Erin Rathier

musings of a ragtag heart

Hey everybody!!  I am so excited to welcome you to the first Bible study I will be offering on my blog.  In my last church role, I had the insane privilege of writing the weekly homework for our Life Groups (small groups).  I did this for a year and LOVED it so much.  When I started this blog, one of my goals was to begin producing Bible study material.  Even my husband has been encouraging me to get busy with this endeavor.  (He’s awfully sweet and encouraging).   However, I just could not find a place to begin, until this week.

I have a small group of friends I meet with every week, to study God’s Word.  We have been working our way through The Story, but found we needed just little bit more.  So, I decided to begin writing material for my group.  So here we are!  My first Bible study material, for the public!  I would love for you to join us as we journey through the Bible.  Even though this starts with chapter 18, I encourage you to jump in.  You can use The Story, or just the Bible.  Whatever you choose.

My Post(21)

I am writing these lessons to be completed over one week, between our group meetings.  So please, work at your own pace.  If you feel inclined, gather some friends and start your own group.  Our friends gather for two hours, with a collaborative dinner and then discussion and prayer each week.  I have to say…they are pretty much our church, and we love them.

I will be offering these Bible studies for free, so come back each Tuesday, click on the link and print what you need.  I am so excited to hear what you think!  I pray God will use these studies to bring you closer to Him.  Please be sure to let me know if He moves in any big ways!  This week, we are on Daniel Part One.  Just click the link to download and print.  Also, check back next Tuesday for part two.  Gentlemen, this is not written toward either gender, however, I realize my cover page may look that way.  Just print pages 2-4 and nobody will ever know!  🙂

 

Thank you all for continually reading and supporting me and my blog.  I hope this Bible study touches your heart.  My goal with each of these will simply be to help you dig into God’s Word everyday, as I approach the scriptures with an attitude of discovery.  I do not hope to mold your thinking as much as I hope what I write will help you discover what God wants to say to you.  Please let me know what you think in the comments or through an email.

As always, you can give me your email on the right hand side of the page to ensure you never miss a post.  Also, look for me on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter!  God bless you!

(This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases you make through my links will provide me with a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thank you for your support! I appreciate it so much!) 

Hello!  I feel like it has been forever since we have been together.  Well, I guess it has.  I have been in a really busy season with my kiddos…wow, they take a lot of time.  With so many activities and homeschooling, sometimes the days just disappear.  Anyway, I am happy to be back here with you.  God has been rolling many thoughts around in my head, and my favorite place to work through those thoughts is right here.

I shared with you, a couple of months ago, about the struggle I am having with church.  My feelings of dissatisfaction, because I cannot help but feel like there must be more.  Again, I am not condemning all the churches out there.  I have worked in a church for 20 years, I know many Pastors, and have attended many churches, who are all working hard to build the Kingdom of God.  However, my heart has been stirred by the thought that maybe we need to get out of our own way.  Article after article tells of the attendance decline of evangelical churches in America, and how less and less people are identifying as Christ followers.  While they may not all be totally accurate, I wonder if we need to go back to the starting line.

Eight years ago, mega-church pastor and Christian author, Francis Chan, made the crazy decision to leave the church he started and watched grow to an incredible size, because he felt like something was missing.  The church was healthy, he was popular and known world-wide, but as he says, he began to lose his “peace and humility” with all the growth.  His family spent a few years overseas, doing ministry, and depending on God to tell them where to love people, but eventually Chan felt God calling him home to the United States.  To make a long story short, Chan began a network of home churches, that more fully mimicked the churches we see in the New Testament.  No paid pastors, no building to fund, no stage or programs…just followers of Jesus living out the gospel and loving each other.

A few months ago, I began to question how we do church.  I told my daughter and husband that we need to dig into God’s Word and really examine the church.  I said, “As far as I know, every time “the church” was mentioned, it was people in houses.  The Church at Ephesus was all the people meeting in houses, the Church at Corinth, gatherings in houses, you catch my drift.  Now to be totally honest, I have not dug in yet, so I cannot 100% say there is not something else.  I know there is the temple, but that was a bit different.  I asked the question, what if today, people gathered in homes, studied God’s Word, no paid staff, no overhead, and all the tithe (giving), went to a local or global cause the group decided on?  Again, I did not do anything more than question, because in some ways, I do not want to be responsible to “start” anything.  I keep joking that I have developed commitment issues.  Ha!  In addition, I was not totally sure if this was God stirring or me just reacting to the church search we were on.

