Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Story of How I Came to Church
Part 4 (Final) Coming to Emmanuel

At this time, Emmanuel Baptist Church was going through somewhat of an internal struggle. Some of the members were not happy because the music was changing. The service was changing. Things were becoming less and less traditional and sometimes this makes people uncomfortable. This was in the year 1992 and I think this kind of thing had been going on in a lot of churches. Well, a lot of people weren’t comfortable with these changes at Emmanuel Baptist Church. John was very empathetic to these people. This topic took a lot of time in the conversations between him and his friends. It was a theme.

I had really enjoyed and benefitted Contemporary Chriatian Music, but John and his friends spent a bit of time discussing how wrong it was. On our first date (a double date), I readily challenged him to show me one place in the Bible that would prove his points about this. He showed me several passages that did not convince me. We sort of put our disagreement about this "on the back burner." :~)

John and his friends were not happy about these issues of contemporary worship... and several of them were talking about leaving their church. After about two weeks of this, I finally got a day off that coordinated with John’s schedule to go to church with him. It was a Wednesday night. I walked in there with all of this swimming around in my head:

  • Churches were full of apostates
  • There was something wrong with the music at this church
  • Preachers in these churches aren’t preaching the truth; if they did, these “pretenders” that are filling their pews would get up and leave
  • The members of this church weren’t happy with these terrible changes that were happening
I sat down and listened to the message. I looked around and there were many people filling the pews. The pastor opened the Bible and the things he said were… true! He spoke the Word of God and I recognized true preaching. He certainly was not a false teacher. He loved the Lord and I could tell. He even echoed some on Joe’s cautions against the liberalities people take with the Word of God. I waited for people to get up and leave. I thought, “This must be a landmark day here. People are not going to put up with such a message of truth from the pulpit. Surely this doesn’t tickle their ears and they are not going to stand for it, being the apostates that they surely all must be.”

BUT… no one left!

Instead, during the message, several said, “Amen.” At the end of the message, they all stood up and sang a glorious hymn… with enthusiasm! Tears came to my eyes as I realized that for these five years this church had been less than 2 miles from my home. It was not full of apostates, there were plenty of real Christians all around me… and I knew it! I was so happy!

When John and I got out to his car, I turned to him and said, “What is wrong with you??????” I shared with him how amazed I was at a church full of Christians. I couldn’t believe that he was fussing over the incidental things like a beat in the music and songs projected on a screen… when he was so privileged to be a part of such a wonderful fellowship!

Don’t we do that as Christians a lot? We take each other for granted. We aren’t kind and tender-hearted as we should be. We don’t appreciate each other like we ought to. We aren’t humble and gentle. (Ephesians 4:1-3; 31-32) If we realized what it is like to be alone in the world and to have no fellowship, we would see how silly some of our bickering truly is. I’m guilty of it too.

A lot of John’s friends ended up leaving the church. He did too… for 7 months… because we got married and moved to MPLS. We talked about all of this a lot over those months and John came to see that he had really been taking the fellowship for granted. When we returned to this area, we returned to the Emmanuel Baptist Church and have been here ever since. By God’s protection, we trust this fellowship will remain as it has been for over 109 years and will continue to be a blessing to believers as well as a great outreach to our community.

Invite someone to church this week. :~)


Monday, October 27, 2008

The Story of How I Came to Church
Part 3 - The Christian Bookstore and John the Baptist

(Quick review: Being saved at the age of 20 (1986), I didn't go to "church" till I was 25 (1992) - the details of "why" are in part 2)

One afternoon, at the age of 25, at the end of “wandering in the wilderness,” (although I did not know how near the end I was), I was visiting Don and Buelah’s Christian bookstore. Our conversation became more personal than it ever had and they asked me if I would come to their house for a Christian video one evening. I gladly accepted and went to their home a few days later. Little did I know that they had also invited 4 young single men from their church, Emmanuel Baptist! Two of these men showed up. One of them was John. It was a wonderful time as the five of us enjoyed fellowship and I was thrilled to talk to people who were from an altogether different Christian background…. Yet with whom I already had so much in common!

John followed me down to my car and got my phone number. The rest is history, as they say. Haha

Needless to say, Joe was not thrilled when I told him about it later.
He believed that they were trying to “recruit me to their church.”
“These apostate churches have recruitment programs, you know.”

