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Let me start off with that this blog is not meant to be condemning, but merely something I think is very important, for myself if no one else, and something to think about. You may do with it as you desire.

There are many different images that get associated with the Christian life- a warrior, clad in shiny armor; a fruitful branch, covered in grapes; a victorious army rising up to oppose the darkness; a quiet, peaceful bride awaiting her redeemer, etc. While these are all awesome, here’s my question. Are we really ready?
Are we really walking in a life that prepares us to be these things? Are we these things?

Or do we just think we are?

As American Christians, we have access to a vast amount of learning from those who have studied before us, as well as churches everywhere. We have the freedom to talk about Jesus everywhere, to have deep discussions about Christ in our small groups, to read books from generations of Christians. We have the ability to read the Bible in freedom, and, many of us have multiples of them, while even having a part of a page of one is both a priceless treasure and a death sentence is many countries.
This kind of freedom, this access to knowledge and the writings of the past is unprecedented in history. There has never been a time like this.

So, what are we doing with it?

Are we maturing as Christians, getting up, fighting, learning, clothing ourselves in the armor God provides and becoming a great, fruitful vine? Or are we taking all this stuff for granted and living off of the anointing of the pastor who spoke in church last Sunday, or the book we read two years ago? And, even more, are we relying on that preacher’s sermon or bestselling book or website to feed us, instead of praying, reading the Bible for ourselves, searching for the truth for ourselves, as God leads us?

All those things are great, but, if we are not letting it change our lives, if we are building what we think we believe or know around the latest big name (or no name) person or thing, what happens when something gets messed up and the person or author has an affair or embezzles a bunch of money or murders someone or simply says something we don’t agree with?

That castle we built our faith on crumbles.

We must make sure that our foundation is Jesus and Jesus alone.

And, (the main point I am trying to get to in a very long way {sorry}), we must mature.

American Christians have access to so much in the way of spiritual development, but we are, as a whole, taking these great wonderful things and watering them down because we do not think we can understand them. Like a Korean landscaper I worked with this weekend who talked about how he has a horrible time teaching many American kids how to rake leaves, because they just seem unable to learn how to do it well.

I’ve felt very much these past several weeks, and particularly this one, that God is saying that the time for being immature is over. The time for maturing is growing short! We must grow up quickly! We cannot afford the time to sit on the simplest little doctrine point and argue about it or not understand it. We cannot afford to doubt and question god anymore. How can we be that great army we like to sing about in church if we cannot follow the Leader? And we cannot follow Him if we are questioning Him about why He says this or that or wants us to do this or that. A disorganized army will not stand. We must know His Voice, and our faith must go deep. We must learn humility, to humble ourselves with Him as our Director, our Ruler.

We must couple the knowledge we have with love. We are drowning in knowledge, but do not have enough love. If I know that every person has a unique tongue print and that orcas kill sharks by making them literally explode (both true, by the way…), what’s the point of just this random knowledge? It needs to affect my life. Not sure how either of those could, but those were the first random facts that popped up in Google….

We cultivate love by choice. By choosing to serve others, by choosing to see God in others, by choosing to glorify God with our lives, instead of glorifying ourselves.

Help us to mature quickly, Lord, so that You do not find us unprepared when You return! The world in melting down, falling apart, and only Your kingdom will stand! Help us to go deeper, to not be shallow, and to love You more, even when it’s unpopular, even when it hurts. Help us to value what we have and to seek more of You. Don’t let us sit still while the world around us burns, taking comfort in Your return, but being unaffected by what is going on around us!!! Forgive us for being like Nero, God. Forgive us.
Give us a heart for the hurting, the lost. Compel us to minister to them, to be humbled because You humbled Yourself for us. Let us cleave to You, not the world, and teach us how to bear more fruit for You. Mature us quickly, Lord, so that we can serve You better, for a greater part of our earthly lives. Amen.

Of Pyramids and Sliced Bread

(continuing my blog of things I’ve been learning at Hope City)

It is a struggle to hold on the truth. Sometimes it seems like everything is yelling at us, telling us that whatever we are doing at the moment is stupid or meaningless. That our lives are wasted, or will be wasted if we do not perform such and such an action. It feels like we need to create a huge, lasting monument of sorts to have any meaning or worth.

I’ve spent most of my life struggling with that. Even when I was a little kid, I felt like I had to be remembered, to leave a mark on others or on things, in order to matter. That if I didn’t build a pyramid, no one would remember me, and I would therefore be meaningless. After all, we all like sliced bread, but who invented it? (For the record, I looked it up, and Otto Fredrick Rohwedder from Davenport, Iowa [shout out to my Iowa friends!] invented the bread slicer, but that doesn’t mean he was the first one to slice it into slices instead of tearing it….) And, who did build the pyramids? The Hebrew slaves? Egyptians? Aliens? Really industrious desert cats? I know which one I believe, but it is a matter of debate I will not go into here.