You know how God works though, once He starts stirring, He usually just starts stirring faster, and a few weeks after this conversation, I was sitting in a room with a few thousand women at the Propel, Activate conference.   Wow!  Talk about a heart stirring day!  Christine Cain, Lisa Harper, and Lisa Bevere, all sharing the power of the gospel, and the authority we have been given, was nothing short of intoxicating.  During the conference, my daughter and I were invited to attend a smaller lunch where Christine Caine would speak and answer questions.  She of course said many great things, but one thing stood out to me.  At one point, answering a question, she flippantly said, “Well America is the only place in the world where people are paid to be Christians.”  Aaaahhh!!  This stopped me in my tracks and I had to process.  Woah…seriously…I was one of those people.  Again, I wondered, how could God grow His Kingdom, by followers who were not weighed down by a building and staff salaries?

My Post(19)

God did not stop here.  Recently, I have had a number of friends struggling with decisions their churches are making.  They are reaching out to find out what we are doing, where we are attending, just wanting encouragement for their confusion and hurt.  Again, I am struck with the idea of how church, the way we do it, always leads to a numbers game.  We need more programs or staff for all these people, then we need more money to fund it all, so we need to grow, and the focus becomes how to grow.  We decide this growth is good because it will enable us to reach more people. While this is not inherently wrong, and I myself have supported this thinking at times, it seems that with those thoughts, we begin to forget about the people as individuals.

People who do not fit in with our growth plan are pushed aside and even become expendable, in order to keep growing.  We as church leaders will say, “Well, people will leave, but it will be ok, because we will keep growing.”  By church leaders, I mean me.  I have said this phrase and believed it.  (I will share more in another post).  At what point did the people we want to join us become more important than the people God already brought us?  Read that sentence one more time.  I now see there is something wrong with this way of thinking, for a church.  So I am once again brought back to the idea, what if there was no building, no paid staff, no programs, no stage…

This last week, my daughter was assigned Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love in her Christian Worldview class at school.  She came home a little wild-eyed and excited and said, “Mom, you have to read this book.  Do you know about Francis Chan’s church?”  Admittedly, I did not, so we started researching his story, and I was stunned by what he is doing with his house church network.  I was especially struck with what they call their “Practices“.  This is what God had been stirring in my heart, almost exactly, with a few new ideas I had not thought of; namely, using everyone’s gifts and the idea of what fruitfulness really is.

On his church website, Chan asks the question, “If you had no history or exposure to the church at all other than reading the New Testament, what would you expect to see if someone invited you to a gathering of a church?”  Wow!  What a question!

So, what if we had a house church, no overhead, no paid staff, just people, digging into God’s Word, doing life and serving the community together…all the money we give, going to a cause important to our group…what would God do?? How would we grow?? How could the Kingdom grow?? What if it wasn’t about us? What if we weren’t consumers? What if there were no programs? What if there was no stage??  Could be an exciting experiment…

Thank you so much for reading today.  I would love to hear your thoughts on “church” in the comments.  Please know, I am not bashing any church, or the way we do church.  We are currently attending a local church and loving our time of worship and preaching there. I am simply sharing what God is doing in my heart.

If you do not want to miss a single post, please give me your email address and follow me.  You can also find me on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter!  Go out and bless someone today! 

     A number of years ago, the housing market crashed, I am sure you remember.  In Arizona, we were hit exceptionally hard, because much of our industry revolved around building, and my hubby was one of the casualties.  He worked in Civil Engineering, designing subdivisions and in the matter of just a few months, that entire industry was almost completely wiped out.  In one day, we lost 75% of our income, and it stayed this way for 21 months.  Although it was not always easy, and we spent a lot of time in fear and frustration, we did a lot of learning during those 21 months.  We learned SO much about the faithfulness of God and His promise to provide, as well as, using what we have to raise a family, and still have fun.

     Well, here we are, almost 10 years later and finding ourselves in the same position.  In the last year, my hubby’s job went through some changes and by the end of this year, he will have lost bonus opportunities, equaling about 50% of his income the last few years.  In addition, I heeded the call of God to leave my full-time job to be a full time, homeschooling mom.  All I can think is, “mamma mia, here we go again…”  Right back to 25% of our income.  Eek!

