Posts Tagged ‘church

07
Feb
14

counselors, pastors, church and growing up in God

When I was about 30, Jeff and I saw a counselor. We’d been married ten years at that point, and I was just angry. Really angry. I was there to unload. But during that three-hour session, I had a great epiphany (more like a lightning bolt in a gentle God kind of way) about Matthew 18 concerning God’s forgiveness and my forgiveness toward others (specifically Jeff). I remember hearing the Holy Spirit speak to me then for the first time. I’m sure He had before; I just failed to recognize it as His voice. But once He spoke to me at that moment, my heart softened, and my eyes became like a faucet that no amount of tissue could stop. The problems in our marriage didn’t magically go away when I heard the Holy Spirit, but I learned at that point that God was really real and that He loved me very much. And that was enough.

Over the last twelve years, I’ve been learning to trust Him gradually more and more. And over the last five years, I feel like I’ve been in God’s laboratory, and He has done some serious damage to who I thought I was and who I thought He was. Not that I have to figure out who He is and put Him in some kind of “God-box,” but I know Him to be good, and I know Him to be kind and gentle, and I trust Him with my life and with the lives of the people around me. And that is enough.

I have gone to church my whole life with the exception of about 3 1/2 years, and those three plus years were where I actually grew the most. And God did this growing thing in me. He taught me Himself. I’m not ditching or slamming church here, nor am I advocating ditching or slamming church, but what I’m trying to say is “going to church” is not the key thing. Religion is not the key thing. Jesus is. Life has to be about this relationship with Him. So what does that look like?

A few years back, I came across this Scripture that changed me or at the very least my way of thinking about how God teaches us. I John 2:20, 27 says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One and all of you have knowledge…The  anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie; just as He has taught you, remain in Him.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a message preached about this passage. Does this mean that we don’t necessarily need someone explaining the Bible to us? Does this mean that the Holy Spirit can really teach us by Himself without the aid of the pastor? What if we taught that, promoted that? Would that empty the pews on Sunday? Would that mean we couldn’t support those buildings and budgets because we don’t need the pastor in the way we think we need the pastor? I’m not trying to be snarky here. Jeff just became a pastor, and part of our living depends on gifts given to the church.

But I’m not worried about our living; God has shown up more times than I could possibly count. Nor am I concerned with filling pews with people who are interested in just playing church and not actually “being the church.” Because what I want more than anything is for God’s people to grow up in Jesus, to be able to see God at work in their lives, to be able to read the Bible, God’s Truth, and for Him to set them free. And I don’t think that necessarily comes from hearing what a pastor has to say on Sunday. That might be a part it, but that is definitely not the whole picture.

What if we each learn how to hear what the Holy Spirit is teaching each one of us daily? What if we believe what James 1 says about asking God for wisdom and actually ask Him and see Him teach us Himself? That could be life-changing, church-changing, Kingdom-changing.

What if we begin to view the pastor as a shepherd who, like everyone else, is led by the chief Shepherd? He (the pastor, the little shepherd) is there to point people to Jesus and hopefully teach people how to see God and hear from the Holy Spirit themselves. The pastor’s sermons are important, but probably not as important as we think they are, or rely on them to be.

This is what the Bible says for pastors to be and do: “Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”  I Peter 5:2-3 It seems like it’s not what pastors say that is so important but rather how they walk it out with their families, friends, congregations. And isn’t that true of all of us?

One day I got irritated with Jeff about him not picking up his phone and meeting whatever demands I had at the time. I usually only call when I want or need something. But anyway, he was gone; I needed something, and he wasn’t answering. I was mad but picked up my Bible anyway and the Proverbs I read that day pretty much said this…Don’t pick stupid fights… I had to laugh out loud at myself and my little tantrum. I love how God does that for me. It’s like He’s saying to me, Are you really going to take yourself that seriously? Eyes off Jeff; eyes back on Me.

We just started a Bible study on the women of the Bible that I am super excited about, and I recently did our first Bible study on Eve. I’ve read those passages so many times. And for those of us who grew up in church, we almost know them by heart and sometimes we might even be tempted to think that they are boring, but the Holy Spirit still reveals Himself in the middle of those things if we’re willing to listen.

Now, when I began preparing for the Bible study, I ordered every book from the library I could get my hands on about the women of the Bible. But I have to say, they ended up in my closet because why would I go there for information and inspiration when I have God’s inspired Word sitting in front of me? Once again, other people’s opinions are great, and I’m really glad that they had the Holy Spirit teach them, but I want the Holy Spirit to teach me without their help, without my mind being clouded by their thoughts and feelings. So I dug in myself. Just me, my Bible, the Holy Spirit. And I learned some pretty amazing things as a result.

