Thursday, December 30, 2010

Faith in 2010

What a year it has been.  God is constantly instructing the Israelites to remember in the Old Testament, and in many ways I want to just move on to 2011.  The two biggest and best things from 2010 was my job change & my second trip to China.  I'm very blessed in my new position, and I'm extremely grateful to God for opening the door for me to work in this new place.  It was also a joy to visit friends serving in China.  The gracious people of China taught me alot of things like being hospitable to foreigners.  For the most part, though, this year has been a year of status quo.

Spiritually, I feel like this year has been a waste, but I know it hasn't been.  I know that even though it seemed very dry and barren much like the picture of part of China above, God is using it to continue to teach me.  It is in these times that I learn perseverance.  I choose to believe what I know to be true, whether I feel it or not.  This is really difficult to do, but that is faith.  "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1 (NASB)  God is so gracious and allows us to see many things that we do have faith in, but not always.  So I'm grateful for the year to build my faith, but . . .

I am very much looking forward to a new year to see what God has in store for this year. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

In Relationship

"You cannot produce trust just like you cannot 'do' humility.  It either is or is not.  Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved.  Because you do not know that I love you, you cannot trust me."  (line from the "Holy Spirit" in The Shack)

I find that I am always trying to be what God wants me to be . . . whatever that is.  I am trying to abide by the law and be holy.  I should act like this, and love like that, and go to this place, and do what I don't really want to do.  Honestly, selfishness is a lot more fun. 

I think I have it all backwards . . . not that I should go out and "live like hell", but I am a human being who doesn't "get" God.  I am so glad that I can't completely comprehend Him, bkz if I did, why would I want to worship or obey Him?  But the more I try to conjure up my holiness or devotion to the Lord, the more I fail miserably.  Have I become so foolish again, as the Galatians were?  Galatians 3:3: "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"  It all comes back to my self-sufficiency.  I can do it.  No actually, . . . I can't.  It starts here with humility and God-dependency not self-sufficiency.

I can't conjure up the fruit of the Spirit, they are characteristics or the results of being in the Spirit.  When I spend time with Him, I see the world more as He sees it.  Then I begin to see the fruit of the spirit in my life. I can't conjure up peace or love.  These only come as a result of abiding in the Lord.  It comes from developing intimacy with Him. 

So all of these things that I crave to have in my life come from relationship with Him.  How do I develop relationship with Him?  I have some pat answers I could give to myself, but obviously that would be depending on me again. 

So God, please teach me how to have intimacy with You.   Help me to run into Your arms like a child and trust You unconditionally . 

And friends, pray that God would teach us all how to have intimacy with Him. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Does your Church look like this Bar?

Cheers intro logo.jpg
So you know the theme song to Cheers?  It is unfortunate that this was the theme song to a show about a bar, but the interesting part is that the people at bars get community.  The church doesn't get community.  We should.  We have been commanded to live in community, but we don't do it well at all.  Greet one another.  Comfort one another. Forgive one another.  Build one another up.  Serve one another.  Encourage one another.  Meet with one another.  Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving one another.  Receive one another. Love one another.  Show hospitality to one another.  Bear one another's burdens.  Pray for one another. Care for one another.  Minister to one another.  And many more.

We do these things when they are convenient, but is there any place where you feel like you can be real with someone about your struggles and the dirtiness of your life?  I'm hospitable, when it suits me.  But God you want them to come to my house?  Their kids destroy the place.  You want me to greet her?  She is so rude to me.  You want me to meet with him?  He is so socially awkward. 

Below are the full lyrics to the song, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" by Gary Portnoy & Judy Hart Angelo.  Think about them.  Would you go to your church in these circumstances?  Is everyone glad you came?  I encourage you to be the initiator to making your church become more like this bar. 

Making your way in the world today

Takes everything you've got;

Taking a break from all your worries

Sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?

All those nights when you've got no lights,

The check is in the mail;

And your little angel

Hung the cat up by it's tail;

And your third fiance didn't show;

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,

And they're always glad you came;

You want to be where you can see,

Our troubles are all the same;

You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead;

The morning's looking bright;

And your shrink ran off to Europe,

And didn't even write;

And your husband wants to be a girl;

Be glad there's one place in the world

Where everybody knows your name,

And they're always glad you came;

You want to go where people know,

People are all the same;

You want to go where everybody knows your name.


Where everybody knows your name,

And they're always glad you came;

Where everybody knows your name,

And they're always glad you came...

Listen to the song online at this link:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why God? Why?

As I go through life and talk to people in the counseling office, I often encounter the word "Why?"  On a side note, I find it interesting that people who don't even believe in God will ask "Why does God allow this?" Anyway, why does God allow His people to suffer?  Why do things happen that make absolutely no sense to us? 

