I recently began attending a new congregation of the church of Christ known as the Home Street congregation. I wanted a fellowship of people who were dedicated to the Word of God and following Biblical teaching only. Imagine my dismay at some of the issues that have arisen. I just don’t know what to do about some of the following, but I am quite certain I will be meeting with the elders soon.
Dress. Many have been showing up for service underdressed. Several have come in yoga pants, shorts, and even pajamas! One member even had a child show up shirtless for worship! He claimed his shoulders were sunburnt and that wearing a shirt would cause him more pain. I say, it must be painful for the Lord to watch his members show up half naked!
Women leading in worship. Out of four males present, I noticed that it was a woman who selected which lesson would be played during worship. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when it came time for the Lord’s Supper, she poured the juice and distributed the communion bread to everyone! She even instructed the young men to pray during certain times. She needs to remain silent, including her hands. Also, I do not think the Lord approves of using shot glasses for the fruit of the vine!
Worship Times. Now, we all know that the Lord’s selected worship time is between 9am and 10:30am. Why on earth some of these members wish to straggle in around 11am is beyond me! We have even had requests to start the service after lunch time! Why, the Lord must be furious! That puts it far too close to small group time and leaves out the opportunity for a fellowship meal in between.
Coffee in the Sanctuary. Several members were observed drinking coffee during worship. We have homes to eat and drink in. How can you focus on the sermon when you are swigging out of your coffee mug? And what happens if you spill coffee on our nice clean rug or seat coverings?? I mean, it’s not like we can just clean it up and move on!
Preacher not in person. We had to watch our lesson on a screen. There was no preacher there to shake my hand or ask me about all my problems as I walked out. I know these youngsters are tech savvy, but I need to have my preacher in person, so I know he hears me. And to give him this list. I know he wants to know about all of these problems. I mean, that’s his job, right? To fix my problems.
Song service. What with all the complaining over certain members having to show up so early at all, there has been no song service. I guess no one wants to sing praises when we have so much other division going on. And the worst thing is that one morning the praise and worship was played on a device known as Alexa; and some of it was instrumental and far too peppy. I like the classic hymns.
Contribution. Well, I don’t want to call anyone out specifically, but I have noticed that not one member is dropping anything in the plate for the collection. I guess they think these light bills pay themselves.
I will be submitting these grievances to the leadership immediately. And one of you other lucky local congregations may be seeing me real soon! Right after this quarantine is over and I can stop meeting in my own living room.
I received her text early in the day; it told me that they were heading into court and had some unexpected concerns arise. She was unsure what would happen, how these changes would affect the hearing, and where things would end up. She wanted to be covered in prayer. I immediately stopped working on my project, everything out of my hands, and prayed over her and all involved in the battle.
Later, when she called to tell me how things went, we talked about the fight. She knows that I fight a similar battle, and I know well the enemy. He is one who comes not directly against us, but like a guided missile toward the children we love. He desires to remove our children from safe, secure homes and create turmoil, while he tears them away from those who seek to love and protect them. It is an emotional and intense fight, as we pray and beg for God’s divine intervention. At times, the only thing that even comes close to comfort is to know that we are not stepping before God alone, petitioning Him with only one voice, but to trust that our beloved friends are bowing before Him as well, and petitioning Him on our behalf.
This is what makes the difference between the people in our lives who are spectators and the people in our lives who are soldiers. You can stand on the sideline all day long and comment and clap and even throw out little Christian catch phrases, like holding up a sign at a football game. And that’s okay, but it’s not the same as walking onto the battle field with me and covering me while I run out against enemy fire. Here’s the thing – I don’t need spectators. They make a lot of noise, and they may cheer a little, but at the end of the day, they don’t really help you win the battle.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
So, for the people I love who aren’t really willing to get dirty in the fight, please understand when I pull away from you. You will still have a place with me for coffee dates, movie nights, and other light-hearted fun. But, while I am in battle, either suit up or step aside. Hit your knees or hit the road. I love you, but there is no place for you here.
…while I am in battle, either suit up or step aside.
To those who walk out beside me onto the battlefield, you have value beyond gold. You remind me to get up, when I think I have nothing left. You speak to God on my behalf, when I feel like my prayers are depleted. You aim words of truth at me when the enemy’s lies have me fooled. You carry me wounded off the field, and take me before the Great Healer. You encourage me to keep fighting, when I think I have already lost. You remind me that victory belongs to the LORD, as do I.
