Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Leave

I've been struggling to know what direction I should be going in over here so I've abandoned this blog for the most part. Well, today, I feel like I've been given some direction. I belong to the Immersed Challenge group (page) on Facebook. All that it asks is that you post DAILY your reading from Scripture. The challenge is that you immerse yourself daily in His Word. I think along with that I will post my Scripture reading and what I get out of it. So here is today's:

"The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Schechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built and altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. ~Genesis 12:1-9

This applies to me because of a movement disorder I developed at age 26. Just when I was starting to grow up and see thing through my parents eyes and the world was at my fingertips and I knew just the direction I was going and then BAM, detour. Time and time again I've caught myself reflecting on who I believe I am, who I was raised to be... a worker. No half-way, slacking, taking the easy way. You push! push! push! your way through until you meet the finish line. Well that type of thinking (the type of thinking I was raised with) doesn't work so well with my movement disorder. I have to do a little. stop. do a little stop. and if I end up in full blown spasms, I have to stop for a long while and observe the world around me instead of being in the middle of it participating. Working.  The kind of mentality I had before (and still struggle with) is one fueled by pride and we all know how the LORD feels about pride. This movement disorder had called me to rely on Him and trust His timing and to trust others around me. I feel at peace most when I am able to remind myself that maybe just maybe God has called me to leave a few things and go to a place He will show me. Sometimes I feel like I know just where we're going and other times it's pure surprise. But one thing is for sure He has always provided for me. And I am ashamed to say I don't always remember that part. But today is filled with new mercies and today I am grateful to know that I am not on a journey alone. It is a special journey and the Lord is with me each step of the way saying,"I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do not fear. I will help you." I am blessed!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Its Only Through Grace That We Grow.

 
Thinking a lot about my parenting skills. Last night during our bible study (Gospel Revolution) we were given a set of questions to ask ourselves in order to help us identify our idols. These questions revealed several things to me, in addition to my idols. One was how much pressure I put on my children.... how much I emphasize to them what roads not to take and what roads (negative) I see them easily going down, based on their current attitudes. I reflect back to my childhood and my way of thinking back then, while I'm admonishing/chastising them. I always think, "If I could go back, knowing what I know now, I would tell myself_______ or change _______" and this morning I thought, what good would it do? I wouldn't listen. My parents told me much of the same things I would tell myself and I didn't listen to them. Why is it this way? Why are we so bent on making mistakes and learning the hard way..... and I think of the following story in Luke. Why don't we listen?

And I also think, maybe I should not be such a clanging cymbal. Maybe, I'm drowning out the encouragement and conviction of the Holy Spirit? Maybe I should trust Him more in the development of my children. Have I taught them to listen to Him? Have I been silent enough for them to hear? And this question takes me in a different direction.... I mean, this allowing the Holy Spirit to speak.... its what I wish the church would do. Less pressure/sermons for their attendees/members to do more--give more--making much of what should be a love gift into an obligation, convincing us that God's approval rests on how much we volunteer our time/money for their specific agenda. Their needs. What if we've been lead to reach out further than their "needs". Why do they think God couldn't possibly speak to us directly? Or IF He does, it must line up with what they desire. Why do they think we're wrong and not serving the same Lord because we're not falling in line with their agenda or interpretation? Do they not have faith that God will provide elsewhere or are they so deceived that they think there is only one agenda? Theirs? Will God not give them someone else? And if He doesn't, are they not humble enough to think, maybe they were wrong in the direction they feel they should go? ( I have been "unchurched" for over a year - and this is partly the reason - not entirely )

