Thursday, November 11, 2010

Safety Measures

I’m not sure if it’s just my normal state or mind, or if it’s the pregnancy, but I have been in a constant state of mental overdrive these last few months. Seriously, it would be impossible to over-analyze things anymore that I am already doing in relation to our growing family. Will our baby be healthy? Will we have enough money? Will my job understand? Am I capable of keeping an infant safe?
These questions, and thousands like them, seem to consume my consciousness until my thought life becomes one of continuous worry. No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to find peace.

John 14:27

“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – NIV

We live in an unsettling world, it is just a fact. There is no such thing as security here. Thieves break in, babies get sick, marriages fall and accidents happen. The locks on our doors, the medicine in our cabinets, and the air bags in our cars – they may help us, but they never guarantee us. No matter how you look at life, we are walking on shaky ground.

And ironically, if you really think about it, some of the world’s strongest faith-filled Christians became so in battlefields, hospitals, cross fires and prisons – the places on this planet where conflict rages and death can come in an instant. I have heard it said that one of the many paradoxes of the gospel is that those who have no security in this world can actually be the most secure of all for they have found their peace elsewhere – in the promises of God.

So no matter what steps I take towards protecting my new baby and our family, and regardless of how many hours I spend worrying about them, does any of it really make a difference?

How often do we find comfort in false securities? We surround ourselves with safety measures, and for what…peace?
The way I see it, peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of Christ.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Temporary Attacks

I feel like I haven’t read the Gospel of Matthew in quite a while. This hasn’t been an oversight; in fact, I have skipped over the Gospels entirely out of blatant overconfidence. Somewhere along the line, I convinced myself that there was nothing new for me to gain from them. My head was already so saturated with those “same old stories” that I began to think of them as pass-able. But this morning, one of the many devotionals that get emailed to me had the following translation of Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:25:

"A student doesn't get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn't make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, 'Dungface,' what can the workers expect?” – The Message

How relatable the Message sometimes is. Don’t we know this feeling well…that much of the Christian life is lived in tension between two impulses: the desire to be liked and respected by the world, and the desire to know God and be like Jesus. In our everyday lives, it becomes so easy to forget that these two impulses cannot thrive together, one must be subdued.

It is quite unfortunate that most of our world has chosen the former option – compromising their faith in the uncompromising Christ. But in this passage, Jesus is urging us to make a better decision. Though hostility and persecution are not enjoyable, they are the last gasps of a dying kingdom – the kingdom of human pride.

Let us not be shaken by temporary attacks on an eternal reign

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Leaning Towers

It is so surreal when someone dies. Last weekend a Notre Dame student was crushed by a falling tower during a routine practice. By all traditional standards, this student was considered a “good kid”, maybe even a Christian. And still, he – and only he - perished at the hand of a natural cause.

There was a tower in Jerusalem that collapsed and crushed 18 people to death. The people of the town found themselves questioning if these people were worse sinners than they, for they were all spared. There must have been SOME reason why they were chosen to perish and others were not, shouldn’t there?

Luke 13:5

“…Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.” – The Message

The fact is, in this world - as in the world of Christ - towers fall. People die. Survivors mourn. There doesn’t have to be a reason for any of it. And we all can’t help but wonder about the coming day when we will slip away from this world to whatever lies beyond. As Christians, we know what lies beyond. It is the lost that panic at the thought. Even so, we all can’t help ourselves from feeling shocked when this world is rocked.

Jesus responded to the mourners in Jerusalem by reminding them that everyone will die eventually, whether prematurely or in old age. His message is this: Prepare for certain death by repenting now! Jesus points to the real issue – the tragedy that many die without acknowledging their need for a Savior. This eternal tragedy far outweighs anything that this world can dish out, and yet, the number of the spiritually dead far outweighs our “natural disasters”.

We need to view life and death – and our neighbors – with an eternal perspective. We must understand that physical death separates us from those we love for a short time, but death without Christ separates those we love from the presence of God forever.
Our lives are filled with constantly leaning towers, are we braced for a fall?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall Festival

This past weekend Brian and I volunteered to work a booth at our church’s fall festival. It had the makings of a perfect day. The weather was beautiful, the kids were excited and I was eager to finally get the opportunity to serve along side of my husband. I wish that I could say these feelings lasted.

Unfortunately, this attitude of anticipation and enthusiasm left me almost as soon as I arrived at the church and found that Brian and I had been separated in our areas of responsibility. Not only did they assign us different booths to work, but they couldn’t have been farther away from each other. It was as if they saw one side of the field and sent Brian there, then pointed the complete opposite direction and sent me there.

It goes without saying that I was pretty annoyed. Finally, for once, we were going to work with a ministry together and that all got taken away in less than 30 seconds! Suddenly, I found myself becoming the volunteer that no one wants.

Philippians 2:4

"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." – NIV

How hard it is to not look at our own interests, I am so far from accomplishing this that it’s embarrassing. I turned what should have been a joyful service attitude to one of entitlement. “How could they separate us” I thought. “This is going to be so boring for me now.”

We are called to serve one another in love and grace, but how easily that love morphs into prerogative before our very eyes. While nothing else in creation may have this power, thank God that He is big enough to take our eyes off of ourselves for one second.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Big Prayers

Many times in life when we are confronted with a seemingly impossible situation, we tend to ask God to help alleviate the symptoms rather than to intervene in a mighty way. I know that I’m guilty of this for sure. It’s as though we are afraid of asking too much…as if there was such a thing.

In our culture, we just don’t see miracles that often, so we naturally assume that God isn’t interested in doing them. But to the contrary, according to the Bible at least, He is intensely interested in intervening in our situations. The only missing link: a simple, worshipful heart.

Mark 9:23

“If you can…” – NIV

In this passage of Mark, there was a father whose son was possessed by a destructive spirit. (Know any parents like that?) Everyone, including the disciples of Jesus, had tried to help with no avail. Finally, the father appeals to Jesus to do something – “if [He] can”. Jesus found this hint of uncertainty, frankly, ludicrous. Of course He can you fool, He is God incarnate!

This makes me wonder about my prayers…do they also undermine Jesus’ mastery of a situation? Do I also hint that He might not be able to do what I ask? Do I simply forget that His adequacy is never the question?

Jesus really may answer our prayers exactly the way we expect Him to…are we ready for that?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Showtime

265/365

Recently, over the past few months, my husband and I have been trying out a new church home. Lately, and for no reason that I am able to detect, I am just not satisfied with our current choice.

Are they unbiblical in their teachings…absolutely not. Are they cold and stagnant as a worship community…not that I can tell. Are the parishioners unfriendly and standoffish…definitely not the case. So what then?

As I sat in my women’s Bible study last night, thinking of anything except the study, I found myself wondering what my problem was. In short, what am I looking for?

Do I need a church home with a host of means and methods for preaching the Gospel? Do I desire a community that has plans and strategies in place for communicating an “entertaining” message and doing church with stimulation? Do I need a good performance from someone who can captivate the crowds?

Ironically, all of these characteristics define the church from whence I came and, even then, my needs were not being met. I think that at some point, the question must become not about what I want out of church, but what God wants me to receive.

Perhaps, in all of my fascination with the outside of worship I have neglected what’s most important. It could be that what was lacking in my performance driven, program-seeking mind was a desperation for the power of God. And now, now that the desperation is all I seem to feel, that which satisfied my need for entertainment no longer fits the bill.

Have I deceived myself? Have I mistaken the presence of my physical body in the crowd for the existence of spiritual life within my soul?

I dare ask, in regards to church services, what has become most important: The Spirit or the The Show?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Simon

Luke 22:32
“I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” – NIV
As Christians, we know that the prayers of the Son of God never went unanswered. There was never a hint of conflict between the persons of the Trinity and, definitely, no separation. When the incarnate God requested, the enthroned God heard. When Jesus Christ prayed this prayer for Simon, Simon was secure.
What do we make, then, of Simon Peter’s famous denial? 3 times he swore that he did not know the man of Jesus, 3 times he lied about the One to whom he swore his allegiance. Doesn’t this action alone prove that he was not protected from evil, that his faith did – in fact – fail?
The answer to this question is no. When Jesus Christ looks at our faith, He sees a lifelong process. He sees whether our faith will be proven false by our testing or refined by it. When we fall, and we all do as Peter did, He knows whether we will get back up. No matter what we may think, a momentary falter does not determine the final outcome.
The way I see it, there is a distinct difference between taking our faltering efforts seriously and using them as conditions that define us. Let us trust the Son of God, the same Lord who has personally prayed for us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eager Beavers

263/365

I may have spoken about this before, but I used to lead a Campus Crusade for Christ group at UGA. This was right around the time when I first became a true disciple of Christ and was eager to step into any service position available, even if I wasn’t truly ready.

We would meet at my apartment once a week and I would lead an hour long Bible study. This was in addition to the Tuesday night church service that everyone attended and the Wednesday night leadership meetings that I, also, was a part of.

As one can imagine, it did not take long for me to burn out. I was overwhelmed with the amount of commitments that I had rushed into making. There were other aspects of college life that I was forfeiting to be a ministry leader, and frankly, it was just turning into work.

