Wednesday, December 23, 2009
15.And it came to pass , as the angels were gone away from them into heaven , the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass , which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16.And they came with haste , and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17.And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18.And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19.But Mary kept all these things , and pondered them in her heart. 20.And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." - Luke 2:1-20
Sometimes it's best to just let God's Word tell The Story.... :)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I have finally returned to the blogging world after a three week hiatus, due to a computer issue! And I have to say, thank you, friends for hanging with me and being patient. Sharing a PC while trying to write a series of blog posts just doesn't work, if both people are active PC users. While I love my husband beyond life itself and I know he loves me, I am not sure he wasn't thrilled to finally have his computer for himself again as of last night. He enjoys online gaming and I think the idea of sharing his computer for three weeks was a bit annoying and put a kink in his system. I am happy to report that I now have a new computer, thanks to Wayne, computer guru extraordinaire, and most everything I had before on the old one has been returned to its proper place on the new one. I am still hunting for a couple of things, but I am sure that I will find them soon.
So, where were we??? Let's review a little bit. The first week, we talked about authenticity - being real before God and before others. The second week, we discussed our conversations with God and learning to pray as Jesus prayed. The third week, we tackled two things - loving others and extending God's grace because He first loved us and, in part two loving God with an exclusive love above all others.
We're ready now to tackle Absolute Abandonment. Now, I have to tell you that in my days of being a lost church member, I really was a bit confused with some of the church language. Such was the case with the phrase, "Absolute Abandonment." I honestly thought that it meant to be highly involved in activities of service within the church body. So much of the time, I was feeling like I was living at the church! I was constantly involved in some kind of ministry activity or program. I was exhausted and I was still missing the peace that only Christ can give. In some ways, I honestly believe that I was trying to find a way to make God notice me... or to love me more. But somehow, I knew I could never measure up! I always felt as if I knew that I would work myself to death in some church activity only to get to the judgement seat of Christ, only to hear the words, "Depart from me, I never knew you!"
I think as we take a look at the definitions of the term, "Wreckless Abandonment", in the context of the life of a Christ follower, we'll find that its meaning is really very different.
Let's pick it apart just a little bit, shall we???
The term abandonment is actually a legal term. In its deepest roots and earliest meanings, it means to leave the care of something that you own completely to the care of someone else, to the point of leaving behind your ownership. In the case of the life of a Christ-follower, this is about extinguishing your rights to yourself and your life and giving God ownership of yourself and your life. In other words, your life when fully abandoned to the Lord Jesus becomes entirely His to do with as ONLY He wishes. He now has full ownership of your life and has the right to decide how you will now live. You no longer have rights over your life. They belong completely to Him.
Every part of our lives:
Abandonment means that you and I have now given up every part of our lives, including the rights to ourselves. All of our life now belongs to Jesus.... and we really don't have a say in what He desires to do with us. To take back any part of those rights for ourselves would be to live in disobedience to Him.
Sounds awfully legalistic, doesn't it??? To require that every part of our lives must be given to the Master???? Ah, but here's the kicker... Abandonment is just that if it is not first rooted in the love relationship between the Heavenly Father and the child of God.
I have several friends who have adopted children into their families. In every case, these moms have known that this child that they now call their own was meant to be theirs from the very beginning of their search. God made it clear that each one of those children were designed to be in their family as a part of that child's forever family. And as such, the forever family will spare no expense in getting that child into his new forever family. When the child finally becomes legally a part of that family, that particular day is then celebrated as a "Gotcha Day." The former foster care program and/or orphanage and/or guardianship/parental rights have been abandoned, and this child is now and forever more belonging to the new family, where he/she will be raised in a loving home.
Some dear friends just brought home a seven year old little girl from China. This little one has already discovered the love and joy of her new family. But she hasn't been without tears for the old friends... or without need for help in overcoming language barriers and so forth. She is quickly assimilating into her new family because of the love and support of her new family and friends. One of the things her mom told me was that she was eating heavily when they first got her, and now, just a little over two weeks later, she has learned that she will be well-fed, and feels comfortable leaving some food on her plate. She doesn't have to worry that she won't be fed enough. Her parents have fed her well. There is a comfort in knowing that she doesn't have to concern herself with that anymore.
Child of God, Your Daddy gave everything for you, so that you might be adopted into His family! As an adoptive family would go to great expense to bring home a child, a Holy God Who loved you from the beginning of time, spared no expense: Jesus paid the Ultimate price for you! When you made the decision to follow Jesus, that became your "Gotcha Day." It was the day when you became a part of God's family.... His heir... and all of the rights of being a child of God are now bestowed upon you.... There is a love relationship and a bond there that cannot be broken. And in that love relationship, you learn to abandon your old self and old ways to the ways of your new family... The family of God.
As you are wrecklessly abandoned to Him, you will find that He will care for you... tenderly, and in love, as only a Daddy can do. He will laugh with you as there is a need to laugh. He will cry with you when you are crying bitter tears. He will comfort you when you are sad, or when someone has hurt you. He will provide for you, according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus. You will never have to beg again. He will teach you His ways, and discipline you in love when you are wrong. We don't have to return to our ways of stubborness and self-serving lives.... We have new rights... a new life... and a life that can be filled with love and joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, patience, and self-control (Gal. 5:22.)
He's your Heavenly Daddy. And He is crazy in love with you, precious child. With every gaze into your eyes, His desire is to see a little more of Himself in you. Do you bear a family resemblance?
Hey, got the new computer up and running now. Look for a new blog post before week's end. We'll be starting week 4: Absolute Abandonment. This is some cool stuff. : )
Thanks for being patient!
See you soon!
Friday, December 4, 2009
I should have the computer back in a couple of days.
In the meantime, here's a quick ministry update:
- The Mourning into Dancing facebook group now has twenty members. The girls are now starting to encourage and pray for one another. I am hoping to eventually start a prayer partner ministry among them. We'll see how that pans out. It will all depend on the girls' willingness to pair up.
- Many of our young widows are experiencing their first holidays this season without their mates. For some of them, the first anniversaries of their husband's death falls around Christmas week. Please keep these ladies in prayer. They range in having been widowed for years to having lost their husband just a couple of months ago. Some have deep relationships with God, others are still growing in their faith.
- We've had 1700 hits on the blog akready. Given that it is really only advertised through my facebook account, and word of mouth, I have to say that's pretty cool! Clearly, God is using this avenue in some terrific ways. I am just thrilled/surprised that people actually want to read my stuff!
- The series on the Heart of the Worshipper has gone well. I have had the opportunity to speak with several folks about this particular series and God is moving. Please continue to pray for this as God continues to speak to many readers and is using it to impact His kingdom! It has been hard to be so transparent with my own experiences from the days before my Genuine Surrender. But it has been entirely worth the effort.
- Please continue to pray for me as I research and write the rest of the posts for the journey we'll be taking together in this series... The preparation and research time literally takes hours prior to writing posts. I want to be sure that I give you correct references and that I spend time reading commentaries and other reference materials prior to writing so that I don't just feed you my own thoughts on God's word. Leaving thoughts up to my own pea-brain can be very dangerous, so I consult as many Biblical apologetic and scholastic materials as possible prior to writing. Much of what I do research-wise is probably in some small ways very similar to the way a pastor prepares a weekly sermon or a Sunday School teacher prepares a Sunday School lesson. And that's not to say that the enemy hasn't given plenty of distractions here in recent days, to keep us from lifting up the name of Jesus! But I'm onto him and I've already given him notice. I've been talking to DAD about him, and his foolishness. One thing is for sure: The Book says that He isn't going to like what Jesus is going to do with him!!!! [Insert Grin here... ]
We'll be back to the series after my computer returns and I am able to spend more hours researching and preparing for writing than I can on a borrowed computer. I am expecting that we'll likely return to it early next week.
Thanks again for hanging in with us!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I know so many of you have been checking to see whether this week's blog has been posted yet. My computer has been in the shop for over a week and a half now. I haven't heard an ETA as to when it will be finished. In the meantime, I am going to have to postpone entries. Hang tight. We'll be back up and running again soon!
