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Stop Apologizing

February 2012
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I read an interesting blog post this morning that hit on something that’s been on my mind for the past 24 hours. You can find this particular blog post at: Stop Apologizing for Your Art | Goins, Writer.

I have a tendency to apologize a lot, even when I have nothing to apologize for, and that bothers me. And I want to stop doing it. So today I officially stop doing it.

As I mulled over what Jeff Goins wrote in his blog post, I realized that there was a part of me that wanted to apologize to Christians in my reading audience who might be offended because I post comments, statements, and YouTube videos from secular sources. One thing that has always bothered me in our “Americanized” version of Christianity is how easily offended many Christians in America become at the drop of a hat. At one point not long ago I was pretty much admonished to “stick with the Bible” when writing my blog posts as the person stating this was obviously offended that I quoted sources other then the Bible. There was no point in discussing this with him so I just smiled and walked away. I’m glad I didn’t know what church he attended in the area because I’m afraid it smacks of legalism.

Listen up, folks. God does not live in the box we put him in all the time. If you don’t believe me, read Isaiah 55:8-9. He is not confined by the small mindedness of Christians who demand their own rights about how He operates. God is sovereign over the entire universe and everything that happens on this earth, whether a person believes in Him or not. My blog posts include quotes or music videos from “non-Christian” sources as well as Christian sources that tie in with what the Bible has said all along to show that God is sovereign and in complete control and we are not!

I refuse to “play church.” Many, many people are really, really good at “playing church.” I’m tired of church folks who are so easily offended that you can’t even have a decent conversation with them without them disagreeing about something. This world is full of hurting people who need to hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ but they don’t need to hear it from a bunch of folks who are mean spirited and demanding and who “play church.” Outward appearances mean nothing, and hurting folks know that. “God talk” is cheap . . . living it out isn’t. And most folks don’t “live it out” but think they can tell others how to do it. WRONG!!!

I’m old enough to know that many Christian books written back in the 80’s had a lot more substance to them than much of what is published today. There’s a chapter in one book published in 1983, “Dropping Your Guard,” by Dr. Charles Swindoll, titled “Needed: Shelter for Storm Victims” that screams out to be heard by today’s church folks. Here’s a quote from the opening paragraphs of this chapter:

“Churches need to be less like national shrines and more like local bars . . . less like untouchable cathedrals and more like well-used hospitals, places to bleed in rather than monuments to look at . . . places where you can take your mask off and let your hair down . . . places where you can have your wounds dressed.

“It’s like my Marine-buddy, recently turned Christian, said, as he lamented the absence of a place of refuge:

“. . . the only thing I miss is that old fellowship all the guys in our outfit used to have down at the slop shoot . . . we’d sit around, laugh, tell stories, drink a few beers, and really let our hair down. It was great!

“But now I ain’t got nobody to tell my troubles to, to admit my faults to. I can’t find anybody in church who will put their arms around me and tell me I’m still okay. Man, it’s kinda lonely in there!”

“He was looking for people who demonstrated authentic love . . . I found myself churning, wishing it were not so. I was hoping the new Christian was nit-picking, but he wasn’t. Stop and think. Where does a guy go when the bottom falls out? To whom do we Christians turn when stuff that’s embarrassing or a little scandalous happens? Who cares enough to listen when we cry? Who affirms us when we feel rotten? Who will close their mouths and open their hearts? And, even though we deserve a swift kick in the pants, who will embrace us with understanding and give us time to heal without quoting verses? Without giving us a tape of some sermon to listen to? Without telling a bunch of other Christians so they can “pray more intelligently” (this folks, is just a disguise to gossip most of the time). Yeah, we need more shelters for storm victims. It’s okay if they look like churches on the outside, just so folks don’t act churchy on the inside. Most hurting people I know are fed up with churchy Christians. What we really need is that special something many people find in a local bar. Put on your shock boots and see if you agree with the following comparison between the bar and the church.

“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the prices of a few beers.

“With all my heart I believe that Christ wants His church to be . . . a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk!’ ‘I’m beat!’ ‘I’ve had it!'”

“What if your wife is an alcoholic? Or your son recently told you he’s a practicing homosexual? Let’s say your husband just walked out . . . or what if he is sexually abusing your two daughters? Or you?

“Who can you turn to if you just got fired? . . .  Or you just got out of jail? . . . Or your 15-year-old daughter told you last night that she was pregnant? . . . Or you beat your kids and you’re scared–and ashamed? . . . Or you can’t cope with your drug habit any longer? . . . Or you need professional help because you’re near a breakdown?

“Do you know what you need? You need a shelter. A place of refuge. A few folks who can help you, listen to you, introduce you, once again, to ‘. . . the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction’ (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Christianity may be ‘like a might army,’ but we often handle our troops in a weird way. We’re the only outfit I’ve ever heard of who shoots their wounded. That’s what my Marine buddy was afraid of. He had had enough of getting shot. Frankly, so have I.”

And, so have I. Nothing has changed much in the church since that book was published back in 1983, and, indeed, I believe it has gotten much worse. At the moment I have no desire to darken another church door yet I know that we are admonished to “not forsake our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25). Unfortunately, I’m very, very tired of Christian folks who smile to my face but talk behind my back. That is far from encouraging . . . and nobody seems to be aware that “the day is drawing near.”