How often does this happen? We become Christians without really considering the amount of sacrifice and dedication that it may entail. Sure, it’s quite easy to utter the Sinner’s prayer and find ourselves saved, but when the time comes to truly follow Christ…are we as eager?

John 6:66
“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” – NIV

Never, in His entire ministry, was Jesus ever interested in marketing Himself to the masses. I read once that the invitation of Jesus to His followers was clearly aimed at advertising the costly aspect of following Him, instead of the rewards. As He spoke plainly about what would be sacrificed, He watched the crowds diminish…and He seemed perfectly ok with that.

Jesus focuses on those – however few – who believe Him when He says radical things. And through this radical obedience, an authentic disciple is made.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

For His Honor

262/365

One of the ways we can determine whether we are becoming Christlike is to see how we act in a crisis. When the pressure is on, what will we do? Or, even deeper, when the pressure is on, what motives will direct us?

Jesus came to the hour that He had long predicted. He was clear about His purpose in coming to Jerusalem; He would die there. The disciples couldn’t understand it, but He had foretold the Cross and Resurrection numerous times.

The hour had come, and it was not a pleasant hour. Nothing in human flesh – not even the Son of God – enjoys suffering. Jesus doesn’t ask God to save Him from this jour, but He does want to know if it’s possible that the cup of suffering pass by Him.

While His spirit was very willing, his human nature was very weak. Think about it, even God – clothed in human flesh – wanted a less painful way.
The fact remains, God’s reputation weighed heavier on the heart of Christ than His own comfort and life.

Jesus sacrificed a huge following, His school of disciples, His comfort, His health, His current reputation and even His life in order that God’s name might be honored.

Would we?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Inevitable Insults

261/365

Matthew 5:11
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” – NIV

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “Blessed are you IF people insult you.” He says when. It is a given. Those who live as disciples in this world will get on the nerves of their culture. There is an inherently abrasive relationship between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men. The reason is insanely simple: God and men are rivals for the same throne.

Jesus is an offense to the ego of this world, and as a part of Him, we become that as well. In our natural selves, we see ourselves as lords of our own lives. The world cannot accept a Savior when it is busy “saving itself”. It all boils down to human nature; to live compatibly with Christ violates the human ego.

“Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering,” Peter says in 1 Peter 4.

Know that our Savior is a threat to the prideful and expect nothing less than full on battle.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kenney Chesney

260/365

On the way to work this morning, I had the pleasure of listening to one of my favorite country music channels. Pretty much following their usual playlist of Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum and Miranda Lambert…they managed to work in a pretty well-known Kenney Chesney song “Everybody wants to go to Heaven.”

Now, not sure if the lyrics to this song would make you think as much as they did me, but it’s worth a shot:

Everybody wants to go to Heaven.
Get their wings and fly around.
Everybody wanna go to Heaven
but nobody wanna go now.

At first hearing, this song probably isn’t supposed to be taken all that literally, but I just can’t help myself. I began thinking about heaven and what an amazing blessing it would be to go there. I began to think of the choirs of angels, the feet of Christ and the radiant face of God.

Almost simultaneously, I began to think of Brian. I began to think of my parents and my brother. I began to think about my baby and all the things that I would miss if I was to find myself in heaven today. Would I be content if I never had the chance to have my child? Would I find myself longing for more earthly time with my family? Are there still things that I want to accomplish and experience before I settle down in the Kingdom of Christ?

What does it mean for your faith if you can almost rationalize how living in this world could compare with meeting what God has in store for you in eternity? Does that mean you are immature spiritually? Does it mean that you have put your family above God?

Does it mean…anything?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Great Works

259/365

In my Bible studies recently, I have spent much time in the Old Testament. Among the reoccurring themes of disobedience, mercy and judgment, one thing is standing out far more than the rest: God’s description of Himself. Over and over again, we read of God describing Himself simply by the works He has done: “I am God, who has done…”

Isaiah 46:9
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God…”

Exodus 29:46
“They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them.” – NIV

Numbers 15:41
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 22:33
“…and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD.” – NIV

Reading this, and recognizing the importance of actions on character, I can’t help but wonder: How do I think of the Lord? Is He the God who has not given me the job I desire? Is He the God who has not heard my unspoken prayers? Is He the God who is too busy to bless my life with more than I deserve?

OR, Is He the God who saves me? Is He the God who delivers me? Is He the God who comforts me, encourages me, protects me and, in fact, blesses me?

The way I see it, it’s all in the perspective.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Week

258/365

Well, its official, I basically have zero ways to post my blog now. First, it was my shotty computer that broke. Next, it was the cancellation of our home internet service. Finally, my husband’s work has realigned the security settings on their computer systems and now my blog site is blocked for him and he can no longer help me with the postings. Sheesh, when the devil works, he really goes out of his way to be annoying.

But, while all of this was going on, perhaps God was at work also…

On Wednesday, sitting in traffic, the opportunity came for me to strategically glide through a yellowish-red light that would have enabled me to miss an extra five minutes of waiting. So, there I was, all geared up to do something slightly frowned upon by the department of motor vehicles, when the stupid-law-abiding-van in front of me didn’t go! Completely annoyed, I sat in my car and slightly glanced into my rear view mirror, and there it was: A cop was behind me the entire time. Here am I not blessed?

On Thursday, my office felt like the land time forgot. It seemed as though everyone was using their vacation time and no one was at work…including the bosses. Now, for most of the employees, this was a free-for-all time of leaving early and missing afternoon rush hour. And trust me, I was feeling completely motivated to take the same action, but for some odd reason, I just didn’t. I remained at my desk and stayed on task. Just then, about 10 minutes before quitting time, my phone rang. It was my boss. All I could thank about was how grateful I was to not have left early and missed that call. Here am I not blessed?

On Friday, and 14 weeks pregnant by the way, I came to the realization that washed and dried blue jeans are not a good idea for a pregnant woman. I spent most of the day with my button undone, feeling completely ragged, and stressing about how expensive (and unfortunate looking) maternity clothes were going to be. Later that evening, my friend Natalie came over and blessed my socks off with her gift of hand-me-down maternity clothes. She brought so many that I’m pretty sure I won’t even be able to wear them all. Here am I not super blessed?

If there is one thing I have noticed in my life, it is that I’m always looking for God to be visible in the big things. But, maybe, just maybe, by having this mentality I am missing exactly who He is trying to be for me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Dwelling Place

257/365

Throughout God’s revelatory history, He has had a chosen dwelling place. In the wilderness and the early years in the Promised Land, it was the Tabernacle. After the reign of David, it was the Jerusalem Temple. The Temple had been rebuilt after Israel’s captivity and was being remolded as Jesus spoke these words:

Mark 13:2
“Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” – NIV

How odd, isn’t it? Jesus speaking, and apparently approving of, the Temple’s destruction.

When Jesus walked this land, He Himself was God’s chosen dwelling place. With the advent of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers, God’s habitation is now those who are in Christ. We, you and me, constitute a mobile and global body in which God lives and moves.

The Temple was temporary and inadequate. It was an illustration of the temple to come, one made of living stones. As living stones, we are to have moved past superficial appearances and formal structures. The worship of God is no longer contained in well-constructed walls. And like it or not, our personal walls, will never restrain Him.

This all begs the question, what is our worship like? Is it like an archaic building, structured and contained? Or, is it fresh as we allow God to move beyond our superficial walls and take us wherever He wills?

Wherever God will go is new heights and new depths, let Him be glorious and let our old stones fall.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Persistence Pays

256/365

I have heard it said that blessed are the meek. While this is all good and great, what about those of us who don’t exactly embody that characteristic? I, for one, truly believe that there are certain circumstances in which Jesus calls for assertiveness.

Luke 11:8
“Because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” – NIV

In this parable on persistence, a man seeks help from his neighbor on behalf of his friends, knocking repeatedly on the neighbor’s door at midnight with a simple request for bread. It was an unlikely and truly inconvenient time for such a request, but because of his perseverance, the neighbor answers.

I am reminded of Luke 5 as well, when several men carry their crippled friend to Jesus and lower him in through a window as to not be detected. These men are zealous for the welfare of their dear friend, there really wasn’t anything they wouldn’t do for him. And as such, Jesus had no rebuke for them. In fact, their brazenness honored Him.

This is how the Father is to be sought – with a clear knowledge that it is His nature to meet needs. And, if we are zealous to have the needs of others met, how much more honored is He.

I have to wonder, how persistent we are in seeking God’s help for the needs of others. When we are told to bear one another’s burdens, does this ever go passed a prayer?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Easy A

255/365

In my Bible study these recent weeks, I have been reading through the writings of the major prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel. At first glance, these books seem to speak of nothing but destruction, judgment and righteous consequences. And to be perfectly frank, they are quite the depressing read! But, when one takes the time to look just a little deeper, the number of spiritual lessons are immeasurable.

Take, for example, the books of Jeremiah 2- 3. We as readers can learn so much about Jeremiah, not only as a man, but as the kind of disciple that all Christians should attempt to become.

