March 31, 2010

Does it hurt now?

O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. (Psalm 30:2)

If you don't believe that God does miracles today, this post may not make much sense to you. But please continue, because you might still get something out of it.

I'm taking a class in healing at my church. Like, actual, miraculous healing. The kind where people can say "I was blind, but now I see." We've been studying it from a Biblical perspective, and then we take a practical approach: we pray for healing, for each other. It's amazing in a group of 6 how many weeks at least one person needs prayer for some kind of pain or illness. (Sadly that's been me quite a few times)

We follow a specific model. Ask what the person wants Jesus to do for them, diagnose it (get an idea how long it's been a problem, what may have caused it, etc), pray, ask how they're doing, and pray again. Repeat the last two steps until either you run out of time (or energy) or the person no longer feels any pain.

That's the part that's hard for me. I think when most people contemplate the idea of God healing us, it's an instantaneous thing. I used to not see, we prayed, and now I see. Done.

But it's not always that way. It's not that God can't heal us or even that He won't. There can be a lot of factors to it. Perhaps the people receiving prayer don't quite believe that this will work. Perhaps God is using this as a learning experience. Whatever it is, there is to be no shame in asking how the person feels, and hearing that there is little or no difference. What it means is this: If there is no change in pain level, you should keep praying. If there is some reduction of the pain, hooray, and keep praying. And if there is no pain at all, huzzah, and pray one more time to "seal" it. So really, it's all about layers of praying.

The funny thing is that there is a medical equivalent. I had carpal tunnel and I went to a physical therapist for a while to work out the pain. One of the things she did was put pressure on different parts of my arm in order to relax the muscles. To know if it was working, she would poke my arm. If it still hurt, she kept applying pressure. It was really hard for me at first to say "it still hurts. It still hurts. It still hurts." I felt almost as though there was a problem with me, and I had this need to say "yes, you took away all the pain, good for you." even though it would not have been true. Fortunately she is a professional and can figure out when you're still in pain. (For example, she poked my leg (something that didn't hurt at all) and said "ok, this is no pain. We'll work on your arm until it feels like that." She didn't expect the pain to go away completely, but had to keep asking me how I felt in order to know how to respond to the pain.

So am I saying that God will never heal us in one go? No! It could happen that someone prays once for like 3 seconds and boom: healed. And that's the prayer. But in the occasion that it does not happen that way, we are to persevere in prayer. we are to keep on keeping on. Because look at today's verse again. God DOES heal us. And while He will not always heal everyone for whom we pray, it is our job simply to pray, and keep on praying. Otherwise we have pretty well a 100% certainty that He won't.

March 30, 2010

The Fragrance of Forgiveness

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3)

I love the story of the woman who pours perfume on Jesus' feet. There are a couple different versions, and this is certainly one of the shortest, but what I love is the second sentence: And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Do you think Mary was able to hide what she did? Not if everyone could suddenly smell this excellent perfume. They would have all come to see what was going on. This woman, whether she had realized it or not, was going to be in the middle of a crowd as she wept and wiped Jesus' feet clean with her hair.

And you know what? She didn't care. Her focus was solely on Jesus. I think that we can take a lesson from this. If we keep our focus on Jesus, even if we have to fall at His feet and confess our sins--even if we have to do it in public--we will be forgiven, just like she was. Isn't that the important thing, that we seek God's mercy and grace over the acceptance of the world, even of our friends and family?

One last thought, as Mary did this thing, the fragrance filled the house. This was the holy fragrance of human submission and God's forgiveness. She became a light to others by her selfless actions. She did not care what people thought as she worshipped Christ, and so her story earned a place in the Bible, so that generations would read about it. The fragrance continues today as you read it, and it continues as we each fall at the feet of Jesus to praise Him and seek His forgiveness for our sins. Let us do so.

March 29, 2010

Keeping a Clean House

When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. (Matthew 12:43-45)

Alrighty. I hate cleaning. But I'm about to make a very important point about it.

I just spent my entire weekend cleaning my apartment. Some of it was things like Swiffering the floor, wiping down the sink, cleaning the toilet. And some of it was picking up all of my clean clothes from the clothes mountain on the floor and actually putting them away. I didn't get my entire bedroom cleaned and I haven't even looked at the hall closet, but I made a very sizeable dent in the whole process.

The thing is, no matter how good a job I do, I'm going to have to do it again.

And again.

Why you ask? Because if for no other resason I have long hair and a cat, and those two things contribute quite highly to a constant need of Swiffering.And it's annoying, really. I mean, I just spent a day and a half doing little other than cleaning. Once I'm done I should be done, right? I should just be able to lean back and enjoy the clean house, right?

Sadly, no. It's all about upkeep. You know this. I can wash every dish in the sink and put them all back, and in about 20 minutes when I have breakfast--whoops, now I have to wash another bowl.

