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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Legalism vs. Relationship {HBC Women's Ministry: Small Group Discussion: July}

There is a major epidemic spreading like wildfire among Christians today.  This epidemic is not a disease of the body but more like a disease of the heart and soul.  It goes by the name of legalism. Legalism is the dependence on religious law rather than on personal faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I've been in a deep study through the Gospels and one thing that has stuck out to me like never before is just how much Jesus despised legalism. Legalism flowed out of the hearts of the Pharisees like water from a spigot. Over and again they criticized Jesus for things like healing people on the Sabbath. The Son of God was in their presence, the One who had come to fulfill the Law, but they couldn't see past all their rules. They missed the forest for the trees.  

But before we condemn the Pharisees further, we need to take a good hard look at our own lives...lest we speak as hypocrites. You see, we have something that the Pharisees did not.  We have the New Testament as our guide.  We know that Jesus was the King prophesied about in Isaiah 700 years before His birth.  We know that He was crucified, buried, and rose again on the third day.  We know that He has gone on to prepare a place for us. We know that all the prophesies of the Old Testament were fulfilled through Him.  Yet, I'm afraid that even with everything we know, we too miss the forest for the trees.  We miss Jesus.

We fall prey to legalism when we fight with fellow Christians over grey matter.  And what I mean by that is that there are things that are NOT explicitly outlined in scripture that I believe God deals with each of us on an individual basis about. Things like homeschooling, family size, church worship style, women pursuing careers, etc.  It's not that these issues can't be discussed. It's quite the opposite actually.  We can sharpen each other when we discuss these issues.  A healthy conversation is not a bad thing.  It becomes a bad thing when we get so hung up on these issues that we cause strife, strained relationships, gossip, church division, etc. It becomes a bad thing when we quit caring about people. It becomes a bad thing when our beliefs trump our faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  

We like to have methods, plans, lists, and rules to live by and follow.  We cling to our beliefs and least I do. These are not bad things in and of themselves. However, there is a fine line that we easily cross and find ourselves in the realm of legalism when we start believing that what God has called us to do (or not do) in this life is what he has called everyone else to do (or not do). This is a dangerous place to be because legalism leaves no room for the work of the Holy Spirit.  

Satan is all over this.  He loves to see God's children fighting with each other and getting hung up on issues that divide and destroy.  It distracts from the big picture.  The big picture being that God has called us to carry out The Great Commission by being Kingdom advancers.  How are we advancing the Kingdom of God when we can't even find unity within the Body of Christ? 

Now I would be at fault without pointing out that there are MANY things that we should take a stand for.  I am by no means a liberal.  There is a balance there between legalism and liberalism. And that balance is Christ.  These are things that ARE explicitly outlined in scripture.  There are things in the Bible that God explicitly makes clear.  Things that we should not be doing; things that we should be doing. Things that cross over thousands of years into our culture.  Truths that time doesn't change.  Truths about homosexuality, adultery, murder, etc.  Things that we should take a stand for but in the right way with the right motives. And our motive should never be out of arrogance to be "right".  Our motive should be to win that person for Christ.  

You see what we are up against is not sin itself.  Sin is just a symptom....A symptom of a sick heart that is getting closer to death with each beat.  And what lies ahead of that sick, dead heart is an eternity of pain, torment and separation from Christ.  What we are up against is souls that are lost and hearts that need Jesus.  Our desire to be the messenger of His Good News should trump our opinions, rules, and laws any day! You see when we are fighting over issues that do not have eternal significance, we are doing exactly what Satan wants us to do.  We are being distracted from the big picture.  We are off chasing our desire "to be right" instead of our desire to carry out The Great Commission.  

Where do you fall? 

 "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Journey with Josiah {9}

It's been awhile since I have made a "Journey with Josiah" post.  If you follow my blog or Facebook, you have probably seen that we moved to Nederland, Texas in September of 2014. It has been absolutely amazing and I thank God daily for bringing us here.  One of the things that I thank Him for is the positive affects that I have seen in Josiah since we moved.  There have been many contributors to the change we have seen in him but I would say that the most positive one was starting preschool at Learning Hands which is at Hillcrest Baptist Church where Jordan is now the pastor.  I have blogged about our decision to not homeschool at the moment so I won't go into all of that again, but I will mention that when we first made this decision, I was a little bit nervous to say the least.  I think it is hard for any parent to send their child to school for the first time but especially for a parent who has a child with a special need.  But when I met Josiah's teacher for the first time,  I immediately had a peace from God sweep over me.  I just knew it was right.  And it was!  Mrs. Ballew was the perfect balance between challenging Josiah but also being patient and understanding with him.  He was so excited to go to school each morning! I am so thankful for "the village" that God has provided for us here to help raise our children.  And I was so proud of my Josiah as he walked across the stage at his preschool graduation:

Over the past few months, I have been getting everything lined up for Josiah to attend kindergarten in the fall.  There are four elementary schools here in Nederland and where we are currently renting a house puts us in the zoning for Langham.  I had heard really good things about Langham and how well-equiped and trained their teachers are to incorporate autistic children into mainstream classrooms.  They also have a fantastic special ed. program in place from what I have seen and heard.   We had our first ARD meeting yesterday and I was very pleased with the IEP that was presented for Josiah.  Several weeks ago, I took Josiah to meet with the diagnostician and the speech therapist at Langham. He was then referred to a psychologist in Houston whom the school uses for all of their official evaluations. I was so very impressed with Dr. Wood.  He set the whole day aside for Josiah and Josiah loved him.  Dr. Wood sent a very detailed 26 page report to the school and Josiah's support team used this report, their own observations and questions that Josiah's PreK teacher answered along with questions that I had answered to come up with an IEP (individual education plan) for Josiah.  Josiah will start off in a mainstream classroom and he will receive special services like speech therapy on the side. I feel very confident that Langham will provide a great support system and education for Josiah.  I prayed that God would give me peace about the IEP presented at the ARD meeting if it was what He wanted for Josiah.  And that is exactly what God gave me.  I left knowing that God was placing Josiah exactly where he needed to be on this journey.

The following pictures are from Josiah's first visit to Langham, kindergarten registration, and Josiah's evaluation with Dr. Wood:

I truly believe that God has been working a miracle in Josiah since the day he was born when we thought we had lost him during the delivery.  It has been quite an amazing journey so far and I'm so thankful that God has been there all along walking it with us.  I can't wait to see what all else God has in store for our Josiah!