Over the next weeks, I finally felt the sting of Joe’s harsh criticism upon myself as I moved away from him and his isolationalist mindset. I was told the things that he was saying about me. I was getting my turn. This provided me a lesson about being silent when others are in the crosshairs of someone like this. You could be next and usually everybody gets a turn to be the target of the hyper critical!

I was very glad to put that chapter of my life behind me. God used Joe for good, but he also was a hindrance in many ways.

I then spent most of my time with John. He introduced me to his friends of which he had many. He was very different than me – very outgoing. It was a great time of opening up for me.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Story of How I Came to Church
Part 2 - Wandering in the Wilderness

I became very intent on personal Bible study right when I became saved after I bought my first Bible at a small Christian bookstore owned by an elderly couple. I was determined to read through the book and did so in less than a year and then started reading it over again right away. I listened to Christian radio and read books to supplement my learning. I was thoroughly engrossed in learning about Christ and hungry for more knowledge of Him. I was so thrilled about what He had done for me 2000 years prior and what He was doing in transforming my life at the time through His Word which was obviously alive and active.

I knew no other Christians that befriended me as Joe and Charlie did. I spent many hours with Joe talking about the Bible and learning doctrine. Joe proved to be quite different than anyone I have ever met before or since. He was a Christian “Maverick.” He used to tell me, “All these churches around here are apostate.” He did not go to church and encouraged me that such an endeavor would be a dead end road as there were no true churches left in this day and age. “There really aren’t many real true believers left in the world.” When I would meet a Christian here or there I would be so excited to tell him about it and soon he would “show me” by pointing out something this “Christian” said or did that proved they were not the real McCoy; they were “pretenders” or "lukewarm believers." He said that God was done with the church as we know it and that the “church” was not in these buildings... it was invisible. He totally neglected the doctrine of the local church as he said that God was going to the “highways and byways” to call out a “rag-tag army” made up of small pockets of people all over the world.

Over the next five years I remained in the “grip” of this man. When I recount this time it is very hard to do. I knew almost no other Christians. I was so lonely. I wanted to go to church. I was not a very outgoing person and could not imagine how I could possibly go into any church by myself, if there were any “true” churches out there. It was beyond what my constitution at the time seemed capable of. In the latter end of this period, I and a few of the others that had become saved through Joe’s witnessing and some who had latched onto him, began to meet for Bible Study on Sunday afternoons with Joe as the teacher. There were about 7 or 8 people - a very odd lot. None of these went to church or seemed to want to go to church either. This was our “church.” It was almost cult-like as I look back at it. None of the doctrine per se was cultish (we used JV McGee’s guides), but the practice of being so isolated was.

I was terribly lonely. Sometimes I would go to that bookstore where I bought my first Bible just to see Don and Buelah, the elderly couple, so that I would have someone to talk to other than the “group.” They were a wonderful couple who went to Emmanuel Baptist Church. They never invited me to church. This could have been because Buelah had bursitis and they did not always get to the Sunday Morning service. Still, knowing them would end up being what God used to bring my “salvation” from the situation I was in.

It seemed to be an impossible situation and at times I was utterly frustrated and forlorn.

Joe was full of cynicism about other people, whether they were unbelievers or Christians. Looking back, I can say with certainty that Joe did not like people. He really was very hateful toward many people and to this day it amazes me that God could and would use him to bring the message of salvation to me and several others that I know of.

Joe often said some very terrible things about the people that came to the Bible study when they were not around. He just had such disdain for others. His son was a part of the study and he would talk terribly about him behind his back. He often would question whether his son was saved or not because of some of the lifestyle. He spoke rudely of his other family members.

Even innocent bystanders in restaurants would get the “once over” by Joe from a distance as he criticized them and looked on them with such suspicion. He would comment on old ladies with their “blue hair” and say things like “I know how they are…” about various demographic groups. It wasn’t long before, although I appreciated what Joe had done for me in leading me to the Lord, I could see that this was not spiritually healthy. I somehow seemed to be immune from it, personally, though: I had no sense that he was talking about me in this way. I imagined that I held some loyalty from him, that I was immune to his cynicism, as I had never directly felt the sting of it.

On the other hand, he was a very charismatic person – he could win people’s ears very easily and had a great gift for passionately sharing Christ and teaching the Bible. But he didn’t love them. He knew he came across as unloving because he would often say, “Loving people is telling them the truth!” and then would proceed to express what errant and egregious people they were.. this was the “truth.”