Our spiritual houses are like this too. I'm just going to go on the assumption that you believe in "evil spirits" or "demons" here, and that they very much enjoy attaching themselves to humans in order to completely muck up their lives.

And of course, we don't want that. So we will do whatever we can to be delivered of these demons. And so we do--hooray! You are now demon-free. You should be able to just lean back and enjoy your clean spiritual house, right?

Nope. It's all about upkeep. You must keep your house full of Jesus, and that means that you'll be going in to clean stuff out pretty much every day. Because of course we sin every day, and you don't want Jesus living in a filthy house, now do you?

So what if you don't invite Jesus into your spiritual house right away after getting rid of those pesky demons? Well, they'll come back. Because they know you. They like you. You're a great host. And if they come back and see this nice clean empty house what will they do? Why, they'll have a party. And they'll invite all their friends. And pretty soon you'll be up to your eyebrows in demons, just when you thought you'd gotten rid of them for good.

What's the moral of the story then? The moral is that we need to be constantly and consistently cleaning up our houses, spiritual and physical. If we realize that we have let either one go, we absolutely must take the time to wipe it clean from top to bottom. And then we have to keep it clean. And in the case of our spiritual house, there's no better way to keep it clean than to invite Jesus to live there. We do generally take better care of our homes when we have a guest, don't we?

Only Jesus doesn't just want to be a guest, He wants to be your roomate. Like forever. So keep those dust cloths out, honey, because you're gonna want to keep your place in order for a long, long time. (But itsn't that better than the alternative?)

And no matter your views on cleaning, you know that it's important. Maybe you just didn't realize how important.

But now you do. :)

March 26, 2010

Rejoice in the Promise

I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil. (Psalm 119:162)

Did you know that we live in the time where the Kingdom is here, and not here yet? That Jesus Christ was the living harbringer of the Kingdom of God? And with his death and victory over Satan, Jesus opened up the possibility of God's great wisdom and power to abide in each and every one of us.

Only, it's not complete yet, because we are yet sinners and unfaithful to our covenant with God.

Wow, them's some heavy words, eh?

But here's what I'm using them to get at: God has a promise for us. But it is not fully realized yet. Part of it could just be because it's not time yet. I mean, if God has great things in store for me later in life, well then I won't see that plan come to fruition until... later in my life.

What I'm really trying to get at here is that we should thank God for the promises that He will fulfil for us, but just hasn't yet. For example, I thank God for the promise of love, the promise of a stable home, strong finances, beautiful children, and a career that is aligned with my God-given gifts and talents. I haven't seen all of those yet. But I thank God for them, because they will come. I know that God has not made me to be single my whole life. So I thank Him now that He can see what will happen, and that He will bring blessings into my life.

I feel as though my words don't even begin to touch on what I'm trying to say here. I might have to come back and rework this post, or continue writing on it. Because I think that this is one of the most important things I've tried to say since I started blogging, and it's just not coming out right. So stay tuned for possible continuation. And thank God that His Word is complete. :)

March 25, 2010

Ask for Wisdom

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

This is a rather big "if" statement, right? I mean, you have to both cry out for understanding and look for it in order to receive it. Maaaan, why does life always have to be so hard? Is this why we have to go through so much schooling, to look for wisdom?

Well, no. As much as little miss straight-As over here sometimes hates to say it, schooling does not wisdom make. There is a difference between smart and wise. Smart is knowing that acids and bases explode when mixed; wise is knowing not to do it.

So ok, you might be saying "wait a second, that verse never said wisdom, but it said knowledge." Yes, it did say knowledge. We must seek a knowledge of God. Wisdom is very much shored up by knowledge. But what is Solomon (the author of Proverbs) known for? His wisdom. This "understanding" for which we are to cry out and seek, is wisdom.

Do you do that? Do you cry out for it? I admit I do not always. Usually I decide what I think is right and barrel on ahead in life, sometimes remembering to at least ask God along the way to bless it. But what God ardently desires to give us is the wisdom to know which path leads the best way before we even start out.

But, you have to ask. God grants us each gifts, and some he has bestowed with wisdom at birth. But wisdom is a gift that is available to all who ask. Those who seek only "learning" or who seek to lead themselves by creating their own wisdom are merely munching away on the apple of the tree of knowledge, while Eden burns around them.

Seek the knowledge and understanding of God, ask Him to grant it to you, and He will. He loves giving gifts to His children, only He does not delight in giving us harmful gifts, and sometimes we do not realize that what we ask for is not the best for us.

So start with this one today. Ask for wisdom.