There’s so much that the Holy Spirit wants to teach you, to teach me. Something else might be your thing; but here’s my thing: Dig in just a little…say a prayer; read a verse; take a walk; sing out loud; show up; hang on and see if God shows up in a way you can hear. There’s not a formula, but you have to start somewhere and what do any of us have to lose? And the gain? I think I’ve just barely scratched the surface.

01
Jan
14

Surprise Gifts

Jeff just recently became the pastor of a small church in our community. And when I say in our community, I literally mean two streets over from our house (.5 miles on the odometer).  In fact, Jeff walks over there routinely.

For the past few years, we got to know some of the people at Trinity. I went to most of Trinity’s children’s events with my kids, and our family did some community service projects with them. So when Trinity started their pastor search in April, one of my friends from the church emailed me to pray for them as they began their search. But it absolutely never occurred to me or to them that Jeff would be the person to fill the pastor position.

One night in September, we were over at Trinity for a Neighborhood Watch Meeting, and God, in His funny kind of way, had me thinking “what if this is actually a possibility?”

Because I had no idea how Jeff would respond to this idea, I kept this God-nudge to myself longer than I keep most things to myself.  Much to my complete amazement, God planted the same thought in Jeff as well. Once we threw our thought out to our friends at Trinity, then it was just a matter of trusting that God would direct everyone the way He wanted. I had this peace about the whole thing that was surreal. I really wanted to be at Trinity with those people, but I knew God had this thing, whichever way it went.

So when the church called our family to come be a part of Trinity, it felt much like a surprise gift, an unexpected gift that I had not seen coming. Maybe the best gifts are actually the ones I don’t see coming, the ones I haven’t picked out for myself, the ones I trust God to gift me with.

Without being overly dramatic, I just want to say that I love this…the way God led us here, this church body, getting to “be the church” in our very own neighborhood, the crazy bigness of God.

And I absolutely love what God has called me to do: to know and love these women, these families. I feel that this is what God prepared me for…especially after all those months sitting in my backyard, praying and searching and singing and reading and listening, but I feel like this is also the path that He’s been leading me down my entire life. Nothing is ever wasted.

I keep looking at the opportunities that Jeff and I have had over the years,  and I’m surprised (I really shouldn’t be) at how God prepared us for what we are now called to. I never saw this coming. But I believe now more than ever that this is my calling, my purpose in this short life God has given me…to love God, love my family, love this church family, and walk with all of these people toward Jesus.

For those who have done church work forever, I know like this may seem overly optimistic and hopeful in a very naive kind of way. But, honestly, my hope isn’t in the people in our community or in Jeff or even in myself, but my hope is in a God who knows and loves us all very much and has called me to this community, this mission, this life. And I’m grateful.

The hard stuff will come. I know church can get weird and people are messy (me included), and I won’t stick my head in the sand when tough times come, but I don’t want to brace myself against anything either. I just want to be and let it come as it will. And really trust that God is good enough to lead everyone through the places that He chooses.  I know that the struggles and the trials are gifts from a gracious God too. This is faith for me, real and simple.

Above all else, I have to stay grounded, and that means that I have to fix my eyes on Jesus. I can’t make it one single moment without Him. And out of that and as a result of that, I’m called to “maintain an intense love…since love covers a multitude of sins.” As I walked into Trinity Church that first Sunday, I felt a deep sense that the people just wanted to be known and loved. And I know the God who can do these things, and I’m blessed beyond belief that He has chosen to pour His love through me, through Jeff, through our family. 

And, really, that’s all I’ve got. But I’m pretty sure that’s all I need. My life, my heart, my hands are wide open these days, trusting that God will fill them with His good and perfect gifts.

20
Nov
13

taking it all in

We recently went to the church that is in our neighborhood for Sunday morning. As I was preparing everything the night before and making sure my younger children took baths, I began noticing the sacredness of it all, even down to ironing clothes. And in my preparation, I felt like I was standing on holy ground. I had this lightness in my soul, my spirit. I felt open to receiving whatever God has for me and for my family.

