Wednesday, May 27, 2015

No Other Gods

Photo: pixshark

There's this part of the Bible. It's called the Ten Commandments. Within those commandments is this: You shall have no other gods before me.

This is something we all struggle with every day. We love our smart phones, our cars, our money, ourselves. But here's a surprising candidate in the pool of things we place too much importance in:

CHURCH

Now, let me be clear. Church in a Christian's life is of utmost importance. Fellowship is where we learn how to deal with sin, where we find mentors, where we grow in Christ with like-minded Christians. Church is vital, it's important, it's necessary.

But when humans place too much honor, too much significance on their own individual church, this is where problems arise. The church is not something that is to be held in higher regard than Jesus Himself. The church is simply a conduit through which people worship Jesus Christ, it should not be worshiped itself.

This pedestal that we put churches on can be formed in so many ways. Sometimes it is the church itself that pushes it's own superiority. Things like a church claiming that only the people who attend their specific church will go to Heaven, or insisting that their brand is more important than any other church. An example:

My church organizes small groups throughout the year. Those small groups have a specified curriculum that we have to stick to each meeting. That's totally fine, completely normal. We're meeting in a group with the church name in the title, the church has the right to choose what we study.

Now, if my church stepped in and told me what I could and could not study in my women's Bible study, which has no affiliation with the church itself...that would be crossing the line.

In that example, the church would be thinking more highly of itself and the brand that it is publicizing than the spiritual growth of the people in it. It is not the church's place to dictate what I can and cannot do in my personal life. As a Christian, I should be making wise and godly decisions. As a leader in church, I need to be an example for those around me, otherwise the church would have every right to ask me to step down from my roles. But it is my choice to live my those guidelines. It is no one else's place to decide the outcome of my life.

Sometimes it is not the church as a whole that is corrupt, but a select few of the leadership. One bad apple ruins it for everyone. These are the people that take things to an extreme. Their church says white shirts shouldn't be worn on stage, because the reflections of the lights will be blinding? This leader decides to kick anyone who ever wears white off of the worship team. Legalism at it's finest. These people are so important to weed out and quickly get into corrective action. If you don't take care of the weed in your garden, it will grow up and choke everything else out.

As church leaders, take care that you are not putting the desires of one above the souls of those lost in sin. Our ultimate goal is to reach those who are perishing. To be a witness. To love the hurting. If a non-believer saw you being so rigid, would it turn them off from the church entirely?

Often, the idealism of a church is simply created in one person's mind. An individual can elevate their status within a church to something of greater importance than it actually is. Be careful not to think too highly of yourself. A while ago, I asked someone if they were a volunteer at their church. The individual got EXTREMELY offended and said, "Of course not, I'm on staff." As though being a volunteer were some sort of insult. I would say this person was glorifying their church, as well as their standing within the church. As though being a staff member gave them some special social standing. It should never be looked down upon to be a volunteer. The church is held up by the effort of volunteers. Being a staff member does not make someone more elite than anyone else, and responding the way that person did is overtly pretentious.

Get off your high horse.

Climb down and hang out with us, the normal, "boring" people.

We're working to glorify God.

Make sure that's what you're doing too.

Worship God, not the church.

Always,

Jackelyn Stange

Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Own Worst Enemy


Photo: Promise Photography

Who is my biggest rival? Who hurts me the most? Who do I despise regularly? Myself. Always myself. My biggest enemy is me. 

A good friend pointed out the other night that I have an tendency to beat myself up over trivial things. I let stuff get under my skin, I let it fester, I let it grow out of proportion. Then I tell myself how much I suck, how much of a failure I am, how much nobody likes me. I dwell on my faults, I rip myself apart from the inside.

Why? I honestly have no idea. Probably because fear of failure is my biggest fear. I don't want people to see me as inadequate. So when I do anything wrong, anything at all, I get extremely frustrated. I tell myself that I suck and I'm not good at ANYTHING and I should just give up.

Because of this, it's so very hard for me to accept criticism. Most of the time, I already know I've made a mistake. I've probably been mulling over it, smacking my forehead with my palm, and generally hating myself the entire time. Then, when somebody steps in and takes it upon themselves to point out my faults, I suddenly have all of my fears and frustrations confirmed. I do suck, I am stupid, everybody does hate me. If they didn't think all of those things about me, why would they be telling me how much I failed?

Having read Crash the Chatterbox, I know these thoughts are just Satan, trying to derail me. He knows these things about me, knows how hard I am on myself. He helps manipulate situations so that my silly brain will careen off into self loathing. He knows my weaknesses.

God promises that He will give strength to the powerless (Isaiah 40:28-29). He is my rock, my fortress (Psalm 62:6). When I start to feel down about myself, I can look to the Creator of Heaven and Earth and know that He believes in me. He doesn't think I'm useless or a waste of space. He knows what I'm capable of, and He knows what He has planned for my life.

God has a path laid out for each and every one of us. If you feel like me sometimes, take heart! You are precious and loved. No missteps that we make can change His mind about us. He sees beyond the human nature and into the soul. His love can set you free.

Sometimes, life is hard. For everyone. Be careful with people. Even if they seem strong and carefree, they're still fragile. Take the time learn about them, to lift them up rather than tear them down.

So you feel like the Joker now
No more Aces under the table
You try to hide to hide your broken pride
But you know that you're not able

So you're a Queen without a crown
And your beauty ain't what it used to be
You try to hide behind a broken smile
But your tears keep falling right into the sea

So hold on for now
I know you'll make it somehow
So hold on for now
I know you'll make it somehow

So you failed
So you failed, now get up
Cuz history happens to the best of us
Of us
I know you can
So you failed, try again
Cuz brother, it happens to the best of us
Of us
Hold on, hold on
So you failed, now get up
Cuz history happens to the best of us
Of us
So you failed, try again
Cuz brother, it happens to the best of us
Of us
-The Best of Us The Rival

Always,

Jackelyn Stange