Category Archives: Church Culture

Carry On

A bit of testimony for those of you who are acquainted with trial:

In two thousand nine, I was purposefully tending to my tasks, meeting the day to day challenges sometimes with nothing short of what seemed to me a herculean effort- and managing (for the most part) to do so cheerfully, when “stuff” happened in my personal life that threatened to derail me.

Contrary to popular teachings of church culture, a healthy person rarely forgets, so we must learn to forgive ourselves and others anyway, and expect that past troubles may never be completely finished- in this lifetime.

Therefore, my new stuff piled on top of the old stuff and I began to unravel. The junk threatened to rip out every carefully managed seam. But as my eldest son is fond of reminding me, I am undaunted; and as I am accustomed to doing, I began to cautiously and with as much care, re-ravel.

It seemed a wonder in the beginning that each time I repaired and pieced together a part of my self, a new force (often from a direction I may have never anticipated) popped up, sometimes with true vigor, and made the attempt to rip out my pain-staking work. Oh how I hate being forced to start over…

As a girl I loved to play Monopoly. It was by far my favorite. The game of Life was the only one to run it a close second. A unique aspect of Life was that you could collect children along the way and I thought that the grandest aspect of any game. By the time I was twelve, Baby Island had been my favorite book for awhile, and in fact not even my fifteen- year-old competitors were offered a babysitting gig in my neighborhood unless I had first turned it down. So I spent some time trying to figure a way to incorporate this characteristic play into Monopoly.

These things aside, Monopoly continued to rule from my point of view, and I would do everything short of agreeing to watch my somewhat younger brother set fire to something to entice him into a game. Please, please, please… and to keep him from quitting when we had been hard at it for two days and I owned everything but his skin, I would come up with a million new lending schemes to keep him struggling along.

But though I stood the undisputed Monopoly-loving champion of Branderham Drive, there was something even I despised about the game. I sometimes felt the game creators designed the aspect especially for me. That thing I abhorred in the game, was to be told to return to start. One measly flip of the dice… Go back to the beginning. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. No! No! No! I would reel inside my head, sometimes and probably much to my brother’s chagrin- outside my head.

Maybe I could somehow cheat my way out of this disastrous death to my plans for this turn? After all, going to jail beat the deal hands-down, as first-of-all in any fair society one is there because justice is being served. Certainly not due to circumstances seemingly completely out of one’s control! And there was always the chance one would roll his way out before wasting as much time and distance, and more often than not I seemed to have the fortuitous likelihood of shaking and rattling my way to free parking from there, where our cousins had taught us to keep a five hundred dollar bill waiting for the lucky lander…

But it wasn’t to be, as even then I was insistent on rigorous honesty, feeling certain that the glory of winning at the expense of my integrity was only another way of losing- albeit often carefully veiled. (It is appropriate for me to introduce here the truth that I had no concept of doing anything purely for the Glory of God at this stage of my life- lest we are tempted to give me too much credit for my perspective.)

All this to illustrate, I am putting it mildly when I tell you that this nearly continual necessary re-working of seams has brought me near to exhaustion.

Yet through it all, God Himself did not weary. Many times I confidently told Him that I was sure I couldn’t finish the race- that beyond a doubt I would not finish well, and every time He was there to remind me that I could and I would, but only because I belong to Him and He has my back… And that what I know to be true concerning Him and yet can not see, I should and must trust.

This particular season of accumulating personal loss has not concluded, and maybe it never will… even still I know that I am not to be undone, because I am no longer all there is to me. I may be wounded and I may forever bear the scars of grief but I will not be crushed because God through the death and the life of a part of Himself, his Son, Jesus Christ, has favored me as His own child.

This privileged ownership means also, that today is not all there is, and today will never be all there is… so I will keep mending and reworking those seams by the Grace of God. And I will keep longing for and hoping for and working for tomorrow. And I will continue to pray that by His Grace my brothers and sisters also will retain this very real hope and that it will remain alive and burning in our souls!

Copyright 2017. L. L. Shelton.