Thanks for your patience in waiting on the next segment of our series.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The Habits of this Highly Effective (but lost) Church Lay Leader: Manipulation and the Inner Circle (Part B: Making Friends in High Places)
Last week, we discussed a familiar text that runs throughout the entire Old and New Testaments. We found that in the New Testament, Jesus added the second greatest commandment of "loving your neighbor as yourself." As a matter of clarification, most scholars believe that Jesus was actually referring to two key pieces of Judaism - The Ten Commandments, and a familiar daily prayer called the Shema, which is the text found in Deuteronomy 4-5.
I believe that last week's lesson comes easy to some of us simply because God has made us in His image and has created us with the desire for affection. Because we are imitators by design and we learn so much by imitation, our desire for affection comes with the ability to mirror what is given to us. So, even in a fallen world, a fallen people can almost grasp the idea of showing affection toward others to some degree or another. Having said that, however, it is not until we are able to love God that we are able to love others the way that God loves them (unconditionally.)
So, this week, we're going to talk about Loving God Fully.... with all of our heart, soul, and might.
But that's the second half of the Shema. Let's first discover some truths about the first half.
As I said before, this was (and still is) a familiar daily prayer for Judaism. It is recited morning and evening, and it is the first prayer recited at the end of every worship service. The main point of this prayer is that God alone is God and He is King.
The literal translation of the first part of the Shema (according to Wikapaedia) is as follows:
Shema - Listen, or hear and do (according to the Targum, accept)
Yisrael- the people of Israel or the congregation of Israel
Adonai- often translated as "Lord", read in place of YHWH (*Adonai was a personal name for God)
Eloheinu- our God (this is the same as Eloheim, which is translated THE LORD in all caps in the Old Testament)
Echad- this word has a dual meaning in Hebrew - it means both the number one (1) and alone.
With the Shema came two things: a premise and a promise. The premise was that it was a given that God is KING and that we must accept that as fact. The promise came with it was that if you were to keep this particular commandment all of your life, life would go well for you and you would multiply greatly. (Deut. 6:3)
The commandment was found in the second half: loving the Lord Your God with all of your heart, soul and might. This was to be taught to their children (v.7), hung on their doorposts and on their gates.
So what kind of love is this???
Matthew Henry's commentary says that this kind of love is a sincere love, not just in word, saying we love Him when our hearts aren't with Him, but "inwardly and in truth, and finding solace in Him." He goes on to say that this should be a "strong love...one that is carried out with great ardour and affection." The idea here is that God - and only He - should have our entire beings.... our all! This is a love reserved only for Him. It is higher than any love for any other.
In addition, we are to know God, so that we can share Him with others. When we love God with our minds, our thoughts are centered on Him. We cannot think without considering Him in the thought. His thoughts become our thoughts. The mind of Christ becomes our mind as we grow to love Him and know Him more fully each day.
This is a nothing held back kind of love. It is a following hard after Christ in all that we do! We leave nothing for another. And we wouldn't dare chase after anyone but God! He is IT! He is the God of above all gods... The King above all Kings and the Lord above all Lords! He alone is God and there is absolutely no other.
There is no Higher God.
There is no Higher King.
There is no Higher Lord
There is no Higher Name.
There is no Higher Way.
There is no Higher Desire.
There is no Higher Agenda.
There is no Higher Life.
There is no Higher Design.
There is no Higher Plan.
There is no Higher Path.
There is no Higher Passion.
There is no Higher Love.
Not even one.
And there is none who deserves our Praise except Our God! It is in Him Whom we live, move and have our being. (Acts 17:28) It is He Who brings us (the followers of God) together in one Body, the church.
From a personal view, this is where the rubber meets the road. Quite simply: we either love God fully, or we don't love Him at all. We're either going to love God and obey Him and desire nothing and no other but Him, or we have placed someone or something above our desires for Him... and bowed to another god. If we, as the Bride of Christ, have set our affections on another rather than on God Himself, then we have committed adultery with Our Heavenly Bridegroom! And if we give credence to other circumstances or other things that are not of our God, then we are not being faithful to the One Who has been Faithful to us!
When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, the very first words out of His mouth were, "I am THE LORD Your God Who brought you out of Egypt. You shall have no other Gods before me." (Exodus 20:2-3) He is a jealous God. (Exodus 20:6) But His love is steadfast toward all who love Him and keep His commandments. (Exodus 20:7)
This is a full-throttle love, dear readers. This is the kind of love that transcends any other love. It does not find itself lurking in the shadows or waiting on someone else to move you. It is the all out, sold out, fired up, flipped out, crazy kind of love. And it cannot be found anywhere else but in the person of Jesus Christ! And it is all about Him, all for Him, and cannot be found without Him!
Got your heart revved up for God?? Or is He God at all to you??? Check your heart.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I am typing this on a borrowed computer, as mine has finally had to go into the shop for repairs beyond what we could do at home. I honestly believe that, in the infamous words of Spock, "It's dead, Jim." But I won't know until our dear friend, Wayne has a chance to take a look at it. Needless to say, I wanted to let you know that tomorrow's post will be post-poned until we are able to discern what we will do next with my computer situation.
I will have a computer soon, but it's just a matter of whether my current one can be repaired or I will need to purchase a new one. As crazy as this sounds, I would rather keep this one because I am in the middle of saving for a rather costly mission trip next summer, and would rather not have to buy any big ticket items between now and then, if at all possible. While I have already managed to earn or save about half of the cost of the trip for next summer, it is still going to take quite a chunk out of our household budget in order for me to go. So, I am all for the cheaper option and for repairing first. If it has totally given up the ghost, then I guess I will want to see if we can salvage the stuff from the old hard drives and put them on the new computer as a backup.
Oh, and while I have your attention, I also wanted to tell you that I have felt the impression of the Lord to write a part B of last week's post, so stay tuned. This will stretch out our series a bit longer than we had planned, but that's okay... God's ideas are always better than ours! Amen???
As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday, dear friends, I want you to know what a blessing you are to me! Thank you for your overwhelming support for the blog! I think I am still just in amazement that people actually want to read my stuff! Did you know that in just eight months of blogging, we've had nearly 1700 hits to the blog site??? And did you know that nearly 400 of those hits have come in the past 4 weeks??? I'm blown away by that! WOW!
God bless each of you this week... And I promise, I will be back soon to continue our series.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The Habits of this Highly Effective (but Lost) Church Lay Leader: Manipulation and the Inner Circle (Week 3)
Well, well. We've made it to week three together! Thanks for hanging out with me thus far. Before I get into this week's topic, I want to tell you that last week was a topsy-turvy one at our house. My husband had an emergency heart catherization following what we thought was just going to be a routine stress test on Wednesday. No doubt, many of you, who are regular readers and know me personally already know that, but for those who were not aware, he's recovering well.
God is still in control, even when there are rough circumstances. We are very thankful that God has provided us with a great family doctor who made a great call, and a very attentive stress test tech who stopped the test at the first early signals. Your prayers for a continued recovery for him and for peace in my already chaotic world would be greatly appreciated.
So... Let's review a little bit: In week one, we talked about being real before God and before His people. We want to make sure that we have a real relationship with God through Genuine Surrender, and are not just fulfilling religious practices. We also want to drop those masks that we sometimes wear as believers in front of other folks... Last week, we learned to communicate with God by learning to pray the way that Jesus taught us to pray in the Model Prayer.... and not by pre-conceived notions that we may have learned by observing others.
Now, let's talk about this week's topic relative to our horizontal relationships. Over and over in both the Old and New Testaments, God instructed His people with regard to how to treat people around us. And there is a recurring theme. It was first introduced in Deuteronomy 6:5: "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." This same command was given four more times in the Old Testament (three more times in Deuteronomy, and then again in Joshua), and in all four of the gospels.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest of the commandments was, He responded with this same Old Testament quote, then He added, "and love your neighbor as yourself." Three of the four of the gospels record a version of this same quote from Jesus. You can find it in Mt. 22:37, Mk. 12:33, and Lk. 10:27.
