A Typical or Atypical Pastor's Wife-whichever one you come to believe

Welcome to the barnyard. Watch your step! The things written here are raw and unedited. Just my thoughts thrown on a page as they flow from my heart.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Integrity in the House of God

As I mentioned before, my brother-in-law came to preach at our church in October.  During the time he took on Sunday morning, he delivered what is really more like two sermons than one.  In America, we refer in joke to the first sermon as being "for free".  Of course, we don't charge people to get into church, but in the USA money seems to be at the bottom line of everything!

I shared already what he preached about valuing the things of God.  That was the "free" part. LOL!  I also want to share what the Lord had laid on his heart to share originally.  Some of the things I shared in my blog about Happy Valley really were a result of thinking about this sermon and the recent events in my locale and how those things relate to the church at large in the world.  Of course, not being a world traveler in any respect, my main focus is on the American church mostly and it's seemingly free-fall from grace and integrity.  I'm not that old, but in the years I have been a Christian I have seen some monumental and fundamental changes in the church, it's doctrine and it's practice.  Recent events are just fallout from these changes and I pray are a wake-up call to all sincere believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

He preached on "Integrity in the Church"  His premise was that the church in America has lost her integrity.  

When the church lost it's integrity, it lost it's impact on society.

In August, I experienced my first earthquake.  The epicenter was in the state of Virginia not too far from Washington DC.  As a result, the Washington Monument was damaged.  They have found several cracks in the structure.  Although it is still standing and looks the same as it did before, the "integrity" of the building has been compromised.  Yellow caution tape has been placed around it's base to warn any approaching that the building is unsafe.  Anymore shaking or even a strong wind could place those in or around it in danger if it collapses.

My BIL's definition of integrity was this:  "the amount of pressure something can take without caving in , falling down and being compromised.:"  He went on to say that if you have been through a trying experience and all you can say "all I have left is my integrity, then you will make it through alright."  Scripture tells us that "those who endure to the end will be saved"-we have maintained our spiritual integrity!

When we lose integrity, we lose authority with God.  If we choose to lie on Monday and then pray in Jesus name on Tuesday, it won't do any good.  In fact, if you find that Satan is not submitting to the name of Jesus in your life, you'd better examine yourself to see if you've lost your authority with God.  The devil has no option but to bow to that name, but if it appears he has an option, then you have probably lost your integrity and thus your authority along the way somewhere.

Obedience through the week gives quality and integrity to your worship on Sunday.

Integrity is not born.  It's made by consistent living in obedience.  A weak structure of heart and soul is the result of inconsistent living.  Each act of obedience strengthens integrity in your life.

Church going people need to learn to tell the truth.  We've all been dishonest and inconsistent with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  For instance, we have all seen someone in the store that we really don't care for on a personal level and we do all we can to avoid having to stop and talk to them.  But on the occasion that it's unavoidable, the first thing we say to them is "Oh, it's SO nice to see you."  We didn't mean a single word we just said!

Some parents tell their kids to do something.  they may tell them several times.  When the kid doesn't respond, they say "I'm counting to three." What they have really taught their children is that words don't mean anything. 

In Genesis, God spoke and there was.  Now that is integrity.  What He said came to pass.  We tell the church and the world that we can pray and be healed, but we very often don't see it.  The church must have faith to the level that we can back up what we say.  Instead, we explain it away by coming up with some different theology that presents God as weak or partial.  Or we hear "Well, God is sovereign."  God IS sovereign and He has sovereignly  presented His will to us through His Word.  And that Word says that healing is part of the atonement and that He will heal every time and anything when faith is present.   It's not His will that we are sick or die of illness.  But it happens.  It's not His will that any should perish, but they do.  That's not God's fault, it's our fault!  But instead of looking at ourselves and examining our own faith, we spiritualize our weakness and ignorance by pinning the blame on God's sovereignty.  

