Tag Archives: Paul

Worship Wednesday – Standing Firm, Side by Side, in Community, Not Afraid

Photo Credit: Philipp M., Pexels

[From the Archives]

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. – the Apostle Paul to the Philippian Church Philippians 1:27-28

God’s Word is powerful and freeing. We are emboldened and sustained by it – for life, for love, for forgiveness, for endurance.

Reading this passage recently, a charge from these words sizzled through me like electricity. Goosebumps and all.

Another translation of Paul’s writing introduced the above Scripture passage with the phrase “Just one thing”. We are living in confusing and shaky times, but God is unchanged. His truth is as riveting and reliable as when first written for us.

For months now, we have been kept apart by the social distancing of COVID-19. A year ago, we were brought together by the terrible loss of George Floyd. Brought together and at the same time torn apart. Protests and a pandemic. Racial unrest and a radical disease.

This time last year, a group of friends and I went through a Bible study together which turned out to be incredibly timely. We couldn’t be together so we met over a video call, working through Jennie Allen‘s Get Out of Your Head. In this book, Allen talks through our struggle with the kinds of thoughts that spiral downward taking us with them. The text she takes her readers through is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He was in prison and yet wrote this short life-transforming letter to encourage the church experiencing its own hardship.

In confusing and chaotic times, our thoughts can be our worst enemy. We juggle the “what if’s” until they become more than we can manage. We question what’s right, what’s true, what’s our place in all of it…what’s God’s place. We become suspicious of others’ motives, and even sometimes our own. We grow weary of sorting it all out. We can withdraw…making six feet apart way too easy.

Jennie Allen reminds us that we have a choice; we can flip the downward spiral. We can make our aim, in all things,God’s glory and His headship. Keeping our focus on God, we then seek peace, do justice, love even our enemies, and trust God with our lives (whether the threat is COVID and or violence in the streets).

“As theologian and emeritus professor D. A. Carson has observed, People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”Jennie Allen
So how do we avoid that drift Dr. Carson talked about above?
In community. Standing firm, side by side, not afraid – in God’s strength and His salvation – Philippians 1:27-28.
However, even if community is shaky, God never is. We remind ourselves and each other that He is our refuge and we never have to be shaken...no matter the situation.

Psalm 62 – Trust in God Alone

For the choir director; according to Jeduthan. A psalm of David

I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.

How long will you threaten a man?
Will all of you attack
as if he were a leaning wall
or a tottering fence?
They only plan to bring him down
from his high position.
They take pleasure in lying;
they bless with their mouths,
but they curse inwardly. Selah

Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge.Selah

Common people are only a vapor;
important people, an illusion.
Together on a scale,
they weigh less than a vapor.
Place no trust in oppression
or false hope in robbery.
If wealth increases,
don’t set your heart on it.

God has spoken once;
I have heard this twice:
Strength belongs to God,
and faithful love belongs to You, Lord.
For You repay each according to his works.Psalm 62

Worship Wednesday – Forgiveness in Friendly Fire – When We Sustain Wounds From Those We Love

An old Eagles song came on today and just ripped out my heart. It’s “Heart of the Matter” and it’s about heartache, brokenness, and forgiveness.

We expect attacks from those we know don’t care for us or, in fact, want us gone. They want our jobs or see us as threats, or they can’t stomach our beliefs or ideologies. These confrontations are a part of life and work and we take them in stride; hurtful as they may be, they are expected.

It’s the surprise attacks that catch us off-guard, especially when we come under-fire by those who should have our backs. “Friendly fire” is a phrase coined from military situations when something goes very wrong in battle, and a fellow soldier is wounded or killed by a comrade in arms. Too often, we have experienced the sting of friendly fire.

We may endure long periods of hardship at the hands of difficult bosses or through relentless attacks by acquaintances or colleagues who think very differently than we do. What happens, though, when those who believe as we do (in this case, fellow Christ-followers) fire on us…sometimes over and over again?  Here is where the breath is knocked out of us and we straighten up again, bewildered, disoriented, and deeply hurt.

This isn’t supposed to happen. As Christians, we know to love one another, even our enemies, to forgive without exception, and to bear with one another and be deferent toward each other. This is not the stuff of doormats or deer “in the headlights”. This is living life in community (whether, work, family, or church) as Jesus calls us to live. I think that’s why we’re caught off-balance when someone who identifies with Christ fires away at us…and especially if there’s no repentance of that “friendly fire”.

How are we to respond in those situations? In fact, how are we to live with our eyes wide open, knowing friendly fire happens, and understanding that we might be the perpetrator the same as anyone else.

Michael Milton wrote an excellent piece on this entitled Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You. If you are right now dressing the wounds of such an attack, his counsel may be hard to bear. The truth is, though, that the wounds you have right now will never really heal until you do what is necessary for a full recovery. In fact, as we follow Jesus’ example of enduring such attacks, then we can recover much quicker and refuse to retaliate ourselves. We also restrain from launching such barbs ourselves in the heat of some battle.

Milton offers 3 steps in responding when someone hurts you – and this someone can be a family member, friend, colleague or one in authority over you (a Christian boss or pastor).

Step 1 – Take up Your Cross – Followers of Christ are not kept from pain; it is part of our lives as much as it was part of the life of Christ Himself. Even looking back to Old Testament accounts, we see betrayal, deceit, and hurt of every kind. The story of Joseph (Genesis 50:15-21) sold by his brothers into slavery, and then falsely accused and placed in prison for years is a great example. Joseph would finally end up in a position of influence where he was able to save his whole family from famine. He told his terrified and repentant brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:15-21).