In chapter 2, we find Jeremiah describing the actions of God as one who brings charges against a disobedient nation. Their wickedness will be punished, their backsliding will be rebuked. The entire nation of Israel had forsaken their Lord and Jeremiah spends the entire chapter warning them of their certain judgment.

In chapter 3, Jeremiah appears to be singing quite a different message. He speaks of the Lord begging the nation to return to Him. His anger will not last forever, says Jeremiah, His mercy precedes Him.

Jeremiah 3:14
“’Return faithless people, declares the Lord, ‘for I am your husband. I will choose you…’” – NIV

The important thing to notice in these chapters is what isn’t there. What events changed the perspective of Jeremiah from chapter 2 to chapter 3? What happened in his life that made him view God not as a punisher, but as a merciful husband? Was Israel spared, no. Was Jeremiah rewarded for his obedience, no.

NOT A SINGLE THING CHANGED FROM CHAPTER 2 TO CHAPTER 3 BUT THE ATTITUDE OF JEREMIAH.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hidden Hi-C

254/365

This past Sunday, like all Sundays, I headed off to the grocery store. (It’s kind of crazy the amount of things that happen to me while I’m shopping.) Anyway, I decided to start going to Kroger these days over my customary Publix selection. Just when I was second-guessing my decision, and almost wishing for the familiarity that comes with Publix, there it was…the elusive Smashin’ Wild Berry Hi-C Juice Boxes!

This may sound like a small thing, but you have no idea how hard these things are to find. This flavor of Hi-C is not just anywhere my friend, in fact, their location is one of the greatest mysteries of our time. Sure you can find grape or fruit punch, but Smashin’ Wild berry, well that is like a diamond in the ruff.

Now, while the flavor of these juice boxes is undoubtedly awesome, I cannot say that it is the reason why I love them so much. Sadly, these tasty beverages are one of the most significant reminders that I have from my late best friend. Our house used to be swimming in these drinks. We couldn’t get enough of them. It was what you call a “staple”. Now, seeing them, just reminds me of her in such a joyful way.

Now, there was a time, not all that long ago, when something as tiny as a fruit drink would send me on an emotional spiral into devastation. To be perfectly honest, I would have gone to great lengths to have all of these juice boxes destroyed just so that I wouldn’t have to be faced with my loss. There was a time when no light was visible at the end of my shrinking tunnel and even the hope of peace was far from my reach. But, then, there was also a time when I finally remembered what my knees were for.

Job 22:21
“Come back to God Almighty and He’ll rebuild your life.” – The Message

Beth Moore says that hope is believing that God will, even though He hasn’t. And trust me, when you face the loss of a loved one, nothing is more important that the hope you find in the Lord. The ability to praise our Heavenly Father in the midst of chaos and catastrophe is the sign of a true disciple. A broken soul on its knees before the Lord stands far taller than a fickle believer trying to stand on their own.

So even if it is the small sight of a juice box that sends you down there, even if you have to crawl into your prayer room, Praise Him still. There is no other way to leave that room standing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wounded Community

253/365

Many of us became Christians, expecting to find holy people in God’s Kingdom. I mean, why wouldn’t we right? We may have envisioned the church as a collection of folks who have gotten it right, who know what life is all about and know how to live it well. We may have thought our relationship troubles were over, if we related only to the redeemed.

But, if we’ve been around long enough, we have come to realize that while the people are indeed holy in Christ, they (and we) are still anything but flawless. When we go to church we are surrounded by silent addicts, dysfunctional families, physical and emotional cripples as well as broken relationships and distorted perspectives.

Matthew 15:32
“I have compassion for these people.” – NIV

Jesus looked upon the lame and crippled with compassion. He healed them and He fed them. Even knowing that, what do we see when we look out upon the crowds that are coming to see Jesus? The girl with the inappropriate outfit? The man who won’t get off his IPhone? The teenager who smells like a cigarette? A world of infirmities not only lies before our eyes, but also lies before His feet.

Perhaps, we found ourselves disappointed when we realized how deeply flawed Christians can be. Perhaps, we didn’t respond well when we were greeted with the nature of the world inside the walls of the church.

Regardless, the fact remains: The people of Jesus are the walking wounded, inside and outside the sanctuary.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Great Potter

252/365

I often think about what my professional life would have been like had I ventured down the road less taken. As much as I wanted to be successful and economically stable, I couldn’t seem to shake the fact that I really wanted to be a professional potter. My love for ceramics is nothing new; I realize that I have addressed that on more than one occasion. But, frankly, I don’t care.

The entire process of building something out of nothing just amazes me. The time it takes to wane and mold a piece of clay can be extremely restorative. Round and round the wheel spins, and with every slip of the hand, a new layer is uncovered. The process of smoothing out the air holes, weeding out the inside gaps and building a strong foundation is not easily matched. Then… it happens, you finish your piece.

From the outside, your new creation shines in faultless glory. To any onlooker, this construction is unblemished and watertight. There is nothing it cannot hold. There is no joy you cannot find in it. It is perfect, exactly the way that it is created to be.

Imagine your surprise and extreme disappointment when you return to your creation after it has gone through the fire. You lift the lid of the kiln and ready yourself to admire your final formation. But to your dismay, the entire creation has destroyed itself.

During the firing process, there was an air pocket that was far too small to detect with the human eye. As pressure was placed on your creation, its foundation was not strong enough to support the weight. As much as you loved your piece, there was nothing to do but throw it out and begin again.

Jeremiah 19:1
This is what the Lord says: “Go and buy a clay jar from the potter…Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching, and say to them, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as the potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired.”

Sometimes, things get so badly broken that nothing will repair it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Servanthood

251/365

Back when I was training to become a YoungLife leader, one of the scripture passages that we had to memorize was Philippians 2:5-11. In that passage, Jesus is said to have been in His very nature God, but made Himself nothing, taking the nature of a servant instead. And, as we all know, His obedience even to the point of death is the ultimate expression of that servanthood.

As I was reading John 13, I couldn’t help but see the direct expression of the Philippians passage in the actions of Christ.

John 13:7
“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” – NIV

In this verse, Jesus gives us a visual illustration of the divine descent to our needy planet. He removes His normal clothing and wraps Himself with the garment a slave would wear. He performs the most selfless of tasks for the sake of His beloved disciples. And when He is done, “He put on His clothes and returned to His place.”

How hard is this for us to grasp? I get almost outraged when asked to complete a task that I believe is somehow below me. To someone with that mentality, this passage is more than humbling.

Jesus left the glories of Heaven in order to wash our feet, but sadly, this is a servanthood that we mistakenly tend to feel entitled to instead of recognizing the incredible condescension God undertook in order to meet our most profound needs.

The Lord of Lords is at our feet…are we treating Him that way?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Be a Daniel

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When Jehoiakim reigned as King of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. After the victory King Nebuchadnezzar asked one of his officials to find all of the young men who were handsome, excelled in learning, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. Among these elite young men was a teenager named Daniel. These young men were taken from their families in Judah and forced to serve the King in Babylon. At that time Babylon resembled the culture today. People thought for themselves and strayed from the Lord. Daniel’s ability to live in Babylon, remaining faithful to Christ, makes him my hero.

I admire Daniel because he possessed humble wisdom, boldness, and faithfulness. During Nebuchadnezzar’s reign he dreamed and became troubled. After his astrologers failed to interpret his dream, he called upon Daniel to interpret it. Before interpreting the dream, Daniel gave thanks to the Lord and praised Him for His wonderful works and wisdom. Thus Daniel interpreted the king’s dream and gave all the glory to the Lord, humbling himself. Daniel’s boldness showed in his attempt to witness to the king when he pleaded, “Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed” (Daniel 4:27, NIV). Even though King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the kingdom, could have punished Daniel because of his insubordination, Daniel chose to witness. King Darius the Mede took over kingship of the lands of Babylon, and his advisors were jealous of Daniel’s influence with the king, so they convinced the king to institute a decree that anyone who did not worship the King be thrown in the lion’s den. Daniel, as was his faithful practice, opened his windows towards Jerusalem and prayed three times a day to the Lord. After the king’s advisors arrested Daniel and threw him into the lion’s den, the king woke up, ran out to the lion’s den, and shouted down to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20b). God shut the mouths of the lions and protected Daniel from the lion’s. Remaining faithful to the Lord, Daniel prayed even though he knew that he would be thrown in the lion’s den.

My parents tell me to “Be a Daniel” which means to exemplify Daniel’s humbleness, boldness, and faithfulness. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This verse accurately represents Daniel’s life; he renewed his mind daily with prayer which enabled him to not conform. My ability to be like Daniel begins with my relationship with Christ. Intimacy with Christ allows me to live in this world but not be changed by this world.

- Marcus (9th grade, Hawaii student)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Expecting

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I wasn’t sure when I was going to start writing about this, but I suppose that now’s as good of time as any to begin. We’re pregnant! In about 6 months Brian and I will welcome our first child into this world. Heaven help us.

Throughout these past few months, I have to wonder if God even recognized me. I have driven myself to panic on more than one occasion and, suffice to say, have almost been preparing my heart for the worst in relation to this pregnancy. Not allowing God His place in my heart, I have felt no comfort or peace about this pregnancy the entire time.