Just recently two people I know, who were professing to believe God for healing died.  I don't believe it was God's sovereign will.  Neither death brought any glory or honor to the name of God.  They mostly left questions, confusion and pain.  I'm not judging them.   I'm just saying that what happened to them and what the Word of God says should happen were two totally different things.  And I can't believe that the problem lies with a perfect God.  The church has lost her integrity when it comes to healing.  What we used to see, we don't see anymore.  Has God changed?  Has His power or will to heal diminished?  NO!  In fact, I told my husband that if I ever get sick and die of a disease that I want him to stand on top of my coffin and proclaim that it is God's will to heal all-all the time and that the problem in receiving the healing is lies with the person in the coffin, not with God.  Okay, the last 1 1/2 paragraphs was "for free!"  LOL!

Ps. 25: 21 
 May integrity and uprightness protect me, 
   because my hope, LORD, is in you.

The word integrity does not occur in the New Testament, but the words sincerity, truth, and a single eye do.  Integrity protects and preserves us.

Psalm 26
 Vindicate me, LORD, 
   for I have led a blameless life; 
I have trusted in the LORD 
   and have not faltered. 
2 Test me, LORD, and try me, 
   examine my heart and my mind; 
3 for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love 
   and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.

We must have a lifestyle of integrity.  We must have a  strong personal relationship without any backsliding.  To backslide, you have to first lose your integrity.  The devil tries to weaken your structure (compromise your integrity)  until you collapse.

Prov.11: 3  
The integrity of the upright guides them, 
   but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

integrity guides you when facing a decision.  If a decision is going to compromise your integrity, don't go there.

Prov.  20:7
The righteous lead blameless lives; 
   blessed are their children after them

Even our children are blessed after you if you live in integrity.

So many want to see miracles again in the church.  And when God does start to move we sometimes grow arrogant and wear His moving as some kind of spiritual badge on our shirt.  God's miracles are not a short cut through your spiritual responsibility.  

In Gen 20:5  Abraham lost his integrity by lying about Sarah.  Abimilech was wrong but not in the integrity of his heart. Eventually,  Abimilch became a God-fearing ruler.  In v. 6 he states that he was kept from sin because of integrity.  Integrity will save you from the pain of sin.   

Integrity is co-joined with obedience and is the product of obedience.

Gen 13:1-  Lot was a distraction to God's plan for Abraham.  God never told him to take Lot or his father along.  And Lot caused distraction and was a problem for Abraham along the way.  If he had obeyed totally what God said, we might read a slightly different story in scripture.  Of course works is not what saves us, but you'd better have works after you're saved and you'd better have a maintenance program for your spiritual life in place!

I've often compared salvation and the life following to receiving an expensive car as a gift.  The car was a gift.  It cost me nothing to get it.  But after it's mine I am responsible for insurance of the car, gas, and repairs on the car.  That cost's me something.  Salvation is very much this way.  It's the free gift of God, but it will cost us everything!

Not having integrity in your spiritual life will cause you to lose out with God.  You miss a service one Sunday and you feel guilty.  The second time you miss, you feel bad, but not as bad as you did the first time.  Soon, you lose all guilt and you lose the desire to even be there.  Your conscience is seared. 

In spiritual maintenance, we have to live ahead before we get there.  We have the law of this and the law of that.   He called it the law of inevitability.   Think ahead.  If I eat 2 pieces of pie every night,  I'm not going to look the same.  People smoke two packs of cigarettes a day and are shocked when they get emphysema.   To be healed, you have to lay down the cause of the illness or sickness or problem. 

Integrity is a binder.  Love is made up of all kinds of attributes.  One of them is integrity.  Water is the binder with flour, yeast and salt that produces bread.  Integrity is what holds things together.  It's a moral fiber to the human soul.

Civilizations implode from within, not without.  This is why we must have integrity with the Word of God and why the church to some extent is imploding.    The church has lost it's integrity when dealing with God's Word.  And it is imploding, slowly and surely.  

We shouldn't have to think about our answers to questions concerning sin.  Many preachers get on t.v. and him-haw around trying to say the right answer in a palatable way.  Even if we're on t.v.  We just say yes it is.  God said it. Take it or leave it.  Jesus never worried about being politically correct or "sensitive" to a person's position in life.  He just told the truth and they had to deal with it.