Milton points out the lesson of taking up our cross in the face of friendly fire: “Every sorrow, every act of treachery, every act of betrayal [becomes] a point of identification with Christ.” He calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). Even when we are hurt or offended or betrayed. “You and I are called to take up our cross in every way, including our relationships. It is true that you may be hurt, but you are a disciple of One who was betrayed, who was hurt, and you are no better than Jesus.” (Milton) As we wrestle with this truth, we actually move from being victims to victors in Christ.

Step 2 – Take Off Your Crown – When we are injured by another, we want that person to pay for it. We want to be in control of determining the punishment that person deserves. The truth is we are not sovereign, not in control; only God is. The crown of sovereign rule belongs to Him, and we really wouldn’t want it any other way. In the Genesis account, Joseph “escaped being a victim and became a victor by naming God, not as the author of evil, but the One who caused it to work together for good…The crucial step in coming to terms with any pain that has come against us, including getting hurt by someone close to us, is to say, ‘God, You are in control. What do You want me to learn?’” (Milton)

Step 3 – Go to Your Gethsemane – The Apostle Paul trusted God through his many hardships and imprisonments to use that suffering, sometimes at the hands of people who knew him well, to make him more like Jesus.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ..that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Paul (Philippians 3:8, 10)

Milton urged: “Gethsemane is the place where, like Jesus, like Paul, like Joseph, you come face-to-face with your crucifixion and with the fact that God is in control. If there is to be resurrection – a new life to emerge from the pain, the betrayal, the hurtful words – there must be a crucifixion, and if there is to be a crucifixion – by the Father for the good of many – there must be a Gethsemane moment when you say, ‘Not my will but yours.’ There must be a moment when you say, even when the shadow of pain is falling over you, ‘They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’

God loves us so much. He knows very intimately the pain of the cross. He knows the weight of sovereignty. He knows the deep surrender of a Gethsemane moment. He calls us to a life gloriously beyond being victims, or “walking wounded”. Milton closes his piece with this proclamation of truth: “He will transform you who have been hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, from a victim to a victor by trusting in the One who was hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, but who pronounced forgiveness from the cross. In Him there can be no more victims – only victors.”

We are to pray for one another – those who have come under friendly fire, for months or a moment – and those who have fired on another – to trust God to bring us through victoriously…for His glory and our good…for the good of all of us. When we forgive, as He has forgiven us, He is glorified.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You by Michael Milton

8 Responses to Friendly Fire by Jim Stitzinger

My Story by Jenny – Surviving Friendly Fire by Ronald Dunn

Surviving Friendly Fire – How to Respond When You’re Hurt by Someone You Trust by Ronald Dunn

Blog - Friendly Fire

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Worship Wednesday – No Longer Slaves – Voices of Lee

Photo Credit: A Christian Pilgrim

In the dark and confusing times of my life, I have clung to these words in 2 Timothy 1:7 and taken comfort. The Apostle Paul wrote them to his young friend and son in the faith Timothy. Paul had experienced all the persecution of that day and was in what he knew would be his last imprisonment before being executed. His words to Timothy were deeply personal and rang with faith and hope…even in the face of suffering.

We are but frail humanity…very like this one, Paul. He was chained and isolated in his imprisonment, yet his spirit was free because of what he knew to be true. He was no longer a slave to a religion or a political entity. His current situation was brought on by tenacious obedience to the call of Christ. Therefore, he took confidence in the unseen – the presence of God Himself in that darkness, the work of God in his life, and the continued Gospel influence he had, even from prison. His identity was in Christ…he was a secured child of God.

That truth helped him endure the cold dungeon, the isolation from those closest to him, and the storm of his own thoughts.

Whatever our situation today, we have the same provision of God as did Paul years before us. As did the children of Israel, when they stepped onto the dry bed of the Red Sea, parted by almighty God.

Fear presses in on us and speaks lies. Fear tells us our situation is hopeless. Fear mocks the work of God in our lives. Fear takes what is seen and magnifies it over the magnificent work going on in the unseen of our lives.

The very good news is that fear will not prevail. It does not displace truth. It does not cancel faith. It may waylay us for a time, or sideline us for a moment, but God in His great goodness draws us to Himself and speaks love to our wearied hearts and minds.

[Sidebar: I find women more than men talk of the struggle with fear. My husband concurred that men think about fear as having to do with physical danger…If physical danger isn’t a present cause for fear, then men wrestle more with their private battles…alone. God knows our hearts…that fear of failure, or fear of being stuck somehow…the mental struggle that takes away our joy. He wants to restore that joy…and the peace that comes in remembering His love and provision.]

The songwriters of Bethel Music have given us a great anthem to God’s truth as demonstrated in His deliverance from fear. We are His children, and He is a father like no other.

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 118:6

Worship with me (link to lyric video) to No Longer Slaves, performed by the Voices of Lee. [A HD version of the song is here, with lyrics below.]

