How do you think I would react?
No, my husband isn't perfect. My guess is, your spouse (if you have one) isn't perfect either? But we love those that God has yoked us with, the ones He chooses, those we are committed to defending until our dying days.
Or do we?
One of my husband's oldest and closest friends is what some might call a famous MMA fighter. He has traveled the world fighting. Made millions. He now has a gym and trains a whole host of rising MMA professionals.
He is tough, determined, persevering. Yet despite his over-coming spirit, one thing I never imagined in my wildest dreams he would become? A Christian.
One day, we went to a service where 10,000 gathered in Key Arena, in Seattle. It was Easter, and although we love our smaller church, we wanted to celebrate in mass, with the multitudes, out under an open roof, singing with every tribe, tongue, people group, and economic status. (Because yes...I LOVE unity!) :)
It was one of those days. Couldn't have been more perfect. Jesus was preached. And at the end, hundreds came streaming forward to be baptized and saved, mostly spontaneously. It was a day where the entire city seemed to celebrate Jesus being alive, and the ceilings under which many reside...just didn't exist.
It was revival, if I had ever seen it. A place children, old people, the poor, the rich saw no differentiation in the one sitting next to them.
Better yet. It was absolutely free. Come as you are. "We don't want a penny". All we want is to point you towards true freedom, a Savior for your difficulties...JESUS.
To top it off? The focus wasn't on the faith-giant we heard speaking, standing small as a mouse in the center of the gigantic arena.
The focus was again, yep you guessed it...Jesus.
On the way out, we floated among thousands of people; orderly, joyfully, almost in a daze at what God had done. It was then, we ran into our friend who was the MMA fighter. We found out he turned Christian, and has been attending Mars Hill for quite some time.
It took me months to digest, someone we have known their past, their history, and the depths of their sins, was now miraculously saved by faith in Jesus Christ.
I left telling my husband that if God can save our friend, it is fact, He can save anyone.
And after what I had seen, I got it. God truly loves people, all of them, regardless of the extent of their sin, or just how imperfect they are.
O.K. I'll admit it. I am kind of a sermon junkie. In the Northwest, it is like trying to find fresh air in a world warring for faith, in a battlefield that you could never know, unless you lived here.
Here in the Northwest, we are anything but a Bible belt.
In fact, our culture prides itself on tough, imperfect, open minded, tattooed belief systems that hurt to be erased, hearts dosed with real sins, lies tangled so deep even we ourselves struggle to see them...let alone even hope to be set free.
You have to be tough to survive in Seattle, resilient, persistent, knowledgeable, and fearless....That is, unless you live in a Christian bubble, trying to hide from our culture. And many do that, don't get me wrong.
Many of us believers have scars, deep scars from the battles we have faced. Many of us can be easily hardened, as sin is rarely preached.
In a day and culture of blatant rebellion, it is no wonder that someone blunt, truthful, hard-hitting, like Mark Driscoll, has been able to break up the fallow ground of our spirits and preach the gospel in a way that shakes the core of our rebellious, sinful nature.
Even the most ignorant can attest, it is nothing but a miracle, Mark Driscoll has been able to reach what once was classified as the, "Least Churched Region", in America.
People may lie, but numbers never do.
And let's face it, this kind of a sermon junkie, can't just "sit pretty" on church only on Sundays and expect my life to float. I need Jesus, I need scripture, and I need a preacher who won't just dance around our rising egos.
We here in the Northwest need it real. Like it honest. In a place where sin is marginalized, not confronted, Jesus rarely mentioned, spiritualism or false doctrine run rampant, the Bible almost foreign and unopened...
Mark Driscoll was like a breathe of fresh air.
Someone like him "got us". He knew we needed, "right at ya" preaching. He knew we needed doses upon doses of Jesus. And He gave us not just doctrine, but sermons that challenged the sins rampant in our area, sins like the Jezebel/Ahab spirits, the ones that kill marriages faster that we can search the internet.
Mark went after the root, while others were content plucking off buds, arranging us nicely, or decorating a specific bent of Christianity that "fit" nicely into the their pews of lukewarm, complacent bystanders on Sundays.
He understood those with hard lives, were unable to survive unless we chose to live Holy Lives, in a day where holiness is like a curse word, and pastors and other people of God are eaten up and spit out on social media, every day....joyously. In a day where preachers end up in Roman Coliseums, in real life crusades, where the lions don't have manes, but are disguised as ex-servants.
And yet, from the stands...or from our comfy couches, holding our computer screens....we cheer. We may not think it, or admit it, but it's real. Us warring on fellow believers without fear or trembling, let alone acknowledging the sacredness of the blood of Jesus...the blood He shed, to make us siblings.
And I wonder, in a day where we scoff at a "bad look" or get depressed at a negative comment on Facebook....leaders and their families get assaulted, sometimes very tangibly. Other times secretly, by hundreds of people, inside homes, after sermons, from people they can't see.