I don't have all the answers for sure!  If I did, then I would be God, and we would all be in trouble! :)  But I've learned some things along the way . . . even this morning as I was asking God why He allows some of the things that He allows in my life. 
  • First, and most importantly, we aren't God.  Therefore, we can't comprehend Him.  We can't always follow His line of thinking.  Romans 11:33-35 bring me great comfort here. 
  • Secondly, sometimes I think I can follow His way of thinking.  Maybe it is when I'm intimate enough with Him that I can see things as He does, but I think it is more that He allows me in on some things to keep me from whining :) 
  • Thirdly, it is about Him, not about me.  Everything is for His glory, and we should want our life to bring Him glory at all times.  (I Corinthians 10:31)  Do everything for His glory, even suffer.
  • Finally, since we can't comprehend Him, it pushes us to do what being a believer is at its core . . . Trust.  We chose to have faith in Him, and when we don't rest in His will, we aren't trusting Him at all.  Trust the Papa . . . He knows what is best.  He doesn't want to hurt us.  He wants what is best for us.  Small children look at parents as if they are being betrayed when parents allow doctors to inject the child with a vaccine.  It is a small amount of pain to ward off greater pain.  Going to college for 8 years isn't pleasant, but the reward that comes from endurance is worth it.  There are alot of different directions to go here, but we can't see the other side.  He can.  So to avoid anxiety & stress . . . learn to trust that He has your best interest in mind.  I didn't say He has your comfort in mind; I said He has your best in mind.  (Romans 8:28). 
I have so many things I could say here, bkz life can be really painful at times; but trusting Him is so much more relaxing, and it is what He asks for. 

I'll end with the lyrics from Bring the Rain by Mercy Me:

I can count a million times

People asking me how I

Can praise You with all that I've gone through

The question just amazes me

Can circumstances possibly

Change who I forever am in You

Maybe since my life was changed

Long before these rainy days

It's never really ever crossed my mind

To turn my back on you, oh Lord

My only shelter from the storm

But instead I draw closer through these times

So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace

Bring the chance to be free

Bring me anything that brings You glory

And I know there'll be days

When this life brings me pain

But if that's what it takes to praise You

Jesus, bring the rain

I am Yours regardless of

The dark clouds that may loom above

Because You are much greater than my pain

You who made a way for me

By suffering Your destiny

So tell me what's a little rain

So I pray

Holy, holy, holy

Is the Lord God Almighty

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

To Know the Power of His Resurrection

I often find myself impressed with myself.  Look at how well I behave.  Look at how "selfless" that action was.  I'm such a good person.  God must be glad to have me on His team!   I'm sure that God is just shaking His head in disappointment when I think these things. 

If anyone had the right to say that, it was Paul.  In Philippians 3:4-6, he talks about who he was, and it is an impressive resume in those days.  But in verse 7, he continues on:  "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, (I'll stop here--end of verse 9--momentarily, as I always feel like Paul spoke in run on sentences! :)). 

Paul was someone, as far as humans go, but even he said that he counts it all as loss for Christ's sake.  It is all worthless if you don't know Christ as Lord.  He wanted Christ so badly, that he would give up everything that made him who he was in order to be with Him.  Would you give up your car if it meant you would lose Christ?  Would you give up your job if it meant you would lose Christ?  Would you give up your family?  What is your most prized possession?  Would you give it up for Him?  This is a good rule of thumb to test where your heart is.  If it would be too much for you to give up your friends, children, job, car, life, etc for the sake of Christ, then you don't really want to know Him.  I had some friends that gave up their really good jobs and lives here in the US to go to China.  Even believers thought they were crazy bkz he was an attorney!  It didn't make sense . . . but He was calling them to go, and they don't regret it at all. 

Paul continues in verses 10-11 (NASB):  "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."  He would give it all up so he could know Christ and the power of His resurrection and even the fellowship of His sufferings.  He gave it all up, knowing that it wasn't going to be easy, but it was worth it all. 

I remember several years ago when this became real to me that I needed to know Him & the Power of His Resurrection.  Why was that so important?  The answer revolutionized my life.  I need to get back to that place.  Lord, please take me back to that place.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


On Saturday evening, our normally very hot tap water got even hotter.  It was nearly boiling coming out of the tap.  I didn't think much about it until the next morning, when I was almost done my shower and realized the water wasn't very hot.  My poor husband had even less hot water.  By the time he was done his shower, there was no hot water.  Later that afternoon, there was still no hot water.  So Miles went downstairs and did a few things like flipped the breaker and reset the water heater, but to no avail.  We had no hot water. 

Miles was going to be gone all day the next day, and he wouldn't have an opportunity to look at the water heater until Tuesday.  I was frustrated, but knew that I had other options for the morning. It was so inconvenient to go to the gym before work though!  I prayed, "God, would you please fix our water heater?  We don't have the time or the money to deal with it this week." (not that there is ever a week that we have time or money to deal with it :)).