He was not a very easy person to confront (-->I articulate that as an extreme understatement). If I tried to express an issue with some of his attitude or such, he would 'respond'… and within five minutes of having begun speaking, his voice would be at an extremely elevated volume... and after 30 minutes of tirade, no one would want to “correct” him again. I quickly learned to keep these kinds of thoughts to myself, of which I had many: feelings, opinions and a growing understanding of truth from Scripture about what I was witnessing. Still, I did not know how to break away and out of this “fellowship.”

I endured five years of this “wandering in the wilderness”...as I call it. I lived at home with my Catholic mother the entire time as I finished my BA, found my first job in the graphics field and sought more meaningful employment. I had zero dates and met no other Christians with which I had any lasting involvement except for the small group of isolationalist friends from “the Bible Study.” I grew a lot in wisdom and knowledge and I believe God used that time to prepare me for something, the likes of which I am still not sure of, even today.


The Story of How I Came to Church
Part 1 - Coming to Christ

I’ve given my testimony before, actually when I first started my blog and it is in my sidebar, but I am sort of re-writing some things (for a purpose) so bear with me if I repeat some of this story that you may have already read. There are really four sections to this story:

1. Coming to Christ
2. Wandering in the Wilderness
3. The Christian Bookstore and John the Baptist
4. Coming to Emmanuel

I am going to post 1 and 2 today and the others will follow in the next several days... and that is a promise because it is already typed out! It is just so long I don't want to bore anyone who happens to read here.

Part 1 - Coming to Christ
I grew up in a Catholic home, the 6th of 7 children. Most of my school career was in parochial schools and my family was very faithful in Sunday church attendance. When I was in the sixth grade, we had to go through classes to prepare for confirmation. This was when I turned away from the Catholic faith. Even as a sixth grader, I knew something was amiss in the doctrine of the Eucharist. I rejected it. I remember thinking that I hoped God would understand that there was no way I could accept His teaching. I thought I was rejecting God and the Bible because I was trained to equate God and the Bible with the Catholic Church. I didn’t know any better. My father died the next year when I was in the 7th grade and that also made me more convinced that God was not real and if He was, He wasn’t concerned very much with me.

Fast forward 8 years to 1986. As far as Christianity and religion goes, I really had not been exposed to anything other than Catholicism, expressed in two types: traditionalism and the mealy-mouthed social gospel. My upbringing had been a mix of the two. I was at this point, however, a proud agnostic. I was attending the local university half-heartedly… but wasting my life and killing brain cells with an enthusiastic fervor.

Waiting tables at a nearby Big Boy restaurant, I used to get a lot of “regulars” that hung out there, drinking coffee. God brought me the message of salvation through two such regulars, Joe and Charlie. They would sit for hours talking about Jesus God and the Bible. When this carpenter in his 40s named Joe told me that Jesus Christ loved me, I dismissed it at first because I thought I knew what his message would be. I assumed that all people who talked about Jesus would be bringing me the “do your best and hope that it is good enough” message that I was raised with.

Not so.

It was explained to me that I could come to Christ just as I was and that He would forgive me and cleanse me of all the filth that encompassed my life so that God could look at me and see me just as perfect and lovely as Jesus. Jesus could do this for me because He had paid for all my sins on the cross and rose from the dead to prove that my sins were gone and powerless. All I need to do was receive His gift of righteousness by faith, by entrusting my eternal welfare to Him. Seeing that I had nothing to lose (!) I did believe in Jesus and was born again at the age of 20.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Speaking My Story

I was asked about a month ago to share today with a women's group my testimony of how I came to be at the church I belong to and work at. I really don't like to talk in front of groups, but I figured that this would not be that difficult since I have enjoyed telling this story many times. I used these passages as a backdrop. I am hoping my next post will contain the actual story that I shared with them.

1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber

Joe the Plumber lives 10 minutes from me. What a riot - the NBC news interviewed him this morning and reported live from his front yard! I don't know Joe, but apparently he has a child that went to the Christian School that is a part of our church.

I think Joe's concerns represent ONE of the problems with Obama. He wants to take one person's success in the form of higher taxes... and give it to a person of lesser income who may or may not have the same work ethic, ambition or desire to use that money to end up where Joe is. Not fair! Not free! This is not the American way.

I will be glad when this election is over because these kinds of things make my blood boil... the fact that we are putting up with this absurdity because the candidate has a nice way about himself and a lot of personality and star power.

