Several days a week I walk past this church.

This day, the sun was beginning to set.  It was what I call the golden hour.  The sky was an intense blue and the church, which seems to usually be shaded, was illuminated.

I wanted to share this golden moment with you.  The photos were edited and ready to insert into this post.  And then I struggled.  Wrestled, really.  Today something happened that I had to continually stand against with the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit. It involved a church.

 

Church window in the Sun's golden glow :: AnExtraordinaryDay.net

 

I believe in the church.

Ideally once we choose to follow Christ we need to be a part of a vibrant community of believers….a church.   A good church is an amazing place filled with imperfect people worshiping God and learning together….loving God and loving His people while also making a real impact in the lives of those outside the church.

 

Old church glowing in the setting sun :: AnExtraordinaryDay.net

 

It can be a beautiful thing.  The church is part of God’s plan.  But, what is not a part of God’s plan is the way that those in the church treat their fellow believers, let alone those outside the family of God.  I see it leader to leader, leader to congregant, congregant to congregant.

 

Loving God and Loving His People :: Red Church Door :: AnExtraordinaryDay.net

 

Over the past few years it has become evident to me that the core issue is love.

One thing I am pretty sure about is that when we love our brothers and sisters in Christ we will make a big impact on the world.   The kind of impact that changes the lives of our family members, neighbors, and co-workers.   And the other thing I am pretty sure about is that when we claim to love and don’t, not only are we a clanging cymbal as stated in scripture, but we create pain, weaken the function of the body, and cause the local church to be ineffective.   And frankly what good is a weak ineffective church?  None.  That’s why we see church attendance decreasing and only something like 4% of Americans claiming to attend church regularly.

Here’s a hard saying: “Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves.”  ― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

 

Gal. 6:10 :: Church Bell Tower ::  AnExtraordinaryDay.net

 

It’s time to be honest.

Here is an important question to ask.  Is ‘church’ about programs, agendas, props….or is it about truly loving God and loving His people?  Many churches say they love God and fellow believers.  The words are printed in literature or even on their walls.  But, what happens if someone messes up?  What happens if someone has an issue with another?  What happens if someone is sick?  What happens when a spouse has an affair?  What happens if a child gets in trouble?  What happens when someone loses a job?  What happens when _____?

Once we make a commitment to following God, the next thing we need to do is to commit to love our fellow believers.   That means rejoicing with one in good times, holding up another undergoing difficulty, offering hospitality to another, sharing meals with others, working alongside those in need, and when necessary, confronting, in love and restoring, one caught up in sin.

 

 Francis Chan says it well, “Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?”

 

Church front glowing in setting sun :: AnExtraordinaryDay.net

 

So what do we do?

Love God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We don’t  need to paste words on the walls or on bulletins that say we love God, love others, and love the world.

We need to love.

Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  Galatians 6:10

 

 

Does your church/fellowship of believers genuinely love the body or do they just say they do?

What’s the most challenging thing to do…love God or love others?

What gets in the way of loving God and loving His people?

 

[Note:  This post is a cry of my heart.  I originally wrote it in March…which is why the photos show snow on the ground.   It never got posted, as I was concerned how my readers (you) would ‘take’ it.  Even today I edited it again.  In the end…I’m just putting it out ‘there’ realizing that I might lose subscribers because it isn’t especially encouraging or uplifting or joyful, for that matter.  But, after two eye-opening church experiences in different states, I see the purpose of church differently and I’m done playing church.  I want to be a part of a church the way God planned and designed for it to be.  And yes…I really do want to hear your thoughts too.]

 

 

Loving God and Loving His People :: Love God, Love Others :: AnExtraordinaryDay

 

Joy Day!

 

Need joy?

The best way I know to fill my heart with joy is to give thanks.

The practice has changed my life.  This giving thanks in all things…the good, the wonderful, the blessings, and even the disappointing.

Would you join me in counting just ‘seven’ from the past week?

I’ll start….

I am grateful for:

  1. A sweet time of worship and teaching
  2. Grace….God’s unmerited favor
  3. Rain.  Rain.  Rain.
  4. Stars & Stripes Ribbon
  5. Living in a country founded upon God’s principles
  6. The blessing of dinner with friends
  7. Two dry days….before more rain

It’s your turn!  

It’s a great exercise to think back over your week and hit the reset button.  You’ll be glad you did.   Just scroll down to ‘Share Your Thoughts’ below and tap in your seven.  Want even more joy?  Take the Joy Dare here.

