What I Learned from Dating Around…for the Perfect Church

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I moved back in April, and thusly was on a quest to find the “right church for me”. With a history of solid churches in my background and a Bachelors in Bible, I was ready to joyfully overanalyze every church I visited until finding the one that fit me! 🙂

I researched churches online and asked locals about their church of choice. I knew that I needed to be full of both discernment and grace. I needed to make sure I could submit theologically to their leadership, and that I could be discipled and have the opportunity to disciple through the church–but I can’t be TOO picky. I know that I’d never find a perfect church, and if I did-i shouldn’t join it, because I’d ruin it!

And so I began church dating.

At least that’s what it felt like.

“Oh Betty, you would LOVE _______. He is just AMAZING! His family is the best, and he is super musical-just like you! You guys could do it together”

“Betty-you should totally meet up with _______! He has such a great heart; you would be really good for him. ”

Etc. etc. 😉

So I would visit a church (the first date), and often walk away with a heavy heart. I was confused, because the churches were GREAT-I just “wasn’t feeling it”. Why didn’t I want to go on a second date? Was it because he talked about himself the whole time? Or  because he didn’t tip the waitress? Or because I feel like, though he’s a godly guy, he is clearly still stuck in the 90’s, and brother has no sense of humor? Are these okay reasons not to go back? I hated not being plugged in to a local body of believers, and I know many of them would have been good choices to “date”-I just had no peace.

There was one church I visited, Keystone, that was nearly perfect at first. I loved their gospel centeredness. I appreciated their worship service and their song choices really stirred my affections for Christ. They had a great heart for missions and for youth and for prayer. It seemed like a second date was definitely a possibility! But then I became really discouraged about the sermon (we simply weren’t in Scripture as much as I think we should be), and so after the last song, I hightailed it outta there fast and decided that was a big NO for me thanks.

I continued searching for a church.

However, I couldn’t get Keystone out of my head.

Two weeks ago I was at a picnic in the park that Keystone hosted. I watched their church serve their community. They went above and beyond to bless and interact with people, and I got to know some families from the church.

And there I realized, I’ve been church hopping/hunting/dating ALL wrong.

The problem with my thinking was that I went to churches seeking to “experience” the church, and not seeking to be PART of the church. I didn’t view the church as the body of believers I would be shaped by, I viewed the church by the sermon’s depth or the musicians focus or the bulletin’s contents (though all important things). I went home that night and spent hours on their website again-listening to more sermons and allowing the Holy Spirit to convict me of pride, and encourage me deeply with what I was hearing.

Once I visited Keystone again with a heart desiring to be part of the body-my experience changed completely. I didn’t just come and go without striving to be involved. I came a little early, met people, stayed a little late and connected again. I was so blessed by the people I spoke to. I realized that this Bride of Christ is where I want to go to grow in my love for the Lord and partner in the spread of the Gospel.

So, if you ever find yourself church hopping/hunting/dating- just remember to clothe yourself in prayer, and don’t just go expecting to be impressed. Go with a heart that wants to learn, worship, and serve alongside of this community and seek to discover if this is where God will make that happen!

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Also, because I love laughing:

A Question for my Married Friends

So this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

The Old Testament is full of the relationship between God and his chosen people being compared to a husband and wife. And then Jesus, in the New Testament of course, says that awesome bit in Ephesians 5 about husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the church. So I infer that the opposite is also true. Wives then are to love their husbands like the church love Christ, right?

So I’ve been asking myself, what does that really look like?

This is what I’ve come up with. God/Christ/Husband Figure is supposed to be the pursuer, the delighter, the sustainer, and the provider. That is what God does with his people. He chooses us, he lavishes love and (TOTALLY UNDESERVED) grace upon us. He is the one that keeps the relationship together. Though we are prone to wander (Lord, I feel it!), it is HE who fights for our unity. He gives his children all that they need and satisfies them.

The proper response of the church-is to be crazy about Jesus, right? We are to be all about praising Him, and lifting Him up,and helping others see Him as glorious and awesome as He truly is. We should LOVE being with Him more than ANY other thing, and we should respond to his love with delight and thanksgiving. We should be ALL ABOUT serving Him, and ALL ABOUT pleasing Him because we are so grateful for the way that He loves us.

Right?

And our marriages are supposed to reflect that, right? OBVIOUSLY, no couple will ever be perfect. And OBVIOUSLY we should NOT worship our husband, and we DON’T save our wives. But in a smaller, defaced humanistic sort of way, isn’t that what it should look like to the outside world and feel like to us?

I need to know what my married brothers and sisters think, because I know I dream big and am a die hard optimist. Am I seeing this correctly?

