Changed Plans

Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to ask for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward save knowing that we do thy will. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. -Ignatius Loyola

I needed to read the above prayer today.

On Sunday, I learned that my desired denomination requires its pastors to attend its seminary. Two options became available. I could either transfer to the denomination’s seminary or finish at my current school and then take another year of classes through them. The first option could be done as a distance learner with several trips to their campus for intensive study. The second option must be done as a resident student. Since the second choice is not practical, I need to seriously consider a transfer.

Monday, after more research, I discover that the seminary I currently attend is not accredited with the Association of Theological Seminaries. The denomination requires all pastors receive an MDiv or similar degree from an ATS accredited school. I immediately sent an email to the new seminary to see if the credits would transfer.

I must admit, I went through a range of emotions as I processed this information. Up to this point, I thought I was attending an accredited school. The accreditation that the school boasts, however, is a denominational accreditation and not a universal accreditation.

I was also surprised to learn the seminary requirement for my chosen denomination. I was frustrated at the thought of having to transfer to a school, which requires on campus work. I was angry because I spent two years taking uncredited courses. I was grieving the potential loss of two years and doubted my calling.

What was God telling me?

I wondered if I was called to go to seminary or pastor in this particular denomination or to plant a church. I am ashamed to admit my emotional roller coaster as I tried to process the information.

I sent out a few prayer requests. One request went to my current instructor, who responded immediately, allowed me to vent, and acknowledged my frustration. I was then able to concentrate on my studies for the day. I picked up my book and the first thing I read was a hymn written by Martin Luther.

From trouble deep I cry to thee, Lord God, hear thou my crying; Thy gracious ear, oh, turn to me, Open it to my sighing. For if thou mean’st to look upon The wrong and evil that is done, Who, Lord, can stand before thee?

I am still waiting to hear if my credits will transfer, but my Spirit is calm knowing God is ultimately in control. I do not have a clear vision of His plan for me. I just know that I need to be obedient and trust in him because……

Who, Lord, can stand before thee?




Comfort Zone

I took advantage of an opportunity to do some hiking in the mountains on Saturday. For my friend and guide, the climb was an easy hike. She will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro next week. For me, I was often on all fours as I traversed loose rock on both the ascent and descent. The higher elevation and steep inclines challenged my opinion of my cardio health. My half marathon training did not prepare me for mountain climbing.

While I was definitely out of my comfort zone during the hike, I can look upon those summits from my kitchen window and know I have the ability to reach them. Often, we find ourselves in situations that stretch our level of comfort. Are we prepared to meet those challenges?

We are in the beginning stages of planting a church. The thought of gathering together a group of like minded people and then possibly leading them as pastor intimidates me. Just as I am not fully conditioned to climb mountain peaks, I am not fully trained to pastor a church.

I need to remember that I am not climbing Mount Kilimanjaro next week. I am also not pastoring a church next week. While both activities may be out of my comfort zone today, preparation and small steps make the idea of both feasible and possible.

So, while a church plant is out of my comfort zone, leading a Bible study is not. The first small step is simply to find a few people, who are interested in helping plant a church; not to open the doors to a full fledged worship service.

Just as weight training and going on hikes through small mountains can prepare people to climb larger peaks like Kilimanjaro, studying scripture and leading Bible studies can prepare us to plant a church.

We continue to move forward in obedience to Christ as we discern if planting a church is what we are called to do. We will meet with denomination representatives in October and, in the meantime, gather together and study with other believers, who have a similar desire to plant a church. We covet your prayers in this endeavor.



Back to School

My class on the history of Christianity begins today. The class promises to be challenging, which seems to hold up to the standards of a graduate level program.

I am also in the process of discernment. At the beginning of the summer, we left the church, which we attended for over ten years. As I progressed through seminary, the realization of my limitations as a woman in this denomination became clear. With great sadness, the time to leave and look for a new church had finally arrived.

Because of my class and some opportunities that are opening up for me, I will not be writing daily for this blog. I will, however, check in from time to time as I chronicle my journey.

In the meantime, I encourage you to ground yourselves in the Word of God so you can stand against the false teachings, which permeate our modern world.



Faith and Works

Hebrews 13

The author closes his remarks with sage advice: be nice to people, be faithful to your spouse, be discerning in who you follow, and share with others.

Is the author preaching a gospel of works? Not at all. But works should be part of our Christian life.

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead (‭‭James‬ ‭2:26‬).

Our works should be an extension of our faith. People notice our faith by observing our actions. The kindness we show to others can lead people to Christ.

Recently, I heard a comment that suggested serving in a soup kitchen was not evangelism. In the true sense of the word, he was correct. The act must be accompanied by the gospel message. But, in the same sense, preaching the gospel message without acts of kindness can fall on deaf ears and may even push people away from God. Faith and works must go hand in hand.

Now, before I am misinterpreted, I firmly believe that a person is only saved through faith in Christ. This person can live a life without doing works and still be saved. But how much sweeter would this person’s life be if he or she became the hands and feet of Christ and administered love and kindness to others? How much more could this person do for the kingdom of God with kind words and faithful deeds?

Be nice to people. Be faithful in your marriages. Do not be led astray by false teaching. Remember Jesus’ sacrifice for you. Be the hands and feet of Christ.