Monday morning we had no hot water, so I went to work out and get a hot shower at the gym.  I was grateful for that option.  I was reminded that every time something goes wrong with our house and I'm inconvenienced, I remember my friends who are serving overseas and don't have regular water or electricity.  I prayed for them a few times throughout the day.  I went to Target where the cashier politely responded to my "how was your day?" with the same question.  Well honestly the entire day was a bit ridiculous, but I just said, "Fine, except we don't have any hot water at our house."  But being reminded of my friends who live in a country that has more water per capita than anywhere else in the world, but they don't have the infrastructure to support it (meaning they often don't have water at all), I added, "But at least I have running water."  The cashier responded, "That is true.  What a good way to look at it."

So I went home trying to remember that I need to be more grateful then I am.  I look at our kitchen counters covered with dishes bkz we can't wash them, and I think, "What would Trichelle (one of our overseas friends) do?"  Well, she'd boil water to wash them in.  So I put the teapot on the stove.  I was rearranging the dishes, so I could create the most efficient environment for washing the dishes.  I got something on my finger, so I turned on the tap to wash it off out of habit.  THE WATER WAS HOT!!!  God fixed our water heater!  Thanks God!

As I reflected back on the previous day or so, I was reminded how I take things for granted, and how much less stressed I was when I just accepted my situation and did the best I could with it.  God doesn't always work that way, but I'm so grateful that He did.  He is the Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17).

Friday, August 13, 2010


I'm a security addict. I was raised that way. "Always have a back up plan." The problem with this philosophy, is that you can't control much. The more that you try to control, the more stressed out you become because things happen that no one can do anything about.

This month I've been rereading Who I am in Christ by Neil Anderson; probably my favorite book next to Scripture. If you haven't read it, you really need to. Actually, it comes from Victory Over the Darkness also by Neil Anderson, so you should read that first to get the full picture. Today I read about "I Am Secure." This chapter reminded me how much I try unsuccessfully to make my life secure. I need a job that pays more. Maybe I should sell this, and sell that, and purchase this or that. Maybe I should put my money here or there, or move here or there. It is quite stressful, especially when you can't get it to work like you think it should. And trust me . . . when God wants to remind you that He is in control not you, none of those things will work out.

Today, I'm going to move into my new office. I'm no longer a counselor by profession, and I'm quite excited about that. I will still be in the field of psychology though . . . a psychology teacher. I'm very excited to empty our home office of all of my work office stuff so I can clean both places! :) This transition keeps running through my mind as I'm contemplating my security. It is a tenured position if I choose to go that route. It is a pretty secure position as long as I don't do anything that breaks any serious rules in the next few years. How important is tenure though? Tenure is great, but I shouldn't put alot of stock into it bkz my security can't lay in my job. God is my security. I need to remember this always.

I hope that I can remember that for today, that will be the first victory. I have some short term memory problems when it comes to truth bkz Satan is always coming in distracting me from the truth. So today is the goal . . . God is my security, not my job, my husband, my health, my education . . . just God.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Childlike Faith pt. 2

Above is my oldest sister and 2 her granddaughters. The girls were pretty excited about this gift of a marble roller. They played with it for a long time. They never gave a gift to anyone else. They never questioned whether they were worthy of the gift. They just excitedly accepted the gift & lived in the happiness that that gift offered.

Children have always been dependent, so they just receive without question. Jesus even accepted gifts without question. As an infant, He was given gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As an adult, He was anointed by an extremely expensive perfume from a lady demonstrating how much she loved Him. His disciples spent three years of their life following closely after Him. Mary sat at Jesus feet and adored Him. He just accepted these gifts of love without question.

How well do you accept gifts? Do you tell people that you don't want their charity? Do you tell people that you can buy it yourself? Do you tell God that you are too guilty to accept His grace? You aren't too guilty. His grace is big enough.

Childlike Faith pt. 3

Here is a picture of my husband with our 4 year old grand niece. She completely trusts Miles not to drop her. This is the kind of trust we need to have.

Children by nature trust. Unfortunately, we have to teach them not to trust some people, and they learn not to trust bkz they get hurt along the way. But I love to watch most young children trust.

Jesus trusted His Father so much, that He laid His life in His hands. "Abba, Father," He said. "everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will." Mark 14:36 (NIV)

Our doubts stand in the way of us having an intimate relationship with our Father. We question why He allows things to happen or why He doesn't answer our prayers like we believe that they should be answered. Who are we to question His plan? We need to trust Him . . . intimately & completely. Sure we are going to have questions bkz we aren't God. We aren't going to be able to comprehend why He allows certain things or whatever we don't understand. If we completely understood God, then He would cease to be God.

