Monday, August 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

Taking a suitcase into her room to begin packing for the college move, which is tomorrow, Alex looked at me with a bit of a scowl, and with a total monotone voice said:

"I feel like I'm moving out...oh, wait. I am."

Early on she earned the nickname "Goofy" and for some reason, it still fits...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Are You a Facebook Christian?

I haven't joined the facebook world yet...well, at least not personally. My husband has an account, and I can go on his and snoop around. My daughters say I'm a facebook creeper. But I haven't committed to the full time, making friends or denying them, telling the world that I am ready to start my laundry kind of facebook commitment.

But I have learned a few things about facebook.

1. It seems the more friends you have, the more reason you have to live
2. People from your past quickly become friends again, opening a door to their lives through facebook messages and writing on each other's walls
3. Even friends of friends become friendly because facebook is such a friendly place
4. People like to post their health a lot
5. For all the friendships that abound, facebook is a pretty non-committal place

Let me explain that last one. There is a certain happy, so-excited-to-hear-from-you response that comes from finding long, lost friends that I am not sure would hold water if you were face to face. Conversations are much easier on facebook than face to face. You can even dislike someone and still be friendly on facebook. But when you see them face to face, is that friendship truly there? Is there any depth?

Maybe it's just computers in general, but I think that relationships that hide behind screens are pretty superficial. Not that there can't be real communication going on, but the deep relationships need face time. We all know it's easier to send an email than it is to call, right?

Last night, I was thinking about when I will see Jesus face to face. I have a pretty intimate relationship with Him and have had one for years. There is a familiarity in my conversation with Him because He knows my every thought, my every mood, action and word.

But I was wondering, when I see Him face to face, will there be an awkwardness? Will there be this facebook kind of friendship that was very close as long as I was the one doing all the talking? Or is my relationship with Him already based on something deeper?

On facebook, I often see people posting their actions and their thoughts. Hit and run style. Is that what I do with the Lord? When I pray, am I just editing my profile with God?

I think that true depth comes from time spent together. Filling my mind and my heart with His word, memorizing scripture, deep, intimate times of prayer - these are the things that will grow my walk with Christ - not the status changing, one-liners that come after a long day of busy-ness.

Now, I'm not really that down on facebook - believe it or not, I'm warming up to the benefits of connecting through it. Not warm enough to open my own account and join the 21st century, but not so judgmental that I rant and rave when my kids post their status online more than they talk to me. It's just how they communicate and I do have Dave's password.

I just want to make sure that my life has a deeper way of communicating and growing with Christ than what technology provides. I will see Him face to face someday, and I don't want any awkwardness at all.

I want faith to become sight.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Just How Inclusive are You?

"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." I Cor. 1:26-29

"Inclusive" is the hot word in our town for the moment. An emotional debate has arisen as to whether or not it is possible for Christians to be inclusive. A neighborhood church has changed into a "community" in order to embrace all who seek to work together to heal the world, setting aside their differences and embracing their similarities.

It's all very loving on the surface, until you bring an Authority into the picture. Then you are ignorant, you are narrow-minded, your system is abusive and your interpretation is subjective. No two people interpret the same way and "the book" you use is not even consistent in its translations. Who would fall for such a system?

In other words, only a fool would believe that the Word of God was inerrant, authoritative, accurate and literal.

Suddenly the love of inclusiveness turns into anger and sarcasm, disrespect and cynicism.

That's what I learned last night about the inclusive world. It's not as inclusive as they would want you to think it is.

A couple of things came to mind as I sat for ninety minutes and listened to my husband and another pastor defend the authority and sufficiency of God's Word, and the life and actions of His Son. First, I thought of this passage from I Corinthians. To the world, our zeal and passion is foolishness. And seeing the disdain on half of the audience's faces when Dave spoke was testimony that his message was considered weak, illogical and, well, foolish.

The second thing that came to mind was the utter lost condition of those who were rejecting the gospel message last night. Trust me, they were bright, intelligent, young, attractive people. Most were probably more educated than I. So why does the gospel make clear sense to me when it is foolishness to them?

Ephesians 2:8,9 tells us that faith is a gift from God, not of works, so that again, no one can boast.

So my next thought was one of thanksgiving for my salvation, followed with a prayer for the salvation of the blind.