     Now some of you may be shaking your head, thinking I made a big mistake leaving my job when my husband’s job was changing.  I thought the same thing.  But, when God begins to shake things up, and asks you to move, I think it is more terrifying not to listen.  I sound brave right now, but the night before I turned in my notice, I called a Pastor friend of mine and asked him to pastor me through this decision.  I was afraid.  I was afraid of not hearing God clearly, maybe acting on emotion, and this was a decision that would affect not just me, but my family as well.  I knew if this decision was not from God, then it would surely end in disaster.

     First, my friend said, “Erin, I know your family’s story, you have done this before, you can do this.”  To which I said, “Well, I did not want to ever do it again!”  That was not what I expected when I asked him to pastor me through.  Ugh!  Luckily, he is very wise and that was not all he had for me.  After asking some questions to discover if I was indeed hearing God, my friend delivered an amazing amount of truth.  He told me three incredible things, I hope you too can use as you face hard days.

My Post(15)

  1.  Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  My friend said to me, “Erin, I do not believe in the prosperity gospel, but I do think if you and Mike continually focus on how bad things are, that is what life will become.”  Of course!  Friends, we have the choice, to sink into a pit, focusing on everything wrong and let the enemy steal our joy, or to choose Phil. 4:8.  Everyday, there are many things to be thankful for, no matter what hard thing we are experiencing.  Focusing on the the things above will help set our minds on Christ in times of trouble.
  2. Luke 1:30:  “But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.”  Again, my friend, presented God’s Word in a new way.  He said, “When the angel came to Mary to tell her she would be Jesus’ mother, he said something very significant.”  I immediately thought, ‘Do not be afraid.’  However, I was incorrect.  My friend said, “The angel said, ‘You have found favor with God.’  Erin, what you look for you will find.  If you look for favor with God, you will find it, even in this situation.   Wow.  What are you looking for with God?  Are you seeking favor or seeking solutions?
  3. My friend finished up by telling me he would be praying for me.  Which I knew was huge.  Then he told me, “Google the promises of God, and read them out loud over and over until you believe them.”  Again, I had to pause.  I am a follower of Christ, I know the promises of God…but realized, maybe I do not believe all the promises of God.  That night, before I went to bed, I did just what I was told.  I began reading the promises out loud.  I did that for about an hour, until my heart was calm.  If you have never done this, take my friend’s advice.  The power of God’s Word as we face fears, is undeniable.

Today, five months later, I still know God has asked me to be home for this season, and I am thoroughly enjoying all it has offered.  Money is tight and a little scary at times, but when the fear creeps up, I work hard to only focus on what is true, noble, trustworthy…and that is this amazing God we serve.  This God, gives far more than we could ever imagine, in every way.  A God who loves us and is for us.  We will have hard times, we will struggle, but let’s choose to seek favor with God and believe His promises in those moments, and watch Him transform our hearts.  No matter what situation you are facing or sitting in, Jesus is the answer.  In the words of a wise man I listened to last night, “We must ask God first, before we look for any other resources.”  Amen!

I am so honored you chose to read my post today.  I would love to hear in the comments where you have seen God provide!  Also, if you do not know this amazing God I am writing about, I would love to share Him with you.  Please send me an email!

Don’t forget to follow this blog with your email on the right side of the page, and find me on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.  In my next post, I will share some things I do to thrive when finances are down!  You don’t want to miss it!

Isn’t it crazy when God begins moving IN you, before you know He is getting ready to move you?  Sometimes, we think we know just what the future looks like, where we will be for the next 25 years, and then all of sudden, everything changes.  This was me, a year and a half ago.  I was right where I wanted to be, doing just what I wanted to do, and thought I knew God’s plan for my life for the next 25 years.  Yes, I had the actual number of 25 years in my head.  Then God began to stir, just ever so slightly.

My Post(14)

I was doing my dream job.  Things God specifically called me to do.  I loved the people I was serving and had a vision for where we were going.  However, the business of church, was beginning to take precedence, and I was moved from the area where I was producing the most fruit.  I started to think maybe my 25 year plan was changing.

A few months later, my job once again changed and I was back in youth ministry.  One day, I was driving through my neighborhood, right as the high school let out for the day.  Piles of teenagers were walking home, and God said as clear as day, “When are you going to stop begging them to come into your space and get into theirs?”

Wow!  I paused for a long moment and really thought about that.  A major part of my job was to create a space for teenagers to come into.  Of course there are many other aspects to youth ministry, but I had been working exceptionally hard to bring teenagers in.  God was not done with me.  Two days later, watching these same teenagers, God said the same words.  “When are you going to stop begging them to come into your space and get into theirs.”  After trying to have lunch on the high school campus and not succeeding,  I began brainstorming ideas, trying to be creative about how to get into their space.  For the first time, I truly thought, maybe it was time to change careers, so I could share the good news and be a light for Jesus, more effectively.