Lord God, I adore you for taking care of me so far in my life, and for giving me the insight that you already have. Increase my wisdom God, so that I may see clearly the path before me. Help me to discern the righteousness that you wish me to live out, and to share Your wisdom with Your other children, not for my own glory, but for yours. Amen.

March 24, 2010

Dance With All Your Might

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. (2 Samuel 6:14-15)

The context here is that David is bringing the ark of the covenant to his home. Because at that time the ark was the most important object connected both to faith in God and to His actual presence on earth, you can possibly understand the joy of David at bringing it to his city.

Also it might help to realize that David was at first afraid to have the ark with him, for fear of God's wrath. When God blessed the household of the man who kept it for a time, however, David realized that God's blessings came to those who protected the covenant with God.

So he gathered his people and made sacrifice and as this holy of holies was brought into the city, he danced. And what I love is that he didn't just sway back and forth or tap his feet, but he danced with all his might. David threw himself bodily into worship of God. Plus he was only wearing a linen shift, which means that David, the great ruler who was bringing the ark of the covenant into the city named for him, could only care about one thing: worshipping God. He didn't care what he may have looked like to others.

David is always said to be a "man after God's own heart." True he had his problems. But if you want to see examples of someone who worshipped God with abandon, David is who you want to study and emulate. Not necessarily in dance. But what gift has God given you that you can give back? Do you sing? Draw? Write poetry? Or think of it this way. Did the verse say that David danced well? Or just that he danced?

There is something to be said for throwing yourself bodily into worship, whether or not you do it "well." Don't forget that we are also told to "make a joyful noise" unto the Lord. We are told to use our gifts for the glory of God, but I also believe that we are each called to worship Him by singing and dancing, in our own ways, and without regard to "talent." True, if we are leading a worship group then we likely need to have some gift in music, but are we always leading? If every worship leader only ever worships God when they are on the stage, then they are not actually focused on God enough to lead others to Him.

It is in the moments, both corporate and alone, that we let go of our reservations, and accept that God will give His blessings unto us, that we can truly worship Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength.

And then we will dance like David danced.

March 23, 2010

Not One Stone

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, "As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down." (Luke 21:5-6)

Do you ever ask yourself if what you're doing to honor God is really honoring Him?

Not that I'm saying you're not.

But think about it. Is building a grand cathedral or adding on to a church or taking a vow of poverty an honor to God?

It totally depends on the heart behind the action. I believe that some people truly wished to honor the Father of All Creation by building immense cathedrals in an attempt to be worthy of His presence. I also believe that the second people started putting their own names on parts of that cathedral they forgot what the original intent was.

I believe we can all fall prey to this. Think about worship music. Whether it's a choir, a worship band, or one guy with a guitar, there is always the possibility that in the attempt to honor God and lead people into worship it sudddenly becomes a show, and the focus moves away from God and more into pagentry.

When the disciples commented on the beauty of the temple, Jesus spoke end-time words. He said that not one stone would remain on top of another out of the entire temple. Because when Christ returns, He will turn the world on its head, and nothing made for human glory will be able to withstand His presence.

I believe that's true of all things, not just tangible. Remember Matthew 6:19-21:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

"Treasures on earth" could be money, and could be accolades, a special pew that you paid for, a fancy car, influence with those in power... all sorts of things that do not translate to Heavenly riches.

So be aware of what you are building up on earth, because that is for yourself. Keep your focus on God and the Crucified Christ and you will build up your storehouses in Heaven.

March 22, 2010

Be Silent Before The Lord

Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited. (Zephaniah 1:7)

This little nugget of scripture is in the middle of a huge swatch of verses that are really harsh-sounding. It's like hooray the day of the Lord is near but he will annihilate you all when He comes. Um, what?

But you know what there's this bit of hope in there. He has consecrated [set aside, mady holy] those whom he has chosen for the Kingdom. Now whether or not you believe in predestination, my idea is that anyone who has accepted Christ into their hearts is one who is consecrated. So don't worry, for the most part we're safe, if we believe. Also this is an Old Testament scriptrure, so I do believe the main point is to speak to the first occasion of Jesus.

But it is interesting to think of how this applies to our lives now, while we're waiting for Jesus to come again. Because we are, you know. So it is at this point that I wonder what will happen to us should Jesus decide to return during out lifetime? Again, I say for the most part we're safe, if we believe. In other words, yes we've got the Golden Ticket into Heaven. But there may be things about us the God wishes to perish (Selfishness, bitterness, gossiping, etc).

Now, I believe that we'd be very tempted, when Christ comes, to lift ourselves up to him. "Look Jesus, I tithe every week! I have never had an affair! I know I said something harsh to my wife, but I made it up to her."  And you know what, none of that matters. It's actually somewhat useless to represent ourselves to Christ, because He knows all about us, and He is actually the One who will represent us to God the Father. So this is where I realize the wisdom in the first part of this scripture: Be silent before the sovereign Lord.