One day I hope to be married, and I so badly want people to watch the interactions my husband and I have, and say “that’s awesome”. So that my response will be: It’s awesome because it’s a reflection of God and us. And then they’ll be all like “whaaa” and I’ll tell them the gospel, and how awesome God’s love is, and how easy it is for me to serve Him with my life because of his love. Then I want to look to my awesome husband, and point out that though he is faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar from perfect (am I equally, if not farther from it), he loves me awesomely, which makes it’s easier to selflessly serve him.

Where am I wrong in this analysis? Where am I right? Help a sister out!

Mounted Scripture Art 16x20  Ephesians by ToSuchAsTheseDesigns, $45.00

If I Was in an Arranged Marriage

Imagine with me, that my awesome parents set me up in an arranged married.

Scary, but let’s go with it.

So they tell me that they have my amazing groom, and, crazy as it seems, hes royalty. Duchess Betty, now that has quite a ring to it. Anyway, I am going to marry this guy in a few years (he’s got family things to attend to before wedlock can happen) and that fortunately I am going to be able to talk with him via email, letters, chat, etc., but I won’t be able to see him face to face (or even Skype!) until the wedding day.

Humph. Well that is a bummer.

But just because I can’t SEE him, isn’t going to stop me from trying to get to know him AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE before we actually get hitched. I am going to talk with him ALL THE TIME, and read about his family and their history, get to know what his country will be like, and prepare myself to be his wife. Because, as much as possible, I don’t want to be surprised by anything! I want to know him so well so that when I finally do see him face to face, I already know him, and being with him is just what I imagined it would be. It won’t be a stranger I see in white that day, it’ll be my long distance best friend, and acclimating to full time life with him will be a breeze. 🙂

It would be really silly, unbelievable even, to be apathetic about seeing him. I would be a big ol’ goof if I didn’t want to get to know him as much as possible before the wedding, right?

Well…here’s the thing. I believe that one day I am going to see Christ, face to face. After years of getting to know him through letters and late night prayer conversations, finally, I will be with him. 

So here on this earth, I want to get to know him, and tell others about him so that they can get to know him. Just because I can’t SEE him, isn’t going to stop me from trying to get to know him AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE before we actually start spending eternity together. I am going to talk with him ALL THE TIME, read about him throughout history, get to know what his kingdom will be like, and prepare myself to be his bride.Because when our day comes, as much as possible, I don’t want to be surprised by anything! I want to know him so well so that when I finally do see him face to face, I already know Christ, and being with him is just what I imagined it would be. It won’t be a stranger I see in white that day, it’ll be my long distance best friend, Savior, King, and acclimating to eternity with him will be a breeze.

Pinterest, Einstein, and Cupcakes

I saw this pin on Pinterest (a VERY reliable source) that quotes Albert Einstein in saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Quote: If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. - Albert Eistein ||| Keep it simple.

And I really like this quote because I see this challenge every week when I teach a bible lesson to my Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders in Awana. I have to take what I know and love about depravity, election, propitiation, and the metanarrative of Scripture and boil it down to truth that their baby teeth can chew.

Last week was a lot of fun at Awana. After “Game Time”, I asked “Snack Time” to be postponed and quickly funneled them all into “Lesson Time”. After singing a few choruses with them, I stood in front of about twenty 5-7 year olds and began slowly eating a delicious looking snack time cupcake.

Every single adorable eye was glued on me and that cupcake as I took bite after bite. I asked them (with a mouth full of cake) “Are you guys a little hungry?” They all nodded their little heads quickly. “Do you wish you could have a cupcake?” “Yes, uh hu, oh yes” they responded. With their eyes still glued on me I asked, “Wouldn’t we all feel pretty awful if I had cupcakes for myself but not for any of you guys tonight? That I didn’t have enough to share? And there was no way I could get more?” Their audible groans and looks of terror and panic filled the room. I broke character; they are too cute to torment! I quickly explained that luckily I have PLENTY of cupcakes to share, and everyone can have one. As they delightedly were handed their chocolate cupcakes with green icing and sprinkles I read from the Jesus Storybook Bible, the story of Jesus Feeding the 5,000.Crème de Menthe Frosting (for St. Patty's Day) ~    Here's a delightful recipe you can make for Saint Patrick's Day.   Start with a chocolate cake mix and prepare two dozen cupcakes according to the package directions. Use green or holiday-themed liners to add some fun!  Recipe @  http://www.susannahskitchen.com/2012/03/recipe-creme-de-menthe-frosting.html

Afterwards, we talked about the details of the story, making sure they were listening and comprehending, and how fortunately there was enough food for everyone there to eat (hence the purpose behind the cupcake torture). Then I reminded them of a basic hermeneutical truth (though I haven’t taught them that word yet) and that was to find out what the passage is saying about God.