And even the pyramids are crumbling into dust.

Does anything last?

Is God the only eternality?

I believe that humanity is created as an eternal being. That all humanity is eternal, whether Christian or not. If this is true, our lives have to have a point, right? What would be the point of living on the earth for the 6 months or 110 years we have if that wasn’t so? Is the point just to consume lots of sliced bread and build a pyramid that will crumble in six thousand years, to reproduce ourselves and try to care for-or not care for as the individual chooses to-the earth or the animals or other people? That whole “Be fruitful and multiply” thing in Genesis?

All of those things fade away.

So, there has to be more.

If the only two things that really last forever are humanity and God, it points to the relationship between them being what is eternally important.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” We are commanded by Jesus to love Him and each other.

Loving requires building a relationship. It requires giving of ourselves, not just throwing a bunch of money at an organization, or buying our kid a Christmas gift, or taking the wife out on a date once a week, or reading our Bible every day, or any other action.

Love is a heart posture. A giving over of oneself. A willingness to bleed out all our compassion and hope and help for someone else, again and again. And again. And again.

And, if we love God and man like that, we are building an everlasting meaning for ourselves by not focusing on ourselves, but by focusing on someone else; not caring about the legacy but building it incidentally. Building something that will last forever. “Love never fails”- love is eternal.

And that is even greater than sliced bread.

(Continuing my weekly blog from Hope City, on the things God is teaching me)

“My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places of the mountainside, show Me your face, let Me hear your sweet voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” Song of Songs 2:14

We are doves, hiding in the Rock of Christ, our protection, our shelter. A dove looks ordinary on the outside, (the Hebrew for in this instance is more accurately translated into what we would call a pigeon) but inside, they are all unique. Take a closer look at any pigeon. See beyond the outward annoying messy bird you may see at first. Look at its feathers, with the pretty iridescent effects, the brightness of its eyes, the beauty of its wings, the softness of its voice.

If the pigeon believed only what the world says about it- nuisance, messy, overpopulated, gross, whatever- it would be unable to see those things. It would not see the great speed and skill which it can fly with, the individuality of it, the greatness of what it really is.

What is your identity rooted in? What the world says, or what Christ says about you?

Hide in the rock of Him. You are safe there, firmly rooted, and will gain the strength to see clearly, to see yourself as He sees you, to see Him with clear, bright eyes.

But, as you do that, make sure that you are speaking to Him, looking to Him. He wants to hear your voice. He cares what you say. The simple trust of a child in your eyes for Him, the ability and humility to ask Him for whatever you need. Those are precious to Him.

As precious as any dove or sparrow.

May God bless you throughout your week, and may you grow in knowledge of the brightness of Him within you, and the humility to be content to look plain on the outside, knowing that He sees your heart.

Of Boxing Rings and Enduring

(Continuing my blog from Hope City. I apologize for the lack of blog the last few weeks- I’ve been battling an illness)
This week at Hope City has been very hard for many different reasons. Hence, all week God has been speaking to me about comfort- how He is the One who holds us up, strengthens us. But, he doesn’t just give us a pat on the back, say a few encouraging words, then tell us to get back in the game. God isn’t a boxing coach that stays on the sidelines. He gets into the ring with us, and stands with us and moves our arms and gives us the strength to fight, to continue.
He comforts and protects us. When everything is chaotic and the bell is about to ring and we’re wanting to give up, and all we can see is our failure to win, He whispers in our ear, “Hey, it’s ok. I’m here. I’ll help you. Trust Me. And, even if you do lose, I’m still here. I still love you.”

I still love you.

No matter what you’ve done in your past. Even if that past is 2 seconds ago. Or right now.

Or now.

He loves you.

And He shows us the truth, if we will take the time to listen, to see. If we will slow down, step back from the distractions and the fight.

Yes, there IS time to step back. To find that peaceful place deep inside where He dwells inside, where He speaks and sings over you what and who you are to Him.

So much boils down to our identity. How we see ourselves shapes the way we live our lives. Always. And the truth is, whether you are a Christian or not, you are loved by God, so much so that He gave up His Son, the only thing he could give, to have a relationship with you and buy you back from the slavery to sin you’d sold yourself into…..
….
Even though He already technically owned us by right-of-creation.

God bought what He already owned.
(oh, God, how You love me. My heart groans under the weight of that knowledge)

So that He could have a relationship with you. So that he could prove to you once and for all that you are endlessly valuable to Him.

So, therefore, we never fight alone. So keep fighting for Him! Keep pressing more into His heart- there is so much He desires for you! He just wants for you to know Him like He knows you- to follow Him because He is the only way to a fulfilled, true life.

