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Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Story of the Bible

This weekend, my church Missio Dei Communities held this cool weekend in which we went through the story of the Bible. We spent 10+ hours on a Friday night and Saturday morning tearing apart the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. There were two houses that hosted this and about 40 people at each one. My good friend Shauna and her roommate Rachel hosted the one I went to and Pastor Kyle facilitated. We had lasagna, salad and humus for dinner and bagels and coffee for breakfast. I love the family environments that Missio provides for these types of events. I was with the younger crowd and I was impressed on how insightful they were. We started with creation and the fall and went all the way to the crucifixion and the return of Christ. It was a great reminder for me of who God is and how much He loves us despite our shortcomings. I think weekends like this are so important for us as Christians as we tend to forget what God has done for us. I also enjoyed getting to know many of the people from the church.

Afterwards, we talked about two different churches. The one in Corinth adjusted to the world and its ways and the one in Acts stayed true to who God is and broke bread together and shared everything. I love being at a loving and caring church like Missio Dei. This family showed this love during my knee surgery with phone calls, cards and bringing over meals for me while I was laid out. I hope I get chances to be a blessing to others as they have been for me. I am thankful for opportunities to learn about the gospel and how Christ is our Redeemer.

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Ok.. I usually don’t copy and paste things, but I read this and it spoke to me. With how big my church is getting, I’m seeing too much of this… gossip. I’ve written about this before, but I really love the wording and scripture verses given and just wanted to share. Its pretty long. We need to better (myself included) as Christians in this area.  I’m seeing leadership and people potentially going into ministry back talking others. It hurts (being a victim myself) and it’s sad. Not aimed toward anyone.. just sharing.

Our Community has many strong points, and many indications of real spiritual growth. But there are some practical areas to which we have all paid insufficient attention. One of these is the terrible human tendency to repeat rumour, to draw unsupported conclusions, and to get disaffected with others until we imagine untrue things about them which we then state to others. I am not innocent in this area. And neither are any of us (not that this fact in any way comforts me). Let’s not pretend that any of us don’t gossip. And let’s admit that our ears love to hear gossip. ” The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s innermost parts” (Prov. 18:8 NIV), i.e. we dwell on what we hear very deeply. This is one reason to interrupt a gossiping brother or sister before they go further; for the words of gossip will go deep down within us, and we will ruminate on them.Gossip in the church is, sadly, becoming a real sin amongst us. If a community becomes full of gossip, allegation and counter-claims, very soon we will destroy ourselves. A house divided will fall. And don’t think gossip is just words. Proverbs teaches that gossip stirs up dissension; but Prov. 6:12-14 parallels “a corrupt mouth” with winking with the eye, signalling with the feet, motioning with the fingers (NIV). Our body language is effectively gossip. A flick of the hands, the slight suggestion of a shrug of the shoulders, a certain glance in the corner of the eye…it all gives negative  messages.

As gossip in the church spreads, it becomes distorted, sometimes horrendously. The result is that when the victim hears it, they inevitably become angry, and often feel that they cannot associate with their brethren and sisters if such things are thought about them. They are ashamed, angry because what was said was untrue, and they are tempted to become vindictive against those whom they hold to be responsible. In extreme cases, this can lead to resignation from the community. An offended brother is harder to be won back than a fortified city (Prov. 18:19). Over the past year as you read this, this will have  happened. But often the result is simply a decreased enthusiasm to attend the meetings, to break close contact with the brethren and sisters who ought to be our true friends. This results in a community which is cold and untrusting of each other, with every one of us internalizing our struggles, appearing righteous on the surface but never opening our hearts. And this also is happening amongst us. For all concerned, the process of gossip and counter-claiming all saps real spirituality out of us. We have enough wonderful things to contemplate: the supremacy of the love of Christ, far above our human knowledge; the sublime intricacy of God’s word and character; the fulfilment of prophecy; the wonder of our Hope. These things ought to fill our thinking- and our conversation with each other. If they don’t, and gossip in the church becomes the main diet of our conversation, something is very seriously wrong with us. We only have a few years at most (probably far less) to sort ourselves out before we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. We need to be using every moment.