There is nothing that we can do which will make us more prepared for salvation, because if we accept Christ into our lives we are already saved. And try as we may to live Christ-like lives, we will fall short. But God knows our hearts, so we are better off being still, and allowing the Holy Spirit to wash through us, to see us for who we are, and to allow Jesus to represent us based on His understanding of ourselves, not our own.

So don't feel as though you need to fight for your salvation. It is already bought and paid for. You just focus on living as much like Christ as possible, and He will do the rest. And be silent before the Lord, because you just might be amazed at the things He has to say.

March 19, 2010

Set Time Aside

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

This is one of those verses that makes me not like morning people. Because it's sooo much easier for them to say "yup, get up early to pray, that's what I'll do." No so much me.

Ok, if you've been around here long enough you'll know that I get up an hour earlier than I have to, to listen to worship music and do this blog. But really honestly I spend that hour sleeping on the couch (with the music on) and then just get ready for work faster in order to accommodate the writing. And the praying part... that part is hard for me.

But let's take the morning part out of it, because Jesus also went to be alone and pray during other times of the day. I think the importance is more on the fact that he did pray. So to me the emphasis is not on when Jesus prayed but the fact that he did it. And sadly that's something that I just don't do enough.

Can I change? Is this something I can get into doing more? I do think so. I feel that I have a pretty steady stream of information in my head that I send up God's way. But what I don't do often enough is sit down and listen for Him to speak back to me. I know that this blog is one way that He does, but I know that I can work harder on our relationship.

At work this week we had a program where we talked about our vision, mission and values, and for each one we had to write a list of things we can do in the next 30 days to align ourselves more with them. It's nice, the 30 day goal gives you time to get going on a task, but is still close enough that it's measurable. So let's take the next 30 days and focus on prayer a little bit. Does that mean I'll blog about "prayer" more? Not necessarily. What it means is I will try to introduce a little more "God and me" time into my life. And I invite you to do the same.

Who knos what will happen when we spend more time connected to the Creator of the Universe. :)

March 18, 2010

Only One God

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:12)

There are a few verses in the Bible that speak of there being "only one" God. Some of them, I believe, were making a statement about monotheism verses polytheism. There is only one God.

But this verse is a little different. There is only one God, he says... and it's not you.

How often do we try to be God? (perhaps much more than we realize.) In this case it seems rather clear--do not judge, for it is only God's place to judge, and you are not He. But what else does God do? He creates, He sustains, he gives life, He grants wisdom, He bestows gifts of the Spirit... have you ever found yourself trying to do any of the above, especially without recognizing that if you have the ability to do any of it, that it is from God?

For example, I try to sustain my life on my own. I have to admit it. I don't always seek God's will for my life but rather I determine what I think it should be and I move on it. (And then I usually ask Him to bless it). But there is only one God of my life, and it is not me. I need to give my life fully to the Lord and ask Him what to do with it.

As do we all. Remember that today. There is only one God, and you are not He. If you think on it long enough, you might just be relieved. :)

March 17, 2010

Spirit of God

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. (Matthew 3:16)

So, this is a fairly well-known verse, right? I mean I don't really have it memorized but I recognize it. And if you go chronologically through the life of Jesus, the Spirit of God descended on him (as shown above), and then he did his days in the wilderness, gathered disciples, taught, was unjustly murdered, then rose from the dead, and then shortly thereafter the Spirit came to the disciples at Pentecost.

So the Spirit is a New Testament thing, right?

Not so. When I did a search for "Spirit of God" just now, 25 references came up, and only 11 of them are in the New Testament. Which means that the Spirit of God was active before Jesus became a human. Check it out:

...and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts (Exodus 35:31)

When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him (Numbers 24:2)

When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying.(Samuel 10:10)

The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded. (2 Chronicles 15:1)

Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. (2 Chronicles 24:20)

The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the Spirit of God. Then the vision I had seen went up from me, (Ezekial 11:24)

Wow, that's pretty cool, right? I think it means that God has always been at work in our lives. And that He truly is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Spirit of God may have come more widely upon believers after Jesus' death, but that doesn't mean He wasn't active before.

There's a lot more I need to study about the Spirit of God, but I think this is a good start. :)

March 16, 2010

Grace and Mercy

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

I take a Zumba class at my church (it's a fitness class). There are about 10-15 ladies at every class, and increasingly more and more of them are from the neighborhood around the church but don't actually attend it. So when they walk in the door they go to the room where the class is, and stay there.

I, on the other hand, have no problem running into the kitchen for water, or using the bathroom on that side of the building if the one by the front door is busy. Becuase it's my church, I have confidence when I walk around, because I know where everything is, and what I can expect, and I know that it's ok.