Brief Thoughts on Marriage

To begin:  There is only ONE good reason for getting married and for having children, and it is:  Because GOD wants you to do it.  And if it is HE wanting you to do it; it is because He wants you to be a part of what HE is building. He wants you to be a part of illustrating HIS story to a watching world. God desires for you to be a part of LOVE as defined by Him.

Don’t allow yourself to enter these arenas, the building of marriage and family, at the persuasion of any other than God in Christ, or without reading His Word and getting whatever grasp upon this that your maturity and His patience allow to you. These are not institutions for the faint of heart and will never withstand the difficulties that come along with them unless built upon a proper foundation. Marriage and family belong to Him. They are His design and He has said that they must be structured upon Him, upon the principles set forth in His Word, to be successful.  And the terms for success in marriage must be and are determined by its Creator.

Maybe you have entered into these things lightly and without a proper amount of forethought. It is not too late. You must pray for GOD to make your partner willing and as He does this, the two of you begin (together in Christ) to tear down the old relationship and to start anew on the correct foundation. Seek out an older married couple in whom you see Christ (in other words, you observe them living together according to the principles set forth in The Bible for the living out of their shared faith). Approach them and directly ask for their active guidance and participation in your lives. If resources allow, find a Biblical counselor to assist you in building this new platform for your marriage.

Another issue may be that your partner remains unwilling to consider Christ. In this case, you must continue in earnest prayer, gentleness, and good will toward your spouse until such time as God releases you from the relationship, and you are free to start again; and this must be done with the greatest caution for two primary reasons.  The first is that you must try with all your will to NOT push your partner away from either yourself or God in the hope that the other will leave soon. This happens often in such a case and is regularly realized only when an experienced helper points out to the Christian in the marriage that this is indeed what that one is doing. The second reason is that you are quite liable to abandon the frying pan in favor of the fire, unless you have spent an adequate amount of time in the judicious study of Holy Scripture concerning the Way of Life of a Christian in order that you may more easily recognize a fraud should there be opportunity for a next time around.

Paul reminds us in a letter to the early church that it is better not to marry at all than to enter the covenant casually.  It is a choice open to the Christian to remain single and serve GOD fully from that position, rather than serving Him from the position of marriage.  However, for God’s saved child, there is no choice as to serve or not to serve, and if your heart is completely without reservation His own; you will be compelled to serve despite your finest efforts to the contrary.  (The difficulties and delights specifically associated with the Christian’s choice to remain single are beyond the scope of this short essay.)

In the end, I don’t wish to leave the impression that there are no joys associated with marriage but only trials, as that would be wholly untrue.  There are multiple blessings to be had within the marriage relationship- true friendship, God’s allowance to fully know and to be fully known by another human being- to completely relate to another person, children within God’s favor and under the protection of a legitimate bond.  I count it a great privilege to enjoy many of the wonders of marriage.

Now,  in this day of much confusion concerning marriage and family, I implore you to search God’s Word for yourself to find that these very things that I tell you are true. And may The Lord God of All bless your every effort!

Signposts: How Churches Can Minister to the Divorced

Copyright 2016.  L.L. Shelton

How Bad Do Ya’ Want It?

As a Biblical counselor, I hear these and other words of the same meaning quite often:  The church is suffering from lack of community.  Our marriage is in trouble due to lack of intimacy.  My response: How bad do ya’ want it?

Community and intimacy are alike in that they are the result of a cyclical pass through vulnerability. Most of us prefer anywhere to there. Community and intimacy are the continual culmination of transparency, and accountability. These things require the practice of genuine love and authentic faith. These things mandate that our love be abundantly evident that we may expose ourselves without fear, and that we will welcome critical examination in our effort to be the best we can be for the other- and doing anything without fear requires faith.

What is faith? It is the evidence of things hoped for and the belief in things not yet realized.  Do we have it? Faith in God? Faith in ourselves, with God? Faith in one another? Do we believe that all things are possible with God? Do we believe that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength? Do we believe that we can trust God to make out of each of us, fallen as we are, something beautiful? Something resembling Himself? Can we patiently suffer one another- forgiving, seeking forgiveness, receiving grace, offering grace, guiding, allowing ourselves to be guided, being consistent as well as realistic in our expectations of one another as we wait for Him to do this in His time and in His way, both individually and in a corporate sense?