And then I drifted on to one more thought. How inclusive am I of God and His Word? Do I pick and choose what I allow to penetrate my heart? Do I claim to be inclusive but when something that I don't agree with or don't understand pushes me to an action I don't want to do, do I make excuses and exclude certain doctrines? Am I truly inclusive in my walk with the Lord? Do I allow Him into every aspect of my life? Or do I exclude Him from some areas?

So then I decided to take my eyes off my neighbor and do some spring cleaning in my own life.

It's been a good discussion...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Where is your faith?

You can see it coming miles away and you do whatever you can to prepare for it, but for some reason, when the storm hits, your fears surface and you struggle to wait for it to pass.

I'm not really talking about weather here. I'm talking about the storms of life. Life is a lot like weather patterns - sunny skies one day, humidity the next, and then bam! Storm hits. And you never have just one storm. Just because today is sunny, doesn't mean that there's not a storm brewing on the horizon.

When the disciples woke Jesus from sleeping in the little boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, they did it out of panic and fear. They had lost control and could not see beyond the storm. "Master, Master, we are perishing!" is the exact quote. (Luke 8:22-25)

After Jesus calmed the storm by His mere words He turned to the disciples, and I can almost see Him shaking His head as He asked, "Where's your faith?"

It would be easy to focus on us now and make a simple and obvious application. But let's go a bit deeper. What does this story teach us about Jesus?

*Jesus was with them in the midst of the storm
*Jesus was in complete control
*Jesus was their only hope
*Jesus rebuked the weather and it obeyed (
*In other words, Jesus came through for them
*Jesus, through this one question, reminded the disciples that their faith should be in Him - if it is, then what do they have to fear

Okay, now that we see Jesus more clearly, let's apply. In the midst of our own personal storms and trials, are we alone? Is there no hope? Is anything outside of God's control? Will Jesus not show up or come through? Where do we place our hope?

You see, the storms of life reveal where our faith lies. If our faith is truly in Jesus, then we need to know Him better. Enlarging our knowledge of Jesus will only grow our faith, make it stronger, give us confidence that we are not alone.

That's why I am teaching through the book of Luke this fall. There is no better place to increase your understanding of Jesus than in one of the gospels, and Luke is a great one for women.

For those of you who are local, I would love to have you join me in my home on Tuesday mornings, beginning September 21st at 9:30 to go deeper into the life of Christ as we study the book of Luke. Because our facility is not yet ready, I am holding the study in my home. I do have baby-sitting lined up, so plan on coming and bring a friend! The study is open for all.

For those of you who are involved in your own studies, I want to give you a heads up as to why you are going to see a lot of Luke here on my blog this next year. If you can't join us in body, you can at least join us online! I think this is going to be a wonderful year of going deeper and growing stronger. I look forward to our discussions, both in the house and online.

Have a great day!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

She Does Him Good...

...and not evil all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:12

Thinking a bit about husbands this week, this verse kept coming to mind. As wives, we have tremendous influence over our husbands. Influence as to how they think and process information, influence as to how they view the home, as well as influence by enhancing or tarnishing his reputation by our actions. And this influence can either be for good or for evil. It's really that simple.

Let me explain.

Thinking and processing information: we all know that when and how we share information can make all the difference in the world with our husbands. When he walks in the door after a long day at work is probably not the time to go into a lengthy discussion about your latest conversation with your mother or the problems with the computer printer. I know from personal experience that some down time is beneficial if I want to bend his ear. So I have a choice - I can set him off and wreck the evening, or I can be patient and find the right time to down load. Good or evil - it's my choice.

View the home - my mom always told me, I can make my house my husband's castle, where he feels safe, loved and in control, or I can make it a battle field, where he dreads coming to. If I choose the latter, eventually he'll find somewhere other than home to fill his needs and then we're really in trouble. Good or evil - it's my choice.

Enhancing or tarnishing his reputation - Because we are one, if I am a gossip, it reflects on him. If I am lazy, it reflects on him. If I am late, messy, rude, impatient, disorganized, hypocritical, or even stand-off-ish, it reflects on him. Does he want to be the husband of that lazy woman? Good or evil - again, it's my choice.

