactful women was her own hang-ups making her feel bad.  But I was ready to drive to wherever these women were, after reading some of it, and give them a piece of my mind.  If you read my blog, you know I have never had children. I saw myself in some of Lysa's struggles.  I couldn't understand the parts about the judgmental mothers looking down on her working self or asking her children "Does it make you sad when Mommy goes to work?"  That one made my head want to explode, by the way.  But what I can compare to what she was going through is the idea of the Mother and Non-mother in Christian circles.  I know I have written about this here before, but I think it bears mentioning again. 

Judgmental people make, again, my head want to explode.  In Evangelical circles two things are looked down on, sometimes openly, sometimes covertly.  One is a working mother and the other is someone who isn't a mother at all.  One of the reasons I am not a mother is because I knew I would never have a child raised in daycare or by a babysitter.  So I waited and waited and found myself too old and too sick to have any children.  Lysa says in her book that our choices lead us where we will go.  I have made a slew of bad choices and I can't blame the judgey lady at the church pot-luck for all of them.  But it did make my life different.  The Bible states that a woman is to be a wife and a mother (in that order).  Christian friends assume you didn't become a mother because you couldn't, physically.  But that isn't the case with me.  I truly never wanted children, and when my heart started to change, it was too late.  My husband and I do not have the means or the patience for adoption, so here we are. 

But I digress.  Lysa made some excellent points about saying no that were very freeing to me.  I suggest you read her book.  You can read it via Kindle, or purchase it. 

So back to the take-aways, in my own words.

1.  It is ok to say no to even good things, if they aren't the best things.
2.  Just because you don't have a house full of children you still have priorities and needs for your  family that need to be met.  So don't allow people to guilt you into saying yes just because you have no children and you must have "oodles" of time.  (That wasn't specifically in her book)
3.  People who guilt you into saying yes will eventually find a way to be unhappy with you anyway, so don't worry about making them unhappy by saying no.
4.  People can take advantage of people pleasers.  Lysa is one and her chapter on this made me roll at times.  Her and I are so similar.  We need to grill out sometime. 
5,  God know what is best for you, and when asked will help find what that is.
6.  Saying yes depends a great deal on what season of life you are in.

There are so many more, but I won't steal you the joy of reading this book. 

Let me end this blog by saying that I admire stay-at-home mothers, working mothers, women with no biological children and those with lots of people who have they have made their children. 

So what I learned from Lysa's book was when to say Yes, when to say no, and sometimes when to just shut up.  I don't want to be one of those people pushing a pleasers buttons either.  Now go over to and get this book. It will be well worth it. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Divorce in the Church: What it does to God's Children Part 2

We completed part one with the large and looming question of  "Who divorces who?"  or should it be whom?  I'm not a great grammar person.  When is it time to call it quits with either your church, your Pastor, or both.

1.  Christian Fellowship:  The Bible states clearly to not forsake yourself from the fellowship with the saints.  But what if the saints are the ones causing you to lose your joy, and drawing you into the black hole of unchristian thoughts and actions?   You need to analyze what is causing this and whether or not its something you can overlook or deal with.  There is an old joke that says, "People who attend Sunday mornings love the preacher, those that attend Sunday night love the church and those that attend mid week service love the Lord!"  This may be a joke, but there are always some truth in these little sayings.  If you are finding it difficult, almost impossible, to make yourself attend a church, because being in God's house is causing you pain, you may need to look for a new church home.  Attending the Lord's house should bring you joy!  You should desire to gather close to the Lord every chance you get.  The problem with many who are going through the "spiritual divorce" is that it so pains them to be around the other members or the Pastor, that they cannot bring themselves to be in the same room.  To a true Christian this is a very, very difficult situation.  We are COMMANDED by GOD to not forsake his Church.  For some, the pain is so great, they would rather move on than remain in this situation.

2.  Respect of Leadership:  Pastors, teachers and leaders are brought to their positions, by God himself.  We are told by the Bible to respect and follow the leaders placed over us by our loving Father.   Is your relationship with your pastor healthy?  To have a healthy relationship you need to have the following in place:  Trust, Communication, Respect and Obedience.
The problem with a "divorce" is that one or all of these may be lacking between the member, the congregation and the pastor.   If you can't trust, communicate, respect or obey your Pastor, you need to let God work on your heart.  If you have prayed, fasted, and tried to deal with all these situations one to one with your Pastor, or through a group, and it still has not been satisfied, you may need to move on.  Here on some scriptures:

1 Timothy 5:17 ESV 

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

Hebrews 13:17 ESV / 

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

If you truly, and I mean TRULY have submitted yourself to the Lord and asked for his guidance on this, and he communicates to you that you cannot do this, than it is better off for you to leave than to add to the pain of the divorce.

Here are some other things to consider:  These are not my ideas, these are taken from, and written by James McBride.


