The message of the cross: The power of God

I've been trying to decide whether to pursue any further clarification of my last post or just let it go. But let's face it, I'm more likely to talk something to death than to walk away from a conversation. So here goes...

I think the main thing I want to clarify is the real point of what I shared.

I grew up being warned about deception. I was raised to believe that the majority of Christians were deceived. I won't list the requirements for eternal life that I was taught because those of you who also grew up there already know. And it will just sound crazy to those of you who have no frame of reference. (And at some point I have probably already told you.) The point is, I developed a fear of falling into deception early in my life. And then I had to come to terms with the reality that I had lived my whole life IN deception, which only heightened my concern that it not happen to me again.

Todd E. and I are different in personality. So he and I may not have responded identically to this issue, but the combination of our similar past histories and then finding the true gospel as adults resulted, for both of us, in an even greater conviction that (1) truth matters greatly and of (2) the importance in guarding ourselves against deception. Todd responded to this by submerging himself in scripture and in researching the subject of deception. I studied to a lesser degree than Todd, while allowing myself to mostly continue in my fear of believing, and unintentionally aligning myself with anything false. I am a feelings person. Todd is not.

Whether or not Todd experienced the fear of deception (like I have) is not for me to say. But it is obvious to me that he at least understands my fear. And I really appreciated his words of encouragement. I believed his email would be helpful to someone other than myself. That is the whole reason why I asked if I could share it. As I've said many times, I am not trying to make anyone look at everything through my eyes. But it is a goal of mine to challenge and provoke deeper thought on spiritual matters. And anything that really matters to me I convey with a great deal of passion. That is how God made me.

In case anyone reading might be confused about this, I want to make it clear that I was not attacking anyone as a person, including Mother Theresa. And I don't think that was Todd's intent either. The topic was deception and avoiding it, staying focused on Christ and the Cross as opposed to men and the works of men/individuals. Mother Theresa was just one example of someone who exhibited many admirable traits, but drew the line at proclaiming to unbelievers that Jesus Christ is the only path to God. I did not mean to suggest it would be wrong to admire Mother Theresa's selfless acts of giving. The danger is in justifying her not proclaiming Christ to the world because of her good works. That elevates her good works too highly. And it focuses the attention on a person, when all glory belongs to God.

The most loving thing any of us can or ever will do is tell others, in love of course, what Jesus has done for them and that he is the only path to God. We cannot take this too seriously. And telling others the truth is more important than avoiding offending them; that would be to put someone's feelings toward us above our allegiance to Christ and the gospel. I have developed the courage to tell someone of another faith that Jesus is the only way to salvation because, first and foremost, I love HIM so much. And secondly, because I love the person I'm telling more than I care whether or not they think well of me.

Once I knew the truth, I suddenly had the courage to preach Christ to a Hindu friend of mine whose friendship I had never risked by confronting her with her need of a Savior. Oh, she knew what I believed for myself. But I had always tried to respect her beliefs and not attempt to convince her that Jesus died for HER, too. When she would tell me that she thought Jesus was one way to God, but not the only way, I would tell her that I believed Jesus was the only way. But rather than be offensive, I didn't go to that next step. Only when I began to consider there might actually be a hell, did I feel compelled to try to share the gospel with her. I loved her too much not to tell her why Jesus came in a more direct way. I didn't speak to her disrespectfully and I didn't tell her she was going to hell. It wasn't about me pronouncing judgment. It was about me doing my part in the plan of salvation. It was about my taking the role of an ambassador of the coming kingdom to heart. I have never heard from her again. I know I offended her. But I know I did what pleased God that day. And that is all that matters to me. What if I was the only opportunity she ever had to hear the gospel?

Jesus healed the sick and fed the hungry. But he was also an offense to many because he didn't just do acts of service, he told people the truth of who he was. He did not sell himself by avoiding a politically incorrect statement or claim. Remember that they killed him because of who he claimed to be. Did he not tell us that the world hated him and the world will hate us because of him? Did he say that in order to avoid being hated, or to attract converts, we should avoid talking too specifically about who he is? No. He said he came to divide and separate even family members. What does that mean to us? The conflict is about who Jesus is. You can go anywhere and talk about God. God is many things to many people. A higher power. The universe. But you cannot go anywhere and talk about Jesus because of his claims, which many reject. He IS the point of offense.

