Normally these all share in one particular fact... it's usually hot... stinkin' hot. There's just no lady like way to describe it. So hot you stay away from the swine exhibit at the Fair hot. Yet, Saturday we barely made it out of the 60's. Lovely weather that I enjoyed very much... but not July weather.
I mentioned earlier in the week that I'd write today about ponderings given this entire "sister-in-law situation". It has been an interesting week with her (losing her, finding her, wondering where she is to go) and generally keeping her in prayer on my part.
This past week as I was thinking of her, it dawned on me how all that she has been taught at her church has come together to form who she is today and how she is responding to this emergency in her life. Their church used to have sound teaching, not only when my husband was growing up but in the early years of our marriage and when Stephanie was a little girl. We enjoyed hearing the message given by their pastor when we would visit.
Then... over the years... we heard and saw the changes creeping into the denomination. That pastor left and was followed by another, then another, yet another... each man following the other was more liberal than the last. I knew from little things my mother-in-law said now and then that their thinking was less Biblical and the years went by... even though they read a passage from the Bible before each meal.
I was quite appalled when... one Easter... I was in the hallway of their church with a fussy baby (that would be Christopher) and perused their rack of written literature. The title of one of the tracts was something like The Danger of the Evangelical Church, in which someone had written about the "dangers" of small minded people in evangelical churches in general... and Billy Graham in particular. (I didn't know anyone thought Billy Graham dangerous.)
That was nineteen years ago and my husband's sister has learned the lessons well. I don't think she has ever missed a Sunday's service in her life (except days of illness) but she has no relationship with the Christ of her Church at all.
Whenever my husband has talked to her about knowing Him personally, she said her church preaches that people do not need salvation or a "personal" relationship with Christ... and she's grown up in this church. He will tell her what the Bible says and she always retorts with... she believes what is taught by her denomination.
She has no peace, no hope, no sense of the One who loves her... even though she has grown up in church. She has a form of religion and has little to do with the one whose Name it holds.
As I thought of her, though, I also was reminded of my mother who was not happy when I decided to accept Christ in my teens. Mom had been raised in a Christian home but one that was very legalistic... having a form of religion but mostly rules.
While her mother was a warm and loving Christian, others around her were constantly telling her she was going to Hell so she turned her back not only on the church... but on He who was the source of her mother's warmth and love... and peace. Her reasoning... if she was already lost then she may as well be all the way lost.
Frankly, if this was Christianity she wanted nothing to do with it. Although, as I grew up, my mother loved to listen to the old hymns of the Church. Not because of the One they talked about but they reminded her of her own dear mother.
I've often said there must have been someone praying for me as I was growing up because... in the midst of a very unchristian home (especially among my grown up siblings)... I longed for a relationship with God. Somehow inside of me I knew He was real. My search led me into false religions and the occult... but eventually He who was wooing me from my earliest memories also led me to Truth.
My mother and other family members would come to know Christ as Savior but Mom could never trust Him as Lord. The seeds of legalism were planted so early and grew for most of her life... she could trust God would give her Heaven... but not trust in His love so she could have peace.
Two different women... two different churches... one which disregarded most of the Bible and the other which chose to ignore grace and concentrate on the Law and fear. Neither lifting up the person of Jesus... the One who could be the Source of everything they needed in this life.
I remember reading Elisabeth Elliot's book called The Shaping of a Christian Family. It's an excellent book and quite wonderful in the description of her spiritual heritage. However, I found myself sad when reading it because I did not have such a good foundation.
But then I knew I had another gift... if not a foundation... I have a testimony... an amazing testimony of another student being told to find the "least likely person" in her class that she thought would ever become a Christian and invite that person to a revival at her church.
The least likely person? Me... :)
Who came out of the pit and fell head over heels in love with the person of Jesus Christ... not a religion, not rules, not even church... a person who changed my life and has brought me through as neither a religion nor a set of rules could do.
Something neither my sister-in-law nor my mother could do... know who Jesus truly was, is, and will be. Who is this Jesus?
As C. S. Lewis put it:
"...that is the 1 thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.
"He would either be a lunatic -- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse."I believe my mother has found her peace and joy. I can only pray the same for my husband's sister.
Picture: Teatime at my home... German Chocolate Cookies (recipe blog)