And the next morning, everyone got up early, which is unusual in our house. We all hung out for a while around our dining room table with the gas logs flaming in the background.  I noticed it all: my laughing, talking teenage boys dressed in their clean jeans and polo shirts; my youngest Jeremiah just enjoying being part of it all,  and cool Julia dressed in her khaki cargo pants and white shirt with the pink lace around the bottom and her older brother’s shoes that we had found in the attic for her to wear for Halloween (she dressed as a gangster) that she has now adopted as her own. It was all good.

I took in all the joking and the excited talking and light-heartedness and breathed in deeply, holding it within my heart. It was a sacred, holy moment for me in the midst of our family.  It felt like my insides were smiling, and contentment just passed over me in waves.  We all wanted to be together in that moment.

After a while, I realized we needed to eat, so I began making biscuits and eggs, and as I rolled out dough, my fingers and hands sticky with it; that, too, felt lovely and divine. Loving my family by fixing food with my hands felt like standing in God’s presence. It was beautiful. I could taste the excitement for what is and what will be. And even as the morning rolled on, it had a sweetness to it. It wasn’t the craziness that usually goes along with Sunday mornings trying to get everyone out the door (you know what I’m talking about).

For me, noticing the sacred means slowing down and paying attention. It means being fully present, even in all the tiny moments in between the big change of life ones. It’s being fully alive and fully engaged in the life that I’ve been given. And being grateful for every part of it. Eugene Peterson says that “to eyes that see, every bush is a burning bush.”

Right now, as I stand in the present, I’m not worrying about the next hour, the next day, the next month, the next year. I’m enjoying the now and seeing the sacred in it all.

02
Mar
13

Knock, Knock! Who’s There?

When Moses received the Ten Commandments, the people of Israel were afraid to hear from God directly. They saw the smoking mountain, the thunder and lightning and stood far back even though Moses told them not to be afraid. God wanted to speak to them, but they were too afraid to hear what God had to say to them. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20)

In Deuteronomy 5, God said to Moses, ‘I have heard the words that these people have spoken to you.

Everything they have said is right. If only they had such a heart to fear Me and keep all My commands…’

Jesus says the same thing about the Pharisees in Matthew 15.

These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Something’s up with some of us who call ourselves believers in our culture. Because we don’t really seem to be following the Christ I see in the Bible. And I don’t really think Jesus is talking about following Him by going to church every time the doors are open or even giving money or bringing someone to church every once in a while. These are small, insignificant things that don’t amount to much according to Jesus’ standards.

The Pharisees were doing a whole lot more than this in the New Testament, and Jesus and John called them a bunch of snakes. He knew their hearts; He knew their lives. In Matthew 7, the ones that Jesus says He doesn’t know and are cast out are the ones who prophesied and drove out demons and did  miracles in His name. And Jesus responds to them  ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me…’ I think His ideas for following Him are much, much higher, starting with listening to Him and then obeying.

In our American church culture, lives don’t seem to be changed by the power of God or His Word. Jesus cannot be treated as an add-on, something used to make lives easier, more comfortable, more enjoyable.  He is not here to fix us but to change us into a new creation, which is painful, and I don’t think people really want that Jesus. Following Him requires time and commitment and love, and we don’t seem to be in abundance of any of those things. The Israelites were afraid, but in our culture we’re not afraid; we’re just too busy, distracted, disobedient, self-centered and indifferent to follow Him. He talks about people like us in Mark 4. We’re the people represented by the seed sown among the thorny soil.

...these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

And the unfruitful ones? What happens to them at the end of the age? They’re thrown out and destroyed. Even the ones who did all kinds of things in His name didn’t make the cut. Because Jesus said that you will know those who are His by their fruit.

So what do we do with this? How do we know if we are His and are producing good fruit, fruit that Jesus will recognize? In I John, disciples of Jesus are the ones who love Him, and you see the love they have for Him because they are keeping His commands (not man’s laws or standards, but God’s commands). We begin by loving the people around us.

Some say all the right words and do all the right things but  don’t really know Him, and He doesn’t know them. But there is hope; it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. He’s given us Himself and His Word. And as John and Jesus both said, Repent (turn from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit) and believe; become a true follower of His by listening to Him and by following His commands.

Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil (repent), humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. (believe)

Although the road is narrow, and there are not many who choose to take that road, it is the way of life and truth and real meaning. But His way is also the way of the cross and death: death to self, death to the ways of the world, death to comfortable, safe lives. Jesus says, If you lose your life for my sake, then you will find it. But if you try to hang on to your life, that’s when you lose everything. There’s no middle ground here, no straddling the fence.