There are missionaries who are putting their lives on the line every day to tell people about Jesus, even though it may bring death or land them in a jail cell. When prominent Christians of our day refuse to proclaim the exclusivity of Christ in order to sell books and attract people who are searching for a new way to enhance or fulfill their lives here on earth, it cheapens the gospel and makes a mockery of Christ's death on the cross. Jesus died to save us from our sin. He also offers us a more abundant life in him. But in order to truly find him and receive his gift, we have to repent of our sins and want HIM for HIM. If we want him simply for what he can do for us, we are just using him. And it saddens me to see how many people are being taken in by men who are appealing to people through this strategy. Ironically, as I have been writing this, a news story came on channel four about how people no longer choose a church for truth or what it teaches, but for what the church can offer them and how it can enhance their personal lives. Even the world observes this trend. How can we not see it?

"...the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18

I remember when my pastor linked the above scripture with 2 Timothy 3:1-4.

1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

He read these verses from 2 Timothy and then reminded us that the Bible tells us the power of God is the message of the cross. Where THE message is not the cross, there is only a form of godliness. "Have nothing to do with them" is the admonition of scripture. I think that is what Todd was saying in the discussion of deception.

I had an ongoing email discussion today with one of my closest friends about my last post. She explained to me that when she first read Todd's email, it sounded like another kind of legalism and like Todd and I were passing judgment on other Christians. I think after much discussion, she truly understood that was not the case. But I thought that if she interpreted it that way, perhaps someone else did as well. So I wanted to take the conversation a little further to clear up any misunderstanding.

As always, I welcome your comments even if you don't agree with me. I gained valuable insight into another person's perspective and concerns, as well as her heart, by asking her to share her thoughts with me today. I am much better off for the discussion and, hopefully, so is she. But I'm not sure she would have offered her opinion without being nudged. I'll leave it up to her if she wants to identify herself. But let me just say to her (because she knows who she is): Thanks for staying in the discussion with the goal of mutual understanding. It was well worth the effort as far as I'm concerned!

We grow and learn from each other. There is no way to grow past our present comfort zones without the discomfort of being stretched and challenged.


DeeDee said…
Here's a few comments I'd like to share along with a question;

1. The kind of false teaching that inflates man above Jesus and the work He did on the cross is undeniably HERECY! I couldn't agree more and I think I used a stronger word than you did because I want you to know how deeply I feel about this.

2. I have fallen in love with "the cross" and have a deepened understanding of the work that was done on that cross - for me - for mankind and anything that steers anyone's focus away from said cross, especially promoting salvation via "works," is promoting HERESY!

3. Addressing the Mother Theresa issue; BTW, she's not my hero but I do admire how she chose to live her life. I should be so devout. She puts me to shame! But, here's my question. How do you or Todd know that she refused to tell other religions that salvation is not in Christ alone? Is your source of information solid and verifiable?

I would hate it if someone out there was quoting me or saying something about me or my beliefs by an assumption based on what denomination I was linked to or simply by hearsay. I'm interested in sources.

I say that not so much in defense of M.T. but for anyone else out there donating their lives to others (like missionaries)doing what appears to be "good works." This is the reason.

I believe it's actually a sin to assume someone's motives based on anything other than what that person directly represents about themselves and not just by association.

I, personally, have been misrepresented so many times, even by those closest to me. It is wrong for anyone to claim that what CGT represents, CGT's integrity, what CGT believes doctrinally or holds to on any level is what I embraced just because I attended that church for 50 years. It would be easy for one to assume that, yes, but they would be WRONG, even when I was still there! That mey be true of many people who are still there as well. How do we know?

So, I'm curious, from where comes your source of information? If it's not directly from M.T's own words, I believe she should be given the benefit of the doubt as well as every missionary out there sent by any Christian denomination. Is that not reasonable and maybe even Biblical?

In other words, why can't we just love one another and take care of our own sin?
Anonymous said…

Thanks for the comments, looks like we are in total agreement on 1 & 2. As far as 3 goes, that is from a lot of reading. And yes I believe it is biblical to make a statement regarding someone who claims to be a Christian but in their own words deny that Jesus is the only way to salvation or would refuse to share the gospel with people of other religions.

Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Here is one source that quotes MT's own words, there are lots more, just don't have time to find the rest right now:

I have to go to work and am running out of time. But, I want to briefly speak to your last sentence about just loving people. I guess where I might see that differently is that often we, me included get drawn into looking at love through our fallen world. What I mean, the culture or world teaches us over and over that love means acceptance and tolerance of everything and anything. That is not true love. True love is when you are willing to tell people the truth, even if you know it offends them. John the Baptist had harsh words, Jesus had harsh words, so did the Apostle Paul. Today the media would have their sound bites playing 24/7 demoninzing them for being divisive and intolerant. However, I believe that those words were actually said out of love, because it was the truth.