We are called to trust Him or to believe in Him. "...Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved..." Acts 16:31 NASB. This isn't intellectual assent, but a trust. Faith is active. This means trusting Him to do and be what He says He will do and be. Living life in the freedom that is ours.

It isn't an unhealthy dependence but a childlike trust in Someone Who is completely deserving of our trust. Will you trust Him?

Childlike Faith pt. 1

I'm still reading Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancey, and I still love what I'm learning. He relates part of a message by Frederick Buechner that I want to use for 3 posts to help grasp it all well. This is the first post. To the right, you see a classroom of Chinese children taking in every word that their teacher is saying. They believe that what she is saying is true.

And He said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change & become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3 NIV

What exactly is He saying here? Why would I want to be like a child? We tell adults not to act like children, and yet He tells us to become like children. Are we wrong? Buechner differentiates between childish and childlike. Here are 3 childlike (not childish) traits that we need to have.

Children have faith. When we exercise radical faith, some people might tell us, "You aren't being logical." Or "Think about what you are doing! It doesn't make sense!" We don't say that to children, we just write it off as them being kids. They don't know any better. But we need to adopt some their faith that is grounded in the Word.

The centurion approached Jesus about healing his servant. The paralytic's friends lowered him through a rooftop. Peter stepped out onto the water. Disciples recognized Jesus who was standing among them to be the same Jesus that died on the cross a few days earlier. Most adults would never do these things. "He is too ill, besides Jesus doesn't have time to come heal your servant." "Are you crazy? Lower me through a roof?!?!" "You can't walk on water!" "I saw Him die with my own eyes! It can't be Jesus!"

These are some instances that Jesus commends their faith. These are the kinds of things that children wouldn't think twice about doing. I hold out little hope for change in some things. I settle for what is instead of hope in what He could do. I don't believe God will heal me, but only make me stronger through the struggle. (Though this last one could be true, it isn't necessarily the truth for all situations.)

We need to have faith that defies reason. I have a friend that defies reason with their faith. I sometimes wonder about them, and inwardly laugh at the ridiculousness of their claims. But after seeing what I've seen through their faith, I don't laugh very much anymore. I catch myself and remember, "Well . . . maybe." But I need to take it further, and pray confidently and in faith, trusting Him to carry out His will. Maybe my faith will change something . . . even me!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Forced to Meditate

I am so busy . . . doing nothing. I work a job to pay for my stuff which truly has no value. I have a great job that gives me summers off, and I waste those summers. This summer, we've been traveling quite a bit for Miles' work which means it isn't necessarily fun bkz his schedule is fairly regulated, though I enjoy traveling a great deal with my husband. This hotel isn't much to look at from the outside, but it is completely renovated inside, and actually really nice. So today as I sit in a hotel room in OK waiting for the pool to open and my husband to come back for lunch, I have a lot of time to think.
So it is Central Time Zone, so I'm awake way earlier than I normally am with nothing to do. So I made my way over to a walking track for about an hour, but I still have an hour until the pool opens. What should I do with my time? I could watch tv, Heaven knows there are enough channels to find something to watch even if it is Day 58 (or whatever day it is) of the oil spill. What a waste of time . . .

I had my "routine" quiet time earlier this morning, but I decided to read for a little longer. I know that meditation is not my forte, so God is giving me lots of down time to work on it. 11 hours in the car yesterday, and hours upon hours for the next few days. I might as well try to find a good way to use my down time. I like that God is forcing me to learn to meditate bkz this morning I read a very familiar verse that showed me the benefits of meditating on Him: He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. Ps. 1:3

Meditation is worth working on. Teach me Lord!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

King of Kings & Lord of Lords

"...a friend in Japan wrote that he has understood the proper spirit of prayer more by listening to the Japanese Christians than from the teaching American missionaries. 'We know how to come to God as humble servants with boldness,' he says. 'You don't have to tell Japanese people about hierarcy. When they learn that God is the Lord they immediately know all the implications of that. They know who's boss and that is never questioned. When they pray they use language that combines the highest form of speech and the most intimate phrases of love and devotion. When they ask for something they ask with true humility, knowing they have no right to what they're asking except that God gives them the very right to ask and promises to answer.'" (p. 130, Reaching for the Invisible God, Yancey)

This paragraph really grabbed my attention. It is interesting how living in a republic (non-pure democracy) we miss out on what the Japanese (and many other cultures) understand automatically about God. Our culture tells us that we can say whatever we want and if we don't like what the president says than we can be disrespectful (if we so choose). Try that in a monarchy or other hierarchical society. It won't work out very well. We are taught to be independent and think for ourselves. I'm not saying that all of these things are horrible, but it doesn't help us understand God any better.