You’re either in the process of working out your own salvation with fear and trembling, or you’re not. (Philippians 2:12)  We’re all busy following something, someone. And we intently listen to the people we’re following; we follow them on Twitter, on Facebook, on any other social media we can get our hands on. But are you a true believer and follower of Jesus, or have you deceived yourself and don’t know His power or His Word? Are you following Him by listening to His Spirit, by reading His Word? And not books that people have written about Him. Jesus told the Sadducees, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

He loves us so much, not only in how He sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit to us,  but also in how He reveals Himself to us moment by moment as we open our hearts, hands and lives to receive Him.  We don’t want to be like the children of Israel who when God wanted to speak to them, they refused to come and listen but rather had someone else (Moses) tell them what God had said. We are deceived when we think we need someone to interpret God and the Bible for us, whether it’s a pastor, a Bible study teacher or Christian author.

The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true… (I John 2)

We have the Creator of the world who longs to speak with us through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. We don’t go to the Bible to find more facts or knowledge or because we’re guilted into it. We go to the Bible so that He would reveal Himself to us in all His beauty and majesty and righteousness. We go to the Bible in order to follow Him in obedience and love.

Pray that He would give us wisdom and discernment and that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened. Pray for ears and hearts to listen to and long for what He is saying. Psalm 40:6 says, You open my ears to listen. And pray for the courage to follow Him in obedience to His Word and Spirit. He’s looking for followers. He’s looking for people who will listen and obey. It’s just that simple. The true worshipers worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

According to Hebrews 12, we no longer have to go to the smoking mountain like the children of Israel did. And God is no longer in the darkness. “Instead you have come to the city of the living God…to Jesus. Make sure that you do not reject the One who speaks…”

10
Jan
13

Community, Discipleship and Courage

Jeff and I are called to do two things. We are called to start small communities that meet in homes, and we are called to do discipleship. We believe that both are vital to living in God’s kingdom here and now.

These communities consist of 20-50 people. The people within these communities eat together, pray together, love each other,  and commit to one another. These communities are small enough so that all the people in the community are able to bring their gifts to the table and use them for the Body’s benefit and for God’s glory.

This is not a spectator sport, where we cheer others on to do the work. We all do the work together. No one gets lost or ignored because these communities are small enough that each person is equally important. These communities meet in people’s homes, where life takes place. Simply put, a Community Group is an extended family following Jesus together by doing life with missionary purpose.

We have an active community that we are already involved in. We share a meal together weekly, help each other, and support each other by being an active part of each other’s lives. The relationships within our community are covenant relationships that require time, energy and commitment.

Our community started as the Holy Spirit called on us to do the small acts of obedience in opening our homes and lives to each other, and this community has become our extended family where each week it feels like a family reunion in the very best sense of the word. I long to be with these people, and I miss them when I’m not able to.

We are looking to start other communities similar to this one as God brings together people who are desperate for Him and who desire to share their lives in community. These groups will be similar but also very different in that they will be led by people who have different missional outreaches. We are ministering in such a way that these communities can be started all over Nashville and led by the people God raises up. Once a few community groups have started up, we will have celebration gatherings where this network of communities, who want to serve Jesus and the people around them, will come together for praise and worship and times of teaching. These groups will be the basis for New Life Church Network.

Jeff and I are partners in this work God has called us to. Really, our whole family is doing this work together. We are seeing our children embrace the people in our community. And they are active participants in loving and serving those around them.

The second part of what Jeff and I are doing is discipleship. The way of growth in the New Testament was discipleship. Jesus chose His disciples, and He spent three years discipling them as they walked with Him. At the end of Matthew, Jesus said to His disciples that He had been given all authority and then commanded His disciples to go make disciples. We believe that we are following Him in obedience by doing discipleship with people, Jeff with men, me with women.

Discipleship is NOT a Bible study.  Discipleship is meeting on a weekly basis with 1 to 2 other people who are reading the same Bible passage, NOT to study the passage but rather to go to the Word to see what God is calling them to do in repentance and obedience. It goes back to John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ message:  “Repent and believe. The Kingdom of God is here.”

Discipleship is simple in that anyone can do it. We are discipling and training our children, because we believe it is essential to growing and maturing in Christ. We have already seen lives changed because of what Jesus and His Word can do with people who are willing to submit themselves to Him in obedience and humility. When Jesus came and took  on our flesh, He emptied Himself, took on the form of a slave and became obedient to the point of death.  He calls us to do the same…to come and die.