BTW - our 7th grade son came home yesterday and told us that some kids at school are saying that if your parents don't vote for Obama they are racist! WOW! (He goes to a mostly white school, too.. in an affluent suburb). The Democratic talking point has made it to the junior highs of America. Who'da thunk it?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Has Anyone Ever Seen this Woman?

She hosts the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC in the evening. I had the misfortune of watching her for several minutes on about three different occassions over the last week. Does anyone out there know what I am talking about?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Words to Live By

1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, 2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. (Proverbs 3)

Being faithful and loving to God and those whom God has put in our lives is key to having favor with God and being a wise person. (v3) On the other hand, (v7) being wise in our own eyes and clinging to a 'knowledge' of that which God has given us no right to... makes us like fools.

I was pondering this passage today and couldn't help but think of the many fights people engage in over questions which are unanswerable. Doggedly fighting over such things that the Bible never makes clear lends itself to foolish behavior. Proverbs is a great book for those who want to avoid being a fool.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I Wish People Would Wake Up

We hear it said that the Republicans will lose big because of the financial problems, but it pains me to know that a lot of the blame can be laid at the feet of the Democrats. Watch this C-Span video which shows the chairman of Freddie Mac telling the Congressional Black Caucus that they are working together to help the under-able obtain loans, as though it is a good thing.

Thank you Democrats! Let's put more of 'em in office?


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Another Kind of Salvation: Saving Me From Myself

Did you ever know you were going to do something wrong? You wanted to do it... you could see it coming... but you didn't know how to stop yourself? You were just resigned and decided to do it but then the Lord saved you from yourself? Praise the Lord, when He does this it just shows you that He loves you and it is such an affirming praiseworthy thing when He changes circumstances, He sheds more light on the situation... and changes your proclivity. You repent of your desire/decision that never came to fruition, but this repentance is filled with such praise and worshipful thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

You Supply the Caption

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Question From the Earnest Contender

The Earnest Contender returns to blogging!! He has a question for discussion.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Another Story for My Book

Separation 101 (-)

We had a couple of friends at church that were both single guys and were a part of our life when we got married. Tim and Steve. Tim really loved Steve and clung to him; you could say they were best friends.

There was some trouble at our church over the issue of music at that time. Some people were getting upset that the music seemed to be “changing” at the church. They felt that it was wrong to introduce drums and electric guitar into the service, among other complaints. This story is not about that, however. (That may be for another discussion.)

Because of this “turmoil,” both of these young men left the church. We did not. We saw them both from time to time, but as the months went on, less and less. Steve moved to another end of town and Tim stayed behind. Steve got married. Tim did not. Steve began going to a Reformed-thinking church and called us one day to tell us that he had just now gotten saved. He had not made Jesus the Lord of his life previously so he could not have been saved; this was the conclusion he had come to when attending this new church. (That idea may also be for another discussion.)

During this same period of time, Tim became less and less interested in finding another church. Ever since he left our church, it just never seemed to click with him anywhere else. He was really going downhill socially. He became almost hermit-like. He had several computers in his apartment and I do believe he was up to no good in there, but I am not sure exactly what was going on. Well, whatever it was, his best friend Steve finally decided that the right thing to do was to stop having anything to do with Tim. Tim was disobeying the Lord in his morals and life, so Steve felt he had to separate from the brother.

This totally crushed Tim! Tim had no other friends. He was not close to his own family and Steve’s family had become like family to him. Steve’s kids were one of the few joys for Tim. Seeing this young family was the highlight of this otherwise reclusive man’s life. Now he was going to lose that connection.

The two talked it over. Steve explained that it was important to obey the Word of God in regards to fellowshipping with a disobedient brother. You were supposed to have nothing to do with them.

Tim asked Steve if this meant that it was only right to associate with Christians; what about usaved people and reaching out to them? After Steve's answer...

Tim declared about himself that he was not really a brother. He then claimed that he really wasn’t saved, but that he was insincere about having been a believer.

Steve then was free to continue his friendship with Tim. Tim was happy.


Monday, October 06, 2008

The Catcher in the Rye

by J.D. Salinger

I try to read at least one classic novel a year and it has really been fun. I like to talk to people I know and ask them what their favorite classic novels are and then try to read those. My younger brother told me that his favorite was “the Catcher in the Rye.” I just finished reading it. It was very different. One criticism I have is that there was a lot of swearing and cussing. I am probably naïve, but for a book written in 1945, I was surprised at that.

