Monday, November 29, 2010
"If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." John 15:19
What do you think it means to be loved by the world? Does it mean to be tolerated? To be accepted or embraced? To peacefully coexist?
Recently, I have heard several stories of conflict arising within the body of Christ that makes me think that the church is far more into being loved by the world than being hated by the world. I mean, you can catch more flies with honey, right? Why would we purposefully make ourselves distasteful to the world? Wouldn't that defeat our call to go and make disciples?
Here's the thing - John 15 makes it painfully clear that if we are the chosen children of God we will be hated. Can we make the conclusion, then, that if we are not hated, we are not the children of God? That seems to be an extreme conclusion, but I think it warrants some thought.
Standing on doctrinal absolutes today seems to cause more trouble within the church than it does within the world. It seems to me that what would make us distasteful to the world would be the truth that we stand on - and that very truth has become distasteful within the walls of the church. Tolerance has become the accepted standard, and within this word we see extremes. Tolerance of all religion is on one end of the pendulum, and tolerance of all doctrinal beliefs is on the other end.
(Don't take a stand on literal creation - it doesn't really matter, does it? Don't argue 5 points of anything - they only divide and expose your intolerance. Don't make a big deal out of purity - people are going to do what they are going to do - welcome to the 21st century. Divorce is a valid option in all difficult marriages. Baptize whomever and however you please - just so the people feel good when it's done. Don't teach people to give, continue to blame sin on the past, you can't love others until you learn to love yourself and the Bible is not necessarily sufficient for all of life's problems - modern psychology and medicines help as well.)
And I was just getting warmed up.
The problem is that truth is intolerant of other "views" - there is only one truth and that means that truth finds no home within the tolerance spectrum. Can't you see that when we don't stand on truth, then we blend into the world and suddenly we are more popular than ever - embraced by not only our fellow church attenders but also the world? And when we don't stand on truth, we become spiritual Velveeta - we look and taste like Christ, but there is nothing real about us.
So, as I see it, we have a choice - love like the world wants us to love, with tolerance as our theme song. Then not only will we have a lot of friends in the world, but we will also have a lot of friends in the church. Or love like Christ exampled for us to love and warned of the consequences of being His children.
Remember, His love led Him to the cross, not because He won a popularity contest, but because He spoke truth.
Okay, that's my rant for today...I don't feel like I scratched the surface...
Friday, November 26, 2010
(Sorry about the YouTube name - I think it's a play on words from the "Where in the world is Matt Lauer?" segment on the Today show...)
This is an old video - you can see by how many hits it has...but it's one of my favorites. If you've seen it, smile again. If you haven't, you're in for a treat. I especially like the scene at 2:33...
Hope you're having a great weekend!
This is an old video - you can see by how many hits it has...but it's one of my favorites. If you've seen it, smile again. If you haven't, you're in for a treat. I especially like the scene at 2:33...
Hope you're having a great weekend!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
I was the poor.
I was a slave to sin,
with no family ties, with no inheritance and no future.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
I was the captive.
I was in chains to my sin.
There was no release in sight since I could not repay my debt.
And recovery of sight to the blind,
I was the blind.
Blind to my desperate need.
Completely blind to my lostness.
I thought I could figure out a way to heal myself.
I was wrong.
To set free those who are oppressed,
I was oppressed.
I was weighed down with my sin.
I carried it with me wherever I went.
It was mine to bear and I had no way to get out from under it.
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
I was the Pharisee, lost in his own legalistic works.
I was the leper, diseased, outcast and hopeless.
I was the tax collector, a thief and beyond despair.
I was the cripple, disfigured by my own sin.
But that was then, and this is now.
I am no longer poor, captive, blind and oppressed.
I am no longer a Pharisee, a leper, a tax collector and a cripple.
Thanks be to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
I am free.
Free from sin, free from the chains that bound me.
I am an heir to the Kingdom of God as His adopted child.
I am no longer lost, but found in His love.
I am washed clean in His blood.
I am His forever and forever He is mine.
We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, don't we? On the eve of Thanksgiving, I want to wish my friends and family a blessed Thanksgiving Day and to encourage you all to start your thankfulness with the One who has given us all good things.
Monday, November 22, 2010
"No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you." Joshua 1:5
The task before Joshua was daunting - enter a land that had been inhabited for hundreds of years by idol-worshipping pagans and empty it - either drive them out or kill them, but get rid of them all. At first glance, this call seems unreasonable. Why couldn't they just slip in over the border, set up a few cities and cohabit for a while, until they meld back into their land?
