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Monday, June 24, 2019

Holding Your Head Up in Church When People Leave

(To start at the beginning of this series click here)

Somebody is going to leave.  Somebody is going to get hurt, or get mad, or generally not fit into your congregation and they are going to leave.  So.  There are many reasons people leave.  They may be going back to the church where God really called them to grow.  If that’s the case, then don’t get in the way.   They need to be where God called them to be.  Some may not be ready to live their life one hundred percent for Jesus and church life is overwhelming them.  It happens. I had several starts and stops at my church.   The first time I went I wasn’t sure it was for me.   I answered an altar call and gave my life to Jesus.  I got baptized in water.   I went a few weeks longer but wasn’t ready.   At least that’s what I thought.  I listened to the voice in my head that said "you're too young to give up the party life."  I really should have stayed but I didn’t.   It took 10 years of hard living, lots of drama, and near marriage ending circumstances to draw me back to God.   I visited the same church on occasion, each time thinking I would try to make a go of it, but I couldn’t.  All the while God was putting people in my path to tell me of His goodness.  To give me chick tracks.  To tell me Jesus loves me.  I finally sat down and read my bible all the way through.  I thought I didn’t need “church.”   That God was wherever I needed Him to be.  That he would be there whenever I needed him.  Which He was and still is.    After reading my bible through I had a change of heart.  God was there.  But I wasn’t there for Him.   How long was He going to pursue me through His Holy Spirit?  I saw myself in the word of God, and I wanted more.   I wanted to give up the “party” life.   I went to other churches for a while, but nothing spoke to me.  I was not called to grow in those churches.   Then I really felt I should go back to the church where I was first saved.  As the pastor preached that morning, I recognized the scriptures that he was reading. I knew in my spirit that I was home.  He was applying God’s word to my world.  It really spoke to me.   I felt as if someone had told him what I was thinking. What I needed.  From that moment on I knew I was where God wanted me to be.   

Somebody is going to leave.   It doesn’t mean that you should leave too.  In fact, don’t follow them.  Even when they try to convince you to see things their way.  You are where God put you and He is the only one that can direct you, right? Pray, ask him again if you must.   Ask him, “Am I where you want me to be?”  Pray that the Holy Spirit will show you and keep you from influences that would take you out of Gods will. 

Don’t be hurt when they leave.  It isn’t your fault.  You’ve friended them and invited them into your life.  You prayed with them and believed God with them.  Now let them go.  Just like you, they get to choose whether to stay or go. And who are we that we should try to direct their lives?  We are in charge of our own.  If they confide in you that they’re thinking about leaving, don’t ask why.  In doing so you open a door of bitterness that might suck you in.  Instead ask what could change their mind?  Offer to pray.  Then pray out loud together to usher in the presence of God into your conversation.  Guard yourself.  Let the Holy Spirit lead the conversation.  Don’t try to rationalize staying or leaving. 

If it’s you that’s leaving, then go quietly.  Don’t try to convince people to go with you.  Who are you that you pull someone from Gods will?  Woe to you if you do.  And don’t be mad when, after you leave, your friends from “that church” don’t fellowship with you as much anymore.  It just naturally will happen.  We saw each other all the time because we were working side by side in the kingdom and now, we’re not.  You’re working in another camp.  That was your choice.   Our conversations will change too.  They’ll become more about the “weather” because neither one of us will want to come off as “judgy.”  Also, our social circles will change and we’ll have less in common.  I’m not leaving.  Sorry you left, I pray that you are in Gods will and that everything works out for you.    

To read the next in this series click here.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Holding Your Head Up in Church when… well… because… People.

(To start at the beginning of this series click here)
I love my church, but there are people there.   I am saying that in jest.  I know that the ‘people’ are the church.    My pastor recently said, “the building is just a tool God uses to bring the people together.”  Isn’t that good?  All the people together make up the church.   We all go to the building to be around other Christians.  For fellowship, for growth, for publicly praising and worshipping God.  We go to find meaning.  To feel loved and acceptance.  To find hope.  To find our destiny.  We are all after the same thing.  The church has been said to be like a hospital for the sick, the dying, the hurting.   We are all in it together, flaws and all.   When we spend time together, we see each other’s flaws.   We see each other’s pain and sickness.  Sometimes we get repulsed by it.   Sometimes it rubs us the wrong way.  So much so that we want to call it quits and leave our church.   You know the devil doesn’t want you to stay in your church.  He wants you to lose the victory and leave.   You’re not a threat to him if you’re not grounded and growing in God.  He plays with our emotions and causes us to fight.  To see the flaws in others.  We need to remember that these people, all these people that God puts us with, are all made in His image.   Just like you.  Yes, even the one that gets on your nerves.   Those people are made in His image.  It’s worth repeating.   We need to learn to see people the way God sees them.  The way that Jesus saw us when He was dying for us.  With love and compassion.