Now, I'm not sure about you, but if the God of the Universe says something, I generally give it a lot of credence... Especially, if it was said over and over and over again... and then Jesus said the same thing on the earth later. Kinda makes it a no brainer, huh? At the very least, He gave the same instruction over and over again.... as if the repetition would somehow help it to sink in.
But stupid humans that we are, we just don't get it sometimes, do we? The people of Jesus' day certainly didn't. And I'm not so sure that we're not a lot like them...
Let me show you what I mean. Take the story of the Good Samaritan. Turn over to the book of Luke, Chapter 10, beginning with verse 25. If you don't have your own Bible handy, I've printed this parable of Jesus here for you from "The Message:"
25 Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus.
"Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?" 26 He answered, "What's
written in God's Law? How do you interpret it?" 27 He said, "That you love
the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and
intelligence - and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself."
28 "Good answer!" said Jesus. "Do it and you'll live." 29 Looking for a
loophole, he asked, "And just how would you define 'neighbor'?" 30 Jesus
answered by telling a story. "There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem
to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes,
beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. 31 Luckily, a priest was on
his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the
other side. 32 Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the
injured man. 33 "A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the
man's condition, his heart went out to him. 34 He gave him first aid,
disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey,
led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. 35 In the morning he took out
two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take good care of
him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill - I'll pay you on my way back.'
36 "What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man
attacked by robbers?" 37 "The one who treated him kindly," the religion
scholar responded. Jesus said, "Go and do the same."
No doubt, if you have been in Sunday School at any point in your life, you've heard this story. There was a Jewish man going to Jericho down a very familiar highway and along the way, he was beaten by robbers. A couple of guys pass by on the other side and do NOTHING to help this poor guy that had been beaten, stripped naked and left for dead on the side of the road. But a Samaritan saw him and came to his rescue...
Funny that in verse 29, one of the religious teachers (a lawyer, actually) was looking for a loophole... He wanted Jesus to "define neighbor." Sound familiar??? Aren't we always looking for some way to escape the ways that God has called us to love other people?
Allow me to give you a modern day picture of the characters in the parable of the Good Samaritan and perhaps you will actually see the way that God intends for us to love and care for one another and for those around us.
The Samaritan in Jesus' day was a half-breed, hated people. The Jews despised them. To call a Jew a Samaritan was to equate them with being evil, being a devil! In our modern-day world, the modern day Samaritan would likely be the kind of person you would find residing in your local ghetto... He was considered a hoodlum of the worst kind!
The Jew who had been beaten by robbers would be like a person who had been beaten by gang members, and left for dead on the side of the Interstate.
The folks who passed by were priests and worship leaders. These were the religious folks who were more concerned about following the law, than about rendering aid. This would be like you and I, though we saw the body of the person on the side of the road, driving past, without stopping to help, or calling for an ambulance.
That the Samaritan took it upon himself to pay for the Jewish man's well-being was an understatement! He basically gave the caregivers everything he had on his person and told him to send him the bill if he needed more! Bear in mind, he was not at all a wealthy man. What he gave for the care of this young man was beyond sacrificial. I've heard it said that "True sacrificial giving is not 'giving what they need', but rather 'giving what I need." That is precisely what happened here.
Ok. So how does that translate to our everyday lives, as we learn to love those around us?
Can I share a personal opinion/observation here? I honestly believe that there is an attitude that has crept in among believers these days. We, the church, have become hateful, dogmatic, legalistic and down-right mean when it comes to dealing with folks outside of the church. We have become so bitter, angry and defensive that we cannot possibly be useful in winning people into the kingdom of God. When we are confronted with the truth of the type of behavior God requires of us as His child, we simply respond with, "I'm not Jesus, and I'll do as I want!" We have simply forgotten the mercy and grace extended to us by Christ at the cross... and we often fail to extend that same grace to others.
News flash: People are hurting all around us in our churches, in our communities, in our families, in our world... All of them need our love and support. And that's not to say that we should only render aid to those who may look like us, dress like us, smell like us, behave like us or talk like us. (See the book of James, Chapters 1 and 2.) The priest and Levite in Jesus' story should have been, by all rights and means, the Jewish man's heroes! After all, they were from his same religious background and were probably from his hometown. And yet, they ignored him. But the Samaritan (the most hated kind of guy on the planet) went out of his way and took pity on him. He met his needs and treated him with respect, in spite of the fact that the same type of care probably would not have been extended to him, had the shoe been on the other foot.
In short, we need to remember that we are able to extend this kind of love to folks because that same type of love has been extended to us in Christ. We were the outcasts of His kingdom... we were the ones without hope... we had lives filled with sin... And the Holy God of the Universe showed us His love and extended His grace toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) The type of love, mercy, grace and forgiveness extended to us at the Cross is the same kind of love that we should extend to others. We love because He first loved us. (I John 4:19)
I like what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the church at Colossae (Col. 3:11-14, from The Message) as a way of dealing with people in general:
11 Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and
outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on
everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. 12 So, chosen by
God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:
compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. 13 Be even-tempered,
content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and
completely as the Master forgave you. 14 And regardless of what else you put on,
wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Well said, Paul. Well said.
Monday, November 9, 2009
The Habits of This Highly Effective (but Lost) Church Lay Leader - A Series:Communication (Week two)
We've been talking for the past couple of weeks about being the kind of worshipper the Father seeks. Last week, we discussed the topic of genuine surrender before the Father, and being real before Him and with one another regarding our decision to become a Christ-follower.
Speaking of being real with one another.... After last week's blog was posted a dear friend commented to me that there was a point that she wished I had addressed and that was the masks that believers wear. Before I go on with today's thoughts on communication, I wanted to address this mask quickly. This is the mask that we put on when things aren't going so well, but we continue to pretend that things are just perfect... and refuse to be real with fellow believers or with other people period. She is completely correct with this.
You know, I think sometimes that we (as Christ-followers) convince ourselves that we have to portray perfection when it comes to living the Christian life. I think it's (in a wacky way) one of the ways that we believe that we are "witnessing" to others, when we put on the mask of perfection... That it shows "the world" that God takes care of us... and that even though we may be having a day that is not a good one, we throw up that "everything's fine" mask.
My late father-in-law was a prime example of this. He suffered from kidney disease and was on dialysis three days a week for about seven years, prior to his death. During the last several months of his life, if I asked him how he was doing, he would often answer with an exuberant, "I'm fine!" But often, he would be sitting with his head between his hands or his knees... and we knew better. So, I finally learned to respond to his answers with, "is that really the case, or are you fibbing to me?" And he began to start speaking truthfully to me.
Let's learn to be real with one another, and drop the masks... Relationships deepen as we learn to get past the surface with one another. And we don't get past the surface if we have on masks or build up walls of protection around us. Just sayin'.
Okay. Onto the new stuff... This week, we're going to be learning to grow our relationship with God when it comes to communication. This area is probably the hardest and truthfully, can be the most awkward part of our relationship with God, and yet, it is so vital that I honestly believe that its absence leads to much of our woes when it comes to knowing God as His child.
I had the worst time with this. I always felt like my prayers were always made of rubber... They just bounced right off the ceiling! So, when I did pray, I tried all sorts of things to try to convince God to listen to me.
And let's face it. We may as well admit that it's hard to talk to Someone that you haven't seen.... and most especially when so many others question His existence (and those same folks would quickly commit you to the nearest looney bin if they caught you talking to what they believe is yourself!) And can you imagine the same kind of response from those same folks when you have claimed to have heard something or learned something from God???? So, more times than not, I just kept my mouth closed when it came to praying privately. Of course, with me, when it was all about showmanship, I would pray publicly.... Go figure on that one. But then I was all about appearances.
Now, I went through all sorts of style adjustments when it came to public prayers as a lost church member. I can remember a particular deacon of the church I went to as a teenager praying over the offering every Sunday. And that guy would clear his throat every time before he prayed, then he would basically pray the same prayer week after week. He also used about a thousand "thees" and "thous" so, I thought that put him right up there with God Himself. So, whenever I listened to other people clear their throat before prayer, I wondered if that was something we were supposed to do. (I don't know that I ever did that. But I thought it was kind of unusual.) Then, I wanted to be next to God, too, just like Deacon So-and-So, and so I used a thousand "thees" and "thous" as I prayed.
Then the time came when we were taught about conversational prayer. That would be where we learn to talk to God like He is our very best friend. That worked well, but I found that it didn't settle well within my heart when I was mad at God and I called Him some of the names that I would have called one of my friends in the same situation. There was a lack of respect there that got lost in translation....or at least in my mind, it did. So, I mixed it up with the occassional "thees" and "thous" again. I think it made me feel like maybe that would make God listen to me...or something. I dunno. (Nevermind the fact that I didn't know His Son...)
Oh, and then there was the guy who began his prayers with "Master." So, guess who I began to copy this time when praying publicly???
So, anyhow, all of these big words and long public prayers were boosting me up everywhere (or so I thought) but with God. His ears were pretty much turned off by them. And so, He didn't bother to answer them. There wasn't anything to answer, truthfully, if you came right down to it. When it came to public prayer, I had center stage, and my prayers were all about showing off.
And then there were the prayer requests that became pry-er requests. You know, the ones where when sharing a "request" in a small group where things turn to gossip, or we try to correct the situation in prayer ourselves by giving a "solution" to the person's problem in our talks with God, rather than speaking with the person and giving scriptural advice. Yep. Been there and done that one, too.
My life was filled with all sorts of things that caused those prayers to bounce off the ceilings:
Unbelief. (in both senses, as a non-believer, and as a believer who fails to believe God)
So, then the private prayer life, which I told you earlier was pretty much nul and void, was useless to me. I didn't spend time talking to God... If there was a God, I had already come to the conclusion that He wasn't going to pay attention to whatever kinds of useless drivel I gave Him and there wasn't anyone else around to show off for. So, why bother???
And, in all honesty, I have to say that every believer I have ever spoken with has had a real struggle at one time or another with some of the same issues, with regard to the private prayer time. Forgive my candidness here, but the only way that I can tell you how to learn to pray is to learn from The Rabbi of Nazareth, Who gave us the tools for effective prayer in Matthew 6:1-14. These are familiar verses, no doubt, so let's read them from The Message this time, to get a fresh perspective on what exactly Jesus was trying to say.
"Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure - 'play-actors' I call them - treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it - quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what's best - as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others."
Monday, November 2, 2009
The Habits of This Highly Effective (but Lost) Church Lay Leader - A Series: Dressing for Success (Week One)
Last week, we introduced a ten-week series on being the kind of worshipper the Father is seeking. If you are just joining us, you may read that introductory post here: http://mizbitz.blogspot.com/2009/10/habits-of-this-highly-effective-but.html
Since I have now made myself entirely vulnerable to the world wide web by sharing some of my most in-most thoughts from my days before my genuine Surrender to Christ, I have to admit that the idea of going deeper in the weeks ahead is a little scary to say the least. I am not so much concerned of what you may think of me for sharing this, as I am more about pleasing the Father than I am about pleasing you guys these days (more on that later.) I certainly don't want to give some of you ideas for being your local church's pest, either! (Although, I have to admit that I am not sure I ever lost that title... even after genuine Surrender. God is still working on me... Amen?!? )
So, here we are. And I guess you're probably wondering what in the world I am going to tell you about my thoughts relative to "Dressing for Success (Putting on the Sunday Game Face...)" Well, the first thought that crossed my mind was the thing that I was the most guilty of before becoming a Christ-follower.
Are you ready for this???
Phoniness. As we'd say in the South, I was made of pure-i-o-d phoney baloney! I was guilty of wearing the plastic mask of religion inside and outside the church house whenever it comes to talking about religious topics or being around "religious people." I was always concerned about "appearances." There was more of a real desire to impress people and to please them than to be real, and please God. So my junk stayed hidden.... at least I thought it was... and I went to great efforts to keep it hidden from the folks in those Christian circles. I didn't want them to get the wrong impression of me.
Sunday after Sunday, my little plastic mask went on. And the games that came with my little mask were played. You would have thought it was Halloween every single Sunday. I was a master at showmanship! And hidden behind that mask of religion was a monster that I had created to near perfection! Most days, I thought I managed to score points on the God-scale in my mind. After all, I had been in the church most of my life. I knew the drill. And I had been there nearly every time the door was open. I had learned what worked and what made my pastors and my teachers proud. (And I was the biggest "Church staff groupie" you ever saw!) I could speak the language of Zion with the best of them. I knew the Bible. I had memorized scripture. I was also in all sorts of leadership roles in not only my local church, but for our denomination, as well. I knew the stuff! And I knew it well. Bottom line... I WAS THERE TO PLEASE EVERYONE BUT GOD. But I didn't know JESUS. And that was the biggest displeasure where God was concerned.
The truth is that even with all of the things that you would think that would make me be a genuine follower of Christ, I would have gotten it. But there was this other side of me that had some really seriously rotten issues with sin. Seriously habitual sin. And while I won't get into the gory details of all of that, I will say that I could just about justify (to myself) everything that I did with, "But God, it's me... Can't you cut me some slack here?" I was so steeped in religion and religious tradition, that I took no ownership of my own human condition.... I couldn't bring myself to believe that I could sin... or that I might be lost. And yet, the stench of my sin was growing stronger each time I put on the church mask and showed up on Sunday morning and took my place in the choir or orchestra or Sunday School class.... I could tell you all about my church... I loved that place. But I couldn't tell you about my Jesus or anything specific HE had done in my life. There were no specific changes that had taken place in me that I could definitely say happened because of the relationship I had with God. I could tell you plenty about my church, and even a lot about my denomination. But nothing about Jesus changing me.
Several years ago, I was in a Church Training Class, when I learned the passage in Ephesians 6 regarding "Putting on the Full Armor of God." I knew each piece - the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, and the feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. I probably have those out of order. But I am not really going to point out those to you so much as I am going to ask you to take a look at the list. You have probably read this list before...
Do you notice something missing in light of the previous paragraphs?
Right! There's no mask of religion in the list!
In fact, Jesus scorned the religious folks of His day over and over. He called them, "Hypocrites."
That word, "Hypocrite" comes from the Greek word, "uJpovkrisi", which means, "stage-playing or acting." In the Old Testament, there is no Hebrew word for Hypocrite, but it is implied, as a way of conflict between life and insincere worship.
So, how do we drop the mask? If we're to be the kind of worshippers that the Father seeks, then there are some things that need to happen:
Genuine Surrender needs to take place before God...and then you need to admit that before His people. This takes a lot of courage. Especially if you have been in the church for a long time. Believe me. I know what that's like. It was rough, having to stand before a congregation that had actually voted to send me to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to become a Singles minister and only to come back later and tell them, "Guys, I just now became a believer." Not an easy task. But I decided that it wasn't them that I needed to please. It was God Whom I needed to please from henceforth. And I had to let the chips fall as they may.
As long as you remain hidden behind the masks, you will never have the kind of heart that God is looking for as a worshipper. This is the very first step in having a relationship with Jesus. And honestly, only you and God know what kind of relationship you have together. Sometimes I think it's a good thing that others can't know our hearts. But I also know that those who are genuine in their relationship with Jesus usually have a strong desire to please HIM alone.... and not so much about pleasing others... They generally let the chips fall where they may. And if we happen to please the others by pleasing God, that's great and fine. But the ultimate purpose is to please God. No one else will do.
I think the Apostle Paul is a pretty good example to follow when it comes to talking about the having courage when it comes to the getting real part of Surrender. Remember before Paul had his encounter with Christ on the Road to Damascus, he had been a persecuter of the Church and had been torturing Christians. Can you imagine the response of those believers toward him when they found out that he had a real encounter with the Lord??? Can you imagine the fear of the folks who discipled him??? I am sure that they finally relaxed after they read his writings... After all, the truth came out of him when he was jailed and beaten and left for dead... He was REAL.
We can see some evidence of this when Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, Chapter 13 and gave some really great truths for Christian living. He summed up the chapter in verse 14 with, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."
Again in Colossians 2:12-17, Paul wrote, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Paul had gotten it. Question is: have you???? Are you real??? Was your own surrender genuine??? And have you announced that before God's people? Or do you still wear the masks, Sunday after Sunday, hoping and praying that no one finds out who you really are? Truth is, God knows who you are. And He loved you enough to not allow you to stay that way....
Will you bow the knee in Genuine Surrender???
Monday, October 26, 2009
I am an active part of our church's worship ministry and have been serving in such a role (or similar role in other churches) for 35 years. But it wasn't until just in the past eight to nine years or so that I've really come to understand what true worship really is. Up until then, if someone asked me what worship was, I would respond with going to church for a couple of hours, singing and/or playing a few hymns, listening to a sermon and going home. Or I might have said that it was the first twenty minutes of the same said service, where we would sing/play in order to "warm up" the congregation for the pastor's sermon.
Sadly, a lot of people don't get it when it comes to what it really means to be a Christ-follower and they don't understand what worship is really all about. I was one of those folks. And what's worse, I was in many leadership roles for a lot of years before I came to an understanding of what it means to follow Christ and to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. I made a great member of my denomination, but I really didn't follow Christ and I most certainly didn't know the real meaning of worship.
I think if I had written a book about the worshipper's lifestyle several years ago, it probably would have looked like a poor facsimile of one of Steven Covey's popular "7 Habits" books... And it would have probably been aptly dubbed by those who knew me best as "The Habits of This Highly Effective (But Lost) Church Lay Leader." It would have included chapters like: 1) Dressing for Success: Putting on the Sunday Game Face, 2) Communication: How to bounce a long prayer off a ceiling and/or turning prayer requests into pry-er requests, 3) Manipulation and The Inner Circle: How to Win Friends in High Places, 4) Absolute Abandonment: How to attend Church every time the door is open and still not "get it", 5) Daily Walk: The Do's and Don'ts of living the life, 6)Serving: Working up a sweat (to try to get into Heaven), 7)Treasures: Giving when I want something back, 8) Personal Holier-than-thou-ness: My stuff doesn't stink, but yours sure does, 9) Testing: just learning all the stuff for the "final", and last, but not least, 1o) Whose Church is it anyway? (It's all about me.)
The truth is I was taught how to live the Christian life, but like so many others, I really failed in actually understanding what it meant to truly know Jesus in a personal way. As I have shared in previous posts, I went through all of the motions of becoming a Christian, but there was no substantial evidence of Christ in my life outside the walls of the church or Christian circles.
And then the gig was up.
Life began to fall apart for me. My husband had died. I was left with very little monetarily. I left a poorly paying ministry-related job in our denomination's state convention office for another that seemed to pay better, only to realize that was a BIG mistake. Then I spent the next nine months searching for another job, all the while my credit was going into the toilet and my former employer was to blame. In addition, I was having all sorts of nightmares about my dead husband. Then I started having nightmares following watching a series of movies similar to the "Left Behind" series as well as the first of "Left Behind" movies. I could see myself in the role of the associate pastor in that first Left Behind movie - although I was one who was a church lay leader, I had all sorts of knowledge, but really had no relationship with God.
Then, like Humpty-Dumpty, I fell apart.
And nothing I did or said would put Humpty back together again. I knew all of the right stuff to say... all the right things to do. But somehow, life just wasn't playing out right for me.
And I couldn't figure out why.
Soon I started paying attention to some things, and decided to have a heart-to-heart discussion with a long-time friend, who knew me well. And it was in his office that I finally came to the point of genuine Surrender.
After thinking about a lot of this, I would like to share several thoughts with you along the lines of the same topics that I think would have been in my facetious book above and spend the next several weeks talking about what it means to be the kind of worshipper the Father seeks. However, I would also like to be certain that I am not just filling the heads of some folks who may be in the same position as I was in prior to having a real relationship with Jesus, and not introducing their hearts to a real, vibrant, personal relationship with Jesus. As I write these posts, while parts of them will be tongue-in-cheek, I want to be sure that they always come back to pointing folks to a Savior. So we will come back to the topic of true worship and what that actually means, according to the Bible.
I also want to make it clear that it's not my job to be The Holy Spirit. There is a Holy Spirit and I am not Him. Nor do I want to do His job for Him. However, I am expecting that God could use this series to open the eyes and ears (and hopefully, hearts) of those who may be in the same position that I was just a few years ago. Rest assured, however, that if you happen to read these posts (or any other of my posts) and find yourself in that same position, there is a Savior... And you can know Him. He already knows and loves you. I'd love to show you how you can know Him!
So, stay tuned. We'll go for several weeks, through most of the Thanksgiving and Christmas Seasons. There may be some weeks when we break because God will lead us to do something a little bit different. But for the most part, this is where we will be headed for the next several weeks.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
It's already beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here! Rehearsals for Christmas performances have started. A friend of mine said it best yesterday:" Yes. I am a church musician. I fa-la-la-la-la in October!"
Last night, I purchased the first of the Christmas gifts for three of the men on my list. I was delighted to find that the little things I found, though trinkets to be sure, will be cool gifts for some guys in my family that I know well.
I also bought a small box of Christmas cards the other day. While we don't typically send out cards to a gazillion folks as some people I know are in the habit of doing, we do send out a few to some folks on our list.
It was the Christmas card list that has me thinking today... Some of the names on that list used to be very close friends. Friends that I spent a lot of time with on a daily basis in the past. Friends that I could tell you everything about, including what they would order from a fast food place back in the day. But time and distance has delegated that those friendships now are a part of nothing more than the Christmas card list....
What was once an intimate relationship has turned to a once a year greeting from one another. We may send a Christmas brag letter to these folks, just to catch them up on all of the news of the past year... but little else transpires to keep the fires of the friendship burning. We may occassionally see one another from time to time and attempt to pick up where we left off, but it really isn't the same.
I hope that my relationship with God doesn't ever become like that. I hope God doesn't ever become a Christmas card list friend.
One of the things that used to scare me when I was sitting in church years ago was when pastors or Christian friends would talk about having an "intimate personal relationship with Jesus." I never understood what that meant. But in a very real sense, this is what I have grown to understand that it means:
God knows me.
God KNOWS me.
God knows ME.
Every single part of me.
My hair-brained moments.
My genius attempts.
The things that make me tick.
The things that make me sick.
The things that make me laugh.
The things that make me cry.
Inside and out.
Upside down and sideways.
He knows ME.
And He loves me!
And you're asking... How do I know that?
The Bible tells me that He sent His Son as a gift. (John 3:16, Romans 3:23)
He sends me little gifts and surprises sometimes that are tailor-made for me.
He answers prayer, sometimes before I have even asked.
And I am getting to know Him in the same way.
What He likes.
What He doesn't like.
What makes Him smile.
What makes Him cry.
What makes Him tick.
What makes Him sick.
What makes Him happy.
What dissappoints Him.
And I am trying to live my life to please Him.
I want to do things that will make Him happy.
And though I know that He is never "surprised" by the things I may do for Him, I still try to do little things that I know will bring Him joy.
I want that relationship with God to stay current. I want to visit with Him in His house regularly. I want to spend time with Him daily... talking, listening, learning from Him. I want to do things that will make Him happy.
And it never fails, He is always giving me the best little gifts of love that show me how well He knows me and that He thinks of me, too.
So, I ask you... What does your Christmas card list look like?
Monday, October 12, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
My friends, Bruce Wethey and Lisa LaCrosse, are a unique couple. Bruce is a professional violinist and Lisa is a professional flautist. They met in Miami many years ago, while playing with the Miami Symphony. They are among some of the finest musicians in our country, having played in some of the best concert halls in the country (can you say Carnegie?), and having had a following as classical artists.
It's not often that you see folks in the classical field with the giftedness that Bruce and Lisa have to offer cross over to the Christian instrumental side of music. Actually, more often, Christian artists are sometimes guilty of crossing over to the secular side of music and leaving faith far behind them.
God had a different plan for these two, however, and they now travel as Christian instrumentalists, trading Carnegie Hall for local churches, and doing ministry. Bruce has played with folks like Twila Paris and Michael W. Smith, among others, but more often than not, you will see Bruce and Lisa traveling together across the country as a husband and wife team, as lead worshippers together with local church folks. They understand that their calling is to meet folks in ministry and to offer their gifts back to God. And they wouldn't have it any other way.
A little of their story...
Lisa has struggled with non-malignant brain tumors and has had several surgeries over the years to remove them. Yet, Lisa will be the first to tell you that when following Christ, there is a joy that sustains her!!! She trusts completely in the loving care that her Heavenly Daddy gives to her. She knows that even in the midst of pain, and the trials that come with her daily battles, she can trust Him to take care of her every need.
It was during the first of one such surgery that Bruce found himself face to face with the question of his own eternity, and he met with a pastor who befriended him during Lisa's hospital stay. That led to the beginning of his journey as a Christ follower. Lisa, on the other hand, had come to Christ as a teenager, while watching a Billy Graham crusade on television. She will quickly tell you that she was not discipled following that decision. And it wasn't until much later that she began to grow in her relationship with Christ.
I remember one particular time a few years ago when we were at our church in Virginia, and Lisa had had yet another surgery just a few weeks prior, and Bruce and Lisa came to Virginia, to minister to the senior adults* there. I was absolutely amazed that she was there!!! I asked her how in the world she managed to do that! She told me that her biggest issue at that time was exhaustion, but that the "Lord would provide her strength."
(* Quick funny story about that particular concert: I am a looooong way from being old enough to go to Senior Adult functions, but because Bruce and Lisa were friends, and because I had actually won a contest to name their latest album at that time, Offering, I begged our Senior Adult Pastor to allow my husband and me to crash the party.... He gladly gave in. When I got there, Bruce made sure to "card" me. :) That's the only time I think I have ever been "carded" at a church event. Smile.)
Often, I think we get discouraged when we hit some kind of a snag in our walk and we wonder if God is really there for us. And we do like Elijah did: we go and hide our own makeshift caves, and then start to get depressed because things may not necessarily be "peachy" for us. And we'll start to whine and moan and complain... But then, God comes around and asks, "What in the world are you doing in here?" And in that still small voice, He shows us Himself... (I Kings 19:12)
Whatever it is that you are facing, remember that God is in control. He loves you and He knows about every single thing that you are going through. And while there may be times that we may not understand what it is that He is trying to accomplish on this side of glory, we can know that His plans for us are perfect and His ways are true. And somehow, someway, He will use whatever those circumstances to benefit His kingdom and His glory.
Following Christ doesn't bring about the absence of trials and tribulations. But what I can tell you is that you can still find joy in knowing that your loving Heavenly Daddy has your back.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
There's a scene in the classic, "My Fair Lady" where Alfred P. Doolittle (Eliza's dad) visits the home of Professor Henry Higgins, proposedly to fetch his daughter, Eliza, after he has learned that she is staying with him. Alfie doesn't know of the experiment or bet that Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering have made with one another regarding Eliza. But he has learned from another flower girl that Eliza sent for her things and didn't ask for any clothes! He incorrectly assumes that his daughter has begun selling herself as a prostitute. So, Alfie, being that he is her father, has decided that he should get a cut of her "earnings" and proceeds to see what he can get from the arrangement between them. He knows the professor is obviously wealthy and asks for a simple five pound note from him.
When questioned by Colonel Pickering as to whether he has any morals, Alfie gives him a puzzling glance (that basically says, "do you?"), pauses and responds with, "No. I cannot afford them. And neither could you, if you were as poor as I am." Then he proceeds to launch into a whole monologue about how he is of the undeserving poor, and how he "plans to remain so, because I like it." Professor Higgins is so intrigued by it, that he offers him more, but Alfie turns him down, asking for only the five pound note. (He doesn't want to be launched into the middle class.)
This entire scene is so typical of the human condition, isn't it? Just like Alfie Doolittle, I think people sometimes come to God with the hand out, asking Him to bless us with a (fill in the blank as to whatever your petty "five spot" might be.) We know we're undeserving and we plan to stay that way. No need to get caught up in all of that religious or moral "stuff"... just get what you think you deserve from God and go back to things the way that you want them to be. No harm. No foul. Others are doing things that are worse, and who am I to judge them or they me, right?
To that argument I say, HOGWASH! As long as you or I continue in the life of habitual sin and fail to see the need for walking with Christ on a daily basis, we will always remain a slave to sin and we will never see victory. Sin will always hold a defeated audience in captivity. Freedom comes when we willfully turn away from whatever it is that holds us in bondage, and turn to Christ and begin to follow Him.
Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)
Time to give habitual sin the boot! Then willfully turn and start following after Christ. The journey is long, but the rewards are sweet!
P.S. Can I be real here? I am adding this on Wednesday morning, the day after I wrote this post. When I was writing this yesterday, I began to think of the issues in my own life where I fall short. But I failed to place them here. And this morning, the Holy Spirit has been convicting me to "'fess up" as we are fondly known to say in the South.
In the past seventeen years, I have put on more than seventy pounds! I really struggle with overeating. I have been to Bible Study after Bible Study to try to help with this, but until I simply learn to put down the fork when I am full and walk away, those Bible Studies are all useless! I can fill my head and my heart with all sorts of knowledge about how to eat, but I will never be an effective servant of Christ until I learn to do battle with the Little Debs and the carrot cake! There's nothing wrong with those things by themselves, but if I am not hungry, those things should never enter my mouth.
I have learned the rules: Food for fuel is fine. God intended for food to be fuel. We don't continue to put gasoline in our cars if the tank is full, do we? But eating for the sake of eating (just because it's there) is not. If I am using food to console myself instead of running to God for consolation, then I am living in disobedience to God, and that would be sin. If I am using food as a means of celebration when I am not hungry (such as at a party or a church function), then that, too is also sin. If I am loading up the plate at a buffet line when a half spoonful will do, I have overdone it.
But as long as those rules are in my head, and I don't apply them to my life, the pounds are going to pile up and the scales are always going to read higher. Until I learn to walk away from the Swiss Cake rolls, and say no when I am not at all hungry, then I am living a defeated life!
So I am asking you to pray for me. I need to be held accountable here. This is an area where I need to shrink and He needs to increase.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
This past week I have been in rehearsals for a local theatre company's production of "My Fair Lady." I am in the pit orchestra as a hired musician. I have enjoyed playing with this particular group a couple of times now. Most of the players are Christian musicians and are playing in local church groups around town.
One night earlier this week, there was a stage direction given to the cast for a particular scene because of some changes being made in the way that some backstage scene changes were going to have to take place.
And then it dawned on me.
When it comes to corporate worship, Who takes center stage of our worship services????
The correct answer should always be Jesus! But I had to ask myself whether we always make that happen. Do I make that happen? Do you?
I remember a few years ago, when a couple of friends and I wrote a Choir musical called, "For Thou O Lord" there was a scene where Jesus was at the wedding of Cana. And we had choreographed Jesus to be watching while some of the party goers were dancing, as would have been the custom at any Hebrew wedding reception... At one point, Jesus and His disciples join into the authentic dance with the bride and groom. Some of the folks at our church got a little upset with us because they were not expecting that our Lord would dance!!!!
God forbid that Jesus might actually participate in something that was completely biblical and customary for Him to do as a Jewish male at a wedding during this time! I am being totally sarcastic here. But I think you understand my point.
Here's a deeper question: Do we try to "work around" the Jesus Who is fixated at Center Stage ???? Or is He involved in everything you and I do? Is He permeating all of our worship, or is He so attached to the place that we have set as center stage that when we are downstage or upstage or backstage that we leave Him behind?
It's almost expected that God would be able to comfort us when we are sad, be a friend when we're lonely, heal us when we are sick...
Do we allow Him to dance with us through every act of celebration? To get overjoyed with us??? To get happy feet with us???
Is Jesus pleased with all of our worship???
I hope He dances!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
When the Apostle Paul wrote these words in the letter to the church at Colossae, they were to a group of people he had not had the pleasure of meeting face to face. He was wanting this particular group to know that he was laboring alongside them (in Spirit) for the cause of Christ, though not physically nearby.
These two verses really sum up Paul's purpose for the entire book of Colossians. He was clearly burdened for them (v.1.) He wanted them to be encouraged, united in love and to have a complete understanding -- "the mystery of God, namely, Christ"!
When I consider a purpose or mission statement for the Mourning into Dancing blog and ministry group, I would like to adopt these verses. This is what we are entirely about.
First and foremost, we are about encouragement. The word encouragement in both the Old and New Testaments simply means, "Comfort." Whether it is a matter of helping a young widow through a time of or a fellow Christ-follower in a time of need, it is my desire to offer encouragement to those who would seek it.
Secondly, Paul mentioned unity. The Greek here implies a knitting together of lives in love, in the same way that woven yarn can be used to make a garment or a blanket. Those strands of yarn are woven together and together serve a purpose that alone they could not accomplish. In the same way, Paul was saying that we, as Christ followers are also woven together with the purposes of love.
The reason we are woven together in love has to do with what Paul says next. It is so that "they may have the full riches of complete understanding in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of mystery and knowledge." The mystery of God is Jesus. The knowledge would be like gaining an unlimited wealth of knowledge, and an unfathomable spiritual treasure that would last through eternity in Christ!
Simply put, it is our chief desire to point others to Jesus, and to Him alone.
He is our Salvation.
He is our Redeemer.
I'm glad that you've joined us for the journey we'll take together! As we search for God's hidden nuggets of truth together, it is my sincere prayer that you will find Him as one who finds great treasure!
If you've been reading this blog for a while now, you've been hearing me talk a lot about Jesus! And I would say that probably several of my faithful readers already have a relationship with God. But perhaps you are someone who doesn't know this Jesus I've been talking about all along. Maybe you just stumbled upon this blog while surfing.... And you kept reading. And in reading, you realize that you want to know this Jesus I've been writing about.
It's no accident that you are here!
God loves you and desires to have a relationship with you! The Bible says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
Because we live in a fallen world, we cannot enter the presence of a holy God on our own. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) The word "Sin"comes from an archery term. To have sinned, it means you simply miss the target for which you are shooting. When we sin in spiritual terms, we have missed God's mark... that mark of perfection that He requires as a Holy God to enter His presence.
The Bible also says that, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ Our Lord." (Romans 6:23) The word "wage" here means payment. The payment for sin is not only physical death, but more importantly, the payment for sin is spiritual death. Without God's Salvation, we cannot live!
It is God's free gift -- but it was not without cost. God's gift of Salvation to us, cost His Son, Jesus, His Life. You see, Jesus, Who was without sin, gave His life on the cross in payment for the penalty of our sin. (Romans 5:8) It is up to us to accept this free gift of Salvation.
The Bible tells us in I John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."You can do that by simply asking Him to take over your life. (I think I just said something to the effect of "Jesus, please be the Boss of Me." And then I gave Him complete control of me from that day forward.) Romans 10:9-10 says, "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."
When you accept God's free gift of Salvation, you become a child of God! You are adopted into the family of God and receive all of the rights and privileges of being a joint heir with Jesus! (Romans 8:15-17)
If you have decided to become a Christ-follower and have entered into a personal relationship with Him today after reading this blog, please let me know! I would love to rejoice with you in your new found relationship with God! It's also important that you find a local Bible-believing church in your area that will help you grow in your new relationship with Christ. If you need help in finding a church, I will happily connect you with folks who can help you do that, and most of them can give you materials as well that can help you get started in your walk with God.
It is my sincerest prayer that you would begin that relationship with Him today!
Monday, August 31, 2009
Because I was the product of a teenage pregnancy, I had the wonderful privilege of knowing all of my grandparents and four of my great-grandparents. Two of my grandparents are still living!
My last great-grandparent, my maternal great-grandmother, passed away at the age of 98 in 1997. I was thirty four years old when she died. Since my family lived near her for most of my life, I spent a lot of time with her, and grew to love her. She had lived through two different centuries and was a very colorful character. She was the oldest of thirteen children, and was raised on a farm in West Tennessee. Three of the things that I remember most about her were: a) she loved Jesus b) she was a wonderful cook, and c) she often would share some funny sayings with a truth attached. More than once she made me giggle and think, all at the same time.
One of my all-time favorite quotes from her was, "The more you stir manure, the more it stinks!" The Enemy takes a lot of joy in stirring things up and making things really stink, doesn't he? Take a look around you... It doesn't take much to find out that people are hurting around us. It could be that you are the one facing challenges right now. And if you aren't at the moment, chances are that if you are breathing, you've either had your share already, or you will face them soon enough.
So....What do we do when everything is at stake? What do we do when everything that is precious to us seems to be coming to an end or is being or has been taken from us?
What should our attitudes be when we're up against the wall and it doesn't look like -- on the surface at least-- that there's a way out?
How do we react as Christ-followers to our own troubles or to the hardships that come to those whom we know and love?
I think that as Believers, we have to start with one premise: God is looking out for His kingdom's interests in everything He does. One of the biggest fallacies I think that believers fall for is that we think that God has only our interests at stake. I really believe that is why we often set our own agendas and then ask God to bless them! We tend to believe God is some kind of a glorified genie in a bottle, and if we rub the bottle the right way, or say the magic words, that He'll pop out and make everything right. Just the way we want it to be. Just like magic.
That, my friend, smells of smoke from the pit of hell! It never has been and never will be about us, when God is accomplishing kingdom purposes. It will ALWAYS be about God. And, my dear friends, James 1:2 tells us that we will suffer various trials.
So, I think it's safe to say that:
Whatever it is that God throws across your plate is all about accomplishing God's purposes in your life. I think it's also safe to say that the life of a Christ follower isn't always about rainbows and puppy dogs... Sometimes it includes sailing on some pretty rough seas.
The second thing that we have to remember is that when we belong to Jesus, He NEVER leaves us or forsakes us. (Hebrews 13:5) It's easy to feel as if God is with us on the good days, and to feel like He is walking with us when all is right with the world. We need to remember that He is going to walk as closely with us through the fiery trials that we face, just as He walks closely with us on the good days. He hasn't left us!
Lastly, I think we need to remember to trust in God for whatever the outcome of our days, whether they be good days or bad days. If we are already trusting God on the good days, and He has shown His love and protection for us there, it seems to me that we should also trust Him completely for the times when the road gets a bit bumpy. If He has proven Himself trustworthy during the good days, doesn't it make sense that He will also be trustworthy in the bad times as well?
He is unchangeable, so from where He sits, tomorrow will be no different from yesterday or today. (Hebrews 13:8)
He is still God.
He is still Faithful.
He is still True.
He is still the Creator of the Universe.
He is still the Ancient of Days.
He is still the Great Physician.
He is still the Lover of your Soul.
He is still the Ancient of Days.
He is still the Bridegroom of the Church.
He is still the Father to the fatherless.
He is still the Husband to the Widow.
He is still the Author of Salvation.
He is still The Way, The Truth and The Life.
He is still the Vinedresser.
He is still the Great Shepherd.
He is still the Mighty Fortress.
He is still your shield in the midst of a storm.
He is still the Rock of Ages.
He is still the Creator of the Universe.
He is still the Resurrection and the Life.
He is still the Gate.
He is still Lion of Judah.
He is still the Prince of Peace.
He is still Wonderful.
He is still Counselor.
He is still the Almighty God.
He is still the King of All Kings.
He is still the Lord of All Lords.
He still LIVES in YOU.