 

Thank you for stopping by today.  I appreciate you and your sweet comments make my day.
May your day be filled with God’s goodness and grace in extraordinary measure.

Joyfully,

Diane

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Comments

  1. well, i am pretty new to your blog and have to admit sometimes all those “encouraging or uplifting or joyful” (your words) were sometimes a little too fluffy for my days. i live in a hard world filled with relentless physical pain, a grown child with a major life threatening/altering disease, difficult economic times and in a very worldly part of the country. couple years back our big church home since i was a teenager (i am in my 6th decade of life now) experienced a church split and i left with a few hundred others to start a new church. our new pastor has been working hard to try to “teach” us what church really is and how we are supposed to behave toward toward one another (but we don’t because we are a bunch of selfish spoiled brats who played church with the best of them) in an environment of grace, deepening relationships of trust, genuine fellowship, by a spirit of acceptance, affirmation and accountability. coming out of a mindset that church is about programs, props & agendas is a real eye opener for me and seems to be the default mode for most of our members. but we are working hard at it…even when it looks ugly, feels hards and gets smelly. guess what, i never been happier and God has restored my joy! and my gratitude meter has increased 100 fold. so i hear your heart and applaud your courage…we’re all in this together, folks, it is not a competition…it’s a race and each one of us has a DIFFERENT race marked out for us…the important thing is to pass the baton to the next group of runners.

    • You made me smile Suzi as I had never thought about being ‘fluffy’ in any way. Sure…decorating posts hold no eternal significant…but the Sunday ones I had never seen that way. Thanks for being honest so I can reflect on that.
      My heart hurts with yours for the hard struggles you are facing and living each day. I applaud you for being brave and moving with others towards being a church rather than “playing” church. No one said it would be easy…but I love hearing that it is all so worth the struggle. Choosing to be more filled up with Christ in community is such a wonderful thing. I rejoice with you and pray that you have others running right along side of you ministering to your hurt while you in turn are able to do that for someone else. Thank you Suzy for your words of encouragement. May God be your strength, your shield, your provider, and most of all may you know His amazing love for you in fresh new ways in your week ahead and may that knowledge lift you up and help you to run the race totally in his power and his grace. [hugs]

  2. Glenda Kremer says:

    I think this is the first time I have ever disagreed with you as this post is very encouraging and uplifting in my opinion! you know why? because it is the truth filled with love! how can that not be uplifting? as I read and looked at the church my thoughts were I so hope this church is as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside! first thing I ask for when visiting churches is a copy of their church doctrine! I want to know what they believe and teach! so thank you for this very uplifting, positive post–in my opinion—–years ago my daughter said I needed to start saying “in my opinion” so I didn’t sound like I know everything! I thought that was very funny since I know so little about most things! ha! Have a blessed SONDAY! on our way to church soon–thankfully one that loves God and each other!

    • My dear friend, thank you for your hug of words. You are a graceful loving spirit.
      I must be honest and say that there are churches with the best doctrine who do not strive to live out that doctrine or even the very simple (but not easy to do) Great Commandment. And there, my heart hurts, and has been hurt. The good news is that at anytime we can humble ourselves and seek His face and He will lift us up and help us to be the church that loves rather than ‘play’ at church.
      Glenda, I know you will have a Joyous SONday! May God meet you in new and fresh ways today. [hugs]

  3. I think your post is very honest and can’t imagine who would be upset by it. I read it more as a challenge to be “real” and see that as very encouraging. I’m sure God has the right church family out there just waiting for you somewhere.

    This week I’m grateful about the following: 1. that my older son fell ill BEFORE his first ever church mission trip. He missed the trip but I was relieved that he didn’t have to be sick while away from home (we would have had to drive 1.5 hours to pick him up as he was that ill). 2. That everyone was healthy again for the July 4 holiday
    3. The infectious enthusiasm of my 8 year old regarding the holiday (and the fireworks!). 4. Time spent with family 5. An unexpected opportunity to visit distant family 6. An unusually cool and comfortable July 4 holiday 7. Flowers!

    • Thanks Jean! Maybe I’m a bit over sensitive about this topic. :-/
      I rejoice with you over your ‘seven.’ Isn’t it good how God works in our lives? How can we not have hearts overflowing with gratitude. 🙂
      May your week be joyful in every way! [hugs]

  4. I loved this post and the honesty of your heart. We get so caught up in doing and looking like that we forget the basic Christ like love that should be our heart for others. Thank you

    • Linda, you bless me with your words….thank you. 🙂 Oh I do agree…we get caught up in so many things and make the ‘whatever’ most important.
      May your week be filled with the goodness of our loving God.