And why do I always want from others (in this case, the church) what I am not willing to give? I expect certain actions/reactions/behaviors when it concerns me.... but not them. Where is the grace I wish so much for myself? Why am I so afraid to speak up/out? I can't expect change, if I don't voice my desire for one? And I'm not alone in this thinking, in regards to church, there are several others not so afraid to speak out. There is a movement going on. People are starting to seek Christ apart form the church and this is why. We have heard so much about this freeing love of Christ but yet are boxed in by rules and expectations... so much so that we can't possibly love God the way we should because we're being told that we aren't doing enough. So then we do more, out of compulsion, and need for approval, when we already have it. Its contradictory. Christ died for us while we were YET sinners. There is so much zeal (and I understand that, I have it for my children), that we are compelled to grow at the speed of the church.... not the speed of the Holy Spirit. Mark 4:26-29 teaches that the Word of God, when sown in men's hearts, produces fruit sometimes slowly but always surely. But don't be mistaken, the church also has so much good. I have fond memories of the church I grew up in. I still see faces on here and recall songs and people that were my teachers and I feel such love and admiration for them. Am I robbing my children of this? Do I feel these things because it was during my youth when I was too young to be involved in or understand all the politics? And what about the hard questions? Do our church leaders allow them to be asked? Do they encourage them? I mean 2 Peter 3:18 says we are to GROW in the GRACE of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Get to know Him better...." well, I don't know about you, but when I want to know someone I ask them questions.... Do we not have faith that the Lord knows who is genuinely seeking Him? He even says in Matthew 12:32 that "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven..." Did not Jacob wrestle with the Lord? I know from my own experience, it was through the wrestling and seeking of God, that He revealed to me my true nature. Who I am. And just like in the story of Jacob, it wasn't until I humbled myself, and admitted my CONSTANT struggle with pride/arrogance/self-righteousness that He blessed me with answers. I couldn't find Him because I was looking from my perspective. When I was humbled and could see myself properly, then I was finally able to see Him better. And once I could see my need for His grace, love & mercy and finally was able to accept His true love for me apart from any works or deeds was I able to understand His love for others. When I understood I couldn't and didn't earn His love.... I no longer expected others to follow rules in order to earn His love & approval or mine, for that matter. Its still a struggle. I think that's why when Christ taught us to pray, He said "give us this day our DAILY bread." I need His help & guidance everyday in order to put my best foot forward. And I need His grace because I am bound to mess up... and its in the mistakes that we grow; GROW in the GRACE. And then I'm brought full circle, aren't I? Maybe just maybe, my children need more grace. Because its in the mistakes that we grow. Its painful to sit on the other side of our mistakes and watch them make similar ones. As I am sure its heart wrenching for God our Father to know how much easier life would be, could be, if we could just get it right. But He in His infinite wisdom knew we never would. And we would never experience full joy apart from the sacrificing of His Son. Because through that sacrifice came the only way to experience His approval and therefore, His constant presence with us.


 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Can you hear me or are the cymbals too loud?

 

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” ~1 Corinthians 13:1

This post comes after reading a very honest and convicting blog post from Ann Voskamp. She’s right; every last word. As I read I’m reminded of apologies I can never make because it’s too late. The person has already passed on and all I’m left with are empty words repeated to myself and to God. I also begin to think of one woman in particular that I want to apologize to because, while my intentions began as worthy and good, and coming from what I thought was love, hurt feelings, judgment and emotionally charged reactions followed when I didn’t think my words (His Words) were being heard. That doesn’t sound much like the love that is mentioned a few verses later. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

 What our written correspondence looked like was more along the lines of this verse in Galatians 5, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” And we were destroyed, even if we didn’t realize it. A few verses before this one it says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I used my freedom to point out all the falsities in her thinking. And what’s worse is I used God’s Word as ammunition to wound her. As I offered up bits and pieces of scripture on forgiveness, pleading with her to opt for peace, they were ignored so I told her I was done, but not before quoting one last bit of Scripture, "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you”, just before ending my message with this, “Obviously, I’ve thrown pearls before swine.” Now here I am, almost two years later, wondering how it is that I missed my own trampled pearls. Even though I think this person is wrong, I have to admit that I am too! And because this thing is far reaching and involves many people that I love deeply, I’ve been asked to keep my apology to myself, so as not to stir up old wounds, so I do. Regrettably. It’s my hope that someday I will be given the opportunity to tell her I’m sorry, because I really truly am.  And for my part in the way it helped fuel her anger toward others, I'm sorry for that too.

 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

It Takes One to Know One

Reading in Psalm 51. This Psalm was written when Nathan confronted David about his affair with Bathsheba. The verses that are standing out to me this morning are 3, 4, 11, 12, 13 & 17
"For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise."
Verse 17 is where I draw the title of this post from. It is important to be so in tune with God's Spirit that we would be aware of our sins. We would feel the distance-- the turning of God away from us. That it would break our heart just as it breaks His. And while we shouldn't walk around with a burden of guilt, there is value in not forgetting our sin. We are not condemned, so that should allow us the freedom to share our faults and failures. And why? Because wouldn't it be better for the once drunkard to guide the one who is still a drunk. For the once addict to teach the current one. The once bigoted racist to open the eyes of the one spewing racial slurs? I immdediately think of Paul. He was the man who beat and brutaly murdered the early Christians. He was arrogant and full of judgment. Yet when He was freed from that bondage of ignorance, he was able to do GREAT things in the name of Jesus Christ. Why do we hide behind our shame? I am certain if we could be bold and share our sins and trials with others much good will be made with it. Much more than hiding it in the back room of our heart and praying no one knows we're not perfect. God can use our past struggles to help the one still struggling. We can teach because we've been there.... Just now, the Lord has lead me to Luke 22:31-32  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”


You gotta love it when God edits your blog post, saying, "Hey include this verse too!"
 
