Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
I wrote from the depths of my heart about Cancer in the Body of Christ several months ago. Then an enlightened soul wrote me a letter telling me "I know you may not want to hear this, but..." Frankly, I really do like to hear from readers. The encouragement and the thoughts on what I write are wonderful soul stretchers for me. Some of the comments from this person really made me search my motives and my heart attitude because there were some striking points to ponder.
The first one I deal with on my blog. Some of the other comments took some praying about and some digging.
…. By leaving, while it isn't always wrong and can be a good transition in life, you may have given Satan a bigger foothold in the church…
Yes, that is always possible, but having witnessed it and lived through it, Satan has a stronghold in that church, not a toehold or a foothold. When the leadership won't listen to Truth, nor give opportunity to defend one's self, there is trouble with a capital T. It isn't just the leadership. The people are blindly following those who lead without understanding who the true Leader is supposed to be, and without recognizing that the LORD is not leading.
But let's take if off the personal plane. I'm sure you have witnessed some of these tell-tale signs that a church body doesn't have Christ as their head. Let me ask some questions.
Is prayer a major activity in the church body? Not just corporate, but in Sunday School and in bible studies and at prayer meetings. One of my favorite pastors, Tommy Winders, said that you can know a church body by coming to church on Sunday mornings, you can know how much a church loves their pastor by coming on Sunday nights, but you know a church's heart by coming on Wednesday nights to prayer meetings. I say, you can know a church's leadership if they come on Wednesdays (and not just for a meeting). There are other ways to know who is the head of the church body...
Are Biblical principles adhered to both in sermons and teachings as well as how business is conducted? Before any action for anything is taken, does the church as a whole pray about it? Is the finance committee completely transparent about all finances, including all savings and fund accounts? Is there deep concern for the body members? Are there lots of regular every Sunday members or do the members seem to come in shifts? How's the tithing? Does more than 20% of the membership give more than 80% of the budget dollars? Are the committees filled with the same few people or does each committee have a unique set of members? Do the giving goals get met over and above, just barely or never? How's the commitment of the teachers? Is there a lot of backbiting and, heaven forbid, power struggles going on? When promises are made, are they kept?
Make no mistake here, any one of these things can happen in a church body, or even several of them happen and Christ still be the church leader. There are always ripples within the unity of the body because we are still human. But, when all of these things manifest continually, then red flags should be waving in the minds of the membership.
Surprisingly, the snapshot of today’s corporate church looks absolutely nothing like the first century churches. However, we still have the same troubles as the first century churches, they are just incorporated.
Wake up, Believers! This message is so crucial to us right now because of the imminence of Christ’s command, “Come up here, My Beloved!”
:42" target="_blank">Luke 12:42And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and wise steward whom the Lord will set over his house servants, to give the portion of food in season? 43Blessed is that slave when his Lord comes and will find him so doing. 44Truly I say to you, He will set him over all His possessions. We believers must take to heart Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25 for the day and the hour no one knows, but we must be ready, we must be found doing our good works prepared for us before the foundation of the world.
… If you know you are right and that before the Lord you stand pure, then why should you be the one to leave? The righteous stay and stand firm, they do not back down and they remain…
In a perfect, ideal world, this would be correct. A person who has only been a member for three years, who teaches Sunday School and is on zero committees, hasn’t a chance to change the minds of church leaders when those minds are so firmly decided on a course of action they rush to it while the pastor is laying in the hospital completely defenseless, take a vote on it in committee without giving the pastor or anyone else a chance to plead his case or defend him, and force the issue without bringing it to the church for a vote. Of course, there are many other scenarios which could depict a church leadership not in tune with the will of God.
Sarah Palin paid for all the gossip stirred up by the Democrats (she explains in her book, Going Rogue). Her personal legal fees amounted to more than $500,000 and the state racked up more than $2 million because of frivolous ethics accusations which according to Alaska law had to be answered in court. Without fact-checking, the media spread the gossip. So many people took the attitude “where there’s smoke,” when in actual fact it was foggy thinking and sloppy journalism.
All of this leads me to a huge question, so let’s set the foregoing aside and look at the question, WHY does God allow that to happen to such good and godly people? And another question, WHY does God not allow some Christians to defend themselves in situations such as this?
I know the answer to the first part…
God allows bad things to happen to good people for so many reasons: To bring Him glory in how Christians handle the bad things; To help others once the storm has passed; To strengthen His child and bring the child so close to Him we can hear the beat of His heart; and – here is what hit me – to give opportunity to rise to a higher level in our eternal preparedness. In other words, so we can graduate to secondary education and eventually earn a Doctorate in life experiences and Faith through how we react to everything God allows to happen to us.
If we do not weather storms, then those we minister to do not give a lot of credence to what we say. For example: A divorced woman would smile and nod at the attempts of the pastor’s wife to console even though the woman hasn’t a real clue what the divorcee is feeling or experiencing because she’s never been through a divorce, yet the divorcee would feel like the offering was merely platitude rather than real hope. Been there, know it. When a believer has walked through the valley and came through the storm, the very fact that the person is sharing what God did in the midst of the storm brings the one ministered to great hope the same will happen to him. Hope is huge and necessary for mental health during tribulations.
Just as Job proved God’s point to Satan, so too we are used even today to prove God’s point to Satan, and we may never know it until we get to Heaven. How we handle life’s experiences can either bring God glory, or bring Him shame. LORD, please help me to bring you glory!
The first thing any Christian does when something bad happens is call out to the LORD. We ask for prayer from our siblings in Christ, we bow the knee and head and humble ourselves to the One who can fix any situation. We snuggle close and climb up in His lap and we are carried in His strong arms. This is how we learn the rhythm of God’s heartbeat.
But, the last reason is probably the most important reason. Our life is a progress of sanctification. This is how we become more Holy and become more Christ-like. There is no way we can do this with just head knowledge from books. We can learn principles, but we never know how those principles work if we do not practice them. Without practicing the principles, then we won’t become adept at using them, just as we cannot learn the Bible without reading it. Practice leads to perfection and to the next level. Each level of a video game becomes harder and faster. To progress, the player must become adept or expert at a level and then he moves to the next higher level. That only comes with playing the game consistently. The player can become an expert more quickly if he studies the playbook. So, too, do Christians understand more, are more resilient, and have happier attitudes when we study the Bible which assists the Holy Spirit in His job of sanctifying the Body.
Bad things are not only common to man, but necessary to man so that our souls are stretched which enables us to hold more and experience more of our LORD. Amen.
As to the second question, WHY didn’t God allow a solid defense? The answer I’ve discovered is astounding. Psalm 5:11 But let all who put their trust in You rejoice; let them always shout for joy, because You defend them. And let those who love Your name be joyful in You.
God’s purpose is for us to allow Him free reign over our hearts. When we do this, we bend the knee to His every decision and His every desire for us. When we get in the way, when we keep picking up the broken pieces to glue them together, we keep botching the repair. We can’t do it without cracks or missing miniscule pieces. On the other hand, God repairs without scars. With that same power, God also allows mankind much leeway to repent or to hang himself.
When hearts are hardened, no matter how big the mountain of proof is, the hard heart will not recognize truth for Truth. Make no mistake, when God defends you, who can thwart the plans of God or undo His work? Isaiah 43:13
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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