A few more months went by, and one Sunday, after moving furniture to reset a room, carrying down supplies, and figuring out what to do with too few volunteers, I was frustrated.  Week after week, it did not matter how good the program was, there were only a handful of people who really cared, which was evident by their participation or lack thereof.  I knew there could be so much more fruit, from all the labor.  I asked God, “How long are we going to do this?”  And I knew change was near.  I could see my 25 year plan was just that.  My plan.  God was moving in me, before He moved me.  It was time for some pruning.

John 15, talks to us about pruning, verses 1-4 say, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” 

Now the problem with pruning, is it is most often painful, and mine was.  Just a few short weeks after my question to God, I found out, my job would be changing once again.  I decided, it was time to leave.  This was a painful decision, and at first, I did not understand it.  I was angry and hurt.  But I now see, this was the pruning.  This part of my life, was not producing much fruit, and spending so much time, trying to grow that fruit was hindering growth in other parts of my life, like raising my children, and my marriage.  No matter how painful, it was time to cut off that branch, because it was making everything else unhealthy.

This past weekend, at the Propel, Activate conference, one of the pastors, Lisa Harper, spoke to this very thing, and it was finally clear to me.  She said, “Sometimes pain is punitive and sometimes it is refining.  Sometimes, God says, I am going to prune you, and it is going to hurt.  It may feel like God is cutting your right arm off.  But God can see two years down the road and He wants you to bear new fruit.”  And God said to me, “Yes.”  In this moment, I was able to look back all the way to a year and a half ago and see how God began moving in me, before He moved me.

So I ask you friends.  What is God stirring in your heart?  Can you see Him moving inside you right now?  Creating a holy dissatisfaction in an area of your life?  Or what has recently been pruned?  Are you feeling anger and hurt over it? Are you working hard to hang onto that branch?

We know, trees and bushes need to be pruned every now and then to produce good, healthy fruit.  We have seen a tree with a struggling branch suck the life out of the other branches.  The verses in John, tell us, we are the same.  We cannot expect new things to grow and new, healthy fruit to appear if we are unwilling to let some others go.  Sometimes the pain is refining.

I do not know what is two years down the road for me. What I know, is the job I was doing was comfortable, easy, did not cause me to move out of my comfort zone, did not cause me to grow or even really to GO….

I also know, this is not the life God chose for, or called us to.  I can feel it in the depths of my being, He is asking so much more of us.  Up until this point, the roles I have been in, have not allowed me to use all the gifts God has given me, have you been there?   I settle and say, this is good enough. Most of the time, I have felt like I am trying to run and someone is holding onto the back of my shirt, and I do not want to settle anymore.  I hope you are feeling the same way.   Christ followers who refuse to settle for comfort and ease, will change the world and build the Kingdom.  Let’s want more.

Thank you for reading today.  I would love to hear how God is stirring or pruning you in the comments.  I would also love to pray with you, if you are having trouble coming to terms with the pruning like I was.  Pruning is a hard time, and we should not walk through it alone.

As always, I hope you will decide to follow this blog by entering your email on the right, and find me on Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter!  Have a wonderful day!

I have been in a funny place with church lately.  There is nothing wrong with my faith, as I am madly in love with Jesus.  He is my every breath, and I want nothing more to serve Him every day for the rest of my life.  But church?  I am struggling with.

It started a few months ago, about a month after we began looking for a new church home.  Now, if you have ever looked for a church, you know it can be miserable (which is a whole post all in itself), I have been there, and done that two other times.  This time, however, I feel like I am having more of a Holy dissatisfaction, instead of frustration.  I have spent the better part of 20 years working for churches.  My whole career has revolved around a church staff job, and I have done many.  Financial Secretary, Secretary, Youth Ministry Assistant, Preschool Director, Youth Director, Children’s Director, Campus Coordinator, Life Groups Director….and those are just the paid positions.  As we have been visiting churches, however, I am finding  I want more.  More of what you may be asking…ugh…I could not figure it out either.

I kept finding myself in these services, at these churches, that are pretty much the same, with just different faces.  Welcome, band, announcements, more songs, message, more songs, prayer, etc., etc., etc.  Of course there are small differences in each one, things that really amount to preference more than anything.  These are all lovely churches, with good people, loving and offering people a place to worship and meet Jesus.  My heart is not to criticize the local church, I just want more.