The church has paid a high price for the loss of integrity.  We're a joke to the world.  We're just like the world.  And God is not honored in that.

Gen 25: 34  Jacob and Esau.  Esau lost his birthright.  The birthright meant everything.  It was the key to prosperity and legacy.  He didn't value it.  He valued this earth more than the spiritual not realizing that his earthly life was greatly affected by his birthright.  We cannot compromise church attendance for a better shift or better pay.  We are, in effect, losing our birthright in God.  Joseph's integrity took him from the pit to Pharaoh's house.

 If you want to succeed, maintain your integrity.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not-So-Happy Valley

To add to the chaos I mentioned in an earlier post--enter the Jerry Sandusky scandal!  As if I needed one more thing to sort out in my already swirling brain!   The third safest city in the USA, no police officer ever killed in the line of duty, academic utopia, "Penn State Proud" community has been rocked by perhaps the most heinous crimes against children ever reported.   It appears that it's not all that safe.  After all that has transpired the term "Penn State Proud" does not mean so much anymore.

I'm just one of the millions who are weighing in on this situation on the web, but being that my husband is a PSU grad, we were campus pastors on the main campus where the heinous acts occured and I've spent the last 20 years of my life living here, I felt that I ought to say something.  After weighing all the things I know and don't know and feel I ought to know to come to a sensible conclusion about the situation, the people who did or didn't do what they should or shouldn't have done, what they could or couldn't have done, the consequences that have been or should have been or will be handed down in the future, I have come to only one conclusion.


Was I shocked by the events?  Yes, in a way.  That's just not something you hear everyday.  It always seems to be worse when children are the innocent victims.  But in a way, as a Christian, I should not be shocked at all.  Sinners do what sinners do.  They sin!  Why are Christians sometimes the most surprised by the depths of sin a person can reach?  We, above all others, having been redeemed, delivered and set free from sin should know the ferocity and heinousness of sin.  We, more than any, should know the fee that sin requires, the toll it takes of every life.

Sin is sin.  Sin is ugly.  Sin knows no limits, has no conscience and takes all that it can possibly get.  Sinners sin.  Scripture tells us that "a little leaven leaven's the whole lump."  All Satan needs is just one open window, one crack in the door of your heart and he will come streaming in and take over whatever he is allowed to take.  And sin will not cease nor desist  until it has completed it's mission-to kill, to steal, and to destroy. 

After examining all of this and observing the reactions of "church people" to this travesty,  I've concluded that the institution that has the most to learn from these events is the church.

The church needs to learn once again the definition of sin.  I find many who think that there is such a thing as "little white lies", "okay gossip"-usually coming disguised as prayer requests,  situational obedience-usually meaning that we set standards for others that we lower when faced with them ourselves, and what it really means to "love" with the God-kind of love.  When it's our sin, it's little.  When it's other's sin, it's BIG.

The church needs to stop accepting "little sins"  and deeming them as not serious. Gossiping, worldliness or greed will send you the same place as child molestation will.  We need to be just as appalled at their presence in our personal lives as we are at the presence of more "culturally unacceptable" sins in the lives of the unsaved.

The church needs to stop and look first in the mirror.  With all the indignation over the alleged and seemingly incomprehensible acts done to the innocent kids by this predator, the church needs to stop and examine it's own business.  Without one "guilty" from the judicial system, one man in Happy Valley has lost his job, his untarnished reputation, and much, much more and 4 others have been placed on administrative leave.  Yet in many mega churches around the country where the same kinds of accusations have been brought against Pastors, those Pastors continue on in the pulpit, their congregational numbers the same and or more than before.  Pastors who have publicly beaten their wives,  who have been caught in adulterous affairs, who have been found out to be drunkards, who have found to be fraudulent in their "demonstrations" of miracles working power, who have involved their congregations in questionable or illegal money schemes for their own benefit continue to pontificate from their pulpits every Sunday as if nothing has happened.  And "the church" of America continues to attend their services without even so much as a blink of the eye.  Some self-proclaimed "Apostles" now travel to churches who allow or condone sinful living styles to preach the love of God, having been swayed from sound doctrine by the constant bombardment of tolerance teaching of a culture that is fast approaching the same state reached by every major civilization just before it imploded.  America needs no enemies.  We are our own worst enemy.  And the church stands idly by afraid to take a stand for holiness, afraid to run counter culture.  Instead, we "Christianize" everything in our culture to make Christianity more palatable to our culture when we are truly called to permeate and CHANGE our culture!