Ladies, we have the ability to do our husbands good or evil every single day, with our words, with our actions, with our lives. A great exercise to get things headed the right way, is to assess yourself every night when you go to bed. Just ask a simple question: Did I do him good or evil today? Be honest and after a week, see where you stand. Then purposefully make choices to do him good and not evil - make an effort to be that excellent wife God calls you to be.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Open Mic

Okay, I'm home and I'm feeling a bit bad. Here I go on and on about my husband, and basically I have a captive audience. So I decided to turn the tables. I know many of you and think that you all have wonderful husbands, just like me. So I am giving you all an open mic to tell us about your husband. Tell us what you like about him and why he's a keeper!

How's that for a short entry?



You're on...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Few Thoughts

Okay, so I'm not really sitting in a plastic chair at the edge of the lake and I'm not a man either (that's a man in the picture, right?), but I am in a contemplative mood.

It's night number three of our four days of training at the mother ship here at Harvest. My wet hair is in a pony tail, wet from sitting in the hot tub after a grueling day of meetings, my glasses and pj's are on, the White Sox are finally winning a game against Minnesota (for the love!), Dave is clicking on his computer next to me filling out a questionnaire for Portable Churches, and I'm under the comforter with a computer on my lap.

How's that for drawing a picture?

It's been a great week and without going into great detail (core team - you'll hear most of this on Sunday night), I want to jot down my observations from this week. So here goes...

What I learned from my 3 days at Harvest Training Week:

1. The men who work for Harvest Fellowship are somehow cloned and as a whole, they are the most kind-hearted, soft-spoken, ministry-minded men I have ever met.

2. The women who work for Harvest Fellowship are not only beautiful, they are quick to help, patient, soft-spoken as well, and servant-hearted.

3. The wives of the men who work at Harvest Fellowship are hands down gorgeous, and their beauty is over shadowed by their gentle and quiet spirits.

(Okay, does it sound a bit like I am visiting Stepford, or what?)

4. Clarity/Simplicity/Urgency - this is the foundation of most of our meetings. Nothing is done to complicate or confuse - when you understand the system, the pieces fit like a puzzle and the whole thing makes sense.

5. The cost of discipleship is very high indeed. To commit to disciple-making is an "all-in" type of commitment. "Half-in" will never work.

6. We have an incredible staff for Harvest Bible Chapel Spring Lake. Though incredibly in-bred (me, my husband, my son, his wife, her brother and his wife - yeah, think about it), we communicate easily, understand what is expected of each other as well as what we expect of ourselves, know each other's strengths and weaknesses like the back of our hands, respect each other's critiques and opinions, and make decisions easily.

7. There is no room for pride in ministry. It eats you up and spits you out. Disciple-making is not about positioning or branding, but all about Jesus.

8. I can talk ministry 24/7. Dave can talk ministry about 8/5. He gets tired when I don't shut up during the Sox games, except they have been playing so poorly this week, that my chattering has been somewhat of a distraction. Still, the Lord is teaching me to tone it down.

9. At the heart of the Harvest Franchise is a true desire to glorify Jesus Christ and raise Him high. I can get a bit cynical about "Harvest World" but when you immerse yourself for a few days, you find that they all put their pants on one leg at a time and are really just fleshing out Worship/Walk/Work for their congregation.

10. And husband is a rock star. This week I have gotten to know men who my husband has known for years through the Fellowship and the mother ship, and I cannot begin to share with you their excitement for Dave stepping into the pastorate. They love him - not more than I do, but close, and they are supportive, in word and in prayers, and are enthusiastic to help him in any way they can.

Okay...I'll leave you all alone and start bothering Dave again...thanks for letting me share my enthusiasm!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wedding Pictures!

Look what just came in! I'm so excited and pleased - check out the photographer's link to seek Katherine's wedding photos...I like this one in particular because I didn't see them walk out, as I was in the front row. How precious!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Training Week

Well, things are starting to heat up for our church plant. This next week our staff will be down at what I affectionately call "the mother ship" for a week of training. We will be at the Elgin campus and are meeting with just about everyone on their staff. We will be discussing everything from worship music to high impact services to assimilation to children's programs. It almost looks to me like a mini-Harvest University that they are putting on for us - Harvest U was a week of training that we went to last April, but it is a huge conference. This will just be our staff - six of us in all.