If you look at the number of times in the bible we are warned of deception and false teaching, it is a serious thing that we are commanded to watch out for. Here are some passages that warn us and that is why I believe we have to be on guard and have to speak out against what is unbiblical.

I am not the best communicator in the world and sometime can be interpreted to be something that I am not intending to be. So, I hope you know that I enjoy the conversation and that I do not intend to be offensive or confrontational.

God bless.

Shari said…
Hey Dee Dee,

Todd helped out with the documentation. And, believe me, there is more. We can all research it. But we too often just accept the media's portrayal of everything. We are just conditioned to do so, I guess.

I want to respond to these statements:

"It is wrong for anyone to claim that what CGT represents, CGT's integrity, what CGT believes doctrinally or holds to on any level is what I embraced just because I attended that church for 50 years. It would be easy for one to assume that, yes, but they would be WRONG, even when I was still there! That mey be true of many people who are still there as well. How do we know?"

I'm not sure I can completely embrace that viewpoint, and here's why. How can I have real integrity if I remain in a place where I recognize major wrongs and false doctrine? Why would I still be there if I know the truth? And if I remain there because I choose my own comfort zone above the truth, am I not choosing self? That is sin, is it not?

If I know about serious injustices that have been ignored and/or covered up, overlooked; if I am made aware that men guilty of serious crimes have been sitting on the platform as assistant pastor for years, once I know those realities, do I not have an obligation to make a choice and take a stand, or be asociated with the wrong by my silence?

It's one thing if a person is truly ignorant. And there may still be some who are. I'm not talking about that. But knowing what you know today, could you ever go back there and sit under that ministry? Would you not be concerned that it would be assumed you were in agreement by associstion? I would.

I remember the night of that meeting three years ago, when it was publicly stated that Bro. Mears did not "send" a certain man to Phoenix, he just "did not object." As though that would just excuse him from any responsibility or liability in the matter. Well, if a man of God knows of any reason why he cannot SEND a man into ministry with a clear conscience, does he not have AN OBLIGATION and DUTY before GOD to object? Does he have the luxury of abstaining from taking a visible stand? Does God hold him harmless? I think not. And I believe that applies to all of us as Christians. I don't think we can be Christians and choose to look the other way or ignore wrongs committed in the name of God. Just embracing something different in our hearts is not good enough. I'm not suggesting you are advocating that. I'm just pointing out another side to this coin.

You know I am not talking about minor points we may be in disagreement with. I do not believe there is a perfect church we can go to. I'm talking about major issues such as the doctrine of salvation, who Jesus is, man-centered theology. And I'm talking about serious crimes and injustices being swept under a rug time and time again. You know, "putting butter on a burn."

For me, there came a point when I had to make my disagreement visible and audible. And I think you would say the same is true for you.

I had questions about a lot of things I was taught and still stayed. I recognized a lot of inconsistencies and still stayed. But I can't say that I didn't, for the most part, accept what I was taught while I remained. In fact, I didn't completely reject those teachings until after I left and began to replace my former beliefs with the gospel. I've seen many actually leave and still hang onto those beliefs. So I think it WOULD have been fair for someone to assume what I believed because I chose that place of worship.

I see what you're saying. But I have come to believe we have a responsibility to separate ourselves and not just hold a different view in our hearts that we don't express, then say that others are wrong to make an assumption about our beliefs.

You probably won't agree with me, but I hope you can at least see where I'm coming from.

I don't sit in judgment of anyone else's heart. I don't make calls on who is saved and who isn't. That is God's business and I thank Him that I don't have to sort it all out because I DON'T have all the information He has. But there is such a thing as guilt by association or being an accomplice to wrong through silence. I will never knowingly be involved in that.

I have chosen not to talk about some of these things (like the crimes we have become aware of) on my blog. And I don't want to start. But these comments were a real trigger for me on this subject.
Janette said…
I believe this sharing of the Gospel truth, even if it offends, requires wisdom and especially the right timing. Discernment and wisdom very much come into play here, don't you think?

With that I'll say that Joel Osteen plain and simply blew it on Larry King Live. He was handed the golden and unpresedented opportunity to preach the gospel on live, international television and didn't have the intestinal fortitude to boldly proclaim Christ as the one and only way. For that reason, I don't even consider him a Christian and I refuse to read any of his "self help" books because he's lost his authority to speak into my life spiritually.