But the call deserves a second glance. Here's the truth of the matter:
- This land was theirs - God had given it to Abraham and since God is the Creator of all things, it was His to give - it was their inheritance and their future
- They had left their land as a large family and were returning as a nation - they needed more space than a few cities could manage
- For the past forty years, this people had watched their elders and parents die off, they had watched God provide, they had lived as slaves and then nomads, and the anticipation of receiving their land and establishing their homes again was at the verge of becoming reality
- To allow pagans to stay in the land would be to allow the enemies of God to dwell among them - a cancer that would spread, a leprosy that would kill if not completely separated and destroyed
So Joshua stood at the edge of the land and God spoke those words. Could God have possibly said anything more comforting? What more would Joshua ever need?
I understand that today we are aliens in this land and that our home is with the Lord. But I think that we misuse this concept and rather live by the idiom, "When in Rome, do as the Romans."
Here's my issue: we are aliens because we have been chosen out of the world to be the people of God. Men love darkness rather than light, so because they hated Jesus, they are going to hate us as well. We live like strangers in this world because we are not of the world. But ultimately, this world will return into the hands of the Righteous One, and He shall reign forever and ever.
So, instead of deciding to step over the border and set up cities within this world, I believe we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Not that we are to drive out or kill in the literal sense, but we are to conquer - we are not called to meld into our society and cohabit - we are to be imitators of Christ, knowing that the same promises given to Joshua are ours to claim.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19
Sounds to me like we have the same call, from the same God, with the same promise attached.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Yesterday I saw this van parked on the street, and I snapped a picture. Then I came home and googled the May 21, 2011 date. Apparently there is a dating system for Christ's return based on the seven day warning that God gave Noah. The month and day of the start of the flood is given, and taking the verse in 2 Peter 3:8 about a day is like a thousand years, this group applies that verse, adds seven thousand years to the date and gets the day of judgment, which apparently is May 21, 2011.
The misuse of scripture and the numbers games people play never cease to entertain me.
The driver of this van honestly believes he is doing the community a favor by publicizing his warning. He is wearing his passion on his sleeve. Unfortunately, when he drives by, people don't recognize his passion but attribute his warning as the rantings of a crazy man.
Now, take the top line off his warning label and his message is no longer that crazy. For those of you who know me, you know my passion for the return of Christ, and there have been times that I have worn the "crazy" label with pride.
Though I firmly hold to the literal interpretation of the scriptures, which include that no one knows the day or the hour of Christ's return, I also believe that there are signs to look for - clear events that will happen prior to His return. Even though they indicate great difficulty is coming, they also produce great hope, knowing that the day is drawing near.
As I disagree with this van owner's specific message, I agree with his general message. So, where's my passion? If I honestly believed that the day was drawing near for the return of Christ, wouldn't I live differently?
It's obviously closer than it was a thousand years ago, and it's closer than it was yesterday. Could He return in my lifetime? Absolutely. Do I live like it could happen in my lifetime? I don't know.
There are two reasons that I believe we need to step it up in our communication about the return of Jesus Christ. First, His return is the great hope of the church (Titus 2:13) - it's something we long for and look for, because when it happens, we will be completely united and restored to our original created purpose. Sin will no longer plague us - we will be with our Savior for eternity. Like the anticipation of a great vacation or a wedding date, the fact that this day is coming should occupy our minds, our plans and our conversations.
Secondly, His return ushers in judgment. When He comes, He brings the wrath of His Father with Him. When the seventh seal is broken (Revelation 8:1), there is silence in heaven for half an hour. Silence! The angels stop saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy" before the throne. Why? Because the wrath of God is ready to be poured out on the earth - a sobering, awesome event that demands attention. If we truly believed that this day is coming, where is our passion to warn our community?
I'll leave you with these thoughts: Whether labeled as passionate or crazy, do you believe in the great hope of the church enough to warn the lost that the day of reckoning is approaching?
And what happens to this man on May 12th?
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Just an update on the whole "unsubscribe" venture that began nearly a week ago...
Bad news...it doesn't work. I think that for every email I "unsubscribed" to, I've received 10 from them plus 20 from their closest friends! Ugh! Why offer something if you don't really mean it?
I'm sure there is great spiritual application to this, but I'm too ticked to try to figure it out right now...
Sorry if I talked any of you into following in my footsteps on this one...
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Today in ladies Bible study we walked through three stories, enlarging our view of Jesus Christ as we soaked up the narrative. They were all revealing stories, but this afternoon, the one that has stuck with me was the five short verses about Jesus healing the leper.
