THE “MORE RELEVANT” CHURCH

I ran across a comment today from a friend who was talking about how people are wanting “the church” to be more relevant to their lives.

Hmmmm. Making church relevant to our lives.

It always intrigues me when people start complaining about the church. Which “church” are they talking about?

Thirty years ago I heard a lot of squawking about how the hymns were outdated and boring. So we moved over to the praise and worship mode, throwing out the hymns and leaving them to days gone by. We have had the 10/40 Window. We have changed the liturgy and the format of the liturgy seemingly a dozen times since I was a child in order to update and make more relevant everything under the sun in “the church.” We have taken on social issues and moral issues within our political systems. We have marched. We have demonstrated. We have had sit-ins. We have had endless candlelight vigils for an equally long list of purposes. And still “the church” remains irrelevant in the minds of some, . . . in the minds of many.

We have gone to other religions to draw from them something that is going to give us greater insight, a deeper experience. We have listened to an endless parade of people who have written this book and that, all claiming to be the latest formula to bring us to that essential “mountain top” experience. We have followed teacher after teacher after teacher, none ever satisfying the itch we have, none ever giving us what we want, assuming we have even a smidgen of a clue what we are looking for.

We have tried expository preaching, word studies, becoming houses of prayer, learning church history, published countless editions of the Bible in “modern English” or whatever is the modern language of the people. We have translated it, transliterated it, paraphrased it, and made it walk on all four legs in any number of different ways, all declared to make it easier for us to understand, for us to reach G-d, . . . for us to do absolutely every single thing possible except the one thing we desperately need to do: listen to that still, small voice.
We get out of worship what we put into it.

If we come to church to be entertained and looking for rock stars, it is going to turn out just exactly the same way every other addiction turns out in life – because this is an addiction. We will continue to need more and more stimulation in order to get lesser and lesser results. It is like the practice in zoology called “habitat enrichment,” the regular changing and re-arranging of the setting in which the animals live in order to make it more challenging and entertaining. Unfortunately, many of us, even as believers, go through life thinking no higher than this.

What we want is absolution, forgiveness of our sins (if we even call them that), without having to meet G-d face to face, bow at His feet, and turn our will and lives over to Him, in spite of the fact that He tells us over and over again that the life of a believer will cost us everything we are and will become, everything we have and will ever possess.

We think we can turn this life as a believer into a formula which requires no more of us than learning the daily routines that make the logistics of our lives function . . . on most days. Get up, eat breakfast, get the kids off to school, get our spouse off to work, go to work ourselves, get coffee, start our work where we left off yesterday, eat lunch, do more of the same work, go home, eat dinner, get the kids ready for bed, watch a little TV, then off to bed ourselves, just to do it again tomorrow. Except on the day we worship. Then we have a routine for that which looks a whole lot like the rest of the week, except instead of going to work and school, we go to church, theoretically to worship G-d, although that is not always what happens.

If we want to experience something relevant in our churches, we need to stop doing all of the “things” we are doing, get very quiet, and wait on G-d.

He is extremely adept at coming up with stuff that will knock us straight out of our shoes and will be just as “relevant” and “real” as we will ever be able to handle with His help. He will pick us up and put us in the middle of stuff that will blow our mind six ways from Sunday. He will show us things in life that we have been screaming out in hunger because we need it so badly and we did not have a clue that we did. But He knew. And He will give it to us because we crave it at the center of our being more than we crave breath. Because He made us and He knows EXACTLY what we need. And it isn’t the stuff, it isn’t the routines, it isn’t a more “relevant church.”

What we need is Him.

— J. E. Clark | 29 October 2015

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OBEDIENCE | GEORGE MACDONALD

I said: “Let me walk in the fields.”
He said: “No, walk in the town.”
I said: “There are no flowers there.”
He said: “No flowers, but a crown.”

I said: “But the skies are black;
There is nothing but noise and din.”
And He wept as He sent me back –
“There is more,” He said; “there is sin.”

I said: “But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun.”
He answered: “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone!”

I said: “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say.”
He answered: “Choose tonight
If I am to miss you or they.”

I pleaded for time to be given.
He said: “Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem so hard in heaven
To have followed the steps of your Guide.”

I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town;
He said, “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?”

Then into His hand went mine;
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light divine,
The path I had feared to see.


SOURCE:

http://www.all-creatures.org/poetry/obedience.html

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HAST THOU NO SCAR? | AMY CARMICHAEL

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And piercèd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?