That's a little bit of how I feel when I read the above scripture. We must have confidence in the house of the Lord--and now I'm not talking about a church but the actual throne room of God. True, we are not physically there. But we can approach God on His throne at any time through prayer. And the thing is, He wants us to. He's just waiting for us to bring our problems, hopes, dreams and yes confessions to Him.

Of course I think a large number of us avoid the throne room because of all the junk that we carry. But when I walk into my church, I don't have people saying "Oh my goodness, you had a lascivious thought about someone, you have to leave right now. You are not allowed in the kitchen any more, and don't even think about going to the sanctuary." No, the members of my church love me, as I am, and despite it, and they welcome me in.

How much more God, our heavenly father? He always welcomes us in. And yes, sometimes we have to admit things to Him, but read that scripture again. He gives us grace and mercy. Those are not just fluffy religious words. Grace and mercy means that God accepts us and loves us just as we are, and despite it. He will always be willing to help us become more like Christ, but He will never turn us away because we haven't gotten there yet.

Something to think about today.

March 15, 2010

Pay What You Owe

Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:7-8)
I find it funny that taxes are mentioned as often as they are in the Bible. Because really, I just don't think about them much throughout the year, except for when it comes time for me to do my taxes. I mean, I live in the city with the highest sales tax in the country--I try not to think about that. :)
But taxes are mentioned throughout the Bible. And I love that, because it's just another example of how God's word speaks to us and is relevant for today. Because really, who likes doing taxes? Sure, if you're getting a lot of money back you're probably a little excited about it, but act of doing your taxes... bleah.
And I know that some people don't like doing taxes, they don't want to pay "the man," so some actually don't. They refuse to put their money into the government. Or conversely they set themselves up to get more money deducted from each check, in order to get a huge "payout" come tax time. Now, the first one I mentioned is actually illegal. The second one is in my opinion an attempt to "work the system" that results in giving the government an interest-free loan of your money. If you put that extra money into a savings account every two weeks, you'd actually have more money in there come tax time.
But that is slightly besides the point. The point is that God doesn't want us "working the system" in any way. If you owe taxes, pay them. It's just as simple as that. We are called to be responsible stewards, and part of that is taking care of our crops. I believe in today's world our "crops" are often our bank accounts. We tend them, pour ourselves into them, and watch eagerly to see what comes forth after we have sown seed into them.
So part of our responsibility to God is to be our own accountant, to be able to give an account for ourselves, and to make things right if we are off-balance with the decrees of the government. Because, as you read further, our only debt is to be the debt of love. We will never "catch up" to our quota on loving others. But we can catch up on our rent, our bills, and yes, our taxes.
So make sure you give a good account of yourself this year. Pay what you owe, and then it will be easier to sow love into the world. Because there's a lot less stress in a debt-free life, and you will be free to exercise your giftings.
It's all a matter of being right with the world in every way.

March 12, 2010

Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23)

God is a God of justice, mercy and faithfulness. And yet, we cannot sit idly by and wait for Him to bring these about.

What, you mean we have to do these great works instead of God?

No, not at all. I mean we have to do these great works because of God. Because God is a God of justice, mercy and faithfulness, we are called (quite specifically) to live out those three principles in our own life. Don't forget that God often does His great works through His children. (Thus it is that Works do not get us saved but rather are a natural outpouring of the fact that we are.)

So if you see someone being treated unjustly, instead of saying "someone should do something," perhaps you should say "God what do you want me to do?" And then live it out.

March 11, 2010


Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Do you ever say "God, why won't you talk to me?" or "I wish I could hear what God is trying to say to me" or "I wish I knew what God wanted me to do." These are common sentiments, and ones that I feel like saying all the time.

And the funny thing is, Paul answers these questions for us. Why can't we hear God or know His will for us? Because we're not in tune with Him. We're paying too much attention to the world. Thus if God were to tell us to do something against-the-grain (like, say, giving a whole bag of groceries to the homeless guy outside the store) we tend to shrug it off as some random, weird thought.

But what if that was God speaking specifically to us?

I do not speak much from my own experience here, because I'm a good little conformist. But if we worship and follow the crucified Christ, we must understand that going against the grain is just going to be normal for us. Maybe it's little things like not going to lunch with all the gossips, apologizing for a mistake instead of making excuses, and refusing to give in to our every craving (developing self-control). These things will not happen except that we transform our minds. Maybe once or twice you could avoid gossip, for example, but to make it a way of life means that you actually have to close your mind off to it. And if you can then open your mind up to God, then you will find that you're hearing Him a lot more.

So let's all try that today, and this week, eh? Listen to your thought patterns, and determine if they are wordly or if they are Spirit-led. Squash the worldly ones (it's hard, I know) and develop the Spirit-led thoughts. I betcha you'll see a huge transformation in your life. And you might just find yourself doing God's will, and loving every minute of it.

