Church and Fast Food…What Do They Have in Common?

drive thru We are so fast paced in our country.  And we have incorporated this into our relationship with God.  We are a fast food nation.

We want instantaneous answers, overnight transformation, speedy growth.  We want drive up and drive through service.

But God desires to speak to us daily through His word.  He wants to have direct conversation with us.  When we only rely upon others to feed us on Sunday mornings, we are relying upon the processed word; what we are being fed by someone else…not the pure word that God speaks directly to us.  It is great to share the word with others and hear their insights, but if that is all you rely on and don’t commune with Him yourself and listen to His voice for yourself, you are eating processed foods, spiritually, and it is not enough to sustain you or show you how to walk in the Kingdom every day.

Now, physically speaking,  the healthiest natural organic foods are whole foods… not processed foods.  

organic-vegetables2Our bodies need choice fruit and vegetables straight from the vine.  Processed foods make the body sick.  They lack vital nutrients and contain impure additives and dyes that have no value to our bodies. Though filling, they are toxic and do nothing but promote disease.

It takes work to go get good, healthy food.  The planning and cooking and just the overall inconvenience of having to take the time to eat it.  It is so much easier to run by the drive through and eat something that tastes good and fills us up, but is killing our healthy cells.  We can deny it for a while, but when we get physically sick we either let our addiction for fast food kill us or change our ways.

In the same way, it takes time and persistence to walk with Jesus every day and to pursue Him with all your heart.  Going to a building on one day a week and thinking that is enough for true Kingdom living is deceiving ourselves.

It is not enough!

The collective body of Christ is sick from eating processed foods, spiritually speaking.  They have been doing it so long that they do not know how to eat and drink freely from Him…to meditate with Jesus, to spend time with just Him.  They think just going to a church institution will be enough.  But then they wonder why they go back to a defeated, mundane life the rest of the week.  

drive through churchWe eat fast food on Sundays and then wonder why we are starving and miserable the rest of the week.  Yet any minute of the day He is standing there waiting for you to listen to His whispers in your heart.

It takes an investment in time, deliberate focus and purpose to eat well.  As it is with our body and natural food, so it is with our spirit and spiritual food.

The pursuit to find any formula that can be applied to produce His righteousness and provide me with New Testament church life or even grow my trust, is foolish.

It will fail, time and time again, until in the end we come to realize that this reality only comes through a growing friendship with Him.  The more I know Him and the more I see His hand at work the more free I will be to trust Him and live in His kingdom.

Any time we choose to follow someone else’s formula for success, or an agenda no matter how well intentioned, we will end up living by our own limited wisdom.

The invitation to this Kingdom is to follow a person.

Jesus doesn’t give us the way; He is The Way.

He doesn’t have life; He is The Life. 

He doesn’t just speak truth; He is The Truth itself.

Everything about His kingdom begins and ends in Him and we experience that through a growing friendship with Him.

To grow in this life, I am continually cultivating my relationship with Him.  I intentionally spend time with Him as I grow in my awareness of His working throughout my day.  I have a running conversation with Him about everything in my life and express my desire to follow His will at every turn.

I try to saturate myself in the word to learn how He thinks and acts.  And it is important to join in what God is showing others by what I read and listen to, and the conversations I have with others I gather with on this journey.

This means letting go of the lies of shame and the demands for performance that drive us from him and find our security in His devotion and love for us and let that transform us.

For me, it has been great freedom to realize that I never had the power or wisdom to accomplish God’s purposes in my life, and how losing confidence in my flesh actually freed me to live more dependent on Him and more grateful for His working. 

What a joy to wake up in the uncertain adventure of life and not be distressed at what might happen today, because He is with me!  I can’t explain how wonderful that freedom is.

How could fast food Christianity ever produce this?

The pattern in everything is this:

The greater joys are obtained through struggle and difficulty and pain—things you must force yourself to do when you don’t feel like it—while brief, unsatisfying, and often destructive joys are as inviting as a big old feather bed and down comforters.

God, in great mercy, is showing us everywhere, in things that are just shadows of heavenly realities, that there is great reward for those who struggle through and persevere (Hebrews 10:32–35).

He is reminding us almost everywhere to walk by faith in a promised future and not by the sight of immediate gratification (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Each struggle to overcome becomes a gigantic flag to us saying, “Look ahead, past the struggle itself, past the temptation of the puny, vapor joys to the great, sustained, substantial Joy set before you!”

See your Father pointing you to the reward he has planned for all who endure to the end. (Matthew 24:13). 

Transpose it from reluctance to a reminder that God is calling you not to indulgence but endurance.

Then lay this weight aside and run with faith the race he has set before you.  God will meet you with the grace you need (2 Corinthians 9:8).

jesus and meAnd the thing is: This light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)

“Church Lady”…or Devoted Lover?

allthatineedI love the church.   If you know Jesus then you are the church too;  One of the many members of the Church, the Body, of Jesus, who is our Head.  But I was brought up spiritually in a church building for many years, and I loved it. 

Somewhere along the way I lost the mentality that I was there to grow in Jesus. 

Oh yes, I was taught that I was the temple where Jesus lived, but I was also taught I had to be in a building to truly walk with him.   It took me too long to realize that being a ‘church lady’ didn’t mean I knew anything about the heart and passion of God.