Every possible thing that I could have worried about, I did. And, now that I know everything is ok, I can’t help but feel what was at the root of all this anxiety: An unconcealed mistrust.

It just goes to show the full span of God’s patience to give us this miracle in the face of my behavior towards Him. The past three months have gone as such:

Month 1-

Me: Terrified to the point of shame that I would not be able to conceive a child.

Result: We conceived in a matter of weeks.

God: Here aren’t you satisfied?

Month 2-

Me: Obsessed with the idea that I would lose this pregnancy.

Result: 7 Week ultrasound with a healthy baby and strong heartbeat.

God: Here aren’t you satisfied?

Month 3-

Me: Convinced that our baby’s heart had stopped and I had miscarried.

Result: An 11 week listen to the baby’s heartbeat holding extremely strong at 160 BPM.

God: Here aren’t you satisfied?

In the last twelve weeks, God has done nothing but prove His faithfulness to me time and time again. And still, the fearful voices in my head were all that I would listen to. When I heard our baby’s heartbeat, it was almost as if God was shouting in my ears to trust Him. Crying out that I should be joyful in this and let Him fight for me.

Of all the sounds in the room that day, the loudest one was from someone 2 inches long.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Recline and Dine

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As John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” reclined against Jesus at the Last Supper, he surely felt the comfort and joy that not only accompanies a close human relationship, but that comes only from knowing divine companionship as well.

Perhaps the other disciples, while enjoying the company of Jesus as well, envied John’s closeness with Him. I can’t help but feel as though I would. We too, long to recline at the table with Jesus. We crave that familiarity. So, we draw near to Him and pray that He draws near to us.

And what do we expect to find? Like John, do we hope to feel the comfort and joy of this human yet divine companionship? We are absolutely right to think so. But, contrary to our own expectations, there is more. Piercing the moment is this sorrowful revelation:

John 13:21
“I tell you the truth; one of you is going to betray me.” – NIV

Divine intimacies bring not only joy but sorrow. Do we want a fellowship with Christ? We may indeed have it, but with all of its magnificent rewards will come a cost – partaking in His sufferings as well.

If we are ever to reach any depth of maturity in Christ, we must know that He and this world do not mix. We tend to avoid pain at all costs, but we are unrealistic and deny His call when we expect to know Him without knowing the grief of His rejection.

When we recline and dine with the Son of Man, we are choosing the magnificence of His incomparable glory. But in that, we are also becoming close enough to feel His pain.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ask Yourself

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How many times a day or week do we find ourselves doing things that we don’t particularly want to be doing? I think of this often around the holiday season with all of the built up expectations that inevitably encircle these times of merriment.
We run here to be at this house. We drive there to be with this group. We go to this party to be joiners. We go to that dinner to be communal. And all the while, what we really want to be doing, is sitting at home with our glass of hot chocolate watching Christmas Vacation.

Holidays aside, I can’t help but feel like this “have-to” mentality follows our everyday lives as well, especially in the realm of spiritual disciplines. Really be honest with yourself…do you get untainted joy from tithing every week? Do you feel nothing but excitement as you get up Sunday morning for church? Does that Wednesday night Bible study really meet your needs, or could there be some other cultural motivator behind your inclusion?

Isaiah 1:12
“When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you…?” – NIV

In those times when we are finding that our spiritual motivations behind our commitments are not entirely heaven-sent…what does God say to do? Stay home! Do not waste His time going through the motions of spiritual disciplines when your heart is nowhere in it the action. No discipline is better than false discipline any day.

Not one time does the Lord COMMAND our presence in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. Not one passage of scripture DEMANDS our attention to Bible study or even Christmas Eve service. God never ORDERS that our children attend vacation Bible school.

What does God command: That we love Him above all others and that we know Him to be the Son of God.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Great Plans

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Have you ever wondered what God’s plan is? Not just His plan for your own life, but His plan on the whole? If any of you know me at all, you know that I am all about the plans. Let’s be organized, prepared and structured to achieve whatever objective we set out to achieve.

A simple look at the history of the church will make it obvious to anyone who cares…God is a planner. The things that happen today were planned long before we were even thoughts in our parent’s heads. God is organized. God is structured. God is prepared.

Matthew 24:14
“And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” – NIV

There is no clearer statement in regards to the goal of history than this passage found in Matthew. History has never been about wars. It has never been about political evolution. History isn’t even about biological advancements. History is about the Kingdom of God and its proclamation to all peoples.

It says straight in scripture, when the Kingdom had drawn its members from every people group in the world, Jesus will announce the end of human history.

Contrary to what many people believe, humanity is not just drifting through history, we have been given a goal. We are to point to Christ, the sum of all things. I can’t help but wonder…what does my life point to?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's In a Name?

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The “name” of God is the holiest and most sacred of all words, especially in the Jewish context of Jesus’ ministry. There is simply an inexpressible reverence for His name that we often fail to appreciate being that we come from a culture that incorporates the Deity into common slang.

This inherent reverence exists only because of the awesome power of the Person it invokes. There should be nothing more mysterious, more feared, more awe-inspiring than “The Name” of the living, eternal God. And yet, if it is not spoken in the confines of a ministry, do we even really notice?

The enemy of God has spent centuries trying to spoil the Name of the Most High. But, alas, he cannot, and will not, ever be successful in this endeavor. Where he can be victorious though, and has been, is that he can create the illusion that the Name of God is something that is used so freely, His importance gets disguised in pronouns.

“Oh my God”

“For the love of God”

And then numerous profane phrases that I’m not going to mention here.

John 17:11
“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name…” - NIV

Monday, September 20, 2010

Honesty for $.99

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Every Sunday I do my wifely duty and head off to the grocery store. Every week I grab my cart and make an immediate B-Line for the fountain beverage station. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a nice drink while they grocery shop?

Anyway, after obtaining my usual 22oz Dr. Pepper, I’m off. Up and down every aisle. Having the meat man repackage all my meat into servings meant for couples and not just families of 3! Stopping at every single free sample station and really taking my time as I head down the magazine lane.

I finally reach the checkout and I’m inevitably faced with what some would consider a dilemma: Pay for your unmarked, and now gone, soda… or attempt to leave the store having consumed a refreshing beverage at no cost? Naturally, I always hand the check-out girl my soda cup and just tell her that I had been drinking it the whole time. She gives a small nod and scans the cup’s barcode to ensure full payment.

Now, this is obviously no big deal. I am not curing a disease. I am not defending this conglomerate against a would-be robbery. I am not even being all that nice about my check-out procedure. And yet, every single time, I walk out of that place feeling like such an amazing Christian.

This week, I sat in my car and just thought…really? Is my everyday life and surrounding culture so dishonest that I consider myself a cut above the rest just because I paid for my $.99 beverage? Is life really so deceitful that we can build our self-worth on free Dr. Pepper? My thinking is…that’s exactly what life is.

Micah 6: 10-11
“Do you expect me to overlook obscene wealth you've piled up by cheating and fraud? Do you think I'll tolerate shady deals and shifty scheming?” – The Message

Friday, September 17, 2010

Straight Paths

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Luke 9:61-62
“Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” – NIV

This passage always confuses me. Personally, I think that this request from Jesus’ would-be follower didn’t seem all that out of line. Everyone, when setting out on an adventure, says good-bye to their family…don’t they? I would venture to say that we seldom go anywhere of significant distance without alerting at least someone. So, why does Jesus have a problem with this request?

He gives us the answer in His response; Jesus does not want anyone looking back. The issue isn’t the casual good-bye; the issue is where the heart is focused. Jesus’ call is always immediate and thorough. Never, for one second, think that His timing is anything but purposeful. When He does call, it is the appropriate time to turn our heads solely toward Him.

Naturally, in our humanity, we often let the preoccupations with life distract our gaze. The message is simple as this: Our path toward Jesus must be straight and unhindered. Those who look behind do not make straight paths.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Joseph

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I’m not sure if I have shared this bit of information on here before, but if I have, here it is again. Nemo has not always been my only Chihuahua. A few years ago, I made the decision to buy another one for Nemo to have a brother. His name was Joseph and he was the cutest thing ever.

There wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for this dog. I bought him the best toys.
I fed him the best food. I frequently changed my schedules around so that I would have more time to be home with him. I loved him as a puppy and provided him with the best obedience training possible as he grew older. I spent all my money on teaching him what was right and what was wrong behavior. There was no reason whatsoever why this dog should have been anything but the most obedient and loved animal on the face of the planet.

Sure wish that was the case! This dog was awful! He would howl into the night if he wasn’t tired. He would mark his territory in every single crevice of my apartment. Even after 2 sessions of week-long obedience school, it seemed as though he had learned nothing! He would look me straight in my eyes and simultaneously hike his leg on my brand new couch!

Even now, I ask myself: What more could have been done for him that I did not do? But, when I looked to find my obedient, loving dog…I only saw defiance.

As I read through Isaiah, this reminds me all too much of the Song of the Vineyard. God is speaking about his people and all that He had wished for them to be:

Isaiah 5:1-2,4
“My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.