And how many of you could handle that week after week after week? I don't think I could.
And for the record, I "get" church pain. I "get" church splits, and gossip, and sabbaticals, and pastors needing to leave for their own sanity....or for the sake of "correcting" whatever it might be.
But what grieves me? What's really mournful?
When we lash out on pastors like Mark, who have been rushed on the pulpit with weapons by those who literally try to kill him...
Yet, attempted murderers can't destroy him...but a bunch of disgruntled people don't think twice about publicly humiliating their leader.
And isn't Christ exalted by pastors, whose ministries weren't build because of some extraordinary fifth generation Christian "right of passage"....but because God chose Him, and God's grace is sufficient, it's evident by all those watching.
And doesn't God often choose, the most unlikely people anyway?
Yes, let's face it, Mark Driscoll isn't perfect.
- He wasn't perfect when I saw John Piper in His pulpit a few years back.
- He wasn't perfect when prostitutes and drug addicts got delivered and set free week in and week out.
- He wasn't perfect when that twenty-something new Christian began preaching Jesus, and what started as a handful turned to tens and tens of thousands of people listening all over the world.
- He wasn't perfect when just a few years ago, He was announced as one of the most bold, Biblical accurate preachers alive today.
- He wasn't perfect when all the great preachers came flocking or started modeling what He was doing...because they just wanted a ministry that actually changed lives....like Mark's did.
So, let's face it. Pastors are like all of us...human.
And truth be told, I am not even against this process of trial and refinement God is taking Mark through, because nothing can be done, unless God allows it.
What I am grieved by are the so-called Christians posing as "concerned believers"; the one's acting like they love "The Church" yet are slandering and gossiping, while damaging a man who has given His life to serve God's people.
What bothers me, is that we proclaim love...while Christians...real Christians are dying for a real love for God. We say we love the church, while secretly, in our hearts, we are devouring our own, starting forums to publicly slander the leaders that not long ago, we hailed, and followed on Twitter...pouring our love and devotion into...
But then, I get it. I see Jesus. Riding on a horse. Palm leaves. Praises. Three days later, crucified.
And didn't He give his life that His church might prevail and His Kingdom would come here on earth as it is in heaven?
So, I am wondering right now...
- How many of you have talked to someone on the phone to "discuss" another believer?
- How many of you have said, "Let's pray for so and so", when in reality, your words (regardless of how holy they sounded) were destroying other well-intended people?
- How many of you have protected your spouses, defended them, and would die for them, yet you think nothing about gossiping, and slandering, and being a stumbling block for God's people?
Do we not remember that the church is the Bride of Christ, and when we insult it, we are condemning Christ and what He built and ultimately came and died for?
Plus, if we slice off the heads of other believers with the hateful words inside us...How can we punish the ISIS? Are they less guilty than us? Crucifying others for what they justify as purifying, for the sake of true religion?
And what happened to love? What happened to forgiveness? What happened to looking to Christ as our healer, our redemption, the justice we are seeking?
When did we get the right to judge? To play God? To let hate reign, instead of love?
Shouldn't we feel every wound, every punch, every word directed towards God's people...no matter who they are, or what they deserve? Aren't we the "body" of Christ? One? Functioning not against...but for each and every believer?
And if we are actively "throwing arrows"...isn't it really us we are aiming for? Isn't it a part of our skin we are causing to bleed, instead of mending and healing the wounded in front of us?
The body of Christ? Suffering when one suffers?
I cried when Mark Driscoll announced he was leaving the pulpit. I cried not because I necessarily deemed him perfect or innocent.....but because in a world of false gospels and watered down preachers. In a day where Jesus is like a cuss word and offensive to the rebellious here in the Great Northwest...
I wondered...How will Jesus shine without bold, fearless, gospel preachers, confronting sin, with the utter honesty of the Bible? Those who tell us truth un-apologentically, pointing to His great name?
Will the church be muted? Silenced? Paralyzed? Will His Spirit sweep our land? Will the stone-throwers gain power, like the Pharisees who ruled and reigned when Jesus told the adulterous women guilty of sin..."Where are your accusers? Go and sin no more?"
Will we get on our faces and repent? Repent for expecting the church to be perfect? Repent for our own sins? Repent for going after the Bride of Christ? Will we repent for those "prayers", those phone conversations, those texts of so-called,"concern"...attacking believers every chance we get...because somehow it makes us seem, more righteous, more holy, less guilty when we hold the candle against other peoples sins?
Or will there just be left a very small remnant? A remnant of faithful believers, like our MMA friend; tough, steel-like, unafraid to fight....not just in the physical, but spiritually, for the sake of Christ?
A church that scripture tells, regardless of these trying times....The gates of hell will never prevail against.