March 10, 2010


Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)

Wow, there's a lot to unpack in that paragraph. This morning I did a search for "wisdom fool" to see what came up, and almost every sentence above showed as a separate result. I was going to pick just one, but then I decided that it is actually a pretty awesome chunk of scripture there, one that is making more and more sense to me as I take VLI and study church history.

Take for example "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom." This speaks very clearly to the culture in which Paul found himself. The Jews were so hung up on works that they needed to see great works to be convinced that Christ was their Messiah. And the Greeks had a culture where oration and high levels of thought were key. So they demanded "wisdom" or "mystery" to be revealed in order to be persuaded of someone's deity.

And here comes Paul, saying let's follow this guy who died when the Romans crucified him like a criminal. Um, yeah.

But Paul even speaks to this. Yes it's foolishness, he says, to follow this man Jesus. It's foolishness as we humans see it. But you do not know the mysteries of God.

I do not think that Paul had to persuade anyone that God existed. Everyone believed in gods back then, and even if they did not follow the God of the Jews, they knew of Him and quite possibly accepted Him as a deity. Because remember the Greeks were polytheistic. So sure, there's this God. So what Paul has to do, then, is explain a little bit of who God is. He is so wise, Paul says, that even His foolishness is greater than the greatest wisdom of the greatest man. If God were to make a mistake, it would still be the smartest course of action that anyone on earth could conceive of.

So it is the son of this God that Paul is promoting. Yes Jesus did miracles and displayed wisdom (and even good orating skills!) but it is not on those works that Paul is pinning Jesus' laurels. It is on his father, the true and only God, who is perfect and knew exactly what He was doing when He sent Jesus to die. For our sins.

I suppose if you're already Christian you might think ok, no worries, I believe in Jesus, so what does this mean to me? Well, I would say two things. First, this gives you something to point to when you are speaking to someone who does not believe. And second, don't we still sometimes have to remember that we are not the smart ones here? That our decisions, even when they seem wise, are not always right? And that there is only One who is capable of true and lasting wisdom. And maybe sometimes we should hand the reigns back to him for a bit. :)

March 9, 2010

Light of the World

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6)

I believe that today you can change "Gentiles" to "non-believers" and realize that this scripture suddenly applies to your life. God has made us a light to shine into the lives of everyone with whom you associate.

The problem, I believe, is that most of us (myself included) don't recognize this and/or don't walk in it. Maybe it's a low feeling of self-worth, that no one would look to us to see God's salvation, or maybe it's because we're still holding on to an area of sin in our lives and we don't want anyone to notice.

But you know what, the light is there no matter what. If people know you are Christian, there is a spotlight shining on you. It's a harsh light sometimes, and it will point out all of your flaws. This light is not necessarily the light from God that Isaiah was talking about. But it's not all bad either. Sometimes we need to realize that we are going to be in the spotlight around people who know we believe in Jesus Christ. They will be examining us to see what makes us who we are, and yes even looking for those cracks in the foundation. Because people who resist the Truth will want to make you out to be a liar.

And when we are hiding in shame or sin, this spotlight is worse than the "ugly lights" that turn on when a bar hits closing time. We can try to pull a covering over ourselves to hide our shame or our dark thoughts and actions, but the world will cast it away and point and stare, and the more you attempt to live in the shadows, the more your actions will be brought to light.

If you accept the Holy Spirit into your entire being, however, you will find that the light around you is actually a light within you. It is the living Spirit of God exuding from your very pores. Because as you open yourself up to God and surrender your own identity to His, the pure and true light of Christ will shine from within you. It will show in your eyes, in your words, in your actions, in your very bearing. And you will find that this light, even though it is softer and much more gentle, completely obliterates the world's spotlight. Because you are welcoming the scrutiny. "Seek," you will tell the people around you. "look into my life and see the joy that I have which is from Christ."

It is this light which will shine through the darkeness of the world. And if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, it is this light which resides in you, right this very moment. All you need to do is surrender to it. Recognize that people will be looking at you anyway with their own judgements and presuppositions, but the more you open yourself to God, the more light will shine through, yes even through your flaws, so that they may glorify God that much more.

You are a light to the world. Shine on, baby, shine on.

March 8, 2010

I Am Not Ashamed

I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the salvation of God for everyone who believes:  first for the Jew, and then for the gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is found, a righteousness by faith, from first to last, just as it is written "The righteous shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)

Ok, so I wrote that out pretty well from memory. My leadership class, VLI, just had a midterm and we had to memorize this verse, and then explain what Paul was saying to the Romans.