He is Lord, and with Him, we are victorious, more than conquerors- we are overcomers!

Of Icebergs and Doves

(Continuing my weekly blog from Hope City. Sorry the writing is a little rough this week- I’m having a hard time putting this one into words, but want to share it anyway.)

This week, I was in our prayer room thinking about God, and I saw life as a trip walking across water- walking in faith. And, that, on that water, there are icebergs- large ones. These icebergs get in the way of our walk, and then we have no choice but to force us to detour, or to walk over them, both options of which leads to the iceberg, which I saw as the lies we believe, being our foundation, instead of faith. But, God’s love and our love of Him is great warmth, and it breaks apart the iceberg, even as the water of faith laps at the iceberg and erodes it to nothing. Faith and God’s love lead us forward in life, so that we can walk, unhindered by the obstacles in our lives and minds, so that we can see Him, see the truth. Internal obstacles are far stronger than external obstacles, but God overcomes all!!! Keep walking in a foundation of faith, not lies- lies get you nowhere except circling an iceberg.

Another thing I was thinking this week that I’d like to share- I’ve been feeling lately that the things I pray just aren’t ‘getting through’ into heaven- like the gates are shut to me. And that can be frustrating, especially being surrounded by people who don’t have that problem. And I saw that, while it is not yet my time to enter as much into heaven as I desire to, my prayers, my spirit are entering like doves flying through the bars of a gate. He hears our prayers, even if it does not seem that way to us. He hears. (The only thing that gets in the way is unforgivenese, so be sure to forgive everyone!!)

Thank You God for hearing us, and for giving us Your foundation to walk on!

Continuing my (attempted) weekly blog from Hope City…

This was a week of many ups and downs, an emotional rollercoaster. It seems like every day would start out great and I would be holding tight to God’s promises and by the evening, I would be wrestling with some mental hurt. But, I know that I will walk in victory, because my savior is victorious over all!!!

One thing I am really learning this past week is how spiritual life is really, REALLY not dependent on physical life- both the outward and the mental situation. I was reading this week the story of the woman pouring the perfume on Jesus’ feet in Mark 14. The reaction of those around her was less than accepting. I don’t know how she felt, but I know that if that was me, I would instantly start questioning myself. Like “what am I doing?” “maybe they’re right- this was a stupid idea” “I should have sold it and given it to the poor- after all, isn’t that what Jesus would do? “ “He’s always helping others- I should do that and serve Him like that instead’ “after all, what man wants to go around smelling like a huge bottle of perfume?” “why did I even do this, why did I come?” … or something along that line. But, then Jesus says the greatest thing. He says (my paraphrase) “What you have done for me is honoring. What you have done will be remembered by others and by Me. Thank you.”

Talk about shutting up the doubts in your head.

He loves us- He accepts what we do for Him, even when we doubt its value. He just wants us to come to Him, to love Him, to give Him all that we can, even if it seems so little or so crazy. He is proud of us walking in the faith that what we are giving up, the path we are walking, the things we are doing, the little battles in our mind that we chose to let Him have, the secret act of service that no one else will ever know about, matters to Him. I chose to believe that He has me where I am in this life, that the sacrifices I have and am making to be here, are acceptable to Him and have a reason, even when I cannot see it.

Sometimes faith is walking blindly toward His light and love that shine so brightly we cannot see.

Lord, continue to increase my faith in You! Thank You for loving me always, for giving me the victory because You won the victory over all.

I thank each of you for your continued prayers for me and for this area. May God continue to bless you always, and may He draw you ever deeper into love with Him.

Of Light and Grace

(I am just completing my first week at a three-month internship at HopeCity, an inner city mission to the homeless in Kansas City, and I am going to attempt to update this blog every week or so to keep all who are interested up to date, as well as share and process the things that God has been laying on my heart.)

“….So that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1Corinthians 2:5

Physically, the shelter is much different than I expected- much cleaner, closer. The neighborhood breaks my heart- the government has pretty much written off the entire area as worthless- there aren’t even any schools, and no one cares if the kids go or not. Poverty and hopelessness keeps perpetuating throughout the generations. . Although it is both a spiritual and physical warzone, we are as safe as we can be, and protected by both others and God. There is much darkness here, but also much light. HopeCity is light, God shines His light here, on us all. We are flooded with people needing food and other things, but many also come to the prayer room, and watching them pray is amazing. There is a ton of grace and forgiveness here, but very well-set boundaries, and a huge culture of honor. Everything centers around Jesus and loving and glorifying Him with everything that we do. The prayer room is easy for me- my comfort zone, and spending 6 hours in there a day is wonderful.

I am learning to not judge by appearances; to see others how God sees. Not that I’m very good at it, but I’m learning. It’s very humbling.