May I submit to you that this is what must be if we desire community with others, if we yearn for intimacy with another? It will not be easy. It will be difficult to achieve and to maintain- and it will be the place where our joy may be made complete.  Therefore, absolutely without a doubt, worth it.

How bad do ya’ want it?

Copyright, 2015, L. L. Shelton

Bride On Fire

The strangely fluid and beautiful creature leaps and bounds in bright colorful array engulfing the structure that is the object of its appetite.  A crowd gathers, for a moment stunned by the apparent freedom of this gaily frolicking entity.  Then, as if shaking off a kind of stupor, someone screams to be saved.

In answer to the plea, a courageous number of that fantastic fraternity formed to fight this very devil, soon arrive and begin their bold work. The flames are doused and the remaining folks gathered at the scene, staring at the remnants of the edifice as it smolders amid the ashes, observe as the next skilled team arrives and begins the important work of inspection that will ultimately, hopefully, determine the origin of the monster.

The Church is on my mind, and having lived more than a half century now, it is my estimation that the road to perdition begins with one’s elevated view of oneself.

In  America, no more than 2% of our total population is gay, and approximately .8% of the 2% are involved in a same sex relationship, and fewer still are legally married.  Clearly, we have a much greater problem with other sexual sins in this country, such as fornication and adultery.  Of course, even the criminal sexual sins of child molestation and rape occur more frequently among us than does the sin of practicing homosexuality.

The sanctity of marriage is intended to be built upon a foundation of sexual purity which applies to all people.  The foundation has been under attack since humanity began.  Most of the twentieth century saw the institution of marriage, an institution necessarily established by God for our protection and to increase our joy, being questioned and demeaned by American society in general.  Yes, even we, the organized church felt it necessary to debate many issues surrounding the sanctity of marriage and family long before beginning to argue its very definition.  I submit to you that we, as a church, failed to properly defend marriage against those relatively minor attacks, thus we now stand perilously close to losing the war.

However, while It may be too late for us, as a nation, to raise the stakes- it is never too late for us to up the ante as the church.  Jesus did.

Jesus said, “Let’s begin with understanding lust as a sexual activity sinfully equal to adultery.  Let’s begin by demanding of ourselves a clean heart.” 

If we, the American population of the church, begin cleaning at the level that Our LORD mandated we may be able to effect the kind of change in our nation that is seen as nothing short of miraculous. 

Copyright 2015, L.L. Shelton

Postmodern and Organized

imagePostmodern and Organized

Surely, you must know that in today’s society, particularly today’s western society, it must not be assumed that Christianity is the organized church and that the church is organized Christianity. Today’s christian church may be organized around any number of ridiculous ideas about God, many of which are devoid of Truth or are pulled from The Body of God’s Work and twisted until they are nearly unrecognizable to the man of Faith.

Today’s organized church has gone the way of today’s organized marriage or has it been the other way around? Today’s church may be representative of absolutely nothing even remotely resembling Truth; or it may illustrate a bit of truth here and there, often just enough to be tantalizingly near to accurate.

Therefore, one must never assume that because he has entered the church building he is standing on Holy Ground. The one who has entered the building of a church has entered a building labeled a church for the purpose of communicating myriad messages about who knows what. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, The Letter of Jude)

However, some of today’s organized churches are a vehicle to allow both the True Church of Christ and the unsaved to meet together with the purpose of the unsaved being taught The Gospel in the case that they are elect and would like to receive Christ. While the true and yet imperfect believers are gathered in the church building they profess Jesus Christ as The Only Begotten Son of The One True and Living God and express their collective faith and thanksgiving by the avenues of worship of God The Father through prayer, song, and the whole study of His Living Word.