I’ve heard people jokingly say that “we may be surprised by who we see in heaven.”   I believe that starts now.   You may be surprised by who you see in church.  You never know who is going to walk thru the doors.    It may be someone from your past, someone that has hurt you in some way, or maybe someone who has something to do with your future.  Are we going to turn away?  Are we going to hide or pretend like we don’t see her?   Who is God bringing into the fold?  Your fold?  We don’t get to choose, He does.   Who is it that God is calling you to minister?   Is it a prodigal that has returned?  Praise God for that and thank Him for not turning us away when we come to him.  We shouldn’t turn people away either.  (There are probably exceptions to this.   Legal reasons.  Abuse reasons.  The Wolf in Sheep’s clothing reasons.   That is for another time.   Just go gently, as led by the Holy Spirit, and let it be done by someone in authority.   We are dealing with souls here.)

Quite a few years ago, during altar calls, I was called upon to pray for women.  I felt especially drawn to a certain woman who was pregnant.   I prayed for her and her unborn child.  She was struggling.  There had been alcohol and drugs involved.  I could see pain in her eyes.   I remember laying hands on her belly and praying.  I remember telling her not to worry about this baby. That he was going to be fine and God was going to take care of him.  I remember both of us crying as God moved through us.  It wasn’t just once that I prayed with and for her.  Whenever I would see her there during an altar call, I would go.   I didn’t know her name, but God did.   She didn’t come to church all the time, just every now and then. 

Around this same time, I learned that my mom’s husband was having an affair.  My mom told me.  She also told me that the other woman was having his baby.   The woman couldn’t keep the baby because of drug and alcohol problems.   My mom and her husband sought legal help to gain custody of the baby so he wouldn’t be taken by the State.   My husband agreed to help.  On the day the custody decisions were made final my husband came home from court and said to me “the Mom of this little boy looks so familiar.   I can’t place her, but I think I’ve seen her in church.”  He told me her name, but it didn’t ring any bells.    At church some months later, after I’ve held this little boy and he was fully integrated into my mom’s house, my husband said to me “the baby’s mom is here.”   He discreetly pointed her out.   I was floored.  It was the same lady who I was drawn to by the Holy Spirit.  That one that God had me pray for and lay hands on.  The one I spoke words of encouragement and comfort to. 

I didn’t know if I should be thankful and praising God for the opportunity to pray over my “step-brother” before he was born, or if I should go up to her and re-introduce myself only this time as my Mom’s daughter.    I was mad, she was the other woman in my mom’s marriage!   It really messed me up.   I could have gone to talk to her and let her know “hey, what a coincidence” but I knew she was bitter about the whole thing.   I had to get over my anger at her, and at God, for allowing that.  I had to learn to truly thank God for the opportunity to pray for someone who would become a part of my future.  He knew that it was needed.   This woman needed Jesus, as did I.  She continued to come to church off and on for several years.   I pray that she has now found a place to grow spiritually.   Her son is grown now.  My mom raised him. 

I share this story to illustrate the fact that we don’t know who God is calling.  We don’t know to whom we are going to be ministering.  Nor is it any of our business.  It is our business to be obedient to His calling.   Not to run out of the door at the first sign of opposition.    If we stay put, stay in the place where God has planted us, we will see so much growth.   As time goes on, we build relationships.   We build them with people that we might not have liked when we first started going to church there.   Those people that we had run-ins with are going to be the very same ones that we want to have with us when we go to battle for something in our lives.    We learn to cherish the relationships that have grown because of God.   In these uncertain times, we need our sisters and brothers in Christ.  We need our church families.  We need to stay rooted no matter the opposition we have from people!  

To read the next in the series go here

Monday, April 22, 2019

Holding Your Head up in Church When You’ve Been Offended.