The Biblical Verdict

The Bible could not be clearer in it’s analysis of gossip in the church. It is like shooting an arrow from a secret place at a person (Ps. 64:4 RV). It is no coincidence that the word translated ” devil” essentially means a false accuser, a slanderer (so it is translated in 1 Tim. 3:11; 2 Tim. 3:3). Slandering others is the very epitome of all that is wrong with the flesh. Strife amongst us comes from the expression of passive anger and pride (Prov. 28:25; 29:22); and strife is sown by gossip (Prov. 16:28). Therefore gossip is a way of expressing our anger and pride, no matter how nicely dressed up we make them. Or to put it in human terms, we pull a man down to make ourselves look taller. So be aware: our own frustrations, our passive resentments, the hurt we have experienced from others, all this if left to itself will result in a critical attitude towards our brethren, and will be expressed in gossip. Because gossip is such an epitome of the flesh, it is ranked along with sins like fornication, idolatry and murder in Ez. 22:9. There are passages in Jeremiah which describe slander and gossiping as being the reason why God condemned Judah (Jer. 6:28; 9:3-8). The soap operas of the world are full of this kind of gossip and intrigue; they glorify it. And the more we feed ourselves with these things, the more likely we will be to see gossip as just part of life. And yet let’s not mistake the words of the prophets; it is seen as murder, because effectively it puts to death a man’s relationship with his fellows. God hates the man who sows such discord among brethren through gossip in the church (Prov. 6:19). ” The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly” (Prov. 26:22). That casual remark, that passing on of information under the guise of ‘concern’- it was a body blow to the one you gossiped about, a blow so hard that it caused deep internal damage.

David took a strong view against slander- having suffered so much of it himself. He vowed to put to death, i.e. to set up the death sentence, for anyone caught privately slandering or backbiting against a neighbour (Ps. 101:5 Heb.). That’s how bad are backbiting and slander, however quietly (“privily”, the AV quaintly says) they’re done. And of course the Lord shared this understanding, by teaching that hatred of our brother is in fact the kind of murder which carried the death penalty in Old Testament times.

Loving Our Neighbour

Proverbs is often a commentary upon the Law. The many passages there about gossiping are based upon just one passage, in Lev. 19:16-18: ” Thou shall not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people…thou shalt not hate thy neighbour in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise (frankly, NIV) rebuke thy neighbour…thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge…but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” . The fact this passage is expanded upon so many times in Proverbs would indicate that gossip was as major a problem among the old Israel as it is among the new. But notice the fine psychology of the Spirit here: gossip in the church is related to having a grudge, to hating your neighbour in your heart, to not loving your neighbour as you love yourself (and we are veryconservative about our own failings). When the Lord spoke about hating your brother being the same as murdering him (Mt. 5:22; 1 Jn. 3:15), he may well have been thinking of this passage in Leviticus. To hate your brother in your heart, to gossip about him, was and is as bad as murdering him. And this same connection between gossip and murder is made in the prophets (Ez. 22:9 cp. Prov. 26:22). But the Law provided a way out. If you had something against your brother, frankly tell him about his failure, so that you would not hate him in your heart. If we don’t do this, or try to get someone else to do it, we will end up hating our brother in our heart and we will gossip about him.

The Lord Jesus more or less instated this command as relevant for His ecclesia (Mt. 18:15). The purpose of it is not just for the sake of the brother who has erred, it isn’t just a polite protocol to follow; it is for our sake too, who have seen the weakness of our brother. Unless we talk frankly to him about it, between us alone, then we will end up hating him in our heart (even though it may not feel like that) and we will gossip about him. The frank raising of the issue with our brother is associated with loving our neighbour as ourselves. This is actually the opposite to what we would think; we would imagine that it would be more ‘loving’ to say nothing to our brother. But in this case, we will inevitably gossip about him and be bitter against him. The practice of true love will result in an open community in which we can frankly discuss with each other the issues which concern us, with love and not hatred in our hearts. This is the teaching of Lev. 19:16-18. No wonder the Proverbs expand upon it so much. And no wonder the Lord appropriated it as a ground rule for His ecclesia- there must be no gossip in the church.