Picture the scene: Jesus had made quite a name for Himself in a rather short period of time. Not only were His miracles drawing the crowds, but His authoritative teaching was nothing like what they were used to. Luke 5:15 says that "...large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed..." Both were equally amazing.
So Jesus enters a town, and He never does it quietly. The crowds not only gathered when He showed up, but many arrived with Him. In verse 12 we read that Jesus was in one of the cities and a man with leprosy approached Him. Based on Jewish law, he would have been required to cover his mouth and cry out, "Unclean! Unclean!" wherever he went. Thus, as he approached Jesus, he made his presence known.
After scattering the crowd, he reached Jesus, fell at His feet and cried, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." This leper understood his leprosy was a death sentence. Even more interesting - he didn't ask for healing, but for cleansing - he wanted to be clean before Lord.
Then Jesus did something that no one else would ever do - yes, He healed him, but that's not what I am talking about. He reached down...and touched the leper. This was unheard of - to touch a leper would be to take his disease upon yourself. But Jesus didn't hesitate or pause - He responded to the need out of compassion for this walking dead man. He touched him, then healed him.
Imagine the response of the crowd who had been repelled the leper, the gasps as they saw their renowned teacher touch the contagious man, and their faces as they watched life flow back into this man's body - his fingers reappeared, his feet broke through the bandages, his skin softened and refreshed, as his hair covered his head. In an instant he went from dead to alive.
Too often we join the crowd and watch in amazement as Jesus performs miracles on the walking dead. Today, we stepped into the shoes of the leper and found ourselves within the healing grip of Jesus. We looked at scripture that told us "...He made Him sin who knew no sin on our behalf, so that we could become the righteousness of God in Him..." (2 Cor. 5:21) When Jesus touched me, my sin became His and His righteousness became mine. We pictured the leper transferring his disease onto Jesus and walking away "clean."
We are starting to recognize a repeated response when people discover Jesus - falling face down, repenting and declaring He is Lord. Until we step into the bandages of the leper and fully understand our death sentence, we will not fully comprehend the life given to us by our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Then, an only then, will our response will match what we are seeing in Luke.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Five and a half weeks to go until Christmas Day. (What? Thanksgiving is only how many days away?)
Hold on...I'm catching my breath because when I see it in writing, my heart races.
My blog readers have become a valuable source of not only encouragement to me, but also a source of information and help. So here's the deal - as I get serious about Christmas shopping, instead of asking for suggestions or what is on your list this season, I am asking for the worst gift you've received in the past.
You know, the ones I should avoid (like nose hair clippers - very practical, not very romantic).
I did see the Obama Chia Pet and was thinking that my ladies study might get a kick out of that...but then again, maybe not. (After slicing my thumb open on the Pampered Chef apple slicer, I don't think I'm giving those away either - it was like playing with a razor...)
So, help me out here. What's the worst gift you've received or even given? (A weighted doctor's scale sends a specific message, don't you think?) What gifts initially look like a great idea but turn out pretty bad? (I never could get the Leap Frog reader hooked up to the computer for my children...)
Thanks, in advance...
Saturday, November 13, 2010
"Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him and bless His name.
For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations."
I love this Psalm. It is my heart checker as I get ready for church on Sunday mornings. Let me explain. As a little exercise, how do you answer these questions about going to church:
- Do I serve with gladness? What am I glad about?
- Do I come before Him with joyful song? Or am I more worried about whether the style of music suits me?
- Am I thankful for who God has made me, or do I still take credit myself?
- Do I consider myself a sheep? Who's pasture have I been hanging around in all week?
- When I walk in the front door, am I praising or complaining? Is what I say out loud consistent with what is being said in my head?
- How can I bless the name of the Lord today?
Now, I don't always mark a perfect score. Sometimes the weight of the world hinders my joy, and I'm not proud to admit that. But that's really no excuse, unless church is all about me. If it's all about Him, then with eyes set on Him, the gathering of the body of Christ can truly be a time of praise and worship.
Best of all, despite whether or not I am in the right frame of mind, the last verse remains true: The Lord IS good, His lovingkindness IS everlasting as well as His faithfulness. That truth in and of itself is powerful enough to wipe out any cares, worries or grumpiness. That truth brings hope, joy and peace that the world cannot offer.
And that truth is exactly why I can't wait to go to church on Sunday!
"I was so glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!"
If you weren't planning on going to church, change your plans. If you are planning on going, do the self-check before you get there. And if you don't have a place to go, come on over to Harvest Bible Chapel Spring Lake. We'd love to worship with you!
Have a great day!