Rarely are we given that opportunity in our personal lives so we must operate on a much smaller scale, evangelism-wise. If asked flat out like Larry King did if we feel Jesus is the only way, clearly we all know what that answer would and should be. But when is the right time and circumstance to tell your friends and acquaintenances that they're on the path to destruction? Do we wait for them to ask like Larry King did, even in a round-about way like, "You're differet - you have a joy in your life that I want," or do we tell them when it's unsolicited?

I can easily see sharing the Gospel with people I encounter in pain and in their suffering on the mission field but it's my school friends and acquaintences that I struggle with knowing how to handle.

Shari told her Hindu friend about Christ and lost that friend. Even so, she clearly did the right thing. But I can't help but wonder if her timing and the circumstances were different, would she have been more effective and not lost that friend?

I'm glad we're having this discussion because witnessing in casul, social settings is a struggle for me. Not because I'm embarrassed to proclaim the name of Christ but because I don't know when it's appropriate...
Shari said…
"Shari told her Hindu friend about Christ and lost that friend. Even so, she clearly did the right thing. But I can't help but wonder if her timing and the circumstances were different, would she have been more effective and not lost that friend?"

A window was opened for me to go where I went. I didn't just sit down to lunch and blast her. This same friend once told me that I was the only Christian she had ever met who had shown her so much respect and love -- and who did not want to tell her she was going to hell. I never told her she was going to hell. I shared my Jesus with her at an appropriate moment. We were friends for years before I did this. I don't have this opportunity often because all of my friends are Christians. However, Jesus lost friends because he told people who he was. Would we ever wonder if he might have been more effective if his timing had been better?

I struggle with witnessing and when to do it, too. But where I am trying to change is in my motive. I don't want to be motivated by the fear of losing friends. However, I still do try to wait for the right opportunity and I look for indications of an open heart. I couldn't agree more than we all need more wisdom in these matters.
Shari said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janette said…
Shari, we were posting at the exact same time. I hope my comment under yours doesn't take the focus off of your words and the excellent points you've made. I know and agree with what my mom said about being careful not to judge others' hearts but I do wholeheartedly agree with everything you said.

There are sins of commission and sins of omission. We need to seek forgiveness for the things we've done AND the things we have left UNDONE. We will answer for all of that someday so there's no such thing as sitting back and not taking a stand when atrocities are committed in God's name and holding yourself blameless. That is a very serious and scary thing I don't want to be held responsible for...
Janette said…
I'm glad you expanded on the circumstances of witnessing to your Hindu friend. You had an opening and clearly did the right thing witnessing to her about Jesus, even if you knew she wouldn't agree. But what about when we DON'T have that opening? When are we supposed to share this good news if it's unsolicited? That's my question...
Shari said…
I remember having a conversation with Danny once about this. And he pointed out to me that you can't speak into the life of someone you have no relationship with or where you have no authority to speak truth into their heart. You will be completely dismissed. I wish I could remember his exact words because I don't feel like I'm doing justice to what he said with my vague recollection. But I do remember the point he was making. At that time, I was engaged in an email conversation with someone who was still deeply committed to CGT and had asked me if I believe I had been raised in a cult. I had to answer honestly, even though I normally try to avoid using that word so as not to unnecessarily inflame. Danny pointed out to me that I could have no witness in this person's life, at this point in time, because I had no authority to speak into their life. I did not have their trust. I did not even have their respect.

I would have to have developed a relationship with someone to feel comfortable enough to wiitness to them. I didn't go around trying to convince anyone at Vol State, for example, that they were on a path to destruction. I have actually never approach it from that angle. But I did have opportunities in other, less direct ways. For instance, when we had to give presentations on a subject of our choice to the whole class, I often saw that as an opportunity to witness in some way. I remember specific instances when I did this and had classmates come up and hug me afterward. I never knew most of these kids on any deeper level and that was the extent of the opportunity God gave me to speak into their lives. But I do believe I had many opportunities to plant seeds that would be watered and harvested by someone else, unbeknownst to me. We have to always be LOOKING for these opportunities. I think we miss a lot of them.

I also had lots of opportunites to talk about what I believed in my Honors History/English class. There was a girl in that class who started out the year agnostic. I never had a one on one conversation with her, but she listened when I spoke in class. And I looked for every opportunity to share my faith any time it was appropriate within the context of a discussion. At the end of the semester, she told the whole class that as a result of being in the same class with me, she was now much closer to being a believer than an agnostic. That meant so much to me that I started crying right there in the classroom. But that didn't shock anybody. They had already seen me cry many times over the course of the semester.