Oh, I yearned for it, so put on the face that I already had that passion filled relationship with Jesus, and had the pious face down pat, as if I had it together. I had the Christian-ease language down pat, too.    For many years I was very involved in just about everything that was happening in the church building.  

I was involved in potlucks, gospel sing alongs,  committee meetings, bake sales, car washes, retreats, conferences and any other spiritual sounding activity that was advertised in the church building. Then I started a women’s ministry and it grew and grew.  I absolutely loved it.  I had a place and felt loved and accepted.  I loved the people, the busy-ness, and the routine.  I was really good at doing church and I looked the part, too. Busy-Woman-1147825

I had a good heart. 

I was so drawn to God and yearned to serve Him and thought that is what I was doing.  But over time, more serving, and more ministries later it all became a checklist or a substitute for a deeper passion.

It became a “doing” instead of a “becoming.”

I still love the church.  I just missed the whole point God was yearning for me to see for many years.  If you have read my book, Climbing Out of the Box, you will see where it led me.  However, I digress.

Somehow I loved becoming the church lady and mistook that title for becoming godly. 

It felt so good to be in the church clicks, though. And I saw others left out of those groups to which I turned a blind eye.  

So, I busied myself in  those good works of bringing food to the sick, planning baby showers and helping at funerals, and teaching Sunday school.  It can feel so good to be needed that it can become a substitute for a passionate pursuit of God.

Don’t get me wrong; Service, fellowship, and giving are wonderful and a part of the calling for every believer, but serving and doing do not equal a relationship with God.  They do not get us closer to the mark,  and sometimes can become a wall we hide behind. And so we pretend we know what we are talking about and every Sunday we sit in a pew, staring at the backs of heads, listen to a sermon, and go home.

And wonder why that gaping hole in our hearts is still there.

Every Sunday morning parents hand their babies over to the good people who work in the nurseries.  Then they go serve in hundreds of places within the building.  They may never even make it to the service, but it is okay because they have been to church.  Some have hidden there for years.

So many of us are “doing” like crazy.

Not many of us are “becoming.”   Women Bow And Pray

My coaching business over the last few years has been full of women and men, who were dying on the inside.  Service and hospitality was not cutting it for them.  Hearts are broken and lives are hurting.  They longed to know that Jesus really loved them—somehow they missed that part while they were busy doing.  They are worn out with good works without realizing how to have a one on one with Jesus. 

Yet we keep signing up for one more thing. 

Hoping we will find Jesus there.

When we get the church lady thing going it is easy to pretend we have it all together.  I did.  Everyone thought I was so together and many wanted to be me.  I dressed fashionable, and had a sweet smile on my face.  My kids were impeccibly dressed, and we were the ‘perfect’ family. 

But inside; well that was another story.  

My marriage was falling apart.  I had been molested as a child and had not told a soul yet.  I had not even begun my healing and was convinced I would go to the grave with my secret.  So, I had to get even more busy to outrun the ugly truth. 

I had no self esteem.   376692_405449249517629_858305305_n

Soon I learned I could fill that need to be validated by being in the church clicks and there was always a need for one more worker to keep it all going. 

I became addicted to ministry to fill my gapping hole of need.

Ministry took the place of a passion filled relationship with a very real Jesus.  It wasn’t until I lost it all did Jesus finally break into my religiosity and reveal Himself  personally in all His glory. 

And when that happened?   I was doing nothing in the church– I had lost it all.  It was in the wilderness of my life that I met Jesus face to face…when everything and everyone else was gone.

Only Jesus didn’t leave.

That is when I learned that I am the Church.  You are the church.  We are all the church body.  

Getting off the merry go round of hiding behind our good works is about laying down all pretense and facades.  It is about stepping outside the lines you have drawn around your spirituality and seeing what God has for you.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we only ascribe the term ‘church’ to weekend gatherings or institutions that have organized themselves as ‘churches’ we miss out on what it means to live as Christ’s body. It will give us a false sense of security to think that by attending a meeting once a week and work ourselves to the bone;  then we are participating in God’s church.

But if the church is something we are, not someplace we go, how can we leave it unless we abandon Christ himself? We can’t.  We may join other believers anywhere, but it doesn’t define our personal love relationship with Jesus.

If we think only of a specific congregation as our part of the church, haven’t we separated ourselves from a host of other brothers and sisters that do not attend the same gathering that we do? Are we not called into the market place?

If you have hung your spirituality on inward files with neat little answers for every situation, hang on, because God is probably getting ready to blow the lid off of your box. 

You may need to allow Him to restructure your thinking a bit of why you do what you do; with all the strong essential elements of your faith still there, just rearranged to reflect to you more clearly the heart of God.

Scripture does encourage us to be devoted to one another not committed to an institution. Jesus indicated that whenever two or three people get together focused on him, they would experience the vitality of church life.  Out of that body life, of course comes service.  But if that is what defines your relationship with God, you will soon become a “church lady” too…..Or maybe a “church man.” 

I pray that we all are renewed in a passion for Jesus no matter where we find real fellowship with other believers; a genuine concern for each other and a willingness to serve the world with God’s love, which can only come from, not service, but relationship with Jesus Christ. Out of that relationship we will be His hand extended to a lost world.  praying-woman