May we all have and be the kind of friend who grabs their armor when the rest of the world grabs their seat.
At 21 years old, my father was a newlywed with a promising future in real estate. He was settling into married life, preparing for a future filled with work, family, and good times. While the ink on his marriage license was drying, the Army was preparing another document that would change everything — a draft notice.
My father to was opposed the Vietnam War, and was enlisted as a conscientious objector. As an objector, he was given the options of going into civilian government service or going into service as a medic. He chose to go as a combat medic with the hopes of saving lives instead of taking them.
He had plenty of opportunities to save lives. On medcaps, he would go into villages and treat for illnesses like malaria, which was rampant. Often children in the villages needed care for infections due to improperly treated sores, cuts, and wounds. One boy he treated had been hit by a ricocheted bullet that tore his stomach open; and no one had treated the wound. The villagers were happy to see him come; and he was proud to help them.
My father also treated his fellow soldiers. One young soldier had been shot through the mouth, and was just fortunate enough to have his teeth apart when the bullet went through. My father told the story of stitching up this man’s face and how lucky he was. That man’s son ended up at Auburn, and I met him at a fraternity event. It was somewhat surreal.
Of course, not all injuries could be treated. My father also stood beside his sergeant, a good friend, the day he was killed. When he fell to the ground, it was my father who comforted him, and held him as he took his last breaths. My father later wrote to the man’s family, who had never been told what happened that day, or if their son was alone. He let that man’s family know that their loved one was not alone that day, and that he cared for him until the end. The mother wrote back to my father with such gratitude for the closure that he gave her. I keep a copy of her letter as a reminder of how much my father cared about comforting others.
For his own comfort during Vietnam, my father counted on letters from my mother. They were his link to home. My mother still has those letters. Some of them I have read, some too private to share, but all with a nostalgia of war, and fear, and uncertainty. It was a desperate attempt to stay grounded while surrounded by the darkness of war.
In the darkest times, he would pray and beg God to spare his life, and return him to his wife and family. Many of his prayers began with, “God, if you will just let me get back home …” And God did let him return home, but not as the same man who left.
His time in Vietnam had a profound effect on his faith. Being with men as they died sometimes made him the last person they ever talked to, the last person who touched them, the last person to comfort them. His desire to continue helping people and being there for them in their time of need led him to ministry. Business aspirations were no longer his priority.
When he returned, he ended up in youth ministry, then as an associate minister at a church of Christ in Birmingham, before entering full time ministry here in Opelika. His heart was completely into the same things that had touched it during Vietnam, reaching out to the hurting. He continued to sit beside those who were dying, comforting them in their last moments, and praying with them.
He understood better the idea of the battle for the soul, because he understood the depths of war. He knew what it was like to have an enemy who hated you because of who you were, and wished to destroy you. It made him an amazing preacher. It made him an even better father. Even though I didn’t know my father when he was in Vietnam, I saw the reflection of Vietnam in him all the days I knew him. And I knew that his time there had shaped his purpose on this earth. God refined him for his ministry during those moments in battle.
Agent Orange, a terrible chemical used during the Vietnam War, riddled my father with health problems that eventually took his life, in 2013. Since he has passed, I continue to have people tell me that they were led to Christ by my father. Maybe it was a conversation, a sermon, or simply the investment he made in their lives; but he led them to Christ, the ultimate healer. A medic in Vietnam, and a medic from the pulpit — his purpose was to save people.
I sit before my glowing screen
Connected to the world.
This tiny thing a way in which
Opinions are unfurled.
From Christian friends to Atheists,
Each one wants a say.
It seems there is new argument
To be made every day.
We point out inconsistencies
On every person’s view,
In self-righteous indignation
Though we are imperfect too.
A fight over a candidate
Of course, I must engage.
And so I rant on one I hate
Disagreement shown in rage.
Let me tell you how I feel
About climate change and war
Abortion, sexuality, and
How we treat the poor.
On and on the preaching goes,
Attacks from every side.
Condemning one another
As we feed our growing pride.
Calling names and pointing blame
We take our stand in hate.
Then wonder why nobody will
Award us the debate.