Simply put, discipleship is listening to what God is telling us to do in the context of community. It is following Jesus. And it really comes down to two basic questions. What in my life do I need to repent of? And what is God, not man, telling me to do about it? Neil Cole calls this process exhaling and inhaling: exhaling our sin in repentance and then inhaling the Word of God and seeking Him in obedience. We have to expel the junk and sin of our lives before we can breathe in the Gospel.

Eugene Peterson talks about this in his book Eat This Book. He says, “Obedience is the thing, living in active response to the living God.  The most important question we ask of this text (the Bible) is not, ‘What does this mean?’ but ‘What can I obey?’ A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to this text  far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances.” (71)

Community and discipleship work together. It’s meeting people where they are and growing up and maturing in Christ together. We’re walking side by side with people in their journey to Him. I have this sense of urgency and mission within me to do discipleship with others, because I now see hope where there was none. It’s hope in a God who changes people, not fixes them or makes their lives better, but actually transforms them into a new creation.

We can spend years trying to figure out who we are with numerous self-help books, but change can only happen when we’re ready to come to Him in repentance and belief. The same message that John the Baptist and Jesus preached still applies now.  Six or seven months ago I said to Jeff, “I’m not doing that discipleship thing.”  I know He can change lives; He is changing mine.

Please pray that we would be courageous and obedient and let God do His work in us and through us. We also need God’s people to come along side us and support us in this thing God has called us to. We are all called to serve and make sacrifices in the kingdom of God. And we are excited that others are joining us  in their prayers and with their money. We are, in fact, spurring each other on to love and good works. And that’s what kingdom living is all about. So, thank you, for acting courageously and sacrificially on our behalf and on behalf of the kingdom.

Soli Deo Gloria…to God alone be the glory…

Jeff and Kim Darnell, 1045 Fontaine Drive, Goodlettsville, TN 37072

lovegracepeace@gmail.com

14
Dec
12

Walking With People Toward Jesus

And He began to send them out two by two… So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. (Mark 6)

This is what Jeff and I are called to do. We are being sent out to walk with people towards Jesus. We are doing discipleship with people, showing them how to repent and believe, urging them to listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling them they need to repent of and what He is telling them to do about it (not in a legalistic kind of way, but rather Holy Spirit-led, growth kind of way).  And this is done only in the context of community.

God has put us in community with other believers who are seeking Him. This happened almost overnight. He called us to take small steps, and we simply had to listen and obey. This was not easy. It felt like there was much opposition; there was fear and doubt and insecurity on my part, but we obeyed and put one foot in front of the other. And God is flinging His kingdom wide open here in Nashville. We are letting our light shine so that people will glorify God and the great things He has done in us and through us.

In the eight weeks since our community started, we have seen God’s Spirit break in, and there is life. Beautiful, abundant life. The people in our community are starting to really love each other, not just in word but also in action. And Jeff and I are committed to walk the journey out with these believers.

And this is just the beginning. God has put in our hearts to start these small communities of 20-50 people all over Nashville. One of the guys Jeff is doing discipleship with already wants to start one on his side of town. We are excited to be a part of God’s kingdom here in Nashville…we are simply blooming where we have been planted.

The word for what can happen in our culture with these small communities, focused on Jesus, loving each other and caring for one another, is virus. If people get a whiff of the life that happens when surrender occurs, following Jesus with other believers in these small communities could go viral here in our cities, states, country. This is the way it’s already happening all over the world. I’m humbled and grateful that He has called me to give my life for this.

He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.  (Mark 6)

Jeff and I are called to put on our walking shoes, take our walking stick and put on our jacket. But how does this translate in our culture? How do we “earn” a living doing this?

Simply put, God’s provision. The expectation is 100 percent on Him to show up to provide for our family’s needs. However, He uses His people to share their resources with those who are ministering, and as Paul urged the Philippians, he said it was to their benefit to share in the work of the ministry. I’m excited to see how God does this. Because this is not done out of duty or obligation but the Holy Spirit working and His people listening.

Our family is called to this. And everything else is a distraction. I feel an urgency to share our journey with others and see others grow up in Him. I am very much in process, but I know this–that Jesus and His kingdom are worth giving my life for.

Please pray that we would continue to stay grounded in God and the things of God, that we would have listening ears and receptive hearts, and that our community and the others that are started would bring glory to Him. And consider being a part of what God is calling us to do. We’d love to hear from you.

For the love of Christ compels us…that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Cor 5)

Jeff and Kim Darnell, 1045 Fontaine Drive, Goodlettsville, TN 37072

lovegracepeace@gmail.com




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