(To get to the beginning of this series click here)

I’m offended!  My feelings are hurt!  These are things I have heard from people that have left the church.  And you know, they were right.   They were offended.  Their feelings were hurt.   We’ve all been offended at one time or another.   It is inevitable.   If you haven’t yet, you will be.   It’s a part of our human nature.  The bible says that we will be offended, and we will offend.  Look at Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 ESV “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.  Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.”  It is impossible to not be offended at one time or another.    We should however, as soon as we are offended, nip it in the bud.  In other words, don’t let it take on a full bloom.  The longer it is left to grow the deeper the root gets.  The deeper the root the harder it is to deal with.  The offense will turn to anger, bitterness, and gossip.  Ephesians 4:26,27 NKJV reads, “’Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” 

I understand the hurt and the anger.   I’ve been there.   From the hallway to the altar, I’ve been offended at one time or another.  There was a time when I thought I was invisible when I went up for prayer at the altar.   The sermon was powerful, and the preacher made a call for all of those that wanted to be healed to come to the altar.  I didn’t hesitate.  I walked fast to secure my spot near the front of the prayer line.  I stood there worshipping with my hands raised, crying and praying as I waited to be prayed for.  The pastor came by and prayed for the one on my right.  He then passed me and prayed for the one on my left.    Okay, I thought, maybe I didn’t need it as much as these others did.   That first time it happened I just ‘blew it off.’  But it kept happening, service after service.  By the fourth or fifth time it happened, I lifted an eyebrow.  I started to take it personal.  It wasn’t always the same preacher either.  By about the 10th time, I quit going up for prayer.  I was offended.  I went through the whole gamut of emotions.   From I wasn’t good enough, to what did I do wrong, to I’m so special God doesn’t want anyone to pray for me, to just being hurt.   I know now that all the thoughts I had were lies from the devil.  To this day I still don’t know why that was happening, but I know what I learned.  I now rely more on my own prayers instead of seeking someone to pray for me.   I do go up during altars calls now and occasionally don’t get prayed for.  That’s okay.  God meets me there.  I’m not looking for what man can do anyway.  Only God can heal my mind and my body.  I don’t blame any of my pastors at all.  They probably didn’t even realize it was happening.   

There were other times when it wasn’t me that had my feelings hurt, but my kids.   When your kids hurt, you hurt.   I don’t know if it was because we lived on the other side of town or if we were perceived to be different or what.   But my kids always learned about how much fun the others had after the fact.   They would come to me and ask "why didn’t we get to go to so and so’s party?"  I didn’t have an answer.   We just simply were not made aware of it.   It made me sad because one of my reasons for wanting to be a part of a healthy church was so that my kids would grow up with other like-minded Christians.  But God also was teaching us things in the process.   The way I saw it was that we, in general, didn’t get invited to many get togethers.  We always heard about them afterwards.  Because of that, we hosted our own.   We tried to make sure everyone knew about it and felt comfortable to come fellowship with us.   Just as I’m sure the others tried to do.    One time we put together a themed sleepover for our kids.  We went all out to make it special; my girls were happy and had a good time.  We had a good turnout.  Then the very next week this same group of “friends” that had come over had another party and my kids were not invited.   They only heard about it afterwards.  Their feelings were hurt.  They felt disliked by this group and my mom counseling skills had to go into overtime.  After that, we kept our distance and did our own things.   I allowed and encouraged my kids to make more friends that were outside of the church than in the church.  In the end, my kids were always inviting friends to church and would bring guests all the time.   It only caused more alienating but, they were doing what they were called to do.   I could’ve let this thing become a deal breaker and go find another, perhaps more welcoming, church.   Instead, we focused more on God and why we were going to church in the first place.     

It is what we do with the offenses that will make the difference.   What we do will either cripple our walk or strengthen it.   Good for us, the bible also tells us what to do!  Proverbs 19:11 ESV “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”    Like I said in the beginning, we are going to be offended at some time or another.  Go ahead acknowledge those feelings, because they are real.   Then get past it.  It is important to know that when we are offended, we think only about ourselves and our needs.   Without offense we are a blessing to others.  We need to look to Jesus and His work on the cross instead of nursing the hurt and pain of an offense.   We need to admit and tell God what we are going through because He knows our heart.   Ask Him for help, ask him for healing.  Know who you are in Christ.  Get into God’s Word and pray in the Spirit.   Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and just as He has forgiven you, forgive those that have offended you.  