[Verse 1]
You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
‘Til all my fears are gone

[Chorus]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

[Verse 2]
From my mother’s womb, You have chosen me
Your love has called my name
I’ve been born again into Your family
Your blood flows through my veins

[Chorus]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

[Bridge]
You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I can stand and sing
I am a child of God
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(You split the sea so I could walk right through it)
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(My fears were drowned in perfect love)
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(You rescued me so I can stand and sing)
To break every chain, to break every chain
To break every chain
(I am a child of God)
To break every chain, to break every chain
To break every chain
He breaks every chain, He breaks every chain
He breaks every chain
We’re no longer slaves, we’re no longer slaves
We’re no longer slaves
He broke every chain
We’re no longer slaves
We’re children of God

[Chorus]
You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love (perfect love)
You rescued me so I can stand and sing
I am a child of God (hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)
I am a child of God (hallelu-hallelu-hallelujah)
(We’re no longer slaves!)
I am a child of God*

In the official lyric video**, the song plays against a visual background of a well-trodden path on the edge of a mountain. To the right, as the viewer moves along the path, there is a sharp decline which seems to fall down to the deep valley. For someone with a fear of heights, my eyes are drawn away from the path down that steep cliff. This is the struggle for those of us who fear. That’s why God calls us to keep our eyes on Him, and on the path He has provided for us…and to remember the truth. “Stay on target!” is an adage (from Star Wars) that our family uses to remind ourselves. Stay on target!

*Lyrics to No Longer Slaves as Performed by Voices of Lee – written by Brian Johnson, Jonathan David Helser, Joel Case (Bethel Music)

YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves – Voices of Lee – Lyrics

**YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves –  Official Lyric Video – Jonathan David & Melissa Helser – We Will Not Be Shaken

YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves (Song Story) – Jonathan & Melissa Helser – We Will Not Be Shaken

Worship Wednesday – Anxiety, Holding On, & Reclaiming Perspective – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – Take My Life – Here Am I – Chris Tomlin

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Romans 12:1

Don’t you love answered prayer? Even if it’s surprisingly different than what you were thinking. A week ago, in our community group (home group of Movement Church), I shared a struggle during the prayer time. My request was for God to restore a season of influence in my life…that I might influence others for good as had been my experience in times in the past. I was looking back and not forward, and my sense of what a life should be at my age and situation was different than how I saw it at present. Different and lacking?

Sigh…God have mercy…and…He did.

Those dear friends of mine listened, empathized, loved and prayed.

Then Sunday, at our time of corporate worship, there was great singing…and great revelation. The songs included How Wonderful, How Marvelous; Take My Life/Here Am I (which I’ll come back to); and To the Ends of the Earth. These were the kind of songs that call a people to revival…to hearts and lives poured out to God and for the nations.

On Sunday morning, I wasn’t thinking about that longing of my heart to be an influence for good, but God must have been. When our teaching pastor, Cliff Jordan, preached, I sensed the movement of God in my heart so strong, it was as if the message was just for me.

Cliff preached out of John 21 where Jesus appeared to His disciples during the days after His resurrection. Sitting around a cook-fire, Jesus ate fish with His friends, fish they had caught in a miraculous fashion (John 21:3-6). In a tender moment, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him…to which Peter answered in the affirmative. Three times Jesus asked, and three times Peter answered. The awful memory of his previous three denials of Jesus must have burned in Peter’s throat. Each time, Peter answered yes that he loved Jesus, and then Jesus told him to feed His sheep. No fanfare, no illusion of Peter’s excellent abilities to do so. Just a simple command, in the end, to follow Him.

In those quiet moments of intimate fellowship between sinner and Savior, Peter had to have felt the love of Jesus. Still in his impetuous, striving nature, he posed a question to Jesus about His will for another disciple (John 21:20-22). Again, Jesus drew Peter’s attention, not to what that disciple would be about, but what Jesus’s call was on Peter’s life. “You follow Me.”

Through Cliff’s sermon and those three words, the answer to my prayer rang from Heaven. It doesn’t matter my season of life or even what others, in my age or situation, are doing or how they are being used by God. I am to be about loving and following Jesus.

Even tonight, a friend reminded me of the story of the Apostle Paul’s incarceration which he entrusted himself into God’s hands. In Paul’s letter from prison to the church at Philippi, he spoke these words:

I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:  The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;  but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.Philippians 1:12-18

That friend who spoke truth into my heart has also struggled, as have I, with a season where it seems God has put us on some sort of shelf, or on the sideline. Oh, glorious truth, in every season, He calls us to follow Him. Paul, for months, chained to a prison guard, saw the truth. His ministry was not diminished in the least. It was only different…and his focus? Ever on the Lord. That is the key…for me.

Since Sunday’s gathering of our church right through tonight, I have been in revival. That old time revival where God’s Spirit would shake the rafters of a building or the folds of a big tent with the prayers, singing and preaching of His people. Where, of course, we would “sing another verse” until He had finished whatever work He was doing in the lives of every person present.

Photo Credit: Milanoapi

My children do not have revival meetings as part of their heritage. I wish they had…and maybe they will sometime in their future. I am thankful for growing up in the South when protracted revival meetings broke up hot summers into joyous returnings of hearts to follow Jesus.

Hymn-writer Frances Ridley Havergal wrote the lyrics to Take My Life and Let It Be in 1874. She along with Fanny Crosby and others wrote the hymns that stirred our devotion to God. In fact, these hymn-writers’ lyrics flamed the fires of revival across our world. The deep prayers of the faithful and the strong preaching of the churchmen in the 1800s and 1900s were all part of that.

Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio adapted the lyrics and melody of Take My Life and Let It Be for the worshipers of this generation.

Worship with me.

Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing always, only for my King
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use every power as You choose

Here am I, all of me, take my life, it’s all for Thee

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love, my Lord I pour at Your feet, it’s treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee*

*Lyrics to Take My Life/Here Am I – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin & Louis Giglio; adapted from the hymn composed by Frances Ridley Havergal

Hymn Stories: Take My Life and Let it Be – Tim Challies

Songs & Scripture: “Take My Life (And Let It Be)” (Chris Tomlin, Frances Ridley Havergal, Henri Abraham Cesar Malan, Louie Giglio) – Scriptural foundations to hymn lyrics

Photo Credit: Baptist Hymnal, Hymnary

Friendly Fire in the Family of God – How to Go Forward When You Are Hit by Surprise

Blog - Friendly Fire - thecripplegate

Photo Credit: The CrippleGate

We expect attacks from those we know don’t care for us or, in fact, want us gone. They want our jobs or view us as threats, or they can’t stomach our beliefs or ideologies. These confrontations are a part of life and work and we take them in stride; hurtful as they may be, they are expected.