I am learning faith- to have things make the 12 inch journey from my brain to my heart. To differentiate between the truth and the falsehood, then silence the things in me that still doubt the truth.

Lord, thank You for bringing me here, for providing the means for me to advance along this journey that You have called me to, for calling me closer to You. Thank You for laughter, for Your healing. Thank You for Your love for everyone in this neighborhood, and how You love them, even if the majority of the world doesn’t see them. Continue to pour Your Spirit out on us all and bring us through this journey to You and the full life You desire for us. Let my every word bring glory to You.

Making Swiss Merengue Buttercream is always a slightly nerve-wreaking process.  It involves combining egg whites with sugar to a precise temperature without actually cooking the eggs or burning the sugar, in a completely grease free environment, beating the tar out of it, then, adding the very thing you were trying so hard to avoid- grease (butter).  Adding it very slowly, because if it’s too early or too fast, you’ll destroy the whole thing.  (At that point I’m usually praying, please, please work out.  I didn’t add enough overhead on this cake price to pay for another 4 # of butter….)  And, for a while, it looks horrible.  It gets totally runny, a chunk of butter or two may go flying across the kitchen, and it looks hopeless.  Then, all of the sudden, it comes together and its gloriously beautiful, glossy, silky buttercream!!!   ….sigh of relief…..

 

So what’s the point?  As I was making buttercream today, I was struck by how much like community and the body of Christ it is.  Having spent the last several years in a close community environment, I have seen lots of the good and bad that can come out of that.  And it’s something that seems impossible and shouldn’t work for so many different reasons.  Like the egg whites and sugar, it starts off with people that get along well, yet still have to go through hard things together until they are doing well, which is right about the time that someone that is something they don’t get along with too well gets added into the mix….   And it takes time to rejoin the community and create a unified whole again.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work.  I don’t think it’s supposed to be that way, but sometimes it is.  And it’s costly when it doesn’t work.  It can totally destroy the community, or sometimes it can be salvaged.  But it’s never the same- there’s always a little scar where that person or group was- a sadness that it couldn’t be worked out.

 

But, sometimes, it works out!!!  The conflicting people come together, learn to work together with their differences and all, and WOW!  Beautiful, smooth, lovely community, with the whole so much greater than the parts.  Sweet fellowship, openness, depth of communication, and love.  Forgiveness and grace.  Joy.

 

Just something to think about next time you eat a piece of cake….  <3

James 1:2-4  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Flour and Treasure

In the book of 1Kings in the Bible, there is a well-known story that is told in Sunday school classes all over.  In the middle of a massive drought, a widow and her son are starving- down to nothing.  About to eat their last meal, then lay down and die.  Literally.  Desperation, survival, out of options.  Weak, tired, hungry.

And then this crazy guy comes by and tells her to feed him, plus theirselves.

What!  There isn’t enough!  What are you asking?! 

But to her credit, she does, and keeps feeding him throughout the drought, and neither her oil nor her flour run out until the end of the drought.  – Here’s the original story, which is told much better-

I Kings 17:8- 15

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

Now, there are tons of different aspects to this story, but a new one hit me today. 

Think of the value of that jar of oil and jug of flour.  Never emptying in the middle of a wasteland.  They would be priceless; highly prized and sought after.

We, as Christians, are the same.

We are filled with Christ, and overflowing with the treasure of Him!  We are never emptied of Him as long as we are relying on Him to provide for us and be in us.  We are something that cannot be ignored, a treasure chest sitting open in the middle of Times Square, highly accessible.  With our obedience of what God asks of us, we carry the most valuable treasure EVER.

And that, my friends, is worth and meaning for your life.

 

God’s Graffitti

 I have a confession.  I like graffiti.  Not the ‘for a good time call…..’ or the various obscene(ities) painted on assorted surfaces, but the great, artwork paintings usually found on the side of railroad cars and some buildings.  Some graffiti is so artistic it blows my mind that someone can do that with a spray can and under the stress of getting caught, and also knowing that, sooner or later, someone is going to paint over it. 

Now, keep in mind I am not condoning graffiti- I am aware it is illegal, and I am not saying that it’s great painted anywhere against the wishes of the owner of that property, but some of it is still amazing.  When my husband worked on the railroad, he said the coolest one he ever saw on a railcar was a giant purple gorilla. How cool is that?!?

And guess what?  God is a graffiti artist too.  Jeremiah 31:33 says

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel  after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds  and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,  and they will be my people.

God writes on us, labeling us as His- ‘tagging’ us.  And you know that anything written by God is going to be way cooler than a giant purple gorilla!!!

-proud to be marked by God as His.  :)

The Happy Pastor

"I like my calling, I like what I get to do!"- Heidi Baker

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