God is the King of Kings & Lord of Lords. He is the ultimate authority. You don't question the authority figure. You aren't disrespectful to Him. I like the quote about being humble servants with boldness. It made me think of Esther, and how she knew that the Xerxes was the King as well as her husband. He could kill her if she went before him without his permission. I know that God could kill me if He wanted, but I know I can go boldly before Him because He loves me. Here is the key difference. Earthly kings don't love their subjects like God does. We have direct access to a God & King Who loves us deeply.

It shines a whole new light on Who He is . . .

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Take the Time

I've been reading a fantastic book by Philip Yancey, though I like most of his books. It is entitled Reaching for the Invisible God: What can we expect to find? I've been constantly challenged in my relationship with God from this book as I continue to attempt to draw closer to God. I will just stick with what I learned today for now though.

"Monastics have a practice they call statio that means, simply, stopping one thing before beginning another. . . After reading from a book, pause and think back through what you learned and how you were moved. After watching a television show, pause and ask what it contributed to your life. Before reading the Bible, pause and ask for a spirit of attention. Do this often enough and even mechanical acts become conscious, mindful. I find that if I take time to pray for the recipient before beginning to compose a letter or before making a phone call, it makes the tasks less of a chore and more of an opporutnity in which to receive or express God's grace." (p. 168)

This is how I, and most Americans, DON'T live their lives. We rush around from one thing to another. I find myself very busy this summer, and I have next to nothing to do. I am rarely just still, but to stop and think about everything that I'm about to do or have just done? As a counselor by profession, I feel like I probably think about things more than the average person, but I don't do it nearly enough. I know that when I stop and think about things instead of rushing around, I learn and grow.

Scripture talks about meditating on His Word alot (e.g. Ps. 1: 2), and I don't take the time to do that often enough. I get the task done of reading His Word, but do I meditate on it? Do I take the time to allow the Word to sink in and change me? He promises that His word will change me if I meditate on it (Romans 12:2).

So I'm challenged to not take any more mental breaks, and to be intentionally focused on the Lord and every opportunity that He puts in my life. It will be slow at first, but I've done it before. It is possible. One step at a time . . .

Monday, May 31, 2010

Victim No More

******My thoughts are a bit scattered this morning, and for that I apologize. I hope the heart of the message came through though. ******
As the month of May and my position as a counselor come to an end, I've been thinking about my life. I've been trying to evaluate what has happened to me over the last year or so. My relationship with God has been mediocre at best. Why? As I was thinking through all of that, I realized that I'm asking the wrong question. The question isn't what has happened to me, but what have I chosen to do. It seems that I've played the role of victim, something which I'm constantly encouraging the people that I counsel not to do. It wasn't until this morning that I actually realized that that is what is happening. I've taken a helpless, apathetic perspective on life & God waiting for things to change without taking any serious steps forward to make that change.

I was reading through James this morning, and it says in James 2:21-22, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;" Abraham was acting on his faith, and his faith was perfected. I need to be acting on my faith, instead of sitting on my rear end waiting for things to come to me.

I was also reading a blog by a student in India. She talked about being in India and experiencing it, but realizing that she is in India to be a part of what God is doing there. I am in America taking it all in, but not being a part of what God is doing here. I need to get off my rump & start acting on my faith.

God has been reminding me that He loves me, and that I love Him & others in direct correlation with how much I understand that. I've obviously lost sight of that some. Whether I feel it or not, I know that God loves me, and I need to live in faith by acting on the fact that He loves me . . . so I need to love others and go to them. I can't have the victim mentality and wait for everyone to come to me.

God, help me to act on Your love for me, by loving others & having my eyes open to the work that you are doing around me. Help me to jump in & not wait around for someone else to do it or wait for when I feel like it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spending Time with God

I've gotten too regimented in my time with God, and it is killing my relationship with Him. The last 2 posts that I made were not made from reading Scripture but from spending time in conversation with God. Now what God showed me during that time matched up with Scripture, but I didn't get it by reading. I'm not saying we shouldn't read Scripture . . . so please don't misunderstand me. But my soul longs for intimacy with my Father, and it doesn't come from just reading Scripture mechanically. We must spend time with Him.

I just read an article by Gary Moon entitled "Getting Scripture All the Way Through Me." He talked about a man in his family that read the entire Bible literally a couple hundred times, and yet he was the meanest, angriest, and most hateful person that he knew. He was reading too much & too fast to allow an intimate relationship with the Author. So spend time meditating, praying, seeing God in everything from coffee to porches to trees to golf. He is constantly wanting to show us Himself. Look for Him!

Lord, I long hard after you; please fill my soul.