What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?” - TNIV

Just as I sent Joseph to a family who didn’t mind his disobedience, what other choice did God have but to finally send judgment upon His disobedient people? Was there ever another choice?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is It Monday

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Man, this morning started out rough. First of all, I woke up late (which isn’t exactly new, but still frustrating). I picked out my clothes for work (a black ensemble aimed more at comfort than style) and then got white dog hair all over it when I said good morning to my Chihuahua.

After changing my pants, I ran downstairs to take my dog out for a quick potty break before rushing off to work. Wouldn’t you know it…he couldn’t have been more stubborn this morning. The grass was still wet being so early and, frankly, he did not want to dampen his paws! He spent the first 5 minutes finding a dry place to stand…completely unaware of my tardiness and more focused on staying dry than relieving himself! After fifteen minutes of these shenanigans, he finally did a little something and I just gave up on the rest.

Of course, by this time, I have missed my window of no-traffic on GA 400 and now have to sit in crazy congestion for the duration of my commute. After what can only be called a lifetime, I finally see my exit. I veer into my exit lane only to be abruptly halted by these idiot drivers who are using the exit lane as a way to sneak ahead and cut in front of other drivers when they spot an opening. What cheaters! Laying on my horn for one of them, I made no secret how I felt about their devious maneuvers.

So, there I am, finally walking into my office building…at this point, really hating people all together (and strongly disliking Chihuahuas). And wouldn’t you know, this little old man was standing at the front door holding it open for me. He wished me a good morning and even alerted me to the fact that my shirt tag was sticking out behind my neck. Nothing major. Nothing extreme. Simple kindness. And my day has turned around.

Jeremiah 9:24
“…I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.” - NIV

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Barren Blessings

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Our church finally started the women’s Bible study last week. I say finally because the men’s study started weeks ago! I have just been sitting around the house waiting for the women to get geared up I suppose, and man, were they ever. We had a coffee and dessert bar to start the entire series and trust me when I say these women can cook. The desserts were awesome and the fruit bowl was beautiful.

After some time of socializing and meeting our fellow “class mates”, the lesson began. I have to be honest; I couldn’t believe the amount of transparency that made itself known almost right away.

The woman teaching that night was extremely open about her personal struggles with having children. (I was somewhat surprised at her openness knowing that, if I was in the same situation, I would be far too devastated to discuss with anyone…let alone a room full of strangers.) Anyway, this lady who appeared no younger than mid-40’s began to tell us of her years and years of childless living. As any would expect, her rollercoaster of emotions had an immeasurable amount of extreme highs and hopeless lows. Then, she pointed out the most obvious thing that just seemed to comfort everyone in the room at once:

Sarah = Barren. Genesis 16:2 “The Lord has kept me from having children.”
Rebekah = Barren. Genesis 25:21 “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife [Rebekah], because she was barren.”
Rachel = Barren. Genesis 29:31 “Rachel was barren.”
Elizabeth = Barren. Luke 1:7 “But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren.”

Basically, the start of our entire humanity was built on the shoulders of seemingly barren women.

With faith and time, God opened all the wombs of these previously barren women. In two instances the women were clearly beyond child bearing years, yet they bore sons of promise.

I do not understand the ways of God, but I know he can and does perform miracles, even today.

For His Glory

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It is in the nature of man to ask why. We start the question as children and it never seems to leave our consciousness. We see tragedy in our world and we ask why. We see great things happening to everyone but ourselves and ask why. We encounter hardship and suffer loss, and still, we ask why.

As humans, we want to know the reasons behind everything that takes place. And even though we have been given the answer, somehow, it doesn’t seem to meet our wondering need.

John 9:3
“This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” – NIV

If we can just train our hearts and minds to remember that all things are about Him, perhaps finally, we will truly begin to see. Suddenly, it will all start to make sense. By our captivity, He is the Deliverer. By our sin, He is the Savior. By our weakness, He is powerful.

In reality, every single evil that we can even think of has the potential of being a platform for the goodness of our God. It really is all about Him.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Internet blunders

well, its official, we are giving up our internet. This inevitably means that posting my blogs on the weekends - as of tomorrow - will become an impossibility. Please don't think me a slacker or undedicated, just technically challenged :)

But, Monday through Friday it's on!

Redemption

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I just heard some of the most disappointing news today. A certain Christian musician, who I have a great amount of respect and admiration for, has recently made it public that he has been involved in an extra-marital affair for five years out of his six year marriage. This man has been significantly influential in the lives of high school students and can only be called one of their greatest role models...or, could be called.

At first, when I heard this news, I was incredibly disappointed. I couldn't believe how someone so obviously in tune with the Lord could wander so far from home. Yes, yes, we all are prone to wanderings...but this guy? This guy has made a living at walking uprightly and if he can lose his footing...what does that mean for the rest of us?

The longer I thought about it on my way home, the more I began to see this life event for what it actually was: The exact makings of an incredible story of redemption.

Only with God can we witness such events that will shake the very foundations of our faith and still see what amazing work He could do. This man now has the honor of being forgiven and raised up from what can only be called the bottom of the barrel.

"I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more."

Isaiah 43:25

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Benevolence Fund

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So, the other week at church, a benevolence fund offering was taken. This is an offering that's main objective is to help and assist fellow church members when life throws them some lemons. Right away, I loved the idea of this. I have always known that your church home was a place you could turn when your family fell on hard times, but I was not aware that a separate offering was taken for these purposes.

Anyway, Brian and I really wanted to contribute to this cause. We brought home the special envelope and were ready to contribute part of our monthly tithe to this cause. Right as we go to place the check in the envelope, we read the sticker on the front:

"This is to be given above and beyond your normal tithe amounts"

Now, being that this is my blog, I'm just going to speak my mind here and say that I'm not sure I agree with that mentality. It has always been my understanding that our tithe is going to the Kingdom of God in whatever regard He may deem necessary. As long as we are giving God what is His, are there only certain categories in which this is allowed?

I personally do not feel as though I have to designate my tithe to the church and the rest of my money to something else. If I want part of my tithe to help my fellow believers and parishioners, is that not what God would do with His money?

Just some thoughts for the day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blessed Believers

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John 20:29
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” - NIV

Not only does this blessedness apply to initial faith we have in our Savior; it is the sum of the entire Christian life. We are constantly asked to stake our lives on an invisible God and a risen Savior whom we do not see. His footprints are all over history, so it isn’t exactly a baseless faith. In fact, there is nothing na├»ve or blind about it. But, it is still often hidden to our 5 senses, and when we let those senses rule, we find the life of faith a little more difficult.

I often ask myself…how much of my walk with Christ is based on my five senses. Do I invest my heart in Him only when He is demonstrating His favor? Or, do I trust that His love is real even when I don’t seem to see it?

When the Bible says that God is a refuge, a help in times of trouble, a deliverer and a healer – that revelation is a greater reality than the keys on my keyboard in my hand right now. There is a profound blessedness in believing this truth. God will manifest His presence on those who believe Him without having seen Him.

The facts are simple: Believe and you will be blessed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Peaceful People

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When we base our contentment on our circumstances, we find that our lives have a way of repeating a cycle; we go through periods of peace punctuated by turmoil. We enjoy the equilibrium, but we often become quite unsettled when the storms of life actually hit.

John 14:17
“You know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” – NIV

Jesus spoke to His disciples as a storm began to swell around Him. He knew their world would be rocked. He knew that the very next day after He spoke about the Holy Spirit, their vision of helping the Messiah establish His earthly kingdom would die. Everything they had invested their lives in for the last three years would collapse right in front of their eyes.

When we are unsettled, we ask a lot of “why” questions. During these times, we must remember the promise of the Holy Spirit, a promise from a sovereign God who is an ever-present help.

The world can always find a way to create trouble in peace, but only God can create peace in trouble.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Side Dish

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Just when I begin to least expect kindness from this consumer culture of ours, God takes His moment to completely surprise me.

Brian and I have spent the last few days in St. Simons Island. The first evening I found myself out to dinner with a group of women that could only be considered high maintenance. Drinks were flowing, appetizers ordered and salads being delivered. All in all, it was quite the commotion.

Having worked in the restaurant industry for years, any layperson would figure that at least two servers would have been assigned our table. But, bless this poor older man's heart, he was the only one. I'm going to be frank here, we had that poor man running all over the place. A napkin here, a drink refill there. Some extra sauce here, some more lemons there. If he did have any other tables, they must have been forfeited in order to meet our variety of needs.

After orders were placed and time had gone by, our dinners soon began to roll out one at a time. Not only did this man get every single order correct, but he went the extra mile by bringing every single woman a side baked potato completely free of charge. When asked for the reason behind this special delivery, he simply said that he worried for the amount of food we ordered and didn't want anyone to find themselves still hungry.

How sweet is that? Nothing was charged for these extra deliveries and I found myself feeling more appreciative than hungry.

I feel as though I am the first one to rant and rave when service is not what I expect to receive, far be it from me to rave about the special surprises as well.

If you are ever in St. Simon's, visit the Red Barn Restaurant and come craving baked potatoes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Withered Offerings

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Luke 6:10
“Stretch out your hand.” – NIV

A man with a withered hand had come to the synagogue. We’ll never know – this side of heave – how this man’s injury had affected his relationship with God. We are left wondering, was he angry? Disillusioned? Content in the midst of his suffering? As with so many aspects of scripture, we can only guess.