I reminded them that this is not a story primarily about sharing– the little boy is not who we should walk away talking or thinking about. Though sharing is a good thing I don’t want kids to go home and tell their parents that that is the thing they learned from the Bible tonight. Instead we should see two awesome, amazing, wonderful things-:1.)the deity of Christ (KIDS,-JESUS IS GOD! LOOK AT THAT MIRACLE!) and 2.) the provision of God the Father (HE WILL ALWAYS GIVE YOU WHAT YOU NEED! IF YOU DON’T HAVE IT YOU DON’T NEED IT!)

And I go back to good ol’ Albert’s quote that I mentioned in the beginning to say that each time I teach I am wonderfully challenged with how to teach God’s truths to these beautiful, young minds. I want to make sure that I am not just promoting moralism, but that I understand how the gospel permeates and interweaves into every inch of Scripture and of life.  And that is a lesson I think we ALL need to hear. As you are (and I am!) in the Word, remember to not just think about “what’s in this for me?” though of course that is important, but to first ask, “What does this teach me about God?” and then praise Him for that thing!

(p.s. this is a great website for lesson help! http://ministry-to-children.com/lessons/)

Studying the Holy Spirit-Part Two

For the introduction this week, Pastor Joel had us brainstorm answers to the questions “What does it feel like to love someone?” and “what does it feel like to be loved?”. After a myriad of both thought provoking and strange answers, he posed the question that he was leading to which was:

“What is it like to have a relationship with someone you can’t see or touch? And how do we feel when we are in a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Before diving into discourse, Pastor Joel did a quick recap of last week reminding us of the beauty of the trinity and the role of the Holy Spirit (see post on week one!). He suggested that a question like, “How are spiritual gifts active in my church?” can be boomeranged back with the question “How Christ centered is your church?” and gave some clarifying imagery on the Holy Spirit’s role in the Testaments. He quoted 2 Corinthians 3:6-11 to support the notion that the Holy Spirit’s role never changed, simply grew. He was a candle in complete darkness in the Old Testament shining its light on the glory of God, and in the New Testament He is still shinning his light on the glory of God (manifested in the person of Jesus Christ) but now instead of a candle He is more like some sort of giant, mega concert light!

Okay, now moving on! First we looked at five New Testament passages that contain a list of Spiritual Gifts:

  • 1 Corinthians 12:8-11
  • 1 Corinthians 12:28
  • Romans 12:6-8
  • Ephesians 4:11
  • 1 Peter 4:11

If you look these up your notice that each of the lists are VERY different. No two are the same, though of course there are similarities in each of them. Some were miraculous, some were non-miraculous, some were people, and some were broad categories.

PJ points out these differences, and the fact that spiritual gifts are NOT mentioned in every book (Philippians and Galatians for example) to support the idea that spiritual gifts are not of utmost importance.

Then we went through FIVE FACTS ABOUT SPIRITUAL GIFTS-this is what the relationship is based on…

  1. Spiritual gifts are divine enablement for service
    1. 1 Cor. 12:11- Holy Spirit
    2. 1 Cor. 12:18-God the Father
    3. Eph. 4- Jesus Christ
  2. Everyone has a spiritual gift, no one has them all
    1. 1 Cor. 12:29-31-  This is a rebuttal to any Pentecostals who say that everyone must speak in tongues to be a Christian. Clearly no.
    2. We have many unanswered questions about the spiritual gifts
      1. If you read a passage in Scripture and have 25 unaddressed and unanswered questions, you are probably missing the point of the passage.
      2. Lack of information reflects a lack of centrality
    3. Focus on welcoming and appreciating people with different gifts
    4. Spiritual gifts are for the joy of others!
      1. Not for SELF-FULFILLMENT! Not about your “uniqueness” or about how we fulfill ourselves by serving…it’s about LOVE!
      2. There is no command that says, “Thou shalt find thy spiritual gift and once thou knowest thy gift thou can serve!” Love > Knowing your spiritual gift. (though of course it is helpful to know and recognize; we took a spiritual gifts test that night!)

We closed the night by watching “Let it Go” from Disney’s current big hit, Frozen. (I haven’t seen it yet…don’t judge!) Pastor Joel pointed out how Elsa had a gift. When she hid it and didn’t use it at all, it was a waste, and when she used it too much, with no regard for anyone else, it also was a painful waste. She was isolated at both ends (Wonderful puns were made about the word “ice-olation”). BUT when she was able to infuse her gift with selfless love, THAT is when the true beauty, purpose, and delight in her gifts were able to shine. In that same manner, if we hide our spiritual gifts, or if we pridefully “let our gifts go” without regard to anyone else, we are not using them the way God intended them to be used. Exercise your gifts with encouragement, gratitude, and selfless love!