Yet, if we take a moment
To examine our own heart,
We may conclude that anger
Is what tears our cause apart.
We enter into battle
Verbal bullets for assault.
And fire at will at all dissention,
Without restraint or halt.
The battle ends, a bloody mess,
When all is said and done.
Drum roll, and the winner is …
Oh, the winner is No One.
Preacher, I came here this morning
To draw near to God
Cause I heard that He’s a leader
By His staff and rod.
Don’t spit your talk
Just to make my head to nod
We need to feel so close to Jesus
That our hearts applaud.
I appreciate the pep talks
And motivational speaking
But, with lessons from the Word of God,
That’s not what I’m seeking.
See, I need to hear the Words of Life,
Come out like a beacon.
Cause the Word of God is made for our full sight,
Not just peeking.
I don’t really want to hear your etymology, pop psychology,
Just open up the Word and let it
Talk to me.
Let Jesus walk with me.
That’s where I need to be.
Because I live in a world
Where Satan sets his sights
On things that shake my nights
And keep me full of fright.
And I need to be reminded
To search out the light
That things will be alright
My Jesus wins this fight.
Oh, please don’t go into
Another personal story
Unless it’s meant to bring the King of Kings
It’s not really that these stories
Tend to bore me,
But they fail to lay the Word of God
Revealed before me.
So, bring the Word of God
And put it in my reach.
I understand my faith
Ain’t just some walk on the beach.
And Satan sucks the life from me
Just like a leach,
So I’m begging you this morning,
“Come on, Preacher, Preach!”
As I read through posts and comments on social media, it is so obvious that there is a need for dialogue about racism and unity. The evidence of a society divided is heartbreaking and thought-provoking, at the same time. I have friends expressing hurt, rage, offense, denial, and indifference. It truly weighs heavily on me, as I struggle to find an appropriate response.
What I find interesting is that some of my friends are coming from a completely different angle than I am, yet I respect their viewpoint. Some friends are choosing a side other than the one on which I would stand, yet I feel no need to attack them. Some of my friends are in need of cute cat pictures right now, to help deal with the conflict, and I understand that too. And though I struggle to address all of the thoughts and feelings in words, my heart is still so full of love for these people. All of them.
So, why is it that I can love people even when I vehemently disagree with their political rants or they criticize things that I hold dear? It’s because of love. It’s because I know that, like I Corinthians 13 tells us, that no matter how well-spoken I am, how faithful I am, or how generous and self-sacrificing I am, if I don’t have love, it doesn’t matter. I am nothing!
Thinking of this passage has truly caused me to pause when I see “Black Lives Matter” and wish to respond with “All Lives Matter,” because I agree with both. What I am learning, however, is that downplaying the plight of one group who feels persecuted and unheard is not loving. It only shows a lack of compassion and an unwillingness to help. So, while I may not agree with everything they say or every solution they propose, I must have compassion for their hearts, and for their pain.
I once would have told you that I supported the Confederate flag and its presence, because of the South’s history. Today, I would tell you, that though it does not offend me personally, it solicits feelings of racism and pain for many of my black American friends, and I choose not to be a part of bringing that into their lives. I could, instead, go on a rant about it being a historic symbol or “just a flag” and suggest that they simply get over it; but how could I do that in love?
Has your child ever had a broken heart over something that you thought was silly? I have. When I tell them that it doesn’t matter, and give them all of the reasons that it shouldn’t, I only shut down their dialogue with me. They are still just as upset, but now I have become someone who does not understand. On the other hand, when I acknowledge their hurt, and try to help them work through it, that shows them that I care about them enough to care about what hurts them, even if it doesn’t hurt me. It creates trust and unity with my child. It is an issue to me, because someone that I love is upset about it.
On a more personal level, you may be able to recollect a time when you were hurt over something that was downplayed. Perhaps you just wanted to know that someone else cared. You don’t need an eloquent speech, at that moment. You don’t need to be told to “Get over it.” You need to know that even though your friends are not going through the same experience, they care about it, because of their love for you.
If we are truly trying to be like Christ, we must love. We must think before we react, “Is this response going to show my love, or am I just trying to sound smart/right/informed?” If it is simply intended to put people in their place or to inflate my ego, perhaps it is best left unsaid. We have enough of that in the world. But, the Bible says that people will know we are Christians by our Love. We sing it in church, but do we show it in our behavior?