 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beyond Cure, But Not Beyond Saving.

Yesterday at Bible Study a friend of ours shared that one of her friends was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis is not good. I have not been able to get this out of my head or heart. Every dead moment of space in my mind, is always filled with this thought. And this sadness lingers.

Fast forward to this morning while I am in my prayer closet-- husband off to work-- kids off to school. I come in and shut the door and immediately begin to pray about this situation. And my words are as if this woman has already died. And I think to myself, "Why aren't you praying for healing? Is your faith so small and your doubt so large?" And then this jolt of thought, "Would you not be on your knees praying your heart out for healing if it were your friend?" It is from God this revealing of myself. Its not a harsh rebuke, but rather a revealing of how sinful I am by nature. That this is why I desperately need Him to ever make it to eternity. Immediately Jeremiah 17:9 comes to mind,


"The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"

 I suppose this is why in Ezekiel He says he will give us NEW hearts,

 
"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

This is why it is so important for me to KNOW that God loved me, while I was yet a sinner... because until death, I will always be a sinner to some degree. And even the tiniest fleck of sinfulness disqualifies me from eternity. Even in my most righteous state, I am still a sinner. I will never in my own effort get to heaven as I am now, or tomorrow, or as long as I draw breath this side of the grave. It is He who will shower His righteousness on me. It is Christ and Christ alone who has sanctified me. He has given me His Spirit to humble me. Because it is only in this humble state that God can teach me. Last year my #OneWord365 was humility and it has been such a blessing, that I never want to let it go. It is only when I am willing to acknowledge my failures and faults that my ears will be opened and receptive to His instruction. And to be able to hear His instruction is the most satisfying feeling I have ever felt. He has blessed me to allow me to hear His Spirit and even in rebuke and "constructive criticism" I feel His peace and love. I actually feel the words of Isaiah 38:17 as absolute truth when it says, "Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you  have cast all my sins behind your back." And in the Psalms where it says that the rebuke of a righteous man is a kindness. And who is more righteous than He in the form of His Spirit? The comfort I feel from the presence of the Spirit is indescribable and for the first time in my life I feel the urgent necessity of seeking Him. I began this journey with so many questions. He has answered a few but some I feel are not simply answered with words, they are only answered by fellowship with Him. Just simply breathing in His presence.

I look back to my notebook and read what I had written in September 2012, "Why am I on this journey?" Reason number 1) Because you lead me here. Today I read Psalm 27:8 and this comfirms
it,
"You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]."

 
 
 
For more on the heart and how its influenced by the eye, click here. 

 




Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Christ, what do you want from me?

I find myself asking this question a lot! Often with a smile and a slogan that tells my age,
 'What Would Jesus Do?'
 
A few weeks ago I came to John 17 in my daily bible reading. The chapter consists of 3 prayers that Christ prayed before He was arrested. The first prayer he prays for Himself in verses 1-5. The second He prays for His disciples in verses 6-19. And the last for you and for me (believers) in verses 20-25:
 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, he glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

 
What Christ wants from me is unity. That I, becoming a believer, and therefore having His Spirit within me, would be united to Him, my Savior, who is united to God, my Father. And through this unity all believers would also be united. Why? So that the WORLD would know that they are LOVED to the point of death, even while they are worthless sinners. And so how do I do my part to become united to other believers? Through LOVE! How does God define LOVE?
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (Though I recommend reading the whole chapter).

 
Well, if you're anything like me, that's all well and good but its nearly impossible!! Ah, but there's that unity Christ prayed over us. That we would be one,
 "Father, just as you are in me and I am in you...I have given the the glory that you have given me, that they may one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity...."
 
So, how does being 'united' or 'one' help us out here? Well, 1 John 4:7 says plainly, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God." Therefore, we are connected through unity to the direct source of LOVE--God!

Then if that's not enough to convince us, there is that famous verse we(I) always hear and hardly ever apply,
 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
 
One sure fire way to break this unity, is unforgiveness. This may come off harsh, but that's okay, because I'm gonna need to read it later...trust me... this is a HUGE battle for me.

 In Colossians 3 we read,

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect".....wait for it...."UNITY."

So, I don't know about you but I am quick to claim the blood of Christ, in my failures. But not so much the failures of others. Especially when they fail me! Am I really so arrogant, that I would think Christ singled me out and died for me only? And when my view of the death of Christ is so narrow, I should really ask myself, "How could I stand. Breathe. Go on with life, if all of my sin and my sin only caused the painful, torturous death of  Christ?" Do I want the weight of that on my shoulders? I am willing to bet, in my arrogance, I would much rather share the blame with you! So if I want you to share in the blame, shouldn't I also want you to share in the grace?