So for fun, I'm rewriting my answer a bit for you:

Paul's letter to Romans came at a time when there was a scism between the Jewish and the Gentile believers. You see, the Jews had been ordered out of Rome by the leader of the time. Then, when they were finally allowed back in, things had changed. The church which had always been under Jewish leadership was now being helmed by gentiles. So the Jewish believers began to assert their authority over the gentiles, by virtue of being "God's chosen people," and they emphasized the things that made them different from other nations: Celebrating certain holy days, holding strict dietary restrictions, and of course circumcision.

So Paul here is pointing out that becoming more ensconced in Jewish tradition is not the way to salvation. In fact the only thing that can save you is your faith. He also reiterates that this salvation is for everyone, the Jews and the gentiles. Note that he did not say the Jews and those people who become Jewish in order to follow Christ. Nope, Jesus died for everyone, as they were. It is not necessary to change who you are in order to be saved, you must only believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior. (The change happens after you take that step, believe me). But whether Jew or Gentile, Greek or Roman, slave or free, the message of Christ is for everyone. Yes, even you.

March 5, 2010


"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment...

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:21-22, 23-24)

We all know that Christians aren't perfect. Of course we aren't--we're all human! We are covered in the blood of the Lamb, which makes us a fit offering to God despite our iniquities, but we must always remember that we on earth are not perfect. We may not even be "mostly good." Essentially, we're a bunch of misfits and sinners whom God has called to His Kingdom anyway.
And because we're not perfect, we're going to hurt and take advantage of each other. It may not be deliberate, but it will happen. And we are going to be hurt and taken advantage of, sometimes by our closest friends or even our Christian leaders!
So what do we do about it? Do we allow ourselves to get angry? Do we allow ourselves to talk to other people about it? Do we allow ourselves to imagine what we would like to say to the other person, even if we know we never would? Do we crucify them in our hearts?
This passage above is a hard one. I mean really, Jesus is saying that if we harbor ill will or resentment against someone, if we think less of them as a person and hold onto anger, then we have actually committed the sin of murder! Suddenly that list of ten things you're never supposed to do is reduced by one. "Well shoot, murder was the one thing I figured I had a free pass on, since I never plan to actually kill anyone." (Well and if that gets ya, keep reading Matthew to see what Jesus says about adutery. Yikes!)
So what must we do about these situations? How do we become reconciled to our brother or sister? I believe that this is the most important step of all, one I'm honestly still figuring out. But in order to reconcile, you must come to the table with certain things clear in your mind: A) The actual problem that exists B) A thorough understanding of the other person's position (as much as possible without yammering to other people about your issue) C) An aknowledgement of what you have done to create or perpetuate this problem D) The truths from which you will not be swayed and E) The areas where you are willing to admit guilt/wrong or responsibility, even if they are not the biggest part of the issue.
Then you pray. You pray that God will open your heart to hear theirs through their words. You pray that God will give you clarity in thought and the ability to stand firm about that which is undeniable, and to yield when it serves the greater purpose of reconciliation. If you need to enlist the aid of a friend or mentor that is perfectly acceptible--perhaps you simply ask them to keep you in prayer while you deal with reconciling with someone, and perhaps you let them know the entire situation and also ask for their guidance. As long as this is a healthy Christian who will not spread rumors, this is perfectly acceptible. But it is most important to as God for His guidance.
And then? Then you talk to the other person. Face-to-face or on the phone, whatever you can do to at least hear each other's voice. And you do your best. And you make the goal to come out reconciled heart-to-heart, if not mind-to-mind. For you do not have to agree on everything for the conversation to be sucsessful. You just have to resolve your issues and understand that both you and the other person are ready and able to leave it behind, and move on towards a new day. And then, then you pray again, that God would seal it in your hearts.
At least, I sure hope this is the way to do it. :)

March 4, 2010

How Long?

How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13)

I love the psalms of David because they often echo the cries of my own heart. Last night I had the occasion to spend some time with women in a group to which I belong, and it was a lovely time, except for the fact that I could only afford one drink. I really just do not have the money until I get my taxes back to do anything. At all. And here I am listening to them talk about buying outfits for $300 and going to restaurants and being on the board of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and some of these people are still in their 20s. How on earth did I miss out on this? I left college with absolutely no debt whatsoever. And here I am scraping together the money to buy one $5 drink. I just wanted to weep.

Add that to the fact that I am so behind in my work at work that I actually cried at my boss yesterday. And she's so wrapped up in how she looks to her boss and the rest of the company that I don't think she really gets how much I actually do. Plus I am habitually hovering between 2-5 minutes late for work every day, which colors her perception of me too. Why am I always late? Partly because I just don't kick myself in the butt to show up. And partly because I've poured so much of myself into this job for the last 6 years that I've reached another plateau, where I need to get something back, darnit, and not just more projects to do and a boss who looks at the clock every time I breathe.

