There are a lot who know and probably some that don’t however we at 2MHDs have been going through the hardest trial that God has ever ordained in our lives. And I must state up front that this article is not directed at any one person, group, or congregation; it is however for everyone. And by that I don’t mean that this is a prophetic message from God (although I do feel released by God to write this article as I have been prayerfully considering this post for many weeks) but rather a message that everyone who claims to call Jesus “Lord” should review and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to their heart.
Now right off the bat I know that some of you who read this will be in one of three camps. And this is somewhat to my point today and where we need to begin. So before I explain the camps I need to start with a question.
What glasses are you reading this article with?
Now not physically but figuratively, meaning everyone has a set of glasses that they see the world through; which are yours?
This is something that we as people need to understand because this affects how we process information that we receive. And frankly it affects us everyday and if we don’t stop to evaluate this from time to time we “could” end up pious or worse just simply bigoted toward anything that doesn’t fit into our box or seem clear through our set of glasses.
(bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices)(just wanted to be clear)
What I don’t understand is that when you wear glasses for your physical eyes you are to have them checked regularly as the prescription might change; so don’t you think we should be used to the idea that regular examination is the best approach?
Now to the camps. (Please understand that this is not an exhaustive list or even a definitive list this is simply for the purposes and contexts of this conversation. And that there is no judgement passed on any camp and that you might not fit exactly into a single camp, as I believe we all have attributes of each one somewhere in our life. (Phew that is a lot of disclaimers))
The first camp is those who were raised in church. You were taught that asking “Jesus into your heart” was what God wanted for everyone. You probably attended the same church if not the same “type” (denomination or culture) of church your whole life. You want your children/grandchildren to attend Sunday School and Wednesday night events to make sure that they learn about Jesus and turn out to be a good person.
The second camp is those that came to know Christ without having a background in church or those who did but now classify themselves as “contemporary”. You probably don’t know what a felt board Bible character is and definitely would not attend a service that contained an organ more than once. You definitely have your favorite Starbucks coffee flavor and would argue that worship cannot be too loud.
The third camp is those that have no idea about either of the first two and you definitely don’t know anything about church, Jesus, or why I made such a big deal about the camps in the first place. You might consider church to be after money, to be a place of judgement, and that if you came to church it would probably burn to the ground (a statement that I heard recently.)
Now before you fill my inbox with the top ten reasons why my descriptions of the camps are wrong please remember that this is contextual to this discussion as well as that not everyone is a perfect fit. I personally could give you reasons why I am a member of all three camps so I am not judging they are simply broad classifications for the purpose of this discussion.
I know that was a long intro but it will hopefully be worth it as I pray we are all on the same starting block now. To revisit my original statement: “we at 2MHDs have been going through the hardest trial that God has ever ordained in our lives.” I know that those of you who are campers from the first camp are automatically bristled by the fact that I used the word “ordained” in that sentence. You probably would like the word “allowed” a lot better however we need to make sure that we are clear on who God is.
God says to Cyrus in Isaiah 45: *emphasis added by 2MHDs
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things.
Did you catch that? The Lord not only created well-being but also calamity! And I know from my own church background (the part that is in camp one) that traditionally we as camp 1 people want to quote Romans 8:28 because that is what we were programmed to do and some of us even have a coffee mug with it inscribed on it but if we are not careful we remove God’s sovereignty from our lives and worse the text. Which becomes our own form of rationalization, justification, and maybe even idolatry.
“Now consider the evidence for God’s control over moral evil, the evil choices that are made in the world. Again there are specific instances and then texts that make sweeping statements of God’s control.
For example, all the choices of Joseph’s brothers in getting rid of him and selling him into slavery are seen as sin and yet also as the out working of God’s good purpose. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says to his brothers when they fear his vengeance, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Gregory Boyd and others, who do not believe that God has a purpose in the evil choices of people (especially since he does not know what those choices are going to be before they make them), try to say that God can use the choices that people make for his own purposes after they make them and he then knows what they are.
But this will not fit what the text says or what Psalm 105:17 says. The text says, “You meant evil against me.” Evil is a feminine singular noun. Then it says, “God meant it for good.” The word “it” is a feminine singular suffix that can only agree with the antecedent feminine singular noun, “evil.” And the verb “meant” is the same past tense in both cases. You meant evil against me in the past, as you were doing it. And God meant that very evil, not as evil, but as good in the past as you were doing it. And to make this perfectly clear, Psalm 105:17 says about Joseph’s coming to Egypt, “[God] sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.” God sent him. God did not find him there owing to evil choices, and then try to make something good come of it. Therefore this text stands as a kind of paradigm for how to understand the evil will of man within the sovereign will of God.”
Camp 2 people don’t feel like you are in the clear on this because we in Camp 2 at times remove the exact same sovereignty of God in the name of culture, being more relevant, and trying to reach those that don’t like or know anything about traditional services and we become too rigid on the other extreme.
Campers from camp 3 I know this seems really weird so far and by now your head might be spinning and you’re wondering what is the world is he going on and on about. I ask that you just bare with me a little bit longer.