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
You know that verse in James that says you should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger? Apparently I've added to that verse "slow to learn." I'm not sure at what point in my life I added that phrase, but I've lived by it for a long time. Now that I realize that phrase is not really in the verse, it's taking me a while to change my ways.
Case in point - I am so slow to learn anything that is computer oriented! The latest epiphany that I had, which I am finding that everyone and their brother has known about for years but I'm just that far behind the learning curve, is the whole concept of "unsubscribe."
Did you know that at the bottom of almost every junk email there is a little word called "unsubscribe," and that if you click on it, it will take you to a place where you can unsubscribe from that particular company's email list, thus ending the intrusion of junk email from that company in your mailbox? It's as simple as a click.
Now, some of the "unsubscribe" buttons are simply evil trickery, because when you click on them, a new page pops up and says that the page I was looking for no longer exists, but for the most part, I have actually, supposedly gotten rid of a majority of my junk mail. The reason I say supposedly is because it takes 24 to 48 hours for this to take effect. By my calculations, by Saturday morning, I will only have about 5 emails a day to deal with, rather than 547! Wow! What will I do with all my free time?
Aren't you glad God doesn't have an "unsubscribe" button?
Think about it.
Do I really need to expound?
I love you, Lord. Thanks for wading through all my junk and not unsubscribing me...
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The people of Nazareth were initially excited to have their hometown hero return to their humble city. After all, there was quite a stir in the region from the miracles that were flowing from His fingertips, let alone His teaching. But in a heartbeat, their expectations were crushed, and their excitement turned to rage. Before anyone could logically think through the ramifications of their actions, the mob was forcing Jesus to the edge of a cliff to cast Him over. What a swing from popularity to repudiation!
You see, Jesus had called them out. He had told them that blessing followed obedience and not the other way around. That's why He used the examples of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman (Luke4:23-27), to show them that actions bred consequences.
There is nothing new under the sun, is there? We are the same faithless people today as they were in His day. We want the blessing before the obedience. "Lord, if you would only do _______, then I would start living for you." Of course, we aren't that blatant, but it is at the heart of our request.
We're also into instant gratification. "Well, I've been submitting to my husband for four days now and there's still no change in him. How much longer do I have to do this?" Rather than set our eyes on our Savior and walk in obedience to please Him, we try to find a quick fix in the scriptures and we think the blessing comes in the form of earthly rewards, rather than the growth of our faith in the person of Jesus Christ. We put our hope in changing circumstances rather than the unchanging character of God.
It's time to stop trying to put the horse before the cart and living by faith.
Seeing is not believing.
Believing is seeing.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
"...Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory..." Isaiah 6:3
The land of Canaan was full of fortified cities, well organized and strong armies, and last but not least, giants. The nation of Israel were uneducated, escaped slaves, who had travelled the desert on foot with everything they owned, and stood at the edge of the land, wondering what to do next.
In His grace and wisdom, God instructed them to send in twelve spies, to check out the land "...that I am going to give to the sons of Israel..." (Numbers 13:2) It was a sneak preview of the goodness of God, and guess what? It backfired.
Ten spies came back, having seen the walls and the giants, shaking in their sandals, completely confident that they could never retake their land.
But two returned, proclaiming the goodness of God.
On Sunday, Dave introduced Joshua to us, and explained why Joshua had a different perspective on the land of Canaan. He was a man who saw God through his service to Moses, he lingered with God, he trusted the Word of God and he understood the cost of rebellion. In his message, Dave pointed to the fact that seeing the glory of God was a life changing event for Joshua and then he read several passages, including the one above from Isaiah, that tells us that the whole earth is filled with the glory of God.
It made me stop and think about how I take creation for granted. This summer I was in Italy and after visiting the Vatican Museum, I promptly returned home, ordered a book on the life of Michelangelo, read it in about two sittings and was fascinated by this incredible artist.
And yet, truth be known, what Michelangelo sculpted and painted is simply a copy of God's creation. Why do I praise the copier rather than the Creator? If my future granddaughters color me a picture and I walk over to my copier and make a copy, do I praise the HP Office Jet for making me a copy, or do I praise my little granddaughters for their artwork? Does this even make sense?
Today, my friend Jackie was at the house and she spotted two, full-sized adult eagles perching in a tree. The sky was bright blue and clear, and their white heads were such a contrast to the blue sky. We both grabbed our cameras, but she took a better picture than I (way to go, Jackie!). When we were done comparing photos, she looked at me and said, "Tell Dave we saw the glory of God today!"
I am committed to paying attention to my surroundings. If life is all about me, then I don't have to look out the window at anything. But if life is all about His glory - if everything He created was for His glory - then I need to start paying attention and PRAISING the One who made all things.