To read the next in the series go here 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Holding Your Head Up in Church When You Feel Like You Are Not Being Fed

(To get to the beginning of this series click here)

Spiritually speaking, being fed means you are hearing and receiving the Word of God. Without the Word there is no spiritual growth.  There is no Jesus.  We go to church to hear the Word being preached through the person that God has called to convey His message to us.  In our path of spiritual growth, it is important that we not only read the word but that we also hear it.   That we receive it.  Luke 11:28 “But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.   When people say they are not being fed what they really mean is they are refusing to eat what is being offered to them.  They may be only wanting to hear the things that feel good.  But, just like in the natural, eating only the sweet stuff will make us sick.   In order to keep ourselves from getting sick, we need to eat well balanced meals.  Eating the vegetables, the meat, and the bread.   Spiritually this means hearing the Word that makes you grow and stretches you.  And yes, sometimes it’s hard to hear.  We don’t want to hear that something about us isn’t right with God.   This isn’t to say that the feel good, encouraging Word is bad.   It is definitely not!  God loves us and wants us to have a “well balanced” meal! 

God wants us to have a well balanced meal

Saying you are not being fed is just an excuse.  It’s just something to say when you already have one foot out of the door and don’t really have a legitimate reason to leave.    The fact is you stopped listening.   You stopped listening because you have your own agenda.   Maybe you were hurt or offended.  Instead of dealing with it, you’ve stopped up your ears and can’t hear what is being said.    I know these words are harsh, but people listen.  Were you at one time being fed spiritually in your church?   Well what changed? 

Before you leave your church with this being your “reason” please stop and look at yourself.    Are you going to church with the anticipation to receive from the Lord?  Are you praying? Are you reading the word?  Each one of us must encourage our self in the Lord.  1 Samuel 30:6 tells us that David encouraged himself in the Lord.  If David needed to, then so do we.  And if he can do it, we can too!  Ultimately, we decide if we are going to walk with the Lord.  We get to decide to read our bibles, to pray, go to church, and serve in ministry.  It doesn’t matter if we have been offended.  It doesn’t matter if we have been corrected.  It’s up to us to get over it and move forward with the Lord.  The danger is if we wallow in our hurt and anger, we risk eventually turning from God.   However, if we can get past the struggle we mature and strengthen in our walk with the Lord.

Daily I must pray that I have ears to hear and eyes to see to receive God’s word.  I can’t let the devil cheat me out of hearing from God through the orator.  I can’t let him use my emotions to blind me and deafen me.  I have to guard myself from the devil leading me out of church and down the wrong road.   Why would I allow the devil to stunt my spiritual growth in this way?  To cross my arms and tighten my lips.  To get so caught up in my own emotions that I can’t hear anything that God is saying.   To make me think I can’t be fed here.   When I was a little girl, I refused to eat green vegetables.   I would cry and gag when I was being forced to eat them.   God doesn’t force feed any of us.   It is up to each of us to take in what is being served.   To take what will help us grow and leave the rest.   You are being fed.   Work out the struggles.   Deal with the offenses and hurts that would cause this attitude to well up in you.  Don’t miss out on God because of a bad attitude.   

To read the next in the series go here 

Monday, April 8, 2019

Holding Your Head Up in Church When You're Too Busy

(To get to the beginning of this series click here)

I’ve known a few people that have left the church because they simply became overwhelmed with the amount of ministry they were involved in.  They became bitter and in a way "martyred" themselves.  They left because they felt as if they were being taken advantage of and unappreciated.  When in reality they were taking on too much and not getting refilled with the Word.  They were not attending service, even though they were attending church.   If we are not careful, we allow serving to become an obstacle to receiving from God.   My last post talked about the need to serve and get involved.  Yes, we should serve, but it is important that we find a balance between giving and getting.   If you are not getting the Word of God in you and being filled yourself, then eventually you will have nothing to give.  Sometimes we get overzealous and want to help everywhere or we can’t say no when someone asks us to help in a ministry.   The trouble with it is that we are only human, and we get burned out.  When we get burned out, we get cranky and don’t want to be there.  (At least that is the truth for me!)   I’ve had to learn to say no and then not feel guilty about it.   There is a group of people in the church that will make you feel like you’re not serving God if you don’t do ‘all the things.’   That is so far from the truth!   There is certainly a special anointing on those who serve, and I know that God ministers to those who are serving outside of the service.  But we need to learn to balance out our serving with our receiving.   There were times when we had something going on every night of the week!  It really took a toll on our home life.  We had services three times per week.  We led bible study once a week.  We led financial classes once per week.  Our kids had youth group, which we had to provide transportation to and from. We would have different meetings to attend as well.  During the service times we were working in the nursery or driving vans.    All the busy-ness with church things kept us from attending the services.  At times we wanted to just stay home!    

