Archive for the Devotions Category

A different vision for what the church is

Posted in Devotions on August 7, 2011 by jaymallow

” I wonder if our vision of the church is simply to sterile. Perhaps the church is more like an Army field hospital than a club or clinic. A place where the wounded and dying come grossly disfigured. Where blood, screams, and tears are not uncommon, but where mercy, compassion and understanding are also commonplace. A place where in the backdrop of the worst of the world; rest, solace, and respite are given. How different would it be if we saw the sanctuary as a triage center rather than a waiting room?”

Thoughts about the issues confronting Sovereign Grace ministries with C.J. Maheney’s stepping down

Posted in Devotions on July 11, 2011 by jaymallow

When I read C.J. and Dave Harvey’s letters both announcing/affirming C.J.’s stepping down from leadership and announcing an independent review of both C.J. and Soveriegn Grace’s leadership I was somewhat surprised but not totally surprised. I wasn’t surprised at C.J.’s humility and desire to redress whatever wrongs may have occurred, but I also wasn’t surprised that it has come to this. Perhaps it is because I grew up in a different denomination. Perhaps also because I’ve been on the inside of other Christian organizations that have had similar issues the day where things “got serious” seemed coming to me. I more than anyone don’t want to engage in “gossip”, however I believe that helpful and meaningful dialogue can occur as we think about how it came to this.