I’d rather stumble along and continue to try to “live it out” then to ever “play church.” A “religious spirit” is ugly and never draws people to Jesus Christ. I’d rather show my flaws and how Jesus is changing me in the midst of them to a watching world so that a hurting world can see that Jesus doesn’t require perfection or a “religious spirit” to come to Him.

Perfect people don’t need Jesus–hurting people do.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (–Jesus in Matt. 11:28-30 MSG).

**Dr. Charles Swindoll wrote three books in the early 80’s, “Improving Your Serve” (1981); “Strengthening Your Grip” (1982); and “Dropping Your Guard” (1983) which are now available in one hardcover volume titled “The Treasured Writings of Charles Swindoll” (Inspirational Press, 2004).

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4 Comments

  1. Rev. Carlene Appel says:

    If God can speak through Balaam’s ass and make rocks give water, He can certainly speak Scripture through You Tube or any other thing He chooses. The reason Billy Graham’s ministry has been so successful over the years is because he was never afraid to employ what his harshest critics claimed was “worldly” and had no place in a Christian ministry. They boldly went forward using the Internet and the latest technological tools to spread the Gospel because they feel why leave such valuable tools for only Satan’s use. Keep on using whatever the Lord inspires you to use.

    On the church matter though, you’re going to have to practice what you’ve been preaching with some pretty harsh and at times not very compassionate criticisms of other Christians’ excuses and behaviors. After my first pastorate of the proverbial “church from hell,” if I had not been obedient to the Lord and stayed despite the overt and covert hate that was directed at me until He said-time to go, i would have left the ministry, painted all churchgoers with a broad brush of condemnation and never darkened the door of a church again. But the Lord had a group of prayer warriors in place at the church who faithfully held me up, just as Aaron and Hur held up Moses hands when he tired in the battle against Amalek (Ex.17). As long as his hands were up Israel prevailed. When I wearied, my Aarons & Hurs did the same for me and God prevailed. I spent hours on my knees and cried buckets of tears, submitting myself completely to Him in obedience. That pastorate was one of the most heart gouging, stressful thing I’ve ever been through. But through that He taught me 1. to love and pray for those who didn’t love me, something He expects of every pastor when they take on a congregation 2. unconditional obedience to his will 3. do what he’s sent you to do and don’t back down regardless of the cost. Because of this obedience He rewarded me with the next congregation which was a little slice of heaven. And of course, like any church, nobody was perfect and yes problems cropped up from time to time, a few very serious, but the overarching love for the Lord and their pastor, equipped me and my board to address them in God honoring ways.

    I am still in ministry as a full time hospice chaplain, my “congregation” is spread out over many miles and I don’t have to have a sermon for Sunday. But I’m also a church member and attend church regularly. At my church, we’re a bunch of imperfect sinners like every church with sometimes conflicting personalities. But we all love the Lord and have a heart for the community and the downtrodden. Broken people come to our church and have shared things about themselves to the whole congregation that would no doubt get them shunned from some churches, because it is safe to do so. But according to the broad brush of condemnation for all church goers by which you have painted and dismissed us in this and other posts, I and my church are just horrible terrible hypocrites who provide an ever ready convenient excuse for you to continue disobedience to that very Scripture you yourself quoted about not forsaking the assembling together as is the custom of some. Sara, that not only deeply hurts me, but it’s also offensive-no one has my permission to use me or my church to excuse their behavior.

    You’ve got some very good excerpts from Chuck Swindoll. Yes he does call Christians and the Church to account. But you left out the rest of his message which is “find a church there are tons of them.” He has never and will never advocate forsaking the church against scriptural teaching. Rather he’s an apostle convicting hearts to “be not conformed, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” To leave out “the rest of the story” is similar to those who defend anything goes immoral lifestyles with the story about Jesus and the woman taken in adultery. They love to throw around the quote “let the one who is without sin cast the first stone,” but conveniently leave out the ending where Jesus admonishes her to “go and sin no more.” Sara, church is the people not the building. It can be in an identifiable structure, but there are also fellowships of believers who meet in homes, coffee shops, school auditoriums, pubs, theaters, bowling alleys. These too are churches. I encourage you to find one because i know you want to be obedient to God. I can guarantee you that if you go in looking for bad people, you’ll find them. But as we say in Alanon “though you may not like all of us you’ll come to love us in a very special way-the way we already love you.”

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    • I do sincerely apologize, Carlene, if I come across to you and others as using a “broad brush of condemnation for all church goers” (your statement above) in “this and other posts” (again, your quote) as that is not my intention at all and my posts are fairly clear about that. Almost always I include myself in the topic of whatever I am discussing in my posts and I include my own flaws and struggles. I am not perfect nor do I expect or look for others to be perfect. Neither to I go looking for “bad people” as you stated in your last paragraph above. I do not expect any church to be perfect. As we have discuss previously in private emails (since we have known each other for years now) and not a public forum like this, we have differing views on certain Biblical topics and I would have preferred for you to have sent your comments above to me privately.