Sometimes, I think we (myself included) should bring back the “WWJD” bracelets, maybe with “WWJP – What Would Jesus Post,” instead. I can allow my emotions to get the best of me. I can feel my anger pipe up, when I read something that offends me, and I wish to answer to it. I need to pause more, and ask myself, “Is this how Christ would have responded?” Even when it is another who is full of venom, we know that Jesus was never the one to reach for the sword and strike them.
What about me? Am I showing love? Because, when all of my words are written, even if my faith is strong enough to make the mountains move, without love, they mean nothing.
The car often rolled into my quiet, suburban neighborhood. It would park on the street, and I would see them get out of the car, two to three women, in long skirts, hair nicely done, with booklets in hand. I knew who they were immediately, and cringed at the thought, “The Jehovah’s Witnesses are here.”
From house to house, they rang doorbells, with no response, or doors quickly shut. I prepared to hide, when the bell rang. Naturally, it rang as I was walking in front of the window, so I answered, awkwardly unprepared to tell them to go away. I invited them in.
They walked into my empty and cold house, filled with boxes, being prepared for a move to somewhere I had not yet determined. I had liquidated the furniture to pay my attorney, and was sleeping on an air mattress. The living room furniture was now the patio furniture that I had brought inside. The ladies each had a seat in a wrought iron chair with a cushion on it. I had moved past embarrassment into a comfortable numbness that would not allow me to apologize, but certainly made me feel inadequate.
They began to talk about religion, and I informed them that I was a Christian, and had been raised by a church of Christ minister, who was still preaching in Alabama. I told them about my uncle, who was a missionary in Africa. I told them about my grandfather who had been an elder at a nearby church, but had passed away.
With a snarled lip, I then shared about my then-husband, who had been a deacon in the church, but had just confessed to an affair with a young girl at this work. I was now in the midst of divorce, living with my three children, hands empty, heart broken, and no idea what I was going to do. All I knew was that I had to get out of there.
I felt like I had thrown up on them, at that moment.
I didn’t even know these women. I was not supposed to like them. After all, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses! They were the people that you put up signs to keep out, the ones you yell at, “Go away!” or “We don’t want any!” They are a cult, obsessed with door knocking and brainwashing. Right?
And yet, here they were, sitting in my living room, looking at me, with the most compassionate and patient faces I can remember. We talked a little bit longer, just about God and faith, and getting through difficult times. After a while, they got up to leave, and asked if they could stop by again sometime. Without hesitation, I replied, “Sure. I would love to visit again.”
The next time they knocked on my door, they brought me a Starbucks Vanilla Latte, which was my favorite coffee in those days. I don’t recall how they knew I liked those, or when I brought that up, but they had remembered, and there it was, on the other side of my peephole. I may have secretly questioned whether it was laced with some weird “Jehovah’s Witness opiate” that would make me agree with all that they said, run out and buy long skirts, and start annoying my neighbors by knocking on all of their doors, but I drank it anyway. It was so good.
We got out our Bibles and began to discuss many scriptures. There was a good bit on which we agreed. There was some on which we most definitely did not agree. However, I remained respectful in my discussion, as did they. As they talked, I found that what I most admired was their dedication to their faith, and their desire to share. I figured the least I could do was listen, even if I had different beliefs.
Over the next month or so, we visited a few more times. One night, during our visits, I came home and found several bags of groceries on my doorstep. There was no note. There were no pamphlets. There were no clues as to who may have left them. I always suspected that it may have been those ladies.
At our last visit, they invited me to join them for church sometime. I politely declined, saying, “I am very actively involved in my own faith; but thank you for the invitation.” Truthfully, I felt like my own faith had betrayed me, but would not have admitted it, at that time. They left it open, and I walked them out.
It still makes me smile to think of those visits, and of those women. It used to sting a little to think of how many of my own Christian sisters had withdrawn from me, in times of trouble. That still happens, and yet, every time, God sends others, often from places I would never imagine. He uses women from other faiths to strengthen mine. He stirs my thoughts and my courage through these encounters. He shows that a knock on the door from someone that I would normally shut out may just be an opportunity for Him to come in.
And maybe only in my brokenness am I willing to open that door, even if it’s for a Jehovah’s Witness, holding a Starbucks.
Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”