The more your faith in Christ is WHO you are and not WHAT you are, the more you just naturally share it without even planning it. I am who I am and I have to talk about Jesus. For me, he is a natural part of almost every conversation. I see him in everything now.
Janette said…
Good stuff, Shari. Thanks for your input. Do you think you could twist Todd's and Danny's arms to post their thoughts on this as well???
Shari said…
Before I turn off the computer for a while, I wanted another couple of thoughts to this discussion.

I'm not sure if I said it right when I said "who you are instead of what you are." What I mean is that many of us define ourselves as a Christian, but it hasn't gone deeply enough into our hearts that it is WHO we are and not just a facet of our lives. We describe ourselves in many terms. We're Americans, we're Christians, we're moms. My faith in Christ has grown to the point that it is no longer one thing about me.

Second, I wanted to add that there are lots of ways to speak into the lives of others through our behavior and our choices -- when words of witnessing will never happen. I always ask myself if I am blending in too much with unbelievers in certain settings. Is it obvious that I love the Lord by the way I represent him? My pastor puts it this way:

If you were accused of being a Christ follower in any area of your life (whether as a spouse, as a parent, in the workplace, at school, in your relationships), would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Seeing ourselves as others see us requires our constant attention and effort. And we never glorify God when we are looking out for our own interests.

I wish I were a model of this in every area of my life. I'm not. So please don't take from this that I think I have mastered this concept. But it is on my mind and in my heart and it frequently dominates my thoughts. More and more, I find it dictating my choices. And for that I am so thankful!
Shari said…
I know Todd cannot access blogs from work. So his participation will have to be in his free time. But I'm sure he will be happy to elaborate. Danny is so busy right now, between school, basketball and fitting in family time as much as he possibly can, I don't know how long it will take him to read all of this! But I'm sure he'd be happy to respond when he does.

I have given up proofreading for typos in my comments. I've noticed places where I've left several words out of a sentence. I guess I'm thinking ahead of my typing. Hopefully it's obvious what I was trying to say.
DeeDee said…
OK, Todd. So much for Mother Theresa. I read your links in detail. I read her own words therein. I was looking to see if it was some journalist's opinion of her via association with the Catholic Church, or if she was directly quoted, and that she was. She said that you have to go through a PRIEST to get to Jesus??? Gag me with a spoon! Who does that sound like??? You win and the case is closed. ;-)

Lucky and I watched a documentary last night. I think it was called, "I Will Fear No Evil." It was about the Catholic Church's priesthood's sexual atrocities perpetrated against young girls and boys under their influence. It documented the cover ups and all the efforts the priesthood went to all the way up to the Pope in order to save the image of the church (and of course, their money).

All the cover up started with someone in authority looking the other way. It progressed to deceit and lies as accusations came forth and as the church was being investigated. It showed priests, bishops and cardinals being filmed, lying while giving testimony under oath! It made me physically sick! How those families were impacted hit so close to home.

I don't know why I didn't leave when these very things happened to my family. All I can say is that fear is what held me, fear of being "out of order", fear of displeasing God, fear of being lost, fear of being cold shouldered from the true Body Of Christ. I dealt with it by putting on rose colored glasses. So, I didn't see it as fear when I was in there. I just saw it as being trapped in something that made no sense and was unfair. It wasn't until I was gone that I saw that what I was under was the bondage of fear.

Why I eventually left is because I found myself free to chose for myself. I no longer wanted to serve a god that kept me in a depressed environment, that made no sense and offered me or my family no joy. WHY did it take me so long??????

I have no answers except for the fear factor, but I know it wasn't because I was in a comfort zone. How can fear be comfortable? It's anything but!

OK, I've said enough. Sorry if I rambled. I've reread this and shortened it considerably. Thanks Todd and Shari for your responses. Yes, I do love this kind of challenging forum. I do love to be broadened and to exchange points of view. I don't agree with everything I read. Some things push buttons. I'm discovering new ones all the time. Will I ever get better? I wonder.

Keep up the good work you all. Maybe some day, all our buttons will be gone. :-)
Anonymous said…
Just got home and don't have much time. I will admit that I fall woefully short at sharing the gospel, like I should.

As far as circumstances go and timing, I think we all (me included) worry about this too much. My biblical evidence for that is:

Rom 1:14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it {the} righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS {man} SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

I believe the power is in the gospel and it is God who draws. So the methodology is really not as important as proclaiming the Truth and allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work of softening the heart or hardening. Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." John 6:44
Read Romans 9 also.

Paul makes it clear that it wasn't his words or wisdom of where the power came from, but the message of the cross.
"Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. " 1 Corinthians 1:10

We are told in the gospel of Mark to preach to all and those who believe will be saved and those who do not are condemned already. I believe most scriptures downplay the importance of methodology and emphasize the proclamation of truth.

"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. " Mark 16:15-16

God's Word will accomplish what he pleases, in spite of us and not because of us.
Isa 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper [in the thing] whereto I sent it.

So, that you know I am not a hypocrite, I will tell you that I don't always do what the Word of God tells us in regards to sharing the gospel. As far as having to have a relationship with someone to proclaim the Truth, I am not sure that I agree that it could be proved biblically. Not saying that it does not have its place and it is not a way God uses. God also has obviously used street preachers (by the way which in todays age of tolerance is not tolerated at all), John the Baptist went around yelling at people to repent. Jonathan Edwards and the great awakening would not be tolerated today, with his preaching on hell, yet countless people were changed in profound ways by regeneration of the Holy Spirit under his simply proclaiming biblical truth and the good news. He actually told them the bad news first, so that they new the good news was actually good news.

I heard the following in a sermon by Paul Washer and really love it:
"How would you expect us to preach if your child was walking on to the railway of an oncoming train would you expect us to be civilized would you expect us to offer a kind word or would you expect us to scream like a mad man and if for the name of being civilized (and popular), we did not raise our voice so that someone would not think ‘unproperly’ of us, would you not HATE us that we cared more about ourselves and our own reputation than we did the welfare of your child?"

If we really (me included) would think about the wrath of God on those who do not believe and the reality of Hell, we would proclaim the gospel with much more urgency. However, I am worried about how someone is going to look at me or treat me, yet I know there are some who are walking into the street in front of a Mack Truck. However, this Mack truck is not ending a life that may last 70 or 80 years, but the wrath of God against all who are outside of Christ will last for eternity. Lord grant me true repentance and provide the courage to do what you have told me to do.

God bless,

Anonymous said…
Timing is unbelievable, that this video is posted on a site that I read tonight. Watch this video and you will see the world wide deception that seems to be upon us in the name of doing good things. Remember there is always partial truths in error.

Very interesting article. Although, in symantics I will disagree that true believers will be deceived. I do believe that all believers are commanded to test themselves and to also take caution to obey the truth and scripture so they will not be deceived. If this makes sense, I do not believe I will be deceived as a true beliver, but if I am a true believer, I will be diligent to avoid error and false teaching.

God bless,

Shari said…
I appreciate everyone's feedback on this subject. Dee Dee, thanks for filling in the gaps about why you didn't leave. You gave me some things to think about. It's interesting how you were more aware of the fear while there and discarded it so easily. I, on the other hand, would have insisted I had no fear while I was still there, but then had to struggle with them only after leaving and carried those weights around long after you had been totally free of them. I believe God has a purpose for our different paths.

When I talked about the comfort zone, I mainly was referring to the way we built our lives so around each other in the church that it was almost like cutting off an arm or a leg to think of leaving. It was easier to just stay with the status quo and not risk losing the most important relationships of your whole life. When I left, that part was very hard for me and it took a long time to accept that I could not forsake those teachings the way I needed to and preserve the relationships the way I hoped to. God showed me I had to let go. And it has gotten easier. But there were so many tearful times when I grieved those losses.

I received an email from a friend of mine in Murfreesboro tonight. I had asked for her sincere response to the discussion we've been having. She emailed me privately to share some of her feelings, not only ones expressed here but in regard to some of our small group discussions of this same subject. I will post part of her email in a separate comment. I think she made some good points. We all have such different backgrounds and triggers, it's easy to be focused on our own to the oversight of someone else's. And if I have done that to any of you, please forgive me. I don't mean to come on so strong. I am just such a passionately expressive person and have been since I was a kid. I don't know how to change that, or I would. The only thing that has ever toned that down in me is when I took an anti-depressant to get through a period of very heavy stress in my life. But then everyone complained, "You're not you! You don't even care about food!" LOL.
Shari said…
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Shari said…
(This is from Janet to me)

