Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fruit Inspection

I've been pondering leadership a lot lately.

Joel is the pastor of our church. He is a leader. That's a weighty role.

We left a ministry where leadership was controlling--much more than I even realized! We left the ministry because they were making changes and we did not feel we could commit to the changes. Specifically, GFA was planning to build a new headquarters with staff housing on a campus an hour east of where we lived. We weren't sure about: selling our house and "renting" from the ministry, having all the staff further isolated, and our commitment to the ministry for more than another few years.

During the five years we served on staff at GFA, Joel's desire to pastor a church never waned. So, we decided it was time to move on. We walked away quietly so Joel could attend seminary in hopes that he would then be called to pastor a church. In the three years since we left GFA, we have discovered that there was much more going on behind closed doors at GFA than we could have imagined. My trust in the leadership at the ministry is gone. Completely.

How do we decide if someone in leadership is worth following?

You often hear the word "fruit" in a discussion on the value of someone's ministry. What exactly is this "fruit"? In telling people about the corruption of GFA leadership, I've heard people say "There has been such good fruit from the ministry that I'm sure there's just a misunderstanding" or "You will know a ministry is good when you see good fruit coming from it." In response to this, a good friend had the following to say that I found very helpful:

In these situations a good question to ask is: what would it take to not trust leadership anymore? What would in your mind be the last straw and break your trust with leadership?

If you can answer that question honestly and then look at what has happened objectively you may be surprised at what you have allowed for the sake of "the fruit on the field".

And perhaps that is the answer: what if the fruit on the field is actually bad?

But what would make it bad? What if there's only ONE Believer? Is that still good fruit? Of course it is, but is it enough to excuse lying? Would all these lies be ok still for ONE? What about two? If there's 10 is it okay to lie? 100? 1000? 10,000? When is it ok to lie for the sake of those who are coming to know Christ?

Are believers permitted to lie without repentance as long as what they are doing leads to the lost being saved?

What does Jesus say?

You will know them [false prophets] by THEIR fruits. Does He mean their "fruits on the field"—their works? Or does He mean their own "fruits of righteousness"?

Look what John said to the religious leaders:

"Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Is it possible that Jesus cares about the fruit of people's character and not as much about the fruit of their work? Can He not do His work of reaching the lost BETTER with those who also have fruits of repentance and righteousness in their own lives?

If we make room for lying, are we doing good or harm ultimately to God's kingdom? And ought not we (out of all men), who are part of the household of God, stand up against the sin of lying?

"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

Friday, October 9, 2015

Landing

I haven't blogged since our move.

The Lord guided us to a new place. We now call Virginia home.

Joel is pastoring a small church in Danville, a city just across the North Carolina border in the central part of the state.

I have to laugh when I think about the journey. Laughter is good. Better than crying, though I love to cry.

The month of June found me excited about what I thought was the direction for our family then frustration when there was silence. I'm not good at silence. Anyone close to me can tell you that emphatically.

As July approached, I banked on the promise from Scripture that I clearly felt was from the Lord. Sensing the Lord had given me anything personal is a huge breakthrough given the place I had gone in my walk with Him over the last few years--wondering if personal really existed. The verse I felt so strongly connected to was in Psalms. Chapter 84.

There is much more than just a verse that spoke to me as I was waiting on the Lord. In particular, however, was verse 5: "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage." I really wanted it to be more specific. At the time when I first read this verse, Joel and I were visiting a church where he was preaching--for what we thought was a potential calling to pastor. I wanted specifics. I wanted reassurance. God gave it to me. It just didn't look like what I wanted.

He set my heart on pilgrimage. It's true. That's what He did. 

We left that weekend with high hopes. Then days turned to weeks and we heard nothing. My fears were waiting at the door, knocking gently at first. By the beginning of July, those knocks were getting louder.

Thankfully, I battled well this summer. Never perfect. But, I glory in the Lord for battling standing up instead of feeling like I was knocked down or, worse yet, unaware of the fight.

Years ago I did a Beth Moore study. She talked about the sons of Korah writing this Psalm. Psalm 84. Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere. I had heard the song. I sang it. But, Beth explained what the sons of Korah were talking about. Their ancestors had disobeyed God and He opened the earth and swallowed them up whole. These sons were so taken with the Lord that they didn't want a lofty place in the inner courts. They were content to serve the Lord as long as they could just be inside the courts.

I believe the Lord used this Psalm to encourage me this summer so that my heart would be set on pilgrimage--a move--and also so it would be set to be content regardless of what place or position He gave me/us. 

He is the Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. He is highly exalted and reigns on high. He is the Anointed One, who took on flesh and bore my sin and shame. He is the Risen and Exalted One, who will one day return. All creatures will bow and declare Him King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Better is one day in His courts. "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you." Psalm 84:11, 12