What we do know, however, is that he was in the local place of worship on the regular day of worship. What we do know, is that this is where Jesus met him.

It is so odd to me how little Jesus asks of the man with the withered hand. His purpose was to create a stage for Himself in front of the unbelieving Pharisees, but this time, He doesn’t wait for a demonstration of faith as He had in other situations. In fact, He doesn’t even wait for the man to approach Him. Jesus singles out the recipient of His mercy and gives him only one instruction: “Stretch out your hand.”

Could it be that, sometimes, we simply demand too much of ourselves? We expect that Jesus needs this great demonstration of how much we love and adore Him before He will even turn His ear to our needs. There is no way that all we have to do is reach out, this just can’t be the case.

I suppose it is hard to recognize that fallenness is all we ever really have, and in His mercy, it’s all He ever asks of us.

Withered Offerings

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Luke 6:10
“Stretch out your hand.” – NIV

A man with a withered hand had come to the synagogue. We’ll never know – this side of heave – how this man’s injury had affected his relationship with God. We are left wondering, was he angry? Disillusioned? Content in the midst of his suffering? As with so many aspects of scripture, we can only guess.

What we do know, however, is that he was in the local place of worship on the regular day of worship. What we do know, is that this is where Jesus met him.

It is so odd to me how little Jesus asks of the man with the withered hand. His purpose was to create a stage for Himself in front of the unbelieving Pharisees, but this time, He doesn’t wait for a demonstration of faith as He had in other situations. In fact, He doesn’t even wait for the man to approach Him. Jesus singles out the recipient of His mercy and gives him only one instruction: “Stretch out your hand.”

Could it be that, sometimes, we simply demand too much of ourselves? We expect that Jesus needs this great demonstration of how much we love and adore Him before He will even turn His ear to our needs. There is no way that all we have to do is reach out, this just can’t be the case.

I suppose it is hard to recognize that fallenness is all we ever really have, and in His mercy, it’s all He ever asks of us.

Things that Last

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“Learn to hold loosely all that is not eternal” – Maud Royden

One of the saddest moments in a person’s life has got to be in facing later years and knowing deep inside that our life has been invested in passing things. Not once, when facing the idea of eternity, did we sit down and ask ourselves: What will really last?

We work hard, I know I do. We spend tons of money and time. We agonize over decisions that may only help or hurt us for a few decades, at best. And while we have legitimate responsibilities in this life that keep us more than occupied, we too easily become absorbed in the here and now. All the while, we squander away numerous opportunities to invest in eternal treasures.

John 6:27
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.” – NIV

Other than God Himself, only two things are mentioned in Scripture as lasting forever: the Word of God and the souls of human beings. These two areas are where Jesus calls us to involve ourselves.

St. Simon's

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I am leaving for Saint Simons Island tomorrow morning at 5am for Drew and Cassie's wedding! Please consider the following 2 posts an investment of what is to come upon my return.

Unfortunately, I am not a genius. The idea of writing 4 blogs early - and worthy to be posted here - was just far too big of a challenge for me to accept. I did, however, complete two blogs for the next two days and will write Monday's when I return home.

Happy reading and have safe weekends! :)

Eternal Obsessions

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Matthew 6:9
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” – NIV

Occasionally in the Old Testament, God is referred to as Father, but He is never addressed in prayer as Father. Jesus’ intimate opening to prayer seen in Matthew may have completely stunned every single one of His listeners. They might not have been surprised to hear Him say “My Father”, since He clearly had some special relationship with the Almighty…But, to instruct His disciples to address God this way…was He out of His mind?!

That level of familiarity made God out to be accessible and affectionate – not easy concepts for those of us who were…and are…steeped in formal religion.

We often take this opening to the Lord’s Prayer to be a prelude of sorts, not unlike the salutation in a letter. But this particular salutation is actually the entire root of our faith. It is full of intrigue and a little mystery. There we are, waiting to get to the “good” part of prayer; the part about us, but this opening line is actually the best part of all.

This one line captures both the closeness of God and His unreachable distance. We cannot afford to skim over this. It will be our eternal obsession, Our Father in heaven.

The greatest commandment – to love our transcendent Father with all of our being –
beings here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thought for the Day...

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Lately, these last couple months specifically, I have found myself becoming increasingly negative. Somewhere along the line I made the conscious decision that, in any given situation, I would rather be surprised and shocked by a positive outcome than be surprised and shocked for a negative one. The way I see it, if something does not go as planned and ends up in ruin, I would fare far better if I had seen it coming all the while.

Regrettably, this mentality has managed to morph itself into almost all aspects of my daily life, thus making my general disposition one of doubt and skepticism. I have been expecting the worst features in my coworkers to always appear. I have been preparing for harsh criticism for anything that I put out. And, most of all, I haven't been expecting much from life in general.

Living in a world of doubt is embarrassingly lonely. You don't always want to be the voice of negativity, so you say nothing. You don't always want to be a buzz kill, so you fester in remote solitude. And trust me, when you are hesitant to expect anything good, God will never seem farther away.

My thought for the day is that...finally...I am waking up. These things in my life that go horribly wrong, will the outcome be different if I am well prepared for the disappointment?...I think not.

Is the joy that comes with expecting the best worth forfeiting for the temporary shock that accompanies the worst?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Down Time

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Today was a pretty good day. Work went surprisingly fast and I feel like that hasn't happened in months!

Got home and had the privilege of being welcomed at the front door by my chihuahua whom we were pet sitting this past weekend.

Walked through the front door and found the cute surprise that my sweet husband had left me on the counter.

Finally, had the chance to have dinner with my dad since both of our spouses were being social butterflies.

All in all, great day.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Apart from Me...

227/365

John 15:3
“Apart from me you can do nothing.” – NIV

This is one of the foundational truths of our discipleship. If we do not learn this early, we may spend years of frustration trying to be the Christian God calls us to be. Our natural tendency is to try hard, be sincere, study diligently and basically train ourselves to be the disciples we were meant to be.

And there is a sense in which all of this is good – even necessary – if it is done with the knowledge that God is working in us all the while as our enabler. How come, then, with all of these good and genuine intentions, do we always end up as failures?

Ironically, most of the Christian life is God stripping us of our self-effort so that He can live His life in us without our interference. We stress and strain over our discipleship that, in reality, should be effortless by nature.

God will often place us in a situation over our heads – even going as far as letting us fail miserably – all in order to teach us this one thing. We are never to depend on our own self-reliance, we are to be utterly dependent on the power of God that works in all our circumstances.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Eye Witnesses

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Have you ever noticed how extremely self-absorbed we can become in the face of a trial. We see how it will impact us, we pray for deliverance from it and we, quite frankly, obsess about how to work ourselves out of it. But, in all of this reacting, we often become blind to God’s entire purpose behind the trial to begin with.

Our trials, though they seem like disasters to us, may actually be God’s means for bringing honor to His name.

Luke 21:13
“This will results in your being witness to them.” – NIV

In this passage in Luke, Jesus tells His disciples they will be dragged through courts, prisons, and the world’s halls of power. But, He does not tell them to call their attorney’s and clear their names. In fact, He tells them to be more concerned with His name – in other words, be His witnesses.

Though few of us are hauled before the world’s judges for our faith, we all go through our own difficulties. Rather than turning inward and focusing on our hardships, Jesus would tell us by the implications of this passage to have a greater purpose in mind.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Impossible Possible

225/365

John 6:5
“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” – NIV

In this passage, Jesus is asking Philip a probing question. It may appear innocent enough, but there is a test hidden within. Jesus gives Philip an impossibility to consider, and Philip’s response indicates a mind-set with which we can all sympathize.

When we look at any given situation, we immediately think of how to solve it in human terms, and then complain about our lack of resources. “There isn’t enough money”, we say. “There isn’t enough time.” “There aren’t enough people and we have insufficient means.”

We, like Philip, forget whom we are dealing with. The situation is never too big for the Son of God. He is not bound by our resources, in fact, if we had sufficient means, He probably would choose to work with someone else! His power cannot be demonstrated among people who don’t need Him. He is waiting for the people of the world to come to Him with a limited supply and ask, full of doubt, “How will we make it through?”

Friday, August 27, 2010

He loves Us

224/365

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane; I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,

Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves.


We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh! how He loves us,

Oh! how He loves us,
Oh! how He loves.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Johnny Appleseed

223/365

Have you ever wondered how we recognize an apple tree? I know it’s a simple thought, but so valid. Yes, some knowledgeable people would be able to tell them from the leaves or the bark, but most of us will rely on much clearer evidence. If it bears apples, we have our answer. It’s an apple tree.

Peach trees don’t bear apples, and apple trees don’t bear peaches. While these two objects may look obviously similar on the outside, we can only tell the true apple tree by the fruit it bears.