It’s the surprise attacks that catch us off-guard, especially when we come under-fire by those who should have our backs. “Friendly fire” is a phrase coined from military situations when something goes very wrong in battle, and a fellow soldier is wounded or killed by a comrade in arms. Too often, we have experienced the sting of friendly fire.

We may endure long periods of hardship at the hands of difficult bosses or through relentless attacks by acquaintances or colleagues who think very differently than we do. What happens, though, when those who believe as we do (in this case, fellow Christ-followers or true believers) fire on us…sometimes over and over again?  Here is where the breath is knocked out of us and we straighten up again, bewildered, disoriented, and hurt deeply.

This isn’t supposed to happen. As Christians, we know to love one another, even our enemies, to forgive without exception, and to bear with one another and be deferent toward each other. This is not the stuff of doormats or deer “in the headlights”. This is living life in community (whether, work, family, or church) as Jesus calls us to live. I think that’s why we’re caught off-balance when someone who identifies with Christ fires away at us…and especially if there’s no repentance of that “friendly fire”.

How are we to respond in those situations? In fact, how are we to live with our eyes wide open, knowing friendly fire happens, and understanding that we might be the perpetrator the same as anyone else.

Michael Milton wrote an excellent piece on this entitled Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You. If you are right now dressing the wounds of such an attack, his counsel may be hard to bear. The truth is, though, that the wounds you have right now will never really heal until you do what is necessary for a full recovery. In fact, as we follow Jesus’ example of enduring such attacks, then we can recover much quicker and refuse to retaliate ourselves. We also restrain from launching such barbs ourselves in the heat of some battle.

Milton offers 3 steps in responding when someone hurts you – and this someone can be a family member, friend, colleague or one in authority over you (a Christian boss or pastor).

Step 1 – Take up Your Cross – Followers of Christ are not kept from pain; it is part of our lives as much as it was part of the life of Christ Himself. Even looking back to Old Testament accounts, we see betrayal, deceit, and hurt of every kind. The story of Joseph (Genesis 50:15-21) sold by his brothers into slavery, and then falsely accused and placed in prison for years is a great example. Joseph would finally end up in a position of influence where he was able to save his whole family from famine. He told his terrified and repentant brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:15-21).

Milton points out the lesson of taking up our cross in the face of friendly fire: “Every sorrow, every act of treachery, every act of betrayal [becomes] a point of identification with Christ.” He calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). Even when we are hurt or offended or betrayed. “You and I are called to take up our cross in every way, including our relationships. It is true that you may be hurt, but you are a disciple of One who was betrayed, who was hurt, and you are no better than Jesus.” (Milton) As we wrestle with this truth, we actually move from being victims to victors in Christ.

Step 2 – Take Off Your Crown – When we are injured by another, we want that person to pay for it. We want to be in control of determining the punishment that person deserves. The truth is we are not sovereign, not in control; only God is. The crown of sovereign rule belongs to Him, and we really wouldn’t want it any other way. In the Genesis account, Joseph “escaped being a victim and became a victor by naming God, not as the author of evil, but the One who caused it to work together for good…The crucial step in coming to terms with any pain that has come against us, including getting hurt by someone close to us, is to say, “God, You are in control. What do You want me to learn?” (Milton)

Step 3 – Go to Your Gethsemane – The Apostle Paul trusted God through his many hardships and imprisonments to use that suffering, sometimes at the hands of people who knew him well, to make him more like Jesus.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ..that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Paul (Philippians 3:8, 10)

Milton urged: “Gethsemane is the place where, like Jesus, like Paul, like Joseph, you come face-to-face with your crucifixion and with the fact that God is in control. If there is to be resurrection – a new life to emerge from the pain, the betrayal, the hurtful words – there must be a crucifixion, and if there is to be a crucifixion – by the Father for the good of many – there must be a Gethsemane moment when you say, ‘Not my will but yours.’ There must be a moment when you say, even when the shadow of pain is falling over you, ‘They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’

God loves us so much. He knows very intimately the pain of the cross. He knows the weight of sovereignty. He knows the deep surrender of a Gethsemane moment. He calls us to a life gloriously beyond being victims, or “walking wounded”. Milton closes his piece with this proclamation of truth: “He will transform you who have been hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, from a victim to a victor by trusting in the One who was hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, but who pronounced forgiveness from the cross. In Him there can be no more victims – only victors.”

I pray for us all who have come under friendly fire, for months or a moment, to trust God to bring us through victoriously…for His glory and our good…for the good of all of us.

Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You by Michael Milton

Christian Friendly Fire: With “Friendly-Enemies” Like These Who Needs Christianity? by Kevin Benton

8 Responses to Friendly Fire by Jim Stitzinger

My Story by Jenny – Surviving Friendly Fire by Ronald Dunn

Surviving Friendly Fire – How to Respond When You’re Hurt by Someone You Trust by Ronald Dunn

Blog - Friendly Fire

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Monday Morning Moment – Stewarding Our Influence Well

Blog - Influence - Alex & Stephen KendrickBlog - Influence - Tony Dungy Son - BPNews net (3)Photo Credit: BPNews.net

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1

We are all influencers in one way or another. How we steward our influence is strongly affected by those who have influenced us.