And when I went to the Minute Clinic to see if I had a sinus infection (which they couldn't even tell me for 4 more days) she said my blood pressure was so high she couldn't even suggest that I take over-the-counter congestion medication. What?? It's always been on the high side of normal, but how did this happen? Do you really seriously just fall completely to pieces the day you turn 30?

These and more are the thoughts that caused my heart to race last night, and then of course I worried because I have (apparently) high blood pressure. And very little money on my flex spending card for medication, which I'm currently using with my physical therapist for my back, whom I need to stop seeing soon if I'm going to have the money to get new contacts or go see the dentist.

So, how long, Lord? How long will this follow me and plague me in the night? How long will it steal my joy and my peace?

The really hard part is switching over to the last few sentences: but I will trust in you, Lord, for you are good to me. The voices of darkness have an answer to everything: I am fearfully and wonderfully made: yes, and see how much you messed it up. God has blessed me with finances when I need it: well then why do you always need him to bail you out? Why can't you get your act together? God has a plan for you: well good job because you're clearly getting in your own way--that's why you can't do anything right.

I need to find the way to ignore the thoughts in the dark places of my mind. To receive God's love for me and put my faith fully in him. But so far I've not been very successful. How long must this continue?

March 3, 2010

Conflict Management

God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)

And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3)

Do you ever live in the calm between the storms? Where you know that conflict exists, but you're going to do your best to resolve it in a Godly manner, so you are waiting for the face-to-face moment. So you're in that peaceful stage where you can either think about how much the other person has wronged you, how very right you are in all things, or perhaps you can focus on the words God gives us about loving one another.

As I've been studying the letters of Paul for class, we've talked about his letter to the Corinthians. There were divisions in the church of Corinth, and one man who, after the time of 1 Corinthians, made such a big deal about getting in Paul's face that he (Paul) chose not to return to Corinth on his way back from another land, as he had originally planned. Not that Paul was afraid of this man, or afraid of conflict, but he chose to save himself and the church a great deal of trouble by staying away.

But he had already given the church the tools they needed to deal with this man (who eventually saw the errors of his ways and repented). It is in 1 Corinthians that you see that beautiful treastise on love. For there are two parts to the reality of division between two people. First there is the division itself, and the fact that we must try to avoid it even happening. But then, if something does, what do you do next? You reach out to each other in love. You do not keep a record of right and wrong, but in humility accept that the other person might be absolutely correct and you might be completely wrong.

It is this love for the other person which will allow you to apologize even when it's not your fault but the other person will not. It is this love which will even allow you to bring correction to the other person, if you are in a position of authority over them. For you will not see them as a terrible person, but rather another member of the body who has somehow become misaligned, and needs to be brought back into place. But while you are doing that, you are also keeping yourself open to hearing what they have to say, and listening to the truth in their words. For you are not perfect, and in all things we are given opportunity to know ourselves better and walk in humility to allow ourselves to be told when we are perhaps a bit off the mark ourselves.

So in this calm between the storms, when the flare-up has already happened, and you have scheduled time to speak with the other person, spend this time now wisely. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and ask what about yourself could have lead to this conflict. Then with calmness and a prayerful attitude, determine where the other person may have gone off-track in their thinking or actions. And then, with love, erase the conflict in your own heart. Remove the need to be right, to tell them that they are wrong. But rather list what you love about them, so when you do meet, you are able to show them that you do not desire to push your own agenda, but rather God's.

And then (as in all things) pray to your heavenly father for guidance, for grace, for wisdom, for humilty, and for the strength of character that you will need to retain all of the previous gifts when you are standing face-to-face with the other person. And then, pray some more, because you can never do that enough, anyway. :)

March 2, 2010

Teach Me Your Ways

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)

One of the attributes of a good leader is someone who is "teachable" or "coachable." That means that they are open to learning not only a new way to do things, but learning when or how they have done somehting wrong, and with humility allowing themselves to be told how to do it going forward.

That's actually a pretty good definition of what it means (in part) to be a good Christian. We should always be seeking God's instruction for our lives, not only so that we would know what we should do, but also so we may hear what we are doing wrong, or where we are slightly misguided. Then, if we are humble in spirit, we will accept this instruction and change.

Of course, we have to let go of our control issues, of our "knowledge" that what we're doing is "right," and allow ourselves to be led by someone besides ourselves. But that second verse speaks to who will be doing the leading "God my Savior." If you have three choices in whom to follow (and you do) it is these: 1. Yourself 2. The enemy  or 3. God who do you think would be the best choice? Yeah, Him. So let Him teach you and lead you in all things, in all ways, every day. He's not just waiting for your next big catastrophe or big decision. He wants to teach you His ways right now, this very minute. Just try opening yourself up to His voice, and see what happens next.