Because of our experience within the Harvest system already, some of this will be familiar to us, but I see a few definite advantages that will come from this week. First, we will sit with a great support staff that is willing to answer questions and come alongside us as we get the ball rolling. I have done the church plant thing before without any type of support system in place outside of the 5 families who were planting, and I see this as a huge blessing.

Secondly, they will be sharing resources with us that will be priceless for our new church - evangelistic material, new believer's studies, small group material, children's lessons - the list goes on and on. They will be helping us put systems in place that will enable us to serve our community more efficiently and get the message of Christ out more succinctly. This is really not about a franchise that we are bringing to Spring Lake - it is about Jesus Christ. We are in the business of disciple-making - that's what this is all about, and any support or resources that will help us communicate this clearly and without apology is a blessing indeed.

And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I am hoping that this week of the staff being together, rolling up our sleeves and brainstorming, praying and studying, learning and decision-making, will be invaluable as a foundation for the future. Dave and I know these two couples pretty well, and the excitement over this plant is pretty overwhelming when we're all together, but we are also very sober about this calling. As we continue to battle the township issues for our permission to have the church at International Aid, I think the Lord is strengthening the shoulders of our three pastors and teaching them self-control, patience, faithfulness and contentment in the face of the unknown. This week should be our Engedi - a place of refreshment, as we immerse ourselves in the planning process and begin to flesh out just exactly what we need to do between now and the launch, as well as beyond that.

Oh, that leads me to another thing - we have a launch date. November 7th will be our first service. Lord-willing we will have our township battle wrapped up by then and will have begun the build out of the IA space, but whether or not we are still "battling," we have a temporary meeting place until all that is done. We will be launching at The Trillium, a banquet facility about 3 minutes away from IA. It is a perfect location, owned by a Christian family who has had two other church plants launch from their facility. The second church just got their own building and we were offered the space to have our services there until our permanent residence is done. This is a long story, but just another example of God's provision through this time of preparation.

So, all of this to say, please pray for the team during this week of planning and preparation. I am excited about it, as I hope you can tell, and I am taking my laptop so that I can check in with you all.

Have a great week!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Definition of a Christian

"However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."

Romans 8:9-11

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

God of Reversals - an exercise in application

Since you all are in the responding mood (thanks for that!), I am going to ask you to do another task for me. I have recently written a few posts on "The God of Reversals." The concept came from a comment in a message Dave preached recently and it means that God is a God of change. Life can be heading in one direction but in an instant, God can reverse the circumstances and change everything. It is this concept or fact that gives sinful man hope that they can not only have a relationship with God but that their lives can truly change because of Him.

Here's the assignment: Post stories from the Bible where God reversed a situation for His glory. You don't need a narrative - just enough information so that we know which story you are listing. If you want to, include a reference, but that is not necessary as well.

Okay, don't be shy...who will be first?

(How long can we make our list? Hmmmm....)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Question for You

How does God speak to you?

This is such a subjective topic - within the Christian world, or even the secular world, man has claimed to have received leading and guidance from God, using the words like, "God told me to...", and "God spoke to me...", and "God led me..." to explain their actions and feelings. I have used these words as well, so I am not accusing or finger-pointing. I am being sincere.

So my question today is, how does God speak to you?

Samuel heard the voice of God as a young child. He was awakened in the night to God audibly calling his name. Later in life, God told him to go to the house of Jesse of Bethlehem and He would instruct him to anoint one of Jesse's sons to be king over Israel. (I Samuel 16)

I read this story this morning and got caught up on one of the details of the story. Picture this: Samuel, a famous prophet, shows up at Jesse's house and asks if he will sacrifice with him. He also requests that Jesse's sons join them as well. Seven boys gather with this aged father and prophet, and one by one God tells Samuel that they are not His chosen king. Finally, the last of the seven stands before Samuel and Samuel has to be sure this is the one, because God said the king would be one of Jesse's sons. Of course, Samuel didn't know that there was one more boy in the field with the sheep - the youngest son. So he looks at this final son, knowing this must be the one, and God says no again.

Samuel asks if there were anymore, and Jesse brings in the little redhead from the field. Finally, God says yes.