SOURCE:

http://www.crossroad.to/Victory/poems/amy_carmichael/no-scar.htm

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MODESTY & MODERN ORTHODOXY

ISSUE:

An Orthodox Woman Grew Up Wearing Skirts—Until a Pair of Jeans Changed Her Definition of Modesty – Tablet Magazine


RESPONSE:

I grew up in the age of mini-skirts, which I was forbidden to wear, of course. So, I had a very nice navy blue wool skirt that fit when it was bought in 1966. It still fit in 1972, but I was several inches taller then, so I managed to get my mini-skirt by waiting until I was tall enough for it to become one. I wouldn’t say that I hated it. Actually, I loved it. But I was never comfortable in it. No matter how I sat down in it or tried to move in it, I could not get around the fact that it was nearly impossible to not show things better left covered. And I hated feeling exposed far more than I hated not being fashionable and not being in step with my peers.

Between 1966 and 1972, we also had the age of midi-skirts and maxi-skirts. My mother pulled out 3 skirts from the 1940s and I discovered my dream wardrobe. Considering the amount of time and intensity with which my mother and I had wrangled over clothes, that one gesture on her part and the overwhelming enthusiasm with which I embraced it is the only time we ended up on the same page. I had found my fashion “home.”

As time has gone on, I have slowly migrated from my roughly knee length hemlines to my current standard of tea length to ankle length, a standard that I believe I will continue with for the rest of my life. But still, the question of pants continued.

I was a military wife and when we came into the military, shorts were not allowed in the PX and commissary. So, I wore slacks. Gradually over time as I found myself back in the civilian environment, the slacks started to morph into jeans. It wasn’t that I like jeans. I despise them, always have. Why??? Because they are something boys and men wear, something that speaks to me of fields, sweat and dirt. But I needed something that was inexpensive and had durability, something I could do grunge work in, something that was suitable for things like picnics and softball games, something I could wear in the winter and were warm enough to provide protection in sub-freezing temperatures.

So, my wardrobe has exploded with jeans over time. But I do not do the skin tight version of my high school days where I had to lay down on the bed in order to get them zipped. I do loose fit that has plenty of room. And I wear t-shirts, although I hate them, because they are long enough to reach hip level. I much prefer something which is longer still toward tunic length, preferably to my knees. The Indian salwar-kameez with the dupatta is nearly perfect. Anarkalis and lenghas are fantastic. Palazzo pants are perfect. Enough cloth to drape the way I like it but with greater modesty than a skirt. I have also always preferred to have a tunic length vest or duster, especially when the tops available have covered less than that with which I am comfortable.

It has been a delight to live in the middle of the Orthodox community and see so many long skirts with modest tops. I have given a lot of consideration to adjusting my wardrobe so that it fits in with what I see. So this article which talks about the pants revolution of Modern Orthodoxy has me feeling very sad and like something very important is being lost, although I am not at all sure I can define what that is.

I have always been strenuously opposed to traditional religious practices embracing those of the secular world rather than holding their ground. To me, this feels like capitulation. Perhaps and perhaps not. That all depends on how it is fleshed out going forward. We will have to see.

As for myself, what I do has never really been driven by the stern rules of modesty that were in place when I was a child. I have always found these standards outside of myself to be suffocating in their rigidity and legalism, thus, my hesitancy to embrace the principles of tznuit. But internally, I am being driven forward towards less conformity to the world around me and greater conformity to the need for agreement between my heart and what I wear.

I would be less than honest if I did not acknowledge that a great deal of that is being driven by the what I see on the streets from both men and women who seem to feel a necessity to reveal an endless vista of skin and body parts. Everything inside of me rebels against what I am seeing. I have no desire to have anywhere near the information about the bodies of some of the people I meet along the way that I can collect in one brief glance. Nor do I want anyone to have that level of information about my body.

Is that modesty??? Perhaps so, although I have always thought that the standards of modesty were set outside of myself by society and the type of religion practiced. It would seem that my understanding has been incomplete.

It occurs to me that the type of clothing worn by those in the Orthodox community, although bearing the styles of days gone by, is, nevertheless, much different than that worn in Eastern Europe 150 years ago. There have been adaptations before and the principle of tznuit has remained intact. As time has gone on, the continuing needs for adaptation to the materials and products available as well as the society in which they have lived has driven them to adopt more modern apparel.  Whether we have supported or decried the results, one fact has remained: we, as a society, have depended on the Orthodox to set the bar for modesty.