Friday, May 14, 2010

More Thoughts on Imago Dei

So I walked the Greenway again the other day, and continued to pray for people, and God continued to show me more about how His image is in each person. I watched people enjoy talking, laughing, walking, and just being together. Some may be believers, others are not. As a believer, I wonder, how do unbelievers find some level of joy without Him? Why do we all seek to be in relationship with others? Why do we want to be married or have deep friendships? Bkz being in relationship with another person who is created in His image (whether believers or not), is giving us a taste of being in relationship with Him. We find some fulfillment with these relationships bkz we are in relationship with someone who was created in His image. But we, being created in His image, aren't Him; so we find the relationships only partly fulfilling.

The only fulfilling relationship is with the Father. He will complete us totally, and do it perfectly! So seek hard to develop your relationship with Him, and be careful to treat those created in His image with love & respect.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Imago Dei

Last evening, I was walking the Greenway in Cleveland, TN. I've taken up walking instead of running, bkz I've found that it is actually more stress relieving than running. It just takes longer. So in order to make the time faster, I decided to pray. I get very easily distracted when I pray, so God told me to pray for every person that I passed. If you've ever been on the Greenway in the evenings when it is beautiful out, you'll know this can be a challenge.

I passed some young teenage girls and prayed for them to know that they are loved & valuable to God. I passed an older couple, and prayed that they would love their families well & be encouraged by those around them. I passed an older woman, and I prayed that she wouldn't feel alone. I passed these 2 young boys that were trying to get my attention, and I prayed that God would put good mentors in their lives to give them good attention. I prayed for young moms that were screaming at their kids about how they are such "brats," and I prayed that God would give the moms patience, love, and encouragement for their kids. That their significant others would love them well, and encourage them. That the kids would know that they are valuable & loved by God. I prayed that all of them would come to know God if they didn't already. I passed a middle aged woman with a mentally challenged young man, and I prayed for patience with him & comprehension of God for him. Whatever God laid on my heart, I prayed.

I found that as I prayed I began to see people differently. I didn't get annoyed with the young boys acting rudely trying to get my attention. I didn't get angry with the moms screaming at their kids. I began to pity them. A homeless man walked by me, and God said, "Whether he knows me or not, he is created in My image." It is amazing how that changes things. I got in my car, and got frustrated with the driver in front of me. Instantly the Lord reminded me that they were created in His image. I have no idea what is going on in their life. Don't judge them.

So this morning, I was reading James 3 where it talks about controlling the tongue. I found verse 9 really fascinating in light of yesterday's experience: "With it we bless our Lord & Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God." I went from blessing people for an hour on the Greenway to cursing them in my car. OUCH!

So it is my goal today, to bless the people that I come in conact with . . . at Walmart, in the car, on the Greenway, at work . . . bless and don't curse. They were all created in the image of God!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Twisted Truth

It has been a rough several months, and I think I've finally come to the bottom of my funk. I've discovered a new lie in my life, that I'd not noticed before. About 4 years ago, I was on fire for God. I was always content, always happy, always speaking about Him, and things changed. I still stuck to the truth, but my joy was gone. I think it started about 2 years ago when I read a good book that I took to the extreme: Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb. It is a great book with great points, but when taken to the extreme it makes God a kill-joy. I then kept running across the quote: God is more interested in our character than our comfort. Again, this is true, but when not balanced with other things like James 1:17 "Every good thing given & every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." or "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4).

There seem to be a few things that Scripture teaches that we aren't smart enough to remember to balance. Predestination vs. Free will; Eternal security vs. Blasphemy; etc. We can't wrap our brains around them here, bkz we are finite, but Scripture addresses both sides of these issues. The same is true with what I have been believing . . . a truth twisted. God is more concerned with His glory & our character than our comfort or happiness, but He is still our Father. He still loves us. He still rejoices over you (Zeph.3:17).

So as I've been in my funk for the last several months, I've discovered that somewhere along the line, I started believing that bkz I want something, the Lord isn't going to give it to me. This is a complete contradiction to the 2 verses in the first paragraph (and there are more that teach this!). We have to understand that we'll never understand God this side of heaven, but we have Scripture & prayer that help us to try to make sense of it all.

I'm so glad that I serve a God that loves me, likes me, delights in me, and His joy is my strength!

Friday, April 23, 2010

David, a Man after God's Own Heart

You know, I often am encouraged by David. He often messed up . . . royally. Lust, adultery, murder, deceit, concubines, etc. etc. But I've been reading through I & II Samuel recently, and I'm reminded that David was a pretty amazing guy in spite of his flaws. He refused to lay a hand on the Lord's anointed king even though that king was pursuing David's life. Before David took as much as a step, he would ask the Lord for direction. When the Lord answered him, he would ask him another question to be sure that he knew exactly what the Lord wanted him to do. I have enough trouble trying to remember to ask the Lord at all, but David made it is his priority, as we should.