[This Monday morning moment has a spiritual bent, but the principles apply, whatever your belief system. It would be disingenuous for me to write about influence without including the impact of following Christ and Christ-followers in the mix. Thanks for your understanding of this.]

When I was in graduate school, my days were heavily committed to class time, clinical work, research and writing. Meeting with my thesis advisor was a regular “intrusion” into that schedule. For weeks, I would arrive late to our meetings, excusing myself always with some sort of “more important” fill-in-the-blank.  Communicating “more important than our time together”. My advisor was one of the most gracious women I’ve ever known. She was always spot-on ready for our meeting, having read my latest submission, with her notes in hand. If ever I was “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants”, it was with her.

Finally, one day, without warning, she nailed my tardiness for what it was…and I will never forget her for that. She taught me so much about professionalism and excellence in practice, but she taught me most in this area of honoring a colleague. I will always be grateful to Rose McGee for that.

Since those early years in my professional life, there have been many influencers in my life. Bosses, supervisors, coworkers. Some influencers had more celebrity status, but because they wrote for people like me, I soaked up their wisdom.Blog - Influence - Priscilla Shirer - BPNews net (2)Photo Credit: BPNews.net

Ben Kirksey recently wrote a short piece entitled Are You Worthy of Workplace Imitation?. It got me thinking of how my own workplace processes have changed because of those mentors, friends, and coaches in my life. 7 points of stewardship came to mind:

  1. Time – We all have the same amount. Honoring others’ time does matter – being interruptible, not shortchanging people, keeping and being present in meetings. It’s a balancing act, but we want to be dependable and resourceful in this area.
  2. Tweaking – only when absolutely necessary. Show you value others’ work. Give up control whenever possible. Whenever possible, trust their ownership of their work.
  3. More questions/Less Advice – We jump to advice (or direction). Learning to ask thoughtful and compelling questions is a discipline worthy of our time and effort. Jesus was masterful at this.
  4. Genuine Affirmation – To be truly known is such an empowering gift. General praise or cheery compliments are nothing compared with informed and specific affirmation. You affirm my thinking and hard work on a problem, and I will apply myself even more.
  5. Building Capacity – Investing in others’ success at work while, at the same time, expecting the most out of yourself, builds capacity all around. This collective commitment to the work and each other delivers. Building capacity is a “both/and” arrangement. We can’t cast vision for it effectively, without digging in ourselves.
  6. Leading by Influence – I have rarely enjoyed a position of authority…it is by influence that I have both learned and led in life. Authority has its own cross to bear in that the responsibility for return on investment sometimes interferes with relationships. Too bad, really. It’s through the relationships that we can see a greater return…as we steward influence.
  7. Perspective – I will never forget a workplace story about a creative director and his lead creative. They rarely agreed. In fact, as the younger man tells the story, their discussions could become very heated over the direction of any given project. Then there would come a moment when his boss would say, something like, “Let’s get some coffee.” or “It’s lunch time, let’s grab a bite to eat.” No matter the seriousness of the conversations, this older man was able to bring relational perspective to bear. Their relationship was more valuable than any project decision. I daresay the work didn’t suffer from this perspective.

I am so grateful for those who have influenced my work. As mentioned before, they include some whom I have never met physically. The Apostles Paul and Peter, and Jesus himself teach us volumes on stewarding influence well.

Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.1 Peter 5:2-3

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:3-8

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:8-9

Do you have a story of an influencer in your life and how that person changed the way you work? I would love to hear it through the Comments below.Blog - Influence - Jesus

Are You Worthy of Workplace Imitation? by Ben Kirksey

The People Skills of Jesus by William Beausay II

The Management Methods of Jesus by Bob Briner

“You Are the Man!” – What if I Really Am That Guy? That Weaker Brother, That Hypocrite, That Proud Religious Guy

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During today’s worship and Bible teaching with Movement Church, God touched my heart again with the story of Stephen, the very first martyred Christ-follower (Acts 6-7). Stephen’s serving and prophetic ministry was short and effective. He was used mightily by God to confront the religious establishment of that day…the very people who were instrumental in Christ’s crucifixion. Stephen would lose his life as well at the hands of these defiant religious men.

Our first-born son was to be named Stephen after this man of God. My niece was pregnant at the same time and claimed that name first for her son. So we looked for another name of a man who loved God more than man, who spoke God’s truth no matter the cost. Our son was given the name Nathan, after a prophet that God used to wake up King David from a terrible self-deception. After David had taken another man’s wife, murdering that man to cover his own sin, Nathan told a story to David which brought him to his senses and caused him to repent.

David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.” Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul…'”2 Samuel 12:5,7

…Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 2 Samuel 12:13

I am deeply thankful for the prophets of the Bible and God’s prophets today. A prophet is defined as a messenger of God – “The great task assigned to the prophets whom God raised up among the people was “to correct moral and religious abuses, to proclaim the great moral and religious truths which are connected with the character of God, and which lie at the foundation of his government.”

When our pastor, Cliff Jordan, preached on Stephen today, I was reminded of how God draws us to Himself and the truth of His Word through others – these who become messengers of God in our lives.

My heart was pierced at the times I have read Scripture and chose to see myself as the one without fault…the one who was “in the right” as compared to that “other guy” who fell short…in my estimation, if not God’s. As Cliff preached on Stephen, that passage and two others resonated as to how we allow deceit in our lives. You may recognize these passages and persons…from one side or the other.

  1. The Weaker Brother – In this passage, Paul challenged the “stronger brother” to resist using his freedom in Christ as a stumbling block for the weaker brother who struggles with whether he’s free or not.

“Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”Romans 14:20-22

Sometimes, we are that “weaker brother”. It helps to remember that…it keeps us humble and dependent on God and each other. He means for us to reason together in love to understand the ways of God and how to follow Him…together.

2. The Hypocrite – With the Log in His Eye – Jesus tells a story about judging each other unrighteously. There is a right judging – as we have seen through the prophets in the Word and in our lives. We usually think we are God’s messenger in others’ lives to get “the speck” out of their eyes..and sometimes to get the “log out”.

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”Matthew 7:3-5

Maybe we are the one with the log in our eyes. The most loving thing we can do for that brother or sister is to help them rid themselves of “the speck”, but we can’t help them until we get rid of our own “log”…or own sin, or hypocrisy, or self-deceit. In proceeding this way, we are given a priceless opportunity to walk humbly in community with each other.

3. The Religious Establishment – When Stephen faced the religious authorities of his day, he was in excellent company. Jesus had faced these same men in a hurried trial with his death as the goal of the proceedings. Stephen had to know that his life was at stake. In a riveting review of the history of Israel, he spoke forcefully to the pattern over the centuries of the religious rejecting the ones God sent to them. Such arrogance. God help us!

“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.”Acts7:51-52

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Stephen was martyred for his message, but he was not silenced. His witness to a holy God is as powerful today as it was that day he passed from life, through death, to be with God in Heaven. Hallelujah! We are called to be such witnesses to a living, loving God.

After Cliff closed the teaching in prayer, the worship team led us in singing “I Surrender All“. More than anything in my life, I want to live a life worthy of God – to be courageous, to love truth, to serve others, to always remember my need for a Savior – to live a life that points others to Jesus…not because I am perfect, far from it…but because He is.2015 Nov - Phone Pics - Sadie, Movement, Church, Sunset, Blob 007

[Have to include this YouTube video – of a time when celebrity Oprah Winfrey had a I Surrender All moment when she submitted a deep desire to God. Faith Hill belts it from her own experience.]

Worship Wednesday – ‘Tis the Season – What’s at Stake When We Indulge In Attacking Each Other

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“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”Jesus, John 13:34-35

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”Jesus, Matthew 7:3-5

Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”Paul, Romans 14:20-22

The “happy holidays” are upon us – juxtaposed against a landscape of polarizing political campaigns and various divisive protests and boycotts. In a season of the year (for us in the USA, in particular), we could enjoy warm community and loving unity, even when we differ on some things. Yet, we still divide ourselves up into various camps.

Where are we to land in all of this as Christ-followers?

For sure, it is not in attacking those who are not like us or who may be like us but differ in preference or opinion. Especially, we who call the name of Jesus as Savior – we have no ground to stand on in attacking each other…ever.

So why do we do it? There is this soul satisfaction that comes with feeling right, or smarter, or more cool, or culture-savvy. A soulish satisfaction from which God has actually called us, and toward something extraordinarily better. A unity, a bond of love. A love by which we are known to the rest of the world as followers of Jesus. Here there is even ground for all of us, the weaker brother and the stronger one (that one who becomes weaker when he taunts or shames the other). Jesus calls us to deal with our own flawed perspective (“log”) before we can help dislodge the painful speck from our brother’s eye.

Do we really care about the other, that one God calls us to love as we love ourselves? Do we show that love to the world when we treat those with whom we disagree with the same derision or contempt as the world does? Or worse? Are we keeping company with arrogant haters or are we becoming one? When we publically part company with believers who are offended by what we consider silly matters, what is at stake?

You may ask, “what about those hate-filled people who call themselves Christians and who protest all sorts of things, based on their “Christian” sensibilities?”. Still…Scripture is clear how we are to treat them…Jesus calls us to love even our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-45)

“If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”Jesus, Mark 3:25

There is much to lose and much more to gain in wrestling successfully with this dilemma – exposed in our private conversations and public (un-social) media.

Voices of Wisdom to help us – Keep Unity, Guard Community – Choosing to Love, Refusing to Shame

Blog - House Divided - Scott Sauls

Scott Sauls is the author of Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides . He has also written the richest piece on this whole shaming and raging culture that colors us as Christ-followers, if we partake in its rank hatefulness. In fact, I can’t even quote from his article, because I want you to read it…please. It is a quick but full read on identifying the problem, and seeing what is the truth of how we are to live, in the example of a living, flesh-and-blood human-like-us man, Tim Keller. Please…read Scott’s article. Transforming.

Christians are in many ways a band of opposites, who over time grow to love one another through the centering, unifying love of Jesus…sincere believers can disagree on certain matters, sometimes quite strongly, and still maintain great respect and affection for one another…I don’t know where I would be without the influence of others who see certain non-essentials differently than I do..In non-essentials, liberty. And to this we might add an open-minded receptivity. We must allow ourselves to be shaped by our ‘other’ brothers and sisters for Jesus’ sake. We will be the richer for it.” – Scott Sauls

“This great passion for souls [Romans 9:1-3] gave Paul perspective. Lesser things did not trouble him because he was troubled by a great thing – the souls of men. ‘Get love for the souls of men’ – then you will not be whining about a dead dog, or a sick cat, or about the crotchets of a family, and the little disturbances that John and Mary may make by their idle talk. You will be delivered from petty worries (I need not further describe them) if you are concerned about the souls of men…Get your soul full of a great grief, and your little griefs will be driven out. – Charles Spurgeon – Spurgeon Gems, p. 7-8