  5. Considering church allows in sinners like me, there’s not much chance for loving accord in all conversations, programs, activities. That said, I am worn out by the procedures focus rather than the people focus of too many churches. My church is very mission involved and loving, but our services don’t “feel” worshipful to me; is the problem with me or the church? I honestly have searched for an answer.
    I agree with you re the church and how criticizing policies or activities might affect a tender new believer or an outsider. Yet, I yearn, really yearn for more out of church.

    We are inperfect bride to Christ, but what are the alternatives?
    Your message is true

    • Yes, Gail…the doing seems to get in the way of being too often. I’m sure it’s partly our culture that drives this. But, I do know that if our doing was to LOVE than many good things would come from that naturally and people who don’t know God would be inclined to want to know him because we would be better reflections of his love and goodness. And having said all that, I too am guilty, not pointing fingers. Being on the outside right now has opened my eyes.
      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughtful remarks, Gail. Hope your week is joy-filled!

  6. I really needed to hear this today. It’s like an affirmation to something that has touched my life. I have recently struggled with some that are Christians but find it in their heart to judge or choose not to forgive or whom separate themselves from others. I don’t believe that when we choose the path with Christ that we should be elitists. We are to go out and share the light within us…loving people along the way even if they are different. This is a reminder for all of us. The church should be the example and the church lives inside of us. It is our responsibility to take it with us to all people.

  7. What a concise and extremely accurate description of what our church faces today! I agree 1000%. In fact, my husband and I were just talking about this very topic a couple of days ago. There is lip service as well as kind words, but where is the love? I see too much of “corporate, big business” attitude in the church today, and not enough of the grace, love, forgiveness acceptance that Jesus taught. Your church is absolutely gorgeous, by the way…It reminds me of the church in MS that I grew up in!

    • Mary Lise, I know of good churches who ‘get’ love and radically love within and “without” their church family. But, I also think you are correct in noticing the ‘corporate’ attitude that seems to permeate churches that are more concerned with numerical growth than spiritual growth. It isn’t up to us to grow the church…it’s up to us to love. (Though I’m sure many would disagree with me on that one.)
      The church in the photos is not ‘my’ church…but one that I admire when I take may walks. It is beautiful, and at night, the windows are back lit and are so lovely we sometimes stop to admire them.
      Thank you Mary for taking time to share your thoughtful remarks.
      May your week overflow with HIS JOY!

  8. If you’ve lost any followers…you’ve gained a new one here. Thank you for your honesty and courage to speak the truth. Christ spoke the truth and it upset many. Are we as Christians to water-down the truth for others? The sword of truth is needed to cut through the many lies and deceits our culture has grown accustomed to and now believes to be “okay”. We are to speak the truth in love and let the H.S. do the rest. Thank you for your boldness.
    -aimee

    • Oh, Aimee…thank you for your warm words of encouragement. I so appreciate it. God really does want us to stand for Truth…and we need to stand together.
      May your week be filled with His JOY!

  9. You know what makes me want to comment on your post? ……. Your sincerity! The fact that you care about offending anyone and that you struggled with publishing this shows that you have a heart that truly cares and does not want to be anything less than encouraging to others. I attend church regularly. I find fault with many issues concerning the church. It is hard to feel “loved” when your appointed Deacon marks you off his list when he visits once a year, but does not speak to you at church or ever ask, in true sincerity, how you and your family are doing. But I keep going, and keep doing my best, and keep loving people, and keep seeking out those that look left out or hurt, and just keeping quiet about how I really feel. God knows my heart, and a heart that God lives inside of struggles that most in church. When I take my last breath, I want people to remember that I “loved them anyway”. On a more humorous note, my husband says we all need a “Phairasee ectomy”.

    • I really appreciate your remarks, Lynne. Thank you.
      I’m sorry about the Deacon. Your example is why I have such great concern. God’s heart must hurt to see His shepherds not loving the sheep.
      Your husband makes a good point. I might need one of those too. :-/
      Let’s keep doing what we know to do and stand in the gap in prayer.
      Blessings….