First off I want to take you back ten years or so ago. In my mind and I’m pretty sure for many this felt like a “golden time” in Sovereign Grace Ministries. The “movement” was still new, the churches small, and I know for myself it felt as if something unique and different was occurring. I remember one special thing in particular, we called them Celebrations. Each year regional churches would gather for fellowship and instruction.(and late night shenanigans but let’s not go there) Here’s the thing that Celebrations highlight about the leadership of SGM during that time- it worked. Both C.J.’s leadership and the model of church governance that SGM adopted worked well with few smaller churches that could be personally cared for by “apostles” and even C.J. himself. The inclusion of Celebrations also provided a sense of care and community within the larger Ministry. However over time the ministry grew to the point that continuing Celebrations was quite frankly impractical.
What developed throughout the “Celebration” era was a method of governance that at it’s core was relational. On the surface this actually seems both workable and preferable, that leaders with strong relational ties would be able to speak into each others lives and keep each other accountable. That a “relational” “apostle” could govern and disciple pastors under his care and himself be cared for through both the pastors under him and “apostles” beside him. Yet as the organization and churches therein grew the “relational” ideal actually developed into a hierarchical almost “catholic” system of church governance.
It is in fact ironic that an organization that describes itself as being “essentially reformed” would adopt a view of pastoral authority and church polity that mirrors the church that the reformers ultimately rebelled against and rejected. (Also telling that absolutely NO other American church that labels itself as being both “evangelical” and “reformed” subscribes to Sovereign Graces views on church polity) One only has to look at history to see the many opportunities for abuse and inefficiency in dealing with disciplinary oversight endemic in the “apostleship” model. These examples are evident and require only a quick perusing of past church abuses. However, there is another perhaps initially unseen side effect of a “relational” authority structure, namely that all issues of discipleship, discipline, theology, and even church and personnel management become “personal”. All issues are moved into one on one relationships and become needlessly “confidential”. Lets say “apostle” A is called in to counsel and mediate an issue between “Pastor” B and “Member” C. Because “A” and “B” are “personally” communicating they can feel the freedom to speak about and even make decisions about “Member” C without feeling the need to involve that individual because “A” and “B” are “relating” primarily with each other (this conversation is of course “private” and “confidential”). Then having made decisions they (“A” and “B”) then turn to “relate” to “C” providing “personal” care. This can (and does) cause an environment where practically everything becomes “confidential” (because it’s “personal”) and raises the probability of offense by making every issue a personal one and every interaction personal as well. This is glaringly evidenced by the fact that SGM has absolutely NO mechanism for impartial and impersonal internal review and is forced to look outside the ministry for these things. It simply isn’t in the organizations “DNA”.
This “relational” model also makes accountability and discipline difficult because there is no way to evaluate a leaders leadership outside of their personal character. It is a common Christian organizational fault to promote and equate those with excellent character as if they are also are gifted and able to lead. Let me be clear, those who are called to lead SHOULD have excellent character, but just because someone is a “good guy” doesn’t mean he can lead. Even more, a person who can lead in smaller areas (such as a family or small group) does not AUTOMATICALLY posses the ability to lead in larger ones. The “relational” ideal falters in evaluation and oversight as those who are raised to leadership often are “promoted” because of a sympathy of personality or character with a particular leader rather than evidenced leadership skills or potential.(This isn’t a problem with just the church. EVERY leader in ANY circumstance prefers to “clone” himself) This is compounded when that “gifting” is then affirmed by a greater centralized authority. (ie. the Pastors College) Now both the ones who initially promoted the candidate AND those who supposedly have “tested” that candidate’s “gifting” now have a vested PERSONAL interest in that candidate’s success. To disqualify a prospective pastor is to acknowledge that BOTH local pastor and pastoral teams AND the pastor’s college where in error in evaluating this individual’s gifting. Both the local and Ministerial levels have a vested interest in the success of the candidate. This can lead to evaluations that gloss over leadership decisions and instead focus on the “intent” or “heart” of the candidate. Thus to challenge the leadership of a pastoral candidate is to not only challenge HIS personal character, but the “intent” and “heart” of the pastor, pastoral team, and organization that affirmed him to office. Moreover because the new pastor owes his livelihood to both an individual (most often a local senior pastor) AND the “system” there can be a reluctance to challenge either within a new tenable position.
I could go on but my hope is that those with discernment and wisdom will “read between the lines” and see what I’m getting at. At the core of the present SGM “crises” is a failure of doctrine. SGM in my opinion simply has a flawed ideal of scriptural authority. (To read my perspective and scriptural backing read Reformers Duty pt.1 and 2) However I personally want to end this on a note of hope and challenge to my friends:
1: This is an evidence of God’s grace and mercy to both the leaders and Sovereign Grace ministries as a whole.
Rom 1 clearly teaches that a clear sign of being under the wrath of God is that He leaves you alone. I personally have been involved in a ministry that at one time could fill colosseums. Now that ministry struggles to find a church to promote it’s “conferences”. God is more than willing to let false movements “die on the vine” only to later be pruned and thrown into the fire. The one’s He cares for He prunes.
2: The “pruning” seems to only have begun: To my fellow brothers and sisters in SGM I can only say this- I believe it will get worse. Sin will be revealed and I would challenge each and every one of you to hold those who are in leadership accountable to fully expose and confess sin. For some of you it will be too much. However, you must look and grieve and forgive.(“blanket” forgiveness is vague and does not lead to reconciliation) For others it won’t be enough.You’re temptation will be to want to know every detail and be dissatisfied with any outcome. For you faith in the sovereign providence of God and His hand in both the past, present and future needs to guide you.
3. Rejoice that over the last ten years the Gospel has gone forth and is in evidenced in “clay pots” Ministry wide: Everyone is fallible. Everyone is a quick drop away from being broken. “Hero’s” are just as flawed and sinful and cracked and fragile as anyone else. What is amazing, what is glorious, is that God even uses these vessels to cause His Holy Spirit to ignite a flame in others. Mourn the fragility, praise the majesty.
4: Pray for a “teachable” spirit movement wide: I would add in pray for discernment for whatever ministry is called in to speak into this current situation. (I’m personally nominating the PCA, but the RPC or even the Southern Baptist Convention would offer great perspective, governance and instruction in this current situation) But whatever the case I believe change and reorientation is coming within SGM. Some will naturally resist believing that nothing has been wrong and nothing should be changed. Still others will look back to that “golden time” and want to somehow turn the clock back. Others will demand too much too soon and not see a process of both instruction, repentance and reconciliation. But I believe ALL will be challenged to grow in unique ways. More so as implications and theologies begin to shift and be sharpened by those who are hopefully wise and experienced outside brothers in the greater body of Christ. Humility is needed both with leaders and laity as SGM moves into a new era.
I for one look forward to seeing what God has in store for so many I hold dear and one day look forward to rejoining.