Even so, do not enter the building of any organized church with the expectation that everyone that you meet there is a Christian or even that everyone in a position of leadership there is a Christian; and do not expect that you yourself have become a Christian because you have taken up the habit of meeting there with this particular group of people, even should you mimic their ways. (Matthew 7:15-23, John 5:21-23, John 6:65, John 8:42-43, 1 John 4:5)

You may be attending a church simply because you enjoy the atmosphere which is for the most part kinder and gentler than the environment outside of it, or because you are in need of social connection and you find the group pleasant or helpful. Maybe you are attending because your mother and father attended as did their parents before them and it is simply all that you know. There may be as many reasons for an unbeliever attending church as there are for a Believer attending the circus!

Then again, maybe you are attending because unbeknownst to you, you are elect and are searching for your true father. If you are searching for your true father, you must search in those places where He is to be found. Look not for the building labeled church or even christian, but rather for the one or ones who are reading and studying the whole of His Holy Word, and search for evidence of The Faith in the lives of those gathered around His Word which is The Holy Bible; not for sinlessness in them but for an obvious desire to be perfect as defined by God, to be perfect in Love. These people may be found in any type of building anywhere, conversely unbelievers may be found in church buildings and christian universities, colleges, and seminaries all over the western world. (Matthew 5:43-48, John 14:15-21, 1 John 3:16-24, 4:17-18)

This makes the search for your father a bit more complicated than you may have imagined, but if He is your father you have nothing to fear, only believe that in the form of Jesus Christ your Father’s heart did beat for you and it is guaranteed that you will not remain lost or separated from Him forever. He has planned to bring you home and He never fails to do as He has promised.

Copyright 2014 L.L. Shelton

Adam & Eve: Those Idiots!

adam and eve

Teaching Bible to children is a delightful experience for me. Throughout my careful, thoughtful lessons are numerous ah-ha! moments… I can only hope there are a few in the minds of my small charges, as well.

One day, as I was sharing the age-old history of the first man and the first woman with whom God dwelt, I arrived at the place in the report at which I was compelled to relate the extremely disappointing news that both Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, bringing about a tragic situation for humankind.

Of course, what followed was a series of excited interjections, a few in the form of questions: “No way! Couldn’ they ‘ave just had peanut butter and crackers if they were hungry?! Yeah… And there was prob’ly candy! An’ now we’re all in trouble… those idiots!” And with the slow, deliberate shake of a little head, “Anybody knows you can’t trust a snake.”

Now, while their observations were not completely without merit, their remarks did indicate restricted vision. Children tend to view The Word of God through a narrow lens, and for the most part, limit themselves to two colors- black and white. Though this is sometimes appropriate, and often provides the needed dramatic emphasis; it is at other times limiting, and the need for a more expansive view is obvious. Adam had turned to worshiping the creation rather than The Creator, a grave sin indeed, and Eve exchanged the Truth of God for a lie; sins in which we all would have readily participated, had we been in their place. Their actual eating of the fruit was an outward display of the garbage that had taken residence in the heart.

As adults, we should be equipped and able to switch to a broad scope and to embrace a full spectrum of light, permitting our perspective to be imbibed with every possible hue; in so doing we may find the liberation of our souls!

Certainly, there are various hindrances to a person’s being able to think like a man: Natural and appropriate immaturity as in a child, general immaturity, or specific immaturity such as emotional, social, intellectual or spiritual immaturity. There is retardation and there are developmental delays which affect the capabilities of some, and of course there is the weak will. These are real obstacles which cause some of us to genuinely exist in a fledgling state, or less able to think or to behave as an adult, despite our historical age. But for most of us, a simple willingness to take the initiative in the sanctification process will prove to bring about the gracious help and kind generosity of Our Heavenly Father, and He will mold and grow the soul longing to be fully freed by The Truth of Scripture. Though we will remain imperfect while we are attached to these bodies, we will be free in the sense that we are comprehending Scripture and are able to apply it appropriately in our lives.

Furthermore, this is to be a beautiful benefit to those who are less mature, in that according to Scripture, the more mature are entrusted with the supervision and careful consideration of the others. God has truly designed and is orchestrating by His Spirit a perfect system, by which the needs of His children may be perfectly met in this fallen place: The Church. When we are functioning optimally– keeping first things first, keeping our eyes on Jesus Christ and by His grace obeying Our Father- we are the best thing that ever happened to this earth, for we are in one sense, Christ on Earth!