  10. I really enjoyed your post Diane. I find it liberating to speak from the heart and be real about everyday life, especially when it regards the church. We attend church as well and I have to agree with you that I am disenchanted with some of the things I see happening. I won’t go into the travesty of the Catholic church, I’m not catholic anyway, but it is that veil of secrecy that keeps the church from reaching real people. Our small church is trying to reach out to others and I think it is doing a fine job recruiting new members and helping spread the joy. I have had mostly positive experiences there, however there have been times that have been challenging because of conflicting personalities. We have a new young pastor and I think he will help grow the church in a new direction. This church is located in a different town however, so we only visit occasionally.

    However for me, I find much spiritual comfort in other areas of my life and not just from the church. I believe our spirituality comes from within and we need to give ourselves more credit in regards to our accomplishments. I personally look for other sources of inspiration, through yoga, meditation and connecting with people that respect our environment and I plan to participate in more of these types of activities to fulfill me. Sometimes the church can’t give us what we need and I feel we should follow our heart and pursue other areas. I guess you could say that I am more of a spiritual person than a religious one, mainly because of how I view the world. I’m not trying to be a downer here, but there is so much sadness and suffering in the world and people not only need something to believe in but they deserve to have their needs fulfilled. The world needs so much help and though there are many giving people offering their assistance, it is just never enough without a stronger presence. We need a captain to steer us and I feel we have to look into our own hearts for that. I can tell you are a very caring person and it’s always good to be questioning and searching for answers and not just accepting things for what they are.

    Sorry this is so long, I think I just needed to vent so thank you for opening up this topic for discussion and it was quite brave of you to do so. I hope you can find a church that fulfills your needs and I wouldn’t settle for less. I’m sure there is a congregation that would love to have you. Thank your for your inspiring post and words. Blessings to you, Diane

    • Thank you so much for sharing from your heart, too, Diane. 🙂
      I agree…it’s not the church that grows us spiritually. Each day I spend time reading my Bible and praying and journaling. It’s during these quiet times that God shows me His truth and His plans for me. But, I still do need very much to be a part of a body of believers….to love and build into others as well as having accountability and community to further grow in my walk. Church really is part of God’s great design.
      May your week be overflow with His JOY!!! [hugs]

  11. I’ve read more than once, and pondered how to respond–I take issue with some churches, not all. And I shudder to think how G-d patiently waits for the light bulbs to come on while damage is done with bigotry and awefulness, frankly. One organizations shows up and requires restraining orders while people are sifting through trauma and pain. No part of that is right or loving–that’s not what G-d’s word says, but twisting it to suit our own agenda happens not just in one organization, but in my book one is too many.
    I’m an idealist, I’m told. I believe in G-d’s LOVE. And every chance I get I speak it, extend it and try to live in it. I struggle with the bias towards the biased and those who believe they’ve discovered ‘the way’ while they persecute others. I shake my head and wonder ‘zackly whose WILL is this?’. I suspect that’s horribly human, the ego blossoming over ‘answers revealed only to them’ that justifies (what I see as) unjustifiable–and horribly unloving. Notsomuch something I can buy into or simply ignore–I’m a passionate person. But I’m reminded by the girl that a few upturned tables happened because of another passionate lover of G-d.
    I suspect that He’s okay with me finding angry moments over the defects in human beings, my own included.
    I have a belief about what church is ‘meant to be’. And while I’ve not found THE perfect church, I’ve discovered some mighty passionate ones–passionate about loving the body and doing for each other. Those places DO exist–but for me, it’s about not settling and being willing to exercise my voice –and living the passion.

    There ends my ramble–and it’s still not organized in content, but you get the gist.
    My joys:
    * that passionate people surround me and speak their passion
    * that I GET to be of service to G-d and others…how awesome is that!
    * for the rain we got…boy will THAT plump out the sweet corn!
    * for sidewalk chalk artwork…LOL..that colours the grass when it rains!
    * for a patient spousal unit who loves me beyond beyond!
    * FLUTTERBYS! (they’re HERE!!!)
    * for the busy little groundsquirrel LOL His name is Skippy! 😉

    (((((((((( Diane )))))))))))))
    Here’s wishing you an abundance of joyful moments this week!
    And I adore the photos with that golden sunlight warming the brick and glass………gorgeous!

    • Oh Mel, do I ever appreciate your ramble. And more…I appreciate that you live the love. That’s what counts. 🙂
      I rejoice with you in your ‘seven’ — God is good and boy that’s good stuff on your list.
      A patient man is golden and what lifts the spirits more than a flutterby and a busy Skippy!! 😉
      Blessings sent your way. [hugs]

  12. I missed this post. I liked it. A lot.

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