Ps. 15:3 offers further commentary upon gossip in relation to our “neighbour”: “He that…speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor receiveth / endureth a reproach against his neighbour” (Ps. 15:2,3 AVmg.). To gossip / backbite is paralleled with receiving gossip. To listen to it and accept it is as bad as to create it in the first place. The antidote is to have a mind that thinks of those things which “are true…lovely….of good report”. We live in a world of conscious untruth and half truth. In our unshareable self, our inner thoughts and musings, let us seek to have only that which is true passing through our meditations. And then we will not want to receive a gossip against our brother, indeed by implication we will not ‘endure’ it, we will tell the gossiper to cease, and certainly not act upon it.

Like all sin, gossip in the church has a price attached to it. ” Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself (cp. Lev. 19:17; Mt. 18:15); and discover not a secret to another, for he who hears it may shame you, and you will never lose your bad reputation” (Prov. 25:9,10 AV with NIV). ‘Gossip usually backfires on you’, that’s the message. And a reputation as a gossip is very difficult to shake off. It means that none of your brethren will want to be close to you. Remember that Prov. 20:19 was spoken within the context of the ecclesia of Israel, not the world generally: ” A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much” (NIV). The New Testament equivalent to this may be the command to avoid those in the ecclesia who cause divisions and arguments (Rom. 16:17). The sin of gossip is not only because it upsets the victim, but because it upsets unity in the family of God. The Lord’s agonizing death was so that we might be one; to upset that unity is therefore to undo what His cross was intended to achieve. A talebearer is called one who flatters with his lips (Prov. 20:19). The motive for gossip is therefore for us to flatter or impress others, to make us look better because we have dragged others down lower. This is the Biblical analysis of the psychosis of gossiping. Words have more effect and hurt than we realize. A lying tongue wounds or crushes those it attacks (Prov. 26:28 RVmg.). This is the power of words.

The Hebrew word translated ” talebearer” is a compound of the word for merchant or barterer; one who trades, in tales. The suggestion is that every gossip is traded for (i.e. provokes) another piece. And how many of our own conversations prove the truth of this! A gossip is made, and the other party to the conversation invariably says something which they also ought not to. Gossip in the church very quickly becomes a way of life, both in individuals and in the whole community. In Jeremiah’s time, gossiping was associated with ‘proceeding from evil to evil’ (Jer. 9:3); it is part of a downward spiral of spirituality. Once gossip starts a quarrel, it’s like water bursting out of a dam; soon the whole land of Israel will be flooded (Prov. 17:14 NIV). So it’s best not to start it, not only for our own sakes, but because of the effect it will have on the rest of the body. Peter likewise points an antithesis between gossiping and receiving ” the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:1,2). Real spiritual growth is impossible if we are taken up with gossiping; and this is true on the communal as well as individual level. 

Prov. 17:9 says that seeking love by covering a transgression is the opposite of ‘repeating a matter’. Think through this. It implies that we gossip, i.e. we repeat others’s sins, because we chose not to cover their sin by forgiving it. 