Given the Pants Revolution, it is apparent there are important shifts taking place within the Orthodox community that are stratifying those who are driven to move the tradition of tznuit to new definitions from those who are intent on following the established traditional practices. My prayer is that they deliberate long and carefully in doing so, because so very much depends on them getting it right.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES – TZNUIT

Tzniut – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tzniut (“modesty” in dress & behavior) – Jewish Knowledge Base

A Modest Proposal: How Tzniut Liberates and Enriches – Jewish Action

Modesty (Tz’ni’ut) – My Jewish Learning

Women – Class 12 – Torah.org
Women – Class 13 – Torah.org
Women – Class 14 – Torah.org

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DEREK PRINCE

OFFICIAL DEREK PRINCE MINISTRIES SITES

Derek Prince Ministries International
Derek Prince Ministries UK
Derek Prince Ministries – US
Derek Prince – YouTube


DEREK PRINCE VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE

Derek Prince – Spiritual Warfare


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THE DESIRES OF MY HEART

I am a very simple person with very simple pleasures in life. Today I had the opportunity to scratch another one off my bucket list.

For decades I have wanted a Slinky, but I have never liked any of the ones I have seen. They were colours and I didn’t want colours. I didn’t realise until today that was what the problem was. Then I was in the grocery store tonight and turned the corner from one aisle to another and there it sat: a silver metal Slinky, out of the box, all by itself, on the shelf in a food aisle. Into my cart it went and I hand-carried it home in my purse.

I don’t have any steps to walk it down. I just enjoy the sound and the sensation of stretching it out and let it move from one hand to the other. It has a similar effect on me as popping bubble wrap and I am almost purring. (Since I came home, I have found out that it is a good therapy toy for hand and arm rehabilitation as well. Smile.)

They could not find the box, so they used another type of Slinky and charged me $2.50. I looked it up when I got home and the going price is anywhere from $4.50 to $9.00. So it was a discount Slinky to boot. My inner Scotsman is very pleased.

I don’t want to make this verse stand on its head, but Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

I don’t know if that extends to Slinkies, but the principle is very sound. Over the years, I have seen many Slinkies that were nice, but my heart did not resonate when I saw them. So, I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. Until I saw the Slinky that did resonate in my heart and I knew THAT ONE was mine. And so it is. It shall have a very nice home sitting next to my computer as an integral part of my desk.

Our lives are filled with any number of things that we want very much. Sometimes we want them so badly that we want to “help G-d out.” But Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: . . . .”

From the first moments I encountered Messianic Judaism, I wanted to be part of a Messianic Jewish congregation. I prayed for that to happen for almost 24 years before I became part of Congregation Rosh Pina. There were many, many twists and turns that took place in my life before I arrived at Rosh Pina, but every single one of them was designed to make me the person I needed to be when I went there.

As my marriage was disintegrating, I longed to be in a relationship that could be the things I knew marriage was supposed to be. I thought of other people and assumed that in two or three years I would be married again, but it was to take much, much longer than that. As the years went by, I did a lot of trying to help G-d out. They all ended. Except for one, they were tremendous disasters. After 25 years, I met my fiancé. “Not my type.” I said. “He might not be your type, but you are his type!!!” I was told. And so it turned out to be. I did not have a clue. When G-d put us together it was incredibly amazing. You can look at us together, look at our separate houses, and we fit together so well it seems we have been together for well over 40 years, when in reality it has been less than 9 years. We are not yet married, but we are confident that G-d has the timing of that worked out as well.

I was in the seventh grade when I said I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. This was followed up by a lot of other things I wanted to be when I grew up: a doctor, a paramedic, a teacher, a secretary, a scientist, a lawyer, an advocate, an advisor, an assistant, a computer tech. I have done parts of all of these lofty goals, but the time never seem to come when I could actually do them to the degree I envisioned. It still hasn’t, but in my retirement, I have been able to spend a lot of time in the sciences of natural disasters, in law, in medicine, and in advocacy. At long last, I am finally able to spend more time on my writing, which, hopefully, is improving.

In the overall scheme of things, a Slinky is a pretty small thing. But every time I look at it and pick it up, I am going to remember how it came to me. Praise and awe will arise in my heart and I will be strengthened to delight myself in the L-rd. The gift from G-d is not just the Slinky, it is the ongoing encouragement and knowledge that He is closer than a touch. What a profound gift to come with a Slinky!!!

— J. E. Clark | 3 July 2015

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