Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Tea

I can't believe it is July in the Midwest. It is the season of my birthday. It is the time for the 4-H County Fair. The early sweet corn is being sold on the back of pickup trucks in parking lots throughout the county.

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)


scrappy quilter said...

Beautiful and yet sad post. God's grace is so awesome and to know that your sil doesn't see it is truly sad. And yet...the Holy Spirit can still woo her and bring her to Him who loves her and created her. Only pray can do that.

Hugs Brenda, I know this isn't easy. Yet I also know God is a miracle working God. He holds the key to your sil's happiness and her healing.

GrammaGrits said...

Oh, I understand the dilemma. Having grown up with lots of legalism but not hearing much of God's grace and the 'inner man' that we all struggle with, I have come to love Him more and more from the Word and hearing my husband's teaching of the whole counsel of God in the whole Word. He is a great God. God's grace and peace on you and your family.

Anonymous said...

That is so sad but true. Hugs from me too Brenda. I sure will direct others to this post. It helped me to understand a lot of the world as it is. As you know the end is not known yet on your sister in law. God is still as always in charge and someone may have her as a challenge yet too...sigh. We will be praying for this situation. Mosts of us know someone like this and worry so for their salvation. I cannot imagine not having the peace knowing Him brings. Jody

Connie said...

God has a plan - never give up praying for your sil that God will touch her and make her whole.
Praying for you too, you sound like a special person. I enjoy reading your blog.

lynda said...

family can be so heart breaking. I pray somehow your sister in law will find the Lord. My sis starts radiation on Tues.
I think your sickness came to my house- I felt run over all week- it was supposely just a sinus infection. I still feel beat. I haven't been anywhere and slept all week. I never do that. I will probably not go to Wyoming til mid- Aug. so call me for coffee- I have cabin fever.

gail said...

May you and the ones you love be richly blessed.

IN God's Love

hmsclmom said...

Brenda, I could so relate to your post today. Praying for your SIL to come to know the truth of His love for her.


Vee said...

It just struck me that your decision to talk about this has given so many of us an opportunity to pray for your sister-in-law. If we offer her over to His care, we will see Him do what He most loves doing. He knows her deepest needs.

Really? Billy Graham dangerous? How interesting that such a book would be in the church.

Anonymous said...

Eye-opening post for me. I agree with Vee....Billy Graham dangerous? Of all people. I guess it just stuns me that a church in the good ol' USA would foster that idea. It is so sad for your sil and all the other people who have attended that church...I sincerely do not mean for that to be judgmental sounding....that's not in my heart. I just think it is sad that they have been led astray. May many prayers be lifted up on their behalf. I have family members who belong to what I consider a cult, and it breaks my heart. Yes, they belive in Jesus but they just think he was a good man, a good teacher, etc. Breaks my heart and scares me to be really frank.

Thankful that someone somewhere decided to invite Brenda to a revival. Brenda, I'm also thankful that you were being persued by the Holy Spirit. Thank you Jesus!!

Marie said...

You, your husband, and your sister-in-law will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about your sil. I grew up in a church that was legalistic and where the church was the important thing, not a relationship with Christ. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of this in our churches these days, a falling away, as it were. We can't depend on our church or minister to show us the way-we each must read the Word ourselves and trust Him alone.

Kay said...

thank you for sharing some of your background. I have been feeling sad lately because my mom is not what I need due to some emotional issues. I miss not having a mom who is also a friend.
I was raised in a domination that focused on works and guilt and nothing of the grace and the free gift of Salvation.

There is hope. I was well on my way to being a liberal, woman libber, full of interest in the occult, but my sister prayed and prayed for me and for some reason I started listening to Christian Radio and found the Lord through Chuck Swindoll's ministry.

Keep praying. :o)