Practical Response

If you feel you have been slandered by gossip in the church, remember that almost every servant of God has been through this at the hands of those they counted as their brethren: Joseph, Moses, Job, David, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Paul, and above all the Lord Himself. Saul implied David and Jonathan were homosexual (1 Sam. 20:30); Miriam and Aaron implied Moses (their own brother!) was immoral (Num. 12:1). The comment that Moses was the humblest man on earth is made in the very context of his enduring unjust criticism in a spiritual way (Num. 12:3). The way Paul commanded Timothy not to evenconsider a complaint against an elder unless another two or three had been eye-witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19) is proof enough that he expected elders to be slandered from within the ecclesia. The more you read between the lines of Paul’s letters, the more evident it is that his very own brethren almost unbelievably slandered him. Thus the Galatians whispered that Paul still preached circumcision (Gal. 5:11), probably basing that nasty rumour on the fact he had circumcised Timothy. He has to remind the Thessalonians that he isn’t preaching because he wants to take money and have relationships with women (1 Thess. 2:3-12). There were some wealthy women in Thessalonica who accepted the Gospel (Acts 17:4 Western Text), and no doubt gossip spread from this. We could almost conclude that being unfairly gossiped about is a characteristic of the true servant of God. Indeed, when Paul lists the things which confirm his apostleship, he not only lists his imprisonments and shipwrecks; he says that the fact he has been slandered is another proof that he is a servant of Christ (2 Cor. 6:8)! None of these men quit the community because they had been slandered. They stuck it out. And so must we. To quit because of gossip in the church will lead to us being eaten up with bitterness- which is a cancer, it will spread to every part of our spiritual lives and destroy us; and it will spread out of us into the whole ecclesia (Heb. 12:15). This has happened all too often. So don’t get bitter! We must learn that God is our justifier, He is the One who counts us as being righteous. Our faith in this aspect of the atonement is never what it could be: that here and now, God counts you as if you are completely righteous. Being slandered drives us to the realization that our own protestations of innocence are never enough, and thereby we learn something about the whole process of justification, and we draw closer to the Father and Son. If we run away, we are running away from the test which the Lord has given us in order to develop our faith in and love of Him. He will try to teach us the same humility another way; there can be no escape of the cross, if we are to be His.

If God is the only and ultimate judge, human judgment, gossip and criticism shouldn’t mean so much to us. Jude 9 gives guidance about how to deal with slander and attacks from false brethren. Jude alludes to the well known Jewish legend, The Testament Of Moses. In it, the ‘devil’ slanders Moses, accusing him of having murdered the Egyptian and therefore being worthy of condemnation, and tries to drag Moses’ body down to punishment. Jude points out that in the story, the Angel Michael doesn’t indulge in justification but rather says that “the Lord rebuke thee”. And may this be our pattern.

On a practical note, it has been suggested that a new convert should not be made an elder because he may fall into “the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:6,7). Diabolos is often used in the pastorals in relation to gossipers (1 Tim. 3:6,7,11; 2 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 2:3). Gossip is the clearest manifestation of the ‘devil’ within our natures, and we should be aware of this. “The condemnation of the devil” may therefore mean that the gossipers, whether within or outside the ecclesia, will more easily condemn a novice. If a brother has behind him all the qualifications listed in 1 Tim. 3, of faithful children, a reputation as stable, patient etc., then such gossips will have less power to condemn him in the eyes of others. Paul indicates that he understands the power of gossip in the church- he knew that a spiritually young elder was going to face slander, as sure as day follows night. And therefore, young elders aren’t a good idea, he concludes. We too need to face up to the reality of gossip, that it will happen, and we need to seek to protect those vulnerable to it before it starts.

It may be that we hear gossip in the church. It is my suggestion that we ought to challenge this, gently, of course, but with the weight of the above passages on our side. A gossiper entices others to gossip; he reveals and also elicits secrets (Heb.); ” therefore meddle not with him” (Prov. 20:19). Don’t closely mix with such a brother or sister if they won’t change their ways (there are degrees of fellowship within the one body). The command to go and discuss with our brother alone (Mt. 18:15) ought to be taken far more seriously. Statements like: ” She smokes, you know. I really don’t think she ought to smoke, do you?” are an absolute sin. Our response ought to be something like: ” You must go and speak to the sister herself about it if she smokes. If you don’t do this, you don’t have a sincere objection to her smoking. I don’t want to hear about somebody else’s weakness” . Biblically: “Keep thee far from a false matter” (Ex. 23:7). As many of you know, I don’t always have the courage to make this kind of response. But it needs to be made. Often gossip is justified as being said out of concern for someone. The deed is done unthinkingly, dressed up with the appearance of spiritual concern. The Spirit foresaw this. ” The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s innermost parts” (Prov. 18:8 NIV) uses language elsewhere used in Proverbs about the ” choice morsels” of true spiritual wisdom, which also go into ” a man’s innermost parts” (16:21,23; 20:27; 24:4 Heb.). The point of the similarity is that within the ecclesia of Israel, it would be easy to mistake gossip for true spirituality (” like choice morsels” ). We must really watch out for this. There are times when it is necessary to discuss ecclesial problems; but the need for personal appeal to the person(s) concerned as outlined above is paramount.