I'm not much for debating or getting too caught up in what other people do. I'd have to have confidence in the holy spirit that he will guide us and not allow us to be lead astray by false teachings. I'll have to admit that I was uncomfortable a couple times last year in our discussions of certain authors, books, or public figures. And part of that is because I for one, avoid conflict, take things too personal, and want to please everyone and be liked by everyone. I learned from our "debates" but sometimes the topics grated on me the whole week and sometimes I'd even question my own faith like, is it so wrong that I read and enjoyed Rick Warren's books or whomever? My comment there is that sometimes we don't know what is going on in people's hearts and just because they are exposed to this material, doesn't mean that they won't follow or continue in their walk with God. Some of these people would never step foot in a church and they are longing to know the loving God. Once their spirit is awakened, it's up to God to do the rest. Convicting them to the ways of Jesus Christ and leading them into true repentance and acceptance of God's will for their lives. I guess that is the side of the fence that I was on as I was not a believer until I was into my 30s. Even though I didn't want to accept it or acknowledge it, I can look back now and see how God was working in my life, even before I became saved and he's definitely at work today. Plus, I had a family member who could point out all the things wrong with the world (smurfs, ham, ice cream, Marty Robbins) and so I'm sensitive about critisms from things I cared for and liked.
Thinking back, she never really went into the details of why we should avoid these things (only that they were from the devil-except ice cream had 80 chemicals in it!) So by pointing out the negative, she never told me about God, or Christ and what He had done for me. Know that I'm still growing and there are concepts/ideas/truths in the bible that I struggle with accepting. I know that it is the absolute truth but I know it's taken years to accept and believe and even participate in God's gifts. For instance, I never knew anything about the Holy Spirit until I came to WOC and studied it further when I went to Ms. Betty's Bible study. It can take time as the new believer may reject the truths at first but then as they hear it, read it in scripture, and place it on their hearts, it becomes believable and now I can't imagine what it would be like not knowing what I know now.

Well, I guess I've rambled on enough. I was listening to PrimeTime America on the radio tonight and the guest was Lee Strobel who wrote the Case for Christ and other books. He was addressing the topic of your email and blog about the books out today that tend to portray Christ in a dim light. He put the responsibilty on the Church to become more involved and strenghen our faith by declaring the truth to those who question it. We need to build confidence in one another's faith so they don't fall to the false doctrines that are out there. I guess his main theme is to honor and be respectful to unbelievers, as stated in 1Peter 2:12 building a relationship for witnessing. I can understand your challenges in witnessing to your friends and family that are still involved in the ways of your past. I would continue to pray for them and know that God can and will do the rest. In Luke 8:4-15 we in the farmer's role who scattered the seeds maybe just to plant the seed and trust God to bring the harvest. In my TouchPoint bible, the farmer and the seeds parable is summarized like this: "In Jesus' way of encouraging his disciples in their witnessing, not every heart responds. Not every heart is ready for the gospel to take root and grow deep. Sometimes our most important work is to remove a few stones or thornbushes so that the soil of a person's heart may become more receptive. When your efforts at spreading the Good News seem to be rejected, don't be discouraged! Keep scattering the seed, and trust God to bring the growth."

Feel free to use any of this in your blog. I really value our relationship and that we are able to share these things on such a deep level. I really enjoy your blog.

Shari said…
Janet, I went to bed feeling heaviness last night. I cried after reading your email because it was devastating to me to hear that any part of our group discussions had affected you negatively in any way whatsoever. I woke up this morning and read your words a little less personally. I am learning that my initial emotional response to having done anything imperfectly is "I'm such a horrible person." I don't know why that is. But I do recognize that it focuses everything on me and I don't want that.

I woke up this morning realizing that even if the conversation grated on you all week, the more important thing is that it caused you to think about things you may not have ever even thought about. And you said that you did learn from our discussions. Which is good. Growing spiritually and into deeper truth involves stretching our minds beyond where it is comfy and cozy. So I believe that the discussions were profitable, even if not always comfortable. And I am not going to make it about me.

My goal in our small group has always been to provoke thought and spiritual growth. I am not the type of small group host/leader who views herself as a teacher. I have always said I am just a facilitator of discussion. Sometimes that discussion will go to areas where I am struggling to grow, as well as the rest of the group. I am not the authority of all things pertaining to God. So I would ask that anyone who participates with me in these "conversations" just PLEASE know that it is never, ever my intent to do harm or to offend. I just want to grow in my faith. I want to think more deeply about my Savior and my role in the kingdom of God. I want it to be the role that supercedes all others in my life. And I never want to make it about me, even though I KNOW I do that all the time.

I feel humbled by your comments and I sincerely ask forgiveness from you and others if I have done harm. But at the same time, I want to continue provoking deeper thought on these matters, even at the risk of messing up sometimes and needing to repent.

My counselor once told me "Shari, you have to learn that you cannot say and do everything perfectly all the time. Relationships get messy. We often don't say things just right. But where there is love and respect, the mess can be cleaned up. The important thing is that we continue communicating. Because without open and honest communication, there can be no real relationship."