And yet we display a tendency to divide and to argue one with another, sometimes to the exclusion of serving a broken world as we should. For example: We deliberate over the literal versus the metaphorical in Scripture which is in some instances necessary, but it is apparent to me that Our Great God, to whom and with whom all things are possible, could easily have dictated a perfect document in which many or all things are both. For instance: Proverbs 31 speaks of a godly woman as one who keeps the oil in her lamp burning throughout the night; she is not idle. I believe that this is literally true throughout many seasons in her life as she is never one to neglect her duties, as well as metaphorically true, in the sense that the oil is representative of The Holy Spirit who is ever present in, and never extinguished from her life. (Please note that I am not saying that there may be a metaphorical meaning for something that is historically understood and consistently presented as literal, instead of the literal, only that there may be a metaphorical meaning in addition to the literal.)

I have found a world of beautiful possibilities by studying The Word with these things in mind; however I am by His grace, ever aware of The Absolute Truth, and of the consistency with which God’s Word will reveal Itself , in other words, the unwillingness of God to contradict Himself, and His unwillingness to confound and exasperate His children.

Therefore, the more I study, the more grateful I become to Him who has rendered the plight of the idiot, glorious!

©L.L. Shelton, 9/27/2011

A Word on Francis and Frank

Unlike former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, I have read Crazy for God, by Frank Schaeffer, as well as Whatever Happened to The Human Race, by Francis Schaeffer. I have also thoughtfully read and considered The Tapestry, by Edith Schaeffer, wife of Francis and mother of Frank. Also dissimilar to Governor Huckabee, I see a great deal of Frank’s parents in him.

He is honest and forthright about his ideas and about who he is- about his own perceptions of the life he has lived, and of the world in which he has lived it. This is quite in concordance with who his parents were; and in this sense Frank is commendable.

I am praying for Frank, out of respect for his father and for his father’s ministry which has had a terrific impact for good upon my life, and on the lives of so many Christians. I hope others will continue to ‘knock on the door’ for Frank.

My thanks to Governor Huckabee for sharing his favorites list- I certainly appreciate some of the same books, and may God be continually near to him, as we are thankful for his life of dedication to the public good.

About This Emerging Church Thing

This one’s for you, Jill. And it’s better late than never, huh?

I’ve been a part of church culture all of my life, and it occurs to me that in some instances we are apt to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And there may be a baby emerging from this Emergent Church thing. If so, right after we dry it off, properly clothe it, and snuggle it- we need to go ahead and throw out that bathwater…

Please consider that reason is not absent because experience is present. Words do not loose their importance in the company of image- words often conjure image. All that is external does not become meaningless because of the worth of what is internal. Feelings are not without significance in the face of the tangible. These things are true.

Now, the presence of Truth does not indicate a lack of love; nor does it indicate an intolerance for ignorance of its existence. On the contrary! As Christians, we are bound to acknowledge, in fact compelled to heed the undeniable presence of Truth, and to lovingly point others toward it.

For Our LORD has declared Himself to be Truth incarnate; therefore the pursuit of absolute truth is the most rational, the sanest occupation for any man.

Of course, it is true to any thoughtful person that much of what we think we know- we do not know, and that we may even in glorified state not know it all; however this does not negate the value of what we do now know.

And the pursuit of Truth most certainly does not breed arrogance. It produces confidence. It is sin that breeds arrogance, a lust to be right, and the desire for control. Nevertheless, the loving quest for what is true will often produce righteous leaders. This is not to say self-righteous leaders, and the distinction is important.

For what we actually know, should be determined by no less than a clear eye focusing a penetrating gaze upon The Word of God; and then filled with reasonable passion for Him who has declared Himself to be Truth, that eye must strive to maintain an unclouded view of the world and all that is in it, through the lens of The Spirit of Truth.

Thus, it should be understood that the awareness of and love for Truth, will no more violate the experience of Faith, than being alert to the existence of water and desiring it, will ruin the experience of swimming.

That said, I should also say that a swim in a cool, clear creek on a hot summer’s day is a delight, but a swim in dirty, lukewarm bathwater is another thing all together.

Copyright 2011, L.L. Shelton