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Unity

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6

This idea of unity within the church has been on my mind lately. It’s very important for a church to function effectively as one body. Christ is very clear about this in scripture.

Because I’m volunteer staff at my church and not totally 100% involved, people like to tell me their problems. Most of their issues are related to someone else they have problems with. I actually find this quite humorous at times. But at times I find it sad. Because most of the stuff I hear is just back talk about another person… or gossip. I usually don’t comment when I hear this stuff and just smile and move on.

I have also noticed a lot of division within the church as well. People who aren’t talking to another person because they are angry or upset. I will tell you that this is going on with me as well. I have a couple of people who avoid me at church. I’ve tried to reach out, but have had no success. I really don’t get this. I’m kinda of quirky in a way that I can shrug those situations off until they are ready to talk. I’ve done what I can. I have a close relationship as well that went south and just hasn’t been the same. Its hurts. It still hurts today. Yet people seem to think that ignoring the situation and not owning up to their problems is the easy way out. It makes no sense to me. Its wrong.

Christ is so clear about fixing your problems with your brother before coming to church. He is so clear that the longer you let things linger, the harder it is to fix. The sad thing is all the situations mentioned above involve people who are leaders within the church. And believe me, I throw myself in this mix. I’m a firm believer in Proverbs 27:5-6. I’ve written some ’tough love’ emails in the past few months that have angered some people. I’m probably not the best communicator in opening up about how I feel about things.

I only bring this up for one reason. Unity. Christ calls for unity in His church. A church can’t function well with these problems. I will tell you that I find it hard to come to church because of my own issues going on. It has affected my own ministry. I feel very distracted at times. But then I remember that the church is made up of sinners. We are human. But we need to strive to do better. Cornerstone is an amazing church. It has an amazing body of believers. Yet we can’t let the enemy break us up and cause so much division. We need to support and encourage each other. We need to be like Christ and demonstrate love for one another.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philppians 2:1-4

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Temptation

The church I go to is a big church. God has blessed this church so much. The past couple of weeks we have been in the news because our church has decided to do a huge series on sex. We have had a great turn-out and response to this series. Of course Satan has to stick his nose into this… Something very sad happened today at my church that will make our church not look so good in the public eye. When I arrived here at the church news were everywhere. Our accountant for our church took quite a bit of money from our funds. My first reaction was… how could someone steal money from a church? Its crazy how Satan works. He’s tempts us to do evil. Its our choice on how we react to temptation. Do we draw strength from God to resist temptation or do we take the easy way out and let Satan overpower us? God gives us the power to overcome him. Today I am sad. I pray for healing. I pray for continue blessings for my church… I pray for continued strength for our church body to get through this… Only God can restore.

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I love baseball. April 1 was opening day for baseball. But I missed out on it. Why? Because it was also the opening day for our new worship auditorium for our church. It took a couple of years to build. Its an amazing building! I am very fortunate to be on the production team for my church. I easiliy put in 20+ this weekend in rehearsals and training in addition to working my normal job. The couple of days leading to Sunday were incredible. The amount of teamwork, volunteers, prayer, fellowship, etc that went on was truly a blessing to be a part of. The services went pretty smooth with very little problems. The band was awesome as well as Kurt Warner. And you know what the best part is.. we ran out of seats. Its crazy how God has blessed this church. I’m so glad to be a part of it. What an amazing day is was!

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Wow!

I just did a walk through in the new auditorium of our church – how amazing!!! I can’t believe how awesome service will be. As some of you know, I’m on the production team. So I’m looking forward to getting my hands on some of the new cameras and the new switchboard. The production is going to amazing!! I think April 1 is our move-in day. So everyone come out – bring a friend!!

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