I would rather have the genuine relationships I have than to have people loving me because I never step on their toes and I always keep everything light and comfy and superficial. The people who still love you, through all your flaws and deficiencies, are the most valuable friends one can ever possess. They are the ones who demonstrate the love of God in our lives. And I just wanted to say to all of you how VERY, VERY much I value you, your honest communication and your patience with me in my many shortcomings. I love you all so much and cannot imagine my life without any one of you!
Danny Bryant said…
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Danny Bryant said…
here is a great book to read about evangelism. it is 'evangelism and the sovereignty of god'by j.i. packer. it is the best thing i've read on evangelism. the nutshell is since only god can save people by giving them faith and regenerating their hearts by the holy spirit, we can evangelize without worrying. god is going to save his people. he is going to use our weak and feeble attempts to share him to do it. there is a line in a song about missionaries in africa that says, "we put the walls up - but jesus keeps 'em standing - he doesn't need us - but he lets up put our hands in"

i think that is a great snapshot of evangelism. he doesn't need us. we can't save ourselves and we can't save anybody else, but he lets us work. i do think prayers for other's salvation are even as important as sharing the gospel with them (obviously these are inseparable).

when i look at my journey to faith i realize god used a lot of things to bring me to him that i wouldn't recommend to anyone else. he chose to let me grow up in a cult (a place where i would never send anyone), read books by john eldridge, dallas willard, and john ortberg (books i wouldn't recommend) and gave me bits of truth at a few churches i went to along the way (most of which i couldn't send someone to).

i think we are called to speak truth in love at every turn. if i see a brother or sister involved in something spiritually that seems to be in opposition to the gospel, i am called to talk to them about it. but knowing only the holy spirit can change their hearts and minds, i can approach them in love and respect instead of thinking i am going to bash their heads into agreement.

resting in god's sovereignty is the most beneficial aspect of evangelism (and in my opinion, every other facet of life). i honestly don't know how i slept before i started to get a glimpse of how god is in control of everything.

i've got to confess, i only skimmed the comments. if this doesn't have much to do with the conversation, i'm sorry.

mother theresa would forgive me.
Shari said…
Danny, this conversation has covered a lot of territory and your comments were about exactly the subject that we were hoping you would address. Thanks. You and I have talked a lot of this subject of God's sovereignty and I have heard you say these things before. Thanks for sharing them in this discussion.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
Have been reading with interest the past several posts. I, too, wondered if perhaps a tinge of judgementalism was creeping into the discussion. Being ever so cautious as to the wording of our discussions is vitally important. In the blogosphere, we are not always aware of who might be reading and learning. The message of the cross stands on its own without embellishment. The difficulty for most of us is in the believing that God could love us so much....and that His Son could love us that much too. Wow...everyday, I am in amazement of that...Alice from PA.
Shari said…
Hello, my dear PA friend!

Thanks for your words of wisdom. I love you and I welcome your comments any time. The only posts I don't welcome are the spammers (which I have had to delete twice recently)!**

As far as the bloggosphere goes, I always try to be careful how I say things. But this blog is only intended for people who know me (not the masses) and it's a conversation, not a teaching tool. I am learning all the time and if anyone reads much at all, I think they will recognize that.

This particular discussion addresses an issue that has deeply affected my life and several of those who regularly read. Lots of people could not begin to relate to us. And I am fully aware of that. But that is not my primary concern. I can't tell you how many times I have resolutely determined not to return to my past (in my writing) or to false gospel discussions, only to have God bring me back to both time and time again. I am becoming convinced that there is some kind of ministry going on that I don't understand. But if you are concerned about my doing harm, please pray for me that I will not.

When reading this blog, remember what I (and several of my friends here) have come out of, as well as some of OUR first conversations over ten years ago, when you were trying to open MY eyes to truth and I was blind. Deception is perhaps a greater concern to some of us than it may be to those who have always had the true message of the cross. That message does stand on its own, without need of embellishment. But for some of us, that message was corrupted by men and we were taught "another gospel." It remains all too real to me. And it would be naive to think that this isn't happening in many other settings.

I am not saying that perhaps I'm more concerned than I need to be at times, but deception is something Jesus strongly warned about, as well as complacency. So it's something we should all guard against. But if in my zeal for truth I unintentionally say something too strongly, I know God will correct me and humble me and somehow find a way to redeem my flawed and feeble efforts here.

Spammer warning: If any of you ever see a post with links like "look here" or "see this," ignore it. I will get rid of it as soon as I see it. It is intended to harm your computer. My anti-virus software protected my computer from the intended damage.