What struck me as curious was God's ongoing conversation with Samuel throughout this gathering with Jesse. What did it sound like? Could Jesse hear God as well? Or did Samuel hear God's voice in his head? Samuel knew the voice of God since he was a child, so was it a certain tone that made him know it was God and not his own conscience?

I really am curious about this.

Fast forward to present day. I know the usual answers to this question. Some will say that God speaks to them through the Word of God. (concrete, tangible answer) Others will say that the Holy Spirit speaks to them. (a little fuzzier) And still others will say that God spoke to them in dreams or while they were meditating. (what exactly did that sound like?) As I wrote earlier, this is a very subjective experience and as my husband has told me before, you cannot argue with someone's experience.

Keep in mind, Samuel did not have the complete Word of God, as we do today. He had the audible, verbal Word of God, as well as the Law, right? But we have the whole collection, so definitely, God will use His Word to speak to us. I am a huge advocate of dependency on this Word - so was King David. If you aren't sure what his view on God's Word was, read through Psalm 119.

So what does it sound like when God speaks to you? I am hoping some of you will post your answers, because this topic fascinates me. I personally believe that the concept of God speaking to man is biblical and completely abused within the church today. Harsh? Maybe, but we are to be a discerning people. So talk to me. How do we know when it is God and not our own mind? Does He communicate only through the Word? Does He do it through other people? Does He do it through our own thoughts?

Okay, I'll make it even easier on you - answer either question: How does God speak to you or how have you heard that God speaks to other people? (This way you are not on the spot!)

Awaiting answers...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Practical Advice from...the Old Testament?

Really, Kristen? From the Old Testament? I thought the OT was just full of stories and prophesies...

You'd be amazed at how consistent the Old Testament teaching is with the New Testament. Too often we discard the OT as the "passed away covenant" because Christ has come, and we pour our attention onto the New Testament, because that's where the teaching for the church is found.

Well, here's what I found today. Take a look at it and let me know what you think:

When the children of Israel demanded that they have a king like the rest of the world, though God was their King, He gave them a physical, human one - Saul. Initially some in Israel were happy with this choice, but others were skeptical, until Saul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, led the Israelites against the Ammonites, freeing the men of Jabesh-gilead from their threatening presence. With that victory, Saul was hailed their king and Israel was happy again. (I Samuel 11) They were no longer without a king (still ignoring their King) and now life would be exactly what they had hoped for it to be.

At this point, Samuel exhorted the children of Israel to be careful with their newfound joy. He explained that God had always been their Protector and Provider, and now that they had a king, they should be careful not to forget that their request was out of the evil of their hearts and not out of love for God. (I Samuel 12) The people suddenly had second thoughts and asked Samuel to pray for them, so that God would not kill them in their sin. Here was Samuel's instructions:

"If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God. If you will not listen to the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the command of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was your fathers...Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside form following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile...Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king shall be swept away." (I Samuel 12:14,15,20,21,24,25)

Basically, though they were sinful, they were told to fear the Lord and obey His commands, and God would be with them. If they rebelled, God would severely deal with them and their king.

God is not threatening to "un-choose" them. He is simply explaining, like any good parent, that obedience will bring blessing and disobedience will bring discipline. With or without a king, the instruction is the same.

Israel was standing at a crossroad and had a choice.

Samuel was telling them to choose obedience.

Same with us today. This passage is very much alive and well because the consequences of obedience and disobedience still remain. God knows that we are sinful but it is never too late to choose obedience. I love how Samuel says, "Fear the Lord," and then "Do not fear." He's saying, don't fear the consequences of your sin at this point - fear the Lord instead. Follow Him. Choose obedience. It's never too late to repent and follow.

That is a great message for today. Too often we fear that it is just too late for us - we're in too deep. We've made too many bad choices and we'll never get out of this hole. God's counsel is true - stop what you are doing, turn around and head in the other direction. Choose to follow God and see what He will do in return.

As I was reading this passage this morning, it struck me that the counsel of the New Testament that I use in biblical counseling is not a new concept - it's there in the OT as well. God never changes - He's the same yesterday, today and forever.

So when you're standing at a crossroad and you're not sure what to do, the answer is really very simple.

Follow Jesus.