This past weekend, I attended the Propel Activate Conference for women.  Now, listen, I am not a women’s retreat/conference kind of girl…at all.  But this conference is specifically for female leaders, in all facets of society, who are also followers of Jesus.  The focus was how to use your leadership to “Propel”  the gospel and build the Kingdom of God.  I had high expectations of what would happen at this conference.  I arrived with two friends and my teenage daughter, fully expectant of God to show me my next step.  I tell you what, my expectations were way too small.  God used five powerhouse women to ignite my heart, and stir my passion in a crazy way.  Maybe in a way I have never experienced before.

There were three unbelievable preachers, Christine Caine, Lisa Harper and Lisa Bevere, one spoken word poet, Hosanna Poetry, and one worship leader, Jenn Johnson.  From these women, came power, strength, unrestrained love for our Savior, brand new truth, and passion about our assignment here on earth.  God stirred my heart more in nine hours on Saturday than in the last 4-5 years.  I realized what this funny thing I have with church is right now.  I want more.

I discovered, I am no longer satisfied with the program of church.  I am not content to walk in for an hour and participate in timed worship, get a small nugget of information, give my money and go home.  Here’s the deal y’all, I worked in my churches…I was never a spectator, I was always ALL IN…but I have never felt we (long term, churched Christ followers) are actually being the church the way God intended.  I think we get close, but just not quite there, like we are still missing one piece.

My Post(12)

  I feel like we (those same long term followers) are a little too concerned with our own experience, we want the safety of a building and short service in order to share Jesus, give and serve.   Maybe it has felt too comfortable, too controlled, too precise, and way too much about us.  Maybe I am uncomfortable with how much the business begins to control the ministry, and different numbers begin to be the priority over the people.  Maybe I am uncomfortable when we ask for volunteers to be with the children because we have empty spots, instead of because we have been gifted with children God is asking us to lead.

   I am not naive, I understand why all of those things happen.  I have been very involved and responsible for the “business” of church.  At some point the business HAS to come into play…I think.  But then I think, maybe we are just missing something?  Is what I am looking for that place called Heaven?  Is there a way to be the church and build the Kingdom, and to equip the saints without becoming a slave to the machine?  Right now, I want to believe there is.

I do not know if I have any answers, or any right answers.  I just know, God has been moving in my heart for the better part of a year, before I even knew He was moving.  I know that I recently went through some painful pruning.   Which I now believe was meant to refine me and prepare me for something new.  I also know this past weekend, God spoke to my heart, through a room of a few thousand women worshiping without restraint, hands raised, hearts engaged, and voices as loud as they could sing, because that is where we were led.  I know God used a spoken word poet to show me, I have been answering to some wrong names, and it is time to answer to the right ones.  My names are Chosen, Called, Gifted, Child of God.  I know God used three powerful preachers to challenge me in a way I have never been challenged, to remember I am a citizen of Heaven, sent to earth with an assignment, because Jesus is coming back, and God sent ME to share the good news.  I know God reminded me, I have ALL the authority of heaven at my disposal, and I am entreated to use it.

  So, I want more.  I want a church where the worship is true, and deep, and coming from the depth of every heart, because we have been led to that place.  I want to BE the church more than feed the business of the church.  I want to actively love, every single day, and use all my gifts and talents.  I want to be a light, pulling people out of the darkness, to see them rescued and saved.  I want to one day see my Savior and say, “I didn’t play it safe.  I was not more concerned with my comfort.  I took my assignment and I gave it everything I had.  Thank You for choosing and calling and gifting me.”

As you may have heard, the church is not really the building, the church is us.  The followers of Jesus.   We, all of us, are the ones who are called to love, and be, and do.  We were not called to place a building, or a person who speaks in that building on a pedestal, as we look to be entertained.  We were called to meet together, to worship, be strengthened and prepared, and then to GO!  God has been telling me for the better part of a year to go, but I was far too comfortable and safe inside my church bubble.  I was content with building the business, before the Kingdom.  I want more.

Thank you so much for reading today.  I know this may have been a hard topic for some.  Please understand, I am not trashing the local church.  I am urging us, THE CHURCH, to want and to be more.  Let’s commit to urgently pray for open doors, and hearts willing to go.  I would love to hear in the comments what Holy dissatisfaction God has been placing on your heart. 

Please follow this blog to the right, for part two, where I will start digging in, and find me on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook!