There is much gray area to this topic, in my opinion. In mental illness, we get a lot of things mixed up and turned upside down. Who, or what, is to blame when a symptom influences my thinking and leads me into sin? Is my disorder at fault? Or am I?
Getting asked not to return to church really stung. I had done nothing wrong. The pastor chose to believe the lies of another person in the church over me. It didn’t matter that I had physical proof of the truth. I was given an ultimatum and I chose the door.
It wasn’t the first time I had been let down by a church, but it was the one that hurt the most. It took me three years to get over that hurt. To be honest, it still stings a little.
I’ve been going to a church for about three years now, but it took about a year and a half before I finally felt like I could call Calvary Chapel of Orlando home. For a long time I just went to Sunday services and occupied a seat. Slowly I got more involved and started to make friends. Now I feel like I’m a part of the community.
Breaking up with a church and finding a new one is a process that can be painful. Maybe you’re looking for a new church because you’ve moved. Maybe you just don’t feel connected to the church you are going to and feel led to move on. Or maybe, like me, you’ve been hurt and you need a place to lick your wounds and learn to trust again. How do you start over? What do you look for in a church?
When I got married, like most people, I had a lot of dreams about what my life would look like. In many ways my expectations went beyond just dreams; they were plans. Like many of life’s plans, mine have not worked out.
For one, I cannot have any more biological children. I’ve grieved this reality for a long time. My six-year-old son, Arthur William, is all I have. I try to cherish my time with him because he’s the only biological child I’ll ever have. I’ve struggled greatly with separation anxiety with him. We were separated for three weeks after he was born because I was critically ill in the hospital and I still grieve that lost time. I wrestle regularly with the thought of him dying even though there’s no real reason for me to worry. A little girl in his Sunday school class recently passed away very unexpectedly. Losing my child is my worst nightmare and that event has hit me really hard. What if I lose my only child?
As the grandfather of the little girl who passed away put it, our children are just on loan to us from the Lord. Ultimately they are his children. The reality is, I might have to give him back to God for a time. There’s a real chance he might go to heaven before me.
Then there’s the idea of adoption. It seems perfect for our family since my husband and I have always wanted to anyway, and now it’s our only option for growing our family. But the more I pray about it, the more God says, “No.” I understand why. I honestly can’t see how we could fit the process of adopting into our current life, much less another child to care for. As much as I want to adopt, our circumstances have just made adoption unrealistic.
So now, here I am. A woman with one child and room in her heart for so many more. I’ve been storing away baby clothes, supplies, furniture and toys in my son’s room and the garage as he’s grown out of them, planning on using them for our next baby. They are a constant reminder of what’s missing. I’ve been fighting with the thought of clearing it all out. What if it’s time to let it go? Just writing that sentence brings me to tears.
I’ve been slowly surrendering my plans to God. The more I struggle against God’s plans, the more miserable I am. The more miserable I am because my plans aren’t working out, the further I grow from God. That’s not what I want for my life. I want to be close to God; to be fully surrendered to him.
One of the biggest dreams I’ve had for my life is a house filled with children. I hoped for two biological babies, two adopted babies, and maybe as they grew older we would adopt some older kids or teenagers. God has made it very clear that those plans are not his plans for me. It’s been a devastating reality for me. I need to not only surrender my plans for more children, but I need to surrender my only living child to God.
My dreams simply aren’t God’s plans.
How to Surrender
I honestly don’t know how to surrender, though I am attempting to put this into practice. But I do know what God’s Word says. Surrender is a heart process of letting go of the hurtful past so God can make room for the blessings to come.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:5-8 (ESV)
The first two verses of this passage are quoted often. They are framed and displayed in homes. They are commonly memorized. Trust in God’s plans, not your own, and life will be good. However, I believe the next two verses are just as important.
“Be not wise in your own eyes.” How can I surrender to God’s plan for my life if I think I know better than him? Remembering, after all, that he is God and his heart is towards blessing my life.
“Fear the Lord.”Humble yourself before God because he is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present. I am insignificant compared to him. His understanding is far greater than mine. He is my Father and I am his child.
“It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”What’s “it”? “It” is my surrender to God’s plan. Surrendering to God’s plan is spiritual health and freedom. “It” is life giving.
What to Surrender
The answer to this question is both the same for everyone and yet also different for everyone.
First and foremost, we all must surrender our lives to Christ. There is not much point in living otherwise because Jesus is life and a life without him is a life doomed to death. Death is the first obstacle to surrender. When we surrender ourselves to God by repenting of our sins and receiving his free gift of salvation, we defeat death and receive life.
We also need to surrender anything that’s keeping us from a closer relationship with Jesus. By holding onto my desire for more children, I have questioned God’s goodness for my life. Not receiving this particular blessing has dragged me down continually. By surrendering my desire for more children to God, and rejoicing with him over the prayers he’s said “Yes” to, a burden lifts from my shoulders. My desire to know God and follow his plan needs to be stronger than my desire for the gifts he might give me.
What desire are you holding onto that is stronger than your desire for God? What would it look like for you to surrender to him?
I get really excited each week a new episode is available for season three of The Chosen. I really enjoyed and was encouraged by the first two seasons of this television series that reenacts Jesus’s life and ministry and the life and ministry of his disciples. Season three is proving no different. I have watched the episodes of this whole series multiple times. I know I’m not alone.
The week of Thanksgiving, the first two episodes of season three debuted in theaters, opening in the top three among secular films. Approximately 108 million people have seen at least part of The Chosen. People are being born again because of their exposure to this series. How many of these people would be unwilling to walk into a church but are willing to watch a video? The impact of The Chosen is amazing! However, I think it’s imperative that we all watch this series with caution. The show feels so real that it can be difficult to separate the imaginative from the facts. (For example, we know that Matthew was a tax collector but we don’t have background details of his family and there isn’t any biblical evidence that he was autistic.)
Earlier this year, some bloggers caused a stir when they claimed that The Chosen was being produced by Mormons. (Mormonism is a cult derived from Christianity.) In fact, Mormons, as well as people from many faith backgrounds, are a part of the production of this series. I found this great article that addresses this concern. I encourage you to do your own research. There is a lot to read out there.
My conclusion is twofold. First, while there are people of many faith backgrounds working on this television series, the heart of the show is to draw people to the Jesus of the Bible and that’s a good thing. Second, we watch and listen to a lot of entertainment that is created by people of different belief systems. Just because this show is based off of the Gospels, doesn’t mean that only Christians should be working on the series. In fact, how amazing is it that so many non-Christians are getting a firsthand seat to this all-important message?
What really matters is whether the main message of the series matches up with the Gospel message. The belief statements of Dallas Jenkins, the show’s creator, align with this message, which gives me peace about watching the show. He says in the following video, “I’m a conservative Evangelical. I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe in the supremacy of God’s Word. I believe in the Holy Trinity. I believe in God the Father, the Son of God, the Holy Spirit, and believe that Jesus is the Son of God and all of the core tenets of Scripture.”
Dallas Jenkins does a great job of addressing the Mormon question, expressing his personal belief, and sharing how we should view The Chosen in the following video. The video is actually very thoughtful, and I encourage you to watch it.
Just like any Bible study, Christian book, pastor or other Christian leader we follow, or Christian entertainment, we need to test all teaching against the truth that can only be found in God’s Word. The Chosen is a great way to challenge how we think about Jesus and the Bible. It gives us a look into what it might have been like to follow Jesus. No one can really know for sure. All we can be certain of is what the Bible actually says. In that regard, how should we view The Chosen?
Testing the Spirits
There is only one Holy Spirit. He lives and works in and through true believers of Christ. There are many evil spirits out there that would love for us to believe that they are from God. We need to test these. The apostle John warns us,
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (ESV)
I’ve been a Christian for over 25 years and have hungered to understand God’s word during most of that time. This groundedness in the Word helps me to discern the truth. Even if you’ve only been a Christian for a short time, dig deep into the scriptures and God’s truth will be revealed to you whenever there is a question.
The Inerrancy of the Bible
Nothing is closer to the truth than the Bible. It is recorded directly from God’s words.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
John 17:17 says, “your word is truth.” Nothing can be more pure than the Word of God.
The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
Psalm 12:6 (ESV)
I love hearing what other people have to say about the Bible. I love that my church teaches straight from scripture, word for word. My pastor clearly knows the Bible really well, and he’s good at teaching its truths. However, if my pastor or anyone else can’t back up what they say about the Bible with scripture, I should be suspicious. I think a lot of people say a lot of things in good faith, but out of ignorance. Always take what you hear others say about spiritual things and compare it to what the Bible says. Be a constant student of God’s Word.
When I’m researching for my writing, I always check what I’m saying to multiple passages in scripture. Only some of it makes it into my blog posts out of the need for brevity. But, please, check what you are reading on my blog to the Bible. If I say something questionable, please contact me.
I think all the hype around The Chosen is a good reminder that only the Bible is Truth. It’s great to let other believers speak into your life in a variety of different ways, but always test what they are saying with Spirit and Truth. I love what Dallas Jenkins is doing to get people excited about Jesus, but I hope the excitement is further encouragement to get into the Word and seek out Truth.
Ready to watch The Chosen? You can see all three seasons at https://watch.angelstudios.com/ , on The Chosen app on your phone or tablet, or on the Angel Studios app on your smart TV.
I’ve been hurt by a lot of people. Sin is a reality in this world, no one is immune, so people hurt people. This truth doesn’t reduce the pain. A betrayal by a best friend. Being mistreated by a family member. People going back on their word. Gossip. I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching when it comes to forgiveness.
I’ve recently experienced being hurt by someone that was a part of my family’s daily life. Out of the blue, trust was broken and we’re reaping the consequences on a daily basis, and will be for some time. To make matters worse, they are mad at me and my family when the broken trust was their choice. In the days after this incident I realized that I needed to forgive this person, but it wasn’t easy.
As I cleared debris from the yard, cool air on my skin and warm sun on my face was a huge change from just a few days before. Hurricane Ian ravaged a hot muggy Florida and left us with beautiful weather. However, taking a closer look, one has to remember that the tempests did blow and all is not right in the world.
Lately I’ve seen a lot of social media posts that speak truth, but in a really harsh and ugly way. Rather than lean in and engage with their words, I get the urge to fight them in the comments…even if I agree with their point.
One lady wrote in all caps, something to the effect of, “WOMEN CALLED TO BE PASTORS ARE DECEIVED BY SATAN AND LIVING IN SIN!” My immediate urge was to write some fighting words in the comments but thought better of it. I then stopped and thought, “That post is not going to draw anyone closer to Jesus, so whether I agree with her or not, my comments aren’t going to help the matter.”
Another lady posted that if your pastor didn’t stand up and say something about Roe vs Wade the Sunday after the law was overturned, that’s a huge red flag and you should reconsider attending that church. I commented something like, “My pastor didn’t mention it, but I don’t think he needed to. The church is very involved with supporting a Christian pro-life womens clinic and I know that the congregation was all celebrating. I think you need to reevaluate your statement.” The reply to my comment began, “WRONG!!!…” and I was then completely torn down. Is this how we are taught to treat one another?
What happens when we speak the truth but forget the love? We miss the chance to glorify God. Believers are drawn away from him and nonbelievers turn their backs completely.
My brain was sick. That’s how I explained it to my then 2 ½ year old. The medical descriptions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) doesn’t thoroughly describe the hurricane that was raging beneath my skull. I was in my worst episode of my newly diagnosed bipolar disorder. I couldn’t function, and yet I had to. My son needed his mom and Andrew needed his wife. Andrew’s and my business needed me. I was as depleted as a person could be. I wanted to die.
Just a few months before, the pastor from the church we were attending asked me to leave. That’s a long story, but the point is that I was without my mind and without a church. My spiritual community was fractured and so was my spirit. I knew I needed something to ground me to the truth. I didn’t have the wherewithal to get there on my own.
A friend of mine came to me a few months ago and asked me to pray for her toddler son who was recently diagnosed with a devastating illness. “I think God hates me. I feel like I’m being punished or cursed. I don’t understand.”
She’s not alone.
“Is God punishing me? Is this a curse from God?” are questions one often asks themselves when facing a hard situation. Since 2017 I’ve dealt with one crisis after another. I’ve had people tell me that my life should be made into a movie because of all I’ve been through (I’m not sure I want to see that movie). As I write this I’m in another season of crisis. I’m struggling with my bipolar disorder, I’m in conflict with someone I love, and I’m being sued for speaking up for people who are being hurt. Wondering if I’m cursed might be a natural response, but knowing the truth in God’s word, I know this is not the case.
Have you ever had an intimate relationship with someone only to find out they were not who you thought they were? Or maybe you had a certain expectation of someone and things didn’t transpire the way you expected it. You might have in mind someone who disappointed you but the same could be true for someone who surprised you in a good way.
And then there’s Jesus. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I was walking in step with Jesus, only to have my life change in an unexpected way. “This isn’t how it was supposed to go!” I cry.
The twelve disciples walked intimately with Jesus during his three year ministry. They saw it all and knew Jesus more deeply than anyone. And yet, they still missed out on who he really was!