Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sin is Still Sin

I believe we have a growing epidemic in our culture of a failure to admit that sin is sin. All too often, our identities are so wrapped up in what we DO that we cannot differentiate between what we DO and whom we ARE. How do we calmly and rationally explain to a person whom we truly love that we still love them, even though we disagree with what they are doing? If we firmly believe that a loved one’s choices are leading them to a path of destruction, we are obligated to tell them, but we MUST do so in a kind and loving way.

Unfortunately, we often get push back from the very people we are trying to love by telling them that they are headed into trouble.

“Don’t judge me!”

“This is just who I am! I can’t change.”

“You need to accept me the way I am!”

“I don’t need forgiveness.”

“You’re such a bigot.”

I could go on...

And on and on it goes. Yes, the Church has failed to love people the way they should be loved. Yes, we are often too quick to throw stones for small offenses. The Church has inflicted deep wounds on marginalized people groups and harmed some irrevocably...but if we are to be salt and light to a dying world, we must be careful not to swing too far the opposite direction. Sin is still sin. Call it what it is. Sometimes, love hurts. Often, the people who love us most are the only ones willing to tell us that we’re in the wrong.

That’s why we NEED forgiveness. That’s why we NEED a Savior. That’s why Christ died, so that we could be made perfect THROUGH HIM, not because we ourselves are perfect. Church, if we can’t get this one Truth right, we cannot expect people to WANT to come to Christ for salvation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Black & White Bible, Black & Blue Wife: Beyond Complimentarian vs. Egalitarian

            I saw a review about this book by Tim Challies a few weeks ago, and it intrigued me. The reviewer himself did not recommend the book because, according to him, it did not espouse a correct view of Complimentarianism. He said that her marriage was not a truly Complimentarian one, and while he sympathized with her plight, he just couldn’t bring himself to completely espouse her self-proclaimed Egalitarian views. Her exegesis, he said, was weak and he mentioned that the “good” marriages she referenced were (in his mind) true Complimentarian examples. I also read her response, and a few comments about the book, and decided to read it for myself instead of just going with what a reviewer said about it.

            I grew up in what I would call a conservative Christian home, and consider myself to be a Complimentarian, or at the very least Complimentarian-leaning. However, as I’ve grown in my knowledge of scripture and my understanding of subtle nuances, I have come to realize that arguing (or if you prefer the fancy term, “debating”) over man-made language we use to describe some truly indescribable things often leads to someone arguing SO strongly for their position that they ignore all the common ground they share with the other side in order to cast a caricature of the opposing viewpoint, often making the other side sound so wholly and completely “other” that a true, Bible believing Christian cannot help but agree with their “correct” viewpoint (once they understand it fully, of course). We bicker over terminology. So it is with Ruth’s book. Her heartbreaking tale of an abusive husband who used his theology to pound his wife into submission is all too familiar to many. Often, the weight of that theology holds too much pain and baggage for someone to go anywhere near espousing it as her own. Is her understanding of Complimentarianism different from mine? Absolutely. Are some of her arguments weak? Of course. Do I understand where she's coming from? You better believe it!
            I remember a story I heard a couple of times from the same professor in college. Either he was old and forgotten he’d already told the story to the class, or perhaps he just felt like reiterating it. Either way, I do remember the story years later, As a music major, we were debating the merits of the use of “contemporary” music in a church service vs. the more traditional organ or piano music. One of the arguments against “rock ‘n’ roll” style music in church is the emotional baggage and memories associated with that genre of music for many people. (Stoners, rockers, hippies, etc...) My professor then told a story of a man caught up in the Occult. For him, it wasn’t “rock ‘n’ roll” music that was a stumbling block, but rather the organ! This traditional church instrument, considered by many to be “High Church,” was for him a huge stumbling block! See, in his Occult practices, the organ was often used, so once he was saved, the organ music brought up memories of his past self, and he could not attend a church that used the organ. In the same way with Ruth, her husband’s twisting of perfectly reasonable and biblical theological views made the very term “Complimentarian” sour in her mouth. Should we then judge this woman for choosing a different term, perhaps even running “too far” in the “liberal” direction?

Liberal. Feminist. Complimentarian. Traditional. Evangelical. Fundamentalist. Calvinist. Arminian. Republican. Democrat. Moderate. Progressive. Dispensational.

            Every single person has their own set of personal baggage when it comes to many (if not all) of the words I just listed above, and there are many more where that came from. These words all have one thing in common, though: Not ONE of them is found anywhere in scripture. These are all labels we use to attempt to describe our understanding and interpretation of scripture, and often, we become so attached to our understanding of these terms that we cause division and strife among our very brothers and sisters in Christ. We spew venom at each other, often because we cannot comprehend how a self-professing Christian could possibly also be an espousing _______(fill the in the blank with any of those above terms). We can’t wrap our brains around it!
To quote Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. 
            Maybe, just maybe, we need to step away from the terminology and understand the person. Instead of trying to sway them with the argument, “Oh, I’m so sorry you had to go through that, but what you need to understand is that the interpretation you learned from that person was wrong. If you knew the real definition of __________, you would call yourself one again!” and then launching into a tirade about your perspective, we should be saying, “How interesting. Tell me how you came to this conclusion,” and then listen to each other’s stories. More often than not, you will find a deep, underlying hurt or abuse that makes it so that the person cannot attach themselves to that label anymore. 