The Silence of God

Posted in Devotions on April 3, 2010 by jaymallow

This just fits both the site and a little of what I’m going through right now…

Single Issue Voter: When a good thing becomes a God thing it’s a bad thing

Posted in Devotions on October 8, 2009 by jaymallow

You’ve got a thing. Perhaps you’re the clown and your thing is making people laugh. Perhaps you’re shy and people know you as the “quiet girl”. Perhaps you are the rebel and you want everyone to know that your parents made you come here. All of us have a “thing”, all of us have an identity that we want others to perceive and approve of. But as you mature in finding your identity you discover that one of the easiest ways to define yourself is to associate yourself. Political party, religious preferences, even clothes and “attitude” begin to allow you to distinguish yourself as a person and find others that affirm you in your choices. But you are still one of many until one day you find it, your issue. Having an issue is really the height of defining yourself because people don’t have to like you they just have to like your issue. You can very easily dispense with all your faults and fears of rejection because if people do reject your issue they aren’t really rejecting you are they? Now you have to know that it might take some time to find your issue because you need to find a unique and obscure issue. The more unique and obscure the better because people will more readily affirm you and your issue if it’s something they themselves haven’t thought of. Then you get the double affirmation of not only having people approve of your issue, they’ll also think you’re smart, spiritual, conscientious, cool, etc. If your issue is really esoteric you also get the benefit of not really being challenged and perhaps you’ll get the most desirable personal identity of all- being the herald for your issue. Why is being the herald so important? It’s important because you get the added benefit of feeling righteous when you tell people about your issue. In the first place they either don’t know or think wrongly so you when you tell them about your issue you already are in a position of moral superiority. If they agree with you then they affirm that you were in the right all along. If they disagree then you can instantly label them as “uninformed”, “misguided”, or best ever “unspiritual” thereby solidifying your sense of being “right”. What’s also great about being the herald is that you have an excuse for bringing up your issue no matter the context. People must be informed about your issue and since you’ve attached your identity to your issue you get an excuse to essentially talk about yourself whenever you feel like it. Of course if you are challenged as to the relevance of what you are saying you can always say, “But people don’t know about this! It’s important!” And it is deadly important… to you, because you’re justified, you’re “right”, if people agree with you. You are affirmed and deemed valuable if people affirm your issue and think your issue has merit. At this point if they don’t know about your issue, who are you?

At this point let me take my tongue out of my cheek and get deadly serious. Some in reading the above might think that I’m cynically referring to Jesus as an “Issue”. Jesus Christ isn’t an “issue” He’s a person, THE person, if you will He’s THE ISSUE. In Christ alone are we offered Justification, Identity, and redemption from our futile attempts to find these things else ware. What I’ve described above is our attempts to find these things apart from Him. The main difference is that when we look else ware for these things we find gods that can’t do what we hope they will do. They’re gods that can’t redeem, gods that can’t give us the identity we so long for. Sadly it’s the best things that make the best gods. We are more apt to try to find our “rightness” and “identity” in marriage, family, doctrine, and conviction. But when we put our justification and identity in these things we are building our lives on sandy shores that trial sweeps away like a torrent. There’s a reason Paul Determined to know “nothing among you but Christ and Him crucified”. There’s a reason Paul in responding to the Corinthians many “issues” brought them back to the questions, “Does this express love towards God? Does this love your brother?” When “issues” become preeminent, what is lost is the penultimate, namely the person and work of Christ. We have an enemy that would gladly have us mired in and find our glory in “issues” rather than exalting and glorying in Christ.

The Truth is…

Posted in Devotions on August 17, 2009 by jaymallow

The truth is you cause the sun to rise and dance into my window. 

The truth is you order every step, including those I fear.  The truth is when you first made the stars my name was on your heart. 

The truth is the more I know of you the more my heart rejoices.

Oh how I praise you my God! Oh how I’m taken with your kindness! Oh how you could have dealt with me so difererntly! How you should have dealt with me, so differently…

The truth is you sent your only Son to ransom helpless sinners.  The truth is you show yourself to both the orphan and the prince.  The truth is that you’re pleased when we recieve and marvel at this love. The truth is that the more I know of you the more I know of you the more my heart rejoices…

Oh how I praise you my God!  How I’m taken with your kindness!  How you could have dealt with me so differently… How I praise you my God! How I’m taken wih your kindness!  How you should have dealt with me so differently…

Who is there like you in all the heavens?  Who is there like you in all the earth?  Who is there like you in all the heavens?  Who is there like you in all the earth?