Matthew 7:20
“By their fruit you will recognize them.” – NIV

We can apply Jesus’ principle of fruit to ourselves as well. When we hear a new teaching, or we read some new material, we listen closely to the words to determine if they line up with our understanding of biblical doctrines. This is a good start. But, a better indicator is the behavior that accompanies that teacher. What have they done in life? What do their actions and behaviors say about them?

Words are easy to fake, behavior is not. We won’t find perfection in any human, but when someone comes with gentle words and ferocious actions, the truth is easily seen.

Trust that with bad trees, bad fruit will eventually be evident.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Left Behind

222/365

Have you ever noticed that nearly every time someone follows Jesus, they leave something behind?

Luke 5:27-28
“Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. – NIV

In this passage, Levi leaves his tax booth. Peter and Andrew left their nets while James and John left the boat and their father. Even more so, the woman at the well left her water jar and the merchant who went looking for fine pearls sold all he had for the kingdom of Heaven.

It is a subtle but consistent theme in the Gospels: To follow Jesus means to forsake something else…or possibly, everything else.

I find it ironic that the items left behind in these passages are almost reported as sheer afterthoughts. These people did not seem to agonize over their decision, quite the opposite actually. They were just far too focused on something better. They were completely preoccupied with the Son of Man.

Are we?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Total Commitment

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Luke 18:28
“Peter said to Him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” – NIV

I just love this passage. I love the conviction with which Peter speaks and I love the intensity in his claims. Doesn’t Jesus understand? Everything he had was given up for the sake of the gospel, what else does he have left? Nothing.

Many consider total allegiance to something a characteristic only found in cults and super-fanaticals, not of Christianity. Our society has a way of respecting those who dabble in an assortment of religious beliefs and reviles those who are wholeheartedly committed to one thing – especially if that one thing is Jesus Christ.

I may have said this before, but I can’t help but notice that in our culture it is respectable to say that we are seeking something, but egotistical to claim that we have finally found it. Intolerance is casts forth along with a number of other suspicious complaints the second a total commitment is made. Let’s face it, throughout history, those who have left everything to follow Christ have often been considered nothing more than fools.

What about us? Have we come to view total commitment as an option? It appears that this mentality has polluted our view of marriage, has faith also followed suit?

Lord, grant that we might not be afraid of radical commitment, even when others don’t understand.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Good Investing

220/365

If someone was to offer us a large sum of money to invest, we would find ourselves with many choices to make. The money could be put in full into one account, or it could be divided among more than one. Now, many people would choose the latter option in order to hedge their bets. But, when one option is considered far better than all the others, I can’t help but notice how “spreading out the wealth” takes a backseat to sheer opportunism.

Attractive investment opportunities draw all of our attention and all of our money simply for the possibilities they entail. Like it or not, we all want to capitalize.

Mark 8:36
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” – NIV

In the economy of God, one investment is clearly superior to all the others. It is a sure thing. And Jesus calls us to place all of our resources there – time, money, talents – and exclusively. Ever wonder why this is? Because He knows the return it will yield, and He knows that we will not be disappointed. But, as in all areas of life, there is always a small part of us that can’t help but want to diversify. We want to invest in God’s Kingdom, of course, but we also want to invest some in this world.

We must consider our investments well. Whether we put a lot of a little into the temporal, Jesus says it’s a bad deal. The world will end in bankruptcy, and the Kingdom of God will inherit all wealth.

“There are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross-bearers here below.” – Charles Spurgeon

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Through Us?

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Matthew 14:16
“They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” – NIV

Just as we underestimate God’s ability to provide in our hour of great need, we also often underestimate the role that He assigns us. Sure, we pray for the world, our country, our families, our friends. We pray for the salvation of others. We ask for God’s blessings. We ask Him to heal hurts and bind wounds, and to lift up the brokenhearted. In all this, however, we are often blind to our role.

Does it ever feel like we are just missing something? Is there a piece to this puzzle that we just aren’t seeing? Could it be that Jesus is actually waiting for us?

God brought the Israelites through the Red Sea, this is true, but only after Moses lifted up the staff. God brought down the wall of Jericho, but only after Joshua led His people through the right steps. God defeated Goliath, but only after David had the heart to step on the battlefield.

The great works of God that come about through our faith usually don’t come without an initial offering from us. Our offering may be small, but still must be given. Every miracle begins with an act of faith, a stepping our of God’s people onto the limb of trust.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Know where you Live

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Revelation 2:13
“I know where you live – where Satan has his throne.” – NIV

Jesus’ words to the church in this passage may have been referencing a particular city as Satan’s central power base, but even still, we know that the words also apply to us. It is true that Satan is not omnipresent like God, so we don’t know exactly where he is at the moment. What we do know, however, is that we live right where he has his throne.

Satan runs rampant on this planet and if you have been a child of God for long you know: Evil is not a force to explain; it is far more personal than that. Let the philosophers and theologians wrestle with the problem of evil while we shall wrestle directly with the evil one.

How are we to overcome? Simple: Never depersonalize the evil around us. We must always recognize that there is a relentless and malicious intelligence behind all the pain that we see. As I have said before, some of Satan’s minions know each of us by name and we must attack them directly if we are to survive.

Let us overcome the evil one with the Good One.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dingbats

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Yesterday I had a rather unpleasant encounter with yet another dingbat at my office. This woman is simply ridiculous. She can’t help but think that the world revolves around her and her needs alone. She constantly double-books me for meetings when she knows good and well that I have already been called elsewhere. She constantly runs to my boss in hopes of getting what she wants and the worst part is…she usually gets it!

Now, if you know me at all, you know that I would not respond well to behavior such as this. I firmly believe that availability calendars were invented for a reason and should be respected. I do not enjoy being pulled in five directions at once and, as a natural result, my opinion of you alters greatly if you attempt to make me do so.

Matthew 5:7
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” – NIV

Has anyone but me ever noticed something a bit odd in the way that culture responds to people that offend them? Naturally, our first gut reaction in such cases is to respond in kind: to return ill will for ill will or irresponsibility for irresponsibility. We are offended first and only then, if we are attempting to be graceful about our actions, we must spend the next half hour talking ourselves into congenial attitudes.

Somehow, we must learn to reverse these impulses. We must train ourselves to always think of mercy first, to have an attitude of gracefulness before we are ever offended. How in the world can we do that? We have two options: We can try to reform our sinful human nature, or, we can simply ask God for His nature.

We must not only ask, but also believe that He will give it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

False Illustrations

216/365

When any non-believer is first exposed to the idea of salvation, they are inevitably shown a simple picture that is thought to explain it all. In fact, I distinctly remember when I was shown this image and the clear understanding that accompanied it.

What we see are two mountain tops complete with a large gap in-between them. Crossing from one side to the other is impossible because of the sin that divides us. One side represents man and our unavoidable death in sin. The other side represents God and His eternal salvation. Then, a cross is drawn which bridges the gap between both sides. This cross represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sin so that we may, in turn, cross over to our Heavenly Father and truly know Him.

John 8:44
“…father of lies.” - NIV

Now, as accurate as this illustration may be, it is not the only method that occupies our culture. The father of all lies tries to deceive us in a variety of ways when it comes to gaining true rewards. In Satan’s plan, the gap still exists; however, there is another way to bridge it.

He elevates us and devalues God. In this ratio of significance, we naturally close in on what we want most…God’s power. Satan teaches that if we can be reconciled with our Creator by our being a little bit better and by God being a little more reachable, then he has nullified our sense of need for the Cross.

Believers, we have one responsibility: Expose the liar. The gap between the infinitely holy and the utterly sinful can only be bridged by blood of the Savior. But, do not discount the amount of people who believe otherwise.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Servant Hearts

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In regards to acts of service, Jesus frequently points out that the attitude of the servant is perhaps as critical as the service itself. In the Kingdom of God, the heart is what counts. Our actions are always important, and this is not to belittle that one bit, but the God who sees the intricacies of our motives knows that right actions will naturally flow from right attitudes.

Luke 17:10
“You also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” - NIV

Jesus’ teaching in Luke 17 is a little unsettling to our egos. We all want to hear a “Well done!” in response to our good work for the King. And elsewhere Jesus indicates that we may indeed get one of those. But that is not the attitude with which we should come to Him. We should serve Him because that is what servants do. Period.

Do not get the message wrong here; God is intensely interested in our works. Our
performance does matter to Him, but only as a response to faith and never as an act of merit. Our attitude of service indicates the degree to which the gospel has penetrated our hearts.

I have heard it said that Christianity is like one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. How much greater is he who brings the bread with him?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Assembly

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Sometimes, I just love Scripture. I love how, no matter what opinions people have of Him, God certainly has a sense of humor. I truly believe that God watches the events as they take place in our lives, and at times, we would be able to find Him smiling.

Today, for example, I sat in a meeting where time literally went to die. After four hours of what can only be called awkward assembly, I left almost more confused than I went in. Nothing productive was accomplished. Not at a single time did anyone appear to really have a "plan". And, if one was to take a quick survey of the room, most of the people weren't even paying attention. The amount of time that was collectively wasted in that room is just plain laughable.

It is times like this when I can't help but wonder...what am I freaking doing here?

Acts 19:32
The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.