Now, I want to apologize if you are reading this and you are someone who has been hurt by the church. I grieve for your pain, those real abuses, those dictating leaders who Lord over people, or abuse God's children on so many levels.
I feel your pain. I have hurt with you. I once almost couldn't stand and wanted to abandon "the body of Christ" all together because church can be messy and I could barely "get" how people can be just plain mean and selfish.
But then, God reminded me of something important...Christ didn't abandon me.
Though I am tarnished and stained, though I am unworthy, unjustified by anything I could ever be....though I fall and fail, and end up on my face, repeating sins, over and over again...He still loves me. He still believes in me. He still calls me a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And I rejoice that Christ didn't take my list and hold it out to condemn and judge me, flaunting my faults and forgetting my rights. He didn't tell me of all the reasons that I couldn't be a vessel, a minister, or an ambassador of Christ to His people...
Because like all of us, I clearly have fallen so short of the glory of God.
But doesn't scripture show us...
- A woman at the well converted her entire city, though her husbands were many and her doctrine I am sure was riddled and tainted by her past experiences. She had no legacy of faith, strong connections, or years of righteousness she could stand upon. All she had was that she saw Jesus face. And yet, somehow that was enough.
- How a man like David could have been disqualified too. He was an adulterer, a murderer. Where was His media platform of accusers? The ones ripping him apart, telling about why he should be exempt from being the King of Israel? Why did God let Him live the consequences of his sins, but then allow Him to reign, calling Him a man after God's own heart, in light of his past sins?
And yet, we want our preachers to be God. We attack, we torment, when, let's face it...Every one of us are flawed.
And could it be...that in a world of pointing fingers....In a world that loves idols...Could it be us who are personally guilty, from turning our affection to a person instead of God?
And if so, doesn't that mean, part of the responsible falls on us?
Aren't we ourselves at least part responsible for dethroning God in our hearts and living for a church culture, group of people, or for the approval of a pastor, instead of bowing to God alone?
In writing this, let's face it....I don't want to unravel all the pieces of the mess of Mars Hill...or any other church or people group, for that matter.
It's just....call me crazy, but I love the church. I would die for her. Just as much as I would lay my life down for my husband, I feel a devotion to stand for what others are bashing.
And I get defensive of any person condemning my husband in front of my face. I will not remain
silent when voices come bashing something or someone, that most don't know the details of full extent
So, what if we treat the church the same? How about if we just stop talking about the dis-function of the church? How about if we stop ranting and start praying for those with a real faith, those ones who are willing to get crucified, hung, and be-headed for sake of the gospel?
How about if we act more like doctors for one another, pointing people to The Healer, instead of uncovering wound after wound, pointing to our battle scars, harboring the same offense the Bible mentions we'll suffer from, in the end of times?
"Will I find faith on the earth?" Is His question. Can't you almost hear Him say it?
And there is no doubt about it...God is purifying the church.
Yet, if we have all learned anything from the heartbreak in the churches these past few years...It's that faith isn't in a man, in a club, an organization, in a culture, our riches, our popularity, or in any other group of people...
- Faith is a worldly MMA athlete coming to Christ.
- Faith is hundred's of people coming from the bleachers to be saved and baptized.
- Faith is the healing of the sick, the distraught, and those just plain offended by life.
- Faith stands when the world rejoices at the fall of human weakness.
- Faith declares truth, instead of listening or entertaining speculations and accusation.
- Faith is looking up, not looking around or in at our own sabotaging feelings.
- Faith is scripture. It is life. It is power which still stands in light of all the heartbreak in a world gone so wrong.
- Faith is Jesus. Jesus alone as the head of the church and the author of all our faith...regardless of how deserving we are...
And yes, Faith believes. Reaches. Asks for wisdom. Trusts. Faith rises when we cling to Christ, when we grip desperately to love.
So how about if we build the dwindling church, instead of striking it, crucifying, be-heading fellow believer with rising words inside us? How about if we infuse life, and hope, and encouragement in each other....instead of becoming dis-hearted, distraught, or divorcing it all together...
Because if I have learned anything over these past four decades of my journey in faith...it is that all of us are human, and churches aren't perfect.
But then again, if I remember right....neither am I.
"Little children, keep yourselves from idols (false gods) [from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God], from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life." ~ 1 John 5:21
"Look to yourselves (take care) that you many not lose (throw away or destroy) all that we and you have labored for, but that you may [persevere until you] win and receive back a perfect reward [in full]. ~ 2 John 1:8
"And what this love consists in is this; that we live and walk in accordance with and guided by His commandments (His orders, ordinances, precepts, teaching). This is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you continue to walk in love [guided by it and following it]. ~ 2 John 1:6
Photo credit found, here.
UNITE LINK UP
Sorry for such a long post everyone. I pray despite my long rant, you will still take time to link up below. Remember at UNITE....it's not about how bright you are, how well you write, it's not whether you are even a Christian or have never stepped in a church in your life...
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