Our first place of ministry is in the home.   We must first be able to minister to our families before we can effectively minister to others.   I learned this the hard way.   While I was busy being about the “Lord’s business” my home life was falling apart.   We were eating fast food more than not, laundry was piled high, kids were struggling in school, we were cranky and arguing more over dumb stuff.   I wasn’t reading my bible because I was always on the run and prayer was happening as I was driving.   This is not the way our walk is intended to be.  My relationship with Jesus was suffering.    Then one day, I was driving to pick up one of my kids and came across a box in the road.   Everybody else was slowing down and going around this obstacle.   I too slowed down and started to go around it when I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to pull over and move the box.   My first thought was no, I’m already running late.  But out of obedience I did it.   I pulled over on the busy road and moved the box.  It was big, but empty.    I got back in my car and as I started driving away, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me that I needed to listen to Him.  That moving the box was simply an act of obedience and if I continued to listen, He would help me “move the obstacles” in my life at that time.   I know it sounds weird, but it was something I needed.   I contemplated on that the rest of the day.  

The next day I pulled out a calendar that I hardly ever used and started filling it in with all the things we had committed to.   I then added the things that needed to be done.   My plate was full.   I prayed and asked God to help me to prioritize.   To help me to know what I needed to give up.  There were some things on the calendar that had to stay until we fulfilled our commitment.  But,  I was able to start saying no to extra duties.   It was hard at first because I felt guilty about not helping when I was asked. However,  I also knew my need for being in the service.  I needed to hear the word and answer a few altar calls!   Luke 10:39 “She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”  I needed to strike a balance between serving in ministry and being fed God’s Word.  God showed me how to make that happen.  To this day I frequently will make sure that my calendar is not too full.   I can say no without feeling guilty.  If I feel strongly about taking on another ministry then I will let one go.  It is totally okay, because there will always be someone else who can do it.   We must guard ourselves and watch over our growth.  No one else is going to do it for us.  We need the water of the Word in order to grow and bear fruit.  If we give away all that we have and not take the time to refill, then we will wither away. 

To read the next in the series click here 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Holding Your Head Up in Church When You Feel Like You Can’t be Used

(To get to the beginning of this series click here)

Something that I’ve heard people say when they leave the church is, “I can’t be used here.”   I can’t really address that with a story of my own, but I am willing to talk about it.   I’ve always had the mind-set that there is always something to be done and I would look for it.   Even after the prayer ministry ended.   When God moves you out of a ministry it doesn’t mean it’s over for you.  With God there is a reason for all things.  It may be that He is giving you a time of rest, or you need to be in a time of learning and growing.  Maybe He’s preparing you for something else.  I took some time to rest, learn, and heal.  I think that was okay.   However, I kept going to church and pushed through the hard spots.  I knew the importance of getting and staying busy.   If you are not staying busy, or being accountable to anyone, then it is easy to lay out of a service or two.  You think you’re not going to be missed.   We each bring a dimension of the Holy Spirit with us and the body isn’t complete without it.   You are missed.   If you are committed to work in a ministry then you are more likely to show up.   My husband drove the vans, I worked in the nursery.   I joined the choir and he was an usher.  I have always volunteered to do something.   It isn’t about me.  It’s about Jesus.  It’s about the new people that were coming in and the other members that needed a time of rest.  They needed to be able to hear the Word while someone else comforted their babies.  Or they simply needed a ride to get there.  Serving others brings joy.   And, you don’t have to be the leader of the ministry to enjoy it!  Sometimes not being the leader is even better.   You can just come in when you’re scheduled and serve.   You don’t have to take care of the logistics.