Please to anyone reading this, that I have ever wronged or have been quick to judge and bold in arrogance, would you forgive me of this sin? Also, I would like to challenge myself in this--if I truly believe in the Word of God why do I make so many excuses? Is my faith so small?

"According to your faith will it be done to you."
"it shall be done for you as you have believed..."...
"Take heart...your faith has healed you..."
"Do you believe I am able to do this?..."

And why does Christ wish for us to be united?  "...so that the world may BELIEVE that you have sent me.... to let the world KNOW that you sent me and have LOVED them even as you have loved me."

Why would anyone ever believe what we ourselves deny every day by our actions? This convicts me.

  "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God..." 1 John 4:7





This reminded me of a great book, written by Kelly Minter, The Fitting Room.
Also, if you are a fan of online book clubs, you should really check out, Boom (in)Courage. Here they are discussing Kelly's book.








 

 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Maybe we should leave HELL out of it.....


Not sure about the title... maybe Love calls (free will)... Fear drives (forces)...?

Okay. A lot has been said lately on the subject of Hell. I have not read Rob Bell or Francis Chan's books on the subject. I have however, heard one theory that is in opposition of what most of us learned growing up in church, which is that hell is an eternal place of torment, burning with fire and brimstone and there will be gnashing of teeth. The other theory is that one of the terms translated as hell, gehenna, takes its name from a valley located in Jerusalem called the valley of Hinnom. During Jesus’s time on earth, this valley was used as the city dump. A fire was constantly kept alight there to burn up and consume all of the city’s unwanted rubbish.  Putting a different spin on things.

So the theory taught in church is that hell is a place where you will burn eternally.

Second theory is that there is a fire that burns eternally but that you will just burn up. Yes painful, but not nearly as devastating as burning forever with no hope of an end to the pain.

I personally don't know which is true. But I do know that I never was able to grow in faith until I encountered this second theory. It loosened this grip that fear had on me. I was always preoccupied by hell. This theory challenged my thinking and honestly this post makes me a bit uncomfortable because I don't want to mislead or misinform anyone in regards to what is true. I do know prior to hearing this 'gehenna theory' I tried to witness to someone I love so much. I used hell as my intro because I was honestly afraid for them. I was told they wouldn't be pushed into a faith by 'fear mongering'. And that struck me. I get that! Because of what I believed completely at that time. Fear is what motivated me. Yet the Bible says in 1 John, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." I knew that verse. And I always would read it and think, I have not been made perfect. I fear. And that would make me afraid. Even though I had been saved, I feared, and that caused me to doubt my salvation. And that doubt sparked an even more intense fear. It was a vicious cycle. There was no room for love because fear ruled over me. It wasn't until the 'gehenna theory' challenged my belief and I was able to doubt what I had been taught in regards to hell. And that tiny bit of doubt gave my heart just enough room to focus on love. My love for God, Jesus and His Spirit. I had been paralyzed. Frozen. But once this lack of fear made enough room to let love in, it grew, and it grew fast. I still don't know what I believe as far as hell and which is true. But this love has saved me. For the first time, I am CERTAIN of my eternity and honestly, hell is of no consequence for me. It doesn't matter. Because I am not going there.

Yesterday the Lord lead me to a verse in Isaiah, two actually, "The One who is highly honored lives forever. His name is holy. He says, "I live in a high and holy place. But I also live with anyone who turns away from his sins. I live with anyone who is not proud. I give new life to him. I give it to anyone who turns away from his sins.



I will not find fault with my people forever. I will not always be angry with them. If I were, I would cause their spirits to grow weak. The very breath of life would go out of the people I created."

We must not use fear and punishment to usher God into the lives of sinners. It has to be LOVE! These verses and those that follow speak of love.
He doesn't want to punish us eternally. He wants us to want to love him. And when His word speaks of fearing Him, that fear isn't a fear of punishment from Him. Its the fear that we would disappoint Him. That he would turn away and never turn back. We must convince and awaken souls to the meaning of RELATIONSHIP! That life without Him in it, isn't worth living! That they would experience life with Him in it and be aware of His presence and when they sin, because we will always sin, that they would feel the distance. The emptiness, and THAT would prompt them to constantly repent. Not FEAR!!

I don't have all the answers to all the questions I have, much less the questions others ask. But that's okay. Because the death and resurrection of Christ, gives me GRACE to seek the answers. And the FAITH to trust Him when I don't find them. For the first time in 22 years. I am in love with my Creator, my Savior, and His Spirit that is in me. And I have never felt such peace & freedom.