 We need to stop living just to get by, or get "in", which ultimately is not about Jesus at all, but what He can do for us to keep us from burning in a devil's hell, and find out exactly what pleases God and start living it!  I find so many who are more interested in knowing only those things about God that please them instead of really being concerned about what pleases Him, and yes, there are preachers for that as well.

Do we really understand the depravity of the sinful nature of human flesh?
Do we understand that we are under a death sentence unless we have been truly born again, CHANGED by the power of God, living holy lives fully dedicated and consecrated to the Lord?
Do we really even care or is it still all about us?
What are we doing about sin--in our own lives, in the lives of those we see everyday?  Do we see it's destructiveness in them?   Do we see it's destructiveness in us?  Do we see that it renders us totally ineffective for the Kingdom of God that we claim to serve?  Does it move us to action?  Does it put us on our knees?  Does it cause us to weep and lament and cry before the Lord?  It should!

Concerning Jerry Sandusky and his alleged crimes, the jury is still out.  I am waiting to see what the trial reveals because in America, a person is innocent until proven guilty.

 If he is guilty, I hope that he is punished to the fullest extent the law allows. I hope he is locked up tight away from children for the rest of his life.  I pray that he finds the God who will take those sins, wash them in  His own blood, and produce a Jerry Sandusky who is whiter than snow.  I pray that his victims will also find that same God who can heal any wound no matter how deep, can change any mind no matter how scarred, and who loves all that He loves with a love that is perfect.

As for the church, we had better get busy!  It's obvious that we have a lot of work to do.   Judgement day is coming for us as well.  If that day were today, what would God say to us, as the church?  What would God say to me as His servant?