When someone says, “I can’t be used here,” I think of my kids telling me that they are bored.  What do you mean, you’re bored?  I can think of hundreds of things to do.   Throw out the trash! (Yes, it is important!)   Vacuum the sanctuary, that’s hard work and help is always appreciated.   Pick up the papers and other stuff that people have left in the hallways.  Volunteer to drive a van. Work in the nursery, go on outreaches, find something to do.  I bet there is always something to do in your church!   Be humble.  Be willing to do some of the mundane things that need to be done.  God will see and lift you up in His time.  Don’t go running for the platform right away.  If you think that’s all God has called you for, then you are mistaken.   Being on the platform isn’t the only thing that catches God’s eye.  If you’re trying to catch the eyes of man, you’re in it for the all the wrong reasons anyway and maybe you shouldn’t be used.   Consider your reasons for wanting to serve. 
Some ministries in the church require that an application be filled out, or a background check be done.  Some require that a class is taken before you start.  These requirements are put in place for a reason.  1 Thessalonians 5:12, NKJV, says this “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,”  If you want to be used, be willing to go through the requirements of the church as long as they are reasonable and in order.  This is something that is for the protection of all parties.  You want to know who is “over you in the Lord” and other members want to know who you are.  

There is always more to be done for the Kingdom. Be open to what God has for you.  You never know what it will be, and we must be ready to serve in season and out of season.  There is such a blessing that comes with serving!  One of those blessings is the fellowship with other Christians.  I have made so many friends while working side by side with someone in ministry.  God wants to use all of us.  Do not allow the devil to lie to you and keep you from being used.  Find a place to serve today.   Do what you can, no matter how small it may seem.  Just last week my Pastor said, “small things have a way of building into big things.”    And Jesus says, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones…”  Luke 6:10

To read the next in series click here

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Holding Your Head Up in Church When You feel Rejected

(To get to the beginning of this series click here)

It was during the Brownsville Revival when our prayer meetings started heating up.   We were praying every Tuesday night and would occasionally hold 24-hour prayer meetings.  These meetings were so anointed.  God was there.  The prayer room was thick with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  When you closed your eyes and prayed you felt as if you were transported to a whole other place.  It was just incredible.   God was answering prayers and we added more prayer times.  More and more people were coming.  We moved from the prayer room to the sanctuary.  Then someone had an impromptu prayer meeting at their house, which turned into a weekly event.  Not that it was bad, it was actually a great thing to have happen!  But in doing so less and less people came to the church to pray. They favored going to the house prayer meetings instead.  

I remember at first feeling so mad about it.  Then I felt rejected.  I thought people didn't want to come to our prayer meetings because of the way we ran them, or maybe it was the way we prayed, or had other people pray.  I had so many thoughts go through my head about what we might be doing wrong.  We even tried to make our meeting like the others.  Then I started to do what I still do when I’m feeling unwanted, I retreated to my own little world.  We kept the prayer meetings at church going as long as we could, even if it was just my husband and I that would show up to pray.  We prayed for the church, the pastors, the city, everything we could think of.  Even the other prayer meetings.  It was especially hard when there was talk about the other meetings during a service.  It was like a punch in the stomach.  I cried out to God.  Asking him why and what did I do wrong?  There was no answer to that then.   I retreated more and more, until finally a decision was made to end the Tuesday night Prayer Meetings.  We just could not compete with the others.   In hindsight maybe we should not have stopped those meetings, but we still had a lot of learning to do.  Eventually the other prayer meetings ended too.  

It was a difficult time for us at church after that.  We struggled to go to church then. When we got there, we would quickly find our seats and then quickly leave after service.  We weren’t serving in any other ministry for a time after that either. Honestly, we didn’t want to.   We felt as if we had put our all into that one ministry and then it was taken away.  We again questioned if we should stay.  Our Pastor would try to  encourage us by telling us we were going to make it.  We also had 4 kids to think about.   Our kids were involved in ministries and most of their friends were there at the church.  We just could not pull them away from the life that they knew.    We decided to hold our heads up and stay in church.  We still believed that God called us to grow in this church.    We pressed in.  We shook the devil off by reading and praying more in our own prayer closet.  It was through that time that I was learning what God was trying to teach me.   I had to get rid of “Me” in the ministry.   The prayer meetings weren’t about me.   They were supposed to be about Him.   Now I can admit that my head got a little bigger.   The amount of people that would show up and the way God would use me to pray for people was quite an experience.  I can also say that it didn’t end solely because of me.   There should not be a competition between ministries in this way.  We serve in ministries to serve God.  We should not try to “out serve” our brothers and sisters.   It should be about serving together.  We all have gifts and should serve in the capacity of those gifts but, remember that it is God who equips those he calls.  We should serve with a humble spirit.  It is a privilege to be used in any ministry, in any capacity.    