The passage that most stood out to me other than David asking God for direction multiple times was after Bathsheba had the baby. David knew that his judgement was that the baby was going to die. He was on his face before God for 7 days while the baby was sick. He begged God for mercy on the child. After 7 days, the baby died, and David's servants were afraid to tell him bkz he was so upset about the baby being sick. When David found out, he got up, cleaned himself up, ate, went to the house of the Lord, and worshipped. He knew that this is what God told him would happen. He didn't whine, complain, or scream at God . . . he went & worshipped Him acknowleding God's sovereignty & power. (2 Samuel 12:15-23)

He was in significant pain, and he worshipped the Lord. When I'm in significant pain, the last thing I want to do is worship the Lord, but we should. James encourages this in chapter 1 as well. Pain, struggle, and trials all make us more like God. They teach us perseverence & endurance. When we can worship Him in the midst of difficulty & find our joy in Him, the contenment in His strength comes quickly. The goal of our lives should bring Him glory, and what better way to bring Him glory than by praising Him in the midst of pain. There isn't an unbeliever in the world that would get that . . . nor would alot of "believers."

I hope that I can learn to do this better each day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
The body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine--
And bathed in its own blood--
While the firm mark of wrath divine,
His sould in anguish stood.
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut His glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creatures sin.
Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.
But drops of grief can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away
'Tis all that I can do.
At the Cross by Isaac Watts
It is Easter week . . . the holiest celebration in our calendar, and it is overrun by eggs, bunnies, & Reese's. I have thought about everything but my Sovereign Lord's death. Without His death, I'm all the lies that I fight daily to not believe. I am worthless, without value, unloved, sinful, lonely, etc, etc. But bkz of the pain that He chose to go through, all of these lies are just that . . . Lies from the pit of hell.
I've borrowed The Passion of the Christ from a friend to watch this week. It is disturbing, and I didn't buy it bkz I don't ever want to become complacent towards the movie. I remember watching it in the theater several years ago. I remember the emotional reaction that I had towards it as well as the emotional reactions of complete strangers in that theater. I remember a grown man sobbing as he watched the movie. I remember watching it with my roommate. Tears streamed down our faces, and yet we were silent in our own processing. We didn't speak for nearly an hour later.
I've become complacent to the gospel message, and I hate my complacency. It is the turning point, not only in history, but also in my own life. I love the line in this hymn above that talks about the "debt of love I owe." I remember when I asked the Lord how to love Him, He reminded me of what He did for me. I was so stuck in my pride, that I didn't even see my sin. So I'm praying that the Lord will again show me how to love Him, so that I can gratefully sing the refrain to Watt's hymn:
At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight & now I am happy all the day!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Michael W. Smith Says It Best

Jesus I've forgotten the words that You have spoken
Promises burned within my heart have now grown dim
With a doubting heart I follow earthly wisdom
Forgive me for my unbelief, renew the fire again
I have built an altar where I worship things of men
I have taken journeys that have drawn me far from You
Now I am returning to Your mercies ever flowing
Pardon my transgressions, help me love You again
I have longed to know You & Your tender mercies
Like a river of forgiveness, ever flowing without end
I bow my heart before You in the goodness of Your presence
Your grace forever shining like a beacon in the night
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy on me
Michael W. Smith

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Love of God

This week, a friend & I have challenged each other to spend time at the Lord's feet, and meditating on one passage of Scripture unless the Lord leads us elsewhere. So Romans 8:31-39 is the passage:

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

There are a thousand things that I could point out in this passage, but I'll just share 2 thoughts. My first thought is that God is the One who justifies us; no one else. So if God justifies us, how could anyone else condemn us (including ourselves)?

My second thought is just bkz I'm experiencing some tribulation, does that mean God doesn't love me? Just bkz I'm experiencing some distress, does that mean God has stopped loving me? Just bkz I don't have any food, does that mean the Lord has ceased to love me? ABSOLUTELY NOT! And yet, I go there often. Why God are you allowing this in my life? It is so hard. Don't you care about me anymore? Do you still love me?

Yes, absolutely, more than I could ever know. I love the verses in Ephesians 3 (14-21) that Paul prays for the Ephesians, specifically the bolded portion in vs. 19.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen

He prays that they would know (experientially) the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (it is intellectually incomprehensible!). I pray this for myself, and for other people as well. Oh that we would really come to experience His love which is unable to be known intellectually! Only He can do that . . . I can do nothing, except come before Him on my face with gratefulness and a willingness to live in light of that love.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pursuit of Intimacy with the Lord

I've been struggling recently with intimacy with the Lord, hence why my blogs are fewer & farther between for the last month or so. I can't tell the future, but I have this feeling that the next few blogs are going to be my journey of pursuing intimacy with the Lord again.