And He is still head-over-heels crazy in love with you!
Nothing will change that.
Did you get that???
Not one blessed thing will change His love for you.
And He will never, ever leave you.
Not in a bazillion-trillion years.
You can bank on it.
So... when your back's against the wall, remember Who is in charge. Leave your days -- whatever they may be, along with the outcome, to God. Because with Him, you have Hope. And Hope does not disappoint. (Romans 5:5)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I just came home from a Wednesday night church orchestra rehearsal. That's nothing unusual for me. It's been my routine on Wednesday nights for a number of years now. And every now and again, I will come home with a particular song from the upcoming Sunday's worship set that sticks with me. Tonight, it was a song by Darlene Zschech that is popular among our congregation called, "Made Me Glad" that I have been singing all night after returning home:
I will bless the Lord forever
I will trust Him at all times
He has delivered me from all fear
He has set my feet upon a rock
I will not be moved
And I'll say of the Lord
You are my shield, my strength
My portion, deliverer
My shelter, strong tower
My very present help in time of need
Whom have I in heaven but You
There's none I desire beside You
You have made me glad
And I'll say of the Lord
You are my shield, my strength
My portion, deliverer
My shelter, strong tower
My very present help in time of need
Most of this song came straight from the scriptures! David wrote many, many of the Psalms and gave many of these same titles to the Lord as He was running from Saul. The guy was being chased by a madman, running in and out of caves and yet he still managed to call God his strength... his portion and deliverer.... Don't get me wrong here. He also made it clear that he wanted God to get rid of his enemies, but in nearly every single one of the Psalms, David still managed to come back around to God.
He knew that God could and would handle every single situation that He found himself in regarding Saul and his men.... even when Saul was absolutely crazy!
We're no different from David today, are we? Ever been falsely accused? Been in a situation where you've gotten a lot more month left than you do money? What about your marriage? Ever run into some disasters there? David sure did! He actually caused some major issues there! But he also learned the forgiveness of God. (Ps. 51) And he was quick to tell Him thanks. What about your health? David was in the midst of some pretty severe depression in some of those caves.... Yet, he found a way to talk to God about it and gave Him praise.
Think about that a minute! How often has God pulled your feet from the fire?? How often has God made you glad???
Is He your strength?
Like you, I have plenty to praise the Lord for! For example, I know that when my husband was going through his cancer treatments two years ago, things were really very stressful at our house. We had been living in Tennessee and our former home in another state hadn't yet sold, thanks to the current economy. We then had to deal with a misdiagnosis and prognosis for his cancer, and then had to deal with expensive treatments. But during it all, God provided every single penny that we needed! And He answered our prayers with a correct diagnosis and with a what has been a clean bill of health for going on two years.
Our minister of music reminded us tonight that it is easy to forget that we need to say thanks to God for all of the wonderful things He has done for us. He's right! After the new wears off from the miracle, we seem to go back to the status quo.
Remember September 11, 2001? Do you remember how churches were packed full after the planes hit the towers? About a month later, things went right back to normal and the politicians were back to bickering, churches went back to their regular crowd sizes. Six months later, we were no longer enthralled by the giant hole in the middle of New York City now known as Ground Zero. What phrase seemed to be the rallying cry after that? Do you remember? It was, "We Will Never Forget!" And ironically, it almost seems that we have.
Our minister of music had us just say a word of Thanks to God tonight for all of the great things He has done. And I wanted to ask you to take the time to do the same thing. Take the time now to recall those things that God has done, and say thanks.
Has He set your feet upon a rock? Tell Him!
Do you have a Provider in Heaven? Thank Him!
Has He been your Strength when you have been tempted? Give Him praise!
Has He been your Shelter when you have been in the middle of a storm? Exalt His name!
From what has He delivered you? Remember! Give Him Glory!
Has He made you glad??? Ooooooohhhhhhhhhhh!!! Shout it, friend, shout it OUT! HE IS WORTHY... AND HE HAS MADE ME GLAD!
Sunday, August 9, 2009
We all know the story of David. He's the kid that was in the field tending sheep that was anointed to be king.... In I Samuel 17, we read of a story from David's life, when he was faced with challenges.
At the time that this particular story in David's life took place, Saul, Israel's first king was still on the throne. Saul and the Israelites were at war with the Philistines.
David's dad, Jesse, had eight sons. David was somewhere in the middle of the lineup of the siblings. He had three older brothers and four younger brothers. The three oldest brothers were following Saul and were hanging out with the rest of the Israeli army. David had been spending his time caring for his father's sheep and had been going back and forth between the sheep pen and taking messages and food to his brothers.
The two parties at war were on opposite hills from one another, with a valley in between them.
One particular day, Jesse sent David to his brothers, to take them some food.... When David made it to the hillside, he found Goliath, a giant of a man taunting the Israelites. This obnoxious bully was yelling across to the Israelites day and night... He was challenging the Israelites to a battle. This would be a winner takes all battle. The loser would have to bow to their enemy. And this had been going on for forty days! No one would dare step up to face the giant.
Imagine what our hero, the teenager David thought when he heard the giant taunting the Israelites.... If he was like a lot of teenagers that I have known over the years, he could have had a little bit of cockiness about him. Or maybe he was a little naiive. Whatever his emotional state, he couldn't believe his ears! He was going to stand up for the God of Israel. And he was not going to stand for this smart-mouthed bully.
Can you imagine what the crowd around him thought when he said, "I can take him"? His brothers pretty much thought he was crazy! They tried to talk him out of it. Saul even tried to give him his armor and his sword. But it was too big. I can imagine that it probably looked like a little kid playing dress up or something. So David just used what he knew best.
Here was this kid who was going to take on this beast.... Now, granted, David was accustomed to fighting lions and bears off from the sheep pen, but this guy was over nine feet tall! The tip alone of his spear weighed 5000 shekels. I am sure that David probably looked like (and felt like) the little green sprout in comparison! Goliath was HUGE!
Can you say "overwhelmed" ??? This was a GOD-sized problem David had here. And it required a GOD-sized faith. If he failed, the Israelites would have had to submit to the Philistines. I am betting that the entire crowd could hear David's knees knocking!
But David knew God was with him, and told the big bully as much. And that in no uncertain terms, he was going down... pretty much because God was gonna take him down.
We know the rest of the story.... David picked up five smooth stones, grabbed a slingshot and planted one right between Goliath's eyes! In one shot, the gargantuan beast fell to the ground. The crowds roared and little David became an instant hero!
We all face giants of one kind or another in our lives. I know that I have faced plenty of them in my lifetime. And I have a few on my plate right now. Chances are that you do, too.
Make a mental list of the giants that are in your way right now. You make yours. I'll make mine. Got your list? Good!
Now. How do you and I act when we are faced with something much bigger than us??? Or do we react??? What happens when there is a GOD-sized challenge before us??? Do we remember to Whom we belong and trust Him to face the challenge/fell the giant? Or do we automatically cower in defeat?
It's easier to let the circumstances of our lives and our own self-sufficiency to dictate whether we can follow God, isn't it? (Case in point: Ever let the things you have in your hand dictate whether you can obey God? What about the clock? Or your calendar? Your checkbook?) It's easier to bow to the idea that something God has put in front of us that may be bigger than us is better left undone than calling on the One to help you Who called you in the first place.
The sad truth is, most of the time, we'd rather back down from the fight with the giant than to consider that God may actually have something far greater than we ever asked or even imagined in store for us, if we'd just obey Him. We respond to His challenges with, "This just isn't doable, God. I can't."
And God simply answers with, "You're right. You can't. But I can."
Our God is a God Who majors in the impossible! He is a God Who is bigger than any circumstance that you or I may have. He is fully capable of equipping those whom He has called to the purposes for which they were called. He felled David's giant. And He can certainly knock down yours and mine, too.
Remember this old chorus by Don Moen?
God will make a way
When there seems to be no way
He works in ways
We cannot see
He will make a way for me.
He will be my guide
Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength
For each new day
He will make a way.
God will make a way.