“I will never get why we defend our chicken sandwiches and our gingerbread lattes but we won’t take a stand for the things that actually matter to God. Are we loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? Are we obeying God in our personal lives? Are we defending and providing for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant? Are we sharing the hope we have in Christ? That’s pretty much our full job description.” – Angela

Blog - House Divided - Jonathanpearson.net

Photo Credit: JonathanPearson.net

What I Came To Respect Most About Tim Keller (Even More Than His Preaching) by Scott Sauls

We Disagree, Therefore I Need You by Scott Sauls

Jesus Outside the Lines – a Way Forward for Those who are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls

What Stops Our Fighting? by Tony Reinke

Worship Wednesday – The Story of God in the Acts of the Apostles – God with Us – MercyMe

Blog - Acts of the Apostles - film - YouTubePhoto Credit: YouTube.com

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. – Acts 4:13

I wasn’t born into the Christian faith. As much as it was possible to be alien from God, this was my experience as a child. When a neighbor invited us to her church, we went, essentially immigrants from a foreign land. The kindness of these strangers and the teaching from God’s Word were food and drink to this tired and hungry child’s heart. Even in the few years of my life, I knew the futility of trying to be good and the failure of relying on people for love (except for my Mom). I was a fairly messed-up 8y/o…and then I met Jesus.

That’s why the account of the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible is so riveting. These were not people who just believed in some religious leader or holy book. These were people who intimately knew Jesus. They had spent long days with him…they knew his habits; they saw him at his most tired; they witnessed how his living reflected the truth of his teaching. They were astonished at the miracles he performed and changed themselves by the love he lavished on both the poor and the proud. No wonder they were so bold in their witness, even to the point of death. “They had been with Jesus”.

A Greek physician named Luke penned the letter that we call Acts of the Apostles. In the first line of the letter he mentions another book he wrote, that being the Gospel of Luke. In the Gospel, he delivers a detailed story of the life and teaching of Jesus.

Between these two books, Acts and the Gospel of Luke, you can have a good start at understanding – who Jesus was/is and how the church began. Through the eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ followers.

All of Scripture is a revelation of God. He speaks of Who He is through all the stories – from the books of Genesis to Revelation.

David Teague wrote a profound piece on The Biblical Metanarrative. Written especially for post-moderns, Teague takes the reader, step-by-step through the unity of the story across the Bible – the story of God. I read his article a couple of times, first as a witness to the truth of what he’s saying and again as one who might be skeptical or ignorant of Scripture. I really encourage you to read this article, whatever your current thinking is on God. It’s an easy read, and you will find it profitable.

We are reading through the Book of Acts this month at Movement Church. I love reading out loud the case for Christ made by three followers of Christ in particular – Stephen, Peter, and Paul. Their boldness comes out of relationship not scholarship. They give a shoulders-squared, hearts-resolved first-hand account of Jesus – as Emmanuel, God with us.

He is with us still…

Worship with me.

Who are we, That You would be mindful of us
What do You see, That’s worth looking our way
We are free, In ways that we never should be
Sweet release, From the grip of these chains
Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing

All that is within me cries, For You alone be glorified
Emmanuel, God with us
My heart sings a brand new song
The debt is paid these chains are gone
Emmanuel, God with us

Lord You know, Our hearts don’t deserve Your glory
Still You show, A love we cannot afford
Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing

Such a tiny offering compared to Calvary
Nevertheless we lay it at Your feet.*

The Biblical Metanarrative – The Story of God in a Postmodern World

YouTube Video – The Acts of the Apostles (Visual Bible) – Script of film is all Scripture (NIV).

*Behind the Song God With Us – with Kevin Davis

Story Behind the Song God With Us (GodTube Video)

The Speeches in Acts

Give Church Another Try – 7 Things to Consider in a Community Where You Can Thrive

Blog - ChurchBlog - Church People

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

When I was a child, we learned this little fingerplay about church. “Here’s the church; here’s the steeple; open the doors, and see all the people.” As an adult, church has become less about a place, or steeple, and more about people. So the fingerplay I teach children now about church says only “Here’s the church” – with the two hands, palms up, with intertwined fingers. That’s church. There are three things I see in that visual that are good to remember: 1) Palms up – we need God. Church is about God. 2) Fingers – we are all people (stay with me). 3) Intertwined – we get close, which means we know each other very well, too well sometimes (unless grace is always applied). With people, church can get messy. We are all those people.

There are people I love who have walked away from church, citing, “They’re all a bunch of hypocrites.” Seriously? Aren’t they right where they need to be? An old saying goes, “Church is a hospital for sinners.” Maybe it’s also a rehab program for hypocrites… Either way, if I’ve given up on church, then at some level, I’m giving up on God. He loves His church, and we, as followers of Christ, are a part of that church He loves. To leave it, because of the hypocrites, the legalists, the gossips, the other sinners…just. like. us…is not the answer.

We left a church ourselves. The details won’t help this narrative. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t wish the down side of that experience on my worst enemy. It wasn’t just our down side, or that of others who left…it was the pain and confusion of those whom we left as well.  We would have had that go very differently, if we had had the freedom to do so… That sort of leaving doesn’t heal easily, and the wounds break open as easily as a social media post reminding us that we are not in each other’s lives anymore.

That’s just so wrong. Jesus let nothing or no one keep him from his Father’s House. The Temple, in those days. My desire is to always follow His lead in life. We’ve learned a lot, some of it painfully, about church in recent years. There are writers on this subject far more wise and eloquent than I (just a few of whom wrote the pieces linked below). However, I would be so grateful if God allowed me to help someone be restored to His church. Also, for anyone who has never really been in a church community, maybe it would help to know what to consider.