Emmanuel . . . God with us. He is here with me, but I have made my relationship with the Lord more intellectual again. I think some of it is a protection against my own struggles. Being a counselor can sometimes be difficult when you are struggling personally. I tend to fight off the same emotions that I encourage the people I talk to to engage with, afraid that I won't be able to think clearly enough to help them. This isn't a terrible thing, as long as I engage those emotions later, but I get used to holding them down . . . and it becomes my practice. Before I know it, everything is intellectual again.

It is easier & less draining to not engage my suffering. I often don't allow the Lord to enter into my suffering with me. Instead, I just tell myself the truth. Telling myself the truth is critical, but I can't ignore the pain in the process.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4. If I don't mourn, then I can't be comforted by the Great Comforter, Emmanuel. So today, I'm going to try to allow the Lord to enter into my pain with me, bkz then I will be comforted with His great Love.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Gal. 6:22-23 (NASB)

We all know the fruit of the Spirit, but Iwhen was the last time you felt at peace? joy? love? kindness? Believers should be exuding love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control.

On Sunday, I was at a bookstore around 2pm, and the cashier was trying to create some conversation by asking if we knew if the church crowd was out yet. She went on to complain about the church crowd. She said, "I've never met so many pastors and Christians that are so miserable & angry as those coming out of church on Sunday afternoons." I've heard this similar comment out of most restaurant servers. Christians can be the worst tippers, but we should be the best tippers.

Am I reflecting Christ by living a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self-control? I can't force myself to be these things without abiding in the Spirit. These characteristics are the fruit (or result) of abiding in the Spirit. So spend some good time with Him today, so that you can taste like the Spirit to those you come in contact with as well as having those things in your own life?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Do You Serve Wealth?

Luke 16:13 (NASB) No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other You cannot serve God and wealth.

Yes, I serve wealth. I don't have any, but we can serve it just as much not having much of it as having lots of it. Many decisions I make are based on the financial situation. The following thoughts are common for me . . .

"I don't have enough money for my bills, can I really spare a couple of dollars for this person who doesn't have food?" "I could be making money doing things instead of resting even though I've worked 50 hours this week." "I don't have time to be in the Word this morning, bkz I have to get to work."

Who does the providing? Me or God? In case you missed those multiple passages of Scripture, God is the one who provides, not me. But again . . . I make it about me. If I don't do it, it won't get done. The pride surfaces in yet another unique way.

Look at the 3 quotations above. In the first one, it is more important for me to take care of me instead of taking care of the need that God has presented to me to love someone else. Interestingly enough, I have plenty of food, I could even afford to go without some food, but my bills are more important than this person's life. In the second one, it is about not taking care of my body and insisting that I am the one who should be making the money instead of God. In the third one, I'm prioritizing making money, or my priorities, over God and my relationship with Him.

He tells us that the greatest commandments are to love Him with all of our being & love our neighbor as ourselves. I see the exact opposite in those quotes.

So who are you really serving? God or money (or something else).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Forgiveness of the Father

As I was reading the story of the Lost Son this morning in Luke 15, I was confronted again with how forgiving the father is. My initial judgmental thought was "this kid went out and squandered his inheritance, and the father actually ran out to meet him & hugged him." As soon as the father saw that the son was repentant, he ran to meet his son.

God reminded me that that is how much He loves and forgives me. Even though I keep falling back into my sin, He still comes running to take me back when I repent of that sin.

The key is my repentant spirit. Am I really sorry that I've sinned? I get comfort from my sin. No . . . comfort comes from God. Does my sin really disgust me as much as it disgusts God? Remember what He did for you, and it will help you be disgusted that your sin is the reason He died such a terrible death.

Preach the gospel to yourself today, and remember the sin, the payment, the forgiveness, the positional holiness.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Counting the Cost

This morning I was reading Luke 14. There are a number of familiar verses in this chapter to me, but I was intrigued about the placement of these particular verses:

"For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'"(v.28-31)

I thought this was a good passage on being a good planner. Put some thought into things before you do them. And yes, we should put some thought into things, but this is in the context of the cost of discipleship. True discipleship is costly! Look at the previous verses:

"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." v.26-27. V. 33 continues, "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions."

Jesus is telling us that we need to really think through if we are willing to pay the cost for being His disciple. Being His disciple isn't something you just do on the side or when you feel like it. It requires your life. You no longer matter in the grand scheme of things. Yes, He loves you, and you belong to Him. He has given you value, forgiveness, etc, but it is all about Him . . . not me. It is about Him who grants me those things, not about the receiver of those gifts.

Forgive me John MacArthur for this very loose quote, and I'm not even certain of the source, but I believe it is in The Gospel According to Jesus. He says something to the effect of: "We don't explain the gospel well enough to give people a chance to not choose it." We water down the gospel so much that people say, "Yes, I want to go to Heaven or have my sins forgiven or have joy, etc.", but they don't see that we need to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

Have you counted the cost, or are you trying to be a disciple half time (which isn't a disciple at all)?