I must stop looking at the copiers and set my eyes on the Creator.
Because when I see the glory of God, it is a life changing event, isn't it?
Friday, November 5, 2010
"Although He was Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered..." Hebrews 5:8
This week we studied the temptations of Christ found in Luke 4. I have been carrying this passage around with me all week, trying to imagine the scene - a weakened, hungry Jesus finding the strength in His relationship with His Father to battle Satan head on.
Then I've been trying to use the tools that Jesus used in facing the temptations in my own life - what does that look like? Do I know enough scripture to battle temptation? At the moment of trial, am I aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life? Do I rely on the love of the Father? Does my love for the Father drive obedience, or do I struggle getting off the throne of my life?
We also discussed this week that no matter how difficult our trials and temptations have been, none of us had ever come face to face with Satan before. That's kind of important to remember - it's a perspective thing. We looked at I Corinthians 10:13 which tells us that our temptations are not unique to us, and that because of God's faithfulness, we can endure, knowing that He always provides a way of escape.
But the eye opening verses for me were Hebrews 2:16-18, where it tells us that though God does not give help to the angels, He does help man. That's why Jesus had to be made like us in all things - His humanity made Him the merciful and faithful high priest for us. And then there's verse 18 - "For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."
Jesus suffered through the temptations. If they weren't real to Him, there wouldn't have been suffering. But because He was made like us in all things, the temptations were real to Him. He suffered through them and then (per the verse at the top) we learn that through His suffering He learned obedience.
Read that again.
In battling temptation, we have the love of the Father, the leading of the Holy Spirit, the arsenal of scripture at our disposal, the ability to talk to the Father whenever we want, as well as a sympathetic High Priest who intercedes for us.
But let's go one step further, using Jesus still as our example. Are we learning obedience through suffering? Is is possible that temptation and trials are in our life to learn obedience? When we disobey when we suffer, what are we learning? Can we look back at past temptations and see a progression in our education, or are we still making first grade mistakes though we should be in high school?
Does this make sense?
The verse above (Hebrews 5:8) is a powerful statement that has HUGE ramifications on how we view Christ. The fact that Jesus LEARNED anything is mind blowing, let alone the fact that it was through His sufferings that He was being educated.
So, I guess I only have one question left: what have you learned lately?
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Just a quick note to make sure you all know that you are invited to the launch of Harvest Bible Chapel Spring Lake this Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Trillium Banquet and Conference Center. It's going to be quite the party! We have a family from Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin coming to lead us in worship through music, Dave is beginning a series on the life of Joshua and our children's ministries are up and running as well.
Why a party? Because we are celebrating the beginning of a new congregation in Spring Lake. We want our friends and family to join us in praising the Lord for what He has done in our lives and what He plans to do through this new body of believers. We want to celebrate the cross and pray for the future. We want to lift His name high and worship the Lord through the study of His Word. And we want you to celebrate with us!
Check out more details on our website: www.harvestspringlake.org
Monday, November 1, 2010
"She made a vow and said, "O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, the I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life..." I Samuel 1:11
In just this one short prayer, you can identify several of Hannah's perceptions about God and about herself. Let me quickly point them out:
*if - she knows that God has a choice. She is not demanding or pleading, as much as requesting or giving Him an option - almost a covenantal promise - if you do this, then I'll do this...
*maidservant times three - she knows her place. She is a slave, He is the master. What right does she have to ask anything of Him, but for the fact that He allows it or might possibly have an ear for it...
*Your - she not only knows her place but knows who her master is...
*vow - this is the biggie. When Hannah makes a vow, she keeps it. Later in the story we find that God answers her request, gives her a son (Samuel) and she keeps her vow to the Lord - she gives him to Eli to serve in the Tabernacle. What does this reveal about her perception of God? If you make a vow to God, you'd better remember it and you'd better keep it because God remembers. She believed that God actually gave her Samuel and he was the Lord's to keep.
How often do we bargain with the Lord, only to forget what our end of the bargain was? You know what I am talking about - "Please Lord, give me this or take away that and I promise to _________ (fill in the blank)." What does that reveal about our perception of God? Well, either that He won't remember what we promised, He really doesn't care what we promised, He really didn't expect us to follow through with our promise or He won't do anything if we don't keep our promise.
How sad is that?
Hannah kept her vow because she feared the Lord. She was His maidservant and she gave Him what was already His. And the Lord honored this by giving her more children that she could keep (I Samuel 2:21). What a beautiful picture of a woman who had the proper perception of God and lived by it!
Again, let me ask - how does your perceptions of God affect your actions?