            If there’s one thing I know about the study of languages, it’s that words change their meaning over time. Try as we might to cling to our personal understanding of a particular term, mankind has a way of twisting the original intent for a term, so that the understanding of it becomes cloudy, and often misunderstood. What should we do then? Try to cling to that term and debate people over their wrong definition? Or should we try to find common ground with them and learn how to live at peace with all men? Well...what does scripture say?
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?  What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. (1 Corinthians 3:1-9) 
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:16-18)
            In other words, quit arguing over man-made teachings and labels! This only shows your spiritual immaturity. Instead, try to live in peace and harmony, especially when it comes to your own brothers and sisters in Christ! I know this is difficult for some, but it does lead to peace and harmony.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Turning 30: Life Lessons's been over a year since my last post. A LOT has happened in the past year, so much so that I probably wouldn't be able to write it all down. This year has been a true roller coaster ride. I have learned a lot, but most significantly, I've discovered that life really does change when you turn 30. It's kind of a milestone, and something I'm still in the midst of discovering. That being said, there are a few things I've learned over the course of the past year, particularly from turning 30.

I've stopped caring so much about what other people think of me. Maybe it's just part of growing older, but I really felt like a switch just flipped in my brain and suddenly all of the petty drama from being in my 20's just didn't seem as important anymore. Sure, I still have moments where I feel bad about doing something stupid, and yes my feelings will get hurt from time to time, but the need for validation from the people around me? Not as important.

I've learned to stop. Just stop. Stop pushing my agenda, my passions, and my desires onto other people. It doesn't work. People will do what they want to do. No amount of persuasion is going to make someone like something that they just don't like. Period. "You don't like _____?!?! Why don't you want to do _____?" Isn't really part of my vocabulary anymore. I don't need to judge others because they have different tastes from me. It's what makes us all unique individuals. It's not about giving up. It's about truly listening to the people around you and learning who they are, not trying to turn them into little images of you.

I don't need to get married. No really. I kind of already knew that, but it really hit home for me when I turned 30. I love my life. I love what I do, I love my friends, I have a very busy social calendar. I don't need to get married, have children, and settle down in the suburbs to have a fulfilled life. Would I like to find someone and get married someday? Sure. But I've seen way too many people focused so strongly on finding "the one" and being in a relationship that it's ALL they can think about, talk about, and it their primary goal/focus in life. It's so limiting. Married people have many blessings, for sure. Most people actually DO end up getting married...but some don't. And that's OKAY. Really. Life can still be happy, rewarding, and amazing without a significant other.

Love what you do. Oh man! I had to step out in faith this year as the school I was working at closed its doors and I was left to ponder what's next...while serving on a missions trip in Ukraine. I didn't sweat it, though. I knew God had a plan, and I just needed to wait on His timing. Sure enough, an opportunity fell into my lap that has proven to be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things I've ever experienced, and I love what I do. But what about when your job isn't working out, or things are falling apart in other areas of your life? Well...find that ONE thing that you enjoy doing and just...DO it! Sometimes, your job IS that thing. Sometimes it's not. The thing you love to do isn't always what brings home the bacon, but keep doing it. You'll find the blessings in the small things.

Those are pretty much the big things. I'm not sure what's coming up next for me, but I know God has a plan, so I'm going to continue to trust that He knows what He's doing.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

JV Ukraine Fusion Missions Trip - Summer 2015

Dear Friends and Family,

The past three years have been a whirlwind adventure! Moving from Florida to Illinois to teach music at Faith Christian Academy has been a rewarding experience for me. I have found an amazing church home at The Well, as well as a wonderful support base of families, friends, and neighbors. I have been getting connected in different ministries, such as youth group, small group, and worship team. God has truly blessed me, and I am so thankful for Him bringing me to where I am now.

My team from July 2012
Those of you who have known me even for a little while know how passionate I am about missions, specifically youth missions. I am connected with a missions organization called Josiah Venture (JV), which works in over 11 different countries in Eastern Europe to reach youth and young adults for Christ.  I have been involved with JV's "Fusion" ministry since the summer of 2011 when I was a summer intern.  Fusion is a fantastic ministry that uses music, multimedia, and performing arts to build community and share the love of Christ with youth. I am so excited to be be a part of a ministry that allows me to combine my love of teaching music and mentoring youth with spreading the gospel!

L'viv is in the Western part of Ukraine, far from the conflict.
This summer, I am leading a team to Ukraine to help facilitate one of JV's many summer camps.  JV coordinates hundreds of camps throughout the summer, which give youth the opportunity to get connected with JV leaders and churches so they can be involved with other ministries throughout the year. My team will be working closely with New Life Church in L’viv to facilitate their Fusion camp. The missions trip will last from July 22 to August 5, 2015. The cost is for the trip is $2,000. This includes in-country training, administrative, in-country travel, food, lodging, and airfare.

I would not be able to do any of these things if it weren’t for your support, both through prayer and through your generous giving. I am stepping out in faith and trusting that the LORD will provide the funds for this team and for this trip. I am calling on each of you to pray for this trip and for my team, and If you feel led to support me financially in Ukraine, you can send a check to: The Well, 33W835 Cherry Lane, Geneva, IL 60134. Make your check payable to "The Well" and be sure to put "Fusion Missions Trip" in the memo line.

If you would prefer to give online, you can donate directly to the trip here:

Thank you for your support in this ministry! 
                                                                           In Christ,

                                                   Maureen Kennedy