The story pretty much takes place over a period of about 3 days. I think the point of it was that this teenage boy who is telling the story is actually experiencing a nervous breakdown as the result of losing his brother previously to an untimely death. The boy doesn’t know that he is even in any trouble emotionally. That seemed insightful to me because I think a lot of children are like that. They could be having “emotional issues” and they don’t even know it. They are not self aware enough to recognize that something is wrong in their mind. They don't "know thyself" as the ancient Greeks used to say.

If you have read "the Catcher in the Rye," tell me, do you think I got the point of it? It did sort of leave me wondering as to what exactly the author was trying to say. I suppose some people find that inscrutable quality in a novel very compelling; I did.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
It was actually a quote from a psychologist named Wilhelm Stekel that a teacher in the story quotes.

So what is your favorite classic novel?

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Story for My Book

I grew up Catholic and was saved as a 20 year old agnostic. The men who led me to the Lord discouraged me from going to church because they said that all the churches nowadays were in "apostasy." I never did join a church until I was 25 when I met my husband. (I call that half a decade my "wandering in the wilderness" time.) During this time when I was unchurched, I came to really love J. Vernon McGee. Having no church to speak of for the first 5 years I was a Christian, the Bible Bus was so important to me! I read through (and still refer to) the 5 volume set of McGee's edited messages.

I have a funny story about my former pastor, Dr. Ernest Pickering... and my husband... and J. Vernon McGee. This happened about 17 years ago.

My husband loved Dr. Pickering, having been under his ministry for about 7 years (sometime before we met). John really respected him and put a lot of stock in his views on things.

Well, right after we got married, we moved to Minneapolis where Pickering was a pastor. This was the first I had known Pickering. My husband and I were still getting to know eachother, having gotten married sort of early in our relationship because he was moving to Minneapolis and wanted me to go with him.

As I saaid, I had not been a "churched" person for very long, even though I had been saved 5 years. I had not read a lot of the same kinds of books my husband had read. Well, Dr. Pickering had written a book called "Biblical Separation" that was about not compromising with organizations that embrace liberal theology which explains away the Bible. He also expanded in other publications about "New Evangelicals" which are such people who compromise.

One Sunday, John and I were sitting in church and Dr. Pickering mentions JV McGee in his sermon, favorably referring to a quote from McGee. This perked my ears because during weeks just before this, my husband had said that he thought JVM was a "New Evangelical" and this had gotten my dander up. (Remember, I loved McGee) I didn't even know what a New Evangleical was at the time, but I could tell from the way my husband said the word that it was not a compliment. John went on to explain what it was and I was sure he was wrong to call JVM that.

So after the service I walked right up to Dr. Pickering (which surprised my husband in and of itself because Pickering was thought by many to be austere and unapproachable). But I just walked right up to him, not knowing him well enough to be nervous, and said: "Dr. Pickering, is J. Vernon McGee a New Evangelical?" Dr. Pickering chuckled and asked me how I would ever come up with such an idea. I just turned and looked at John. :~) Pickering went on to explain that no, he wouldn't use that term to describe McGee at all. We talked for a while and enjoyed some conversation about what "New Evangelicals" really are.

It was fun! teehee :~) My husband and I still recall that day with such fond memories. It was one of those moments that you can both laugh about years later.

(You can read a review of TGATJ by Dr.Pickering in my sidebar)


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Psalm 100:5

I heard some talking-head on TV the other night say something like, "50 years from now no one will remember what was done." The truth of that grabbed ahold of me as it has on other occasions. I realized again as I have in the past that life is but a vapor. Sometimes the vapor aspect of human life really blows me away.

Once I was sitting at a stop light and I thought about the persihable human beings in all the cars around me. I tried to imagine what the landscape would look like if all the persihable human bodies would dissapear really quickly, as though time just sped ahead 100 years but humanity didn't. Even the ones in the baby seats would be gone. There would be empty cars sittting there and garbage would be blowing around in the streets... almost like a scene from a science fiction movie. People and our little worlds of activities all seem so important to us, but they are so vaporous! Then the horn blew behind me and I got on my way.

What will be here 100 years from now? The details are not clear, but one thing is for sure. God isn't going to change! He is good and just, holy and gracious, loving and kind. He is the eternal being and His mercy is everlasting. With Him is where eternity is. Thinking and learning about Him is investing thought and time in that which will last. Clinging to His mercy and truth is holding onto a mighty rope that leads through the fog... and over into "forever."

In all likelihood, our descendants will be here 100 years from now. It is good to know that God's mercy will still be available. Truth will not change any more than God will.

5 For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.


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