How I praise you my God.  How I’m taken with your kindness.  How you could have dealt with me so differently.  How I praise you my God.  How I’m taken with your kindness.  How you should have dealt with me so differently…   

The truth is… by Kate Rockey Continue reading

Presuming Promises

Posted in Devotions on August 15, 2009 by jaymallow

How many times do we expect God to deliver on promises that He simply hasn’t given us?  God has promised that He will provide, comfort, be faithful and good, but He doesn’t promise sucess, prosperity, or even “happiness”.  We tend to start at the result, what we think the “blessed” Christian life looks like, and work backwards.  Be it job, marriage, school, we start from our expectations of “blessing” and work back thinking our faithfull obedience will procure these “promises”.  But God isn’t interested in results like we are interested in results.  We want progress, “progressive” sanctification, we think that sucess upon sucess means God’s favor.  However God might have a totally diferent paradigm.  It’s a wholly different thing to get a person to become like another person than to get them to become a thing.  The picture we carry around in our heads of the ideal “blessed” life is just that, it’s a “thing” to be accomplished.  Becoming more like a person means experiencing what they experienced.  Did Jesus escape a world full of suffering disease and death?  No He walked among it, touched it, and felt it’s weight more than anyone.  Did Jesus experience alienation, misunderstanding and rejection?  His own family misunderstood Him.  At the height of His popularity the crowds left, and eventually even His closest friends deserted.  Sinned against?  Dissapointed?  So what would it take for us to be like Him, perhaps betrayal, rejection, dissapointment and walking through a life touched by sin?  We shouldn’t be suprised when we experience these things for in fact this is just what God has promised we will experience.  When we attempt to tie our expectations and our faithfulness to what we THINK God has promised; it is the subtlest, and most insidieous form of legalism.  We think that our faithfulness procures not only God’s favor, but favor dictated by our desires.  Insideous mainly because what we live for is not God, it’s the blessings He gives.  Satan would gladly have Christians living for their marriages, churches, and children endowing them with satisfaction and personal worth.  The Enemy would gladly have us live for lives of appearance rather than for God.  Which is why I believe that God sometimes graciously ripps the mask away to reveal even the ugly sin of His children.  Why He would rather dissapoint than allow a false god of met epectation to rule the heart.  He will not have His blessings mistaken for Him.  Nor will He allow Himself or the universe to be blackmailed into our desires however noble they may seem to us.  Perhaps the faith God desires is obedience in the moment to Him simply because it is Him who asks us to obey.  Perhaps our struggle of faih day by day is to simply be faithful to Him and trust Him with the “results”.  That either good or ill in our perspective it is good, He is good, and will continue to be so even if His “goodness” is revealed in a way we didn’t expect…

A small reminder of sovereignty

Posted in Devotions on August 9, 2009 by jaymallow

Today I decided to head over to the Sovereign Grace church in Woodstock, Ga.  I simply had the desire to meet up with a friend and also connect with people I knew in the area.  Also sinc my life is turned completely upside down I’m finding any small amount of familiarity an enormous comfort.  After getting lost and getting there at the end of the service I finally saw and connected with both my friend Dave Stein and those who knew me when back in Virginia Beach.  It was comforting to be greeted with knowlege and genuine care.  But the surprise of the day was that David was going to be baptised this afternoon.  What an amazing privalage and blessing to be able to attend and participate in that!  More amazing (even to those in the church there) was that I had no idea.  I hadn’t contacted anyone and simply decided to show up this Sunday.  I meditated as I drove home on how kind God is to give me just a simple reminder of His sovereignty.  He knew what was going to happen and He wanted me there.  Jeremiah 29:11 was brought to mind, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  In the midst of so many questions and feeling so responsible for making the right decisions. (as well as fearing that I’ve made the wrong decisions)  God graciously breaks through my pride and reminds me that He knows ALL my days and has ordained them according to His will.