Search The Scriptures

What a church teaches ought to reflect what the Scriptures teach. The source of Christian belief is the Word of God. How does your denomination meet the challenge?
To help you make a wise decision, ask yourself these questions.
Is Jesus Christ preached ? The heart of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ. Attitudes to him range from a dead formalism through to disrespectful chumminess. Yet it's only through Jesus Christ--his life, his sufferings, his cruel death on the tree--that we are reconciled to the Father. Only through him, through his shed blood, can our loathsome (to God) sin be freely forgiven upon our repentance. Only in him will we enter into eternal life. It's a personal decision which each of us must take.

Does my church reject clear Bible teachings? Some denominations, even on fundamental issues, cling blindly to tradition. Is this likely to change in your church--even after maybe several centuries of error? Changes, all too often, are away from the truth of the Bible!
Be sure to examine your church's teaching with the Bible in hand. It's your responsibility to get it right, not the pastor's who answers for his own error. God's Word is plain to those who want to understand! For example, have you personally sought out the Bible teaching on heaven--and hell? What about the immortality of the soul? And do you know on which days--weekly and annually--God says, in the Scriptures, He desires worship?

Do I dislike the pastor? We each differ in personality--clashes can occur! But the Christian Gospel promotes reconciliation, and you ought to exhaust every avenue to achieve it. We must seek peace with everyone one in the congregation, as much as is in our power. If there are no channels for reconciliation or there's an unbridgeable--and unbiblical--gap between leaders and laity, then this, too, must be considered.

Does my church express the spirit of Christ? All too many local churches and even whole denominations are spiritually dead. There's little chance to express Christian practice or to "grow in grace and knowledge". A living church will be a serving church showing concern for the spiritual and material welfare of its members and for the world around. It will be a learning church, continually growing in Bible understanding and the training of its membership. It will be an evangelizing church with an active program for taking the Gospel to the world. And it is strong on the ethical and behavioral aspects of the Christian faith.

Serve Christ

It's unlikely you will find a church with which you can agree one hundred per cent! And indeed there's no need to do so. For not all "knowledge" is vital to salvation.
There are, however, vital truths which distinguish the true from the false. Search the Scriptures. Discover what is truth. And wholeheartedly and energetically serve Jesus Christ where He is faithfully taught and expressed.


I hope this blog has given you some things to think about on your own thoughts about the spiritual divorce.  I hope some of this gives you hard things to think about, but also, maybe comfort in your own journey.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Divorce in the Church: What it does to God's Children Part 1

Before you click past this, read on.   This isn't what you think. What I am discussing today is when a Church becomes so broken, so dysfunctional that divorce is the only answer.  When you are tearing apart the children, after you have been through months of counseling, sometimes its better to walk away.  Stay with me on this, because its something very close to my heart right now. 

I know not everyone who reads this espouses what I believe when it comes to faith.  However, I think that everyone can at least understand what I am talking about and you might actually learn something from what I am about to say. In this analogy,  I am treating a Church, its Pastor and congregation, like a marriage.  It is said in the Bible that the Church is the bride of Christ.  So this isn't that far out of the realm for most Christians to understand.  So when I discuss things later on, its in this context. 

What really happens in a divorce?  What is the cause?  Sometimes its one spouse being unfaithful to another.  In this case, that isn't what I am discussing.  There is something more subtle and must more devastating, in my opinion.  It's because you fall out of love.  You fall out of love with the congregation, the Pastor, or ultimately, Christ himself.

Why does this happen?   Many will say that they have valid reasons why they fell out of love.  "He hurt me!"  "He said unkind things to me!"  "They are always bitter!"    Something that started as small gets churned up and becomes a major problem.  Then the sniping begins, the fighting and even the most well intentioned people can turn even the smallest things into major drama.   Each person thinks they are correct, they are the most injured party and the heart hardens.  In the meantime, the "children", or those that didn't start this drama, sit around being affected by snide comments, the unbending attitude and the lack of reality by those involved.  I will describe a few of the individuals and what they are like below.

1.  The Perpetually Offended:   This is the person that no matter what the individual they are angry at does, good or bad, they find a way to be offended by it.  This person may have had an originally valid reason to be upset, but they have discussed it, held onto and nurtured the hurt to a point where it is now a huge blot in their soul.  This type of person will read something like this and also be offended by it.  They have long lost the ability to forgive and they draw others into their black hole whenever they get the chance.  These people are poison to themselves and others.  The worst part is that they don't realize it, most of the time, they are so buried in themselves.  Some even think they are being offended in protection of others, because somehow those others can't defend themselves.  These people will have little or no ability to find a middle ground and forgiveness of the person that offended them is not an option.