As I stated earlier we have been going through the hardest season that we have ever experienced and although we are not yet out of it we are through what I pray and believe is the hardest parts of it. And I believe that through God’s grace on us we will look back in a few years and revel not in what occurred but what God did through it for us and through us.
But one of the things that has changed forever for us is a deeper understanding of who God is, how truthful His word is, and how important His true church is. And an even bigger picture of just how much Satan is truly prowling the earth like a lion waiting to devour us.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
And I truly believe that this is what James meant when he instructed us to find joy in all trials, the joy that God is working and that you have come closer to His face and character. Now I don’t want to be unclear or seem as if there were not days that God seemed 2 billion light years away cause that would be a lie. The lies that I was told by Satan and myself at moments made me feel that way but I know that there is nothing further from the truth. In Psalm 139:7-10 David says it this way:
So I know more than ever that God never left us through any of the calamity and it makes the other areas of life where possible calamity may occur more bearable and even an encouragement that God is still working in us.
But what I think we see more and more of now is how God uses that calamity in our lives to grow us and to give us an opportunity to give Him glory not only privately but also publicly. And here is where the true issue begins and the true point of my article. Our calamity was very public, it was not anything that we could escape from or as so many campers from Camp 1 will recognize we could not try to keep it inside of our home and fake our way through it ( I call this “putting on your Jesus face”). Everyone that we went to church with as well as a lot of people in the community knew what we were going through. And at the beginning of this journey I hated that fact but now I am so glad that God chose the way that He did.
There is freedom in everyone knowing your darkest and most sinful actions. There is freedom in allowing God to remove your pride and strip you naked in front of everyone. Not only does it force you to live what you say you believe but it also exposes all those around you to the fact that we all sin we all fall short. It exposes all of those that call on the name of Christ but truly don’t know Him. It exposes those that walk with Christ and understand the contriteness of their own heart. In other words it clearly defines God’s TRUE church.
Those that are truly God’s church rally around those that are beaten, bruised, and bleeding. Those that are Pharisaical (a group of religious people from the Bible. They called themselves God’s people but they didn’t really know Him and they acted like His but never were.) tend to shun, turn away from, gossip about, in hopes that it will make themselves feel better as if their sin carried a different weight in God’s eyes.
So, here is where we need to examine our glasses. Are we looking at our lives through the glasses of culture and pride or do we turn to scripture to define our glasses and allow God to work through our sin? How do we handle those that are hurting, fallen, and or maybe don’t even know that they are religious? Let’s go back to James 2 and examine our hearts and our actions.
James 2:14-19 ESV
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
So here we see that the simply proclaiming that Christ is your personal savior is not the true evidence of salvation. It is what God is doing in your life and what you are doing to be a part of what God is doing in this world around you that is the evidence. If your truly a believer you want to be where God’s ministry is being done. You want to be with God’s people and walk through life together in a transparent, loving, caring, serving life that glorifies God. And guess what nothing about that brings glory to you. Nothing about that is easy and nothing about that is comfortable. Now let me make myself clear “doing” stuff does not save you!! Only the grace and mercy of God can do that, however if/when He has given you the gift of salvation you can not help but have some evidence on the outside.
If you don’t crave to be in God’s word, God’s Church, and with God’s people I pray that you would ask God to show you the state of your heart. If you don’t see God working around you and around the ones in your life you should be on your knees begging God to show you the state of your heart.
Let me give you two examples of this from scripture before I close this article. First lets look in John 2:
2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
Notice it was not the master of the feast that saw Jesus’ miracle and understood what truly happened. Who was it? It was those that were serving, if you want to see Jesus work in those close to you and in your community then you must serve them. It doesn’t say act holy and pious, no it says the text says that the servants were the only ones to know what Jesus did.
The second example is Paul. Look here in Acts 16:
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer[f] called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
Paul, during this particular trial (as well as all the others that he experienced) lived out his faith for all to see. He walked his beliefs not just claiming to the guards he was a christian and expecting something to happen. All that Paul did was worship his God no matter the circumstance and allow God to work through the trial. And look at the result a man and his entire family was saved.
So we have some questions to deal with before we are done.
Do you crave God’s word?
Do your neighbors know you go to church because you have to tell them or does your life in the good and the bad show them your love for God?
Do you crave to be with God’s people?
Are you living your life to your glory or God’s?
Please know one final thing in closing, I am not judging anyone or anything that has gone on surrounding our circumstances however I can tell you this. There is nothing more precious than God’s true church and nothing more deadly than those that call themselves Christians but don’t live it.
Now, camp 3 people your part is here. If you don’t know about this whole Jesus thing and you have more questions/opinions than you have answers then please check out this page and maybe check the “prescription on your glasses”. But I ask that you take away this one main theme from this article. There are many people who call themselves Christians. They come from every denomination, church size, church style and every spectrum that you could think of. But I ask you to consider this, don’t simply take their word for it and then judge Christianity by that one person or church. Jesus’ true church is not defined by a building, type, style, music preference, carpet color, or denomination. It is defined by one thing. Love.
~ God Bless