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Valuing the Things of God

My husband's little brother preached at our church on October 23rd.  The only thing little about him is his age. He's 9 years younger than my husband.  He's inches taller than my husband, but not quite as handsome! LOL!  (I think my sister-in-law would probably disagree with this statement.)  But one area that he is not small in is his spiritual life.  He gave the best sermon I have ever heard him preach.  Actually this is his pre-sermon!  LOL!  I'll share his sermon later.  Either way, it's worth sharing his thoughts.
~~~~    ~~~~     ~~~~~~
The Need To Re-establish Value for the Things of God in God's Church

He began by telling us what had been happening in his church over the last couple of years.  God had been moving in remarkable ways for many months there.  Salvation's, healings, and miracles were happening on a regular basis.  Then one Sunday, the Spirit just seemed to disappear.  He sought the scriptures and he sought the Word.  He was very disturbed in spirit.

Finally the Lord said to him "in spite of the things I have been doing in your midst, the people in this church have lost their value for the things of God.  When something loses value, you lose the passion for that thing.  When you lose your passion for that thing, you lose the motivation to move towards it (or to guard it).  When you lose motivation, it will lower the level of endurance you are willing to endure to go through and get whatever you are seeking after.  The value for the things of God must be re-established in their hearts."

The level of our value  for something directly determines our level of passion and our level of endurance.

One example is the divorce rate in America.   As a culture we have lost the value for the sanctity of marriage.  We've lost our passion for marriage and therefore our level of endurance to put up with things in marriage is at a low level.  When you hear a man referring to his wife as "the old lady", you know that he has lost the value of his wife.  Where couples used to to allow years to work through things, now a couple of weeks is the norm.  There is a low level of endurance in the fight.

A good indicator of your value of the things of God is your church attendance.  Church attendance is a spiritual exercise.  I you value it, you'll be willing to put up with anything just to get there.  Nothing short of debilitating illness or death will keep you from the house of God.   Visiting family will have to wait.  Employment opportunities will have to wait for Monday-Saturday.  (I also believe that not only will you be dedicated to Sunday, but also to other church activities throughout the week.) 

In the days of Saul, the ark of the covenant was lost.  No one looked for it through the reign of Saul 47 years.  Some commentators say over a hundred years.  How in the world could they not think of the ark?  It represented the very presence of God.  It was at the centrality of their existence.  It was the centrality of their worship.  It was the very presence of God in their midst. It scared their enemies.  They were known by the heathen nations as "the people of the presence".  They couldn't be overcome if that box was present.  You tell me, how in the world do you forget about the ark of the covenant as a part of your worship life,  society, culture, existence,  you tell me how can you forget that it even exists???    They lost the value for the things of God.  They didn't even know where it was!!  For somewhere between 2-5 generations, the ark of the covenant and the value of it were lost to Israel. 

This means that several generations grew up, were instructed and discipled in how to function without the presence of God.  Probably even mentioning it to them would have gained you nothing but blank stares!

When David inquired about the ark, they searched and found the ark in someones house who lived outside the city.  It's sort of finding a car in West Virginia in someones front yard with weeds growing up all through it!  It was in a guy's house like a piece of furniture.  The man who had the ark also had a son  named Uzza.    The ark had become common to him as well which is why he so easily reached and steadied it on the trip back to Jerusalem.  Perhaps all the disrespect and irreverence caught up with the man and it cost him his life.

Don't ever stop valuing the things of God!  If Israel could lose the Ark of the Covenant after knowing it's power, if they could continue to suffer loss, persecution and failure in battle and not realize that they had lost the power of God, it can happen to us!!!   If they could grow comfortable with living without all that the Ark and it's presence could supply, it could easily happen to us!   It has happened to us in the American church! 

People can talk of the things of God and Christians look at you like a deer in headlights.  Biblical terminology has been cast aside for more "modern" language.  Talk of the moving of the Spirit of God in a church service causes wide eyes, uplifted eyebrows and sideways glances even in some Pentecostal churches who are Pentecostal but in name only! 

Why not value the language?  Why not just bring it into our century?  It has not changed!  It's meaning has not changed!  The power behind it has certainly not changed, nor will He EVER!  He is the same yesterday, today and forever!  We have left the Ark in the woods!
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My brother-in-law had each person in his church fill out a survey about their spiritual activity on a daily basis.  The results showed they were sorely lacking in almost every area.  Perhaps they had grown comfortable with the Spirit of God moving and grown lax in their own pursuit of spirituality.   Needless to say, they had lost their sense of value for the things of God and God had moved on from their presence.  

As Christians, we can have a lot of head knowledge about the Bible and all that it affords us as believers but if that knowledge is not proven with practical experience, that's really all it is-knowledge and "knowledge puffs up".  When your head is swollen, you can't think right.  When you don't think right you don't do right.  When you don't do right, things don't turn out the way they should.  I wonder if this is not what happened to Israel?  They were unbeatable as long as that Ark was with them in battle and their hearts were right with God.  Perhaps the victories went to their heads and they forgot who it was that was winning those battles!  Perhaps they took being God's "chosen" into the realm of pride and arrogance instead of staying in the humbleness of their beginnings.  It would explain a lot of what I see today in what people call "church."

A few weeks ago the Lord took me back to my "beginnings" in Him.  I realized that a lot of what I had felt--the joy, the zeal, the wonder of salvation--had lost some of it's luster in my heart and in my life.  I had chalked this up to "maturity", but the Lord showed me that instead of maturity, it was actually hardness.    I don't like that.  So I'm returning to do the things I did at first, with the Holy Spirit's help, of course.  I've been making a conscious effort to value everything I do for God, with God,  in God's house, for God's people, no matter how small or insignificant it may be.  I'm giving it first priority in my life.  And the joy--oh the joy, and the wonder and the zeal is returning and I really, really like that!