When a door closes on a ministry, we should not leave the Church.  There is so much more that needs to be done!  God wants to continue to use us.  It just may be in a different area.  We need to learn to be teachable and maintain a humble spirit.  We can’t let our ego get in the way of what He wants to do.     Humbly step aside, even if you think you’ve put your all into it.   Let God do what He’s going to do.  It's always exciting to see what He does next.   

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Holding Your Head up in Church When You Feel Like You’re Being Judged

In my last post I talked about resolving to stay with my church, and that resolve was not without more times of testing and trials.  Testing comes in many forms.  Like when you feel like you’re being judged and you don’t really know how to handle it.   Not in a godly manner anyway.  Especially when you’re a new Christian or when you’ve just found the courage to walk into a church.   It’s the thing that keeps a lot of people from going to church in the first place.  “The church is full of hypocrites” or so I have heard.  I didn’t want anyone judging how I lived my life.   It was not until I truly saw my need for Jesus that I was able to get over that and go to church. 

When I was a new convert, only attending services for a couple of weeks, I wore a red skirt just above my knees, 3-inch red high heels, red sleeveless sweater and a red jacket.   It was near valentine’s day.   I thought I looked good.  This was an outfit that I wore regularly to work in a professional office.  My nails were long and painted red too.  I had been so happy to go to church that day! I wanted to be there with my girls in their dresses and my husband in his suit.  I was not trying to turn heads at all.   But I did, and it was mostly the “church women” who looked at me.  I saw them.  I saw their eyes.  I saw their little gasps.  I felt “dirty” somehow.    I wouldn’t talk to anybody. Not because I was new, but because I felt them staring.  I wouldn’t dare go up during the altar call that day.  I didn’t want to go back the next week either, but my husband talked me into it.   He said I looked good to him and that was all that mattered.   I don’t believe I ever wore that to church again.  I also didn’t think it was revealing.  Maybe it was just too red. 

Later that year, I had begun working in the nursery.  At the time, it was required of moms of babies to work one service per month. One Sunday morning when I was scheduled to work, a leader came up to me and gave me a hug. She openly, and loudly, smelled my hair.   She turned to the other leader and said, “I don’t smell it.”   I, being who I was, said “What the h---?”    They were so shocked by my response that they could hardly explain themselves!  Finally, one of them said, "we thought you’d been smoking."  The truth is I was still smoking.  I hadn’t been delivered from that yet. Honestly, at that time I was not trying to be.  God was working on so many things in my life that it just wasn’t an issue.  However, I wasn’t about to admit to them that I was still smoking.   Had I been approached in love, maybe I would have admitted, and then they could have prayed for me. I wanted to run out of there.  I worked that morning anyway but couldn’t wait to light up a cigarette on the way home! 

There are so many other instances I could tell you about.  But I think you get the idea from these two stories.  It just doesn’t matter to me anymore whether people are judging me or not. Maybe that comes with age, or with Jesus, or both.  Maybe there is truth to the “judging” or maybe not.  I just know that there is a tendency to feel judged.   It could be coming from people who think they have “arrived.”   On the other hand, it could be that God is dealing with sin, and in our little minds we think that “everyone knows.” We feel like we’re being judged when really it’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit and we should take heed.      

We must fight this feeling and not run out of the church.  We need to look at and judge the situation ourselves.  Is there a reason?  Is it founded? Are we still smoking? Either way we need to hold on.  Hold our head up and keep serving God.  Trust that he will bring us through.  If people are being judgmental then that is on them.  We correct what the Holy Spirit is calling to our attention and leave the rest alone.  We need to learn from it.  If we hold on and get rooted there will come a time when the Holy Spirit will have us bring something to the attention of someone else. We need to know how to do it.  We should be helping and not hurting each other.  "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted." Galatians 6:1.  If we are to correct one another it should be done in love, so the other person does not feel judged, but rather led to go further into the Kingdom of Grace.  It isn’t easy.    

The point is, we all have judged (admit it) and been judged.  But Jesus said in Matthew 7:1 -2 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." The problem is, there are people in church.  People are made of flesh and the flesh is weak.  The solution is what we do with the problem. The last thing we want to do is get an attitude and leave!  Let God, through his Holy Spirit, change you and mold you into who he wants you to be.  Know that God can’t do that if we leave the place He has put us.

(I am happy to share that I was delivered from smoking cigarettes on August 1, 1997! I had smoked a half of a cigarette about a week later, because I thought I needed it.   I quickly realized I didn’t. I threw it, and the rest of the pack, out of the car window as I was driving.   To God be the Glory!)

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