Here’s my Quick List of 7 Things to Consider in Searching Out a Church Community. As you peruse a church website, or listen to a pastor/teaching elder’s podcast, or visit a worship service or community group, think about this:

1) Love for God – His Word is taught in ways you are meant to apply both inside and outside church. Worship is really about Him, not just a stage show. Humility, not arrogance, is apparent in handling God’s Word and His church. Prayer, not just for stuff, but to purely enjoy His presence is a sign of a God-centered church.

2) Love for people – The church operates out of a clear desire to creatively express God’s love to people in the church and community, neighbors to nations. It’s not just about that church’s presence or preeminence (superiority) in a town or city, but the goal is to be about Kingdom work – God’s Kingdom, not that church’s. Look to see if the church cooperates with other believers, other churches, other organizations to serve its city and the world. Partnerships tell you a lot about a church. Prayer opportunities, too.

3) Decision-making in the church – Who gives input for strategy or direction? Is the polity (or church governing) the pastor or elder rule? Or is there a clear flow between church leaders and the congregation? Is servant leadership development of all a part of the vision of the church? Can you get a sense of “the priesthood of the believers” (1 Peter 2:9) – where there is “safety in a multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11:14)? Elder ruled vs. elder led churches both have Biblical support. A lot has to do with accountability and the leaders themselves.

4) Discipleship Throughout Ages and Stages – What happens on Sundays is vital, but it is just a part of church life as a whole. What opportunities does the church promote for growing in the Lord and serving Him both locally and globally? Pre-discipleship can start with young children, and discipleship continues through all life stages (we are grateful to know people in their 80s still serving actively in church). Young moms desperately need discipleship, too. Churches that make that happen must really please God.

5) Finances and Stewardship – What happens with the money that is given through the church? Who decides how it’s used? These answers may not be easily discovered. Is the budget presented by or published to the congregation? Or are the financial decisions made wholly by the elders? Is missions giving encouraged? Is sacrificial giving a pattern in the church? Not just for paying salaries or managing the operation of the church, but for critical needs beyond the church.

5) Church Membership – What are the steps to becoming a member of the church? Maybe you’re thinking you aren’t interested in church membership. Still this is something to consider. What are requirements of the members? Do they have to sign anything (a church covenant, a giving pledge, etc.)? [Signing your agreement/commitment can be a good thing, but realize things can change in the church such that what you signed can mean something different as part of that change. So just be aware…] What are the privileges of membership (teaching, children’s ministry, etc.)? What are the responsibilities of membership? These speak to the priorities of the church. They also speak to leadership/authority. Are members held with open hands, recognizing we belong to God first and then the Body?

6) Church Discipline – You may think that churches don’t all have a church discipline protocol. That may be true. I am thinking that church discipline is part of most churches, whether spoken/written or not. How does one even look for how the church does discipline? The sermons can give some sense of what is “tolerated” or not. That’s a sad thing to have to say, but we all know the expression “bully pulpit” which can happen in churches as well as in politics. Shunning is prescribed rarely in Scripture (Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 5:11, Titus 3:9-11). Honestly, if a church uses shunning as a discipline, I would run. It would require the church to have such humility and such wisdom. Who is able, over months or years, to do it with a pure heart? Jesus taught on discipline in the church in Matthew 18:15-20. It’s so like Him to place that teaching between the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the unforgiving servant. Think about it.

7) Style and Substance – Be careful you don’t make a decision about a church based on some element of style rather than substance. Just say, you don’t care for the style of worship. Or the preaching goes a little long. Or…fill in the blank. No church is going to be “perfect” because the church is made up of people, like you and me. Just don’t miss the church God has for you over something that matters so little. What does matter is that you get yourself in a situation where you can grow in knowing God, where you can serve Him and those around you as part of the church, and where you can heal…from whatever got you out of church. Don’t let that experience define your life. Please.

Just, please, give church another try. Do you know the story (Acts 15:36-40) about the Apostle Paul and his ministry partner, Barnabas and how they had a huge disagreement about another young partner, John Mark? Sometimes, disagreements happen – so strong, in fact, that maybe they can’t do ministry together for a season. Does that mean either of them are “the bad guys”? Paul even came to a place, near the time of his death, that he asked for John Mark to come to him (2 Timothy 4:11).  The Scripture doesn’t tell us whether either Paul or Barnabas was right or wrong. Yet, we are left with a huge door of reconciliation open to us in their story.

May it always be so with us – to the glory of God and for the sake of His Kingdom.

Jesus, you were once broken apart. You know how it feels to be so shattered by the good-byes of life. Help me to believe that I will one day experience wholeness again, that I will not have this terrible feeling of being torn into many pieces. Keep reminding me often that the Father raised you to new life, to a powerful wholeness that you had not known before. Encourage me to believe that, in time, I will no longer have this deep pain and hurt in my heart. I want to believe. Help my unbelief! Amen. – Joyce Rupp, Prayer for Wholeness in Praying Our Goodbyes

Healthy Church vs. Toxic Church – Bart’s Barometer (Bart Breen)

9 Marks of an Abusive Church – The Wartburg Watch

9 Traits of Mean Churches – Thom Rainer

9 Traits of Church Bullies – Thom Rainer

9 Ways to Deal with Church Bullies – Thom Rainer

14 Symptoms of Toxic Church Leaders – Thom Rainer

10 Traits of Pastors Who Have Healthy Long-Term Tenure

9 Reasons It’s Hard to Attend a Church Once You’ve Been Involved in Leading One – Carey Nieuwhof [Applies to all of us really, not just church leaders]