2.  The Holier than Thou:  This is the person that doesn't think they have done anything wrong.  No matter what they are told or the amount of evidence they are given, they don't think they have hurt or wronged anyone in any way.  They even have Biblical back up for the way they have acted.  These people are highly controlling, slow or even resistant to suggestion, become aggressive when criticized and have no realization why anyone would find them at fault.  They will apologize when confronted, but will internally not mean it, because they find no reason to do it.  This person may be in a position of authority and will think that they need to be followed without question, even if they, themselves, do not do the things that they expect of others.

3.  The Innocent Bystander:  This is the person that may be oblivious to what is going on.  They find things about the way they always were and don't know why people just can't get along.  You will find many of these people elderly, or people who just don't want to get involved.  When the "divorce" progresses, these people will, unfortunately, get drawn in.

4. The Sniper:  These are people who might have been in group 1 or even in group 2, caused issues and then took off.  These people might have been deeply involved with starting the process leading to the divorce, but they set their time-bomb, packed up and left before it went off.   These people, unfortunately, are as much to blame as group 1 and 2 for the ultimate divorce.  They will also be similar to group 1 or 2 and think they had good reason to go what they did and take little responsibility for what happens later.  In their minds, their hands are clean because they left before they, personally, were the reason for the divorce.  These people may be genuinely contrite and like number 2 have Biblical reasons for doing what they did.  These people will also stay peripherally involved-sitting on their metaphorical roof top taking shots at the people still there. 

5.  Switzerland:  These are the people in the unenviable position of trying to ride the fence and be peace makers between all of the above.  Number 4's may have been number 5's at one point and decided, for whatever reason, to cut and run.  These people will have Biblical reasons for doing what they did, be people who hate conflict so much they will avoid it at any cost, or just want "Mom and Dad" to love each other like they used too.  These people are the type that figure if they can keep the trains running on time and the money where it needs to be, that eventually everything will be ok.  These people, unfortunately will probably become number 4's if pressed too hard.

6.  The Casualties:  These are number 1-5's, but number 1's will think they won if they get their way, as will number 2's.  Number 3's will continue to go along and the 4's and or 5's may or may not be the same.  Many will become the "walking wounded"  and will have to leave to just survive.  They will be permanently damaged by the whole process and may not be able to commit to another relationship for years to come.  No matter who wins, these people will find themselves losers. 

So what does all this mean in the context of a church divorce?    Jesus has words on how to deal with these situations, Let's look at Matthew first:  

Matthew Chapter 18

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

This is pretty clear.  Jesus states the way to deal with someone that has a trespass against you.  He doesn't say, "Go first and hash it out with your friends, talk about it on email, then draw someone else in to fight your battles for you"  does he?    The problem is, that all the numbers above may have tried this already and failed.  So now what do you do?  You need to analyze how bad the trespass is and then consider this:

Ephesians 4:32

Viewing the King James Version. Click to switch to 1611 King James Version of Ephesians 4:32.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Can you forgive the person?  According to Christ, you should.  But can you forget it?  Can you excuse it?  That is something you need to decide for yourself.  But what you can't do is become like the "Perpetually offended" and draw people into your black hole.  You can't be like the "holier than thou" and be oblivious to those around you with feelings.  If you want to leave, because you have become like the "walking wounded", don't be a "sniper" and remain on the side sending in volleys.

So if you are in this kind of situation, what do you do?  Nothing above is very Christian, in all honesty.  Divorce is prohibited in the Bible unless it is a case of adultery between a man and a woman.  But in some cases, divorce in a church may be necessary to save the children.  The problem then becomes, who divorces who?  When should it happen?    When I figure that out, I will let you know. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Take each day as it comes

Looked at my last post, wanted to update you all. I do indeed have PBC and its Stage 2, determined via biopsy. I seem to be doing well with my treatment and have more energy and less pain. I found out, also, that, as of now, I do not have any other autoimmune diseases. I also tested negative for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic test for breast and ovarian cancer. Now ahead of me is a fibroid that has been growing since January of last year. I have been monitoring it most of the year and get it retested in November. Along with normal screenings for other things, I hope my health life will calm down a little bit in 2015. On top of all this, I have been dealing with some personal things unrelated to my own health. A good friend of mine died of cancer in September. She died of metastisized liver cancer. It was sudden and hard to deal with. I can be an anxious person sometimes. I have embraced it and pray for guidance each day to overcome it. But I also find that my anxiety is less about things that will never happen as much as things that seem to be happening. Life can throw some serious curve balls into your little bubble. Between stresses at work, home, and church, I find that Ebola is now one of those things I have to concern myself with. Everyone says that I am overreacting to it, but I don't think so. But what I have learned through my Mother's illness and my own is that you have to take each day as it comes. In Phillipians 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" He may not always answer in the way you want Him to, but it is always what is in your best interest, if you are one of his children. So I take each day as it comes. I listen to Christ's words that each day has troubles of its own, so don't worry about the next day. So today, I will be satisfied that I am well, my husband is well, my father is well and those I care about are all alive today. Because tomorrow isn't promised. Only today.