I suppose it is a little comforting to know that these confusing meetings are not exactly "new" things. :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Vine

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This morning Brian and I attended the Vine Community Church. We have been to this church only two times before, but so far we are really enjoying the ministry. Today, upon our arrival in the sanctuary, the head pastor came down and shook both of our hands. We had a small conversation and I really felt as though our presence was not only acknowledged, but also appreciated by the leadership team.

Now, why do I feel as though this was an action worthy of writing about, because for the last couple of years, I have not yet had this experience. Let me explain:

I attended a certain mega-church for quite a while prior to visiting The Vine. I came every Sunday and worshiped there. I came an hour early and happily served there. We joined other parishioners and joyfully gave there. But what did we not do there…know our minister.

Our pastor was unreachable. He carried with him a status of confidentiality and only the elite members were able to have any communication with him. I know some of the staff members personally and even they were unable to truly know our spiritual leader.

I am not here to pass judgment. I am not here to commend or condemn anyone or anything. All I am doing is sharing my experience with my ministry staff…or for what’s it’s worth…the lack thereof.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Circumstantial Evidence

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John 11:14-15
“Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” – NIV

Circumstances don’t get much worse than this. The loved one Mary and Martha had been praying for had died. Jesus was four days late and under fire from those who had come to expect miracles. Mary’s pointed words are sadly, and obviously, resentful: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (v32). There was nothing but defeat in the air.

How long will it take humanity to understand that circumstances don’t always tell the whole story? How often in the Gospels alone were appearances deceiving? Wind and waves threatened to capsize boats; thousands hungered; disease ravaged helpless victims and demons held hopeless captives. And, let us not forget, the Lord of Lords was executed by men.

In all of these situations, those who stared at the problems were met with nothing but despair. Those who stared at the Truth found hope. Better yet, they found a hope that was fulfilled.

Our human tendency is to feel trapped by visible situations. But, let us not forget that circumstantial evidence is not the truth of a matter, it is deceptive. God’s plan, when believed, is immovable.

Focus on Jesus. There is no deceit in Him. If you don’t believe, just ask Lazarus.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Foundation Fundamentals

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Matthew 7:24

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” - NIV

How many times have we heard this passage? Yes, yes, some people build beautiful mansions with their lives, while others, build shacks. This is such a universal gospel verse that I tend to pass right over it when I am reading. But, when I really think about what this means in terms of the Christian’s lifestyle, I can’t help but notice the inherent significance.

Spiritually speaking, there are both mansions and shacks all over the place! Some people are in church every Sunday volunteering their time and tithing their earnings. These people are mansion owners. Then, there are the others who only show up on Christmas Eve and spend their earnings on the next big thing. Rightly so, these are those who dwell in shacks. But are these assumptions even what matters?

The ironic part of this passage is that Jesus, not once, pays any attention to the quality of the house. He doesn’t care if every step was taken to put each board in its proper place. He doesn’t care if, from afar, this house outshines all the rest in its path. No, Jesus only cares about one thing: the Foundation.

There are all types of houses in this world. Big and small, beautiful and plain, elaborate and simple, lavish and humble. Regardless of the style of home, the crucial question is the foundation underneath it.

What is the foundation of our home? Are Jesus’ words the base of our work? Our attitude? Our relationships? If not, we build our house on wobbly ground at best.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

One Last Hope

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When God leads us to the place of insufficiency, we are more than compelled to cry out to Him. It is the cry of desperation. We have no hope but Him, and we know it. In fact, we are deeply and excruciatingly aware of it.

“We had hoped to have our stressful situation resolved by now” or “We are at the end of our rope” we cry. “Only God can fix things now.” Or, as I have often heard it said: “All we can do now is pray.”

Over and over again, the Bible stresses the importance of faith. Quite the strange commodity, I think. I often wonder, why didn’t God choose works as the currency of His Kingdom? Why didn’t He choose our flawless understanding as His condition for acting on our behalf? Something as simple as faith? I just don’t understand.

Luke 18:27
“What is impossible with men is possible with God.” – NIV

God chooses prayer as our ultimate act because it is the only thing that sets Him up to show His glory. If God’s intervention was based on our own works, who would be glorified then? If God’s action was dependent on our complete understanding, would He be the one shining in the aftermath? Or, would all of God’s blessings become little more than offsprings of our own awesomeness?

Our place of one last hope was the place where God would have had us all along. It’s kind of ironic that what we should have been saying from the start was: “All we can do now is pray.” He stands ready to be the strength in our weakness, the wealth in our poverty, the health in our sickness and the deliverance in our captivity.

Imagine if we had more Christians for whom prayer was a first resort and not the last.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All About...

209/365

Throughout my lifetime, I have always had a very difficult time maintaining friendships with other females. It’s nothing personal against my gender, just a simple case of the all-about-me’s.

When you typically get a group of women together, at least many of the women I know, a virtual war breaks out over who can talk about themselves the longest. “My child did this”, “My husband did that.” “My vacation was this…,” “My weekend was that.”

Honestly, for someone like me who is completely against all forms of small talk, environments like this are just plain exhausting.

John 5: 31-32
“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.” – NIV

Neither in Jesus’ culture – nor in ours – is someone well accepted that claims their own authority. Self-proclamation is not only bothersome, but if it isn’t backed up by truth, it can be even less admirable as well. Just like all things in life, the Son of Man well understood this faux pas.

Jesus tells His hearers that His own testimony is not valid enough to meet the standards of the law…so, He offers up others: John the Baptist, the works and miracles that Jesus performed, the Holy Father Himself, Scriptures in general and Moses in particular.

Jesus’ assertions are staggering and well backed up by any evidence deemed necessary. All that the Jews held to be reliable, He says, points to Him as the Messiah. Prophets and prophecies of the Bible, miracles of God, the story of the nation, the Mosaic law, everything – it is all about Him.

The way I see it, if the entire universe, all of history, all of humanity, and every true revelation is about Jesus…shouldn’t we be entirely about Him as well?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First Things First

208/365

Ever since I accepted the new position at my company, my days seem to be filled with nothing but agendas. We sit in rooms all day long and make plans. Plans for what our next actions are going to be. Plans for what is most important at that time. Basically, my work life has morphed into one huge agenda from which all of my other activities are supposedly derived.

The problem with agendas is that two people’s ideas are rarely ever the same. What I see as high priority events are what someone else sees as secondary. What I consider the most important aspect of the day, others would skip right over. It is so odd to me that a company can be pulled in so many directions and still manage to move forward.

Galations 5:17
“Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit.” – The Message

The things we often crave the most from the Holy Spirit are His direction and His power. We want Him as our guide and our enabler. We want to know which relationships He wants us to focus on, which career direction to take and which area of service to perform. Then, we want Him to empower us to accomplish these things.

But, the agenda of the Holy Spirit is much different than our own. He has higher priorities for us than the ones for which we usually beseech Him. He wants to bring to life the cleansing words of Jesus and make the kingdom of God the ultimate treasure of our hearts.

The guidance we so often crave is primary in our minds, but secondary in His. If He was to follow our own agenda, we would move from one area of service to another without ever being made into His likeness. But, first things first.

He wants to have His way with us, let us let Him.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Consumer Christians

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I would say that I spend most of my life being quite informal about things. I am a laid-back country music fan. I am an informal shopper in most purchasing situations. I am even pretty easy going about my handbags which, truth be told, is a fairly recent development. Yes, all in all, (the Twilight Saga excluded) I try not to get too excited about any one thing and just surround myself with several objects that simply make me…happy.

Like everything in life, however, there are some things that I simply cannot be casual about. A few examples would include my family, my marriage, my wedding and my allegiance to Team Edward. But, nothing matters more to me than the formality with which I approach my beliefs.

I truly think that casual Christianity is an oxymoron and flat out impossible. There is no such thing as a low-commitment version of our faith. It is impossible to say that we are followers of Christ and not be willing to lay down our lives for the gospel. Ours is a faith that demands our entire allegiance and it can never be a halfhearted thing.

How often do we encounter what can only be called consumer Christians, people almost shopping around for a faith that suits them well? But we all know good and well, that when we really encounter the Son of God, we face a choice: Stand firm in our faith, despite our many tests and troubles, or settle for a lukewarmness that can barely…if at all…be called “Christian”.

Matthew 13:21
“When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.” – NIV

Do we really stand for something, or, do we slouch over for just anything?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Delta Airlines

206/365

So we flew home from Kansas City this afternoon. I just have to say that the plane that we arrived on was awesome. We had those little tv's in each of our seats, comfy seat cushions and plenty of leg space.

On the return flight, however, I must say that we had a little less impressive aircraft. There were no tv's. There was no toilet paper in the bathroom. And I couldn't help but be terrified at the awful sound that the plane made whenever the breaks were tapped.

Needless to say, my life definitely flashed before my eyes.

There really isn't a lesson here, or any kind of specific topic that I want to address. The simple fact is...it is 9:45pm on Sunday night. I just returned home and have actually sat down for about three minutes. I have still not yet had a shower and I am more than exhausted. But, a blog is a blog and I didn't want to neglect my responsibilities by not posting anything.

So, I hope you have enjoyed my observations about Delta Airlines and have a great day.