      This is a personal blog and I write from my own personal experiences. I lay my own flaws out there and talk about my own struggles in almost every post. I have stated in various posts that I am not condemning “all Christians” as you have stated above. There is a major difference between people in the church who “play church” and display a “religious spirit” and those in the church who are sincerely walking out this life of faith. And, I do practice with God’s help what I preach and clearly state where corrections in my own life are needed or where I am continuing to learn. And I talk about my flaws. And I differentiate between people who sincerely follow after Christ (and we are all flawed) and those who just play a “church game.”

      I’m sorry that you were offended by my post. Since we’ve known each other for a number of years, I’m not sure why you decided on this particular post to make public your disagreement with me, but I ask that if you are going to be that scathing if you would please address the issue in a private email with me which is where we have discussed our disagreements in the past. Thanks, Sara

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  2. heartpeace says:

    Hi, Sara ❤

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on your points here, Sara. Believers (and nonbelievers)do need a refuge and shelter, and I don't know that the answer is a simple one. Perhaps it goes back to each person taking a clear, personal inventory of themselves and 'being' the change they want to see in the world, and deciding that Jesus is their best example and then 'follow' his example. We each have to take our own responsibility, and that's what I hear you saying. I hear your heart crying out for a more loving and nuturing church body. Our trials and hardships can enable us to be empathetic with others. This CAN have a positive effect on ALL of us, if we allow it 🙂 I think it's been at critical points I've had to choose…when I feel that I'm 'always giving' and then it doesn't seem like I'm getting much in return…it's critical that I stop and forgive those who are failing to get over themselves, I just have to forgive them. It's not even necessary to 'tell them' I have to forgive them… I'm not perfect either. Then, I pick up and move on and keep loving others, bc that's what Christ would do and its the right thing to do.

    The Word also admonishes us to not put our trust in man, but in Him. So, I find my refuge in Him. This can be a crucial turning point for folks. We can turn to the Lover of our souls or we can become bitter and reject the Church. I think you and I and Rev. C are committed to Him and to serving His Body, and because of that commitment, peoples shortcomings will not stop us. Perhaps you feel like I do – you love JESUS and what I do for others is as 'unto Him.'

    I trust that the Holy Spirit is at work through the intercessors and prayer warriors praying for these very changes in us to occur. He is chasing after the proud Spirit filled believer who is blind to their sin, as well as the person playing a game of church.

    I am an artist and a writer. Early on I studied Francis Schaeffer’s philosophy on using the media in all forms as instruments that will honor and point others to Him. I feel your pain and offense concerning those that are 'admonishing' you about using secular videos, songs… I just see this as you just using them as references to illustrate a point. As God speaks to our hearts, He can also do that through movies we see, books we read, and songs, and art. I would venture to say, that ppl are afraid they are justifying sin by accepting a secular reference (?) I don't think you are justifying a person's sin, or want to encourage anyone to continue sinning bc"God can use it", of course not. But I also recognize that for some folks, "drinking a glass of wine" may be 'sin' to them, even though I sense no conviction about it. But the key there for me…is go ahead and sacrifice, out of love…drinking that glass of wine, bc I know it will make them stumble.

    But God can speak to us through even what sin has produced. A sinner probably wrote the bar song that the lyrics of Amazing Grace is sung to today. Music is amoral but some ppl would automatically say that a blues sound is self centered. In my opinion, "Gotta Serve Somebody" by Bob Dylan is one of the best Gospel songs ever written! Jesus, the King of Glory, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was not born in a pristine hospital with all the admenities…He was born in a dirty, animal barn, right next to a mound of POOP! An animal barn, after his parents had to run for their lives to escape what was about to happen in their area. These were not 'perfect' circumstances, but they were on holy ground because they were walking in God's will. He died for us "while" we were sinning and mocking him and rebelling against him, He never said the sin wasn't sin, or that He approved of it…but He did still love us in spite of it. Every believer is imperfect. Not one exception. Yet God chose to use "us" to spread His Gospel to the world! Unbelievable! That was God's decision and the way HE chose to get this job done.

    God gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us, teach us, and convict when needed. After all of it…all of our failings and shortcomings and disappointments, I still believe that love is the answer and that Jesus is the answer for every soul. And I'm sending you, Sara,my sister in Christ a big hug today and also to Rev. Carlene, my sincere warmth and affection. As your sister in Christ, I encourage you both to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven you. Remember who our real enemy is. God bless you!

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    • You are a true artist with your words, Heartpeace. You make some very excellent points and I can clearly see the Holy Spirit’s work in your own life. I am not upset with Rev. Carlene as she and I go back a very long ways (late 90’s, I think) when we first met in an online forum and I have learned a lot from her over the years. Normally, our disagreements have been private and I know the heart she has for people. We all have our idiosyncrasies and our own hot buttons and, unfortunately, because online communication is what it is, we can read into what others have written a meaning that was not intended by the author. I think that happens with Rev. C and me as we both feel very passionate about what we feel and write. You make a very good point and I will make sure that I let her know I have no hard feelings about what she wrote. And again, thank you for your words that are inspired by the One who loves us all. –Sara

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