And do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Heb. 13:16).



Remember the Faithful

The nanking cherries are ripe and ready for making jelly.

Hebrews 11-12

Evangelical churches (at least the ones I have attended) tend to ignore Christian history. Christians come from a long line of brothers and sisters, who endured hardship and persecution as they followed Christ. The author reminded his readers in chapter eleven of several people, who were faithful despite their current situations. We would do well to remember the many saints within Christian history and use their examples of faithfulness to help encourage us on our own walks with Jesus.

The news of a few celebrity Christians, who renounced their faith, cannot go unnoticed in this blog post. The writer of Hebrews urged his readers to avoid apostasy at all costs. Following Christ was (and remains) far superior to anything else.

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens ‭‭(Heb.‬ ‭12:25-26‬)

Apostasy should not be taken lightly. Some people might say that these men had never truly been saved since a Christian has eternal security. If that were true, than why does the author of Hebrews spend so much time warning his readers against apostasy, which is the rejection of one’s faith? If these men, who were revered as leaders in the Christian community, can turn their backs on God, how much easier would it be for us to do the same?

We need to look to the saints, who have gone before us, as examples of Christian faith. These faithful Christians of the past endured hardship, persecution, and death as they followed Christ. The example these believers set before us can encourage us to remain faithful when we encounter trials of our own. Following celebrity Christians will only disappoint us and cause us to stumble when we see them fall from their pedestals.

Keep your eyes focused upon Christ and remember the faithful.



A Choice

Hebrews 10

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).

The author was writing to Christian Jews, who considered renouncing Christ and returning to Judaism because of the persecution they faced. Some of these new believers had already given up meeting together (Heb. 10:25). Others mistakenly believed the old sacrificial system would be sufficient to appease God (Heb. 10:3-4). The author strongly encouraged his readers to continue meeting together for encouragement and support. Yes, persecution was ramping up, but the thought of meeting God’s judgement was even more terrifying.

How does this relate to us today? Many Christians find themselves attracted to prosperity gospel theology, where God is kind and loving and only wants the best for his children. God’s judgement is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Other Christians attend churches, where all they hear about is God’s wrath and judgment. Rarely are they told about God’s grace and salvation.

The writer wanted to encourage the persecuted new believers, who were in the cusp of denying Christ and returning to their former religion. As a way of offering hope, the author showed the readers both the grace and the wrath of God.

God’s love, grace and mercy go hand in hand with God’s judgement and wrath. Teachings that embrace one side to the exclusion of the other are misleading. Fear of God’s judgement and wrath is the reason sacrifices were made. God’s great mercy provided a perfect and complete sacrifice, so we can draw near to him without fear. If we ignore this gift and continue to live in sin, we have no other option but God’s judgment and wrath.

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Heb. 10:36).

Choose God’s gift.



Superior Sacrifice

Hebrews 9

Every action has a consequence. Sometimes our actions result in personal consequences. Other times, our actions affect others. What we do, whether we are intentional or not, is part of the law of cause and effect.

In the Garden of Eden, God told the man that death would come if he ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:16-17). The newly created humans rebelled against God’s command and ushered in the consequence of death. The first recorded death came by the hands of God as an animal was sacrificed to cover the nakedness of the man and woman (Gen. 3:21).

The Law provided an opportunity for worshippers to bring sacrifices for various occasions (Lev. 6-7), but only the Day of Atonement provided restitution for sins (Lev. 16). On this day, the high priest entered the inner room to offer sacrifices, first for his own sins and then on behalf of the people.

Often, when our modern minds think of sin, we have specific actions in mind. Murder, rape, and theft often top the list. Christians usually add pride and falsehoods to the list of horrible sins. On the Day of Atonement, however, the priest offered sacrifice for sins the people were ignorant of committing (Heb. 9: 7). In other words, humans sin without knowing they are sinning. These “ignorant” sins also have the consequence of death. An animal was sacrificed yearly to pay the price for sins committed in ignorance.

This imperfect sacrifice (imperfect because it never fully completed the job) was a foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice, which fully pays the price of unintentional sins for all people in all places and in all of time. This perfect sacrifice does not need to be repeated yearly (Heb. 9:25). Christ’s sacrifice brings salvation to all (Heb. 9:28).

I do not think people fully appreciate the gravity of what Christ has done for us. We live nice, clean lives. Those of us, who consume meat products, rarely participate in the animal’s demise. The word “sacrifice” takes on superficial meaning as we “sacrifice” a meal or a habit from time to time. True, we have brothers and sisters, who are martyred for the faith; but, those of us in the Western World are not yet called to martyrdom. We continue to live our lives, happy to be with Jesus on Sunday mornings, and then commit unintentional sin all week without thinking about the price God paid for those sins.

The original readers of Hebrews, however, could appreciate the gravity of Christ’s sacrifice. As Jews, they lived under the thumb of the Law for many generations. The Pharisees often added extra rules as a way to avoid breaking The Law unintentionally. The author of Hebrews wrote to reinforce the decision of the Jewish Christians to follow Christ. The sacrifice of Jesus was (and still is) far superior to the sacrifice performed by priests.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (‭‭Gal.‬ ‭3:26-29‬).

Choose a superior way and belong to Christ.